Posts from February 2011

Blushing as Menu Inspiration, What Happens When, New York's Nolita

What happens when Valentine's Day comes around and you cook at What Happens When? Blushing becomes a source of inspiration.

Creativity does not stop with the menu for this New York pop-up.

They use Kickstarter as a funding source and managed to raise $22,495 at the time I am writing this piece.

There is a gallery approach to their work :

"ONE COLLECTION A MONTH = Menu + Space Design + Soundscape + Photographs

Every month we will work collaboratively around a specific theme (see below) to transform both the space and the menu into a new dining experience. We’re calling each of these themes “Movements”. It’s a new way of interpreting the seasons that goes beyond just the food. Our Movements will touch on all 5 senses and create experiences that not only support but celebrate the menu."


Crowdsourcing does not stop with the funding:

"ONE THEME A MONTH: Inspired by you

We've chosen to use Kickstarter as a means of supporting our project because we feel it parallels our own collaborative spirit. To further celebrate this ethos, we're asking that with every pledge (regardless of dollar amount) you send in a theme suggestion for one Movement of the restaurant that will take place between April and September 2011.

It can be anything–from a short story you wrote to a song you sang last week–but it should be based off of a meaningful personal food memory.

For example, your favorite meal could have taken place in your grandmothers kitchen. It might have been in Fall, with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. With the sound of leaves crackling outside. And a teapot boiling. It might have been the only time she told you about her dream of being a piano player."

You can also book What Happens Next for your next event or private party.

It would be a great place to through a birthday bash for 6 years of 'Serge the Concierge' in March.

What Happens When is located at 25 Cleveland Place (New York's Nolita) in a space previously occupied by restaurant Le Jardin which closed its doors last October after 15 years.

Manga A to Z, Manga Impact, From .Hack to Yukama Kunihiko

According to Manga page on Wikipedia, the style has its origins in 19th century Japan.

Since its modern inception in Japan post World War 2, the genre has exploded into a myriad niches.

Any Manga virgin standing in the Manga section of a reasonably stocked bookstore or a specialy comics and games shop will wonder where to start.

Newbies and those somehow familiar with Manga might want to expand their knowledge, discover new artists, consider its influence on fashion, movies, video games and more.

I have a roadmap for you.

From .Hack to Yukama Kunihiko, Manga Impact (Phaidon Press) offers 350 vignettes on some of the key players in the Manga and Anime fields.

MANGA IMPACT flat cover

Directory is followed by food for thought with essays ranging from 'Time as an artificial creation' by Grazia Paganelli and 'Mann(g)a from Heaven' by Michel Roudevitch to 'From City to Network' (Imaginary cities of Japanese animation) by Carlo Chatrian.


On 'Serge the Concierge' I covered Tea Flavored and Wine Soaked mangas as well as Manga Meets Louvre which do not appear in Manga Impact.

A plateful of Manga for Tokyo Thursdays # 180

Previously: Land of 1000 Earthquakes and Many Futons, Ben Stevens Gaijin Guide to Japan


(* Images copyright Phaidon Press, used by permission of publisher, Ishii Katsuhito sketches for a character by director courtesy of Ishii Katsuhito Artworks)

Cheese Welsh Cakes Recipe by Collier, Celebrate St David's Day, March 1

I never visited Wales yet share Celtic roots with its inhabitants.

I chanced upon recipes offered by Collier's, a cheddar cheesemaker, for St David's Day on March 1.

Cheese Welsh Cakes Recipe:

"Welsh cakes are a traditional Welsh favourite and it was customary to cook them over a heavy, flat, iron pan called a bakestone. Traditionally they are sweet, but for a savoury taste sensation, swap the sugar and sultanas for Collier’s Powerful Welsh Cheddar. These are great fun to make with children and cook in a few minutes on a hot frying pan.

For 20 Collier’s Welsh Cakes:

225g self raising flour
110g butter
75g Collier’s Powerful Welsh Cheddar, grated
10g Parmesan, grated
4g fresh chives, chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten


Sift the flour, and then rub in the butter until crumbly.
Add the both the cheeses, chives, cayenne and salt and gently mix.
Add the egg and mix to dough. If the mixture is a little dry add a spot of milk, until dough is formed.
Transfer the dough on to a floured working surface and roll out to 5 mm (¼ inch) thick.

Using a 6.5 mm (2½ inch) plain cutter cut the dough into rounds. Re-roll the trimmings until all the dough is used.

Heat a heavy flat frying pan on a medium heat (traditionally a heavy flat iron pan called a ‘griddle’ pan or bakestone was used). Now grease with a little vegetable oil, using a piece of kitchen roll.

Cook the Collier’s Cheese Welsh Cakes in batches of 4 to 6 for about 3 minutes each side until golden brown. If they are browning too quickly, turn the heat down so they cook in the middle.

They should be fairly brown and crisp on the outside.
Serve immediately while still warm, with butter if you like."

Check the Other St David's Recipes including Leek and Chili Muffins.

(* Photo and recipe courtesy of Collier's)

Marbella Here I Come, Climate Change and Wine 2011 Conference, April 13-14

Could you think of a sunnier or more welcoming setting for an event dedicated to the effect of climate change on wine than Marbella?

The idea of marrying healthy discussions, wine tastings and a few days on the Costa del Sol in the middle of April sounds rejuvenating.

From Pancho Campo, president of Wine Academy of Spain to Kofi Annan and Nicholas Joly, the speaker line up for Climate Change and Wine 2011 (April 13, 14) is rich and varied.


This will be the 3rd edition.

I just registered today.

I will have to save time after the conference for a visit to Casares...

Talking Tiger in The Kitchen with Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Family, Food and Singapore

Food is part of the culture wherever we come from.

Some places have a more intense relationship than others with culinary delights, Singapore happens to be one of them.

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan took a break from her busy American life to reconnect with family and learn her favorite childhood recipes during an extended stay in Singapore.

She shares the experience and a few recipes in her memoir A Tiger in the Kitchen (Voice/ Hyperion, February 2011).


Cheryl took the time to speak with me last week.

Here's our conversation.

Q: Cheryl, your book 'A Tiger in the Kitchen' is a memoir where personal connections and food are intertwined, was your lack of appetite for practicing family recipes a way to distance yourself from that?

It wasn't so much distancing myself from my family as I was close to my family when I was growing up in Singapore -- it was more about looking at cooking as a sign of weakness, something that generations of women before me were required to learn in order to be good wives, and rejecting that notion by refusing to learn. Later on in life, though, I do realize with some regret that I do not know how to make the dishes I grew up loving -- and that's what inspired the journey.

Q: Why did you make the decision to move to the US to study and then stay to practice journalism?

It was a very difficult decision for me to move to the U.S. as I love my family dearly -- it was hard to leave them. But career to me has always been hugely important, something my parents have impressed upon me all my life, so even though the decision was hard, it was clear.

Q: Did you ever serve one of the recipes, Birds Nest Soup, to unsuspecting guests?

Absolutely not! It's an acquired taste -- and very expensive and time-consuming to make, to boot. I would never waste it on people who don't appreciate it. Plus, I'm a big believer in people knowing what they're putting in their mouths before they eat it. If someone's going to feed me a spleen sandwich, I'd much rather know it before I dig in.

Q: Tell me more about bitter gourd you mention? Is it used on other occasions than weddings?

It's bitter gourd -- also known as bitter melon sometimes. It's not a wedding food -- we just happened to use it in the "buying of the bride" part of my cousin's wedding because we wanted to find something super bitter for her groom-to-be to eat to show his love for her! You can see it in Chinese stir fries, though -- it's particularly lovely stir-fried with beef and served with rice.

Birthday noodles

Q: I noticed Razor Clams on your site, is it a popular item in Singapore?

Razor clams are definitely eaten in Singapore -- seafood is a big part of Singaporean cuisine because the country is an island. You'll see shellfish and fish in Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes -- one of my favorite Singaporean dishes is barbecue stingray, which is skate slathered with a thick coating of super spicy sambal chili, wrapped in a banana leaf and then grilled over hot coals. Once that's done you spritz a little lime juice on top, grab your chopsticks and pick it apart. It's incredibly delicious -- particularly with an ice-cold beer on a sweltering tropical day.

Q: You enjoy Bak-Zhang rice dumplings for breakfast, name other popular breakfast items in Singapore?

Singaporeans eat very hearty breakfasts -- one of my favorite breakfast dishes is nasi lemak, which is a Malay dish featuring coconut rice paired with deep fried crispy anchovies, turmeric-coated fried fish or chicken wing, fried egg and gobs of spicy sambal chili. This rice is often wrapped up in banana leaves and packed up in little balls, sitting at hawker stands in the morning, ready for people to just grab them and go. I also love chwee kueh, which is a small disc-shaped Chinese steamed rice cake that is topped with diced preserved radishes and served with chili sauce. The jello-like rice cake is a lovely canvas for the salty radishes and super spicy sauce that comes with it.


Q: Why use tapioca flour for Kueh Bangkit cookies? Are they a traditional Chinese New Year treat?

These are a traditional Chinese new year treat -- tapioca flour is commonly used in Singaporean desserts so it's no surprise that it pops up in this cookie.

Q: While visiting your family, you get street food at hawker centers. Is what you buy from them similar to what you cook at home?

It's very difficult to replicate the taste of Singaporean street food in your home -- partly, I suspect, because you wouldn't want to use the amount of lard, salt and possible MSG that is sometimes required to amp up the tastes of the dishes to the desired levels. Also, hawkers in Singapore often spend their whole lives perfecting and making just one dish -- it's not like a restaurant where a hawker will do 15 or 30 items on a menu. Very often, they'll specialize in just one dish -- so naturally they become very good at it and it's hard to compete with that level of skill. What my family cooks at home tends to be more simple comfort food dishes -- Teochew braised duck, steamed egg custard, salted vegetable and duck soup. You can read all about it in the book and I hope you enjoy it.

Q: You list 'Holland Village' as an expat corner. Do expats contribute to the local food scene? Are they influenced as well?

Expats have always been big contributors to the Singapore food scene -- the cuisine was founded by expats, after all. Singapore's dishes, which tend to be a hybrid of Malay, Indian, Chinese and European influences, only really came together after the British created a settlement on the island in the 19th Century and started inviting traders from all over to immigrate. So it's really a centuries-old fusion cuisine formed on the shoulders of expat influences. That combination of disparate flavors can be seen in dishes like the roti john, named after British soldiers who were referred to as "johns." It's basically a western baguette topped with curried spices, beaten egg and lamb, fried and served with a chili sauce. That's a classic example of expat influences in Singaporean cuisine.


Q: If you were to describe Singaporean cuisine, what are its strong influences and distinct characters?

Singaporean cuisine, as I mentioned, is a centuries-old fusion cuisine that combines Indian, Chinese, Malay and European flavors. A lot of it is very spicy and filled with the taste of turmeric, fried shallots, curry powder, white pepper, pandan leaf, which is a tropical leaf similar in scent to vanilla. It's a very complex cuisine -- even in curries, you'll find several different kinds in hawker centers as there are Malay, Chinese and Indian curries that all are variations on the same concept. Satay, too, is far more varied than you would think -- one of my absolute favorite dishes, for example, is Hainanese pork satay, which is satay in which piece of lean pork are interspersed with big chunks of fat and threaded on a stick and grilled on a charcoal stove. What makes this satay particularly distinct is its dipping sauce -- the spicy peanut sauce is mixed with a giant scoop of sweet crushed pineapple so you have the combination of sweet and savory in the dip. It's just delicious. Sadly, this kind of satay has become rather hard to find, even in Singapore. I wrote about a mobile hawker who does a lovely rendition of this for the Atlantic Food Channel .

Q: On page 74, you note your aunts irritation at your focus on minutiae (quantity, time), are recipes you tried to learn more general guidelines rather than exact science?

The women in my family cook the way many women of a certain generation do -- by instinct, so they did get a little frustrated when I tried to pin them down regarding the exact amounts that had to go into each recipe. My aunts kept saying to me repeated, just "agak-agak," which is the Malay word for "guess-guess." And it's true that the best cooks do rely on that -- if something needs to be sweeter, you'll know by tasting it and then deciding that you need to add more sugar (or not). They didn't learn how to cook by relying on printed out recipes and cookbooks -- they learned by watching and practicing. After a few months of them urging me to agak-agak, I tried to start doing the same.

Q: How did you live the transition from fashion to food and 'professional' writer to freelancer? Do you still sleep with your Blackberry on?

I often say that I went from covering an industry that was about avoiding eating to one that was all about eating -- on its face, the two topics are that different. But fundamentally, they're both filled with creative characters who are all incredibly passionate about their art, so that's the unifying factor of the two. I've since switched to an iPhone simply because it takes better pictures, allowing me to snap shots of food I'm eating, even if I don't have my Canon on me. But yes, I do still sleep with my iPhone right by my bed -- it's a habit I haven't been able to shake!

Q: What was the synergy between 'A Tiger in the Kitchen' blog and book project?

The blog was started just as I was starting my research for my book -- as I was traveling and eating and cooking, I knew that there was no way that I could fit everything I was learning in my 90,000 word manuscript. So I decided to start the blog as a way to try out my voice as a food writer and tell some of the interesting stories I was gathering that I knew I probably wouldn't have space for in the book. It's been a lot of fun -- I've enjoyed sharing my favorite places to eat (and ones to avoid) in New York City and Singapore -- and I've also enjoyed sharing some of the non-Singaporean recipes I've discovered and liked along the way.

Q: Dumpling Festival (Duan Wu Jie) celebrates a poet and patriot, does every food in Singapore tells a story?

Food has tremendous symbolism in Singapore and in Chinese culture as well. At Chinese new year, many foods are eaten because the words for them are homonyms for lucky words -- fish, for example, must be eaten because the Chinese word for it sounds like the word for "surplus." Noodles are eaten on birthdays and at the new year as a sign of longevity. And at various special days of the year -- the Chinese new year, the winter solstice -- tang yuan, which are small round glutinous balls served in a sugary soup, are a popular dish for families to share because the roundness of the balls is a symbol of family unity. When I was growing up in Singapore, I thought some of these stories were kind of silly but now that I'm older, I do find beauty in this symbolism.


Q: Are common dishes in Singapore seasonal or do most foods stay the same throughout the year?

Because Singapore is so close to the equator, the weather is unchanging for most of the year so the foods mostly stay the same. I'd say that's a good thing, however -- I'd hate to have to go months without eating some of my favorite dishes in Singapore!

Q: Last, what would be a good time to visit the city and best area to stay if you want to have an authentic experience?

Anytime except for the summer months, when the temperatures really skyrocket, are best. I personally like the cooler monsoon months -- to me, few things beat the smell of a tropical rainstorm clearing the air and the sound of super fat raindrops hitting the roof as you're taking a long post-lunch nap.

If you are still hungry after reading her book, visit A Tiger in the Kitchen (the blog) for extra helpings.

(* Photos of 'Birthday Noodles' and 'Hainanese Pork Satay' by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan)

Old Europe, Experience Central Europe from Vienna and Berlin to Warsaw and Budapest

Old Europe as 'Rummy' called it or more precisely 6 countries from Central Europe, Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia joined forces with to promote the 'Central Europe Experience'...

The site was launched in 2011 and offers suggestions in 6 sections from Arts and Culture to Spas and Wellness.


In Food and Wine, those unable to satisty their travel bug, can find Recipes like Pagach from Slovakia which I reproduced below.


Pagach is a delicious Slovak dish that originated with the simple ingredients that were available to the Slovak people who made the best with what they had. Pagach is a great dish to serve at a buffet as it can be sliced like a pizza. Pagach makes a very satisfying meal and the filling can be customized to suit your tastes.


  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup scalded milk
  • 1 pkg dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter
  • 2 Tblsp. sugar

The dough is very easy to work with. If it is too soft, just chill for a little while.

Soften yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar. Scald milk, add margarine and sugar and let cool. Mix flour and salt. Mix in wet ingredients. Scrape together, place in greased bowl, lightly grease top, cover with saran wrap and let raise until double, about 1 hour. Punch down, turn out on floured countertop and knead very slightly until it is a cohesive dough. You can let it double again or just start to work with it.

Make cabbage filling. If you want to make a cabbage pagach, mix together one sliced onion, one small cabbage sliced thinly, and a bit of salt and pepper. Saute the mixture in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil until the cabbage is soft and brown.

Make potato filling. If you are making potato pagach, cook 3 to 4 medium sized potatoes in boiling water until they are soft. Fry on medium sliced onion in a tablespoon of butter. Mix together the potatoes and onions and add a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and add a tablespoon of milk. Mash the mixture together. Now for the fun! Cut dough into 4 or 6 parts. Roll part out into a 1/2" thick round. Fill with a mashed potato/cheese or potato filling. Fill to within a 1/2" of the edge. Roll out another circle and place over the first. Pinch edges together. Roll again as thin as you like or can manage. Brush with butter and prick with fork. Place on greased cookie sheet, oven temp 350. Bake until browned and done for approx 15 minutes. Cut into wedges. A pizza cutter is good for this."

More options can be found via 'Star City' highlights, travel advice and a calendar of events.
(* Pagach recipe copyright 2011 Central Europe Experience)

Alto Adige, Italian Alps Wine Tasting Tour 2011, Chicago, Boston, New York, March 7-10

It might not be the best known wine region in Europe yet Alto Adige (Sudtirol) is home to many wonderful wines benefiting from a very special climate at the foot of the Alps.

The Sudtirol official wine pages in The Year’s Best Italian White Wine comes from South Tyrol (October 2010) highlights how region won 27 Tre Bicchieri in Gambero Rosso 2011 Italian wine guide.

Out of the 27, most (21) were whites with Pinot Blanc leading the pack (6 awards) and Sylvaner R 2009, Köfererhof from the Valle Isarco/Eisacktal valley was even declared Italian white wine of the year 2011.


I unfortunately missed the Tre Bicchieri NY Tasting but just registered for the New York stop of the Alto Adige Wines US Grand Tasting Tour 2011 which visits Chicago (march 7), Boston (March 9) and finally New York (March 10).

27 participating wineries are:

Abbazia di Novacella | Andriano | Arunda | Cantina Bolzano | Caldaro | Castelfeder | Colterenzio | Cortaccia | Griesbauerhof | Franz Haas | Alois Lageder | Manincor | San Michele Appiano | Nals Margreid | Castel Sallegg | Terlano | Tiefenbrunner | Tramin | Elena Walch | Peter Zemmer

All 3 events are open to Media and Trade only.

Michael Pollan Victim of Misguided Food Nostalgia writes Louise Fresco on Zester

I don't think that Louise Fresco wrote Michael Pollan's Misguided Food Nostalgia (Zester Daily, February 21) just to start a controversy.

I agree with her when she points to our tendency to look at past times with tinted glasses (Morning in America).

She calls it the 'great-grandmother' outlook.

Was most of America eating nutritious meals in the 70's?

Were my grandma's homecooked meals that I enjoyed in late 50's and early 60's (growing up in France) always healthy and balanced?

Did we find less chemicals in homes and in crops then than we do now?

I saw plenty of chemicals sprayed on vineyards in 2 years I worked during grape harvest in Roussillon.

The debate over food that Michael Pollan brings to the table, Eat Local, is part of the embarrassement of riches the middle classs suffers from in the developped world.

In her piece, Louise Fresco reminds us that there is room for nuance in debate on food in general. People in many countries are now familiar with various cuisines and ingredients they might not have known in their childhood.Things change.

Two years ago, a very trim Japanese speaker at an event I was attending suggested that world would be a better place if Americans and others watched their portions and did not waste so much food.


Past seen through Tinted Glasses for Green Day # 165

Previously: Bee Biodynamic, Safe Havens for Queen of the Sun at Querciabella in Tuscany

(* Video is 'Feeding the Whole World' presentation by Louise Fresco at Ted)

Sanctity of Cornish Pasty Gets European Union Protection

The European Union has ruled.

Why would Champagne uniqueness be protected while copycats can claim their inauthentic baked goods as Cornish Pasty. This injustice has been stamped out.

James Meikle shares all practical details in Cornish pasty wins protected status from European commission (Guardian, February 22).

In short "only pasties made in Cornwall to the traditional recipe can be labelled as Cornish pasties."


They received a label I was not familiar with, protected geographical indication or PGI.

PGI is one of 3 labels that European Union has for agricultural products and foods (official description below):

  • PDO- covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how.
  • PGI- covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area.
  • TSG- highlights traditional character, either in the composition or means of production

The byzantine rules don't prevent Cornish Pasty's final step (baking) to take place outside Cornwall.

Learn what makes a Genuine Cornish Pasty thanks to Cornish Pasty Association.

(* Illustration from Cornish Pasty Association site)

Valencay, Cheese University, Lesson 13 by French Food Fool

Ullrich Fichtner of French Food Fool had the brilliant idea of opening his virtual Cheese University breaking the topic into small morsels by tackling one cheese at a time.

On February 4, Valencay was Lesson 13.


This unpasteurazed goat milk cheese from the Berry (Loire Valley) can be instantly spotted thanks to its pyramid shape and ash dusting.

Keep up the good work Ullrich, a few hundred more cheeses to go.

(* Illustration from Valencay piece by French Food Fool)