Cayman Culinary Month 2012 came to an end the second weekend of February, but not before the 4th Annual Taste of Cayman Charity Winemakers Dinner at the Brasserie. This year, the winemaker was Marco Fantinel from Fantinel Winery in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy.
For 31 days between January and February, Cayman Culinary Month showed the world why the Cayman Islands, and not other contenders, deserves the moniker ‘Culinary Capital of the Caribbean’.
With some of the world’s best chefs, winemakers and food personalities here and more than 60 events centred around an epicurean theme, the 3rd Cayman Culinary Month this year was truly bigger and better than the previous two.
With big events seemingly every weekend, the final weekend of Cayman Culinary Month not surprisingly featured yet another brilliant event: The 4th Annual Taste of Cayman Charity Winemakers Dinner and Auction on 10 February at the Brasserie restaurant.
Moved from its traditional time slot right before the Taste of Cayman event, the Charity Winemakers Dinner and Auction got the spotlight all to itself this year, two weeks after the annual food festival. If people were tired of all the good food and wine served during Cayman Culinary Month, it didn’t show as the Brasserie sold out for the event.
As is the case every day at the Brasserie, much of the food centred around locally sourced ingredients. During the cocktail reception in the Brasserie’s chef’s garden before dinner, guests sipped on local June plum Bellini’s made with Fantinel Prosecco and were treated to passed hors d’oeuvres of local snapper ceviche with fresh coconut and local lobster tempura with pickled garden papaya. Since the wines for the night were Italian, one of the hors d’oeuvres was Italian in nature – Prosciutto di Parma with figs and aged balsamic.
The Bellini cocktail originates from Venice, Italy, which lies just south along the Adriatic Sea coast from the Friuli–Venezia Giulia wine growing region. Although traditionally made with Prosecco and peach puree, the modern Bellini is now often make with other fruit purees. In this dinner’s case, June plums from Lower Valley proved to be a sweet, sustainable substitute.
While guests were in the garden, Mr. Fantinel – one of the third-generation of family members who run the winery – talked about the Friuli region, which lies near the borders of Slovenia and Austria in region between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea.
Fantinel said the area saw warm days and cool night, perfect conditions for grown certain kinds of grapes.
“It’s the most famous region for white wine in Italy,” he said. “Only two per cent of Italian wine comes from this region, but a high percentage of its quality wine.”
Like many Italian winemakers, the Fantinels are farmers at heart.
“We are still making wine with patience and love,” he said. “And we make it with our own grapes.”
After the cocktail reception, guests took their seats inside the restaurant where they were greeted with a glass of Fantinel Sparkling Brut Rose and then served a Beau Soleil oyster – one of the farthest north-growing oysters in the world – with a dollop of Bloody Mary sorbet. It was served along with a slice of local ripe tomato topped with a salad of local Seville orange, fennel and celery.
The next course was a salad made with lettuce from the Brasserie’s chef’s garden, along with fresh beets, walnuts and basil/vanilla bean vinaigrette. This was paired with Fantinel Sant Helena Pinot Grigio, a single vineyard, full-bodied white wine that is much more complex than the standard, large production Pinot Grigios on the market.
The third course was pure art; seared wahoo that had been caught on the Brasserie’s fishing boat that very day, served with artichoke barigoule and a lemon broth, all topped with garden flowers. The delicious and beautiful dish was served with one of Fantinel’s rarer wines, ‘Roncaia’ Eclisse, a blend of 90 per cent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 per cent Picolit.
Fantinel said only 5,000 bottles of the Eclisse were produced.
This distinctive, complex and well-balanced wine showed good fruit and minerality which Brasserie Executive Chef Nevin Patel managed to showcase magnificently with his bold and fanciful dish.
The dinner wouldn’t have been complete without meat and for the final savoury course, Chef Patel served Grilled Certified Angus Beef filet mignon with foie gras butter, local pumpkin, white asparagus and wild mushrooms. The course was served with Fantinel’s four-grape red blend 2005 ‘Roncaia’ Il Fusco. Although Friuli is more known for its high quality white wines, the Il Fusco showed it could also produce very good red wine.
After dinner, guests returned to the chef’s garden area for dessert and after-dinner drinks while Radio Cayman’s Jay Ehrhart served as auctioneer for nine items, proceeds of which help the Cayman Islands Tourism Association promote and improve Cayman’s tourism industry.
To go with the mini sticky toffee pudding, pecan bars and chocolate caramel ganache tarts, Fantinel ‘Roncaia’ Picolit and Fantinel Suprema Refosco Grappa were served. The latter, a high-quality, award-winning Grappa in a sleek bottle presentation, was, as several guests commented, an outstanding way to finish the evening.