Cayman cooking up interest as food destination

It seems that cuisine in the Cayman Islands is beginning to make a stir within the international media and could be cooking up some tourism as a food destination.

In an article published recently (19 December) online on California media portal under the headline ‘Divine relaxation, delectable dining in Grand Cayman’, Larry Lipson lays out a fine spread of Grand Cayman’s hot offerings.

The admiring article is highly digestible in its praise for primarily Cayman’s food, and restaurants but also for relaxation and attractions.

Earlier this year, at the Taste of Cayman opening dinner, Senior Editor of Food & Wine Magazine, Ray Isle spoke about people travelling to destinations to experience the food and travel together and how this is a growing trend.

Cayman, he said, is interesting in that it has the traditional local fare, such as turtle and conch stew, and it also has the high end restaurants with great wine lists.

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Yearly food events such as the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s Taste of Cayman and the Department of Tourism’s Cayman Culinary Classic Food and Wine Event are helping to boost this sector of tourism.

Jerk chicken

The article says that while Jamaica may be the recognised destination for jerk chicken, some say the world’s best can be found on Grand Cayman.

Lewis Ebanks, who cooks on a backyard grill at ‘Margine’s’ in West Bay is singled out.

‘Lewis is one of several Cayman ‘jerkers’ – as they’re called – other prominent ones being Tony Bodden, Seymour Silburn and Merilda Wright,’ said the article.

The author points out that while Lewis is the ‘deft barbecuing expert’, his wife Margine makes the jerk sauce, rice, beans and potato salad. Margine also has a pot of turtle stew simmering on the stove, it says.

‘But this culinary couple’s gem of a gastronomic find is obviously not the main reason for a Caymans visit,’ the article goes on.

Coming back to culinary delights again towards the end of the article, the author says that despite the Cayman dollar being worth US$1.25, restaurant expenses seem to run the same as in major cities in the US. ‘We learned this while enjoying dinners at such diverse establishments as the Lone Star Bar and Grill with its barbecue and brew, the new Copper Falls with its thick and tender steaks and juicy prime rib, and the Wine Spectator-recognized Edoardo’s, with superior Italian food backed up by an extraordinary wine selection.

‘Luckily, we also experienced the outside private catering efforts of two more of the island’s better restaurants, the Champion House II and Ristorante Papagallo.

‘For relaxed lunches and drinks with stunning views, both Breezes by the Bay and the Sea Harvest at the Sunset House are recommended.’

The article finishes leaving readers knowing they have plenty of options to munch from in Grand Cayman: ‘These are just a few of the approximately 150 restaurants (as well as roadside stalls) to choose from on Grand Cayman – everything from pizza cafes to French bistros to Nuevo Latino Haute cuisine in the Westin Casuarina’s Casa Havana’.

Other attractions

Following the focus on jerk chicken at the beginning of the article, the tone shifts from food to the sun, beach, waters, snorkelling and diving.

Stingray City then becomes the feature with the writer describing the ‘joys of bonding with friendly stingrays on a large sand bank out at sea called Stingray City’.

However, when describing the females, which are much larger than the males, the writer yet again brings up the food theme, saying they look and feel like ‘giant Portobello mushrooms’.

The theme continues as he describes how ‘they enjoy noshing on the squid pieces given to them by the hundreds of tourists who visit Stingray City daily’.

The author describes relaxing in the sun reading, saying, ‘And the beach in front of the Westin is oh-so fabulous for that simple pursuit’.

But for the more adventurous, Mr. Lipson gives options such as watercraft rentals and submarine tours.

The article remains highly positive as it hones in on the Hurricane Ivan recovery. ‘Visiting Grand Cayman only a year after Hurricane Ivan left its destructive mark on the island, I was astounded at the evidence of quick recovery. Yes, there are still a few boarded up buildings and occasional piles of foliage to remind visitors that Ivan was indeed ‘the terrible’.

‘Yet surprisingly, some hotels, such as the Westin, were actually back in business, some partially, others fully, within a couple of months after the hurricane struck’.

Visiting the tourist attraction of Hell and shopping in George Town are also encouraged in the article.

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