Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Foxy's Tamarind Bar & Grill on Jost Van Dyke

There is nowhere else quiet like the 4 mile long gem that is called the “Barefoot” island. Known by travelers around the world as the party capital of the BVIs, Jost Van Dyke is equally appreciated for its protected anchorages, breathtaking beaches, unspoiled beauty and calm, casual, laidback lifestyle. 

Great Harbour as seen from the shore

Named after the 17th century Dutch pirate who made it his hideaway, the tiny mountainous island of Jost Van Dyke lies 3 miles off the northwest coast of Tortola. Little has changed since a Quaker colony settled here in the 1700s to farm sugar cane. The island has only had electricity since 1991, goats graze peacefully over the green hills, and there is only one paved road. Yet the charm of its residents and the uncomplicated simplicity make this unforgettable island an idyllic oasis. 

Foxy's in Great Bay, Jost Van Dyke

Foxy's open-air BBQ and hammock, perfect for Siestas

Great Harbor is the home of the famous Foxy's, a humble beach bar and restaurant with great food and lots of character. Foxy Callwood presides over this ramshackle, open-air beach bar, serving everything from flying-fish sandwiches, delicious beef tenderloin, grilled fresh fish, succulent grilled lobster and other local delicacies, plus oceans of rum drinks and beers created in his own microbrewery. If you're lucky, Foxy will even play guitar and sing calypso, keeping everyone entertained with his saucy lyrics!

Foxy's Grilled Lobster

The infamous Foxy Callwood

Foxy's famous New Year's Eve party has earned a reputation around the world. A New York Post journalist once wrote that there were only three places in the world to be on New Year's Eve: Times Square, New York; Trafalgar Square, London; and Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke. The quintessent beach bar, we always look forward to staying overnight in Great Harbour, to enjoy a stellar meal and listen to the ribald songs of Foxy himself!

Foxy's Bananawhacker
Serves 1

1 whole banana
2 oz rum
1/2 oz. Kahlua
1/2 oz. Bailey's
1/2 oz. Frangelico
1/2 oz. Amaretto

Add all ingredients into a blender. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour into a martini cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of banana.

Monday, May 30, 2011

White Bay's Soggy Dollar Bar & the Painkiller

Jost Van Dyke's breathtakingly beautiful White Bay

Arriving on the stunning crescent-shaped white sand beach of White Bay on the island of Jost Van Dyke, is like disappearing down the rabbit hole. The bay is the colour of pure aqua and home to just a few beach bars — the most famous being The Soggy Dollar Bar — known for inventing the Painkiller. 

The Soggy Dollar Bar

The Soggy Dollar Bar is a landmark BVI destination and reknowned as one of the best beach bars in the world! It's completely relaxed and absolutely charming, with a small bar area, beach chairs and tables in the sand, and a small shop selling 'Soggy Dollar' t-shirts! You can lie in a hammock, play 'hook the ring' or just order your Painkiller and people watch. 

The Soggy Dollar Bar 'Ring Game'

The recipe for the Painkiller, developed by Daphne Henderson, the owner of the Soggy Dollar Bar, and commercialised by Charles Tobias, the founder of Pussers on Tortola, is believed to be four parts pineapple, one part cream of coconut and one part orange juice - adding Rum (Pussers, of course) and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg on top.

Mitch at the Soggy Dollar Bar

There's no dock at White Bay, so sailors need to anchor as close as they can to the beach and swim ashore — so naturally, the bar has no problem accepting soggy dollars — and the swim to the bar is definitely worth the effort!

The Painkiller 
Serves 4

8 oz Pusser's dark rum
4 oz Coco Lopez (sweetened cream of coconut)
16 oz pineapple juice
4 oz orange juice

Nutmeg, for garnish

Shake all ingredients together and pour over ice in a tall glass. Sprinkle nutmeg on top, and serve. I bet you won't be able to have just have one! Cheers.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cane Garden Bay and Callwood's Rum Distillery

Having set sail from Anegada bright and early this morning, we arrived at Cane Garden Bay by lunchtime. A spacious anchorage, Cane Garden Bay is also home to Callwood's Rum Distillery, one of two distilleries in the BVIs — the second being at Foxy's Bar on Jost Van Dyke. The Callwood Distillery dates back to the 1700s when the Arundel Estate was first purchased, and has been in the Callwood family since the late 1800s, and today is run by Michael Callwood and his family. It's the oldest continuously operated pot still in the world, having been in operation for more that 200 years!

The Callwood Rum Distillery, Cane Garden Bay

Traditional, if somewhat old-world methods are employed to brew and distill the rum, which is made from pure sugar cane rather than molasses which is the typical method. According to Michael, using sugar juice in its pure form and without adding any preservatives, is a preemptive strike against hangovers! 

The Callwood Rum Still

Raw canes of sugar are processed through a press mill where the sugar juice is squeezed out into copper pots and boiled. Once the brew has been boiled down sufficiently, water is added and fermented in oak barrels for about ten days. The fermented liquid is then boiled again, producing alcohol. The brew is slowly cooled in coiled, copper tubing and then stored for about 4 years. Large glass bottles are used for storing the white rum, while oak barrels are used for Callwood's amber elixir. The rum is only sold locally and at the Callwood Distillery shop, so we had to pick up a $5 bottle for our rum punch recipe that we make onboard the Alegria Del Mar! Many claims are made about the medicinal effects Callwood's Rum can produce too, but as there aren't any scientific studies offered as proof, we'll just have to take Michael's word for it! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Anegada Lobster at Neptune's Treasure

Appoaching Anegada by sail on the Alegria Del Mar

Anegada, the smallest and most enchanting of the British Virgin Islands, is surrounded by an immense coral reef, one of the largest in the Caribbean. Once home to pirates who hid their plundered treasure amid the treacherous coral maze of the Horseshoe Reef, Anegada has also laid claim to many ships over its history, making the island a paradise not only for scuba divers, but for people in search of the ultimate island paradise. 

Anegada's pristine beaches 

The entire island is rimmed by white powdery beaches and lush towering palms, and with a population of only 200, the island is almost deserted, with the exception of a handful of loyal residents and it's flock of pink Flamingos, who feeding on microscopic aquatic creatures such as brime shrimp, gives them their distinctive rosy tint!

Two of Anegada's beautiful Pink Flamingos

Once off limits to boat charters, Anegada has better markings now, making access to it's harbour tricky, but manageable. The prize being — a grilled Anegadan Lobster Dinner at Neptune's Treasure! Anegada has some of the finest of both shallow water and deep sea fishing in the world, but the most well known is their Anegada lobster, caught in pots, and famous throughout the British Virgin Islands. 

Neptune's Treasure on beautiful Anegada

The amazing lobster is the reason we've sailed over 5 hours to arrive at our destination by mid afternoon, as it's imperative to radio-in reservations before 4pm to reserve a table and snag one of the limited number of lobsters that have been caught earlier in the day. 

Some freshly caught Anegada lobster — dinner tonight!

Succulent Anegada lobster — it's worth the journey

The Soares family, owners of Neptune's Treasure, have lived on the island for over half a century and are responsible for catching, cooking and serving the seafood and lobster every night, to sailors and guests who stay in one of their beachside villas. As lovely as the hotel is, we're happy to dingy back to the Alegria Del Mar for a night cap before we collapse after all the fresh air and delicious seafood!

And to all, a goodnight...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Virgin Gorda: The Bathes, The Dogs & the Cuisine

Virgin Gorda, the third largest  of the British Virgin Islands, was discovered by Columbus who christened the island 'The Fat Virgin' because of the island's profile looks like a fat woman lying on her side. The most famous and unusual geological formation of Virgin Gorda are 'The Bathes', a labyrinth of house-sized granite boulders that lie across a long beach, forming scenic grottoes and shallow pools, and open up onto the breathtakingly beautiful Devil's Beach.

One of the shallow pool grottoes at The Bathes

The very beautiful Devil's Beach

One of the best dive sites around Virgin Gorda are 'The Dogs', a series of small islands that are part of a marine national park, and home to 'The Chimney' with a wide arched tunnel you can scuba dive through, and 'Joe's Cave', a wall-to-wall cathedral-like cave that we need an underwater flashlight to truly appreciate. 

The Chimney

Off the south end of 'Great Dog', there were some beautiful coral formations called 'The Coral Gardens' which is also home to a commuter airplane wreck!

The sunken Cessna at 'The Coral Gardens' dive site

After an active day hiking through The Bathes and diving The Dogs, we were looking forward to a delicious dinner at The Fat Virgin Café, a popular waterside restaurant in the North Sound, where we had anchored for the night. Famous for their Conch and Cod Fritters, they also grill fresh locally caught seafood each night, from Kingfish, Snapper and Anegadan lobster to Fat Virgin Baby Back Ribs and the ever popular Caribbean Chicken Roti served with their own homemade chutney.

The Fat Virgin Café

Biras Creek Hilltop Restaurant, overlooking the North Sound

Biras Creek's Grilled Snapper with Romescu Sauce

For more elegant cuisine, there's the Hilltop Restaurant at Biras Creek in the North Sound or the Sugar Mill at Little Dix Bay, a beautiful open-air restaurant detailed with handsome stonework and rich wood textures. The Pavilion is a wonderful open-air Tiki-style bar, perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail and soak up the fabulous views over the water and contemplate life.

The Pavilion at Little Dix Bay

 The picturesque Sugar Mill restaurant at Little Dix Bay

And for those people that fall in love with Virgin Gorda and the Little Dix Bay lifestyle, Rosewood sells a selection of private villas starting at $2.5 million!

Absolutely gorgeous residences for sale for only $2.5 million!

Braised Halibut with Coconut and Lemongrass with Smoked Eggplant and Tomato Ginger Chutney
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of The Sugar Mill, Little Dix Bay

1 large eggplant 
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Tandoori Spice Blend
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1 8-ounce tomato, peeled, seeded, diced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup bottled clam juice
1 lemongrass stalk, bottom 3 inches only, thinly sliced
4 6-ounce halibut fillets
4 red radishes, trimmed and cut into matchstick-size pieces, for garnish
Daikon radish sprouts, for garnish
Microgreens, for garnish

Char eggplant directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened all over and eggplant begins to collapse, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Place eggplant in large bowl; cool 10 minutes. Peel off skin; place eggplant flesh in strainer set over large bowl. Press on eggplant to release juices; let drain 15 minutes. Transfer eggplant to medium bowl; add lemon juice. Mix Tandoori Spice Blend and vegetable oil in small bowl; add to eggplant and mash with fork to coarse puree. Season smoked eggplant to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

For the chutney, mix the diced tomato, olive oil, chopped fresh cilantro, and grated fresh ginger in small bowl; season chutney to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature.

Bring unsweetened coconut milk, clam juice, and lemongrass to simmer in large skillet. Sprinkle halibut with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Simmer until halibut is just opaque in center, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

To serve, spoon a dollop of smoked eggplant into center of each of 4 shallow bowls. Using slotted spatula, transfer halibut fillets to bowls; place atop eggplant. Spoon dollop of tomato-ginger chutney alongside. Garnish with radishes, sprouts, and microgreens.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cooper Island and the Wreck of the Rhone

Cooper Island is largely uninhabited but is surrounded by fabulous coral reefs, unique dive sites and The Cooper Island Beach Club in Machioneel Bay, where we anchored for two days, to take advantage of diving the Wreck of the Rhone — one of the most famous dive sites in the world. 

Cooper Island Beach Club & Dive Shop

Located off salt Island, the RMS Rhone went down in 1867 in a hurricane. Struck by strong winds and heavy seas just before gaining the open sea, she was driven onto a reef near Salt Island. Seawater flooded the engine room, the boilers burst, and she went to the bottom in pieces. Only 23 of the original 147 passengers and crew survived. One of the first iron ships built, The Rhone has withstood the test of time and provides a spectacular dive site. Teeming with schools of friendly fish, the Rhone is one of my favourites dives, fully encrusted with over a century of coral and sponge growth, much of the wreck still remains intact including the bow, support beams and massive 15' propeller, with opportunities to actually swim through the enormous hull! It's also famous as the film site for the movie, The Deep.

Diving through the hull of the wreck!

The Pillars of the Rhone

A view from the top as our dive group descended

A school of Blue Tang drift by

The Cooper Island Beach Club sun deck was our first destination for a well earned beer and conch fritters after our 4-hour dive. We had just enough energy to make dinner reservations at the Cooper Island Restaurant for later that evening, having been tempted by their varied international menu including Mahi-Mahi Baked with a Coconut Lime Sauce, Rack of Lamb Marinated in Honey, Grenadine and Ginger, Yellow-Fin Tuna Glazed with Ginger, Soy, Balsamic & Honey and a 10oz. New York Strip with a Mushroom Peppercorn Sauce.

We had the Sun Deck and comfy outdoor sofas at 
Cooper Island Beach Club all to ourselves!

Before taking the dingy ashore for dinner, we took advantage of the sunset aboard the Alegria Del Mar and poured a glass of Pinot Grigio and Merlot, and planned our adventure for our next day in paradise.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Peter Island Resort & Spa

Peter Island is home to the Peter Island Resort & Spa, a five-star 1800-acre private island with private villas, two restaurants, five beaches and a fabulous spa and boutique. They also have an ice machine in their Marina, open to sailing guests, that sells tiny little perfect ice cubes! Since the only ice we usually get on the boat are great big bags of ice that look more like icebergs than cocktail ice for my gin and tonic, I bee-line for the Peter Island ice machine as soon as we moor up. Our second stop is Drake's Channel Lounge, the beautiful open-air bar at the Peter Island Resort, where they have the best burger I've ever tasted. 

Drake's Channel Lounge Gourmet Burger

Peter Island Mai Tai

Amidst cushioned chaises and soothing breezes, Drake’s Channel Lounge serves sumptuous cocktails and frozen drinks every day of the week. Resort favorites include the Landscape (a tri-colored concoction of Midori, mango and raspberry) and the Mango Smoothie (mango blended with ice cream, rum and coconut cream), but our favourites are their signature cocktails — the Peter Island Rum Punch and Mai Tai. Served with their delicious Angus Beef Peter Island Burger, you're set for the day! 

Deadman's Beach Bar & Grill

Deadman’s Beach Bar & Grill, Peter Island's casual beach-side restaurant, surrounded by sea grapes and palms, serves a tempting fusion of Caribbean and Continental flavors for both lunch and dinner. Specialties include wood-fired pizza, colorful buffets, signature sandwiches, and Peter Island’s delicious ribs. The vibe is hopping at Deadman’s Beach — a steel drum band sets the mood every Sunday afternoon and thrills guests with a repeat performance to spice up Wednesday nights at their beach-side Caribbean Buffet.

Tradewinds Restaurant

Tradewinds is Peter Island's main restaurant which features some of the Caribbean's finest cuisine. Under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Lisa Peters, Tradewinds offers sophisticated versions of West Indian dishes and updated Continental classics, taking full advantage of the abundance of seafood and fresh island produce available.

Chef Lisa Sellers

So what is the method behind Chef Sellers' acclaimed cooking style? "After 10 years cooking in the Caribbean I have found each island has their own local dishes," says Sellers. "I like to play on Caribbean food and ingredients while giving a modern twist, using the freshest ingredients and working with the kitchen brigade to put a special touch to each dish. I also like to make the food light, so you enjoy each course." We always look forward to stopping by Peter Island, just to soak up all the good food, friendly island service and slow life right down — in style — and with a bag of $15 mini ice cubes to go!

Tuna Tartare with Tobiko, Sesame Seeds, Shaved Scallions and Soya

Sautéed Scallops on Potato Purée with Fried Taro Root Slaw and Coconut Curry Sauce