Posts Tagged ‘Conch’

Grand Cayman Day 5 – Alfresco

Thursday, August 18th, 2011 by virginia

Sadly, day 5 was our last day in Grand Cayman. Most of the crew left after breakfast so we said our goodbyes over waffles at the Comfort Suites. Josh and I had booked a flight in the late afternoon so that we could have some more time to explore the eats on the island. The main item I wanted to try was marinated conch, which is sort of like conch ceviche. I asked the woman at the front desk for recommendations and was told that it wasn’t conch season so she didn’t think we’d be able to find it anywhere. Drat!

In the hotel lobby, there were copies of a magazine that had menus from several dozen restaurants. While Josh packed up our stuff, I combed the magazine from cover to cover in search of a place that listed marinated conch. I found it on the menu of a restaurant at the other end of Seven Mile Beach called Alfresco. When we checked out, I asked the woman at the front desk if she would call the Alfresco to see if they were indeed serving marinated conch that day, as I didn’t want to make the trip out there for nothing. She made the call and gave us the thumbs up, so off we went.

We headed up West Bay Road and caught a bus almost immediately. The driver knew where Alfresco was and dropped us right in front. The restaurant has two seating areas, one inside and one outside. We checked in with the waitress inside, who told us to sit anywhere we wanted, so we headed for the outdoor area which is a deck right along the beach. The view was simply stunning, and there were umbrellas and trees around to keep us in the shade.

The tables on the deck right along Seven Mile Beach

There were some sort of grape-like fruit dangling from the trees above us

Lizard on the deck

Even though it was pretty early in the day, I ordered a frozen strawberry daiquiri to drink. Hey, it was our last day of vacation! Josh got a Caybrew, and we sat back to enjoy the view. We saw Eric (one of Josh’s former coworkers who we were hanging out with all week) walking up the beach and called him over. He apparently had taken a stroll along the entire length of Seven Mile Beach (which is really only about 5.5 miles), and he definitely looked like he needed to sit down and drink some water. He ended up joining us for lunch on the deck.

Caybrew and strawberry daiquiri

My bad luck with restaurants continued, as we learned from the waitress that their fryer was broken. This meant that I couldn’t tried cracked conch, another Cayman specialty that is kind of like fried calamari, but with conch. They also only served turtle on Fridays, and it was Sunday. At least they had the marinated conch though, which was our whole point of going to that particular restaurant. Since it was early, and we had just eaten breakfast, we decided to stick with just the marinated conch while Eric ordered a jerk chicken sandwich.

The marinated conch was prepared in a traditional style, with strips of peppers and onions and mixed in a spicy tomato sauce. The conch itself didn’t have too much flavor, but it did have a chewy yet crunchy texture that I enjoyed. It reminded me a bit of the texture of jellyfish, which I love. The sauce wasn’t too spicy, more sweet and tangy. Josh thought it was a bit too ketchup-y but I didn’t mind. The conch was served with saltine crackers, which was an interesting combination, though I preferred eating the marinated conch on its own. It was a refreshing dish on a hot day.

Marinated conch served with saltines

I was disappointed that we weren’t able to try cracked conch or some form of turtle, but I did enjoy the marinated conch. I think I was expecting more of a traditional Peruvian style ceviche, which is marinated in citrus, but this was an interesting dish. I liked the ambiance at Alfresco, and the view on the deck really couldn’t be beat. Eric enjoyed his jerk chicken sandwich immensely, so I think Alfresco is definitely a place worth checking out. The menu was pretty reasonable, with most dishes under C$15.

After we paid our bill, we went down to the beach to take some more photos before heading back to the road to catch the bus. While we were waiting for the bus, we saw a green iguana sitting in a tree above us, which was pretty neat.

Looking all the way down Seven Mile Beach

Swimmers enjoying the water

Looking up the beach the other way

Iguana dangling from a tree

We ended up catching the bus heading in the wrong direction, but the driver said we were near the end of the line and he would be turning around soon. It gave us an opportunity to see a bit more of the island so I didn’t mind. The turnaround point was Boatswain’s Beach Adventure Park and Turtle Farm. Funny story about the farm – one of my coworkers went to Grand Cayman as part of a Caribbean cruise. They took the excursion to the turtle farm, except she thought it was for turtle conservation. They went through the tour and saw all the baby turtles, etc., and at the end of the tour, they asked her if now she wanted to taste turtle. Needless to say, she was shocked, and only then realized that it was a farm, not a conservatory.

I wish we had time to visit the farm, but we had to get back to the hotel to pick up our bags and catch a cab to the airport. We had to make a stop first at the Beach Suites to pick up our camera battery charger from the front desk, and ended up walking back to the Comfort Suites via the beach one last time. We walked quickly, as we thought we were running late and we had been told that the airport in Grand Cayman gets really packed on Sundays so it takes a long time to get through security. We shared a cab with Eric and arrived at the airport only to find that our flight had been delayed several hours. Awesome.

So it turned out we had plenty of time, and got through security pretty easily. We did a little duty free shopping to kill some time. Josh bought a nice rum, a nice scotch, and a bottle of cheap rum for me. We also picked out some rum cakes, a Grand Cayman specialty. Tortuga is the name brand of rum cakes, but we opted for the cheaper Blackbeard brand. We did pick up a mini Tortuga rum cake and plan on doing a taste test to see how different or similar the two brands really are.

When we checked into our flight at the desk, they told us that no meals would be served on the plane so before we boarded, we picked up some Jamaican patties to go. They only had chicken left, and only one that was the local Cayman Island Taste brand. The other was a Jamaican brand, though I don’t remember the name. The two brands were actually pretty different. The Island Taste patty had a richer brown sauce in the filling, while the Jamaican brand had more of a classic yellow curry flavor. Both had flaky pastry crusts, and I enjoyed both of the patties.

Two different brands of Jamaican patties

The flight home was pretty uneventful. Ironically they did end up serving food on the plane, some jerk chicken that was nowhere even close to Seymour’s jerk chicken. I stuck with the Jamaican patties. We arrived back in NY much later than we planned since our flight was so late. We quickly got in a cab, eager to get home, and wound up with the worst driver ever. He missed the exit for Manhattan and ended up driving us 20 minutes into Long Island before figuring out how to turn around. He also had no concept of changing lanes, and would almost come to full stop on the highway when it was time to switch. I was terrified the entire ride.

We finally got home much, much later than expected, finally concluding our five day trip to Grand Cayman. We had a blast hanging out with everyone and were thrilled to take part in Claire and Sean’s wedding. It was definitely a trip we’ll always remember, full of good food, great fun, and even better company.

53 Town Hall Rd., West Bay
Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman Day 4 – Seymour’s Jerk Centre and Myrtle’s

Monday, August 15th, 2011 by virginia

We were pretty tired the morning after Claire and Sean’s wedding but probably not as tired as the people who partied on the roof afterward. Claire and Sean had organized a brunch at their hotel so we made our way over to the Beach Suites, via the beach of course. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and pancakes, plus some slices of leftover wedding cake, we felt re-energized. Silva, Felipe, Justin, Josh and I decided to head over to Georgetown, the main town on Grand Cayman, to check out the sights.

We took a bus to Georgetown, which we found was the best method of transportation. The buses, which are really just large vans with blue license plates and have stickers on them that say WB1 or WB2, run back and forth on West Bay Road and the fare is C$2 or US$2.50 (they take both forms of currency and will give you change in whichever one you prefer). Although there are bus stops along the road, the buses will pick you up anywhere. You can flag them down like a taxi, or if they are coming up behind you, they’ll give a little honk and you can wave at them to stop for you. They’ll also drop you off anywhere along the road, so it’s almost like taking a taxi, except much cheaper. Taxis are very overpriced compared to the bus, so I would suggest taking the bus whenever you can.

In Georgetown we pretty much just walked around. There wasn’t a whole lot to see – we were a bit disappointed. Sure, there were lots of souvenir stores and jewelry shops, but we were expecting more historical buildings or colonial architecture. The biggest attractions seemed to be Margaritaville and the Hard Rock Cafe. I guess the town mostly caters to the cruise ships that come in. All the stores boasted duty free signs, but only for the cruise ship passengers. We didn’t find anything interesting to buy, but the stores were nice for their air conditioning. It was really hot out and extremely humid. I ended up overheating at one point and had to find a bathroom to run some cold water on my face and wrists in order to cool down.

Random roosters outside the Tortuga Rum store

Pretty feathers

On the coast in Georgetown - there were groups of people snorkeling nearby

Can you see the little crabs along the edge?

A random anchor

Pirate ship!

We had some milkshakes and smoothies at a place called Paradise, which is right on the water. It was nice to sit and enjoy the view and the slight breeze. Afterward, we headed back toward the center of Georgetown, away from the water. There was a post office, a library, and a war memorial, though still not much to see. We took a few pics then continued on our way.

Post office

Pretty square with the library in the background

Peace memorial

I don't remember what this statue was for but it was around the square

Our next destination? Seymour’s Jerk Centre.

I hadn’t done much restaurant research on Grand Cayman before we arrived because I wasn’t sure how much free time we would have. Of the minimal research that I did, however, all signs pointed to Seymour’s Jerk Centre, which is famous for its jerk chicken. I knew we had to go there so we convinced the crew to meet up for a late lunch. I hadn’t seen pictures of the place beforehand and was surprised by how rustic it was. It’s basically a hut that houses the barbecue smokers where they cook the meat, a small kitchen where the workers prepare and serve the meat, and two picnic tables in the back where you eat. We could smell the barbecue from a few blocks away, and let me tell you, it was pretty enticing.

The jerk centre in its entirety - the smokers and the kitchen are on the left hand side, the picnic tables are on the right

The smokers where the meat is cooked - the smells coming off were absolutely incredible

The menu is pretty straightforward. There’s jerk chicken and jerk pork, fried fish, and a handful of other choices. We all got some form of jerk, since it is a jerk centre after all.

The menu

We were the first of the group to arrive but we were surprised to see Claire’s parents already there eating. They both enjoyed their meal, though I think Aine may have found the jerk seasoning to be a bit too spicy. We placed our orders and were just sitting down to eat when the crew from the Beach Suites arrived, including Sean and Claire. The rest of the Comfort Suites crowd followed shortly thereafter, and we all squeezed into the larger of the two picnic tables.

Josh and I decided to get an order of jerk chicken and an order of jerk pork to share. They also do a combo platter for single diners who would like to try both meats. The meats were wrapped in tin foil and served with two slices of white bread. We ended up forgoing silverware and just tore into it with our bare hands. Both the chicken and the pork were absolutely fabulous. I might have liked the pork a bit more, but only because there were pieces of pork belly in the mix, and I love pork belly. All of the pieces of pork were succulent and tender. The jerk seasoning was spicy but not overwhelming. The spices tingled on our tongues and lips but we could taste the different nuances in the seasoning.

Succulent pieces of jerk pork

The chicken was a mix of all parts as well, though I preferred the dark meat thighs and legs. There was a bottle of vinegary hot sauce on the table, which we liberally doused on the meats to add even more zing. I used the white bread to make little sandwiches out of the meat, and even though the portions were huge, I stuffed myself silly until all we had left were a pile of bones.

Tender jerk chicken

I absolutely loved Seymour’s Jerk Centre. The jerk seasoning was the best we tasted our entire trip, and the chicken and pork were obviously slow cooked so that they were falling apart tender. There isn’t much in terms of ambiance though, which might turn some people off. Like I said, it’s basically a hut. You eat outside on picnic tables, and there are lots of flies flying all around. Admittedly, the flies were a bit annoying, but I guess it’s part of the experience. This is an authentic, local joint. Everyone we asked knew about Seymour’s, and it was totally worth the trip. This was definitely one of my favorite meals in Grand Cayman, and I highly recommend it.

After lunch, we took a bus back to our hotel and changed into our bathing suits, then walked back over to the Beach Suites to meet up with everyone. Claire and Sean were finally able to hang out and relax with us for a bit. We hung out in the water for a bit, and then decided to get some exercise in with a friendly yet competitive game of ultimate frisbee. It was pretty tiring running around in the soft sand, so we took frequent intermission breaks and ran into the water to cool down. It was a tight game but our team ended up victorious, which is always nice. It was definitely a fun time, if a  bit exhausting.

We finished the afternoon in the pool, enjoying some frozen drinks from the swim up bar. The sun was starting to set and it actually got a bit chilly in the pool so we started to make our way back to the Comfort Suites. Josh decided to have fun with his wide angle lens on the walk back, taking lots of pictures of the beach, the water, and his footprints.

We took a short break before dinner, taking our time to clean up and relax a bit. For dinner, we decided to try out Myrtle’s, which was recommended to us by a few locals. It was noted for serving authentic, local Caribbean cuisine. We took the short walk over to the restaurant, which is located in a strip mall just down the road from the Comfort Suites. It’s nothing fancy, but we were there to try out the food.

When we walked in, the place was packed with rugby players. There was a tournament going on and a lot of the players were staying at the Comfort Suites as well. I think it was the team from Barbados, and they took up the whole outer room of the restaurant. We put together a few tables near the bar and settled in. We got a round of lemonades, fruit punch, and sodas, and tried to decide what we wanted to eat. I was debating between the turtle burger and a few other items, but then we got some bad news.

Because the rugby players were such a large group, the kitchen had prepared a buffet style feast for them. That meant they didn’t have capacity to cook many items on their regular menu, including the turtle burger, turtle soup, and marinated conch, all of which I really wanted to try. The choices we did have were pretty limited, but there wasn’t much we could do.

Josh and I decided to get conch fritters to start, which were better tasting than the fritters we had at the Beach Suites. There was more conch mixed in that added a chewy texture, and the flavors of the spices in the mixture really worked well. I just wish they had been slightly crispier.

Conch fritters

Josh wanted the shrimp curry from the menu, and fortunately, it was available. The curry sauce was a bit weird though, not what we were expecting. We thought it would be a yellow curry, similar to the curry that came with the curried chicken, but this was more like a brown curry that was sweet and sour. Josh asked for it spicy but it didn’t have too much of a kick.

Shrimp curry

I ended up ordering the stewed beef, which was not on the menu, but I guess it was one of the dishes they had prepared for the rugby players. It turned out to be a fantastic dish, with soft, tender beef that fell apart with the gentlest prodding of my fork. The beef was cooked with potatoes, carrots, and onions, and enrobed in a thick, rich sauce. All of the entrees were served with rice and beans, a small salad, and two pieces of fried plantain.

Stewed beef

Overall I was disappointed that we weren’t able to try out the normal menu at Myrtle’s, but what we had was pretty good. It’s simple, local cuisine, nothing fancy. Prices are a tad lower than some of the more upscale restaurants that we went to, but still kind of pricey compared to NY. I think the shrimp curry was about C$17, and the stewed beef was C$14.50. There’s a small extra charge if you use a credit card, but all the prices are laid out clearly on the bill and you can pay in Cayman or U.S. dollars as well. Service was friendly, and it’s definitely a nice, low key joint. I just wish I could have tried turtle!

After dinner we headed to the Beach Suites once more and hung out at Bamboo, of course. We had a nice semi private area in the corner because the bar was full, and we had a few round of drinks before saying our goodbyes to everyone, since we all had different flights out the next day. The walk back to our hotel via the beach route was peaceful as usual. It was our last full day in Grand Cayman so it was kind of bittersweet, but we managed to pack in a lot of sightseeing, food, and fun.

Seymour’s Jerk Centre
Shedden Road, Georgetown
Grand Cayman

Queen’s Court Plaza, West Bay Rd.
Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman Day 2 – Seven Mile Beach Bar and Deckers

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 by virginia

Our second day in Grand Cayman was full of fun and action. We didn’t get a super early start but we dragged ourselves out of bed to meet up with the Comfort Suite contingent in the lobby area for breakfast. Breakfast was included as part of our stay and while it wasn’t anything exciting, it did the trick. There was cereal, breads, fruit, yogurt, and, best of all, make your own waffles. We loaded up on some carbs, then took a quick walk to the nearby Texaco station to pick up some waters and snacks at the convenience store.

Our next stop? The beach! It was only a short walk from our hotel to the beach, maybe about 50 yards down a narrow path. I would say the hotel is pretty much on the beach. We frolicked in the water for a short while and then we had to bid half the group goodbye, as a few of us were scheduled to participate in the rehearsal event for Claire and Sean’s wedding and had to make our way toward their hotel, the Grand Cayman Beach Suites.

Rather than taking the scary sidewalk route on West Bay Road, we decided to walk along the beach down to their hotel. It was a MUCH better option, and we enjoyed the lovely views along Seven Mile Beach. The rehearsal event started at one o’clock and we got to the Beach Suites a little after noon so we decided to grab a quick lunch by the pool, at the Seven Mile Beach Bar. We got a round of frozen drinks to start and quickly placed our order, since we didn’t have much time.

I saw conch fritters on the menu and really wanted to try them. I’ve never eaten conch, and it’s supposed to be the local specialty. Josh, Mike, and I split an order to start. The fritters were made of ground up conch mixed with breading, spices, and diced vegetables. They reminded me of mini crab cakes, though I was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t really taste or detect conch in the mix. The fritters were tasty, but they could have been made from any kind of seafood. I also wished that they were slightly crispier.

Blurry conch fritters

For our mains, Josh and I split an order of fish and chips and a blackened fish sandwich. Again, I wished that the fish in the fish and chips dish were crispier, but I liked that they were big, meaty pieces of fish. I dipped them in jerk-flavored tartar sauce while Josh used malt vinegar (Claire would approve!).

Fish and chips

The blackened fish sandwich was a bit of a disappointment, as it was nowhere near as flavorful as the jerk fish sandwich we had at Stingers. The fish was also a bit too flaky and fell apart when we picked up the sandwich. The bread didn’t help either, as it was slightly stale and crumbly in texture. I did like the fries though, which were on the thinner side.

Blackened fish sandwich

While we weren’t crazy about the food at the Beach Bar, the drinks were really good. In addition, the views were pretty nice and service was great. We told our waiter that we were in a rush and he made sure to get our food to us quickly. We found that the service at the Beach Suites was always great, since we ended up seeing some of the same waiters and bartenders for most of the wedding events.

After we finished eating, we met up with the rehearsal group in the hotel lobby. Claire and Sean made a few quick speeches thanking the people involved with the wedding, and then off we went on the rehearsal adventure. Instead of having a traditional rehearsal dinner, Claire and Sean organized a boat excursion for us where we would get to snorkel at a coral reef and visit the stingrays at Stingray City. I had been researching a boat trip before we went to Grand Cayman, so I was super excited that this was what they had planned.

We were picked up in vans by people from Red Sail Sports, the company that ran our boating excursion. We drove a little ways to a dock on the bay side of the island which was the launching point for the boat.  After we signed our waivers (which always makes me a bit nervous!), we boarded the ship. It took about 45 minutes to get to our first destination, a coral reef where we could snorkel for a bit. The boat ride itself was pretty relaxing – we enjoyed the breeze and took in the views. It was a bit overcast when we set off, but the sun started peeking out more when we got to our destination. The water there was crystal blue and just gorgeous.

Boats along the way right after we set sail

The blue water as we approached our destination

Other boats letting their passengers off to snorkel

Another red sail boat similar to the one we were on

We donned our snorkeling gear (masks, snorkels, and flippers, plus a snorkeling vest for me) and went into the water. The waves were a bit rougher than I expected, considering how calm the water on the beach had been, so it took me a little while to get used to snorkeling again. We haven’t snorkeled since we were in the Galapagos, and I was a little rusty. I was also having trouble getting a good seal with the snorkel, and ended up with mouthfuls of salt water – blech! But once I got in the groove, I could see some of the coral formations and lots of cool plant life. There weren’t too many fish swimming around but we did see a few schools of small, colorful fish.

A coral formation

Close up on the coral

Bubbles! (and I think Claire's arm?)


Little blue fish

Cool plants

I have to admit, I got a little seasick from bobbing on the waves. We didn’t snorkel for too long though, about 20-30 minutes, and then we got back on the boat to head off to our next destination, Stingray City. The area is located on a sandbar so even though it looked like we were in the middle of the ocean, the water was only about waist deep. It was also crystal clear, and there were lots of stingrays swimming around our legs. It was a bit freaky at first, but then we got used to them brushing past us. The sand underneath our feet was super soft, and we were happy just standing there watching all the stingrays. Some of them were just enormous, and some of them were cute itty bitty ones.

Stingray popping into view

One of the larger stingrays

Top side view

One of the smaller ones being chased by a larger one. You can see how close they were to us as they were swimming around.

Some of the tour operators would “catch” a stingray and hold them up for us so that we could pet them and take a few pictures. The stingrays felt like wet, bumpy portobello mushrooms. Some of the braver folks (Mike, Sean) actually held the stingrays as well, propping them up with their arms underneath.

One of the guys holding up a stingray

Stingray waving its wing

Close up of the stingray skin

Soon it was time to say goodbye to the stingrays, and we were on our way back to shore. We all gathered at the front of the boat and relaxed with some Caybrews, enjoying the breeze once again. Once we were back on dry land, we returned to the Beach Suites to do the actual rehearsal. I practiced walking in a straight line, Silva and Josh learned their marks for their readings, Felipe thought about his signature, and Mike rehearsed his best Casey Kasem voice.

The start of the "aisle" for the ceremony, a long walk down to the beach

Claire and Sean had organized some welcome drinks for the wedding guests later that evening, so after the rehearsal we rushed back to the Comfort Suites to shower and get ready. Actually, we didn’t really rush, since we took the beach route back and stopped to take a few photos of the gorgeous late afternoon light on the water.

Back at the Comfort Suites, we cleaned ourselves up and met up with the rest of the crew for dinner. We decided to go to Deckers, a seafood restaurant across the street from the Beach Suites.

The restaurant has a large outdoor and indoor sitting area, and while we sat inside to seek some relief from the heat, the open air concept meant it was still pretty warm inside. Nevertheless, we were glad to be seated immediately and quickly ordered a round of drinks to start. I got a blood orange mojito, which was a nice reddish color and pretty refreshing.

Blood orange mojito

The menu had lots of interesting dishes, but I zeroed in on the Caribbean lobster mac n’ cheese. It featured a mascarpone, havarti, and grana padano cream sauce and was topped with bread crumbs and cheddar. There were lots of little chunks of lobster mixed throughout, though it wasn’t heavy on lobster flavor. I still really enjoyed the dish though, as the sauce was creamy, cheesy, and well seasoned. It was a whole lot of comfort in one big bowl.

Caribbean lobster mac n' cheese

The mac n’ cheese was pretty rich so Josh and I went halfsies on his entree, the catch of the day, which was escolar. It was served on an arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, warm potatoes, pine nuts, and a passion fruit dressing. There were also a few pieces of coconut shrimp on the plate. The fish was delicious – well seasoned and meaty. The dressing was sweet and tangy, and I’m always a huge fan of arugula salad.

Catch of the day - escolar

Overall we were all very pleased with our meal at Deckers. The food was well prepared and everything tasted great. In addition, service was really fast and efficient. We told our waitress that we were in a bit of a rush, and everything was delivered right away. Coincidentally, Claire’s family was there for dinner as well, and they liked it so much that they went back the next day, for an all you can eat lobster special. The restaurant was definitely one of my favorites on the trip. It wasn’t cheap but it also wasn’t so expensive compared to a lot of restaurants in Grand Cayman. As I said previously, the island is pricey in general. The lobster mac n’ cheese was C$18 and the catch of the day was C$26. The ambiance was slightly more upscale but it still had a low key vibe. I’d definitely recommend it for a nice but not overly fancy meal.

After dinner we crossed the street to the Beach Suites where Claire and Sean was hosting welcome drinks at the pool bar. Their signature drink was the Cayman Blue, which featured Bacardi Razz, Blue Curacao, and 7-Up. It was candy sweet and deceptively alcoholic. I was definitely feeling it after a few of those drinks! We had a great time that night, drinking and chatting with everyone who was attending the wedding. We got to know Claire and Sean’s families a bit better, and learned that Sean once fed his little sister pennies and dimes. All in all it was fun and exciting day, filled with good food, lots of drinks, and plenty of stingray.

Seven Mile Beach Bar
At Grand Cayman Beach Suites, West Bay Rd.
Grand Cayman

Next to Hyatt Regency, West Bay Rd.
Grand Cayman