Festival del Mar & Luxury Resorts Cusinart & Viceroy (Anguilla)
This is a continuation of my press trip to Anguilla. For the first/introductory part, please CLICK HERE.
Many thanks again to Anguilla Tourist Board for inviting me to the fantastic press trip.
The primary reason this press trip occurred is because of Festival del Mar. This annual “festival of the sea” always occur when Easter is around and the locals and tourists alike, celebrate this long weekend by eating the fantastic, freshly caught lobsters and fish; drink up some beers or rum punches; while the local performers play reggae or local music. There’s sailboat races and a swimming contest throughout the weekend as well.
The cool discovery is the fact the locals eat “shale fish” (seen above) and it’s actually puffer fish. These babies are not sold by every vendor on this festival but the locals are well aware of it and described the fish to be firmer than the beloved snapper but still very tasty.
What we’ve gotten to eat were delicious trays of grilled snapper with sides of fried Johnnycakes, rice and peas or grilled Wahoo with rice and peas, and a particular corn and apple pudding and a sweet potato pudding wrapped in grape leaves.
These steamed puddings remind me of a traditional Chinese glutinous rice-based tamale-like dumplings zongzi (in Mandarin) or joong (in Cantonese), except these were not rice based but potato based flavored with various spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. These are very dense, sweet puddings that is a good treat to end your meal.
One of our daytime activities, which I thought was one of the best parts of the trip, was having a private boat out with Sea Pro Charters. We had a ride all around the island to see the varying terrain from smooth white sandy beaches to rugged cliffs of limestone. We had the opportunity to snorkel for a bit until we headed to a huge, phenomenal seafood lunch.
That lunch destination is at Gorgeous at Scilly Cay. This restaurant is literally on an itty bitty island that’s less than a mile away from where Festival del Mar is. They have potent house rum punches to whet your whistle (or various beers if you don’t drink the hard stuff). However, their food is serious in many ways. The portions can easily feed two or three people and the seafood is insanely fresh.
The day’s combo plate was chicken and lobster that was massive and my fellow companions who had that plate were struggling to eat through every delicious morsel of those beasts. I went on the lightweight end, so to speak, and had myself a perfectly grilled about two-pound red snapper.
We have stopped by one of Anguilla’s luxury resorts, Cusinart Resort in Rendezvous Beach, Anguilla. We’re here for the cooking lesson with Executive Chef Jasper Schneider.
The resort is inspired by the Greek island of Mykonos. Once you’ve entered the lobby of Cuisinart, the breathtaking view of the infinity pools goes straight to the mesmerizing Atlantic Ocean. The lobby’s hotel bar does serve house-infused flavored rums like orange spice, banana, and pineapple and it was delicious to sip in the humid heat.
We met and cooked with Chef Schneider of two simple dishes that he sort of serves at one of his five restaurants — gazpacho and seared tuna. The former is by juicing the fresh, ripe tomatoes grown from the hotel’s hydroponic farm and lightly thicken it with xanthan gum. The seared tuna was plated with roast, pureed eggplants.
After all of the cooking was done, the chef kindly gave us a tour of the hydroponic farm. For someone who loves food and fresh produce, I felt like a kid in a candy store. The bounty of lettuces, herbs like parsley, various types of mint, cilantro, shiso, various types of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers (from sweet bell to head blowing spicy habañeros), and so much more vegetables under this roof. I would happily be a vegetarian if I had such access to this kind of produce.
We had lunch of what we and Chef Schneider cooked up. The gazpacho was so light, almost creamy from the xanthan gum, and delicious from the ripe tomatoes and basil oil. The tuna was perfectly seared to a rare. The silky, soft roast bell peppers and smoky eggplant puree gave this dish some personality. These dishes were great for a light lunch with the general thought that we’d be out by the beach swimming. I did have a gin-based tea cocktail that was quite wonderful and refreshing.
The other hotel we stayed at besides Paradise Cove was at the Viceroy Anguilla. Barnes and Meads bays, this gorgeous, Mediterranean-style modern resort has large glass windows with fantastic views in all directions. In contrast to the geometric lines of the architecture, the Kelly Wearstler-designed suites feature organic elements like driftwood lamps and petrified-wood tables, plus sundecks and plenty of space.
When I checked in and entered my room, I was welcomed with strawberries and Champagne. Though my room is not a suite but it’s still a grand room with plenty of space. The size of the bathroom is bigger than a standard apartment in Manhattan. Every room has its own heated plunge pool with views of the beach or beautiful infinity pools.
For an over-the-top experience, one of the spacious two-to five-bedroom villas, complete with private infinity pools and hot tubs, indoor-outdoor showers, electronics galore, and gourmet professional kitchens stuffed with high-end equipment, not to mention house managers who keep things running smoothly.
The Moray Penthouse definitely has the best view of the resort we’ve seen. Unobstructed and you see nothing but the blue skies, puffy clouds, dotted with palm trees and of course, the beaches. Of course, the amenities like the villas make it lavish.
We had an excellent meal at the Viceroy’s signature restaurant, Coba. This restaurant is upscale but relaxed like the rest of Anguilla about what you’d wear and it’s friendly demeanor. Their warm, house made pretzel rolls with Dijon mustard butter are worth splurging your carbohydrate intake (that’s if you are counting). The fresh seafood appetizers of crab cake with spicy aioli was good, while the conch ceviche was better and refreshing. Their take on Surf & Turf was decadent. A beautifully grilled, medium-rare steak tenderloin with locally caught lobster. Dessert was a deep, chocolate-y cake with wonderfully boozy, creamy, rum raisin ice cream and a coconut cluster cookie.
We had a nightcap of very refined rums at the Sunset Lounge. We were entertained by a live singer who did a great job singing covers of Shaggy and as the night rolled on, people at the lounge got up and danced along.
Anguilla is a great place to have fun and relax. The gorgeous beaches, blue skies and great weather (especially for us Northeast people in the U.S.), makes it a great vacationing place to unwind and stay away from dreadful snow and just four hours away by plane. The locals are very friendly and don’t judge you about what you wear but care about you covering up if you are not on the beach.
To view photos of this part of the story, please CLICK HERE for the full photo set or view the gallery (of some photos) on the bottom of this post.
Places Visited and Useful Information:
Anguilla Tourist Board
Sea Pro Charters
Gorgeous at Scilly Cay
P.O. Box 2000
British West Indies
P.O. Box 8028
West End, AI-2640 Anguilla
Guestroom Reservations: + 1-800 578-0283 (from the U.S.)