Happy Friday!

I really wish to rediscover my love for and interest in writing. I feel sad when I visit the blog sometimes and after logging in, just proceed to log out because I just don’t feel the inclination to write and I am just not inspired to write anything. Writing used to feel so easy and effortless and nowadays it seems to be one of the furthest things from my mind. Focus is hard to grasp with apparent brain fog most of the times, and I just feel that whatever is typed out is somehow just meaningless banter.

But still, it is a Friday after all! Best day of the week because there is no work tomorrow. Isn’t it sad when on a day-to-day basis, the only thing worth looking forward to is the lunch break and end-of-workday, and then to Friday? When Friday comes around, there is already that impending dread that the weekend, though here, is too short and Monday already seems to loom around the corner. Well, I know this is all negative talk that I should refrain from and instead learn to ‘live in the moment’, enjoy each day for what it is rather than look ahead to something that we can’t control, or that only seem to make us feel bad. There really isn’t a point to be at this moment now, harbouring regrets about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow. And ok, I know that most people would say that everyone is exactly the same, in looking ahead to the meal breaks and then the going home part. We are all alike in that aspect but we all react and respond differently because of how differently we are wired internally. It’s just like how eating a humongous sandwich can make me experience heavenly bliss but to another it is just… food.

So anyway… with 8 months of 2016 gone and the last third of the year to go, I was thinking if I should, scratch that, I was thinking of where else I should visit. The last few years have seen me taking quite a number of vacations in the span of a year, at least 4 or more. This year, I have been on just 2 holidays.

In May, I visited my favourite city, Tokyo, once again. I already lost count of the number of times I have been there but yet there is always that desire to visit. There never really is an itinerary or reason for visiting each time but somehow I just look forward to going there. This time, I revisited Gotemba Premium Outlets. It’s the second time I’m going there and it’s so different from the first. Weather-wise it definitely felt different and also in terms of the crowd. It was so empty when I first went in 2009 and freezing cold. This time, it still wasn’t too hot because the seasons were changing, but the crowd size was visibly larger. Also, the people I went with on this trip, to Gotemba at least, were avid shopaholics.

tokyo_may2016

This was the situation at Gotemba, where we were crossing from one part to the other, after having a very un-Thai version of basil chicken rice at the food court. Personally, as I don’t shop as much these days, I only bought some casual clothing from GAP (the typical go-to shop for most people at these outlets I think). My Gotemba companions scored big though, with one of the most value-for-money buys from Loewe for most of them.

Just recently at the end of July, I took a short trip to nearby Hong Kong, another of my favourite cities, but which is starting to lose its shine somewhat. I still enjoy it for its familiarity and proximity to Singapore that is such a boon in terms of the relatively short flight time, but circumstances seem to have began to cast shadows on these. Nevertheless, I tried something new this time! Craved for char siew and my friend brought me to this Michelin-starred eatery. We actually queued (albeit a short while) to enter even though it was past lunch hour. Verdict? I think it’s ok, not bad but not fantastic that I would want to queue for again. It’s the same as Tin Ho Wan, not bad but not worth the kinds of queue that we see.
hongkong_aug2016

Other than this, the only other local thing I had on this trip was a small cup of Hong Kong milk tea from Tsui Wah that I ordered at the airport while waiting for my flight that was delayed for a couple of hours due to the the typhoon that set off the island on a Signal 8 Typhoon alert the night before I was due to depart. I also chanced upon a Gerard Dubois patisserie in Causeway Bay and tried the lemon curd tart that was pretty nice and zesty!

passion_lemon_tart_aug2016

There were so many things there that I would have liked to order to try but I could only choose one because I think that’s the maximum sugar load I could take at any one time. Or so I would like to trick myself into believing.

So if I take Hong Kong and Tokyo out of the equation, what are the other plausible choices? Should I venture a revisit of either?

Advertisements

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. 🙂

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!

Coffee Bean’s Lemon Meringue Tart

One of the other festive treats that I wanted to try from Coffee Bean was their Lemon Meringue Tart. I have a soft spot for lemon (curd) tarts, because of the expected tangy/zesty taste from the citrus fruit. However, there have been several disappointments because in some places, the curd turned out to be more sweet than tangy/sour. The only one I can remember of recent tries that I liked was from ABC.

I asked the staff before ordering, if this item was more sweet or sour and they told me it was sour. I took a leap of faith to believe their words and ordered it, even though I didn’t particularly fancy meringue, which thankfully was just a small strip adorning the top of the tart. I wouldn’t exactly say that this is a winner, for the simple reason that this, like many others, are mass-produced and the tart base has already been exposed for too long to make it a little ‘stale’? It doesn’t have the nice fragrance that we expect buttery tart bases to be, and because this is served up cold (I don’t think anyone would warm it up for me), there really wasn’t any ‘bursts’ of excitement from it. The curd filling, on its own, was actually sweet, as I felt. Because the tart isn’t fresh anymore, when you cut through it, it just falls apart into its individual parts, i.e. the tart base would separate from the curd nicely. And you could even just remove the strip of meringue on top. The strawberry, or whatever there was of it, was just dry and nothing more. Ok, what did I expect, right?

Anyway, when I tasted the curd, I immediately felt let down, because I had believed the staff and ordered it! But to be honest, when I paired it with the tart base, it actually did somehow take on a more tangy taste, which is quite weird because the base should be more sweet and the sour should be coming from the curd right? Or maybe it was just a figment of my own imagination.
Anyway, it isn’t a total let down, but nothing spectacular either, at S$5.80 per pop, which doesn’t fill up much of my stomach but makes for a decent sized tea/coffee-break item. It does look pretty though. Next up, if I am game enough to try more festive items, I think I would just go with the log-cakes, those should be hard to go wrong, unless of course if they skew more towards the high end of the sweet barometer.

Baker & Cook, Opera Estate

This is only the second time I have visited Baker & Cook. I don’t recall how I came to know about this bakery, but then I had wanted to check them out and back then I only knew about the one at Hillcrest Road. I was meeting a friend for brunch and since we had a ride, I mooted this place for coffee and some breads! Obviously, I was the only one who was keen to indulge in the breads but anyway they serve up a pretty good brew too!

So that was sometime back, maybe a couple of years or even longer. My memory has grown hazy, along with the haze that is shrouding our little city state currently. Bad analogy. But well, I was visiting my friends at their new crib in the Eastern part of Singapore, and after lunch at Bedok Mall, or whatever it is, the mall connected to Bedok MRT station, I wanted to grab my caffeine fix and they suggested this bakery where they thought I’d love, rather than our original plan of Starbucks.

It was only when they drove me there that I knew it’s Baker & Cook and I was delighted! Well even though I already had lunch and was not likely to be ordering any breads, which is what I so love, it was tea-time and so I prodded my friends to order some sweets to share! I probably had the lion’s share of it but oh well, at least I didn’t clean off everything solely. Haha.

So, we ordered a something-tart and a slice of Lemon Drizzle cake. The tart was quite nicely done as I remembered it, while the cake was a little of a disappointment because I found it to be a tad too sweet and moist. It wasn’t that I like dry cakes, definitely not, but this was a bit too dense and wet, like it hadn’t been baked enough? Or maybe that was how it was meant to be but I just have differing preferences.

When I posted it on Instagram with my rant though, someone commented that at least it looked pretty enough to be Instagrammable. Heh.

A closer look at the tart, which should be either peach or apricot with almonds? That’s what it looks to me. It was just a few weeks ago but it has totally eluded my memory.

Anyway the coffee (that came with a small cube of awesome brownie) did make up for that, and the company that afternoon was also great, catching up for a few hours after what felt like forever since we actually met!  
As I tried to name the 2 sweets that we ordered, I was checking out their website and menu and I just feel like trying so many things on it! Obviously, the breads would be the main item drawing me to them, seeing as to how I am such a big lover and fan of breads, but their locations tend to be a bit forbidding for me, except for perhaps the outlet at Intercontinental Hotel. Then again, I don’t think that would be as nice as their other locations at Hillcrest and Swan Lake.

Doutor Cafe, Japan

Just before my birthday last month, I jetted off to Sapporo, Hokkaido, for a week to take a short break. It hasn’t been that long since I visited in Tokyo in April, but I just felt like I needed a break. Even if time is passing by so fast, particularly this year it seems, holidays are like an oasis in the desert. Although I have been to Japan so many times over the last few years since my first trip there in winter of 2007, I have never set foot on the northern territories of Hokkaido. It was an opportune time to visit even if summers in Japan can be mercilessly hot, because summer is the period when flowers bloom in Hokkaido, and temperatures there are generally more forgiving and bearable than in Honshu itself.

So because we needed to transit in Tokyo to get to Sapporo, we decided to take a red-eye flight to Narita with a short hour-plus transit stop, where we had to collect our luggage and re-check it in, due to security concerns, before hopping over to the domestic terminal at Narita to catch the flight out to Sapporo. The queues at the custom was not too long, though there was still a fair bit of arriving tourists and foreigners waiting in line. We managed to have sufficient time to clear the arrival immigration, and still queue to deposit our luggage for the domestic sector.

By the time we arrive in Sapporo, it was probably around noon. We went to the tourist information counter, or the JR office, I can’t remember the exact name, where we bought ourselves a 5-day JR Rail Pass, as well as a ticket that would take us to the city, which is just about half an hour away on the limited express train.

Our hotel, Century Royal Hotel, is located not far from the JR station. There is an underground walkway that could lead us to the hotel, but with the luggage it’s easier to walk above ground, wheeling our luggage from the station, out onto the street and across a road, where the hotel stands. Hotel Gracery is also nearby, in the adjacent street, and its exterior facade somehow looks nicer. However, I think it either cost more when we were booking or it wasn’t available anymore because this is travel peak season and ours was a fairly last minute trip.

Finally, we settled for a late lunch, more like a tea break, after checking in. We were exploring the area for food options, feeling slightly zombie-fied from the lack of sleep in the flight. This was what we picked eventually, me wanting to have a coffee badly. As it wasn’t that far off from dinner time, we ordered these to share – a sandwich and a pumpkin tart.
Here’s a closer look at the tart. There are lots of such tarts being sold in the cafes all over Sapporo, mostly cheese tarts. Probably because it is Hokkaido after all, where milk, cheese and dairy are the thing to have! The texture of this cake was a little mousse-like and not really too sweet or heavy. Or maybe my taste buds had fallen asleep. But overall, it was a pretty good tea break!

Over the next few posts, expect to see more of these cafe shots and also food! What’s a holiday without savouring the gastronomical offerings of the destination?!?

Joe & Dough, Orchard Central

The very first time I visited Joe & Dough would have to be the tiny outlet that was at Hitachi Towers, as I am assuming that it is no longer there, based on what I have seen of the location information on their Facebook/website. I recalled the sandwiches being rather nice but pricey, especially considering that it is lunch and throw in a glass of latte and it’s easily too much to afford back in those days. Well, to me, more than S$10 for lunch is still quite pricey now, if you are talking about day-to-day lunches, rather than a once-in-a-while treat.

After that, Joe & Dough opened outlets in other places, such as Suntec City, outside where the supermarket used to be. It was a very open space and I didn’t really visit it much because it was not so conducive to just spend hours hogging their table in such an open area. Then this outlet moved to Millenia Walk, which is not such a convenient location. I know, I am picky when it comes to locations but that’s me being lazy. But I have no qualms about praising them for their coffee and sandwiches, even if I had not have them on a regular basis.

They now have a small outpost at Orchard Central, where I have met my friend a couple of times for coffee break during the weekends. It can get crowded, meaning the few tables and chairs they have get occupied and you know how it is with cafes and patrons these days. Once a butt sits down it will often take a while before it vacates the seat. But we were able to find a table after a short wait, and we probably stayed for about an hour each time.IMG_0577.JPG

At the Millenia Walk outlet, I had ordered their cakes and didn’t really fancy them. Or not that I was too impressed with what they had. But I tried their muffin this time round, and I was actually quite happy with it. Right now, my memory is quite hazy as to what I ordered, maybe blueberry or some sort of that, but what I do like about it was that it wasn’t oily like how most muffins in other coffee chains tend to be. It was warmed up really nicely so that when I got my muffin, there was this really fragrant aroma wafting through the air. As with my favourite part of the muffin goes, the top was crispy yet not dry and it wasn’t crumbly. Yay and I will definitely be back to try a different flavour next time round!

We also ordered a Baked Pear tart. As compared to the cakes I had before, this was a better option imo. Wasn’t too sweet beyond my tolerance level and goes well with either coffee or tea.IMG_0578.JPG

On our next meet-up, I had the Blueberry Yogurt tart, which from the picture looks like a polka-dotted cheesecake.IMG_0580.JPG

I loved the cookie crust that is just like how cheesecakes are like, yet it didn’t feel as dense and heavy as a cheesecake. It had a little of the sour taste of yogurt but it wasn’t strong and I wished somewhat that it could have had a stronger yogurt flavour in it. But overall I did enjoy it pretty much.IMG_0579.JPG

And this was my friend’s order of a Tuna Sandwich; just check out how generous they are with the filling and the sandwich looks pretty substantial too! I am always in a dilemma what to order when it comes to food because to have both sandwich and sweets would be too much, yet a lot of things look so good each time I’m standing at the counter!IMG_0581.JPG