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Experiencing authentic BVI cuisine straight from the pot

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A Tourist in My Own Town : Experiencing the authentic cuisine of Tortola – D’Coal Pot

Photography by aLookingGlass

I’d always been a picky eater.

     As a child, my parents couldn’t force me to eat my vegetables, and when I finally came around to eating them, I gave up certain foods to fight the unfortunate body type I’d been cursed with from genetics. Although I’ve tried and enjoyed cuisine of other cultures, I’d always choose according to my diet.

     It occurred to me that since I moved to the British Virgin Islands six months ago, I hadn’t sampled much of the local cuisine. I decided to check out D’Coal Pot for an authentic Tortolan dining experience where I intended to try anything the owner, Evelyn Dawson, prepared for me.

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     The emerald-green building is classically-Caribbean in character and situated in a tropical setting among coconut palms in the seaside community of Apple Bay. Upon entering, I felt an instant sensation of Caribbean hospitality as I was welcomed by Evelyn and her charming niece, Shamika who joined us for the feast.

     In trying all D’Coal Pot has to offer, our waitress Vanessa prepared a delicious mixed fruit daiquiri combining the refreshing flavours of strawberry and mango blended with ice. Evelyn shared the story of her restaurant, from her personal passion cooking in Guayana, to opening D’Coal Pot with her Tortolan husband in October 2013. She proceeded to give us an exclusive tour of the kitchen to see where the magic happens.

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 My guests and I were treated to a spread of eight of D’Coal Pot’s signature dishes. “Everything on our menu, even dishes more commonly enjoyed in the North, have a Caribbean twist,” said Evelyn, who loves their 16oz ribeye steak, done with a home-blended jerk seasoning to give it a unique kick.

     First, I tried an item on the menu I never would have selected myself: conch in butter sauce. I’m particular when it comes to seafood. I like fish, but nothing with tentacles or an unfamiliar texture, so this was a big step for me. Surprisingly, the texture wasn’t rubbery like I imagined, and the butter sauce was delicious.

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     What appeared to be mashed potatoes accompanying my favourite dish – the curry crusted grouper with mango and passion fruit salsa- was actually called ‘fungi’, a mix of local orka with cornmeal in the shape of spongy mountains

     The delectable conch fritters, a blend of conch meat with celery, thyme, egg, milk, and breadcrumbs, were especially flavourful. Shamika said they are much fluffier and use less seasoning than most local recipes.

     “Curiosity gets the best of me when it comes to food,” chuckled Evelyn, whose special dipping sauce for the fritters is a combination of two recipes learned by her mother-in-law and her cooking mentor, Chef Sinclair.

     Coconut shrimp, a favourite of our group, is great for those who are not huge shellfish fans, but want to try Caribbean seafood. Their mild fishy taste blends perfectly with the sweet flavour of toasted coconut, paired with a sweet mango-ginger dipping sauce.

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      When dessert came our way, there was no way my sweet tooth could resist the delicious homemade key lime pie, or rich chocolate cake layered with a decadent mousse. Key lime pie is my new found favourite dessert; I love the dense, creamy lime filling surrounded by a delicious brown sugar crust.

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     A special treat came right at the end of the meal when Evelyn brought out an authentic clay coal pot, used in traditional Caribbean kitchens. Although it is inefficient to use this method in modern restaurants, Evelyn hopes to do an event where soup will be cooked using a real coal pot.

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     Experiencing authentic Tortolan cuisine in a true local setting was incredible. In the near future, D’Coal Pot will be closing at its current location, and reopening in place of her mother-in-law’s restaurant in Carrot Bay. It will be renamed D’Coal Pot at Palms Delight.

     There is no doubt my family will be treated to a meal at D’Coal Pot when they visit at Christmas.

Lauren Charley

Lauren Charley

Writer at aLookingGlass
Lauren graduated with an Honours B.A. in Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She has worked as a feature magazine writer, where many of her stories pertained to events, people, activities, and places in popular tourist destinations.

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