By Lindsey Turnbull
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s highly anticipated Taste of Cayman Food and Drink Festival took to Camana Bay’s Festival Green once again last Saturday after a pandemic-induced hiatus. Thousands flocked to the location to enjoy tasty samples from a wide range of local restaurants, as well as some great wines, cocktails and beers and a whole evening’s worth of entertainment.
Tasty bites, great cocktails
Despite some technical hitches with the new wristband electronic ticketing system and long waits to top up the wristbands, attendees were still able to enjoy some seriously good food. Notable dishes were the Westin’s Goat Keema Coconut Pav, an absolutely delicious concoction of mildly spiced goat with all manner of extra chutneys, salads and sides. The arepas from Arepa 345 were also outstanding – the pulled beef, black bean and sweet plantain version a particularly popular choice. The Edgy Veg also managed to excel, elevating the humble cauliflower into a delicious sweet, crunchy, spicy bite. A highlight from the drinks offering was the cocktail from the Johnnie Walker Black label Jacques Scott tent, where you could choose your accompanying flavour to the blended whiskey cocktail (ginger was a good choice).
Following in the footsteps of Cayman’s other great food festival, Cayman Cookout, TOC organisers invited a couple of celebrity chefs to spice up the proceedings – Tre Anderson who won Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada, and Jeff Mauro, host of Food Network’s Sandwich King.
Jeff is no stranger to Cayman, having made many trips to the islands over the years thanks to his aunt and cousins’ love for Cayman which has stretched over 36 years. As far as the culinary scene went, Jeff was extremely positive.
“I’ve been to a lot of islands and Cayman’s culinary scene is by far the best. I’ve come here so many times and there’s a reason I come back. Of course, it’s the food; it’s a dynamic food scene, drawing on so many different cultures which is exciting. I feel there’s always something new to try as well as the old stand-bys,” he confirmed.
Jeff said his “old stand bys” were places like Cayman Cabana, which he frequented often, and he had also had a great night at Peppers.
The people were also a great pull for the Food network star.
“Every year I meet more and more people and that’s what draws me back, with the food,” he confirmed. “This is a place that I can see myself escaping to from Chicago.”
Jeff had never been to Taste of Cayman before and was really excited to finally be at the event. He said he had lots of friends who went to Cayman Cookout and he believed TOC would “surpass it” one day.
Entertainment all evening
Local talent included a special demo by brilliant mixologist Maya Grant and a presentation by the Young Cayman Chef 2023 Brittney Bodden, while Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan and media personality Tammi Sulliman gamely took part in an amateur cook off. Dan Ebanks and Beniel Miller entertained the crowds on the main stage after which time DJ Ron Kirk mixed up some tunes to get the later evening party started.
In the All Things Cayman tent, judges were busy tasting heavy cake and Cayman-style beef in a hotly contested fight for top spot, while there were also some lovely vocals by Red Bay Primary School Choir and the Cayman Youth Choir and some beautiful choreography by the Cayman Dreamchasers. Cayman Folk Singers added their unique talents to the proceedings.
The evening was topped off with a performance by the Material Girls, a tribute band playing homage to some of pop music’s most loved female singers.
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