Thursday, November 26, 2015

In Guangfu town within Hualien county, Taiwan, there is a forest park stretching over 1,250 hectares (that's more than 1,250 soccer fields) with outdoor recreation facilities.

The Danongdafu Forest Park 大農大富平地森林園區 will take your breath away with its vast open spaces, majestic mountains and peaceful natural scenery. But it isn't just for beautification.


The Taiwanese Forestry Bureau in 2002 started repurposing farmland in order to regenerate forests. Saplings and trees were replanted in than 20,000 hectares. It's admirable that this green area absorbs 300,000 tonnes of CO2 (or 2,000 jumbo-jets’ fuel loads) per year. This not only helps reduce global warming but improves the local environment.

Under this scheme, Danongdafu become a recreation park in 2010. These forest parks are also vehicles for environmental education. Visitors get to understand and respect the environment more, discover the local communities, and deepen their appreciation of nature and the circle of life.


This was one of my most memorable experiences in Taiwan on the farmstay trip. It's been a long time since I have seen this much open space - a treat for us city-dwellers.

We went on bike to explore the trails.

Beautiful maple trees line the bike trails.


It is so therapeutic to immerse yourself in nature.

They have outdoor sculpture and statues scattered all over the place. You can learn about the native communities from these too.

Some of the decorative statues made from plant pots are a little odd - almost creepy - but I suppose it's a form of art too.

But if you are ever in Hualien, do spend a nice morning or afternoon here if you can. The greenery and fresh air is good for both body and soul!

976, Taiwan, Hualien County, Guangfu Township, 大富村

Many thanks to CTC Travel and Taiwan Leisure Farm Development Association for the media trip

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Christmas will be upon us soon. How many of you are looking forward to cooking a feast from scratch? Stressful, isn't it sometimes? But we still want to put good food on the table. I don't like to take shortcuts but have learned that sometimes, a little help is not necessarily a bad thing.

Recently, I discovered "Mmmm!", a purveyor of premium gourmet meats and ready-to-heat comfort food. Yes, I'll admit, I cringed at first thinking of ready-to-heat retort pouches but I'm glad I kept an open mind.

They have a Christmas menu featuring hams, roasts, and ribs. Bone-in Gammon ham, roast wagyu rump, roast ribeye (grassfed beef), roast Iberico pork does sound good.


I tried the Roast Turkey, courtesy of their food hamper. Even straight out of the vacuum sealed bag, the turkey smelt delicious.

The turkey has already undergone sous vide cooking, so the roasting is just a simple final step that took less than an hour (not the 3-4 hours that you normally need). The bird is not very large (3.6kg to 4.5kg) but it came out really tender, with flavours well-infused within.

My family loved it. My kids who normally don't like meat devoured this thing, asking for second and third helpings. Hubby also loved the brown sauce it came with. I was quite surprised it all turned out so well.

I haven't tried the other ready-to-heat items, but this is a promising start.

The Christmas items must be pre-ordered at least three days in advance, and before 20 Dec. You can do so either at, or in person at any one of their four stores located at Anchorpoint, Square 2 @ Novena, West Coast Plaza, and Changi City Point.

With every $150 spent on the Christmas menu, you will receive a complimentary 1 kg packet of soup (either the Leek & Potato Soup, or the Zucchini Soup).

All food items are cooked and chilled to maintain freshness, and come with a cooler bag and heating instructions.

Many thanks to Mmmm! for the experience. First photo courtesy of Mmmm!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I love cheese; you can probably gather that from the name of my blog itself. But European cheeses have an extra special place in my heart, especially the raw (lait cru) ones, so bold in flavour and intensity.

France, in particular, with more than 1,200 varieties, is home to some of the most celebrated cheeses while other European countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands have earned repute for specific varieties of cheese.

Cheese produced in the European Union undergo stringent checks throughout all production processes. All cheese in Europe needs to be traced through every stage of product development dating back to its origin. I like that they take such pride in accountability for the quality and safety of the cheese that they create and supply.

We recently had the pleasure of listening to food and wine expert Edwin Soon give a talk on cheese appreciation at Scotts 27. He gave a fascinating summary from its history, process, types and existence in so many cultures (from Europe to India), to the worlds of tea, whisky and wine in terms of pairing options.

And what better way to truly grasp cheese appreciation than tasting those cheeses with the suggested pairings. Cheese and wine, sure, that's common. But cheese with tea and whisky? Oh man, I am such a cheese person and a tea person, but have never thought of enjoying both together. My eyes have been newly opened.

Here are the combinations we tried (and you can win some of these cheeses to try yourself; see end of post later):

1) Gouda paired with Jasmine Gold Tea
The Gouda and light floral black tea pairing really surprised me - I absolutely loved it. The mild saltiness of the semi-hard cheese danced well on the tongue when awash in tea.

2) Comte paired with Earl Grey Tea
A lot of people liked this combination. The Earl Grey also seemed to work well with quite a few other cheeses on the platter.

Different types teas will likely affect the cheeses in different ways - black tea being malty and woody, green tea being grassy with a hint of seaweed, and white tea being sweet and soft. Oolong with its medium body and flavour is probably the most versatile to pair with cheeses.

3) Brillat-Savarin paired with Cote du Rhone, E.Guigal Blanc
The Brillat-Savarin is another of my favourite cheeses, but this one was the mildest and possibly creamiest one I've ever tried. The white wine is perfect for cutting through the fatty triple cream cheese with its acidity.

4) Munster paired with Bourgogne VV, Henri Perrot Minot
Some of us still fondly recall the pungent yet memorable Munster we had at Stroobant's Saint Pierre - he interestingly paired cheese with beer that time back in 2010; it worked brilliantly. I've been looking out for Munster ever since. We had this Munster with red wine from Burgundy. It becomes a totally different creature altogether.

5) Fourme d’Ambert paired with Quinta do Silval 1997
Blue cheese is often eaten with port. This classic combination of a strong cheese with a fortified wine only makes sense. The port tones down the saltiness of the blue cheese, and lets the background flavours bloom.

Also, if you want to tone down the flavour of an overly strong cheese, you can use this trick as told to us by Edwin: spread some butter on your bread or cracker before you add the cheese.

6) Aged Mimolette paired Laphroaig 10
Oh how the Laphroaig burns like a live dragon down your throat. But it sure makes hard cheeses like Mimolette come alive. You certainly don't normally think of whisky to have with cheese, but if you like the drink, you should try this combination.

7) Calvados Camembert paired with Singleton
This divine Camembert is finished with a soak in Calvados apple brandy (I actually have a bottle of that at home, fresh from Normandy). Sorry my tasting piece of Camembert was too smashed up to photograph, so here's a picture of the whole gorgeous slab.

This ripe and intense Camembert went superbly with the Singleton whisky which is a bit fruity and sweet. I found it is available here (yay!) from Julien Bompard's La Fromagerie! But I know I will be banned from eating this at home as this raw and unpasteurised cheese is so strong.

In a nutshell, here's how you can appreciate the nuances of cheese, tea, wine and whisky.

But generally, for cheese pairing, there are no hard and fast rules; in fact, you may be pleasantly surprised when you go rogue and try out brave new combinations.

European cheese is also ideal for cooking. In fact, before the talk, we were treated to delicate cheese canapés: Cheese Fondue with Bacon Emulsion (featuring Emmental and Gruyere) and a Blue Cheese & Orange Marmalade Butter Toast.

Owner of Scotts 27, Chef Julien Bompard (right) says, "There are numerous applications for European cheese when you are cooking with it and endless varieties to choose from. Depending on the cheese and your chosen cooking method, its flavor mellows or heightens, making it very interesting to work with. Even a final grating of a specific cheese over a dish can serve to enhance it further with an additional savoury note not found in any other seasoning. Or you can enjoy it simply in the form of an elegant cheese platter with crackers, fruit and condiments. European cheese is a truly beautiful product to cook with and savour."


Meanwhile, we have a nice giveaway of cheese products worth S$50 for one lucky reader!

Yes, you can win a set of these lovely cheeses and my envy:
a) Comte
b) Munster
c) Fourme d’Ambert
d) Mimolette
e) Calvados Camembert


1. Like the European Cheeses Facebook page.

2. Share this post on any of your preferred social media platforms, and tag me or leave me your link or account below in the comments. Please make the posts public so I can see them.

You can also easily join the contest via the Facebook Fan page post or Instagram post. Share and tag your friends whom you'd love to enjoy the prize with! The more you share, the more chances you'll have to win.

Contest deadline is 30 November 2015, and the winner (chosen by random draw) will be notified by email or via the social media platform.

Thank you, CNIEL and the European Union for inviting us to the cheese appreciation session, and for sponsoring the prize.

In my last post, I featured five fabulous delivery options:

Here's one more I'd love to add to the list! Maki-San! It's not local cuisine, but who doesn't love sushi? And this one is certified halal too!


Maki-San is great if you like to customise your own sushi and salad. Make your own "Little San Sushi" for just S$7.90 (three main ingredients besides the rice) or a "Mega San Sushi" for S$9.90 (five ingredients).

I like that I can choose brown rice and soy wrap (omg it's pink!) for my sushi. And where else can you dictate roasted peppers and tempura enoki mushrooms as ingredients? Portions are generous, and the sushi rolls come in such gorgeously designed drawer boxes too!

If choosing is too confusing, you can pick some of their bestseller house rolls like Salmon Says and Simply Shrimpin'.


Maki-San has the coolest, quirkiest site. You can even play emojicon pachinko there. I have no idea how to win, but it's fun to click.

I also opted for the Tempura Soft Shell Crab and Tempura Ebi (S$7.50 each) not expecting much, but was surprised that the portion sizes are so generous!

I also like the fresh salads. The "What's Your Beef" (S$9.90) gives you roasted beef, caramelised sweet potato, pine nuts, cherry tomato, apple, onion & mixed veggies dressed with sweet Thai chilli.

There's now also an app offering 20% off the menu, if you're willing to pick up your order. They now have three outlets (I12 Katong, The Arcade at Collyer Quay, and The Cathay). Maki-San is on FoodPanda but you'll get more variety if you order from their own website directly.

And I see Christmas Promotional Bundles up already for the festive season!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Many of us have long and tiring days at work. Sometimes we are so busy, we can't even leave our desk for lunch. Or maybe you don't want to fight with the lunchtime crowd, or go into the midday heat and come back sweaty and smelly from a hawker centre.

Don't despair; you don't have to reach for cup noodles and compromise on a good meal.

We have quite a few food delivery services popping up of late. No, I'm not talking about the usual fast food or cardboard pizza, but local food that we love. Yes, comfort food we grew up with. Don't you think we need more of these? Plus it's great to support local businesses!

We can summon a nice meal with just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the smartphone. The only thing easier to get is probably reaching out for a drink of Coke®, which is easily available all around! Many online food vendors also carry Coke, making it easy to complete your meal experience with a refreshing beverage.

So let's check out the food delivery options for local cuisine:

Hawker Express

Hawker Express has been nicknamed "Uber for Street Food". They have 20 local food stalls like Ah Nam BBQ Steam Fish, Benny's Rojak Istimewa, Hafiz Nasi Ayam Penyet, and Changi Village Satay (many of which are halal). Another 20 stalls will soon join the list. There's no minimum order (yay!) and Hawker Express delivers islandwide (yes, even to god-forsaken Jurong Island).

The site was started when two hungry executives working late at night decided they didn't want fast food or pizza delivered, and were frustrated at the local food deliveries available. So they started their own and launched Hawker Express in April 2015.

I was testing out the system and ordered Hokkien Mee (S$4.90) and Beef Horfun (S$5.20) from Ah Nam (see photo above) which has 198 items on its menu. Ordering is really fast, and I got a Whatsapp confirmation from their friendly call centre.

The food arrived to my doorstep in 90 minutes, nice and warm. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Hokkien Mee is the dark sauce KL-style one (I'm still looking for my Holy Grail for that dish). The Beef Horfun was pretty decent.

What did hurt a little was the flat S$15.90 delivery fee (for orders from up to two hawkers; additional S$5.90 for each subsequent hawker). It's all right if you pool orders together with friends and colleagues, less so if you're dining alone. But I found out from their boss that this will change in the next month or so to more affordable distance-based fees, as they scale up their operations. This is one site I'll be watching in future.

Shi Fu Ge

Photo used with permission from Shi Fu Ge

There are quite a few options for folks working in the city, but what if you work or live up north? It's been said, "there's nothing nice up north" but that isn't true. With Shi Fu Ge, you can get tasty cze char delivered to your doorstep.

Among the delicacies is the signature "Imperial Pot" (above) which consists of two meaty live Sri Lankan crabs cooked with mussels, prawns and clams together with potatoes and corn in your choice of spicy or non-spicy sauce.

Residents and office workers in Yishun, Woodlands and Sembawang are the luckiest because there is no minimum order and no delivery charges for orders above S$30. For the rest of us, minimum order ranges from S$30-70, and delivery charges S$3-5, depending on how far you live.

Drinks are available when you order food at Shi Fu Ge. And yes, they offer Coke!


Grain is one of the most sophisticated food delivery services out there. The focus is on healthy delicious meals delivered in as little as 15 minutes! I had the honour of meeting the team behind this operation, and am amazed at how they did everything. See my post here:

They deliver islandwide (at a charge of S$9.50) but delivery is free if you're in their "Hotzone" - selected Marina Bay and Raffles Place areas like One Raffles Quay, Marina Bay Financial Center, Ocean Financial Centre, OUE Bayfront, NTUC Centre, Asia Square, UOB Plaza, One Raffles Place, Singapore Land Tower, Chevron House, Clifford Center, Republic Plaza.

They choose healthy cooking techniques and use of complex carbs along with fresh natural ingredients. The menu changes daily, and you can order your food five days in advance.

Gokul Vegetarian

Gokul is well known among the vegetarian community for not only excellent food but an amazing array of it - over 500 dishes at the restaurant! North and South Indian, Asian cuisines, all done vegetarian style. For delivery, it's a smaller menu but still offers good variety. It's only for evenings - 6pm to 10pm. Well, lots of people work late into the night and eat at the office. This might be a good office dinner for small groups.

I think Coke goes great with Indian food - the fizzy drink is such a great palate cleanser and the good news is, Gokul Vegetarian sells Coke! Which flavour of Coke do you normally like? My preference is for zero sugar, zero calorie Coke zero® or Coke light®.
Call 62-59-59-59 for delivery.

Gourmet To Go

Gourmet To Go is another food delivery aggregator. They deliver from various food outlets and restaurants. For local cuisine, they have Red House Seafood, Ah Dong Teh House, Fusion @ Pine Grove. Even D'Bun from Joo Chiat is here. I decided to try out River Valley Nasi Lemak.

Now the way to order is to pick your dishes via the website, and call to place the order. When I called, they immediately knew my postal code and what my order was, because their system had captured it. I was stumped. But anyway, I was glad I didn't have to repeat my whole order to them.

The nasi lemak arrived promptly at 90 minutes. These S$7.50 packs are pretty huge portions. Some in my family liked them, some found the rice not "lemak" enough and the sambal not spicy enough.

Minimum order is S$25, and there is a surcharge of S$5 for orders below S$40. And then there is this "survival charge" of 10% on all orders, to help them sustain operations on the low margins. I have heard these delivery services don't make much; that's why so many of them come and go.

Well, River Valley Nasi Lemak offers Coke in its drinks menu, so you can add them easily to your order. Coke and nasi lemak go very well together. There are combo sets including drinks for better value.
Call +65 635-22622 to order

This article is brought to you in partnership with Coca-Cola®. All opinions shared by writer are his/her own.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Morton's The Steakhouse is well known for keeping to its traditional steakhouse menu that its regulars love and can reliably come back for. But this November, Morton's is bringing on six new items in a Fall seasonal menu that will last til Feb 2016.

Seared Sea Scallops Rossini (above, S$56) are a quartet of plump sweet scallops grilled just right with nicely caramelised edges but still rare in the middle. The scallops are drizzled with foie gras butter and sit atop black truffle leeks. Rossini dishes typically involve foie gras and truffle; it's named after an Italian composer who was a noted gourmand.

Another decadent starter is the Lobster Stuffed Roasted Mushrooms (S$39). Large mushroom caps seasoned with garlic butter are roasted and stuffed generously with lobster meat filling. It is full-on umami!

Of course we had to start with this too. The gigantic but pillowy soft Onion Loaf still has that crisp crust and madly enticing aroma.

They always say don't eat too much bread. But I don't need to save stomach space; some people have a separate stomach for desserts, but I have a separate stomach for bread.

But let's see the mains!

UntitledThe Bone-in Filet Mignon (S$122) is 14 ounces of premium US beef. Yes, thank god they lifted the ban on bone-in meats from the US. The lean and tender double filet is broiled to order.

Seared perfectly still pink in the middle.

But what really stole the show was Nueske's Bacon Steak. Really, now two of my favourite words in one dish - how could you go wrong?

This is 12 ounces of thick cut slab bacon coated with honey bourbon glaze. The piquant cracked pepper adds light spicy heat.

The bacon steak is so deliciously and intensely savoury in every bite, it is best savoured slowly. I really hope this becomes part of the regular menu; it's just too good not to have.

If you feel you need some healthy greens, go for the steamed jumbo asparagus. But don't miss the Fall Menu's Mashed Black Truffle Cauliflower (S$22) - creamy cauliflower puree with black truffles and parmesan cheese, lightly sprinkled with chives. This is SO GOOD!

I know that low-carb followers have been using cauliflower mash as an alternative to mashed potato, but this version with black truffle and cheese is enough to convert even carb lovers.

If you'd like more greens, the Spinach with Bacon salad (regular menu) is fabulous. You'll be reaching out for second and third helpings.

The Fall menu dessert is this gorgeous White Chocolate Bread Pudding (S$25). Homemade bread pudding with white chocolate chips and pecans, served atop a zingy bourbon caramel sauce, crowned by a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream with white chocolate confetti.

They have quite a few good desserts here. The Carrot Cake is based on Morton's CEO's mother's recipe. It's so rich, dense and decadent with walnuts, coconut and pineapple.

Chocolate Mousse, probably one of the lightest desserts you can have here.

The Fall menu is the start of seasonal menus to come. It's based on what the US branches are offering. While I love the traditional menu, I do like the new dishes very much too. I can't wait to see what they will roll out next. It gives diners more reason to come back, and not just for steak.

By the way, if you haven't been back in a while, Morton's has changed its interiors quite a bit.

After Landry's Restaurant Group acquired it, Morton's underwent a renovation, swapping the dark wood panels and heavy masculine air for a more contemporary look. It now has actually has windows! The atmosphere is still very romantic and relaxing, with soft glow lighting.

Even the bar within is much more open; you can see it from the outside now through glass panels.

It used to look like this:

The Bar within Morton's
I had to brighten this picture a lot, as it would be too dark to see much if I didn't.

You can see my previous experience here (I still remember the ribeye fondly as one of my best steaks in Singapore):

One of the things they have (sadly) discontinued is the steak cuts show-and-tell. It was such a great tradition that everyone talked about. The huge platter of all the steak cuts is still available for viewing upon request, but I guess these days most people already know what the cuts are.

They also still have the dessert tray, useful for deciding which (HUGE) dessert you'd still have space for. It probably will make me order more than I can eat.

As usual the service is excellent, and they have knowledgeable sommeliers on hand too, to advise on wines.


Morton's Singapore has kindly given me vouchers I can share with you: four martini drink vouchers valid at the Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai and Beijing outlets (until Feb 2016), and two bar bite vouchers valid at the Singapore branch only (no expiry listed).

Just share this post on your preferred social media platforms and leave me the link in the comments below. If you're not sure how to get the link, just link your accounts. Do make the posts public so I can view them!

You can also share/repost (and tag the friends you'd like to bring) on my Facebook Fanpage post or my Instagram post, for more chances to win. Winners will be chosen by random draw, and contacted via those social media platforms.

Deadline is 21 Nov 2015 at 23:59hrs.

So good luck sharing and start thinking about who you'd like to bring along!

Mandarin Oriental Singapore
Fourth storey, 5 Raffles Avenue
Singapore 039797
Tel: +65 63393740

Open daily

Monday to Saturday 5pm to 11pm
Sunday 5pm to 10pm

Dining room
Monday to Saturday 5.30pm to 11pm
Sunday 5pm to 10pm

Thanks to Morton's Singapore for the warm hospitality and the prize sponsorship
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