In writing Daily Blender, I’ve occasionally found myself in the middle of a handful of situations I hadn’t considered. Exiting a New York City Wine and Food Festival soiree, only to bump into Billy Joel waiting for his towncar. Amid local celebrities and Hollywood producers at the opening reception of the Maui Film Festival anxiously awaiting the arrival of Megan Fox. And this past Saturday evening, when I arrived at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink for a Cayman Cookout dinner event, only to find that I had been seated squarely between the Premier of the Cayman Islands and the Leader of the Opposition.
The day started out normal enough. Relaxed and happy from what I can only describe as the best massage ever, courtesy of La Prairie and the Silver Rain Spa (and I fancy myself a massage connoisseur) I ventured across the hotel’s property to Periwinkle, the casual dining destination of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. On tap for lunch, the Caribe luncheon with renowned French chef, Laurent Gras. With chef Eric Ripert joining in at the media table, the open patio full of guests dined on conch and caviar, Caribbean lobster, and wahoo while winemaker Hansjörg Rebholz discussed the Rebholz Estate wines chosen for the occasion. I enjoyed lunch and conversation with the loveliest couple from Newfoundland, and the final course, a melon consommé with coconut gelée and a lemon ginger sorbet, capped off the end of a perfect tropical afternoon.
And then the evening hit…
The nighttime event included a succession of book signings, cocktails, and a main meal taking place at Camana Bay, an expansive, beautifully manicured retail venue. Guests of the Cookout had their choice of restaurant for dinner – Ortanique, Abacus, or Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink. With their Miami flagship reigning as my favorite meal of 2011, I chose Michael’s, and mingled with the pre-dinner crowd accordingly.
Entering the restaurant, chefs Michael Schwartz and April Bloomfield were hard at work manning the busy kitchen line for their ‘Genuine Bloomfield’ dinner, plates and white chef coats a wild blur behind the bar. After flashing my ticket, I was lead past a room of food and wine fames – Chef and Mrs. Laurent Gras, Mrs. Eric Ripert, Mr. and Mrs. Bourdain. Food & Wine magazine editor Dana Cowin took her seat next to publisher Christina Grdovic amid a scattering of local and national journalists. And I arrived at my table – where my placecard sat squarely between one for McKeeva Bush, Premier of the Cayman Islands, and another for Alden McLaughlin, Leader of the Opposition.
Aside from the prestige of my surprise tablemates, dinner was everything I had expected from Bloomfield, Schwartz, and the MGFD team. Dishes arrived in a timely manner – gruyere beignets, fried okra, wahoo crudo, slow roasted pork shoulder, and a seriously awesome rabbit and ricotta crespelle – while the conversation maintained a relatively non-political tone. Fellow guests from around the room dropped by periodically to greet the Premier as we made our way through the courses. Once dessert arrived – rich chunks of salted peanut caramel bar, a favorite of mine from pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith – I nearly breathed a sigh of relief for utilizing the right utensil at the right time, keeping up with the conversation, and not spilling a glass of wine on myself. A win definitely worthy of that second piece of caramel bar I snagged before departing.
As live music began in the courtyard, welcoming dinner guests for post-dinner desserts and cocktails, I made a beeline for the return shuttle, knowing full well I had yet another day of events to look forward to.
Missed the first post of my Cayman Cookout coverage? Catch it here. You can also read up on my last visit to the Caymans, for the 2010 event weekend. Curious about my other fun Daily Blender adventures? It’s a good thing I’m writing a book…
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender
**Many thanks to the folks at the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the staff at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman for inviting me to cover this fantastic event – and for taking such great care of me.