This year has been a washout out for foodies. Not only have restaurants— or at least the sit-down kind— taken a hit, but those who like to experience food in a variety of cultural settings have had their ankles bound and their tongues tied by travel restrictions and border closures.
I am no exception.
So when the government of the Cayman Islands, where I call home, relaxed its outbound travel restrictions, I could no longer be contained. I took the next flight to a nearby island and spent nine days combining work with pleasure.
But there was a catch.
Cayman’s strict COVID-19 regulations require that travellers quarantine at one of three approved hotels for two weeks upon return— at the traveller’s expense.
“If I am going to spend the money, I am going to turn this experience into an epicurean retreat,” I contemplate out loud, marvelling at my ingenuity. I carefully review the amenities offered by each establishment, and for me it is a no-brainer.
I am a regular diner at Palm Heights, a glamorous boutique hotel on Grand Cayman’s pristine Seven Mile Beach. Tillies, one of the two on-site restaurants, boasts the trendiest, most out-of-the-box culinary offering of any hotel on-island and management is willing to provide me with a retreat-esque ‘culinary quarantine experience’ at an added cost.
As someone who makes her living writing and talking about food, I am sold. A week’s vacation has suddenly turned into three.
After a week and a half escape, I begin part two of my vacation.
The blues are bluer, the greens are greener and the whites are whiter at Palm Heights. It is no wonder that founder and creative director, Gabriella Khalil dropped a brilliant primrose into the mix.
I make my way through the ‘COVID-entrance’ of the hotel and ascend to the top floor behind a masked and gloved guide who exudes a vibe that is half camp counsellor, half concierge. I’m sure she feels that she must somehow embrace both personas, given the circumstances.
I put down my bags.
Knock-knock. A masked server stands her guard from six feet away as she drops off a smorgasbord of lunchtime pleasures. From almond cheese to aromatic radishes and cucumbers in a light pecan sauce, colourful plant-based treasures adorn three recycled paper boxes. Resident chef and educator, Dr Aris LaTham, otherwise known as the father of gourmet ethical raw foods cuisine, is the culinarian behind this buffet.
I make my way out to my private patio, and watch “freedom lovers” on the beach, while sipping Slovenian organic wine from paper-thin glass.
This isn’t so bad.
Gerardo Gonzalez, the Food and Culture Manager, who runs a once-a-week natural wine-lovers club at Palm Heights’ Paradise Pizza, is eager for my feedback.
The phone rings. “What do you think of the wine?”
“Not bad at all,” I smile as