Shopping news

Singapore-based gourmands will be excited to know that Pantry Magic is opening the doors of its first Singapore shop on Monday, 29 Janaury 2007. For those who haven’t visited one of their two stores in Hong Kong or its shop in Taiwan, Pantry Magic is a (relatively) new, Asian chain specializing in cooks’ tools.

My darlin’ wife S and I dropped by the new store while the proprietors were unpacking their wares and setting up their displays. It was pretty exciting to see all the gorgeous product just waiting for eager beavers like me to buy and bring home.

S was especially interested in the wide range of bakeware available while I was literally drooling over the gleaming copper pots and pans filling the store’s shelves. We also really liked the roasting pans that they’ll be selling. It’s hard to find nice pans with upright handles. The store has a pretty amazing range of product. The prices are pretty impressive as well. Because Pantry Magic manufactures a good deal of their own wares, they are able to price their items at 30%-40% less than similar, imported products.

Pantry Magic Pte Ltd.
43 Jalan Merah Saga
Chip Bee Gardens #01-80
Tel: 6471 0566

Update: Pantry Magic is now located at #44 Club Street, Tel 6224 4055.


Okay, nothing to do with food, but oh my lord do I want one of these babies! Don’t know what it is? Click here. All I can say is, “Wow”.

Holiday Gift Guide 2006

Last year, I was a little late in posting my Christmas Gift Guide. This year, I’ve decided to get as early a start as possible. Unlike last year, in which I recommended only things that I had already acquired and road-tested, this year I am including things that are at the top of my own wish list. (This is, of course, in the very self-centered hope that good friends and family members will actually consult this before buying us our Christmas gifts this year.) Some of these gifts are pretty pricey; some are very reasonable. Some are only for serious cooks; others are items even the youngest of foodies will enjoy.

I hope that you enjoy my little round-up. Like last year, in honor of the 12 days of Christmas, I’ve chosen 12 nifty gift ideas that will make your favourite gourmand love you more than ever. Singaporean-based readers should also take note that, in conjunction with my beloved bank sponsor, OCBC, we’ve arranged some special prices on some of these items for cardmembers. Happy shopping and happy holidays!

1. KitchenAid products

I’m going to take it for granted that you already have (or your favorite foodie has) a KitchenAid Stand mixer. I know that S wouldn’t be able to live without hers. But what many of us often forget is that KitchenAid doesn’t just make mixers. A couple of shiny countertop appliances that I’ve had my eyes on for quite awhile are their food processor, their espresso machine and their burr (coffee) grinder.

All of them are stunningly designed, with the same gorgeous, brightly painted, metal finishes as the mixers. The processor features the largest feed tube on the market; that means you can easily toss into your mix all kinds of large food items, like tomatoes, potatoes or cucumbers with minimal sectioning. The espresso machine is simply gorgeous. I mean, who wouldn’t want that on their kitchen counter? And if you like your beans fresh, you’ll need a good grinder. The Pro Line series (Model KCG100) one is fantastic. And it’s not just for coffee. I have a friend who has one that she uses for grinding up Asian spices. Of course, you wouldn’t want to use the same one for coffee and spices. Do what she did, and get two.

OCBC Promotion: From 8 December to 28 February 2007, purchase the KitchenAid KES100 Espresso Machine and KitchenAid KCG100 Burr Grinder at a special combined price of $1399 (usual price is $1698), including GST. In addition, purchase the KitchenAid KFPM770 Food Processor (red color only) at just $469 (usual price is $599), including GST. Purchases must be made at Mayer showrooms and stores. Locations below in Terms & Conditions.

2. Stovetop smoker

I love the idea of being able to hot-smoke foods right on my stovetop. These smoketop smokers, from Camerons Professional Cookware not only look really easy to use, they also look pretty stylish. I can just imagine smoking everything from salmon to duck to pork ribs in my new smoker. Experimenting with different smoking ingredients, from various kinds of wood chips to gourmet teas, would be fun too.

3. Bespoke tea

The truly special person in your life needs a truly special present. Some of the best presents I’ve ever received were those that were specially tailored just for me. Singapore’s hottest, coolest and newest gourmet tea label, the Gryphon Tea Company, in addition to producing an exciting range of teas for the retail market, also has the facilities to custom-blend a tea specifically for you or your loved one. The process of creating a bespoke tea blend can take anywhere from a week to a month, depending on how many rounds of tastings you need to go through. Teas are packaged loose in vacuum-sealed bags. Because Gryphon is a subsidiary of one of the region’s top tea manufacturers and importers, you can be rest assured that they can create something truly special and of top quality for you. Click here for contact info. Prices for a kilo of bespoke tea, which contains approximately 200 servings, starts at around S$250.

OCBC Promotion: Pay with your OCBC card and get a 10% discount on the price of your custom-blended tea. Promotion valid till 28 February 2007.

4. Cook With Jamie

I have to admit. This book really surprised me. Cook with Jamie, by Jamie Oliver, is a great cookbook. Unlike many of his more recent books, which I felt belonged in a “nice to have but far from essential” category, this well-written, clear and informative work has a good chance of becoming a classic cookbook. It’s definitely for me one of the year’s must-haves.

5. Revolutionary Chinese

Few people, Chinese or otherwise, understand Chinese food as well as Fuschia Dunlop. S and I were already big fans of her previous work, Sichuan Cookery. So, when Revolutionary Chinese hit the bookstores, we knew we had to have a copy. It’s a brilliant primer on Hunan cuisine, filled with insightful essays and clear recipes.

6. Justin Quek: Passion & Inspiration

As part of the team that produced this book, I admit freely that I’m extremely biased about it. That said, I do believe that Justin Quek’s cookbook is both beautiful and unique. Justin was insistent that this book tell his story–how he went from being a merchant sailor to becoming one of the world’s finest chefs. He also insisted that this book pay homage to his mentors and friends, featuring them prominently in its pages. Because of these inclusions, this book won’t just offer you dozens of amazing Modern French recipes (which it does), it provides the reader with a unique insight of one of Asia’s most talented artists.
7. Mario Batali cookware

This range of cast-iron cookware, fronted by one of the world’s favorite chefs, is both beautiful and affordable. The range that’s currently available in Singapore includes the 6qt Italian Essentials Pot (S$269); the Panini Grill and Press (S$249); the Risotto Pot (S$259); and the Extra Deep Lasagne Pan (S$239).

I’ve tried out both the risotto pot and the panini press and love them both. In fact, S and I like the panini press so much, we’ve ordered what looks like an awesome book of panini recipes just so we can use it more. S has also been trying to convince me to pick up the Lasagne pan. She likes that it has really straight sides; that ensures pretty plating when you serve the slices.

OCBC Promotions: Puchase any item from the Mario Batali cast iron cookware line and get the following items (worth S$116) free: a large ceramic utensils crock, a small silicone spatula, a large silicone spatula, and a silicone spoon spatula. Plus, buy any second item of cookware at 40% off. Available from the Razorsharp showroom, 315 Outram Road #01-03, Tan Boon Liat Building.

8. Mariage Freres teapots

These gorgeous glass tea pots from one of the world’s most notable tea companies are really S’s contribution to the Christmas gift list. In fact, she’s dropped many unsubtle hints to me that I should be placing an order for her as soon as possible. The two models above are amusingly named (from left to right) Happy Alladin and Happy Dream. Give one of these to your favorite fashionable female and I guarantee she’ll be happy as can be.

9. Fresh Alba truffle

Nothing is more indicative of the end of the year than the annual clamor for white Alba truffles. And nothing is as seductive or as powerful for food-lovers than the aromas and subtle flavors of these ridiculously expensive and rare tubers. This year, the average price was around 3,000 Euros per kilo. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that. But if one of your loved ones is a truffle fanatic, you might consider shelling out some cash and purchasing him or her a few truffles. Check with local restaurants and gourmet food importers. See if they’ll sell you some at a wholesale price. Or contact a top truffle company, like Tartufi Morra in Alba, and beg them to sell you some directly. Just remember to eat them properly. You never cook white truffles; they are best simply shaved over some risotto, pasta or scrambled eggs.

10. Kasumi 20cm chef’s knife

You can’t go wrong with a Kasumi chef’s knife. I know I can’t live without mine. This beautifully made, well-balanced Japanese knife is thin, strong and sexy as hell. The knives are made in Seki, Japan, which has a knife and sword-making history stretching back 700 years. The main cutting blade of Kasumi knives is V-Gold No 10 High Carbon stainless steel; the blade has a hardness on the edge of 59-60 HRC. The fine Damascus stainless steel pattern on the blade comes from 32 layers of folded steel. It’s both an essential tool and a work of art.

OCBC Promotion: Buy a Kasumi 20cm chef’s knife (usual price is S$290) for S$245 and get a Kasumi 12cm utility knife and a bamboo cutting board free. Plus, you get a voucher for one free knife sharpening service. Available from the Razorsharp showroom, 315 Outram Road #01-03, Tan Boon Liat Building.

11. Musso Mini ice cream machine

I’ve probably bored readers to tears over the last 2 years with countless stories about the fantastic ice cream that my wife S makes for me. She uses a Musso Mini, which looks a little like R2D2’s cuter, smaller cousin. It’s a fantastic machine. It freezes while it churns and can whip together a fresh batch of ice cream in just 20 to 30 minutes. While it’s certainly not a cheap appliance, it is very well-made and after 5 years, ours is still performing perfectly.

OCBC Promotion: Purchase your super-sexy Musso Mini right now for just $1,344 (usual price is S$1,680, so you save 20%). Plus get a voucher for an ice cream making class (venue and date to be determined). Contact BATS Singapore by calling +65 62925658 or email them at Alternatively call Sebastian Muthu at +65 94241807.

12. A case of Jacquesson Cuvée 730

Nothing is more festive than a glass of good Champagne. One of my favorite Champagne producers is Jacquesson. Founded in 1798, this excellent vineyard produces only 350,000 bottles a year. And while Jacquesson is nowhere near as well-known as some of the other houses in Champagne, like Krug, Moet & Chandon, Bollinger, or Veuve Clicquot, its wines are as elegant and well-crafted as those from these other houses.

The Cuvée No. 730 is the 730th cuvée made by the House since its Centenary Cuvée in 1898. It’s a light, clean, crisp Champagne with slight nutty and citrusy elements. It’s the perfect bubbly for toasting in the new year.

KitchenAid Terms & Conditions:
a) Please note that these offers are valid while stocks last only.
b) Valid for all OCBC cards.
c) Limited to one purchase per product category only. That is, one card member can only purchase 1 Espresso Machine, Burr Grinder and Food Processor only.
d) Not valid in conjunction with any other promotions and offers.
e) Not entitled to Mayer In-Store Promotions, Free Gifts & Lucky Draw.
f) All items are cash & carry and do not include delivery. Collection of products must be at point of purchase. In the event there is no stock at the showrooms, new stock will be sent to the showrooms and customers must collect within 5 days of notification.
g) Promotion is valid till 28 February 2007.
h) Promotion is for purchases made only in Mayer stores. Locations are as follows: Causeway Point #03-22/23 Tel: 6767 1017, Compass Point #B1-01/02 Tel: 6315 8700, Great World City #02-05 Tel: 6838 4079, IMM #02-45 Tel: 6563 4288, Parkway Parade – Home Haven on 7 #07-10/14 Tel: 6346 9216, Plaza Singapura #05-06 Tel: 6835 8272. Showroom opening hours: 11am – 9.30pm daily.

Mario Batali and Kasumi Terms & Conditions:
a) All items are while stocks last.
b) Valid for all OCBC cards.
c) Razorsharp reserves the rights to replace free gift items with other items of the same value.
d) Color depending on stock availability.
e) Promotion is for purchases made at the Razorsharp showroom, 315 Outram Road #01-03, Tan Boon Liat Building, Singapore 169074, Tel: +6562277515. Operating hours : Mon~Friday 09:30~18:00 & Sat 09:30~13:30 (Closed on Sunday & PH).
f) Promotion is valid till end January 2007.

Musso Terms & Conditions:
a) This offer is valid while stocks last.
b) Valid for all OCBC cards.
c) Cooking classes are contingent upon a minimum number of participants signing up.
d) Promotion is valid till 28 February 2007.

Four Seasons Bangkok WGF: William Ledeuil and his Thermomix

Of all the great chefs that flew into Bangkok for the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok’s World Gourmet Festival and cooked their hearts out over the past week, the one that impressed me the most was Chef William Ledeuil. This always affable, enthusiastic and humble chef runs one of Paris’ hottest restaurants, Ze Kitchen Galerie. The International Herald Tribune has called Ledeuil’s establishment a “delight”. The New York Times has said, “the cooking shows unbridled creativity and a sense of fun.” Ledeuil first made his name at Les Bouquinistes, a Guy Savoy bistro. There, he prepared fresh, modern French food. Today, at Ze Kitchen Galerie, he cooks what he calls simply “contemporary cuisine”. Not contemporary French mind you. Just contemporary. Others might also call his food, for lack of a better term, fusion.

Ledeuil, who has a wealth of classical training, is in love with Asian produce, especially the herbs and spices of Southeast Asia. His cuisine draws upon these inspirational ingredients to produce a range of fantastically exciting dishes. At the World Gourmet Festival, I had the pleasure of attending Chef Ledeuil’s cooking class, one of his 5-course dinners and also of having an encore of what I consider the best dish of the week during the WGF’s gala dinner, a seabass ravioli with capsicum lemongrass condiment and shellfish broth (pictured at the top of this post). When this dish was presented at the 8-course gala, it caused quite a sensation. You could smell the lemongrass in the air as the waiters and waitresses carried the plates into the room. A super-light but amazingly flavourful foam covered the ravioli, which was steamed to perfection. The fish inside was deliciously tender and the capsicum lemongrass sauce under it added the perfect hint of complexity.

Chef Ledeuil’s five course dinner menu was as follows: layer of daikon and shrimp flavoured with Thai basil and tarama lemongrass; beet root and confit of ginger gaspacho with cucumbers filled with crabmeat, avocado puree and salmon roe; the seabass ravioli; grilled lobster and Bouchot mussels with lemongrass and crustacean jus; and mango cappuccino with coconut ice cream and banana papaya emulsion. During Ledeuil’s cooking class, I was thrilled to watch him make the seabass ravioli that I had fallen in love with just a few days earlier. Unfortunately, because Chef Ledeuil had originally planned to make the dish with different sauces, the recipe he handed out was different from what he showed us. If you want to check out Chef’s Ledeuil’s recipes for yourself, he released a cookbook called Les Couleurs du Gout (The Colours of Taste) two years ago. Chef very generously passed me a copy. It’s stunning and I urge you to buy a copy. The only problem (for me at least) is that the book is in French which means I’ll be spending many a night brushing up on my very, very rusty Francais.

In addition to wowing me with his cooking, Chef Ledeuil also wowed me with something I had read about but had never gotten to actually see up close, a Thermomix. Ever since I had heard about these amazing machines that single-handedly weigh, chop, blend, knead, whip, and cook (yes cook!), I’ve wanted to check one out and see it in action. Chef Ledeuil swears by them. He told me he can’t imagine cooking without one. I was thrilled when he invited me into the kitchen to watch as he prepared some of his sauces with the one he carried all the way to Bangkok from Paris.

The Thermomix is very cool. It allows you to precisely measure ingredients and blend them at 11 different speeds (1-10 plus a turbo setting). Most amazingly, you can heat your ingredients at 7 different temperature settings, ranging from 37 degrees Celsius on up to 100 degrees Celsius. The consistency of the sauces that Chef Ledeuil made were brilliantly smooth and nicely heated through. Having finally seen a Thermomix in action, all I can say is, “Oh my God, I want one!” Of course, I’d like to cook like Chef Ledeuil as well.

4, rue des Grands Augustins
Paris 6
Tel: 01 44 32 00 32

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Free phones — whoopee!

Local readers hoping to win a brand new Nokia N73 phone still have 2 more days to enter my first N73 giveaway contest, Funny Eating Fotos. So, if you have a great, hilarious picture taken of someone stuffing his or her face, hurry over to Flickr and post your photo. I’ll be announcing the winner of this contest during the first week of September.

If you don’t win a phone through Funny Eating Fotos, you still have a chance to win a Nokia N73. Contest 2 begins today. I’m calling this one “Best Kept Secret Food Stalls”. Entering it is similar to contest 1. If you’re not already registered with Flickr, you’ll need to sign up (relax, it’s free). Then go to Best Kept Secret Food Stalls, the Flickr pool I’ve created for this contest.

This contest is open only to Singapore-residents (sorry). Please post one picture per contestant only. Post a great picture which has been taken using a mobile phone of your favourite local “best kept secret food stall”, i.e. that place you love to eat at that serves super-delicious food but that you’re pretty sure not that many people know about. Note: the photo must have been taken with a mobile phone.

Please describe the photo after you post it. The photo can be anything from someone eating to the food itself to a shot of the stall/eatery/coffee shop itself. Just be sure to tell all of us where it is.

The contest closes 22 September 2006. The folks at Nokia and I will judge the pictures and award the winner with a Nokia N73. We’ll be looking for a really cool picture… something really great… not sure exactly how to put it in words. We’ll be looking for a picture that just makes us go, “wow”. Good luck!

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Win a Nokia N73

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of testing out one of Nokia’s awesome new N Series phones. The N73 is a joy to use and I’m not just saying that because I got one free. The N73 is the first Nokia I’ve used in years. Quite a few years ago, I made the switch to PDA phones, using (in order) a Treo, HP iPaq and most recently a Dopod 838 Pro, which I totally love. But I have to admit, the N73 has been winning me over. It’s a good size; it feels right in my hand. It has simple, clean looks (I hate fancy “fashion phones”) and the calender software works perfectly. Keying in appointments is a breeze and the read-out on the main screen is very clear. Best of all, the Nokia N73’s camera rocks. It has a 3.2 megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens. I’ve complained in the past about the cameras on my PDA phones. The Treo’s was awful and the iPaq’s not much better. The Dopod’s camera isn’t bad but it’s nothing compared to N73’s. While you can’t really shoot things too close, for general snapping away, it’s brilliant.

But, as in all things, you should judge for yourself! So, thanks to the fine folks at Nokia, I’m thrilled to be able to give away 2 brand new Nokia N73 phones. I’ll be giving each one away via 2 contests over the next 2 months.

FUNNY EATING FOTOSis the first contest and it starts today! Sorry, but it’s open only to Singapore residents. Starting today, post the funniest photograph that you have taken of someone (that you know) eating or enjoying a meal. The photo can also be a self-portrait. I love funny photos of people eating. I especially love snapping them. My wife S (pictured here; photo taken with the N73), however, hates it, but has learned to live with it (and me). Please only post 1 photograph per contestant.

At the end of August, I will (with input from the folks at Nokia) pick a winner. To enter, you need to join Flickr, post your photo online and then send it to this Photo Group that I have created just for this contest: Funny Eating Fotos.Good luck! I look forward to seeing your entries and I’m looking forward to sending one of you a brand new Nokia N73.

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Kitchen samurai

Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I really like knives. When I was younger, I bought a lot of silly knives, like f

olding blades and boot daggers. These days, though, my purchases are limited to kitchen knives. Over the years, S and I have amassed what I consider a pretty nifty collection. At last count, we have well over a dozen gorgeous chef’s knives. My personal favourites among them include a Masahiro Deba, a Kasumi, a Wusthof Classic with an exceptionally wide blade, a Chroma Type 301, and a Wusthof Culinar.

Buying knives is easy. Maintaining them is not. A good knife, to be really useful when working with it in the kitchen, has to be razor sharp. The only problem is that, for the longest time, I was neither confident nor sure how to properly sharpen my knives. Part of me feared that if I tried and somehow did something wrong, I’d ruin my precious tools. I do own one of those fancy-shmancy Global sharpeners, the kind which sits on the table and has litle grooves for you to run your knife through. But I’ve never really felt that it works properly. I also own a Global wetstone, but, as said, I’ve been too nervous about screwing up an expensive tool to acually use it. For the longest time, S has been sending my knives out to be professionally sharpened.

Fortunately, a very kind and very skilled new friend (I’ll call him Knife-Sensei David) spent a good chunk of a recent afternoon walking S and me through a knife sharpening class. The first thing we had to understand, Sensei David told us, was our knives themselves. German knives and Japanese knives are quite different. German knives are two-sided and each side is ground at a 20 degree angle. Traditional Japanese knives are only one sided and the angle is sharper, at 15 degrees. Modern Japanese knifemakers are also making double-edged blades now. These are also ground at around 15 degrees. But what does all this mean? Basically, the more acute the angle, the sharper your knife can be. A straight razor, for example, is ground at a 10 degree angle. However, the sharper the angle is, the thinner the blade becomes. And for a chef’s knife, a thin blade is only useful if it won’t break. The strength of the metal in a blade is measured by something called Rockwell Hardness. Most German blades measure between 55-58 while most Japanese blades measure between 59-60. The steel used in most Japanese knives are thus stronger, which is why they can be ground to a finer angle, i.e. thinner, (and are often made single-sided) without fear of becoming brittle.

Once we understood this, Sensei David then walked us through his 4 important points of knife sharpening. They are (1) angle, (2) abrasives , (3) technique, and (4) control.

Angle: Basically, he explained, as long as you understand that knife blades are sharpened along an acute angle ranging from 15-20 degrees, what actual angle you use to sharpen your own knives doesn’t really matter as long as you are consistent and stay within this range. For a quick check to ensure that you are somewhere on the right path, he advises holding the knife at a 90 degree angle, halving that to form a 45 degree angle, and then finally halving that again. You can then adjust according to your own preference.

Abrasives: Sensei David advocates using a wetstone. He advises to soak the stone in water for 5-10 minutes before use and to always let it dry properly afterwards. Wetstones are graded according to how rough and smooth they are. They can start as low as 200 and go all the way up to 10,000 (the higher the number, the smoother the surface). Stones graded between 200 – 1,000 are considered cutting stones. Those graded over 1,000 are for polishing and honing. Essentially, what stone you use is determined by how sharp or blunt your knife is. Start with a cutting stone. If your knife is dreadfully dull, you’ll need a very abrasive (low-numbered) stone, like a 400. If it’s already quite sharp, you could start with a 1,000. Polishing stones are used later to hone the edge of your knife as well as to create gorgeous, shiny edges on your blade. Most people, Sensei David suggests, will be thrilled with the polish from a 4,000 level stone. “Only kitchen samurais who want super-sharp, super-shiny knives use 10,000,” he said.

Technique: It’s better to sharpen your knives with a large stone. You’ll want one with a wide surface area so that you can draw all of the knife’s edge along the stone in one motion. Gripping the handle of your knife with one hand, get it into your desired angle along your stone. Place three fingers of the other hand on the flat of the blade near the tip. Start at the top left corner (if you are right-handed) and and run the blade along the stone towards the near right corner. Go back and forth in a consistent motion, sharpening only one side of the knife. Every so often, check the blade. You stop only when you can feel a burr running down the total length of the edge of the blade, on the side that you were not sharpening. When you feel this, stop, flip the blade and sharpen the other side the same way until you feel a fine burr. Sensei David said to us, “the burr is your friend, it is how you know your knife is sharp.” Then use a polishing stone to hone your knife. Holding it the same way, run the blade back and forth on both sides until the edge is smooth and gleaming.

Control: As in anything that requires technique, control is everything. You need to be consistent. The good thing is, according to Sensei David, that despite what you may believe, you really can’t ruin a good quality knife by botching up the sharpening process.

Once your knives are properly sharpened, you won’t need to sharpen them every day. Only professional chefs, who have to cut through endless produce every day, need to do that. Home chefs should, though, hone their blades with a few quick sweeps against a straightening steel (the ceramic vesions work equally well) each time they want to use one.

(Phew. Talk about long-winded posts.) Hopefully, this has helped you all a little. Or maybe you knew all this and I was the only moron out there who was spending a lot of money buying fancy knives without knowing how to take care of them properly. Thanks to Sensei David, I now understand how to sharpen these gorgeous babies myself. (So does S, which is great because hopefully she’ll feel motivated to shapen them for me.)

If, however, you still want to get your knives professionally sharpened (and you live in Singapore), feel free to call David’s company, Razor Sharp, any time. They can make your knives look like new and cut through paper as if it was air. I’ve been amazed at how finely-edged some of my knives have been after a visit to his office. And, because David knows I love it when the edges are super-shiny, he gives this fat foodie the kitchen-samurai special, honing my knives with a 10,000 graded stone.

Razor Sharp
315 Outram Road
#01-03 Tan Boon Liat Building
Singapore 169074
Tel: 6227 7515

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12 days of Christmas…

While I know that a number of magazines and other fabulous food bloggers have already printed and posted their own holiday gift guides, I thought I’d share my own ideas for what you could buy a loved one, or yourself, this year for Christmas.

And in the spirit of Christmas, I’ve chosen 12 items, one for each day (although admittedly, one of the items below is a range of 7 different things). I’ve also imposed two criteria while putting together this list. The first is that S and I had to have it already. Which means the products showcased here are all tried and tested. I’d never want to recommend something we didn’t have and therefore only knew about second-hand. Everything here is something either I or S loves. Secondly, these holiday picks had to be current. Everything I’ve selected was either first produced this past year (especially the books) or else S and I had acquired it in the last 7 months, meaning it should still be readily available in stores near you.

You’ll note that I’ve numbered the products for ease of identification. Start from the top and slowly work clockwise. Oh, I should add that the products aren’t in any particular order, i.e. number 1 isn’t better than number 7. All of them are awesome and great gifts that should put a smile on the face of any foodie friend or loved one. (Please note that most of the headers below contain hyperlinks to the brand’s pages. Please mouse over to check.)

1. Bodum Columbia Thermo Press
I’ve written about these fantastic coffee makers before. These double-walled, stainless steel, French Press style beauties are as easy to use as they are gorgeous. They not only make great coffee (of course, that implies you’re using good coffee) but also make your table look just that much more stylish.

2. William Yeoward glass cake dome
S has been looking for the perfect cake dome to fit her Bison cake stands (below) for months. Important to her was that the dome’s sides had to relatively straight; domes with sides that curved inwards at too great an angle would be useless for covering layered or high cakes. She finally found her dream dome in, of all places, our local Jim Thompson boutique. William Yeoward’s glass cake dome, like all of his other glassware, crystal and home accessories, is stunning. Its brilliance comes from its simplicity, elegance, and amazing quality, all things Yeoward is famous for. Domes come in several sizes so please measure your cake stand before rushing out to buy one.

3. Bison cake stand
S and I are huge fans of Brian Tunks’ stoneware company. Bison makes the most beautiful, handcrafted ceramics. Of all of his company’s designs, we like his cake stands the most, so much so that we have 3, two larger ones (the black is pictured here) and one tiny one. They’re a joy to touch and they look smashing—which explains why they are so often featured in the pages of Aussie food magazines like Donna Hay and Gourmet Traveller.

4. Chroma Type 301 Chef’s Knife
These FA Porsche-designed knives are sex with a honed edge. Forget Global. These are the designer knives you want. Especially once you handle one. Despite the ultra-modern and angled look, these knives are extremely comfortable to hold and to use. So cool and comfy, in fact, that they are the knives of choice of some of the world’s greatest chefs, notably Alain Ducasse. In Singapore, pick yours up from BATS Singapore.

5. Egg Top Cutter
I know I just mentioned this super-cool, palm-sized product in my last post, but S and I cannot describe just how cool we think this egg top cutter is. Of course, to appreciate it fully, you have to be either a bit of an egg fanatic, which I am, or have aspirations to serve cool eggshell-enclosed dishes, like Thomas Keller’s famous egg custard, at dinner parties, which S has. Singaporeans can buy it at Sia Huat, the cool kitchen-supply store on Temple Street.

6. Porcelain-lined Cast Iron Teapot
This super-cute and gorgeous teapot is one of S’s favourite finds of the year. The second she saw it in the homeware section of Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, she knew she’d be carrying it back home with her. Cast iron, as most of you already know, retains heat beautifully. The porcelain lining ensures that the tea flavours are as pure as can be. How could any tea lover resist such a beautiful find?

7. Bernardaud Tea
Of course, a great tea pot demands great tea. We’ve built up quite a collection of teas, including several wonderful blends from Bernardaud. Of course, I’m a big sucker for great packaging and I really admire the sleek, silver container these come in—perfect for making a good impression on a friend.

8. Cookbooks, cookbooks, and more cookbooks
This was, of course, the hardest category to put together, simply because there have been so many great cookbooks published in 2005. But nonetheless, here’s our picks for the best (in our minds) this year, chosen not so much because of great packaging or content, but based on what we felt were ones we’d end up opening and referring to the most over the coming years (listed from top to bottom).

Neil Perry, The Food I Love
We adore this book. It’s clean, simple, and full of great, gorgeous and easy to make recipes. Who knew that Perry had this book in him? It’s a great and soon to become classic book everyone who appreciates home-cooked food should buy.

Neale Whitaker, The Accidental Foodie
Whitaker is an editorial genius. He’s been the brains behind some of the world’s best food magazines for years and, hence, has worked with some of the world’s best food writers and chefs. This beautiful book, photographed by the hugely talented Petrina Tinslay, collects recipes and stories from and about the foodies that have made a huge impact on Whitaker’s life. It’s both a wonderful love letter to friends and a great collection of delicious-looking dishes.

Jane Lawson, Yoshoku
I’ve also written previously about Lawson’s excellent Western-Japanese book. The recipes in this softcover are mouth-wateringly good and a breeze to make. Everyone should have a copy of Yoshoku.

Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
I’ve also just written about this beautiful book just last week. I love the look of this book. The design of the pages is exquisite, with real attention here paid to typography and choosing the right color palette. The photographs are sumptuous. And most importantly, the recipes here work. Another baking book I love is Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess. However, I like Lawson’s book more because of its style and tone; also, I’ve found the recipes, especially the baking temperatures, untrustworthy. With Stewart’s book, I’ve discovered that I don’t need to worry about this. The recipes have obviously been tested properly, and everything from the measurements to the temperatures to the timings seem spot on.

Jill Norman’s The Cook’s Book
S loves this DK book because of the way in which editor Norman has brought together some of the world’s best chefs to pen their thoughts and share their cooking techniques. Truly noteworthy is Ferran Adria’s chapter on foam and Pierre Hermé’s chapter on pastry.

Alain Ducasse, Le Grande Livre du Cuisine
What can we say about this book that hasn’t already been said? It’s huge. It’s ridiculously expensive. And every chef has to have a copy, ’nuff said.

Jane Rocca, The Cocktail: 200 Fabulous Drinks (standing)
This fantastically cheeky and pretty book was a recent gift from a friend. The recipes and the copy are marvelous. The graphics are both hilarious and gorgeous. Buy this for the femme fatale that you love drinking with.

9. LSA Otto glasses
S and I both adore glassware. And we’re constantly searching for the perfect water glass, wine glass, lowball glass, etc. These handmade glasses, LSA’s Otto, in a rich brown (they also come clear), are, we think, the perfect water glasses. They fit wonderfully in the hand. They have a nice, comfortable heft. They’re exquisitely made. And they just look damn sexy. Drinking water never felt so chic.

10. Beach shoe from Crocs
First things first, these are not the clogs that Mario Batali wears. He wears Calzuro clogs, which are made for medical practitioners. These, though, especially for those of us working in hot kitchens, are the next best thing. Crocs’ clogs are incredibly comfortable. They are light and airy. And moulded with just the right amount of support to make standing in the kitchen, prepping a 5 course meal for 5 hours, feel like a walk in the park. Seriously, if you spend a lot of time on your feet in the kitchen, you should put on a pair of these.

11. 40cm Staub Oval Cocotte
This is probably S’s favorite acquisition of 2005. This monstrously huge cocotte, big enough to fit a miniature long-haired dachshund and a few of his favorite toys (not that we’d ever actually do that), is perfect for slow-roasting and braising everything from a leg of lamb, a chicken and a couple of lobsters, or lamb shanks for 8. While it is rather expensive, it’s a worthwhile investment and, if treated properly, it should last you a lifetime. In Singapore, buy yours from BATS Singapore.

12. Nigella Lawson Serving Hands
I love all of Nigella’s Living Kitchen products. These salad forks are more rustic than a lot of her other things, but they’re very well-made and a joy to use. It, of course, doesn’t hurt that they look really sexy as well.

Well, that’s it. 12 fabulous gifts for yourself or your loved one(s). I’m off to Bangkok tonight for a few days. Good luck with your Christmas shopping!

Sponsored Product

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a friend of mine. He’s the local distributor for some pretty amazing kitchen-related brands. After seeing my blog—which I had never mentioned to him—written up in the local daily newspaper, he dropped me a line asking me if I had some ideas on how to better market his products. Also, and surprisingly, he offered to sponsor me and my site with some of these products. After having read recent discussions on sponsorship on The Accidental Hedonist and Food Blog S’cool, I decided that I’d accept the offer, given a few caveats. I’d be totally open about the products that I accept and be totally honest about what I think of them.

I’ve been given a Chroma 301 kitchen knife as well as a set of Staub plates and (mini) cocottes. I haven’t had a chance to test out the Staub stuff yet—although they look totally sexy (I’ll post pictures of them when I get around to using them)—but I did try out the Chroma knife today (we whipped up a big batch of oxtail stew for later this week). The Type 301 was designed by FA Porsche; the handle is made with 18/10 stainless steel and the blade is forged with 301 Japanese steel. It’s used by several top chefs and is the official knife of le centre de formation Alain Ducasse. It’s still a bit early to really evaluate the knife’s performance. That said, the look is, as expected from Porsche Design, stunning. The weight and feel in the hand are also really nice. But I’m going to use it for a while longer before I make any more judgements. I also want time to compare it with our other knives (which include Kasumi, Wusthof, Furi, Global and Henkel).

DIY Sundaes

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I love ice cream. Always have, and I suspect, always will. Lately though, I haven’t been eating a lot of it. Trying to eat a slightly more nutritious and healthier diet has meant that ice cream, instead of being a regular treat, has become a reward of sorts. A week of eating well means I can indulge in a nice big bowl of whatever frozen dessert I want.

While I love some store bought brands, the ice creams I want most nowadays are home-made. Riciotti (owned by my favourite Italian restaurant in town, Garibaldi) makes some terrific flavours—and their tartufo ice cream cake is to die for. But my favourite ice creams are cooked up by my wife. A couple of years ago, S bought the most amazing appliance, a Musso Lussino ice cream maker. Not only is this machine ultra-sexy in design, it functions wonderfully. It makes 1.5 quarts of ice cream in 30 minutes, freezing while it churns (so there’s no need to pre-freeze bowls or anything). In the past few years that we’ve owned the Musso, I’ve enjoyed challenging S to make up both traditional and experimental (even goofball) flavours. She, I think, has enjoyed discovering which chef’s recipes work best.

We threw another dinner party this past weekend. This time, we prepared a 5 course meal, capped off with what we thought would be a fun dessert, DIY Sundaes. I have to admit we were inspired to do this by one of our guests—a doctor and restaurateur who used to own a place that offered, among its desserts, a great little sundae trolley. S whipped up 2 flavours—vanilla and strawberry-mascarpone. I prepped a bowl full of freshly whipped cream while S also made some Valrhona-based hot fudge sauce. When it was time for dessert, we served each person a scoop of each flavour and placed the whipped cream and the fudge sauce out on the dining table, along with flaked almonds, mini m&m’s, and some colorful candy sprinkles. It was good fun watching each of our guests ladle on their toppings. I, greedy boy that I am, went for all of them. The dessert, I think, was a hit. Our guests offered several suggestions for future toppings (my favourite was chocolate chip cookies) and also excitedly discussed their own favourite sundae combinations.

So, what’s your favourite sundae?

Not a Food Post…My New Gadget

I’ve complained quite a few times about my Treo’s camera. While it may be fine for snapping quick cute shots when walking the dogs, in low light situations and for shooting close-up, it’s awful. I have one other digital camera, a Fuji S1 Pro I bought years ago, and it is great. Takes fantastic shots. The only problem is that it’s big, really big. Not only is this digital SLR a pain to lug around, it’s not exactly inconspicuous whipping it out in a fine dining establishment.

So, I decided to splurge on a new toy. Pictured here is the new Contax i4R, a beautiful 4 megapixel camera with a Zeiss lens that’s smaller than a pack of cigarettes. It has a great macro setting and you can set your own white balance. Here, for example, under halogen lighting, is a picture taken on the Contax of my Treo.