There are macarons and there are macarons. I like to think I am becoming a bit of a connoisseur although this is a little big-headed of me as my sole experience of good macarons is when I partook of the delicious items at Laduree in Singapore(which I posted about here) after which I realized that all other macarons paled in comparison. A Macaron snob is probably a more apt description.
A recent trip to Hong Kong gave me the opportunity to indulge my new passion once again as there is a branch of another famous French Patissiere called Pierre Herme.
The shop is in the IFC Mall on HK Island, located very conveniently on the route I took every day from the office back to my hotel. Never being one to resist temptation I popped in on the first day to sample Monsieur Herme’s wares. Purely of course in the interests of culinary science as I wanted to compare with the Laduree macarons I had eaten in Singapore.
It’s a small shop. Smaller than Laduree in Singapore, perhaps reflecting the higher cost of real estate in HK, however there is still plenty of room for the glass display case filled with brightly colored macarons, like Blackbeard’s chest filled with treasure.
The first order of business is to choose a gift box, all different sizes and designs, the boxes themselves being quite collectible. One then gets down to the serious task of deciding what to fill the box with.
There are 17 different flavors plus there are often special flavors which are not on the regular menu. When I was there they had 4- 5 yoghurt filled macarons to choose from.
This makes it very difficult for a glutton like me, because I have to try all 17 flavors to decide which ones I like but by the time I have tried all 17 I have forgotten my preferences and have to start all over again. Terrible but sometimes one has to make these sacrifices!
In the end I settled for a small selection and took them back to my room for a little feast.
The macarons are truly a delight to the taste buds. Crispy on the outside with just the right amount of gooiness on the inside and each flavor distinctly different.
Some of the flavor descriptions are fantastic. How about “Pure Origin Peruvian Dark Chocolate, Morropan Province, Village of Asprobo”, or “Pistachio, Ceylon Cinnamon & Morello Cherry”? “White Truffle & Roasted Piedmont Hazelnut Slivers”? Or the Boss’s favorite” Mandarin Orange Olive Oil & Cucumber Water”. One even sounds like an aftershave: “Vanilla, Old Gold Agricultural Rum & Cedar Wood”. I wasn’t sure whether to eat it or rub it all over my face!
I loved the South American dark chocolate varieties (dark chocolate being another one of my numerous vices) but my overall favorite has to be the “Infiniment Café Au Café Vert Et Au Café Bourbon Pointu De La Reunion” or Green Coffee and Refined Bourbon Coffee from Reunion for the linguistically inept like me.
The big question is whose are better? Laduree’s or Pierre Herme’s? I honestly can’t say. Both are delicious and the flavors so varied it is hard to compare. Both places, the macarons are so moreish it is really difficult to restrain oneself from gorging on them. Also to be fair I had a little too much gap between visiting Laduree and visiting Pierre Herme so it is difficult to have an accurate flavor comparison. There is only one solution. I am back in Singapore at the end of the month so it looks like I will have to pay a repeat visit to Laduree to refresh my taste memories.
Remember I am doing this all for you my readers!
On a recent flight to Singapore while waiting for the inflight entertainment to start, I was leafing through the inflight mag looking at the pretty pictures.
Suddenly a picture of some brightly colored macarons caught my eye.
Now Tommy doesn’t get along well with gluten which limits the range of sweets he can gorge himself on. However macarons are on the allowed list so the photo piqued my interest and I felt Tommy awakening in his lair.
Reading further I discovered that the famous French Patisserie, Laduree had opened up in Singapore and was not far from the hotel where I would be staying. Gently arousing the Boss from her slumber with a quick elbow to the ribs, I told her of the grand plan formulating in my
Sure enough after settling into the hotel room we headed down Orchard Rd to Ngee Ann City to sample some French sweetness.
The shop is a delight to the eyes with it’s chandeliers and pale green interior lined with gift boxes and macaron towers. Taking pride of place in the center is the glass case filled with multicolored macarons.
Not knowing where to start we asked the helpful staff for advice. They are not cheap at SGD$3.80 each so financial propriety won over gluttony and we chose four different flavors based on their recommendations.
Macarons packed and paid for we walked out the door and after only a few steps unable to resist temptation any longer we decided to eat one. 30 secs later the bag was empty and we were back in the shop being greeted again by the knowing grins of the shop assistants!
Throwing financial caution to the winds we bought another selection of flavors and this time vowed not to eat them before returning to the hotel room, which was an exercise in extreme willpower as they are mouth-wateringly delicious.
The dark chocolate and the salted caramel were my particular favorites, although I have to say it is hard to pick one flavor over another as they are all very good. Tommy was just grateful for some sugar.
So if you find yourself in Orchard Rd in Singapore pop into Laduree in Ngee Ann City. Your taste buds will thank me.
By the way, I am off to Hong Kong this week and I hear another “Master of Macarons” (just made that up but it sounds like a French Superhero) has opened in the IFC Mall on HK Island. It is called Pierre Herme and another blogger reckons it is better than Laduree. Never one to believe something without testing it for myself I intend to pay Monsieur Herme a visit. Watch this space!
Takashimaya S.C., Ngee Ann City, #02-09 – Singapore
Tel: + 65 6884 7361
Chocolate and Wine
Two of my favorite things! So imagine my excitement when a friend of mine in Mumbai presented me with this bottle.
Now I am not one of those people who can wax lyrically about the different flavors and scents emanating from a glass of plonk. To me it either tastes good or it doesn’t. And they all taste of grapes.
My brother is different. He is a wine maker back in NZ and unfortunately he has gone over to the dark side. Before he completed his wine making degree at University I remember phoning him up for some wine recommendations and his advice was to go to the supermarket and buy whatever is on special offer because “you can get some very good wines for a couple of dollars”.
Once he graduated he told me one wine-infused evening that he would never buy a bottle under $20! That was after swilling some wine around in his mouth and announcing that he could taste (and smell) in no particular order, river stones, autumn leaves and lanolin. I suspect he was channeling some hidden fantasy involving farm animals and the countryside, but no matter how hard I try I can never smell or taste anything other than grape juice.
Game to try anything I opened the bottle and poured a glass and was quite amazed to get a distinct chocolate aroma. So amazed in fact that I ran round the house shoving my glass under the nose of all and sundry to see if they could smell it!
Upon tasting, the wine does in fact have a distinct chocolate flavor. I mean it still tastes of wine but does have something about it that makes you think of chocolate. The colder the wine is the more distinct the flavor becomes.
Over the next couple of days I hunted high and low through Mumbai wine stores until I could find a shop that stocks it, and bought an armful of bottles to take back to Bangalore. Now in the interests of efficiency and time management I can enjoy my two favorite vices in one easy glass!
I have just discovered a new (for me) culinary delight!
On the second day of my drive from Bangalore to Mumbai we decided to stop in Pune for lunch. The Boss was having flashbacks to her childhood memories of Chicken Biryani at an Iranian Restaurant called Dorabjee & Sons. Reluctant at first to leave the bypass and head into the city, The Boss’s winsome tones finally won me over and entering the restaurant name in the GPS we plunged into the chaotic traffic heading towards the center of Pune. I was cursing under my breath as the destination was 14kms from the bypass, but The Boss reassured me that it would be worth it.
45 mins later and many close calls with errant two wheelers later we pulled into a quiet lane in the old Parsee area of Pune. The streets were still lined with lovely old buildings with shuttered windows, a pleasant change to the usual concrete boxes that have sprung up in modern times.
Dorabjee & Sons is a little single story place established back in 1878 by the present owner’s great grandfather. Basically furnished inside with tiled walls and red plastic chairs the place isn’t very fancy, however it is famous for it’s food and my in-laws have visited many times over the years, each time they visited Pune.
I looked at the menu and all the usual suspects where there: Mutton and Chicken Cutlets, Biryanis, Sali Boti etc. however I spotted something I had not eaten before. Chicken Farcha. The waiter explained that it was chicken fried in egg, two of my most favorite things so I thought I would give it a try.
The plate arrived and I tucked in. Fantastic! The best fried chicken I have ever had. The chicken is marinated in, depending on the recipe, but usually ginger/garlic paste, lemon juice and chili powder, then dipped in beaten egg and deep-fried. It is heavenly! I rapidly ordered another plate and could quite happily have sat there all afternoon eating piece after piece until I couldn’t fit any more in! The best fried chicken I have ever had!
If you ever find yourself in Pune, definitely pay a visit to Dorabjee’s and make sure you get a plate of Chicken Farcha!
Another favourite food destination in Bangkok for Tommy, The Boss, and I, is the Erawan Tea Rooms at the Grand Hyatt Erawan.
A little more expensive by Thai standards, however it is worth every penny as the food is always excellent, they have a great range of teas, and their service is superb. The staff recognize us even after a break of 6 months, which adds a few more puffs of air to my already inflated ego.
They even do a Thai inspired High Tea with local snacks and desserts complete with scones with cream and Chiang Mai Strawberry jam.
This is what we had on our recent visit:
Yum Som O – Pomelo Salad. The Boss not even waiting for me to finish taking a photo!
Pad Pak Boong Fai Daeng (Stir fried Morning Glory), Tom Yum Koong (Clear and Spicy Prawn Soup) Brown Rice, and Pla Neung Ma Nao ( Steamed fish in a lime sauce).In the Erawan Tea Rooms they cleverly de-bone the whole fish making an already delicious dish even easier to eat!
We have a visual test of a restaurant in Thailand before we enter. If it is full of Thais we eat there as we know the food will be traditional, however if it is full of Westerners we give it a miss. This place we discovered by chance one day and looking inside and seeing it packed with Thai office workers we decided to give it a try.
The food is always delicious and remarkably cheap by Bangkok standards.
Here are some of our favourites ( I apologise for the quality of some of the pics. I was so excited to eat that I didnt check whether the photos were clear or not):
We started our Bangkok food trip at the Intercontinental with the most deliciously presented coffee we have ever seen, complete with sugar on a stick!
I flew to Bangkok for lunch!
I’ve always wanted to be able to say something like that. I remember as a kid reading about the fabulously rich arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and how when he got the urge for pasta he would jump in his private jet and fly to Italy.
Apart from the private jet part, I almost did something similar.
Late last year The Boss and I had spent 3 months in Bangkok as a prelim to moving there. After 3 months we had come back to India to renew our visas planning to return to Thailand after a month, however a family member’s poor health had scuttled those plans and we remained in India. We had, though, left 2 suitcases full of possessions in a friend’s apartment and when it looked like we wouldn’t be returning anytime soon, had to organize a way of reuniting ourselves with our belongings.
Sending them by unaccompanied baggage or by courier was ridiculously expensive and I soon discovered that it would be cheaper for both of us to fly there, pick up the bags, satisfy our craving for Thai food and fly back again.
So the plan was hatched to catch the night time flight to Bangkok, arrive in the morning, pick up the bags, spend the day roaming Bangkok, stuff ourselves with every eatable we could find, and fly back in the evening.
But then I thought, why rush back? I had some hotel loyalty points so I booked us in to the Intercontinental for a free night (35,000 points) and off we went.
Normally when we go to Thailand we stay in pretty inexpensive hotels as you can get a nice clean place for not too much money. Although when we stayed for 3 months we were lucky that it coincided with a Grand Mercure 50% off flash sale and we managed to get a serviced apartment for that period at a ridiculously cheap rate.
This would be the first time in a luxury hotel in Bangkok so I was pretty excited. I was feeling very proud of myself that we were staying for a night for free until I heard the young Arab gentleman beside me booking himself into a suite for 6 nights!
We arrived early morning so we were lucky a room was available and the check-in staff also upgraded us to the executive rooms. One look at the massive room they had given us on the 29th floor and we decided to book another night!
I cannot recommend the Intercontinental highly enough. The staff are superb, the rooms are wonderful, and the location is excellent, right next to the Chidlom Sky Train Station, and walking distance to the major malls.
The executive rooms come with access to the lounge on the top floor. This is normally included in the price of the room but as we were staying free, we would have to pay extra. At first we wondered if it was worth it at THB1500 per person, but discovered it included breakfast, afternoon tea, and happy hour so decided to splurge. Reading the instructions and noting that a smart standard of dress is required; we dressed carefully and arrived for breakfast. The first person we saw was eating breakfast in her pajamas, and then we saw two other westerners, in un-ironed clothes and running shoes, their hair in the same shape it was when it was crushed against their pillows 15 minutes earlier!
The views at breakfast were stunning. The lounge is on the 37th floor and there are no tall buildings around so one is afforded panoramic views of the city.
Breakfast was good, afternoon tea was ok, but the real value comes at happy hour. Unlimited drinks and snacks from 5.30pm til 8pm! I discovered they had a lovely New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and then sat back watching the sunset and ensured the New Zealand wine industry would not be going out of business any time soon. The Boss sipped on her fancy umbrella-adorned mocktail and filled up on satay and chicken samosas.
Thirst quenched and Tommy’s voracious appetite temporarily quelled, we entered the lift. A Singaporean guest stood inside and was staring at me intently. Assuming he was admiring my ravishing movie star good looks, I was disappointed to hear him say after about 30 secs of scrutiny “I thought you were Edward Snowden and I wondered how you had got here from Russia!”