Plenty to savor at Taste of Cayman

Thousands came out to the 28th Annual Taste of Cayman Food & Wine festival Saturday to enjoy an evening of fine foods, delectable drinks and entertainment.

“The Cayman Islands Tourism Association is extremely proud of the turnout … thousands of patrons flocked to the Festival Green, Camana Bay,” CITA executive director Tiffany Dixon-Ebanks said. “There were 40 vendors of food and wine at Taste of Cayman this year, paired with a very entertaining atmosphere, and blessed with cool heavenly breezes.”

Booths crowded Festival Green, where local restaurants and other purveyors offered attendees a diverse selection of food and drink, many infusing traditional Caymanian flavors with international flair.

Crowd favorites included the oxtail ravioli at Catch, the salted chocolate caramel ice cream jar from Anchor and Den and the short-rib gnocchi poutine at The Ritz-Carlton booth, which had a long queue all night long.

The festival also featured a number of competitions, where chefs – both professional and amateur – and mixologists showcased their skills.

The first contest of the evening was the Heavy Cake competition, which celebrated Cayman’s unofficial national dish – cassava cake.

Six competed in the Heavy Cake competition, including last year’s winner, Renda Cornwall.

Ms. Cornwall was awarded second place this year, but was pleased that her colleague, 21-year-old Krysta Parchman, won first place, taking home a cash prize of $300.

“Ms. Renda was my inspiration to join the competition,” Ms. Parchman said. “It feels good to win. I’ve been perfecting recipes for about a year and a half. I’m really proud.”

In another contest, previous Cayman Cookout “cheftestants” Maureen Cubbon and Jolene Nelson battled against Michael Treacy and Neville Hicks in the Bon Vivant and The Best Dressed Chicken Cook-Off. With 15 minutes to concoct an original recipe with the ingredients at hand, the men magicked an elaborate chicken and pumpkin dish with a creamy garlic, mushroom and tarragon sauce, while the ladies created a Caribbean chicken “faux bruschetta” served on fried plantain instead of bread. It was a close competition, with a one-point difference, but the female team proved victorious.

Prior to competing, Ms. Cubbon whipped up some vegetable fritters with three young volunteer sous-chefs at Bon Vivant’s demonstration kitchen, including 9-year-old Ava Stone, who showed she knew her way around a vegetable grater – no surprise, given that she said her favorite dishes to make at home are “salads for my dad.”

Later in the evening, nine contestants battled in the Seven Fathoms Rum Mixologist Competition, but Margaritaville’s renowned “flair bartender” Dan Hollis stole the show, adeptly using the secret ingredient of scotch bonnet peppers.

As the finalists in the mixology competition were still shaking and stirring, a huge fireworks

display lit up the sky, before the rest of the evening’s entertainment began.

The crowd was treated to performances by local singer Shameka Clarke, local band Heat, and by Rod Stewart, Elton John and Tina Turner impersonators.

The winner of Cayman’s Favourite Restaurant award – the people’s choice award of the event – will be announced later this week, as will the evening’s other big award winners.