Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hennessy XO Appreciation Grows - Spirit Of Conquest

It starts off with this Voyage Ticket, in the mail, and it's snail mail.  It's lovely to get anything via snail mail, or well, in this case, courier services, but it sure beats an E-Invite.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, it is ALWAYS a treat to be invited for a Hennessy XO Appreciation Grows, and actually, though it has only dawned on me now as I write this, Appreciation Grows is a rather apt name for these events, because, truly, this being my 6th such event, (let's see, there was Alvin Leung, Chong Liew, Susur Lee, Edward Lee, Michael Han), I have honestly grown to appreciate the whole set up even more, the wonderful people from MHD and G2 PR (and Milk before that), the amount of thought and preparation that goes into these events, the wonderful Chefs that have been commissioned to prepare such gastronomic delights...if you are reading this, here, a TOAST of imaginary XO to you guys, for you guys rock. 

The other distinguishing factor about these events are the novel venue ideas, which thus far have covered Suffolk Mansion in Penang, Equatorial Hotel which had already closed its doors to the public, for renovation, St Joseph's novitiate, Penang, and this time round, the iconic Chin Woo Stadium, which honestly, although is in the heart of KL, I can't say I ever remember going.  What does one go to Chin Woo to do?

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(Photo courtesy of G2 PR)
Not quite exactly what I envisaged Chin Woo to look, a large ship, but then again, we were to embark on a Spirit of Conquest, or The Spirit of Conquest, depending on your usage of the phrase, and at the helm, titillating our palates, was to be Chef Lee Anne Wong.  Read about the pre-event HERE.

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 (Photo courtesy of G2 PR)
Chef Lee Anne Wong -  Her biodata is posted in the pre event release, HERE, so I shall not replicate it in this post.  Basically American (of Chinese descent), no 4 winner in first season of Top Chef, with a list of accolades and experiences with a string of restaurants, we were certainly in for a treat that night. 

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That familiar bottle adorned the classy holding area, as passengers waited to embark on the culinary voyage.  Decked up like an English drawing room, the glitterati in their tuxedos and gowns mingled, with air kisses and muah muahs, as some lounged on the Chesterfields puffing away their cigars, as the sweet young Hennessy girls sashayed around serving the rich glorious liquid.

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(Photo courtesy of G2 PR)
The first surprise that greeted us was that the dining room was decked totally above the swimming pool, to give the effect of a cruise ship, and the side aisles of the dining area were also transparent, and beyond, the ship windows to facilitate the scenery change as we embarked on the voyage. 

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Ladida Menu...

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1870, just slightly before I was born....

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Mathieu Ducemin, giving his inaugural speech at the launch of the voyage. 

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First stop, Paris, for the Parisian Regalia, tender foie gras baked custard infused with cognac and served warm with brioche toast fingers, treatments of green apple, and crisp frisee lettuce. Oh, and I meant the picture below, not those Can Can Dancers above, though they might have also been infused with Cognac...I would, if I had to perform a Can Can...

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Amazing, some people I spoke to who weren't foie gras fans even loved it.  The texture, a bit like a firm baked custard, with the subtle sauces and complemented with a neat XO, truly quite sublime.  Already the first dish left us craving for more. 

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Luckily the voyage was a virtual one, because a journey from France to China back in the day would have taken half a lifetime, probably.  But surprisingly, Hennessy arrived in China before it did in America, in 1872 to be exact. 

Next on the menu, the ever familiar "Oriental Enchantment" which actually, sounded like your normal crabmeat, chicken and egg drop  soup which only foreigners order in a Chinese restaurant.  But it turns out its a noble soup that originated from the southlands of China, blending sweet ocean crab harmoniously with golden corn, egg whites, sesame and coriander with a hint of lime, with the added royal touch of caviar.

Seriously, this soup was EXCELLENT.  There was a lovely crunch of corn, and that dollop of crabmeat that you stir into the soup, gave it that wonderful seafood flavour, and globules of salty caviar popped in the mouth like a prepacked instant seasoning.  The best surprise of the night, because of course, being the cynic that I am, I was wondering, "crab meat soup?  Really?"

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Can you guess where we are now? Arriving at the most opportune time in American history, the Gilded Age saw Hennessy X.O make its timely debut in the United States of America in 1873, as an elegant and sophisticated way to enjoy values of luxury and heritage. Presented as a tribute to cowboy culture, Western Allure, a dish of spice-rubbed American salmon, incorporated true American flavors and ingredients as they would have been at the end of the cowboy days, and partnered perfectly with Hennessy X.O and ice.

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Western Allure - Okay, a tad complex for my simple palate.  Each component on its own is actually very good, but if you're meant to eat it all at once, together, I think there was too much to process, for me personally anyway.  So, I ate each component separately after giving it the once over.  And it was pretty good.  The salmon was pan fried adequately, not over cooked as is oft the crime here, I LOVED those crunchy nuts, and the cajun type sauce.

 I can't remember if we had any American entertainment, but perhaps the organizers felt that we are already exposed to so much of it (American entertainment) there was no real need to show an excerpts from Dallas or Dynasty to the guests, although it would've been age appropriate.

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Ah, appreciation grows indeed....I have come to love this drink in recent years.

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The Wonderful People from MHD...

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We sail across the Atlantic to Italy, (I thought we might have stopped here from France to China, but maybe we took the North Pole route)...and dock in Venice.  Italy welcomed the Original X.O with open arms in 1893. 

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Venetian Ambrosia; handmade pasta in a sumptuous sauce of summer truffles, cognac, and cream, finished with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table – a dish fit for Italian nobility, accompanied by Hennessy X.O and water.

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This dish was superb.  It encapsulated what I imagined to be decadent Italian.  Shaved truffles, creamy goodness, and lovely homemade pasta.  And accompanying this dinner, the most surprising performance the night, a local opera singer, that really made the stadium resound with a wonderful tenor voice.

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(Pic courtesy of G2 PR)
I think many were caught by surprise by his Nessun Dorma that resonated throughout the hall, and I almost wanted to give the man a standing ovation. 

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Amid cultural and economic evolution, Russia became the fifth nation to enjoy and appreciate the refined taste of success that is Hennessy X.O in 1898

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The traditional Russian dish, Mazurka Splendour – lightly fried fresh cheese curd fritters accompanied by a light sour cream sauce, a rich cognac infused dark berry sauce, and sugar crusted currants –supposed to be eaten with a neat  Hennessy XO.

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Hennessy X.O's arrives in Japan in 1900. Nihon Grandeur, a jewel-like presentation of fresh ruby red grapefruit segments encased in a delicate grapefruit and cognac gelee, covered in a light layer of cognac-vanilla whipped cream, frozen grapefruit granite, and topped with a sesame seed-cognac wafer, brought guests’ journey with Hennessy X.O to a resounding conclusion with a spirited drum performance by the Wadaiko Syo troupe.

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Loved this dessert.  The cornucopia of flavours that formed the finale for the night (well, excluding the chocolate ganache) was a fitting conclusion to a night of tantalizing, saporous feast.  The tang of the grapefruit with the sweetness of the whipped cream...ah, superb, superb.  I approve. 

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(Pic courtesy of G2 PR) 
Really, hats off to Chef Lee Anne Wong for a wonderfully crafted dinner  which obviously was prepared with much thought and love and passion. 

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(Pic courtesy of G2 PR)

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(Pic courtesy of G2 PR) 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fatbaby Ice Cream


There's something very cosmic about food...it really links people together.  The PM should really concentrate on making it the national hobby, it seems to be a surefire way to unite the country.  Either that or declare a food war on Singapore, for claiming chicken rice, yee sang, and goodness knows what else, to have been spawned there.

Anyway, as I was bemoaning the fact that I can't afford the Haagen Daz salty caramel ice cream, my godma's daughter chirpily facebooks me (gosh, is that even a verb) telling me that one of her friends has just started her own range of ice creams, and wants to give me some samples to try.  Music to my ears.  I gravitate to free samples the way Singaporeans gravitate to all new products such as pork buns from Hong Kong.  I digress.

So yeah, free ice cream, from one known as FATBABY ICE CREAM.  Bah, another Fat something or other.  I expected to see a girl of Jabba-esque proportions when I finally met up with her, Hui Ming, to collect my samples, but to my dismay, she's slim as a pole, ....totally desecrating the name FAT.  Chis.  She hands me a brown bag with EIGHT tubs of ice cream. 

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The deal was that I would bring it home for the kids and wife to try, but AS luck would have it, she gave me TWO tubs of salty caramel, and who can ever say no to salty caramel.  It's the best invention since butter, I tell you.  And salty caramel ice cream really..... I mean, whoever invented it deserves a Nobel Culinary Prize.  I gleefully dig into a tub myself, and I have to say, I was NOT disappointed.  Lovely creaminess, not overly sweet, I swear, almost like the one I made two nights ago. 

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The full range of flavours, and if you are observant enough, you'd notice that it is now dark, (as in, it is night), compared with the first pic, which was daylight.  Meaning, I dutifully brought home the bacon for the brood.  And so the tasting begins.

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Mango Sorbet.  Okay, first, let me label the testers, ie, One Wife and Four Kids so we'll call them Wife No 1, Girl 1, Boy 1, Boy 2 and Girl 2. 

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Boy 1 to Girl 1 : You'd like this, it tastes totally healthy, and its mango. Also, there's no cream, and it's not sweet. It's like eating frozen mango.
Girl 1 after tasting: It does nottttt feel like frozen mango.  It's yummy. 

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A lovely coffee ice cream, which is the favourite of Wife No 1.  I liked it too, and the recurring theme was, it's not too sweet. 

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No matter what fancy fandangled flavours people come up with, it is essential to remain true to the basics, and Chocolate Ice Cream is as basic...as Vanilla.  This chocolate ice cream scores, you can tell it's made from good quality chocolate, but yet, it is not cloying. The lack of preservatives meant our little tasting was resulting in the ice cream melting pretty fast.  Chocolate, the favourite of Girl No 1 & 2....

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And because Chocolate deserves to be seen from all angles...

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Coconut candy.  Gotta love Fatbaby for her ingenuity.  I guess there are traces of gula melaka like flavours, Boy No 1 swears there's horlicks, but whatever it is, THIS was MY favourite. 

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Apple Crumble.  Brilliant.  Bits of crunchy apple and crispy crumble.  A feat not easily achieved.  Basically, your apple crumble is served with ice cream, but here a reversal of roles, and your ice cream is served with a hint of apple crumble.  This was Boy No 1's favourite, much to my surprise, since he's more or less a carnivore, and that he chose a flavour with real fruit?!! Wow.

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And finally, Corn Flakes Ice Cream.  Again, it's amazing how she managed to preserve the crispiness of the cornflakes.  This was Boy No 2's favourite.

People can get hold of Fatbaby from:
* Marmalade Cafe in Bangsar Village & Publika
* CAFFEine at Setiawalk in Puchong
* online from http://fatbabyicecream.com/get-your-fatbaby-here - once people have ordered online, she does ice cream drop offs at Publika, Jaya 33, Empire Subang, Sunway Giza on Saturdays.  Ice Cream drop offs...love that concept.

Pricing is on the website, but it's basically RM25 a pint.  To the metric-fied, that's 474 ml for the US Liquid Pint, which presumably is the measure she is using, just like Haagen Daz. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir Duck Trail - Part 1

NEWSFLASH:  The Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir Duck Trail begins on 1st April and runs until 31st May. Bookings are necessary for each individual restaurant.

If I were old Macdonald, and had a farm, I'd make such it had ducks, that go quack quack here, and a quack quack there, and also for agriculture, a vineyard full of Pinot Noir grapes, (or Vitis Vinifera, hah, I bet you did not know that), since now I've discovered that it makes such a delightful pairing.

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When I was a young lad, back in the 90s, Cloudy Bay was the epitome of having "arrived".  If you served a bottle of Cloudy Bay at your dinner, guests will go WOW, OOOH and AHHH.  Rumour had it that even supply was limited, and even people down under, (Oz & NZ) had to book their stock in advance.

Cloudy Bay till today still remains etched in my mind as a veritable treat, a bottle for special occasions.  While I personally am a huge fan of their Savignon Blancs, I was neverthess thrilled (like a schoolboy on a date) to receive an invitation from the G2 PR guys, to go on a Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir Duck Trail.  A trail?! Wow, my first question, having seen the itinerary, that started at 11am, is, "Is transport provided?"...afterall, we do not want to espouse drink driving. 

First stop of the day, (they transported us in a plush Starex, which was a lot of fun....the provision of transport meant we could drink with gay abandon, which we did.  By we, I mean Cumi & Ciki (of CC Food Travel), and me.  A bottle at each stop, not a bad feat.  ...I digressed...First stop of the day, ROYAL FLUSH, in Ara Damansara. 

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Crispy duck roll paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM59.00++

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Well, this crispy duck roll is probably an euphemism for the traditional Peking Duck, but with some added oomph.  I love the traditional style pancake, not the yellow eggy one that a lot of restaurants seem to serve. 

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Smoked duck salad wrapped in seaweed and egg roll paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM59.00++
The rolls are very fusiony, not quite fitting into any particular cuisine, but rather unique.  But given a choice, I'd personally whack the rolls.    Tasting notes for the wines include violets, boronia and flowering wild thyme. Raspberry licorice entices further along with wild strawberry, dark cherries, tobacco & spice, but to my plebian hoi polloi palate, I taste...WINE.  Yay....

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Royal Flush
Central Piazza, Oasis Square Ara Damansara, No 2 Jalan PJU 1A/7A , 47301
Petaling Jaya
T. 012 299 7598 W. facebook.com/theroyalflushmalaysia

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The next stop,Las Carrettas, in Semantan Suites, Damansara Heights, but according to the press release, only the Subang Jaya branch seems to be serving this.  

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Note the cute little sombrero, ...in case you're wondering what kind of cuisine Las Carretas normally serves...this should give you a hint.

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Confit of Duck Leg Seared whole duck leg cured presented with truffle perfumed mash & sautéed French beans on a wild mushroom sauce paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM74.90++

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Yin & Yang of Confit of Duck Leg
Seared foie gras & whole duck leg presented with truffle perfumed mash & sautéed French beans on a wild mushroom sauce paired with a glass of
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM94.90++

That was a generous slice of foie gras, and the skin of the duck confit looks to die for.  And well, this combination might really just result in that...but well, what is life without good food. 

Las Carretas Subang Jaya
No 29 USJ 10/1F, 47620 Subang UEP, Selangor
T. 03 56373058 W. lascarretas.com

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Twice cooked lemongrass, blue ginger and turmeric duck with soy marinated roasted aubergine paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM75.00++.  My favourite of all the duck dishes, but of course, bear in mind, this is all very subjective, and my meat might be your poison.  I loved the texture, flavour, falling off the bone of the duck meat, despite the overly sun-tanned color of the duck itself.  Maybe it was a result of being twice cooked.... by this time, we were having a nice buzz from the Cloudy Bay, and were making silly remarks like, "TWICE COOKED? WHY? DID THEY GET IT WRONG THE FIRST TIME? "

Ribs by Vintry
120-122, Jalan Kasah, Medan Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur
T. 03 2096 1645 W. vintry.com.my E. sales@vintry.com.my

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 of the TRAIL, but other restaurants participating are:

ACME Bar & Coffee
Pulled Duck Open-faced sandwich with orange BBQ sauce on grilled bread & green salad paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM59++

ACME Bar & Coffee
Ground Floor at The Troika, 19 Persiaran KLCC, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
T. 03 2162 2288

Ril’s Bangsar
Crispy slow cooked duck leg two ways with a Peking duck foie gras wonton, served with lotus root mousse and a wolfberry compote paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM99.00++

Ril’s Bangsar
30 Jalan Telawi 5, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
T. 03 2181 1634 W. rils.com.my

Soul Society
Xiang Su Duck
Thinly sliced duck breast served with julienned cucumber, celery, spring onion and hoisin sauce and a basket of Popiah skins paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM58.00++

SOULed Out Hartamas
No. 20, Jalan 30/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
T. 03 2300 1955 W. soulsociety.com.my E. yum_yum@souledout.com.my

SOULed Out Ampang
G1, Ground Floor, Menara HSC, No. 187 Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
T. 03 2181 1626 W.soulsociety.com.my E. slurp@souledout.com.my

W.I.P. @ BSC
Lot G111, Ground Floor, Jalan 222, Bangsar Shopping Centre,
285, Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandar Raya, 59000 Kuala Lumpur
T. 03 2181 1634 W. soulsociety.com.my E. ask@wip.com.my

NEO Tamarind& Tamarind Hill Pan roasted duck served with chocolate sauce & red cabbage puree paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM85.00++

Crispy duck in garlic sauce paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM75.00++

NEO Tamarind / Tamarind Hill
19, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur (Opposite Equatorial Hotel)
T. 03 2148 3200 / 3700 W. tamarindrestaurants.com.my

Magret of duck with Pinot Noir sauce & roasted potato and caramelized apple garnish paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011, RM75.00++

Lot C3.10.01b, Pavilion KL, Level 3, Fashion Avenue, Kuala Lumpur
T. 03 2141 6151 W. eatertainmentgroup.co/circus.html

Orange and Juniper marinated Duck Breast, Smoked Duck Quinoa, Stewed Brussels Sprouts, Spiced Cranberry Sauce paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay
Pinot Noir 2011, RM130.00++

Level 24, Troika Sky Dining, Troika, 19 Persiaran KLCC, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
T. 03 2162 0886

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2011
The 2011 Pinot Noir captures your senses with immense florals including violets, Boronia and flowering wild thyme. Raspberry licorice entices further along with wild strawberry, dark cherries, tobacco & spice. The palate is juicy but balanced by rich forest floor, clove and savoury flavours. Good tension between acid and fine tannins offers a well-rounded palate with appealing length.

The 2011 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir marks Cloudy Bay’s 24th vintage from Marlborough with the first vintage release in 1989.

The Cloudy Bay philosophy is to consistently redefine New Zealand wine and establish a commitment to allow natural fruit qualities to shine through. Established in 1985, Cloudy Bay Vineyards is situated in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough at the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island. The main varieties grown are sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir with lesser quantities of gewurztraminer, Riesling, and pinot gris. Cloudy Bay wines are exported to over 30 markets, the principal ones being Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Europe and Japan. Cloudy Bay is named after the bay at the eastern end of the Wairau Valley, so called by Captain Cook on his voyage to New Zealand in 1770.

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About Moet Hennessy Diageo Malaysia Sdn Bhd
Moët Hennessy Diageo Malaysia is the recognized industry leader in the marketing and distribution of premium branded spirits, champagnes and fine wines in Malaysia. Our portfolio includes some of the most well-known premium brands such as Hennessy cognac, Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon and Krug champagne. Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskies, Glenmorangie Single Malt, Belvedere Vodka, Grand Marnier, Gordon’s Gin, Smirnoff Vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream as well as a wide range of quality wines from traditional and New World countries.
For further information, kindly visit www.mhdm.com.my