The jam-packed St. Croix Food and Wine Experience also included several private Fork and Cork dinners throughout the week. Guests gathered at a private home or in a restaurant to celebrate St. Croix’s culinary offerings and enjoy an exclusive meal prepared by a notable chef. Friday night saw chef Todd Gray of Washington, D.C.’s noted Equinox Restaurant preparing a private meal alongside St. Croix’s culinary junior team — a group of seventh and eighth graders selected to cook alongside Gray and his team.
“It’s nice to see children get excited about food,” Gray said before dinner officially began. The event reinforced the St. Croix Foundation’s (the beneficiary of the funds from the food festival) dedication to education. Diners could even see the budding chefs and professionals working together in the kitchen as they walked into the dining room.
This particular Fork and Cork dinner was held at St. Croix’s impressive Estate Belvedere, a classic island home perched on top of a hill with a killer view of St. Croix. The centerpiece of the estate is a former sugar mill that now serves as the home’s foyer. The view on top of the former mill — accessible by a charming winding staircase —showcases the island’s many hills and even included a map on the wall that told viewers what neighboring islands they were looking at (St. Thomas, anyone?). After sipping on a light 2012 sauvignon blanc from Murphy Goode named “The Fume” and munching on delicious tempura wahoo with an Old Bay mayo underneath a pergola on the estate, dinner attendees headed outside to the patio to dine underneath the stars. A white tablecloth, along with chairs tied with orange ribbons and silver-colored plates were such elegant decorations that it made me feel like I was at a wedding rehearsal dinner.
Our first course was an heirloom tomato Greek salad that was so beautifully presented that it looked like it was straight out of a magazine spread. The crumbled feta dusted the fresh and crisp vegetables that included island grown cucumbers as well as green and red bell peppers sprinkled with Kalamata olives. Everything was topped off with two slices of toasted pita and served with a sherry mustard vinaigrette. This course was complemented by a dry and smooth Stonestreet 2011 “Broken Road” chardonnay.