A taste of Antigua
Sometimes, the food alone is worth the trip
(CNN) -- You could spend your entire vacation in Antigua lounging like a seal on the sand. Or, you could get up occasionally and eat. Known for its 365 beaches -- one for every day of the year -- Antigua ("ann-TEE-guh" or "ann-TEE-gwuh") is equally blessed with cuisine. From fancy French food to delectable native dishes, this Caribbean island will help you meet your own inner epicure.
Dine with any well-traveled gourmand and he or she will inevitably rave about "the local fare." To initiate your palate to the subtleties of Antiguan delicacies, head for Warri Pier restaurant at the Rex Halcyon Cove Resort. Take in the view -- and ask for pepper pot, a succulent stew of beef, pork, dumplings, spices and vegetables such as okra. The dish often comes with "fungii" (fun-JEE), a mixture of cornmeal and okra, with a consistency somewhat like grits.
For another island favorite, try the tasty pumpkin soup at The Admiral's Inn located at historic Nelson's Dockyard. As one forward-thinking diner told us, "This is marvelous. I wish you had smell-a-vision."
There's also goat stew, grilled lobster and plenty of beautiful fish -- porgy, snapper, parrot fish, French angler fish.... Julian Waterer, proprietor of Julian's restaurant, uses a variety of fish and some modern sauces to create his Caribbean medley of fish under a pastry cage.
"What we really do is try to use local ingredients with a modern touch and a continental flair as well," explains Waterer.
On the southern coast of Antigua, you'll find Curtain Bluff, arguably one of the finest resorts on the island and also home to some of the best cuisine, thanks to the talents of Chef Ruedi Portmann.
Portmann has been the restaurant's executive chef for 32 years. He says they do a little bit of everything here, rattling through a quick show-and-tell: "This is pork tenderloin ... fungii ... fried plantains ... local zucchini ... and papaya and tomato comfit."
To complement the cuisine, Curtain Bluff's owner, Howard Hulford, built the only wine cellar in Antigua. "There are 400 wines and 400 bins," says Hulford.
At Chez Paschal, you can savor the flavors of fine French cuisine. Start with an appetizer of sea scallops on a bed of leeks. Then try the lobster flambÉed with cognac and baked in white sauce of flour, butter, milk and French mustard.
And don't feel guilty about eating the chocolate mousse cake with strawberry sauce. After dinner, you can walk into the sunset, burn some calories, and contemplate the day's end.
Getting there: Antigua sits about 300 miles southeast of Puerto Rico and 1300 miles southeast of Miami. V.C. Bird International Airport, on the northeastern edge of the island, serves as the point of entry for air travelers. St. John's Harbour and Heritage Quay offer port for cruise ships.
Based on a report from CNN Correspondent Linda Ciampa.