Category Archives: Jamaican Food and Drink

Jamaican foods and drinks are delicious, versatile, filling, nutritious and spicy! Take a peek at what is on offer with reviews and recommendations on places to eat and drink in Jamaica.

Breakfast at Smurfs Café in Treasure Beach

If you are in the vicinity of Treasure Beach you need to find your way to Smurfs Café & Sports Bar. A Treasure Beach institution, this unassuming ‘Café’ has a roomy shaded seating area at the back and the host Miss Dawn serves the BEST BREAKFAST EVER!

Continue reading Breakfast at Smurfs Café in Treasure Beach

Boardwalk Bistro at Island Village, Ocho Rios

If you are looking for a stylish beachfront eatery with a finger-licking menu and authentic Blue Mountain Coffee, I have found the spot in the coolest corner of Ochi!

If you live or work in the surrounds of Ochi, the Boardwalk Bistro is ideal for when you to get away from it all and avoid the crush of the town. Visitors to Ocho Rios and passengers from the nearby cruise ship pier, will love the warm Jamaican hospitality and beautiful settings without having to hike for hours to get there.

Boardwalk Bistro – Island Village, Ocho Rios

If you haven’t been to Island Village before you are in for a treat! The Boardwalk Bistro is set among the wooden buildings and lush surroundings that make up the beautiful settings of the Island Village complex.

There is a selection of stores, cafe’s, restaurants and entertainment facilities set around a boardwalk that incorporates picturesque natural spring lagoons (seek them out to see the fish), tropical flowers and fruiting trees.

If you look around you, will see that this complex is dreamy and creates the ambiance of an authentic Jamaican village, I love it!

Boardwalk Bistro
Boardwalk Bistro

The Boardwalk Bistro, Ocho Rios

The Boardwalk Bistro is nestled at the far end of the shops and a mere 10 steps away from the private sandy beach at Island Village, in Ocho Rios. You can relax and people watch in the shaded alfresco eating area directly on the boardwalk whilst enjoying your meal, or take in some intimate Jamaican ambience by sitting inside the Bistro.

The interior of the Boardwalk Bistro has a warm and inviting, carefully thought out decor. The main feature being a stunningly fluid Jamaican Guango wood counter that wraps around one wall.

The Bistro’s open kitchen is situated in full view of the dining area, so you can watch the chefs in action and take in the sights and smells of the cooking before you get to sample the food. The sea breeze along with the huge extractor and ceiling fans helps to keep this area cool.

Take a moment between mouthfuls of food to admire the sweeping Guango wood counter and the tables and chairs which are smooth and weighty and handcrafted from locally produced Guango and Cedar wood.

Then take in the masks and pictures adorning the walls depicting early Jamaican and African scenes, which are gently lit by the stained glass wall sconces in the evenings.

The beach front location is ideal if you want to leave your older children nearby on the beach, whilst you take in a Blue Mountain Coffee or a Jamaican Red Stripe Beer on the cool and shady boardwalk!

 

Inside the Boardwalk Bistro Island Village Ocho Rios

 

The Menu at the Boardwalk Bistro

The Bistro is a champion of getting the right mix of local and international foods on the menu. So whether you are in the mood for something new, or an old favourite, you are sure to find something to tempt you.

Although you can get plated foods, the Boardwalk Bistro is an advocate of eating with your fingers. They serve many of the foods in paper stuffed into decorative wire racks forming cones, with ramekins for dips on the side. Ideal for finger dipping!

Jamaican Flavours on the Menu

  • Breakfast: Jamaican style, served with boiled yam, banana and dumpling
  • Jerk Chicken or Pork
  • Curried Mutton
  • Brown Stew Oxtail
  • Snapper (fish)
  • Coconut Curried Shrimp
  • Salt-Fish Balls
  • Soup
  • Rasta Pasta
  • Chefs Salad
  • Chicken Bites
  • Stuffed Chicken Breast
  • Bammy, Rice and Peas, Sweet Potato Fries, Plantain Chips, Johnny Cakes, Festival

 

International Flavours on the Menu

  • Breakfast: English, Continental, Eggs Your Way, Waffles
  • Cheese Burger
  • Cheese wonton
  • Pita Pizzas
  • Boardwalk Pitas (filled pita bread)
  • Wraps
  • White Rice, Potato Wedges

 

Soda Float Boardwalk Bistro
Soda Float Boardwalk Bistro

Drinks and Desserts

The Boardwalk Bistro serves a their own brand of  100% Blue Mountain Coffee, the much celebrated ‘Strawberry Hill’ coffee brand, alongside teas and iced coffees. Plus they have a range of smoothies, shakes, juices, soda floats, sodas and water.

If you want something alcoholic they have wine, beers, cocktails and many ways of serving the Jamaican staple Rum! If you have any room left, they also have a small selection of desserts on offer.

 

My Experience of Eating at the Boardwalk Bistro

I visited the Boardwalk Bistro for a lunch date with a friend and we took residence on one of the much coveted teak tables on the boardwalk overlooking the beach. We were served  in good time by a smiling waitress who handed us menus with botanical illustrations of Jamaican fruits and trees on the front, which I absolutely adore (I know I have weird Art crushes!).

We decided to go for finger foods to share, so we selected some Jamaican and International side order options from the menu.

We went for Salt-Fish Balls, Cheese Wontons, Bammy and some Plantain Chips.

As soon as I saw it on the menu I couldn’t resist ordering a Cream Soda Float, which reminded me of my Dad, who used to make them for us as children. It didn’t disappoint and the ice-cream was nice and creamy.

The food was served in paper covered baskets and wire racks, so we took a basket each and filled it with a few of the fried delights and started tasting! Overall the food was really good.

I especially loved the Salt-Fish Balls, which were a perfect mixture of juicy, salty, bouncy, frittery crispy deliciousness and the Plantain Chips, which tasted as though they had dropped straight off the tree to the chopping board. The Cheesy Wontons were suitably crispy and cheesy and gave a little international edge to the other Jamaican side orders.

Despite ordering fried foods which were presented in unforgiving paper packaging, I noted there was a distinct lack of oil on the paper. Which I always use as a good measure of whether the food will be overly greasy and dripping in fat. So full marks to the Chef for achieving the crunch without the grease!

If I had to find one little fault about the whole experience, it would unfortunately be the bammy. Which is one of my all time favourite Jamaican side orders. It was a bit tough, like it hadn’t quite been soaked long enough before it was fried. But non-withstanding we ate most of it anyway!

We were full after eating the food, so I slipped the paper out of the rack with the remaining Plantain Chips (too good to waste!) and took them with me to nibble on whilst wandering around the Island Village shops afterwards… Delicious!

Our meal including drinks, came in at around $1,800 (Jamaican), not including the tip we added. We thought the cost was very reasonable for the ambiance, service and what we ordered. Highly recommended!

 

NYAM Boardwalk Bistro
NYAM Boardwalk Bistro

 Want to Visit the Boardwalk Bistro?

The Boardwalk Bistro can be found in Island Village Plaza, at the far west end of Ocho Rios Town Centre.

There is ample Parking and clean Washrooms located in Island Village Plaza. The Car park, Washrooms and The Boardwalk Bistro are fully accessible by wheel chair users. 

If entering the plaza through the car park entrance, you will pass the washrooms (stop first if you want to refresh yourself before finding a table) as you walk through the archway. Immediately turn right and follow the boardwalk towards the sea. The Boardwalk Bistro is the last shop on the right-hand side.

If you are coming from the Cruise Ship Pier, head straight down the street passing Oceans 11 and take the first right across a small bridge to the boardwalk, which leads to the sandy beach. The Boardwalk Bistro is the first shop you pass on the corner, conveniently located directly opposite the beach.

If you are coming through the main entrance, walk past the cinema and down the steps, continue past the water feature, lawn and washrooms and follow the boardwalk towards the sea. The Boardwalk Bistro is the last shop on the right-hand side.

Boardwalk Bistro Address

Shop 1/2 Island Village Plaza, Turtle Towers Road, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Phone

(876) 398-2582 / (876) 384-9578

 

Maybe I will see you there when I come back! 

 

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Bless up, Jules

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Share your experience and join the Comments Below….

 

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Calabash Ital Rastarant – Ocho Rios, Jamaica

If you want to try authentic Jamaican food with a twist, then you must try ‘Ital Food’. Nowadays following a ‘clean diet’ is all the rage, but Ital food has been following these principles since its inception. Tasty, healthy, Vegetarian and Vegan dishes are cooked with a flair that is innately Jamaican. Calabash Ital Rastarant is located in Ocho Rios town centre and offers a selection of dishes for breakfast, through lunch and to dinnertime and beyond.

Calabash Ital Rastarant

I am a Vegetarian, so it is a real treat to go to a restaurant where I can choose anything off the menu. Calabash Ital Rastarant is one of my favourite Vegetarian eating spots in Ocho Rios because of the sheer choice and my hardcore meat eating friends love it here too. They have a wide and varied menu with a lot of familiar Jamaican dishes cooked in a meat free format. Including, Vege Chunks, Tofu, Steamed Vegetables, Curried Chickpeas, Ackee, Porridge, Soups, Stews, Vege Burgers and more. If you can’t decide what to order ask for a mixed box, this is a selection of all the different foods cooked on the day served with rice and peas, or hard food (boiled provisions). The food is fresh and delicious and surprisingly affordable. The restaurant has a clean seating area inside and a few tables out on the balcony, alternatively you can buy take away food and they even do delivery in the Ocho Rios region. They have a selection of natural juices on offer too alongside coconut water and other beverages.

Calabash also sell natural products, supplements, t-shirts, incense, accessories, DVD’s, books, posters and beauty products to name a few of the items on offer.

 

Calabash Ital Rastarant Location and Opening Hours

Shop 8
7 James Avenue
Ocho Rios
Jamaica

Telephone Number: 876-570-5565

Calabash also offer a delivery service in the Ocho Rios region.

Opening Hours

Mondays to Thursday  7:00am- 10:30pm

Friday and Saturday  7:00am- 11:30pm

Sunday  9:00am- 9:00pm

 

Calabash Ital Rastarant
Calabash Ital Rastarant

Food Prices at Calabash Ital Rastarant

  • $380 small food
  • $450 medium food
  • $500 large food

What is ‘Ital Food’?

The word ‘Ital’ is derived from the word vital. As Rastafari believe that food and the health and well being of the consumer are all connected. It is part of the faith of the Rastafari in Jamaica and there are certain ‘rules’ of preparing, serving and cooking certain foods stuffs. ‘Ital Food’ is Vegetarian and Vegan based and is considered a ‘clean’ diet, as it contains no preservatives, colourings, flavourings, tinned foods and in many cases even salt is omitted. The food is delicious, fresh and full of nutrients to increase ‘Livity’, or our life energy.

 

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JamDung Bar and Grill – Salem, Runaway Bay, Jamaica

JamDung Bar and Grill – Salem, Runaway Bay, Jamaica

Runaway Bay in Jamaica is a one street town that takes in Salem and Priory when traversing between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Although the town is compact there is a smattering of food and drink outlets and establishments that are worth a mention and JamDung Bar and Grill is one of them.

Location of JamDung Bar and Grill

Okay, so the location isn’t exactly picturesque as it’s situated along the busy A1 Highway, Main Street, Salem. If you are driving it’s located on the OPPOSITE side of the road to the ocean. You can drive inside the JamDung Bar and Grill compound and enjoy yourself within eyesight of your vehicle. The main road is screened with tropical planting and once you sit down and take it the drinks, food, tunes and vibes you will forget the sound of the vehicular traffic trundling along. There are several resorts that are nearby including Jewel Hotel which is within an easy 10 minutes walk along a flat and straight road. Just keep your eyes on the road and look both ways twice, before stepping out into the road and crossing; be aware of motorbikes which may be in your blind spot.

JamDung Bar and Grill
JamDung Bar and Grill

What’s Happening at JamDung Bar and Grill

All the staff at JamDung Bar and Grill are super friendly and the other patrons make visitors feel welcome. They are open in the daytime and is it a much more sedate affair with a few locals hanging out and taking in lunch or a cool drink. The evenings are when things get hyped up and busier. Monday is Karaoke Night and Friday is Old School and Retro Music Night both of which are popular, as they are fun and entertaining nights which draw in a lively crowd.

The kitchen is nearly always open and you have to try the Roast Yam, a speciality of the venue. I also recommend the Fried Breadfruit, which is an absolute favourite of mine (check out my Breadfruit recipes here!). They also have a selection of barbecue and cooked meats and fish, if you are lucky and the fish hasn’t sold out. There is seating both under cover around the bar area and out in the open where parasol’s keep the sun off the tables and chairs.

JamDung Bar and Grill - Roast Breadfruit
JamDung Bar and Grill – Roast Breadfruit

 

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Mangoes in Jamaica

Jamaican Mangoes

Mmmm! Sweet and juicy Mango…. who can resist their charms?! Once the fruits start to swell and ripen it is hard not to look up longingly on a regular basis.  It isn’t long before the fruits sway on the higher branches from their long ‘strings’ and tempt you to eat them, as you find yourself quietly beckoning one of the fruits to drop into your hand. Luckily for me I had a willing and capable tree climber who presented me with sweet and juicy East Indian Mangoes on a daily basis whilst they were ripening on the tree (big smiley face!).

It is said that Mangoes were introduced to Jamaica in the 1700’s when a French Ship was captured at sea by Lord Rodney. There are many varieties of Mango available throughout Jamaica and everyone has their favourite. But, I had the pleasure of a large East Indian Mango Tree in the yard which gave me ample fruits to eat throughout July and barely into the first week of August….

East Indian Mango Tree Climber
East Indian Mango Tree Climber

East Indian Mango

This type of Mango grows to a really big size and the skin is green with reddish marks on it. You can smell the aromatic scent wafting through the skin when they are ripe and they should yield slightly when squeezed. If the fruit is rock hard then don’t buy (or pick) it, but if it starting to shows signs of softening it can be encouraged to ripen if left in a warm place wrapped in a paper bag (or a sheet of The Gleaner!) for a couple of days.

How to Eat Mangoes Jamaican Style…

When you are ready to eat the Mango you should wash the skin, which cannot be consumed. If you choose you can simply bite completely through the top of the skin where it was attached to the tree and suck out the flesh inside, before discarding the skin. Then you just peel the skin down (much as if you were trying to peel an apple in one piece) in a circular fashion, eating the flesh as you go – don’t forget to eat the flesh clinging to the skin!  The flesh inside is a gorgeous orangey-yellow colour and it tastes joyous – oh so juicy and sweet! There is a large seed inside the middle of the flesh, but you can eat around it if you are eating the Mango whole. The trick is to clean off as much flesh from the seed as possible before discarding the seed and skin responsibly.

Or, if you prefer to remove the Mango flesh and reserve it for a dessert, sauce, drink or anything else you can think of… Place the mango upright on a hard surface, carefully holding the Mango steady and feel for the seed inside. Using a sharp knife (that is longer than the width of the Mango) cut from the top to the bottom of the Mango as close as possible to the seed. Repeat on the other side, so you have removed the two ‘fattest sides’ of the Mango flesh, carefully cut through the flesh in a ‘grid’ pattern but don’t break through the skin. Now you can push the skin from the back and delicious squares of Mango will ‘pop’ forward presented to you to harvest! The rest of the Mango flesh can be cut from the seed and cut from the skin in the same way.

The Health Benefits of Eating Mangoes

I can understand why Mangoes are known as the ‘King of Fruits’. Because I took a great deal of comfort from feeding my face with a daily supply of this delicious tropical delight in Jamaica this July, when I realised how good they were for me!

The science behind the pleasure attained from eating Mangoes is that they contain a special enzyme that soothes the stomach, aids digestion and increases the appetite.

They are also packed full of the good stuff, such as: dietary fibre and they are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Plus, they are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as, B6, A, C, E, K, niacin, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, panthothenic acid, potassium, magnesium, selenium, calcium, iron and copper. Antioxidant sources include quercetin, betacarotene, and astragalin.

All these attributes mean that by eating Mangoes you can to help keep blood pressure under control and help to eliminate certain cancers, heart conditions and bowel problems. What is there not to like? Enjoy eating copious amounts of Mangoes in Jamaica!

Please do not help yourself and pick Mangoes from a tree in Jamaica unless

you have permission from the land owner first!

 

Remember to discard of the skins and seeds responsibly and help keep Jamaica beautiful. Or, why not recycle them by making a compost heap and throwing them on it instead?….

Eating Jamaican Spicy Pickle!

If chocolate tea (hot chocolate), real vanilla or spicy pickle are your thing, then you will love this Jamaican food manufacturer…

 

 Spice Girl Products

The second interview in my SUPPORT JAMAICA BUY JAMAICAN! campaign lead me to another inspirational Jamaican woman who is  rocking the natural food manufacturing industry with her sensational pickles, natural vanilla and chocolate teas (hot chocolate). Sheryl Muir is the Managing Director and general superwoman of Spice Girl Products a truly authentic Jamaican enterprise that you will want to taste and savour again and again, as all the ingredients are grown right here in Jamaica…..

The Spice Girl Range of products on offer currently includes:

[list style=”1″ underline=”1″]

  • Spice Girl’s chocolate tea is made from a selection of seeds from the finest cocoa pods, the seeds are naturally sun-dried for about 7 days to remove the moisture and capture the chocolate flavour, after parching and roasting they are pounded in a mortar with a pestle and formed into Jamaica Spice Girl Chocolate balls. The fabulous kit has three (3) Chocolate balls, Vanilla Bean, Nutmeg and Cinnamon Leaves to create the perfect cup of chocolate tea (hot chocolate).
  • They also offer dried vanilla beans (pods) and a natural Vanilla Extract which has no sugar or preservatives, which is “aged” for at least six months before bottling to develop flavour.
  • Plus, a Vegetable Pickle that contains scotch bonnet peppers, carrots, onions, cucumber, pimento seeds and vinegar, which can be enjoyed with fish, sardines, pork or poultry for a vibrant and tasty condiment.

[/list]

Did you know?

Vanilla beans are natural fruit from vining orchid vanilla Planifolia Andrews, the plant produces flowers after the first three years and annually thereafter. The flowering period last for about five (5) months of the year, each flower survives for only eight hours and must be hand pollinated within this time to make sure a bean which stays to the vine for about nine months to achieve maturity. Beans are thereafter naturally sun cured and conditioned to achieve the Worlds “Supreme Vanilla Bean From Jamaica”.

My Interview with Sheryl Muir of Spice Girl Products gave an insight of what manufacturing Jamaican food is all about…

Vanilla Extract Spice Girl Products
Vanilla Extract Spice Girl Products

Interview questions

 

1. Introduce yourself and your role in the company?

I am Sheryl Muir, my primary place of residence is Kingston Jamaica and I am the founder and Managing Director of Spice Girl Products.

 

2. When was your company established and why did you choose this career path?

Spice Girl Products was established as a sole trader operation in April 2010.The genesis of the company reflected a desire and response to my training and courses at the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) where I pursued studies in Business Administration, and Tourism & Hospitality.

3. Tell me about your typical working day?

My typical day starts at 5 a.m and revolves around my family and organizing my business. I am the mother of two girls ages eight and nine years old. After feeding, preparing and taking them for school I become immersed in any of the following activities depending on appointments or schedules. Visiting the country to arrange raw material supplies and check on happenings at the vanillary, actual manufacture of products, packaging, labelling, preparing orders, delivering products or instructing deliveries, meeting with clients, graphic artist, packaging suppliers or, checking on in store displays and sometimes facilitating in store sampling, promotion and banking and other financial issues. These activities must be completed by 3 p.m when it becomes time for collecting the girls, seeing to their extra curricular activities and feeding, supervising homework, spending some quality time and seeing them off to bed by 8pm. My administrative and computer time begins there after and I am usually in bed by 10:00p.m with some t.v. time until sleep takes over.

4. What is your company philosophy?

Quality product, Quality Service.

5. Where is your Head Office based and do you manufacture / produce your products in Jamaica?

Spice Girl primary raw materials are produced at the Elan Farms in Hope Bay Portland, Woodside in St.Mary. Packaging, quality control and distribution is executed in Kingston.

Jamaican Vanilla Pods
Jamaican Vanilla Pods

6. Do you use Jamaican raw materials in your products?

Raw materials used in Spice Girl Products are locally produced.

7. Are you Jamaican?

I was born in St.Elizabeth, Jamaica.

8. Tell me your top 3 likes and dislikes about Jamaica?

My three likes about Jamaica are:

  1. Perceived potential of the country to provide a truly rewarding experience.
  2. The moderate climatic conditions of the country throughout the year.
  3. Potential friendly tourism destination.

My three dislikes are

  1. Visionless politicians who are clueless to what is required to facilitate business development.
  2. The high crime rate and praedial larceny.
  3. Unnecessary bureaucracy and lack of developmental opportunity to promote productive enterprise.

 

9. What new company plans and visions are you working on?

For 2013 we intend to launch our Vanilla flavoured teas and open the Spice Girl farm tours in conjunction with Elan Farms in Hope Bay Portland for sometime in July.

10. What is your personal favourite product that you make and why?

Natural Vanilla Extract from the “Supreme Beans” produced at Elan Farms. We hope to educate Jamaicans and international health conscious persons to go easy on the artificial vanilla and start using natural vanilla.

vanilla extract 114ml Spice Girl Products
vanilla extract 114ml Spice Girl Products

11. Who or what, is your inspiration or role model?

My inspiration is definitely my girls, they have been my support team through thick and thin.

12. Where can we buy your products in Jamaica and overseas?

Spice Girl Products can be found in the Mobay Airport, thirty-two supermarket outlets and online @ www.spicegirlproducts.com

13. How do you love to spend your free time in Jamaica?

Free time ….Visiting new and interesting adventures or attractions around the country.

14. If you could be Prime Minister of Jamaica for a day, what would you do?

The country has been in degradation for too long, for one day to be effective or meaningful, however, it is of primary importance for the Prime Minister to recognise the importance of National Empowerment of the masses not through marginal programs but through programs that are sustainable and encourage, production, consumption and export. The packaging and marketing of Jamaica as a tourism product is seen by us to be the only true solution to Jamaica’s’ economic and by extension crime and other problems….

15. Which Jamaican, dead or alive, do you feel made the biggest contribution to Jamaica and why?

I believe Norman Manley made a significant contribution with his vision for community development and Edward Seaga has made a good try for cultural awareness.

Jamaican Vegetable Spice Pickle
Jamaican Vegetable Spice Pickle

16. If you could impart one piece of advice to inspire young Jamaicans to start their own businesses or succeed in their chosen career, what would it be?

Stay true to yourself, perseverance and dedication despite the obstacles and definitely learn to accept changes wherever necessary. Must gain knowledge in their respective field and surround themselves with positive people that will always encourage and support them.

17. If you could change jobs, what would you do?

I’ve asked myself this question many times…………but definitely being paid to travel to other countries and learn more about their culture, food, attractions and adventures (Professional Tourist).

18. Apart from your own company, what is your favourite Jamaican company and why?

Grace Foods…..They had a vision and a plan and they execute it as a family……They are an inspiration to many young entrepreneurs.

19. What do you believe contributes most to your company’s ongoing success?

Quality products, good service and the support of loyal customers, well wishers and immediate family.

20. What do you feel your company has to offer the international and home markets, over and above your competitors?

Our unique products. There are no other commercial vanillaries in the English-speaking Caribbean, United States, Canada or Europe.

Spice Girl Products logo
Spice Girl Products logo

21. How do you believe we as a nation can help to build Jamaica?

As stated earlier massive Jamaica packaging and tourism promotion.To achieve this in a meaningful way we need to change the mindset of our people to move away from the hand out mentality. Unfortunately, our current crop of politicians on all sides of the aisle seem to lack the moral or entrepreneurial ability to lead such a charge. We must be contented with tiny steps until…….

22. What are your aspirations for Jamaica?

To have a peaceful, welcoming and productive country where the masses are truly independent and empowered.

23. What are your thoughts on the ‘SUPPORT JAMAICA BUY JAMAICAN!’ post on Sweet Jamaica’s blog?

Your concept is very much in keeping with the principle of packaging Jamaica for consumption….We wholeheartedly ” Support Jamaica Buy Jamaica” Concept.

Thanks Sheryl it was a pleasure interviewing you…. anytime you need a food sampler ‘hail me up!’

 

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Want to learn more, buy something or get in touch with Spice Girl Products you can do it here:

Website: www.spicegirlproducts.com 

Mailing Address: Woodside, Pear Tree Grove, St Mary, Jamaica.

Please contact us at any of the following email address:

spicegirlproducts@gmail.com

products@shopspicegirlproducts.com

info@shopspicegirlproducts.com

Telephone: 1-876-484-9976

Spice Girl Products

“Spice for Life!”

Jamaican Cook Shops

Cook Shops are establishments that usually serve hot food and cold snacks, as an alternative to a fast food takeaway / eateries, although the food is rarely fast and is invariably much more healthy and tasty than the local burger or pizza joint! Each has their own specialities and popular dishes they like to offer, but you can often find them open from early in the morning until late at night serving delicious cheap food.

Continue reading Jamaican Cook Shops

Jamaican Local Shops

If you are out and about in Jamaica check out one of the locally owned shops and bars if you are feeling thirsty or want a snack. The prices are slightly higher than the supermarket, but they are nowhere near as expensive as the tourist places and you will get to mingle with the locals. You can easily spot them from the hand painted designs, customised illustrations and invariably the Jamaican Flag or colours proudly represented in the design. It is popular in the smaller shops that the merchandise is kept behind the counter with a mesh screen rising to the ceiling, the small ‘hatch’ at the front enables the customers to order and pay for the goods and to be served. You can find these establishments scattered all over the island, on or around the land where the vendor lives, by the roadside, or any other ‘profitable’ location that can be found.  They serve passing trade and the local community, when a bigger supermarket is unnecessary or too far away. If you are on the road and want a snack and a drink, this is what you can expect to find and pay inside:

Cost of Food and Drinks

Average Prices of beverages:

  • Soda / Fizzy drinks (large personal sized), such as Bigga, D&G are approx. $80
  • $70  Soda / Fizzy drinks (medium-sized), such as Bigga, D&G are approx .$50
  • Soda / Fizzy drinks (small child size), such as Likkle Bigga, D&G are approx. $40
  • Fruit drinks, such as Tampico are approx.$100
  • Bottled Water, such as WATA or Catherine’s Peak, are approx. $60 – $70
  • Cranberry water are approx. $70 to $80
  • Nutritional drinks, such as Supligen are approx. $180
  • Energy Drinks, such as Boom and Red Bull are approx. $150
  • Bag Juice, flavoured water that is often frozen / chilled are approx. $20 – $40
  • Beer and stout, are approx. Red Stripe $160, Dragon Stout $170 and Guinness $180
  • Wines, are approx. Magnum $200, Red Label Wine $140 to $300 for a large size.
  • Liquor, such as a shot of Wray & Nephew is generally $100 rising to $150 if ‘chased’ with soda or juice (you might be required to buy the can / bottle of chaser).
  • Liquor, such as a ‘flask’ (UK quart bottle) of Wray & Nephew is generally $450 – $500 and works out most cost-effective if you are planning of drinking more than 2 shots.
  • Please note international liquor such as Brands of Brandy/Cognac sold in the UK are as much as $500 for one drink/glass… and that doesn’t usually include a chaser – so be warned!

 

Average Prices of Snacks:

• Bun, Individual round fruit bun $70 or cheese bun are generally $80 – $90

• Bag snacks, such as Cheezesticks $10, Tigers Cheese Snacks $35, Cheezees $40

• Banana Chips are approx. $50 and Plantain Chips,  are approx $70

• Bulla, (try with ripe banana or pear/avocado) are approx. $45 – $50

• Sweets / Candy starts from $5 to $15, bon bons (lollipops) are approx. $15 – $20

• Bread (or mongoose bread, because it is long and thin), small long sweetish tasting baps are approx. $130

These Prices are Correct as of June 2013 and are based on average prices collated from in and around rural St. Ann’s.

PLEASE NOTE: All monetary values in this article using the ‘$’ sign as a pre-fix; refer to the Jamaican National Currency of Jamaican Dollars.

Building Materials

Local shops are ‘self- made’ by the owner and built with their friends and family giving a hand, or if the construction is beyond their own capabilities someone will be paid to build it . If you want to build your own shop, or lend a hand to someone else, you will need the following materials:

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  • Ply board or ‘planks’ of wood for the roof, walls, floor, windows, doors, display shelves and counter
  • Hand-cut thin young saplings for the framework and posts, counter, door and window openings
  • Zinc (corrugated metal sheeting), flattened metal drums or containers to cover the roof and the sides
  • Wire mesh for the counter grill
  • Tarpaulin or ‘crocus bags’ (empty rice or flour bags) to line the inside
  • Linoleum for the floor and countertop.
  • Screeded cast floor with rocks mixed in for strength

 

  • Should more money be available to invest in the construction then blocks (thermalite or breeze block style) would be used to make the walls
  • Roof and floor would be cast or decked (screeded) in concrete
  • Tiles are often used on the floor

Coming from a construction background I am always AMAZED at the tenacity Jamaicans show in building shops (and houses, but that’s another story!). Not only in terms of where you wouldn’t think it was possible, petering on the side of hills and rock faces, the length and breadth of roadsides, on stilts with gangways and generally anywhere they are able to get a foothold, but also the use and recycling of materials is undeniably ingenious!

Stocking the Shop

Local shop owners buy products and merchandise from wholesale vendors in the larger towns, whilst others feel they can get more choice or better deals by travelling to Montego Bay or Kingston to buy their stock. There are also Goods Trucks in certain areas which circumnavigate the small country roads serving communities and vendors that are unable to travel to buy goods themselves, or those whom prefer the ‘home delivery’ method; this service provides a valuable resource and can cut travelling / sourcing expenses for some traders.

Sometimes the owners may raise livestock, such as chicken for meat and eggs, hogs (pigs), goats or grow produce which they sell as their sole product lines, or as an addition to complement the purchased stock. The owners will often start selling a small range of products that are readily required by the local community, such as, food stuffs, cosmetic and personal hygiene products, clothing, cleaning products, farming supplies, cooked food and invariably liquor and beverages.

The more fortunate are able to make enough profit to extend their business in some way, such as investing in wider product lines and a fridge or freezer to accommodate chilled and frozen products. A television, DVD player and / or a hi-fi (sound system) is also a popular investment that is blasted loudly to attract customers to stay longer (and hopefully spend more!) Some of them may increase the size of the shop, or upgrade the construction type in time. It is likely that you will pay a little extra for goods bought from these vendors compared to the larger supermarkets, as they do not have the same leverage and dependant of the size of the shop there might be a limited choice of items. I have to say though that I am always amazed at how many products these canny vendors manage to fit in their shops and I like to support them too.

Local Shop St. Ann Jamaica
Local Shop St. Ann Jamaica

Source of Income

The owners of these establishments often rely on the sale of goods as their sole source of income, which invariably includes their cost of living, sending their children to school, healthcare and so on, so the passing custom is a welcome addition to the local community trade. I have yet to find a miserly shopkeeper and the majority are rightly proud of their achievements in opening their business places, no matter how ramshackle it may seem to those accustomed to the local ‘corner’ stores in their home country. Please bear in mind that they need to sell 24 sodas to make around $400 or 24 bottles of beer or stout to make around $1,000 profit, which is hard work. So please stop, treat the owner with respect, greet them with a smile and a cordial greeting using Miss, Madam or, Sir especially to those who are senior to you in age and experience the warmth of the locals and help support them in their endeavours.

A point of note:

Be wise and respectful. You may find yourself centre of attention if you waft in with a fistful of notes or a bulging handbag or purse and your latest mobile (cell phone) in your hand when purchasing a drink or snack, and the locals may think you are acting ‘bosey’ (showing off) if they do not have that amount of cash readily available. A $500 bill, or a few $100 bills are suffice if only buying a few snack items. Carry Jamaican cash with you, it’s the national currency after all and it isn’t that hard to decipher the exchange rate. Plus, you are more likely to find it easier to use than UK Stirling £ and USA Dollars $ especially in smaller rural areas, whereby it will be harder for you to receive the correct change (which will nearly ALWAYS be in Jamaican Dollars $).

Don’t Worry Be Happy!

Sometimes if there are locals around they will stop and have a chat and share an anicodote or two, which can be very amusing. Children are often more intrigued by the new face and as is usual for children, they may either openly stare at you, or may hide and peep at you wanting to take in the new sight. I have never met any hostile response to my arrival and one of the most endearing experiences had been a small toddler who came over to touch my leg as she thought I looked like a dolly!

I generally try to break the ice by simply treating people with the respect they deserve; smiling or nodding my head whilst looking the person directly is usually enough to break them out in a warm and responsive smile. Although it will be seen as seriously strange and humorous behaviour if you start walking around manically nodding and smiling at everyone! If the mood takes you it never hurts to show a random act of kindness, buy a handful of sweets / candy and hand them out to the children…. think about it.

Jamaicans are proud people, and rightly so, they do not let many things hold them back from eking a living somewhere. If you only stop and look, you will also notice the enterprising ways in which they make ends meet. Although you may get better deals and choice at the larger supermarkets in the towns, you will invariably need to buy a few supplies, or at the very least buy a drink or snack (bun, banana chips, cookies and so on) whilst driving through the interior of the country, so don’t be shy get out there and frequent these shops. You will be pleased you did!