Ever since my wife S and I became parents, we’ve been on the lookout for destinations that would provide the things that we love best about overseas trips (great food, great wine, fun shopping, etc) but would also cater equally well to keeping our little baby boy amused, excited and satisfied. It’s a tough order and we’ve already agreed that some of my own favourite places are a little too chaotic for the lil’one (or too tough for us to manage with him in tow). We also have to be prepared that if he likes a place a lot, we’ll have to return pretty often. Fortunately, we’ve recently come back from one place that we think T will really love and can’t wait to bring him to see and experience for himself. That place is Noosa, on the Australian Sunshine Coast.
When S and I were approached by Tourism Australia to check out the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival this past May, we agreed, but also told our hosts that we’d want to check out some of the area’s top local restaurants as well. Because I like to do my own research, I spent an evening trawling through the Web in order to pick out a few places to check out. One place in particular was a no-brainer. The Burger Bar was, at the time, rated the #1 restaurant in Noosa on Tripadvisor. It had also been awarded Queensland’s favourite burger by lifestylefood.com.au in 2010, 2011 and 2012. As a burger lover, I knew that this would be a mandatory stop during our short trip down under.
S made this amazing Swiss Roll for me. White chocolate cream filling. The cake itself was vanilla with sakura blossoms baked into it. Inspired by one she saw on the awesome Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings blog.
Since my wife and I had our first child, the meal we go out for the most has actually become breakfast. We’ve tried a lot of places. Because of lil’ T’s schedule, we tend to seek out places that open by 8am. We also like places with nice views and/or lots of space for T to run around in. One of our favourite places in Singapore is Kith, located along Robertson Quay. Kith is hugely popular. We find that if we arrive after a certain time in the morning, we end up waiting around for a table. Usually, and thankfully, the wait isn’t too long.
When we were at Kith this past weekend, the always immaculately groomed and very sweet owner Jane Hia told me that she’s just opened a new and larger branch at ParkMall. This was fantastic news for my wife and I. ParkMall is even closer to our home than Robertson Quay (about half the distance). That there is a much larger air-conditioned seating area was an even greater bonus for me and T, who tend to get sweaty really quickly. So, this past morning, along with our always-happy-for-an-outing Golden Retriever Alix, we bounced over to the new Kith. Which we absolutely loved.
Each time I am in Paris, I am torn between trying out a new restaurant (and thereby discovering a potential gem) or returning to one of my old favorites in the city. On my most recent trip in May, I decided to succumb to my old habits in a city I have come to know well. It was a bright and warm spring day when I arrived from Brussels in the late morning at the Gare du Nord train station. I headed straight for Le Comptoir du Relais bistro at the Hotel Relais Saint-Germain on the left bank in the 6th Arrondissement and got there shortly before noon. A small queue had already formed outside the door (the best thing about Le Comptoir is that no reservations are required on a Sunday. For weekday dinners, the waiting list can stretch for several months in advance). Luckily, I managed to get a table inside the small and cozy 24-seater bistro. There are also seats on the sidewalk but nothing beats the cosy intimacy of the bistro’s ambience inside.
I first discovered Japanese mousse cake savant, Hidemi Sugino (along with many of his other fans within the blogosphere, it seems) through Keiko’s gorgeous blog. I found myself repeatedly returning to her beautifully precise renditions of his recipes in Le goût authentique retrouvé. And when I finally had the opportunity to taste the master’s work in Tokyo, I was enthralled by the lightness of his creations, as well as the subtle and sophisticated layering of complementary and contrasting flavours. They were simply the best mousse cakes I’d ever tasted (here’s Nick’s superb dissection of some of Sugino’s entremets). I promptly bought a copy of Le goût authentique retrouvé on that fateful first visit in 2007—disregarding the fact that the recipes were all in Japanese. I somehow figured that I would be able to decipher them based upon the ingredients listed in French despite the fact that I don’t speak French either!
For our second night attending the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival, S and I chose to attend a guest chef dinner at Embassy XO, a small but chic local East meets West restaurant. In addition to the one we went to, there were four other guest chef dinners happening in town, plus a massive eight course, eight (celebrity) chef Mediterranean Degustation experience held at Berardo’s restaurant and bar. S and I had chosen the Embassy XO dinner because the guest chef in question was Teage Ezard.
My greedy, gorgeous wife S and I have been to many food and wine festivals, in many different places, over the last decade and a half. We’ve attended festivals as speakers, as working journalists and as members of the public. Some festivals are rather high-brow. Others try hard to connect with the everyman. Many others fall in between, offering a mix of small, exclusive (which means expensive) dinners coupled with affordable experiences that can accommodate large crowds. This can be a hard formula to get right, and many festivals are still struggling to find the right balance. A few others, however, seem to have discovered the magic formula for food festival success.
A few weeks ago, S and I found ourselves attending such a festival. Not only has the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival (held in the small holiday/retiree town of Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast) perfected the balance between luxury and accessibility, it’s done so with a laid-back sense of humour that is utterly infectious. Before Noosa, I had never attended a food and wine festival in which everyone–the chefs, producers, participants, even the festival staff–seemed to be having so much fun. And for that alone, I would definitely consider going back again and again.
Esquina 16 Jiak Chuan Road Singapore 089267 Tel: +65 6222 1616 Esquina.com.sg