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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Calling all food bloggers!

I don't know how many of you remember or took part in Menu for Hope II, the super-duper, web-based, food bloggers campaign, started by the always energetic Chez Pim, that raised money for UNICEF last year. Either way, I hope you will take part in Menu for Hope III, which launches internationally and all across the Web on 11 December 2006. This year, we are raising money for the United Nations World Food Programme. I can't imagine anything that's more fitting for the festive season than the world's food bloggers raising money to feed the hungry. It's simply perfect.

Here's how the campaign works. If you are a blogger, you'll need to either come up with a cool gift/prize to donate or source one from a generous sponsor. Then inform your regional "host", i.e. the blogger in your region who is consolidating all the various donations from your region. He or she will post what everyone is donating on the 11th. At the same time, you should also post about your donation on the same day.

Here's a list of this year's hosts:
US West Coast: Sam of Becks and Posh
US East Coast: Adam the Amateur Gourmet
US (the rest): Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen
Canada: Jasmine of Cardamom Addict
Europe: David Lebovitz of Davidlebovitz.com
Latin America: Melissa de Leon of the Cooking Diva
Asia Pacific: Helen of Grab Your Fork

Readers are asked to donate funds in order to get virtual raffle tickets for these prizes; they also get to choose which prizes they want to be in competition for.

This year, by the way, I hear that the prizes are going to be awesome. Rumour has it that a certain Thomas Keller is sponsoring something. (I am so totally bidding on that!)

For more info on how to take part, please go to Pim's blog by clicking here. To steal a famous phrase, help us feed the world this Christmas!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sweet and savory pork ribs



It wasn't too long ago that I raved about pork, naming some of my favourite places in town to eat delicious pork dishes. In addition to ordering pork in restaurants, I also like cooking it. When I see some delicious slabs of the "other white meat" in the market or at the butchers, I find it very difficult to resist buying as much as possible. Of course, like most men, I tend to overdo things. I often buy way too much to cook or eat at one sitting, a predicament that S never appreciates. This is particularly bad when I buy cuts that can't keep, like loin. If, however, I've actually used my noggin for once and bought some braising/stewing cuts, then the leftovers can always be frozen or chilled and eaten at a later date.

Some dishes, in fact, taste better the day after they're made. It's simply amazing what sitting in the fridge overnight can do for certain braised foods. Flavours become richer and meats, when reheated, become beautifully tender. One such recipe, that I have just tried, comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Molly Stevens' All About Braising. I've previously prepared some of Ms Stevens other pig recipes, like her pork loin braised in milk, with consistently outstanding results. So, I was very excited to both make and taste her pork ribs braised in a Vietnamese caramel sauce.


This dish is really easy to make. The only difficult thing is not eating it right away. Ms Stevens recommends refrigerating it for between 1 to 3 days before digging in. My patience only lasted a day. I couldn't help myself; I had to wolf these down for lunch the day after cooking them.

The braising liquid, made by combining caramel with fish sauce, shallots and water, is delicious. It has this lovely sweet and savory umaminess that is highly addictive. It both colours and flavours the pork well. When done properly, the pork is tender enough to pull (or bite) off the bones without any difficulty. When I ate my ribs, I served them with some fried rice, one of the quickest things in the world to make (so long as you have some pre-cooked rice in the fridge). The two dishes worked really well and made for a very satisfying lunch. And while I had actually made quite a large portion of ribs, with the intention of saving some leftovers for later, when S and I had finished our meal, we realized that we'd devoured every last bit of pork.

Pork Riblets Braised in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a starter

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup sliced shallots
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 slab baby back ribs (1.75 to 2 lbs)
sawed lengthwise in half

Spread the sugar in the bottom of a wide heavy-based skillet. Pour over 1/4 cup of the water and the lemon juice. Let it sit for a minute. Then heat over medium heat until the sugar begins to liquefy. Reduce the heat the medium low and let the caramel boil until it turns red.

Remove it from the heat and slowly pour 1/4 cup water and the fish sauce into the caramel. Return to the heat and stir. Let boil for a few minutes, until the sauce is smooth and a bit thick. Add the shallots and pepper and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Separate the pork ribs into individual riblets by cutting down between the bones. Add them to the caramel sauce, stir to coat, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and braise, stirring every 15 minutes with tongs, for 90 minutes. Don't let the caramel sauce boil; if the heat is too high then use a diffuser. The ribs are done when they have become tender enough to pull easily away from the bone and are a deep mahogany colour. At this point, you can serve them or store them. If you want to store them, let them cool and then store in the fridge for 1 to 3 days. To reheat, pop them in an oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Celebrity spoons



As mentioned in my last post, my wife S is writing her doctoral thesis on celebrity chefs. As you can imagine, she keeps pretty up to date on the latest comings and goings of these famous foodies. It helps that we're fans of several of them. We buy their books; watch their TV shows; read about them in magazines and newspapers; and try to recreate some of their better recipes. But the one thing we usually draw the line at is buying their branded merchandise (with, for S, the exception of Nigella's stuff). Too often, these tools are simply ways to pad these celebrities' already bulging bank accounts and not the kind of things you'd actually use in the kitchen.

S and I, though, are obsessive kitchen tool shopaholics. Whenever and wherever we are, and especially when we're travelling, we try to suss out cool kitchen stores. We're always on the look-out for cool or well-made equiptment that isn't available in our home town. One of the things we've (sadly) realized that we can't easily find here in Singapore are good quality wooden spoons. You would think that given how essential wooden spoons are in cooking, high quality ones should be easy to find anywhere. Amazingly, they're not. Too many times, the spoons we've found at our local neighborhood department stores or kitchen supply stores are cheap and poorly made. And, as expected, even the ones branded by famous foodies, are less than perfect.

Case in point, S recently bought a wooden spoon endorsed by Donna Hay. While she had high hopes for it, after rinsing it and washing it just once, we discovered that water had seeped through the wood. Suffice it to say that the spoon ended up in the trash.

So we were pretty surprised recently when we checked out the range of wooden spoons and other tools that are being sold under Mario Batali's The Italian Kitchen brand. I'm a big fan of Batali. When I lived in the West Village in New York City, I loved going to Po and ordering his amazing US$25, 5-course pasta dinner. (These days, when visiting my old hometown, I love eating at Lupa, the cool, casual trattoria on Thompson Street.) Despite my inclination for his food, I have to admit that when I first heard that Batali was launching a line of cookware, I was a tad skeptical. But after taking a really close look at some of his products, I have to say that I am impressed. The wooden tools, made from beechwood, are really well made. The handles have a nice thumb groove, making them really comfortable to hold and use. The spoon especially is nice. The edges are nice and fine, making it easy to scoop things up and the impression is actually deep enough to hold the things you want to scoop. It's also nice that the branding is very subtle. Batali's name is engraved in small letters on the back of the spoon's handle.

Hopefully, this is a good step for other celebrity chefs. The worst thing is to be let down by the people we admire. And selling inferior products to one's fans just to make a quick buck is hardly respectable. I'm happy I've found these tools. I intend to try out some of Batali's other cookware over the next couple of weeks; I'm very turned on by his panini press and risotto pan. I can only hope they are as well-made and useful as these wooden tools have turned out to be.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Scattered rice for a very tired wife



My darling wife S is currently in the final lap of trying to complete her doctoral thesis. She's been working on it, an examination of the rise and reach of the celebrity chef, for the last four years. For most of this time, she's had it pretty easy, juggling her doctoral research in between writing assignments from various book publishers and magazine editors. But for the past few weeks, as her deadline has gotten closer and closer, she's been spending every waking hour furiously trying to sort out four years worth of ideas and organize them into a coherent form. And one that will impress her university's professors sufficiently that they'll officially allow her to call herself "doctor".

Because of her current, rather frenetic, schedule, S hasn't been cooking much lately. In fact, because of both of our current schedules, we've been eating out much more often than we'd usually like. We've also been eating rather poorly, grabbing quick and rather unhealthy (hawker) meals at odd hours. I had a tiny window of free time this afternoon, so I decided to grab some ingredients for one of S's favourite meals, a chirashi sushi. Of the various styles that chirashi can come in, S is most partial to bara chirashi, a style in which the ingredients are diced, flavoured and mixed into the rice. I figured that S would enjoy dining at home as well as eating something that she really loves.

I stopped off at Meidiya, my preferred Japanese supermarket, and was able to grab some fresh sake (salmon), mekajiki (swordfish), negitoro (chopped fatty tuna with spring onions), ikura (salmon roe) and mentaiko (spicy cod roe). I diced up the salmon and swordfish and mixed this in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Separately, I made a marinade with soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, rice vinegar, wasabi, and a little miso. I drizzled some of the marinade onto the fish, gave it a quick stir and let this sit in the fridge for a few minutes. The marinated fish was then placed over some hot rice, along with some omelette (made with just eggs, salt and sugar) and some nori. Over this, I drizzled just a little bit more of the marinade. The bara chirashi was yummy. And most importantly, I think S really appreciated having a healthy home-cooked (well, nothing except the egg was really cooked but you know what I mean) meal.

You can make this dish with pretty much any ingredients you want. It most commonly has a variety of raw fish, some eel and some omelette. You can also make the marinade to suit your own tastebuds. I wish I had some fresh yuzu. A little citrus would have really lifted the dish. The great thing about this is so long as you have really good, fresh ingredients, you really can't go wrong.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The other man in my wife's life


photo courtesy of the Les Amis Group

Married guys out there will understand my predicament. It wasn't all that long ago that I could get my wife's pulse racing. Sure, I may have gained the equivalent of a Golden Retriever in extra pounds, but that's partly her fault. She's the one who has been feeding me so well. I remember a time when she'd be breathlessly captivated by me, hanging unto my words, eyes twinkling with excitement. These days, however, I'm lucky if, even when I try my hardest, I can capture her attention, usually followed by a response of, "okay, sweetie... that's nice."

Which is why I used to really hate Pang Kok Keong. After first meeting the suave, spiky-haired chef, he was all my darling S could talk about. "Chef Pang has done this. Chef Pang has done that. Chef Pang's created this. Chef Pang is so cool." It was so very aggravating. I felt emasculated, wounded, cuckolded... and well, jealous. I thought I was the Big Dog in her life. But instead of wanting to talk about me, she wanted to talk about another man.

As soon as I tasted Chef Pang's desserts though, any feelings of ill will I had for him disappeared. As the Executive Pastry Chef for the very well-known Les Amis Group and the creative force behind Canelé Patisserie Chocolaterie, the awesome pastry shop in Robertson Walk, Chef Pang is consistently and constantly producing new, exquisite sweet things for hungry hubbies like myself to feast upon. I won't bother transcribing Chef Pang's impressive CV. If you want to read it, please click here. I will say though that Chef Pang is easily one of the most talented dessert chefs working in Singapore today. I really like his caramel-sel macarons, his ice creams and many of his cakes.


He also happens to be one of the nicest chefs in town. Over the past year or so, S and Chef Pang have become good friends (and yeah, I still do feel a small tinge of jealousy when she talks non-stop about him, but as long as she feeds me his desserts, I keep my mouth shut). One of the things that S and Chef Pang have talked about a lot is the idea of creating a multi-course dessert degustation dinner. While some restaurants, most famously Espai Sucre in Barcelona and ChikaLicious in New York specialize in serving such sweet meals, there aren't any places in town that do. Taking advantage of my recent partnership with OCBC Bank, that allows me to create special promotions with (and only with) chefs and restaurants that I like, I recently approached Chef Pang and suggested that he do exactly what he's been talking about for as long as S has known him, i.e. create a super-sweet degustation dinner for a group of 14 greedy gourmands. OCBC has generously agreed to cover the costs of this very special dinner and is allowing me to give away 10 seats to my readers (as you should expect, only OCBC cardmembers can apply).

First, let me whet your appetite with Chef Pang's menu. Here it is:

Pan-fried Duck Breast – Orange Chocolate Jam – Roasted Hazelnut
Tuna Tataki – Mustard Vinegrette – Crab Tuile – Seaweed Marshmallow
Roasted Pepper Tagliatelle – Olive Oil Cake – Spiced Pine Nut
“Tako” – Potato Jelly – Paprika “Cloud” – Aioli
Frozen Asparagus & White Truffle Lollipop
Pina Colada
Apple Ravioli – Apricot Coulis – Tomato Marmalade
Hot Chocolate Espuma – Frozen Kalamansi Chibouste – Exotic Fruit Compote
Raspberry Foam – Chocolate Tea Cream – Cocoa Bean Tuile
Flambe Banana – Milk Chocolate Yoghurt – Lemon Cloud
“Pain Perdu” – Spiced Fig Compote – Cinnamon Ice Cream
Rose “Bombe”
Orange Tea Savarin
Chocolat – Chocolat – Chocolat
Selected Petit Fours

That's 15 courses of sweet, sweet fun. The dinner (valued at S$180 a person) will be held on 6 December 2006 at Canelé. We are offering two seats each to 5 lucky couples. To win an invitation for 2 to this unique meal, you will need to email me no more than 300 words on the subject, "My Sweetest Experience". I'm totally leaving it to you to decide how to define the subject. Of course, only OCBC cardmembers are eligible to apply (and yes, this is a very transparent way of encouraging you to sign up for a card if you don't have one yet). When you email me, you will need to give me your full name and IC number. Email to aun@chubbyhubby.net no later than 28 November. The winners will be announced on 30 November.

I'm really looking forward to this dinner. And I'm really grateful that Chef Pang has made time to make this meal. He's currently otherwise swamped with work; he's opening a brand new branch of Canelé Patisserie Chocolaterie on Orchard Road this coming December. Good luck and hope to see you at dinner.

Canelé Patisserie Chocolaterie
11 Unity Street
#01-09, Robertson Walk
Singapore
Tel: +65 6738 8145


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Kebab worth a try



Modern cities are built upon the backs of hard-working immigrants. Scratch the surface of any major metropolis and you'll find hundreds, sometimes thousands, of stories of people, driven by dreams, who packed up their lives and crossed oceans and borders to start new lives. Too often, we look down upon these new arrivals. But their determination, their aspirations, their perseverance, and their strength are often the foundations upon which the cities we live in are built.

Suat and Safak, brothers, and Mehmet, their uncle, moved to Singapore from Antalya, Turkey, in February this year. It wasn't their first trip here though. They've been visiting Singapore annually since 2001. Having fallen in love with the tropical island-nation over the past half-decade, they came here hoping to open a successful Turkish restaurant. Once here though, the three relatives had a hard time finding an affordable and centrally-located space for their dream restaurant. They eventually settled on a small space in Peace Centre and instead of offering the full compliment of foods that Mehmet, an experienced chef, could create, decided instead to start small.



from left to right: Mehmet, Safak and Suat

Sultan Kebab opened in June 2006. They offer a tiny but well-executed (fast-food) menu. There are only 4 kebab-based items, each available with either chicken or beef. Choose between a sandwich, a roll, a rice with meat dish, or an iskender kebab (which is meat basted in tomato sauce and slathered with melted butter and yogurt). The dishes are also extremely reasonable; the sandwiches and rolls are S$5 each, the rice and meat dishes are S$7, and the iskender kebabs are just S$7.50.

S and I first tried the kebab rolls here about a month ago. Since then, we've become big fans of Sultan Kebab. I am especially impressed that the ingredients here are fresh. Sadly, many kebab places around the world use factory-made and processed hunks of meat. At Sultan Kebab, however, Mehmet prepares his kebabs daily. I've watched him make them, transfering good-looking and freshly-marinated cuts of chicken and beef onto his skewers.

If you're looking for a good, quick and affordable bite (and are kind of sick of hitting BK or MickeyD's) then swing over to Sultan Kebab. The guys are really friendly and are well worth your support. Right now, they are over here on their own. They hope that in a year or so, they can afford to bring over some more family members. And if Sultan Kebab is a success, they still plan to open up a gorgeous, gourmet restaurant. I hope they achieve their goal. I'd love to see what else Mehmet can do in a kitchen.

Sultan Kebab
1 Sophia Road
#01-15 Peace Centre
Singapore
Tel: +65 6338 8750
Open daily from 11am until, as Safak says, "the meat runs out"

Friday, November 17, 2006

Oink oink


Duo of pork from Sage

I love pork. It's quite easily my favourite kind of meat. I can't quite explain my proclivity to eating pig though. For some reason or other, more pork dishes appeal to me than those made with other meats. Some of my friends claim its a genetic thing, that we Chinese simply love eating pork. Whatever it is, I know that I could easily live without beef or lamb, and maybe even chicken. But there's no way I could go on without a bit of pig in my diet.

I like my pork so many different ways. I adore a good Chinese roasted pork belly; my favourite versions here in Singapore can be found at Hua Ting restaurant and The China Club. A good char siew is also hard to beat. The best I have had so far comes from Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint in Upper Payer Lebar, which I discovered via Kitchen Crazy Daffy. Another great place for pig is the very up-market Les Amis. Chef Gunther Hubrechson's suckling pig is simply sensational. A rather greedy (but also gorgeous) friend of mine has been raving about it forever. I finally tried it 2 months ago when S and I celebrated our fifth anniversary there and we were blown away. It was easily the best dish of what was a pretty remarkable meal. Yanqing's Shanghai Kitchen, on Bukit Timah Road, serves an excellent braised pork belly. Equally outstanding are the versions served at two of my favourite Japanese restaurants, Kandagawa, in the Hotel Royal, and Nirai Kanai, in Tanglin Shopping Center. A pork belly and mentaiko okonomiyaki from Nanjya Monjya makes for a pretty unbeatable late night supper. And I will never ever say no to a well-made katsu curry. While I think my wife's is the best in town, when she won't make it for me, I head over to Curry Favor on Stamford Road. Their pork katsu stuffed with cheese is artery-clogging but delicious.


The wonderful thing with pork is its versatility. You can have it dressed up or stripped down. One of the simplest and most delicious ways to have it is in Bak Kut Teh. This pork-bone soup, when made properly, can be both refreshing and satisfying. I had previously written about my preferences for versions found in Penang. And while I still believe that the majority of Bak Kut Teh stalls here don't measure up, the version served at The Simple Life, in Wheelock Place, is pretty darned good. (In fact, almost all of the local food that I've tasted there has impressed me.) OCBC cardmembers can take advantage of a special 10% discount when ordering the Bak Kut Teh. A great variation of pork bone soup can be had as part of a Kyushu Jangara Ramen, served at Tampopo, in Liang Court. Tampopo's adjoining restaurant, Tomton, also serves some amazing katsu dishes. I really like that you can order normal, premium or ultra-premium (black pig) cuts there.

One of my favourite restaurants in town, Sage, also serves some impressive pork dishes. In addition to having some pretty nifty a la carte items, as a favour to me, Chef Jusman So and his wife Kimberly Chew have agreed to create a special "Big on Pigs" menu for OCBC cardmembers. This three course dinner is literally a pork-fest. Start your dinner with caramelized terrine of pork offal with plum sorbet and a balsamic glaze. Then feast on a duo of pork: a medallion of braised pig trotter filled with lardons and sausage farçi topped with a homemade ravioli of egg yolk and Coppa ham, plated with a confit of Kurobuta pork loin with Catalan melon and prune salsa dressed with Armagnac and a reduction of Sherry. End the meal with a porky dessert, a bacon infused semifreddo topped with vine-ripened tomato jam and candied basil. The menu runs $50+++ and comes with coffee or tea.



photo courtesy of Espirito Santo

And, of course, you don't have to eat pork only in restaurants. By all means, you should buy some fantastic pork products and cook up a storm. To help you fill your fridge with delicious piggy parts, we've arranged a 10% discount on all pork items at both the Great World City and Parkway Parade branches of Espirito Santo, the cool Brazilian butcher. Espirito Santo stocks an amazing selection of pork products. You can get everything from minced pork to tenderloin to freshly made sausages to pre-prepared pork schnitzel. Plus, they'll even offer you some cooking tips and recipes.

Phew, all this typing about pork has made me hungry. I think I'll go make myself a BLT.

OCBC Offers
The Simple Life: 10% discount on Bak Kut Teh, valid until 31 December 2006.
Sage: 3 course Big on Pig menu priced at S$50+++, valid until 17 February 2007.
Espirito Santo: 10% discount on all pork products at both Great World City and Parkway Parade locations, valid until 17 February 2007.


Promotion is subject to Service Charge, prevailing Government Taxes and GST. General Terms & Conditions for all Dining Privileges apply. Payment must be made using OCBC Credit Card. These promotions are valid every day except eve of and on public holidays. For more details, visit www.ocbc.com.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Best restaurants results (finally)



Six months ago, in response to the way that Restaurant Magazine fashioned its annual list of "The World's Fifty Best Restaurants", I launched a little survey of my own. Through its results, I hoped to celebrate the very best restaurants (as well as our favourites) in Asia-Pacific. I also hoped that the results would held publicize a lot of restaurants that deserve to be as well-known as their counterparts in the West.

I know that I'm incredibly late with the results, but a lot has happened in the last six months. And as they say, better late than never.

Some of the final results were predictable, but some of them were surprising (to me), especially the results for our favourite restaurants. I should say right from the start that, like all surveys, these results are hardly definitive. They are simply the sums and averages of the responses of a number of your peers. They are also biased towards certain countries due entirely to the number of respondents from specific places (like Singapore, for example). I'd like to do this survey again and again. I hope that with each annual edition the number of respondents grows larger and larger. And with a wider pool, the results should become more trustworthy and less biased.

I've divided the top-rated restaurants into 3 tiers. Instead of toques or stars (or chopsticks), I'm awarding woks. Only two restaurants this year have earned the highest rating of 3 woks. Nine restaurants earned 2 woks and sixteen restaurants earned 1 wok. A rating of 1 wok, I should say, is still pretty outstanding. There were many more restaurants that didn't get enough votes to qualify even for this rating.



Best in the region!

Tetsuya's, Sydney, Australia
Tetsuya Wakuda's eponymous restaurant blew all the other restaurants in this survey away, garnering up to 10 to 20 times as many votes as many others. This self-trained Japanese chef's innovative cuisine is, quite simply, genius.

Iggy's, Singapore
The only other restaurant with close to as many votes as Tetsuya's was Iggy's. No surprise that owner Ignatius Chan is one of Tetsuya's buddies. Iggy and his chef Dorin Schuster serve wonderfully brilliant contemporary cuisine in a charming and clubbish space in the Regent Hotel, Singapore.



Excellent!

Hua Ting, Singapore
Jean-Georges, Shanghai
La Petite Cuisine, Taipei
Lei Garden, Singapore
Les Amis, Singapore
Oso, Singapore
Saint Pierre, Singapore
Whampoa Club, Shanghai
Xi Yan, Hong Kong



Very good!

Au Jardin Les Amis, Singapore
Circa The Prince, Melbourne
Fook Lam Moon, Hong Kong
Il Lido, Singapore
Imperial Treasure, Singapore
Kee Club, Hong Kong
Marque, Sydney
Opia, Hong Kong
Palladio, Shanghai
Quay, Sydney
Robuchon a Galera, Macau
Shimpei, Tokyo
Third Floor, Kuala Lumpur
Vue du Monde, Melbourne
Yung Kee, Hong Kong
Zanotti, Bangkok

The restaurants that topped our list of favourites in Asia-Pacific were a little different from the ones that topped our list of "best restaurants". There were a few restaurants, as you would expect, that made both lists. But while our voters named two chic high-end restaurants as the region's best, when asked to name their favourite places to eat, casual cafes and eateries reigned supreme. I've divided the favourites into just two groups.

Our favourite three restaurants (with equal votes) are the Din Tai Fungs in Shanghai and Taipei; the Greyhound Cafes in Bangkok; and Icebergs Dining Room and Bar in Sydney.

The next group consists of 10 restaurants. They are Akashi in Singapore; Biscotti in Bangkok; Bistrot Moncur in Sydney; Da Paolo in Singapore; Ember in Singapore; Kee Club in Hong Kong; Kuriya in Singapore; Tetsuya's in Sydney; The Cliff in Singapore; and Yung Kee in Hong Kong.

Many thanks to everyone who took part in this year's survey. I hope that you agree with some, if not most, of the results. If you don't, then please take part in next year's survey.

More free stuff

{NOTE: AS OF 1014AM ON WEDNESDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2006, THE TICKETS HAVE ALL BEEN SNAPPED UP. CONGRATS TO PING LAN, DAVID, VENISHA, AMANDA AND JACLYN! Please do not send me any more entries. Thank you.}

Regular readers
will know that from time to time I've been giving away free tickets to performances by Singapore Lyric Opera. I'm a fan of this under-appreciated and often under-funded performing arts group. In exchange for an ad space for each of their concerts, SLO gives me several pairs of tickets, which I in turn pass onto you.

This December, SLO is putting on "All That Jazz", a concert featuring popular pieces that straddle the line between jazz and opera. A great example might be music from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin and Richard Rodney Bennet, which they have on their programme.


I have 5 pairs of tickets for the evening (8pm) performance on 8 December 2006 to give away. The seats are excellent. The concert is being held at the UCC Hall at the National University of Singapore.

To win a pair of tickets, just email me (at aun@chubbyhubby.net) the correct answers to the following questions:

1. What was the real name of the jazz musician nicknamed Bird?
2. What famous Chicago-based chef is a huge jazz fan and compares his cooking with jazz improvisation (hint: he has a jazz band playing on his TV show)?
3. In which town in which country is the opera Porgy and Bess set?

Tickets will be awarded to the first 5 persons with correct answers. Please note that this is only open to Singaporean or Malaysian residents.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Indulgent, quick and comforting



My trip to Macau last week was nothing short of crazy. My colleagues and I were there to organize and run a high-end corporate retreat for a company that was entertaining 20 of its top clients. As I wrote last week, we ate primarily in our hotel rooms, whenever we could, which was usually at rather odd hours. One of the few proper meals that we were able to enjoy -- eaten while our clients were enjoying a sumptuous seven course dinner at Robuchon a Galera -- was at Il Teatro, the Wynn Macau's very chic Italian restaurant. Because we had booked quite late, we could not get a table inside the restaurant. Instead, we sat at one of three tables on the restaurant's terrace.

Because we only had an hour and a half for dinner, we had a quick meal, sharing a starter, having a main course each and sharing the restaurant's dessert platter. Because I spent a good portion of the week hanging out in the hotel's lobby, where Il Teatro's menu was on display, I knew exactly what I wanted for my main course. The home-made beef ravioli with truffle butter and freshly shaved parmesan was delicious. While simple, it was also rich and delightfully sensuous.

Earlier today, I had a craving for Il Teatro's excellent ravioli. And while I would have loved to have tried to make my own version of the dish, I didn't have the time to whip up a batch of pasta dough for the ravioli. Instead, I decided to make something much easier but with similar flavours.




My solution was a beef lasagne with a truffled bechamel sauce and parmesan. S and I always keep some dried lasagne sheets in our pantry. They come in handy on days like today. For the beef, I used a bit of Australian wagyu striploin that I had stored in the freezer. (Yah, I know this was ridiculously indulgent but it was damn good.) I hand-minced this and sauteed it lightly, seasoning it with just a bit of salt and pepper. Into my bechamel, I mixed some truffle salsa, one of my favourite condiments and something I always try to store in my fridge. My brother W had given us some fantastic aged parmesan. I shaved this into and over the lasagne. Prepping the whole thing took just 25 minutes. Another 20 in the oven and dinner was ready. The lasagne was rich and hearty. It was also a breeze to make, which is something I value highly.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Door to door

Quite a few months ago, I read about a couple of young guys who started a web and phone based local (hawker) food delivery service. Because most of the delivery services that I've tested here in Singapore have been unimpressive (cold food, high prices, etc), I wrote down Dabao.sg's web address and phone number but never bothered to try them out. Then, a few weeks ago, a friend with a keen interest in food admitted that he's been using Dabao.sg with pretty good results. He said that the food they procured was both good -- obviously, they invest time finding well-reputed and popular hawker stalls from which to buy their food -- and, equally important, it's served hot. He said that his wife was partial to their oyster omelette. He liked their beef hor fun, reportedly bought from the famous beef hor fun coffee shop on Geylang Lorong 9.

S and I have since ordered from Dabao.sg twice. The first time we took our friend's advice and tried the oyster omelette and beef hor fun. Both were excellent. Tonight, we tried beef fried rice and century egg porridge. The former was good. Unfortunately, the latter could have been considerably better; it was a tad too watery and quite bland. But, 3 out of 4 is pretty good. I'm pretty impressed with Dabao.sg. I especially like that getting hawker favourites delivered to my door is as simple as sending 1 text message from my handphone. Delivery is pretty swift; both times the food came within 45 minutes. And as my friend reported, the food came hot.

But don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Room service


photo snapped using a colleague's Kodak point and shoot

I haven't been blogging for a bit because I'm in Macau all this week, helping to manage a corporate retreat for a client. That means that while I'm in a place with some pretty awesome food, most of my meals are being taken at odd hours and in my hotel room. Not that I'm complaining. The Wynn Macau has really impressed me with its room service menu. One of my colleagues is totally addicted to the lamb kofta. While I liked it, I wasn't as blown away by it as she was. So far, I've tried the "fire cracker prawns in yellow coconut curry" and the "three mini burgers with fries" off the kids' menu. Another colleague devoured the chocolate cherry cake, served with vanilla ice cream" and another still sang the praises of the roasted turkey club. I have to say that the club sandwich looked fantastic.

The mini burgers were great. There was a mushroom burger, a cheeseburger and a plain one. The tiny patties were juicy and tasty. Each was served with a nice, buttery, toasted brioche. I've been trying to decide if I should just live on these for the next two and a half days or try out some of the menu's other options.

One thing I know I want to try is the hotel's "hand-crafted ice cream". I may even order some later tonight. I have to receive 2 guests at 2am, so I'll be up for a while and I suspect I may get a little hungry.

So, what's the best room service (in a hotel) you've ever had?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Brunch deals


french toast with apples and fig & honey
ice cream from Marmalade Pantry


I'm a big breakfast person. Whenever I travel, one of the things I enjoy most is sussing out a city's coolest and best places for my morning meal. On my recent trip to Perth, I was thrilled to discover a cool cafe in Murray Mews called Tiger Tiger. They serve fantastic coffee, make gorgeous cappuccinos with deliciously velvety foam, and good, simple but hearty breakfast food. Here in Singapore, I have several favourite places to go when feeling a little peckish in the morning. As I've written before, I'm not a fan of hotel buffet brunches. In fact, I really can't stand them. I'd much rather spend my time and money in more relaxed venues that offer a variety of well-made and affordable options.


Willin's scrambled eggs on toast

One of my favourite brunch venues in town is Wild Rocket. Readers of this blog will already know that I'm a regular there and a big fan of chef-owner Willin Low. So when the kind folks at OCBC and I discussed the idea of profiling some of the best brunch places in town, I knew that I had to include Willin's fabulous little restaurant. I was even more excited when, after calling the chef, he immediately agreed to create a special menu for OCBC cardmembers.


a delicious burger from Wild Rocket

Very embarrassingly, Willin wants to call it the Chubby Hubby Brunch menu. That said, I'm not at all embarrassed to say that the menu is terrific. The meal starts with a pineapple cosmopolitan martini, a nice boozy and refreshing way to start your meal. Then you get a plate of scrambled eggs on toast. I like mine runny, but you can order yours slightly more cooked if you prefer. For your main course, you get a choice of the always good Wild Rocket burger with sun-dried tomato salsa or Willoughby bangers & mash. The meal is then capped with a fresh pandan panna cotta with gula melaka. The menu runs S$33+++ which I think is a pretty good deal. And if you get thirsty and you are part of a party of at least 4 persons who order this menu, you are eligible to order a bottle of Prosecco that normally goes for S$75 for just $60.


Graze's cast iron pan brunch

Another place I like to go for breakfast is Graze. I know that some people have had mixed experiences there, as have I. That said, I've recently had some really great morning meals there. I've written previously about their breakfast menu and that I'm a fan of Graze's cast iron pan and their baked omelettes. OCBC cardmembers can now get a 10% discount on all brunch items, plus free cupcakes (one per customer though, so don't get greedy).


Marmalade Pantry's eggs benedict

Another place that I like to go to on weekend mornings is Marmalade Pantry. Popular with the trendy and the chi-chi set, this cool cafe in the basement of Palais Renaissance serves some pretty tasty comfort food. My wife S and I have a lot of favourite dishes on Pantry's "all day Sunday brunch" menu. I'm a sucker for classic egg dishes, so I tend to order things like the always well-executed eggs benedict or corned beef hash with tomato coulis and fried egg. I always love Pantry's chicken pot pie, a relatively light but delicious version of this classic dish, and their burgers. Sometimes though, when I want something sweet, I'll order the French toast with caramelised apples, served with fig & honey ice cream. This dish is delicious and it's especially ideal when you want a sweet plate of carb after a big night out. OCBC Platinum and Titanium cardmembers can now enjoy some free drinks when brunching or dining in both the older Marmalade Pantry and the new branch in Hitachi Tower. At the original branch, cardmembers will receive a complimentary Lychee Bellini during Sunday brunch. At the Hitachi Tower branch, when dining, cardmembers will receive a complimentary glass of wine with the order of a main course.

I hope you find these brekkie options useful. I enjoy going to them on lazy weekend mornings. Just make sure you make reservations. All three are already pretty popular and usually can't find space for walk-in customers. I know because I've stupidly tried just turning up at all of them at least once (some more than once) and have been (politely) turned away on most occasions.

Wild Rocket
Hangout@Mt Emily
10A Upper Wilkie Road
Tel: 63399448
Promotion: OCBC cardmembers can order the Chubby Hubby Brunch at S$33+++. Includes a pineapple cosmopolitan martini; scrambled eggs on toast; a Wild Rocket Burger of Willoughby bangers & mash; and fresh pandan panna cotta with gula melaka. If 4 or more people order the Brunch, enjoy a bottle of prosecco for just S$60 (normally S$75).

GRAZE
No 4 Rochester Park, Singapore 139215
Tel: 6775 9000
Promotion: OCBC cardmembers enjoy 10% off all brunch items, plus a free cupcake.

Marmalade Pantry
Unit B1-08/11 Palais Reniassance
Tel: 6734 2700
Promotion: OCBC Platinum and Titanium cardmembers enjoy a free Lychee Bellini with their brunch.

Marmalade Pantry
Unit 01-04, Hitachi Tower
16 Collyer Quay
Tel: 6438 5015
Promotion: OCBC Platinum and Titanium cardmembers enjoy a free glass of wine with the order of any main course at dinner.

All offers are valid until 4 May 07


Promotion is subject to Service Charge, prevailing Government Taxes and GST. General Terms & Conditions for all Dining Privileges apply. These promotions are valid every day except eve of and on public holidays. For more details, visit www.ocbc.com.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

An easy dessert



In my third-to-last post, the one on Margaret River, I mentioned a dinner party that S, myself, and 2 other friends hosted in the super-cool Ron Roozen House. It was a fantastic dinner for several reasons. The company was great and the wines (as you would expect in wine country) were abundant, affordable and yummy. But what I liked most was that four of us were able to work well together in a not-so-huge but thankfully not-too-small kitchen. It was also great fun planning what dishes to make and serve. We had picked up some simple ingredients, spices and kitchen staples in Perth. But for the most part, we waited for something we saw in one of the gourmet produce shops or the Coles supermarket to inspire us.

S is a huge fan of Donna Hay. Hers is one of the few food magazines that S tries to buy as regularly as possible. When she saw the latest issue on the newsstands in Perth, she immediately grabbed a copy, saying that it would come in handy on our trip to Margaret River. Sure enough, the dessert that she made for our dinner party at the Ron Roozen house, roasted strawberries over meringues, came straight from the magazine's pages.

This is a really easy and delicious dish to make and serve friends. In Margaret River, we cheated by buying already-made meringues (which you would never find on the shelves in Singapore's supermarkets). But you can easily make them yourself. I've provided a recipe below that works perfectly (well, at least it does for me). While we were blessed to find super-fresh and sweet strawberries in Australia, because the strawberries in this dish are roasted with sugar, you can make this with fruit that is less than stellar.

The nice thing about this dessert is that, if you intend to serve it at a dinner party, you can make everything ahead of time. Plating each one takes just a few seconds. And while it's actually really simple (just a few components), it looks and tastes great. Your friends will definitely be impressed.

Roasted Strawberry Meringues

Meringues
makes 12

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust your oven racks to sit at the lower and middle positions. Preheat your oven to 93 degrees C or 200 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

In the bowl of a Kitchenaid mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-low speed until opaque and frothy, around 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and increase speed to medium-high. Beat the eggs until they are white, thick and voluminous. This should take another minute and a half. Sprinkle in half of the sugar and add in the vanilla extract. Continue beating until incorporated smoothly, another minute or so. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle in the rest of the sugar, folding it in.

Spoon heaping dollops of the mixture onto the baking paper. Press each one gently with the back of a spoon to create a small well. Bake for 1.5 hours or until the surfaces of the meringues are smooth and dry to the touch. Turn the oven off and leave to cool in there for a few hours. When completely cool, store your meringues in airtight containers in a cool space. They can keep up to 4 or 5 days.

Roasted Strawberries
16 strawberries, hulled, halved or quatered
1/4 cup caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C or 390 degrees F. Place the strawberries in a baking dish and sprinkle with the sugar. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the strawberries are soft and syrupy. Remove and set aside.

To serve, top a meringue with some of the roasted strawberries. Then top with some whipped cream (which you can either make yourself or that you have bought from the market).


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