Cedele Bakery Cafe, United Square

Since many months ago, I have become a huge fan of Cedele, in particular the bakery. They have really awesome cakes as well that I love and allow myself the occasional indulge when I am feeling in need of some sugary treats. But their breads are what I enjoy most about this place, and is my preferred choice of meal for dinner during the weekends. Aside from their sandwiches, I have also started trying their soups which come with a free-flow of a variety of breads that you could pick and choose to go with the order of soup.

Generally, as I have noticed, there are four soup options available at the bakery cafes that I visit, and on a previous occasion I have ordered the pumpkin soup which I thought was really nice. A small portion usually suffice for me because my main interest is of course the bread, and a couple of slices to go with the small bowl already makes for a rather hearty dinner. The usual outlet that I go to at Novena Square was unfortunately closed for renovation when I popped by the other day; even though that outlet is really small, it is not that hard to get a seat during the weekend evenings because somehow most people who go there throng the cafe during tea-time hours for their cake-and-coffee promotion, and probably they would have dinner elsewhere at the other restaurants within the mall. It is really conveniently-located right above Novena MRT, so the lazy me usually make a beeline for it upon exiting the station.

With it closed (and I forgot to check when it would re-open, most likely to occupy a larger space as it seemed to have taken over the unit next to it too), I had to either settle for something else in Novena Square/Velocity/Square 2, or take a slightly longer walk over to United Square where I recalled was another Cedele Bakery Cafe. I chose the latter. United Square on weekends is kind of like an amusement park, with its tenant mix catering to kids and their parents. But Cedele is situated in a corner so it is spared a little of that hustle-bustle, despite it being right opposite the exit of Cold Storage. Or maybe I didn’t notice the noise and buzz because I took a seat in the inner corner of the shop. It was pretty ill-timed for me, because it appeared like this part of United Square was also undergoing some sort of facelift since one part of the cafe was walled up with planks and I could hear some drilling on the other side.

Ok to the point, finally! I wanted to order soup and they had four choices, Beef Stew, Wild Mushroom, Moroccan Spiced Carrot and Clam Chowder. Amongst these, I only wanted the Wild Mushroom but it was sold out. The server was trying to sell me all the other options (except the Beef Stew, which according to her had no more beef and only contained vegetables e.g. potatoes, carrots, etc.) but I wasn’t really keen so I settled for the beef-less Beef Stew.   20130409-083921.jpg

It was actually still quite ok, because I didn’t particularly want to have beef stew, and a vegetable stew was fine except that of course I was still paying for a “vegetarian” beef stew. That day, the bread options available were rather limited and disappointing but at least it wasn’t all white bread.

To make myself feel better at the less-than-stellar soup/bread choice I had, since I was tired and didn’t want to head somewhere else, I ordered a dessert to go along with the soup; a blueberry/strawberry tart. I quite like the tart base and the fruits on top but then the custard part of the tart isn’t something I’m so fond of. It’s not that it is too sweet but I think I wasn’t in the mood for custard that day.20130409-083938.jpg

And I thought the whole experience in the cafe wasn’t very good. While I was waiting, there was a lady ahead of me placing a takeaway order, and the cashier was probably quite new and inexperienced because she was finding difficulty entering the various promotional orders that the lady made. Another staff was trying to help her at the register, and a third person, possibly the outlet manager, who was busy in the midst of preparing sandwiches, was shouting across at the top of her voice in a reprimanding tone. It was all in very bad taste for customers who could see everything in plain view since the counter was essentially open, and even passers-by could witness it all. After all the mayhem, they then look at the customer at the counter, offered a smile and apologised, which I thought was already pointless. I had a similar encounter at the Novena Square outlet once too, where the outlet manager, in her eagerness to clear the growing queue, was shouting orders to her staff. In that small space that they occupy, all this shouting that is meant to be “behind the counter” just mars any enjoyment for customers.

I love Cedele, and I really hope they would be able to do something about these kind of situations that I have encountered quite often. Even service at some other outlets I visited leaves much to be desired. It will be a pity if the establishment suffers not because of its F&B offerings but due to its lack of proper staffing.

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Baker & Cook, Singapore

This is definitely not a new place that I am checking out, but on a whim, and of course with the benefit of wheels, I thought it would be an excellent idea to go some place that on my own, I wouldn’t venture to. There have been many new cafes, bakeries and perhaps even restaurants that have sprouted in our sunny little island, and the trend these days is not to be located in your run-of-the-mill shopping malls. To me, that basically means far-flung locales that are beyond my reach because to have to take a cab, or swap that for several transits through the use of MRT and/or buses, I must be in an extreme exploratory mood, plus the weather element is vital.

I probably read about this place from my friend’s blog, or maybe some other blogs that I follow, but it being a bakery drew me in even more than the usual cafes. The only problem with checking out bakeries is always the difficult choice of what I should order. Breads are generally sold in loaves at such places, so I usually go for pastries because sandwiches for breakfast are a bit of an overkill for me.

My friend and I dropped in to this place one early weekend morning, and the bakery was already brimming with early risers. Besides patrons who were having their breakfast and morning coffee in and outside of the bakery, there were many people who drove/walked (those rich folks living in the estate) to buy breads/pastries in large quantities. Sigh, if I lived in the area I would too, since bread can be freezed to extend their shelf life but distance means a bigger deal to me.  

While queueing to place my orders, here is a shot of the display of the cakes as well as the pastries that lined the top of the case. Everything looked so wonderful to me I felt like I was in flour heaven, ok maybe I feel like that all the time whenever I enter a bakery, much like how I also felt in Sunflour in Shanghai recently, and this was the time when I wished I had an appetite and stomach capacity that could contain more of the delectable treats (without the accompanying calories of course!).  20130402-091538.jpg

The inside did not contain much seating; there was a large rectangular table where you could share with others, or sit on the high chairs and counter top that lined one side of the bakery. Outside, there are more tables and chairs, where we picked a small table in front since at that time, the sun wasn’t shining on that part yet. The side took in more sunshine in the morning. I took this picture just to show how a tin can is being recycled as a serviette-holder. I know these days, many of these cafes do that, probably as a way to re-use materials and at the same time cutting costs on furnishings, which also adds some flavour to the overall decoration of the place, giving it a more personal and less commercialised touch?20130402-091555.jpgAfter you’ve placed your order inside, you get a small numbered card with which your beverages will be served, and probably hot food that requires preparation time. The coffees come with a small square of brownie that is not too sweet or bitter, so I guess this would be a good way to ‘sweeten’ your coffee if you choose not to add any sugar. Coffee served in Baker & Cook is New Zealand’s Allpress Espresso, and as much as I am no expert where coffees are concerned, I liked that there is no sour after-taste or overwhelming bitterness in my long black.20130402-091623.jpg

And here is the food! If you were expecting some big, hearty brunch with the full works of scrambled eggs, sausages and bacon, sorry to disappoint you. It turned out that I was the only one here for food because my friend felt that the latte sufficed as breakfast (duh). To make my trip here worthwhile, I decided to indulge and ordered a sweet scone and cross bun. Apparently their cross buns are really popular, because many people who came here, besides the bread loaves, also bought such buns in large quantities! We were guessing that they most likely served these at meal times as appetizers, much like the bread baskets we see in restaurants. 20130402-091638.jpg

I don’t know if you would be able to request for butter or jam or the likes to spread on the scone, or if they even have such options in the first place, but it tasted good on its own. It has this sweetness to it (that’s why the name) so there wasn’t a need for any spread. As for the cross bun, it contained raisins and had a slight cinnamon taste to it, but I didn’t think too much of it. Somehow with the raisins and cinnamon, it still felt a little bland.

So that kind of concluded my adventure to Baker & Cook, and I really wished I could try more things, the breads, pastries, quiches (I read somewhere they are supposed to be really good), cakes, and of course the other hot breakfast served! Anyone wants to volunteer to bring me there more often? Or perhaps I should check out their second outlet at Martin Road, more accessible as compared to Hillcrest Road but I think the true beauty and appeal lies in its original location, nestled within a residential estate (a very expensive one at that) where residents can just pop by for a morning cuppa.

for the love of bread!

Yes I know I sound like a broken record, playing on and on annoyingly about how much I love carbohydrates in the form of bread. But yet I think I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy it. Well, I suppose like life, the things that we enjoy eating or our gastronomical indulgences, or perhaps addictions, come in phases. I remember when I was really young I loved eating chye tow kway (fried carrot cake in dark soy sauce with lots of egg) so much that my mum bought it for my breakfast every morning. Until I got sick of it that is. It happened suddenly, one morning when I was eating it as usual and all of a sudden I felt sick in my stomach, like it became too greasy and overwhelming that if I were to take another bite of it I would retch and empty the contents of my stomach entirely.

Isn’t that strange how our body sends such obvious signals but yet they happen in a flash, taking us off-guard? Life does that to us too.

Then in another phase of my life, I loved char siew rice, maybe it wasn’t the rice that I enjoyed so much but the char siew, nicely-roasted pork with the edges slightly burnt and crispy, yet still retaining the juiciness, tenderness and moisture of the meat. The same thing with the fried carrot cake didn’t happen here, because obviously I didn’t eat char siew rice on a daily basis, but now I am not such a big fan of it. I don’t mind having it on and off, but I won’t die without it. Same goes for carrot cake, I can eat it now without feeling the urge to puke, but it has been sometime since I last ate it.

So, with that, I really wonder how long it would be before I get sick of bread. Even for coffee, there was this recent phase where I drank a cup of the local coffee, or as we tend to call it kopi c (siew dai for me), but then one morning my body decided it had enough of this routine, with the same signals with fried carrot cake, so I changed my morning beverage. But coffee still figures as a big part of my life, though on some days I try to curb my intake. However, it is always nice to receive a dose of caffeine decorated with some latte art.

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And pardon the look of this sandwich. It actually looks like a burger because of the bread used, and I cut a part of it out to eat before I remembered to take a picture. There was no way I was going to be able to bring this up to my mouth and take a bite from it due to its sheer height but funnily I always eat my sandwiches by taking them apart. This is a rosemary chicken sandwich on walnut bread, my current favourite bread type. 20130327-090323.jpg

The same question came back to me too, whether I get sick of people after a while, or vice versa. I guess, since we can get sick of the kinds of things we eat, the things we do, the routines we keep, by the same measure, this would also apply on people right? I know I rant a lot about things that I always say are beyond my control and despite that I still go on (again like a broken record) about how helpless I feel about situations and the likes. I can’t expect that the people around me won’t get sick at some point about this ceaseless tirade that will just amplify any negative energy all around. So yes, I realise too that it does come to a point where I don’t meet up with some friends anymore because they would have gotten tired, and grown weary so much so that they would not look forward to each meet-up because it would just be another complain session.

There was this episode in my past where I felt wronged for being forgetful; I was being called out on something I said which I evidently did not remember at that instant, and I considered about how unfair it was that something I said that I don’t recall was being used against me. Going by the same vein, I shouldn’t too hold someone against what they said in the past, whether they meant it or not, or what their words meant. Things like, “I will always be…” and so on and so forth. Words are just words, without actions they don’t mean anything at all, not anymore.

Maison Kayser, Wheelock Place

 

After countless times of walking past Maison Kayser ever since it opened its doors in late December 2012 in Wheelock Place (since it is almost a daily route that I pass through despite that I do not work or live in Orchard Road), I finally popped into the cafe for a bite! I don’t have pictures of the place but one of my blogger friends do have some pictures on her blog, so you can check them out here, as well as many other food place that she has visited and provided pretty insightful reviews of.

I have never really seen its cafe at Wheelock’s basement being crowded to the point of queues forming, but perhaps I didn’t notice enough. As compared to its location at Scotts Square’s basement, I would agree with bookjunkie that this is indeed not as peaceful. When I asked for a table for two when I went, they offered me a table near the fountain but remarked it might be noisier, especially also since that was just next to the ever-popular Nam Nam, so I chose a table at the other corner closer to the carpark, which was really much quieter.

To be very honest, I was a little disappointed at the menu selections they have. I love their breads, there is no doubt about it, ever since I tried their brioche and pain aux raisin noix but I thought I would try something different for an eat-in experience, and as I browsed their menu whether it was for lunch or tea, it was pretty limited. The selections still look good of course, as I was very tempted to order a french toast set, but decided instead to go for a more manageable order of a salmon quiche. Maybe that isn’t that forte or niche, because there wasn’t anything spectacular about the quiche but I didn’t feel very “bread-y” that afternoon for some reason, so I haven’t ordered their famous breads or tarts.

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My friend ordered a super huge-looking thing that was supposed to be a garlic bread, but her take on it was that it was plain and bland without any garlic taste at all. I had a cappuccino, which priced at S$6.70, seemed a tad high, because it too did not wow me that much. My friend’s pot of lavender and rose tea at S$6.40 also skewed toward the pricey side to me, although I didn’t try it and don’t know if it belonged to some top-grade type of tea. I took a whiff of it and it reminded me of aromatherapy oils. Weird.

What we enjoyed was the little financier that was served with both our coffee and tea, which are for sale too. However they could be a little oily for some though. Service was courteous and polite, much better than the cold service I got at Scotts Square when I dropped in once to buy a bread. I would definitely continue to pay for their breads because they are just so good, even if eating them on a regular basis would be costlier than a weekly loaf of Gardenia for breakfast. That being said, I love bread so much that with such options available now I can’t help myself!

Dean & Deluca, Tokyo

I know I am never contented with the status quo, even though I try to constantly remind myself to be thankful for all the things that I have going on in my life. But this post is not going to be about the general discontent that we tend to have in life, but more about the contradictory or conflicted feelings about vacations.

I was in Tokyo for a few days for a short holiday (like I have already mentioned umpteen times) beginning of this month, and at some point I think I was going through some really low point, yes, despite the fact that I was in Tokyo, my favourite city in the world. Taking a holiday alone is not something ground-breaking that no one has done before, and for me, I play it safer by doing it in places that I am more familiar with. This is the second solo holiday in Tokyo, and it felt rather different from the first time I vacationed on my own in this giant metropolis. I suppose the season has an effect too, even if the last time, it was pre-Valentine’s Day in Tokyo, and during that period there was so much romance going on everywhere. But probably Christmas has a greater effect on me as compared to Valentine’s, which is generally overhyped, in my opinion, even while I was in a relationship in the past.

Ok, back to the subject! Sorry for digressing. My first encounter with Dean & Deluca was actually in Tokyo, and not New York where it originated. This time since I spied a D&D outlet near where I stayed, I thought I’d pop in for breakfast one morning, and ordered myself a coffee and a Raspberry Ricotta muffin.

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The muffin was so delicious! Lots of people do not really fancy muffins because they aren’t the healthiest of options when it comes to food, and besides it really is just one big chunk of baked flour, where the tastiest part is the top that has more texture while chewing, and also because it has a slight crispiness at the edges from baking. But this one contained ricotta within, and oh boy was it sinfully good! The raspberry taste was also found throughout the muffin, and mixed well with the cheese taste. Although on the whole, I found it to be still a little too much, I enjoyed it nonetheless and deemed it worth the calories.

After breakfast was over, which by the way was in a very small area of Lumine in Shinjuku with very limited seats, I popped over to where the D&D shop was. I was really smiling to myself, maybe on the inside, as I weaved around the shop’s aisles, taking in the wonderful scent of the baked goods, checking out how yummy they all seem to look on the display counters, wishing that I had the capacity to try everything without bursting (and of course, without the calories as well, fat hope!). Unfortunately, after the muffin and latte, there was no more room in my stomach for anything else, so I could only look and let my eyes feast.

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Since Christmas was just round the corner, they were also selling lots of stuff infused with very strong Christmas vibes, all the cookies in shapes of Gingerbead man, Christmas trees, etc. and adorned with the traditional yuletide colours of red and green. I was really tempted to buy many things but a lot of them had really short shelf lives, and by the time I could get them to any of my friends for Christmas, I suspect that they would already be past their expiry dates. I am generally ok with eating things like cookies that are expired as long as there is no dodgy-looking mouldy bits on them but it isn’t good to give others things that are already expired! I don’t know if they allow pictures to be taken instore, but I stole a couple of shots anyway as I was browsing for some gifts. :p 20121228-100022.jpg

Maison Kayser – Second Look

 

After the maiden try of Maison Kayser’s bread that I bought from the Scotts Square outlet, I had a second try of their much raved about breads again, this time from the outlet in the basement of Wheelock Place that has finally opened its doors for business last week! Again, I didn’t get to sit down and enjoy the breads on the spot, since it was already night and I was going home, but on its opening day, I think they stole away some business from the nearby Bread Society. Nevertheless, I think it can only be healthy competition, and honestly their offerings aren’t entirely the same, and consumers like us will just be spoilt for choice when it comes to selection of our carbs.

Maybe it was because they had just opened for business, but I felt that the staff at the Wheelock branch seemed friendlier. They even had one staff standing outside the counter offering samples of their breads to passers-by, and a couple of their bakers also stood outside, maybe to smile at the customers? I don’t know. However, I thought it always seemed a tad intimidating when you have staff standing behind the display case while you are browsing and trying to decide what to buy, all the while hoping no queue is going to build up behind you as you rack your brains on what to spend your calories on. So I chose a moment when there wasn’t a queue, and tried to speed up the decision-making process.20121226-100052.jpg

This time, I decided to try the Brioche. I have never actually really tried one before, yes I know it sounds weird, but I generally buy other types of breads and brioche was never really what I fancied for some reason, maybe just because I always thought it’s a big chunk of flour without no taste and nothing on the inside. Well, it isn’t so wrong because there really is nothing inside. This one that I ordered just had bits of icing sprinkled on its slight-glazed top, and I ate this on the same night that I bought it, after I got home from a short MRT ride. And then, it was when I knew why Maison Kayser is so raved.  20121226-100112.jpg

The brioche bread was so soft and delicious that when I bit into it, I was thinking, oh my! Even without any filling inside, somehow it just felt right and tasty. But that is a comment coming from a bread-lover, and also I didn’t exactly hold extremely high expectations, thinking that it will just be another bread roll. Besides it being really soft, which I totally didn’t expect, it was rather light and fluffy on the inside so I didn’t feel stuffed after eating it, at 10pm at night.

I bought a second item on the visit, the raisin walnut bread (pain aux raisin noix, I think). I only ate this the next day, so I suppose in terms of freshness of the bread, it might have been slightly affected. This bread was harder and denser, and with my current jaw condition it does make it harder to eat so I had to take smaller bites of it, but this was another winner for me. I love raisins and walnuts, and this item had raisins on its surface, and bits of walnut in the bread itself, so that when you are biting and chewing, it wasn’t just flour that you are eating, but rather the taste of raisins and walnuts give an added depth to the taste of the bread, and makes eating it so much more enjoyable, especially when this bread is not small where size is concerned. It comes in an oval/elliptical shape and as I ate it, I really wished it didn’t finish.   20121226-100139.jpg

I think the amazing thing about breads, or the yardstick to deciding how good bread is, is the ability to be eaten on its own without the person eating having to consider adding anything to it to enhance its flavour, e.g. with jams, butters or the likes. It is like the Gardenia tagline, so good you can even eat it on its own, but then not all Gardenia breads live up to that. I’m so happy that we now have more choice when it comes to buying bread in Singapore, although for economic reasons, I think Gardenia, Sunshine or Bonjour still reigns supreme for daily consumption, unless I were to be willing to increase my breakfast budget and spend more at these new bakeries.

iBake, Star Vista

The last time I was at the Star Vista that is located just a stone’s throw away from Buona Vista MRT station, iBake was still a work-in-progress. I was happy to find that it had opened, when I was there again yesterday.

I can’t reiterate how much I love bread, and it’s one of those things that despite me going on like a broken record about needing and wanting to diet and whatever, I can’t bear to give up bread in my life. It is a large contributor of carbs that I take, and the aroma of bread is simply divine to me, so for the moment I cannot imagine having to live without it.

There are lots of eateries at Star Vista, which makes it a nice place to arrange for meet-ups with friends, and especially now that the Circle Line is in operation, it is not that difficult for me to get to this part of Singapore as compared to before! But there are a number of these eateries with an al fresco concept, which only works ok for me when the weather is cool like recently. I never really understood al fresco dining in Singapore, which is almost constantly going through a period of dense humidity that makes people like me perspire easily. But I suppose if you are not so prone to perspiring, it can be pretty enjoyable at times.

Back to iBake. Chosen poison for the day, americano.

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And we got a basket of petite pastries to share. When this was served, we were rather amused by the two tiny croissants (on the right of the picture), which you could easily pop into your mouth and finish it in one bite. It contains fillings, which I couldn’t really remember because the amount of filling in them was too little to leave a lasting impression but it belonged to the savoury variety. 20121224-104109.jpg

The other two croissants were plain but nicely-buttered and soft. Same goes for the chocolate croissants, or what are they called actually? These petites were fluffy and light, even if they feel a little oily, because when I used my hands to hold them, after that my fingers felt rather greasy, but taste-wise they were ok. Maybe because they were small so the greasy factor wasn’t too overwhelming. It was a nice little basket for sharing since each item comes in two portions. There is a separate basket that contains 6 different items but it would make sharing difficult unless you don’t mind having different things each, or cutting each piece into two to share.

Besides these pastries, the menu also includes salads and gourmet sandwiches. From what I saw on the tables of other patrons, the sandwiches look huge, and the breads were cut rather thick. But I kind of agreed with my friend’s opinion that despite the portions being huge, what was sandwiched between the thick slices of bread did not seem that much, as compared to say, what we would get at Cedele. Maybe it was just a matter of perspective, because with bigger and thicker slices of bread, of course even the same amount of filling would appear much lesser.