Our daughter's wedding in May 2003 took us back to the Caribbean not just geography-wise, but food-wise as well. Plucked out of Mexico , where food is cheap in the restaurants as well as in the markets and where it is, well? Mexican, we were plopped back down in the Virgins where food is none of the above. The 2Cs nearly had a collective heart attack
The Virgins Islands is and always has been an expensive place to buy food. We had just forgotten. Back in the old days, on charter, we regularly spent about $600 a week on food, wine and liquor for four people! Of course we were eating elegantly. The fact that the Virgins are a major tourist destination, drawing people to resorts, hotels, condos, and charter yachts for a week at a time means there is a disproportionately high demand for gourmet items. In St. Thomas alone, in addition to regular supermarkets, there are at least three gourmet specialty markets ? Gourmet Gallery's two branches and Redhook's Marina Market ? and two bulk buying stores ? Cost U Less and Price Mart. Three if you count Kmart.
Demand is one element of the high cost of food in the islands. Supply is the other. We always used to laugh at bare-boaters overheard in the market despairing of prices higher than back home. We'd shake our heads and say, ?Just be grateful it's here.? People forget the realities of getting foodstuff to an island 900-some miles away from the continental US.
After a few days of shock, the 2Cs adjusted quickly. Access to such diverse food items was a luxury we couldn't resist. At Judy's apartment we cooked for ourselves two of our favorite charter recipes ? Middle Eastern lamb and Swordfish with Mango Salsa (see Galley #1). Down the hill, at the Shipwreck Café, we had the absolute best hamburger (and most expensive) we have enjoyed in some time. Sailing aboard Ursa Minor, chef Judy cooked many of her specialties that we love, chicken parmagiana, pasta with lobster, Yam Yai salad, and some great fresh mackerel ceviche. We did the lobster and fish thing on Anegada at Cow Wreck Bay , and of course the Friday/Saturday barbecue at Foxy's was as fine as we remembered.
But surely the highlight of our month in the Virgins was the week we spent at the Sandcastle Resort in White Bay , on the island of Jost Van Dyke (www.sandcastle-bvi.com). This beautiful resort is so low key, so well camouflaged by sea grapes, that despite many visits to it's famous Soggy Dollar Bar, I had never formed a clear idea of the resort behind it. Thanks to Tiffany's selection of it for her wedding week, we remedied that.
In addition to being one of the most perfectly relaxing vacation venues (See Logbook # 94-Virgin Islands) I have ever encountered (and that's saying a lot given our lifestyle), Sandcastle is well known for it's fine cuisine. As charter captains, we had always thought it way too expensive for our guests and never once came here on charter. That was our loss. Eating out elsewhere in the islands this trip realigned our values. After the first dinner (for which guests sign up for one of three choices ?usually meat, poultry or seafood ), we decided that a Sandcastle four-course dinner was, in fact, a very good value.
Sandcastle's current chef is Oliver Clifton. Born on Virgin Gorda, Oliver has worked at just about every major hotel in the BVI. He has been at Sandcastle since April 2000. What really impressed us about Oliver's cuisine was its versatility: from fine continental cuisine (we can't say enough about those fabulously grilled meats) to such famous West Indian dishes as pumpkin soup, chicken roti (available at lunch) and Key Lime Pie.
If you stay at Sandcastle, breakfasts and dinners are included. Sailors, however, can put the hook down in White Bay and come in for lunch and, on a signup basis, for dinner if there is space available.
With permission I include Sandcastle's recipes for three West Indian favorites.
Pumpkin Soup ( © Sandcastle)
2lbs peeled pumpkin
½ lb yellow split peas
2 lbs boneless chicken thigh meat
1 graham cracker crust