Slow Food Day started off fast. A 6:50am wake-up call got me going, Jackie driving us off quickly into the soft morning light towards the Grounds. There we found the early bustling of the farmers’ stalls, the chefs’ stoves igniting, and the smell of cast iron heating intermingled with the fresh-from-the-earth smell of produce.
The morning heated up, the island breeze working harder to cool us as the market filled with curious shoppers big and small, with eyes wide and minds open to tasting local ingredients prepared in ways both familiar and new by our five participating chefs. We raised money for Feed Our Future, a local non-profit connecting hungry kids in Cayman’s community with nutritious meals by raffling a Cayman Airways round trip ticket to Miami. Picnic tables filled up, and the produce in the stalls cleared out.
Our team rolled back over to the Camana Bay beach where the pit was dug and Michael and Hugh had the goats on the spit. The wood was stacked for the Caboos smoker that Roel would cook the chickens on, Kyle was on salad with its delicious boiled dressing and passed hors d’oeuvres, and Thomas’s snapper station was all set to go. Details were falling into place, our Cayman restaurant team making everything look easy. The sun sat low in the horizon as the chefs ran through a quick pre-service meeting before guests started to arrive. Passed appetizers commenced, welcome cocktails were shaken not stirred, and the guitar and violin players each echoed the waves crashing with harmonic melodies.
After the sun set the main course was served. Soon after, the party was in full swing. Eric could be seen passing back and forth from the water’s edge discouraging bottles of sparkling. The chefs chatted with guests who I heard on more than one occasion confirm that this was the best event the island had ever seen. I couldn’t have agreed more, granted it was my first event on Grand Cayman, but it was special. All this and it wasn’t even 9 o’clock. So in the end, Slow Food Day ended nice and slow.
Thanks again to everyone who helped make #SFD13 such a success. See here for the day in pictures, and we hope to see you again next year!
Congratulations to our amazing island team, winners of Cayman’s Favourite Restaurant at Saturday’s 2013 Taste of Cayman Food & Wine Festival at Camana Bay presented by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association! Thousands of attendees cast their votes after sampling dishes from among 36 participating restaurants.
“It’s a huge honor to be voted ‘Cayman’s Favorite Restaurant’ and extremely gratifying to know that the team’s hard work on this event and everyday in the restaurant had paid off,” says Thomas Tennant, executive chef of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. “We wanted to showcase the importance of supporting local farmers and products on Grand Cayman in our dishes. It feels great to see that fresh, simple and pure philosophy translate to delicious food on the plate that is enjoyed and appreciated by the Island.”
This first-ever overall victory by popular vote comes on the heels of a string of successful appearances at Taste in the pastry department, specifically winning the panel-judged favorite dessert award in both 2010 and 2012. This morning chef Thomas and pastry chef Adriana Duran went on Daybreak to share what was served on Saturday, including Duck Hash – an item on the new Sunday brunch menu – and Coconut Cream Cake.
Taste of Cayman began in the late 1970’s although the date is disputed as a few years were missed here or there. The event began shortly after the formation of the Restaurant Association. It was later adopted by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association when the Restaurant Association and other associations amalgamated in 2001. The Taste of Cayman became non-profit CITA’s largest fundraiser annually and gained a full title of Taste of Cayman Food & Wine Festival in 2008. The event began in the Safe Haven field and drew a crowd of thousands of people from around the island. The event later moved around to such venues as Cayman Turtle Farm and then most recently to Camana Bay’s Town Centre where the event continued to grow. On January 26, festival organizers celebrated its 25th year.
We are so excited to high-five the crew in person on the rock on Thursday, when Roel Alcudia (chef of our soon-to-be fourth restaurant, The Cypress Room in Miami’s Design District,) Ellie, Eric, Hedy and I join Schwartz and Acheson for Slow Food Day 2013! If you are coming from home base in Miami, it’s not too late to book a weekend getaway to our second annual event celebrating all things deliciously local. Cayman Airways is even offering Slow Food Day travelers a special fare, so check it out and if we don’t see you in paradise, come along for the ride through the social media handles linked above.
I thought Kent Rankin only raised goats and hogs, but look at these lovely Lila onions from Saturday!
A whirlwind weekend of celebrity chefs visiting from abroad certainly is exciting for the Cayman Islands and a boon for tourism, but the faces I was most excited to see on-island during our stay for Cayman Cookout this past weekend were our farmers’. For the second consecutive year, Slow Food Day will gather a colorful handful of local growers – from native to expat, backyard farm to multi-plot operation – at The Grounds in Lower Valley on Grand Cayman with local chefs to showcase a rainbow of ingredients in season. What I’ve come to realize over my sporadic visits each year is to always expect the unexpected and come ready to learn a thing or two. The island is dynamic to say the least. Farmers are nimble, trying new techniques on the fly, increasing production or diversifying crops to court new customers (like restaurants,) and rebounding from unpredictable tropical weather with patience, determination and humility. Low and slow, and like it should be! With Slow Food Day just two weeks away, I headed down to the weekly farmers market on Saturday morning to check in with Hamlin Stephenson, Carlton West, Avery Eden, and Joel Walton for a few laughs, some cooking tips for allspice leaves and to taste my first freshly-pressed glass of ice cold cane juice. See how it all went down in pictures here. And congratulations to our staff in Grand Cayman for pulling off another great Cayman Cookout dinner (pictures also here!) See you on February 2 with Hugh Acheson and friends!