Thursday, September 7, 2017

Curacao: Bon Bini!!

I'm back!! Did you miss me?
With introducing Face Blog, I had hoped to shorten the time between experience and blogging and that I would be more motivated to blog. But I gotta admit, I miss blogging the traditional way, so I decided to combine Face Blog for quick shares with longer blogs, from which a link will be shared through my Facebook page The Taster.

I remember the first time that I went to Curacao, which was last year. I gotta admit, I was a bit skeptical about the place. I mean,...many friends of mine went already, but I didn't hear things that would make me want to go there. But then I won a 3-nights stay at Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino and we still had to do our honeymoon (Oh yeah, I got married in the meantime), so why not have it all together, right? 
Through a friend, I got linked up with the Curacao Tourism Board(CTB) and I gotta admit; It's awesome to be connected!! We got VIP treatment at arrival and got picked up by Charla Nieveld from CTB. She gave us a quick tour about Curacao and where we had to be for the Pietermaai Proeft event, where she also dropped us off later on.

My first impression of Curacao is that it gave me mix vibes of Miami, Aruba and even a bit of French Guyana. And it's so much bigger than I had envisioned it would be.

For our first night, we already planned Pietermaai Proeft. For more on this event, please check it here.
It was a great first night in Curacao, where we finished it with the NBA finals game and a beer at the Sopranos.

The 2nd and 3rd day we were shown around by Rignald Tokaay. That guy is 65 years old, but looks like 40. And he's not the only one!! I think I need to move to Curacao. People just don't seem to age there. Anyone hiring there??

Tokaay is such a wonderful guide. He's the best!! He loves his country, he knows the history, its heritage and all the baai's and everybody seems to know him. And you know why I like him? Of course he'll try to beautify everything, but he gives his honest opinion about things and that's what I appreciate. If you ever want a guide in Curacao...look him up!! Or leave me your e-mail address, so that he can contact you. You know how most of my travels are culinary-based, but this one... I was shown the heritage sites of Curacao. So if you ask me what's to do in Curacao, here is a list:
- Kura Hulanda. A place filled with history and all those buildings renovated and maintained to such an extent that I wonder how come Suriname can't do the same with its monumental heritage.
- the Culinary Walk. We were shown the market, where Venezuelans dock to sell its fish and fresh produce. The market, where different nationalities have been selling their products for years. And having our lunch at Zus Di Plaza, where you can still enjoy the traditional Curacao cuisine as it is. Nothing fancy, but great food. And especially the Repa de Pompoena, the pumpkin pancake, is heavenly!!! It's sooo good I had to finish it even though I was already full.
- Landhuis Jan Kok and the Nena Sanchez Gallery
You can still see many antique tools and furniture next to the artwork of Ms. Nena Sanchez.
- The several Baai's including the Grote Knip and Kleine Knip. And also Porto Mari Baai, which is kept very environment-friendly. No open fire allowed, recycled water, use recycled products are only some of the things they do to keep it GREEN.
- Aquafari. However I love the sea, the sea doesn't love me back. I have issues of getting sea sick easily, so I was already worried that this might not be a good idea. I endured half the excursion and couldn't keep it in anymore. But Emelton & Andy are great!! This is a great example of making your hobby your job. However I stopped, but my hubby went through the full tour. He mentioned about how he could touch and feed the sea creatures. He even held a sea urchin in his hand. Lucky him for being able to do all those things, but in my own way I did feed the fishes.
- lunch at Jaanchie's restaurant. I will have a separate blog about this one though. The owner is such a charmer. I believe that his special ingredient L (=love) makes people go back and of course the food is good or else I wouldn't even recommend it.

It's a real advantage staying in Renaisssance Curacao. They serve a great breakfast buffet and there's so much to do in the vicinity. 
Within walking distance, there's Riffort, where you can visit several small shops, eateries and even go to the top to see and even feel the waves.
- The Sopranos. The place for pizza's or drinks, catch a game or even have a go on salsa.
- The Cheesery. I didn't expect it to be so interesting, but I ended up buying truffle cheese.
- Steaks & Ribs. They do have great steaks!! Enjoyed my T-bone
- Ema-Tei. Where we had an extensive sushi dinner.
- Burger Bar. Create your own burger. Nice juicy burgers.

 If you walk through Riffort, the Queen Emma Bridge is a 5 minutes walk away. The bridge connecting Otra banda and Punda. If you walk out of the Resort complex, there's a cinema at the corner next to Starbucks. All in all, I'm happy I remained from renting a car. And since it's only a 5 days, 4 nights' stay, a car was not that much needed since there was so much going on in the neighborhood already.
And if you don't want to go anywhere, you can sit back and relax at the Infinity beach or try your luck in the Casino. I don't know who came up with the idea of the Infinity Beach, but it's so out of this world! It's a created beach on the 2nd floor of the Renaissance. It's such an optical illusion as if you can swim out to the open sea, but there's a glass wall keeping you safe.

All in all, Curacao exceeded my expectations. So much to do, so much to eat and initially I thought I would have seen it all in the 4-5 days. But after this trip, I believe Curacao has more to be explored. So next time, I'll surely rent a car to see other parts of this gem.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Goût de France...Good France..Formidable!!

Last Thursday I was invited for the Goût de France at the French Ambassador's residency. In Suriname, this event is hosted by the French Ambassador, His Excellency Michel Prom and his lovely wife Suzanne.

Before I go any further, here a little explanation about Goût de France:

In 1912, Auguste Escoffier started Les Dîners d’Épicure (Epicurean Diners): one day, one menu, served in cities around the world, to as many guests as possible. In 2015, Goût de/Good France takes the idea further, bringing all categories of restaurants together globally. This international event, taking place on March 19,2015, will mark the first concrete demonstration of French cuisine’s recent listing in the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” category by UNESCO, and its influence on the world. - a piece from the official website

When I think about France, I imagine Eiffel Tower, lavender fields (all thanks to those postcards from my cousin Joyce) and I think of wine, cheese and great food. So when I received this invitation, I was ecstatic!! What to wear? What to expect?

I was happy that I was going together with Jill-Joy Landburg from Victuals. At least one familiar face. When we arrived, it was still very quiet. A handful of invitees already arrived and we were welcomed by Ms. Carolle Lucas, the Deputy Chief of Mission. We got invited to start with some aperitif from the bar and mingle a bit.

Any outsider would think it's a friend's gathering since everyone is so relaxed and not so formal and uptight as I thought it would be. But if you see the list of high officials, I kinda feel a bit like a kid among adults. And the nice thing is that they were all very down-to-earth and you don't even notice the gap when talking to them.

While enjoying our aperitif, Champagne Canard Duchene Reserve authentique, we were served some finger foods/ amuse bouche. There was choice between puff pastry with snails in parsley butter and puff pastry with scallops flamed with cognac. The one with scallops has more flavor compared to the one with snails. And I had to contain myself not to fill up on finger foods.

Then it was finally time to be seated. I was seated at the deputy's table, next to headmaster, Mr. Jean-Pierre Octavia, of the high school where the chefs are from. On my other side, I have the company of Mr. Stanley Sidoel, the Director of Culture.

Our dinner continued with the cold starter:
tartar of salmon & weakfish, dressed with passion fruit's vinaigrette & dasheen's chips
The passion fruit vinaigrette complemented the mixed fish tartar really well. A tad of the lemongrass powder enhances the flavor even more. It's the first time I had the dasheen's chips. Dasheen is a type of taro. The chips was very thin, crisp and flavorful.
This was paired with the Bordeaux Entre-deux-mers Grands Terroirs Dourthe 2010.
The wine is light, easy to drink and combined with the dish: very fruity.

We continued with a hot starter:
ravioli of foie gras with morel's cream & sesame cracker

It's my first time having Foie Gras. I don't know what to expect, but since it's goose/duck liver, it might be a bit similar to chicken liver, but maybe better in flavor and texture. Probably because my expectations were too high, I was a bit disappointed in the flavor. The Foie Gras tasted gamey,  however it goes really well with the morel's cream, I was not impressed with the flavor of it.
This was paired with the Bordeaux Sauternes Chateau Laribotte 2008.
However I should know that Sauternes are known as sweet, but still it surprised me with its sweetness. For me, a bit too sweet. One of my fellow diners mentioned that it tasted like honey wine, so you can imagine how sweet this is.

Then came the fish main course:
pave of blue fin tuna, lemon grass emulsion served with small glazed vegetable.

My piece of tuna was a bit overcooked to my taste, but I can see that they made every piece medium-well. For this nice piece of tuna, I'd prefer a medium-rare to medium which will give a nicer texture to the end product.

To cleanse our palate and as an aperitif and digestive, we were served:
Trou Normand - apple sorbet with Calvados
I've had sorbets before, so I expected something cold, lemon-y and was surely surprised by the alcohol. Calvados is an apple brandy. This creation is with pieces of apple in it, but the alcohol level really surprised me!! It's really strong and I only sipped a bit. At this point, my belly was already full and we were only half way through.

Next, we were served the meat main course:
Rack of lamb with gingerbread crust, hazelnut mousseline celery & mustard crusty

I was a bit afraid that the lamb is gamey as most lamb meat I've experienced, but this one is so flavorful, so juicy and the crust makes it a bit sweet, and gives it a nice crunch. It's the best rack of lamb I've tasted till now! Was not really fond of the hazelnut mousseline. I still am not sure which spice it is, but it was way too overwhelming.

As the 6th course, we could choose from the assortment of French cheeses:
Camembert de Normandie, Chabichou du Poitou, Époisse de Bourgogne, Roquefort de'l Aveyron, Comté de Franche Comté

It's for the first time I see cheese be eaten as a course of the dinner. For a second, I thought we were already having breakfast. It was so extensive. There was marmalade, honey, different kind of nuts, raisins and it's really a different way to enjoy cheese. I'm used to using cheese as topping or with bread, but not as a stand alone item.

And last but not least:
Praline dessert with black chocolate & raspberries

It is very unfortunate that the dessert always comes as the last course. My belly was already so full that I can only eat half of it. The creation is so rich, so chocolate-y. The sour from the raspberries breaks the sweet of the chocolate, and the soft texture of the praline combined with the crispiness of the cornflake pieces makes this a marvelous finish of the meal!!

After this, we were invited for the award ceremony to the stakeholders of this event, the chefs (students) and their teachers.

As a summary to this event, this is my opinion:

Compliments to the chefs:
- great combination of textures
- well balanced flavor combinations

Improve possibilities:
- smaller portions. We were all served full portions. Based on a 3-course dinner, it would be perfectly fine, but for a 7-course dinner I believe that the portions can be way smaller.
- start earlier. We started at 7:30 (aperitif) and ended around 12:30 (included the award ceremony), so about 5 hours. At the end only a handful guests stayed, which is a pity to the chefs. The other guests did not see the creators of their meals.

However it was a lengthy dinner, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
It was a wonderful evening! The twinkling stars in the clear sky reflects on the water of the swimming pool, a light breeze was blowing and music that makes you believe that you're in a French-Latin country, enjoying great food with great people!!!

* Please also check my latest addition The Taster-page on Facebook here about this event*

Saturday, February 21, 2015

New culinary team in action!

In my last blog, I already presented the new team and of course everybody is very excited and curious how good they are. Those who went to the first fundraising dinner, already put their comments. Those of you who didn't, can read it here and come to one of the following fundraising dinners. For the exact dates, please check it in this post here.

So.. for the first time the chefs come together, the first time they really have to do it on their own. As the coach said during the interview; he gave them the space to do their thing and he'll observe what needs to be fine-tuned.

Even though I'm involved in the team, I'll try to be as objective as can be. Next to that, I'll also add several comments given by guests, so that it'll be as true as can be.

The menu for the night:

Cocktail: Amazon Special 

All guests are welcomed with the cocktail prepared by the bartender David Deul.
There was an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic option.

I got the privilege to try both.
Personally I'm not that fond of the non-alcoholic one. The spinach flavor is a bit overwhelming and even though the juice does cover-up the flavor a bit, but I don't like the after taste.
The alcoholic version was way better. A bit on the sweet side for me. It looks nice with the pink in it, but the parts of the pineapple crown were used as a stirrer and it's hazardous with that in the glass. And for me, I didn't taste any alcohol in it.

Guest's input: 1.very sweet and not-chilled enough, alcohol 'kick', 3.traditional flavors nothing new

The surprise: amuse

The smokiness of the Bang Bang and the sweetness of the onions makes a great combination. For some guests, they find the piece of bang bang a bit too big.

The appetizer

For me, the soup is missing some depth in flavor and texture, the passion fruit seeds were a bit annoying to eat.

Guest's input: 1. salad difficult to eat, but the flavor was good. the salad 3.a bit boring presentation, garnishing can be better.

The entrée
The beef was heavenly delicious!! Juicy and every bite was filled with flavor. The peanuts used are a bit too big in size and my piece of fish was overcooked.

Guest's input: 1.Fish was delicious, garnish can be better and a bit chaotic on the plate.2. great flavors, really compliment each other. Be more consistent in plating. Garnish leaf unnecessary unless it contributes to the flavor.3. too much food on the plate. fish was really good


The Java-Appel (Pommerak) foam and confit is the best thing of the fundraising dinner!!! Soursop cheesecake is smoother than traditional cheesecake, tasted differently and for me, the cantaloupe garnish was a bit off.

Guest's input:1. delicious 2. delicious but too much. combination was outstanding 3.cheesecake top! soursop good. Java-Appel mousse amazing!

Overall, the team is still a diamond in the rough. Their plating skills and portioning still needs some polishing, but as we've tasted: they have enough skills and a stable base to work on. The next fundraising dinner is on February, 24!! 4 more days to make your reservations if you haven't yet!

* All images are captured by IN and provided by The Suriname Culinary Team*

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Meet the Suriname Culinary Team 2015!

Last April they won their competitors to make it to the team. In the months after that, they supported the Suriname Culinary Team 2014 in their fundraising dinners and also showed some of their skills during the last Moksi Alesi Strey and the DSB anniversary celebration. But in case you missed them... no's time for the fundraising dinners again!

In short:
Why: To gain funds and experience for the Taste of the Caribbean Competition
Who: The Suriname Culinary Team 2015
When*: The first one starts at 2 February
Where*: The first one will be held at Spice Quest

*The date is already fixed, but the location will be a different one every time. This is not only to promote different venues, let guests have a different setting every time, but also have a different cooking site for the chefs. It's important for them to get used to different working environments, so that they'll be prepared for whatever space they might get.

So....let's meet the team!!!

 Team Coach: Jethro Wirht
    Employer: D-Chefs private catering
    Current position: Food Consultant
    Greatest culinary achievement: Gold Medalist -Chef of the Year 2014 (Taste of the Caribbean)
                                                   His own cookbook

 Bartender: David 'Cheftender' Deul
    Employer: 22 Yards
    Current position: Mixologist
    Greatest culinary achievement: Bartender of the year 2014

Chef #1: Lorenzo Harper
    Employer: Torarica
    Current position: Senior Cook
    Greatest culinary achievement: Winner Moksi Alesi Strey 2013

Chef #2: Benedict Cataggatan
    Employer: Spice Quest
    Current position: Chef
    Greatest culinary achievement: 1st runner up SCA national competition

Chef #3: Gilbert Wirjomoenawi
     Employer: Paranam Country Club
    Current position: Head Chef
    Greatest culinary achievement: Best Graduate of SHTTC Culinary 2013/2014

Junior Chef: Algeray Ravenberg
    Employer: Hotel Krasnapolsky
    Current position: Junior Chef
    Greatest culinary achievement: Bronze Medalist -Junior Chef of the Year 2014 
            (Taste of the Caribbean)

Pastry Chef: Xaviera Mijnhijmer
    Employer: Hotel Krasnapolsky
    Current position: Pastry Chef
    Greatest culinary achievement: Winning Pastry Chef of SCA national competition

This team will be supported by Cindy Nuboer (Team Ambassador) and Damei Shen (Team Coordinator). This project is an initiative of the Suriname Chefs Association, who is giving their utmost to elevate the culinary standards in Suriname.

It's a  team filled with enthusiastic culinary artists, who can't wait to improve their skills and prove their worth at the Taste of the Caribbean competition. Like their Facebook page and receive the latest updates of their progress.

Want to show your support?

If you want to make a donation, it can be either financial or material, please contact:
Amy MacDonald 597 8550077

Or you can support them by joining one of the fundraising dinners. The dates are:

Monday 2 February
Tuesday 24 February
Monday 9 March
Monday 30 March
Monday 13 April
Tuesday 28 April
Monday 11 May
Tuesday 26 May
Tuesday 9 June

To make sure of a seat for one of those days, make reservations ahead.
Mail your name and phone number and how many seats you'd like to reserve to

See what they can do and experience their growth with every fundraising dinner towards the Taste of the Caribbean competition!

** All images contributed by Suriname Chefs Association**

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Moksi Alesi Strey...Third time's a charm!

First of all, my apologies for the tardiness of this blog. It is really way overdue.

It's for the 3rd year that SCA (Suriname Chef's Association) has organized Moksi Alesi Strey. And once again I had the honor to be part of the tasting committee. When I arrived at the scene around 11:30, I immediately see and feel the difference. It looks a bit busier(however mostly set-up crew), but there lies a certain excitement in the air. Most tents were already pretty busy preparing and setting up or decorating their stand.

Some of the nice additions are the stand of TOK and Soeng Ngie. TOK came with their own farm-themed promo girls and I heard their group had the best team spirit. And Soeng Ngie,....they always seem to stand out. With their SRD 5,- meals or maybe it's the yellow color and it surely is because Mr. Micle Fung himself is a great promoter, they attract many people to their stand.

What makes this year more fun are the extra's. There was a Harley Davidson showcase, a Zundapp showcase and Classic Cars showcase (which had only 3 cars though) with other entertainment to keep the visitors entertained.

As part of the tasting team, we were not allowed to be outside where the participants were busy preparing their creation. But it's unavoidable while walking to the location, I have caught some sneak peeks. So, I actually have some idea who participated, but I don't have the whole list. I actually only know the top 3 and I've seen the best decorated stand. They really stood out with their green-decorated stand with nice centerpieces. However I'm not responsible for that part, but I was kinda rooting for them to win the 'best decorated stand' part.

This year, the table for the tasting judges was prepared professionally. A nice decorated table with glasses and jugs of water. The only thing that was still missing was the plates.

This year the participants were fairly on time. One after one the creations came in and we were trying our best effort to distinguish the best out of 8.

The first one that came in was number 1.

The portion size looked like one for a kid. Not many effort on garnishing the plate or making it more appealing.  It really looked like a plate at home that I scooped out of the pan myself. Not all beans were cooked thoroughly. When it comes to flavor, it has one that you'd expect. Nothing impressive.

The second was number 5.
They send in two creations: one with bulgur and one with mackerel.

The presentation of this one is superb. The plating, the colors used, it makes it appealing to watch. But they should probably think it through for the next time. However people believe Chinese eat rice with chopsticks, but that's mostly out of a bowl. Out of a plate, it's not that efficient. Still, the colorful wrapped chopsticks gave color to the creations.

We had to choose between the best out of the two creations. Since the rice tasted burned and undercooked, we chose to judge the bulgur version. However that one is also just between undercooked and done. Or maybe that's how bulgur should taste like? The taste was ok, but we were actually discussing that if you had to sell a portion of the mackerel moksi alesi, how much should you charge? Such a big piece will be quite expensive.

The third that came in was number 4.
The presentation was a bit funny. It looked as if they took half the portion and that was how they wanted to present it. At the first bite it gives you a feeling that they burned the rice heavily. After analyzing it all, it appears to be charcoal cooking. It has a smoky flavor. The pieces of chicken in it were too big. If they're gonna mix it in the rice, the pieces should be smaller and if they wanted to put big pieces of meat, they should've just put it on the side. They used eggplant as their ingredient, which was a bit hard to find in the rice.

The fourth came in was number 3.
This gave it some thought about presenting their plate.
Unfortunately this was a moksi alesi competition, because if it was fish competition, they'd have won. As I've mentioned so often, I'm not so fond of fish. But this was really wonderful!! The fish was still crispy, a bit sweet and sour flavor, not too greasy as normally fried fish would be. Their rice was too soft, but flavor was ok.

The fifth came in was number 6.
They presented their moksi alesi in a hollowed small pineapple, which looks presentable.
And if I see a creation in a hollowed pineapple, I'd expect the pineapple to be one of the used ingredients. But we couldn't detect it anywhere. It tasted ok, but nothing impressive.

The sixth came in was number 8.
The presentation gave me a feeling I was at someone's house party. Maybe it's the plate or the plastic wrapped utensils or the plastic wrapped creation, that was what I first thought about when I saw that. And there was even a mint for after the meal.

This one came with 3 types of sambal (def: hot relish made with fruit or veggie): smoked fish, liver and shrimp. That tasted sooo good!! Unfortunately for their undercooked, burned rice and lack of flavor. Maybe the idea was that you eat the tasteless rice with the sambal, so that every bite has a different flavor? But nobody likes undercooked AND burned rice.

The seventh was number 7.
The presentation of the dish was full of lettuce. It made it look like a moksi alesi salad. The fish fritter tasted good, but here the rice was also undercooked and burned.

The final dish coming in was number 2.
\The presentation was simple, but presentable. What surprised me the most is how good the beansprout (tjapar) was in the moksi alesi. It gave the dish a certain crisp to the overall texture. It tasted quite good, however it looked so blend.

my fellow tasting judges
The scores of both the floor judges and the taste judges combined gave the following winners:

1. number 5 creation-> Thuksa
2. number 2 creation-> Kirpalani
3. number 6 creation -> The Next Gen

The best decorated stand was also The Next Gen, as I hoped it would.

Overall, the creations were ok, but none of them really impressed me. However two of those participants did show some creativity of adding eggplant and beansprout, but why not make one with bitter tomato mixed in it? or all the veggies instead of on the side mixed in the rice. Maybe I'm getting more demanding, but I think I really want to be impressed!! A dish that makes me only close my eyes and already can taste the flavor and can't wait to harass the participant to make it again...