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 Dansk

Copenhagen 2012

26th March

15ºc, blue sky, sunny and dry. Can’t believe how beautiful it is.

Lubricated or more aptly, buttered bread, the literal translation. Five generations producing humble tummy fillers to perfection.

Ida Davidsen is open Monday to Fridays from 10am to 5pm. Kitchen closes at 4pm. Framed sepia photos of the family from days gone by, decorate the walls together with faded certificates of all shapes and sizes. It’s busy, all tables taken in the dark, candle lit basement, on a sunny afternoon. The famed Queen of Smørrebrød, herself at the counter. Big grin, full of verve explaining repeatedly in both English and Danish what was on offer to the queue of “Jar-Jar Binks” waiting their turn patiently. Ida, in regulation chef’s whites, a motived chef’s hat and a pair of white Crocs, with socks, of course. A true culinary icon, professional to the hilt.

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Spring in Wonderful Copenhagen

Copenhagen 2012

25th March

Rudely awakened this morning by iPhone’s foghorn at 5.50am, actually, 4.50am as clocks went forward in tune with the British Summer Time, last night. And in case the digital radio gets it wrong, Nerdy Geek (NG) sets my iPhone to go off five minutes later, just to make sure. I had NO clue how to turn it off. The radio then comes on at 6am.. no, 5am.

He is lucky to be alive.

Taxi waiting outside 15 minutes early. Don’t cab drivers have a life? It’s the sunday morning of time change in UK. Silence in the cab while I iMessaged my world. Kids – telling them Mum was unavailable for emergency duties and not to even try coming home as the house had been set to maximum security. The plumber and the builder to confirm start of work next week and a few more urgent ‘messages de femmes’.

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Panettoni.. Panettone.. Panaton..

November 2011

With festive verve, life at 36 continues.

Wednesday 30th November 1.15pm, my mobile rings. Mr “Truckman” tells me he is waiting outside my house. I frantically ring Alex and May, the two appointed santa helpers (with or without the prerequisite green elf suits), to execute Operation Panettoni. Alex is on her way. May is stuck and will take some time. At 1.30pm I skid, Starsky and Hutch style into a parking spot. THREE 7ft pallets the width of my victorian staring back at me on the road.


“Madam, where would you like me to put these?”

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Breakfast sleuth on and around the Prat

12th July 2011

Breakfast in HongKong.

7.30am and Prat Avenue is calm and quiet. The local noodle house next to the GuangDong hotel is steamy with couldrons of hot stock simmering away. Bulging, pearly white wontons looking invitingly at us. Fresh, soft ramen noodles in bundles on the work top waiting patiently to be dropped into boiling water.


Hmm.. decided to see what else was on offer for breakfast.

Cafe KaiKee was brightly lit – open 24/7. The cashier with her thick porcelain cup of black and white coffee. The menu was huge with photographs of the dishes on offer. Feeling ashamed, being chinese and not being able to read the menus, I meekly asked for the English version. Looking around, consensus showed most people with shallow soup plates of soupy macaroni topped with shredded ham and fresh abalone. On the side two fried eggs and a coconut milk roll with an obligatory heavily advertised (black and white brand coffee) porcelain cup of milky coffee on the side. All for HK$24.

HK-1.jpg HK-2.jpg

Interesting that this is the breakfast norm of HK. Delifrance and even, MacDonalds, all serve variations of this delicious soupy number. Ham and mushroom, etc etc. all with a fried egg and some form of bread like croissant, baguette on the side with a cup of coffee.

13th July 2011

8am. It’s still quiet all around. The downpour at 4am cleaned the air, washing the streets as well. Cafe XXXX on Carnarvon Rd is buzzing. The menu looked familiar with fresh noodle dishes. worth a try. Hot milky coffee (instant) and a steaming bowl of wontan soup noodles for me. 4 golfball sized wontans filled with whole shrimp and lean pork. Fine handmade fresh noodles in a light chicken stock. A tall tin full with green plastic chopsticks stood beside a tray of condiments including two types of chili oil, yes, monosodium glutamate and of course, salt and pepper. The menu included stewed brisket of beef noodles, fried cuttlefish balls with soya noodles, etc. brocolli with salted shrimp bottarga.

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14th July 2011.

A rather insepid experience. A warning to all NOT to walk into big, expensive looking cafes on the main avenues of Kowloon. Rude waitresses insisting one orders the most expensive item on the menu. Food arrived and almost hrown a you. A WongKei experience not to be repeated!

After breakfast and a walk it was time to leave the surrounds of the Prat and a wonderful expedition of food before the local crowds arrive for work.


The Area around Prat Avenue is indeed interesting with lots of cafes and fast food outlets. Au Bon Pain, Mac Donalds, local cafes and a host of bars that serve breakfast from as early as 6am. Food is never a problem in HongKong.


New York New York

29th June 2011

Another early morning start. Terry will sort me out if I have forgotten to do anything I was supposed to. It’s always easier from a flat.

The taxi is early. He is chatty and the roads are clear. Heathrow terminal 3, Virgin check-in. Accosted by red riding (without) hood asking if I would like an upgrade to which I replied, “sure, yes please” … to Upper Class for £1250 and then says “actually I can do it today for £599”.  Given that I was already travelling in uber class, there was nothing more she could upgrade me to. Not sure who was more disappointed.

Security area was not busy, we were travelling light. I didn’t have hand luggage, just my handbag overstuffed with whatever I ‘needed’. The lounge was empty and the coffee was decent. Free WIFI. The flight was actually on time and boarding was smooth. Two queues, 4 check-in staff. 3 handling UpperClass /Premium Economy and ONE checking economy passengers.  Staff made it clear to distinguished the chosen ones from the common herd.

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Settled into my seat. A glass of champagne waiting. The flight was full. Really full, but it left on time. Uneventfully boring but at least the food was apetising. Three movies and a bit of editing later we arrived at JFK early. NO queues at immigration. Right hand four fingers, right thumb; left hand four fingers, left thumb. Photo. The job was done. Luggage out by the time we got to belt 5. Customs waved us through. This is why I like America. Simple, smart people. No queues at the taxi stand, either. We were at the hotel $55 later, at 3pm, checked in. The Lucerne on 79th and Amsterdam is a quaint boutique hotel with friendly staff and nice, ice cold air conditioned, clean rooms.

Eataly 23rd and 5th was our first stop. See separate blog.

Eight hours later saw me race into Zabars on Broadway and 80th. The familiar multi hue of olives, cheeses and all things kosher. Breakfast consisted of a NewYork bagel stuffed silly with cream cheese and lox. Polystyrene cup of Zabars blend, black of course and I was done. Feasted my eyes on the abundance of sensible, edible, hearty comfort food. NO fads, no “macro-whatever” NewYork skinnies eat.  A packet of Zabars Kona Style blend coffee beans was popped into my basket. Bought the snazziest roll up water bottle ever.

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Fairways on Broadway between 75th and 76th, next. My favourite grocery store. Everything you want and so fresh. The organic section upstairs is marvellous with a health food, supplements and homeopathy store on the side.

Fairways.jpgHeirlooms Fairways.jpg

Next to Fairways is the old faithful, Citarella, an Aladdin’s cave of Italian goodies. Always an interesting walk (till Eataly came along). Westside Food on Broadway and 77th is another great place to wonder. Noticed the new Trader Joe’s nearer the 71st street end of Broadway and Columbus.  Will check it out next trip!

Lunch with old, old, anglecized friend, Laura. A taxi ride to Cafe Centro 5th Avenue and 45th in the Met Life Building. School-like is the word. Suddenly at 12noon, people started charging into restaurants – clockwork! Beautiful people strutting the Streets of New York. All preened and smartly dressed. Stepford wives came to mind. High powered execs with their Brooks Brothers suits, polished brogues. In bold capitals “STRESS” stamped right across the forehead. Women dressed to kill. I cannot fathom how one sits at a desk in such tightly fitted garments for 10 hours or more. Oh I forgot the heels, they probably double up for the botox jabs (just before lunch break).

Portions are becoming ginormous again. Perfectly panfried lumpcrab cakes on some meli melo lettuce leaves. Juicy, humongous lumps of crab, seasoned delicately. No fillers, no cartilage, just crab and a few specks of parsley and chilli. Divine. Diet coke and ice tea are back in. The food is very very good. Chefs in NewYork really have earned their right to be there. Clockwork or not, the dishes were exemplary.

Quick peek into the Orvis shop on 5th and corner of 45th after lunch. Hmmm new fly rods and reels. However, as a faithful Sage user, I left with nothing… not even a fly as a souvenir in fear of getting stopped at security for carrying a sharp dangerous object on board.

Another cab ride. This time to Columbus Circle. The usual nostalgic walk around Crate and Barrel before heading towards the down escalator to Whole Foods. Interesting. The “in” thing is fresh coconut juice (not coconut milk). This is the newest craze… old hat in the Far East where we have been drinking this since the year dot… and it’s tastier out there. Thanks to “Cone Boobs” for pumping a few of her hard earned pennies into a company producing this stuff.  “Out” are plastic bottles. Everything is stainless steel or glass.

Raced back to the hotel to collect our luggage and taxied to Penn Station to catch the Acela train to Boston’s South Station. Zooming past Conneticutt, Stamford, New Haven. The lowlands reminding me of Netherlands with little boats docked off the dainty harbours. The journey along the Rhode Island coast line was breathtaking. The sun setting, listening to Jushua Bell’s “Romance of the Violin” in a very very crowded train. Everyone on laptops and working with the free WIFI.

Arrived in Beantown at 20.48hr, hassled by cab drivers from all sides… New England, here we come…..






Mozzarella ala Campania

16th May 2011

In typical Italian business lingo –

“Filippo Morese this friend of mine who owns a Mozzarella factory. Let me explain”.

Positano at 6.30am is positively beautiful. A good tazzina di espresso on the terrace is essential especially when you know there is a treacherous drive ahead among the macho Italians in their beaten up cinquecentos (original ones, I may add) along the Amalfi coastal road.

The GPS is set.

One and a half hours later over a distance of 40kms, stressed and shaking, we arrive at the Caseificio Morese, a beautiful, old building clad with scaffolding, in a little town called Pontecagnano. I didn’t see any buffalo (not even an obligatory pet) and it didn’t smell of a dairy. A small counter with buckets of whey and shiny porcelain white balls of mozzarella in the refrigerated cabinets. Tubs of fresh ricotta di bufala and smoked provola.

Antique photographs stood proudly with the rather modern big LED screen on the wall. Last Italian King Umberto visiting the Caseificio, selection of sepia photos of jacketted men with their berets surrounding bufala in 1800s. Certificates and awards. Then the big red LED number on that screen. A stand alone ticket number machine by the door. A queue to buy today’s fresh mozzarella. Two ladies in white manning the shop and behind the superclean glass wall and sliding door, three beefy Italians tending the mozzarella. Heaven.

Filippo arrives. A relaxed, lean, well dressed gentleman with perfect English. All is revealed. Filippo’s family has owned the farm since 1695. A deed of sale on an aged lambskin parchment is the proof. On the demise of his father, Filippo returned to run the family business after 17 years in the international world of banking and finance.


We are ushered into his office where the obligatory blue overshoes and hair nets were issued.

A quick tour of the factory floor. The process actually starts at when the bufala milk is heated in big steel tanks. Rennet is added to create the curds. Aroma of freshly heated milk and the nutty smell of rennet filled the air. Big steel tanks of steamy liquor and mozzarella curds on sloped table tops after the “mozzata” phase from where the word mozzarella comes from, which in Neapolitan means “to cut”. Lemon hued whey flowing into buckets to make the creamy ricotta, a byproduct of mozzarella and also once brined, to soak finished mozzarella.



Lightly smoked moza fabulous. The tennis balls of mozzarella are hay smoked for 5 minutes. Delicate brown balls are removed and soaked in brined whey till sold.


There is nothing better than tasting fresh mozzarella.

A tour of the bufala farm, ten minutes away is fascinating. Tucked in a field just minutes from the dairy are 600 heads of buffalo, black curly fur, with little horns and soft, melting brown eyes. All happy and friendly. Filippo has a total of 7 staff at the farm who grow the as much feed as possible, breed buffalo, look after the animals and manage the farm 365 days a year. There is no rest.


What a wonderful life.



Caseificio Morese

Via Abate Conforti, 1




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:




Adios Buenos Aires… Hola Mendoza.

An experience. Left the Hilton bright and early, so early there was a surcharge on the taxi. The new Ezeiza airport was in a mess. Domestic flights were disrupted due to repairs being made on the runway. Jorge Newbury, the domestic airport was closed for month. No one knew what was happening but hey it’s LatAm and its pretty normal. The boarding pass stated to report to security at 6.40am – and they meant it. SHE (security guard) stood sternly at the entrance, checking all boarding passes with an eagle eye. Coffee with Medialuna – Spanish for Croissant, right next to the gate area while we wait. Talk about the right place at the right time while it lasts.. the cafe was heaving with people but the coffee was good.

At precisely 06.40, she started letting people through to security. Water bottles were OK. Wow, in LatAm, wine is allowed to be carried on board, too. We then understood the reason for the timing. All domestic flights were through ONE gate and after security – no shops, no cafes, no nothing, just ONE gate.

Boarding was by rows. Irritated that my rolling cabin bag was confiscated at the gate. I had my passport and all my money in the bag! Then again the plane was a small one. It left on time and we arrived early. Baggage collection was immediate and Chrissie was waiting for us with the driver.

One of the most beautiful regions in the world with friendly, nice people everywhere. There are 21 wine regions in Argentina with over 1000 wineries in Mendoza alone. Argentinians drink approximately 30 litres of wine per person per year. This figure has certainly dropped with beer and spirits now competing in the market. 1980s saw the overproduction of wine in Argentina leading to many wineries biting the dust.

Tasting notes in separate blogs.

First stop – Mendel a small family run winery headed by Roberto de la Mota, now in his 50s, son of a wine maker, grew up in the vineyard. He worked at LVMH and 2004 was his first vintage at Mendel. Sadly, Roberto was in a very bad car accident but is still involved in the winery. One of the first vineyards in Argentina to export, Mendel is located in the Lujan de Cuyo region. This adobe style winery has four main handpicked grape wines in the making and has steel tanks left in the open! A mobile bottling unit is brought in to do the task.

Next we head to Acheval Ferrer a unique winery with 5 owners, 4 Argentinians and an Italian. Absolutely amazingly modern with all modcons. A bunch of crazy vinophiles, trying all sorts of techniques to produce interesting wines. Fermentation tanks included concrete with external fans to cool the fermenting juice, stainless steel vats and temperature controlled oak barriques. One big space station and the astronauts to go with it! Fabulous wines and two home produced olive oils, too. Professional set up with very knowlegeable guides. Patricia, thank you for that amazing bottle of Dulce which I so enjoyed.

Ruca Malen for lunch. NO physical tour of the vineyard but an amazing palate tour matched food and wine to the almost impossible.

The last stop of the day was to Catena Zapata, brainchild of Laura Catena, 4th generation wine maker of the Zapata fame. The winery probably complete with solar calculations was built on the Mayan inspired culture of science and technology faces the Andes dividing Argentina and Chile. The private drive leading to this winery is just amazing. Breath taking scenery all around. Inside the architecture is just as unique with lighting that matched the feel. Wines were beautifully made.

Dinner was at Siete Cocinas, serving regional Argentinian food. The Pacu was indeed deliciously creamy. A highly prized ugly looking fish from the northern region of Argentina, known to give a good fight to any decent fisherman. On the 1st day of the season speed boats can be seen racing off to the best spots to hunt this moist, almost oily, meaty fish. Washed down with a great bottle of Ruttini’s Torrontes.

Day two took us down to Tupungato and the Uco Valley. First stop was to Andeluna, owned by the America’s Frito Lay (potato chips). Here the irrigation technique is optimal to combat the harsh desert like climate. Michel Rolland is consultant to this winery hence the high quality of wines.

Next to Salentein, a Dutch owned winery with 2000 hectares of vines spread on different altitudes at the base of the Andes. With separate wineries built in the region, the flagship holds an Art collection. Surrounded by rose and jarilla bushes, the wines of Salentein are delicately nosed. The tasting room was highly impressive with fixed spitoons that drained directly into the plumbing. Beautiful stone tables supported the bottles and glasses.

Lunch was at O Fournier, the “piece des resistance” of Mendoza. The out of a James Bond movie winery with it’s flying saucer glass walls looking out into the wilderness was just unbelievable.