Fried fish proved a surprisingly versatile main course as local chefs served up different varieties, accompanied by craft cocktails and live music, at Callwood Rum Distillery in Cane Garden Bay on Friday.

The fish fry was the first in a series of events planned for November’s fifth annual BVI Food Fete, which is aimed at showcasing Virgin Islands cuisine in its various delicious iterations.

The 400-year-old distillery sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Irma but, according to members of the Callwood family who were working at Friday’s event, it is back doing what it does best: pumping out rum.

And on Friday, it played host to chefs doling out crispy fish, johnnycakes, corn, rice and other local food over the sounds of DJ Dre and Final Faze.

“The events happen in November, but we do it early just to let the public and the region know what we’re going to be doing and where we’re going to
be doing it and what each event is,” said Cindy Rosan-Jones, events coordinator for the BVI Tourist Board, which organises the Food Fete. “We want to push out there who we are as a people: our culture, our heritage, our food.”

Ms. Rosan-Jones said that despite the 2017 hurricanes, which led to the cancellation of several of last year’s Food Fete events, little has changed, save for the budget and the reduced number of international chefs organisers plan to bring in. She added that the turnout for Friday’s event was actually bigger than others had been.

“Definitely there was a lot more people here than previous years,” she said. “Final Faze was a draw, but I also feel that people want to have outlets to get out and take a break from all that’s happening.”

Chefs served fried fish as the main course at the launch of the fifth annual BVI Food Fete on Friday at Callwood Rum Distillery in Cane Garden Bay. (Photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

Signature cocktails
Leon Miller, a bartender at Soggy Dollar in White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, was invited to bring a few tweaks to his recipes and ended up with two drinks called Callwood Passion and Callwood Therapy.

“Every year, they choose different bartenders [for the Fete], and I’m the only one who’s done it twice in a row,” he said as he shook up another dose of “ther- apy.” “This is my second year.”

The bartender added that he enjoys the chance the event gives him to come up with new cocktail creations and share them with a wider audience. As he handed a customer what he termed a “reverse Cosmo,” with Callwood dark rum, peach schnapps and margarita mix, shaken over ice, he noted that it is important to remind people what the VI still has to offer as the territory waits for the tourist season to kick off again.

“Basically, it’s to refresh the memory of people who haven’t been here in a long time, so they have a better idea of what’s going on in the territory throughout the rest of the year on the island,” he said.

Ms. Rosan-Jones said that she wants to “encourage the public and all our regional guests to come out and visit us in November, and just be a part of our food month and see what we have to offer in terms of local foods and heritage.”