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Usually when I go to the Caribbean I don’t expect to be dazzled by the restaurants. To avoid disappointment I stick to island staples: simply prepared, freshly caught seafood; tropical fruit; and wild frozen-drink concoctions with ridiculous names like Bushwhacker and Painkiller. But I found some seriously good food when I was in St. John for a friend’s wedding last weekend.
*The new executive chef at the beachy-luxe resort Caneel Bay, hails from Boston, and is making perfectly executed desserts like a warm mango tart and coconut crème brûlée at Equator restaurant, which is housed in the ruins of an 18th-century sugar mill.
*Alex Ewald, chef at La Tapa, an 11-year-old restaurant in Cruz Bay, is proof that women do cook differently from men: more from the heart and more from the soul. Ewald pulled off an incredible reception dinner despite losing power in the restaurant that day (I thought all of the tea lights were only there to be romantic!). She recalled that my friend loved one of the paintings hanging in the restaurant (the restaurant doubles as a gallery for local talent) and shot the image for the wedding dinner menus. And the menu, a mix of French, Caribbean and Spanish flavors, could was full of delicious surprises like escargot with garlic, thyme, Chardonnay and cream and perfectly seared duck breast dressed with caramelized shallot and calvados sauce.
*Baked in the Sun, a local, hippy-style bakery in St. John, supplied the wedding cake as well as a birthday cake for the groom the next day. I’m not a cake person but the wedding cake, a chocolate raspberry masterpiece and the decadent banana caramel birthday cake were both worthy of two huge slices.
*On this trip, I swapped my usual frozen cocktails for the mango-infused pale ale I found at St. John Brewers, a local brewery started two years ago by Chirag Vyas and Kevin Chipman - two 20-somethings from Rhode Island and Vermont, respectively. I was happy to learn that the ale is available in a few places in the States.
*On my last day I randomly found what is probably the only Red Sox bar on the island and was able to catch the final game of the World Series. Woody’s is certainly not a fine dining establishment but the corn flake crusted scallops and spicy curly fries were just right for snacking during the game.