Started in 1986 in Italy, Slow Food is a global, grassroots organisation with chapters established around the world. Central to Slow Food is taking the time to enjoy the pleasure of good food with a commitment to the community and the environment. Slow Food South Sound was started by Martin Richter in 1996, the then general manager of Grand Old House, with a small group of 40 members. Today, Slow Food South Sound boasts around 100 members. The chapter, now run by Alan Markoff, holds regular monthly events at various restaurants across Cayman, as well as the recently launched Slow Food Day, held in February.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink hosted the second in their third season of farm-to-table dinners last month. The dinners, in partnership with Slow Food South Sound, run every second month through October and aim to celebrate local farmers, fisherman and their fresh, simple and pure bounty.
On the menu was a selection of local produce, including mangoes, eggs, mahi and locally farmed goat, all served family style, creating a relaxed and informal setting.
The farm-to-table dinners were started in April 2011 and over the years have grown in popularity, Jackie Sayet, brand director at the Genuine Hospitality Group, said.
“We wanted to step up the presence of the Island’s farmers and bridge the gap between what you see on the plate and where it is coming from. Farm-to-table was a great way to do both and gather people around the table in a family style format, sharing good conversation over great food and drink.
“The event has grown with our farmer relationships, so we not only have added more farmers but have been able to offer a wider variety of local ingredients as they have grown and diversified their operations. More ingredients to work with equals more interesting menus.
“It’s exciting to have accumulated and supported a great core group of farmers over the three years we’ve been on the Island and to see their operations branch out from backyard gardens and produce, to growing businesses with diversified products including meat, poultry and dairy,” Sayet said.
Among the many local ingredients at the dinner was wood oven roasted goat leg, from Hamlin Stephenson’s farm in Lower Valley, served with a fennel and Greek yogurt marinade. Summer is mango season, so as you would expect, mangoes featured heavily at the dinner, both in a welcome cocktail and in the dessert – a heavenly mango crostada served with coconut rum cream. The mangoes were sourced from Joel Walton’s Plantation House Organic Gardens. Walton is an avid farmer who hails from Cayman Brac. Eggs were sourced from farmer Patrick Panton’s chickens at his farm East End Garden & Gifts.
All three farmers are familiar faces at market events, held at both Camana Bay on Wednesdays and The Grounds at Lower Valley on Saturdays, as more and more people look to source food from sustainable and organic practices.
Michael’s Genuine’s Executive Chef Thomas Tennant has been at the forefront of Cayman’s farm-to-table concept, featuring local produce on the menu whenever possible. Head to the restaurant this month and you are likely to see seasonal produce including calabaza, eggplants and local summer fruits incorporated into the dishes on the menu.
“The quality of local produce is far superior over imported goods,” Tennant said. “The produce is allowed to fully ripen before being picked at just the right time, resulting in a far better taste and a product that is also far more nutritious. Imported products are picked before they have a chance to ripen, meaning much of the flavour and nutritional content is lost. It also makes sense to support local farmers and the hard work that they do, while keeping money in the local economy.
“Produce that is grown or raised close to home tends to be the freshest, and also the most whole. When you start bringing things in from a distance, they tend to be more broken down and more vulnerable. It’s also more difficult to determine when it was harvested. We are a big believer in fostering relationships with the community and getting to know and trust where our food is coming from.”
The next farm-to-table dinner will be held 17 August. For details and reservations call 640-6433.