Cracking cuisine and wonderful wine in January

 January is Culinary Month here in Cayman Islands and it promises to be as tasty and diverse as the multitude of nationalities that make up these unique islands.

There are events happening throughout January that showcase many sides of the culinary past and present here including ‘the big two’  Taste of Cayman and Cayman Cookout.

Cayman Cookout 2010, taking place from 14 to 18 January ,is  a gathering of the world’s best chefs and sommeliers all ready to celebrate eats and drinks of the greatest quality on the planet.

The shindig is hosted by  world-famous chef Eric Ripert and sees a weekend of intriguing events hosted in and around Cayman with many based round the Ritz-Carlton, who are partners with Food and Wine Magazine and Cayman Islands Department of Tourism in the event.

Highlights
Of many highlights, check out the cultural showcase and welcoming event on Thursday 14 Jamuary, where local arts and crafts showcase the heritage of the area and Cayman’s history.

A little more raucous, perhaps, is Saturday evening’s Barbecue on the Beach, where Ripert and his great friend Anthony Bourdain man the barbie near their favourite bar on the island, Calico Jack’s. It’s a free-spirited and informal affair that allows punters to mix with world-famous chefs whilst the booze and the banter flows freely underneath the stars.

Liquid-lovers will be delighted to be shown how to blend their own rum in the company of Joy Spence, master blender of Appleton’s Rum on Saturday 16 at 9am. It ought to help ease the pain of the previous night’s National Trust Dinner and Wine Auction where in the company of Sotheby’s Robert Sleigh attendees are encouraged to purchase top-class wine, with all profits going to the National Trust.

Events are numerous and come to a conclusion with the famous Gala dinner at Blue on Sunday 16, featuring seven courses cooked by the fantastic visiting chefs. The dinner has been sold out for a long time except for a few hotel packages available through Ritz-Carlton.

Excited
Chef Ripert is excited to return to host the festival which he felt last year was great with a good panel of chefs and some excellent tours of the island.

“What I loved about last year was the intimacy  between the chefs and the public. Cayman has changed over the last six or seven years, with more diversity in the restaurants and great quality of food. We see some good food on the island.”

Chef Ripert says he likes to eat locally as often as is possible, having eaten in places across the island since his first visit several years ago.

He would be delighted no doubt to head down to Camana Bay on Saturday, 16 January for Taste of Cayman, a festival that brings together providers, suppliers, chefs, craftspeople and the public in an evening of true epicurean elebration.

Taste of Cayman
Under the guiding hand of the not-for-profit Cayman Island Tourism Association, Taste of Cayman has become an inclusive showcase for all that is great about the islands’ culinary skills. Now hosted at Camana Bay, the event not only is a riot of colour, flavour and life but it also raises money for CITA’s charities including the Lighthouse School.

This year’s event builds on 2008’s successful hosting at Camana Bay and due both to the new town’s expansion and the continuing popularity of Taste of Cayman it is a much larger celebration than ever before.

Vendors include producers such as Market at the Grounds and many restaurants from Icoa Fine Foods to Rum Point Restaurant. Most of the local eateries will be participating in one form or another so don’t fill up on too much at home before heading down to the site.

Creative
There will also be a creative hub with a multitude of stalls featuring local arts and crafts including, for example, Cayman Scents and many other independent traders whose livelihoods are enhanced by this opportunity to showcase their wares to locals and tourists alike.

Face painting, crafts, a bouncy castle and kid-friendly activities will take place near the cinema, which will remain open as will the normal shops who retain their accustomed opening hours. There’s ample parking and shuttle buses will run between the car park and the site for the duration of the event, which begins at 5pm.

Visitors can also visit Taste of Cayman by water by booking a place in advance for a one-off suggested charity donation of $300 or more, an innovation this year that takes the event into new territories once more.

At The Crescent there will be live music plus the ‘wines on the water’ event which showcases wines from all different regions. A ticket to the event includes 14 initial food / drink tickets, with more availablefrom special booths throughout the site. Seating on the Paseo is available and there will be other places to rest weary feet onsite.

Charity
Aside from the big events, tastebuds are tingling already with the Barefoot Brunch on 10 January an informal introduction at Camana Bay between 11am and 3pm. Sparkling wines, champagnes, mojitos, bloody marys and food courtesy of chef Ron Jacobson of Abacus and Cynthia Hutson of Ortanique preparing BBQ creations, salads and sides.

The second annual Taste of Cayman Winemakers Charity Gala Dinner takes place on 14 January at Ristorante Papagalo, the central feature being Veuve Clicquot champagne. This is the first champagne dinner of its kind and is limited to a hundred seats. Like Barefoot Brunch, proceeds go to charity.

These and other events look set to further boost Cayman’s status as a destination that is increasingly well-geared towards attracting visitors to its diversity of cuisine and reminding locals of the talent and delicious fare that’s at everyone’s fingertips.

Kathy Jackson of Atwater Consulting speaking on behalf of Camana Bay said that it is important for Cayman to present itself to tourists appropriately.

“Caymanians don’t always shout out and boast about what they have – they assume you will wander down the road and find the amazing things here.

“We’re a small population and we need to make sure that everyone who lives, works or visits here comes to share the culture of Cayman Islands. Taste of Cayman allows visitors to come here and be right in the middle of everything that’s Caymanian.”

Camana Bay are in the second year of a three-year programme as partners with CITA for Taste of Cayman and are already looking to develop the event for 2010, said Ms Jackson, who said Camana Bay are involved largely due to the charity and community aspects of Taste of Cayman.

“As Camana Bay town centre grows and things come to it we are a destination where people can come and have great experiences.

“You can’t spend every day on the beach – sadly sunburn happens, it rains, and Camana Way allows people to see local vegetation plus the observation tower, the water fountains and shops are things that people will come to Camana Bay for. It’s a natural partnership with CITA who are all about strengthening the tourism product in the Cayman Islands.”

More details of Cayman Cookout are available online at: http://www.caymanislands.ky/cayman_cookout/events.aspx and Taste of Cayman from http://tasteofcayman.com.ky

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