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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

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

Tallpree promotes Pure Jab Rum

28 Mar

Visited Grenada last weekend and had an interesting convo with Grenadian soca artiste Tallpree, nee Wilt Cambridge. Not only is this soon to be 40-year-old a mean cook (he claims he makes the best oildown ever) but he also has his own rum. Sounds familiar?

Looks like Tallpree took a page out of the Machel Montano merchandising playbook. But it makes sense considering that Montano’s 3Zero rum is distilled in Grenada at Westerhall Estate, one of two distilleries on the island.  Tallpree’s rum, Pure Jab, is made at the other distillery, Clarke’s Court, and is a white rum with 55% alcohol content, more than 3Zero which has 52%.


Tallpree holds up a bottle of Pure Jab.

Packaged in a plastic bottle with a shadow image of Tallpree on the packaging, the rum is promoted as the fete rum of Grenada and recently was named one of the top rums in the word by

Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 22 premium white rums from 11 countries with 17 pre-qualified judges.

Clarke’s Court Superior Light, Pure Jab and Pure White rums starred at the competition, bringing home to local manufacturer, Grenada Distillers Limited, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

Clarke’s Court Superior Light was among rums from Venezuela, Barbados, the US, Martinique, Cayman Islands and Paraguay winning gold; while Pure Jab was among spirit from Panama, Haiti and Mexico winning silver.

The site’s tasting notes described Pure Jab as having: Papaya, lychee, banana, dates on the nose with Hints of honey, butterscotch, tropical fruit, mango, figs, dates, elderflower, mint, herbal, spicy, balanced, medium-bodied on the palate. The finish was described as smooth, spicy and lingering.

Like Montano, Tallpree also plans to promote his rum with a Pure Jab riddim which he will work on for this year’s Spice Mas festival, Grenada’s annual Carnival.

Wonder how Pure Jab would taste with that oildown?

Smoothie Factory spreading to the Caribbean

21 Mar


Smoothie Factory today announced the company has signed a master franchise agreement with ASK7 Enterprises Ltd to develop the brand throughout the Caribbean countries.

The agreement covers over 25 countries in the Caribbean including Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and Bermuda. The agreement calls for the development of Smoothie Factory stores within the Caribbean Region and also for sub-franchising of the Smoothie Factory brand from ASK7 Enterprises Ltd.

“Our international guests love Smoothie Factory’s wide variety of high-quality real fruit smoothies, fresh squeezed juices, and authentic frozen yogurt, all served quickly, in attractive, clean, pleasant surroundings every day,” said James Villasana, President, Smoothie Factory. “We are very excited to partner with ASK7 Enterprises Ltd. owned by Alfred Bodden and Katherine Hernandez who have a deep knowledge of the Caribbean market and passion about customer service”.

The first store under the agreement will open in Cayman Islands, during the second quarter of 2013 and with plan to expand to the Dominican Republic in the next 12 – 18 months.

Alfred Bodden, President of ASK7 Enterprises Ltd. believes that the Caribbean market presents a huge opportunity. “In today’s world consumers are on the go more and also have discovered the need of a healthy living which make Smoothie Factory the perfect alternative for the Caribbean with it’s natural Smoothie’s made from fresh fruit and fresh squeezed juices.” he said.

The new stores will be tastefully decorated with bright colours, rich textures, and a modern design. The front counter will take center stage where guests can watch as all of Smoothie Factory’s innovative smoothies and fresh squeezed juices are prepared. The menu features a wide variety of smoothies including everything from the signature Factory Original™ and Strawberry Patche™ to Power Shots™ and Meal Replacement Smoothies.

In addition to the store’s new look and feel, Smoothie Factory will also adapt its menu to the Caribbean palate. The brand will offer traditional American favorites like Peanut Butter Powerhouse™, while also offering traditional flavors, including The Mango Smoothie™ and The Tropical Smoothie™. The shop’s official grand opening will be celebrated with much fanfare, including a ceremony complete with ribbon cutting.

The signing of the agreement marked the continuing expansion of the Smoothie Factory System internationally. Over the next few months, Smoothie Factory plans to celebrate the opening of stores in Jeddah and Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Delhi, India, and Newfoundland, Canada. With the opening in the Cayman Islands Smoothie Factory will operate in seven countries.

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

Congrats to Stephon Scott!!!

16 Jul

Stephon Scott is the regional winner for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Diageo Global World Class Bartending competition that was held in Brazil this past week.

Scott, a Trinidadian bartender who survived several local rounds to win the trip to the finals in Rio de Janeiro, held his own among the competitors from around the world. He made it all the way to the finals, which Tim Philips, 28, from Hemmesphere, World Class Australia, won.

Look out for our interview soon with Stephon.