When I think of “local” food in Grand Cayman, I draw a blank. Wahoo? Turtle? Conch? Lionfish?
The protein may be covered, but what about fruit, vegetables, or herbs? Other than coconut, I haven’t seen anything growing in clear-sight, even in the suburbs. Coming from Vancouver, seemingly the land of plenty when it comes to local food, I found the notion of exploring what the Cayman Islands has to offer locally very intriguing. Unbeknownst to me, Caymanians grow cabbage, mango, kale, cucumber, long beans, cherry tomatoes, key lime, papaya and breadfruit, to name a few. I mention these ingredients, because they were each used by a handful of restaurants in Camana Bay during The Flavour Tour. The Flavour Tour is a walking food tour that puts emphasis on local Caymanian ingredients through small plates served at prominent restaurants in Camana Bay. It sensibly occurs the day that the Farmer and Artisan Market runs, marrying the two together nicely.
[At the market, be sure to pop by the Cayman Traditional Arts booth and say hi to Deal Ebanks (shown above). He’s full of stories and will gladly blow the conch shell for you and show off his crafts made from wood found x amount of days after Hurricane Ivan.]
The Flavour Tour group, which often boasts less than twenty people, roves from restaurant to restaurant sampling a libation and a small dish at each stop. Our coincidentally women only squad was particularly small, with only eight people including myself, enabling a more intimate experience. With a map of Camana Bay in hand, highlighting The Paseo, Market Street and The Crescent, we strolled from the starting point of West Indies Wine Company, where we enjoyed a glass of bubbly, to Mizu, for our first tasting.
Pork Belly Bite: marinated and crispy pork belly served over local house made kimchi.
The pork belly was delicious: a melt in your mouth morsel, with a touch of crispiness. My only complaint would be that the kimchi-to-meat ratio was a tad off. Paired with: Drunken Julie’s Sister: Bacardi Rum and Local Mango Puree Hello, alcoholic smoothie. Mizu took a simple concept of freezing mango and puréeing it, then adding rum. I could drink six of these. Would I order this again if it were on the menu? Absolutely. Would I make it at home? I may have already purchased the (two) ingredients.
Ortanique is a chain restaurant that offers “Cuisine of the Sun”.
Classic style ceviche with citrus juices and peppers, plus a ceviche tartare with local seasonings and citrus.
How can you have a local food tour without throwing in some ceviche made from the daily catch? I was thankful that they did, enjoying both styles, particularly the tartare. Both ceviches were fresh, light and had the right amount of citrus and spice. The guacamole was chock-full of flavour and accompanied by plantain chips for scooping. Paired with: Bombay East: Bombay Sapphire Gin, Local Cucumber, House Grown Curry Leaves and Soda Topper There was something “off” about this cocktail. Though I appreciated the creativity of adding house grown curry leaves (not native to the island, but grown by the restaurant) to the cocktail, they left an unusual and undesirable taste in my mouth. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be on their menu. ABACUS
Braised Shortrib with local sautéed kale, local oven dried cherry tomatoes and local scotch bonnet glaze with local, roasted breadfruit.
Mouthwatering, would be a great description for this dish. “May I have some more?” Almost came out of mouth upon finishing it. While the short rib obviously wasn’t local, everything else was, and it was prepared to near perfection. The scotch bonnet glaze was sweet and spicy and didn’t overtake the flavours from the shortrib. The breadfruit added the element of starch and complemented the other strong flavours in the dish by toning it down. Paired with: Cayman Mary: Local Tomato Juice, Grey Goose Vodka, Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco, Fresh Pepper, garnished with Spicy, Local Long Beans My favourite thing about this cocktail was the long bean. Which, I guess, is okay considering the emphasis of the tour was on local products. Win? Or a loss? You decide. Maybe it’s simply because I’m Canadian, and we opt for Caesar’s over Bloody Mary’s…though I wasn’t the only one to not finish it.
Genuine Dessert Trio
- Local key lime cheesecake flan with local papaya salsa
- Local coconut baked Alaska, local coconut cake, local coconut ice cream and meringue
- Mini local breadfruit donuts with local cherry tomato marmalade
The desserts were beautifully presented and catered to everyone’s taste but the chocolate lover, simply because that wouldn’t be utilizing local ingredients as wonderfully as the Michael’s team did. A common sentiment was that the breadfruit donuts didn’t taste much like breadfruit, though that didn’t stop anyone from gobbling them up, especially when coated in the delicious local cherry tomato marmalade. My least favourite was the coconut dish, as the dairy overwhelmed the other flavours. Paired with: The Gardener: Bombay Sapphire East, St. Germain, cucumber, mint and lime This cocktail was my favourite of the night. It was balanced and refreshing, with a nuance of sweetness. On another note: I adore the staff here. WEST INDIES WINE COMPANY
As mentioned, we started the tour with a complimentary glass of bubbly at West Indies Wine Company. We also finished the tour with a taste of one of 80 vintages. We were given a “charge card” worth CI 5 and were able to use it on our varietal and size of choice, be it a Zinfandel or a Chardonnay, a taster, or a 6oz pour. We happened to arrive there during happy hour (5-7PM) so it was 20% off all of the tasters. While being a new concept to the Caymans, The Flavour Tour is much like food tours that we have in Vancouver, with this one focused on the local aspect and slightly more elegant than anything I’ve experienced back home.
Cost: CI 65 including gratuity (roughly $80 USD)
Time/Date: Wednesdays, March 12 – April 16, 6PM and 7PM departures
Where: Camana Bay, West Indies Wine Company (tickets and starting point)
Note: The Flavour Tour caters to dietary restrictions such as sensitivities, allergies and preferences (i.e. vegetarianism)
Camana Bay is a bustling, aesthetically uppity, “town” in the heart of Grand Cayman. It was designed strategically to allow for a constant breeze to flow through the walkways, in turn, encouraging visitors and residents to spend more time within. As you walk through it, you’ll notice a “water” theme: Cayman Island “puddles”; a wall of seashells and streaming water; a scuba diving mosaic in the Observation Tower; and water fountains and water jets for children to frolic in. In addition, there are over 40 restaurants, eateries and boutiques, ranging from Café Del Sol, a freakishly cold café with tasty and affordable made-to-order sandwiches and decent coffee, to Karoo, with small plates, designer cocktails and prix fixe dinners. Not to mention the five other locations that are currently part of the tour: Abacus, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Mizu, Ortanique and West Indies Wine Company.
For more photos check out my gallery on Flickr.