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Printed from the Charlotte Observer - www.CharlotteObserver.com
Posted: Saturday, Sep. 13, 2008

Island offers luxe destinations

Published in: John Bordsen

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Jerry Bogar and his wife, Carrie, own The Veya Restaurant on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. The Bogars, both 40, moved to this British dependency from Pennsylvania 2 1/2 years ago. Jerry is the restaurant's manager and sommelier.

Q. What's the tourist story on Anguilla?

The economy is tourism-based. It is a small island – only 32 square miles – with no arable land. The only other industry, in the 1950s, was extracting salt from salt ponds.

In the 1970s, the chief minister decided the island should go for tourism, and he wanted a luxury market. That continues to be the case: low-density, high quality tourism. No large cruise ships stop here; there is no large runway from the United States. The airport can accommodate private jets, so you can fly here from Puerto Rico. There's also a 25-minute ferry from St. Martin.

Anguilla caters to the discerning traveler. It's an A-list destination. There are large-scale high-end hotels slated to open in the next 10 years. There's also Cap Juluca, Cuisinart and Malliouhana, all consistently rated among the best resorts in the Caribbean.

Q. High-end, harder to get to ... I'd imagine you get a good share of celebs in your restaurant.

We've had (cinema stars) Greg Kinnear, Liam Neeson and his wife, Natasha Richardson. Robert De Niro and his wife. The (Bill) Cosby family comes pretty frequently. Also quite a few famous authors and musicians.

Q. And you serve Caribbean food?

Because of the climate, we term it “cuisine of the sun” – food from around the equator is the inspiration of our menu. It is influenced by the Far East, India, Morocco and elsewhere in North Africa. And, of course, quite a lot of Caribbean ingredients.

Q. There are many islands in the Caribbean. Is there much difference among the islands' foods?

Foods available are definitely influenced by the geographical and historical differences among the islands. Some are volcanic; they can grow their food in the rich volcanic soil. Islands colonized early on for plantations have a strong influence of African cuisine blended with European.

Other islands, like Anguilla, are coral atolls.

Anguilla has a lot of fresh seafood – the bounty of the sea is prolific – but most fruits and vegetables come from other islands.

Typically, islands that were heavily colonized were volcanic and sustained plantations. You'll find more of an influence from Europe.

There are some staples you'll always find: salt fish, johnny cakes or fried bread; different kinds of fish stews. They have what's called fish broth or fish water, or goat broth or goat water. All have starchy vegetables that figure into classic Caribbean cooking – roots like manioc, tannia or taro.

Q. What about spicing?

There are layers of flavor – salty, spicy, sweet and sour. Tropical fruits, like tamarind or passion fruit, add sweetness. Then you have spicy, like habanero peppers. There's always a hot-pepper sauce on the table in Caribbean restaurants; hot seasoning, too.

Spices? Tamarind is used quite a bit. Some nearby islands like Dominica and Grenada supply fresh nutmeg. Allspice is prevalent throughout the islands.

Sour typically comes from limes, sour orange or other citrus. Salty usually comes from preserved fish, like salt fish, or a broth.

Q. What is “salt fish”?

It's a way of preserving fish. You catch and splay them – butterfly them, basically – then put on salt as a preservative. Typically you can do this to any kind of reef fish, like snapper, mullet or grouper. Not a game fish like tuna or swordfish.

Q. Are there other influences on food?

Yes, the tourism industry. Many who started tourism in the Caribbean were Europeans; they brought French chefs who taught techniques, and local chefs put their spin on that.

It creates a tasty fusion that you see a lot, especially on Anguilla.

Q. So you own a restaurant on a less-easy-to-reach island. Does that make it more expensive for you to get the various supplies you need?

Freight charges and duties contribute to a higher food cost for most items. However, there are foods coming from South America and Europe that are less expensive here than they were for us in the States. With a population of about 14,000 there are 80 restaurants, and we all use so many different ingredients. It creates a situation where there is a lot available for chefs to work with. Also, despite low annual rainfall and nutrient-lacking soil, Anguilla farmers are persevering. We have local tropical fruits, eggplant, pumpkin, cauliflower, tomatoes, herbs and more, all year-round.

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