Saturday, 28 October 2017

Jamaica Food and Drink Festival 2017 : Picante


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 Picante.

The Backstory

I have had a long history with spicy foods. My mother used to say I would marry a drunk (I guess that's an old Jamaican saying). I really started getting into cooking when I was doing my undergrad in NY. In those days I was so busy with architecture school work that I cooked rarely, but when I did  the major critique would be...."lawd Chantay it nice but...di peppa!" I had an extremely heavy hand with spice back then. When cooking, if I didn't taste the pepper, I kept adding until I could taste it. And by that time, the damage would have been done. Blogging changed all that. I never, ever cooked with recipes before I started blogging. The second I had to record the quantities going into things I realized just how much pepper I was using before. So its no surprise that this former spicy fingered cook would be very interested in a foodie event celebrating just that.

Pre- Feast preparation 

On the October 27th morning, I was super annoyed to wake up and see fog out my window yet again. Nonetheless we were not perturbed. Rain or shine we would be attending. Again, we had two small meals to save room in our bellies for dinner. Due to the rain the event was postponed for an hour. However, we still got there earlier. I am a firm believer that at food events, I should open the gate. So if it starts 8, I should be there 7:30, that's what we do for every  all inclusive food and drink event. That way, we get to eat all the food before the crowd descends. We strolled into the event at 7:30pm

The Décor

Very beautiful pink and purples and oranges, felt Moroccan. I'm not sure if that was the vibe they were going for, but it did feel spicy.

The Layout

This event took place at The Ruins U.W.I Mona Visitors Lodge, and it was on two levels. The entrance and upper level had four stations and the lower level had  a large tent in the center filled with ottoman seating, chairs, bistro tables along the edges and the food stations surrounding. I didn't see a DJ set up, but I certainly heard the music. Whoever was at the turntables was doing his or her thing. 

The Food

The food, the food. Where to begin? Again we started from one end and worked our way around. First stop was at Jacqui Tyson with the most perfectly cooked salmon with some super cool rum and pepper caviar's.  We followed that with Pink Apron; The best shrimp ever! Then Chef Fowles with oxtail and turn cornmeal churros. I literally wanted a plate of churros with Pink Aprons shrimp, topped with the oxtail gravy, they were my two favorite bites of the night. It's like we just kept getting wins after wins because the deliciousness did not stop there. Next was Stush In The bush with some wicked chicken and waffles and an incredible grilled corn. The corn had all this lime and cilantro flavor on it that I loved and they actually gave people a whole corn; that surprised me. Simon Levy had some lovely pork belly tacos and spicy watermelon and grapefruit granitas which were so delicious. I mean, I could go on and on about the food. As a group we ate everything (I don't eat lobster, sister doesn't do shrimp) so as a collective someone from the crew tasted at each station. My husband was kinda like our scout. He has no patience and he does not do lines, so while the girls would wait at a line, he was walking around sampling things way ahead of us and letting us know what was good from what wasn't. Before I forget, I want to make mention of the Coca Cola booth. These bartenders were doing the utmost and we were loving it. They had a full on Coca Cola menu, I had a Mojito made with cola and liquid nitrogen (I think). It was such a cool sight to see the smoke rising from the mojito and it tasted so delicious. Right now, If I am to talk about everything that I loved, this post will never end. So lets just leave it at, the food was amazing, and i'll let the pics speak for themselves.

You can literally see how tender the salmon is 

I had like four bags of this shrimp

The crew going in on the shrimp and Nitrogen smashed sweet potatoes 

That's my plate

The oxtail was fall of the bone tender and the churros....i'll have dreams about those

Loved these tacos, the chicharones were exceptional 

Look at the size of that corn

OPA's Greek jerk chicken was HOT and delicious

The Bottom-line:  Here are my ratings for Picante

Great variety of dishes, they were all spicy without being overly spicy and some stations, at least, most stations had a means for patrons to add extra heat to their dishes if they wanted to. Jamaica Food and Drink Festival is to October, what Dream Weekend is to August and Picante was Daydreams lol.  The only thing that I could think of, that would make the food experience even better, would be the addition of some vegan/vegetarian stations that are equally as delicious as the ones serving meat.

Décor: 8.5/10 Another very beautiful setting, not as strong a theme as Chopstix had. But lovely, bright vibrant colors all the same.

Food: 10/10 I ate from every station and there were only two stations that were so-so. And to me that's pretty amazing. The dishes were super creative and the spices were on point. Even the dishes that were so-so had excellent components in them. 

Crowd: 8.5/10  This venue was larger, and there seemed to be way more persons there. So it was a tad bit crowded, but not to the point of sardine tin crowded. Think, rubbing elbows with a few strangers from time to time, and saying "excuse me" to slip though to the bar, but over all, nothing crazy.

Bottom-line: This is a cant miss event, rain or shine..point, blank, period!

I don't eat lobster but I tasted a bit of this and it was super yum

Ceviche was yummy

Loved these curry rice balls, and the shrimp on top was very good.

Super tender pork belly

This was yummy too

Coca Cola with the mojito magic 

We basically ate an entire tray of these Tres leches shots

This spicy hot chocolate made my night

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