After a lukewarm event last November, A Taste of St. Croix reclaimed its place Thursday as a premier event when hundreds of residents and visitors turned out in their finery to sample some of the best food and drinks from the island.
Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated the territory in September 2017 and many popular events were cancelled or postponed. Because the Divi Resort was damaged (and still has not reopened) the 18-year-old culinary event, usually held in the spring, was postponed until fall and relocated to downtown Christiansted.
Last November’s Taste of St. Croix was well orchestrated and supported in its new location, although the crowd was smaller than in previous years.
On Thursday, supporters came out if full force for the 2019 version of the event.
The crowd and vendors alike seemed to like the new location. There was more room to move between tables and the slight breeze cooled the evening.
Queen Cross Street from the boardwalk to Company Street was lined with white tents and bright lights. Chefs and staff dressed in their best and decorated their tables to display their wares to the best advantage.
Bellows International, Prestige Wine Group, West Indian Company, Leatherback Brewing Company, Mutiny Island Vodka and Caribbout VI (Coca Cola) lined one block with bottles and bottles of their best wines, liquors, beer and soda. In between bites, partiers grabbed a sip of this or that.
Nigel Walwyn took part in the event for the first time to introduce his fruited rum – Ou Oui – to St. Croix. It has taken 10 years to develop the two fruit-flavored rums – passion fruit and guava pineapple. He mixed the rums to come up with a sangria blend and rum punch with a fresh fruit taste.
“It was launched 18 months ago in Atlanta, which is our headquarters. I was looking for the right time to bring it back home,” Walwyn said as he poured samples for guests.
Another first time participant, Maggie Root of Double D’s Roadhouse Grill said they were excited to be there. The company, owned by Daniel Krivensky and Daniel Andrews, puts on the Tuesday beach barbeque at the Hotel on the Cay. The aroma of brisket, pork chops and scalloped potatoes carried down the street and drew a crowd – resulting in the coveted People’s Choice award. DD recently opened a restaurant in Christiansted by Zeny’s.
Salt Great Pond is a new restaurant – just one month old – on St. Croix’s south shore. Owners Chris and Kelly Booth used fresh produce from Art Farm to concoct a duck soup with gooseberry that tasted like Thanksgiving dinner. They also prepared an entree and a smooth creamy dessert for their first time in the competition.
Although the Fred has not opened its restaurant yet, Chef Ashley McKinnon served up Korean tacos for the boutique hotel’s first Taste entry, winning first place for appetizers. Scot Newell, The Fred’s food and beverage manager, poured gallons of tangy shrubs for customers – many came back for more than one. The Fred’s beautiful table also won Best Presentation.
Making up the remaining 30 plus entries were familiar restaurants and caterers: Brew STX, Cibone, Dashi, Kallaloo Man, Spratnet Beach Bar, Nauti Bar and Grill, Lighthouse Mission, Kim’s, Ridge to Reef Farm, Chris’ Hideway and Un Amore.
Braata, Chef Aaron Catering, Cloud 9 Ultra Lounge, DDE Cuisine, Doughboy Pretzels and Empress Fresh Foods participated along with whimsical named food purveyors such as Just Desserts, Queen’s Maubi, Misfit Island Munchies, The Sweet Fairy and Sweet Stuff.
The event started at 6 p.m. and partygoers trickled onto the street. By 7:30 p.m., the food tables were teeming with women adorned in gold lame’ and sequins. Others swirled in silk, satin and filmy organza in vibrant colors.
The mood was friendly and celebratory – people shared comments about a just tasted amazing bite with strangers who reciprocated with their own recommendations.
Jill Durnan, a former St. Croix chef, shared hugs with many of the chefs and business owners. She last participated in Taste in 2013 and for several years before that. This was her first time as a guest and she was enthusiastic about the food and wine.
“I’m happy St. Croix is keeping Taste going,” Durnan said.
Claire Roker celebrated her birthday with a ticket to Taste and her friend Mary Moorhead. Roker said she saw friends she hadn’t seen in a while. She pronounced the food “good” and the wine “excellent.”
“It’s crowded. It’s lovely. Any occasion to socialize is lovely,” Moorhead added.
A list of winners can be seen here. Over the weekend organizers released the winners of People’s Choice: Double D’s (first) and Braata (second), and Best Presentation, The Fred (first) and Nauti Bar and Grill (second).