The Secret’s Out: Inside the Bean-To-Bar Movement with Artisanal Chocolatier Conspiracy Chocolate

Céline Herren and her partner, Amit Oz, started experimenting with chocolate as a hobby – a fun couples’ project that indulged their adventurous palettes and mutual obsession with chocolate.

Working from their tiny kitchen in Sai Ying Pun – a Hong Kong neighborhood known for harboring creative types – the pair would melt down squares of Lindt chocolate, then add spices, herbs and savory ingredients before freezing them back into bar form.

These kitchen experiments led to a welcome discovery: “Basically, everything tastes good with chocolate,” laughs Herren.

It wasn’t long before they realized their experiments could be more than just a hobby. In 2018, Herren visited her native Switzerland to take a professional chocolatier program. When she returned to Hong Kong later that year, the pair launched Conspiracy Chocolate. This bean-to-bar chocolate brand prides itself on its sustainable ethos and surprising flavor combinations, such as raspberry with timut (a fruity Nepalese pepper), toasted rice and hojicha (a type of roasted Japanese green tea), and osmanthus and rose petals with pink peppercorns.

“We wanted to deconstruct the process and show that chocolate doesn’t have to be just a candy bar,” explains Herren. “Originally, chocolate was a bitter drink flavored with chillies and spices. During the Industrial Revolution, we made it into something quite sweet, adding ingredients like vegetable oil, sugar, and vanilla, so that today’s commercial chocolate contains next to no cacao [raw, unprocessed cocoa] at all.”

Much like artisanal movements such as craft beer, natural wine, and sourdough bread-making, Herren says bean-to-bar is all about returning to raw materials. By stripping away the many layers of large-scale commercial processing and returning to traditional methods, consumers are left with a purer and, ultimately, healthier product.

Photo Credit: Conspiracy Chocolate

“These days, people want to slow down and understand where their food is coming from,” says Herren. “Different regions have different tastes; there’s cacao that naturally tastes like passionfruit or bananas – our cacao is quite earthy and spicy, for instance. What bean-to-bar chocolate-makers try to do is bring this terroir back into the product.”

When it comes to sourcing their beans, Herren and Oz chose a small, family-run farm in the indigenous ethnic minority region of Dak Lak, in Vietnam. “We have a very strong relationship with the farmer, where we defer to them as the expert as we collaborate. From choosing which genetic material from the pods they grow with to how they dry and ferment – it’s a very different type of relationship.”

Their approach has resulted in high-quality chocolate, devout customers and an ever-growing product range. Over the last four years, the company has expanded to a much larger industrial-size kitchen – a far cry from their Sai Ying Pun stovetop – and introduced new ideas like chocolate liqueur, a cacao tea blend, or a collection of CBD and CBG (a newly isolated cannabinoid known as cannabigerol).

What’s next? Herren says the next big trend will be cacao-based drinks – for example, single-origin hot cocoa. Using cacao pod husk (usually a waste product), producers can make everything from cacao soda and kombucha to cacao beer. “I think cacao drinks will get more trendy as people search for new things to drink and discover.”

Curious about cacao-based bevvies? Here is a recipe from Conspiracy Chocolate to get you started:

Ultimate Hot Cocoa
Who doesn’t want to level up their hot cocoa? This mouthwatering, aromatic recipe is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

  • Bring 1¼ cup of nut or dairy milk to simmer in a saucepan.
  • In a mug, add one heaping tablespoon of single-origin or premium chocolate shavings with just a splash of warm milk to help it dissolve.
  • Mix well with a spoon to create a thick, chocolatey paste.
  • Add the rest of the warm milk and stir well.
  • Add spices like cinnamon, allspice, vanilla or cloves to infuse and give a nice gentle flavor, or try a pinch of chilli or sea salt on the top for an extra kick.

Additional recipes to try…

Cacao Tea
Add depth and complexity to your mid-afternoon tea for a delicious pick-me-up.

  • First, get your hands on some cacao husks (Conspiracy Chocolate sells them, but you can also order them online.)
  • Bring 1¼ cup water to boil with a tablespoon of cacao husks.
  • Add any herbs or other tea blends you might like – cinnamon, verbena, or orange slices all go down a treat.
  • Let infuse for a few minutes before straining and serving.

Cacao Soda
Bring on the bubbles with this zesty summer cooler, which is a testament to the versatility of cacao. 

  • Melt a teaspoon of sugar with ½ cup of water, then add 1 tablespoon of cacao husks.
  • Let the syrup darken a bit before turning off the heat and letting the mixture cool.
  • In a glass, add ice cubes, soda water and the desired amount of cacao syrup.
  • For something special, add a squeeze of orange before enjoying!

The Best Tiki Drink: The Painkiller Cocktail

We’ve partnered with The Social Sipper once again. This time around, to get your tiki on with the Painkiller Cocktail! It’s tropical and super tasty for the warmer days ahead. Mixed up with dark rum, fresh orange juice, pineapple juice, and cream of coconut for a creamsicle-tasting cocktail.

Recipe and ideas by @thesocialsipper.

Credit: The Social Sipper

What’s a Painkiller Cocktail?
The Painkiller Cocktail dates back to the 1970’s, specifically in the British Virgin Islands where the cocktail was first created. It’s very similar to a Piña Colada, so if you enjoy tropical-tasting libations, you will love Carolyn’s take on the Painkiller Cocktail.

Although this mixed drink may give you the false sense that it helps with hangovers, it’s categorized as a “hair of the dog” because it includes really tasty, easy-to-sip on flavors and ingredients, making you feel better in the short-term. Always enjoy responsibly!

How to Elevate Your Tiki Cocktail with BOMSHBEE?
Says Carolyn, “Using unique glassware is such a simple way to take your cocktails to the next level. And the Painkiller Cocktail needed a glass that was just as much of a ‘wow factor’ as the recipe.” For this tasty recipe, Carolyn used the Chandelier Eidos from BOMSHBEE to complete this cocktail.


The Recipe: The Pain Killer Cocktail
The Glass: BOMSHBEE’s Chandelier Eidos

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 OZ Dark Rum: For this recipe, Carolyn used Plantation Rum but she also recommend using dark rums such as Cruzan Aged Rum or Flor de Caña 12 Year Old Rum. These are easy to mix with and nice to sip on too. Click here for other recommendations on dark rum!
  • 3 OZ Pineapple Juice: Make sure to use 100% pineapple juice for a perfectly sweetened taste. Carolyn used Dole Pineapple Juice, but you can feel free to juice your own pineapple.
  • 1 OZ Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice: Fresh squeezed orange juice is the key to making this tropical, tasting-cocktail. Of course, you can always substitute it for store-bought OJ, but Carolyn recommend using a juicer like this one or this one and some fresh oranges for the freshest taste.
  • 1 OZ Cream of Coconut: Create the creaminess in this cocktail with Cream of Coconut. Make sure to shake this up really before using.
  • Fresh Ground Nutmeg: A pinch of fresh ground nutmeg really balances and brings out the creamy and tropical flavors in this drink.
  • Pineapple and Orange Slices, for Garnish: if you’re feeling fancy, you can garnish this cocktail with a pineapple wedge and an orange slice for a complete tiki-inspired look.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add dark rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, cream of coconut and ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake until the cocktail mixture is chilled and frothy.
  2. Fill your BOMSHBEE cocktail glass with crushed ice. Strain cocktail mixture into glass. Sprinkle with fresh ground nutmeg, If desired, garnish with an orange slice, pineapple slice and pineapple fronds.

Photos and Recipe Credit: The Social Sipper

Flower Power: 3 Ways to Bring the Japanese Art of Floral Arrangement Home this Summer

Roughly translating to “living flowers,” ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, may have popped up on your Instagram feed in recent years. Although it’s an ancient art form, the practice has recently seen a modern resurgence thanks to its eye-catching sculptural qualities and wellness benefits.

But the art form is far from new. In the 6th century, Chinese Buddhist missionaries in Japan introduced ikebana as a form of floral offering designed to represent the harmony between heaven, humans and earth. Over time, the concept expanded into a diverse medium with anywhere from 300 to 1,500 schools, depending on who you ask. Generally speaking, the art form calls for carefully curated greenery, blooms and twigs to convey an emotion or a message – much like a painting.  

Ikebana’s minimalist beauty has captivated practitioners from all over the world, including Ekaterina Seehaus. Born in Russia and based in Belgium for the last 27 years, she has been honing her skills as an ikebanist for over a decade. Ekaterina first stumbled across the practice via a workshop in Brussels, then studied ikebana extensively and eventually qualified as an instructor.

When it comes to the art form, Ekaterina says Japanese floral art exudes a “less is more” approach and is more akin to a living sculpture than a garden-variety bouquet of blooms. In ikebana, what you cannot see matters just as much as what you can. “I always think of this idea that ‘perfection is achieved not when there is nothing to add, but there is nothing to remove’,” says Ekaterina, quoting the famous French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Indeed, the power of ikebana lies in simplicity and precision. Practitioners thoughtfully select blooms and twigs to strike a perfect balance between shapes, colors, and textures. Adopting a “zen” state of mind is essential to practicing ikebana effectively, explains Ekaterina. A clear mind will encourage greater creativity and enable practitioners to benefit from the meditative practice. 

“The key is that the outside world ceases to exist,” says Ekaterina, a working mom who held a high-powered corporate role before teaching the practice online full-time. “Ikebana always keeps you on the edge of your ability, and you have to concentrate deeply. It’s a bit like yoga or meditation, but at the end, you have flowers to take home – which is a lovely bonus!”

Ekaterina practices the Sogetsu style, a relatively new school that takes a slightly more liberal approach than other ikebana schools, emphasising innovation, found objects, and creativity. Some of Ekaterina’s floral displays contain just one flower and a branch bent at an interesting angle. Others showcase several seasonal blooms that feel light, harmonious, and imbued with a sense of movement. Make sure “the wind can go through, the sun can go through” the arrangement, she advises her students.

“You don’t need much to get started – something as simple as a nice twig or branch – so it’s very accessible. Today, I teach students in 27 countries worldwide, and I’m convinced that online teaching is how ikebana [which has historically been taught in person] will be passed on and survive with future generations.”

Whether it’s a centerpiece for your next dinner party or an eye-catching objet d’art for a coffee table, you can easily introduce ikebana into your home and enjoy the meditative, creative experience in the process. Ekaterina shares a few pointers to get you started:

Quality over quantity
Just because you may not have a greenhouse full of fresh blooms doesn’t mean you can’t immerse yourself in the Japanese art of floral arrangement. Ikebana is all about curation and letting nature’s quiet, inner beauty shine through. Something as simple as a flower, branch, leaf, or bunch of berries is enough to start your first masterpiece, says Ekaterina.

Design for harmony
A fundamental principle of ikebana is to consider your environment: How will your display serve the space around it? For instance, when dealing with a narrow foyer, strive for vertical lines and shapes that feel at peace in the compact setting rather than battling the dimensions.

Focus on the process
Ikebana is, above all, a mindfulness practice. Rather than focusing on the results, Ekaterina recommends embarking on each arrangement with thoughtful curiosity. Take the opportunity to notice yourself, your instincts, your materials. Even if your ikebana arrangement isn’t “technically” perfect, you’ve effectively mastered one of the most challenging – and beneficial – aspects of the art by taking the time to tune in with yourself.

Emerging Artist Spotlight: Ceramic Artist Phoebe Ho Reflects on Life, Relationships and ‘Trusting the Process’ in Her Work

Hong Kong designer Phoebe Ho first discovered ceramics in the art room at her boarding school in England. Ho, who was 13 at the time, felt an instant connection. “The ceramics studio at school was always empty, and it just felt like my safe haven back then,” she explains. “It was the only spot in the school that felt like it was just for me, and I absolutely fell in love with it.”

She took up ceramics as a hobby, while returning to Asia to pursue a degree in economics, followed by a short-lived career in finance. However, it wasn’t long before a quarter-life crisis pushed Ho to ditch the corporate world.

Portait Credit: Mada Pucilowska

“I didn’t envision myself being able to stay in it for much longer — certainly not the rest of my life,” Ho says. “I came back to ceramics as a way to work through that confusing period and realized how much I’d missed being soaked in clay, not needing to think about anything else. I became entirely hooked and started to rethink my whole life plan.”

Today, the recent Masters of Arts graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design sees herself as part of a new wave of ceramic artists. At the illustrious London art school (which counts visionaries like fashion designers Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and Turner-prize winning sculptor Richard Long as alumni), Ho honed her craft from after-work hobby to fine art.

“I didn’t have an art degree or any background in the art world whatsoever. But thankfully, I think they saw my passion and my vision for where I wanted to go with my creative journey,” says the 27-year-old.

Ho debuted her first collection — “Yarn_”, a series of experimental vases inspired by constantly evolving cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai and London — at Central Saint Martins last year. To craft the pieces, Ho bound the clay vases in yarn while they were still soft, causing them to bend and deform into asymmetrical silhouettes – imperfect, distinct, and one-of-a-kind. Ho says she also viewed the project as a metaphor for her own journey of self-discovery as an artist.

“The story that I wanted to tell is about trusting the process,” explains Ho. “Over a lifetime, we’re all shaped by influences – whether it’s parents, siblings, mentors, or teachers. It’s a constant pushing and pulling of forces that give us our different textures and define how the world sees us. But it’s beautiful by the end.”

Even though each vase started identical, the finished pieces showcase unique details and irregularities. These idiosyncrasies add another layer of meaning for the artist, who sought to integrate themes of connection and relationships by physically connecting the vases with a single thread of vibrant red yarn.

“My core message is about reconnecting with one another. There’s a saying in Chinese that we have to think of what brought us to now,” says Ho. “So we have to look back and be thankful to those people and those events that have led us to our present.”

Today, Ho splits her time between her Hong Kong studio and her home in London, where she partners with several contemporary art galleries. When it comes to starting a ceramic collection of one’s own, she suggests starting small and selecting pieces that not only hold meaning but also bring you joy.

“I love to hand-pick items with a good story and strong style,” says Ho. “You want pieces that will continue to grow on you over time, like a member of the family.”

The Perfect Cocktail to Celebrate Love

For Valentine’s Day, we have partnered with The Social Sipper to bring you her take on the perfect cocktail to celebrate the season of love.

Says Carolyn Pascual White, “whether you’re enjoying the special day with a loved one or getting the gals together to watch romantic comedies, the Raspberry Champagne Float is the perfect cocktail to sip on for the occasion! Plus, it combines a cocktail with dessert giving you the best of both worlds.”

Don’t forget to pair this gorgeous and delicious cocktail with our Chandelier Glasses!

What’s a Champagne Float?
A champagne float is a fun and boozy treat that’s a cross between a dessert and a cocktail. Usually comprised of just a few ingredients making this fun treat deliciously simple! There are many different ways to make your own champagne float and you can even use vanilla ice cream if you desire. If there’s one thing that’s certain, make sure you enjoy these icy treats quickly!


The Recipe: Raspberry Champagne Float by The Social Sipper
The Glass: BOMSHBEE’s Chandelier Kalos

Just three ingredients for this fantastically fresh treat? Sign me up! Find out what The Social Sipper used to make the Raspberry Champagne Float and if there’s any additional substitutes you can exchange..

INGREDIENTS:

  •  3 Scoops Raspberry Sorbet: Refreshing and light, sorbet is such a fun element to this cocktail. Pick up your favorite brand like Häagen-Dazs or Talenti from your local grocery store.
  •  6 OZ Champagne: Pair the sorbet with something bubbly. Carolyn used champagne but feel free to substitute this for Prosecco.
  •  3 Drops Rose water: A few drops of fresh rose water can really enhance the flavors from the champagne. Carolyn used Cortas Rose Water.
  • Raspberries and Dried Rosebuds: Garnish this gorgeous cocktail with some festive ingredients like fresh raspberries and dried rosebuds. You can order edible dried rose petals online or from your local supermarket.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add raspberry sorbet to a large glass.
  2. Pour champagne over the sorbet. Drop rosewater onto the champagne.
  3. Top with raspberries and dried rosebuds and enjoy immediately.

Photos and Recipe Credit: The Social Sipper

Roar Into The Year Of The Tiger With An Unforgettable Lunar New Year Dinner

Gong hei fat choy! It’s Lunar New Year, which means it’s time for a week full of festive celebrations. From firecrackers to lion dances, red packets stuffed with money and copious dumplings, Lunar New Year is a time to drum up all the age-old traditions and welcome a few new ones, too.

But the best part of the Spring Festival isn’t the treats or spectacles. It’s the chance to get together with loved ones over a decadent spread of delicious and auspicious dishes. After all, the new year is all about family, friends and food.

Planning to host a dinner party to welcome the Year of The Tiger? Hit the ground running with this quick, easy guide to setting the perfect LNY tablescape, plus a few insights on symbolic decor and traditional dishes.

Set The Tone 

Create a clean, soft base that sets a rejuvenating holiday mood and lets your accents shine. We love a timeless yet simple base of gold, natural linen or beige, which lends well to brighter accents. Once you have the foundation, start adding on those celebratory motifs and festive layers. Perhaps start with a bold burgundy table runner and gold-embroidered placemats, then add a few energizing details like decorative chopsticks, candles, red packets – more on that below!

Seeing Red

Symbolizing good fortune and joy, red is undoubtedly the signature shade of Lunar New Year. Naturally, any authentic Lunar New Year spread should feature a mix of crimson, burgundy or cherry hues, but we would recommend using the vibrant color as an accent, not the base. For a stylish and sophisticated table spread, start with neutral plates and bowls, like BOMSHBEE’s Tinge Porcelain Collection, then integrate red elements to channel LNY vibes. Tasteful garnet chargers, burgundy candles or scarlet-tipped chopsticks will add a touch of lucky new year energy without overwhelming the room.

Simple, Yet Symbolic

It’s tempting to go big when it comes to holiday table decor, but less is definitely more. Keep it simple while infusing extra meaning with a few tasteful symbolic accents. For example, your centerpiece could feature a few mandarins, oranges, kumquats, or pomelos – all believed to bring good luck and happiness – in a BOMSHBEE Tinge Porcelain Bowl. Meanwhile, flowers like cherry blossoms symbolize new beginnings and fluffy white pussy willow branches represent prosperity. In terms of placement, make sure you keep any centerpieces below eye level or spaced out so that guests can still easily make eye contact while talking.

Taste Of Tradition

Any Lunar New Year dinner table wouldn’t be complete without customary dishes traditionally served every year. These include steamed fish, golden-fried spring rolls, steamed dumplings, springy longevity noodles, and Chinese New Year cake (nian gao in Mandarin or leen goh in Cantonese), a glutinous rice cake that’s believed to bring prosperity in the new year. Try your hand at these dishes for a beautiful, meaningful Lunar New Year dinner to remember.

Lucky No. 8

In Chinese culture, the number eight is associated with wealth and prosperity. To share a little extra  luck and fortune with your guests as we race into the Year of the Tiger, keep this number in mind when setting the table. Maybe you invite eight guests, serve eight dishes or set out eight candles for decoration – this tiny detail holds a lot of meaning. Pro tip: the number four is bad luck, so try to avoid this number if you can!

Chopsticks 101

Quality chopsticks are a must for a proper Lunar New Year feast – and BOMSHBEE’s black matte Chop chopsticks are as cool as they come. Just make sure you’ve brushed up on your chopstick etiquette ahead of time. When you’re setting the table, chopsticks should always go at the top of the plate with tips pointing to the left or the right with tips pointing upwards. Never leave your chopsticks sticking upright in your food (it’s believed to bring bad luck, as it relates to incense sticks at funerals) and use a different pair of chopsticks to serve food from sharing platters. 

Fall In Love With These 3 Delicious Kinds Of Cheese

For Nai Zhao, cheese is synonymous with self-care. “A nice spread of meat and cheese was always my way of treating myself,” she laughs.

As the founder of Portland-based charcuterie delivery service, Charcuterie Me, Zhao is no novice when it comes to the wonderful world of cheese. Every month, she curates crowd-pleasing assortments of cured meats, gourmet cheeses and artisanal accoutrements for her wildly popular monthly subscription boxes.

“I enjoy creating a journey of discovery for our customers,” says the 33-year-old entrepreneur. “Each box comes with a list of ingredients so you can make a mental note when you like something. I source locally when I can, and have been able to work with some amazing producers here in Oregon, including a winery, a CBD chef and a chilli oil company.”

Zhao started Charcuterie Me in 2020. She was inspired by childhood gatherings when her family would share stories around the dining room table, laughing while enjoying a delicious meal.

“My parents immigrated to the US in the ‘80s from their home in war-torn Laos,” she explains. “Both of my parents have a high school education. I like to think my dad taught me how to dream, and my mom taught me how to hustle.”

Zhao’s parents are both from an ethnic minority group called lu-Mien, who were displaced across Southeast Asia as a result of the Vietnam War. As a first-generation lu-Mien refugee, Zhao says that she looks back on her American upbringing as a privilege, and a big reason why she remains driven today when it comes to building her business, and her future.

“What inspires me is building something on my own,” she says. “I didn’t have someone to look up to who looked like me when I was young, so I definitely want to be a positive example.”

Zhao runs the show when it comes to Charcuterie Me, from branding and social media to backend web design. Having launched her business in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, she’s had to adapt to the era of social distancing – a challenge when it comes to food that’s meant to be shared.

To solve that problem, Zhao created the “Selfie” – a handheld cheese and charcuterie cone designed to be enjoyed solo. It’s a simple throwback to her earliest days of indulging in food at home. “When I first fell in love with charcuterie it was a way for me to treat myself. I still love to mix up my plates with new cheeses and old favorites.”

When it comes to adventurous pairings, Zhao is all about fusion, introducing classic Old World fromage with invigorating Asian flavors. “Spread a creamy brie on a cracker, and top it with a dollop of chilli garlic oil. It is so good!”

Looking for new cheeses to explore this holiday season? Try one (or all) of Zhao’s go-to cheeses:

1. Artigiano Vino Rosso

From Italian cheesemaker, La Bottega di BelGioioso, a traditional family business that has been producing for over five generations, Zhao says this artisanal handcrafted cheese is a new favorite.

“It has a surprisingly nutty flavor, but its texture is creamy and crumbly,” she says. “And it’s soaked in red wine, so the rind has a really robust and hearty taste, too.”

2. Triple-cream Camembert

When it comes to her all-time favorite cheese, Zhao always reaches for a classic: triple-cream camembert. Made of 75% butterfat, this cheese has an uber-soft texture with a rich, earthy flavor.

“It’s my favorite spreadable cheese to include in my charcuterie boards and pairs so well with a salty cured meat like prosciutto,” she adds.

When it comes to sharing, Zhao recommends keeping it simple and keeping a surefire crowd-pleasers, like camembert or, alternatively brie, on hand. “While they’re similar, camembert has a deeper, more intense flavor that I think resonates better with people.”

3. Manchego

Made with the milk of Manchega sheep, this Spanish cheese delivers a deep caramel flavor, offset with a bit of acidity. “This one is so good on its own or on a cheeseboard,” says Zhao. “I personally prefer a four-month aged manchego, if you can find it.”

A Christmas Miracle In A Glass: Try Mixologist Shelley Tai’s Festive ‘Winter Spiced G&T’

For mixologist Shelley Tai’s family, one libation always makes an appearance at Christmas: “Mulled wine is something we have to make every year. Even when I was a kid, we had a non-alcoholic version that we made with Ribena [a blackcurrant-flavored soft drink],” laughs Tai.

The appeal of a beautifully crafted drink left its mark on Tai. Today, the 32-year-old is a rising star in Asia’s bar scene, having worked for not one but two of the world’s best bars. And in 2019, the Diageo World Class Hong Kong & Macau competition crowned her “Bartender of the Year”.

“I don’t really have a formula,” says Tai, when asked about how she’s managed to find success in such a hyper-competitive industry. “My inspiration is all around me – what I see, eat, and feel.”

How To Winter Spiced G&T By: Shelley Tai (@kankantai)

The Hong Kong native got her start in the hospitality industry in 2010 as a food runner, eventually gravitating behind the bar as a bartender’s assistant. Over the years, she earned her stripes on the city’s F&B scene, landing bartender roles at respected establishments, such as Nordic fine-dining restaurant FINDS and late-night party lounge Drop. However, it wasn’t until she joined Quinary – an award-winning bar known for its molecular mixology – in 2017 that the rookie bartender came into her own.

“The team at Quinary helped to shape the style that I’ve developed today,” asserts Tai. “It’s recognized as one of the 50 Best Bars in the world. I learned so much about technique and flavor in my three years there.”

Working alongside master mixologist Antonio Lai – the 2015 Diageo World Class Hong Kong & Macau Champion – Tai crafted multisensory experiences by harnessing next-generation culinary techniques like rotary evaporation, centrifugation, freeze-dehydration, and sous vide. She learned to hone her senses and draw from personal experience to develop new recipes.

Case in point: On a trip to Tennessee, Tai took a tour of a bourbon distillery that inspired one of her first creations for Quinary. “I noticed that they stored the whiskey in a cask that had been used to age Tabasco, and I just loved the flavors together,” she explains. “So I went back to Hong Kong and came up with a drink using whiskey and distilled hot sauce”

Named “Big Spice in Little China”, the heady mix featured Michter’s bourbon, Fernet, milk, and a specially prepared Tabasco syrup, sweetened with a dash of Ovaltine for balance. Ambitious, memorable, and – most critically – delicious, the drink can still be found on Quinary’s regular menu.

In 2020, Tai reached a new professional milestone when she relocated to Singapore to head up Nutmeg & Clove, an artisanal cocktail lounge and kitchen that’s also ranked among the 50 Best Bars in Asia and the world. These days, she’s kept busy researching and developing new recipes inspired by Singaporean culture and history. But no matter how content she feels in the Lion City, Tai says there’s no place like home for the holidays – particularly in her family.

“My mom’s birthday is actually on Christmas Eve, so we really like celebrating! We put up decorations, get a tree, have a big feast, and just veg out the whole holiday season,” says Tai.

As a self-described Christmas fanatic, Tai reaches for winter spices – think nutmeg, star anise and cloves – and berries when making seasonal cocktails. She’s also picky about what she serves her libations in, too.

“I think glassware is extremely important; it changes the vibe of a drink entirely,” says Tai, adding that BOMSHBEE Chandelier Glassware collection fits the bill when it comes to elegant, festive presentations. “It has this very Christmas-y feel to it; it’s elegant, and holds just the right amount for a generous scoop of holiday punch.”

Looking for something irresistible to dish out to guests this Christmas? Try this recipe for a Winter Spiced G&T, a seasonal favorite of Tai’s (after mulled Ribena, that is.)


Winter Spiced G&T

INGREDIENTS:

Spiced G&T

  • 45ml London dry gin
  • 20ml spiced syrup
  • 20ml pink grapefruit juice
  • 10ml lemon juice
  • Tonic water

Spiced Syrup

  • 200ml water
  • 200g sugar
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole cloves

DIRECTIONS

To make spiced syrup:

  1. In a saucepan, bring all ingredients except sugar to a light simmer until spices release their aromas.
  2. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
  3. Set aside and let cool.

To make spiced G&T:

  1. Add gin, syrup, lemon juice, pink grapefruit juice and ice into a shaker.
  2. Mix well, then strain into a BOMSHBEE Chandelier Kalos glass.
  3. Top with tonic water, and garnish with berries.

Pumpkin For All Seasons: Use This Healthy Fall Ingredient All Year Round

Pumpkins are the ultimate symbol of fall. Bright and bountiful, these gorgeous globes burst onto the scene every autumn, starring in everything from pies to lattes, soups, bread, salads, and so much more. Everyone loves pumpkins, so why don’t we embrace them for more than a couple of months a year?

“Pumpkins are nutritional powerhouses – I don’t understand why we don’t eat them more!” says Chrissy Denton. According to the Hong Kong-based nutritionist, pumpkins are as healthy as they are delicious. “They provide us with high amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, supporting everything from the immune system to our heart, liver and kidneys,” she explains.

Pumpkins are particularly rich in beta carotene, which gives them their signature radiant orange hue. Once consumed, our bodies convert that pigment into vitamin A – an essential building block for eye health. Pumpkins also deliver a dose of all-important antioxidants, powerful molecules that fight free radicals.

“Antioxidants help protect against things like cancer and other chronic conditions and lower the risk of heart disease,” says Denton, adding that vitamin C, a naturally occurring antioxidant in pumpkin, is also a natural stress-buster. “Our adrenal glands absolutely love vitamin C, and they help to regulate our body’s stress response – sometimes necessary over the holiday period!”

To properly harness this superfood’s potent nutritional benefits, Denton recommends incorporating it into our diets year-round. As a native New Zealander, she grew up with Sunday roast dinners, where roasted pumpkin drizzled in olive oil and fresh rosemary was a staple.

Her other favorite ways to enjoy pumpkin in the spring and summer include pumpkin hummus or roasted pumpkin salad. They also add more nutrients to sweet treats, such as bread loaves, muffins, cakes, or brownies.

Looking for some pumpkin recipe inspiration? Here is one of Denton’s favorite pumpkin-based recipes to try out any time of year.


The Recipe: Pumpkin & Ginger Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 kg pumpkin
  • 2 shallots
  • 75g ginger
  • A few sprigs of fresh herbs, such as chives and mint
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 litre organic vegetable stock
  • 125 ml coconut milk, plus extra to serve
  • ½ tablespoon chilli powder
  • 1 lime

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Deseed and chop the pumpkin, peel and chop the shallots, then peel and finely grate the ginger. Pick and finely chop the herbs.
  2. Place the pumpkin, shallots, ginger and some oil in a large saucepan and sauté until soft.
  3. Add the stock, coconut milk and chilli powder. Season, then bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes.
  4. Blitz in a food processor, then serve with fresh herbs, lime juice and a splash of coconut milk.

Assemble A Picture-Perfect Grazing Board In 6 Simple Steps With Lady & Larder

Just type in #charcuterie or #cheeseplate on Instagram, and watch your feed fill with images of artfully arranged platters of gourmet cheeses, cured meats, nuts, fruits, veggies and spreads. This appetizer staple has skyrocketed in popularity recently, awakening the imaginations of millennials who love to entertain.

“At the heart of it, charcuterie boards are really about human connection,” says Boo Simms, on the allure of aesthetically pleasing meat and cheese spreads. “They are beautiful, nourishing and bring people together.”

Photo Credits: Jenna Jones

Boo and her identical twin sister, Sarah, are the masterminds behind Lady & Larder. This Santa Monica shop has become a hub for the Los Angeles community, thanks to an emphasis on hyperlocal producers and farmers.

It has also earned national attention for its show-stopping grazing boards, featured by O Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Forbes and Buzzfeed’s viral food platform, Tasty. Snackable masterpieces, Lady & Larder’s creations have become so sought-after that popular US homewares retailer Williams Sonoma now carries the brand.

The Simms launched their business in 2016, first as a delivery-only brand that offered three sizes of cheese and charcuterie boards. With a combined background in restaurant operations, private kitchens and food styling, the twins financed the company with their credit cards then steadily grew the business through word-of-mouth.

In 2019, they opened a brick-and-mortar shop, where they also sell locally grown flowers, fresh bread, gourmet canned goods, and wine. “We called Lady & Larder ‘our little dream shop’ because it’s filled with all of our favorite things,” says Sarah. “We wanted a shop that celebrated a true sense of place – about 90% of our cheese, wine, goods and beer are locally sourced from here in California.”

Community is at the heart of everything they do, from stocking local producers to sharing their love for high-quality, artisanal foods with fellow Angelenos. And that mission has become even more pronounced during COVID-19.

“This global pandemic has magnified everything precious in life, like relationships and access to food,” explains Sarah. “Freshly baked bread, small-batch cheese, wildflower honey, seasonal jam – it all feels like actual gold.”

That’s also why they support small-scale businesses on their grazing boards. “Smaller producers and farms always have the best quality,” says Sarah. “We love the personal connection, attention to detail, and passion that you find when working with smaller local producers.”

This simple, straightforward approach for clean, local, gourmet foods has earned them so much success in the grazing game. “Our secret really isn’t a secret,” says Boo. “We find the very best ingredients we can get our hands on and then champion the farmers and makers who create those ingredients.”

Interested in making your own photo-worthy grazing board? Follow these six tips, which Lady & Larder teach in their virtual DIY Cheese Board workshops:

1. Aim for room temperature. Always serve your cheese and cured meats at room temperature, so you can really taste them. If it’s too cold, the flavor will be muted; too warm, and the cheese and meat could lose their optimal textures.

2. Work with odd numbers. Choose one, three or five cheeses and meats depending on the size of the board. Remember to choose a nice variety of flavors and textures, like pairing a creamy brie alongside a bold bleu or nutty manchego.

3. Add volume. When it comes to laying out sliced meats, don’t let them fall flat. Salami, for example, can be folded in half and fanned out like a deck of cards.

4. Freshen it up. Slice up some fresh fruit, such as blueberries or apple slices, to add zing and zest to your board. Pro tip: whatever is in season will taste the best!

5. Go green. Garnish with unexpected greenery, like herbs from your garden, edible flowers, or a few sprigs from a lemon tree. 

Need more inspiration? Find more ideas for flavours, producers and assembly via their Instagram page, @ladyandlarder.