Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Sunday Currently: Girl Next Shore vol. 1

Photo taken by the incredibly talented Francis Perez

This morning I woke up feeling rather different; there was that familiar flicker of light I haven't seen in a while. Drowning in the confines of my larger than life duvet and pillow-laden kingsize, I felt strangely small against the possibilities life has suddenly dropped on my feet. Life has been surreptitiously peachy in the past seven days, and though I often think we get given more than we deserve from time to time, I am absolutely grateful for such blessed feeling.

Which comes to this. I've decided to join The Sunday Currently collective. This blog has been mostly reviews - of food eaten, songs played, places visited, products tried and tested, etc. That's probably not going to change but I'm taking some time to review life as well, in an attempt to be a bit more wholesome and reflective. I started blogging ages ago for that very reason (read: the era of Livejournal and adolescent issues) and in a way, doing it helped recalibrate my focus as well as cleanse my soul.

End of the day, we're all trying to look for ways towards betterment. Here's my first step.

Paula Hakwins - The Girl on the Train. I've only read the first chapter but the character's perspective reminds me of how often I make up stories of people I watch on the daily commute as well. Do you people watch, too?

A few blog posts on delicious food (but of course) I've been blessed to have last week.


I sleep with this new girl I'm still getting used to
My friends all approve and say "She's gonna be good for you"
They throw me high fives
She says the Bible is all that she reads and prefers that I not use profanity
Your mouth was so dirty
Life of the party and she swears that she's artsy
But you could distinguish Miles from Coltrane
Our love was comfortable and so broken in.

...about how much unnecessary stress that Life in the UK test was and how breezy it turned out to be.
...about various permutations of friendship, and how incredibly funny life is.
...about proximity and whether we are really always where we need to be.
...about Nasim, the super helpful chap from EE who helped me sort out my SIM card and offered to sponge off his personal HotSpot so I can restore my back-up files. It's wonderful how good service can really make your life heaps easier.

Diptyque's Ambre scented candle lit by my bedside table.

for sleep to be a bit easier. I've had the longest bout with insomnia my whole life but this week has been rather excruciating.

to never lose my phone ever again. I lost my phone Friday and it was such a hassle. Moreso, the feeling of losing something married with the feeling of irresponsibility is never good. Anyway, I got myself an iPhone 6 and I'm not sure I love it. It is too big for my small hands, but it does have a better camera.

A plaid fleece jacket and bright blue underwear. Under the duvet, of course. #notflashinganyonetonight

LOVING social media has made the world so connected. I've been lucky to have met cool and ridiculously insightful characters through blogging, Twitter and Instagram IRL. They're quite inspiring. absolutely comfortable bed.

Another plate of bacon, s'il vous plait.

To sort my settlement status and prep for our Company Day.

Grateful to have met ridiculously awesome people in my life.

Wander To Wander. HecticophiliaBloomzy. Chopstick Panorama. E Cooks. French Gourmet. Fresh and Fearless. Give them a follow, interesting real people.

Well, that was a good exercise. Here's to hoping next week is as pleasant as this one has been.  Have a great week ahead, folks x

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Friday, 27 March 2015

Ou est le printemps? A Tuileries Photodiary

Can Spring come any sooner? It's almost April and I'm still lugging around a wool coat (well that's not too fair as I'm quite a tropical fish). 

My head falls back to Spring last year in Paris when a walk in the park was more a pleasure than a chore, when chirpy birds were rather cheery and not freaky, when people-watching inspired movies in my head, and flowers actually made my day. 

Je suis la.
Come on, now Spring. I'm waiting.

Because it's not a proper visit without macarons.

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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Bukowski Grill Burgers c/o Deliveroo!

Have you heard of Deliveroo? It's a really cool food delivery service that puts quality above anything else. Their restaurant roster is heaps impressive (think Ceru, Nando's, Honest BurgersGaucho, etc) than your local greasy takeaway so you can have your favourite top notch dishes in the comfort of your home or office. Average delivery time is just 35 minutes so it's quite convenient, too. I've tried the service a few times already and let me tell you, it's a serious step from other takeaway apps. 

I was super thrilled to know Bukowski Grill delivers to my house because sometimes there's nothing more satisfying than staying in with your PJs and Netflix on, and getting down and dirty with a big, fat, juicy burger.  

Here's their best-selling Fat Gringo (£9.95). Looking at it makes me feel fat already. In a very satisfying way.

Inside the burger: beef, candied streaky bacon, Monterrey jack cheese, jalapeno mustard, lettuce, tomato, onions. Essentially, a big bacon cheeseburger. *burp*

Here's, uh, a rather messy cross-reference (I did tell you we got down and dirty!). The lower bun was a bit soggy when it came, but after a bit of serviette pressing I managed to tidy up for a decent bite. The patty was cooked to a nice, juicy medium and I thought it was seasoned well. However, I'd sing praises for the candied bacon because man.... bacon.

The Smokey Beast (£10.95) came highly recommended by some friends at Zomato so I've ordered it as well (not on the same night, I promise!).

Beef patty, smoked pulled pork with smokey honey and chipotle BBQ sauce, smoked gherkins, smoked garlic and scotch bonnet mayo, onions, and believe it or not, there's a lone lettuce leaf hidden somewhere there. 

Again, a rather messy cross-reference. I had some hesitations as I thought this was going to be ultra smokey, but the flavours were well-balanced. The patty was again cooked to a good medium and the pulled pork was pretty tasty and tender. I liked this better than the Gringo. 

Now for the non-burger stuff:

I've ordered half a rack of grilled pork ribs (£5.95) and I think the portion's quite good.

Although the ribs are actually very meaty, the spicy rub wasn't as exciting as it was on paper. I missed the sticky, distinct barbecue glaze you get when you eat ribs.

The beef short ribs (£6.95 for a small portion) on another hand were delightful. I felt like a Neanderthal eating the meat off the bone, juices dripping down to my elbows - and enjoying every second of it. Off the grill with an herb and garlic marinade, this was succulent, tender and super good. 

As for the sides....

The chilli cheese fries (£4.95) sounded promising but I have elevated standards when it comes to triple-cooked chips. These weren't soggy, but just lacked the crispy-outside-fluffy-inside profile. The chilli con carne was not bad, but it needed a bit more smoke and a bit more zing.

The waldorf salad (£2.95) was okay, but it reminds me of how my mother, who can't cook to save her life, used to make these because it was the only thing she could "cook".

The caesar salad (£2.50) was just okay. The dressing could have been a bit creamier but I did enjoy the sourdough croutons.

Bukowski's tobacco onions (£2) are good. It's possibly the only side dish I'd re-order. They were crispy, moreish and flavoursome and surprisingly hot and crispy even after delivery. 

Overall, Bukowski's burgers are the superstars of their short and sweet menu so skip all the other sides and go for the essentials. Though I've had better burgers elsewhere, I think their offering passes as a good contender for a Friday night in (or out). 

Follow them on Twitter here and here. Menu on Zomato.

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Sunday, 22 March 2015

Tomi Sushi (Novena): where every visit is safe and reliable

My relationship with Plaid Boy was never the best-foot-forward type (I thought he was a cheater, he thought I was less than puritanical) because we started as really good friends. Perhaps the lack of physical proximity (him in NYC, me in LDN) made us more brazen and comfortable enough to share deep facts, dark secrets (ie fugly selfies of yesteryear), and random profanities of the day.

When we decided to explore the possibility of something deeper, we played a bit to impress and grand gestures, from overseas deliveries to surprise gifts and visits were thrown here and there. Once, he Christian Grey-ed the bajeezus by flying into the big smoke for 24 hours so he can take care of me after a dental surgery (except my wisdom tooth extraction happened a week later). Though these counted for impressive points, it was ultimately the idea of being able to trust completely and to love someone unconditionally that sealed the deal.

Somehow, my love affair with Tomi Sushi in Singapore reminds me of ours. It's a little gem you can find in a relatively unimpressive mall. It's not particularly a place you take someone you want to impress. but someone who can be impressed in the simplicity of goodness. Punters are usually groups of friends, families and old married couples. When Plaid Boy took me the first time (when we were still dating) I joked about how the place lacked a bit of ambience. He let the food do the talking and immediately, I knew he loved me. 

Safe? Yes. Decent? Actually. Comfortable? Very.

On the last night of my most recent Singapore trip, I asked if we could have dinner there. 

Plaid Boy had the sushi gozen set. The set includes an assortment of tempura, a hefty fillet of gindara, and the usual bento box staples: a pot of chawanmushi, a bowl of miso soup, a bowl of meat soboro, and some watermelon slices for afters.

There's an assortment of sushi: six pieces of maguro maki, a tobiko gunkan and four pieces of nigiri (you're guaranteed to have a maguro chutoro piece).

As if that's not enough, the set also includes an assortment of sashimi.. You get tuna, amberjack, scallop and amaebi. 

All of that for just SG$54 or roughly £24. Tell me that's not a good deal and I shall stop right now.

I decided to order some sashimi a la carte and the tempura set: bowl of rice, pot of chawanmushi, watermelon slices and a miso soup which you can upgrade to soba noodles for an extra SG$3. Bargain!

I've had better tempura, but for SG$28 per set, Tomi Sushi gives you a decent selection enough to satisfy a craving.

The soba is pretty tight, too. Noodles are firm and the broth is well delicious. It's hearty filling and comforting.

We ordered extra sashimi a la carte. I'm a fan of Tomi's salmon sashimi (SG$12 for five) because their cuts always have a good balance between fatty and lean salmon. The tuna akami comes at SG$16 for five pieces and the quality is decent, too.

We had a lot to eat that night and whilst other punters looked at our table overflowing with food I looked at my husband, my heart overflowing with love.

Tomi Sushi might just surprise you. It isn't the best sushi restaurant in Singapore, but it's a good and safe bet for decent food. It's reliable to satisfy and you're guaranteed to leave feeling like you've had so much value for money and a fullness that gets you to a well content state.

In the end, don't we all want to be safe and content?

238 Thomson Road, #02-76/77, Velocity, Novena Square, 307683

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Ceru (Rathbone Place): where we shared the flavours of Levant

I've been meaning to go to Ceru since they've opened last December but work, wedding stuff and holiday planning pretty much swayed me towards foodie hermitage. When I got back from Asia, I was determined to pop 'round this pop-up with some blogger buddies for a long overdue catch-up. 

The restaurant itself is a cosy 20-odd seater with pretty little accents. I'm particularly in love with the candle holders that remind me of starry, starry nights.

While waiting for the blogger posse, I chose to kill time with a cocktail. On recommendation, I went for the Passionista. It's a sharp, refreshing cocktail made with passionfruit juice, vodka and lime.

Jasiminne, Emma and Jesse arrived and more drinks came a-flowing. Emma chose the Spring Punch (vodka, crème de cassis, lemon juice and prosecco), Jasiminne opted for the Percy (pomegranate, ginger ale, soda) and Jesse went for a Pomegranate Margarita.

We started with some dips and bread. Naturally we ordered the four in one (£6.50), and it's a great take on classic Levantine favourites. The spicy roast red pepper dip stood out for me but the houmous, fadi (courgette purée with tahini, garlic, yoghurt & lemon), and pancar (roast beetroot and yoghurt) were pretty top notch as well.

The crispy fried squid is basically everyone's favourite calamari glorified with spices that gave it a unique flavour profile. The batter is light, crispy and not greasy. It comes with a harissa dip, but if I'm being honest, the squid is delicious enough on its own.

I don't usually order anything with dill but I devoured the herbed zucchini & feta cheese fritters (£5.25) with much gusto. The taste is quite subtle, but they're very moreish.

The roast lamb shoulder (£9) was a delight to eat. Flavoured with typical shawarma spices, the meat was tender and succulent. The pomegranate and pistachio dressing gave it an interesting texture as well. It's good enough to share, but trust me, you'd almost want the whole thing for yourself.

I had high hopes for the baby aubergines (£6) topped with tomato and chilli but it wasn't particularly my favourite dish of the night. The simplistic take is commendable though. You can tell that the produce is fresh and handled with much respect.

Such beautiful food.

The Kazak spice baked lamb meatballs (£8.50) came last but damn, I'm glad I had enough belly space to gobble up. I'm impartial to meatballs but this was my favourite dish of the night. Baked in a cherry and cranberry sauce, these were sweet, savoury and bang on with flavour (just like my ballsy blogger buds!)

It's so easy to lose track of time whenever I'm with these girls. We haven't even had dessert when a very apologetic server told us they needed the table back. Luckily, Ceru has a tiny heated outdoor seating area so they offered to serve us dessert there - with blankets to keep us warm.

The baklava ice cream (£5.50) was really good. I thought it was going to be too sweet for my liking but the pistachio nut ice cream had a really nice balance to it. Topped with nut brittle and burnt caramel, this is the type of baklava I would gladly have anytime of day.

Patricia, Ceru's marketing and social media manager, treated us to a round of kir royal to keep us warm. What a lovely way to close our meal.

Overall, I like Ceru and I hope they find their permanent London residence sooner than later. The dishes are light, hearty and wholesome. And there's a little bit of everything for everyone - from the health freaks to the food fanatics, from the allergen-free to the x-ivores and y-tarians - in their sweet and short menu. Plus, they're quite sassy on social media so I'm sure you're up for a fun tweet & eat session when you visit ;)

29 Rathbone Pl, London W1T | +44 (0)20 3195 3001
Like them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter and on Instagram.
Ceru Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, 12 March 2015

Plaid Boy & Girl Next Shore Got Married! Our Wedding Menu

When Plaid Boy and I started planning our wedding, one of our top priorities was to show our guests appreciation by serving really good food. So, with the help of the Raffles Hotel Makati banqueting team, we designed a bespoke sit-down menu that would satiate everyone's taste. 

In the end, we received a lot of compliments for our wedding menu - some of our guests even requested to meet Senior Chef de Cuisine Christine Zarandin to applaud her and her team's efforts. This truly melted our hearts because we felt that the food reflected our journey as a couple, as well as our passion for food.

DISCLAIMER: Photos were taken during our tasting. Unforch, I don't have photos of the actual plating on the wedding day (you might be able to check on Instagram by searching #RonWithHoney)

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
We had our menu tasting last year, when we both went home to do wedding errands. We gave Raffles a menu of what we wanted, and they gave us some options to consider as well. They set up their Sampiro function room for the occasion and showed us all the types of linen and tableware and we could use. To help us decide on the particulars, we invited our foodie friends K&B (who are also getting married) and my brunch buddy A to join us.

First course - SOUP

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE THAT DIDN'T MAKE IT: Cauliflower purée with curry oil and coriander lavash.
The lightness this soup could've gone for was amiss and I thought it was a bit too strong on the curry oil, which seemed like such a bold flavour to start the meal with.

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE WE SERVED: Pumpkin soup with foie gras mousse and raspberry compote
The soup was creamy enough but had a certain lightness to it and the fruit compote managed to cut through the richness of the foie. It was a bit too sweet for our liking, but when K suggested they added more pepper, it totally lifted the flavour profile.

Second course - APPETISERS

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu

THE ONE THAT DIDN'T MAKE IT: Prawn and avocado salad
This is one of Raffles' bestsellers for events.It came with smoked salmon and mango salsa which made it seem like two different appetisers on one plate. The prawns I had were a bit overcooked, and though the chef sent us some better cooked prawns, it felt like too much of a risk.

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE OTHER ONE THAT DIDN'T MAKE IT: Mushroom risotto with mixed greens
I knew I wouldn't love this at first sight, simply because good risotto is meant to flow freely when served on a plate and not shaped like half timbale. This came to us at room temperature as well. Least favourite of the all courses we tried.

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE WE SERVED: Bacon-wrapped scallops, wild mushroom risotto, beans & rosemary jus
Both Plaid Boy and I had this for our wedding meal. The two scallops were cooked perfectly but we requested the bacon to be cooked a bit more for added texture. And, see what I mean about good risotto flowing on a plate? HUGE difference. Served warm, too!

Third course - FISH

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE THAT DIDN'T MAKE IT: Double-cut tuna with sweet pepper and mango salsa
I quite liked the flavour profile of this dish; the sauce had a familiar hint of Asian flavours and the mango salsa was punchy.

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE WE SERVED: Seared tuna with wasabi mash
I loved this dish so much and requested to have it for our wedding meal. My tuna was seared perfectly and the pepper crust gave it such zest. Some of our guests said this particular dish was their favourite of the night.

Fourth course - SORBET

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
We had a choice between raspberry, mango, and lime. We chose the zingy lime as it was the most refreshing and palate-cleansing of all.

Fifth course - STEAK

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE THAT MADE IT: Australian tenderloin with five peppercorn crust
The thing about serving steak at big weddings is that you can't really have it cooked to everyone's liking. Our guest peg was over 300, and it would have been too much of a risk to have it cooked to order. At the tasting, we were served different cooks on our meat. Mine was quite rare, which we thought some people would cringe about. We made an executive decision to serve it medium, and it still turned out nice and pink on the inside. We replaced the beans with asparagus, the potato chautillard with gratin, and asked for baby carrots.

Sixth course - DESSERT
(aka the round I lost)

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE THAT DIDN'T MAKE IT: Flourless chocolate almond cake with caramelised orange sauce
I don't think anyone was actually moved by this dessert, but I liked that the layers reminded me of our invites.

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Flourless gianduja cake
This was the real winner for me and I still think of it when I crave chocolate (often). It's astonishingly rich, indulgent, and dark. It felt like eating a jar of sophisticated Nutella/Crumpy - I had to stop myself from demolishing the whole thing. But I loved it. Very much.

Raffles Makati Wedding Menu
THE ONE WE SERVED: Moist dark chocolate cake in white chocolate box
Raffles gave us a third option for dessert. Visually, it was pretty captivating and Plaid Boy liked the "wow factor" (It did look nice during final plating!) Honestly, I was still thinking about licking the remnants of the Gianduja cake off my plate when I realised he said we were going for this. In fairness, our guests said they enjoyed it, too. Feedback included "Cake so good, it makes women cry!"

At the reception, it was funny how guests asked if we got to eat at all. We only had time for two courses each (while everyone was having cocktails) but we weren't that fussed because 1) we were too elated from the ceremony, and 2) we trusted Raffles to deliver only the best.

The great feedback we received was quite a testament to the ability of the Raffles/Fairmont banqueting team as well - from our event managers to the catering team and our personal butler of the day (Chad). They really listened to what we wanted and catered (har har) to our needs and I can't thank them and recommend them highly enough. Definitely world class, top notch luxe service.

Oh and because he deserves credit, too... 4 out of the 6 courses were Plaid Boy's idea. Thank you, Groomzilla!

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