Don't miss my latest posting on Chef Thushara from Grand Old House, Cayman Culinary Society's Chef of the Year for 2010. Find out how this talented chef likes to take traditional Cayman cuisine and make it his very own.
I’m writing this with the smell of wood smoke still in my hair and the beginnings of a cold coming on. Subjected to the vagaries of hurricane season weather, Grand Old House’s caboose dinner suffered a considerable downpour just before the second course. However, we in the Caribbean are used to such inconveniences and rain certainly didn’t stop play.The restaurant’s staff expertly manoeuvred all tables and chairs, and even the caboose itself, under shelter and out of the rain, quicker than you could say “atishoo!”
Grand Old House, supported by wine distributor Blackbeards, attracted a good sized crowd for its inaugural caboose dinner and even managed to cater to a wedding simultaneously. Diners watched as the cooks tended to a side of lamb that had been marinating for a day, now slowly cooking over the wood burning stove. Cayman Traditional Arts cooks had been brought in especially to oversee the proceedings and tell the crowd a bit about this old time way of cooking (see below for the caboose in action).
We loved the mango cocktails that greeted us upon arrival – very reminiscent of that old chestnut the fuzzy navel (a favourite tipple of mine when I was 20-something). A lamb carpaccio (pictured left) beautifully graced our place settings as an appetiser. All good dishes should concentrate not only on flavour but on texture as well and this didn’t disappoint. There was a satisfying but delicate crunch from filo pastry juxtaposed with the delicate sweetness of the meat, finished off with a nice piquancy from the aged balsamic vinegar dressing. Sommelier Christian poured us a glass of Trivento Rose, Sparkling Brut Nature with the dish, which had a natural affinity with the lamb, for sure.
The truffle risotto and Chef’s lamb chorizo sausage (rather naughtily pictured right) was another winning dish, the sausage packing a surprisingly fiery, spicy punch and the risotto a creamy and delicious backdrop. The Batasiolo Barbera from Souvrana Vineyard in Piedmonte had just a little too much of a battle of flavours going on in the mouth for my liking. I guess a good beer might have been a better pairing.
Grand Old House decided to include a palate cleansing iced chilli sweet & sour mango granite next. Mid-meal palate cleansers are tricky little beasts – too sweet and you’ve got dessert mid-way through dinner, too savoury and they become off-putting. This didn’t succeed all that well. Thankfully the Eroica, Riesling from Washington State that Christian had been so excited about pouring was wonderful (but then I’m a sucker for a good Riesling.) Slightly sweet with lovely lemony flavours, the wine almost had a slight fizz on the tongue. Gorgeous.
On to the main reason for the dinner – the caboose-cooked lamb (see right). Diners lined up to enjoy as many plates of the main course as they could muster. My first helping was a little on the tough side, I have to say, but thankfully the second was a lot more succulent, which just goes to show that lamb is a tricky meat to cook, I suppose, even with long marinating and caboose-cooking. The wine pairing was a familiar one for us - Charles Smith’s, BOOM BOOM Syrah from Washington State, a spicy, fruity wine (made, apparantly, by a band manager of a rock group). A rocking good choice.
A very rich and creamy Illy Espesso tiramisu mousse rounded things off along with one (or was it two?) glasses of Fonseca BIN 27 Reserve Ruby Port, a big favourite and everything a ruby Port should be - rich, deeply fruity with a raisiny sweetness that makes you crave for more.
Rock stars of the evening: carpaccio, sausage, Riesling and Port.
Many people may be unfamiliar with a caboose – it’s an old-time barbeque grill made from wood used frequently in Cayman in the 1950s and 60s that imparts a particularly scrummy flavour to the food. Grand Old House’s manager Martin Richter has introduced this method of cooking to the restaurant for a feast of lamb cooked over open flame to be cooked for a one-off dinner taking place on Friday 3rd June.
Martin says he got the idea from two friends Ossi Connor and Harry Cupied who set up a caboose for his 40th birthday.
“They came in my yard at 8.00am and fired it up, obviously by the evening we were all fired up,” he confirms. “It was one of the nicest birthdays I ever celebrated.”
Martin says since then they have been regularly cooking on the caboose for corporate events, so it is great that they are now sharing this cooking technique for anyone who wants to enjoy the particular delights of the caboose.
Martin says they will be cooking locally farmed lamb, marinating it for 24 hours in extra virgin olive oil with fresh herbs, including mint, parsley, garlic, onion, thyme and rosemary. The caboose is also going to cook local root vegetables along with the lamb, so as to soak up all the juicy lamb flavours.
Of course any dinner as thoughtfully devised as this has to have an equally well designed wine pairing and sommelier Christian Esser, who has been working in conjunction with wine supplier Blackbeards, says that there are two wines in particular which he is particularly excited about: the Chateau St Michelle Eroica Riesling and the Barbera d’Alba Sovrana DOC. The former scored 90 points with Wine Spectator magazine.
“This Riesling exudes mandarin orange and sweet lime aromas and flavours with subtle mineral notes,” Christian effuses. “The mouth-watering acidity is beautifully balanced by flavourful Washington Riesling fruit.”
The Barbera d’Alba Sovrana DOC scored 91 points with Wine Spectator and, according to Christian, diners will enjoy raspberry and lemon aromas leading to a medium body, with integrated fruit, citrusy acidity and a medium finish.
My mouth is just salivating at the thought.
Read more about the dinner and see some pix in my next blog.
A self confessed foodaholic, Lindsey Turnbull follows Cayman's culinary scene with relish.