Thursday, 26 October 2017

Jamaica Food and Drink Festival 2017 : Chopstix


For one week every October, Jamaica Food and drink festival brings to its patrons a culinary journey of events with different themes. Pork Palooza is everything swine, down to the desserts. Chopstix, as the name suggests, is all foods Asian. Crisp is all about crispy fried everything paired with local and international beers. Vintage is a seven-course wine pairing feast. Picante is all about the hot, zesty flavors. Meet Street & The Market is one for the kids, food trucks, restaurants, and pop up kitchens, with family entertainment. The week ends with a Sunday Brunch at the Gallery.

At this year’s Jamaica food and drink festival, I had the pleasure of being a guest and not a chef. At the first festival in 2015, I was a chef at Pork Palooza, and never in my life have I worked so hard. I totally missed the second staging all together because I was in NY getting fitted for my wedding dress. This year I was asked to be a blogger and cover a few events, to which I happily accepted.

I’m only giving a review of the events I attended and will attend; Chopstix, Picante and Meet Street. In an effort to not have the post unbearably long, (because I have so much to say) I’ve separated the review by event. So this post is about Chopstix.

The Backstory

Anyone who knows me knows I love Asian food, Chinese, Japanese and Thai specifically being my favorites. I will never turn down a good garlic naan or butter chicken either, so Indian, Korean, they all are really high up there for me. So I was super excited to attend this event. The menu looked lovely, the smoked pork bulgogi bowl being the one I knew I wanted to try the most.

Pre- Feast preparation 

I woke up on a rainy October 25th my sister made some scrambled eggs which I had with toast. And at 2:30pm I decided to have some pasta salad for lunch to ensure that come 7pm I would be starving. The drive from Mandeville felt especially long. I attended with my husband, sister, two cousins and close friend. My sister does not eat shrimp and my friend does not eat pork. With that said we walked into this place like rabid dogs, foaming at the mouth (lmao). Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who ate as little as possible during the day to make sure I would not be filled too quickly once I started eating.

The Décor

When we walked in, we were greeted with beautifully festive décor, with a lovely red color scheme. There were lots of comfy ottomans and nooks and corners for people to sit and relax. The seating felt very bohemian. We felt very relaxed at home and ready to eat.

The Layout

There was a bar in the center, a DJ bringing the vibes and the food stations curving around to the left and right of the DJ. Basically, a circle of food surrounding the bar. We walked in and decided the best way to tackle it, was to pick either left or right and go from station to station until we were filled.

The Food

The first bite was of some Ebi Mayo which is a fried prawn/shrimp in mayo sauce. The flavor of this was really good but the major downfall was its temperature and texture. The shrimp was fried, dipped in the mayo sauce, plated and put on a table for patrons to take up. The problem is, as it sits there, the mayo sauce completely eradicates the crispness of the shrimp. This was a problem that many chefs experienced through the night. I find that the stations where they have to assemble it as you arrive gave you hot food, vs the ones where you just take up a plate that’s already made when you get there. 

Right next door, our second bite was the bulgogi bowl. This was what I was looking most forward to eating and it did not disappoint. It was the most delicious thing we had all night and it was HOT. What I love about bulgogi bowls is how they always have the perfect balance of all the flavors melded together. The smoked pork was very flavorful. My friend who does not eat pork had the bowl but with the gravy and gave away her pork pieces and even she said how good it was. 

After we had this bowl everyone was totally hype, but then the reality of the menu set in. My sister does not eat shrimp and my friend does not eat pork and there was a whole lot of pork and especially shrimp, a few beef dishes and one chicken….you read correctly, one chicken. It was a chicken Tikka biryani that was very delicious, intensely flavored and spicy, but it too suffered from pre-plating. The rice on the top was cold, however, the chicken on the bottom was hot so stirring it together warmed the rice thankfully, but the papadum that was stuck in, was soggy where it came into contact with the moisture from the chicken and rice. Had it been stuck in and served immediately. fine, but because it sat and waited its texture suffered.

ebi mayo pre-plating fail

Best of the night

Salmon tempura rolls were yum

I am told that this was the most delicious lobster

Coconut stuffed Naan was everything

It’s funny I promoted the menu three days before the event and I did not even notice that there was no fried rice, no sesame chicken, general tso, shrimp and broccoli or tandoori chicken. I would have loved a good bowl of rich hot ramen, and I longed for garlic in something. For me there was a bit too much pork and shrimp. Multiple stations offered fried noodles that after a while they all tasted the same. Each dish on their own had very good flavors but having them all one after the other, they weren’t cohesive. The more I ate, the more my palate was getting weighed down with sweetness. I wish I had some crackers to cleanse my palate between samplings ( I will most definitely do that for the other events).  By the time we had three stations left to try I was totally full, and I only had a sip of a cocktail and two small water bottles. I really tried to keep the drinking to a minimum. By the end of the night I wanted to go back for seconds of the bulgogi bowl, but I think by that time word had spread about how awesome it was and the line was super long. So I took a cup of ice and we headed home.

The Bottom-line: Here are my ratings for Chopstix

With 14 chefs they could have made 3 use chicken, 2 salmon, 2 shrimp, 2 beef, 2 pork, 3 vegetarian. And it needs to be mandatory that hot food should be kept hot. If they are going to pre-plate they need food warmers to keep it hot.

Décor: 10/10 They really worked with the Asian theme and came up with a very beautiful setting.

Food: 6/10 individually the meals were good, but put together as a whole culinary journey they didn’t all work with each other, just ended up tasting like sweet, after sweet, after sweet. And too many stations had similar offerings.

Crowd: 10/10 Not crowded, some lines were long but moved fast, depending on when you went into that area. Over all it was the perfect amount of persons for the size of the space. You would walk freely but there was still a sizable number of persons there.

Bottom-line: Would I go again? Absolutely, the food was yummy but I would scrutinize the menu more closely. My friends and I had a great time and our bellies were filled.  And after all its only the third staging, still more room to grow and each year gets bigger and better.

loved the iced coffee jelly wish it were cold, and I appreciated that it was not sweet

This pork was so amazingly tender and flavorful, but this was the point where the sweetness started to get to me

The one chicken dish, good flavors tho, suffered from pre-plating

The mango mousee on the coconut rice pudding was everything and more

My cousin and sister adored these lychee butter cakes, great flavor, but it was too sweet for me

And my sister, finally...finally, finallllyyyyy (in my Jess with the mess voice) Met Chef  Fowls 

XOXO Greedygirl

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