Day 7: A culinary shore tour takes us to an organic farm on Tortola

Chef Kellie Evans assists Aragorn Dick-Read in serving tea to our group
Chef Kellie Evans assists Aragorn Dick-Read in serving tea to our group

ONBOARD THE OCEANIA RIVIERA – Oceania is known for its great food and culinary programs and is the reason that many people choose to sail on this line. After all, famous master chef Jacques Pepin is the executive culinary director for Oceania and celebrity chef Cat Cora is godmother of this ship. Oceania is one of only two cruise lines offering professional culinary classes at sea.

But this week’s program was jinxed. Not only did the Culinary Center’s executive chef Kathryn Kelly break her leg and so could not sail this cruise but the Culinary Center facility on Deck 12 Midship was closed all week due to the norovirus cleanup. All classes were cancelled.

Walking through the terraced vegetable beds at Good Moon Farm
Walking through the terraced vegetable beds at Good Moon Farm

Chef instructor Kellie Evans did her best to hold things together and communicated regularly with passengers signed up for her classes. For most of this cruise we thought she might be able to teach the last couple of sessions but then the captain announced the ship will remain on “Level 2” status until we dock in Miami, thus the Culinary Center remains closed.

I was signed up for Chef Evans “At Home in Sicily” class that was to have been on Tuesday. However, at end of day I discovered that Chet Evans had sent a folder with all of the recipes from the cancelled class to my stateroom. Very nice of her!

Originally, she was to have taught six two-hour classes with such topics as “Wake Up to Brunch,” Patio Pleasures” and “Happy 80th Jaccques Pepin.” The classes are $69 per person and may be reserved in advance of the cruise. The Culinary Center itself is quite impressive with individual work stations.

Our Culinary Discovery Tour

Aragorn grows some specialty items like these berry tomatoes
Aragorn grows some specialty items like these berry tomatoes

However, a Culinary Discovery Tour shore excursion was offered on Tortola and 14 of us participated in that with Chef Evans, who is a former food editor of Saveur magazine. We traveled first to Good Moon Farm, high in the hills above Roadtown. Here we met Aragorn Dick-Read who operates this small crop organic enterprise on the steep, terraced hills of his home, Turnbull Estate.

Aragorn’s parents came to Tortola from Britain in the early 70s and started the BVI’s first major yacht provisioning company, the Ample Hamper. (Chet and I chartered sailboats out of Tortola in the early 1980s and we always shopped at the Ample Hamper.) Aragorn was born and raised here, went to boarding school in Britain, and returned to settle here.

Aragorn's Studio at Trellis Bay Beach features a wide array of high-end craft items
Aragorn’s Studio at Trellis Bay Beach features a wide array of high-end craft items

After serving our group lemon sage tea, he toured us through his many plant beds explaining that the land was previously a sugar cane plantation. The cane was grown in terraces on the hills. When those plantations closed, the land went back to being forest.

In 2005, he began clearing the land again, revealing the old terraces. Since then he has expanded his operation over several acres and installed Drake Augusite from Dominica to run the day-to-day farming operation. They practice “biodynamic farming,” following the cycles of the moon in planning plantings and harvests. He mostly sells his organic produce to restaurants, those chartering yachts and the chefs from area villas and mega-yachts. He works with a network of BVI farmers so as to increase the supply of fresh meats, fish and vegetables to his customers.

From Good Moon Farm, we traveled over the Ridge Road on Tortola to Trellis Bay on Beef Island, connected by bridge to Tortola’s easternmost end. There we met up with Aragorn again and met his wife Federica, who is from Italy. They served us a lovely lunch of West Indian specialties on picnic tables at the beach.

Aragorn’s art studio at Trellis Bay

Aragorn Dick-Read with his current fireball sculpture in progress
Aragorn Dick-Read with his current fireball sculpture in progress

At this scenic spot Aragorn maintains his artist’s studio, which sells both his work and that of many area artists. He is famous for his striking metal sculptures, particularly his fireballs – ornate spherical sculptures filled with firewood and set ablaze during various festivities. There are many scattered around this property and he showed us the very large one that he is currently completing in his metal studio.

He also designs prints, pottery and T-shirts. His art center also sells jewelry, intricate woven baskets, spices and wood carvings by other artisans. There is also a limited amount of his organic produce for sale, usually purchased by visitors from charter yachts who visit Trellis Bay.

This shore excursion lasted 4-1/2 hours and cost $199.

December 9, 2015

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