I don’t think its possible that anyone who saw the horrific devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan could have failed to have been moved to do something to help. In the case of Chef Jess Barnes and his friend Mayan, this help took the form of a gala dinner with some of Bangkok’s best chefs manning the stoves with local food and wine suppliers donating the raw materials to ensure that 100% of the ticket sales would go to charity. As is apparent from the menus at many of the restaurants involved, sustainability was a key factor in deciding where this money should be funneled and they eventually settled on “Waves for Water” http://www.wavesforwater.org/ a charity initiative originally set up by surfers who, in their quest for the perfect wave, had seen firsthand the devastation caused by natural disasters such as the 2009 Padang earth quake and the 2010 destruction of Haiti.
They visited these areas and many more with portable water filtration systems to bring safe drinking water to regions whose access to one of the most basic of life’s necessities had been cut off. At present some 40,000 litres of bottled water is being sent daily to Leyte (Mayans home province in the Philippines) in order to sustain the population there, the money raised by the ticket sales alone at last night’s dinner will provide the people of Leyte with 3 water filtration systems, capable of sanitizing over a million gallons of water. Once all the final monies have been tallied from last nights silent auction there is the potential to send more units and even extend into other provinces badly affected by the Typhoon.
The gala dinner was held at the Hansar hotel http://www.hansarbangkok.com/ in Ratchadamri, a brand I was not previously familiar with but I was very impressed with the beautiful, contemporary use of space and whilst its sadly a little out of my budget, their second hotel in Samui http://www.hansarsamui.com/ has been named “The best luxury island resort hotel in Asia” by the 2013 World Luxury Hotel Awards.
The evening started with a prosecco and canapé reception with a silent auction featuring works of art including this stunning mother of pearl bowl with silver dragon detail (expected retail price 40,000thb or $1,500 sgd) In addition to the art there were a couple of beautiful panama hats and other lots such as a month unlimited Bikram yoga, dinner experiences at Opposite Mess Hall, Eat Me and Appia, vouchers for both the Hansar and Swissotel Nai Lert Park and a month long delivery of fruit and veg boxes from Raitong Organics.
I did try to take pictures of the canapés but they came out so badly even I thought it best not to use them! Created by Peter and Charles, we tried 24 hour wagyu beef short rib in red cabbage and little macaroons filled with foie gras and mango (tasty but a weird sensation as you didn’t expect them to be savoury!) as well as chunks of 3 day pork belly with pickled plum and mint and a little seaweed wafer with quick cured salmon and yuzu that was particularly delicious and left my mouth watering at the thought of the dinner ahead!
We made our way up to the 19th floor rooftop for the dinner which was beautifully decorated with Filippino inspired decorations – from the star lights to the local jasmine and little woven fans to keep ourselves cool and I was fortunate to be able to get a seat with the same people I had been talking with in the bar previously and some hardcore expat foodies who all made the evening even more enjoyable.
Our first course was by Nan and Jess:”Summer Vegetables, Jamon Crumb, Olive and Sorrel, Smoked Tomato Broth” Not only was it visually stunning but it was packed with flavour, from the fried courgette flower to the crunchy raw peas, radishes and young carrots everything was just so fresh and sipping the broth as you went added a whole new dimension to the dish. Like Summer on a plate, really really good! The matching wine was “Vision” from Frankland Estate, an Australian blend of riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay which was fruity and light and worked harmoniously with the smokiness from the broth – an interesting start!
The next course was actually 3 small dishes “Hamachi crudo with yuzu and smoked olive oil” and “Philippine sea urchin bruschetta topped with lardo and preserved lemon” which was served with a little pinch of black volcanic salt on the side. These were passed around the table “family style” and whilst the hamachi was a little strong for me I thought the sea urchin bruschetta was absolutely heavenly! The urchin was perfectly fresh and the salinity was contrasted really nicely by the lardo on top – truly delicious! After a short break to hear a speech from Luke, one of the organisers and the Philippine Ambassador we were served the final part of the course “Marinated crustaceans on broken faro and ndjua grits, salsarde and catalane chicory relish” The “grits” were lovely and creamy, much richer than the preceding dishes and there were a lot of interesting flavours involved. Our second wine was a Spanish blend of verdejo, viura and sauvignon blanc which cut through the richness of the dish and stood up nicely to the subtle spice of the ndjua.
Onto the main course – 3 dishes from Bo, Dylan and David Thompson (who I *may* have slightly fawned over when i met him afterwards – oh well – people like hearing how great they are right?) From Bo and Dylan we had “Northern Style Jackfruit Relish with Local Greens and Chiang Rai Pork Crackling” and “Grilled Red Curry of Royal Project Poultry wrapped in Banana Leaves” Of the two dishes, the Jackfruit relish was my favourite. It was absolutely delicious and I definitely had more than my fair share of it. I loved all the different fruits and vegetables it was served with and the spices used in the dish were really interesting. David Thomspon served us “Steamed Coral Trout with Yellow Beans, Ginger and Celery and Asian Pennywort Salad with Prawns and Pork” Whilst I am not usually keen on steamed fish this was also an outstanding dish, really clean flavours and the fish was beautifully succulent. The wine match for the main course was an Austrian Pinot Noir from Loimer (who also makes great white wines) which was light enough to compliment all of the dishes and still yet the spices shine through.
Dessert was by Haikal and Blair “Crisp Meringue, Szechuan Pepper, Fennel sorbet, Pineapple, Yoghurt and Kaffir Lime” I love fennel in desserts – I worked somewhere once where we served a very similar dessert to this and I really like the flavour combinations used, it was a very light and refreshing end to the meal which was perfect. The dessert wine was an Austrian Auslese Riesling which was a little too honeyed for my tastes but I am not a big fan of sweet wines in general, the other people at my table certainly seemed to enjoy it though.
From conception to execution, the whole process for the event took just 3 weeks and it is a real testament to the passion and determination of all involved that they were able to pull off such a great event in such a short period of time. 600,000 baht ($22,500 sgd) was raised from ticket sales alone and this will rise even higher once the figures are in from the silent auction –I made a couple of small bids but I imagine that I will have been outbid!
It was a great dinner to attend and I met some amazing chefs (apologies again if I accosted any of you!) and of course most importantly it was for a great cause too – what more could you ask for?
Restaurants and Suppliers Involved: