The Cayman Islands is known for its world-class cuisine, serving up a delightful variety of international flavors. From Caribbean fusion and zesty Italian to enticing European and pan-Asian explorations, Grand Cayman’s dining landscape offers a delicious range of palate pleasing options.
Alongside a vibrant restaurant scene are such major culinary events as the recent Cayman Cookout and the upcoming Taste of Cayman – the island’s annual food and wine festival. This popular foodie festival is one reason the Cayman Islands is known as the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.”
Taste of Cayman takes place on Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Camana Bay Festival Green. Now in its 26th year, the event will feature 30 restaurant booths and 10 wine, beer and spirits vendors.
“This is really where we get to showcase our restaurants,” says said Jane van der Bol, executive director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, the nonprofit group that puts on the festival each year. “We have foodies who fly in to attend and it’s a fabulous opportunity for tourists to mingle with locals.”
Taste of Cayman is the island’s largest culinary event and one of the largest food festivals in the Caribbean, attracting some 4,000 people through the gates each year. More than 120 volunteers have come on board this year.
“Taste of Cayman is indeed a food lover’s dream, and this year we are so excited about the variety of food vendors that will be showcasing their culinary talents and signature dishes,” says van der Bol. “This is an opportunity to take a culinary tour around the world in one night and one location.”
Numerous activities and entertainment complement the festival, including tribute band ABBA Mania, popular local group Swanky Kitchen Band, a fireworks display, heavy cake competition and cooking demonstrations.
Variety of flavors
Thinesh Madhavan, executive sous chef at the Westin Grand Cayman, is preparing for his fifth Taste of Cayman and says it gets better every year.
“This is probably the most unique culinary event in the Cayman Islands, with participation from some of the best restaurants on the island,” he says. “It’s a great outdoor venue and setup that allows for thousands of people to go from tent to tent sampling food and drinks of all different styles.”
Madhavan adds the festival is a great opportunity for restaurants to gain exposure.
“People often get into a habit of visiting the same restaurants all the time,” he says. “For the Westin, this is our chance to promote our rebranded restaurant, Beach House, and make more people aware of what we have to offer, and hopefully intrigue them enough to make a dinner reservation.”
This year Chef Madhavan and his team at the Westin will be serving up lamb lollipops with mint cucumber salsa fresca and creamy truffle polenta.
Mr. Burgers Snacks & Things is among several newcomers exhibiting at the festival. Attendees can expect to sample a variety of gourmet burgers, BBQ ribs, chicken tenders and fries. Osetra Bay, Gino’s Pizzeria, Da Fish Shack, Al La Kebab and Jacques Scott are among other festival newcomers.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, which captured the title of “Cayman’s Favorite Restaurant” last year, will present a variety of dishes from its two booths, includnig lionfish escabeche sliders, kimchi and pork belly quesadillas, homemade snickers candy bars and popcorn ice cream.
Taste of Cayman is the top fundraiser of the year for CITA, comprising private tourism sector businesses that band together to market, develop and support the Cayman Islands as a prime tourism destination. Funds also support a number of its initiatives such as lionfish culling efforts, Stingray Tourism Awards and its website, cita.ky.
This year, part of the proceeds will go to Feed Our Future, a nonprofit group that works to reduce childhood hunger in the community through school meal programs. Festival-goers will have an opportunity to donate to Feed Our Future by handing in their unused food tickets. The value of each food ticket will be donated to the organization.
Taste of Cayman runs from 5 to 11:45 p.m., with food service from 5 to 10 p.m.
For more information about the 2014 Taste of Cayman Food & Wine Festival, log on to www.tasteofcayman.org, email [email protected] or call 949-8522.
Tickets are $35 adults ($45 on day of event), $20 for youth ages 5 to 15 and free for children under five. The entry fee includes 14 food tickets, a souvenir Taste of Cayman wine glass and a wooden nickel to vote for Cayman’s Favorite Restaurant.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.tasteofcayman.org, at Books & Books, all Blackbeard’s and Big Daddy’s locations and the CITA Visitors Centre at 1320 West Bay Road. Youth tickets available only at CITA or online.