Diner en Blanc‘s first appearance in Asia ended with a blast, owing to the much reported local-food-bloggers-uninvited-and-local-food-disallowed saga. The whole fiasco went completely viral and took a life of its own to bring about much talk, as well as publicity on it over the last week or so. Extensive coverage all over social media through Facebook, as well as various high profile blogs like Mr Brown and ieatishootipost. There was a lot of discussion over Diner en Blanc’s initial reaction to local delights like tau huay and soon kueh, rousing much sentiments, mostly deeming the event as snotty, poncy and pretentious. It went all high drama when the PR company in-charge of the event went on to “disengage themselves” just barely before the day of the event itself, citing a “misalignment of perspectives” with the local organisers. Some bloggers decided to play devil’s advocate and questioned the blogger in question‘s share of responsibility leading to the whole social media fiasco. On the whole, it received a lot of media coverage, IMO a lot more than what it should and normally would, both locally and abroad, with “no-so-honorable mentions” from WSJ and AFP. The whole saga was meant to be called to a halt with a coverage on ieatishootipost’s lunch interview with DeB’s founders as well as an official statement addressed “Dear Singapore” on DeB Singapore’s website. Well that was after its facebook page was taken down amidst the outpour of criticisms and mobbing by local netizens. So has the saga really ended? Meanwhile, the DnB fiasco also sparked off several other events which were “coincidentally” scheduled on 30 Aug 2012, when Diner en Blanc was slated to commence in a “secret location” which turned out to the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. Who would have guessed… Anyway, spin offs like SuperWhite, Makan Day took place alongside Diner en Blanc, and so did our MAKE AND EAT TAU HUAY DAY!
This is a guest post at Veronica’s blog “Quay Po Cooks” whom I got to know through the numerous Aspiring Bakers bakealongs. From a fellow blogger to a friend, this lady beams with so much postive aura and sunshine, it is infectious! I love reading her blog, where every recipe entails a story, heartwarming tales of her family and friends which often reminded us of our very own. Through the lines, she shares with us her moments of euphoria and sorrow, causing one to can’t help but let out a giggle or shed a tear as we read along. Her words are often simple, yet enriched with much sincerity. In short, this woman writes from her heart. When Veronica invited me to do a guest post on her blog, I knew I couldn’t say no. In fact, it would be such an honour, as a repayment in kind, for the very many wonderful reads. Thank you for letting us in your life. 🙂
I asked Veronica if she had any preference for the recipe and she indicated that she’d hoping for something sweet, since pastry is my forte. I am flattered but surely sweetness cannot be the only dimension presented, especially for a woman who has led such a colorful life, After much deliberation, I’d decided to share with all of you a recipe which I feel aptly encapsulates the essence of all that Veronica’s been through. Oh yes, if you have gone through her blog like I did, you would know that this woman has gone through quite a bit over the years. Read on and you would know why…
Hong Kong is one of our favorite holidaying destinations, having visited the place close to a dozen times over the last decade or so. Good food, fantastic shopping are just some of the reasons that draw us continually to go back over and over again, sometimes to try out new dimsum joints, or otherwise to revisit eateries and restaurants we’d been before to get our fix of good tong shuei or wanton mee. 买东西，吃东西，买东西， 吃东西… just like the advertisement by the HK Tourism Board a couple of years back. Strangely enough, our itineraries over the last few trips have never really about hunting for pastries, partially because the days are often spent going about our usual routine “shopping circuit” from one factory outlet to other, and of course, there’s so much good authentic local food around its a shame not to do our rounds while we were there. Be it bargains hunting or cha can teng (local teahouses) hopping, there’s usually hardly enough time for anything else.
The most recent trip, just 2 weeks back, was different, we’d decided to make amendments to our usual food itinerary and shopping guide to make time to visit some patisseries and bakeries, as well as shops that specialise in baking supplies. Thankfully, many of these were “along the way” to our usual eating places and shopping spots, so not much of a detour required! Before our trip, we did some “homework” by checking up on some of the dessert places to visit. Fieldtrip reviews by fellow blogging foodies as well as online eating guides and forums like openrice provided a vast amount of information. But we have only 4 days in Hong Kong, so being concise is really the key. After some painful but necessary trimming down, we are down to a handful of pastry joints which are more easily accessible by means of time management and public transport. So here we go!
Paul Lafayet (PL), one of the patisseries in Hong Kong which I’d been wanting to visit for sometime now. After adopting a more serious stance towards the art of pastry making, PL is a name that frequently pops up whenever I google for pastry related stuff in Hong Kong. So it would make perfect sense to visit them this time round.
Ladurée hardly need introduction. They are the old guards of the French school of pastry-making, founded in Paris 150 years ago back in 1862. Not only have they been associated with the art of pastry-making for the longest time, but also tagged with big names like Pierre Herme, who worked to expand Ladurée’s chain of dessert boutiques and developed the “Ispahan” during his stint there. I was lucky to get a box of Laduree macarons recently, so here I am to share with you my take on them. I start with two simple and yet familiar flavours, lemon and raspberry. Incidentally these sharp flavours are some of my favorites too!
So I begin my macaron tasting adventure with Pierre Herme’s macarons, and it’s a piece which does not need elaborate introduction, one whose name and fame precedes it. Macaron ispahan has been synonymously associated with Pierre Hermé for the longest time, though this unique combination of flavours were actually developed by Christine Ferber, a fellow French patissier whom I hold with the highest esteem for her ingenuinity of creating flavour combinations and art of making confitures. I had a brush of luck when I encountered her confitures in Taiwan but I decidedly gave it a miss. A bludy stoopid blooper now in retrospect. but that’s another story for another time.
Ispahan was incidentally, one of Ferber’s confiture creations which inspired PH so much that he created a “Fetish”, a whole line of delicious pastries out of it, from giantic petit gateau-sized macarons to tarts to croissants.
Rose, raspberries and lychee… who would have guessed.
Macarons must surely rank amongst the top in the list of the most versatile foods in the world, with two almond and sugar biscuit shells to be filled with an infinite number of possible fillings from sweet to savory. This became the drawing board for patissiers all around the world, drafting all sorts of flavour combinations from the familiar to the exotic.
It all started from monochromatic flavours like the ever-popular vanilla buttercream, raspberry confiture and chocolate ganache. These fillings, withstanding the test of time, are indeed delicious, but can be rather boring at times. The constant desire to innovate the mind and invigorate the tastebuds motivate patissiers to experiment with “pairings” of flavours, in attempt to add depth and dimension to these petit fours. And these bold attempts to produce something unique and astounding is found in none of than the works of Pierre Hermé.
I’m “fast forwarding” my Japan posts to bring to you guys the Le Cordon Bleu Macarons from Kobe! “Nan desu de?!” some of you might ask. ‘Cos in barely 2 weeks’ time on 20th March is Le Jour de Macaron aka Macarons Day! This day which celebrates the popular French confectionery was initiated by no other than the man who revolutionised macaron gastronomie, Pierre Hermé. Since its inauguration 7 years ago, Macarons Day is celebrated by many patisseries around France, with notable names like Sadaharu Aoki, Dalloyau, Laurent Duchêne and Jean-Paul Hévin, just to name a few. It has since spread across the Altantic to NYC and Toronto, as well as the rest of the world! And over at Aspiring Bakers, we are having celebrating it for one whole month with “Aspiring Bakers #17 – March Macaron Madness!”
We visited Kobe as a day trip on our second last day in Kansai. It was an impromptu decision actually as we’d initially decided to stay put in Osaka after visiting Kyoto and Nara a couple of days back. But we kinda ran out of places to visit in Osaka, which is pretty much of a business and commercial hub, with much less character and history than its neighbouring cities and towns. So it was off to Kobe for more patisserie hunting!
Serangoon Central was my “turf”, having lived in that neighbourhood for a good 14 years, spending the latter years of my childhood and early adolescent years there. Though we’d moved away for more than 10 years now, I still find myself frequenting the place, especially since I work near the vicinity. Shopping at NTUC Xtra and Cold Storage for groceries, browsing new cookbooks in the public library on the rooftop became much of a tea-time ritual before setting off to the evening appointments. Even so, I rarely dine there, save for some occasional visits to some delis in the basement or grabbing a sandwich at Subway when my tummy starts to rumble. This is because I’m usually there alone, lazing the afternoons away, or sneaking some time to grab some fresh produce when I’m in between appointments. That’s why despite walking pass Green Pumpkin Japanese Bakery umpteen times over the countless visits, I’d not opt for any takeaways from their cake fridge, as I’d feared that the delicate mousse or cream layers simply wouldn’t be able to make the trip home as I almost never go back directly, having to spend another couple of hours before heading home.
Hence, when the day came when I actually had the evening free, I didn’t have to think twice about grabbing a cake from the Green Pumpkin Japanese Bakery home for some photos and a quick sampling. In fact, I did better than that! I grabbed four…
Bakerzin launched four new tarts a couple of weeks ago but they most certainly beared resemblance to some of the familiar favorites we know. Utilising some Bakerzin dining vouchers we had, we’d got some for a sampling.
My first encounters with anything overpoweringly “rosy” is probably “Rose Floral Water ” 玫瑰花露水, which was the “SK-II Esssence” in my grandma’s era. The wafts of familiar yet deathly pungency of rose water brought back memories of my grandma’s dressing table, and the macabre scent of rose water can only be less dreadful when compared to something even more ghastly, 夏士莲雪花膏 Hazeline Snow Moisturising Cream.
I attempted Pierre Hermé ‘s Macaron Ispahan about half a year ago and I must say, its a pinnacle to this hobby for me . Looking back, it is not without problems and fears. I remembered being really skeptical about the use of rose water and rose essence as I’d associated them with the “unpleasant”. Curious on how Pierre Hermé ‘s Ispahan would turned out, I restrained all that cynicism on these “condiments” which reminded me of sickly old women (no offence ladies!) and forged on. Thankfully I did, literally blown away by the flavours when I took the first bite. Not sure if my scent receptors have “matured” over the years or the impressions of these “fragrances” have waned over time, I grew to enjoy the intricate subtlety these flavours impart, yet deepening the complexity of the work by so much.
This month’s Aspiring Bakers’ theme is Tarts and Pies, and needless to say, the perfect opportunity to reprise those flavours which I’d grown to like, in this case, Pierre Hermé’s Tarte Ispahan.
The weather has been excruciatingly warm all week and is becoming almost unbearable! Climatic patterns have changed and gone gaga around the world. Tornado and hurricane season coming too early whilst the rains refuse to come. How long more have we got to endure this…
On a more positive note, summer fruits from the northern hemisphere comes early this season. Just after we saw a massive shipment of Korean strawberries a month back, now comes the Californian ones, with our local supermarkets selling them very cheaply for punnets twice the size of those korean ones. This is too tempting an offer to resist. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are also available in abundance now. Californian blueberries are in season now when we saw their Argentinian or Chilean cousins just a month back. When else than now could be a better time for one to experience the summer berries galore!
Talk about french baking and macarons easily comes to mind. And the one name that is almost synonymously equated to macarons is Pierre Hermé. The celebrated French patissier is renowned and worshipped around the world by dessert and sweets afficionados for his edible masterpieces. Enshrined as the “Picasso of Patissiers”, the one creation which is most often tagged onto him is the Ispahan.
7-cm wide macaron shells in brilliant pink enclosed with a mélange of fresh raspberries, canned lychees and rose petal buttercream, this must had been one of the most bizzare-sounding desserts on the menu that Pierre Hermé created when he was still with Laduree. He is afterall a revolutionary in the French culinary scene, constantly introducing mind-boggling ideas for desserts and patisseries which come in bewildering combinations of flavours or presentation that inspires to astound the world both visually and gastronomically!
Valentine’s Day’s just round the corner and its a wonderfully tied in with the season of summer berries. I absolutely adore raspberries, both its rich colour and textures as well as its delicate tartness. While stocking up punnets of raspberries and blueberries which I could use throughout the off-season months, I remember chancing upon a recipe over Martha Steward’s website for “Heart-shaped Raspberry Napoleon” and I knew I have to make it for this month’s Aspiring Bakers’ theme “Love is in the Air” hosted by Ellena of Cuisine Paradise.
The recipe can be simple or difficult, depending on how much one decides to stretch oneself. I decided to go the hard way and give myself a challenge!