Monday, October 4, 2010

Eating in the Caribbean - St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Maarten

Saint Kitts is a beautiful volcanic island, and probably my favorite of the islands we toured on the cruise. My sister has a copy of the book 1,000 Places To See Before You Die and in that book is Rawlins Plantation Inn which is a small resort sitting on an old sugar plantation. Driving to the inn requires navigating a dirt road surrounded by acres of sugar cane, and the inn itself is comprised of many buildings, some of which were actively used in the sugar production when the plantation was in business. The highlight of the inn is their buffet. While not cheap it is still an incredible bargain for off-boat eating in the Caribbean.

Pina Colada First, we enjoyed drinks on the porch overlooking the croquet field, swimming pool and lush tropical foliage. Even after two tastings two years apart, their piña colada is my favorite of all the piña coladas I've ever tasted. Maybe it's because of the abundance of local rum and coconuts?

The meal itself was actually exactly the same as what we were served on our previous trip in 2008 - but I was not disappointed. On our previous trip, I asked the chef about the ingredients, and he assured me that all of the food that didn't have meat in it was free from dairy and eggs. Lentils and rice, pasta with sweet basil pesto, johnnycakes and a green salad were among the foods Jeff and I dined on. I was too busy eating to take any pictures, and we were sad to have to pack up and leave after paying the bill and taking a tour of the grounds.

Our next stop on the cruise was Saint Lucia. Jeff and I hadn't booked an excursion so we headed into town. Our entire walk there was spent turning down offers of taxis, and when we finally got to Soufrière it started to downpour. We checked out the open air market (but had already saturated our suitcase with offerings of hot sauces from other islands) and ultimately went back to the cruise ship for a day of lounging on board. There weren't any restaurants listed for St. Lucia on Happy Cow, so we didn't feel we were missing much.

The final stop on our voyage was Sint Maarten / Saint Martin. Why two names? Half of the island is Dutch, and the other half is French. While the boat docked on the Dutch side, I took an excursion with Jeff and my parents to the French side, which is where we had a great experience with local food.

Bananas Apparently the island used to export salt, which was its main industry until tourism came in and reared its ugly head. You can still see a lot of salt bays where the salt was produced. Our tour guide also informed us that there are almost no farms on the island, so I don't imagine they export much, if any, foods. However, that doesn't mean the islanders don't eat. We happened upon a wonderful farmers' market in Marigot, which was surrounded by crafts vendors and wonderful juice bars.

Cinnamon My parents bought some spices such as the pictured cinnamon bark, and Jeff and I bought mustard seed and peppercorns. (Unfortunately, the bags exploded in my suitcase and most of the items fell out, some of it was recoverable. Thank goodness they weren't powdery.) There were lots of fresh fruits such as bananas, chiles, mangos, and lots of roots I couldn't identify. I would have loved to take some home but for USDA regulations prohibiting such a thing.

Drink Our last act on the French side, before hitting up the bus back to Philipsburg, was to grab some drinks from a juice vendor. My dad, Jeff and I all shared coconut water, served out of a freshly machete'd plant. It was sweet and delicious, and afterward we asked the guy with the machete to cut up the coconut so we could eat the flesh. Best. Coconut. Ever. My mom ordered a mango smoothie which was made with fresh mango and sugar cane. If the essence of the Caribbean can be juiced into a beverage, it would be that smoothie. It was not cheap, but well worth every penny.

Back in Philipsburg, Jeff and I tried to find the Freedom Fighter Ital Shack listed on Happy Cow, but we were told it was a long bus ride away from the main tourist area. We were disappointed, but having eaten a lot of delicious food along the way, not terribly so. We boarded the ship again, looking forward to home cooked food back in Boston.

Read part one (Puerto Rico) and part two (St. Thomas, Dominica and Barbados) and stay tuned for a cruise survival guide as well as local brewery / distillery post.

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