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Thursday, February 22, 2024


July 30, 2001 – Fans of St. Thomas chef Patricia LaCorte will find her in town once again when the restaurant of The Inn at Blackbeard's Castle officially reopens Friday night.
LaCorte has been presiding over her North Side restaurant, Lulu's (subtitle: An Unpretentious Neighborhood Café), since 1999, when she left Blackbeard's, where she had run Cafe Lulu. Now she is eager to take on a new endeavor at her old base, while keeping Lulu's open under her care.
Baron Vernon Ball, longtime owner of Hotel 1829, and his partners recently purchased the Blackbeard's property along with the adjacent Villa Notman, which until recently was known as L'Hotel Boynes. Michael Ball, his son, has managed Hotel 1829 for the last 12 years and now is overseeing the newly acquired properties as well, along with the Haagensen House museum situated behind Hotel 1829 on Government Hill.
And this is where LaCorte comes in. "It's like a slice of heaven," she said. "Michael offered me a great challenge, and I took it." LaCorte is the new food and beverage manager of the Blackbeard's restaurant, the Hotel 1829 dining room, Haagensen House and Villa Notman. "The last two are for caterings only," she noted. No matter; she will have her hands full.
"We've been easing into it slowly," LaCorte said. "We have done it systematically so that we do it well." She has no such hesitation in displaying her enthusiasm for her new kitchen concept. "We're calling it New World cuisine," she said. "It's like Columbus, what he found here in these islands – new spices, new combinations, recipes from Colombia, Haiti, interesting combinations. What I want to do is serve what really denotes the Caribbean basin."
Such as? Chutneys, mojos, banana and guava catsups. A spice-rubbed pork tenderloin with mashed boniato and a confit of cayenne-dusted carambola. Or perhaps panella and tamarind spice-painted salmon on a calabaza ratatouille preceded by a chilled cucumber and chayote soup and topped off with mango and white chocolate bread pudding.
And if there's anything there that you don't recognize, feel free to ask the wait staff for an explanation.
"The concept of New World cuisine isn't limited," LaCorte said, rather unnecessarily. "There's nothing worse than being limited, tied down." She said the menu will change with the seasons and the availability of fresh produce, a staple in her trade.
LaCorte, whose parents were restaurateurs in France, studied at the famed Cordon Bleu culinary institute there. Settling on St. Thomas in the 1970s, she first worked at the hotel on Water Island then opened her first Fiddle Leaf restaurant in the old Safari Lounge off Back Street. She later moved it to the Watergate Villas, and went on to add the Little Leaf. After Hurricane Hugo closed the main restaurant, she moved it to the Government Hill site where Herve is today. Later, she opened Provence in Frenchtown; then, after Hurricane Marilyn, Cafe Lulu; and, three years ago, Lulu's.
"There's another bit of wonderful news," LaCorte said, "Chad Nunez is back." Nunez was restaurant manager at Blackbeard's in her previous tenure. She will oversee a kitchen staff of four there and a separate staff at Hotel 1829, which is now closed until season starts, probably in November, she said.
Blackbeard's is having a "soft opening" now at nights, offering appetizers and a limited entree menu. From Friday on, the restaurant will be open for dinner Monday through Saturday. "We'll continue to evolve and be open seven nights and start lunches probably in October," LaCorte said.
Dedicated Lulu's patrons, take note: The Crown Mountain Road restaurant will take a vacation, too, starting Aug. 16. But it will reopen Oct. 18, LaCorte said. "That's my baby," she wanted to reassure old friends. "It'll still be there."

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