“Snapper for Everyone!” That was the motto of this past family vacation. And what more could a girl ask for on her 27th birthday? Like a pregnant woman craving chocolate and pickles, during my week in Anguila, I wanted nothing but snapper! The trip to Anguila was a beloved birthday gift from my parents. And together, with my little brother (mind you he’s 23 and single ladies) we spent a glorious week on its Caribbean beaches.
Often times beach vacations come at a cost: crappy food. But this was far from the case on this small island. In addition to the most beautiful beaches (I still dream about that white silky sand), Anguila offers a diverse and delicious array of culinary treats. The culinary arena is split between the high-end mainly hotel based restaurants and low-key local spots.
On the low key end of the gastronomical spectrum, Caribbean cuisine reigns supreme. If you don’t like seafood, well, don’t bother. With the exception of the local goat, which wasn’t a real favorite to be honest, local fish and crustaceans dominate, especially snapper and crayfish. Crayfish, not to be confused with crawfish, is like a small lobster or I suppose a Caribbean langoustine. It is sweet and tender and unique to Anguila (at least that’s what they told me!) This past week, in honor of Easter, there was a big seafood festival on the island. Reggae music blasted as locals cooked up Caribbean lobsters, mahi-mahi, parrot fish, crayfish, snapper, conch and more.
It was like the Little Mermaid’s nightmare, but oh so delicious for us land folk. I saw one happy woman go to town on what was easily the largest lobster I have even seen. She was also not shy on the garlic butter sauce. Oh dear. My favorite find was an unassuming stuffed crab. Inside the hollowed out body was a rich, spicy warm crab salad. It was so good, I had to go back for a second.
On the other end of Anguila’s culinary offerings are the high-end, predominately hotel based restaurants. For such a small island, a surprising amount of star-studded chefs have made it down and set up shop. Veterans of Le Bernadin, Jean-Georges and more have taken over the hotel restaurants. Normally my family and I avoid eating at hotels because they are usually rip offs with mediocre food at best. But this was not the case at the four restaurants we tried. At the Malliouhana Resort we had perfectly cooked skewers of Mahi-Mahi over quinoa with apricots, almonds and peppers, finished with a mint and yogurt sauce.
At the Straw Hat at Frangipane, we shared caribbean lobster and crayfish spring rolls and perfectly grilled crayfish. (We LOVE CRAYFISH). Our favorite of our meals were the last two at our hotel Cuisinart. The first was at Italia, where Chef Massimo (who barely spoke a word of English) put out classic Italian fare. There was nothing new or innovative about any of the dishes. They were just simply well executed, a relative rarity among Italian restaurants.
Our second and last night was at Tokyo Bay. Tokyo Bay was as good as any Asian Fusion restaurant I’ve been to in New York. The eggplant gyoza were unexpectedly delightful. The tuna with crispy rice- perfect.
Culinary talent aside, Cuisinart had one major factor that enabled it to up it’s game: a hydroponic farm. Yep, Cuisinart has it’s own hydroponic farm. It is incredible! And that farm produces some of the best cherry tomatoes I have ever had in my life! O the things I could do with those tomatoes. Needless to say, I consumed a quart of them each day and may have smuggled a pint or two back with me the US.
Overall I highly recommend Anguila as a vacation destination. The beaches and the food certainly make it a dream trip. I hope to make it back next year!