Sure as Autumn Flame


The Mother of all Detox Plans (till date)
September 23, 2012, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Beauty & Health, Food, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , , ,

Detoxing is an ocassional 1-3 days plan I embark on in my years of living insane schedules (ie. work hard play hard exercise harder party decently hard). The great thing about detox is that it doesn’t last very long, it cleanses the body inside out, and you feel pretty good again and ready to start that cycle till the next session.

I was kidding about repeating the cycle. However, I also have to point out that we inevitably fall into the cycle of living it to extreme, and going cold turkey via “detox”.

image from Press Tag

My usual routine was honey-lemon water or green tea throughout the day, fruit juices or fruits for 2 to 3 days. Flushing everything out felt really great, but you would be ready to devour KFC by the end of the 3-day programme. This kinda thing is easy especially after festive occasions such as Christmas, Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving when your body takes in four times the normal amount of turkey, roast, beer and wine.

Plus, I was never really a fan of diets. I believed in eating what I liked and burning it all off through exercise.

However, I reached the point in my life when work took over exercise, and the pleasures of wine and dine are alot easier than hauling myself to the gym. Sure, there was the 50km bike ride I try to clock once a week, yoga once a week but the weight stubbornly clung on.

Until my friend told me about the Optrimax 5-day programme. Or rather, she did not really tell me about it – she asked if I detoxed and I gamely said yeah, and she plonked the detox kit on my desk after sending me an email containing information which I confessed to having no time to look at.

Optrimax 5-day plan: The contents of one meal

The instructions were simple. 5 days worth of meals that come in the form of smoothie shakes, and one after-dinner snack at the end of it all. I picked a week where I was busy running events so that I don’t have time to eat and think about food, figuring it would be a pretty perfect way to get through the week – get busy, get work done, get detoxed.

The Optrimax Guru also tells me what I need to do to prepare, even offering cheat tips just to make me feel better. I have to admit, those almond nuts (as pathetic as eight of them sound), salad, fat-free yogurt helped curb those nom-nom-nom pangs. I’ll leave out the instructions and stuff because all it really matters is, how did I feel?

Day 1: Went through 3 meals, only to discover that I could only eat one damn sng muey (sour plum) at the end of the day? Shake tasted strange, but acceptable. The stress from work certainly did not help, I was depressed, feeling faint and needed Vietnamese coffee – badly.

Day 2: Went through 2 meals before my body suddenly decided it ain’t gonna go through another strange-tasting shake without some proper food. Looked through cheat-sheet and resorted to skinny flat-white. (They said I could drink coffee!) Day felt better. Colleagues did steer clear away from me though, they noticed I was alot grumpier than normal and immediately attributed it to detox.

Day 3: Back in office after two hectic days of running around. Fatigue helps because all I wanted to do is to sit down and not eat, and hammer away at the keyboard. Went through the lot of shakes with coffee in between. (I really needed the coffee). Lots of toilet breaks for me – seems that Optrimax did work its way through my system. Unhappy with sng muey treat at the end of the day though. Optrimax, if you must, please do not call it a treat but stick to your reason why green tea powder and sour plum helps in keeping the weight low. Having a good reason to eat that is way better than rewarding a grumpy person with a sour plum. I would chew the head off someone who says that to me!

Day 4: Out filming again, with mad rush around town. No time to have lunch, not even make a shake. I made it up by having Starbuck’s Green Tea Soy Latte (sorry I cheated 😦 ! ) Came back to office starving and really stressed. Needed a beer but decided against it. Ordered Timbre’s pizzas for the team and my talents and watched them eat…damn.

Now here’s the amazing bit. After 4 days of initially not very enticing smoothie shakes, my palate got used to the taste by Day 4 dinner hour. I got really used to having nothing to munch on, and when I finally played cheat on Day 4, I nibbled one small square of the pizza crust and felt really satisfied after that. I supposed the Green Tea Soy Latte helped loads too. But hey, it’s green tea powder and soy milk, still reasonably healthy, yes?

Back to Day 5: Figured the way to downing those shakes is to have really cold water, squeeze out ALLLLL the fruit punch, shake the Zymes and VG bits in and chug it down. Got through breakfast and dinner, lunch was coffee again because I was feeling really sleepy. Decided to celebrate by joining the night cycling group on their usual Friday night 40km leisure cycle, and realised I was feeling more fatigued than usual, must have been the lack of food and sleep. Left the group halfway and went home to crash hard, dreaming up my next proper meal to come.

image courtesy of KFC Singapore

And recall what I said about post-detox. I really had KFC on post-detox Day 1.

Verdict: The MOTHER of all Detox plans, this one is a challenge both mentally and emotionally. 5 days of having no solid food is bound to get anybody…ANYBODY hungry enough to devour everything in his/her way. To be fair, I did lose 2kg (mostly water) and almost 1cm off my hips. Ate probably half of it back, but appetite’s definitely smaller now. 3 days of this would be enough, though. However, the weight tends to stay off alot longer because you somehow enter a habit of eating less, feeling incredibly satisfied even after a small portion of whatever-food-you-wanted-to-have.

I’d still stick to my insane exercise plans. This definitely works when I’m busy – worth a shot, but you had better keep at it.



Bangkok Jam

So I took the risk of a Groupon deal and signed ourselves up for a 4 day 3 night getaway to Bangkok.

There are many wonderful reasons to travel to Bangkok: (a) it’s a shopping paradise because of the strong currency exchange, (b) it’s pretty easy to get around with improved train systems and relatively cheap taxis, (c) food’s good, (d) and there is a rich mix of traditional arts, craft and culture.

So here’s my Bangkok hit list, from the last trip up. I decided to take an easy (ie. non-adventurous) trip which revolves around cafe hunting, new malls and a good traditional Thai massage.

Street Food: en-route from P2 hotel to Pratanum area

You’ll find these stalls almost everywhere, at a really affordable 20 baht per plate of phad thai, rice etc. The chicken/fish goes for 35 baht (I think) after some negotiation, considering I do not speak Thai at all. Option: wash it down with some local beer.

Grey Hound Cafe, located in Siam Square


Greyhound Cafe has a few branches across Bangkok, and is a particular favourite that I like to return to. They have a comprehensive all-day breakfast menu, great pastas, lovely side dishes and a chill-out vibe to top it all off. Tiny Japanese-inspired wooden chairs and sofas complete the clean, cosmopolitan look while an available wi-fi allows mindless idling and chatting the entire afternoon away.

Must orders are chicken wings, calamari, duck parfait (?) and basically anything with the chef’s hat icon.

You & Mee at Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

Great beef noodles and every type of noodle in soup. Grand Hyatt is a walking distance from the major shopping malls, and the patisserie next door has everything on 50% discount after 6pm.

New Shopping Mall: Terminal 21

Terminal 21, located just next to Asoke station (and is a 5-minute walk from Bangkok’s famous massage centre – Healthland Spa) is the city’s newest shopping centre to boot. With seven city-themed levels and hundreds of stores and local designer-ware, it works even better when each level can be systematically explored by going round, and round and around. Each level follows the decor of a city (eg. Rome, Tokyo, Beijing etc), sometimes tastefully done – I had to take a picture with a giant Japanese cat – sometimes bordering cheesy. Gentlemen, there is a dedicated level just for you at Level 7.

Supermarkets and chairs I want to bring home

“Domesticated” comes to mind when I trawled the aisles of Siam Paragon’s supermarket. Edgy shotglasses, wooden serving boards, coffee takeaway-cups (comes with the lids), unique tableware were amongst the first few to land themselves into my basket. I returned on the last day to buy a carton of fresh mangoes back…mmmmmmm. Note to self: Check-in a box in future.

Bangkok trippin’ ended just like that, S$376 in 4 days of ambling. I could use such getaways more often.

 

 



Come home for dinner, my daughter
July 9, 2012, 2:34 am
Filed under: Food, L.ove, Woven Tales | Tags: , , , , ,

Image

It is another Sunday evening, staring at my white plastic bowl, a black pair of chopsticks, and a spoon that looked like it has been through the dishwasher one too many times. The table is white, and I did not have my favourite placemat on it.

It is the usual Sunday evening, seated at a food court with my mother opposite me. Instead of a Channel 8 drama serial blaring in the background, I hear voices of the vendors repeating their patrons’ orders albeit too loudly, the tuneless stacking of plastic plates stacking on top of one another as a cleaner goes around the tables clearing up, and my mum’s complaints dimmed into the background. “It’s too salty…so expensive and they only give you three pieces of meat.”

I did a mental calculation in my head: it has been nine years since I ate regular home-cooked meals. Sure, there were the special occasions such as Chinese New Year reunion dinners, a get-together on Mother’s and Father’s Day…but too often they were seen as a rarity and I gorged…to remember the simple satisfaction I used to take for granted, and to grasp dismally at the memories pegged to them, not knowing when I would enjoy such meals again.

My dear mother, why do you not remember that the promise of a simple dinner by you brought me home faithfully every day? It wasn’t the curfew that you set for me, neither was the threat that there will be no food left if I came home late. It was the pleasure of sitting at the table to my own plate (Bodum, I remembered) of steaming white rice, stir-fry xiao bai cai and best of all, garlic steamed fish that I know I would never get in restaurants.

My dear mother, could you remember how it was a treat for me to find a slice of melted cheese stuck to the plate because you remembered my quirky love for cheese-“baked”-rice? How you complained it was hell to wash the dishes after that? The odd pairing of oyster sauce, cheese with rice lingers in my palate and my memories.

Nothing else comes quite close anymore.

It sickens me to know that the vegetables that those economic rice stalls sell have been deep-fried to preserve their rich green colour. There is no satisfaction in consuming the hardened rice because it was cooked in the morning and left till lunch. I sought pleasure in new dishes, raving reviews, fresh concepts and Peranakan kitchens in my food writing and restaurant-PR days, but nothing else could reach deep into my heart and fill the void that opened nine years ago.

Those who know me tease me about my obsession with Tangs, Muji and general designer kitchenware. Did you know that I would stroll down the aisles of tableware and cutlery sets, mentally picking out the ones I would love to use at home…if I cooked, or if you cooked. I paused at Muji’s new wooden tableware this afternoon, knowing how each plate would contain each type of dish you’d always cooked. I bought two wooden trays back from my last trip to Bangkok, knowing how perfect Sunday mornings will be if your toast was served on it, with cream cheese on the side.

Alas, we both too often came up with the excuse of having no time, too many things to wash, and simply being too lazy.

I sit at the round dining table in the mornings when you are still asleep in bed, eating out from a plastic bag. The cup of Nespresso was the only hint of a somewhat slow morning because only then I have time to make latte. Don’t you think it is funny that we have more coffee mugs than plates, two coffee machines and not a stove, and too many teaspoons but only two tablespoons?

And when I got ready to head out for the day, you stare listlessly at the stainless steel plate you picked out from, one that reminds me too much of canteen days. Where was the pride taken in choosing tableware that used to make us love setting the table and eating at home? Where was the thrill that used to pulsate through us when we insisted on a set of pots and pans? Why has it all been a convenient and cheap option of buying plates that remind me of the tuckshop days?

Perhaps I could say, “My dear mother, come home for dinner. Let me into your kitchen where you were the maestro of the meals that came out of it. Let me into your haven where your hands conducted the orchestra of ingredients and your soul sang to the fire. My dear mother, come home for dinner where I will attempt to replicate a recipe and laugh as you choke on perhaps curry fish made a tad too spicy. Come home to dinner where placemats and tableware matter the world to me, and put your obsession with a squeaky clean and spotless kitchen aside just for three hours tonight.”

My dear mother, dinner is home to me.



Will travel for: Coffee & Ice Cream
May 4, 2012, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Food, Hit List | Tags: , , ,

It is amazing how hit lists begin with casual conversations.

It began with…”I feel like eating soy ice cream.”

Is it better than normal ice cream?
Funny thing is, I prefer it to normal ice cream. Except hazelnut gelato, of course.
Have you tried all the ice cream places in Singapore?
No, but that sounds like an idea.
Let’s do a coffee and ice-cream day! I’ll source the places, you can chauffeur.
Sounds like a plan!

So here I am, spending Vesak Day break putting together a list, and a route for Coffee & Cream expedition.

1. Ice Cream Chefs
520 East Coast Road

2. 40 Hands
Blk 78 Yong Siak St (Tiong Bahru)

3. Raffles Creamery
@ Raffles Hotel

4. 7Kickstart Brewiches
50 Armenian Street
(I would pop over to Soho Coffee, but that’s so close to work so I’ll leave it for now)

5. Haato & Co Ice Cream
The Central @ Clarke Quay

6. Jimmy Monkey
One North Residences

7. The Daily Scoop
41 Sunset Way

8. Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
60 Robertson Quay

9. Tom’s Palette
Shaw Leisure Gallery, 100 Beach Road
(note to self: try to grab a bite at Ah Loy’s next door if stomach space allows)

Documentation will follow in the next post, when that happens!



Cape Town: The Food Diary
May 16, 2011, 11:23 am
Filed under: Food, Globe-Trot | Tags: , , , , ,

A mention of Cape Town has been long delayed, and having mulled (and procrastinated) over it for two months, I decided to break the 10-day journey into various topics, with Food Diary being my first (and probably shortest/easiest) recall of the beautiful province.

Nestled in the lush valleys of South Africa yet flanked by the Indian and Atlantic Oceans just a stone’s throw apart, Cape Town boasts a long history of fresh local ingredients, sustainable ocean catch and great cooks. The country’s colourful history has created a blend of Eastern, European and African fare resulting in a variety of spice finishes, flavourful dishes and fusion creations. No trip to Africa is completed without a sampling of game meat or barbecue, amongst which ostriches and springboks rank top on my list for that ten days.

Locals and travel guides have recommended their top favourites, we just decided to pick the ones that coincide with a slight biasness for local recommendations – after all, nothing beats having someone who’s lived there the past decade tell you a perfect combination of affordability, great ambience and mouth-watering food.

Game meat:

Beluga and Sevruga roll off our host’s tongue upon mention of game. Best consumed medium-rare, an ostrich contains as much (if not more) oomph than a piece of steak, slightly chewier but leaves a salty-sweet aftertaste in the mouth. Springboks (part of the deer family) are super juicy, almost sweet and perfect for those who are not as adventurous in their palate selections.

Sushi is a common starter, or cold dish to begin. It is a pity that they did not prepare their rice properly with vinegar, but instead serve plain cooked rice with the freshest fish we have ever tasted. So that lack of vinegar resulted in a somewhat bland sushi, but hey, locals swear by it. We think they just haven’t had Japanese sushi.

Seafood, real fresh seafood:

Drive along the bays for guaranteed fresh ocean catch of the day, from seared tunas to exotic blue nose, grilled line fish and king flips with chips, to juicy prawns and longoustines and lobsters with tender chewy calamari to complete every meal. Best consumed grilled/seared with lemon and herbs, or salt and pepper, there’s nothing left to imagination except for lip-smacking bloody fresh catch.

A pleasant surprise with cold wind and great views (of the harbour and if you are lucky, you catch playful seals rolling around in the waters) at Brass Bell at Fish Hoek and The Lookout, along Hout Bay. Simply order the seafood platter for everything-on-the-menu, or opt for something decadent such as the lobster (at The Lookout) if you are in the mood for one. For its size and quality, one can’t really complain paying under SGD 30 for a delicious reddened lavishness.

For the ultimate ocean taste, try Codfather’s anytime. Situated in uppity-class Camps Bay, Codfather has no menu. Your dinner lies in the display of fresh fish in a fishmonger-style counter (in names that I can hardly remember, let alone roll off my tongue) in all shapes and sizes. One gets to pick any fish, any portion, any amount. Our sampling included swordfish, tuna, butter fish, bluenose, king prawns and more which ranged from succulent and juicy, light and buttery, to robust and full…almost like describing steak, aint’ it? Starters simply include calamari or sushi. Yum-yum.

Weekend food markets:

There is no way I could have missed such markets. Known as the Neighborhood Goods Market located at the Old Biscuit Mill, that summed up two heavenly Saturdays during my time in Cape Town. Discovered really, quite by accident in our second day in South Africa, it was a flurry of Origins coffee which was simply the best coffee in Cape Town, and making decisions between Mother Shucker Oysters and ten other different foods. Of course, Mother Shucker Oysters won.

Had to try the BLT Breakfast sandwich which looked really delicious (so did the chef) but didn’t turn out as spectacular as it looked. It was good but not great, if you know what I mean. Other indulgence included Belgian waffles (Classic way, with sugar and maple syrup), croissants, lime fruit punch, quiches, crepes, olive pastes and OH – rosti with bacon and poached egg – the best of the trip. See pictures if you need more reason to salivate.

Wine tours:

Located about two hours drive away is Stellenbosch and Franschoek, the two famous vineyard regions in the lush valleys of South Africa. We picked Franschoek first – 15 types of wines, four bottles back home. Loved the views of endless greenery tucked in the valleys, deemed the best climate and environment for harvesting good grapes.

Wild guesses got us by, with a star recommendation from almost every local we spoke to. Rickety Bridge brought about “oohs” and “ahhhs”, dubbed as the region’s best. And true enough, their Chennin Blanc and Pinotage were complex on the tongue, but to make life easier for both you and me, I will just term it as “astonishingly fruity and woody with the right balance”. Light yet full in flavour, worth the plane ride home for tropical consumption.

Special memories:

A great Italian restaurant tucked away in a seemingly dodgy street – 95 @ Keerum. A group of dark-skinned Africans greeted us when we first drove into the area, and first thought that raced across my mind, “Oh damn it, I’m prey.” The restaurant certainly knew to hire bouncers, road watchers and carpark attendants to ensure their guests wine and dine safely, so all was good. On the menu: lobster linguine (see picture), three types of game – wildebeest, kudu and springbok, tiramisu (YES!) and lava chocolate cake (don’t bother). Call ahead to book.

Takeaway from Giovanni’s deli if you must have a picnic, they have got a great assortment of lasagne, noodles, vegetables and bread, perfect for Cape Town’s weather and many sights. Amazing gelato from Love.Revenge.Cappucino, a really random name for an expresso bar located in the shopping centre at V & A Waterfront.

More suggestions are located in TimeOut Cape Town, or Lonely Planet – after all, that was what we based our adventure on, only to discover more hidden mysteries along the way.



Soho7 Cafe & Bistro: Honest fresh coffee
April 26, 2011, 1:35 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , , , , , ,

What draws me to a cafe? The combination of a good roast, soul food and an atmosphere so comfy that I can prop my feet up when I feel like it. Just like home.

My third visit to Singapore’s new cafe, Soho7 Cafe & Bistro in the last 20 days warrants a write-up for sure. Located at the side of Loke Yew Street along Armenian Street (think Peranakan Museum, Stamford Court) where I used to work at previously, Soho7 boasts of honest fresh coffee, delectable and possibly the best burgers I have ever tasted, comfort food that tingles the soul and satisfies any raging appetite and super awesome Benedicts.

Toasted bread, a fried egg, home-made beef patties, lots of veges, secret sauce perfected by Owner-Chef-Friend Swee, topped with bacon, tomatoes whatever your order may be. I had the PattyMelt and the Best-Ever Soho7 Burger, and damn…that was the best-ever burger I have ever tasted. Blame it on the secret sauce, or the bacon fried to perfection, perhaps made tastier by its extremely reasonable price, at about S$7.70 for a standard burger.

Third visit had me eyeing the all-day breakfast menu, supposedly Soho7’s famous Benedicts. An order of Eggs Benedict (left; S$12) and Classic French Toast (right; S$12) never felt more like a good plate of comfort food. The comfort of all comfort foods, Soho7’s Eggs Benedict was a combination of poached egg, ham, spinach, toast smothered with hollandaise sauce, served with an extra dollop of bacon because Swee wasn’t happy with the first batch of bacon she served us with the French toast.

I became an addict to good roasted coffee ever since I tasted Papa Palheta’s coffee beans, followed by South Africa’s Origin coffee and other delectable blends. Freshly ground coffee beans made into a cuppa or latte taste simply heavenly – rich in aroma, full in flavour and wonderfully roasted without a hint of bitterness. Soho7’s coffee beans are freshly picked by Swee and replaced every three days, ensuring super-fresh blends that need only milk, no sugar.

The best part? Super reasonable, almost MacDonald’s price but better. At S$4 for a cappuccino or a latte, and S$5.30 for an iced mocha (okay lah, iced drinks are always expensive), it is fortunate for my wallet that I no longer work at Stamford Court anymore, otherwise I will be buying a cuppa twice a day.

So that’s Soho7, open from 10am till the moon shines (ie. 8pm, 8.30pm) with food that warrants repeated visits. It is always good to give them a call (+65 6634 5779) before you head down, just to see if they are open.

Address:
36 Armenian Street, #01-04



Wonderland, just an hour away
April 19, 2011, 11:27 am
Filed under: Food, Globe-Trot | Tags: , , , , ,

I love the idea of planning a weekend getaway on impulse. Better still, I love the fact that this weekend getaway is justan hour away from home (ie. Singapore).

Highlights include: The long boardwalk that takes you right out in the middle of the sea, having a perfect view of the horizon without ships to spoil it all, pinching bread from the buffet breakfast spread to feed the fishes (that you can see at the end of the boardwalk), a 3-metre deep pool for you to cannonball in at any time of the day.

A typical vivalavidaviv’s post will almost always include food. Indonesian seafood, half the price of your Singapore fare. All you need is a quick drive out to a nearby eatery to chomp on their famous nasi goreng!

The view of the (infinity) pool at night is really beautiful. It reflects the atmosphere of that part of Batam (yes you heard me right, this is Batam) – peaceful and relaxing – just the perfect getaway if you really, really, can’t spare much cash and time but are in dying need of a break.

And if you STILL don’t know where I’m referring to? Go to www.turibeach.com