Picante delivers hot, zesty flavour

Food is meant to be shared and savoured, so, understandably, it provides an immersive, highly sensual experience for both cook and diner. This is one of the main reasons the Jamaica Food & Drink Festival’s concept is such a hit.

Each themed night had its own allure and Picante: Hot, Zesty Flavour certainly delivered on its promise of heat, spice and nuff great tastes.

The fifth of seven events, Picante, which organisers styled not for the faint of tongue, featured 16 of Jamaica’s most decorated chefs —like Mark Cole, Christian Sweeney, Colin Hylton and Dionne Reid— alongside much-lauded restaurants and caterers, brands and world-class spirits.

JFDF’s team ensured our senses were immediately engaged upon entry with a captivating photo board and wonderful, breathable layout, setting the tone for another lovely evening of good music, fabulous food and beautiful people.

We sampled quite a bit of the fare and confirmed that it’s often best to keep things simple and allow the hero, aka main ingredient, to shine. Here’s the 411…

BUZZ Picks:

Christian Sweeney’s Spicy Pork Belly Coco Bread Sandwiches served with Spicy Cream of Red Peas and Smoked Ham Soup was, in a word, superb.

Patrons who had one without the other, sorry, you missed out – the idea was to dip the sandwich [made with freshly baked coco bread] into the soup for each bite.

It was simple, delicious, perfectly paired and spiced just right… as warming to the palate as a grandmother’s hug is to the soul.

Walkerswood’s Curried Vegetable Succotash with garlic croutons by Chef Patrick Simpson — we were alerted to this dish by a patron’s involuntary expletive [complete with an eye roll and smiles] on the first bite.

Naturally, we scurried over to try and found it otherworldly indeed. The fried rice, too, was a big hit.

Smoked Marlin ft Dionne Reid’s menu was very appealing. The Ruby Goat Dairy Jerked Haloumi was particularly lovely, and the Habanero Lamb Balls layered and flavoursome, a bit too spicy, but still a great treat.

Chef Shea’s [Stewart] Salt & Peppa Shrimp served with Cauliflower Mac & Cheese, Chili Oil and Crispy BaconSO well balanced! The Mac & Cheese was divine and the other three flavours tangoed with it quite nicely.

Orlease King of Reggae Mill’s Boneless Picante Oxtail on Arawak Flatbread was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We also loved the nod to our history with the naming of their cassava-based flatbread – think bammy. Brilliant!

Uncorked’s Scotch Bonnet Mousse topped Salmon with Caper Grits and Cilantro Split Cream by Lucian Dunn wasn’t the prettiest dish but compensated with robust flavours. Perfectly done, tasty salmon with great accompaniments.

 Garfield Seivwright Jr’s Piquant Candied Mango Tamarind Pork with Caramelised Onions and Wild Garlic Challah was succulent, sweet and spicy – the way pork should be!

Andre Sewell’s Bamboo Smoked Pulled Pork Tartlette with Scotch Bonnet Sorrel Cream Cheese Mousse and micro kale – this many layers of flavour requires expert handling and interpretation, and he did it right. Nothing was subsumed, we were impressed. Plus, flaky pastry is always welcomed.

What Patrons Loved: 

  • Pegasus Hotel ft. Mark Cole’s ‘Picante with Wow’ – It looked divine and, though we never tried it, we know Chef Cole does have a way with food.
  • Broken Plate’s Dill Smoked Lobster with Pepper Jack Crab Polenta Cake topped with Scotch Bonnet Dijon Cream – we certainly heard of it as a top contender enough times and there was always a crowd, too.
  • Taste Black History by Chef Stone & Chef Rui Sa – we were directed there by several patrons so we made sure to check it out. Our thoughts?
  • Nice concept, flavour profiles could be more amplified. The snapper batter was overpowering but the fish itself had amazing texture and flavour, we also expected the chicken offering to be more memorable.
  • Alex D-Great’s ‘Dinna Starta’ gets an A+ for concept and execution with their servers psst-ing patrons through the ‘house window’ for their Crispy Fried Chicken Gizzard with Scotch Bonnet Ginger Scallion Sauce and Ripe Plantain Butter Crostini.
  • Our verdict? It sounded really interesting and the hoopla made it irresistible. The dish was indeed delightful, but based on its marketing, we expected more heightened flavours and plating.

Next up was Meet Street & The Market! Be sure to check out our BUZZ highlights of this penultimate event.

— Written by Tami Tsansai