The sun is bright and the grass lush and green. The white van rounds a turn as a group of wild roosters gather around a small but fully leaved plant. Pulling up to the hotel, you can see the light blue ocean waves slowly caressing the white beach’s sand, gently crashing and adding an almost silent ambiance to the buzz that is building in the air.
The lobby is energetic and full of guests eager for the weekend to begin, their heads turning every which way to attempt a stolen glance at some famed celebrity chef. This isn’t just another romantic island vacation, this is the 2012 Cayman Cookout.
While there is plenty of celebration and fun to be had, the event is ultimately a weekend of learning, with activities of all kinds planned to prove just that. The weekend is filled with food and wine demonstrations, with wine tastings ranging from organic wines with Aldo Sohm to the praised, prize-winning wines of Vérité.
The events are planned to be approachable for all levels of foodies/winos, from rookies to culinary entrepreneurs. And despite these categories, there is room for everyone at each demonstration table- so long as you have the ability to gain a ticket.
Through all of these events, the weekend focuses primarily on the incredible popularity of worldwide celebrity chefs and friends of Ritz-Carlton restaurant Blue’s chef, Eric Ripert.
Playing host for the weekend, Ripert pals around with his buddies on the beach while hosting an array of demonstrations and lunches. While it looks like a lot of fun, it must be tough work. Of the numerous weekend events, it is one of these light-hearted, friendly and intimate demonstrations that stands out as the top highlight.
It’s a simple interview set up, one chef interviewing another, but what makes this situation different is the incredible friendship between those speaking, a friendship which one attendee refers to as an “incredible bromance.” Not only that, the interview is between the two top billed names of the weekend, buddies Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert.
The two lovingly chat back and forth, poking at each other to share anecdotes with the audience that each would clearly rather remain unsaid. The questions are hilarious and the responses even funnier, featuring everything from Bourdain’s hatred for Food Network TV talent to Ripert’s likelihood to open a to-go airport fish restaurant called “Eric’s Fast Fish.” But what really stands out about the talk is the dynamic between the two. Alone, they are each powerful in their own right, Bourdain with his cynical, obscenity-driven TV show and Ripert with his reputation for honest and sustainable seafood dishes, but together, they are a whole new pair, a “dynamic duo,” so to say. Watching this simple conversation in itself is worth any money shelled out for the entire extravagant weekend.
Apart from that brilliant moment, I also had the pleasure to taste some of Verite’s top wines at a tasting called “100 Point Wines.”
As the title suggests, the tasting featured seven of Vérité’s top wines, all of which have earned 100 points from Robert Parker at one time or another. Hosted by Food & Wine’s Ray Isle with winemaker Pierre Seillan, this was a real treat.
The wines share bold, red-fruited and juicy personalities, but differ in their tannin levels and minerality. As we tasted from the vintages of three different bottlings (Le Desir, La Joie and La Muse), you could really get a sense of both the different growing seasons of each vintage and just how the wines have begun to age. Interestingly to me, the youngest wine wasn’t always the tightest, showing that more than age factors into the flavors and mouth feel of each glass of wine.
My favorites of the group were the 2001 La Muse and 2007 La Joie. The 2001 for its deep red fruits and perfect balance and the 2007 for its soft yet rich mouth feel. While these wines are on the more expensive end of the spectrum, they are worth the extra pennies and have proven to have incredible ability to age.
Seillan spoke to this himself, stating that the wines were created to garner their maximum aging abilities, saying that they are simply, “meant to age.”
For more reviews of the individual wines, read on here.
Overall, the weekend was filled with unique and special events. While it was clearly a high end, not inexpensive weekend, the beachfront setting and barefoot intimacy took away any sense of pretentiousness or stuffiness that would’ve otherwise been expected.
Food & Wine Editor in Chief Dana Cowin put it best, “the weekend is small and very personal, but there is enough going on to have options, the chef’s own personalities just bust out.”