That’s why this cake is a vamp

7 04 2013
Cupcakes_Red Velvet Vixen 00

The “Red Velvet Vixen”, the perfect red velvet cupcake that can only be had at Cupcakes by Sonja, #1 C03 Serendra Piazza, For Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines. They’re now on the web at http://www.cupcakesbysonja.com!

IT’S BEEN a decade since I first laid eyes on the countenance of this vamp.  I made the acquaintance through – of all meansFrom Martha’s Kitchen, Martha Stewart’s eponymous cooking show on the FoodNetwork.  Like the show’s host, this new acquaintance was and still is a study in contradiction.  Fluffs of pristine white ensconce a deep dark red inside.  Bad to the core, you can say.  So bad that it’s actually so good.

Red velvet, which traces its roots to the American South, is a stunning red layer cake with delicious cream cheese frosting slathered in between layers and smothered all over the outside.  When made right, it is a cake of a delicate, tender texture with a subtle – almost fleeting – hint of cocoa that marries wonderfully with a straightforward cream cheese frosting that is often never too sweet.

Here in the Lion City, I think that the best rendition of this beloved dessert can be found at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.  I first had it at their BEANStro shop at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.  Nowadays, I would get my fix at their Changi Airport Café.

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The refrigerated display counter at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Changi Aiport, Singapore. Note to self: Check out that yummy-looking Chicago Cheesecake!

 

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This was the first ever slice of red velvet cake I’ve had here in Singapore, at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s BEANStro at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

 

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Who wouldn’t order takeaway if they’d put it that way? I realize I’ve been bringing a sweet little box of dreams with me quite often.

 

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CBTL’s version ia a two-layer. I would love a thicker frosting though. But essentially no complaints.

 

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This cake goes perfect with a cup of good coffee. Between the cake and the mug in the photograph, that’s like the two biggest coffee chains in one frame. Hahaha! Notice the smear of cream cheese frosting on the box’s side? That got some serious licking. Hahaha!

But it was in the Philippines where I really fell in love with this classic confection.  I do swear by Cupcakes by Sonja’s incarnation, which takes a sexier, more alluring approach with its name, the “Red Velvet Vixen”.  On their menu, they list it as a “Traditional Southern Red Velvet cupcake made with Belgian cocoa and topped with luscious cream cheese icing”.  I used to get it every week before the Merlion beckoned.

eNTeNG_Cupcakes by Sonja 02 Box

On my desk at my former workplace, a box of Cupcakes by Sonja treats is a usual sight.

 

eNTeNG_Cupcakes by Sonja 03 Box

This was one of the four boxes which I got from the store before leaving for Singapore.

 

eNTeNG_Cupcakes by Sonja 04 Box

The Red Velvet Vixen is at home sharing a box of six with the likes of Chocolate Surprise and Vanilla Sunshine.

 

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“This is the Traditional Southern Red Velvet cupcake made with Belgian cocoa and topped with luscious cream cheese icing.”

If you’re meeting this cake for the first time, you may find that the moment begs the question, “Why would someone want their cake so red?”  Which to me is like asking Lynn Bracken, Kim Basinger’s Veronica Lake look-alike character in L.A. Confidential why she paints her lips in shockingly bright red and keeps her peek-a-boo locks in platinum blond.

I hear her response, “Because frankly my dear, it is pretty.  Make that, I am pretty.”

I would say that the same holds true for the cake.

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I have to say that Cupcakes by Sonja’s Red Velvet Vixen is pretty with a purpose. They’ve tied up with the Philippine Red Cross in the past for fund drives like this one.

 

eNTeNG - Red Velvet Vixen 00

eNTeNG ready to devour a Red Velvet Vixen

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.

 

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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!

 

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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