Wanting to experience the Caribbean cuisine of Antigua during a cruise port of call, my husband and I joined a small, hands on cooking class called Nichole’s Table. Over four hours, we created a delicious lunch that we later enjoyed on the veranda of the chef’s home overlooking St. John’s Harbor.
When traveling, I love learning about the culture and flavors of a destination by experiencing its food. Whether it is roaming food markets, tasting local dishes in a restaurant or learning recipes in a cooking class, I end up having a memorable and tasty visit. On a recent two week Caribbean cruise on the Seven Seas Splendor, one of our ports of call was St. John’s, Antigua. After docking and being greeted with music from a local steel drum band, most passengers headed off on tours of the island or to one of the island’s white sand beaches to enjoy the turquoise water and perhaps try a fruity rum punch.
My husband and I opted to join a small group of food enthusiasts to take part in a culinary tour. We had been on a wait list for almost a year to attend a tour called Nicole’s Table, A Taste Of Antigua And The Caribbean, a four hour cooking class in the lovely home of Chef Nicole Arthurton Dennis and her husband Adam.
A short taxi ride from the cruise pier brought us up to their beautiful hill top home overlooking St. John’s Harbor and the Caribbean Sea. On a clear day, you are able to see the islands of Montserrat, Nevis and St. Kitts off in the distance. We were graciously welcomed into their Caribbean style home which is surrounded by lovely tropical gardens. In keeping with island style, high ceilings and doors that open to Caribbean breezes coming from the huge veranda that runs the length of their house, keeps their home cool. Outside, the veranda offers stunning views and is filled with pretty tropical potted plants, colorful couches and a long custom made wooden table where we would later enjoy the lunch that we participated in cooking.
Before beginning our class, Nicole told us that she started her cooking career working in her parent’s restaurant in Montserrat when she was a young girl. Later she worked for six years as a private chef on the exclusive island resort of Jumby Bay before she began offering cooking classes in her home.
She chatted about the different foods and ingredients of Antigua, including the black pineapples and sweet bananas grown on the island, as we did simple tasks, chopping and dicing ingredients, preparing the different dishes we would be having for our lunch. Afterwards, the large meal was served family style, spread out across the long table on the veranda. We all sat down together, sipping rum punch and chatting over the delicious Caribbean dishes we had learned to make. At the end of our class, recipes in hand, our taxi driver returned and took us back to our waiting ship.
For our three course lunch, we prepared green plantain chips and spicy buffalo shrimp with garlic aioli for appetizers, blackened fish tacos with a spicy slaw, tostones, and red beans and rice for our main course and ended with coconut custard tarts.
People have asked which of the ten islands we visited was our favorite and while they all had their similarities and differences, I think I will remember Antiqua as being the island where I had the most fun. If you are a foodie like myself and will be visiting Antiqua, I believe that you would enjoy taking one of the several different cooking classes offered at Nicole’s Table. Nicole is an excellent cook who willingly shares her tips, shortcuts and the secrets she has learned about cooking simple yet delicious Caribbean food. You will leave St. John’s, Antigua, having had not only a good time and a delicious meal but with simple island recipes that you can enjoy once you return to your home.