I grabbed a tasty ‘Coketail’ on the way in to Picante last Friday night and stopped by Walkerswood featuring Alexa Von Strolley. Her Coconut milk, Mint and Cucumber Granita pleased the palate. Her Spicy Pork Belly with Chinese Pancake was indeed spicy. I enjoyed it. It didn’t look like the Curried Arancini with Fried Thai Basil Shrimp and Spicy Carrot salsa was ready though, so I missed out on that one.
Chef Andre Fowles was my first stop inside the main area. I was excited to see what the famous Chef had to offer. He is the first Jamaican dubbed two-time ‘Chopped’ Champion. He is also Chef de Cuisine at the renowned Miss Lily’s in New York.
He is famous for Jamaican Fusions and he demonstrated that last Friday night at Picante. Chef Fowles served up a juicy, well seasoned Oxtail mole with ‘Tun Caanmeal’ Churros. He was surprised that I wanted Pork. I think he thought the ladies were watching their weight. But he had no idea who he was talking to. I told him to give me the ‘Picante Pork Belly’ stat. It came with Scotch Bonnet Avocado crème. It was spicy but it didn’t make me scream, Picante. I enjoyed all the flavours resonating from the dish though, a mix of both sweet and spicy and I felt honoured to have his food.
Charissa Henry of Pink Apron Ja, who has been on the circuit for about three years had a lot going on, maybe too much. Her food came with instructions and a paper bag to shake it all up in. Her ‘Blouse and Skirt Swimz’ consisted of Jam-Asian Salt and Pepper Shrimp served with Nitrogen smashed, Chai Sweet Potatoes. I thought the Pepper Shrimp would have been spicy, but they weren’t. The entire concept was creative, but I don’t think the ‘shake-up brown paper bag’ to eat out of was suitable for a casually elegant event. Great job with the Nitrogen smashed, Chai Sweet Potatoes though. That had a uniquely satisfying taste and texture and definitely displayed thinking outside the box.
Allison Porter-Smalling a.k.a Chef Alli P, foodie turned homegrown Chef turned Cuisine artist, a newbie in the industry, peaked my interest. But her Beef Skirt topped with Watermelon Salsa and Scallion Aioli was disappointingly bland. No wonder there was no line. Points for presentation though.
If you were wondering which station had a line the entire night, that was Stush in the Bush’s Chris and Lisa Binns at work! The King and Queen of a unique farm to table experience including vegan delights, fiya grilled pizzas, homemade sauces, butters and preservatives.
Their long line wasn’t because they were moving slowly either. Even their friends pitched in to help them serve. When the rain relieved other tents from lines, persons still stood in the rain so they didn’t lose their spot in the line for Stush in the Bush! What were they giving these people?
I can’t believe it wasn’t Chicken! It was spicy Cauliflower ‘Chicken’ Wings and Mustard Greens with liquid STUSH Blow Fyah Sauce and Grilled Corn with a Scotch Bonnet Cashew Cream, Cilantro and Lime. Divine! Definitely Picante and even though I tried my best not to choose my faves, Stush in the Bush as the Winning station for the night, I cannot deny them what was earned. Bravo. Hi Five. Rain Dance.
Persons in the line that were clueless about Stush in the Bush from Priory, St. Ann, were surely brought up to speed by me while waiting. After the fact, when I checked on one of the ladies indulging in her Grilled Corn, her reaction was ‘Yes. Sooo good. I have to go to their place.’
Simon Levy, known for his brand, Roast, is the Chef that provides artisan meats to foodies. His Smoked Paprika Pork Belly was tender, but wasn’t anything to keep talking about. However, those Scotch Bonnet Margarita Shots were a hit! Picante!
Oji Jaja’s Coconut Lime Ceviche with Poached Shrimp pleased but didn’t tantalize the palate. I appreciated the exquisite presentation and variety in flavour, but it needed some zest to go with the theme of the night.
Fromage Gourmet Market/Brasserie’s Lisa Chin had some tasty Habanero Shrimp Cakes with truffle Corn Béchamel.
Colin Hylton, one of THE most popular consultancy Chefs in Jamaica and a veteran in the industry for 30 years, familiarly known for his Restaurant that was Guilt Trip, made us scream Picante. That round of Beef that I had when he said he was almost out of food was tough as rocks though. Where did he get that meat?! Anyhow, that sauce was finger-licking and hot!
I had low expectations for Alexx Antaeus of Opa Greek Cuisine. I didn’t even join his line. My husband, Randy decided to still give him a try, bringing back a plate full of food that he hardly touched. I gave him the ‘I told you so’ look and gave his Greek Herb Jerked Chicken, Spicy Beef, Eggplant and Béchamel Moussaka a try. ‘Meh’. It lacked seasoning, flavour and spice.
I was told I needed to head over to Jacqui Tyson. Jacqui is of course an icon in the Culinary industry, of which she has been a part of for the past 20 years. But as I stabilised the contents of my stomach below ‘full buck’, I tried to visit Chefs who I have never tried before. Her tent was also very crowded when I arrived. I was happy to still have space! I made it over to her tent at about 11pm, where there was still a line close towards the end of the night. My husband confirmed I missed her Picante! He visited earlier in the night and said her line was long but it moved quickly.
I had her well textured, Salmon Lollipop marinated in Olive oil, Tarragon and Garlic, grilled with three Béarnaise pepper (Scotch bonnet, Jalapeno and Mexican dried Chili) that was delish. I missed out on the handmade aged Appleton rum caviar that was sprinkled on top. What a calamity.
I took a break, missing out on Chef Christian Sweeney’s delights and passed on Desserts by KukUp Creations.
I then made the wise choice of leaving dessert for the end of the night. I visited Chocolatier Michelle Smith of Chocolate Dreams. What a treat! The entire spread of Hot Chocolate, Truffles, Toffees and Brownies was delicious. We ended the night saying Picante. Those Crunchy Scotch Bonnet Toffees were fire! Well done Michelle.
Picante was a fun, spectacular event. There was good music and I appreciated the availability of my choice of premium liquor up to 11pm and the fact that the rain was not continuous throughout the night. It actually seemed fitting for the event. Everytime a station heated us up like Stush in the Bush or Simon Levy’s Scotch Bonnet Margarita shots, there was a cool foreign-like breeze according to my friend Tiffany and a drizzle of rain. The event was equipped with a huge tent in the middle to shelter persons. We had top of the line options to pick, choose and refuse from. When the Big Man up above thought we were bordering on gluttony a bit after 11pm, a downpour of rain came down to wash away our gastronomical sins and in turn concluded Picante! #SugaEndorsed
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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