Here and back

31 10 2011

TWO OF the smoothest landings I’ve ever experienced in my life as a traveler framed four and a half days I got to spend back home in the Philippines.  The landings were smooth that I felt the urged to applaud the pilot.  So smooth and actually, quite ironic.  I gazed out of the airplane window and recognized that inside I was a tumult of emotions.  Now on my fourth month in Singapore, I didn’t realize that on the third time of visiting home, I would find it quite difficult to come back.

I miss my family.  I always do.  We may have friendships that could last or have actually lasted us over a decade.  But it will always be only family who can love us unconditionally and make us feel that we do matter.  And because of that, everything that I do, I do for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Time off

20 10 2011

I KNOW exactly the point when I’ve become friends with someone.

I know it, when, upon bidding the cashier and cook at Formosa Delights a fond farewell right after devouring yet another bowl of their signature Tomato Noodle Soup (U-Mian), I had to tell them that they wouldn’t be seeing much of me for the next few days as I’m flying home for a few days’ respite.

The guy at the adjacent Fried Prawn Noodles stall couldn’t help but overhear our conversation that sounded very much like the kind between friends.  The cashier looked at him and said, “He’s my friend.”

She didn’t actually have to declare that in my presence or within my earshot.  I’ve known it all along.  I knew it from the very first time she called me “Darling” when I showed up at the end of the line at their storefront.

She can call me darling any time.  Anybody who shares with me great food and heartwarming conversation can call me darling any time.

Quite obviously, a bowl of my favorite Tomato Noodle Soup by Formosa Delights.

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Turning back the clock

16 10 2011

Casio Aluminum Solar Wristwatch

“TURN BACK The Clock” by Johnny Hates Jazz is one of those songs that I would sing everytime we’d have a program in school.  Or when I would be simply asked to entertain the class.  Now you know that I spent my cognitive and formative years drowned in highly synthesized music.

It’s the one song that instantly played in my head when I took one look at the Casio Aluminum Solar wristwatch at the very busy display of this unassuming store in Lucky Plaza.  It transported me to the time when I was juggling three Casio wristwatches – a Solar, a Data Bank, and a Classic – all the way through high school.  I stood there unmoved in front of the display but it felt like I had traveled through time.  The pun is intended.

The only reasonable thing to do was to get the watch.  For all the good times it could remind me of – not that I really needed something tangible to get reminded of a happy past – I’d got to have it.  I did.  And for the first time here in Singapore, I haggled my way to a purchase.

One of the wristwatches that bring me back.

 

Lovin' the all-stainless steel bracelet!

 

This is my "I-don't-give-a-damn" wristwatch.

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Two princes and a pauper

16 10 2011

Two Princes! The TISSOT Heritage Prince I – the "Swirl" and the "Classic".

FROM THE moment I first laid eyes upon its face, I knew all my defenses had melted.  All it took was love at first sight, a one-stop train ride, and an overnight shipment to Eastern Watch at 313@somerset, for me to get my hands on the Tissot Heritage Prince I.

Tissot Heritage Prince I, the first dial design that I fell in love with.

Since then, whenever I would find myself in front of a Tissot counter at fine wristwatch stores, I would ask if I could look at the Heritage Prince I, coy about my intentions to buy.  I knew I wouldn’t end up in a compromising situation (wherein I would have to buy) because the watch model is not one that distributors have put on display.  It’s not one of their more popular styles.  But me, I love the curved body and the bold numbers on the dial.

I love the curved body and the bold numerals!

So when one finally did turn up to be “in store,” I had to tell my beating heart to be still.  One look at the face – this one has the numbers all in a “swirl” – and I knew I would lose sleep over making the decision to buy or not to buy.

The second dial design that I saw... and yes, loved too!

 

Lean on me...

I took my sweet time thinking.  But fascination and infatuation did win in the end.  If I had even the slightest iota of indecision – or the portent of the faintest hint of regret looming in the horizon – I would’ve surely pulled back my outstretched card-bearing hand.  I searched deep inside me for the words, “Sorry, but I changed my mind,” and the mortification that never came.

This wristwatch was first released in 1916.  In 1991, it was issued as a “re-edition” and called Tissot Classic Prince.  Now, it has incarnated to be the Tissot Heritage Prince I.

I'm definitely stacking these two on my wrist.

 

...And I did! My new Tissot Heritage Prince I debuted today.

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Art at the train station

16 10 2011

Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games Mural

A THING of beauty is a joy forever.  Or, the cause for a momentary pause.

One evening, in yet another one of my relay-race moments, changing lines within the Singapore MRT system, I saw a mural that made me totally forget that I was, just minutes prior, running like crazy to make it to my appointment at the Esplanade Mall.

The Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Mural is just so beautiful – breathtaking even.  It reminded me that even a mundane scene in everyday life, like chancing upon this mural on my first ever time on the Circle Line, could put a smile on your face.  And make you take your sweet time.

The Marker

 

The Olympic rings

 

The mural is all about friendship.

 

Singapura!

 

Some of the train stations here have amazing architecture.

 

I loved even this escalator ride.

 

I've been waiting for this!

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





A concrete jungle and the windy city

16 10 2011

My trusty, years-old, leather wallet from one of my brothers.

I DON’T think I’ll ever replace my leather wallet.  Ever.  I mean, until it really literally falls apart.  Right now, it has broken apart at the seams.  But as long as it could still hold my cards, my little cash, and the many receipts I accumulate, it’s just as perfect as when it was gifted to me by my brother.

I think this wallet has been with me to at least four countries.

I may have gotten a brand new Blackberry Bold 9780 from my youngest brother.  But my other brother, at the attempt to get me a new leather wallet got this from me, “But the last one you gave me has given me good luck.”

Well, he wouldn’t argue with that.  It’s like a huge compliment.  Like telling him that he is majorly responsible for most of the good things in my life.

But since moving here in Singapore, I’ve felt the need to keep a couple more wallets with me, not really for holding money, but for holding so many cards.  It seems like every establishment here offers some kind of membership, rewards, or privilege card.  The first “extra” wallet I had to put together was for all the restaurant cards.  After going through three new leather (long) wallets, I said I was done.

Then one turn along the aisles of Harris made me realize that I had spoken too soon.  I hit a rack, and got introduced to mighty wallet®, the Original Tyvek® Wallet – mighty thin, mighty strong, mighty green.  100% eco-friendly.  100% recyclable.

Mighty Wallet!

 

I'm loving the colors on the NYC Subway Map, folded perfectly into a wallet! Who knew!

 

I had to think it through if I wanted to actually use the wallet. This happens to be the only remaining piece with the "NYC Subway Map" print among hundreds in the store!

 

"It's not a paper wallet. It's a Mighty Wallet!"

While the fact that it is composed of 25% post-consumer materials made into a single folded sheet of tear-resistant, water-resistant wallet in an innovative expandable design didn’t escape my eye; it is the myriad prints available that really captured my attention.

There were classic canned food label, comic strip, superhero designs but I didn’t agonize over which to choose.  I got the NYC Subway Map, an actual map featuring over 80 stops in Manhattan, and The ‘L, a licensed imagery of Chicago’s famous elevated train with a focus on the “Loop.”

The packaging explains a lot about the actual product and the print... that I wouldn't want to throw it away.

 

A concrete jungle and the Windy City

Sentiment drove my easy choices, especially with Chicago, one of my favorite cities in the world.  And where in 2003, I spent Christmas and enveloped in joy, slumped – more like jumped – onto every mound of snow I came across on the Magnificent Mile.

I could still hear my brother and sister-in-law screaming in horror, “Get up, that’s dirty!”  Haha!

I heart Chicago...

 

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Awfully dark, awfully bitter, awfully good chocolate

15 10 2011

Rich Chocolate Cupcake (in an "exhibition" solo box), Awfully Chocolate, Ion Orchard, Singapore

CHOCOLATE HASN’T really stood a chance to make me weak in the knees.

Okay, I guess there must’ve been at least one wobbling on record somewhere.  But for the most part, chocolate has never really made me hardly speak or lose my self-control.

And then I came across Awfully Chocolate at Ion Orchard.

Their very straightforward menu – just cakes, cupcakes, ice cream, truffles. It's the "cold poached chocolate" that caught my eye.

 

So the bestsellers are the "Super Stacked Chocolate Cake" and the ice cream.

 

Kahlua Bars

 

Dark Chocolate Truffles

 

Cold Poached Chocolate

Now I’m speechless and knocked right off of my feet.

I’m big on cupcakes.  That’s one of the things I miss most about home.  And seeing “Rich Chocolate Cupcakes” staring back at me at Awfully Chocolate’s stark counter top display, I couldn’t help but hear, “Bite me.”

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes

 

There are White Chocolate Cupcakes too.

 

I haven't tried this one yet!

Going along with the dialogue developing in my head – believe me, that almost always happens when I wait in line – I fixed the cupcake with a stare, quite obviously taking the bait, and telepathically snapped back, “Why so lonely in the window?”

Don't they look so pretty?! Pretty scrumptious.

I asked the pretty counter girl about their cupcakes and she said, “They’re moist chocolate cake with a rich dark chocolate frosting.”  I don’t think I need to add to that.

This cupcake is such a tease...

But standing right in front of a tub of their Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, I knew I needed to add to my order of 10 of their luscious-looking cupcakes.  I just had to have a scoop to see me through the wait.  Intense pleasures.

Their boxes and packaging could very well be at home at Chanel.

 

Awfully Chocolate has these laminated "Chinese takeout boxes" to scoop their ice cream in.

 

 

The same boxes are perfect for their Kahlua Bars and Dark Chocolate Truffles.

 

But as I've said, they're perfect for the ice cream.

 

This was my first one!

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Hey Mister that’s a J.Co Donuts donut

10 10 2011

A J.Co Donuts & Coffee Tiramisu donut

I’M NOTORIOUS for nuking pastries beyond recognition, ending up with morsels unfit for human consumption.  I guess that by now, with all the Krispy Kreme that I had consumed, I would have perfected all that it takes to resuscitate a donut that has been away from the fryer far too long – “eight seconds on high.”

Which was exactly all the wait I had to endure – hawk-eyed at the rotary dial of the microwave – before I finally savored what my friends Raoul, Lence and Tenz claimed could rival Krispy Kreme.  In my books, that’s a tough claim to make.

What I got was one J.Co Donuts & Coffee Tiramisu donut.  It was the fried incarnation of the beloved Italian dessert made of ladyfingers soaked in espresso, layered with whipped mascarpone cheese, and dusted with cocoa.

 

 

I made sure I had coffee prepared before I attempted to make the first bite.

Visually, the donut appeared like a usual special donut I would get at any counter – dough fried to a golden color, generously slathered with a cream frosting.  I highly suspected this one to have a hint of cream cheese, and the specks of brown obviously paying homage to the dusting of cocoa.

But it was only when I sank my teeth into it to get my first bite that I realized I was really in for an amazing treat.  The dough itself was perfect, holding up its integrity after being heated through, its molecules agitated and excited.  The outer crust was delicate and the insides dense while still remaining soft, flaky and chewy in a very pleasing way.

But the ultimate surprise came in the white molten lava that oozed from the center of the donut.  It was rich, luscious, and quite sinful.  I quickly returned the donut on to the plate the moment the creaminess burst in my mouth and I watched as it continued to froth its way out.  Pristine white in its purity, it spread almost like a sauce against the ebony that was the plate on which the donut was nestled.

I didn't realize there's a surprise in the center!

I picked the donut back up, tore off a small piece, and proceeded to mop all the sauce that overflowed from within.  I espied a hint of vanilla and a little cinnamon.  I was in dessert heaven.

Once will never be enough. I've got to have my J.Co fix... and fast!

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Chicken afritada

9 10 2011

The perfect bell peppers in red, green and orange, from Cold Storage.

IT’S BEEN raining almost everyday here in Singapore that it’s starting to feel like Seattle.  I’ve been staying up really late into the night, losing sleep too.  So yeah, it’s like Seattle ‘round here.

But I’ve never been the type to sulk.  So what do I do in a situation like this?  I go to the kitchen and cook.  I swung the refrigerator door open and realized one thing – I’ve never been to the grocery for quite a while.

So one rainy early evening just off from work, I walked into Cold Storage, saw the most beautiful bell peppers I’ve ever seen – in a rainbow of red, green and orange – and knew exactly what I wanted to make.

These bell peppers were so beautiful I didn't want to cook them!

One of my serious comfort dishes is called chicken afritada.  They would always make it perfect back home in the Philippines.  And they know exactly what I truly love about it – the sauce and the bell peppers added just a mere couple of minutes before the flame is turned off.  I would spoon the sauce generously on to steaming hot white rice, and heap the bell peppers on top of it.  Instantly, it’s like having my favorite blanket wrapped around me on a chilly night.  I would be warm and comforted.

But it's inevitable that I'd cook with them because, after all, they inspired the evening's dish. Here are the bell peppers with the root aromatics garlic and onion, and some "washed" potatoes from Australia.

 

Bell peppers on the chopping block, I mean, board.

 

A tighter shot of these beauties.

 

Washed, with the stems, ribs and seeds taken out. These are good to go!

I think “afritada” is one of those words that don’t really translate to English.  But the dish chicken afritada can be easily described as a chicken stew with potatoes and bell peppers in tomato sauce.  It’s very Filipino, but I highly suspect it to be of Spanish provenance.

To make my chicken afritada, you will need chicken (wing, breast, thigh and leg parts), half a head of garlic, a large white onion, a 14.5-oz. can of Hunt’s diced tomatoes, three small cans of Hunt’s tomato sauce, potatoes, and bell peppers.  (Though the Flash would always tell people that I would keep to myself whenever I’m cooking, appearing not wanting to be bothered, it’s actually quite the opposite.  I fancy myself as the host of my own cooking show.  And the “garbage” bowl beside my chopping board is testament to the fact that I’ve seen a lot of Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals.)

Start with a low flame and use a pot that is wider rather than deeper (which we don’t have a home).  Coat the bottom with a thin film of vegetable oil.  Sauté the (finely) minced garlic.  Doing a lot of chopping and prep work while already having something on the burner could pose quite a challenge.  Just make sure to keep an eye on the sauté and not allow the garlic to brown.

Sauté the garlic in a thin film of vegetable oil.

Add the large onion, finely diced.  Cover the pot for a short while to allow the onions to sweat, become translucent, release some of its natural sugars and become sweet.  Again, no browning!

Add the finely diced large white onion.

Once the garlic and onions have cooked down, make a well in the center.

The garlic and onion have cooked down. Make a well in the center to sear the chicken pieces.

Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, making sure to make only one layer.  I made a huge pot so I had to work in batches, searing the chicken as much as I could.

I realized we didn't have a wide-bottomed pot, so I had to work in batches, making sure that I would only have one layer of chicken at a time.

As you can see, the chicken let out a lot of its juices.

These are juicy chicken pieces.

Add a little water just enough to cover and bring it to a simmer.  Then, pour in the diced tomatoes.  (This is my own tweak to the recipe.  I want a chunky sauce, an homage to when this dish was made with only fresh tomatoes available).  At this point, I started with the steamed rice so that both would be ready at about the same time.

I'm partial to Hunt's and I love their diced tomatoes!

 

The diced tomatoes are in!

After the chicken has been simmering for about 10 minutes, add the quartered or halved potatoes and the tomato sauce.

Pour in the tomato sauce. I used a total of three small cans.

 

The potatoes I got were Australian, already perfectly washed, and with barely a skin on them. I thought about dunking them in as is, but since I was sharing the dish with my housemates and friends, I thought I'd peel them just to be sure.

 

The potatoes are peeled!

 

...Halved, then added to the pot!

Check the chicken and the potatoes for doneness.  Once the potatoes are fork tender (takes about 10 minutes or so), that’s the time you add in the bell peppers.  Adjust the seasoning if needed (probably just a pinch of salt).  Cover the pot and allow to simmer for at most five more minutes.  Nothing more!

The bell peppers are ready to be sliced into wedges.

 

These bell peppers breathe life and meaning to the fact that we eat with our eyes first.

 

Finally, the bell peppers are added!

The chicken afritada is now ready to hit the table!

Dinner is served!

 

What's not to love?

 

It's even better the day after it's made. And this shot was taken the day after!

 

This dish is inspiring me to cook more often.

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Lemon tree very pretty

9 10 2011

Fish in Ginger Sauce, D'Lemon Tree Thai Kitchen & Café, 173 Bencoolen Street, Summer View Hotel, Singapore 189642 (This and all photos, taken with my Blackberry Bold 9780)

 

“DO YOU like Thai food?”

The question, in its simplicity and straightforwardness, managed to make me pause.  And excitedly compose a reply.  In between hitting the keys in staccato, I would close my eyes and imagine catching a whiff of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal.  Undeniable flavors of the land of the free.

I hit the send button and in minutes got a response.  Apparently, my answer in the affirmative merited an enthusiastic recommendation from my correspondent, a new friend I made at work here in Singapore.

And that’s what’s amazing about friends – old and new.  They’re one of only two you can really trust when it comes to places where to eat.  The other is a long line.  A long line is always a good sign.  (Though here in Singapore I’ve seen longer lines outside Chanel and Louis Vuitton on Orchard Road than most anywhere else.  Haha!)

While striking up a conversation with one of the wait staff, I realized that D’Lemon Tree Thai Kitchen & Café has both.  After all, I went there on a friend’s recommendation.  And usually, before the restaurant’s 11:30 AM opening time, a line would have formed outside, patiently waiting for a taste of Thai.

My friends and I went there for the lunch special.  It consists of tom yam soup, a spring roll, a slice of fish cake, a choice of entrée, sticky rice and mango for dessert, and overflowing lime juice, coffee or tea.  And oh, there were buffet tables where everyone had access to phad thai, and an array of desserts.  For those who opt to veer away from the really spicy, the restaurant offers an alternative to the traditional tom yam.  For that day, they called it the Chef’s special, a clear soup chockful with chunks of vegetables.

Tom Yam

 

Spring Rolls and Fish Cake

 

Stir-fried Vegetables

 

Glass Noodles with Chili and Mint

 

Fried Rice

But I love tom yam and must’ve had it from Penang, all the way to Manila, to Bangkok (at the international airport), and now here in Singapore.  Tom yam is the traditional Thai hot and sour soup, flavored with bird’s eye chilies, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and fresh lime juice.  I was told that it originated from the southern part of the country where the shrimp is plentiful.  It was the Bangkokians who added roasted chilies in oil that had since given the dish its characteristic reddish color.  I’ve had it with and without coconut milk, and do love both versions.

Second bowl of Tom Yam

 

Fresh Coriander Leaves, coarsely chopped.

So it goes without saying that D’Lemon Tree’s rendition – one without coconut milk – had a lot to measure up to.  Their version was spicy hot, something that bites back but in a nice way.  It was, as my new friend said, full of “good stuff” – shrimp, squid, fish.  A sprinkling of coarsely chopped fresh coriander leaves rounded up the flavors of what I would always lovingly refer to as “Thailand in a bowl.”

For my entrée, I chose the fish in ginger sauce, which was served in a small plate on a lacquered tray that had equally small portions of stir-fried vegetables, glass noodles with mint and chilies, and special fried rice.  The fish was delicate, made perfect with the accompaniment of ginger strips with every bite.  I thought I wouldn’t feel stuffed, given the “small” portions.  Towards the end of the meal, I pulled myself back and stared at the lacquered tray telling myself, “Now looks could really be deceiving.”

While my friends relished their desserts, I couldn’t be distracted from my second bowl of tom yam.  In my mind, I thought that the soup was kind of authentic that I needed a passport to be enjoying it at the moment.  Then I snapped out of it and knew that all it took to be savoring this value-for-money meal were my ez-link card, six short bus stops, and exactly SG$ 9.99 in change from my pocket.

Sticky Rice and Mango

 

I love the sticky rice so much more than the mango. Here, I'm having seconds, courtesy of my friend.

 

Kap Kun khap

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.