Wine and dine at Taste of St. Croix this week


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ST. CROIX - The 2014 Food and Wine Experience has come to a full boil this week with a few more dinners, cooking classes, barbecues and the highly anticipated main event The Taste of St. Croix.

The weeklong food festival got its start when two local restaurateurs, Kelly Odom of Tutto Bene and Katherine Pugliese of eat@canebay, decided to launch Taste of St. Croix in 2000 as a way to bring the restaurant community together.

Fourteen years later, the event appeals to the entire community and has grown in its popularity, even attracting visitors from neighboring islands for the explosion of culinary expertise in varied areas.

Pugliese and Odom selected The St. Croix Foundation as the fiduciary to handle the money coming in from the event and charged them with reinvesting the funds into nonprofit programs on the island to support community development, public safety, culinary education and education reform, according to Roger Dewey, executive director of the St. Croix Foundation.

Dewey said the dynamic event grew out of some key players in the industry finding a way to celebrate themselves and choosing to partner with the foundation to do so.

"That makes us feel so good, because with everyone continuing to support the event, it helps to support the foundation, our programs and the community as a whole," he said.

Dewey said despite the tough economic times, the community has been supportive of the events and many have already sold out.

"This is going very well, sales started off slower than usual, but have picked up, and we expect all of the events will be filled to capacity, if not sold out this week," he said.

Dewey said the motto for this year's taste is "Culinary Futures," and the foundation is continuing to invest in programs that help young culinary students realize their gifts and talents and have propelled many into to higher learning opportunities and careers.

"We have the culinary juniors program that has been doing well, and this week the C-TECH students will be of critical important as they work with the guest and local chefs to prepare the menu items for Friday night's barbecue," he said. "Our students have done great at their internships, and that reinforces the opportunities of the industry and that is what we are most excited about."

The event began Sunday with "Cuisine on the Green," as Carambola Golf Course hosted a golf tournament with food and drinks on the course. Tuesday, Tutto Bene Restaurant was the venue of a sold out pairing of celebrity chef Sam Choy and celebrity vintner Christina Turley.

Other events will include the sold-out City Crawl tonight, during which participants can enjoy specialty beverages and food samplings from participating restaurants and bars as they stroll through the streets of historic Christiansted town.

Food Fight Wednesday will include a chefs cooking competition with a number of challenges, with a wrap-up event tonight of a wine dinner at The Galleon. Both events have sold out.

On Thursday, the event that started it all will take place at 6 p.m. at Divi Carina Bay and will feature a Moet & Chandon after-party at the Divi Starlight Lounge.

During the day, chefs Ellen Kassoff-Gray and Todd Gray will talk about how Michelle Obama's "Move to School" program can be done in the territory.

The Cork and Fork event will take place Friday at private residences and historic sites, and the Sunset BBQ will take place on the Pier in Frederiksted.

The week wraps up with kids cooking classes and a Wine in the Warehouse event on Saturday.

For more information about the events, visit www.tasteofstcroix.com.

Dewey said the event is the biggest fundraiser for the foundation annually and is a great event for St. Croix because the Tourism Department brings at least six travel writers every year to enjoy Taste of St. Croix and take in the sights and scenes of the territory. "This is a chance for St. Croix to star in the spotlight and present all of its secrets to the world," he said.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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