Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Vegetarian Goes to the Caribbean

Trunk Bay on Beautiful St. John

Fiance (now husband!) and I got married last Sunday and promptly jetted off the following morning to St. Thomas & St. John for a week-long honeymoon.  We hiked, we swam, I (thanks to years of JCC swim lessons) snorkled all over Trunk Bay.  And, of course, we ate!

Now, this is by no means a comprehensive review of all of the vegetarian dining options in the US Virgin Islands.  We were only there for a week, and my first priority was honeymooning, rather than blogging.  But, there were a few food observations I wanted to share.

We stayed at the Morningstar Beach Resort.  The Frenchman's Reef section of the resort was closed for renovation, which may have seemed like a negative, but it meant less guests overall, which meant less crowds on the beach and no waits in the property restaurants.

Food offerings at the Morningstar included the Star Market, where you could get various sundries.  We used it to pick up breakfast - cereal, bagels, fruit - as well as snacks.  Keep in mind that, since you're on an island, almost everything is brought in by container ship or plane.  Ergo, this means than food is going to be expensive.

One of many fresh mango daquir
We also hit two other restaurants, Coco Joe's, a casual/family dining restaurant, and the upscale Havana Blue.  For lunch and a few dinners, we went to Coco Joe's, which has a sit down component, as well as waiter service right on the beach.  There were a number of vegetarian options at Coco Joe's - I particularly enjoyed their mushroom quesadilla, which has a good amount of produce and a decent guac on the side, as well as the veggie burger on brioche with sweet potato fries.  I especially enjoyed that the veggie burger that was delivered to me directly on the beach with a mango daquiri, but who wouldn't?  We had a spinach and artichoke dip that was heavier on the spinach than the dairy, which was actually a pleasant surprise. The mozarella and tomato flatbread fell in the "ok" category - it had a nice, buttery crust, but I think it would have been better with less cheese and more tomatoes.  The drinks were definitely a highlight - I know my mango, and these drinks definitely had fresh mango puree in them!

We had one dinner at Havana Blue.  I enjoyed my mango mojito, but was a little underwhelmed by the only vegetarian entree - a vegetable torta.  When I visualized the entree, I thought there would be more crispy elements to it, but it was heavy on the curry puree and light on the seasonal vegetables in the menu description.  If I could go back, I probably would have made a meal of some of the vegetarian sides or tapas that were available.

Off property, we had two meals at the Yacht Haven GrandFat Turtle is a bar popular with sailors docking at Yacht Haven Grand.   I enjoyed a very strong "Shrub Smacker," which was Fat Turtle's take on the island's popular Bushwhacker.  We started with a five-pepper dip and tortilla chips.  The table next to us was gasping for water when they ate the dip, which we, as hot food lovers, found promising.   But for us, it was pleasingly spicy, rather than unpleasantly hot.  When it came to vegetarian entrees, there weren't a lot of choices - a few pizzas, a salad or two and a wrap.  I asked if they would be willing to make me a vegetarian version of the cheesesteak, but, when our server went back to the kitchen to ask, the chef apparently said no.  This, of course, made me wonder if any of the food was made fresh or was just sitting somewhere waiting to be microwaved (have I mentioned I'm obsessed with Kitchen Nightmares).  I ended up going with the wrap, which was ok, but nothing you couldn't get at a to-go counter.

The more pleasant dining experience to be had at Yacht Haven Grand was at Wikked, which, to my surprise, had a whole page of vegetarian options, including whole wheat pasta with seitan and lentil loaf.  I was in the mood for a light dinner, so I went with crispy veggie tacos, which were perfectly portioned and full of fresh produce.  If we had time to go back, I would have definitely tried out some of the more hearty entrees!

We only spent a day on St. John, but, let me tell you, I can't wait to go back!  If St. Thomas was paradise, St. John was heaven on earth.   We were on an excursion through the hotel, so, alas we had to stick to the group's schedule and didn't get to explore restaurants around the island.  We did, however, get to eat at the snack bar at Trunk Bay, which is part of the National Park System.  I worked up a huge appetite on the Trunk Bay Snorkel Trail, and I was nervous that the snack bar wouldn't have any vegetarian options.  But, there were veggie burgers (which I tried) and frozen fruit bars (which I didn't).  The only downside is that the line to the snack bar gets long and moves slowly, so, if you're on an excursion, budget your time or pack a lunch.

One thing to keep in mind there are few vegetarian options at the St. Thomas airport.  It's small, only eight gates, so there's only one place to grab food and a few snack kiosks.  The kiosks' sandwich options were not vegetarian, so we went to the quick serve restaurant, where I had, yet again, a veggie burger.  Since you can't bring produce past customs, if you bring a veggie-friendly sandwich, plan to eat it as you patiently wait to go through customs.  There are also some vegetarian friendly snack mixes in the gift shop.

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