Photograph your meal and help others!

It’s no secret that I love photographing what I eat. And judging by the vast number of other food bloggers out there, I know I am not alone. Some of us shoot what we eat so we can share it with the world. We edit and post them with lengthy essays on carefully curated blogs. Others post these pictures on Twitter. Some send them to their Facebook pages or MMS or email them to friends. Some even snap favourite dishes solely for their own archives. Either way, it’s rare to enter a restaurant these days and not see someone taking a picture–using everything from their mobile devices to big DSLR rigs–of the food on their table.

This week, I want to encourage all of Singapore to shoot what you are eating. Because for this week, doing so will help others. shareurmeal, Singapore! is a community campaign running from 21 August 2010 to 27 August 2010 to raise awareness about the plight of low-income families in Singapore.

By sending a picture with your meal to shareurmealsg@gmail.com, the programme’s sponsors (which includes major corporations like City Developments Limited) will donate S$3 per meal shared to support TOUCH Community Services and their programmes for the underprevileged. Please help them reach their target of 1,000 photos!

This innovative project first started in Philadelphia, USA, in 2009, and has since spread to the UK this year. A young 23 year old undergrad here, Mr Tim Mou Hui, has very admirably brought the shareURmeal movement to Singapore for its debut in Asia. I am very proud to help him out by promoting this very worthy campaign on this forum.

So, c’mon! Snap away and help someone else while doing it.

Please visit www.wix.com/shareurmealsg/home for more information.

Season’s Greetings

Merry Christmas everyone! My tired yet still sexy wife S and I are back from a crazy trip. We went off to Venice for a week, to attend two very close friends’ wedding, as well as to revisit some favourite eating places (plus a few new ones). If you’ve been watching the news the past week, you know that Europe has been experiencing some of the craziest weather in recent history. The day our friends got married, Venice was covered in snow. It was staggeringly beautiful. After which, when we tried to get home, it became staggeringly annoying as our plane from Venice to Paris was stuck on the tarmac for hours as we waited for the runways to be plowed and the plane’s wings to be de-iced. By the time we got to Paris, it was well past midnight and we had missed our connecting flight home and had to spend the next 22 hours in Paris. Of course, we made the most of it and tried like mad to pack in a full French vacation into just one crazy day.

We have loads of photos to share, plus some other posts we’ve been working on. I hope to spend a good part of the holidays updating the blog. So stay tuned and happy holidays.

Daniel Boulud wants you (maybe)

I’m taking a quick break from posting about my own stuff to bring you this quick and potentially important me

ssage which I think readers from the F&B trade might find pretty useful.

As many of you (might already) know, the Dinex Group, which owns and manages Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurants, has come into Asia. They have one restaurant already in Beijing and are opening another in Singapore (which is great news for me).

The Dinex Group’s HR folks are making an Asian tour, looking for great talent. Here’s their pitch:

The Dinex Group, the restaurants owned and managed by Chef Daniel Boulud, is offering the opportunity to build a lifelong career with both global potential and a sense of pride in work well done.

The Dinex Group continues to expand to exciting new destinations around the world (Beijing, Singapore, Vancouver, London, New York, Palm Beach, Miami, and Las Vegas). If you are interested in the opportunity to be part of that growth within an organization whose values you share, and that recognizes your dedication and hard work, then we invite you to apply during our Open Call Interviews Recruiting Tour in Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai)
(Keep reading for dates and times of the recruitment calls)

Restaurant Month


Photo:WFP/Mark Warne Smith

This month, August 09, you can eat well while also doing your part to help others. I’ve been very proud to have helped create The Miele Guide Restaurant Month. And I hope you will all do your very best to support this initiative.

The Miele Guide Restaurant Month is both a celebration of the best restaurants in Asia and a very unique charity drive to combat hunger and poverty in the region. This month-long initiative sees 57 participating restaurants, a majority of which are listed in The Miele Guide 2008/2009 edition, offering special set menus or promotions unique to the programme. Fifteen percent of revenue derived from these special menus or promotions will be donated to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). These proceeds have been earmarked for WFP’s activities in Timor Leste, one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia. (Keep reading)

Great company to be in

It’s always nice to be recognized for the things you do. I was very flattered to be included in a recent article published in the Times Online. The article lists 50 of the world’s best food blogs, as chosen by the Times Online Real Food Editor Nick Wyke. The list is pretty cool and I have to admit, rather sheepishly, that I’ve even discovered some really delicious and fabulous blogs I didn’t know about through the article.

Starting next week, Nick will also be running interviews with all of us. I’m really looking forward to reading them, especially Dorie Greenspan’s, who is one of my wife S’s personal food heroes.

Happy birthday to S

Today is my darling wife S’s birthday. It’s crazy to think we’ve been married for almost 7 years and that we’ve been a serious part of each other’s lives for almost 9 years. I almost can’t imagine life without her. Sure, I’d probably be a good 20 pounds or so lighter (our shared love for food has seriously made me live up to my screen name), but I don’t think I would have been as happy. It’s been really wonderful having a best friend and life partner who is both as picky and as greedy as I am. These days, we’re also business partners, which has been just as rewarding as the rest of our marriage. While we do need to learn to stop working — to leave business in “the office” at the end of the day — it’s been nice working with someone who completely understands me and that I can trust implicitly.

For her birthday, we’ve been eating up a storm. Last weekend, my parents treated us to a huge feast at her favorite sushi joint, Tatsuya. Then, midweek, we had a wonderful dinner with a friend, who was also celebrating his birthday, at Torisho Taka and another lovely meal at L’Angelus. For lunch today, we went back to Tatsuya (more sushi) and for dinner tonight, we’ll be pigging out at Iggy’s, arguably Singapore’s best restaurant. Tomorrow, a very dear friend is treating us for lunch at Il Lido. S is already dreaming of opening one of their prized bottles of Quintarelli Amarone.

We’ve also been tremendously busy. (And we really do have to apologize to readers. We have several cool posts brewing right now but haven’t had time to properly put them together. Please visit often and we promise that we’ll get back to posting regularly.) In January, I had to make a quick business trip to Thailand, followed by a long, cold 2 week work trip to Shanghai, Nanjing, Guilin and Beijing. Somehow I just happened to pick the worst time in the last half decade to visit China! Last month, S and I made a quick and hectic, but very productive, trip to Hong Kong, followed by a couple of business meetings in Thailand — 2 in Bangkok and one in Cha-Am.

Anyway, to celebrate S’s birthday, I thought I would embarrass her by sharing one of my favourite pictures of her with the world (notice I’m mostly cropped out). This photograph was taken the day after we got married. We tied the knot in a beautiful vineyard in Swan Valley, Western Australia. The following morning, we treated all of our friends to a cruise down the Swan River, starting in Perth and ending in Fremantle. The weather was beautiful and we ate, drank and laughed our way across the waters. And of course, as every new husband does, I spent quite a bit of our trip hand-feeding my gorgeous new bride.

Happy Birthday S!

Happy Holidays from Istanbul

Happy holidays! S and I are currently in Istanbul, Turkey, stuffing our faces for a week. S’s parents are with us and we’re happily spending our days (when we’re not eating) checking out cool homeware, furniture, and antique shops in hopes of finding some gorgeous pieces for our new home.

We’ll post a long Istanbul dining and shopping guide at the end of the trip, so please check back regularly.

In the meantime, I hope all of you had a very merry Christmas and are gearing up for an exciting new year.

Surf and Turf and other weekend announcements

While my darling wife S and I usually try to ensure that our dinner parties unfold smoothly and surely, sometimes mistakes just happen. A couple of years ago, we had planned a rather ambitious menu for a dinner party we were hosting. One of the courses was an oxtail ravioli, made entirely from scratch. I made the oxtail ragout while S made the pasta dough. We had a lot of fun making the ravioli the afternoon of the party, which we floured and stored in our fridge. Foolishly though, we took the ravioli out a little too early, letting our beautiful pile of ravioli sit in our way-too-hot kitchen for far too long. By the time I checked on the ravioli, just a few minutes before I had planned to cook them, to my horror, I discovered that the dough had softened and “melted” together. Instead of several separate and delicate little oxtail parcels, I found myself staring at one rather solid mess.

We had to serve something though. We still had a pretty healthy amount of oxtail ragout, so making a quick pasta — like a fettuccine tossed in oxtail — was definitely an option. But I had an idea, which when I told it to S, she reacted by throwing her hands up in the air, relegating the task of salvaging the course in question to me.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the States, but I really like the idea of surf and turf. Well, let me rephrase that. The idea of a steak served with lobster doesn’t float my boat. But I do like seafood and meat combinations. S, on the other hand, isn’t keen on the concept of combining the two, at least not on one plate or in one dish. The idea that I proposed, that drove S out of the kitchen but which really excited me was a lasagna combining our oxtail ragout with some shrimp and served with some lobster sauce that I’d had sitting in the fridge. I went ahead and made the dish. Which, fortunately for me, was received very well. Our guests heralded the lasagna as a great, surprising dish that combined classic flavours with some new ideas. It still isn’t one of S’s favourites among my many creations, but she does admit that it ain’t bad either. I, on the other hand, really do enjoy this slightly quirky but definitely yummy dish.

Surf and Turf Lasagne

1 portion oxtail ragout
700ml milk
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons tomato paste
100g baby spinach
250g shrimp, peeled
50g mozzarella, chopped
100g Parmesan, grated
instant lasagna sheets
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

Oxtail Ragout
4 large pieces of oxtail
300 ml red wine
chicken stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat the olive oil in a small dutch oven over high heat. Salt and pepper your oxtail pieces generously and then sear them so that all surfaces are browned. Set aside. Lower the heat to medium and then fry the onion, leek and carrot, stirring constantly. When the onion is soft, add the tomato paste and keep stirring for 2 minutes. Then add the red wine and let heat until boiling. Add the oxtail pieces and then the chicken stock until the oxtail pieces are just submerged. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper so it sits inside the dutch oven, over the oxtail and liquid. Cover and place in the oven for 3 hours. When finished, take it out and let cool to room temp. Then debone the oxtail meat, shredding it and placing it in a container. Strain the sauce into the container and cover. Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours before you use it.

Before you make the lasagna, make a Bechamel sauce. In a high-sided sauce pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When it’s all melted, take the pan off the heat and toss in the flour, stirring vigourously. Put the pan back on the fire, lowering the heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add the tomato paste and stir. Pour in the milk slowly, stirring constantly to ensure that the mixture isn’t lumpy. Add all the milk in and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When you want to make the lasagna, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Use a 9inch by 6inch pan. Heat a fry pan and add the olive oil. Toss your spinach quickly in it. You want it just a tad wilted. Set aside. Reheat your oxtail ragout. Cook your prawns by either blanching or searing. You just want the exterior just cooked (for the version photographed above, I used little shrimp, but you can also you larger prawns). Place a layer of lasagna sheets at the bottom of the pan. Then add half of the oxtail ragout. Pour some Bechamel over this and add another layer of lasagna sheets. Then add in your spinach and the cooked shrimp. Add another layer of lasagna sheets and the rest of the oxtail ragout and some Bechamel. Cover with another layer of lasagna sheets, add the mozzarella and some more Bechamel and top with the Parmesan.

Pop this into your oven for 35 minutes and enjoy.

A Futuristic Dinner
Want S and I, plus a few other friends, like restaurateur Beppe deVito (of Il Lido) and Business Times food writer Geoffrey Eu to cook dinner for you? Want to experience an odd vision of the future of dining, as imagined by one of Singapore’s top contemporary artists, Heman Chong?

Click for Art is The Substation’s major fundraising event for 2007, and is an online auction of exclusive art works and experiences. Click for Art aims to raise much-needed funds to continue The Substation’s mission to nurture, promote and grow the arts in Singapore. Works are available for bid on eBay from 30 October to 30 November with an exhibition of selected works at Millenia Walk from 1- 9 November and lunch time performances from 12:30 to 2pm.

Artist Heman Chong is curating Dinner Tomorrow (Year 2020), a dinner for 6 which we have elected to help prepare. It’s for a really good cause, so log in and make a bid. I promise the dinner will be both unique and pretty amazing.

Cook’s Delight
Singapore’s cookbook scene is getting a little hotter, not because of any new releases but thanks to the opening of 25 degree Celsius, the country’s first dedicated cookbook bookstore. This great and gorgeous little store is located on Keong Saik Road, just up the road from the equally trendy 1929 Hotel. 25 degree Celsius also serves food in a little cafe area towards the back of the space.
25 degree Celsius
25 Keong Saik Road #01-01
Singapore 089132
Tel: +65 6225 5986

An Event for Wine Lovers
One of my advertisers, uber-catering company The Hidden Host, has asked me to give a little shout out to all my readers about their upcoming event, the Singapore Beaujolais Nouveau Festival 2007. Held on 15 November 2007, this very popular outdoor festival celebrates French food, culture and, of course, the latest release of Beaujolais Nouveau. If you’re free, definitely check it out. Tickets are available through Sistic.

Behind the Scenes
Super-cool Aussie chef Chris Millar (from Poppi) is opening a new business. Later this year, he’ll be launching SweetSaltySpicy, an Asian grocery store/food market cum Modern Thai cafe.  To run the latter, he’s brought in some guys from the very famous Sailors Thai in Sydney, so the food should be really fantastic. This neat new place will be in Upper Bukit Timah. From what Chris tells me, SweetSaltySpicy sounds like the perfect place to drop in on — to pick up groceries and also to grab a yummy bite. His partner is already one of Singapore’s top produce suppliers, so freshness is guaranteed.

Chris has shot a couple of short, home-made clips, posted on YouTube, that give us a behind the scenes look at this new food business. Watch Part One here and Part Two here.