Louis Vuitton has been busy of late. An ambassador announcement, a recent AW24 Menswear showcase and now, an LV-launched chocolate shop on our shores. It seems odd that the brand known for their steamer trunks would dip their toes (or fingers) into chocolate. But having taste the results, it'd seem that the Maison has another winner on its hands.

The opening of Le Chocolat Maxime Frédéric at Louis Vuitton at Marina Bay Sands, marks the debut of the confectionary store beyond its French borders. Created and produced by Maxime Frédéric, the celebrated Chef Pâtissier of the Cheval Blanc Paris, the chocolates are made with premium ingredients in the heart of Paris.

The Chef

Hailing from Normandy, Chef Frédéric draws from the wisdom of les secrets de nos vergers (the secrets of the orchards). From his farm's chicken breeds to the special hazelnut variety he cultivates, each ingredient is chosen for its distinct flavour. When not sourced directly from his farm, he opts for top-tier supplies, like milk from his friends operating a dairy farm in Normandy. Chocolates are also sourced from small-scale cocoa farmers in Vietnam, Peru, Madagascar, Dominican Republic and São Tome.

Chef Frédéric met with the artisans behind the emblematic LV trunks at the historic home of Louis Vuitton in Asnières. Seeing how the brand upholds craftsmanship, Chef Frédéric said that he saw "a lot of similarities between his work in patisseries and the work of the LV artisans". "Whether it’s a woodworker or a locksmith for the trunks. It’s about handcrafted workmanship," Chef Frédéric says, "and that’s completely in line with our work as artisan pastry chefs, bakers and chocolatiers.” 

With prices starting at SGD30, these exquisite chocolates offer an unexpectedly accessible taste of luxury. Like the Damier-shaped Chocolate Tablets, Monogram Flower... even the Chocolate Bar, each piece is inspired by Louis Vuitton's iconic motifs. They bring across a sense of child-like wonderment and are as delightful as they are indulgent.

His centrepiece creations—Vivienne on Malle and the Petula—showcase his ingenuity and mastery in chocolate craftsmanship. Inspired by the Vivienne music box, the Vivienne on Malle (SGD420) is confection wonder. Made of intricate chocolate gear mechanisms thanks to Chef Frédéric's construction, a twist of the chocolate key, Vivienne pirouettes.

The Petula (SGD230), another iconic mascot from Louis Vuitton, also brings an enchanting surprise for clients. Designed like a piñata, each Petula chocolate figure is generously filled with coated hazelnuts. Whack one open and watch the contents spill out. 

BEN GILES

In the centre of Swansea’s indoor market there are great piles of ink-black sludge that resemble a petrochemical waste product. This is, in my opinion, the high point of Welsh cuisine. It says a lot about our nation that, while the Japanese took the same seaweed and created paper-thin sheets of nori—sponge-pressed and fan-dried, so delicate it can be lifted by a gust of wind—we took that ingredient, boiled it for days, minced it and portioned it out in polystyrene tubs.

And yet I believe that, in its simplicity—and despite its confusing name—laverbread is the perfect expression of seaweed: a blast of pure low-tide, estuarine and refreshing, the culinary equivalent of a winter swim. My sister and I have spent many years wondering why nobody outside Wales feels the same. Why don’t the swanky delicatessens of Highgate and Stockbridge sell tins of Welshman’s Caviar alongside the XO sauce and Vinho Verde? Why does nobody have National Laverbread Day marked in their diaries? (It’s the 14 April; go ahead and set a reminder.)

And why is it that—even when it does appear on the menus of upmarket restaurants, as in the “laverbread porridge” at Brat in London—it is never served in its pure and best form, as a straight-up dollop of Instagram-repelling muck, spread on toast with a squeeze of lemon, ugly as hell and umami incarnate?

My sister and I had the idea that we would be the ones to introduce it to the world, become seaweed millionaires. We thought of a name—Mr Laver Laver—and had a plan to blast sunshine reggae from a food truck while serving crab and seaweed brioche rolls at street-food markets. We developed a full menu, did some taste-testing, bought the website. We imagined we would ride the rising enthusiasm for “wild food”.

This was back in the early 2010s when Noma in Copenhagen was consistently voted the best restaurant in the world, winning three Michelin stars while serving local mosses, sea buckthorn and forest onions. Suddenly it seemed that all our foodie friends were making their own wild garlic pesto or getting up at dawn to harvest elderflowers. We knew that, if we wanted to be true laverbread connoisseurs, we would need to really understand our star ingredient—and that was what brought us to a beach on the Gower Peninsula at the lowest tide of the year.

As we walked down towards the tideline, the sea retreated ahead of us. It was receding at such speed that we wondered if it might just keep going, empty out the whole Bristol Channel. It felt almost indecent, like we were seeing the beach’s private parts, the patches of petrified forest and warty mussel beds that only saw sunlight on this one day of the year. And when we finally got down to the edge of the water, that’s where we met them: the coastal foragers.

Strange, tidal people who keep the full moon circled in their calendars. I knew that these people were also, in a sense, outlaws, since legally you need a licence from the Crown Estate to forage the King’s own clams and—although I didn’t ask to see their paperwork—I had a feeling that no such licences had been granted.

A pot of uncooked laverbread. TIRC83/GETTY

We watched two men with long, hooked poles scrabble about for lobsters and crabs in the once-a-year rock pools. A friendly couple filled Tupperware with whelks and cockles. A man with a bucket and a tub of table salt was doing a slow moonwalk along the tideline, occasionally kneeling down to squirt a sports-lid water bottle into keyhole-shaped holes in the sand. His bucket was empty and he seemed a little insane. But hours later, we saw him again, his hands full of large razor clams.

He explained that, with his backward footsteps and his salt water, he was being a one-man ocean, tricking the clams into believing that the tide was returning so they would stick their unsuspecting limb into the air—and that’s when he plucked them out. Already I wanted to be among this secret club. I wanted to be the kind of person who keeps a hard copy of the tide timetable in their shirt pocket.

My sister and I started filling a Sainsbury’s bag with laver. This particular brownish seaweed, delicate and semi-transparent, lay flat across the rocks like a bad combover. Once we’d got a fair few handfuls, we took it home to our parents’ house in the nearby village and washed it in their outdoor sink. It felt as though we were shampooing a sea monster, watching the dozens of tiny sea creatures—shrimps, sand hoppers, tiny transparent crabs—emerge from the strands and scuttle away towards the beach.

Then we boiled the seaweed for 24 hours on my parents’ tiny electric hob. Slowly the house filled with a smell like low tide on a hot day. My mother prowled through her low-ceilinged kitchen, sniffing the air and fuming. Finally, we drained it, whizzed it with a stick blender, cooked it down, seasoned it relentlessly and, eventually, had a large bowl’s worth of the good stuff, our future careers glistening before us: black gold.

In truth, our creation wasn’t nearly as tasty as what we could buy in Swansea Market’s famous “cockle rotunda”. Our product was insufficiently unctuous and we could feel grains of sand catching in our teeth. This was not surprising, given that the local firms, Selwyn’s and Parsons, have been harvesting and preparing laverbread for generations and, beyond that, the Welsh have been perfecting the art for hundreds, even thousands, of years. It is called “bread” because of the way that the original laver-pickers used to knead the seaweed, working it into loaf-like mounds.

We thought the simple fact of our Welshness would give us the necessary skills, but it seemed like there was maybe a tad more expertise involved. Still, this was our first attempt and, years from now, when we were poolside in our villas bought with our seaweed money, we would look back fondly on our early incompetence. I put the leftover laverbread in my mum’s freezer and, in my diary, marked the next perigean tide, a word I had just learned from a book on coastal foraging. I knew my perigee from my neap, my foreshore from my sub-tidal zone, and I liked to use the terms as much as possible.

Months later, though, I came home to find that my mother, unimpressed by the whole idea—and wanting to make space for soup in her freezer—had thrown all our hard work, our hopes and dreams, onto the compost. This was the first review of our laverbread and it was a hatchet job. In fact, it was so disheartening that my sister and I never again summoned the same enthusiasm for Mr Laver Laver. We had envisioned our parents’ garage as the research and development arm of our business and, without their support, it was hard to see a way forward.

Over time, we stopped discussing seaweed and, eventually, let the website lapse. Another broken dream to add to the collection. And yet, I still found myself thinking about how much I’d enjoyed being among the foragers at low tide, this society of weirdos who grip handfuls of red and green seaweed in the same way a cheerleader holds their pompoms. And so—freed from a desire to make life-changing amounts of money—I returned to the coast with more pretentious motives.

At the next low tide, my five-year-old son and I traipsed up and down Oxwich Bay with a bottle of water and some table salt, trying and failing to become the sea. Luckily for us, a friendly Welsh-Chinese lady—her bucket brimming—took pity on us and gave us one of her razor clams. The result was that—after a whole day’s hunting, our necks slowly turning the pink of the lobsters we would definitely never catch—we took our prize home and cooked it, a single clam, roasted on the barbecue and portioned between six.

It was glorious. After that, we decided to hunt only creatures that could not hide from us: whelks and cockles. We brought home enough cockles for everyone to have five each. (For comparison, Selwyn’s of North Gower cooks and processes thousands every day, the vast majority of which are immediately shipped to restaurants and fish markets all over Spain.)

The whelks we cooked in garlic butter before realising we didn’t have the right implements to winkle—or whelk—them from their shells. We sat at the dining table, listening to each other’s grunting sounds as we tried and failed to scoop out the tiny comma of bivalve. It was obvious that whatever calorific content the whelks might provide would not cover the energy expended in trying to eat them. As this point, I glanced up to see my mother looking at me with an expression I knew well. Why, she seemed to say, are you doing this? Who are you pretending to be? I told myself that she did not understand my profound and abiding connection to the natural world.

From then on, I changed from coastal to inland pursuits, away from my mother’s doubting gaze. I signed up for a mushroom-foraging course with a man, Andy Overall, who goes by the name of Fungi To Be With. Back in the 1980s, he was known as Andy O and was the singer in a new wave band. Strangely it doesn’t seem that big a leap from doing vocals for BlueZoo to becoming one of the country’s leading mycologists. He was clearly a man of niche subcultures, from synth-pop to spore prints. He led us through the backwoods of Hampstead Heath and we found an array of mushrooms and fungi: ink caps, penny buns, amethyst deceivers and boletes. I say we found them but what I really mean is that he found them, showed them to us, then let us pick them.

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Once I had this new hobby, every countryside walk was hijacked as a foraging trip. On an autumn walk through Epping Forest, I was forever getting out the app on my phone—the Fungitron Mushroom Guide. My wife found this initially interesting and quickly not. “I’m pretty sure this is a golden chanterelle,” I said, kneeling in a dingy copse. I picked it and packed it into the flax linen pouch that I had bought for this very purpose and then spent the rest of the walk talking about how lucky we were.

Only when we got home and laid the mushroom on the chopping board did I finally concede that it may have been in fact a darker orange Jack O’Lantern mushroom, the chanterelle’s toxic lookalike, known for its bioluminescence and the way that, when eaten, it causes vomiting, diarrhoea and severe cramps. I learned that nothing kills the appetite like a list of potential symptoms.

Despite my lack of success, I proceeded to become a mushroom bore, a fun guy to be without. A hobby that was supposed to connect me with the natural world had become weirdly alienating as forest walks became a self-important version of Pokémon Go, with me rushing off into the bushes with my phone out. For my birthday, I requested some fungal “plug spawn” so that I could grow my own edible chicken of the woods mushrooms in our shared back garden.

I impregnated a wedge of rotting oak with the spore plugs and carried it out to the dankest part of our garden, the bushy bit at the back where we’d seen the urban foxes having violent sex, howling and biting each other for 30 long minutes, locked together by the male’s barbed genitals. It was perhaps fortunate that we moved house long before my mushrooms started fruiting. We never had to answer the question of whether we would actually wish to eat mushrooms that had grown in those conditions.

The strange thing about all this was that—although I talked a good forage—I’d never been brave enough to eat any of the mushrooms I’d picked. I clearly wanted to be a woodsman, the kind of person who could survive in the wild, but my personality kept getting in the way. One of the phrases from my mushroom book was “if in doubt, throw it out” and—since I couldn’t imagine feeling certain about anything in my life, least of all a mushroom that might potentially cause lethal liver failure in my entire family—I always threw it out.

Things came to a head when I was visiting my parents in South Wales. While we were out walking, I found, at the side of the path, a large and handsome shaggy ink cap. These slender white mushrooms are one of the so-called “foolproof four”—easy to recognise and safe to pick. I’d never seen one before. It was about the size and shape of a karaoke microphone. And while my mother immediately said “don’t even touch it”, I held my nerve and tugged it out from the root.

I was gratified when, moments later, some passing hikers confirmed that, firstly, it was edible and, secondly, they were jealous. “If you don’t eat it, we will,” they said. For the only time in my mycological career, I felt not even a tickle of doubt. My time had come. I carried the shaggy ink cap home proudly, in one hand, teasing my mother by pretending to lick it like an ice cream. Then I put it in the fridge and started making plans for the next day’s glorious foraged breakfast.

BEN GILES

What I had forgotten, of course, was that the shaggy ink cap is incredibly short-lived. You have to cook it within hours of picking so that, when I opened the fridge in the morning, it was already starting to deliquesce. As I stared down at the growing pool of pungent black slime, I could feel my mother behind me, a look of victory on her face. Soon, all that was left of the mushroom was a plate of black ink that my children used to paint some rather gothic and foul-smelling pictures. We left the artworks to dry on the garden table and found that they quickly become the site of an insectoid orgy, swarming with slugs and snails and unnamed weevils and beetles, all feasting on my children’s creativity. And that was the moment I finally accepted that foraging probably wasn’t for me.

The truth is that, like many people, I long to feel at one with nature but am held back by what nature is actually like. I do try to tell my children, for example, that spiders are our friends. They catch flies and mosquitoes and, in turn, protect us from disease, I say. But even as I am speaking, a part of me is always inwardly screaming about how spiders bind their prey in silk, inject them with poison, wait for them to die, then vomit digestive fluids onto their victim before sucking out the innards like water from a coconut. That’s not the kind of friend I want. And, similarly, my desire to forage my own food hides a deeper truth about myself: that I am indoorsy, urbanised, detached from my animal self, and would definitely die first in the event of societal collapse. And when I finally came to accept this, it was, after all, a huge relief.

That I gave up on foraging was also, I learned, probably good news for the natural world. In 2015, Epping Forest banned foraging altogether since too many amateur foodies from London were picking every mushroom they could find, disrupting the local habitat while also, sometimes—ahem—not even eating what they picked. Since then, other Wildlife Trusts around the UK have followed suit. Meanwhile, a quick browse through #foragingon Instagram will confirm that wild food can swerve dangerously close to a wellness trend. Good-looking people fill rattan baskets with chanterelles, only interrupting their profound communion with the seasons in order to post about it.

I was fortunate, then, that as part of the research for this article my editor sent me on an assignment well suited to an ex-forager. I put on a nice shirt and caught the Victoria line into central London, a journey in which my eyes took in nothing natural, only concrete and infrastructure and scrolling video adverts for hair replacement therapy. In the subterranean private dining room of an upscale restaurant in Marylebone, I sat down to experience the latest creations from Noma Projects, an offshoot of the restaurant in Copenhagen. In the safety of the low lit room, I watched the chefs tweezer out plates of lobster, squid and scallop ceviche which came with—I noted with excitement—foraged Welsh seaweed.

After tasting this delicate, fragrant dish I can confirm it was a long way from the Tupperware of gritty black sludge that my mother had thrown on the compost heap. Other highlights from the British coastline included samphire and salty-fingers, which resembled little plump jelly babies. What I really loved about all these ingredients is that they had been hand-picked from the wild by someone who wasn’t me. At the end of the meal, they gave each journalist a tote bag containing five pots of exquisite seasonal condiments, all of which are available by mail order. This was the kind of foraging I could get behind.

So now, when I feel the urge to reconnect with the undergrowth, I simply shake up the jar of Forager’s Vinaigrette. It contains blackcurrant wood oil and fragrant wild rose petals, collected from the Danish beaches.I splash it onto my bagged mixed salad leaves then close my eyes and, like that, I am transported. I am of the earth. The tides live within me. And then, with ceremony, I put the jar back in the fridge.

Illustrations: bengilesart2

Originally published on Esquire UK

STELLAIRE celebrates Singapore Art Week at La Dame de Pic.

If the recent event at the Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa is anything to go by, I'm woefully out of my element. Camera bulbs flash; people in expensive duds air kiss one another; jazz veteran Alemay Fernandez belts out "Summertime"… the evening reaches a crescendo with a dinner overseen by Chef Yannick Alléno, who has 15 Michelin stars under his belt. To call this evening swanky is an understatement.

Behind the flawless execution of the event is STELLAIRE. The platform that curates "art experiences events" is the brainchild of Harmin Kaur and Michael Lee. Kaur forswore her 15-year career at Goldman Sachs. She is also a Chevalier of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne and founded Women Venture Asia, which fosters an "inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region". Lee is the founder of Hustle & Bustle. You might remember the brand agency that brought in Dale Chihuly's art sculptures that were shown at Gardens by the Bay and Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.

STELLAIRE's co-founders, Harmin Kaur and Michael Lee

The company wants to "craft and curate exceptional moments in the world of high culture". This affair is where they hope to connect people with "exclusive access to legendary artists and performances, culinary masters, musical prodigies, high fashion creatives and innovators".

If you parse through the jargon and marketing-speak, at the heart are people trying to administer the best that the art and culture world can offer. It might seem out of the realm for common folks. But they are also trying to do good with what they know. The aforementioned shindig at Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa? There was a charity auction attached to it. Aside from the exquisite dining experience and entertainment, money was raised. All proceeds go to the Community Chest and the Association Antoine Alléno, a foundation to help victims and their families with moral, psychological and financial support. The charity was set up by Chef Alléno after his son was killed in a hit-and-run accident.

Chef Yannick Alléno, Chef-Owner, Pavillon Ledoyen

That evening's tally? A total of SGD43,038 was raised for the charities. The amount cements STELLAIRE's presence in the realm of making meaningful social impact, on top of hosting a dinner to remember.

To stay abreast of STELLAIRE's upcoming events, subscribe to their newsletter (thestellaire.com/subscribe/)

That whole trope of the bartender acting as your psychiatrist may sing true at Spectre. Helmed by musician and MasterChef Singapore finalist, Inch Chua, and bar consultant and regional brand ambassador for Beam Suntory, Andrew Pang, Spectre’s conceit is that while they are all about the F&B, they are also for the mental TLC.

"Write and burn"

You are asked to jot on a piece of paper the thing that is weighing heavy on your mind. Then you are invited to ignite it and watch it disappear in a brilliant flash. Other than it being great visual content for your social media, the practice of “write and burn” is a way of reducing your worries and letting them go, so you can focus on enjoying your evening.

Psychotherapy-themed Drinks

Your cocktails come with other therapy techniques. Retrospect is a mix of gin, sherry, dry vermouth, Benedictine DOM and olive oil. It aptly arrives in a simple jewellery box with a mirror. Like a form of mirror exposure therapy, staring into the looking glass helps your self-esteem. Or, at least, reminds me that when I drink on the job, it’s actually for work.

Order a Bonseki and a miniature Zen garden arrives at your table for you to rake patterns into. It’s not quite the same as the Japanese art of the same name, where you trace out landscapes with white sand on a black tray. But it helps with the waiting while your drink is being made.

Bonseki

When your Bonseki finally arrives, it’s in a Yixing-styled teapot that you empty into a teacup. The contents are a warm snake soup and mezcal. The taste shifts from sweetness to bitterness to a slight acidity. It’s very odd, trying to pin down an ever-changing flavour; like you’re trying to catch the wind.

(These therapy techniques aren’t substitutes for actual therapy or course. Pang, who has a background in psychology, can offer contacts of proper psychologists and help if patrons are interested.)

The food isn’t a slouch either. We had the Classic Claypot Rice filled with your usual lap cheong and chicken bits. This is a perfect balance to a session of drinks. There’s also the Signature Soup Furnace Herbal Chicken Soup, a hearty double-boiled dish with black chicken and an assortment of herbs that feels like my liver is doing a detox (it’s not but it sure felt like it).

"Warts and All"

Spectre was not without its flaws. The entrance was a bitch to locate (you need to take a lift, which is tucked behind another restaurant, to get to the bar on the second floor); certain dishes were not available. And there was a SGD500 item on the menu that was supposed to be a staycation with a hotel partner that’s still being ironed out.

But that’s the spirit of “repair and improvement”. Like Spectre’s kintsugi flooring—broken tiles repaired with gold mucilage—the establishment celebrates life in its unfiltered beauty. It’s a progression, hopefully by the time you read this, toward a better version of itself.

The spread.

Spectre is located at 120 Tanjong Pagar Road, #02-01, Singapore 088532.

With the way things are going, years down the line, our culinary scene might be transformed out of necessity. Known for its innovation, Johnnie Walker Blue Label collaborated with several forward-thinking chefs about the future of dining. To kick things off, the label got chefs Andrew Walsh (CURE), Mickael Viljanen (Chapter One) and Mark Moriarty (Diageo)to create a menu centred around the theme: "Air. Land. Sea." Here's how it went:

Taking place at CURE, the six-course dinner utilised AI-inspired digital artwork and 2D and 3D animations throughout the evening. Served on a table with projections exploring "sky, ocean and land", the entire endeavour reminds us of Le Petit Chef but this time, it is a more sombre affair.

Diners were proffered the question: what will the future be like in an era of global warming, overfishing and overfarming? What will the dining experience be like when certain ingredients are scarce? With this in mind, alternative elements were used for the dishes served. (Steak was replaced with red-earth cabbage!)

Wild strawberry souffle, violet chartreuse
Cured mackerel, charcoal cream, heirloom tomato and seaweed gelee, buckwheat caviar
Velvet Cloud Yoghurt 2223 with Johnnie Walker Blue Label neat
Quenelles of Pike with its own roe, urchin, wild sorrel, sabayon of smoked eel
Red earth-cabbage, beetroot, chicken fat butter
Celeriac baked in barley, yellow wine butter, hazelnut, manjimup black truffle

The Future in Food

As diners contemplate the import of heirloom ingredients in a shifting industry and environment, the dishes were paired with exclusive Johnnie Walker Blue Label cocktails. While the menu was created solely for the evening's experience, the dessert, Velvet Cloud Yoghurt 2223, along with a Johnnie Walker Blue Label pairing, were made available to the public at CURE… albeit for a limited time.

In a world that's ravaged by corporations' greed, it's a sobering look at how we will eat. Especially, around the time of CURE's 8th anniversary. But it is Chef Andrew Walsh's hope that this menu would cultivate conversation. And that conversation would lead to acts, which would lead to positive change. It is a perfect alignment with Johnnie Walker Blue Label's commitment to sustainability and innovation. One that will be the stepping stone to a better culinary and spirited future.

A line-up of contemporary Indian dishes.

Contemporary Indian restaurant, Revolver, returns with Bullet 10. For its 10th seasonal showing, Revolver whips up a culinary experience full of bold flavours and spices.

With a lifetime of know-how of Indian cooking under his belt, Executive Chef Saurabh Udinia, presents a concept menu that heightens Indian cuisine. Grab a seat for a view of the open show-kitchen. Watch Executive Chef Udinia and his team labour under the heat as they utilise the custom-built wood-fire and binchotan grills and the hand-beaten tandoor.

The Bullet 10 menu starts with the innocuous-sounding Snack Box. This has a Scallop Tartlet infused with pani puri and a Chettinad pulled duck on steamed dhokla. There's also the Japanese turnips are cooked over a fire for a slightly charred exterior. Beneath the skin lies a velvety flesh bolstered by artichokes and coriander seeds.

Using Goan Recheado Masala to marinate an Australian rock lobster, the crustacean is grilled afterwards and accompanied by fragrant Goan red rice. A Spanish Dorada is served on a bed of toasted fresh coconut and black pepper and for your main, an Iberico pork pluma dish that is adorned with a sweet and sour sauce.

The paneers served for Bullet 10, are flown in from Delhi. Presented on a bed of tomato relish, cumin-spiked onion chutney coats the paneers. Baked in the tandoor, Revolver's signature kulchettes are filled with Scamorza cheese and topped with a tandoor-roasted pulled quail.

Ending off the Bullet 10 menu is a lime and lychee sorbet. The dessert is backed with a light coconut espuma and that childhood perennial favourite: popping candy.

Revolver's Bullet 10 menu runs from now until 30 September.

Kulchette with Tandoor-Roasted Pulled Quail
Japanese Turnip
Paneer
Lychee
Australian Rock Lobster

For more information and to make reservations, visit Revolver.

Revolver
56 Tras St
Singapore 078995
+65 6223 2812

The food at Aniba is anything but primitive as the cavernous entrance suggests

Very little should surprise the well-travelled connoisseur. But the world of gastronomy always has little tricks up its sleeves, ready to catch a seasoned gourmand by surprise with sparks on his palate. It is a position he willingly puts himself into, over and over again, in pursuit of that intangible yet evident je ne sais quoi in taste. “A complete lack of caution is perhaps one of the true signs of a real gourmet,” the legendary food writer MFK Fisher tells us in her anthology of essays, An Alphabet for Gourmets. “He has no need for it, being filled as he is with a God-given and intelligently self-cultivated sense of gastronomical freedom.” Where then should a gastronome who considers himself an arbiter of taste go when he has tried everything? What restaurant can one go for flavours that can shock the senses?

CHIFA!

Enter Chifa!, Resorts World Sentosa’s newest jewel in its decorated offerings of restaurants. It’s named after the word for that eclectic blend of Peruvian-Chinese food, “Chifa”, which is said to have come about after locals heard Chinese immigrants saying “chi fan” (“eat rice”) during lunch. As for the declarative exclamation mark, one need only walk into Chifa! to be confronted with its bold philosophy, with bright lights, neon lanterns and bright red furnishings that mimic the interiors of a temple.

The food is no less exciting than its exteriors, helmed as it is by chef de cuisine Rodrigo Serrano, a Peruvian native who has years of restaurant-helming experience across Peru, France, the Maldives and finally here, in Singapore. Each dish is made with Peruvian ingredients, glimmering with the Chinese and Cantonese touches that make Serrano’s dishes so unexpected, creative and explosive. The yellowfin tuna tamarind ceviche, for instance, is made with a tamarind leche de tigre (a citrus-forward seafood marinade), which dances on the tongue with its sharp sweet and sour profiles. Japanese cucumbers and daikon add a welcome crunch to the ceviche, which is balanced by the smooth fat of avocado.

Elsewhere, a hen “caldo criollo” chimichurri soup borrows Chinese techniques by long-boiling chicken broth with Chinese herbs and flower mushrooms, updating a traditional Peruvian chicken soup. What’s special is its pairing with ginger chimichurri, which adds a bright kick of freshness and spice to what is typically a simple soup with muted profiles. A kong bak bao, widely known as the Chinese version of a hamburger, is spiced up with a “chalaca” salsa, infused with mint and accompanied by sweet potatoes to round up a fuller-bodied palate.

Chifa!: Each dish is made with Peruvian ingredients, glimmering with Chinese and Cantonese touches

ANIBA

China and Peru are on two ends of the world map, but go somewhere in the middle and you’ll find the Middle East—a land with diverse culinary histories and cultures going back thousands of years, perfumed with spices and rich flavours. It’s what inspires Morrocan-born Israeli celebrity chef Meir Adoni, whose first venture in Singapore, Aniba marries eastern and western influences in a daring declaration of Middle Eastern cooking.

Dimly yet atmospherically lit, Aniba harkens back to an archaic time with its gentle, sloping ceilings adorned with symbols, alongside a wall that stretches across the bar glittering like crystal formations on the face of a cave. The food, however, is anything but. Bringing with him all the artful expertise of world-famous restaurants Arzak, Alinea and Noma, Adoni’s menu includes gems like the eggplant carpaccio, with its fire-roasted eggplant slices served with tahini. But Adoni’s dishes are never as straightforward as that—date molasses and dried roses are unusual ingredients in our part of the world, which are expertly used to add an exciting sweetness to lift the dish. Generously drizzled in olive oil and made texturally interesting by pistachios, it’s a wonderful starter to the rest of Aniba’s offerings like the katayef, which is traditionally a kind of sweet dumpling dessert served during Ramadan. Adoni’s version is decidedly savoury, which sees grouper, pine nuts, harissa and fresh market vegetables enveloped within a preserved lemon semolina pancake. Never one to let your palate recede to complacency, Adoni serves it with an electric Thai-style vinaigrette to spark the imagination with its seemingly disparate yet sensuous blend of flavours.

Dessert is not to be missed either, with items like the malabi, a traditional milk pudding. It is updated with a plum and warm spices compote that adds a comfortingly fruity and earthy quality to the dessert, topped with a raspberry sorbet and caramelised shredded filotuile. A sprinkling of pistachio hibiscus powder and dried rose petals adroitly complete the presentation, concluding a meal that had just set one’s palate ablaze.

HUMO

To add more excitement to the gastronomical experience is a trip to London, England, at HUMO with Colombian chef Miller Prada’s newest restaurant nestled in Mayfair. Prada isn’t swayed by one cuisine or the other, on closer scrutiny though, his Colombian roots and Japanese training under Michelin-starred chef Endo Kazutoshi become evident. What’s most striking about HUMO is the prominence of wood-fire cooking in Prada’s gastronomy, using different species of wood to deliver varying qualities of smoke and char. The result? Elegantly-plated dishes with bold flavour profiles for a titillating edge in one of London’s most refined districts.

Prada uses every technique in his repertoire to amplify flavours, such as ageing Ike-Jime Hampshire trout for 12 days cooked over HP18 oak, served with three month-aged caviar grilled in kombu kelp for a briny, electric start to a meal. The West Highland langoustine is undeniably a standout, which is grilled in direct contact with AB55 whisky barrels, HR2 applewood, and CM13 silver birch for an unparalleled char. Served with fermented Kissabel apple, it’s an explosion of flavours that fills one’s senses assertively. Elsewhere, Prada proves that vegetables are just as interesting as meat, with a cauliflower cooked under ash and served with Rokko Miso, yuzu, tarocco orange, nori and Spanish black winter truffle for both an acidic and umami punch.

Enter the temple of Hom where the ancient art of fermentation is practised, a notoriously tricky undertaking with vastly unpredictable outcomes and even more volatile flavours

HOM

“Gastronomy is the intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns man’s nourishment,” the great epicure Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savar indicated in his book, The Physiology of Taste. It is this savoir-faire that all chefs take to heart, even in Phuket at its corner of the world. At Hom, chef Ricardo Nunes channels the ancient art of fermentation, a notoriously tricky undertaking with vastly unpredictable outcomes and even more volatile flavours. Nevertheless, it is an art that has sustained generations through inhospitable winters and continues to nourish under Nunes’ gastronomic ethos—one that respects the seasonality and sustainability of local ingredients and strives towards a lower carbon footprint.

Jars of ferment line the bar at Hom, where cucumbers mature with bunches of dill in amber-coloured brines alongside vines of young peppercorns (or are those young eggplants, or juniper?) in dark liquids. It’s hard not to feel like you are wandering through a zoological lab with animals preserved in formaldehyde, which is probably the point—Nunes wants you to expect the unexpected. Nunes, who has several years of experience working in storied restaurants like Potong, Belcanto and Gaggan, works closely with resident zymologist Mateo Polanco to refine fermentation techniques that take centre stage in Hom’s 10-course menus.

There are no ingredients especially air-flown from different regions of the world; in the name of sustainability, it’s important to Nunes that every ingredient sourced is grown in Thailand. It also means that all ingredients are extremely fresh, allowing their pristine qualities to shine through in each dish. Take one of Nunes’ liquid amuse-bouches, starring an organic passionfruit that’s been fermented to accentuate its already-tart and acidic profiles. Served with ruby pomelo, local herbs and flowers, it’s the perfect starter to electrify the palate before taking in other unusual delicacies like the fermented wild boar belly. Never mind the novelty of wild boar meat—its fermentation is undoubtedly peculiar with an even more indescribable flavour profile, with intense notes of umami and acidity all at once.

HUMO chef, Miller Prada prepares ingredients to be deliciously charred by wood-fired cooking

Elsewhere, Nunes refuses to shy away from durian as he harnesses the smarting flavours of black durian with goat, pumpkin and his version of a Mexican mole, creating an eclectic blend of savoury, sweet and pungent flavours that will shock one’s palate. There’s only so much one can say, Nunes’ creations demand to be experienced, not read about; to surprise diners and engulf smell and taste so completely with the assertive maturity of fermentation, while always maintaining a balanced palate.

The t-shirts

Like that first crack when you open up a fresh can of beer, Heineken has a refreshing take on a common concept. For the Dutch pale lager's 150th anniversary, they continue their creative collaboration, this time, with local fashion brand, The Salvages.

But this isn't Heineken's foray into the fashion scene. The label worked with Union, A Bathing Ape, Yeti Out and even with The Shoe Surgeon for kicks with beer-injected soles. For its collab with The Salvages, the fashion company took inspiration from Heineken's iconic imagery of Heineken. Using elements like the iconic red star and the striking viridescent palette, they are joined with The Salvages' unique pattern-cutting techniques. With a collection that tempts you into indulging in life's simple pleasures, the t-shirts have loose-fitting drop shoulders that are intricately cut and sewn together to form something new.

A tribute to classic Heineken posters, remixed in a modern, reconstructed style of The Salvages. Photos by Heineken and The Salvages
Campaign shots of The salvages collaboration with Heineken
Paying homage to the Good Times captured in Southeast Asian party photography sourced from the Heineken archives—reconstructed with a surrealist twist. Photos by Heineken and The Salvages
Campaign shots of The salvages collaboration with Heineken
A ‘Bauhaus-inspired’ rendering of Good Times that merges the iconic elements of both Heineken and The Salvages brands. Photos by Heineken and The Salvages

All Heineken x The Salvages t-shirts are vacuum-packed and stored in limited-edition Heineken cans. Just dunk the compressed material in water, let the fabric unravel, dry that sucker and wear it like a bawse.

The bottles

Heineken also tapped on local creatives like beatboxer Dharni and design collective TELL YOUR CHILDREN for a bottle redesign.

These limited-edition bottles will be available as prizes across popular drinking spots from 29 June until the end of July.

Beer bottles designed by local influencers for the Heineken anniversary
Heineken roped in Nicole Wong; The Salvages co-founder Nicolette Yip; Dharni and TELL YOUR CHILDREN for the bottle redesign.

As founder Freddy Heineken once said “I don’t sell beer. I sell gezelligheid (Good Times).” This ethos would become Heineken’s north star and is the tone for its 150th anniversary bash in Singapore. Speaking of which...

With the t-shirts available now, the first 50 purchases will get an invite to the Heineken x The Salvages Party. This is a by-invite-only event at an undisclosed location.

How do you demonstrate you know how a foreign-language word is pronounced without demonstrating that you’re an asshole? Here we introduce the Bruschetta method!

You sit down at the Italian joint, order your negroni, and grab the menu off the red-and-white gingham tablecloth in front of you. The antipasti are there at the top left, and before long, you’re ready to suggest a starter. But you’re not quite sure how to say it—or play it.

BruSHetta? BrusKetta? BruSKEHtta?!

Based on an extensive peer-reviewed study titled, “Listening to Random Americans I Both Know and Don’t Know Saying It,” I feel comfortable declaring that most would suggest to their table that they share a plate of “bruSHETTA.” There’s a ‘C’ in the word—bruschetta—but the ‘S’ usually dominates an ‘SC’ in English (muscle). In Italian, the ‘CH’ creates a hard ‘C’. The “SH” is highly common, though, and also wrong, and wrong in such a way that it does betray what you do not know.

Now, somebody once advised against mocking someone for mispronouncing a word because they likely learnt it reading. And maybe you don’t give a flying focaccia how the Italianos say it. But just in case you do possess the thin skin of an effete cosmopolitan always out to impress, here’s a little procedure to show you’re an American of culture without doing too much. After all, nobody wants to be the guy shouting “bruSKEHHHtta!” at a waitress, either. You want the ‘SK’ without the ostentatious accento (and, we can only assume, pinching your fingers in upward triangles). You’ve got to find exactly the right balance to show you know how the word is pronounced without showing that you’re an asshole.

You want “bru-SKETTA.” Call it the Bruschetta Method.

Take a word like croissant, a real landmine we took from the French. (The many words English has borrowed from other languages are sometimes known as “loanwords.” Think macho, or schadenfreude.) You’re at the coffee shop, you just took out a second mortgage to pay for your latte, and you figure you might as well put this line of credit to use on a pastry as well. But do you go with “KWASSONSurely that’s a bridge too far. The guy in the apron is going to throw you a look. But you do have to demonstrate that you know it’s not “KROYCE-ant,” or something. You’ve got to find that balance, and it might come down to personal preference—how far you want to go. You could go the extra half-mile with “kWass-AUNT,” but I might suggest that, for hopefully the only time in your life, you follow the lead of Kanye West in the tellingly titled “I Am a God”: “Hurry up with my damn cruh-SAUNTS!

Nobody wants to be the guy shouting “bruSKEHHHtta!” at a waitress.

There are decisions to be made all over the place. Do you grab the Spanish ‘Z’ by the horns in “Ibiza” and end up with “ih-BEETHA”? I can’t recommend it, and I really can’t recommend going with the “EYE-BEETHA” you tend to hear on BBC Radio 1. (One of the great secrets of the modern age is that the Brits, whom we Americans consider more worldly by default, have a nasty habit of butchering foreign languages with a kind of imperial flair. Like all that land, they seem to think a word is now theirs as soon as they come across it.) Some, like “Gloucestershire,” aren’t much of a decision once you know how they go. (“GLOSS-ter-sure.”) Others are a learning process and then become a conundrum: do you go full dachshund when you meet your friend’s new puppy? Then there’s Havana, with its ‘B’-ish ‘V’. That’ll probably depend on whether you’re actually in Cuba, because you may not want to be rolling out “Ha-BAHN-a” this side of the Caribbean Sea. I’d sail clear of Ha-VANNE-a, though, too. That’s excessive gringo.

Sahara? You probably want to avoid “SaHAIRa” and get yourself some “HAHR,” and also leave the “Desert” off the back of it. (“Sahara” is “desert” in Arabic, which leaves you saying Desert Desert.) I grew up saying “Ha-WHY-YEE,” but that ain’t how the Hawaiians do it. Considering it’s an American state, the rest of us could make some sort of effort towards “Hawah-EE”—but perhaps without going all the way. Remember your training. And what about “gyro”? It’s not JY-roh, despite what you hear all over the place Stateside. In Greek, it’s “yee-roh,” though you’ll sometimes hear “jjjeero,” with a kind of ‘zh’ thing going on up front. That one’s a real crapshoot, man. Good luck at the food truck.

Ultimately, it’s about striking the right balance for you. If you’re a native speaker of the language in question, or even a Duo Lingo success story, you might go all out. It might also come down to who you’re dining with or travelling with or shooting the shit with. Are they friends of yours? Friends of your spouse? Her coworkers that she’s trying to impress? Your clients, who might be upper crust or hale-and-hearty? Are they happy-go-luckies or oozing put-upon sophistication? Are they from New Jersey? And do they have even the faintest idea how to really say “gnocchi”?

I can’t answer any of these questions for you. We’re all on our own journeys. Hopefully, yours will someday take you to Paris—very few Americaines can get away with “Pah-REE,” and that includes Netflix Emily—where you can sit down for lunch and find yourself eyeing a certain sandwich. The gears start turning again. The calculations send you spinning, mental math giving way to a fierce desire for a supercomputer. Is it “CROCK MONSYUR”? Surely not, no matter how much you might have loved Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds. But “KHrUHQUE MUHnSEEUUUHR”? Careful there, mon ami. You want to be the right kind of stranger in a strange land. You know the truth, the way, as well as your own limitations. It’s the wisdom of a worldly Americano—a citizen of the world who still knows the proper size of a kitchen appliance, if not how to measure it in centimetres.

From: Esquire US

While I'd like to talk about the best bomobolini in Singapore, I'm getting ahead of myself. Instead, let's start in 2020, where the world (well, most of the world) was on lock-down.

Stuck indoors, no light at the end of the tunnel, cabin fever settles like dust motes on a statue... as the world comes to a standstill, there's only so much Netflix you can binge on. (And chill? Well, that's between me and my God.)

But if there was anything that helped me through the pandemic, it was the discovery of new trying new food when Deliveroo and Foodpanda started upping their game. Stalls or restaurants that I normally wouldn't patronise suddenly became options that I readily indulged in. It was during this period that I got hooked on the bomboloni from The Fat Kid Bakery.

Triple chocolate brownies

Those were the only thing they sold but they do it so well. Starting as a home-based food business, Ariel Tang—the founder of The Fat Kid Bakery—these sourdough bomboloni are rotund; befitting of the supposed etymological connection to an old-fashion grenade. It's light and springy; like chewing a nicely seared marshmallow. The filling is generous and didn't venture into overly sweet. It's actually rather perfect. No notes. I ordered a box of 10 and have been ordering from them since.

Business picked up for Tang and she had a brick-and-mortar in Ang Mo Kio. But this past April, she moved her operations to Amoy Street. With a new space, the bakery has a bigger kitchen and an expanded menu like the inclusion of brownies, cookies and soon-to-be-added, sandwiches. The sandwiches came about as a means to cater to the Central Business District crowd. Because Gordon Gekko-clones cannot live by bread alone, they also need to dig into a BLT while pacing and trading shares on a comically large cellphone.

The file name attached to this image is 'Enriched Milk Loaf', which denotes the presence of a 'Depleted Milk Loaf'

While we wait for the sandwiches, you can still carbo-load more variety of artisanal bread. You have your milk loaf; country white sourdough loaf; ciabatta and focaccia. Will we get brioche? Or a lovely rye? Oh, the suspense!

And, of course, the bakery serves coffee as well. Using Yahava beans, you can get a latte, cappuccino, long black... y'know the usual caffeinated suspects. A little bean juice goes great with the pastries. Alas, there are no seats at the establishment but with the direction that The Fat Kid Bakery is heading, one can't help to think that it might be on the cards soon.

Assorted boxes of bomboloni

The Fat Kid Bakery is located at 39 Amoy Street, Singapore 069865 and accepts walk-ins and pre-order pick-ups.

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