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.

A Post that has nothing to do with food

In a country in which not enough people stick up for their convictions, it is really heartening to see some of our artists leading by example.

If you don’t know what 337a is, please click here.

Macaron Festival

It’s no secret that S and I, like so many other greedy gourmets around the world, are mad for macarons. The best we’ve had, hands down, have come from Pierre Herme. S also adores Laduree’s licorice versions while I can’t get enough of J‘s peanut butter and jelly ones. We also both really love Chef Pang Kok Keong‘s caramel fleur de sel macarons (whose recipe I’ve begged for and am running at the end of this post).

Chef Pang is easily one of Singapore’s most talented young pastry chefs. In addition to running the central dessert kitchen for the Les Amis restaurant group, he also runs his own rather swish dessert-focused restaurant and the excellent pastry shop Canele. Canele is a delight for fat fellas like me. There are wonderful desserts and cakes on offer. Many are staples, i.e. always available. But every so often, Chef Pang will unveil some new and interesting creations to tempt and tease us.

This month, he’s launched what he calls a Macaron Festival. For the festival, Chef Pang has whipped up a special range of six limited edition macarons: marron glace (chestnut cream and candied chestnut); citron vert (almond macaron with green lime cream); pistache et griottine (almond macaron with pistachio cream and brandied cherry); sesame (almond macaron with black sesame cream); matcha (green tea macaron with green tea cream); and noisettine truffe (hazelnut macaron with truffle cream and roasted hazelnut). These are available for sale, packaged in cute and specially designed boxes for either 6 pieces or 12 pieces, at both the flagship Robertson Walk Canele as well as the Paragon branch.

S and I have already greedily devoured a six-pack of these special macarons. They were all excellent. My favourite among them was the citron vert, which had a nice, sharp bite. My second fave was the marron glace. S preferred the noisettine truffe, which she swooned over, and the matcha, which has a nice subtle, refined and not-too-sweet taste.

In addition to the macarons on sale at the two Canele shops. Chef Pang is also offering a high tea macaron buffet at (where else?) Macaron. The S$55++ per person spread is only available on weekends, so book now if you want to check this out. Each patron is given the choice of having both an appetizer and entrée from Macaron’s regular menu, followed by a buffet offering 18 different types of macarons, 7 types of macaron entremets (cakes with an element of macaron as part of the composition) and 2 a la carte servings of Canelé’s homemade ice creams or sorbets. Talk about a sweet and decadent way to spend a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon!

It’s really nice to see that some of our younger and more talented pastry chefs are now thinking seasonally, creating novelties to surprise and delight our often jaded palates. It’s also great that some of these chefs, like Pang, are trying to innovate new menus and promotions to keep customers excited and, importantly (for them), returning.

Macaron
11 Unity Street, Robertson Walk
Tel: +65-6235-7277

Canelé Patisserie Chocolaterie
11 Unity Street
#01-09, Robertson Walk
Singapore
Tel: +65 6738 8145

Chef Pang Kok Keong’s Macaron Caramel Fleur de Sel

For the macaron cookie
500g ground almond
900g icing sugar
440g egg white
120g sugar

Sieve your ground almond and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Make sure the mixture is lump-free. Beat the egg whites using an electrical mixer with a whisk attachment at high speed until you can see a line made by the whisk going round. Then add in the sugar while the mixer is at medium speed. Make a stiff meringue. Fold the meringue into the dry sieved ingredients until you get a homogeneous mix, taking care not to overfold it, as normal meringue are very delicate.

Pipe the mixture onto a silpat with a no. 5 plain tube into 3cm balls (The cookies will spread to approximately 5cm). If the mixture is too thick, you’ll see a tip sticking up from the balls (from where you piped them) even after you finish piping the last row. If this happens, give the tray a little tap so that you’ll get a nice smooth surface.

Leave the piped macaron cookies out to form a skin before baking them at 160 degrees Celsius in a fan oven for approximately 14-16 minutes. When totally cooled, sandwich two cookies together with either buttercream, firm mamarlade, or a caramel filling.

Caramel fleur de sel
200g sugar
1 vanilla pod
200g cream
3.75g fleur de sel
140g butter, chilled

In a 1 litre heavy based pot, cook the sugar, stirring all the time to get an even caramel. Then add in the vanilla pod, scraped. Add in the warm cream a bit at a time as it will bubble up and splatter. Then add in the fleur de sel. Stir to make sure all the caramel has dissolved. Cool the mixture to approximately 40 degrees Celsius. Add in the well chilled butter, cut into cubes. Using an immersion blender, blend in the butter till you achieve a smooth glossy paste. Line the surface of the caramel with plastic wrap or greaseproof paper to prevent a skin from forming and chill in the fridge until needed.

New mixed wine lots

Regular readers will know that many months ago I decided to work with one of Singapore’s more interesting wine distributors to package some very unique mixed lots, available exclusively through this site. I’m very pleased that the cases sold really well – so well in fact that Estima, the distributor, has actually sold out of many of the wines in the two cases we put together.

After several rounds of tasting (which is always a blast), we’ve come up with two new lots for you all. This time, we’ve decided to reduce the number of bottles. Each lot has just six bottles. What’s really cool is that almost all of the below wines come from small, cult producers. You won’t see most of these wines on restaurant wine lists. Mostly because they are incredibly hard to come by.

The Starter Kit, priced at S$306 nett, has one white, one sticky and four reds. The white is one of my current favourite wines. In fact, I like it so much that after tasting it, I ended up buying 3 cases of it. The 2002 Coteaux du Loir Rouge Gorge, Domaine de Belliviere, is also really interesting. It has a distinct and lovely taste with a nice, long finish.

These are the wines:
2005 La Lune, Mark Angeli (Loire Valley, France)
2004 Les Calcinaires, Domaine Gauby (Roussillon, France)
1998 Virgin Hills (Victoria, Australia)
2002 Coteaux du Loir Rouge Gorge, Domaine de Belliviere (Loire Valley, France)
2002 Bebianito, Prieure Saint Jean de Bebian (Languedoc, France)
2003 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine des Chenes (Roussillon, France)

The Collector’s Kit, priced at S$830 nett, is made up of six exceptional wines. These, unlike the wines from the Starter Kit, probably should be laid down for a while and saved for your really special occasions. All of these wines are really unique, with distinct tastes and bouquets. The 1998, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Prieure Roch, is particularly special and rare. The vineyard is owned by the co-manager of Domaine Romanee Conti and these wines are hoarded by collectors.

Here are the wines:
2003, Vieilles Vignes Blanc, Domaine Gauby (Roussillon, France)
2001, Riesling Clos St Imer, Goldert Grand Cru, Domaine Burn (Alsace estate, Northern France)
2003, Saint Joseph Les Reflets, Francois Villard
2000, Chateau Beau Soleil, Pomerol
1998, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Prieure Roch
2003, Saumur Champigny, Chateau Yvonne

If you want more details on each of the wines, please click over here.

To order either of the two special mixed lots, please email Eric at eric@estima.com.sg or call Eric at +65 6226 3766 on Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 7.30pm. Your transaction will be handled by Estima directly. (Sorry, this is for Singapore-based readers only at this point.)

End of the week nibbles

New and noted (as reported by S)

For the longest time, cooking for a dinner party here in Singapore usually meant that one of us would have to spend at least half a day picking up the various ingredients we’d need. It often meant going to Tekka, then Culina and Swiss Butchery, as well as Market Place or Meidiya in addition to the occasional stop at Supernature or Hediard. We’re pleased to note that over the last couple of weeks, things have changed a little with the launch of Culina at Dempsey and Jones the Grocer Dempsey Hill.

We’ve been shopping at Culina since it opened its retail outlets years ago and it has always been one of the best places for hard-to-find gourmet items such as Echire butter, squid ink sachets (for harried folk who don’t harvest their own), ratte potatoes and Tetsuya’s truffle salsa. Apart from the wider selection (including more fresh produce, foie gras, caviar and oysters) and a prettier interior at Dempsey, the new Culina also boasts a chic café called Culina Enoteca. Earlier this week, we grabbed a quick bite there. CH had a steak sandwich and I had a salmon one. Both tasted light, fresh and lovingly put together. The café also serves 27 wines by-the-glass, all which can also be purchased at the store as well. This means that customers can actually taste a couple of wines (with a plate of charcuterie perhaps) in a relaxed, comfortable spot before buying a couple of bottles to add to their stash. We’re thrilled that this is now open.

The other opening that I have been eagerly awaiting is that of Aussie food emporium, Jones the Grocer. I fell in love with the Woollahra store years ago and couldn’t tear myself away from its cheese room! We had the opportunity to tour the premises before it opened officially this week and were inspired by the great range of products Jones stocks. Many of the items are from small batch, artisanal producers who often create products especially for Jones. It’s great to see retailers choosing to showcase producers that they truly believe in. We bought a bunch of ice creams as well as a butterscotch sauce to taste. I also stocked up on my favourite Persian fairy floss. Oh, and we tasted a pairing of blue cheese with truffle honey that was to-die-for. I can’t wait to stock up for our next dinner party! Jones also serves food throughout the day. The menu is small but pretty tasty. Be warned though. Even though it’s only been opened for just a couple of days, it is already packed. And since all the tables are communal, you may need to be a little assertive when asking someone who is hogging 4 or 5 chairs for just one friend and herself to be a little more thoughtful of the needs of other customers.

Culina at Dempsey
Block 8 Dempsey Road #01-13
Tel: 6474-7338

Jones the Grocer Dempsey Hill
Block 9 Dempsey Road #01-12
www.jonesthegrocer.com

Travel Much?

Regular readers know that because of my work, I travel a lot. I’m on the road an average of 10 days a month, bouncing around the region and occasionally further afield. Because I work for myself and also try to save my clients as much money as possible, I tend to fly in the back of the bus most of the time. Which, in my mind at least, pretty much qualifies me as someone who knows his way around booking an inexpensive flight.

I usually book flights one of a couple of ways, either via my preferred travel agency or via the Internet. The former is magically efficient and able to do meet almost any crazy request I throw at them, but they aren’t the greatest at sussing out dirt-cheap rates. Which inevitably means that for some trips, I’ll spend some time trawling various websites hunting for special deals, promotions and attractive prices. Sometimes, you can find these directly on an airline’s website. But pretty often, the best place to hunt for great rates is on ZUJI.

I’m not sure how many readers already use the site, but I just thought I’d let slip that they’re having a pretty nifty travel sale right now. Until 23 September, airlines are offering special fares via ZUJI, some as low as S$105; hotels are offering room nights as low as S$30; and there are a whole host of ridiculously well-priced packages to boot.

Plus, VISA Cardholders can get up to S$20 off all airline tickets, S$60 off all “Great Buy” hotel offers, and S$100 off any packages that you create yourself. In addition, a variety of airlines (Thai Airways, United Airlines, Northwest, Japan Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates and China Airlines) have all released some super-special fares in conjunction with the current NATAS fair.

There are limited booking periods to the fares, packages and hotels on promotion, so hurry up. I know that I’ve been having a blast the past couple of days combing through all of ZUJI‘s offers, trying to decide where in the world to take S on our next vacation. The only tough thing is actually choosing which trip to go on. There are some amazing packages to Japan. But I know S would also like to go back to Paris. On the other hand, I’ve been meaning to check out the Croatian coast… sigh… too many places to see, too little time.

Buy this magazine

A few months ago, a photographer-buddy of mine, whom I’d worked with years ago, emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in writing some stories on Singapore. Food and Travel, one of the UK’s best gourmet magazines, had hired him to shoot the photographs for a supplement on my native land. He, in turn, suggested me as the possible author for said supplement (which was pretty darned cool of him). Because of the size of the supplement, there was no way I could handle it, within the time frame that the magazine needed the articles, by myself. So, I enlisted aid from S and another young friend. Together, we put together stories on Singapore’s street food, restaurants, nightlife, and other areas of interest to visitors. The issue of Food and Travel that contains the supplement is now on sale in Europe. It should hit the States and Asia soon. I hope that you find it both interesting and useful.

And… if you need one more reason to buy this issue, the amazing Melissa of Traveler’s Lunchbox wrote the story on eating in Belgium. I know that I’m a huge fan of her writing and I’m pretty sure many of you are as well.

Technical hiccups and a treat

(Update: I’d like to thank all the readers who have emailed us and congratulate the ones who have won tickets for the screening. Sadly, all 100 tickets have been given away. Keep coming back to this site for future events and fun activities. Cheers.)

Firstly, I’d like to apologize to all readers who have been trying unsuccessfully to check out this site over the past few days; similarly, thank you to those who emailed me to say that the site was down. Due to certain circumstances, I have had to change host servers and the transfer took a little longer than was expected. The transfer was prompted by problems I was having with my previous host. In a nutshell, I have learned the hard way that any web host selling “unlimited bandwidth” is lying and that there really is no such thing as “unlimited bandwidth”. Due to increasingly high traffic, my previous host realized that I was using up too much of their resources and was no longer a cost-effective client. Instead of working to accommodate this site’s needs, they simply decided to continually suspend my account whenever the traffic was too high. Which kind of doesn’t make sense, right?

Anyway, I have just changed hosts. The change should have been seamless except that I mistimed how long the transfer would take. But hopefully, from now on, browsing through Chubby Hubby should be pleasant experience for all of you and one bereft of 404 errors and missing pages.

Lastly, as a huge thank you to all of you readers who have helped me generate such a high volume of traffic over the past 2 years, S and I have decided to put together a little gift.

Ever since I first saw the trailer for Pixar’s latest animated film, Ratatouille, I knew I wanted to see it. The trailer looked amazing. I found myself pointing out details: “Oh my god, that’s a Microplane grater… and there a Molteni range… and look, lion bowls and copper pots.” Everything looked so perfect and realistic… so like a real high-end kitchen, which is not what you would expect to see in a cartoon. But this is a cartoon from the guys that made The Incredibles, which was brilliant. From what I understand, the team behind Ratatouille actually spent time in Thomas Keller’s kitchen, getting a sense of how real restaurant kitchens look and feel. For the 12 of you out there in the world who don’t know what the story is about, here’s a synopsis from IMDB:

“Remy is a rat, constantly risking life in an expensive French restaurant because of his love of good food, as well as a desire to become a chef. Yet, obviously, this is a rather tough dream for a rat. But opportunity knocks when a young boy, who desperately needs to keep his job at the restaurant, despite his lack of cooking abilities, discovers and partners the young Remy. Its up to the two of them to avoid the insane head chef, bring the rest of Remy’s family up to his standards, win his partner a girl, and, of course, produce the finest Ratatouille in all of France.”

Anyway, as I was saying, S and I have been dying to see this movie ever since we first saw its trailer many months ago. And I’m sure we’re not alone. Ratatouille officially opens here in Singapore on 30 August 2007. But, it is sneaking this coming weekend.

And we have booked an entire hall for you.

Yup, we’ve arranged a private sneak preview of Ratatouille just for you. The screening is being held at the Shaw cinema at Bugis Junction this coming Sunday, 26 August 2007. The show time is 5pm. We are giving away 100 free tickets, in lots of four. That means, we will be giving 25 lucky readers four tickets each to the show.

Want tickets? Then be the first 25 persons to email ch.ratatouille@gmail.com (Sorry, all tickets have been given away). You must:

1. Answer the following question: What is a ratatouille?
2. Give us your full name, IC number, and mobile phone number.

(Note that this is only open to people living in Singapore.) Once we get your email, we’ll reply with instructions on when and where to pick up your tickets.

In addition, we’ve invited some of Singapore’s best chefs and their families to join us for the show. And, as if a free movie with great company wasn’t enough, we’ve asked some friends to put together a little bag of treats for you to take home. Huge thanks to Fiji Water, Valrhona, Brewerkz, Marmalade Pantry, Razor Sharp, Greengrocer.com.sg, and the Gryphon Tea Company for helping us pamper you just that much more.

Thanks again and see you at the movies!

Photography Contest winners announced

Wow! When Cathay Photo, Colorvision and I launched this little photography contest, in celebration of colour — and by extension to highlight the importance of proper colour and monitor callibration when shooting digitally — we did not expect that it would be so popular. All of us were very happily overwhelmed. All in all, 149 contestants submitted 285 photos. The quality across the board was extremely high. All of the judges and I were really impressed. And we had a really tough time trying to decide which photos to pick as the top five.

But, because we promised to pick winners — after all, we do have prizes to give away — we’ve ranked our favourite pictures, scored them and have come up with the best of the best.

So, without further ado, here they are:

Grand Prize: Vintage by Sng Kia Jit

vintage.jpg

Judge Andrew Loiterton loves this shot. He says, “The composition is unexpected but works well with the contrast to the grimy street. And that red really pops!” Kia Jit wins a ColorVision Spyder2Suite, an Olympus MJU 760 Digital Camera, a Wacom Intuos3 6” x 8” Tablet, and a $100 Cathay Photo Voucher. Congrats!

2nd Place: Fairground by Chua Kong Ping

fairground.jpg

Kong Ping wins the ColorVision Spyder2express, a Wacom Graphire4 6” x 8” Tablet, and a $100 Cathay Photo Voucher.

3rd Place (three winners): Finish Line by Benny Hartono, Shower of Blessing by Marlon Sutanu, and Rowboats, Nepal, 2005 by Jimmy Sng.

finish_line.jpg

shower_of_blessing.jpg rowboats.jpg

Each winner wins a ColorVision Spyder2express and a $50 Cathay Photo Voucher.

Congrats again to all winners and many thanks to all participants. (Note to the winners: Cathay Photo staff will be calling you shortly; you will be able to pick up your prizes from Friday, 20 July 2007.) Huge thanks also to our special judges: ColorVision’s own Mr Sam Ng, their in-house Technical Marketing Manager, superstar photographer Russel Wong, acclaimed and award-winning photographer Tay Kay Chin, ubercool photographer Andrew Loiterton and creative genius Chris Lee, the man behind Asylum.

Sesame + Soy and Food & Culture at the National Museum

Over the past few months, my darling wife S, who is also my business partner, and I have been working on a few rather exciting projects.

sesamesoy.jpg

One of them is the creation and development of a new Modern Asian restaurant for a boutique hotel in Penang, Malaysia. We had the good fortune of being introduced to the directors of the new, rather swish G Hotel late last year. They asked us to help them come up with a fun F&B concept for a two room space on the hotel’s first floor. Because the two rooms were both quite large and connected by a long corridor, we proposed an interconnected two-restaurants-in-one idea. Once that was approved, and with the help of some friends, we then set about to actually open the restaurant. The restaurant is called Sesame + Soy. Soy, which is in the first room, is a pan-Asian bistro that serves casual but delicious comfort food. Some of the dishes on the menu are gado gado of green beans, lady’s fingers, and tempeh; green pea soup + vegetable tempura; slow cooked pork belly + spicy dried shrimp rice; barbecued coffee cocoa pork ribs + garlic fried rice; pan roasted red snapper and papaya salsa + herbed potatoes; and crispy pork spaghetti aglio olio. The desserts, which we call “Happy Endings”, include gula melaka crème brulee + coconut ice cream, and warm chocolate and nutella tart + banana fritters and vanilla ice cream. Soy soft-opened this past Monday and if any of you are already in or are going to be in Penang, please drop by. The prices are very reasonable; the space is pretty cool; and the food is good. Sesame, which is in the second room, will only open in August. It will be a slightly more high-end Modern Chinese restaurant offering tasting menus, plus a small menu of a la carte options.

A really fun project that S has been spearheading is the development of a new series of public programmes for the National Museum of Singapore. In an effort to reach out to new audiences as well as to reposition the museum as a cool place to hang out in, the National Museum has launched some interesting new initiatives. One of these is called Life & Living. The Food & Culture series of programmes that we have helped developed comes under this line-up of innovative lifestyle programmes and workshops.

There are 10 programmes in the inaugural Food & Culture series line-up, which launches next month (July 2007). Our goal was to create fun, interactive, educational but exciting programmes that appeal to as wide an audience base as possible. Of course, everyone has different tastes, so some programmes have been specifically developed with specific audiences in mind. But as a whole, we feel that the line-up is pretty diverse. And very appealing. I only hope you will agree with us.

Here’s a list of the programmes and the dates on which they are being held:

The mortar and pestle in Southeast Asian cuisine (5 Jul, 630pm)
This 90 minute course brings you through the history of the mortar and pestle in regional cuisines and also demonstrates how to make a couple yummy and versatile pastes using one. Snacks using these pastes will also be served.

The art of the high tea (29 Jul; 29 Sep; 3pm for both sessions)
Join us for a fun afternoon of food and drink. We will be serving a delectable spread of traditional English tea-time treats along with a selection of teas. A tea and etiquette expert will guide you through the art of tasting and appreciating tea, as well as discuss the history and culture of this indulgent, mid-afternoon meal.

Dinner and a movie night (5 Aug; 15 Dec; 5pm for both)
Pairing food with film marries two of Singaporeans’ biggest passions. Make a special night of it by catching a really cool, hunger-inducing food-centric flick at the National Museum’s Gallery Theatre before proceeding to indulge in a meal inspired by the dishes featured in the movie. The movies will be announced shortly.
Modern manners (23 Aug, 630pm)
This interactive talk focuses on the unfamiliar professional and social situations a young person is likely to encounter early in his or her career. By the end of this course, acquire the confidence to handle any social situation, whether it’s being stuck talking with your new boss’ wife at a dinner party, writing a resignation letter or even knowing how to dress for your first real job interviews.

Know your chocolate (15 Sep, 3pm)
Can you tell the difference between a good chocolate bar and a great one? Does having a higher percentage of cocoa in a chocolate bar necessarily translate into a superior taste experience? Is single estate chocolate merely a marketing ploy? Our chocolate expert traces the origins of our favourite deep, dark indulgences and teaches you how to tell the differences between different kinds of chocolates. As part of this sinfully rich course, of course, participants will be treated to a chocolate tasting.

Beyond the Singapore Sling: creating cocktails with local herbs and spices (11 Oct, 630pm)
Fancy yourself a bit of an amateur bartender? Tap on the experiences of an expert and learn how to personalise your homemade cocktails with local herbs and spices. We will introduce key local herbs and spices, and show you how you can incorporate some of them into creative cocktails.

Discovering local herbs and spices: a mortar and pestle master class (18 Oct, 630pm)
At this mortar and pestle master class, we will introduce herbs and spices that form the basic building blocks of innumerable Singaporean dishes, providing useful tips along the way on identifying and selecting fresh, high quality specimens and storing them. Then we will demonstrate how two versatile local spice/herb pastes are prepared using the mortar and pestle.

Classic cocktails (15 Nov, 630pm)
Do you know what goes into a Gimlet, a Gibson and a Sidecar? How about a Rusty Nail or a Harvey Wallbanger? Learn the histories of some of the world’s most famous cocktails. And of course, taste them.

Instant wine expert (29 Nov, 630pm)
This short course, led by a wine expert, will walk you through everything you need to know to appreciate and order wine confidently in any situation. As part of the course, you will get to taste several different kinds of wines from a variety of price ranges.

All wrapped up: Southeast Asian techniques of wrapping food with leaves (6 Dec, 630pm)
Southeast Asians have developed sophisticated techniques utilising leaves to wrap a host of traditional dishes. Learn how different leaves impart flavours and aromas to food and get tips on how specific leaves are prepared before they are used. Our instructor will talk about the history of this culinary technique, demonstrate classic wrapping techniques and show you how to prepare two leaf encased dishes.

The very first class, “the mortar and pestle in Southeast Asian cuisine”, which is being taught by super-foodie, cookbook author, photographer and newspaper columnist Christopher Tan, is next week. If interested, please click over to the National Museum’s website, click on the “What’s On” section, and register as soon as possible. Please note that there is a small fee for all of the above programmes (but we think it’s worth it). We hope to see you there.

WIN S$2806 WORTH OF FREE STUFF

A little while back, I wrote about using ColorVision‘s Spyder2 system. In that post, I mentioned I would be working with Cathay Photo, my favourite Singapore-based camera store, to help publicize this cool color management system. Well, here’s just one way we’re hoping to grab your attention… AND also get you involved. Plus, we’re giving way oodles of amazing free stuff!

Celebrating Color

Ever notice how looking at bright and rich colors can sometimes make us feel better, more energetic or suddenly more festive? Whether it’s a bright red umbrella on a dark rainy day, your friend’s fun summer dress or a beautiful plate of fresh food, bright colors have the power to lift us up and remind us to enjoy life.

Cathay Photo, in partnership with ColorVision and Chubby Hubby and with sponsorship from Olympus and Wacom, is celebrating the power of colors through this photography contest, hosted on Chubby Hubby. Further, photos will be judged by a panel of well-known photographers, creative wizards, Cathay Photo staff, Chubby Hubby and ColorVision’s own Mr Sam Ng, their in-house Technical Marketing Manager. Our special guest judges are superstar photographer Russel Wong, acclaimed and award-winning photographer Tay Kay Chin, ubercool photographer Andrew Loiterton and creative genius Chris Lee, the man behind Asylum.

Here’s what you could win!

Grand Prize (value S$1501):
ColorVision Spyder2Suite
Olympus MJU 760 Digital Camera
Wacom Intuos3 6” x 8” Tablet
$100 Cathay Photo Voucher

2nd Prize (value S$588):
ColorVision Spyder2express
Wacom Graphire4 6” x 8” Tablet
$100 Cathay Photo Voucher

Runner-Up Prize (3 winners, each prize worth S$249):
ColorVision Spyder2express
$50 Cathay Photo Voucher

To enter, simply submit up to a maximum of 3 photographs that you’ve taken and that you feel celebrate color. To submit photos, you will need to join Flickr (I’m assuming anyone with a digital camera should be a member — after all, it’s free) and then join the Group that I have created for this contest. It is called Celebrating Color Photo Contest — you can go there by clicking here. Once you have joined, upload the photo or photos you intend to submit. Once on Flickr, click on them one at a time, click on the “send to group” button and add them to the Celebrating Photo Contest group. It’s that simple.

Then email Chubby Hubby at aun@chubbyhubby to say you have entered. Please note this is mandatory! You have to email me to be considered. You MUST include the name(s) of your submission(s) (so I can identify it on the Flickr group), your Flickr username, your own full name and hp number. This contest is only open to Singaporean-residents.

You can start submitting photos immediately. Closing date is 10 July 2007. We will announce the winners on 17 July.