Cayman tries a taste of the exotic

Rattlesnake, wild boar or antelope may be alien creatures to Cayman’s shores but that doesn’t mean they have to be strangers to our menus.

Specialty meats

From left: Edwin Patagan, Progressive Distributors meat cutter, holds rattlesnake; Alok Singh, Food Service Sales Manager, holds rabbit; David Gunkel, Meat Manager, holds Kobe beef; and Eduardo Salindato, Meat Cutter, holds alligator. Photo: Cliodhna McGowan

At the recent Cayman Culinary Competition, which took place at the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort, local wholesalers Progressive Distributors had in stock many speciality meats to showcase to chefs.

These included Himalayan yak, elk, venison, wild boar, buffalo, alligator meat, ostrich, kangaroo loin, antelope spare ribs, rattlesnake, rabbit loin and whole rabbit.

And while Progressive does not usually have these items in stock, they have managed to source them all to order them for whoever wishes to spice up their menu.

Food Service Specialist with Progressive Arun Kavingal said that while some of the high end restaurants have ordered some speciality products such as elk and venison or micro herbs and micro-greens in the past, the opening of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman has prompted more restaurants to request more speciality products in general as the bar has risen.

Often, the speciality meats are included as part of a special wine menu a restaurant might host, he commented.

‘They’ll pick really nice wines and pair these with speciality food items to go with the wines,’ he said.

Progressive Food Service Sales Manager Alok Singh noted that while it is very uncommon to put a lot of exotic foods on a menu, the high-end restaurants do like to jazz up their menus every now and then with something different.

Another speciality meat that can be ordered is Kobe beef from Japan, known for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty texture, qualities enhanced by the traditional methods of raising Kobe beef, which makes this beef much more expensive than regular beef.

‘But people who understand about Kobe beef are willing to pay for it,’ Mr. Singh said.

Some of the more commonly used speciality meats include venison, wild boar, ostrich, rabbit and elk, while the likes of rattlesnake, for instance, may still be a little too exotic for certain tastes.

Also imported by Progressive are halal meat, French cheeses, speciality teas, exotic produce items and fresh fish sourced from various places, amongst many other items.

The speciality meats are sourced in different places and brokers are used to acquire it. It generally comes here through the US, having acquired its USDA certification stamp, said Mr. Singh.

At Bed Restaurant, Executive Chef Michael Facey has used speciality meats venison, buffalo and ostrich as chef’s specials on his menu.

The three meats have sold very well, he noted.

He is considering using venison on the regular menu for high season as it has proved very popular with customers.

Asked if he would consider putting other exotic meats on the menu in future, he said, ‘I’m always up for using whatever exciting ingredients are out there.’

Head Chef at Pappagallo Ristorante, Steve Wagner uses wild boar shank, not on his regular menu, but brings it in as a special for, say, a certain group of guests, or at weekends. He has had a very good response to it.

He has also used venison in the past, and from January to April of this year buffalo rib eye took its place on the menu. This sold pretty well, but when high season began to slow down he took it off.

‘People are more comfortable with meats such as buffalo and wild boar shanks, because they are closer to home than some of the other options,’ he said.

Executive Chef at the Westin Casuarina Resort Carl Doldner said they have used ostrich, wild boar, buffalo, rabbit and venison on various menus.

Buffalo was on last year’s regular Casa Havana menu and went down quite well with customers, said the chef. ‘It was a tenderloin, and it is quite similar to beef,’ he said.

At various special menus for Casa Havana’s wine dinner series ostrich, rabbit loin, venison and wild boar have been used.

They all went down really well with customers, said Chef Carl. Ostrich is very commonly sold in the US and is a cross somewhere between chicken and beef, he explained. Casa Havana used rabbit, which is quite popular in Italy, in the form of loin and legs on separate occasions for specials. The restaurant’s smoked venison loin went down a treat with guests, as did its wild boar bolognaise.

‘People do like to try something different from time to time, and it’s good to do that on special occasions,’ he said.

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