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!

Enjoying. Holidaying. Eating!

Planned to meet my friend for an early breakfast at Cupping Room but got into a bit of delay due to a miscommunication. I thought there were only 2 Cupping Rooms, but apparently not so. She went to the one at Wan Chai, and realised I wasn’t there, and after a while, we found out that we were at different outlets – I was at the original Cupping Room in Sheung Wan. My bad.

We ordered our respective dosages of coffee, and a portion of egg white scrambled on sour dough to share. It was amazing! I love egg white scrambled, even if they are probably not as protein-packed as regular scrambled eggs, but as I don’t really like the ‘eggy’ taste of egg yolk that much, I find egg white scrambled easier on the palate somewhat. But it comes at a premium, always.After breakfast, we took a slow, long walk, and ended up at Pacific Place, where we each bought a pot of yogurt (which has become something we do all the time now) and looked for a next place to plonk ourselves at. We settled at Pret-A-Manger at a mall linked to Pacific Place, where my friend got herself a second coffee and I ordered a log cake, just because it’s Christmas and I have not had a single slice of log cake!
We didn’t finish this eventually because she didn’t seem to really like it and I certainly did not want to have it alone, so unfortunately it went to the wastelands.

We walked a lot more after that, strolling all the way to Wan Chai, where I spotted the Cupping Room she was at this morning, some other interesting cafes that I could consider visiting in the next trip perhaps, a local bakery that she frequents where we bought some buns and had it at the seating gallery overlooking a track and field, the Joel Buchon bistro where she bought some breads, and which had such a delectable array of baked stuff that I would totally want to have… then she had to leave, and I went to meet up with my friend, who had sadly, fallen ill. I walked back to Pacific Place where she was at, and we went to Simply Life bistro for a late lunch or early tea-break. One tea-time set costs about HKD58, which is pretty decent and value-for-money, because it was a rather substantial sandwich and coffee/tea. I got myself a long black and an open-faced sandwich, that also came with a serving of cajun fries! *big love* Check out that layer of melted cheese draped over the grilled mushrooms and spinach, on a slice of very chewy multi-grain/seed toast. I love this and finished every single thing, yes I know it’s a lot of carbohydrates and what I see is that females having the same thing just left the bread there or a good part of it. But! That’s the whole essence of this open-faced right? To me at least, the bread (and maybe the fries) were the highlights!
My friend had the quesadilla or flat-bread; I can’t remember what’s on the inside, but it came with the same cajun fries too.After so much eating, of course we need to do some walking right? So we hopped over to Kowloon for a small spot of sightseeing. I’m sorry to Kowloon dwellers, but I really do not enjoy being there. Although Hong Kong is known for being an overcrowded city not unlike Singapore, Kowloon seems to be more so than say, Central. Causeway Bay can also be a big mess of people, especially tourists who usually walk in haphazard fashion, but being in Kowloon never fails to give me a headache at some point and it makes me feel claustrophobic and frustrated.

We visited the heritage place in Tsim Sha Tsui, where not surprisingly, tonnes of tourists were packing the place and taking selfies.
It wasn’t dark enough for the lights to look pretty but then since it would probably take a while more for it to become dark, we went over to the harbour front area.  It was cloudy or foggy day despite that it didn’t start out as being very cold. In fact, it was a considerably warmer day as compared to the day before (i.e. winter solstice). We couldn’t even see much across to the other side.
The laser show was only scheduled to come on at about 8pm, which was really a bit too much waiting for us to do, so we headed back to Hong Kong island, and decided to have dinner at the Ukrainian restaurant that we spotted on Sunday near the Lebanese place we had dinner at that rainy night.

Our drinks – kefir. I totally love this because it’s a yogurt drink and it reminded me of the milky drink I had in Helsinki years back when I was there on a business trip. It was really quite filling but I could almost just bottoms-up the glass!We ordered a soup to share, a pumpkin soup that seemed a little too salty.
My friend ordered a stew – with lots of meat (chicken I think), mushrooms and carrots. It doesn’t seem like a huge pot but the serving was again quite substantial, and it came with a puff pastry covering it!  Close-up.
Compared to Sunday, this weekday night seemed so much busier. Perhaps we couldn’t really tell from the outside, but I suspected that Sundays are generally quieter in SOHO, or perhaps it was raining that night so the crowd was thin. We were lucky to get the last available table, as others had to wait, and the wait time for food to be served was also pretty long. However, the food quality was relatively good and looking at the menu, it resembled what I saw when I was in Moscow, which makes sense since they are so near to each other. But I remembered having the borscht soup and didn’t like it. But stuff like skewered meats (whites please) are ok with me!

This was the plate of grilled vegetables that I ordered, which were a little oily but on the whole, I really liked it too because it’s such a generous portion!We were totally stuffed by the end of the night that we couldn’t finish every single thing on the plates. Almost did. I guessed the kefir filled us up, at least for me it did, but it was quite a good meal and maybe in future I could consider coming again!

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!

The Clueless Goat, Novena

It had been a while since I discovered The Clueless Goat in the Novena area, one day while I was traipsing towards United Square from Novena Square / Velocity. It is located in the row of shop-houses next to the exit from the tunnel that leads from Novena MRT station, or rather behind it. The official address is 189, Thomson Road, but to me, Thomson sounds like somewhere far away, or maybe it’s just an impression.

Nevertheless, it is really within walking distance of Novena station! It is a fairly small and cosy cafe, probably seats 20-odd to 30 persons max, with a few small tables and one large communal table that can take about 8. I finally got myself to pop in one late Saturday morning for brunch, but I think it isn’t the best time to visit. It was quite packed with the brunch crowd, although I managed to find a seat, at a corner of the communal table no less. However, turnover was also brisk as some of the brunch crowd were really there for brunch and after eating, they promptly cleared off, mostly Caucasians living in the vicinity I suspect. With these brunch peeps, it also means families and young kids or toddlers. I actually do not have an issue with kids, even though I am not exactly fond of them. But if they are adorable and quiet, ok, as long as they are quiet, I don’t have a problem with them. But these kids were all screaming and crying, and that got me really annoyed as I was looking for a place where I could comfortably have brunch while reading a book or something. That was not to be, unfortunately, so I didn’t stay long too.

Anyway, this was what I ordered. The Granola (S$6) – Honey Nut Almond Granola with vanilla infused yogurt & fresh berries, and an add-on of Toast (S$1.50). If you would like to have some spreads, you could order Toast with Butter and Jam (S$4) but of course, for that you could choose Sourdough or Multi-grain bread although I am not sure if it’s also just a slice of toast cut in half like this. I don’t use spreads much so I opted for just plain Toast, and as it could get a little dry, I just plopped some yogurt on top. 🙂

The cashier suggested that the Granola was a rather small portion that wouldn’t be sufficient when I asked about its size, which was also why I ordered the add-on. Looking at its price, I also considered that which was why I asked in the first place. But I think it would have been enough for a small brunch, and for someone like me who feels peckish all the time, it might have been better for me to just order the Granola and have something else later on for tea-break!

Recently, I have been into ordering Yogurts with granola or muesli when I visit cafes, because I really like eating these, and I would like to think that they are a healthy option to have as compared to my usual muffin or cake. But granola or muesli are supposedly sugar-laden too, so I’m really a little unsure. I guess as long as we enjoy what we eat, that should be good enough, after all life is too short to worry so much! The fresh berries were actually one strawberry and perhaps 5 blueberries, haha.
Their coffee is supposed to be good, and I would say that it fits the criteria of gourmet coffee, from its acidity that is reminiscent of all the places that serve good coffee. Again, I would say that I have cheap taste buds because such good coffee to me is bitter, without any sugar or milk. It leaves a really bitter, sour after-taste at the back of my throat, so sometimes I don’t enjoy it as much. I probably have to really make myself go attend some coffee appreciation workshop to learn how to savour good coffee!  And the book that I was trying to read, recommended by a friend recently. I think I would roughly know the gist of the book from its synopsis, but I wonder if there’s any plot twists in it. Let’s find out as I read on when I make some spare time by detaching or disconnecting myself from the digital devices!

The Clueless Goat has quite an alright menu in terms of variety, but many of their brunch items feature eggs, though I suppose if you don’t fancy eggs you could always order their sandwiches, which actually look pretty good when I eyed what other customers were having. I’ll be back next time, but probably at a different timing so that I can have some respite in the cafe and stay a little longer. But take note that they are closed on Mondays and on Tuesdays to Thursdays and Sundays they open only until 6pm.

it’s all about the convenience of coffee 

It is no secret that I am a big fan of cafes. I wanted to say that I am a coffee fan but then again I think I can’t really lay claim to that because as a friend rightly pointed out one day, to my dismay, that despite me being a self-professed / so-called aficionado of coffee, I did not know the difference between an Americano and a Long Black. I now know the difference, thanks to that episode, so I shall just say that I love hanging out at cafes because they are convenient for the lone ranger who is out to seek some caffeine boost and nosh to keep the energy going.

Despite that there are tons of great cafes out there with a uniqueness that chains like Starbucks can’t ever emulate, I seldom check them out, whether locally or abroad. Locally, their locations frequently are prohibiting for me because I do not want to caught in a situation of taking a taxi all the way to some Ulu Sembawang place to look for a cafe only to find out that it’s full, with patrons not seemingly likely to leave anytime soon, or worse, that it is no longer in operation. The latter could be a very real predicament, considering that businesses in Singapore do come and go quite easily due to the competitiveness of the scene. Even overseas, there are times when I stick to the tried-and-tested places because I know I can hang around for a fair bit of time without being ‘chased’ out of a small cafe, and they are easy to locate for someone who might have been walking for hours and just need to get some sustenance.

So anyway, these were some of the ‘convenient’ places that I grabbed my daily coffee and bites at when I was in Tokyo recently.

Some of my friends are coffee snobs, and they turn their noses up at Starbucks’ coffee. Since I used to can’t tell an Americano or Long Black apart, it is also safe to assume that I can’t really distinguish between good or bad coffee. Wrong. If it’s very bad, I certainly can taste it, but my body is not accustomed to very good coffee, which I often associate with strong, acidic coffee that leaves a bit of a bitter/sour after taste at the back of my tongue. They also leave me feeling a little light-headed or high thereafter. So a tall or even grande sized brew coffee or Americano from Starbucks does the trick for me on days when I want to have more fluid in the cup rather than the usual smaller cup of coffee that I would otherwise get from these standalone small joints.
A short-sized Americano with some Cranberry Granola Toast. I don’t think the toast is that healthy, but then I love breads in several, scratch that, many forms, so this makes for a nice morning snack.  A short latte with a cup of Granola and Cranberry Yogurt, something I had just before I took the Airport Limousine Bus to the airport on my way home. These days, we are also starting to see Starbucks Singapore offer more of such options, but they already pre-mixed the granola or whatever else fruits or compote they have into the yogurt. I would have preferred if they were separate because otherwise the crunchy/crispy bits would have lost all the crunch and become too soggy.   On one drizzly evening, before I went for Bikram yoga class, I killed time at Excelsior Cafe with a cup of Americano and a slice of Sakura Tea Cake. Somehow, butter/tea cakes that come in plastic packaging like that creates a preconceived notion in me that the cake won’t be that great, as compared against buying tea cakes that are displayed in a sliced loaf, encased in a glass container. I know it’s weird, but I always get that kind of feeling, and have yet to ascertain the veracity, if those cakes are really not as nice. Who knows?  The weather in Tokyo during the week that I was there was on the overall, great. But there were still moments when the city was shrouded with drizzle. There was just one day when the weather was bad because it rained almost the whole day and made us feel lethargic and tired, but otherwise it was generally ok. I am always spoilt for choice whenever I pop into Dean & Deluca in Tokyo, where the array of pastries and breads available all scream at me to buy them. Their muffins are really good but they are huge, and I am quite wary of these sugar bombs even if I still do give in to the craving sometimes. But then again, this slice of Caramelized bread probably isn’t much better, except that the interior didn’t feel/taste as sweet as a muffin would, and I kind of tore off the sticky parts. :p And lastly, on my last morning in Tokyo, I finally found Mister Donut! I didn’t have this when I was in Bangkok last year because the donuts on display then looked kind of sad, so I made sure I went there to have my favourite Pon De Ring. But I was a little disappointed, and started to wonder if this was my usual because the glazed ring didn’t taste as good as I recalled. Perhaps the one I used to have wasn’t this variant.. Hmm. Oh well, at least I tried it and maybe the next time, I can give it a miss already.