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Epic culinary failures

Every professional chef has kitchen stories and some of them — especially those about restaurant failures — aren't the kind they typically tell in public.

However, on 19 May, guests at the third instalment of Bacaro's "Chef's Stories" dining series got to hear some of these less-than-flattering stories directly from the 13 participating chefs in an episode titled, "Epic Culinary Fails."

The format of the dining series has chefs from different local restaurants set up food stations both inside and outside at Bacaro. Guests are given a pack of coupons that allow them to receive one small plate of food item from each of the participating chefs. If they still have room after enjoying that much food, guests can use two "wild card" coupons to get additional plates of their favourite dishes.

At the "Epic Culinary Fails" episode, a poster hung at each chef's station had a title and image that in some way related to their culinary failure. Guests were encouraged to ask the chefs to tell their story.

Bacaro Head Chef/Partner Federico Destro's station was called, "Scarface," so named because of a kitchen accident where hot oil from the deep fryer splashed on his face.

The resulting burn was bad enough that he missed a week of work, but not bad enough that he left the kitchen right away.

"Chefs can't leave when there are guests in the dining room," he said, adding that he finished off the remaining two hours on his shift.

Although the burns ultimately did not leave scars, they were scary to look at for a while, which caused a different problem for Destro.

"I had just started going out with my wife and I didn't want her to see me like that, so I didn't see her for a week."

In most cases, the dishes served by the chefs related to the kitchen failure. In Destro's case, his cheddar cheese brûlée was topped with asparagus tempura, appropriately deep fried in oil.

Carnivore Chef Dylan Benoit's epic failure happened when he was a chef at the now-closed Osetra Bay restaurant in West Bay.

"I torched a big pot of lobster bisque," he said. "Once you burn the bottom of the pot, you can't get that flavour out. We had to dump the whole thing."

For the event, Benoit served the famous soup at his station.

"This is my lobster bisque redemption."

Bestlife Culinary Chef Maureen Cubbon's epic fail also happened in a dining room here on Grand Cayman. While serving chateaubriand beef tableside, she accidentally flung a burning ember onto a guest's rabbit hair jacket.

"The whole dining room smelled of burnt hair," she said. "We had to replace the jacket."

Fire was also an element of private chef Eliot Wilkie's "Master Disaster."

Working at a wedding in Wales when he was 16 years old, Wilkie tried to open a chaffing dish with one hand while holding something else in his other hand and accidentally knocked the tin holding the burning chaffing gel onto a guest.

"I set fire to the bride's auntie's dress," he said.

The epic fail of Stefano Franceschi of Gelato & Co. in Camana Bay occurred in Italy more than 20 years ago.

"I was filling a pitcher with chocolate syrup from a 60-litre container and I got distracted," he said. "Next thing I knew, there was a lake of chocolate coming under the door out of the kitchen. It took two days to clean it all up."

Twenty-five years later, Luca Restaurant Chef Luca Cocchieri still hasn't lived down the epic fail he caused at a big wedding in Italy when he was 15 years old.

Charged with making the gnocchi for the main course, Cocchieri made a mistake when mixing the ingredients. He knew he made a mistake, but was afraid to tell the head chef and hoped nobody noticed. However, when added to boiling water, the gnocchi dissolved into a gooey mess and couldn't be served.

"The chef made me go out and tell the bride we couldn't serve the main course for her wedding because of me," he said, adding that the bride was understanding and just asked that they make something else instead. However, his colleagues have been less forgiving.

"They found me on social media recently and said, 'We see you have gnocchi on the menu. Are you sure that's a good idea?"

For the Chef's Stories event, however, Cocchieri served gnocchi, cooked to perfection.

All of the stories told by the chefs had a happy ending though, as they each said the same thing: "I didn't get fired."

The final episode of the Chef's Stories series takes place on a Saturday evening to be determined in November.

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This article appears in print in the July 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Alan Markoff.

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Raising the bar: a day for piña coladas

If you like piña coladas … then July the 10th is your day, as it is International Piña Colada Day!

The piña colada is one of the Cayman Islands' most popular cocktails (with locals and visitors alike) and there are numerous variations on the theme across the many bars, restaurants and resorts on the island.

Personally, but genuinely without (much) bias, I am inclined toward Coccoloba’s classic recipe and decadently "slurshing" (It's a word. Trust me. No need to look it up.) its viscous deliciousness and the mix of light, dark and coconut rums they serve it swirled with. However, I will happily quaff whichever variant is on offer wherever I am.

If you find yourself in the restaurant or bar in Ave at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, you’ll find a twist on the Champagne piña colada called "Escape (If you like Pina Coladas)," in which we sous vide fresh pineapple and local coconut into white rum, then shake it with fresh coconut and local pineapple before straining it into sparkling wine in a coconut sand encrusted flute glass.

The traditional sumptuous sweet, fruity and fresh mix of pineapple, coconut and rum is much older than the song that has boosted its already global renown, originating sometime in the 1950s, but definitely in Puerto Rico. (There is a 1922 drink that bears the same name and comes from Cuba, but this was essentially a pineapple daiquiri, and is perhaps the framework on which the masterpiece was painted.)

Three Puerto Rican bartenders lay claim to the creation of the modern classic cocktail, two from the Caribe Hilton in San Juan and one from Barrachina restaurant in Old San Juan. Regardless of the actual progenitor, one thing is for sure: The drink as we know it wouldn’t exist without Don Ramón Lopez Irizarry.

Don Ramón was an agriculture professor at the University of Puerto Rico who used a government grant to develop an answer to the problem of obtaining and stabilising the cream of the heart of the coconut. In 1948, by mixing the coconut flesh with a secret process and recipe involving natural cane sugar, he created Coco Lopez cream of coconut (not to be confused with coconut cream), which became the sweet, sticky, gooey heart of the piña colada.

Here's the classic piña colada recipe:

Ingredients:

2 ounces light rum (or a blend of light, dark and coconut rum)
3 ounces fresh pressed pineapple juice
1 ounce Coco Lopez cream of coconut
½ ounce fresh lime juice
¼ cup frozen pineapple chunks
Pinch of sea salt

Method:

Add all of the ingredient to a blender with 2-3 ice cubes and blend on high for 20-30 seconds. Serve in a large glass — or a cored frozen pineapple!
Umbrella is optional, just like the pineapple sunglasses and the tiki shirt.

Jim Wrigley is the beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

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This article appears in print in the July 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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Raising the bar: cheers to the longest day

Despite the gradual easings of the pandemic restrictions around the world, it is unlikely that on 20 June 2021 there will be too many people travelling from abroad to Amesbury, which is in Wiltshire in the United Kingdom.

Traditionally, however, people have headed to the standing stones at Stonehenge on the first day of summer for nearly 5,000 years to celebrate the summer solstice, or longest day of the year.

There and then the giant stones — which were transported to the site over a series of phases hundreds of years apart — align with the sun in a way that it beams down on the central altar stone on this day alone.

Coming from the Latin for the sun(sol) and to stand still (sistere), this astronomical event is not, as one might have thought, the day when we are closest to the sun, but rather the day when Earth’s 23-degree tilt causes the Northern Hemisphere to be faced as much toward the sun as it gets. Concurrently, it is the Southern Hemisphere’s shortest day.

Neither is it the earliest dawn, nor the latest sunset — both of these occur a few days before and after respectively — and the hottest days of the year typically won't appear for several more weeks, or, as it is in Cayman's case, until early August.

The solstice does however mark the astronomical beginning of summer for the Northern Hemisphere, which is ironic as it is also around the time of midsummer celebrations that are prevalent throughout northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Shakespeare’s play, "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," tells of the faerie-folk who come from their world to ours at this magical time, and herbal remedies are supposedly more effective if the herbs are gathered then.

Having a long day with a lot of history, tradition and, of course, sunlight, begs the eternal question: "What should we drink in celebration of this longest of days?'

Well, I may be biased, however I think Coccoloba at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa on Seven Mile Beach is one of the best places to watch any sunset, and the "Mezcal Sunrise" served there will work wonders as a long, luscious, slightly smoky sipper any time of the day and any time of the year.

Here's how to make one for your own summer solstice celebration.

Mezcal Sunrise

Ingredients:
1.5 ounces Los Vecinos Espadin Mezcal
0.25 ounces Cassis
0.25 ounces pomegranate cordial
0.75 ounces fresh lime juice
Soda water

Method:
In a hurricane or other tall glass, add all ingredients except soda water to shaker with cubed ice. Shake and strain over fresh cubed ice. Top with soda water and garnish with an orange slice and a lime wheel.

Jim Wrigley is the beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

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This article appears in print in the June 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.

 

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Secrets of the spa: welcoming men to spa services

In today’s fast-paced society, men and women alike are seeking ways to unwind and spas offer a popular way to do just that.

At the Spa at Seafire, we are definitely seeing more male customers every year. In fact, a study conducted by the International Spa Association indicated that men now make up 47% of the spa customer base.

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Secrets of the spa: the skin benefits of seaweed

Seaweed … it’s no one’s favourite thing to step on in the ocean or to smell on the seashore. However, this marine powerhouse is truly remarkable for our skin.

It is rich in sodium, iron, potassium, calcium, B vitamins and abundant in minerals from the seawater. There are many types of seaweed and the benefits of each species are unique. There are three main categories of seaweed: green, brown and red.

Undaria pinnatifida, also known as wakame, is a brown kelp native to cold Pacific Ocean waters of northeast Asia. It is a highly invasive species that grows rapidly and threatens the habitat of marine plants worldwide.

By harvesting this seaweed, humans are actually supporting the delicate marine ecosystem. When boiled, wakame turns bright green and is used extensively in Japanese and other Asian cuisines. However, Undaria pinnatifida also offers many benefits when used in skincare products because it contains a compound called fucoidan.

This ingredient is great for hydrating the skin and helping keep it soft and supple. Studies have also shown that fucoidan may prevent the growth of cancer cells and has antiviral, neuroprotective and immune-modulating effects.

Macrocystis pyrifera, or giant kelp, is the largest of all marine algae. It can be cultivated organically and used in skincare products. Its main skincare benefits are its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Antioxidants are known to help protect skin against UVA rays, extreme environments and daily pollution. Protecting skin daily from external factors will help maintain its elasticity, reduce wrinkles and keep it looking younger.

Anti-inflammatory properties help reduce redness and irritation from the environment, dryness and existing skin conditions prone to flare-ups or breakouts, like eczema, psoriasis and acne.

Kelp is an excellent moisturiser. Its high mineral content helps the skin and hair retain moisture, reducing the impact of temperature changes and exposure to nature's elements.

Gigartina skottsbergii is a red marine algae packed with moisture-attracting properties that help protect the skin against external factors like extreme dry climates, wind and air pollution.

Gigartina is one of the best algae for skin because it’s so easy to extract the carrageenan — a highly concentrated, sulfated polysaccharide. Polysaccharides are known to hydrate, regulate sebum production, stimulate cell regeneration and boost the production of collagen.

To optimise the benefits of its skincare treatments, the Spa at Seafire adds freeze-dried Gigartina to the products used for its OSEA facials.

In addition to having anti-inflammatory properties, algae-filled skincare products protect skin from the harshness of the outdoors by adding a layer of protection to stop skin from drying out.

Applying seaweed products to the skin of sufferers of acne, rosacea, psoriasis or any other skin conditions can speed up the healing process and maintain protection against further outbreaks.

Anneka Greenway is the manager at The Spa at Seafire at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

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This article appears in print in the May 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.

 

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