Jul 27, 2010

Delectable Observer Food Awards 2010

Kingston's premier food event delivered big-time.

As you will see from our 3-min video clip shown below, the East Lawn of Devon House was magnificently transformed thanks to the combined talent of Miss Melanie Miller, Event Planner extraordinaire, FORM ARCHITECTS - Chad Lim-Sang & Damian Edmond and of course the Jamaica Observer team led by the event's conceptualiser, Ms. Novia McDonald-Whyte.

Parking was a breeze and efficient shuttle buses set the tone for an enjoyable evening.

Beautifully decorated tents immediately got our attention which segued to luxury cars on display by ATL Motors that used the event to promote new additions - Audi, Land Rover and Range Rover to their fleet. It was a match made in heaven. Many dreams now include a white, hard-top Audi Coupe. Awh! Once we moved on from salivating over that sweet 'ride' we got busy with sampling wonderfully crafted fare and ran into new and old friends.

First honors - the Sandals booth. No detail was spared at the elegant, white-themed Sandals booth and their interior designer punched up art deco napkins to complement the Chef's food fusion on a plate. The favorite dish among my group, hands down went to the pan-seared Chilean sea bass with red curry sauce and grilled asparagus. It was cooked perfectly with fish that melted like butter.

We hopped over to Royal Plantation for seafood. Enormous sea-crab legs, lobster and seafood gumbo were on offer but settled on oysters. While at the Oyster Bar, a light drizzle ensued and happily hung out feasted on copious amounts of oysters and special sweet sauce. Yummy!

Pit stops were made at True-Juice's booth for Calico Jack, Jamaican rum punch; Truck Stop Grill for succulent jerked chicken followed by home-made tiramisu from Denise Forbes. Just one word came to mind with Denise's dessert - MEGALICIOUS!

Since the evening was pretty hot strategically placed WATA coolers with bottled water were sought after along with Haagen Daz ice-cream. Personal favorite macadamia nut brittle was made available and my gosh, with one scoop, all was well with the world.

Courtesy visits were paid to Nicole's Sweet Temptations and Chocolate Dreams whom both displayed sumptuous goodies - miniature cupcakes and chocolate truffles, respectively. Fruitopia returned from 2009. Growth and development in bouquet presentations were evident and look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

Our next food expedition was at University of Technology, The School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Manned by pleasant students, their displays including fruit carvings, knowledge of food and innovation were impressive. Stuffed breadfruit rolls and beetroot cheesecake stood out. Congrats to team U-TECH!

For my friends and I, the best new food item at 2010 Food Awards was pigs tail from Jamaica Broilers (JB). *Hold up* Pigstail? JB does pigs tail now? Yes, yes and yes. I must confess I am not usually fond of pigs tail and often opt for sans meat or with salted beef when having Jamaican comfort food such as stewed peas and red peas soup. However since pigs tail was so highly recommended by just about ALL at the event, I tried it. Cooked by Jacqui Tyson's catering team, From Thought to Finish, I am a newly converted steamed pig's tail-eating human being. It was cut similar to oxtail, with bones pressured just right and served with honey barbecue-esque sauce. More please. To my non-pork eating friends: I say beware - it looks similar to Jamaican oxtail.

The Bahia Principe hotel chain had a flamenco dancer on hand to showcase a variety of tapas and traditional Spanish desserts inclusive of rice pudding and fried apple dumplings with dark chocolate.

Our final booth visit was to the Bacardi Mojito stand. The light, pleasant and unique-flavored mix was memorable and should prove to be popular. Order at your next Jamaican bar outing. Complete listing of the 2010 awards, please click here

General Event Comments: -
  • Booth Directory - This would have been a great plus to aid and inform patrons about various booths on-site.
  • Misting fans were overlooked for the event. Cooking inside tents contributed to the heat that was felt throughout the evening. Many patrons visibly perspired from booth to booth as hair and clothing clung to bodies and uncomfortable faces. WISYNCO's WATA bottles and Haagen dazs ice-cream were in high demand.
  • There was a noticeable decline in chic, niche-market food products as observed at previous years. Instead many hotels, medium and large-sized businesses, with established brands, were present. Don't get me wrong established companies are a lovely add however start-up elements coupled with new brands add an innovative dimension esp. for local and international Foodies who are always on the prowl for the next epicurean 'find'.
  • Despite concerns about the increased entrance price among locals, the event was well-supported. Bookmark this annual event and make reservations for your next trip to Jamaica along with friends. As a price point guide, MEG recommends to budget for approx. US$175 to US$185 per ticket. With advanced 1-year savings, this event is worth every penny and then some.
Overall, congratulations JAMAICA OBSERVER and cheers to 2011! Hoping for Japanese Iron Chef Morimoto or the ebullient, molecular gastronomic Chef, Jose Andres :-).

- Megaliciously yours

Jul 20, 2010

10 Sweet Summertime Ice Treats

Welcome to another Megalicious post. As promised, today will be Part 2 of our summer time blog. We'll explore 10 sweet ice treats inclusive of refreshing iced Teas, Mexican Paletas, childhood favorite - Slush, Sorbet versus Sherbet and will round off with tasty Smoothies.

1. Mango Lassi
Sweet lassi is an Indian yogurt-based beverage that is absolutely delicious. It is easy to make and you'll feel full when enjoyed at breakfast or at lunchtime. Any mango can be used however, I recommend Julie or Hayden mangoes as they provide a balance of tart taste, color and texture.

Grocery List:
  • 2 Julie mangoes
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • few cubes of ice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
Method: Put plain yogurt in blender. Add a teaspoon of honey along with cubed mangoes with a bit of ice and blend well. Pour into your serving glass and garnish with mango fruit.

Iced Teas
While doing research, I stumbled on the most delightful iced tea with a very peculiar name - 'Jamaican Flower' that is said to have been a preferred drink of pharaohs. I delved deeper.

2. Jamaican Flower Iced Tea
In Egypt and Sudan, wedding celebrations are traditionally toasted with a glass of Jamaican flower also called hibiscus tea. On a typical street in Cairo, one can find many vendors and open-air cafés selling the drink. In Egypt, karkadé (alternate name) is used as a means to lower blood pressure if consumed in high amounts. Hibiscus tea is often flavored with mint or ginger in West Africa. So people & lovers of Jamaica would you believe this iced tea - hibiscus, karkadé or flor de Jamaica - is RED SORREL!!!

Grocery List:
  • 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flower (Jamaican red sorrel)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste) Source: On the House

Method: Steep hibiscus (Jamaican sorrel), with hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain flower. Add sugar to the deep-red liquid (tea) stirring to dissolve. Let cool. Serve over ice.

Note: At Christmas time in Jamaica, white rum, ginger and spices are added to the above recipe to give holiday celebrations an extra 'pep'.

3. Amaretto Iced Tea

There are many different ways to enjoy hot or iced Amaretto tea. Adding flavored honey sticks, amaretto syrup or sugar cubes will produce a delicious brew. You may even add a touch of milk or cream for extra smoothness and to enrich taste. If you prefer to use Amaretto liqueur, you can mix it with brewed tea and top with whipped cream for a special treat. Amaretto tea offers versatility and enjoyment to suit every individual preference.

It has a unique taste that provides almost a silken touch to the palate. The rich brew also makes Amaretto flavored tea an unbeatable choice as a thirst quencher on a hot afternoon. Give it try.


The simplest beverage to offer guests this summer is an ice-cold glass of home-made lemonade. But I often wonder how something so simple can be so inconsistent at restaurants, cafes and homes? With some, you immediately gaffe at its exceedingly watery imbalance or impose a 'lemon' attack on one's central nervous system while others 'suffer' from the absence of a sweetener. I believe the following recipes will offer a good balance and invite you to try. p.s Remember to tell us how this works in your kitchen :-)

4. Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade

Master the right balance of tangy lemon with sweet and you'll be seen as a Goddess :-).

Grocery list:

  • 3 cups quartered strawberries
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 (6-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, undiluted
  • 2 cups sparkling water, chilled
Preparation: Combine the first 3 ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth. Combine strawberry purée and lemonade in a pitcher and stir until lemonade dissolves. Add sparkling water; pour over ice. Yield: 6 servings

For an adult version of this refreshing drink, substitute champagne for sparkling water.

5. Indian Lemonade

Also called Panaka, this recipe is very simple and the flavor is sublime.

Grocery list:
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • a teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups of cold water
Method: Combine all of the ingredients, making sure the sugar dissolves. Add the cold water. Serve in glasses, filled with ice. Enjoy! [Makes 2 servings]

Pet Peeves: 1) The most unsightly thing is to serve a glass of lemonade with seeds! Save your guests. Strain them PLEASE. 2) When someone is offered lemonade no one expects to be blind-sided with a rancid taste from spoiled lime. It is therefore very important to do a taste test before serving or worse 3) Have you ever been given lemonade but come to find your host was short on lemon and instead used a Seville orange? Ugh. So not cool people. So uncool.

For the next deliciously sweet ice treat, let's journey to Mexico.

6. Paleta
With translation "little shovels", paletas are Mexican fruit bars. Some are milk based (paletas de leche or paletas de la crema) and others are water-based and are referred to as "paletas del agua". Both are equally enjoyable.
Spicy Cantaloupe-Cucumber Paleta Pecan Paleta (milk-based paleta)

Photo: LA Times by Carlos Chavez

7. Slush

Closer to home, Dairy Castle in Manor Plaza, St. Andrew had good slush at least from a child's perspective. To update this childhood favorite, I discovered classic lime and mint mojito flavors pair beautifully with sweet watermelon to create a refreshing and light slush.
Source: Foodie with Family

Really. Just look at it!

These days, on a really long and hot day I say "Cheers to Slush!". What flavors will you experiment with?

8. Sorbet and Sherbet
Ever wondered about the difference between a strawberry sorbet and sherbet?
L-R Sorbet Sherbet
Here are 5-quick distinguishing factors: -
  1. Sherbet has been derived from the Turkish word 'serbet’. Sorbet has been derived from the Persian word 'sharbat’.
  2. Sorbet is made of water, iced fruit and in come cases, wine. Sherbet is simply a cold drink which is made from spices, rose hips, cherries and licorice.
  3. Whereas sherbet contains milk or some other type of fat, sorbet does not contain any type of diary product.
  4. Sherbet and sorbet can be termed a diary-based dessert and fruit-based dessert, respectively.
  5. Because of its icy nature, sorbet is synonymous with granular texture. On the other hand, sherbets look creamy, as they have added fat in them.
In addition to being a refreshing drink, in Turkey, sherbet is believed to have healing effects. It is usually given after childbirth or circumcision!!! [2 'serbets' stat!]

9. Ginger Blueberry Smoothie
Source: Ginger Blueberry smoothie
For the ninth sweet ice treat, MEG recommends smoothies. A great breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up esp. for people who are 'on the go'. With a ginger-blueberry mix there is some oatmeal for fiber and antioxidant-full blueberries. The addition of Jamaican ginger gives it some zing! Plus, the ginger is warming and eases a queasy stomach.

Grocery List:
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries
  • 2 tablespoon of freshly chopped local ginger
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Method: Put all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth.

10. Banana Strawberry Smoothie
We wind down our blog with this all-time popular smoothie.
Grocery list:
  • 2 bananas, broken into chunks
  • 2 cups of fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt (can also be replaced with vanilla or strawberry yogurt)
  • 2 tsp sugar for sweetness (this is optional - the fruits contain sugar)
Directions: Clean the strawberries and remove the tops. Cut the banana into small pieces and put both the fruits in a blender along with the milk, yogurt and sugar (if desired). Blend until smooth. Serve with your favorite garnish.

On your next grocery shopping trip be sure to add to your trolley some of the above ingredients to make one, two or all of these recipes. Have fun and most of all, smile awhile :-)

Food News: Observer Food Awards - Jamaica
As a friendly reminder, Thursday July 22 will be the Observer Food Awards at Devon House - East Lawn. It is slated to be a great evening and personally look forward to sampling innovative fare - a fusion of Caribbean cuisine with international sensibilities. We are aiming to have pictures for next Wednesday's post. So definitely stay tuned.

Thank You's
A big shout out to everyone who took the time to share feed back on last week's post. Being a newbie Blogger we thrive on constructive criticism and interaction from our followers. A special 'big up' to Dmitri Dawkins and Loi Laing who have given some excellent technology tips and use this medium to say "Dmitri & Loi - You rock!" The Twitter I.D for Dmitri and Loi are utenjm and loilaing, respectively. I recommend everyone to follow these 2-stars this Friday (#FF).

- Megaliciously yours

Jul 14, 2010

Summertime - Its Ice, Ice Baby

Air-conditioning units blasting, misting fans going and persons are often found fanning themselves with a magazine, folded newspaper, bare hands - anything - to keep cool amidst this heat. Hello! Summer is really here...

So we offer ‘megalicious’ tips to stave off ‘summery insanity’. Enter - ice, ice baby - crushed, cubed or chipped ice. Either form is a must have! No ice-tray. No problem. Simply call Island Ice for delivery of Happy Ice to Go.

Ninety-six degree temperatures could see icy, cold and fruity popsicles hitting the 'spot'. Add Third World Band’s 96 degrees in the shade and all will be 'jamming' if only for a minute.

Consider cool beverages - refreshing and delicious - watermelon mint or cucumber popsicles – lovely and inexpensive afternoon snacks. In the evening, jazz things up with vodka or sake.

Watermelon-Mint Popsicles

Watermelon and mint make a sweetheart combination.

4 cups cubed watermelon

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup mint leaves

Begin by removing the watermelon rind and slicing the watermelon into small cubes. Since seedless watermelon isn’t common in Jamaica you can buy one with seeds (like I did) . RBe sure to remove the seeds before pureeing. This recipe says to strain the pureed fruit mixture but to add texture, do not strain. For even cooler beverages this summer, keep reading.

Cucumber Lychee Sake

Source: Tyler Florence

1/2 cup sake

2 Cucumbers

4 long thin slices of fresh ginger

8 oz simple syrup (equal part sugar dissolved in water)

1/4 cup lychee juice, plus lychees for garnish

Make ginger simple sugar by combining ginger, and equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan. Simmer until sugar has dissolved. Peel cucumbers and cut half of one into thin slices. Puree the remaining one and half cucumbers in a blender. In a shaker, combine sake, pureed cucumber, ginger simple syrup and lychee juice. Strain and serve over ice garnished with fresh cucumber slices and Lychees. Oh La La! [Yield: serves 4] [Time: 12 minutes]

Coconut Water

Tried and proven a freshly cut ice - cold jelly coconut makes for a healthful and naturally refreshing beverage. Cut the coconut in two and partake in soft 'n delicious coconut jelly.

Lightly sprinkle with brown sugar, if the jelly is hard and crisp. Very enjoyable.

Away from fresh coconut water - try the So Delicious food brand.

What can I say about these luscious-looking frozen treats before tasting them? Well, they're made with organic coconut water, sweetened with fruit juice plus have only 100 calories which makes them a perfect guilt-free indulgence!

Frozen Fruits

Heading to the beach?

Take along frozen fruits - guineps, grapes, sweet sop (sugar apple), berries and or pineapples - they will be a ‘hit’ among family and friends!

Besides they are easy and economical additions to the igloo.

Put fresh fruit in a zip-lock bag, note the date, type of fruit stored and place overnight inside your freezer. In the morning your fruit will be nicely frozen and ready for your beach trip. Tell us if you have tried. We would love to have your feedback.

Fruit Juices

It's a great time to dust off the blender and use it to create many wonderful, easy-to- make fruit juices.

Perfect when on the run without time for cooking.

Cucumber cooler is fairly popular on a hot summery day. Awh. So good - vegetable in a glass!

Do you like?


After running around all day, there is nothing quite like a sno-cone to cool you down. Remember childhood days at Jamaica’s Coconut Park? or Stage shows – like Reggae Sunsplash? Nowadays, waiting on a bus in Half-Way-Tree, Cross Roads, Downtown or even at a kiddies party will likely see one and all rushing to the sno-cone machine to get one of these ice-syrup treats.

Put the above in a plastic bag and you'll get 'sky juice'. A favorite among many Jamaican school children. Another popular item these days is Kisko pops which have long replaced King Kong (a giant version of Kisko pops complete with a straw at the side) and considered an enjoyable treat for kiddies in nursery schools, primary schools or homes.

Some kids, become scarred, fume with vexation to this day like my younger brother, if a teacher dared to cut their Kisko pop into half so they too might share in its enjoyment LOL. In the event this has happened to you and your child, how about 'cheering up' with raspberry popsicles.

These are pretty easy to make along with kids. Don’t have ice pop molds - Shot glasses work very well and small Dixie cups would work too. On a diet, the sugar can be substituted by artificial sweeteners.


2 1/2 cups frozen raspberries (or any other berry)
1/3 cup sugar (or to the taste)
1/3 cup hot water
6 shot glasses

6 pop sticks

Place the fruit and sugar in a food processor or a blender. Add hot water and beat for several minutes, until the mixture turns into a purée. Pass through a sieve, pressing well, and discard seeds. Transfer the mixture to the glasses and place the pop sticks. Freeze for at least 4 hours. To release the ice pops, dip the glasses in warm water for a few seconds. Makes 6 small pops.

Btw, if were to pour the liquid mixture in a plastic bag and freeze you'll get Jamaican 'suck-suck'.

Italian Ice and Gelato

As a tip for Summer weddings, esp. in August, your guests will be appreciative of this offering.

While I am at it there is nothing like Cherry Italian Ice in New York City.

And my-oh-my I must, must, must mention the city's gelato. So NYC, there is an upside to having 3-digit temperature :-).

Times like these I find myself reminiscing about Raphael’s that served up Kingston’s finest Italian Ice and Gelato (on Hillcrest Ave). With them closed for over a decade, one now look forward to visiting Calypso Gelato across from Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay. Simonetta Maffesantti ensures fresh ingredients are used and MEG highly recommends ALL to try their Guava gelato (when in season) – it is to-die-for!

Source: Jamaica Observer

So if you are heading to Reggae Sumfest, July 17-24, be sure to stop by Calypso Gelato on the Hip Strip. Unable to visit NYC or Montego Bay anytime soon enjoy family fun time making this recipe: -

1 1/4 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
1 piece of ginger (like 3 inches long, peeled and chopped into four pieces)
Zest of 2 lemons, chopped
1 cup of lemon juice (about six lemons)
Crushed Ice (I use one full ice-cube tray)

Yield: 10 to 12 Servings


Locals and people from all over the world trek to Devon House in Kingston, Jamaica to learn about its history and architecture but truth be-told it is often for ice-cream.


‘I-scream’ at Devon House – rocks!

Even Italians famous for gelato (Italian ice-cream) fall in love with Devon House. Flavors such as Devon Stout, Coconut, Rum & Raisin, Coffee and Grape Nut are ranked favorites by adults and children alike. It is said to be the most rich, wholesome ‘lick’ anyone can experience.

Say, can you keep a secret? In true ‘Allo,‘Allo style - "Listen very carefully I shall only say vis vonce…"Mondays & Tuesdays are J$100 scoop days. That is, only US$1.16 per scoop!!! On your next trip to Jamaica, MEG hopes you too will fall in love with Kingston’s best ‘I-scream’ secret.

We won't leave out vegetarians with soy ice-cream. No sooner tried we quickly endorsed gourmet soy ice-cream made by Debz & Ranaz - Product of Jamaica.

Coconut Pineapple, plain Coconut and Grape Nut are just a few flavors that we sampled and they were ALL delightful, lower in calories, amenable to lactose intolerant consumers and best of all cheaper than the overseas brands currently stocked at the local supermarket. AzMart (Barbican) and Mega Mart (Barbican) are suggested locations to get your pint.

Source: Low Density Lifestyle

Super Duper Ice-cream sandwich
This was a special treat and many prayed that 'Fudgie' did not run of stock before pulling up at their gate.
Likewise, faces would glow with smiles from the unwrapping of a nutty buddy ice-cream cone.
Handled with care to avoid the nuts from sticking to the wrapper.

In the U.S, popular ice-cream brands include Cold stone Creamery, Haagen Dazs, Rita's, Ben & Jerry’s, Carvel’s, Baskin Robbins, Dairy Castle, and are enjoyed by just about everyone – young, old, famous and not so famous. Here you see even American Presidents - Obama, Clinton, Bush, Kennedy and Vice President - Biden all in on the 'scoop'.

We say the love of ice-cream, like music, is universal – one love!

Across to Southeastern Asia, like the Philippines, the avocado (pear) has always been used as a dessert not as a salad ingredient. They open the avocado and scrape its flesh into a bowl, mix in evaporated milk and sugar and add some ice to make it into a nice, refreshing end of a meal treat.

Sometimes the mixture is put into ice- trays with little cubes of avocado treats to ‘suck on’ like popsicles on a hot day. If Thailand is anything to go by there are a lot of hot days.

Thai dessert typically includes green tea - ice-cream or tea.

Have you tasted green tea? Do share.

Well this brings us to the end of today's blog. See us next week for great ideas on sparkling, Lemonade (including Panaka - Indian Lemonade), Ole time favorite - Slush, Paletas (Cantaloupe & Cucumber), Sweet Lassi, Smoothies and Iced Teas - Amaretto & Jamaican Flower (hibiscus).

Budding Foodies please note the Jamaica Observer Food Awards will be held on July 22nd when Master Chef, Marco Pierre White, is scheduled to sparkle. You won't want to miss it.
Telegraph, UK

"I am Jamaica's number one fan in the world," states an upbeat Marco Pierre White…"There is no place else that welcomes you the way the people of Jamaica do...” As a Jamaican I read the above with pride and had to read it once more. Without doubt MEG is even more excited to attend this year's food awards.

Hey, did you know eight (8) persons could win a chance to cook with Chef Marco? Write to the Jamaica Observer and explain why you should be given the opportunity (in 250 words). Deadline: July 18th. Until next time, walk good!

* “Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.