Dinner at Villa Stella
The Food Awards judges’ culinary day out in the west was only halfway through when a stop was made at the Tryall, Hanover home of investment titan James Goren after leaving Mystic India in St James. The stop afforded the judges the opportunity to enjoy for some of the tastiest home-made pizza and pasta.
Goren, an affable Italian business magnate, whose Jamaican business interests include the Holland Estates housing development in Trelawny and a stake in the new financial house BCW Capital, offered his guests a splendid four-course, Italian-style meal — overseen by in-house chef Melanie Lawrence, who was aided by Pauline Cole, Sandra Hibbert and Horace Henry. The early-evening affair commenced on the deck of the palatial split-level home named Villa Stella, with cocktails and conversation. With Goren’s vacationing houseguests and longtime friends, the Goldstein family from Long Island, New York, making numerous enquiries about the whys, whens and hows of the Food Awards, there was much to discuss, in particular the behind-the-scenes process of selecting nominees. The inquisitive nature of medical doctor Mark Goldstein, his wife Wendy and their lawyer son Zachary, had the judges on their toes explaining their passion for food and what it takes to impress their taste buds.
Ahead of dinner, Goren told guests that he had a culinary bias for food made with fresh ingredients. “I pride myself on freshness. I don’t believe in frozen or processed foods,” he announced before butler Aston Samuels started to serve. “The arugula and basil are grown in my garden, the poultry is free-range chicken and the tuna is fresh,” he informed his guests.
Pizza — made in an outdoor oven — signalled the start of dinner. There were three varieties to be sampled: margarita, artichokes, and anchovies.
Tuna carpaccio, marinated overnight and flavoured with fresh arugula and slices of orange, was the evening’s first course at the dinner table. The Italian dining experience continued with pasta alla checca made with fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. A tortellini quatro formaggi (four cheeses) was the next course. This was followed by petto di pollo alla valdostana (braised chicken breast topped with ham). Dessert was decidedly non-Italian with a decadent chocolate velvet cake.
India Crotty, brand marketing manager with Caribbean Producers of Jamaica, was a specially invited guest and came bearing bottles of Gabbiano Chianti and Fantinel Pinot Grigio, which both scored plaudits at the dinner table.
Post-dinner and back on the deck for cappuccinos, Goren entertained with the story of how he came to Jamaica by happenstance back in 2003. He had nixed original travel plans with his daughter to head to the British Virgin Islands. He came to The Rock on vacation, fell in love with the Tryall home where he was staying and bought it that very week before beginning extensive repairs. Though he has other residences in his native Italy and New York, Goren spends seven months of the year in Jamaica. He says he feels a special bond with the country and wants to see it overcome its economic and social challenges. Goren issued an open invitation to the judges for a return visit, and they in turn thanked their host for a superb evening.