Food Fans Flock to Taste of St. Croix


Almost 2,000 food fanciers converged on the Divi Carina Resort Thursday night for the 12th annual Taste of St. Croix, and it wasn’t just the food that brought them, although that was phenomenal.

The Taste of St. Croix is more than another food event, said Roger Dewey, president of the St. Croix Foundation and one of the sponsors of the event. And many of the attendees echoed that sentiment.

“It’s the best of everything,” said Tamara Libby, who splits time between St. Croix and Montana.

“Everything is so intense, so flavorful.”

The Forbes online travel site,, has named the 12-year-old Taste of St. Croix one of the 10 best food events in the world. The Taste of St. Croix has become the highlight of a week-long slate of food events sponsored by the St. Croix Foundation, raising funds to support both charitable work and to support such local food programs like the St. Croix Culinary Team and the food education program at the Career Training and Education Center at the St. Croix Educational Complex.

Dewey said the influence of the festival has spread beyond a single day at the eastside Divi resort. It’s now the third biggest event on the island’s calendar, trailing only the two traditional big events, the Crucian Christmas Festival and the Ag Fair, he said, adding that merchants have told him the sale of women’s shoes and fashions spike in the weeks leading up to the event, as more and more women want to dress up and make it a special night out.

About 1,800 tickets were sold at $95 apiece, and if the crowd seemed slightly down this year, as several regular attendees commented, given the state of the local economy and the price of the ticket it was still a strong showing.

A panel of judges including celebrity chefs from around the U.S. and the Caribbean judged the offering of 54 restaurants, caterers, taverns, school food programs and other purveyors of comestibles. Each entrant brought plates of their specialty to be photographed and placed before the judges.

With looks of intense concentration the judges studied, then tasted, each of the dishes in their area of specialty and rated them.

At one point judge Merlin Verier, executive chef at Chicago’s Grahamwich and a culinary consultant in the city, looked up and told another judge that the biscuit he was eating was “the best I’ve ever had.” Word of that comment brought smiles to the crew from the Blue Water Terrace, which had served them up.

One winner was a new eatery on the Christiansted boardwalk, John Eddie’s Lowlife Bar and Refuge. Jesse Card created an award-winning beverage he calls the Bonfire Old Fashioned. His secret ingredient is smoke.

He mixed Cruzan Rum with mango and pineapple juice, and then blew smoke into the concoction, which lent a noticeable bite to the drink.

The winners of the event were:

Appetizers: First place, The Galleon; second, Pirate’s Tavern; third, Beachside Cafe.

Entrees: First, The Galleon; second, Tavern 1844; third, Carambola Golf Club.

Soup/Stew: First place, Palms at Pelican Cove; second (tie) Reminisce Restaurant and H2) Hibiscus Resort; third, Schooner Bay Marketplace.

Dessert: First place, Pirate’s Tavern; second, St. Croix Central High School Culinary Arts Class; third, Starfish Patisserie.

Local fare: First place, Ridge to Reef Farm; second, Savant, third, Tutto Bene.

Vegetarian: St. Croix Central High School Cooking Class; second, Rowdy Joe’s Northside Eatery; third, St. Croix Central High School Culinary Arts Class.

Beverage: First place, John Eddie’s Lowlife Bar and Refuge; second, Country Snack Stand; third place, VLP Enterprises.

Best Presentation: Tutto Bene; runner-up, Schooner Bay Marketplace Catering.

People’s Choice: Rum Runners and Carambola Golf Club.


VI Daily News: Food takes center stage at Taste of St. Croix Taste of St. Croix winners

Published: April 20, 2012

Photo by, Kristin Reynolds

ST. CROIX – In an atmosphere of excitement, the smell of varying dishes fused together to create a culinary carnival across the beachfront as the sounds of laughter, calypso music and sizzling dishes blended in the night at the 12th annual Taste of St. Croix.

The Taste of St. Croix started 12 years ago as a small celebration of local restaurants and food. Organized by Katherine Pugliese and Kelly Odum, the event has grown into a week-long gala and fundraiser.

More than 60 restaurants and caterers lined up along the length of Divi Carina Bay Resort, wrapping around the pool and deck and tempting the attendees with their delicious cuisine. An anxious crowd awaited the 6 p.m. start, when chefs began to share sample portions of tasty dishes that ran the gamut in every possible way.

Some of the night’s favorites were okra papaya risotto with a piña colada salsa and lemon grass dressing; seafood and pumpkin chowder; coconut and curry ital; conch soup; pork wraps; grilled salmon; sushi; confetti rice; pork sliders; quesadillas; kallaloo; oxtail; fungi; and lionfish.

Yes, lionfish.

Kurt Blanche hesitantly bit into his fried lionfish, prepared by the Good to Chew students, but then he smiled and nodded in approval. “It actually tastes really good to be an ugly lionfish,” he said. It tasted like a nice meaty fish, he said.

For fans of sweets, offerings included raspberry mousse; passion fruit cheesecake; bread pudding; flan; chocolate cake; spice cake; rum cake; and cookies.

Tara Petersen said it was her first time at the Taste, and she was overwhelmed seeing the amount of food and the lovely presentations.

“I have never, ever been to anything like this before,” she said. “My mouth is very happy right now.”

The event is the centerpiece of the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience and is organized by the St. Croix Foundation. It has grown to be the biggest fundraiser for the organization and has continuously brought in millions of dollars for other non-profit organizations and projects.

Photo by, KRISTIN REYNOLDS People mingle and dine at the annual Taste of St. Croix on Thursday at the Divi Carina Bay.

Roger Dewey, executive director of the foundation, said he is pleased by how the event has grown during the years and how it has become regarded with high esteem. The event has been voted as one of the top 10 food and wine events in the world, and Dewey is very proud of that, he said.

The foundation was started in the wake of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and has taken on a number of community improvement projects, according to Dewey.

“If it was not for the work we do, many of the organizations we help would not be able to do the work that they do,” he said. “But if you did not do what you do to help us, we would not be able to help them.”

Pugliese said she was star-struck Thursday night by the talent of celebrity chefs who were visiting for the event. They all graciously agreed to be part of the event, and they all have been so impressed by the Crucian warm welcome that they vowed to spread the word about the island, she said.

Every year the event is dedicated to an individual who has made an impact on the industry, but this year, the organizers decided to dedicate the event to the entire St. Croix community because of their spirit of resilience and unity even in trying times, Pugliese said.

The V.I. Tourism Department is a sponsor of the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience and hosted 12 food and travel writers to experience and write about St. Croix, its culture and its people.

Celebrity chefs such as Gorvind Armstrong, Ana Sortun, Robert Trevino, Eric Greenspan and Evelyn Paul were among the VIP judges for the event and also participated in a week of dinners, food and wine pairings, competitions and crawls and event demonstrations with students.

Paul, who was born on St. Lucia and raised on St. Croix, said it was a joy for her to return for the Taste. As a personal chef for many celebrities, she has seen a lot and done a lot, but it was great for her to spend some time with the students in the culinary program at C-tech to see how much they have really grasped, she said.

“They were phenomenal. I was really impressed by how much they knew and how much they embraced the art,” said Paul, who will cook with the students today for the barbecue.

Sortun first came to St. Croix 15 years ago and said that much has changed, but she is glad to be back. The genuine hospitality and the beauty of the turquoise water and lush green hills keep her thinking that it is too good to be true, she said.

Although the Taste of St. Croix has passed for 2012, the culinary carnival continues with the Fork and Cork and Sunset BBQ today; Kids Cooking and Wine and the Warehouse on Saturday; and Cuisine on the Green wrapping up the week on Sunday.

The majority of the week’s proceeds go to the St. Croix Foundation and support Sunset Jazz, Christiansted Jump Ups, the V.I. Culinary Team, the Career and Technical School culinary program and culinary industry training and many of the community enhancement projects on St. Croix and throughout the territory.

For more information about the event or to get tickets for remaining events this week, call the foundation at 773-9898 or visit

More than 60 local restaurants and caterers turned out with their culinary masterpieces Thursday night at the 12th Annual Taste of St. Croix.

Judges looked at presentation, creativity, taste, texture, composition and overall dish. By the end of the night, the celebrity chefs had determined winners in eight categories, with one restaurant winning the two most prominent prizes of Best Appetizer and Best Entree. Festival attendees also voted for the People’s Choice award, and for the first time, two winners tied for the coveted prize.

Best Appetizer – The Galleon

Best Entree – The Galleon

Best Soup/Stew – Palms at Pelican Cove

Best Dessert – Pirate’s Tavern

Best Local Fare – Ridge to Reef Farm

Best Vegetarian – Central High School

Best Beverage – John Eddie’s Lowlife Bar

Best Presentation – Tutto Bene

People’s Choice – Rum Runners; Carambola Golf Club.

– Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email


Taste of St. Croix Tickets & All STXFWE Tickets…AVAILABLE TODAY!!!

Taste tickets are on sale TODAY ONLY at Premier Wines & Spirits (6 Outlets) and Sunshine Mall (4 Outlets) on St. Croix. Tickets will also be available at Urban Threadz on St. Thomas and online for non-VI residents*. Tickets are $95 per person, no more than 4 tickets per person. To purchase tickets after March 31st or for directions or details, please call 340.773.9898 or 340.719.7777 ext. 3.
To purchase ONLINE TICKETS click  on the button below:
*All ONLINE Ticket Buttons are now activated  – All St. Croix Food & Wine Tickets will be available online. (Taste tickets available to off island visitors only).
*FOR ONLINE TASTE TICKETS – you MUST have a non VI address and debit/credit card for this option. Your card will be refunded if you are a VI resident.