Friday, August 28, 2015

Western Australia Beckons with the Margaret River Gourmet Escape & Eat Drink Buy WA!

Western Australia is a very popular travel destination for Singaporeans and with the range of excellent produce, fine wines and restaurants there coupled with picturesque landscape, it is not difficult to see why. This cow visited Margaret River and Swan Valley on a trip to Perth several years ago to attend moo sister's graduation, and absolutely fell in love with the area. Almoost didn't want to come back! Moohehe.

One of the culinary highlights that attracts foodies to Margaret River is the annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape. To be held from 20 to 22 November this year, the event brings together the world's best chefs and wine experts for an epic gourmet experience. Taste fresh local produce and premium wines from Margaret River at the many popular wineries and restaurants, beach barbecues, cooking demonstrations, long-table lunches and masterclasses. Headlining this year's event is famed chef Marco Pierre White who has had prominent chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Heston Bluementhal and Jason Atherton working for him. He was also the youngest chef to be awarded 3 Michelin stars when he was just 33 years young!

Joining Marco are other notable chefs from around the world including Tetsuya Wakuda, Adriano Zumbo, David Thompson, George Calombaris and Gaggan Anand. Flying the Singapore flag high will be Sam Leong, Ryan Clift and wine writer Ch'ng Poh Tiong.

Fans of Chef Wan, arguably Malaysia's moost recognised chef, can sign up for a 5D4N foodie tour at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape from 19 to 23 November which will be personally led by Chef Wan. I had the opportunity to meet the man recently at the Australian High Commissioner's residence and can vouch for his vivacious, entertaining personality. I reckon his tours should be pretty fun, and funny!

Promoting Western Australia as part of Tourism Western Australia's Eat Drink Buy WA campaign, Chef Wan, who studied for several years in Perth, will be leading another two foodie tours in November in addition to the Margaret River one mentioned above. See, smell and taste Perth, Swan Valley and Margaret River with the affable chef as he visits farmers' market, olive oil farms, cheese producers, a craft brewery, confectioneries among others. Besides makan-ing your way through Western Australia, other activities in the tours include fruit picking, riding over sand dunes and a visit to an eco park to burn off some cow-lories in preparation of moore to come. Moohehe.    

Package prices start from $1488 without taxes. See for full details.

I sampled one of Western Australia's beauties- a Pink Lady. It was large, firm with a refreshing acidity that balanced its sweetness.

Margaret River cheeses and olives- prefect accompaniment to their wines.

Speaking of wines, DO NOT miss out on the many wineries in Margaret River and Swan Valley. They each have individual character and some are small and cottage-like, others modern and all steel and glass, while yet others have scenic gardens and lawns. I was pretty happy to sample some Margaret River wines one afternoon. The Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling 2014 had a nice acidity and a citrus, floral, talcum powder nose. Although not featured, the Art Series Chardonnay is stunning and is a moost-try at the cellar door.

The 11 months oak aged Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2011 boasted purity of fruit with lemons, grapefruit and a creamy, long finish. Voyager Estate has a very lovely Victorian garden by the way! The other Chardonnay, a 2013 from Vasse Felix (one of the region's oldest wineries) was fresh and balanced with good fruit, body and weight.
In the red corner, I really like the Voyager Estate Shiraz 2012 which is drinking beautifully. Shiraz is often under the radar in Margaret River with Cabernet and Bordeaux blends taking main stage attention but there are good ones around. Vasse Felix's Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 was another delight with good structure, black berries and ripe tannins. Made moo wished I had a large piece of steak! Moohaha.  

Thank you, Tourism Western Australia and PR Bespoke for hosting moo.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape
20 to 22 November 2015

Chew On This: Stand a chance to win a pair of air tickets to Perth inclusive of accommodation, tour and tickets to the Margaret River Gourmet Escape worth over $4000! Simply purchase any Western Australia product or dine at any participating restaurants and join the lucky draw. See here for moore details. Contest ends 13 September.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Uncle's Char Kway Teow

It is probably a little known fact that my famooly has some roots in the local F&B business scene. Since the 1950s when my Ah Gong was peddling drinks from his bicycle, several family members have gone on to run hawker stalls, cafes and a restaurant. It has been a humbling (and costly) learning experience and while most relatives have exited the industry, my uncle David presently still dishes up Char Kway Teow from his stall which relocated to Jurong West.

Like moost things that I hope won't change, his Char Kway Teow ($5 for large) remains as scrumptious as I had remembered it to be when I was a kid. Dark and sufficiently moist with layered flavours of chilli, sweet sauce, fish sauce, garlic and lard (made in store) produced over vigourous stir-frying in a hot wok. Shiok!

70's Char Kway Teow
Block 442 Jurong West Ave 1
Opens: Mondays to Saturdays 12 noon to 8.30pm
Closed: Sundays

Chew On This: Do you see hum? Moohehe.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Grazing Around Marina Bay Sands' Epicurean Market 2015

This year's Epicurean Market opened in style as celebrity chefs arrived on roaring Harley Davidson bikes followed by a Champagne toast. Huddled together for a group photo were (from left to right) Christopher Christie, Executive Chef of Marina Bay Sands; Tetsuya Wakuda of Waku Ghin; David Thompson of Long Chim; Nancy Silverton of Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza; Justin Quek of Sky on 57; Tamir Shanel, MBS' vice president of food & beverage; David Myer of Adrift; Hide Yamamoto of Hide Yamamoto.

With booths serving signature dishes of the many celebrity chef restaurants in MBS, a gourmet market with cheeses and fresh vegetables, and a wine area offering tasting samples, the Epicurean Market promised the ultimate weekend of gourmet pleasures. Entry tickets were sold at $28 for a 3-day pass and included a pair of Schott Zwiesel red wine glasses (while stocks last).

Among the celebrity chef restaurants, the ever-popular Waku Ghin drew a long line of people queuing for its dishes. I really enjoyed the Marinated Botan Shrimp with Oscietra Caviar ($25) which boasted fresh flavours of the sea, and the Grilled Rolled Ohmi Wagyu Beef with Fresh Wasabi from Shizuoka ($24). Certainly not cheap but it was a relatively affordable way to try these dishes without having to dine at the restaurant.

Participating at Epicurean Market for the first time was Hide Yamamoto. Here's his beautiful Chirashi Sushi ($12).

Also a first at this year's edition of the event was David Myers of Adrift. He was at hand dishing out his Californian Heirloom Tomato Toast, Vanilla, Turmeric ($10)- summery colours with fresh, sweet flavours and a slightly crunchy texture. 

One of my personal favourites was Adrift's King Crab Melt, Pimento Cheese, Bread & Butter Pickles ($15). It was a medley of rich, savoury flavours, succulent chunks of king crab and a pleasant tartness from the pickles that balanced the dish.

Wine pairing tips were also at hand to cater to those who would like a glass or two thousand with their food. Perhaps one of the most underrated booths was MBS's very own Rise. They served up a flavoursome Beef Kalbi & Kimchi Coleslaw Slider ($9), lemak Lobster Laksa ($8), and a tasty Fish Taco, Kale & Avocado Salad ($7).

Also spotted at Epicurean Market was this particular celebrity though I don't think he's a chef. Moohehe.

Over at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's booth, an SG50 Singapore blend featured a green tea with orchids. It was soothing with sweet floral notes. 

Swiss Butchery offered very good value for mooney with their $4 sausages and $6 Japanese Matsusaka Wagyu. I went for thirds. Moohehe.

Thirsty after all that food and alcohol? The FIJI Water Mocktails ($10 each) offered a mooch welcome respite. Created by some of Singapore's top bartenders like Lucas Swallows of MBS, Jay Gray of Long Chim and Kamil Foltan of Tippling Club, these FIJI Water mocktails were made using FIJI Water for a clean finish. All proceeds were donated to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund!

Here's Lucas Swallows demonstrating his FIJI Water mocktail, the Lemongrass Ginger Lemonade, at a private showcase. Loved the refreshing, citrusy flavours.

Then it was time for moore food. Moohehe. Black Cow is a pretty smart business, churning out two products from its milk- a flavourful, nutty cheddar and a smooth vodka with a creamy finish. Yes, vodka made from milk! The curds are used to make the cheese while the whey is fermented into a beer before being distilled into vodka.

Besides wining and dining and shopping, attendees could also go for culinary masterclasses to learn recipes and pick up a tip or two. Here's one of the classes with celebrity chefs Nancy Silverton and David Myers.

It was fun bumping into so many foodie friends at Epicurean Market! Nothing better than good company with good food and drinks. :)

Thank you, Amy of MBS and Ivy of Food News PR for having me down for the Epicurean Market and FIJI Water Mocktails respectively.

Epicurean Market
14 to 16 August 2015
Sands Expo & Convention Centre

Chew On This: Can't wait for it to be back next year!

Celebrating The Moother's Birthday at Seasonal Tastes

We celebrated my seafood-loving moother's birthday with a buffet dinner ($65++/pax on a Tuesday dinner) at The Westin Singapore's Seasonal Tastes. She absolutely loved the fresh oysters and crabs, which were laid out alongside lobsters, prawns and mussels on ice. And seeing her happy made me happy too.
Preferring to graze on food without the hindrance of shells, moo favourite dish was the salmon. Soft, moist and naturally flavourful, it made me go for thirds. Moohehe. The part near the belly was especially luscious. ;)
The buffet line up wasn't staggering but offered decent variety from Indian dishes, a roasted leg of lamb, Korean beef bulgogi, assorted salads, appetisers, cheeses, Japanese dishes to laksa. This homemade sausage stew beautifully brought together two of my favourite ingredients- sausage and potatoes, in one warm, comforting pot.
Moove over the rainbow sponge cake. Here's the birthday girl with her rainbow kueh which we "stunned" from the dessert spread. Moohaha. Blessed birthday, beloved mummy!
Level 32
The Westin Singapore
Tel: 6922 6968
Chew On This:
There is a table at one corner of the restaurant that offers this lovely view. Call ahead to reserve it and go early before the sun sets to take in the sights.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sandra Amelia Tweet's Birthday Cocktails at Shin Gi Tai

After a "simple" one-pot porridge dinner featuring lobster, scallops, prawns and abalone at home (moohehe), we headed to Shin Gi Tai, a new cocktail bar, for drinks. Here's the chio birthday girl beaming with her specially made birthday cocktail. Birthday cakes are too mainstream especially for this girl who can bake. Moohehe.

Anthony Zhong, whom I got to know when he was head bartender at Jigger & Pony, helms the intimate Shin Gi Tai bar as a one-man show. His cocktails veer towards classics with some variations but all made with the exacting precision and elegance of the Japanese style of bartending.

As we sipped on the Osmanthus Gimlet, Sexypolitan and Granny's Old Drink, Anthony slowly began showing and offering us samples of the many syrups he makes and several unique spirits and liquors hand-carried from Japan. Then an Aviation, Martini and Brooklyn soon appeared, showcasing some of these unique spirits to good effect.

Quoting the birthday girl who captured the night's emootions perfectly- "Empty glasses. Full hearts." It was a great night out and reminded me of the wonderful time we had at Hong Kong's The Butler. :)
Was great seeing Anthony again. Thank you for taking care of us at your bar! That's why guys like him are called "bar-tenders". Moohehe.
And blessed birthday, sister!

Shin Gi Tai
51 Waterloo Street
Tel: 9768 4132
Opens: Monday to Saturday 6pm to midnight
Closes: Sunday

Chew On This: The same space is Australian café Fine Palate in the day!

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Blessed 50th National Day, Singapore!

I count myself blessed to be born in this tiny country of Singapore, enjoying the benefits of those who fought and laboured for the many good things that we often take for granted.

Being a kid of the 80s and 90s, I didn't witness the horrid World Wars nor the turbulent times of racial riots that are inscribed in history textbooks but my grandparents and parents lived through them to tell the tale. Then newly independent Singapore in 1965 was a far cry from the gleaming metropolis of today. In fact, most thought that as a small island surrounded by much larger neighbours and with neither a hinterland, natural resources nor a proper defence force, we wouldn't even make it to begin with. But we did.

Despite the odds, our forefathers from foreign lands made this place home and toiled to set the foundation for progress and prosperity.

Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee, Raja Rajaratnam and their contemporaries showed much grit, courage, foresight and tenacity when they faced the challenges of nation building and invested their lives into making Singapore a success.

The passing of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew earlier in March this year made a nation weep. It was probably everyone's wish that he would be able to celebrate the 50th jubilee of the nation he fought so hard to build but sadly it was not too be. LKY had done most of his pioneering work by the time I was old enough to know his name. I wasn't there when he and his team made bold albeit sometimes controversial decisions, but yet I felt a deep sense of loss when he died.

I have never watched that much Channel News Asia until the declared week of national mourning when it aired videos of Singapore's early days and the challenges they posed to LKY and his team. Those videos were powerful lessons no National Education class could teach.

LKY's passing unleashed a usually reserved emotional side of Singaporeans. For the first time, I saw how fellow Singaporeans not only took to online and social media space with tributes and notes of thanks but also laid flowers, said prayers, wrote cards at the Istana and many other designated places etc.

What was even more impressive was the multitudes from all segments of society who showed up, queuing for hours (and some even overnight) to pay their last respects. And then there emerged stories of kindness amongst the snaking queue- ordinary people bought drinks and snacks for strangers around them, others shared umbrellas, gave out black ribbons and pins, one even gave his neighbour a message. It was most heartwarming.
When the main pillars of early nation-building were established, many subsequently wondered if Singaporeans had a shared sense of national identity and soul. Under Goh Cheok Tong, who succeeded LKY as prime minister, there was a push for Singapore to be a gracious society. With the spontaneous acts of kindness witnessed at the massive Padang queue, all those doubts were answered. I suspect it had been in us all these while. Singaporeans do have heart and soul, and not just for good food.

On LKY's final journey, his cortege route included many significant landmarks, tracing his life journey and impact on Singapore. Thousands lined the streets hours before the expected time. As the time inched closer, the skies opened and it poured heavily almost as if heaven wept. I was wondering if the crowd had dispersed. Instead, I was shocked, and guilty, when they were still standing there. Some with ponchos, some with umbrellas and others simply drenched. This is a side of Singapore and Singaporeans that I have never seen. I felt proud to join their ranks and soon found myself in the rain waiting for the cortege.

The sombre mood contrasted against the various colourful umbrellas and ponchos, and the red and white of the national flag. Then all of a sudden, there was a flurry and I could hear applause from afar. Knowing the time was at hand, I was thinking what should I do or say when the cortege passed me. Should I wave or clap? Should I bow my head in silence or verbally say my last good bye? I was lost.

When the cortege passed, I instinctively held up one hand to wave and my mouth opened but somehow no words emerged. Whatever eloquence people said I have failed me at that precise emotional moment. Tears flowed though I couldn't quite exactly comprehend why. But my heart tells me it's because my beloved country has lost its founding father who has so selflessly given his life to the nation. I might have never shaken his hand nor had a conversation with the man and while he is by no means perfect, I cannot deny that I have benefited from his leadership and labour.

Singaporeans are known to be a practical, pragmatic bunch. Queuing for hours in the scorching sun and lining up in the rain for a mere few seconds didn't make any sense but we did it. For him. And for ourselves. We responded on our own as one people, one nation, one Singapore, showing the essence of what it truly means to be a Singaporean.

A nation's emotions were summed up succinctly by the words of a young dad, who stood near me carrying his kid and awaiting the cortege, when he shouted "Thank you, Mr Lee!"

I have never been prouder to be a Singaporean.

SG50 is a historic milestone and I am glad that LKY and many from the pioneer generation were honoured at this year's National Day Parade. Let's remember those who toiled for our success today, continue to push for a better tomorrow and celebrate being uniquely Singaporean. I mean even our founding father is endearingly known by three letters in this nation's quirky love for acronyms. ;)    
This is home, truly. Majulah Singapura!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Crab in da Bag Opens at Singapore Sports Hub

Seafood lovers can now enjoy Crab in da Bag's signature Cajun-style seafood with Asian twists at its new Singapore Sports Hub outlet, in addition to the first one at Big Splash. Both are near the sea which suits the restaurant's nautical theme but the Singapore Sports Hub outlet offers a closer access to the waterfront.  

To celebrate the new restaurant's opening, the Caboodle Festival, the largest outdoor seafood boil, was held. Guests witnessed the cooking of seafood in large pots before a custom-made 6-foot boat was filled with them lobsters, crabs, prawns, mussels, clams, corn and bratwurst. I wanted to pull up a chair to be seated by this boat before digging in but alas, my hide wasn't thick enough. Moohaha.

Dining at Crab in da Bag means eating directly on the table which was covered with a sheet of plastic. No plates. Use hands. Got bibs. Moohehe. Here's the assortment of seafood presented as the Caboodle Boil (Titanic Pot $299 for 4 pax; Gigantic Pot $399 for 6 pax) which was cooked in a mix of Louisiana herbs and spices. I personally mooch prefer enjoying them on their own but if you need added flavour, there are 3 dips- Thai green bird, northern Malaysian sambal and Louisiana garlic butter. The seafood tasted fresh and were cooked nicely except for the mussels and clams which were a tad overdone. Besides the seafood, the accompanying corn, sausage and red skinned potatoes made for very good eating!

New items on the menu here include the Salad in da Bag! ($12), a mix of greens tossed in a creamy sesame dressing or a balsamic one.

Also new is Mum's Pasta in da Bag! ($16), linguine with Venus clams and Bratwurst sautéed in a sweet and sour sauce. However, the sauce was too thick and starchy for my liking.

Don't say I selfish neh tell you about the awesome shellfish. Moohaha. The Live Venus Clams with Ultimate Curry Seasoning ($21) had an aroma of spice and curry leaf that signalled of what was to come. Rich and spicy, the seasoning reminded me of a very good marsala mix. On the right, the Boston Bay Mussels with Caboodle Mix ($24) was also cooked in a tasty combination of Louisiana herbs, spices, garlic and butter.

Oh and by the way, I hear the staff here can sing birthday songs in 8 different languages! Poweeer.

Thank you, the good ol' Food News PR team for having me over. ;)

Crab in da Bag
Water Sports Centre
8 Stadium Walk
Opens: Tuesday to Friday 4pm to 11pm
            Saturday to Sunday 12pm to 11pm
Closed: Mondays
Tel:  6384 3511

Chew On This:

    After feasting, take in the scenic waterfront sights with a nice stroll down the Kallang River.