Cannes You Taste It?

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity that celebrates the most amazing marketing campaigns from around the globe. As part of a Ketchum creative crew sent to soak it all in and report back the best creative morsels to colleagues and clients, I traveled to France hungry for some new inspiration.

What I actually found was that some of the most beautiful examples of creativity were not formally competing. Instead, they were found in the window displays and on the dessert menus of the best the French Riviera had to offer. Here are my top three favorite purveyors of works of edible art that I was lucky enough to experience:

Chocolate treasure boxes, Jean Luc Pele.

Stop #1 – Jean Luc Pele, a local chocolatier, designs the most beautiful chocolate creations I have ever seen. From the treasure chests filled with tiny delicacies to the macaron towers constructed with every flavor in the rainbow to the flowing chocolate fountain wall, there is no way a passer-by could resist. Each day, I allowed myself two macarons, coercing myself to choose one from their sweet collection and one from the salted collection. Caramel with sea salt is all you need to know, period. Check out the gorgeous menu items at http://www.jeanlucpele.com/fr. [Read more…]

Eating My Way Through Asia: The Photos

Recently, I was lucky enough to travel to Asia on behalf of Ketchum, both as a global scholar and as a trainer of our planning process, RISC.  In a whirlwind of a month, I went through Singapore, Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. When people ask about the experience, I point to the photos, which are mostly of food, naturally. Food is important within all cultures but it takes new heights in Asia. There, food is a manifestation of your persona – your heritage, your hometown, your ability to provide for your family, your graciousness towards a guest in your care. In India alone, I was astounded at the nuances of completely different cuisine belonging to certain regions of India – never again will I order “Indian” and not question if it’s North Indian or Gujarati, to name just two of many.

Here, I take you through my top food experiences, as seen through a selection of my personal photos.

Conveyor Belt Sushi, Singapore
Conveyor Belt Sushi: Though this has certainly hit the US before as a novelty thing, the complete normalcy of this experience in a Singapore mall is what struck me. Why wouldn’t one endlessly grab new dishes off a fast moving belt? For variety-addicts like me, this was one exciting meal (and one that could’ve gone on forever).

[Read more…]

“I’ll have the calf’s head, please,” said my son.

There comes a time in every parent’s life, I suppose, when you see a glimpse of how you have helped shape an emerging adult. Such a moment happened to me last Wednesday night during a vacation with my twin teenage sons at a bistro in Paris. In celebration of some big milestones in my life, I decided a very special trip was in order. Ryan and Joe accompanied me to London and Paris, so I could have the extreme pleasure of expanding their horizons, while treating myself at the same time. A perfect combination.

Springtime in Paris.

Springtime in Paris.

[Read more…]

What gives you comfort during a cold Russian winter? The bliny!

A 12-inch high pile of plain, simple, lighter-than-air pancakes, with a little piece of creamy butter melting on top, making you fantasize about all kind of fillings you could wrap it around like a Mexican tortilla – that’s a classical form of bliny (by the way, “bliny” is correct plural from “blin”) in Russian culture.

A stack of light-as-air bliny. Source: Vadim Trablin, Russian food blogger (http://trablin.livejournal.com)

A stack of light-as-air bliny. Source: Vadim Trablin, Russian food blogger (http://trablin.livejournal.com)

Bliny is one of the ancient Slavic (Slavs are the Russians’ ancestors) ceremonial dishes that became an important part of Russian cuisine with the ritual of Maslenitsa – a week in the end of February when people say goodbye to the winter.

Source: Wikipedia.

“Winter Fun” by Fedot Sychkov. Source: Wikipedia.

By their form, classical Russian bliny differ from what many call “blinis” abroad, which are really finger-thick round and puffy pancakes. For that form Russians have another word – “oladyi.” Russian bliny pancakes are close to French crepes: thin, fragile and foldable.

There are as many recipes of bliny as there are comestible liquids in the kitchen. People use plain water, milk, kefir (fermented yoghurt-like milk), and even beer as the base for bliny. My favorite recipe is included in this @ppetite post, below.

Rolled bliny with raspberry sauce. Source: Vadim Trablin.

Rolled bliny with raspberry sauce. Source: Vadim Trablin.

Russian Bliny

2 eggs
2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar
2 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (600bg) water
1 1/3 cups (160 g) flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil

Beat  the eggs with sugar, till sugar dissolves completely. Add water; stir. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, then add to the liquid base. Stir clockwise till the mixture becomes homogenous. Let mixture rest for an hour. Add the oil, stir clockwise. Bake the bliny on a 22-24 cm pan (the best proportion of bliny batter for that pan is about a half of a soup ladle). Cook batter for one minute then flip and cook for one minute more. (Turning a blin can be tricky at first, but anyone can master it with practice.)

Pile them up to feed the whole family!

You can eat bliny with all kinds of traditional Russian fillings/toppings: sour cream, honey, chopped fried meat and/ormushrooms, salted salmon eggs, any kind of jam and sooo many other salty/sugary imaginable combinations.

Be creative and have fun!

Going Green in Frankfurt

One of the most delightful surprises of my recent trip to Europe was the city of Frankfurt, a crossroads of culture, architecture and amazing food.

Schriber-Heynes Proletariat, Frankfurt

Schriber-Heynes Proletariat, Frankfurt

Natalie Haut, my host from Ketchum’s Frankfurt office, treated me to the incomparable experience of eating at one of Frankfurt’s famed apfelwein (apple wine) restaurants, Schreiber-Heynes Proletariat. We sat at a long, scarred wooden table, which probably dated back to the 1870s when the restaurant first opened, and had jugs of apfelwein with delicious, coarse German bread.

[Read more…]

Dining in Sochi? An Insider’s Advice on Five-Ring Restaurants.

It took Sochi just a little more than five intense years to turn from a post-Soviet seaside resort with a rather confined local cuisine into a world-class fusion gourmet spot. The Olympic dream fueled the transition, motivating restaurateurs to showcase the bounty of the region and experiment with local Caucasian herbs and spices in the Olympic mode of mixing cultures in a positive environment. For years the Greater Sochi area has been a melting pot of cultures and nationalities blending Greeks,  Armenians, Abkhaz, and Georgians. In the spirit of the winter Games, the chefs have added an Alpine flair to their cuisine. As a result, Sochi’s restaurant scene is hot enough to attract every athlete, coach, fan, or loving mom who came to Sochi to see her child win a medal against all odds.

Sanki Sliding Center, Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi. Source: Reuters Fabrizio

Sanki Sliding Center, Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi. Source: Reuters Fabrizio

In the last seven years Sochi went through a major urban transformation. And right now it is a welcoming Olympic hub. From the local market to the cozy tavern, one can just taste it. Here Olympic Rings might well compete with Michelin Stars. As a proud Russian, I share with you the following list of some of the hottest Sochi dining hot spots.

[Read more…]

Dakar, Senegal’s First Restaurant Week Is Worth Checking Out

Restaurant weeks have been a part of foodie culture for as long as anyone can remember. Even so, these highly anticipated annual events are generally only thought of as something that happens in the world’s more well-known food-centric cities: New York, London, San Francisco, Paris…

The truth is, there are food lovers everywhere. Afua Hirsch wrote for The Guardian about foodies in Ghana, and this week, Senegal joined the ranks of foodie cities with the first ever Dakar Restaurant Week.

Dakar Restaurant Week founders Shruti Dhanda (l) and Diarra Gueye, hard at work

Dakar Restaurant Week founders Shruti Dhanda (l) and Diarra Gueye, hard at work

Dakar Restaurant Week (DRW) founders Shruti and Diarra met during college in Minnesota, but they couldn’t have come from more diverse backgrounds. Diarra, Senegalese by birth, moved to Norway as a teenager to attend school, and Shruti is originally from India, but grew up in the Philippines. They both quit their high-flying jobs in Los Angeles and New York to follow what makes them truly happy, and much of their joy is centered around food. For Diarra, Senegalese culture is all about eating out and dressing up. “You’ll go broke,” she says, “but it’s our culture.” At the same time, Senegalese people have reservations about eating out. “Saying that you’re going to a restaurant is like saying that you’re taking a trip to Vegas. It’s seen as something that’s for the very rich,” Shruti explains, adding that DRW is a way of showing that food at high-quality restaurants is accessible for Dakar’s middle class. [Read more…]

The Country of Bread

In Germany people are particularly proud of their bread. It is not just food – it’s a part of the German culture. With over 300 different types, the range of bread made in my country leaves nothing to be desired. We have rye bread, spelt bread, wheat bread, black bread, whole wheat bread, mixed bread, potato bread, raisin bread, and don’t forget good old Pumpernickel. No other country produces more varieties of bread than Germany. What makes German bread unique is mainly its distinct whole grain composition. It’s typically coarse and unrefined and serves as a source of nutrition for most of the day. When I eat its crusty outside and fluffy inside it definitely gives me a reason to be proud.

German Bread

Photo Credit: manufactum.de

[Read more…]

Brussels Cuisine has lots to Offer

If you think about Belgian food, chocolate and beer may instantly come to mind. While the country does excel at making the finest of these goods, don’t limit yourself when coming to Brussels.

dyn004_original_432_288_pjpeg_2603938_1f01f9b276e0f6b2b9c277375c49457bOriginal Brussels cuisine is known for large portions and a strong Flemish footprint. The “stoemp,” for example, derives from the old Brabant Flemish dialect and means “smashed potato,” mixed with vegetables, often carrots. It’s served with sausage and I highly recommend savoring it with Gueuze beer, a traditional, slightly bitter beer from Brussels. A good place for this experience is the brasserie Platesteen.

[Read more…]

Mushrooms Do Not Come In Blue Boxes: Reflections from Cooking School in Italy

This past spring, my very insistent Aunt Barbara somehow convinced me to buy a Groupon to go to cooking school in Abruzzo, Italy.  Who does that??  Well, we did…and it was a trip of a lifetime.  For one warm, whirlwind week in August, we were treated like family – not guests – at Palazzo Tour D’Eau in Carunchio, and my taste buds will never be the same.

ItalyA four-hour drive from Rome, Abruzzo is a beautiful, mountainous region near the Adriatic Sea, where things are still done “the old way” and no one is rushing to modernize.

Each day of our eating extravaganza consisted of one part cooking, one part exploring and one part recovering from our delicious meals.  Our field trips included everything from a visit to the local salume maker to truffle hunting with dogs to a private tour of a local cheese factory.  A few of my daily highlights:

[Read more…]