The Brasserie opened its doors to its brand new Market earlier this year, a brilliant café open for breakfast and lunch and geared for those on-the-go, along with its ever-evolving garden, the latter gradually providing both the original restaurant and the new Market with a wonderful selection of organic produce, fresh from the ground straight to the plate. In celebration of the garden’s bountiful harvest the Brasserie recently held its first Harvest Dinner in the grounds of the garden. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull was in attendance and reports.
Brasserie owners Lisa and King Flowers along with consultant Chef Dean Max and Executive Chef Brad Phillips could think of no better way to share the bounty already reaped from the Brassserie’s newly developed garden than with a harvest dinner marking the celebration of a new concept in cuisine.
Sitting in the garden surrounded by plants that supplied our dinner was an invaluable exercise in becoming in touch with nature, a skill lost nowadays in our pre-packaged, seasonally lost, fertilised-to-the-hilt culinary world in which we live in.
Joel Walton, the farmer responsible for many of the incredible plants currently thriving at the Brasserie’s garden shared his extensive knowledge with diners. He said at the dinner that farmers in Cayman had to deal with two main issues when it comes to the soil. “There is very little organic content and the ph balance, which leans towards alkaline, is not conducive to growing fruits and vegetables. You therefore have to neutralise the alkalinity and add organic content.”
The plants grown at the Brasserie are mainly raised in beds that have been carefully treated to ensure the best growing conditions. Landscape designer and renowned author Margaret Barwick confirms that they are also utilising spare ground in the Brasserie’s car park. As well as the myriad of fruits and vegetables currently under cultivation (including tomatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplants, chillis, callaloo, beetroots, sweet peppers, lemon grass, passion fruit vines, bananas, ackees, cherry trees and breadfruit trees among many, many others) Miss Margaret says that over time they are looking forward to including many new and exciting fruits and vegetables to the Brasserie’s menus.
The Brasserie staff had worked hard to make the garden an inviting and accommodating environment in which to enjoy a convivial lively dinner, promoted by service from large platters ‘family-style’.
After nibbles on coconut conch ceviche and turtle soup, in keeping with the locally harvested theme, diners enjoyed with a glass of Champagne, diners took their seats for the delicious feast to begin.
First course was a tomato Gazpacho served elegantly in wine bottles, thus allowing each diner the chance to pour themselves the perfect portion. As gazpachos go this rated at the very top of the list, the intense flavours creating a fresh zing in the mouth with just a hint of vinegary twang at the end.
Chef Dean explained the process: “We harvested tomatoes and red bell peppers along with cilantro, marinated them in extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar and then blended them altogether.”
The soup was served alongside a Farmer Salad of just picked greens, tomatoes, mozzarella, eggs, baby garden vegetables and bacon and served with a sour orange vinaigrette which gave a lovely light citrus kick to the dish.
A pickled eggplant flat bread with parsley salad almost stole the show away from the delights of the soup and salad, so intensely lovely was the piquant and meltingly soft eggplants. The wait staff had left the remainder of this flat bread far to close to myself and my companion diner once they had ensured everyone had received a piece and so my apologies go out to my fellow diners who did not manage to wrest the platter from my grip and ended up with just one gorgeous taster.
A second course soon followed but the service was so seamlessly continuous that it was hard to draw a significant line among courses. We enjoyed sautéed satin snapper with hand made coconut oil infusing incredible depth of flavour, along with local lobster risotto, an arugula Parmesan salad dressed as well as the deliciously melting pork from a Cayman-raised whole pig roasted with pimento leaves on a spit.
Vegetables were plentiful and varied: bamboo rice, the creamiest ever goat’s cheese polenta redolent with an onion infusion, green bananas, white beans and spinach along with roasted garden vegetables.
Desserts were in keeping with the rest of the dinner with regards to the highest standards and emphasis on taste and consisted of a rather naughty but never-the-less amply consumed dulce de leche bread pudding, as well as baby warm chocolate cakes served with vanilla and cinnamon whipped cream.
And thus a revolution of flavour was quietly unleashed in Cayman. After sampling what REAL food tastes like you will never want to go back.
A night to remember and one hopefully to be repeated in the not too distant future.