A Caribbean chef holding a giant shrimp

As you layer up with hats, scarfs and mittens this winter, remember that a Caribbean escape isn’t too far away. And if white beaches and umbrella drinks aren’t everything you’re looking for, consider the islands’ impressive recent culinary revolution. Not historically known as a gastronomic hub, many of the islands are now embracing their homegrown specialties in new ways, made possible byh fresh local ingredients, savory spices and influences from around the globe.

Often considered the culinary capitol of the Caribbean, tiny Anguilla is not only known for its beautiful, serene white-sand beaches, but also for its many gourmet restaurants and resorts. Perhaps most famous is the CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa, complete with cooking classes, the world’s first resort-run hydroponic herb farm, and four gourmet restaurants. For something a bit more casual, dive into a local specialty — some finger-lickin’ good barbecue. Take the water taxi out to Sandy Island and treat yourself to some juicy, grilled ribs on a real island paradise. Made famous in the book A Trip to the Beach, Blanchard’s offers some divine local and Mediterranean flavors all made from the heart.

Beachside dining at the Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana
Beachside dining at the Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana.

Every year, millions of tourists flock to the Dominican Republic, seeking out the country’s tropical paradise of rainforests, stunning beaches and picturesque villages. And while all-inclusive resorts sometimes conjure thoughts of big, bland buffets, the food landscape is rapidly changing. World renowned, six Michelin-star chef, Martin Berasategui, recently opened Passion by Martín Berasategui inside the lux Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana. This fine dining spot is open to the public and mixes the chef’s Basque cooking style with local Caribbean ingredients. For something a bit ‘darker’ descend into Mesón de la Cava, an underground restaurant built inside a limestone cave in Santo Domingo. You can enjoy tasty seafood underneath the stalactites.

Jamaica’s motto is “Out of Many, One People,” and the many cultural influences in the nation’s cuisine combine to make dishes that are distinctively…Jamaican. Make a reservation with Caribbean Chef of the Year, Brian Lumley, at his brand new eponymous restaurant 689 by Brian Lumley and try some of his gourmet fusion fare. Beachfront Jack Sprat in Negril is famous for local specialties second to none like conch soup, festival (hush puppies), and bammy (cassava pancakes). For some delicious jerk, cruise over to local outdoor favorites, Kingston’s Sweetwood or Scotchies in Montego Bay.  Or, if you truly want to go all out, check-in to Hotel Mocking Bird Hill in Port Antonio for their 11-night “Jamaica Culinary Experience.” You can take cooking classes and learn about one of the Caribbean’s most exciting cuisines amidst Jamaica’s lush, tranquil northeast coast.

Mi Casa at Dorado Beach by Jose Andres
Mi Casa, Jose Andres’ restaurant at Dorado Beach

Some still just think of rice and beans as the daily offering in Puerto Rico, but, cocina criolla, the local cuisine, is more than that. With large influences from Spain and Mexico, expect to taste a lot of local fruits like plantains, as well as stews and rice dishes. And of course be sure to try the traditional Mofongo – fried green plantains mashed with broth, garlic, olive oil and bacon, then filled with vegetables, chicken, crab, shrimp or beef. The next generation of Puerto Rican fusion cuisine can be sampled at Pikayo at the Condado Plaza Hilton in San Juan.  Run by owner and celebrity chef Wilo Benet, a pioneer of Puerto Rican fine dining, the menu offers a twist on traditional Puerto Rican classics, as well as more international flavors with dishes like Caribbean lobster tail with chorizo sausage and gaunabana beurre blanc. For some top-of-the-line cuisine and a truly one-of-a-kind experience, head to Mi Casa inside the recently opened, luxurious Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Helmed by one of the world’s most highly acclaimed chefs, Spain’s Jose Andrés, and inspired by the resort’s legendary location, the oceanfront restaurant celebrates Puerto Rican cuisine and indigenous ingredients, blended with true Andrés style.

Tagged: Caribbean Vacation, Foodie vacations, Uncategorized

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