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!

Pies & Coffee, Robertson Walk

Did a staycation over the weekend at the Swissotel Merchant Court, for a change, since the last few times we went to Swissotel the Stamford as well as Fairmont. I think I was grousing a little too much, so sorry about it. These days, I seem to be feeling easily irritable and annoyed; maybe not just “these days” but it has been like this for a while and it can get really tough keeping a lot of such emotions in check.

Nevertheless, moving on along… We didn’t go to the Ellenborough Market Cafe, which is what Merchant Court Hotel is well-known for. I can’t remember what it is about the cafe that draws the crowds, my friend said they have a pretty good Peranakan buffet spread for high-tea, but even at dinner times, they are rather full.

On this particular staycation, we hit the right notes most of the times with the food choices we picked. One of them was the last, which happened to be Sunday brunch. I was actually rather keen on having a buffet breakfast at the hotel especially since I am an early riser and would have liked to have breakfast early before the crowds start thronging the place but since it’s Sunday, it is supposed to be a sleep-in day. So we made it out for lunch on this warm and very sunny late morning, to Robertson Walk nearby. It is about a kilometre walk away from Merchant Court, very manageable but probably not so for people who can’t take the heat and humidity of walking under the sun.

Pies & Coffee was where we were headed for, and was the last thing I remembered talking about before I dozed off the night before. They have expanded since the first time I came across this place at Rochester area, and also I almost popped in at the outlet located at Centrepoint recently but eventually I gave it a pass, for something else.

My friend ordered the Sun Riser, which is a pair of pie bases, or probably they look more like tart bases as compared to pie bases that I would expect to be more flaky. These contained an egg each with a runny yolk, and beneath that, there are other ingredients like ham and sausages I think. I thought the presentation was really cute, and my first impression was that it’s a bear-face. Until I realise it’s all four corners that are nipped and not just two. Haha. My friend finished them in a jiffy, which would probably suggest its yumminess.
The Sun Riser, if ordered as part of the breakfast set, comes with either a glass of cloudy apple or orange juice, and topping up a dollar gets you an additional cup of coffee or tea.  I opted for safer choices, i.e. pies, since this is what the place is known for, by its name I thought and because the other breakfast items didn’t particularly appeal to me since I am not a big fan of scrambled eggs or sausages, etc. Between the Curry Chicken Charcoal Pie and the pie of the month, i.e. the Minced Chicken Basil Pie, I chose the latter, thinking of how they would take on the popular Thai dish, basil chicken. All savoury pies are served with a portion of salad and mashed potatoes.  The pie is fairly substantial, for me at least, but it’s not overwhelmingly huge that would leave you totally stuffed. I liked the minced chicken which did resemble Thai Chicken Basil but it could have been better with a more distinctive basil flavour as I didn’t really notice the basil notes in the taste. What I liked though is that the pie skin was not thick, so it’s really more about the filling than the crust and base, which also wasn’t too dry/flaky or oily. The mashed potato was also quite nicely-done, with palpable potato chunks that my friend commented suggested it’s made from real potatoes instead of powdered mash. So it’s quality food that we are paying for, at S$11.20 per pie with the sides.  Along with the pie, a long black goes well to complement the taste, and it’s a good strong cup of brew that is served with a small piece of biscotti.

There are about 10 or more different flavours of pies available, and in addition there is a breakfast menu to choose from. On top of that, there is a full display case of cakes, muffins and scones that had us totally spoilt for choice. I already know that I would be heading back again, and in the next visit, I would order something sweet instead, because the loaf cakes are just screaming at my sweet tooth.

Starbucks Christmas delights part 5

I believe these are called Christmas delights but for some reasons I have named all my previous four posts as Christmas moments. Anyway, I am too lazy to change them so I will leave them be. Have been fairly busy and also lazy of late to update so posts are really intermittent, especially now that this blog has evolved into a pin-up of the food that I eat sometimes.

Was aggrieved by Starbucks recently due to some problems with reloading of my stored value card and the issuance of reward points. Sigh. I realise that it doesn’t really pay to be honest sometimes because I end up short-changing myself. This had kind of marred my impression of the coffee chain, when I had considered myself as a sort of Starbucks fan, preferring it over Coffee Bean or Spinelli. Perhaps this will lead me to cut down on my frequency of visits and eventually I will just stop being a member of their rewards programme. Oh well, let’s see what happens.

So one of the other items I had from the Christmas line-up was the Christmas Turkey Pie. IMG_0532.JPGAs with most of their pies, with the exception of the brusselsprouts quiche, this is fairly huge and would make for a good meal on its own. For me at least, and I believe I am speaking for most people. When it comes to pastries, I think I have a healthy appetite, but not so much for other things maybe, like proper meals. I like this pie, almost as much as I did the Devil’s Curry Pie, other than the latter being more spicy and giving it that extra oomph. I am not sure if the turkey pie contains much turkey, but I did remember seeing and eating small chunks of turkey sausage, along with mashed up potatoes for the filling with a nice peppery flavour.

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Goes well with a long black, as usual. You don’t need a cappuccino or latte to fill you up further, a good black coffee would be the perfect accompaniment for this.IMG_0534.JPGMaybe this will be the last item for me, unless I decide to try the savoury scones that they have. I don’t think I have tried any savoury scones before, so let’s see. Not too keen on the chocolate mint cheesecake, unless I can find someone to share it with. But the blip with the rewards card, and also the other coffee chains’ offerings are incentivising me to move on!

Starbucks Christmas moments part 4

I reached number 4! I never knew I could be so determined that I could ever jeopardise my ‘diet’ habits. Well, diets are diets, and as much as I try to stay away from some fairly unhealthy food, I do indulge, occasionally. Perhaps too occasionally, but then again, it’s the festive season and so it seems ok to give myself the excuse to give in to temptations. Besides, it was a cold and drizzly afternoon when I popped into Starbucks, a perfectly fine setting for ordering a hot coffee to go with the piping hot Devil’s Curry Pie!IMG_0425.JPGI guess the red chilli atop the pie is to give it that added Christmas feel like yuletide flowers maybe? It also added a little, if at all, spice to the whole dish especially with some chilli seeds used as well. But don’t worry it isn’t overwhelming so even if you are not a chilli-eater it won’t really matter. I thought the inside of the pie was a little spicier than the chilli itself. But it’s like a giant curry puff in a pot pie style, so for curry puff lovers you are in for a treat! Possibly that was what I was trying not to think about, its size. It being like 1.5 of a normal curry puff it would also mean calories-wise… ok, let’s not go down that road and focus on just enjoying shall we?

IMG_0426.JPGI found the pastry at the side of the pie a little tough, and even with a metal fork I had to gingerly work the fork through it in case the entire pie flies off my plate. You could also avoid that by holding onto the pie as you cut into it, or maybe request for a knife to cut it. The top was quite easy to cut into though, being soft enough yet still not being too flaky or un-crisp. The filling within was also relatively generous; there wasn’t like a huge gaping hole filled with just hot air but most of the insides of the pie was filled with a mixture of curried potatoes and pieces of chicken sausage (which is a novelty for me where curry puffs are concerned). The rest of the items, I’m not too sure what are they, but I don’t really know what goes into a curry puff either, potatoes and chicken? I seldom have other types like sardines or the likes, so I only know about potatoes and chicken, and perhaps for occasional hard-boiled egg.

IMG_0427.JPGSo there you go, this item is definitely a hit for me and if I were to choose repeats, this may be one of them, if I decide to not continue trying other stuff in Starbucks’ repertoire of Christmas delights. 🙂

It’s Friday tomorrow. TGIF!

Dome Cafe, Shaw House

Although I seldom visit Olio Dome or their Dome Cafes these days, it has always been someplace at the back of my mind. I recall with fond memories, times past, and remembered how excited I was or rather impressed, when I visited KL many years ago and ate at Olio Dome, where the prices of their food was so much cheaper as compared to ours, with perhaps a wider variety too. Maybe it was just that I didn’t explore the food menu enough here or often enough to know it better, or that in Malaysia they just have a different menu, like how most food chains operate. Anyway, I went again recently, to the outlet on level 4 of Shaw House, which is a fairly small and cosy place but could get noisy if patrons fill up the place and start talking way too loudly for anyone’s comfort.

It was just before I went for Bikram class, so I thought I would have something light, especially when I had breakfast just a couple of hours before. Well, some people may not think of this as “light”, as I have come to realise, where people I know consider half a small sandwich as one portion for a meal. Hello? Perhaps it is time I rethink my eating portions. Hmm.

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I just had to order the carrot cake. Again I have gone back to the obsessing-over-carrot-cake phase. And a cup of macchiato. The coffee was pretty good and strong in this tiny little shot but the carrot cake was otherwise.

Chicken pie served with a side salad and chips! I love chips, and it’s wonderful they serve these as accompaniment for the pie. Yummy. 20140623-233430-84870417.jpg

The familiar piece of biscotti that always comes with a Dome beverage, or maybe this only applies to caffeinated drinks? 20140623-233430-84870346.jpg

And the disappointing carrot cake. I think from the picture itself, you can already start guessing what’s wrong with it. The walnut and apricot bits atop the cream cheese frosting is fine. Even the frosting itself was acceptable, but the cake proper was way too dry and hard that it felt more like a brownie, a dry crusty one at that. It is of course still great that their version comes with walnut bits mixed within the cake batter since I really have a love for nuts but then it would definitely have been much better if the cake was more moist. Sadly, I think this will probably be the last time I will have this, unless perhaps the dryness was due to the cake being in the fridge for too long? It would then beg the question of freshness if it has stood long enough in the cake display to lose its moisture. Food for thought?20140623-233430-84870490.jpg

cafe-hopping in Tokyo

When I travel, expect to see photos of cafe food. I get chastised often by friends and family for not trying local food when I travel, but there is only so much capacity in me for food, and since my interests lie in cafes with their coffees and pastries, it is only natural that I spend more time checking them out when I can.

My first stop in Tokyo was Tully’s coffee at the Cocoon Tower in Shinjuku, because when I headed out from the hotel after arriving, it was extremely windy with a light drizzle falling. The air was unbearably cold, which led me to duck into the warmth of the cafe, also for some food. I seem to have acquired a taste for sweet pastries these days, which may be a good diversion from just eating muffins all the time and thereby gaining what some would call a muffin top. We have a few Tully’s cafes in Singapore, the ones I have been to are at Orchard Central and Square 2 in Novena, but the former is almost always packed with students hogging the seats that are shared with Quiznos, so these days I hardly ever visit that outlet anymore.

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One afternoon while shopping, or trying to do some shopping in the Harajuku/Omotesando area, I was getting tired from all the walking and decided to take a coffee break. I wasn’t hungry at all but needed a rest somewhere, so I popped into Starbucks, which thankfully wasn’t packed at that time. I tried the gingerbread latte, which wasn’t really nice; it just felt like a normal latte with a weird taste, so fortunately for me, the size I chose was the “short”. The granola and yogurt was good though, since I am such a yogurt fan and it comes with a pack of dried cranberries too!20121228-103140.jpg

I found out that there is a Maison Kayser bakery at Mid Town in Roppongi, but as part of the mall, it only opens at 11am and I was there pretty early one morning for breakfast, so instead of going back to Dean & Deluca that had a standalone shop (of sorts), I decided to have a bagel instead at Junoesque Bagel. It is pretty heavy and dense, and afterward I was stuffed, but this was of some pistachio flavour that I thought was interesting, besides I added the option of blueberry cream cheese spread (not pictured here) that was so heavenly! Sinful but good.20121228-103234.jpg

It is always difficult to decide on what to have together with coffee when I am in cafes because of my limited eating capacity and because cafe food generally appeals to me a lot. A lot is a gross understatement, but yet there are times when I can’t find anything that would already be jumping out at me to order them. I enjoy breads but in these cafes, sandwiches are typically not in my list of things to order. So when I was at Excelsior Caffe, I thought I would give the millefeuille a try. I am not a big cake fan, but occasionally I do have a craving for it.20121228-103318.jpg

As I ate it, I sort of regretted my choice; it was a little too sweet for my liking, even though I am not too averse to sweet stuff since there are some pastries I like which are of the sweet variety, but maybe the Christmas coffee drink I had together with the cake, which I can’t remember now but probably was some toffee drink or similar, made the whole sweetness level too much to bear. This cake was considerably light even though it contains cream, maybe due to the fact that it is layered and not entirely made out of cream.20121228-103338.jpg

After the whole overly-sweet experience at Excelsior Caffe, a few hours later I decided to have some real coffee at Lavazza. I don’t know why I bothered with the Christmas drinks at all because they are always too sweet, such as the Toffee Nut Latte from Starbucks, which is extremely sweet but somehow it just feels right to have something like that at Christmas time, don’t you think so? The Lavazza cafe that is located along Omotesando is also a pretty good location to just sit and watch busy shoppers filing past. It isn’t the best spot of course, since there isn’t a view of any crossing or the likes, but Tokyo is seldom really devoid of human traffic so having a place to sit to rest your tired shopping feet out of the way of other shoppers is indeed a wonderful enjoyment, especially when coupled with a hot coffee on those cold days!20121228-103407.jpg

Another cafe that I checked out was the Illy cafe in Roppongi Hills. It used to be located on the second level but has since shifted up to level 5 (if I recall correctly). I much preferred its old location because this seemed smaller in comparison, or maybe because it shares space with some other free seating area that kind of gives it a less intimate experience, whatever that is supposed to mean haha. When I am enjoying my coffees in these buildings, I will always wish that my work place is located in an area that is served by cafes with great coffee. Unfortunately, now all I can get is coffee from a vending machine. 20121228-103429.jpg

And then it’s back to Starbucks to round up the hopping! Cranberry bliss bar, isn’t the name so blissful-sounding? Lol. The taste was normal, it’s like some bread with icing on top that isn’t cream cheese but I don’t think it’s icing sugar either because icing sugar would have been really sweet right? Just thought I would order this because it’s a Christmas item, and I was feeling a little sad that morning as that was the day I was due to leave Tokyo to head home where a business trip awaits.20121228-103457.jpg

While we are still in the last days of 2012 and everyone is probably still in the festive mood despite Christmas already being over, hope you all enjoy the rest of 2012 and Happy Holidays!20121228-103526.jpg

Lemon Tree Bistro, Singapore

It is going to be strange that I am writing about this place, because I spent all of maybe 30 minutes in it and ordered something that wasn’t on the menu. But it is not too bad a place to visit, considering that on a Friday evening when we popped in, it wasn’t really that crowded. It doesn’t mean that the food is not nice, but perhaps its location might explain the relative emptiness and sometimes we just want to have more of such independent cafes rather than the usual chains that we see all around town. We are all for small, independent, unique cafes, but generally in Singapore, convenience is probably the most important factor we consider when we are thinking of grabbing a quick bite or a caffeine boost, and mostly prices do matter a lot too. Some cafes may be great, serving excellent coffee and food but yet they price themselves out of the competition if we are talking about something as regular as a daily coffee.

The Lemon Tree Bistro, located at North Bridge Road, is just opposite where the National Library now stands. One Friday evening before heading to the Drama Centre, we decided to have a quick dinner here since we were not too hungry but still needed some sustenance for the evening. But what was thought to be a quick dinner wasn’t really that quick after all. You can check out their menu here on their website, or they have some other bites that are written on the wall that you can order, which was what we did.

We thought it would be fast, since our idea was that this should have already been pre-prepared and all that was left to be done was to pop it into the oven to bake for a few minutes and it would be ready to serve. However, perhaps they really did prepare the chicken pie on the spot, upon us ordering, because I think we waited about 20-30 minutes just for this to arrive at our table, and the bistro wasn’t even crowded. There were just another couple of tables with patrons. Fortunately, we were not exactly in a tight time squeeze and still had some time to savour the piping hot chicken pie, that was filled with very generous portions of mash potato, but with just some identifiable chicken shreds/bits. It still tasted nice, but even for someone who loves potato so much I thought it was a bit on the overkill side, and felt more like a pot of mashed potato than chicken pie.

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But perhaps at the price, I don’t remember how much it was but in total with a cup of tea, the bill per person was only about S$8, so it doesn’t break the bank for sure, and as well, we have to manage our expectations a little. Still, I think it is a place worth a revisit, even if it’s just for the sake of the apparent tranquility in this part of the town on a weekend evening, a complete contrast with Raffles City that is just a stone’s throw away. Besides, the ice-cream does look pretty appetising, so maybe that shall be my order for the subsequent visit!