The Caribbean is filled with fresh from-the-tree & garden ingredients along with daily just-caught fish right off shore. Up until just 5 years ago, many Cayman Island restaurants simply had key ingredients shipped in from elsewhere instead. On the surface, this may seem like lunacy. Why not simply harvest what's in your backyard rather than have it shipped from around the globe? The answer is twofold. First, more obscure island produce couldn't be farmed and sold profitably. As a result, island chefs didn't prepare many dishes featuring this local bounty. Several events at Cayman Cookout remarkably showcased how this is changing in the Caymans and how star-power and talent of top chefs is helping to make it possible.
Dean Max Harvest Dinner at The Brasserie
It wasn’t so long ago, 2010 to be exact, that The Brasserie in Grand Cayman’s Georgetown planted their first crop of island fruits and vegetables like sour sop, bread fruit, callaloo, and akee. Now their extensive onsite organic raised bed gardens provide the bulk of these ingredients for their kitchen’s caboose-style cooking. Dean Max and executive chef Niven Patel’s Harvest Dinner at Cayman Cookout deftly showcased dishes using these staples as well as same-day caught wahoo and snapper from the restaurant’s very own fishing boats, Brasserie Catch I & II. Before gathering around the communal dining table outside under the stars next to the raised bed gardens, Dean Max introduced one of his fisherman who then pulled the catch of the day from the back of a pickup. Max held them up for all to see before stowing in ice filled coolers...and then hosted a chef narrated dinner as each plate was served.
Run Down with Anthony Bourdain
At this Cayman Cookout event, "Run Down" really had a dual meaning. First there’s the rundown…a smorgasbord of local specialties ready for the tasting. And then there was Anthony Bourdain microphone in hand, on the Ritz-Carlton's Great Lawn sampling and making signature remarks at each and every table featuring Cayman dishes prepared by local chefs ranging from classic rum cake, conch chowder, Cayman-style Jerk to....Run Down, a locally celebrated stew. This event also offered superb opportunities for tasting Caybrew’s full lineup and rum punches featuring Seven Fathoms Rum.
Restorative Rhum with Bar Chef Adam Seger
Imagine a lineup of Cayman rums like Governor's Reserve by Seven Fathoms with a few off island favorites like Havana Club and Ron Zacapa. Then get Adam Seger to provide a guided tastingof each one while lounging on the lush palm studded terrace of 7 Restaurant poolside at the Ritz-Carlton underneath the sunshine’s warm embrace. So why exactly would rum be considered restorative? The answer lies in Seger's fresh made bitters and extracts derived from tropical herbal infusions. Always taking a chef's approach at the bar, currently Nacional 27, Seger is also the guy who founded and still owns Sour Mash Bourbon Bread Company, which produces gourmet bread, biscuit and pancake mix from spent Bourbon mash.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky. Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored visit