Saturday, January 13, 2007

Christmas Flog Exchange Meet-Up

Christmas may be long over for most people but to eight food bloggers, the 13th of January 2007 was the 20th day of Christmas (I think). We met up at Tea Bone Zen Mind Cafe. Very oddly-named, the place was decorated with a mix-mash of new contemporary touches and old world charm. One example is a stylish red Kitchen Aide on the old school green cupboard setting. The latter was used to keep food during the time when my mum was a kid. Netting allowed air to circulate but kept out pests.

I was rather tired that day from the exhaustive first week of the new school semester. But this Christmas Flog Exchange was just too important to skip. Having read most of their blogs, I only knew them by their blogs. Except for a few who had appeared on BlogTV. And this was a good chance to get to know the people behind the blogs.

I have to say I was cautious as I did not really know what to expect. Were the floggers a bunch of chi-chi show-offs? Arrogant? Intimidating? No, no and no. After the initial warming up, I realised that this bunch is very down-to-earth. Very unassumingly comfortable. Casual banter over the Christmas gifts, poisonless puffer fish, sambal, drunk Japanese chef, sperm (Yes. Don't think dirty now.) and food in general brought everyone to a common ground- that is the love for food.

And good food with good company (like this bunch) always equal good fun. In fact, I realised that there were times that our cameras did the talking. For example, after opening a jar of guacamole, there was a distinctive silence except for the flashing and clicking of cameras. For what seemed like a few minutes, nobody spoke. It was then that I was conscious of the soft background music. It was an awesome feeling. Strangers who just met up, quietly taking pictures of food in an orderly queue. It was almost instinctively that the photo-taking was in a certain clockwise order. No cross-flashers, no foreign body part unintentionally coming into the picture frame. And no one complaining that the food was getting cold by the time the pictures were done. For me, it was awesome. Did I just repeat awesome?! I think Callen was pretty amused. Can't blame a group of floggers when we meet for food.

I have to admit that the longgish tables proved challenging when this hungrycow had to lean across to take a picture of Jasmine's Strawberry Shortcake (bought by Superfinefeline from Canele) and suffered a minor quadriceps cramp. The picture of the cake was blur as a result. I'll leave it to Jasmine to blog about the cake.

On to the presents. I managed to get Japanese confectionery from Takashimaya after recces at Mediya and Isetan proved unworthy. There was a good variety and I picked out nine different pieces which were placed in a box and very nicely wrapped. Doubly wrapped in fact. Mochi and jelly with chestnuts, red bean, sakura, matcha, pumpkin and chocolate dominated.

I'm glad that Sam, my wishee, liked it. I couldn't get winter themed ones as requested by her because by now, winter was over while more New Year and spring influenced-flavours abound.

Check out the macarons! It was a gift from June, my wish-maker. She went to Canele to get them but unfortunately some tai tai in front of her grabbed the last few macarons. In the end, she got these from Bakerzin. Thank you so much for the effort. In fact, June had originally wanted to bake a white chocolate and Earl Grey-infused batch for me after digging through her cook books. Now, that's a thought that I appreciate. Things like flipping through cook books and digging for a particular recipe all take time and effort. I'm going to try my hand in making a second attempt after she emails me the recipe. :)

And she got a beautiful set of serving plates from Ivan.

Talking about effort and time invested, Sam probably deserved much credit for making guacamole, salsa and Mexican wedding cookies. Each was filled into a nice glass jar, attached with a hand-written card, recipe and a decorative ribbon. Unfortunately her wishee was unable to turn up and fortunately for the rest of us there, we had the fortune to savour these delicious treats.

The guacamole had unusual ingredients such as grapes, pear and pomegranate seeds but these worked well with the creamy avocado. The salsa too was yummy with garlic, tomato and basil. They make perfect companions eaten with tortilla chips. The Mexican wedding cookies were slightly crunchy balls with a nut core and icing sugar dusting. It was my first time eating them and if not for courtesy sake (read MANNERS), I would have devoured the whole jar. Besides, I had already polished off the last two cookies that Mia baked. Not so nice to finish off all the food though that seems to be my normal function la.

The other only guy present was Ivan. I've always admired his photographic skills. His pictures on his blog and his entries on Slow Food never fail to make me hungry. I've got to thank him for sharing a tip or two. Things like flash can be such a pain some times. Food bloggers, you know what I mean.

Ivan was also the one who recommended the cha ye dan (tea leaf egg) at Tea Bone Zen Mind Cafe. He heard from two of his friends that it's done very well here. At $3.50, it's probably the most expensive cha ye dan that I've eaten. Apparently cooked with 30 plus herbs for six hours, I was wondering if this cha ye dan would turn out to be a century egg. But after waiting for a rather long time, it certainly did not disappoint.

Look ma, no shell. Yes, just a boiled egg slightly stained brown with the herbal liquid. It looked like a normal cha ye dan placed on fancy crockery. But it was only after using the flat metal spoon to pierce through the egg that I realised the beauty of the cha ye dan here. What oozed out was yellow creamy yolk. Slightly cooked til some bits are just starting to harden, the yolk was unlike the yellow, dry powdery stuff that we've come to expect from eating too many cha ye dan at pasar malam. The runny egg yolk mixed with the brown herbal broth tasted really good. Rich but not overly-herbal. I was impressed with this cha ye dan. But if the egg yolk is too runny for your liking, do what Superfinefeline did and ask the staff to change it for you. Food should be eaten the way you personally enjoy it.

The menu at Tea Bone Zen Mind Cafe consists of mainly teas (Earl Grey, Oolong, Red Date, Masala...) and a few finger food. I ordered their Lemongrass Tea ($10) and requested for it to be iced. A long stalk of lemongrass in the tall glass added visual impact and also doubled up as a stirrer. Ingenious. The tea was really refreshing and just what I had needed to wash down the cha ye dan. The citrus flavour of the lemongrass shone through nicely. I'm not sure what tea they used but I did enjoy it. All of their teas, come with a small side item for your nibbling pleasure. With my Lemongrass Tea, I had two curled up pieces of 'fish crackers'. It resembled a crispy version of those rolled cuttlefish snacks.

It was awesome (again) to meet up with local foodies and to get to know the faces behind the blogs I read. I'm looking forward to more of such outings.

Tea Bone Zen Mind Cafe
38A Seah Street (Look out for the stairs just besides Soup Restaurant.)
Tel: 63335400

Chew On This: Tea Bone Zen Mind Cafe has a series of stairs leading to it and also another spiral staircase leading to the top floor. So it might be inconvenient for those less mobile or with quadriceps cramp.

ps: Group pic provided by Mia. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

This is what I meant by using a business card:

The Hungry Cow said...

Ahh...I've been using countless serviettes and tissue paper, each with differing thickness and rigidity. Time to practice on the firmer business card. Thx!

hinata said...

leroy, was really great meeting you and thanks again for the wonderful present!!! hopefully we'll have a chance to catch up again soon, in the meantime all the best for your new term :)

The Hungry Cow said...

You are most welcome, Sam. Glad you like it. Yes, hopefully we'll get to meet-up some time soon. Enjoy Le Pappilon. Thanks.

superfinefeline said...

Yo Hungry Cow!

It was a pleasure to meet you. You took such cool pics!

BTW, I told the staff to zap my Cha Ye Dan (tea egg) in the microwave. Hee hee!

I just can't take runny yolks. Since that's how its served & is described as such in the menu, it would be unfair to make them change it. :)

All the best in school! :)

The Hungry Cow said...

Hey superfinefeline, it was my pleasure too! Thanks for the kind coments and wishes. I'm still learning. Hopefully by now, you have fully recovered from the gastric flu and are back to power eating! Moohehe.