My husband Sean and I recently had the enormous pleasure of a trip to Hong Kong and Malaysia and while my credit card will take a loooong time to recover and this old body was PUNISHED but jetlag on both legs, it was a culinary delight.

Hong Kong is just fabulous for food.

From the Michelin 3-star restaurants (R8000.00 for 2 people for a tasting menu without wine and still on the bucket list) to Cantonese street food, it is all yum. The thing is you need to know where to go. Because of the exorbitant cost of property (and just about everything else – think R100 for a good coffee at Coffee Academics), Hong Kong is full of high rises with floors and floors of shops, restaurants and spas.

One such delight is the L Place at 139 Queens Road, Central. We started the night at The Social Place. They serve modern Asian food and we ordered far too much of the most delicious dim sum, flower tea, springrolls, dragon beard kale and other Chinese treats. The food just kept arriving and we weren’t disappointed. A highlight was the “mushroom” dim sum. Delicate puffs of mushroom filled dim sum that looked exactly like – mushrooms!

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Up the lift to Ten Feet Tall for a foot massage to end the evening. Heaven.

We spent a few days enjoying The Star Ferry, Soho, Repulse Bay – where our good friends have a breathtaking apartment, a delightful seafront restaurant in Shek’O Beach (worth the drive), and visiting the Big Buddha. Just as we were settling in it was time for out trip to Malaysia.

We began in Kuala Lumpur, famous for the Petronas Towers (very impressive). We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental but asked to be taken to the very vibey Jalan Alor in the Bukit Bintang area – a street full of outdoor restaurants, markets, stalls and massage shops. We found the busiest restaurant (a very good tip – usually the food is excellent) and weren’t disappointed. As usual we ordered too much and ate delights such as Malay prawn curry, frogs (yip), spicy duck and the ubiquitous fried rice. As usual, we ate too much, and ended our night with a glorious food massage – the best we had on this trip and one of my favourite things about Asia.

The next morning saw us on an early flight to Langkawi, an island of Malaysia in the Andaman Sea. We stayed in a remote resort called The Andaman – lovely, quiet and relaxing, but not ideal if you like the bustle of nightlife as it was an expensive R500.00 round trip into Cenang Beach for a taste of local culture and shopping. We did this once and again picked the busiest restaurant for another delicious meal.

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On our last night we treated ourselves to an amazing Malay curry dinner at the fabulous Datai Hotel adjacent to The Andaman. One day when we’re big we will definitely stay there! Their traditional kampong-style Gulay House curry restaurant was wonderful – I ate the best naan bread I have ever eaten. I literally wanted to dive into the bowl and float on the thing! The curry was lovely, but I must say that curry in SA is totally comparable to Malay curry – I guess it is our Malay heritage.

We returned to Hong Kong for one more night and an R8000.00 dinner for 4 at Isola at the ICC! Good Italian but OMG – expensive. 1 starter to share, mains for all and a dessert to share with coffees. Oh, and 1 mingy bottle of wine. I have never been more pleased to take my pitiful rands back to SA and I will never complain about our prices again!

All in all a really special trip but my credit card will not be the same for a while.

Nik

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Canapés are enjoying a comeback at the moment. After a stage where they were left behind in menu design we are now embracing new ideas and flavours.

A good selection of canapés can really boost a run-of-the-mill function and add flair and creativity. So what makes a good selection? How can you arrange a menu that doesn’t let you down?

Be bold – but not crazy

Don’t settle for soggy, cold samoosas and store bought quiches. A good canapé should be quirky  enough and yet still familiar. We love taking old ideas and reworking them into new concepts. The trick is making it recognisable. We’ve played with some really interesting ideas but at the end of the day we’ve had to accept that a cocktail party needs good cocktail snacks – not a trip down the rabbit hole

Ideas we’ve tried which work include

Brie and fig springrolls

Baby beef wellingtons with horseradish cream

Mango and chicken wonton parcels

Mini fish tacos

Individual steak ‘sandwiches’ (see picture below)

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A new take on a classic steak sandwich

Speak to your crowd

When putting together a new menu one of the first things we ask is “Who is going to be there, and when is it?” This is vital. A very staid crowd won’t appreciate tofu and sriracha as the hipsters might. Early evening events with lots of alcohol will need meatier substantial options. When a crowd is very mixed (as with weddings) it is always better to stick to the tried and tested, done beautifully.

Individual beef wellingtons

Presentation is everything

Canapés look great on bigger platters. You don’t want to bunch them all together on a tiny plate. They need room to announce their presence. Garnish each one individually – even going as far to have them on individual mini-plates. This also works because guests can then pick one up and walk away, and not have to eat in one bite. Straight lines always look better – even on round platters. And arrange them all facing the same way to really push that wow factor.

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Big is not always better

Canapés are intended to be eaten quickly and with minimal fuss mostly to avoid awkward ‘taking a bite and having to answer a question’ moments. They shouldn’t require weird facial contortions to eat and should never need more than one hand – the other should be purely for drinks. Because they are usually eaten standing up messy items should be ditched. One or two bites, in the mouth and off we go.

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Always try to keep canapes bite size for ease when eating

What are your fail-safe canapé rules? If we hit the mark share this article on Facebook or Twitter.

Are any occasions more elegant than a proper high tea? We were asked to put together a menu for an 80th birthday celebration. It needed to be substantial and suitably festive and a high tea was suggested.

We LOVE a good tea party and this one was really fun.

The venue was a beautiful Westcliff house so we polished up the silver and brought out the cake stands. Roses dotted around the table brought it all together.

Everybody knows that the savouries are just as important as the cakes and we did piles of cucumber sandwiches, egg and cress rolls, smoked salmon quiches and blue cheese and onion tarts. For sweets we laid out cheesecakes, apple tarts, shortbread slices and good old jam scones.

Almost wish we could have stayed!

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2015 was a fantastic year for Johannesburg venues. If you were looking for somewhere quirky and exciting the options were many. 2016 seems to be going the same way. Here we’ve picked the front runners for a fantastic event.

1. The Park, House of Events on 7

The areas surrounding Hyde Park Corner were always missing a great event space – not any more! The Park, House of Events on 7 (The Park on 7) launched in October and has rapidly filled that gap. Located on the seventh floor of the super luxurious Hyde Park Corner it offers a unique experience. Close to shops, masses of parking, seriously high ceilings (it replaced the old Imax theatre) and insanely gorgeous bathrooms are just a few of the great features. The Park on 7 is a blank canvas, meaning you can make it suit your event, from a corporate function to an over the top wedding.

Check out their website,  Facebook page or email robb@theparkon7.com or leah@theparkon7.com for more information

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2. Level 3

 Blackjack Events are well know in Johannesburg as the best in function and event staffing and now they have a venue to match! Situated in the very trendy Kramerville, Sandton Level 3 has an upstairs open deck that wraps around the venue, giving incredible views of Johannesburg. Level 3 has capacity for up to 550 guests in a cocktail style event, but also offers sit down events. Another blank canvas venue, Level 3 also offers smoking balcony, a decked rooftop area and secure parking.  And as the hosts of the fantastic monthly Wine Not Pop Up Bar how can you not love them?

Contact them via their website , or email jessica@levelthree.co.za for more information

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3. Thirteen

Braamfontein already boasts a few great venues and now the Play Braamfontein team have joined with this really luxury offering. Promising an elegant experience, Thirteen sets a premium champagne and whisky bar with panoramic views of the inner city. But the highlight of this venue has to be the 385 sqm open air rooftop – unlike anything else in the inner city.

 

Have a look at Thirteen on Facebook and their website , or email bookings@thirteen.joburg for more information

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4. The Tin Factory

Back to Kramerville, and this is the newest of the bunch. The Tin Factory is an industrial styled venue, set in a double storied ‘shed’. Don’t let the term fool you though, because The Tin Factory is big! With really high ceilings and concrete clad flooring it definitely harks back to the industrial era of Kramerville. This spacious venue is perfect for a variety of event types and is really versatile in terms of decor and lighting.

The Tin Factory can be contacted via Facebook, website or email 

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5. Dakota Lee

If you’re looking for a truly unique venue look no further. Dakota Lee is a bar set inside a tattoo and piercing studio which is only part of the charm. They call themselves “A perfect infusion of Tattoo Culture and Rockabilly lifestyle” and the stylish, on-trend interior is just that. Dakota Lee invite themselves to launches and industry parties more than weddings, but whatever floats your boat. 

View more of Dakota Lee on Facebook, website or email: info@dakotalee.co.za

Dakota Lee

The year was 2006, and Fresh was still quite young. We had done a few editorials already and were approached for the Christmas edition. This is a shoot that still sticks in our minds. We loved being able to go a bit wild and show off some really special items. And we got the cover!!

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While some of it may have aged slightly we could still serve most of these today. We were so proud when we found this

Eclairs are now a huge trend and we called it in 2006!

We’re even thinking of updating them slightly and re-introducing them onto our menus.

Join us as we take a look back, and maybe you might find some inspiration for Christmas 2015?

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Recipe – Caviar Eclairs

Makes 16

25ml unsalted butter

75ml water

100ml cake flour – sifted

pinch of salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

90ml creme fraiche

40ml caviar

1. Preheat oven to 180°C

2. Make the choux pastry: melt the butter with the water in a small saucepan. Once melted bring the water to the boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the flour and salt. Return the mixtre to the heat and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it pulls away from the sides of the pan (about 4 minutes.) Cool slightly.

3. Add the egg to the dough and beat until you have a smooth and shiny mixture

4. Put the dough in a piping bag and pipe 5cm lengths onto a greased baking sheet.

5. Bake for 10 minutes.

6. Allow to cool before slicing a slit in each one.

5. Spoon in the creme fraiche and top with the caviar.

Cooks tips: 

  • For ready made choux pastries ask your nearest bakery to make them without the cream and chocolate
  • The caviar will ‘bleed’ into the creme fraiche so don’t add it until you are about to serve the eclairs.

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