30 Years of Taste of Cayman
5000+ festivalgoers and more than 35 vendors ensured that Taste of Cayman's 30th Anniversary was a success. Guests were able to enjoy a variety of food vendors, specialty cocktail booths, on-stage culinary demos, a mixologist competition, live entertainment and so much more. Even with all of this going on around me, my reasons for attending Taste of Cayman were that of an unapologetic epicurean. As soon as the gates opened I rushed to the vendors that I felt would a) run out of food first and b) would end up with the longest lines. Some restaurants use Taste of Cayman to showcase their creativity as a one-off dish or as the newest addition to their menu, whilst others use it to promote fan favourites that they already serve. I've always preferred the former and use my tickets to try new creations, with the only exception being if Cayman Style Beef is on the menu - my weekly craving, bordering on addiction.
The Taste of Cayman judges agreed with some of my top picks and awarded "Best Food" to The Brasserie for their Chipotle Beef and Pulled Pork Sliders and "Best Local Dish" to Island Taste for their Seafood Medley Rundown. The most coveted award, "Cayman's Favourite Restaurant", was decided by festivalgoers who gave their token to their favourite restaurant of the night. This year The Beach House won this esteemed award with their Keema Pav, a mouthwatering minced lamb slider on a toasted soft bun. Prize or not, I was really impressed with the originality behind Cayman Cabana's braised oxtail nachos and their refreshing coconut ceviche, as well as, Fidel Murphy's pigs in a (bacon!) blanket with a smoked gouda fondue.
This year there were a lot of collaborations between local liquor stores and alcohol brands, such as Tortuga Fine Wine & Spirits with Stolichnaya Vodka and "Best Drink" winner Jacques Scott with Tanqueray No. Ten Gin. I waited until I was nice and full before checking out these booths, but I couldn't justify spending 7+ tickets on a fancy cocktail. Rum Point had the best deal of the night and so like herded cattle we all stood in line to grab 1... 2... okay, 3 of their famous mudslides for only 1 ticket each! Residents are well aware that these dessert-like cocktails are usually $10 a pop, so it's no surprise it was the must-have drink of the night.
The bonus of a media pass (Thanks Tower!) is that I was able to enjoy the Save the Date VIP area. This year the benefits included priority parking, a secured area with an air-conditioned tent, a Grey Goose welcome cocktail, yummy canapés and an experience room voucher. I'm sure everyone can agree that the real perk of VIP was access to air-conditioned fully functioning bathrooms instead of standard blue port-a-potties or a long walk back to Camana Bay. If VIP guests felt at home in this area they could remain on the outdoor terrace to watch the live tribute bands for Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince and Journey perform on the main stage. I abandoned my VIP post to get up-close to the Journey tribute band and share the experience through an Instagram live feed, but, more importantly, so I could geekily sing "Don't Stop Believing" into my air mic.