Month: March 2009

Promoting our food heroes

I had dinner with two Knights the other night. No, they weren’t wearing swords and shields. They weren’t wearing armour and we certainly weren’t seated at a round table. Nonetheless, my dining companions were Knights of the Realm (just not my realm). More specifically, they are Chevaliers, Ordre National du Merite (National Merit), awarded by the French President for their work in promoting (excellence in) French cuisine and culture overseas. I am very proud to have become friends with these two amazing men over the last decade here in Singapore–their new titles are well and truly deserved. And I was thrilled to attend the award ceremony, held late last year. But it also made me think about how we Singaporeans are honouring, or forgetting to honour, our own culinary heroes.

Over the past year, a number of our government agencies have banded together to articulate a vision for the future (and future promotion) of our local food scene. One of the identified strategies that I wholeheartedly support is the identification of local food heroes. Thing is, though, while the general idea of supporting local food heroes has been mooted, from what I understand, the mechanics of how to do this, and even who are our local food heroes, have yet to be worked out.

Spruce and Bedrock

It’s always nice to see, in these tough economic times, people you admire taking risks. In the cases of Chef Travis Masiero and Keith Loh, that would be opening two of Singapore’s newest and coolest restaurants.

I’m a big fan of Travis’ food. Have been ever since my first visit to Wine Garage, where he used to be both Exec Chef and GM. I especially like Travis’ unwavering commitment to using the very best produce — even if that means convincing his suppliers to grow things just for him. The Wine Garage burger is, in my opinion, one of the best found in Singapore; I was also a regular customer for the brunch — again, one of the best (a la carte options) in town.

The Miele Guide Voting Opens

Hi y’all. I’ll get back to regular blogging in a bit (and for once I have quite a few posts lined up). But first I wanted to tell you that voting for the 2009/2010 edition of The Miele Guide, Asia’s first independent restaurant guide, has just opened. We need your votes.

The Miele Guide was created in 2008 in order to better recognise and celebrate Asia’s best chefs and restaurants. It was our attempt to create, for the very first time, a standard of recognizing our best restaurants that was on par with established non-Asian guides. Our 2008/2009 edition ranked Asia’s top 20 restaurants and profiled an additional 300 great places in Asia in which to dine.

Restaurants will be selected after four rounds of judging. The first round of judging consisted of creating a shortlist of great restaurants as determined by the region’s top full-time restaurant critics. The second and third rounds of judging are being conducted simultaneously via online polls. You, the public, in addition to a jury of food professionals and prominent food lovers are invited to cast your votes. These votes–your votes–determine which restaurants make it into the final, published guide. Voting ends 24 May 2009. Finally, our in-house team, with help from contributing editors across Asia, will be dining anonymously at the most highly rated restaurants to confirm our annual ranking of Asia’s Top 20.

Hail Mary Pot de Creme

There are some times, no matter how prepared you think you are, no matter how carefully you’ve planned your time and prepped your ingredients, that things just don’t work out. I’m sure many have you been in this situation. It’s often not even your fault. You’ve been fastidious in making sure your mise en place is perfect and that you’ve followed every recipe you’re using to the letter. There could be one of a dozen reasons. Maybe your oven temperature is not as accurate as the manufacturer would lead you to believe? Or the cookbook author’s recipes simply don’t work? Or, at the extreme end of possibilities, your tap water is too hard or soft for the pasta recipe you’re trying to use? Or the humidity where you live simply won’t allow the gnocchi you are working on to set? Who knows? At the end of the day, though, you’re stuck with friends on the way over and in need of a quick fix.

For me, my kitchen kryptonite is dessert. Which is why I tend to often engineer dinner parties so that my darlin’ wife S is the one making the last course of the meal. But there are some occasions when either I’ve promised to take care of the whole meal or she’s simply too busy to make dessert. And on these occasions, I’d say my success rate has been about 70/30. Meaning that 70% of the time, whatever I try (which is, mind you, not too elaborate) actually turns out pretty tasty and not too visually unappealing. But that also means that 30% of the time, I have to chuck dessert and start fresh. Starting fresh though is usually difficult because by the time I discover that dessert #1 didn’t quite work out, there’s probably just an hour or two before friends start to arrive. Which means that whatever I throw together has to (1) come together pretty frakkin’ quickly and (2) also taste pretty frakkin’ great. My current favourite Hail Mary dessert is a chocolate pot de creme.

Milo agar-agar Buddhas

Okay, I’ll admit right from the start. This is a pretty silly post. (It’s also a post that may really upset some very devout Buddhists out there but I’ll take that risk.) Last year, some rather crazy but always fun friends gave us a set of some of the wackiest jelly / pudding molds I have ever seen. The Il Buddino molds, as you can see, allow slightly deranged foodies like me to make Buddha-shaped desserts.