Too much choice is not always a good thing, sending the most efficient of us into a panic of, well, epic proportions. The reason I’m not a shopping mall kind of gal!
Food shopping, actually any shopping, or dining was a limited and limiting experience when we lived in Malabo, our island home in Equatorial Guinea. The essentials were found after completing the circuit of the blue shop, the red shop, the freezer shop with it’s disconcerting strips of paper suspended from the ceiling and speckled with dead or dying flies, and the local market. The latter was good for avocados and aubergines, and if one’s taste ran to bush meat, then skinned monkey or pangolin, hanging from hooks on rickety frames were on offer.
Returning to the megastores of Houston was overwhelming. When faced with a choice of an aisle full of of cereal; or tinned tomato sliced, diced, added onion, basil, chilli and more; or loo paper of different ply, or roll size; or biscuits or breads various, I was known to freeze then wander aimlessly around until I walked out with half my list, exhausted from decision making. Fine dining, for any palate or purse, in Houston is though beyond reproach, with new and exciting fusions blending with the more expected, and of course Tex-Mex!
Now back on an island, on and off, throughout the year, I find I have the perfect balance in food shopping: a number of supermarkets, depending on my mood and requirements, but none so big as to send me into a flat spin. And the same for dining experiences – except for one week a year!
The St Croix Foundation has, for the past fourteen years, held St Croix’s Food and Wine Experience, their annual fundraiser in support of “community and economic development, public education reform and public safety”. The 2014 theme, Culinary Futures, has emphasised the island’s gastronomic offerings, and the nurturing of youth in the food industry. Chefs, food and wine writers, and those who enjoy a good nosh, descend on St Croix, filling the hotels and holidays rentals and spending an inordinate amount of time discussing the latest ‘new’ ingredient, or vintage.
Spread through the week, there are eleven events from which to choose. Some of the choice is, as always, dictated by the size of one’s wad, with a couple of wining and dining experiences running to a $1000 per person. But that ticket price covers an unforgettable affair – cuisine prepared by world-famous chefs in exquisite surroundings. Richard Jenrette’s home, part of the Classical American Homes and Preservation Trust, was taken over by Chef Leah Cohen of the Pig and Khao in New York City, famous for her blend of Filipino/Asian fusion cuisine. Or maybe you’d prefer a glimpse of Estate Belvedere, an Architectural Digest Home rarely open to the public, and a meal prepared by celebrity chefs Todd and Ellen Gray, and Chef Gary Klinefelter. What better way to spend an evening than dining on the terrace of a restored sugar mill overlooking the ever-changing colours of the Caribbean.
For those with shallower wallets, A Taste of St Croix, held at the poolside of the Divi Carina Bay Resort where 2,000 people, give or take a couple, enjoy dinner and wine from the island’s best restaurants, chefs, farms and food provisioners. Not only is there a Caribbean-cool party scene, but also a competition judged by guest chefs. Categories cover all the courses, with ones also for best presentation, local fare, beverage, and the ever-popular people’s choice, which for the second year running went to Tutto Bene Restaurant.
Eleven choices over seven days, from wine tastings to children, ranging in age from 6 – 12, learning the importance of local produce and family dining to the final event of the week, Wine in the Warehouse. Music and munchies washed down with fine wines at a melee in a chilly warehouse stacked to the rafters with bottles. Documenting the evening with his acrylic-laden palette knife was Los Angeles-based artist Greg Kalamar: standing on a wine box for a bird’s eye view of those milling and sipping, his painting to be sold to the highest bidder.
Whatever your taste in food, wine or fun – it’s worth visiting St Croix for a taste of the island, even ForbesTravel.com says so! And for one week a year, even I can handle the pressure of choice.