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Tap Room adds pizza, expands draft offerings

HolidayCard Things just keep hopping for St. John Brewers

Kevin Chipman and 'Cheech' Vyas have just expanded their Tap Room business located on the second floor at Mongoose Junction.  They now offer 16 beers on draft. Several are their own brews, including the newest beer, launched last month, Island Hoppin' India Pale Ale.  But wait, there's more.  There's food now, too.  They've added a kitchen so they now offer 'pub' good including pizzas and beer pretzels.

The brew boys told the Virgin islands Daily News theirs is the largest selection of beers on draft in the Caribbean.  In the article published Thursday, Chipman and Vyas tell the story of how they arrived on island in 2001, thinking they'd only stay for a while.  Then they got thirsty researched how to brew beer, and the rest is history.

First Look: New restaurant in Cruz Bay

Stoneterrace There's new life in an old restaurant in Cruz Bay.  The beautiful Stone Terrace space has been transformed into Cactus on the Blue, a Mexican restaurant with lots of energy, taste, and color. 

Nile and Courtney Wright leased the space after it had been dark for at least a year.  Before that, it had been for sale for months.  Stone Terrace, a high-end restaurant, was a victim of a softening economy and a trend that is seeing villa renters stay at home as they refuse to fight for downtown parking and save money.

While the Wrights are out in the front of the house, Nile certainly knows his way around a kitchen. According to a story in the St. John Sun Times, he earned his whisks the old fashioned way.  At home, in his family's restaurant, Jacala, the oldest eatery in San Antonio.

There's a Texas connection between the Wrights and their own chef, Gabriel Orozco.  His experience includes work as chef at the Balcony at Wharfside and his most recent position, sous chef at a steak house in San Antonio.

The Sun Times says Cactus on the Blue doesn't aspire to be the cheapest place in town or the most expensive. "A happy medium" is the target, Wright told the newspaper.  That means large portions at reasonable prices.

According to powerboat charter Capt. Josh of Lion in da Sun "reasonable prices" means low.  He posted a review of his visit to the restaurant on Trip Advisor and said the food
was wonderful.  His friends' dinner was also great, "and the portions
were enormous."  He said the appetizer sampler had four types of salsa and the chips were cut and baked at the restaurant. He wrote. "And here is the kicker $5!!!! Enough said, get it – get two."

The Wrights are not only starting a business, they're also starting a life together.  They're newlyweds of about eight months.  And so far, things seem to be going well.Their restaurant just got a telephone line this week, and any local can tell you how tough that can be to do.  The number is 340-693-8515.

CZM blocks Pond Bay permit transfer

The bank that helped finance construction of the Pond Bay Club at Chocolate Hole was rebuffed by the Coastal Zone Management agency in its effort to assume the permit for the resort.  The St. John Source reported CZM unanimously rejected the application by WestLB AG.

According to CZM, only the developer can request a transfer.  And Bob Emmett's First American Development, which has been trying to build Pond Bay for more than a decade is having none of that idea. FirstAmerican owes millions to the bank and to many local contractors, too.

Emmet said the project is about 65 percent complete, the Source reported.

StJohnJulie posted at Virgin-islands-On-Line that, "The only people working at Pond Bay right now are security guards. The people of Pond Bay are still confident that they will get the funds they need to complete the project, but I am not as sure it will happen the way they want it to."  She explained she also has a personal interest in the Club.""I also don't want this project to sit uncompleted… My husband is one of the subcontractors who works on the project so I should know w, 

More video tours by Chase and Maria

Three Kings at Coconut Coast

Katha_and_richNancy Ruffer, international flautist, will be accompanying the St John Flutes, Rich Greengold and Katha Riccardi.  There will also be a guest appearance by Michael Banzhaf at Elaine Estern's Coconut Coast Studios in Frank Bay Wednesday January 6th from 5:30 to 7pm.

This is the second time the quartet has performed together at Coconut Cost Studios, and possibly the only time this season.

Ruffer is a world-renowned flautist residing in Britain and will be visiting with her family in the Virgin Islands.

The quartet will be playing at the Sunset cocktail party hosted weekly by Estern. Enjoy live music as the sun dips below the sky. If you missed their performance last year, you won’t want to miss it again!

Happy New Year, St. John

Looks like Westin Resort had a gala New Year's Eve party.  Lots of food and dancing and schmoozing.  And, capped by fireworks over Great Cruz Bay.

Up on the hill, photographer Bob Schlesinger was on
watch for the Inquiring Iguana

Bright and early New Year's morn, Bob
sent these stunning pictures.  Click on 'em to see bigger
versions.

Bob Schlesinger, www.TropicalFocus.com, "Extraordinary images with an island flair!"

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BOB_0568a BOB_0570a

St. John’s cloudy farewell to 2009

View A quick look at the St. John Brewer's web cam isn't encouraging.

Looks like skies will stay cloudy on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  The chance of rain today is better than even money. 

So, if you were to head to a beach this weekend, chances are it wouldn't be so beautiful.

But thanks to Chase and Maria, a couple who toured the island with their video camera, you can sit here and visit three beaches, Coral Bay and Miss Lucy's.  Their user name at YouTube is Marchasia.  It appears they uploaded these videos just a day or two ago – well before the rains and the heavy surf began.

St. John grocery plans online shopping

If things go according to plan, grocery shopping could get a lot easier for locals and visitors. 

The co-owner of the new St. John Gourmet Market, across the street from the entrance to the Westin Resort, hopes to launch a Web site with online shopping soon.  In a profile article about the business, the St. John Source said Jim Overton, "anticipates visitors heading to their vacation villa … will place their orders via the Internet so they can pick up their already boxed order on their way."

It sounds like Overton, and a partner who also owns Cruz Bay's Dolphin Market, are focused on delivering quality and a broad selection of food.  That includes organic vegetables and milk.  He also plans a deli counter and prepared foods to go, reminiscent of the wonderful deli/market that used to be across the road in Palm Plaza.

The Source story doesn't say the Gourmet Market is competitively priced.  The government's monthly market basket surveys usually give the low price crown to Dolphin.  But the St. John Talk blog says Gourmet's prices are excellent. "Maybe I should keep it to myself, but the produce is really good and approaches Stateside prices," writes Howard.  (Read the post here.)

St. John Gourmet Market is open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Surf’s up, WAY up!

Picture-16If you're a surfer, chances are you'd call Tuesday a 'bitchin' day, because the surf is going to be UP. 

Waves as tall as 22-feet are expected offshore thanks to a huge swell out in the Atlantic and moving west.

For St. John, and the other Virgins, this means lots of crashing waves along the coastlines.  Erosion is probable and, in some spots, so too will be flooding.  So, day sails and swimming maybe should be postponed.

But it's going to be another Christmas Day for transplanted surfer dudes. You can bet they'll be out along the north shore.  But the island's Steve Simonsen isn't sticking around. He's heading to Tortola where he expects lots of surfers. And he'll have his fantastic photography skills ready.

He's already set up a Web page for shots at http://homepage.mac.com/ssimonsen/TortolaSurfingDecember292009/.  Check the page later Tuesday for what promises to be some amazing stuff.

The image on this page is from a series Steve did on Tortola in 2007. 

VP and wife island-bound

Politico reports, "The Bidens are leaving Monday for the U.S. Virgin Islands “for a
holiday vacation with their family."  They'll be on (an) island for about a week, says the White House.

Caneel Bay Resort has been a favorite kick back spot for Democrats for several decades.

USATODAY quotes the St. John Source saying the couple is already in the Caribbean, staying a house on Water Island.  OOPS … A reader points out the USAT story is from LAST year!