Posts Tagged ‘Stew’

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

Foodie Futbol

Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I hosted a World Cup party at our apartment to watch the final between Spain and the Netherlands. We had decided long ago to cook foods from the competing nations, not knowing who would be in the championship match. We were rooting for Spain from the beginning so we hoped they would be one of the teams, and luckily they didn’t disappoint, but the other side of the bracket was a complete toss up. When the Netherlands prevailed, we were at a loss as to what to make to represent Dutch cuisine.

Planning the Spanish side of the menu was easy, as Josh and I both love Spanish food and he had done a semester in Barcelona during college. For the Dutch side of the menu, I ended up doing a few google searches, and although we couldn’t exactly pronounce the names of any dishes, we got some good recipes of stuff to make.

While Josh and I both like to entertain, we don’t exactly know how to do it without going overboard. We both love to cook and to share our cooking with other people, so when we have parties, we tend to make a million things. Most of the time we end up missing out on most of the party because we’re in the kitchen still cooking. We didn’t want to miss the soccer game though, since this was the whole point of our party, so we made sure to plan dishes that can be cooked ahead of time and easily reheated.

We had our planning done ahead of time, complete with detailed shopping lists and who would make what, but I think we were a bit overly ambitious and wound up pulling an all nighter – cooking, that is. We did all of our shopping on Saturday morning/afternoon in NJ, got back to the city around 7 pm, and promptly started prepping and cooking. 11 hours later, at 6 am, after the sun had set and risen, we finally went to bed. We got up three hours later and finished cooking, then set everything up for our party, which started at 1:30. It was a hectic and tiring process, but we did get everything done, we didn’t miss the game (hooray for Spain!), and everything turned out better than we hoped.

Since the theme of the party was the World Cup final, we kind of planned our menu to pair Spanish and Dutch dishes head to head. First up was our cheese board, which featured Spanish manchego cheese versus Dutch gouda. We paired the gouda with apple slices, and the manchego with membrillo, which is quince paste. The gouda was declared the winner, though the membrillo turned out to be a surprise hit. Silva and Felipe also brought a different kind of Spanish cheese that was milder than the manchego but still quite tasty.

Gouda/apples vs. Manchego/membrillo

Next was the battle of the breads. On the Dutch side, we made Boerenkaas Puffs, which were cheese puffs made with gouda. The recipe we followed came from here. They were pretty similar to gougeres, very easy to make, and really delicious. On the Spanish side, we made pan con tomate, which is simply tomato bread. All you need to do is take a baguette, slice it in half length-wise, rub a clove of garlic on each side, and sprinkle each side with some salt and olive oil. Then you take some ripe tomatoes, cut them in half, and rub the juicy pulp all over the bread. Easy and really tasty. Both breads were a hit, so I think this may have been a toss up.

Boorenakas puffs (cheese puffs with gouda)

Pan con tomate (tomato bread)

For the potato dishes, we had tortilla espanola on the Spanish side. The tortilla is basically a giant frittata with layers of potato, onion, and egg. To make the tortilla, we gently roasted potatoes and onions in the oven, layered it in deep dutch oven, and covered the layers with lots of scrambled eggs. We baked the tortilla in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until it was cooked through and had set. For the Dutch potato dish, we made Boerenkool Stamppot, which is a hodgepodge with mashed potatoes, onions, kale, and smoked sausage. This was the recipe we followed. The potato/kale mixture turned out to be a surprise hit, helped mostly by the smoked sausage we spread around it.

Tortilla espanola

Boerenkool Stamppot (kale hash with sausage)

For the main courses, this was where we showed our true colors. Since we were rooting for Spain, we made two Spanish entrees and only one Dutch entree. In actuality, we couldn’t decide on which Spanish dish to make so we made both. First was pollo ajillo, or chicken in garlic sauce. To make the chicken, we first brined it in salt water for a few hours. In the meantime, we gently cooked a whole head of minced garlic in olive oil to make a super flavorful garlic oil. Then we seared the chicken (we used bone-in thighs) in that garlic oil and placed them into a dutch oven with minced onions that had been carmelized in garlic oil. We deglazed the pan with white wine, poured that off into the dutch oven, and tossed in the garlic from the garlic oil into the mixture as well. To add even more garlic punch, we added slivers of garlic from an entire additional head of garlic. Then we added the zest of three lemons and enough chicken stock to cover the chicken. We cooked the chicken in the dutch oven, in the oven, at 350 degrees for several hours. Right before serving, we added the juice of the three lemons to brighten up the flavor. By the time we served the chicken, it was super tender and falling off the bone.

Pollo ajillo (chicken in garlic sauce)

Our other spanish entree was albondigas, or meatballs. To make the meatballs, we mixed together ground beef, a puree of onions and garlic, and fresh pieces of diced onion. We used salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika to season the meat. We rolled and shaped the mixture into bite sized meatballs, then seared them off in a large pan. In a large pot, we sauteed some onions in garlic oil and added a big can of crushed tomatoes. When the meatballs were all seared, we added them to the pot of sauce and gently simmered them for a few hours. They were also super tender by the time we served them, and the flavor of the spices really shined through.

Albondigas (meatballs)

Our Dutch entree was Gestoofde runderlappen (try pronouncing THAT!), or braised steak. It was essentially a beef stew cooked entirely in beer. Simple, yet deeply flavorful. The recipe we followed came from here. The beef fell apart with a touch of a fork, and the carrots and onions added a nice heartiness to the dish.

Gestoofde runderlappen (braised steak)

We didn’t forget about dessert! For the Dutch side, we tried to be a bit playful and decided to make herb brownies. The herb? Mint, of course. Josh and I had an argument about the brownies because I just wanted to use ones from a box, but he insisted on making them from scratch. He won out in the end by convincing me that it would be embarrassing to say on the blog that we made brownies from mix. It was kind of a victory for both of us, as he ended up being the one to make them at 5 am while I sulked on the couch nursing my aching knife arm. He used the cocoa brownie recipe from Alton Brown’s Good Eats: The Early Years, which is similar to the recipe posted here. The mint was our own addition (add a handful of fresh leaves to the butter as it’s melting, then strain). The brownies were intensely chocolatey, had a fudgey texture, and just a hint of mint in the background. They were super rich but I thought they were really good, so kudos to Josh.

"Herb" brownies (with mint)

Beauty shot of the rich, chocolately, minty deliciousness

The Spanish dessert was all Josh as well (he’s the real baker in the family). Using another Alton Brown recipe, but substituting real vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, the flan was a risky endeavor but a huge success. He also made his own caramel sauce, courtesy of Mr. Brown as well. The flan had the perfect texture, creamy and smooth, and the caramel sauce was thick and rich.

Flan with caramel sauce

Beauty shot

So the verdict? I think based on the entrees, Spain had the narrow victory. And not because we’re biased or anything. But the Dutch food was surprisingly really good, and I’m eager to try it for real next year when we head to Amsterdam in honor of Josh’s 30th birthday. Aside from the food, the game was really exciting as well. La Furia Roja eeked out the win in extra time, and we’re glad it didn’t end up going to penalty kicks. All in all it was a successful day, and totally worth the lack of sleep we endured. Plus we have oodles of leftovers to feast on for the rest of the week!