Grand Cayman’s second annual Slow Food Day featured some of Cayman’s best local ingredients, best chefs and one of the most beautiful settings for a dinner imaginable. The two-part event on Saturday, 2 February, also featured the culinary talents of award-winning chef Hugh Acheson, who is known as a competitor on the television show Top Chef Masters and as a judge on Top Chef.
Slow Food Day, which is a collaboration between the Cayman Islands Agricultural Society, Slow Food South Sound and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, is intended to raise awareness of the meats, vegetables and fruits that are produced locally and what meals can be made from them.
Market at the Grounds
Slow Food Day began in the pavilion at the Market at the Grounds in Lower Valley.
In addition to the regular farmers’ market that takes place on Saturdays there, Slow Food Day at the Grounds featured seven local chefs paired with many of Grand Cayman’s leading farmers.
Michael Schwartz whose restaurant Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink uses many local ingredients on its menu every day said it was important to take an element of the event out of the restaurant to Market at the Grounds.
“Visiting the farmers on their turf is always a source of inspiration for our menus, and also key to building great relationships,” he said.
Attendees of the event not only got to buy fresh tomatoes and other local produce that is in season, but they got to sample the chef’s creations free of charge while listening to the tropical tunes of Jr.’s MusicNMore band.
The chefs included Thomas Tennant of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink; Sara Mair and Vanessa Elmas of Ortanique; Niven Patel and Christine Ward of The Brasserie; Ervin Horvath of Agave Grill; and Keith Griffin of the Cayman Culinary Society.
Each of the chefs was paired with one or more of the local farmers. Chef Griffin paired with Joel Walton of Plantation House Organic Gardens and Raymond Whittaker of Whittaker’s Farm in creating his Cayman coconut and lime ceviche dish.
Chef Mair paired with Donna Connolly of Heathier Choice Eggs and Errol Watler of Sparkie’s Amazing Farm to create a stuffed breakfast Patacon, while her colleague, Chef Elmas, paired with farmer Avery Eden to produce tapioca pearls with lemon sugarcane, coconut, lemongrass and basil.
Chef Patel paired with Patrick Panton of East End Garden & Gifts and farmer Carlton West to prepare Patrick’s chicken salad with mango vinegar aioli and heirloom vegetables.
Chef Horvath paired with Kent Rankin of Rankin’s Farms and Zelmalee and Willie Ebanks of Willie’s Farm to make wahoo ceviche with local tomato, scallions and basil.
Chef Tennant paired with Paul Bodden of Old Brown Ranch and Hamlin Stephenson of Stephenson’s Farm to create a unique version of ‘stamp and go’, a hash made out of slow roasted local beef with local sweet potatoes, greens and seasoning peppers.
Chef Schwartz said he thought the chefs did a great job during the morning session.
“It’s always cool to see how each chef interprets their farmers’ assortment of ingredients,” he said. “I love brunch so Thomas’ local beef and sweet potato hash with tomato aioli and Sara’s Patacon plantain bread omelette sandwich with Donna Connolly’s eggs hit the spot. I also thought it was great to see the freshness of the ingredients come through in Niven’s salad with Patrick’s chicken, and Keith and Ervin’s ceviches.” In addition, the Grand Old House and its new sommelier, Dominique Boutet offered a drink called guava fizz – sparkling wine with the juice from locally grown guavas provided by Willie’s Farm.
Camana Bay Beach
Saturday evening Slow Food Day moved to the Camana Bay Beach next to the Royal Palms for a dinner created by Chef Acheson, with the help of chefs and kitchen staff from Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink- and three from the Brasserie Restaurant as well.
In 2012, the Slow Food Day farm-to-table dinner took place at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink at Camana Bay. This year, the new venue made it a ‘farm-to-beach’ dinner.
The event started at 5pm to give guests a chance to enjoy the glorious Seven Mile Beach sunset. Michael’s Genuine sommelier Eric Larkee was on hand to prepare a welcome cocktail – a passion fruit daiquiri. Guests also had the option of a glass of Movia Puro rosé, an undisgorged sparking rosé wine. Before serving, Mr. Larkee had to disgorge the yeast lees underwater, going out into the ocean to open every bottle.
After passed hors d’oeuvres, which included local tuna crudo, roasted eggplant on rice philpy and pork shoulder rillettes on crostini, guests found a seat at tables set up on the beach. They then feasted on foods served from three different stations. In addition to salad and a variety of vegetables, there was whole grilled snapper cooked over a wood fire; there was grilled chicken with a chimichurri sauce; and there was fire-roasted goat with North African spices cooked on a spit over an open fire.
Many of the guests commented that the goat was the best they had ever tasted.
Guests also had a selection of red and white wines to choose from, as well as Michael’s Genuine Home Brew ale.
Chef Schwartz said the goat and the local tuna crudo stood out most for him.
“They’re perfect examples of what Slow Food is all about,” he said, adding that he loved working with Chef Acheson.
“He’s a great chef and he is as passionate in the kitchen as he is about community and his people,” he said. “He’s always learning. He may be the hardest worker I know.”
Chef Acheson said he was familiar with Caribbean ingredients, having travelled in the region extensively from childhood.
Finishing up the meal was take off on Michael’s Genuine pie-in-a-jar; a berry key lime meringue pie-in-a-cup prepared by the restaurant’s pastry chef, Adriana Duran.
Throughout the evening, musicians Kate and Cory Allenger entertained the guests with their unique brand of instrumental music.
Chef Schwartz said he thought the new venue for the dinner worked well.
“I’ve been to events on the beach before, but this one was truly special,” he said. “The evening had great energy, with our guests settling in after the sunset. We all had a great time, from Hugh’s killer menu to Eric disgorging sparking wine in the ocean. Everyone worked really hard to pull it off, and I’m especially proud of our team for making happen.”