it’s all about the convenience of coffee 

It is no secret that I am a big fan of cafes. I wanted to say that I am a coffee fan but then again I think I can’t really lay claim to that because as a friend rightly pointed out one day, to my dismay, that despite me being a self-professed / so-called aficionado of coffee, I did not know the difference between an Americano and a Long Black. I now know the difference, thanks to that episode, so I shall just say that I love hanging out at cafes because they are convenient for the lone ranger who is out to seek some caffeine boost and nosh to keep the energy going.

Despite that there are tons of great cafes out there with a uniqueness that chains like Starbucks can’t ever emulate, I seldom check them out, whether locally or abroad. Locally, their locations frequently are prohibiting for me because I do not want to caught in a situation of taking a taxi all the way to some Ulu Sembawang place to look for a cafe only to find out that it’s full, with patrons not seemingly likely to leave anytime soon, or worse, that it is no longer in operation. The latter could be a very real predicament, considering that businesses in Singapore do come and go quite easily due to the competitiveness of the scene. Even overseas, there are times when I stick to the tried-and-tested places because I know I can hang around for a fair bit of time without being ‘chased’ out of a small cafe, and they are easy to locate for someone who might have been walking for hours and just need to get some sustenance.

So anyway, these were some of the ‘convenient’ places that I grabbed my daily coffee and bites at when I was in Tokyo recently.

Some of my friends are coffee snobs, and they turn their noses up at Starbucks’ coffee. Since I used to can’t tell an Americano or Long Black apart, it is also safe to assume that I can’t really distinguish between good or bad coffee. Wrong. If it’s very bad, I certainly can taste it, but my body is not accustomed to very good coffee, which I often associate with strong, acidic coffee that leaves a bit of a bitter/sour after taste at the back of my tongue. They also leave me feeling a little light-headed or high thereafter. So a tall or even grande sized brew coffee or Americano from Starbucks does the trick for me on days when I want to have more fluid in the cup rather than the usual smaller cup of coffee that I would otherwise get from these standalone small joints.
A short-sized Americano with some Cranberry Granola Toast. I don’t think the toast is that healthy, but then I love breads in several, scratch that, many forms, so this makes for a nice morning snack.  A short latte with a cup of Granola and Cranberry Yogurt, something I had just before I took the Airport Limousine Bus to the airport on my way home. These days, we are also starting to see Starbucks Singapore offer more of such options, but they already pre-mixed the granola or whatever else fruits or compote they have into the yogurt. I would have preferred if they were separate because otherwise the crunchy/crispy bits would have lost all the crunch and become too soggy.   On one drizzly evening, before I went for Bikram yoga class, I killed time at Excelsior Cafe with a cup of Americano and a slice of Sakura Tea Cake. Somehow, butter/tea cakes that come in plastic packaging like that creates a preconceived notion in me that the cake won’t be that great, as compared against buying tea cakes that are displayed in a sliced loaf, encased in a glass container. I know it’s weird, but I always get that kind of feeling, and have yet to ascertain the veracity, if those cakes are really not as nice. Who knows?  The weather in Tokyo during the week that I was there was on the overall, great. But there were still moments when the city was shrouded with drizzle. There was just one day when the weather was bad because it rained almost the whole day and made us feel lethargic and tired, but otherwise it was generally ok. I am always spoilt for choice whenever I pop into Dean & Deluca in Tokyo, where the array of pastries and breads available all scream at me to buy them. Their muffins are really good but they are huge, and I am quite wary of these sugar bombs even if I still do give in to the craving sometimes. But then again, this slice of Caramelized bread probably isn’t much better, except that the interior didn’t feel/taste as sweet as a muffin would, and I kind of tore off the sticky parts. :p And lastly, on my last morning in Tokyo, I finally found Mister Donut! I didn’t have this when I was in Bangkok last year because the donuts on display then looked kind of sad, so I made sure I went there to have my favourite Pon De Ring. But I was a little disappointed, and started to wonder if this was my usual because the glazed ring didn’t taste as good as I recalled. Perhaps the one I used to have wasn’t this variant.. Hmm. Oh well, at least I tried it and maybe the next time, I can give it a miss already.

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

Dean & Deluca, Orchard central

The first time I ever saw Dean & Deluca was in Tokyo many years back when I was on a business trip; there was an outlet at the train station that was near my hotel which I’d walk past every morning on my way to the station to work. But I never got a chance to step inside because there are just too many other places to check out when in Tokyo, especially since being in Japan, I’d definitely prefer checking out local food although the occasional distraction is good too.

I didn’t know then where D&D hailed from or bothered to find out about it, until I came across it last November when I was in New York. Jade wanted to check out the store to get some cookies and we did buy some even though they didn’t have what she wanted. I cannot recall what I bought but they were really good and the store was extremely crowded! Maybe it was because that was a wet and cold evening so everyone wanted to get some shelter for warmth.

I read about the opening of D&D in Singapore at Orchard Central, and suggested it as a meet-up place with two girlfriends one Friday evening. The cafe has an “inside” as well as “outside” seating area. It’s all located indoors, on the 4th level of Orchard Central, but part of the seats are within the cafe area whereas there are also additional tables and chairs that spill over to the outside. We got a seat on the “outside” and then went to place our orders at the counter. I read from someone’s blog that you had to take the number on the table to place your order, but I don’t remember that we had any number then. Maybe there was but I don’t remember. I only knew that after ordering and paying, we’d have a number tag that we’d bring back to our table and wait for the food to be served. There are sandwiches, all-day breakfasts, as well as salads and breads/pastries but we decided to order something to share.

We got a mac & cheese, a salad and an All-American Breakfast (I think) to share, but skipped on the drinks totally because we wanted to take our caffeine-dosing elsewhere.

The mac & cheese was pretty interesting because it came in a block, and it didn’t have the overwhelming cheesy flavour that I expected, although my friends expected cheese to be oozing out from the block at least, or that it shouldn’t be blockish like that.

The breakfast set we ordered had a hash brown, scrambled eggs, a sausage, mushrooms, tomato and bacon. It was pretty normal to me, like what we usually see in pictures of breakfasts that people post online, and taste-wise it was not spectacular that I could remember its awesomeness. I couldn’t even recall now what greens we ordered, but it was a really small portion that they plated together with the mac & cheese in the above picture. Well, the food was not bad but it was not fantastic either. But I liked the place because it retained its general utilitarian kitchen kind of look yet infused with a touch of chic-ness in its use of a monochrome palette and stainless steel. There is also a grocery area that sells pasta sauces, and many other food stuff that you can buy home but the prices were rather steep, according to my friends.

This is a place I would revisit, because I really want to try their pastries and coffee!