Starbucks’ new sandwich menu 

Being the Starbucks fan that I am, I was pleasantly surprised when recently (ok not so recent anymore but this happened in 2016!) they launched a new lunch menu that saw 5 new sandwiches being introduced. For some time, they had a really boring food menu and whenever I wanted to have something substantial, SB would be the last on my mind. Even when they had sandwiches back then, they didn’t look at all appetising or filling for my voracious appetite, and besides they are pre-packed in the chilled display cases that somehow also do not whet my appetite the least bit. I would much rather go to, say Coffee Bean, where sandwiches are prepared only when ordered (or at least that’s what I remembered, if they still do that). Granted that the ingredients are a premix (e.g. chicken / tuna mayonnaise), at least the sandwich is put together upon order so the final product isn’t sitting on the rack for goodness knows how long.

The last menu they had wasn’t too bad – I liked the Tuscan Chicken sandwich that I had quite a number of times and it was satisfying enough for a meal. Their breakfast items have fared better so far, with the Egg White, Roasted Pepper, Mushroom & Cheddar wrap being one of my favourites, and now to add on, there’s also the Rosemary Chicken with Emmental Cheese croissant and Turkey Ham, Egg White & Cheddar sandwich.

This is their latest lunch sandwich menu:

Starbucks_sandwich_new2016I made it a point to try all of them and so far I’ve actually already tried 4! I’m not sure if I will get to try the last one, which is Beef Meatball Marinara croissant, since beef meatballs… maybe not.

So the first item off the list was Roasted Portobello, Pumpkin & Devilled Egg sandwich. What does devilled mean anyway? I have no idea, and I don’t know if I even tasted any egg because I didn’t really open up the sandwich since I was having brunch then with someone else and I didn’t want to seem like a messy eater playing with my food. I really liked this, and it contains mushrooms and pumpkin which also explains why it’s the first that I wanted to try. Love the bread used for the sandwich, with its sprinkling of black and white sesame and pumpkin seeds on top. Roasted mushrooms and pumpkins inside also makes everything so much better!

The choice of bread used for the sandwich greatly affects whether I order it or not. Maybe it’s also because it’s the biggest part of the item, so sometimes it may be a greater contributor to my choice rather than the filling itself! The second item I tried used a similar bread/bun except that it didn’t have any pumpkin seeds, just black and white sesame that still gave a nice flavour / taste to the bread. This was the Honey Mustard Chicken & Apple Slaw sandwich, which I assume should be chicken marinated in honey mustard dressing served with a salad of apple slaw.
I also liked this a lot, even though it felt a little more sinful than the first, because of the dressing used with the chicken. But it’s more fulfilling in a way also because of the chicken. The addition of shredded carrot and purple cabbage also made it nicer with the added crunchiness but at the same time also caused a greater deal of mess in eating because the shredded veggies tended to just fall out.Third try – Wholesome Tuna & Cheese sandwich. It was the third because it’s tuna mayonnaise, i.e. fattening (mayonnaise alert!) although the bun was a lure. Also pretty satisfying but perhaps they could go a little easier on the cheese. There was too much of it that at one point, I decided to just scrape out some of the cheese. But overall, I also enjoyed it. 🙂
Closer look.  The fourth and last item I’ve tried is the Buttermilk Chicken & Egg Croissant. Croissants are amazing pastries but also because of the amount of butter that’s used (I don’t know what else) that make such a small and fluffy pastry so calorie-dense. Once in a while, it’s nice to indulge though. Which is why this is the last item I tried, after exhausting all the other options based on the bread choice. Haha.

There was another reason – hard-boiled eggs. I don’t mind yolks sometimes, but usually only when they come in liquid / molten form such as sunny-side-ups or poached eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are not my kind of thing even if I need that protein for recovery. So while I ate this, I had to deconstruct it (not unusual for me with sandwiches though) and dig out the yolks. :p
Chicken used had a pretty good flavour. It’s supposed to be buttermilk? But I don’t know how that is meant to taste like, or perhaps the flavour is tangy red pesto as described in Starbucks’ website. It has a peppery taste that together with the croissant gave the overall sandwich a rather strong taste and perhaps that is also how it fills you up since croissant in itself doesn’t really make one feel full (at least not for me) or it doesn’t keep you full for too long.  A close-up of the insides, with the generous filling spilling out! This is also what makes the new sandwiches more appealing and value-for-money! Previously, at the kind of prices they charge their sandwiches for, I would be better off paying the same (or sometimes less) for sandwiches from other shops that make them fresh with fresher and more generous ingredients! Now they are at least a more worthy competitor for some other places, though of course we can’t compare SB with shops that specialise in sandwiches!

On the whole, still a great effort and I don’t mind having some of these sandwiches again! With a promotion set meal price of $9.90 during 11.30 am to 3 pm for a sandwich and a hot/iced coffee or tea, it’s quite a good deal (for SB anyway) since the sandwiches already cost about $8.90 on their own.

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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!

Maiden hands-on baking class at Phoon Huat

I don’t think I’m gifted in culinary art, even if I have tried my hand at cooking a few times over the last 30-odd years without too much of a mishap or disaster in the cooked item. I probably “cooked” or attempted to, most often, when I was taking Home Economics class in secondary school.

Then, when I was in university, I think my friends and I did fiddle around with some simple home-cooking at her place, but that was about it. Living with my parents meant that I don’t need to cook, since the kitchen is my mum’s enclave and TBH, there really wasn’t a need to. But anyhow, I have always wanted to learn or pick up cooking, baking or the likes. My preference would of course be baking, of breads and cookies, which are my indulgences. I had signed up for a bread-making class sometime ago and it was really fun, though tiring; but it’s something I cannot really replicate at home because of the lack of a proper mixer to make the dough that is needed for bread-making.

Recently, I signed up for another baking class, this time for cakes and cookies, at Phoon Huat. The good thing about such classes is that even if you need to clean up the place and wash up the utensils and equipment, it isn’t at your own kitchen, and so it’s much more convenient. They supply all the necessary ingredients too, so it’s all worth it for the price paid, S$55 for a one-time class.

In the class I signed up for, there were 3 items on the list to be made. First, we learned how to bake a Pineapple Manuka Honey Almond Butter Cake, where the pineapple and manuka honey mixture was pre-prepared by the chef to save time. We did the rest, i.e. making the batter, etc. As there were limited working tables, we did the baking in pairs or groups of threes. It’s pretty scary to know how much butter, eggs and sugar went into baking one butter cake. Horrors!

Here’s how the batter mix for 3 cakes looked like.After the mixture was deemed to be of the right consistency by the chef who was teaching and supervising the class, we scooped the mixture into the cake tins and off they went into the mega-sized ovens.
While the cake was being baked, we cleaned up and starting preparing the ingredients for the second recipe, which was a cookie. But this was how the cake looked like after it was baked, removed from the oven and left to cool. It smells really good and tastes great too, although I found it a bit too sweet. Perhaps the amount of sugar used, together with the honey that was being mixed in with the pineapple, added to the overall sweetness.  I brought the cake to mum & dad’s place for dinner the day after and they all said it was not too bad but somehow it was a little crumbly. Wonder if it’s because it wasn’t oily enough to hold everything together?

The second item we baked was supposed to be Viennese Butter Cookies. The ingredients also looked scary, with the copious amount of butter and sugar that went into it. Everything felt really oily, especially when we had to put the batter into a piping bag so that we could try to create an S-shaped cookie, or something like the figure of 8. I was very bad with this but this was how everything looked like before baking. The cookies I piped were quite small haha.
This was how they were supposed to look like after baking. I took this photo of some other groups’ cookies. The baking smell wafting in the air as we worked in the kitchen was heavenly, by the way. You can tell how much I love pastries.  Unfortunately, this was was how my cookies turned out. All the effort spent piping the cookies ended up in pools of butter, eggs and flour because we somehow got the proportions wrong while measuring out the ingredients. These look like the usual 鸡蛋饼 or 鸡蛋仔, even though comparatively, based on what the other classmates said when they tasted them, these were less sweet and not as oily. I don’t know if they were trying to be nice, but it made sense because a lot of the oil had seeped out of the mixture due to the insufficient flour to hold the oil in. These smell very strong in butter, and somehow reminded me of Jenny’s cookies. I’m not saying these are comparable, even though I don’t find Jenny’s that great (over-hyped if you ask me), but the same buttery smell is just so strong.
The last item that we made were Almond and Tea Cookies. Actually this wasn’t the last thing we made, but the last thing that went into the oven, because after mixing the batter, we had to freeze the dough. It was rolled into a long, cylindrical rod and popped into the chiller. After a certain length of time had elapsed, we removed the stiffened dough and sliced it into discs, laid them out on the baking tray for baking. There were lots of almond flakes used in this, with earl grey tea leaves added to give it the tea flavour. Any tea leaves can be used, but for the class, the chef provided earl grey tea, which was fine for me because I love the scent of earl grey tea!

The end product, which was much more successful than the butter cookies.The roll yielded a large number of cookies so there was plenty to go around that I brought some to office to share with the colleagues and gave a huge bunch to mum. Reviews for this cookie were pretty positive too! 🙂
On the whole, I find the class fun, though the washing and cleaning was very tiring and it made my hands feel very dry and grimy at the same time. Also, as I chose an evening class that was supposed to be from 7-10pm, take note that it usually does not end on time. This was supposedly an easy class and we ended around 10.30pm. Mostly, I heard that other evening classes could end at 11pm or after. If it’s a weekday night, it will be extremely tiring. Weekends would be better, as the timing is from 2-5pm, but then those classes tend to get full very fast. I’ll probably try other classes in future, but only when the recipe has something that I’m interested in!

Christmas in Hong Kong

It isn’t the first time I’m taking a vacation in Hong Kong during the Christmas season, or for that matter, somewhere overseas. But maybe it is the simple knowledge of being on holiday that somehow injects a stronger Christmas vibe within me. At least I kind of felt the Christmas festivities more when I was in Hong Kong, which could be due partly to the fact that it was a temporary reprieve for me from the hustle of the renovation works.

Was it last year when I  visited Hong Kong, in early December, that I also saw similar Christmas decorations in SoHo?This year, Star Wars fever has struck everywhere, from Changi Airport replete with figurines and what-not, and also at Times Square in Causeway Bay, which held an exhibition of sorts of these pretty much life-sized mascots!
The Storm Troopers, up close.  The main reason why we were at Causeway Bay that very first day we landed in Hong Kong, was of course to have dinner! I brought my friend to the Matchbox Cafe, also known as Xi Xi. Last year, my friend brought me here and I so loved what I had that I had to return. Unfortunately, they again had run out of the char siew that I liked. It’s weird, I know, to go to a ‘cha-chan-teng’ for char siew, but cooked together with the CQYD noodles, it makes for really amazing comfort food.

However, even without the char siew, we went ahead to order. Their scrambled eggs and toast smeared with butter are also great, because the eggs are so creamy and flavourful and the toast reminded me somewhat of brioche. My friend had the lemon cola which she said was good, and for the trip, she commented that was the best lemon cola she had!
Closer look at the smooth scrambled eggs that also had strips of ham tossed into the mix. Just thinking of it makes me salivate. Haha.  And this was the bowl of noodles that I ordered! CQYD instant noodles with egg (yes, more eggs!) and a stalk of chye sim. I cannot remember if there were other stuff inside, but it was a serious overdose of eggs for me that night! Check out the super retro pair of small scissors that came with my order. Presumably, it’s for cutting the pack of sesame oil that gives CQYD noodles that familiar and addictive flavour. But it could also be for cutting the noodles so that they are more manageable? I don’t suppose it would be the latter, this being Hong Kong and most people should be quite adept with chop sticks!

More Merry Bites from Starbucks!

Moving right along to lighter and happier posts, I continue my eating ‘trek’ of festive treats from the cafes. I am that limited when it comes to cafe-food, because I am too lazy to venture to new cafes, which explains why most of my food posts are from repeat places. Hmm. Something to chew on, perhaps?

Met up with a friend sometime back because I had a sweets craving. It is not atypical for such a craving to occur, just that usually I follow my meals immediately with something sweet, but in this case I combined both the meal and dessert, so there you have it – a sweet treat and a savoury for the meal.Presenting more of Starbucks’ Merry Bites – the Sticky Ginger Date Pudding, and the Triple Turkey Pie.

Starbucks describes the pie as a “hearty pie that’s filled with a trio of turkey – ham, bacon and smoked; a cherished Christmas staple”. I guess turkey has always been associated with Christmas, at least to me, and the same goes for cranberries, though the latter I have no idea why. Maybe it is because of its colour and how when it’s used in food/drinks it adds to the festive cheer? The pie in its full, glazed, glory.
And the cross-sectional view of its inside. I don’t think I would have known that it’s a turkey pie, not that I know what to expect of the taste of turkey ham, smoked turkey or bacon, because it doesn’t have a very distinctive taste. However, it does remind me of a typical chicken pie complete with vegetables and potatoes; the filling feels a little like a curry puff’s filling without the spiciness. But overall, it’s not bad because I was told on a separate occasion by a Starbucks partner that the Salmon pie/quiche may be a bit salty so I decided not to pick that. The crust was fairly light and flaky, and it’s good to eat it quickly while still warm so that it still retains some crisp.

As for the pudding, its description was that of a “sweet union of candied ginger and dates, complete with caramel and white chocolate drizzle. Christmas on a plate.” as per Starbucks.
I found this a little sweet though, whether it’s the gingery paste atop the cake, or the molten insides. However, the fact that there is a hint of ginger taste kind of balances out the sweetness of this dessert. It might have been too much to finish on my own so it’s definitely good for sharing! Like I have always qualified that I have a ‘calibrated sweet tooth’, even though I admit to the sweet tooth, the threshold isn’t that high or it really depends on the particular item in question. These two choices were generally OK, neither hits or misses; last year’s Christmas menu had more interesting items to pick from, like the spicy puff pie that really felt like a giant spicy curry puff!

Starbucks Christmas 2015 Muffin

The season is here again! Since October I have already been looking forward to Christmas… or rather the whole year I have been looking forward to Christmas. It isn’t just the festive vibes that I anticipate, but the cool weather too. Despite that I am not such a big fan of the rainy season sometimes, especially when I am outside and have to get my feet or shoes wet. Rain in Singapore can be quite a horrible experience because of the thunderstorms and heavy downpours that make being out in the rain a ‘get-drenched’ affair, even with an umbrella. Yes, I think we will need a golf umbrella, a raincoat/poncho (heavy duty type) and Wellingtons, in order to stay dry.

So… I have digressed. This is the season when cafes start coming out with their festive menu, whether food or beverages. Since Starbucks is one of my usual joints, even if they don’t serve exceptionally good coffee (in fact, most people think their coffee is horrid but it works fine for me), their Christmas stuff are usually something that I would  give a try, at least a few items, at least once. The first thing that I picked for food was the Apple Cinnamon Muffin. This photo is taken off the website of Starbucks Singapore; if I have the chance, I’ll post my own photo later. 🙂

Starbucks_xmas_muffin

Is there anything special about this muffin? Well, for one, I think the hint of cinnamon isn’t very strong. That is probably good for people who are not so into it; but then if you aren’t, you probably wouldn’t even order this item right? What tops the muffin, as well as contained within (albeit in a rather small amount) is similar to what you would find in an apple pie, candied/spiced bits of apple. I think it isn’t exceedingly sweet, based on my memory of it until now, and since it is not huge for a muffin, it is just about nice to go with a nice, hot cup of Americano.

Drinks wise, I am quite happy they brought back the Gingerbread Latte. Apparently, that is what they wrote, but I don’t really remember this being on our local festive menu. For the last years when I had it, or even the first time I heard of and tried it, it was always overseas. Nevertheless, I’m glad we have it this year and that was of course the first drink I had! It isn’t as sweet as the Toffee Nut Latte, and because it has some hints of spice from the gingerbread syrup used (I assume), I generally enjoyed it and preferred it over the TNL.