Bandana Beach BBQ

Chef Cindy Hutson’s signature bandana was worn with pride by attendees of the Cookout event held at Camana Bay’s newest restaurant.

Ortanique’s tagline is Cuisine of the Sun, and the evening began with the warm glow of the sunset. Attendees gathered on the beach island for a series of hors d’oeuvres, including a delicious garlic and cilantro shrimp and delicious Seranno ham and manchego cheese croquettes, washed down by judicious amounts of either Seven Fathoms rum or carefully-selected wines.

The party then moved back to Ortanique where the fun really began with a host of dishes that delighted the crowds. Particularly popular was the caja china crackling suckling pig, which had been cooked in an unique way, explained chef Gary Ferguson, a guest chef invited from The Ribcage restaurant in Kingston,Jamaica to assist with the cooking.

“Back in the days when the Chinese were in Cuba building the railroads, they built a kind of box to cook pigs in. This was designed by a guy in Miami who remembered his grandfather talking about it,”

Once the pig is actually cooked – with the fire on top – it’s the culmination of a five-day process including salting of the skin. As a result, the pork was incredibly juicy and the crackling crunchy – a perfect blend.

Punchiness with subtlety

The roasted yucca with mojo – that Canary Islands marinade that became a signature of Cuba – was particularly excellent and the black bean and avocado salad worked very well off the creole-sauteed local callaloo.

Everything down to the cornflake-encrusted sweet plantain had something to recommend it. Following a very long day of demonstrations and tastings in the sun, the punchiness of the cuisine allied to some subtle touches and exciting blends of seasonings really did satisfy the palate.

The sweet guava and cream cheese bread pudding topped by pineapple and coconut ice cream dessert was fresh with citrus explosion and cooled things down; more than a few people chose to top the meal off with a Romeo y Julietta cigar, too.

All in all, it was a reminder if any were needed that the sun has certainly inspired cuisine, whether Caribbean, European or African elements. Not quite fusion, more a marriage of continents – or at least, a passionate liaison.

Later in the evening many decamped to Silver Palm, back at The Ritz-Carlton, for the Sugared: Desserts and Cocktails event which featured a dessert buffet and candy bar, whilst DJs played suitably funky sounds past the midnight hour. There were some absolutely spectacular bites and outstandingly creative sweet treats which fuelled some equally spectacular and creative dance moves, too.

Among many desserts created by Le Bernadin pastry chef Michael Laiskonis were pecans and cocoa nibs tarts with praline whipped cream, bubblegum marshmallows and green tea biscuit creations with insistent caramel notes. No wonder that many of the chefs found their way back to the venue to discuss recipes, adventures and Cayman’s place in it all, as Saturday night seeped softly into Sunday morning and the Cookout 2011 gathered apace for one last day of artistry.