A few days ago, I received a text from John Ferrigno, the owner of ZoZo’s at Caneel Bay and an old friend of mine, that simply said “FYI St. John in this month’s Food & Wine Magazine” with the following photo attached.
So, I immediately went online and bought a digital copy to find out what exactly was being featured in a magazine that was established in 1978 and has a foothold in delegating the who’s who in the food and beverage world. And what I found in the title (as pictured above), that brought a nostalgic tear to my eye, were these words:
“An Island Renaissance: A resilient dining scene burns bright on the tiny Caribbean Island of St. John.” – Food & Wine Magazine – November 2022
Very, very rarely am I impressed by the accuracy and perspective of an article written about St. John by a journalist who just passes through. A week or a month is not nearly enough time to understand and put it into words in my opinion. But this particular article hit some heart strings for me and, I believe, did a great job of capturing some snippets of St. John and the ever-evolving culinary scene here.
The article was written by Hannah Selinger, a James Beard award-nominated writer who is based in Massachusetts and New York. She has written for the Washington Post, New York Times, All Street Journal, Bon Apetit and, of course, Food & Wine. I am not familiar with her personally but after reviewing this piece I will be digging into more of her past work. It is unclear from the article how much time she has spent on St. John in recent years, but she digs back to her first experiences here; a visit via catamaran from St. Thomas in 1991 and again several years later after the passing of her father. And refers to the development of St. John as “…Watching a pot start to boil, something that happens not all at once but incrementally.”
She speaks of our 2017 storms and the pandemic that followed and “overshadowed” the progress made in rebuilding our island and its reemergence to tourism. That part got me. I thought hard about the restaurants and business owners featured in this article, and I thought to myself, “Hannah gets it. She listened.” I watched as many of these St. John residents and business owners struggled to be flexible and resilient and re-build their old business or build a business for the first time in the devastating path of Irma and Maria. Only to be slammed by a global pandemic at the height of our first potentially successful season since the storms.
And now, here they are. “Building a resilient culinary scene” to the point of recognition by an intuitive writer and a globally recognized culinary journal.
I don’t want to ruin ALL of the fun for you by saying too much because I encourage you to go out and buy a copy of this month’s Food & Wine magazine either at your local bodega or newsstand or purchase one online for $5.99 like I did (island problems!) 🙂 But I do want to quickly give a nod to some of our amazing food and beverage establishments that received a spotlight from Hannah and her incredibly well written article.
- ZoZo’s at Caneel Bay– Swept from their location at the Sugar Mill in the Caneel Bay Resort as a result of Irma in 2017, John and his wife, Karen, worked hard to re-establish themselves and their incredible team back on the shores of Caneel in 2020. They re-open for dinner service in mid-December and if you skip this culinary treat while visiting during the spring and winter months, you’ll be missing out on one of St. John’s most incredible dining experiences- Staff, location, ambiance, food and drink…All five stars in my book.
- Morgan’s Mango- Another brief casualty of the storms, this establishment was demolished and rebuilt by Love for Love City (Kenny Chesney’s team) and was able to re-open in February of 2018. They also were closed for a period in 2015 after a fire ravaged their kitchen, forcing their hands at a rebuild just a few years prior to Hurricane Irma. In addition to an incredible selection of fresh and mostly locally sourced seafood, this is the only fine dining establishment on St. John that offers Caribbean influenced and inspired cuisine.
- La Tapa- A longstanding island tradition that, prior to last fall, existed in a small and charming space, tucked away in a historic building below the Quiet Mon Pub. Chef Alex Ewald moved her Spanish and Tapas style of cuisine to the Cruz Bay Waterfront last spring in an expanded space with an incredible view of Cruz Bay Harbor.
- Lime Out- This one needs no introduction…The bright green, environmentally sustainable taco boat that is ONLY accessible by vessel is a favorite of everyone who visits St. John. The…Well, let’s call it the “mother” restaurant of Lime Out, The Lime Inn, was one of the first to open its doors to the public in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, creating a space for us to gather and celebrate our small daily successes, cry over our frustrations and enjoy a cocktail…in a glass…and, eventually, with ice!! (It was the little things back then!) Owners Chelsea and Richard Baranowski opened the uber successful Lime Out in 2019 in Hansen Bay and moved the operation to Coral Bay in February of 2020.
- Irie Pops- I remember watching owners Will and Laura Fernandez posting up on the corner across from the ferry dock with their bright and cherry popsicle cart prior to the storms of 2017. These two set out on a mission to bring tasty, yet ridiculously healthy, frozen treats to the kids (and adults!) of St. John and have more than succeeded in that! In 2019, they opened their store front, across from the National Park Dock in Cruz Bay, offering their famous “fresh squeezed” popsicles, slushies, merchandise and more!
- St. John Provisions- Although the recent history of this long-standing breakfast and lunch stop by in Cruz Bay is a bit foggy in my mind’s eye, the re-opening of a fresh baked EVERYTHING establishment in a space that formerly housed Baked in the Sun and The Rolling Pin Bakery was a much-desired addition to town. Owner, Meredith DeBusk opened St. John Provisions, near Kilroy’s Dry Cleaners and across the street from the Animal Care Center in 2018 and offers a scrumptious selection of fresh baked goods, homemade granola, sandwiches, coffee and smoothies. It is a quick stop with parking right out front to grab to-go snacks, breakfast, lunch or drinks on your way to the beach.
So, while some articles written about St. John by those outside of our community can sometimes be cringe worthy with an ineptitude of understanding, you can see by the on the ground stories of reemergence above that this particular writer hit the nail right on the head. Her accounts of our evolving culinary scene and its fight for growth and success in the eye of a storm and the “boiling pot of water” growth of St. John over the years are absolutely accurate in my opinion. And I highly advise you pick up a copy and read the full article. I sure am grateful that John texted me so that I was inspired to do so 🙂