My dear friend Stacey Liburd, director of tourism for Anguilla, has been trying to persuade me to visit Anguilla for some time, and on a recent reunion here in Jamaica, I was finally convinced, and for me, there could be no better time than ACE Week…the Anguilla Culinary Experience.
A tiny island in the Lesser Antilles which has a population of just over 15,000, and an impressive collection of world-class luxury resorts and exquisite dining experiences, so much so, it has its very own Culinary Week.
ACE, in its second year, is an initiative started by Americans Wendy and Neil Freeman, in partnership with the Anguillian Government and so many of the island's hospitality stakeholders. It is an epicurean festival that runs over four days, with exclusive dining experiences, tours, interactive cooking classes, rum tastings, wine tastings/pairings, a picnic, a BBQ, and running specials at select, participating restaurants.
Sadly, there was just no way to experience it all in the four days, so I gave it my absolute best effort and settled on some exclusive dinners and a wine tasting.
The week of events and activities included:
Local and guest chefs collaborated to present multi-course, epicurean feasts.
- Chef Daniele Lippi of Italy's 2 Michelin-starred Acquolina and Chef Dario Schiavo presented multiple courses in a Beyond Appearances dinner at Savi Beach Club.
- Chef David Waltuck of New York's iconic Chanterelle and Veya's Chef Carrie Bogar offered an exclusive tasting menu on the terrace at Villa Alegria.
- Chef Michele Greggio of Aurora Anguilla hosted an intimate farm-to-table dinner on the hydroponic lawn of the resort, highlighting ingredients from the resort's on-site farm.
My ACE journey began at:
The opening night welcome party, hosted by Aurora Anguilla (where I stayed) at their D Richard's Steakhouse and embarked on a delightful and delectable tour of tastes from Aurora's six deliciously diverse restaurants: C Level, Tokyo Bay, Chef's Table, Breezes, Oliva and, of course, D Richard's, enjoying sips of signature cocktails, infused with fresh ingredients from their on-site hydroponic gardens and organic farm, as well as a very special 2021 Fearless Rosé poured all evening, selected by their resident Head Sommelier Bernel Richardson.
What a fabulous start to a wonderfully indulgent week!
A late brunch at Aurora meant an early dinner at Stone, at the Zemi Beach Club. Now this property just oozes chic Caribbean luxury. The property is hidden among lush tropical vegetation, and descends to the ocean to a hip, modern pool deck, surrounded by the restaurants and lounge. The décor, the views and the ocean breeze, so refreshing. Zemi definitely warrants another visit and thorough exploration.
This hotel boasts four restaurants including a sushi restaurant, two bar/lounges and The Rhum Room, which is a sexy and sophisticated rum and cigar lounge, with walls covered in turquoise grasscloth and wood panels. Seating of turquoise leather and chenille tufted sofas and lounge chairs paired with warm cinnamon coloured leather club chairs. I'm in love with the décor.
On this night, I dine at Stone. My taste buds were tantalised by a delicious four-course meal consisting of:
• A uniquely flavourful lobster bisque to start. The lobster flavour is evident, but it is the bold, yet subtle infusion of herbs and sherry that elevates the bisque.
• I follow with a crispy goat cheese salad. A bed of spicy arugula, topped with cherry tomatoes, cashew nuts, honey and drizzled with a magnificent truffle dressing. Dee-vine!
• For the main, I struggled to make a choice, and was so happy that I settled on the most tender and delicious Wagyu beef cheek, served with a saffron polenta, porcini mushroom finished with a red wine reduction. Paired with the house pinot noir, I am still searching for the perfect adjectives to describe this dish.
• I managed a taste of Stacey's lamb rack, my other choice had I been able to consume it, because the accompaniment of the truffle mashed potatoes (I just cannot have enough truffle these days), white asparagus and that mustard sauce! Stacey enjoyed her favourite Malbec with that dish.
• And to finish…the most beautifully balanced tiramisu that I am certain beats mine. No flavour overpowered the other, and the perfect light and airy texture.
Stone gets a huge stamp of approval.
My final day, I eat lightly to save space for the evening's indulgence, as ACE makes its return to Aurora, for the final gastronomic experience, an intimate and luxurious farm-to-table dinner on the resort's hydroponic lawn, to savour four courses expertly crafted by Chef Michele Greggio and his incredible team with wine pairings by in-house Sommelier Bernel Richardson.
Aurora Anguilla's farm is home to two greenhouses with 10,000 square feet of space, 96 tables of shallow ebb and flow hydroponics capable of growing 50 varieties of vegetables, and an orchard with over 20 kinds of fruit-bearing trees. The dedicated staff focuses on growing hard-to-source varieties that typically travel great distances before making it onto the plate to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising the resort's culinary range. Every dish carries with it a rich history of thoughtful decisions, purposeful agricultural methods, and Aurora Anguilla's creativity to bring it all to life.
I arrive at the lawn that is illuminated by rows of fairy lights, is nestled between palm trees and walkways, and set up banquet-style, with farm tables and bamboo chairs. The tables are whimsically decorated with fruit and vegetables from the farm, and finished with natural touches like woven stars place mats and napkin rings.
Liquid Garden paired with La Cuvée. Laurent-Perrier Champagne
farm vegetables, tomato broth, ricotta semolina dumpling
Chilean sea bass paired with a 2019 Grand Vin De Bourgogne Chassagne-Montrachet Vide-Bourse 1er Cru
smoked garlic potato, pak choy, mustard greens, passion fruit
Creekstone angus beef filet paired with Grand Vin De Bordeaux Chateau Rollan de By Médoc
eggplant, poached cucumber, dill, bordelaise
Little Bay caffe mocha gateau fountain with sapodilla soil
homemade bonbon tomato sour cherry malibu coconut
This final evening was truly divine! Magnificent food in a magnificent setting, with magnificent company.
I mark my calendar for my return next year for the third staging, May 23-26, 2024.
Photos: Angelie Martin-Spencer