Best New Food Item
Countdown to the 16th Annual Table Talk Food Awards — Thursday, May 29, 2014
The third tasting session for the judging panel of the Jamaica Observer Food Awards (and supermarket purchaser guests) saw the debut of new-to-the-market food items ranging from Cherbutters' almond and pumpkin seed butter spreads to the all-natural organic creations of Blue Mountain Farms Cilantro and Yogurt Salad Dressings and Stush in the Bush's Sweetie Cherry Tomato Marmalade. Sweet tooth cravings were satiated with chocolate marscarpone from Treasury of Desserts. It was yet another night of entrepreneurial ingenuity worth tasting at the Spanish Court Hotel, and Thursday Life scribe Omar Tomlinson reports from the judges' table.
And The Nominees Are...
STUSH IN THE BUSH
The ebullient Lisa Binns was pure animated joy to behold as she and hubby Christopher Binns talked up their four-year-old, all-organic Stush in the Bush product line to the roomful of judges and supermarket purchaser guests at the Spanish Court Hotel on Monday night.
The attractive couple — owners and operators of the 15-acre Zionite Farms in Free Hill, St Ann, where farm tours are a part of their business model — are staunch believers in organic farming, and regaled the judges with tales of the merit system of pesticide-free growth and consumption.
"Our products embody true farm-to-table," the charismatic Lisa divulged, emphasising that Stush in the Bush's specialty bottled products are made with all farm-fresh ingredients and devoid of unnatural additives.
For their two-item presentation, the Binns introduced a tapas plate that included fried green plantains with Stush's Chimichurri Sauce; grilled pizza with Stush's vegan Basil Pesto, edam vegan cheese and fresh arugula; and home-made multigrain bread with Cheddar, fresh basil and their Sweetie Cherry Tomato Marmalade. Next up was a vegetarian chocolate cake served with dollops of Stush's Lemon Curd, which Christopher pitched to the judges with the promise thta it was as good as the typical calorie-rich version. Any doubters were forced to eat their words.
What to do when your health food store hunt for almond butter reveals a shocker of a price? If you are Cheryl Holdsworth, you forego buying it, and focus your energies on making your own. It's how her story began, tablet computer in hand for health-related and company reference, as she charted the journey of her Cherbutters upstart before an intrigued room in Spanish Court's Valencia Room.
An educator by day, with the ambitious zeal of a health food butter creator after hours, Holdsworth told the judges she keeps the integrity of her chocolate peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter and pumpkin seed butter products intact by using vanilla beans, which represents the best source of 100 per cent coconut oil.
No fan of store-bought processed foods, Holdsworth quipped, "The longer the shelf life, the shorter yours," when a query was posed about the longevity of the Cherbutters line.
Of keener interest to her is the correlation of health benefits to be derived from her products — the pumpkin seed butter ("great for your prostate, depression and the skin's elasticity," she touted), the almond butter ("regulates the blood pressure,") and the cashew butter ("good for the bones").
Holdsworth's presentation menu was a three-parter. The first, platters of strawberries stuffed with pumpkin seed butter, pumpkin seed gonads (with pumpkin seed butter dates and coconut shavings), French bread with cashew butter, star-shaped sandwich with pumpkin seed butter, and flaky pastry filled with almond butter. The platter was followed by a smoothie concoction named 'Big Man T'ing' made with pumpkin seed butter, coconut milk, oatmeal, banana, spirulina, cinnamon and vanilla. The closer was a soft-serve ice cream made with frozen bananas and almond butter.
TREASURY OF DESSERTS
It was a return that the Food Awards judges were only too eager to see, taste and applaud. Pâtissier Kathy Tait — a previous Food Awards winner — was back with another decadent indulgence: chocolate mascarpone. To no one's amazement, the sweet treat was met with heightened expectation.
Food Awards judge Christopher Reckord, not one to turn a fork away from dessert, gave his own ringing endorsement, evident by his one-night blink-and-miss it mascarpone disappearing act.
The soft-spoken Tait, the night's final presenter, not only came with desserts but with questions of how to penetrate an already competitive market for her Treasury of Desserts business. Suggestions came fast and furious from around the table, with business proposals of Mother's Day special offers as well as drafting customised menus for celebratory occasions. It was advice to marinate. An appreciative Tait expressed gratitude ahead of taking her leave, until, of course, another of her eagerly anticipated dessert presentations was in order.
Gentle persuasion from our very own Food Awards Chair Novia McDonald-Whyte prompted Belcour Preserves co-owner Robin Lim Lumsden to debut her homemade gourmet preservatives under the 'New Food Item' tent 10 years ago at the prestigious culinary showcase that is the Jamaica Observer Food Awards. Emboldened, Robin and her co-director hubby Michael Lumsden, took up the entrepreneurial mantle and made good on their vision to bring organically grown bottled products to specialty store shelves.
More recently, the Lumsdens forged a partnership with Donna Noble, founder of Woodford Market Gardens to launch the relatively new Blue Mountain Farms organic line, and the trio presented five fantastic products -- Honey & Papaya Seed Salad Dressing, Cilantro and Yogurt Salad Dressing, Africa Rub, Jamaica Rub, and the Coffee Rub — to Monday's tasting session.
The coffee rub wowed palates in Robin's prepared entrée: pork tenderloin basted in the rub, and served with creamed sweet potato. Also on the plate were organic veggies from Woodford Markets, made even tastier with the zesty kick of the yogurt and cilantro, and honey and papaya seed salad dressings.
Eyeing the long-term growth curve for the future of the business, Robin said plans are in the making to get both the Belcour and Blue Mountain Farms lines into the North American Whole Foods retail line. "We are already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and we're now looking to be certified by the Specialty Food Association in New York," she disclosed.
An avid experimental cook, lovingly described by her husband as "a woman not given to preparing the same meal twice", Robin also presented her recently launched cookbook, Belcour, to the judging panel. "It's a melange of meals and memories celebrating family history," she said of the 270-recipe tome that took a decade to compile, but is worth every turn of each visually rich page.