Welcome! Dispatches from my travel desk.
One of the most coveted conferences to attend is the PURE conference in Marrakech. The conference committee scours the world for the best of the best and it shows. All of the suppliers are top notch. Perfect for learning about new destinations, hotels, camps, destination management companies, and most importantly new experiences. PURE is about experiential travel. I am privileged to be going and I hope to share my experience with my clients and friends. They are the ones that will benefit as much as I will.
A record 3900 consultants and suppliers from all over the world attended Virtuoso Week in Las Vegas. 312,000, 4 minute appointments were accomplished, bring the travel world together for their annual meeting.
Always fun and absorbing, one departs with complete brain overload.
For me, it brings new and wonderful resorts, tour companies, travel ideas, and reinforces ones I already know about.
Some of the new properties I discovered were Upper House (a spectacular hotel in Hong Kong), the fabulous new hotel Siam from Bangkok, Ballyfin, a stunning new manor house hotel in Ireland. A very pleasant surprise was hearing about a hotel thy has been right under my nose, the St.Regis Washington DC. Right across from the White House, it is a gorgeous property.
Starwood hotels have unveiled some new properties and reopened some new renovations like the Gritti Palace in Venice, St. Regis Bahia Resort in Puerto Rico, St.Regis Bal Harbor.
I always return home completely invigorated and ready to share my new destination ideas and activities. The energy and passion during Virtuoso Week is highly contagious.
From Six Senses Yao Noi, guests regularly comment on a dish they won’t let him take off the menu – Organic Pumpkin soup – the most frequent feedback asking “what do you put in it to get it to taste like that?!” – his answer……..”nothing – just pumpkin, but FRESH pumpkin, just picked”.
The difference is freshness….
Here follows Chef Sebastiaan Seegers pumpkin soup recipe
Pumpkins 1kg, peeled, seeded, cut in 1” cubes
Butter 70 g
Fresh thyme 1 g
Salt 8 g
Pink peppercorns 3 g
Gently sweat on moderate heat all the above ingredients until completely soft, covered with a lid (do not colour) This will take approximately 45 minutes – stir occasionally to ensure it does not burn.
Vegetable stock 1200 mls
Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 15 minutes
Blend will in liquidizer until completely smooth
Pass through a fine chinois
Check seasoning, add freshly ground black pepper, adjust consistency if necessary with more vegetable stock.
Sebastiaan Seegers – European organic cuisine specialist – The Dining Room, Six Senses Koh Yao Noi
Six Senses Koh Yao Noi’s Dutch born Chef de Cuisine Sebastiaan Seegers showcases his unique signature “European Organic cuisine” at the open air over water Dining Room of the hotel. Surrounded by organic vegetable, fruit and herb gardens within view of the restaurants’ generously sized tables, Chef Sebastiaan has no shortage of fresh produce with which to work. Pumpkins (see recipe to follow), passionfruit, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, watercress, asparagus and okra are all close at hand and are picked daily, featuring on his menus as they become available.
Sebastiaan has built up a close relationship with the traditional local fisherman of this beautiful island and his menus change daily depending on what they bring him.
Hailing originally from Holland, Sebastiaan has an impressive pedigree, having worked with the top echelon of the emerging famous chefs of the Netherlands. From the beginning of his career in 1994 untl 2010 he has worked solely in Michelin starred restaurants, rising to the position of Chef de Cuisine at Restaurant Savelberg in Voorburg (ranked in the top 30 restaurants of the Netherlands)
The opportunity to spread his wings and travel arose in 2010 when he joined the famed Le Gray hotel in Beiruit as Chef de Cuisine of the Indigo restaurant, where he remained until joining Six Senses Koh Yao Noi. An engaging and passionate chef, Sebastiaan is frequently seen in the Dining Room taking orders and customizing dishes for guests – another signature of Six Senses and Sebastiaans style.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL, BANGKOK LAUNCHES BANGKOK’S FIRST EVER THAI CHEF’S TABLE AT SALA RIM NAAM
February 2012 – Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok has launched an exclusive “Chef’s Table” at its’ iconic restaurant, Sala Rim Naam. The first time ever by a Thai restaurant in Bangkok, our 25 year hotel veteran Thai Executive Chef Vichit Mukura, also of the popular national TV program “Best Thai Chef”, will provide culinary connoisseurs or simply ‘food lovers’, a rare opportunity to experience first-hand the “inner” workings of one of the most dynamic gourmet kitchens in the world whilst indulging in first-class cuisine.
The Chef’s Table, set in the heart of the kitchen, allows diners a behind-the-scenes VIP pass to interact with award-winning Chef Vichit and watch the ‘Master’ in action as he prepares a bespoke, exclusive Thai menu based on the handpicked selection of the day’s freshest local and imported ingredients. “I personally select only the freshest produce for the enjoyment of guests. Quality is paramount and brings out the true flavours of Thai cuisine at their best,” said Chef Vichit.
Upon arrival, guests will be welcomed into the iconic, Grand Palace inspired decorative restaurant by Chef Vichit to enjoy a welcome cocktail and being personally escorted for a private tour of the kitchen before being seated at the Chef’s Table.
Throughout this unforgettable evening, Chef Vichit and his team of expert chefs will constantly interact with diners and present the assorted ingredients for guests to select and then gain their input into the planning of the evening’s custom crafted, personalised menu. Guests will enjoy informal master class style sessions throughout the duration of dinner, and watch and learn as Chef Vichit plates up deliciously prepared and authentic Thai fare right in front of diners.
Executive Thai Chef, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Born in the seaside resort city of Pattaya in the province of Chonburi, Chef Vichit Mukura developed a passion for cooking at an early age.
His career in the culinary industry spans over two decades during which he has worked in various hotels around Thailand (plus a brief stint in Japan) working his way from a cook to Chef status. Today, as Executive Thai Chef of The Oriental, Bangkok, he is in charge of the complete process from kitchen operations to menu selection of the hotel’s two Thai food restaurants, Sala Rim Nam (Thai lunch buffet and set Thai dinner) and Rim Nam Terrace (à la carte Thai dinner). Moreover, Chef Vichit is an instructor at The Oriental Hotel Apprenticeship Programme (OHAP), as well as overseeing the Oriental Professional Thai Chef Programme (OPTC). During his time at The Oriental, Bangkok, Chef Vichit has cooked for Royalty, Heads of State and celebrities.
In addition to his responsibilities as Executive Thai Chef of The Oriental, Bangkok, Chef Vichit is also a widely-respected authority on Thai cuisine and writes regularly for several food as well as lifestyle magazines (Thai food column). Furthermore, he has appeared as a Guest Chef on many TV cooking programmes, both local as well as international. Chef Vichit’s family owns and operates a very successful restaurant in Pattaya.
An interesting side note, the Mandarin Oriental is launching a new Chef’s Table. I will post the announcement and information in my next entry.
YAAM SOM O GUB GOONG GAI
Herbed pomelo salad with prawns and chicken
Ingredients for dressing
50 g prawn, minced
25 g chicken, minced
200 g thick coconut milk
8 g chili paste oil
3 g chili paste
5 g salt
10 g lime juice
14 g white sugar
8 g coconut sugar
In a sauce pan, heat 50 grams of the coconut milk over a medium heat then add the prawns and the chicken to stir-fry until cooked. Add the rest of the coconut milk. Bring to the boil then mix in the chili paste and the chili paste oil. Season with the salt, white sugar, palm sugar and the lime juice to taste.
Ingredients for pomelo salad
300 g pomelo segment, flaked
200 g dressing (from above)
40 g chicken breast, boiled and shredded
70 g prawns, boiled
8 g shallots, deep-fried
4 g garlic, deep-fried
16 g peanuts, deep-fried
2 g coconut meat, shredded and roasted
place the pomelo in a bowl; add in the prawns and chicken breast. Mix in the dressing and toss well. Then add in the shallots, garlic and peanuts. Toss lightly. Sprinkle with coconut meat and garnish with coriander leaves and shredded big red chilies.
I am incredibly privileged to have received recipes for my favorite dishes from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Sticky rice with Mangos and Pomelo Salad. Here is the recipe for sticky Rice with Mangos from Executive Thai chef Vichit Mukura – Oriental Baan Rim Naan. His bio follows.
The Oriental Baan Rim Naam
KHOW NIEW MAMUANG
Coconut sticky rice with mango
Ingredients for coconut mixture (part 1)
1.5cupsthick coconut milk
1 leafpandanus leaf
- mix thick coconut milk, white sugar, salt and pandanus leaf together in a sauce pan and heat them over medium heat until boiling. Strain them and set aside
Ingredients for sticky rice (part 2)
2cupsraw sticky rice (Khiew Ngoo)
- rinse raw sticky rice until the water is transparent and soak them for 5 hrs. at least or over night , then rinse well again and strain them
- on the stainless tray with cheese cloth, put the rinsed sticky rice on and wrap them with the same cheese cloth and bring to steam for ½ hr. until cooked
How to do the coconut sticky rice
- pour the coconut mixture (from part 1) in cooked sticky rice (still hot
from part 2), then stir them until well mixed, cover them tightly about 15 mins
- remove the cover and stir them again, then cover about 15 more mins to be well blended
- served the coconut sticky rice with ripe mango
The Siam, a spectacular luxury hotel that has just opened in Bangkok in June, lives up to all it’s abundant hype. A Bill Bensley design, it is a feast for the eyes. Owned by a prominent family in Bangkok, I heard Mr. Bensley was given carte blanche to do whatever he felt was appropriate. I have to say it is one of his best efforts.
Mr. Bensley incorporated four of Jim Thompson’s houses with contemporary elements ( Jim Thompson – fascinating American character that single handedly started the Thai Silk industry after World War 2 and disappeared in the 60′s after walking into the Malaysian jungle- www.jimthompson.com. A whole subject unto himself.)
One of the owners is a prolific antique collector; a popular actor and singer, his collection is seen everywhere. As a former antique dealer, I was blown away with his enthusiastic , eclectic collection. The hotel even has a screening room. On either side of the screen is a collage of old movie tickets on a pair of panels. One of the restaurants, with highly regarded Thai cuisine, utilizes one of the antique Thai houses. Food was excellent and the setting was delightful. Located on the Chao Praya, in the elegant Dusit neighborhood one is in a more peaceful part of the city. The hotel is planning to take clients sightseeing by boat- the Grand Temple is nearby. Another interesting aspect of activities offered at the Siam is kickboxing. The hotel has a ring and lessons for guests in their ample, enormous gym. As a guest, one can take lessons, and if you stay long enough , you will become a proficient kick boxer! Hmmm…
Note the “film” border on the floor and the collage of old theatre tickets on the sides of the screen.
The best Thai Soup -Chicken in Coconut milk, I have ever tasted.
A little slice of heaven, I think this is one of the most beautiful hotels and settings I have ever experienced. It was filmed in the movie Hangover 2 as the destination for the “wedding”. Service is far beyond anything I have encountered, and Asian service is legendary!
Our butler is Kun Annie( Kun is a reference of respect), and I would REALLY like to take her home. She sees after our every wish, from laundry to boat tours of the islands, arranging transfers to our next destination, trips into the village, and as insignificant as how to to how to operate the TV. She appears at our poolside sala with pen in hand to take notes for our latest wishes. Oh my gosh.
The resort has three restaurants, a Thai, an International, and a Seafood restaurant.
We dined in the Thai restaurant last night, and the Chicken soup in Coconut milk was the best I have ever tasted. Tonight will be the Seafood restaurant.
One other observation: the music at the pool is outstanding sort of Buddha Bar- Cafe Costes compilations. Recipes are coming from Phulay Bay’s French chef and I will post them soon.
Home to 2000 pagodas, Bagan is a must on any visit to Burma. Most are from the 11th and 12th century when Bagan was the capital of Burma. Similar in some ways to Angkor Wat, there are Pagodas as far as the eye can see. We visited the major ones, including Ananda. I am struck by the peace and spirituality of Bagan.