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Saffron 59 Catering is New York City's premier caterer and event planner specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine. For over 11 years, Saffron 59 has successfully orchestrated memorable affairs with attention to every detail.

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Filtering by Category: "travel"

Travel: Top 5 Favorite Hotels From My Traveling Years

Irene Khin Wong

Haggling at a market in Baños, Equador

Luna Runtun (Ecuador)

Located at the entrance to the Amazon. The rooms are on a bluff seemingly floating in the cloud banks. Waking up to the sounds of Toucans and parrots in misty rainforest surroundings. After a 10-hour bus ride from Quito, this is a real treat.

 Gorgeous view from the top

Gorgeous view from the top

In Le Princess (Myanmar)

The magical serene surrounding here is one that you must be present to fully experience the charm and beauty of this place.  With magnificent views of the blue mountain ranges, stunning swathes of floating vegetation and awakening up to the sound of fish fluttering was not a bad place to spend my 40th birthday.

Hotel Maya (Malaysia)

The best breakfast ever! It simply blew me away.  The buffet selection had Eastern and Western treats; offering most of my favorite snacks such as mini curry puffs, pancake rolls with coconut palm filings and kayan with Pandan layer cakes.  They were all bite-sized so I can still watch my girlie figure.  The hotel spa’s hydrotherapy pools with water jets were a blessing after 22-hour flight.  The rooms were great and comfortable with views over looking the Petronas Towers and the vibrant skyline of the city.

 Lush welcoming at the Hotel Maya

Lush welcoming at the Hotel Maya

Uma by COMO Hotel (Paro, Bhutan)

No wonder they call Bhutan “The Small Kingdom Country”.  It is the Switzerland if the east with impeccable service that you wouldn’t want to leave.  The private villas offer spectacular breathtaking 360-degree views of the Himalayas.  The villas themselves are built with handmade wooden carving and textiles from local artisans mix in the traditional with the modern.

 Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) — Taktsang Trail, Paro, Bhutan

Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) — Taktsang Trail, Paro, Bhutan

Mas de Torrent (Costa Brava, Spain)

A leisurely drive from the Northeast of Barcelona; Girona is one of most gastronomical city in the Catalan region; tastings of wild guinea fowl with chestnut and bacon to morsels of local mushrooms with garlic octopus, marinated sardines with olive oil and fresh anchovy montaditos. Mas de Torrent is a fully restored 18th century property with spacious room over looking the gorgeous beautiful gardens.

Travel: My Top 5 Restaurants from Around the World

Irene Khin Wong

I have been traveling since I was 21 and I have always enjoyed eating the local cuisine wherever I visited.  I've had a lot of delightful and memorable meals; I only wish they were not always a continent away!

 Chilean King Crab Ceviche Salad with Andes Corn

Chilean King Crab Ceviche Salad with Andes Corn

Here are my five favorite restaurants from the 50+ countries I have traveled to:

Aldea (Puerto Natales, Chile)

After traveling for 3 weeks and eating various fish stews (Chile’s National Dish); this unique restaurant blends the delicious flavors of the Mediterranean spices with great Chilean wine to pairs with.  You won’t easily find a place like this anywhere in the world.

 Irene at Aldea Restuarant in Chile

Irene at Aldea Restuarant in Chile

L'Auberge de l'Ill (Illhaeusern, France)

Start with an aperitif in the garden with a peak abundance of roses and lilies then onto the dining room with its beautiful setting where dinner is best paired with Alsatian wine.  Their foie gras was orgasmic!  It’s a definitely like a 3-Michelin star restaurant to me.

Nyonyan and Baba (Singapore)

This restaurant was up the block from where I used to live for a few months in an old restored colonial house on the Emerald Hill Road and is full of ambiance with a real fusion of Asian cuisine.  Now in a new location.

Harmonique (Bangkok, Thailand)

This is one of my all time favorite restaurants, even though I have been to Bangkok a dozen times.  It is a traditional home restaurant situated near the river and is owned by three sisters.  My favorite dish is the steamed striped bass with chili and lime juice.  It’s fresh and deliciously simple amongst other Thai curries.

Yung Kee Restaurant (Central, Hong Kong)

The most amazing Roast Goose you will ever have that has been around for generations.  Don’t be surprised if you bump into your friends there; I do so every time I have lunch there.

Travel: Patagonia - A Gastronomical Trip Via Ruta Pan-Am Hwy

Irene Khin Wong

 On route to the Glacier Serrano, Torres del Paine

On route to the Glacier Serrano, Torres del Paine

After touring through the rolling vineyards of wine valleys and endless picturesque lakes in Chile; my next adventure starts on a flight to “the end of the world”, Last Hope Sound, where Magellanic penguin colonies thrive and then on to Puerto Natales; the home of breath taking,

stunning national park

. It is an experience like no other, that will get under your skin and never leave you.

Salto Grande, The Big Leap Waterfall

Salto Grande,

pic by Irene K. Wong

With the help of

Fransisco

we had an excellent itinerary full of adventures with mountain treks, horseback riding across the Ultima Esperanza Province and lunch in between breaks that include

parrillada

in Torres del Paine National Park.

Torres Del Paine, Chile

Glacier by Serrano River,

pic by Irene K. Wong

Standing at the tip of the unspoiled frontier of South America, Patagonia stretches from the tip of South America to the ice capped mountains of the Andes. The experience affords one with breathtaking views of not only majestic fjords and brilliant azure lakes and channels of Patagonia, but also offers unique gastronomical treats like my favorite national dish of Chiloe, Chile, the curanto seafood stew during our stay.  And of course, there were endless snacks with variations of empanadas, all guzzled down with

herb-infused pisco sours

.

Fishing village of Chiloe, Chile

National Dish of Chiloe, La Curanto, 

pic by Irene K. Wong

Here are some great places to stay (prices are approximate and the season):

-

Weskar Lodge

~$250

-

Aqua Terra

~$100

-

Erractic Rock

~$40 - $90

-

The Singular

~$400-$600

-

Indigo

~$350

Great shopping spot:

- Origenses Artesanias- Chiloe

Dining:

- Afrigonia

- Aldea Restaurant

Reading list before and after your trip:

- In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (Penguin Classics)

- Chilean Patagonia’s Peaks, Up Close

(NYT)

- A Torres del Paine walking

guidebook

Sweet Pine berries

Local Sweet Pine Berries are great for marmalades!

Travel: Chile: From Deserts to the Roaring Seas

Irene Khin Wong

Mont Gras Winery

Month Gras Winery

After learning that they were planning on building 5 dams in the Southern part of Chile; this winter, we traveled to the country that has the driest desert in the world as well as dramatic fjords and serene channels. Chile, is a country with an endless bounty of colorful citrus fruits and fresh vegetables.

Viña del Mar (vineyard by the sea). There, we spent most of our time in one of the most fun city in Chile, unique in all of Latin America, Valparaíso.

From the flat city center riding up an incline elevator takes you to a to a very different city above.  Filled with tiny stores, talented artisans and quaint cafes. We could not take enough pictures of this city. No wonder it is named the Top 10 cities for artistic inspiration.

We took a 5 hour leisurely drive toward the south to Colchagua Valley beginning at the foothills of the Andes Mountains and reaching west to the Pacific Ocean. It looks much like Napa Valley with its ubiquitous vineyards, valley floor river and tree-studded foothills vs Alsace, France where I have also spent one summer with historic quaint towns. 

Overall, Colchagua is an oasis of rural calm with just enough sophistication to whet the wine traveler’s appetite. Thanks to our GPS, which lead us to drive unpaved rocky hilly roads and left us with a tenth of gas tank through a dense fog and storm, we finally arrived in Pucón. There we trekked to Huerquehue National Park.  The volcano's crater spends most of its day billowing smoke - and on clear nights it gives off an eerie red glow.

Passing  through the "lake district" with picturesque the towns of Valdivia, Puerto Varas and Osorno.  This fertile region is rich for Mapuche culture, existed before the Conquistadors arrival that now make up only 4% of Chilean population.

As we drove down further south, the greener it gets. It's so perfectly laid-back, you’ll start to feel a little sueño (sleepy) with all the adventures  from rafting to climbing, from hiking to hot-springs hopping, visiting neighboring colonial towns to sipping mate. Crossing half hour ride with a ferry-end of Pan American Highway (Ruta 5), we reached archipelago of Chiloe.

For the nature lover, this opens up opportunities to see the multitude of wildlife found in these waters including penguins, dolphins, seabirds and sea lions.  

Can't beat these fresh scallops w garlic and permesan

Fresh Scallops (Marcado Pescaderia of Santiago)

As for my next blog, part II of Chile, I will be boasting of some of the most dramatic landscapes and its unique cuisines from the "end of Earth", Patagonia. The region comprises the southern section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean.

Places to stay  

Valparaíso:

Hotel Palacio

CiriloArmstrong

Colchagua Wine Valley:

Hotel Casa de Campo

Hotel TerraViña

in Pucón;

Hotel Antumalal

where the loyalties like Queen Elizabeth to Cary Grant had stayed

Chiloe:

Palafito Hostel

Please check out our

flickr.com/saffron59

for more beautiful panoramas of Chile

Travel: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh: Beaches & Pepper Crabs

Irene Khin Wong

It was back in 1997 that I first went to Cambodia.  There were only a handful of small hotels that were family run and Raffle Chain Hotel was the hotel to stay at.  Then, only small, hut-like vendors were open and only for a few hours, providing very few Khmer dishes.  The seaside was not safe and walks along the beach were unheard of back them. Now, there are over 300 hotels on the popular strip in the city Siem Reap; from Starckish to affordable boutique inns.

Monk Going For Offering

Siem Reap

Hotels

Sala Lodges

Another newly opened- two years ago, one kilometer from the town centre and close to the temples of Angkor.

Amansara

A 5-star luxurious private home with secluded ambiance.

Hotel De La Paix

Another centrally located 5-star boutique hotel with a stunning architectural fusion of ancient Khmer with contemporary art exhibits.

The One Hotel

The Passage, Old Market Area

With only one suite available, you literally have the whole hotel to yourself.

Restaurants

Sugar Palm

- Ta Phul Rd

Great traditional Cambodian cuisine; Amok is a must!

The Blue Pumpkin

Hip, affordable and delicious. A One stop shop bakery, restaurant, lounge and ice cream with locations in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The Ginger Black Sesame and Durian ice cream are the winners.

Spa

Body Tune

Two-hour massage just flies by.

Shopping

Alley West

– Colorful shopping lane filled with more artsy and unique wares.

FCC

(Foreign Correspondent’s Club) – Home to gorgeous boutiques and galleries with great drinks before sunset.

Eric Raisina

(various locations in Cambodia) - Famous designer of Cambodian silk scarves & couture.

Local Artist Studio

Phnom Penh

Hotels

Le Marais Boutique Hotel

& Paris Fashion, #33 Street 222

An alluring mixture of high French fashion meets hospitality, with five comfortably spacious suites and great service by the staff located close to the Royal Palace and National Museum.

Plantation Hotel

#28, Street 184

Quirky mix of 30’s, 60’s, 80’s and 90’s architecture situated at the back of the Royal Palace and the National Museum.

Shopping

Artisans Angkor

Chantiers-Ecoles, Stung Thmey Street

Dedicated to train young artisans to help bring back traditional arts; they offer teaching workshops and artwork and sculptures for sale.

Water Lily

Lovely hand-made pearl jewelry, bags, scarves and tchotchkes

Le Lézard Bleu - 61 St. 240

Gallery of local artists' work and a collection of small antiques, souvenirs and gifts.

Couleurs d'Asie

, #33, Street 240

Fine silk and woven souvenirs.

Monument Books

, #111, Norodom Blvd

The largest bookstore chain in Cambodia for a great selection of coffee books to antique books on Asia.

Restaurants

Tepui

Located inside the Chinese House in a beautiful colonial setting. At the moment, the owner is serving Mediterranean & South American cuisine and cocktails with Asian flair.

Le Comptoir

, 25 Street 240

This trendy bistro serves excellent French food and salads.

Rubies Wine Bar

, Corner of Streets 19 & 240

A local favorite wine bar is Cambodia’s equivalent to “Cheers”.

Kravanh No.112 Sothearos

Newly opened Cambodian restaurant serving the best Amok I ever had!

Girl with Snake on the Tonle Sap River

Take a 5-hour bus ride or rent a motorbike and head to southern Cambodia to Kep and Kampot; two small charming towns sparely populated and untouched by tourists, save those seeking to avoid the traffic and dust of Phnom Penh. Both towns have the charm of an old French colonial era by-gone surrounded by a lush, natural landscape. The best time to visit is during the cool and dry season from November to February.

Kampot is a very laidback town and the gateway to Bokor Mountain where once a French resort town flourished. The town named Boker Hill Station was populated in the 1920s by French settlers. They produce the best aromatic and complex pepper in the world in Kampot from their plantations.

Nearby is Kep with its unremarkable beaches, with a few beachside restaurants and markets along the main street. But the specialty dish of this province is the crab with fresh Kampot pepper and why one would travel here.

Travel: Visit of the Year: Myanmar/Burma, Yangon

Irene Khin Wong

This year my trip takes me to an ancient city of Cambodia, as a guest of His Excellency Roland Eng for a week of Royal visit to his homeland followed by a detour visit to sleepy fishing village of Ngwe Saung by the Bay of Bengal in Myanmar.

Another week in Yangon (Rangoon), this city is the gateway to Myanmar. The century-old buildings are maintaining the heritage landscape in the midst of the city's cosmopolitan life that is rapidly growing. 

Always green with lush tropical trees, shady parks and beautiful lakes, Yangon is known as the Garden City of the East. Besides visiting the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda here are a few of my own personal favorites.

A vendor at the bay

Restaurants:

Monsoon

www.monsoonmyanmar.com

 85-87, Thinbyu Road

This decadent restaurant and bar is a multicultural mix of old world charm and with a modern twist.

House of Memories 290, U Wizara Road

Located in a historic colonial villa, this restaurant was once the headquarters to members of the Burma independence movement. 

Happy Noodle 62, Inya Road

Serves a variety of Myanmar noodles, specializing in Shan tradition. 

Taing Yin Thar 5A, Parami Road

Newly opened on Parami Road, serving different ethnic Burmese food.

La Planteur

www.leplanteur.net

22, Pagoda Road

Beautifully situated on the Royal Lake, the menu consists of French-Burmese fusion cuisine set in an old colonial home. Best wines in beautiful villa on Inya Lake.

Mes Amis

www.mesamisyangon.com

5, U Htun Nyein Street

(Owner was previously from Le Planteur), also located on the Inya Lake.

Lashio Lay

If you want Indian food, located in a nice hotel by the red canal hotel.

999 Shan Noodle House

This place has a great noodle also their Shan Tofu Salad is a must.

The Strand Hotel

Just re-opened after renovation - go have a look!

Gekko

Japanese fusion downtown on Merchant at Pansodan (Phuong & Sean from Q Bar Hoi An liked this place!)

The Envoy Bar & Grill

New Hang Out with roof garden - downtown - very popular

Hotels:

Alamanda Inn

60B Shwe

Taung Gyar Road,

Golden Valley

This is new quiet B&B, upscale Yangon's Golden Valley district, rooms are small and well-kept.

Savoy Hotel

129 Dhamazeddhi Road, Corner of Inya Road

Close to many eclectic restaurants, bustling with fruit stands and food stalls at night.

Governor's Residence

35 Taw Win Street, Dagon Township

Colonial style with impeccable services, built in a beautiful teak mansion, located on a tree lined streets.

Ice Cream Street Vendor in Yangon

From Yangon, an excursion to the

Bay of Bengal beach

, we took a 4-hour ride through the rice fields countryside, bamboo plantations and fish farms to

Ngwe Saung

- a fishing village along stretches of unspoiled beach with beautiful turquoise waters and soft sandy beaches.  The village consists of a few boutique hotels on the ocean and a handful local restaurants, lined with stalls filled with freshly caught lobsters, large craw crabs and abundance of fish.

Ngwe Saung Beach by the bay of bengal

Don’t forget to bring new hundred dollar bills (no credit cards accepted here yet!) and dollar bills come in handy for tips.

Stay tuned on my Cambodia tips on my next post.

Travel: Harvest Time at Tokaj, Hungary

Irene Khin Wong


With the approach of fall and the expert guidance of Carolyn Banfalvi about where to visit, I couldn’t have timed my trip to Tokaj, Hungary better.  It was time to harvest the grapes in this historical wine region. We visited a few wineries to sample the area that is as famous in wine production as it is rich in its varied history.

Amidst beautiful rolling hills dotted with grape vines at the center of the Tokaj wine region, we stayed at the beautiful Grof Degenfeld Castle Hotel.  Receiving royal treatment with a late night tour and wine tasting by  General Manager Gabor Banyal.  The property is famous for being the only castle that comes with its own vineyard. There, we tasted an outstanding Tokaj Aszu 1999 and others, followed by an incredible dinner with perfectly seared foi gras and poached apple with aged balsamic as a starter.



Degenfeld Vineyard


1999 Aszueszencia  VS 2007    Harslevelu (Linden)


One organic winery we visited was the Erzsebet Pince (Elizabeth Cellar) in Tokaj.  The history of the vineyard is as fascinating as the family itself.
There, I met Hajnalka Pracser, the daughter of the owner Elizabeth Pracser.  She met her husband,  the winemaker of Erzsebet Pince, while interning in Napa Valley for a year at various vineyards.  The winery itself was once owned by a Russian Tzar who provided the court with Tokaj wine until Elizabeth Prancser purchased the property.


Another 100 hectares winery we visited is the Disznókő, with an immaculate façade and incredible landscape.   Its Southern facing vineyard gives it the warmest growing conditions in the region for astounding amounts of grape varieties.  I was very fortunate to see the wine production in progress.  Our host Katherine Chapman was more than accommodating and further fascinates me with amazing tastings to complement the kind of cuisine saffron 59 has been serving the last decade.
Harvest time at Disznókő



The whole region produces several wonderful varieties of grape.  Here’s a variety sample from the Degenfeld Winery (from Dry to Sweet):
1   Furmint – Dry; hint of cinnamon and acacia blossom, good with everyday dishes.
2Muscat – Semi-dry; contains no Tannis, smells like Lychee.
3 Harslevelu – Semi-sweet; pear and clove characteristics, similar to Linden
4 Fortissimo - Sweet; grape blend similar to the Aszu grape variety (see below)
5Szamorodni – Sweet; hints of pineapple, orange peel and gooseberry.  Harvest is only from October to November during 100% humidity during frost and barrel aged for a year.
6Aszu – Sweet; comprised of 88% Furmint and 20% Harslevelu, by far the most expensive of the group- it is barrel aged for 2 years.

For my first visit here, I was fascinated by the whole process of wine-making particular to the grapes of this region. All the wines had a great balance to enhance Asian cuisine. I can't wait to try out my new favorite wine to accompany a variety of dishes all my old favorite dishes!



Travel: Nicaragua: Trip to the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes

Irene Khin Wong

The past few weeks was just the right time to be in Central America; Nicaragua, although only the size of Colorado, has 28 volcanoes, 14 of which are active. One of the treasured destinations in Nicaragua is the Ometepe Islands where the famous twin volcanoes are located: Vulcan Concepcion and Maderas.

The weather is perfect for hiking and enjoying the peaceful scenery of the lakes and craters and of course discovering the authentic local cuisine.

Nicaragua is rich with tropical birds, howler monkeys, high pitched cicadas, pin sized frogs, and countless marvelous native species.

Papusa with cornmeal, pepper, onion with braised meat
One of the typical traditional dish of the country is papusa; a banana leaf wrapping, generally stuffed with pork or chicken with cornmeal, sliced onion and pepper,wonderfully comforting even in this snowy cold weather here in New York. 

 San Jorge Ferry Port, to Ometepe Island


Juicy Fresh Star Fruits dropped in front of our cabins

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

Irene Khin Wong


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

Travel: Sri Lanka: The Kingdom of Ceylon Tea

Irene Khin Wong



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


Travel: Sri Lanka: Colombo Breakfast - Hoppers!

Irene Khin Wong



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.

Travel: Sri Lanka: Lizards, Beaches & Tea!

Irene Khin Wong


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

Travel: Paris Recommendations & Day Trips

Irene Khin Wong

Being in Paris, you can’t miss the exciting colorful neighborhood of The Marais; reminded me of the East Village, New York City, with talented artists and one of a kind shops. In the vicinity, you must stop for lunch at my all-time favorite classic place, Mariages Frères, which offers more than 400 different teas, ranging from Cameron Highland, Malaysia to Darjeerling Mountains of India. 


                                                                                                            Mariage Frères at Marais
In between the visits to incredible museums, a few afternoon delights that one should not missed. The well-known  pastry shop le Nôtre where you can find succulent kouglof. Or stop by your local fromagerie and have a picnic with a slice of Poilâne, a famous bread  manufacturer who bake his bread like an old tradition. During my visits, I enjoyed the lively restaurant Chez Omar; if you like Moroccan food, they make succulent lamb shanks, great tagine and couscous. 

If you have a sweet tooth, Berthillon at L'ile St Louis is one of the must-vist Parisian spots for great gelato and a stroll around the charming island.

If you want to travel beyond Paris, there are many excursions within a day’s trip. Some of my favorites: 
  • Versailles's glass palace and his beautiful gardens, where Marie Antoinette resided.



                                                                                                           Marie-antoinette at Versailles
  • La Normandie - walk on the beaches of Deauville and lunch at restaurant Les Vapeurs in Trouville.
  • Other well known places such as the house of Jean Monet in Giverny.You can visit the garden which inspired him for his famous paintings.
  • If you like wine, do visit the beautiful wine road with region like Val de Loire and the castle of Tourraine, only at 1 hour from Paris by train, with its enormous chateaux.
  • One can also take a break in Bourgogne to taste Macon wine. One of the most famous roads is Champagne, near Reims, which is only 45 min by train.

Travel: September in Paris: Favorite Pastry Shops

Irene Khin Wong

This blog is not for those who are watching their waist lines!

Since I have been to Paris several times, I skipped all the major tourist sites except the Louvre, of course. This time my fascination is to visit and taste different boulangeries and new patisseries since I was here four years ago.  I can feel my heart beats faster as I walked into these beatifully arranged  shops.

I was overwhelmed by La Grande Epicerie de Paris, a part of Le Bon Marché department store, an entire floor with shelves stocked with black sea salt from North Africa, to pink fresh shrimp from Deauville, France. There I picked up a few bags of my favorite galette de beurre and  lavender soaps from Marseille, then headed out for lunch at Ladurée, known for its legendary macarons and others pastries. One afternoon, I was invited for lunch at Madame Depuis in the 16th arrondissement and I wanted to buy these delicious macarons as gift.

A friend of mine suggests to go to “La Carette” at Trocadero  (www.carette-paris.com), an old classic. But then my film maker friend Joanne disagreed  that I  must go to the new hip “Pierre Herme“ (www.pierreherme.com), the eponymous shop from the former pastry chef at Fauchon. One of his famous pastries is Le Deux Mille Feuilles and for his tiny macarons. 

At last I opt for Eric Kayser patisserie (www.maison-kayser.com), since my hotel is near this rustic, artisan shop. I picked up a few rows of delicious caramel and hazelnut chocolate macarons, while indulging in a few madeleines on site. It`s one of oldest bakeries in Paris, recognized for its seasonal  flavorful fruit tarts, which recently opened a chain of shops in high traffic neighborhoods.
A week in Paris is just not enough!



Patisseries La Carette
 La Carette, Trocadero, Paris    
Macarons Pierre Hermé
Pierre Herme, Saint-Germain, Paris

Travel: Spice Souk by The Arabian Gulf

Irene Khin Wong

dubai spice


Every year in October, while booking all the holiday functions for my catering company, Saffron 59, I start getting restless at the same time to book a flight to Asia to visit the orphanage I sponsor in Burma. As a certified travel agent, I have to figure out routes to avoid crowded flights with different destinations to Asia during this time of the year. 

This trip, I experienced from the sublime to the ridiculous; by stopping over in the Middle East, in a country with the tallest towers in the world being built - Dubai, who are planning to air condition their beach when the temp hits 50 degrees Celsius in the summer. However, this is also a country with old-style values; the bustling ancient markets start at dusk with fish arriving from the gulf and spices trading with the neighboring countries of Iran, Oman and even India.

Visiting the aromatic spice souk, with canvas bags full of saffron colored turmeric, from roots to black
salt; strolling by the creek puts me back a few centuries. I imagine witnessing the traders auctioning off
their commodities and now the ridiculous part of this trip would be to Myanmar, where I will be spending the next two weeks, a country that turns on the electricity only from 6-9 pm daily and the internet is almost non existent.

Exchanging Culture on Your Travel

Irene Khin Wong



















Over the years of my travel, whether on yoga retreat in the mountains of Oaxaca or in Petra, Jordan, my most satisfying experiences have involved exchanging knowledge with or cooking and marketing with the people of the country. In Bali, I rented a house in Ubud in the middle of a rice field from a family that owns two restaurants catering to the tourist in town. I showed them how to make spicy marinara sauce so that they don't have to buy expensive Ragu bottles from supermarkets.

In the morning, take I took a ride on their jeep to the market and afterward we would cook in their kitchen, to create some Ikan Bilis, a traditional fish curry made of candle nuts, along with all styles of Satay sauces.

So on your next travel, take a class, and go right into the kitchen if one of the meals you had wows you; don’t be shy to volunteer and get your hands dirty.

Travel: Affordable Eastern Europe

Irene Khin Wong

Before our busy season starts in June, with all the weddings we have here at Saffron 59, I took a two week trip to visit close family in Budapest, Hungary with a side trip to Transylvania, Romania. It was a fruitful and relaxing trip, with its wonderful eco-tourism, affordable and clean accommodations with local families, and the fresh, seasonal vegetables we had from the remote farmland and mountainous region of the Eastern Carpathian.

During my trip to Hungary, I tasted many Tokaji wines, proclaimed to be "the king of wines" by Louis XIV of France. Named from the region it hails f
rom, Tokaji-Hegyalja in Hungary, this region is known for producing sweet, flavorful wines because the grapes have been affected by noble rot- which is what occurs when the weather is wet and begins to rot the grapes. When picked at the perfect timing, the grapes produce a fine and concentrated sweet wine. With over 700 vineyards in that region alone producing this wine, I highly recommend tasting it at your local wine shop.



In Budapest, I stayed at the Lanchid 19, known for being a "hip", boutique hotel. With its affordable $139 a night rooms, modern design, and great location over-looking the Danube river, it was the perfect accommodation to top off my trip.

Then, on my trip to Romania, we went to Transylvania and saw the house where Dracula was born. This mountainous area, made famous by the book Dracula by acclaimed author Bram Stoker, has now become the setting for many horror and vampire movies because of the eerie, gothic feel of the area and is now an excellent tourist location.

My Top 5 Restaurants

Irene Khin Wong


I have been traveling since age 21...and I always enjoy eating local food.

I've had loads of delightful meals.

There are always meals that are memorable, and I wish they were not always a flight away. Here are my five favorite restaurants from the 43 countries I have traveled to:

Chez Omar- Paris (he is the owner, serves great Moroccan food, amazing succulent lamb shank)

Harmonique- Bangkok, Thailand. A traditional home restaurant, near the river, owned by three sisters. (My favorite dish is striped bass steamed with chili and lime juice…fresh, delicious)

IL Hausen- Alsace, France (Delectable cuisine, chic ambiance, detailed service and great wine--open kitchen with fresh seasonal vegetable and local cheese with wine)

Banana Leaf - On my recent trip to Burma, I stopped by Singapore (Fun, abundance, flavorful sweet and savory Indian dishes served on fresh pieces of banana leaf)

Zen- Hong Kong (hip, cutting edge- I love the drunken prawns, live shrimp dancing in wine and served right away on your table)