A taste of St. Lucia 

click to flip through (7) PHOTO BY STEVE MACNAULL - Rodins 'Boss Man' George will machete open a coconut so you can sip refreshing coconut water.
  • Photo by Steve MacNaull
  • Rodins 'Boss Man' George will machete open a coconut so you can sip refreshing coconut water.

Somewhere between the refreshing tuna ceviche and the perfectly done lamb shank, I realize I've officially become a foodie.

I've always enjoyed my meals and snacks and will even occasionally flex my culinary muscle at the barbecue.

But I was never one of those people who asked what fisherman caught the tuna, where the lamb grew up or took photos of my appetizer when it arrived at the restaurant table.

That was, of course, until my wife and I visited the Caribbean paradise of St. Lucia and went on a culinary tour put on by Sandals Resorts, which has three luxury all inclusives on the island.

It's how I find myself standing under the gazebo by the Paradise pool at Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort asking the culinary ambassador chef Walter Staib where that 77-pound yellow fin tuna came from.

"Speared by our guy in the ocean right out there," says Staib pointing to the Caribbean Sea but 50 metres away.

I'm also admiring the artistic centrepiece of crushed ice and greens this trophy tuna is laid out on.

Staib, the host of the four-time Emmy-winning PBS-TV show A Taste of History, grabs a sharp knife and cuts a chunk of flesh off the fish just below its telltale yellow dorsal fin and deftly starts to thinly slice it.

"Let's eat ceviche, St. Lucia-style," declares Staib.

In no time at all we're eating the resulting raw fish salad made with chopped star fruit, bird pepper, tomato, onion, lime juice and a splash of Appleton Reserve rum.

The lime juice effectively cooks the raw tuna and creates a dreamy tart dish with various textures.

"Never any salt in this recipe," stresses Staib.

"Lime juice is the new salt."

The resort's cat dropping by unannounced, purring for a taste, is also a testament to the freshness of the fish.

People in our group are snapping close- ups of the ceviche for posterity.

Seems the sliced starfruit, with its distinctive five points, makes the dish even more photogenic.

The chef next turns out chicken-wrapped, shrimp in a rum cream sauce and flambe caramel bananas in a flash of rum flame.

Appleton is the official rum of Sandals and the spirit is used liberally in the resort's kitchens as well as its bars.

This culinary tour launches Sandals' Discovery Dining program.

Sandals, which has couples-only properties throughout the Caribbean, has always had the best dining at all-inclusives.

But it's kicking it up a notch with better buffets, more à la carte restaurants and the freshest regional ingredients.

To expand the dining options in St. Lucia, Sandals has a stay-at-one-play-at-three policy that means you sleep at one resort, but can shuttle to the other two at any time to use all the facilities, including restaurants, bars and buffets.

Speaking of buffets, people tend to either love them or hate them.

Since Sandals has a score of à la carte restaurants at its three St. Lucian properties, you never have to darken the door of a buffet, if you don't want to.

But do make a point of hitting the St. Lucian outdoor buffet to sample the country's national dish of salt fish with green figs and a side of plantain.

There are also other regional favourites like grilled Caribbean lobster, Johnny cakes, salt cod fritters, conch chowder, goat curry and an array of coconut desserts.

The progressive dinner at Sandals Grande St. Lucian takes us course by course through the upscale Gordon's on the Pier, Bayside and Olde London Pub eateries for lobster salad, lamb shank and Banoffe pie.

Nightcaps and a chocolate buffet, complete with chocolate-covered live model Kimberley Giddeon, follows by the floodlit pool.

An excursion to the rough-around-the-edges Castries Central Market in the island's capital city is worth it to spy where Sandals sources a lot of its ingredients.

Our group sniffs and purchases cinnamon, vanilla, saffron, ginger and paprika at the booth of Dorothy "The Spice Lady" Beausoleil; snaps photos of cute little Kayla Edmond eating an orange while her mom looks after the family's fruit and vegetable stand; hears the story of the banana-like plantain that's used like a potato; and sips coconut water direct from the coconut after Rodins "Boss Man" George machetes them open for us.

We round out the feasts with meals at Kimonos Japanese, where pieces of that aforementioned 77-pound tuna make its way into our sashimi, and Armando's Italian at Sandals Regency La Toc for antipasto, fish cakes and house-made gnocchi.

Between meals there's plenty of time to lounge on the beaches, hang out by the pools, go snorkelling in the fish-filled clear sea and even check out St. Lucia's famous twin-peak Piton Mountains in the lush rainforest.

Check out Sandals.com and StLuciaNow.com.

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