Provisioning in the Caribbean

24 October 2008 By Joanne MacKenzie

Looking for fresh milk on a Monday in the Exumas? It may not be so easy to find.

Whether it’s a basic staple or a special cheese…where do you find the provisions you need in the Caribbean?

Dockwalk's November issue posed the question: Are yacht crew being overcharged for products and services? Here we bring you some of the Caribbean's most reputable shops where you can rely on the quality of the goods and the integrity of the shops.

In St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island, you can find just about everything from low-sodium soy sauce to most U.S. magazines at Le Grand Marche. It’s located on the road to Philipsburg. Gourmet Marche, in Simpson Bay, is another reliable stop for general shopping.

On the French side, on St. Martin, the Match supermarket has everything from stock grocery and hardware items to fresh baguettes and live North Atlantic lobster. It’s in the Howell Bay Center just a few minutes walk from the Marigot Bay Marina.

About halfway between the Match and the marina, L’Epicerie de Marie has a great produce, cheese, and fish regularly flown in from Paris as well as caviar, pasta, olive oils and other specialty products. If you’re looking for specialty teas and excellent French pastries, try Hediard, in the mall directly across from the marina.

The Match supermarket in St. Barth’s is located just across from the airport and has everything from cheese and produce to dry goods. However, as Chef Randal Hughes says, you need to get there early because their stocks move fast. Hughes also says “just follow your nose” and you’ll easily find a couple of good bakeries and gourmet shops just a few minutes walk past the shops in the harbor.

Hughes says the best way to provision in the smaller islands, like those in the Bahamas where it’s often hard to find good produce and fresh meat, is to “go local.”

He says if you want fish, keep an eye out for “smackboats.” These are the boats that get fresh fish everyday.

“Whether it’s lobster, grouper or snapper, let them know what you’re looking for,” Hughes says. “If they don’t have it or catch it, they’ll let you know someone who does.”

Both Chef Dan Cartright and Chef Carmen Declerc like to use Gourmet Market in Nassau. Located in Caves Village, it’s the best source for hydroponic greens and other specialty items.

Chef Huggy Courtney recommends the Goodfella Farm in Lifer Cay. He says Bahamas Yacht Management has opened up a new shop in Nassau that makes it easier to get orders from the farm without the commute.

In St. Thomas, USVI, a reliable standby – with two locations in Charlotte Amalie – is Gourmet Gallery. A good source for fresh produce is The Fruit Bowl, which is located just a few blocks from Yacht Haven Grande Marina.

On the east end, Marina Market, across from American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook, is great for fresh meat and other stock items. For bulk items and drinks, you can go to the Cost-U-Less warehouse, about 10 minutes from Charlotte Amalie.

Both in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico, there are large, well stocked supermarket chains, such as Pueblo and Plaza Extra. They’re conveniently located within a 15-minute ride from Puerto Rican entry ports like Boqueron on the west coast, San Juan to the north and Fajardo to the east.

You can get most grocery items you’ll need in the British Virgin Islands in Roadtown, Tortola. Both Bobby’s Marketplace and Riteway Food Market are just a few minutes from the marina in Roadtown. In Soper’s Hole, the Ample Hamper is a good place to find the basics.

In Antigua, Dockside Liquors and Supermarket on the dock at English Harbour and Bailey’s in Falmouth are good sources for local produce and basic groceries. The Epicurean Supermarket, in the Wood Centre Complex in St. John’s, is well-stocked with basic and specialty items.

In St. Lucia, the Super J is the largest supermarket. For more gourmet items, you can go to the Marigourmet Supermarket at the Marina Village at Marigot Bay.There’s also a large produce market in downtown Castries. If you’re in Rodney Bay and you’re looking for fresh fish, you can find it in Gros Islet and it’s reachable by dinghy.

This has been just a brief overview of shopping down island. Share your own special finds in the comments section below. And for a more in-depth guide to provisioning in St. Maarten, look out for Dockwalk's January issue.