Culina at COMO Dempsey – Great Steaks and Gourmet Finds

Culina at COMO Dempsey recently moved to new premises at Blk 15, just across the old parade square from its former location, and I must say I like it so much better here. It’s a brighter, more cheerful space, with a much more spacious and welcoming bistro, and a peekaboo kitchen where you can catch glimpses of Chef Timothy at work. There’s also an eye-catching Parisian-inspired wine bar bang in the middle of the market space, and individual counters of produce presenting seafoods, meat, deli and natural cheeses that make browsing more focused. Flower boutique Grandiflora, from Australia, and well know for huge statement bouquets, occupy a lush colourful corner. (Look out for their fragrances too.)

There are some noteworthy products, like ‘Message In The Bottle’ a concentrate of red prawn essence by Rosso Di Mazara made by freeze drying the prawn heads and turning it into a “100% pure product” perfect for cooking, jars of brussel sprout powder, Awani jam from Bali, Ghee Hiang’s famous teelseed oil from Penang and Kwong Who Hing’s premium soy sauces (which you can otherwise get only at the factory door or online). All great for personal indulgence or gifts for your foodie friends.

A delight for all upmarket aunties, here lies the elusive Ghee Hiang sesame oil and Kwong Woh Hing premium soy sauce.

At its breezy bistro, apart from the focused menu, you can also pick meats and seafood from the counters at the marketplace and get it cooked for you with an additional prep fee of a reasonable $15-$25.

Lunch started with some drippingly fresh and sweet Tasmanian Blackman Bay and Japanese Mie oysters (from the seafood counter, from $3 each), served with nahm jim and Tetsuya’s oyster vinaigrette. Then came a unctuous French onion soup ($15). Made with cider, thyme, chicken and beef stock and topped with a generous layer of molten gruyere, it was savoury-sweet in flavour, moderately rich in texture, nicely balanced, neither too cloying nor salty. A must-have if you ate here.

Yes this pot of soup is super tiny, set against the tablespoon for scale. Rest assured this is just a tasting portion, not the actual size. But isn’t it cute?

For mains, the Black Onyx sirloin medium-rare was absolutely divine in the fullness of its hearty flavours and juicy tender bite. The few potatoes that came with it are no sideline players either, so good and tasty and indulgent that they were, shamelessly deep-fried in duck fat. The chimichurri sauce was a lovely match, even if the steak stood out well on its own.

Sumptuous, divine, one of the best steaks I’ve had in a while.

If you must have something else, perhaps in a moment of untimely dieting, then a thick slab of crisp herb-crusted hapuka fish from New Zealand, slowbaked and served with sweet campari vine tomatoes, broad beans and basil, is a great comfort. I am not one for western-style fish dishes, but this was exceedingly enjoyable, much to my own surprise. Sweet, intense flavours and moist flesh with sweet tomatoes made it most delightful. Both beef and fish were options directly from the marketplace counters (market price + $15-$25 prep fee).

If one must have fish in the face of steak…

For peckish pickings, have the truffle fries ($15), moreish sticks of crisp potatoes, fluffy on the inside, with truffle paste, white truffle oil and truffle salt.

Triple whammy truffle fries.

While I could not stay for dessert, I understand the tiramisu ($15) is a good choice.

Worth noting, the bistro is spacious, with car park smack in front of the entrance, and the path from car to restaurant is easily navigable by wheelchair.

Block 15 Dempsey Road,
Singapore 249675
T: +65 6474 7338

Travel Notebook – Great Weekend Getaways to Recharge & Reboot

Need some inspiration for planning your next short getaway? Here’s are a few new resorts and destinations that look absolutely enticing to us. If only we had the time to jump on a plane and head for…

A Halong Bay Luxury Cruise
Paradise Cruises has a great package where almost everything is taken cared of for you from the time you land at the airport in Hanoi. From US$195 per person, it packs a lot of value and activities in a short few days. First, grab a flight to Hanoi and stay overnight at the Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi. After brekkie the next day, head to Halong Bay and get on board the cruise boat Paradise Luxury. Have lunch on board while the cruise starts, allowing you to soak in the great views of the massive lake and karst formations. Along the way, stop over at a pearl farm, go kayaking, meander into the largest cave in Halong Bay, then have sundowners and watch a cooking demo as the boat anchors over night at Coconut Tree Island.

The next morning, there’s breakfast aplenty, swimming and a hike on Soi Sim Island before the cruise winds to an end. The best thing about this package is that all transfers (airport, and round trip to Halong Bay), meals and activities on board the boat are included, while breakfast is also included in the first-day stay at the Movenpick Hotel. For a short getaway, I think this is a nice, well thought out package with everything sorted out for you from when you land in Hanoi. Until 30 Sept 2019. Details here.

Six Senses Krabey Island, Cambodia
Set on its own private island, the new Six Senses Krabey Island is a nature getaway with all the luxe you could want, but without being too arduous to get to. It is just 5 kilometers off Ream National Park in the Gulf of Thailand in southern Cambodia. From Sihanouk International Airport, it is a 10-minute drive to the resort’s mainland reception, followed by a 15-minute crossing to Krabey Island and the all-villa resort. Expect sumptuous villas with sundeck for lounging, alfresco dining with infinity-edged plunge pools, rain showers and green living roofs. Meals are at two restaurants which make use of ingredients from the resort’s own 40,000 square feet (3,700 square meters) organic farm and herb garden. Tree, the resort’s signature restaurant, serves traditional Khmer cuisine with a creative modern twist. Then there’s AHA which offers international fare; a Sunset Bar with lots of sofas and hammocks and an ice cream parlor.

What to do for most of the days? Indulge in spa treatments at the Six Senses Spa, which also incorporates a gym, rooftop yoga pavilion, indoor aerial yoga studio, Crystal Water Room, Meditation Cave and the Alchemy Bar, for blending natural skin care products and essential oils using pure local ingredients. For more active pursuits, there’s water sports, fishing, speedboat excursions to neighboring islands, farm visits and cooking classes, star gazing at the resort’s observatory, and or chilling at the open-air Cinema Paradiso. There’s also a kids’ club for children between 4 and 12 years old. More details here.

Images from https://eng.templestay.com/

A Korean Temple Stay
Have you ever considered a temple stay in South Korea? We just discovered that many temples there offer temple stays where you can stay for several days and experience the monastic life. Beyond meditating, there are surprisingly plenty of activities, depending on which temple you choose to go to. Meditate, rest, get centred and practise mindfulness while immersing yourself in the temple culture and routine. Eat what the monks eat, learn about their philosophies, participate in various forms of meditation (including the tea ceremony).

Image from https://eng.templestay.com/

Some temple programs even offer cultural activities like cooking or flower lantern making, while others offer you the choice to go hiking in the surroundings. Some of these temples are UNESCO World Heritage Sites including a cluster of seven Sansa located in the southern provinces of the Korean Peninsula: Tongdosa, Buseoksa, Bongjeongsa, Beopjusa, Magoksa, Seonamsa, and Daeheungsa. Surrounded by mountains, they have been religious spaces for 1700 years since the 4th century when Buddhism arrived in Korea. There are plenty more, with numerous offering English programs so language is not a barrier. Remember though that these are not hotels, so while they offer a unique experience, it is also underpinned by proper etiquette and respect. Take time to check out their website—particularly the FAQ & Contents ‘pages’. It has all the information you need to organise your temple stay, and some. They even have downloadable temple music and a slick ‘Templestay’ magazine. https://eng.templestay.com/

A Horizontal Tau Sar Piah Tasting – See How The Cookie Crumbles

From left: 603 TSP, Thye Moh Chan and Loong Fatt

Last week, I needed to have some tau sar piah (TSP), my all-time favourite pastry. For me, the best is still Ghee Heang from Penang, but there was this small problem that it was up in Penang and I was not there. So in compensation, we went to three places that scorching Singapore afternoon to seek out our local options. First, Thye Moh Chan, then the famous Balestier Loong Fatt tau sar piah, and finally 603 Tau Sar Piah. The expedition was purely on a whim, but we had ourselves a small horizontal tasting of the pastry, which is by no means representative of Singapore’s TSP landscape. Nevertheless we share our tasting notes and observations.

Loong Fatt Eating House & Confectionery – A huge favourite here, Loong Fatt’s TSP pastry is delicate, crumbly and buttery. The fat gave it just that nice hint of moistness, enough to make it a smoothly textured, fun-to-eat pastry rather than a dry, flaky one. It crumbled elegantly, so the pastry broke away neatly with the smaller pieces holding together nicely. The filling was sweet, very moist and pliable, with a texture of lotus paste rather than the dry-ish, sandy filling that I was expecting.

Loong Fatt’s buttery crumble encasing a moist, almost lotus-paste like filling. Note the pastry is yellow-hued from the butter.

The thing is, this TSP had a distinct taste of butter or margarine in it, which is rather odd for Chinese pastries. There should not be butter in the mix. Then we discover that the decades-old Loong Fatt had Hainanese roots. Like so many early Hainanese in Singapore, the founder had worked with Europeans and learnt to use butter. So he had incorporated butter into his version of this Chinese pastry, imbuing it with the indulgent crumbly texture that many like. It didn’t quite work for me because the buttery taste came on front and centre. Having said that, it was a nice pastry—just not one that I want from a tau sar piah.

Ancient salon seats at Loong Fatt.

The buying experience was business-like. A long queue snaked halfway down the length of the shop which had not changed since the 1970s. It was a scorchingly hot afternoon, but it was a huge testimony that so many would brave the heat to buy their pastries and cakes. An old aunty sat in the middle of the shop, assembling a sea of Loong Fatt paper boxes. She was one of the long time staff there, and literally runs the place, I understand. Another younger aunty was dealing with the customers.

Behind her, about eight people beavered away in the kitchen in front of an army of whirring industrial fans, kneading and shaping and baking the pastries non-stop. All done by hand too. Our queue moved quite quickly and the wait was perhaps no more than 10 minutes.

Apart from the tau sar piah, there were retro cakes like butter and chocolate cakes. Their cream puffs were also big favourites, so much so that by the time it came to our turn, there were only four left. We bought two—they were good, old fashioned flavours.

603 TSPs waiting their turn

603 Tau Sar Piah – Down the road from Loong Fatt is 603 TSP, a quiet, neat little shop with the benefit of air conditioning. It offered more flavours, including a peanut filled tau sar piah, beh the sor, wife biscuits, large cream puffs, and other western cookies.

Large cavities, moist filling and large flakes of pastry
See how the cookie crumbles. In the forefront. Thye Mog Chan’s packed cavity and thin flakes of pastry. In the back, 603’s specimens have collapsed into large layers. The bottom came off in one, unbreakable piece.

On tasting them back home, we find that 603’s TSP had big airy cavities in the middle, with less filling than Loong Fatt’s TSP. It was also paste-like though slightly less moist and sweet and actually quite nice. The pastry was flaky and unfortunately, hard. It broke apart in large, thick sheets. It was dry and could have done with more shortening, I think. The bottom of the pastry where it was all pulled together and sealed before baking, was tough too – it could not break away easily. Very messy to eat. Flavour-wise, it was fine; but the texture was the hardest of all three we tasted, and took more effort to chow down on.  Some may like it, but personally, it was not for me. The peanut-filled variety was an explosion of filling — super generous, and nicely moist. If you like peanuts, this is definitely a winner. Their retro cream puffs are larger than Loong Fatt’s and also very good, with soft tender choux pastry and a nice smooth custard inside, which was just sweet enough without being cloying. Frankly, I think I’d get their cream puffs anytime, but not sure about the TSP.

Thye Moh Chan is the most expensive of the lot. You be the judge if it’s worth the price tag.

Thye Moh Chan – For me, this was the best of the lot, but compared to the 80 cents I had to pay for Loong Fatt, this comes at a hefty $2 a piece. In Thye Moh Chan’s TSP, I can actually taste the mung bean, and the filling was, while still paste-like, the least moist and ‘paste-y’ of the lot. The filling was generous, not too sweet, and the flavour was more like what I expected. The pastry was not as crumbly (being a nice element) and buttery as Loong Fatt’s, but the mouthfeel was refined, with delicate thin flakes as you bite down. We tried the Teochew yam filling piah as well – it was smooth, but somewhat bland and not too exciting.

The ‘mixed’ pastry by Thye Mog Chan. Love the sweet complexity of flavours and textures.

What I enjoyed most was the the ‘mixed’ pastry—it wasn’t strictly a TSP having no TS in it—comprising red bean paste and a soft, slightly sticky filling of winter melon, melon seeds, spring onions, and glutinous rice flour. Nice.

The different ways the pastry flakes tell you a lot about its texture.

My final conclusion, I still like Ghee Heang and Him Heang of Penang the most. But I am sure there are TSPs in Singapore which I would really like. For TSP connoisseurs out there, I am well aware that the few I picked are quite random, though I think it encompasses the two grand dames of TSP in Singapore. But my hunt is still on. We are not done yet.

Loong Fatt TSP : 639 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329922
603 TSP : 603 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329904
Thye Moh Chan : 133 New Bridge Road, #01-45 Chinatown Point, 059413

NEW & NOTED – Hong Kong Crocodile Meat Hot Pots

I would have thought that crocodile meat would taste lean and bony but I have to confess that I’ve never eaten crocodile before and if I had to have croc, I would prefer mine be skin-on-bag which may seem a little heartless but if I had to have croc, Hermes would be a distinct preference.

Still, there are gourmets and there are gourmands. And in Hong Kong, The Drunken Pot out to reinvent the tradition of enjoying hotpot, is known for their very innovative ‘new-age’ trendy hot-pots piled with novel ingredients and interesting flavours. They are serving up a“CROCPot” that is mean, lean and packed with protein. Theirs is crocodile tail meat cooked in a rich broth based on a king-sized hotpot. On the menu from 3 to end June as a Fathers’ Day special at their two restaurants – in Causeway Bay and in Tsim Sha Tsui Hong Kong.

Nutritionally-rich tail is that new foodie craze that seems to be hitting the fragrant harbour and it apparently tastes like a cross between chicken and crab. Farmed on China’s southern tropical island of Hainan, it is said to contain less fat than chicken, and is heart-friendly with considerably lower cholesterol. Used in traditional Chinese medicine, it dates back to  the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century, as “heaty” food believed to cure colds and asthma, and improving skin condition reducing wrinkles.

CROCPot for The King (6)

“CROCPot for The King” is HK$388, as base for personalised choice of ingredients. The broth contains heart healthy, weight loss-friendly guava and fibre-rich guava, with carrot for sweetening, chicken and pork meat for enhancing flavour.

The “Crocodile Rocks Set” at HK$468 per head for at least four guests alternatively features a host of hearty set ingredients – including onion, pork, shrimp & egg dumplings, mapo tofu dumplings and new-on-the-menu conger-pike eel balls, along with The Crafting Bears, and such signature specialties as Hanging Premium Sliced Angus Beef Short Ribs, Kurobuta Pork Slices, Seafood Platter, Taiwan Duck Maroon Jelly, Sliced Squid Ink Sausages, Freshly Made Egg Noodles, Vegetable Platter, Deep-Fried Homemade Bean Curd and Seaweed Rolls, Deep-Fried Salmon Fish Cracklings, Brine Trio with Beef Tripe, Beef Shank and Pork Belly, and Canada Sea Urchin Sashimi Cap.

Croc Pops

Also on the promotional Father’s Day menu are specialty items including a crispy, spicy, deep-fried “CROCPop” snack (HK$98 / 3 skewers) of crocodile tail meat, perfect with beer before a hot pot feast; Conger-pike Eel Balls (HK$58 / 6 pcs); Brine Trio with Beef Tripe, Beef Shank and Pork Belly (HK$88) and Deep-Fried Salmon Fish Cracklings (HK$88).

There is also a takeaway delivery option of  The Crocodile Rocks Set (also priced HK$468 per head, for 4 persons or above) through the brand’s door-to-door service (www.tdpdelivery.com).

Where:
The Drunken Pot is at 2/F, No.8 Observatory Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon and  Victoria Harbour from 27/F, V Point, 18 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. For our Vietnamese readers and visitors, the brand has also recently opened in Ho Chi Min, Vietnam in 2018.   See: www.thedrunkenpot.com

Elaine

Floral Cafe at Napasorn, Bangkok

While we are on the topic of cafes, I am reminded of a gem of a café that I went to when I spent a weekend in Bangkok last year. A short distance from the flower market Pak Klong Talad is the Floral Café at Napasorn. We had done a bit of the tourist thing of taking the tourist boat down the Chao Phraya to the market, wandered through it, then emerged on the other side ready for a late breakfast.

The Floral Café is a quirky place. The ground floor is a florist ebullient in country-bohemian vibes. Walk to the back, and head up a narrow crooked stairway where, in nooks and crannies are stuffed all kinds of quirky knick-knacks. Eventually you emerge on the upper floor, sumptuously decorated with oversized mirrors, bric-a-brac, cake stands full of luscious cakes, and what looks like straw bunga manggar that cover the bulk of the dining area. Grab a seat by the windows in the front and enjoy their cakes — which were generous and very good — and coffee.

Check out our pictures, and enjoy the vibe.

 

67 Chakkraphet Rd,
Khwaeng Wang Burapha Phirom, Khet Phra Nakhon,
Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand

(closed Sundays)

Winona Forever – Great Plating, Edible Flowers, Fab Food and Coffee at this insta-worthy Auckland eatery


Having a coffee seems to be that quintessential Kiwi thing to do, especially when you want to catch up with a friend or make one. Good coffee is everywhere and with the number of trendy café vaults that have sprung up all over Auckland, the café pairing also comes with fancy eats.

I’ve discovered a new go-to, the very insta-worthy Winona Forever along Parnell’s eatery row. Perfect, if you like fusion and if you are an ‘eat-the-flowers’ type of gal. Open from as early as 7am on weekdays and 8am on weekends till 4pm, expect a queue at this ever-crowded eatery especially over the weekend.

What I liked?
1. First impressions of the menu are that it feels what I call ‘breakfast-ty’ with a cafe style focus on eggs –  benedict, scrambled, omelettes, poached. There is an option of a hearty sandwich called the Daddy Sandwich, a Big Breakfast offering, a Vegan bowl option, french toast and hotcakes.

At the front are pastries, cakes and cookies with a coffee bar. In short the menu is not big but its ample and looks are deceiving. The real joy comes from looking around you as the dishes start to arrive at other people’s tables. This alone was the highlight of the visit and a satisfying experience all on its own as the chefs here are obviously plating pros.

We were there on Anzac Day and for lunch but wanted something light and something substantial to share between the two of us so we ordered the Magical Mushrooms and the K Pop Pork Belly. Both were visual feats as well as yummy down to the last bite.

Magical Mushrooms

The Magical Mushrooms arrived as a creamy mushroom medley cooked in a light organic cream and herb sauce in a spinach crepe with toasted pine nuts and house made rice cake crumb. The sauce and whole combination coming together was amazingly good. It was like spooning a delicious thick condensed and creamy version of mushroom soup into your mouth. Combine that with bits of the spinach crepe and use the rice cake crumb to soak up any spare sauce and it was the perfect starter dish.

K-Pop Pork Belly

The K Pop Pork Belly dish that we chose as a main course was nothing short of divine with a large piece of slow cooked Korean glazed pork belly, roasted apple and fennel poached eggs, apple cider hollandaise sitting on a ‘largish’ slice of thick toast, perfect for soaking up the runny yolk.

2. Presentation is everything and each dish arrived garnished with edible flowers. Loved that girly touch. Fruity, flowery and piled sky high, my camera phone was hard at work. The confectionary counter up front looked laden with piles of deliciousness making it hard to look away.

3. A hipster drinks list serves up Ginger or Blackcurrant Kombucha, Cold-pressed juice, Hakanoka (manuka honey and spicy chai) and a selection of teas and coffees that you can have with soy, almond or coconut milk and a killer coffee, called the Latte Tab (a turmeric-ginger latte with beetroot, matcha, earl-grey and rose water) that will definitely make you feel that your morning just kicked right in.

4. Service was generally good but expect a wait for the table. There is a nice alfresco area to sit outside and enjoy the cool Autumn weather. No one rushed us out or hurried us to finish which made the experience nice.

I have been twice and I suspect will go back there again soon, and be back a whole lot more!

Winona Forever is at 100 Parnell Rd, Auckland NZ
Mon-Fri 7am – 4pm | Sat-Sun 8am – 4pm
Kitchen closes 3pm daily. See: http://winonaforever.co.nz

NEW & NOTED: Party Peranakan Style In Singapore

Here’s a party to rival all parties – the Kamcheng Peranakan Gala Dinner on 7 June at The Marina Mandarin.

I remember back 12 years ago when I actually lived in Singapore, a leisurely drive down the North South highway took you to the best Peranakan restaurants. Back then they were in Malacca and once there, you could to eat your way through their famous Peranakan restaurant row and stock up on an endless supply of pineapple tarts, cincalok and belachan.  It seems these days that Singapore has gone way ahead of Malacca with the number of new Peranakan restaurants that have sprung up to level the playing field and bring authentic homestyle Nonya cuisine to the tables here.

So if you are in love with all thing Peranakan – up and coming in the red dot, our lively island in the sun – this is the P party to rival all parties.  The Kamcheng Peranakan Gala Dinner features 8 chefs and 13 courses on one night serving up “makan, merriment, music and joget” shares Organiser and The Peranakan’s Executive Chef, Raymond Khoo. The dining event kicks off the 3rd annual Peranakan Festival in Singapore and a series of other festival events. See here.

56524174_2288764864699479_5891946813665050624_o

Event details:
Friday, 7 June, 6pm at The Marina Mandarin Singapore

Menu: 
13 course dinner prepared by 8 Chefs – Aziza Ali (author, host & chef), Devagi Sanmugam (The Spice Queen), Damian d’Silva (Folklore), Elizabeth Chan (Kueh Ho Jiak), Lisa Kassim (Asian Food Channel), Lynda Seow and Lionel Chee (Casa Bom Vento), Raymond Khoo and Carol Ee (The Peranakan) as well as Chefs Chan Tuck Wai and Daniel Tan from Marina Mandarin Singapore.

Dress code: Batiks and Sarong Kebayas

Entertainment:
Make Over Nyonya showcase will dazzle one and all on a custom catwalk, decked out in batik Qipao by designer Ada Goh and hairstyle creations by Shunji Matsuo Salon
Live music and entertainment that will get everyone in the mood to Joget and Gelek Gelek into the night

Shopping Bazaar – featuring authentic Straits Chinese crafts and artisan designs, vendors displaced by the closing of Sungei Road Thieves’ Market (open to the public from 4pm to 6pm)

Charity silent auction in aid of Assisi Hospice

Venue:
Marina Mandarin Ballroom, Level 1, Marina Mandarin Singapore, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Singapore 039594

Tickets:
Priced at $148nett, $168nett or $388nett. Early bird special 
available when you buy here * Bookings made by DBS Credit cards will receive a $30 The Peranakan restaurant voucher with tickets priced at $148 and $168, while $388 tickets will be bundled with an $80 voucher.

Elaine

 

Lunch at the New One-Ninety – Breezy, Luxe and Nicely Priced

Hotel restaurants are often overlooked, but look hard enough and you’ll find some that give good value. Lunch at One-Ninety at the Four Seasons Singapore has always been one such, especially with its charming lunch buffet. Its appetiser and dessert buffet, which is usually more than enough of most of us, is just $38. Add another $10 for a main course. Add to that an indulgent, tranquil setting away from the harsh afternoon, plus good service and you’ll find the entire package really good value.

We were recently there for lunch, and was surprised to see it so nicely renovated. What was once a dark, heavier setting has now been opened up with literally more light, a brighter coat of paint, lots of foliage and furniture that lightens the whole look. It’s urban but breezy. Taking pride of place now are two buffet tables with a country kitchen look, and a shiny, copper-edged show kitchen. We like what we see.

A crusty light house-made sourdough bread to start, served with seaweed butter. The bread is made with two kinds of flours from Hokkaido which is milled only when it is ordered.
Crab claws at the appetiser buffet. We don’t often see crab served this way.

As for the food, One-Ninety’s lunch buffet has always been healthy, light and creative, but under new chef Kamarl John, it’s been taken up a notch. Apart from the heirloom tomatoes that has always been on the buffet, other picks I liked were the smoked mozzarella, green beans, grilled pumpkin, and there’s also a lovely hummus, seared tuna and beef tartare, amongst other yummies. The chef seems to have a thing raw food, and on the a la carte is a small menu of such options. If you opt for the buffet with entrée, choices of main course include spicy Korean pork belly with ssamjang and sesame leaf, seabass curry, palak paneer with bryani rice and wagyu rump cap steak with fries ($15 additional).

Dessert was a well curated but modest spread: the strawberry cream cake was lovely, have the meringues and kueh kosui. The chocolate tart looked very promising.

One of the best seafood platters we had in ages. The quality of the seafood is faultless.

From the a la carte menu, I had a taste of the spectacular three-tiered fruits de mer or seafood tower which was served with dramatic flair, with dry ice cascading down its sides. The seafood was fabulously fresh and succulent – perfectly juicy jumbo prawns, sweet Maine lobster tails, clams and mussels, crab, and chopped sashimi, including a most delightful serving of Hokkaido scallops. I can still taste it as I write. Absolutely lovely. This is served with a delicious calamansi aioli and a ginger vinaigrette on the side. At $78 on the a la carte menu, it’s perfect for two people—with a few flutes of champagne.

Deceptively simple–fresh avocado salad

Other a la carte dishes that stood out were the avocado salad with baby cress ($18) and lobster & prawn toast ($8). The salad was a surprisingly delectable dish with creamy subtle avocado being a foil to the piquant baby cress, and contrasted with a nutty, earthy counterpoint of slightly charred, crisp puffed rice. The lobster and prawn toast was a straight-up comfort snack, crisp crackling pastry encasing a generous stuffing of sweet seafood.

Under the ‘snack’ listing, a more-ish lobster and prawn toast with creamy aioli.
The same lobster prawn toast, with its substantial stuffing exposed. What’s there not to like?

 

Roasted seabass ($38), a heftily sized main dish. Pity it was rather overcooked.

Good to note also is the small selection of raw dishes on the a la carte menu such as traditional beef tartare ($24) and Hokkaido scallops ($24) and pomelo dressing. My only beef is that the wines are painfully expensive.

To mark its reopening, there’s a 25% off your dinner bill every day at One-Ninety now until June, 25% off the seafood tower for lunch and dinner daily, and free corkage for dinner for every table of 8 diners minimum.

Eewaun

NEW & NOTED: Food Gifts And 2019 Food Trends From Aotearoa

You are what you eat – at least that is what they say about nutrition today. So I decided to head along to the NZ Food Writers Association Market Day to see what the food trends in New Zealand looked like for 2019.

My haul after I was back from talking to some of the lovely owners and suppliers operating in and around Auckland.

New Zealand has indeed come a long way in that farm to table experience with the appearance of a new generation of entrepreneurs who are willing to invest in their foodie dreams and create brands that in the next two years will be on the shelves of many gourmet supermarkets around the world, especially Asia.  Those visiting New Zealand might want to take note of some of these lovely eats which make really great edible souvenirs to take home to foodie friends and family!

When Skippy’s just doesn’t cut it  

.. and you care immensely about your crunch and what makes it gourmet and good.

Look for a bottle of amazing which is what the Nut Brothers put into their generous size loved up jars that are totally recyclable. Their bottles say ‘we love our nuts’ and yes they so do.

They have a love affair with peanut butter that started with the team buying an old peanut butter machine from Trade Me.  They now stock a range of 8 gourmand ‘P-Bs’ with fancy and decadent flavours like salty caramel, dark chocolate and smokin’chipotle.

Health nuts will gravitate towards flavours like  almond, almond and sticky dates or sunflower seed and chia. And if you are a true-blue PB fan like I am, go for the slightly salted  super crunch or super smooth variations. They love their nuts that’s, for certain!

When chocolate-dipped totally works

This brand – Little Beauties should really start stocking at the airport as that’s when I get desperate for a last minute gift for a loved one back home who has already got one of the  many All Black souvenirs, manuka honeys and has tried every bar from Whitakers that I last lugged back.

These are freeze-dried kiwifruit slices dipped in dark chocolate (yum) and freeze-dried boysenberry dipped in white chocolate (equally yum) snacks.

 

 

 

IMG_3787A perfect snack to  give to someone to whom you just can’t find the words to describe the taste and beauty of New Zealand properly to. The best thing to do instead, is to open that bottle of Villa Maria, kick back and imagine that you are still sitting on your sun-drenched deck with that perfect view to Rangitoto.

 

When  you want to give that party a bit of a lift 

Lebanese is the way to go when you have that next party. I met the lovely Natalie from Kohkoz, a relatively new family run business.

She served up delish falafel bites which are literally amazeballs good. All ready to open and tray up after they come out of the oven or airfryer, these are party perfect snacks.

Get a pack of their golden falafel and a tub of garlic hummus and you’re onto a fab party party without even putting any sweat or effort into the prep.

Forage and Ferment also have a great selection of fermented vegetables with interesting flavours. They have a selection of different wild-fermented sauerkraut and kimchi infused with wild edibles like marigold, dandelion, stinging nettle and nasturtium. Definitely unique fermentation for a modern palate! Also paired beautifully here with Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company’s range of delightful marinated buffalo cheeses.

IMG_3745

IMG_3748

 

When it looks and tastes like cheese, but really isn’t

Looks are deceiving. The ladies at the Alternative Dairy Company totally convinced me of that.

Their dairy-free, gluten-free, palm-oil free, 100% animal-free style block range of cheeses from Mozzarella to Cheddar to Parmesan had me convinced that they were the real thing.

Taking a bite, my tastebuds could not tell either. These are actually plant-based cheeses that are good for everyone – the planet, the gut, the animals and yes, You.

When you are struggling at 7am to pack healthy school snacks 

Its 7am and you have missed the final 645am wake up call. You realise in a panic that you have not got time to get dressed, get lunch ready or  prepare that gourmet snack that your neighbour never fails to pack for her kids. Are you a bad mum?

Not when you can reach reach out for a ‘good’ snack. Is there even such a thing? Apparently there are and these come from a brand called Molly Woppy who are Auckland based bakers selling more than just your ordinary cookie and have a grand mission to bring happiness to the world.

Ok here’s something that comes close to you making it yourself. These artisan handmade gingerbread cookies for kids (or big kids like me) are made using 100% natural colours and flavours. They are as cute as a button and have no nasties like palm oil, preservatives, artificial flavours or colours. ‘Made with love’ says the box and ‘made in a bakery that also handles nuts’ I like that responsible statement that cautions those with nut allergies.

There is chewy ginger nut and sticky date with walnut and chia, chocca-choc chip, choccy-coconut ruff and apricot sultana super seedy varieties. That’s a lot to choose from at 7am in the morning but rest assured – you have ticked the good mum box. And did we say that these snacks have won a Bronze at the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards 2019.

And whilst you are packing that box drop in a seedless and sweet mini cucumber from Snack Cucs. The team here shared why their cucumbers are purposely cling wrapped and not packaging free. But that’s a story for another day…

NEW & NOTED – 3 Gourmet Kitchens At This New Auckland Tuesday Test Kitchen Concept

I have to confess that I have not had a special occasion or the budget to take myself to The French Café although several foodies that I have met, have waxed lyrical about it’s menu which is progressive contemporary Indian presented European style and it’s Chef, Sid Sahrawat, who together with his wife run The French Cafe, Sidart and Cassia, apparently all iconic award winning eateries popular with Auckland foodies.

Well, here’s a unique chance to try all 3 gourmet kitchens at once with Sid’s newly launched Tuesday Test Kitchen concept, where he will endeavour to serve up two dishes from each of his three restaurants to delight the palate.

image008

The experience is chi-chi, intimate (open to 30 guests each time only) and hosted at The French Kitchen in a private dining room. Expect Sid to cook, plate and personally introduce each dish so you can expect to enjoy the freshest and best hand-selected seasonal produce, meet Sid in person to see him work his magic in a fun and communal environment. Hopefully, you leave with some kitchen wisdom and of course, try dishes that will eventually move from this platform onto the restaurant menus.

Expect a different menu, each Tuesday at NZ$175 per person with canapés, 6 different dishes (two from each of his restaurants) and a choice of a glass of champagne, a cocktail or beer, Vittoria water and after dinner beverages.

image009

Tuesday Test Kitchens are hosted at Sid at The French Café
210 Symonds Street, Eden Terrace, Auckland)
On Tuesdays: 4 June, 2 July, 6 August, 3 September, 1 October and 5 November
Seatings start at 6.30pm with a 7pm prompt start
Limited to 30 guests each session.
Book at +64 9 377 1911
Website: www.sidatthefrenchcafe.co.nz