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The title is a bit of a misnomer, but I promise that there is pig in this story.  And ice cream.

Taiwan can be hot and steamy, so what could be more refreshing than cold, cool, refreshing ice cream? At Snow King, they offer just that.  If you look at the rather bad photo, you can see a whole range of flavours – and what flavours!  Sesame oil chicken, beef, pig knuckle — not exactly the flavors to expect at an ice cream shop, let alone one that’s been in business since 1947.

Yet these are a few of the long-standing choices on the menu at Snow King, located near Zhongshan Hall in Ximending. The shop serves more than 70 flavours of fresh homemade ice cream (priced between NT$60 and NT$120 per scoop), which range from the classic to the bizarre.

The regulars come for the house specialties, red bean and watermelon, while the tourists, mainly from Japan and Hong Kong, often go for the exotic flavours: the Japanese prefer lychee and peach; Hong Kongers like curry and wasabi.

The unusual flavors are a source of pride for Snow King. All of the shop’s recipes, now a family secret, were conceived by the founder, grandfather, Kao Jih-hsing, who founded the business on savings from selling ice cream on the streets of Taipei.

If you’re interested in trying many flavors at once, bring a group of friends. Each flavour of ice cream is sold only by the scoop. However, while it’s fairly common to see groups order as many strange items as they can and share them, shop proprietor Kao Ching-feng says that, ideally, each ice cream should be savored individually for its pure taste.

ADDRESS: 65, Wuchang St Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市武昌街一段65號)

TELEPHONE: (02) 2331-8415

OPENING HOURS:Daily from noon to 10pm

PRICES: NT$60 to NT$120 per scoop

How to get there: Snow King is near the corner of Wuchang Street (武昌街) and Yanping South Road (延平南路). If traveling by MRT, get off at Ximen MRT Station (西門捷運站), Exit 5, walk north, and turn right on Wuchang Street.

 

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Last night, I was contemplating my first day in Taipei.

It’s an amazing city, probably even more so if you can speak/ read Taiwanese or Mandarin, but being able to say hello and use sign language coupled with a big smile goes a long way.

A great way to see some of the amazing food on offer is to explore one of the food courts that are located in the basements of most of the shopping malls – especially when you’re a new visitor and don’t speak the language.

Having managed to get around a few yesterday, one thing is painfully obvious: the Taiwanese have a sweet tooth. Cakes, donuts, icecream..they love them all.

Mister Donut

Originally from America (where the brand was mostly amalgamated with Dunkin Donuts), the Asian version is owned by a joint venture between Taiwan’s Uni-President Enterprises Corp and Japan’s Duskin Co, owners of the Starbucks and 7-11 franchises. However, they’ve made every effort to appeal to Asian tastes, with unique flavours, and packaging that ticks the very Japanese ‘Cutism’ trend.

Offering both sweet and savoury donuts, flavours include Green tea, Red bean and Peanut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAC

Short for Black As Chocolate, this is a small chain specialising in rich chocolate based cakes as well as chocolate truffles and iced cocoa to enjoy on the premises. Set up by Stella, a well known Singer/Actress/ Model from the Chinese speaking world, they specialise in indulgent gifts via either mail order or to take away, which are divided into Tease, Rush, or Overkill, based on the amount of chocolate used.

 

 

 

 

FuJi-San Ice Cream

I haven’t been able to find a suitable image to illustrate them (I’ll try and take a picture tomorrow), and their website appears to be down, which would suggest that they may not be hanging around for much longer, but if you imagine what looks like slices of Arctic Roll on a stick minus the sponge, and you have the idea.

Except in this case, the roll bit is another ice cream flavour, so you have interesting combos, such as peanut and vanilla.

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A brand on the cutting edge of the premium cordials market, Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Liqueurs are made from sustainably farmed, all natural ingredients that are USDA certified organic .

The brainchild of Dave Racicot, a former vice president of marketing for Campari and SKYY Spirits in the USA, Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Liqueurs are a line of eight flavours: cucumber, elderflower, apple spice ginger, pomegranate, tres chili, dark chocolate, chipotle and blueberry.

The liqueurs are ackaged in lightweight, recyclable glass bottles and the labels are made from recycled materials.

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A bright idea

Taste Lab has partnered with In Square Lab to bring a new light installation into the space at Harvey Nichols.

The team, led by Jackson Tan, created a flexible plug in ceiling installation that will transform correspondingly with the pop up space underneath.

Made up of hundreds of glass test tubes, the installation can cast a coloured glow according to the filter applied and is designed to show off food to its best advantage.

Light installation at Taste Lab. Photographed by Tom Mallion

Lighting food presents unique challenges unlike other domestic situations, since you generally eat with your eyes first. When you simply turn up the lights in order to display fresh foods to best advantage, commonly used commercial lamps are often too bright and produce washed out colours by emphasizing strong yellow and green portions of the visible spectrum.  They also do not display white or red colours accurately.

Store lighting often causes surface fading of cured and processed deli meats such as ham, bacon, salami, pastrami, and pepperoni. Deli ham exposed to merchandiser lighting can become faded, while those protected from the light remain bright pink. Sliced cheese and fresh salads exposed to light are especially susceptible to drying and fading and quickly lose their appeal sitting in the display case.

So how do retailers get around this problem?

The answer is through using specialist lighting companies, such as Promolux or Baro.

Promolux lights are balanced spectrum low radiation merchandising lights designed to showcase merchandise in the most appealing light. They use a proprietary blend of phosphors and coatings, designed to reduce the damaging effects of lighting upon perishable food displays.  The results? Well see for yourself. Images are from Promolux, and no, they’re not clients:)

Fresh fruit under normal fluorescent lighting

Fresh fruit under Promolux lighting

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Following on from our visit to Klong Klone, we drove on to visit the vineyards of Hua Hin.

Hua Hin Vineyard

Hua Hin is the favoured resort town of Bangkok, being only 3 hours drive from the city centre. The town is also known for its pineapples, and as we drove to the winery, we passed acres and acres of the crop.

I hadn’t realised Thailand produced and exported wine, but Prauchuab Kiri Khan province is on the same latitude as some of the world’s newest wine producing areas, including China, Brazil and India, and as such, they are called New Latitude Wines.

For years, in wine terms, two bands existed around the globe, roughly between latitudes 30 and 50, to denote those parts of it deemed suitable for viticulture.  However all this is changing:  advances in refrigeration and irrigation techniques, not to mention much greater control over how and when vines grow, have opened up the possibilities for viticulture.

Hua Hin Hills Vineyard benefits from a Mediterranean-like breeze and produces a range of wines for the export and

The Sala housing the bistro and wine tasting area

domestic market.

At the beautiful and majestic Sala, designed by Sylvia Soh, we not only enjoyed a fine dinner, but also a tutored wine tasting of Monsoon Valley wines.

Premium Monsoon Valley wines on tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the wines tasted were from their premium range.  My personal favourite was their 2010 Muscat.  Served ice cold and a salmon pink colour, it was smooth and velvety, with hints of rose and cherry blossom.

 

 

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Easy as pie?

I’ve been thinking of pie this morning. Not least, because I have just made my own lemon meringue pie.

I’ve had a slight obsession with lemon meringue ever since I watched Toast at Christmas.  I mean, when the pie looked like this, you would wouldn’t you?

Sadly, my own version didn’t look as glorious – mainly down to the egg white either being over beaten or tiny bit of egg yolk slipping in unseen.  However, it did get me thinking about pies, both sweet and savoury.

In my mind, I tend to think of savoury pies as being very British: we have a long tradition of pie making, and there are some very good producers, such as Essex Larders, Metfield Bakery and Bentley’s.

My current favourite is Bray’s Cottage. Produced by Nell Montgomery and Sarah Pettegree in Norfolk, their pies are made with Saddle Back pork using the sort of meat that would normally be used for joints and chops.  Bacon is added for depth of flavour, while onion marmalade and seasoning finally results in the perfect pork pie.

On the flip side, when I think of sweet pies, I generally tend to think of America. They do appear to have claimed Apple Pie as their own, and there seems to no end to the variations and recipes available if you travel from state to state.

All this got me thinking. Are we due a surge in pie popularity? In uncertain times, people turn to comforting and familiar foods, so the pie, both in its sweet and savoury forms are surely due for some proper recognition.

At Hill Country Chicken, a new homestyle restaurant on the corner of Broadway and 25th St. in New York, the pies come in three sizes and a dozen flavours.

Pies of note include Cowboy Pie, a chunky filling of dark chocolate, pecans, coconut and butterscotch in a graham cracker crust, and classics such as banana cream, coconut cream and double cherry.

Of course, this being America, they do have to have something unusual, hence the ‘Pie Shake’.  Made with half a mini-pie blended with three scoops of vanilla ice cream and a splash of milk.

There’s also a daily “pie happy hour” from 4 to 6 p.m., during which pie slices come with free cups of coffee, and second slices are half price.

Contrast this with the UK where Sweeney & Todd has been a Reading institution for years. I remember going to enjoy their huge choice of pies when I was a student.  It’s very comforting to know that their choice of homemade pies, including York Ham and Stilton, Steak and Oyster and Vicar’s Pie are still available alongside a choice of real ales.

For those of you who do want to pay a visit, their details are:

Sweeney and Todd

10 Castle St

Reading, RG1 7RD

0118 958 6466

 

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For every big brand, multi national corporation that is in the press for pollution, bullying small producers or just having a monopoly, a flurry of projects that help local communities, the environment or a specific cause are rising up to balance things out.

Some have been around for a little while, such as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation, while others, such as  Arthur Potts Dawson’s The People’s Supermarket are relatively new.

What’s interesting is the ways that companies are trying to help.

Community Grains offers a small but growing variety of whole grain flours and heirloom Italian polentas (including Floriani Red Flint Corn,  Otto File (eight row) Corn and Yellow Dent Corn) .

All their grains are 100% grown and milled in California.  They offer all ‘whole grain products (distinct from “whole wheat’) ‘which includes the grain in its entirety, and offer flour with great texture, performance and flavour characteristics, challenging common assumptions about whole grain food.

Their aim is to create alternative links for a new, smaller-scale local structure where farmers, seedsmen, millers, bakers and cooks can talk to one another, and where consumers will know more about origins and milling.  The ultimate aim is to help rebuild a local grain economy.

Project 7 is a very simple idea: you do good as you buy coffee. 

Each of their seven coffees is attached to a specific cause and provides funding for worthy non-profits. These funds are put toward specific activities that make a difference:

French Roast (Heal the Sick) provides monthly malaria treatments for the sick.

Nicaragua Hacienda (Feed the Hungry)provides monthly meals for those in need.

Peaks of Peru (Teach Them Well) provides schooling for a week for a child in Africa.

Blend 7 (Quench the Thirsty) provides clean water for those in need.

Breakfast Blend (Save the Earth) plants fruit trees.

House Blend (House the Homeless) provides shelter, food, education & healthcare for a day for an orphan.

Hills of Guatemala (Hope for Peace) provides counselling for children of war torn countries.

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