I had a very interesting lunch at Café Nougatine — the more casual café in the anteroom of Jean-Georges — hosted by International Enterprise Singapore, whose job is to promote growth of Singaporean companies overseas.
They invited some very smart people to pick their brains about how to promote Singaporean food in the United States: Wendy Chan from Definity Marketing, who seemed to know a lot about retail — particularly supermarkets; Matthew Conway of Roland, an import company, who seemed quite plugged in to how to develop products for both retail and foodservice channels; Jeremiah Schnee of consulting firm Biscotti, Toback, RFR & Company, who knew all sorts of back-channel things about working with different distributors and retailers; and Lynn Teo of Apex-Pal, a Singaporean restaurant company looking to open a Singaporean-based kaiten sushi chain called Sakae Sushi in the US. Fun group. I learned a lot — among them that Singapore mai fun, a popular noodle dish in New York, doesn’t exist in Singapore.
“It’s like chop suey,” said Ted Tan, the deputy chief CEO of IES, who was in town with a couple of other colleagues, who also have the surname Tan. I’m investigating whether that’s a coincidence or not.
But what was of most interest to me was the fact that mangosteens are now available in Chinatown. If you live in New York and that doesn’t sound important to you, then it’s because you have never had a good mangosteen, which until recently weren’t being imported into the United States.
Fruit flavors are notoriously hard to describe. Generally one ends up comparing them to other fruits, and in this case I’d probably say it tastes like sweet cherry mixed with strawberry and Thompson seedless grapes. But that’s completely wrong. You’re just going to have to go and try one yourself, even though they’re like $9 a pound (I haven’t been to Chinatown to confirm any of this, so I can’t say for sure). The best way to open them is probably to remove the flower scars at the bottom of the fruit, stick your thumbs in the resulting hole and pull apart. Inside you'll see a burgundy-colored rind that is inedibly bitter. Avoid it; it tastes bad and stains like, well, just like you’d expect deep-burgundy colored fruit to stain. At the center will be segments of milky white fruit. One segment will probably be larger than the others and will have a seed in the middle that you don’t want to bite into. But definitely eat the fruit around it It should be quite sweet but also have a bright acidity, too.
I think I’ll try to go to Chinatown now.
What I ate:
Red oak lettuce, Brussels sprouts, bacon, lemon garlic dressing
Butter poached chicken breast, chipotle potatoes, Granny Smith apple, Niçoise olives
Gingerbread cake with walnut ice cream and roasted pears