Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lasagne Challenge & DIY L'Arpege Egg [Video]

Two good friends of mine, Brandon and Yvonne found themselves in a heated smack-talking discussion:

Yvonne: I make a great lasagne.
Brandon: I make a killer lasagne.
Yvonne: No, I'm sure I make the best lasagne.
Brandon: I use my mum's recipe.  Bechamel sauce, bacon, cheese...
Yvonne: Well, mine's gluten free.
Brandon: And that's better, how?

The conversation continued like this for weeks, with talk about special ragu recipes versus secret ingredients... until we finally had our showdown last night.  I was invited to judge along with Andrea and Yvonne's husband, Alex.

I was also asked to make a side dish (uh-oh), so I tested out a recipe inspired by Alain Passard's L'Arpege Hot-Cold Egg that in theory worked out in my head, but I wasn't sure how it would turn out that night... especially without an egg opener on hand. We ended up having fun with the dish, with each of us testing out the knives available in Yvonne's household, testing out the best method to open the egg top without ruining the egg.

Here are iPhone clips from last night compiled into one video below:

If you're wondering about the verdict, we were all far too polite to judge openly.  

Thankfully, I can say with honesty that they were both delicious. Without a doubt, both Yvonne and Brandon are excellent home cooks, so it's harder to compare the two over cooking techniques. It was interesting to see how different each of their lasagne recipes were however - each was a clear testament to their personalities and palates.

I encourage everyone to have their own lasagne challenges.  I can assure you that in such a duel, everyone comes out a winner. *burp*

A full video about how to recreate the L'Aperge Egg at home

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Do you know who I am?"

It's complicated: The messy relationship between business owners, journalists, and bloggers.

When I was young, shortly before the dawn of The Blogger, I was shocked by the number of requests for complimentary meals from media when I first started with our restaurants in Hong Kong. One particular writer from one particular established print publication in Hong Kong actually came for his FOOD tasting, but ended up coming for what he seemed to think was an endless free wine session. -but you know, we should be 'honored' to have his presence and potential write up.

Since joining the media industry, I've come to better understand or accept the more tangled nature of why complimentary tastings exist. I've written about this matter before, in 2010 when I was transitioning from restaurateuring to journalism. It was around this time when food blogging started to become more popular and understandably started to irk published writers. Interactions between professional media and businesses have long been stable due to its historical relationship, but the internet reared its head into the mix, mouthy and in-your-face like a hot young girlfriend in a push-up bra. (related old drama: The Ethics of Food Writing)

Now almost four years later, we've seen a lot of evolutions on the media-front.  Online presence is critical these days and bloggers are harnessing these newfound powers.  Media outlets now have new roles for an Online Editor for the web versions of their publications.  And there are blogs that provide netizens with helpful guides or interesting reading from their personal perspective.  And then there are the quickly escalating numbers of bloggers who blatantly ask for freebies... or else.

"Respond to me about my freebies... or else."

Yelper Complex: "Do you know who I am?!"
read full article on

There are the bloggers and online media (sometimes untrained or inexperienced journalists) who ask more nicely.  This is an evolving matter concerning the levels of acceptableness, since sometimes it is indeed mutually beneficial for a business and online outlet to work together.

read full article at

A defense of the blogger LadyIronChef, by Singapore's blogging queen Xiaxue.
read full post at

Having worked on all three sides of the matter over the past decade: restaurateur, writer/editor, and Gastronommy, I can tell you that my opinions and personal standards with this issue can get a bit complex.  Throw in the whole situation about "responsible blogging", and it becomes an even lengthier discussion.

read full post at

Monday, December 9, 2013

Conrad Bali: Things To Do

Part I How High Quality Chocolate is Actually Produced
Part II Conrad Bali: Weddings and Eight Degrees South
Part III Conrad Bali: Things To Do (current page)

Conrad Bali is located on the southern coast of Bali of Nusa Dua, away from the noise and bustle of Seminyak.  The luxury beachfront resort is also home to the gorgeous beachfront wedding venue, Infinity (read my personal account as a wedding guest here).

The Pool(s)

Cooking Classes

 The makings of beef rendang

Poolside cooking classes

My rendang partner for the afternoon, Angeleigh Khoo of Food&Travel magazine.

The Jiwa Spa
Just two weeks ago, it was announced that Jiwa Spa won Asia's Men's Spa of the Year at the AsiaSpa Awards 2013.  But even as a woman, I can assure you that the spa is incredibly professional and a pleasant sanctuary within the resort. There are admittedly a number of families (read: children), seeing how Conrad Bali is one of the Leading Family Resorts on the island.  The spa is an extra respite within a respite.

Visit A Chocolate Farm
Read more about Balinese Chocolate here.


The Privacy
The resort features 353 guest rooms and suites, and includes a private wing for even more personalized services and privacy.  I had the pleasure of staying in one of these private suites... Unfortunately I had this enormous space all to myself!

A separate poolside for the private suites. Conrad's Japanese restaurant Rin is also located here.

Luckily I had a monkey and turtle to keep me company. 

A bed big enough for 4

Dinner and a Show
At Suku, one of Conrad Bali's 5 restaurants, there are evening performances and special menus depending on the night.  On this particular evening, we watched Balinese traditional dances and enjoyed a local Indonesian (Balinese) dinner.

A parting gift from Conrad Bali.  
Special thanks to Conrad for their hospitality during my extended stay.

For more information about Conrad Bali, please visit their site at

Conrad Bali
Jalan Pratama 168
Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua
Bali, 80363, Indonesia
Tel: +(62) 361-778788

Conrad Bali (Weddings and Eight Degrees South)

Part I How High Quality Chocolate is Actually Produced
Part II Conrad Bali: Weddings and Eight Degrees South (current page)
Part III Conrad Bali: Things To Do

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about Balinese chocolate farms.  What I didn't get into were the details of why I was there.  In May, I stayed Conrad Bali, where my cousin was being married at Infinity, one of the most beautiful beachfront wedding chapels I've personally seen to date.  During my stay, I got to experience Conrad's lovely quiet surroundings.  The resort is located on the south coast of Bali, away from the noise and bustle of Seminyak.

The Wedding

My cousin Natalie and her newlywed husband Matthew, myself and the rest of the family (cousins, aunts, uncles, and niece!).

My cousin Katie and her daughter, outside the venue

The beachfront wedding chapel

My cousin Laisan, me and our precious niece

At nightfall, Conrad Bali arranged for a firework display at the end of the banquet

Sunrise in the Bales

After the wedding festivities were over and my family departed back to their respective home cities in Taiwan and Hong Kong, it was down to business on discovering how the magic happens at Conrad.

In the Bales (photo by Conrad)

In the bales bright and early just after sunrise, having brunch with our host Kevin Girard and other media from Indonesia (Epicure), Hong Kong (Oriental Daily), and Singapore (Food & Travel).

photo source: Conrad Bali

The view from Suku (Balinese, Indonesian, Asian cuisine), one of Conrad's 5 restaurants, overlooking one of the resort's main pools.  Besides the private pavilion 'bale', this spot is particularly my favorite for breakfast similarly for the sunrise view.

Eight Degrees South

I was also had the good fortune of being able to sample Conrad's upcoming menu for their newly renovated restaurant along the water. Along the beachfront, the Eight Degrees South restaurant was scheduled to be renovated later in the year, the resort set up a romantic beach side tent for us to dine at with our toes in the sand and sample their new menu.

The view from Eight Degrees South

Eight Degrees South is Conrad Bali's signature restaurant.  Previously serving simple Mediterranean dishes, the restaurant now offers a new organic menu based on locally sourced Balinese ingredients.  Chef David Laval, director of Food and Beverage & Culinary Operations, works closely with the Balinese community to search for the best of organic produce from the island.  In turn, the Balinese farmers have regular work from the luxury resort, ensuring an intelligent and happy co-existence.

Some of my favorite dishes included the Fresh green peas cappuccino with seared scallop and organic aloe vera; the gelée of rock oysters in champagne stone crab with local organic sweet corn sorbet and Sevruga caviar; and Black cod and lobster with local sea salt fricassée of clams and sea urchin kedondong curry leaf-lemongrass-kaffir lime local white bean purée.

Using the locally-supplied chocolate (POD Chocolate), Chef Laval creates a decadent dessert: chocolate pod filled with tapioca pearls and passion fruit. (photo by Conrad)

As a side note, I find Conrad Bali rather special.  Bali is known as a tourist destination, filled with luxury resorts and villas.  It's heart-warming to see that even well-established luxury resorts take their surroundings into careful consideration, working together in a meaningful way with the local farmers and communities.  Conrad Bali also works with ROLE Foundation, a non-profit humanitarian organization to educate the underprivileged as well as ensuring environmental sustainability.  This includes creating opportunities for women in Bali by equipping them with skills and education, and training local farmers in permaculture farming practices.

Conrad Bali
Jalan Pratama 168
Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua
Bali, 80363, Indonesia
Tel: +(62) 361-778788

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Tale of Two Wontons (Singapore)

A Tale of Two Wontons
by Jonathan Toyad (guest writer)

Cho Kee Noodle

Stall Names: Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wan Ton Mee and Cho Kee Noodle
Location: Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, Singapore
Opening Hours: 11am to 11pm
Price: SGD $3 - $4

Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wan Ton Mee

When you think of wonton noodles, you picture simplicity. Simple noodles, simple meat-flavored soup, simple char siew and wonton (or wan tan) pieces – all made by humble hands in the wee hours of the morning. And even with the bustle of lunchtime at the culinary hotspot called Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, the owners still keep a straight face. Because they want to keep the procedure simple: you get your dish, and you’ll love every simple filling over minute of it.

The best kind of wonton conglomeration does not take too long, nor does it take too fast to concoct. Two stalls in particular at the centre, Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wan Ton Mee (that’s how it’s spelled) and Cho Kee Noodle, are situated next to each other at the left-most side of the centre–when facing Airport Road. A drink stall acts as the Berlin Wall pre-1990 between the east and west confederates of wonton noodle mastery, ready to quench your thirst before and after.

Both stalls’ signature dish, the dry wonton noodles with a complimentary bowl of salted soup, are given much loving care by their respective chefs due to their overwhelming generosity of meat, soy sauce, and finely-woven dumpling. Many positive adjectives come to mind when your molars crush the wontons repeatedly into a delicious mulch of dough, pork and garlic, but we’ll go with divine. Or toothsome.

Cho Kee Wonton

Hua Kee Wonton

Getting both the soy sauce-laden noodles and mulch together into one glorious union seals the deal for your appetite; a wanton destruction to it, as one might put it comically. You have the privilege of splashing a bit of that salted soup for some moisture, but I suggest that the first bite or two of the dish be in its au naturale state. While both dishes come with a helping of tiny char siu bits from the bigger pieces, Cho Kee Noodles’ offering was more prominent with its chewy numbers. But by a smidgen.

Yes, there are countless Wordpress musings that compare the quality of both stalls and their simple victuals, but in the grand scheme of things is about as productive as comparing Alien and Aliens. Both are great mediums in their own right under their respective creators, each with their own take and technique. Still, if we had a gun pointed to our heads to pick the better among the two culinary grandstanders, we’d have to go to Cho Kee’s sumptuous haven for not skimping on the wonton dumplings in the default S$3 portion. Again, only by a smidgen that will draw attention from the most jaded and detailed of food critics.

You can’t go wrong with either one stall in the end for your wonton noodle cravings. If one stall’s queue is too much for you, and believe me when I say that it can get ridiculous at peak hours, just go to the next. Either way, this is one of those rare occasions where the Highlander rule does not apply. There can, in fact, be two when it comes to getting your noodle-slash-dumpling jollies of the highest magnitude.

About the Writer
Jonathan Toyad, Freelance Writer
When not playing & talking video games on GameSpot, Stuff.TV and IGN, Jonathan Toyad also loves to visit all sorts of locales in search of culinary delights that will not stretch one's budget. Japanese, Balinese, Taiwanese, French, anything: no dish will be left unfinished. Unless it’s beans. Twitter: @MrToffee

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

We went to Suprette this Thanksgiving in Singapore since no one had time to cook — we're saving that part for the weekend.  The food completely hit the spot and we left with full bellies. Hope your Thanksgiving was just as gluttonous, surrounded by good company!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gin Ramble with Tanqueray No. TEN & East Imperial tonic

Thanks Denise of AKA Asia, Hannah Waters of Diageo, and Kevin Law Smith of East Imperial, for the fun Monday night "Gin Ramble". We flit from bar to bar around Singapore, tasting the finalist drinks for the East Imperial Gin Jubilee competition. Key ingredients: Tanqueray No. TEN and East Imperial tonic.

We started the night at Bacchanalia (where we tasted the winning gin+tonic concoction by Mark Thomas Graham), traveled to Jigger & Pony (Aki Eguchi), Cache at Izy (Khley Dillon), and finally at Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall (Sam Wong). 

Ceiling motif in Cache at Izy

Kevin presenting Mark of Bacchanalia the Gin Jubilee Cup

From left to right: Hannah Waters, Kevin Law Smith, Darius Chia, Gastronommy, Rebecca Lynne Tan (Straits Times), Charlene Fang (inSing), Denise Tan, Aku Eguchi, Jeremy Chee

"Like" these photos on Facebook here: Gin Ramble with Tanqueray No. TEN & East Imperial tonic.


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