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Savour the taste of THE BVI

Taste The BVI is a brand-new indigenous food eatery located at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park. Erin Paviour-Smith talks to its creator, Riiah Durante and delves into the story behind the authentic BVI Taste.

Food can be many things, including a medium that sparks memories, stimulates the senses, evokes emotion and depicts a story, according to restauranteur, Riiah Durante.

An 8th generation descendent of Salt Island in the British Virgin Islands, Riiah has impactful memories of learning traditional recipes and cooking techniques passed down through the generations, leaving an indelible mark.

After graduating from H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, Riiah furthered her education at Barry University in Miami. In 2016 she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Science with a specialisation in Psychology and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at her alma mater.

In 2020, amid COVID, Riiah relocated home to Tortola with her family. Identifying a niche opportunity to help travelers navigate the many challenges of traveling during a pandemic, her first business British Traders Concierge was born. Making seamless travel to the BVI possible at a time when travel and experiences were limited.

Taste The BVI’s creator, Riiah Durante.

Over the next two years, with the pandemic coming to an end, the Company diversified its portfolio to meet the needs and expectations of its clients.

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In 2022, she received a scholarship to the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship that supports the development of entrepreneurs through mentorship programs in partnership with H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and Unite BVI.

It was this mentoring program that inspired her to add a complimentary and unique product to her existing business, Taste The BVI.

Riiah’s family heritage, passion for her country, combined with a noticeable gap in the hospitality industry, sparked the idea to create an indigenous eatery for tourists and locals that is not only a place to taste authentic food of the BVI, but experience our rich and diverse culture as well.

“There are very few restaurants that specifically cater to authentic, indigenous cuisine that reflects BVI culture and tradition” she says.

“Similar to yesteryears on Salt Island, our visitors and wider community can taste the food and learn the traditional techniques and history too. Dining at Taste The BVI takes our guests on a cultural journey similar to the one I experienced growing up” says Riiah.

 

The late Norwell Durante’s salty hands: Durante was a lifelong Salt Island resident and salt miner. Photo courtesy of: Jim Scheiner, Rainbow Visions BVI

Miss Clemmy, a native of Salt Island harvesting natural rock salt in the salt pond at Salt Island, BVI – October 1983. Photo courtesy of Curtis de Ravariere, Paul’s Photo Services, 1983).

All of the recipes on the menu have been curated by Riiah based partially on the Smith/ Durante family lineage, BVI traditions and history – but with her own personal touch.

Delightful bites including the BVI’s National dish of fish and fungi (pronounced foon-ji), which is okra and cornmeal boiled with butter and served with braised fillets of snapper in optional mayonnaise or butter sauce.

Also on the menu, a BVI ‘must-have’ Anegada lobster and conch, which are seasonal due to Government mandated fishing seasons. Conch will be available from October 31 to August 15 and Anegada lobster will be available from October 31 to July 31, to ensure the sustainability of these species.

A signature dish that incorporates local sea salt gathered from Salt Island complimented with the smoky flavour created by coal made from local wood – represents the Cay People way of life. This dish showcases history from a personal perspective but is also reflective of the BVI as a whole.

The drinks menu, called Sip of the BVI includes seasonal non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages including a Guava berry fruit beverage that is traditionally consumed over the holiday season in the BVI.

The CAT 5 cocktail is Taste The BVI’s signature beverage, representing the 2017 catastrophic hurricanes Irma and Maria – now an indelible part of the BVI’s history.

Important especially for the working community, the Restaurant’s menu includes grab-and-go lunch specials such as the Nature’s Little Secret rice bowl, a soup of the day and the Fat Virgin (meaning Virgin Gorda) spicy chicken sandwich.

For those with a sweet tooth – you are also in for a treat! Riiah’s list of traditional BVI tarts is mouth-watering with fillings such as coconut, guava and pineapple. Many of you may be surprised to know that tarts originated in the BVI.

There is a lot to learn about traditional BVI cuisine. Taste The BVI located at the Cyril B. Romney

Tortola Pier Park is now open 6 days per week – so you can experience it for yourself! •

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