The venue as new, but the usual aromas, excitement and camaraderie of the Taste of St. Croix carried through downtown Christiansted Thursday night.
Organizers had to find the new venue because the Divi Carina Bay Hotel – which had been home for the Taste of St. Croix for 17 years – is still being repaired after Hurricanes Irma and Maria rocked it in 2017.
Tents representing more than 30 local restaurants, caterers and beverage purveyors lined the streets from Strand to Company. Beginning at 6 p.m., they ladled soups and stews, artfully arranged plates, poured drinks and displayed bite-sized desserts for partiers to help themselves to as they wished.
For the most part, the crowd came out in its finery – cocktail wear and sparkling long dresses. The group was a mix of people who have attended many Tastes and a few here for the first time.
Tanya Hill has returned to St. Croix to live and this was her first Taste of St. Croix. Her friends, Nichole Knight and Anika Morris, are visiting from St. Thomas were also first timers. They all enjoyed the food, with favorites being mofongo from Ridge to Reef Farm. Morris went back twice for Dashi’s seafood bisque.
“It’s a good way for the public to experience the different foods of the island,” Hill said.
The Eastend Boys, Jolyon Helterman, Dean Fennessey and Jay Gleason, were also first timers who entered the competition because they love to cook. At one point, there was a line of 10 people waiting to sample their Thai-style pork belly curry and grill-charred spicy lamb chop on tahini hummus with toasted pine nuts.
Cloud 9 was also very popular with tasters. Kaon Beharry rolled sushi and Lynell Boyce served paradise martinis. The new bar is in the former Moonraker location. They plan to have a bar menu soon and serve sushi once a month.
Tasty samples were also served by Un Amore, Brew STX, Misfit Island Munchies, Tap Deck, Vibez Restaurant and Common Cents Pub. There was pasta, fried chicken, fish, conch salad, pates and sweets galore.
Bellows International, Prestige and West Indies Corporation set up a wide variety of wines. Mutiny passed out samples of its new vodka made with breadfruit and Leatherback Brewery poured beer made on St. Croix.
Beachside Café, Cibone and Dashi served fish chowder – each one as delicious as the other. The Lighthouse Mission handed out tiny white cupcakes and Rita Chiverton’s Catering spooned up thick, flavorful goat water.
An hour-long, island-wide power outage was mitigated by the forethought of the event organizer. Collin Hodge, event director and one of the founders, said with all the wet weather recently, generator backup seemed to be a good idea. Circumstances proved him right.
During the event, Spectrum Band played at one end of the street and R & B Connections at the other end. After 9 p.m., four after-parties were hosted at Dashi, Cloud 9, Balter and Company House Hotel, which was celebrating its re-opening after major renovations.
There were mixed responses when vendors and attendees were asked what they thought of the new venue. Certified Public Accountant Theo Broody said it was very relaxing and a good place to “recharge.” Nutritionist Joanne White liked the change because everything was more spread out. Ridge to Reef’s Nate Olive liked the downtown location and Roger Shepard of Bellows said it was “better than he expected.” He said he didn’t mind unloading wine and spirits and parking away from town. But Aziza Shabbaz of Empress Fresh Foods found the logistics of loading and unloading difficult.
The proceeds from this year’s Taste will benefit Lighthouse Mission, the V.I. Culinary team and scholarships at the University of the Virgin Islands.
The winners of the 2018 Taste of St. Croix were:
Second: Nauti Bar & Grill
Third: Rita Chiverton Catering
First (tie): – Cibone and Blue Water Terrace
Second: Chef Aaron Catering
Soup and Stew
First: Beachside Café @ Sandcastle on the Beach
Third (tie): Common Cents Pub and Vibez Restaurant and Bar
First: Kallaloo Man
Second: Queen’s Maubi
Third: Delightful Delectables
First: Café Roots-N-Kulchah
Second: Cloud 9 Ultra Lounge
Third: Doughboy Pretzels
First: Blue Water Terrace
Second: Caravelle Market
Third (tie): Un Amore and The Sweet Fairy
First: Café Roots-N-Kulchah
Second: Beachside Café @ Sandcastles on the Beach
Third: Brew STX
First: Nauti Bar & Grill
Second: Café Roots-N-Kulchah
TBD – still counting as of Friday