Thursday, August 18, 2011


• By Rupali Dean

When I bumped into my favourite food science writer Harold Mc Gee in Bruges (Belgium), I simply could not believe my luck. For those who don’t know Harold has authored many books on the chemistry and history of food and the best being, “On Food and cooking; the science and Lore of the kitchen” which explains the connection of food with science b...eautifully and simply. Among other things, McGee explains how egg whites stiffen when beaten, why fish gets mushy if you overcook it and how to make soy sauce.

Upon hearing this term I instantly conjured an image of some sort of a laboratory experiment. And to my surprise it actually was plus of course the dining experience. The labs here are the modern kitchens with high tech equipment. In simple words molecular Gastronomy (also known as avante-garde or hyper modern) is chemistry cuisine wherein chefs create dishes using in-depth knowledge of the science, behind cooking, textures, flavours and taste. This allows a chef to be more creative and the customer gets a “wow” experience as the focus is the food! Chefs are embracing technology as a tool to help them cook more creatively.

The chefs use interesting techniques to change familiar dishes to unfamiliar forms. The most popular one is “spherification” in which the chefs make tiny or large balls of liquid inside a thin gel wall. For example a dish may be shaped like Penne but is actually chicken consommé or caviar but is actually something else. Let me explain, watermelon caviar for example is the epicurean apogee of molecular cooking, delicate and wobbly and they pop like balloons in your mouth to reveal a juicy center - intense, fruity and the type you may drink directly from the fruit. Many chefs go for “Sous vide” (literal meaning is under pressure), where the cooking is done at low temperatures in vacuum-packed plastic bags in order to get the utmost flavor and this is actually quite an age old practice. All in all chefs are intrigued by the science behind cooking and are happy to explore …who’s complaining?

Recipes with molecular cuisine elements by Chef Carl Middleton, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.
Incorporating exciting and colorful tastes from working in restaurants around the world, Carl’s take on modern Australian cuisine is married with French technique!

Seared Scallops, Toro Tataki, Pickled Ginger Caviar & Ponzu

Coriander Cress, Powdered Sesame Oil (Scallop)

This dish contains Harvey bay Scallops, Toro (Tuna Belly), the Ponzu is made into a gel using kappa and the pickled ginger caviar is made from pickled ginger juice using a technique called Specification, the sesame oil powder is made from sesame oil and malt dextrin

Baby Beets, Goats Curd & Fizzy Blood Oranges (Beets)

The salad part of the dish is made with fresh goats curd, roast baby beets, gold beets, and asparagus baby Basil, and the Salad is served with fizzy oranges & blood orange sorbet

The oranges are made in a siphon with co2 charges. The goats curd is from Jannei (farm), in the Blue Mountains

• “Agar Agar”, derived from seaweed has got interesting properties for jellification.

• “Sodium Alginate”, used in Spherification once gelled stays solid when introduced to calcium chloride solution.

• “Lecithin” when mixed with a liquid agitates the surface to create stable bubbles which collect as foam.

• “Liquid Nitrogen”, freezes anything in seconds.

• “Centrifuges” create a sphere out of juice

• “Cryovac machine” is used for vacuum sealing food in plastic.

• “Xantana” is a great thickening agent basically a gum obtained from the fermentation of corn starch with bacteria found in cabbage.

• “Paperbark” is used as a food wrap to impart flavour

This cuisine was first made popular by Spanish culinary genius Ferran Adria, who concocted dishes that surprised yet pleased diners with his unique combinations of flavors and textures at his restaurant “El Bulli” near Barcelona (supposed to be the world’s best). Grant Achatz chef and owner of “Alinea restaurant” in Chicago has been equally imaginative with interesting food which can be smelt, for example cinnamon skewers, coffee scented pillows etc. The other restaurants famed for this cuisine are “The Fat Duck” in Bray, Berkshire U.K, “The French Laundry” in the Napa Valley in California and “Tetsuya’s “in Sydney.


Sunday, August 7, 2011


If you are a travel junkie and a photography enthusiast like me and you happen to travel to Belfast in Northern Ireland then Mount Stewart is a must see stop. A short scenic drive via Newtownards along the Strangford coast took me to the spectacular Mount Stewart.

I started my day with a tour at the eighteenth century stately home which was initiated by Robert Stewart as a showplace of architecture and style and improved upon by subsequent generations. I discovered many paintings and interesting stories about the Londonderry family during the tour. Legend has it that when Charles, the sixth Marquees of Londonderry, brought his bride, Edith, to the property in the early 20th century, she spent a lot of time in creating the awe inspiring gardens that now surround the mansion.

The sprawling gardens rival the most exotic ones and consist of vibrant parterres, formal and informal vistas that I have ever seen and house rare and unusual plants. Interestingly, the staggering range of plants she used came from nurseries throughout the British Empire and an olive was brought from the Garden of Gethsemane. My favourite was the Italian garden, based on a parterre at Dunrobin Castle, the Maiori Garden, which is a blue and white creation. It was so relaxing and tranquil. There was a new surprise awaiting you around every corner.

 I could not help but admire the tranquility of the lake and detail of the lavish formal terraces. There was also a beautiful view to be had from the Temple of the Winds. I immensely enjoyed a leisurely walk by the lake and loved the Cottage pie and coffee for lunch at the café. I also bought some interesting souvenirs at the National trust shop.Next we took a ferry (on the car) across Strangford Lough and moved on to Exploris Aquarium, an absolutely fascinating place which gave us an insight into the kinds of marine life that surrounds the island of Ireland. What caught my fancy were the two touch tanks (one near the entrance, the other near the exit) where you can reach in and touch some of the animals inside, such as star fish, sea urchins, and the friendly little rays that circle the tank enjoying getting attention.
The staff gives regular presentations and talks throughout the day about an interesting range of topics, so if you're a sea geek, don't miss this! Another interesting feature is the glass tunnel which gives the effect of walking under the sea, and to either side and above I see the many fish and sharks that live there. Last but not least, they have a seal sanctuary, where you can see some of the cute little seals they have rescued and are taking care of until they can be released.

For dinner we stopped by at Balloo House in Killinchy before heading back to Belfast. This pub dates back to the eighteenth century and is steeped in atmosphere with its stone floors and working Aga dominating the historic kitchen bar. As for me I loved my Irish stew and there was no better way to end such a good and eventful day.


BEST WAY TO REACH: Fly British Airways to London and take a connecting flight to Belfast. Book in Premium economy for a more comfortable journey.

VISA WISE: Indians need a valid U.K Visa to enter Northern Ireland.

BEST PLACE TO STAY: Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast. Tel: +44(0)28 9042 1066.


Published in The Asian Age (writer Rupali Dean)

Thursday, August 4, 2011


What is Casar Ritz?
A solitary road in the hillside over Blitzingen in the Goms Valley of the Valais in Switzerland lead me to the Alpenhotel castle, where Chef owner and Mountaineer Peter Gschwendtner serves decadent meals inspired by and named after Casar Ritz himself ( the famous Hotelier, who was born in nearby Niederwald). Magnificent suites overlooking the valley allowed me to experience ever longer the seductive pleasures of this beauty spot. Cuisine wise Peter sure is demanding, meticulous and passionate about regional produce and a lover of unusual combinations, which lead me on a bewitching and unexpected culinary voyage. One can even put together one’s own menu chosing from a range of dishes based on the best local produce.

Casar Ritz makes this list because
“Chaschtebiel” housed a castle where now the Alpenhotel stands, a proud reminder of those times. The cuisine is as amazing as the scenery surrounding it.16 points by the famous Gourmet guide “Gault Millau” reinforce the extremely high level and the creative variety with which Peter has been pampering his guests for many years now. He sure does pose a designer eye on his surroundings, seeking to make each meal an encounter between the ambience, the dish and the creation.

Casar Ritz stands out for
Every dish from the salad to the venison did not disappoint- a consistency of standards that added to my dining pleasure. However my vote goes all out to the “The Trio of Fish” which comes in three forms namely grilled, smoked salad and terrine is surely a special treat

Who makes Casar Ritz?
Simplicity and balance are the buzzwords alongside the dedicated kitchen and service teams which have transformed the restaurant into a culinary must be place in Switzerland.

Hotel Castle, Chastebiel
3989 Blitzingen. Switzerland.
Tel. +41 (0) 27 970 17 00

Published in The Man (writer Rupali Dean)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


My first taste of wild food goes back to a tour of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria market. Interestingly this tour is also referred to as the foodies dream tour and why not, the food halls are truly exceptional. Everything seemed to be freshly plucked or caught that morning. Huge great doorstep steaks of Emu, kangaroo and crocodile were on sale. The fish stalls were amazing and I also discovered Yabbies (blue crayfish) here. A true blue foodie had to try the Kangaroo and trust me far from putting off; I was a convert, as it is delicious and tender (provided it is cooked right as the meat is very lean). This experience got me into exploring more.


For years the Australian Aborigines having been living on a vast range of foods and medicinal plants found on this great continent for a healthy lifestyle. They lived as Hunter gatherers and hunted and foraged for food from the land and water which run the gamut from insect larvae known a “witjuti grubs” (which by the way is considered a delicacy) to the delicious fresh water “Barramundi” fish. Magpie geese and their eggs make for a traditional meal in the north. Stingray accompanied with tetragon leaves was the first recorded European meal eaten in Europe. The Aboriginals have even devised methods to process, store and cook these indigenous ingredients with their own regional diversity. They even use a variety of wood, cones and leaves as fuel.


Salt and sugar cured Kangaroo, seared fillet of Tasmanian wallaby, smoked Emu; yabbies in beer are some common and magnificent recipes. Both the Kangaroo and wallaby are lean and protein rich meats and are quite organic in nature hence is used these days as an alternate to red meat because of its healthy and nutritious nature. The wallaby is usually divided into nine pieces as it is smaller and the striploin is its most premium cut. The kangaroo tail is supposed to be very flavorful and hence goes great in soup with vegetables; the legs are usually roasted owing to the size. The Aborigines rely a lot on shell-fish too and what caught my fancy was the recipe of shucking oysters onto hot coals causing the lid to open and have a whiff of smoky flavour…decadent to the core. The Sea-food market in Sydney is an eye candy with offerings like freshly shucked oysters, wild mussels, snails, sharks, Barramundi and more.
Bon Apetit!


• The Billy goat plums are the world’s greatest Vitamin C source.
• Acacia seeds are highly nutritious.
• The Yolla (a Tasmanian fish delicacy) can be easily mistaken for Salmon.
• Fresh water Marrons (crustaceans) are delicious if served in the shell.
• Macadamia nut Tree plantation in Australia exceeds 30,000 hectares.
• Lemon scented myrtle is the yummiest native Australian herbal tea.
• Captain James cook gave the name Sting rays harbour to the bay where he dined on stingrays and tetragon.
• A great way to reduce tooth ache is to chew on pepper vine.


• Illawara Plum (fruit of the Podacarpus pine) Ambrosia.
• Kangaroo Carpaccio.
• Native pepperberries in brine.
• Bunya (pine) nuts in Rum.
• Garlic flavored grubs.
• Emu liver pate.
• Grilled Barramundi.
• Confit of goose legs.
• Manta Ray fish cakes.
• Tasmanian garlic periwinkles (snails).

Published in HT city (writer Rupali Dean)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Whether it is roughing it in a simple beachside site with no amenities or living it up in a plush city, my college mates and I get-together once in a year. This time round we decided to do a reccee on Singapore roads to discover food and of course shopping was on our agenda as well (what with inexpensive packages at lean time). We had booked ourselves in Swissotel Merchant Court in order to be closest to Clarke Quay, the most happening night out place in Singapore.

 After freshening up and a quick Breakfast later we decided to go to Orchard Road for some shopping. The brand new Ion Orchard Mall sure looked stunning and what caught my fancy was a dainty little Tea place called TWG. I discovered that Established in Singapore, The Wellness Group (full form of TWG) Tea offers over 800 types of tea. I loved the tea and the macaroons menu. It was a pleasure to look at the rows of tea canisters lining up in the dark wood paneling and shelves. Needles to add I bought some “Singapore Breakfast Tea” and something called “weekend in Shanghai”, absolutely delicious especially how the Tea expert Alex brewed it for me.

Breakfast at the “Killiney Post office” the next day was quite a uniquely fun thing to do. It was interesting to watch people buy their stamps, post letters etc while we were sipping on our cuppa coffee and some American Breakfast. More shopping on Orchard Road and Buguis village later, we had Hawker food at Maxwell in the afternoon, a great place for those on a shoestring budget. The setting is food court style and the centre is clean, cheap, and offers diverse and delectable food. There was this huge long line for the chicken rice stall. When my friend Ravi came with our chicken rice, I soon realized why. The chicken broth infused rice, tender chicken, and the dipping sauces all perfectly complimented each other. 
Later in the evening the gang and I went over to “The Tippling Club” housed next to Spa Esprit on 8B Dempsey Road. In this restaurant, home to one of the country’s greatest culinary getaways, you need a reservation, of course. We started with a Singapore Sling each outdoors which came in with all the drama and I’d say it was much better than the one we had at the Raffles the night before. Once inside the restaurant we could witness Chef Ryan and his staff on a steel island where they concoct food that surprises.

Mixologist Matthew Bax’s unique cocktails complement the chef's food. Ryan and Matthew are partners in the restaurant, as is Cynthia Chua of Spa Esprit. Anyways to start with we first got “char-grilled” capsicums lightly coated in batter, with soy Wasabi dip, which we ate using forceps. This was followed by fried calamari rings served with a sweet basil emulsion, which we were to slurp up from a curly straw. I loved the champagne carbonated frozen grapes with mint julep, which came in next. There was more good food later like the Pumpkin soup, Pork Belly and char grilled frog legs and snow ball for dessert. I would simply say that all dishes had the perfect equilibrium of flavors and the spirit of originality that reigns in this theatrical environment would never cease to attract the most demanding gourmet.
After a lazy morning and still hankering for Singapore chilli crab, we hopped on to “Long Beach Seafood” on Dempsey Hill (which seemed to have become our hang out place). Glad we were as many of us as the best set menus are for 10 people.On offer was an extensive range of fresh and delectable seafood dishes such as the air-flown Alaskan crab, Australian Lobster and Canadian geoduck and oysters. We ordered the famed chilli crab of course which came with some steamed Chinese buns. There are lots of different versions but it's generally made using mud crabs. Ours was the authentic Singaporean dish version using Sri Lankan crabs that are far smaller, sweeter and have tougher flesh suitable for longer periods of cooking. While the name Chilli Crab surely conjures up an image of hot and spicy, it was actually mild spicing with a hint of sweetness. The gravy was nice, flavorful and starchy with the addition of chicken eggs.
After lunch we went for a visit to the Asians art museum and a river cruise to the famed Merloin Park, some more shopping later at The Esplanade Mall we had dinner at “My Humble House” (it’s a restaurant, lest you think I have a home in Singapore). This reputable establishment has a loyal local following and tourists alike. Well, just stepping into this one feels like royalty! Presentation is cheerful and very upscale with prices to match.The food is Superlative running the gamut from crispy tiger Prawns glazed with citrus cream on grapes salsa to wok fried fish noodle with seafood in X.O sauce. The more common fare ranges from crispy noodles to fried chicken. For esoterics try the wild berries lemongrass gelo with Lime sorbet. Service at this well –appointed restaurant is near faultless.

Yes of course most of our late evenings were spent at Clarke quay, the location is terrific for one thing, and it is at the waterfront of a historical riverside quay near the mouth of the Singapore River. It’s buzzing at night with bars et all and the night scene is terrific and absolutely a safe place to walk around even if you are alone. We loved sipping on Tiger Beer or just some wine by the river and chatting up, catching on old times. And of course we did the unique Reverse Bungee-jumping at the Clarke as well. It sure was a fun vacation and I’d simply put it this way that Singapore’s fine city reputation is well-earned, and in fact, most people like me will admire at once the clean, modern metropolis and Certainly the Island Republic of Singapore as a culinary paradise is well earned and merits more than one reflection of what makes good eating.

Published in ET Travel in Oct 2009 (writer Rupali Dean)

Monday, August 1, 2011


 “Champagne is known as the “King of wines” or as most people say it is the “wine for kings”. Probably the best description of Champagne is by Dom Perignon when he had his first taste, “Come quickly, I am tasting stars”. Usually served as an aperitif or as a toast at the end of a meal; hence it is often overlooked when it comes to food. However, because Champagne is naturally acidic, it makes a really good food match - and not just for oysters and caviar as you might predict, but for a variety of different foods. Most people reserve Champagne only for tasting but I can assure you it would be the perfect drink for your next cocktail, brunch or Vacation Party! I also feel one reason people shy away from champagne is as they are not too sure what types of foods to pair with it. I would like to add here that it is a must have for any fan of sparkling wines or nice dry whites, and remember to have it with some food as champagnes are not just for celebration after all. So go on and give it a go if you can, it's a great wine from an amazing and historic winery, and trust me - you won't be disappointed! Once in awhile, you should serve it just for the sheer pleasure to be derived from its tricky bubbles.


Heavy foods or main entrees, usually do not go well with Champagne, however there are innumerous foods that pair beautifully with it, making for yummy finger foods and an elegant looking soirée. The thumb rule is that the food shouldn't overtake the wine. Therefore the food you serve with champagne should be light, not spicy and not oily. The food you choose ought to be more along the line of light appetizers or light, soft cheese and eggs.


Blanc de Blanc Champagne

The Grape- Literally translates into white wine from white grapes and this is made exclusively from Chardonnay.
Goes great with- Sushi makes a winning combination. Seafood like Oysters, crustaceans and gently flavored white fish. It is also good with vegetables and great as a pre-dinner aperitif. Goat cheese goes very well with Blanc de Blanc. I simply love it with Sushi.

Blanc de Noirs

The Grape- made solely from red Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with a deeper golden color than the Blanc de Blanc.
Goes great with- Lighter meat dishes like chicken dinners, pigeon breast, partridge, veal, and Pork. Is also wonderful with cheese. It went really well with one of the Light chicken dinners with vegetables that I had hosted.

Non-Vintage Champagnes

The Grape- While most houses mix together the three main grape varieties that are planted in the Champagne appellation – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – the proportion of each will vary. Some non-vintage wines are wholly made from Chardonnay (Blanc de Blanc) or from black grapes (Blanc de noirs). They are made from grapes from multiple vintages.
Goes great with- Generally fruitier and lighter hence recommended with cheeses such as Beaufort, Gruyère and Emmental. It is also great with mushroom dishes especially mushroom risotto. As for me I love it my Fish and Chips and scrambled eggs too.

Vintage Champagnes
The Grape- A vintage is that which is made from grapes that were mostly grown and harvested in a particular year. Vintage year is declared if the Champagne is good enough and a cut above other years. The grapes used are all from one specific vintage.
Goes great with- Black truffle-scented foods and with cheeses such as Parmesan and lightly smoked foods. All types of fish and seafood, especially when accompanied with a creamy sauce are a perfect match, as are lightly smoked foods, cheese, duck, caviar and poultry with a rich sauce. As for me I love White Tuna Carpaccio with Truffles paired with Tattinger’s Vintage version. Moet Et Chandon with their vintage recommend grilled King Prawns marinated in citrus fruit (lemon, grapefruit, orange) or smoked haddock with aniseed butter and pureed fennel.

Non-Vintage Rosé

The Grape- Commonly known as Pink champagne is either from extended contact with the grape skins or by the addition of some red wine.
Goes great with- A very food friendly wine goes well with prawns, lobster and other seafood. It will go wonderfully with the freshness of a delicious Andalusian gazpacho.I love it with a grilled Fillet of sole Fish topped with lemon butter or simply some Ham.

Vintage Rosé

The Grape- As the non –Vintage, but, the wine is from a Vintage year (a cut above the rest).
Goes great with- Most have a rich, savory character and is delicious with meat dishes, and the power to stand up to high levels of herbs and spices specifically basil, mint and coriander as well as Japanese cuisine. I think scallops, roasted, with grilled red peppers and chopped almonds are decadent with the Moet Et Chandon Brut Imperial Vintage Rose.

Demi Sec Champagnes
The Grape- Demi Sec is a term used to define a wine with medium sweetness; it can be a blend of any grapes. In Champagne, the addition of a dosage or liquer d’expedition after the secondary fermentation determines sweetness.
Goes great with- Foie gras is an obvious example. An edge of sweetness to the food (like many classic Thai recipes) then this style can provide a better match than dry. Dessert dishes too of course, but only if not too sweet. Duval Leroy suggests bread and butter pudding, jam pancakes and apple and quince tart with the Demi-Sec. It is recommended at weddings when serving the wedding cake. I love it with strawberries

Published in HT city (writer Rupali Dean)