Weekends are made of these – Artisan Boulangerie Co.

Who doesn’t love it when the weekend approaches? I bet that most people, by the time Thursday comes by, are already anticipating the end of the work week, that’s why there is always that oft-used “TGIF” and somehow, the mood just takes on a more relaxed tone even on Friday mornings.

These are also the times when I have the luxury of spending moments at cafes, enjoying the food and coffee without having to think of needing to return to the office post-lunch. The amount of time spent there could be the same but the feeling is just different.

Artisan Boulangerie Co., or ABC for short, is one such place I like to go to. I have posted a couple of entries on it before, but this is a short summary of the things I like from them that I found from the photo album of my phone, which I have not downloaded into some storage device but are taking up precious memory space.

Just recently, I went to ABC again, which I’m happy to (despite that a meal there is typically a little pricier as compared to the other cafes like Starbucks or Coffee Bean) especially now that I have easier access to one of their outlets than before. So this time, I had wanted to order my favourite item from their breakfast menu but was told that they ran out of it, so I decided to get a sandwich instead, which you can’t go too wrong with. Not with them anyway, and especially if it’s something that I have tried before – the roast chicken baguette. At S$11.30 (pre-GST), it isn’t the cheapest sandwich around but it’s all for good measure – just check out how generous they are with it.The baguette is easier the length of a fork and it’s of pretty decent quality, though extremely hard. I wouldn’t recommend this for people who don’t like the bite and chewiness in their breads, because even cutting into it takes a bit of effort after sometime (when the bread has cooled) that I felt as though I was working my arms just eating this thing!
The chicken filling was literally spilling out of the sandwich, and it has a nice peppery taste for some spiciness. How I usually eat my sandwiches is by deconstruction – meaning, I literally take the entire sandwich apart, eating the bread separate from the filling. I would slice/cut up the bread into bite-size chunks, the same with the filling, and eat them together like mini open-faced sandwiches. I feel that it’s easier this way and less messy when eating, though the plate becomes messy because as I cut through the bread, types like croissant or baguette crumble and flake all over the place.

On a past visit, I had tried some other sandwiches. One that I had always wanted to try and did, was the Goat Cheese & Capsicum on focaccia. I can’t remember if I had posted about this before, but I love goat cheese and this was definitely one of those items I had wanted to try. I thought somehow the cheese reminded me of brie, and again it was so generous that I had to spread the cheese onto the bread so I wouldn’t recommend this for people who feel iffy about the taste of goat dairy, or for that matter, anyone who doesn’t fancy strong-tasting cheese.Yummy… this on the whole was good, but again strong-tasting, because of the goat cheese and the rockets. But goes perfectly with a cup of their Long Black.
Still another time, I decided to order something off the menu that wasn’t in the display case – turkey, avocado and brie. Although this was not bad in itself, the bread felt a little too soft for my liking. It’s toasted to a certain extent but it I don’t know if it’s because it’s white, it is too soft without the crunch and chewiness that I like to have for breads. If I recalled correctly, and from the picture it is turkey ham used in the sandwich instead of turkey meat, so it isn’t preferred. I probably wouldn’t order this again given a choice; would try something else or order something that I’ve tried and tested to be ok!
Tried the Chicken Caesar salad too and on the whole it’s pretty great, portion size was ok though not excessive but they supplement it with a serving of bread that you could indulge in with (semi-salted) butter or jam that’s freely available from their condiments counter. The salad isn’t dressing-rich, which is great and chicken portions are pretty sufficient. Only downside for me is the use of Parmesan cheese which is not my favourite type of cheese. But I think this is a typical ingredient of Caesar salads, so I could either ask for its omission in future or just make do with it. But butter croutons – amazing!
Of course, this brings me to my favourite item from their menu, which is from their brunch items – Homemade / Artisan Almond Granola, which is a mixture of organic rolled oats, toasted almonds, sesame & sunflower seeds, served with plain yogurt and freshly-cut fruits. At $12 each, this is pretty pricey but I feel worth every single dime (ok maybe not) because the fruits used are really fresh and of good quality and I just cannot resist this combination of fruits, granola and yogurt!Their other brunch items are also good, though the only other item I’ve tried is the Avocado Egg Open Face, which aside from bacon that I don’t take, everything else was just darn great!

Wanna Cuppa, New Bridge Rd

To be very honest, if I had not chanced about a Groupon deal online for this cafe, it wouldn’t have entered into my sphere of cognition. There are just too many cafes around in Singapore, that unless someone tells me about it or I read about it somewhere, it is highly likely that I won’t know about it, probably from its birth to dearth.

I can’t remember what the deal was about, something like paying a certain amount to get a $30 cash voucher, which wasn’t such a bad deal. But then again, most times we are just spending unnecessarily because I might not have gone to a cafe then and just make do with cheaper food elsewhere.

So it was with the voucher that was expiring at the end of March that I thought to quickly utilise it during lunch with a colleague. To make sure that the full value of the voucher is used up, we ordered several items to share between the 2 of us. First, we got a slice of Matcha Azuki cake, which was served warm. We asked that they just serve us everything together so we got the cake first, while we waited for the ‘mains’ to be prepared. We reached past 12, maybe around 12:20pm, and it was relatively empty but strangely, patrons started streaming in after 1pm, not just for coffee but food as well, and it was around then that it got crowded, which also meant slower food service. Ours was alright since we were the only ones ordering then.

The cake seemed like it could have come from somewhere else, since they don’t actually sell whole cakes (as we heard when someone asked). The green tea flavour was fairly good and there was a small silver of azuki sandwiched in between which was a tad sweet; so it would have to be eaten in tandem, to even out the two tastes.We ordered a sandwich, the Picasso Panini, which even though their menu indicated that it can be ordered as a panini or wrap, we were told that it only comes in panini form, because these were the ones displayed and we guessed that they are also ordered/delivered from somewhere else maybe?
The Picasso supposedly contains Spanish BBQ chicken, grilled mushrooms and cheddar cheese, and it’s served with a portion of crisps and greens. The sandwich isn’t too bad, but the bread turned really hard after some time so it takes a bit of tough sawing before we could cut through it. I like my bread hard and chewy but I can’t say the same for everyone. The chips, on first taste, reminded me of Red Rock Deli’s Honey Soy Chicken, but my colleague remarked that Red Rock’s chips are much thinner than these, which then I thought it could be Kettle Chips, perhaps Honey Dijon Mustard flavour? We had the intention to ask them before we leave but forgot all about it in the end. At $8.90, despite that we couldn’t have the option to change it into a warp, this was not too bad in terms of value and taste.  The other item we ordered was the Spinach Avocado salad; since there was still some value left in the $30 voucher, I decided to add grilled chicken that costs an additional $2. This is how the salad looked.
For $11.90, you get a bed of baby spinach leaves that sort of covers the plate, topped with some slices of avocado (maybe a quarter) and strips of bell peppers, topped with some cut olives. The dressing was served at the side, which we chose balsamic vinegar that we used more as a dip than a dressing, which probably explained why the salad looks so dry. But for a total of $13.90 including the grilled chicken, which was a sad and pathetic few slices, it was a disappointment. I would probably have been better off ordering another sandwich instead. Thankfully, we got a sandwich and a salad plus a slice of cake, otherwise the 2 of us would probably start getting hungry the moment we stepped out of the cafe.

It is quite possible that I won’t revisit the cafe, since there are still so many other places to check out that would probably be more worth it!

Literally eating my way through Hong Kong

The past couple of weeks have been crazy that I almost feel close to a breakdown. Exhaustion can’t even begin to describe how I feel.

So anyway, I can now afford a slight breather and will try to catch up on my posts. Try I certainly will.

x x x

It was just the third day in Hong Kong and I could already feel that the whole trip was really just about eating. Ok, to be honest, we did do some shopping and as it was really meant to be a chillax trip, there wasn’t any need to rush around. It is Hong Kong after all, not too far from home and where we had been a number of times, so again, it meant that we could just chill.

Although vacations in Hong Kong are typically about their local fare, or perhaps in recent years, the various hipster cafes not unlike those that have sprouted up in Singapore, I still like checking out the chain cafes for what they serve, which is often very much different from what we get here due to the different local food supplier they have. And by virtue of it being a holiday for me, I will tend to find what they have more interesting, as compared to what I am used to seeing day-in and out at our Starbucks or the likes.

So this is breakfast at Pacific Coffee. There are just a handful of them left here, but they are pretty much in many places all over Hong Kong. The lemon tart, with a latte and yogurt pot. You can tell how much I am into my yogurts because even while travelling, I still want to have them on a daily basis if I can. The apple crumble tart that I ordered, which was not too bad but nothing spectacular.
After this supposed first breakfast, I proceeded for a brunch of sorts. Met my cousin at Elephant Grounds’ new outlet (at least to me) at Fashion Walk, which boasted proper seating and food menu. We being rather mindful of what we eat sometimes, ordered the healthy options. He ordered a rice bowl topped with greens and chicken, while I opted for a quinoa salad. Or was it cous cous, I couldn’t remember. The food was pretty decent, and portion looked quite generous, however they were quite stingy on the grains. The leaves took up real estate in the large serving bowl, leaving a lot of space without much of the quinoa/cous cous, so I was left feeling half-full even after this. Hmmph. It was more like a sprinkling of grains rather than it being the main feature of the salad… -_-
But coffee is still very good! And weather that day was perfect for al fresco dining; though it was winter in Hong Kong, it didn’t feel like a typical December day. The sun was out and the air was just nice and breezy with a cool feel. Of course to me, that is already considered a little cold, as usual. But to everyone else, I think the temperature is comfortable.

So because the mains we had at Elephant Grounds weren’t enough to fill us up, we proceeded for desserts. A brought me to this sweet-soup shop near Times Square, called ‘Cong Sau (聪嫂)’, where I ordered a papaya-based dessert with white fungus, while he took an almond paste item with gingko nuts. Both were really nice, and he told me that their ‘tang yuan’ was good too, that I made a mental note to return the next day since it’s winter solstice, time to eat 汤圆! Close-up of my choice.
After spending a few precious hours catching up with the cousin, I went to meet my friend for dinner. Yes… more eating! It seems like I’m eating non-stop…

We went to Tin Loke Lane (in the Wan Chai / Causeway Bay vicinity) for 烧腊! This was what we ordered, a set meal that included 双拼 (2 types of meat) where my friend chose roast pork and something which I couldn’t quite get/remember what it was, a bowl of watercress soup, a plate of sauteed vegetables and rice. I was quite disappointed with the  veggies, because I was half-expecting something like our 油菜, but apparently it wasn’t so. It feels like lightly stir-fried cabbage or something.On top of that, I ordered an ala carte char siew rice, since I was really craving for some nice char siew. The char siew in Hong Kong is different from what we are used to having in Singapore, which is slightly more dry and tough to a certain extent, probably because they are roasted more thoroughly? The edges are usually a bit burnt which makes it really nice, and the colour is generally darker. The ones in Hong Kong tend to be lighter in colour and is juicier, also generally with more fat. I had to consciously cut/slice away the fats because I really don’t like the feel and taste of fatty meat. No matter how nice everyone tells me they are, I just get myself to eat it. I found out later that this is also the shop that my cousin frequents when he wants to get his char siew fix, and his tip for me, “ask for 瘦叉烧”. Oh I see.

Here’s a close up of all that juicy goodness. I guess that’s why we always see their char siew being called 密汁叉烧 because it feels juicy?
This was what my friend ordered. I had some of the roast pork too, and it is also not as tough/hard as what we have here. Ok, I don’t know if the roast pork in Singapore is hard, because I don’t think I have ever ordered this at any of the hawkers back home, haha! After dinner, it’s time for dessert again! We headed to this 糖水 shop near our hotel, which was also where a friend brought me to once. It serves a wide variety of sweet soups and there are sometimes queues forming outside the tiny shop where patrons wait patiently (or not) for their turn to enjoy their desserts! The most popular items would probably be the 桑记莲子茶, which comes in various versions with or without hard-boiled egg, lotus seeds, etc. I should think that their black sesame paste, or whatever other paste for that matter, should be pretty good because they are made in large pots. I ordered the almond paste that was so smooth and fluid while my friend took the bestseller (or what I think should be their bestselling item). Prices here are generally a bit higher, as compared to where my cousin brought me to earlier that day anyway. At 聪嫂, it’s probably less than or about HKD20 per bowl, but here, each bowl could cost more than HKD30, though to be fair, the portion here is bigger too.

And so that concludes Day 3 of eating. We did some walking too, in our attempt to walk off the bloated feeling of all the good stuff that we had in us, but I seriously think that we were not giving our stomachs and digestive systems sufficient time to rest and recuperate!

Going local at the food halls

The first evening when I arrived in Tokyo was a week night. Being the lazy me and still having a mind focused on keeping to my eating habits as much as I can, even though I am on vacation and should really let loose, I thought of checking out the supermarkets, to grab some fruits and yogurt, which are almost my daily staple these days. It just feels weird when I don’t have either, or have them in insufficient quantities.

Since Takashimaya was conveniently located within minutes away from the hotel, I popped over to the supermarket and food hall in its basement, and was ensnared in the evening peak of Japanese grabbing last minute dinners from the stalls. Most items were going at a discounted price, though not that significant but at least they became a little more affordable. Much as these are just takeaways in small portions, upon conversion back to SGD, even with the strong exchange rate now, it was still pretty mind-boggling. I can’t imagine spending this kind of money on dinner on a daily basis if I were living in Tokyo. Perhaps that explains the myriad of convenience stores and their convenient packed meals, or those “vending-machine” food outlets that dot the streets of Tokyo.

I bought 2 small portions of cooked pumpkin and a medley of broccoli, cucumber and french beans, things I didn’t used to appreciate too much, especially the variety, until the recent years. I have missed out so much but it’s never too late to start!  I also wanted to have some fruits in my system so I picked up this box of cut-fruit salad from the conbini (local abbreviation/slang for convenience store). It contains some pieces of kiwi, pineapples and grapefruit, and costs roughly about S$3.50! O_O But this is still cheaper as compared to the veggies above.Of course, what is a visit to a supermarket in Japan without picking up some strawberries!? These also do not come cheap but so far from experience, strawberries that I have bought in Japan are always sweet, not to mention that they are all of about the same size, with very vibrant colours and not in some odd deformed shape like some US-variants tend to be. These 2 boxes cost about S$7 each, which is actually not too bad, considering that in Singapore the same box could sometimes cost twice that, unless they are not from Japan. And they really do not disappoint. I could really just eat them strawberries everyday!One thing I feel doesn’t quite make the cut would be the yogurt. Even though we all know Hokkaido milk is probably one of the tastiest milk I ever had, their yogurt do not seem to match up to the European/Australian versions that I have had. Perhaps I haven’t tried enough Japanese yogurt to make a valid comment, and Soy Yogurt is a totally different ball game altogether, but the bigger tub pictured below felt a tad too watery, when I prefer my yogurts to be creamier and thicker. I love Greek yogurt too, which isn’t creamy unless it’s the Greek-style type, but then when I have Greek yogurt, my expectation isn’t that it is creamy so somehow I manage with that quite well. Hmm.  And this is the view that I got out of my window. Not a very pretty sight compared to what I have seen from hotel room windows of other places I have stayed at in Tokyo but I don’t need to sit by the window the whole day looking out at the city when I can just go out and be in the city. I love vacationing in Tokyo, and this was a good trip, despite some kinks that occurred before it finally materialised.  

Ben & Jerry’s, Dempsey Hill

Went to Dempsey Hill one afternoon for lunch. It was a tad warm but with a balmy breeze blowing so it wasn’t too bad. Weekday afternoons are fairly quiet at Dempsey, even if the F&B outlets are not devoid of people. There are still people who drive there for lunch, but maybe the warm mid-day sun bearing down kind of slowed the pace down a few notches so it just felt kind of lazy and quiet.

Headed to the Ranch, home to Ben & Jerry’s and CA*California. Originally, we thought they were closed, because the sign posted on the door of the outlet displayed a forbidding CLOSED, yet when we peeked in we saw that it wasn’t the case. So we popped in, perhaps to the chagrin of the wait staff who probably thought not flipping the sign to OPEN would mean they could spend the afternoon languishing in the cool comfort of the eatery.

So anyway in we went and created quite a bit of noise. We asked about the menu, which was misrepresented to us in terms of the breadth of items available. We were told when we just entered they only had the finger food, which was shown on a page of the menu, but then it was afterwards upon further probing and clarification that we understood that everything else could also be ordered. Hmm.

Anyway, it’s standard typical bistro food, nothing special to rave about and no big complains either. We were there for the ice-cream to be fair, and this was one of the orders. A waffle with a couple of scoops of their yummy ice cream. I cannot now remember what flavours these were, but one of them supposedly contained potato chips. Isn’t that interesting, ice cream flavours these days are getting more and more unusual and out of the ordinary.

IMG_0040.JPGAnd for lunch, besides all that bar-grub type of food like truffle fries, chicken wings and deep-fried cuttlefish balls or whatever, this is the healthier amongst the lot, a great mixture of rockets, walnuts, strawberries, raisins and peaches. I really enjoyed this salad, much more than anything else, which can be a good or bad thing, since our intent on visiting was the ice-cream.IMG_0038.JPGTo be fair, I am not so much an ice cream person these days. Besides, our grouse with the ice cream was that it melted way too fast. Even upon presentation of the waffle to us, which was when the picture was taken, it was already melting. By the end of it, I guesstimated that the amount of ice cream that was actually eaten was probably just a little over 50% per scoop since the rest of it had already liquified.

the healthy part of eating

Some pictures of the healthy things that I eat, generally on weekdays. Haha. Weekends are times to indulge but weekdays are the days to make up for them.

Fruits galore. I love them, even if the repertoire of fruits that I used to eat were pathetically small, but since a couple of years ago I have learned to appreciate a wider variety and it was then that I realised how much I had been missing out!

20140624-163329-59609054.jpgGreens, again, were something that I came late to appreciate and enjoy. I like eating vegetables all along, but again the types of greens that went into my system were limited. These days, I eat quite a fair bit of them, things that I never thought I’d eat, such as brinjals and lady’s fingers! Now my favourites are actually broccoli and cauliflower, many types of beans and of course, Japanese sweet potato (the yellow-fleshed type) and pumpkin. The list can go on, but what I once thought of as a waste of money (i.e. salads) now I can have them every single day of the week. If only they weren’t so expensive as compared to other kinds of lunch options, and if only I weren’t so lazy to make my own.

20140624-163328-59608974.jpgThis is some chicken and sausage salad of sorts from Podi located in the basement of Raffles City. It isn’t the typical kind of salad I’d have as this is a little more oily due to the stir-fried chicken but once in a while I think it’s good to have some change.

20140624-163329-59609013.jpgAnd I visited a new salad place near the office, recommended by a colleague. Yay to more salad shop options and hopefully there can be more low-cost variety too!

20140624-163328-59608878.jpg

different shade of indulgence… greens!

There are two groups of people, one who thinks I am extremely conscious of what I eat, and another who thinks I only indulge. Like most people, I am in the middle, or perhaps I am neither here nor there, but mirror what most people try to do in striking a balance, or attempt to, between the good and bad foods in life. Fortunately for me, there are some kinds of food that I enjoy that actually fall into the healthy category, at least from what I believe them to be. Greens are one of such things, something that I came late to discover, the goodness of them. I used to think that eating salads was a plain waste of time and money, with the high and exorbitant price tags on a bowl of leaves. I am not too wrong but yet I couldn’t be more wrong. Salads are not just about raw vegetables and nothing else, they can contain much, much more things that can spice up the dish, and in some cases, things can be added to the mix that can also turn this supposed healthy meal into a calorie minefield. I try to keep mine fairly healthy, whether it is meatless or not, because I am not a big fan of creamy dressings or in fact, even drenching my salads with dressings. It can get quite unpalatable when the vegetables become soggy and soft due to them being drowned in salad dressing that is overly generous.

Here are some that I’ve had recently. Toss & Turn, a small salad portion of rockets for the base (or you could pick cous cous, noodles or maybe rice I think), 2 proteins and 2 other toppings, for S$7.80. They have rather nice salads although I have never tried the options on the menu since I prefer to mix-and-match based on what I like to eat. But I find their service wanting, even if I typically just pack away. Couldn’t hurt to smile a little more or be a little friendlier like perhaps the service crew at Starbucks or the likes, right?

20140617-101420-36860722.jpgThen there’s this salad shop near my office called The Lawn. A fairly generous bowl of salad, with mesculun as base (if I remember correctly) and 5 standard toppings, for S$9.90. You could add a whole lot of other stuff to it that would of course then add to the price of the salad but it also means you can have a wider variety to make your meal more interesting. This is probably the first salad shop I’ve visited that serves chestnuts!

20140617-101420-36860679.jpgSomewhere tucked into a small little shop of Tanjong Pagar exchange is this salad shop called Cluck Cluck. Actually I am not sure if that’s its name, but I heard they were opened by this other shop by that name diagonally opposite it, which sells country-style furniture and home furnishings. It’s mainly for takeaway, salads that come in a reusable plastic box at S$4.90 for 5 standard toppings, or you can swap that for 3 standard toppings and 1 premium topping (e.g. meats and I’m not sure what else because I’ve never chosen that option here).

20140617-101420-36860765.jpgAnd we have the usual, Salad Stop, that is just a stone’s throw away at Capital Tower. This picture wasn’t taken at that outlet, since I’ve only been there once; there are just way cheaper options in that area to make me want to drop in. For S$9.90, you get greens (frankly, I can’t tell these leaves apart, but I think these are romaine lettuce) plus 5 standard toppings. I’ve ever just mixed-and-matched and ended with a salad that set me back by about S$14, that nearly made my eyes pop out. There is a reason why a lot of these salad shops in the area are frequented by a certain type of crowd. Folks like me can’t afford to have such salads on a daily basis, and yet I am too lazy to DIY. It really is more economical for me to just buy all my raw ingredients and bring my own salad to work, but then… that is probably something that I will consider doing when I finally get my own home.

20140617-101420-36860597.jpgMid-week tomorrow. Yay!