Spending Winter in Paradise

Every January for the last five years, with the exception of 2018, I’ve spent a week in Grand Cayman working at Chef Eric Ripert’s culinary event, Cayman Cookout. It’s both a wonderful and tiring week, but one that I look forward to every year. Who wouldn’t want to spend a week in a tropical paradise, especially during winter? I was more than happy to get out of New Jersey’s dismal weather. I knew the week would be filled with a lot of hard work, but I love being around all the chefs, mixologists, and winemakers. I always look at it as a learning experience. And this year was no exception.

This year, 2019, was by far my favorite Cookout. While the work days were still very long, I felt that I experienced more. I was able to completely immerse myself in the event more than in past years. I ate a lot of amazing food and was able to savor some delicious wines when I was off the clock!

Here are a few of my favorite highlights from this year’s trip!

Meeting Andrew Zimmern
Trying these amazing desserts by Chef Jean-Francois Suteau
(I’m a BIG fan of The Food Network and Chef Jean-Francois competed on Best Baker in America last year!)
This churro ice cream
These French Macarons, obvs
And what I was MOST excited about – TRUFFLE FRIES!

So of course, what better book to bring on my trip than Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand. This is the first book in her new winter series, which I am ALL ABOUT. I LOVED her Winter Street series and was so disappointed when it ended. I’m so happy she’s writing a new series.

Here’s the synopsis from the back of the book:

“Irene Steele shares her idyllic life in a beautiful Iowa City Victorian house with a husband who loves her to sky-writing, sentimental extremes. But as she rings in the new year one cold and snowy night, everything she thought she knew falls to pieces with a shocking phone call: her beloved husband, away on business, has been killed in a plane crash.

Before Irene can even process the news, she must first confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death on the distant Caribbean island of St. John. After Irene and her sons arrive at this faraway paradise, they make yet another shocking discovery: her husband had been living a secret life. As Irene untangles a web of intrigue and deceit, and as she and her sons find themselves drawn into the vibrant island culture, they have to face the truth about their family, and about their own futures.

Rich with the lush beauty of the tropics and the drama, romance, and intrigue only Elin Hilderbrand can deliver, Winter in Paradise is a truly transporting novel, and the exciting start to a new series.” (Hilderbrand, Elin. Winter in Paradise, 2018)

I enjoyed this book so much, that it took me less than four days to finish reading. The drama and intrigue drew me in from page one. I constantly wanted to know what happened next. However, I found a few plot points and the cliffhanger ending to be predictable. But like all of Elin’s books, it’s a fun read. It’s a great beach read whether you’re on the beach in winter or not. It instantly became one of my favorite Elin Hilderbrand books, and I’ve read many! I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. I already pre-ordered the second book, What Happens in Paradise, on Amazon!

Clearly, I had to pair Winter in Paradise with a new wine from my own winter in paradise excursion. This year at Cayman Cookout, I had the privilege of speaking with Michael Kennedy, founder and owner of Component Wine Company in Napa Valley, CA and Bourdeaux, France. He’s always one of my favorite people to see at Cookout. I always enjoy catching up with him and hearing about what’s new at his wine company. We corresponded after the event and he sent me a bottle of his Semillon. I knew I had to try it and thought it would go perfectly with Winter in Paradise.


Semillon is not a wine I’m familiar with, but I wanted to learn more and expand my palate. The wine is pleasingly mild and incredibly smooth. I wanted to savor my glass. The lightness made it so easy to sip. If the time between the end of winter and the beginning of spring was a wine, it would be this one. Drinking it brought me back a few years ago when I was living in my first apartment. It was one of the first warm days of spring and I could finally sit outside on my little deck after work. I had poured a glass of wine, sat at my little bistro table, and watched the sun set behind the woods. It was a beautiful, quiet night. I remember feeling extremely relaxed. Component Wine Company Semillon brought me back to that night and the amazing relaxation I felt – my own personal paradise.


What’s your idea of paradise?


*I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts and images are my own.*



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