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Best restaurants and bars honoured in T&T

19 Jun


The Table Talk Food Awards, a Jamaican event started by The Observer Lifestyle editor Novia McDonald-Whyte, was held in Trinidad and Tobago recently. Over the last six weeks, judges visited 104 restaurants, cafes and bistros as well as bars to determine the best of the best in the country. The official awards ceremony was held on Saturday night and here are the winners:

Digicel People’s Choice Award for Best Street Food:
D GREEN SHED (Debe)Best Bar Experience: DREAM Ultra Lounge & Bar

Best Original Bacardi Mojito Experience: The RISE Restaurant & Bar


Best Sunday Brunch: THE WATERFRONT RESTAURANT at the Hyatt Regency

Best Coffee Shop/Pastry/Dessert: ADAM’S BAGELS


Best Lunch Value: KARIWAK VILLAGE (Tobago)




Restaurant of the Year: BUZO OSTERIA ITALIANA

Chef of the Year: RAYMOND JOSEPH

Food Personality of the Year: DUANE DOVE of Tobago Estates Chocolate

Scotiabank Award for Lifetime Achievement: JOE BROWN



Kester Blake wins T&T leg of Diageo Reserve World Class Bartending competition

13 Jun

Kester Blake holds up his trophy

Kester Blake will represent Trinidad and Tobago at the global finals of the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartenders Competition next month.

The Club Zen employee won the finals of the local leg last week, beating out early favourite, Karlina Permell of Trinidad Hilton, and four others to win the opportunity to compete against the world’s best.

Blake will be one of two Caribbean representatives at the finals along with Cayman Islands winner Simon Crompton.

The local leg of the finals were held at La Cantina restaurant last Thursday with the six finalists Blake, Permell, Martin James (Trinidad Hilton Hotel), Richard Atkins (Zanzibar), Trevon Pascal (Zanzibar Restaurant) and Tia Hutchings (Town Restaurant) competing in four challenges.


Some of the fresh ingredients for use by the bartenders


Some of the brands that were used in the competition.

In the first three rounds, everyone competed, first taking on the Responsible Serve Test writing and serving challenge. The latter challenged the bartenders to pour shots of differing quantities with one hand without using a measure. Diageo brand ambassador Paulo Figueiredo was the head judge alongside last year’s Latin America and Caribbean winner Stephon Scott.


Judges Paulo Figueiredo and Stephon Scott measure the amount poured by bartender Martin James during the Responsible Drinking test

The second round tested the bartenders’ speed, as they were required to make six cocktails in eight minutes while fielding questions from the judges. Figueiredo explained that in real life bartenders must be able to work efficiently while interacting with customers at a bar. Some of the competitors fared well making as much as five cocktails, while some buckled under the pressure and only completed three. The judges scored the bartenders on technique, presentation, taste and their ability to complete the task in the required time as the bartenders churned out cocktails such as the Negroni, Bloody Mary, Mojito, Tom Collins, Daiquiri and Cosmopolitan.


Karlina Permell shows off her five cocktails made for her speed test.


Trevon Pascall makes his cocktails during the speed test

Only four advanced to the third round: Blake, Pascal, Permell and Atkins. In this round the bartenders were required to create two cocktails to complement two of three dishes, a Caprese with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, Prosciutto wrapped pears, a Bomba pizza with pepperoni, pepper flakes and pepper sauce and a Panna Cotta dessert.


Panna Cotta dessert, one of three dishes the bartenders had to choose from to pair their cocktails with.


The Bomba pizza, made with pepperoni, pepper flakes and pepper sauce.


Prosciutto wrapped pears.

Blake was a certain contender for the finals after this round as he captivated the judges Figueiredo, Scott and Diageo Reserve Relationship Manager Katherine Gray-Inniss, with his Ciroc vodka based cocktail Lust which he paired with the Panna Cotta, and his Ron Zacapa based Pride which he paired with the Proscuitto. Both drinks were not only flavourful and tasty but perfectly complemented the dishes in colour.


Lust, Kester Blake’s cocktail he paired with the Panna Cotta dessert


Judge Stephon Scott smells Trevon Pascal’s milk based cocktail which was paired with the pizza. It contained Coffee and Ron Zacapa.

Pascal joined a clearly emotional Blake in the final Signature Serve round in which each bartender had to create cocktails for five judges who were drawn from the media pool present. They then had to hold a 10-minute interactive session with the judges following which Blake was announced the winner.


Kester Blake’s winning cocktail Santa Cruz

Blake will travel to Panama with the Caymanian and Latin American representatives for a final training session before heading to Nice, France, where he will spend seven days aboard the luxury cruise, Azamara Journey, for the global finals. The ship will visit destinations such as St Tropez and Ibiza before competitors disembark in Spain.

Kester’s Winning Drinks


  • Ron Zacapa 23-year-old
  • Cinnamon Syrup
  • Cranberry Juice (white)
  • Lime Juice
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Nutmeg


  • Ciroc Vodka
  • Strawberries and grapes
  • Simple syrup
  • Lime Juice
  • St Germain liquer

Santa Cruz

  • Lime
  • Simple syrup
  • Mint leaf
  • Don Julio tequila
  • Club soda
  • Grand Marnier

Oracle launched for Tobago Fashion Coda

20 Apr

In the midst of the Jazz season in Tobago, a fashion event called the Tobago Coda will take place at the Magdalena Grand. The show will take place on Thursday April 25 and will showcase designs from a number of designers in Trinidad and Tobago.

There promises to be an after party at which guests will no doubt sip a special cocktail made for the event called the Oracle.

The cocktail was launched this past week at the House of Angostura, the company responsible for creating the cocktail.

The cocktail was concocted by mixologist Raymond Edwards, and is made with White Oak Rum, Angostura Orange Bitters and lots of citrusy fruit.



1 ½ oz White Oak Rum

¾ oz Bols Grenadine Syrup

½ oz Pink Grapefruit Juice

½ oz Fresh Lime Juice

10-12 Fresh mint leaves

2 dashes Angostura® orange bitters

Recipe: Zacapa Wake Up Call

20 Apr

ImageThis is Karlina Permell’s winning cocktail for the second wave of the local leg of the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender competition.

Zacapa Wake Up Call

2 oz Ron Zacapa Centenario 23
2 oz fresh Melon
1/2oz lavender infused syrup
1/4 oz Cointreau
1 bar spoon vanilla sugar

Place all ingredients into shaker with ice, shake and pour. Garnish with
Melon balls.

Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year: Karlina wins second leg of Trinidad Wave

20 Apr

Stephon Scott – judge, Mario Navarro (lead judge, Ron Zacapa Global Brand
Ambassador), Karlina Permell – winner, Jaime Garcia – local brand
Ambassador, Kathryn Gray – A.S. Bryden Diageo Reserve relationship Manager

Karlina Permell emerged the winner of the second wave of the local leg of DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS BARTENDER OF THE YEAR, the world’s largest and most credible mixology competition, recently held at Texas de Brazil Churrascaria, Fiesta Plaza, Movie towne, Port of Spain.

As the competition moved to the second wave of training and competition, local bar tenders were schooled by Ron Zacapa Global Brand Ambassador Mario Navarro for two days. During the sessions, several of the country’s best bar tenders were challenged to create not only tasty cocktails, but to enhance the overall experience for their patrons, all the while encouraging responsible drinking.

Ms. Permell represented Trinidad Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre in the competition and suitably impressed the judging panel with her cocktails entitled “Zacapa Wake Up Call”, “Zacapa Boost” and “Zacapa Glory”.


Kester Blake representing Zen Nightclub and Trevon Pascal of Zanzibar tied for second place, while Richard Atkins of Zanzibar came in third with his cocktails “Red Woman”, Passion, Spice and Paradise” and “April Mornings”.


Scores from this challenge will go towards selecting the local representative to the 2013 Global Final in which over 50 bartenders from around the world will compete for the coveted title of Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year, which will take place aboard boutique Azamara Club Cruise’s ship, Azamara Journey, from 4th – 9th July 2013.

“This is a great learning experience for us all, I have been really impressed with the level of interest and standard of presentation from the competitors” said Mario Navarro, lead judge. “ Also I noticed that in both the first and second wave ladies emerged the winners, that’s an interesting situation, I am very eager to return to Trinidad for future events in this competition.” he continued.

The third wave of the competition will be held next month with the theme “Hollywood, Bollywood, Hong Kong”, where the focus will be on the art of cocktail presentation and service featuring the brand Johnnie Walker Blue Label with a visit by the Regional Brand Ambassador Arturo Savage.

Follow the competition on Facebook at the ‘Global WORLD CLASS Finals’ page: and

Dinner with Ron Zacapa

11 Apr

The second wave of the Trinidad and Tobago leg of the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year competition was held on Tuesday. The featured beverage was Ron Zacapa.

Mario Navarro, Global Brand Ambassador for the Guatemalan rum was in Trinidad to conduct training and oversee the competition which was won by Karlina Permell.

On Tuesday night, Navarro hosted a private dinner at Texas de Brazile, where specially invited guests, including yours truly, enjoyed a tasting session of the Ron Zacapa 23 and XO rums as well as a specially prepared menu of dishes made with the rums.


The evening started out with signature cocktails from last year’s local finalist, the delightfully entertaining Stephon Scott.

ImageIn the private dining area, Navarro walked us through a brief history of Ron Zacapa, which he said has started the conversation about rum as a premium beverage.

He said the rum differs from others because it is aged above the clouds, 2300m above the clouds, which allows for a slow ageing process. The Master Blender is  Loreno Vasquez, who Navarro said, ensures the rum is blended to perfection.

He also explained the handwoven Petate Band that adorns every bottle, saying that is harkens back to the Mayan influence and with the purchase of each bottle, money is used to send children in Guatemala to school.


Soon it was down to the best part, the tasting. The Zacapa 23, Navarro explained, uses four casks and is about character. On the nose, there were scents of raisins, spices, chocolate, and as my husband acutely recognised, it smelt like fruit cake. Navarro said it reminded him of rum cakes, which is basically the same thing.


On the palate, the 23 awakened all the senses with the spices, chocolate mingling with a distinct almond taste which Navarro was surprised that we picked up.  The rum was very smooth and, as Navarro explained to me afterwards, is perfect for a younger drinker between 30 and 40 years old, who wants to discover new things and does not like to show off but simply wants to enjoy his drink neat.

The XO, he said, appeals more to women and is targeted to a over 50 consumer. It is more elegant, he said, is suited to a quiet evening at home and goes well with desserts such as chocolate.

On the nose the XO exudes dried apricots, nuts, and citrus. Smooth on the palate, there were flavours of chocolate, dried fruit, and spices.


A complete meal made with Ron Zacapa rums followed the tasting. Appetizers were a choice between Chicken Kebab with a Ron Zacapa drizzle or  Zacapa Lobster Bisque.



The Main Course was a choice between Papillote Tilapia with coconut spiced mushroom or a grilled top sirloin  smothered with caramelized onions infused with Zacapa 23 and served with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans.


Dessert was either a Zacapa Papaya Cream made with ripened paw paws, cinnamon, vanilla ice cream and Zacapa XO or Chocolate Mousse Cake with Zacapa XO.


World Class is BACK!!!

21 Mar

It’s that time of year again when bartenders compete for a spot in the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartenders competition. The finals will take place aboard boutique Azamara Club Cruise’s ship, Azamara Journey, from July 4 to 9.

At the Trinidad and Tobago leg of the first wave which took place at Paprika Restaurant, the ladies took  the lead following an intense two days of training with the Diageo Regional Brand Ambassador, Paulo Figueiredo.

Twenty of this country’s best bartenders, were challenged to present their mixology skills to the judging panel. Tia Hutchings, representing Towne Restaurant and Bar, emerged the winner with her Retro Chic Menu with cocktails entitled Blueberry Spark made with Ciroc Vodka, Watermelon Margarita  followed by her with Tequila don Julio and Dancing Queen made with Ketel One Vodka.


Tia Hutchings, winner of the first wave at work with her winning cocktail.

Richard Atkins of Zanzibar coped the second place followed by Karlina Permell representing Trinidad Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre in third place.

Scores from this challenge will go towards selecting the local representative to the 2013 Global Final in which over 50 bartenders from around the world will compete for the coveted title of Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year.


Last year’s winner Stephon Scott presents a prize to third place winner Karlina Permell.

“The judging panel was thoroughly impressed with the level of competition, the cocktails were well presented and the contenders carefully communicated the details of the brands incorporated as well as the ever important issue of Responsible Drinking.” said Paulo Figueiredo, lead judge. “We can see that this will be another keenly contested year of competition” he continued.

The next wave of the competition will be held in April where the focus will be on the understanding of Tiki culture, tropical ingredients and next-generation tropical drinks featuring the brand Zacapa with a visit by the Regional Brand Ambassador Mario Navarro.

Follow the competition on Facebook at the ‘Global WORLD CLASS Finals’ page: and