Put your taste buds on alert, because it’s time to sip, sample, and savor your way through the best Jamaican cuisine at the Jamaica Food and Drink Festival. This four-day Kingston festival puts the island’s best chefs to work in a series of unique events designed specifically for your culinary pleasure. The vibe at this flavor-filled festival is swanky South Beach-meets-Caribbean spice.
The Jamaica Food and Drink Festival kicks off with tender, delicious pork, an ingredient that’s favored in Jamaican cuisine. At Pork Palooza, you marvel at the wide array of presentations, including pork-based desserts. Ice cream with candied bacon bits is a combination you’ve never before considered, and yet you’ll have a hard time forgetting the way the bacon’s warm saltiness plays off the cool, sweet ice cream. It takes some serious thought—and perhaps a few more samples of each dish—but you finally cast your vote for your favorite before you head home to rest in preparation for the next day’s event.
It’s a good thing you arrive hungry at Crisp, because this event’s fare consists of fried food washed down with perfectly crisp beer. You find hallmarks of Jamaican cuisine on the menu, such as scotch bonnet pepper flake-crusted salmon, as you rub elbows with Jamaicans and international travelers alike.
The vibe is taken down a notch to casual at Meet Street, where you stroll Lady Musgrave Road with hundreds of other hungry event-goers sampling saltfish fritters, sweet island pineapple, and conch soup from food trucks lining the thoroughfare. Jamaica then goes Italian with Red, White, and You, where wine pairings perfectly complement high-end cuisine such as an oh-so-tender beef tenderloin with rosemary balsamic reduction. This dress-to-impress event at Kingston’s Devon House Mansion is the pinnacle of the festival, with the beautifully decorated venue, the guests’ trendy ensembles, and each expertly crafted dish bringing you to a level of happiness only such a flawless combination of flavors can deliver.
The next morning, brunch at the National Gallery of Jamaica lulls you into a sense of complete and utter contentment as notes of live jazz flit through the air and innovative concoctions that wow even the most refined foodie tantalize your palate. Then, it’s back to Meet Street, where you snatch up the last bit of goodness the Jamaica Food and Drink Festival has to offer—some ackee and banana here, some pepper shrimp there, and before you know it, you officially can’t eat another bite. It’s not just your belly that’s full, however. Delicious food is a great unifier, and by the end of the festival, you’ve not only sated your appetite, but made some new friends as well.