Guests flocked to wine dinners and tastings at the eighth annual event held on Providenciales.
story and photos by Kelly Magyarics, DWS
Grace Bay Club, established 25 years ago as the first all-suite luxury resort in Turks and Caicos, hosted some of this year’s events at the Caribbean Food and Wine Festival. Held from November 1 – 4 in partnership with the Turks and Caicos Tourism Board and The Wine Cellar, the festival was co-founded by CEO of Grace Bay Resorts, Nikheel Advani, and The Wine Cellar Operations Manager, Anthony Garland.
With a population of just 35,000 but annual overnight visitors reaching 400,000 (and cruise day-trippers topping out at one million), Turks and Caicos touts a focus on elevated food and beverage, understated elegance, and impeccable service – especially on the island of Providenciales (Provo, as the locals call it). “Everything we do has to be handmade,” explained Advani, when asked about guest expectations at Grace Bay Club.
The festival kicked off with a welcome dinner on the terrace of the Amanyara Resort, an ultra-luxe resort on the island’s western shore only accessible by a half-hour drive on an unpaved road. Executive Chef Erik Gremmer prepared a six-course dinner to be paired with wines from Napa’s Stewart Cellars, and winery founder Michael Stewart was on hand to walk through the experience. Seafood was the star of the night: white fish, mango, and coconut ceviche served in a halved coconut alongside Stewart’s 2017 Sonoma County Chardonnay; halibut, riced cauliflower, and parsnip puree was paired with a 2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
The following afternoon, ladies (and some gentlemen) sat adjacent to competing blues of the sea and sky at the Women of Wine Luncheon at Solana on the beach at Ocean Club West Resort. The resort Chef and Provo native Walky Gedeon’s skills shinned in the four-course meal that included Sicilian lobster and fruit salad, green gazpacho, and linguine with seafood bolognese. Möet Hennessy brand ambassador, Geoffrey Bouilly, tasted attendees through Veuve Clicquot Champagnes including their latest expressions, Rich and Rich Rosé, meant to be served over ice or combined with mixers and juices.
The Gourmet Safari, a progressive dinner that’s arguably the most popular event of the festival, started off poolside just after sunset at the Grace Bay Club with appetizers from Grace Bay Resorts Group Director of Food and Beverage, Christopher Meredith. Passed trays of eel tempura rolls, Wagyu nigiri, salmon maki, and grilled octopus tided guests over until the start of junkanoo: a street parade that originated in the Bahamas with music, dancing, and costumes of Akan origin (modern day Ghana).
The parade led everyone to restaurant Coyaba where Executive Chef Paul Newman created modern and global takes using local ingredients. Judging from the chatter among the 85 guests, his succulent sesame Wagyu beef ribs were a top dish of the entire night.
At the next stop, Steven Stars Resort, Chef Edwin Gallardo served up a jerk-rubbed veal loin with seasonal root vegetables while the expansive lawn of penultimate location, The Palms Resort, was the site for an al fresco fiesta from Chef Lauren Callighen. Each course was matched with bottles from Ramey Cellars in Sonoma; most impressive was the 2015 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, teeming with tart cherry and raspberry, silky tannins, and a perfect balance of fruit, acid, and earth. The night wrapped up at the sleek and swanky Gansevoort Hotel with endless trays of desserts, a nitro ice cream station, and glasses of Dow’s 10 Year Tawny Port.
The festival culminated at the Dinner With the Stars, a five-course pairing dinner at Grace Bay Club where Meredith melded his British upbringing with Caribbean flair in dishes like soft scrambled egg in the shell with salmon roe, pancetta and brioche, garden mint and peas, and fillet of beef with lobster and horseradish croquettes. In attendance was the Premier Hon Sharlene Linette Cartwright-Robinson and Governor John Freeman, who thanked everyone for supporting the event and the island’s local restaurants and bars.
With luxury brands like the Ritz-Carlton and Andaz set to open properties in the next few years, Provo will surely continue to grow as a hotspot for food and wine festivals to come.