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December 12, 2006

Menu for Hope III -- Susur: A Culinary Life


In the wake of the Asian tsunami two years ago, Pim, the globetrotting gourmand behind Chez Pim, organized Menu for Hope, a charity event to raise money for the victims of that disaster.  Pim's idea was simple and elegant: food bloggers from around the world donate prizes, and their readers donate money by buying raffle tickets for those items. The event was such a success that it has now become a fixture of the food blogging calendar.  This year, in its third iteration, Menu for Hope III is raising money for the United Nations World Food Programme from December 11-22.

The simple fact is that while people like me spend hours singing the praises of Nutella, dinner at Alinea, and liquid pea ravioli, many millions of people lack access to basic sustenance.  The World Food Programme's mission is to right this horrible wrong.  In 2005 alone, WFP food aid reached 96.7 million people in 82 countries.  Menu for Hope II raised USD$17,000 for this cause, and those of us participating in this year's event hope to shatter that record.

Here's how you can help this year:

There are dozens of items to choose from, and there are no geographic restrictions, so you don't need to live in a region to bid on its items... though it would help if you're eyeing a meal in Singapore.  I encourage you to visit the following pages to find the prizes you love most.

1. For an overview of all items, go here.

2. For an overview of Canadian items, click here for the English page and ici pour la version française.  Canadian bloggers are being hosted by Jasmine at Cardamom Addict.

Having ogled the prizes, I urge you to follow the instructions here to give generously, and then use all your tickets for a chance at this:

Rachel and I are thrilled to offer a copy of Susur: A Culinary Life, which Chef Susur Lee has agreed to autograph for the winner.

The prize code for our item is CA12.

Susur Lee is a Toronto icon, and perhaps Canada's most gifted chef, though his reputation spans the globe.  He has garnered a list of accolades so extensive that I will limit myself to mentioning but two.  Susur, his flagship Toronto restaurant, is one of the top fifty restaurants in the world according to Restaurant Magazine.  He has also been named one the world's ten best chefs by Food & Wine.

What makes his food so good?  Aside from the obvious dedication of all great chefs to the highest quality ingredients, Chef Lee's genius is his ability to fuse Asian and French techniques and ingredients in jaw-droppingly original ways.

Rachel and I are lucky enough to have enjoyed a meal at Susur.  As I mentioned in a previous post, it was one of the two best restaurant meals I've ever had.  From first plate to last, the food was stupendous.  The plate I recall most fondly was the foie gras presented three ways.  A foie gras torchon done well is a joy on the palate, and no one does it better than Susur Lee -- soft and velvety, with enthralling buttery notes.  Whenever I think of that evening, I inevitably find myself reliving the taste and texture of that one dish.

Susur Lee's book is, like his food, unique.  Susur: A Culinary Life is not simply three hundred pages of recipes with pretty pictures, though the dishes and photographs are inspired.  Equal parts biography, memoir, and cookbook, it is a book that recognizes the sometimes forgotten truth that you cannot separate a chef's dishes from the chef himself.


But, oh, those dishes.  Rachel and I enjoyed the marinated black cod baked in spice salt meringue just yesterday.  Black cod is one of our favourite fish: beautiful firm white flesh and a depth and richness of flavour unmatched by any seafood I've ever tried.  It's Neptune's butter.

In the hands of someone like Susur Lee, black cod is transcendent.  Susur wraps the marinated fillets in banana leaves, then encases it all in a salt and meringue dome studded with some of the most pungent spices in your pantry: star anise, whole cloves, pink peppercorns, fennel seed, and black cardamom.  Our home smelled like an exotic tea house for hours after making this dish.  Crack open the bronzed dome and unwrap a leaf to reveal a succulent piece of black cod, perfumed ever so slightly by the soy-based marinade.  Divine!

If you win the book, you can share this experience, too.  So what are you waiting for?  Get your eyes off my cod piece and donate now.  And don't forget, let it ride on CA12!


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i like this menu for life thing, it's an interesting way of help each other!

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