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Tiong Bahru's best-kept gourmet secret

The same bread, butter and jam used at posh restaurants like Joël Robuchon and Les Amis can now be on your home dining table too, for a fraction of the price. 

Secret stash
Secret stash
16 Feb 2016

Secret stash

We think the Tiong Bahru denizens are all in on this. Secrets Fine Food opened last November in the neighbourhood, yet it has been strangely under the radar. We say “strangely” because most things that open in this hipster town get plenty of publicity; and also because it is almost impossible not to go wild just looking at the merchandise: think fresh — not frozen! — Poilâne bread from Paris, hand-churned French Bordier butter which we couldn't get enough of since our first taste of it at Les Amis, and burrata cheese from Puglia, just like those served at Osteria Mozza. Then your heart skips another beat when you look at the price tags and don’t get a sticker shock. So we conclude that the Tiong Bahru folks just want to keep this place to themselves. Tsk. We are sharing this secret, anyway.

The secret to Secret Fine Food’s exclusive range of top-end products is French boss Stephanie Duriez. While she used to be in the tableware industry, her husband is the general manager for one of the region’s largest gourmet food distributors (which she request we do not name). Stephanie says her shop is not in conflict with her husband’s biz, as she sells only to consumers while her husband’s clients are from the trade. We are just happy that we can now enjoy these artisanal products in the comfort of our PJs at home, without having to blow hundreds of dollars at atas restaurants. These are our top picks.

Herve Mons Cheeses from $17 for 150g
Herve Mons Cheeses from $17 for 150g
16 Feb 2016

Herve Mons Cheeses from $17 for 150g

These lovely slabs are served at Michelin-starred establishments like Restaurant Guy Lassausaie in France. In Singapore, you can find a small selection of cheese by this French cheesemaker and affineur (a cheese purveyor who ages cheeses within their own facilities) at French fine-diner Odette, where tasting dinners priced from $208 have not stopped fans from creating a six-week waiting period for a table.

Herve Mons was named “Best Artisan Craftsman of France”, after all. Put together your personal cheese trolley with a selection of these exquisite cheeses, including easy-to-like classics like comte and a buttery camembert with truffle. But what we really love is the Ovalie Cendrée, an ash-rind soft goat’s milk cheese that is deliciously creamy and mild.

La Burrata de Caseificio Artigiana $15 for 300g
La Burrata de Caseificio Artigiana $15 for 300g
16 Feb 2016

La Burrata de Caseificio Artigiana $15 for 300g

Sold on the shelves just days after it is made, these quivering balls of cream-filled Italian cheese boast the same provenance as those served at Osteria Mozza in Marina Bay Sands. While we cannot confirm if they are from the same producers, both hail from Puglia in southern Italy, and the burrata from Caseificio Artigiana is a repeat winner at the Cheese of the Year trade show held annually in Italy. Meaning "buttered" in Italian, burrata is essentially a mozzarella shell filled with a sinful blend of mozzarella and luscious cream. While $21 gets you four modest mouthfuls of burrata with leeks in vinaigrette (or $45, if you prefer them with caviar) at Osteria Mozza, here, you get a mound big enough for a salad for four lucky people.

Beurre Bordier $5.50 - $8 for 125g
Beurre Bordier $5.50 - $8 for 125g
16 Feb 2016

Beurre Bordier $5.50 - $8 for 125g

Once upon a time, we had to save up for a meal at Les Amis (from $65 for a three-course set lunch to $295 for an eight-course dinner degustation) just to get a taste of Bordier butter. You’d have to be made of stone not to love this luxuriously silky and rich spread from France’s last butter artisan who stills churns it by hand. Produced in small batches for top restaurants around the world using cream from the milk of cows that graze on the unspoiled pastures of Normandy and Brittany, the butterfat is churned — or rather, kneaded — at low speed to make an extra-smooth spread. Then there are the flavours: from umami-packed seaweed to our favourite of espelette pepper, which tingles tongues with its gentle heat. At Secrets, eight varieties — from deliciously flavoured ones to unsalted options for bakers — are available. It’s not supermarket house brand butter cheap by far, but the price is just slightly higher than Echire French butter at Cold Storage supermarket. Worth the splurge. 

Christine Ferber Jams $18 for 220g
Christine Ferber Jams $18 for 220g
16 Feb 2016

Christine Ferber Jams $18 for 220g

Those privileged enough to have dined at Joël Robuchon might have noticed the delicious dollop of jam served on the cheese platter. Well, when you’re paying $40 for a restrained serving of three cheeses, you’d better be paying attention to every single component on the plate. Obviously, this isn’t garden-variety jam, but the artisanal products from Christine Ferber. The French jam specialist from Alsace in France makes hers only with hand-selected, hand-cut seasonal fruits and does not use any flavouring or preservatives. The jams are thus a super intense showcase of the fruits’ natural flavours and often feature chunks of fruit that you can sink your teeth into. Our favourite is the Bergeron Apricot Jam with Vanilla, a slightly tart confiture given a lovely, rounded kiss of vanilla.

Poilâne Sourdough Bread $50 a 1.9kg loaf
Poilâne Sourdough Bread $50 a 1.9kg loaf
16 Feb 2016

Poilâne Sourdough Bread $50 a 1.9kg loaf

The Holy Grail for all gourmet bread lovers, a fresh loaf of Poilane sourdough — at once crusty, tender, aromatic, slightly tangy and flavoursome — is something to be savoured. The famed Parisian bakery, which opened in 1932, continues to make their sourdoughs the same way, with a levain starter that is often touted by industry experts as the world's best, and baked in wood-fired ovens. You could get a tiny sampling of it at restaurants such as Jaan (the five-course menu at $118 includes Poilane bread), or you could order yourself a hearty loaf enough to feed a large family or two for less than half the price of a fine-dining meal — and get bragging rights for being the classiest host. The loaves sold here are air-flown fresh rather than frozen — pre-order by Sunday for collection on Thursday, or by Wednesday for collection on Sunday.

Cristal Blue’s Obsiblue Prawns $68 - $95 for 1kg
Cristal Blue’s Obsiblue Prawns $68 - $95 for 1kg
16 Feb 2016

Cristal Blue’s Obsiblue Prawns $68 - $95 for 1kg

It is used in the amuse-bouche of the $178 five-course lunch menu served at Corner House (you know, the Botanic Gardens fine-diner where China President Xi Jinping ate when he visted Singapore last year), as well as restaurants like Jaan and The Black Swan. Now, you can buy a whole box of these prized critters from New Caledonia in the South Pacific for your own house dinners — or take it to the next barbecue party and become everybody’s favourite guest. Its flesh is delicately firm in texture with a flavour reminiscent of the sea. It boasts a subtle hint of sweetness, and these blue shrimps are a favourite among those with a fine palate. Like the Poilane bread, these need to be pre-ordered in advance for deliveries on Thursdays and Sundays.

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