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Weekend #50

Ok, I got a little lazy with my weekend roundup posts, but while I remember to do so, here's a fresh one! 

1. Family brunch atJules Cafe & Bar.  My first time.  Restaurant was family-style and cosy, with decent food was decent reasonably priced to boot.  My veggie big brekkie with an additional side order of cured salmon filled me up well til dinner time.  Too bad I detected a little bit of an attitude from the floor manager who tries too hard to be cool / Aussie that borderlined rude. 

2. My first Christmas get-together! Hosted by the Teos, we had massive amounts of food, wines and desserts.  That was also the dinner my warm chocolate tart showed up.  As much as I tried to practice restrain, I definitely couldn't hold back and went for a bit everything.  SW made a couple of delicious vegetable dishes.  A cold cucumber salad tossed with a vinegar dressing and copious amounts of spring onions and coriander was love.  Wait, it was a tough toss up against a platter of roas…

Recipe: Warm Banana and Fig Chocolate Tart (ala Pierre Herme)

At the last minute, we were invited to a dinner party by a dear friend and even though we were assured we need not bring anything, I, being "Chinese", decided more food was better than less.  And knowing this friend is a big foodie, I cannot just bring anything so I went the "home-made" route and viola, an adapted version of Pierre Herme's Warm Chocolate and Banana tart. 

The notable changes are:
1. I used dried figs instead of raisins simply because I had those instead.
2. I used a different pastry crust recipe (to be precise, this one).
3. I didn't bother keeping a very precise temperature, so the silky, custard texture was compromised.
4. I used regular rum, not dark rum.

Other than those, pretty much everything was as per Pierre Herme's instructions

Surprisingly easy to put together, the work really lies in preparing each of the components.  You will need:

For the Figs and Caramelised Bananas
1/2 cup chopped figs
3 Tbl (45ml) rum
3 Tbl (45ml) water

Travels: ソフトクリーム Soft Cream in Japan

Yam soft serve, originally uploaded by Skinny Epicurean. I love going to Tokyo and I don't think I can ever be tired of it. I love the quirky monogenous culture and more than anything the food. Having been to Tokyo for so many times, I realise I have subconsciously developed a list of "must-eats".

One of which is the Japanese soft serve ice cream. Except it's known as ソフトクリーム or 'soft cream' in Japan.

I am not kidding but the soft serve ice cream in Japan tastes just so different. It must be the milk. There is a richer taste and honestly, I love eating soft serve in Japan as much as eating gelato in Italy.

As with all things Japanese, one must eat soft serve according to the season as well. Autumn time would be good for sweet potato (satsu-imo), chestnut (kuri) and yam. Come spring, sakura and lavender. Vanilla, black sesame (goma) and green tea are pretty everygreen flavours. I don't find the soft serve stands everywhere but near touristy spots…

Girly catch up at Antoinette

Located just a 5-minute walk away from Lavendar MRT, Antoinette seemed a little displaced in an almost desserted, industrial area. What a different sight it was once I stepped through the front doors of Antoinette.  The dining room was full and bustling with (largely female) life.  It could be the baby blue and white colors and girly French adornment that would put off men in general.   But that's just my two cents. 

Now, I love all-day breakfast so it was an easy choice for me to make my food selection.  After all, catching up with my girlfriends, one of whom I have not seen in more than a year, was my priority. The girlfriends, on the other hand, had a tougher time making their choices because the variety of options was pretty much a little of everything to cater to most. 

My breakfast platter was competent and filled my tummy with just enough room to split the signature Antoinette cake and the french toast for dessert.  Using thick toast for the latter is a brilliant idea bec…

Travels: Osteria iO Personale (Florence, Italy)

Admittedly, it was with a pretty high expectations that I went to this restaurant. I had read the chef is a young talented 20-something year old who already had amassed experiences at top restaurants in Spain and his modern take on Italian cuisine and ingredients.
The restaurant was situated across the other side of Florence, a comfortable 15-20 minute walk from the Santa Maria train station. It is pretty small, but comfortable.  We were served complimentary white wine very soon after we sat down.  The aperative was leaning toward sweet and very easy to like.  On the side we were served little savory muffins, cute little things they were, that tasted of cheese and herb.  What a great snack to begin our meal for the night.
The menu was a slightly unconventional (to traditional Italian cuisine) and forward thinking approach where it does not follow the order of courses (i.e. primo, secondo, etc).  It was sorted by the Category (i.e. Meat, Vegetables, Fish, etc), but no issues with me.  In…

Travels: Gelato!

How can I visit Italy without gorging myself silly on gelato? Seriously, there are gelaterias in every corner much like Seattle and its every-50m-a-Starbucks. Oddly, the sight of bright colored gelato never failed to bring a smile to my face.  Not to mention greed as well.  More often than not, the stomach just did not have sufficient room to enjoy a cone at that moment.  So...I could only manage four throughout the trip. 

I know, I suck.

):

Anyhow, I will share these four coveted gelaterias that were chosen after much research on the "best" gelaterias in each city. 

1. GROM

What's awesome about this artisanal gelateria is that it is by far the one with the most number of branches. It originated in Turino and I had mine in Milan. It is even available in the USA! In addition, there are seasonal flavors as well as monthly flavors.  Torn between so many flavors, I chose a pairing of Sicilian pistachio and dark chocolate sorbet with dark chocolate bits.  First, I must tap …

Travels: Innocenti Evasioni (Milan, Italy)

I was prepared for Innocenti Evasioni's rather inconvenient venue. It would still take about 25-30 minutes on foot from the nearest Metro station and I certainly would not do that in the dark. As it turned out, taking a cab was the wise thing to do.

The restaurant was hidden in a small dark alley with no giveaway signs of its presence in a quiet neighborhood and dodgy people peppered along the corners. When we arrived at the address, our kind cab driver, despite of our language barriers, gestured toward the alley and told us to head there. I could hear his engine waiting for us, until we disappeared. What a kind old man!

Beyond the location, I found the food was pretty intriguing. The cuisine to me, was a mix between nouvelle and traditional cuisine. Not everything was a hit, but at the minimum, it was fresh local ingredients, there was excellent presentation and interesting ideas on the plate.

Small and cosy, the restaurant could be a romantic option if you are looking f…

Travels: 'ino (Florence, Italy)

When you are in Florence and near the Uffizi Gallery, you have to stop for lunch at 'ino. Forget the touristy quick service restaurants along the main streets.  Just because 'ino isn't all that visible, it is just about 50 meters around the corner and I guarantee you a really awesome sandwich for just 8 Euros that includes a glass of wine!

The cafe is modern and small, not good for big groups.  The main con was the language barrier.  There was no English menu or English-speaking staff.  So, I took a gamble with my order and ended up with a delicious sandwich that was filled with a chunky spread that was made with tuna in oil and chopped sundried tomato bits binded with fresh cream cheese. A little oily but really delicious anyway.  The sarnie was huge but in reality, the ciabatta bread was full of air pockets so it remained light, crispy and airy and didn't feel too heavy in my stomach despite eating all of it.   Perfect lunch that would fuel the rest of the afte…

I miss Tokyo!

Taking a break from all the Italy post, here are some pictures from a short (too short) trip to Tokyo.
















Travels: Ristorante Porto di Savona (Turino, Italy)

Now, I seldom use the word "best" to describe food because I feel it's a special word that inevitably builds up expectations and should be used with outmost respect and caution. So if I tell you that I had my best pesto ever in Italy, you probably should listen up and take notes.

Ristorante Porto di Savona, recommended by the Chowhounders and NYTimes, was the culprit made pesto a thing of the past.  I don't think I could ever taste something as simple and yet as unforgettable as its pesto tagiatelle.
The pesto pasta was plated in a mound onto a big plate with no frills at all. It had a dull green hue that really didn't look too appetizing. It was glossy from the olive oil and that contributed to a thick mouthfeel. I found the pesto to be blended using good amounts of pinenuts that weren't too finely grounded so there was some texture, and good amounts of parmesan cheese to lend a smokey savoury hint. There were moments I thought the cheese was a little over…

Travels: La Morra Cuneo, Italy

Using Alba as the home base, we drove around the neighbouring towns and explored La Morra and the Barolo wine region.  Lunch was settled at a local osteria, called L'osteria del Vignaiolo.  The little town was, well, tiny.   It had a church, this restaurant and a small but nice looking hotel.  That was about all of town, all within 50 meters.  Ahh, such is the charm of the countryside, I suppose.



We were there in Alba for one thing and one thing only.  White Alba truffles.  Just picture my glee when we got seated next to the truffle.  I was basking in parfum au tartufo and loving it! 


Lunch began with a simple dish of seared scallops and fresh porcini mushrooms.  The robust flavor of the mushrooms melded with the sweet scallops.  A good starter indeed.


Then it was a simple dish of plain ravioli stuffed with cheese and a butter sauce, followed by additional shavings of white truffles.  It was Euros 4.50 / gram for that white nugget.  I had about three grams and was in heaven moment…

Travels: Bellagio, Italy

I heard much about Lake Como being one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy.  Just an hour's train ride away, I was excited to make the visit on a good weathered day.  The train comes rather frequently, but the unseen killer was the bus service between Como San Giovanni, where the train stopped, to Bellagio.  It was an hourly service and the ride takes about 80 minutes up the terrains before reaching Bellagio proper.  So, we spent a while waiting.  Not so fun.

But the ride was fun that we saw a lot of commuters who greeted each other as they boarded the bus.  Very local, very cool.


Just before hitting Bellagio, we stopped for lunch at a hotel restaurant in Bellagio called Silvio.  It was recommended by the Chowhounders and I read about it being run by a guy who is a half restaurateur, half fisherman. I had to try the lake fish and I did! 

Honestly, the fish was rather tasteless, and overcooked.  To sum up in a Chinese term, it's " 老".  But the fried potato was lovel…

I'm 30!

North Italy was a blast! The two weeks there were too short yet fillededith a lot of memorable moments. It was nice to be able to experience the cities and at the same time, know I could escape in just a couple of hours away, to a totally opposite environment, amongst nature and the beautiful vineyards.



It was a lovely pre-birthday treat indeed! And I don't feel any different stepping into my thirties. My gut feel tells me life is just about to get more exciting! Anyhow, I hope to share a little more about my adventures soon. Stay tuned!

Review: Open Door Policy

Just about 1 o'clock from the entrance of Forty Hands sits Open Door Policy, the newish baby also by the folks from Forty Hands, together with Chef Ryan Clift of The Tippling Club.  Designed to be a casual bistro with affordable fare, and great coffee, ODP is set to be the next cool kid on the block.

The decor certainly fits the bill.  I particularly like the zinc-roof-look-alike design of the sunroof allowing natural light, and the limited number of sushi-counter-style seats upfront, right in front of the open kitchen.

You get an old-school folder that doubles up as a menu cover, a rather clever idea most befitting of the equally old-school estate the restaurant sits in.  The food selection appears to be your "usual fare" at first glance but actually involves modern twists.  And vegetarians won't have to fret about having nothing to eat.  There are pretty tantalizing choices available.

The starter of tuna carpaccio with radish and yuzu dressing was shared.  Not a f…