Chefs from home and away brought their ‘A’ game to the ninth annual Cayman Cookout.
From Luca’s Austrian-themed blood sausage dish with fried quail’s egg and grated horseradish to Thai beef and papaya salad by Kirk’s Market, a whole world of flavor was unleashed on The Ritz-Carlton’s Great Lawn last Friday.
Around the World with Anthony Bourdain
Celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain led attendees on a walk around global cuisines, sampling dishes at market-style stalls manned by local chefs, while sharing the pithy viewpoints that helped make shows like “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” such a success.
The Ritz-Carlton’s Italian offering topped homemade spelt bread with marinated seafood and burrata. Kaibo went all-American with ribs and coleslaw. There were empanadas from Argentina and Peruvian char-grilled octopus.
Pausing for a shot of Russian Standard from the vodka luge and a “chaser” of White Tip beer from the Cayman Islands Brewery, Bourdain was on to Malaysian-inspired coconut kimchee cones by Saucha, lamb chapatti a la Blue Cilantro, and The Bistro’s foie gras crème brûlée, which earned an enthusiastic “sensational!” from the Emmy-winning television personality.
The Westin’s offering from the Philippines – a country Bourdain penned an emotive essay on for CNN last year, after filming his television series in Manila – elicited one of his most passionate responses. “It’s an underrepresented cuisine. Thank you for bringing it and not holding back,” he said, receiving a cheer and several selfie requests from the Filipino chefs.
“Call it hipsterism, call it foodism – we’re all learning to eat better and realize there’s so much great flavor in the world beyond what we grew up with,” Bourdain said of people’s increasingly globe-trotting appetites. Co-host Alan Markoff observed that the range of dishes on offer “really celebrates Cayman’s diversity.” At last count, approximately 43.3 percent of the population hails from other countries.
Cooking with Chef Emeril
Chef Emeril Lagasse, whose jar of Cajun caviar was confiscated by airport customs en route to the Cookout, shared a love of Creole cuisine at his cookery demo, held in a marquee on Seven Mile Beach.
With French and Portuguese culinary influences from his parents, it was New Orleans that really stole his heart after he moved there in 1982.
“There’s something about New Orleans that’s magical … they live to eat. It’s not just fine dining, it’s food. The spirit and people there, you can really feel.”
He shared a recipe for spaghetti carbonara, his go-to choice when returning from work around midnight in need of a simple yet satisfying meal. Eggs are whisked with parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh ground black pepper while the pasta simmers in well salted water. Peas, fresh chopped parsley, pancetta and more seasoning complete the perfection.
Sipping from a large glass of white (“this is a food and wine event, isn’t it?”), Lagasse also rustled up his legendary ribs recipe for the crowd. Chinese five-spice, ginger and Essence spice are all rubbed into the meat before wrapping it in layers of cling film (yes, cling film!) and foil for roasting. “The whole secret of this is slow and low,” he instructed, cooking for 3.5 hours at no more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, it’s anointed with a sweet, sticky sauce combining fresh garlic, brown sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, chili, honey and rice wine vinegar.
Delicious food, of course, deserves terrific tipples. Enter master “mixologist to the stars” Charles Joly, whose CV includes designing cocktails for the Oscars and three Michelin stars restaurant Alinea. He gave a master class in crafting and appreciating cocktails in The Ritz-Carlton ballroom.
It began with a classic daiquiri – simply white rum, lime juice, sugar syrup and angostura bitters. “Learning how to make this simple three-ingredient cocktail is like learning sauces for a chef – we need to know our scales before we can play really cool solos,” said Joly.
Tables were set with four glasses of mystery spirits for guests to identify by smell and taste, noting how a few drops of bitters or rub of lemon rind can impact the drink. Many of us mistook a grassy white Rhum agricole with a hint of citrus for tequila, and the treacly Abuelo 12 Años, a Panamanian dark rum, for whisky. Joly is pleased mixology is now getting the recognition it deserves; over his 19 years in bartending he’s seen an unprecedented interest in seasonal ingredients, food pairings and aging method emerge, with fine dining establishments finally treating cocktails like fine wines.
Events celebrating Diplomatico rum from Venezuela, San Francisco’s Bummer & Lazarus Gin and Texas favorite Tito’s Handmade Vodka proved his point as the weekend continued.
Between Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi dishing up dessert advice and José Andrés cooking his famous paella, topped with the battle of amateur chefs at Bon Vivant’s Sunday brunch, Cayman Cookout once again proved it deserves a spot on every foodie’s bucket list.