Dining to the rhythm of nature: A bite of the US Virgin Islands
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands: Celebrity chef Digby Stridiron has satiated the palate of the likes of Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Vivica A. Fox. And on Tuesday night, the US Virgin Islander massaged the palates of members of the media in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands.
Inspired by the rhythm of nature, he created a four-course meal that left more than 30 members of the international media in awe, while their taste buds were stroked by the talent and passion for food by the award-winning chef.
A native of St Croix, Stridiron's fervour for food was recognised at an early age, when he cooked with his father and grandmother. Today, he is a member of the James Beard Foundation, and on Tuesday night, he was our personal chef, preparing every meal right before our eyes at the Outrigger Villa on the US-administered territory.
Making his intentions known early in what could easily pass for a 'Meet the People' dinner presentation, like a musical selector, Stridiron drew for one gastronomic creation after another, driven by his farm-to-table philosophy.
Using the freshest ingredients found in the ocean surrounding the islands and the produce of the land, Stridiron, assisted by chefs Shaun Brian and Danika Joseph, along with pastry chef Danielle Berry, took us through a culinary journey.
As the appetiser, he introduced the discerning palates to the popular Queen Trigger fish (aka 'Old Wife'), a staple among his countrymen, using local ingredients to bring out the taste of a fish he poached for no more than 15 seconds. A welcome change to the run of the mill, the executive chef trained at Johnson Wales used the acids to ensure the fish was conducive to the palate. He combined this meal with titillating salted grapes, tuna, tartar and mango ginger emotion, and tomato chutney to complete this fascinating and delicious dish.
The executive chef even placed a moringa flower in the middle of the appetiser, while boasting about the different salts harvested on the island.
For his second course, which he says he always dedicates to the land, he presented a sloping salt-roasted trunk fish.
"The food on the plate is sloped because of the sloping hills of the island," explained Stridiron.
In fact, the slopes that took us to dinner at Outrigger Hill were 250 feet above sea level.
However, let's get back to the unbelievably fabulous trunk fish meal, marinated with guineps used to make a nice vinaigrette with carmelised honey. Cheese was part of this dish, but didn't overpower it. This was nicely hidden by the hand-seared hog plum, the charred broccolini and avocado and pomegranate seeds sprinkled all over.
This was indeed a very special meal, yet there was more to come.
Eating healthy is a big part of what this chef does, hence the use of fish in both the first and second courses.
"We eat fish back to back in the Caribbean," he stated.
For his third course, Stridiron and his team introduced a gooseberry stewed lamb. By braising the lamb in gooseberry soup, he was able to create an uncommon and mind-blowing impact. This was accompanied by roasted sweet breadfruit and an aromatic tomato sauce with hints of garlic.
As if this was not enough, he delivered his award-winning 'Red Grout' dessert to the taste buds. This dish won him prominence at the June 2014 Caribbean Tourism Organisation's Rum and Rhythms event in New York, where his dessert enhanced with coconut lemon grass Anglaise, currant and nut salad were a hit.
The obvious link between farmers, farm communities, community-supported agriculture and the food they eat were evident at this fantastic event hosted by the USVI Department of Tourism.