Every now and again Top Chef alum Sara Mair comes home to delight her fellow Jamaicans with her culinary chops. One summer day in July Mair took over the kitchen at Strawberry Hill for Sunday brunch. And did she show up to work!
Mair served a whopping 23 dishes and sides, which included local charcuterie, cheeses, fresh fruit and numerous desserts. On offer were Caribbean breadfruit, Niçoise, pesto quinoa, Asian watermelon, Niçoise green bean, and Caesar salads. There was also an omelette station with a variety of fillings from which patrons could choose.
The hot line comprised buttermilk pancakes with syrup, mango and sweet ricotta-stuffed French toast, eggs Benedict with lobster or oxtail hash, ackee and salt fish, jerked pork, mashed green bananas, snook rundown, Johnny cakes, roasted breadfruit, and rum-glazed ripe plantains. A curry-rubbed roasted leg of lamb was carved and could be had rare, medium or well done.
Serving tables seemed to groan under the weight of the mountains of poached shrimp, ceviche, and peel-and-eat pepper shrimp. The locally made charcuterie (hello, Simon Levy!) options of prosciutto, bresaola and salami were accompanied by assorted cheeses, Mair’s mom’s Bee Bz pepper homemade jellies, as well as homemade breadfruit and plantain chips.
We haven’t even got to drinks or dessert yet. Guests had their choice of mimosa, Bloody Mary, strawberry bliss, or lemonade during brunch. Yes, there was also coffee and tea. The dessert buffet was an eyeful and the saying “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” was met with a hearty “not today, Satan!” Guests indulged in chocolate moon pies, mini crème brûlées, apple turnovers, assorted cookies, coconut cake, and fresh fruit.
We didn’t know where to start, but committed to the task we got to eating.
The standout dish of the day was the snook rundown. The flesh of snook is softer than swordfish, but a bit firmer than salmon, and tastes like a very meaty snapper. The fish’s fleshiness was made for Mair’s rundown sauce that was creamy, redolent with spices, and yet not oppressively heavy neither on the palate nor in the stomach. The eggs Benedict served on fried bammy (so, good) also had mounds of oxtail or lobster hash. When the poached egg was broken atop and combined with a piece of bammy and some hash, it created a perfect bite.
The breadfruit salad with chunks of fried ripe plantain and sprinkle of curry was so incredibly tasty as was the well-executed ceviche. The star of dessert was the coconut cake that was Martha Stewart Weddings good.
Leave it to Strawberry Hill and Chef Sara Mair to team up to allow us to keep the ‘Sunday Scaries’ at bay.
Source: Thursday Food, Jamaica Observer. First published August 8, 2019
Photos: Naphtali Junior