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Michael's Travel log

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Das Leben es ist unbestimmt, iss erst den Nachtisch!

Log entries 1 - 3 of 3 

Jan 24, 2011 09:00 PM Revolution at Raffles!

REVOLUTION at Raffles Singapore!
Posted on January 25, 2011 by thetravellinggourmet

Singapore’s Raffles Hotel has reportedly been acquired by Qatari Diar investment fund for US$275 million (S$384 million) last year.

Qatari Diar, which is owned by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund the Qatar Investment Authority, purchased the103-room hotel from current owner Fairmont Raffles, according to highly reliable reports.
As part of the deal, Qatari Diar Hotel and Property Investment will also provide Fairmont Raffles with a number of future management contracts for hotels that will be branded Fairmont, Raffles or Swissotel, the three brands under which Fairmont Raffles operates, according to a report in Abu Dhabi newspaper The National.
Prince Alwaleed, from the private Saudi investment firm Kingdom Holding which was previously the majority stakeholder in Fairmont Raffles, said that teaming up with Qatari Diar will boost Fairmont Raffles’ management business.

Several drastic and disturbing changes have been seen.

The prestigious Raffle’s Culinary Academy fitted with state of the art Gaggenau equipment at which I have attended numerous culinary courses has been closed down.

The eclectic Doc Cheng’s fusion cuisine restaurant has been closed down.

The prices for Food and Beverage at Tiffin Room, Seah Street Deli & Szechuan Court at Swissotel the Stamford, just to mention a few, have been jacked up 50%. Now at Seah Street Deli, Fish & Chips is $26.50 + 10% Service Charge and 7% GST. Compare that with $16.90++ at Billy Bombers, a very similar concept restaurant, where You’ll find the food is much better and the portions larger. A slice of Chocolate Decadence cake at Seah Street Deli is priced at an absurd $17++. At fine dining restaurants like Absinthe, my friend, Chef Francois Mermilliod serves up superbe desserts like “Crepes Suzette” for $12 ++. It seems to me that the Qatari owners have given instructions to Raffles, Fairmont and Swissotel the Stamford to jack up all the prices! MAKE MORE MONEY!

During a recent visit to the Seah Street Deli, I found the place half empty on a weekend when it used to be full. Diners feel the food does not justify the price. This short sighted policy seems to have backfired…

Reliable sources also revealed that almost the entire Marketing Communications team of Fairmont and Swissotel the Stamford, from the Assistant Director downwards has left…

***Revolutions can be painful and heartless…especially senseless revolutions…

Jan 24, 2011 09:00 PM Dark Alley Dining in Venice, Italy

Dining in a dark alley in Venezia….
MY name is Lim, Dr. Michael Lim and I am The Travelling Gourmet. I travel the world to eat and drink professionally so I can write no holds barred features about the places I experience.
Recently, I was in Venezia, and after strolling about the Rialto Bridge, I felt hungry as it was 8.30pm. I chanced upon a restaurant in a dark, dark alley, only 5 feet wide. It was starting to get dark although the sun only sets usually about 9.45pm in summer. A group of seven boisterous Americans were yelling and joking good naturedly at each other, and at no one in particular. They were totally drunk. I could tell by the way they made merry and by the number of empty wine bottles on their table. At another table, there sat a middle aged couple who dined quietly, whispering sweet nothings in each other's ear. I thought, "Great atmosphere, dining in a dark alley instead of a Michelin starred restaurant..."
"You don't like, you don't pay!", the owner said loudly to me interupting my thoughts.
"Vero??" I replied. Vero means 'is it true? or really?' in Italian.

I decided to sit down and ordered in Italian. This suprised Sergio Nezha, the owner, who went to get his henchman to take my order. The henchman/maitre d' was a fat large aesthetically challenged guy that looked exactly like a Mafia hitman a la 'The Sopranos' with his black tie, black suit and slightly threatening demeanour. "Better and better." I thought. "Dine by the Rialto in a dark dark alley with a Mafia hitman as your server. Cool!"
I went to check out the kitchen and met the two cooks; I won't call them Chefs. One was from Sri Lanka so I spoke to him in Sinhalese, and the other was from Bangla Desh. The owner did not like me talking to his cooks and shooed me out with a peeved "Allora!". Perhaps he did not want his customers to see that the Italian food was cooked by a 'Tamil Tiger' (this is in jest as he was a very nice, harmless looking fellow) from Sri Lanka and another non-Italian cook from Bangla Deshi.
The food came. There was pasta and pizza and the inevitable l'acqua minerale naturale senza gas. It was not Michelin star food by a long, long chalk, but it wasn't too bad.
I said, "Il conto per piacere." asking for the bill.
Then the bill came and I paid with a 20 Euro bill. The fat, ugly Mafiosi maitre d' took my money and decided to keep the change, even though it was clearly written that all service and taxes were included in the price.

This displeased me, greatly. It was pitch black then and my partner pleaded in an anxious voice, "Let's go! I know your temper but it is not worth it to get into an argument. There might be violence."
I did not like it but I went with her straight to my favourite cafe in Venice, namely the centuries old Caffe Florian on the Piazza San Marco. Incidentally, Casnova's favourite hangout in olden days. The band played Edith Piaf's signature theme, "Non, je ne regrette rein!" for me on request, and I felt much better after a cup of nice Camomilla tea with honey. Caffee Florian is kid friendly and very nice to all and sundry, but it is EXPENSIVE. However, as the old saying goes, when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. I love the atmosphere.

So, my food loving friends, if you are near the Rialto and want to dine in a small dark alley way, BEWARE and pay your bill with exact change unless you are a rich New Yorker who likes maitre d's who look like Mafia hitmen.
And if you happen to read this fat maitre d', I say this to you, "Idiota e imbecile!" C'est la vie, mon ami... Je ne regrette rien. {:-)
Trattoria All'Antico Pizzo", Rialto - S. Polo, 814-30125 Venezia. Tel: 041 523 1575 P.I. 03523870271 (By Calle S.Matio o del Marangon)
Enjoy! {:-)

May 10, 2007 06:00 PM PARIS -Gastronomic Paradise!

PARIS – Gastronomic Paradise!

By Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet

The Travelling Gourmet visits “Ville-Lumiere” or the “City of Light” to discover…

MARVELLOUS cuisine revolutionized by Catherine de Medici from Florence in Italy who became Queen of France in 1547, has made France a magnet for food & wine lovers. Catherine brought along her retinue of Master Chefs as well as Italian delights like Zabaglione and milk-fed veal, when she went to France in 1533 to become the bride of the Duc d’Orleans (later King Henry II of France). catherine also introduced a new item of cutlery to the French - la fourchette or the fork. Recently, I made a Gastronomic Safari to France where I discovered some culinary gems to share with you.

Gourmet’s best kept Secret!

I based myself in probably the safest hotel in Paris, elegant Sofitel le Faubourg. Very near the Champs-Elysee & famous Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, the 18th & 19th Century buildings are located in secluded Rue Boissy d’Anglas. As the US Embassy is next door, the road is sealed off to cars & well armed Gendarmes are on guard 24 hours a day. Another bonus is the feather pillows and quilts here are the most comfortable I’ve ever snoozed on. Every morning, I enjoyed a delightful breakfast in Café Faubourg of fresh croissants, omelettes with ham, cheese & tomatoes done to perfection and fragrant, freshly brewed Café au lait. Impressed by the breakfast, I decided to have dinner in the Café Faubourg. I sat at a table with a flute of chilled Laurent Perrier Rose champagne, facing a tranquil courtyard and felt like I was in a French nobleman’s house in the Cotes du Rhone. I began with Frothy Chestnut Broth & Foie Gras Royale. The luscious flavours brought out by the Chef’s skill emerged like beautiful ballerinas to please my palate. Eagerly, I waited for my next course…a Spice Crusted Pheasant Filet with pan fried Foie Gras plus Buttered Cabbage magically appeared. Carefully, I cut into the Foie Gras (it means ‘fatty liver’ in French) and I could tell instantly that the moist core had been done to perfection, neither too overdone nor underdone. I moaned in delight as the provocatively delicious, decadent and rich flavours caressed my tastebuds. A taste to kill for. A lovely glass of aromatic and complex Chateau Belgrave 2000 AOC Pomerol was a harmonious partner for the food. The flavours lingered and toyed with my palate for along time. Wines with good acids are always delightful with foie gras and help to cut through the rich flavours and moderate the fat Dessert! I relished every morsel of the dessert of Roast Figs, fresh Walnuts and Vanilla Ice Cream. I tried but I could not resist another tempting dessert of melt in the mouth-tender Fruit Tagine cooked in the terracotta Moroccan volcano shaped cooking pot called the Tagine. Heavenly! I met jovial & enthusiastic Chef Jerome Videau who told me about the Southwestern touch of the Meditteranean he likes to infuse in his excellent cuisine.

Café Faubourg
Le Faubourg
15 rue Boissy d’Anglas
75008 Paris
Tel: 33 (0) 144941414
Ambience *****
Cuisine *****
Service *****
A splendid & very safe place to stay in Paris.

The world’s oldest Café!

I’ve dined at the oldest Brasserie in Paris and the oldest restaurant in the world, so it was time to visit the oldest Café in the world. Young Lieutenant Napoleon used to dine here, and had to leave his hat as surety until he returned to pay his bill. Since a Sicilian called Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli opened it in 1686, it has been the haunt of poets like Voltaire and firebrand revolutionaries like Danton & Marat. I stepped through the dark wood & glass doors of Le Procope to be transported back to the 17th Century. Ancient oil paintings of luminaries like Andre Chenier deck the walls. I decided to sit at Voltaire’s table and chose the Notre Menu des Philosophes (Philosopher’s Menu). A 20mm thick slice of Pate en Croute with pistachios drizzled with a tasty Port flavoured veal Jus whet my appetite. Magret de Canard Roti was next. Meaty tasty duck caramelized with Barolo wine was so flavourful, I finished every tasty morsel. Domaine des Trios Monts 2004, a nice medium bodied red from Burgundy enhanced the gamey flavour of the duck. Burgundy or the Bourgogne is one of my favourite wine regions in France. A unique dessert is the Variation de Coquetiers de Cremes. I relished the cute little pots of Crème Caramel delicately flavoured with pistachio, almond plus coffee & vanilla…and wondered if Napoleon had enjoyed them too while dreaming of conquering Europe….

Le Procope
13 rue de l‘Ancienne Comedie
75008 Paris
Tel: 33 (0) 140467900
Ambience *****
Cuisine ****
Service ***

Parachutist Baker!

Wandering the streets of Paris, I strolled down the Boulevard Hausmann. The sun was shining and the skies were blue when a Boulangerie (bakery) caught my eye. The sign proclaimed, “Sculpteur en Pain Rene Saint Ouen” (Pain means ‘bread’ in French). I went in and met the fit and jolly Patron, Rene who was having his Dejeneur (lunch). He promptly invited me to try some of his bread and have a glass of red wine. When Rene learned that I was a parachutist, he confided that he was in the daredevil Regiment Etranger Parachutiste in Vietnam and had fought the Vietminh in 1950. Made with flour from Chartres and olive oil from Provence, Rene’s bread crust is ultra-crunchy and well aerated inside, so it is soft, fluffy and perfect for mopping up sauces. His piece de resistance is ‘La Tour Eiffel’ – a brioche in the shape of the Eiffel Tower! If you want to bring it home to decorate your dining room he will brush a layer of egg white on it to preserve it. His bread is so good President Jacques Chirac buys it daily for the Elysee Palace.

Au Pain Bien Quit
Boulangerie R G Saint-Quen
111 boulevard Hausmann
75008 Paris
Tel: 01 42 650625

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