Friday, January 19, 2018

Bye, bye, Grand Cayman beach

Today, I travel home, so today I also say goodbye to this wonderful place.

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The weather remains bad by local standards and great by me.

I cannot recall when I felt so relaxed and energized and healed.  I'm sure I'll turn into a stress monkey quickly enough, but right now, I feel great.  I'm going to hold onto the feeling as long as I can.

I love being at home, so I'm looking forward to that, but I found this vacation so great that I am already planning to be back at the 2019 Cayman Cookout for the same amount of time.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bad weather makes for great walking

What passes for bad weather here--seventy-five, overcast, windy--is still so lovely I could sit on my balcony and stare at it for hours.

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Walking on the beach is particularly fun when the waves are crashing a bit and the sky is constantly changing.

Sunset was beautiful both from my room

and from inside the Seven restaurant.

I accept that my love of this place is irrational, but I do love it here.  Having a vacation of this length has been wonderful, and I will enjoy every moment until I board the plane tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What passes for bad weather in Grand Cayman continues

and I continue to love it. 

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The high is only 77 or so, the skies are cloudy, and the water is cold enough that I don't go into it every day or for long.  For sitting on the beach and enjoying the ocean and sipping a virgin mango daiquiri, though, the weather is just fine.

I did exactly that today after a small but quite satisfying lunch at the club lounge.

Dinner was at Blue by Eric Ripert, this time the Blue menu.  It was, as always, superb.

Cayman beach life is relaxing life.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Georgetown, chicken, and chickens

The weather continues to be cloudy but warm, with occasional hints of rain but, so far today, no actual showers.

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Heading down the island to Georgetown seemed like a good plan, so a taxi ride later and I was eating jerk chicken and conch fritters at the Caribbean Kitchen.

Even sharing the fritters, I finished barely more than half my sandwich and less than half my fries.  It was all tasty, though not outstanding.  The conch fritters were the star of the meal.

Chickens are all over this island (well, except at the Ritz-Carlton, where I've never seen any), strutting around as if they own the place.  This rooster and hen felt as if the road and the sidewalk were theirs and we were mere trespassers.

It all feels just fine, though, as humans and chickens seem to share the space easily and happily.

I've accomplished remarkably little each day here, and yet I'm fine with that, enjoying resting and reading and doing little.  My capacity for doing so little continues to amaze me.

Cayman beach life is low-demand life.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A lazy Cayman day

After a delicious long sleep and a bit of futzing around, and despite all the clouds and the strong breezes, the ocean beckoned.

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Lunch was in a Ritz chair on the sand, a lovely tradition.  A grilled cheese sandwich with tons of bacon and a side salad, along with my frequent beverage, the virgin mango daiquiri, made a delicious feast.

After getting quite warm--temperatures were in the high seventies and the sun was peeking through the clouds a lot--I spent some time in the chilly water enjoying the waves, then repeated the process in the much calmer pool.

A red sno-cone was a nice treat along the way.

The rest of the day proceeded similarly:  slowly, lazily, and entirely, for my purposes, perfectly.

Cayman beach life is easy life.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A windy last Cayman Cookout day

I absolutely love storms on islands.  The waves and the wind and even the rain fill me with happiness.  So, when I saw the rough chop and heard the breakers and the wind today, I was very pleased.

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Others on the island seem less happy, but for me, particularly on a day when events occupy most of my time, this weather is grand.

The big daytime event was the Bon Vivant Amateur Chef Competition and brunch.

As the amateur chefs on stage compete in a TV-style cooking competition, the judges (chefs Emeril, Irvine, Andres, Boulud, and Ripert) watch them work and eventually eat their creations.  Meanwhile, the huge crowd enjoys brunch from something on the order of two dozen stations scattered down a reception area and porch outside the ballroom.  I focused on not over-eating and on sampling only things I knew (from the reports of others or knowledge of the food and the chefs) to be good.  The approach worked well:  I enjoyed every dish and left full but not overly stuffed.

The next event, Rum and Robusto, is basically a drink-and-smoke-cigars gathering around a pool. I usually make only a quick pass through it, but today I ended up in a few interesting conversations and also just enjoyed the breezy weather--which served to keep the smoke away from me.

This guy had the best job of the event.

A nice addition was a pair of stations at which people could paint.

I liked more of the artwork than I would have expected.

All in all, the attendees seemed to have a good time,

and I enjoyed my brief visit to it.

The traditional final Cayman Cookout event is a dinner at Blue for which each major guest chef prepares a course.  This year, the tenth, brought a gala dinner with, naturally, ten courses.  The table settings were lovely,

and the menu promised amazing treats.

The chefs delivered on the menu's promises.  I enjoyed every single course, but the most amazing was the last, the dessert. 

By description and first glance, it was an apple with a side sauce.  After you pushed into it with your fork, though, it was so much more.

Sweet, complex, and entirely lovely, this dish was a complete success. 

Hats off to all the chefs, but particularly to Chef Thomas Raquel, the pastry chef of Blue, for this wonderful finale.

And so the Cayman Cookout event draws to a close.  I am fortunate enough to be staying here and enjoying this wonderful place until Friday, but I have to admit that I am both done with huge meals for a bit and also already looking forward to next year's Cayman Cookout.

Just my usual Saturday

Slept late and awoke to another perfect day in Grand Cayman paradise.  I forgot to take a picture of the sky, which late in the day clouded over and then rained on us, but for most of the day the weather could not have been better. 

I headed to an 11:30, two-hour, gourmet lunch featuring the food of Chef Dominique Crenn. 

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Each of the four dishes was delicious. My favorite was probably the Harbison cheese tart covered in truffles.

Yes, just another typical Saturday lunch.

I then hurried off to catch a session from Chef Michael Mina and his team, as one does on a lazy Saturday.  I hadn't known much about Mina, but I left the session impressed by his passion, his knowledge, and most of all, his focus on building a great team and giving credit to its members. 

After a short break, I joined a large crowd in listening to Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain tell stories, answer questions, and crack each other up.

I had to do a little work after that, and then I read for a bit before departing for the Emeril vs. (Robert) Irvine dinner, which rain had caused the hotel to move indoors.  There really was no competition, just one room full of people eating Emeril's food--I was there--and another with people enjoying Irvine's.  Emeril spoke to us a few times and mentioned in his first visit that the sold-out dinner (most events here are sold out) was a tribute to his mother, who died this past August.  It contained many dishes she made for their family when he was young.

Like any typical Saturday night dinner, this one included a small band playing some New Orleans jazz.

The evening concluded with a special tenth-anniversary live concert by the rear pool. 

My introverted side shifted into high gear and added the impostor syndrome nitrous booster as I realized that I was nowhere near cool enough to be at this party. 

And that was before the water dancers

and the synchronized swimmers

put on a show for us. 

The live band, a group from Barbados, then took over.  People were dancing and drinking when I left.  I expect they're still at it.

Yeah, just my typical Saturday night.


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