Monday, December 29, 2014

Goodbye, 2014!

Let me present you the food collage of 2014, a summary of our travel and dining experience in the great year of 2014.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Everything looks better in bite size

I have this silicone bite-size brownie pan at home for a while, but I didn't use it that often until I realize it is good not only with brownies (saved you the hassle of cutting that fudgy chocolate sweets into pieces) but many other pastries as well. Bite-size pieces are not only convenient to be carried around for picnic or as snacks in between meals or as party food, they certainly look cuter and more presentable - line them up on a plate, stack them up like a tree, or just pile them in a deep bowl - just be creative!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Milano Supper at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia

We had our first "proper" meal of the trip at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in a quiet suburb neighborhood in western part of Milan. When I was planning for the trip I was a bit put off by its remote location, but the restaurant being only one of the two Michelin 2-starred restaurants in town (the other being Cracco in downtown) and a Relais & Chateaux newcomer, I was curious to try.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Last Minute Omakase

A sudden craving for some nice sushi landed us in front of the counter at Sushi Ta-ke in Causeway Bay on a Sunday evening. We have been here a few times during lunch hours but never for dinner before, so we thought we should give it a shot given we were quite happy with our meals here previously.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meal Under the Weather - Antica Corona Reale

Both of us were a bit under the weather when we arrived at Antica Corona Reale for dinner, partly because we were caught off-guard by the much cooler weather in Barolo earlier during the day, and partly because of the long drive (about an hour and half each way) from our villa to this restaurant, which seems to be in the middle of nowhere right next to a major thoroughfare near the village of Cervere southwest of Alba.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cheap Comfort with a Simple Fish Chowder

I made a fish chowder as one of the meals during the forty dollars a day "challenge". It was the first cold(er) day of this winter and I felt like I wanted something warm and comforting. Plus making a stewed soup was one way to make a piece of cheap frozen fish fillet taste better than it normally does, and I could prepare ahead of time and just reheat later.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ristorante I Caffi - an unassuming star in Acqui Terme

After we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the spa-town of Acqui Terme in the southern side of Piedmont, we decided to stay around for dinner before we head back to our home base. We tried our luck with Ristorante I Caffi, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in this small town, walking in without a reservation, but glad they did have a table available.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Forty Dollars a Day

How much do you spend on food each day? Do most of you even consciously count? What would you do if you could spend only 40 Hong Kong Dollars a day on food?

Some friends and I were having this conversation one random day, and decided to experience this ourselves. For 3 days at our own choosing, we pledged to spend only HK$40 a day (equivalent to around US$5.2). "Why 40 Dollars?" you might ask. Well this is partly inspired by the Hungry for Change campaign organized by Justice Centre Hong Kong, a local NGO advocating for refugee welfare, and 40 dollars is daily food allowance provided to asylum seekers stranded in Hong Kong since they were not allowed to seek employment. (even worse when they were only provided $40 "worth" of food, not $40 in cash - so they don't even have a choice of what to eat)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day in Barolo, plus another wine and truffle lunch

Midway through our trip, we made a leisurely drive down the mountainous Langhe region in Piedmont to visit the town of Barolo, about 45 minutes south of where we stayed at Trezzo Tinella. It was a delightful scene as we went up the winding road leading up to this hilltop town, passing by the beautiful (and famous) Cannubi vineyards on our side.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Parisian lunch treat in Wanchai

Recently I received a lunch treat at Le Relais de L'Entrecote, a casual Parisian steakhouse in Wanchai. The shop joined the scores of new restaurants in town running on the same concept of a casual French bistro serving steak-frites, an idea pioneered by Paul Gineste de Saurs with his Paris restaurant Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote. But this is the only one which was somewhat linked to the original founder - since it's operating under a franchise agreement with one of Mr de Saurs' daughters and have some of the food ingredients flown in from France direct.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Double Celebration at Spring Moon

For cheapskate like me, a freebie coupon sometimes works wonders. I have been offered free champagne and cake for dining at The Peninsula as part of the "birthday presents" offered by one of the credit cards I carry, so we went back to Spring Moon for dinner at the end of November, conveniently forgetting the horrible experience we had last year at another restaurant of theirs. At first it seemed a bit silly to celebrate a birthday more than a month late - after all, I did celebrate with not one, not two, but three gorgeous meals already - and then I realized the date we set for the dinner was actually closer instead to both my parents' and our wedding anniversaries (both in early December), so I figure we may as well use that as an excuse for a double early celebration instead of a belated, meaningless one.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rustic Yet Refined - Ristorante Antine

We couldn't wait to explore the wonderful food and wine Piedmont offers after we arrived at our villa on Friday evening. Our first destination was Barbaresco, a village close to where we live known for their wines of course, at a restaurant called Ristorante Antine.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Albino Rocca Winery at Barbaresco

After spending the first 2 days in Piedmont focusing on food - with white truffle fair on Saturday and Salone del Gusto on Sunday, we went off to explore the wines, another famous product in the region, for the next few days. Our first stop was the commune of Barbaresco, located in the Langhe region between the towns of Asti and Alba, and 15 minutes away from our villa.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Chi Fan for Charity Dinner

"To the people, eating is heaven" (民以食爲天)says an old Chinese proverb. So it's a genius idea really to utilize our favorite pasttime - eating - for something good, and this is what Chi Fan for Charity event is about.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On the hills of Trezzo Tinella

Over the week in Piedmont, we stayed in a lovely house on the hills at Trezzo Tinella, a small commune not far away from Neive and Barbaresco in Langhe. It's not the first time we chose not to stay in a regular hotel but went for a short-term rental option - we did that 2 years ago in Tuscany, and with websites like AirBnB getting more popular and into mainstream it's easier now to find more information about such accommodations.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When Food Meets Fashion in Milan

La Rinascente, the upscale department store next to Milan's Piazza Duomo, was running a marketing campaign of "When Food Meets Fashion" at the time of our visit, with live cooking demonstration and tasting booths set up amongst racks of latest fashion, and free-flowing champagne served while customers having a menicure at the cosmetic desks; even the store front window - made famous as the now legendary Giorgio Armani who once worked as a window-dresser here - was lined with giant Moet & Chandon bottles as part of the campaign.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Piedmontese Dinner at Home

It's stressful enough to have friends coming over for dinner, let alone friends who really *know* food and won't miss a heartbeat telling people what they like/dislike. I came back from Piedmont eager to share some of the goodies we acquired during our holiday, so I asked a few friends - who shall remain nameless - to come over to our place at the first Saturday evening since we returned. That's the beginning of a stressful (yet fun) weekend.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chef's Tasting Menu at Vasco

We made our reservation a month ago to try out Vasco, one of the many new restaurants opened recently at PMQ, in a Saturday evening. The restaurant shared the duplex premise with Isono Eatery and Bar, a more casual tapas bar under the same management just one floor below. We did try Isono a couple months back soon after its opening and weren't 100% impressed. But Vasco is positioned to be the finer version, plus I did hear some good words about the food here from various people, so I suppose it's worth a try.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Open-Air Market in Milan

Scrolling in the local markets has always been our favorite thing to do whilst travelling to a foreign country. You can't find a better spot to feel the pulse and dynamics of the town then taking a look at where locals shop for food and other daily necessities, plus I am always curious of what kind of food they buy and eat.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Risotto with White Truffles

Originally I was planning to make some pasta going with the piece of white truffles we got at the Fair in Alba, but the house didn't come with a pasta machine (plus I got a little lazy once we settled in), so instead, I bought some rice in the market and made a risotto instead one evening.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Edible Jewelry - Tosca x Damiani Dinner

With the holiday mood from our Piedmont travel still pretty much hanging in my mind, I headed up to Tosca at Ritz Carlton Hong Kong for a tasting of their special dinner menu, created in collaboration with Damiani, an Italian jeweler celebrating its 90th Anniversary this year.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Visiting Massolino

I was curious to find out more about the difference between wineries of different areas and sizes and styles within the Piedmont/Langhe wine regions, so after spending our first day near the village of Barolo visiting two of the wineries there, we headed down Serralunga Valley on the east side and paid a visit to the legendary Massolino winery in the afternoon on our last day of the trip.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

White Truffles Orgy in Alba - L'Osteria dell'Arco

We know we ought to thank our gracious villa host when we saw people being turned away at this popular spot in Alba because they didn't have a reservation for lunch. It's she who reminded us way back that we needed to make booking early to avoid disappointment, and we did.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Salone del Gusto 2014

If it's not for a friend who reminded me, I wasn't even aware that this year's Salone del Gusto, the "Olympics of food festivals" held only every 2 years in Turin, was at the same time we were in Piedmont.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lunch in a Castle - Ristorante al Castello di Grinzane

It's hard to find a grander venue to eat than Ristorante al Castello di Grinzane, located inside a castle thought to be built in the 13th Century, up on the hill at Grinzane Cavour in the Barolo region, where we had lunch on a bright sunny day on the last day of our trip.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

White Truffles Dinner at Umami Concepts

We brought back a medium-sized white truffles (about 100g) from Alba and a few days after we came back to Hong Kong, organized a small gathering with the AG meetup group at Umami Concepts, a private kitchen studio on Bonham Road and a brainchild of the Canadian chef Nolan Ledarney.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

When new meets old - Le Ciau del Tornavento

We were somewhat surprised when we found ourselves standing in front of a packed dining room at Ristorante Le Ciau del Tanavento in the commune of Treiso on a Friday evening. After all, Treiso is a small, remote town near Barbaresco and Neive which according to Wikipedia, has only 800 residents, while there must have been over 100 people drinking and eating, not counting numerous front and back staff cooking and serving at the place as we arrived just before 8pm. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Journey to Piedmont: The Land of Truffles and Wines

We have encountered the following conversation countless times in the past few months:

"So, heard you guys are heading to Italy soon. Where about are you going?"
"Oh, Piedmont" we replied.

Usually that would lead to an awkward silence. Even when we tried to explain that Piedmont is an area in Northern Italy close to Milan, many were still a bit confused at where exactly we were heading to, and why.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just another gastropub - Bread Street Kitchen

I will say on record that I am normally not big a fan of Dining Concepts restaurants - I personally never had particular memorable experiences in any of their places (with the sole exception of BLT Burger, perhaps) - nor I am those kind of person craving for the so-called celebrity chef restaurants - you know, where someone who made their name as cooking show hosts, lend their endorsement to some dining outlets around the world but have nothing to do with their day-to-day running whatsoever.

I am saying this just so you got the idea of my enthusiasm level about the recent opening of Bread Street Kitchen, a collaboration between Dining Concepts and Gordon Ramsay (yeah, the foul-mouthed TV personality seen in multiple shows who also happened to be a chef/restauranteur)

Monday, October 20, 2014

On a roll with new restaurants - The Continental

There's been a number of new restaurant openings in Hong Kong recently, and this evening we dropped by to one of those, The Continental, in Admiralty.

The restaurant, only officially opened this past Monday, took over the space formerly housed the fine Italian restaurant Domani on the terrace of the Pacific Place complex. Under the high ceiling with glass panel surrounding the structure sandwiched in between tall office buildings, the vast dining room features dim lighting and dark decor, booth tables on one side and simple wooden table and comfy sofas with green upholstery on the other. It's quite a comfortable setting. There's a little bar near the entrance for a drink or quick bite, and there's also an outdoor dining space which I think would be great when the evenings get cooler, probably in a few weeks' time.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Starred gem in Kwun Tong

Recently I was at the Michelin-starred MIC Kitchen for a dinner tasting of the newly-launched menu. It's been a long while since I last came - that was when the restaurant was still known as MC Kitchen before a lawsuit from you-know-who forcing a new change soon after its opening. I am interested to know how this place - an outpost of Chef Alvin of Bo Innovation now headed by his top lieutenant Chris Keung - has evolved since then.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

First thought on Neighborhood

We seized the opportunity to try out our friend Chef David Lai's new Soho restaurant, Neighborhood, in its first evening of service during the soft-opening week in mid-October.

The restaurant is located at a relatively quiet corner on Hollywood Street between Peel and Aberdeen, with the entrance tucked at the back facing a little park. Decor was minimalist and tasteful, with gray wall, wooden, clothless tables - we were adoring every single piece of tableware from the short glass tumblers to the forks and knives that David brought back from Paris.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dragon in the Sky - Birthday Dinner at Ryugin

We don't know why we haven't set foot in Ryugin before - both the original restaurant in Tokyo and their Hong Kong branch (called Tenku Ryugin) - but we this year decided to come to visit to celebrate my birthday on the weekend before the actual day. Since I was born in the Year of the Dragon, and the name of the restaurant, Tenku Ryugin, literally meant "Dragon in the Sky" in Japanese, it just seemed to be a somewhat fitting venue for the occasion (or just a lame excuse to finally check it out)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Visiting an old tempura house in Hong Kong

Ten Yoshi was one of the handful Japanese restaurants in town that specialized in tempura - in fact they were probably one of the first that are truly worth mentioning. A few friends were talking about that on our whatsapp group and decided to have lunch there on one weekday afternoon.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just a slightly fancier home dinner

It all started with us wanting to open a bottle of Piedmont wine ahead of our trip to the region late next month. Figured it's good to have some background knowledge of the geography and produce of the area to make the journey more fun. This is when I decided preparing something for dinner that would go well with the wine.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Post-typhoon Lunch at Restaurant Akrame

With the typhoon brushed past us earlier in the week giving us an extra half day at home, I ended this shortened work week with lunch at Restaurant Akrame at the invitation of the restaurant PR. A relatively short commute from office I landed in front of the restaurant, which was located on the trendy Ship Street in Wanchai, just after noon. The facade of the restaurant reminded me of a countryside cottage rather than the concrete jungle the place is located in, but inside, the decor was chic and contemporary, with ivory and grey color scheme with a relatively small dining room in the front, and at the back was the open kitchen and a private room next to it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The New Fall Menu at Caprice

"11am? I thought the restaurant won't open until noon, no?" When I received the kind invitation from Four Seasons Hong Kong for a lunch tasting at Caprice, I wrote back just to make sure I didn't read the meeting time wrong. Turned out our afternoon at Caprice didn't begin in the dining room but behind the kitchen counter, where we got the opportunity to spend some time chatting with Chef Fabrice Vulin on some of the new developments of the restaurant, along with a little cooking demonstration he did for us before the regular lunch service began.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

High Street Wine Dinner

I was at the Cape Mentelle Wine Dinner hosted by local food magazine Crave and the winery owner LVMH at Wooloomooloo Prime in Causeway Bay last Thursday evening. 

The restaurant sits on the high floors at the new Midtown Building near Times Square, which advertised to be the new landmark in this busy shopping district. Quite a few new restaurants opened in this building lately, including Penthouse by Harlan G which occupies the top floor (and a new sushi restaurant by the same owner one floor below), and also the casual Italian restaurant bearing Jamie Oliver's name.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Sunday of Tennis, and mainly Food

It must have been over 20 years since I last watched a professional tennis match in Hong Kong, and even further back if you count only the competitive ones. So I think I should give my support to the inaugural/reborn of Hong Kong Tennis Open by getting tickets to catch this year's final.

Well this women's tennis tournament didn't get off to a good start (and to my great dissappointment) with two of the original top draws Genie Bouchard and Peng Shuai pulled out of the tournament at the last minute citing fatique and injuries, but at least the week was blessed by great weather except one afternoon, which could have been much worse given the unpredictability of weather at this time of year. And the final day, which was on a Sunday, was as gorgeous as you could ever imagine with beautiful, sunny sky and a bit of a breeze. Still hot, but okay comfortable from a spectator point of view.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Date Night at the Classy Carbone

I was a bit surprised (or even skeptical) when the maitre d' at Carbone told me the earliest time she could seat us on a Monday evening was 9pm when I called to make a reservation a couple weeks ago. I thought it should be a relatively slow night for western restaurants with most locals opt for Chinese family meal in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Recently I got an earful of complaints at home, that only I got to try all the new restaurants in town and we haven't had a proper date for a while blah blah blah... so I thought I should at least attempt to do something to make it up. Of the many new restaurants opened in Hong Kong recently, I was most curious about Carbone because it came highly recommended by several friends of ours plus decent Italian-American restaurants were hard to come by in town, not to mention its original New York branch at Greenwich Village got quite a good reputation since its opening last year.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dining at a True Private Kitchen

We were at this "secret" private kitchen in Central one weekday evening recently, joining a group of new and old friends who shared a common passion for food and wine and cooking for a feast featuring some classic Cantonese dishes.

In Hong Kong, there's no shortage of restaurants labeling themselves as "private kitchen" or "speakeasy", partly to circumvent the complicated licensing requirement for a proper restaurant, and partly to add to the mystique factor as a way to attract its clientele. But this one, on the other hand, is a true "private kitchen" - you can try google it and you probably can't find any reference to it; same if you went on Openrice or WOM guide or any restaurant directory; it's located right in Central but even if I tell you the address, you wouldn't know there exist such a building let alone a tastefully decorated place to eat as you go up this narrow and dim staircase inside.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Easy Summer Recipe Part 4 - "Green Monday" Salad

Since late last year, I have been working with the social enterprise Green Monday team to develop a few vegetarian recipes for a project that they do with The Link REIT, which managed several wet markets in Hong Kong in their real estate portfolio. Beginning in January, those recipes were printed as colorful leaflets and be distributed at the markets on a weekly basis throughout the year as a way to promote green living and inventive cooking. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Easy Summer Receipe Part 3: Cold-brewed Tea

Many of our friends were very kind to bring us souvenirs back from whenever they happened to spend their holidays and tea leaves seem to be a popular choice. We have been having this little problem of overstocking with teas, but now we finally figured out a way to consume those - whether in tea bag form or as loose leaves - at a faster rate.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Easy Summer Recipe Part 2: Cornbread

Last time, I shared the recipe of a super-easy Pasta Salad to make for a big group meal, and this time, let me show you something even easier. Most people in Hong Kong probably have their first taste of cornbread at KFC, where it's offered one of the side dishes for their fried chicken meal, but this is almost as easy to make at home as to order one at the KFC counter.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Easy Summer Recipe Part 1: Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad was the first thing that came to mind when I thought about what to make as side dish for a barbecue last week. I always look for something stronger in flavor to beat the hot and humid summer days so I think a tapenade dressing - with olives, capers and anchovies - would be ideal. It can be prepared from start to finish within 30 minutes if you push it, and is certainly a crowd pleaser with the appetizing bold flavors.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Family Din Din at Golden Leaf

This time we didn't go far to have a casual din din with my folks (last time we went all the way up to Tuen Mun for seafood). Saw the credit card promotion offering discounts for restaurants at Conrad, and I realized we have never tried Golden Leaf - the Chinese restaurant at the hotel - for dinner previously, so thought it's a good idea to check it out.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Different Location, Same Verdict - Lunch at Ginza Iwa

I found myself walking around in Central looking for a place to eat last Saturday afternoon, and I remembered this sushi-ya that I have meant to try but never had a chance, so I rang them up to see if they got a spot available, and I was somewhat surprised that they did, so I was happy to go up to check it out for a quick meal.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ho Lee Fook-ing Good

I didn't come with particularly high expectations when I walked down the stairs to Ho Lee Fook, the new, stylish Chinese restaruant in the basement location at the foot of Soho. I thought it's going to be another one of those "Chinese" restaurants serving dishes that you more likely find in Chinatowns around the world, catering to out-of-towners' tastebuds. Nostalgic it might be dealing with the likes of moo-shu pork and general tso's chicken in the funny-looking takeaway box, I am not sure whether this is the part of the memory I want to re-live by.

Anyway, I am here to meet up a bunch of friends - we set up this impromptu dinner gathering after tons of whatsapp messages talking anything from food, restaurants, more food, and other funky random things that I won't even dare quote here. Somewhere in between those conversations someone mentioned this new restaurant, and dozens of exchanges later, we managed to set up the date and time for trying the place together.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cater for a Wine Gathering

I found it challenging enough to host a dinner for 4 at home on a Friday evening, and yet the week after, I doubled the challenge to help catering food for a fund-raising event for 70 people.

My good friend Mr Y owned this marvelous wine cellar/lounge facility in a harbor-side building near Tin Hau called Hip Cellar so I asked him whether he could lend us the venue for a charity event to raise funds for our church's growth project. We thought it would be great from a social gathering and fund-raising perspectives, entertaining a cozy crowd with people from church and friends. Once we were confirmed the date of the first Friday of August, we began to plan for the event.