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“A Taste of Two Islands” Makes a Triumphant Return

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After a three-year break due to the pandemic, “A Taste of Two Islands” marked its return to the Virgin Islands’ cultural scene. The event, in its 16th iteration, was hosted at the Mark Marin Center of the Antilles School, drawing a significant crowd eager to indulge in the Virgin Islands Public Broadcasting System (WTJX)’s celebrated culinary showcase.

The event featured a variety of culinary delights from renowned establishments such as Pesce, an Italian eatery at American Yacht Harbor, and The Pressure Spot, a vegan hotspot on Norre Gade, among others. Patrons enthusiastically cleared The Pressure Spot’s offerings, with Carol, a volunteer for the evening, highlighting the popularity of their pumpkin butternut squash soup and lion’s mane mushroom balls.

Participants like Barbara LaRonde, co-owner of The Pressure Spot, embrace the event for its marketing potential and its support of WTJX. Ms. LaRonde expressed her lifelong admiration for the station, praising its educational content and unique local programming.

Tanya Marie Singh, WTJX’s CEO, emphasized the station’s integral role in the community. She cited the broadcast of the opera “Champion”, about St. Thomian boxer Emile Griffith, as an example of the station’s commitment to delivering culturally rich and educational content.

Despite the event’s rescheduling from its traditional Veteran’s Day date, Ms. Singh was thrilled with the public’s robust turnout. Calvin White, the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner and one of the evening’s judges, commended the high-quality dishes, particularly highlighting a few favorites like pumpkin soup and shrimp with grits.

Mr. White, reflecting on the event’s history, noted the eagerness of the community for its return. Looking ahead to 2024, he encouraged more residents to experience the culinary prowess of local chefs at the event’s next edition, set to revert to its November scheduling.

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Culinary

Sam Choy to Highlight Culinary Expertise at St. Croix Events Celebrating Local Produce and Culture

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Celebrity chef Sam Choy, acclaimed for his inventive culinary techniques and Food Network appearances, will return to St. Croix to support local educational and fundraising initiatives. A James Beard Award winner, Choy’s visit is eagerly awaited, with special culinary events slated for early June.

Choy first forged a connection with St. Croix in 2013, collaborating with fellow chefs Josef DeSimone, Tony Castellucci, and Dean Spinks. They participated in various philanthropic activities, including culinary demonstrations at St. Croix Complex high school. These efforts resulted in students Denika Boyd and Aaron Tutein securing internships and subsequent employment with Facebook, following training at both the company’s Palo Alto campus and Choy’s restaurant in Hawaii.

During his ongoing engagement with the island, Choy has taken part in numerous culinary events such as the Cork & Fork Dinner, Cuisine on the Green, Fusion Luau, and served as a judge at the Taste of St. Croix, solidifying his role as a prominent ambassador to the region.

In 2014, Choy collaborated with local restaurateur Todd Manley to explore the untapped potential of breadfruit. This partnership led to the creation of Mutiny Island Vodka, the world’s first vodka distilled from breadfruit. The vodka is now available in 14 states and served by Applebee’s, American Airlines, and Virgin.

This year, Choy’s visit will feature two special events celebrating the versatility of breadfruit. On June 3, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Sion Farm Distillery, the Breadfruit Pairing Party will showcase a variety of breadfruit dishes and tastings of Mutiny’s breadfruit vodka. Choy will also be signing his Breadfruit Ulu Cookbook, with free copies available to the first 30 attendees.

The celebrations continue on June 4 with the Poke + Pizza Party at The Mill on the Christiansted Boardwalk, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This event will honor Choy’s significant impact on modern Hawaiian cuisine and his title as the ‘Godfather of Poke,’ featuring pizzas inspired by this traditional dish.

For more details and participation information, interested parties can contact Todd Manley at 804-929-1895 or visit the Mutiny Island Vodka website.

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Culinary

High Spirits and Culinary Triumphs at Taste of St. Croix 2024

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Nearly 700 attendees graced the Taste of St. Croix this year, held at the Divi Casino on the east end of the island. The event’s founder, Collin Hodge, credits the consistent allure of the brand for the impressive turnout. The festival, which took place on Thursday, showcased a blend of new and veteran restaurants, with Sugar Rush clinching the top spot in three categories, including desserts—a tie with Cultural Delights. Meanwhile, Turkey Legs on the Go took home the prize for the best entree.

Carambola Beach Resort was awarded the People’s Choice first place, while Jubilee by Yaadie dazzled in the appetizer category.

The evening exuded sophistication, creating a fine dining ambiance as guests donned formal wear and savored dishes from acclaimed chefs and renowned restaurants.

Melanie Johannes-Titre of Sugar Rush shared her enthusiasm with the Consortium post-victory, noting her excitement and gratitude. Participating for the first time, she had long aimed to introduce her delectable creations at Taste of St. Croix, achieving her goal this year with great success.

The event not only featured a feast for the senses but also benefitted from substantial support, including a $25,000 contribution from the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority. This funding provided grants to participating restaurants to defray event-related expenses. Mr. Hodge expressed his gratitude towards the Governor’s Office, the Public Finance Authority, the Department of Tourism, and numerous sponsors for their pivotal roles in the event’s success.

Entertainment was plentiful, with music by Spectrum Band from St. Thomas and various DJs enhancing the lively atmosphere throughout the evening. Mr. Hodge praised the consistent quality and charm of the event, attributing its success to the organization’s dedication to community support and cultural celebration.

Camisha Lynch, a chef and culinary educator from St. Croix Central High School, triumphed in the local fare and soup categories. Returning to Taste of St. Croix after a six-year hiatus, encouraged by her students, Ms. Lynch shared her passion for the culinary arts and the event’s cultural significance.

Reflecting on past venues, Ms. Lynch expressed nostalgia for the Taste of St. Croix’s days at the Divi Carina Bay Resort. Mr. Hodge recalled the venue shift following the destruction caused by the 2017 storms, praising the resilience and adaptability shown during subsequent events held in Downtown Christiansted.

Concluding, Mr. Hodge remarked, “Taste will be Taste,” no matter the setting, underscoring the event’s enduring appeal and the community’s respect for its high-quality execution.

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Culinary

Culinary Renaissance at St. Croix’s Cheeseburger in Paradise with Chef Matt Thole

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St. Croix’s cherished dining spot, Cheeseburger in Paradise, is embarking on an exciting new chapter with the announcement of its grand reopening. At the forefront of this culinary renaissance is Executive Chef Matt Thole, who brings over a quarter-century of refined culinary expertise to the table. Under his guidance, the restaurant is set to unveil an innovative menu that marries the rich flavors of Crucian/Caribbean cuisine with the comforting essence of Southern/Lowcountry cooking.

Anticipated additions to the menu include mouth-watering burgers, succulent barbecue pork ribs, and jumbo fried shrimp, positioning the establishment as a refreshing culinary destination on the island.

A Charleston, South Carolina native, Chef Thole has an impressive resume, marked by tenures at esteemed AAA four-diamond restaurants and extensive experience in laboratory operations management. His connection to both Charleston and St. Croix has fueled his excitement about infusing the menu with a taste of his home, enriched by the island’s vibrant flavors.

Chef Thole is committed to using only the freshest ingredients, crafting all sauces and dressings from scratch, and enhancing the dining experience with a special late-night menu and enticing discounts on food and drink specials post-10 p.m. Additionally, guests can look forward to unique culinary events, including pig roasts and spatchcock chicken prepared over hardwood charcoal, that promise to elevate the gastronomic journey.

Theron Sandy II, the proud owner of Cheeseburger in Paradise, has expressed his utmost confidence in Chef Thole’s vision and culinary craftsmanship. He anticipates that the new menu, infused with Thole’s signature Lowcountry flair, will captivate patrons, alongside the timeless favorites that have long been adored.

Since its inception in 1989, Cheeseburger in Paradise has stood as a cornerstone of St. Croix’s dining landscape. Operated by Sugar Mill Hospitality, LLC, this family-run gem reaffirms its commitment to celebrating the island’s rich culinary heritage. Diners eager for a taste of the revamped offerings are encouraged to stay tuned to the Cheeseburger in Paradise website for the latest updates and information.

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