"This is a food tour, not a dentist appointment. Have fun," said my tour guide on one of the most fun culinary outings I have ever experienced.
I was part of the three-hour Taste of Twin City Food Tour on St. Croix, offered by the Virgin Islands Food Tours, founded in 2016 with the goal of transforming visitors into locals by way of the island's distinctive foods, history and eclectic culture.
So I recently strolled the cobblestoned streets of downtown Christiansted, stopping to sample and sip a variety of really local stuff and pick up some island history along the way.
At the family-run Singh's Fast Food, which has been around since 1970 and has survived many storms, I dug into what the owners called a Trin burrito: fried bread with pepper sauce, chick peas and curry. Tasty, spicy and $3 if you're not on the tour.
At Gary's Bakery & Deli, which opens at 5 a.m. and usually has a line out the door, I had a piece of butter bread, heavy, dense and sweet.
Ital in Paradise is a vegan-friendly restaurant in downtown Christiansted, St. Croix. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers
My tour guide introduced herself as "Q" (she said that the guides don't provide their last names, a practice I've seen on other Caribbean islands).
"This was a favorite of the sugarcane workers. It helped sustain them all day in the hot cane fields," Q said.
I washed it down with a glass of bush tea, a combination of lemon grass, mint and basil "or whatever is available," according to Q.
En route to the next stop, she said that the two main towns on St. Croix Christiansted and Frederiksted are built like grids with a lot of one-way streets. St. Croix's nicknames are Ay Ay and Twin City; St. Thomas is Rock City and St. John is Love City.
Zeny's owner hails from Puerto Rico. She arrived in St. Croix in 1989 and although many of her menu items are influenced by the foods of her native island, she served what she described "as the most Crucian dish of all: stewed chicken with seasoned rice, beans, plantain "and a lot of veggies from my garden.
We passed Peter Carl Limpricht Park, named after a former governor. It was the site of a slaves' rebellion in 1843.
At Ital in Paradise, a vegan-friendly restaurant for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, I had my first taste of melonade, a combo of watermelon juice and lemonade, along with a plate of lentil salad.
The last stop was at Elsa, and I was glad I still had room to enjoy her banana fritters and salt fish cake, accompanied by a cup of wild thyme tea.
The Taste of Twin City food tour meets on King Street in downtown Christiansted on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m., takes place rain or shine (ponchos are provided by the guide) and is priced at $89 for adults, $55 for kids ages 4 to 11. Group size is limited to 12; reservations are required and can be booked at www.vifoodtours.com/tour/taste-twin-city.