A Culinary Escape to the Cayman Islands

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LAST NIGHT, WELEFT the rainy cityscape and took a trip to warm, tropical paradise of the Cayman Islands through cuisine at The Kitchen NYC. The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism brought in The Brasserie Executive Chef Niven Patel on Grand Cayman to prepare fresh Caribbean fare accented with flavors only found in the area with wines hand-picked by Snooth.com.

We toasted to the evening with a Seven Mile Mule Cocktail featuring Seven Fathoms Rum. The reason it’s not already in the states yet? During the distillation process, the barrels are sunk into the ocean where the movement of the waves gently process the alcohol before it’s introduced to the air. It was paired with a Fluke Crudo with Crispy chickpeas and seasoning pepper escabeche. First rule when entering the Caribbean: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! But the Seven Mile cocktail provided sweet relief.

The first course kicked out any expectations we had about the upcoming meal. The Fresh Clams BLT featured smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes and charred ciabatta with a bold flavor that left us wanting to lick the plate! It was paired with a Loimer – Lois Gruner Veltliner 2011 that added a lightness and cut out some of the heat. Chef Patel explained that he used clams as a substitute for the land crab that is normally used, as clams are scarce in the Cayman.

The second course placed an emphasis on freshness as a farmer salad featuring organic beets, goat cheese, and red spinach in a Cayman citrus vinaigrette paired with a Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2010. On the island, callaloo leaves are used instead of spinach, and Chef Patel featured a feta-style goat cheese that added a sharpness to the salad that we loved.

We dove right into the third course of day boat striped bass with gnocchi tat soi, Romano beans, and Caribbean stone crab butter. The indulgent dish was served with our favorite wine of the evening, a Cloudy Bay Marlborough Pinot Noi 2010. The richness of the sauce brought out a buttery note in the wine, creating a perfect pair.

A 38-day dry-aged strip steak with squash, wild greens, mushrooms, and scotch bonnet pepper jelly comprised the main course with a glass of Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno 2008. The steak was topped with a bit of smoked Cayman salt with a refreshing pumpkin puree on the side. As pumpkin grows all year round on the island, it’s frequently listed on menus there.

At last we reached dessert! Slices of Janagold apple wrapped in almond strudel and topped with coconut ice cream and Cayman honey with a glass of Kracher Cuvee Beernauslese 2009 provided a happy ending to a magnificent meal. Chef Niven explained that guava and mango, which you can pick right off of the trees on the islands, can be used in place of the apple. Another delectable local dessert that he recommended we try? Sticky toffee made with day-old cake soaked in rum and covered in caramel! We may have to book our trip down there now, especially if we want to check out the Cayman Cookout in January!