High-tea at The Marmalade Pantry, Ion

After hearing several raves about the Afternoon Tea set at the Marmalade Pantry, I finally got to try it one day. All this while I have not really had the chance because afternoon teas tend to be too much for two persons and it’s typically geared towards more sweet than savoury items. Despite that I generally have a sweet tooth, there needs to be a balance, usually.

Priced at S$38 for a set that is supposed to serve 2, it’s really quite value-for-money because as compared to some other places, this works out to be about S$22 per person after applicable taxes.

The afternoon tea offerings are served in a three-tier rack, with the top tier holding the condiments, which includes strawberry preserve, marmalade (of course they can’t not have this) and clotted cream. The middle tier displays the scones, a mixture of mini buttermilk scones and mini cranberry scones, a whopping total of 10 pieces! Of course, these are about half the size or less of a usual scone, but I think there is still too much of it. 10 pieces! Gosh, how can anyone finish that much, which was why I guess most comments I read about this set would be that it probably would serve three better instead.The lowest tier serves an assortment of mini sandwiches, which includes 2 open-faced ones. These are supposedly egg and cress, beef and horseradish and green land shrimp. These finger sandwiches make up the only savoury part of the set, and we both agreed that we would rather have swapped out some of the scones for more of the sandwiches because the bread is really nice! The fillings are great as well but I like the toasted and crusty texture of the bread. Perhaps one of these days I could order the sandwiches there just to have the bread. 🙂A closer look at the overwhelming number of scones. They aren’t too bad, but from what I could recall of them and what I had before, they aren’t the best scones around. The size is great of course, because we all know how dense scones can be and just one normal-sized scone could count for a meal/snack, e.g. breakfast. Another point to note is that the clotted cream also isn’t fabulous. Clotted cream is of course better than whipped cream, anytime, but the clotted cream at Marmalade Pantry still feels a little light and not as decadent as how we would usually want clotted cream to be!
Besides these, the set also comes with a cupcake each of your choice. We picked the Limonata (tart lemon glazed cake) and the Granny’s Apple (spiced apple and cinnamon cake with cream cheese). The latter, with the dollop of apple on top, was a much better option, because the Limonata’s topping somehow just tastes too sweet and artificial, even its base. I would have expected something more zesty but it just felt very sweet overall.
Not too bad an experience, but there are so many other afternoon/high tea sets around to check out to do a repeat, unless it’s really worth it or good, such as that at Fosters! It costs just $11.50 for 2 scones, a slice of tea cake and a finger sandwich. From what I remembered of it, the scones and clotted cream they have are pretty awesome.

Oh and Marmalade Pantry’s set also comes with a pot of Gryphon tea each of your choice. I would have preferred if they offered coffee too, but then it would probably have resulted in me overdosing on coffee, and what’s Afternoon ‘Tea’ without tea?

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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!

Starbucks Christmas delights part 6

As we near the end of Christmas, I promise that my postings on Starbucks Christmas delights will also be nearing their end. I have tried almost everything that I wanted to from the local Christmas menu so there also isn’t much else to go on about. Just bear with me for a little while more!

This year, I noticed that they introduced a couple of savoury scones. I’m not sure if there were similar items in the past years but if there were, I did not give them a try. I decided to go ahead and check them out this time round, since savoury scones are not something that I would expect; they are meant to be buttery and sweet, but I guess there is no stopping the introduction of a savoury taste. Besides, there are also savoury muffins and waffles, which I have yet to try because I think those would be weird. But then again, we never know, they could be just as, if not more, delicious./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1024.jpgOne of them was the Green & Red Pepper Scone with Cream Cheese. It actually was nice and didn’t feel weird at all, because the peppery flavour lent by the green & red peppers were not overpoweringly strong so they gave a different dimension of taste to the buttery item. The cream cheese used also made a difference, because it didn’t taste like the regular ‘creamy’ cream cheese, rather it was a slightly milder form I think, so the tastes were complementary instead of contrasting. The colours here are a little too vivid to see the scone and cream cheese properly but its wedged into the middle of the scone like a burger and for me, at just the right amount though I would think cream cheese fans would feel it’s too little.

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The other savoury scone on their menu was the Turkey Bacon scone. I was a little iffy about this because somehow this sounds more ‘savoury’ than the peppers but decided to give it a go anyhow. Those are bacon bits used even if from the picture they resembled more like dried cranberries./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1025.jpg

Similar to the pepper scone, this was surprisingly good. In fact it wasn’t as savoury as I thought it to be, because it was only the bacon bits that were used and other than that, the scone remained true to its buttery origin. It felt more like a normal scone than the peppery scone without the differences in tastes other than what the bacon bits added, and could come across as a little dry as it started crumbling when I put the knife to it. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1026.jpgSo there you go! It almost wraps up all of my Starbucks Christmas posts. Almost. Because there is just one last item to go. Soon. 🙂

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?

Starbucks, Seoul

Just one last one that I missed out. This was the breakfast that I had on my final day in Seoul. And yes it is Starbucks, no surprise but I really wanted to try out something from them. Almost ordered a Carrot Cake, which they had in stores there but sadly the cake selection in our Starbucks stores are quite pathetic. As my eyes roamed gleefully over the food display case, I was having a hard time trying to decide on what to order. Finally, I settled on a cranberry brown rice scone. I really loved that their cafes stock such interesting things; maybe it’s nothing unusual for them, just me being a frog at the bottom of the well, or that our cafes are just not that big on food items? Maybe even if they are well-stocked, which I think they aren’t, we might have gotten used to the array over time and find nothing special. In any case, I really wish for more, particularly since I spend more time visiting cafes than restaurants. 20140801-105856-39536358.jpg

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As with most pastry products, and scones in particular, it was fairly crumbly, as you can see from this picture below. I would like to comfort myself from its name that it should be at least a slightly healthier option as compared to typical scones, and it doesn’t have a strong buttery texture and taste to it, which probably also explains its crumbly-ness? Ok, scones are hardly healthy things to eat, even if they feature pretty regularly on breakfast menus. But the good ones can taste really good even on their own, and of course, they go extremely well with butter, jam and yes, definitely clotted cream. Perhaps that is what ups the unhealthy index, but let’s just put it aside and enjoy it for what it is.20140801-105856-39536532.jpg

sweets to sweeten up days

I never really knew I had a sweet tooth until recently. Or I just did not realise the intensity of it. It could also be catalysed by lifestyle changes. There was a time I restricted these indulgences to the weekends and try as much as possible, to eat more healthily during the week. But more so, these days, there is a blurring of the timing. I eat cakes even on weekdays. And as I read Mind Your Body yesterday, I was suddenly arrested by a page that talks about how bad pastries and cakes are, as well as biscuits, which tend to be replete with transfat and all sorts of unhealthy stuff. It isn’t the calorie count that matters, but rather what goes into my body that will probably wreak havoc that I would suffer for in later years to come.

For me, it is hard to make the change to steer away from these (used-to-be) weekend treats but I guess we all have to start somewhere. Recently, I still had a slice of cake. Ok, I haven’t stopped, I just had cake on a couple of days this week too. ._.

20140522-133119.jpgI really like this carrot cake at Spinelli because it gives me a false sense of healthiness in eating it. As compared to other carrot cakes maybe it really fares better because they isn’t as much cake in comparison to carrot. For most commercially-available carrot cake, it is pretty much a cake with cream cheese frosting, sometimes topped with walnut bits, like the one at Cedele which I also love lots. But this one has so much carrot strips, just check it out in the picture below.

20140522-133127.jpgAnd it comes in a size that is rather friendly, because I finished it and didn’t feel like a bloated balloon fall of cake and oil. So probably I will still keep this on the list for the occasional treat.

Pastries and my unfathomable love of it. Yet these are again packed with too much bad stuff. Why oh why are nice things always bad? Ok maybe not all nice things, for instance, things like yogurt and fruits are generally healthy and I love them too!

20140522-133134.jpgI have a strong craving to indulge in these sweets now, especially that I have been sick for the past few days. It seems like a long time ago since I last fell ill, but each time it happens it will be something really major and serious. And the sucky thing is that because there are meetings every day, I can’t just go on medical leave, wonder if I call myself responsible or acting tough. I just cannot make myself call in sick and cancel all the meetings that I am supposed to attend, even if my throat is parched and each cough brings forth chest pains, my head throbs and feels like it’s on fire yet my body experiences chills even with layers of clothes piled on. I believe I will recover well as soon as possible!

Afternoon Tea, Fosters (Holland Village)

I have heard and read about this place but have never visited despite that at a certain point in my life, I visited Holland Village pretty frequently. It’s a cool place to hang out, whether it was during my school days, and even now when I have been working for… x number of years. Of course, I don’t really think I belong there because on Friday or Saturday nights, the stretch of Lorong Mambong that is closed to traffic and where two rows of restaurants, cafes and pubs line it and face each other, is filled with lots of expatriates and their friends and families, and of course youngish-looking yuppies. Yes, I don’t think I belong to that demographic, especially now that somehow these days my social life seems to have taken a hiatus, aka “no-life”.

Anyway, back to the story. Arranged for a meet up one day and thought to check out the afternoon tea at Fosters. We made a reservation only on the day itself, and even though we were successful in getting a place for the afternoon tea (which runs from 3 to 6pm), it was in the alfresco dining area. Not such a good idea when the weather is extremely sunny and humid following an entire morning of storm. The alfresco area is small and sheltered, but it doesn’t protect you from the rays of the late afternoon sun that slant in from the side which is not blocked out by the foilage overhead. So if you can, try to make your reservations early for an indoor seat, although inside the seating is also really limited. It is a small cosy restaurant, a steakhouse per se, that has been around since 1960!

You can read more about them here, and although I am not a steak fan, I’ve heard generally good reviews of their food, lunch/dinner, so one of these days I have to make it a point to return!

My partner-in-crime that day isn’t too fond of the idea of snapping photos of food, so I quickly grabbed a picture before we started eating. 

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This is the afternoon tea set, which costs S$11 before taxes, and comes with 2 scones (one was already taken and eaten), 2 cucumber sandwiches and a slice of carrot cake, served up with generous helpings of clotted cream, butter and preserve. It also comes with your choice of tea or coffee. And this is indulgence! Because it followed right after we had lunch at Coffee Club nearby.. -_-

The sandwiches were not fantastic. I mean, I don’t know but how special or great can you make cucumber sandwiches? And these ones had one half which is white and the other brown bread, which I thought was weird. Of course, I’d have preferred brown bread but in this case it really didn’t make a difference because it was still soft, and inside, I think margarine was used as a spead, but I could be wrong.

The scones were great though! They were a little crumbly when I cut into them (in order to be able to spread anything on them) but they taste so buttery and yummy that I am prepared to forgive the crumbly-ness, if there is even such a word, and scoop the rest of the crumbs up later to eat. Paired with the clotted cream of course it was perfect, but the preserve was also not too bad, as I recall.

Carrot cake was also nice, albeit a little on the oily side. It had real, tangible and visible carrot shreds in the cake and it perhaps provided a good balance to the buttery scone (that isn’t too moist or oily) and sandwich.

Overall, for S$11, I think this is quite a good deal, because by the end of it (plus my lunch before), I was completely stuffed, and happily so.