Boise in a list of 40

16 06 2014

WE NEVER forget our first.  I mean to say, “firsts,” as well as all other things worth taking note of.  My first sojourn to the land of world–famous potatoes is coming to an end.  I allow myself to wax nostalgic and I’m not surprised that as I sip through my Tall Breakfast Brew with room for cream and brown sugar mixed in, I couldn’t help but break into smiles as my list of 40 unravels.

They say that life begins at 40.  I think I’m off to a great start.

01

I’ve been made aware of Boise and of Idaho more along the lines of being one of the best places to live in the States, and to raise a family.  I didn’t realize that this assignment would inadvertently allow me to tick off an item on another kind of list:  “TheCNN10 Dare To Go” List, http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/05/travel/cnn10-dare-to-go/.

"The CNN 10 Dare To Go" has Idaho on its list!  I have to say, I've ticked this one off!

“The CNN 10 Dare To Go” has Idaho on its list! I have to say, I’ve ticked this one off!

 

01_Arrival_00

eNTeNG, mere minutes from arriving at Boise Airport.

 

Welcome to IDAHO!

Welcome to IDAHO!

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson!  "And I DO like...  Hoo-hoo...  Living under your STOP LIGHT...  Hoo-hoo..."

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson! “And I DO like… Hoo-hoo… Living under your STOP LIGHT… Hoo-hoo…”

 

02

Somehow, it is indeed very nice to know that “in Boise, you are just within 15 minutes of almost everything.”

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road...  Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road… Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

 

03

In Boise, nature is beautifully and peacefully juxtaposed with modern–day technology.  I was first able to write about a similar observation on my first ever trip overseas, when I delivered a speech at a UN–sanctioned international conference for students held in Japan in 1990.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes.  The Foothills.  The Blue Sky.  The pristine white clouds.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes. The Foothills. The Blue Sky. The pristine white clouds.

 

04

I have never driven my whole life.  So that was the first and foremost concern I had when I learned about my trip to Boise.  Cue The Beatles:  “I get by with a little help from my friends”  Cue James Taylor:  “You’ve Got A Friend.”  And of course, cue TLC: “I don’t want no scrubs.  Scrubs is a guy who can’t get no love from me.  Hanging on the passenger side of his best friend’s ride…’  #Ouch!  Hahaha!

 

05

I was able to get my fill, to my heart’s content, of all the Boise State University (BSU) #BRONCOS merchandise I could get my hands on.  Sadly, I wasn’t as fortunate with University of Idaho #VANDALS.

Lovin' my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

Lovin’ my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

 

Hats galore.  The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

Hats galore. The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

 

06

FOR A place with stark interiors, the menu at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway was daunting.  But just like what The Library of Babel T-Shirt says, “You can’t rule the world if you can’t decide what to order.”  So, armed with my own resolve to rule my own world, I zoomed into the taste of the familiar that seemed buried beneath an array of lunch specials and enticing combo options.  I ordered their Pho the first time I was there, and never looked back.  I also never ordered anything else.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh's Spicy Chicken Meal!  Well, everybody but me.  Not because it isn't any good.  It is excellent.  But I'm all about the pho.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh’s Spicy Chicken Meal! Well, everybody but me. Not because it isn’t any good. It is excellent. But I’m all about the pho.

 

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho!  Probably the best I've had the world over.

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho! Probably the best I’ve had the world over.

 

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers.  And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers. And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

 

07

YOITOMO in Downtown Boise may not be the best Japanese restaurant around, but their All–You–Can–Eat lunch and dinner specials are right up my alley.  And I give them a gold star for the most creative names for their dishes.

I've eaten all I could at this place.  At Lunch, and Dinner.

I’ve eaten all I could at this place. At Lunch, and Dinner.

 

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura.  And I could slurp that dipping sauce...  if I could.

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura. And I could slurp that dipping sauce… if I could.

 

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like.  Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs.  Haha!

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like. Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs. Haha!

 

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo.  And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo. And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

 

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

 

08

The undivided love and attention I usually give to an excellent piece of ribeye steak has finally had to yield to some level of sharing.  How could I not with those amazing sweet potato fries?  My first – Legend’s.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend's.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend’s.

 

A knife through the steak.  And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

A knife through the steak. And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

 

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

 

09

Speaking of amazing sweet potato, the baked version served at Texas Roadhouse, the one with melted honey brown sugar oozing down to the sides, has always been worth subjecting my ear drums to decibel levels that will send me to the EENT someday.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato!  My heart would've melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato! My heart would’ve melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

 

A close shot of the object of my affection.  Gustatory affection, that is.

A close shot of the object of my affection. Gustatory affection, that is.

 

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse.  Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town.  Haha!

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse. Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town. Haha!

 

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection.  The latter often win.  (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection. The latter often win. (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

 

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises.  The display alone would make anybody's mouth water.

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises. The display alone would make anybody’s mouth water.

 

10

My seatmate on the Portland–Boise leg of my incoming flight told me that real Idaho potatoes could not be had in Idaho.  If they ever could, they would cost an arm and a leg.  Fortunately, to make my now–famous (haha!) chicken–pork afritada and beef mechado, Winco Foods keeps me covered by stocking up on the best potato in the world!

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others.  All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others. All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

 

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

 

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada.  #BBF Steele became fond of this.

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada. #BBF Steele became fond of this.

 

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

 

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

 

11

Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine, the current office cafeteria concessionaire makes the best Sugar Cookie.  She doesn’t make a lot of it per batch so when she does, I would hoard them.  I share some and the rest, I portion and ration to my own self as much as I could to delay the ultimate gratification.

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

 

12

I wish I spoke Italian.  So that I could fight with someone so fiercely, which is the perfect excuse to later make up over a pint of Haagen–Dazs gelato.

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.  Guilty as charged!

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. Guilty as charged!

 

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream.  Well, sometimes.  Haha!  As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream. Well, sometimes. Haha! As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

 

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this.  I'd see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this. I’d see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

 

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

 

13

For more wholesome pleasures, Tillamook Cake Batter ice cream is the perfect choice.  I can finish the half galloon all by myself until I get sick.

Tillamook's Grandma's Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting.  And on one occasion, I did.

Tillamook’s Grandma’s Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting. And on one occasion, I did.

 

14

The best store–bought gelato is Talentis Tahitian Vanilla Bean.  I get it for US$5.99 at Albertson’s.  And for US$3.99 only at WinCo!

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson's and just had to take a snap.  I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven't looked back since.

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson’s and just had to take a snap. I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven’t looked back since.

 

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors.  And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors. And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

 

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

 

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

 

15

A pint of Ben & Jerry’s will set you back by about US$ 4.00 at your friendly Albertson’s, Fred Meyer, or WinCo.  In Singapore, it costs S$ 15.00.  The exchange rate is US$ 1.00 to S$ 1.30, typically.

Gotta keep lovin' Ben & Jerry's for not being boring.  Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

Gotta keep lovin’ Ben & Jerry’s for not being boring. Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

 

16

Nothing beats homemade goodnessChase Mecham’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, his grandmother’s (secret) recipe, is so good it belongs to a prominent place on the supermarket frozen section aisle.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, "Chef" Chase Mecham.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, “Chef” Chase Mecham.

 

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me.  On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport.  I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me. On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport. I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

 

17

My first real experience of Mexican cuisine was at my mentor Ralph Kim’s family dinner at his sprawling home of a house.  I had a taste of unforgettable tacos and that killer of a key lime pie!

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos.  It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos. It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

 

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos.  I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos. I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

 

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

 

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler!  With the brownies and the "leche flan" is the unforgettable key lime pie.

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler! With the brownies and the “leche flan” is the unforgettable key lime pie.

 

18

I think the Boise Factory Outlet Mall is seriously underrated.  When you’re done shopping, you can actually soak in the awesome view of the Boise Foothills.  (Okay – I can hear you sayin’ that the same could be had right smack from the parking lot.  You have a point.)

 

19

Speaking of the Boise Factory Outlet Mall, I had a couple of field days there, rummaging through the CLEARANCE section at LeVI’S.  I used to only shop where it says S–A–L–E in big bold red letters.  But LeVI’S has changed this to big bold red letters that spell C–L–E–A–R–A–N–C–E.  I got several pairs for myself at only US$ 9.53 each after a further 40% was cut from the lowest–ticketed–price of US$ 14.98.  #SWEET.

"Take an additional 40% off already reduced items."  Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?!  Haha!

“Take an additional 40% off already reduced items.” Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?! Haha!

 

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

 

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

 

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores.  I find this...  what's the word...  ah, therapeutic.  Haha!

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores. I find this… what’s the word… ah, therapeutic. Haha!

 

20

My good friend Chase Mecham, the generous Baker King himself, would usually make his own mix of nuts, seeds and spices that he would throw into his dough mix – the image in my head involves a lot of wrist action like in flouring a counter top on to which the dough would be mercilessly slammed – but on the one he brought for me to sample, he used a mix he found at random at Trader Joe’s.  It’s called DUKKAH: A Nut & Spice Blend.  It was a whiff of inspiration.  Chase’s homemade bread had become my favorite.

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

 

What's one of the best things in the world?  Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

What’s one of the best things in the world? Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

 

21

I was running an errand at Sephora one day when I stumbled upon a kiosk that sells artisanal olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and focaccia so good I must’ve finished all the samples – cubed morsels of rosemary–perfumed goodness – while I carried on an animated conversation with the lovely shopkeeper.  She was so nice I ended up requesting a selfie with her.  And yes, one huge loaf of the bread!  The shop is called Olioteca.  They are online at http://www.olioteca.net/.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca's artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca’s artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

 

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

 

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy's.

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy’s.

 

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

 

22

My good friend Jonathan Young makes a spicy marinara sauce so good, I had to restrain myself from licking the Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ in full view of the Building 36 lunch crowd.  Sometimes, whatever little sense of propriety a person has always comes in handy.

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony.  Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™...  sometimes, why don't we?

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony. Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™… sometimes, why don’t we?

 

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

 

23

I may have no problem strapping a Rolex on my wrist but at the same time, I do derive as much pleasure – if not more so – from all the discounts I have managed to score, shopping at ROSS, Marshalls, and TJMaxx.  And trust me, it is amazing the bursts of clarity that come with psychotic retail therapy.  I had formed some of my more brilliant ideas while taking a pause beside the clearance racks.  Right there, just beside the further–reduced bins.

 

24

I would wait for the Macy’s commercials on TV.  I love how the word “doorbusters” rings with much profundity.  My favorite Ralph Lauren Trail Sweater in navy blue cost me only US$ 19.60 + tax after 80% was slashed off the original price.  Major score!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

 

25

I collect the beautifully designed “scent swatches” (cards) that are used to test perfume or cologne in department stores.  I re–purpose them into gift cards where I write my signature personal notes that come with whatever I give away.

 

26

I thought I was good at making the Filipino leche flan.  And then my good friend Chase Mecham‘s crème brulee came along, by way of one ramekin all to myself!  Same holds true for Filipino specialties that I realize could be made so much better by others – Rafela Sim’s mom Mamita makes the best “ginataang halo–halo”, Arvin Daguro’s wife makes the best “ginataang hipon”, and, Ricky Victor’s wife makes awesome pasta.

Rafela's Mamita whips up the best "ginataang halo-halo."  I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

Rafela’s Mamita whips up the best “ginataang halo-halo.” I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

 

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro's wife Lea's "ginataang hipon."  (Shrimps in coconut milk)

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro’s wife Lea’s “ginataang hipon.” (Shrimps in coconut milk)

 

27

#BBF Steele Stone’s lasagna developed in me a deeper appreciation for pasta doused in sauce that has been simmered for hours.

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele.  The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele. The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

 

#Selfie with #BBF Steele!  Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

#Selfie with #BBF Steele! Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

 

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel.  They brought me out to lunch on this day.

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel. They brought me out to lunch on this day.

 

28

#Hump_Day_Wednesday means a box of a dozen donuts – often from Country Donuts – shared with the best people you know.  This I learned from the example of #BBF Steele Stone.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise.  An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise. An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

 

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays!  I miss these donuts.

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays! I miss these donuts.

 

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box.  Like this chocolate–glazed one!

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box. Like this chocolate–glazed one!

 

29

Eating gluten–free is not a fad.  With all the pasta I devour, I couldn’t imagine an easy existence if I were allergic to gluten.  So I give mad props to all those who whip up edible works of art that pack all the flavors and nutrients sans the allergens.  I’ve been fortunate to sample muffins and (Bundt) cakes made by Sandy Kralik and Heike Brown.  “There’s even no sugar in there eNTeNGJust bananas.”  They were so good that I went bananas.

The Sandy Kralik "There's–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There" Muffin!

The Sandy Kralik “There’s–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There” Muffin!

 

Heike Brown's luscious Bundt Cake.

Heike Brown’s luscious Bundt Cake.

 

30

Gotta love those oatmeal cookies made by Nick Kaiser.  I had to send him my 10–second review from the very first bite.

Not much to look at and doesn't photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

Not much to look at and doesn’t photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

 

31

Some of the best gifts I have ever received this past four months are handwritten notes.  And I would be remiss if I’d not make mention of all the handwritten cards I did receive.  I’ve been reading them over and over again.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise.  I have to say, these are the best things I'd remember the place – and my time there – by.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise. I have to say, these are the best things I’d remember the place – and my time there – by.

 

32

I would start my day with happy, fast songs that I think would put the spring to my step.  I can’t listen to Tiesto’s Red Lights without images of South Federal Way buzzing like neon in my head.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

 

33

I am not afraid of color.  I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  On two occasions – once in Singapore and once here in Boise – I was told by someone that I bring “Gummy Bears” to mind.  Haha!  I find that to be a huge compliment as it came from two people whose opinions count.

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

 

34

Trader Joe’s opened in Boise on February 28, 2014.  Of course I was there.  After taking several snaps of the bottles of Cookie Butter on the shelf, I had the urge to clean all 35 bottles on display.

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe's to Boise!

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe’s to Boise!

 

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf.  I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these.  I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff.  I was happy to explain!

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf. I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these. I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff. I was happy to explain!

 

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

 

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version.  This one gained a lot of fans.

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version. This one gained a lot of fans.

 

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe's.  Haha!  Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe’s. Haha! Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

 

Made a friend at Trader Joe's.  Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

Made a friend at Trader Joe’s. Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

 

35

The very first car at the parking lot that I took a snap of has the license plate “BELLA”.  I thought the owner was a Twilight fanatic.  I couldn’t be more wrong.

Hello Gorgeous!

Hello Gorgeous!

 

36

I don’t drive but I do lust after cars from time to time.  I’ve had the longest and deepest longing for the MINI COOPER.  Some of the more recent important days of my life had been punctuated by a sighting of a MINI swooshing by.  I think of it as some sort of lucky charm.  There is a nice MINI I would see at the parking lot on some days.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

 

... and at Albertson's.

… and at Albertson’s.

 

...  and even in Chicago!

… and even in Chicago!

 

37

I think I will miss my cubicle of 120 days – that little corner by the door of Room 113A.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

 

And then...  it was DONE.

And then… it was DONE.

 

38

I am ending this assignment feeling so well taken care of by locals.  By those who have given me a ride to and from my apartment and “dream” destinations.  And by all my friends at…  Boise City Taxi!

I Heart Boise...  City Taxi!

I Heart Boise… City Taxi!

 

39

They say life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.  I would say, life is what happens when you actually live those plans.  I couldn’t have been anywhere else better in the last 120 days than in 83706, in this Gem of a State.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

 

40

Food that provides real comfort could prove to be perfect for mopping up tears – cue here those singular nights of homesickness – and when made really really well, they could move an old man like me to tears.  Such was the oxymoronic delight that is the Blondie from the Mecham family kitchen, which, as I have unabashedly declared here, is equal parts home baking goodness (by his wife Jen) and a treasured family recipe.  For sure, I will miss this Blondie.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams.  'Nuf said.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams. ‘Nuf said.

 

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat.  Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat. Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Kuya Mike and pasta

29 06 2013

THE DIFFERENCE in time zones is the loophole of lapses in thoughtfulness.  Clearly, I mean this about friends who have oceans between them – blame it on the time zone, so to speak.  If this post had made it to the third week of May or at most the one after that, then I would claim my opening sentence to be nothing but absolute truth.  Or, at least my scapegoat.  But this post obviously is more of the really belated kind.  No loophole could justify the delay.

Well, I guess there’s one – I actually know when his birthday is, independent of any post on his facebook wall, and I always remember to greet him.  But then again, it is indeed way too late.

So let this be just one of those posts about my few but well thought out friendships.  It’s coming at a time when the cinemas are rumbling with the 40–minute pivotal action sequence in one of the more definitive superhero movies of our time.  So clearly, this post that talks about one of the superheroes in my life, is quite appropriate.

I’ve never really seen any of the cinematic installments but from what I’ve read about Tony Stark, it’s Kuya Mike who embodies him the most among my friends.  We came to Singapore together, had our first day at our new jobs together, and have since been waging our battles together.

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Kuya Mike a.k.a. Iron Man clearly drives for Scuderia Ferrari!

It’s amazing the clarity that comes with being down on your luck or just unexplainably sad.  You realize who your real friends are.  And you resolve to do your best to keep them.

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Linguine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartoccio (Linguine with Seafood “in the bag”). This has turned out to be Iron Man’s favorite pasta dish!

 

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I saw this pile first thing one morning and I knew that Iron Man was back for his hectic, full-packed two-week break from his assignment on the isle of Sicily. I said in jest that his “pasalubong” for me has had a consistent theme – an “I heart (place)” item and a… notebook! The one the chocolates are on came from his layover in Amsterdam.

I’m quite thankful to be really close friends with Kuya Mike.  That is, Iron Man.  Over a week ago, he took a Royal Dutch Airlines flight back to Italia.  I’m quite happy that he has this chance to enjoy God’s creation in a totally different place.  He deserves every good opportunity that comes his way.

And my special, limited edition airport send–off service.  Hahaha!

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Every airport send-off starts with a snapshot of the control tower as our taxi approaches. My trusty Canon IXUS 860IS really does have great stabilizer.

 

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We’ve arrived! It has to be said that Iron Man may seem to be the conscientious traveler. But he actually travels quite light, packing everything efficiently. If I were to go to Italia, I’d probably lug around twice as much. Haha!

 

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While Iron Man fusses over his stuff for one final accounting before checking in, my attention was demanded by this dynamic work of art. I didn’t bother to check its name out just yet. All I could make of them at the time was that they seemed to be golden droplets of rain making beautiful patterns suspended in the sky.

 

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Here are those golden rain drops, suspended on parallel planes. Observing my being mesmerized, Iron Man quipped, “Boss, ngayon mo lang nakita yan?” (Boss, you’re just noticing that now?)

 

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Iron Man took the Royal Dutch Airlines.

 

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Trust Audemars to give accurate time check. Iron Man’s flight leaves past midnight.

 

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The blogger and the superhero. That’s Iron Man at the check-in counter.

 

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Something in common with Iron Man: We travel in shorts!

 

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I asked him to post for a photo in front of numbers “3” and “4”, two of my favorites.

 

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Like with most of those I had sent off at the airport, the first post-check-in activity involves… F–O–O–D.

 

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I realize that I have been in Singapore for two years, yet I haven’t been to Aston’s. This dinner with Iron Man was only my second time at the place – in the space of two days! It felt like a revenge for missing out. Both were such treats.

 

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I loved this chalk work on the board that I asked permission to photograph it. (Lest the store manager screams, “No photo please!”)

 

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It was departure time so Iron Man was fielding text messages that were coming in a-plenty.

 

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Between Iron Man and me, the count was two wristwatches and three phones. If it were one of those days I fancy to strap on two watches, then it would’ve been three even.

 

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Tag Heuer and Technomarine – live together in perfect harmony… Channeling Stevie and Paulie. Hahaha!

 

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The food has landed!

 

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The same thing in the space of two days – the Prime Ribeye Extra Cut, with sides of french fries and steamed vegetables. I would’ve wanted the Macaroni & Cheese but given the lateness of the hour, they had run out.

 

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This is exactly how I want my meat – medium rare.

 

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See, nothing left. Hahaha!

 

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Dinner’s done! It’s time to head to the departure area.

 

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Iron Man was a walking advertisement for UNIQLO. And North Face.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Comfort notes

19 05 2013

OFTEN HERE in Singapore, I don’t need to move away from my desk to survive a hectic workday.  I can successfully keep the insatiable, unceasing hunger pangs at bay with munchies I pop in my mouth from time to time.  You probably think that I could very well have made a pantry of one of the three drawers on my MPD (mobile personal drawer).  To a certain extent, I did.  But I actually survive more through the “love and care for me that is in other people.”

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One morning, I found this paper rose on my desk. I still don’t know who made it for me. Ok, cue the song… “Paper roses / paper roses / …” HAHA!

If only my cubicle walls could talk, I would be regaled with anecdotes of food and notes left on my desk by some of the most generous and it has to be said – lovable – people I’ve ever come across here.  The surprises would come in the morning, perfect for starting one’s day, and any other time in between.  Regardless, they’re perfect for adding a spring – no, make that chutzpah – to one’s step in yet another long day in the office.

The food may have long disappeared – believe me, they’ve had (haha!) – but I have the accompanying notes to go back to and read.  They’re like a warm blanket I can pull up to my chin when the cool breeze blows through my windows at night.

And even in the perennial tropic that is the Singaporean warm weather, there really are times when the cool wind blows.

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I receive a lot of these from my Malaysian friends. But this one, its Chinese name translated to “Black Sugar Biscuit” has got to be one of the ultimate best!

 

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I asked someone to translate for me what these lovely delicious balls of gooey goodness are called. “Black Sugar Biscuits,” he said.

 

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Malaysian treats don’t have to exclusively come from Malaysians. I have a Singaporean friend who always remembers me too!

 

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These biscuits had a (purple) yam filling. Quite scrumptious too! I liked it.

 

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These treats are paper-thin wafers or crepes called “Love Letters,” made by hand by a colleague’s aunt. Each bears a very intricate pattern. They are so delicious.

 

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These two boxes came all the way from Shanghai in China, from a beloved colleague I respectfully call “Ms. Lynda.”

 

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One box contained these sesame seed finger biscuits that had the feel and taste of biscotti. Perfect with tea or coffee.

 

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More cookies in the other box.

 

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This is one amazing sandwich made by Betchie (or by her “Staff”). To this slice I sing, “Sana maulit muli…” Hahaha!

 

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A variety of teas from Rhonee

 

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My current “half-and-half” fixation, introduced to me by Cecille – Cadbury Brunch Bars! Every bar is half guilt, half “good-for-you” goodness.

 

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Two muffins from Ms. Sharon

 

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Chocolates galore! Godiva, no less. And there are so many others. Like that pack on the left. I’m not crazy about chocolates. But it’s nice to be thought of from time to time.

 

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Two of the most heartwarming notes I’ve ever received came from my Bez’s (Glenda) two daughters, Kyla and Keisha!

 

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The letter from Keisha opens up, literally, and actually has a story to it.

 

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This one is from Kyla.

 

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A collage of more recent notes that have been taking up real estate on my wall.

 

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This came posted on a couple of morning treats from Ms. Madeline.

 

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It’s soya!

 

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Saw this on my notebook at the end of a workday.

 

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Thanks again, Ms. Madeline!

 

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Blast from the past – Some really memorable notes.

 

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A lovely note from Trisha. Beside it is a card from Melissa and Sam.

 

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Only a true kolehiyala has monogrammed stationery. Hahaha!

 

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From Dearest Daphne Tatiana!

 

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Of course there is a note from Batman!

 

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A farewell note from my Chinese best friend, Bin!

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Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





An American breakfast in the Lion City

22 04 2013
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Good morning, Singapore!

I WOKE up to an overcast Sunday sky morning.  When clouds hover overhead this way, I long to be gastronomically comforted.  When this mood hits me, I prefer to have the flavors of the familiar for breakfast.  Being deeply committed to a romance with places I call home, I decided on old-fashioned freshly baked bagel with a good schmear of cream cheese.

For a year and a half in Folsom, California, this was exactly my breakfast.  Clearly, my choice of the first meal of the day today is in honor of the States, which in the past few days has shown the world stories of courage, heroism, and hope.

Here in Singapore, I get my bagel and cream cheese fix from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  I would ask that the bagel be cut across, then thrown to the toaster to just brown ever so lightly.  Onto the fluffy, chewy center, I smear a generous amount of cream cheese, the more it slides down to the sides, the better.  While most approach it like they would a sandwich, I actually deal with each slice separately.  Unless I find myself within the walls of my office cubicle, I see no need to rush the pleasure.

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Breakfast is served! Old-fashioned sesame seed bagel and cream cheese, with hot chocolate topped with marshmallows.

 

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This is a surprisingly affordable plate! The bagel costs only S$ 3.50 and the cream cheese, S$ 0.80. The butter and the jam are complimentary!

 

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The perfect bagel has a shiny crusty exterior and dense chewy interior. I asked for it to be cut across then lightly toasted. Just how I would do it at the office cafereria in Folsom for a year and a half!

 

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I’m always all the more so excited the moment I peel off the top of the cream cheese mini-tub.

 

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I reckon that this small-ish tub is always never enough. Hahaha!

 

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Nothing like hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold morning.

I take a bite through the crusty outside all the way to the dense, doughy interior, unperturbed by the cream cheese moustache that would form with each bite.  I lick this tasty smear around my lips, take a sip of my hot chocolate topped with marshmallows, look outside the window and see that the sun is slowly breaking free from the clouds.

Indeed, there is still more good in this world.

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I just love this photo of the Merlion from my archives. I took it during one of the many breakfasts I’ve had here.

 

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The Singapore skyline in the early morning.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Happiness is two kinds of ice cream in that waffle bowl thing

14 04 2013
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Salted Caramel’s Earl Grey (left) and Salted Caramel (right), served on a waffle bowl.

WITH EVERY step I took towards our destination, it started to feel like whatever ioata of being a food critic wannabe I had in me was slowly melting away, much like artisanal ice cream sliding down the surface impressions on a waffle (cone) bowl.

I felt unworthy in the presence of someone who has succinct opinions of practically every gastronomic establishment on the stretch of Upper Thomson Road, his words buoyed by the waves of the no-nonsense tone of a stern father.  At one point, he summarized one place in just one word that conjured up a vivid image in my head:  I would be better off chewing on a piece of cardboard than any pricey item on the menu.  He was not complaining about the price, he clearly has strong feelings about “getting what you pay for.”

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One establishment that got high praise from Michael was this burger-and-beer place called FAT BOY’S. We shall come back for the tall, stacked burger. All the beer-drinking ill be left to Michael though.

 

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See what I mean about the beer?

My good friend Michael is back after a five–month assignment at the home of the growing Lujiazui skyline – a place I last beheld about eight years ago.  We find ourselves on this stroll on Upper Thomson Road as I finally take him up on his offer to introduce me to one of the best artisanal ice cream places in the island city.  I usually walk double time, but somehow, the thought of the anticipated gratification necessitated a little more delay.  The pace just had to be leisurely.  Besides, I was carefully taking down mental notes, crafting a roadmap to conquer this seeming slice of gastronomic heaven.

When we started our walking tour, Michael politely called me out on my start-and-stop stride as I snapped away images on my Blackberry Bold 9780.  Before I could even attempt to rationalize my actions as my knack for really documenting my adventures, he was equally quick to surmise that a blog post was probably already taking form in my head.  I would’ve understood – and honestly waited – if any brewing impatience would take the form of him scratching his head or gnashing his teeth but instead he offered that I use his Samsung Galaxy S3.  “It would take better images.”

Anything in colorful font stops me on my tracks.  So I just had to take an image of this blackboard that enumerated the “Flavours Today” in colorful (handwritten) block capitals.  I finished taking my snaps and asked, “Where to?”

“We’re here.”

I saw the sign and it said, “Salted Caramel.”

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Reading through this colorful “Flavours Today” menu board was enough to make anybody’s blood sugar shoot up with happiness. I was breathless in anticipation.

 

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“Surprise me” was the theme of this ice cream treat. Michael took care of all the ordering.

The place was packed, its off–white interiors offering the illusion of the space appearing larger than it really is.  My generous host of a friend asked me to secure our seats while he took care of ordering an array of scoops he thought to be my best introduction to the place.  The only decision he had to trouble me with was – waffle bowl or waffle cone?  I saw a table against the wall and went for the save – not only was it packed but the queue was long also.

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The ice cream makes it to the table!

Soon enough, ice cream so fresh I swear they could’ve only come straight from the udders of cows finally made their landing.  Smarting under the lash of reality check that I wasn’t the smarter foodie at the table, I made a last-ditch effort to salvage whatever self-respect remained.  Essentially by trying to sound smart.  Hahaha!

“People haven’t really been salting their caramel until fairly recently.  So how long has Salted Caramel been here?”

Michael, who lives nearby, estimated the ice cream house’s emergence to a couple of years back.  He went on to introduce to me the four scoops he ordered for us to share.

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Michael’s favorites Stout & Chocolate and Rum & Raisin

“You don’t drink.  But I hope that you’re not allergic to alcohol.  Here we have Stout & Chocolate, and Rum & Raisin.  This bowl has Earl Grey, like the tea, and the house signature, the namesake Salted Caramel.  I like the Stout & Chocolate.  It is usually stronger than this.  I think that (another shop’s name) was the first to infuse alcohol into ice cream.  But it was Salted Caramel that perfected it.”

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A very Michael thing to do – once only a little of the ice cream is left, he crumbles the waffle bowl into the paper cup in one quick squashing action very similar to abruptly closing a book shut.

And everything indeed was perfect.  I mean, you cannot call something artisanal – a fact proudly brandished by this shop just beneath its name – and expect everything to be technically perfect.  The profundity of Salted Caramel’s ice cream’s scrumptious beauty and flavors lies in the promise of homemade fresh goodness served in classic and spiked interpretations – Vanilla is comfortably juxtaposed with Stout & Chocolate.

When you find these scoops melting into each other in a waffle bowl or cone, you too will melt away.  Ice cream, after all, is the anti-freeze to the soul.

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I chose to keep my first ever Salted Caramel ice cream spoon as a memento of the experience. I will surely go back!

 

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This Salted Caramel ice cream spoon is set against the backdrop of SHOP Singapore, one of my favorite publication in the island city. I wonder if Upper Thomson Road has ever been featured on its pages.

 

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The Salted Caramel paper cup bears a sticker of the logo and colors of the place. Everything is in comforting shades of brown. At this shop, clearly, it takes salt and burnt sugar, one magic moment, to know you’re in heaven.

 

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Salted Caramel is housed on a stretch of buildings that bear marks of Singapore colonial architecture.

 

WHO?  Salted Caramel Artisan Ice Cream.  WHAT?  Artisanal ice cream, waffles, a lot of dessert stuff.  WHERE?  246F Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574370.  www.saltedcaramel.sgWHEN?    Sunday–Thursday 12:00 NN–11:00 PM / Eve of Public Holiday, Friday & Saturday 12:00 NN–2:00 AM.  WHY?  The ice cream is top notch.  There’s alcohol in some of them.  The staff is nice.  HOW?  The nearest MRT station is CC16 Marymount (Circle Line).  We walked about 10 minutes.  HOW MUCH?  It was Michael’s treat but I think he spent nowhere more than S$ 5.00 per head.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





A stopover in Hokkaido on the way to the flat

3 04 2013

YOU NEVER ever forget your first.

The first time I was out of the Philippines, my destination was Japan.  I went there to speak at a United Nations international conference for students.  I carried with me a speech – the original draft of which I still have – with the most appropriate and beautiful opening paragraph courtesy of my eldest brother.

I was 16 years old at the time.  I still vividly remember walking up to the rostrum, faced the crowd and saw that everybody had their headsets on (for real-time translation) to listen to me.  “Just like in the movies (when heads of state would meet just before a disaster strikes),” I told my surprisingly calm self.  I was confident enough not to bring with me the printout of my speech.  Back then, I had unwavering faith in my memory serving me right.  And for the five days leading to the speech, I had had sufficient practice delivering impromptu talks at all the primary schools, secondary schools and the Ministry of Education office that we visited.

I think I got thunderous applause.  But nothing was louder than the one I got after singing a capella before the program closed.  Mine was the only musical number they allowed in what was a strictly formal event.  It was a last-minute addition too.  The organizers asked me to sing after hearing me do so at one of the schools we had gone to.  I was later approached by an Austrian violinist who wanted to offer me a music scholarship in Europe.

Why am I suddenly waxing nostalgic?  And of Japan of all places?  I blame it on Cold Storage.  I blame it on them for setting up this “Hokkaido” gastronomic festival of sorts at the open area of the mall nearest my flat.

I didn’t go to Hokkaido during that trip to Japan.  I went to Tokyo and Yokohama.  But if what I remember of all the gustatory delights I had in those two cities could at least be a faint figment of what the country’s biggest island offers, then I am all for shopping to my heart’s content.

I scoured all the racks radar-locking at anything that resembled my favorite Japanese cookie, the Fujiya Chocochip Cookie Cocoa Country Ma’am.  Apparently, it doesn’t trace its roots to the island.

But it wasn’t any reason to fret.  I love Japanese curry (Hello, Coco Ichibanya!) and there were a lot of choices on offer – scallop, salmon, clam, and octopus.  I equally heart ramen, so this I got in all its broth variations – shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce) and my all-time favorite miso (fermented soybean paste).  The closest I got to the chocolate chip cookie of my dreams was a box of sweet choco soft rusk.  And to top everything off – and to best end a day of nostalgia – was a tub of Hokkaido Ice Cream in Premium Vanilla.

This promotion runs until Friday this week.  And I can’t wait to go back tomorrow and stock up.

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Scallop Curry

 

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Salmon Curry

 

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Clam Curry

 

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Octopus Curry

 

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These are squid stuffed with rice.

 

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Sweet Choco Soft Rusk

 

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I got sold the instant I saw the tag line: “Only Hokkaido Taste”! This is the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen.

 

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Miso Ramen

 

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Shio (salt) Ramen and that cute Kid’s Ramen!

 

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There was only one freezer for the frozen delights. The tubs of ice cream each sells for S$ 9.30, and comes in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.

 

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They were quite proud of the fact that only “Hokkaido milk” goes into the ice cream.

 

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Why settle for vanilla when there is PREMIUM vanilla?! This was the one I got!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Grazie for panettone mandorla and buon compleanno Kuya

25 03 2013
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From where all scrumptious good things come – Pasticceria Chantilly (http://www.chantilly.sicilia.it/), Via Umberto I, 81 98057 Milazzo Province of Messina, Italy. Reach them at +39 090 922 1184. (This and all Pasticceria Chantilly photos are courtesy of Kuya Michele.)

CHRISTMAS IN March made it to our home in the Philippines – in time for Mama’s birthday – after traveling on Lufthansa for 6073 miles from Milazzo in Italy to Singapore, then for another 1475.83 miles on Philippine Airlines from Singapore to Manila.  All those thousands of miles and it had lost none of its charms.

Kuya Michele, my Italian big brother, has gifted me yet again with that star of the Italian Christmas Eve dinner – the panettone.  The first one I got from him traveled with me on utmost comfort on board a Singapore Airlines flight in early January.

This second one was treated no differently – even better I have to say.  Especially since it traces its provenance from Pasticceria Chantilly in Milazzo in the Province of Messina in Italy.  This pastry shop happens to be owned by Kuya Michele‘s brother (Donato) and sister-in-law (Donato’s wife).  Small– to medium–scale family–owned shops never fail to fascinate me and earn my patronage.  Usually, they are purveyors of specialty delicacies with quality that can make large commercial brands pale in comparison.

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Pasticceria Chantilly Pastry Chef and Owner, Chef Donato. He is Kuya Michele’s brother!

 

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The Master of the House behind some of his wonderful confections, almond biscotti and that beautiful cake!

 

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Chef Donato and a couple of his signature panettone. I’m inclined to think that one of those was the one that eventually made it to me in Singapore. Then, the Philippines!

 

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Biscotti and everything else delicious

 

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Another side of the delicious display counter

 

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Santa in chocolate!

 

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Dark chocolate makes me want to sin. Happily.

 

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Pristine white chocolate in various shapes, as well as tender truffles.

 

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I think these are fruit tarts. Very colorful. They give new meaning to bursts of color and flavor!

 

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I see this and all I can think of is, “Let them eat cake!”

 

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I just love this duo of cakes at the counter. I’m thinking that the one on the left is a chocolate panettone all dressed up for the holidays. The other one is perfect for a kid’s birthday party. Could it be Jack and Jill? But I don’t see a pail of water. What about Hansel and Gretel? Hmmm… it doesn’t look like it.

Panettone Mandorla by Pasticceria Chantilly is top notch.  My family loved it so much that it was practically gone the moment it hit the table.  As expected from the eggs and butter in the batter, this cake was rich and fluffy.  “Mandorla” is Italian for almond.  And that’s the fragrant whiff that arrests your senses the moment you let one of these scrumptious confections free from the cellophane packaging.  Then you see the golden brown crust, glazed with sugar and dotted with toasted almonds that further underscore the delicious variety of panettone that just begs to be devoured, putting your sense of self-control to test.

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Panettone Mandorla by Pasticceria Chantilly

 

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A tight shot of this panettone mandorla’s yummy top. Golden brown. Glazed with sugar. Topped with almonds. Yum!

 

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All the eggs and butter that go into the batter make for a rich, fluffy panettone!

Once again, thank you, Kuya Michele for this wonderful gift of an edible work of art.  And while I did greet you already, I want to greet you here again.  Happy BirthdayBuon Compleanno!

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Brothers Michele and Donato

 

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Kuya Michele came back to Singapore bearing panettone mandorla from Pasticceria Chantilly!

 

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Noodles are for long life. BUON COMPLEANNO, Kuya Michele!

 

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That’s all for now. Ciao!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Today on dates

14 02 2013

SPOTTED AT Royce’ at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.  And then at Montblanc.

Royce' - Valentines_021413_00

Blushing pink with joy at Royce’

 

 

Montblanc - Valentines_021413_00

There’s a ribbon in the sky – or at the window display at Montblanc – for our love.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





How do I love thee? Let me count the bites!

30 01 2013
SQ918 15 Two-Bite Brownies

A pack of ORIGINAL two–bite brownies®, bathed in the afternoon Singaporean sun piercing through the window of my Singapore Airlines flight.

I WAS told that the Philippines’ Presidential Sister and Queen of All–Media, Ms. Kris Aquino, “instagrammed” about this.  But it was my good friend Loradel who clued me in on it.

All that you need to know about the ORIGINAL two–bite brownies® is on the packaging.  It’s moist.  It’s fudgy.  It’s made with Belgian chocolate.  It’s all natural.  It has 0g Trans Fat.

And you can savor it in at most two bites.  Or, if you want to cut to the chase, you can, just as easily, pop one whole thing into your mouth.

Undeniably, this is my current food fixation.  And as it is with anything edible and wonderful, it is meant to be shared with friends.

So whatever I find on display at Cold Storage or at the 7–11 nearest my place, I hoard to share with my best friends.  Fortunately, there’s always enough for one pack for each.

SQ918 16 Two-Bite Brownies

A peak into what lie inside the bag! Yummy! Scrumptiously delicious.

 

SQ918 17 Two-Bite Brownies

Each pack contains four cute brownies!

 

two-bite brownies 01

One hoard!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





La Vita è Bella

10 12 2012
Italian Lunch - Group 04 THANKS Original

The writing on the paper says it all.

MAKING PASTA for Italians is like hitting your head with the biggest rock you picked up on a leisurely stroll on Orchard Turn.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster but you do it just the same,

Not one to back down from a self-imposed challenge, I, along with Kiddo, whipped up an Italian lunch of pasta and risotto for our four dear Italian compadres Michele, Paolo, Claudio and Michele last Saturday.  (Yes, two Micheles.)

We intended to hit a home run – or, going by Italy’s favorite sport – make a goal, so we asked (okay, more like forced) Claudio if we could have the lunch at his place.  I thought, it could’ve at least imbibed by now the essence of the Italian spirit – the flavors borne on the sun-kissed Mediterranean, smacked with the temperament that can only come from the boot-shaped peninsula and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily where the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate meet.

If everything went well, I could charge it to the golden green extra virgin olive oil and the perfumed goodness of basil.  If from the initial sizzle created by garlic hitting hot oil everything went downhill, I would allude to the considerable seismic activity, characteristic of the country, which could wreak havoc on even the best-laid plans.

The planned menu reads prettily on paper and speaks boldness on the part of two Asians who for the most part could’ve just very well been tinkering with one of the most recognizable cuisines in the world.

TheBrenDarryl (recipe here) – Australian Baby Wild Arugula Salad with sliced Green New Zealand Granny Smith Apple and Green Argentinian Pear, topped with shaved Parmesan Cheese and served with pan-grilled honey-glazed Prawns on the side, in my now-signature Honey–Calamansi Dressing.

Angel Hair Pomodoro (recipes here)

Farfalle alla Genovese (recipe here or here)

Risotto Zafferano (recipe by Kiddo)

To start the meal, we passed around a loaf of ciabatta from a “Milano” bakeshop in Takashimaya, and for dessert, we couldn’t have gone more traditional and Christmas-y than with panettone which I sliced and served with three kinds of gelatocrème brûlée, coffee and vanilla.  Three bottles of red wine were popped through the course of the meal, their origins being a veritable testament to globalization – one came from Chile, another from Australia, and the third one from France.

The day started quite early as Kiddo, Claudio and I agreed to do the groceries at the Cold Storage at Takashimaya the morning of.  What was initially planned to be a dash-and-go turned out to be a surprise gathering as we bumped into Paolo (there for groceries) and Michele (there for breakfast and some takeaway bread).

Italian Lunch - Group 05 Cold Storage

What did you know. We first bumped into Paolo. Then on the way out, we saw Michele.

 

Italian Lunch - Group 06 Cold Storage

Michele says HI to the camera!

 

Italian Lunch - Group 07 Cold Storage

Now, let’s try a proper photo. Hehe.

Together, we took that leisurely stroll back to their serviced apartment and I kept my eyes wide open for the biggest rock I could pick up and hit my head with.  Haha!

Italian Lunch - Apartment 00 Chandelier

I fell in love with the lobby of their apartment from the first time I saw it. The chandeliers are nice. Simple lines, wrought iron work, and individual lights that evoke images of votives. Like sending prayers to heaven.

 

Italian Lunch - Apartment 01 Ceiling

Lovin’ the high ceiling and the skeleton globes.

 

Italian Lunch - Apartment 02 Lobby

The place is all dressed up for Christmas already. I love that tree.

 

Italian Lunch - Apartment 03 The West Wing

A part of me expected Martin Sheen to show up at some point.

Once there, Kiddo and I proceeded with all the prep work – peeling, cutting, and slicing – while at the same time turning on all four burners to heat pots and pans, some of which had to be borrowed from Paolo’s and Michele’s places.

Italian Lunch - Solo 01 Cooking

Whenever I cook at other people’s places, I always get this kind of shot. How does this happen? Someone calls out for you, you turn around to acknowledge, then the shutter is set off. I like this one.

 

Italian Lunch - Food 00 Ingredients

First thing I always do regardless of where I’m cooking is lay down all the ingredients. I pick what I need as I move along with the cooking. The steaks were for Paolo as he doesn’t eat seafood.

 

Italian Lunch - Food 01 Mushroom Ragout

The mushroom ragout for the Farfalle alla Genovese is done. The two pots on the left are water for the pasta – one for the farfalle, one for the angel hair.

 

Italian Lunch - Food 03

The food has landed on the table!

 

Italian Lunch - Food 06 Risotto Zafferano

Kiddo’s Risotto Zafferano

 

Italian Lunch - Food 05 Angel Hair Pomodoro

Angel Hair Pomodoro, made with only fresh tomatoes. In deference to Claudio’s sensitivity to “uncooked” cheese, I didn’t sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

 

Italian Lunch - Food 02 Farfalle alla Genovese

Farfalle alla Genovese

 

Italian Lunch - Food 07 French Red Wine

The third bottle of red wine that was opened was French.

 

Italian Lunch - Food 08 French Red Wine

I loved how the label verbiage described the wine. “The wine is expressive and full-bodied yet unpretentious…” Could’ve been describing a person. Haha! Michele did a fine job reading the description in French.

 

Italian Lunch - Group 08 Lunch

I think lunch went okay. Haha!

More than anything, Kiddo and I wanted to keep the time as much as possible.  It would be a shame to keep guests waiting.  When the clock hit 1:00 PM – the appointed time on our invitation – I closed my eyes for one brief moment and imagined in my head the voice of Padma Lakshmi saying, “Hands up!  Utensils down!”  This meant slashing the salad off of the menu simply because I had yet to assemble the individual plates.

We sat down like one big happy family, expressed our appreciation for the food we were about to share, and just dug in.  Before we were about to finish, Michele and Claudio started asking for the speeches from “the chefs.”  I kept glancing at Kiddo and kept making sheepish grins thinking those would get me off the hook.  But our guests were serious about wanting to hear speeches.  Claudio, having already heard me deliver one at an office event, just wouldn’t let me get away with it scot-free.  I had to speak.

So with an iPhone5 trained at my countenance, I spoke.  It’s always just a good thing to keep on remembering the two lessons (among countless others) from my childhood that have never left me:  I was raised to never talk to strangers.  And to never ever be afraid to express how I feel (in my heart) and what I think (in my head).  So I spoke.  I had to.  I couldn’t put up with pretending not wanting to speak my mind.  Hehe.

Eventually, the Italians responded with their own “speeches.”  The one thing I could never forget from what they said was that by sharing a meal with us – me, Kiddo, and our other Asian friends (Chin Eik, and then Shook Yee, were there too) – they actually express their respect for us and their willingness to be our friends.  I paraphrased but that was essentially it.

After lunch was cleared, it was time to move on to a more pressing concern – to learn to play mahjong.  While Shook Yee, Chin Eik and Kiddo coached Michele, Paolo, Claudio and Michele, I proceeded with preparing the dessert course.  The panettone and gelato were store-bought (Cold Storage Specialty) but they didn’t have to be served looking like they did.  So I reached for Claudio’s pristine bone china pieces from the cupboard, set on each a thinly sliced wedge of panettone, and three rustic scoops of gelato, one each for the crème brûlée, coffee and vanilla.

Italian Lunch - Group 00 Mahjong

For most of us, it was time to learn mahjong! Chin Eik, Paolo, the very lovely Shook Yee, Michele, eNTeNG and Kia Leh (Kiddo).

 

Italian Lunch - Group 09 Mahjong

Soon enough, the Italians were making a killing at the game. Haha!

 

Italian Lunch - Friends 00 Claudio Michele

Michele and Claudio celebrate a win by singing Queen’s “We Are The Champions”. Haha!

 

Italian Lunch - Mahjong 00 Fave Tiles

My favorite mahjong tiles

 

Italian Lunch - Mahjong 01 Almost Win

An almost win for me

 

Italian Lunch - Mahjong 02 Win

Finally, a win for me!

 

Italian Lunch - Mahjong 03 Cheat Sheet

We had a cheat sheet written on the mahjong paper, courtesy of either Shook Yee, Chin Eik, or Kiddo.

 

Italian Lunch - Food 09 Panettone

Panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas cake, the dessert of choice courtesy of Claudio.

 

Italian Lunch - Food 10 Panettone with Gelato

Panettone with Gelato Three Ways, ready to be served.

 

Italian Lunch - Food 11 Panettone with Gelato

Each dessert portion is a thin slice of panettone, with a rustic melange of crème brûlée, coffee and vanilla gelato.

By the time each finished his or her share of cake and gelato, we looked at the leaderboard in shock and awe that one of the Italians, very new to the game, made us bite dust.  Paolo made an unprecedented three-win streak.  Michele (Kuya) chalked up two wins (celebrating one with a rendition of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” together with Claudio), as well as Chin Eik.  I don’t recall how the others fared.  But I do know that Shook Yee won the last game.  And somewhere in between, I walked away with a win too!  Haha!

We spent another hour talking about all things Italian – everybody in the guest list has been to Italy except me – before heading off to Takashimaya for dinner at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s Beanstro.  Around past 11:00 PM, we went on our way back to their place for the final nightcap.

Italian Lunch - Group 05 Elevator

On the elevator ride down, on our way to Takashimaya for a little shopping, coffee, and dinner for me. Haha!

 

Italian Lunch - Food 12 Beanstro Menu

The BeanSTRO Menu

 

Italian Lunch - Group 02 CBTL Beanstro

The gang at BeanSTRO by CBTL at Takashimaya

 

Italian Lunch - Food 15 Beanstro Pasta

My Roast Chicken and Tomato Concasse Pasta

 

Italian Lunch - Food 16 Biscotti

We brought back some Almond-Chocolate Biscotti from CBTL.

Needless to say, on this third leisurely stroll on Orchard Turn done in the space of one fine day, I was hoping against hope to find the biggest rock to hit my head with.  What was my business making pasta for Italians?  Then I realized I needed not a reality check because in their kind words that peppered the day’s many conversations, I recognized gratitude, appreciation for effort beyond the fruition of perfection, and a tolerance for what one’s best can offer.

I can’t wait for the next get-together.

Italian Lunch - Solo 00 Christmas Tree

Of course I’ve got to have a photo by the Christmas Tree at the lobby.

 

Italian Lunch - Group 01 Christmas Tree

By the same Christmas Tree, here with Michele, Claudio, Shook Yee, and Kiddo.

 

Italian Lunch - Solo 02 Lobby

Anywhere there is a mirror. Haha!… As you can see, we had the lobby all to ourselves. This was one of the best late night conversations I have had in a long time.

Copyright © 2012 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved