Singapore Takeout (New York): Feeding the Homesick

Calvin Trillin once wrote of Singaporeans: “Culinarily, they are among the most homesick people I have ever met.”

Truer words have rarely been said. Thankfully for us homesick transplants, however, the Singapore Tourism Board has been on a publicity rampage recently, ever determined to spread the gospel of our extraordinary cuisine.

And so it was that I found myself in the heart of New York City’s fashionable Meatpacking District on Friday, soaking in the heady smells of a creamy spicy laksa brewing, trying to quell my palpitations. Before us was a shipping container, a portable kitchen that the tourism board designed to travel the world, hitting nine cities starting with London in June and ending with Sydney in March 2012.

Starring in New York’s “Singapore Takeout” was chef Malcolm Lee, who helms Singapore’s Candlenut Kitchen, a restaurant that serves traditional Peranakan food, a Straits Chinese cuisine that combines flavors from the Straits of Malaya and China.

Chef Lee will be serving up Singaporean food in New York Sept. 17 and 18 from noon to 3 p.m. and I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview before the public gets to have its first bite …

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Vino Rosina: The New Italian On The Block


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Years ago, I found myself creeping along the quiet streets of a swath near Baltimore's Little Italy, squinting through the darkness as I tried to find Charleston, a restaurant that had been highly recommended.

Even though this roughly eight-block area was flanked by the perennially packed and fratty Fells Point on one side and the touristy Inner Harbor on the other at the time, its streets were still largely undeveloped in the late 1990s. Charleston, a Southern-inflected French restaurant, was an early adopter in the neighborhood and once we'd located it, we were glad we went. The meal was phenomenal and it was thrilling to be at a place that felt like it was on the cusp of something larger.

The husband and I recently returned to Baltimore for a short visit and decided to trek to Charleston to take a look at the place where we'd had one of the first romantic dinners of our courtship. The restaurant, helmed by the talented Cindy Wolf in the kitchen, is still there and hopping but the area around it has since become unrecognizable. Now named Harbor East, the area has sprouted gleaming condiminium, office and hotel buildings and has become as packed with restaurants, cafes and bars as its nearby neighborhoods. (You can check out a piece I wrote for the New York Times Travel section this past weekend on Harbor East here.)

Amid the current hubbub, a new little place caught our eye: Vino Rosina, a modern Italian restaurant in the Bagby Furniture Company Building, a historic red-brick structure that used to be a factory. Outside on the street, we could hear laughter wafting out along with the intoxicating smells of oven-roasted meats. So of course, we decided to step in and give the place a whirl …

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Riverpark: American, With A View


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The first sign that the newest Tom Colicchio restaurant in New York City is going to be a little different pops up the moment we step out of the cab at 29th and First.

The desolate street is so brightly lit it feels like we've dropped into an oddly quiet lull in a tense Cold War movie. It is discombobulating, to be sure — especially when we spy a sentry eying us suspiciously. He points, indicating that we should just keep walking down the road. And soon enough, signs of life appear when another uniformed guard toddles out of a tall metal building. The man is frantic, waving his hands and saying over and over, "NO pictures allowed."

This is a science park, after all, and Alexandria Building, the structure we've been snapping, houses a host of biotech tenants such as ImClone, the subsidiary of pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly that handles cancer research. The tenseness and growing paranoia persist until you walk across the stark silver lobby and come upon the warm glow of a sign that says "Riverpark."

And that's when you start to feel relieved. You're in the right place after all. Your camera hasn't been ripped from your hands and stomped on. Scully and Mulder haven't appeared. (Not that Mulder would be an unwelcome presence.) You've not been grabbed, shoved into a black sedan and spirited away.

You step into the restaurant and quintessential Colicchio starts to take over…

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Colicchio & Sons: Super-Rich Locavore


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Unless you’ve been in deep hibernation, if you live in New York and have been known to consume food, you’ve probably noticed that Tom Colicchio opened a new restaurant in Manhattan last week.

The breathless chatter over Colicchio & Sons in the Meatpacking District has been inescapable since the “Top Chef” judge announced that he was turning his ailing Craftsteak space into a locavore joint with a comfort food bent. (The restaurant is an offshoot of Colicchio’s popular Tom: Tuesday Dinner, a weekly 32-seat event in which Tom himself put together a $150 to $200 meal made with of-the-season ingredients.)

Now, being a big lover of red meat — even if I wasn’t exactly a fan of the concept of Craftsteak’s $100 steaks — I’m always a little morose whenever a steakhouse shutters.

If its replacement is a worthy one, however, that’s another matter.

We decided to investigate …

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Cardamom, A Love Story


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I've had cardamom on the brain recently. And I blame Padma Lakshmi.

We weren't even talking about food–we were discussing jewelry for a Wall Street Journal fashion piece, for heaven's sake. 

But then the "Top Chef" host started describing a long gold chain that she liked that's flecked with little gold nubs. "Like cardamom pods," Padma explained.

I immediately began thinking about cardamom cookies and haven't stopped since.

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