You say barbecue, Coccoloba says barbacoa

With Grand Cayman residents unable to travel without risk and the requirement of quarantine when they return, there's a premium on finding new, interesting and fun things to do on island.
That is exactly what Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is trying to provide with the launch of Barbacoa, a Saturday-night-only food, beverage and entertainment event launched last month at Coccoloba Bar & Grill.

"We wanted to continue to entertain locals with new events and at the same time we wanted to enhance the authentic, Mexican-inspired concept of Coccoloba," says Kimpton Seafire Executive Chef Massimo De Francesca.

Barbacoa is actually a traditional method of slow-cooking meat in Mexico, similar to the way jerk was traditionally slow-cooked in Jamaica. The English word "barbecue" derives from barbacoa. Although the Barbacoa event at Coccoloba doesn't prepare food in a fire pit covered with agave leaves the way traditional barbacoa was made in Mexico, it does prepare some of it over an open fire, similar to the way modern barbacoa is made.

In authentic barbacoa fashion, though, the process of preparing the meats is slow.

"We marinate and brine the meats for days beforehand," says De Francesca. "The brisket, for example, is brined for 48 hours, slow-roasted for six hours and smoked for one hour," he says, adding that the organic chicken that is cooked over an open flame is also marinated for more than a day.

Food

Barbacoa, however, is about much more than just meat.

The starters, which are all served family-style and can change from week to week, include items like nachos, tuna ceviche, mixed green salad and elote served on the cob instead of how it is served when ordered from Coccoloba's regular menu. Almost all of the items served for Barbacoa aren't on the regular Coccoloba menu and are designed to highlight authentic Mexican food.

Served along with the starters — even though they are really made to accompany the meats — is a quartet of sauces, including chimichurri, molcajete, aji amarilo and mole rojo.

"We put a lot of effort into making these very authentic Mexican sauces," says De Francesco.

When it's time for the grill course, guests walk down to the beach to the counter not far from where chickens are roasting over an open fire. Here, Coccoloba waiters offer portions of meats and fish like smoked beef brisket, roasted marinated chicken, swordfish steaks and an array of side dishes like charred roasted vegetables, ranchero beans and Mexican rice.

The brisket, which is likely to be a regular menu item, is a particular highlight — full of seasoning and smoke flavour with just the right amount of crispiness on the outside, while melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside.

Dessert includes items like "pizza con chocolate."

"It's a Mexican-inspired dessert pizza, with puff pastry and a hazelnut-chocolate topping and dried raspberries," says De Francesca.

Other desserts include items like churros served with a salted dulce de leche dipping sauce and watermelon wedges that incorporate agave syrup, lime, chili and mint.

Beverages

In addition to beer buckets of Mexican beers — priced at six for $30 — a selection of Coccolobo cocktail favourites are supplemented with cocktails created for Barbacoa. One of them, the "Batanga Country" cocktail created by Kimpton Seafire Beverage Manager Jim Wrigley, is a delicious sipper that blends Ilegal joven mezcal with smoked salt and "smoka-cola." If ever there was a cocktail made to pair with smoked beef brisket, this is it.

Entertainment

After it gets dark and most diners are onto their dessert course, Paul Abel — better knowns as "Paul the Fireman" — and his partner, Shorlet Johnson perform an entertaining series of fire dances to music. Alternating in a way so that when one solo dance ends, another begins, Abel and Johnson use various wooden and whip-like props to create amazing spectacles for the eyes, eliciting many oohs and aahs from the guests.

In addition, live musicians — aided by voice recordings — play Latin beats and after the fire show, Coccoloba hostess Kristina Fonjga Milanovic heads to the makeshift dance floor near the Coccoloba's covered dining area and leads all willing children — and some adults, too — in a variety of Latin dances.

Because it happens on Saturday night, has seating starting at 6 p.m. and offers entertainment and many child-friendly food options, Barbacoa is a family-friendly event that is offered at the very family-friendly price of CI$38 per person, excluding beverages.

For reservations, which are required, call 746-4111.

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This article appears in print in the November 2020 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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