Open Your Taste to European Cheeses

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Peranakan Food That Hits The Spot

This hastily shot photo does not do justice to the food here. But no choice because the stomach won in the hunger games. Moohaha.
Peranakan Inn serves up nonya food with plenty of soul and a comforting, home-cooked quality. The Ayam Buah Keluak begged for rice with its rich, spice-laden gravy while the Babi Pongteh had pieces of pork with a good bite and redolent with fermented soy beans. Having given up on moost Ngor Hiang and Hae Chor served at eateries, the Hae Chor here surprised me with its meat-filled interior spiked with onion and water chestnut. No floury nonsense.
The Chap Chye featured soft stewed cabbage, beancurd sticks and black fungus in a tasty gravy flavoured with fermented soy beans and dried shrimp which added layers of flavours to the vegetable dish.       
Perhaps its weakest link on the table that evening was the Otak Otak which I found too thin and smooth for my liking.

It wouldn't be a complete Peranakan meal without a decent sambal balachan and the one here is pretty shiok. Punchy, spicy and savoury, all it needed was a squeeze of lime and heaps of rice. Moohehe.

I will be back for moore! :)

Peranakan Inn
210 East Coast Road
Opens: 11am to 3pm; 6pm to 10pm
Tel: 6440 6195

Chew On This: This quaint little eatery has been around for quite some time. Check out the photos on the wall showing past presidents who have dined here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Emporium Shokuhin Offers A Live Seafood Market, Beef Dry-Ageing Facility and 8 New-to-market Concepts!

I nearly died when I saw this. It's no dry-ageing cupboard. This is the beef-lover's dream walk-in "meat wardrobe". Moohehe. Inside it, large chunks of premium Australian, Japanese and American beef age gracefully, at a controlled temperature and humidity, from 14 to 28 days to achieve moore concentrated flavours and increased tenderness. These beef can be ordered, sliced and packed for a steak, roast or shabu shabu dinner at home. 
Occupying a massive 34, 000 square feet, Emporium Shokuhin is the anchor tenant at the new Marina Square wing and is the first to offer an integrated Japanese emporium which includes a live seafood market, beef dry-ageing facility and 8 new-to-market concepts. 

At the live seafood market, 22 specially-designed sea water tanks hold over 20 types of live fish and shellfish sourced from around the world. Take home an Alaskan King Crab and some French, Canadian or American oysters for a feast. Try the award-winning Krystal oyster from France which is known for its sweet, nutty and salty flavour.

From the chilled seafood display, a selection of fresh fish and seasonal ones, such as the Nagasaki Bluefin Tuna and Kinki, are available. A fishmonger will be at hand to prepare them according to your cooking requirements.
Japan is renown for their premium fruits which are packed with ripe flavours and sweetness. Kyoho grapes! Mikans! Strawberries! Some fruits like the musk melons are grown such that an entire plant supports the development of just one single fruit. This greatly concentrates the plant's energies and sugars into making one "super fruit", but also adds to its higher cost and price. At the Shokuhin Gourmet Grocer, I spy a few fruits which are relatively reasonably priced due to direct sourcing from the producers in Japan. 

There is also a section offering Japanese sweets, snacks and confectionery which would thrill those looking to stock up the office pantry or snack cupboard at home.  

The first Ehime prefecture-endorsed satellite store-in-store outside Japan offers a variety of Ehime's famed products like sake, natural sea salt and mikan-scented ponzu dressing, miso dips and marmalades.
Besides the retail segments, Emporium Shokuhin has several dine-in restaurants specialising in sushi, yakiniku, ramen, shabu shabu, French-Japanese fine dining, café and bakery, and a seafood and wine bar.

I dined at Gyuu+ which was a great way to sample the array of meats there including those aged in-house. Love the beefy 21-day aged USDA Prime Ribeye and the unctuous Japanese A5 Miyazaki Jo Karubi ($38/100g) that oozed flavourful oils upon chewing. Give them a nice sear on the Yakiniku grill for that grilled texture and aroma. Also belly good were the thin slices of Pork Belly ($15/100g) and fresh Prawns ($13 for 5 pieces).      
One way of enjoying beef cooked Yakiniku-style is to swipe the thin slice of beef across the grill several times, overturning it with each swipe. Then dip it immediately into beaten raw egg and some Yakiniku sauce before laying it atop a small mound of rice. Maccham "beef sushi". Moohehe. The coating of egg cooked slightly by the residual heat of the beef creates a smooth, savoury texture.      

For moore carbs, order up the Ishiyaki Bibimbap ($16) which was quite spicy and enjoyable with its assorted ingredients each imparting taste and texture for a flavoursome mouthful.

After a meal of grilled meats, the fragrant, not-too-sweet Japanese Goma (black sesame) and Yuzu Ice Cream ($4.80 each) were the perfect sweet ending.   
Thanks to Sixth Sense for the invitation.
Opens: 11.30am to 3pm; 6pm to 10pm
Marina Square
Tel: 6224 3433
Chew On This: Expect competitive prices for quality products at Emporium Shokuhin thanks to its wide network of premium purveyors in Japan and directly sourcing from them. Oh and I hear that Omi, Yonezawa and Tajima beef will soon be made available here too. :p 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Savouring European Cheeses


*Look out for an awesome gourmet cheese hamper giveaway at the end of this post! Moohehe.*

When I was a kid, 'cheese' was a thin pale yellow square wrapped in clear plastic. Oh how times have changed now and given the increase in the variety of cheeses available at supermarkets and gourmet stores, the proliferation of speciality cheese shops and the familiarity of Ricotta, Brie, Mozzarella etc in dishes, it clearly seems that the cheese scene here has nicely matured beyond mere Cheddar.

Being without a sweet tooth, I always love a nice platter of cheese served with crackers, dried fruits, jams and a bit of honey at the end of a meal. Not to mention, it makes for a perfect excuse to imbibe more wines. Moohehe.

Speaking of wines, they tend to be the de facto pairing with cheeses but, as I found out at a recent tasting led by Singaporean wine and food expert Edwin Soon, whiskies and teas can also be good matches. Yes, even teas!

I love the 14-month aged Comte paired with Earl Grey tea. The tannins, body and Bergamot notes of the black tea complemented the Comte's rich nuttiness very nicely.

Another tea pairing we tried was the Gouda with Jasmine Gold tea. The classic Dutch cheese tasted mildly sweet and creamy on its own but when savoured with the Jasmine Gold tea, it gained a lovely floral, fruity dimension.

I find that the tannins in tea work pretty much like those in wines. Binding to proteins and helping to "cut through" the fat with their astringency (siap siap-ness in local terms), tannins can tame, enhance, and complement cheeses while refreshing the palate. Just imagine why a glass of red wine is perfect with a steak or a strong Pu-er tea is always on the table alongside a dim sum meal and you'll get the idea. ;)

Shifting back to wine pairings with cheese, my favourite is the Fourme d'Ambert with the Quinta do Silval 1997. This blue cheese and port pairing is a classic with its sweet-salty contrasts and robust flavours melding in the mouth to give a soft, harmonious profile. This is my kind of "dessert". Moohaha.

We also sampled the Brillat Savarin, a creamy and slightly punchy fresh goat's cheese from France, paired with a white Cote du Rhone from E.Guigal. Here the wine's acidity cleansed the palate in preparation for the next bite. A moore intense cheese, the Munster oozes a strong aroma with a tangy, savoury flavour. This was paired with a French Pinot Noir, the Henri Perrot Minot Bourgogne VV which made the flavours rounder and gentler.      

Mooving on to cheese and whiskies. the 22-month aged Mimolette (probably my favourite cheese that evening) was served with the Laphroaig 10 Year Old. A hard cheese, the orange-hued Mimolette was a little dry and chewy. Imbued with a wonderfully rounded, sweet, nutty flavour with a good depth, the Mimolette is a natural work of art all thanks to the cheese mites which act on its rind to produce its characteristic flavour profile. This stood up to the big, peaty Laphroaig 10 Year Old which had salty tones to mirror similar notes in the cheese.

The guided tasting was held at the elegant Scotts 27 which had a stately yet homely feel.

Scotts 27's Chef-owner Julien Bompard prepared two tasty canapés, Cheese Fondue with Bacon Emulsion and Blue Cheese & Orange Marmalade Butter Toast, using cheese to showcase their versatility in cooking.

Making cheeses might be an art but thankfully it is mooch easier to savour them. Grate some over a dish! Bake with it! Throw a slice into a sandwich! Add some to a salad or sauce! Or assemble a beautiful cheese platter to appreciate cheeses on their own.

European cheeses, in particular, are known for their high quality with stringent checks throughout all production processes and traceability through every stage of product development to ensure quality and safety. Add to that their longstanding history of cheese-making and mindboggling array of thousands of varieties and it is no wonder I am inspired to pen down the below song.

"Cheese always on my mind
From the time I wake up
Till I close my eyes
Cheese everywhere I go
Cheese all I know"

Yea let's just say it is an adaptation of the song "Heaven Nose". Moohaha.

European Cheeses. Open your taste!

This blog post is brought to you by CNIEL, the French Dairy Interbranch Organization, and the European Union.

Chew On This:

Giveaway time! Stand to win a hamper of 5 artisanal European cheeses worth $50 by simply sharing your favourite cheese and beverage pairing in the comment box below! Do state your email address too. One winner will be randomly picked on 30 November 2015. Multiply your chances of winning by sharing this with and tagging your friends on social media to also encourage them to join the giveaway. That whey should any of your friends win, you'll still get to enjoy a nice cheese party! Moohehe.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Veg Out with the Inaugural Gourmet Greens Week!

Asking some people to become vegetarian can instantly elicit a display of hidden rubber-faced talents that could rival Jim Carey or give rise to insipid visions of chowing down boring salads and cardboard-like wafers. But what about attempting to go vegetarian for just one (tasty) meal? Plus, there will be a range of cuisines like French, Balinese, Italian, Mediterranean and Indian to choose from.  
With the inaugural Gourmet Greens Week presented by natural artesian water FIJI Water and dining reservation site Chope from 23 to 29 November, there is no better time to enjoy a vegetarian meal. Just imagine a vegetarian version of Restaurant Week at $30 for a 3-course set lunch and $45 for a 4-course dinner. Each diner who opts for the Gourmet Greens Week menu will also get a complimentary bottle of FIJI Water to complement the meal.
Cannot quite imagine what kind of dishes will be available? Let this cow share his experience of grazing at some of the participating restaurants and their dishes. Because cows are naturally experts at eating grass vegetables. Moohehe.
Afterglow at Keong Saik Road offers this lovely Asian Kale Salad with Sesame Oil & Ginger Vinaigrette. A medley of different textures and flavours, this wholesome salad beams natural goodness without the use of any processed ingredients.

Next up we headed to Neon Pigeon, an uber cool modern urban Izakaya in Bukit Pasoh. The Miso Roasted Pumpkin Rice with Sugar Snap Peas, Crispy Garlic and Egg Yolk might sound simple but it works. In fact, it charms. I love how the sweetness of the peas contrasted against the savoury miso and the punchy garlic chips. The yolk, when stirred into the rice, binds everything together for a smooth, flavoursome dish. 

Over at Luxe just down the road from Neon Pigeon, Executive Chef Joshua Lovi offers a Quinoa & Beetroot Falafel atop some kale. These were substantial and quite filling though the flavours do get a tad one dimensional and heavy after a few bites. Wished there was a squeeze of lemon to perk it up. :p 

A vegetarian dessert is probably not that uncommon but I pray that the day when steak is incorporated into dessert doesn't come. Moohehe. At Indian fine-dining restaurant Song of India, Chef Mural presents the Alphonso Mango Kulfi as part of his Gourmet Greens Week menu. I was initially cautious as my experience with Indian desserts tend to be overly rich and sweet. But thankfully, this kulfi was beautifully balanced with the sweetness, creaminess and tartness just right. Chef explains that he uses Alphonso mangoes as these are considered the "king of mangoes" in India for their superb quality and also because they are in season now.

I think with Gourmet Greens Week, vegetarians will have a ball of a time trying out new restaurants while nudging their non-vegetarians friends to challenge themselves in discovering that a vegetarian meal can be tasty, innovative and substantial at the same time. One doesn't need to be a cow to enjoy grazing on greens lah! Moohehe.

There will be a total of 17 participating restaurants including the ones mentioned above plus Absinthe, Blue Bali, Burlamacco, Highlander (Chijmes), Humpback, Original Sin, Oso Ristorante, Tandoor and Sopra Cucina & Bar etc. After having tasted two really memorable vegetable dishes cooked with finesse at an earlier separate visit to Humpback, I reckon their Gourmet Greens Week menu will be one to look out for.

Reservations for Gourmet Greens Week are only available online via Chope.

Thanks to Food News PR for the invitation.

Gourmet Greens Week
23 to 29 November 2015

Chew On This: Stand to win $1000 worth of dining vouchers when you upload a photo of your Gourmet Greens Week experience, hashtagging #GourmetGreensWeek and following @FIJIWaterSG and @ChopeSG.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A Mee Soto++ Kind of Dinner Party

Gathering a few guinea pigs friends for a home-cooked meal can be nerve-wrecking especially when they are foodies and I am certainly no chef. But it is worth it for there is nothing quite like the personal connection and honest-to-goodness appeal of a home-cooked meal.
I invited them for a Mee Soto dinner which is pretty easy to put together. The soup can be cooked in advance and the rest of the ingredients prepped ahead of time. Bergedil was pan-fried just prior to serving so it remains hot and the full citrusy flavours of the coriander seeds can be better expressed. Onsen egg was courtesy of a makan buddy who dabbles with sous-vide cooking using his trusty rice cooker and a thermostat thingy bought online. Moohehe.
The recipe for the Mee Soto and Bergedil is available in an earlier blog post here.

But since my hands got itchy, and also to appreciate my friends for travelling all the way to my idyllic side of the country, I also served up a post Mee Soto meat board featuring Grass-fed Australian Sirloin, Australian Wagyu Rump and a US Iberico Pork Collar. There will always be a separate stomach for steakkks! Moohaha.

The meal ended with a dessert of Poached Pears in Red Wine with Mascarpone & Blueberries, and a cheese platter.

At this stage, I was too happy that I forgot to take a photo of the wines we had. LOL. Vino action kicked off with the refreshing Miguel Torres Santa Digna sparkling rose made in the traditional method from Pais grapes, followed by the off-dry Rheinhessen Superstition Riesling-Pinot Blanc, the simple but well-made Domaine Bessa Valley Enira Cabernet 2011 (I hand-carried back from Bulgaria), the Warrenmang Estate Shiraz 2005 which was drinking nicely now, and the well-matured Chateau Solon Sauternes 1999 to cap off an enjoyable dinner with wonderful company.

Chew On This: Cos home-cooked meals are priceless. :)

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Collapse in Gluttony Glee at Zafferano's Saturday Brunch

At Zafferano's new Saturday brunch, what is labelled as a 4-course brunch by Head Chef Marco Guccio turns out to be a smorgasbord of robust Italian dishes which well threaten to make any diner collapse in gluttony glee. Each course actually comprises of several individual dishes. The anti-pasti comes with fresh raw oysters, cold cuts, succulent baby lobsters flambed with brandy, fritto misto (deep fried anchovies, calamari and prawns), the moost delicious mussels and clams cooked with tomatoes, and my favourite of them all...    

The Burrata! A simple combination of the classic burrata, basil and tomatoes, this dish wowed with the uber fresh burrata which had a creamy centre and slightly chewy exterior. It was so good my table ordered another portion. Yes, all dishes on the brunch menu except for the oysters can be ordered as many portions as one likes! I even helped to finish my friends' portion at the neighbouring table. Moohehe.
The second course of pastas and risotto presented copper pans of Potato Gnocchi with Seafood in White Wine, Homemade Lasagna with Beef Ragout & Béchamel Sauce, and Veal Ravioli with Porcini Mushrooms & Truffle Emulsion. They were all tasty with a home-cooked appeal. The super light Gnocchi was out of this world! If spuds were clouds, this might be it. Moohehe.  
Don't miss out on the Risotto Acquerello with Iranian Saffron. Spotting a lovely natural yellow hue, it oozed creaminess and flavour without being overly cloy.  
The 3rd course offers up 3 mains- Oven-baked Seabass with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers & Fresh Herbs; Roasted Whole French Spring Chicken with Bell Peppers, Red Onions & Mushrooms; and Slow-cooked Pork Belly with Potatoes & Berry Sauce. While the tender pork belly was complemented nicely by the berry sauce and the seabass had a classic Italian flavour profile, unfortunately overall I felt that the mains were overshadowed by the many almost stunning anti-pasti and pasta dishes.
Oh well, perk up with desserts. A small buffet table offering Tiramisu, macarons and other sweet treats would please those with a sweet tooth. There are also ice creams and sorbets which can be ordered off the brunch menu. For moo, the classic Affogato with its bitter espresso poured over vanilla ice cream is enough to cap off a pretty satisfying brunch.

Brunch at Zafferano is a pretty relaxing affair with robust, hearty Italian dishes served communal style at the table. With plenty of natural light filtering into its premise and being perched 43 levels off the ground, it makes for a nice scenic experience too. And hey brunch being offered on Saturdays, there is no maddening CBD crowd to contend with.    

Brunch is available from 11.30am to 2.30pm only on the first and last Saturday of each month. $88++ per adult inclusive of free-flow soft drinks, juices, coffee and tea.

Thank you Zafferano and Gastro-Sense for the invitation. 

43 Floor
Ocean Financial Centre
Tel: 6509 1488
Make brunch a happier affair by opting for the free-flow Prosecco at $108++ per adult! Moohehe. It also includes an Italian duo of wines- a refreshing white fruit and mineral-laced white and a medium-bodied Sangiovese-based red, both IGT wines from Tuscany. 

Monday, November 02, 2015

Had a Whale of a Time at Humpback

Bukit Pasoh has gotten more exciting with the opening of several new concepts including the small-plate seafood restaurant, Humpback. Named after the whale, Humpback is defined by " pure terroir food anchored by crisp oysters delivered from farm to table".

Oyster fans will have a smashing good time here with the fresh seasonal varieties sourced from some of the best spots like the Pacific Northwest, and brought in in small batches. During my visit, the moo-lluscs from different parts of Washington in the US were in season. After tasting the Kumamoto ($6 each), Shigoku Fat Bastard ($6 each) and Rocky Bay ($6 each), I have to profess my love for the small but sweet Kumamoto.

Enjoy a platter of oysters with a few cocktails in hand. Humpback offers 12 signature cocktails, all made with white spirits, to match its seafood dishes. My choice of Savoury Gin Tonic ($22) was spot on with the oysters, offering a refreshing wave of botanicals, rosemary, olive brine and bubbles that caressed the palate. After all, with the folks of Jigger & Pony behind Humpback, the cocktails are decidedly serious without being stuffy.

Having said that, feel free to request for a non-white-spirit-based cocktail if you prefer or order up a glass of wine or craft beer. One of their house pour white, Picpoul ($16), a lesser known variety from France, is a good complement to seafood dishes with its clean finish, zesty notes and lively acidity. 

For starters, order up the Clam Dip ($10). Use the Ritz crackers to unearth the de-shelled clams hiding under the paprika dusted cream cheese dip. It was fun to eat, moreish and, I reckon, also dangerous if consumed in front of the TV. Moohehe.

The Carrots ($8) served with yoghurt and cumin salt made for a healthy nibble and would please the Bugs Bunny amongst us. By the way, there is a gin-based cocktail named Bugs Bunny on the menu here! No prize for guessing what is one of its ingredients.

Mooving on to moore veggies, don't brush these off as mere weak sides. Group Executive Chef Polo Seah has done a moovellous job with the greens, injecting creativity and mooch thought.

The Kale ($14) was a winner with its multi-faceted contrasts of slightly bitter leaves against the sweet pears, the sharpness of black pepper against the creamy buttermilk dressing and nutty pecans, and oh that crispy touch of toasted kale chips among the lushness. Shh... My fellow cows would be jealous. Moohehe.

Probably my favourite dish of the evening was this stunning Cabbage ($10). Spotting a bit of crunch and some char from being grilled, the cabbage dish cleverly incorporated herb cheese, chilli oil and toasted quinoa. It all came together beautifully with a varied sense of flavours and textures. Absolutely scrumptious! #ThisKoLayCaiRocks

I don't think I've been this impressed with vegetable dishes. Ever.

Being in a seafood restaurant, don't miss out on Humpback's seafood dishes. The Rainbow Trout ($16) was a delight with perfectly silky, sous-vide trout complemented by a rich egg yolk and almond milk sauce, and punctuated with the tang of pickled mustard seeds. The fried Calamari ($14) seemed popular too and was gone by the time the bowl made its round around the table.

One of the moore pricey items on the menu, the Cod ($20) spotted a well pan-fried surface and moist flesh. Served with leek, chestnut and vinaigrette, it made for a simple yet delicious plate.

Other dishes we tried included the Hamachi Ceviche ($22), which had a refreshing hit of yuzu; the nicely seared Pork Collar ($16) with a dependable orange glaze; and the grain fed 120 days Beef Short Rib ($23).

If there is only space for ONE dessert (ok ladies, I do get the death stares), make it the Fernet Panna Cotta ($8). Shaped like an iPhone, this panna cotta was spiked with Fernet Branca which gave it a herbal, almost grass jelly-ish flavour. The classic pairing of orange and bitter chocolate rounded up the flavour combination for an unusual yet familiar touch.

Overall, Humpback is a cosy laid-back place for a fun night out with delicious cocktails, oysters and pretty good food. The dishes are smart and understatedly polished. To label Humpback's cuisine as "pub grub" would be a sin, which could only be washed away by the frigid oyster-filled waters of Hama Hama in the Pacific Northwest, which inspired the conceptualisation of this Seattle-style establishment.  

Thank you Humpback and FoodNews PR for having me over.

20 Bukit Pasoh Road
Tel: 6750 4461
Opens: 5pm to 12 midnight, Monday to Saturday
Closed: Sunday

Chew On This: Delve into Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm with oysters ($2 to $3 each), $19 cocktails and $14 glasses of wine! Moo hic hic.