VIDEO: Coupes of Chocolate
Countdown to the 16th Annual Table Talk Food Awards — Thursday, May 29, 2014
The Spanish Court Hotel's Valencia Room is, on Monday nights, home to newly discovered food personalities, rousing culinary discourse and, of course, a full-fledged baptism of new food fare. Thursday Life reporter Omar Tomlinson, alongside the Food Awards judges and purchasers from Hi-Lo Food Stores, John R Wong, Loshusan and Sovereign Supermarkets, takes you around the table where culinary surprises abound with each forkful and sip.
(Photos: Garfield Robinson)
Best New Food Item
Spur Tree's Brown Stew Seasoning
Fresh from courting prospective overseas buyers in New York, Spur Tree Spices Limited's CEO Albert Bailey and his directors Mohan Jagnarine and Dennis Hawkins held court with the Food Awards judging panel on April 7. The Spur Tree trio were on hand to debut their Brown Stew Seasoning (due to hit store shelves within the next two months), and after talking up the company's substantial growth (there's been impressive market penetration in the United States-based supermarket retail chains, Jetro and Shop-Rite, which between them, have well over 250 locations), the judges were presented with two meals: ackee and callaloo-infused rice with brown stew chicken and stewed pork (from CB Foods Copperwood Pork line) and ginger.
Utilising Spur Tree products -- brown stew seasoning, stew pork seasoning, and canned ackee and callaloo -- director and cooking enthusiast Mohan Jagnarine was the chef behind the evening's fare. The verdict at the table was swift, with the judges complimentary in their praise of the brown stew seasoning's sharp flavour profile; and the supermarket purchasers receptive to the possibility of adding the new Spur Tree spice to their shelves.
Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers
Sweet relief came to the judging table with Averell French, director of Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers. A returning resident from Britain, French traded in his career as an architect across the pond for his true calling -- farming lands in the Blue Mountains laden with coffee and cocoa.
For his appearance at the judging session two Mondays ago, the white fedora-sporting farmer came with a decadent arsenal of treats.
Chocolate spread, dark and white chocolate bars, cacao nib cookies, white chocolate brownies and chocolate wine were presented in stylised fashion, and fawned upon once they hit the taste bud pleasure zone.
The room came alive with ecstatic reviews, with several judges opining that Mount Pleasant chocolate treats could rival premier foreign brands with its refined taste.
Kimisha Walker, proprietor of Adam & Eve Day Spa, who accompanied him to the presentation, swore by the authenticity and rich value of French's organically grown products. Walker informed that her spa offers chocolate-based beauty treatments (using Mount Pleasant products) that aid in detoxifying the skin, smoothe wrinkles, and diminish the appearance of scars.
With his product range currently available at Adam & Eve Day Spa, Strawberry Hill and the Cocoa Industry Board, French divulged that he plans to expand to additional retail locations.
The judges are introduced to Mount Pleasant's six-course offering -- chocolate spread, white chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate wine, cacao nib cookies with raisins and white chocolate brownies.
Outstanding Baker & Newcomer in Food
"My spirit needs to be where the action is," the baby-faced Trevanne Donegal shared with the judging panel at the Spanish Court on April 14 where she presented a taste of her pastry and savoury creations from her upstart catering enterprise Layer Cake. It was a serendipitous homecoming at the Spanish Court for Donegal who had worked at the mod-chic New Kingston hotel but only two years earlier as a restaurant manager. Restlessness had set in, she explained, as real fulfilment was in the kitchen, and not frontline duty. Off she went to work as a food and beverage manager at the Gloucestershire Hotel in Montego Bay, and then as a sous chef at the then just-opened CRU Bar and Lounge.
On Donegal's menu for her debut at the Food Awards tasting were a seafood mac and cheese with lobster, shrimp and smoked bacon with pepper jack, fontina and gouda cheeses served with a Cordon Wellington (Cordon bleu and beef Wellington) with a lager cream made with Red Stripe. She followed up with a carrot cake layered with a New York-styled coconut cheesecake, which elicited favourable reactions.
TAMBEEZ TAMARIND JAM
The best ideas can spring from the most unexpected places. For Desmond Barrett, the creator of Tambeez Tamarind Jam, his deliciously addictive jam came from sheer happenstance. "I had received a bag of tamarinds from a friend," the charming, full-eyed Rastafarian told the judging panel during his presentation on April 13. "I had eaten a few but several were left over, so I unshelled them and put them in a jar with some honey," Barrett recalled. Seven months later when he came upon the all-but-forgotten jar in the cupboard, he was amazed at the taste. Friends wholly agreed when he offered a taste, as did an aunt from the UK who encouraged him to consider giving an entrepreneurial go at bottling the jam for sale.
Barrett took his conceptual product to the Scientific Research Council that gave support in finalising a marketable jam, finessed in its flavour and in a labelled jar.
Impressing the judges with his endearing personality, and better yet, his surprisingly 'jam-tastic' concoction, Barrett's Tambeez was a certified hit with all at the judges' table, with everyone ensuring they secured a bottle to take home for unseen second and third helpings.
10 FYAH SIDE
The economic downturn caused a business venture being pursued by Heneka Watkis-Porter to go belly up. But she was not about to simply roll over. The time was nigh for reinvention. "Opportunities exist for food when the economy is not in the best state," the articulate and savvy businesswoman told the judging panel ahead of presenting her 10 Fyah Side sauce and jam product line last Monday evening.
On the plates gracing the table were grilled guava-glazed pork (infused with 10 Fyah Side's Zesty Guava Jam), mild jerk roasted chicken (made with the brand's Sizzling Jerk Sauce), char-grilled, barbecued chicken fillet (utilising the Blazing BBQ Sauce), rosemary sweet roasted potato wedges, basmati rice with tumeric and garden salad.
Watkis-Porter, who is also the proprietor of the graphic tee-shirt Patwa Apparel label, told the judges that she envisioned gradual expansion of her sauce line to foreign markets, as she has slowly taken a foothold on store shelves in a number of supermarket chains, including Empire and Super Value.
Dorienne Rowan-Campbell grew up watching in childlike fascination, as her grandmother made fruit preserves. The observed techniques took up permanent residence in Rowan-Campbell's head space, and she too, would mature into an adult who created lemon marmalades from the fallen lemons on her Rose Royale property high in the hills of Blue Mountain.
Long making small preserve bottles for family and friends, her 'aha moment' of entrepreneurship came when additional lemon trees sprung up after the original citrus tree was taken with the passage of a hurricane. "I thought it was possibly a sign when I noticed another lemon tree, and another, and another," the personable international development consultant told the judges.
For her presentation, which concluded last Monday's tasting session, Rowan-Campbell impressed with a fantastic array of her home-made fruit preserves which included lemon marmalade, banana butter, carambola conserve, coconut crunch and apple compote.