Everything’s Irie! Authentic Dining in Jamaica.

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I’m an island girl at heart, and the simple things in life make me happy. Sunshine, beautiful beaches and sparkling turquoise waters leave me smiling and feeling peaceful. Adding delicious food on top of that means that all is right in the world for me! There is something that is so incredibly satisfying about trying wonderful new foods and restaurants while on vacation. I don’t mean some chain restaurant that you can find back at home. I’m talking about that little hole in the wall/road-side stand that locals love to frequent. That, my friends is where the REAL magic happens.

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On my last trip to Jamaica I was determined to eat as much Jerked food as possible. Mission accomplished. Our first adventure away from our quaint little resort led us to the popular Pork Pit in Montego Bay. The staff that we made friends with suggested we go there if we wanted to experience true Jerk Chicken and Pork. The trek uphill in the blazing heat was well worth the prize at the end of the journey. We followed our noses up a narrow wooden staircase that opened up into a wonderful airy open spaced restaurant. We could see the different jerked meats being cooked over large grills on top of coals, and we instantly became excited. We walked over to a small window and placed our orders. Two of us opted for a classic- Jerk Chicken with a side of rice and peas, and one got an order of Jerk Pork with fries. We also opted for the delicious flavours of pop that you can only get in the Caribbean. Nothing says tropical like delicious ice cold pineapple soda. After receiving our sides and tickets with our selections, we were told to head over to the main man with the meat. He expertly selected our meats and chopped them up and placed them in our containers, and with a wink told us to enjoy.

 

Everythings-Irie-2EDFinally- it was time! We all smiled, and dove in. Pure perfection. Nothing was dry or old, and you could taste the passion that was put into the food. The jerk seasoning had the perfect balance of heat and flavor, and the meat was literally falling off of the bone. The rice and peas was delicious, and had the exact amount of coconut that is needed to make the dish just right. The fries were light and crispy and melted in your mouth. Side note- ketchup in Jamaica is much sweeter then North America. While it is delicious, be careful to not put too much to drown out the flavours of the other food! After eating in almost complete silence (it was just too good for words!) we met an interesting character who went by the name of Bruce Lee the Spider man. He was smitten with one of my friends, and offered to draw her portrait for free since she was so beautiful. She bashfully declined, but was presented with his signature and phone number in case she changed her mind. Bellies full, and in fantastic moods, we said good bye to the Pork Pit, and vowed to return for another fantastic meal.

By Ruby Reis

 

 

Mexico’s Own Hot and Spicy Chef

By Mary Luz Mejia

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This year marked the 15th anniversary of one of Toronto’s most beloved food-obsessed festivals known as “The Hot & Spicy Festival.” Held every summer on the shore of Lake Ontario at the city’s picturesque Harbourfront Centre, the festivities culminate with an international Iron Chef Competition. This summer, chef Ross Warhol competed from the United States (he works at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chataqua, NY), Mavis Brade represented Antigua and Barbuda (chef at Sugar Ridge) and from Mexico, Jonatan Gomez Luna Torres (Executive Chef at Le Chique in the Mayan Riviera) also cooked for the crowd.

Foie-TreeEDI haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy dishes prepared by the former two chefs, but the latter, Jonatan Torres, well, his food I know. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to find myself at the Karisma Resorts in the Mayan Riviera. I know, hard gig, right? While my days were jam-packed, it’s hard not to enjoy working when you’re surrounded by talcum white beaches that stretch for kilometers and hug turquoise, Caribbean water. It’s not too shabby either when the resort’s beach butlers come round with all-fruit “paletas” (ice pops) or fruit kebobs and cold, moistened towels. But I digress.

At the Azul Sensatori resort, Chef Jonatan helms the kitchens of a very special restaurant called “Le Chique.” Special because there’s nothing else like it in the Mayan Riviera- some would argue, Mexico. Jonatan’s thoroughly modern take on Mexican classics, which combines a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy and whimsy, is nothing short of spectacular. I’ll always remember the “tree” of candy floss wrapped around branches that I was told to pluck off and eat. Inside each cotton-bud looking parcel, was a little orb of hot foie gras. Magic in a morsel. It was sublime. He learned from Ferran Adria after all, so it’s not surprising to find traces of El Bulli at Le Chique.

At the Hot & Spicy Iron Chef competition, the black box ingredient was garlic, and Chef Jonatan, along with sous Julio Mara Mackey prepared a hen in black mole sauce with a creamy camote puree infused with a vanilla and cinnamon emulsion. Way to represent Mexico Jonatan- this year’s proud winner of Toronto’s Hot & Spicy International Iron Chef Competition. Should you ever find yourself on the playa wondering where to go haute in the heat – Le Chique’s got the culinary cadre you crave.

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