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Eating in Eden

The Cayman Islands boasts a burgeoning dining scene.

The Cayman Islands has a catchy new moniker: Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.

While many Caribean countries have been slow to follow North America’s embrace of local, organic cooking, Cayman has proven to be an exception. It’s been doing its collective best to follow this and other forward-thinking dining trends—and with panache.

The Cayman Islands is set in the heart of the Greater Antilles, south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica. The largest of the small cluster of islands is Grand Cayman (population 52,000). Add the Sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to the mix, and you get 264 square km—about four times the size of Manhattan—of top-rated hotels, elegant resorts, sensational beaches, world class diving and natural beauty. Not to mention more than 200 restaurants, offering a range of experiences from beachside to fine dining.

On Grand Cayman, known for the magnificent sandy expanse of Seven Mile Beach, the dining is clustered along West Bay Road, and has more recently expanded to Camana Bay. Obviously, a wide range of experiences are on offer, but from the perspective of the big spending gourmand, the jewel in the crown is irrefutably Blue by Eric Ripert, in The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman—which, of course, is helmed by the same, incomparable Chef Ripert of Manhattan’s three Michelin starred Le Bernardin. Ripert is so masterful with fish and seafood that, like chef of the century Paul Bocuse before him, he has been named to France’s Legion d’Honneur for his contribution to French culinary culture. Which is to say that—short Eating in Eden The Cayman Islands boasts a burgeoning dining scene
of a bad seafood allergy—there is no good reason to not give Blue a try.

Also noteworthy for inventive dishes is Luca, at the seaside Caribbean Club, where the cellar packs some 3,000 vintages. The Brasserie is a local favourite, offering “seato-fork” dining, and a kitchen garden that thrives under the watch of Chef Dean Max. Abacus, meanwhile, offers unforgettable contemporary Caribbean dining and a fantastic bar and patio scene. Osetra Bay is a luxuriously casual waterfront restaurant and lounge and sets a high standard for service and attention to detail. It’s found in the tranquil West Bay district of Morgan’s Harbour. At Ristorante Pappagallo, meanwhile, Chef Marco Signori stresses simple, contemporary cuisine that features locally caught seafood. A particular highlight of the Pappagallo experience is the 30-foot-long Cayman-style Silver Thatch roof, under which guests dine.

CAYMAN TASTING EXCURSION

The Cayman Islands has something for everyone, especially when it comes to cuisine. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience it first-hand from:

JANUARY 13 TO 20, 2016

This expedition offers a selection of international five-star dining, island tasting and sea-to-fork local cuisine that celebrates the best of Cayman gastronomy

TASTE OF CAYMAN

Taste of Cayman Food & Wine festival takes place each February at The Town Centre at Camana Bay. It’s a food lover’s dream, with over 18,580 sq. metres (200,000 sq. ft.) of space devoted to tasting booths that offer local delicacies and samples from fine dining establishments on the island—not to mention VIP champagne lounges, wine sampling opportunities and live entertainment.

ERIC RIPERT AND ANTHONY BOURDAIN
COCKTAIL WEEK

Cayman Cocktail Week delivers seven days of cocktailinspired events, dinners and classes—all aimed at giving visitors a chance to experience some of Cayman’s best bartenders, bars and restaurants. Sip champagne poolside. Steal away to a speakeasy. Enjoy perfect food pairings. There’s a full week of cocktail exploration to be done. Look for Cocktail Week near the end of October each year.

RESTAURANT MONTH

Cayman Restaurant Month offers prix fixe dining at some of the island’s best restaurants for the whole month of October. Participating locations create delicious two- and three-course lunches and three-course dinners (with wine pairing available at select restaurants) starting at about US$15 for lunch and US$40 for dinner.

THE CAYMAN COOKOUT

One primary reason for Cayman’s culinary surge is an annual festival called the Cayman Cookout, which takes place next year from January 14 to 17.

Eric Ripert Cayman Islands Cookout

ERIC RIPERT

In its eighth year, the Cookout has established the Cayman Islands claim to international gastronomic legitimacy in a manner as convincingly successful as, say, the World Gourmet Summit has done for Singapore. The Cookout is sponsored by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, and Food & Wine magazine, and is hosted by the aforementioned Eric Ripert. His restaurant, Blue, and the beautiful hotel in which it is located—The Ritz-Carlton— serve as hub for the four days of epicurean experiences that span great meals, cooking demonstrations, tastings and excursions, as well as personal encounters with world-class chefs and sommeliers.

Ripert aside, the 2016 chef line-up for the Cookout includes Ripert’s old
friend and sidekick Anthony Bourdain, irrepressible host of the hit CNN-broadcast TV-show Parts Unknown, and irreverent author of Kitchen Confidential. The legendary Spanish-American chef José Andrés will also be in attendance, along with some of his famous Jamón Iberico de bellota, the best quality edition of the world’s finest ham.

Hubert Keller, the Alsatian chef behind Fleur de Lys in San Francisco (and Las Vegas) is also on the program, as is Michael Mina, whose 18-restaurant empire includes a Michelin-starred flagship in San Francisco. So is Tom Colicchio, of Craft restaurants, and long-time head judge on Top Chef (USA). Other culinary luminaries on the bill include Florian Bellanger (former head pastry chef at the venerable Fauchon of Paris), Southwest Cuisine pioneer Dean Fearing, Cindy Hutson of Ortanique (Miami and Grand Cayman), the exceptionally talented Ludo Lefebvre (Trois Mec and Le Petit Trois, LA), and Dean Max (Parallel Post Restaurant, Trumbull Ct.).

Our Canadian culinary flag has been held high in the past by chefs like Martin Picard (Cabane à Sucre au Pied de Cochon), Susur Lee (Lee), Lynn Crawford (Ruby Watchco and host of Pitchin’ In), Dale MacKay (winner of the first season of Top Chef Canada and owner of Ayden Kitchen & Bar) and Paul Rogalski (Rouge Restaurant and Bistro Rouge).

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