Canadian-born gourmet Nellie Ming-lee makes it her business to know what's best when it comes to eating and drinking. Food and wine consultant for Oliver's Delicatessen, she is also a cordon bleu-trained chef and was one of the first female sommeliers in Canada.
'Both my parents are chefs and I grew up in a 'foodie'-oriented home, encouraged to try everything. My career subsequently introduced me to a variety of food and wine-related places and I have favourites all over the world.
'Granville Island in Vancouver [ www.granvilleisland.bc.ca
] has an incredible atmosphere with a local brewery, market, marina-side cafes and some wonderful fresh food. The Stock Market in the Public Market [Stall 147, 1689 Johnston Street, tel: 1604 687 2433] has freshly prepared stocks, sauces and soups that can be drunk immediately or taken away. The island has a lot of good restaurants such as Mulvaney's [9, 1535 Johnston Street, tel: 1604 685 6571], a long-standing institution serving Creole-style seafood.
The best way to end a day's shopping, however, is a glass of wine on the patio at Bridges [1696 Duranleau Street, tel: 1604 687 4400] with a view of Vancouver and the sunset.
'Many chefs based in Toronto buy their ingredients from the St Lawrence Market [92 Front Street East at Jarvis, tel: 1416 392 7219, www.toronto.com
]. It has a Saturday Farmers' Market and you have to be there at 5am when it opens to get the best produce, such as organic vegetables, dairy products and free-range poultry.
'Here, I prefer open street markets to the enclosed wet markets, particularly Peel Street market in Central, for fresh fruit and veggies and a slice of local life.
'Dean & DeLuca [560 Broadway/Prince Street, New York,NY 10012 tel: 1212 226 6800, www.dean-deluca.com
] sells food at its absolute best. The deli always offers new ideas, flavours and combinations I'd never otherwise think of.
'One of my favourite haunts for cookware is Premier Gourmet [3445 and 3455 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY, tel: 1716 873 6688 or 1716 877 3574, www.premiergourmet.com
], an amazing shop for the serious cook where you can find anything and everything for the kitchen.
'Its food section is massive - its cheese aisle seems a block long - and its wine selection is rarely matched elsewhere. Last time I went it had more than 100 makes of Champagne in stock.
'In Hong Kong, I usually go to The Panhandler [3/F, Prince's Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, tel: 2523 1672], which is an excellent source of professional-quality kitchen utensils and gadgets such as the garlic peeler that gently rubs the skin off the clove.
'I love reading through a cookbook before I go to bed. The Cookbook Store [850 Yonge Street, Toronto, tel: 1416 920 2665) has a wonderful collection devoted to food and wine, and it's difficult to leave the shop with only one book. When I was living in Singapore, I'd often go to Borders [Wheelock Place, 501 Orchard Road, tel: 65 235 7146, www.borders.com
]. It has a great selection of Asian cookery books and you are encouraged to browse. I also collect vintage cookbooks and have found my most interesting ones at garage sales. My favourite is from the 1950s called The I-Hate-To-Cook Book by Peg Bracken [ www.amazon.co.uk
] - basically how to combine canned food to make a 'gourmet' meal. Page One [Basement, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, tel: 2917 7255] has some good food and wine books, but it often wraps them in plastic so you can't look through them before buying.
'My fondest memories are food related and I love the sound of a cork coming out of a bottle. It's like opening a present - you don't know what to expect, but you know it will be something you'll probably like.'
Panhandler in Central's Prince's Building where Ming-Lee (top) recommends shopping for professional kitchen gadgets. Photos: Garrige Ho