April 7, 2015
Blue water. Emerald hills. Swimmable beaches. Grenada and its sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique are best known for their constellation of beautiful natural attractions. But these Windward Islands located in the eastern Caribbean are fast developing a different draw, a culinary scene that’s indie, ingredient-driven and sustainable. Here’s a run down on the best ways to get a taste of pure island life on a Grenada food tour.
A triumph of community-based agriculture, the Grenada Goat Dairy Project has been producing artisanal gourmet cheese since it began helping local farmers following the devastation of Hurricane Ivan. Since then, the non-profit organization has partnered with Belmont Estate, a 17th century plantation located an hour from the capital of St. George. Within this fully functioning historic plantation, the volunteer-run business operates a sustainable production facility with all proceeds from the sale of its organic Grenada Goat Dairy cheese going to support education and training on husbandry, production and marketing.
Visitors to Goat Dairy Project can explore the (storm proof) barns where the herd of dairy goats – a mix of local, pure bred Alpine and floppy-eared Nubian – happily chow down on organic “goat greens”. Inside the modern facility, the goat milk is filtered, refrigerated and pasteurized to the highest international food safety standards – the combination of quality facilities and the goat’s healthy diet results in an exceptionally delicate tasting chvre. Other knockout flavours include Italian blend, cracked pepper and more.
Local demand for Goat Dairy cheese exceeds production but Grenada food fans can scout it out in restaurants specializing in locally sourced, market fresh cuisine. Be sure to visit the Calabash Hotel’s esteemed Rhodes Restaurant where Goat Dairy’s chvre shines in a ruby toned beetroot tart. And for a refreshing hit of island flavour, try the Lobster and Golden Apple Salad with Goats Cheese at Savvy’s in Peter de Savary’s luxury boutique hotel Mount Cinnamon.
More Goat Dairy cheese innovation is on its way. Wild honey is blended with organic chocolate and River Antoine rum (produced at the oldest wind-powered distillery in the Caribbean) to create their new goat milk liqueur. Sip it straight up or spike your morning coffee with tropical flavour.
Also located at Belmont Estate is the Grenada Chocolate Company, a solar-powered, tree-to-bar cooperative at the edge of the Mt Hope rainforest. Here, chocolate craftsmanship is treated as high art. Visitors can tour the facilities and experience artisanal chocolate production first hand.
The tour begins with a “cocoa walk” through the plantation itself. Surrounded by lofty Madre de Cacao, a tangerine-blossomed tree that provides protective shade for the cocoa trees, this hike through tropical foliage will give you an appreciation for Grenada’s lush Garden of Eden setting.
Overhead, hundreds of red and yellow cocoa pods grow in wild abandon while below the forest floor is soft with organic leaf matter. The Grenada Chocolate Company cultivates almost exclusively Trinitario cocoa bean, a variety prized for its intense and complex flavour. If you’re lucky, the tour guide will crack open a cocoa pod and scoop out some beans so you can sample its citrusy, white pulp.
Back in the processing area, the cacao beans are hand harvested, fermented and sun-dried naturally. The beans are then polished traditionally by workers who “dance the cocoa” by turning the beans with their feet in a giant copper bowl or in the drying trays.
After drying, the cocoa beans are transported up the hill where they’re roasted, winnowed, churned, tempered and pressed into chocolate of exceptional flavour. The small-batch, 100% organic fair trade chocolate is used to create bars ranging from 60 to 100 per cent cocoa as well as popular variations such as Salty-licious featuring Caribbean sea salt and Nib-A-Licious, chock full of crispy cocoa nibs. Wind up your tour by sampling Cocoa Tea, a spiced hot chocolate packed with antioxidants that will boost your feel-good serotonins.
During the Grenada Chocolate Festival (taking place from 13th to 22nd May 2016 at True Blue Bay Resort), chocolate fans can celebrate sustainable organic chocolate in many forms. Try some yoga, take a cooking class or “dance the cocoa” yourself while being a farmer for a day. There will also be educational workshops, a day of tasting at Pink Gin Beach and chocolate-themed menus at participating restaurants. All of it is an opportunity to dance, drink and “lime” in true Grenadian style. If you miss the festival, the exquisite chocolate ice cream at Hotel Petite Anse, on Grenada’s wild northern point, is worth the drive.
Another new addition to the Grenada food scene is West Indies Beer Co., the eastern Caribbean’s only microbrewery. Hawking their hops to beer fans from a just-opened roadside brewpub in the community of L’anse Aux Epines on a southern peninsula of the island, they specialize in natural beer brewed using traditional ingredients.
Holding the first brewery license granted on the island in 50 years, their ales are crafted by a Master Brewer using malted barley, Irish Moss seaweed and spring water sourced from Grenada’s rainforest-draped volcanic mountains.
A flight of four beers might include Old Mongoose Porter, a traditional bitter (infused with organic cacao in the upcoming Chocolate Festival) or their signature brew Windward IPA, a fruity golden ale that’s as refreshing as the island’s trade winds. Get a growler to go or join the crowd in the beer garden, where office workers from the nearby US Embassy mingle with locals during special events such as pig roasts and tapas nights.
So whether you choose a salad topped with grilled chvre, a 100% organic chocolate mousse or a local IPA, the new Grenada food scene is sustainable, kind to the planet and wonderfully exciting to explore.
Virgin Atlantic operates flights to Grenada from London Gatwick. Book your flight to the Caribbean’s newest food destination today.
Have you tried any of these new taste experiences on a Grenada food tour? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Written by Michele Peterson