Locally Sourced and Loving it in St. Lucia
First I felt the itch, then the raging burn. I ran like a bat out of hell from the greenhouse, not entirely sure what was making my feet feel like they were on fire. It was my first attack by fire ants and it was horribly unpleasant. Usually, I might grumble and moan all day about the pain, but I gave it only a second before shaking it and moving forward. There was no time to dwell, as I was in paradise, getting an insider look into a private estate farm on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.
Beautiful St. Lucian Getaways
Nick Troubetzkoy has worked wonders with the land he’s cultivatedÂ in St. Lucia. Alongside his wife Karolin, they founded the authentically themed Caribbean resort Anse Chasanet, tucked into a rugged jungle-like setting. Each room has local artwork and furnishings, completing the look of relaxed and colorful Caribbean style. They are open concept to let in fresh air and ocean sounds, sometimes even having a tree or two growing right inside the room. Up the hill is Jade Mountain, a luxury resort more geared towards couples and those seeking a romantic, indulgent escape. Many of these specialized rooms each have a dream-like ambiance, complete with an infinity pool perched high on a cliff overlooking the iconic Piton Mountains.
Local TastesÂ Right Off the Tree
Both resorts have restaurants that source their menus from Emerald Estates. The sprawling acres of lush greenery are filled with some incredible flowers and towering trees. But the real draw is the food – a short walk brings you past cocoa plants, vanilla bean, leafy lettuce, huge mangoes and starfruit, just to name a few.
You might think on an island only 26 miles across there would not be a diversified selection of fresh ingredients. On the contrary,Â native and imported foods are used throughout St. Lucia and especially on the Jade Mountain and Anse Chasanet properties. Every year, a handful of people are invited to check out the estate grounds, usually on a private tour led by Chef Allen Susser, to see how both resort properties maintain colorful menus with just-picked ingredients.
After perusing though each section of planted fruits, vegetables, herbs and other tasty treats to have a little nibble, it was time to be schooled.
Although many delicious items are used to create dishes there on the farm and at the resorts, one of the most favored is the mango. Thereâ€™s more than 40 mango varieties in the world, including the Julie mango, which is most popular in the Caribbean. Various fruits were lined up on a wooden slab table for me to inspect, looking very different than the one kind I saw in grocery stores back home. In the flash, Chef Allen and his sous chef were whipping up incredible mango and conch cerviche, mango marinated kobe beef and an accompanying mango slaw. By using mangoes at stages of ripeness, some dishes were crunchier, more savory or super sweet depending on when the fruit was picked.
The meal had at the farm couldnâ€™t be any fresher, but that doesnâ€™t mean the fine dining experiences at the resorts were any less amazing. Mangoes are often seen on the menu, but I happened to visit Jade Mountain during their annual Mango Festival, so most dishes featured the fruit. I did enjoy having much of my meat and seafood drenched in wonderful mango sauces, but the desserts were something special. Mango-lime panna cotta, crusted mango cheesecake and mango torrijas? Yes please. The best part was all of these things and more were served on a menu that changed daily.
Importing foods to high-end resorts is often part of the deal and allows for exotic dishes to be created. But even if Iâ€™m indulging in a luxurious getaway, I still want to eat as local and fresh as possible. Jade Mountain has managed to provide the utmost high-end experience while still supporting the island and giving its guests a real feel for St. Luciaâ€™s culinary spirit.
Eileen CotterÂ is a freelance travel writer who has a few notches in her belt throughout North America, Central America, Asia and Europe. She currently resides just outside Boston,Â Massachusetts. While writing for a wide variety of websites and travel magazines, her preferences so far has been covering various unique festivals worldwide, trying strange foods at tasty restaurants and encountering eccentric landmarks. By far her favorite place to roam is southern Spain and her future dream trip is exploring the Fiji Islands. Her blog is CrookedFlight.com.