VIDEO: Sugar Mill Restaurant Ushers In 50 Years Of Excellence
Countdown to the 16th Annual Table Talk Food Awards
Diamonds are forever, and after 60 years it's safe to say that Half Moon, Rose Hall, Jamaica A Rock Resort is readying itself for another six decades.
Members of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards judging committee, as well as guest judges from Montego Bay, celebrated the phenomenal legacy of this iconic property in spectacular style last week Thursday evening — February 27, the exact birthday — at a dinner party hosted by Guy Steuart III, member of the Half Moon board of directors; Diandra Shand, marketing and communications manager; and David Barber, director of marketing and communications. The celebratory affair took place at the Sugar Mill restaurant, which, although not yet 60, has for almost five decades afforded a five-star culinary experience.
Expectations were high and preparations for this event had commenced in earnest a month ago. Missing due to illness was the legendary restaurant manager Solomon Gardner, who was part of the magnificent seven honoured with the Chairman's Award last year at the Food Awards. He would have been proud of his team, however, whose service delivery was handled with aplomb.
Heavy rains forced the dinner party inside but certainly did little to dampen the flawless execution of event stylist Paulette Henry, whose work we've watched with interest for two decades. Henry ensured that the table placement lent visibility to the historic water wheel which was illuminated with hanging lanterns. The table itself was set with white orchids and white anthuriums in black vases, crystal candleholders and silver mercury votive candleholders around which she positioned silver Chiavari chairs with black cushions. The setting was magical, the guests elegant. The baton was now passed to Christopher Golding, Half Moon's chef de cuisine for the 45-year old Sugar Mill Restaurant. The man who loved hearing his family say "What a little boy can cook" thankfully resisted the temptation to impress with meals made famous by others. He stuck to his mantra of "honouring the restaurant's contemporary interpretation of traditional Caribbean cuisine with local ingredients and spices to awaken the taste buds and senses of diners... guests come here to taste our food and my mission is to use our local ingredients in a different way to give them a whole new experience". We'd soon appreciate the meaning.
The amuse-bouche was jerk cashew nuts with ripe plantain and sorrel jus. A spoonful of sweet, crunchy bites stimulated the taste buds to welcome the spice-rubbed seared marlin, marlin so fresh — a rarity these days — that minimal seasoning was needed. The novel flavour of the smoked tomato thrilled, as did the sliver of tang from the grapefruit and the slight crunch of the cucumber.
The pièce de résistance came early in cups of pumpkin and cashew cappuccino with truffle oil, a delightful mouth-swirl of creamy intoxication.
As intriguing as it was delicious, truffle oil — known to throw gastronomes into clutch-those-pearls moments of despair — became the conversation piece even as the guests made their way through the coconut and annatto poached lobster and janga complete with bammy, pineapple-pepper jelly.
Local ingredients continued to dominate as guests cleansed their palates with June plum and lime sorbet.
The Main, sorrel and pepper-crusted local lamb rack with sides of smoked yam risotto and tempura okra, was hearty enough for the weather yet left us with, thankfully, room for a suite of desserts: mini Half Moon 60th anniversary fruit cakes, pumpkin panna cotta, salted caramel ice cream with coconut sand, roasted papaya with orange almond followed by Blue Mountain coffee and petits fours.
The evening's bubbly was Champagne Drappier, while the wines — from the award-winning Sugar Mill wine cellar — were Rodney Strong Merlot, Concha y Tora, Amelia (2009) and Wente Riesling.
As difficult as it was to leave the cosy atmosphere and the wonderful dinner conversations — an eclectic mix of guests works every time — Kingston beckoned.
Dinner memories such as this one will be long remembered. Congrats, Half Moon and bravo to the food and beverage team of the Sugar Mill Restaurant led by Director of Restaurants Basil Samuels and Chef de Cuisine Christopher Golding. We raise a toast, as always, to Half Moon Hotel's executive chef Steve Sowa.
Spice-Rubbed Seared Marlin
smoked tomato, avocado, cucumber and grapefruit
Pumpkin and cashew cappuccino with truffle oil
Coconut and annatto poached lobster and janga with bammy, pineapple-pepper jelly
June Plum & Lime Sorbet
Sorrel and pepper-crusted local lamb rack with sides of smoked yam risotto and tempura okra
Sugar Mill Grand Finale Dessert Sampler:
Half Moon 60th anniversary fruit cake
Salted caramel ice cream with coconut sand
Roasted papaya with orange almond