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Taste the Islands Experience Wraps Phenomenal Third Year, Already Making Plans for Fourth Annual Festival 4
Julian Marley signing autographs for the fans - Photo by Eric Greaves

Taste the Islands Experience Wraps Phenomenal Third Year, Already Making Plans for Fourth Annual Festival

Taste the Islands Experience Wraps Phenomenal Third Year, Already Making Plans for Fourth Annual Festival 1
US Virgin Islands Chef Ralph Motta during his cooking demonstration – Photo by TJ Brown

Fans of Caribbean cuisine, culture and travel enjoyed a weekend of island indulgences on April 27 and 28 on the grounds of History Fort Lauderdale. With high-powered supporters including the Community Foundation of Broward, History Fort Lauderdale, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Visitors and Convention Bureau, and Yellow Cab of Broward, the 3rd annual Taste the Islands Experience (TTIX) became a weekend-long event with a variety of fun and fanciful activities for the discerning food and travel connoisseur. Event producers Island Syndicate are already making plans for a stronger showing at TTIX 2020.

The highlight of Saturday’s main event included culinary demos by Chef Ralph Motta of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mixologist Marv “Mr Mix” Cunningham of The Bahamas, Cynthia “Chef Thia” Verna of Haiti accompanied by singer J. Perry, Mixologist Philip “Casanova” Antoine, and Hugh “Chef Irie” Sinclair accompanied by singer Julian Marley.

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Haiti’s J Perry and Cynthia ‘Chef Thia’ Verna after cooking demonstration – Photo by Xavier Russell
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Jamaica’s Hugh ‘Chef Irie’ Sinclair with Julian Marley during his cooking demonstration – Photo by Anna Keith

Marley offered a meet-and-greet to adoring fans, while sponsors and special guests received his new album and CBD olive oil samples in their swag bags. The olive oil brand “Juju Royal” was also on hand for sampling and purchase.

Taste the Islands Experience Wraps Phenomenal Third Year, Already Making Plans for Fourth Annual Festival 4
Julian Marley signing autographs for the fans – Photo by Eric Greaves
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Chef Sheron Chin’s unique Jerk Chicken ‘Soushi’ Rolls – Photo by Xavier Russell
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Chef Danny Peñalo representing Taste the Islands – Photo by TJ Brown

J. Perry headlined the night, thrilling fans with a set that attendees thoroughly enjoyed, whether they understood the mixed English-Creole lyrics or not.

Guests were able to sample drinks and bites from around the Caribbean region in the “Island Pavilions.” 2019 Island Pavilion host islands included The Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados and the US Virgin Islands. Culinary offerings included The Bahamas’ “Loaded Mango Tree,” Jamaica’s “Jerk Chicken Soushi Rolls,” Taste the Islands’ “Bacon Wrapped Scallopfongo” presented by Chef Danny Peñalo, Barbados’ “Barbados Allure,” and U. S. Virgin Islands “Sofrito Braised Chicken.”

For that feeling of ultimate escape from everyday life, guests also enjoyed activations like the glam studio hosted by Makeup by Rory Lee and Natural Trendsetters, and massage studio courtesy of Goldson Spine.

Chef Sheron Chin of Standing Ovation Catering and one of the special few to “Beat Bobby Flay,” Chef Winston Williams of CC Catering – a U.S. Virgin Islands native who has appeared on Cooking Channel’s “Carnival Eats,” Chef Danny Peñalo of Yarumba Dominican Restaurant, along with “Taste the Islands” TV show hosts Chef Thia and Chef Irie, participated in a chef panel discussing being an evangelist for Caribbean culture via cuisine. The lounge area where their presentation took place also housed a cigar bar, rum sommelier presentation by the folks at Swirl Wine Bistro and Real McCoy Rum, and a live Yellow Cab Karaoke session.

Guests were also treated to a repeat of 2018’s Caribbean Culinary Museum and Theater, and a new element – the Tasting Tour – which offered an audiovisual presentation of a tour around the islands, accompanied by samples of signature dishes from each island visited along the way. At the end of the evening, Sherrie Brown of sponsoring organization Community Foundation of Broward gave hearty congratulations to the production team for bringing the culinary and performing arts together for such a spectacular staging.

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Chef Winston Williams of CC Catering dropping some knowledge during the chef panel – Photo by RJ Deed

Corporate vendors, artisans, and some of South Florida’s best Caribbean restaurants and caterers spent the day interacting with a diverse audience, some of whom returned to end cap the weekend at “Brunch on the Sunny Side.”

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Emcee Kalyn James with Community Foundation of Broward Representative Sherrie Brown – Photo by TJ Brown

A Second Day Featuring Food, Fashion and Travel

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Designer Tanya Marie (center) with models – Photo by RJ Deed

Guests of the Sunday Brunch enjoyed a tropical menu designed by Chef Irie, and executed by Chef Kevin Small of Coalfire Catering. Dishes like ropa vieja, macaroni pie and jerk chicken omelets, were prepared using fresh ingredients, and served alongside a phenomenal mimosa bar. Korbel Champagne and Barbados teamed up to present a selection of four specially created cocktails by award-winning Barbadian mixologist Philip “Casanova” Antoine. The colorful presentation and edible flowers included were a well appreciated touch, as was Barbados’ giveaway of a 5-day, 4-night stay at one of their luxury hotels – Treasure Beach.

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Mixologist Philip ‘Casanova’ Antoine, trip winner, and Barbados Tourism Rep Seymour Bailey – Photo by RJ Deed

The highlight of the brunch, however, was the beautifully coordinated fashion show. Tanya Marie Design and Garçon Couture presented a selection of exquisite signature suits and summer wear that had the audience engaged from start to end.

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Garçon Couture Designer Jean Francillion with brand ambassador Richard Lecoin – Photo by Eric Greaves

TTIX producer Calibe Thompson said, “We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. The weather was gorgeous, our guests enjoyed the array of authentic Caribbean elements we brought together for them, and our partners and vendors presented an amazing level of food, consumer products, and travel options. The Sunday brunch, which was a new addition, was a surprise winner. We had more people show up than expected, and we’ve been asked to consider making it a quarterly event. Seeing the Caribbean presented by Caribbean people and being so well received is a real point of pride for our entire team. We’re looking forward to exponential growth in the coming years.”

Support has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Helen and Frank Stoykov Charitable Endowment Fund, David and Francie Horvitz Family Fund, Ann Adams Fund, and Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund.

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Written by Staff Writer