An upscale culinary event organized by CHATA (Curacao Hospitality and Tourism Association) (here) 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 giving demos followed by a dinner tasting. The festival is held in the carpark at the Hilton Hotel, Piscadera Bay. The carpark was turned into a wonderland culinary village. Flavors of Curacao is CHATA’s biggest annual fundraising event aimed at creating awareness to the hospitality and tourism sector.
Experiencing different cuisines has become a popular way to travel these days, it is a past-time many enjoy with good food and interesting places to stay. The shift in travel to where people actively seek out culinary experiences is a great one for young and old adventurers. It is not just a past time for the younger traveler at all. In fact, it is what the older traveler can do without feeling they are not up to it with all the advertising and promotional output that features the gorgeous young models enjoying the highlights of various exotic destinations.
One such exciting experience is the “Flavors of Curacao” food festival held each September on the island of Curacao in the Caribbean. I, an older participant, enjoyed the culinary adventure, staying in a lovely spot at the Hilton, Curacao and able to wander to the culinary village to see St. Maarten’s own top Chef Dino work alongside the Hilton’s executive Chef Iwan. Together they offered a delicious, mind-blowing taste experience. The other food tents offered some amazing tastes too. Yes, culinary travel and adventure is for all ages. If you are a Foodie – get on out there and do a bit of culinary travelling!
Waking up on Saturday morning, after a very comfortable night at the Hilton, I saw that the day dawned bright with a blue sky in patches (I was a little worried that the passing of the storm Kirk would bring a lot of rain.) Birdsong filled the air. The gorgeous pool and ocean called to be swum in and enjoyed, and why not? It would be rude not to enjoy the stunning soft turquoise waters, hang out on the white sand and have a chilled drink or two. After all chill time is good prep for this evening’s culinary tasting – this is what this trip is all about!
Flavors of Curacao
Saturday evening and the much-awaited food festival is underway. The car park at the Hilton has been given a complete make-over and is now a village of food tents where some of the best of the best chefs Curacao has to offer have come together to offer their signature food.
I decided to get there early to catch the light for some photographs. Security was tight, at this early hour folk were being frisked, some had their bags searched.
I am so glad that I did get there early as the crowds started to roll in and the booths soon became jam-packed. I homed in on Chef Iwan and Chef Dino’s booth. With a well-stocked Hilton Bar stand and snappily dressed wait-staff this large, modern looking set up stood out.
Checking out the other stands I saw some truly intriguing offerings like the smoked iguana and pulled goat. One booth offered a noodle dish served in half a coconut shell and a delicious risotto cake topped with a perfectly prepared scallop. Different cuisines at all the booths included Thai, Chinese, local farm to fork, American, cakes, bakes and even a Starbucks.
And still the crowds rolled in.
Back at the Chef’s booth, before too many others arrived to stand in a jam-packed line, I had the good fortune to taste a number of dishes from “my Chefs of the moment.” It was fun to see Chef Dino at ease and having a quick dance with one of his crew.
Chef Iwan offered:
Yellowfin tuna tartare, ponzu on rice cracker;
Soto ayam paired with Sartori Pinot Grigio Blush Delle Venezie;
Japanese oyster shooter with quail egg, mirin, sake, sriracha paired with Col de Salici Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG;
Peruvian Corvina ceviche, sweet potato paired with Albaclara Sauvignon Blanc, Haras de Pirque – Organic;
Duck confit sliders, seared foie gras, red onion marmalade, rocket on brioche paired with Guado al Tasso Bolgheri DOC Superiore
Chef Dino offered:
Lemon-rosemary macaron, butter cream & olive oil;
Crab cake, tarragon aioli paired with Baron de Ladoucette Comte Lafond Sancerre Blanc;
Salted fish croquettes, roasted pepper-saffron mayo paired with Cervaro della Sala Antinori;
Ancho chili braised short rib tacos, pickled red onions paired with Ruffino Chianti DOCG;
Indian masala lamb chops with curried potatoes paired with Ruffino Greppone Mazzi Brunello di Montalcino
There was a wee competition going on – did the duck confit beat the deboned short rib tacos?
Was the oyster shot going to be enjoyed by many (I loved it and so did the others who tried it)
Which had more flavour, the Indian flavoured lamb chop with potato or the Soto Aytam?
Chef Dino’s crab cake is always a winner – Chef Iwan’s tuna pretty much tied in the seafood race.
This Peruvian Corvina Ceviche with corn and sweet potato was the absolute bomb!
My preference is Rose and a lovely Pinot Grigio rose was my choice with all the dishes I tasted at Chef Iwan and Chef Dino’s booth.
The chefs sure made an incredible team.
As for the tasting of some of the dishes Chef Dino’s Indian lamb chop had a slice of chili on it and this brought tears and a coughing fit. Followed quickly by the cooling macaron I was soon ready to do the oyster shot; the flavours of this were very reminiscent of the sea. The ceviche was cooling and lemony and the soto ayam, a lovely a refreshing soup, was quite filling. I could not decide between the duck slider and the short rib taco, each in their own way made a very tasty finger food bite although the slider had a far greater complexity of flavours.
There were so many amazing tastes offered – this is just one of the menus and one of the dishes!
Here are a few more:
All attendees had to buy tokens as the drinks and tastings cost between 2 and 10 tokens. The queue at the token booth stretched far. There was some seating at most of the booths, but these were soon filled. The crowds just kept on rolling in.
We left the village about 10pm. Our plan was to get a breather at a restaurant down on the beach. The line-up still wanting to go in stretched for about 150 yards down the road. The village opening hours were from 5 – midnight. I believe almost 4000 tickets were sold. By all accounts this extremely successful food festival did an incredible fundraising effort.
Next morning the village in the car park was pretty-well all packed up and clean as a whistle!
Next you you should make a date and go – it is well worth a visit to Curacao for all the festivals but this one is tops (here) It makes sense to stay at the Hilton where the festival takes place (here)