Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So if you're here, reading this humble food blog of mine, I can only guess that like me, you like food, or maybe you like looking at photos of food... or perhaps you're actually new to the food blogging scene. Whatever it is, may I invite you to The Arts House this Sunday! Aun Koh (of Chubby Hubby), Keropok Man and myself will be there to tickle your tastebuds at a session organised by the people behind the Singapore Writers Festival. Here's a short snippet about the session:
F-logging – The Fine Art of Food Blogging
Sun 2 Dec 5pm – 6pm Earshot
Featuring: Cheryl Chia, Keropok Man and Aun Koh
A mouth-watering session with some of Singapore most popular bloggers, F-logging – The Fine Art of Food Blogging, promises to whet your appetite and tease the most delicate of palettes. Expect generous servings of food blogging tips and techniques accompanied by light conversation. This hearty meal is a must for serious foodies everywhere!
I'm really looking forward to this session. It's my first time being involved in the Singapore Writer's Festival. I've always wanted to go but never had the time to. Well now I have no excuse. Do come if you're free and come up to say hi yes? :)
Oh and there's a book launch prior to the food blogging session. You might want to check it out too. It features Southeast Asian Cooking. Mmmmm... sedap! Here's more details:
Foodlore and Flavours: Inside the Southeast Asian Kitchen
Sun 2 Dec 4pm – 5pm Earshot
Foodlore and Flavours: Inside the Southeast Asian Kitchen is the first book to focus exclusively on the cuisines of all ten ASEAN member nations - simultaneously offering a regional and a country specific perspective while delving specifically into the cultural significance of the region’s culinary folklores and traditions. With a clear and highly visual approach, it will serve as the layman, enthusiastic home chef, and ASEAN enthusiast’s key resource for authentic Southeast Asian recipes and the cultural role that food plays in Southeast Asia.
For more information, do visit http://www.singaporewritersfestival.com/home.html
By the way, the festival is from 1 to 9 of December and there are many other fringe and mini programmes that look really interesting. Check them out!
Oh and I hope to see you there this Sunday!
Lots of love,
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Would you just check that cheese out?
That melted mass on top those large brown crusted pieces of lovely fish...
As if you don't know.
How much I love cheese.
The 3 glorious 'C's - they rock my world....
Cheese, Chocolate, Chilli.... oh let me throw 3 more: cupcakes, cookies, curry.
hahaha. so sue me. i know it sounds lame! but right now, I can only rely on delicious food to cheer me up.
Yep, exams begin in 2 days - and I'm up to my head with all the revision. Not to mention the number crunching. Oh you don't wanna know. I know I'm a sociology major and I shouldn't be flirting with numbers but oh well I have this data analysis module (think statistics) that I have to take or else I can't graduate.
Sooooo.... when Cheryl's stressed or down, she brightens her day with good food. And when it's good food that's reeeally good, it's an absolute bonus.
Right now, Botak Jones falls under my 'good food' category.
I've been wanting to try their burgers & fish n chips for eons. Heard so much about it but never had the time to make my way down. Okay, maybe it's because I'm too lazy to travel so far! They have 6 outlets now but they're nowhere near the East.
Hey you guys from Botak Jones, if you're reading this, please please do open one in Bedok or Marine Parade? I promise I'll come by ever so often! :p
Well until they actually do open one in the East, I'd have to travel farrrr... okay maybe not that far, considering how small Singapore is!
At least I was around the area when I dropped by Botak Jones on Sunday. Was at St. Anne's Church helping out with the outreach and the gang was thinking of places to lunch at. I immediately thought of Botak Jones! I mean Sengkang can't be too far from Ang Mo Kio no?
Thankfully everyone else felt like having burgers & fish for lunch... so we went down... and i have NO REGRETS.
Check this out and you'll understand:
This set meal is known as the "U-Crazy-What?" ($14).
Shared it with Alvin since we both thought it was going to be super humongous considering what his friends told him. But when it arrived, we thought it wasn't that crazy. Sure, it was yummy but haha not that scary. Mmm or maybe because we're huge eaters. It's actually 3 beef batties, 150g each. We gave one to Stefan, who was starving and only had $1! Poor thing... Stefan, I will teach you how to cook, and you must cook good food for Eunice! ;) Anyway, I thought the patties were really good though: juicy & tasty. I liked it!:
Don't you feel like having a bite now? ;p
Here's the Cajun Chicken that Evan had. I think he orderd the large ($13) one. It was huge! There were two huge pieces of chicken (leg and thigh). Both were char-grilled with mozarella cheese and topped with a spicy cajun sauce. Mmmm.. check out the cheese!
Adrian ordered some barbecued chicken wings ($1.50 each, min 3 per order) on top of his fish and chips... These were really yum. Loved the fact that they used garlic.
His fish and chips was HUGE.... but yummy nonetheless.
Loads of cheese, how can one not love it? I read that they use premium pacific dory, not the cheap cream one and that they season the fish then bread it with japanese bread crumbs. It's the most popular item of the menu and I can see why. Honestly, I'm really craving for some this very moment as I type this. It comes with fries and coleslaw and they're really generous with their portions. I think Adrian got the large version ($10.50). I am so going to order this the next time I drop by...
Botak Jones, I should have met you long ago. I'm sorry I only got to visit now! And I hear that the Ang Mo Kio one is shifting. I hope it's some where more accessible.
Ahhhh who is up for Botak Jones? Call me, anytime!
*They have outlets in Tuas, Clementi, Toa Payoh, Depot Road, Woodlands and Ang Mo Kio. Check out their website for the exact location
*Edit - 22 April 08* - They opened a Bedok outlet a few months back. It's at Bedok North Ave 2, Blk 412. It's just behind the library. Check the map on their website for more details. I ate there a couple of months back but wasn't too impressed. There should be more QC.
Friday, November 16, 2007
There seems to be a sudden surge of quaint cafes on this already congested island - is it just me? Or is that a fact?
Normally I have very few options to consider when I want to go to some place simple for a sandwich or a pasta at reasonable prices. Nowadays, cafes like Food for Thought, well they just surprise me.
If I'm not wrong, the place has been opened for more than 2 months now. It's situated quite prominently opposite the National Library at Bras Basah.
Funny how I've walked past that area! I must have been blind.
But it doesn't matter now does it? Because I'm really glad to have visited it a few weeks ago because of the Amplify Oct/Nov birthday babies celebration.
Quite a number of people have blogged about this place, raved about its food, criticised its service and so on... but I just have this to say:
Passion, passion can be an acquired taste. sometimes.
What in the world am I getting at? Hmmm maybe you'll have to visit the cafe yourself to find out. I'm more intrigued by their passion for serving. By serving, I don't mean waitressing etc. I mean giving back to the society. This cafe started not with the intention of making great profits that goes into their back pockets. No, this cafe was a humble idea mooted by the same people behind School of Thought, a "social enterprise that supports the educational needs of students from poor families".
How cool is that? Finally a group of selfless individuals who actually do give a damn. The sceptics might question their intentions but I, I'd rather give them the benefit of the doubt and pat them on the back. It takes a big heart to put others before yourself and an even bigger heart to go out of your way to make sure others feel loved.
And I guess that's where their Food for Thought cafe comes in.
On their website, it is declared that "We believe in serving the community. Part of Food for Thought’s profits go into social causes that we support - including School of Thought's Financial Aid Scheme for underprivileged students".
Now do you get my drift? I can go on and on and try to dissect their food offerings, or find fault with the salad dressing but at the end of the day, I do give it to them, the people behind this cafe, for sticking to their guns, for humbly trying their darnest to make a difference.
If only there were more cafes such as this I say. :)
Two sandwich fillings: roasted pulled pork & basil pesto chicken
So what did I actually eat?
Make that we.
I shared the sandwich platter with Evan and Alvin, after spending a looooong time trying to decide what to get. Seriously, when it's 8:30pm and you're so hungry, you usually pick anything yes? But nooo I had to be fickle as usual and try to figure out which one to eat.
It helped that the two dudes couldn't decide what to get as well. All I know was that we were all hungry and thus the decision of a sandwich platter (although I didn't quite know how it worked!)
Okay, their sandwich platters go this way: you pick which 3 fillings you want, and they serve it in small porcelain dishes together with freeflow foccacia bread. There's also a salad and 2 soups thrown into the set. Cool eh?
Our salad was some farmer's corn garden I think?
It was an okay salad but the watercress gave it a very raw bitter aftertaste. I was quite fine with it because I'm used to that typical watercress taste. Besides, I do know that it's really healthy! But I wish they had used a balsamic vinegar (or some vinegar based dressing) dressing instead of just butter.
So the three sandwich fillings we chose were: roasted pulled pork, basil pesto chicken & some braised pork in soy sauce.
That's the braised pork. It's very asian. It didn't taste too bad. I like the sauce; kept using the bread to mop it up.
This is how the bread is served - on a wooden block. Love the presentation. You can ask for butter if you like as well.
That dinner was pretty cool I think. I appreciated the fact that the owners didn't mind our loud volume. Hmmm or maybe they just kept quiet about it! Whatever it is, I know it won't be my last time there. I still have to try their red velvet cake! Was too full to try it that night.
As you can see, there were alot of us:
okay in case you're wondering where the heck i am - i'm like the one in purple towards the left.
and the place isn't very big. but hey, that makes it all the more cosier and fun :)
I love all my dearest buds from Amplify.
Food for Thought - good food for a good cause indeed.
Food for Thought
#01-06, North Bridge Centre
420 North Bridge Road
Monday to Saturday
9am to 1130am (Breakfast only)
1130pm to 230pm (Lunch Menu)
230pm to 530pm (Drinks and Desserts only)
530pm to 1030pm (last order for dinner 9pm; after 9pm drinks and dessert only)
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Someone once asked me if I'd actually bake for my own wedding (in the distant distant future) and I gave a hopeful answer, saying that I just might!
I didn't give much thought about my very optimistic answer until recently.
A bride-to-be ordered a total of 800 cookies from me to give away as gifts on her wedding and I agreed to do it. It did help that she contacted me like a loooong time ago, earlier this year. So I should have planned the entire process out to a T yes?
Well no, I didn't take into account that I would have school still, in November! But I was really keen to brighten up someone's happy day so I just stuck to my guns.
haha... this experience did make me think twice about ever baking for my own wedding. I don't think I'd have the energy to do that, as much as I'd love to. It's a tedious and tiring process especially if you don't own an industrial oven!
Once again, I baked at my aunt's place, borrowing her fantastic Brandt oven and KitchenAid. And with the help of my two fantastic friends Vivian & Tek Xin, I managed to bake the 800 chocolate cookies in a span of about 10 hours. I cannot imagine how long it would have taken if I had do shape all the cookies myself!
I have to thank my dear Dot for designing the sweet tag as well... and my sister! My sister who helped me cut all the tags and put the ribbons through them. It was a long drawn process but it was done do beautifully.
I'm blessed to have amazing family and friends who won't bat an eyelid when I ask for help. Thank God!
So in the end, the 200 packets (4 cookies in each pack) were nicely packed and tagged with matching ribbons and the bride collected them the day after. The fresh cookies travelled off and it was the last I had seen of them.
This project was no doubt fun and exciting but it was also really exhausting and it didn't help that I had a paper due the same day the cookies were due. Talk about bad timing! But I managed to tackle both and I can say that both went fine.
I heard from the bride that the guests liked the cookies. I'm glad they did. I was actually rather worried. I mean, it's one thing to bake for one, but another to bake for hundreds.
So anyway here's some snapshots of the packaged cookies:
Everything came together nicely....
Chocolate cookies packed and baked with lotsa love....
Congratulations Hwee Yee & Zhi Han! Here's to a blissful marriage!
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Pretty cupcakes are an easy find these days.
But pretty cupcakes that actually taste divine, now that's another story. Might be just me, but I think that the cake part is as equally important as the frosting. Imagine biting into a pretty cupcake only to find it so laden with sugar that you can't taste the cakey parts.
As a baker, I know that the secret lies in the flavour & technique. Some recipes just work better than the rest. One of my favourite recipes happens to be the one used by Magnolia Bakery, a famous cupcake bakery in NY.
Their cupcakes are oh-so-pretty that it makes you go weak in your knees and lips.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that I've eaten those lengendary cupcakes - those beautiful, fairy coloured cupcakes that makes my heart beat faster.
Those cupcakes are right now beyond my reach, across continents and oceans. So why am I even talking about them? Well the grass is always greener on the other side isn't it? That's why I'm always prowling the net, looking for yummy sweet things from all over the world and in my search, I found out about Sprinkles, another cupcake outfit in the States.
For now, all I can say is that those cupcakes look darn pretty but it stops there, because they're there and I'm here (in Singapore). So until I have enough dough to fly myself to the States, I'd have to make do with reviews from friends.
And today, I have Ronald Wan, my friend and fellow writer who's gonna size up the two biggest cupcake rivals in the States: Sprinkles in Beverly Hills and Magnolia in Manhattan. He was in the United States recently and tried cupcakes from both bakeries, much to my envy. So bring it on Ronald!
Yes, that's Ronald basking in the glorious skylight in Dallas. That lucky bastard!
Where's the darn place
401 Bleecker Street, corner of West 11th Street in the hip West Village of Manhattan, New York.
The people who walk in...
Since the West Village is home to celebrities like Ralph Lauren and Sarah Jessica Parker, you can expect someone famous walking in here anytime. And of course, those tourists and Sex and the City fans.
I walked in just like any other glamorous person living in the West Village and ordered in my perfect English. I presumed the bloke was half-expecting me to squeal like those annoying Japanese tourists. Well, I had to restrain myself considering those cupcakes really looked damn gorgeous.
What's on the menu...
The famous vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting ($2). Others include mini cheesecake, coconut cake and blueberry muffins. The cupcakes are sold in a plain white box, which makes everything just so homely about this bakery.
And so the taste...
I tried the vanilla cupcakes (seven of them with different icing colors to be precise) and the red velvet cupcake. The latter startled me when I first saw it sitting prettily on the tier atop the counter. I seriously asked myself, “Is there coloring in it?” because it looked so damn red! But when I sank my teeth into it, I nearly had an orgasm. Life is good. The cake was moist, tasty and extremely rich (My travel companion thought otherwise. She found it jelak). The same applied for the vanilla cupcakes but the only downside was that I found the buttercream frosting a little too much, which made the entire affair too sweet to be true. But hey, on a superficial level, the ample frosting really made the cupcakes appear so much prettier if you ask me.
Where's the darn place
3 outlets stateside, including the flagship in Beverly Hills. I went to the one in Dallas located on the Northwest Highway and Preston road.
The people who walk in...
Considering the Beverly Hills is home to producers, directors, actors and just about every other damn person working in Hollywood, you can imagine the type of crowd here.
Anyway, I went to the one in Dallas and my only chances of seeing a celebrity inside here would be Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys star quarterback) or a Texan country singer I wouldn’t be able to recognize.
The cute girl over the counter told me I couldn’t take any pictures inside the shop. I flirted with her and pleaded. She said no. And I still whipped out my camera and snapped. So sue me.
What's on the menu...
Strictly cupcakes with more than 20 flavors such as banana (fresh banana cake with creamy vanilla), chocolate coconut and even chai latte. They have different flavors available on each day. You have to refer to their flavor card. Print it at http://www.sprinklescupcakes.com/!
And so the taste...
I bought half a dozen for $19. Definitely more expensive than your typical cupcakes. So was it worth it? I had the black and white (Belgian dark chocolate with creamy vanilla frosting), dark chocolate (Belgian dark chocolate cake with bittersweet chocolate frosting) and of course the red velvet (southern style light chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting), ginger lemon, strawberry and vanilla milk chocolate (Madagascar bourdon vanilla cake with fudgy milk chocolate cream cheese frosting). I really love the latter, which tastes heavenly!
Thumbs up to the cupcakes for the lighter texture. It’s as less sweet, thanks to lesser frosting. Evidently, lesser frosting also makes the taste of the cupcake itself more discernible. The downside? I found it dry but hey, I’m just being difficult here. I would give it 5 out of 5 stars if the girl allowed me to take pictures of the shop or gave me her number if you ask me.
So there you have it, Ronald's take on the two most famous cupcake places in the U.S.
To read more about his recent travels, check out his two travel blogs:
Ronald Hearts New York
Ronald Hearts Dallas
*Photos courtesy of Ronald Wan.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Most of us have a mental image of what we'd like our humble abode to look and feel like when we get a place of our own. Some prefer a more chic look while others prefer warm and homely.
Am sure you know which is my preference. :) Especially since I talk about it so much!
So for those of you who know what type of home I dream of having in the future, you'd totally understand why I'm absolutely crazy about this fantastic lil' cafe at Cluny Court.
Called Karma Ketttle & Rhapsody, this place sells English (think colonial etc) food with an Indian twist. But not all of their dishes are fusion ones. They do serve totally English food like the Anglo-Saxon Sausage set or the Lamb's Shepherd Pie.
Before I go into the food proper, let me tell you more about the place.
Not only is Karma Kettle & Rhapsody so amazingly cosy and quaint, it also exudes that feel-good aura. Okay I can see you lifting your brows and wondering what is this damn 'aura' thing I'm talking about. You know sometimes there are just vibes you get when you go to certain places. Sometimes you might feel so at ease and relaxed and at times, you feel out of place, and uncomfortable.
Perhaps it's the aroma, the scent or the pleasant and attentive service staff that does the trick. Whatever it is, I believe that the people at Karma Kettle & Rhapsody are doing it right. I'm not saying this because they invited me to try their food but rather, because I think I know a good thing when I see, or taste it. Besides, I've been past the place many times and it's always crowded especially during lunch and dinner time so I guess there are others who would agree with me :)
Owned by Dhiraj Arora and his wife Preeti, both Indian nationals, Karma Kettle & Rhapsody is their precious baby which took more than 3 years to conceive. If you ever see them while you're at their restaurant, go up and talk to them - they're really friendly and passionate about what they're doing. This pair of newly weds are so sweet and amiable. I learnt alot about teas and spices in just two hours. Dhiraj is really into tea and he's bringing in some top grade tea leaves from India. Tea aficionados would probably understand when I mention words like 'first flush' et al.
Karma Kettle & Rhapsody has only been opened for about a month and they are now planning for their second outlet at Dempsey Road. You know, I really want my home to look like their cafe. I felt as though I could sit there for hours, enjoying the soothing strains of classical music as I sip on their fantastic masala chai.
Okay, I'm starting to get dreamy... right, before I drift off completely, let's go into the food!
My utmost favourite dish is actually their Across the English Channel. Served with an elegantly fragrant cumin rice, this gem-of-a-dish contains a whopping seven varieties of mushrooms: Button, Shiitake, Enoki, Portobello, Houshimiji, Oyster, White houshimiji. It's cooked with a parsley fricassee sauce that's just so creamy and delicious. Each mouthful I took was savoured and treasured. Believe me when I say that I have never eaten a mushroom dish that tasted THIS good. I don't think I'm exaggerating! Ask Ashley (my talented photographer friend who came along to help eat and take the beautiful photos!) and she'll nod her head furiously. It's almost orgasmic, really. Rich and flavourful says it all. You'll be grinning widely after trying this!
Across the English Channel
I tried their rainbow rice which is usually served with pork vindaloo. What's so cool is that they don't use colouring at all. So how do they make it red and yellow? By using natural ingredients like tumeric, tomatoes and spices. The grains are tiny, which makes for a different and lighter mouthfeel. I suppose it's good because it allows the mains like stews or curries to take centre stage.
Rainbow rice (usually served with Pork Vindaloo)
If you want something light, try their Prawn and Melon Salad. The tiger prawns and sweet rock melon blend really well especially with their special dill sauce.
Prawn and melon salad
Or if you like to try something a bit different, you should go for their Karma Kettle Roast Tea Salad. It's a mix of potatoes, okra, tomatoes, onions all tossed with this zesty lemon vinaigrette and garnished with roasted green and assam tea. It's splendid and so refreshing!
Karma Kettle Roast Tea Salad
I'm sure you've noticed how subtly they fuse tea and spices into their dishes. That's one highlight of the place and also another major reason why I like it so much. Some fusion places try so hard to mix and match everything that it ends up tasting blah. Fusion food is very much an art, an art what requires precise pairing of compatible ingredients and also of knowing where to stop.
Being very much a lavender fan, I naturally liked their English Lavender chicken. This herb reduced chicken breast is pan fried and served with their aromatic lavender sauce on top of some herb rice with asparagus. I'm truly amazed at how they managed to make the lavender come through. Loved the fact that they actually sprinkled lavender bits on top of the chicken before serving.
English Lavender Chicken
You've gotta end each meal on a sweet note, no?
What got me most excited was the Eton Mess. I've only read about it on websites and in cookbooks but I'm glad I finally got to try it. It's actually a classic dessert made up of strawberries, pieces of meringue, vanilla sponge, bitter marmalade, cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College's annual prize-giving.
Oh how English can that be?! Me likes. hahaha
Then there's something that's more light - their Steamed banana pudding served with coffee cream. Ashley wasn't crazy about it (she likened it to the Chinese steam cake) but I on the other hand, lapped it up well and good. Yes I finished it :p
The pudding wasn't sweet and what I like about it is the fact that they paired it with coffee cream. It's a good marriage, banana and coffee... I recommend this for those who are not big on sickly sweet stuff.
Steamed banana pudding served with coffee cream
To wash down all your dessert, try their masala chai latte. It's really good! Loved that they made it there and then... Trust me, the entire cafe was filled with this lovely spiced scent that fills your nose, in a good way.
Oh, and I tried their White Mist too... It's actually white tea. I think it's my first time drinking white tea and I must say, I do like it. It has a clean and light taste that bears no resemblance to the normal black tea. Great to drink with pastries I say.
Are you a tiramisu fan like I am? If you are, you have to try their tiramisu tea!
I kid you not. I'm not joking. It's not a pun and not a prank.
It really tastes like the said dessert. I was equally surprised! The ultimate would be drinking this while actually eating tiramisu. haha. that'll be awesome.
And to give you a better idea of the ambience and decor (of which lies the reason why I don't mind living there!):
They got someone to come and do some gorgeous illustrations that upped the cosy factor of the cafe. The owners really pay great attention to detail! See for yourself... oh and look at the cute tea quotes on the walls!
Oh and I love their kitchen counter + the stained-glass windows and the cool french style kitchen door. Look closely and you realise that the three lamps above the counter are made from real kettles used in India which the owner modified and had them made into lamps.
I sat at the blue tiled table, which was so old school and antique and I couldn't stop admiring it.
Check out the cute tea pot turned plant holder!
Gosh I really am in love with Karma Kettle & Rhapsody. I've been telling all my friends about it. I have to go back there soon....
And if you think they just serve food in a cafe, oh you're in for a huge surprise.
The owners have a retail store just a few doors down and it is stocked with authentic French imports. Think dijon mustard, raspberry vinegar, lavender liquer and you know what I mean. Soaps are also sold there - they smell amazing by the way. I like the green tea one! Oh and of course, there's the usual mainstay: chocolate soap.
Now you can look at the photos and see for yourself:
How cool is that? This is by far the first time I've come across such a store and cafe and I'm really impressed. You can say that I've fallen head over heels in love with Karma Kettle & Rhapsody. Trust me, looking at these pictures is one thing; going there to experience it for yourself is another. If you're a huge fan of the quaint, cosy and English, then you'll probably love it as much as I do :)
P.S. These photos were taken by my friend Ashley. She does freelance photography as a sideline and if you're interested in her services, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Disclaimer: The food photos are not reflective of the real portion size served. These are sample dishes and therefore are smaller in quantity.
Karma Kettle & Rhapsody
#01-01A & #01-05B Cluny Court
501 Bukit Timah Road.
Open Monday to Fridays 11am to 10pm, Saturday and Sundays 10am to 9pm