Most restaurant dining experiences don’t allow guests inside the kitchen to see what goes into preparing their meals. Blue Uncovered, a lunch series offered at Blue by Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman allows people to get a behind-the-scenes look inside arguably the best restaurant on the island.
For the past few years, Blue Uncovered has been a popular culinary experience for visitors and residents alike. The event has been one of the quickest to sell out for the Cayman Cookout food and wine festivals the last two years, partially because it’s limited to 14 people at a time – which is why the cookout offered the event twice in 2012.
While it may be a tough ticket to come by for the Cayman Cookout, with a little advance planning, residents can secure a reservation for any of six remaining events this year, starting 7 July.
The Saturday lunchtime affairs all have certain aspects in common – the Blue by Eric Ripert restaurant chef will invite guests into the kitchen and then demonstrate how to prepare the items on the menu for the day. Afterward, guests sit at nicely set tables placed off to the side in the kitchen and enjoy a delicious three-course lunch, each course paired with different wines. Guests also receive a keepsake loose leaf notebook from Blue with all of the day’s recipes and wine descriptions.
This year, Blue decided to change up the format for the lunches a bit, giving each event a different theme. In April, the theme was “Asian Influences”.
The event began in the bar area of the main dining room, where The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Head Sommelier Kristian Netis welcomed the guests and told them what to expect.
“We don’t like to call this a cooking class because you won’t be cooking,” he said. “It’s more that we want to share an experience in the restaurant.”
Netis then gave a short discussion on sake, noting that Asian cuisine in general is known to pair well with certain wines, tea and sake.
“Believe it or not, I’m not Asian,” joked the Greece-born Netis. “But part of my passion is Asian food and I trained with a lot of Asian chefs.”
As a result, Netis is a fan of sake and he gave a short discussion about how sake is made and its various grades. Netis then poured a taste of Amabuki “Rosé” sake, which was served with a trio of Asian-themed amuse bouche.
Afterward, the guests moved into Blue’s kitchen, where Chef de Cuisine Luis Lujan demonstrated how to make Thai prawn salad with grated coconut and ahi poke.
“The key is to marinate the tuna,” he said. “The salt breaks up the tissues in the fish.”
During the demonstration, Lujan gave helpful tips about how to use various ingredients, how to use a knife properly and even how to use herbs in dishes to get the most flavour.
“Tear the herbs; don’t cut them,” he suggested.
While Lujan was talking to the guests, the Blue kitchen team was busy just few feet away preparing 14 plates of the same dish Lujan was making. After the demonstration, the guests were seated at their tables and the first course was served. Netis returned to pour a different wine – Gewürztraminer ‘Cuvee Theo’ from Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, France.
“This goes great with Asian flavours and is a great sushi wine,” he said, adding that while the wine had moderate acidity, it was not a light wine.
Netis also pointed to “legs” in the glass of wine, the beads of liquid that trail down the inside of the glass after the wine is swirled inside.
“Legs don’t tell you anything about the quality of the wine,” he noted, dispelling a common myth. “They’re a sign of the alcohol content.”
After finishing the first course, the guests stood once again to watch Lujan prepare poached Pacific snapper with braised daikon, sticky rice and spicy sambal sauce.
Lujan said the keys to steaming fish were to do it slowly and not to cook it all the way to doneness because the fish will continue to cook for about five minutes after being removed from the heat source. He also said fish, or any meat, should be tempered to room temperature before cooking it.
Because of the spicy, rich flavours of the sambal sauce, Netis paired the entree with a medium-bodied red wine – Mendel Malbec from Argentina. Although he predicted the pairing might be controversial, none of the guests objected because the combination of the fish and wine was delicious.
The process of making dessert was not demonstrated, but the pastry chef did come over to speak about the coconut milk and ginger crème brûlée, which was served with ice wine from the Niagara region of Canada. The tropical fruit flavours of the wine went perfectly with the dessert and everyone left with a rosy glow.
The Blue Uncovered series continues on Saturday, 7 July with the theme ‘The Perfect Pairing’ in which Netis will discuss pairing wine with food. On Saturday, 4 August, the theme will be ‘Spice 101’, during which Chef Lujan will discuss which spices go best with which foods.
After a two-month break, the series will return on Saturday, 3 November for “Alsatian Cuisine”, a tribute to the region of eastern France near Germany that produces a unique style of food and wine.
Then on three consecutive Saturdays in December – the 1st, 8th and 15th – Blue Uncovered will focus on Christmas with “Holiday Inspired Menus”, highlighting possible food and wine pairings to celebrate the season.