Friday, January 15, 2016

So much delicious food

No matter how much food you can handle, a full day at the Cayman Cookout will test your limits.  You have to take it slow and easy, sample but not finish every single dish, and even then, plan to miss some delicious offerings.

Today's sessions began with a Cayman Cookout perpetual favorite:  "Ole Jose!"  Each year, they find a new way for Jose Andres, one of the three amigos (with the event's host, Eric Ripert, and their mutual good friend, Anthony Bourdain) and earliest participants in the event, to make a dramatic entrance.  Today, a boat roared to shore and from it leapt several men and women in pirate outfits, who led Andres to the tent where we awaited his session.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Andres was as entertaining as always, mixing drinks and telling stories while his team created two huge dishes of fideua, a dish that is basically paella but with small bits of pasta instead of rice.  For the first time in my five visits to this event, however, the team lost control of the dish and ultimately ended up burning the pasta.  It was still full of good flavors, but it was a far cry from the better versions they've cooked in the past.

Next up on my schedule--the Cayman Cookout folks run multiple sessions at the same time--was lunch at Blue by Eric Ripert, but with chef Tom Colicchio driving the menu.  (As it turned out, he and his team created the savories, but the Blue team did the dessert.)

The menu looked promising

and tasted better.  I particularly liked the squab, which was the most tender rendition of that bird that I've ever tasted.

From there I headed outside for "A Taste of Texas" with chef Dean Fearing.

Fearing, an affable fellow with a storytelling style a bit reminiscent of the late, great Bill Hicks, prepared three different types of tacos, all of which looked delicious.  The two that those of us in the audience had the chance to sample tasted even better than they appeared.

In the short break before the next session, I sat in the shade and dangled my feet in the pool; as I said yesterday, beach life is good.

The final cooking session of the day, "Craving Ludo Bites," featured chef and occasional TV personality (via The Taste), Ludo Lefebvre.  Ludo was fighting a cold and clearly in a bad mood, so he played the role of temperamental French chef to the max.

Despite tricky conditions and equipment that wasn't always working as he wanted, Ludo--all anyone seems to call him--created a lovely vegetable tart, a souffle, and, as a bonus, an absolutely perfect omelet in the classic French style.  Audience members were able to sample only a bit of crostini, but it was delicious.

After a couple of hours of time to read, relax, and do email back in the room, it was time for the day's final event, the evening Barefoot BBQ.  At this annual event, which takes place on a different beach on the island, groups of chefs at ten or so food stations prepare a wide variety of barbecued items.  In this shot, Anthony Bourdain is assembling and serving some delicious sliders.

An additional two dessert bars complement the savories.  At this one, guest chef and dessert specialist Florian Bellanger is side on to the camera behind a stunning display of macarons.

Even trying every dish and dessert at this event is basically impossible.  Nonetheless, I ate enough that I felt I had--even though I didn't touch half the savories and the vast majority of the sweets.

Fortunately, today's sessions are over, and tomorrow's do not begin until lunch.

On balance, a fine day at the 2016 Cayman Cookout.

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