On the way to visit family in Florida I received a phone call from a lady named Peg Heetmann, who told me I had won a Food & Fantasy trip to St. Croix for myself and a guest. My first thought was skepticism... what’s the catch? I remember entering the contest on The Daily Meal, but… I won? Really? Yep, it was for real, and here’s the tale of my adventure in St. Croix.
My husband was unable to go with me, so I brought along a friend from work, the fabulous Julie We arrived in St. Croix April 17. When checking in at the San Juan Airport, they asked us how much we weighed and they also weighed our carry-on bag. We had no idea what we were in store for until we walked out of the building to board the plane. I’ve been on a few small planes, but never a plane this small — I could touch both interior walls of the plane at the same time. On the plus side, being in a smaller plane meant that we flew under the clouds, instead of above them, so we were able to see a lot of the islands as we flew over them.
A representative from the Department of Tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands met us at the airport, along with her sweet daughter who was holding a sign with my name on it. This was completely unexpected and I definitely felt like quite the celebrity. While we waited for our luggage, we were poured shots of Cruzan rum… they don’t mess around with their rum!
We checked into the fabulous Divi Carina Bay All Inclusive Beach Resort & Casino and settled into our room, where we had a personal note and gift waiting for us. We met Jackie Burton, who does PR for Divi, and we were introduced to Andreas, the general manager of Divi. Together, along with the rest of the staff at Divi, they made sure our visit to St. Croix was amazing and they made us feel very welcome.
We ate our first dinner at the resort's Starlite Grille. The restaurant recently introduced an event called the Star Rok Dinner, where you choose your meat and it is brought to the table on a lava rock, which is heated to more than 750 degrees. You slice your meat, one piece at a time, and let it cook on the rock — the outcome was the most succulent piece of meat I have ever eaten!
We spent our mornings attempting stand-up paddle boarding, with the instruction of Sean, at Divi. Then we snorkeled in the bay in search of a pair of sunglasses that were lost during the paddle-boarding adventure, and on other days we went out in the kayaks to take full advantage of the beautiful aquamarine water.
Now onto the food:
On Wednesday, we explored Christiansted before going to the Food Fight at Eat@CaneBay. The event pitted two teams of six chefs against each other (Evelyn Paul, Leslie Gumbs, and Roberto Trevino versus Merlin Verrier, Sue Zemanick, and Mathayom Vacharat). There was a lot of media present, and the event was sponsored in part by Captain Morgan. The pirate himself, along with the Morganettes, proved to be quite entertaining. The competition consisted of a blind identification of various ingredients, a Q & A and cooking challenge at Eat@CaneBay, and finished off with a cook-off on the beach. In the end, Paul, Gumbs, and Trevino pulled off the win.
Thursday we attended the 12th anniversary of A Taste of St. Croix, a food and wine event at Divi. This is the event to attend. More than 60 local vendors (caterers, restaurants, wineries, etc.) were in attendance. Where else can you try food and drinks from so many vendors in a single evening? My favorite was the slow-roasted Asian pork lettuce wraps with a Thai green papaya salad and a cilantro lime aioli from Dashi — simply delicious! Afterward there was a Moet- and Hennessy-sponsored after party at the Starlite Lounge at Divi that went until the wee hours of the morning.
On Friday we attended the Sunset BBQ at Fort Frederick. This was a more casual event, complete with live music and fire dancers. There were food and drink stations with a combination of celebrity chefs (Govind Armstrong, Evelyn Paul, Ana Sortun, and Leslie Gumbs) and local culinary students. Afterward, we strolled along Frederiksted and found a quaint décor shop open, so we stopped in and had a fun conversation with the owner.
On Saturday, our last day, we spent an hour on the beach, checked out of Divi, and had lunch (along with a piña colada) by the beach before taking a taxi to the airport. St. Croix is definitely an island I will visit again. Oh, and don’t forget to drive on the left and watch out for the mongoose!
Click to see more photos of my adventure.
To see who won in each category at A Taste of St. Croix, visit stcroixfoodandwine.com.