Nespresso Aeroccino hack

Nespresso hackI come from a family of coffee drinkers. Every morning like clockwork, each person walks up to the Nespresso machine to get his or her first fix of the day. Personally, I’m not really a fan of Nespresso but do I love the Aeroccino – it’s quick, convenient and can do much more than froth milk for your latte.
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Five quirky and cool must-dos when in Tokyo

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Tokyo might be my favorite city in the world. It’s got an amazing mix of world class food, an incredible culture, a rich history and well…lots of quirky and cool things to see and do. Of course when you go to Tokyo, you should go to Shibuya and see the famous crossing, have yakitori and a beer on the street, buy electronics in Akihabara, etc… but there might be some items you should consider adding to your list of must-do things when visiting Tokyo. Continue Reading →

Pantry Basics: Homemade Vanilla Fridge Wipe

Homemade Vanilla Fridge Wipe

Vanilla fridge wipe is a household cleaning product that I first discovered as an undergraduate in Western Australia. It’s a food-safe disinfectant that also smells delicious, which helped to make housework just that tiny bit more tolerable. To my dismay, when I moved back to Singapore, I discovered that it wasn’t sold here. And because it’s highly flammable, I couldn’t purchase it in Australia and take it home with me either! Fortuitously, some years later, I chanced upon a recipe for homemade vanilla fridge wipe in Donna Hay Magazine (in Issue 17, to be precise). Since then, I’ve been happily whipping it up at home.

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Zen and the art of cold brew coffee: Review of the Hario Cold Water Dripper

I’ve been fascinated with cold brew coffee since I read about it a couple years ago. Being a caffeinehead in Singapore means drinking a ton of iced coffees – the weather is often too hot for regular coffees or espressos, even in the air-conditioned comfort of my office – and I’d always felt that the conventional method of simply pouring steaming hot coffee over ice compromised the flavour profile of the beans somewhat. The cold brew method, which favours a slow steeping process over the shock therapy of adding boiling water, seemed a lot more elegant; but I’d never been able to find a product that satisfied both my vain predilections and my cold caffeine curiosity. That is, until I discovered the Hario Cold Water Dripper. Continue Reading →

Some great kitchen gear

Like a lot of guys, I’m really into gadgets and gear. And much to my darling wife’s chagrin, because I have (in her opinion) way too many interests, this means I’m constantly oohing and aahing over all kinds of new toys, from the latest smartphone to a custom-made bicycle part to, of course, all kinds of awesome equipment with which to fill our kitchen. Fortunately, this last category is one in which S also shares a passion and hence allows me to indulge my urges to buy shiny new things.

Over the last half year, we’ve picked up a number of nifty items, some of which I like so much that I feel compelled to write about them. Some are simple everyday tools; others are more specialized. All are pretty darned cool and stuff I am sure you will also love.

Lacor Home Vacuum Packing Machine

S and I spotted this small and portable vacuum packer on an early morning trip to Sia Huat, Singapore’s best industrial kitchen supply store. We were surprised by how affordable the unit was. After the ubiquitous Sia Huat discount, given, from what I can tell, to everyone who walks in the store, the vacuum packer was just a little more that SGD$70. With a price like that, we couldn’t help but pick it up, with several packets of Lacor vacuum packing bags. As soon as we got home, S went on a packing spree, vacuum packing nuts and chocolates and a dozen other edible and perishable items that we had lying around our walk-in chiller. The machine has two settings. You can “vacuum & seal” or just “seal”. The latter we have found handy for sealing sauces and cooked foods, which we can then toss into the freezer for later use. (Keep reading)

More kitchen pix

I’ve been very delinquent with blogging recently. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been running around like mad, both here in Singapore and also overseas, where I am working on helping a new client create a stunning 470-seat bar and restaurant. I’ll post more details on that establishment when I am allowed… the one thing I can say is that we’re trying to open it by the end of March 2009.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few more pictures of the kitchen that S and I have built in our new home. As mentioned previously, this is, for us, a dream kitchen to work in, and one we’ll probably spend many (many) months paying off. (Keep reading…)

Dream kitchen

I had a small spot of free time this weekend (which is not normal) and finally got around to taking a few pictures of our new place. And since I promised to post one of our new kitchen, here it is. The kitchen is approximately 4 metres wide by 6 metres long. As you can see, it is all white with black and white hexagonal floor tiles and an island in the middle.

Some of you emailed and left comments asking what S and I consider essential in a well-equipped kitchen. Honestly, all a good kitchen really needs is counter space, pretty good storage space, a hob (gas or induction) with at least 4 zones, good exhaust, an oven, a fridge, and sufficient power points to run a variety of tools and appliances. With these, a good cook should be able to whip up any number of delicious meals. (Keep reading…)

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
Singapore
Tel: 6471 0566

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

Celebrity spoons

As mentioned in my last post, my wife S is writing her doctoral thesis on celebrity chefs. As you can imagine, she keeps pretty up to date on the latest comings and goings of these famous foodies. It helps that we’re fans of several of them. We buy their books; watch their TV shows; read about them in magazines and newspapers; and try to recreate some of their better recipes. But the one thing we usually draw the line at is buying their branded merchandise (with, for S, the exception of Nigella’s stuff). Too often, these tools are simply ways to pad these celebrities’ already bulging bank accounts and not the kind of things you’d actually use in the kitchen.

S and I, though, are obsessive kitchen tool shopaholics. Whenever and wherever we are, and especially when we’re travelling, we try to suss out cool kitchen stores. We’re always on the look-out for cool or well-made equiptment that isn’t available in our home town. One of the things we’ve (sadly) realized that we can’t easily find here in Singapore are good quality wooden spoons. You would think that given how essential wooden spoons are in cooking, high quality ones should be easy to find anywhere. Amazingly, they’re not. Too many times, the spoons we’ve found at our local neighborhood department stores or kitchen supply stores are cheap and poorly made. And, as expected, even the ones branded by famous foodies, are less than perfect.

Case in point, S recently bought a wooden spoon endorsed by Donna Hay. While she had high hopes for it, after rinsing it and washing it just once, we discovered that water had seeped through the wood. Suffice it to say that the spoon ended up in the trash.

So we were pretty surprised recently when we checked out the range of wooden spoons and other tools that are being sold under Mario Batali’s The Italian Kitchen brand. I’m a big fan of Batali. When I lived in the West Village in New York City, I loved going to Po and ordering his amazing US$25, 5-course pasta dinner. (These days, when visiting my old hometown, I love eating at Lupa, the cool, casual trattoria on Thompson Street.) Despite my inclination for his food, I have to admit that when I first heard that Batali was launching a line of cookware, I was a tad skeptical. But after taking a really close look at some of his products, I have to say that I am impressed. The wooden tools, made from beechwood, are really well made. The handles have a nice thumb groove, making them really comfortable to hold and use. The spoon especially is nice. The edges are nice and fine, making it easy to scoop things up and the impression is actually deep enough to hold the things you want to scoop. It’s also nice that the branding is very subtle. Batali’s name is engraved in small letters on the back of the spoon’s handle.

Hopefully, this is a good step for other celebrity chefs. The worst thing is to be let down by the people we admire. And selling inferior products to one’s fans just to make a quick buck is hardly respectable. I’m happy I’ve found these tools. I intend to try out some of Batali’s other cookware over the next couple of weeks; I’m very turned on by his panini press and risotto pan. I can only hope they are as well-made and useful as these wooden tools have turned out to be.