The 21st staging of the Table Talk Jamaica Observer Food Awards last Thursday on the lawns of Devon House was truly a euphoric atmosphere with the highest standards of food and drink in abundance with vibrant music to bounce and wobble to while guests indulged.
All the booths were quite inviting, but with experience, my friends and I were quite selective about our approach to ensure that we didn’t neglect or overlook any of our favourites or newbies on our hit list.
We started at Rainforest Seafoods, where they had salivating Sushi spreads and Wines to pair it all with, including one of my faves, the Kung Fu Girl Riesling courtesy of Select Brands.
We then made our way over to the Restaurant booths from Sandals Resorts International. Tender, juicy cuts of Beef, Ham and Lamb, Seafood, Ribs, Cheese platters, Cocktails, you name it!
They also had a gigantic Sushi spread.
As I continued to walk the lawns of Devon House with 18-year old whiskey in hand from Johnnie Walker, my stops had to include my other faves, Stush in the Bush, Christina Simonitsch, Half Moon, Uncorked Sovereign North, Mystic Thai, Steak House on the Verandah and newbies, Jamaican Peanut Butter Factory and Butcher Block by Gregory Burrowes who had savoury offerings from Chef Celeste Gordon, last year’s OFA Caterer of he Year.
Sending a special shout out and hearty Congratulations to Chris and Lisa Binns of Stush in the Bush who cleaned up this year and deservedly so! Their plant powered spread by their very own Sagicor Group booth this year, satisfied scores of guests at a time.
Christina Simonitsch, who walked away the Enterprise and Outstanding Caterer Awards tantalised our taste buds with her Charred Scotchie Shrimp, then cooled it down with her G.H. Mumm & Strawberry Popsicles. The scrumptious Oxtail Arancini left me speechless.
Other Highlights of the night:
Did you know?
Half Moon will be opening a Seafood Restaurant this September!
A taste of what to expect from the Seafood Restaurant to come at Half Moon, Delmare were absolutely delicious Pan Seared Scallops accompanied by tomato compote with saffron and vanilla zucchini spaghetti with Tarragon.
Even if I didn’t indulge, I had to also stop by newbies Chillin’ Restaurant and Bar, Seaside Dutchie and Tastee Ltd./Brew’d Awakenings
Grace Kennedy’s Harbour Wines and Spirits also impressed with their Ménage à Trois selection of Wines and more.
You are always as good as your last show and this was by far the biggest and best Table Talk Jamaica Observer Food Awards that I have attended.
This year the Food Awards celebrated various Communities with Jamaican cuisine as authentic as you can get. Congratulations to the Chefs of theCommunities that were selected and awarded:
• The Sephestines for Mount Estate, St. Thomas • Monica Ottar for Bailey’s Vale, St. Mary • The Allens for Gifford House – Granville, St. James, Montego Bay • Christopher Marsh for Chris’s Cafe – Main Street, Oracabessa St. Mary • Chris & Lisa Binns for Stush in the Bush – Free Hill, St. Ann
Chefs, Bakers, Caterers, Retailers and Restaurants have really elevated the level of quality for what they had to offer over the past year.
Congratulations to conceptualiser, Novia McDonald Whyte, the Jamaica Observer, the Judges, Sponsors, Retailers, the talented Nominees, Awardees and everyone responsible for the successful execution and staging of the Food Awards this year.
Cheers to next year!
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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Picante is the event on the Jamaica Food and Drink Festival (JFDF) roster that takes you through a world of hot, zesty flavours.
It was held last Friday night at The Ruins, Mona Visitors’ Lodge from 7-11pm.
Suga arrived early, at about 7:20pm to beat the lines and made her rounds.
Coca Cola had tasty cocktails upon entry. They had a creamy cocktail that suited the ladies and a White Rum mix that the gentlemen like my husband, Randy enjoyed.
Select Brands had sweet wines to cool down the spice and a refreshing Stoli Blueberi Lemonade that was the talk of many patrons for the night.
By the entrance, there was National’s Scotch Bonnet Butter Cheddar Popcorn stand with Popcorn bags by Chef Christian Sweeney. It was finished in no time. As usual, he created delightful bites to please the crowd.
Chef Sweeney also had a menu of Spicy Chicken with Grilled Corn and Chick Peas Salsa. Thankfully it tasted better than it looked. Congrats Chef Sweeney, it was Picante. For those who returned later in the night like myself, Pan-seared Tuna was served instead of the Chicken with the Chick Peas Salsa and it was just as delightful.
Chef Shea Stewart had a menu of spiced Snapper with a Jalapeño, Chili and Scotch Bonnet infused Risotto, however the outcome was mild. The presentation was poor, but it was quite tasty nonetheless.
Chef Dennis McIntosh did a tasty seafood dish, but it was mild as well.
Broken Plate’s dish was delicious and flavourful with a touch of spice, but I was still waiting on another dish to make me say, ‘Picante!’.
Disappointing booths for the Night
Before I get to outstanding booths for the night, the majority of Chefs produced impressive dishes. However, there were two disappointing dishes for me. One was definitely worse than the other.
Chef Jonhoi Reid from the renowned Cliff Hotel in Negril was very personable, but had a sloppy display with Pork that was difficult to chew. I was excited to see Pork stacked on Pork, but the outcome was disappointing. The Black Bean Corn Yuca Cake didn’t save the dish for me, but was quite palatable beneath it all.
I observed that they were serving persons up to 11:20pm, when most Chefs left or packed up. Having so much food left may underscore my thoughts.
Then there was Walkerswood featuring Guest Chef from overseas, Patrick Simpson and UTECH. Sad to say, but it was the worst of the night. The Peppa Shrimp with Curried Vegetable Succotash was spicy a.k.a Picante, but the Pulled Jerk Chicken was terrible. Perhaps, Chef Simpson is unfamiliar with Jamaican sauces, but that sauce did not complement the Pulled Jerk Chicken well at all. It wasn’t spicy and it overpowered it completely.
Winners of the Night for Suga!
Suga had an overall winner, but there wasn’t only one winner for me, there were five Chefs who absolutely brought it to Picante!
Oji Jaja! Best Shrimp of the Night
Chef Oji Jaja had Seared Scallops, but the hit with most patrons was the Seared Shrimp with roasted pepper Scotch Bonnet sauce and Micro Basil. It wasn’t spicy, but was the best Shrimp of the night for Suga.
Spiciest dish of the Night!
The spiciest dish of the night hands down went to Chef George Matthewsof Summertime Villa (Silver Sands, Trelawny; also cooks at Tryall). I couldn’t even say or scream Picante. My running eyes and nose said it all. Mission accomplished Chef Matthews.
Culinary Showman of the Night
Chef Mark Cole from The Jamaica Pegasus cooked with a lot of flare, literally. He cooked two dishes, including a stuffed spicy Potato, but he had one of the two longest lines of the night for his Picante style Salmon Hash. It’s jalapeno salsa made you say, Picante and it was delish! Bravo.
Chef Mark Cole’s Menu:
The Best Dish at Picante
For the Second year in a row, Stush in the Bush wins at Picante for Suga. We all know you can’t help but love Chris and Lisa Binns and the unique, savoury, delightful food they consistently produce, but without bias, although Chef Mark Cole came close, their dish was the best overall at Picante. Their dish made you hot and cooled you down at the same time with pickled watermelon radishes and pickled cucumbers.
Snaps for making Vegetarian look good! There were so many flavours and textures on one plate. Absolute perfection. Stush in the Bush showed up once again. Congratulations and Well done.
Drinks and Desserts!
Other than more drinks provided by the Appleton Estate Bar, desserts provided were a great way to cool off the taste buds.
Sagicor’s booth with Chef Rebecca Karram had sweet and spicy treats. She did well. I enjoyed all of her desserts. The Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookie with a Chai Spiced Milk Shot was a crowd fave.
Wisynco’s Haagen Dazs Ice Cream booth was buzzing all night with patrons and when the night was over, they had brawta. They served one item from their menu at different points in the night. The items provided an added crunchy texture to the ice cream, with a touch of spice too.
Kudos to the organizers and sponsors of Jamaica Food and Drink Festival. ALL events were sold out and from what I heard, patrons enjoyed the majority of the events. Persons were disappointed with the smallest event, Crisp because it had less Chefs.
Jamaicans are a fickle bunch. So after a few successful stagings, I think that JFDF should change things up a bit, and replace Crisp with Seafood, perhaps call it Sea Breeze. It could be by Port Royal for a change of scenery or even in Portland or Ocho Rios. The event has been staged in Kingston for some time, but it is Jamaica Food and Drink Festival.
Looking forward to another great year!
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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Have you heard about Jabba’s Smoked Grill and Jabba’s Peppa Swims?! Gear up for next year, because if you are in the corporate area, especially New Kingston, some delicious, affordable food can be delivered to you at work or home, free of cost. Pick up options are also available. Sounds great right? Another option to add to our very limited lunch selection.
Lunch from Jabba’s Smoked Grill is available on Saturdays. Lunch costs $600JMDinclusive of delivery in the corporate area. You have a choice of either Jerked or Barbecue chicken along with sides of sweet potato, rice and peas and/or roast breadfruit.
Jabba’s Peppa Swims are mild or spicy packages of shrimps available on Tuesdays and Fridays at a cost of $280JMD each. But don’t worry, the spicy one will not leave you choking. It is tastefully done with the right level of spice so you enjoy it but you are comfortable at the same time. As deliveries are done mainly in New Kingston, they are currently a big hit with corporate offices such as JMMB, Sagicor, Barita and more. So you don’t need to travel to St. Elizabeth for ‘swims’, you can get them delivered to you or pick up at 31-33 Trafalgar Road (BNS with no sign), opposite the NCB atrium, anytime between 8am and 5pm.
For both Jabba’s Smoked Grill and Jabba’s Peppa Swims, it is best to order the night before or on the day before 12 noon, by calling 876-296-7304.
Ok so now you know what is offered and the cost, but who does the cooking? Jabba!
Who or what is Jabba?
Jabba is young, Jonathan Simpson, who just has a love for cooking and was thus inspired to start this endeavour. I have actually tasted Jabba’s chicken from as far back as 2008 at a friend’s baby shower. Yes! Jabba does catering too and used to even have a small restaurant back in the day that offered Jamaican lunches such as Curried Goat, Oxtail, Cow foot, Jerked Chicken and more.
Where has Jabba been all these years?
A few years ago, the restaurant business alone was not enough for Jabba and he felt that a ‘9-5’ would be better for the finances so started working with Scotiabank. But when something is just a part of you, it always finds its way back. So recently, he found a way to still work with the bank but to branch out into what he loves to do even more as well, cook.
Who taught him how to cook?
Well the Chicken and other things came naturally to him for the most part but a young lady who he used to buy shrimp from taught him how to prepare the shrimps aka ‘swims’ when he developed an interest to do it himself.
How did the rave about Jabba’s Swims begin?
About 4 or 5 years ago, Jabba prepared his shrimps for a fundraiser at the office and the people wanted more. The interest and liking for it spread by word of mouth to different offices within the area.
What makes Jabba’s Chicken and Shrimps different?
It’s all about the freshness, the sauce and the general taste of the food.
Freshness is important folks, so it is unlikely that the Peppa Swims ‘goi run u belly!’. Pepper shrimps are a local favourite but a lot of the shrimps sold on the street side are not fresh. Jabba’s shrimps are usually prepared on the morning of or the night before they are sold. They are a hot commodity so they sell off in one day. If you are brave, I have been told that you can refrigerate and have the shrimp up to 5 days after purchase or a day after if you do not refrigerate.
With regards to the sauce, I remember licking the sauce off my fingers from that Chicken from 2008! Yes, literally ‘finger-lickin’ good’.
Then of course, the taste is unique as a result of the preparation with freshness, seasoning and the added sauce or peppers.
Where is the Chicken and Shrimp sourced from?
Chicken is sourced from Best Dressed Chicken and the Shrimps from Rainforest Seafoods.
What has Jabba done catering for before?
His ‘Eat All You Want Buffet Seafood’ years ago and most recently, Weddings and parties such as Haunted and Afloat Soca Cruse. BBQ Pigstail, BBQ Chicken, Pasta and Garlic bread were a hit at Haunted!
Can you order this week?
Sorry Suga bears, Jabba’s Smoked Grill and Peppa Swims is currently closed for the holidays and will reopen for business by Saturday, January 9, 2016.
The near future of Jabba’s Peppa Swims?
By the 2nd week in January, Jabba’s popular Peppa Swims will be at Bickles in Sovereign Centre Food Court on Wednesdays and Saturdays for $300JMD per bag.
So as we think about food of all kinds for the festive season and wonder how we will afford lunch in January, look out for Jabba’s Smoked Grill and Peppa Swims next year!