From October 25 to 29, Kingston’s fierce cultural culinary energy comes alive during the Jamaica Food and Drink Festival. It was our first time at the festival, which boasts seven exciting events in seven different iconic venues with more than 45 of the world’s best chefs on hand to cook up their delicious – albeit spicy – cuisine. We got to check out three of the events and these were some of our highlights.
On Thursday evening, our first stop was Crisp, which was dedicated to all things crispy — think crispy pork skin, pan fried tenderloin or jerk fried chicken dishes all paired with crisp, delicious, ice cold local and international beers. Some of our favorites were the Beer Margaritas with Sauza Tequila, Smoked Marlin Tostaditas with Sweet Corn Beignets, and Popcorn Shrimp with Beer & Korean Popcorn. It was a great way to kick off the weekend with a fun DJ spinning tunes mixing reggae with hip-hop.
On Friday night we headed to Picante, Jamaica’s first gourmet spicy food fest. Certainly not for the faint of tongue, some of our favorites were the Spicy Cauliflower Chicken Wings & Grilled Corn with a Scotch Bonnet Cashew Cream; a Smoked Paprika Pork Belly on an open-faced taco with Bacon, Pickled Veggies and Ricotta Cream Corn that was served alongside frozen tequila shots with watermelon and scotch bonnet simple syrup (something we loved so much, we ended up having 6 shots #sorrynotsorry), and a Coca Cola Float drink to sweeten up the spices.
For the final night, we checked out Meet Street & The Market, Jamaica’s largest Food Fair & Marketplace that caters to all palates with a wide array of food trucks, restaurants, food booths, pop-ups, food supplies and urban crafts. Some favorites amongst the crowd were the Pan Chicken — think Jerk but cooked in an oil drum – and the Guava Glazed Turkey Necks, Bad Dawg Sausages, and the Doubles, a common street food in Trinidad made with flat fired bread called baras and filled with currychanna aka curried chickpeas that you eat taco-style and costs roughly about a $1. A perfect way to soak up all that Jamaican Rum.
During the day we got to visit some local spots also to indulge in street fare like Jamaican Beef Patties, Pepper Shrimp and of course, a proper Fish Fry (Hog, Snapper & Parrot) with Festival, Fried Cassava and Escovitch Sauce from Aunt May’s Fish Place. Other highlights were the Curry Goat with Roti and Fried Plantains from Moby Dick, sipped on some Blackwell Rum from Chis Blackwell’s property on Strawberry Hill, local ice cream from Devon House made with tropical flavors like Guava, Rum Raisin, Coconut, Soursop and awarded the fourth best ice cream in the world according to National Geographic.
A plethora of dim sum from Jade Garden and Fish Maw with Scotch Bonnet Soy Sauce – that we’re officially declaring Kingston’s Hangover Soup. Or course there was plenty of Red Stripe to wash all these dishes down.
Thanks to the whole Jamaica Food and Wine Festival peeps for their amazing hospitality and to all our new Jamaican friends who took me out till the wee hours of the morning (but never saw the sunrise – sorry @Droolius). See you guys next year!