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Amen for the Caymans!

Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain host a conversation by the sea.

I have been having a bit of the wintertime blues ... New York has been so grey and dreary of late. Happily, I was invited to attend the annual Cayman Cookout on the tropical isle of Grand Cayman, so I signed up as I daydreamed of meeting top chefs upon shimmering shores.

And, finally, it was time to head for the tropics, so last week I zipped down to the balmy Cayman Islands to partake of this ever-growing, fourth annual food festival, and my three-day sojourn was sublime.

Centered around the very stylish and kid-friendly Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, the Cayman Cookout invites a handful of the food and libation world's best and brightest to show off their technique, host lectures and meet and greet. Among the top toques, mixologists and vintners in attendance were Anthony Bourdain, April Bloomfield, Francois Payard, Jose Andres, Andrea Robinson, Ambuyah Ebanks and, of course, the event's founder, Eric Ripert. Plus, we mingled with the crew from Food & Wine magazine, co-host of the event.

And, wow! I drank, ate and meet-and-greeted all weekend long.

A Cayman Cookout attendant helps whip up some paella upon the shore.

There was a fabulous lunch with Food & Wine’s editor in chief Dana Cowin (I was her intern more than 20 years ago at House & Garden magazine) at the divine Brasserie restaurant (I loved the Brasserie’s verdant vegetable gardens tucked under netting); a ceviche and Champagne pairing upon the beach hosted by Ripert; an ultimate dinner party under the stars; loads of wine and cocktail samplings; and so much more.

Other highlights: Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton’s Blue by Eric Ripert restaurant with my terrific pal Isabelle Kellogg and her partner, Jamie Wyper, was exquisite (the thinly pounded yellowfin tuna and foie fras, zut alors!). And I loved walking along powder-soft Seven Mile Beach in the morning followed by a languid al fresco lunch at the Ritz’s Periwinkle restaurant.

Sadly, I was not able to explore the Cayman Islands beyond the Ritz-Carlton as much as I might have liked, but now I have an incentive to return. And soon.

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About Jason Oliver Nixon

Jason Oliver Nixon

Global Lifestyle Editor Jason Oliver Nixon is always on the prowl for the latest and greatest finds, whether it’s ferreting out the grooviest new restaurant in Paris or unearthing a home design store in Dubai. "I am attracted by color and energy, passion and verve," says Nixon. "Who wants to be beige and boring?" The former Editor in Chief of Gotham, Hamptons, and Los Angeles Confidential magazines, Nixon makes frequent appearances on television as a style authority. A resident of Brooklyn, New York, Nixon escapes to London whenever possible, where he can be found happily ensconced at Fortnum & Mason perusing new-fangled jams.

To contact Jason Oliver Nixon with your comments, questions and blog suggestions, email him at jasnixon@gmail.com. Or, post your comment on his blog!