Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows 2014 pre-event

April 07, 2014
Bonjour from France!* I'm in a chateau on the hill for what is supposed to be a relaxing mini-break from the chaos of modern living but instead I'm working and planning my schedule to accommodate the coming events of this month. One of those which I'm terribly excited for is Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows 2014, returning this year to enthral connoisseurs with a gastronomy experience unlike any other!

*not really. I'll elaborate later on Instagram.

This year, for the first time ever Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows will port into Danga Bay, Johor from 16-18 April. I've never actually been to Johor as a destination---to me Johor is a place you pass through to get to Singapore and quickly at that unless you want to get robbed---but I have been assured that Johor is no  longer nearly as dangerous as I remembered it and is really quite a wonderful place to visit. So when Hennessy extended me an exclusive invitation to dine with them I had to say yes. 

This year's Hennessy's X.O Appreciation Grows will feature culinary masterpieces wonderfully composed by three times James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef: Southwest and 'Iron Chef Winner', Chef Viet Pham. 

Hennessy X.O organised a meet and greet with Chef Pham to whet our appetites for the culinary treat that awaits us in Danga Bay (less than two weeks from now, how exciting!).

Myself and Chef Viet Pham, about to assist him in preparing a canapé with a mystery box ingredient voted for by the audience.

The event was held in Nathalie's Gourmet Studio, Solaris Dutamas. Lifestyle writers, magazines, and representatives from online portals were in attendance, apparently I was the only blogger there. I'm not a blogger, I just happen to have a blog that some people read. Am I making too much a fuss about semantics?

Loving this whimsical chandelier. Whiskical? No. I should not try to be punny right after I've had breakfast. 

Will Quah kept everyone awake on an early Thursday morning with his upbeat demeanour and his voice whose inflections that are ridiculously easy on the ears. Please be my alarm clock, Will? I might actually wake up on time.


How is everyone else so perky this early in the day? I fed off their energy to stay awake.

We were treated to a demonstration of two different ways to enjoy Hennessy X.O.

Some expressed trepidation about drinking this early in the day. To which I said "Well somewhere in the world it is already happy hour. So...a toast to our Australian brothers and sisters!".

Thank God I didn't go over my limit because I had to drive after. People did suggest I call my driver and leave my car in Solaris, or use Uber cars (just launched in Kuala Lumpur!) but no, I just had a small sip and left it at that.

The first concoction was fairly straightforward. A couple of ice cubes and a drop of water to stop the fiery first taste from burning one's mouth, instead delegating the burn to a slowly spreading warm sensation in the stomach and a soothing heat in the throat.

The second one involved a slice of lemon and a splash of sparkling water.

It was very refreshing and tasted like summer!

Well, summer for all the cognac loving Datuks who congregate and turn the house into a casino every Chinese New Year. Arran: "Wah habis la, all these uncles are singing Gangnam Style in my karaoke room. Save meeeee". I drink cognac too, does this make me a Datuk by association? Please ah, wo bu yao. Jia wo da huang ho.

My 'tanker' (the wingman who helps you finish your drink when you can't drink anymore), writer and stylist Chin Huat. Damnit, outside of Malaysia 'tanker' has a very different meaning.

Malaysian born Chef Viet Pham grew up in San Francisco Bay Area, interning at Michelin-starred Fifth Floor restaurant in San Francisco under Food & Wine Best New Chef 2002, Laurent Gras. He went on to cater private events before taking a leap of faith and relocating to Provo, UT where he met and befriended Bowman Brown. The pair went on to open Forage restaurant in Salt Lake City, 2009, which was quickly well received by the community, emerging as a top eatery in the area and winning Salt Lake City Magazine's Best New Restaurant in 2010 and Best Restaurant in 2011.

Chef Pham has gone on to win awards, nominations, and accolades, feature on Iron Chef America, Extreme Chef, and Next Food Network Star as well as open casual restaurant Beer Bar in Salt Lake City. He's also opening a fine dining restaurant Ember & Ash this summer, so it's fair to see that Chef Pham has been keeping busy.

And now he'll be treating us to a night of culinary delight for Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows!

But not before showing us what he can do with the Mystery Box challenge. Chef had to whip up a canapé on the spot with a surprise ingredient voted for by the guests. Attendees had to chose from three options; rambutan, sambal belacan, and tempeh. Even we didn't know what it was going to be, supplies supplies! 

Chef asked for some assistants. I volunteered as tribute!

The unveiling of the Mystery Box ingredient.

*puts on Chairman Kaga voice*


Yes! I love rambutan, and I was one of the majority who voted for it.

'Let's get down to business, to defeat the rambutan...' (Mulan reference)

We had but twenty minutes to whip up a canapé with rambutan and several ingredients provided to us.

Chef decided to make a prawn and salsa canapé with sautéed rambutan.

We chopped up tomatoes, mint, and coriander to make a tangy salsa.

To be nested under some butterflied prawns and sautéed rambutan. We finished the challenge with several minutes to spare, so Chef grated some dark chocolate to sprinkle on the finished piece. 

The result? A tiny masterpiece of flavour. A marriage of sweet and savoury (and then some), the tangy salsa was perfectly balanced by the sweet rambutan which brought out the sweetness of the prawn. Combined with the savoury seafood, it was all topped off with a subtle bitterness from the rich dark chocolate. All those flavours in a tiny little morsel!

Go team!

Chef Pham with the Hennessy peeps.

Our little masterpiece was served up as an entree for lunch to the hungry, anticipating guests!

Sadly I couldn't stay for lunch as I had to dash off, I had a busy day ahead of me

But I was told our mystery challenge went down a treat with everyone!


I can't wait to see what surprises (supplies!) Chef Pham has in store for us at Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows at Danga Bay, and for Johor to surprise (supplies supplies!Hello Angela!) me.

Thank you Hennessy X.O for having me and Chef Pham for letting me be more of a hindrance than help assist you! See you all in Johor! 

Also, I've realised that all the aprons I own are from cooking events I've attended this year as a 'blogger'. Two from this Hennessy event, one from Magnum, and one from Nokia. Supplieeeeees!**

**I am enjoying this 'supplies' joke far more than I should. SUPPLIES!