Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How many of you are absolute coffee maniacs? Plenty enough to keep the hipster cafe scene going for sure. But I'm just curious - do you care where your coffee comes from and what impact it has on the environment?

Here's a company you may not have heard of - Puro - that believes people and the planet are just as important as profits. Puro was created in 2005 by a company called Miko which has been roasting coffee beans in Belgium for 212 years. Born out of growing environmental and ethical concerns, Puro has always sourced Fairtrade, organic and shade grown coffee.

Well, it has to be good coffee first, right? Fortunately it is. Puro kindly sent me a sample of some of the beans:
Fuerte: dark roasted blend of high grown Arabica blended with Congo Robusta beans (50%). Almost like bittersweet chocolate.
- Noble: mild, smooth, floral Guatemalan Arabicas blended with Peruvian Arabicas, and 20% premium Robusta
- Bio-organic: 100% Arabica from Peru and Honduras, the most delicate blend of the three, with soft notes of chocolate and citric sweetness.

My family likes the intense and full-bodied Fuerte best of all. But back to the conscientious part.

Fairtrade coffee is grown by small farmers or plantation workers meticulous about their crops, and the Fairtrade Foundation helps lift their working conditions and the lives of workers in the coffee growing dependent communities in the developing world.

Puro is also at the forefront of buying and protecting rainforests and is actively working alongside the World Land Trust, whose patron is Sir David Attenborough. Together, they even put a webcam in the  Ecuadorian rainforest to keep an eye on endangered species and raise awareness for conservation. Special forest reserves also keep near extinct species like the Golden Poison Frog alive.

For every cup of coffee sold, money is given to buy and protect areas of rainforest in South America. To date, Puro has saved over 5,600 acres (about 6,000 football fields) of rainforest across three Puro reserves in Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia.

Watch their story in this video they made in the heart of South America.

Puro Fairtrade Coffee Film from Puro Fairtrade Coffee on Vimeo.

They don’t have their own coffee shops but they supply some of the UK’s leading chains of cafes and restaurants, such as National Trust, Le Pain Quotidien, Leon, and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. I have seen their ancillary products in hotels (sugar sachets in W Bali, for example). You'll find Puro widely available in mainland Europe, Africa, Australasia and recently in Canada (they are currently looking for a US distributor).

It's great that you can have amazingly good coffee that helps the environment and the community that grows it. I've not seen any other coffee producer that is this dedicated to the cause.

For more details, visit the
Main Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/fairtradecoffee
Singapore Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/purocoffeesingapore
Singapore online store - http://store.purocoffee.com.sg
(Oooh, they now carry Puro Caremelized Speculoos Biscuits and Puro Belgian Hot Chocolate Drink)

Many thanks to Puro and Tamara Wolf for sending me the coffee from the UK!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I can see this being a hit with pregnant ladies, those doing confinement and busy executive workers. Freshly cooked bird's nest delivered to you wonderfully warm and ready to eat in a porcelain bowl.

Yu Xiang Yan sent me a sample. The bird's nest is pristine and clear, with visible strands of varying thickness. What I really like about it - it's not too sweet. Sometimes I feel too much rock sugar gets in the way of us truly enjoying the delicate nature of the bird's nest.

I have personally seen the benefits of bird's nest when regularly consumed. I can't comment on whether this brand will bring the same perks since I am only eating it once, but it certainly is a luxurious treat for the tastebuds. So warm and soothing.

Prices seem reasonable for the portion served. A single bowl with delivery goes for S$26, two bowls for S$46, four bowls for S$84 and 10 bowls for S$227 (you get one extra bowl free, so it's 11 bowls). You can serve it immediately or store it in the fridge for later consumption.

Xu Yiang Yan bird's nest delivery

The package comes in a heat retentive bag, a sturdy box and also includes a porcelain spoon. You can reuse the bowl (it has a resealable lid) either for eating, or as they suggest for planting a bonsai.

Yu Xiang Yan is also part of the team that does Purer Skin skincare using bird's nest essence. I'm currently using the serum (smells like SKII) and night moisturiser. Skin does look more smooth and hydrated when I use it more regularly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

It is the Bloody Mary's 80th birthday!

This classic vintage cocktail was perfected at The St Regis New York in 1934 when bartender Fernand Petiot at The King Cole Bar spiced up a tomato juice and vodka libation with celery salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon and Worcestershire sauce.

Today it remains the signature cocktail of the St Regis brand, and every hotel has its own localised version. Here at St Regis Singapore, you can try the Chili Padi Mary, which carries a thrilling kick from the strong chili heat, along with sweet hints of lemongrass and ginger root. I like it.

By the way, this photo above is taken at Astor Bar on a HTC One Max from HTC Singapore. I was pleasantly surprised it turned out so well!  No editing (except for cropping the bottom slightly) and no filters applied. My best shot so far, using the HTC. Still learning how to use it!

The St Regis Singapore is also presenting epicurean celebrations to showcase the Bloody Mary.

The month of October will see the St Regis Bloody Mary Anniversary Brunch on Sundays (5 to 26 Oct 2014) at Brasserie Les Saveurs. It's a four hour affair, starting with complimentary aperitifs at Astor Bar at 11am, progressing to the full brunch from noon to 3pm.

Here are some of the highlights:

Seafood on Ice

The highlight for many folks at a brunch - the bountiful seafood on ice!


Fresh sashimi laid out in what some might term an orgasmic mess.

Prime Rib of Grass Fed Beef

The chef carving out exquisite slices of Prime Rib of Grass Fed Beef.

Bread station

The bread station for all your carb cravings.

Cheese board

A small but satisfying cheese board. Yes, they have Camembert. Brownie points!

Cold cuts and charcuterie

Cold cuts and charcuterie - a pretty decent spread. Look at the leg of Jamon...mmmh!

Salad station

Salad station - for that balanced breakfast with greens and vitamins.

Make your own Jamon Salad!

Create your own Jamon salad! Sometimes I like to mix things from different stations.

Foie Gras sizzling

Generous lobes of fine foie gras sizzling upon order.

In addition to the cold seafood, there's hot dishes too - mussels and grilled prawns. I kinda preferred these - much more flavourful.

In addition to the regular brunch dishes, the Bloody Mary anniversary brunch also features pass around canapes and main dishes made with ingredients normally found in the cocktail.

Tomato and Crabmeat Maki Roll with Bloody Mary Vinaigrette

Tomato and Crabmeat Maki Roll with Bloody Mary Vinaigrette

Yellow Fin Tuna Tataki coated with sesame seeds, citrus salsa

Yellow Fin Tuna Tataki coated with sesame seeds, served with a tasty citrus salsa

White Mary Liquid - Bloody Mary Sherbet and Vodka Celery Jellies

White Mary Liquid - Bloody Mary Sherbet and Vodka Celery Jellies

Poached Cod Fish with White Mary Vodka Beurre Blanc, Sauteed Leek and Celery, Slow Dried Cherry
Poached Cod Fish with White Mary Vodka Beurre Blanc, Sauteed Leek and Celery, Slow Dried Cherry - this was the main dish

There are various other main dishes you can also order.

Poached egg with foie gras foam and parmesan cheese

More pass around goodies like the Poached Egg with foie gras foam and parmesan cheese. Break it up, mix it up, and inhale. Say "Oh my god..."

Ruinart Champagne

There is a bespoke Bloody Mary trolley for you to experiment with. But if you prefer, you can also opt for Ruinart Champagne for the brunch.

Dreamy desserts

By the time you reach desserts, they will probably look this dreamy.


Well, who knew tomatoes could bring such joy. The Bloody Mary would not exist without them.

And here's a quick recap of the brunch, done using the Zoe video feature on the HTC. It puts together photos and videos with music and effects, easily.

The St Regis Bloody Mary Anniversary Brunch offers tiered options:
- Epicurean Delight ($148++) with complimentary flow of freshly brewed coffee and tea.
- Astor Indulgence ($180++) with complimentary flow of wines, beer, soft drinks and juices.
- Connoisseur Experience ($195++) with complimentary flow of Ruinart champagne, wines, beer and juices.

Here's the recipe for the Chili Padi Mary (click to see bigger version), should you be inclined to try it at home.

If you would like to see how other SPG restaurants are celebrating the Bloody Mary 80th anniversary, check the website - http://www.spgrestaurantsandbars.com//bloodymary80

29 Tanglin Road
Singapore 247911
Tel: +65 6506 6860

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Imagine having your own stash of beautifully creamy homemade yoghurt - free of additives, sweeteners and preservatives - to enjoy at any time. It's easier than you think, and could save you a pretty penny in the long run.

Gene Mok of Selfish Gene Cafe kindly shared with us his method for making yoghurt, simplified for home cooks. It took him several months to perfect the recipe, and I have to say - the yoghurt tastes really good!

The full recipe, along with tips for making yoghurt nice and creamy, are in my story on Yahoo and Makansutra:



Gene also showed us how he uses yoghurt in some of the cafe's dishes. Aside from the obvious Homemade Yoghurt with summer berry compote and granola (S$6, in the pretty jar, available 10am to 3pm), it also goes into dressings and cakes.

For the daily lunch, Gene has come up with a list of specials only for weekdays. Roasted Atlantic Salmon Fillet with Dill-scented Potato and Homemade Slaw (S$16). Portion shown above is just a tasting portion, but oooh, the fish was done perfectly. Slightly rare in the middle and so very moist and tender. The smear of yoghurt dressing adds a nice tang, and even the drops of oil are not for decoration, but are infused with a nice scent.

Other lunch specials include Pasta Alla Olio with Hickory Smoked Bacon Lardons, Fried Egg, Garlic, Chili and Parsley (S$14). Add a mini soup and salad (S$4) if you wish. There are also homemade soups like Cream of Pumpkin and even Soto Ayam - Asian-inspired leek, potato and chicken soup, with deep-fried shallots and chili oil.

He also makes his own ricotta, which he uses in the Mushroom Tartine (foreground). It's amazingly savoury, this little bite of thyme scented sauteed mushrooms with homemade ricotta on multigrain bread. This is just a tasting sample. I need to come back for the full-sized version.

The Orange Yoghurt Cake (S$6) is quite a treat too. The citrusy aroma is a lovely pick-me-up for tea. The yoghurt I think helps to keep the cake moist - in fact, Gene used yoghurt as a substitute for buttermilk, which is hard to get here.

All the cakes are made inhouse using French techniques, and no emulsifiers.

Gene is a psychology graduate but could not resist returning to his creative inclinations. He explored pottery, baking, and then enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, Sydney, to learn the fundamentals of French cooking. Upon his return, he trained under Emmanuel Stroobant of Saint Pierre from 2007 to 2011.

"I want to offer simple, honest food to guests at Selfish Gene Cafe. But there's also a thought process behind every dish. It's a symbiotic relationship between chef and guest," he says.

Some people have wondered if the name of the cafe would conjure negative connotations, with the name "Selfish", but it explains Gene's philosophy: he is selfish because he will not serve food that he himself will not eat. That and the clever nod to Richard Dawkins' book.

But it's a great place to chill, whether alone or with a friend. Breakfast is served from 10am til 3pm. Lunch is noon to 2.30pm. Sandwiches from 11.30am onwards, and desserts served all day.

Coffee here is excellent - Gene uses a blend of Arabica beans from Sumatra, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Brazil (Highlander Coffee). But he also has great taste in tea, which is his first love. He stocks Dammann Frères, one of the very best (and my favourite too). You'll also find Chinese style teas like Tie Guan Yin, Osmanthus and Pu Er, supplied by a local merchant.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selfishgenecafe
Twitter: https://twitter.com/selfishgenecafe
40 Craig Road
Singapore 089678
Tel: +65 6423-1324 (no reservations, walk-in only)
Mon-Fri 10am to 5.30pm (last order 5pm)
Sat-Sun 9am to 5pm (last order 4.30pm)
Closed on certain public holidays (refer to their website)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

BiTES - The Scoop on Good Eats (follow them on Instagram here - @bitessg ) put me on the hot seat this month. We had a lot of fun chatting and enjoying the luscious brunch spread at Seasonal Tastes brunch at the Westin Singapore (mmmn, nice rendang). I love the magazine...it's pages and pages of yummy things to eat.

Here's the full interview.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The ToTT Taste Challenge is back after last year's success
Gosh, we had such fun at the ToTT 4th Anniversary Taste Challenge yesterday. The blindfolded contest had us tasting 20 food ingredients and five dishes. Wow, it was tougher than last year. Some everyday food items had us completely stumped when the element of sight was missing. But that's what makes it fun. The chorus of "Ohhhh!" when each answer was revealed was a hint of how many people were equally baffled.

Blindfolded for the ToTT Taste Challenge!
Last year, I thought I didn't do so well. I had four answers wrong. This year...I got EIGHT wrong! Are my tastebuds getting more confused the more food I eat? Or maybe it's the dreaded age factor - "I can't taste my food anymore!" Haha. But at least the FIJI Water still tasted good.

The winner of the ToTT Taste Challenge got 24 out of 25 answers correct!
The winner was a student. She got 24 out of 25 correct, beating the rest by a wide margin. This year there were three prizes; last year one winner took all.

ToTT's 4th Anniversary sale is now on!
Well, the Taste Challenge may be over, but there's plenty more in ToTT's 4th anniversary celebrations - the anniversary draw, in-store contests, demo classes, S$4 deals with purchases, but most notably, THE SALE! Up to 50% off certain products, and 10% off storewide. This comes but once a year. They also have new products, which I will show you later.

An Airfryer for only $98!
Among the Star Buys is this Mayer AirFryer going for only S$98 (usual price S$299). Check their page for more Star Buys.

Bakeware at 50% off!
Bakers will be delighted to find Nordic Ware heavy gauge aluminium bakeware on half price. KitchenAid stand mixers are going from S$649 (usual price S$1,018).

Zyliss products at half price!
Zyliss tools and Silit pans are also on sale.

Frozen! Food and drink storage containers for the little ones
Gosh, we can't escape Frozen even here.

Up to 50% off certain products at the ToTT annual sale
Looking to upgrade your dinnerware?

New at ToTT! Garnier-Thiebaut stain-proof linen
There are some new products at ToTT. I love the French luxury stain-proof linen from Garnier-Thiebaut. Water rolls right off, and it holds up against stains very well. Some of the designs are lovely.

New at ToTT! Magisso Naturally Cooling Ceramics!
ToTT has also brought in Magisso, the naturally cooling ceramics. Soak the ceramic item in water, and it will stay cool for up to two hours. Champagne cooler, ice bucket, carafe, salad bowl and so on. The surface is beautifully matt and grainy - it takes chalk decorations and writing well!

A very realistic candle for mood lighting without risk of fire

There are these gorgeous candles of different colours (red and green too, good for Christmas) with amazingly realistic artificial flames. All the benefits of mood lighting, but none of the risk of fire. Especially important if you have children or pets.

Meanwhile, ToTT Bistro has got 11 new dishes!

Very good Hokkien prawn noodles with pork rib
The Prawn Noodles Soup (S$12.90) was seriously good. The sweetly savoury broth is intense, and it comes with large prawns and tender pork ribs.

Mee Rebus also lipsmackingly good
The Mee Rebus (S$12.90) is also incredibly moreish. Nice blend of spices in the delicious gravy along with noodles that retain some bite (not soggy).

ToTT has so many wonderful things for cooking, baking and hosting, so the sale is a good time to stock up on quality kitchen essentials, or to go for that coveted cooking gadget. This is a Zoe clip put together on the HTC One Max from HTC Singapore. It puts together highlights of photos and videos along with themed effects and music - and you can easily share it on your social media platforms. I'm still learning all the different filters and remix possibilities!

Stay updated for more ToTT events on Facebook.

896 Dunearn Road, #01-01A,
Singapore 589472
Tel: +65 6219-7077

Open daily
Mon - Fri: 11.00am - 9.00pm
Sat, Sun & PH: 10:00am - 9:00pm

Thursday, October 2, 2014

We have such an amazing variety of food in Singapore. Our "fast food" (hawker food) beats any multinational chain any time. When I travel, especially beyond Asia, I love exploring the local cuisines, but sometimes find that I end up craving the food that I take for granted back home.

Even while on holiday, you start telling your friends you want to eat some laksa, bak chor mee or chicken rice with lots of chili the minute you get back home. A lot of us tend to miss the spicy factor in the food, our greasy stir-fried treats and unabashedly rich flavours. What goes well with that is a cold bubbly Coke (or Coke zero if you prefer no calories). It really perks you up and refreshes your palate for the next bite. I have friends who are such Coke fans - they love the taste which they say is more "mature" than other sodas.

So what are dishes you miss most when overseas? Here are five of mine, along with a couple of suggested places to dash to when the craving hits. There are so many good places. If you have a favourite or hidden gem to recommend, let me know too!


BBQ on a stick! What's not to love? The satay from Alhambra Padang Satay at Makansutra Gluttons Bay features a blend of 18 aromatic spices in its marinade. I also like the meaty chunks from Warong Sudi Mampir (Block 14 Haig Road, #01-19 Haig Road Food Centre) and its gorgeous satay sauce. Best of all, they have babat (tripe) satay!

Char Kway Teow

It looks messy but nothing beats a seriously savoury plate of fried kway teow with good wok hei! The old man may no longer be frying at Hill Street Fried Kway Teow (Block 16, Bedok South Road, #01-187) but his son is picking up the skills well. For a wetter and sweeter version, try Lai Heng Fried Kway Teow at Blk 320 Shunfu Road, #02-20 Shunfu Mart Food Centre.

"Orh Luak" or Oyster Omelette

Ah Chuan Fried Oyster Omelette
That delicious omelette filled with plump little oysters and pockets of gooey starch that has absorbed all the seafood flavours - it's a greasebomb but it's love. Photo is from Ah Chuan at Blk 22 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, Stall #01-25. If you prefer bigger oysters, Ah Orh at Blk 22 Sin Ming Road, #01-258, Eng Ho Hup Coffeeshop does a superb version with crispy edges and fluffy insides. If you're in the city, Katong Keah Kee Fried Oysters at the "Singapore Food Trail" at Singapore Flyer also hits the spot. Mr. Law Jock Keah himself fries the omelettes there (not some hired hand from overseas), so you know you're getting the good stuff.

Roti Prata

Banana Honey Prata

My neighbourhood prata is actually pretty decent, so I never have to venture far. But if you want the wow factor, join the line for Sin Ming Roti Prata (Block 24 Sin Ming Drive #01-51). The prata is an amazing play of textures - crispy, fluffy and gently chewy - and is the perfect thing to dip in their awesome fish curry. If you like your prata sweet, check out ABC Restaurant at 365 Joo Chiat Road for their divine banana honey prata (photo above).

Asian-style Seafood

Sambal stingray, S$10 for small portion

Oh yes, we pile on the spices like there is no tomorrow! Stingray, prawns, mussels, lala...seafood gets in bed with sambal and turns up the heat. You can get great choices at Chomp Chomp or East Coast Lagoon food centres. And then there's chili crab, black pepper crab, white pepper crab, butter crab and ooh, you have to try the Salted Egg Yolk Crab from Roland Restaurant (Block 89 Marine Parade Central #06-750). The crabs have this golden savoury batter and are lovingly showered with with pine nuts, curry leaves, crispy yam strips (painstakingly hand-shredded), and hae bee (dried shrimp). Hands down my favourite style of crab at the moment!

This article is brought to you by Coca-Cola®. Check out @CokeSG on Twitter.
If you want to find out more about food pairing, search for #cokewithfood on your Facebook!

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