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Cuisine

By Janeen Johnson

Travel across the island and you’ll discover hundreds of farms. The distinctive local flavour starts with the quality of the soil.

“Even our tomatoes are sweeter!” declares Christopher Golding, the chef de cuisine of Montego Bay’s Sugar Mill Restaurant. Chef Golding has a penchant for delivering classic Jamaican dishes with gourmet flair. He works closely with local farmers to get the freshest ingredients possible. “The taste and quality have to be up to our standards,” he says.

Jamaica’s food scene is evolving, and restaurateurs are answering the call for high-quality ingredients.

My colleague and I travelled cross-country, savouring everything from beans to duck tapas. Establishments differed, but the commitment to organic ingredients remained constant.

Zimbali Retreats
“No farm, no food,” says Chef Alecia, pointing to a display of fresh produce on the kitchen counter. That’s the tagline of Zimbali Retreats and the common theme of my food tour. We sipped wine as Alecia meticulously plated lunch, Coconut Papaya Salad.

Behind her, Chef Eli was focused on his Lentil and Red Peas Samosas. The majority of the ingredients used at Zimbali’s Mountain Cooking Studio are sourced from their farm.

“Everything natural,” says Clifford, our guide. “Ninety-five percent of the food grow right here.” Before lunch we toured the seven-acre farm. From pumpkins to eggplants, the farm seemed to have everything — including an apiary. We snacked on guavas whilst scurrying to keep up with Clifford. Beaming with pride, he told us about the land he’d spent 10 years cultivating. He was farmling this land long before Zimbali became a destination for gastronomes.

The Canaan Mountain retreat comprises of the farm, the cooking studio and guest cottages. The Zimbali experience was envisioned by Mark and Alecia Swainbank. They’re part of a growing number of entrepreneurs helping to propel Jamaica as a major culinary destination.

Blue Mountain Culinary Trail
Blue Mountain Culinary Trail is the partnership between the Jamaica Gastronomy Network and a group of entrepreneurs in the coffee farming region. With 15 participating eateries and attractions on board, there are plenty of options to design an epicurean adventure. Our adventure for the day included Belcour Lodge and Café Blue.

Belcour Lodge, a former 18th-century coffee estate, sits in a valley at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The well-fruited property is home to Belcour Preserves, a line of gourmet condiments, and it is the private residence of Robin and Michael Lumsden.

The couple hosted us for breakfast, a delectable spread of fruits, salmon cakes, guacamole, pineapple salsa and ackee prepared with a coffee rub. The genuine hospitality of the Lumsdens combined with their farm-to-fork lifestyle was at the core of my Belcour experience. Culinary tours are arranged by appointment. The afternoon was spent enjoying coffee and dessert on the deck at Café Blue.

Gastronomy Centre
As part of ongoing initiatives of the Jamaica Gastronomy Network, Devon House has been appointed Jamaica’s first Gastronomy Centre. The 19th-century landmark, most famous for ice cream, houses a collection of boutique eateries. Try classic Jamaican cuisine like Braised Ox Tail at the Grog Shoppe or Italian-style pizzas at La Pizzeria. Savour fine wines and Mediterranean flavours at Opa Restaurant and Reggae Mill Bar. Satisfy your sweet tooth with handmade treats from Chocolate Dreams or the Devon House Bakery. The ice cream parlour has relocated to a new and larger space, creating an even sweeter experience. Future plans for the Gastronomy Centre include food tastings, a farmers market and a self-service kitchen.

Jamaica’s star continues to rise as a choice destination for gastronomy. For Jamaica Gastronomy Network updates, visit tourismlinkages.com. An app and comprehensive website is being developed to connect visitors with culinary experiences.

 

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