Fare & Beer @ Crisp

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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The jury is still out re: our obsession with crispy food. Many believe it is the cacophony of crunch that plays a largely satisfying role, while others purport that crispy fare simply tastes better. One thing is certain: people get excited when fried food is on the menu. Even better is a food event dedicated to crispy fare and beer. Cue: Jamaica Food & Drink Festival's (JFDF) evening of Crisp with 10 chef stations chock-full of fried goodies, lagers from Red Stripe, Carib, Stella Artois, Kirin, and ales from Sierra Nevada and Ciderboys Original.

Thursday Food followed the colourful sign that served as a roadmap to all the chef stations. Those who headed right encountered the menu from Cellar 8 featuring Ramesh Maragh. The Jammin Peppa Swimz and crispy shrimp with Scotch bonnet, thyme and pimento served on a dasheen crisp was a flavourful, crunchy bite-sized dream. UTech desserts offered indulgent deep-fried sweet treats. The fried banana roll with tamarind caramel and rum and raisin whip was a healthy option that surprisingly proved tastier than the others. The fried cheesecake with sorrel coulis and the chocolate candy corndogs were both favourites, as patrons kept coming back for more.

GraceFoods featuring chef Shea Stewart presented four fried creations that had Crisp lovers lining up for three and four helpings. The golden Three-Cheese Mac & Cheese Croquettes; Crispy Bacon-Wrapped Plantains; Crispy Bacon Flatbread were all delicious but it was the Sticky Cauliflower Wings that hit the spot with most.

The CB Chicken featuring Pink Apron Ja — located on the deck that also housed the Red Stripe Flavour zone — offered Blow Wow Chicken Bites tossed in a spicy guava sauce. The tangy snack was a fan favourite and the stand's location right next to the Red Stripe bar proved advantageous, serving up melon, sorrel and lemon beer as well as Smirnoff Ice smash.

To the left, patrons ran into the Visa booth which was stocked with beers from Select Brands. The best Crisp of the evening came courtesy of award-winning caterer Alexa Von Strolley. Her Beef Tenderloin Chilaquiles with salsa verde, garlic crema, port wine reduction and goat cheese was a veritable blessing from the gods.

Chef Trevanne Donegal served Scotchie and Santorini, which consisted of herb-marinated prawns wrapped in Kataifi, fried until crispy and served with Scotch bonnet spiced tzatziki. The dish was pure art and looked almost too beautiful to eat. At executive caterer Theo Smith's booth, there was a new-age version of traditional chicken and rice. Smith paired karaage chicken with jasmine rice, topped it with pickled bell peppers then drizzled it with sriracha aioli. The combination of flavours was simply divine.

It seems that someone said that pork felt left out because Oak Wine Bar chef Lisa Chin brought the other white meat to play. It is not often that someone creates a perfect balance of sweet and savoury but Chin's crispy pork poppers with chorizo apple jam were just that.

The National Baking featuring Christian Sweeney stand meanwhile was truly dessert heaven. On the menu were cheesy loaded hardo bread fries, shrimp salad crispy canapés and crispy cracker crusted shrimp and chicken tenders. It was the dessert station courtesy of one of the brand's newest biscuits that saw lovers of sweets exercising absolutely no self-control. We are not sure whose idea it was to deep-fry Chox biscuits and add walnuts, caramel sauce, vanilla rum sauce, chocolate sauce and maple syrup but Thursday Food reckons it was an excellent idea. The decadent treat which seemed like it would be a sugar overload was surprisingly not too sweet.

Crisp was loads of fun, and Thursday Food has concluded that for non-gustatory, non-olfactory stimulation, people prefer the crispy crunchiness of fried foods.


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