Get the BUZZ… On Trend with Non-Alcoholic Beverages and Food Pairings

Really?! Who’d a thunk it?  But oohh … there it is!  The global food network, from road-side eatery to fine-dining restaurants, are pouring out their creative heart and soul in serving up exciting libations, in a spirited non-alcoholic pairing with foods.

This wonderful outpouring of interest and creativity in matching food with non-alcoholic libations was first served up in a toast to good health and great taste and as another elegant and sophisticated choice over the traditional selections of alcoholic wines and spirits. Now what was once perhaps just an exotic consideration has gone mainstream internationally.

According to International Foodservice Surveys, beverages are now driving food sales, rather than the other way around. And in the beverage line, there is no greater buzz than in the non- alcoholic range, from hot and cold coffees and teas, waters and sodas, to the most exotic drink cocktails. For Restauranteurs, non-alcoholic beverage pairings are an innovative way to add interest to and spark conversations around the Menu and in the process, drive customer satisfaction and profits.

However, in Jamaica, that’s no surprise, since Jamaica has so many fruits and foods, which are the main ingredients in our beverages. All our drinks are widely available in hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, stores or on street corners. We have hundreds of fruits, herbs and spices, and each one can produce multiple flavours, aromas and textures for hot or cold libations. Almost all our restaurants now offer customers a full palette of local beverages.

The most important thing to remember when crafting beverage and food pairings is that consumers are looking for beverages and flavour combinations that are just as unique as menu offerings. Here’s a dinner menu paired with some of Jamaica’s favourite non-alcoholic libations:

Appetizers: Callaloo & Saltfish on Crackers; Cheesy Callaloo garnished with diced Tomatoes

Aperitif: Coconut Water garnished with Lemon Slices
First Course: Garden-fresh tossed Salad with a medley of apple, black olive and onion

Libation: Light Cherry/Carrot Drink

Second Course: Land & Sea Food Medley

  • Herbed Steamed Fish & Okra on Bammy Rounds
  • Garlic Shrimp with smoked mozzarella on grilled eggplant
  • Deep Fried Conch in batter with roasted sweet pepper and corn

Libation: Sparkling Lemonade with  soda water
Entree: Grilled Jerk Chicken Breast with sweet potato wedges drizzled with olive oil and raisins

Libation: Pineapple Juice with ginger accents
Dessert: Crushed Papaya on guava ice-cream mound

Libation: Lemon Grass Tea

At your Service… with Pleasure!

The enjoyment of a meal is determined as much by the taste and presentation, as well as by the quality of service, among other considerations. As a customer, it’s all too easy to forget that there is no “Genie” in the service mix, no “abracadabra” magic at work, it’s just hard-working servers, working hard at serving you. Be respectful and contribute positively to a mutually pleasant and rewarding service experience.

So if you want great service avoid these Disservices to Servers:

  1. Lack of respect. Never bark orders at your server. Extend all due respect and courtesy
  2. Demand to hurry up. Demanding to be seated, or to get your food quickly, is not only self-centered, it is rude to both the server and other customers.
  3. Ignoring the server to text or take a cell phone call. When the server is at your table, he or she deserves your
    full attention. Don’t just ignore the individual, request a return visit if
    you must.
  4. Letting your kids run wild. Do not allow your children to be too disruptive of the dining experience. Give all due attention to their manners and behaviour.
  5. Personal belongings hanging around. When you go into a restaurant with bags and packages, put them out of the way to avoid discomfort to others.
  6. Flirting. Do not indulge in flirtation with the server. It is unwelcomed and offensive
  7. Sexist, racist or off-color jokes. Avoid telling offensive jokes, no matter how funny you think they are. Keep the humor, but lose the trash.
  8. Snapping fingers. Do not ever snap your fingers to get the attention of your server. Make eye-contact or lift a finger instead.
  9. Staying at a table all night. Enjoy your meal, linger a while if you must, pay the bill, and leave to allow others to be served. To do otherwise is to be unfair to both waiting diners and servers alike
  10. Poor tippers. It’s fine to pay compliments, but no matter how many kind words you say, the tip communicates your true regard to the server. Tip generously (10-15% of the bill is standard)

One Hundred

Oh my goodness ! It’s  truly the FULL 100 !!! … four dynamic social and gastronomic indulgences – Vault Gaming Lounge, The Island Bet Sports Bar, The Terrace , the Rooftop Bar – in one location – 100 Hope Road, Kingston – all set on a wide expanse of beautifully landscaped grounds, (with ample parking), amidst clear skies, mountain views, cool breezes, and gracious hospitality, ushering you to exciting, modern, chic, elegant, relaxing, cool spaces for a ( pheww !!! …) guaranteed 100 experience !

The easy breezy chic lay-out of the Terrace with its modern contemporary decor styling, invites you to step right in and indulge your senses. The Rooftop’s good vibes lure you later on, to a good time to be had by all …  and since you are on a winning streak, you could get your game on in the Vault Gaming Lounge, or double the stakes for a sure win in the Island Bet Sports Bar, with its state of the art 25-foot video wall; or you could opt for exclusivity in the Chairman’s Lounge for corporate or personal gatherings.

But even as you are ushered by gracious hostesses to your place of choice, whether at well-laid tables, comfy booths, raised perches, or cosy bar counters, it’s the food! … glorious, wondrous, heavenly food ! … that will send you into raptures, and conclusively affirm 100 as the Full Hundred!

Your epicurean palate is alive with expectations of pure delight as you munch on the signature complimentary crispy Plantain Strips and accompanying zesty pineapple slaw when you peruse the seemingly unending Menu of choice foods, all vying for your selection … the Soups, Breads, Salads, Sandwiches, Pizzas, Burgers, Fries, Dips, fine dining fare, such as Steak Au Poivre and Grilled Salmon and so much more…

But what you may well have settled on, is one of the several wickedly witty dishes featuring Jamaican cuisine, (artfully created and presented with more than 100 twists), such as the beyond amazingly delicious Yardie Bread with its cheesy, ackee, mildly spicy, herbed topping, or the Zesty Roasted Garlic and Callaloo Dip … See ya, it nice, it nice, it nice can’t done ! … and indeed the portions are so generously hearty, that you are allowed to savour every scrumptious bite to complete and utter bellyfull satisfaction!

Chefs Secrets to great Foods

Even Great Chefs will admit (coerced by compliments of course), to a secret ingredient or two that they rely on to  transform even the most ordinary dishes into extraordinary culinary fare. Menu Guide  asked some  top Chefs to share their best-kept secrets. Under cover of anonymity,  some chose luxe specialty foods, others opted for familiar supermarket products, and some even went to the garden for fruits, vegetables and herbs, all used in unexpected ways. Here are some of their Secrets:

Squeeze lemon zip and zing over pasta!
Skip the salt, squeeze in half a lemon and up the ante with your pasta.

Perk up your steak with… coffee!
Mix fine coffee grounds into a spice rub for a rich, aromatic flavor.

Eggceptional eggs with… cream cheese!
Cream cheese gives the eggs a smooth texture that is irresistible.

Wake up potato salad with… Apple!
Simply add a teaspoon or two of Apple Sauce and your potato salad will come alive with flavor.

Put extra Snap and Crackle on your Chicken with… Cornflakes!
Substitute the usual breading with crushed cornflakes for a crackling-good chicken.

Stir-up a Soupa Soup with… Salad Dressing!
Stir in some salad dressing in your soup and enjoy the mouthwatering results!

Brew up a rich, full-bodied, zesty Rib with… Beer!
Pour the beer in your sauce and brush on thickly.

lnspire a sensuous, soulful sauce with… Tea!
Infuse your sauces with tea … orange, ginger, mint … for exotic flavours and aroma.

Leave Pork and chicken in a briny Pickle!
Marinate pork and chicken in the liquid from pickles for a flavourful kick.

To Your Health!

The gastronomy of Japan is so unique and spectacular that it has inspired people all around the world to rethink what and how they cook, serve and eat.  Indeed, Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi, has now become immensely popular throughout the world and no country more so than right here on the “rock”, Jamaica.

So it is no surprise therefore that when ROE opened two years ago, and “roll-ed” out its abundance of gastronomical delights to diners eager to embrace and/or explore Japanese fare, it coursed its way right through the stomach to the hearts of so many people, and has sustained their interest ever since.

Located in the urban chic Sovereign North Complex , 29 Barbican Road, Kingston, ROE’s multi-cultural dining mix of casual, fine dining and delivery, extends beyond Kingstonians, to Jamaican residents across the Island, and visitors from the wider international community. The elements of sushi – freshness, seasonality, texture and flavour, so emblematic of Japanese cuisine, and the unique “ROE-fusion” of the best of Jamaican foods, has distinguished ROE as an excellent meal destination of choice for the whole family.

From sushi and beyond, to hot and cold beverages, including their signature high-end loose-leaf teas,(exclusive to ROE), and/or the delectable selection of desserts, including the “best Rum Cake in the Island” (so the rave reviews affirm), ROE dishes up world-class service, and excellent fare, to satisfy the most discerning palates, and the strictest budgets.

My Favorite Jamaican Meal

I n a land of truly great foods it’s so hard to single out an absolute favourite Jamaican meal, The key determinant of a “favourite” for me though, is the answer to the question, “do I yearn, truly mouth-wateringly yearn for the taste again?”. What influences the answer is not just the meal itself, but the other intangibles like the “spirit” of Chef/ Cook /Server; the tone, character, “vibes” of the location; and even more importantly, the love, joy and pleasure that I can always see and taste and feel in the meal. If those are missing, so too is my delight.

But I have been blessed, as my hips will attest, with some favourite meals, like my late dear mother’s Steamed Cho-cho and Saltfish; or Veta (our former helper)’s absolutely greasy and sinfully delicious Brown-Stew Chicken; or Miss Iris’s Braised Beef Steak and Steamed Cabbage; or this other lady whose name I can’t remember, but whose
amazing Curry Goat I can easily recall and savour… meals that give me a thrill of desire at just the mere thought of them, and leaves me sated with pleasure after I have had my fill. Not unlike an erotic experience really. Which should not be a surprising metaphor, considering that food is so sensory.

Two of my recent “Favourite Meal” additions are:

Cuddy’z Ultimate Sports Bar’s thick, tender, meaty, seasoned to the juicy bone Oxtail served with white rice. Located on Dominica Drive, New Kingston, Cuddy’z is owned by the famed Jamaican / West Indies Cricketer Courtney A. Walsh, whose sportsman status inspired the sport themed Menu categories, such as – On your Mark (Starters); Soup-er-Bowl (Soups); Full Toss (Salads); Main Event (Main Courses); Substitute (Sandwiches); Benchers (Side Orders). The food is unbelievably delicious, but the Oxtail is simply the best!

Miss Madge’s (or Miss Russell)’s sweet cooking meals, such as the Rice And Peas, Stewed Pork, Fried Chicken and Escoveitched Fish… quite frankly it is hard to settle on a favourite, for every dish totally “sell off!” (excellent). 25 years of cooking up quite a stir (to judge from the daily crowd of customers at her cook- shop location ), 57 Montgomery Avenue, Kingston, has resulted in a Menu that reads like a Foodie’s Guide to Heaven, where all Good Jamaican food resides.

Miss Madge’s / Miss Russell’s Menu

  • Monday: Fried Chicken; Tripe and Beans; Chicken in Green Peas
  • Tuesday: Fricassee Chicken; Cow Foot; Stewed Pork; Fried Chicken
  • Wednesday: Stewed Beef; Curried Goat; Pumpkin Soup; Fried Chicken
  • Thursday: Cow Head, Stewed Peas with Pigs tail; Escoveitched Slice Fish; Fried Chicken
  • Friday: Fried Chicken; Curried Goat, Stewed Beef; Stewed Pork; Oxtail.
  • Saturday: Red Peas Soup (no pigs tail); Cow Foot; Curried Chicken;
    Fried Chicken

Look who’s coming to Dinner – The “Sub-10 King” himself… Asafa Powell

. . . and why not ? Great food, great Company and great conversation is what Menu Guide (MG) is all about, and who better to share with than one of the rock’s (Jamaica) and the world’s Olympians and 4th fastest 100m Track and Field Star, and affirmed “hot bod” model (Check out his sizzling 2016 Calendar), Asafa Powell!

MG: Asafa, great to have you at the Menu Guide table. Please dish the stew on your favourite  foods.

Asafa: My favourite foods are the dishes I grew up on. The ones my mother made for our family and to this day I still love them. . . . Mama’s Red Peas Soup on a Saturday, mmmm! I also love Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas and Curry Goat gravy, or Fried Chicken with Chips (I don’t eat that so much anymore, as I do my best to stay away from fried foods when training).

MG: You’ve travelled the world . . .  who in the world  gets a toast for the best dining experience?

Asafa: My best dining experience, hmmm, I would have to say one of the best I just had was a few months ago in a restaurant in Croatia. They brought everything to the table fresh and we chose the cut of meat, the fish etc and then chose the way we wanted it prepared. It was a great vibe and the food was excellent as well.

MG: And which Jamaican Eatery or Restaurant gets your “Big-Up” ?

Asafa: When I go out to eat in Jamaica I pretty much stick to more traditional foods and restaurants. I love chicken, seafood, beef, pork and pasta … so I usually tend to go to spots that have those options and do them well like M10, Countryside, Strawberry Hill and CPJ Deli.

Bon Apetit Asafa ! We look forward to having your company with us all year ‘round with your yummy 2016 Calendar, available at FLOW Stores and online, at Amazon.com. The Calendar features Asafa at some of Jamaica’s most beautiful, famous and historic sites.

Wine is Hot

The fastest growing beverage category in the US today is wine…in fact, the Americans have overtaken the French with their per capita consumption of wine and of course, what happens in the United States reflects on us here in Jamaica.

What does that mean for us…wine sales are growing and the category is hot. But what are people drinking? They are drinking white blends, moscato, red blends and sparkling wines!

White varietals such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato are increasingly popular and the trend to blending red varietals together and leaving a little higher than normal residual sugar in the wine is making red wine appealing to more and more consumers.

Brands such as Hardys with its recent introduction of Moscato and Pink Moscato have energized their portfolio. The strength of Robert Mondavi and its wide varietal range and strong brand name continues to deliver easy drinking wines to be enjoyed every day. Primal Roots red blend answered the need for a medium-bodied wine with bold fruit and soft tannins and is a delight to enjoy.  Sperone’s Moscato Rose’s sexy packaging and refreshingly fruity taste make it a hit with consumers.

Of course, wine is the ideal beverage with food and there is a wine for every palate, every occasion and every budget. So next time you visit your local restaurant enjoy a glass or bottle of wine with your meal or when next you visit your local supermarket, look out for the Select Brands Ambassadors who will guide you through your purchase.

I’m pleased to say most restaurants are upgrading their wine offerings and service. If you don’t see it ask for it.

To Dine in or out…ls that a question?

Yes, yes, yes . . . there is nothing like good home cooking to warm the heart, satisfy the palate and of course protect the purse. .  . after all, it’s not just the hips that pay the price of food indulgence, whether we dine in or out, but also purportedly, more of our hard-earned money too when we dine out.

Home cooking may be great and all that, especially if you are not the one doing the cooking, but nothing beats the allure and pleasure of tucking into a food experience away from home . . . be it  with the street-side vendor, the cook-shop, the fast-food joint, the sports bar and grill, the regular, not exactly “fine-dining” restaurant,  or the truly five-star, fine-dining establishment. There is just something so tantalizing (even if it is not always satisfying) about the whole “dining-out” experience, that makes all the effort and expense so worth it.

Perhaps it is because food is such a sensory experience. The sight, the sound, the smell, the feel, the taste… all complemented by the “company” of family, friends, complete strangers or your own private thoughts, that can be so much more enhanced dining out rather than at home.

Perhaps it is because food preparation can be so time-consuming and with dubious outcomes, especially if , like many of us, you don’t have the skill or the knack to do it right. Our lifestyles have become so busy, that time is premium value, and it so much “cheaper” to just grab a “quick bite on the fly” from an eatery, or double-up the experience of work and nourishment at a restaurant, or build-up social capital with a choice selection of fine dining experiences designed to please even the most discriminating palate.

Perhaps too, it is because dining out is just plain easier. All you have to do is show up, (or order in), and “be served”. There is no planning, shopping, preparation, serving, washing-up… just simply, wonderfully, indulgently, being served by someone else.

Or perhaps it is just the delicious opportunity to experience different foods, cultures, styles, location, packaging, place settings, ambience, occasions, or just the privilege and pleasure of exercising choice. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… or perhaps not… to dine in or out, is no longer a profound Shakespearian dilemma.

A few years ago, in a Jamaican context, the question of whether to “ dine in or out” , would hardly arise. After all, Jamaica, it was felt, did not have an “eating out” culture . Now, the smorgasboard of foods on offer, throughout the length and breadth of Jamaica, from mountain-side to sea-side and in-between . . . breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the time, ‘round the clock throughout the day and night, stands as a delightful testimony to the fact that Jamaican are open to dining now more than ever before.

To dine in or out? It’s hardly a question to ponder anymore. A choice about which a friend of mine waxed almost lyrical in defending her fine dining indulgences “I am in love with the privilege of eating out at the temples of fine dining… the crispness of the linen tablecloths, the sparkle of the flatware, the pop of the cork, the muted sounds of other diners, the focus of the wait staff, the smell of each dish as it is placed on the table, and the perfect balance of seasoning in those first few bites… it’s a heady experience and I am hooked”.

Fine dining or not, like my friend, many of us are not just “hooked” on dining out, it is a lifestyle imperative, if not all the time, then many times over.

Wines More than the Bouquet…

Jamaica is known for its fine rums, liquors and beers; however, fine wines from famous vineyards and vintners are imported from around the world.

And, while good quality wines are avail-able at retailers and on supermarket shelves, two entities—the Wine Shop in Southdale Plaza and Bin 26 at Devon House are specialists in the promotion of fine wines. Both entities also offer special wine tastings.

Members of the Wine Shop and their friends are invited, on a quarterly basis, to tasting sessions, which feature wines from special regions…“featuring blends of different grape varieties and showcas-ing the character of the vineyards.”

Bin 26 offers “over 300 international wines by the bottle and a satisfying selec-tion by the glass.” They invite wine afi-cionados to come “sip, savour and celebrate.” Their website features wines; and their space is available for private dinners and receptions.