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Getting Ready For Tough Competition At A Taste of St. Croix

Getting Ready For Tough Competition At A Taste of St. Croix



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Chef Frank Pugliese shares his unique perspective on the St Croix Food & Wine Experience

Chef Frank Pugliese of Zion Modern Kitchen and his wife, Katherine, who live in St. Croix have opened and operated several restaurants on St. Croix.

Every April for the past fifteen years, I have witnessed my wife go from a calm, sane person to a total nut-job. As one of the founders of A Taste of St. Croix – which organically grew into a week of fundraising events called the St Croix Food & Wine Experience - my wife Katherine is involved in everything from recruiting guest chefs to raising funds. But as a local chef, the view and the experience is a lot different than from an organizers point of view.

At the main event – which is A Taste of St. Croix – local chefs, like my team from Zion Modern Kitchen, get to really show off a signature dish and cocktail. For 2015, our bartender Frank Robinson will be making a top secret cocktail using local ingredients and my culinary team and I will be making a decadent dessert that will demand you do a triathlon to burn off the calories. The competition at A Taste of St. Croix is tough. With celebrity chefs as the judges, everyone on the island puts their heart into the event. The displays are stunning, food is delicious and needless to say the beverages are intoxicating. To add to the night – it’s held beachside, there are three bands, a Moet & Chandon after-party and then the winners of the night are announced. It is like going to prom with the hottest person and everyone partying together – including the students and faculty.

The experience doesn't end there. As a “street-trained” chef, having to opportunity to work along side award-winning chefs is an amazing experience. And the chefs that donate their time and talents to the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience are really generous with their knowledge, talents and time. They work with local students, participate in at least three events during the week and are a blast to hang out with on the island. These chefs are helping us raise funds for the St. Croix Foundation – a community non-profit that do amazing work on the island. Their participation is very meaningful to the community.

This year, I will be working with James Beard award winning chef Sam Choy, supporting an event with pastry king Duff Goldman, and doing all I Can to help Tiffany Derry, Kevin Fonzo, Ray Lampe and the executive Chefs from Facebook have a great time on St. Croix. Which – its pretty easy to so – it is a tropical island with sun-soaked, white sand beaches, drinks with little umbrellas and all the fun you can fit on your plate.


St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands: Fort Frederik

I came across these amazing photographs by Steve Simonsen while browsing local photographers this afternoon. Painted a brilliant red the historical Fort Frederik, welcomes cruise ship passengers and tourists alike to discover St. Croix’s history. The landmark was named after King Frederick V of Denmark, who purchased the Danish West Indies in 1754.

According to the National Park Service, Fort Frederik was constructed in the mid-18th century by the Danish government to protect its interests in the Caribbean and to defend the western end of Saint Croix against incursion from other European powers. Fort Frederik was the focal point of two important events that led to the dissolution of the slave-based economy of the Virgin Islands. In 1848, Emancipation Revolt ended slavery in the Danish West Indies, but inaugurated a 30-year period of serfdom based on contract labor that ensured continuing control by plantation owners. Later in 1878, escalating tensions erupted into the Labor Riot and Fireburn, which ended the contract labor system.

The fort has served as a jail, police station, fire station and courthouse since the purchase of the Virgin Islands by the U.S. in 1917.

It was listed as a contributing property in the Frederiksted Historic District in 1976. It was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. It was further declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Fort Frederick has a display related to the Fredensborg, a ship that was part of the “Triangle Trade” from Europe, to Africa and St. Croix and back to Europe. The ship sank just off coast in Denmark the first mate saved the ship’s log. At the Fort are records about the sale of the slaves which occurred in St. Croix.


The Crucian Contessa

I am an attorney by day, (nights, weekends, and even some holidays) but in my remaining free time, I enjoy learning, studying, creating, crafting, and sharing food!

As an homage to my favorite Celebrity Chef Ina Garten the Barefoot Contessa, my close friends have taken to calling me the “Crucian Contessa” (given that I live on St. Croix)! This blog is my culinary diary, a collection of images, foods, and some recipes that have meant the most to me, that mark special moments, or simply sparks my curiosity!

I tend to use premium ingredients to create food that is simply unforgettable. And as much as possible, I rely on local island ingredients. I also adore ingredients like real Tahitian and Mexican Vanilla Beans, whole Dominican nutmeg (essential element to almost every dessert), and Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar or local Crucian Honey as sweeteners.

Although the island definitely influences what I create, it by no means limits it. I have such a curiosity about food and the creative process of it. Don’t be surprised to find a recipe for pico de gallo nestled below a recipe for Crucian Cocoa Tea on this blog. Food is fascinating, whether it originates around the corner, or around the world. We literally are not islands. We are all connected.

I hope you enjoy the stories, images, and recipes here. Feel free to share your thoughts, feedback, and experiences. I am eager to hear about how your own culinary adventures turn out!

I am passionate about food, and believe simply that making it yourself is making it best!

P.S. Here are a few pictures from my island home–St. Croix, U.S.V.I. It truly is an amazing place.

How can you not be creative when you are surrounded with this kind of uncompromising beauty? When was the last time you stood eye to eye with a rainbow? Only on St.Croix!

A make-shift BBQ on the beach from fish and lobsters we found right in the nearby waters. It doesn’t get any fresher (or better)! Notice the difference between these lobsters and the more common Maine Lobster? No claws. And WAY sweeter!


Smoked Spare Ribs that Literally Fall Apart

I receive emails every week asking how to make super tender spare ribs in the smoker and some even say that the 3-2-1 method still doesn't get them as tender as they like. This week I'm going to show you how to make spare ribs that are so fall apart tender that you can just pull the bones out as if they were in hot butter.

Not your thing? No need to email me saying that this is not how spare ribs are supposed to be cooked. If that's your paradigm, then you can ignore this recipe– no hard feelings =)

I made these spare ribs a while back and we deboned them (very easily I might add) and made one of the best rib sandwiches I've ever had (and that's saying something)!

The flavor is also unbelievable since we will apply my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) on them the night before and give them things of beauty all night to soak up the good stuff. I could not get over the flavor as well as the tenderness on these and everyone at the table agreed that these were to die for.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 Hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225-240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 195-200°F
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan/Cherry mix
  • 2-4 racks of St. Louis style spare ribs
  • Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub)
  • Foil (Heavy Duty)
  • Full size foil pan (approx. 12 x 20 works best)
Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats-- you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Remove the spare ribs from the package and rinse under cold water.

I purchased my ribs already cut St. Louis style and for this reason, I wanted to make sure that there was no bone fragments. The rinsing takes care of this.

The ribs are then patted dry with a clean paper towel and set aside.

It occurred to me that some of you may not know what St. Louis style ribs are.. it's just a style of trimming the ribs to get rid of the less desirable parts of the spare ribs and make them into a better looking rack much resembling a rack of baby backs.

The picture below will show you a basic pattern for cutting the full size spare ribs into St. Louis stye:

With the ribs laying bone side up, you'll notice a shiny, plastic-like membrane covering the bones.

Work your finger, a spoon or some other implement under the membrane, work it loose and grasp it with a paper towel to pull it clean off.

This takes practice but in no time you'll have it.

Don't fight with it.. if you have trouble with it, just get what you can and leave it at that. It's not the end of the world if it remains.

Bone Side
With the ribs still laying bone side up, coat the meaty part of the bone side with lots of the original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub). Be extremely generous as this will create the delicious crust that you'll rave about later.

Give a light sprinkling over the bone area as well..

Leave them sitting in this configuration for about 10 minutes or until they get that “wet” look.

Turn the ribs over to meaty side up and generously sprinkle my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) all over making sure to hit the sides and ends as well.

You can place them in the fridge at this point but after just an hour or so, you'll see how the rub draws the moisture to the top and creates a nice paste. The flavors merge and some of that is drawn back into the ribs. It's a beautiful thing!

Setup your smoker for cooking at about 230°F using indirect heat. If your smoker has a water pan, fill it up with water.

You will need enough smoking wood to last about 4 hours– I recommend a mix of pecan and cherry but any smoking wood will work great.

Once the smoker is ready, place the ribs on the smoker grate bone side down with at least an inch between each one to allow the smoke and heat to have access to all sides of the meat.

The ribs will stay in this configuration for 4 hours.

During this time the rub will turn into a crust (a good thing), the heat will cook the meat and the smoke will flavor the meat.

Very carefully remove the ribs from the smoker and wrap the ribs individually with heavy duty foil. I did not get pictures of this process but I wish I had so I could show you how I wrap them.

I tear off as many pieces of 18-inch foil about 30-36 inches long as I have racks of ribs. I had 2 racks of ribs so I had 2 pieces of foil this size laid on top of each other.

The first rack was taken off and laid in the center of the top piece of foil.

Note: often during this wrapping stage we'll add a liquid of some kind but I don't recommend it on these since they will be in the foil for so long. We want them to tenderize but if there's too much moist steam, it can make the rub crust soft and in some cases even dissolve it and we want it to stay intact and crispy.

The bottom of the foil was brought up over the ribs then the top was folded down over that. Each side is then carefully folded over.

I say carefully because some time a bone will be sticking out and that can easily puncture the foil. The foil doesn't have to be airtight but it's best if it doesn't have holes that allow the steam and juices to escape.

The wrapped ribs are placed into a full sized steam pan (about 12 x 20). For what it's worth, I can fit about 4-5 racks of wrapped ribs in one of these.

The purpose of the pan is to catch leaks. The foiled ribs will most likely leak.. it's bound to happen and in my opinion, this is an easy way to contain it. Less cleanup is always a good thing!

If you have an electric smoker or one that is very easy to maintain a good set temperature, then the pan of wrapped ribs can just go right back into the smoker at the same temperature (230°F)

If it's easier, you can also just place the pan of wrapped ribs into your kitchen oven set to 230°F.

Keep them at this temperature for 2 hours.

At this point the ribs are done and somewhat tender but we want to super tenderize them, remember?

Turn the smoker or oven down to about 200°F since we don't want to cook them a lot more but just let them tenderize

This super tenderizing step will go on for about 2 hours.

I recommend checking the ribs at the end of this step using the Thermapen Mk4, one of my favorite handheld thermometers which has a very small tip and is able to get between the bones very easily.

Open one side of the foil very carefully and check one of the racks to see if it's where it needs to be.

The temperature should be around 195-200°F at this point.

Now we just want to let the ribs rest at a really low heat during which time the meat will continue to tenderize, the fat will continue to render and the bones will loosen from the meat.

For the final step in the cooking/tenderizing process, turn the smoker or oven down another 30 degrees to 170°F.

This step only took about 1.5 hours but be ready to be flexible. At 1.5 hours open one of the packages, grab a bone and try to rotate it. If the ribs are ready you should be able to rotate the bone and even pull it cleanly from the meat with little to no resistance.

If you are able to rotate/remove the bones, then good, If there's resistance, wrap it back up and give them 30 more minutes.

Unwrap the ribs, flip the rack over to bone side up so you can get to the bones. If they break in half during this step (very likely) it's ok. They will be so tender that they will be falling apart.. that's what we wanted on these.

Grasp each bone and rotate to make sure it's loose then simply pull it out of the meat and discard.

Once the bones are removed from the entire rack, cut the meat into pieces about 1 inch wide and they are ready to serve.

Here's a close up to show you just how tender and juicy these end up being:

Because there's so many steps, this one may seem complicated so let me break it down for you in 8 easy to follow steps:


Stillwater’s first Log Jam festival ready to roll

A July 2006 image shows Jenny Atkinson, back left, and training partner Tanya Fischer, back right, practicing on a log as Mandy Erdmann, front left, and Jason Peterson, front right, take a break from training and watch a pond near Hudson, Wis. Atkinson was preparing to compete that weekend in the Long-Rolling World Championships at Stillwater's Lumberjack Days. (Pioneer Press file photo: Sherri LaRose)

The area where Iowa folk singer Greg Brown was supposed to take the stage at next weekend’s inaugural Stillwater Log Jam was a foot underwater last week.

The main road leading to town — Minnesota 36 — has been torn up and is being rebuilt to connect with the new St. Croix River bridge.

And more than 20,000 competitors and spectators could be winding their way to and from the Tough Mudder extreme athletic competition at the Game Unlimited Hunting Club in rural Hudson, Wis., on Saturday and Sunday.

Despite the trio of potential problems, Log Jam organizers say they’re ready for the thousands of people expected to descend on downtown Friday through Sunday. They’ve made a number of provisions — from moving the music stage inland to doing away with most concert ticket fees — to ensure the festival’s success.

They’ve even created a playlist for festival-goers to play while they’re sitting in traffic: “Slow Ride” by Foghat, “I Feel Good” by James Brown, “Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles, “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys, “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers Band and “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop.

The music stage has been moved to near Mulberry and Water streets because its original location near P.D. Pappy’s was “under a good 12 inches of water” last week, said Erin McQuay, one of The Locals, the group putting on the festival.

The concerts will be free — a change due to the flooding — because there is no way to fence off the entire area, McQuay said. Instead, about 500 tickets will be sold each day/night for a special “music appreciation” area directly in front of the stage. Tickets will be $10 at the gate, or two for $10 in advance, and each ticket will come with a “Passport to Stillwater” coupon book good for one year, she said.

Brown will be the headliner on Saturday night and Sonny Knight & the Lakers will perform Friday night.

COMMUNITY, NOT CROWDS

Festival organizers deliberately chose musicals acts that are the opposite of big-name bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Chicago and Creedence Clearwater Revival that headlined Lumberjack Days festivals, which drew regional crowds that sometimes overwhelmed the city.

The final Lumberjack Days was held in 2011. The Stillwater City Council terminated its contract with the Lumberjack Days Festival Association after that, citing unpaid bills, pending litigation and public disapproval. The city had no summer festival in 2012 or 2013.

Lumberjack Days organizer Dave Eckberg later pleaded guilty to issuing a dishonored check and was sentenced in April to 240 hours of community service and one year of probation.

Cassie McLemore, one of the Locals, said she and others are working hard to create a festival that will celebrate the city’s history and create a sense of community. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the annual summer celebration.

“We want to go back to the way the festival was when it first started,” McLemore said. “We’re trying to bring back an event that the community can be proud to be a part of.”

To that end, Stillwater Log Jam is enlisting the help of hundreds of community volunteers and will feature “family-friendly” events such as yoga, tethered hot-air balloon rides, a fishing contest, lumberjack shows, vintage baseball games, a soap-box derby, bingo and a parade, she said.

City council member Mike Polehna, who pushed hard to bring back a summer festival, said he thinks Log Jam could attract sizable crowds.

“I’m actually thinking a lot of people will come back to see what it’s like again,” Polehna said. “I’m anticipating that we’re going to have some pretty good crowds. … People keep asking me, ‘When it’s coming back?’ and ‘What’s it going to be like?’

“I’m excited to have it back. I’ve missed it the last couple of years.”

Polehna plans to enter the fishing contest his wife, Joni, plans to volunteer at bingo. “It reminds me of how it was 30 years ago — with everybody volunteering,” he said. “I heard they had 245 volunteers signed up. I mean, that’s great.”

MORE LOW-KEY

The Locals — which also include Paul Creager of Square Lake Productions, Brad Glynn of Lift Bridge Brewery and Shawn Smalley of Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar — are volunteering their time and money to put on the festival.

Major sponsors include the Freight House Bar and Restaurant, the Stillwater Convention and Visitors Bureau, Andersen Corp. and the Stillwater Gazette. The group has raised $100,000 of the $140,000 it hopes to raise.

Police Chief John Gannaway said he expects a much more low-key crowd for Log Jam than some of the crowds that Lumberjack Days attracted. The Stillwater Police Department is the only jurisdiction staffing the event. In years past, police officers from Bayport, Oak Park Heights, Cottage Grove, Woodbury, Forest Lake, Washington County and Oakdale were hired to help with crowd control.

Twenty members of the local National Guard, a military-police unit based at the Stillwater Armory, are volunteering their time to help with traffic control as a training exercise.

“I really doubt it will be like it was at the height of Lumberjack Days — with 25,000-plus people a night,” Gannaway said.

Drivers have several options to avoid stop-and-go traffic on Minnesota 95 and Minnesota 36. Mayor Ken Harycki suggests this alternative: From the Twin Cities, take Minnesota 36 east to Manning Avenue. Head north on Manning, turn east on Washington County 12 and take that into downtown. Turn north on North Second Street and park in the city-owned parking ramp, which has three levels and 285 spaces.

Harycki said he is excited for the return of a summer festival in Stillwater.

“It’s kind of one of those Stillwater mainstays,” he said. “You kind of mark the summer by it.”

Mary Divine can be reached at 651-228-5443. Follow her at twitter.com/MaryEDivine.

IF YOU GO

Stillwater’s new summer festival, Stillwater Log Jam, starts Thursday and runs through July 20.


Island Dreaming: Twenty Southern Escapes

The nearly 150-acre Chokoloskee lies atop an ancient Calusa Indian midden of oyster shells. With maybe four hundred residents at its highest tide, it has neither nightlife nor shopping malls (though do visit Smallwood Store, a onetime trading outpost established in 1906 and now a museum). What the island offers in spades is prime access to some of the world’s best inshore saltwater fishing. Seconds from the dock is the Everglades’ wondrous labyrinth of mangroves and oyster beds, which teem with snook, redfish, trout, and the king of them all, tarpon.

photo: Peter Frank Edwards

The lighthouse on Assateague Island.

Where the Ponies Play
Assateague Island
Virginia

The Eastern Shore village Chincoteague gets all the fanfare for its annual July “pony swim” that rounds up local wild horses. Any other time, cross the next bridge to Assateague Island to experience where the herd lives and cavorts among pine groves, salt marshes, and sand. Winding trails offer scenic views, or for a chance to encounter wild steeds at water’s edge, hop a pontoon tour with a local captain. Better yet, paddle over in a kayak.

photo: Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Isla Holbox’s Casa Las Tortugas hotel.

Yucatán Hideout
Isla Holbox
Mexico

Isla Holbox may be the best place on the planet to walk barefoot on a summer day. Floating north over Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, this car-free hideaway lures roamers with its marshmallow sand and shell-strewn beaches. When you step off the ferry from Chiquilá, about forty miles from Cancún, a faraway feeling rushes over like a tide. Hop a boat to snorkel with migrating whale sharks, or unwind beneath thatched palapas before strolling the sandy streets. Stop for fresh ceviche, ice-cold beer, and pizza topped with tender lobster.

A spiral staircase on Isla Holbox, Mexico.

Small-Town Sanctuary
Dauphin Island
Alabama

Whether you arrive by ferry or the three-mile bridge that straddles Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island slips you back in time, charming visitors with its Mayberry vibes. That is, if Mayberry had an Audubon bird sanctuary hosting hundreds of species viewable from a meandering boardwalk. And seafood shacks serving up the bounty of surrounding Gulf waters. Oh, and miles of beaches. The barrier island is known as the sunset capital of Alabama, and when you’re taking in the glorious views of the horizon from its narrow western end, it’s hard to argue.

Venture North
Monhegan Island
Maine

It can’t be said for certain if the Virginia colonist and explorer John Smith sailed here in 1614 to escape the South’s steam-bath summers. Not a bad idea, though. Blessed with stirring sea-meets-cliffs scenery, Monhegan is still rustic (no streetlights), but the last four centuries have brought some amenities. Pair fresh-caught lobster with craft beer from tiny Monhegan Brewing Company, for instance. The summertime artists’ colony offers casual studio visits. Requisite lighthouse? Yep. But the most picturesque structure is the 1816 Island Inn, with a wide front porch so inviting it makes even castaway Southerners feel at h ome.

photo: Thayer Allyson Gowdy (2) Mikey DeTemple (center)

An Isla Holbox sign landing at an uninhabited cay Mezcal in hand on Holbox.

Gullah Time Capsule
Sandy Island
South Carolina

Ten miles from the miniature-golf kingdom of Garden City Beach lies another world entirely. Nestled between the tea-colored Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers behind Brookgreen Gardens, Sandy Island is home to one of the South’s most intact longleaf pine forests, as well as black bears, pitcher plants, and endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. The bulk of the island’s twelve thousand acres is managed as a nature preserve with day use allowed (access by boat or kayak), while at the south end lies a tiny historic African American community called Mount Rena, whose children still ride a ferry to school. Book a trip with local Rommy Pyatt’s Tours de Sandy Island to learn about island history from slavery to the present, visit the New Bethel Baptist Church (established 1880), and drive through the island’s primeval sandhill forests.

Island Ghosts
Portsmouth Island
North Carolina

On this remote, boat-access-only northernmost island of Cape Lookout National Seashore, sandy trails wind through ancient dunes, endless marsh, and the remarkable ghost town of Portsmouth Village. Home to nearly seven hundred souls in 1860, it has been long abandoned and is now managed as a historic site. A walking tour takes in century-old cottages scattered among the dunes, an 1840 post office, and the 1894 U.S. Life-Saving station. It’s wild country, so pack water, bug dope, and a sense of adventure.

String of Pearls
The Virginia Coast Reserve
Virginia

Fourteen undeveloped barrier and marsh islands make up an astonishing archipelago at the southern end of the Delmarva Peninsula, the longest expanse of coastal wilderness on the East Coast. Day visitors are allowed on most of the islands, which the Nature Conservancy owns and manages. The few hardy surf anglers and birders who make it to these shores are treated to a wild coastline that greeted some of the earliest European explorers—and welcomes more than 250 species of birds each year.

photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Reflections at the Virginia Coast Reserve.

Story-Worthy
Bald Head Island
North Carolina

On the one hand, Bald Head is a private enclave of magnificent beachfront manors, a twelve-thousand-acre retreat with a stunning golf course, a marina, and a spa, with ten thousand acres locked up as an untouched nature preserve. On the other hand, there’s plenty of opportunity to rent cottages and townhomes and act as if you own the place. The island and its Cape Fear marshes inspired the beloved writer Robert Ruark—his grandfather lived in Southport, the jumping-off spot for Bald Head—and his summers here influenced his masterpiece, The Old Man and the Boy.

photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Biking on Jekyll Island in Georgia.

Relax like a Rockefeller
The Golden Isles
Georgia

On Jekyll Island, the southernmost of this foursome of barrier islands off Brunswick, Georgia, the Jekyll Island Club Resort stands as a living monument to the region’s extravagant history. The onetime hunting club for the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Pulitzer families underwent a $25 million renovation last year, adding a new beachfront hotel and an open-air riverfront restaurant, and sprucing up the property’s circa-1886 clubhouse. North across the sound sits St. Simons Island, where dry-rubbed ribs at Southern Soul Barbeque, plate-sized T-bones at Bennie’s Red Barn, and stacks of blueberry pancakes at Palmer’s Village Café feed sun-tired vacationers. Cross the causeway to Sea Island, which harbors the five-star Cloister resort, offering falconry lessons, tee times on its three golf courses, and hours of poolside lazing at the Beach Club. The wildest of the bunch is Little St. Simons, home to a lodge with five secluded cottages and thousands of acres of tidal marshlands to explore.

Crystal-Clear Departure
The Exumas
Bahamas

Who needs a swimming pool when you’re in the Exumas? The water surrounding this group of 365 Bahamian islands is every bit as calm and clear. Plus, it hosts giant sea turtles and a famous drove of swimming pigs. Land at the airport on Great Exuma before exploring by car (drive on the left!) or boating to some of the small cays—many of the islands have zero or single-digit populations, and their sandy shorelines make ideal spots for anchoring up, wading the turquoise shallows, and picnicking in perfect privacy.

photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Beacon of Light
Hunting Island
South Carolina

After climbing the 167 winding steps of the Hunting Island lighthouse, stop and take in the view: miles of beach bordering rambling trails and campgrounds tucked into maritime forests. Built in 1859—and rebuilt in 1875 after it was destroyed in the Civil War—the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state has seen Hunting Island transform from an elite nineteenth-century hunting preserve to a beloved South Carolina state park. From Hunting, you can catch a ferry with Coastal Expeditions to roam the rugged trails and untouched beaches of nearby St. Phillips Island, until recently a private retreat for billionaire conservationist Ted Turner and a haven for fox squirrels, loggerheads, and painted buntings.

Strolling the beach on South Carolina’s Hunting Island.

A Day at the Edge
Grand Isle
Louisiana

A morning’s drive over swamp from New Orleans, at the place where the continent finally gives way to the Gulf, a sign warns: No Diving From Pier . Below, flounder glide in shallow water. A century ago, before hurricanes scoured the grand hotel and live oaks from Grand Isle, Kate Chopin’s tragic heroine Edna Pontellier swam into infinity from this very beach. But not all is existential on the barrier island: Spend days hunting shells while dorsal fins slip along the uninhabited shore, or fish the interior marsh from a stand of Baccharis. Be at one with the roseate spoonbill, the lurking alligator, the osprey perched on the top of a regal tree.

The Stargazer’s Dream
The Dry Tortugas
Florida

Seventy miles from Key West, Dry Tortugas is one of the country’s most remote national parks, and spending a night sleeping mere yards from its Civil War–era Fort Jefferson is unforgettable. A ferry drops off a maximum of ten intrepid campers each day, and they schlep in their own fresh water. Primitive? Sure. But having a sprawling historic monument, spun-sugar beaches, and a pristine night sky almost entirely to yourself is worth a little sacrifice.

Foodie Island
St. Croix
U.S. Virgin Islands

On St. Croix, the pepper and citrus dishes associated with the wider Caribbean region mingle with a long history of culinary traditions brought to the West Indies island. Dishes like conch callaloo, potato stuffing, crab rice, pickled pork stews, and saltfish blend Spanish Creole and Danish cooking with the island’s flavors. “Even though we’re a port, our food focuses on all these incredible local ingredients,” says chef Digby Stridiron, a native Crucian who cooked in kitchens in New York and Charleston before returning home to St. Croix. “Conch, lobsters, guava berries, yucca flowers, wild roots. I love walking through the farmers’ market.” Stridiron runs four restaurants across the island: Braata, which serves traditional West Indian dishes Ama at Cane Bay, which touts sustainable seafood Breakers Roar, a Jamaican Chinese tiki bar and Caroline’s, his just-opened breakfast spot.

Singer Seanise Jeffers on St. Croix.

A Beach Lover’s Eden
Bermuda

It’s no secret that plenty of pleasures await on this hook-shaped archipelago, whether you fancy a refreshing rum swizzle, a scuba dive to shipwrecks along its treacherous reefs, shopping for formal shorts in Hamilton, or taking a bike tour of St. George’s, the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the New World. You could also easily spend the entirety of your getaway hopping among Bermuda’s twenty-plus beaches. Horseshoe Bay, with its rocky outcroppings and hidden nooks, lives up to its ranking among the world’s best, but you’ll want to explore more secluded stretches, too, from the East End’s Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve to Jobson’s Cove on the South Shore. Lounging on any of those famously pink sands, watching the turquoise waves crash hypnotically against majestic limestone bluffs, you’ll achieve a calm you thought impossible outside of Savasana.

A Guinea chick lobster in Bermuda.

Find Your Flock
Mustang Island
Texas

Of the handful of barrier islands that hug the Texas coast, Mustang Island is the undisputed oasis for outdoors lovers, luring beachcombers, anglers, and birders. The Port Aransas shoreline transforms during Texas SandFest—usually in the spring and this year rescheduled for October—the largest native-sand sculpture competition in the country. Cast back to the island’s sportfishing heyday at the Tarpon Inn, where seven thousand silvery scales line the lobby walls, including one autographed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Up the coastline, at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, winter brings the bugle calls of the last remaining migratory flock of whooping cranes.

Sunset over Apalachicola Bay.

Old Florida Escape
St. George Island
Florida

Looking for unspoiled Florida these days might seem as quixotic as Ponce de León’s search for the fountain of youth. But there are still a few places—like St. George—left. The twenty-eight-mile-long Gulf Coast barrier island, near Apalachicola, is inhabited but unsullied by high-rises and hordes, with uncrowded white-sand beaches, native sea oats and slash pines, a gorgeous state park, and a laid-back open-air bar with water views (Paddy’s Raw Bar) to round it all out.

Half-shell beauties at Lynn’s, near Florida’s St. George Island.

Deeply Rooted
Barbados

Walking beside pastel-painted houses and beneath flowering crape myrtle and pink oleander, Southerners visiting the onetime British colony of Barbados might feel like they’re in Charleston, South Carolina—and for good reason. Many families (including the Middletons and Draytons) took part in the histories of each place, and the architecture and flora still maintain a long-distance relationship. Take in the colonial mansions in the port capital of Bridgetown, or visit Hunte’s Gardens, a twenty-five-minute drive into the island’s heart, where paths meander into a lush valley of ferns, palms, and orchids.

photo: Peter Frank Edwards

A floral landscape at St. Nicholas Abbey on Barbados.

Tiny Island, Big Party
Harbour Island
B ahamas

There’s no shortage of laid-back merriment to be had on three-and-a-half-mile-long Harbour Island, a sparkle of pink sand just north of Eleuthera. It could be a solo celebration, with a rum-heavy Goombay Smash in hand, at the chic beachside Dunmore hotel. Perhaps it’s a party for two, crooning “Islands in the Stream” at Daddy D’s Nightclub, which turns into a karaoke bar every Tuesday. Or grab a few friends and charter a boat with proprietor Devon “Daddy D” Sawyer himself, who’s just as good a fishing guide as he is a host.

Harbour Island’s aptly named Ocean View Club.

By C. Morgan Babst, Monte Burke, Gray Chapman, Chris Dixon, Allison W. Entrekin, Amanda Heckert, Sallie Lewis Longoria, CJ Lotz, T. Edward Nickens, Steve Russell, and Caroline Sanders


Recipes

Recipe adapted from “Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook” by Ray Lampe and published by St. Martin.

Ingredients

  • 3 slabs of St. Louis-style ribs or baby back ribs, cut in half, membrane off* and ribs washed
  • 1 cup of your favorite commercial or homemade dry BBQ rub (See Below)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 cups apple juice
  • 2 cups honey BBQ Sauce

Instructions

Cover the ribs with the rub, using about two-thirds on the meaty side and one-third on the boney side. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.

Set the EGG® up for indirect cooking with a convEGGtor at 325°F. Using a handful of hickory and cherry chips will help carmelize the ribs.

Cook for one-and-a-half hours, using a rib rack if you need it to have sufficient space for three slabs of ribs. Remove ribs to a flat pan or cookie sheet and brush them all on both sides with honey.

Put the ribs in an aluminum foil pan with about one-inch of apple juice in the bottom, standing them on end in the pan if necessary to get them to fit. Cover with foil and continue cooking for about one hour, replenishing the apple juice if needed to maintain liquid in the pan. Test the ribs by inserting a toothpick to determine whether they are tender.

At this point, you could cool them down, wrap each slab separately and refrigerate them for a day or two. They can then be transported to a tailgate party or reheated for entertaining at home.

When ready to serve them, transfer the cooked ribs to a medium hot grill. Brush with Honey BBQ Sauce heat a few minutes, flipping them to heat both sides. Cut in to pieces and serve.

* Removing the membrane: Carefully slide an implement, such as a fish skinner (available in the sporting goods department), the tip of a butter knife or the tip of a meat thermometer between the membrane and a bone near the end of the rack of ribs. Rock the implement back and forth gently to loosen the membrane until you have enough space to slide your finger under it. Using a paper towel, pull up the membrane and slowly peel the membrane off.


Bend Test: When ribs are done cooking, they’re flexible but don’t fall apart. To check, hold the rack from the end with a pair of tongs. The other end should bend towards the ground and cracks may form in the crust.

In competition, most cooks do, but it is a pain for very little gain. If you must wrap, many websites tout the 3-2-1 method. It says you should cook a slab of St. Louis cut pork ribs for 3 hours, then wrap it in foil for 2 hours, then take it out of the foil for 1 hour.


The US Virgin Islands will Pay you $300 if you Visit them in 2017

If you are craving a sun holiday in a tropical paradise, you might consider the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, as they are offering a very attractive incentive to visitors in order to celebrate “Transfer Day”, the centenary of the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix passing from Denmark to US control in 1917.

Visitors who book a holiday of at least three nights on the US Virgin Islands before October 1st 2017, will get $300 (€285) in credits they can redeem in any of the participant locations, which include plenty of local attractions such as museums, leisure centres, kayaking adventures and more. The idea is that tourists get to explore and experience the region.

Those visiting during March, the month where the centennial occurs, will also get a commemorative souvenir and the opportunity to attend several activities to honour the occasion.


Pressure Cooker St. Louis Ribs with Whiskey BBQ Sauce

Find the recipe card at the end of the post. Make sure to read the content as it contains chef tips, substitution options, answers to FAQs to help you succeed the first time around!

Since getting my Pressure Cooker I have fallen deeply and madly in love with it . Like this thing has earned permanent coveted space on my kitchen counter. And if you know me, that space is PRIME real estate! It means &ldquoHey I&rsquom proud of this and use it all the time&rdquo which is true of this thing. I had been craving ribs pretty bad. Now I&rsquom finicky when it comes to ribs. I hate them fatty and even though you&rsquore supposed to have sauce on your chin, cheeks, fingers and so forth I do try to be somewhat lady-like when eating them. BAHAHA okay well at least part of that statement is true *wink*.

I was at the butchers and spied the most gorgeous slab of St. Louis Ribs ever. We&rsquore talking fat, meaty and just begging to core home with me. Therefore in the cart they went and there on my counter they sat. Normally really awesome ribs take hours to make as there are slow roasted or smoked. However my belly did not want to hear that. They wanted no part of &ldquogive it time and the flavors will come. Go eat a protein bar woman.&rdquo Yeah, I wasn&rsquot having that. Since discovering all the awesome recipes you can make in the pressure cooker I was bound and determined to make the ribs in it. Now obviously the whole rack couldn&rsquot fit in as-is so I had to cut them down to fit.

One thing I&rsquom a HUGE fan of with ribs is when they are meaty. I like it where the bone is in the middle and there is meat on both sides.

Now some may not like that at it means you are guaranteed to get all kinds of sloppy from the sauce on your face (but seriously its ribs&hellip so what!). But if you&rsquore delicate and eating these requires you to maintain your beauty to be untarnished by the sauce, you can use your fork on one side of the bone to pull the meat away. But again, its wings&hellip use your inner carnivore and ravage them bad boys because lord knows I did! To get the ribs like that, meat on both sides the cutting process it a bit tedious but it&rsquos not difficult and honestly if you don&rsquot want to take the time doing this you can easily just cut the ribs in sections of threes and cook normally. It&rsquos your call. This is just my preference on cooking St. Louis Ribs. I wouldn&rsquot recommend doing that method on Baby Back ribs as there simply isn&rsquot enough meat and it&rsquos more of a PITA than anything.

What is important when you cut ribs is to remove the membrane on the backside. You do NOT want that when you cook. Any bbq pit master I know removes it. The bone side has a silvery membrane that should be removed. The membrane can also get very tough and chewy, especially if you cook hot, and if you cook low and slow, it can get rubbery. Gross, huh? Remove it.

If you&rsquore new to my site (welcome!) I have tons of sauces on here and am always coming up new ways to kick them up even more. I want that flavor train to just explode in your mouth and blow your mind! This recipe has definitely met that expectation . There&rsquos no pre-cooking or simmering. The only additional non-pressure cooker step is putting them under the broiler for a few minutes to get that awesome char on them. You can do the same thing on a grill. Make the ribs ahead of time and right before you&rsquore ready to serve, pop them on the grill and baste away until the sauce chars. Trust me, your guests (and your stomach will thank you!). No longer do you have to slave hours over the fire pit or smoker for ribs. Don&rsquot get me wrong, those are AMAZING but these ones are a top contender.

I&rsquom fortunate enough to have some amazing TKW family members that are champion Pit Bosses who have taken me under their wing when it comes to grilling and giving advice since they know I suck at it. That&rsquos why 99% of my recipes are not grilled on a real grill. Okay that and the fact that Mr. Fantabulous and I have now an 8-year long argument on my buying a new BBQ. Yes, 8 LONG years. *sigh* But in a way I&rsquom sort of thankful for that fight (and if you repeat that I said that I will deny, deny deny&hellip er um, wait, it&rsquos in writing. Crap&hellip *wink*!). I&rsquom thankful it taught me to be more resourceful and accommodate those that don&rsquot have a grill or can&rsquot have one (Are you married to a Mr. Fantabulous also? LOL).

Once I chopped them down, added the sauce I had to do a bit of calculation on the timing for these. I knew High pressure. Since these were a bit over 3 1/2 pounds in weight I opted for a longer time &ndash 30 minutes. Normally you want 15-18 minutes for ever 2 pounds of pork ribs. I went on the side of caution with a longer time. I&rsquom so happy I did. When they were done and the pressure was released I was met with fall off the bone ribs already! Even though I have a pretty good understanding of how amazing the foots

Now getting them out was a little tricky only because they were so tender. I would advise using a large slotted spatula and gently taking them up. Don&rsquot worry, once you slather them with the thickened bbq sauce and broil/grill them they are finger holdin&rsquo perfect! Oh if you&rsquore delicate, knife and fork ready&hellip wuss *wink*. LOL

What I love, Love, LOVE about this Pressure Cooker is that it has a browning feature which allows me to take all of that sauce/juice and thicken it up in a single pot to the most awesomest bbq sauces! Folks that whiskey bbq sauce was pure heaven! This is HUGE! I mean one &ndash this means you don&rsquot have to dirty a pot and 2 dude&hellip.

The sauces thickens up in no time and all I had to do was slather on some sauce, broil these for a few minutes and out of the oven they came. They smelled like they had been cooking for hours when realistically they were done in under what, 40 minutes? C&rsquomon, how good can they really be? I mean ribs, cooked in under 40 minutes that are juicy, tender and fall off the bone.

You&rsquore damn straight! These rival those competition ribs for their flavor and tenderness!

Just like clockwork I heard Mr. Fantabulous coming out to the kitchen, sniffing away. You could see that the smell intrigued him until&hellip

yes, until he saw that they were ribs. Ribs are one thing he&rsquos really not a fan of. Not because he doesn&rsquot like the taste but because they are normally really fatty. But since he loves me (and he has no choice) he tried one.

Now did you ever tell your child to at least try something even though they already made their mind up without having tried the item first that they weren&rsquot going to like it? And before they went to put it in their mouth, their lips already formed the &lsquoEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!&rsquo face, their eyes shut tight and their nose squinched up? Yeah.. he did that. I couldn&rsquot help but giggle. But then&hellip

yes, but then he bite down and those flavors exploded in his mouth. The meat just seemed to melt like butter and he was left with such an amazing flavor of the most tender ribs and succulent bbq sauce. His eyes got as big as silver dollars and although he tried to fight back a smile I knew he loved them. Yet the little brat, when he finished swallowing, merely said &ldquoNot bad. I think I need another taste just to be sure though&rdquo and proceeded to open his mouth baby-sparrow style. LOL God help me I swear!

Needless to say WE annihilated those ribs in a single night! We had them for dinner and then later on for a snack during our movie. Reheated they were just as amazing! To reheat I just put them on a foil lined pan, popped them in the oven for 10-15, re-basted with some sauce and they were just as amazing!

Folks I&rsquom telling you, if you don&rsquot have a pressure cooker you NEED to buy this Pressure Cooker! If you do have one, dust it off and use it! This is one of the BEST pieces of kitchen equipment I have ever purchased! I mean just look at these pictures! Look how tender and juicy the meat is! It just falls off the bone and practically into your mouth!


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