Sunday, January 19, 2014

On the road again: Grand Cayman, Cayman Cookout, day 4

Today remains overcast but with calmer seas than the past two days.

Click an image to see a larger version.

As I've said, despite the less than perfect weather, it's impossible to complain about being here.

The first event I attended today was the Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch Cook-off, a combination fancy brunch and cooking contest.

The brunch came from stations spread through and outside of the huge foyer outside the Ritz's main ballroom.  A variety of chefs, some local, some from the Ritz, and some from sponsors, offered a huge range of both savories and desserts.  I managed to limit my consumption enough that for the first time at this event I left not feeling overly stuffed.  That's not a great diet achievement, but it's a tiny bit of progress, particularly in the face of a lot of very tasty food.

The cooking contest pit two local chefs, each of whom had a sous chef accompanying her/him, in a one-hour cook-off.  Both worked hard, but both produced way too much food and served dishes that demonstrated little plating skill.  Cooking in front of a crowd of foodies had to be tough, though, and even tougher was having to present the plates to the panel of judges:  the executive chef for all the Ritz Carlton hotels, whose name I did not get; Anthony Bourdain; Eric Ripert; and Daniel Boulud.  Jose Andres would normally have judged, but he had to leave yesterday to prepare Michelle Obama's birthday dinner at the White House.  As excuses for leaving an event go, that's a pretty damn good one.

Despite the weak plating, I applaud the efforts of the local chefs, and Gina (whose last name I did not get) deserved her win, at least from what I could see of their dishes. 

Next up was the traditional artisan market, which has largely morphed into a bunch of food and drink stations adjacent to a book signing that featured all the guest chefs.

Bourdain and Ripert sold out of their books, which is a big improvement from previous years' signings, and most of the other chefs also sold out their stock.

A view of the fading daylight from my balcony. this place never ceases being beautiful.

The final event of the show, as always, was the gala dinner at Blue by Eric Ripert.  Each of the guest chefs cooks one of the courses of this meal, and the result the past two years has been an excellent dinner indeed.  This year's menu promised to continue the trend.

They served the first course, the three appetizers from Rick Bayless, as we stood outside Blue and drank and talked in the gentle early night.  Each was fresh and bright and delicious.  As I said in an earlier post, I must become more familiar with Bayless' food.

I enjoyed every single course, but my favorite by far was this heart attack on a plate from Martin Picard. 

A perfect piece of foie gras sat atop a cheese-covered hunk of bacon, which in turn sat on a pancake, and the whole thing was drizzled in and surrounded by a spiced maple syrup.  It was amazingly good, rich and strong and sweet, Picard out, as Bourdain tweeted, to kill us all with deliciousness. 

This event, the entire Cayman Cookout, is another of the many experiences I've been lucky enough to enjoy that I wish I could share with all my friends. 

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