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Thursday, March 09, 2006

"The Best Place to Buy Your Pacojet and Cubebe Peppers": IFFA 2006

No, despite the reputation of this blog, a Pacojet is not the kind of jet that can set you somewhere, although it has been referred to as the Ferrari of kitchen toys. It is an ice-cream maker extraordinaire, making sorbets so light you'd think you are eating the cloud. It costs $3,000. And the best place to buy it is at Le Sanctuaire in Santa Monica.

And, no, the Pacojet isn't there merely because it is expensive. This is not that kind of a store. The Pacojet is there because it is the best specimen of its kind. That is how so many wonderful and unusual kitchen objects in Le Sanctuaire found their way into the store.

It is also how the Cubebe peppers made it here. Jing Tio, the owner of Le Sanctuaire, had been working with a farmer in Surabaya who grew a variety of peppers for his store, including the rare Cubebe peppers, when the old farmer decided to call it quit. The quality of peppers that the farm produced was so good that Jing and his family decided to take it over. Now he sells the amazing and exotic peppers from his own farm at his store and directly to the likes of Alain Ducasse. 2006tasteevrthg

It is this kind of dedication -this near madness pursuit of the absolute best- that convinced me to give them my Independent Food Festival Award this year. The Indenpendent Food Festival and Awards 2006, in case you didn't know already, is organized by Hillel of Tasting Menu, with Food Bloggers from all over the world giving their votes to the best of everything relating to good eating and cooking. Last year, my award went to June Taylor's Candied Seville Peel in Rose Geranium Syrup. This year, it goes to Le Sanctuaire, for being the rarest and most amazing kind of cookery shop.

What else might you find at Le Sanctuaire, you asked?

The rare book, La Conversation, the special collaboration between the Michelin 3-star chef Marc Meneau of L'Espérance and the renown Swiss photographer Hans Gissinger. Only 2,000 books were produced, hand-made, with gripping black and white photographs that defy the genre of food photography. This is the kind of book that grabs you from the first page, and wouldn't let go until you look through to the end.

Unusual spices like Kili peppers and Long peppers and other more common spices -that are nothing but common in quality. Some of these come from his private source in Surabaya, Indonesia, while others come from Maison Thiercelin, the famous 200 years old spice blender/seller in Paris. Jing imports a blend of spices called Vadouvan, created specifically for Ludo Lefebvre of Bastide by Thiercelin.

They also carry the hard-to-find Shiro Shoyu, a delicate white 'soy' sauce, from Aichi Prefecture in Japan. It is made from wheat rather than soy, by a natural process of fermentation with no salt added.

There are plenty of other wonderful things. Handmade Scarperia knives from Italy. Bourgeat copper cookware from France. Modular plate-set designed by Karim Rashid. Manni olive oil from Tuscany. Purple Clay Yixing tea pots, the same kinds that have been in used since the Sung Dynasty in 8th century China. And many, many more.

There is even a good chance that you might find LA's hottest chef Ludo Lefebvre slouching on a couch thumbing through the latest arrivals from the bookshelves. Or any number of famous chefs from in and out of town, for that matter.

If you happen to be around that neighbourhood, do stop by. They may look like a museum, displaying objets d'art on carefully arranged pedestals, but the attitude is anything but that. On your visit, it is likely that you will find Jing's sweet sister Fanny tending the store while Jing is out showing off his new finds to famous chefs in town or around the country. She is always more than happy to answer any question, with a complementary huge smile on her face.

This is not the kind of shop anyone would go for a weekly grocery chore, or even hope to furnish your kitchen entirely with their finds. But occasionally, when only the best is required, I can hardly think of a more suitable place, on this continent or any other. They truly are "the Best Place to Buy Your Pacojet and Cubebe Peppers."


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