The 2nd annual Blue Mountain Coffee Festival starts today! Blue Mountain Coffee has the reputation of being one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world over the past few decades.
This event hopes to attract tourists and international coffee buyers, as well as create awareness of the rapidly growing coffee culture amongst us as local consumers.
Friday, March 1st – Trade Day
The Festival kicks off today with a networking and learning experience for farmers allowing them to showcase their coffee and coffee byproducts.
Saturday, March 2nd – Festival Marketplace
Last year’s view from Newcastle at the 1st staging of the Marketplace at the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival
After you finish with Suga Lifestyle’s Nutrition session tomorrow, the Festival Marketplace in Newcastle will be buzzing with activity. You can then browse and purchase coffee to put in your protein shakes each morning!
There will be coffee galore, coffee byproducts and live demos if you are a barista at home, as well as live musical entertainment and crafts on showcase from local artisans. You would also learn about coffee related tours.
Festival Marketplace Ticket costs: $1500 (Adults); $500 (Children 2-12 years and students with ID)
***Complimentary round trip Shuttle Services will be provided from UTECH Library Car Park to Newcastle starting at 9am***
If you would like to make a weekend of it, there are activities on Sunday too!
Sunday, March 3 – The Culinary Trail (Reservation Only)
There will be a Coffee-themed Brunch at Strawberry Hill and other eateries along the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Trail should have a signature Blue Mountain Coffee infused dish on their menu that day.
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 Shea Stewart’s Spiced Snapper en Papillote with Scotch Bonnet Butter served with Jalepeño and Chili Pepper infused Risotto Scotch Bonnet.
Chef Dennis McIntosh did a tasty seafood dish, but it was mild as well.
Chef Dennis McIntosh’s spicy Caribbean Seafood Au Gratin.
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!’.
Broken Plate’s Mustard Chili Pesto Rubbed Pork Loin with Crispy Bacon Orzo Pilaf topped with Asian mixed greens and Arugula Salad
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.
The Cliff Hotel’s Chef Jonhoi Reid’s Mojo Braised Pork topped with Crispy Pork Belly with Black Bean Corn Yuca Cake, Smoked Scotch Bonnet Salsa Verde, Jalapeño Pico de Gallo and Cilantro Crema.
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.
Walkerswood featuring Chef Patrick Simpson and UTECH’s Grilled Peppa Shrimps with Curried Vegetable Succotash (Top); Pulled Jerk Chicken on Bammy Round with Pickle Escallion Relish (below); Solomon Gundy Crostini topped with Roasted Corn and Tomato
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.
Chef Oji Jaja’s Seared Shrimp with roasted pepper Scotch Bonnet sauce and Micro Basil
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.
Chef George Matthews’ Thai Chili Shrimp with Breadfruit poppers.
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 of The Jamaica Pegasus being quite a showman at Picante last Friday night.
Chef Mark Cole’s Menu:
The Best Dish at Picante
The other long line of the night with foodie, Sean Morgan looking on was for…
Chef Lisa Binns of Stush in the Bush serves up Suga her Picante dish, while husband, Chef Christopher Binns was on the grill.
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.
Stush in the Bush’s winning dish!
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.
Chef Rebecca Karram’s Menu
Chef Rebecca Karram telling us what she prepared for us to enjoy at Picante last Friday night.
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.
Wisynco’s Haagen Dazs Ice Cream booth Menu Items
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!
Gabrielle Burgess a.k.a Suga by the Haagen Dazs booth at Picante last Friday night at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge.
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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Have you tried Speaknvegan for lunch yet? I had the refreshing experience 2 weeks ago. I regret taking so long to do so. Speaknvegan was trademarked and featured on Smile Jamaica TVJ just a few months ago, but has been in operation for about a year. The business may be familiar to some as ‘Salads and Shakes by Stace’, but has evolved greatly. Stacy Doughlasingh, the chef responsible for the tasty, Vegan food offered, graduated from UTECH with a degree in Hotel and Tourism a Management not too long ago. It is always pleasing to see young, talented persons go after their dream and actually enjoying what they do for a living.
I think she is off to a great start with a menu that keeps changing, is so creative and also inviting to the eyes. The day I ordered for pick up, I had difficulty choosing amongst Plantain and Hummus Tacos, Black Bean Fajitas and a Chick’n Chutney Burger. I went with the Black Bean Fajitas that consisted of Black beans sauteed in a chilli sauce, along with avocado, diced tomatoes, vegan cream cheese and parsley. My order was ready on time and it was evident that effort was made for its presentation, a crucial element lacking from a lot of lunch establishments. The ingredients complemented each other well and it was quite tasty. The portion size may be small for some though, perhaps a small soup or shake could be added as a combo.
The instagram account, SPEAKNVEGAN is quite active and gives customers an idea of various selections available for order or special request. There are soup and shake options such as Curried Sweet Potato soup, Thai Coconut Corn soup and Kale and Pumpkin soup. Other interesting options are the spicy medium Ackee Pizza with beet root, okra, tomato and vegetables, the Chilli Sub (a favourite amongst customers) and the Burrito bowl with chopped Veggie Steak just to name a few. Mouth-watering Dessert options are available as well.
So check out Speaknvegan on instagram and order some of those affordable, delightful vegan dishes, whether it’s for lunch, a Wedding, Live event, Family event or just Personal catering. Vegan lunches are available for Pick-up or Delivery on Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 3pm. Orders should be made the day before or by 11am latest by calling 876-378-5094.
The Tasty category is more on the simple side with dishes that most persons should be familiar with. A few restaurants still stand out in terms offering more value for money even though they do not have the greatest ambience.
ROE Japanese Cuisine, Tandoor Indian Restaurant and the Chill Out Hut Restaurant (Montego Bay) seem like great choices. Chill Out Hut will have Chicken Wings, Nachos, 1 lb whole Fish/Fish Fillet any way you like it, a Chicken and Ribs combo and more.
JoJo’s Jerk Pit and More usually offers a large serving of BBQ Spare Ribs, small desserts and basic appetizers.
East Japanese seems satisfactory with their usual Miso soup and Salads, simple Vanilla Ice Cream and main course including Shrimp Tempura and Teriyaki Chicken. However the choices at Northside Kitchen, aside from their location seem like more value for money. There is also a wider range of items to choose from.
The menu from Lillian’sat UTECH looks good with a variety of options. The quality of food is usually decent as well.
Pizza Hut – Dine In in Kingston and Montego Bay look like awesome Binge fests!
Simply Red’s 25th Anniversary was a night to remember. Relaxed atmosphere with a wide variety of wine and food as expected. The only thing lacking was a range of desserts. Chocolate Dreams locked up shop pretty early and there seemed to be mainly Mousses and Pana Cottas. Other than that, nothing to really bite or cut into. The tents were also pretty hot, probably as a result of humidity setting in after the evening rain, but no fans were in sight. The logistics however, allowed enough space for persons to walk around freely in the large central area to cool off.
It would be hard to give highlights, as every chef, caterer, company or organization had something special to offer. UTECH had a few stations. You could hardly taste the lobster in their Lobster roll with red pepper remoulade, but their Brined Duck Breast with breadfruit soffrito was cooked to perfection. Brian Lumley’s signature Herb de Provence Chicken marinated with white wine was up to good standard as usual, complemented by mushroom cream sauce and red pepper coulis. The Ham stuffed 689 Croquettes were decent as well. Chef George Matthews had a wicked Steak flank with Corn on the Cob and Barbecue Oxtail! The Barbecue Oxtail was alright, I expected more with the sauce and it surely didn’t slide off the bone.
Rainforest Seafoods had Smoked Marlin sandwiches that had way too much butter, but a Bread pudding with cheese and an optional honey topping that was delish. Their Avocado salad with arugula was also divine. The Chilean’s Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Pebre had a savoury, unique taste. Unfortunately the beef was not tender enough and the representative did not sufficiently or enthusiastically explain the dish. Perhaps the kids also representing the booth that were oh so adorable, stole her spotlight.
Interesting and fun options were Tastee’s cheese fountain with potato wedges and Kendel’s Mackerel Tempura rolls.
Persons that wished to load on the carbs had unlimited options of pastas, noodles, lamb and beef burgers as well.
Jacqui Tyson put on quite a show with her Best Dressed Fried Chicken and dancing chefs. Her area as well as the Pop Up Gourmet/CPJ booth, were crowded all night compared to all the others that had a free flow. Kudos to Jacqui for occasionally going on the mic to keep the crowd in the know of what she had to offer, raising person’s interest and having them go back for more.
Mission Catwalk also had a booth showcasing red dresses made by contestants, of which there was a poll going for the best dress. Only two were impressive, though the others showed great potential and it was a good promotion for the show.
Grace, Campari, BETCO Premier Ltd. along with JMMB, CPJ wines with Pop UP Gourmet, Select Brands and the Chilean representatives kept the spirits flowing all night. The Little Penguin Chardonnay and BETCO’s René Barbier Blanco were the winners for me.
The event seemed to be well supported, so hopefully The Heart Foundation reached their target and it will be even more spectacular next year.