Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Exciting new beginnings

Stacey has already arrived in Sydney; ready to take on her new life in Australia and I am writing this ready to start another long, hot day in Bangkok.
Though it is very real and she has already left, I am still in denial – I do not want to loose the day to day, easy and comfortable way of spending time with my best friend!

But, it is happening and though I am obviously very sad; I am also excited. Stacey will continue to be a part of the STARA team remotely from Sydney. Most likely will she be more successful in posting on both the blog and on Facebook not having to rely on VPN, and we can look forward to regular updates on her new life down under.

I am also very excited to finally announce that as from next season Marisol Razik will join the STARA team and that classes will be held in her kitchen in Yosemite B section. Details as well as class schedule will be sent out after the winter break.
Marisol has a comprehensive culinary background and is an innovative and accomplished cook and will bring new, exciting and innovated ideas to the STARA kitchen. She will not replace Stacey but will help me to bring STARA to a new level.

The spring season will resume on Tuesday 16 February and will with a few exceptions run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as they have in the past.

To facilitate registration I have created a hotmail account: starafoodbeijing@hotmail.com as well as a wechat group: STARAfood Beijing. Please find the QR code below. Scan it and join the group and the fun! The gmail address will remain in use but, given the circumstances here in China; hopefully these two ways of communication will make it easier for everyone.

If you cannot wait until February 16 to get back into the kitchen I will be back on January 11 and will be happy to hold private classes in the comfort of your own home. We can together agree on the theme and either pick and mix from old recipes or create new ones – it’s up to you! Simply gather a minimum of six friends and we can take it from there. Please contact me during the break and we can plan it.

With that, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas a Happy New Year and a relaxing and rejuvenating Winter Break.

I am looking forward to seeing you all in the kitchen in 2016!


Monday, December 14, 2015

10 Tips for a Healthier Holiday

By Stella Chan Marinaro, Nutritionist

The holidays are a time for celebrating with family friends, but often come with a multitude of opportunities to overindulge. With balance, moderation and exercise you can enjoy all of the holiday cheer without expanding your waistline. Eat, exercise, enjoy, and follow these 10 tips for a happy and healthier holiday!
1. Snacking ahead
Arrive hungry to a party, and you will likely overeat. Eat a healthy snack beforehand and then go easy on the hors d’oeuvres.

2. Dressing the part
Wear something flattering and slightly snug. Your outfit will stop you from overdoing it.

3. Strategic placement and planning ahead
Limit yourself to just one small plate. Then walk away from the holiday spread. Be selective when many courses are offered. Consider skipping desert. You can be just as social sipping coffee.

4. Chew gum
Stop mindless eating. Pop a piece of sugarless gum into your mouth, so you won’t be tempted to eat more.

5. B.H.D
Bring a healthy dish to a party for you and others to enjoy instead of a bringing a bottle of wine.

6. Sweet temptations
Balance sugary sweets with healthy options such as fruit.

7. Limit alcohol
A glass of wine contains 120-150 calories, mixed drinks 150+, martinis around 150, beer up to 200, eggnog 225, and a cosmopolitan has as many as 285 calories! Alternate between alcoholic drinks and water to reduce your caloric intake.

8. On the go
Be social. Work your way around the room, mingling with the other guests, leaves you with less time for over eating and drinking.

9. Keep moving
Stay active. Why wait until the New Year to make a resolution to get fit? Schedule workouts with a fitness trainer or a friend for the day after each holiday party.

10. Be accountable
Keep a food and exercise journal. Record everything you eat. Be sure to include your workouts too. Seeing it all in print will make you more accountable for a healthier holiday season.

To make an appointment with Stella Chan Marinaro please call: +86 10 6462 9112

Suite 105 Wing 1 Kunsha Building
No 16 Xinyuanli Chaoyang District
Beijing 100027 P.R China

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Times Are a’Changin

The expat life is one of instability. We have talked about this before. When you live in a place like China, it is almost for certain that one day you will leave. Some people know exactly when it will happen and can prepare accordingly but for most of us it is sudden and while not unexpected, quite of a shock when we are actually faced with the reality of change.

After many months of speculations, we can finally announce that changes are about to happen to the STARA team.  At the end of this year, Stacey and her family will relocate to Sydney, Australia.  I am very happy for them, of course, and wish them all the luck, but am devastated since I will not only loose my business partner but also my best friend.

So, what does this mean for STARAfood?

Well, most important, we will not quit – that is of course not an option. Unfortunately the cooking classes cannot continue as before since we will loose the kitchen (I don’t think the new tenant at Yosemite C2194 will enjoy having me around) and my own kitchen is not appropriate for teaching. We are currently discussing where (let us know if you have any connections!) and at what capacity we can continue to teach but, until we have found a new spot, I will be available for private classes at your home and I will also hold them regularly at Clicias.

We will also continue to work with Liduska, baker extraordinaire from Lidu’s Sweets, and also with Cheryl, Style Maven, so together we are for sure moving STARAfood into 2016 and beyond.

We are also working on a book to tell our story of this amazing journey we have been on. A book of recipes, for sure, but also about our philosophy and approach to food, wine and entertaining.

Stacey might move to Sydney, but she will only be an email, text or plane ride away. Understandably she will be very busy with her relocation preparations in the upcoming months but never fear, our classes will go on as planned.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact either of us via email, facebook or wechat.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Before Stacey’s daughter Lauren went off to college in Spain; she came back to Beijing to spend time with her family and friends; get her things in order and say her final goodbyes.  This all sounds wonderful but by the time she left, she was just a little antsy and emotional.  So many farewells, so many lasts and so many days until she started her new life.  Moving away from home for the first time, albeit to a very safe university environment in a UNESCO World Heritage city, is scary.

Don't let the two bags fool you.
Her father brought the rest of her things a week later!

Boy can we relate!  After a relaxing(ish) summer break, we were very eager to get going. It felt like forever since we were in the STARAkitchen and we were feeling just a little nervous.  One night Sara even had nightmare where 40 people showed up for class and we had nothing prepared. After 45 minutes, one of the students walked into the kitchen (why they were not there in the first place we don’t know) outraged at the bad service.  Now we are no reader of dreams but her subconscious clearly was working overtime. Suffice to say; we spent the last few days getting our pantry and recipes in order to ensure our first class of the season went smoothly on D-day.

And it did.  It was so nice to welcome our fabulous students, both new and experienced, back into our kitchen.  We must admit that it took a few minutes to get back in the swing of things, but in no time everyone was slicing, dicing and chopping like they had never left. 

 This week we also welcomed Signature Wines to our class.  They expertly paired two excellent wines with our Italian fare.  The Tarani rosé perfectly complemented the antipasti consisting of eggplant fritters, a sexed up Insalata Caprese and Stracciatella (Italian egg drop soup) and the red, a Spanish La Tribu, worked well with our version of Chicken Saltimbocca – chicken breasts with prosciutto and sage.   We look forward to enjoying their pairings at many of our future classes!

I think we liked the wine! 
It was so nice to be back in the kitchen, see everyone again and hear about your summer activities.  We have a great season planned and can’t wait to see you – in the kitchen!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What's Going On??

It has been a year of great speculation at STARAfood.  Are we leaving or staying and/or will we continue on and what will it look like?

Well, summer is over, we are both still here and will be continuing on as before, with a few minor changes of course!  We are busy planning our class schedule so if there is that one special dish you want to learn – speak up now!  We guarantee something for everyone even if you are new to the STARAfood family or have been with us since the beginning. 

Stacey and her kids on the California coast
Sara's kids embracing their inner vikings

Summer holidays are becoming a distant memory but we have some business to attend to before we can immerse ourselves completely in food and wine.  Stacey is sending her first born off to college and is dealing with all last-minute stuff that that entails. Sara has to move house before the end of the month and was ready to dig into that when her appendix decided to get inflamed and instead, the surgeon had to do the diggin’. Five weeks of no heavy lifting is not going to make the move easier but luckily, labour is cheap in China!

Labour is not so cheap in San Francisco's Chinatown

We had an incredible year last year and are so proud and grateful for the community of cooks that have graced our kitchen and enriched our lives.  We have so many ideas to make the STARAexperience even richer but have only one little challenge - time. We are trying to find time not only to develop new classes (and teach them) but also to assemble some of our recipes and knowledge into a book.  The greatest of intentions but we have just been too busy to do so.

Therefore, we have decided to expand the STARA team!

Firstly, we would like to introduce Liduska Rojas – baker extraordinaire and founder of Lidu’s Sweets.  Originally from Venezuela, she and her family arrived in Beijing eight years ago via the United States.

Lidu’s Sweets is committed to bringing fabulous, fresh and delicious cakes, cupcakes and desserts to the Beijing community. All of her treats are made from scratch with the best ingredients and she delivers!  You might have had an opportunity to try one of her decadent cupcakes either at one of our classes or at the ISB Spring Fair.  

We are thrilled to support Liduska in her strive for Beijing cake domination! Contact Liduska on 159 0148 9374 or Lidussweets@hotmail.com.

Cheryl Houston is our own Domestic Goddess!  Born and raised in Austin, Texas, she and her family have lived in Paris, Sweden, Houston and Norway - twice, prior to moving to Beijing. She holds degrees in Sociology and Nutrition & Food Science and is also an amazing seamstress, knitter, baker, cook and decorator!

Cheryl not only slightly resembles Martha Stewart but she shares many of her traits (except the insider trading we hope) and we are very lucky to have her on the STARA team. We hope Cheryl can share some of her ingenious ideas to make your house look more beautiful and helpful tips how to create the right ambiance for your party.

We have a few other surprises in store for you this year but you will just have to wait and see!  

Stay tuned for our new class schedule and we will see you in the STARAkitchen soon!