August 2017 Full Moon Dinner – Crucian Collaboration #1

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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.

 

 

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July 2017 Full Moon Dinner – Thai One On

Sorry for the late post!  We have been working very hard in what is the busiest July I can remember, which is great, of course, but also comes at a cost: less time for the beach, friends, music, exercise, and obviously, blog posts.

We did still have time enough to throw together a Full Moon Dinner, and it was our most popular ever, with 70 guests.  Since I had just gone to Thailand and Vietnam to visit some family and had brought back authentic spices and ingredients, it seemed fitting to share that with our guests, especially since there are no real Thai or Vietnamese restaurants in the Virgin Islands, at least that I know of.  To keep the experience even more authentic, and to make it (a little) easier on ourselves, we decided to make the dinner family-style, since most meals in Thailand and Vietnam are served this way.  I guess that’s why I always want my girlfriend to split entrees with me when we go out.  I like variety.

Courses came out one after the other, and since we were in the kitchen getting things out in a hurry, I completely forgot to take any pictures of anything.  So, to fill whatever visual cravings you might have, I am going to post some pictures from my trip instead.  The trip inspired me to connect with more of my roots and family, and was an opportunity to show my son another side of the world.

We paired up with Southern Glazer’s and brought in a few different Sierra Nevada Beers as well as some Suntory Whiskey for the event.

Here is the menu we designed for July 10th, 2017:

In addition to the Curry Trio (Massaman, Panang, and Green), Green Papaya Salad with fresh, local Papaya, Spicy Beef Salad, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Fish Cakes, Son-in-Law Eggs, Sticky Rice, Jasmine Rice, and Teas, we also had some some Bun (Rice Noodles), Tom Ka Soup, and array of sauces and pickled vegetables.  We also finished with a Thai Iced Tea Popsicle.

All of the food was born of the idea that we wanted to treat folks to an experience as close to what they would get in Southeast Asia as possible.  The extremely hot weather certainly helped us achieve our goal!

Here are some of the places, faces, and flavors that helped this idea come to fruition…

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‘Pon de River!

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The mountains above Chiang Mai

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Chatuchak Market

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Reclining Buddha

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Heart to the sky

 

Our journey to us first to Bangkok, where my son and I met up with many members of our family.  It was his first time meeting my father’s side, since we live so far away.  From there, we headed to Chiang Mai to spend some time connecting with even more family (28 members in all made it to this part of the visit).

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Lyric, Hua, and Nick enjoying lunch

 

A quick few days in Vietnam took us from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi to Halong Bay, and back to Ho Chi Minh.

With markets all over the place, it was hard to resist filling our suitcases with fantastic flavors.  We definitely did not bring back any fresh fruits or vegetables, as per the USDA regulations.  Wouldn’t want to risk losing our Global Entry statuses, after all.

 

Throughout, it was an amazing trip filled with new experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  Dreaming about going back as soon as possible and spending even more time there.

I hope that our guests enjoyed the evening and got the feeling that they were transported to another locale for just a few hours.

August’s Full Moon Dinner was another amazing time.  Stay tuned for the next update, soon come.

 

June 2017 Full Moon Dinner – I Bahn Heh

Chefs: Mathayom Vacharat, Vincent Alterio, Patrick Ryan

Gardner: Mathew Gibney

The Crucian Dictionary defines the term ‘Bahn Heh’ or ‘Baan Ya’ as, “Born here. Native. Belonger. This expression, part of the vernacular since time immemorial, is increasingly heard as immigrant islanders assert themselves in the community. This is indeed unfortunate as one realizes that the most defiant shouters of ‘Baan ya’ are themselves children of an earlier wave of immigrants. [First seen in print in the St. Croix Avis, 18 Feb. 1868.]”

To that end, with St. John Carnival in full swing, we wanted the June Full Moon menu to celebrate what we felt was an amalgam of many of the different flavors that were brought to the Virgin Islands, added to the culinary melting pot, and presented as what are now considered local dishes.  We also wanted to use what is sourced locally, as is custom practice for our kitchen.

Of course, we had to put our own twist on things as well, so non-traditional was the norm.  We linked up with Bellows and West Indies to pick a variety of wine selections.

In keeping with our commitment to give back to the world community, we decided to match any contributions to our beloved Pan Dragons steel pan orchestra.  Our patrons generously donated at total of $325, for a grand total of $650 donated!  Thank you to everyone who gave.  Feel free to continue showing the music program some love here: https://www.gofundme.com/st-john-love-city-pan-dragon-steel

Without further ado, here is the menu:

SLOW SEASON: Windy Level Baby Romaine / Smoked Eggplant / Stuffed Crouton / Coconut Hot Pepper Sauce
Pairing: Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc

Flavor Injectors!

Smoked Eggplant, Stuffed Crouton, Hot Sauce, and Baby Romaine

The greens, including baby romaine and Swiss chard, were picked from our garden and shocked in ice water.  The eggplant came from the lovely ladies who have their produce stand in Cruz Bay Park, and we smoked it for about 2 hours.  The crouton was seared and then stuffed with a Buttermilk-Herb dressing.  The hot sauce was inserted into flavor injectors and positioned into the crouton.  Voila!

CARNIVAL TIME: Wahoo Kallaloo / Lobster Dumpling / Saltfish Escabeche
Pairing: William Hill Central Coast Chardonnay

Salt fish with a smoky essence, lobster dumpling in kallalo

I see food and I eat it!

A semi-traditional Kallaloo was made with Okra from Ridge to Reef Farm in St. Croix, celery, onions, flavor peppers, malabar spinach, lobster stock, and lots of love!  A dumpling with chunks of Rock Lobster tail was added at the end, and on the side, we served an escabeche of salt fish, topped with passion fruit from our vine, and placed under a glass dish filled with apple wood smoke.  Oregano was chosen for the garnish.

CORAL BAY MASSIVE: Salt Pond Salt-Crusted Pork / Pumpkin Johnny Cake / Jerk Mushroom Sauce
Pairing: Domaine Carneros Avante Garde Pinot Noir

Salt Pond is a treasure trove for harvesting our local salt supply, and our crew brought back about a year’s worth last month.  We decided to crust and roast a pork loin, then add a whole bunch of pumpkin flavor by way of pumpkin spice Johnny Cakes, pumpkin slaw, and pumpkin puree.  We finished the plate off with a Jerk-seasoned mushroom sauce, the ribs that were trimmed from the loin, and fresh scallion.

DRUNKEN GOAT: Mango Beer-Braised Goat / Green Pea Pastry / Oxtail Demi / Spicy Tomato Jam
Pairing: Achaval Ferrer Mendoza Malbec

We ended up using mutton instead of goat as our main protein, but then after making the oxtail demi, decided to mix the oxtail meat in with the mutton to create a delicious partnership of flavors.  Planning for something like a deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie, Chef Vinny took our peas and made a crispy flatbread from them.  The spicy tomato jam cut through the richness of the dish with spice and acidity, while hints of mango perfumed the meat.  A pistachio crust was then applied to brighten the plate and add a bit of crunchy texture.

RECOVERY AND THERAPY: Sweet Plantain Monfongo Napoleon / Champagne-Sorrel Sabayon / Chocolate
Pairing: Batsiolo Moscato Bosc D’La Rey

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We have had an abundant fruit season this year, and so plantains also made the menu.  Yes, it’s true that Mofongo is orginially from Puerto Rico, but since they are so very close and we are told to, “Love thy neighbor”, we figured why not incorporate the dish somehow.  Ripe plantains were cooked, mashed, and seasoned with a bit of chili, then formed into cakes seared.  Spiced Tuille Cookies were par-baked, cut, and finished off.  The Champagne Sabayon was infused with Sorrel Liqueur from St. John’s very own Sharelle Francis.  Plating involved Chocolate Ganache, and torching the Sabayon to create a burnt marshmallow flavor.  Eating it was like taking a weekend trip to visit Boricua.

Next month, for July, we will be exploring the flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine, and serving a fantastic family-style menu with beers and Suntori Whiskey.  Come Thai One On with us on Monday, July 10th.  Call our office during business hours to reserve a seat for only $55pp   340-777-5464

We are also SUPER excited at the prospect of having our first guest chef appearance in August by way of Digby Stridiron of Balter in St. Croix!  http://www.balterstx.com/ Saturday, August 5th is the date.   Mark it in your calendars now; it’s going to be epic.  We hope to have a guest chef about every three months.

We will be posting our upcoming concepts for the year very soon, so keep an eye on our homepage and our Facebook page for details.

Until next time, enjoy Carnival and the Holiday week!

 

 

Keep the Romance Alive: Legendary Aphrodisiacs

February 2017’s Full Moon Dinner at the Windy Level put an emphasis on Valentine’s Day and the {ahem} spirit that it brings.

Throughout time, people have tried to figure out an easy way for their partners (and themselves) to get in the mood.  While researching the topic of foods that were purported to have the qualities of an aphrodisiac , we found that most of the common factors were a tendency to be heart-healthy, contain antioxidants, and get the blood pumping.

Before we get into the food and wine, here are some gratuitous shots of the Caribbean Sunset and Blue Water:

 

This was our menu (which was apparently too tongue-in-cheek to be approved for :

Baby, I Like It Raw: Oyster Three-way    Olive Pesto / Pickled Burdock Mignonette / Compressed Watermelon

You’re Really Hot, Honey     House Burrata / Avocado / Citrus Salad / Chili-Infused Honey / Basil

Nice Package!         Artichoke Strudel / Arugula / Fig Jam / Pepitas / Tomato

There’s Plenty of Fish…      Plantain-Stuffed Scottish Salmon / Ginseng-Coconut Couscous / Balsamic-Grilled Asparagus / Lobster Sauce

Warm, Sweet, and Creamy       Cinnamon Poached Pear / Vanilla Crème Anglaise

Take Me Home, Already        Surprise Parting Gift  (it was a Chocolate-Covered Long Stem Strawberry)

 

We partnered up with Dale Miller, owner of AB Cellars, who provided some great Italian selections for our meal.  We also welcomed chef Vinny Alterio to the team for his first dinner with us!

 

Oyster Course

We splurged and got some really nice product in for this one.  A trio of fresh oysters included Blue Point, Wianno, and Katama varieties.

 

We even had a Peeky Crab or two in the mix!  The Blue Points went with the Olive Pesto, the Wianno with the Burdock Root, and the Katama went in a Watermelon Shooter.

Plating was with some rock salt, grilled citrus, smoking thyme, and pickled watermelon rind.

Pairing: Calliope Prosecco

 

 

Cheese Course

We made our own Mozzarella Burrata, stuffed with Garden Herbs and Ricotta.

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Some fresh Avocado, a Citronette Salad, Habanero Salt, and Chili-Honey rounded out the flavors, and a Flax-Hemp-Chia Seed Cracker added the necessary crunch factor.

Pairing: 2013 Colli Vincenti Pinot Grigio

 

Salad Course

For our artichoke strudel, we took fresh Artichoke Barigoule and tossed it with caramelized onions, as well as roasted and pureed Bottle Gourds from our garden (locally called Sweet Go’, they can reach the size of an adult’s arm!) and put them mixture into phyllo dough.  They have been so abundant in our garden, we gave away three of them to guests along with four bottles of wine in our monthly raffle (Congratulations to Sharelle who won two bottles of wine and one bottle gourd!)

Finishing off the plate, we added locally grown Arugula, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes from our garden, Pepitas, and a Fig Jam for a bit of unctuous flavor.

Pairing: 2012 Cerretello Chianti Superiore

 

Fish Course

Normally, we like to serve locally caught seafood, but once in a while, it’s nice to mix it up and get in something special.  It was our first encounter with the Ora King product, and we couldn’t have been more pleased.  The organically raised King Salmon met every expectation of quality we could ask for, although it was quite pricey (but worth it).

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We figured it was best to keep things relatively simple, so we did a Coconut Israeli Cous-Cous, Lobster Sauce, Reduced Balsamic, Asparagus, and a Plantain Stuffing.  We kept the skin and crisped it up.  The flavor combo was amazing!  The salmon and plantain was seared and then lightly roasted to a medium temperature, letting the fattiness open up but keeping the flesh tender and flaky.

A non-traditional pairing of the 2005 Moro di Pava Super Tuscan was just what this dish called for, mixing the rich, hearty flavors of the food with the complex meritage of Merlot, Cab Franc, and Sangiovese.

 

Dessert Course (not pictured)

The Poached Pear we did was not overtly sweet.  The Sous Vide technique allowed us to reach the perfect temperature and texture while retaining the pear’s own juices.  Cooked with cinnamon and a touch of the paired Vin Santo dessert wine (made from Trebbiano Grapes), we plated it with a bit of Vanilla Creme Anglaise and some Aquafaba that we torched to a golden brown.

Pairing: Vin Santo Dessert Wine

 

Recap

All 44 guests left with a long-stemmed chocolate covered strawberry, and hopefully feeling a bit more amorous than when they arrived.  Below is a list of some of the ingredients that we used and their purported effects.  Thanks to everyone who attended and worked this event!  For March 2017, we will be doing a Five Course Vegan interpretation of the “Worm Moon” on Friday, March 10th. Come join us and experience the Windy Level for yourself!

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Aphrodisiacs

 

Oysters – Zinc (men) – men lose zinc with every climax.  Also contain Amino Acids

Pine Nuts – Zinc

Olive Oil – Healthy Heart

Burdock – Used for sterility and impotence in China

Watermelon – Lycopene (relaxes blood vessels)

 

Avocado – Vitamin E

Chili – Endorphins (Increased heart rate) Capsacin

Honey – Boron (regulates estrogen).  Mead (from Honey) was traditionally served on Honeymoon, hence the name.

 

Artichoke – Silymarin (heart health & liver function)

Arugula – Minerals and antioxidants to block contaminants

Fig – Potassium

Pepitas – Magnesium (raise testosterone)

 

Salmon – Omega 3 (heart health)

Plantain – Bromelain (triggers testosterone productions)

Ginseng – Saponins (increased energy)

Coconut – Increased blood flow

 

Cinnamon – Raises Body Temp

Vanilla – Stimulates nerves

Red Wine – Reservatrol antioxidant (increased blood flow)

 

Chocolate – tryptophan, is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal

 

 

Recap : May Full Moon Wine Dinner

Another Full Moon Wine Dinner on the books, and another great success! Thanks to everyone who joined us last night for an Italian inspired menu and wines from AB Cellars. Mark Elia put together great pairings for the menu – below, check out each course, plus some behind the scenes photos!

 

Amuse Bouche : Grilled Flatbread / Fig / House Ricotta / White Balsamic Reduction

Paired with Valdobbiadene Prosecco, Trentino Region

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First Course : Lobster Bisque / Clam / Wild Local Thyme / Shrimp Oil / Coconut Foam

Paired with Tribbiana Trebbiano, Pisa Region

Second Course : Seared Local Tuber Gnocchi / Garlic Braised St Croix Jackfruit / Malabar Honey / Sorrel Puree / Local Yucca Flower / Infused Salt

Paired with Poggio ai Ginepri Rosata, Bolgheri Region

Intermezzo : Mutiny Rhum Lemongrass-Coconut Gelato

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Third Course : Plantain Wrapped Monkfish / Windy Level Pumpkin Caponata / Basil / Balsamic Reduction

Paired with Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont Region

Fourth Course : Fungi Explosion Ravioli / Mixed Wild Mushrooms / Thyme Beurre Rouge / Parmesan / Micro Greens / Shaved Black Truffle

Paired with Scopaiolo Red Table Wine, Pisa Region

Fifth Course : House Made Cannoli / Amaretto Ricotta / Toasted Almond / Cinnamon / Trebbiano-soaked Apricot

Paired with Vin Santo Sangiovese, Pisa Region

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And of course, the night wouldn’t be complete without a group photo!

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Next month’s Full Moon Wine Dinner will be a vegetarian menu, so stay tuned for more details!

Making it Your Own Part 3-All the Extras!

Now that you have your perfect location, the guests are sipping on your custom crafted cocktail, what is your next step for creating an event that will hardly be forgotten? All the extras!

This island boasts a slew of talented musicians who add the perfect amount of ambiance to any celebration. Some of our favorites include Greg Kinslow and his variety of bands (see above video) for an energetic and festive vibe and the wonderful husband and wife duo of Lauren and Bo who harmoniously combine vocals and guitar for a light and airy mood that can be later spiced up with classic favorites to really get down to.

Steel Pan Player

If you want to do something very Caribbean, how about having a steel pan player perform? Steel pans are a great accompaniment to the breathtaking backdrops that this island has to offer. Whether the event be on the beach or at a villa, this is a great way to incorporate the sounds with the sights.

Fire Dancer

Caribbean Dancer

Looking for a little flair? How about a fire dancer to spice up the night? We have also included events with traditional West Indian Carnival-esque dancers complete with limbo pole to get the crowd loosened up. We can help put you in contact with the right entertainer.

Need to be sure that the event is captured forever? Let us help you find a photographer or videographer to record all the fun you’re having on St. John! We have always been a big fan of Blue Glass Photography‘s work and invite you to check out their portfolio.

If you want to make something happen, let us know. We have been on island for years and are able to help make recommendations and build connections with many talented people! Cheers to creating your dream event!

Making it Your Own Part 2-Location

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View from a formal dining event in Coral Bay

If you are having an event on island, you already know this, but this place is beautiful. Exquisitely so. With that said, there are an incredible amount of spaces in which to have your event–but you will want a location that reflects the purpose of the event and your own personality.

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Outdoor dining from an event at Virgin Grande Estates

One of the most appreciated spaces is right at your own rental villa. If you are having a formal dinner for all of your travel partners, just make yourself comfortable in the indoor or outdoor dining space that the home offers. We will use the linens and table wear to create the scene for one of your most memorable meals.

Wedding in Upper Peter Bay

Wedding in Upper Peter Bay

The set up for a beautiful wedding poolside at a villa

The set up for a beautiful wedding poolside at a villa

 

If you are having a large event, be sure to check the restrictions on the villa when booking. Some will not allow any gatherings, some will limit the guest count to 20, so be sure to communicate this when planning your stay. Having the event at the villa you are staying at allows the party to come to you! We will bring all necessary tables, chairs, and bar set up to make sure that all needs are met.

Welcome party at Sirenusa

Welcome party at Sirenusa

A formal dinner at Grande Bay

A formal dinner at Grande Bay

Don’t have a villa but still want to have a gathering? We have worked with Sirenusa and Grande Bay if you are staying at one of the properties and can offer in-condo dining or with permission, access to outdoor common areas. We have even worked with bars like Dr!nk to host an event with appetizers or even full buffet menus!

A wedding at Oppenheimer Bay

A wedding at Oppenheimer Bay

How about having the event on a beach? One of our favorite locations for weddings to pig roasts is at Oppenheimer Beach. Only a few minutes out of town, this beach has everything you will need: an indoor area with full kitchen and bathrooms, plenty of outdoor space, access to the beach, and a fantastic sunset viewing spot.

If you are one for an adventure, consider dining on a boat, or even better, a helicopter! Just say the word and we will figure out all of the details.

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Dinner in Upper Peter Bay

Remember, its all about location, location, location!

Call to book your event today! 1-340-777-5464