Cultivating Community Through Food, Fun & Philanthropy

This was the theme that captured the spirit and essence of the 2017 St. Croix Food & Wine Experience (STXFWE). This annual benefit for the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development featured an impressive roster of celebrity chefs, including distinguished TV personalities, James Beard winners and corporate chefs. The foundation addresses the socioeconomic needs of the U.S. Virgin Islands in areas ranging from education and historic preservation to community & economic development and public safety. Since 1990, their intent commitment to identifying community needs as they arise and leveraging available resources have helped to improve the economic and social wellbeing of the territory.

This year’s culinary wine and spirits festival kicked off on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Friday April 7th and closed out on Monday April 10th. The event lineup featured a number of titillating events including a special welcome reception filled with delightful appetizers and wine pairings, a sensational sunset BBQ overlooking the water, night flights with worldly wines and mouthwatering bites and two intimate wine pairing dinners prepared by world-renowned chefs.

The first event of the festival focused on passionate food and local rhythm to promote holistic community development. Held at St. Croix’s premier restaurant, balter, Bond @ balter ushered in the high expectations of the incredible food that awaited guests of the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience series. Award-winning chef and co-owner Digby Stridiron, along with co-owner Sommelier Patrick Kralik, prepared a wide variety of handheld bites paired with impeccable wines from around the world. St. Croix Foundation’s Executive Director, Deanna James, shared with guests the various efforts and initiatives STXFWE supports. From assisting the Virgin Islands Police Department with the development of a state-of-the-art island-wide security camera system to working with community partners around the critical issues of homelessness on the island, 100 percent of the proceeds from STXFWE directly impact these initiatives and many others.

Photo Credit: Anquanette Gaspard

The Cork & Fork Dinner ($1000 per person), hosted at a historic late 1770s home, offered an elegant dinner menu prepared by renowned Executive Chef George Reid of Four Seasons Anguilla. Visiting vintners paired wines from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits portfolio to complement the exquisite dishes prepared for this intimate gathering. Sautéed Anguilla crayfish, 21-day aged beef strip and foie gras stuffed pig trotters were some of the foods that captivated the taste buds of attendees and left them begging for more! With a hefty price tag, one would presume this event would prove difficult to fill. On the contrary, it is sold out year after year often with a waiting list in the event an unfortunate guest is forced to cancel.

The budget friendly Sunset BBQ ($50 per adult, $25 per child) brought together friends and family, young and old to the historic downtown Frederiksted Pier for the ultimate Crucian experience. Guests enjoyed mouthwatering barbecue prepared by local culinary students under the direction of expert and celebrity chefs like James Beard Winner Sam Choy and Facebook’s Global Executive Chef, Tony Castellucci. The sweet sounds of steel pan music welcomed guests into the event as the sun set over unspoiled blue Caribbean waters. Traditional stilt dancers called mocko jumbies entertained guests with their acrobatic dance moves complete with bends and twists. As the evening continued, guests sipped on the finest Caribbean rums such as Cruzan Rum and Captain Morgan and indulged in even more barbecue bites while dancing and dining under the stars.

Photo Credit: Anquanette Gaspard

The ever-popular Wine in the Warehouse ($125 per person) was this year’s most anticipated event in the series due to a change in venue. Boasted as a journey around the world and back, event goers took their “passports” on the evening’s night flights at the Bohlke International Airways Hangar at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. With each wine tasting, guests received a stamp to signify their “flight” to that part of the world. South Africa, Spain and France were a few of the countries visited as gourmet bites from Top Chef Ron Duprat and Iron Chef Sam Choy were savored with each worldly sip. If that weren’t enough, guests were allowed to experience a taste of the “champagne life” by touring the private planes in the Bohlke fleet. Talk about a one-of-a-kind experience!

The final event of the series – the Gourmet Vintner Dinner ($250 per person) – closed out STXFWE with a star-studded bang! Sam Choy, Tony Castellucci, Robyn Almodovar, winner of Food Network’s CHOPPED and Executive Chef Negust Kaza each prepared one course of the evening that created one of the festival’s most memorable culinary experiences. Crucian beef braised short ribs, crusted mahi-mahi topped with breadfruit cake and curry carrot soup with local mushrooms were some of the items included on this unique menu that paired with Justin and Landmark Vineyards wines.

St. Croix Food & Wine Experience serves as a reminder that cultivating one’s community requires more than giving money. Add a dash of food, a sprinkle of fun and a heaping dose of philanthropy and you’ll witness the impact of your presence at this prominent culinary affair.

For more information on St. Croix Food and Wine Experience, click here.