St. Croix Festival Shows Off Island's Dynamic Culinary Scene

From Cruzan run to French-inspired fare, St. Croix delivers diverse bites
Lindsay Kammerzelt Photography

The "Food Fight on the Beach" had chefs and students facing off in an exhilarating sunset cooking competition.

After touring St. Croix’s historic Christiansted site with its stunning views of the ocean and learning more about the work the nonprofit St. Croix Foundation (the benefactor of the funds raised during the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience) in the morning, a handful of travel writers and I sampled tasty delights and dove further into the islands’ diverse culinary scene. Highlights of my second day on the island appear below.

Noon: We had lunch at the charming local spot Café Christine. It’s nestled off the main drag in Christiansted and occupies its own little slice of island paradise. Sitting on the patio surrounded by shade-providing trees, our group enjoyed French provincial fare from this quaint restaurant. The menu, written on a chalkboard, changes daily and featured items ranging from a vegetarian platter to a duck pate. Highlights here included the spicy and smooth pate, my salmon salad topped with lentils and a light, sparkling dressing that covered my entire plate without smothering it. Pies are fresh baked daily (and delicious) here too. My personal favorite was the hearty, straight-out-of-grandma’s-kitchen chocolate and pear combination, but the grape slice got extra points for originality. Café Christine also has a truly undeniable farm-to-table appeal — roosters just inches away from diners were crowing all throughout our meal.

3 p.m.: Following lunch, my group took a van ride up some winding and steep roads with dramatic seaside views to tour Frederiksted’s Cruzan Rum Distillery — the only historic distillery still producing rum on St. Croix. Karen Low, the manager of guest relations, led us around the distillery, discussed how rum is made on the property, and showed us the seemingly endless collection of charred Jim Beam bourbon barrels that Cruzan’s rum is aged in. The original sugar mill is still intact too.

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Following the tour of the plant, currently not in production since the distillery is making repairs and upgrades, the group headed back to a tasting room and bar. Low then explained that Cruzan’s most popular offerings are the company’s 14 flavored rums — with peach being the company’s latest offering. And next came every distillery tour-takers favorite part of the experience: the tasting. We started off with a thimble-size glass of Velvet Cinn over ice. The cheekily named concoction is one of the company’s flavored cream rums that went down smooth (almost too smooth) and tasted like a liquid cinnamon bun. Low then poured samples of the company’s original rums — going from lightest to hardest or clear to darkest — to showcase Cruzan’s recipes that have remained unchanged for decades. The bartender even whipped up a delightful concoction of Velvet Cinn, banana rum, cream of coconut and a dash of Coco Lopez that tasted just like a banana split. All in all, it’s pretty incredible to think that this one local spot is responsible for one of world’s best-known rum manufacturers. Rum fans will want to make a point of visiting Cruzan’s distillery.