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Toscanini - Italian Dining Experience In Jamaica

When you think of Jamaica you think of jerk chicken, jerk pork, oxtail, rice and peas and the many colourful and delicious Jamaican meals guaranteed to tantalize the palate. Fine dining to delicious Italian...


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Bond of James

She came "From Russia with Love"  because I was recommended by "Dr. No" and she wanted me "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". She looked at me with her "GoldenEye" and said it was "For Your Eyes Only".

 Right then and there I knew for certain I had a "License to Kill". So I "Goldfinger" her "Octopussy"  with a "View to a Kill" because I am "The Man with the Golden Gun" and the "Thunderball". I made her see the "Living Daylights" which made her fingers become a "Moonraker" on my back.  She wanted to "Die Another day" because she was floating on cloud nine like she just scored big at the "Casino Royale".  

She said "Live and Let Die", because "You Only Live Twice" and "Tomorrow Never Dies". I told her without her "The World Is Not Enough".  She Held out her fingers and said "Diamonds Are Forever" because you are "The Spy Who Loved Me" so don't make my "Skyfall" because if you leave it would be a "Quantum of Solace".

- Stunner

Monday, November 26, 2012

Toscanini - Italian Dining Experience in Jamaica

Toscanini Resturant at night
When you think of Jamaica you think of jerk chicken, jerk pork, oxtail, rice and peas and the many colourful and delicious Jamaican meals guaranteed to tantalize the palate. Fine dining to delicious Italian and Mediterranean meals prepared with fresh local produce would most likely not be the first thing to come to mind. But as the motto of the island of Jamaica states, "Out of Many One People", the same goes for the diverse mixture of cuisines that can be found here in Jamaica. Italian food is one that has found it's niche in the Jamaica culinary landscape. One of the leading pioneers charting their way in local Italian and Mediterranean dining is Toscanini.

Interior Dining Room

Veranda dining area
Toscanini is a quaint restaurant located at Harmony Hall, just a few miles outside of the resort town of Ocho Rios. The restaurant charms it's diners with it's rustic indoors and varanda dining area and provides a relaxing setting to enjoy the tastes of Italy and the Mediterranean. As we entered the restaurant we were warmly greeted by the owner Lella, who escorted us to our table and easily made us feel welcomed and set the tone for a wonderful dining experience. We also met the man behind the meals chef Pierluigi, called PG, who introduced himself to us as well as his Canon film SLR as he had noticed my Nikon D7000 resting on the table. He related his experiences as an avid sports photographer, his other passion.

Chalk board menu
The first thing that we notice that was different was that the traditional menu books that are handed to us by our servers. Once seated we were presented with two large chalk boards with the restaurants menu hand written with chalk, definitely not the type of menus I have seen. Lella then explained each item on the menu which consisted of appetisers, entreé and desserts. I greatly appreciated this as with most restaurants I have been to I have had to ask what is in the meals they are serving. So this was very helpful in deciding what I wanted to eat instead of the awkward fifteen minutes of trying to figure out what my meal should be.

Garlic Herb Butter


Olive Oil with Scotch Bonnet pepper
Cream of Pumpkin Soup

Zucchini Gratinate
To start off the dining experience we ordered the Cream of Pumpkin soup and the Zucchini Gratinate which went well with the warm Focaccia which came with Garlic Herb Butter and Olive Oil mixed with Scotch Bonnet pepper.

Fettuccine Florentina

Pappardelle Boscaiola
One of our servers, Julie adding freshly ground pepper
Up next was Entreé, so we decided to go all Italian and selected the Fettuccini Florentina made with  Breast of Chicken and Callaloo Alfredo Sauce and Papperdelle Boscaiola made with Prosciutto Ham and Portobello Mushrooms in a creamy Tomato Basil Sauce. This was finished with Parmesain cheese and a sprinkle of pepper done at our table by our servers. To make the food go down well a glass of fine Merlot and lime squash were great choices. The meals were delicious and combined with appetizers and continuous servings of warm homemade Focaccia quite filling as we barely had space for desserts!

Chocolate Profiteroles
However, dessert was a must for this rare dining occasion so we ordered up a serving of the delicious Chocolate Profiteroles, cream filled buns with a warm chocolate sauce. This was perfect way to end this dining experience as it was not too sweet but had that right amount of sweetness to satisfy the palate.

Chef Pierluigi PG

Lella Ricci

Our servers: L-R: Julie and Omar
We then had a wonderful conversation with Lella, who told us about the history of the restaurants and showed us here guestbook with kind words from her many international celebrity diners who have stopped by to sample her culinary dishes. This book of celebrity testimonials reaffirmed the many food awards plaques that decorated the interior dining area.

Lella's celebrity guestbook
One of the many testimonials in the Toscanini guestbook

Observer Food Awards
The three course meal for two came up to under $JM8000 which is about the average rate for such dining in Jamaica. Toscanini is definitely worth trying if you are in the mood for some italian or Mediterranean dishes with a relaxing, rustic ambiance.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rojo for Restaurant Week 2012

Restaurant Week 2012 menu at Rojo Restaurant
The annual week of culinary celebration, restaurant Week Jamaica, has arrived once again promising taste morsels of palette tantalisation at a lower than the regular price. If there is one thing that is welcomed by Jamaicans these days, it is dining out at a lower cost! With this in mind and the promise of well decorated tasty dishes that showcase the best of Jamaica's restaurants many Jamaicans have descended on the participating restaurants.

Rojo Restaurant Spanish Court Menu cover
This year Restaurant week features restaurants in the regular categories Epicurean, Delectable, Savoury, Tasty and Nyam & Scram. This year for the first I dared to head to the top of the chart and decided on sampling a restaurant in the Epicurean category. I selected Rojo Restaurant at the Spanish Court Hotel to do the honours of pleasing my taste buds for my Restaurant Week 2012. But what would Rojo Restaurant have to offer?

Goat Cheese & Olive Tapenade Roll

Feta Cheese And Kalamata Olives Salad

I decided to start off my meal with  the Goat Cheese & Olive Tapenade Roll while my date for the evening had the  Feta Cheese And Kalamata Olives Salad. Both served with garlic buttered bread. They proved to be tasty appetizers and a very good prelude to what was to come.

Herb Crusted Salmon

Grilled Black Angus Filet Mingnon
Complementary Drink Options
After the tasty appetizers it was time to get to the real meat of the matter, the entrées. I opted for the Herb Crusted Salmon and my date chose the Grilled Black Angus Filet Mingnon. The salmon was well seasoned  and succulent and a went down well with the soft sautéed potatoes. The beef, despite being well done, was still soft and juicy and took little effort to consume as it was pleasingly seasoned. Dinner was served with a choice of complementary beverages courtesy of Schweppes and Appleton. Diners have a choice of Spicy Special or Schweet; so I chose the Spicy Special.

Mixed Berries Cream Mousse

Chocolate Mouse Cake
Blue Mountain Coffee curtesy of Café Blue
Now that entrée was quickly consumed it was time to satisfy that sweet tooth with some dessert. I selected the Chocolate Mousse Cake and could not resist the complementary coffee from Café Blue. My date for the evening had the Mixed Berries Cream Mousse which comprised of layers of smooth vanilla cream and cherry compote with almond biscott. Both desserts proved to be a great closing curtain for my dining experience.

The final Rojo Restaurant Week Jamaica 2012 price for dinner for two

L-R: Our server Rochelle Sweeney and Chef Lamarsha Mitchell the person behind the meals
I was pretty satisfied with my Restaurant Week experience this year, as Rojo Restaurant delivered. This Saturday is the last day of Restaurant Week Jamaica so it's not too late to still go out and sample some of the culinary delights and Rojo Restaurant Spanish Court is definitely a good option.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Pastor Brown's Artistic House

The view of Pastor Brown's house and park taken from the main road
Several weeks ago on my way to Portland I again saw one of the most unusual houses I've ever seen, a site I normally see while traversing the route between Kingston and Port Antonio. However, as I had the time and my trusted camera in hand I decided to stop, for the first, to take a closer look at what seems like a prominent landmark along that route.

Some of the structures in Pastor Brown's attraction

Another view of the museum/park along the main road

A photo of Pastor Brown's throne

Wooden animal figure in Pastor Brown's park
I pulled over on a somewhat narrow soft shoulder long the narrow winding road of Black Hill district in Portland, and went over to investigate the very colourful house across the valley and the equally colourful and interesting structures and signs that lined the roadside in front of the house. There were several colourful items in what seemed to be a mini museum with many colourful creations including a colourful bench, wooden figures depicting different animals, an impressive structure that looks like a combination of a throne and a gazebo, several other unusual pieces, seemingly cryptic signage and of course two Jamaican flags.

Pastor Brown posing in his throne structure

Pastor Winston Brown posing proudly beside his photo that he took at the Royal Palace in London
While I was there looking and taking a few photos I heard a voice beckoning to me from one end of this makeshift roadside museum. It was an elderly man clad in a light blue bush jacket and dress pants with a full head of grey hair signifying his crown of old age. He introduced himself to me as Pastor Winston Brown and proceeded to give me a tour of his mini park and tourist attraction. The 81 year old man walked me through his handy work like a proud father as he explained his masterpieces to me and told me of his journey to London England where he met the Queen during his younger years. He was especially proud of his prominently displayed photo which documented his trip to London and the Royal Palace. But the tour didn't end there!

A view of Pastor Brown's unusual house from the foot bridge

Pastor Brown's colourful and unusual house
After showing me some of his art work and posing for a few pics beside them, Pastor brown invited me to take a closer look at his very colourful and unusual house. So a bit apprehensively I followed him down the valley and crossed over the small spring on a narrow foot bridge that he himself built. The unique house sits on the opposite side of the valley and overlooks his mini park and the main road. This impressive two story building is reminiscent of a castle and is adorned with many colourful tiles, drawings, including one of a rainbow and other decorations which set this house apart from any other house I have ever seen! He also introduced me to his wife who was sitting on the veranda of the house looking on. They were both kind enough to pose for a photo while they told me more about their fascinating place of abode. 

Pastor Brown and his wife posing with two of his photos
After giving them a "smalls" I told them farewell and left behind a true testament of pure Jamaican creativity, however eccentric it may be. So if you are on your way to Port Antonio be sure to look out for this striking house along the Black Hill main road, it shouldn't be hard to spot!