Weekends are made of these – Artisan Boulangerie Co.

Who doesn’t love it when the weekend approaches? I bet that most people, by the time Thursday comes by, are already anticipating the end of the work week, that’s why there is always that oft-used “TGIF” and somehow, the mood just takes on a more relaxed tone even on Friday mornings.

These are also the times when I have the luxury of spending moments at cafes, enjoying the food and coffee without having to think of needing to return to the office post-lunch. The amount of time spent there could be the same but the feeling is just different.

Artisan Boulangerie Co., or ABC for short, is one such place I like to go to. I have posted a couple of entries on it before, but this is a short summary of the things I like from them that I found from the photo album of my phone, which I have not downloaded into some storage device but are taking up precious memory space.

Just recently, I went to ABC again, which I’m happy to (despite that a meal there is typically a little pricier as compared to the other cafes like Starbucks or Coffee Bean) especially now that I have easier access to one of their outlets than before. So this time, I had wanted to order my favourite item from their breakfast menu but was told that they ran out of it, so I decided to get a sandwich instead, which you can’t go too wrong with. Not with them anyway, and especially if it’s something that I have tried before – the roast chicken baguette. At S$11.30 (pre-GST), it isn’t the cheapest sandwich around but it’s all for good measure – just check out how generous they are with it.The baguette is easier the length of a fork and it’s of pretty decent quality, though extremely hard. I wouldn’t recommend this for people who don’t like the bite and chewiness in their breads, because even cutting into it takes a bit of effort after sometime (when the bread has cooled) that I felt as though I was working my arms just eating this thing!
The chicken filling was literally spilling out of the sandwich, and it has a nice peppery taste for some spiciness. How I usually eat my sandwiches is by deconstruction – meaning, I literally take the entire sandwich apart, eating the bread separate from the filling. I would slice/cut up the bread into bite-size chunks, the same with the filling, and eat them together like mini open-faced sandwiches. I feel that it’s easier this way and less messy when eating, though the plate becomes messy because as I cut through the bread, types like croissant or baguette crumble and flake all over the place.

On a past visit, I had tried some other sandwiches. One that I had always wanted to try and did, was the Goat Cheese & Capsicum on focaccia. I can’t remember if I had posted about this before, but I love goat cheese and this was definitely one of those items I had wanted to try. I thought somehow the cheese reminded me of brie, and again it was so generous that I had to spread the cheese onto the bread so I wouldn’t recommend this for people who feel iffy about the taste of goat dairy, or for that matter, anyone who doesn’t fancy strong-tasting cheese.Yummy… this on the whole was good, but again strong-tasting, because of the goat cheese and the rockets. But goes perfectly with a cup of their Long Black.
Still another time, I decided to order something off the menu that wasn’t in the display case – turkey, avocado and brie. Although this was not bad in itself, the bread felt a little too soft for my liking. It’s toasted to a certain extent but it I don’t know if it’s because it’s white, it is too soft without the crunch and chewiness that I like to have for breads. If I recalled correctly, and from the picture it is turkey ham used in the sandwich instead of turkey meat, so it isn’t preferred. I probably wouldn’t order this again given a choice; would try something else or order something that I’ve tried and tested to be ok!
Tried the Chicken Caesar salad too and on the whole it’s pretty great, portion size was ok though not excessive but they supplement it with a serving of bread that you could indulge in with (semi-salted) butter or jam that’s freely available from their condiments counter. The salad isn’t dressing-rich, which is great and chicken portions are pretty sufficient. Only downside for me is the use of Parmesan cheese which is not my favourite type of cheese. But I think this is a typical ingredient of Caesar salads, so I could either ask for its omission in future or just make do with it. But butter croutons – amazing!
Of course, this brings me to my favourite item from their menu, which is from their brunch items – Homemade / Artisan Almond Granola, which is a mixture of organic rolled oats, toasted almonds, sesame & sunflower seeds, served with plain yogurt and freshly-cut fruits. At $12 each, this is pretty pricey but I feel worth every single dime (ok maybe not) because the fruits used are really fresh and of good quality and I just cannot resist this combination of fruits, granola and yogurt!Their other brunch items are also good, though the only other item I’ve tried is the Avocado Egg Open Face, which aside from bacon that I don’t take, everything else was just darn great!

W39 Bistro & Bakery, Jalan Mas Puteh

Recently on Facebook, I came across this post that talked about cafes in “ulu” (i.e. description of a place that is far from civilisation) parts of Singapore. These aren’t exactly unpopular cafes, the very fact that they were mentioned and listed in the post obviously means that despite their unpopular locations, they have still garnered quite a following, suggesting that there should be something good about them that warrants a visit perhaps. Or maybe it is just due to the fickle nature of cafe-goers to always check out someplace new, and with posts being shared on social media, especially by those with a wide follower base, it isn’t hard to gain popularity whether or not there is a good product behind it. Marketing is important, more so that the product, when it comes to attracting crowds, but of course when we talk about sustainability, many other factors come into play, so we shall see if the cafes listed on that post are still around in time to come. Who knows? But most of them, I may not even have the chance to visit once, let alone re-visit, simply because they are just too faraway for me to consider, unless someone again volunteers transport!

Over the Good Friday long weekend, my friend suggested checking out W39 Bistro & Bakery that is located in the West Coast area. When I first heard West Coast, I was thinking to myself, “What – where?” because to me, that is just ‘ulu’. Even though it is probably nearer to where I stay now as compared to before, west coast connotes a very faraway locale that I went at most a couple of times in the past. East Coast rings a closer vibe somewhat, because I’d only associate it with Marine Parade, which is just a short distance away from the downtown area of Suntec/Marina (ok it may be further but that is just my own thinking).

Anyway, as my friend’s driving and offered to pick me up from home, I gladly and readily agreed. Hehe, that is how easy it is to get me to go somewhere, just provide the transport! I Googled W39 and read about its ‘iconic blue-and-yellow chairs’, which I thought was funny/interesting because it conjures up a sort of beach image to me – like deck chairs that we would see on the pristine beaches somewhere else? But it was anything but. There was no shoreline, not even a silver of lake, where W39 is located. The road name in itself, Jalan Mas Puteh, makes me think like we were going somewhere outside of Singapore. It’s actually within a private residential estate somewhere in the western part of Singapore, not that far off from Clementi actually, so it isn’t that far west (think Boon Lay or Pioneer). Along the way there, making our way to find a parking spot, it reminded me of the Upper Thomson area where there were some cafes also located within a private landed estate.

I didn’t take any photos of the place, but you can easily find them online and you will see the blue-and-yellow decor that was described of the cafe. We perused the menu, and I was a little torn, whether to order the usual stuff that I would order for brunch, or try something new, which is local offerings of breakfast food. In the end, I chose the Nasi Lemak! I know it isn’t something exceptional, but I haven’t had it in a really long time and considering that I needed more protein to enable my body to recover faster, I thought this would be a good idea because of the chicken thigh that is the main feature of this dish! Ok, there is coconut rice too but I didn’t really take much of it so I can’t really comment – but I think it’s not as fragrant as traditional nasi lemak from the hawkers though.

So there you go, my Nasi Lemak with Roasted Chicken Thigh, that came with half a grilled tomato and poached egg – talk about fusion, haha. The ikan bilis was nice and crunchy and the sambal chilli was really something that I had missed. It feels like a long time too since I last had such sambal chilli, and although it’s a little too sweet and salty for my palate now, it complements the rice and chicken well. The chicken felt a little dry though, despite that it looks more fried than roasted, so maybe I can comfort myself that it isn’t oily or dripping in oil.My friend’s order is also pretty interesting, a fusion of sorts, but of the sweet and savoury type – Eggs Benedict, which was shredded lamb shank and mushrooms on their Butter Top Loaf (which turned out to be a waffle?). She found it pretty light despite that it’s waffle and lamb, because there wasn’t that much lamb on it, maybe something like pulled pork and the waffle was the light, fluffy type and not the thick spongy kind. I might have ordered this too, if not for the fact that I don’t really like having so much sauce on eggs, i.e. I have never ordered Eggs Ben for brunch, and I don’t really take lamb/mutton. But the veggies looked good though! After this, she still had quite some space left in her stomach so a dessert was ordered, which I actually had quite a bit of too, despite my huge nasi lemak.
The Mister Chocolate cake, a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate chips, covered with melted chocolate, came served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The cake was served warm, I think, because the layer of chocolate outside was in slight molten form when it came, and the fact that it’s actually a sponge cake on the inside made it more enjoyable because it isn’t too dense and heavy for a chocolate cake. I don’t really like brownies so much as a dessert because they are too dense and overwhelming for one person to have. The vanilla ice-cream complemented the cake very well too, although its taste wasn’t particularly distinctively vanilla like some that I have tried. It was a very generous scoop that was given though, so at S$6.80 for this, it’s actually pretty value-for-money.I also had a coffee, which was not too bad (can’t comment as usual) but sometimes I really wished that Long Blacks / Americanos came in larger sizes. I know that good coffee doesn’t need to be in large quantities, but I am perhaps too used to the Tall sizes of Starbucks to find the coffee cups in these cafes too small. Maybe my strategy in future should be to order the coffee only after I have my food, so that it can still be hot / warm to drink, and that I can slowly sip and enjoy the coffee properly after eating.

Lunch at The Plain, Craig Rd

It was just my second visit to the Plain, since my first trip several years ago, before I moved to this area for work. In fact, it is strange that with my office so nearby, I haven’t actually thought of re-visiting, maybe because in my mind, I wanted to try out other cafes in the neighbourhood that I have yet to check out… or there was just a period of time where I considered it extravagant to lunch at cafes on a regular basis. Well, I still subscribe to that school of thought somewhat, but then another school of thought has entered the picture, that life is fairly short and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves, scrimping and saving… to what end, I’d think. Sure, saving is important, whether it is for the proverbial rainy day, or towards building a nest egg for retirement, however much that kind of money will contribute to.

So, recently I have given myself more liberty where lunch options are concerned. It is supposed to be healthier too to step out of the office during lunch, instead of cooping myself up with packed lunches.

On one such lunches, at the Plain, I ordered a serving of plain toast (sourdough) with earl grey and fig jam (this piqued my interest), and a cup of bircher muesli.Instead of a slice, perhaps they had an extra tiny slice that they decided to give it to me anyhow, I got 1.5 slices. I really love the bread! In itself, sourdough is a type of bread that I enjoy and prefer over white (and usually soft and limp) bread, but the fact that this bread is very well-toasted made it all the better! I wonder if I can re-create the same effect using the oven, since I do not have an oven toaster at home which would make it so much easier and convenient to toast something (I blame it on the gross lack of space in the kitchen, no counter-top space to spare at all). But then it would seem like an overkill to switch on the oven just to toast a couple slices of bread, don’t you think? The earl grey and fig preserve didn’t really stand out as having much of the earl grey flavour. I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t focusing, or maybe the sweetness of the fig somehow overwhelmed any inkling of tea flavour?

The bircher muesli was made up of organic oats soaked with apple juice, sliced apples, flaked almonds and topped with honey-infused yogurt. The small serving that I ordered, with the 1.5 slices of toast, was just nice to fill me up at lunch without causing me to feel too bloated, or again as usual the stomach is not communicating to the brain what it’s feeling. Such simple breakfast food makes for an enjoyable lunch, even if it was without coffee.

Interestingly, as I was Googling for the menu online so that I could provide a better description of the stuff I ordered, as well as to confirm the names, I saw that in the menu that was dated 2011, the price of Plain Toasts was S$3.50 for a slice, which as of 2014’s menu, had been revised to S$4.00 for the same. Ok, that is pretty reasonable even though it’s a 15% inflation over 3 years. The same quantum of increase was also noted for the small-sized bircher muesli, from S$5.50 to S$6 (10%). So it would seem that it has been around for a pretty long time, at least 5 years in the running! I hope they would stick around for some time more, and perhaps one of these days I will return again for their simple yet amazing toast!

Selfish Gene Café, Craig Rd

Recently, I have had more opportunities to check out cafes around the office because I have been heading out for lunch more often (yay…). Other than Drury Lane, which is a favourite because of their (imo) awesome-mosome sandwiches, there are still many others around that are good too that I have not tried out or revisited.

One of those that I had gone to, several years ago, was Selfish Gene Cafe, located along Craig Road. I had only been there once, and it’s great that they are still around, what with the fickle cafe scene in Singapore that has seen many new cafes opening on a weekly basis, but at the same time we also see a dearth of cafes on an equally regular basis perhaps. The last time I went to Selfish Gene, I think I had a salad, if I remembered correctly. This time since we were in a slighter larger group, or should I say trio, we had more options. But then again, I still have not tried their coffee, because I try to limit my caffeine to one per day and I already had my regular kopi-o that day.

So first up, dessert! Weird but that’s what females are more interested in, the sweets, and I recalled reading about their banana cake, which is supposed to be quite a crowd favourite and popular item. And this is it! A warm banana cake with real banana slices, drizzled with a little peanut butter, yummy…
There isn’t any further pictures of the cake as we just dove into it when it was served after the mains, but this cake isn’t too dense or light, and it did have a rather distinctive banana taste, whether it is due to the bananas used or simply some essence that was put into the batter. Nevertheless, it receives a thumbs-up from me, especially since I’m a fan of banana cakes/breads.

We ordered two mains to try. The first was salmon that was served on a small bed of mash and veggies. From the picture you can see that there is a little alfafa sprouts, and probably the rest a mixture of … cabbage, tomatoes and… ? It’s not a huge portion, especially when three of us were sharing it but the salmon was nicely-done, of course much better than my own maiden attempt haha.The other main we ordered was a breakfast/brunch item, still available at that time. This was kind of like the full works kind of breakfast platter, that came with a slice of sourdough cut into half, a sausage, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, hash brown, a generous portion of creamy smooth scrambled eggs and some greens. I can imagine that this would be too much for a person, especially if I were to think that the person is me, since there are too many elements on this plate that I do not even eat! But it balanced out the salmon main well, and at the end of the meal, with 2 mains and a dessert shared among three of us, my 2 colleagues actually commented that they were really full. But as for me… as usual, I don’t know how the feeling of full is like maybe? Somehow, it seems like my brain and stomach aren’t linked very well, I seldom know when I feel full, and usually I don’t feel it, unless I drink a lot of water at meal-times, which would make me feel bloated and not so much of full. I don’t know, maybe I am just not consciously thinking if I am full. 

Anyway, Selfish Gene is a great cafe to chill out at, and I think they do private functions as well. But their opening hours are little unfriendly. Of course, with me working around the area, I could definitely make it for lunch, but then they are usually open from 10am to 5pm, sometimes closing earlier at 3pm on certain days. That’s like even shorter than office working hours! But I guess it’s all about work-life balance for the owner and his staff and as long as the operating hours are sufficient to keep them afloat, it’s all good!

Flock Café (relocated)

Since I moved, I thought it would be a good idea to start checking out the TB stretch of hipster cafes, which I had always wanted to do so ever since the first of those cafes started sprouting up there. It was always a tad out of the way though, and at some point I had started to deride TB as over-hyped, because to be really honest, some of these cafes (and many others around the island), aren’t up to scratch at all – they are just carbon copies of one another, which is ironic, because most pride themselves to be different in some way, not conforming to the usual cookie-cutter chain cafes like SB or CBTL. The funny thing is, with these cafes all adopting the industrial-chic look or whatever you want to call it, putting together non-matching pieces of furniture in a haphazard manner, they have become a cookie-cutter sort of template. But there are some that have withstood the test of time, and fickle consumer tastes, to last for years and are still standing today. Some of them have probably evolved into highly-commercialised entities that have lost their ‘unique’ lustre, whereas others have stuck to their original concept with perhaps a loyal fan-base.

Cafes in the TB stretch have also come and go, with some surviving the harsh and overpopulated cafe scene in Singapore. The Dispensary, a cafe along the main Tiong Bahru Road, has closed before I even had a chance to step beyond its doors. I was luckier with this other cafe, Flock, located along Moh Guan Terrace. I met my cousin one weekend and brought her there, having walked past it one day when I was exploring the area and made a mental note to return.

It was fairly crowded when we visited on Saturday afternoon (that was in January), but we were fortunate to get a table for the 2 of us on the inside, sort of on the ‘mezzanine’ deck, or the area beyond the counter. It’s a very small cafe with a narrow layout, but it could probably accommodate about 20-odd patrons inside. Maybe. Someone found us the table, and I’m not sure if he’s the owner since he didn’t seem like he was part of the crew or wearing what the other crew members wore.

So for brunch, we each ordered a coffee.We also picked the scrambled eggs with sourdough bread to share, priced at S$8 (I think). The egg was quite smooth and runny, fragrant, and also comes in quite an ok portion for us. I would have liked it more if it were egg whites, but then regular scrambled eggs for sharing is fine, otherwise all of it for me might have been too ‘eggy’. I really love the sourdough bread, which goes very well with the egg and butter! I think I could have just ordered this with a coffee and be a very happy camper. 2 large slices of bread were served in this dish.
The other item we got to share was the French Toast, which I thought my cousin would enjoy, since it seems like most people like French Toast? I don’t know, I am not a very big fan of it because it’s always heavily-drenched in syrup that makes the bread too moist and soft, which I DO NOT LIKE. I prefer my breads crunchy to a certain extent, rather it be hard than soft. The only French Toast that I liked were the ones that my mum used to make when I was young and there was leftover bread about to expire. Those were what we called Bombay Toast, or what the Home Economic textbooks called it, bread dipped in a mixture of egg and sugar, and then fried.

Flock’s version of the French Toast was similarly drenched in syrup, and served with a portion of curious-looking bacon that my cousin didn’t dare to eat. Somehow it looks like it’s overcooked or something. Anyway, we didn’t touch it at all because I don’t take bacon. This was also served with banana and some strawberries (maybe one, cut into small pieces), which I would definitely have liked more of. Overall, we both preferred the sourdough with scrambled eggs, which is a simpler (and cheaper) brunch option. The French Toast, if I recalled correctly, was S$15. But maybe French Toast lovers would still like it? Sometime after that, I thought I read somewhere that they were closing the TB outlet, or that they had ‘shifted’ to Ghim Moh (where their second outlet is). I haven’t really walked past the Moh Guan Terrace outlet since that visit, so I can’t confirm if it’s true that they have left the TB area. Sigh. I had hoped that they would still be around because I thought it was a pretty decent cafe that I wouldn’t mind revisiting to try other stuff, if not the sourdough again!

Lunch at Drury Lane

It has been a few times since I’ve been to Drury Lane along Tanjong Pagar Road, and so far I have not repeated anything on its food menu. I think I have tried the banana cake/loaf with espresso butter that I really liked and found interesting (at least the espresso butter was something different!), some sandwich that I enjoyed, a yogurt with fruits cup that I found to be wanting in filling me up (but that is just me, maybe) and on this latest trip, I decided to order something from the Mains menu, because my friend had some deal that gave 1-for-1 on Mains, sandwiches not included unfortunately.

This was our order.
The ondeh-ondeh cake, which has a really distinctive taste of the Malay kueh, even though I just took a small bite of it. I wouldn’t say I am a big fan of ondeh-ondeh in general but I do enjoy these kuehs from time to time. Looking at it, it actually makes me think that it could be gula melaka or some other variant of kueh (something).
My friend’s order, which was Salted Eggs Benedict that was served with prawns on soft, steamed mantou buns. These look quite awesome, other than the fact that I prefer bread to be harder for better chewiness and bite, and salted eggs are not my kind of thing. I know of one friend who really hates eggs benedict because she doesn’t like the Hollandaise sauce; not sure if she likes salted eggs though, because then this probably doesn’t have Hollandaise?And my order was Rosti with Truffled Mayo and Herbed Sunny Eggs, with avocado and mushrooms. From the mains menu, this was about the only thing that I would consider ordering, since I didn’t want the various types of eggs benedict, or pastas/risottos. The rosti was frankly, a little too well-done that it’s kind of burnt. I didn’t so much as dig the truffled mayo too, which I also do not know if there was much truffle taste in it. Overall, it was ok though, because of the mushrooms, avocado and egg!
The next time I visit, I would probably choose to just have the sweets (banana bread or pay-as-you-wish muffins) or the sandwiches!

Remembering to be thankful

Happiness can be as simple as this. A bowl of plain yogurt with a tinge of sourness, topped with granola that adds sweetness to the bowl, and a cup of coffee. Perhaps these are not the best things to go together, yogurt and coffee, the latter which would dissolve away whatever calcium is available in the yogurt? I don’t know but this is a simple enjoyment on a weekend.

During yoga class today, the instructor reminded us to be thankful that we are still alive, that our bodies still intact. She implored on us to not take life so seriously. Those were the words that I recalled, others I don’t really remember, but I suppose she was meaning to tell us that we should live in the moment, enjoy each moment and not sweat the small things. She was mentioning this in reference to the Bangkok bomb blast that took place the evening before, in downtown Bangkok in an area popular with tourists and locals. As of now, the blast had claimed 20 lives, one of whom is a Singaporean. Lives that were suddenly terminated, dreams that remain unfulfilled and words left unsaid.
I frequently lament about the various nitty gritty things of everyday life, from having to wait minutes for a train, to having people knock into me while they are rushing or blocking my way when I am in a rush… there are too many things that I can’t help complaining about, despite that deep down, as I reflect on society, on life, that there is much to be thankful for, but I, like most people, am wont to complain and feeling victimised. I need to constantly remind myself that life has given me much, despite that materially, I wasn’t born into a family with much, there has been more than enough that more than made up for it.

As I meet people whom I feel mirror who I am, I start to realise how annoying such characters can be, how much of an irritant chronic pessimists and complainers can be. I hope that I don’t continue to walk that path, but rather on a daily basis, thank God for all that I have, for all that has been bestowed on me.While I am still trying to change my attitude, which I foresee to be a difficult but not impossible endeavour, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, so what if I don’t like my job and many aspects of it, so what if day by day I feel that I am losing myself, my value, my relevance, so what if I don’t get to enjoy many of the material things in life that my peers possess, that they earn much more than me, and that I have been struggling in many areas of my life all these years, unable to break through and break free. Life still goes on, and I need to give thanks that I am still breathing and still have my loved ones around me. May they always be safe and sound, happy and healthy.