A big part of the Cayman Islands’ culinary scene revolves around local cuisine – everything from conch, oxtail and turtle to the local styles of fish, lobster and chicken. However, pairing beverages with local food isn’t given a lot of attention. Jacques Scott’s Lee Royle and Jon Cubbon tried out some wine and beer food pairings at lunch at the South Coast Bar & Grill in Breakers.
There are literally dozens of restaurants on Grand Cayman to get what residents would call local food, but not too many of them have the beautiful setting of the South Coast Bar & Grill in Breakers.
Situated on a thin strip of land between the road and the ocean on, not surprisingly, Grand Cayman’s south coast, South Coast Bar & Grill overlooks the western edge of Frank Sound, in the area once known for shark feeding.
At this lunch there were no sharks, but there were hungry and thirsty men, including Jacques Scott’s Wine Marketing Manager Lee Royle, Sales Representative Jon Cubbon and South Coast owner Tony Powell.
To see which beverages paired best with local food, Royle brought four wines and Cubbon brought four kinds beer. They ordered seven different items from the menu, starting with an order each of the lobster and conch fritters.
The first beverage tasted was Blue Moon Belgian White, which isn’t made in Belgium at all, but in the United States. But it is made in the Belgian wheat beer style.
“Wheat beers are normally served with a wedge of lemon or orange,” said Royle, so we added wedges of orange to the beer. Cubbon, who is not a big wheat beer fan, liked the Blue Moon with the orange and it paired surprising well with both kinds of fritters, especially after fresh lime juice was squeezed on them.
The best wine pairing with the fritters was with Ménage à Trois white ($15.99 retail), a California wine with a unique blend of three grapes – Chardonnay, Muscat Alexandra and Chenin Blanc. With crisp acidity and flavours of tropical fruits and citrus, Ménage à Trois was an excellent companion to the fritters, as it was later with the curried shrimp and grilled mahi mahi.
“It’s quite a versatile wine and goes with lots of things,” Royle said.
“And it’s easy to drink,” said Cubbon, noting that the light style made it a good wine with or without food.
The other wine that paired well with the fritters was Cavit Moscato ($14.99), a refreshing and slightly sweet and slightly effervescent – or frizzante as the Italians call it – wine from Lombardy, Italy.
Very light in alcohol – only 7.5 per cent – the Cavit Moscato is a perfect afternoon lunch wine, especially with the kind of spicy local seafood served in Grand Cayman. The Moscato was the only beverage on the table that really paired well with the Cayman-style lobster and it even held up to added scotch bonnet pepper sauce. Both Royle and Powell enjoyed the Moscato with the curried shrimp as well.
Sol, a Mexican pale lager, served with a wedge of lime, was also a good match with the curried shrimp and the fish, especially when spiced up with a little scotch bonnet sauce.
Blue Fish Riesling ($16.99), a German wine in stylish blue bottle that looks anything but German, is made with modern techniques, but still has the food-friendliness that is typical of Riesling.
Riesling is a natural pairing with the spicy flavours typical of the Caribbean, especially with seafood dishes. The Blue Fish paired best with the mahi mahi, but also went well with the curried shrimp.
There are some dishes that beer just pairs best with and barbecue chicken is one of them. Presidente, a pilsner produced in the Dominican Republic, was the best beer we had with the barbecue chicken. Barbecue chicken and barbecue ribs are often on the menus of restaurants that serve local food. Because of Presidente’s sweet, malty taste, it was perfect with the sweet barbecue sauce on the chicken.
Amstel Light, a low-alcohol pale lager from the Netherlands, is also a good choice with barbecue, especially at an all-day affair where there’s likely to be lots of drinking. Its taste is more complex than American-style light beers, but it’s still an easy-drinking beer, perfect for a Cayman afternoon by the ocean.
Pairing wine with foods covered in barbecue sauce can be challenging, and we were relying on the Beringer Pinot Noir ($29.99) from California to do the trick. Not all Pinot Noirs, especially the more earthy versions, would pair well with barbecue, but Napa Valley Pinots – many of which use grapes grown is warmer climates than most Pinot Noirs – tend to be a little fruitier, and thus seemingly sweeter. The Beringer did pair well with the barbecue chicken, but it was even better paired with the pepper steak. Pepper steak is another local favorite and Pinot Noir was perfect with South Coast’s version of the saucy dish, even when doused with hot sauce.
Pinot Noir is one of the most food friendly red wines, and it would be a good choice with several other local food favourites – turtles stew, oxtail and stew beef.
It seems every Jacques Scott lunch for the Journal has a surprise finding, and for this one, it was that Cavit Moscato is really a great afternoon wine with Cayman’s style of spicy seafood that could also incorporate flavours of tropical fruits, citrus or even coconut-based sauces like stew conch or fish rundown. Best of all, even if two people drink a whole bottle over lunch, it’s low enough in alcohol that the rest of afternoon can be productive, if it needs to be.