I must admit that I admire an island that welcomes visitors with a shot of the local rum as soon as they step off the plane. And you don’t even need a passport to enter, because St. Croix is a Caribbean island — the largest — of the United States Virgin Islands. Rum is not all that awaits you here; there is the warmth and beauty of a tropical destination, together with fine local cuisine.
In fact, the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience is a six-day celebration of the island’s culinary delights. Among a number of options, Tuesday night featured the Gourmet Vintner Dinner, which imported Dallas-based celebrity chef Tiffany Derry, a fan favorite on Bravo’s Top Chef, to prepare local ingredients accented with her Southern influence. Naturally, each of the five courses was paired with locally available wines.
The hundred guests were greeted with live music and glasses of Taittinger Champagne. Chef Derry opened with a perfect appetizer of St. Croix tuna atop a fabulous green pool of avocado and tomatillo puree and slices of radish. The accompanying Orin Swift Mannequin was a lush, yet bright chardonnay blend.
Fried green tomatoes came next, smartly served with smoked salmon, salmon roe, a sprightly sauce ravigote, and a chardonnay from Kongsgaard.
Chef Derry mentioned that this would be an ideal time for some type of salad. And since she was the one designing it, it would include pork belly. The fat, crispy chunks of pork were plated with fresh melon pieces, basil, and chile. The grape of choice was a classic pinot noir from Sea Smoke Cellars.
Wonderful, rich, braised short ribs arrived with a side of mashed sweet and savory sweet potato, carrots, and horseradish gremolata. A deep Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon proved a worthy partner.
Dessert deployed a torched banana with vanilla custard, pineapple chutney, macadamia crumble, and cilantro. Of course, it wouldn’t have been complete without a glass of Martinelli Jackass Muscat.
It was an altogether delightful and delicious evening that did more than please the palate. This event, and the festival itself, raises money to benefit the St. Croix Foundation. So one can eat well and do good all at once.