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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

We just got back from a week long vacation in Grand Cayman-a new place for us. This was a family vacation-meaning, we were in bed early because we were up at 7am every morning (if you ask me,that’s not a vacation πŸ™‚ )

A few things to note before I start in on my review of the trip:

  • Things are very expensive there-food, goods etc. even in the off season
  • Make sure to check your bills when dining out, most places include gratuity
  • Bring cash with you. If you use your credit card, the restaurant/shop charges you the difference from Cayman money to US dollars, and then your credit card company charges you a percentage as well.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time if you are connecting through the Miami airport, it’s a zoo to navigate
  • checking bags is free because it’s an international flight
  • The travel books say to bring mosquito repellent-there was only one night there when we needed it…but maybe it was just the time of year that we were there
  • There are NO casinos. I don’t know why we just assumed that all Caribbean islands had them…but this one doesn’t
  • If you are fussy about your Coke and Pepsi-which someone was-they are mostly a pepsi island. You have to go to the supermarket to find coke

We went Boston to Miami, and then Miami to Grand Cayman. When booking the tickets, we were told to leave at least 2 hours between Miami and Grand Cayman because of customs. When we arrived in Miami from Boston, we had to take a tram to get to our gate, even though they were both in the “D” wing of the airport. You don’t have to arrive 2 hours early in Boston for the flight because it’s domestic to Miami. On the way home, from Grand Cayman getting intoΒ  Miami you have to walk about a half a mile to get to the customs area. Once there you have to exit the area and go through security again to get onto your connecting flight. This means that if you have bought duty free items in the Cayman airport, you must either put them in your checked luggage (you have to pick up checked luggage and re check it) or carry it on (if it’s under 3 oz.)

We arrive in Grand Cayman and the airport is tiny. One room. Customs wasn’t bad, but I can imagine it gets packed in the busy season. When we asked people when the busy season was, they reported the week of Christmas through the spring break season. You wait in line to go through customs, then you wait to get your bags, then you wait outside in line to get a ticket for a taxi and then you wait in line to get into your actual taxi. We didn’t really get a chance to figure out how the taxi’s work here. It’s based on distance but also based on a per person rate. For instance for 3 people to go from the airport to the hotel is $23, but for 4 people it’s $32. You can rent a car at the airport (keep in mind that gas was almost 5 cayman dollars per gallon), but keep in mind that they drive on the left side of the road…and navigating through a rotary can be tough even if you know what side to be on and which direction you should be going.

We are staying at the Westin Casuarina located on Seven Mile Beach. (P.O. Box 30620 β€’ Seven Mile Beach β€’ Grand Cayman β€’ Cayman Islands
Phone: (345) 945 3800 β€’ Fax (345) 949 5825). We have gone to Aruba for years, so that is what I compare things about this trip to. In Aruba, if you stay in the right area, there are shops close by and restaurants clustered all in one area. Here, we thought that it would be the same, but the hotels on the strip are pretty spread out and it was a 20 minute walk most nights to get to dinner. There is a downtown area, Georgetown-where the cruise ships come in, but there wasn’t a lot of selection in the shops- a few jewelry stores (their big one is Kirk Freeport and their flagship store is downtown…as well as two others in a two block radius), a few cheap souvenir shops, and some cigar shops. You would want to take a taxi there if you went from the hotel-its a little too far to walk.

On to the hotel. We get there at around 3pm and the room isn’t ready. We go across the street to grab a bite to eat while we wait. The nice part is that when we check in they offer us a nice glass of peach flavored water while we wait.

The room is on the 3rd floor, an ‘island view’, which translates into “room that overlooks the parking lot and main road”. The good news is that the room is virtually sound proof, so we don’t hear the cars. The ocean view is…distant. You have to look over the pool area to get to the ocean-but how long are you in your room for that to really matter.

So for me, the best part about staying in Westin hotels is the “Heavenly” things… Heavenly bed, Heavenly shower, Heavenly towels. We had 2 Heavenly towels when we checked in and then we never saw them again. The water pressure in the shower was ok, but it was a slow drain so you stood in ankle deep water for most of your shower. Heavenly bed was just that….I love a king sized bed! There was mention somewhere, in the travel book and maybe somewhere else about island rum cakes on your bed when they turned them down. We didn’t see that, and only on the third night there did we see that you had to request the service if you wanted it.

They do provide a hairdryer, and I chose to leave mine at home because I couldn’t fit another thing in my suitcase. I have long thick hair, so it took me about an hour to dry it. Needless to say there were a lot of half dried hair nights. The one thing I found weird about the bathroom was that it didn’t have a fan-which you really needed if you took a warm shower.

While we waited for our room we went across the street to Eats Cafe on the recommendation of our taxi driver. The food there was much cheaper than the hotels restaurants, and we ended up eating breakfast there almost every morning. We noticed that there really aren’t any crosswalks here-there are two lanes of traffic on each side-it sort of feels like you are in a big game of frogger every time you try and cross the street.

It’s a diner with a Cheesecake Factory style menu-something for everyone. The decor is pop culture, pictures of Marilyn Monroe and bright colorful daisies.

There are stools at the counter, and large booths to accommodate big parties. The service is friendly and fast.

The grilled cheese sandwich.

Tri colored pasta.

The chicken sandwich. Nothing out of this world, but it was no nonsense, good food.

We finish lunch, go back to our hotel, put our bags down and try to catch a few rays while we still can. The thing about this hotel is that it doesn’t have huts like they do in Aruba, in fact, there is little cover. You can rent a little tent to go over your chair for $11 a day, or you can rent a cabana for $100 a day. Otherwise, you have to seek shade under one of the pine trees on the beach-yes I said pine trees. The cabanas are four in a row, very close to one another and closer to the pool than the ocean. If I were to pay $100 I wouldn’t want to be that close to someone else for sure! The sand was smooth, but if you sit under or near a pine tree be careful of the needles and pine cones-they hurt if you step on them with bare feet. The ocean is a beautiful shade of turquoise blue-you do have to walk over a little shelf of coral before you get to smooth sand in the ocean, but it’s worth it. Once you are in, the water is warm. We found out later that the water temperature only varies about 4 degrees.

So we didn’t get much sun the first day we arrived (Thursday), but there is always tomorrow. We decide on Edoardo’s for dinner. They suggest that you make reservation, especially in the busy season. Edoardo’s is the closest restaurant we dined at the whole trip. They serve Italian food. They had a holiday party there that night, so the bar area in front was in full swing. The back room in the restaurant was tame-small and quiet, a quaint area.

People who work in the Caymans are from an extensive list of countries around the world. Our waitress that night was from Canada.

The service was good-she was knowledgeable and friendly. I started with the Caprese salad ($9.95), tomato and mozzarella cheese. The mozzarella was good, but the tomatoes were very under ripe-they were almost white and quite hard.

Everyone else at the table went with the Edoardos Mixed Salad-delicate greens down in a local hydroponic garden, shaved carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers accompanied by a balsamic vinaigrette ($7.50).

For dinner I went with the bolognese, no surprise there. The description is “our own traditional home made meat sauce. You haven’t tried spaghetti until you’ve tried our spaghetti.”($17.95) Okay Edoardo’s…I accept your challenge. I was bit disappointed. In fact, it’s just ground beef in sauce-heavy on the wine in the sauce. Bummer.

Other choices at the table included the Farfalle with artichoke and sausage ($22.95) which was lean meat sausage tossed with artichokes, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. The sausage was excellent-a very good dish overall.

And the gnocchi quatro formaggio ($19.95) which were fresh home made potato dumplings with a combination of 4 cheese, parmesan, mozzarella, gorgonzola, cambozola in a cream sauce. The dumplings were excellent, so light for potato dumplings I am very impressed. The sauce was sharp-a nice bite to it from the cheese but a little on the thick side.

We end the night with the tiramisu ($7.95) that was excellent. very fresh, light and fluffy, not too strong.

The hotel lobby. They have a regular concierge that can handle your hotel reservations and excursions as well as a Red Sail Sports concierge that can handle all of those needs.

The hotels offers a breakfast brunch for about $17 Cayman-buffet, so we head over to the Eats Cafe again, across the street. Shown above is a ham, cheese and mushroom omelette. I wonder why I can’t make them look this good when I make them at home.

The south of the border burrito ($7.95) which was scrambled eggs with jack and cheddar cheese, chilies, green onions and tomatoes in a flour tortilla topped with salsa, served with a side of potatoes.

The 3 buttermilk pancakes ($3.95) because my breakfast of choice after day 1, they are excellent-light and fluffy!

It rains on and off all of Friday, so there is no beach time. Bummer. There is a movie theater on the island, pretty new actually-with 6 theaters.Β  We just spend the day walking around the covered parts of the property and spend time in the lobby. Above is a picture of the hotel from the beach area.

Here is the pool area. They have a bridge that you walk over to get to the beach-you can swim under it because the two pools are connected.

We end up at the hotel restaurant, Ferdinand’s, for lunch. The outside area is surrounded by nets in an effort to keep the birds out.

The pasta.

The salad ( I can’t remember the specific name) -with fruit, chicken, pistachios, cranberries and avocados.

Dinner Friday night is at Copper Falls– a steakhouse. It is dimly lit inside and has partitions to make a large room feel cozy. Included with every dinner is a free alcoholic beverage (from a selected list).

I order a Caybew, the local beer which tastes like a Heineken-do with that what you will….

The dress was business casual-but people were wearing shorts here. It was very dark inside as I said above, so no one could see what you were wearing anyway.

This is a very poor picture, but maybe you can get the idea of what inside looked like. For dinner our group ordered mostly steaks which were excellent. I ordered the seafood pasta with shrimp, calamari, scallops and lobster for $24.95 (Cayman). The meal was very good. If you are looking for a fancier option-I would recommend the “7 Prime Cuts and Sunsets” at the Ritz Carleton. We didn’t get a chance to dine there but we peeked inside, and it was beautiful. We went to the other restaurant at the Ritz and it was excellent, so you can only assume that the nicer restaurant in the hotel would be as good if not better.

We head over to Haagen Daza for ice cream after our meal-it’s in a nearby shopping plaza. They have flavors at the shop that they don’t sell in pints. I have to admit that we were there almost every day. The ice cream cones here were the freshest on the island that we tried. The hotel served soft serve ice cream from it’s coffee shop but it was rarely ready when we went and the cones were soggy.

Raspberries and meringue….one word. YUM!! So good-raspberry sorbet swirled with pieces of meringue!

Saturday morning is sunny!! We head over to the Eats Cafe for a quick breakfast. Shown above is the ‘backpacker special’. Fruit and granola parfait with a muffin and a cup of juice.

Sit all day in the sun. Some of us go jet skiing-not me…I bake in the sun and polish off 2 books! Don’t be too impressed-they were James Patterson books….

Lunch by the pool. Ham and cheese sandwich-a bit dry…but par for the course for poolside food. Came with fruit or chips and a pickle. Other days I stuck with a grilled cheese. The adult portion is two sandwiches, fruit and chips

After a nice day at the beach, we head inside to get ready for dinner. We head over to Ragazzis-about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. We chose this place because a friend of my sister in law recommended it. It has won the wine spectator award for excellence for the last 7 years.

We were eating dinners pretty early due to the youngster in our group-so the restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived-but picked up significantly as we were leaving.

We actually came here two nights when we were here. We should have gone to their sister restaurant Luca, we had heard good things about it from friends. The first night we sat close to the door and the second night we ate there we sat in the back-which was much quieter.

The dress is casual here. They bring over a white board with the specials written on it, which I thought was a little odd. Pictured above is the bread basket-excellent bread-fresh and a nice variety.

The tomato and mozzarella salad ($9.95). Better than the one the first night we were here, but the tomatoes were still not ripe enough. The mozzarella was excellent.

They are known for their pizzas that are cooked in wood burning ovens. They are thin crust and a little bigger than a dinner plate. The pepperoni was good albeit a little greasy (a little pool formed in the middle).

I was sharing the bolognese ($15.95)-pictured above was half an order…pretty small and not nearly enough food. The second night when someone else ordered it, the portion was a little bigger. Better than the first night’s bolognese (this one at least had carrots) but still just sauce and ground beef.

The gnocchi ($16.95) was home made in a four cheese sauce with brandy and pistachios. These might be the best gnocchi I have had in a long time. Excellent-the lightest dumplings I have ever had-they just melted away in your mouth. The sauce was excellent-sharp but not overpowering and not too heavy.

The second night there we had the antipasto misto ($11.95) with Prosciutto, bresaola, salami, speck with roasted peppers and Parmesan. Excellent-the meats were salty the cheese was nutty and the melon was sweet and ripe.

The orecchiette ($20.95), SautΓ©ed with shrimps, broccoli, garlic, parmesan cheese in a light spicy butter sauce was excellent. I was impressed with the amount of shrimp-I couldn’t finish it all.

A little dark and blurry, but here is the second nights full order of the bolognese.

Sunday=Fun day! My niece decided she wanted to swim with the dolphins, so we went over to the Dolphin Discovery. We coordinated this with the concierge. Make sure to go on a day that there are fewer (or no) cruise ships in port because it can get really crowded. If you go later in the day-the cruise ships have either gone or people are heading to the boats to leave. If you go on a crowded day your group could have 15-20 people in it (as we saw when we arrived) which really means less time with the dolphins. Luckily we went later, and there were only 4 other people in their group.

There are different packages with different prices. The dolphin royal swim is:

  • Foot Push
  • Dorsal Tow
  • Kiss
  • Dolphin Song
  • Handshake
  • Free Time with Dolphins

Adults (+4’ 7”): US$ 159 * Kids (3’ 11” – 4’ 7” and minimum age of 8 years old) US$ 119
* Kids must swim with a paying adult as a companion.

The swim adventure is

  • Belly ride
  • Handshake
  • Kiss
  • Dolphin song
  • Free time with dolphins

Adults (+4’ 7”): US$ 119 * Kids (3’ 11” – 4’ 7”) US$ 99 * Kids must swim with a paying adult as a companion.

And the dolphin lover swim is:

  • Kiss
  • Handshake
  • Tail Splash
  • Blow hole
  • Jumps
  • Mouth and Fluke explanation
  • Educational explanation
  • Free time with dolphins

Adults (+3’ 11”): US$ 99 * Kids (2’ 11” – 3’ 11”): US$ 79 * Infants (1 y.o. to 2’ 11”) FREE

The facility was decent-the one in the Bahamas was much nicer because it had a beach and some sand. You don’t have to wear a wet suit here, just a life jacket. Whichever package you choose, you get free admission to the Boatswains Beach turtle farm across the street. Don’t worry if you forgot your camera or your video camera-they have both there and sell the photos and videos in the gift shop. Other family members can come and watch at no charge. There is a snack bar where you can grab a light meal or a quick snack while you wait.

If you do the dolphin swim, you have free admission to the turtle farm. However, it is limited. If you want access to the whole park it is an additional $20. If you did not swim with the dolphins, admission is $20 to the turtle farm or $40 for the whole park. The park has limited hours on the off season so make sure to check at your hotel.

I’m not sure that I would recommend going here if you don’t have small children. For $20, you don’t get very much. When you walk in there is a huge pond where there are TONS of large turtles swimming all around. There is a beach area where they can lay their eggs. Turtles breathe through their noses-so when they come up for air it makes the same sound as a whale.

There was a tank where you could hold baby turtles, which was the highlight of the park. The tank says that if you would like to hold a turtle please ask for help. We lucked out when we arrived that there was a guy at the tank but he disappeared so when we went back at the end to try and hold the turtles again, we didn’t want to grab one ourselves. The baby turtles are pretty cute, they flap their arms and legs when you hold them, but the man told us that if you pet them under their necks, it calms them. My niece thought that was pretty cool. That was about it. There was a learning center where you could see the eggs sitting in styrofoam coolers waiting to hatch and a display that shows you just how deep turtles bury their eggs. All the other areas of the park were restricted to the blue wristbands (the upgraded price option).

Back to the hotel and then out to dinner at the Lone Star Grill. They are supposed to have the best burgers on the island. It is the farthest walk for dinner, about 25 minutes. Has a great outdoor seating area with tv’s for watching sports and an air conditioned inside dining area.

A little dark, but here is the outside area. Funny how we go all the way to the Cayman Islands to get “real Texas bbq”. There isn’t enough light to get good pictures of the food so you will just have to use your imagination. We order the mozzarella sticks but they don’t have enough for 2 orders, so they give us anything else we want on the house. We choose the chicken poppers (popcorn chicken). When they come out, they said that the mozzarella sticks didn’t make the cut in the fryer so we got two orders of the poppers on the house. Most of us order burgers. I order the swiss and mushroom burger cooked medium. The burger is pretty good but it has SO much pepper in it-its the dry rub spices that they use. The mushrooms aren’t cooked well so they are tough and rubbery. Not bad but not great.

Another restaurant we had heard good things about but didn’t have a chance to try was Deckers, a little closer to our hotel but on the same side of the street as Lone Star (across the street from the Cayman Beach Suites). It has a great outdoor seating area, one night when we walked by there was live music playing. It just looked like a fun tropical place with tv’s to watch sports while you eat. There was a small cigar store right next door, but they were expensive. If you do decide to buy cigars, they best deals are the duty free ones at the airport. You can smoke Cuban cigars on the island-in fact, it’s the only kind they sell in some shops in Georgetown.

Monday we wake up early and go out on a trip with Red Sail Sports to snorkel with the stingrays (around $80 per person). We are supposed to meet them outside of the hotel restaurant on the beach at 8:40am-but by 8:50 they haven’t shown up in the catamaran….the seas were a little choppy so they had to bus us out to another location to pick up the boat. Would have been nice if someone had come out to find us and tell us…otherwise we could have been sitting out there for much longer….There are about 10 other people on the boat with us. It is a little chilly and windy outside today. We take a 45 minute sail out to the reef where the stingrays are. It’s weird going out into the middle of the ocean and then snorkeling in an area that is only waist high water. People had trouble snorkeling out that day-the current was very strong and people complained about water getting down their snorkel-thus swallowing a few too many mouthfuls of salt water. My dad has a mustache, and they said that it would be hard for him to snorkel because the mask wouldn’t be airtight due to the facial hair…might have been nice to have known that before we paid to go on the trip-so his snorkeling was limited. We had about 45 minutes there-they are limited in the amount of food that they are able to give the stingrays, so the crew rationed it-making sure that the rays were close by for the majority of the time. There was a photographer there, in case you wanted your photo with a ray. After people got back on board we circled around and people were allowed to snorkel for another 30-45 minutes. Because we took the morning trip, there was a light lunch served along with a cash bar. There was a choice of a tuna salad or chicken wrap, pasta salad, fresh bread and a fruit skewer.

It was a long day-everyone was tired from a day of swimming. We head over to the Ritz Carlton for dinner at Periwinkles.

  • Simply prepared seafood and grill selections
  • Homemade pastas with delicate, inventive sauces
  • Infinite Pasta & Pizza on Saturday evenings
  • Can’t-be-missed Parmesan Truffle French Fries
  • Ideal for families with nightly movies under the stars at Periwinkle Theatre
  • Adjacent to the Blue Tip golf course
  • Accessible by water

Open: Lunch & Dinner daily from 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.

There seems to be no one around. Upon walking through the property-we collectively decide that we should have stayed here.

When you read that Periwinkles has a screen for kids movies, you think that the restaurant is going to be a certain way-kid friendly…maybe even un-Ritz like. The screen is behind the restaurant and there is no sound so it doesn’t interrupt your dinner. There are pool lounge chairs in front of the screen so kids can lounge out and watch the movie while parents eat there dinner if they so choose.

The whole restaurant is open air. The service here is excellent-everything you would expect from a Ritz property. The waitress is knowledgeable, friendly, experienced, always there if you need something yet gives you space while you are dining.

I start with the tomato and mozzarella salad. The tomatoes here are prefect. Somehow they are the only ones on the island to get ripe tomatoes. It comes with pesto that I passed on, and I sprinkled the tomatoes with a little salt to give them a nice bite. Excellent.

A little on the fuzzy side (the picture, not the food), this is the Bruschetta Duo-wild mushroom, tomato, basil, olive oil, toasted foccacia. The mushrooms were cooked to perfection-another excellent appetizer.

The Capriccosa pizza-mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce, italian sausage, pepperoni, basil. Really good pizza-good quality toppings and I loved that this had a little bit more crust to it.

I ordered the Linguini with shrimps, calamari, mussels, clams ,herbs, tomato, garlic, wine, tomato hollandaise. I asked them to go light on the sauce, they brought extra on the side just in case but it was excellent as it was. The seafood was fresh, the pasta was al dente, the sauce was light.

Here is the best part of the meal. Dessert. I’m not kidding. There were so many things that we wanted to try. My brother and I split two desserts. Above is the chocolate mousse with a hazelnut cookie on the bottom. The mousse was so light and airy yet full of chocolate flavor. The bottom was like a hazelnut graham cracker crust-great textures.

I know that this might not look like much, and any description I give won’t come close to doing it justice. You would have to have had one to appreciate how excellent this dessert was. This is my half of the ice cream sandwich, which comes half wrapped in white butcher paper. The ice cream and “sandwich” part is excellent but what puts it over the top is the nougatine on the top.

We also got some lemon panna cotta like dessert….but really I had blinders on after tasting the chocolate desserts. This lemon one came with a pistachio biscotti and the dessert itself had a nice tang to it.

And that was our trip.Β  We sat around the airport waiting for our flight. I would suggest either bringing food to the airport or eating ahead of time. There is only one sandwich place and the sandwiches are pre-made. The meat was a little funky-the cheese was weird, and the lettuce was shriveled.Β  There are 3 or 4 duty free liquor shops, a cigar shop, a jewelry store-kirk freeport that also sells perfume, and a rum cake shop. And just to leave you with a funny story-

We arrive in Miami and go through customs. We try and hurry so we can try to get on a earlier flight. we get held up at security because they say my bag is too big and I will have to check it….even though I just got OFF a plane and it was in the overhead and it fit perfectly. We get on the plane and we pull away from the gate. The captain said that we would arrive about 30 minutes early, we were #1 in line, there was a tail wind and good weather. Then he says, ‘it’s 20 degrees in Boston’. The guy in the back of the plane goes “oh S*!@, this plane is going to Boston??? I am supposed to be going to DCA!!” So we pull back to the gate to let him off, meanwhile we have moved to #18 in line to take off and we will be arrive 20 minutes late.

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