Category Archives: Food & Travel

Calabash: The Best Literary Festival

Words by Justine Henzell & Photography by Collin Reid

One of the best ways to spend a weekend anywhere in the world is at the Calabash International Literary Festival in Treasure Beach. A small fishing village on Jamaica’s rugged south coast may sound like an odd place for book lovers from around to congregate but that seaside haven is exactly where thousands make a pilgrimage to every other year.

Yes thousands! From all over Jamaica and from all over the world for 3 days and nights of readings and music which are all presented for free. As the organisers say “Passion is the only price of entry”. Started in 2001 by three friends, Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes and Justine Henzell Calabash is now firmly established on the world calendar of literary events and has hosted Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer prize winners, Man Booker Prize winners, MacArthur Genius Award winners and many Poet Laureates from around the world.

The 2018 staging saw four Lady Laureates reading together for the very first time anywhere – Carol Ann Duffy from the UK, Georgette LeBlanc from Canada, Tracy Kay Smith from the USA and Jamaica’s own Lorna Goodison. Readings of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and memoir are all popular as are the in-depth and often hilarious conversations. Open Mic is expertly guided by Professor Carolyn Cooper and the standard is very high – the audience makes sure of that!

The next staging of Calabash will be May 29-31 2020 so make your reservations now! Follow @calabashfest for all updates.


Be sure to check out reviews from authors that attended the event earlier this summer! See link below:

Panache Mag August 2018

Free Digital Edition: https://goo.gl/7P5gG1

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Mercury Fest 2018

Written By Tevyn Gill | Photos courtesy of the St. Lucia Tourism Authority

Only 3 weeks after an action packed Carnival season, the beautiful, tourism driven island of Saint Lucia followed up keenly with their highly anticipated beach and boat festival, Mercury Fest Saint Lucia. Formerly the hosts of the popular Mercury Beach — initially of Martinican origins — that gained much of its growth on the same Lucian shores of Pigeon Island, saw an end to the event’s four-year run in Saint Lucia. Being one of the most anticipated events of the summer to be held on island, however, the proactive action of Epic Events and the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority seized the opportunity to fill the gap with their own version of the same concept to satisfy the ever growing demand.
The two day event comprised of three events between August 10th & 11th. Its inaugural installment of the now 100% locally produced festival attracted an influx of visitors from all around the region, with over 4000 guests from the French speaking territories where the concept was populated. It is also estimated to have hosted over 150 vessels, which included speedboats, catamarans and yachts from Martinique and Guadaloupe, Barbados, Trinidad, St. Marteen, Puerto Rico, Africa, France and Canada.

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Photos courtesy of the St. Lucia Tourism Authority

Clearly a successful replacement, Mercury Fest generally followed a similar format to its predecessor, with a concert-styled event on Friday night and the typical massive beach party during the day on Saturday at the same venue. Tickets to the events were sold independently, costing EC$100/EU$33 for the Friday alone and EC$150/EU$50 for Saturday only, or as a two-day pass for one price of EC$230/EU$75. As per last year, the Gros Islet Street Party was also promoted as the pre party to the concert, and was a free addition to help usher in the fantastic vibe of the wild weekend.

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Often called the “Spring Break of the Caribbean,” the festivities started on August 10 from 8pm with the traditional Friday night street party in Gros Islet, where the electric atmosphere of the weekend was off to a roaring start. Foreigners and locals could be seen in the packed streets of the vibrant little village enjoying the unique culinary delights of the island or drinking and dancing the night away to the local entertainment. Visitors were offered a smooth introduction to the culture of partying like a local, while also promoting the integration of the variety of cultures present on the island. After their crash course at Gros Islet, ticket holders and spontaneous pumpers alike made their way over to Pigeon Island beach for the first official offering of Mercury Fest 2018.

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For the first time, the venue was outlined in such a way that even the beach’s local vendor huts were incorporated into the event, providing a wide variety of food options and even smaller bar alternatives (a local revenue stream that was missing in previous years). Hosted on both days by the domestic beauty, Mareen Alexander, and energetically translated by the bubbly Esmerasta from Martinique, the show drew an impressive crowd for Friday’s headliner, Kalash. The French Dancehall sensation, known for his hits ‘Free Me’, ‘Taken’ and ‘Mwaka Moon’ was preceded by local artistes such as Ricky T before gracing the stage to the delight of the ecstatic and heavily French populated crowd. However, both French and English speakers alike united in singing the Martinican star’s lyrics word for word as he continued to entice the crowd more and more with his ‘Mavado-esque’ style. Kalash impressively closed the first show, leaving people in great anticipation for the grand festivities of the following day.

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Wasting no time, patrons and vessels began arriving from 9am on Saturday. The classic theme of boats, bikinis, foam and fun was in full effect, with rows of boats lining the entire span of beach, and people swimming and basking in the calm, clear waters. Advertised as the “ultimate beach party,” the festival provided an abundance of the most beautiful women and coolest personalities of the Caribbean. The picturesque ambience provided by the foamy fun and magnificent weather were amplified by the entrancing music by some of the top DJs from Martinique and Saint Lucia, including the likes of DJ Gil, Levi Chin, Hollywood HP and DJ Litchie on the impressive cast. The growing crowd was also treated to performances by the very best Saint Lucian artistes including Shemmy J, Sedale, Mata & Migos, Keisha, Teddyson John and Cooyah leading up to the headline act, Jamaica’s dancehall superstar, Popcaan.

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The popular Jamaican artiste had the crowd chanting his lyrics to every song, and completely captivated by his entertaining antics. He previewed stand out songs from his new album, Forever, such as ‘Silence’, ‘Foreign Love’ and ‘Firm and Strong’. He gave a performance that indubitably left both patrons and promoters satisfied with the Mercury Fest product for 2018, and eagerly looking onward to the future of the festival.
For its first edition, Mercury Fest definitely kept all its promises, as well as keeping the major boat and beach event alive in the island of Saint Lucia. Each year the nautical event succeeds to provide a memorable experience to attendees as the biggest and best beach party. Tourism Minister, Mr. Dominic Fedee said he sees it as a tremendous success, especially in light of the enormous economic impact it has on the island. His hopes are that it continues to gain traction and pull even bigger and more diverse crowds as the event is way more than just a party. It also features local gourmet cuisine, premium drinks, and promotes international integration, home-grown talent and exceptional entertainment from around the region. It is an opportunity to promote Saint Lucian culture and arts while encouraging the engagement of the wider Caribbean region in this all-encompassing experience.

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The vision is that the two-day festival will gain similar regional and international recognition as other notable Caribbean festivals, such as Dream Weekend in Jamaica. This will further boost tourism in Saint Lucia, and by extension, the economy while playing a role deepening Caribbean integration. The saying “out with the old, and in with the new” may be quite applicable for the little island with big dreams, it seems. Regardless, one thing is certain: in the island of Saint Lucia, Mercury Fest is by far the best and biggest beach party of the summer. See you there in 2019!

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Wasting no time, Day 2 patrons and the line water vessels began arriving from 9am. The classic theme of boats, bikinis, foam and fun was in full effect, with rows of boats lining the entire span of beach, and people swimming and basking in the calm, clear waters. Advertised as the “ultimate beach party,” the festival provided an abundance of the most beautiful women and coolest of the Caribbean. The picturesque ambience provided by the foamy fun, the magnificent weather were amplified by entrancing music by some of the top DJs from Martinique and St. Lucia, including the likes of DJ Gil, Levi Chin, Hollywood HP and DJ Litchie on the impressive cast. Performances by the very best Saint Lucian artistes including Shemmy J, Sedale, Mata & Migos, Keisha, Teddyson John and Cooyah— leading up to the headline act, Jamaica’s dancehall superstar Popcaan.

The Jamaican superstar had the crowd chanting his lyrics of every song, and completely captivated by his entertaining antics. He previewed stand out songs from his new album, Forever, such as Silence, Foreign Love and Firm and Strong. He gave a performance that indubitably left both patrons and promoters satisfied with the Mercury Fest product for 2018, and eagerly looking onward to the future of the festival.

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For its first edition, Mercury Fest definitely kept all its promises, as well as keeping the major boat and beach event alive in the island of St. Lucia. Each year the nautical event succeeds to provide a memorable experience to attendees as the biggest and best beach party. Tourism Minister, Mr. Dominic Fedee said he sees it as a tremendous success, especially in light of the enormous economic impact it has on the island. He said hopes it continues to gain traction and pull even bigger and more diverse crowds.
The event is more than a party. It displays local gourmet cuisine, premium drinks, and promotes international integration, home-grown talent and exceptional entertainment from around the region. It is an opportunity to promote St. Lucian culture and arts while encouraging the engagement of the wider Caribbean region in this all-encompassing experience.

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The vision is that the two-day festival will gain similar regional and international recognition as other notable Caribbean festivals, such as Dream Weekend in Jamaica. This will further boost tourism in St. Lucia, and by extension, the economy while playing a role deepening Caribbean integration. The saying “out with the old, and in with the new” may be quite applicable for the little island with big dreams, because one thing is certain: in the island of St. Lucia, Mercury Fest is by far the best and biggest beach party of the summer. See you there in 2019!

Skylark Charity Dinner with Chef Nina Compton

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Photography by Michael Condran/ Skylark Negril

New boutique hotel Skylark Negril Beach Resort hosted Top Chef star Chef Nina Compton for a pop-up dinner on Saturday, July 28th, 2018.

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Photography by Michael Condran/ Skylark Negril

The dinner was a huge success and the event raised US $10,000 for the Rockhouse Foundation which is dedicated to empowering Negril’s educational facilities. Most recently the foundation completed its most ambitious project — the construction of the Savanna-la-Mar Inclusive Infant Academy (SIIA). The school is the first mixed-ability, special needs early childhood school in Western Jamaica.

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Photography by Michael Condran/ Skylark Negril

In its first year of operation, 30 three-year-old children were enrolled and this September, another 30 students will arrive for the new school term.

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Jamaica’s own ‘Chopped Champion’ and Miss Lily’s Chef Andre Fowles helped St. Lucian-born Chef Compton prepare the jerk-themed five course meal. The final menu from the evening’s charity dinner include Jerked Barracuda, Jerked Oxtail, Breadfruit Gnocchi, Dasheen Puree, Jerked Mango, Coconut Rice Pudding and more.

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For more info, visit: http://www.skylarknegril.com

The Sony 1000XM2 Review

Review By DJ Courtney | Photo courtesy of Sony

Let me start by saying this, I love these damn Sony 1000XM2 Headphones, I’m not even sure what colour it is, because depending on the lighting it may look gold or cream. Either way, with its brilliant finish, it’s just nice to look at.

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Photography by Oneil Banton

During the unboxing of the headphones I normally don’t read the features, so when I connected to the Bluetooth, I was prompted that an app was available & that it could also be upgraded. So I followed the instructions, let me tell you, this is one of the most feature-packed headphones I’ve ever used, but that wasn’t all, when I looked at the controls on the headphones I decided to take a quick glance, well guess what, I found a feature that is simply amazing.

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Photography by Sony

Say you’re listening to music & you see someone who wants to talk to you, you can simply hold your hand over the right ear cup, where the controls are located, the music goes almost into a soft mode & you are able to hear the person speaking without removing the Headphones. Boooooommm!

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So let’s get to the real deal, after charging it for couple hours, I connected my iPhone via Bluetooth, which was as easy as can be. Since then, I’ve been using it for about a week, and trust me when I say it’s been a very happy experience. The sound from these Sony 1000XM2 Headphones is awesome, crystal clear & you get very good bass in your listening experience. However, I’m still iffy as it relates to call quality when you’re answering your phone.

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A strong selling point for this Sony Headphone is its noise-cancelling feature, and let me tell you, they do an excellent job with it. To be frank, that’s the best feature about these Headphones.

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To top it off it’s also very comfortable & adjustable, which is perfect in certain situations.Even though it is being marketed as a Bluetooth headphone, it does include a cord attachment for wired connection. So being a professional DJ, I decided to test it out at a gig and the result was wonderful. Problem is, the noise cancelling feature was too damn good, I couldn’t even hear the crowd response, but because of its adjustability, I was able to use it on one ear, which was perfect.

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As it related to the battery life, I charged the Headphones once and I’ve used it for up to 5 days for about 5 hours per day & it was still going. Product info stated that while using Bluetooth it can work for 30 hours, which is ideal in any situation. It also includes a quick charge feature.

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The Headphone comes with a very neat case, which includes a Micro USB & a Wire connector. Overall I’m extremely pleased with these Headphones, the truth is they are now my go-to Headphones and will be with me all the time.

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Finally, I’ve seen where they have compared these to the Bose (which I haven’t tested yet) and I’ve read that they are rated basically the same. Well let me tell you this, I’m good over here, I’m with Sony.

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Editor’s Choice: Loews Miami Beach Hotel

Miami Beach’s Oasis for Luxury Comfort & Style

By Tricia Williamson |Photos courtesy of Loews Miami

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Photography by Loews Miami Beach Hotel

Nestled on Miami Beach and just minutes away from the vibrant Art Deco District, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel is truly your hotel to call home. The excellence in customer service starts even before you arrive at the hotel. I personally received an email days before my arrival which not only welcomed me to the hotel but also took the notation of any food allergies and special requirements I or my guests may have had.

The first thing that really sets Loews Miami apart from the rest is their commitment to excellent customer service. Everyone truly makes you feel like a VIP and always willing to assist you. One such example was at the check-in desk, I had arrived hours before the usual afternoon check-in time and surprisingly the room was ready and I was allowed to go up and rest. For a traveller, who has been up flying from 2 a.m. in the morning to arrive in Miami at 12noon- I can’t share enough how much that meant to be able to do that upon arrival.

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Photography by Tricia Williamson

Loews offers you a wonderful service called “Chat Your Service” where you can also text message whatever you need and it is handled. The turndown service was excellent and it really left you feeling welcomed home, especially after long days out in the heat of this beautiful sun-kissed city.

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This renowned oceanfront resort is truly Miami Beach’s oasis for luxury comfort perfectly blended with sophisticated style, exceptional service, and great value for money. Be sure to immerse your taste buds in the culinary creations offered in the food and beverage experience known as the “Flavor Miami”.

I also enjoyed early morning swims in the oceanfront poolscape as well as relaxing in the St. Tropez-inspired SOAK Cabanas and Daybeds. Loews Miami Beach Hotel is one of the most “instagrammable” hotels I have ever enjoyed (Find them on Instagram @LoewsMiami). From the from the hip strip side to the oceanfront you’ll love sharing your experiences with the world from this hotel. The private beach access was also great for long walks in the evenings along the boardwalk and just quick access to the sun and sand of the beach front.

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As a Travel Editor, I have stayed at several hotels in Miami and Loews was a truly unforgettable experience and now my favourite places to stay. It’s the little things they do to truly make your stay great. From the ice cool flavoured waters of cucumbers to watermelon all around the resort. After walking the strip or coming from the beach, there is no greater refreshment that a tall cool drink from Lowes in the Miami sun. It’s the beautiful platter of fruits, chocolates, mojito cocktails (featuring a bottle of locally distilled rum) and chips that greeted you in your room after a long hard day’s work. It’s the genuine warmth and care of the staff as they tend to all your needs. It’s the beautifully designed room with an ocean front view that you just love coming home to each day.

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Whether it’s to stay on the renowned Miami Beach or be able to take a 20 minute Uber ride from the airport to the hotel or the rich plethora of shops and restaurants in the Art Deco District… if you are looking for a great place to stay- make it Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

The Sennheiser Review: HD 25 Robin Schulz Limited Edition

Review By DJ Courtney

This review of the Sennheiser HD 25 Robin Schulz Edition headphones was done at the Morning Medz event which I DJ-ed at Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, Jamaica; so I decided that would be where I would test them live.

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Photography by Oneil Banton

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of white DJ Headphones as I find them hard to maintain. Plus given that the event was a breakfast party, initially, I had my doubts, because the morning was extremely hot. However, when I finished they were easy to clean, as for functionality, I was already familiar with the HD25 and they performed exceptionally as was expected.
Most people would probably already know that the Sennheiser HD25 is very popular worldwide, having been around from the 80s. So the focus of this review is to see what the differences with this Robin Schulz Edition are. So let’s get into the details because they are still one of the best DJ Headphones on the market.

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Photography by Oneil Banton

They are extremely comfortable for a DJ and also for general use. These are probably the lightest professional headphones on the market, the sound is totally amazing and in my opinion even better now, with just the right amount of balance to your ears, great bass and the mid & highs are super clean, basically, you’re hearing every instrument on a track cleanly.

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Product Photos courtesy of Sennheiser

The design is the same, they may seem simple, but they are extremely strong and can take a drop without getting a scratch. It has the split headband for adjustment on your head, closed-back design, flip-away ear cups if you need to listen to the crowd, and a 1/4 inch screw-on jack. The other great thing about the HD25 is that the parts are replaceable, like the ear cups etc., so I’m assuming, these will be also.

It’s hard doing a review for these headphones as almost every DJ in the world who have used one will tell you it’s in the top 5 available in the market, it’s a winner no matter what.
So I’m basically going to say these Headphones are now white with the branding of Robin Schulz, who is a great DJ, who has now teamed up with an already great headphone, & they are also Limited Edition, so who am I to complain.

East Japanese: Experience Jamaica’s Premier Japanese Restaurant

by Tricia Williamson | Photography by Oneil Banton

East Japanese is the premier Japanese restaurant located in the Marketplace at 67 Constant Spring Road in Kingston, Jamaica. East serves a range of traditional Japanese cuisine from sushi to sashimi and was awarded the “2018 Best Watering Hole in Kingston”. Patrons love restaurant and bar not only for the culinary creations and cool vibes but the great music you can not only hear played but see displayed on the walls like a walk of fame.

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Photography by Oneil Banton

Let’s talk with the powerhouse behind it all… Chef Taka!

TAKA, BEER MUG FRIDAYs and more…

Everyone knows Chef Utoguchi but everyone simply calls this cool culinary maestro, “Taka”. He established East Japanese in 2004 and officially opened doors in 2005.

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Photography by Oneil Banton

A collector of vinyl records many of which are proudly displayed in his restaurant in Market Place in Kingston, Jamaica. Taka loves oldies music, Jamaican music from reggae, ska to dancehall and beyond. His impressive record collection, which he calls a “hobby”, is beautifully showcased in the bar’s exceptional décor which is nothing less than a walk through the decades and genres of Jamaican music. East Japanese is the perfect melting pot of Jamaican music & culture with Japanese style and cuisine.

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About a year ago Taka had a vision of introducing some of the island’s best Selectas and DJs at East Japanese and does so through the event series dubbed “Beer Mug Friday”. The weekly Friday event is a must-experience and has featured top Selectas and DJs such as Rory Stone Love, Bad Gyal Marie, DJ Courtney, DJ Delano, DJ Kurt Riley and runs from 7 pm to 3 am. Best of all, Admission is FREE.

Photography courtesy of East Japanese

A gathering that at its origins started out very slow has now grown into a movement filling the bar from wall to wall each week. In his reflection of the growing success, Taka shared with his signature smile, “Everyone loves my place!”

Photography courtesy of East Japanese

When asked about his vision for growing East Japanese beyond Kingston in the years ahead, Taka was clear. Right now, he prefers to focus “only on Kingston”. Kingston in his eyes is a vibrant business place and is seeing its increasing share of tourists. Plus, it also serves as an excellent hub with connections to places like Miami. Taka loves that Jamaica’s capital has no “on and off season”, he added, “Kingston is always on! Plus, the people here are very interesting and they love my place!”

East Japanese is an experience not to be missed. Next time you’re in Kingston, Jamaica be sure to stop by and experience it for yourself whether you’re sitting down for sushi or raising a shot at Beer Mug Fridays….. Like Taka always says you’ll “love this place!”

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Photography by Oneil Banton