Foodie (noun): A person who spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food and the proper preparation of food and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation.

I’ve gasped at the exquisite presentation of a dish. I’ve closed my eyes and savored the flavor of a fine wine. I’ve taken a first bite and had the taste utterly consume me, and I’ve walked into a restaurant, looked around, and sighed, declaring the ambience “magical.”

So am I a “foodie”? HELL YES. However I am NOT a dining snob. I seek out hole-in-the-wall joints and mom-and-pop restaurants. I get a charge in finding an “off-the-beaten-path” eatery. I crave and appreciate new food experiences as one does a hobby.

With that said, on a recent trip to Nevis, a rustic Caribbean island in the West Indies, I was extremely impressed by a few of the dining experiences I had. If I were in a position to bestow food awards, the following would have made my list:

The RI Award for “I’m in Awe” goes to…

Hermitage

The Wednesday night West Indies feast is both stunning and distinctly home cooking at its best. The chefs at Hermitage come from nearby villages, and the herbs and spices come from the garden. Local farmers bring their produce directly to the hotel, and the fish is delivered daily fresh from the sea. The ladies in the kitchen take great pride in their talent and have created a few dishes known on Nevis as Hermitage specialties.

The owner of Hermitage, Richie Lupinacci, invites all guests into the living room area and, one by one, he describes what each dish is and how it was prepared. The alfresco dining patio is simple yet elegant with the surrounding trees and exterior lit up with twinkle lights.

Two additional offerings worthy of mention are the coconut French toast (OMG!), which was thick yet super fluffy and smothered in lightly toasted coconut, and the rum punch. I tasted rum punch ALL OVER the island, and by far this one was the best. It is a 350-year-old recipe consisting of only fresh, mountain citrus and local rum made in a special batch each morning.

The RI Award for “Exotic Ambience, Impressive Wine List, and Food That Had Me Saying Mmm After Each Bite” goes to...

Coconut Grove

Set on the most beautiful beach in Nevis this Balinese-themed restaurant makes for a truly exotic setting.

The evening began by the chef sending out an amuse bouche, which was equally impressive in both presentation and taste.

Chef Stephen Smith, whose specialty is a fusion of exotic French cuisine, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America as well as a registered dietitian. He is a master in the kitchen and knows how to artfully prepare and serve all of the incredible dishes we had. The homemade fettuccini with fresh pine nut pesto literally melted in my mouth, and the evening’s special was a flame-grilled, local, line-caught fish brushed with Herbes de Provence and served with a jardinière of local veggies; it was also quite spectacular.

Coconut Grove has the only award winning wine cellar on the island, with a fine selection of world-class wines. Gary Colt, who is the owner of this restaurant, is also a master sommelier and will enchant you as you stroll in the cellar choosing your wine. Kudos to the restaurant for receiving the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

The RI Award for “Super Casual Beachfront Drinking and Eating” goes to...

Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill

Famous for the “Killer Bee” drink (it supposedly stings; I survived one), Sunshine’s is a great, casual place to just hang out, get some sun, drink, and have a bite. Diners sit in couches under a canopy or at a table in the sand. I tried both the conch fritters and sautéed conch and found they were some of the best I have ever had. The fritters were all conch—little filler accompanied by a great dipping sauce—and the sautéed conch was delicately done with just the perfect amount of seasoning. If you’re lucky, Sunshine himself will be there to tell you some crazy stories. (He was rolling out of bed at around 2:30 p.m. the day we were there; too many Killer Bees the night before apparently….)

The RI Award for “Off the Beaten Path with Artsy Ambience AND Fab Food” goes to...

Bananas Restaurant

This find is hidden away high above Charlestown and is surrounded by more than an acre of lush, tropical gardens. It’s an old-style Caribbean house with wallaba shingles, island stone floors, and a wraparound, rustic, galvanized porch. Eclectic touches such as antique toys, old skis, riding boots, and a collection of antique hats add an air of eccentricity and informality to the place.

The porch serves as the main dining area and overlooks the gardens, with the Caribbean Sea in the background. Steps lead down into the garden with several areas for dining alfresco. The food was outstanding, and if you stay late enough the staff (and patrons) start singing and dancing.

Additional RI Awards worth mentioning:

“Stunning Private Dining Room” – Mill Privée at Hotel Montpelier

The restaurant hosts a seven-course tasting dinner in its spectacular private dining room.

“Unique Experience” – The Dine n' Dive program at Four Seasons Resort Nevis

Fishing is one thing, but diving for your dinner with the chef is another. The Dine n' Dive program at Four Seasons Resort Nevis gives guests the opportunity to dine on lobster caught during an unforgettable excursion out at sea.

In true Caribbean style all the restaurants were island-casual with an elegant flair and VERY reasonably priced. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the dining experiences I had in Nevis and, once I lose all the weight I surely gained, you can bet I’ll be going back for seconds!

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