The 5th annual Caribbean Food & Wine Festival is scheduled to take place November 5-8, 2015 and offers the perfect opportunity to experience all that Turks & Caicos has to offer. This year, the festival welcomes culinary experts from around the world, including Top Chef Judge Gail Simmons and Singapore-based chef, Justin Quek, best known for his unique take on Franco-Asian cuisine, as well as renowned vintners.
While common knowledge may dictate that Caribbean islands rely mostly on imported food, Turks & Caicos has bountiful resources both in its seas and on land. The area is synonymous with white sand beaches and beautiful turquoise blue waters, so the concept of “eating local” here evokes an array of ocean-to-table fare. Before farm-to-table had become trendy, or even discussed, local seafood available right off shores had always been a staple of the Island diet.
Explore just a few details on the Turks & Caicos culinary scene below:
Lionfish, Lobsters and Conch – oh my!
- As seafood is a central element in many dishes, there is a conscious effort to maintain proper balance of the island’sunique ecosystem. One example is the harvesting Lionfish, an invasive species of venomous fish native to the Indo-Pacific that has recently arrived in Turks’ Caribbean waters. The species poses an immense threat to the area’s reef ecological system by devouring local fish. In an effort to curb these devastating effects, they began fishing the species both to provide a unique delicacy for visitors and to protect local sea life. The Island’s invested in this effort by educating skilled culinary teams on proper technique to fillet and prepare the venomous fish so it is safe to eat. As a result, they have made strides toward controlling the invasive population, which has allowed the populations it hunts to reestablish themselves.
- Spiny Lobsters are the most unique form of seafood produced from Turks’ waters. Identifiable by their long, thick, spiny antennae, Spiny Lobsters are only distantly related to their more traditional, clawed cousins. Offering their own distinct taste, the Spiny Lobsters’ abundant tails make up for the claw meat they lack. During lobster season, which runs from August until March, you can be certain these lobsters are one of the freshest catches from the waters off Grace Bay Club.
- Conch is perhaps the most highly-recommended local delicacy that travelers are encouraged to try. The nearby Caicos Conch Farm provides conch to both the local and international markets, and was developed to stimulate economic growth while protecting wild conch stocks from exploitation. Conch is ubiquitous, and you’ll find it incorporated into a variety of delicious dishes that showcase this protein’s versatility.
Sugar and Spice
- At Grace Bay Club the resort’s culinary team likes to have fun with local flavors, oftentimes adding subtle twists with special seasonings and even homemade salt. For the past several years, Group Director of Food & Beverage Wolfgang von Wieser has been helping the resort produce its own infused sea salt, using salt made from local ocean waters. Chef Wolfgang has innovated a variety of infused flavors, including Porcini, Lemon, Honey and Chocolate, in addition to an uninfused salt for simpler seasoning.
- Guests can also enjoy fresh coconut water from the resort’s own palm trees, which are also used to make coconut chips and coconut flour. The resort has even started to grow organic micro greens such as sprouts and baby lettuce right on the property.
- For a more decadent option, try a selection from Grace Bay Club’s line of flavored Caribbean rums: mango habanero chili; green apple & cinnamon; chocolate; and crème brulee.
- Travelers aren’t solely looking for unique local culinary experiences, but also to sample innovative pairings, flavors, ingredients, and cooking styles. In order to continue satisfying the culinary offerings they crave, the pop-up restaurant concept has been embraced. Each year, Grace Bay Club introduces a new ocean-front pop-up concept that is cutting edge. This year’s concept, Biere et Boules, features a playful menu inspired by many global variations of the meatball and spherically shaped dishes. Curated by Chef Wolfgang von Wieser, Biere et Boulesis the third pop-up dining experience to arrive at Grace Bay Club, following the success of last year’s Jars on Grace Bay and the original Stix on Grace Bay, which is presently revived in an encore appearance at West Bay Club.