JFDF's Sneak Taste

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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This year's Jamaica Food and Drink Festival has quite the number of pre-festival events and it's not even year five. The second of the events, dubbed Sneak Taste, was held on Thursday, October 11 at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel's 17th-floor venue, Talk of the Town.

Twenty four lucky individuals had the opportunity to taste seven dishes before being presented to the public at one of the festival's seven events. Paired with wines from Select Brands, the evening's seven chefs produced a progressive meal that was described by some guests as being “intriguing, different and enjoyable”.

The evening's emcee was CB Group's genial regional development manager Alicia Bogues, who described the dishes that the guests would be having.

However, before dinner, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said a few words. The minister's address was full of information and highlighted the importance of gastronomy to both GDP and nationalism.

According to the minister, “Eighty-eight per cent of travellers worldwide travel for culinary experiences and 44 per cent of travel expenditure is for food.”

The minister also announced a new initiative through the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation — a certification programme for sous-chefs.

This programme will allow “our chefs who are competent but not certified to be certified and take their place as sous-chefs in institutions across the world and in Jamaica”.

Cue nods of enthusiasm. Dinner got underway with a smoked spicy corn beignet from Lisa and Chris Binns of Stush in the Bush who will participate in Picante on October 26.

The vegetarian locavores always get dedicated meat eaters to reevaluate the way they see and consume vegetables. They described their dish as being “themselves on a plate — earthy and spicy”.

The beignet was served with arrabiata purée, herbed sweet corn crema, Blow Fyah pesto, sorrel and red wine gelée, spiced popcorn and fire-roasted kernels.

This was followed by a fried lasagne roll with peppercorn-cured salmon by architect-turned-chef Amanda McCreath. McCreath will appear alongside seven other chefs at Crisp on October 25.

The lasagne roll was served atop roasted garlic and tomato purée, drizzled with balsamic glaze and topped with arugula micro greens.

The third course was presented by Pooja Chatani of Tamarind Indian Cusine who will participate in Chopstix on October 24. Chatani served a crispy shrimp cooked with nutmeg curry paste and basil served on a rice cracker.

These three courses were paired with Mud House Sauvignon Blanc. Thursday Food asked chef Kevin Hildebrandt what he would choose if he had one dish to add to his menu tomorrow; he opted for the Binns' smoked spicy corn beignet. But to make it his own he'd tweak it ever-so-slightly and serve without the popcorn.

At this point, the wine was switched to the Mud House Pinot Noir which was perfectly chilled (under 15 degrees Celcius). The fourth course was by chef Colin Hylton, who will appear at D'vine on October 2.

Hylton's spicedusted roasted breast of duck skewered with rum-poached gingered apricots and Japanese miso retained the chef's signature style of successfully combining different international flavours.

The duck dish was followed by crispy roast pork by Patsy Lyn Caterers principal Kerry-Ann Lyn. Lyn has kept the Patsy Lyn brand alive, and the crispy roast pork nestled on a bammy wafer topped with crackling skin and drizzled with a spicy hoisin sauce, complemented with an Asian cucumber slaw, showed guests that she, too, is talented and worthy of carrying the Patsy Lyn torch. Kerry-Ann Lyn will appear at Pork Palooza on October 20.

It was however the second-to-last course that was the show-stopper. Jamaica Pegasus executive chef Mark Cole added theatrics to the event by torching his dish, tableside. He's such an entertaining showman.

The dish was a baked potato stuffed with pulled beef, roasted bell pepper, jerk sausage, black beans and jalapeño topped with a pepper flake béarnaise sauce.

Chef Cole will also appear at Picante. The evening's meal was brought to a close by pastry caterer Dawn Mitchell 's deep-fried apple pie with chantilly cream and caramel drizzle.

Throughout the evening's seven courses guests could not resist snapping photos of the meals to post on social media. Full disclosure: they were encouraged to do so.

Bogues humorously said: “In the spirit of sharing, don't forget to tag your photos with the hashtag#JFDF2018”.

The sneak taste event was the preview of previews and being just the second pre-festival event Thursday Food can't wait for the festival itself. 

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