Flavors of Curacao
I went to the Flavors of Curacao Food Festival in Curacao. Organized by CHATA (Curacao Hospitality & Tourisim Association) the carpark at the Hilton is turned into a wonderous culinary village. The first thing I did upon arrival was to read through all the advertisments for fun things to do and noticed that the pictures in these ads are all of young, gorgeous models doing the exciting things that are offered. Where are the older people? Older people are most definitely up for adventuring too!!
The Wrinklies were missing in the big picture. Wrinklies may be a little older but most Wrinklies I know are still up for a ride out on a safari, or SUP on the sea or lagoon. They are up for visits to the towns, sight-seeing, hiking, snorkling, diving, sky-diving etc and of course are definitely up for dining everywhere!
I did not plan on sporty adventuring this trip as I had dedicated the few days there to the food fest. Next time, for sure, I will plan more outdoor adventures. For there will be a next time – Curacao is wonderful to visit.
“Flavors” is an upscale culinary event where visitors and locals have the opportunity to enjoy a wide array of dishes prepared by some of the best chefs on the island. Guest chefs also make an appearance at this renowned food festival. The festival features live musical entertainment and ongoing activities for the young ones.
Thursday could not come quick enough. I was off to Curacao for the Food Festival “Flavors of Curacao 2018.” When I booked my ticket, I found that the Friday flights were pretty full so I opted for going on Thursday, a bit early perhaps but I am so glad I did as this gave me an opportunity to hang out at the Hilton. The Hilton is where the Food Fest will take place and of course with the close proximity I believed this to be the best place to choose to stay.
First things first though, I had to negotiate the PJI airport. Having read about crowds and chaos from some I was a little worried, so I arrived early for my check-in time and found in fact that the entire process was a breeze, and everyone was so polite. Dropped off, went through, got bag weighed, sorted at the desk, through the scan area and there I was, with plenty of time to spare, waiting for the flight which took off on time – and arrived in Curacao on time. The thing about the flight was – it was a small Antilles Air plane, you know one of those whose undercarriage seems to be on the ground. Entrance is through the tail and a tin can awaits you negotiating your way along to find your seat. I was asked to move from my chosen seat to enable a family to sit together.
I therefore found myself up at the front with my back to the cockpit. All well and good – until take off. Quite funny really as I slid forward during the somewhat steep climb – thank goodness for the seat belt. Looking at the rest of the passengers looking at me made me want to burst out into hysterical giggles but eventually the plane settled on a more even keel and I could slide back into my seat and immerse myself into my reading. The rest of the 2 hour flight went smoothly and was over in no time at all.
Curacao’s airport is big and so very easy to negotiate. The taxi rank outside had no confusion of people trying to get you into a taxi. The drive to the Hilton (in the dark) seemed to take a route via double carriage ways; the roads lined with tall palm trees seemed neat and smooth.
The check-in at the Hilton was great. A very nice, friendly chap sorted out my room etc. I was intrigued to see so many tall trees, mainly palm trees, set in the well-laid out gardens. The majority of the trees grow straight up – I can’t help but compare to poor, battered St. Maarten.
The layout of the hotel’s public area is open plan so having settled in the first thing I did was wander the paths investigating the bars and restaurants.
BBQ on the beach
Bumping into an old St. Maarten friend Chef Iwan, now the executive chef at the Hilton, was a nice surprise; I thought he would be busy cooking up a storm. He told me that everyone’s favourite St. Maarten chef was already there and had been instrumental in prepping part of the evening’s BBQ Buffet. After a lovely chat with Chef Dino (Temptation and now Emilio’s) I tried the amazing buffet. The only disappointment was no French Rose on the wine list! No problem as I quenched my thirst with a Gin Mojito. The service was smooth and good. There was a two-man band playing under the stars, under a tree, the singer’s lovely voiced mellowed the evening. The lights twinkled, there was no wind and the food was delicious; it was all rather romantic.
The fabulous buffet consisted of an excellent butternut soup with caramelized onions and crème fresh. A choice of hot and cold salads, some a bit unusual like the slaw that had mango in it, fried plantains, tostones, and all the trimmings calls one back to have second helpings. The meat I chose was quickly heated on the fire, the choice was fish in foil, ribs, steak, sausage and chicken. There was a choice of sauces to go with the meat that included green peppercorn, chimichurri, BBQ and a delightful coconut chutney which I suspect Chef Dino had a hand in.
Drinks at the bar with good friends followed before bed called. The rooms at the Hilton are well appointed and very comfortable, the room I have has a door onto a balcony with provided chairs and a view of the sea. It is a fabulous thing to be able to open an hotel door to an outside veranda. (The last hotel I had an opening door to the outside was in Africa. Some cheeky monkeys forced their way into the room and stole the biscotti tin from the coffee stand, but that is a story for another day!)
Friday morning in Curacao dawned crisp and clear although a heavy cloud came in from the west and there was talk of rain in the afternoon. There was a breathtaking elevator trip I took enough times per day because the glass front of this lift looked over the beach and public area – I think I went to my room more times than I normally would have just to ride in this lift.
Wandering through the Hilton hotel grounds I discovered a large pool, a great coffee shop where a large group of older ladies were sitting having coffee under the trees before taking off on a snorkeling trip and came across a lovely cove with a white sand beach that runs down into crystal clear water.
On a rise of rocks to one side of the beach are the walls of an old fort and there is a dive shop situated on the bluff. The fort is shaped as the castle is in Cape Town, the Dutch like building star-shape forts.
A neater, nicer more entrancing area one could not wish for. I watched a dive boat come in to the dock and offload some divers as the heavy cloud advanced over us – but no rain fell.
The tree coverage in this area is amazing and the birdsong so inspiring – peace and tranquiity reigned.
I took the shuttle into the town which is about 10 mins away – what an interesting afternoon I had.
Dinner with an inspired menu by top chefs
Back at the Hilton Friday night’s dinner was a set menu put together by Chef Dino and Chef Iwan. They certainly complimented one another with an excellent four course dinner. Chef Dino is here in Curacao to join forces with Chef Iwan (executive chef at the Hilton) at the “Flavors of Curacao Festival” on Saturday evening.
Seated under the stars with a fine glass of wine, a bread basket of soft focaccia and a dip of balsamic and olive oil I awaited to be served.
Gales of laughter came from the kitchen direction, when the kitchen is happy the food can only be made with love and therefore be good.
The amuse bouche was a sweet morsel of fresh tuna in a spicy mayo sauce piled onto a crispy tostones.
The 1st course comprised of the ultimate seafood treat. Large juicy scallops seared and set on a bed of butternut risotto. The complexity of flavours came from an onion confit, buttered king mushrooms and a sprinkling of crispy black rice. An elusive flavour came through from the orange vinaigrette which brought the dish together in a superlative way.
The 2nd course was duck. Perfectly grilled and sliced, the duck reposed on a bed of sweet potato and a mélange of escarole and topped with a red wine reduction. As always, this dish was tasty and filling.
Dessert was rosemary cake, poached pear and mascarpone. This dish ended the meal well; it was a light and not too sweet dessert.
Flavors of Curacao
After a very comfortable night, Saturday morning day dawned bright with a blue sky in patches (the passing of the storm Kirk did not bring rain.) Birdsong filled the air. From my room I looked over the gorgeous pool, beach and ocean which is calling out to be enjoyed. A day in and around the water being laid-back is on the cards, for tonight is going to be quite busy.
Scenes from Saturday
The weather could not have been more perfect. The rocks over the incredible water; steps that go no-where; and a little spot just to relax and chill out at!
Saturday evening at Flavors of Curacao was great fun. The car park looked so different. The food tents and booths were set out in all shapes and sizes, from huge food vans to smaller stands. The food tastes at Chef Iwan and Chef Dino were outstanding – one would not expect any less. The wine that was paired with each taste was well thought out. The event was extremely well attended, and everyone was so polite and friendly. Amazing evening under the stars.
Sunday buffet breakfast
Sunday was a morning for lounging in the comfort of the room; I am heading out on a luncheon date with friends. See a bit of the island but before doing that I took a trip to have the buffet breakfast. The dining room was pretty full, people coming and going. The not overly fancy buffet had the normal sort of offerings but many of the dishes leant towards Spanish flavours. Unusual for the tastes of England and St. Maarten buffet breakfasts. I had not realised before that the South American influence is very strong in Curacao.
Yes, there was the usual pancakes, French toast and toasts along with the trimmings. There were crisply delicious croissants – very French. Link sausages and a dish of well-made scrambled egg (not the hard or over watery salt-less eggs found at many buffets.) The egg-bar with omelets to order or eggs anyway you prefer was very busy. The buffet offered the usual cereal, fruit and fruit juices but there were also dishes of veg topped with crispy potato chips and beef stew that was spicy. Bowls of pico de gallo and pico de salsa and chicken nuggets with a distinct Mexican flavour were also waiting to be popped onto the plate. Mimosas were served but a peach vodka Bellini was my breakfast drink choice. One has to be a little healthy and have some fruit – agreed?
I don’t know when I last stayed at an hotel where everyone was (staff and guests) so polite, happily chatty, nice and considerate. The staff here makes one’s stay wonderful. This definitely rubs off on the guests.
You can check out the Hilton, Curacao (here)