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A Taste of St Croix isn’t just a gastronomic competition featuring A-list celebrity chef judges each April, it’s a journey through the many flavors that make up the cultural, agricultural and culinary map that is St Croix. It’s a time to celebrate the dining establishments that not only bring in locals and tourists, but bring them back time and time again. And it’s a time to explore new wines, dance and party along a stunning palm-tree lined Caribbean beach.
This year’s “Taste” at Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort was, in my opinion, one of the best I’ve seen yet! There were so many enthusiastic participants, the decor was fun and fab and the list of celebrity judges was nothing short of impressive. I’d had the chance the day before to briefly meet Chef Govind Armstrong at his book signing at Undercover Books and was excited to catch him before the festivities for a brief interview. When asked what things about St Croix that he liked most so far, he mentioned how wonderful our local growers were at establishing a network with the local restaurants. Earlier in the week, celebrity and participating chefs had a chance to browse a special St Croix Food & Wine Week Farmer’s Market to purchase local produce for their menus. Chef Armstrong was particularly impressed at the abundance, diversity and quality of our fresh local produce and especially in that many growers had asked the restaurants and chefs, prior to the planting season, what they would like to see harvested. By working together the chefs and farmers are creating a new market on St Croix that not only benefits the restaurants, but also visitors and locals (like me!) who frequent our wonderful farm stands.
Chef Armstrong, who grew up in Costa Rica and has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean, also mentioned that he really loved the landscape and the warm people of our island. He’s looking forward to a return trip with his family where he can take more time to explore St Croix and especially visit and hike through some of our lush green spaces like those at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm out West in the rainforest or simply lime on one of our beautiful beaches.
But this night, it was all about the FOOD on St Croix and there’s plenty of it! So enjoy my delicious journey through the event and then go visit some of these great chefs in their natural habitat – find them by exploring our
St Croix Lime Editor, Trevor Clendenin, enjoys a taste at the wine bar following the press conference.
The lobby at Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort was transformed into a chic lounge
by Michele Marquis of Dream Island Events
The event spans the entire beach at Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort.
A real Caribbean celebration featuring palm trees, turquoise waters and blue skies.
One of my favorite restaurants on the island, Salud! is known for their savory, Mediterranean and North African-inspired dishes. If you are visiting St Croix – don’t miss this great dining experience.
Another one of my personal favorites, Dashi offers creative Asian/Caribbean fusion specials on a nightly basis, and of course, the freshest sushi often featuring local caught, fresh off the boat fish.
Everybody loves the Brew Pub! The only micro-brewery in the Caribbean featuring
some of the best live entertainment and a great pub-style menu!
Prestige Wine Group, one of the event sponsors, offered up a wonderful selection of wines for tasting.
The judges begin the arduous task of tasting the night’s competition.
Celebrity Chef judges like Govind Armstrong and Ana Sortun feasted on
competition categories of appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts and cocktails.
Every girls needs a “Little Black Dress”
… and Palm trees.
The Bistro, my daily haunt, was just getting set up as I went by (judging started before the event opened to the public), but I knew I’d be back later in the evening for a hot cuppa joe!
I was so excited to see an abundance of local produce featured throughout the event!
Nate Olive of Ridge to Reef Farm at the VI Sustainable Farm Institute describes the food that Chef Tahira is dishing up. They ended up with First Place in the “Local Fare” category!
Local bok choy (one of my favorite veggies) was used in dishes served up by caterer Shanti Shawa
Schooner Bay Market entered twice as “Schooner Bay Every Day” representing their great Christiansted market and as “Schooner Bay Catering”. I met up with them as they sent food to the judges tent. Looked yummy!
It was now time to hit the beachside Captain Morgan lounge and begin my quest to find the swashbuckling hottie who I’d spent so much time with in college. That guy got me in a lot of trouble back then!
I didn’t find the Captain yet, but I did find some really tasting Captain Morgan spiced rum punch!
Local restaurants and caterers continued lining up to present to the judges
Local celebrity Chef Joseph Stiles, an ambassador for the event, chats with
visiting celeb Chefs Eric Greenspan and Chef Roberto Trevino
Guests were starting to head in and the People’s Choice ballot box was open… so it was time to start tasting some food!
The Galleon Restaurant ended up taking First Place for their entree!
West Indies Corp was pouring luscious wines from
2011 Winery of the Year recipient Williamette Valley Vineyards
Bluewater Terrace, famous for Lori’s downhome country fried chicken was serving that and
a really decadent neapolitan of lobster, ham and other yummy goodness.
Bumping into good friends at fun events is Reason #127 why I love St Croix
The events of the St Croix Food & Wine Experience offer a great opportunity for the youth in local high school culinary programs to spread their wings. The kids from St Croix Complex High School’s “Good to Chew’ catering class made a really great showing with their prawn and scallop dish. The St. Croix Central High School Culinary Arts Class took Second Place in the Dessert category and The Afterschool Cooking Class took First place in the Vegetarian dish category. I’m happy to say there’s no shortage of great up and coming chefs in our island’s future!
Local radio personality and restaurateur, Kim Jones, was keeping her tawdry crew in line as they served up some might tasty margaritas and AMAZING hand-made pork and local pumpkin tamales. In fact, Pirate’s Tavern won Second Place Best Appetizer and First Place in the dessert category. (I missed that – dang!)
Eat@Cane Bay‘s owner and chef Frank Pugliese served up some delicious sliders
And really decadent dessert!
Cruzan Rum was well represented with their “Love Potion #9” featuring Cruzan 9 spiced rum.
The wine kept flowing as the sun went down!
Stafish Patisserie didn’t disappoint, offering up cake bites with flavors like mango, guava and keylime.
Juggling all of this food and wine can be tough work, but event admission includes these handy plates with a spot for your glass.
Art Farm was serving up an INCREDIBLE dairy free icecream that was like a cross between sorbet and gelato with a coconut milk base. They sell it at their weekly farm stand. I can’t wait to bring some home!
Another of my favorite restaurants, Savant, known for their Asian/Mexican/Caribbean fusion and super fresh fish was offering a Thai style soup …
… And rockstar chef “Dreads” dished up scallops with fried wontons and a to-die-for wasabi cream sauce.
(Tip: try their casava crusted fish of the day at Savant, it never disappoints!)
His hand smoked “Bonfire Old Fashioned” ended up taking First Place in the Beverage Category!
Joe & Vic of Tavern 1844 were defending their “Best Burger”‘s 2011 First place win in the Entree category. They didn’t take first this year, but they place 2nd with their now named “Second Best” Burger: a delicious combination of fried goat cheese, whiskey-glazed apples, caramelized onions & truffle honey on a hand-crafted Tavern burger. Decadent!! Oh, and they serve it with a side of duck-fat fries.
I had a few more bites left in me, so I headed over to yet another favorite joint on the island….
I knew Rowdy Joe’s would be serving up some of their “Good Mood Food”.
The lamb empanada was scrumptious. Rowdy’s took second place in the Vegetarian category.
Boardwalk favorite RumRunner’s once again claimed the “People’s Choice” award, BUT this year,
they shared it in a tie with The Carambola Golf Club!
I finally caught up with Captain Morgan and his Morganettes. He’s always leading the party!
The party in the Captain’s lounge was in full swing and I got a chance to catch up with Gov. DeJongh for an interview. He – along with Captain Morgan – was excited for the grand opening the following Monday, of the Captain Morgan Experience Center on St Croix.
Somehow I made room for one more delicious bite – my friends at Ziggy’s Market
were serving up the perfect late-night snack – Cubanos!
After the long, grueling day of tasting and reporting, I needed a shot of caffeine and knew
I’d find it at The Bistro’s table. Proprietor Clint Simon was still serving it piping hot with a smile!
On our way back to the lobby to cover the award announcements, I stopped by Tutto Bene’s table and I was so glad I did! They had an adorable ducky pond incorporated with their famous antipasto. They ended up taking first place for “Best Presentation”.
Bellies were full and the crowd was anxiously awaiting the award results. It was an amazing evening that wasn’t over – following the Awards Ceremony guests and participants danced it all off in Divi’s Starlight lounge at the Moet After-Party.
For a full list of 2012 results visit A Taste of St Croix’s website.
If I’ve convinced you that you can’t possibly miss the 2013 Taste of St Croix – visit the St Croix Food & Wine Experience website for updates on 2013 events and travel packages!
Tell us about your favorite St Croix dining Experience!
Leave a comment below by Wednesday May 30th and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of St. Croix Food & Wine Experience: A Culinary Guide to the Island Featuring More Than 100 Recipes from Island and Celebrity Chefs. Pages have been autographed by event founders Katherine Pugliese & Kelly Odom, and local and celebrity chefs like Govind Armstrong, Ana Sortun, Roberto Trevino, and more!
Winner will be selected by random drawing on May 30th and announced on our Facebook Page. When posting a comment, your email will be submitted to us and we’ll contact the winner for shipping details! All comments are moderated and approved by the editor before being posted online.