On Jan. 26, for the 31st time, Grand Cayman’s most comprehensive restaurant and beverage purveyor showcase will take place on Camana Bay’s Festival Green.
But over the years, the Taste of Cayman Food & Drink festival has evolved to being more than just an event to indulge in Grand Cayman’s culinary delights; it’s also become a time to experience the island’s culture as well. This year, Cayman Islands culture will occupy a bigger portion of the event’s agenda than ever before.
Cayman Islands Tourism Association Executive Director Tiffany Dixon-Ebanks said guests could look forward to a diverse variety of local and international cuisines, as well as a celebration of Cayman Islands culture.
“Taste of Cayman brings together locals and visitors for one amazing night under the stars to celebrate everything we love about island life,” she said.
Many of the cultural aspects of Taste of Cayman will be staged from an expanded “All Things Cayman” area. In addition to popular annual events like the Heavy Cake Competition, the Seven Fathoms Mixology Competition and the Amateur Chef Cook-off, this year the All Things Cayman area will also include traditional rope crafts, steel pan music demonstrations, folk singers and traditional dance performances.
In addition, a series of “island life” illustrations by local artist Michelle Bryan will be on display. These illustrations depict several Caymanian culinary characters, local food and drink favourites, and some island icons like the Cayman parrot, palm trees and stingrays.
FOOD AND DRINK
The main aspect of Taste of Cayman will continue to be a celebration of Grand Cayman’s restaurants and beverage purveyors. Last year’s Taste of Cayman featured 40 restaurants and bars and this year’s event is expected to attract a similar number. The festival will again also feature a selection of local musicians and international tribute acts.
As it has for the past two years, the local marketing, communications and events agency Tower will produce the Taste of Cayman. As a sneak preview of what some of the participating food and beverage booths will offer this year, Tower arranged a “Mystery Bus Tour” for the media in December. The tour stopped at three restaurants, including The Brasserie, Agua Restaurant & Lounge — at its new location in Camana Bay — and Bandidos Cantina.
Bandidos’ Managing Director Jason Moir said his restaurant, which had been open only two months when it participated in the 2018 Taste of Cayman, would be more prepared this year when serving its street corn, a dish that was a crowd favourite last year.
“We prepared 800 ears last year and we ran out at 8:30,” he said. “We will double the order this year.”
Moir said both versions of the restaurant’s popular street corn will be served: Bandidos street corn with chipotle aioli, corn tortilla crumbs and cotija cheese, and Mexican street corn with lime, butter, cilantro and cotija cheese.
Cristiano Vincentini, co-owner of Agua, said the restaurant would be participating again this year after missing last year as it prepared for its move to Camana Bay. Agua was a past winner of the People’s Choice Award for Best Restaurant as voted on by the event attendees, who are able to give a vote token they receive on arrival to their favourite restaurant of the evening. This year, Agua will serve a conch ragù and homemade shell pasta dish it recently created.
“We’ll also be bringing a dessert for the first time,” Vincentini said.
The Mystery Bus Tour also stopped at the 19-81 Brewery, a producer of craft beer named after the approximate latitude (19 degrees north) and longitude (81 degrees west) of Grand Cayman. 19-81 Brewery will participate in Taste of Cayman for the first time and will serve two of its beers from tap, said Brewmaster Jordan MacNevin.
“Taste of Cayman will be great exposure for us,” he said.
EXPERIENCES & VIP
Taste of Cayman will also bring back the Experience Room, where small groups of people can watch or participate in various culinary demonstrations. This year, private chef Dylan Benoit will lead “Dark Dining” sessions in which guests are blindfolded and then given foods that they can’t see, leading to heightened sensations of smell, tastes, textures and sound.
Other planned experiences include Chef Thomas Tennant’s giving a demonstration on how to cook lion fish and iguana; a Seven Fathoms Rum tasting; a “Behind the Seeds” tour of Grand Cayman’s local produce; and a “Find your Spirit” cocktail-making demonstration.
Tickets for the Experience Room are sold separately, but one ticket is included in the VIP package, which also includes priority parking, express festival entry, access to the deluxe restrooms, access to the air-conditioned VIP tent, a welcome drink and 25 food and drink tokens.
CHARITY AND EVENT TICKETS
In addition to being the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s biggest annual fundraising event, Taste of Cayman also supports local charities through its raffle. This year, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations was chosen as the charity. Tickets are $5 and prizes include, among other things, airline tickets on Cayman Airways and tickets to the South Beach Wine and Food festival in Miami.
Gates open for the Taste of Cayman at 5 p.m. on Jan. 26 and the event ends at 11:45 p.m. Advance tickets can be purchased at Bon Vivant, Funky Tangs and at BlackBeard’s and Big Daddy’s stores, as well as online at www.tasteofcayman.org. General admission tickets cost CI$40 in advance or CI$50 at the gate.