my happy food

Contrary to popular belief, I have a fairly unhealthy diet. Perhaps it’s sweeping to term it as unhealthy, rather I should say I actually do have a “good” or fair balance of food, whether healthy or not. I do enjoy salads these days, and I wonder why in the past I am so resistant to them. And fruits make up a big part of my diet, wherever possible. There were times when I was still in a travelling job where fruits were a scarce commodity and I try to make up for it with vegetables but they are just different, and then when fruits are scarce usually vegetables also aren’t in abundance in those countries.

So then, on the other end of the spectrum, I am guilty of indulgences. I let myself indulge sometimes, or now I see it happening more often, in food that nutritionists, or people in general, will easily categorise as unhealthy. I love french fries, these deep fried oily carbohydrate bombs that adds nothing to the body other than fats and muffin tops. I cannot resist them, for some strange reason, that I used to think if I have an addiction to them.

Then, there are the other unhealthy carbo-laded stuff that rank high on my barometer of happy food. Breads, cakes, pastries, you name it. Is flour an addiction, or did they lace these things with some drug that causes people to get addicted?

Few days back, I was at Coffee Bean, and ordered a blueberry muffin, my first love. Yes, blueberry-anything used to be the order of the day but they have somewhat fallen from grace. These days, I explore more flavours when it comes to muffins or whatever else, but I thought I’d order it, for old times’ sake. It was kind of disappointing, not the taste, but the texture. This muffin, if not for the fact that it was contained in a paper cup, would have just fallen apart on its own. It was so crumbly that each forkful resulted in it crumbling into tiny bits. They should have given me a dessert spoon to eat it with rather than a fork.20140517-000315.jpgSpinelli shrank their muffins, which according to them, was due to ‘complains’ from customers that they were too big. I figure those customers must not be Singaporeans, given that we tend to only complain when food portions are too small. This new size is just bite-sized at best, and it definitely is not enough! I guess maybe those complainers might be people who are trying to be health-conscious and want their muffins to be smaller so that they don’t feel that guilty indulging in a normal, regular-sized muffin, after their 10-course dinner somewhere else or a huge rib-eye steak, who knows. So these days, I have to resort to ordering something else if I want a muffin, and yes spend extra, because the amount I save from the downsized muffin isn’t enough to pay for another item to not let me get hungry within an hour of eating it.

20140517-000326.jpgSo I had a mini sea salt caramel cheesecake. Where cakes are concerned, cheesecake in particular, I am not complaining though, about its size. The beautiful thing about these mini cakes at Spinelli’s is that they are available in a regular size if you want to just have a cake, or if you fancy it as just an additional to something else, you can get these tiny ones. They are offered individually or in 3s, so it makes for a great idea if you would like to try 3 different cakes in one sitting!

Some weeks ago, I read in the Sunday Times, under the Posh Nosh food recommendation section, about the Yuzu bread from Maison Kayser. For a long time now, I have only ever bought the walnut bread (Pain aux Noix) from them, because I have tried a couple others and not really enjoyed them as much as the walnut without raisins bread. After I read about the Campagne Yuzu, I thought I’d give it a try. At S$4.50 per loaf, it’s more costly than the Pain aux Noix, but it is also bigger.

20140517-000334.jpgIn terms of its texture, it is rougher and also harder. It takes more effort to tear and chew it, as I found out from the staff, this is due to it being made without butter or milk like in the Pain aux Noix. This made a light bulb go off in me when I thought that it would be an excellent alternative for my usual bread indulgence without the butter or milk that makes bread-eating not such a great idea, i.e. bread face anyone? Of course, bread is still bread but cut out some ingredients and hey it may just be ok to indulge in them a little more! And this also contains pistachios that would be an alternative to walnuts for me.

And then finally… something I bought from one of those stalls at Tanjong Pagar market that sell a wide variety of biscuits and snacks, packed in convenient S$2 (or thereabouts) bags. These fish-shaped biscuits are definitely not healthy, considering the strong aromatic buttery scent whenever I remove the lid of the container I use to hold them in. And again, they are so addictive. If I hadn’t done portion-control using these small containers I think I might be able to finish everything in one go, which is an extremely huge packet.

20140517-000340.jpgThey just grow on me, as I chew on them, they just get nicer and nicer. A perfect afternoon tea-time snack. ūüôā

HAPPY WEEKEND!

Maison Kayser, Wheelock Place… What a shame

I really love the baked goods of Maison Kayser, and I have one particular favourite which I give myself a treat to on-and-off, the Pain aux Noix (walnut bread). I enjoy breads that are not too soft, and that contain nuts or grains because the added texture and chewiness makes eating more fun in a way, not to mention that they also give more dimension to the taste.

This evening, after my class was over, I thought I’d try my luck at the Wheelock Place outlet to check if they are still open, and if so I’d buy a Pain aux Noix, or maybe just something, for breakfast tomorrow. My class is supposed to end at 9:45pm but my teacher usually makes us stay a little longer because there’s just too much to cover. But it was still before 10pm when I got there, and was slightly dismayed that the lights in the display cases were already off, signalling that they were closed for the day. But I saw that there were still loaves being displayed in the darkened cases, and there was a staff milling behind them, so a shimmer of hope raised in me.

I approached the counter and tried with a few “Excuse Me”s that got ignored, until the female staff member looked up from what she was doing and saw me. She was in the midst of emptying the baskets of breads into a large trash bag, so I asked “Are you closed?” to which she responded “Yes” and continued with her action, despite that I was actually interested to buy something. Right in front of my eyes, with Pain aux Noix still available, she took them all and threw all the contents of the trays into the trash bag.

I was really disappointed and angry that they would rather throw away food items that are still edible and good and could be sold to me. I know they have already closed the till for the day, but they could always just make a sale and put it into the next day’s takings, couldn’t they? Or she could have offered a more polite decline instead a curt “Yes” before trashing the loaves. To look at this in a positive way, she was probably sticking to rules and procedures to not sell anything after the cashier has been closed, and that she did not take the chance to sell something and pocket the money since it isn’t recorded (but to these youngsters these days, $3.40 probably isn’t worth their effort to pilfer anyway), but it was just in extremely bad taste and poor customer service.

As much as I really enjoy Maison Kayser’s breads, I have only ever encountered very limited instances of good customer service from their staff manning the takeaway counters. In the service line, or F&B for that matter, it doesn’t matter if it is a $3.40 bun that someone is buying or a $10 sandwich, you still accord them the same service, don’t you? I don’t know if it’s attributable to the lack of proper training or the transient nature of such jobs that are usually staffed by part-timers who do not give a damn about building a good brand image to which customer service is a fundamental building block. But the sad state of customer service in Singapore is something that just never seem to change, although there are some places that do indeed serve up good customer experience, such as for instance, Starbucks.

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!

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.

maison kayser – first thoughts

I first read about Maison Kayser from bookjunkie, I think, while I was searching for reviews on the Paris Baguette outlet in Wisma Atria. While I knew that they had a store in Scotts Square, I kept procrastinating on checking it out because somehow, Scotts Square just appeared to be a place I don’t generally need to step into. It is a little like Paragon perhaps, just by looking at its facade, adorned with brands that I don’t think I will become a customer in the near future. Maybe, maybe not.

By chance, I found out that there was a Maison Kayser in Tokyo, at Mid Town in Roppongi, while I was on vacation earlier this month. However, it was not a standalone shop, and it was just a bakery, without the benefit of seating space, and it opened only at 11am, so when I was there, I chose to have breakfast elsewhere instead. When the shop finally opened at 11am, I walked in and took a look at the display and honestly, the breads look like most other breads/pastries that other bakeries serve up. I guess where baked goods are concerned, there isn’t too much difference to expect, unless of course it is very badly made or something. Otherwise, most of these breads have that heavenly golden brown baked look that simply made me want to sink my fangs into them.

So I still didn’t get to try it. And as most of you would have known, the basement of Wheelock Place in Singapore is going to have its branch of the Maison Kayser cafe too. The boards have finally been taken down, and you can see that the display cases and furniture are already in place, but it is past mid December and it is still not opened yet. I guess maybe when they say opening in December 2012, we can’t really expect that to mean anything early. That was the reason I didn’t pop into Scotts Square, because I kept hoping they would open in Wheelock soon, so that I can grab something on the way to my classes, or on the way to the MRT station home. It would offer an alternative to Sun Moulin in Isetan supermarket, Bread Society and also now Marks & Spencer’s bakery.

But no, it remained un-opened. So on Monday, before I went for my class, I finally walked into Scotts Square and made my maiden visit to Maison Kayser. Being a Monday evening, the mall was extremely empty, and so was the basement where the cafe was. I don’t know if it being in Scotts Square has intimidated me, but I didn’t generally feel very welcomed when I walked into the shop’s space and started browsing the display counter. Then I decided to get just one item since it was going to be a quick bite during class, and I chose the chocolate bread (no pictures, sorry), an elliptical-shaped bread roll with chocolate chips, which costs S$3. While I ate it in class, I wasn’t really wowed by it. I mean, it is not bad, but from what I saw in its display case and the taste, I got reminded of Paris Baguette and Tiong Bahru Bakery. They seem to offer similar kinds of baked items and where the taste is concerned, to me, they don’t appear to vary too much, as are the prices.

Besides, since it was just one thing I bought, the person serving me asked if I needed a carrier (in addition to the paper envelope-bag that the bread was put into), and I said no, since I already had another bag with me. And it was only when I declined the carrier when she offered a smile. Service? Or is it only reserved for patrons who sit down and order food and drinks? Maybe next time when I have a little more time, I will sit down for a coffee too, and see how things go. But still, I am glad we have more choices now where breads are concerned, we can never have too many cafes and bakeries! What can I say, I love bread!