Textiles and design from Japan have always beguiled me with their beauty, form and textures conspiring to tell a story of a nation’s culture and tradition all in an unassuming piece of tapestry. The simple monograms one sees on a piece of cloth may in fact be a family crest that goes back centuries or how a ‘tie-dyed’ fabric is in fact a complex diminishing art form called ‘Shibori.’ The mission this time around was to look for textiles as gifts for friends back in London.
A quick JNTO search turned up Yanesen, which seemed interesting due to the traditional Japanese atmosphere that purportedly still lingers there. Yanesan is the combination of the 3 neighbourhoods of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi.
This visit was my great plan to kill multiple birds with one stone. as this was my plan……. Continue reading →
Villayoooo-what? Its pronounced ‘Veeya-hoyo-sa’, a beautiful seaside town on the Costa Blanca in Alicante whose claim to fame is CHOCOLATES. It was here that cacao first landed on Spanish shores from the Americas and it once boasted many chocolate factories, of which, only Chocolates Perez and another outfit remain. Oh, this place is also home to Chocolates Valor, a big Spanish chocolate brand that churns out generic chocolate.
My quest for experiencing the bean to bar journey of chocolates brought me here, to Chocolates Perez, where Paco Torreblanca told me they use old school machinery to make chocolates. Having never seen old chocolate machines at work before, this was a welcome break from Pasteleria Totel and a perfect way to spend a day by the coast.
Had a request from a friend for her sis-in-law’s birthday and the only rule was, do anything, but no fruits, as her bro doesn’t really eat fruits. Bummer…..because I had some awesome PX Sherry macerated apricots in the fridge.
Rummaged through my kitchen cupboard, fretted over it for a week or two and decided to make something a bit different and experimental. How did I know if they tasted alright? An extremely sophisticated testing procedure was applied to ensure all ingredients matched on a fundamental level.
Spoon of extra virgin olive oil
Sprinkle some matcha on
One vanilla pod
A few whole pistachios
Instructions for Test:
Shove oil + matcha into mouth
Pop pistachios in and chew
Sniff on vanilla pod
If you do not puke, they will go well togather
Actually, some prior research was done to ensure that these ingredients all shared similar flavour components, therefore, increasing the likelihood that they would go well togather. Its kinda like trying to understand how peanut butter and jelly are a match made in obesity heaven. However, you’ll never know how they would taste overall in balance until its done.
What happens at Salon du Chocolat in Tokyo? Essentially, it is a multi day commercial affair where Isetan tries to make as much money as possible. This is not exactly the same as Salon du Chocolat in Paris where industry people come to check out the latest developments and catch up with colleagues. Is it any coincidence that the Salon du Chocolat is timed to occur just before Valentine’s day in Japan? Nonetheless, it was an eye opening experience indeed as I saw and met many chocolatiers from around the world. Continue reading →
Touted as one of the best patisseries in Tokyo, it was time to kill 2 birds with one stone on one train ticket on the Toyoko line. About 10 minutes walk from Tadashi Yanagi’s patisserie, turn left at the supermarket and you will come upon Mont St Clair. En route to Mont St Clair, I dropped by Tadashi Yanagi’s to pick up some cakes. These two guys and Hidemi Sugino were right at the top of my Tokyo Hit list.
Hironobu Tsujiguchi…..Mr H, is he known outside of Japan? Probably. He did after all win the individual pastry prize in the world pastry championship but most non-Japanese foodies I have met know only his shops, Mont St Clair and Le Chocolat de H. Note to self: If you want to be world famous and a household name, get rid of that tongue twisting name and call yourself Bob. Bob Tsujiguchi has a cool Hawaiian surfer dude-with-a-cool-job kinda ring to it dontcha think?
For the rather long and potentially boring passages below where you will be subject to my fantastic prose and inteliggent musings (Oops), pictures from Mont St Clair’s pastry showcase shall be interspersed between paragraphs to distract you from my mundane observations.
Picture perfect cakes, lined up in the counter like little gems, seducing you gently as their suggestive colours, decorations and names tantalize your cranial taste buds. They call these Petit Gateaux (Little cakes) in France and when its your turn at the counter, you start panicking for everything LOOKS SO DAMN GOOD! What do I get? What do I get? My answer: “If you can, EVERYTHING.”
Where is this place and who is behind such alchemy? Read on for a glimpse of his history and detail on his cakes.
Today is an EXTREMELY AUSPICIOUS date if you read it Cantonese. 03032009. It loosely means that it will be easy to prosper and stay prosperous for a long time. Encouraging thoughts in a time when people are losing their shirts. Therefore, its made me a bit philosophical and the date is perhaps fitting of a post reflecting on the current economic crisis and how it is affecting our world and industry. Read on if you are interested or skip to the more delicious food posts below or in the archive links on the right.
Having shamelessly plugged Artisan du Chocolat in the first post on the Salon du Chocolat here, ’everyone else’s’ shall be shown here. Yes yes, I am really biased. However, the Salon du Chocolat did uncover a few gems and allowed me to sample lots of stuff that did not require:
An air ticket to chocolate destinations
With many chocolatiers in one place, its no wonder the Japanese go all gaga over this event. Its even better if you worked for an exhibitor like me. Read: Free samples everywhere, esp. if you do the rounds with the boss. Ever had Sadaharu Aoki ply you with enrobed macarons or praline chocolates? Be jealous….VERY JEALOUS! (Don’t really be coz I was begging him for a job to no avail!).
It was packed day in and day out, making it really difficult to sample everything on offer. However, a friend, C and I persevered by lining up to do a tactical scan on what each chocolatier offers. Basically, the salon has a ‘Chocolate Bar’, where we can purchase chocolates to eat in along with drinks or champagne.
The advantage of having 2 people is that we get to double up on everything and taste a bit here and there. With an hour of lining up providing sufficient time for decisions, we chose 12 chocolates from 12 different chocolatiers to taste from. This post will document the first 6.