Jamaica Food and Drink Festival’s Crisp last Thursday night was a soggy but tasty, well decorated affair. Rain was continuous throughout the entire day right up to the scheduled start time of 7pm. I kept checking the event’s Instagram page to see if it was still on and saw no update even after 6pm. So I got ready after 7pm as planned and arrived at 8pm.
I was surprised to see so many persons already in the venue with their umbrellas and some equipped for the drenched Gardens of the Pegasus in rain boots! There were already lines by the different Chefs. I hate lines. Especially since I had less than an hour to circle the event to get to another engagement afterwards.
Tickets were almost sold out and the event was still on despite the continuous rain, so it was clear that Patrons came out early to get their money’s worth. This event proves Food surely brings out Jamaican people, rain or shine and early too.
It was after the fact that I saw updates on JFDF’s Instagram page that the event was still on and the new start time was 8pm. I am sure many persons would not have seen those notices if they already started getting ready to battle the traffic.
I appreciated the colourful, Mexican themed décor. It definitely lightened the mood along with fully stocked bars that had a wide variety of Beers and even Beer mixes. The Beergaritas were a good idea for persons like myself who didn’t feel like drinking from a bottle that night.
With regards to the lines, some moved faster than others. I am happy I got to sample from almost everyone since I had to leave early.
My biggest regret was that I missed out on Chef Mark Cole‘s Crispy Pigs’ Ears and Plantain crusted Beef Tenderloin. I heard they were amazing.
Chef Cole was the main person I was looking out for but didn’t spot him at all. Apparently the rain got the best of his tent and he was moved to the tent by Jamaica Pegasus’ Desserts that wasn’t as visible as the others close to me. I didn’t plan on sampling Desserts, but those Cinnamon Churros looked divine! I definitely have some catching up to do and will make up for what I missed with a visit soon!
The Winner for Suga!
The 6 other Chef stations that I visited did a great job. Kudos to all of them for still producing great culinary work in such unfavourable conditions. However, the winner for Suga was Dionne Reid from Smoked Marlin!
That outcome was totally unexpected for me given my visit to their Restaurant earlier this year and their presentation compared to the others.
When I was by their station about 8:30pm, Patrons including myself did not receive the Beignets. Perhaps they were not ready as yet.
Regardless, they made it work and still plated quickly for persons lining up to see what they had to offer.
The taste of their Smoked Marlin Tostaditas had three stages for me. The experience started with a mild introduction of veggies, followed by a hit of spiciness, which gave a complete ‘woah effect’, topped off by burst of flavour. Bravo to Dionne Reid and her Smoked Marlin team all the way from Hanover.
Special mention goes to one of my faves, Christina Simonitsch and Andre Sewell. I finally got to try his food! Looking forward to one of his pop-ups since he is no longer at 218 Gourmet by Mountain View Avenue fulltime. Even though Sewell was not producing samples as fast, I refused to leave the line. The wait was worth it. I heard his line was continuous for the night and got many return patrons like Smoked Marlin, Christina Simonitsch and Mark Cole.
Christina’s Pork Belly was succulent with a tasty Crisp on top. Quite appropriate for the event. The Sorrel and Red Stripe Gel complemented it well too. I’m upset that I missed her Crispy Pigs’ Ears too! They looked like a part of her display like other Chefs, but I should have known better with Christina that anything on her table is up for grabs.
I thought Andre Sewell’s Jerk Fried Chicken Crispers with Scotch Bonnet Sriracha could have been a bit spicier, but it was delightful nonetheless. Afterall, spicy is my personal preference and it was Crisp not Picante.
The Popcorn Shrimp and seasoned Popcorn was a bit disappointing from Sarah Willers of Blue Ridge. I thought they would have been more creative, given their reputation of extravagant presentations and delicious food from the cosy restaurant nestled in the scenic Blue Mountains.
I enjoyed Dwayne Smalling aka Bearded Chef’s Beggar’s Purse though. The tropical flavours were truly brought out. Mission accomplished. Well done Chef.
Lastly, I cannot forget to mention one of the People’s favourites for the night, National’s station featuring Chef Christian Sweeney. The Cheesy Hardough Fries with Pulled Pork and Shrimp were a hit and I enjoyed it.
Crisp had high expectations so the quality of the event was definitely compromised by the rain. The Chefs had a late start and the surfaces to walk around were drenched, topped off by balancing an umbrella, food and a drink, but you can’t control mother nature. At the end of the night Patrons still left satisfied.
I am thankful and give a lot of praise to the Chefs, the Jamaica Pegasus and the JFDF team for managing to still pull off a great event. #SugaEndorsed
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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