Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Yes, yes, yes, I did it! A few days after posting my delirious DSLR craving, I took the plunge and took home my new toy! The Canon EOS 400D for a song! But all the photos before today's are still from the Sony DSC-W50 point-and-shoot. Why? Because... Tomorrow is Camemberu's first year anniversary and I will kick off the DSLR photos then and thereafter!
Besides, I need a few days to practise and get to know the new camera. Even though one of the smallest and lightest DSLRs around, it's still a monster compared to the ethereal nothingness of the slim Sony. My preliminary photos turned out worse than with the P&S! LOL! But I'm comforted to read that it can take 3-4 months getting acquainted with the quirks of a new camera.
Thanks majorly to hubby who bought this for my birthday. He says it's long overdue and believes I can go much further in photography! He instantly wins "Best Hubby in the Worlddddd!!!~!1!!" award. I'm less certain of my potential but I'm not returning the camera!
I upgraded the kit lens to one with the Image Stabiliser feature. Canon's image stabilising function is not on the body but within the lenses (meaning costlier lenses too! Yikes!). Photo taken with the 60mm standard macro lens which I tested at the shop but did not buy. The guys at John 3:16 are very friendly. They are hardcore Canon supporters!
Did you know Canon's name is loosely based on Kannon, the Japanese goddess of mercy? Yes, it's the Guan Yin bodhisattva. And the name EOS is the Greek goddess of spring (and dawn). What divine roots, my new toy has!
My biggest challenge is taking shots at night in dimlit situations without tripod or flash. Must hold it so steady! And pick the right aperture, ISO and shutter speeds!
Daytime shots are a bit easier but it is still tough indoors. My house needs more natural light! Still practising to get the much coveted blurry background! It makes Jolie look so 3D, doesn't it?
Outdoors at 18mm widest angle. This is taken soon after I collected my FREE additional rechargeable battery (April promo) from the Canon office at Harbourfront.
Trying out the macro mode. I can't disable the flash here (bummer!) as I can with the Sony, so I literally closed the flash unit down manually while locking in focus. Will have to figure out the manual modes in future.
Portrait mode, with flash (which is superbright and a bit harsh but what to do, it's night time and subject is moving all the time!). This is Nadine pretending to be an overworked sushi chef.
I love these. I probably will need a macro lens. But first things first, I can't even hold the camera steadily enough yet!
Boy, do I have a long way to go! Any experienced photographers out there willing to share tips and advice?
But tomorrow - food photos! I will show what I took over the weekend. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
What Your Pizza Reveals
Your appetite is pretty average. You don't go overboard - but you don't deprive yourself either.
You are a very picky pizza eater. Not any pizza will do. You fit in best in the Northeast part of the US.
You like food that's traditional and well crafted. You aren't impressed with "gourmet" foods.
You are generous, outgoing, and considerate with your choices.
You are cultured and intellectual. You should consider traveling to Vienna.
The stereotype that best fits you is geek. You're the type most likely to order pizza to avoid leaving your computer.
Speaking of pizzas, here's a quiz that aims to tell what your pizza preferences say about you! Just for fun!
I was very happy to find out that Spizza does delivery islandwide. Their pizzas have been so well-praised by so many but I have yet to go to any of their outlets. So one fine day when we had to stay home, we rang them up. We chose the Olivia and the Ursula (over 20 pizzas all named after girls), each S$22.
Unfortunately they were a bit disappointing. The Ursula (description reads: Tomato, Mascarpone, Spinach, Smoked Salmon, Capers) had a very strong fishy smell when we opened the box. The smoked salmon had mostly been cooked through, so it released its "aromas". I could still eat it, but hubby nearly fainted at the smell.
The Olivia (Tomato, Mozzarella, Salami, Fresh Chili) was a bit bland, strangely. Probably one of the thinnest crust pizzas I've tried but something is missing tastewise. The spinach leaves (given in a separate plastic box) were for the Ursula pizza but I felt they belonged on the salami one better.
Perhaps, as with Artz Pizza, they taste better when eaten fresh out of the oven. But now I'm not sure I can convince hubby to even go near Spizza shops.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Buffets are such a love-hate affair. I love the "DIY Degustation, Unlimited!" manner in which you can enjoy your food, but I also cross too quickly into the oversatiation zone, thus wiping out all enjoyment gained beforehand. But it's still fun once in a while. Especially if the meal doesn't dent the wallet too much. Feast@East has a weekday lunch (about S$29++) that seems just right. We had tried the weekend version before and knew this place was all right. Mmmh, look at the carvery!
You can go light with salad and cheese. I was impressed they served challah (a Jewish braided loaf) amongst the artisan breads in the basket. The greens are nice - simple but very fresh.
Regular suspects from the cold items. Prawns, salmon sashimi, mussels, jellyfish, potato salad. The ngoh hiang is a bit cold and hard but I found the taste addictive! They also had various Thai salads but I only took a bit of som tum.
The hot stations featured a small but good selection of Asian and Western dishes. All my favourites above. Cereal prawns, five-spiced pork belly, sweet and sour fish! There are also noodle and oyster omelette stations, but I reckon these change daily, so may or may not be available all the time.
Cereal prawns galore!!! Deliciously sweeet!
A fairly comprehensive array of desserts complete the offering. The de rigueur chocolate fountain, durian mousse, Peranakan kuehs, bread and butter pudding and mini cakes/tartlets/shooters are just some. There's even candy and wafers lining the pillars that you can help yourself to.
For me the piece de resistance is their durian pengat! Yummy good quality stuff! Better than some hotels in town.
The Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel is nicely renovated, and so are its F&B outlets. Feast@East retains a cosy, casual atmosphere and the service staff are pleasantly professional. A nice place to eat and relax.
Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel Level 3
50 East Coast Road
Breakfast: 06.30 am - 10.30 am
Lunch: 12.00 pm - 02.30 pm
Dinner: 06.30 pm - 09.30 pm
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Raffles City basement now has so many eateries but very few that we like. A few days ago, we chanced upon this little ramen shop - Bishamon Sapporo Ramen. Ah, another Sapporo ramen joint. I'd heard good stuff about them. And we weren't disappointed. I liked the spicy miso ramen (S$12) I had. Nicely savoury without being overpowering or overly spicy. The char siew slices are very thick but amazingly, they were so tender, they just melted in your mouth.
Hubby enjoyed the shoyu ramen (S$12.50). I am not fond of shoyu flavouring and found a perceptible porky taste. But it does grow on you. Just a very different flavour from the miso.
This tiny shop doesn't seat very many. Seats spill out into the walkway and most people just eat and go. Bishamon also serves curry rice and some appetiser snacks, if you prefer something other than ramen.
BISHAMON SAPPORO RAMEN
252 North Bridge Road
#B1-17 Raffles City Shopping Centre
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Sigh. Still using point-and-shoot photos. Hubby and I had some Tunglok vouchers to spend but were too lazy to go downtown, so we hopped to the nearby Tung Lok Seafood at East Coast Parkway. We have been here before once but this time, we did not want the buffet.
Clear soup with bits of scallop, prawn, mushroom and fish. Hubby liked this but I found it rather bland at first. Grows on you though. Piping hot, clear and comforting broth.
This is one of their signature dishes but it failed to impress much. The batter is a bit too floury, and the mayo too cloying. We've had better at Cherry Garden.
I dissected these and found more prawn than scallop. In fact, I had to look very hard for the scallop bits, they're almost non-existent!
Not bad even if a teensy bit mushy. Ample ingredients inside, but the whole roll is quite small.
Reasonably well done. Thin translucent steamed rice flour skin and lots of char siew.
Plump, juicy shrimp dumplings, each with about two prawns inside.
Very soft radish cake, with strips of actual radish discernible within. These added sweetness to the bland mesh.
Must have some greens, although these aren't terribly healthy, being deep-fried and all. Tasty though.
The ultimate stomach filler - fried rice! This was a bit bland though but was good with the savoury long beans. Could not finish the very large portion, so we doggybagged this.
This place can get a bit pricey. Lots of people come here in big groups for their value-for-money dim sum buffets (two kinds, one with a la carte seafood items). Even on a weekday, it was easily half full for lunch.
TUNG LOK SEAFOOD
Building B, 1000 East Coast Parkway,
2nd Floor East Coast Recreation Centre
(there is no lift; you have to take the stairs, so it's not terribly disabled/elderly friendly)
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Hubby and I walked past Canele at Raffles City and we saw bowls of their giant meringues. Oh, must try! Crisp, dry and hard on the outside but airy soft and chewy on the inside, almost like chewy cotton candy. Yes, very sweet but not tooth-numbingly so.
We also sprung for a profiterole, but it wasn't anything too impressive. The pastry bits are a tad dry but it was still something we finished quite easily.
Mmh, too bad we didn't have room in our tummy for more (it was already after dinner). I really must come back for more of their desserts and mains!
CANELE PATISSERIE CHOCOLATERIE
252 North Bridge Road,
#B1-81/82 Raffles City Shopping Centre
(two other locations at Robinson Walk and Paragon
Sunday, April 20, 2008
OK back to earth, to food, and point-and-shoot photos, for now. After the visit to John 3:16 at Funan Centre, we went to Wakashachiya at the Central (above Clarke Quay MRT) which is just a junction or two away.
This time, I vowed to have a bowl of curry udon all to myself. My shrimp tempura udon (about S$16) looked really pretty. Two crispy jumbo shrimps adorned the top of this tasty bowl. Very fresh ones too, with batter that's not greasy. I enjoyed them very much.
Hubby took the cheese and katsu version, topped very generously as you can see. I love the stringy cheese melting in the hot curry. While we both enjoyed the curry udon, we felt that the gravy seemed a bit too thick and overpowering this time. It tasted a lot better when I had just snatches of it the last time.
We were very happy to see that the renkon salad (March monthly special) was still available! Of course we had to have it. However, the presentation seems to be a little bit more slipshod. Perhaps someone else was in charge in the kitchen today.
These fried midjoint chicken wings were delicious, especially the sweetly spicy ones. A nice medley of three flavours, but for S$10, they are a bit pricey. I could eat ten at Ya Kwang for the same price. But then again, you're paying for ambiance, comfy seats, and air-conditioning.
Wakashachiya can get a bit expensive if you get too many sides but they do use quality ingredients. Service staff (Ann in particular) are always warm and friendly. While we were there, more than half the place was filled with Japanese customers. But one doesn't need their presence to tell this is fairly good food.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Yesterday I followed a friend into the John 3:16 camera shop at Funan Centre (he to buy camera, and I for a curious look). Oh the luxury of holding a DSLR and playing with it in your hands. That's like getting to third base (first being "the mere thought of a DSLR", second being "just taking a look" and the homerun of handing over your credit card). The Canon EOS 400D is now only S$1,080 with lens! And I can still use my EF lens from my old manual 500N SLR. Oooh so tempting...but am still resisting! But for how long...
Now I have to get over the other hangups...i.e. looking like a bloody tourist, lugging around a bulkier weight, and not being able to take photos discreetly.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Gorgeous pictures on Amandalwh's blog inspired me to concoct my own ice-cream. No ice cream maker required! After a successful trial batch on plain vanilla, I decided to try a flavour I really like. Chendol! Well, technically, this should be called Gula Melaka-Coconut ice cream, since it contains none of the green noodle strips called chendol (which are a bit pointless to freeze since they become hard fiddly bits). But oh, who cares what it's called when one slurp makes you forget everything else in the world.
INGREDIENTS (give or take):
6 egg yolks
120g gula melaka/palm sugar, chopped finely
250ml thick coconut milk (the "extra virgin" or first press from freshly grated coconut)
250ml low-fat milk
200ml thick or heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1. Beat egg yolks briefly until evenly mixed.
2. Combine palm sugar, salt, coconut milk and low-fat milk in saucepan over low heat, stirring until fully dissolved.
3. When mixture starts to boil, take it off the heat and strain to remove impurities.
4. Pour sugar-milk mixture into beaten egg yolks, stirring slowly.
5. Put it back on low heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil or the custard will harden.
6. Remove from heat, transfer to a deep dish bowl and let it cool. (I cheat by placing the bowl in ice water or over ice cubes)
7. Stir in cream and put it in the freezer for an hour.
8. Check the ice cream - it should have started freezing at the edges but not at the centre. Take the bowl out of the freezer and beat the ice cream mixture until it’s creamy once again (this breaks up the ice crystals that have formed). You could blitz it using a food processor or just give your arms a good workout. Place the ice cream back into the freezer.
9. Repeat step 8 for a total of 3 times at least. The more you repeat this, the softer your ice cream will be.
10. Pour the mixture into storage container and freeze till set.
The final product has a consistency that's a bit more like kulfi than airy soft ice cream (that you get from the ice cream maker doing all the churning work for you). But it makes the dessert no less decadent.
This is the famous Chai Chee Noodle Village bak chor mee, with 14 outlets islandwide (six of which are open 24-hours, the rest in food court locations). They boast 18 ingredients in their soup, including old hens, white turnips and luncheon meat. I'm not their biggest fan but sometimes it's a decent bowl to have. This stall at the Treats basement food court of Parkway Parade is manned by a young 20-something man but he's managed to maintain some standards.
CHAI CHEE NOODLE VILLAGE
Six 24-hour outlets:
Block 443 Pasir Ris Drive 6, 01-02
Block 682 Hougang Avenue 4, 01-300
32/34 Aljunied Road, Junction Food Place
Block 444 Pasir Ris Drive 6, 01-102
376 East Coast Road
39 MacPherson Road, Jackson Food Centre (this does not exist anymore, not sure where they've moved to)
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Yong tau foo. Something I would rarely eat of my own volition. It just isn't that compelling, tastewise. How can it fight with char kway teow, fried Hokkien mee or chicken rice? But in recent years I'm starting to appreciate it a bit more (does old age make you more health-conscious?). I like it in soup (no noodles) and it's a plus when I discover good stock with soybeans at the bottom of my bowl. Must have items are dried seaweed and fried pig skin (guilty pleasure)!
The stall at Treats, the basement food court at Parkway Parade, features a wide array of vegetables (see entire top row lined with greens). That's in addition to the bottom row of mushrooms, wood fungus, babycorn and beansprouts. I have to keep telling myself not to take too many of the deep-fried items. My least favourite items are those stuffed with fish paste. I find them simply pallid but well, they're supposed to be the healthiest. Maybe when I'm 70, I'll start liking those.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Thanks to Nigella, I have found a new triumvirate of taste - mustard, cream and cider. This mix turns pork chops into the most droolicious bites, and I can imagine it would go well with certain fish too.
One of my indulgences is her latest book Nigella Express, which yields this recipe of Mustard Pork Chops. These are dastardly easy to whip up and yet make for a satisfying dinner.
There is a verbatim recipe at the Food Network. But I'll summarise it here for you.
2 pork chops, about 450g total
2 teaspoons garlic oil (I just fried some chopped garlic in the oil)
125ml cider (this is quite a lot)
1 x 15ml tablespoon grainy mustard
75ml double cream
1. Cut fat and rind off the chops. Nigella says to bash them (between clingfilm) briefly with rolling pin to make the chops thinner, but I didn't bother.
2. Heat oil in heavy-based pan and cook on moderate heat, five mins each side. Remove to warmed plate (warmed not necessary in our tropics).
3. Pour cider into the pan, still over the heat, to deglaze pan. Let it bubble for a minute and then add mustard and cream.
4. Let sauces continue cooking for a few minutes before pouring over each plated pork chop. She recommends gnocchi or some potato element to soak up the juices (of which there certainly are a lot!). If you are using gnocchi, just turn them in the pan to absorb the spare juices before adding to the plates.
So delicious, I kept the extra juices for bread the next day.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Ah, my first attempt at donuts, using D's very easy-to-follow pictorial recipe. His version is the soft, fluffy, honey glazed ones similar to Krispy Kreme's. My slightly revised recipe follows at the end (with changes in pink).
But mine turned out humongous because somewhere between cutting them into circles and frying them, I took a half-hour break (to bring Nadine to the playground as she'd been crying inconsolably). So when I came home, the donuts had risen to double their size, each as big as my entire hand! However, they were ultra fluffy and delicious! The skin was just a thin, crisp layer that gave way to sweet cotton-soft insides. Everyone in the family loved them.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the house, another little "donut" has grown to jumbo proportions too. Jolie, now three months old, weighs a whopping 7.2kg, at the 97th percentile! She's also graduated to the same "L" size diapers as her 20-month old sister Nadine! Not to mention clothes meant for babies 6-12 months of age. We were a bit worried about her size but the doctor said "it's OK, she's really just 'prosperous'..."! Ah Jolie, please do bring everybody some prosperity this year!
JUMBO DONUTS (makes 12)
6 cups plain flour (or more if required)
6 teaspoons instant yeast
1-1/2 cups warm milk
A big pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
Vegetable oil (for frying)
3. Vanilla essence
1. Mix the butter, sugar, eggs, salt and milk on slow speed until smooth. I did this manually.
2. Mix instant yeast with about two cups of flour, and add that to the first mixture till you obtain a paste-like texture.
3. Add the remaining flour and manually mix and knead till a soft elastic texture is obtained (add more flour if it's too wet).
4. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cling wrap the top.
5. Set it aside in a warm place for about an hour and the volume should double.
6. With a rolling pin, roll the dough (using copious amounts of extra flour if it's too sticky) into sheets of about 1/2 an inch in thickness.
7. Using cookie cutters, cut out the donut shapes. I used a small rice bowl and plastic medicine cup since I didn't have cookie cutters.
8. Line them up on a lightly greased tray prior to frying.
9. Leave them to puff up even more for 30-60 mins (or until desired risen size)! Some crazy yeast at work here!
10. Meanwhile, make your glaze (no fixed proportions here - this I found tricky)
a. Melt some butter in a pan
b. Stir in sugar and honey till desired flavor is obtained
c. Add a few drops of vanilla essence
d. Add water and stir on low heat until desired viscosity is achieved
11. Heat oil on medium heat, test the temperature first by sacrificing one of those donut centers.
12. Fry each donut for about 20-30s on each side (they cook very quickly!)
13. Set aside donuts to cool and excess oil to drip off (they won't pick up the glaze if they're too greasy or too hot)
14. Dip one side of each donut into the honey glaze and serve warm!
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Update on 13 April: please read this comment below for one reader's bad experience since the post was published. It seems the restaurant was unable to handle demand in certain situations.
Update 10 June: have received a comment that prices have gone up to S$68+++! Please call to confirm if you do decide to go (also check buffet hours).
Sorry for the delay. Here's more on Wasabi Bistro, continued from the previous post. After the glut of rich, creamy sensations, we called for a salad. The seaweed salad was a generous dish of crisp, fresh greens and wakame, doused with a tangy ponzu dressing. All of which helped cut through the grease and prepared us for more tasty things to come.
The teriyaki beef tenderloin was hubby's absolute favourite of all the dishes here. The dark, caramelised teriyaki sauce brought out the oomph in the beef that was seared just right.
The mushroom sauce version was not so good. Very thin on taste and the beef was undercooked in some parts (no, not the pink and bloody rare type of doneness, just the cold chilled type of raw).
The other thing we didn't really like was the chicken karaage. I think they used thigh meat, which tastes more gamey than breast meat. Oh well, some people might prefer this instead. Mildly spiced and fried bone dry, the chicken was served with a spicy mayo-chili sauce, similar to the one for Dynamite rolls.
Oh yes, you can have unlimited sashimi here too. They have two sizes. "Wa" for 1-2 pax and "Sabi" for 2-3 pax. Thick slices of salmon, tuna, swordfish, yellowtail (I think) and some white fish chopped up together with tobiko and shisho. While I've had better elsewhere, the sashimi here at least did not have any sinews at all.
Yet another generous platter! Eight shrimp tempura and vegetables of all sorts - okra, carrot, shiitake mushroom, pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini, red and green pepper! Crisp batter but just a bit too greasy for my liking.
Some cold soba to wash it all down. Hubby always likes to have a portion of this at every Japanese meal. I think by now we've eaten way too much. Time for dessert!
Not just a straightforward scoop of black sesame ice cream. It has two layers, a lighter icy grey on the surface and a dark, creamier centre. Topped with strawberry coulis.
Half the dessert menu was not available. We could only choose from ice creams, matcha shiratama and fruits. The matcha shiratama is a tiny serving of sweetened red bean pulp with five dimpled mochi slices. Tasty morsel, but really only adequate for one person.
Finally a platter of fresh fruits to cleanse the palate. Again, such beautiful presentation. I love that wide decorative leaf. The muskmelon or cantaloupe is extremely fragrant and sweet. But it can't be from Japan, or the price of the buffet would easily double!
So there you have it. Most Sunday brunches are rather costly affairs and this one is no different. But at least it's one with a different touch, and has lots of healthy omega-oils included via the fish and seafood. Oh, there were so many other dishes I wanted to try - the cod misoyaki, teppan dishes, other rolls and salads. Those interested in the full menu can take a look here.
4th floor, Mandarin Oriental Singapore
5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square
Sunday Brunch Buffet: 12pm-4pm (update 13 April: this info is from their website, but have received feedback that the buffet timing may have been shortened, with last orders at 2.15pm)