Beer-drinking pigs and funky rum recipes, plus historic Christiansted, St. Croix
ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - One of the fun things about being a travel writer is the variety you can get.
Yesterday it was the glamour of seeing parts of The Bachelor TV show get filmed at Buccaneer resort. Today it’s beer-drinking pigs.
I hadn’t heard of the pigs in Toronto, but when I got to St. Croix I had several people ask me if I was going to see them. I must admit it sounded interesting. And awful.
But I was told the place where they have the pigs is a fun, quirky bar/restaurant in the rainforest where the owner makes her own spiced rum, called Mamma Wanna. So it suddenly became more than just watching the pigs.
You’ll find the Mt. Pellier Hut Domino Club up a winding road in the rainforest district on this island’s western half; only a few minutes from Frederiksted and not too far from Christiansted, the main town. It’s a highly entertaining place with a giant pig smiling out at you on the main sign.
You park your car and wander into what looks like a Florida tiki bar, with a long bar and a dance floor area. It’s VERY casual and funky and fun, and they have license plates pertaining to pigs or with the name Norma on them, Norma George being the woman in charge. She was away when I visited but Coretta James told me about the place.
George is famous for her Mamma Wanna, s a rum drink originally brought from the D.R. and made differently everywhere you go in the Caribbean. Norma starts with Cruzan rum (made on the island) and adds cinnamon and secret herbs and spices and tree bark and lets it mature.
It’s absolutely wonderful stuff; smoky and rich and sweet and spicy all at the same time. And just $30 for a full bottle. Mind you, the rum itself costs only $8 at the Cruzan factory store and I suspect her ingredients come off various trees and roots, so I suspect she’s doing okay with the stuff.
George serves food, including a famous Saturday breakfast with renowned biscuits and gravy.
“Some folks come for breakfast and don’t leave until Saturday night,” James said with a smile.
James told me that a pet pig called Buster was the original swilling swine. He allegedly once grabbed a beer can from a customer, crushed it with his powerful jaws and gulped down the beer. The customer liked it so much he bought him a second one, and a legend was born.
Sadly, Buster went to Budweiser heaven (more like Carib or Presidente, I guess) a few years ago. But there’s a monument to him near the bar.
A few steps from the monument is a closed gate. If you ask, someone will sell you some O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer at the bar. They’ll then open the gate and take you into a courtyard with four pigs in separate stalls. You take the beer can in your hand and pound on the top of the pen and the pigs, in their best Pavlovian style, realize what’s at hand. They immediately (the fatter ones take more time) jump on their hind legs and prop their front legs on the gate, sticking their enormous snouts in your face and bellow out for their ration.
I thought we’d gently pour the liquid into their mouths. But, no. Instead, you VERY CAREFULLY hold out the can, unopened, and let the pig grab it with its powerful teeth. Their mouth promptly clamps down on the can, crushing it and allowing the beer to spill out all over their mouths.
It sprays and foams and the pigs chortle and guzzle it down in just a few seconds. You then repeat it with the other pigs down the line.
Yes, I know. It’s definitely politically (and swinally, if that’s a word) incorrect. I feel guilty for doing it. But it was hilarious and I’m defending this only because folks repeatedly have voted this activity one of the top activities for folks who visit St. Croix.
So there you go. And I promise not to do it again.
On the subject of Cruzan rum, it’s understandably the most popular variety on St. Croix, where folks are known as Cruzans (Saint Croix in Spanish would be Santa Cruz). It’s only partly made on island, however. Since the sugar mills and sugar cane industry collapsed here a couple decades ago, they have to import the molasses from Central and South America.
They add the yeast and water at the plant in St. Croix and do the hard work there as it bubbles and froths away and becomes rum. But then it’s shipped to Kentucky where they bottle the stuff and also add flavours to the flavoured rums. (disgusting ones for the most part if you ask me).
Still, it’s a source of local pride and it’s not bad. It’s not my favourite rum, but it’s pretty good stuff. And the tour is fun. It’s only a few bucks and then you get two rum drinks at the end and a chance to sample a couple of other rums. They sell a basic bottle for just $8, which is enough to make you cry if you shop at the LCBO….
I also had a chance to tour around Christiansted, the main city on St. Croix. Tour guide Celeste Fahie took me on a tour of the town’s historic, waterfront fort – a brilliant yellow and green affair with some scary dungeons and lovely harbour views – and also showed off some of the town’s graceful churches.
There isn’t a lot to the town but there are some fun restaurants and shops selling jewelry and local crafts (not like St. Thomas with its duty free craziness). The Government House has a beautiful courtyard and a stunning board room with deep brown, polished mahogany floors that positively gleam.
“One thing I love about Christiansted is it has kept its character,” Fahie tells me as she points out the historic arcades that run along the main streets; arched walkways that the Danish built when they ruled these parts.
There are several hotels along the waterfront and they’ve built a nice boardwalk that runs for several blocks so you can watch the boats and float planes come and go and dine at waterside cafes.
That’s it for my U.S. Virgin Islands posts. Check this space tomorrow for a report from Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach….