Winter is technically still one month away but I seriously don't remember the last time I felt this cold in November, nor do I remember ever being stuck in traffic for three hours from the city's first snowfall of the year (and that's snowfall not snowstorm). Methinks it's gonna be a long winter. Then again, at least I'm not in Buffalo.
Ah, what a perfect segue into the #SaintLuciaNow Dinner in the Moonlight. No, I wasn't in Saint Lucia last week (oh how I wish I was!) but I was invited by Saint Lucia Tourist Board (@saintlucianow) to attend a dinner last Monday at St. James Cathedral's Deanery hosted by Saint Lucia's Culinary Ambassador, chef Nina Compton.
If you're not familiar with Saint Lucia, it is one of the Windward Islands of the West Indies, nestled halfway down the Eastern Caribbean archipelago. Saint Lucia is known for its natural beauty and diverse attractions, including the signature Piton Mountains, a tropical rainforest, and one of the world's few drive-in volcanoes. The island's culturally rich offerings include the bustling marketplace in the capital of Castries, quaint fishing villages along the coastline, and the annual Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. I also want to add that it's currently 30 degrees there. Just take my money and get me a ticket to Saint Lucia STAT!
As for the food, Saint Lucia’s culinary profile is diverse from upscale dining to street food. Saint Lucia has some of the finest grade of cocoa in the world and sources fresh food from their land and sea offering - a true farm to table experience. And who is better to educate us about Saint Lucian cuisine than Saint Lucian chef Nina Compton?
Celebrity chef Nina Compton (@nina_compton) is the daughter of Sir John Compton, the late Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, and was the runner up and fan favourite on the most recent season of Bravo’s TV’s Top Chef. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Compton began her professional journey at Daniel in New York City, working and learning alongside Daniel Boulud and Alex Lee. She has trained in French, Caribbean and Italian cuisine, and is a self-proclaimed "gnocchi queen". Compton recently left her post as Chef de Cuisine at Scott Conant's Scarpetta at the Fountainbleau Miami Beach to take some time off to travel. At the Saint Lucia dinner, Compton shared with guests a delightful meal inspired by her native Saint Lucia, but first things first, a drink is in order. Compton gave us a quick demonstration of her signature cocktail, the Cocoa Tea Martini.
CHAIRMAN'S RESERVE COCOA TEA MARTINI
After our welcome cocktail, guests were treated to a three-course dinner where Compton shared some of her dishes that put a Caribbean spin on upcoming holiday recipes.
SPICED CHOCOLATE SOUP, FOIE GRAS AND BABY VEGETABLES
COCOA BRAISED SHORTRIBS, POLENTA AND BABY VEGETABLES
PUMPKIN BUDINO, SALTED CARAMEL AND CHOCOLATE CRUMBLE
All of Compton's dishes were sweet, spicy and full of her personality. Even her chocolate soup - one of the most unique and bold flavoured soups I've ever had - manages to bring in sweet, spicy, savoury, and slightly bitter notes to the palette all at once. The moist and tender chocolate braised short ribs were undeniably a crowd favourite, and that polenta was exceptionally creamy (something I'm sure Compton perfected at Scarpetta). Compton's budino was perfectly executed; the crunchy salted caramel and chocolate crumble complemented nicely with the rich and creamy pudding.
Photo credit: Becca Lemire
Saint Lucia sounds like the perfect vacation spot whether you're after romance, rejuvenation or adventure. Not only does it have beautiful weather and beaches, Saint Lucian food also appeals to many in that it is an incredible mix of international cuisines - a combination of Asian, American, European and Caribbean flavours, textures and styles. By the way, let me know if you want the recipes to chef Compton's dishes...I have them!
To learn more about Saint Lucia, visit www.saintlucianow.ca.
*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*