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 Matthews of 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.
On time/Flowing production – Check
Personality – Check
Presentation – Check
Theme (Picante) – Check
Flavours – Check
Textures – Check
Wow Factor – Check
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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