Another Culinary Adventure!
Our Destination – Anguilla
Anguilla is a small Caribbean island just 16 miles long and 3 miles wide that lays just a little more than 5 miles to the north of the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
To us, Anguilla epitomizes the meaning of the three pillars for Vivendo La Doce Vita (Living the Good Life): Food, Wine, and Travel.
While Anguilla is a small island with virtually no agriculture, it is rapidly becoming known as a culinary destination. With over 100 restaurants on the island serving a myriad of different ethnic foods, it is easy to see why great food is part of the reason why the Hollywood elite enjoy Anguilla so much.
Along with great food there of course must exist great wine. While alcohol production on the island is limited to rum, Anguilla has no shortage of fine wines (both New and Old World) from around the globe. In fact, in Anguilla I typically end up choosing fine white Burgundies (and an occasional red) because it pairs well with the cuisine, but also because I can often get older vintages at a prices less than in the States. The wine scene has not gone unnoticed, as four restaurants on the island currently hold the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence:
- da’Vida Restaurant & Spa
- Le Bistro At Santorini
- Veya Restaurant
As the Fodor’s book on the Caribbean describes Anguilla, “beach lovers may become giddy when you spot the island from the air”. This is because despite it’s small size, Anguilla boasts over thirty pristine white sand beaches that I have never seen crowded. In fact, most of the time you have large sections of the beach (if not the entire beach) to yourself!
Where We Stay
The resort where we stay in Anguilla is the CuisinArt Resort and Spa that is located on a beautiful 2 mile long crescent shaped stretch of powdery white sand beach called Rendezvous Bay.
This is probably our 12th or 13th trip to the island – with several trips before CuisinArt opened in 1999. Honestly, at that time, we hated to see the construction of CuisinArt ‘defile’ the beauty of Rendezvous Bay, but after the construction was complete, we saw that CuisinArt “did it right” and created a wonderful property which they continue to maintain and improve. We stayed there the first year they opened, and we have never stayed anywhere else on the island since.
Here is how Frommers describes CuisinArt:
“Pillowed in the sand dunes that line a lovely stretch of Rendezvous Bay beach, CuisinArt’s whitewashed villas seem transplanted from some sunny Greek isle. This handsomely landscaped resort has an infinity pool that flows all the way to the beach…” “CuisinArt has a happy, comfortable vibe, with roosters crowing in the morning and lizards skittering in the underbrush and a palm-fringed patio that faces the gleaming pool. And, yes, it is owned by CuisinArt (of blender fame), and yes, it takes its food seriously, with Anguilla’s first and only hydroponic farm…”
Cuisinart does boast of having the first resort hydroponic farm of its kind. They have a substantial state-of-the-art, soil-free growing process that really does produce extremely fresh, flavorful and tender vegetables. Other restaurants and resorts on the island have to ship their produce in from other parts of the world, but at CuisinArt, they are picked from the vine just hours before consumption.
Day 1 – Saturday, 3/23
Technically, this is the second day of our trip, as we flew from MSP to ATL on Friday night and stayed at the Atlanta Airport Marriott, but I’m going to count it as Day 1 because it just makes a better timeline.
Our trip today was almost a disaster before we even left the airport. On Saturdays, there are two Delta flights from Atlanta to St. Maarten, one at 8:30am and the other at 10:00am. In the past we have flown out a day or two earlier (on Thursday or Friday), so our only choice on those days has been the 10am flight. When we set our alarm clock in the hotel in Atlanta on Friday night, I (in my head) set a timeline with a departure time at 10am instead of the 8:30am flight that we were booked on this time. It was a good thing we were plenty early (for my erroneously planned 10am flight), because we recognized my stupidity upon arrival at the airport with enough time to still make our booked 8:30 flight (although Beth ended up with sore feet because I was making her dash across the airport in the flip-flops she was wearing). As it turned out, we arrived at the departure gate with time to spare, and ended up having to wait anyway due to some T-storms in the area. We were almost an hour late departing, but we were on the right flight!
We arrived at SXM (Princess Juliana airport) in St. Maarten about a 1/2 hr after our scheduled arrival due to the late departure, but since we were the first ones off the plane, we were able to get thru Customs quickly. We met our transportation charter at the airport and in less than 30 minutes we were leaving St. Maarten and were on the ocean in our own private boat charter with dual 275hp motors speeding us to our island getaway of Anguilla.
Entry through customs into Anguilla was as quick as the departure from St. Maarten, and in no time we were in a cab and heading to CuisinArt!
We were met at the entrance by Karen, a friendly and happy concierge who, along with Ena, always take great care of us. We were provided chilled towels to help cool and cleanse, then offered their welcome tropical punch. “With!” we both said before our greeting hostess could ask us if we wanted our punch “with” or “without” rum. We have been here before… 🙂
We were taken to our room, and our bags were delivered shortly thereafter. It was now just after 2pm, and we didn’t even bother to unpack our bags because the beach was beckoning…
We left the bags behind and rushed down to the beach that we had waited an entire year for! That sand and the view! We strolled down the beach and went directly to the Beach Bar for a late lunch of the fresh hydroponic salad and delicious grilled lobster skewers (as well as a few chilled beverages from Sam the bartender). Ahh… We had arrived!
Dinner Saturday ended up being somewhat of an event (note that earlier in the day, we nearly had a “disaster”, but by now the island’s mellowness has eased into our mindset and we are now experiencing “an event”). We had 8:30 dinner reservations at Blanchard’s, but when we arrived, the place was dark. Well, I really should say, “not well lit”. The fuse panel for the entire restaurant had just blown and did a complete core meltdown (we later learned that it took two crews working round the clock to restore their service by Monday – they are closed on Sundays). The staff were lighting candles and trying to take care of the guests they already had seated and in various stages of their meals. We heard someone say what happened, and that they were canceling any remaining reservations. Not a good situation for a couple of hungry people that had traveled all day!
We decided to head down the road a ways to Mango’s Seaside Grill where we know that they have a lot of seating. Our thinking was that they could hopefully get us in at the last minute without a reservation. It turned out to be a wise choice, and they were able to get us a nice seat with a great ocean view.
Our meal consisted of appetizers of the Barnes Bay Lobster cake for Beth and the spicy mussels for me. As always, both of these were delicious. For entrees, Beth had the Brazero style (blackened with Mango’s own blend of spices) red snapper, and I had the Brazero Lobster. The spice level was a little bit hotter than in the past, and was definitely an improvement. Yum! A bottle of Chassange Montrachet (white Burgundy) was a delicious accompaniment.
We split a chocolate cake for dessert, which was really good, but not as spectacular as the rest of the meal. Not too bad for last minute improvising!
Due to being on the earlier flight and the quick processing through customs in St. Maarten and Anguilla, we felt like we had a complete day of vacation.
All in all, a wonderful end to Day 1.
Lobster / Crayfish Meal Counter:
Beth – L:2, C:0
Randy – L:2, C:0
Day 2 – Sunday, 3/24
While yesterday was great, today is our first full day in Anguilla! We started the day (as we usually do) with coffee served to our room and we enjoy the morning java while looking out our room to the ocean and beachfront.
After breakfast, we took out first beach walk of the vacation. We headed to the “stonehenge of the caribbean” (as someone named it in one of their blogs) to check out the cairns. People (ourselves included) have been building cairns in the same spot on Rendevous Bay for years; with many times there being upwards of 50+ cairns. This time we were disappointed to see none! It’s probable that rough seas knocked them down, so we took it upon ourselves to help to restore the psuedo-stonehenge area as best we could!
Lunch was again at the Beach Bar, and both Beth and I had the grilled lobster skewers with side salad. A few glasses of Orvieto (an Italian white wine) along with lobster, sun, beach and blue seas makes for a fantastic lunch!
We spent the afternoon reading and relaxing on the beach. One of the really nice things that CuisinArt does is to serve frozen sorbet to their guests in the afternoon. It’s a perfect treat right at the high temperature point of the day.
Dinner for this day was at another of our favorite restaurants, da’Vida. I don’t know that I can describe da’Vida better than what they do on their website: “A magical experience awaits you as the warm trade winds of the Caribbean gently caress your soul, while you indulge in a culinary explosion of taste & flavor that is like no other in Anguilla. This is the celebration of life that awaits you at the da’Vida Restaurant & Spa nestled along the powder white sands of Crocus Bay, Anguilla. Experience Anguilla Like No Other… Nestled by an idyllic tropical cove on the eastern coast of the island paradise of Anguilla in the British West Indies, you’ll find the da’Vida Restaurant & Spa. More than just another island hot-spot, da’Vida is an experience! An experience that entices and encourages our guests to Celebrate Life! From our celebrated chef serving up delightful local and international dishes, to our world-class facilities and beautiful beaches, da’Vida truly is a celebration of the finest life has to offer.” Yup, that pretty much covers da’Vida!
Wine this evening was a very pleasant Puligny Montrachet. For an appetizer, Beth had the Asian Shrimp Dumplings with ginger, chili and lime broth. I had the Tropical Seafood Chowder (lobster, shrimp, snapper & coconut cream). Both were fantastic! For dinner, we both had the signature Katouche Crayfish Tails with curried jasmine rice, stir fried vegetables & herb butter. Oh My! 🙂
For dessert we had the Roasted Banana Spring Rolls w/Cornmeal & Ginger Biscuit that came with West Indian Spice Caramel and Rum & Raisin Ice Cream. More Yum! Roll us out the door!
Lobster / Crayfish Meal Counter:
Beth – L:3, C:1
Randy – L:3, C:1
Day 3 – Monday, 3/25
Another beautiful day in Anguilla. And the best part? Beth did not have to drop me off at the airport this morning!
Lunch at the CuisinArt Beach Bar – again with Lobster skewers. A mango colada for Beth and a couple of glasses of Orvieto for me (I could get used to this…).
Dinner tonight was at Blanchard’s and this time, the restaurant had full power! Bob and Melinda Blanchard are the ones that forged the upscale food and service to the island and are considered largely responsible for starting the “foodie craze” on Anguilla.
For appetizers, Beth had the Blanchards Lobster and Shrimp Cakes with mixed greens and tomato-tartar sauce and I had the Roasted Mussels in a broth simmered with lemongrass, lime juice, ginger, garlic, coconut milk, and chopped plum tomatoes. Just delicious! Both of us had the Grilled Anguilla Crayfish (spicy) brushed with the Blanchard’s special honey-lemon rum glaze. These were the best crayfish ever!
A Puligny Montrachet rounded out the first and second courses wonderfully. Dessert was the Blanchard’s signature “Cracked Coconut” – coconut ice cream inside an edible coconut-crusted chocolate shell served with Bailey’s Irish Cream. What a meal!
Lobster / Crayfish Meal Counter:
Beth – L:4, C:2
Randy – L:4,C:2
Day 4 – Tuesday, 3/26
The brief showers in the early morning cleared out for another wonderful day.
Lunch was again at the CuisinArt Beach Bar – and guess what we had? Lobster skewers, a mango colada and more Orvieto. Are we bored with the same lunch every day? No!
More beach relaxing in the afternoon as well as building a few more cairns. We made friends with another couple (M&J) that we had seen at lunch and around the bar.
Dinner tonight was at Beth’s favorite restaurant, Hibernia, in Island Harbour. Hibernia is a small (only 11 tables), quaint restaurant serving French/Asian specialties that make this one of the island’s top gastronomic destinations.
Going into their 25th year in Anguilla, owners Mary Pat and Raoul combine fine food, fine wine (they already had a good wine list, but have also purchased the remaining portion of the expansive wine collection from the former Malliouhana Hotel – which at one point had 25,000 bottles and earned a Wine Spectator Grand Award), and fine art into a very unique and impressive dining experience. They themselves travel for months to Asia during their off season and gather and purchase items for their restaurant an art gallery.
Hibernia is at the other end of the island from CuisinArt, so it is about a 30min drive. Our new friends M&J also had dinner reservations at Hibernia, so they rode with us there and owner Mary Pat was able to seat the four of us together.
Both of us have our favorite appetizers here. Beth always orders one of the house specialties; the smoked Caribbean fish selection, (tuna, Mahi-mahi, Kingfish etc.) served with horseradish & ginger cream cheese.
While I almost always order the Foie Gras terrine with aged rum and dates.
Sadly, when we arrived Mary Pat apologized that they didn’t have crayfish this evening, but that lobster could be substituted for any of the menu items that listed crayfish. This not uncommon nowadays on the island. Years ago, the consumption demand and the supply were more in balance. However nowadays with all the restaurants on the island, it is becoming harder to consistently obtain fresh crayfish on a daily basis. This was somewhat disappointing, because Beth waits (sometimes impatiently) for Raoul’s Thai Crayfish Casserole – her favorite dish on the island.
The lobster version was almost as good, but just not quite the same as the more tender crayfish. My meal of poached lobster was good as well. We enjoyed the first, and only, red wine of the trip – a Grand Cru French Burgundy that paired well with the spice of some of our dishes.
Lobster / Crayfish Meal Counter:
Beth – L:6, C:2
Randy – L:6, C:2
Day 5 – Wednesday, 3/27
Today we just had to spend more time building more cairns. We had already created some, but there just weren’t enough, so we built some more (the few we built looked lonely). We felt good about creating a little collection that people could enjoy.
Wednesdays and Sundays are Scilly Cay days! Scilly Cay is a small island in the middle of a protected harbor, just a few hundred yards from shore. They serve local food and awesome rum punch on the island for lunch. When you get to Island Harbor and want to go to Scilly Cay, you walk to the end of the Island Harbor pier, and the staff of Scilly Cay will come and pick you up on a small shuttle boat and take you to the Cay.
Scilly Cay could easily be called the “island of thousands of conch shells” because of all of the small step walls and paths around the island that are made of conch shells.
Upon arriving at the main building and checkin area on Scilly Cay, you are greeted by Eudoxie Wallace, the owner of Scilly Cay. As we approached him, Beth yelled a polite hello, and he responded with “I remember that ugly guy with you”. I think he was kidding…??? What a character!
Anyway, once you place your food order with him, you then get to partake in some of his “world famous Eudoxie Rhum Punches”. His son Brandon mixed up one for each of us. As their website states, “…two of those will make you walk on water…”. I really don’t know if they are right or not, because I don’t remember anything after my third! 😉
We could have ordered grilled chicken, lobster, or crayfish, but both of us had the crayfish. It was delicious as always!
While we had no regrets on our crayfish (which were perfectly cooked), the family of four at the table next to us ordered the lobster. They had one order to be split by their two children, and one order each for mom and dad. They ended up with three lobsters that weighed almost 4 lbs each! They were HUGE! The amount of lobster they ended up with could have fed their family as well as us. We might have to try some of that next time…
Dinner tonight was at Veya, one of the most sought after reservations on the island this week. Veya is one of the few restaurants we dined at that is not on the beach. Situated inland on the way down to Sandy Ground, Veya is set in mystical Indonesian-styled building that appears to be a tree house surrounded by a lush tropical garden and koi pond. This casual-luxurious setting is unique and pleasing – just like their food!
We could only get a late 9:00pm reservation, but we arrived over an hour early hoping that an opening would become available so that we could get seated sooner. We sat at the bar in some comfortable chairs and “people watched” while we waited. We had a couple glasses of wine and laughed at the snobby people that came in without a reservation and thought they should be given a table even though none were available.
After a long wait, (maybe a few minutes prior to our reservation time), we were seated at a great (quiet, child free) location. As it turned out, the food was sooo worth the wait! Beth had the Moroccan Spiced Shrimp Cigars with a spicy roasted Tomato and apricot sauce for her appetizer. I had the Vietnamese Style Crispy Calamari with a delicious, spicy Nuoc Cham dipping sauce. Both were awesomely delicious!!
For entrees, Beth had the sauteed red snapper with basil mashed potatoes, cilantro, mint and avocado. I had the butter poached lobster with spinach risotto and crispy parsnips. Everything was fantastic; with the lobster risotto being a particularly spectacular accompaniment. The bottle of Chassagne Montrachet was a great match to the entire meal, and wow, what a meal it ended up being! It was so good and so filling, we actually passed on dessert!
Mental note to self: Next time try the Veya Tasting Menu (A Five Course Tasting Menu Comprised of the Chef’s Current Favorites).
Lobster / Crayfish Meal Counter:
Beth – L:7, C:2
Randy – L:8, C:2
Day 6 – Thursday, 3/28
What a day! The few clouds that we had on previous days almost totally cleared out and the skies were as blue as the water! It was a great weather day, and that may explain why the rum was consumed with greater vigor than on previous days.
We spent the day enjoying the sunshine, our Rendevous Bay beach and continued building our friendship with M&J.
Lunch was again at the beach bar and by this time our order was so repeated, the waitress did not even have to ask us what we wanted. Our new friends M&J were there, and we ate, talked and drank plenty of Orvieto and Coladas!
Later in the afternoon, we moved our “party” to Petal’s Beach Bar where the fun continued with Mount Gay rum and pineapple juice – until M and I were “put into timeout”. I don’t know why… 😉
Dinner this night was at Jacala on Meads Bay. Jacala is owned by Jacques Borderon and Alain Laurent. For years the friends both worked at Malliouhana, but left and started their own venue. The result is a great restaurant on the beach that is both elegantly comfortable and romantic.
Beth had the lobster soup (which was awesome) and I had the salmon gravlax for our appetizer courses. We both had the local fresh crayfish for our entrees – they were delicious!
Beth – L:8, C:3
Randy – L:9, C:3
Day 7 – Friday, 3/29
Walks on the beach never get boring here:
Our last lunch of lobster… After all these lunches of lobster and salad, we still weren’t tired of it.
Our last dinner on the island was at Barrel Stay, a smaller private restaurant right on the beach of Sandy Ground.
For the first time, neither of us ordered lobster or crayfish for dinner! Could it be we were reaching our fill? Beth had the Tempura Shrimp special for an appetizer and I had the Foie Gras appetizer (which, sadly, was just OK because it was slightly over-cooked). Remembering the Spinach Risotto from Veya, we ordered the Lobster Risotto as an intermediate second course to split between us. We both loved it! For our entrees, Beth had the Scallop special and I ordered the Wahoo special. Both were very flavorful and oh-so-delicious!
We will definitely be back here on our next trip because there were many other items on the menu that were also tempting!
Our vacation was over and we were in a bit of a melancholy mood, but when we reminisced on the great weather, food, wine, fun and friendships that we had on this trip, we felt fulfilled and happy.
The final Lobster and Crayfish tally ended up being:
Beth – Lobster: 9, Crayfish: 3
Randy – Lobster : 10, Crayfish: 3
All in all, a great vacation!
Until next time…