The Laksa Challenge

AhLai pack

Laksa is one of Malaysia’s favourite signature (soupy) comfort foods. Comprises of yellow wheat noodles and sometimes a little “hand-pull” of rice sticks in a big soup bowl garnished accordingly. Very localised and the thirteen states of Malaysia and, Singapore, will champion to prove their version is best. I consider the base as a soup not gravy. One slurps the last drops. 

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Napa Valley Summer 2012 – The Food


Valley of the “Californian Wine” Kings … Food and Restaurants

“4 Days and as Much as I Could Do” being my motto and mantra, the Napa trip was finalised after much deliberation, mapping, planning and of course, travelling across the pond. For a change, Nerdy Geek played the PA and personal chauffeur, ringing wineries and booking restaurants, setting up meetings, organising the tastings, maps and driving, making me feel rather important.

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Napa Valley Summer 2012 – The Wines


Valley of the “Californian Wine” Kings … Small Interesting Wineries

Bright and early we arrived at Corison Winery a short 3 minute ride away. Cathy Corison is one indomitable lady. With over 25 years of wine making experience Cathy is certainly of the the Napa ladies to follow. Small winery run by Cathy and her team, this little gem is definitely a diamond found amidst the giants along the 128.

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South Africa Rules

30th March 2012

Another fabulously warm, sunny day in London, spoilt only by the ridiculous panic buying of petrol and diesel.

NerdyGeek woke me up at 6am, this time without back up alarms – maybe old dogs can learn new tricks. With paperwork and emails, WhatsApp, texts all done by 7.30am, I began planning my exciting day and preparing lunch. Working from a small kitchen having just returned from a trip is never easy, even with my trusted timeplan/cribsheet of almost 25 years from my Cordon Bleu days. Disposable gloves to debone the chicken, cocktail sticks, proper Riedel tasting glasses were amongst the missing items. The chicken was a little too plump for the largest pot I owned at the flat. The list goes on but one manages.
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Doyenne of Class


My interview is with Giulia Galli.

Someone worth talking to. Someone with a fervent passion for life, work and (probably) play. Someone who wants to understand the world, take it and run with it. No time wasting, no nonsense.

My kinda person.

Forget Giulia, for the moment and concentrate on what she preaches. By the end of our lunch, I’m not sure what is overloaded…. my stomach, my brain or both!


“Le Nozze”

One balmy evening in May, in the wonderful surroundings of the quintessentially English Queens Tennis Club in London, over a food tasting event, the formidable, statuesque Giulia Galli, Export Manager for both Augusta and Emar Romeo, works overtime. Journalists, punters and consumers all bee line to her table. Sticky fingers maul at her fabulous range of panettoni, mostarda, candied fruits, fruit jellies and chocolate coated candied fruit.

Of course, star of the show, eyes agog with disbelief is the gargantuan castagne candite on offer. A single, sticky, shiny, luscious nutbrown castagne, the size of ping pong ball, sitting proudly in its ruffled gold paper cup. This diamond was indeed one of the most succulently aromatic, smooth tasting morsel the human brain can physically compute. There was no sugar coating like its French cousin, the marron glacé. Devine. So devine, Giulia was coerced into selling them in their catering size packs to punters begging for more.

Without further ado, the brainchild of the panettone di castagne was born, further brain overload and the creation of the panettoncini con crema di marroni, phoenixed into the air. And a simple smile adorned Giulia’s face.

Culminating in le Nozze di Augusta e Emar Romeo. The journey begins……..

Great story but the truth is that a joint venture began much earlier with the traditional panettoni and the candied fruit, dashing this dreamy fairy tale.

Thank you Giulia for giving me your precious time and more importantly, your generosity – donating your wonderful panettoni, castagnes, etc, etc. for my fundraising efforts to supporting my cherished charities.

Grazie Mille.



AUGUSTA Panettoni

Probably the finest panettoni and colombe manufacturer. One of few located in Milan, AUGUSTA, founded in 1945 is still privately owned. Milanese panettoni are now becoming a dying entity with companies moving their factories to the industrial regions around Veneto and Piemonte out of its original home – Milan.
 Artisanal, handmade and
 authentic, the Augusta panettone is left to rise naturally for 
18 hours by the 
”Master of Leavening”.

It takes three whole days to make this perfect King of breads or… it, the Bread of Kings?

November 2010 saw the company’s newest creation of the perfect Mignon Augusta – the world’s smallest
panettone. At only  50 grammes, gives 
the diet conscious the ultimate taste of perfection – the magic of a whole panettone ripped out of its packaging each time with its full fresh moist texture, flavour and aroma. In five different versions to suit all tastes, Augusta panettoncini are available in:

Plain Al Burro



Castagne Candite e Crema di Marroni

Chocolate chip


For more information:


EMAR ROMEO Canditori

Messina is hit by an earthquake in 1929. Distruction leaves many homeless. There is mass exodus from Sicily. The Emar Romeo family emigrates to the area of Milan, bringing with them the memories of sun ripened oranges, lemons and the fantastic citron, “cedro”, in the authentic tradition of sicilian candied fruits.

Using a natural absorption process, fruits are left in the tanks of sugar syrup, through osmosis, soaking in the “right” amount of sweetness.
 No additives, no secret ingredients, just pure humble expertise of a family’s bygone memories.

This “canditori” family, filled with dreams of fantasy and creativity is forever concocting and inventing new recipes. With its smooth and delicate flavour, the newest addition, the Castagna Candita is completely different to the Marron Glacé, candied and covered in sugar. With brains and taste buds working overtime, the family are now working on a new “funky line”, a first in the world, namely:

Pomodori canditi

Olive candite

Be the first to try these new products.


For more information:



Buenos Aires

The day was, as usual, an interesting one. Setting up and running an Italian event at London’s prestigious Queens Club seemed easy. The ballroom is a great venue and staff ever pleasing. With the “Eager Beaver” set up team, we seamlessly worked our way through the pallets of fabulous wine, top EV single estate olive oils, Aceto Balsamico, antipasti, pastas, and of course, luxury Italian leather goods. Then I was told His Excellency the Ambassador of Italy had requested his presence. Attention to detail increased.

Journalists, wine critics, fashionistas, foodies and VIPs arrived first. Photographers and paparazzi started appearing. With prosecco flowing the event eased into an easy start. By 6pm, the room was packed. Sadly, I had to excuse myself. Raced to London’s Heathrow terminal 5 to catch the BA0247 flight to Buenos Aires via SãoPaulo. Racing by London’s tube was by far the best solution, luggage being brought to the airport by husband in a separate taxi. Nothing new, the flight was delayed. Heathrow just cannot sort itself out. With all that new technology, new owners, new terminal, nothing changes.

Cabana Las Lilas steak.jpg

First meal in Buenos Aires had to be the steak at

Cabaña Las Lilas,
Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 516 
Puerto Madero

washed down with a bottle of Alta Vista’s 2005 Terroir Special Malbec. All was forgiven after this absolutely delicious bottle. Argentinian steak is just amazing. I cannot describe the experience. Take that blasted BA flight, the only non-stop to Buenos Aires from London and make the trek to Cabaña.

The Hilton Macacha  is only a 5 minute walk away stituated in the new hip Puerto Madero suburb with it’s own naval police guarding the area. Very safe with all the modern amenities including a great vino shop right opposite the hotel. A sight seeing “hop on hop off” turista bus stops right outside the hotel making it even more convenient to experience Buenos Aires.

La Vinaria de Gualterio Bolivar is a must for the foodie. Recommended to me by a fellow FB-er, whom I met on a “women and wine site”. What Z was doing on a womens site still baffles me. Without him (a gem) and his wealth of all things Argentinian, I would never have found this place. Chef Alejandro Digilio trained under Ferran Adria at El Bulli. Using his knowledge of Argentinian ingredients to create innovative morsels was quite electrifying. 16 tastings served with Colombian Eduardo explaining each course washed down with my choice of Famiglia Schroeder’s worked well. Big heavy bottle with its metal label, first introduced to me by Marcel Moreno years ago.

Gastronomica Buenos Aires:

1. Chila
Calle Alicia Moreau DeJusto 1160

2. iCentral Market

3. Melba

4.  SottoVoce

5. The Food Factory –





The First Sake (making) Challenge

Hatched, one autumnal evening, in the basement of SO – probably Soho’s finest contemporary Japanese dining house. Hidden in London’s Warwick Street, four hungry mortals, feasted on the new season’s plump mackerel sushi – “Saba-no-Bozushi”, washed down with a bottle of fabulous prosecco. As ever, there is never enough (the bubbly, I mean). I gingerly whipped out the bottle of homemade rice-wine, knowing this humble offering would be competing with that bottle of Bartolomiol DOCG. Four clean glasses and an ice bucket appeared. More food arrived. We eagerly anticipate while the ubiquitous bottle chills gently. At last, tasting portions poured.

The moment of truth. Hama-san, in delight exclaims, “SAKE, SAKE”…. not quite “Eureka” but good enough for me and so the event was born….

A firm fixture is set in the calendar.

A wonderful evening commencing with a toast of thanks to Riccardo for the pre-dinner glass of delicately delicious Prosecco Riccardo Treviso. Chilled to Japanese perfection (of course) teasing the palate before a hard night’s work of tasting and judging 15 bottles of sake style rice-wine. Traditional Japanese dishes to accompany the sakes.

A bottle of  “Everybody’s” sake, made at the group demonstration (8 weeks earlier) was also entered. Challengers included (in alphabetical order):
  • Hideki Asano
  • Marie Cheong
  • Tetsuro Hama
  • Jun Hirakawa
  • Sue Hunt
  • Machiko Jinto
  • Satsuki Kurisawa
  • Naoko Ozaki
  • Kaoru Takaishi
  • Akemi Yokoyama


sakesgalore.jpg The bottles entered in the challenge.

Menu of the evening:



Fresh oyster with daikon, garnished with a single sprig of raw samphire or sea asparagus. A delicate plump morsel, marinaded in grated daikon. So fresh, you could almost taste the sea. Matched perfectly with the Prosecco Treviso.




Pairing of a piece each of tofu and cheese in tempura batter. Yin-Yang, East-West. A lovely palate teaser of eastern “cheese” and western cheese, delicately dipped in tempura batter and deep fried to perfection. Crisp on the outside, flavour filled on the inside. The soy dressing just balanced and complemented the different texture and taste of each cube.





A two fold tasting of tuna carpaccio, a brush of olive paste with chive dressing and a light pastry straw with homemade smoked salmon cream cheese with keta (salmon caviar).





A hen’s egg filled with a pickled plum stuffed steamed rice mochi. Topped with a single egg yolk delicately marinaded in a miso mixture.


Tonburi & avocado salad.

Seeds of Kochia scoparia eaten as a food garnish called tonburi. A delicacy (chinmi) of Akita prefecture. Its texture is similar to caviar.





Sushi platter including nigiri of squid and prawn with gari (pickled ginger). Uramaki with salmon, seaweed and avocado.















The sake champion of 2010 with the prized bottle of  Cartizze



A big thank you to Riccardo Tomadin who so kindly sponsored the Prosecco Riccardo and the prize bottle of Cartizze to the overall champion sake maker. Also a massive thank you to SO rsetaurant for making this event possible.

All proceeds from the demonstration evening (Oct10) and a proportion of profit from the dinner was donated to Kids for Kids.



Writing this with a glass of bubbly in my “suite” on board the VS12 heading back to London after a few glorious days of testing lobsters, clam chowders etc. on the coast of New England. More on that later…

Back to the collabo or rather…..

Handcuffed, three legged and joined at the waist effort by two uber amazing chefs, working together in a hot, steamy, “sensually arousing” kitchen surrounded by  unusual ingredients scoured from around the world.

The dishes were well balanced and matched each other course after course. A delightful evening enhanced by a great choice of wines from Hama-San’s personal wine collection.

The menu:

  • Sea Urchin Flan covered with Snow (KY)
  • Truffled Tofu with Smoked Aubergine (NM)
  • Crab Salad “Delices” (KY)
  • Onion Soup Moderne (NM)
  • Monk Fish with the 7 Tools (KY)
  • “Umami” Del Mar a la Montagna-Memories of San Sebastian (NM)
  • Orange Skin Puree with Lemongrass Royal (NM)
  • Winter Scene (KY)