Local barbecue master and Rib Kage principal Chef Gariel Ferguson has been satiating gluten-free folks and covertly converting the rest of the population with his Coal Fire restaurants. Located in Island Village, Ocho Rios, and Sovereign North, Kingston, Coal Fire has proven, to the doubters at least, that gluten-free eating doesn't have to be devoid of fun or indulgence. Thursday Food recently visited Coal Fire Sovereign North and immediately came under Chef Ferguson's spell.
The enormous gas-burning oven seemed to birth an endless array of gluten-free pizzas, which Coal Fire calls GFlats, with the crusts made of cauliflower and mozzarella. In the big scheme of things, cauliflower crusts aren't new. However, where Chef Ferguson wields a bit of sorcery is with the addition of cheese, which adds body to the crust, making it more substantial. You could eat the crust plain and be on cloud nine. Luckily, the menu comprises eight pizzas, all of which are far from plain. There's roasted tomato with basil oil, smoked beets and goat cheese, smoked potato, roasted pineapple and pork, Moroccan-spiced lamb and roasted tomatoes, Beyond Meat and roasted pineapple, pulled chicken, and pulled pork.
Like the Napoletana oven, Coal Fire's pizza oven gets between 800 and 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This high temperature creates a delicious char on the pizza crusts. It allows roasted vegetables to intensify their natural flavours in a fraction of the time. You'll have to resist the urge to pick the roasted local plummy tomatoes off the crust; their natural sweetness is intensified, making them deeply flavourful. Whole roasted cauliflower and roasted pumpkin with goat cheese are new additions to Coal Fire's menu. The cauliflower is, pardon the pun, meaty and toothsome. It's a glorious addition to, or the star of, any dinner. The roasted pumpkin is buttery, naturally sweet. That hint of smokiness is made even more pleasant with the addition of tangy goat cheese.
Rib Kage's mantra, “hugged by smoke, kissed by fire”, too, extends to Coal Fire. With these new restaurants, Chef Ferguson is proving that, after mastering grilling meat, he can do the same with local vegetables. It seems that he can stand the heat; therefore, he will never get out of the kitchen. And our taste buds are grateful for that!