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.