A burst of flavours at Pork Palooza


A burst of flavours at Pork Palooza

Thursday, October 31, 2019

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Hundreds of pork-lovers rejoiced as they converged on a total of 17 stations — four more than last year's 13 — for The Jamaica Food and Drink Festival (JFDF) 2019 staging of Pork Palooza. The event, which kicks off the festival each year, pays homage to Jamaicans' love of the 'other white meat'. It is, too, the single line-up that boasts a competitive element. By close of evening, Pink Apron chef Charissa Henry had copped the Top Hog and Most Innovative awards for the second year in a row with her Hole Mole Pork Nachos.

Thursday Food shares the menu offerings.

The Grace Foods team's red peas soup (naturally with pork) was the amuse-bouche, followed by their succulent and tasty jerked pork belly with cucumber pickle. Chef Christina Simonitsch's ginger beer-pulled pork and pumpkin kimchi beignet took the palate on a rollercoaster ride with its sweet and savoury notes, while the caramel popcorn with scotchie and bacon salt provided the perfect excuse to stick around.

The team at the National Baking Company station featuring Christian Sweeney served up healthy bite-size treats while Chef Jonhoi Reid of The Cliff Hotel Negril tantalised palates with his braised Peruvian pork lomo saltado poke bowl, a tangy mix of cumin coriander, citrus jus, green rice, onions and potato sticks.

Chef Jacqui Tyson delivered a hearty mouthfeel with her Copperwood smoked pork chops finished with a spicy citrus aioli and crispy 'popped' pork clusters over potato fingerlings. The delectable smoked pork strips was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The pulled pork patty prepared by chef Christopher Nakash at Uncle Buck's Bar-B-Que station was a welcomed option. The pork, which had been slow-smoked for 18 hours, was well seasoned and paired well with Uncle Buck's Magic Sauce.

Allison Porter-Smalling's sriracha-glazed pork loin with raisin-ginger pan sauce served with Ally's apple raisin relish and Scotch bonnet and cheese mealie got the approval of many. Chef Kara Pessoa received a spirited response to her Appleton Reserve-infused hoisin jerk carnita taco topped with a bright Asian slaw. Patrons made their way to Fromage Gourmet Market director and Executive Chef Lisa Chin's tamarind-glazed pork belly on a bed of roasted sweet potato bacon mash topped with plantain salsa and jerk cashews. They then segued to the Tortuga Rum Cakes-featured Sugar Buzz station that offered a variety of signature sweet treats infused with bacon bits.

The Appleton BBQ grilled pork by Patsy Lyn Caterers manager and chef Kerry-Ann Lyn was another of the evening's notable creations. The juicy pork cuts served on a crisp wafer with a rum butter corn salsa was a piquant treat.

The snaking line at Pink Apron's station was an early indicator that they were top contenders. Patrons flocked the booth to try Chef Charissa Henry-Skyers' Holy Mole pork nachos. One of the evening's spicier offerings, the taco dish seemed to find favour with several of the JFDF's patrons, who had their pick of Absolut Vodka, Appleton Estate, Tru-Juice and Red Stripe beverages.

Miss T's Chef Geno McWilliams quipped that if Italy and Jamaica had a baby it would be his Jerchetta: a controlled delivery of deboned pork seasoned with authentic jerk roasted over sweet wood and pimento with mind-blowing crackling skin. Simon Levy left the frills and flounces and shared plates of smoked pork riblets over whipped garlic potatoes.

From Jo Jo's Jerk Pit head chef Anna Chin came crunchy chicharrones in a spicy black bean minced pork sauce served on a bed of rice and spicy pak choi and aptly labelled Crunchy Munchy. Chin described the dish as outside the box, and Thursday Food concurs. Chillin' Restaurant Food and Beverage Director Chef Romaine Messam created a blueberry Scotch bonnet pork slider that events manager Kasheema Jeffery described as a burst of flavours. Indeed, Pork Palooza was just that: a burst of flavours that undoubtedly intensified pork-lovers' passion for 'the other white meat'.

Editor's Note: Although not in the competition Thursday Food on ground intelligence gave two thumbs up to the pork from the Absolut booth.

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