8 Tuff Miles trials begin

Gear-for-saleThe biggest foot race in the Virgin Islands, 8 Tuff Miles, is scheduled for February 27th. The course begins in Cruz Bay and spans the length of the island and ends in Coral Bay.

Peter Alter, the race's founder and organizer, said the West Indies Corp. is again sponsoring the race.  It distributes Gatorade and Aqua Fina water in the Virgin Islands.

As part of the preparations training runs have been scheduled.  These trials are called Geiger Tuff Tune Ups, in memory of a long-time island resident, David Geiger. The first is Saturday morning.  The three-mile jog/run/walk up Centerline Road steps off at Mongoose Junction at 7 a.m.

Last year's race saw 780 runners and walkers cross the finish line.  This year Alter said he is capping race registrations at 1,000.

Asolare lives!

After a summer in which several of the island's upscale restaurants wrestled with ownership and management chaos, things are settling down.

At the Westin Resort the pretentiously-named Chloe & Bernard's closed late in the summer.  Now, in the second floor location in the main building, Cruz Bay Prime is touting itself as "St. John’s newest Caribbean steak and seafood restaurant featuring prime, grass fed and Wagyu steaks, and domestic lamb."  The restaurant is open for dinner 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. with entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.

Asolare Asolare, called by Fodor's "The most beautiful and elegant restaurant" on the island is operating under an experienced hand. Winston Bennett, who launched the operation located above Cruz Bay harbor, is again calling the shots. Initial reviews are positive. 

In a post on TripAdvisor, Cind11 from Ohio wrote, "We were just there on New Year's Eve. The girls both had Filet mignon and my DH and I had a fish called Cobia. It was a wonderful dinner, the best we had on St. John during this trip."  So, the quality and experience is consistent with Asolare's history.  But, Cindll added, so was the bill. "Quite pricey though I must say!!!"  Another positive comment came from Vickie from Toronto who said, "We were just there over New Years and had dinner at Asolare on January 1. It was our best meal as well."

What’s not in your suitcase?

There's an interesting thread at TripAdvisor.  It was kicked off by Sunny-in-Salem who said she usually sends flippers and snorkel gear in a package ahead of her arrival.  She wondered what other people sent.

light of airline baggage charges and the fact there are at least four
fairly-stocked grocery stores in Cruz Bay, shipping sundries no longer
as useful as it was five or 10 years ago. Nonetheless, there are lots
of things people do pack and send ahead of time.

Tinkerbelldee includes shampoo, bath gel, sunscreen, coffee, granola bars. nuts and PringlesBluewater43 reminded folks to put items in Ziplock bags to prevent leaks as well as damage from humidity and ants.

post argued for shipping food items ahead. "I am fully aware that they
sell it on island," she wrote. "I am also familiar with the prices and
I choose not to pay them when I can avoid it. I just like to choose how
I spend my vacation money. If I had a larger budget, I would not
bother, but mine is limited and I like to save where I can. It is not
for everyone but works for me. Just sayin'."

If you want to send a package ahead, Connections in Cruz Bay will hold a box for your pickup.  Click here for details on package receive servicesThe Mail Center
at the Marketplace also used to accept packages, at least when we owned
it.  I don't know about now because the Web site we used is not
responding, www.mailcentervi.com.

Cafe Bordeaux back in business

Bordeaux Chateau Bordeaux has been reopened.  Once again, it is possible to have a meal and look down on Coral Bay and across the Sir Francis Drake Channel, one of the loveliest views on the island.

Lorelei Monsanto, the daughter of the woman who launched the restaurant 30 years ago, is overseeing the venture.  She's also reported to be the landlord.  For many years, Bordeaux was managed by the same people who operated high end restaurants in Cruz Bay including Paradiso and Asolare.  But times got tough, the economy got soft, and Bordeaux closed.

Monsanto's reopened the spot for lunch and has plans to add dinner service.  But food isn't the only reason to make the drive to Bordeaux.  She told the St John Sun Times, "Enjoy the moon as it's rising, the shimmering lights in the distance – it makes you feel like you're on a tropical island, naturally."

Perhaps it's best that food isn't the only draw.  One lone review, via TripAdvisor, was quite negative. "The view remains exceptional but the food is now by many accounts INEDIBLE." wrote EvergreenOhio. "Prices are inflated and there is no wine list."

How much could you grab at Starfish?

Bob As part of the celebration to mark completion of the renovation at StarfishMarket, the store offered one lucky winner the chance for a one-minute long Supermarket Spree.  Take what you can get, no cost. Bob Schlesinger, one of the island's fine photographers, was the lucky guy.

As luck would have, Bob's wife, Karin, is also pretty handy with a camera.  She works with Bob in their business, Tropical Focus

She clicked away as Bob eagerly filled the basket.  There appeared to be no focus on grabbing the high-value items, but rather the necessities.  Looks like there's a ham or a turkey, bread, some hamburger, apples, etc.  But, according to Karin, the most prized acquisition was some of his favorite java, Dunkin' Donuts.

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!