Last Wednesday night was Pork Palooza, part of the Jamaica Food and Drink Festival. It was held at The Savanna, 42 Lady Musgrave Road and Gabby’s trusted Suga Bears were out and ready to report!
Hundreds of patrons came out to support the event, excited to see what would be in store. There was Roast pork, stashes of Bacon, Pork cheek, Pork belly, Pig ears, every part of the swine you can think about!
The handpicked best Pork Chefs on the island were Alexa Von Strolley, Chantay Campbell, Gairy Bowes, Christian Sweeney, Shea Stewart, Dale Delisser, Simon Levy and Sarah Willers.
Parking and entry into the venue was well-organized and executed. Tents were displayed nicely and logically for easy access in a U-shape with a Bar in the middle and a Band at the bottom of the ‘U’. Bistro tables were all around the venue and the Band was quite entertaining. Organisers failed to acknowledge them between sets.
Christian Sweeney and Shea Stewart had the longest lines for the night.
Shea had Pork loin stuffed with feta and callaloo complemented by a mushroom sauce that was magical. The pork was a juicy, lean cut that tasted FANTASTIC!
Sweeney’s dish was EXCELLENT. The pork was lovely and well seasoned. The plating and presentation were very original. The guac was a different touch and he advised patrons to squeeze a little lime over it. Before the lime, it was great and after adding the lime, it was even better! Patrons thought visiting his tent was very interactive in comparison to the others.
Simon Levy had a 4-Pork Ramen soup. Call the ambulance because people were suffering from a hypertensive attack from one of the pork cuts used. It threw off the entire broth, causing some people to stop eating the entire dish.
A Suga Bear asked for no water/broth because she didn’t like how it looked as a soup. So she was able to enjoy everything else in the bowl.
There was a tent with Pork Burgers but it was not impressive. The bread was too thick and the patty wasn’t well seasoned. It was a bit disappointing and later in the night when the crowds came and all the lines were full, that station was empty. Their sauce deserves a ‘big up’ though!
Gairy Bowes had Stuffed Pork Butt with Gold Bread. Patrons thought it was superb. Wow!
The Pulled Pork Panini sponsored by National was very tasty and had a pleasant kick to it.
The organizers certainly had a treat for patrons with a Copperwood Pork creation! They had something that many people have a weakness for – Bacon! Candied bacon. It was the rave of the night. It was in beer cups floating around the venue. Extremely tasty with a unique presentation. It was like picking sweetie out of a candy jar.
Now for Alexa Von Strolley! The oh so talented young caterer to watch! She surely took us through a culinary journey of the pig’s anatomy.
In the dish pictured, on top is Deep Fried Pig Ears, below was a big chunk of Crispy Pork Belly and on the side were pieces of Orange Braised Pork Cheek. It did not look appetizing at all but this was Pork Palooza and Suga Bears were determined to try everything and embrace the culinary adventure. So even tho the Pork Belly just looked like a slab of fat and was indeed fatty, the taste was pleasantly soft and not chewy. The Ears was of course an interesting twist. Well done Von Strolley.
Other tents failed to be as impressive.
There was Crispy Roast Pork by Dale Delisser. It was like a drier version of Crispy Pork from any Jamaican Chinese restaurant with a little extra kick to it. It was alright.
There was a tent with Pork Heart and Fried Pork, where the texture of both was off and the Fried Pork was too salty.
Desserts were offered too! Banana bread and another dessert with the essence of pumpkin was in the National tent and ice-cream was there as well.
This was actually all a Competition. The Crispy Roast Pork won for the night surprisingly even though Suga Bears rated it as the 4th or 5th best tent for the night. However our natural ethnic population is changing as we speak and the presence of the Chinese was strong.
How exactly did the voting process go?
According to Tina Hamilton, Brand Manager of CB Foods and Nutramix, only the 8 featured chefs were eligible to win Top Hog. Voting was done by the patrons who were given voting tabs at the entrance along with their wrist bands.
Somehow, every patron was not aware, but Ms. Hamilton stated that they were urged to vote for their favorite chef throughout the night by dropping their tab in a voting box provided at the chefs’ stations. These boxes were collected and votes tallied at 10:25pm showing Dale de Lisser as the one with the most votes. Anyone who voted for Dale also got a takeaway gift from Copperwood.
At the end of the night, for $5000JMD, Jamaican patrons had a bellyful and enjoyed themselves, getting value for their money.
What followed last night? Crispy Fried Fare and Beer at the Gardens of The Jamaica Pegasus. That was well supported as well, featuring The Pegasus’ own Chef Mark Cole who cooked for President Barack Obama, Chef Suzanne Couch and more.
Tonight is Stix + Stones Skewers and Spirits at The Ruins, Mona Visitor’s Lodge, UWI Mona for $6500JMD from 7pm to 11pm.
Winner of Best New Caterer at this year’s Observer Food Awards, Allison Porter-Smalling, Opa, Jacqui Tyson, Liqy Liqy and more will be present. Select Brands is also a sponsor, so cheers to a great Friday Foodies and enjoy the weekend!
For more information, visit http://www.jamaicafoodanddrinkfestival.com