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By Linnea Covington

It’s the end of March and much of the country still sees no sign of spring. Since we’re dreaming of sunbathing and drinking pina coladas on the beach, now is the perfect time for a little Caribbean cuisine to get our taste buds on a much-needed tropical vacation.

Chefs Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain and Jose Andres host the annual Cayman Cookout on Grand Cayman Island, sharing with how much they love food on the islands.

“The islands are this place where all these ingredients from all over the world met for the first time,” Andres told “You have different cultures in the Caribbean Spanish, Dutch, French and you mix it with the islanders. Caribbean cooking is the meeting point of the old world and the new world; it’s where fusion began.”

While fresh fish is a big part of the island diet, many chefs visiting the area tell us their favorite native ingredient on the islands is conch, a large sea snail pronounced “konk,” that is hand-caught in abundance. Other tropical flavors chefs crave include ginger, curry, breadfruit and rum.

Today the three islands, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman, which has less than 200 people on it, boast over 150 restaurants and a plethora of fish shops. Take some inspiration from them back to your kitchen with the island recipes below.

Barefoot punch

What island feast wouldn’t be complete without a rum cocktail? Mixologist and rum expert Adam Seger shows us how to whip up his Barefoot Punch, a concoction made with his own liquor, HUM, which has hints of cardamom, hibiscus, kaffir lime and ginger.

Seger’s advice for making this drink: “Best made a day ahead as it gets better, like chili or banana bread.”

1 cup fresh lime juice

1 cup maple syrup

1 pint HUM Botanical Spirit

1 quart strong brewed blood orange pu’erh (Seger suggests tea by Rare Tea Cellar Vintage, but any blood orange pu’erh would work)

Mix ingredients and garnish with fresh fruit and flower petals.

Linnea Covington / Today

Conch fritters (makes 32 fritters)

Courtesy of the Cracked Conch

  • 1 1/2 pounds cleaned conch (frozen is fine)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
  • 1 small bunch of mint
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 ounce baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt to taste

Grind all vegetables and the conch. Add the eggs and dry ingredients. Form small balls and deep fry until golden brown.