Alcohol

St. John, USVI

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_364bThe first stop of the cruise visited the US Virgin Island of St. John. If you aren’t familiar with the US Virgin Islands, the islands are a territorial region of the United States and include the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. Typically, most cruises lines stop at St. Thomas, which is the most populated island in USVI and a massively popular cruise port. This cruise itinerary was on the unique side because it stopped at St. John instead. Not often do cruises lines include St. John on the itinerary.

An interesting fact about St. John is over half the island is a US National Park. Trunk Bay, one of the most famous beaches in USVI, is located on St. John and is also part of the US National Park Service. Furthermore, the beach at Trunk Bay has been voted as a top ten beach by Conde Nast Traveler. If Trunk Bay doesn’t meet your needs, there are numerous other beaches on the island, including Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, and Hawksnest.

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Now some of you may already be familiar with St. John because of a trip over from St. Thomas. The ferry from St. Thomas to St. John is a popular day trip for some cruisers since St. John is just a short ferry ride away. If you plan on taking the ferry back and forth, definitely make sure you have enough time!

Cruise ships anchor just outside Cruz Bay for St. John, which requires a short tender ride. Additionally, Cruz Bay is where the local ferry docks. The area around Cruz Bay features restaurants, bars, and shops. When we were in St. John there were a few other cruise ships visiting, which definitely caused the island to feel packed from the beaches to the town. This is definitely an island that should limit the number of cruise ships.

We ended up walking around Cruz Bay since the island was busy and we weren’t sure how the weather would turn out (ended up being a hot day!). First, we started out by exploring the wharf area and shops. Next, we moved over to Mongoose Junction, which is supposedly the a “world-famous premier shopping and dining destination” (according to the Mongoose Junction website).

After checking out the shops we stopped at St. John Brewers, which had a small tap room at Mongoose Junction. The tap room was being expanded in December and the new section was still under construction at that time. Once the new tap room is complete, I’m sure the new space will be well utilized!

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Now one thing I was not sure on was the beer production scale on St. John. It seems much of the beer produced by St. John Brewers is actually brewed on the mainland of the United States. I’m sure there is a small production facility on St. John, but most of the bottles are all coming from the East Coast. This is becoming rather common in the brewing industry today with contract brewing across the United States.

Overall the tap room was small but had a local feel to it and the service was good. I was really disappointed though the tap room did not offer a beer tasting flight. I really like having a tasting flight when visiting a brewery because this allows you to try the product and experience all a brewery has to offer. Unfortunately, this prevented us from really trying the beer by St. John Brewers. I ended up trying their Winter Ale since the Wheat Beer I wanted was not available due to a keg problem. This is a different style for me to drink since I’m not typically a fan of Winter Ales (unfortunately the name and tasting profile of the beer now escape me). I do recall I enjoyed the beer and the spicy notes to it.

Overall St. John was a fun day, though an extremely hot day. If you have the chance to check-out St. John while on a cruise or a trip to St. Thomas, I highly recommend popping over to St. John for a day.

South Beach Food and Wine Festival 2016

IMG_4513At the end of February I had the opportunity to partake in the South Beach Food and Wine Festival (SOBEWFF). I thought I would share some of the photos I took during the festival for those who may be interested and who may not be on my Facebook. The only reason I went was due to my work requiring me, which as some of you may know I try to avoid South Beach like the plague.

This is a huge event that takes place on the beach and at various venues throughout South Florida. SOBEWFF has now expanded to a couple events up in Ft. Lauderdale this past year. For those who may be cruising in late February or early March, this may be a fun weekend activity to look into before or after your cruise.

I was only at the Grand Tasting Village in South Beach for 3-days. Many of the employees who work at SOBEWFF are volunteer students from Florida International University. The event actually supports the hospitality program at FIU and provides scholarships for students. When I was working on my master’s degree at FIU I could have volunteered, but due to classwork and research I avoided the event for 2-years.

Even though I worked the event, I had the opportunity to taste and walk around all 3-days I was at the Grand Tasting Village. Tickets are normally pretty pricey, with the tasting village tickets running over $200+ for one day. Most events are a minimum of $100 and events hosting a celebrity chef seem to be running over $200.

Friday is Trade day at the Grand Tasting Village, but the general public is unable to purchase tickets for this event. Tickets are given away by businesses or are given to those in the industry. I actually won a ticket from Yelp in 2014, but was unable to go. *(Check out Yelp in South Florida starting in January for chances to win tickets to many of the events).

Trade day is primarily alcohol with really no food. There were probably over 70+ tables ranging from wine to spirits. I just tried the spirits since that’s all I had time for. There were a wide range of bourbons, tequilas, rums, and vodkas. Many of the products being served were well over $80 a bottle.

On Saturday and Sunday the event has less alcohol but more food. I had the opportunity to try some of the samples of food and a few more drinks. The food I tried was delicious. I had a fancy bacon donut from a place in Wynwood and guava barbecue dish from somewhere in South Florida. I also had a slider with fried cheese on top.

Saturday and Sunday are much busier since these days are the expensive tickets for sale to the general public. There are demonstrations in the tents as well from celebrities and chefs. I had the chance to see Neil Patrick Harris, Rev Run, Emeril, and Rachael Ray (to just name a few). These events are huge draws and are completely packed with many people IMG_4547standing.

Now the Grand Tasting Village is located directly on the beach, so you are walking in sand. If you have any problems walking, I probably would not partake in this event. Some people were in wheelchairs made specifically for the beach, but I saw people struggling pushing these chairs. Also highly recommend sunscreen, I learned after day one and was pretty sunburned.

Overall, SOBEWFF and the Grand Tasting Village is a fantastic event. I highly recommend not driving to South Beach and getting a hotel room for a night, or taking an Uber/Taxi. The only way to really experience the event is if you don’t drive. Luckily I had rides for 2 of the 3-days and could really taste some of the fantastic drinks.