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Coronavirus changing Cayman's drinking trends

Without visitors coming to the Cayman Islands for most of this year, those working in the hospitality industry have predominantly served residents. As a result, they've learned more about the tastes of Grand Cayman's residents.

Adam Slobodian, a bartender at Seven restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman says he notices a big difference between what tourists normally order and what residents are ordering.

"The local clientele has a different flavour profile," he says. "There are some whiskeys that we used to go through six bottles a week, but now that we're serving only locals, we don't go through one. And there are other things that moved very slowly that we now have to reorder every week."

It's not just with whiskey that Slobodian is seeing a difference. Because Americans make up the large majority of stay-over visitors to the Cayman Islands — and by extension, overnight guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman — the menus are slanted toward American preferences, which include American wines and cocktails on the sweet side. The local customers, however, order fewer American wines and they like their cocktails less sweet, he says.

Although this trend is artificial because it's caused by the special circumstances of COVID-19, it could have some lasting effects.

"Our trends are indicative of who travels," Slobodian says, noting as an example that if Cayman were to open up to European visitors before it opened to American tourists, the menus would have to change to suit the tastes of those guests.

"The longer this goes on, we're going to notice more differences in taste profiles and what moves off the shelf."

In addition to learning more about the beverage tastes of residents, Slobodian was able to use the time during the lockdown period to further his knowledge about spirits.

Employees of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company are encouraged to continue their education and training in their various fields and it's no different for those in the food and beverage sector. When the hotels closed and Cayman Islands residents were instructed by the government to shelter in place, Slobodian took a virtual training course through the Society of Wine Educators. Upon the successful completion of the course and passing the exam, he became a “Certified Specialist of Spirits."

Although he had already completed a mid-level spirits course offered in the Cayman Islands, the Certified Specialist of Spirits encompassed more material.

"It touched on all spirits really," Slobodian says. "Everything from vodka to cachaça, to Korean spirits like soju and vermouth — basically anything that touches the distillation process."

Whiskeys and Whiskies

The Seven restaurant bar where Slobodian works is known for its bourbon whiskey selection, which includes a Woodford Reserve single barrel "Private Selection" that is unique for The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. Its label even reads, “Seven at The Ritz-Carlton."

Although it still offers a strong selection of bourbon whiskeys, Seven carries more Scotch whisky and rye whisky now. The cocktail list for its happy hour — which takes place at the Seven bar from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and offers craft cocktails for CI$7 each — reflects this change. For example, Johnny Walker Black is used in the Candied Popcorn Old Fashioned and the Driftwood cocktails at Seven.

"Scotch is a fun ingredient to work with," says Slobodian. "A blended Scotch like Johnny Walker Black is easy to incorporate because of its balanced flavours, and with a smoky Scotch, you can almost use that like you would a mescal."

The Driftwood cocktail is Slobodian's creation and in addition to Johnny Walker Black, it uses Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, banana liqueur and falernum syrup.
"It's a like a Caribbean version of a Manhattan," he says.

Getting Caribbean flavours into the cocktails is a goal of all the bartenders at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, partially because of its long history in the region and partially because that's what people who live and visit the Cayman Islands want. Because of that, Slobodian believes that two of the coming trends will include more use of rum in cocktails, and not just for the sweet traditional cocktails like piña coladas, but also for sipping cocktails as well.

In addition, Slobodian sees highballs becoming popular again, but with premium and super-premium spirits. There is one customer at Seven who likes to order Johnny Walker Blue — a super premium blended Scotch that typically retails for more than US$200 a bottle — with Coca-Cola. Although purists might scoff at using such a high-quality spirit with Coke, Slobodian doesn't have an issue with it.

"Chefs use the best ingredients to make the best dishes," he says. "There's something to be said for using the best spirits to make the best cocktails. If you don't start with good ingredients, you can't get a superior product."

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

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Hotel happenings in November

First stop, Greece

The Voyage through the Mediterranean series of events at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa's Ave restaurant sets sail on 5 November and drops anchor at its first port in Greece to celebrate the country's rich cuisine and culture. At Simply Greek! guests will enjoy a Greek-inspired menu and cocktails as they listen to Greek music. And ... OPA! — there will be some traditional plate smashing as well. The delicious fun takes place every Thursday evening from 6 to 10 p.m. for a cost of CI$45 per guest, exclusive of beverages and gratuity. After several weeks in Greece, the voyage will eventually continue to another Mediterranean port. Call 746-4111 for reservations.

Get rejuvenated

The second annual Cayman Rejuvenate mind, body and soul wellness event is back from 6 to 8 November at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. A line-up of local experts in yoga, mindfulness, nutrition, skincare, meditation and fitness will lead a full slate of events starting each morning and going through the evening. Two- or three-night Cayman Rejuvenate Retreat packages are available with special room rates and also feature "Wellness Welcome Bags," CI$100 daily food and beverage credits, discounts on spa services, golf and tennis, as well as two tickets to the grand finale event, "Zumba with Soul." Visit CaymanRejuvenate.com to view full event line-up.

Yo ho! A pirate's staycation for thee!

With many of the traditional Pirates Week Festival events not taking place this year because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, it's a perfect chance to look at new ways to enjoy the iconic Cayman Islands celebration. On the Remembrance Day holiday weekend of 6 to 9 November, both the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman are offering family-friendly pirate-themed staycations. Seafire's weekend includes a showing of the film "Pirates of the Caribbean" under the stars, a dress-up party for kids at Camp Seafire, a poolside party with a DJ on Saturday, a treasure hunt, a sand castle building competition and a pirate-themed brunch on Sunday. Special staycation rates start at CI$199 plus CI$30 resort fee and 10% service charge. Call 746-0000 for reservations.

Over at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, kids will embark on a treasure hunt and head to the pool for a pirate plank photoshoot while adults enjoy a delicious lunch and cocktails with a daily CI$100 food and beverage credit. Complimentary activities include a "Pirates Week Splash Pool Bash"; a family movie under the stars; arts and crafts activities to make pirate's eye patches, pirate hats and more; and a pirate-themed kids slumber party. Other featured events include a pirate-themed "Family Sunset Soirée" at Bar Jack; afternoon tea; a live DJ with pirate-themed cocktails and premium liquors at Silver Palm on Friday; and live music at Silver Palm Lounge on Saturday. Those purchasing the Cayman Rejuvenate Retreat room package can enjoy the Pirates Week and wellness events all in the same weekend, all at special staycation rates. Call 815-6300 for reservations.

More themed staycations

Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is offering themed staycations at discounted rates every weekend in November. From 13 to 15 November, it's a "Feel Good Weekend" with a slate of events designed to make guests feel good. From 20 to 22 November, "Friendsgiving Weekend" offers a fun-filled weekend meant to be enjoyed with friends. Friday kicks off with an extended Aperitivo Happy Hour featuring live music, craft cocktails and Spanish-style small plates from CI$5-$7 until 9 p.m. On Saturday, Seafire’s Ultimate Pool Party has a "Carnival" theme and will feature live music, entertainment and signature drinks. From 27 to 29 November, the "Ho Ho Holiday Weekend" will put guests in the Christmas spirit. Enjoy a classic holiday movie under the stars, a visit by Santa Claus with a chance to get a family portrait with the Big Guy himself, a Christmas market, a live concert and plenty of tasty holiday treats. Call 746-0000 for reservations.

Speakeasy

As part of Cayman Cocktail Week from 16-23 October, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa converted its lobby library into a 1920s-style speakeasy bar to mark 100 years since the start of American Prohibition. Bartenders dressed in period clothing and served classic cocktails while old newsreels played on the wall. Pictured here behind the bar are Seafire's Steven Fanning and Jacques Scott's Amba Lamb. Photo: Jim Gates/Bluedot Studios.

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

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The "Sister Islands" as culinary destinations

Most visitors of the "Sister Islands" — Cayman Brac and Little Cayman — probably don't go there primarily for the food. 

The Sister Islands are better known for their pristine and peaceful environments. If any part of the Cayman Islands can be still called "the islands that time forgot," it is Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the energetic ying to Grand Cayman's yang.  

When it comes to cuisine, it is Grand Cayman that shines brightest with some 200 restaurants offering everything from world-class fine-dining experiences to local and ethnic cuisine from around the world. However, while Grand Cayman might have earned the moniker of "The Culinary Capital of the Caribbean," visitors shouldn't assume the food in the Sister Islands isn't good; indeed, just like the islands themselves, restaurants on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman offer unique charms as well.

Le Soleil d'Or

Located on the south coast of Cayman Brac, Le Soleil d'Or is an elegant farm inn, making it different than any other hospitality property in the Cayman Islands.

The inn features five accommodations — a Coast House and four rooms in the Manor House — nestled among the flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruit trees growing on the 20-acre organic farm.

Fresh ingredients produced on the farm are the focus of the restaurant, which currently serves only guests staying at the inn.

The fresh farm ingredients are supplemented by local proteins — including seafood from the clear waters surrounding Cayman Brac — and a selection of high-quality imported ingredients that serve as the supporting cast for breakfast, dinner and picnic lunches to go.

Breakfast is what excites many Le Soleil d'Or guests most. Fresh organic eggs from the farm's chickens feature in several of the breakfast offerings, as do garden vegetables and tropical fruits, making the farm-to-table experience at Le Soleil d'Or one in which the carbon footprint of many of the ingredients can be measured in a small number of footprints from source to kitchen.

Besides omelettes and other egg dishes prepared with fresh farm vegetables, other breakfast favourites include parfaits made with house-made yoghurt, fresh fruits from the farm, candied papaya, granola and garden mint. Other choices include fluffy pancakes, waffles and French toast, all served with real maple syrup. 

Fresh fruit platters and fresh fruit juices are available with meals and in the rooms, with selections depending on what is in season. The juices, some mixed with other ingredients like honey lemonade, are also used to make fresh-fruit cocktails.

Hungry Iguana

Over on Little Cayman, the restaurant at Paradise Villas serves an eclectic mix of local, continental and ethnic cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As expected, there are egg dishes for breakfast, burgers and sandwiches for lunch and fresh fish, meat and pasta selections for dinner. What probably isn't expected is to also find at the same restaurant Caribbean dishes like ackee and saltfish, jerk chicken and jerk pork, conch fritters, conch chowder and black bean soup, alongside Asian dishes like vegetable stir-fries, pork potstickers, chicken-lemongrass dumplings and vegetable spring rolls and a variety of Indian dishes.  For breakfast, the menu includes vegetarian Indian dishes like dosa and for dinner, the Hungry Iguana serves some of the best Indian foods available in the Cayman Islands.

Prepared by Chef Jaison Joseph, who comes from Kerala on the Malabar Coast of southwestern India, the Indian menu choices include curries with fish, shrimp, chicken or lobster when it's in season. There's also spicy vindaloo with chicken, pork, lamb, shrimp or lobster, chicken tikka masala and butter chicken.

Vegetarian curries are also available, as is gopimanchurian, a cauliflower-based Indian dish in a spicy tomato and soya sauce gravy.

The Indian dishes are served with authentic accompaniments like poppadum, butter naan, vegetable pulao rice, raita and mango chutney.

The Indian specialties on the menu at Hungry Iguana have expanded over the last couple of years as demand — with residents of Little Cayman as well as visitors from Grand Cayman and abroad  — has increased.

Those thinking about a staycation at Paradise Villas should know that it will be closed from 8 September through 30 September, reopening on 1 October. 

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All kinds of fun at Seafire

There are numerous fun activities happening at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa this month and beyond, but one of them is a secret. Since we trust Camana Bay Times readers to keep a secret, we're going to tell you: The Seafire speakeasy is back.

From 16 to 23 October, Kimpton Seafire would like all fun-loving secret keepers to join its beverage team in the lobby library for a toast to mark 100 years since Prohibition began and America went dry. For almost 14 years starting in 1920, it was illegal under most circumstances in the United States to manufacture, transport, import or sell intoxicating beverages.

The law, however, didn't stop millions of Americans from enjoying a tipple or two. With nowhere to go to buy alcohol legally, many Americans visited establishments that sold alcohol illegally. These "speakeasies" were talked about in hushed tones and customers would often need to use a password at the door. To enter the Kimpton "Library" speakeasy, you'll need to know your "library membership number." If anyone asks, your membership number is 345; but shhhh ... keep it a secret. 

No reservations are required to enjoy the classic cocktails, sounds and styles of the Roaring Twenties, daily from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m.

Barbacoa

Jamaica has its jerk, but in Mexico, it's barbacoa, a similar way to slow cook meat over an open fire or, more traditionally, in a fire pit dug in the ground and covered with leaves. The English word "barbecue" derives from barbacoa.

Every Saturday evening in October starting at 5:30 p.m., Coccoloba restaurant will fire up the smoker and BBQ grill to prepare foods — most of which aren't on its regular menu — to honour the traditional Mexican barbacoa. Meals will be served family style at tables on the sand or deck while musicians play live Mexican music.

The evening includes a sunset ritual with a piñata and smoky cocktails that match the theme, like mescal margaritas. Reservations are required. 

Voyage through the Mediterranean

Cayman Islands residents might not be able to travel easily right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they can still take a culinary journey through the Mediterranean every Thursday night at Ave restaurant starting on 5 November. 

The "Voyage through the Mediterranean" event menus will reflect different regional themes every six weeks, starting with Greece. The "Simply Greek" nights will appropriately start with a traditional plate-smashing ceremony. 

The cost is CI$55 for the food, which includes a selection of family style appetisers, entrées and desserts. Beverages are extra. Reservations are required.

Aperitivo Happy Hour

Those looking for a civilised happy hour in a beautiful setting need look no further than the Ave Lounge, which is offering "Aperitivo Hour" Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Enjoy sipping and snacking on handcrafted cocktails and Spanish-style tapas for special prices between CI$5 and $9 from the lounge or out on the Ave Terrace while watching the sunset. 

Beach days

For those who feel like lockdown stress has been replaced by daily grind stress, a day at the beach is in order. Kimpton Seafire is offering a "Day Getaway" where residents can rent a cabana or chaise lounge and enjoy the resort's beach or pool with food and beverage service and access to non-motorised watersports. Prices start at CI$29.

Staycation enhancement

Are you still thinking about taking a weekend staycation, or perhaps enjoying another staycation? Kimpton Seafire Resort is sweetening the pot with a number of complimentary weekend staycation activities for the whole family.

Friday nights offer family-friendly movies under the stars. Welcome the day on Saturday with a yoga class followed by a healthy virgin cocktail, or get in a workout at boot camp. Then there's a DJ by the pool that's filled with floaties for the kids — or for the young at heart. On Sunday, try a paddleboard yoga session or enjoy some retail therapy with a morning sale of items at the Spa at Seafire. Later in the day, enjoy a spa and wellness social hour so that you can wake up Monday morning feeling refreshed and ready to face the work week. 

Beach yoga for all

Channel your inner peace and improve your health with yoga every morning — and early evenings on Monday — on the Beach Deck at Seafire.

Cayman Sports runs a variety of classes including power flow, vinyasa flow, yoga sculpt, hip opener flow and beginner yoga. There's also a boot camp session on Saturdays at 8 a.m. The classes are free for staycationing hotel guests, but non-guests can still attend for a cost of CI$15 per class, or CI$130 for a 10-class package. Juices and smoothies are included after Saturday morning classes. Email [email protected] for more information or to register.

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

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Summer fun at Seafire

It is a common belief that with great challenges come great opportunities. With the hotels of the Cayman Islands facing their biggest challenge ever as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there's an opportunity to engage with local residents like they never have before. Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is embracing that opportunity. 

In addition to its unprecedented staycation offerings, Seafire is now offering several weekend retreats aimed at residents of all ages who are staying at the resort.
The "Seafire Beach Club" concept involves three weekends of themed events that include music, food and various other activities tied to the theme.

Family time

The first Seafire Beach Club weekend, called "Family Date Nights," takes place 14-16 August. Family-friendly activities over the weekend include a sandcastle-building competition, movies under the stars with popcorn and gelato treats and beach lantern-making activities for kids.

On Saturday 15 August, a special family feast will take place at the Seafire Beach Deck showcasing a wide selection of culinary delights served family style. The event features live music, fire dancers and other family-friendly activities, including a beach bonfire.

Wellness

Personal wellness is the theme for the weekend of 21 -23 August. The "Feel Good Weekend" features a line-up of Grand Cayman's wellness-centered island entrepreneurs. 

Saturday 22 August starts with a personal boot camp followed by a yoga session on the Beach Deck, complete with a selection of fresh organic cold-pressed juices. Other wellness activities include a kombucha tasting, a "lunch and learn" with a gut health expert and a session that teaches “15 ways to remove negative energy from your home.”  The Spa at Seafire will also offer its new holistic spa therapies that focus on mind, body and spirit.  

The weekend also includes Seafire's first showcasing of plant-based culinary delights, as well as organic and biodynamic rosé sparking wine.

Hotel guests for the wellness retreat will enjoy a 5 p.m. late checkout to enjoy spa experiences, which includes a sale of up to 70% off on spa merchandise. 

Forever Friday

The last weekend of August pays homage to the Friday vibe — all weekend long.

Several of Grand Cayman's favourite DJs will be on hand to get people dancing. The party gets started at 9 p.m. on Friday 28 August with soca music on the Beach Deck. 
The action moves to the pool the following day, with electrifying house music setting the tone, while dancers sip "rosé all day."

Brunch at AVE restaurant on Sunday finishes up the fun-filled weekend.

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

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