By Kelly Goodman, Contributing Writer
The St. Croix Food and Wine Experience wasn’t just about stuffing your face. We were able to experience some of the island’s history through events such as the newly introduced Sunset Barbecue, where you spend the evening under the stars at Fort Frederik.
Built in the 1750s by the Danish, Fort Frederick is also the spot where the Emancipation Revolt of 1848 ended slavery in the Danish West Indies. History aside, it’s a lovely place to spend an evening, wandering the courtyard, building, and seawall while jazz wafts through the air.
This event is a more casual part of the festival, as the food from visiting celebrity chefs is served up picnic-style. You’re able to wander from station to station, sampling all sorts of cuisine and enjoying the great views from atop the fort’s walls. Portions were plentiful and getting in line for seconds was not frowned upon.
Local culinary students served as impromptu assistants, for what I imagine was an incredible learning experience. And the chefs were jovial and available for chatting and questions and even the occasional photo op.
Visiting chef Roberto Treviño of Puerto Rico’s Budatai prepared an array of tastes from moist chicken with a spicy sauce, grilled shrimp and a twist on the traditional slider, rabbit instead of pulled pork.
Michael Ferraro represented his New York City restaurant, macbar, well with his twist on mac and cheese with duck confit (which I neglected to photograph because I inhaled it all.) His other dishes ran the gamut from a watermelon gazpacho to savory beggars purses, a flaky pastry filled with mushrooms and my favorite bite of the evening. He also had an excellent passion fruit cheesecake that was a favorite by many for seconds (and thirds.)
Local hot sauce was available for tasting, in what would be my favorite mode of consumption, a hot sauce bloody mary. You could even take a bit of the tasting home with you, with a collection of Caribbean spices by Chef Leslie Gumbs.
Once I was full, I wandered outside to catch the end of the Sunset Jazz, held regularly on Friday evenings in the square. Couples filled the park benches and provided a picturesque backdrop. With the sounds of jazz as my soundtrack, the rapidly darkening sky and warm air on my skin, I paused for a moment and realized that in the midst of all of this foodie frenzy, that I was in the Caribbean.
The St. Croix Food and Wine Experience is an annual event benefiting the St. Croix Foundation. The events range from informal events to intimate dinners on palatial estates, with varying price tags. The Sunset BBQ event mentioned above cost $50 per person.
This event was sponsored by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, but the opinions are that of the writer.