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Sun and sand may be consistent selling points across the Caribbean and the Bahamas, but when it comes to cuisine, the region offers a deliciously diverse array of options. After all, the islands are a blend of centuries of influence from Africa, Latin America and various European countries.
Grand Hyatt Baha MarThe Bahamas welcomed a plethora of new dining options with the recent opening of Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. No fewer than 20 venues, in fact, are serving up the creations of a diverse team of chefs, who hail from far-flung places including China, India and Switzerland. Executive chef Brent Martin oversees much of the offerings, and food outlets range from El Jefe, which serves “Mexi-Cali” treats in a vintage Airstream trailer on the beach, to Stix, a stylish Pan-Asian noodle bar next to the on-property casino. Guests can also try Japanese dishes at Katsuya and Pan-Latin specialties at Drift.
The Cove, EleutheraAlso in the Bahamas is The Cove, Eleuthera, which offers two rather proactive ways to enjoy local cuisine. The first — which the hotel appropriately calls a “sea-to-salad experience” — takes guests on a four-hour sailing excursion to snorkel and dive for conch shells. After they find a sufficient number of these tasty shellfish, participants head to a private, white-sand beach, where the fresh catch becomes the main ingredient in conch shell ceviche.
The Cove’s second option encourages guests to “eat the enemy” — namely, the lionfish, an invasive species that’s considered harmful to the Bahamian reef system. While the marine species may not be good for the environment, it makes for a healthful and delicious meal, especially when served with coconut and Thai dipping sauces at the resort’s Freedom Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Diners can help preserve the reef while they savor the seafood, as well as learn more about how to prepare it thanks to the hotel’s assistant manager, Tricia Ferguson, author of “The Lionfish Cookbook: The Caribbean’s New Delicacy.”
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris CasinoAlso on the interactive side are the Aruban cooking classes offered at Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. One of the property’s chefs leads groups on a three-course creative journey that highlights typical Aruban specialties, including keshi yena, a dish that’s made from a Gouda cheese wheel stuffed with meat, peppers, onions and other ingredients.
Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Rose HallIn Jamaica, the style of “jerk” cooking is key to some of the destination’s most authentic dishes. Jamaican jerk spice, a spicy mixture, is dry rubbed onto various meats, with mouthwatering results. Among the island’s properties that serve jerk chicken, jerk pork and other specialties is Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, which is home to Sunrise Beach Jerk Hut, as well as both Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall.
Couples ResortsCouples Resorts, meanwhile, infuses its four resorts — which are located in Ocho Rios and Negril — with lots of Jamaican flavor. Among the biggest guest-pleasers, according to hotel execs, are handcrafted Jamaican spring rolls, fiery jerk grilled lamb and banana coconut bread.
True Blue Bay Boutique ResortClients looking to learn some take-home kitchen skills might want to consider a trip to True Blue Bay Boutique Resort in Grenada. Here, a weekly cooking demonstration, available every Thursday at 3 p.m., sheds light on the secrets of regional cuisine. The classes are free to hotel guests and open to the public for a fee.
Seven Stars Resort & SpaIn Turks and Caicos, Seven Stars Resort aims to provide guests with myriad opportunities to sample authentic Caribbean cuisine. Menus here are headed by executive chef Edwin Gallard and feature local, fresh ingredients and unique spices. At on-property restaurant Seven, signature dishes include grilled lobster and seared yellowfin tuna.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand CaymanSome Caribbean hotels host culinary events that further highlight the region’s tastiest traditions. One upcoming foodie celebration is the 10th annual Cayman Cookout, which takes place Jan. 10-14, 2018, at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
The gathering will feature appearances by chef Eric Ripert (co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City and founder of the event), as well as big names including chefs Emeril Lagasse, Rick Bayless and Anthony Bourdain. Cayman Cookout is designed as an interactive weekend of cooking demonstrations, tastings, tours and — of course — meals.
BEYOND HOTELSTrue gourmands and foodies who are Caribbean-bound should also cast their eyes beyond the hotel properties when seeking out unique and authentic culinary experiences.
Savor the SpiceAmong the newest non-hotel options in Grenada, for example, is a series of tours from recently launched company Savor the Spice. Programs feature stops at multiple restaurants that serve Grenadian dishes. The three-hour Savor the City tour includes at least eight tastings, while the eight-hour Savor the Country excursion includes 10 tastings. Travelers looking for an adults-only experience should opt for the three-hour Sip + Savor tour, which stops at four venues for 10 “sips” of alcoholic beverages and three food tastings.
Camana BayIn the Cayman Islands, clients can sign up for the two-hour Flavour Tour at Camana Bay on Grand Cayman. Every Wednesday, guides take guests to several restaurants in this upscale retail and dining complex on the waterfront. Expect to nibble at small-plate cuisine specialties that are paired with wine from the West Indies Wine Company.
Fishbone ToursVacationers can take to the water with companies such as Fishbone Tours in the Bahamas, where Captain Julius “Bubba” Rankine leads scenic boat rides to a conch garden, with fresh conch salad as the culinary reward.