Revisiting Flock Café, Moh Guan Terrace

I thought I read somewhere, maybe on Facebook, that Flock at Moh Guan Terrace was closing. That was after my first visit, and I had actually wrote an email to the address listed on their website but I didn’t receive any response. Yesterday, since I was on leave and was free in the early evening, I decided to go for a coffee break, even though I felt that I already had consumed sufficient food to last me to dinner. So anyhow, it has been a while since I took a walk around the “neighbourhood”, so despite that it was humid balmy day, I took the risk anyhow. There are always back-up options in the vicinity anyway, if Flock had really closed, but I was quite happy when I rounded the corner of the block where they are located, to see that they are still in business. Woohoo!

If my stomach had allowed, I would have liked to order their scrambled eggs with sourdough, something I had on the first visit that I enjoyed thoroughly. They had other all-day breakfast options too, and various other food options; in fact, I think they have quite an extensive menu considering that typically these cafes don’t offer much in terms of food. But I resisted. And ordered for myself a muffin and coffee. There were some cakes available, both the moist and creamy-looking type as well as the simpler tea-cake kind. But somehow they didn’t really appeal to me yesterday. The only muffin available was something called “Ondeh Ondeh muffin”; oh my, that sounds interesting enough! So here goes (and any diet or wellness-eating plans).

Initially, I didn’t know what to expect of the muffin because I was imagining that it would perhaps have a soft, molten core that contains some gula melaka syrup that would ooze out when I cut into the muffin. But instead, my fork met with some resistance when I attempted to pierce the top of the muffin. It’s pretty firm and hard, even though I think they did warm it up a little (this I couldn’t be sure). The top of the muffin was just how I liked my muffins to be, firm and crunchy and best of all, not too crumbly. It didn’t just fall apart into bits despite that it’s a little tough to cut into.
Taste-wise, it did have quite a distinct flavour of pandan or coconut, whichever I can’t really tell apart because to me, they are pretty similar. There wasn’t anything oozing out, but instead the ondeh ondeh flavour is just infused into the whole muffin itself. Biting into it, you won’t mistakenly think that you are eating an ondeh ondeh because the texture is totally different, but it’s just the similarity of the taste and flavour, except that in this case, it probably isn’t as strong as when you are eating the real thing, covered with shredded coconut shavings and of course, the colour is entirely different.

I spent a nice, quiet hour in the late afternoon there, and it being a weekday, it’s pretty quiet even though there were a few sets of other patrons there, mainly just solo customers or in twos. It contrasted with the Saturday when I was first there, where we had trouble finding seats and customers were mainly in twos or larger groups, with a much more elevated noise level. It’s a nice time to have, just indulging in some sinful goodness and aromatic coffee, with a good read too. Ok, I won’t exactly call it a good read since it’s just the newspapers that I was reading, but yesterday’s free daily contained many articles aside from news stories, it being the anniversary of the passing of our founding father.There have been many opinions about him before, whether they are right or wrong, fair or not. But I think arising from his death last year and the various TV programmes that talked about his life and work, many people have began to see him in a different light and better appreciate what was being done by him, albeit in an authoritarian style and with an iron-clad manner. That worked for the generation then, where the country was mostly directionless and in need of a strong leadership voice. For the current generation that is more well-educated that has also spawned lots of opinions (some informed, others just plainly emotional and irrational), a different kind of leadership style is needed, which I think the current people are striving to achieve through continuous change and improvements.

Enough said about that, politics are never an easy thing to discuss and that’s not the main point of this post. As I read some of the articles, not without distraction though because I just cannot seem to be able to focus on reading with good concentration… this quote kind of spoke out to me:
Recalled an undergrad, “create the life we want to live, and make the most of what we’ve been blessed with”. It is not something I haven’t heard of before, but really, it’s an apt reminder that I should bear in mind – to always be thankful for what we get in life, and for what we have, make the best of it. Comparisons are inevitable because we don’t live in a vacuum, but letting comparisons get the better of us do not serve us any purpose, especially if they only lead to us envying others and lamenting.

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Revisiting Artisan Boulangerie Company

Recently, I have been going to ABC more often. Even though the cafe is fairly cosy and limited in terms of seating capacity, it ranks above Starbucks and Coffee Bean as somewhere to chill. Probably this is also due to the relatively faster turnover of customers, who do not hog the seats for an extended duration beyond an hour. Mostly, customers just get seated, eat and go. It isn’t so much like Starbucks or Coffee Bean where the customers sit down, get a drink and then continue to be glued to their seats for the next 5 hours.

Food is pricier which could also explain the different customer demography but cafe-goers are generally quite well-to-do and so this shouldn’t be a factor. Quality of food and coffee is definitely better here too! Well, most of them anyway. I have tried various items and so far, most of them have proven to be good and quite worth the price paid.

This time I ordered a quiche, which I’ve been told is not too bad, and comes served with a portion of salad. This was my order, fearing that I wouldn’t have enough to eat since the quiche didn’t look like it could satiate me.
Looking at the available choices, it was not easy to make a decision but I finally picked the Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche, both being items that I really enjoy. Actually, these days I haven’t been so big on quiches because the egg has somehow dulled my enjoyment. I do like eggs but in quiche, they tend to taste a little too ‘eggy’? I don’t know but it would have been better without. Haha, although then it wouldn’t be called a quiche. An eggless quiche? It was really good though, and the size was actually just right, balancing the egg with the rest of the ingredients to put together a complementary taste of egg, goat cheese and spinach. Goes extremely well with coffee by the way! But I think the usual Long Black would have made a better choice than the Flat White which I ordered, again with the unnecessary paranoia that the quiche is not enough for sustenance.
Here’s a closer look of the quiche. Thumbs up!

You’d see that I ordered an additional Blueberry muffin to go along with my meal, which again was quite superfluous. I wanted to have a balance of sweet and savoury, so I ordered a muffin, being mindful of the overall cost, as the muffin is cheaper than a tart (yes I am cheapskate and calculative like that). But in all honesty, I should have just gone for the tart, because their Lemon Curd Tart is pretty good and zesty, and I hadn’t actually tried their muffins before, which turned out to be a letdown.  I took a bite of the top of the muffin, and felt it tasted weird. They probably didn’t bake this in-house, because it looked like it came from some mass-producer. Even though there is some sweetness to the muffin it tasted flat and artificial, like it was just flour and colouring, without much scent and sweetness that I was wont to expect for muffins. Perhaps this is considered healthier or more natural? I wouldn’t know. After a disappointed first bite, and also because I was rather stuffed after the quiche and flat white, I asked for a takeaway bag to pack the muffin and brought it home.

Last night, I took it out of the fridge and the top was so hard and stiff like a rock! LOL. I let it stand outside for a while, not wanting to heat up the oven just for the little muffin, and when it has softened/thawed slightly, proceeded to eat it. Again, it just didn’t feel right so I did what I usually won’t do, and threw the rest away. Makes me feel bad to waste it, but it really wasn’t nice at all, or rather it was so tasteless that it would have been like chewing and swallowing dough.

Year-end getaway. 

Happy 2016!

It’s amazing how time flies. 2015 seemed to have come and pass in a flash. It was a milestone sort of year for me, witnessing the first major investment of my life so far, with the finalisation of the flat purchase in early January. Renovation proper only started sometime in April, and has dragged on almost to the end of the year. Despite that it is still not 100% complete, the contractor’s work is done and the remaining items are touch-ups and ah hoc works that I found out I should or need to do. Anyway, we have officially crossed into a new year and this will be the year that sees the next chapter of my life.

Before the year ended, I took my final trip of the year, closing 2015 with 5 vacations! I ended where I started the year at – Hong Kong. It was the first vacation of 2015 in January, and it was also where I decided to go for the last vacation of 2015.

As always, flights are in the morning and what better way to start the trip pre-boarding, by having a aromatic cup of local coffee with a warm, lotus seed paste bun. These may not be the best choices for coffee or paus, but nevertheless makes for good comfort food at the airport!We arrived at the hotel in the afternoon, after the usual long, snaking queues clearing the Hong Kong arrival immigration, picking up our luggage and hopping onto the Airport Express train and then connecting shuttle bus from Hong Kong station. Our hotel, Island Pacific, located in the Western District area of Hong Kong Island, was the last stop on the shuttle bus route but it’s still quite a fuss-free and complimentary connection from airport to hotel!

The view from our room, which we didn’t really take the time to enjoy because most days we are out in the day. At night, there weren’t any lights on this part of the opposite shore to beautify the view so we just kept the curtains drawn, which also helps to keep out the cold!
The hotel is generally ok, but I felt the decor and its overall look and feel were a little dated – the old-school kind of hotel complete with amber lighting. I found the housekeeping standards of the hotel quite inconsistent, and they don’t seem to be thorough enough despite that on the whole, we kept the room quite clean and tidy. Maybe that’s also the reason why they don’t spend extra effort on the house-keep because they think everything is in place? Hmm.  The bathroom, with the marble vanity top, is just so typical. Haha.
After dropping off our luggage and snapping some photos of the room, we decided to head out to grab coffee. In anticipation of possibly nicer coffee that I could get, I hadn’t requested for any coffee or tea onboard, and the short hours I had the night before had already wore out the effects of the morning Kopi-O. Or so I would like to think, to justify the need for a second cuppa!

There was this place in Sheung Wan that was on my list of cafes to visit and as we walked past it, it was just the opportune time to pop in. Barista Jam, which was just on the street opposite to Holiday Inn Express Soho, which I had stayed at last December, proved to be pretty good!

We ordered a muffin and chocolate mousse cake. I think the muffin had walnut but I can’t remember if it’s banana walnut, or was it with something else.I realise that muffins in Hong Kong now are made without the proverbial ‘muffin top’, with the top overhanging the paper-cup. I wonder if it’s a conscious effort to steer away from the negative connotation of eating muffins and growing a muffin top as a result. Haha. Anyway, it was pretty forgettable and quite a disappointment for me because the top wasn’t as crunchy/crisp as I would have liked it to be. It’s rather soft, without too much distinction of texture from how the inside spongey/cakey part felt, so after this I actually did not order any more muffins from other cafes. Perhaps a good idea as well to keep to my goal of having less of such indulgences.
The chocolate mousse cake was not too bad though, as the cocoa or chocolate used had a tinge of bitterness and wasn’t oozing of overbearing sweetness like how some cakes tended to be. The size was also a comfortable one for sharing and went perfectly well with a cup of coffee or tea. 🙂The crema of my long black, along with the gold foil paper used to hold the cake, exudes an appropriate festive, yuletide feel for the moment.
We continued our traipse along down to Central, where we headed into the Landmark, and check out how elaborate their Christmas decoration was. Malls in Hong Kong probably try to outdo one another in their annual Christmas decor, and it’s on a completely different level and scale from what we have in Singapore! I wonder if any of their festive decorative pieces have caused any mishaps though. There were oodles of people all around this centerpiece vying for the best angles to take pictures or selfies. As much as I could, I tried to get a shot without too many heads bobbing at the bottom, and I think I did quite an ok job at that!

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.

Starbucks Red Velvet muffin

Back in the business of eating muffins, I finally got to try the Red Velvet with Mango Passion muffin from Starbucks. This is one of the “new” offerings they had, introduced sometime ago. I can’t remember when, but this was introduced in a new array of muffins they had (then), together with the Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese, the Chocolate with Cookie Crumble, the Chicken Floss and the Blueberry Crumble muffins. I don’t think I have tried the Blueberry Crumble, which I suspect shouldn’t be too different from their original Blueberry muffin, but all the rest I have tried, even the Chicken Floss!

My friend mentioned that this wasn’t anything special, but I decided to give it a go anyway because I have tried the Carrot Cake before and found it to be a tad sweet. So this is the Red Velvet! I am not any fan of Red Velvet, and where cakes are concerned, I have only tried Red Velvet cakes probably less than 5 times in my entire life.Somehow, it never really appealed to me, because I keep thinking it will be very sweet but it shouldn’t be, if it’s vegetable-colouring they are using to dye the flour/batter? I’m not sure but that is the impression that I get. Hehehe.

So, as I poked into the muffin, I actually got a surprise. The top of the muffin, contrary to my usual enjoyment of muffins, isn’t what I like. It has those frosted sugary bits sprinkled on the muffin top that I don’t like. But from within the core, with just a little bit of it inside, was an oozy, Mango Passion filling! Well, it kind of looks like salted egg core of the “liu sha bao” doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t and to be honest, I am not really a big fan of that custard bun which many people love.
I really like the Mango Passion molten core of the muffin because it’s tangy taste provided a great contrast to the sweetness of the muffin, which really wasn’t so sweet beyond my tolerable barometer. So this was still a score for me! Except those sugary bits.

Gontran Cherrier, Tokyo Shinjuku

Once when I was in Tokyo with the same two friends I spent a few days together with in Tokyo this April, we popped into the Gontran Cherrier bakery and cafe that was located in the Shibuya area. I haven’t always been able to find it, knowing how confusing the streets of Tokyo can be. I don’t exactly have a bad sense of direction but then again I won’t claim to be the best navigator anytime.

Before heading to Tokyo, I realised that there is a new Gontran Cherrier that opened in Shinjuku, very near to the hotel that I am putting up at. Being a huge fan of carbs, baked stuff, pastries, flour, or however you want to put that, I was always looking longingly when I walked past at the rows upon rows of croissants, muffins, buns and what-have-yous.
So one morning I decided to have my breakfast there. For a one person breakfast, this is my typical order, i.e. a coffee and one pastry item, be it a muffin or bun.I couldn’t remember what were the things that I read off the tag for this muffin, utilising whatever lousy Japanese I could muster or recall, but somehow “chestnut” seemed to be on my mind and while I was savouring this, I wondered where the chestnut was. It turned out that this is a kind of roasted pumpkin muffin! In a way, it is sort of both sweet and savoury at the same time, but perhaps skewing more to the sweet side since pumpkins have a natural sweetness to them.  Really miss the flavour of it, especially when it is topped with some crunchy walnuts – combination of a few of my favourite things, i.e. muffin, walnuts and pumpkin all rolled into one! How can anyone be happier or ask for more?

When my two friends arrived in Tokyo, we met up and headed for breakfast at Dean & Deluca, but it was full so I brought them over to Gontran Cherrier instead, and check out what we ordered, for the 3 of us, and compare this with my one-person-breakfast above. Haha.

We picked 2 scones, a Matcha, white chocolate scone as well as a Butter Raisin scone. These are nice, fragrant and buttery but I find them to be a little dry and too crumbly, if you look at the second photo where the scone just falls apart when you push a fork into it. Maybe it’s meant to be eaten in one mouthful? I wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t try either!   We also ordered a mini quiche, which I didn’t have much of it but it does look pretty good from my friends’ enjoyment of its smooth eggy interior.  And on the other tray we had, clockwise from top left, a Chocolate Banana muffin, a croissant (which I can’t remember the flavour), some melon bun of sorts and a curry baguette! A total of about 7 items, for 3 persons! O_O As compared to the pumpkin muffin I had, the chocolate banana muffin was a little disappointing because the banana was probably represented by the mousse atop the muffin. I would have preferred it if the banana in the muffin was more like real banana pieces, and the chocolate, perhaps again it was my misunderstanding or mis-reading but it tasted more like brown sugar and on the whole, this muffin felt softer without the crunch that I usually enjoy from the muffin top.  However, there is no denying that this is still a good place to visit if you are a fan of baked items! Besides these, of course they have regular sandwiches and breads without fillings on the inside, e.g. rolls, loaves, etc. I recalled lamenting about not having this here in Singapore and was aptly reminded that we do have it, in the form of Tiong Bahru Bakery by Gontran Cherrier. So there you have it!

Travel times with Starbucks

Christmas, or the end of the year, is my favourite time of the year. The weather has typically been cooler around this period and marked with the dual Christmas and New Year holidays, the festive vibe just reverberates throughout the entire city. It also coincides with the time when most people would be on leave or travel for vacation, so most would be in a relaxed mood, winding down the year and perhaps gearing themselves up for the new year (if we ever can get ourselves to do that).

And as with all enjoyable times, they just pass way too fast and somehow it seems like in the blink of an eye, we are almost at the edge of it. The year will be over in just about 2 days and Christmas has come and gone. Although I had griped to those around me, incessantly (and I really send my heartfelt apologies for the constant whining), about some of my follies and their consequences, I am still thankful for several things that happened this year. We cannot bemoan the quick passage of time because it doesn’t recoup anything, lost time is irrecoverable and that is why we are always told to look forward.

Maybe the year-end also put me in a strong festive mood and in October I took a last minute decision to fly to Bangkok. It was supposed to be a planned trip somewhere else, but plans change when people’s minds change. Then in December, it was again another last minute trip to Hong Kong, which was supposed to something I wanted to do for a friend but ended up otherwise. It was then that I appreciate the spontaneity of one of my friends, someone whom stepped into my life unexpectedly.

So to get on with things proper, this is a Starbucks post after all! I am no ambassador of the coffee chain with the ubiquitous green mermaid logo, heck they don’t need ambassadors when they are almost everywhere, but I do indulge in their Christmas delights all too often, each year without fail. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1027.jpg

Last year we had the Cranberry Orange Loaf in Singapore which I really liked. Unfortunately, it did not make a reappearance this year, yet I was really excited when I saw that something similar was available in Starbucks Hong Kong! So of course I would order it and it was good! I think as compared to what we had locally last year, this felt more ‘bread’ than cake/loaf as it was a little drier and lighter. Only managed to have it once due to the limited stomach space and number of meals. Sigh./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1028.jpg

In Hong Kong, they also had the Gingerbread Latte which is my best-loved Christmas drink after I discovered it last year in Manila and had it pretty often there and even Shanghai. Somehow I don’t know why Singapore doesn’t have this. Had it in a cute short-sized beverage to lessen the guilt, as I ordered a huge cranberry scone that morning. Haha. Was also surprised to see they were selling gingerbread man cookies so I bought one for my friend who was joining me for the trip. 🙂/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1029.jpg

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A couple of weeks after returning from Hong Kong, it was off to Bangkok to celebrate Christmas! It was another impromptu trip but not as last minute as the Hong Kong one. To say that I was celebrating Christmas in Bangkok is a little bit of an exaggeration as we didn’t really do much when we were there; it was more of a trip to chill out and eat, relax and do nothing in particular.

As fans of Starbucks, we won’t fail to check ourselves in once in a while for a cup of coffee and some sweet treats. So at Bangkok’s Starbucks, these were what we found.

There was no Gingerbread Latte here so the focus was more on food. Carrot, walnut and raisin muffin anyone? It’s almost like having a carrot cake sans the cream cheese frosting baked in a muffin cup, nice and moist and at just the right size for a muffin. Aside from that, the muffins here are baked a little different from the ones we typically see in Singapore. There isn’t the ‘muffin top’ that we often see, spilling out of the cup that has somehow caused the term to morph into a derogatory description of people who probably consumed too many muffins and ended up with fats hanging out over the waistbands of their jeans or skirts. And that made us wonder if that was the reason for the names of their muffin; the other one we ordered was a Skinny Banana muffin. Lol. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1032.jpg

And on another day, we had a Chocolate muffin, which surprisingly wasn’t as sweet as I expected. I had always steered away from ordering a similar version in Singapore whether in Starbucks or elsewhere but this perhaps will cause me to give it a try the next time. Notice the lack of that ‘over-hanging’ bit I mentioned before. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1031.jpgAnd the Cranberry Bliss bar, which is another Christmas item that we didn’t have this year. Actually I cannot recall if we had it last year but I remembered having it in Tokyo some time ago. This year I raised this question to my friends or rather mused rhetorically if the widespread use of dried cranberries in food products is a real Christmas tradition or just by virtue of the fact of it bearing the Christmas-y red colour. Most people felt it would be the latter but who knows right maybe there really is some link between Christmas and dried cranberries just like how log cakes, gingerbread cookies and Christmas stollens are always associated with this festive period?