Inching closer

21 04 2013
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eNTeNG at the Open Call for Writers for the Philippine Star (Supreme Section), Boardroom 1, Dusit Thani Hotel Manila, 12 June 2010.

YOU STAY on a job for close to two decades and chances are, opportunities for change just pass you by.  Or, you do find yourself staring at the giddy precipice of change from time to time, feeling that all you need is a nudge to send you plummeting to something new.  But you realize that the nudge just wouldn’t come along.  And you just don’t take the leap yourself.

But sometimes, true to the wise words of the saccharin-laden love theme from the movie “Chances Are,” “after all these stops and starts we keep coming back…” not to “these two hearts” but just one – I keep coming back to my own.  My heart and the undeniable passion to write.

Three years ago, I woke up to a page on one of the two broadsheets we read at home.  It was the nudge I was waiting for.  Something I could no longer ignore.

It was an open call for writers for the Supreme section of the Philippine Star, at the Dusit Thani Hotel ManilaSupreme is the hip, happening, “young” section under the huge Lifestyle section of the paper I read from cover to cover.

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This was the first thing I saw, alighting from the lift.

 

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Yehey! I made it to the open call!

I arrived at the holding room and found myself to be just one in hundreds of aspiring – and it has to be said, really young – writers eager to snap up the chance to add “contributor” to their multi-hypenated existence.

Tim Yap, Supreme section editor and supreme multi-hypenate himself, ran the open call.  He gave us three pieces to write under extreme time pressure.  He gave the first assignment and at the end of the few minutes we were allowed, collected our work before proceeding to the second one, and so on.

The first assignment was our manifesto, in 150 words or less, in three minutes.  Or was it 10?  All I remember is that I just wrote away.  And reminiscent of how I was as a student, I stood up and passed my paper before the time was up.

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The closing paragraph of my manifesto.

 

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They provided us with pencils from the hotel. But I chose to write in my favorite shade of blue, using my own pen.

The boardroom still abuzz over how unexpected the first topic was – “Did you get to write something, like, really write?  I mean, so out of left field, right?” – Tim asked us to reach into our bags or pockets, and find something to write about.  I thought, anybody from advertising was going to nail this one.  Haha!  I reached deep into my Adidas UEFA EURO 2008 bag and found my then-brand new kikki.K DAILY NOTES notebook.  I wrote about it for the next 10 minutes.

The feature on an item taken care of and our pieces collected, Tim told us to pair up with someone in the room (“Look to your left or right”).  For our third and final task, we had to conduct an interview and then write a feature about it, all in 30 minutes.  I ended up working with the lovely Toni Alexis Araneta.

We broke for lunch (at least for me), came back, and for the next two to three hours, remained holed up in the boardroom like a bunch of revolutionary writers who had decided to go into seclusion or hiding together.  After making Toni Alexis’s acquaintance, I met a couple new friends – Lester Cavestany and Iñigo Del Castillo.

The Supreme team came back and true to American Idol Hollywood Week traditions of old, separated the room into two, sending half – the names they called out on a roll – to the room across the hall.  Toni Alexis, Lester, Iñigo and I stayed behind.  We later found out that we made the cut and those sent away weren’t as fortunate.

Then it was time for the interviews.  They called us in five at a time to face the panel.  The interviews were conducted really lightly, dare I say almost casual, with all five of us made to interact among ourselves and with the panel, and then on situational one-on-ones.  They had in front of them as a guide our written works, by now bearing marks they had made – a “star” meant the piece was stellar or outstanding and a “heart” meant that it was something they just couldn’t help but love (grammar rules be damned).  Some pieced had both a star and a heart.

Of my three pieces, the one that clearly stood out was my feature on Toni Alexis.  They said I write really well about people.

Talk shifted to what we would most like to produce for the paper.  Without a second’s hesitation, I spoke about my love for food, cooking and wristwatches with fervent, impatient enthusiasm.  Tim went on to ask how interested I would be to be sent on an assignment that would look into what goes on behind the scenes of the many cooking shows that had cropped up on Philippine TV.  Ideas immediately went into overdrive in my head as I tried to remain calm and punctuate my responses with subtle bursts of aha – spoken as if the vowels were being rationed.

“You can go to the first show on Monday.”

Then Pepe Diokno interjected, “But Tim he has a full-time job!”

And I still do, thankfully so.  But it has never extinguished the flame that has always been inside of me.  Who knows, right?

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I made a good friend at this open call for writers. That’s the lovely Toni Alexis Araneta. My interview with her and the resulting piece I wrote about it was my best work of the day.

 

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I actually made three good friends that day – Lester Cavestany, Iñigo Del Castillo (in white), and Toni Alexis Araneta.

 

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Toni Alexis leaves a note on my kikki.K DAILY NOTES notebook. On the reverse, Iñigo wrote too.

 

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I ended this day with my first dinner at Ukkokei Ramen Ron!

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





Scenes seen at a wedding

21 03 2013

SO THIS is how it must feel to have a hangover.  I guess it’s actually part hangover, part appreciation for really nice snaps taken by a shutterbug I actually know.  The name’s Aris – make that, Engr. Aris – a colleague and friend here in Singapore.

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Engineers all – Aris, Raoul, Sead, and Mike. These are some of the people whose intellect, character and professionalism I really admire, and yes, aspire for. Notice how different the ties are – yet they work together for one cohesive look.

 

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This takes the cake for Best Stolen Shot. The DJ and Iron Man. Theirs is a “walang iwanan” friendship. Every person should have that kind of association.

Of course I like the choice of subjects, the play of light and shade, the asymmetry at times, and the angles.  It’s a plus that his images captured my countenance in a manner not hazardous to human sight.  So brownie points for that.  Hahaha!

Eventually, the question begged to be asked.  Apart from his being a photography enthusiast, I had to know what his (current) choice of tool of the trade is – it’s the Canon 60D.  Like how I reacted to the speech of the Father of the Bride (Mitzi’s), the discovery of the camera make and model just left me pensive.  The image of a Tibetan monk perched on the summit of Mt. Everest – a Sherpa by his side – contemplating the future of post-Mayan Apocalypse Earth comes to mind.

I guess I should save up if I really want one.

With permission from Aris, I’m sharing here some of his photos that I really R–E–A–L–L–Y like.  All the rights to these images are his.  Thanks, Aris!

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Sealed with a kiss! That’s my good friend Mitzi and her man, Sead. Notice how they are framed by two suits. Nice.

 

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Sead and Mitzi and their thoughtfully selected Principal Sponsors.

 

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Sead and Mitzi with their Best Man, Maid of Honor, Groomsman, Bridesmaid, and all those cute kids who either carried something symbolic or showered their path with flowers. Ok, for the kids alone, this photo is so cute!

 

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“She’s mine!” / “He’s mine!”

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“All that really matters in this crazy world is you and I together. Baby, just remember. The first day of a dream…”

 

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“Okay, let’s seal it one more time.” In the backgroun, the lady in purple is Rez, who to me will forever be the quintessential Quality and Reliability Manager.

 

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Let’s try to answer: “What is love?” … Hmmm… I think love is knowing that not everything is in your control. That you need to learn to trust someone else, let go, and allow someone some freedom to take flight. Haha! Way to strecth the metaphor. All I want to say is, “Sead and Mitzi release the doves!” Haha!

 

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Lovely couple Aris and his wife, Joy. I only met Joy here in Singapore.

 

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I move in professional circles with these three – Aris, Raoul and Brian – and I’m reminded that not one person, especially myself, has monopoly on intelligence. Ok, let’s also throw it in there – charm! Me, charming is what I hope people see me after I win them over with my personality. Me?! Personality? Haha!

 

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What is a Filipino photo shoot without the requisite wacky shots? Haha!

 

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Alluding to that line from Moulin Rouge, “Come and get me, Sead!” … I call this the dramatic glance back.

 

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Hey! Hey! The gang’s all here! – Rez, Omeng, Joy, eNTeNG, Mike and Brian.

 

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Let’s try it one more time! Aris jumps in on the action.

 

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Table No. 7: Shanghai… My fave table and exactly where I was seated.

 

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Ready for its close-up – A tight shot of the really beautiful blooms.

 

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Once more with feelings… S–H–A–N–G–H–A–I…

 

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On with the show! Being part of this celebration made me really count how many times I’ve emceed a wedding reception. Sead and Mitzi’s come in at number… 10! I’ve done it all for just really close friends. Gratis et amore all the time.

 

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Sead and Mitzi make their grand entrance moving to the beat. Couldn’t you tell? It’s all in the shoulders.

 

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Of course I sang for them. I sang … not one … but two songs! Hahaha! As is usually the case, I would come close to offering to pay just to be allowed to sing. Hahaha!

 

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Sead’s Best Man, DJ Raoul, here with his “Best Woman” – wife Erin.

 

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“Right on, dude!”

 

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All The President’s Men. Err, make that “All The Groom’s Men” – The Best Man, The Second Reader, The Secondary Sponsor and The Groomsman all ready to party!

 

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The Groom with two of his colleagues from the States – Manoj and Adam.

 

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Hey DJ keep playin’ my song all night. On… and on… and on… DJ Raoul in action.

 

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The couple that move to the beat together… are most likely dancing. Hahaha! Seriously, the couple that move to the beat together, move to their own song and only with each other. Lovin’ the outfit changes here. All the best, Sead and Mitzi!

 

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





The universe conspires and makes dreams come true as one comes forth from two

17 03 2013
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The very classy invitation, personally delivered to Singapore by the Best Man himself. I love both the cursive and block fonts used.

MARRIAGE IS the feeling of one in the understanding of two.

After hearing that from the father of the bride, I walked away from my latest wedding reception emceeing gig with the persona of a pondering, pensive young man staring at one of life’s truths foisted on his way.

You live your life single long enough that you soon miss out on life’s little truths and – dare I say – life’s little pleasures.  It takes a wedding to bring things to light.  One could easily dismiss the speech of the father of the bride as the requisite dispensing of pieces of advice – often about how the newlyweds need to be patient with one another and, it has to be said, “work” on the marriage – but that evening, the words I heard reverberated with a deeper meaning and the thoughtfulness of someone who really meant well.

At weddings, we often hear well-wishers encourage newlyweds to nurture the best things that they like about each other, as their separate lives become one life; separate homes, one home; and, separate fortunes, one fortune.  Throw in individual backgrounds that trace their roots to two different continents, and you realize that as a well-meaning friend, you share in your friend’s joy just as much as you whisper a prayer of thanks that this really is one of those when – hold on for the cliché ahead – two become one.

I looked at my good friend of many years, the blushing bride, Mitzi, and I knew that all this time, her life has been made a bit more interesting by the possibility of having a dream come true.  She said so herself in her vows.  Her dashing groom, Sead, dapper in his coat and bowtie, fulfills her dream by coming to her life just when she was ready to receive him.  I’ve always believed that there is something so magical about weddings.  But at that very moment, I also got reminded of Paulo Coelho’s  The Alchemist because it did feel like all the universe conspired to help realize – and make successful – the Zildzic–Nuda nuptials.

The wedding march started at the exact appointed time at San Agustin Church and Convent inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila.  One of the most popular venues for weddings, San Agustin Church is one of only four Baroque churches in the Philippines to be designated as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.  A place with such rich history and importance proved to be the only fitting place to solemnize and bless the first day of Sead and Mitzi’s lives together.

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The façade of the historic San Agustin Church and Convent, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

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The ceremonies started at the appointed time. One can’t be inside San Augstin Church and not feel being transported in time by the ornate carving, grand chandeliers, granite floors, and all the gold gilding.

 

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View from the ornately carved main door. Simply breathtaking.

Through this church’s ornately carved main door and beneath a historic  trompe-l’œil ceiling, Mitzi, radiant and doll-like in her white wedding gown with an intricately beaded bodice and a skirt that brought to mind the restless billowing sea, took her trip down the aisle to meet Sead waiting for her at the other end.  Framed by the afternoon tropical sun, Mitzi, my good friend, was a vision.

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One more look at the façade and it was time to head to the reception venue for some final pre-work.

 

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I kept time in check – running to and from home, the church and the reception venue – by wearing a Rolex to this very special event.

 

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Notice the earphones plugged into my Blackberry? It’s because I used all the time I was in the car to rehearse “in my head” the two songs I sang at the reception. One was in Filipino and the other was in English.

As both guest and emcee at the wedding reception, I knew that I had to cut short my partaking in the church ceremonies.  I took one quick glance at my Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air–King and knew that by the time the first reading (by Engr. Rez C. Punzalan) and the second reading (by Engr. Michael S. Borreo) were done, I had to rush to the reception venue to make it to the strict call time of 5:00 PM.  (Being given a “call time” made everything feel quite professional apart from the very personal aspect of being asked to emcee this event many months prior.)

This being an event wherein “all the universe” conspired to make it happen, I wasn’t surprised that at the helm of all the planning was Beautiful Weddings Bridal Consultancy and Wedding Planners, headed by the very lovely and gracious Ms. Ann Samiado.  As planning for their wedding was a huge production of international proportions – Mitzi and Sead are based in the States, their families are scattered throughout Europe, Northern America and the Philippines, and their friends and members of their bridal entourage are split between Singapore and the Philippines – the couple opted to get the services of a real pro to ensure that their exceptional day will become exactly that – exceptional.

From the church, I hopped back in the car and after a couple of turns along four blocks found myself staring at the impressive façade of La Castellana, as if caught in a space–time continuum that warped me back to Spanish Colonial Philippines.  Located at Cabildo corner Beaterio Streets, Intramuros, Manila 1002, La Castellana, which used to be an ancestral house, further underscored the sense of family and respect for time-honored traditions that Sead and Mitzi’s wedding was clearly becoming to be.

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The impressive façade of La Castellana, the wedding reception venue.

 

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The very first thing I did was meet up with Ms. Kristine, then… I just had to check my outfit on the mirror. Hahaha! I usually wear an all-black ensemble and just put a pop of color by wearing the wedding motif as the color of my necktie or bowtie. For Sead and Mitzi’s wedding, I put on a new pink dress shirt of Italian provenance and a bowtie in fuchsia pink. In my left hand is the clear folder that contains, of all things, the printout of my e-Ticket for my flight back to Singapore the next day. My very trusty travel agent of years now had provided it to me earlier in the day.

 

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The Bayleaf in Intramuros, the venue of the final rehearsal and where I first met Ms. Ann of Beautiful Weddings and her team.

 

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The marker at The Bayleaf Intramuros

I was told to look for Ms. Kristine of Beautiful Weddings who would brief me on the last-minute, final adjustments to the reception programme – just the changes from the rehearsal and “final” run-through we had a couple of nights back at the Bayleaf Hotel, also in Intramuros.  But before I could do that, I had to soak in the sights that were before me.  I walked through the three-paneled entrance and found myself admiring the grand foyer, for a split second finding my synapses struggling with which between the amber crystal chandelier and the huge flower arrangement atop the solid wooden table was the focal point.

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The Grand Foyer, La Castellana. Notice the granite floors, the solid wooden table on which rests that huge flower arrangement, and the famed amber crystal chandelier.

 

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There was a mirror at the Grand Foyer. I couldn’t help it. Hahaha! My perfume of choice for this event? The classic EGOISTé PLATINUM by CHANEL.

I admired the granite flooring, made my deep aubergine English leather shoes of Singapore provenance play against the texture, before my peripheral vision caught the striking color motif of this celebration – fuchsia pink against a backdrop of pristine white – and got reminded what I was there for.  To prepare for my emceeing job and contribute in my own way to make Sead and Mitzi’s day even more special, if that was at all possible.

I stretched my hand out in greeting, as I introduced myself to Ms. Kristine.  Like clockwork, she knew what to pull from a stack of papers, handed me a bag on to which was indicated “For eNTeNG” and quickly went over the final reminders.  As I’ve been emceeing wedding receptions for really close friends for quite a while now – this one should easily be at least my tenth time – I’ve always made it a point to prepare my own cue cards.  I was quite pleasantly surprised that Beautiful Weddings was a step ahead and had actually prepared for me a “professionally made” cue card set.  (This had happened only once before.)

Nerves had always played a part in my emceeing – and singing.  I felt that if I had lost this, together with it would go the excitement that undeniably makes me try my best to do a good job.  I often deal with this by taking a few minutes right there at the reception venue, while it would still be quiet, marvel at how beautiful and appropriate the décor is, and on a piece of paper just write away my opening spiel about what this particular wedding reception is all about.

The Salon de Joaquin Ballroom was set with linen-laid tables, perfectly balanced with the use of Tiffany chairs, very shabby chic in the gold glint of the glossy wood.  The flower arrangements in tall crystal vases, the linen, and the table settings popped as the table-and-chairs décor was not overtly done with fabric.  Everything was elegant and quite stylish.  Even the welcome hors d’oeuvre platter of a selection of crostini by Hizon’s Catering Services Inc. oozed with the discriminating taste of the refined palate.  I took my seat at Table No. 7: Shanghai and turned my attention towards the direction of El jardin de la Luz (The Courtyard).  I saw more beautiful flower centerpieces in a different dominant shade, imagined how romantic the fountain would look at dusk, illuminated by cascading crystal lights, and got reminded of the portents that led to this day.

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Ready for the celebration. A view of the Salon de Joaquin Ballroom.

 

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I like it that they opted for the more classy Tiffany chair than the usual fabric-covered chairs with huge ribbons tied around them.

 

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Table No. 11 is special to me. It’s FOLSOM! I heart FOLSOM.

 

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Table No. 2 is close to my heart as well. It is, after all, my current second home – Singapore!

 

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The welcome hors d’oeuvre platter of a selection of crostini by Hizon’s Catering Services Inc. oozed with the discriminating taste of the refined palate.

 

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Beautiful flowers at the center of each table. There are touches of lilac here. It’s the wedding’s secondary color motif.

 

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Welcome to my table, Table No. 7… SHANGHAI!

 

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I heart SHANGHAI. Once of my best friends in the whole wide world lives here.

 

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My favorite number, 5, is assigned to Sacramento. It never fails to bring to mind the line “If San Antonio sweeps Sacramento…” from the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.

 

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Awash in fuchsia pink at its special corner in the Ballroom is the three-tier wedding cake. In place of the usual bride-and-groom cake topper is a bouquet of purplish pink roses rendered in fondant.

 

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The wedding cake was a study in contradiction. Outside it was pristine white, punctuated only by touches of the wedding’s fuchsia pink color motif. Inside, the fondant ensconced a sinfully rich, devilishly deep dark chocolate cake!

 

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Right in front of the wedding cake table was the sound system and musicians setup. Here. one of the technicians was performing the sound check. Kudos to the sound people. For an open venue setup like Sead and Mitzi’s, I found the acoustics to be top notch, the speakers well-balanced. (But of course I will defer to the professional opinion of the DJ Raoul on this matter. Haha!)

 

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Subtle touches all around the Ballroom evoke images of the ever-present things in Sead and Mitzi’s life. Pretty ornate suitcases like these two in front of the newlyweds’s table speak of how much travel has been part of their individual lives and more so now as husband and wife.

 

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The newlyweds’s table. Notice how the Tiffany chairs are the same yet subtly different? I could tell which one’s Mitzi’s and which one’s Sead’s. Haha!

 

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Outside at the El jardin de la Luz (The Courtyard), several tables for cocktails and drinks were propped up. On top of each was this beautiful floral centerpiece. Very pronounced on the touches of lilac on these ones.

 

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Beyond these flowers you shall see the Spanish Colonial architecture of the courtyard, the cascading crystal lights and the palm trees that couldn’t help but provide a romantic backdrop to the festivities.

 

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The reception table where guests were orderly received was likewise beautifully set up.

 

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The Zildzic-Nuda nuptials was another exceptional event by Beautiful Weddings Bridal Consultancy and Wedding Planners. The firm is headed by its Principal Wedding Planner, Ms. Ann Samiado.

I tapped my fingers on the linen and found myself overwhelmed with happiness for the beautiful couple.  Before I knew it, the words were escaping from inside me, leaping off of my consciousness as pen hit the surface of paper.

TONIGHT IS a very special night.  I can’t think of a better place to be in to be part of the ultimate celebration of love – than in a wedding.

Tonight, Sead and Mitzi requested the honor of your presence as they give their love its fullest expression.  Fullest expression – don’t you just love those words?

We are all here because there’s always something so magical about weddings.  Look around and you will see that it brings family and friends together – some of you traveled miles, even halfway around the world to celebrate our couple tonight.

The table names echo just how much our couple’s love for each other defied distance and made “home” not just a place you can point to on a map or associate with a country code, but a reflection of them, their love for each other, and beginning tonight, right here, “home” is the reflection of their shared life.

Tonight, it’s about these two people who are willing – you can even say, brave enough – to take a chance in front of all the people they care about.  It’s incredibly inspiring.  It’s incredibly hopeful.

It just feels great to be a witness to that.

What I found to be most touching about this wedding was the presence of people from practically all over the world, a clear testament to just how much Sead and Mitzi are well-loved.  Families and loved ones came from different regions in the Philippines, Europe (Norway), and the United States.  Colleagues from Folsom in California, Singapore and from the Mitzi’s university and previous companies in the Philippines were well represented too.

It was noticeable that the couple assembled the people closest to their hearts to stand as their Principal Sponsors, Secondary Sponsors and members of the Entourage.  Clearly, people who hold the most influence to them from among family and the various stages of their lives – from student to accomplished professionals – were all accounted for and given the unique opportunity to help shape their young married life.

Among all these well-wishers, I waited in particular for the speeches from the Maid of Honor and the Best Man.  On a personal note, having known the Best Man Engr. Raoul M. Masangcay for years now, I marveled at hearing him speak in length and with such thoughtfulness for the first time.  He took a trip down memory lane, complimented the couple, and led everybody else in wishing the best of health and wealth for the newlyweds.  It was music to the ears.

And from the opening strains of “Seasons of Love (Theme from the Broadway musical RENT)”, lovingly interpreted by ANIMA Choir and Strings, it was clear that Sead and Mitzi’s union is a celebration of love, and that they will only allow it to be measured in terms of seasons of the same.

Congratulations and Best Wishes, Sead and Mitzi!

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Honor Guards lined the red carpet for Sead and Mitzi’s grand entrance, both at San Agustin and at La Castellana.

 

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I took this shot against the backdrop of the dinner buffet queue during the first break in the reception program. I later realized that I failed to take photos of the couple and the many guests on my own camera. Though we did manage to snap lots of shots with many other people’s DSLRs and iPhones.

 

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The very colorful and pretty dessert table. Beside it was a very retro touch – a chocolate fondue station!

 

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The guests were serenaded by the vocal stylings and top musicianship of the ANIMA Choir and Strings. That’s their manager Roger on his solo.

 

 

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The “strings” section of ANIMA Choir and Strings is composed of a percussionist, a flutist, a keyboardist and a violinist. The guys are awesome. They were only informed by Ann of my two songs a couple of days ahead, and we only had exactly one dry run less than an hour before the reception started. But I felt like they were able to take my voice where I wanted to while at the same time downplaying my vocal flaws. A–W–E–S–O–M–E. No wonder they’ve been a byword in the wedding industry.

 

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Doesn’t The Courtyard El jardin de la Luz transform into a place perfect for a romantic rendezvous at night time?

 

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i realize that I only managed to snap a shot of the couple during the bouquet and garter toss. Bummer! (I’m waiting to copy photos from my friend and colleague Engr. Aris’s DSLR.)

 

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This elicited a lot of cheers from the guests as they prodded Sead to go L–O–W–E–R! I couldn’t agree more with the Best Man in saying that our friend Mitzi was at her most radiant, most beautiful that evening.

 

Sead_Mitzi_35_eNTeNG_Adam

I don’t have all the photos to show for it, but I have to say that one thing that Sead and Mitzi’s wedding allowed was a veritable “reunion” of sorts among colleagues and friends from across the miles and seas. This one photo that survived the editing is of me and my good good G–O–O–D friend Adam from our company’s offices in Folsom, California. The last time that we bumped into each other was during business meetings in China. I was just so glad to see him at Sead and Mitzi’s wedding (Mitzi did tell me Adam was coming over). It was also nice to meet his girlfriend who he brought along.

 

Sead_Mitzi_38_Totally_Mesmerized

When it was already party time –WITH THE BAR OPENED WITH FREE-FLOWING WINE AND BEER!!! – another set of musicians took care of the sounds. This group is called, quite aptly, “Totally Mesmerized”. I loved their version of Gangnam Style that I found myself totally wanting to break into dance!

 

Sead_Mitzi_41_Table_Shanghai

That’s my cue card set which I made especially for Sead and Mitzi’s wedding. Notice that the first card is handwritten, as has always been my own “tradition”. I write my opening spiel only when I’m already at the venue of the reception. Some sort of belief that … “It will come to me!” Hahaha! Though I have to say that this time, I did end up using for the most part the cue card set provided by Beautiful Weddings. They have quite an amazing team – Ms. Ann, Mr, Jason, Ms, Kristine, Ms, Aya, and many others.

 

Sead_Mitzi_42_Table_Shanghai

I hope that Sead and Mitzi will forgive me for running away with my table’s name card – “Table no. 7: Shanghai”. I just simply loved it and thought it is the perfect souvenir. As you can see from the list, I shared the table with some of the most beautiful people.

 

Sead_Mitzi_43_Cue_Cards

Cue cards and lyric sheets! As you can see, I prepared three songs (Hahaha!). I sang Filipino 70s band Hotdog’s “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko” (Sead took a liking to this song, among many Filipino hits)… and Lionel Richie’s “Truly”. As backup, I have Baron Barbers’ “I Will Always Stay In Love This Way”. This song was the first ever that a couple asked me to sing for them. So I always have it in my backpocket so to speak.

 

Sead_Mitzi_44_Invitation

The beautiful wedding invitation! This is a nice addition to my growing collection.

 

Sead_Mitzi_45_Principal_Sponsors

The Principal Sponsors, Best Man, Maid of Honor, Groomsman, and Bridesmaid.

 

Sead_Mitzi_46_Secondary_Sponsors

Esteemed collegues, family, really close friends and their little kids played the other important roles.

 

Sead_Mitzi_39_La_Castellana

Before long, it was time to bid La Castellana – and the party – adieu!

 

Sead_Mitzi_40_La_Castellana

One last look at La Castellana before my family and I headed off to another historic part of town – ONGPIN (a.k.a. Chinatown)!

 

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





Sister and the City

24 07 2012

BEING BORN to a brood of four brothers, I’ve become cognizant of the fact that while I may not have a biological sister, life has the fondest thoughts of me in mind when it sent some people my way.  I always feel this whenever I think of Agnes – make that, “Sister”.  After all, I see her as one of the sisters life forgot to give me.

Back in the Philippines, she, Brother (Edu) and I started off as officemates, and in time forged a bond only real siblings do share.  It’s the kind that transcends and as a matter of fact, celebrates idiosyncrasies, varying points of views, evolving passions, and different circles of other friends.  Our friendship is nowhere near perfect.  It has weathered storms, hurdled obstacles, and in the process emerged beautified by adversity.

Brother and Sister

Another Brother and Sister

After almost seven years of not seeing each other, we finally met up again when she came over for a series of important meetings with her counterparts in our company’s Singapore office.  As it is with real friends, it seemed like no time has passed between us.  It was just like one of those long nights or sleepovers that Brother and I would spend with her and her family in Makati, where we were always constant, well-received guests.  Except now, our little “Sister” is actually the loving wife of Jim, and the loving mother of just the cutest, prettiest toddler Kailey.  I’ve been totally remiss, inactive on facebook for about a year at least, but that much about Sister’s life I know.

It was just like the good old days.  We shared a lot of food – to this day, I acknowledge that my recipe of tortang talong (grilled eggplant omelet) came from her family’s kitchen – and quite expectedly, a lot of conversations.  And true to habits that are just hard to break, we hung out till the wee hours of the morning, reminiscing about the past and catching up on one another’s affairs.

Sister, it was so nice to see you again!  I hope it won’t take another seven years!

This was the image of Clarke Quay that greeted Brother and me as we emerged from the MRT station.

I’ve never been to Swissotel Merchant Court Hotel. But as is always the case here in Singapore, it is hard to get lost. There’s always something pointing you to the right direction.

Found it!

I saw this Hublot wall clock and immediately fell in love with the hotel. “How much is a night’s stay?” I almost asked! Haha!

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror…”

 

Of course, it is requisite to have this photo with Sister and that Hublot!

 

Brother and Sister on the yellow line.

 

Sister has arrived at the Sands!

 

The Angel Wears Prada

 

Sister shows me how to properly take a shot at the poorly illuminated Louis Vuitton storefront. Here she is working on ther settings of her compact camera.

 

Sister at Rasapura Masters

 

I had the fishball noodle dry. Sister had the soup version with kway teow instead of my favorite mee kia.

 

Braised Tofu

 

Brother had on his plate the most amazing, sweet, succulent grilled squid. Sister and I ended up picking on his food. Haha!

 

He also had a huge serving of Beef Caldereta, which is essentially Filipino beef stew. This one was almost perfect.

 

Louis Vuitton always has amazing window displays!

 

Coffee or tea?

 

Of course, on the eve of Sister’s departure, I just got to be there. Here, together with Philip Stein, Glycine and Blackberry.

 

Now on the Circle Line, just a station away from Bayfront.

 

I was late to dinner. When I enquired for directions, Iron Man simply told me to follow directions the moment I alight from the train. “Follow everything that says Gardens by the Bay.”

 

I saw this and realized it was going to be a long walk. I told myself, “this is Alay Lakad.”

 

Not even the escalator ride is spared from “self-portrait” moments. Hehe.

 

I still see signs pointing the way to Gardens by the Bay. So clearly, I didn’t feel any rush. Did I mention I was already running late? Haha!

 

I saw this colorful wall and suddenly, “‘Pop!’ goes my heart!”… Clearly, I wasn’t alone in admiring the burst of hues!

 

But I still had to have my alone time against this backdrop. I chided myself for deciding against wearing my colorful Ralph Lauren shirt for which I earned the monicker “Gummy Bear” from one of my friends at work.

 

One of those present at dinner is my good friend Mitzi.

 

For dinner, I had wantan mee. This was delicious!

 

This soup came with. It looks pretty plain and simple but it was full of flavor.

 

We walked from Gardens by the Bay to Marina Bay Sands for coffee and cake.

 

But you know me, I won’t stop at coffee and cake. I’ve got to have something substantial. I espied Aglio Olio at the next table but eventually decided on the Caesar Salad.

 

Not the best Caesar Salad I have ever had but simply scrumptious just the same! i finished everything on this plate!

 

I will definitely come back for this Red Velvet Cake! Deep-red, undeniably laced with delicious vanilla, this cake has a good crumb that’s moist, with hints of cocoa in the background. The cream cheese frosting was divine.

 

The gang bonding over coffee (that was yet to come). Clearly, you see all are all ears to what Mario was saying.

 

Back at the hotel, I asked for the Chicken Congee on the In-Dining Overnight Menu.

 

The Chicken Congee was very delicately flavored and served as the perfect blank canvass for the fixin’s it came with. Sister sure couldn’t help but comment that my appetite hasn’t changed in the seven years we haven’t seen each other. Haha!

 

The sides include pickled vegetables (behind the dough fritters), salted egg, crisp-fried shallots, spring onions, and as mentioned, dough fritters.

 

Parting shot… Sister, I miss you already!

 

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





An emcee for all seasons

17 05 2012

ONE OF the notes I have received from friends whose wedding receptions I emceed said, “eNTeNG, you really are the emcee for all seasons.”  To me that’s one of the best compliments anybody has ever given me.

Tonight, over dinner of a couple of bowls of Master Sham Pork Ribs and Lotus Root Soup, a couple of bowls of piping hot steamed white rice, a couple of honey-glazed roasted chicken wings, and a couple of mugs of iced milk tea – all mine, I have to make clear – one of the closest friends I have made in the past 10 months I’ve been here in Singapore, asked of me what he said was a “huge favor.”

Of course I said yes.  And I sealed it with a gentleman’s handshake.  I’ll be emceeing his wedding reception here in Singapore, end of this year.  To be asked to do this is always such an honor.  And this being my first ever non-Filipino event, I feel so trusted.

He asked further, “Would you like to sing?”

Now there’s no turning back.  Hahaha!

Walking from the train station to my flat, I got reminded of the many wedding receptions I have emceed for friends, all the way back in the day when mobile communication was still a figment of my imagination.

I have managed to chronicle on this blog some of these memorable events.  I’d like to reminisce a little and share them with you as well.  (Click on the links below to read more)

Bom & Rizzie’s Wedding

Bom & Rizzie, 10 January 2009

 

Ian & Marie’s Wedding

Ian & Marie, 15 August 2009

 

Jossel & Vel’s Wedding

Jossel & Vel, 10 December 2010

 

Tom & Jen’s Wedding

Tom & Jen, 02 January 2012

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





Peacefully non-violent

14 05 2012

Mohinga (Khau Kswe), Inle Myanmar Restaurant, Peninsula Plaza, Singapore

TWO WORDS – an adjective and an adverb – come to mind whenever I hear of Burma or Myanmar.  You can say it’s just my play on words.  Which it actually is – a juxtaposition which is an attempt on hyperbole, while really bordering on the redundant.  However you see it, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the country on my mind has come to be a paragon of what these two words mean:  peacefully non-violent.

Which, after The Malaysian brought me to Inle Myanmar Restaurant at Peninsula Plaza, just off of City Hall MRT station, has also now come to describe Burmese cuisine to me.  It was rather peaceful.  It was non-violent to the palate.

Having passed by the most prominent city hall in the Philippines on my way to college everyday, I thought it was sentimental to have my photo snapped right where it says “City Hall”.

 

Waiting for the traffic light to turn was time well spent. Haha!

 

Finally, the cheapest place to shop in Singapore!

Filing this find under the header of “Places That Alone I’ll Never Find,” I let my friend do the ordering, chiming in here and there with my agreement on why a dish was a good choice.

Inle Myanmar Restaurant Menu Cover

 

Burma (Myanmar) is The Golden Land.

 

Well, well, well… what do we have here?!

 

Aha! I’ve found a winner!

Starting off with the Picked Tea Leaves Salad (Laphet Thoke) signified that my taste buds were in for a treat of the staple flavors of the Burmese culinary landscape.  Tea leaves, the menu says, is not only drunk but also eaten in Myanmar.  These pickled tea leaves are chopped and served with an assortment of crispy chickpea, roasted peanuts, garlic two ways (fried and fresh), toasted sesame seeds, dried shrimps, wedges of fresh tomatoes, and finely shredded cabbage.  The salad can either be “individual” or “mixed” – served on a platter with “individual” pockets for each of these tasty components, or, already “mixed” up and dressed with the simple-yet-robust duo of vegetable oil and freshly squeezed lime juice.  While we did order it mixed, the salad evoked feelings in me that were far from mixed.  I absolutely loved everything about it!

Pickled Tea Leaves Salad (Laphet Thoke)

The picked tea leaves were surprisingly tender, not stringy at all, and beautifully tart, a sensation further underscored by the dressing.  It couldn’t be denied that this was one salad that was an explosion of textures.  Used to crispness that come from tomatoes that burst and greens that give off crunch, I appreciated the expanded mélange of sounds that play in my mouth from the chickpeas, the peanuts and the sesame seeds.

For whatever claim I make to having a “palate of the world,” I was dumbfounded to be able to pick out the flavor that ties all the many components of the Mohinga (Khau Kswe), arguably considered the national dish of Burma, which came to the table in a wide-mouthed pristine white bowl, perfectly setting off the rice noodle soup’s deep dark brown hue which in turn served as the canvass for an array of toppings that included a hard-boiled egg, fish cake, chickpea fritters, and my favorite fresh coriander leaves.

Mohinga (Khau Kswe)

I remember smacking my lips repeatedly – like a toddler devouring applesauce – trying to figure out what the wonderful, restorative broth was made of.  All too consumed with the yumminess, I failed to detect that fish was the base of the broth, given a hint of sweetness and faint fragrance by the heart of banana tree stem and stalks of lemongrass and bulbs of ginger.

It is almost necessary to devour rice in huge quantities in Asian meals, so I had to have the Butter Rice, all rendered more savory good by staining with the gravy from the Chicken Curry.  And as if cleansing the palate, I would grab bites of the Gourd Fritters, which may be a bit bland but definitely tastier when dipped in the accompanying tamarind and chilli sauce.

Butter Rice

 

Chicken Curry

 

Gourd Fritters

 

A tight shot of the tamarind and chilli sauce

 

Any meal is a perfect excuse for me to ask for my favorite fresh coriander leaves, also known as “xiang cai”.

 

Sour Plum Juice

Even with the mention of chilli in the dipping sauce, none of the Burmese dishes in our spread was close to “hurting” my taste buds.  So unlike in other cases when I would have my Sour Plum Juice close by to extinguish fire in my tongue, at Inle, I reached for it just to cap off a calm, soul-satisfying meal.

For the Mohinga alone, I will definitely come back.  Definitely no struggle towards making that decision.

In front of Inle Myanmar Restaurant

 

Right after dinner, The Malaysian and I walked around the area, on our way to coffee at Starbucks under the bridge, at One Fullerton.

 

Passed through a tunnel

 

There is light at the end of every tunnel.

 

From a distance, The Fullerton Hotel.

 

In front of The Fullerton Hotel (This and all other photos, taken with The Malaysian’s iPhone 4.)

 

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





The Best Hotels 2012

1 02 2012

APART FROM the unapologetic propensity towards gluttony, my ultimate weakness among the deadly sins, it is my shamelessness at writing notes that this blog has really put to fore.

Of course you already may well know that I leave notes for chefs.  But what I may have not mentioned here yet is that after almost every stay at hotels, I would leave notes – for the chambermaid, for the guy who would bring me ALL the local papers every day, for whoever would attend to ALL my requests at the breakfast buffet (I would be very exacting about my omelet and my bowl of noodles that I wouldn’t consider myself simply as “culinarily” high-maintenance but actually bordering on difficult sometimes.)

There was this one time in 2011 that I felt so overwhelmed about how well I was treated at this particular hotel that I ended up not only leaving notes to the staff, but writing a review about them on TripAdvisor.com.

Last week, I received in my Gmail inbox an alert from TripAdvisor saying that this hotel has made it to the 2012 edition of their “Travelers’ Choice, The Best Hotels.”  I haven’t really gone through the exhaustive list but I think it is a top 25 roll.  And in Singapore where there are a lot of boutique hotels, and not just the big international chains, that’s saying a lot.

I think congratulations are in order for the Royal Plaza on Scotts.  And I think, my hankering to go back and brewing intention to do the high tea buffet (at least) is most warranted after all.

TripAdvisor lists the Travelers' Choice for The Best Hotels, 2012.

 

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





One Love. One Lifetime.

10 01 2012

And with these rings, bind them...

“Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.”

PARTNER AND THE BOY WONDERJen and Tom, respectively, to everybody – brought me along to one of their appointments at Cartier at ION on Orchard.  This one time, they were having their wedding bands engraved.  They knew that just like a kid in a candy store, I would feel right at home in the midst of vitrines of Santoses, Tanks, Pashas, Calibres and Ballon Bleus while they attended to their official business.  And that that was all that was in store for me.  I thought so too.

But just like what that oft-quoted saying says, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans,” I witnessed, on that very moment, what love and lifelong commitment could mean and that it could happen, just when I was busy ogling at timepieces I couldn’t afford.  When asked to add a line (motto) to their initials and their big day’s date, I half-expected Partner and The Boy Wonder to struggle to come up with something witty or profound.  But in a minute, they motioned for me to approach and asked for my opinion.

One LoveOne Lifetime.”

I was speechless.  I guess that when you meet that someone – the one – you just know.  And that you won’t have to struggle for words when asked on the spot to commit your feelings to be impressed into the back surface of 18K yellow gold.  Clearly, just how you feel for “the one” is something you carry in your heart always, all the time.  I knew right there and then that two of my closest and most important friends have found love in a hopeful place – in each other.

Last Monday, the 2nd of January 2012, they chose to make this commitment official and blessed by God.

Within the hallowed walls of the Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, Asia’s only all-steel church and a fine example of Gothic architecture in the Philippines, my own faith in the sanctity of marriage got renewed as I witnessed two of my best friends take a chance on each other, in front of the most important people in their lives, the only ones they care about – their families and friends.  Perhaps some may say this to be a bit naïve, but to me it’s rather hopeful and magical.

The hallowed walls of Basilica Minore de San Sebastian

The Altar

The church still had the trimmings of Christmas.

Beautiful chandeliers lit up the church.

The part of the ceiling right above me.

And if I did indeed believe in magic, it all would be too easy to explain the sight of Partner, the very moment the basilica’s massive doors were swung open.  Famed for her beauty, brains, and breeding, my best friend was undeniably breathtaking on her special day, quite resplendent in her Joel Escober wedding gown of intricate beadwork and delicate lace appliqué that cascaded down to a billowing skirt of silk organza.  Ever the one to strike a balance between tradition and modernity, Partner later livened up the white-on-white during the reception by choosing to wear her color motif as a crystal-studded belt that cinched her already defined waist.  The seriously long train that she drew along the red-carpeted aisle left not only a trail of luxury, but the promise that this was going to be happily ever after.

The blushing bride, on board her white Mercedes Benz bridal car. I was going to and fro between the church and the car (mine) when out of nowhere, she called out to me, "Partner!"

The detail of Partner's wedding gown. She kept gushing about how almost-perfect the fit was when she first tried it on.

Marching down the aisle...

As if on cue, I moved my gaze to the altar, at my other friend, The Boy Wonder, the groom, and just as I had suspected, he was in tears.  I knew it was inevitable for his lachrymal glands to be wrung dry as this moment was the very fulfillment of his life’s deepest longing and his heart’s most fervent desire.  As friend to both of them – to Partner first, then to The Boy Wonder second – I couldn’t be any happier that this time had finally come.  And that I was there to witness it.  I almost clapped when The Boy Wonder, himself very dashing and dapper in his custom-fitted Hugo Boss suit, took Partner’s hand from her mom.  I tell you, it was just magical.

Tom waiting at the altar.

"Shall we?"

All the male members of the entourage wore suits.

The Secondary Sponsors

The homily was short, sweet, and solemn, cracking me up only at that point when the priest told a story about a girl and her three suitors, playing around the line, “Leave her alone, she’s mine!”  But I would always be brought back to the solemnity of the occasion, much thanks to the music that was provided for the most part by The Sound Salad, who would later play at the reception.  When they sang “Lead Me, Lord,” I was tearing up, feeling that I was right where I wanted to be, spending one of the only four full-packed days I had back home with the other family I have made – those of Partner and The Boy Wonder’s.

The marriage rite

The vows

"TOM, wear this ring..."

 

"Brothers and Sisters, before us is the newly wedded couple, TOM and JEN."

"You may now kiss your bride..."

Sealed with a kiss

We all felt just how much love they have for each other.

I wanted to stay for the recessional and shower the newlyweds with bubbles, but one look at Ma’an, my co-emcee at the wedding reception, and I knew we had to take off to The Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.

The very lovely and beautiful "Singapore Girl" Genie and my co-emcee Ma'an, at San Sebastian Church.

This is Genie's first time in the Philippines, and what better reason is there to come over than for the wedding of a dear friend?

Macon, Genie and Ma'an. Macon did Partner's make-up for their pre-nuptial photo shoot at IKEA and Marina Bay Sands.

Partner and The Boy Wonder’s wedding was a wedding of “non-negotiables”.  The wedding gown has to be by a top Filipino designer known for uncompromising professionalism, quality and artistry (Joel Escober).  The suit has to be Hugo Boss.  The shoes – his and hers – have to be Louis Vuitton.  The wedding bands can only be Cartier Love rings.  Favors are by Burberry.  And the wedding reception has to be at The Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

"TOM ❤ JEN"... such a lovely touch. What a loving gesture.

Clearly, there was no doubt as to whose party we were all headed. This setup greeted guests at the Registration Table.

Favors were by Burberry, no less! This is my good friend Dennis's. He was Candle Sponsor.

And this one is mine! Until now, I haven't touched it. I took a peek. But I don't want to use it just yet.

But while that is true, theirs is also a wedding that is truly a labor of love; highlighted in the little details that bear the bride’s and the groom’s individuality and their melded tastes as a couple.  The tables were named after scents they love.  The dinner napkins were bound in handmade lace rings, with handmade dinner menus tucked in.  And scattered on each table were photo albums that chronicled the couple’s happy times together, albums that doubled up as guest books as well.

Dinner Menu Cards made by the couple themselves. They had them tucked in with the starched dinner napkins, and held in place by homemade napkin lace rings.

The place setting was simple, yet quite elegant. And I ended up using all the cutlery. There wer 26 dishes spread across six courses! Yes, I counted. Nothing comes between me and the food. Oh, a song number perhaps. Haha!

As a wedding reception emcee, I have always enjoyed the privilege of that “first look” of the venue.  While the others guests would mill about and enjoy the cocktails, I would be inside, taking in the soul, the spirit, and the importance of the reason for the celebration.  Among us friends, we would refer to Partner as the Disney Princess Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora.  And the look that The Sofitel put together, in partnership with the couple, was a silent homage to my friend’s relation to animated royalty.

This photograph doesn't do justice to how breathtaking the ceiling treatment was! There were yards and yards of tulle, crystals, and chandeliers everywhere.

The crystal snowflakes that hung from the high ceiling gave the feel of winter, thawed by the lush blooms, ethereal lighting, and the warmth of the couple's love. I told you it was magical.

There was a section for the kids! Who knew?!... I found this to be quite thoughtful of Partner and The Boy Wonder. This was the first time that I saw such in a wedding reception venue.

Crystal snowflakes that hung from the ceiling from long strands bridged the holiday season, the most joyous of occasions to this one, yet another joyous occasion.  Flowers were in abundance, in tall elaborate centerpieces and in numerous little arrangements that ran the whole length of the VIP table.  Tiffany chairs have got to be the most elegant, sophisticated and stylish seating anyone can provide.  But the one element in their reception venue that made me chuckle and realize that we were celebrating a really thoughtful couple was the fact that they provided a seating section – almost a play area – for all the kids that were in attendance.  While it is any couple’s prerogative to restrict their most special day to be an “entirely adult affair,” Partner and The Boy Wonder welcomed their friends’ whole families to share the moment with them.  Tita Baby, Partner’s mom, hinted at wanting little ones running around the house.  I guess she just knows how much the couple does adore children.

This has got to be one of the more lavish VIP table settings I have ever seen. There were about four or five imposing gilded candelabras, an array of tall and short flower arrangements, lots of votives, and crystal in various shapes and sizes.

An instant hit for me were these arrangements of a couple of flowers weighed down by little decorative rocks and submerged in water, with a votive candle floating on the surface. I think this was the first time I ever saw this.

I have to say that there was a noticeable order in the seeming chaos of various colors, textures, and heights. I will go out on a limnb and say that the setting was understatedly ultra chic in its apparent shabby chicness.

The wedding cake

I chuckled when I saw the cake topper. To me it is an homage to Tom's persistence and to the test that he had to go through to really win Jen's heart. And those blue roses? Let's just say they played an important role in the blossoming of their relationship.

The cake topper awash in a sea of purple.

And this time in warm tones.

Truly, Partner and The Boy Wonder’s wedding reception was a celebration of families and friends coming together.  Loved ones flying in from as far as New Zealand and Singapore (this contingent including the very lovely “Singapore Girl” herself, Genie), among many other far places, underscored just how beloved the newlyweds are.  The Maid-of-Honor, Maan Miranda, a friend of the bride’s from when they were all of seven years old, had to fight back tears of joy at finally seeing her best friend happy.  When words failed her, she relied upon silent knowing glances, which between the two of them had been one language only tried and tested long-standing friends have.  The Best Man, Hennessy Portem, the groom’s best friend of 13 years, cracked jokes about the Tom he knew, only to choke up when the tone became serious, speaking about how his buddy has finally found the one.

It couldn’t be denied just how very happy all the people were, that even the country’s biggest stars – Judy Ann Santos, Sam Milby, Kim Atienza, and Anne Curtis, among others – from arguably the biggest TV network, ABS-CBN, had to send in their congratulations and best wishes by way of the video made by an artistic and creative genius, Paolo Emmanuel Ramos, director of all of the network’s station IDs.  (This one was such a treat!)

For our part, my co-emcee Ma’an, the bride’s close friend Eugene, and I decided to say how much we love the newlyweds by way of songs.  Trained in the rigorous world of musical theater, Ma’an effortlessly belted out Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” while Eugene sang about “The Promise.”  As for me, accompanied live by The Sound Salad’s keyboards and saxophone, I paid homage to the moment with “Got to Believe in Magic.”  All of our offerings would later pale in comparison to the bride’s niece Bea’s rendition of Shania Twain’s “From This Moment On,” complete with stomping of the feet and just the right amount of head and hand gestures.  She sang from the heart for her Tita Jen and Tito Tom.

My co-emcee Ma'an and I offered a song each for the newlyweds. She, "If I Ain't Got You." I, "Got To Believe In Magic." I loved how The Sound Salad's Keyboardist and Saxophonist got exactly my pitch and the arrangement I wanted.

The Sound Salad Band provide the music. I loved them at the Church. And even more so at the reception! Amazing, powerful, yet soothing vocals!

Of course, anything food is never lost with me.  And while in previous hosting gigs I would fail to touch the buffet, at Partner and The Boy Wonder’s wedding reception, I found myself stuffing myself crazy with all the sumptuous creations on offer.  Not even the dread of singing on a full stomach prevented me from gorging at the Boneless Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary Jus from the carving station, which I had with a lot of the Greek Salad, Pasta Salad with Raw Ham and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Tomato Salad with Onions in a Classic Vinaigrette.  A few more rounds acquainted me with the six-course meal, totaling to at least 26 dishes (I counted!).

The carving station featured Boneless Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary Jus. This was melt-in-your-mouth good meat! I came back again... and again... ang again! And I'm not a lamb lover!

Homemade Cookies

Black Forest Cake

Bread and Butter Pudding

Dark Chocolate Mousse

A wedding being steeped in tradition, the one that pulled the most at the heartstrings was the couple’s second dance, which was done in place of the bride’s dance with her father.  Knowing for a fact just how much Partner will always be Daddy’s Little Girl, I felt how bittersweet the moment was for her as she fought back sobs, her face at times buried in the arms of the man she loves.  I had to tell her that her daddy was looking down at her and Tom that very moment, happy that she is finally happy.

Happy that the two of them have finally found their One Love, in this One Lifetime, happily ever after.

Partner and The Boy Wonder. Jen and Tom. Tom and Jen.

Partner, The Boy Wonder,

I read somewhere that in this world, relationships – love, actually – have become so cheapened.  And in that kind of world, only friendship is the kind of love that refuses to be cheapened.  I’m not referring to my friendship with the both of you.  I’m talking about your friendship with each other.  And knowing just how you were as friends – where you and all of this started – I couldn’t be any happier seeing you finally together.  I will always be there wherever and whenever you need me.  While there may be no question where my absolute loyalty lies (Hahaha!), you can both count on me during the good times, and most especially on the not-so-good times.  That’s the very least I can do.  I hope and pray for you all the best.  I love you!

eNTeNG  c”,)™©

The newlyweds with their emcees.

The newlyweds with the Singapore contingent.

eNTeNG and Partner

Partner with two of her longest-standing best friends, Meryl and Janice.

All the pretty ladies. Partner gets a buss on the cheeks from Meryl while Janice beams.

Four of Partner's closest friends, Kevin, Eugene, Hope and Anna.

Macon, Ma'an, and Genie.

All of us who stayed behind and danced (haha!) got a piece of the wedding cake! Haha!

eNTeNG and Hope

Partner and Hope

Partner and Louis =)

The perfect Louis Vuitton shoes for her big day. The groom was also soled in LV =)

Eugene and Louis

The groom sported a brand new Tag Heuer Link Automatic, one of the bride's gifts to him. Sweet.

Genie, Miss Behavin'...

Genie and Partner

Eugene, Partner and eNTeNG

The newlyweds with Eugene and Anna.

My loot from the wedding – the invitation, menu cards, misalette, favors.

eNTeNG and two of his best friends, the newlyweds Tom and Jen.

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





India on my mind, tandoori in my belly

17 11 2011

A "shy" first plate (All photos taken with my Blackberry Bold 9780)

I THOUGHT I was successful in keeping to myself the interjections that were forming in my head when the bursting of the juices from the stalk of a soft annual herb in my mouth gave me away.

 

“Wow, coriander!”

You don’t like it?

“No, actually I do.”

 

Then the heat from the chilies in the dish started to reveal itself surreptitiously, creeping along the walls of my mouth before coating my tongue.  It was a depth of flavors peeled in layers.  I did like it.

But if I was being honest at that moment, I should’ve said that I was on the verge of falling in love.  All over again.  Somewhere in the farthest recesses of my cerebellum convolutions, I have an indelible imprint of those ten days I got to spend in India – from Bangalore, to Goa, to Mumbai – taking in all the interesting culture, the rich history, and the undeniably amazing cuisine.

Food-tasting at Riverwalk Tandoor at the Landmark Village Hotel on Victoria Street here in Singapore kind of brought me back to that trip.  Food is one of three things that could do that to me.  (The other two being scents and songs.)

The dish that snatched the compliment-disguised-as-interjection out of the tip of my tongue was the Chilli Fish, one of many dishes on offer on the restaurant’s dinner buffet.  The fish was flaky, but not dried out, its delicate flesh ensconced in a light batter.  The chili sauce, generously sprinkled with – yes, it’s that herb – chopped fresh coriander, elevates the dish from being what could be half of a fish & chips combo to something substantial and flavorful enough to have with rice.  Saffron Rice to be more specific.  I couldn’t help but moan as I mopped up the sauce with perfectly cooked grains of basmati rice, already fragrant on their own, but made more special with the hint and hue of saffron.

The Mixed Vegetable Jalfrezi was a pleasant surprise.  Visually appearing to be your usual vegetable stew, it packs a punch with a spiciness that sneaks up on you as you munch on green beans, peas and cauliflower.  But apart from the spiciness, I got a lot of flavor from the vegetables themselves, which to me could be the result of frying them in oil and spices.

A tandoor is a traditional cylindrical clay oven often used in Northern India.  One of the parties I was able to go to along the shores of the Arabian Sea in Goa had a lot of these wood-fired ovens lined up, dishing out naan (Indian leavened flatbread) and tandoori chicken like crazy.  I guess a place that attaches “Tandoor” to its name better be able to live up to both the history of this oven and the cooking technique steeped in tradition.

Riverwalk Tandoor’s tandoori chicken was a study in contradictions.  It got the requisite deep red hue down pat, but appeared to be a bit dry.  Maybe it was because the pieces had stood for a while in the chafing dish.  I would understand if they would lack flavor.  But I was proven wrong.  The meat was tender, moist enough, and really flavorful.  I attribute the tenderness to having marinated the chicken pieces in yogurt.  And while they did appear a bit dry, as a chef wannabe myself, I know for a fact that some chicken parts are predisposed to dry out faster than others.  (Chicken breast would be dry and tougher compared to, say, the thigh part.)

But the naan was the runaway hit.  Warm, crusty and slightly burnt on the edges and the underside, it was still chewy, just how I love my bread to be.  Drizzled with clarified butter, specked with herbs and minced garlic, I declare it as Asia’s answer to the usual garlic bread of French baguette slathered with melted butter and sprinkled with parsley.

I excitedly texted some of my new friends at work – two of them (WCC and KS) were with me – just to tell them how much I enjoyed my meal.  And the fact that I felt like I ended up eating “twice” most everything I got my hands on.

A piece of the Chilli Fish. I kept on attempting to focus on the fish, but the Chicken Tandoori at the background just refused to be ignored!

 

Chicken Tandoori perched on top of fragrant Saffron Rice.

 

Naan!

 

Mutton Rogan Josh

 

I don't know what this dessert is called. But they were like fried dough (KS said they were like cake balls) soaked in syrup or honey.

But I later realized that I didn’t even get to try the Mutton Rogan Josh, the Salads, and the Desserts.  I think I just found my excuse to come back!  Indian cuisine is the love.

Probably all you need to know about Riverwalk Tandoor.

 

The poolside at night.

Riverwalk Tandoor is at the Landmark Village Hotel, Level 5 Poolside, 390 Victoria Street, Singapore 188061.

 

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