Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Nespresso Pixie Review; and $80 discount on all Nespresso machines for GSS!


The kind folks at Nespresso loaned me their Pixie machine (S$398) - it's one of their latest models, and true to its name, is petite and portable.

I have been seeing lots of Nespresso Essenza machines in hotels, and was curious about the many other flavours of coffee capsules they have. There are at least 16 Grand Cru coffees, with seasonal or limited edition flavours every few months.

Jolie was very happy arranging the capsules in rainbow colours.

Personally, I prefer the darker, stronger brews and vanilla-scented holiday specials. Some have a lemony tinge, yet others have hints of spice, cereal, wine, or flowers.

The Pixie itself is quite compact, and is much easier to use than previous models. Just lift the metal handle, slot in the capsule in the cavity revealed, and press down that handle again. Then select the beverage size/style - espresso (small) or lungo (large).

Pictured next to it is a milk frother which can do milk either hot or cold. It also comes in two different strengths of frothing for your homemade cappucino or latte.

The coffee itself comes with a discernible crema. The different flavours offer varying intensities, roasting levels and aromas. You will probably say goodbye to instant coffee, but maybe not quite yet to the kind of espressos from high-end S$7,000 machines used in shops and restaurants. For home use, and at (sometimes less than) S$1 a cup, it's decent enough.

I held a Nespresso party with this portable Pixie. Yes, I brought it to Keropokman's and Momo's home and we had a few other bloggers come over to try out the machine and different flavours. The coffee was perfect with brownies, cookies, ice cream, and crunchy snacks! We had fun with the machine - it was really easy to use, even for someone who has never tried it before.

Nespresso also has a brand new Latissima+ machine (S$688), which looks to be a coffee and milk combination machine. It boasts a "one-touch" milk solution to help you create a range of espresso-based beverages (especially cappucino) at home. (Photo on right courtesy of Nespresso)

And for the Great Singapore Sale, Nespresso is offering an S$80 discount on all their coffee machines from 23 May to 22 July at Nespresso boutiques (ION #01-14 and Takashimaya basement one) and Nespresso authorised trade outlets (TANGS, Robinsons, Best Denki, selected Harvey Norman and COURTS stores). One machine per customer and subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.

Meanwhile, I will leave you with this George Clooney commercial. Yes, George has been the face of Nespresso for a while now. The machines are cool and capsules are cute, but they still can't beat Clooney as eye candy.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Tang Hong Kong Gourmet at 116 Neil Road

I've been busy reviewing food for Yahoo Makanation (their online food magazine) since Aug last year, and I'll start sharing some of the places with you here as well. One of these is Tang Hong Kong Gourmet at 116 Neil Road. Chef Benson Tong whips up robust Cantonese fare in a spartan little cha chan teng. He tries to keep his food honest and affordable. No service charge or GST either.

You must try his Roast Duck (above, beautifully done with crispy skin, and tender, well-marinated meat), deep-fried silver fish (white bait), chicken chop with cheesy mushroom sauce. Go for his signature Tang Spicy coconut prawns too, if you like stuff like wasabi prawns. His is indulgently creamy with a hint of curry spices.

The food is probably best when Benson is personally behind the stove. We went on a surprise visit, and fortunately he was in the kitchen that day. Of course, some dishes are better than others, but variety-wise, there's certainly something for everyone. They have some affordable lunch sets below S$10 too.

Will be recommending this place on 93.8LIVE today for Foodie Lunch Pick!

Full review and photos at Yahoo Makanation here.

The Food Surprise, Ep.4: Seetoh from @Makansutra Goes to Ipoh & Lenggong!

Hawkers and restauranteurs don't like being surprised. Watch KF Seetoh in Episode 4 of The Food Surprise as he drops in unannounced to try some of the best food in Ipoh and Lenggong. Seetoh also faces a rare seafood dish aptly named the "Sultan" and an iconic beverage.

Catch it tonight (Monday 28 May) at 10.30pm on TLC (channel 427)!

Friday, May 25, 2012

First Photos From The Casio Exilim ZR20

Jolie making faces
Well, I've had some time to play with the Casio Exilim ZR20, and these are the preliminary photos.

Low light night scene
The Premium Auto PRO mode that automatically picks the best settings works really well. Even at low light (as above), photos turn out decently. I rather suspect it takes several rapid shots and blends them together to get that better brightness and clarity.

Sunset shot
Sunset shot.

The kids love taking photos with this camera
The kids love playing with this camera. Here's Nadine taking a mirror shot.

Jolie as taken by Nadine
Here's Jolie as taken by Nadine.

Nadine as taken by Jolie
Here's Nadine as taken by Jolie.

Multi Frame Super Resolution Zoom
I tried out the Multi Frame Super Resolution Zoom (which allows a zoom of up to 16 times) on the neighbouring school from my block on the 25th floor. At that level of zoom, my hand movements proved shaky but the zoom shows a lot of detail!

I also tested out at Gluttons Bay the various "Best Shot" modes:

Best Shot HDR
The camera's HDR mode blends different exposures to give optimum clarity.

Best Shot HDR Art Mode
HDR Art Mode. Gives an arty filter effect.

Best Shot Toy Camera mode
Toy Camera mode: dark edges and altered hues make the photo look like it was shot with a toy camera.

Best Shot Pop Mode
Pop Mode gives enhanced saturation.

Best Shot Monochrome mode
Monochrome - see the world in black and white.

Slide Panorama
The Slide Panorama mode allows you to take a really wide panoramic shot.

There are lots more modes (nearly 40 of them), so you have lots of effects to play with.

But what about food?

BBQ Chicken Wings
BBQ chicken wings.

Crinkle-cut fries
Crinkle-cut fries.

Fish & Chips
Fish and chips.

Not too bad, the colours are pretty much as-is, and I didn't have to tweak much.

Banana fritters with creamy kaya fondue
Oh if you haven't tried the banana fritters with creamy kaya fondue from Sweet Spot at Gluttons Bay, give it a whirl. I do wish the kaya was thicker and not drippy, but the combination is still tasty as it is.

On the whole, the Casio Exilim ZR20 is quite versatile and really easy to use (hey, even my four year old and my little one with special needs can use it without much coaching). It starts up quickly, and the dual processor makes it ready to take one shot after another without too much delay. But some shots which require multiple rapid shots understandably do take some time. The camera also does quite well in low light situations. Well, I'm still learning how to use the many features it has. But I think this will be useful to bring along on holidays or outings when I don't want to lug my bulky DSLR.

IKEA BÅGIG Ceramic Knives

IKEA Bagig Ceramic Knives
IKEA has introduced a set of ceramic knives for just S$29! These are called BÅGIG - I have no idea what that means in Swedish but am sure it's something cool. As an IKEA ambassador, I got a set of these babies to try out.

IKEA Bagig Ceramic Knives
There's a vegetable knife with a 15cm blade (28 cm total length) and a smaller paring knife with 12 cm blade (25cm total length). The good thing about ceramic knives is they almost never need sharpening. But they can be more brittle than steel, so don't go hacking frozen hard stuff with it, or try to bend or drop the blade.

IKEA Bagig Ceramic Knife - it's sharp but the thick blade does require some strength
The IKEA blades are sharp for sure. They slice through vegetables and fruit quite easily. The only thing is, I notice I needed more strength to cut with these knives as the blade itself is quite thick. I had a ceramic knife from elsewhere which had a thinner blade - that sliced things more easily, but it was also more prone to breaking - yikes! I guess it's better to be safer with a sturdier knife!

I do like the other IKEA knives - I have a Slitbar bread knife that super wonderful with breads!

Thanks to IKEA Singapore for sponsoring the knife set.

PayPal Says Mobile Commerce is up 660% and Travel is Top Purchase

Paypal reveals online and mobile commerce insights

PayPal says we're shopping A LOT on our mobiles - up 660% from 2011 - and travel is the top purchase! They did an in-depth survey with Nielsen and found the mobile commerce market in Singapore had leapt from S$43 million in 2010 to S$328 million in 2011.

Mobile shopping comprised about a quarter (23%) of all online shopping in 2011 (S$1.4 billion). Are you one of the 880,792 people who bought something with your smartphone or tablet? I think I'm guilty. Several times over.

Not surprisingly travel is the leading category in terms of value, with airline tickets coming in at S$186 million and travel packages at S$77 million. Hot favourite purchases also include fashion and accessories, movie tickets, books, health and beauty products.

What's interesting is that spending on local websites (S$737 million) have outstripped that of overseas sites (S$704 million). Gotta be all those blogshops! I'm sure you've also seen the QR code shopping at various MRT stations.

Yes, when you walk around with the Internet in your pocket, it's all too easy to click and buy something. And it looks like Paypal is about to make that even easier as they roll out solutions for mobile-optimized checkout and mobile shopping websites.

Here's a couple of travel-related apps that use Paypal.

DBS TravellerShield - in just three minutes, you can buy travel insurance on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Get over 26 benefits such as overseas medical coverage of up to S$500,000 or up to S$1,000,000 for emergency medical evacuation. Also has weather updates, currency conversion rates and unit coverter tools.

iDynasty - search and book your holidays from your iPhone. Take advantage of the pre-trip planning, organisation and even rewards for those who share their travel experiences on Facebook. Payment is easy with Paypal with just two clicks - no hassle of keying in long credit card numbers.  Also has emergency numbers, travel checklists, visa info and a currency converter.

There are many others like SG Florist by, Sprooki, and Maxis in Malaysia.

Photo and screenshots courtesy of Paypal.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Roland's - Better Than Ever

Roland's has been around for so long, and is famous as the folks that invented chili crab. But despite that, I still think they are underrated. We recently gathered for dinner there with some SunnyHills friends visiting from Taiwan, and were pleased to see that the food seems better than before.

Mixed combination platter
A lovely mixed platter of appetisers to start with. Scallops in mini yam ring, smoked duck breast, tempura asparagus, and wasabi prawns.

Baby Squid
Deep-fried baby squid - crispy sweet and crunchy - along with squid paste you-tiao. Yum yum yum!

Silver bait with garlic, salt and pepper
Silver bait with garlic, salt and pepper - a great finger-licking snack!

Pomfret done two ways
Pomfret done two ways. This was some very fresh fish, and the two cooking styles take skill! Very nicely executed. The deep-fried side was crisp, and the stir-fried pieces were firm and juicy.

Token Vegetable and Tofu
The token vegetable and tofu dish! Not bad, with pleasant sauce and tender tofu.

The dark peppery gravy is loaded with roe!
The black pepper crab's spicy dark gravy is loaded with roe! If you love roe, you will love the richness of its flavours in this dish.

Salted egg yolk crab with lots of pine nuts, curry leaves, crispy yam strips (hand-shredded), and hae bee (dried shrimp). Instagram photo
But the crab dish that I **REALLY** adored - and this came personally recommended by Roland himself - is the Salted egg yolk crab with lots of pine nuts, curry leaves, crispy yam strips (hand-shredded), and hae bee (dried shrimp).

This is an Instagram photo I took from a previous visit. This is so very, very good!!! You must try this, along with Roland's signature black sauce prawns (incredible wok hei and beautiful fragrance).

So yes, Roland's is still a fantastic place for comfort seafood. Anyone wanna go back there with me?

Block 89 Marine Parade Central
Tel: 6440-8205

Open daily
Weekdays - Monday to Saturday
Lunch : 11:30 am to 2:30 pm Last Order
Dinner : 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm Last Order

Sundays & Public Holidays :
Lunch : 11:00 am to 2:30 pm Last Order
Dinner : 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm Last Order

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SunnyHills Spring 2012 Oolong Tea Party: You're Invited!

Remember those delicious SunnyHills pineapple cakes from Taiwan? Did you know that each time you go to their shop, be it in Taiwan or Singapore, you get warmly welcomed with a pineapple cake and a cup of oolong tea, totally on the house? It's part of their generous hospitality.

Sunnyhills pineapple cake and oolong tea
That oolong tea they serve is actually of pretty good quality - better than the stuff you pay for at some Chinese restaurants. And because it's been so popular, they will soon be selling their Spring 2012 oolong tea, only for a limited period. There'll also be a photo exhibit on the process of making oolong tea, which is rarely documented in English.


Date/time: any day between 27 May to 9 June
Time: any time between noon to 6pm
Venue: Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade #03-05, 328 North Bridge Road

Sunnyhills Singapore
But actually, why wait? Just pop down any day and savour the SunnyHills hospitality. I love their shop up on the third floor of the iconic Raffles Hotel. It's a quiet oasis in the city, a great place to just chill, chat and read. Very popular with Japanese expats.

Oolong Tea at Sunnyhills Singapore
And the tea helps. Sometimes, there's nothing like a good cuppa to bring calm and clarity to one's senses. Enjoy!

Fairmont Szechuan Court Supersized Dumplings!

Fairmont Szechuan Court Gongbao Chicken Dumpling!
It's "bak chang" season again! The fifth day of the fifth lunar month is the time when families get together to enjoy rice dumplings. Family togetherness is such a blessing. I wish joy upon all families during this time, and feasting fun.

From 8 to 23 June 2012, Master Chef Sebastian Goh of Fairmont Singapore's Szechuan Court will offer four innovative ‘supersized’ dumplings weighing in at 1kg each! These will certainly be the dining centrepiece.

Szechuan Court’s famous “Gongbao” Chicken Dumpling ($38++ each, shown above) makes a comeback with diced marinated chicken thigh meat stir-fried with chilli peppers, crunchy roasted peanuts and Szechuan peppercorns. The heat is mild at first but later on builds up into a tummy-warming fire. The peanuts somehow make it taste a little like satay. We liked that there was more filling than glutinous rice in this bundle.

Fairmont Szechuan Court Traditional Hong Kong Dumpling
The Hong Kong style Dumpling ($48++ each) features tender roasted pork belly, roasted duck, stewed abalone, chestnuts and dried shrimps. It's reaaally filling. I think we ate this over several meals!

These dumplings are huge!
There are two other flavours - a healthy Organic Brown Rice Vegetarian Dumpling ($38++ each) and Stewed Pork Trotter Dumpling ($48++ each) with trotters slow-cooked and stewed with Chinese herbs. Mmmh!

I bet these huge dumplings would be what Totoro would takeaway for his supper.
[photo from kaboodle]

Thanks to Fairmont Singapore team for personally delivering the dumplings!
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