“The Caribbean’s #1 Urban Food Festival”
Jamaica is so much more than Sun, Sand and Sea. For 6 days, 45+ celebrated chefs were invited to the island’s capital to literally give us a taste of what they’re famous for.
With a delightful mixture of Food, a variety of flavours and unlimited Fun, The Jamaica Food & Drink Festival kicked off its iconic food events this year, from October 21-29. For a complete 6 days, everything was food, food and more food.
For the first time, since it’s inception 3 years ago, I was also invited to join in on the food festivities. My taste buds, camera and good vibes were ready to go… Here’s how my experience went whilst eating my way around Kingston during JFDF.
Overview of Kingston, Jamaica
I had just finished completing a 5-month trip around Central America before I was flown into Kingston with Delta Airways for the week of Food Fest.
Kingston, the capital of the island of Jamaica is home to a little over 1 million inhabitants. Lying on the southeast coast of the country, Kingston is a transit city, a good meeting point and of course, a business capital.
But, with such rich history and culture intact, Kingston does not only serve as host to major events but also a city in which an entire itinerary can be planned around whilst visiting.
The Jamaica Food & Drink Festival Overview
The opening event of the 2017 Jamaica Food & Drink Festival. A night of Varied-Style Prepared Pork
Set in the heart of Kingston, JFDF has successfully pulled off their third annual Food Fest. There were 7 events over the course of 9 days; Pork Palooza, Chopstix, Crisp, Vintage, Picante, Meet Street & The Market and Brunch at the Gallery with each night being completely different experience.
Pork Palooza, headlining the first JDFD evening event was hosted at the Hope Zoo Gardens; it was a night in full swing with the decor, style and of course, pork swine.
Featuring 15 different chefs, a varied style of prepared pork was in high demand. I had my camera and my stomach fully prepared, and the intention to not miss a bite. However, a word to the wise; if you are a big eater this is a night for you. Though, in order to get through them all, you will need to start slow. A night of an unlimited pork bliss can be tricky. Especially in Jamaica.
For future reference, if you are looking to try something exotic; the rice-based dish topped with pork drains filled that category for me. If you’re wondering, it was rather tasty and a bit unusual.
I must also admit, I was a huge fan of the outdoor vibe and the dangling tree lights.
Asian with a twist
In between events after kicking it off with “Pork Palooza” we had just enough time to bounce back from all food comas.
Heading straight into, “Chopstix”; I was excited about this one. I wanted to try, see and be transformed into an ‘Asian with a twist’ swing of things and from the very get-go, you could see this.
Here’s a 9-second clip of what it looked like:
You know you have arrived at Chopstix the moment you first enter. Another night featuring 15 different chefs and everything Chopstix was in sight.
From an “Edi Mayo” to a “Thit Kho” to a fruit-stuffed Naan, I was going around in a circle, eating my way through and checking each Chef off the list. This time, unlike Pork Palooza, I was able to try everything. I learned my lesson from the first.
This was my second event and second-night experiencing JFDF and though like any other patron, I was paying close attention to the details and the work put in. Thus far, I was impressed.
Everything Beer & Crisp!
A Mexican inspired beer garden, ‘Sip n Crisp’!
Two nights down and 4 more to go. This time, some Crisp accompanied with Beer including the Nation’s locally brewed; Red Stripe.
Crisp? Beer? Late evening? I know what you’re thinking. But what’s an entire week of Food, Fun and Festivities without some calories.
A few days before the Night of Crisp and Beer, I reviewed the menu. From Smoked Marlin Tostaditas to Cheesy Hardough Fries with Pulled Pork to Jerk Fried Chicken Crispers with Scotch Bonnet Sriracha— everything sounded delicious.
With a line-up like this, I was willing to forget ‘calorie counting’ for a few to try All that was on the menu. In fact, what calorie? A few hundred guests had the same idea.
As for the Fried Jerk Chicken, yes, you read that right— they were completely raved about. Props to Chef Andre Cooks.
Flavour & Savour
If you’re familiar with the Latin word “Picante“, you’ll know it means everything Spicy.
Though, the incorporation of various spices was the main focus rather than the level of heat within each bite.
I love spices. After spending a few months in Mexico I thoroughly enjoyed the difference spices they would use in their everyday meals, thus, I was extremely looking forward to this.
Held on the lawns of the Mona campus, Picante had 14 different chefs to showcase their talents, including one of the International featured Chefs, Andre Fowles; a 2-time Food Network Chopping Champ.
Third night and by this time I was a pro; bracing myself in order to get every last bite in.
I made my way from one Chef to the other. First, a Spicy Sundried Tomato Cream with Red Herring and Soaked Crackers, then to a well-spiced Pork Belly and with next stop being at Oji Jaja’s very own Coconut Lime Ceviche with Blackened Salmon, Poached Shrimp, and Yellow Tail Snapper.
This was just my first interval, before making my way over to the Charissa Henry’s “Blouse & Skirt Swimz“, to Simon Levy‘s Pork Belly and a taste of his Sushed Watermelon Tequila drink with Chili Powder and then to Fowles’ Oxtail in a Mole sauce; a Mexican inspired sauce.
Meet Street & The Market
A Great Mix of People, Food, Culture
Setting off the 2017 Food & Drink Festivities, JFDF took things on Kingston’s Waterfront for a different vibe. This time with food trucks, draping lights and a great mix of People, Food and Culture.
From one vendor to the next, you could smell the food aroma in the air which made it a little bit more difficult not to try.
All street everything! Jerked Chicken, Super Spiced Doubles and Soups.
Also, a pretty cool invention with Chicken and Velvet Waffel by House of Loaves caught my eye.
Though not inclusively priced as with regards to the other events, hundreds of locals flocked the pathways to enjoy the food and vibe courtesy of the Jamaica Food & Drink Festival.
If you are in the mood for an additional event you can always join in for the PAN Finale. Courtesy of Caribbean Boilers Jamaica Ltd.
Already, with 2018 not being that far away, here’s a Full traveller’s Guide to The Jamaica Food & Drink Festival, Kingston.
From Oct. 21 – 29 I attended 6 of the 7 JFDF events. A special thank you to JFDF for the invite.