News from our hotel partners

Staycationing in the Cayman Islands

It's the year of the Cayman Islands staycation.

And why not? Even if residents don't have much choice in the matter, every year tourists spend big money to vacation in the Cayman Islands.

Given what's happening in the rest of the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists would likely spend even more if they could come and have a healthy and safe vacation in our tropical paradise this summer. They can't, at least not until next month, but we can and there are some excellent staycation opportunities at Dart-owned properties across all three Cayman Islands in August and beyond.

Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa

With no tourists on island in August, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is catering to residents with a number of imaginative initiatives. 

"We're trying to come up with as many different options as we can to entice residents to come to Seafire," says General Manager Steven Andre. 

In addition to special room rates, there is also the ability to rent a luxury cabana, day bed or chaise lounge for Seafire's "Day Getaway." These rentals include daytime access to all of the amenities and facilities — including the three-tiered infinity pool — at Grand Cayman's only AAA Five Diamond Resort. On weekends, the Day Getaway includes live music and outdoor activities for kids.

Seafire is also offering a work-play getaway option. The "Office with a View" package offers an oceanfront room from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The package includes usage of all amenities, including the pool, gym and non-motorised watersports.

"What we're trying to do is give people an alternative to working from home," says Steven. "You come for the day, we give you an office with a great view, you come down for lunch or you can have room service delivered, you take a break and go for a swim or workout in the gym. You can even bring your pet."

Email [email protected] or call (345) 746-0000. Book lounge chairs or cabanas online at seafire.idaypass.com. 

Le Soleil d’Or

For those looking to get off the island without leaving the Cayman Islands, both Sister Islands offer staycation options. 

Those yearning for a getaway with personalised luxury need look no further than Le Soleil d'Or on the south coast of Cayman Brac.

"Let us take care of you," says General Manager Anoop Jayaprakash. "Our amazing team is always ready to go above and beyond to provide you with a memorable experience."

Le Soleil d'Or is an elegant farm inn that comprises the Manor House with four guest rooms and the Coast House that sleeps three adults or two adults and two children. 

Included with each room is a complimentary daily breakfast that incorporates some of the fresh fruits and vegetables grown on the organic farm.

The inn's private Beach Club, which features a 50-metre pool and a beach with thatched sun shelters, is located less than a mile away.

"We are happy to provide our guests with snacks, water and towels to enjoy at the beach club," says Anoop. 

Other activities offered by Le Soleil d'Or include a complimentary 40-minute tour of the property's 20-acre farm, as well as access to beach bicycles, non-motorised watersports equipment, the fitness centre and basketball and tennis courts.

"In addition, our guests may choose to purchase services such as massage treatments and dive excursions," says Anoop. 

Buyouts of the four-room Manor House are available for groups. For more information, contact [email protected] or call (345) 926-1966.

Paradise Villas

Residents can leave all of their COVID-19 stresses at home, along with their shoes, socks and wristwatch, with a staycation at Paradise Villas on Little Cayman. 

The laid-back inn features 12 beachfront cottages that offer peace, quiet, rest and relaxation. Catch up on some reading as you lounge by the pool or in a hammock and then head over to The Hungry Iguana restaurant when you're hungry. A small grocery store and liquor shop are just a mango-throw away, as is Little Cayman's quaint airport. 

For reservations, email [email protected] or call (345) 948-0001.

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

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Kimpton Seafire keeping staff fed in style

Most Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa employees who have remained on the island haven’t been able to work very much as a result of the closure of the Cayman Islands’ borders to tourists and the subsequent “shelter-in-place” order due to the Covid-19 threat. But that doesn’t mean staff members haven’t been eating well.

The Kimpton brand is well known for its gourmet approach to dining at its hotels and the culinary team at Seafire wasn’t about to let the coronavirus situation change that.

Kimpton Seafire General Manager Steven Andre says the staff meal programme carried on after the hotel’s closure.

“We wanted to support our staff during this difficult time,” he says. “We have an amazing team which goes above and beyond for our guests every day, and we wanted to do the same for them.”

About half of the Kimpton Seafire’s staff enjoy one meal a day prepared by the kitchen staff.

Andre says the culinary team uses various methods of communicating the menu to staff, including Facebook and group chats.

“The culinary team also sends an email the day prior with upcoming meal offerings,” he said. “Seafire staff will soon have the added option of selecting a meal based on their dietary needs such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, etc. from a web-based document we are in the middle of creating to ensure everyone’s needs are considered. With this platform, we will also be able to send out the entire weeks’ worth of offerings for convenience.”

In addition to staff, the daily meal offerings also include immediate family members, Andre said.

“We also hope to increase the meal periods in the near future to a lunch and dinner offering.”

Staff members pick-up the meals at set times at the designated “drive-up” station in front of the hotel, which ensures that social distancing requirements are met, Andre says.

“The boxed meals are distributed to staff in their car with minimal physical interaction from managers suited up with masks and gloves,” he says. “We are following our government’s protective guidelines and hours for access.”

Culinary creativity

Kimpton Seafire Executive Chef Massimo De Francesca says developing the menus for the staff meals is a collaborative effort with the culinary team, which currently consists of eight members including himself, sous chefs and sous chef leaders and the executive pastry chef.

“The chefs assess our inventories, discuss and plan for the week,” he says. “Our goal is to ensure each meal includes a protein with sides such as starches, veggies and a sauce, gravy or glaze using what we have already in our inventory or what we can source locally during this period.”

Each pick-up box for the staff includes a full meal along with a surprise treat.

“It could be a side of homemade gelato, dessert, cookies or small bags of nuts,” De Francesca says.

Vegan or vegetarian options are offered daily as well.

“We’ll normally design the vegetarian and vegan item to be dairy free, gluten-free and nut free as well in order to accommodate other common restrictions,” he says. “Seafire staff have a direct line of communication with our culinary team, so they are able to accommodate specific allergies or restrictions accordingly.”

The meals, which differ from week to week, are getting rave reviews from staff.

“We love to know that staff is enjoying our preparations,” De Francesca says. “Some of the most popular meals that we’ve created so far are renditions of classic comfort dishes such as shepherd’s pie, which is ground beef and vegetable ragu, gravy and topped with whipped herb potatoes; orange-glazed pork ribs served with sweet potato purée and tropical coleslaw; and crispy fish and chips served with green apple tomatillo salsa and lemon tartar sauce.”

The actual food preparation on a given day is done by four chefs from start to finish, De Francesca says.

“We all wear safety masks and gloves while ensuring the heightened standards for distance and spacing, while maintaining our extremely rigid safety and sanitary precautionary measures.”

In this challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic, De Francesca says the culinary team finds it rewarding to be able to cook for the hotel’s staff.

“We have all worked together for a long time, but it has been especially gratifying to collaborate and support each other through this meal program,” he says.

Andre says the programme is very much appreciated by staff.

“We have had an amazing response from Seafire staff, with many sharing their gratitude,” he says. “It has really kept us all connected and comforted.”

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Treating Mom on Mother’s Day

It’s safe to say that this Mother’s Day on Grand Cayman will be much different than those in the past.

With an all-day “hard” COVID-19 curfew on Sunday, many mothers on Grand Cayman will not get to see their children. However, that doesn’t mean the children can’t shower their mothers with gifts and delectable things to eat.

Several of Dart’s tenants are offering some things that Mom can enjoy on Sunday or at her leisure when the shelter-in-place curfew ends on Grand Cayman.

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Feeding Ladies and Gentlemen with ceremony

Like most of the world, the Cayman Islands tourism industry has come to a halt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotel sector of that industry has been hard hit in terms of the number of employees who no longer have work as a result of local and international airport closures.

Dart, as the hotel owner, funded a voluntary package that included flights for those who were able to leave the island. However, several hundred Ritz-Carlton employees remained and were subsequently subjected to stay-at-home orders.

General Manager Marc Langevin thought of a way to support his “Ladies and Gentlemen” —how the Ritz-Carlton refers to its employees all over the globe — through the stressful period: a daily pick-up meal service available for all employees on Grand Cayman who wanted to sign up for them.

“The meal pick-up service has been a wonderful way to continue to support our Ladies and Gentlemen during these uncertain times and provide some relief to food costs at home, as well as providing healthy options for them to enjoy,” says Langevin.

Every Friday, the culinary team shares a menu created for the following week with all staff members, and provides a link to sign-up for the meal pick-ups. The creative and diverse menu is a collaboration between the hotel’s banquet chefs and its restaurant chefs. 

Members of staff at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman greeted employees coming to pick up meals at Easter with a special holiday ceremony.

The 300 employees who have signed up for the meals drive to The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s porte-cochère near the main entrance, where they first present their employee identification and meal cards at one station. At the second station, employees choose one of two menu options available for the day. And finally, at the third station, there’s a happy little ceremony, delivered with the friendliness, precision and attention to detail that would be expected from a hotel brand that is world-famous for its high service level.

One of the resort’s senior leaders — which include Langevin, Hotel Manager Hermes Cuello and many others — deliver hot boxes to employees. They also provide a special treat for the day, which could be anything from a pastry dessert, fresh fruit, a gallon of milk or even flowers.

There’s music playing throughout the process and the delivery team smiles and dances as they provide employees with their meals.

 “At the core of our Ritz-Carlton values, is providing genuine care for all,” Langevin says. “This is a great way to carry out our company’s motto: ‘We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen’.”

The employees very much appreciate the support and often express their gratitude for the meals, Langevin says, adding that the meal deliveries are gratifying for the management as well.

“We love seeing everyone at the drive-through every day and having that brief connection, even if it is at a distance and for a quick moment,” he says. “We have been able to stay connected as The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman family that we are.”

Community support

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman employees aren’t the only people who get to experience the meal delivery ceremony. As part of the resort’s “Community Footprints” programme, The Ritz-Carlton kitchen also provides 20 to 30 meals for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, which are picked up at the same place near the main entrance to the hotel. In addition, The Ritz-Carlton continues to support Meals on Wheels of the Cayman Islands — which is also part of its annual Community Footprints programme — by providing 120 meals per month.

“One of the things we’ve been reminded of during this crisis is how important it is to support our community and to be more united than ever as a society,” says Langevin. He’s happy The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman can continue to support its Community Footprints charities at a time when that support is most needed.

Langevin said he has “been in awe” of the solidarity he’s seen in the Cayman community since the COVID-19 crisis began.

“We are grateful that we are able to contribute to that,” he says. “We will continue to do so for as long as we can.”

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Article photo: In the kitchen at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, where they prepare daily meals for more than 300 employees, are, from left, Chefs Mario Uxa and Thomas Seifried of Blue by Eric Ripert; Chef Marcello Piacentini of Banquets; and Chef Kunal Sharma of Andiamo.

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Raising the bar: Crafting cocktails at home

Written by: Jim Wrigley

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, our ability to access restaurants and bars is closing down, and the entire planet is being encouraged to stay at home.

Restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and bars fulfil some fundamental human needs, often the very least of which is providing food and drink. They are also social hubs, creative spaces, debate parlours, business deal backdrops, outlets for music or dancing, places for celebrations, commiserations or romantic assignations.

Social distancing, isolation and quarantines may have removed the easy ability to gather in person and laugh over a bowl of warming goodness, or cheer to the sound of a cork popping or glasses clinking; however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy good food or delicious drinks. 

For too many people, a home “cocktail” is made by opening a can or bottle of some additive-laden sugary concoction that professes to contain “spirits” in a neon green liquid straight out of a Stephen King movie. This is the beverage equivalent of the microwave TV dinner.

The team at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in the Ave and Coccoloba restaurants, not to mention all of the bartenders around the island and indeed the world, have spent their careers learning, practising and perfecting knowledge and skills to make guests amazing drinks with perfect service. Most of this is based on some relatively simple tips, tricks and rules or guidelines — a lot of which are easy to grasp and as easy to do at home as following a recipe in a cookbook.

You certainly don’t need fancy equipment or little apothecary bottles filled with pungent tinctures.

Simple things like a proper shake (very hard until very cold with lots of ice) and getting past that fear of egg white (when used fresh, it’s totally fine and brings fluffy frothiness with nary a hint of eggs) will help you easily astound yourself and the adults you might be living within this time of social distancing.

Here’s just one easy favourite that uses the Caribbean's most famous spirit, rum:

Mojito

  • A tall, 10-12-ounce glass, chilled in advance if possible
  • Cracked ice (Wrap ice cubes in a clean dish towel and hit gently with a serving spoon or rolling pin.)
  • 8-10 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 ounces light rum — Bacardi or Havana Club by preference
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice (Squeeze per drink for one or two, or prepare a bottle in advance if you're making more.)
  • 1 ounce simple syrup (Mix 1 part sugar with 1 part lukewarm water, then stir until dissolved.) 
  • Splash of soda
  • 1 mint sprig

Method:

  • Take the mint leaves and clap them firmly between your hands to release the oils and aromas.
  • Drop the leaves into a tall, 10-12-ounce glass, chilled in advance if possible. 
  • Add the rum, lime and sugar syrup.
  • Add the splash of soda and then nearly fill the glass with cracked ice. Churn lightly with a spoon until mixed, then fill with more ice. 
  • Slap the mint sprig on your hand and add with a straw, then sit back and enjoy.

 

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

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