A Taste of Cayman
The Cayman Islands, where I live, is probably best known for sandy beaches and clear water, as well as being one of the world’s largest offshore financial jurisdictions . What you may not know is that the country is quickly becoming one of the Caribbean’s premier food destinations. This works for me because I am the Takeru Kobayashi of paradise.
The entire month of January is dedicated to food in the Cayman Islands as we celebrate Culinary Month. Famous foodies from across the globe – including Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert and Gail Simmons – give cooking demonstrations and host workshops at the Caribbean Food & Art Festival, Cayman Cookout and Taste of Cayman. It’s a food lover’s paradise. This year, I thought Taste of Cayman would be a perfect way to launch a food blog that will not only focus on cooking at home, but also on cooking abroad – if you will.
In its 23rd year, Taste of Cayman was held at Camana Bay Saturday, 29 January. The boardwalk was peppered with dozens of food and drink booths for anybody willing to give up one of their precious food tickets. As well as sampling the goods, visitors get to vote for Cayman’s Favorite Restaurant.
One of the newest restaurants in Camana Bay, the Black Trumpet, was the very first stop of the night. For one ticket you could get a ‘Sweet Teeth’ tart, chocolate or lemon. We coughed up two tickets to make sure we got at taste of both of these beauties.
Heading down the boardwalk, you might have missed the Cayman section which featured traditional Caymanian fare including the beloved Cassava Heavy Cake (cassava = yucca for Californians). In addition to the Cayman’s Best Restaurant contest, each year local chefs try and snatch the coveted top spot for the Heavy Cake competition. This year, I tasted a coconut infused Cassava Cake….mmmmmmmmm.
Cayman saw the launch of a brand new product at Taste of Cayman: ‘Sticky Toffee Cake.’ We’ve already got a product similar to this in Cayman called Rum Cake. I’ve never really been a fan. I was pretty skeptical about boxed Sticky Toffee Cake so we gave this one a miss initially. Toward the end of the night on the way out, we did revisit the booth and handed over two tickets for a sample each. Holy crap it was good. Ten points for the Sticky Toffee Cake lady.
Our favorite booth of the night was actually a combination of three restaurants. For two tickets per plate, we got six food samples from Cimboco, Chicken Chicken and Breezes by the Bay. This included Cimboco’s outstanding Caesar salad (best on the island, hands down) rotisserie chicken, bread pudding, corn bread and conch chowder. All was fantastic. Not only was the food great but for two tickets per overflowing plate it was definitely the best value for money.
A very close second was Tiki Beach’s curry chicken. We must have tried curry from at least four places. It’s a popular dish here, and while its very easy to make good curry, it’s pretty tough to make great curry. Tiki Beach nailed it; and theirs was certainly the prettiest presentation.
Now, let’s talk about what didn’t work. The majority of the food stalls were offering very spicy fare. Which is fantastic! I love spicy food. However, there was no place to get a glass of water. Of the 50 booths, at least of third of them were drink booths. If you weren’t drinking booze you weren’t drinking anything. We actually had to go out of the festival and purchase a bottle of water at one of the restaurants in Camana Bay. If I were there with children, I’d have been furious. We weren’t sampling any of the wines, but we did find out that they were charging upwards of 5 tickets per drink. The mojitos were 7 tickets per drink. You had to buy these drink tickets separately as none were included in your $40 ticket price….what a rip!
It was also very crowded along the boardwalk. We went early because I needed the daylight to take pictures, but as we were leaving a few hours later the place started getting more and more crowded. The lines for food were out of control and it was difficult to get through the narrow passages along the boardwalk.
Overall, I thought Taste of Cayman was brilliant. There will always be kinks to work out and perhaps next year they’ll have those sorted. Everything we tasted last night was stellar and as it was an opportunity for me to taste samples from several new restaurants I haven’t been to, I’ve now got quite a long list of places to explore and share about on The Deep Dish.