pause for a bit

Just read something sad. And again it makes me wonder why we all seem to take life for granted. There would always be times when we, or at least I can speak for myself, have wished that God will just bring us back home to be with Him with immediacy, yet there are people who have their lives cut short, while they were supposedly in the prime of their lives. When such things happen, we begin to question the indolence we exhibit towards life and fate, the extravagance with which we throw away our lives, not cherishing each and every living moment or be grateful for that extra breath that we get to have.

When we have something that seems like it is in abundance or that we do not have a view of its impending end, we tend to get complacent and think we have it all. But that’s not the case because life is unpredictable like that.

Anyway, this post was meant to be lighthearted and as a record of what I had recently.

It isn’t the first time I ordered this breakfast item at Starbucks, and in fact it is one of my favourites from what they currently serve – the Rosemary Chicken with Emmental Cheese croissant. The flavourful mashed chicken mayo-style filling with a peppery taste gives it an added dimension, that pairs so well with the buttery croissant. While it isn’t the best in terms of croissant, because it is not freshly-baked after all, in fact this particular one I had that day looked a tad sad and limp, but overall it still made for an enjoyable breakfast.

Starbucks ‘Mornings Made Better’

I used to be a big supporter of Starbucks, because whenever I travelled, I make it a point to visit the local Starbucks to check the ‘local content’ and also the prices, the former to satisfy my curiosity like how fast food chains customise/localise their menus by countries, and the latter was just some personal project to compile a ‘Starbucks PPI (based in SGD)’.

I had been a Starbucks Gold Member ever since they launched their loyalty programme but I think a couple of years ago I decided to let go of that because I didn’t think that I adequately made use of the benefits much, not that I think there were any palpable differences. Also at some time I reduced my frequency of visits and patronage when I started to acquire a deeper preference for other cafes and also particularly local coffee joints such as Yakun.

Anyway, back to Starbucks. See how I have this bad habit of getting distracted?

Like most decent cafes, Starbucks offers breakfast options and bundle them up as sets (or meals – as fast food joints call theirs). These used to cost a single price I think, but as their options started to vary, they also differentiated their pricing. There was a 2-tier pricing, $6.50 and $7.50 but recently they added a third, i.e. $8.50 – depending on how ‘big/heavy’ the food item was.

They launch some new items on and off, when they switch F&B supplier I suppose? There were some options I had really liked in the past that were discontinued, and to be really honest, a lot of the food items that Starbucks sell are just not that great. Nowadays I go there only because of convenience and IF I can find a seat. Free WiFi that offers a decent speed would help also that depends how many people in the cafe are tapping on it at any one time.

So! I finally (and yes I finally get to the point of this post) had their breakfast sets recently, after an extremely long hiatus. As usual, I was besieged with decision fatigue. I don’t know why I am that indecisive, with so many thought processes ongoing all in different directions. Eventually, I settled on the multigrain croissant with egg mayo. I was hesitant because usually these turn out very disappointing when the croissant is limp and soggy with stale oil, and the egg mayo filling is pathetic and overly-mushy.

I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I was quite impressed with what I got. It turned out to be rather substantial, both the croissant that retained much of its crispness and freshness (no stale oil thank goodness) as well as the peppery creamy egg mayo filling (hello calories and fat) that left me feeling rather satiated on the whole. I was quite happy with my choice, aside from the fact that the brew was not really up to par – I don’t think I have ever had coffee at Starbucks that ‘blew me away’ although that cup of brew kind of gave me a bit of headache which I wasn’t sure why and if it was the primary cause.

So there. I can’t profess or guarantee that you will be equally pleased if you were to order the same, but just giving it due credit. Maybe it was also because I wasn’t expecting much or how wrong can you go with croissants that are meant to be sinful and buttery and should usually be good? I did have bad croissants before but those are few and far between.

Ok, weekend is here! Have a good weekend.

Happy birthday!

So without much fanfare as per the norm these days, my birthday came and went. It was such a typical day, going to work… just that I got the afternoon off and went off to meet my sis(-in-law) for lunch.

What are birthdays without cakes, especially when I have developed a sweet tooth somewhere along the way over these years.

This wasn’t a birthday cake. In fact, I got this for my friend (and also for myself to try) when I visited her at her home while she was recuperating from a surgery. It’s a new cake offered by Starbucks, a Coconut cream sponge cake, that was surprisingly quite nice, to me. Perhaps because it’s meant to be a sponge cake after all, it didn’t feel dense and heavy, and the coconut scent/taste wasn’t too strong or overpowering. I didn’t really take the cream that much so I can’t comment how good or bad it is. But overall, it’s pretty alright and good for sharing, as always!This was a real birthday cake. Ahead of my birthday, and also my bro’s, who has his birthday in this month too, my eldest bro and sis-in-law took us out for lunch one balmy Sunday afternoon, and surprised us after a hearty and comforting local delights lunch with these 2 slices of birthday cakes topped with candles! This was the one and only candle that I blew out this year. The food we had was good, it had a rather authentic ‘wok hei’ to it, and the cakes were also delicious. Maybe it was made even better because of the thoughts behind and enjoying the special moment as the birthday girl. 🙂Not a cake, but there’s still ‘cake’, i.e. Korean seafood pancake. Haha. Met a friend for dinner and she was having a craving for Korean food so off to a Korean eatery we went! The food was yummy, whether it’s the main or the ban-chan. I loved the japchae, even if it was a little oily but perhaps that was what made it so good! The portion was so generous for it being called an ‘appetiser’ or ‘starter’ so thankfully I didn’t order any main. With the ban-chan, the japchae and the pancake, I think I was already stuffed but yet I couldn’t resist not cleaning up whatever I could because the food was just too good (imho) and I hate wasting. As much as I possibly could.So when I met sis for lunch on the actual day, she brought me to U-town and we had lunch at a bistro. Even though we went fairly late for lunch, the place was still packed. But with the luxury of time that afternoon, we could afford to sit around and by the time we were done with our mains, the place already sort of cleared out and we could enjoy our cakes and coffee in peace while having a nice chat.

The carrot cake that we ordered wasn’t as good as we had hoped or expected it to be. But oh well, we can’t really tell if it’s good just based on looks. It had a rather flat taste and the sponge part felt a tad too dry and hard. But the apple crumble tart was good though! Sis commented that the carrot cake carried more cinnamon than the apple tart but I thought the taste came from the spiced apples within the tart. Anyhow, we really enjoyed the tart and it was a great and relaxing way to spend the afternoon.So that summed up my birthday celebration, if you would even consider it as a celebration. I suppose that as time passes and we age, birthdays become less of an event and quieter. We don’t need to be surrounded with people to celebrate our birthdays, or huge and noisy parties. That was never really my thing anyway. Quiet one-on-one or family gatherings are preferred because these are the people who matter anyway. 🙂

Starbucks’ new sandwich menu 

Being the Starbucks fan that I am, I was pleasantly surprised when recently (ok not so recent anymore but this happened in 2016!) they launched a new lunch menu that saw 5 new sandwiches being introduced. For some time, they had a really boring food menu and whenever I wanted to have something substantial, SB would be the last on my mind. Even when they had sandwiches back then, they didn’t look at all appetising or filling for my voracious appetite, and besides they are pre-packed in the chilled display cases that somehow also do not whet my appetite the least bit. I would much rather go to, say Coffee Bean, where sandwiches are prepared only when ordered (or at least that’s what I remembered, if they still do that). Granted that the ingredients are a premix (e.g. chicken / tuna mayonnaise), at least the sandwich is put together upon order so the final product isn’t sitting on the rack for goodness knows how long.

The last menu they had wasn’t too bad – I liked the Tuscan Chicken sandwich that I had quite a number of times and it was satisfying enough for a meal. Their breakfast items have fared better so far, with the Egg White, Roasted Pepper, Mushroom & Cheddar wrap being one of my favourites, and now to add on, there’s also the Rosemary Chicken with Emmental Cheese croissant and Turkey Ham, Egg White & Cheddar sandwich.

This is their latest lunch sandwich menu:

Starbucks_sandwich_new2016I made it a point to try all of them and so far I’ve actually already tried 4! I’m not sure if I will get to try the last one, which is Beef Meatball Marinara croissant, since beef meatballs… maybe not.

So the first item off the list was Roasted Portobello, Pumpkin & Devilled Egg sandwich. What does devilled mean anyway? I have no idea, and I don’t know if I even tasted any egg because I didn’t really open up the sandwich since I was having brunch then with someone else and I didn’t want to seem like a messy eater playing with my food. I really liked this, and it contains mushrooms and pumpkin which also explains why it’s the first that I wanted to try. Love the bread used for the sandwich, with its sprinkling of black and white sesame and pumpkin seeds on top. Roasted mushrooms and pumpkins inside also makes everything so much better!

The choice of bread used for the sandwich greatly affects whether I order it or not. Maybe it’s also because it’s the biggest part of the item, so sometimes it may be a greater contributor to my choice rather than the filling itself! The second item I tried used a similar bread/bun except that it didn’t have any pumpkin seeds, just black and white sesame that still gave a nice flavour / taste to the bread. This was the Honey Mustard Chicken & Apple Slaw sandwich, which I assume should be chicken marinated in honey mustard dressing served with a salad of apple slaw.
I also liked this a lot, even though it felt a little more sinful than the first, because of the dressing used with the chicken. But it’s more fulfilling in a way also because of the chicken. The addition of shredded carrot and purple cabbage also made it nicer with the added crunchiness but at the same time also caused a greater deal of mess in eating because the shredded veggies tended to just fall out.Third try – Wholesome Tuna & Cheese sandwich. It was the third because it’s tuna mayonnaise, i.e. fattening (mayonnaise alert!) although the bun was a lure. Also pretty satisfying but perhaps they could go a little easier on the cheese. There was too much of it that at one point, I decided to just scrape out some of the cheese. But overall, I also enjoyed it. 🙂
Closer look.  The fourth and last item I’ve tried is the Buttermilk Chicken & Egg Croissant. Croissants are amazing pastries but also because of the amount of butter that’s used (I don’t know what else) that make such a small and fluffy pastry so calorie-dense. Once in a while, it’s nice to indulge though. Which is why this is the last item I tried, after exhausting all the other options based on the bread choice. Haha.

There was another reason – hard-boiled eggs. I don’t mind yolks sometimes, but usually only when they come in liquid / molten form such as sunny-side-ups or poached eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are not my kind of thing even if I need that protein for recovery. So while I ate this, I had to deconstruct it (not unusual for me with sandwiches though) and dig out the yolks. :p
Chicken used had a pretty good flavour. It’s supposed to be buttermilk? But I don’t know how that is meant to taste like, or perhaps the flavour is tangy red pesto as described in Starbucks’ website. It has a peppery taste that together with the croissant gave the overall sandwich a rather strong taste and perhaps that is also how it fills you up since croissant in itself doesn’t really make one feel full (at least not for me) or it doesn’t keep you full for too long.  A close-up of the insides, with the generous filling spilling out! This is also what makes the new sandwiches more appealing and value-for-money! Previously, at the kind of prices they charge their sandwiches for, I would be better off paying the same (or sometimes less) for sandwiches from other shops that make them fresh with fresher and more generous ingredients! Now they are at least a more worthy competitor for some other places, though of course we can’t compare SB with shops that specialise in sandwiches!

On the whole, still a great effort and I don’t mind having some of these sandwiches again! With a promotion set meal price of $9.90 during 11.30 am to 3 pm for a sandwich and a hot/iced coffee or tea, it’s quite a good deal (for SB anyway) since the sandwiches already cost about $8.90 on their own.

Christmas Eve.

Spent Christmas eve and part of Christmas day in Hong Kong. I shall just let the pictures do the talking, most of it anyway, because I am lazy to write. 🙂

Met the cousin early for local breakfast near his apartment. This is the Hong Kong milk tea, which I find is so much nicer than what we have locally, i.e. teh-c.

The standard breakfast fare, to me at least – soupy instant noodles topped with some ingredients like pork / chicken chop, sausages, eggs, or the likes. Or maybe everything! Order a noodle and add-on the other stuff you fancy, sunny-side up, sausages…
Yummy.
Problem with Hong Kong’s local cafes is that they don’t usually do bread the way I like it. Mostly, when I order a sandwich or toast, it is just 2 slices of plain white bread that is of the soft variety, totally not how I like my bread to be. Even when this is toasted, at an additional charge (!), it still doesn’t cut anywhere close. The smooth, creamy scrambled eggs help to make it a bit better though, but then the processed meat in the form of ham probably isn’t too great an idea.
After we had the milk tea and the breakfast, we still went for the next round of caffeine at a hole-in-the-wall cafe near Jaffe Street.  After parting with my cousin, I went to meet my friend and we decided to check out this soft-serve that was highly-recommended by the cousin. I really love this, because the matcha flavour was very distinctive and strong! And best of all is that it doesn’t feel like it’s too sweet. They have a few outlets, but we went to the one at Fashion Walk. There’s one in the basement food hall of SOGO at Causeway Bay too and if I’m not wrong, near City Super in Harbour City in TST.
Went to meet another friend thereafter, who halted her gym-time to accompany me for the Christmas eve afternoon. We popped into a random cafe where she decided to have lunch, and I ordered a salad which was a total disappointment. Where’s the ‘salad’? This looks more like dessert than salad.  It’s actually a few slices of apple cooked in some sauce I presume, topped with egg mayo and a sprinkling of some powder (don’t ask me what because I forgot), plus 2 sticks of buttered toast, very lightly-toasted might I add. I was then busy scraping away the egg yolk and mayo obviously, and left it in a mess.
After the decidedly-unsatisfying meal (for me at least), we proceeded to Lee Gardens’ Starbucks, which was also very crowded despite that the mall was almost devoid of other customers. Either everyone is out and about in their last minute rush for Christmas gifts, or this mall is just too high-classed to see many patrons. We dropped by the supermarket at Hysan Place first though, to get ourselves a pot of yogurt each to go with our coffee (my third caffeine for the day). Love the variety that is available overseas but again, I’d think this is from the vantage point of being a foreigner and seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes.  Last year, when I met my friend in Hong Kong, we ordered the Christmas orange cranberry loaf cake/bread and since they have it this year again, we ordered it again! We enjoyed this because it’s more bread than cake, meaning it’s a bit drier and crumblier,and not so oily to boot. Wished they had this on our local menu too but so far, it has only made an appearance in 2014.
Headed back for a short run at the gym thereafter, before heading out for Christmas eve dinner. We settled in at an Italian eatery in SOHO, which somehow felt like we were obligated to dine at, because the host-cum-owner was rather pushy and we felt bad walking away after reading the menu. It was probably a wrong choice, because we ended up not ordering the huge Christmas meal that came with 6 courses per person (at quite a reasonable price actually). We didn’t think we could have finished all that food so we opted for a-la-carte, which to them meant ‘budget menu’, and we were being treated as ‘budget customers’. They changed the table setting, removing the napkin and replacing it with a paper serviette!? It wasn’t even like the eatery was some fine-dining place because each table was within an elbow’s width away, even if you are paying for the so-called Christmas set menu. Bleah. What a big downer.

The food was pretty decent though, to be fair to them. It’s just that service sucks, or rather it’s dependent on how much you pay for your food.
  After dinner, we took a short walk to PMQ, where most shops were already packing up. But they had pretty interesting Christmas decor, including a holographic Christmas tree instead of a real physical tree.
  And finished off the evening with dessert near our hotel, sweet soup with lotus seeds! 🙂