Tag Archives: UWI Mona Visitor’s Lodge

How was Picante for Jamaica Food & Drink Festival?!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Chef Oji Jaja’s Seared Shrimp with roasted pepper Scotch Bonnet sauce and Micro Basil

Spiciest dish of the Night!

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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.

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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.

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Chef Mark Cole of The Jamaica Pegasus being quite a showman at Picante last Friday night.

Chef Mark Cole’s Menu:

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The Best Dish at Picante

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The other long line of the night with foodie, Sean Morgan looking on was for…

Drum roll…

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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.

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.

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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.

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Chef Rebecca Karram’s Menu
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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.

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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!

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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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The Other JFDF Events and Suga’s Epicurean & Delectable Choices for Restaurant Week!

Suga brought you the low down for Crisp at The Gardens, Jamaica Pegasus ($5000 All Inclusive) and Picante ($7500 All Inclusive) at The Ruins, UWI Mona’s Visitor’s Lodge, so how were the other JFDF events? Suga Bears and Suga Daddies reported!

Most persons like to get bad news out of the way first. The events with the highest price tags were not that impressive for some patrons. That is, Vintage for $12000JMD all-inclusive and Brunch at the Gallery for $20000JMD/$150USD all-inclusive.

Vintage 

Meals at Vintage at the Manor in Jack’s Hill were described as basic and a low standard for Ortanique on the Mile, one of the restaurants in Florida that was represented by Owner Cynthia Hutson. Suga Bears enjoyed the view and Dessert though.

Brunch at the Gallery

Brunch at the National Gallery, Downtown Kingston presented by Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau was decorated beautifully by Tai Flora and had a sufficient selection of Wines by Select Brands, but the service of food was slow and it arrived to tables cold. The Brunch was from 11am to 4pm and after a long day, patrons were leaving at 4pm and Dessert was just being served. Should the blame go on the Event Planner, the Chefs or both? It was stated that the execution was poor.

The Menu

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The Menu for Brunch at the Gallery (Photo Contributed)

The Presentation of some of the meals were also quite sloppy to say the least.

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Vegetables and Greens served at Brunch at the Gallery last Sunday (Photo Contributed)

Did the Incredible Hulk have an accident here?! I was in disbelief and gathered that this was the consensus amongst most tables. This looked nothing like the neatly displayed dish on the Event’s social media page. Cold food, slow service and poor, unappetizing presentation is unacceptable for $20,000JMD. I believe things can be shaken up next year. There are so many other talented, efficient Chefs around and I understand the ambience of The National Gallery, but a change in venue could be considered as well.

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Chargrilled Rack of Lamb Presented to a table at Brunch at the Gallery last Sunday (Photo Contributed)

Kudus to award-winning baker, Nadine Burie that probably saved both events. Her desserts are offered at Cafe Blue.

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Fresh Fruit Pavlova by Nadine Burie (Photo Credit: @jafoodanddrink)

Setting bad news aside, persons fully enjoyed Meet Street and the Market in Downtown, Kingston ($500JMD entry) last Saturday. A patron said she did not know that Downtown could be so nice. The set up and atmosphere was phenomenal and the vendors outdid themselves.

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Vendors that pleased at Meet Street and the Market Last Saturday in Downtown, Kingston

Pork Palooza ($6500JMD All Inclusive) at Palm Drive, Hope Gardens that kicked things off for the festival on the Saturday the week before was a hit. The event is usually the favourite for Patrons. Jamaicans love their Pork! It wasn’t the unanimous favourite this year though.

Which event took JFDF 2017?!

Close call! It has been narrowed down to the new event, Chop Stix ($5000JMD All Inclusive) held at Zen Lawn, Hope Zoo last Wednesday that featured fare from the far East and the zesty, Picante!

Based on Food, Weather and Vibe, Chop Stix gets the edge. Picante had the on and off rain, which was uncontrollable with provisions put in place, but Jamaicans love a new event.

The Chefs, Caterers and Restaurants delivered at Chop Stix! Here was the Menu if you missed it. Chop Stix can’t be missed next year!

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So what’s next for my Foodies? Restaurant Week!

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Yes, I know Restaurant Week has lost its steam. Marketing has been ongoing but should be revised, including the selection of Ambassadors. JFDF being so close to Restaurant Week definitely overshadowed it.

Menus for Restaurants are more of the same, but it makes your choices that much easier. The good ones will pop out at you. So that means you may need to make reservations quickly or maybe not, because places I called yesterday that are normally booked out weeks in advance seemed to have quite a bit of space left.

For now, I am leaving you with my recommendations for the Epicurean and Delectable Categories. Here you go!

Epicurean ($4300 +tax +gratuity +beverages)

> The Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in Kingston.

Despite inconsistencies in service and quality throughout the year, they have managed to keep a good reputation for Restaurant Week so far.

Sidenote: I do not think any Restaurant in Market Place should be placed in the Epicurean Category. The venue is far too casual and a long wait is usually expected.

Out of town? Marguerites by the Sea, Montego Bay. You should expect a spectacular dinner and service with a seaside or picturesque garden view.

There are some other reputable Restaurants listed, but the lack of creativity with their Menus were the deal breakers.

Delectable ($3800JMD +GCT +gratuity +beverages)

> Fromage Bistro on Hillcrest Avenue in Kingston.

Nirvanna Indian Cuisine, Centro-Courtyard by the Marriott and Black Orchid Restaurant at Eden Gardens would be secondary choices.

In the other city? Both options from Mobay are primary choices – Mystic Thai and The Houseboat Grill. So persons can choose between the two based on the Cuisine desired.

***Stay tuned for more Restaurant Week choices from Suga Lifestyle.***

By: Gabrielle Burgess

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