On Saturday, October 4, Jamaica Food and Drink Festival (JFDF) patrons descended on the Historic Naval Dockyard in Port Royal for Meet Street & The Market, the penultimate event in JFDF's four-day epicurean celebration. The spacious venue was transformed into an arena of fun, fare and commerce.
This is year nine for JFDF, and the festival continues to grow. As the biggest event in the JFDF line-up, Meet Street & The Market attracted a massive turnout, with patrons streaming in and out of the venue throughout the day. For Jamaican attendees, it was a chance to celebrate the country's food and festival culture, discover new products and eateries, and shop local, small-scale artisan wares. International patrons visiting Kingston got the opportunity to experience a large swath of the city's gastronomic and commercial offerings at one location in a single evening. However, Jamaican or not, the outcome was just the same—a nation-building good time.
One patron, Bradley Thompson, who happened to be a data analyst for one of JFDF's valued partners, NCB, pointed out that the delivery of value and entertainment has been consistent.
"It's been great. I like the variety, and it's not just food, it's also entertainment–music, singing, dancing. I did try a lot of different foods. The Pepsi thing was a new one for me. I didn't know that you could cook with Pepsi, so that one is a discovery," Thompson said, referring to the Pepsi Food Truck Pop-Up, where Chef Yassi Brisset offered a jolt to the palate with his inventive menu, which featured glazed chicken wings with a Pepsi tamarind sauce.
NCB also had some fun and interactive surprises for its clients at the event.
For first-timers like Canadian Rick Vaughan, the event left a lasting impression.
"We found out about the event online and decided it would be a good thing to do over the weekend. It's been great so far. I haven't been to any of the other events, but I would definitely do this again if I get the opportunity," Vaughan, a policy advisor with the Canadian government, shared with Wednesday Social.
Vaughan, who attended the event with a few of his co-workers, added that it was his first time in Port Royal, saying how impressed he was with the Historic Naval Dockyard.
Even with the huge turnout, the newly minted cruise port/terminal was spacious enough for smooth walkabouts. A representative for the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) revealed that the Historic Naval Dockyard had its first cruise call in 2020 and is now in phase two of its development plan, which entails establishing the location as a multi-purpose facility housing a museum, restaurants and other attractions. The PAJ seized the opportunity presented at Meet Street & The Market to solicit business ideas from interested patrons.
For the event, the museum building was transformed by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) into an emporium for local small-scale suppliers.
"We are making sure that more Jamaicans recognise that we have amazing local suppliers, amazing artisans. This activation at Meet Street & The Market allows us to reach a wider audience, and the people that you are seeing here this evening are exactly who we want to connect with these artisans," noted TEF Analyst, Tourism Network Simone Harris.
TEF also called on coffee roaster and sommelier Alton G Bedward to lead a coffee seminar at the event. Bedward, who is also the founder of Ventahj Jamaican Coffee, took patrons on a journey of how a plant of humble African beginnings came to be the "drink of the world", going on to highlight Jamaica's own Blue Mountain Coffee's dominance on the world stage.
"The world has accepted that Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, or High Mountain Coffee, the prime wash, are the most refined globally. So it's now for us as a people and for organisations such as the TEF to make sure that this information is out there and we can have more players in the industry.
"Over the next decade or two, we will become not just the world's best producer of coffee, but the best producer with a rich coffee culture," Bedward said in his presentation, where he also addressed the negative effects of too much coffee on the body and how this can be easily addressed with some simple dietary adjustments such as drinking more water and eating more fruit.
The presentation was followed by a live demonstration on how to make the perfect home brew, courtesy of Deaf Can! Coffee. Rooted in the belief that Jamaica's deaf youths can achieve and excel, Deaf Can! Coffee is a social enterprise that trains and employs students from the Kingston-based Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf in the ways of the brew.
The brewing demo was carried out by the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival's champion barista, Dimel Ballen, accompanied by an interpreter, Seth Kaeb. Ballen guided patrons through the brewing of Deaf Can!'s 100 per cent Blue Mountain coffee using a French press or a paper filter. Patrons also got to sample the brews to taste the difference between the two methods.
While day one's Pork Palooza and day two's Picante called on a more mature audience with its late evening catering and cocktail highlights, Meet Street & The Market was decidedly a family affair. Among the roughly 50 vendors at the event, there were a few tents dedicated to the event's younger audience. National Baking Company had a line of children waiting to experience its VR systems while, right next door, Create with Aunty Ama had them engaged in some creative colouring exercises. The Munching Unicorn was also present to keep energy levels high with its small-batch artisan treats of exotic-flavoured popcorn and marshmallows.
Along with the musical stylings of DJ Delano and DJ Kenyan of Renaissance Sound, as well as DJ Reno of Coppershot, the event also featured a live performance by Dwight Richards and Friends, accompanied by 2018 and 2016 JCDC Festival Song Winner Nazzle Man, which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed.