The Epicurian Market – annual food and wine fair in Singapore
Highlight of culinary events in Singapore
The Epicurian Market is an annual culinary event in Singapore. My short visit to this tiny island, which is a pocket rocket of “happenings” in terms of world events, coincided with this food packed elite lifestyle market.
The Epicurian market is held at the convention centre at the Marina Bay Sands. Notorious for its architecture that defies technology, the Marina Sands boasts not only one of the largest pools suspended in air and perched on three colossal skyscrapers, but it also houses a convention centre, where events such as the Epicurian Market are held.
You’re invited to the Epicurian Market
The space is transformed into a hustling and busting street market. Food displays are artfully arranged in studied disarray to give the flavor of street vending. The small stalls are powerful vending machines. Vendors are dressed in French national colors and displaying their creamy and succulent samples of famous blue cheeses imported directly from the motherland of cheese makers. Corpulent Spanish vendors cut up slivers of Jamon (cured legs of ham) and hand them as samples to whet your appetite and keep you begging for more.
Other vendors are shucking up oysters in cool white overalls, whilst their Statuesque attendants are serving champagne. Salmon is cured in different methods by Scandinavian vendors and their results are displayed and offered in silver platters for whoever has worked up enough appetite to engage in this culinary delight.
Complicated and fragrant breads waft off aromas that do not require much advertising. The smell is heartbreakingly enticing. You cannot arrive at this stop with any determination to avoid carbs, because your resolve will be put to challenge.
The products on display are generally speaking representing the larger importers in Singapore and the purpose of their display is to offer the public in general an insight on the finer foods available from all sides of the globe. The bigger picture is that these importers are also negotiating huge deals with the celebrity chefs and Michelin star restaurants that are also patrons of the Epicurian Fair in the restaurant and food section.
I grudgingly move away from the food section after having sampled a little of everything, and feeling quite happy with my tastes buds tingling of sharp, strong and mellow, and move to the spirits section.
Spirits in Epicurian Market
The spirit section may not be good for the body, but is certainly good for the soul. This section of the Epicurian market transforms into the elite world of sommeliers and fine wines, whiskeys and other spirits. Handsome men, in expensive tailored suits, are charming to patrons and hosting them to samples of few cl’s of their best wines, whilst explaining the origins of the grapes, the tannins, and the general aromas.
Rows and rows of cellars have been built for this occasion and as with the food section, the scope of the market is to entertain, the passing trade of curious tourists such as myself, but more importantly to put their foot print and mark their territory with the big buyers.
After a few samples, I made a mental note to return to this section after indulging in a proper lunch. The whiskey lounge looks inviting enough to merit a “whiskey flight” as it is called, where guests may sample a choice of three malts or blends and get a full run down of their origins. At this point, I am curious to know what a whiskey sommelier is called. I have to google this to find out! A whiskey expert is still called a sommelier. Interesting.
Restaurants in the Epicurian Market
I head to the restaurant section. This area is a proper circus. The arena is made up of proper tables and chairs draped in whites and ready for the action takers , who in this case will be the public in general, the press, and the food critics. The performance quarters are positioned around the arenas. These are fully fletched temporary kitchens belonging to celebrity chefs, who own restaurants in Singapore and who are all vying for critical attention. Snuggled side by side, in the Epicurian market, the competition is fierce and bold. As queues start snaking up in different lanes, it becomes evident which of the chefs is getting the most acknowledgement by its patrons.
The chefs themselves, are photographed in their uniforms and displayed in gigantic black and white posters with their favorite quotes, by the side of their mobile restaurant.
Gordon Ramsay photographs a severe hands across style by the side of “bread street kitchen” signature restaurant. His quote ” cook, create, be passionate and always strive to achieve more”. Other famous chefs include David Myers and his restaurant Adrift, Wolfgang Puck with his restaurant CUT and Spago.
Although the audience in general at the Epicurian market (as the rest of Singapore) is very cosmopolitan, it is still predominantly Asian . The longest queues were for the famous Waku Ghin, a Japanese signature restaurant by Tetsuya Wakuda.
I settle for db Bistro & Oyster Bar courtesy of Daniel Boulud. As the master chef himself shucks the large and meaty oysters, his girls serve champagne and cheese. I indulge in the excellent delicacies, for a moment forgetting the implications on my cholesterol levels! The oysters are served with a spoonful of spicy and tangy concoction, that immediately delights and surprises. The cheese platter consists of a soft chèvre, a medium consistency truffle variation and hard nice and oily parmiggiano. Washed down with a glass of Moët, the next half an hour, saw me mentally levitating to soaring heights.
I have failed to mention, that at the centre of this arena, is a proper sound and light set up with massive controls and consoles. Music wafts and throbs delivered straight from the magical hands of guest D J’s of world renown. Guest D,J’s at the Epicurian market include Deepak, Patrick Oliver, Joshua P, Brendon P and Yasth. At this point I keeping asking myself, what is it about these superstar DJ’ s that just give us an initial for their surname??
Time to head to the whisky lounge and finish off my visit to the Epicurian market in Singapore with my “whiskey flight”. I have enjoyed whiskey as a night cap from a very young age. My father a whiskey drinker was never loathe to ask his girls to join him to sample a new blend. The fact that there were only female siblings in this family did not stop him sharing his palate. Hence my acquired taste for this otherwise male dominated spirit.
I settle in one of the whiskey lounges, and pick one with the most unusually shaped bottles. I pick three whiskeys which I would like to sample, eliminating the smokey ones, since I do not have the palate for that type, and also the American bourbons, which I find too sweet. My choice falls on Cardhu, a single malt, which I was already familiar with, a Royal Lochingar, which is a blend, and finally a Mortlach just because I liked the shape of the bottle.
My host sommelier, explained how single malts were distilled just once in the copper vats, whilst the blends were distilled more than one time and mixed with different whiskeys, hence the term blends. Cardhu is the biggest component of the Johnnie Walker blends. In fact it was bought by Johnnie walker from fear that if for some reason Cardhu did not sell their blend to them anymore, they would loose their flavor. Other fun snippets I picked up from this mini lecture, is that Johnnie walker is the worlds largest distributor with a production 20 million cases (equivalent to a billion liters) and next is Chivas and Famous Grouse vying for a close second and third position with a mere 9 and 7 million cases respectively.
Other bits of fun information was how the wooden casks flavor the whiskeys. The American oak barrels are fired inside which results in their smokey flavor. The sherry barrels are the most sought after due to their sweet and aromatic contribution to the spirit. However three are gradually being replaced by port casks since sherry is hardly produced any more. A barrel’s life time is about fifty years.
Worth it or not ?
I must say that this contributed to a very happy ending to my visit to the Epicurian market, and it shall be marked in my calendar for a repeat visit next year.
The cost of entering the fair is at $35 per head but you are given a pair of Schott zwiezel champagne flutes which are worth $45. All in all the visit was worth the money spent.