When I went to St. Croix for their annual Taste of St. Croix this year, http://tasteofstcroix.com/ I was once again taken aback by the level of talent that the chefs there have on the regular, as well as the relationships that they cultivate with the local farmers. The agriculture community on Twin Cities is very in touch with the culinary world, and the final result is a food scene that is mature and robust.
While we do have our maintain our own garden next to the kitchen, have an organic farm in Coral Bay, and work with local fishing charters for product, the variety of locally sourced ingredients on St. Croix simply eclipses what we have on St. John.
As I was sitting at breakfast with other guest judges and one of the main organizers and producers of the event, Jane Watkins, and was expressing my jealousy of the chefs on our sister island having such abundant access to locally grown produce, she suggested that I try to find a way to collaborate with some of the passionate restaurateurs and chefs there. So I took her suggestion.
It has taken some time to organize, but this month, we welcomed our first guest chef of what we hope is many. Ryan Bennett is a former co-worker of one of our chefs, Vince Alterio, from back in their Chicago days, and has the culinary background to stand up with the best of them, including time working in some premier restaurants in Chicago, such as Gather and Graham Elliot before moving to St. Croix.
He is currently at Brew STX, an establishment not necessarily known for fine dining, but Ryan designed a menu that was both eclectic and familiar at the same time. We joined forces with Paul Kessock at Bellows International to pair a trio of Rose’s with the courses.
August’s menu was 90-95% locally-sourced and featured Caribbean-inspired flavors. Here’s what our guests had to look forward to:
Sofrito Shellfish Consommé: Butter Sauce Conch / Avocado Puree / Salt Fish Lavash / Pickled Green Papaya / Fresh Racao
Pairing: Miraval Rose’
Roast Goat Roti: Crispy Roti /Tender Goat / Sweet Potato Puree & Chip / Mint / Turmeric / Coconut Rice
Pairing: Montes Cherub Rose’
Fruit: Mango ice cream / Pineapple Johnny Cake / Coconut Crunch / Lemongrass Gastrique / Basil / Crispy Plantain
Pairing: Josh Cellars Rose’
In addition, Chef Ryan and Chef Vince treated our patrons to some “one-bite” amuse bouche style plates. This was the first time I got to attend as a guest, and although I won’t divulge what those one-bites were, I can tell you they were delicious! OK, I may have had some wine and can’t remember properly at this time, so instead I will distract you with pictures of food.
The soup course was meticulously plated prior to being dropped in front of the customers. The broth was a concoction of Thai Basil Tea and Habanera Peppers, and was poured table side from French presses after the bowls were set down.
Chef Ryan sourced out locally made roti shells on St. Croix, and chose to plate with braised local goat, sweet potato (two ways: chip and puree), mint, turmeric, and coconut rice. All of the guests completed decimated their plates.
“Fruit” dessert: As promised, a combination of tropical flavors that seemed to explode on the plate, as well as on the palate.
We look forward to welcoming Chef Frank Robinson, a St. Croix native, in November for the second in our Collaboration Series.
Special thanks to St. John Inn for housing our guest chefs and providing a special rate for anyone wishing to stay the night and attend one of our dinners. Check them out here: http://www.stjohninn.com/?gclid=CKO144bo8NUCFUxahgod9ckDAA
September’s dinner will be around the Harvest Moon and feature foods from the Great Midwest. Friday, September 8th, so call us to reserve early! 340-777-5464.