The return of Jamaica Food and Drink Festival promises to ignite taste buds
Plates up and drinks on deck! Marrying authentic herbs and spices with sweet and spirited mixes is pure poetry for the palate. And this October 26-30, Jamaica Food and Drink Festival (JFDF) promises to deliver just that through the most exquisite epicurean experience.
Last Friday, the JFDF family and specially invited guests gathered at the Jamaica Food and Drink Kitchen on Barbican Road for the official launch of the highly anticipated event. The scrumptious mainstay had to hit the brakes on its annual showcase, due to the emergence of the global pandemic. The dedicated team persevered in sustaining a strong and vibrant online presence, despite the doom and gloom of COVID-19. And after a two-year hiatus, JFDF will bring the taste back to where it rightfully belongs: to the people.
If this savoury start is any indication of what is to come, then this five-day staging is looking to be a showstopper of ignited flavour. Chefs Oji Jaja and Trevanne Donegal were each given culinary briefs with sponsors CB Foods and Rainforest, respectively.
Their mission, which they graciously accepted, was to create an enticing menu, based on key ingredients.
Chef Jaja mesmerised guests with buttermilk fried chicken, served with a smoked tomato Scotch bonnet pepper sauce, a creamy turmeric-infused breadfruit ragout, and a blistered tomato and sautéed gylon. Next up, pork lovers were treated to blackened pork tenderloin with fried green plantain, topped with cilantro creme fraiche. Then, those seeking to elevate their flavour profile tried the family-sized tomato and basil orzo made with Bad Dawg sausages, Parmesan, and sweet corn.
“When I was asked by CB Foods to represent its products, I started thinking about things that were in season; green plantain and breadfruit. So we leaned towards showcasing dishes in a different way, with things that persons aren’t used to,” said Jaja, adding that most people enjoyed the offerings on display.
For the festival, he is most looking forward to the innovation that will be brought to the venue.
On Chef Donegal’s side, she enchanted foodies with a seafood fiesta. The harissa and tahini spiced grilled shrimp also featured zaatar smoked salmon and marlin, cream cheese, hummus, and garlic breadfruit chips. Additionally, she showcased buffalo calamari po’boys accompanied by spicy wedges. Then for a ‘berry’ fantastic dessert, there was a decadent lemon mascarpone cake served with a Cointreau-macerated berry blend.
“Culinary art is truly an art form. And it goes with my mood; I felt light, fun, easy, and crisp. Of course, anything and everything is done must have some flair,” she shared.
Chef Donegal confessed that she is not a consumer of meat, so going the seafood route was a no-brainer. As it relates to the event in the coming weeks, she cannot wait to present her dishes, taste what the other chefs will be preparing, and finally be outside.
Once the formalities were over, taste connoisseurs and newcomers were delighted to inhale the ambrosial scents from the kitchen, and help themselves to the dishes and drinks available.