Friday, January 16, 2015

On the road again: Cayman Cookout, Grand Cayman, day 2

The Cayman Cookout events began in earnest today.

As always, the signature first event, and the one I attended, was Ole Jose with Jose Andres.  Each year, Andres makes an unusual--and sometimes spectacular--entrance.  This time, he followed a group of dancers and drummers.  In this shot, he is standing with the dancers and co-hosts Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Andres' presentation is basically the same each year:  He talks while his staff prepares some variation of fideua, a pasta-based dish that is otherwise basically paella.  This time around the fideua featured lobster and octopus.  The chefs cook it in huge pans over wood fires.  In this shot, the dish is nearly ready to come off the fire.

As Andres repeatedly (and correctly) reminded us, the star of this dish is the pasta, which soaks up the lovely juices of the seafood and the sauces with which the chefs began its preparation.  Each attendee received a small plate to sample--they served the fideua with aioli--and it was absolutely delicious. 

After a half hour break, the standard intermission between sessions, next up for me was a lunch at Blue featuring the food of hot young British chef Adam Handling.  Earnest and passionate, he came across as a talent to watch.  After eating four courses of his food, I resolved two things: 
  1. I will absolutely seek out Handling's food whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  2. I must prepare for huge portions. 
The menu promised four courses, already a lot for lunch at a cooking event.

As Handling warned us, however, four was not really the number of courses; it was more like seven.

We began with two "nibbles:"  a beet dish, and a donut stuffed with crab and dabbed with apricot jelly.

I do not generally care for the noble beet, but I loved this beet-filled tube.  The donut was a rich and savory treat with a hint of sweetness.

We also received bread and two spreads:  chicken butter and chicken liver mousse.

Forget how they sound or what you think you know about chicken liver; these were amazing.

The meal then began in earnest with a riff on the traditional English pub fare of fish and peas, this time with salmon and many variations on peas.

At a foodie event featuring some of the world's greatest chefs, it's no surprise that I will end up duplicating superlatives, so let me just say that this was some of the better salmon I've ever tasted, and the many takes on peas were fresh and delicious.

We moved then to the chicken and lobster course.

Note the two large chunks of lobster sitting in a rich sauce atop a layered chicken concoction.  This course was easily twice the size it would be in a high-end American restaurant, but that was not enough for Handling.  No, we also each received a small sandwich of crispy chicken skin.

If you think you don't like chicken skin, you need to try Handling's take.  Wow, was it great!

We finally hit the main course, which he called Piglet and Octopus.

The pork contribution was, of course, a massive chunk of pork belly.  Octopus appeared in two variations, and the raviolis were made of apples.  Delicious, all of it, and amazing.

At this point, everyone in Blue was crying surrender, but Handling was having none of it.  Dessert arrived.

A crispy chocolate shell covered a mixture of cake and mousse.  Rich, intense, and delicious, it was simply too large to consume after all the other food--and yet almost all of us managed to do just that.

Lunch ran late, so many of us had to scurry immediately to the next session, which in my case was Essential Acqua with Sven Elverfeld.  A German chef whose cuisine I did not know, Elverfeld proved to be a wonderful cook but a bit of a bashful, no-nonsense presenter.

(He's on the right in this shot, standing alone.)  He said that he knew himself and that his place was in the kitchen, not on television.  He nonetheless was an entertaining and informative teacher.  His dish

which looks like breakfast food, is actually called "Rice, different ways."  Four kinds of rice go into the sauce and the bit under the white sauce/foam blend.  What appears to be an egg yolk is actually an intense cheese that they turned into something with the consistency and behavior of a yolk.  The bit of "toast" to the side was a sort of chewy cracker formed entirely of intense cheese and black truffle.  The entire dish was amazing and delicious.

I filled my final time slot of the day with Daniel Boulud's DBGB on the Beach.  Boulud is back for a second year at Cayman Cookout, and the legendary French chef seems determined to become the fourth amigo (Ripert, Bourdain, and Andres being the original three). 

Boulud and his team demonstrated two dishes:  a tuna crudo, and a Thai sausage.  I managed to capture only a shot of the tuna.

After a few hours of break, I headed to the signature Friday evening event, the Barefoot BBQ.  After a short bus ride to nearby Tiki Beach, I spent a couple of hours wandering the many savory stations, where name chefs (including the three amigos) presented dishes that their hardworking staffs prepared.  I particularly loved the jamon slider with foie from Jose Andres and the jerk bacon from Marcus Samuelsson.

Samuelsson is as happy and fun in person as he is on TV.  (Next to Bourdain on The Taste, he always appears short, but he's actually somewhere around 5'll".)

Did I mention the three dessert stations, including all-you-can-eat truffles from Norman Love?

Another bus ride brought a load of Cayman Cookout attendees back to the hotel, but the live band and the party was still going at the Barefoot BBQ. 

Tomorrow morning, I board a catamaran.


David Drake said...

Dear Mark,
Elverfeld apparently works in Germany--wherever Wolfsburg is--but I'd have guessed the name was Danish (Scandinavian anyway). It would be silly to ask him, but if it crops up I'd be interested to learn.
Where portions are smaller, but good

Mark said...

Online sources say he was born in Germany, so despite his name, which definitely looks Scandinavian, he appears to be German by birth.


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