Genuine Cayman Legacy | Camana Bay Hosts 4th Annual Slow Food Day

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Next Friday, Hedy, Thomas and I are jetting off to a far away land full of familiar faces for Slow Food Day in the Grand Cayman Islands. Slow Food Day celebrates local farmers, seasonal ingredients and farm-to-table cooking. These ideals are extremely important on the rock, where an off season vegetable has to cross an ocean to end up on a menu. This year, Slow Food asked each chef to conceive their dishes based on a female chef who has inspired them. I asked Thomas and Hedy who they would choose and they both immediately started to rattle off names, some I had heard of and some that were new to me.

Thomas narrowed it down to two, April Bloomfield and Alice Waters. Thomas first met April at an event in Grand Cayman and was immediately drawn to her affinity for high quality meats with heavy seasoning. During a trip to New York City, Thomas ate at The Breslin and had April’s famous Scotch Egg. They have remained friends ever since and her cuisine continues to inspire! Alice Waters’ ideal of using fresh, seasonal ingredients at their peak has influenced many chefs, Thomas especially. When he first took the helm of MGFD Grand Cayman, he held himself to Waters’ standards and made those ingredients the focal point of the menu. In honor of April and Alice, Thomas is preparing a Scotch Egg with Mustard Greens Sauce – using a traditional English recipe with fresh island ingredients.

Hedy chose Maida Heatter, whose cookbook she credits with changing her life. Hedy’s adventures in baking started early, perfecting her Easy-Bake Oven brownies for her mother’s discerning sweet tooth. At Hedy’s first restaurant job, she was given Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. Diving into the book every night, perfecting, practicing and baking. Maida’s East 62nd Street Lemon Cake was one of the first recipes from the book that Hedy mastered. A few years later, Maida took Hedy to lunch in Miami and introduced her Michael. And the rest was history.  As a tribute to Maida, Hedy will be creating a bounty of desserts, all featuring lemon and other citrus notes.

Slow Food Day begins Saturday morning at the farmer’s market. Thomas will be showing off his Scotch Egg while Hedy and I peck at the produce. In the evening, Hedy is closing out the show with her dessert booth which will be overflowing with citrus treats. Don’t worry, Thomas and I will taste test them all! I am so excited to visit our Grand Cayman outpost with Thomas and Hedy, I promise to report back and take lots of photos!  You can purchase tickets here. And to follow along with Hedy @hedygoldsmith, Thomas @chefttennant, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Grand Cayman @mgfd_gcm, Slow Food @slowfoodusa and me @honeyitstmoney. See you in Grand Cayman!

That Token Cayman Charm Takes Home Favourite Restaurant

They’ve done it again!  Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink has been voted Cayman’s favourite restaurant for the third consecutive year at Taste of Cayman.  We chalk it up to our staff’s positive energy, teamwork, and of course genuine food, including Pan-Seared Lionfish with local ackee and seasoned pepper vinaigrette, Slow Roasted Local Goat with local calabaza and long bean salad and Warm Doughnuts with local passion fruit curd.

“We worked super hard this year, and definitely brought our A-Game,” says restaurant manager Camille Ross.  “The dishes we did were definitely more intricate this year than in year’s past.  It was a lot of physical work but it was a lot fun… Food came flying out of our booths and our lines were able to keep flowing all night. Most importantly our spirit was on point- we yelled, cheered and made the most noise of anyone there! People came back to see us many times and we had a lot of feedback on how energetic and happy we were. Many guests are hoping we put the lionfish dish on our menu.  We saw many of our regular guests and hundreds of faces we’ve never seen! Even vacationers kept coming back to chat and buy more. I have nothing but positive things to say!”

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Both savory and sweet booths stayed busy all night, only letting up at 10:30, and chef de cuisine Prudent Baselais also took part in a cooking demo of the lionfish dish on the Bon Vivant stage.  He also judged the amateur cook off that followed afterwards!  Several of our regular guests like Slow Food Leader Alan Markoff said everyone was buzzing about our restaurant the whole night.

Taste is one of those events that is a true expression of what’s local to the island, and is its longest running food and wine festival.  Now hosted in our backyard on Camana Bay’s Festival Green, Taste of Cayman began in the late ’80s with a small number of restaurants from the Cayman Islands Restaurant Association meeting in a field to compete in a Chili Cook Off.   The event is now in its 27th year and has now grown to showcase over 45 restaurants and distributors participating in an open air event that attracts thousands of people.  Our restaurant will be 5 years old this summer, but having the opportunity to recognize the work of our team in the restaurant  never gets old and what better reason to show up than Taste!

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There are a number of awards handed out throughout the night by secret judges for Best Booth, Best Food, Best Drink and more. The most coveted award of the night however is the Cayman’s Favourite Restaurant award which is the only people’s choice award. Upon entry festival attendees will receive a wooden nickel which they will carry with them until they determine the one restaurant they deem deserving of the title! The winning restaurant, as voted by the festival attendees will hold rights to the title Cayman’s Favourite Restaurant and receive a $1,000 cash prize.

So… Drinks on Cayman?  Boom! Next up… February’s Clam Bake!

[RECIPE] These Grilled Lionfish Tacos are Up to the Blue Ribbon Task

Grilled lionfish tacos

Eat them to beat them: Grilled lionfish tacos shot on site, and devoured shortly after by yours truly outside Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Grand Cayman.

Our friends at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch are uniting their Blue Ribbon Task Force chefs including Michael around National Taco Day (October 4) and National Seafood Month (October) to raise awareness for sustainable seafood in the most delicious way possible. We most recently covered this topic hugely important the entire TGHG family on our blog with the release of Paul Greenberg’s most recent book, and now we’re back at it again inspired by my week in Grand Cayman, our home away from home where local fish and supporting the marine ecosystem is always top of mind.  Small changes have big impact especially in such a small slice of the Caribbean environment — and we’re talking positive ones here, like the Department of Environment’s lionfish culling program.  The first juvenile Indo-pacific Red Lionfish was removed from a dive site in Little Cayman in 2008 setting in motion a massive public-private partnership lead by DOE and bringing together local residents, dive industry operators, and people like TGHG Special Ops Chef Thomas Tennant in the unique position to influence change thanks to combining a love of SCUBA and skills in the kitchen.  Eat them to beat them we say!  During his 4 year tenure as our Grand Cayman opening chef, Thomas single handedly removed thousands (I wonder if not tens of thousands) of pounds of lionfish at his own spear, not to mention receiving countless deliveries from licensed divers through our service entrance sometimes on a daily basis.  If that drop in the bucket doesn’t count for something on a larger scale, I don’t know what does.

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Thomas returns to the island to host our fall Farm to Table Dinner on October 11, but we’re not waiting for that, taco day, or seafood month to celebrate this legacy that lives on in its simplest and maybe most delicious form every Monday through Saturday during our Happy Hour in Grand Cayman… Grilled Lionfish Tacos!  The recipe below is pretty awesome thanks to its simplicity. A few flavors combining into one juicy bite. The verdantly flecked herb mayo is especially addictive and you don’t need much.  With so many of Sylvester’s foraged avocados on our food bar wall here to deplete, there should be plenty of these going out at Happy Hour. I know I will make my contribution known! Follow both Genuine Instagrams (@MGFD_MIA and @MGFD_GCM) this week for a bigger taste of what’s new on-island. Today we’ll get the best temperature check of what’s in season when the Farmers Market makes its weekly Wednesday pop in our town center of Camana Bay.  Very excited to poke around the stalls with chef de cuisine Prudent Baselais and enjoy some of the ingredients for lunch!

Grilled Lionfish Tacos

Makes 12 tacos

12, 3-ounce lionfish filets, skin on and pin bones removed (you can substitute with a sustainable species like yellowtail snapper in Miami if you can’t find lionfish)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
12 corn tortillas
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup scallions cut on the bias
1 cup picked cilantro leaves
Juice of one lime
¼ cup Herb Mayonnaise (recipe below)
2 ripe avocados, halved and sliced
½ cup shaved radishes
3 limes cut into wedges

Preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill until very hot, or put a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the lionfish filets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill skin side down for 3 minutes. Leave them alone; the filets will stick to the grill if tried to turn too soon. Once they have developed nice grill marks flip gently with a fish spatula to finish cooking for 1 minute on the other side. Remove from the grill to a platter while you warm the tortillas

Pour 1/2 inch water into the bottom of the steamer, then line the steaming basket with a clean, heavy kitchen towel. Lay the tortillas in the basket. Fold the edges of the towel over the tortillas to cover them, set the lid in place, bring the water to a boil and let boil only for 1 minute, then turn off the fire and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. If you wish to keep the tortillas hot for up to an hour, slip the steamer into a low oven or reheat the water periodically.

To assemble, toss the tomato, scallion, and cilantro in the lime juice. Spread the herb mayonnaise on the corn tortillas, layering each with a filet, the sliced avocado and salad mix, topping with the shaved radish. Serve with lime wedges.

Herb Mayonnaise

Makes 2 cups

2 cups mayonnaise
¼ cup basil
¼ cup parsley
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

[VIDEO] Cayman Cookout Countdown: Taming the Lion of the Sea!

One week from today, Thomas Tennant’s fins will be parting the crystalline waters of Grand Cayman island with spear in hand.   As the shirt he appropriately wore to work today indicates, our The Genuine Hospitality Group special ops chef is a natural born killer of lionfish.  Not only is Thomas a certified SCUBA diver, he’s a licensed lionfish hunter, culling this invasive species from the marine ecosystems they threaten, one Big Gulp at a time.  As we like to say, eat them to beat them!

Image-2The 2014 Cayman Cookout descends on our second home in the Caribbean next week from Thursday, January 16 to Sunday, January 19 with Michael, Eric, Mr. Special Ops and I representing Miami headquarters on-island.  Presented the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and FOOD & WINE magazine, this annual culinary extravaganza will bring some of the best known and most respected chefs in the world to the island for myriad events.

For our part, the town of Camana Bay will transform into an Ultimate Dinner Party on Saturday, January 18.  During the Thursday dive, fellow diving chef José Andrés will experience a lionfish hunt for the first time since his original SCUBA certification in the Cayman Islands during the 2012 festival.

MGFD_GCM_Cayman Cookout menu_FinalWe’re banking on these two bringing back a haul, as Saturday depends on it!  The evening will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a special cocktail hour presentation “Taming the Lionfish,” which will celebrate the success of the divers, fishermen, scientists and chefs who have banded together to protect Cayman’s reefs from these ravenous invaders.  José and Michael will accompany Thomas as he demonstrates a recipe like the lionfish ceviche shared with Miss Cayman Islands in the PSA above, after which guests can elect dine at one of Camana Bay’s participating signature restaurants each collaborating with a Cayman Cookout headline chef on a dinner menu.  José will be our special guest at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink; Quebec’s “wild chef” Martin Picard will appear at Abacus; Daniel Boulud will bring French flair to Mizu; and Rick Bayless will unite with Cindy Hutson at Ortanique. Our dinner as you may have guessed will feature the lionfish catch and many other house specialties done fresh, simple and pure. Tickets are $299 for it all, available here through the Cayman Cookout website.

Niven’s Spice Island of the Cayman Kind

GCM Niven Dinner A frame_withNiven_finalsmallThose of you in Grand Cayman are in for a real treat.  For the first time since returning to Miami this spring to assume the leadership role of our flagship kitchen, MGFD chef de cuisine Niven Patel heads back to the Cayman Islands today, his old stomping grounds, for not one but TWO events!  Tomorrow night at the Camana Bay restaurant, enjoy his “Genuine Family” dinner, a beautiful union of local ingredients and Indian flavors prepared the genuine way.  Then on Thursday, Niven will be among several local chefs each cooking for a table of 10 at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman at “Out of the Kitchen,” its annual event benefitting a local culinary scholarship fund.  For reservations, please call the restaurant at 345.640.6433 or email reservationsgcm@michaelsgenuine.com.

Last night back home in the Design District, Niven shared a preview of the magic going along for the ride in two spice mixes, homemade sev (gram flour passed through the tiniest crank-run extruder imaginable,) and pani puri, sun-dried chips made from semolina flour and flash fried before our eyes into a crispy hollow vessel for something delicious.  In India, it’s typically a potato or aloo filling with tamarind water and cilantro, a refreshing street food treat!  One of the spice mixes is for his Local Vegetable Byriani, a pot-“roasted” or “fried” rice dish usually made with basmati, sometimes a protein, and spices.  Niven’s combines black cardamom, cinnamon, clove, tumeric, black pepper, coridander, cumin and dried mango powder, a special ingredient often found perking up chaats (savory street food snacks!)  The other intoxicating mixture is for grilled leg of lamb, including fennel seed, star anise, and something a little more exotic than we are used to but now want to get to know – fenugreek.  This plant is cultivated worldwide and used most commonly in Indian cuisine for its seeds, used in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, daals, and spice mixes like this one, imparting a savory sweetness that is hard to describe but deliciously present in the background.   It is also used as an herb (dried or fresh leaves) and vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and microgreens.)

Boy are we sad to miss out on our gentle Indian’s island adventure, and even more fearful of the hunger pangs that will be inspired by his Instagram, but maybe, if we are lucky, some of these dishes will creep back to home base!  Actually we don’t need luck. We have Niven : )