Indigo Divers was booked with a morning charter for the entire week, so I got in 4 days of afternoon dives from Mon through Thurs. Friday afternoon was not possible because it would have been too close to our flight home on Saturday afternoon.
1 We arrived at the Marriott early Thursday afternoon and immediately had the first drinks of the vacation waiting for our room to be ready
2 Max had birthday champagne, cake, chocolates, and balloons waiting for me in the room. I think I'll keep her...
3 Our first time staying at the Marriott on Grand Cayman, the beach side is very nice
5 The pool area is fairly small, but it was a pleasant place to hang out. With only 200 or so rooms, it never got overly crowded.
6 To keep things simple, Thursday night of our arrival we ate dinner on property at the beach restaurant Veranda
7 Friday morning and it's time to start eating and drinking at the Cayman Cookout!
8 Our first event of the Cayman Cookout this year was Friday morning on the beach with Emeril Laagasse
9 Friday morning on Seven Mile Beach waiting for the culinary debauchery to begin
10 Emeril was completely unprepared for arriving by jet ski piloted by José Andrés
11 Eric Ripert walks Emeril onto the stage
12 Emeril Lagasse
13 Emeril cuts the finished smoked salmon cheesecake with Chef Chris Wilson, the Culinary Director for Emeril's company, looking on
14 Emeril shows how he does Asian-influenced 5-spice baby back ribs that are wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil, and then cooked under low heat in the oven
15 At the end of the demo, Emeril and the crowd shout out a huge BAM! to try and drown out José Andrés who is being extremely boisterous just down the beach
16 Next up is Lunch with Terrance Brennan, of Moulin de Mougin, Le Cirque, Picholine, and Artisanal fame
17 Terrance Brennan
19 The array of amazing Spanish wines paired with lunch
20 First course is a white gazpacho soup with a dollop of red gazpacho sorbet on top. Darn, the "chicharrones" is actually a vegetarian miracle, no pork skin included. But it was mighty delicious.
21 Ah, now we have some piggly wiggly. Sea scallops with pieces of trotters in the black truffle sauce.
22 Now we're talking! Wild Scottish red-leg partridge (one of our table companions was the lucky winner by finding a piece of lead shot) with a whole piece of foie gras, a pool of gingerbread foam, and huckleberries.
23 Who woulda thunk that dessert could be Roquefort done up as ice cream, meringue, crémeux, and sauternes gelée
24 Due to popular demand and limited space, this year they doubled up on José Andrés' sessions- the usual one in the morning and a second one in the afternoon. So, after lunch we headed back to the beach for José's entertaining take on gazpacho, seafood fideuà, and sangria.
25 Adding the sofrito to the paella pan
26 Playing catch with the lionfish. Hopefully the ones that landed in the sand didn't make it into the fideuà.
27 Gazpacho time!
28 Every gazpacho must have a good dose of Spanish sherry
29 Gazpacho is served
30 The final stages of the fideuà
32 Time to serve up the seafood fideuà with lionfish, squid, and shrimp
33 José Andrés' James Bond-style entrance onto Seven Mile Beach, replete with gold-plated Champagne tommy-guns. Then it's on to make the (very strong) sangria and the seafood fideuà.
34 After sangria on the beach with José, our blood alcohol level was clearly not elevated enough. So, it was time for mixology with one of Max's faves, Charles Joly.
35 The sampling of rums (although a few of the glasses look depleted at this point), along with bitters and some citrus rind
36 Max is so! excited to see Charles again
38 Saturday morning we drove ourselves over to Rum Point for the Beach Bash. We had done the catamaran ride several times before and we wanted to spend the rest of the day driving around and exploring the eastern end of the island.
39 Tranquility at Rum Point
41 Bernard Guillas is serving up Firecracker Bay Scallop, with buckwheat noodles, gojuchang aioli, and kalibi tangerine ginger
42 Eric Ripert and his former executive chef Luis Lujan, now at the Ritz in San Francisco, prep Wahoo Tandoori with pickled mango and cucumber
43 Lamb chops, yuzu aioli, yumm....
44 Tony Biggs, ever the character and culinary director for Certified Angus Beef, has me in his sights for a "Black Mamba" burger with fried shisito peppers, bonito flakes, red wine french fries with merlot ketchup, and miso slaw
45 What would a beach bash be without someone from Moet and Chandon spinning tunes
46 The just released Moet rosé hits the spot on a hot sunny beach day
47 Charles Joly shows the forearm strength and mallet sizes needed to properly crush ice in a Lewis bag
48 Charles Joly and his best fan
49 The beach bash winds down as the chefs pose for the obligatory parting shot
50 After the beach bash, we headed over to Starfish Point to see what we could see
51 Not much in the way of starfish close to shore, but Starfish Point is a beautiful spot to just lounge and relax
52 Mr. Gecko says howdy
53 After wandering around the island for the remainder of Saturday, we went local and inexpensive to one of our favorite spots Cimboco. Whereas we used to have to drive from the Ritz, it was a convenient evening stroll from the Marriott.
54 Sunday 11am and it's time for the champagne brunch and cookoff contest. Manning a prime spot at the entrance is Bernard Guillas making poke from local ahi.
55 Always the showoff, adding toasted nori to the poke
56 When Tony Biggs, culinary director for Certified Angus Beef, comes at you like this with eggs benedict over a choice piece of tenderloin accompanied by a mighty tasty Bloody Mary, it's pretty darn hard to refuse
57 All sorts of porky goodness from Spain and Italy at the charcuterie table
58 Uh... yeah.... I'll take some, thank you very much!
59 There's still plenty of Jamón Ibérico on that leg for me
60 Layers of deliciousness
61 Chef Shetty, owner of Blue Cilantro and current president of the Cayman Culinary Society, serves up some tandoori fish
62 Frederic Morineau. executive chef of the Ritz Grand Cayman property, and Jean-Louis Dumonet, executive chef of the Union Club in NYC, relax after the initial rush is over
63 It's time for dessert and these two cute milk maids are purveying an assortment of moooses
64 Careful assembly of these meringue constructions
65 Piña colada pineapple jelly rollups with white chocolate mousse
66 This was really cool - a kind of molecular gastronomy experiment. The blobs are lemongrass tapioca cooked in coconut milk that have a thin skin barely holding it together. Each dessert has an ampoule of lemongrass creme that you squeeze to inject as filling just before plopping the whole thing into your mouth.
67 There is an actual cooking competition going on during the brunch. Amateur chefs from the local culinary academy compete throughout the year, culminating in the two finalists battling it out in front of a panel of celebrity judges and the public. The winning team receives scholarships and professional kitchen equipment.
68 The judging panel this year was Anthony Bourdain, José Andrés, Emeril Lagasse, Eric Ripert, and Rainer Zinngrebe
69 Time is up, spatulas are down, and judges start tasting and making notes
70 Time for the critiques, one judge at a time
72 Then it is onto the stage for the, now well lubricated, judges to build up the suspense as they get ready to announce the winner
73 José Andrés can't seem to let go of the microphone, much to the amusement of Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain
74 And the winning chef, the woman on the left, is congratulated by all
75 Sunday night was my surprise birthday dinner at Avecita in the brand new Kimpton Hotel in West Bay. Max treated me to the tasting menu at the chef's counter which has only eight seats.
76 Chef Remy Lefebvre discusses what we are about to experience
77 Avecita's open kitchen
78 This was the amuse bouche. I wish I could remember what it was, but I do remember it was delish.
79 Thin slices of conch over a grilled cucumber with salsa verde
80 Veal tongue over yucca and saffron rice
81 This was a frozen fennel meringue over green apple
82 This white chocolate beetroot dessert looked like the aftermath from a Quentin Tarantino movie, but tasted much better
83 Ah, the birthday boy gets a chocolate lollipop!
84 By the end of our vacation we had still not opened the bottle of birthday champagne that Max had staged in our room. So, lunch by the pool before we had to head to the airport consisted of jerk pork and chicken from Peppers Grill across the road, accompanied by sparkling rosé. It really was a perfect combo and a nice end to a great time.