Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Chef Marco Pierre white was the celebrity guest at the World Gourmet Summit 2012 held in Singapore. I have watched chef White cook and guide the contestants in the show - Masterchef Australia. I was intrigued by his personality and skills. He was the youngest chef to receive 3 Michelin stars at an age of 33 in the year 1994 (the current record is held by an Italian chef who received 3 stars at 28 in 2002). He has had famous chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Heston Bluementhol work under him.

Chef White was hosted at the Mezza9 restaurant of the Grand Hyatt on Scotts Road, Singapore. A gala dinner was organised as part of the World Gourmet Summit. This was the only dinner I had signed up for at the summit and looked forward to it eagerly. The day before the dinner, I got to watch chef White perform a cooking demonstration at the Universal Studios as part of the Gastronomic Jam Sessions. He demonstrated two simple recipes but gave valuable inputs on how to handle the ingredients, seasoning and heat. He is the brand ambassador for Knorr and seemed to use the Knorr products rampantly in his cooking.

I made friends with some of the other participants at the gastronomic sessions, who live in Singapore and are also ardent cooks. About 4 of us managed to secure seats in the same table at the gala dinner and had a very memorable and joyful evening together. There were over 300 guests at the dinner that night and chef White had prepared a splendid meal for us. None of the dishes were extravagant or over the top. The different courses were a fine example of what a chef of March Pierre White's standard can do to simple ingredients and turn them into spectacular dishes. Chef White was present in the kitchen through out the evening and oversaw the entire operations.

The evening started with a reception outside the grand ballroom at the Grand Hyatt. Gourmet hand-crafted canapes and Brut Rose were served while the guests waited for friends and mingled. Once the dinner was announced, we were led inside the grand ballroom and seated in our predetermined tables.

Our first course was a Pea and Ham Soup en Tasse. The soup was velvety smooth and the ham lent it a nice saltiness. Pea Soup from a British chef? Why am I not surprised? Like I mentioned earlier, every course was a fine example of how a very simple dish can be elevated to a totally new and refined level by how its handled.

The second course was a Brandade of Salmon with Fennel and Lemon Vinaigrette. The flavours of the fennel and lemon along with the Salmon was like marriage made in heaven. Also the quality of the Salmon was fresh and top-class. The quality of the ingredients available in Singapore is extremely fresh. Although it involves a lot of food miles I can be very biased when it comes to good seafood especially if its Salmon.

The third course was a truly spectacular dish, my favourite among all the courses. It was a Mousseline of Sole en Fleur de Courgette with sauce Jacqueline. The Sole mousse was absolutely smooth and delicious and was just melting in my mouth. The rich Jacqueline sauce complimented the dish perfectly. Here is a link (http://www.westernstarbutter.com.au/recipes/show/3/4/jacqueline-sauce/index.html) to a recipe for Jacqueline sauce. Give it try, if you are curious.

The fourth course was a Fillet of Beef with Cepes, Pomme Fondant & Jus Madere. My fillet was cooked to a medium and was perfect. I wonder if they got all (over 300) of the fillets cooked right! Two different red wines were paired with this dish. They were both equally good.

The final course - dessert was a bit of a let down for me. It was Red Fruits in Rose Wine Jelly and Raspberry Syrup. I anticipated a rich chocolate dessert or something unusual. But this dinner seemed to be all about getting the simple dishes done really well. Just the final course seemed like a glorified Jello with fruits. I am sorry, I love my desserts and I expected more from Chef March Pierre White!!

While I was still craving for some chocolate after eating most of the fruity dessert, we were served a platter of rich chocolate logs along with our coffee and tea after dinner. Its a good thing we were served that, else I would have personally walked up to Chef White and expressed my discontent about the dessert.

The entire evening was an enjoyable one. Everyone was all dressed up and the settings were very formal and suited the occasion. The wines paired with each of the courses were picked well and complimented the dishes very well. The skills of the celebrity chef and the quality of produce available in Singapore were the highlights of the evening.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Last year, I heard about the Frugal Gourmet through some friends that were staying at the Ooty club. Frugal Gourmet is a private kitchen in Ootacamund (Ooty) hosted by a lady named, Sharmila in her beautiful home, past Lovedale. She hosts guests in her home for lunch ,about 2 - 3 times a week. The entire operation is mostly run by just her and sometimes her son accompanies in serving the meal while he is visiting. I tried to book my family a lunch at the Frugal Gourmet last summer but Sharmila couldn't fit us in her busy schedule. Yes, she is very busy during the summer with all the travelers that go up the hills to get away from the heat in the plains. So this summer, a lunch at the Frugal Gourmet was one of the top priorities on my Ooty list.
I managed to secure a reservation at the Frugal Gourmet at the end of April. The Frugal Gourmet is a good 10 kilometers from the Charring Cross junction in Ooty. I received an sms with the directions to Frugal Gourmet and they were fairly easy to follow. If anyone is familiar with the Light and Life Academy in Ooty, Frugal Gourmet is right across from that.
We were greeted on our arrival and led in to a beautiful house. Not only is Sharmila a great cook but she is also a gifted painter. The walls of her home are adorned with beautiful canvases of her own artwork. The dining room is fairly large and seats 6 people comfortably. We were served Iced tea while we waited for the various courses to arrive. Taking one's own bottle of wine would be a good idea. There was also a menu placed on the table with details of our 5 course lunch.
Our first course was Flash fried Prawns on a bed of Rosti Potatoes. The quality of the prawns was fresh and good and I also liked the marinade used. The potato rosti was crisp and golden brown. This particular dish was a hit with the two young diners that were a part of our group.
The second course was a warm aromatic bowl of Pumpkin Soup with roasted garlic. The soup was velvetty smooth and flavours and seasoning were just right.
The third and main course was Grilled Bhasa fish in a herb butter sauce served on a bed of Tagliatelle tossed with red chillies and herbs. On the side we were served some fresh home-made Rosemary Foccacia along with crunchy Greek Salad and Batter-fried Courgettes. The fish was cooked just right and the sauce was mild and flavourful which went perfectly well with the pasta that had a bit of kick in it, from the red chillies. She was thoughtful enough to avoid red chillies in the pasta that were served to the children in our group. There was also some pickled onion and mustard that was served on the side that went well with the fish and the rosemary foccacia. I must add that the pasta was hand-rolled. In all the excitement, I forgot to take a picture of our main course!!! The fourth course was a platter of desserts. The chef specialises in home-made ice creams and gelato. So there was a scoop of Guava ice cream and a scoop of Plum Gelato. Along with it, there was also the Dark Chocolate Slice and Strawberry Mousse. The ice cream and gelato were both excellent, not too sweet. I enjoy cold desserts on a warm sunny afternoon in Ooty.
Finally, we were served coffee and green tea along with some Dates soaked in Grand Marnier and Mocha Cupcakes. I had a top quality Peach-flavoured French green tea which was a perfect end to a very fine and satisfying lunch.
I recommended a stop at the Frugal Gourmet to most of my friends and family who traveled up the hills this summer. Some of them managed to get a reservation but many of them were turned down before they were fully booked and could not be accommodated. So next time you plan a visit to the Frugal Gourmet, make sure you call well ahead. Sharmila cannot be reached very often on her mobile phone due to poor mobile network in her neighbourhood. It is best to send her an sms and wait for a reply or to e-mail her. Frugal Gourmet, un'acre, Lovedale , Nilgiris, below light and life academy, Ooty, Tamil nadu 643003 Hours of operation: 12 noon to 7pm Phone - +919487487250 Email address - darkchoclate@gmail.com, www.thefrugalgourmet.webs.com