Instant Happiness

Counting one of the many ways I heart cacao, here’s a simplified response: single origin. That’s why, whilst visiting Jamaica, it was a welcome mission – for this chocoholic – to find the very best bountiful pod offerings that mother nature bears in this part of the West Indies. Needless to say, I wanted the chance to taste 100% real Jamaican – homegrown and manufactured – chocolate.Jamrock Food 6 arr

Now, I’m no expert when it comes to producing chocolate. And to this day, it’s my dream – hopefully realized, one day soon – to visit a cocoa farm, stand next to a cocoa tree, and even witness the full extent of this plant’s cultivation from harvesting of pod to extraction of cocoa beans. Still dreaming – for now – there is one thing I can do, which is to get my hands on ‘instant happy’ – a.k.a. fine quality Jamaican chocolate – or so I thought.

Jamrock Food 5 arrProving to be a more difficult task than first anticipated, locating original Jamaican chocolate – in Jamaica – is not that easy, at least for me. Yes, I did visit a local shop and but only found rows of ‘popular’ sugary milk chocolate bars. Setting my sights on 70% or plus cocoa confections, venturing into a Montego Bay supermarket – Progressive Foods – was worth the trip. First making my way to personal points of interest – coffee and baking aisles – I happily found Blue Mountain coffee and unique baking extracts and essences. Proceeding next to the candy aisle, I came out empty handed as I only saw more ‘familiar’ wrapped sweets from home. As the journey continued, waiting in queue to finalize ‘other’ purchases, I asked neighbouring patrons where to find Jamaican chocolates. Kindly informed of “Charles” chocolate treats, I was elated – if only for a few short-lived seconds – and later enlightened that they’re no longer available. Blessings, persistence always prevails! Remember, I was on a choco-inspired mission. Finally, the moment of discovery came to pass and, with it, an awaited introduction to tasting pure and wonderfully made Jamaican cho-co-la-te – courtesy of, CDJM.

Jamrock Food 7 arrSetting my chocolate standards high, I scanned the package to determine if this ‘treasure’ measured up. The label read: “Dark chocolate, 70% cocoa” and “Original Jamaican Recipe.” So far so good, I was delighted at the sight of this particular bar and – without hesitation – picked it up for closer examination. Upon second glance, I noticed the brand was ‘en français’ – Cacao de Jamaïque – that’s consistent with Cocoa of Jamaica or Jamaican Cocoa. With respect to satisfying a “must,” we have a WINNER! CDJM pleasingly uses – as the package clearly reveals – “Authentic Jamaican Cocoa.”

Equally fortunate nearing departure, I spotted and purchased Black River Single Origin Chocolates. Specifically using 100% Jamaican Trinitario cocoa beans, Black River is similar to CDJM in that both companies keep true to the promise of integrating native Jamaican cocoa beans and on delivery of premium grade edible luxury. Though I have yet to identify a completely Jamaican bean-to-bar item – cocoa entirely grown, processed and transformed into moulded chocolate – on the island, I’m still “feeling alright” with my decided expenditure of CDJM and Black River Jamaican cocoa-rich products. Simply divine, CDJM’s dark chocolate bar is offered in generously proportioned squares and, as such, a little goes a long way. Smooth to the palate, a single piece of CDJM evokes intensely aromatic and robust cocoa flavour – no guilt, it’s my kind of black velvet. Unequivocally keen to “food of the gods,” I’m falling for Black River’s chocolate as well. Catering to a purist’s soul, Black River’s chocolate is: no fuss, no frills, and requires no ‘extra’ spices or add-ins to mask its exquisitely tempered and refined outcome – it’s pure cocoa at its best. Originating from a single island, Jamaican cocoa bean products are a rarity in their own right. Well-deserving of respect, it is with gratitude I profess: “Big up, to CDJM and Black River for encouraging this cocoa-driven endeavour to being – tastefully – accomplished.”

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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So Nice, It’s IRIE

Jamrock Food 3 arr

Yeah, mon! I just came back from Jamrock – Jamaica – and I had the time of my life. Paradise island for more reasons than one – inviting people, lovely weather, sandy beaches, dancehall music, etc. – let’s not forget the desires of our foodie friends. Jamrock Food 2 arrSure to be left speechless by “real-deal” cuisine, be sure to savour authentic jerk hut specialities and accompaniments. Like no other open-air b.b.q., selection of succulent and smokey jerk seasoned chicken, shrimp or pork with a side of rice and beans is plentiful. And if you like things hotter, laden some scotch bonnet sauce to your plateful and be on your merry way – just don’t forget the Red Stripe.

Jamrock Drink arrSo far, there’s no question Jamaican food is pretty ‘irie.’ Also trying and delighting in other popular favourites, I equally attest to the goodness of ackee and salt fish. The embodiment of tradition, this national dish uses regional ingredients like ackee fruit and is a must-indulge item on my list.

Speaking of produce, being conveniently situated in the tropics has its perks. Wanting a taste of homegrown Caribbean citrus and fruits alike, sampling native ‘otaheite’ – a.k.a. Jamaican apple – is a definite treat. After all, why not enjoy exotic gems that would otherwise be difficult to find in colder climates? To me, eating local just makes sense! Jamrock Food 1 arrPassionate about fruit and passion fruit – both – other splendours include: star apple, ‘chiny guinep’ – think lychee – ‘kamranga’ or starfruit, and ugli fruit that is quite contrary to its name.  A beauty both inside and out, this tangelo’s exterior bears a lime green peel and a contrasting vibrant orange interior flesh. While there are more Jamaican fruits to name, I’d like to share my favourite: naseberry. Until recent, I’ve never spotted or tasted naseberry. Fortunately, befriending and talking to locals is always helpful and equally made it easy to locate this particular edible treasure.

Jamrock Food 4 arrTruth be told: it’s the nase to my knees. But, why do l love it so? Good question! The answer is quite simple: this fruit is s-w-e-e-t. Truly toothsome, one bite of naseberry shares the intensity level of a date – for sugar! Oh so sweet in flavour, I would liken it’s delicate texture to that of an extremely ripened pear. All in all, my mini fruit tasting escapade is revealing of many pleasant palatable surprises.

More important than great food finds, encountering the kindness of Jamaican people leaves me with a lasting impression that I’ll never forget. Beyond words, Jamaicans are incredibly fun-loving and embody a sincerely warm and friendly spirit that added to one lively experience worth repeating. Needless to say: I must go back! Until then friends, bless up!

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.