UPDATE: I can no longer recommend this resort. There is a new chef and the last time I was there, I got ill repeatedly. This happened even after speaking to the chef and other kitchen staff again and again and having them make food especially for me. Per information from friends who continue to visit this resort, getting truly gluten-free food at this resort continues to be very challenging–with some meals safe and others not. Stay away until they get a new chef who knows what gluten free really means and ensures that gluten-free guests receive gluten-free food throughout their stay.
As I stated in my 25 Days to Christmas kickoff post, I’m posting every day through Christmas as I approach my two-year gfe anniversary, both as a way to celebrate and to clear out a backlog of “must share” posts before the new year. So I thought I’d finally summarize our June anniversary trip to Little Cayman Beach Resort (LCBR) for you all. Of course, the primary focus here is on how I fared with the food at LCBR, but I’ve shared a little bit more, too. Some of you are already dealing with snow and many are already frazzled regarding the upcoming holidays (that latter group includes me). Let this post take you away from all that.
LCBR is, of course, located on Little Cayman Island, one of the sister islands to Grand Cayman in the lower Caribbean. LCBR is very close to the airport, but there are no worries about annoying noise. In fact, the airport terminal, fire department, and police department are all housed in just one small building. The planes that fly into Little Cayman are small, turbo prop numbers and only a few fly in and depart each day. The LCBR shuttle picked us up and quickly took us the 1/4 mile to the resort.
After a pleasant and expedient check-in, I met the chef, Anthony, and his assistant chef, Joann. We chatted for a few moments and came up with a game plan. I would speak with either of them before my meals to determine what I could eat safely. They assured me that there would be plenty of options. That added to the fair amount of comfort that I already felt from reading great online reviews from others who were gluten free and had visited LCBR. By that time, it was mid-afternoon and still several hours before dinner, so after checking our lovely room out briefly (the resort was completely renovated after Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004), Mr. GFE and I hit the bar and outdoor dining area for our complimentary rum punch, plus a shared shrimp cocktail. Both were delicious and arrived right on time via excellent service from one of the two super friendly bartenders, Ewnan. Ewnan hailed from Ireland and had been working at LCBR for several months.
We walked around the beautiful grounds of the resort. It’s not large or very fancy by resort standards, but LCBR is beautiful and has everything one needs. We adored the flowers, including this wild banana orchid (shown below) that only grows in the Cayman Islands.
My choices at dinner that first evening were barbecue ribs and chicken, green beans, and corn on the cob. Sounds like the perfect summer dinner, doesn’t it? It was!
The following day I had blackened sole over leeks with hickory bell pepper sauce—and that was for lunch! After dinner the previous evening and a lunch like that, I knew it was going to be a really good week and I was right! That evening happened to be our anniversary (one of the reasons I decided to accompany Mr. GFE on this particular dive trip). I selected the chili-scented mahi mahi with olive tapenade and dill roasted potatoes, which was an amazing meal in its own right. But, then the assistant chef, Joann, came to my table with a gluten-free version of the baked chicken stuffed with andouille sausage, broccoli, Morbier cheese, and roasted onion sauce. The mahi was good, but the stuffed chicken dish—phenomenal. (I couldn’t finish it and, unfortunately, didn’t remember at the time that we had a refrigerator in our room. I still am regretful about that fact, as it would have made a very lovely breakfast the next day.) As soon as all at our table were ready for dessert, the servers came out in a chorus line singing and dancing. (Note: The celebration had been pre-arranged by the dive group we met up with at the resort. Mr. GFE had met them online on a scuba diving forum. They turned out to be terrific travel companions for us both and excellent dive “buddies” for him.) The head dining room personnel, who entertained us daily with their abundance of infectious charm, led a whole staff in our anniversary celebration. In fact, Claudia had our special dessert plate atop her head! I could see the flame of a candle burning as she led the group into the dining room and wondered what they had prepared for us given my need for a gluten-free dessert. I didn’t have to wait long as she presented beautiful passion fruit mousse and flourless dark chocolate nut bars. The passion fruit mousse was light and flavorful—just a tad tart—but I especially enjoyed the “nut bars” as Joann called them. Rich in flavor and texture, even Mr. GFE (who almost always skips dessert) enjoyed them and the mousse. In fact, the nut bars became our “go to” dessert for the rest of the week. Most of the time the desserts served were not gluten free, so I’d ask for a nut bar and Joann would retreat to the kitchen and cheerfully bring one out to me.
Monday’s lunch was curried salmon with ginger mango sauce and basmati rice. Dinner that night was Cajun-rubbed tilapia with shrimp sauce, some grilled rack of lamb with pistachio mint pesto, and my favorite potatoes, fingerling.
Tuesday lunch meant delicious grilled chicken with walnut basil pesto. Dinner that night was a little baked sole with lemon caper dill sauce; pork loin with bacon, apples, sage, and cranberry glaze; and cheddar mashed potatoes. Are you getting the picture on the amazing naturally gluten-free choices that LCBR offers?
Clearly, I love fish so the next day’s lunch was cumin-scented mahi mahi with pico de gallo; chicken and broccoli; and creole steak-fried potatoes. Dinner was pan-seared pork tenderloin with wild mushroom ragout. (There was also grilled rack of veal with horseradish demi glace sauce available.) My vegetables were haricot verts and cherry tomatoes.
Thursday’s lunch entrée was crab cakes, which were NOT gluten free. I opted for jerk chicken with some rice and peas. I was a bit disappointed as I am such a seafood lover, and particularly a fan of crab, but one almost never gets gluten-free crab cakes when dining out, so I wasn’t surprised. However, Joann “fed” my need for seafood, by preparing some blackened fish for me right on the spot. I honestly don’t remember what type of fish it was, but I do know it was fantastic. There was plenty so I was even able to share with some friends at our table.
For lunch and dinner, there were always multiple choices of salads—greens-based salads, mayonnaise-based salads, and fruit salads. Most were naturally gluten free. A few already included a soy dressing or ingredients like croutons, so I didn’t get to enjoy them, but there were always safe choices for me. And, Mr. GFE and I agreed that the salad choices were outstanding. There was plenty of variety, the ingredients were amazingly fresh, and the combinations were all meal worthy by themselves. We each ate much more salad than usual during our stay at LCBR and enjoyed all our choices very much.
I haven’t mentioned breakfast. That was the only meal that did present some issues for me. There were plenty of naturally gluten-free choices like eggs, bacon, fruit, and more. In fact, there was even a manned omelet station, which I took advantage of twice. However, there were a few mornings I didn’t feel well after breakfast. I tried to pinpoint the cause (was it my tea? was is the bacon? was it the ham? was it the eggs? etc.), but never could. The staff on hand at breakfast had much more limited knowledge and were pretty much just servers. And, truth be told, this is not the first time that breakfasts have caused issues for me, even in fine establishments that “get” gluten free. Sometimes I think that with so much flour “flying” for homemade waffles, pancakes, biscuits, and the like, that the odds of cross contamination are just greatly increased.
Other times, I wonder if it could possibly be something other than gluten. Heidi (Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom) mentioned recently that some folks with an egg sensitivity can tolerate egg in baked goods when it is cooked at a high temperature, but not individually or in egg dishes like omelets. It seems that the effect of the egg is altered (favorably) from the high temperatures. I did have a previous issue with eggs and have wondered if it has resurfaced. Heidi’s statement was an eye opener for me because I never had an issue with eggs in baked goods, but only by themselves (or say omelets). I thought the difference was the amount of egg I was consuming, not realizing the temperature the eggs were cooked at actually had an impact on their effect.
Whatever the cause of my post-breakfast issues, if I return to LCBR, I’ll have to handle breakfast differently. Most days, I’ll probably just reserve some of my lunch and dinner for breakfast the next day. With the portions and abundance of food served at those meals, that won’t be hard. And, the truth is I really love eating unconventional breakfasts like that, so it won’t be a hardship at all. Plus, I’ll also talk to the chef and/or his assistant each evening at dinner about my breakfast the next morning. Based on their willingness to keep me safe this past time, I’ll sure they’ll be over vigilant in providing me a better option. In hindsight, I should have made them aware of my issues early on in my trip versus trying to do my own detective work to figure out the cause of my issues. The odds of me going back to LCBR are high, as this same wonderful crew has already booked their trip for next June. In fact, Mr. GFE has already signed up and two of our new friends from the group, the group leader and her husband, are headed back to LCBR over Christmas! Although I love the seasons, I admit I’m a bit envious. Knowing that we were heading to Key West last year the day after Christmas definitely changed our perspective on the hectic nature of the holidays. Somehow we took it all in stride knowing that we were heading out to paradise the morning after!
More on the really good stuff … there was also beach time, pool time, and bar time (not to excess, however). The bar/pool staff, Ewnan and Frankie (the other bartender who was originally from Indonesia), were delightful and always took care of my gluten-free needs. Gluten-free Mudslide? No problem. They just replaced the Godiva chocolate liqueur with some Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Delicious, and with less alcohol, which is not a bad thing when a Mudslide is concerned. (Just FYI, Godiva states that none of their products are gluten-free. That could be a lawsuit protection-type statement, but I’ve read about folks having reactions to Godiva’s chocolate liqueur, so I wasn’t going to take a chance.) It was quite the week for relaxation as you can see here.
Mr. GFE was scuba diving for the week, which made me a “dive widow,” but I’m pretty much always a happy dive widow. How could one be unhappy in these surroundings? We still had plenty of time together when hubby was out of the water. Every day he’d head down to the dock and the dive boat heading out for spectacular diving and then return for relaxation on the resort grounds. We happened to be there during World Cup so LCBR was festooned with the appropriate flags and guests were engaged in viewing and “discussions” on afternoon games. It made for a fun week. Below are a few of Mr. GFE’s best underwater shots from the week. Note that he doesn’t have a fancy schmantzy digital underwater camera, just a simple 35 mm that is in waterproof housing (which a friend generously passed on after one of his Caribbean adventures). It works for him. (FYI: The digital images are not as good as the prints. Where he had them processed, they scan the prints to produce a CD, but didn’t do a terrific job with this batch. I didn’t edit them; hence, the black margins on some.)
Hope you’ve enjoyed all! I do highly recommend Little Cayman Beach Resort!
If you want to check out my previous posts for 25 Days of Christmas, just click on the links below:
Day 1 – Gluten-Free Holiday Giveaway Galore x 10—Giveaway of the new book, Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?, plus gluten-free treats and fun stuff. Open through December 15.