Friday, December 17, 2010

Fundraiser: Friends Without a Border: Annual Photo Auction for Charity

Every year for the past 11 years, internationally acclaimed photographer, Kenro Izu, who founded Friends without a Border, has hosted a photo auction at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York.

Over 250 photo collectors, artists, photographers, and friends, among others, mark their calendar for the first week of December for this Annual Photography Auction .

I am proud to have been a participating sponsor for the past eight years along with my crew, creating different menus and themes for the reception, year after year. Along with the talented and tireless Mr. Izu and many friends of the organization, it now includes the third wing at Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia as a donor.

Because of these donations the facility is now able to treat not only children but whomever needs their help. With their extensive programs in New York City and many dedicated members around the world, this nonprofit organization is able to provide healthcare for over 350,000 out-patients every year in the surrounding villages.

Being part of this collective global aid action continues to be a heartwarming experience, and I am happy to be on the committee to assist this growing organization.

Happy New Year to you all.

Kenro Izu, Founder of Friends Without a Border

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mi Casa Su Casa: Entertaining at Home

Entertaining at home with style without losing the intimacy shouldn't be too intricate. 

For the past years, we have done numerous holiday parties at private homes, with friends, colleagues, and family as guests in comfortable homes, with superb service, personalized menus, especially in this cold winter...
Tasting Dishes
Asian Tapas Style with Burmese Fish Curry and Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
Wild Mushroom Puffed Pastry with Goat Cheese

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Party Ideas: Chino-Latino Theme Parties

This is our third theme-oriented blog post, served with a Latin twist. If you're planning a company holiday party or an upcoming wedding, Saffron 59 offers Latin-influenced delicacies such as chicken adobo marinated in dark vinegar with pearl onions, Cuban-style pulled pork with paprika, scallop ceviche with lemongrass coconut dip, and Argentinaian-style grilled beef with parsley garlic pesto. Other great flavors include spicy chocolate mole, sangria with blood oranges and fresh peaches, rich and creamy dulce de leche, and exotic cocktails made with Patron tequila, rum, and ginger. We offer cocktails such as Kalamansi Saketinis and Lemongrass Ginger Cosmopolitans. The décor can be full of bright, warm colors and inviting, rich textiles to accent your tabletops and walls.
After your guests have eaten such sumptuous cuisine, they can take part in Latin dancing such as salsa, tango, and rumba—at one recent gathering, we hired a vibrant band Ola Fresca, led by Jose Conde and they filled the room with bright sounds and Cuban rhythms. We can hire professional instructors for these sensual dances. Let your guests loosen their hair and limbs and get down on the dance floor. (Just remember to stretch first!)

There are several empanada recipes here: From Argentina With Love, and you can take a look at Nika Boyce Studios website, full of sensual and richly detailed photos lovingly taken of Latin food.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Themes: Bollywood

One of the most fun events we cater and plan here at Saffron 59 for our diverse New York clientele are theme parties. A popular theme is Bollywood, as it is flavorful in every way, from the heat of Indian spices to the gorgeous saris
indian wedding by saffron59

One of our clients contacted us about putting together a Bollywood wedding. We hired two energetic dancers and got the guests warmed up with sensual Bhangra music after the sumptuous dinner.

From having our staff dress in luscious attire and menu consisting of signature dishes of Saffron 59, such as flavorful spicy Goat Rendang with coconut curry, pan-roasted chicken with lemongrass and ginger marinade, and ratatouille with mustard seeds and tom yu broth.

Finally, nothing gets a party going like great drinks, such as spiked chai lattes and tamarind coolers with dark rum cocktails, all reminiscent of Bollywood.

So get started on planning your next party - Bollywood style!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Theme: Philippine Food & Spa

For the past few years that I have traveled to Asia whether in Central Vietnam or Boracoy Island in the Philippines, Aman resorts and Six Senses spa is what I look for after serving my clients.

Recently a request celebration called for a spa theme and Saffron 59 was perfect collaboration for this event along with Jerry Sibal of Design Fusion.  

Shrimp and Adobo Pork
Grilled Shrimp and Pork Adobo
Menu such as Gazpacho shots with Cucumber, Garlic and Mint; Filipino Classic Lechon Roast Suckling Pig; Barbecue Shrimp, Pork and Chicken on skewers, and dessert such Crispy Banana Turon with sweet caramelized dipping sauce. 
And we served such welcome drinks like Kalamansi Mojitos and Watermelon Cooler with our staff dressed in Vietnamese Aoi Yai style dress to greet the guests.

Filipino-Spanish inspired desserts Fresh Berries, Mango Pudding, Caramel Flan

Friday, August 20, 2010

Eat Locally Think Globally

Instead of dining out, I had a few friends over on our rooftop. This Friday night, I pan-seared okra from our local Union Square Farmers Market, with tomatoes and holy basil leaves that I have been nurturing in my urban, rooftop garden since April. 

Okra is a very simple, nutritious and lots of fiber vegetable and of course it is appetizing too! Popular as the ladies fingers in South Asian, Okra is abundance at this time of year in Northeast America as well. It’s perfect for summer refreshing vegetable dish option.

Most people don’t fancy okra is because of its slimy taste, I find if it sliced and seared gives a nice snappy texture and eliminate the liquid. 

Recipe: Seared Okra with Tomato and Cumin Dust


1 lb Okra (sliced diagonally)
Vegetable oil for frying
1 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups (450g) chopped tomato, fresh or canned, drained
1 serrano chile, sliced
2 teaspoon finely minced ginger
2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
Spice mixture
¼ cup cilantro stems and sprigs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoons ground paprika
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne) 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper
1/8 cup of water


In a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high flame, heat 2 to 3 teaspoon oil. Add enough okra to cover pan in a single layer. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining okra, adding more oil as needed for each batch to prevent sticking.

In the same pan wiped clean, over medium-high heat, add onion till lightly brown, add in garlic, ginger, stir in cumin paprika.

Continue frying over medium high heat, adding water, stirring frequently, until tomatoes soften, about 3 minutes.

Add reserved okra and stir very gently with chile to combine with tomato and cilantro stems. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until okra is cooked through…

Garnish with cilantro sprigs

*add in cooked shrimp or fish if desired!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hudson Valley Travels: Route 7, Copake Falls, Ellsworth Hill Orchard, Sebastian Beckwith, Stone Wall Dairy Farm

This weekend, for Mr. Z's birthday, his wish was to hop in a car and get lost with no plans whatsoever. Cruising along Hutchinson Parkway and off on to the winding country Route 7 along the scenic the Housatonic River, all one needs is a couple of cold bottles of water if you decide to get on the Appalachian Trial. This time of the year there is an abundance of fresh produce available from local farms and roadside stands--plenty of choices to satisfy and whet your appetite.

2 ½ hour from New York City we stumble upon Copake Falls for a cool dip after a 45 minute hike and were surprised to find only a handful of locals. Refreshed and tranquil with the gushing waterfall and especially on a 90 degree scorching hot summer afternoon.
A quick detour for summer peaches and cherry pies at a roadside stand nearby the old quaint town of Cornwall. As dusk approached, dinner hour was quickly upon us, so at nearby Ellsworth Hill Orchard, we picked up pattypan squashes, zucchinis, Italian frying peppers and sweet white corn for our first night's dinner at my old friend and In Pursuit of Tea guru, Sebastian Beckwith’s cabin surrounded by 103 acres of lush green pine trees and a 14 foot deep pond.

For lunch the next day, we were recommended to Toymaker Cafe at Village Falls for fresh salads and sandwiches to bring for a picnic at the fall and then continued on to the vibrant city of Kent for spinach panini and expresso gelato along with a book fair.

On the way home we bought fresh unprocessed raw milk and eggs at Stone Wall Dairy Farm, where the land has supported this dairy farm for over 150 years. Perfect for stocking up our fridge back in the city.

Monday, July 19, 2010

July 4th: Personal & Country Independence Day

This year marked the 30th Anniversary of my family arriving in America. I remember being at John F Kennedy Airport seeing all ethnicities at immigration and the overwhelming crowd.

So different from my small city of Yagon, Myanmar.             

Scorching hot summers, sprinklers on the fire hydrants along the highway, as my mom’s friends picked up all eight of us and drove along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Given how time flies, I thank my parents for bring us this far and see how all of us has accomplished. Now they have nine grandchildren. Yes, July 4th is also our personal Independence Day! This year and the past 30 years--never fail--it's been our annual big cook-out feast. The largest hit was BBQ Rib Eye Steak..

  •  8 lb. rib eye steak -1 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sake (or rice wine or sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 scallions (green onions), minced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until the sugar has dissolved. This can be prepared and marinate a nite before.
Preheat the grill to 450 degree.Charred the steak for 2 min. each side.  let cook and sliced 1/4 inch thick...
served with basil parsley garlic pesto sauce. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Hop and a Skip Away: Day Trip to Brandywine, Pennsylvania

New York City does not have the corner on fine dining. Some of my favorite places to visit and dine at are only about two hours away. 

Last year we visited my friend Patty in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where we had the chance to try the delicious tapas of Iron Chef Garces at Chifa and a few other restaurants he owns with his brothers. 

This year I went back to visit the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania and visited the Simon Pearce Glassblowing Workshop; Restaurant located in West Chester, PA. You can learn how to blow your own glass or enjoy a tasting of wine in their beautiful riverfront restaurant. Chef Karen Nicolas (who used to work at Gramercy Tavern) does her magic with seasonal and local ingredients. The meat and vegetables are supplied by local farms and served by a knowledgeable staff. I had tender octopus salad and pan-seared striped bass with artichokes.  At the end of the night, I was given a loaf of nice warm olive bread baked right out of their kitchen. 

Festive brunch with homemade and local ingredients

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Salt Debate

It’s great that our Mayor of New York City, Mike Bloomberg cares about our health with his campaign to reduce salt content used in food products and restaurant chains.
Fortunately, great flavors (and health) can always be achieved with spices & herbs so that one can do with very little salt. I tweaked this fish dish from a Khmer Amok recipe I picked up in Cambodia in 1998.  It is low in sodium but nicely spiced. My Godmother Sonja, loves this dish and has had this recipe posted on her fridge since it was published in NYT’s Dining & Wine section. This delicious dish is also a great picnic and summer-time staple since it’s served at room temperature and portable.  Enjoy!
Adapted from Irene Khin Wong, Saffron 59 Catering
Time: 45 minutes
1 pound monkfish or cod fillets (or any white fish/chicken)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon curry powder, optional
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh Thai chili pepper, seeds included
2 teaspoons Southeast Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
12 baby bibb lettuce leaves
1 tablespoon shredded fresh kaffir lime leaves, if desired.
1. Cut fish into 1/2-inch chunks. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine coconut milk, turmeric, paprika, curry powder, ginger, garlic, chili pepper and fish sauce. Mix well. Add fish pieces, and toss until well coated. Let marinate 15 minutes.
3. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Heat oil, and add onions. Sauté onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add fish mixture, and sauté until fish is opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. Spoon into lettuce cups, and place three cups on each of 4 plates. Garnish with kaffir lime leaves, and serve with steamed red rice or brown jasmine rice, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Baking with Kids

Whenever my nephews & nieces visit, we walk to the local greenmarket at Union Square and pick up what we are going to make for lunch that day. They always cook in the kitchen with me. There’s nothing as satisfying as being able to create something from scratch.

So when my nephew Sidney and his friend Josh needed to raise some money to support their soccer team for new equipment and transportation, we decided to bake a few types of simple delicious cookies for their fundraiser. So we gathered a few kids for an impromptu baking session with our pastry chef, Momo.

josh and sidney

Not only does learning a new skill boost self-esteem, it fosters a sense of worth and creativity. They also learned a few tips about running their own business: how to sell their goods, pricing, packaging, profit margin, inventory, even creating a blog with pictures.
As the smell of freshly baked goods wafts through the studio, we all happily shared a victory cookie from our cache of goodies.
Here’s one of the recipes from that day. Enjoy!

Sammi with Cookie Crumbs

Servings: around 30 large cookies
1 cup Sugar
½ cup Vegan Butter
1/3 cup Soy Milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup white rice flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
2 tablespoons potato starch
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup almond slices
In a mixing bowl or mixer, sift all the dry ingredients together, except for the almond slices. Create a well in the dry mix and slowly incorporate all the wet ingredients. When thoroughly mixed, add almond slices. Form dough balls into desired size or use a mini ice-cream scooper like we did on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown at 350F degrees.

Chef Momo

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Catering Business: To Do Or Not To Do? Event Planners/Coordinators

I get asked this question a lot: 

Should I hire an Event Planner or Day-of-Event Coordinator? Well, it depends. How much stress/time do you have to spare? For example, the services, depending on you your needs - include everything from the early planning & budgeting stages to "Day-Of” coordination.

Here are some tips to help you get started:
  • First, gather your ideas-think about your budget, themes, the types of food you and you target audience would like, etc. 
  • Next, hire an Event Planner, if you prefer. An Event Planner has rapport and connections with vendors you might need. The role as a caterer and event planner is that of a facilitator, mediator, negotiator, artist and dream-maker… all on your behalf. 

Since Saffron 59 is a full-service event planning /catering company, we offer these services at a discounted price should you decide to use our catering services. After all, planning an event is stressful!

If you decide to go at it on your own; start researching venues, photographers/ videographers, décor, entertainment, caterers, printers, bakeries, florists, accommodations, transportation, etc. The list goes on and on.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wedding Banquets & Their Symbolic Meanings

Earlier this year when I came back from a culinary tour of Hong Kong and Macau, I was thrilled to see an email from Judy, one of our recent brides:
“I did not get a chance to properly thank you for everything you did to make my wedding so beautifully wonderful and special...THANK YOU so very much. And it was such a relief to have your team there to take care of all the details for the evening, leaving us to simply enjoy the wedding and our guests. Thank you also for the very thoughtful addition of the macaroons at the end of the night” --Judy M. Chen
It was so great to read such a touching email after such a long flight! Judy first met me when she was helping her sister plan her own wedding with Saffron 59. When Judy got engaged, she immediately booked us to assist with her own wedding.

And since the peak of the wedding season is almost upon us, we get a lot of requests for wedding banquets. We have globally diverse couples with roots from South India to Frankfurt Germany, inspiring us to get creative and uniquely customize our menu items for them.

Our fusion of different cultures and cuisines such as our Surf & Turf for one wedding couple were:
Charred Argentinean Steak Chimichurri w/ Korean Red Paste and Pan Seared Black Cod w/ Miso Glaze & Sake Marinade; followed by Green Tea Macarons.

Some couples want their wedding banquets to be more traditional. Here are some Saffron 59 featured dinner dishes, all of which have symbolic meanings of happiness, longevity, and fertility:
  • Longevity Noodle - The noodle is symbolic to long life at weddings and celebrations.
  • Jewels of the Sea - The type of soup has some significance, indicates wealth because the ingredients are very luxurious.
  • Roast Suckling Pig - Roasted pork is a symbol of virginity.
  • Chicken and Lobster - Having chicken and lobster at the wedding indicates “dragon” and “phoenix” are living in harmony and the yin and yang elements are balanced in the family.

  • Fish - Serving fish represents the hope that the couple will experience a wealthy life together with abundance because the pronunciation of fish is the same as "abundance.”
  • Double Happiness Fried Rice - "Double happiness" wishes the newlyweds marital bliss and to have children soon. Xi is a symbol of fertility.
  • Roast Duck - Considered as red dish, the red color signifies happiness. The dish comes with the legs and head as a symbol of completeness.
After the sumptuous cocktail reception, one of our staff, Manamie, assists with the tea ceremony to honor the wedding couple’s parents and family.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Travel: Sri Lanka: Boutique Hotels by International Architect Geoffrey Bawa

It was not until I was in Sri Lanka this past December that I noticed this internationally well known architect, Geoffrey Bawa who has a string of “Boutique Hotels”. Bawa was regarded as having been one of the most important and influential Asian architects of the twentieth century. He was ahead of his time with his style of blending the natural environment and its surrounding in his work.

Bawa was born in 1919 and came late to architecture, only qualifying in 1957 at the age of thirty-eight, but he soon established himself as Sri Lanka’s most prolific and inventive architect for buildings in a tropical Asian context. Although best known for his private houses and hotels, his portfolio also included schools and universities, public buildings as well as the new Sri Lanka Parliament. His architectural career spanned forty years and was ended in 1998 by a stroke, which left him paralyzed. He died in 2003.

I was very fortunate to get a private tour of his home and office, which now a foundation. One of his most astonishing work is his own garden at Lunuganga which is 1.5 hours away from the capital, Colombo. Not a typical garden of colourful flowers, neat borders and gurgling fountains but with an abundance of lush wilderness and assemblage of tropical plants of different scale and texture. It requires days to explore its every corner and appreciate its changing moods.With each exploration you can find many different discoveries depending on the time of day.

In Sri Lanka his imprint is everywhere: in Montessori schools, farm orphanages, convents, universities, factories, hotels, parliament buildings and private homes.

Interior Photos of Bawa's Home in Colombo

Friday, February 5, 2010

Travel: Sri Lanka: The Kingdom of Ceylon Tea

Irene Khin & Kirchhayn Plantation Tea Plucker

While traveling in Sri Lanka, we stayed at the Kirchhayn Bungalow in Bandarawela after spending a few days in the Cultural Triangle. From there, we began our drive toward Nuwara Eliya where the roads twisted and winded through the hills 1400 meter above sea level--to the home of endless tea estates and where Lipton gets their tea. Some plantations date back to 1847, with tea varieties ranging from Ceylon orange pekoe, green tea, silver needle...the highest quality teas in the world.

The property has been owned by three generations of the Bostock family dating back to 1884. At the estate, Butler Mohamad brought out a beautiful basket of fresh fruits grown from the plantation, warm baskets of roti, a variety of Sri Lankan traditional dishes and jam with apple wood. He garnished and adorned our trays with cloves of cinnamon and fragrant Camilias plucked straight from the garden.

The estate has 50 acres of tea plantation with two female pluckers assigned to each hectre with an average basic salary 400 rupees; a day’s worth of work for the equivalent of $4.00 US. They pick an average of 2,000 kilo a day, while male workers attend to pruning & checking the acidity of soil and magnesium sulfate levels; adjusting and replanting if necessary.

Recently after returning to New York, my good friend Sebatian Beckwith, a frequent travel companion to Asia from In Pursuit of Tea, explained to me the techniques of proper tea brewing and that the tea grown in Sri Lanka is the Assam varietal.

Early Morning Tea Picking
Silver Tip Tea Leaf

Friday, January 15, 2010

Travel: Sri Lanka: Colombo Breakfast - Hoppers!

Jet lagged, after flying over the Pacific and arriving in Colombo, Sri Lanka at 2am, we
slept for a few hours at the Colonial Galle Face Hotel by Indian Ocean.

Much surprised, when we sat down for breakfast, we immediately got an
eye opener, as we were brought Hoppers with Fish Curry by a young waiter in a colorful sarong.

Hoppers are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy, which lends a sour flavor and fermentation ability. If toddy is not available, yeast is often used. The batter is left to rise, then cooked in a hemispherical wok-like pan.

According to my Indonesian office manager, Leili, there are many types of hoppers including egg, milk and even sweeter varieties, originally introduced by the Dutch during Sri Lanka's trade with Indonesia.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Travel: Sri Lanka: Lizards, Beaches & Tea!

When my sweetheart and I were looking through some travel books and trying to decide which Asian country we should visit that we hadn't been to, we spotted Sri Lanka (Ceylon), located off the Indian Ocean and about the size of Virginia. 

Being an aficionado of tea, I was fascinated by the abundance of fauna, lush tropical climate and rich culture of this island. Sri Lanka’s landscapes range from wild jungles, endless untouched beaches to immaculately manicured tea plantations. The food and cultural influences of this precious gem-laden island from Arab, Portuguese, Dutch and British settlers was another motivating factor for my visit.

For the next several blog posts, I will be sharing some exciting traveling tips, traditional recipes and pictures of my recent trip to Sri Lanka. Keep checking back for updates!

photoon the road to Kandy
Tea Plucker on Plantation & Banana Bushels