Eating my way through St Lucia
Eating my way through St Lucia
When it comes to being adventurous with food, I'm no Andrew Zimmern from The Food Network's Bizarre Foods, but I'm all for trying new things and new foods, albeit within certain non-critter, slime-free parameters. So, on a recent trip to St Lucia for the launch of Campari's 2015 calendar, my palate was ready to take on any challenge. This is our fellow Caribbean country, after all. How bad could it be?
Well, it's a good thing that first impressions don't always last. The quaint but well-maintained blu Hotel in scenic, seaside Rodney Bay wasn't having a very good night. We, a group of media personnel and Campari distributors from across the region, were famished. What was supposed to be an exciting, filling meal after a long day of predawn wake-up calls, delayed flights and tedious airport rituals fell short. I had never had cream of potato soup before, so I thought, why not? It was hard to appreciate as a cold soup. Maybe they should rethink that. We're Jamaicans, after all. We want our soups hot! The steamed gray snapper that came an interminable one hour later was only good enough to keep us alive through the night and, for many, the vegetarian fettuccine pasta in basil tomato sauce remained untouched. The stewed pork marinated in local seasoning did, however, make the rounds at the table.
Rodney Bay really is a food lover's paradise. The street where our hotel is located is lined with eateries. From Creole to Cantonese, to 'Tapas by the Sea', the offerings were as diverse as the people of the Caribbean. So, we quickly put the bad experiences out of our heads and were again ready to take the culinary journey around St Lucia.
Big Chef Steakhouse
The next night, it was off to Big Chef Steakhouse for the welcome dinner. Now, when a restaurant has a Tripadvisor certificate of excellence for 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, they have got to get it right. And it was oh, so right. We were greeted by the most delicious blend of sparkling wine and Campari. If you've never thought to try this blend, do it. Do it now!
When you're at a steakhouse, of course you try the steak! Forget the fish and chicken; go straight for an 8 or 12oz three-mushroom sirloin - portabella, shitake and button mushrooms in a balsamic cream sauce. Well done, the steak melts in your mouth. The mushrooms and balsamic sauce combo ignites the senses and you can't gobble it down fast enough to satisfy your desire. Heaven, it turns out, is a steakhouse in St Lucia.
The star of the harbour in Canaries is Caribbean Pirates. It's St Lucia's answer to our Gloria's in Port Royal, except Caribbean Pirates is the stamping ground for tourists fresh off the giant cruise ships that dock right next to the restaurant. The bounty of the seas, crustaceans of all persuasions, are cooked to perfection in Chef Robbie's pots. I had the grilled fish, which was pretty good, but the fellow sitting behind us ordered a bowl of whelks (bwigo) which caused a commotion. It's an ugly-looking meal that's eaten with a toothpick being the best tool to use to extract the tender morsel. Everyone was excited and took a bite saying it tastes like conch. Looks too much like snakes for my tastes.
On Saturday, it was time to take a tour of the island and, on a hill in what felt like the middle of nowhere, we came upon Plas Kassava (Cassava Place) in the hills of Canaries. A popular tourist spot you, can have 12 delicious flavours of cassava. This ain't your grandma's bammy. St Lucians have taken their cassava to a whole new level. This is bammy on steroids. You can have chocolate cassava bread, smoked herring cassava bread, raisin and cinnamon cassava bread, salt fish cassava bread, and even an apple and raisin combination. The cinnamon and raisin combo tastes like our Easter bun, but the entire experience was eye-opening. A terrific stop if you're ever in the area.
By far, the restaurant with the best view (of the famous Pitons) was The Beacon. Overlooking Soufriere, this was the spot for comfort home-cooked food. They have stuff like sweet potato balls, penne pasta and hash browns, which went down perfectly with a tasty cocktail of grapefruit juice and Campari. Their vegetables are grown on property and the staff members were friendly and efficient; everything going together to make the dining experience even more enjoyable. The combination of good food and mind-blowing view is unbeatable.
But all too soon it was time to say goodbye. Our palates were well pleased and we created our own culinary memories at Memories of Hong Kong just down the street from our hotel. With its selection of Chinese and Cantonese cuisine, there was nothing to complain about.