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Ashley Dickey | Photo: Courtesy of CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa | April 1, 2014
JEZ jets off to Anguilla to savor the tantalizing tastes of the Caribbean.
My husband and I love the hustle and bustle of our life here in Atlanta. We share a passion for food and adore indulging in the city’s thriving dining scene. But, like anyone else with busy lives (and full stomachs), every so often we get the urge to flee the frenzy and zip off to somewhere beautiful, unwinding and reconnecting along the way. So when the hubs proposed we skip off to Anguilla, well, I was absolutely intrigued, of course—and 100 percent game.
One flight to St. Maarten and a short ferry ride to Anguilla later, we arrive at CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa (@cuisinartresort) and peruse the place via golf cart. CuisinArt is beautiful, with low, gleaming-white buildings lined up along a blindingly white-sand beach. Although the hotel offers up 93 rooms for the choosing, my husband surprises me with a villa. What a guy—and what a room! Of the resort’s six villas, ranging in size from three to five bedrooms and all set on the quieter eastern side of the property, ours enjoys a private courtyard entrance, complete with a fountain and tropical garden. Inside, there’s a large, airy living room, full kitchen and master suite with French glass doors luxuriously lurking. But they cannot (shockingly) best what’s beckoning outside: a long, sea-facing private pool and sundeck. Relishing this decadent privacy, we throw our bathing suits on in just about five seconds and head in for a dip.
But it’s later, during dinner at Le Bistro at Santorini, that brings hallelujahs all around. Anguilla’s lone AAA Four Diamond eatery specializes in Caribbean-meets-Mediterranean cuisine and sources much of its ingredients locally, including produce grown on the resort’s hydroponic farm—the only one of its kind in the region. We share the pumpkin soup with goat cheese ravioli, then dive into local seafood: grilled lobster with rice, peas and sauteed vegetables; and grilled whole snapper with fennel. (For “dessert?” If you must know, a swoony walk on the sand—predictable, perhaps, but it is, after all, the Caribbean.) Lured by the beach just beyond our door, accommodating an early “up and at ’em” is no problem, especially given that twin chaises and glasses of cold H2O have been stealthily set up for us. Mother Nature takes care of the view, which is predictably ridiculous. We relax until two adorable monkeys make their way over to, ahem, hang out. Turns out they belong to the beach bar next door, a funky spot called Dune Preserve, owned by local musician and island celebrity Bankie Banx. We use their visit as an excuse to pop over for a rum punch before parting ways for the afternoon.
An avid golfer, my husband heads off to play 18 holes with the resort’s resident PGA golf pro, Ryan Bowey. The Greg Norman-designed course may be challenging, but it’s in primo shape. Also on offer are top-of-the-line club rentals and impossible-to-believe panoramas. This includes author Dan Brown (of The Da Vinci Code megafame), who is often part of this stunning scenery. He’s actually got digs on the course. Though not a golfer, I am a spa-goer and thus head to Venus Spa. Having recently emerged from a major expansion—it’s now an oasis of 27,000 square feet—it’s impressive to say the least. Wild about my 50-minute hot-stone massage, for me it’s all about the relaxation room, with spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea. When our paths cross again, it’s for lunch at the Clubhouse Grill. Featuring beautiful vistas of the golf course, come evening, the Grill transforms into Italia, dishing out authentic Italian cuisine created by chef Massimo Seletti. Appetites sufficiently worked up, we plunge into our meal, which includes a prosciutto di Parma with avocado mousse starter, ravioli stuffed with Anguillan lobster, housemade gelato and a delectable tiramisu made with fresh mascarpone flown in from Italy. It doesn’t get fresher than that.
Unless, of course, it’s a dip in our private pool after some sunbathing, in which case, yes, it actually does. So, when night falls, we’re refreshed and ready to experience Anguilla after dark. The island has an exciting dining scene with a number of potential suitors vying for our culinary attention. We settle on the Viceroy Anguilla, the island’s 166-room newcomer. Expect the white-on-white architecture seen at hotels across Anguilla, only with an eclectic, modern look via interior-design maven Kelly Wearstler, as opposed to CuisinArt’s warm Mediterranean vibe.
A few cocktails down the hatch at Sunset Lounge, which is set on a low bluff overlooking the ocean, then it’s off to Coba for dinner. Dining is an event here, and we do it up, starting with appetizers of calamari and goat cheese salad before devouring the main course of braised short rib with a shiraz reduction, and a delicate sweet potato agnolotti with wild mushrooms and sage butter. The quality and presentation of the food is fantastic—and so is the wider impression of the island we now have.
The next morning, the sun rises with an uninvited souvenir: sunburn. So while my husband treks off to conquer the fitness center, I limp back to the spa, seeking solace for my skin. The hydroponic cucumber and aloe wrap is wisely suggested, and I leap at the opportunity. Thank heavens too, as it’s one of the best spa services I’ve ever had. First, my sore skin is slathered with aloe and wrapped in seaweed; then, relaxing with cool cucumbers over my eyes, I let the lotion do its magic. Abracadabra! After some time, I rinse off under an outdoor shower on the balcony before eagerly returning to the table for a final application of seaweed. Not only does this treatment completely calm my sunburn, it’s beyond relaxing. And believe me, lesson learned. Later at the beach, I cover every single solitary spot on my bod with sunscreen.
On our last night at CuisinArt, we give the resort’s Japanese-inspired resto Tokyo Bay a whirl. The keyword here is “inspired.” Both wild about sushi, we put ourselves in the chef’s hands rather than order off the menu. Kudos to us! Our starter of grilled eggplant with sweet saikyo miso, rock shrimp and spiced cashew nuts is followed by plate after plate of various sushi, sashimi and tempura dishes. The capper? A simply amazing grilled Chilean sea bass glazed with black bean sauce and paired with bok choy grown in the resort’s hydroponic garden. We finish our meal with lychee sorbet and green tea ice cream, and then skip off to our villa for one last night in paradise—or, as we now consider it, our new island home.