Contributed by Morso's first-ever guest blogger, the well-traveled, sometimes pithy, always erudite, and extremely handsome Jonathan Plazonja. Ah, the joys of business travel. Long lines. Bumbling airport personnel. Indifferent service. Cramped planes. And yet, it’s worth every dehumanizing minute to get to the island of Saint Lucia.
Rugged, unspoiled, and spared of insidious over-development, many visitors often compare this Eastern Caribbean gem to Fiji or Hawaii (high praise indeed, given that those two make most folks’ bucket lists). And on my most recent trip, we were lucky enough to get to spend the night at the impossibly beautiful and romantic Jade Mountain Resort as guests of owners Karolin and Nick Troubetzkoy.
Jade Mountain rises above Anse Chastanet Resort (another Troubetzkoy property) on the western side of the island in a vision of stone, wood and marble that would not be out of place in a Bond flick. Nick, an architect, is a true innovator; Karolin a charming and vivacious host. Together they have a wonderful repartee. My friend and business partner Courtney and I were on the island to meet with our client, Nerdin, and as a bonus extra, had been invited to join Karolin's party for dinner.
We arrived after nightfall and a challenging drive down from Castries, the main town up north. Karolin had kindly offered us a lift by boat (a 40-minute ride) but unfortunately, we had to decline to return the car to the airport the next day. I didn’t mind driving, this being my third trip to the island since June, and having done similar ‘wrong side of the road’ duties on the much smaller but equally beautiful Montserrat in the 80s. The calm robotic voice of GPS? Fuhgeddaboutit. So after a long, harrowing drive on wildly twisting roads, we found ourselves at the gate of the resort, desperately in need of a cocktail.
Now, I’m not unaccustomed to nice hotels. I grew up an advertising brat, moving every two or three years all over the world. Our family would arrive in a new city and take up residence at some grand hotel while my parents house hunted. As a result, my sister and I lived the ‘Eloise’ life of children’s book fame, getting to know every waiter, maid, bellboy and bodyguard by name. We’ve stayed at some fabulous places. And my chosen profession has afforded me many wonderful experiences over the years as well. No doubt this is why more than most, I appreciate a nice cocoon when I’m on the road. But nothing had quite prepared me for my 'sanctuary' suite at Jade Mountain.
At close to 2,000 square feet, it was larger than some of the homes my wife and I have lived in. 15’ ceilings add to the luxurious feeling of space and drama. An infinity pool beckons to the horizon beyond. But the best touch of all? On two sides, the fourth wall is open to the view, which is even more impressive by daylight with the jagged Pitons in plain sight. It’s incredibly romantic, which helps explain the resort’s justifiable popularity with honeymooners all over the globe.
Having freshened up (and collected my jaw off the floor) it was off to dinner. It was a pleasant surprise to meet general manager Gary Thulander and to discover that his family owns a home on Cape Cod. Another nice surprise was meeting Chef Allen Susser. For many years, he ran the self-named Chef Allen’s in Miami which my wife and I had the privilege of dining at a few times with my grandmother while she was alive. A James Beard Award winner and a forerunner of sustainable practices, he is now Consulting Chef to Jade Mountain.
After champagne under the stars, we took our seats at the dinner table. Over the next three or four hours, the courses came at a leisurely pace. Locally caught fish, spiny lobster, organic produce, fresh spices and no shortage of imagination combined to make the perfectly inventive Caribbean dinner. The wine flowed liberally and Nick and Karolin regaled us with stories. Turns out they own their own organic farm a few miles away--Emerald Estate--which supplies almost everything used at Jade and Anse Chastanet.
The next morning, after breakfast and a refreshing dip in the infinity pool, Gary led us to the lush 300-acre Emerald Estate, where Chef Allen was leading a tour for a few guests. On display was the usual colourful phalanx of herbs and spices, plus mango (Saint Lucia produces ten varieties), cocoa (Jade produces its own chocolate), and vanilla bean (seductively wrapping itself around the cocoa trees). Turns out Saint Lucia is the ideal micro-climate for a sustainable farm.
The tour concluded in a large work shed where most of the furniture at the resort is made to Nick’s exacting standards. Here, Jade’s Executive Chef Jonathan Dearden and Sous Chef Eli Jules put on an animated cooking demonstration under the watchful eye of Chef Allen, combining fresh local ingredients with their made for TV personalities and all manner of spices. This talented team is constantly experimenting, pushing boundaries, playing. In no time, the two whipped up a delicious dish of shrimp served over coconut turmeric rice, with a watermelon gazpacho salad, garnished with avocado. Yum.
At this point, we reluctantly bade our farewells and made our way to the airport. Is it any wonder re-entry was tougher than usual on this trip? If you get the chance, do visit Saint Lucia. And if you ever find yourself at Jade Mountain, breathe. You’re one of the lucky ones.