Recently in eating and drinking Category

in eating and drinking |


Happy hour with mm after school. Before meeting her, I went to another bar that was advertising happy hour between 5-7, start at local $1 at 5pm, doubling every 20mins. The first glass was small in terms of proportion, I went through 2 within the first 20mins; then either it’s their practice or the bartender got in a better mood, subsequent $2 glasses were decent proportions. Since local $1 is around 10p, not complaining.

Wasn’t doing too well when I met mm though, drank the wine too quickly. Didn’t feel too great, went home to bed early.

in eating and drinking , family first |

jamies11cauli jamies13pasta

For gis’ birthday this year she picked lunch at jamie’s italian at the weekend. She even sent the email to all of us with the details.

I’ve only been to jamie’s italian in the UK, so was wondering if the menu ported over well. First of, the restaurant was huge, must have cost a pretty penny in rent. We started with cauliflower fritters and arancini to share. Everyone ordered pasta for mains. Mine was supposed to be the daily special of mussel spaghetti (I think it’s spaghetti, we had problems understanding the waitress’ english). Definitely in the can do better category. The entire dish was bland, as if no salt or pepper had been added. The shells of the mussels were broken and the greatest sin of all, the pasta was overcooked. An italian restaurant that doesn’t know how to serve al dente pasta, argh. Everyone’s pasta was overcooked too, and we had to ask for olive oil to loosen the pasta.

jamies16cheesecake jamies17gelato

The dessert redeemed them a little. Gis had pavlova, parents had cheesecake and I had gelato: vanilla, chocolate and sea salt caramel. Gave most of the chocolate to parents and they really liked it.

Originally I was going to look for a camera with gis but she was tired and wanted to go home. Mum and I did some food shopping then went home too.

in eating and drinking |


I’m home alone in Chicago, which is okay. Read a bit, watched tv. Walked out to the nearest supermarket, an Aldi’s, to get food. Everything is in such large portions, chicken drumsticks come in a pack of 8 and fish (frozen) in a big family pack. Saw individual cornish game hens in the freezer section, so that was what I got for dinner. 180ºC for about 45mins.


As it was an Aldi’s, there was a limited choice for veg. Still better than at home. I bought a huge bag of kale for $1.99, then saw spaghetti squash, wow haven’t had that since…I was living in the US. Cut the squash in half and roasted with the hen. Used a fork to remove the strands and cooked with the kale. Added some goat’s cheese, because I had it. Enough veg for 3-4 meals. Overall an extremely nice homemade meal.


Something else I missed, honeycrisp apples. All we get are red delicious and fuji apples. I can’t stand red delicious anymore and fuji are boring. I wish we can have imported honeycrisp.

in eating and drinking |


It’s the start of baking season! I helped out by cutting the glacé (candied) fruits for fruitcake. There were 4 tubs of red & green cherries and pineapple. Sweet and sticky. And very colourful. Definitely Christmas-y. The fruitcake has lots of sugar, 2 cups of southern comfort, took around 2hrs to bake and will be soaked in more southern comfort until ready to eat. I had the honour of cleaning the mixing paddle and just that bit of batter had enough southern comfort to give an oomph.

in all about people , eating and drinking |


The Moran Mayhem for Friday is to post pics of gross food, in honour of Sandra’s posting of bags of pork rinds (what they call scratchings) inside someone’s car. Lots of pics of pork rinds, as well as the usual suspects: offal, pickles, processed food.

I have a whole 101.1001 album of bucket list foods, some of which are in the gross category. Century egg, snail, chicken feet, herring, durian. I’ll leave that for later. I posted a pic of what I was drinking: 2013 cabernet franc from Truro winery outside Ptown. I was hoping to get an eye-roll from a wine expert like Sandra because I was drinking it out of a 1970s water glass. I’m not that particular about what I drink wine and beer out of: water glass, mugs, plastic cups, chipped bowls. At home I use a glass made by chopping the neck off a soft drink bottle. I know I should be using specific glasses, but sometimes I can’t be bothered.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |

Rested in the morning, didn’t do much apart from reading and munching on snacks. Nice way to get over jetlag.

5.02km 40.20min 8.02min/km

Easy 5k around the field next to the church in the afternoon. It was hot but not as humid. My legs felt stiff and my whole body felt heavy so it took me a long time to get into any sort of pattern, and then it was time to head back. I wish I brought my roller with me, but in its absence I’ll do some stretches. Anyway I just taped it up.


Did some baking in the evening before dinner. Cinnamon monkey bread from this recipe. I’d never heard of monkey bread, so had to look up its definition: sweet, sticky, gooey pieces of soft bread with cinnamon sprinkled on it. The ingredients are in cup measurements so I tried to convert, with dubious success.

  • 3x16oz (1.36kg) packages refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough — this is the pillsbury dough they have available in the freezer cabinet
  • 2 sticks (250g) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (180g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120g) brown sugar
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon

Cut biscuit dough into quarters, mix sugar and cinnamon in ziploc bag, add dough and shake. Arrange in a bundt tin. Melt butter and brown sugar then pour onto the dough pieces. Bake at 180ºC for 35mins, then turn out.

A very typical American recipe, using pre-packaged ingredients. I can’t get over the fact that they use packet cake mixes and pre-made frozen dough. There is a huge amount of butter and sugar and carbs in there.

The end result is definitely a sweet, sticky, gooey mess. It’s tasty though, and perfect as a tear and share bread/cake. I found it very rich, and liked how it was slightly undercooked so the dough pieces were melt-in-the mouth-inside.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |

The day before a flight is always neither here nor there. I did a quick job of packing last night and had to cancel lunch and/or dinner with mm so I’m on my own all day. No fridge means either instant noodles, canned soup or eat out. I had a couple of errands to run so I decided to find something to eat at or near the market.


It was around 11.30am, so before the lunchtime rush. Went to Sister Lai’s vegetarian restaurant. Haven’t been there for a long time, still nostalgic for the days when it was a small shop near the market. Now it’s more commercial, and with posher crockery. At lunch there is a choice of 3 dishes from 6. I had mixed vegetables, cauliflower and tofu. What hasn’t changed is that rice and soup were freeflow. I had 2 bowls of rice and 3 bowls of soup. Fantastic.

Bought fish, clams and mushroom for dinner. Snacks for travelling and chewing gum. Got back home pretty early, around 1.30pm. Still a few more hours to wile away.

5.0km 38.51min 7.42min/km

Went for a short 5k, as it was part of the training plan. Uphill for the first 2k, and it was raining pretty heavily too. Luckily the rain went away at the end so I took a walk around the elevator home. Nothing to buy, just ambling around.

Still too much time on my hands. After shower and snacking on some of the clams, it wasn’t even 5pm. Argh. Watch tv then. Early dinner then more tv. Do laundry. Early alarm tomorrow so early to bed tonight.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |


12km 1.30.10hr 7.31min/km

Went out to the end of bowen road and back, 12km went by quite quickly. Since it’s a public holiday, there were tons and tons of people out walking and hiking. Glad it was only out and back once for me.

On the way back I stopped at the supermarket and bought some chicken drumsticks. Grabbed a butternut squash and was horrified at the price tag at the till, so had to exchange for another type of pumpkin at a more reasonable price. Cooked it all with okra and israeli couscous. Found a small tin of olives that dated from chicago, so added to the roasting tray for flavour. There are leftovers, which ended up proving problematic as I have no fridge. Had to leave the aircon and wrap the food tightly in a box then foil.

Met mm for drinks then dinner. Many places were closed so we just went to a nearby pub and then a small diner. We’ll meet again tomorrow for lunch, so nice.

in eating and drinking |

whiskyflightboard earlgreybourbon

Met mm for happy hour. She had classes till 5.30pm, then needed to meet with her group. So I estimated they’d be done by 6.30 so I said let’s meet around 7-7.30. I went for a haircut and had plenty of time so I scouted around for a venue.

I should know this by now. After so many hours wasted, I should know this. We have different time concepts. If I’m meeting someone between 7-7.30, I get there at 6.45; mm starts leaving at 7.30. She’s improved over the years so nowadays she’ll try to leave at 7. So when I texted her at 7 and she said she’s leaving, I presume she’s getting ready to leave.

Which is a long way of saying I got there really early and sat around for over 1hr nursing one drink. A nice cocktail too: earl grey vodka, bourbon, lime and honey. I thought we’d go to this bar because they have a whisky flight of 6 drams: taketsuru 12, kavalan, monkey shoulder, linkwood 15, longrow peated, laphroaig 10. I was especially keen to try the longrow. But since mm was late, by the time she got there I was irritated and the bar had turned into a very busy and noisy restaurant.

We had a fried calamari, and decided against dinner there. The food looked good, if expensive. We went to a beef shabu shabu place instead. I’m sill annoyed but didn’t want to spoil the evening. It ended pretty okay.

in eating and drinking |


When I found out that Cadbury is bringing out vegemite chocolate I got very excited. Vegemite is one of those either/or foods: you either love it or hate it. Food like Marmite/Vegemite, durian, liquorice, oysters, blue cheese, offal, century eggs. I’m in the I love marmite/vegemite camp. (Hate durian, liquorice.)

So anyway, a kind friend from Australia, D, offered to send me a couple of bars. I received them last week, they were a little melted so I put them in the fridge. There were other things to eat first so I didn’t get round to tasting till today.


The packaging says milk chocolate with flowing caramel and vegemite. From the Guardian’s tasting I know that the vegemite flavour is very subtle, like a hint of salted caramel. What surprised me was that it was almost not there. I held the bar up close to my nose and all I could smell was chocolate and caramel. It was the same with the tasting. Overwhelmingly chocolate and caramel, very sweet. I struggled to find the saltiness of the vegemite. There was a little more in the aftertaste, when the chocolate has melted, but not enough.

My verdict? I don’t like it because there isn’t enough vegemite. I don’t like milk chocolate, I certainly won’t buy regular milk chocolate with caramel (the sickly sweetness scares me). I’ve had sea salt caramel dark chocolate and it’s nice. I guess they tried to be very subtle about the vegemite so they don’t scare people away. The problem is that the people who are likely to buy this vegemite chocolate are people who like vegemite anyway, so give them what they like. Don’t skimp on the one ingredient that is selling the product.

In other vegemite news, buzzfeed has this quiz that can tell the kind of person you’ll date with just 4 vegemite-related questions. One of the crazy vegemite creations include vegemite chocolate but I chose vegemite gelato. For relationship type I got:


Hahaha, wonder what mm thinks of that.

in eating and drinking |

I wanted to get a mcdonald’s ice cream cone the other day after running, a treat for myself on the walk home. Something was wrong with their machine and there was a 20-min wait so I left without it. I then spotted a video about mcdonald’s pies around the world and saw that I can get apple pie à la mode. (Taro and red bean pies are my favourites, the usually sell out quickly so we get a few more and freeze them if we come across them.)


Normally iIt’s an easy hack, just order an apple pie and an ice cream and either ask them to mix or mix it yourself. But this was a genuine menu item that could be found on the promotions website, cost around the equivalent of 99p. They break an apple pie in two, add ice cream and choice of strawberry or chocolate sauce.


It’s cheaper than getting a pie and regular sundae separately, but the amount of ice cream is lesser, around the same as the plain cone. Which then makes it not good value because pie+cone cost less than apple pie sundae, perhaps the extra cost is the sauce? Or novelty factor? Ah well, it’s such an insignificant amount, not worth worrying about. It’s not very likely I’ll order it again any time soon.

Sometimes the actual item looks nothing like the official pics, in this case the resemblance is not too bad.

in eating and drinking |

Dinner with friends a few weeks ago and someone mentioned party venues with kitchen facilities where we can have a dinner party. I think those places are mainly for people who want to have a birthday party and bring in drinks and snacks. Some of them seem to have kitchens with microwave, oven and hob. I bet the ‘oven’ is a small electric countertop one. Then again if rachel khoo can run a restaurant in her tiny paris flat with a small electric oven, I can manage too.

I played around an online menu generator for the menu. They make you sign up and pay to save the graphic so I just took a screenshot.


I figured, we can munch on something before dinner, and I like the idea of small profiteroles with a mushroom filling. On second thoughts, I may need to find an amuse bouche recipe that doesn’t need an oven, or one that only takes a few minutes to make. May be the salmon egg rolls from Donna Hay.

The salad is easy to make, and I can get around the limitations of small ovens by making lamb rack. If the oven is too small, I’ll probably switch to mashed or sautéed potatoes. The apple crumble was what everyone voted to have, it can bake in the oven while we’re having our mains.

It’s not exactly what I want to cook for a 3-course menu, but I have to take into account the limitations of an unknown kitchen. Anyway, this is all a fantasy right now, I’m not that close with those friends who suggested the gathering, I’d go only for the opportunity to cook.

in eating and drinking |


September is bourbon heritage month so I thought I’d bring out my collection of bourbon and other American whiskeys and have a toast.

From back: Jim Beam Black, Woodford Reserve, Makers Mark 46, Breckenridge, Blanton’s, Knob Creek single barrel, Bulleit, small Jack Daniels. The tasting glass is from 1792 distillery.

I really like bourbon. The good ones are smooth and sweet with a nice finish. (Although, some are rubbish.) One of my favourite meals is Hawksmoor steak with Blanton’s. It’s also at Hawksmoor that I learned to appreciate rye whiskey.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Went over to mm’s place to hang out and relax. We talked about going out, but decided against it. We did go outside for a little while, to get some food for dinner. Got half a roasted goose, some grapes and plums. Simple dinner. The goose was really, really good.

Made some inroads into our whisky collection. Started with macallan, moved onto taketsuru 17 and then one of the nikka pure malts. Watched tv, then frozen. It’s good to stay in and do very little.

in eating and drinking |


Ardbeg is one of my favourite Islay whiskies, and the first distillery I ever visited. In 2011, they sent a small vial of whisky distillate along with shavings from a charred oak barrel to the International Space Station, another vial of the same whisky was kept at the distillery as control. This week, they revealed the findings of how the two whiskies compared, with the space whisky having spent 2.5yrs in space in a white paper [pdf link].

Both samples went through gc, gcms and hplc analysis for organic chemicals produced during the fermentation and maturation process in order to determine if the micro-gravity conditions in space affected the composition of the distillate and whether micro-gravity may be used to develop novel flavours found in whisky. Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling and whisky creation, discussed the results with the CEO of space research company NanoRacks and whisky expert Charlie Maclean.


The gc and gcms results, testing for alcohols, aldehydes, ketones and esters, found only small differences between the 2 samples. More interestingly, the hplc results that tested the presence of flavour compounds released from contact with wood showed there was a difference between the earth and space samples. The presence of what they call key wood extratives is lower in space samples. They didn’t say whether space conditions affected the actual extraction itself or the rate.

Enough about the scientific process. What does it mean in terms of nose, flavour, finish? Seems the space sample was more intense with different types of nose and aftertaste. Dr Lumsden summarised:

The space samples were noticeably different. When I nosed and tasted the space samples, it became clear that much more of Ardbeg’s smoky, phenolic character shone through - to reveal a different set of smoky flavours which I have not encountered here on Earth before

Tasting notes for earth sample:

  • woody aroma, hints of cedar wood, sweet smoke and aged balsamic vinegar
  • on the nose, raisins, treacle toffee, vanilla and burnt oranges
  • dry palate, woody/balsamic flavours, sweet smoke and clove oil
  • fruitiness (prunes/dates), some charcoal and antiseptic notes
  • lingering and typically Ardbeg aftertaste, with flavours of gentle smoke, briar wood, tar and some sweet, creamy fudge

Tasting notes for space sample:

  • intense and rounded, with notes of antiseptic smoke, rubber, smoked fish and a curious, perfumed note, like cassis or violet
  • powerful woody notes, hints of graphite and some vanilla leading into very earthy/soil notes, a savoury, beefy aroma, and then hints of rum & raisin flavoured ice cream
  • focused flavour profile, smoked fruits (prunes, raisins, sugared plums and cherries), earthy peat smoke, peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon and smoked bacon or hickory-smoked ham
  • pungent, intense and long aftertaste, with hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges and rubbery smoke

Does it mean we’ll see distilleries in space some time in the future? It’ll be very expensive, at least in the beginning. I was reading a novel based on Mars colonisation, and I’m convinced this is possible in the future. I envy the people in the next few centuries; they’ll probably think back to us now in the 21st century as doing something so stupid and backwards as drinking whisky distilled at earth gravity.

in eating and drinking , how the day went , on the relationship front |


It’s a special-for-this-year-only public holiday today, which has zero significance for me except mm has free time. We drove out to one of the beaches, sigh, it’s terrible with the public holiday crowd. No street parking so we headed straight to the paid car park.

My original intention was to walk around the beach then explore the shops around the town. I remember there is a cheese and wine shop that is interesting. Instead, we plonked ourselves at the outdoor bar at the beach and ordered a couple of glasses of wine. A cab for mm and a german pinot for me, both were good. Chilled, in chilled glasses, which was strange, but in the heat everything got to room temperature quickly.

Mostly mm did the talking, telling me about her new classmates in her new course. My job is to be supportive and to tell her to chill out a bit, it’s only been a couple of days, no need to get frustrated at people who aren’t perfectionists.

Didn’t go anywhere else after the bar, we were both hungry so we took ryan back to mm’s car park and took public transportation to a korean bbq. We noticed that no koreans ever tend to go to these buffet places. We had beef, lamb, pork, chicken, sausages, mushroom as well as lots of lettuce and chili sauce. The banchan wasn’t impressive, only the pickled cucumbers passed muster. Nice to have a day out to chat and catch up anyway.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |


21.1km 3.13.59hr 9.14min/km

It’s imperative, 6 weeks to the marathon, to get to minimum HM distance in my long runs. Actually longer, but one step at a time. Try for 17 miles / 27km next weekend.

Went out early in the morning, plotted the course along bowen road. Ate oatmeal for breakfast, took 3 gu packets with me as well as energy drink. Planned stopping points too, I realised that just stopping, resting and refueling for a few minutes is better than stubbornly plodding on. Can probably recoup those few minutes via the overall faster pace.

I read that the kfc double down has finally arrived, so I thought I’d go and try it out. The doubledown started as an april’s fool day press release in 2010, it’s a chicken sandwich with 2 pieces of chicken acting as the bread and bacon & cheese filling. It achieved some sort of geeky legendary status via social media. Everyone wanted to try it when it came out.

Only the fried version was available, I would have preferred the grilled. It came with nachos and runny cheese sauce as the side, I would have preferred a choice of fries or coleslaw or corn. The doubledown itself was smaller than expected. I couldn’t tell whether it was white or dark meat, probably breast, looking at the size and shape. The chicken was pretty okay, standard kfc taste. The bacon and cheese had no taste whatsoever. The whole thing had a boring soggy texture.

The one criticism aimed at the doubledown from day one was salt content. Absolutely right. Very salty and without the normal bread to soak up the saltiness. I won’t have it again, but I’m glad I tried it.


More normal dinner of noodles, fish and veg at parents’ place, plus watermelon afterwards. Even with the monstrous doubledown meal, I’m at negative calories for the day.

in eating and drinking |


We met up for lunch at the scottish pub. They have a nice 3-course set lunch: salad, roast pork with trimmings and ice cream. Free refills on soft drinks and iced tea/coffee. I was early so ordered a bottle of porter before I spotted the free refills. Anyway, it was at happy hour prices and it’s so rare to be able to get proper ales.

We chatted for a long time, or rather mm updated me on things she’s been up to recently. We went to the cable company to sort out her renewal and then went to the irish pub for a couple of irish whiskies. She had bushmills and I had kilbeggan, we prefer the bushmills.

in eating and drinking |

oaktree03caesar oaktree06mixedgrill

Went with mm and a couple of ex-colleagues to an italian restaurant owned by a friend of one of our ex-colleagues. It’s only been open a year or so, the decoration looked straight out of something old school. Lots of tableside service items, the caesar salad was made tableside by the manager. He had a nice light touch, explaining the ingredients as he added to the bowl and the dressing was just thick enough to coat the salad leaves without being stodgy.

We also shared a salmon pasta with cream sauce and a mixed grill of prawns, lamb chops and pork chops. They also offered spaghetti carbonara cooked tableside, the pre-cooked pasta was brought out and warmed, then added to an entire wheel of pecorino. The heat of the pasta is enough to melt the cheese so it acted as a sauce. We saw other people have it, didn’t order it for our table.

oaktree12suzette oaktree13suzette

Dessert was the ultimate tableside dish: crêpe suzette. Again, the manager’s light touch was appreciated, he made the caramel using sugar and water but only added a small knob of butter. Lots of orange juice and two flambés: brandy and grand marnier.

Since our ex-colleague knew the owner, the wine (an average bottle of italian cab), coffee tea and dessert were free. Quite nice to go to an old school place and try the food. The staff there were attentive and the food was pretty good.

in eating and drinking |

aycejap01sashimi aycejap02prawn
aycejap03egg aycejap04pineapple

Mum decided we should have japanese for lunch. Casual japanese restaurants are almost all all-you-can-order buffets: they have a thick stack of order sheets for various categories of food and we just tick what we want. We had 3 platters of sashimi, some sushi, tempura, grilled food, salad, soup, grilled pineapple, ice cream mochi. Drinks included too, mum had soft drinks and my dad and I ordered loads of hot sake.

This type of buffet normally has a time limit of around 2hrs at dinner. At lunch, they gave us 3hrs. Even better.

The sake got my head spinning a little when I got home so I decided against going running. Too full for dinner, just had some fruit.

in eating and drinking |

pizzalava dessertcombo

For my dad’s birthday this year they decided to go to pizza express. While I was in the US, sis was invited to this new branch as part of a focus group. She took my parents and they ate a lot, free of charge. So I guess that’s why they wanted to come back.

Raining heavily, but it was okay to go there. We had a selection of pizzas and pastas. I had a lava pizza which is burrata, cherry tomatoes, olives and basil. We ordered a dessert combo, the restaurant put a candle on it and also gave us a pavlova on the house.

in eating and drinking |


Seems like forever since I cooked a meal for myself. Still coughing badly so I kept it simple and made salmon with grilled tomatoes. Clams were on the shelf next to the salmon so I added a handful for additional flavour. Took 10mins to make and less than that to eat.

in eating and drinking |

winecheese20150804 ramen20150804

Met up with sis and niece for lunch at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Walked there quickly, so spent the entire meal being still very hot and sweaty. Didn’t eat a whole lot as a result. Went to visit their new place. I like it very much, open plan living/dining/kitchen (albeit very small kitchen with no counter space). Lots of storage and decent sized bedrooms. Sis needed to get rid of some of her cube shelves so I claimed a few for myself—finally I can unpack the last few cardboard boxes scattered around my place.

We dropped off my niece for a playdate and went to happy hour. I’m still coughing badly but since I’m not on any medication I reckon I was okay to have wine. There’s a new craft beer place but we didn’t go there, definitely no cold drinks whilst coughing. We also ordered a cheese plate, 3 varieties but not very generous.

Quick dinner at a ramen place, they had 3 types of ramen—regular pork, miso and ox tongue. Unusual to see ox tongue ramen so we both ordered that. The ox tongue was great, very tender without the unpleasant gamey taste. The broth lacked depth of flavour though, seemed to be mostly chicken based, which couldn’t compare with the thick slow cooked pork bone base in other places.

in eating and drinking |


Several people at the conference were under the weather—in a gathering of 350 people, statistically there will be someone with a cold or cough. Others reported coming down with conference crud after they got home. I had a low-grade, dryish cough throughout conference week, not enough to bother me. It flared up for real on the plane, probably due to the dry atmosphere. It also moved from the back of my throat down towards my lungs. Ugh.

I took some panadol and found some cough medicine in the fridge. Mostly, I know that medicine doesn’t work with coughs and it’ll go away by itself eventually. Went to the market to buy ingredients for soup and to get some lemons. Regular honey & lemon during the day and hot toddy near bedtime—jim beam black, honey, lemon, half a stick of cinnamon, hot water. A couple of glasses at nght beats going to the doctor.

in eating and drinking , going places |

nolatemp012crabbys nolatemp013poboy

Moved hotels today, around 5-10mins walk from the Doubletree to the Hilton. Room wasn’t ready so left our stuff with our friends J&H, chatted a bit then went to lunch with them plus 2 other friends M&M. M is local so she took us to crabby jacks, a fried food casual hut dining place. A and I shared a shrimp & oyster po’ boy with fries. Even regular was a large portion. Basically fried food stuffed in a roll. Tasted very good, the seafood was fresh and the sandwich overstuffed. Freshly brewed iced tea too, the kind where the tea is still hot and melts the ice cubes. We were 6 people in the car, which was very cramped. I ended up in the boot (it’s an SUV so wasn’t like transporting a body.)


By the time we got back to the hotel we were able to check in. Not the room A picked, but still on a high floor with a partial river view. We quickly unpacked and walked to the supermarket. Longer walk than expected, probbaly 20mins one way. Bought salad, hummous, roast chicken and soft drinks. Got caught in the heavy shower too so got soaked for the second time in as many days.

Rushed back to the hotel to change shirts then downstairs to meet with others who volunteered to help shift stuff. M (who took us to crabby jack’s) is the local liaison so a lot of boxes were shipped to her house. Took 4 cars and 9 volunteers to bring them all back to the hotel.

Dinner with Car and another friend L at the brewpub next to the hotel. I had a maibock and, since I’m all burgered and steaked out, a bourbon glazed salmon with kale quinoa pomegranate salad and grilled asparagus. Very nice, the vegetables especially. After dinner we had some official stuff to do, actually a lot; I didn’t get back to my room till 12.30am. Long day. Even longer tomorrow when the conference starts.

in eating and drinking |


Getting towards the weekend when we will start our trip to New Orleans. Errands today—dry cleaning and laundry. Tomorrow we will collect the dry cleaning, wash the car and do last minute shopping.

Lunch today were ginormous meatball sandwiches from Rubino’s Italian deli. They were on special for $2.99, which was extremely good value. These sandwiches were good—4 huge meatballs, provolone cheese (75c extra) and tomato sauce. The meatballs were well-flavoured and the cheese melted inside. The whole sandwich was so big it almost didn’t fit on a dinner plate. I ate it all, very satisfying and yet I didn’t feel bloated or too stuffed afterwards. We’ve been mainly having one big meal a day, this was more than enough for the whole day.

in eating and drinking |

friedpickles steakshrimp

I should go do something, or rent a car and drive to the bourbon trail, or something, but I don’t feel like it. Stayed in almost all day, reading and doing stuff on the mba. We did go out for a late lunch / early dinner at lone star steakhouse. Shared a fried pickles starter, which I’ve had before and liked. Very greasy and deep fried of course, so good. The crunchiness and the tartness of the pickles complement each other. For mains I had a combo of bacon-wrapped sirloin and grilled shrimps. The sirloin was tender, although I didn’t like the bacon wrapping (to keep it moist?). The shrimps were a little salty. Took away dessert of apple pie and cheesecake to have later.

in easily amused , eating and drinking |

Came across videos of vendors making pretty candyfloss flowers. Worth watching till the end to see the final product. Enough for at least two people I think.


When we think of candyfloss, it’s just a lump of spun sugar served on a stick or in a bag. That someone thought of such a creative way of repackaging a favourite product, it’s great.

in eating and drinking |

bc019bfast bc018dessert

Lounged around the room in the morning, watching some of the tour de France. Breakfast was back at the buffet restaurant, more like brunch. Had a roast ham, bacon, sausages, mushroom & spinach omelette, half a french toast to start. They were starting to bring out lunch so I had some of the roast beef, a small piece of steak and salad.

Didn’t feel like any of the pies for dessert, so asked the server at the yogurt counter for just blackberries and had another root beer float.

in eating and drinking |

smsfwine01display smsfwine02sign

Went to a liquor store to look for wine with Car. I got a california cab and a washington pinot. The store had a great selection and I mainly looked at US wines—when in Rome, do as the Romans do, which means go for the local wines. It’s like drinking chianti in Italy, chateauneuf in France and sauvignon blanc in New Zealand.

There was a tasting of save me san francisco wine which are wines launched by a band called Train. I’ve never heard of Train before, but the wines were very decent and good value. I tried the (very generous portions) cab, pinot and blend. The proceeds go to a non-profit organisation in California. One of the band members, Jimmy Stafford, was there to autograph the bottles so I bought a bottle of their pinot too.

After the wine, I went to look at the whisky shelf and wow, there were 2 shelves full of very tempting whisky. One shelf was bourbon and rye; the other shelf was whisky and Irish whiskey, including Tullamore Dew Phoenix which was only available at the distillery and at the airport in Dublin. Even Yamazaki, Hibiki and NIkka Coffey.


It was very hard not to buy up the entire shelf of whisky and whiskey. I couldn’t not get the Ardbeg Perpetuum, which was released during Feis Ile 2015 to celebrate Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary so is very, very special. I was bummed I wasn’t in London for its launch and had been resigned to never getting a bottle. $90 plus tax, which probably works out cheaper than the £90 at TWE.

It was impossible to limit the bourbon purchases to one. I got another bottle of Blanton’s, after seriously considering Bookers, Redemption, Rittenhouse Rye and Weller. Also got a bottle from ch distillery—they are a vodka distillery and bottled this bourbon— it was on sale and the company is in Chicago, all towards my goal of buying local. All this to add to the Knob Creek single barrel I bought yesterday.

I’ll have to finish drinking the wine and figure out how to bring all these bottles of whisky and bourbon back with me. Ah well, I have a few weeks to think of that.

in eating and drinking , objects of desire |


i know i’m back in the US when I have pancake breakfast and then go outlet shopping. The pancakes were at one of my favourite place, Cracker Barrel. I could have had the big breakfasts with bacon, sausage, eggs, hash brown, biscuits and gravy. The blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup were a little lighter, I was able to finish the entire order.


We were going to go to Costco, but drove further south to an outlet mall. I checked off one of the items on my shopping list by getting a new pair of running shoes. I had nike frees in mind and they had several colours. The ones I wanted, in orange and blue, were $85. A few colours were 30% off so I opted for grey. Quite pleased with it.

in eating and drinking , family first |

Went to lunch with sis for her birthday. She wanted to take me to this restaurant where robert is an investor; it’s fine dining but there is a relatively reasonable set lunch. The restaurant is on the 28 and 29/F of one of the entertainment buildings in the central district. Fancy decoration, the upper floor is a bar with an open terrace; the lower floor has an open kitchen. The manager is a French guy who is knowledgeable and friendly. Apparently the head chef is a big shot, award winning or Michelin star or something like that. Many business people as well as ladies who lunch. Uh oh, we were two ladies lunching there too, does that make us one of them? eeeeek.

hkondining06terrine hkondining07quail

For starters sis had duck foie gras terrine with citrus cranberry chutney and I had marinated quail salad with summer truffles. The terrine was full of flavour and smooth in texture. The quail was tender if a little salty. There was a lot of shaved truffles on my plate.

hkondining08tartare hkondining12cheese

We both opted for beef tartare for mains. It was fabulous. Fantastic cut of meat. Perfectly chopped, perfectly seasoned with subtle onion and capers. Topped with a runny poached egg. To finish we had the cheese board. Lovely cheese too, all from France, some not readily available here. We ordered a bottle of Fleurie—their wines are a bit expensive so I tried to get one that was good for a hot summer’s day that won’t break the bank.

Overall, a great meal. Definitely fine dining, and I’d probably feel uncomfortable at the prices at dinner. We plan to take our dad for for his birthday coming up in August.

in eating and drinking |

whiskies201506 nikkabarrel

Recent whisky purchases include 3 bottles of Nikka from the Barrel, a Mars Iwai, Amrut fusion and a umeshu-whisky liqueur. I went to get the Nikka from the Barrels, which were on special and the saleslady there suggested I get the Iwai too. Not very expensive, so I did. Wonder how it tastes like, it’s a blend from the little known Mars distillery.

I did get to try the umeshu-whisky liqueur, which tasted mostly of umeshu with a hint of whisky. At the tasting they had a umeshu-brandy liqueur which was very sweet, but none for sale.

Rounding off the selection is an unknown 45% chinese liqueur bought at a supermarket in Shunde. Chinese liqueurs tend to be very strong and burning, but the bottle of opera masks was cute and it was cheap so I got it, for decoration if not for drinking.

in eating and drinking |

amrutwhiskies kavalan

I saw a whisky promotion at a small shop mm and I once stumbled upon. They had bunnahabhain and the dalmore on specials, and on their shelf they also had highland park, talisker, the balvenie and the usual macallan and glenmorangie. The more unusual selection was on another shelf, they had a few amruts and kavalans, from india and taiwan respectively. I have an amrut fusion already, so I bought a second bottle to open. The kavalans were miniatures, and kavalan is hot right now, since their solist expression won 2015 world whisky awards best single malt. It’s a bit like new world vs old world wines, so many new interlopers muscling into the world previously dominated by scotland. So many whiskies, not enough money to buy or time to try them all.

in eating and drinking |


Still ridiculously hot. Met mm near the big computer place and had a relaxing afternoon and evening, despite the heat. Based ourselves at a foodcourt, had some juice and snacks for tea then explored the nearby computer place and market. Back to foodcourt for dinner. Lots to eat for 2 greedy pigs: ginger stir-fried gai lan, lemon steamed fish, chilli prawns. I actually wanted to take her out to this place to try the chilli prawns, a family favourite. Sometimes, the best food doesn’t come with the best location but it’s the quality that counts.

in eating and drinking |

salmonpotatostack201506 potatostack02

We were watching a cookery competition program where one of the sets of contestants made salmon with potato stacks and asparagus with lime vinaigrette. Mum turned to me and said, “can you make this tomorrow?” So I did.

First time I made potato stack, I wonder why it took me so long? I normally bake or sautée my potatoes, but this will definitely be part of my repertoire. Thinly slice the potatoes, toss in s&p, rosemary and olive oil. Stack on a lined baking tray and bake at 200ºC for about 45mins, until golden brown on the outside and soft inside.

Didn’t have asparagus, so I made some carrot and cucumber disks that mirrored the round potato stacks. The downside was I slightly overcooked the salmon, sigh.

in eating and drinking |


In terms of bizarre holidays, it’s chocolate ice cream day. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable source of origin for the day, it was probably invented by an ice cream manufacturer to market their product.

Chocolate isn’t my first choice ice cream flavour. Not even second, third or tenth. That said, I came across chocolate hazelnut flavour the other day and stocked it in parents’ freezer. Had a couple of scoops with a pear. Pear and chocolate go very well together and the nuts gave it another texture.

in eating and drinking |


I learned through twitter that it was national wine day, but it was too late for me to organise a glass of wine, so I’ll leave it for another day. Nice.

in eating and drinking |


It’s world whisky day. It was also raining and thundery so the ideal dram would have been Talisker. I haven’t opened the bottle of Storm yet so I celebrated by going to another island—the Orkneys—for my absolute favourite go-to whisky: Highland Park 12. Yes, favourites are best. I’m still annoyed at all the different NAS expressions HP is bringing out, that I can’t keep track of. Still, on my to buy list is the ever-present HP 12, 18, 21 and I might shell out for a 25 one of these days. Duncan Ross at TWE also recommended Dark Origins, so it’s now on the list. So many whiskies to buy, so little time to drink.


In other whisky news, I can now get Writers Tears at M&S. At TWE it’s £32.95, price here is equivalent to £50, so there is a markup. Still cheaper than shipping it then risking customs. I’m still hankering after that £100 cask strength that I may have to have shipped.

in eating and drinking |


Continuing the theme of eating more fish, I made salmon and fennel for lunch.

Standard salmon fillet from Ikea—the best value and best tasting salmon available to me. I had a head of fennel but I didn’t want to turn the oven on for just one head, so I looked for pan-frying recipes. The one from Delia at bbc goodfood looks great, but like most Delia recipes, seemed a bit fiddly. My simplified method was to slice the fennel and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, then brown in a pan with apple balsamic, worcestershire sauce and honey. Took around 10-15mins. Pushed the fennel to the side of the pan then cooked the salmon, which is why it looks so burnt on top, it absorbed the fennel debris.

Sigh, I’ve come to realise that the vegetables I love to cook with like fennel, kale, savoy cabbage, I have limited access to. They are also extremely expensive. The salmon (frozen) was also twice the price of fresh salmon in the UK.

in eating and drinking |


Had lunch with my college friend C, we’d only recently started getting back in touch after not seeing each other for more than 10 years.

We went to a spanish restaurant and amongst the choices of wagyu beef, iberico pork, lobster, seafood fettucine we both chose…fish. Most of our conversation evolved around her son, schools, travelling and keeping healthy. It’s strange, we all seem to feel our age lately. I would never have even considered ordering fish at a restaurant until recently.

That said, the fish was very good. Crispy skin, fish flaky and cooked perfectly. I just feel like I’m turning into the middle-aged boring person who orders fish and skips dessert. Oh yes, I don’t drink as much either, whereas I would have been able to finish off most of a bottle of wine, it took me the better part of a week to drink a bottle of wine lately.

It’s not a bad thing, staying on top of our health. Still a way to go: even less coke, more running, get a body check.

in eating and drinking |


I realised I don’t have searchable recipe for chilled cheesecake. It’s hidden on an old page that was part of v1.0 of the website and no longer linked. And it’s so old it’s in ounces, so I need to update it. I’ve also based the new recipe on the packaging of ingredients available to me; the recipe converts to 350g cream cheese, but cream cheese packets are 200g, so I used 2 packets.

50g butter
120g digestives
400g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
gelatine — about 1 tbsp in 3 tbsp hot water, this is powdered
250ml double cream
3 egg whites
1 punnet blueberries, or other fruit

  1. make base using butter and digestives, chill until set
  2. break up cheese, add sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice
  3. dissolve gelatine in water, add to cheese mixture
  4. add fruit
  5. whisk cream until soft peaks, fold into mixture
  6. whisk egg whites until firm peaks, fold into mixture
  7. pour mixture over base and chill till set

in eating and drinking , family first , techtalk |


Spent most of the day setting up mum’s new ipad. Her old ipad (my original gen 1 ipad) didn’t have that many apps on it, so I thought it’s simpler to download new apps fresh from the app store. Ended up getting her new apps like bbc news, travel, tv guide, games, dictionary and the new flickr app. Since she uses yahoo, I got her the yahoo mail app instead of the native mail app. And since she thinks the page is a browser (and I’ve given up trying to explain the difference between browser and webpage) I replaced safari with google app.

After setup, we went to the computer place to get a cover and screen protector. She took a liking to the girl who sold us the screen protector and after browsing around other stores, went back to the girl’s shop to get a cover.

While we were at it, I got her a mifit step/sleep tracker, it’s now even cheaper, more like USD15. I set up the mifit app for her on her phone, and told her to wear the band to bed. Let’s see how it tracks her sleep.

One good thing about all this setting up, I’m a little bit more familiar with android than before.

We met up with my dad at the food court near the computer place for dinner. For all my efforts today, I thought I deserved a little reward. There’s this ice cream stall that sells 5 scoops of ice cream for USD1.50, so the 3 of us got 5 scoops to share. Chocolate, chocolate banana, mint choc chip, tofu, sesame. The scoops are small, which we liked. In terms of taste not stunning but not bad either. Definitely good value and worth trying again.

in eating and drinking , family first |


For mum’s birthday this year, we had dinner at an italian restaurant near a) sis’ place, b) my old office. We stayed home for lunch cos it was so hot. Mum had her regular physiotherapy session which she didn’t want to reschedule. I went earlier to stop by the apple store to get her a new ipad—she said it was fine to get it later but I wanted her to have her present on her birthday.

The restaurant wasn’t crowded, mostly people at the bar out front taking advantage of happy hour. Mum had salmon, Papa had lasagna, sis had veal, my niece had spag bol and I had spaghetti aglio e olio. I asked mum over the weekend what sort of cake she wanted and she said cheesecake, so I made blueberry cheesecake. I asked the restaurant when I made the reservation if they would let us bring a cake and they said sure thing, no charge. Very nice of them! When we arrived, the manager took the cake to keep in the fridge, after our mains he brought it out and the staff had decorated the plate and put a few strawberries as decoration. I scattered more blueberries on top. It was well received, it’s one of the lightest cheesecakes I’ve ever made. We gave the restaurant a big tip.

I think Mum was very happy at her birthday celebration. She seemed to have a good meal and she complimented me on the cheesecake. She was happy, of course, with her ipad. Yay!! If she’s happy, we are all happy.

in eating and drinking |


The horrors, sis ran out of wine at home and we didn’t feel like whisky so we were playing around with the supplies she had to make cocktails. Vodka martini didn’t taste quite right, even with lemon juice and an olive. Couldn’t find olive brine for dirty martini. Still didn’t taste right, a bit one dimensional.

Sis suggested to try adding some of the raspberry granita she had in the freezer. Great granita, from fresh raspberries and sugar syrup. I mixed vodka and grand marnier in a 2:1 ratio, with a few drops of vermouth and a tablespoon of the granita. It quite nice, like a cosmopolitan but with raspberry instead of cranberry juice. Not usually a cocktail person, it was quite good for something I invented from available ingredients.

in eating and drinking |

maureen01tomato maureen02egg
maureen04lamb maureen03noodles

Sis, bless her, invited me over to her place knowing I’ve had an intensive couple of days. She and my niece took me to dinner at a fancy fusion place called Maureen (I think the owner’s name is Maureen). Their spiel is that they sous-vide their food. We had the tasting menu:

  • smoked scallops with oyster sauce
  • “perfect” egg with mushroom truffle sauce
  • braised duck leg with plum sauce
  • lamb rack with hoisin wine sauce / lobster with salted duck egg
  • lo mein with pork broth
  • chocolate mousse with fruit

My niece had marinated cherry tomatoes and noodles. Overall, it was okay. Not stunning, and definitely not as fancy or chefy as they purport to be. The “perfect” 63-degree egg was creamy, I found it overcooked. The duck was tender but like any duck we get a restaurant and the lamb, um, I make better lamb rack (I’m not being cocky, I make lamb racks that people like). The noodles were good, the pork broth the best thing on the menu—rich, intense with depth of flavour. Not much comment about the mousse, it was like warm cream that came out of a nozzle although the chocolate flavour was present.

We had a bottle of Italian wine that was good. Will i go back to this restaurant? Probably not for the tasting menu. Everything on the menu came under the category of “something good-something bad.” May be for the noodles, because of the broth.

in eating and drinking |

The retirement home where mm volunteers is apparently looking for a cook. I’m guessing volunteer also. The requirements are cleanliness, know how to cook for 20+ people and other usual criteria. Of course mm wants me to start volunteering so she perhaps jokingly suggested that we should apply and show off our cooking skills.

I’m skeptical. I doubt the retired fathers and nuns there are used to my style of cooking. And I doubt there are suitable equipment; an oven is out of the question.

I got to thinking though, what if I am asked to cook for 20 elderly people. What will I cook? I’m sure there is a budget so only simple ingredients.

chickencacciatore02 poachchicken01

My first instinct is chicken. A simple chicken cacciatore with pasta or healthy, no oil poached chicken with rice and vegetables. Both recipes use chicken breast, which is more expensive but easier to digest. Easy to adapt to boneless chicken thigh or drumstick.

sisuk107indian green curry vegetable

With many mouths to feed, a one-pot meal makes sense. May be curry, which can be made with chicken or vegetables. Or portugese chicken, which is chicken curry without the spiciness.

risottomushroom happynoodles01

For a more carb-heavy meal I could make risotto (aracini with leftovers) or that simple dish from the now defunct happy noodles: pork chop, sausages, fried egg with fried noodles. I don’t know if any of these recipes are scalable, I hope so.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


A lot of people when they take part in monthly challenges or personal bucket lists include tasks like giving up smoking or giving up soft drinks. I didn’t, and I don’t do the lent giving up thing either.

I used to drink 2 cans of coke (diet or zero) a day, then I cut back to one. I fooled myself that because it’s zero calories, it’s better than regular coke. At the back of my mind, I know that diet drinks aren’t that much better than non-diet drinks, there’s a correlation between diet soda and belly fat, and soft drinks in general lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Time to give up.

We were in Italy 2 weeks, during which I had may be 3 coke zeroes total, because a) it was more expensive than wine so I got wine instead; b) served in small portions (200ml isn’t unusual) and c) mm was nagging at me. Now that I’m home, I’m back to my old bad habit of one a day. That said, I skipped it yesterday.

Most people are addicted to coke because of the caffeine hit and the fizz, and I don’t think I’m any different. I’m going to tackle it by getting my caffeine from tea and fizz from sparkling water. Or plain water. Not going to cut the coke entirely, will do it slowly. Every other day, then twice a week and so forth. Let’s see how it goes.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #97 of 101.1001 is to stop using as much salt and substitute with herbs &amp spices.

One of the biggest advantages of staying at an airbnb is home comforts like a kitchen. The flat we stayed in London had a nice kitchen with proper hob, oven and utensils. The downside is that you’re limited to what is already present, unless you buy or bring your own flavourings. I was making roast lamb shoulder. There were olive oil, salt and pepper. Although half a drawer was full of herbs & spices it was chilli, curry powder, star anise and the like. I could use them, of course, but what I really wanted was rosemary, which wasn’t available. I didn’t get any fresh sprigs when I bought the lamb, so I improvised with other dried and fresh ingredients.

I used some italian seasoning, s&p. The side dishes with the lamb were roasted fennel and asparagus. I finely chopped bits of fennel and asparagus offcuts, and used those as the fresh herbs.


It’s definitely the quality of lamb, but I’m hoping the improvised seasoning helped too. The lamb was roasted to perfection and the side vegetables were really good.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #5 of 5.

Our friend invited us to dishoom behind king’s cross for lunch. Our first impression was how the area had completely changed. Where it used to be dangerous and derelict, it’s now modern and stylish full of office buildings and fancy restaurants.

Dishoom’s theme is Indian street food. The restaurant’s decoration is a mix of old school colonial train station, gentrified godown and steampunk. Great atmosphere. There were a large number of small plates to share. We ordered chilli cheese toast, okra fries, calamari, lamb boti kabab, greens with a fabulous chilli & lime dressing, daal, naan and roti. Everything was delicious, we ordered extra lamb. For drinks I had a bhang lassi, which had mint, ginger, candied fennel and coconut milk.

The small plates were less than £6, the lamb less than £10 so pretty good for London prices. Lots of flavour, and different flavours too, to the usual curries and biryanis. Indian food has been described as Britain’s national dish, and if all Indian food were like Dishoom’s, then it’s not a surprise. Definitely worth returning. Repeatedly.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #4 of 5.

We were in Dublin for my birthday and based on previous experience, I picked butcher grill in ranelagh and made a reservation a few weeks in advance. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the oysters and côte de boeuf, even though the service was quite arms-length. We didn’t have a lot of time in Dublin and when I read about a new-ish restaurant specialising in less popular cuts of meat, I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to try it out.

As it happened, we made time to go to bear in south william street just west of grafton street. Having read that they didn’t take reservations for two, we went early and got a nice windowside table. There was a bar parallel to the front of the restaurant with the rest of the tables on a mezzanine behind. The wait staff, who were the poster boys & girls of hipserhood, were a little distracted preparing for guests but we’d just come from Italy so were in slow food mode.

Aside from the usual ribeye, sirloin, chicken and ribs they also had, as expected, some unusual steak like rosary cut, feather, bavette, flank and onglet. Well, actually I thought bavette and flank are the same, obviously not. I’ve cooked bavette before and liked the flavour. It was what the waiter suggested so we ordered that, to share. For sides we had cauliflower cheese and crispy kale.

Yes, the bavette was tougher than sirloin. I’d say it was even tougher than rump. It was quite lean and the grain more pronounced than on other steaks. With lesser chefs and lesser quality meat, it’d be more a stir-frying or stewing beef. For us, it was perfect. Bags of flavour and didn’t need any sauce. Slightly underseasoned, solved by a little s&p.

I was very good (or mm was an effective controller), didn’t have any wine or beer. That said, we’d been at tullamore dew earlier so I’d had a couple of whiskies already.

The steak was €40, with sides the bill came to €50, good value for steak dinner in a city centre. We’ve been talking about it since, and will be one of the first places to stop if we visit Dublin again.

in eating and drinking , going places |


A day of meeting friends in London. Lunch with our friend CC at dishoom behind King’s Cross. The area had definitely gone through a lot of changes, now full of trendy restaurants and shops. Dishoom is an Indian small street food place that is pretty authentic. A mix of modern and Indian railway/godown type decorations. We had a few shared small plates—lamb kebab, fried okra, calamari, daal, naan, roti and the like.

I left mm with our friend and went off to meet my own friends. Met my ex-intern SM at Waterloo and did a tour of the pubs around the Old Vic. He is still working at my ex-ex-ex company and also had some good news to share with me on the family and house front and we had a fantastic chat. It was as if time hadn’t passed.

Dinner was with my friends JE and TH, more great conversation. We shared a 1.1kg prime rib plus sides at Hawksmoor. It was absolutely lovely to see friends, share recent news, and talk about future plans. Hopefully I’ll get to see them in the near future.

in eating and drinking |


How often does someone give you something you’ve always wanted but thought you’d never get a chance to have? Hardly ever. And when it happens, it is a very special moment indeed.

Sis went to a small Swedish shop with her friend, a Swedish mom whose daughter is my niece’s best friend. They were there to look for chocolate and biscuits. She spotted an unusual bottle of whisky that she hadn’t seen before, and because it’s my birthday coming up, bought it for me.

She didn’t know Sweden had whisky and hadn’t heard of Mackmyra before. Little did she know it’s one of the whiskies on my list that I’ve wanted to try. I first came across it in 101 whiskies to try before you die, and saw a bottle at Stockholm airport—I couldn’t buy it because it was only available for purchase for travellers going to non-EU destinations. The best chance of trying would have been at a whisky bar or tasting.

Mackmyra is Sweden’s first single malt whisky, and the comments are positive. This bottle is a first edition, ie the distillery’s first product. NAS, and from what I can gather, is light and smooth. Now that I know where I can get it, I’m tempted to get another bottle to open and drink.

I’m so so so grateful that Sis saw this whisky, and thought of getting it for me.

in eating and drinking |

pizzasprouts201503 winepassori201503

Sis and niece took me to pre-birthday dinner. The restaurant we wanted to go to had a private function so we ended up at motorino’s. Ordered two pizzas to share: brussels sprouts with pancetta and four cheeses. Both really really good. I like the sprouts one better, it was light and the veg was just charred giving them a crunchy texture. Sis was surprised we ordered two white pizzas (no tomato sauce); I wasn’t bothered, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have tomato sauce on a pizza. I remember in Rome, having this most delicious pizza with potato and a little cheese. Simple.

At her place she opened a bottle of veneto rosso wine. First time I tried it, apparently not expensive. I like it. Will keep in mind for italy trip.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #15 of 30in30 is to try a new recipe.

Mum felt like onion soup so she bought a ton of onions. I don’t like onions so I usually relegate it to a flavouring as a component in mirepoix. Although IIRC I never made onion soup, I don’t think it’s something that requires a recipe. I mean, cook the onions, add liquid and simmer, right?


There’s a good discussion about the various methods for making onion soup. The type of onions to use, how long to caramelise the onions (from Michel Roux Jr’s 30-40mins to Thomas Keller’s 5 hours), the type of stock, additional seasoning (balsamic) and even what alcohol to add (cider, brandy).

Here’s what I did. I chopped 6 large onions and cooked them in butter for about 1.5hrs. I stirred like crazy towards the end, and left the lid off to reduce the liquid and break down the onion further. Most recipes call for beef stock which I didn’t have, I compromised by adding about 100g total of cubed beef with the onions.

After 1.5hrs the onions were soft and mushy and turned a nice medium brown. I then added vegetable stock I had in the freezer. Brought the whole lot to a boil and kept at a rolling boil for 20mins. Seasoned with s&p, thyme, worcestershire sauce, a dash of balsamic and soy sauce. Recipes tend not to include worcestershire or soy sauce, but they are my secret ingredients for adding umami to soups.

The cheese toast was made from baguette and shredded cheese. Proper cheeses like gruyere or comteé are simply too expensive and difficult to find so I used processed, sigh. I toasted the croutons on both sides before melting the cheese on top. Sprinkled more cheese onto the soup.

I was fairly pleased with the results. A tad too watery, I could have done with another 10-15mins reduction at the end, or taken half the soup and blitzed it. Still not a fan of onions.

in eating and drinking , family first |

middleisland006beach middleisland018zenrock

Family lunch at middle island. We got there early, my niece and I even ran on ahead to catch the small boat whilst sis walked slower with parents. Sat outside on a day that was hotter than it’s been all winter. Should have worn short sleeves.

Ordered a mixed bag of food—calamari, pizza, fried rice, steamed veg. The main course was BBQ steak, prawns, salmon, sausage and chicken satay. The great thing about middle island is the big BBQ pit that the staff start and tend for us. I was put in charge of the cooking, and luckily I got everything cooked properly.

Went down to hang out at the beach for a while after lunch. My niece and I scrambled around the rocks (or rather, she scrambled around nimbly and I carefully negotiated the rocks), threw stones and she made a zen rock formation. Took a family selfie too, but no selfie stick, heh.

Was really tired, so it was a good thing we got home by 3pm. Took a nap even.

in easily amused , eating and drinking |


I’m at the point in the training program when I’m starting to get more hungry more often. We ran out of eggs and a few grocery items so I went for a quick 5k (quick is relative, at 7.23min/km it’s not speedy by any means) then dropped by the supermarket. For only running 5k I shouldn’t feel so hungry afterwards, but I was. I had to limit myself to just a few of the blueberry pikelets I made yesterday. 5k is only around 300 calories which is a croissant or 6 pieces of chicken mcnuggets (not including sauce).

Came across this graphic on twitter. I think it originated from food and wine magazine. The article from 2011, which is probably still relevant, compares fast food items against wine in terms of calories. So a krispy kreme glazed doughnut is aound 1 2/3 glasses of wine and mcdonalds large fries at 500 calories is equivalent to 4 1/3 glasses of cabernet sauvignon.

I always track on the basis that a glass of red wine like cab is 125 calories making it 4 glasses instead. Nevertheless, I know which 500 calories I’d rather enjoy.

in eating and drinking |


It’s Shrove Tuesday, which means PANCAKES! No, I haven’t forgotten why we eat pancakes on the day before Lent starts.

For tea I made pikelets. I love this pop quiz:

What’s a pikelet?

Is it:
  1. a regional type of crumpet
  2. a type of pancake found in Australia and New Zealand
  3. stage name of Australian musician Evelyn Morris
  4. a North Staffordshire delicacy, a thicker form of oatcake with raisins added
  5. all of the above

The answer is (5). Most commonly the recipes I see are either (1) or (2). Complicated ones like this from Bake-off’s Ruby Tandoh that makes flat crumpets, I want to try this one day because, well, Ruby! and crumpets!!

What I used was a simple pancake-like recipe. I added blueberries because I felt like it.

150g SR flour
pinch of salt
1tbsp sugar
200ml milk
1 egg
1 punnet blueberries

Make a well in the dry ingredients, add egg and milk. Whisk slightly until no lumps, add blueberries. Drop 1 dessertspoon of the batter into olive oil/butter and cook till bubbles appear on top, flip and continue cooking till golden. Serve with blueberries and maple syrup.

Makes around 25 pikelets around 6cm (2.5in) in diameter.

So easy, and very tasty. They are small, so it’s easy to portion control. A combination of drop scones (with holes) and crumpets (less thick). Unlike pancakes, which go soggy when refridgerated, these are small enough to keep in the fridge as snacks, reheated in the microwave or eaten cold.

And because it’s pancake day, I made mushroom crêpes for dinner and served them with Ikea meatballs.

in eating and drinking |


I popped over to the market after running today to get mirepoix ingredients for making stock. I usually go to a particular small stall. The stallholder auntie ended up making me buy a bag of these unknown vegetables, and then she threw in a couple of bags of edamame beans, peas and another unknown veg.

The edamame beans are at 5 o’clock in the pic, they are beans that are a little older so she’s already stripped them out of their pods. They are good in a stir-fry with other vegs or in a soup. The other freebie is the root at 12 o’clock. I don’t know the name. These are good in stews.

The big bag of unknown veg she sold to me (cheaply) are the other 3 items on the plate. She kept telling me the name and I simply couldn’t understand the words. My dad cooked them, and he said, “ah, these are [same name] veg” and again I can’t understand the words. They have already been peeled and to me, look like water chestnuts. In their raw form, they taste like raw potatoes. Cooked, they taste somewhere between potatoes, yam and water chestnut. Apparently they are good for stews or to make puddings similar to turnip cakes.

I tried googling, and found one or two references to waterlily chestnuts. Not entirely sure.

p.s. still no clue about the name but my dad tells me that apart from the edamame, all the other veg are the same thing—one is in its natural form the other is peeled. Heh.

p.p.s. found it: arrowhead 慈菇

in eating and drinking |


Saturday was Valentine’s Day. What I did: running, market then teenager-sitting my niece whilst Sis and BIL went for dinner. I made poached salmon, carrots, mashed potato and purple sweet potatoes. My niece approved, the salmon was just cooked, still a little pink in the middle. She ate it all, including all the veg and potatoes, so there were no leftovers. I’m particularly pleased about this, becuase she is a picky eater.

What mm did: went to a seminar on St Francis. I guess I could have gone with her if I didn’t have to spend time with my niece. Hmm, thinking about it, nope I wouldn’t.

in eating and drinking |


We keep seeing chefs use popping candy to make desserts, from Heston to home cooks on MKR. Mum said to me to get her some next time in Chicago. I was like, we’ve had popping candy (we know them as pop rocks) since we were kids, you mean you never tried them? She said nope, she doesn’t remember trying them.

I figured, I don’t need to wait till I go to Chicago or London to get them, surely they are common enough. I turned to my trusted source of information for sweets and all sorts, my niece. I lined her and she replied when she woke up—she’s seen them at 7-eleven. Lo and behold, I found exactly the same ones she showed me at 7-eleven. Easy enough.

I wonder what mum will think of the candy?

in being healthy , eating and drinking |


I figured out that I probably came down with stomach upset after eating peanuts. It’s strange, because I’m not allergic to them. I can eat peanut butter by the spoonful. I snack on peanut butter and apples during marathon training—fast energy, easy to digest, great flavour combination.

These were really nice peanuts in the shell too. A little salty, crunchy with a good mouth feel. I ate some a week ago and had stomach upset too, but I didn’t think much of it then. Two weeks in a row, and both after eating peanuts? A bit of a coincidence.

My niece apparently developed peanut allergy last year. Sis, being the helicoptor / snowplough parent that she is, immediately bought a ton of stuff including an epi-pen (I guess that’s prescribed by the doctor), a practice epi-pen, badges and circulated literature on allergies. She even gave me her nutmeg because she didn’t want to chance my niece’s nut allergy. I know allergies can be extreme, but I can’t help feeling that parents overblow things like this.

I was watching a travel & food program and remember seeing the presenter trying street noodles in Vietnam. He expressed concern after seeing the street vendor liberally sprinkle the noodles with peanuts. His guide, a Westerner who has lived in SE Asia for a long time, replied tellingly,

there are no food allergies in the third world

I don’t think the guide was trying to say anything bad about the developing world. He was probably just saying that when you don’t know where and when your next meal may come from, you simply don’t reject food, any food.

Severe food allergy on a massive scale seem to be a first world problem. Studies suggested that food allergies have risen 50% in children since 1997; with occurrence of peanut allergy tripling between 1997 and 2008. That’s staggering. Some of the increase may stem from better awareness, but a lot has to do with external factors.

Why are we allergic to naturally occurring material like nuts, seafood and pollen? There are several theories that on initial examination seem to be contradictory but on reflection may be cumulative:

  1. clean air, better sewage treatment and fewer bacteria means our immune system has nothing to attack, so it mistakes harmless allergens (food proteins, cat hair, pollen etc) for something invasive that has to be attacked — this is the popular hygiene theory and partially explains why allergies are mainly first world problems
  2. too much exposure to antibiotics means our bodies’ natural immune system have either been destroyed or have become overly dependent on medication, therefore unable to handle the stimulation when exposed to allergens
  3. we spend too much time indoors and vitamin D deficiency correlates to increases in allergies

This doesn’t explain why I all of a sudden reacted to a handful of peanuts. I don’t think I’m allergic per se, may be a mild intolerance to this particular batch, or the stomach upset is due to something else. I should eat them in moderation and check for stomach symptoms afterwards.

In the meantime, as spring approaches, I’m mentally preparing myself for another miserable year of allergies. I know I’m badly allergic to dust and pollution. There were days last year when I needed 3 antihistammines a day, when the normal dosage is one a day. I need to move to a country where the air is better.

in eating and drinking |

winebeast01 winebeast02cornas

Met sis for dinner at a new place called winebeast. It’s a bistro in a narrow street behind the market, next to a couple of other new hipster-looking place. The restaurant itself was incredibly small, with barely any room for the staff to walk between guest chairs. We didn’t have a reservation, got a couple of seats at the bar.

The owner recommended a bottle of cornas—I was looking at côtes-du-rhône and châteauneuf-du-pape and cornas is from the same region, priced somewhere in between the two. It took 20mins of breathing, then it tasted great.

winebeast03tartare winebeast04lamb

Sis had beef tartare, she thought it was too sour from the vinegar or citrus added. I thought it was quite nice, although I did go for a 12km run earlier and was hungry. I ate half her portion, since she had a late lunch and still full. I ordered slow cooked lamb shoulder with chickpea purée, carrot, mushroom and a mango & kumquat sauce. Well cooked, perfectly medium rare, although the fat wasn’t all rendered off properly. Pleasantly surprised by the generous portion—I expected fine dining portion sizes and sis reminded me that it’s a bistro, with a french owner and french chef.

I tried the dessert of poached pear with mulled wine ice cream. The pear was just poached and the ice cream was more like a sorbet, which worked out well.

A very nice meal. Not cheap, but we didn’t feel cheated.

in eating and drinking |

yama060taste nikka106tastebar

The results of the Japan leg of the World Whiskies Awards 2015 are out, these are the contenders that will be brought to the WWA final in London:

  • best single malt: yamazaki 18 (other finalists miyagikyo NAS & 12, yamazaki 25)
  • best blended malt: taketsuru 17 (other finalists taketsuru NAS, 21)
  • best blended: hibiki 21 (other finalists super nikka, tsuru 17)
  • best grain: fuji-gotemba blender’s choice

Yamazaki gets the nod for best single malt again, although it’s interesting that the 18 beat the 25. I’m happy about since it keeps our beloved Nikka whiskies a little bit under the radar.

Interesting remark #3, that from Nikka the preferred whisky is Miyagikyo, when it’s been Yoichi the past few years. When we tasted the flights at the Nikka bar at Sapporo last year, I told mm that I preferred Miyagikyo—Yoichi is slightly smoky and Miyagikyo is smoother. We visited the Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido but it’s unlikely we’ll visit Miyagikyo in our lifetime. The distillery is located in Sendai, site of the devastating 2011 tsunami; and only 50 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant. There’s been speculation about how “safe” the post-2011 batches of Miyagikyo will be—now is the time to stock up.

And I didn’t know Hibiki is blended as opposed to blended malt. No wonder a) it keeps winning all these awards; b) I keep trying and trying and trying and I never ever like it. It’s not snobbery, I have yet to find a blended whisky I like. The only ones that came close are Naked Grouse and some of the Compass Boxes, but I’ll never buy them. At the £30-ish price range, I’d rather spend my money on Highland Park 12.

in eating and drinking |


This banana bread recipe from the Mary Berry era is so old that the measurements are in oz. It is so tried and tested that I didn’t convert to grams—113g butter sounds funny.

4oz butter
4oz sugar
2 large eggs
8oz plain flour
2tsp bp
3 bananas, crushed
handful dried cranberries
1 vanilla pod

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Add bananas, cranberries and scrape vanilla beans from pod. Fold in flour, bp, add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture. Bake at 180°C for 45-50mins until a skewer comes out clean.

Traditionally it’s banana & walnut bread but I’ve never used walnuts because I don’t like them. For a slightly modern twist I added a handful of dried cranberries, taking inspiration from chocolat et zucchini—if Ms Dusoulier can do it, so can I. The cranberries added a tart taste and made the whole thing less stodgy.

We had it straight out of the oven so it was extra nice. Everybody liked it because it wasn’t too sweet.

in eating and drinking |


It’s still relatively cool so it’s perfect weather for hiking. And what better after hiking than a nice lamb hotpot at a street food place. Tender lamb ribs and belly, tofu sheets, waterchestnuts, mushrooms and lettuce to dip in the soup. Rice to mop up the gravy. Fantastic.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101.1001 are to try 10 new recipes. It’s great that the 10th one turned out so nice.

I’ve mentioned before that even though I’ve been baking for a long time, it’s usually cakes and biscuits. I only tried bread a few months ago and choux is the only pastry I’m comfortable with. I rarely work with the most basic pastry of them all: shortcrust.

So we were watching MKR4 repeat and I decided to try the double chocolate tart one team made, because it looked so indulgent.

for the pastry:
150g cold butter
185g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
350g chocolate
80ml cream
50g brown sugar
2 eggs + 4 egg yolks

Sift the flour, cocoa and icing sugar into a large bowl, mix butter until resembling breadcrumbs. In the recipe they use a food processor but I couldn’t find mine, and besides I’m not sure it works anymore. Takes longer using hands but it’s not too bad. Put the mixture back in the fridge for 5mins to cool, then add the egg yolk. Combine into a dough. Initially I thought one egg yolk surely wasn’t enough to bind so much dry ingredients, but it worked after a bit of elbow grease. Knead on a flat surface briefly. Chill dough in fridge for 30mins.

Roll out dough to a tart tin. Well, I don’t have a tart tin, so I used half the dough and rolled out into a regular small cake tin, mending gaps where necessary. I tried to trim the side so it was flat. Cool the pastry in the fridge for 5mins, then blind bake at 180°C for 15mins with baking beans, followed by 10mins without. Didn’t have baking beans at parents’ place, so substituted with rice.

While the baked pastry case cools, make the filling. Melt chocolate and cream in a bain marie. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk and sugar until frothy. Combine with melted chocolate carefully then pour into pastry case. Bake at 160°C for 30mins. Cool at room temperature, then in fridge until set.


The pastry was quite short, may be a tad too short, but I like it. The filling was rich and, yes, indulgent. Should have served it with strawberries or raspberries but didn’t have it. Added to the richness by pouring a little cream over. I’ll have to buy a proper tart tin, it’s one of those desserts I’m going to add to my repertoire.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #64-68 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new whiskies. This is #4 of 5.

I finished the dalmore 18 fairly quickly, about 6 months, probably because I didn’t quite like it. The next in the mainland rotation should be either the magnificent dalwhinnie, a strangely-named ancnoc from my sis, or perhaps mortlach 16. But I opened a bunnahabhain cruach-mhona instead, because…I don’t know why. May be it’s because I had 2 bottles? Anyway it means I currently have 2 islays open, this one and laphroaig PX. Co-incidence much? Both are duty free only.

Bunnahabhain and laphroaig are like heaven and earth when it comes to peatiness. Bunnas’ peatiness is subtle, while laphroaigs are peat monsters. I loved visiting both distilleries though. Bunna was closed when we went there, but the location and the weather that day brought home how wild and unfettered the distillery was. I’d love to go back there when it is open.

Anyway, I love Bunna 12 and I completely adore Bunna 18. Cruach-mhona in gaelic means peat stack, although its peatiness is nowhere near laphroaig or ardbeg. It’s un-chill filtered and uncoloured, resulting in a very light golden colour, like sunflower oil without the viscocity. NAS and doesn’t taste very old, may be 10-12 years. Peaty and seaweed on the nose. In terms of taste, slightly smoky, sweet, smooth with a long finish. Reviews are average and Mr Murray gave it a not terribly mind-blowing 83 points. I like it myself, I’m sold on the smoothness and the long finish.

in eating and drinking |


Every travel and food show has been there: Bourdain, Bizarre Foods, nomad chefs, adventurous chefs, Hairy Bikers, even Samantha Brown. In a cramped, unassuming kitchen a thin, middle-aged man in grubby t-shirt and shorts kneads and presses noodle dough by bouncing a bamboo pole up and down using his bodyweight. Every single visitor then proceeds to sing their praises for said noodles, which have a smooth, fine and al dente texture. A far cry from mass produced noodles.

There’s a mesmerising quality in watching the sifu make the noodles. Or it’s Bourdain’s narration. Or the edgy cinematography. Or the haunting score. It seems…romantic.

Parents thought it’d be a good idea to try, after watching an episode of the Hairy Bikers. The branch is opposite the big messy computer centre and near the food court where we get chili prawns. I had the basic wonton noodles. Always go for the most commonplace item, because if they can’t get the staples right, they shouldn’t be in business. It was good. The noodles had a great chewy yet smooth mouth feel, the wontons were decent and the broth was light. There were jars of pickled turnips that was a bonus. Since it’s where I sometimes go for computer stuff or gadgets or to the market I’ll likely visit again.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

Task #47 of 101.1001 is to make a list and photoset of 101 food & drink items that are on popular bucket lists. These lists are subjective: exotic to one person may be normal for another. I’ve tried a number of items from the ominvore’s 100 and various food challenge lists, i’m at 92/100 on the foodie list. This list combines typical bucket list foods with food from a specific place.

Pics are clickable thumbnails, there’s also the full size set

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Task #59 of 101.1001 is to make vanilla extract.

Vanilla beans are expensive, so it’s a waste to discard the pods after using the beans. (In my case the beans went into some really creamy homemade vanilla ice cream.) Vanilla extract, the good stuff, is also quite expensive. It’s actually really easy to make from vanilla beans and some alcohol. Most recipes use vodka because it’s flavourless, but bourbon, brandy or rum can also be used to impart an extra flavour dimension.

I’ve had one bottle with bourbon sitting for a couple of months, and it smells divine. The bottle is just a screwtop soft drink bottle, I could use prettier bottles or mason jars but why waste money? I also have another bottle with vodka in the cupboard, that one is newer, about 2-3 weeks. The good thing is I can continue to add used vanilla pods and alcohol and the extract lasts for years.

Haven’t used it in cooking yet, can’t wait.

in eating and drinking |


We purposely didn’t buy christmas puddings before christmas, hoping that they’d be on sale afterwards. Mum went to the shops at the weekend to look for them, but was disappointed that they were not there anymore. The supermarket even told her that they took them off the shelves after Christmas.

I think it depends on the area. Parents don’t live in an expat area so the demand for themed food like christmas pud probably does wane after the holiday. Plus, the shops in the area main cater for f@#king mainland locusts who probably can’t recognise christmas pud even if someone explained to them in tiny words.

I went back to my area to look at the supermarkets and shops there. Lo and behold, puds and mince pies were 35-50% off. Got her a couple waitrose ones and a couple of m&s ones. She’s the only one who likes them, and she has supplies to last a year. What a relief. To my chagrin, panettones weren’t on sale yet, may be a couple more days.

in eating and drinking |


Saw these 100ml single serve wine pouches from oneglass the other day, apparently a new product. They claim the paper, plastic and aluminium packaging is eco-friendly, easy to use and easy to carry.

I can see the advantages of taking one, or several, pouches when taking part in outdoor activities. I read a couple of books where our protagonists brought a whole bottle of wine on hiking or sledding trips and got gently told off by their friends. The problem is the heavy glass bottle that they also have to carry home empty. No such problems with these pouches. That they were on sale at the yacht club adds sailing/boating/kayaking as another activity that can benefit from these pouches.

Will I buy them? I might get one, for the fun factor. They are expensive. Haven’t tried the wine inside, but multiplying the cost of one pouch by 7.5 gives me almost double the price I’d normally pay for a bottle of cab or sangiovese. I guess they’re charging extra for design and gimmickiness. To be honest, if I were going hiking or sledding or kayaking and want to bring wine (or any drink), I’d use one of those to go bags popular in Singapore and other SE Asian countries. Or those flexible, collapsable water bottles. Or use a couple of ziploc bags.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Since we went out on Christmas Day, the traditional turkey and presents was on Boxing Day. Parents opted for a pre-cooked turkey, around 10 pounds. I thought it was more like a large chicken. They’ve always gotten the pre-cooked, and it’s butterball from Marketplace, which is pretty good quality. If it were up to me, I’d roast the turkey myself, but I do appreciate the convenience.

The turkey was good, even the white meat was tender and not dry. The biggest issue was that it didn’t come with giblets or gravy. And since it only got an hour’s reheating in a low oven, there was no possibility of making gravy from it. I learned this lesson from last year. This year, I was prepared. I made chicken stock (roasted bones, mirepoix) a couple of days ago and continued working on the gravy all morning. I cooked the vegetables in the stock so they exchanged flavour with each other and it also meant the veg was healthy, not cooked in oil but tastier than steamed. I added about half a glass of red wine and reduced the stock to 50%. I then made a roux to thicken it to the desired consistency. It seemed a lot of trouble for gravy, but from watching so many cookery competition programs, I know that sauce/gravy is as important as the main ingredients on the plate.


Side dishes were carrots and green beans cooked in the aforementioned gravy. The potato element was bubble & squeak, which is kinda traditional Boxing Day fare made from leftover potatoes, cabbage and sprouts. True to the spirit, I actually made mashed potatoes and cooked a head of cabbage yesterday to use today as “leftovers” hahaha.

All in all, we were very pleased with the meal. Didin’t really have any dessert, just some small mince pies Sis brought over. Exchanged presents and facetimed G and R, who apparently are hoping that it’d snow in the UK. Let’s see if they get their wish, snow is predicted in parts of the UK but may be not as far south as West Sussex.

in easily amused , eating and drinking |


According to a Copenhagen-based brewery, drinking their problem solver beer will help, well, solve creative problems. Apparently an alcohol level of 0.075% is just the right amount to get the creative juices flowing. As the independent helpfully explained,

it is thought to come with a feeling of relaxation that stops you from being ‘too-focused’, but is not drunk enough that your verbal and cerebral ability will be impaired

The 7.5% IPA comes in a 750ml bottle that has a printed scale to indicate exactly how much to drink to get to that sweet spot, depending on gender and weight.

Of course it’s clever marketing, it’s a campaign from agency CP+B Copenhagen.

Now forgive me while I go drink some beer and churn out the Next Great Novel.

in eating and drinking |

2014122001winkles 2014122002clams
2014122004abalone 2014122003prawns

Totally unexpected but a pleasant surprise, we had another gathering with Uncle Wong’s family. He took us to the market and bought lots of fresh seafood again. The dinner banquet had winkles, clams, abalone, prawns, chicken and vegetables. We bought him a chestnut chocolate cake to celebrate his 70th birthday, which was last time but it didn’t matter that it was a couple of weeks late, everyone enjoyed it. Uncle Wong is the most generous, most optimistic and thoughtful person. He is going back to Canada soon and due to his health, we’re not sure when we will see him again. I wish him the best of health.

in eating and drinking |

nullahcocktails201412 koreanfriedchicken201412

It was raining so I went to sis’ to use the threadmill there. Natually we ended up going out to eat. First stop was Stone Nullah Tavern for a quick cocktail. I had something called Hillsboro Mile which had bourbon, pimms, mint—I can’t find it on google. Sis had an earl grey martini that did have a nice tea flavour. We munched on fried artichokes and kale. Both were nice but portions were small and not value for money.

Dinner was at a Korean fried chicken place. Korean-styled fried chicken is superior to almost all fried chicken in that the batter is thin, super crunchy and the whole dish very addictive. This place we went to had yummy fried chicken. I think the plate was the whole chicken. Quite heavily seasoned and peppery-spicy with juicy meat. I’d go again.

in eating and drinking |


It’s the start of overeating and drinking season. Met mm for lunch at a korean place, we had miso tofu soup and mixed offal soup. Warming and filling for the chills. We split up for about an hour to run separate errands then met with her mum and family friends for happy hour at the german bierhalle place. The others had cocktail but I stuck with a weissbier.


The rest of the group went off for dinner without me. I’d promised sis that I’d hang out with her. We went to Motorino for pizza. We shared a mushroom pizza and a salad. They had on their menu a wine they claimed was the perfect pizza wine. I’d never heard of Gragnano before, it was quite drinkable, a little sweet and as the menu said semi-sparkling. Sis says it tastes like fizzy ribena, hahaha. I googled it, and the “perfect pizza wine” came from New York Magazine.


For dessert sis had tiramisu and I tried their special of the day—nutella and marshmallow calzone. It was extremely large, and I think the size put me off so I could only take a few bites. I took the rest of it home. There should be running tomorrow so it can be the after-running snack.

in eating and drinking |


I had some cream in the fridge I needed to use up, so I made pannacotta. Four ingredients: 500ml double cream, heated with 50g sugar and the seeds from one vanilla pod. When almost boiling, remove from heat and add to 2tsp gelatin powder already soaking in 3tbsp water.

A little too set, due to unfamiliar gelatin. But so rich, and so vanilla-y, can see all the seeds in the dessert. There was some discussion on a Paul Hollywood Pies & Puds program about the colour of pannacotta, whether it should be white or yellow. The chefs say white, but he had guest dairy farmers who brought in the richest, creamiest clotted cream from Devon and the pannacotta he made was yellow. It depends on the cream. The cream I used was good double cream, and the result was defiantly creamy yellow.

Ideally I would have liked to serve it with mixed berries or at the very least strawberries. Alas, the strawberries at the market were expensive and looked terrible. So mum opened a can of peaches. Heh, we’re not running a michelin star establishment here.

in eating and drinking |

panevino2014121302 panevino2014121304

For early family christmas lunch we opted for an italian restaurant near my place. We all chose the antipasti buffet which came with unlimited prosecco and soft drinks. Quite nice food: salmon, cold cuts, salad, grilled vegetables, stuffed tomatoes, bread. Worth it for the prosecco, not so value for money for mum and niece, I had niece’s portion of diet coke.

in eating and drinking |

2014121001prawns 2014121002abalone
2014121004fish 2014121006veg

Original plan was to visit mm’s family friends for a bit, then do our own thing. We ended up visiting with them all day. It was uncle wong’s 70th birthday, and he was preparing his own birthday dinner. He took us all over the place to shop—specific shops for chicken, roasted meat and seafood. It was a veritable feast that was better and healthier than what you’d get at a restaurant. Lots of seafood, mostly steamed and the chicken and meat were from outside.

He made steamed sea prawns, steamed abalone, winter pickle steamed lion fish, steamed lung dun fish, scallops with vermicelli, vegetables, chicken, chicken feet, roast suckling pig. Delicioius, the sign of someone who loves cooking.

in eating and drinking |

Gear patrol spent 5 days visiting a bunch of bourbon distilleries. Fascinating posts, for all bourbon, whiskey and whisky lovers.

I recognised some of the distilleries that I visited myself when I went on the bourbon trail a few years ago. The bourbon trail passport now requires stamps from 9 distilleries (used to be 6 when I went). This means a longer trip, which I guess is what they want. Ah, commercialism.


One of the people interviewed on the video looks familiar. Yep, it’s our guide at Buffalo Trace. I have a picture of me and him too at the tasting bar, he was super nice and a great guy. No, I don’t post pics of me.

in eating and drinking |


Mum and I went to the Japanese snack store, the one that also sells non-snacks and grocery items at almost wholesale prices. Mum got noodles and some snacks. I saw this wine and I had to get it. I mean, it’s the human cannonball wine. Cabernet merlot 2012 to be precise.

I can’t find too much about it, apart from the bottler. I don’t think they are a winery, rather a bottler and producer of wines and spirits. The blurb for the human cannonball wine is pure marketing. I can imagine PT Barnum shouting this out to the crowd:

Step right up! Get your ticket and experience the eighth wonder of the world. Yes, you heard right. The Human Cannonball is here! Your mind will not believe your eyes and you brain will not believe your taste buds. The bravery and courage is the spectacle, this fearless death defier will leave your mouth wide open & chanting for more. Tell your friends and bring your family… The Human Cannonball wine range is the lighter path to drinking serious wines. Instead of being clad in leather and tweed, we encourage our drinkers to wine down (pun intended) and be the spectator of something truly amazing. What colour is your ticket?

It’s not an expensive bottle, in the region of what I’d pay for wines I use for cooking. Since I usually cook with half and drink the other half of the bottle, I’ll see when I use it whether it’ll leave me wanting to wine down (pun intended).

in eating and drinking |


We’ve seen enough food & travel programs to know that often the best food is found in unexpected, down-to-earth places. Dad took us to a foodcourt in a downmarket shopping centre and we found really great food. Value for money, naturally.

The highlight were these tiger prawns stir fried with garlic, spring onions and pepper. Huge portion, we think there are 11-12 prawns. Would have been the same price, even more, to buy fresh from the market. We also ordered squid with vegetables and noodles. Came with rice and a nice homemade soup. This being a foodcourt, there were other choices and we had lamb curry with roti from the Nepalese / Indian stall and I got a winter melon tea from the Taiwanese stall.

in eating and drinking |


Spent almost all afternoon with mum getting her a new phone, changing her plan and going to the supermarket. We stopped for a snack at an udon place opposite the supermarket. I had udon with a soft boiled egg, mum had udon with tofu sheets—she gave me one sheet. We can add garnishes ourselves—ginger, spring onion and soy sauce: the usual suspects. In addition, we could also add scraps, or bits of leftover tempura batter.

I thought scraps (aka scrumps or batter bits) are more of a nostalgic northern thing, cos I don’t remember ever seeing them. It seems like they’ve been outlawed by Health & Safety. Spoilsports.

I should have known that the Japanese, with tempura frying, will save these delicious bits. Interestingly, the Japanese are also divided in the name of the product. Those in western Japan call it tenkazu and in eastern Japan they call it agedama.

in eating and drinking |


The restaurant near the library my dad goes to changed hands and is offering a meal deal of lobster or whole chicken for the equivalent of £3. Other items are normal price. Went with parents and we ordered the lobster, plus steamed fish and roast goose.

It’s very odd, lobsters in this part of the world are cooked either in a brothy sauce or a heavy cheese sauce and served over e-fu noodles. This is the type of noodles eaten at birthdays for longevity and have a nice taste. The lobster was all chopped up, and there was enough for 3 people.

in eating and drinking |

panevino02antipasti panevino03spaghetti

We went for lunch at an Italian restaurant called Panevino. It has been around for a long long time near where I live, and sometime in the past year opened a branch at this new location. They have a set lunch of antipasti buffet and a bowl of pasta. The antipasti buffet was good, they had salad, olives, roasted vegetables, mushrooms, stuffed tomato, grilled polenta, arancini, tortilla and bread. The pasta in the set lunch were standard like bolognese, pesto, carbonara. I had my favourite spaghetti aglio e olio.

A small additional charge for non-standard pasta, dessert, coffee tea and wine. The add-on charge was minimal so I had a small glass of red wine and mm had coffee.

We don’t normally go out for Italian because we can make pasta at home. This was decent value because of the antipasti and the pasta was good too.

in eating and drinking |


Mum asked my niece what she wanted for her birthday and the reply was chocolate. Mum normally gives her nice chocoalte like godiva or equivalent. This year, I offered to make truffles. I made two types: mint choc and salted caramel.

The mint choc used 70% mint chocolate as base, and the usual add cream and butter method. The end result was a very subtle, almost non-existent mint flavour. If I had more time I’d infuse mint leaves in sugar syrup or find mint flavouring.

The salted caramel truffle came from an Edd Kimber recipe. In case people are not aware who is Edd Kimber, he was the winner of the first Great British Bake-off. I used 1/3rd of his recipe, to get about 20 truffles.

100g 70% chocolate
100g caster sugar
7g light brown sugar — probably not needed
100ml double or whipping cream
7g butter
1/2tsp salt

  1. break the chocolate into a large bowl, set aside
  2. in a heavy saucepan, slowly melt the white sugar, gently moving the pan until all the sugar has melted
  3. add half the cream and the recipe says brown sugar but I don’t think it’s needed
  4. the mixture will bubble madly, remove from heat if it gets too violent
  5. when the bubbling has subsided, add the rest of the cream, butter and salt
  6. pour over chocolate and stir until all chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy
  7. cover and set overnight. Roll into balls with hands, coat with cocoa powder (or icing sugar or chocolate shell), decorate with a crystal of rock salt

Very nice. I added more salt, it contasted well with the sweetness of the caramel.

in eating and drinking |


For my niece’s birthday I ordered her a box of boomf marshmallows. They print them from instagram pics, either on your own or your friends. They’re pretty expensive, but look very cool. Haven’t tried them yet, let’s see how they taste.

in eating and drinking |


I saw diced lamb flap at the supermarket the other day. Lamb flap is belly, or sometimes called breast. It’s not a cut of meat I see very often—lamb comes in leg, shank or shoulder, occasionally neck fillet. Looks very much like any other belly cut—layers of meat and fat with some bones. Cheaper than shank and looks perfect for braising.

I used the standard braising method and ingredients. Brown the meat, remove. Sweat mirepoix in browning juices, return meat to pan. Add chopped tomatoes, red wine and seasoning. I splashed out and got fresh rosemary this time.

Instead of braising for 3hrs in the oven, I used my dad’s thermal pot. This is a device that is made up of an inner cooking pot and an outer insulated container. The idea is a vacuum is created around the cooking pot, keeping it hot and the food slow cooking for a long time. Apart from the initial heating no other energy source is needed. A good video demo by one of the manufacturers showing how to cook lamb shanks:

I brought everything to a rolling boil for 20mins. Then it was simply a matter of leaving the stew overnight, total around 15hrs. It was still hot when I took it out, apparently the food can be kept at around 60˚C for 12hrs. I returned it to the hob, brought it to boiling for about 10mins to reduce the gravy a little. Cooking in a sealed device meant no evaporation.

Served the braised lamb flap with grilled okra and rosemary flatbread. Everything homemade and economical. Success all round.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are 10 new recipes. This is #9, and the first bread recipe.

I’ve been baking since I was 11 or 12, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve made bread. I’ve been watching too many GBBO and masterchef episodes and I want to have a bread recipe I can master and keep in my back pocket. This is based on a jamie recipe.

500g strong bread flour
15g (or 1.5 packet) yeast
1/2 tbsp salt
1tbsp sugar
300ml water

Mix the dry ingredients with about half the water, add more water to get to a sticky consistency. Knead until a silky, elastic dough is formed. Leave in a covered bowl for 30mins to prove, until doubled in size.

Knock the air out and knead a little more. Tear off chunks of the dough, add fresh rosemary leaves and roll into small balls. Pat between palms into flat shapes about 0.5cm thick.

Pan fry in olive oil until golden. Sprinkle sea salt and drizzle rosemary & oil.

I’m very pleased with the results. A little yeasty, I think I added too much yeast. They fluffed up nicely during cooking and had a wonderful golden brown colour. Slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I’ll definitely make them again.

in eating and drinking |


The whole family went for curry buffet at the yacht club. It’s very hard to take a picture of curry, and of buffet dishes so I won’t even try. My niece didn’t have the curry, instead she ordered spag bol and ice cream. The ice cream was mint choc and topped with chocolate soil, served in a flower pot. Looks great! The soil was broken up oreos. How a little creativity and artistic presentation gave additional wow factor to a good dessert.

in eating and drinking |


My scales broke, or rather, the scales I had at parents’ place broke and I can’t be bothered to a) go get the ones at my place or b) go buy new ones. Sales start in november, so I want to wait a few weeks. That said, for some reason I felt like making chocolate cake. So I did some random googling and found a recipe that uses cup measurements.

First of, I know many, many, many bakers use cup measurements — all American recipes are in cups as well as some NZ and Aussie recipes. But I’m uncomfortable with it, as we can see from the results. The recipe didn’t specify what type of cup so I used a proper ones from a professional cooking shop.

3 cups SR flour — that looked like A LOT! Must be something like 300-400g
2 tsp bicarb
pinch of salt
2 cups sugar — I used less, about 1.75 cups
3/4 cup cocoa powder — I used a combo of cocoa powder and chocolate pieces
2 eggs — didn’t seem enough
1 cup oil — I used a combo of soft butter and canola oil
1 cup milk
1 cup hot water

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, add wet ingredients and mix well.

That’s it. No creaming, no beating, no getting lots of air into the mixture.

Bake at 180˚C for 45mins. The recipe said 200˚C but I was slow cooking ribs in the oven so I couldn’t bring the temp that high. The rib roasting tray also meant I had room for a rectangular cake tin as opposed to a regular round cake tin. I had enough mixture for 2 cakes—I thought that was a lot of flour and sugar.

The result was, surprisingly, good. We liked the reduced sugar, so it’s not sickly sweet. Light and fluffy inside (bicarb+SR flour?), perhaps a tad too crumbly and a really nice crust outside. I normally don’t go for the end bits but this time I was super glad I did.

So, using a cup to gram conversion table:
350g SR flour
2 tsp bicarb
pinch of salt
350g sugar
75g cocoa
2 eggs — I still think it’s not enough, may be increase to 3 eggs
250g butter
250ml milk
250ml hot water

Or half for just one cake.

in eating and drinking , workstuff |


This was on fb. It is a sort of dream job, if I had some training. A few years ago I looked into culinary schools, they are expensive. I know that lots of people dream about cooking jobs, when in reality it’s tough, low paid and with little career progression. Stil, a little café or a catering business is a sort of dream.

in eating and drinking |

simplylife01salad simplylife02bfast
simplylife03barra simplylife04cake

Met mm for lunch at a bakery/restaurant called simply life that was all about simple food. Set lunch included salad with a nice balsamic dressing. For mains mm had full english breakfast and I had almond crusted barramundi with organic brown rice. The fry-up was good, I ended up trying all the items. The fish was nicely cooked but I was disappointed at the small portion that was sitting on a huge amount of rice.

We shared a dessert of raspberry cheesecake that was again tiny. Could taste the fruit but the cheesecake was more like a mousse cake. Some hit and some misses, decent value for money.

in eating and drinking |


When I was still working and living on my own, my staple was roast chicken. Usually thighs or legs. I’d roast a batch at the weekend and it’d be my lunch for 2-3 days. For some reason, parents don’t roast chicken a lot — questionable quality of chicken? Or they prefer lamb.

Well, I felt like roast chicken, so I dragged mum to the market and bought a fresh chicken and some vegetables. Spatchcocked and seasoned with lemon zest, italian seasoning and butter rubbed between the skin and the meat. 40mins at 180ºC roasted British style with carrots in the tray (we forgot potatoes).

I had par boiled the carrots before hand so the water together with pan juices made a simple gravy. I was well impressed, the breast was soft and juicy and not dry at all. I don’t eat chicken breast when I’m eating out because of dryness, this time I preferred the breast.

in eating and drinking |


250g dark chocolate
250ml double cream
knob of butter

Break chocolate into small pieces in a bowl. Heat cream and butter until almost boiling, then pour onto the chocolate pieces. Stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Leave in fridge overnight to set.

Use a small spoon and hands to shape gently then roll in cocoa powder or chopped nuts. I also made a small batch that had a splash of highland park added. It was quite strong. Made around 30 truffles in total.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #48 of 101.1001 is to eat an insect and task #17 of 30in30 is to try a new food. I’ve never knowingly tried insects before, so we bought a small cup of beondegi or silkworm pupae at namdaemun market. This is a typical Korean street food, the pupae were boiled and eaten with toothpicks. One small cup was KRW2,000 or two dollars so it was worth trying.

When I initially set this challenge, I envisioned trying the cricket chocolate from Wittamer, but the box went mouldy on me. I have been reading a lot of articles about the benefits of eating bugs — they are sustainable, nutritious and 80% of the world’s cultures already eat insects. As global population grows exponentially, there is a lot of thinking that the future human population will turn to insects for protein source. I guess people in 200, 500, 1000 year’s time will look back on our diet with the same shock as us looking at the diets of people hundreds of years ago.

I wasn’t really prepared to try bugs that look scary. I don’t think I’ll let anything with legs come near me, so spiders, grasshoppers and ants were out. I was okay about trying mealworms so when I read about beondegi in the course of my seoul research, I thought it may be alright to try.

First, it’s served hot, in a seasoned sauce. People complain about the smell, but it was no worse than other meat-based street food. You eat the whole thing, just pick it up with a toothpick and pop one in your mouth. The outside had the texture of boiled peanuts, a little crunchy, a little soggy. The inside was a little gamey, like mild liver. I won’t say I’m in any hurry to try it again, but if offered I won’t refuse it.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #18 of 30in30 is a family activity.

Originally I was gonna go trampolining with sis and my niece over the weekend, but tiredness and too much homework scuppered that plan. Sis and I could have gone one morning by ourselves but we wanted to wait for my niece.

Anyway sis had a cocktail event tonight with IC MBA alumni. She asked if I was interested (I’m an IC MBA alumni too) but I had zero interest in these social events. Instead I volunteered to babysit my niece so sis can go. Not really babysitting, a 12 year old at home requires minimum supervision. I was responsible for making dinner so I teenager favourite food — steak, mashed potato and cherry tomato. Sis opened a bottle of red wine for me too, I had a glass.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Since yesterday was no snack day, today is let’s have a snack day. Snack also is one of the entries in the random instagram challenge I came across. I only later realise the post is 1 year old, but the entries still work.

The snack in question is very simple cheese & caramel flavoured popcorn. A small bowl, I guess it’s not heavy on the calories.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #16 of 30in30 is to stay away from snacks.

What, no crisps, no biscuits, no cheese, no popcorn? It’s fine. I managed. Although I had a couple of slices of lemon curd toast for tea. In my mind tea is a meal, like breakfast, lunch or dinner, so doesn’t count as snack.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


A combination of task #96 of 101.1001 and task #13 of 30in30: drink more water, drink mostly water.

We all know that water is good for us and we should drink lots of it every day. I don’t know if it’s circumstances or age or becoming healthier, I don’t mind drinking water as much as before. I’ve always drunk a lot of liquids, when I was working it was soda water and coke zero all day. In the US I bought these gallon containers of arizona green tea. Then of course there were the beer and wine and whisky. And the vital cup of tea in the morning.

Don’t have access to gallon containers of tea anymore, and I’ve cut down the coke zero to one can a day. Alcohol consumption is down too.

I’m making up the quota with water. Here we boil our water then let it cool to room temperature. Tastes bland. I kinda miss the mineral taste of London hard water. I keep my room temperature in a glass bottle I bought at John Lewis. I also keep bottles of water in the fridge. I find cold water tastes much better than room temperature or warm water and I can drink more of it. It’s surprising how quickly I finish a bottle of 500ml ice water.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #11 of 30in30 is to have 5 vegetables in a day.

What better than to make a salad. Easy carrot, cucumber, pepper, sweetcorn and tomato with a japanese sesame dressing. Added a couple of small taiwanese sausages I grilled.

I had enoki mushrooms for lunch so i actually had 6 vegetables today. That, plus walking for 1.5hr while listening to a mindfulness walking mp3 made me feel sort of healthy.

in challenges , eating and drinking |

Task #22 of 30in30 is to celebrate a bizarre holiday. Since I have homemade vanilla ice cream, it’s perfect to celebrate chocolate milkshake day. All I did was blitz together 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate milk. It seemed the easiest, without having to buy chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, which are the usual ingredients used. It wasn’t chocolate-y enough so I melted some 70% chocolate into the mixture. Why 70% chocolate? I only have baking chocolate in my fridge.


Very rich, a little to sweet for my taste, which I know because the ice cream was too sweet. Chocolate isn’t my first choice for ice cream or milkshake, so if it weren’t for the national chocolate milkshake day, I would probably just had the vanilla ice cream on its own or with some fruit. I can’t imagine how many calories, I made myself go running for 5 miles in torrential rain for this.

in eating and drinking |


When I was in Chicago during the summer, I walked past a Williams-Sonoma, couldn’t help but go inside and ended up buying a couple of zoku ice cream makers. I don’t have space for an ice cream maker, so this small bowl seemed to be a great idea — no churning, and it claims to make ice cream in 10mins.

I’ve watched enough cookery competition programs to know that the best ice cream is made from a custard base. The recipe I used is from david liebovitz, one of the few american cookery writers who give metric measurements. I used half his recipe.

125ml milk — I used hi-calcium 2% milk, because that’s what I have in my fridge
75g sugar — I think this is too much, next time I’ll start with 50g
3 egg yolks — I splurged and bought best quality organic “intense flavour” eggs from japan
250ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod — if I halved the recipe I should have used half a pod, but I used a whole one anyway, I scraped the seeds out and the pod is now soaking in bourbon to make vanilla extract

Gently heat milk, sugar and vanilla seeds until sugar has melted. Slowly add to egg yolks, whisk and return to pan. Heat very slowly, stirring constantly to make the custard, it will be ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool.

In a separate bowl, cool the cream in an ice bath. Add the custard, stir and whisk until thickened and cold. The mixture can be kept in the fridge until ready to make the ice cream.

The instructions for the zoku is to chill the inner bowl in the freezer for 12hrs. The bowl is made of an inner metallic bowl and an outer ceramic bowl with coolant inside. At room temperature I can shake the bowl and feel the fluid sloshing inside. When frozen the coolant feels solid.

To make the ice cream, add a portion of the custard mixture to the frozen bowl, no more than half full. Then stir, fold and scrape for about 10mins until the mixture turns from a thick liquid to frozen ice cream. It really works!

Because all the ingredients are fresh and of good quality, and because I used real cream and a whole vanilla pod, the ice cream tasted unbelievable. Smooth and rich and creamy and simply irrestible.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #12 of 30 in 30 is to eat 3 different fruits in a day.

I had 13 giant peaches in the case from tokyo; one was extremely squashed and three were quite squashed. The figs I bought were also a little squashed. I had diced giant mangos in the freezer so it was an easy job to assemble a fruit salad. Even the extremely squashed peach had good bits, and 2/3 of a squashed peach tasted just as delicious as a whole peach.

I went to sis to give her the ikura, a few peaches and the pokemon soft toy to my niece. She had watermelon so total I had 4 fruits today.

in challenges , eating and drinking |

30302014091401sushi 30302014091402cake

Task #14 of 30in30 is to have no red meat during the day. The last time I did 30in30 was april 2014, and it also coincided with bbmm going to Japan. Co-incidence much.


It’s so easy to skip red meat in Japan. We had sushi for lunch, cake for tea and went to a fugu restaurant for dinner — the first time we tried the infamous poisonous pufferfish. In between, we sampled some potato snacks and red bean sweets at stalls around the Sensō shrine. If we hadn’t bought a couple of skewers of squid and chicken liver for snack, i could say it was a no meat day.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #8, the third savoury and only the second meat recipe.

One of the classics in tv cooking history was Jacques Pepin deboning a whole chicken, stuffing it and making a galantine, a truly amazing demonstration of butchery and cooking skills. Nowadays I see chefs on masterchef and cookery competition programs making ballotine of chicken, duck, veal or another meat. There are many names: Pepin’s galantine, Americans favour roulade and ballotine seems to be used in the UK and commonwealth. It all comes down to the same concept: meat swiss roll with some stuffing (meat, vegetables or a combination) rolled up in an outer layer of meat.

This is a recipe I worked out myself, inspired by bonappetit. Serves 4 with sides, or 2 very hungry adults:

  1. pan fry 2 chicken thighs, season and dice to small bite-size pieces
  2. dice mushroom into small pieces, cook with chopped reconstituted dried porcini and sun-dried tomato, season
  3. combine thigh with mushroom mixture to make the filling and leave to cool
  4. butterfly 2 chicken breasts, cover with clingfilm and flatten slightly — not as flat as an escalope, around 1cm thick, season with s&p
  5. layer jamon, fresh basil, emmental slices on top of the chicken breast — jamon because the packet I bought was from spain, I was initially aiming for prosciutto; emmental because that’s what I found in the fridge, mozzarella or provolone will work just as well
  6. spoon on filling and roll carefully, secure with toothpick if necessary — it was difficult to roll so I used another slice of jamon on the outside
  7. sear in a pan until golden brown
  8. transfer to oven and bake at 180°C for 10mins
  9. rest for 5mins then slice


Served the ballotine with roast potatoes, mushroom and cherry tomato. I made some sauce by combining the mushroom cooking liquid with the water from the porcini and sun-dried tomato. It tasted really good, I only cooked the chicken breast for 10mins so it was still juicy.

in eating and drinking |

habituburger201408 habitucakes201408

Met with mm for late lunch/tea at a café near me. We shared a burger, cooked medium and served on focaccia. They didn’t have mayo for the fries though — the 1st waitress looked at us blankly, the 2nd waiter disappeared and the 3rd explained that they didn’t have mayo on its own, it’s already mixed in the salad. Huh. Stupid, but the burger was decent.

Shared small cakes for dessert, a chocolate layered caked made apparently from 65% chocolate and a lemon meringue tart. We started talking about having our own café again. A small place only open a day or two a week. Small selection of coffee, tea and cakes.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #7 and the 5th baking recipe so far.

Mum went to lunch at the restaurant of a training hotel the other day. She had chocolate mousse (“like really bad ice cream”) and tried her friend’s key lime pie (“it was good”). Sis and gis had key lime pie recently and liked it. It’s my dad’s birthday. So all these events combined mean I should make key lime pie.

Yes, it’s quintessentially American, but the recipe I trusted was from bbc good food because: a) hob nobs!! and b) grams not cups.

300g hob nobs
150g butter
3 egg yolks (I used 4 because the eggs were small)
1 can (397g) condensed milk
zest and juice from 4 limes (these were tiny limes so I used 5)

Make the base from crushed hob nobs and melted butter. Allow to cool. Whisk egg yolks for about 1min, add the condensed milk and whisk for 3mins. Add lime zest and juice, whisk for another 3mins. Pour over base, bake at 160°C for 15-20mins. Leave in tin to cool overnight in fridge.


I tried to make candied lime peel. Blanched lime slices in hot water then simmered in a simple syrup made from equal quantities of sugar and water for 15mins. Was still quite bitter (from peel, not pith) so I didn’t use it to decorate. Instead I whipped up some cream and used strawberries. Couldn’t be bothered to break out the piping bag so I just quenelled the cream.

Everyone seemed to like it and no complaints. I thought it was an extremely simple recipe, I liked that it was loaded with lime flavour and wasn’t too sweet. Next time I’ll make mixed citrus peel, may be that’ll work. Or just grate lime zest over a heap of cream.

in eating and drinking , techtalk |

Downloaded a few wine apps for fun.

First, a couple of wine scanner apps. Both vivino and delectable recognise wines from a picture of the bottle’s label. They then give information about the wine, region, vintage, pairing and ratings from other users.


I grabbed a random bottle, a fuzion tempranillo 2012, and both apps got the brand and country right. Vivino got the vintage exactly right, but it’s pretty subjective. Both offer additional features, users can buy directly through delectable and vivino gives a list of places where the wine can be purchased. That said, when the correspondent at the washington post tried to find stores near to him, vivino told him to go to mcdonald’s.


Both apps encourage users to connect via social media, in fact delectable won’t let me proceed without signing up with facebook or my email address. I can use vivino as a guest, and this is the big reason why I’m keeping this app and I’ll probably delete delectable. I don’t want to be tracked or receive notifications thank you.


From wine scanners to a new app wine4me, yet another wine discovery app. This one creates a wine profile based on my preference of type, region, country. I entered a few like rioja, oregon, alsace and it gave me a profile and a list of wines it thinks I may like. As I add more wines that I have tasted, the app is trained to fine tune more choices. It’s good for casual wine drinkers but I find that it skews towards new world wine and doesn’t have my all-time favourite chateauneuf-du-pape (buried in southern france) or current favourite cabernet franc.


Finally, one that is a bit different and sort of fun. The WSET wine game is offered by the wine & spirit education trust who provides education and qualifications on wine. The aim is to place 10 bottles correctly in their country of origin. Level 1 even gives the region (eg central otago) and the challenge is to click on the map fast enough. It’s pretty much a simple game to market the WSET school and qualifications. Quite fun for a few minutes.

in eating and drinking |


Two meals in two days. First was pork roasted on the bone, rice and broccoli that Carleen’s aunt made as dinner yesterday. Simple, delicious and nutritious home cooking. The meat on the bones in particular was done to perfection, just a smidgen of pink.

The second was chinese takeaway we got today. Unlike in the UK, this was actually a busy, large restaurant that had on its menu chinese, thai and japanese food. We got egg rolls (american for spring rolls), crab rangoon (because I refuse to acknowledge it as food), wonton noodle, fried rice, beef & broccoli, roast pork and pad thai noodles. There was a lot of food, so no worries about going hungry. In terms of authenticity, it’s authentic american food. In terms of taste, it was better than fast food but I think my tastebuds have changed. It helped my hunger but I’m not in any hurry to go for seconds until I’m hungry again.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , eating and drinking , going places |

sd121winery sd127winery

Task #63 of 101 in 1001 is to go to a wine/beer/whisky tasting. This was at prairie berry winery located between deadwood and custer in south dakota.

The first sign for the winery was a large poster of a red donkey, words that said “red ass rhubarb wine” and encouragements to turn here. The large main room served as a combination of shop, caf&233; and two long bars facilitated tasting. By no means a sit down tasting, each visitor could taste 5 small samples free of charge.


I was given a form to indicate my choice of 5. There were three main types and the prices were also helpfully included:

  • crab apple — semi-dry white with a tart aftertaste, good clean finish
  • gold digger — made from 100% pear, quite sweet like riesling or gewurtztraminer I bought one as a gift and was lucky enough to taste it when she opened it
  • buffaloberry fusion — dry white, like chenin blanc, my least favourite
  • chokeberry medley — red, from chokeberry with some elderflower to combat the bitterness, but I could still taste the fruit’s skin
  • red ass rhubarb — 90% rhubarb with 10% raspberry, the winery’s most popular wine and it isn’t just because of the catchy name, it really is very good, I bought a bottle to try with mm

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

port077foodcart port073foodcart

Tasks #69-73 are to visit 5 new restaurants in 5 cities. This is 3 of 5, and instead of the traditional concept of a restaurant, I’m stretching the definition to include food carts in Portland because eating at food carts is a very Portland thing to do, with over 600 operating in the city.

The dictionary definition of restaurant is an:

establishment where refreshments or meals are served to paying guests

or quite simply:

a place where you can buy and eat a meal

Honestly, if Mcdonald’s is a restaurant, the far superior quality of food served at any of the portland food carts qualifies them as a restaurant. A group of food carts is called a pod and I visited a couple of them during my visit.

Visiting the food carts was definitely a too-many-choices situation. I was tempted by hawaiian, ethiopian, vegetarian, middle eastern, mexican, american barbeque and many others. Not tempted by the korean, chinese and japanese carts though.

port085lunch port187lunch

Visited on 2 consecutive days. The first day I had dumplings, stuffed flatbread and salad from a georgian cart, the second day I was really hungry and went for a 4 cheese grilled cheese sandwich washed down with a vietnamese iced tea.

in eating and drinking |


Made a few more batches of pound cake. Experimented with new flavours and new flavour combinations, hope they work. I started labelling the new ones. Still about 3-4 batches to bake tomorrow.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |

Woke up at 5am, ugh, couldn’t go back to sleep so I read for a bit. Around 9-ish we headed out, got drive-thru mcdonalds breakfast then went to the cemetery. Costco, mall and grocery store followed. I bought some cute small ice cream makers, a towel and red velvet cheesecake to go.

poundcake02plain poundcake01choc

Made several batches of pound cakes to take to Portland with us. The type of ingredients are similar to what I use for fairy cakes and regular cake but the actual ingredients were different — different butter/margarine, a special cake flour and the eggs were beaten before adding. The proportions were a little different too, so for me it was learning a rew recipe. At the end I was able to make the batches all by myself. Made plain and chocolate flavoured ones.

in eating and drinking |

Not a lot of time or opportunity to spend time with mm lately. She was in Paris for business trip and I’m flying tomorrow. We managed to grab dinner. Went to probably the loudest restaurant, ever. Even with shouting, I had to lip-read to understand her. We had squid, prawns, bitter melon and fried rice, can hear the background noise.

in eating and drinking , outside interests |

Task #79 of 101 in 1001 is to invest in a kickstarter type project. There are so many opportunities to take part in a crowdfunding project nowadays, from books, films, music to gadgets, food trucks and medical needs. I’ve been looking for something worthwhile and noticed this one that has received some press lately.

We take clean water so much for granted. There is a big water problem in some parts of the world, where the water is contaminated and full of bacteria.

The Drinkable Book was developed by Dr Theresa Dankovich together with a team of scientists and engineers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia and designed by typographer Brian Bartside for non-profit organization WATERisLIFE. Each book is about an inch thick with 20 pages. The paper is embedded with silver nanoparticles which kills microbes; each sheet can filter up to 100 litres of water.


The pAge technology has been tested in South Africa on a small scale. The team are crowdfunding to make 1000 drinkable books to test in Ghana and other parts of the developing world. Although each book only costs about 10cents to make, the goal is $20,000 to include scaling up, equipment and travel costs to field sites. Only a few more days to go, for a $50 donation, I get a square pAge and a water bottle, neat.

in eating and drinking |


Giant mangos are back in season, yummy. These are longer than a pencil, with a small pit and quite sweet. Freeze well too; I cut them up in large cubes, allow to freeze on a baking tray then store them in a ziploc bag.

Mum bought a couple of mini watermelons. These are the same size as the mangoes. No seeds and juicy. I ate half in one go.

in eating and drinking |


We were having a sort of cruise loot dinner. Smoked salmon from Alaska and the brunost, or brown cheese, we got from Bergen. Brunost is made by boiling milk, cream, and whey slowly for several hours until the mixture solidifies. The heat gives it the distinctive brown colour and flavour. I agree with descriptions that say it’s like savoury fudge, or even a very savoury dulce de leche. The guardian said,

this is our version of Marmite: you either love brown cheese or you hate it

I can see why it’s an acquired taste. The colour is unexpected, and the deep brown of this block we got could be off-putting to some. Then there is the rich texture that sticks to the top of your mouth. And then the sweet and savoury tastes seem to flip and interchange. Apparently the Norwegians use it in stews, sauces, even with chocoate in cake, in addition to eating it on bread.

I’ve yet to meet a cheese I dislike; or an unusual food I hesitate to try. It’s definitly like marmite, and since I love marmite, I couldn’t get enough of the brunost.

in eating and drinking |

crepeblackpudding crepeicecream

This week mm is on a business trip to Paris. We were messaging after she arrived and checked into the hotel; I asked her what were her dinner plans. She said she asked the concierge where the nearest Léon mussels place is and apparently it’s a 10min walk. Normally it’s fine but she’s tired and jetlagged. So I said give me the hotel address and I’ll google. Ha! She’s right around the corner from Chartier, where i’ve wanted to take her for ages. Yes, it’s noisy and touristy; the waiters are short-tempered and you have to share tables, but that’s authenticiy, non? I don’t know if she finally made it, I also told her about aux lyonnais which is a bit more upmarket and ratatouille, both are nice. Anyway according to google maps there are a number of brasseries near her hotel, she’s at Montmartre after all.

Speaking of authenticity, sis and I went to la crêperie the other day. I had a black pudding crêpe which was really nice, if somewhere in between sweet and savoury. We shared an ice cream crêpe and polished off a whole bottle of house white. Of course black pudding crêpe isn’t french, it’s a good use of mixed ingredients though. This is a nice place, it’s run by french people and serves pretty decent food.


in eating and drinking |


Stopped by the supermarket to get some grapes and beer. I prefer bottled beer so the choices are normally:

  • what I really want: craft beer, ales from the UK — I don’t get these because they are expensive
  • what I never buy: san miguel, skol, budweiser or a brand name I’d never heard of that is incredible cheap
  • what I sometimes buy: tsingtao or yangjing — acceptable taste, usually comes with a buy 3 get one free offer which makes it difficult for me because I can’t carry 3 bottles
  • what I usually get: japanese beer — good middle ground, I like the taste and the price is somewhere between the cheap watery beer and the expensive craft beers

I had pabst blue ribbon in the never buy category, because I’ve never tried it. Today Kirin and Asahi were on bulk buy offers and I really only wanted one bottle, so I thought I’d give PBR a try. It was pretty okay, a bit bland but not as bad as bud or miller. I remember reading that PBR has become the beer of choice for hipsters because of its “coolness” factor. I just have to laugh. I thought card-carrying hipsters won’t be seen dead without an oddly named craft beer.

in eating and drinking , family first |

fdayludwig004salad fdayludwig032knuckle

We had father’s day lunch a day early to avoid the crowds. Went to a German restaurant that had recently moved a few doors down; I like the new place, it’s about the same size but brighter and more airy. Weekends they have a lunch buffet: seafood, salad, cold meats, soup, pork knuckle, roast beef, sausages, curry, vegetables, dessert. Plus a small beer is included. Everybody enjoyed it.

It was too hot to do anything else so we all went home afterwards. I went running or rather, slow plodding runwalking.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

I’m a FoL, aka a Friend of Laphroaig. Each bottle of Laphroaig includes a code that entitles the holder to a small 1 square foot plot of land in and around the distillery. I think I have 3 or 4 plots in my account. Anyway, Laphroaig is definitely a unique, acquired taste and I love it especially since I had a great time when I visited the distillery.

I’m still working through my bottle of PX cask, and now they have a few new releases. The Select is a NAS aged in a combination of Oloroso sherry butts, American white oak, hogsheads seasoned with Pedro Ximenez, quarter casks and first fill bourbon casks. Very reasonable at £35. Then there is the 2014 cask strength, batch 006 coming in at 58% and the 2014 Cairdeas currently available exclusively to FoL.

They also embarked on a global marketing campaign, asking the question:

how would you describe Laphroaig to someone who hasn’t tried it before?

They filmed people (actors? real people, I’m skeptical) tasting a brown liquid poured from an unlabelled green bottle. Comments like spicy, fishy, seagull’s armpits and “I think they smoked it too long” actually describe Laphroaig pretty accurately. The fun part is to see people trying to pronounce Laphroaig, snerk.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

sea009fivepoint sea010fivepoint
sea012fivepoint sea011fivepoint

Tasks #69-73 are to visit five new restaurants in five different cities. This is the second one.

Mum and I got to Seattle after flying to Vancouver and driving down. By the time we checked into our hotel, got settled and everything it was too late to venture downtown. The friendly cashier at the nearby Walgreens directed us to the 5 point café which is somewhere between a diner and a bar. I had chicken fried steak and Mum had the steak dinner. Large portions and even though we were pretty hungry after our long day we couldn’t finish the large mound of mash that came with each dish. The food tasted okay, no complaints.

They also had nice craft beers, I had two: a Maritime Pacific dark and an amusingly named Northwest Crazy Bitch IPA. The bill came to $50 including tips.

in eating and drinking |


I discovered chinon at 10cases when I asked for a lighter red wine that wasn’t watery. It was a good price too. Chinon is a red wine from the Loire valley made of around 90% cabernet franc and 10% cabernet sauvignon. I’ve been seeing this chinon 2011 at a couple of supermarkets. It’s more expensive than the usual new world cabs and pinots and old world plonk, but half the price of my favourite chateauneuf. It’s light but has body. Fruity, easy on the palette and very little tannin aftertaste.

In other news, mm and I met for happy hour. Selected cocktails at half price. She had a Pimm’s Royale and I had a Tequila Smash which was tequila, ginger beer and I think the menu said a splash of Laphroaig or Stolichnaya (I was deciding between different cocktails so got the ingredients a bit mixed up).

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

Went over to mm’s after her piano lesson to hang out. Pretty much doing nothing, I read travel and food magazines while she practiced then we watched sherlock holmes. Up to season 3 now. We could both have downloaded or streamed it but preferred to watch the dvds together, it’s more fun.

She requested lamb rack so I marinated it overnight in olive oil and rosemary. She has a small oven and initially I forgot to switch to upper and lower mode, but in the end it was all good. Succulent and nicely seasoned.

We were both tired, and we must have been tired because neither of us felt like or mentioned alcohol all evening.

in eating and drinking |


Went to happy hour with mm, the place we wanted to try was crowded (well, friday evening) so we went to another one nearby that actually had free tables and seats. Don’t know why, the drinks and service were both good. We just had a red wine each and shared an order of calamari. Didn’t want to have dinner there, they had mainly snacks only. Went to an authentic Malaysian restaurant only a few minutes’ walk away. It’s one of my dad’s favourite restaurants because of its authencity. We both ordered seafood laksa and I had a whole coconut as well. Very nice laksa, rich sauce, coconut and slightly spicy.

in eating and drinking |


With all the hullabub about cruise planning and mum’s birthday cooking, I need a bit of a breather. There was frozen beer at the yacht club, which just hit the spot. Actually it’s not exactly all frozen, ethanol freezes at -114°C so a 5% beer will freeze at somewhere like -10 to -20&$176;C. The frozen beer, developed and introduced this year by Kirin, is more like a cold beer with a Mr Whippy-style frozen head that melted to regular beer top quite quickly. It’s supposed to keep the drink cooler longer, it’s more like a fun gimmick.

in eating and drinking , family first |

chocpancakecake01 chocpancakecake02

Mum’s birthday coincides with US Mother’s Day quite often, and this year for added bonus it’s on a Sunday. The disadvantage is that many restaurants bump up their prices or force people to order set meals so traditionally we never go out on Mother’s Day.

For lunch I made some of Mum’s favourites: rack of lamb with carrot, parsnips and sautéed potatoes and mushroom. This particular rack wasn’t trimmed, which is fine because I can French trim it; but for some reason untrimmed racks still have the central bone which makes it very hard to cut when done. I was struggling with it and the presentation suffered. I got it nice and pink though.

For dinner we did find a restaurant that didn’t have any mother’s day special. It’s the yakitori place we go to regularly for happy hour. We reserved a private room last time I was there with sis and we all had loads of yakitori and sake. For dessert I brought the cake I made earlier—the restaurant didn’t charge us extra for plates and forks.

I saw a pretty picture of pancake cake and it reminded me of the cake we had in Hokkaido which was cream cake wrapped in a pancake. There’s a different taste and texture with the addition of the pancake. Instead of doing layers of pancake, I made a standard victoria sponge and alternated layers of cake with pancake. The filling is melted chocolate mixed with hazelnuts and whipped cream. Topped with shaved chocolate and strawberries. Looking at the picture I guess I should have sliced it in three instead of two so it doesn’t loook so uneven. Tasted good, everybody seemed to enjoy it.

in eating and drinking |


Clams was on sale at the supermarket, already shelled and blanched for less than 99p. Easy peasy dinner, pasta with clams and tomato. A little tomato paste with the cooking water and a dash of sriracha to give it a kick. The pasta is from my cupboard, but for the life of me I cannot remember its name—threw away the packaging when I transferred to the oxo container. I definitely know it’s store-bought. Small packet that I vaguely remember buying at Whole Foods or something like that. Can’t find it at pasta shapes dictionary. Argh, it’s gonna bug me all day.

Anyway, it all tasted really nice.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


This is a combination of task #54.6 of 101 in 1001 and task #17 in 30 in 30 is to try a new sweet recipe.

This is a recipe for no-bake blueberry truffle tart that has been bookmarked for a while. I made some adjustments, mainly in the ingredients and making of the base. The idea remains the same, make a biscuit base, make a ganache, top with blueberries.

225g crushed biscuits — I used half oreos and half hob-nobs, the recipe used just oreos
75g butter
225g dark chocolate
250ml cream — should be 300ml but the carton was 250ml
1 punnet blueberries

Crush the biscuits, I put them in a ziploc bag and whacked them with a pestle but a rolling pin or food processor will work. Melt butter in pan, add biscuit crumbs and transfer to lined tin. The recipe used individual fairy cake tins but mum didn’t have that tin so I improvised and used a square tin. Allow to set in fridge (around 20-30mins).

Melt the chocolate on a bain marie and stir in the cream. Can do it the other way round, heat cream and pour over chocolate. Either way, stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture glossy and smooth.

I sprinkled half the punnet of blueberries on the biscuit base and added the ganache. Set in fridge for about 10mins, then sprinkle the rest on top. Return to fridge so the ganache sets. I left mine overnight.

Usually we combine chocolate with raspberries or strawberries but blueberries work very well too. The ganache was extremely rich, and the fruitiness of the blueberries in every bite was a good contrast. A small slice is more than enough.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #16 in 30 in 30 is to try a new savoury recipe. I made skordalia, a greek styled potato and garlic dip that is halfway between regular mashed potato and hummus.

The first time I heard of skordalia was when Torode cooked it on masterchef. It seemed to be an interesting alternative to mashed potato, a good source of starch for a dish. Based on the recipe I found at the guardian.

Roughly chopped 4 potatoes and boil until soft. I don’t have a potato ricer so I passed the cooked potato pieces through a sieve, which proved harder to do than I expected. Made a paste of 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper and mixed into the potato. Added olive oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and further seasoning. Topped with crushed peanut for decoration.

It sort of looked like a cross between mashed potato and hummus, erring to the side of potatoes. At first I didn’t add enough olive oil and the bitter-sourness of the lemon juice was too overwhelming. It was better when I added more oil and more seasoning. Although it’s described as a dip, I served it with braised lamb shanks, which technically we shouldn’t be having since it’s Good Friday. Ah well.

in challenges , eating and drinking |

Task #18 in 30 in 30 is to plan a three course menu. Note, it’s plan not execute. Two reasons: I had wanted to do a homecooked 3-course meal for my birthday but a) it was met with general skeptism (“are you sure you don’t want to go out for a meal? So much trouble”) and b) I was on vacation. But I still want to plan this, because I think it’d be fun and it’s a task in 101 in 1001. Which means I have until 2016.

In thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that there are at least 2 different menus. One is the menu I want to cook and the second is the one I will end up cooking because of time, skill and also to fit the tastes of other people in my family.

ideal menu

salmoneggroll RIMG0011
xmas11004ballotine queenofpuddings01

starter — salmon three ways
salmon sashimi with ikura (salmon roe), grilled teriyaki salmon bites, salmon egg roll
Salmon with ikura is pretty standard sashimi fare, I’m thinking of dicing the salmon and serving it with the ikura on a spoon. The teriyaki recipe I haven’t tried, but sounds straightforward. The salmon roll is a Donna Hay recipe from one of her books: smoked salmon and crunchy greens rolled in a thin omelette. I made it for an office pot luck it was very popular and it’s an easy recipe to follow. The good thing about all three salmon dishes is that they can be served cold.

main — ballotine of duck with roasted beetroot, sautéed potatoes, pumpkin purée and red wine jus
I’ve made poached chicken using the ballotine, or roll, method. I’ve also cooked with duck. Found a recipe for duck ballotine that involves rolling it in pancetta. Sounds good. Instead of duck trimmings and assorted herbs for the filling, I think using a combination of smoked duck and duck offal will work. Hopefully it’ll look like the three birds ballotine from m&s I bought a couple of christmases ago.

I’d like to use red and yellow mini beets, but I know I won’t be able to get them, sigh. Duck goes with fruit like orange or plum or berries. I think though that with the beets and pumpkin there is enough sweetness in the dish and just a normal red wine reduction will work better. May be a squeeze of orange juice.

dessert — queen of puddings
This is one of the great british puddings I haven’t tried yet. It’s basically a breadcrumb custard topped with meringue. I’m looking at a couple of recipes, one by Mary Berry who is the queen of puddings and baking, and one for manchester pudding which is the same as queen of puddings.

I rather like the idea of serving in individual glass ramekins, except I don’t have any. My ramekins are ceramic for soufflés, and my glass dishes can’t be used in an oven. Ah well.

actual menu

surfturf02 bakedcheesecake03

starter — salmon three ways
I think I can stick with the salmon three ways starter. I do need to find myself a rectangular plate though.

main — surf and turf
If I’m making something for the family, or for a birthday, it’s better to make crowd-pleasing items. What’s better than surf and turf? I used to have a tradition of making it for my birthday, back when I was in Chicago or London and can actually get good quality steak at reasonable prices. The surf part can be either lobster or prawns, to be honest I prefer the latter.

dessert — baked cheesecake
Another crowdpleaser and something I made before. Again, suitable for birthdays and family gatherings. Best thing is, it has to be made the day before.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Tast #19 of 30 in 30 is a treat for my birthday, which was last week while we were on holiday. We had a great lunch and travelled to the first of our onsen hotel, where we enjoyed the spa before and after dinner. Dinner was served in our room, which was a treat in itself. So I had lots of treats for my birthday. To top it all, the day before we set off, a package got delivered that made me super excited.

Earlier this year, TWE had a lottery for Karuizawa whisky 1984 sherry cask #3663 bottled in 2013 at 56.8% . Karuizawa is a Japanese distillery that is no longer in production, and is in demand by collectors and investors. I put my email in the lottery for fun, and got the confirmation after the lottery closed that, as expected, I wasn’t allocated a bottle. I thought, while we’re in Japan, we’ll continue looking for interesting Japanese whisky.

Then in March, I got another email from TWE that I had been allocated a bottle of the Karuizawa. That was a surprise, because I’d already forgotten about the earlier lottery. I guess people either were disqualified because of too many entries, or people who were allcoated didn’t follow through with the purchase, or another reason. The fact was, I was being offered an opportunity to purchase one of a limited supply (reputably 240 bottles) of a highly rated whisky.

I didn’t decide straightaway, because of the £300+ price tag. That’s a lot, even for a 29 year old single cask rare whisky. I did some research first. nojatta said,

If you manage to get your hands on a bottle of this, you really have won the lottery

whisky investor said,

Strong buy. Any single cask releases from Karuizawa are towards the top of the ‘buy’ list

In the end, I decided that I would probably regret it if I didn’t get it. I saved on VAT, but had to pay shipment and customs, which added to the total cost. I handled the bottle very, very carefully when the delivery person came, and it’s now safely tucked away on my whisky shelf. All the talk about whisky investment is irrelevant to me, because I’m not an investor. Will I ever open the bottle? Eventually. Have to be a special occasion, I think.

in challenges , eating and drinking |

00sap15lunch 00sap16crab
00sap17tuna 00sap18roe

Task #13 in 30 in 30 is to have a red meat free day.

Reason #1 I can live in Japan: delicious, fresh seafood. Everything so appealing, visually and taste. I like my red meat, but given a choice between never eating steak or never eating seafood, I’ll stick with the seafood.

Otaru today. For lunch we had uni and ikura don, abalone sashimi, grilled cuttlefish and steamed king crab claws in broth. A luxurious and sumptious meal. For dinner we went back to the conveyor belt restaurant and ordered our hearts out.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

sap260hanamaru sap264hanamaru

Tasks #69-73 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This counts as the first one.

After an extraordinary busy day of travelling that brought us from jozankei to nikka distillery to otaru to sapporo, we checked into our airbnb apartment and thought about where to go for dinner. We had researched and seen the queues at the famous hanamaru conveyor belt sushi restaurant and thought we should see if the queue was a reasonable size. And because it was already past 8.30pm, there were only about half a dozen people in the line.

sap269order1 sap274order2

There is good reason why there is a permanent queue outside. The food is fantastic. Fresh and simply delicious. We asked for an english menu and quickly figured out how to order like a local. We had uni, squid, ikura, ikura soy, crab roe, salmon, blue fin tuna, medium tuna, scallop — total stack of 14 plates. It was a feast.

in challenges , eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Task #20 in 30 in 30 is to treat mm for her birthday.

Our Hokkaido vacation is partly a treat for both our birthdays. We arrived at Sapporo and checked into the hotel late afternoon. First order of business was to find dinner. I’d already suggested that our first dinner here would be at yakitori, so we could enjoy a drink and order a bunch of skewers. We got a restaurant map at the hotel and found a small but popular place about 10mins walk. We both had umeshu and we ordered mixed chicken, vegetables, grilled fish, sashimi, tofu. Made a toast for her birthday, a great start to our vacation.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #12 in 30 in 30 is to have three fruits in a day.

I try to have at least one serving of fruit after dinner, sometimes I mix it up with different fruits. So it’s easy to put a fruit salad together with what I have in the fridge. An apple pear, a sweet ripe mango and red grapes that I’d peeled and deseeded. Peeling the grapes means I have a quarter cup of grape juice to finish. Good stuff.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #14 in 30 in 30 is to have a day without alcohol.

I woke up today with the knee swelling way down and I was able to walk around without the walking stick. Still a bit stiff and I am limping but the acute pain is gone, just a lot of stiffness. Happy about the quick recovery. The doctor at the hospital gave me a course of NSAIDs for my knee. So it’s time to stay away from alcohol for a couple of days. Even when I went out for dinner with sis and my niece, I had a virgin margarita. This is the first time I ever ordered a virgin cocktail, because I’m of the opinion that if you can’t handle a cocktail, order a coke instead. The margarita tasted like iced lemonade served in a martini glass, it was okay.

in eating and drinking |


Had a few errands to run in the afternoon, was done by around 5pm. All walking today (okay a fair bit on the escalator). Went to a British pub and had a couple of their house draft seafarers ale. Scotch eggs for dinner, I’m on the fence about whether these were made by the kitchen, they look a bit too amateurish to be shop bought. Besides, not easy to find stuff like scotch eggs at the supermarkets. Stayed for a while, reading, while more people came in and the volume increased.

in eating and drinking , going places |

hok041melon hok007sappshop

Only ten days till our trip to Hokkaido. Yay! This time we are not being overly ambitious and just staying in and around the Sapporo area. Every time we go to Hokkaido, we land at Sapporo then travel immediately to elsewhere on the island and miss that area completely. We’ll still have our onsen experience, with 2 nights at Jozankei, which is 75mins away by bus; and Otaru / Nikka whisky distillery, only 30mins by train.

The biggest draw for going to Japan is the food. Not just the fresh seafood — king crabs, snow crabs, scallops, sashimi — but also the fruits. Sweet melons are a speciality of Hokkaido, and the beautiful displays at the shops!

I’ve been reading a lot at medium recently, and was interested to see this post about why japanese food is better. Sound arguments:

  • there is no need for special “organic” labels because most food is organic, seasonal and often sourced locally
  • simplicity — most dishes are cooked and presented simply and separately, no overcrowding a plate with 20 ingredients; there may be many, many small dishes, but they are intended to be enjoyed on their own
  • presentation is everything — each dish is treated as an artform, down to the pattern on the bowl to the placement of garnishes
  • and most of all, they respect food and treat food as part of life

Yep, agree with all these points. Japanese food is fresh, tastes clean and looks enticing. Definitely prepared with respect and pride. Yes, it’s still regarded with suspicion by some (“raw fish, ewwww!”) but as more people try it, I challenge anyone NOT to fall in love with it. There’s more than raw fish, sushi can be prepared with cooked ingredients, and what about yakitori, tempura, teppanyaki, ramen and don’t forget the yummy sesame dressing they use in salads. Plus, I’m trying to introduce US friends to delicious tasting, oddly named Japanese chocolates and sweets.

in eating and drinking |


Very common in Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia is food flavoured with pandan leaves. It imparts a bright green colour and a gentle coconuty fragrant. They use it mainly with desserts and curries.

You can get pandan cake even at Singapore airport. The shop is right next to the departure gate so you check your luggage, go get your cake and then go through immigration. Easy peasy.

Pandan cake is basically a chiffon cake flavoured with pandan. I spotted a packet of pandan sugar at an indonesian store the other day and thought i should give it a try. They have a recipe at the back, although not completely clear (they don’t tell people to whisk the egg white and no oven time or temperature specified).

5 eggs, separated
2 tbsp cooking oil — i used grapeseed
4 tbsp coconut milk
150g SR flour
120g pandan sugar

Mix egg yolks with half the sugar until thick. Normally the mixture turns pale but with the green sugar I had to use texture and experience—took about 10mins vigorous hand beating. Add ccoking oil, coconut milk and fold in flour.

Beat egg whites until soft peak stage, add rest of sugar and beat until stiff. Fold into egg yolk mixture.

Bake at 180°C for about 1hr until a skewer comes out clean.

Very light, fluffy and the pandan flavour was subtle. Some people may be put off by the strange green colour but it really was very good.

in eating and drinking |

toastbox01 koreanoxtail01

We finalised and booked the main component to our trip to Hokkaido in April. It will be a trip full of hot springs and fresh seafood. It just happened that we ate our way around Asia today. We met for tea at a place that had singaporean toast, nasi lemak, curry and roti pratha. We had peanut butter thick toast and kaya toast with kopi and teh tarik. Definitely singaporean.

Dinner at our usual korean place. She had tofu soup and I had oxtail soup, all with banchan and rice. The tofu soup was spicy with seafood and the oxtail soup sweet and intense and milky. Now it’s just a 3-week wait for our holiday.

in eating and drinking |


Met mm for a quick happy hour at the robatayaki place near the office. Their happy hour (less than £6!) is one drink plus a choice of 4 skewers. I had sake and she had umeshu, then we had quite a feast of grilled skewers of chicken, pork neck, mushroom, bacon wrapped cherry tomato, quail egg and grilled rice balls. Also ordered thick cut ox tongue and eel on the side. Convenient place, good value.

in eating and drinking , family first |

ludwig01schnitzel ludwig03cheesecake

Hung out with sis and niece in the afternoon while little one had her drum lesson. Had dinner at this place called king ludwig restaurant that serves, surprise surprise, german food. More people and better quality food than we expected. Shared a ginormous wiener schnitzel and cheesy spaetzle, followed by baked cheesecake. I didn’t have much of an appetite after all the food on the cruise, and I’m jetlagged. Still cold enough for mulled wine, which was what we had with our meal. Good to be back with family and a place we’d go back especially since it’s within walking distance from sis’ place.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |


Didn’t make any plans with mm. How I spent the day? Errands. Got train ticket for trip next week, picked up stuff I ordered with expiring airmiles. Went to market. Made salmon fish cakes from some cheap salmon filets I had in the freezer. Grilled the fish then spent forever getting the bones out, including small fiddly pin bones. Will never buy fish so poorly prepped again.

Mixed the salmon flakes with mashed potatoes, dipped in flour, egg and panko then pan-fried for about 5mins each side. Didn’t have time to rest them in the fridge prior to frying so they had to be carefully handled otherwise they would fall apart. Drizzled over some sriracha and a dollop of mayo. Not bad, primary taste was potatoes. At least it was a way to use up salmon I would have probably given up and thrown away.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #53 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 5 of 10 new recipe.

I was making honey soy chicken wings (strictly speaking, also a new recipe — marinade chicken wings in soy sauce, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard, olive oil and roast at 180°C for 30mins) and was looking in the fridge for vegetables. Found a small cabbage, perfect. Normally I’d be boring and just boil it, but anyone who has ever suffered school lunches will have dire recollections of overboiled cabbage and brussels sprouts. Speaking of brussels sprouts, my favourite method is to roast them at high heat with olive oil and lots of salt so the edges of the leaves are almost charred. I was sure this method also works for cabbage.

Yep. Recipe from thekitchn, who recommended roasting cabbage wedges with bacon. They were positively gushing about the end result,

the high-heat roasting gets rid of any cabbage funk and makes the cabbage sweet and flavorful — all that bacon grease certainly adds to the irresistible aroma. The bacon pieces were crispy and chewy, and the bacon fat seeped into the cabbage, making it tender and juicy in the middle and crispy and browned on the outside

Wash cabbage and remove any outer leaves that have wilted. Cut the whole cabbage in to quarters, remove some of the core and cut in half again, ending up with 8 wedges. Roughly cut up 4 bacon rashers and sprinkle on cabbage wedges. Drizzle olive oil and season with pepper and mixed herbs (no salt). Roast at 180°C for about 30mins until slightly charred.


I now know the reason behind the gushing. It was crunchy on the outside and sweet on the inside, none of the boiled cabbage smell or flavour. The bacon was a perfect accompaniment — the bacon I found in the fridge wasn’t crispy American bacon or meaty British back bacon but something in between that is ham-like and didn’t render a lot of fat — still worked okay with the dish.

I don’t think I’ll ever make boiled cabbage again, roasting was so simple and so delicious. Served it with the equally successful chicken wings and some cheese grits I found in the cupboard. See, I don’t always eat strange food.

in eating and drinking |

Plans to go cycling were scuppered when it started raining. So we ended up just walking around, window and market shopping.

And eating strange normal food. For tea/early dinner we went to a place that served snake. They only had a few items on the menu, most of which were snake related. We had a set that included snake soup, the spiny meat is snake but the stock is actually chicken soup. Snake broth (no meat) and glutinous rice. I could have had a small glass of snake wine, but decided against it.


Too full for dinner, we took the scenic route bus back to town and had drinks at the langham. Surprisingly for a saturday they had 2-for-1 happy hour. We ordered red wine and a combo of sparkling wine and 4 oysters. Nice wine, nice oysters.

Completely unplanned, we had food that makes other people squeamish. *shrug*

in eating and drinking |


Sis gave me a bottle of chocolatrouge wine for christmas, I saw it at the supermarket the other day which prompted me to open and try it. This is the milk chocolate one. It also won some prizes and is described as

a luscious blend of rich chocolate flavors and fine red wine

I gakked the pic from their facebook page. Didn’t look like wine when poured out, it looked like baileys or the mozart chocolate liqueur I used to see in Austria and Switzerland. Similar taste too, the chocolate is definitely the dominant taste and smell. But there’s also an underlying hit of alcohol that gives a pleasant buzz. I guess wine snobs will sneer at this, but I think it goes with dessert, as an after dinner drink or in sweet cocktails.

Because it said wine on the label, I drank it like wine. It’s way, way, way too easy to drink that way and half the bottle is gone already. Heehee. Should drink it like whisky, in a tumbler with ice and slowly.

It’s not expensive, under $10. They also have a dark chocolate and a sweet wine flavour. I think it’s worth trying them too.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

roastbellypork01 roastbellypork03

Task #52 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 4 of 10 new recipes.

The actual recipe for making roast belly pork is straightforward, it’s the execution that is difficult. This is sort of based on a jamie recipe.

Score the skin of the belly in a criss-cross pattern. Dry vigorously with kitchen towel, I actually went as far as blow drying it. Rub in lots of garlic salt, some thyme, a few peppercorns and about 2 tbsp olive oil. Place on top of sliced garlic, carrot and celery pieces.

Preheat oven to its highest setting, in this case it was 240°C. Supposed to blast the skin in the hot oven for 10-15mins until it starts to blister and turn golden brown. After 25mins, mine turned golden brown with just a little bubbling. Pretty pathetic. I turned the oven down to 170°C and roasted for 1hr. After 1hr, time to some liquid for the slow cooking. The recipe uses white wine, I used some bitter beer that we reserve for cooking because it’s a bit undrinkable. Continue slow cooking for 1.5hrs.

Supposed to turn the oven back up for the last 30mins to finish the crackling. I did that, but no crackling. Disappointing.

I ended up having to take off the skin and fry in a frying pan to finally get crackling. It gave a satisfying crunch all right. The meat was tender and easy to pull apart. Next time, take the skin off and poach the whole joint in milk or cider.

in eating and drinking |

cocosugarcandy02 cocosugarcandy04

One of mm’s aunts does sells snacks wholesale so we’ve been able to order the best fresh snacks from her, mainly biscuits. She gave me some of these old-styled candy snacks that we used to see sold on the street. The sellers were very distinctive, with their metal case with a glass front.

The idea is to sprinkle dessicated coconut and sugar ona honeycomb sugar slab then wrap it up in a thin pancake. The pancake is slightly salty and the honeycomb very light and brittle. It’s one of those snacks that needs to be eaten quickly in a few mouthfuls otherwise most of the filling ends up on the floor.

I never knew what these are called; mm said they are 糖蔥餅 which literally translates to sugar spring onion cake. It’s also difficult to google either a translation or even a description of the snack. The best I’ve come across is coconut sugar wrap although someone actually called them spring field pizza, which totally doesn’t make sense.

In any event, mm’s aunt gave me the individual components, and I did a fun video of how to make one. Good thing instagram pauses and picks up immediately, it was a challenge to hold the iphone and fold the thing with one hand.

in eating and drinking |


Continuing on the theme of atypical cny meals, went with mm to the german restaurant near her place. She had a glass of wine and I had a german mule, which I guess is a play on the moscow mule cocktail: jagermeister, vodka, lime juice, ginger beer topped with weissbier. Can taste all the elements, pretty refreshing.

Shared a plate of bratwurst with mash and sauerkraut. We had lunch with her family so we were both full. The bratwurst came in portions of 6, 12 or 18 pieces, for sharing or for large appetites.

in eating and drinking |


Normally for CNY people eat certain traditional foods because they sound like certain lucky words, or with stuff like abalone is to show how prosperous they are, or with chicken because there’s always chicken in festive meals. These are good examples from Singapore, but don’t believe everything online: these are ridiculous and inaccurate examples.

For our CNY meal, we had…roast lamb, potatoes and carrots. Hahaha, definitely not traditional. But who cares, it’s cooking and eating food we like. It was a boneless leg of lamb that I roasted for 2hrs with the vegs. A little overdone, but still juicy. The gravy from the roasting tray and water that was used to parboil the vegs. There’s enough to serve 12 people, lots of yummy leftovers.

in eating and drinking |

So we have ifttt for automation recipes (if twitter then facebook) and now, spotted via digg, is if you love this beer then you’ll love this wine.

I can’t say I agree 100%. I like wheat beer but chardonnay is my last resort; I like pinot noir but I find lambic too weird. Porter and syrah is okay, and I can see their logic about rich flavours. All in all the whole beer<—>wine thing seems way too simplistic.

in eating and drinking |

Been watching reruns of my kitchen rules australia, sort of masterchef in teams. At first I was a bit meh, but I’m not addicted. The competitors are all home cooks and what I like is that they never stray from that — no trying to be nouvelle cuisine, no trying to make them into Hestons. May be it’s because they are Aussies too, that their food is fresh, honest and multi-cultural. No fighting or nastiness like US cookery program competitors. There is competitiveness, and some manufactured bitchiness, but in general these people are a joy to watch.

Sometimes when they are set a task I think about what I would do if I were in the competition. Half an hour to make a herb sing — I’d pick mint, do mint crusted lamb, minty potatoes or pea & mint purée and mint pesto. Will be very pushed for time, but worth the risk.

Competition is also in teams of two, they have married couples, family members, friends. Then it occurred to me that I’ve never cooked extensively with other people. A lifetime ago when mm and I were living together, she made most of our meals of simple student-y food. We would sometimes cook together, mainly baking and making jams.

We hadn’t lived together since 1995. I’ve lived on my own for so long, and cooked for just one person for so long that I don’t think I know how to cook with another person on a day-to-day or competition basis.

At my parents’ my dad does the cooking. Whenever I take over the cooking I prefer doing it all myself and people aren’t allowed in the kitchen. The nearest was at Christmas when Sis came to help. But then it was a special holiday meal, I had an organised plan and set tasks for her, she was definitely sous chef, and a good one at that.

I can just imagine if mm and I cooked together now. Either we will get along fine, or we will fight and fight and fight. May be I’ll ask her if we should try it one day, ha.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


I usually make chilled cheesecake rather than baked, but after this one I think I’ll switch to baked. Recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course. I used blueberries instead of his raspberries.

500g cream cheese
150g sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp flour
zest of 1 lemon
200g blueberries

Mix cream cheese and sugar, add eggs a little at at time, then flour and the lemon zest. The mixture looked a bit thick at that point so I added the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir in the blueberries and transfer to baking tin. Tap firmly to get rid of air bubbles and distribute blueberries. Bake at 180°C for about 45mins-1hr.

Like I said, I don’t usually make baked cheesecake. I forgot that you’re supposed to let it cool completely in the tin before removing, so when I took the outer ring off like I would do with cake, I ended up with Michelin man cheesecake that had bulged in the middle like belly fat. Argh. Put the ring back on immediately and let it cool overnight in the fridge.

That said, it was delicious. Rich, good taste and texture. The recipe doesn’t have a biscuit base, and I don’t think it needs it.

in eating and drinking |

Dinner with parents at a food court restaurant at the top floor of a wet market. Cheap and cheerful family style restaurant. Roast goose, sweet & sour fish, prawns, fried rice. The roast goose was too salty because it’s been braised and then soaking in soy sauce. The fish, prawns and rice were good. Mum has been under the weather for a couple of weeks so it’s the first time she’s been out except for going to the doctor’s. We were one of the first people there, arriving before 6pm and were done by 7pm — we prefer to dine early, restaurants like us because we dine early before the main rush.

in eating and drinking |

bacon egg pancake stack

Mum and I saw this in the newspaper, about some restaurant café that was serving a bacon and egg pancake stack. The article made it out to be some newfangled thing, to combine savoury and sweet. The saying about the frog at the bottom of the well comes to mind. Anyway, we decided we should try our own version. Cheated and used pancake mix that she has in the cupboard, and some weird ham-like bacon she had in the freezer. She wanted scrambled eggs, so the fried egg topper I had in mind had to be adjusted. I know I could have made scrambled for her plate and fried for mine, but couldn’t be arsed. Threw in some blueberries because we have 8 punnets in the fridge.

Breakfast for dinner, yum. Next time I’ll try to find American-styled crispy bacon, and fry the egg. I’ll also use rings, or my tiny 4” frying pan, so the pancakes are the same size. There might be a next time, because we have a jar of maple syrup now.

in eating and drinking |


It’s getting near CNY, so foodstuff that are traditionally around at this time of year and are supposed to bring good luck are beginning to show up. Fruits like mandarins, pomelo melons and these kumquats. The “kum” part sounds like gold and “quat” sounds like luck, so no wonder people are all over them.

I’ve had dried kumquats from dried fruit and health food stores and even though they are supposed to be good for dry throats, I didn’t like the aftertaste so I tend to get other dried fruits instead. Thought I’d try the fresh ones. They are eaten whole whole, including the skin although there may be small pips inside. The skin was nice, citrusy without being too bitter; the flesh inside was a mixture of sweet and tart and quite pleasant. It’s the aftertaste again that I didn’t like. Don’t think I’ll try more. My parents like them, I’ll stick to the apples and strawberries that are also in the fridge.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #62 in challenge.

Although I have a big alcohol collection, it’s mainly wine, whisky and some beer, hardly conducive to making cocktails. The best candidate for cocktails would be the whiskies, particularly the bourbons so I was on the lookout for whiskey cocktail ideas. This one of bourbon sweet tea looks good, and uses ingredients that I can get readily. I halved the recipe and converted to metric.

1.5 cup (350ml) water
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 tea bag — I used earl grey
1/2 cup (120ml) bourbon
1/2 lemon
1/2 lime
1/2 orange

Dissolve sugar in boiling water and let tea bag seep for 5-10mins. Remove tea bag, add sliced lemon, lime and orange and bourbon. I have a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 open which at 55% is a bit stronger, so I only used 100ml. Chill in fridge or serve over ice.

Quite strong, both in bourbon and tea taste. Easy to make and easy to drink, good with steak or sweet dessert.

in eating and drinking |


Another batch of Christmas present from my sis was a big box of craft beers, which had arrived a week or so ago. I brought one of the bottles to share with my dad. After I took the group picture I re-wrapped them in the bubble wrap they came in so I had no idea what I picked.

Turned out, it was a bottle of aztec sacrifice (second from left at back, with red cap) which the brewery described as a

big, bold malty red India Pale Ale with a wallop of citrus hops and specialty malts. Rich toffee and caramel notes with a hint of roasted barley and firm hop bitterness. This is how red ales are done on the west coast!

Wow. Big, malty and wallop definitely describes it. Extremely hoppy and quite bitter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love strong bitters, but this one was a tad over the bitterness line for me. But that’s why craft beers are so interesting. Can’t wait to try the rest of the box.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

Task #50 in 101 in 1001 challenge: 2 of 10 new recipes.

I’ve made yule log before, and it is a sort of family tradition. I wanted to find a recipe that was less sweet, and was pleased that bbc goodfood came through again. I made some adjustments to the recipe, taking out some more sugar, substituting honey for golden syrup and using the chocolate cream for both filling and icing.

for the sponge:
3 eggs
85g sugar
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp bp
2 tbsp cocoa powder

for the filling:
50g butter
150g dark toblerone
250ml carton + 5tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp honey

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift flour, bp, cocoa and fold into egg mixture. Bake in a swiss roll tray for 10-12mins at 200°C. Remove from oven, roll in the greaseproof paper and leave to cool.

Melt the butter and chocolate on a bain marie, cool. Add honey and 5tbsp cream. Whip the carton of cream until soft peaks then fold in the chocolate mixture.

Unroll sponge and spread filling generously. Roll carefully into log shape. Cut off one end as the branch. Ice with rest of chocolate cream.

We didn’t have icing sugar so I sieved some caster sugar over as the snow. I like this chocolate cream filling much better than using butter icing. It was very rich, I cut a thickish slice and divided it into three for me and parents, it was enough.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

Task #64-68 of 101 in 1001 challenge: try 5 new whiskies. This is the first new one.

I finished the bottle of glengoyne burnfoot I bought in Dubai, so it was time to open a new whisky. This Auchentoshan Three Wood I bought in the summer and since I hadn’t tried Auchentoshan extensively, it made sense to open this. Auchentoshan is the one of the few lowland distilleries and this particular expression was matured in 3 different cask types: bourbon, Oloroso sherry and Pedro Ximenez sherry. There is no age statement, although it appears to be a 12 year that was matured in bourbon casks for 10 years, then one year each in the sherry casks. Tasting notes from the distillery:

To The Eye: Rich golden bronze.
To The Nose: Blackcurrant, brown sugar, orange, plum and raisin.
To The Tongue: Fruit and syrup. Hazelnut with hints of cinnamon and lemon. A butterscotch sweetness adds to the overall complexity.
To The End: Fresh and fruity, with long lasting oaky sweetness.

Mr Murray didn’t like it, only awarding 76 points:

The comments on TWE are somewhat divided, some thought it was really smooth, others thought it was unbalanced. Most agree it was sweet.

I thought it was delicious and way too easy to drink. Then again I prefer smooth, sweet, sherry-casked whiskies. There is definitely butterscotch and some fruitiness. In terms of colour, it’s darker than other Auchens I’ve tasted. It’s not fair of the one commenter to compare it with Laphroaig Three Wood, can’t compare a lowland whisky to one of the most peated whiskies from Islay. At around £40, it is fantastic value and the sweetness perfect for a cold Christmas evening. I’m so glad I bought 2 bottles, I’ll save the other one for another winter.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Task #49 in 101 task in 1001 days challenge: 1 of 10 new recipes.

Lebkuchen are German gingerbread-like biscuits that are traditionally made at christmas. We bought some at my niece’s school fair, loved them and I decided to try my hand at making them. This recipe is from bbc goodfood, which was hands down the easiest.

250g plain flour
1 tsp bp
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch each of ground cloves, grated nutmeg and black pepper
85g butter
200ml clear honey

  • sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl
  • heat the butter and honey until the butter has melted and add to the dry ingredients
  • mix well, cool mixture to room temperature
  • roll the dough into 30 balls, flatten on baking sheet, bake at 180°C for 12-15mins
  • cool on wire rack, pretend to be Jamie Oliver by flicking melted chocolate haphazardly over biscuits

I very nearly burnt the first batch of 15, another minute and they would have to go into the bin. Luckily the second batch were okay. I think they were too small, next time I’ll make 20 instead of 30.

I think the jury is still out on the rorschach style of decoration, which I saw on a Jamie Oliver christmas program the other day. That’s all he seemed to be doing nowadays, either piling food on a platter or wooden board and then flicking whatever sauce or dressing all over the place.

I wouldn’t say this recipe was 100% successful. It tasted quite nice, I like using honey instead of sugar and having lots of spices made the whole kitchen smell of christmas. Because they were so small, they weren’t as chewy as I’d like. Next time I’ll also grate in a little ginger to give it more of a ginger taste.

in eating and drinking |

goodchickenrice01 goodlaksa01

Mum and I went shopping for christmas presents for sis, rob, gis and the inlaws. Mainly snacks at the place that had 30% discount at the weekends. Got chocolate, crisps, pudding and other favourites. Went to the department store next doors, got a replacement iron for mum and a kitchen scale for when I’m baking at their place.

She took me to lunch at this place called good satay that was completely hidden in the back corners of the first floor mall of an old office building. The units around it were either closed or closed down and the corridor was more suitable for delivery or maintenance people. But the restaurant was packed, we were lucky we got there at noon and found a table large enough for us and our shopping.

No frills and authentic singaporean-malaysian food. So good we ordered 3 dishes and took the remainder away — chicken rice, laksa, beef rendang with roti prata; and black sticky rice pudding to finish. I was immediately brought back to those couple of years when I did a lot of travelling to Singapore, so much so that I was almost a local. Will definitely return to try the other things on the menu — satay, rojak, mee goreng, bak kuh teh, cendol.

in eating and drinking |


We went for a quick lunch at a vegetarian canteen type restaurant. The chef-proprietor used to have a smaller place nearby which was very simple — you get served a plate of vegetarian food with rice. There would be a soup of the day at the side of the dining room that you served yourself — as many refills as you liked. Rice as much as you liked too. She closed a while ago and mm managed to find where she moved to.

It’s much more commercialised now, with a larger space and more restaurant like furniture. For lunch it was choice of 3 dishes from 6, which the cashier wrote on a piece of paper. For instance I picked #1, 3, 4 and that was what she wrote. We queued up to the serving counter where the chef served out the dishes. Soup and rice already on the tray, and refills available next to the counter. Like before, you cleared the dirty plates yourself, and everyone complied.

I had mixed beancurd, steamed egg and yam stew. Two bowls of rice and 3 bowls of soup. We were there early and by the time we left the queue was out of the door. It’s not cheap, around the same price as other fast food places, but there is still a homemade feel to the dishes and it being vegetarian it’s healthier.

in easily amused , eating and drinking |


Here’s a fun distraction from the 101 in 1001 stuff. This is a fairly recent lifehacker post that references an older article elsewhere. It shows us how to unroll a mandarin orange into a pretty strip using 4 simple steps:

  1. cut off the top
  2. cut off the bottom
  3. make a vertical slit on one side
  4. carefully roll it out

I tried with a mandarin, and it worked until it broke in half. My fault for not unrolling on a flat surface and not gently enough. Eight points for following instruction, 9 for easy handling and, hmm, 5 for presentation. Of course it’s a lot easier with a mandarin than an orange because the peel of a mandarin comes off readily. Had to clean off the white pithy bits, all in all a very successful quick experiment. Next time, try with an actual orange.

[ETA: now it’s on huffpo]

in eating and drinking |


I came across instagrams printed on marshmallows, with a simple process:

  • login to instagram
  • pick 9 images
  • pay £12
  • “scrumptious, squishy, shareable” marshmallows appear in mailbox

Available in UK only, and £12 for 9 marshmallows is a bit steep. Good for a laugh or a personalised gift.

Found a recipe for fluffy vanilla marshmallows. The ingredient list isn’t too taxing, although I’m not sure if I can find sugar cane syrup. The process seems really fiddly and involves a stand mixer which, well, I don’t have. It’s easy enough to buy I suppose, and I think I have a cooking thermometer somewhere.

A little more digging gave me another recipe that uses egg whites — and easier for me to read because it uses metric measurements and not cups. It also uses 9 sheets of gelatine, and that’s the fiddly part for me. I’m never comfortable with gelatine, for some reason.

If I’m feeling adventurous one of these days, I’ll give making marshmallows a go.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

We had a curry buffet lunch at dickens bar, one of the old school pubs at the basement of a hotel. Not a fancy hotel buffet with lobster and movenpick ice cream, this one is solid with salads, 3 different kinds of curry, turkey (thanksgiving?), pasta, fruit, cakes and a too-dry chocolate pudding. Had a 25% discount with one of our credit cards.

I was there early so I was able to survey what was available before everyone rushed to the buffet counters. Perfect opportunity to instagram!! Tried out the video function for the first time, to test against vine.

Vine came out in the beginning of the year (I think) and was hailed as the instagram of video; no surprise that instagram itself added video around June. Both are dead easy to use and, by the large number of videos already posted on both services, will only grow and grow and grow. Lots of informative comparisons abound, and techcrunch kindly gave us a nice table:


What I like about these apps is the ease of use, and because of the short duration, it’s almost essential to pause then move onto the next frame. Pausing on video function of a camera means a second file and you need to use something like iMovie to edit sequences together. Although I ended up editing 3 instagram videos together, it’s not the usual thing to do, just like it’s not usual or necesssary to photoshop instagram photos.

At first glance, there are no fundamental differences between the 2 services, however, because of the way they evolved historically, the user base seem to be slightly different. Techcrunch again,

Where Instagram’s user base is mostly made up of people documenting their feet, coffees, and pets, Vine has attracted a group of users who are pleased by the challenges set forth in the app

Interesting observation. I must admit most of my instagrams are of food, so I sort of fall into that stereotype. Contrast to my first vine of engrish subtitles on a korean drama dvd, which falls into one of those “so bad it’s good” categories. This spontaneonity is what I like about vine, but I’ll probably end up using instagram more — I’m already ingrained into its ecosystem, and its ability to edit, add filters and delete frames is useful; plus I’m not into the instant sharing culture of vine and twitter. Definitely don’t like the gif-like constant looping of vine videos, videos that autoplay are a pet peeve of mine.

I’m quite pleased with this first effort on instagram. The filter, graininess and choppiness give it a vintage feel, almost like watching an old 8mm reel.

in eating and drinking |

artcafe002patio artcafe011cake

We took a drive out to a nature trail area near plover cove reservoir. A quiet area with people fishing, walking or biking on a weekday. We didn’t have time to go hiking on the trail, so we just stayed around the main area. Found a small restaurant for late lunch — minestrone soup, lamb chop, and we shared a frozen cream cake for dessert. Good value at under £10 per person, although the food quality was strictly average. Friendly service and a nice outside patio added to the charm.

The restaurant calls itself an art café with the work of an artist (the owner?) adorning the outside of the house, the interior and there are 2 floors dedicated to exhbiting his artwork. Plover cove is only 30mins’ drive from my parents’ place, not too far. Perfect for a quiet day’s outing. Will definitely return to hike the trails. There’s a 45min easy hike to a small waterfall.

in eating and drinking |

twbricktoast01 twfruittea01

Shopping day for bbmm. We had chirashi set for lunch then braved the crowds at the department store for almost the entire afternoon. They were having their semi-annual sale week. Our takings included: laundry mesh bags, a microplane, long sleeved t-shirts, a L’Occitane face cream gift set, kettle chips, ostrich steaks, umeshu and a case of cabernet sauvignon icewine. Also looked at, but didn’t buy at the end, tagines and a pressure cooker. The tagine was small and cheap, but I’m wary of buying single use equipment. The pressure cooker was nice, but too expensive even after discount.

We took a break in the afternoon for tea. After exploring the nearby streets, we came across a Taiwanese style tea and snacks place. We shared one of their monster brick toasts — three thick slices of toast with butter topped with cream, strawberry ice cream, marshmallows, strawberries and blueberries. The inside of the toast was cut up in bite-size chunks and the idea is to eat the cubes together with the cream, ice cream and toppings. Messy but oh so good.

They also served interesting teas and coffees. It being a Taiwanese place there was obviously bubble tea. We opted for their iced tea which was lipton tea topped with either juice or soda plus fruit. There was additionally a small preserved plum in the glass, which gave it a sweet-sour tangy flavour that was refreshing. This is the only time that I think lipton will work, it’s too awful and tasteless to drink on its own, adding it to what is essentially a mocktail is a good move.

in eating and drinking |


It’s cooking with mum day. For lunch we had pork knuckle, baked purple sweet potatoes and tomatoes. The pork knuckle was ready made so it was just reheating. The sweet potatoes we par boiled for 10mins before baking at 180°C for about 20mins. So sweet, so great — purple vegetables are my all time favourite. I sliced the pork and halved the sweet potatoes, everything served Jamie Oliver style on a wooden board.

Dinner was salmon, the same sweet potatoes and steamed thick white asparagus. This is not the same white asparagus as I used to get, these are really thick, almost as big as a small leek. Still have the delicate asparagus flavour though.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

wildfireporkterrine wildfirespagvongole

I had a meeting with the prof in the morning (more about this in another post), then went over to mm’s place. She had been to the doctor’s in the morning to clean the incision, and to get further instructions from the doctor in monitoring going forward. All is well, so it’s a big relief all round.

She’d been at home since she came home on Friday and today was her first venture out. We went to a restaurant nearby for lunch. Set lunch was pork knuckle terrine, spaghetti vongole and panna cotta. I ended up eating my portion, and some of hers too cos she didn’t have her usual appetite.

Went to the market, got some fruit and veg then it was back to her place to rest. She was watching Korean drama and we switched to the totally incomprehensible English subtitles. I tried out Vine for the first time and grabbed some of those in a video. Then I totally fell asleep for half an hour. Too full for dinner, I let her get some rest for the evening and left at 6pm.

in eating and drinking |

Whenever my dad goes to the library he has dinner out, so mum and I generally fry a steak. Today mum has gone out with her friends so it’s papa’s turn to get the steak dinner treatment. We found a fairly decent value steak from the supermarket, it’s not Hawksmoor (or even Tesco) standard, but it’s acceptable.

I’ve also listened to Heston’s lesson on cooking the perfect steak. I don’t leave it out in the fridge but I do take it out and let it sit at room temperature for a bit. Hot pan for delicious crust, check. Of course resting, I know that already.

The thing I haven’t done before is flipping the steak every 15-20 seconds or so to keep both sides hot. He’s right, it totally works. I can monitor the steak’s doneness much better; even though I don’t use a cooking thermometer I’m a good enough cook to know how to use the palm test for meat doneness. So far my steaks have turned out nicely rare to medium-rare every time. This sounds naughty but flipping works!

in eating and drinking |


A chachaanteng literally translates to tea restaurant. Except for the fact that they serve food they are nothing like restaurants; the nearest equivalent is an American diner or a British seaside caff where they serve strong tea and bacon butties. Why are they called tea restaurants? Because aside from breakfasts, lunches and dinners, they also serve tea, both the drink and the meal.

Tea the drink is like Indian pulled tea / Malaysian teh tarik — very colonial — strong tea that has been poured through a fine net (like panty hose, hence the term panty hose tea) and served with condensed milk, evaporated milk, sometimes both. Supposed to be silky and smooth, I personally find it absolutely undrinkable because of the sweetness and the evaporated milk after taste. I stick to another local favourite, lemon tea. Locals drink it with a ton of sugar, I have to make a special no-sugar request.

Tea the meal is much more interesting, and also has colonial past. It’s western food, only it’s not. The tea set is made up of toast made of crustless white bread slathered with butter, condensed milk, peanut butter or all of the above, you can ask for the bread to be toasted. Served together with a slice of processed meat, scrambled eggs and then there’s the spaghetti or macaroni in soup.

teaset02daitoast teaset03ramenliver

Other popular tea set offerings include french toast made from two slices of the same crustless white bread with peanut butter inside, coated with egg, fried and served with a sticky jar of syrup. Or for a savoury alternative there is noodle in soup like the familiar won ton soup, or this really tasty ramen with pork liver. Sounds horrible, but nowadays we are so much better educated by Bizarre Foods, it’s kinda delicious.

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3236 words | 23,320 words total

Had a nice lunch with mm, at our usual happy hour place. The first time we’d had lunch there. I got there early, because they didn’t take reservations, and got us a good window seat. Carrot and lemongrass soup, roast rump of lamb with cous cous and ratatouille, lemon meringue pie. The portions were not that large, well suited for lunch.

Stopped off at the supermarket, then had to wait a long time for the bus. Half the afternoon had gone by the time I got home. Sorted some of the papers I needed to read then got started with nano.

Finished chapter 5 at a good place, the MCs got to know each other better over dinner. Chapter 6 is about putting up the roof frame and going to a supplier to pick out what plants to go on the roof. I know one of the rules of nano is no editing, but I realised that with soil, plants and water the roof will need a huge amount of extra reinforcement and support I had to go back to add a steel frame to the wall frames — can’t have just 2x4s and OSB supporting all that.

I also placed the supplier at a place 12 hrs’ drive away. A road trip is on the horizon.

in eating and drinking |


TAR this week featured paczki, or polish doughnuts. They look like doughnuts but are actually much richer and denser. The first, and only, time I had it was when my Chicago colleague treated us to some she brought in on Fat Tuesday “to make everyone Polish for a day.” She made sure I had one because she knew I’d never tried it before, she was so sweet. Seems like there’s lots of tradition around the Christian world of indulging before Ash Wednesday, in Poland they have Fat Tuesday and in the UK we have Shrove Tuesday which means pancakes, yay!

I’m a bit overwhelmed at the recipe for paczki. Quite a lot of flour and using mostly egg yolks mean a rich cakey dough. It’s not something I’ll ever make, because it’s deep fried. My colleague’s paczki came with a thick sweet, almost clotted, cream and preserved strawberries. I enjoyed it, I was still living in PT then and I made pancakes for dinner that night. Ah, memories of Chicago. Sigh.

in eating and drinking |


Based on Nigella’s recipe for snow-flecked brownies. Half the recipe quantity was perfect for the square tin.

melt 190g chocolate + 190g butter over bain marie, cool
whisk 160g sugar and 2 large eggs until pale and thick
combine chocolate and egg mixtures
add 50g mixed nuts
fold in 115g plain flour
bake at 180°C for 30mins until top is dry

The recipe uses 100g white chocolate buttons, when I first made it I used dark chocolate but this time I just used nuts, and a smaller quantity because I didn’t want the brownie to be overwhelmed by nuts. We had peanuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews in a snack jar so that was what I used. Although I cut it into 3x3 squares for presentation, 4x4 squares is probably a more reasonable serving size.

There is a debate about whether brownies should be cakey, gooey or fudgy. These were somewhere in between gooey and fudgy. The tops were crispy and the inside quite dense without being too sticky. The rich chocolate taste came through, which is always important.

in eating and drinking |

pannacottayogurt004 pannacottayogurt008

The kitchn described panna cotta as the perfect dessert because it’s easy to make, using standard ingredients. It is also incredibly versatile: substituting ingredients or reducing the sugar level doesn’t seem to bother the recipe at all. Last time I made it, it was a little too firm. Tasted good, but it was like cream flavoured jelly.

This is a slightly healthier version of the traditional panna cotta, with less sugar and uses yogurt instead of a lot of the cream. Recipe from smitten kitchen and all credit goes to Deb Perelman for converting her American measurements to metric.

  • 475ml mixture of milk and cream — use as much or as little of each, even 100% milk or 100% cream, using just a little cream will make it so much richer; I used 200ml whipping cream and the rest was reduced fat milk
  • 450g yogurt — most recipes use greek yogurt, it just happened that mum made natural yogurt which worked equally well
  • 75g sugar — recipe says between 50-100g
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2.5 tsp gelatin powder
  • 2 tbsp lime juice — recipe says lemon juice but we ran out of lemons so I substituted lime

Dissolve the gelatin in water, set aside
Combine the yogurt with half the milk+cream
Slowly heat sugar and the remaining milk+cream to a gentle simmer, then pour onto the dissolved gelatin
Add the milk+cream mixture to the yogurt mixture, whisk until smooth
Add lime juice
Pour into oiled containers and set in fridge

There was richness from the cream, tartness from the yogurt and the texture was suitably wobbly and creamy. Strawberries and other berries are expensive recently so mum suggesting using nutella. I tried to do a little fancy decoration with the thick spread and some museli crumbs. The chocolate and crumbs actually went well with the panna cotta.

in eating and drinking |


Another request from mum. Recipe from bbc goodfood.

200g SR flour
1tsp bp
1 egg
300ml milk
125g blueberries
pinch of salt
knob of butter, melted

Sift flour, bp and salt into a large bowl. Lightly whisk egg and add to milk. Create a hole in the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet ingredients, mixing to get a thick smooth batter. Add melted butter and 100g blueberries.

Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter into a hot pan and cook until bubbles form on top, then flip and continue cooking till browned. Serve with remaining blueberries and maple syrup.

We didn’t have syrup (golden or maple) so we substituted honey and the lemon curd I made earlier. Recipe says it makes 10, I got 12 out of it.

in eating and drinking |


This is my standard stew recipe. Brown the meat, remove. Deglaze pan with mirepoix and cooking liquid. Add canned tomato, put meat back, season, cover, cook in oven at 160-180°C for 3 hours. Remove lid/foil about 30mins from the end. It’s pretty foolproof.

The meat this time was lamb shank, and nowadays I’m chef-y enough to trim the ends to expose the bone. The cooking liquid was a dark beer my dad found in the cupboard. I like Guinness and ales and dark beers but this one was actually too harsh to drink. As a braising liquid, it worked well, giving the sauce an intensity without bitterness that was different to wine.

I took some cous cous from home, intending to serve with the shanks but mum wanted mashed potatoes. Cous cous next time.

in eating and drinking |

berliner003pizza berliner001wurst

We went househunting, for the fun of it. It started when mm had to look for a new parking space, then she got talking with the agent about the market for apartments. Next thing I knew, she called me and I was out over her area looking at apartments.

Afterwards we returned to the oktoberfest restaurant where we had beer with our friend the other day. Shared a bottle of beer and ordered the eisbein that she wanted to try last time. Berliner eisbein is salt-cured pork knuckle cooked in a spiced brine for several hours until very soft. As the name suggests, it’s a Berlin speciality although I remember having it in Munich. (Or was it the roast knuckle.) The meat was tasty and our favourite was the skin — very soft, gelatinous and not fatty at all. We also ordered a pizza although we struggled to finish it. Should have had a salad or starter instead.

in eating and drinking |


Short answer: Switzerland.

Long answer: as a result of all my travels.

Went out with mm and our friend to a bar and caught their oktoberfest special. Everyone ordered 500ml beers — they had Erdinger weissbeer and dunkel and I had a bottle of Schneider-Weiss tap 7 — an amber wheat beer. We also shared a platter of sausages and sauerkraut. So German, love it. Naturally I finished mine way faster than them, but before I waved down a server and ordered another one, they gave me 1/3 of their remaining glasses. So I had like 800ml total and they each had 350ml or so. Ah yes, I can drink more than my friends in general.

When I was young, as in pre-teen, our grandfather and even my dad would let us kids try a little bit of beer or brandy that they were drinking with their meals. Just a small touch or a tiny sip. No harm done, it meant I didn’t find alcohol a big deal.

I didn’t drink when I got to drinking age. Oh, I think I had the required Newcastle Ale in college, but I don’t remember liking it. I was the one with the car amongst my friends, who weren’t big drinkers anyway, so it didn’t even enter my mind that alcohol should be part of my life. I didn’t drink throughout my twenties. Not the teetotal type of non-drinker, just very, very rarely.

When I learned to drink, was in Switzerland. That was when my group of friends then liked to drink. Eating out was expensive, so our gatherings were always at someone’s apartment. And someone would inevitably bring a couple of bottles of wine. Or vodka. Or something equally strong. We got into Swiss wine in a big way, knowing that it was only available inside Switzerland. Proximity to France, Germany and Italy helped too. Wine tasting at Alsace was one of the highlights of those couple of years. We made watermelon vodka, jelly shots, caipirinha. I first tried this shot with baileys floating on creme de menthe that was extremely addicting.

Moving to Asia gave me access to a new type of drink. Sake and umeshu from Japan and soju from Korea. New World wines dominated the market (and were much, much cheaper) so it was cabs and chardonnay from Australia for a while.

In the US I discovered craft beers. A race in Chicago would be sponsored by 312 or Goose Island and if I ignored the buds and millers, aka water, that are on the supermarket shelves, there’d be another section of wonderful special beers in interesting bottles.

And then came whisky. When RM came to London, he introduced me to world of whisky. And the rest is history. I’ve visited distilleries on 3 continents and developed a taste for Highland Park, Blanton’s and Yamazaki. I now have almost 50 bottles of whisky and whiskey at home, not counting the half-shelf of sample bottles. It’s becoming an interesting, if expensive, hobby.

I’m not drinking as much as when I was in London. I love buying though, so my living room cabinets are filled to the brim with whisky, bourbon, grappas, vodka, limoncello, pear liquor, tomato liquor and a bourbon cream I bought at Buffalo Trace. And a bunch of wines from our trip to Provence or from London that I brought with me in my shipment. They all just sit there, waiting to be tasted…someday.

I’m also seeing my taste develop somewhat as I get older. It can’t be any ol’ wine, beer or whisky, I know generally what I like and what I don’t like. I’m still game for trying new stuff, and there’s so much more to experience. Cheers.

in eating and drinking |

four nut brownie

The short answer: cooking shows on tv.

The long answer: cooking shows in tv, mostly. At school we had home economics lessons, quite lame, I remember knitting a scarf and learning how to make tomato soup and rock cakes. We bought some 99p cookery books from Sainsbury’s that I still use. Then it was Delia Smith and even simple stuff on Blue Peter.

I took more notice of food and cooking in NY when I got addicted to the Food Network. There were still Julia Child eps, as well as Emeril, Alton Brown and original Iron Chef. I wasn’t much of a cook, and these shows opened my eyes to the concept of cooking. I also learned new words, like cilantro (coriander), broil (grill) and grill (barbeque).

Fast forward several years and nowadays there are so many food and travel programs on so many channels. Our eyes have definitely been opened, almost forcibly. We take in our strides ingredients like quinoa, eel and kumquat, that were relatively unknown before some tv chef or food adventurer made it popular.

There seems to be a “return to roots” trend going on recently. Shows like food glorious food and my grandmother’s ravioli focus on traditional recipes handed down through the family. The picture of a large 3, 4-generation family sitting down at a table sharing a home-cooked meal triggers feelings of warmth and nostalgia.

Neither of my grandmothers did much cooking. My maternal grandmother came from a rather affluent family and the cooking was done by the servants (none of this “helper” PC crap, they were maids, albeit much loved). I’m sure the recipes could have been passed down, but I’m not sure. My grandma was a lovely, warm-hearted person and my memories of eating with her were mostly eating out at restaurants. There used to be a pancake place outside of town she loved taking us to, it was an outing.

My paternal grandmother was an intellectual. I’m sure my love of reading comes from her, she lived with us for a while and I remember her reading these thin novels that had tiny words and were part of a series. My great-aunt lived with her and did most of the cooking. Now, my great-aunt, she could cook and I wished she had passed some of her recipes to us.

My parents can cook, but not those big family meals we see on tv. Mostly it was good enough for feed a small family in a no-frills manner. Mum made delicious roast belly pork with crispy skin and Dad made soy milk from soy beans and could cook a mean steak. My sis and I made fairy cakes, my parents supervised not the recipe but the safety of letting two kids use electric whisks and the oven. Definitely Sis and I are better bakers than my parents, which is why I bake so much for them. I have lived in more places and probably watched more cooking shows, so why not share the knowledge and love of food?

So I asked my dad what he’d like me to bake next and he said brownies. Hmm. I’ve only made brownies a couple of times and they come out more like cake. Nice enough, but I really need to find a fool-proof recipe that gives the crispy skin and gooey inside that I’d like to achieve. May be this is the one time I have to look for an American recipe.

in eating and drinking |

lemonblueberrycake001 lemonblueberrycake003

Based on a bbc recipe. Lemon and blueberries go so well together.

175g butter
175g sugar
3 eggs
200g SR flour
100g greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon curd
zest & juice of 1 lemon
punnet of blueberries (around 100g)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs. Add yogurt, lemon curd, lemon zest & juice. Fold in flour.

Spoon half the mixture into tin, sprinkle half the blueberries. Add the other half of the mixture, and the rest of the blueberries.

Bake at 180°C for about 45mins. Serve with more lemon curd and blueberries.

in eating and drinking |


Mise en place to me isn’t just weighing out and prepping the ingredients, it’s the process and equipment too. To prepare homemade preserves like jams and marmalade, the first thing to do is to sterilise the containers. I washed them very thoroughly in soapy water, then placed the jars in an oven at 150°C. The lids I put in a pot of boiling water.

The lemon curd recipe itself is from bbc and very straightforward:

  • zest and juice 5 medium lemons (recipe was for 4 large lemons) — I measured the juice, I had 175ml
  • mix the zest, juice with 100g butter and 180-200g sugar in a bowl over a bain marie — the jar lids were still boiling away in the main pot
  • lightly whisk 4 eggs and add slowly to the lemon butter mixture
  • cook for 15-20mins over the bain marie, stirring constantly, until thick and coated the back of a spoon

I’d used slightly less sugar than the recipe, measured out 180g and added about an extra tablespoon when I was tasting at the end. The resultant lemon curd was really wonderful — lovely and smooth and glossy, still a little tangy because of the reduced sugar, it will become a favourite I hope.

in eating and drinking |


Mum took me to a place that had beef brisket noodles. The sign on the door and walls suggested that the restaurant had something to do with Michelin stars, but apparently it was merely one of the many places mentioned in a Michelin guidebook for budget meals. A slight twist of the truth. Nevertheless, the noodles were good. The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth tender and even the soup was light and tasty.

I’m not generally a fan of brisket noodles. I tend to go for wonton noodles or some sort of fish balls. There are more and more beef brisket places cropping up, and they are beginning to use different types of brisket — lean, fatty, crispy depending on cut and cooking method. This place also had noodles in a tomato-based soup and Pakistani curry that came in 4 different spiciness levels. Minimal décor and a tad on the expensive side, worth trying again though.

in eating and drinking |


Lunch with college friends. It’s been over 20 years, but it seemed as if very little time had passed, today we behaved just like we used to, back when we were college kids. We hadn’t seen each other often, a couple of them for me a few years. At the table there were: a regional head of sales, a management consultant, a bank manager, a legal department head, a partner in a law firm and…me. Officially unemployed, hoping to be semi-retired me. Hahaha. Topic of conversation ranged from aspiring to be OAPs to new developments in the real estate front.

The menu was salad or parma ham & melon to start and spaghetti bolognaise, salmon, prawn risotto or rib-eye steak for mains. I had the prawn risotto. It was one grilled prawn and some fairly ordinary and too salty risotto. The parmesan shavings stuck to the shell of the prawn, it wasn’t completely appealing. The problem with dishes like this, I inevitably feel like I can make it more suited to my taste. In reality, I’ll probably do okay with flavours but fall short on presentation.

Walked with mm back to the office, then went shopping at the market for lemon curd and chocolate pudding ingredients.

in eating and drinking |

Zingy Home-Made Lemon Curd
Image courtesy flickr user french tart

I’m looking for a lemon curd recipe, and there are tons and tons online. I find that whenever I’m looking for online recipes, I gravitate to the usual sites: bbc good food, the guardian (especially if it’s Nigel Slater), sometimes Jamie, Delia or Nigella although I find Delia too sweet and Nigella too fiddly. Donna Hay if it’s an Aussie dish. Very rarely do I click on a page that I know or suspect is American.

It doesn’t mean American recipes are bad, I’m sure they work and are really good.

But I can’t follow them, especially if I’m baking. Frying a steak or French trimming a rack of lamb is okay, and I’m a big fan of Elise but I stay away from American baking recipes.

Everything is measured in cups. Of course liquids are measured in volume but dry ingredients? And what is the size of this magical cup? The dainty tea cup, a regular mug or a giant Starbucks cup, it’s so subjective. Baking depends on precision and “a cup of flour” is meaningless. How should it be scooped out? Compacted or loosely? Heaped or flat top? There may end up being a good 50g difference.

Yes, I know there are converters. But why go through the hassle? I like measuring my ingredients out. I like using ingredients I’m familiar with.

So back to the lemon curd recipe. Just for the sake of this post, I clicked on Martha Stewart’s recipe — 3 eggs, zest of half a lemon, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 6tbsp sugar, 4tbsp butter. I’ve never seen butter measured in tablespoons, heaped or melted or scooped like ice cream? There doesn’t seem to be enough lemon either. I don’t like this recipe.

Delia uses zest and juice of 4 lemons, 4 eggs, 12oz (350g) sugar and 8oz (225g) butter. That seems like way, way too much sugar. I remember her recipe for bread and butter pudding (or was it apple crumble, probably both) and that was too sweet too.

The recipe I like most is from bbc: zest and juice of 4 lemons, 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, 200g sugar, 100g butter, cooked over a bain marie. Seems quite suitably lemony. I’ll try to make a batch this weekend.

in eating and drinking |

Parents’ turn to get presents. Barley tea for mum, blueberry cordial, biscuits, mochi and the golden peaches I got from Kuramon market in Osaka. A little bruised and needing to be eaten soon. Luckily it was just bruising on the outside, perfectly edible and very nice inside.

in eating and drinking |

Went over to sis’ to give her the stuff I got them from Japan: umeshu, biscuits, green tea kit kat, green tea. Was going to continue sorting pics and/or go to the gym but got dragged to the HH place with her and her friend. Ended up having 4 glasses of HH prosecco. It’s a good deal, their happy hour, basic beer, entry level red, white and prosecco all half price.

So now I’m really sleepy. Time for bed.

in eating and drinking |


This is the last of the chocfest we’ve been having at home. First attempt at chocolate fondant, recipe from the guardian.

60g dark chocolate
60g butter
30g sugar — recipe says 60g, I didn’t think we need so much
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp plain flour

Melt chocolate and butter over bain marie and set aside to cool. Whisk egg, egg yolk and sugar until pale and thick, around 5-10mins or the time it takes for the chocolate to melt. Combine chocolate and egg mixtures. Fold in flour, pour into greased tins. Bake at 200°C for 10mins, until the top is just set.

Leave in tin for 30-60 seconds then turn out.

Probably a little tiny bit overdone. The recipe says 12mins, I took them out at 10mins, may be that was even a minute too late.

in eating and drinking |


The recipe for regular chocolate mousse is very rich, almost 500ml of cream total. So we wanted to find a less fattening alternative, and Mum found a chocolate yogurt mousse recipe that uses greek yogurt. I bought her a yogurt maker a long long time ago, and she’s been making her own yogurt occasionally.

We didn’t exactly follow the recipe, skipped the coffee and there was a step with boiling water that didn’t work. Skipped the sugar too.

85g chocolate — we used 100g, a whole dark toblerone
1tbsp cocoa — not even sure it’s necessary, will skip next time
2 egg whites, whisked to soft peaks stage
50g greek yogurt — that’s not a lot, we added an extra tablespoon

Melt the chocolate over a bain marie, add cocoa powder. At this point the recipe said add a couple of tablespoons of boiling water to soften the chocolate. Argh! Adding water to melted chocolate makes it lumpy and solid. I had to rescue it using vegetable oil and a bit of egg yolk.

Add yogurt to chocolate mixture. Fold in egg whites. We tasted at this point and decided no sugar was needed. Leave in fridge to set.

The end result is definitely light, although still very chocolate-y. Can taste the slight sourness of the yogurt, in a pleasant but not overpowering way. Quite soft and doesn’t hold its shape that well — it’s fine in a glass but spooning it out on a plate for presentation will end up being chocolate milkshake. To make it more solid, may be add the egg yolks or whisk the egg whites to stiffer peaks? I want to add more yogurt but it’ll make it too sour. Hmm, more research needed.

in eating and drinking |


In an early Naked Chef program, Jamie Oliver made semifreddo with maltesers, berries and some other stuff that he just threw into the mixture. That was the first time I came across semifreddo, which is Italian for “half cold.” Somewhere in between a frozen mousse and an ice cream is the best description.

This chocolate semifreddo recipe is itself adapted from Donna Hay’s recipe. I didn’t want to make a big batch, so this is half the recipe.

125g dark chocolate (I used toblerone)
2 medium eggs + 1 egg yolk
75g sugar — this was too much, next time I’ll use 50g or less
225ml whipping cream
1tbsp good quality cocoa

Melt chocolate over a bain marie and set aside to cool. Once melted it won’t set again. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk and sugar over a very slow bain marie until pale and thick — by hand it took 10mins and the mixture had more than doubled its volume. I periodically took the bowl off the heat so the eggs don’t cook. Take the bowl off the heat completely and continue whisking as it cools, another 5-10mins. The mixture by now was glossy and had the consistency of soft meringue. Fold in the melted chocolate.

In another bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks stage and add the cocoa. Fold the cream into the chocolate mixture.

Line a rectangular tin with clingfilm. I actually used one of those takeaway plastic boxes, it was the right size and had a lid. Pour the mixture into the tin/box and leave to freeze overnight.

It was absolutely like mousse and ice cream. Very rich, smooth and chocolate-y. Quite dense, a small slice was enough. Because it was made from eggs and cream it had very little water content so didn’t need to be constantly stirred like ice cream. Could have actually scooped it out like ice cream too. Next time I won’t waste the remaining egg white, I’ll whisk it up and add it with the cream. May be serve it with strawberries and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

in eating and drinking |

Yesterday’s post about regional / country cuisine led me to think about the globalisation of food, food culture, palates and all that. Seems like academics like to use food as an example when they study globalisation. Every nation has food, and the concept is easy to understand. One of the most common food item used in these studies is, rather surprisingly, sushi.

global food


Came across a study [warning: pdf] where the author tells of his experience in 1966 when, as part of survival training in the USAF in Japan, he had to eat a piece of raw tuna. Raw fish. That was the bizarre food of the 1960s. A Wharton book review tells of the Molly Ringwald character in The Breakfast Club bringing sushi to detention and the other kids, who had brought sandwiches, mocking her. No one would mock any one eating sushi anymore. The weirdness, the elitism, even the healthy aspect, not so much.

Just look at this pretty lunchbox from Itsu in London. It’s a chain fast food place, and there are the pieces of raw tuna that would horrify a 1960s American soldier or a 1980s teenager. But equally, an OL in Japan would not recognise this as a bento box. What are those vegetables? Where are carefully cut side items, the delicately arranged pickles, the rice? Is this Japanese food? British food? Global food?

The blame, for want of a better word, lies in increasing affluence and the importance Gen Xers place on leisure and betterment of themselves. Air travel, the internet, the sheer number of food and travel programs on TV—these are all Good Things. Educational and introducing us to cultures, including food, that appear nearer and nearer. As my friend Trish commented in yesterday’s post, she would cook Moroccan lamb, Italian lasagna and Indian curry, Spanish rice—and it would be just another day.



The production and distribution of food has undergone so much industralisation that it’s now a global commodity. Grains and livestock and even milk are ferociously traded in the markets; the top 2 agriculture products at the CME are corn options and corn futures. There was this Discovery Channel program I remember watching, where a fishing boat caught a bluefin tuna off the coast of Newfoundland and they were rushing to get it to port, weighed, graded and transported to Tokyo’s Tsukiji market where it’d fetch lots of money before parts of it being shipped to restaurants in New York. Travel distance thousands of miles, ending up somewhere just hundreds of miles from where it was caught. This is by no means unusual.

Sometimes, the word globalisation is spit out, as if it were a dirty word. Looking at the produce at the supermarket, many of them are now available year round as they are grown in controlled environments that are not open to effects of weather. Tomatoes, strawberries, coffee. It’s amazing, a few hundreds of years ago, there were no tomatoes or strawberries or coffee in western Europe. Spices too. We have all benefited from globalisation, the world just needs to tackle some of the unsavoury practices and effects before it’s too late.

seasonal and local


The backlash against globalisation is best seen in the rise of the slow food movement. The movement is associated with foodies rising up in arms against the slow march of Big Fast Food like Mcdonald’s or KFC. Cookery programs talk about seasonal and local. Everyone wants to eat organic.

How truly are the seasonal and local foodstuff, seasonal and local? Why really does it matter where the food comes from? Shouldn’t we be more concerned that the food we buy and consume are safe, have good flavour and produced in a way that our conscience can tolerate (and everyone’s tolerance level differs, hence carnivores and vegans.) Why shouldn’t I support all community farmers and not just the ones within a 50 mile radius from where I live?

Given a choice, wild salmon caught sustainably in the Pacific Northwest or fish caught by Indonesian fishermen in overfished, polluted waters? I know which one I’d rather have in my sushi.

in eating and drinking |

The guardian asked

if you could only ever eat one cuisine again, which would you choose?

and then goes on to describe how “ethnic” food becomes diluted when they travel out of their country because it is necessary to adapt the taste sensitivities that are different depends on who we are. What I don’t get out of the article is, do we like or dislike a certain food because it’s part of our DNA, or is it learned. Nature or nurture?

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Back to the original question. So many choices. Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian, Middle Eastern, Mexican. I remember those mariscos I enjoyed when I visited Chile; there’s a whole South American cuisine I haven’t had the opportunity to explore. Or how about salmon we caught ourselves at Lake Wanaka in New Zealand, it’s where the food comes from rather than the actual cuisine.

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My first reaction was Japanese. After all, if I could only eat sushi, sashimi, tempura, yakitori, shabu shabu, green tea ice cream, mochi and drink sake, plum wine and Japanese beer, I’m alright with that. I’ve eaten at Nobu (overpriced) but I’ve also had really great sushi at this cheap ¥100 hole-in-the-wall conveyor belt place in Tokyo. There’s enough variety and freshness in Japanese food to never be tired of it.

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The comments in the article were interesting. Some were like, what’s wrong with British food? Well, nothing. Steak at Hawksmoor, roast lamb and two veg at the pub, Gressingham duck, game, fish & chips, savoy cabbage, celeriac, parsnips, yes even mushy peas, treacle tart, cream teas, cheese, and puddings, puddings, puddings. Then there’s real ale, cider, English sparkling wine and whisky.

So what is the choice now?

in eating and drinking |


We saw someone make braised beef cheeks on an Australian cookery show recently, and wanted to try. It’s a cheaper cut but because there’s only 2 cheeks per animal, not as easy to get as we thought, Mum had to ask the butcher at the market to reserve them for her. They are HUGE when they came out of the packet, I didn’t weigh them but each felt at least 500g, more because there were lots of trimmings. Took me a good half an hour to trim the 2 cheeks, the trimmings were tough and the meat itself also quite tough. I cut them into large chunks.

Usual braising method. Browned the meat, remove from pan. Added mirepoix, tomato paste and returned the meat to the pan. Added 1/3rd bottle of red wine (picked a strong Melbec this time, it was on sale 2-for-1) and because we didn’t have stock, just water. Seasoned, brought back to the boil and braised in oven at 160°C for 3hrs.

By the end of the cooking, even the tough tendon and fat from the trimmings were soft and edible. I originally kept them in the pan for flavour, so it was a bonus to have more to serve. Two cheeks could easily serve 6-8 people. We had them with roast potatoes and salad. In terms of taste, the cheeks had a nice beefy flavour. In terms of texture, a bit like brisket.

in eating and drinking |


Mum came back from the market with bananas asking if I could make banana bread. Of course! We have sugar, flour, bp, eggs but not enough butter so I needed to be creative.

I don’t like walnuts so I never make the traditional banana walnut bread. I needed 4oz butter for the recipe: I ended up using 2oz butter, 1oz margarine (from a tub we found in one of the fridges) and the rest was made up using olive oil. Creamed with 4oz sugar, added 3 eggs (these were small eggs, normally it’s 2 large eggs), 3 bananas, 8oz plain flour and 1tsp bp. A splash of milk to loosen the dough. Baked at 180°C for 1hr.

Didn’t matter that it was the round tin again, it was another good bake. Light, fluffy and not too sweet with a crunchy crust. The butter-margarine-olive oil combination didn’t hurt the recipe at all. In fact, it was easier to cream, important because I was doing it by hand. Everyone’s pleased with the result.

in eating and drinking |


My recent baking efforts haven’t been terribly successful. The French apple tart suffered from soggy bottom when the puff pastry didn’t rise properly; the mango yogurt fake cheesecake was lumpy and looked like baby food; the cheesecake for my dad’s birthday was wobbly and almost collapsed. The only thing that worked was chocolate mousse.

Still, I wanted to bake something for my parents while I’m staying with them. They didn’t want anything sweet so I looked through my recipes and remembered this savoury ham and cheese bread that I enjoyed. The recipe is based on what the French call cake salé, or savoury cakes/loaf. Sugar-free, butter-free. Usually with cheese. I like Hugh F-W’s idea that it’s a perfect way of using up leftover roast meats and bits of cheese.

Eggs, milk, olive oil, flour, bp, diced ham, grated cheddar. Much easier than the traditional creaming and whipping for a sweet cake. Like making muffins, it was just simple folding being careful not to over-mix. In the oven at 180°C for 1hr. Mum doesn’t have a rectangular loaf tin so I improvised with a round cake tin. Aside from not looking like a loaf, it was really great. The saltiness of the ham and cheese went well with the olive oil-based base. In terms of texture, I thought it was somewhere between a scone and a muffin. We ate it straight out of the oven so the top was still crispy. A good bake.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Escaping to parents’ aka holiday home again. Mum’s ipad isn’t charging so we went over to the Apple Store to get a new charger but the salesperson suggested that we came back tomorrow morning to see if we can get help at the genius bar first.

Headed over to the residental estate nearby and had dinner at a family restaurant. Ordered this beef curry that came in an extremely hot stone pot, a bit like Korean bibambap. The curry was good, it was still bubbling away when we finished eating and was packing it away to take home.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


It wasn’t until 5.30pm that mm was able to come and pick me up. It would have been nice to go exploring, hiking or cycling but it was too late in the day. We drove over to the AYCE Japanese place where I had dinner with my parents on my dad’s birthday. The restaurant was opposite to where mm’s sis lived, it was a memory for us. It’s been years and years, I almost didn’t remember which direction the flat faced. Walked around the area a bit, then settled in for dinner. Not a lot was open when we finished, so we just went home.

in eating and drinking |

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All I had was one page to print and I made it an afternoon outing to sis’ place. Went to the gym, did treadmill intervals and we went to a tapas place called Viva Ana. The tapas was alright, expensive and not looking like tapas at all—more like starters. I don’t often see tapas served on a full sized dinner plate, I thought the idea is small plates. Anyway, we had potatoes with tomato sauce, with the potato looking more like fat chips although the sauce was good. Grilled sardines were fresh, goat’s cheese salad had barely any cheese and serrano ham on garlic bread had a tomato-ish spread we couldn’t identify. A glass of wine each. Like I said, expensive and we probably won’t go back.

in eating and drinking |

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Dinner with mm, RM and our friend W. RM has a 30% discount for certain restaurants and we went to one of those, newly opened quite posh. Peking duck two ways, lotus root cake, stuffed bitter melon, roast pork. Good service, good food, good value with the discount.

The Peking duck in particular, normally people go to Peking Gardens. My family goes to the more traditional Spring Deer. If I have guests I want to impress, I’d think about taking them to this new place. Two ways mean first the normal wrapped in pancake with vegetables and hoi sin sauce and then the meat is sautéed with vegetables and served with a lettuce wrap.

I was even persuaded to try the stuffed bitter melon. I don’t like bitter melon, I find it too…bitter. But this was okay. Not too bitter. And the stuffing was prawns, all prawns. High standards.

I’m not a huge Chinese food fan. Chinese food in the US is crap; in London it’s better, but the dishes are different from the ones in Asia. Most people in HK do eat it of course and I will go if it’s with friends. It’s good to have a place to go to.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Papa’s birthday lunch with sis and my niece was supposed to have been Wednesday at the Yacht Club when they have their Indian buffet, but we postponed it because of bad weather. Went to a Malaysian restaurant instead today. Good value set lunch, most of us had chicken rice, sis had lamb satay and papa had seafood laksa.

We took the cheesecake all the way to sis’ place. Little one and I decorated with strawberries and blueberries. A tablespoon of jam diluted with water provided the glaze. The cheesecake tasted great, adding the canned passion fruit purée was a great idea. But it was a bit too wobbly and was very hard to cut. I guess I didn’t add enough gelatin.

in eating and drinking , family first |

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It’s my dad’s birthday. I went over for lunch, then in the afternoon made a chilled cheesecake. It used to be a signature dish of mine, I need to make it more.

Dinner was at an all-you-can-eat Japanese place that my parents came across. They eat half price, so it’s a good deal. Quite a bit of a trek, long bus ride followed by more walking. To order, there is a huge stack of different coloured order slips, each with a different type of food like sashimi, tempura, yakitori, noodles. We ordered lots of sashimi and Japanese salad: crab roe, seaweed, whelks. Skewers, vegetables and a little tempura. Drinks are included, not only soft drinks but beer and sake. We polished off a couple of servings of warm sake.

in eating and drinking |


I can’t resist Highland Park. RM likes Caol Ila and Scapa, mm is still refining her taste. All things being equal, if I had to have any 12 year, I’d pick HP in a second. If I were rich, I’d stock up with the super HP 30, 40 and, gasp, 50. Our visit to Orkney was one of the highlights last year, and the HP distillery visit was out of this world.

Like many of the distilleries, they have far too many different expressions and exclusives. One of those is the Valhalla collection to celebrate Orkney’s Norse connection. It began last year with the introduction of Thor. The most recent release, this year, was Loki. No surprise, it’s another well received release from a fantastic distillery. Of course it’s commercial. Of course it’s yet another means to get our money. Of course I have to have it, to complete my collection.

It’s no problem me using my UK credit card, but I need an address in the UK, a place to deliver it to and someone kind enough to store it for me until mm and/or I manage a trip back to the UK. I already have a couple of bottles with CC, and another bottle at my niece’s grandparents’ and I didn’t want to trouble them further. So after some deliberation (heh, it was all of 2 minutes) I bit the bullet and ordered it to deliver straight to me. £108 ex VAT, but a whopping £50 for overseas delivery. That said, £150 to me is still worth it. Even with whatever customs duty I have to pay when it arrives, driving the cost up even more. Yes, it’s bloody well worth it.

And no, I dare not tell mm about this.

in eating and drinking |


Told RM that I created a monster in mm, that she’s now incredibly into whisky too. So we created a whatsapp group for socialising, whisky monkeys. Our logo is a photo of the Caol Ila 18 that RM and I enjoyed at the Scottish pub yesterday.

in eating and drinking |


Haven’t seen RM in months and months and months. Finally managed to find time to meet up. Went to my favourite Scottish pub. Had munchies (sliders, chorizo, nachos) and started with cider. How we miss going to pubs and having cider.

Tons to catch up in term of work and recent interests and stuff. I don’t have many friends, I’m glad I get in touch with a good friend.

in eating and drinking |

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flickr set: here

Went to brunch with Sis and niece to a new restaurant, Blue Butcher. They describe themselves as a meat specialist; the dark concrete & wood décor and the ageing room with its blackboard pronouncement of where the meat comes from all goes towards projecting that specialism. Brunch was a semi-buffet and included a salad bar, oyster station, unlimited foie gras(!!). We chose roast rib-eye-on-the-bone for main course and since there were 3 desserts, had all three to share. Paid extra for the rib-eye, and to add free flow prosecco too. Ended up drinking more than one bottle, so it was worth the extra. (The question is, did we drink more to justify the additional course or would we have polished off a bottle anyway? Hmm.)

The salad bar was nicely done: beef salad, tomato & mozzarella, proscuitto with watermelon, smoked salmon salad. Lots of leaves, not heavy on the dressing. The oysters were fresh, Coffin Bay from Australia I think. The surprise was the unlimited foie gras station — we just told the chef how many pieces and he cooked them to order. Served with toast and jams. Quite rich, but I still got a plate with 6 pieces.

By the time the roast rib-eye appeared we were pretty full. Big steak, big bone. Tasted pretty good. The carrots were under done and I didn’t eat the potato. Next time I may skip it and go for one of the simpler mains. Took the beef home.

Dessert was waffle (part of the buffet). The menu desserts were chocolate bread & butter pudding, strawberry shortbread and mango sorbet. The bread pudding was a disappointment, no taste, even a bit sour. The mango sorbet was the best. Would we go again? Yes, definitely. Not cheap, but in this town to get food of this quality we have to be prepared to pay a bit more.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

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The lamb racks turned out pretty well. I had two batches. The first batch roasted in mm’s oven at 200°C, but hers is a small countertop oven and I didn’t notice that we had it on grill only. Once we turned both top and bottom elements on, it only took 10mins more to get to rare, by that time they’ve been cooking for about 30mins. The second batch I seared first then put in my oven at 180°C for 20mins. I can control it better with my own equipment. Then again, I also burned my palm on the handle of the pan.

We had a leisurely lunch with the lamb, and mm made a couple of nice salads — chili marinaded cucumber and sesame oil flavoured bean sprouts. And then we got started with our whisky flight. Mainly Japanese whisky and mostly pure malt blends:

  • Nikka from the barrel — Mr Murray described it as an unspecified malt; came in a cute perfume bottle like bottle; clean and sweet
  • Nikka Pure Malt Red — fruity and quite light
  • NIkka Pure Malt Black — sweet and big, quite like a Speyside
  • Nikka Pure Malt White — slightly smoky, with its Yoichi content, need to drink this very slowly
  • Yamazaki 12 — pleasant, typical Yamazaki
  • Macallan 12 — as a contrast to the Yamazaki, very typical, bigger than Japanese
  • Yoichi — I think this was either 10 or 12, slightly peaty
  • Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 — great value for money, easy daily drinking
  • Kavalan Bourbon cask (from Taiwan) — I remembered it as bering really good, but it tasted a bit rough compared with the others

Only a small sip of each, the total we each had was probably just a double. The Pure Malts were quite good, and each had its own character. The Nikka from the barrel was the real surprise. With a higher alcohol content of 58.6% it was sweet and smooth and very easy to drink. No wonder I tend to prefer cask strength whiskies.

p.s. There are different types of whisky blends. What is referred here as pure malt is a blended malt, ie a blend made from single malts only. It’s also known as vatted or sometimes all malt. Not to be confused with generic blends which includes whiskies made with other type of grains; or even grain alcohol itself.

in eating and drinking |


Going to mm’s place tomorrow. After some discussion, she requested lamb. I went to the frozen meat supplier and got a rack of lamb, 7-8 ribs. The supplier cut them in half at my request but otherwise the rack was not prepared. This is an interesting shop, they supply hotels and restaurants; the shop is lined on all sides by huge freezers with ominous looking steel doors like giant cadaver lockers. Good prices though, almost wholesale.

I wanted to french trim them, like I see on tv. Not 100% clean off the bone at the ends, but not too bad for a first effort. They will marinade in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, pepper and a bit of worcester sauce overnight before roasting in the oven. I generally don’t add salt in marinades but I do add a few drops of worcester sauce especially to meat.

in eating and drinking |

old pulteney

There’s a Scottish pub hidden in the basement of an unassuming hotel in the nightlife district. It has haggis, Scottish breakfast and staples like roast lamb, shepherd’s pie and bangers & mash. It also has one of the largest whisky selections around town, so much so that they have a separate whisky menu.

They also do flights of a few whiskies. Unfortunately they didn’t have Laphoraig or Talikser 18 so they couldn’t serve those flights. I opted for the Old Pulteney: 12, 17 and 21 year. The 12 was already pretty good, not sharp, a little vanilla and a little citrus. The 17 was smooth and the 21 was perfect. Yes, perfect. It won World Whisky of the Year, Scotch Whisky of the Year, Multiple Cask 16-21 year old of the Year; 97.5 points in the Whisky Bible Awards 2012.

in eating and drinking |

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Had lunch with mm at a crêperie near the office. Two crêpes, one savoury one sweet plus coffee and tea for HK$98. The savoury one was ham, emmental and egg buckwheat or chicken curry; we both had the ham & cheese. The sweet was chocolate & caramel or butter and sugar; I had the chocolate caramel and mm changed from butter and sugar to lemon and sugar. The crêpes themselves were average, we both preferred the chewy traditional sweet batter to the rather tough savoury buckwheat batter. Not bad value, the place was packed and it’s near the office so another option.

in eating and drinking |

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Looks like giant mangos are in season, mum bought a few which we ate over the weekend. One is enough for 4-6 people. I cut one up and filled an entire takeaway container. We bought a few more, wonder if they can be frozen. The flesh is brilliant orange, sweet, soft, not fibrous and the pit is quite small. Cheap too. I can just eat it on its own for a meal.

in eating and drinking |

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Went with parents to a hotel buffet, they have senior discount and we all get 25% off with our credit cards. The main attraction is alaskan king crab legs. I got a whole plateful, they keep refilling so there was no danger of running out. Initially I just peeled and ate them like everyone else, then I decided to shell it all and save it to eat in one go. Made a nice salad with the crab leg meat and fresh prawns.

There were other food too. Other salads, pasta to order, various skewers, chicken rice and hot dishes like braised beef, lamb curry, chicken. For dessert it was pancake, ice cream, chocolate fountain and fruits. The cakes pastries were disappointing, they were too sweet, too dry, or generally not tasty at all.

in eating and drinking |


It’s probably only a slight exaggeration to say that I can make this chocolate mousse in my sleep. I’ve done it so many times, and served it to so many people, it’s sort of a signature dish of mine. Mum felt like it, so I made it and tried to teach her. Usually I make it from dark toblerone, but we couldn’t find it so I used a good quality Belgian 70% dark chocolate.

Four ingredients only, and 4 steps:

  1. melt 300g chocolate and a knob of butter over a bain marie
  2. separate 3 eggs; add chocolate mixture to egg yolks when melted and cooled — slowly, otherwise there’d be scrambled eggs
  3. whisk egg whites, fold into chocolate mixture
  4. whisk 500ml whipping cream, add to chocolate mixture, leave in fridge to set for at least 1 hour

The end result was smooth and very rich, the chocolate was good. Sprinkled a little grated chocolate on top for decoration. We liked it.

in eating and drinking |


At parents’ and trying a new recipe for fake cheesecake made from yogurt and tofu. Supposed to be a quick recipe. The problem is, mum doesn’t have a cake tin. So I made the digestive crumb in dessert glasses. Combined 250g firm packaged tofu with 300g mango yogurt. The mixture was pretty lumpy, the recipe said to mix in a food processer which obviously we don’t have, so I sieved it. Added some diced mango and a little gelatin to set.

The mixture was still pretty lumpy, and there was probably too many mango pieces. When set, it looked like rather unsuccessful rice pudding. Tasted nice though, especially topped with even more delicious fresh mango pieces and a small drizzle of honey. It’s like sweet tofu, but with a little creaminess from the yogurt. I can see how the fake cheesecake version may be good. Only for people who like tofu though, and the idea of sweet tofu isn’t to everybody’s taste. Nice low calorie dessert. Will try with mixed berries yogurt and strawberry topping next time.

I really have to work on following recipe portions and presentation.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Badminton with mm after lunch. I went to her place early to try to fix her airport express, which was mine and is almost 10 years old. But to no avail, she’ll have to use ethernet until she can get the ISP to switch her to a wireless modem.

In terms of badminton, we’ve progressed slightly to the point where we were trying to win points against each other, slightly. Her way is to drop the shuttlecock just over the net and my way is to get some height and smash it. She doesn’t seem to like the shuttlecock heading straight towards her so I eased up on the smashing. Fun game, even though rallies were short, we played almost the full hour, just taking a few mins’ rest halfway through.

After showering, it was time for our feast. Salami and cheese from last year. Gigantic, thick scallops and sweet prawns we ate as sashimi. Chicken wings. Edamame and a cold starter she made from sea fungus, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic and ginger. Just one small glass of rosé each.

I napped whilst she played piano. And then it was time to leave. I felt weird. She gave me very little notice, only told me when I arrived, that she’d booked a foot massage session at 8.30pm. So it kinda meant I got kicked out just after 7pm, and I was a bit hurt that she didn’t ask if I wanted to join. She did drive me to a nearby station so I could catch the minibus home. I dunno, it’s the state of our relationship that always catch me unawares.

in eating and drinking |


Went to a local Irish pub with sis and gis. Their wine was apparently rubbish so we had a pint of house ale (me) and magners (sis) instead. They also have a large whisky menu, but I wasn’t in the mood. Anyway, for dinner I ordered fish and chips. Came in a faux newsprint paper, quite a large portion with 2 large pieces of unknown white fish and lots of chips.

Still suffering from a cold I contracted a few days ago, went through a whole box of tissues already. Not much of an appetite. Ate all of the fish, about half the batter and…5 chips. Really not much of a carb person today.

in eating and drinking |


Okra seems to be an acquired taste. I’ve always been suspicious of it because it’s slimy and I never know how to prepare it. Then we had it at a Japanese buffet, where they served them grilled on skewers, and they were really nice. There are methods to lower the slime quotient which basically minimises how long the okra is in contact with water.

Bought a couple of bags from the market, not expensive at all. Typical southern cooking method is to deep fry it, or use it in gumbo. What I did, I just heated the grill pan to smoking hot and grilled them quickly for 10mins. Didn’t cut off the tops until just before throwing into the pan. Seasoned with s&p. Simple, crunchy, not slimy at all and very nice.

in eating and drinking |


Went especially with sis and gis to this bar at happy hour, braving the friday night crowd, so we could have their 500g burrata. Gis loves the burrata at pizza express and this one was much larger, although IMO less tasty. What is burrata? Read about it at the kitchn. It’s not mozzarella, although it’s similar in taste and texture. To my not so great palatte, there’s a small difference but that’s it. Expensive too.

in eating and drinking |


Early start. 9.30am meeting with the consultancy. It’s been weeks since I last interviewed with them, and I had written the whole venture off. The meeting with a new director went very well. We met at a coffee shop, he had some breakfast and I tried eating a banana bread (managed 1/3). Talked for 2 hours. I’ve never heard of an interview meeting lasting 2hrs. Positive feeling.

Met mm and a colleague for drinks at a peanut peeling place. Shared a buffalo wings starter and tried to go to pizza express for dinner. We were full from the peanuts that all we could manage was one small slice of pizza, a couple of stuffed mushrooms and some salad each. Took the rest home. Lots to think about.

in eating and drinking |


Met up with mm to see the shopfront from yesterday. Dinner at our usual Korean place — bibimbap, tofu soup, topokki. Everything quite spicy. She hasn’t been feeling well, the spiciy stuff should help, at least that’s our theory.

in eating and drinking |


Went over to help sis tidy up her flat, she’s about halfway through unpacking and putting things away only after 1-2 days, yay.

After dinner with parents we headed over to the LKF beer festival. When we were in the taxi it started pouring, so we had to take cover and wait for the rain to stop. The whole LKF area was pedestrianised and there were stalls selling beer and food. We only tried one craft beer stall, got a tangarine and a rather hoppy beer. Some other stalls had quick games. We missed getting bar towels but managed to get some finger lights.

It started raining heavily again. After sheltering under a leaking canopy for a while, we decided to brave the downpour and head home. She went to the FCC to get a taxi and I headed downhill to get a bus.

in eating and drinking |


Pizza and rosé at mm’s place for lunch, we had stuff to talk about so I went over. Tired afterwards so we each napped where we were sat.

She wasn’t feeling very well, but made the effort to go to her niece’s 5th birthday party. Just family and there was a lot of food — spare ribs, chicken wings, lamb rack, pasta, 2 types of salad, grilled prawns, nachos and a hello kitty birthday cake. And sangria too. Was late when we left.

in eating and drinking |

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Went to a tapas bar near the office for lunch with mm, she called me up mid-morning. Not cheap but very nice and delicate plates. Beet & pear salad on goat’s cheese and some sand; lovely steak tartare on very thin melba toast; cuttlefish with chorizo, broad beans and mint. Dessert of custard tart from a nearby bakery.

She had to go back to work, so I went to get my hair cut. Sam moved to a new place, older and more crowded. Not the greatest shop interior but we’ll get used to it.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Met up with sis for lunch, she took me to sushi. Had a set that included appetiser, chopped fish chirashi, small bowl of udon, steamed egg, fruit and coffee/tea. Hung out at her flat in the afternoon, trying not to be too tired.

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Dinner with parents and sis for late birthday dinner for sis. Went to the restaurant at the market that we had to get there before 6pm. Had golden prawns, steamed clams, chicken and vegetables. Got a bottle of wine at the wine shop nearby, only HKD30 corkage. Nice meal. Long day, quite tired because I woke up early.

in eating and drinking |


Went with Sis to a tapas place for drinks. They don’t have happy hour, no 2-for-1, no lower prices. They have a few choices, I tried a Barbera for the first time, nice. The trade off for no happy hour is that they have free tapas. Bread rolls, stuffed tomatoes, fried balls, prawns, tortilla omelette and later a spicy pasta.

Visited a polynesian bar called Honi Honi afterwards. Disappointing — watered down cocktails, no polynesian atmosphere except the glasses and some decorations. Finished at the FCC for satay, calamari and cheesecake. Macallan 18 year sherry cask.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


It’s July 4th but it doesn’t have too much significance now that I’m not in Chicago. It’s really hot but I needed food so I braved the heat to go to the market and supermarket to get some vegetables, fruit, milk and the like.

A small nod to a July 4th tradition, met with mm for korean bbq. Went to the AYCE place my parents like. Took our time, ate lots and chatted. It’s good to be spending time together again.

in eating and drinking |

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hkjojo003curry hkjojo004gulabjamun

We had indian buffet for lunch, a place near the office. Good value, US$11 including one drink. We ordered lassi and beer respectively. The selection was pretty good: chickpea & potato salad, regular salad, poppadums, dips for starters. A grill tray including tandoori chicken, lamb and chicken skewer. Another couple of hot trays of curry: chicken curry, butter chicken, mud-cooked lamb, lamb rogan josh, vegetables and daal. We love the okra and the mushroom was slightly spicy. For dessert there was watermelon, rice pudding and the very sweet gulab jamun.

We’ll definitely go again.

in eating and drinking |

Here’s another post that belongs in London 2012. The Exotic Meat Company at Borough market is my go-to place if I’m there at mealtimes. They have a grill that sells ostrich or kangaroo rolls for around £5-6. The stall sells mainly ostrich from Gamston Wood Farm but also stocks exotic burgers like springbok, kudu, bison, zebra, impala and crocodile. Aside from the exotic nature of these meats, they tend to be leaner and healthier than beef. Mum and I bought a bunch of these burgers to try out over the course of a couple of weeks. Here in reverse order of our preference:


5: camel
The toughest of the lot. Fatty and tendon-y. It’s a delicacy in the middle east, but since most of the meat comes from the hump, it stands to reason that it is really fatty.

The flavour is okay, a bit like veal. But the reason it comes 5th is down to the fattiness, it was like eating a mouthful of fat.


4: zebra
I’ve had zebra before, in Kenya and found it tough then. Still finding it tough this time. Quite chewy, but not as fatty as the camel. Again, it’s a meat that is supposed to be leaner and healthier than beef. Some describe it as tasting a little like rabbit while some describe it as tasting like horse or beef. Gotta laugh, rabbit and horse taste nothing like each other. I thought the camel tasted more like horse than rabbit, it’s not as delicate or tender, which is what I’d expect from rabbit.


3: llama
Llama, not surprisingly, is traditionally eaten in Bolivia and other South American countries. It’s supposed to taste like less greasy beef and lamb. I liked the taste, which was like lower quality, coarser beef. It was nice and meaty, although on the dry side.


2: elk
Considering elks are a member of the deer family, elk meat will be like venison. A large animal found in North America and some parts of Asia. Some people lump elk with deer and all them all venison anyway. I thought it was less red meat-like than venison, tasted more like beef and a little like veal.


1: springbok
Springboks are antelopes, so technically it’s another venison. Commonly found and served in South Africa. It’s a smaller animal than the elk, and this is reflected in the meat. Very tender, very subtle, lean and not gamey. Definitely our favourite in terms of taste, texture, colour and flavour.

in eating and drinking |

I should have written this post last year, when I was still in London. Just as well, because I’m missing London a hell of a lot nowadays. So many things I should have done while I was there (bought a flat, for instance), so many things I could still do (buy a flat, for instance).

Anyway, last summer I tried out the famous lobster rolls at burger & lobster and hawksmoor.


I went first to Burger & Lobster. The nearest tube to the mayfair branch is green park but I walked from bond street via grosvenor square. It’s in the posh part of town behind park lane. No reservation, so I purposely went after the lunch rush. The restaurant décor is of modern wood and served 3 things: burgers, grilled lobsters and lobster rolls. I picked a high table and ordered a lobster roll and a bull & bear cocktail which was woodford reserve, blackberries, raspberries, mure and zinfandel. The lobster roll was great, the melted butter enhanced the flavours and made it all very yummy. £20 was okay, considering it’s london and the location.


Hawksmoor next. Oh, what can I say about the place. It’s no secret I’m totally in love with the restaurant. I went to my usual branch, seven dials, and found a perch at the bar. The lobster roll came with their triple cooked chips and homemade ketchup. I had a dark porter with it. Really, really nice. £25.

Which one won? I can’t decide. Both are great. I guess for value for money it’ll have to be burger & lobster. Hawksmoor for atmosphere. If I get a second chance, I’ll try the grilled lobster at burger & lobster and stick to my usual steaks at hawksmoor.

in eating and drinking |


Sis, gis and I went to this place that served all day brunch. Sis ordered their regular dinner set of camembert toast, steak and lemon cake. Gis had banana chocolate crêpes (yes, for dinner). I ordered croque monsieur that came with an egg, making it a croque madame.

May be it’s the dreadful weather, or I was too thirsty, or I didn’t have much of an appetite. I did not like it at all. The bread was soggy in the middle and the crunch of the crust was more due to staleness than properly toasted. There wasn’t enough cheese and the béchamel sauce overwhelmed everything. The egg on top, well it was pretty sad. Came with a salad and a hash brown. Honestly, I would have preferred a normal ham and cheese toastie.

The only good thing about the meal was Gis’ crêpes which were pretty okay. And we were there during happy hour (5-9pm, quite generous) so wine was 2-for-1.

in eating and drinking |


Went to a teppanyaki restaurant with sis and gis, shared a seafood set for 2: scallops, black cod, squid, oysters, king prawns as well as the usual fried rice and vegetables. A bottle of warm sake. Nice place, nice meal. Been lacking in seafood lately, been catching up this week.

in eating and drinking |

szhyatt050seafood szhyatt047pizzabanana

Met up with mm and took the train to SZ. Lunch was the extensive buffet at Grand Hyatt, located next to this empty luxury shopping mall.

Huge restaurant with high ceilings and a multitude of stations. Cold meat, salad, the seafood counter had blue swimmer crabs, prawns, clams, scampi and mussels. There was also a rather tasteless salmon tartar. The Japanese station had soba, sushi, sashimi and chefs grilling skewers to order. The choices were chicken, chicken heart and okra. The western station had roast beef and lamb with the usual veg as well as pizza. Banana pizza was great, the roasts had no seasoning and was a bit tough.

Free juice, coffee, 6 types of tea and another station of Chinese food and the dessert station. Overall a good buffet, with enough good food outweighing the small number of misses. Pluses for me: cold seafood, grilled okra, banana pizza. Minuses: some food lacked flavour, I think it’s a question of palate and taste; dessert station rather mediocre. Still, relaxing environment so we had a good time.

Here’s the flickr set.

in eating and drinking |


Mum took me to the halal stall inside the cooked food centre at “goose neck” wet market. We’ve been meaning to go there for ages, but they close early so we often miss it. Dinner at 5pm doesn’t faze us, we eat early, my family.

I had lamb curry with rice, Mum had lamb curry with noodles. Guess what the stall is famous for? It’s one of those small, a little grubby, family run hole-in-a-wall place that gets featured in an Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern program. Sort of secret known only to locals.

That lamb curry was excellent. Seriously excellent. The sauce must be decades old and very spicy. Served in an unassuming small bowl perched at the side of the plate of rice. My lips were buring and when I wiped my mouth on a napkin, there’s the satisfying tell-tale yellow stain. The lamb itself was succulent, and not fatty at all. The portion was more than enough for me, there were quite a few pieces of meat, mostly on the bone. And I got a large piece of bone to suck on, yay!

The cost for that lamb curry rice was 35 local dollars. Less than £3.00 or $4.50. Seriously. We had pomelo skin stewed with prawn bits and I drank a whole bottle of 600ml Kronenbourg. They also sell roast duck to die for, apparently my dad gets the roast duck rice and ask for curry sauce on top. Next time I’ll do that. And there will be a next time.

in eating and drinking |


I have very little comprehension of American southern food. It seems that everything is fried and there’s a lot of carbs, although I understand how frying makes everything taste good. To be honest and like many non-Americans, I’m horrified by Paula Deen but on the other hand I secretly want to try her restaurant just once. Preferably during the latter stages of marathon training when my metabolism is turbo-charged and I can eat whatever I like.

So, I have a couple of catfish filets in my freezer. Normally I’d just grill them or lightly pan-fry but I was surfing around and it turns out that fried catfish is a typical southern dish. It’s coated with cornmeal and fried. May be worth trying.

I have no cornmeal, it’s an ingredient I’m unfamiliar with. I doubt I can find it — or it’d be extremely expensive. I do have polenta except the box isn’t opened and I don’t want to use it yet. So I breaded the fish with a packet of instant grits. It’s either that or normal flour, or oatmeal. Grits is basically a coarser version of cornmeal, right?

Standard breading procedure — flour, eggwash, grits. The grits were flavoured with s&p, a little paprika and some oregano. (I felt like oregano, it’s not obviously a southern herb.) Then fried. I was using the grill pan for courgettes so I just used the same pan for the fish, ideally I should have used a normal frying pan.

Tasted great, even though it didn’t look that good. Fish was succulent and the breading was crispy. I know, I need to work on my presentation.

in all about people , eating and drinking |

monparty001salad monparty004quiche

Went to mm’s friend M’s place for a small gathering — only 4 of us plus her helper. Potluck where our friend, mm and I all contributed something. For starter, I made warm roasted peppers, courgettes and butternut squash on green salad. Used the juice from the roasting as dressing plus a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. The butternut squash was a bit sloppy but tasted nice. The peppers were roasted the safer way, in a hot 200°C oven. The skin was nicely charred but the insides were beginning to melt due to too much cooking. Normally I roast my peppers directly in the hob but mm was horrified. I think I’ll go back to the risky way next time.

For second course M made a bacon, asparagus and mushroom quiche that was simple and tasted great. We agreed the pastry could have been thinner but we were just being deliberately picky, it was great. M also made sangria, quite a lot of soda as she didn’t want too much alcohol for her other guest, I.

monparty011tart monparty015scones

Mains was roast lamb rack and stir-fried green beans, cherry tomatoes and mushroom made my M’s helper. Good stuff. For dessert, I made the french apple tart that didn’t quite work last time. Better this time, I made sure everything including the pastry and filling were chilled for 2 hours and the oven was set at over 200°C. Needed some glaze, but I forgot. Served with vanilla ice cream that, ah, M’s helper mistakenly put in the main compartment in the fridge so it was more like semi-frozen cream. Tasted fine. I really need to work on presentation.

Played mahjong for a bit. Tea time was provided by mm who made cranberry & orange and raisin scones. Very good. Light and fluffy, not too sweet. She was up till 4am last night making them, poor thing.

We all agreed it was a successful gathering and already have plans for our next time. It’s not too common for people to entertain at home here (most people have helpers and don’t know how to cook) but we much prefer this method than going out to a restaurant. More relaxing. Better food.

in eating and drinking |

doughballs02 spaghettiaglio02

Sis has an evening function so gis is having a sleepover at my place. We went to pizza express for early dinner. It’s one of the few pizza places I like. We had doughballs to start, it’s sort of a must have there, and you can even get them at supermarkets now. For mains we both had pasta, I had a pretty okay spaghetti aglio e olio. Too full for dessert so we got the bus home.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

We still have some vouchers left for Le Fauchon, so we had lunch there. A nice soup and salad starter, oxtail for mains and a small chocolate cake. Tea and coffee too. Good bargain, even though the oxtail wasn’t completely melt off the bone, and I only had two bites of the cake.

Hot, hot, hot day. Walked mm back to the office and was about to leave when I bumped into ex-colleague. Chatted for a bit, by the time I left it was almost 3.30pm. Headed off to the market to get fruit and veg.

in eating and drinking |

umai005oyster umai016appletart

We had a groupon at one of those trying-to-be-swanky oyster restaurants. 25/F in a commercial building with good view. The groupon was for 18 oysters, 2 glasses of wine and a smoked salmon salad. Plus 10% off their a la carte menu. Not many wine choices, only one of each. Chardonnay or pinot or dessert wine. I had the pinot and mm had the dessert wine, not sure what it is, it’s from Germany and it was too dark to read the label.

Nine oysters each. Start from 7 o’clock position and move clockwise on the pic. Two each of sandy bay, coffin bay, irish rock and fin de claire. One of white pearl from France. We both liked the first two, cheaper, australian variety. The sandy bay was crisp and fresh; the coffin bay was more creamy and tasted of the sea. The others were good too but in general overpriced. Two shots offered too: one a wasabi cocktail and the other was a kamikaze. Tried one shot, decided against another. The smoked salmon salad was small and forgettable.

We decided to skip mains and ordered dessert. Chocolate fondant for mm and apple tart for me. Again, okay but not particularly memorable. The menu is the same tired steak/fish/pork chop combo that are okay but no imagination, no adventure. Quite pricey, even for us. Not value for money.

in eating and drinking |


On Food & Drink Michel Roux Jr asked his guests (Monica Galetti!) if he gave them £5 what comfort food would they buy. Kate Goodman said salt & vinegar crisps and Monica Galetti (Monica Galetti!) said chocolate.

Without thinking, what came to my mind was ham. My ham obsession started when Mum fed me it after I came home from swimming lessons and I could never resist great quailty ham on the bone. SIgh. Sigh. Sigh.

All I can afford now is sliced ham in packets. Not very high quality, but I can still eat scads of it.

in eating and drinking |


Had a gathering with mm and her mum at her place. Cheese and dried sausages with a nice gewurztraminer. I made warm grilled vegetable salad (peppers, courgettes, butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, rocket). Also tried making a french apple tart, and mm requested apple crumble.

The apple tart recipe is from Michel Roux Jr, I saw him make it on Food & Drink and it looked straightforward.

Roll out 180g puff pastry into a 25cm round, chill in fridge. Spread over apple compote (an apple stewed with a bit of water and sugar) and lay over sliced apples. Eggwash the pastry edges, sprinkle 2tbsp sugar and dots of butter, glaze. Bake at 200°C for 30mins until golden brown.

Except it wasn’t straightforward. The pastry didn’t rise properly and the tart ended up with what Paul Hollywood would call soggy bottom. I have no idea why. May be the pastry wasn’t cold enough, may be the compote and apple slices weren’t cold enough, may be the compote was too wet, may be the oven wasn’t hot enough. I can bake fairly competently and have no problems with crumbles and choux pastry. I’m just not very good at regular pastry.

I pan-fried a slice in a regular frying pan and the bottom was crispy. Overall, the flavours were fine so it’s a matter of mastering the puff pastry.

in eating and drinking |


One of the tasks on the trip was to get whisky at DXB duty free. It helped that I saw the large selection last time, and on the layover to Copenhagen I was able to browse even more. I’d promised a GCLS friend I’d bring a bottle of VAT 69 to Dallas, so I got that. Big bargain, less than $20.

I could get another bottle, which would be for myself. I’d finished an Edradour (mostly making whisky honey & lemon when I was sick in Feb) so I wanted a Speyside or HIghland. In any case, not peated as the Ardbeg is still open. This ruled out a very tempting Laphroaig PX or an even more tempting Caol Ila 12. Sigh. I briefly thought about a Jura 16.

Original intention was Dalmore 12, seeing how popular it is. But I didn’t want to commit to a whole bottle of a standard expression without having tried it first. That was what I did with BNJ and the aforesaid Edradour, and I would have preferred Highland Park 12 over either one.

My eye was drawn to a Glengoyne Burnfoot. No age expression, travel retail only. Named in honour of the original name of the distillery. But the difference was, I had tried it before, sometime last year when RM and I were doing the distillery rounds. I have a bottle already at home. I remember it being smooth and sweet. And at a price of AED143, or £30 for 1 litre, is good value for money.

It’s as sweet as I remembered. Needed a drop of water and to sit a while for the flavour to develop and the kick to dissipate. Reviews say apple, I get sticky heaviness and lots of citrus to finish. Definitely a more than worthy successor to the rather sharp Edradour. Next time, Dalwhinnie or Old Pulteney or back to my favourite HP12.

in eating and drinking |

jaspassurfturf01 fccsummerpudding01

Met up with Sis to catch up. We’d originally arranged to meet at this bar/restaurant called the Globe but when I got there it was busy and the wait staff was unfriendly. Directed me to the bar where someone had already set up their laptop and some sort of credit card application form, probably someone on the staff. Didn’t like the noise level so I headed off elsewhere. Ended up at an old standby, Jaspas.

Pretty nice dinner, and the waitress was super nice and super friendly. We both had surf and turf and a glass of wine. Then walked over to the FCC for dessert, I had summer pudding. Sis had coffee and I tried the Dalmore 12. The FCC like all foreign correspondents clubs all over the world, a little British, a little old school, full of hard drinking journalists. I almost bought a Dalmore 12 in the duty free on the way back, but at the end opted for a Glengoyne Burnfoot instead. Having tried the Dalmore, I’m glad I decided against it. It’s not bad, just not exciting.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |

mielepots norwayrepsils

I got sick on the first day of our holiday, the first day in Copenhagen. Could have been on the plane, layover at Dubai, the train from the airport, or when walking around in the city. I knew when my throat felt so dry when I woke up after the first night. It wasn’t a sore throat, just an extremely uncomfortable dryness. I tried drinking throughout the day, and had a supply of ricola and chewing gum at hand.

By the time we got on the cruise I knew I was going to be sick. The worst day was Kiel, when my throat felt like it was on fire the whole day. Apart from that, I didn’t feel any worse than normal, no tiredness, no cough (yet) so I tried to continue with the holiday as normal.

The fiery throat abated somewhat over the next 2 days when we reached the fjords but the coughing started. Mum asked if I wanted to go to the medical centre, but I didn’t want to. By the time we reached Bergen, I had begun to run out of ricola but luckily we found a 7-eleven and bought some strepsils. Or as they call it, repsils. Big help, especially the double action ones.

What also helped was the availability of honey and lemon in the cafeteria. I took enough pots of honey at breakfast to last the whole day and there’s always sliced lemon at the tea/coffee station. Drinking 3-4 large glasses a day must have helped soothe the scratchiness in my throat. And the coughing too. If I were at home I would have added whisky (of course) but just the honey and lemon was good enough.

Plus, this time I didn’t try to run a half marathon in the middle of a flu, just slow 30mins on the treadmill in the gym, so I didn’t get more sick. Still coughing a little, just as well I still have a supply of honey.

in eating and drinking |


We went for an oyster opening short course in the evening. 6 oysters and they say 2 glasses of wine that turned out to be total one glass in volume. No matter, it was fun.

We each got an oyster opening knife which we can take home. The instructor was pretty good, demonstrating the technique first then helping whenever anyone needed help. Things we learned from him: soak the oysters in salted ice water for 15mins to get rid of scum and bugs — salted ice water not because it’s like seawater but because salt reduces the temperature of the ice and will numb any bugs embedded in the shells so they fall off. The skirt of the oyster inside can be brown or black depending on the temperature when they were harvested. Squirt some lemon juice or gently touch the skirt once opened to check if the oyster is still alive, the skirt will shrink if it is.

Place the oyster around a wet cloth folded over, hold it down with your palm, insert the knife through the lip. Firmly push it up and down a few times, and make sure it’s touching the roof of the shell and stuck inside. Then lever gently and it will open. Clean off bits of shell and detach. I got my first one opened within a few seconds and I even managed a couple of more difficult ones.

The oysters were extremely fresh, and full of seawater. Lovely, lovely taste. No need even for lemon or any condiments. Our favourite was the fine de claire which had a little mineral taste and excellent texture. There were also rock oysters from Ireland, ones from Holland and another French one.

in eating and drinking , family first , on the relationship front |


Met up with mm, she came to pick me up in her car and I directed her to a new area she’s never been to. Just simple lunch of rib-eye and vegetables. Went to the library, window shopped at estate agents and went to a small store. Went over to the church so she can get a spare copy of her baptism certificate. I wanted to get my confirmation certificate filled out too, but apparently I have to return to the church I was baptised in, not the one I was confirmed. Strange.

Met with family at a pub near Sis’ place so we can have a family dinner for early celebration of Mum’s birthday. Nice pub, not too crowded and it was okay for my niece. I had smoked duck breast with mash and a big floret of broccoli. A couple of glasses of Hoegaarten too.

in eating and drinking |


The newest tasting, Adelphi whisky. Not quite my usual, something from an independent bottler. The name is taken from an old distillery that closed in 1907.

Tasted the cheaper blended one, which was quite okay and the price was good for daily drinking. The one that got me excited was a cask from Caol Ila that says it’s 25yr. I’m not sure I’m convinced about independent bottlers, or blends. Withholding judgement yet.

in eating and drinking |

fauchonicecheesecake01 bluevanilla

An all around eating out day. Lunch with mm at Bistrot Le Fauchon, 2 courses with tea/coffee for just over US$10. Salad for starter, I had duck breast and she had a lamb shank. We shared a carafe of wine and a dessert off the à la carte menu. Haven’t tried iced cheesecake before, it was beautifully presented in a cone made from dark and white chocolate. Very nice, creamy and not too sweet, just a hint of cheese. Found a recipe worth trying — seems to be normal chilled cheesecake but frozen instead.

Met with sis and gis for early dinner before taking gis to the Dr Bunhead show. Gis had goats cheese tart and I had a scotch egg—still full from lunch. Afterwards we headed over to Holly Brown for ice cream. Another first for me—blue vanilla ice cream, which I had coldstoned with blueberries. My tongue was blue! Taste was creamy, fruity and I enjoyed it.

in eating and drinking |


Whenever I had some spare time in Covent Garden I’d always try to go to 10 cases for a glass of wine. Prices were the same as pubs and they have a more superior selection. That was where I developed a taste for Chinon, especially during last summer when I felt like a lighter red. Chinon is a Loire wine and mostly cabernet franc. I was quite happy to discover that one of the supermarkets has it, albeit a little more expensive than the Australian, Chile or South African wine that occupy most of the shelves. I’m still on my old world kick, and I have to be careful about French and Italian wines here. They’re either overpriced (Bordeaux) or not very good plonk.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Met mm for lunch, then went to an appointment with her. She had taken the afternoon off, so we took the car and drove out to a little bit further. It rained, but we were lucky to get a parking space quickly and managed a nice walk around. Explored the wet market, the pier, stopped for oysters (gillardo, cumbrae, holland live) and a small glass of wine. Back to her place for pizza and red shrimps. For the second night in a row, she drove me home.

in eating and drinking |


I can’t remember when Japanese food became so popular. To show my age, it wasn’t widely available when I was younger, and now it’s everywhere. It’s one of my favourite cuisines. Can’t go wrong with fresh fish, tempting tempura and yummy yakitori. I have missed Japanese food while I was in Chicago and London. Spicy tuna rolls, while very nice, aren’t Japanese food. And in London I stuck with yo!sushi which again, not quite authentic.

Always happy to have Japanese. Quick dinner with mm, fresh prawn, salmon, squid, sea urchin sushi with steamed tofu. And I had a draught beer too. It’s all very fresh.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

agnesbdaycake02 braisedeelpepper

It’s mm’s birthday. We met up after lunch for tea — she had fruit sponge and I had a nice chestnut cake. Rich hot chocolate and iced chocolate accompanied the delicate (and a little expensive) cakes. Wandered around the shopping mall, took the bus to the flower market street and bought some cheap diffusers.

Dinner at a new restaurant, one that serves seafood. We had braised eel with taro and pumpkin, stuffed peppers and noodles. The eel was sweet and the sauce very nice. The highlight was the stuffed peppers though, very delicious, a little spicy with the seeds left in. Large plates too, we both had enough to take home.

in eating and drinking |


1.7l (3pt) milk
1 vanilla pod
300g arborio rice
200g sugar
5 large eggs
50ml cointreau
40g raisins
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

I saw this recipe for orange rice cake on Two Greedy Italians and it looked so fabulous that I couldn’t wait to try it. So I made it for my parents.

Bring the milk to a boil together with the sugar, vanilla pod and large pieces of lemon zest. Add the rice all at once, stir at low to medium heat until the rice has absorbed the mlik, around 25-30mins. The mixture should be creamy and slightly thick. Remove from heat and cool, discarding the vanilla and lemon zest.

Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with cointreau. Whisk the whites until firm. Once the rice mixture has cooled, add the egg yolks, raisin, orange zest then fold in the egg whites. Bake at 180°C for about 1 hr. Can be served hot or cold.

A long time ago, I had a moist, custardy, slightly heavy cake from France. It’s a bit like canalé but with dried fruit. This tasted a bit like that. There’s a lot of custard flavour, the rice gives a different texture and the citrus is a good contrast. Flourless, butterless but still very rich and yummy.

in eating and drinking |


March 27th is international whisky day, a global celebration of whisky originally set up to honour the late Michael Jackson:

On this date let every whisk(e)y lover annually raise a dram - wherever in the world he or she may be - to honour the many unsung heroes of the past and present, who have been crafting the King O’ Drinks for centuries and will hopefully continue to do so till the end of time.

I have 3 bottles of whisky currently open at home:

  • edradour — the smallest distillery in Scotland. When I had that terrible 3 week bronchitis, I made serious inroads into the bottle making whisky, lemon and honey, aka hot toddy
  • ardbeg — peat monster, no introduction needed
  • kavalan — from taiwan, one of the newer and more unusual whisky producing countries

I think this is a good strategy, to have a selection always on the shelf. A highland / speyside / lowland, an Islay / island and then one from the rest of the world: either a bourbon or one from an unusual location. Three seems to be a good number.

in eating and drinking |

nanami03porkchop nanami02yakitori
nanami01starter nanami04custard

Went with sis and gis to a small, family styled japanese restaurant for dinner. Only a few tables, patchy service, but very sincere. I had one of the set: selection of small starters, deep fried pork chop with chicken rice, honey custard pudding. Sis had yakitori and udon. Gis had pork chop and rice, no set. The set came with sake, plum wine or calpis soft drink. We had the sake, one hot and one cold.

in eating and drinking |


Lunch today was unlimited japanese hot pot. Beef and pork sliced from the freezer. Vegetables and noodles and tofu at the buffet bar. Plus soft ice cream and soft drinks. Yet another day where lunch was also dinner.

in eating and drinking |


Went to Korean bbq lunch with parents, an all-you-can-eat affair. Small banchan selection (kimchi, spinach, potato etc), hot food, lots of meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, squid) and vegetables. Dessert included sweet tofu, coconut pudding, ice cream, fruit. Plum juice and soy milk at the fountain. Very full. Enough for the whole day, we all just had a little fruit for dinner.

in eating and drinking |


Normally I don’t drink white wine; it gives me a headache. But with Indian food with Sis yesterday, it was the better choice — I would have liked a rosé but the shop didn’t have any ready chilled. So I got this riesling which went by a long name: Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten. The vintage was 2011. And it was very nice, very sweet, and didn’t give me a headache. I took the rest of the bottle home.

in eating and drinking |


Went over to sis’ in the afternoon. Dinner was at a nearby Indian restaurant, we were the only customers but the food was good. Fish curry, lamb biryani, mutter paneer, samosas, peas rice, roti canal. BYO Riesling. I’d go back again.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |


8.25km 1.04.39hr 7.50min/km (12.37min/mi)

I need to pull my finger out and get over this lethargy. No running for 3 weeks, stuck inside for a whole week? Pitiful and lame. So I went running after lunch. 8.25km is just over 5 miles. Mostly ran slowly, with some walking at the water fountains. Just getting back to the rhythm.

And because it’s St Patrick’s Day, the reward is pork chops, roasted cauliflower and a big bottle of Guinness Foreign Extra. Yum.

p.s. that glass is an extremely heavy ML crystal glass that I got when I reached 5 years’ service, there’s a tiny bull engraving at the front. Wonder if it’s a collectors’ item now.

in eating and drinking , how the day went , on the relationship front |

shanghaineselunch eelnoodle

Met up for mm, she had car hunting on her mind having all of a sudden decided she wanted to buy a car. Had shanghainese lunch — eel noodles, snow peas with dried tofu and jellied pig’s trotter. It’s been a long time since I had the sautéed eels, used to have it a lot with my grandparents. Fried with bean sprouts and noodes, it was more filling and less oily.

Then went to a bunch of dealers, first to look at new cars. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford. Then to a second hand place. Saw a lovely BMW 118i that I liked. Not many golfs so we headed to the VW dealer. Booked a test drive for next week.

It was like going out with a good friend. That’s as much as I can expect nowadays. 10hrs together is better than sitting around like an idiot at home.

in eating and drinking |


While I’m not sure, sadly, if I’ll ever get fresh yellow beets again (the ones in the pic are from the farmers market in Chicago), I can get the regular red beets. Easy oven job, roast beets, roast corn on the cob, chicken drumsticks.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Feeling depressed. Tried to meet up with mm, did a bit of shopping. Went for a glass of wine at the place where you get unlimited peanuts and you throw the shells on the floor. On the floor, that’s what I feel like right now. In my life, in everything. Not sure what I’m doing here in a place I hate, not sure what I should do, not sure of anything, full stop. Feel like I’m struggling to push myself into a rare timeslot she has graciously made available for me out of pity. Need guidance from angels on what to do now, and what future to look forward to. Not in a good place.

in eating and drinking |

I found this video on my iphone. Last year mm and I went to a Japanese whisky bar, and the bartender / owner demonstrated to us how to make a perfectly round ice sphere from a large cube of ice by hand. There are moulds and machines on the market, but this guy did it using 3 different knives. In 3 minutes. I snipped repetitive parts, and also so it fits within the 1:30 limit.


Trust the Japanese to invent something so odd, yet so beautiful. The theory is that the sphere has the smallest surface area of all 3-dimensional objects so a spherical block of ice will melt slower than regularly shaped ice cubes. This is especially important for whisky, you want the whisky to get cool but don’t want it to get watered down so quicky.

in eating and drinking |


It’s not really a mushroom fricassee, just 3 types of mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, enoki) thrown together with some leftover chestnuts. And fried hard tofu. Served with quinoa. Very brown and plain, but tasted nice.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |

200calavo 200calsnickers
200calcelery 200calbaileys

Now that I’m sick and not running, I have to be careful of what I eat. Well, when I have the appetite, I haven’t felt like eating much anyway. My maintenance calorie target isn’t very generous; if I go out for a meal that usually is it.

It’s interesting to see what 200 calories look like. One avocado, half a bar of snickers, a huge plate (almost 1.5kg) of celery, or a tiny glass of baileys. Some quite deceptive.

in eating and drinking |


Bad night, still feeling terrible. But sis called and asked if I could go around to her place and stay with gis for a bit after school. So off I went and we ended up watching tv. Stayed till dinnertime, and we all went to this creperie. I had a goat’s cheese and caramel one followed by apples flambéed with calvados. Sis had just banana and chocolate; gis had ham, egg, tomato, camembert breakfast one followed by a nice lemon one.

in eating and drinking |


Went with mm to a shabu shabu restaurant called something like Mou Mou club. Fun name. It’s an all-you-can-eat affair, with pricing depending on the quality of beef and pork you want — it goes from the normal sliced beef all the way to wagyu beef. There’s also a buffet counter with lots of vegetables, noodles, miniature sausages, fish balls and rice. We picked a tomato soup base. Unlimited soft drinks and ice cream included too. The only downside is the time limit of 90mins, which meant we couldn’t linger. A good deal overall.

in eating and drinking |

1976 McDonald's Hot Pie & Coffee sign
1976 McDonald’s coffee and apple pie, by flickr user daniel85r

Met mm for lunch at a Japanese place near her home, then we took the bus to one of the beaches. We walked round the very touristy market stalls for a while then decided to stop for a coffee (for her) and coke (for me). Instead of going into the overpriced and crowded cafés, we headed to Mcdonalds. She only wanted a regular coffee and quite honestly, my coke zero was cheaper and tasted exactly the same as those expensive places. We even got a pie each. The 4 items together would have bought us just a coffee at the other places. I showed her my cruise pics on my camera and we continued to get caught up on 10 days’ worth of news.

in eating and drinking |


I have 10,000 airmiles expiring today, so I was searching to redeem those miles. Last year I exchanged 15,000 miles for a bottle of Ardbeg 10yr plus a tasting glass. Initially I was tempted again but decided I have far too many bottles of whisky at home. Besides, the Ardbegs I really want are Uigeadail or Alligator. The standard 10yr is really nice, but the others are nicer.

What I did end up getting for 8,000 miles was a Riedel Swirl set of 4 wine glasses and a decanter. The glasses look good and are perfect for everyday drinking. I have a selection of traditional stemmed and contemporary unstemmed glasses, and these are a great addition to the collection. I don’t have a wine decanter, so this is a plus.

While browsing the food and dining section of the miles catalogue, I saw a bunch of Manny O wines available for only 3,500 miles. I’d never heard of this brand of wines, and my first reaction was that they are plonk. A little googling revealed that it’s a custom wine blender from the Philippines, of all places, that have won some awards. I thought the rosé was interesting but it was out of stock so I got the 2009 Sumiler from Yecla, Spain — apparently from 40 year old vines. There are 2 bottles in the set, let’s see if they are any good.

in eating and drinking |


Doesn’t this look nice? Fresh mixed vegetables. Carrots, mushroom, beans.

in eating and drinking |

snakesoup claypotfroglegrice

Met up with mm for lunch of soup and rice. Sounds normal enough? Ha!! The soup is thick and savoury, made with snake, chicken, mushroom and topped with chrysanthemum leaves and crunchy crackers. And yes, snake tastes like chicken — a little tougher chicken, as if it’d been boiled for too long. Tasty, very tasty.

The rice was cooked directly in a claypot. We ordered two, the first was topped with frog’s legs and more mushroom, the second was snake liver and fish swim bladder. Probably scary even just reading about it, right? The frog’s legs were our favourites, and they taste like very tender chicken. The snake liver and fish bladder were okay, a little crunchy, as if they needed a bit more braising. The rice was almost burnt, so the bottom is like crunchy rice cracker. Nice.

in eating and drinking |

mincedporktower steamedfish

Food I’ve had recently. This was at a local restaurant where the service was quick and, to be honest, not very good. Food was freshly made though. Steamed minced pork in a tower, with a salted duck egg. The pork was soft, juicy and not oily. Perfect with plain rice.

The second dish was steamed fish. Just cooked, with a nice sauce. Another great dish with plain rice. We ordered clams also, but as part of the bad service, it never arrived. In a way it was okay because we were pretty full with the pork and fish.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

I was watching 2 different Jamie Oliver programs. The first was his food revolution program where he was in an American elementary school and kids couldn’t even recognise a fresh potato, or tomato, or eggplant, or any fresh vegetable. They could all recognise french fries and fried chicken though. The second was an old Naked Chef program where he visited his old school in Essex. He brought out some buffalo mozzarella and asked the class if they recognised it, and most of the class said yes.

The point? It is a sad state of affairs in the US, where kids have never seen nor come into contact with fresh food. Is it typical? I’m no expert, but anecdotally, I can say that America is where I have found the greasiest, most processed, hugest portions of food as well as the least adventurous eaters. I must say, I’m not immune to a big steak or good pizza myself, but there has to be a balance between fast food and fresh, home-cooked food. And NO EXCUSE for parents for bringing up kids who can’t even recognise a potato.

It’s slightly better in the UK, though it seems that the trend is alarming skewing towards obesity caused by fast and processed food. At least people in the UK are more accepting of non-British food. Chicken tikka masala is the national dish, after all (and I say this with sarcasm because it’s certainly not a true Indian dish.) McDonald’s in France feels less like fast food than in America, it’s still McDonald’s.

Which brings me to another part of the world, where palates are developed early in life and food is for enjoyment, not just sustenance. On buzzfeed recently there was an article about a Japanese toddler called Rino who loves trying new food. The youtube channel is called Rino which eats world various dishes and ignoring the slight Engrishness of the descriptions, every single video on there is worth watching. Repeatedly. The construct is simple,

a few shots of food prep — pad thai in one video, a Spanish tortilla in another — then many many shots of Rino shoveling the food in her mouth, usually with total delight

There is no need to understand Japanese, the delight is easy to see. Watch this one where she tries pho. At 2:10 when she picks up a tail-on shrimp and takes out the tail. Then at 3:40 when she claims her meal as her own. And good manners too, at 5:58 when she says thank you. She’s 3 years old and other videos in the channel show her trying bibimbap, tiramisu and tortilla. Very cute.

in eating and drinking |

nybbmm02kilbasa nybbmm03crumble

If I had Christmas decorations it’s the day to take them down, it’s twelfth night. Anyway, I didn’t have decorations. But mm did come round for our New Year celebration meal. Because of traffic jam she didn’t get here till almost 3pm so I wouldn’t call it lunch.

We started with jamón ibérico and cantaloupe melons; the ham we bought at an expo at Christmas. Easy peasy starter. For mains it was also easy, we made inroads into the stockpile of sausages I had in the freezer, these were from Prague. Ah, memories.

For dessert she requested apple crumble so I made that. Added some cranberries I had left over, I think adding berries to apple crumble gives it a nice kick and makes it look more appealing. As per instructions from the guardian I made the crumble mix in the morning, sprinkled on some water and put in the fridge before baking.

Ham from Spain, sausages from Czech Republic followed by a very British dessert. A European New Year meal. We opened the bottle of Kavalan whisky from Taiwan, but also tried a drop of Edradour and Ardbeg.

in eating and drinking |

pizzaopera01meal pizzaopera03plate

I saw a photo and article about a ridiculous pizza from Pizza Hut called the cheesy opera which consisted of a thin crust pizza on top of a twisted cheese crust. I went to their site and saw that I had a credit card offer that included the pizza, some pasta, a couple of sides and sodas.

People make New Year resolutions like go to the gym or eat more veg. So I bucked the trend and thought, why not try this ridiculous thing as an experiment. I can split the food into enough meals for several days. It’s frugal.

Turned out, if I ordered online, I get even more: an extra pasta and more soda. The total of $298 is equivalent to US$38 or £25. I got: smoked ham pizza, clam spaghetti, chicken pasta, seafood rice, meatballs, spicy chicken wings and 6 cans of diet pepsi (oh yes, I ordered diet pepsi so there’s at least one “healthy” item on the list). It was delivered on time at 12.30pm and I spread it all out on my whole coffee table.

It’s called cheesy opera, but it’s a translation from “stage” — the concept is that it’s like in the theatre, with pretty decorations on a smaller base sitting on a larger base. One thing I had forgotten, is that portion sizes are different than in the US. It wasn’t as large as I imagined, about 13” in diameter. The smaller base was the size of a large tortilla shell. The twisted cheese crust was rather flat. Manageable quantity of topping. All in all, it was an attempt to market an ordinary pizza hut pizza with a slightly different name and concept, and it tasted of generic pizza hut pizza too. I had 2 slices; I ran 7.5k today so I had the appetite.

There was a lot of pasta that came with the meal. I tried the clam spaghetti in black pepper sauce, it was baked and the pasta wasn’t overdone. Quite rich and stodgy though, I had about 1/4 of the portion. The rest of the pasta and the meatballs went straight to the freezer.

Would I order it again? Probably not. Chicago has ruined me for deep dish, and around town there are better pizzas available.

in eating and drinking , family first |

christmas turkey christmasdessertdram

Compared with the enormous christmas feast I cooked for myself last year, this year’s christmas was very simple in comparison. Mum ordered a whole turkey and I got a container of already shredded white and dark meat. I had that with some failed sparkling cranberries (didn’t dry sufficiently, good as accompaniment though), courgettes and cherry tomatoes I had in the fridge. Finished with a slice of panettone, some chestnuts from the yacht club yesterday and a wee dram of Ardbeg.

Met up with the family for dinner at a curry restaurant. Parents had laksa, Sis and Robert and Gis had gado gado and stuffed tofu. I had green curry chicken with roti canai. Enough to take home for another meal.

in eating and drinking |


I now have the last of my whisky collection, mm brought the bottles she’d brought back and been holding for me. Over 30 bottles, plus a bunch of miniatures, occupy 2 shelves of my display cabinet, some of my sideboard as well as one borrowed shelf of my TV cabinet. Amongst them:

  • bunnahabhein 25
  • ardbeg corryvrechan (and a 10)
  • laphroaig px
  • bruichladdich F in bordeaux cask
  • highland park 12, 18, 1994 and St Magnus
  • redbreast cask strength
  • arras filled from cask at the whisky exchange
  • yamazaki 12

Not just whisky, there’s a bottle of pyrat rum, a bourbon cream from buffalo trace, belvedere vodka, pear liqueur from Switzerland, the world’s best beer, a strange tomato liqueur from Japan. Not to mention tons of wine from Provence and that bottle of masi amarone 1996 that I got from Verona.

in eating and drinking |


Dinner with Sis’ family at a restaurant called Home. Slow service, okay food. Pasta, lamb chops and some wine. For dessert Sis had affogato with amaretto and my niece and I both had a waffle. Should have asked for no chocolate sauce, just ice cream. Quite nice and freshly made.

And the world didn’t end. It was supposed to be at 7.11pm our time (11.11 UTC), and we were smack in the middle of eating.

in eating and drinking |


There is a type of steak diner here that serves acceptable steaks as well as SE Asian food like curries, satay, sambal and the like. It also has standards like pasta, noodles and sandwiches. Went there after the concert on Friday. I had the rib-eye dinner (soup, steak, coffee or tea), sis had baked garoupa and rice, little one had spag bol.

Sis spotted that they had baked alaska on the menu so we ordered it, none of us ever tried it before. 20 min wait, then the waiter brought over this white bombe, poured alcohol over it and lit it. Nice!

The inside wasn’t quite what I expected. There were a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream, some sponge and a sprinkling of canned fruit cocktail. The outside meringue was very foamy, Sis said it was like edible bubble bath. Would have preferred it to be more browned and crunchy. Overall, I quite enjoyed it. Too big for the three of us, there was enough for 6 or even 8.

in eating and drinking |

hkdimsumminiburger hkdimsumminicheung

Mum and I went to this dim sum place that has the dinkiest dim sum dishes. The prawn dumplings were 2 per basket as opposed to the usual 4. Everything was managable small sized. We ordered these mini one bite shrimp burgers with wasabi mayo, very nice. And the cheung fun was cut up and presented nicely on a glass plate. For dessert we had mango pudding that came in these small cups, even smaller than tea light holders, more like a sake glass.

in eating and drinking |


I was home sorting the kitchen — about 90% done, most stuff in cabinets, I need drawer liners, cutlery tray and to screw in my new magnetic knife holder. Mum came with me to iron my shirts — I never iron, she insists on ironing everything, even t-shirts we wear at home.

We went to dinner at a local diner. This set had ramen noodles in cheese sauce, fried pork chop and garlic bread which came with scrambled eggs. Adding cheese is one of the ways to upgrade ramen. It tasted good, I dread to think how many calories were in that dish.

in eating and drinking |


Catching up on a few posts. This was from 1 November. Sis saw a Highland Park dinner tasting at the yacht club and wanted to go. Not a lot of resistance from me, I got mm to go too. I even wore my HP polo shirt.

The evening started with a tasting of Famous Grouse, which is also owned by the Edrington Group. Fairly innocuous blended whisky, nothing special. The starter of prawn tartar and scallops was accompanied by Naked Grouse, another blend that has a high % of Highland Park. We liked it.

Deep fried pigeon with citrus and nut salad came with HP18, now we’re talking. Lamb chops with turnip and risoni came with HP21. Chocolate crème brûlée was served with HP25. And we finished with HP30. Fantastic.

in eating and drinking |

hkboq005steak hkboq015churros

My niece came to hang out with me in the morning while Sis went to Parents-Teachers meeting. She did homework while I worked on tidying up. All clothes are now in my wardrobe, and shoeboxes underneath the bed. A good start.

After Sis finished at school, we all went for lunch at boqueria, had the tapas appetiser buffet, then I had flank steak while Sis had garlic prawns. Finished off with churros. Everything was good, lots of serrano ham, roasted veg, manchego cheese, even purple tomatoes. The only slight complaint was the churros weren’t crispy or fresh enough, it was as if they’d been sitting out there for a while and gotten more doughy.

in eating and drinking |


After running in the park yesterday, Mum and I went to a Chinese Halal restaurant and had their famous beef pastry. They call it juicy beef cake, and it’s their signature dish. Freshly made when we got there at 5pm. Crispy outer dough and the beef filling oozes out gravy when you bite into it.

Just like there’s a synagogue near my apartment, there are muslims here too. Quite unusual. This is a family business that has been around for 60 years. Strictly no pork and no alcohol served or allowed. It’s one of those no frills place where service is quick, prices are low and it can get busy at meal times. Good reviews too.

in eating and drinking |


We took the train over the border to SZ to hunt for lights. They are cheaper, and I saw a couple I liked. There was this building where the whole floor was dedicated to light fittings, but just our luck that the entire building had a power cut. It’s fine to look for most stuff without lights, but not light fittings. The effect just isn’t there.

Resolved to come back, we spent the rest of the day relaxing. Went to a large bookshop where mm bought some piano music. Early dinner of individual hotpot at a nice foodcourt. We both opted for the tomato soup base and then we had the usual trimmings — beef, lamb, vegetables, fish.

in eating and drinking |

hkfrenchwin006seafood hkfrenchwin007brest

Dinner with my ex-colleagues at the French Window. RM’s new company owns this, so he gets a discount, and is greeted by the staff. Nice food and great view. Expensive, only saved by the discount and we didn’t order wine. Strange way of having French food though, we shared everything: seafood platter, mussels, steak tartare, lamb then dessert of paris brest, rum baba and apple tart.

in eating and drinking |


Lunch at Saboten, a tonkatsu specialist. Tonkatsu is fried pork chop, although they also have chicken and prawns. Lunch set consisted of 3 different pieces — regular pork chop, pork with cheese and crab cake. Came with miso soup and unlimited rice, salad and pickles. The rice was either normal white rice or brown rice; salad was shredded cabbage that came with the exquisite sesame dressing.

in eating and drinking |

holga003apples applepear01

I stayed home while my parents went out for lunch and to do grocery shopping. There’s a lot of food at home, ranging from snacks and cereal bars to tons of unknown boxes in the freezer. My dad does the cooking, and he cooks healthy food — lots of veg and very little oil. It’s still not my own food, and I feel fat and bloated lately. So I just had an apple pear for lunch. These are not tiddly conference pears, they’re the size of a grapefruit, crunchy and juicy. To try to control my eat-too-fast habit, I cut it up into little chunks.

Fruits are different here. Lots more tropical fruits like mango, papaya, dragon fruit. We have oranges, tangerines, red plums, green plums, apples, aforesaid apple pears and kiwi fruit in the fridge. At the market are ridiculously over-priced Japanese fruit but we like going for the value pack instead. To be honest, I’m missing American honeycrisp apples right now.

in eating and drinking |


Autumn marks the start of the hairy crab season. Small crabs from a specific region near Shanghai, they have little meat and are fiddly to eat. It’s the smooth, cholesterol-laden yellow roe inside the shells that make these a delicacy.

It’s been years since we had them. So I met mm after work, went to a reliable shop and bought two each. Just steam them and then tuck in. Yummy.

in eating and drinking |


Took a break from home stuff to do personal stuff: got a haircut, went with sis to foot massage, and tried out a whisky bar I found. With a name like “Malty” it’s a risk — personally I think it’s a bad name, too cheesy. It’s more like a normal bar with a few more whiskies than a real whisky bar. They had vertical flights of glenfiddich, glenlivet, macallan and the like. Nothing terribly exciting, although more than an average bar/pub. We ordered a basic flight of 3x30ml drams — balvenie doublewood, highland park 12 and laphroaig 10. Sis had never tried highland park before and I think I have a convert.

in eating and drinking |


It’s been almost one month since I cooked food I liked in my own kitchen. So as to remind myself that I can cook, this is an asparagus and mushroom savoury bread pudding.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |


All the palaver about Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, I almost forgot about the other book published this year also called Sweet Tooth. Not a spy thriller, but a sort of personal-discovery-essay-history of sweets, aka candy, by Kate Hopkins, more well known as the Accidental Hedonist.

The kindle page has no kindle version available. I can get it directly on my kindle though. Strange. I haven’t gone through with the purchase, I wonder if it will work.

in eating and drinking |

Bak kwa
photo by flickr user miikka skaffari

Many years ago when I was travelling to Singapore regularly, one of the indulgences was asian style jerky from bch. I tried chicken bak kwa, and it quickly became a favourite. The chicken, or the more traditional pork or beef, is marinaded in spices, sugar and salt before being cooked in a smoker. The distinctive sweet, fruity, meaty flavour is best enjoyed while the slices are hot. I find the Singaporean and Malaysian versions tender and juicy while the Taiwanese versions are more dry and spicy.

So mm and I shared a packet to take home. It’s not cheap, so we opted for the sliced pork which was on special. And now I read that a few fine engineers in the Bay area has started making and selling their own. Something for my adventurous American friends to try.

in eating and drinking |


Went to watch my niece at her taekwondo lesson, then we went to dinner at a mussels and beer place. My niece had goat’s cheese pie and mash potatoes. Sis and I both opted for the mussel pots. She had a coconut beer served in a coconut shell shaped bowl and I had a kwak. It’s just like at belgo’s!

in eating and drinking |


Mum and I met with a contractor about flat renovation today. Before going, we thought we’d have lunch at one of the nearby places, but most of the ones we remember have gone. So we ended up at Mcdonald’s. Aside from the sausage egg mcmuffin for under US$1 available all day, there are other offers and special menu items. I had a shogun burger which is teriyaki pork burger on lettuce and a sesame seed bun. Nice teriyaki sauce flavour. Reminds me that there are special international items not available in the US, some of them look pretty nice — chicken katsu burger in Japan, paneer wrap in India, cordon bleu burger in Poland. And beer in cool countries.

in eating and drinking |

hawksmoor filet tail

Flight tonight is at 8pm, so as long as I’m back at the room by 4pm I’m fine. I took the tube all the way out to Covent Garden and had lunch at Hawksmoor. Sigh. That wasn’t a surprise at all, right? Not a filet person, always finding it too bland. But I finally tried the filet tail they had on the board, plus bone marrow and a side of peas and lettuce. No dessert, moved to the bar for a Blanton’s though. And then got a free shot of Rittenhouse from the bartender when I told her that I was flying out. The end of an era, of sorts.

It’s a long way to go from Covent Garden to Heathrow, over an hour on the tube. There was enough time for a shower and final packing. Check-in was straightforward, at 21kg I wasn’t even overweight. I’m only bringing minimal clothes, the heaviest items in the suitcase are Prague sausages. I’m wearing my Highland Park t-shirt, and had a nice chat with the people at World of Whiskies. Flight looks to be full, I hope I can sleep.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

2012ldnled001 2012ldnled002 2012ldnled003
2012ldnled004 2012ldnled005 2012ldnled006

I took Mum to the ledbury for her birthday this year, and wanted to share the experience with mm. It’s her last full day in London.

Lunch again, it’s the best value. Amuse bouche, quail & fig salad, for mains we had brill with seafood, edible flowers, foam and beef and for dessert mille feuille and blackcurrant tart.

Borough market in the afternoon, plus vinopolis and the whisky exchange. To end a gastro day, dinner at Hawksmoor. I have a suspicion she prefers Hawksmoor, the food at the Ledbury probably too fancy and too high expectations after how I sang its praises.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Third day in a row, mm went to piano practice. Wow, such diligence. She had lunch plans with her school friends so I stayed home for lunch. Met up with her at Brixton to show her the market. For some reason, none of the restaurants appealled. We stopped at seven for a brief drink before heading to Oxford Street HMV so she can look at classical CDs.

I had a sudden inspiration for dinner, took her to the tagine place. So yummy.

in eating and drinking |


Woke up extremely early to pick up mm from heathrow. Dropped off her luggage, took a bit of a rest then headed out for lunch at Maze Grill, one of the restaurants in the Gordon Ramsay group. It’s a grill, so the speciality is steak. There’s a set lunch menu, 3 courses for £24, but we opted for the special steak — 25oz bone-in rib to share worked out to he £65. We had it medium rare, it came a little bit overdone. The flavour was really nice and we enjoyed it. Only shared a spinach side, didn’t have dessert. I had a glass of malbec. Walked it off the rest of the day, all the day to Covent Garden and back.

in eating and drinking |


Having defrosted the freezer, and with mm coming on Friday, I needed to replenish my food supply. Went to Whole Foods to get balsamic vinegar and veal rib roast, then saw bavette steak on special. 350g for only £3-ish. I’d never cooked bavette steak before, and a little online research reveals that it’s also known as flank or flap steak. Marinated it overnight with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and garlic. Fast grilling to ensure it stays medium rare, rested for 10mins. Nice flavour. Even at this doneness, it’s not exactly soft and a tiny bit tough, but I’d definitely buy it again.

in eating and drinking |

squashsoup02 vealrib01201207

What I ate today. Veal rib roast with cabbage, tomato and rocket salad for lunch. Roasted from frozen, 770g took about 1.5hrs for rare. No, I didn’t eat the whole joint, just one chop. It was nicely pink and very juicy.

For dinner I had roasted butternut squash and carrot soup, totally homemade, even the stock which was from the bones I had in the freezer. Not sure what exactly they were, hehe, my freezer bones are normally a mixture of chicken, duck and it may have even included guinea fowl and squab. The butternut squash made the soup so, so sweet. Crumbled a bit of stilton when serving, to give a bit of creaminess.

in eating and drinking |

etonmess01 etonmess02

Over at the kitchn they were asking for ideas for a british foods for an olympics dinner party. Surprisingly, there were some authentic and good ideas. One of the better ones is for Eton Mess.

There’s been a resurgence and attention for this very English dessert. Takes no time to make too. I used mascarpone (broken up with a little milk and sweetened with a tbsp of sugar) instead of cream. Spoon over meringue nests, add some strawberries and blackberries. I did one pretty-ish presentation, but as befits the name, it needs to be messy.

in eating and drinking |

ldn10cases005baconsalad ldn10cases002aperitifs

I’ve been trying to go to 10 cases for a while. Their gimmick is that they order wines 10 cases at a time and when they sell out, they sell out and they get another 10 cases of something else. I like the small bistrot location, you can sit at the bar or at the tables or outside.

Started with a white chateauneuf with small dishes of potted crab and saucisson. Then I had a bacon, pork cheek and poached egg salad. Supposedly a starter but big enough (and with robust pieces of bacon) for a mains. Didn’t have dessert, went to a gelato place.

I was having dinner with a new acquaintance, someone from work who transferred a while ago. It has taken us more than half a year to connect. I guess going to a new restaurant was a risk, I’m glad I suggested this place.

The casual bistrot style means people don’t need to go especially for the food. Sit at the bar, have a glass of wine and order the small dishes. Less expensive than the pintxo bar I was at earlier.

in eating and drinking |


I had half an hour at Covent Garden before a dinner appointment. Instead of walking around the shops I decided to give pix bar a try. It’s a pintxo tapas bar that at 6.15pm on a Friday was heaving, the lady at the door found me a nice corner at the bar though. I had a glass of ribera del ducro, a chorizo and manchego skewer plus a fig and cheese bruschetta. Not cheap, wine by the glass £5-8 and each skewer was £1.90. There was a fun Hemingway quote on the wall about doing things sober vs drunk. Will I return? There are other places in the area, that’s the thing. Next time I have half an hour to spare I’ll go to a pub or to 10 cases, which was where we had dinner. See next post.

in eating and drinking |


I’m at home most of this week, no need to go out or eat out till Friday, so plenty of opportunities to eat simply. Weeks like this, I want to try to have at least one vegetarian day. Made yellow and red pepper stuffed with mushroom, halloumi and Israeli couscous. This is my favourite stuffing, I can just eat it by the spoonful. The Israeli (aka giant aka pearl) couscous adds taste and chewiness that regular couscous, being too small, doesn’t have.

in eating and drinking |

Other events are coming up later in the year, like in October with the self-described UK’s greatest whisky show at Vinopolis. The ticket entities visitors to samples and a buffet meal. Sigh. I won’t be here, wonder if it’s worth flying back.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


We are trying to cram everything into 2 days, get as much eating and time together as possible. Changed our reservation at Hawksmoor to lunch — had D-rump, sirloin, bone marrow followed by honeycomb cheesecake. I’m so happy that mm likes the place too. Bought cheese at Neal’s Yard diary. Resumed our trek to Foyles and then had ricotta cake at Princi. Went to John Lewis and bought towels, bowls, glasses and other kitchen stuff for mm. Took the bus home and had hoummous and cheese for dinner. I opened the bottle of peach wine from Georgia. Fantastic day.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


I didn’t go to heathrow to pick mm up as it was too early, sis still here, and mm needed to check into the hotel anyway. We met up mid-morning at john lewis and walked around the entire store. Slowly made our way to covent garden where I had a reservation at l’atelier de joel robuchon. I’m losing track of how many times and who I’ve taken to all these restaurants, hahaha.

The restaurant was pretty full, but we still had a good seat at the bar. We opted for the 3 course lunch menu with wine pairing. To start I had sea bream carpaccio and she had asparagus cappuccino. For mains I had black leg chicken and she had hangar steak. We then moved upstairs to the bar for dessert — chocolate mousse and cheese plate. Just over £100 for the two of us. I ended up drinking most of the wine, including hers.

She wanted to go to foyles to look at music, which we did. Then her jetlag and wine got the better of her and we had to go back to the hotel quickly. Napped until early evening, went out to m&s to get dips and chicken wings and that was our dinner for the day. We’ve been looking forward to seeing each other for a while, it’s nice to simply spend time together.

in eating and drinking |

dressed crab

My sis is here so I went down to visit them. We went into town for lunch, ended up at brasseric blanc, a sort of Manoir lite from Raymond Blanc. We shared a starter board of vegetables, smoked mackerel, pigeon rillette and other stuff. Sis had braised lamb shoulder and I had the dressed crab, opting for something that is too fiddly to do at home.

Our conclusion is that it was nice, but not outstanding. A long way from le manoir — even though we’d never been there, we can imagine the quality of food. This was like a chain, and probably more in the standard of a café rouge. The starter was kinda boring, the bread being the best part. And yes, I did appreciate that someone went into the trouble of picking all the flesh out of my crab, but somehow it all tasted quite bland, even with an abundance of brown meat. We didn’t have wine or dessert.

There are plenty of french style bistros around. I think I’ll give some of the others a try before returning to this one.

in eating and drinking |


Started the day at 8am for the drive back to Chicago. An uneventful drive until I got to the I-80 and all the traffic and aggressive trucks. There’s something about Chicago that brings out the crazy in drivers. Gained back an hour to unload and see if my purchases fit into the suitcase. Then drove downtown, again having to negotiate crazy drivers on the Ryan and the huge traffic ham on the Kennedy. All so that I can go back to my old haunts to meet up with ex-colleagues. The office was pretty empty, people keep leaving. I got to see the people I wanted to though.

My two ex-colleague friends, L and E, took me to Maude’s liquor bar at Randulph and Halsted, where all the trendy places are located. A small plates type of French restaurant, we shared a chopped salmon carpaccio starter and at L’s recommendation I had the foie gras pâté with sour cherry jam and sourdough toast. Very, very rich. A small portion, but I was stuffed very quickly and couldn’t finish all the bread. We shared a bottle of white wine and caught up with gossip.

Not wanting the evening to end, we headed over to Isabella’s, a favourite of ours for a cosmopolitan. Then it was time to head back. It was nice to see them again. It’s sad, I’m not sure when if I’ll get a chance to return to Chicago in the next few years. Sigh.

in eating and drinking , going places |

chocshoe06 chocshoe00

When I went to Brussels with A in April and did the chip’n’choc walk, we bought a chocolate shoe from Wittamer that we thought would be perfect to donate to the silent auction at GCLS. We had in mind several attendees who are very interested in shoes and chocolate, and we hope would gamely put in generous bids.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been posting teaser images of the shoe on facebook; basically I took pics at odd angles and photoshopped them. Been extremely pleased that a fair bit of buzz has been generated. We got to the con today and finally revealed the actual item. Hopefully it wasn’t a disappointment, from the reactions it would seem that there may be a potential bidding war. All in aid of the GCLS which is always a good thing.

in eating and drinking |


RM emailed me yesterday with the message that went something like, “ARGH OMG we forgot to pick up our whisky at heathrow!” What happened was that on Saturday we took advantage of the shop and pick up service, bought some whiskies from the duty free and would have picked them up when we came back to London. Whether it was because we had too many Guinness that day or it was late and we wanted to get home, neither of us remembered to pick up the shopping.

So we made it an outing today. I got a zipcar and we went to Chutney Mary’s for dinner, drove out to Heathrow and then I drove him home. It was very important that we retrieved our shopping. That bottle of Bunnahabhain 25yr is easily the most special bottle of whisky I own thus far. There’s also a bottle of Glengoyle Burntfoot in there too.

in eating and drinking |


This relatively new product scored 93 points in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible so I was curious to find Writers Tears when in Dublin. It’s a pot still blend that markets itself as a salute to the great Irish writers who drew inspiration from the water of life. People like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw etc. The label has some words to the effect of

I traded my tomorrows to remain in yesterday
Whiskey tears are fallin’ here and each one cries her name

Now any fool would have thought that this was a poem from one of those esteemed Irish writers. But googling showed that it’s from a song by an American country singer I’ve never heard of. Again, just to show, marketing. That said, pretty nice whiskey, on the sweet side, mild/

in eating and drinking |

ldnrobuchon031steak ldnrobuchon032souffle

Lunch at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon with Mum. It being a weekday, it wasn’t that busy. We were sat at the counter and ordered the set lunch. I had mine with wine pairing.

Amuse bouche of foie gras with port reduction and parmesan foam. I had white asparagus salad and Mum had salmon carpaccio for starter. For mains we both had the hangar steak which came with polenta and a daikon celeriac side. Mum had passion fruit soufflé for dessert and I just had cheese. For coffee and tea they took us upstairs to the terrace bar. Nice.

in eating and drinking , going places |


After visiting Islay, I got interested in several of the other good whiskies — Talisker, Balvenie, Old Pulteney and Highland Park. Then I started getting obsessed with Highland Park, and naturally my obsession turned into a desire to visit. And this is why RM and I dragged Mum to Kirkwall this past weekend. The purpose (not sole, but certainly top) of our trip was to the Highland Park distillery, where we’d pre-booked the Magnus Eunson premium tour. It promises a tour with a senior guide, a souvenir book, souvenir glass and full range tasting. Considering a miniature of the 40yr is £77, at £75 it was something I’d looked forward to since we made the reservation.

They picked us up from the hotel and dropped us back, which is much needed service. We were there 10mins early, and joined the regular tour group for the introductory video. Then we separated and went with our guide, James, a retired banker, who took us more slowly around the distillery. The floor maltings, mill, mash tun, washbacks and stills were familiar by now, it was great to have a refresher. The stillman even showed us his computer that monitors the alcohol % at the safe.


Before the tasting got underway, we looked around the tasting room and all got a chance to hold a bottle of 50 year. At £10,000, we were all extremely careful not to drop it. I made notes as we tasted.

  1. new mix spirit — this is the clear liquid that comes from the still before it gets into the cask. At 69.8% it’s strong on the nose. Tasted surprising sweet
  2. oloroso sherry — mainly to nose, this is the sherry which occupied the casks before being filled with whisky. Rich in colour, it was quite dry
  3. 12 year 40% — the standard expression, to me the nose was chemical and medicinal, not terribly nice. Pleasant enough to drink
  4. 15 year 40% — richer, fruitier, sweeter, spicier, more of everything compared with the 12
  5. 18 year 43% — spicy but less than the 15, sweet, lots of complexity, methinks one should always have a bottle of this on one’s shelf
  6. 25 year 48.1% — lots of sherry, dark, sweeter again, rich almost like wine, has a kick and tons of body; not everyone liked this but it was my favourite so far
  7. 30 year 48/1% — not spicy on nose but stronger alcohol, rounded almost delicate, flowery, can definitely feel its warmth travelling down me
  8. 40 year 48.3% — smells like 25, lots of sherry, big, big smell; big, big body, so sweet! With a little salty and bags of finish, sigh sigh sigh
  9. Thor 16year special edition 52.1% — first of a series of 4, big hit and really sweet and fruity

Sometimes the instinct is to go for the most aged, most expensive expression. The question becomes, “is it worth the premium?” The 40yr is almost £1,000; the 25 £130-ish. Is the 40yr 7.5 times better than the 25yr? Not really. In terms of value for money, the 18yr at around £60 hits that sweet spot, and I think that’s the one I’ll have as standby at home. I would like to buy the Thor (£120) because it’s the one that appeals to my palate and wallet most, I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to get the other 3 in the series when they come out.

This was one of the best tastings I’ve been so far and my first vertical tasting. Expensive, and we were rushed at the end — the tour started at 4pm and we weren’t even halfway through the tasting at 7pm. I think instead of having the driver wait around, a deal with a local cab company would have put less pressure on us. It’s not the most value for money tasting, that would go to Ardbeg; nor is it the most fun and informative, that would be Laphroaig. Is it worth coming all the way out to Orkney? Yes, it was well worth the long trip out.

in eating and drinking |


Met A for steak whilst she is visiting London at, where else, Hawksmoor. That’s twice in a week for me, and still I’m not tired of it.

I was wandering around Covent Garden beforehand but it started drizzling so I went there early and sat at the bar. Wasn’t tempted by the cocktails today, I was perusing the whisky shelf behind the bartender and saw a couple of intriguing looking bottles. Upon enquiry, it turned out that they were Blanton’s straight from the barrel unfiltered bourbon. Cask strength means anything from 60-70% alcohol, but it was so sweet and smooth I didn’t feel any of the ethanol at all. I also declined wine during the meal, and sipped that glass of bourbon.

Ah, the meal. Sometimes I have to cast my mind back to my first time there with RM, and how it felt. I hope A wasn’t too overwhelmed with the sheer size of the steaks on offer on the board. They were large today, mostly almost 1kg (except the filets and they had one 600g rib-eye). We decided on a 900g (32oz) porterhouse, which came rare and sliced. Broccolini and bone marrow for sides. For dessert A had sticky toffee pudding and I had sticky orange pudding. They were slow getting them out, the server told us that they missed the order, so it was comped. Wow, I hadn’t expected that, smart of them. All in all it’s as close to a perfect meal as I can imagine.

While A had earl grey tea, I went for a second bourbon, an Elijh Craig 12yr. It smelled wonderful — sweet, woody, caramel, everything that suggests a great bourbon. Taste, for me, it couldn’t compare with the Blanton’s. Blander and harder to drink. Didn’t detract from a perfect meal though.

in eating and drinking |


Took Mum to Hawksmoor. Had Porterhouse 900g / 30oz and D-rump 200g / 8oz between 3 people (went with RM, who else?). The best thing about Hawksmoor on a Monday is that it’s BYO wine for only £5 corkage. Got a nice bottle of £30 Mendoza from the shop near the office, I’m liking the idea of Argentinian wine with steak.

in eating and drinking |


Dinner with friends tonight and a bottle of Finlaggan whisky was produced. The smell and taste identified it immediately as an Islay whisky, but hey! I’ve been to all the distilleries on Islay and there is not one called Finlaggan. Apparently it’s from a mystery distillery whose identity is a secret that the bottler will jealously guard. Probably more to create marketing buzz. Pretty reasonably priced, starting at £22 and the cask strength is under £40.

in eating and drinking |

ledbury010asparagus ledbury015toast

It’s Mum’s birthday, and I’d booked lunch at The Ledbury, one of the best restaurants in London. Two Michelin stars. And only a few bus stops away on Ledbury Road, near Portabello market.

We opted for the lunch menu at £35 for 3 courses. The meal ended up being 7 courses, more on that later. The restaurant is on a corner, a black building but once inside it was nice and bright. A large mirror at the back wall gave the effect of a bigger space. There are about 18 tables, we were one of the first to arrive and by the time we left the place was full.

I ordered a half bottle of valpolicella for myself, having declined the offer of champagne. Even the bread and butter were cute. As is normal nowadays, we got an amuse bouche of foie gras and kumquat jelly on crunchy biscuit. We both started with the white & green asparagus cooked in earl grey with a crisp pheasant egg. The asparagus was fabulously sweet and the egg perfectly soft boiled.

We got an extra starter, buffalo milk curd with truffle toast and grilled onion broth. The milk curd was just like custard and the toast smelled and tasted of truffle. Very nice.

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For main course, Mum had turbot with radishes, barley and a cream of white beer sauce. I had pork cheek & jowl with pear, celeriac and dandelion. They brought the roasted pork as it came out of the oven for me to “inspect” before sending it back to the kitchen for plating. Mum’s fish was super fresh, love turbot. I had a lot going on my plate, the crunchy skin, the fatty meat of the cheek and then the melt-in-your-mouth softness of the jowl which had been slow cooked. Lovely sauce too.

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Mum had blueberry, mango & pear sorbet for dessert and I opted for coconut cream in milk chocolate and sea buckthorn bed. I’d told them that it’s Mum’s birthday so they gave us an extra dessert — lemon soufflé with sauternes ice cream. Everything was perfect. We ended with petit fours. Mum had a peppermint tea and I had a glass of Hedonism, an unusual blended grain whisky from Compass Box. I think, yes, 7 courses:

  1. amuse bouche
  2. asparagus starter
  3. milk curd and truffle toast second started
  4. fish and pork mains
  5. sorbet and coconum cream dessert
  6. extra dessert lemon soufflé
  7. petit fours, tea

The bill came to £120 which I think is good value. The extras were the wine, whisky, bottled water, tea and service charge. There was no skimping on portions, textures or flavours. Everything was perfectly cooked and presented. The service was friendly and helpful. When bookings for August opens on 1 June, I’ll be on their website to make a reservation for mm’s visit.

in eating and drinking |


Cooked the white and green asparagus we bought yesterday in Stockholm. There are recipes that say serve white asparagus with hollandaise, viniagrette or other sauces. Since we eat plainly at home, I just steamed them. Steamed the green asparagus and broccolini first, then kept warm before steaming the white asparagus by themselves for about 15mins. Mum bought beef kebab skewers and pork sausages so we had those with the vegetables. Last time I had white asparagus I found them a bit tasteless, this time was such a huge difference — they are sweeter and have a more delicate flavour. Yes they are expensive (8 spears each cost almost £20) and the season is short, all the more reason to savour them and treat them right.

in eating and drinking |

ldngaucho001steaks ldngaugho003choc

Gaucho was supposed to have the best steak in London until usurped by Goodman and Hawksmoor, so RM and I were keen to try it out. Since Mum is here, I thought it’d be a good place to introduce her to London steakhouse. For convenience I booked the branch at Piccadilly, under an arch off Regent’s Street. Our table was in the basement and we had to walk through the cowhide decorated front entrance and bar. It was very, very dark.

We had a bottle of Lagarde 2009 malbec. I don’t usually order malbec, but this was a good choice — an argentinian wine in an argentinian steak restaurant. We ordered 3 different steaks to share: their signature picana, a marinated rump and a sirloin. I thought the rump had lots of beef flavour although they were a bit tougher than I would have liked. The sirloin was grilled to medium rare perfection and also very good. For dessert they had chocolate & macadamia tart with vanilla ice cream and I had an ice cream.

Bill came to £150, which is okay because of the wine. The verdict? Nice enough, and there are a couple more dishes I’d like to try — the “cheaper” cuts of skirt and flank which aren’t as readily available but can be really fantastic. One more to add to the list, as a reserve.

in eating and drinking |


Yesterday after finishing at King’s I met up with RM at Borough Market for a late lunch (kangaroo burger, springbok burger, cider) and then to check out the whisky exchange’s shop at Vinopolis just behind the market. Their online shop has almost every whisky under the sun (to this beginner anyway); the physical shop doesn’t have as many, but there are something like 1,000 different whiskies available. Plus other spirits and accessories too.

We were like kids in a toy store. No, even more dangerous: kids in a toy store with their own credit cards. The phrase spoilt for choice comes to mind. There were samples of their own bottlings, including an intriguing elements of islay range that takes whisky from thinly disguised distilleries (let’s see, it’s so difficult to guess what Lp, Br or Ar stand for) in chemistry-themed bottles.

We were (comparatively) restrained. There were speciality “fill your own” casks and we each bought something different. I bought a blend branded Arras, 500ml for £40. And then we went crazy with the miniatures. I know that miniatures are not value for money — 50ml small bottle for £4 when the whole 750ml bottle can be bought for £30-40 — but I can’t buy or try everything I want to, because that’s too much drinking. In the end I got miniatures of:

  • auchentoshan 18 — because one has to try a lowland whisky sometime
  • balvenie double wood — everyone goes on about balvenie, must try
  • dalmore 12 — same with dalmore
  • highland park 30 — £16.95, gulp
  • monkey shoulder — hipster blend, got it for the funky name
  • penderyn — from wales; if the english whisky company had miniatures I would have gotten those too
  • poit dhubh — for sheer unpronouncability
  • singleton of dufftown — another popular whisky
  • springbank 10 — from campbeltown

in eating and drinking |


It’s SM’s last day so he, RM and I went with another friend to Brixton market for Friday night drinks and food. He and I sneaked out early, at 4pm. We stopped by a pub before heading over there and ended up at the wonderful seven tapas and cocktail bar. We had nibbles, he had a beer while I had an old fashioned, while we waited for the others to arrive. It wasn’t until past 7pm that our party was complete and we walked around the village looking at the choices before deciding on pizza at franco manca. The queue was long, but moved quickly. Within 15mins we were seated. The pizzas were as good as before. I had the vegetarian special and we ordered a bottle of the house red.

Not wanting the evening to end, we headed back to the village arcade and found a place where we could have wine. In addition to the wine we had limoncello, sambucca and grappas. RM had an apple strudel and the restaurant didn’t mind that I got gelato from the stall around the corner — all very community spirited. Great evening with friends.

in eating and drinking |

boisdale002wall boisdale004sirloin

Our colleague was in town on a visit so RM and I took her to Boisdale for steak. The one at Bishopsgate is hidden at the end of a dark obscure alleyway next to a pub called, of all things, Dirty Dick’s. You go downstairs into the dungeon of a restaurant to be greeted by red walls lined with pictures of famous people (Churchill, Monroe amongst others), a cosy intimate atmosphere and a jazz pianist.

No going crazy on ginormous 1kg steaks for us, we were very demur and ordered the regular sirloin on the bone. A little too much of a tough tendon for my liking. Didn’t have dessert but RM and I couldn’t resist the large whisky selection. He had a Bunnahabhainn and I had the most excellent Highland Park 18 year.

in eating and drinking |


Whisky isn’t just from Scotland or Ireland, or the American bourbon or the Canadian version. There’s English, Welsh, Australian, Swedish and Indian. Yamazaki from Japan was named best single malt 2012.

I’d read about Zuidam distillery’s Millstone whisky and asked A to buy me a bottle. €60-ish for the 8 year French oak expression. Their special trick is that their casks are stored at a higher temperature than normal so the whisky ages quicker. Their 8 year is equivalent to perhaps 12 year other single malts.

I should have asked for a miniature bottle too. The product comes in a nice wooden presenation box, I’m not sure I’ll want to open it soon but I’d love to have a taste.

in eating and drinking , going places |


We had a leisurely morning, taking our time to wake up, check out and have breakfast. Then a short walk to find a couple more friteries near the hotel. It was too early for them to be open, so it was just a matter of taking pictures and then moving on.

Having done the savoury chipwalk yesterday, it’s the turn of the sweet chocwalk, making our trip the chip’n’choc walk trip (my invented word). Of course, Belgian chocolate is famous all over the world, and we took inspiration from this really useful nyt article and made a beeline to Place du Grand Sablon which promised us 8 chocolate shops in one square.

The first shop was Pierre Marcolini’s two storey extravaganza. They treat chocolate like delicate vintage, and have a box that includes the Grand Cru selection. Other selection include one that offers the taste of cocoa from different parts of the world, and one that has spices. I also bought a €49 box of rum & whisky chocolate. The next stop was Wittamer where I bought a box of 9 pralines topped with chocolate coated crickets. Yes, crickets as in the insect cricket. The unboxing and tasting deserves its own post I think. Wittamer was also where we stopped for a hot chocolate. I don’t usually order hot chocolate but this was well worth the exception. The intense cocoa flavour is nothing like the hot chocolate from a packet. Even the cream was delicious. Final stop was Neuhaus for truffles.

I was now pretty laden down with chocolate purchases. But that wasn’t the end of our chocolate adventure. We made our way back to Grand Place and visited the museum of cocoa and chocolate. For €5.50, we visited the small museum, watched a demostration of how to make pralines and had a small sampler. Nice little museum to spend an hour or so in a tiny street just behind the main square.


And in a touristy shopping street the other side of the square, I found the other thing I was hoping I’d find, Westvleteren 12 beer from the Abbey of St Sixtus at Westvleteren. Their beers are in huge demand because of having consistenly been voted the best beer in the world and the small quantity made at the abbey. To make a purchase, people have to ring up to check when reservations are available; then ring up again when reservations do open to make an appointment for a visit. They have to indicate the licence plate number of the car visiting, and one licence plate can only buy every 60 days. Such is the rarity that I wasn’t sure I’d even see posters of the beer let alone the real thing. I had no hesitation in shelling out €12.95 for a bottle (actually got two, plus one each of the blonde and the 8).

Now I was well and truly carrying a very heavy load. Not a lot else to do with only a couple of hours, we ate more frites (at one of the friteries not on the list), had ice cream at at biscuit place and then camped out at a small café. I had a couple of beers and A had a diet coke. Then got a bit hungry, A had a salad while I ordered an américaine, which here means steak tartare. I can’t imagine a dish more misnamed, I can’t imagine many Americans eating steak tartare. It’s been a while since my last one, and it was okay, not the best one I’ve had. Sigh, really have to go back to Switzerland one of these days.

Walked back to the hotel, hung out for a bit in the lobby until it was time to catch our respective trains. Not even the Eurostar delay on the way home, because UKBA was so understaffed they asked the trains to go slow, dampened my overall impression of the trip. What a great weekend, it was a good idea to meet up and do something different than the usual touristy stuff.

in eating and drinking , going places |

brus00bierfrites brus00icecream1

I took an early Eurostar train to Brussels to meet up with my friend A. We’d arranged to go on the chip walk together. The chip walk is part of this year’s Brusselicious food festival, which includes other events such as gourmet tram dining, mussels at the beach and a wine festival. Apparently one of the distinctive food features of Brussels is these friteries, roadside stalls or shops that sold frites, aka fries, aka chips. Traditionally they are hand-cut, and there’s even an app that has an interactive list of the top 49.

I’ve been in Brussels once, a very very long time ago, for half a day with my family. That almost counts as having never visited. The train was only 2hrs from St Pancras, and our hotel literally across the road from the station. We couldn’t check in yet, so we stored our luggage and set off on foot to the central areas.

It took 1hr to find our first stall, having walked through the tourist attractions and to a more local part of town. The stall was very unassuming, the woman at the stall took pre-fried chips and fried them again to order to give them an extra crunchiness. There’s a variety of sauces, but mayo is the standard. There are other food items too, but are mainly deep fried processed meat in the shape of sausages or meatballs or burgers. I had the meatballs, because I needed food at that point.

We had planned on hitting at least 4, which we sort of did. We only bought frites from 3 of them, and by the last one we just ordered a small portion to share. Too much carbs. They were good though, it’s surprising how something simple like fries can taste different from stall to stall. #2 had the most anecdotes: a) the queue was a whole hour long; b) nearby bars and café had signs that said “frites accepted” so people can take their frites packages and enjoy them in the bar. Of course, it meant purchasing a drink, so it’s a smart move. I had a Westmalle beer while A had a tea.

After the last stall, we were on the lookout for ice cream, which we found nearby. I had an orange one, and it was fantastic. The weather turned nasty, it had been showery all day, and now the rain was steady. After walking for a bit in the miserable rain, we took the wise decision of taking the metro back to the hotel. All chipped out tonight.

in eating and drinking |


Broadgate market opened today at Exchange Square, almost literally across the road from the office. Whether they can move back to Finsbury Square depends I guess on Occupy London, last time I was over at the square there were tents galore. That was a month or so ago so they may have been cleared already.

The market, being in the City, is a mix of normal farmer’s market — one high end vegetable / salad stand, specialist cheese, bread, cake, garlic stalls; and then the rest of the stalls were hot food. There were loads of choices — paella, roast hog, roast lamb, chicken sandwich, burger, sausages, goulash, curry, and the one I ended up picking, freshly made pasta: spelt tagliatelle with courgettes, tomato and wild garlic pesto. The chef was cooking the pasta to order, I’m glad I went before noon, I can’t imagine the queue when the throngs descend at traditional lunchtime.

As I’m still officially in marathon training mode, my metabolism the past week or so has sky-rocketed to turbo, I allowed myself an indulgence and got a piece of guiness chocolate cake with guiness buttercream. It was on the dry side, I’m reminded of why I’m not a big chocolate fan.

in eating and drinking |


After work, SM and I went to the ten bells pub. The pub is on the tourist trail for its Jack the Ripper connection, we saw at least 2 groups with lonely planet guides. It’s very nice, we managed to snag seats and a table. Had a couple of pints of runner ale. I’m still marathon obsessed.

in eating and drinking |


For my birthday, CC kindly treated me to lunch at steak exchange, which is near both our offices. We shared the 800g bone-in sirloin (£48.95). The reviews I’d read online weren’t as glowing as the other steakhouses, and there were some comments that the steaks were overdone. No problem this time, it was very nicely medium rare and tasty. Didn’t care much for the peppercorn sauce, the spinach side was good too. Also shared a bottle of French Pinot, very fragrant and light. We liked the place, but in terms of atmosphere and everything else, we decided we preferred Hawksmoor.

in eating and drinking |


No danger of not eating enough today, I couldn’t stop what with jammie dodgers and M&S rhubarb cookies. I was watching The Truth About Fat on iplayer over the weekend and they were saying that obese people have different levels of hunger and full hormones to normal sized people. That normal sized people have a higher volatility, ie gets hungry, but then drops. Obese people have lower levels of both hormones but are mainly straight lines, so they are always slightly hungry and never totally full. Sometimes I wonder if I’m like that — occasionally when I have a craving or eating something, I can’t stop. Gives me a chill, to remember 4 years ago before I started running and watching what I eat, that I was on the way to being a balloon. Brrrr.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |


‎32.22km (20mi) 3:58:35hr 7:24min/km (11:56 min/mi)

Second 20 miler of this training cycle; and then the taper begins. It was a hot day, luckily there was some wind. I ate a big ham & egg sandwich for breakfast and took off at 9:30am. So happy that the water fountains are back on, I was running out of liquid at one point. Refilled and immediately drank half a bottle. Managed the full 20 miles in just under 4hrs, a bit slower than the first 20 miler, pretty pleased with the pace.

I was exhausted when I got home. Didn’t have any energy to do anything but sit on my sofa with my feet up for half an hour before my calves stopped hurting so I could go shower. Then mm whatsapped me, and Mum wanted to skype. Sigh.

The upside of running 20 miles is…I can eat whatever I want. I got this bone-in rib from Whole Foods a while back, it was on sale. 700g (24oz) for £9-something. At Hawksmoor, it’s £9 per 100g, so this was bargain compared to eating out. I know, can’t compare restaurant food with home-cooked food. Instead of Hawksmoor’s extremely hot charcoal grill, I grilled mine slowly on the hob and had it with cavolo negro (black cabbage), carrots and mushroom. Tasted great. Couldn’t eat the whole thing, may be about 2/3rd.

in eating and drinking , objects of desire |


Since I’m over here, I’ve decided drink less new world wines and go back to old world or at least focus on European wines. I’ve started drinking more Valpolicella, Chianti and mm likes Rioja and Gewurztraminer. Beaujolais noveau doesn’t really count. Anyway, I got this bottle of Rosalcy Lalande-de-Pomerol 2008 at Whole Foods. I figured, start with a simple Bordeaux. Needed 2 hours of breathing. I think I need a decanter. Deep and rich. Not sure I’ll return to it, I’m still not a big merlot fan.

in eating and drinking |


One more possibly for the US shopping list is chocovine, described as

a combination of ingredients, including Cabernet red wine, Dutch chocolate and cream

It’s calorie laden, but may be quite interesting to taste. Available in the US, but alluding to a Dutch origin. I wonder. Everyone loves Bailey’s and I remember mozart liqueur so this could be quite good.

in eating and drinking |


I like shopping at Waitrose because they have more unusual stuff. Yesterday I saw prepared guinea fowl and quail. I haven’t had small game birds for a while so I bought the quail to try. They are already trussed up ready for the oven. Season and roast for 25mins at 190°C, basting a couple of times, and they are ready. They are quite small, so 2 of them, especially on a running day. Great to eat with fingers. Very tasty, succulent and not dry at all.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |


Watched riveted as Masterchef champion was announced after weeks of gruelling competition. Remember this name: Shelina Permalloo. She was born in Southampton and lives in Tooting. Her family is from Mauritius and her food was described by Gregg Wallace as

sunshine on a plate


a restaurant waiting to happen

She was consistent, joyful, and calm. She never made bad mistakes and she was always on time in tasks. And her food. Wow. In the beginning, like all amateurs, it was great tasting but did not have professional presentation. By the end, oh wow again. This was her octopus salad starter from the final — beautiful and apparently full of flavours. If she opened a restaurant I’d be there in a flash.

in eating and drinking |


RM and I had lunch at l’atelier de joel robuchon at covent garden. Chef Robuchon calls this restaurant a theatre of senses, and we had high expectations of this 2 michelin star place. We picked the more casual ground floor counter concept, where we could sit facing the open kitchen watching the chefs at work. We’d seen this on masterchef, and can’t imagine the amount of stress the chefs come under — to perform, cook, plate right in front of the customers. The head chef looked pretty young, but she was very poised and organised. Even when telling her sous chefs off, she wasn’t shouty or anything.

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I got there first and ordered a cocktail while waiting — vodka with beetroot, cranberry juice and ginger. We both decided on the 3-course set lunch with wine pairing £45, which turned out to be pretty good value for money. We had an amuse bouche of foie gras cream with foam. For starter I had chestnut velouté, which was a warm creamy soup of chestnut and celeriac — I didn’t have a chance to take a picture before the waiter poured the soup onto the filling. It was creamy and felt very decadent.

Mains I had confit saddle of lamb on haricot beans. Very rustic, but with a classy presentation and cooking. The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender and perfectly seasoned. We got a small pot of cauliflower cheese as side dish. For dessert I had pear with chocolate mousse and pear sorbet. Hard to go wrong, again very delicious.

2 michelin star restaurants like this, we expected to see tiny portions with more flair than substance. We were pleasantly surprised. While not huge steakhouse-like portions, it was not stingy and we were both full afterwards. The wine pairings were great, and at an extra £10-ish over the regular menu price, it’s a bargain for 3 glasses of wine. I’d definitely come back, and take Mum and mm when they visit. They also do tasting menus for over £100, but I’m happy enough with the set lunch.

in eating and drinking |


So SM, AT and I went back to princi for dinner. We thought it would be really crowded but we got lucky, it was still early and we got seats easily. Started with aperitifs — £7 for a cocktail, a plate of snacks and a small bowl of chips. Not bad. Then we moved onto pizzas and salads for mains and then from the bakery for dessert. I had a chocolate slice that was far too rich. I had some valpolicella and they stuck with beer. Afterwards we found a pub and had a nice drink and chat. They are good friends.

in eating and drinking |


I bought a whole side of salmon 1kg, half price at £10, a great bargain. Instead of slicing into individual steaks, I baked the whole piece in the oven at 180°C, with butter and fresh lemon thyme. Ready in 25mins. I can get 8 very generous portions out of this, fantastic.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |


Met SM and his wife for dim sum. I’ve started to take people who are unfamiliar with dim sum to New World. Not that I’m impressed with their food, service or décor. It’s just that it’s one of very few remaining places with trolley service. It’s always great to show people choices and let them pick the dishes they want to try. We had lots, including lotus rice, all the usual dim sum and crispy fried noodles. Beer too. £15 each is very good value.

We didn’t have dessert, instead walked up to Soho and had cappuccino at algerian coffee. This place was established in 1887, and is a treasure trove of all things coffee, tea and chocolate. Fresh, organic espresso or cappuccino from an authentic coffee machine, oh the smells. I don’t drink coffee, and I had a cappuccino that I thought was very good.

Onward, and we walked along Wardour Street towards Oxford Street. Wow, so many new food and drink places. We found ourselves at princi — pizza, salads and all manners of scrumptious cakes. Semi-self service. I had a ricotta cheesecake, SM had a chocolate cake and AT had a passionfruit cheesecake. Love the design and concept of the place.

We said our goodbyes and I went to Waitrose at John Lewis. Bought vegetables and a bottle of Caol Isa cask strength that is apparently discontinued and therefore discounted to £25.

in eating and drinking , outside interests |

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I had a groupon for the hyper japan festival this weekend. Billed as the UK’s biggest j-culture event, I was intrigued.

There were lots of stalls for gadgets, toys, comics, dvds and all sorts of Japanese cute stuff. A couple of stalls selling sweets like collon, melty kiss and this PSP sour candy. I wasn’t tempted, because I know where to get these stuff cheaper. And I’m less interested in the cosplay and video games stuff anyway.

The main reason I wanted to go were the sushi and sake tasting events. Each of the competitor stalls will give you a sample so you can score and vote. There is also a chance of some big prizes. It was interesting, but also quite disappointing. 5 pieces of sushi for £20 and a chance at a prize draw is not good value for money. Same with the tiny sips of sake and a minute piece of cheese or snack they give you, for another £20. If I hadn’t had the groupon, I would have felt badly ripped off.

I had some yaki soba and gyoza too. Grabbed a few free bottles of yakult and was out of there before noon.

in eating and drinking |


SM and I went to Wagamama for lunch. I had the miso ramen. Nothing like the ramen in Tokyo or Osaka or Sapporo, but like any chain, the food is as expected.

in eating and drinking |


I normally make pancakes for pancake day, but I didn’t feel like it this year. So I got crumpets and had them with strawberries and the frango chocolate sauce I still have in my cupboard. I must say, I lurve crumpets.

in arts and media , eating and drinking , going places |

Over the weekend i caught up with The Very Hungry Frenchman, the new bbc2 program where Raymond Blanc travels back to France and explores the cuisines of various regions. The series started with him going home to his parents’ house. How lovely to see his mother’s garden and kitchen, it’s no surprise that he learned a lot from her. This clip shows him making comté soufflé. Wow, oh wow.

Thus inspired, I looked at packages at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, his 2 Michelin-starred hotel restaurant in Oxford. Pretty expensive is an understatement. There are midweek and weekend packages as well as one the combines a day at his cookery school. For example, the Decouverte Experience includes:

  • room varying between luxurious to super deluxe suite
  • welcome drinks, flowers, chocolate
  • 9 course dinner, which has dishes like confit de foie de canard, wild brill with caviar, roasted venison and vacherin with truffle & honey
  • french breakfast

will costs at least £800. Gulp. Talked it over with mm, and even though it would have been a fantastic visit, we decided it’s too expensive.

in eating and drinking |


It seems that all I eat nowadays is steak and duck. (Well, there’s the soup weekday evenings and chicken or salmon for lunch, but I digress.) I bought 4 duck breasts at Tesco’s yesterday, and even though I have a huge pot of lamb stew in the oven, it’s duck for dinner again. Yummy. These are very nicely pink and served with delicious duck fat potatoes (fat from last week), roasted celeriac and savoy cabbage.

in eating and drinking |


It was always on the cards to return to Hawksmoor, after our last experience. This time, we tried the one at Spitalfields, which is less than 5mins’ walk from the office.

The setting is similar to the other branch, same casualness, same leather furniture, same dark setting. We had cocktails, and then headed straight into the steaks. Tried 2 new cuts: a 350g D-rump £20 and a 700g chateaubriand £12.50/100g. Big difference in price. The chateaubriand was as soft as a filet but had flavour; the D-rump was chewier but less tough than normal rump. Had bone marrow as a side, a bottle of red and a couple of desserts. £100 per person. What can I say? I’ll come back again and again and again.

in eating and drinking |


I feel my resolve crumbling in the UK, I can’t resist all the biscuits and crisps that I grew up with. Chocolate I can leave. Except when it comes to chocolate orange. Sigh. I found these different varieties of chocolate orange on sale for 99p at Smith’s and simply had to get them:

  • honeycomb crunch
  • dark
  • volcanic popping candy
  • white chocolate smasher
  • regular

Apparently there are even more flavours. Argh. 4 segments is 180 calories, or running 3k. I guess I’ll have to really stick to the training plan.

in eating and drinking |

fruit tart

My valentine lives 8 timezones away, so I don’t participate in today’s romantic festivities. I did make good use of the special effects on picnik to make a pic of me and mm framed with hearts and flowers and musical notes. Whatsapped it to her before bed last night. She sent back a romantic, beautiful video, kiss the rain by Korean pianist Yiruma.

I left work with my friend SM. He was going home to cook dinner for his wife and stopped at Patisserie Valerie to get dessert. He kindly bought me this fruit tart. Such a sweet gesture.

in eating and drinking |


I bought this at either Borough market or at the real food show or…somewhere. Honestly can’t remember. Great tasting ostrich burger. Low fat, much healthier than beef. Low carb dish too, I didn’t put any bread or pasta or potato.

in eating and drinking |


It’s been a while since I did wholesale home cooking. Dinner today was something I’ve had before — roast gressingham duck, carrots & parsnips and cabbage. Didn’t need sauce, the duck was very tender. I also stuck a few slices of orange into the cavity as it was roasting to give it a slight tangy flavour. I also made roast chicken thighs for lunch, sautéed savoy cabbage, baby corn and the said carrots & parsnips.

in eating and drinking |


So, how many of the top 40 must try food have I tried?

  1. french toast — yes, yes. I scrape the butter off though
  2. scrambled egg sandwich — yes
  3. stinky tofu — yes
  4. cheeseburgers — no, not sure what they are
  5. sweet tofu soup — yes
  6. pineapple bun — yes
  7. chicken feet — yes
  8. wife cake — yes, but I don’t like them
  9. ginger milk curd — yes
  10. five layer roast pork — yes, not too keen on the fat though
  11. indonesian satay — yes
  12. steamed meat mountain — yes
  13. preserved sausage — yes, but not for a long time, too fatty
  14. trendy hot pot — hot pot yes, what’s trendy?
  15. beef brisket — yes, not a favourite
  16. egg tart — yes
  17. yung kee roast goose — oh my, yes
  18. kowloon city thai — yes, a whole street of thai restaurants, what’s not to like
  19. roast pigeon — yes, many times
  20. snake soup — yes, I miss it
  21. lotus seed paste — yes, not on its own, in a dessert or bun
  22. typhoon shelter crab — yes, a little too spicy for me
  23. egg noodle — yes, not sure why it is on the list
  24. milk tea — yes, under duress. tea made from canned milk is disgusting
  25. joy hing char siu — yes, I used to get scads of it and freeze them
  26. cha siu bau — yes
  27. claypot rice — yes, yum
  28. north point egg cakes — yes, but the np ones are overhyped
  29. thai shrimp sashimi — yes, RM took me to a place last year
  30. mulberry mistletoe tea — not sure what this is
  31. block 13 cow offal — no, I think
  32. congee — yes, who hasn’t?
  33. bowl pudding — yes, childhood memories
  34. tonkatsu — in general yes, even in Japan, but not the specific place mentioned
  35. b boy grass jelly — yes, mm and i were going to go, but didn’t have time
  36. mango pudding with mango sauce and mango — yes, oh yes, mango yes
  37. sweet and sour pork — yes, far too many times
  38. louis steak — yes, must go back soon
  39. fishball — yes, love the stuff
  40. swiss chicken wings — yes, I think

in eating and drinking |


My parents invited mm to hotel icon for buffet lunch (my second icon buffet). I can’t say they took her, because although it was their intention, she trumped them by sneakily paying in the middle of lunch, how naughty! I was much more selective this time round, and we all agreed that this is one of the best buffet places, even better than café too yesterday.

Spent the afternoon with mm, just ambling. Looked at mba vs mbp for her. And then it was time to say goodbye. ::cry:: She went with me on the train, and we have to console ourselves that we’ll see each other in August.

Met up with Sis for drinks at a new wine bar. Its selling gimmick is a touchscreen bar table where customers can get wine recommendations. Unfortunately it wasn’t working. The wine came in 3 sizes: tasting, medium and regular. I thought the place is on the expensive side, the wine selection seems to be uneven.

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Dinner at a Vietnamese fusion type of place. Spring rolls and chicken wings. Something called complicated noodles which was a plate of plain noodle sheets, meat and sauce so we made our own noodle package. Dessert I had mango sticky rice with mango and mango ice cream.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

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Lunch buffet at Café Too at the Island Shangri-la. When mm rang up to book, they told us that the table would be in a high traffic area and do we mind? She asked them to move us to a better table if one is available, and when got there they took me to one next to the window and definitely low traffic, so good for them.

What can I say about that buffet? I’ve always liked it, many different stations: Japanese, salad, seafood, cold meats, dim sum, hot dishes, roasts, noodle bar, curry station and lots of dessert. I started with salad, sashimi and seafood, hot appetisers including dim sum, and a couple of bowls of chicken soup. The soup was made individually and steamed in this giant vat, when it was ready they rang this bell and people rushed to get the fresh soup.

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Didn’t have too much main course, they had these freshly grilled sliders and I had a slice of the roast beef. I was pretty full by then, so had the noodle station make me some vegetables (no noodles). Had a plate of colourful desserts and a waffle cone of mango and green tea ice cream. Stuffed!

The quality seems to have diminished a little though, no oyster, no lobster, and the desserts are either small bowls, the standard cake or mousses. Still a very nice lunch, especially since it was with mm.

Did a little more shopping, but not much. I don’t have a lot to buy this time round. Early evening we made it back to her place for a rest — I tackled playing on her pb2 and she practiced piano. Dinner wasn’t really dinner, we went to a tapas place, had some wine and a few tapas. She has to go to work tomorrow morning, so not a late night.

in eating and drinking , family first |

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My niece was already up when I woke up. We had lunch at home (ahhhh, so great to eat some simple home cooked food) and then spent the afternoon playing on the wii. Mostly, she played and I joined in a little, in between uploading pics.

They had to go home for dinner so it was just me and my parents. We went to another all-you-can-eat Japanese place. Sat at the sushi bar and ordered our little hearts out. Soft drinks and beer were free. We ended up having a ton of sashimi, a handroll each, some beef sushi, tempura, grilled vegetables, salad and ice cream. My favourites were sashimi and the whole sweet beef tomato. Not a lot of meat, just fish and vegetables.

After dinner, Mum and I went to the computer centre to get some flashdrives. We also went to the “sneaker street” but I was so disappointed. Nike Free 2.0 and Lunarglide 3 were more expensive than if I used a coupon at runningwarehouse. No Sauconys in sight whatsoever. Of course it means I have to be in the US to pick up the delivered shoes.

in eating and drinking |

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Lunch buffet at hotel icon which is part of the tourism and hotel management school at one of the universities. The hotel is staffed by students at the school, nice concept. The buffet has one of the biggest spreads we’ve ever tried, and we’ve tried many many hotel buffets. There were: all sorts of freshly made bread, salad, parma ham, singaporean yu sheng, alaskan king crab legs, prawns, lobster, sushi station, noodles station, grilled steak, lamb chop, sausages, salmon head, ribs, duck breast, ribs, too many hot food to mention.

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There were 2 dessert stations. One with the more traditional cny type desserts, plus ice kacang; the other had cakes, cheesecakes, macaroons, ice cream and bread & butter pudding. We left there, impossibly full.

Then we tried to walk the food off at the science museum. Had to avoid the trick mirror that gave us all additional 300 pounds and doubled our waistline! My niece had taekwondo practice at 6pm so we went to see that. Amazing that the master and his 2 assistants can fit a class of 12 kids in a squash court. There were toddlers who had just started, intermediates like my niece and a couple of older kids with black belts. Very impressive.

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And to top it off, my sis had reservations at peking garden for peking duck dinner. The rest we stuck to vegetables, but we were too full to finish. Took 3 containers’ worth of food home, plus the duck carcass. They had spares so they gave us one more carcass too. Luckily, my mum has 3 fridges.

in eating and drinking , family first |

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Lunch with my own family, vietnamese food: beef pho for me, and we shared some crab rolls, prawns on sugar cane and pork chop. Then it was up to Sis’ home, I played on the wii with my niece while the adults watched tv, went for a walk or did their own thing. Dinner was pizza which we heated at home. I had a godfather’s pizza, which was pepperoni, ham and sausage. A little bit too meaty for me, but still good. Nice chat, a little bit of wine and lots of chocolate that I brought back.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Had lunch with mm’s family at the usual restaurant. Lots of food, and I got to take some of the sago tart away with me. Had to carry it with me all day though, small price to pay for good food. After lunch mm and I walked to all the nearby computer malls to search for a wiimote and some flashdrives for mum. Normally these things are easy to get, but during the holidays almost all the shops were closed.

She wanted to look at some watches but when we got to the shop none of the models appealed. We ended up at the top floor bar of the excelsior where we had a glass of wine each (she had a gewurtz and I had a valpolicella) and then headed to her home. Went to the market nearby and got fresh prawns and some fish; at the supermarket we got vegetables and tofu. She made 2 simple and delicious dishes for dinner — cooked prawns and a quick soup with the fish, veg and tofu. After dinner we went to a nearby dessert place, just 10mins walk. It’s cold, she needs to break out extra duvets for us tonight.

in eating and drinking |


Too much eating out is beginning to catch up on me, and I’m missing my own cooking. It’s all excellent food though, don’t get me wrong.

Met SC and AK for lunch at an all-you-can-eat Japanese place. It’s not a buffet, the food is made to order. The ordering sheets are stacked together into a 3 inch thick stack, there are sheets for 8 categories, from A to H. A is sashimi, B is sushi and so on covering tempura, yakitori, noodles, salad and everything one would expect from a Japanese place. It was good food.

Early dinner with parents at the market place we went to on Friday. Same slow cooked pork ribs and vegetables, but this time we added black bean steamed eels (delicious, so fresh) and curry mixed mushrooms (oh my, the curry sauce so yummy). For dessert we had steamed milk pudding made inside a young coconut. No sweetener, the sweetness of the coconut juice was enough. Silky smooth, almost decadent (even though at a local eatery on the top floor of a wet market is anything but decadent.)

I was feeling full, but okay. Mum gave me a tangerine when we got home and that was when the problem started. I got hit by this painful indigestion attack. I haven’t had one for years, and this one took an hour to go away. Argh.

in eating and drinking |


There was this saying, I can’t remember where it came from, that if you haven’t been to Khan’s you haven’t been to London. It’s not as if they serve high end food; or have great service; or there is a special dish. Khan’s is just one of those London institutions that like Wong Kee or the bagel place on Brick Lane that, yes, if you haven’t been, you haven’t been to London. We used to like it because it was nearby, and we hadn’t ventured so far away to Brick Lane yet. It used to be always busy, and sometimes the queue was so long we went to another eat-as-much-as-you-like Indian place a couple of doors down.

I hadn’t been to walk around Bayswater since I’ve been back, although it’s on my run route to Hyde Park, and I went with Mum to the Nando’s at Westbourne Grove. Queensway proper, this is the first time in a while. Heh. There are even more tacky souvenir shops than before. More Chinese restaurants. The place where we had hot chocolate is gone. Whitley’s is still there but pretty quiet and desolate. The ice skating place is still there; as is the casino. Khan’s is still there, but not that other place a few doors down.

Sunday at 1pm and there were only 2 or 3 tables occupied when I walked in. By the time I finished, there were all told, 6 tables. Not the heaving place I remembered. The thali came quickly (from left of pic) — daal, vegetable curry, sag, aloo gobi, raita; plus poppadom, naan and rice. I also ordered a salty lassi. If I had the presence of mind, I would have eaten more neatly and take the leftovers away, but I finished it mostly. It was pretty good, but not piping hot and definitely not as mindblowing as I remembered. £10.95, plus lassi and the bill came to £15. Or 1/3 of the Goodman’s steak last night.

in eating and drinking |


The best steakhouse in London, many say it’s Hawksmoor, which is where we went last week. Seems that the other #1 steakhouse is Goodman’s, so we felt we should also try it.

There are 3 branches, and we picked the Canary Wharf location as it’s close to RM’s place. Not too far of a commute for me. Again an early booking of 5pm. Decoration-wise, it’s even more traditional and macho than Hawksmoor. We ordered a St Emilion to be decanted and waited for it to become drinkable. In the meantime, we dawdled over the menu.

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They had an ageing cabinet for display next to the kitchen, where steaks were let to dry age for anything up to 50 days. Big, big cuts. Very impressive. The menu had rib-eye, sirloin and filet. The chalkboard had porterhouse, t-bone, chateaubriand, bone-in rib-eye and bone-in sirloin. The beef is sourced from US (USDA grade), Ireland and Scotland and were corn, grass or partially grain fed. We had a small lesson in farming. We didn’t share this time; RM picked a 800g (28oz) bone-in rib-eye from Ireland and I had a 650g (23oz) bone-in sirloin from the US (Nebraska, we were told by the website) which on the board was described as Kansas cut.

We skipped starters as frankly, nothing stood out. Then our steaks arrived. Wow. Talk about charcoal grilled. The outside was crunchy, almost crackling like. The inside was perfectly cooked. Very perfect. Our lovely server gave us all 3 sauces: peppercorn, bearnaise and stilton. Didn’t need any sauce. As if I wasn’t greedy enough, I had a truffle mac and cheese, which must have been doused in truffle oil because I could really taste it. I asked why mac and cheese was on the menu as a side and the response was that steakhouses are American and mac & cheese is American, so that’s why. Hee.

I did enjoy my steak. RM liked his better than Hawksmoor but I preferred the Hawksmoor one. It is truly a case of YMMV. We skipped dessert too, again because the choices were not outstanding. And this is probably where, if we only had one day and one meal available, both of us would go to Hawksmoor. The steaks at both places are outstanding, but what Hawksmoor was better was the menu selection for the non-steak items; as well as that fabulous cocktail bar experience. I’ll still put Goodman’s on my list of places to take people, no question.

p.s. not cheap, 2 huge steaks, 2 sides and a bottle of admittedly very fine wine came to £150.

in eating and drinking |


I had a 2-for-1 main course voucher for Belgo so RM and I had dinner there. The mussels were a bit small today, but the sauce was good as always. I had a Kwak beer where the glass came in an unusual wooden stand. RM had the waffle and I had the pavlova for dessert. Belgo is normally reliable, but I’m now I’m putting them on the “may be not” list because of those tiny mussels.

in eating and drinking |

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RM and I were talking about steak and were looking into good steakhouses in london. Everywhere we looked, it seemed that Hawksmoor comes up top. I can’t find a bad review, and the price though expensive, people are saying it’s worth it. We rang up yesterday and managed to get a very early dinner reservation, which suits us fine because both of us like to eat dinner early.

I did my weekend long run today, 11 miles. He did a long gym session, so we both banked calories for the feast. Good planning.

We went to the Seven Dials branch, hidden in a tiny side street in Covent Garden. The imposing heavy wood front door seems intimidating, but once inside it’s all very different. The decoration — dark lighting, dark wood, leather banquettes — suggest stuffiness, but it’s the opposite. People were in jeans, and it’s almost diner-like in its casualness. Like very much.

The menu is, well, steak steak and more steak. Aside from the filet, sirloin and rib-eye on the main menu, they also had specific cuts of chateaubriand, porterhouse, bone-in prime rib and filet mignon, all chalked up on a board. So basically you order the particular piece of steak by weight. At our server’s suggestion, we had the bone-in prime rib. The smallest piece was 900g, almost 32oz; the largest over 1kg.

To start, we shared a crab on toast. After our great st john experience, we have great expectations of crab. This wasn’t st john level in terms of sea-freshness, but it was nevertheless very delicious. A small heap of white and brown meat on sourdough toast, perfect starter really.

The steak soon arrived, unpretentiously bursting out of an oval cast iron pan. As the restaurant described, dictionary thick. RM had the bone, and I was soon tucking into a couple of thick, chunky, juicy, meaty, absolutely heavenly slices. It was prime-rib, so there was a thick ribbon of fat. I normally won’t touch fat with a 10ft pole, but this was different. Just a small portion with some of the meat, and oh wow. The beef is sourced from longhorn cattle at the ginger pig farm in Yorkshire, and it is as good as it can get. I wanted chips, so we ordered triple cooked fat chips, could have also gone for the chips cooked in beef dripping — next time.

ldnhawks035stickytoffee ldnhawks008applebrandy

Pretty soon, all the steak was gone. We had room for pudding, so we had sticky toffee pudding and chocolate & rum pudding. Good stuff.

It wasn’t even 8pm, so we got the bill and moved to the bar area for cocktails. They have a glorious cocktail menu and our server recommended some good ones. Apple brandy cocktails, and then I had a treacle PX with rum. All in all, an extremely satisfying dinner. With 3 courses, wine and 2 cocktails the bill came to something like £90 per person. This is one restaurant I can’t wait to go back.

in eating and drinking |


Here’s a fun snack for new year’s eve: smoked salmon, vegetarian caviar, samphire. Strange, that the most common ingredient on this plate is the salmon (ignoring the lemon wedge!). I got the vegetarian caviar from a food show a while ago, I can’t find anything about it online and I’m wondering if it’s fake or what. Samphire is now available quite widely at the larger and better supermarkets, I got this packet at Waitrose. You’re supposed to steam or sautée it, but I had the oven on, so I just heated it up in the oven with a small knob of butter. Very nice, tastes a lot of the sea.

Happy New Year.

in easily amused , eating and drinking |


Traditionally the boxing day sale is the biggest shopping day of the year. This year, with both Monday and Tuesday being bank holidays, it means record breaking sales at all the retailers. I had debated whether to join the madness, I don’t really have anything to buy; may be some new plates if I see good ones. Then again, I should go out for a little bit, just so I can say I ventured outside during the 4 days for something other than running and taking the rubbish out.

Wasn’t sure where to go, so I just walked over to the bus stop and waited for the next bus. Normally #6 (to the West End) is the most frequent, but I had a premonition that it would be the 187. And I was right. 187 goes to Swiss Cottage and the O2 centre. No big department stores but there is a Habitat. I bought a box of Christmas cards there, then ambled over to Sainsbury’s. Oh yes, my big Christmas sale shopping was at…Sainsbury’s. I got sprouts on the stalk and celeriac for 30p each, huge bargain. Also got small planters, a set of table mats and adjustable spanners at Homebase. Shampoo and laundry detergent at Waitrose. Kinda boring, but useful stuff. Pretty pleased.

in eating and drinking |


Something simple and vegetarian for Boxing Day. This is from thekitchn. What caught my eye was that they could be made in advance, although I don’t see why they can’t be made on the day. I actually did make them yesterday, roasted the beets and sweet potatoes at the same time I was making that massive christmas feast. I managed to get 3 large beets which cut up into nice rounds. I used the larger ends of the sweet potatoes and the rest went with the roast.

To assemble, start with a slice of beet, then goat’s cheese, sweet potato and top with beet greens. Repeat to make a stack. Reheat in the oven for about 15mins. I made a vinaigrette from orange juice, mustard, balsamic and EVOO to go with it. Very simple, and tasted great. The sweetness of the potato and the vinaigrette plus the beets and everything held together by the goat’s cheese. It was difficult to eat the stack, I ended up breaking them into 4 smaller half-stacks.

Visually, it’s pretty stunning. If only I were able to get better produce. The beets were okay, but i ended up with white sweet potatoes which, while tasting sweet and wonderful, have a tendency to go grey and woody. I probably should have soaked them in water when I was prepping them. Sigh. Imagine if I was able to make this dish with yellow beets and purple sweet potato, what a switch up, wow. And then serve with something a little crunchy: the recipe had toasted walnuts and fried onions, so obviously I omitted them. Could probably have done with a sprinkling of panko, or to be real fancy, some sort of tuile on top. You know, just to be chef-y.

in eating and drinking |


I did cheat, yes, with a store-bought roast. I got from M&S a guinea fowl, duck & pheasant ballotine — it’s not something I would get normally, nor would I have been able to make it myself, so I consider it my Christmas indulgence. It came out of the packaging all ready for the oven, all I needed was to prep the veg — new potatoes, sweet potatoes and purple sprouts (on the stalk). The ballotine was supposed to take 2hrs at 180°C, so I timed the veg so they were ready at the same time.

Skyped sis and mum around 1pm, and by 1.45pm the food was ready so I signed off. While the ballotine rested, I reheated the veg and made the gravy. Boneless meant easy to carve and I generously gave myself 2 thick slices. Served with cranberry & port sauce and lots of gravy. Bear in mind that there’s how the picture looks (before) and how the plate actually looks (after) — I add food and literally poured gravy onto everything after I took the pic. The ballotine was good, although I couldn’t quite tell the difference between each of the meat, all I could see and taste was that there was some dark meat and some white meat. The potatoes were good, good, good. Everything was delicious. It didn’t feel strange to be eating at almost 2.30pm.


Waited till nighttime for dessert. My downstairs neighbour invited me for tea so I had to stop by for an hour. Plus getting dressed and combing my hair, heehee. Dessert was stollen which I bought in Prague. Had it with the sparkling cranberries and a dollop of marmalade. All in all a very filling and unhurried Christmas feast.

in eating and drinking |


Some recipes, you see it for the first time and you know you have to try it out. This was the case with this 101 cookbooks recipe for sparkling cranberries.

Time consuming, but extremely simple. Macerate fresh cranberries in simple syrup (same volume sugar and water as the cranberries) overnight, which for me turned into a few days in the fridge cos I didn’t have time. Drain the cranberries and toss in caster sugar, let dry on a baking sheet overnight, toss again in granulated sugar. Mine didn’t turn out as picture perfect as Heidi’s, but I’m happy. They are delicious, with the sharpness of the berries contrasting with the sweetness of the sugar. And very, very Christmasy.

in eating and drinking |


Oxtail soup to chase away the blahs, it being so cold and gets dark so early. Been on a soup kick lately, but there is something about homemade soup. The oxtails were very lean, from the market only £5 for the whole tail. Browned it with garlic and red onion, added carrot, potato, celery, tomato, tomato paste and fresh thyme. Just water, no need even for stock. 3 hrs at a gentle simmer, then stand overnight to skim off the fat. It’s thick, it’s warm and it’s filling. Perfect.

in eating and drinking |


seabassfresh seabassfilet

I bought a couple of fresh seabass when I was at Brixton market yesterday. The fishmonger cleaned them, but left them whole. I debated whether to cook them whole or to filet them and decided that I really don’t like eating any fish that still has bones. I have a fish knife, and I know how to take the skin off, but I’d never really tried fileting before. It wasn’t too difficult, although there was more wastage than I would have liked. I even managed to get rid of the pin bones, luckily it’s a fish that doesn’t have bones that are too small or fiddly.

Pan frying took about 1 minute each side. I served it with the vegetarian caviar I got a while ago, sauteéd prawns, scampi, roasted baby potatoes and asparagus. It was a running day, so I had a cider with it too.

in eating and drinking |


I met SM and his wife for lunch at franco manca, which I have now decided is the best pizza in London. There are other great pizza places of course, the thin and spare ones in Rome, the deep dish Chicago pizza pies that make me homesick, even the by the slice one we got at the neighbourhood place in NY. But in London, this place rules. It’s a small joint, hidden inside Brixton Market, one of the many modern eateries amidst the older styled fish, vegetable and bric-a-brac stores.

What makes franco manca pizza special is their base, made from sourdough that had been slowly rising overnight and baked in a wood-burning brick oven made all the way in Naples. Ingredients sourced from organic farms all over the UK. Can’t get more authentic than this.

No reservations, the place opens at 12pm and we got there at 11.50pm, they let us sit looking at the menu while they prepped. Needless to say, the place filled up quickly. There are only 6 pizzas on the menu, plus 2 daily specials. I had #4: gloucester old spot ham, wild mushroom, mozzarella and ricotta. We shared a salad and had one beer each, the bill came to £11 per person. I’ll definitely come back.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

Can’t believe that a generation ago, Japanese food was not very well known outside of Japan. Now, it’s so widely available that it’s hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know how to use chopsticks.

That said, Japanese food outside of Japan suffers the same fate as any other world food that is transported out of its origin country. It becomes bastardized. Which is why I’m so looking forward to this forthcoming documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi,

the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review.

Just watch the trailer, and make sure you have a napkin handy.

in eating and drinking |

applecrumble20111211 lambchop20111211

Try again. No lamb shanks left, so I grilled a couple of lamb chops. Served with super delicious roasted potato wedges and gently grilled baby gem lettuce. The crumble was a single portion left over from yesterday, I added tons of balsamic vinegar and did a modern-ish presentation with a shot glass of custard. Better.

in eating and drinking |

lambshank201112 applecrumble201112

My guests were late and I was in a hurry to serve the food before they dried out in the oven. As a result, I almost forgot to take a picture. The food was good — the lamb shanks had fallen off the bone, the roasted vegs were soft and crunchy and the mashed potato smooth and creamy. If only I took a few more pics.

Same with the apple crumble. Tasted great, the crumble was crunchy and the apples tart — I didn’t put any sugar on purpose. Good contrast with the sweetness of the custard. Pic wasn’t good either. Sigh.

in eating and drinking |


I’m having SM and his wife over tomorrow, so I did as much food prep as I could tonight: cooked lamb shank, prepped the root vegetables, made the crumble. So tomorrow I need to: make the potatoes, set out the munchies, get drinks ready, slice the apples so when they arrive I put the crumble in the oven. Menu:

  • mixed nuts and olives
  • mulled wine
  • red wine braised lamb shanks with mashed potato and roasted root vegetables
  • green side salad
  • apple crumble with custard

in eating and drinking , workstuff |

teamxmas06choctorte teamxmas05beef

The departmental christmas dinner was at the dispensary which is about 15mins walk from the office. It being a work dinner, the atmosphere was quiet although everyone was quite relaxed. We’d chosen our menu before, so there were no surprises. I had pumpkin soup, roast sirloin with trimmings and chocolate torte with raspberry sorbet. A few people couldn’t make it at the last minute so their meal was shared between those of us who could manage a second helping, which is how I came to also finish a plate of figs & ham.

At best, I would describe the food as mediocre. We think it’s because we’d been watching too much Masterchef and gotten spoiled. Or that the menu for a large group is different (and more mass produced?) than for regular diners. But both SM and I agreed that we ourselves could cook equivalent or better. The problem was that the food tasted like they came from Sainsbury’s instead of cooked at the restaurant. I liked the pumpkin soup, but then again I like New Covent Garden soup, and the two were suspiciously similar. The beef wasn’t steak, more like a prime rib, tasted ok but the gravy was think and had no taste. The chocolate torte was definitely shop bought. SM had a creme brulee and it came with 2 bourbon biscuits, straight from the packet. Argh!

in eating and drinking |

lambkale01 kaletahini01

I’ve been wanting to try this kale with tahini recipe for ages. I’m not familiar with kale, but I have a good idea of how it could taste like. It’s very easy, just sautée garlic and kale until soft, then toss in a mixture of tahini, water, lemon juice (I used lime), sesame oil and salt. It’s really good. The kale never lost its vibrant green colour, and was cooked until just soft. I went running today, so I’m allowed lamb. Had a couple of chops with the kale and some grilled asparagus.

in eating and drinking |


I thought I’d try the new curious ciders from Magners, since it has become one of my favourite ciders. There are 3 flavours: spiced apple & honey, spiced apple & rhubarb and pear & ginger.

in eating and drinking , objects of desire |


I have a very simple wishlist for Christmas. I want a metal pasta strainer that can fit in my large le creuset pot. Just the strainer, not the pot because I don’t have the space for another pot. The reason I want the strainer? To use to put the ingredients when I make stock. I can’t believe how easy and a lightbulb went off in my head when I read this. All my colanders are plastic so they won’t survive 3 hours in boiling stock. A metal one will.

in eating and drinking |


And now back to the regular food porn series. I got this venison steak for £5 at M&S on Friday. Pan fried for about 6mins so it’s still very rare. Deglazed the pan with butter and served with sautéed little gem lettuce. Took all of 10mins. Drinking it with a beaujolais nouveau I got last week. I’ll never get on Masterchef until I learn more about artistic presentation, but I cook pretty well, I think.

in eating and drinking |


Mum has a list of things and places to eat, one of which is salt beef. So I walked over to Brick Lane and got salt beef bagels for our dinner tonight. Had that with heart warming soup from NCGS, very tasty with tomato, pepper, carrot, courgette and lentil.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |


So, the more facebook friends we have the more developed our brains are in certain regions: memory, emotional responses and social interactions. Hmm. I have almost 900 friends in my “public” account but less than 100 in my real name account. So, fail here.

Another study shows that faster walkers have higher life expectancy. Hmm. I’m not a fast walker, mm always leaves me behind. Fail again.

At least I’m not a total failure: beer contains silicon, which helps prevent osteoporosis. Yet again, it’s all about the beer.

in eating and drinking |


I was trolling around teh interwebz and came across a couple of references to a sandwich shop at London Wall called assenheim 56. It’s about 10mins’ walk from the office so I dragged SM over there. Perfect for a friday afternoon. First thing that hit me as I was walking down the street is the delicious smell. Second thing was the queue, which stretched to the neighbouring shops.

Having done my research, I knew exactly what to expect with the special ordering method. First of all, there are 2 sides to the shop. The sandwich, salad and pasta side is on the left and there is no line, just walk up to the counter. The grilled chicken is the one with the long queue. Customers are served in batches of 10, we lined up and remembered our numbers as the chef called out. Then it was a matter of picking from: rice, vegetables and potatoes. “Number 1?” “Rice and salad, please.” The salad is already prepared and in the box. Whether we wanted dressing, tabasco and sauce were the next stage of ordering and the required response was the same as with the accompaniments. It was very organised and we were amused by the whole experience.

The chicken itself came fresh from the grill so it was nicely charred and moist. De-boned leg is probably my favourite cut. The chimichurri sauce was lavish. The rice and salad were good. The whole meal came to £7, which we thought was on the expensive side. If it were a little cheaper, we’d be there all the time. I guess if it were cheaper, the queue would be all the way to the moon.

Anyway, we decided to go for something to eat once every week or so, to break up the monotony of bringing in our own lunch.

in eating and drinking |

tandis001mezze tandis002lamb

Went to dinner with JA and RM at tandis at chalk farm. For starters we had a very nice mixed mezze selection of yogurt with spinach, chicken salad, hummus and grilled aubergines. For mains we had 3 different styles of lamb kebab: cubes, flatted and minced. All were nice, big portions too. Including 2 bottles of wine and a sparkling water it came to £35 per person, pretty good.

in eating and drinking |


Yesterday, my last full day in Chicago, was spent resting my tired legs, uploading marathon pics and generally not doing a whole lot. Walked out to Walgreens for some last minute stuff. And passed by shawn michelle’s handmade ice cream store. I’d read reviews of the place and had always wanted to try whenever I drove past. They weren’t ready when I walked by before lunch, so when my friend M came to visit I suggested that we went there.

They gave us free samples, lots of them. I decided on vanilla and honey cinnamon graham cracker. Very nice. M had banana and butter pecan which also looked yummy. Now I’m sorry I didn’t start going there earlier.

in eating and drinking |


Like some sort of hardcore idiot I’d organised a conference call for 9am. When I got in at 8am I saw an email request for it to be rescheduled because of people’s unavailibility. Sheesh.

So I said sod it, I’m going to treat myself to breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s. This famous diner is across the street from the office. I didn’t feel like omelette, otherwise I would have had their signature dish served in a skillet. I had french toast with sausages instead. Yummy.

in eating and drinking |

chibayou01 chibayougumb03

I was walking back to the office after sorting out my car registration when I came across a food truck selling gumbo, jamalaya and cajun food. Having read about food trucks I wanted to try it out. Had the chicken gumbo which wasn’t very impressive. It was a few bits of chicken and a lot of soup, with a slice of bread on top. Not worth $8. May be I should have tried something more substantial. I’ll give it a second chance if I’m ever out that way again.

in eating and drinking |


I wanted to try to make pea and broad bean bruschetta that I tried at Jamie’s Italian last week. Don’t really need a recipe, but this is one from bbc good food is a good reference.

Cooked the shelled fresh peas and double-podded broad beans in water until just done. Roughly crushed with a fork with freshly chopped mint (I bought a mint plant especially for this), s&p, a little olive oil and a tiny bit of parmesan. Toasted a whole mini-baguette and spread a generous portion of the pea mixture on top. Heh, this is one of those dishes that I can only eat on a running day without guilt. And yes, I did 20k before lunch.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |

ldnstrfood040pancake ldnstrfood039crabcake

Went to the autumn real food festival at the southbank with RM, SM and his wife. Similar to the last time I went in May except with more stalls that spilled out to the river side. We walked around checking out all the stalls. I had Heston’s crab cakes and whole roast hog roll, again. I figured I won’t know when the next time I’ll see it, the weekly market probably ends when it gets near winter. For dessert we shared some mini Dutch pancakes and chocolate mousse. The Dutch pancakes, or poffertjes, were tiny, fluffy and made from a grill with small holes like the ones the Japanese use to make octopus balls. Traditionally served with butter and sugar which was how I ordered it.

in eating and drinking |


Saw this in the newspapers this morning, that there will be a whisky from Cornwall for the first time in 300 years. It is brought to us by the St Austell brewery, which makes really good cider. £150 for 500ml, hmm.

in eating and drinking |

labuv001artichoke labuv003choctart

What is this about vendor lunches and dinners lately? Another one wanted to take us for dinner but we decided on lunch after a meeting instead. They are based in Richmond and they took us to la buvette, a nice bistro serving regional Frehcn cuisine.

No wine as it was lunch. Most of us had the artichoke and tapanade to start. I’m glad we know them quite well, it’s difficult to eat artichoke without hands. I liked it, it was tasty and done just right. Mains I had calves’ liver with gremolata, bacon and portabello mushroom. Again, cooked just right. Dessert was chocolate tart with honeycomb.

I’d say if I were back in Richmond I might return, although there are so many other good restaurants that are worth trying.

in eating and drinking |

nbank002duck nbank003panna

Another vendor dinner, this time at northbank right next to the millenium bridge. Another modern British restaurant with a daily changing menu. We like this team of people and we had a good time

I had crab cake with fennel, duck breast with puy lentils & cherries, and poached strawberries with pannacotta. The crab salad was a little small, and I finished it in about 1 minute. The duck breast was just like any other duck breast I’ve tasted, but the pairing with cherries did work. Duck with any sort of sweet fruit works really. The dessert was fine, again it was a 1 minute affair. Reminds me that I should make pannacotta again.

in eating and drinking |

image from wikipedia

I forgot to take a pic, but I was feeling particularly peckish this morning. SM dragged me out to a wonder coffee place (I had chai latte) and I got a bacon sandwich at the shop opposite. Just plain British bacon (none of the thin and crispy American stuff) in between 2 slices of granary toast. And brown sauce. Hit the spot.

Of course no one in the UK calls it a bacon sandwich. It’s either bacon sarnie or bacon butty.

in eating and drinking |

stj016marrow stj013crabtoast

It seems obligatary that any article about st john restaurant must contain the almost clichéd phrases: “nose-to-tail” (ie offal) eating, cooking pig’s head and the place where Anthony Bourdain would eat his death row meal. (Yes, I had the one dish he singled out, more later.)

There, I got them out of the way.

Despite calling only 1 day ahead, RM and I were able to score a reservation at 6.15pm. I’d deliberately run past the place on Thursday’s run home. The restaurant is in what used to be a smokehouse, and retains a lot of the simple decor and feel. The bar, bakery and dining room were white, plain and stark. The menu changes every meal, and they didn’t post the dinner menu till 5pm.

We got a bottle of house red and set about ordering. What about those bone marrow that Bourdain loved? I’d actually had the dish before, so I knew what to expect. To eat it with parsley salad and a pinch of rock salt is new, and it is a good pairing. The marrow is like cooked, fatty meat jelly and was delicious. What was even more delicious, to our surprise, was the crabmeat on toast. Can’t quite tell what was in the sauce — crab roe for certain — the crab smelled and tasted of the sea, it was so fresh.

stj021grouse stj026tongue

The menu for the past couple of days included ox heart so I had my heart set on it [groan]. Unfortunately not tonight. The best choice was ox tongue, which was tender but I would have liked something I hadn’t tried before. RM had grouse which came very rare, not for the faint-hearted.


Dessert was madeleines, which had a 15min wait and came to the table with the piping hot taste and smell that only something that came straight from the oven could achieve. Great meal, came to around £60 per person, not cheap. Worth it though.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


London shopping day. Bus to Harrods, but none of the food hall eating places appealed so we went outside to Brompton Road and found a nice Italian place. Beef carpaccio and Irish oysters to start and spaghetti vongole as mains. Had a couple of glasses of chianti too. The restaurant wasn’t that crowded, although there was a steady stream of takeout orders from regulars so it must be popular with office workers nearby. Spent most of the afternoon wandering around Harrods, including when mm played extensively on their bechstein pianos. Some people stopped to listen and some even applauded. So proud!

There was enough time to go to whole foods. We bought salmon for sashimi, cranberry bread, veal chop and a dry-aged sirloin steak. It’s always good to shop there, although the bill did come to £50+. The veal and steak came to £20, which is a fraction of how much they’d cost in a restaurant. I grilled them, cooked some of the fresh corn from yesterday, and opened my last bottle of snafu wine from Chicago. Too full for dessert even though we know we have to try the mint choc cornettos that are mm’s favourite.

in eating and drinking |


I made pea pesto again. This time with 2 large bags of fresh peas. I gave some to my friend SM, and have been enjoying it not only with pasta, but with cold roasted chicken. I’m thinking may be I’ll try it as a topping with grilled pork chop. Yep yep, I think it’ll work.

in eating and drinking |

kpmglunch02chicken kpmglunch01pork

Our tax consultant invited our whole team to their in-house fine dining restaurant at the top floor of their building down at Canary Wharf. It’s very fine indeed, with professional wait staff and a nice menu:

  • pork rillettes, apple jelly, sourdough & scottish girolles
  • roast breast of cobb chicken, sweetcorn purée, sautéed spaetzle
  • moist coconut sponge on chocolate mousse & cherry purée
  • selection of english & french cheeses
  • coffee or tea with petit fours

Well cooked, beautiful presentation, as good as any good central london restaurant. The whole meal accompanied by a nice white wine. Only in Europe do you get wine with a working lunch. It was a long lunch, finished at 3.30pm and almost 5pm by the time we got back to the office.

in eating and drinking |


peapesto02 peapesto04

700g (about 1.5lbs) peas, shelled — use frozen if fresh not available
2 tbsp roasted pine nuts
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
30g (1/3 cup) parmesan
1 clove garlic

This is a great recipe from smitten kitchen that I’ve wanted to make for a few weeks. Just happened that fresh peas were on discount, so I got a big bag. I’d never bought fresh peas before, and even the shelling process was fun.

Cook peas in boiling water for about 3mins until just done, drain and cool. Meanwhile dry roast the pine nuts if not already roasted. Put peas, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and s&p in food processor and blitz until smooth. Slowly add olive oil. Blitz some more.

Cook pasta and drain, saving the cooking water. Return pasta to pan and add pesto, using pasta water to dilute to a loose paste consistency. Season and serve.

in eating and drinking |


I made roasted cauliflower from a recipe from summer tomato.

Cut cauliflower into small florets, season with olive oil, s&p and a little paprika, cover with foil and roast in a very hot oven (250°C) for 10-15mins to steam cook. Remove foil, return to oven and toss every 5mins until caramelised.

I’m not a big cauliflower fan. I’ll eat it, but aside from trying to make cauliflower cheese that one time, I can’t remember buying it very often. I think that will change. This is fabulous. So sweet, so delicious, so simple. I went running for 2hrs+ today, so I’m allowed a big dinner. I had 3 pork & apple sausages (yum) and about 1/4 of the cauliflower. Very tempted to chomp more of this.

in eating and drinking |


Friday after work, I went with RM to the great british beer festival at earl’s court. It’s sponsored by the campaign for real ale, and offers 500+ beers and ales and ciders from regional breweries. Entrance is £10, and glasses are £3. We wisely opted for the small glass and only bought 1/3 pint portions so we can try more. Most were around £1 for 1/3 pint.

It was hot and crowded, getting through to the bar was a bit of a scrum. Altogether we managed to try the equivalent of 2 pints of all sorts — ale, porter, german pilsner, perry. It’s RM’s first outing as a UK resident and I think he had a good time. We also tried kangaroo burger, boar burger, scampi and I couldn’t resist a cup of whelk and a huge bag of pork scratchings.

in eating and drinking |


I fell in love with rainier cherries the first time I tried them, and managed to get some for my parents when they visited. I’d given up on ever finding them and enjoying their sweet, sweet taste again. That is until I saw my colleague with a punnet. She told me where to get them — good old M&S — so I immediately went and got 3 punnets, half price at £3.67 (yes, that’s almost US$6) for 400g (14oz). Price was not a concern.

I’m not sure how long the season is, i know it’s short. I want to somehow make sure mm gets to try them, so I froze a bunch. They don’t look very good when defrosted, and are less firm, but the sweetness is there. I hope she likes them.

in eating and drinking |


Thomas Keller will be opening a pop-up of the French Laundry at Harrods in October for just 10 days. Nine course tasting menu for £250. Even if I could afford it, I doubt I can get through to reservations when it opens on 1 Sept.

in eating and drinking |


I had pancakes and bacon breakfast a couple of weekends ago at the wetherspoon pub in Victoria station while Sis and I were hanging out.

  • the good — real British bacon. Years in the US and I had missed real bacon. There’s a big difference between the two types of bacon, so much so that they can be considered two different meats. American bacon is streaky, fatty and served crunchy. You bite into it and it’s like biting into a mouthful of grease. Quite yummy in a perverted, unhealthy kind of way. British bacon is leaner, less salty and actually tastes of meat. It’s usually not fried or grilled to within an inch of its life and is more like cured pork chop.
  • the bad — the bacon wasn’t done very well, in fact the whole dish was a bit tasteless. I guess it was too much to expect from mass produced restaurant food.
  • the ugly — microwaved rubbery pancakes. I couldn’t decide if these sorry excuse for foodstuff were what we’d call drop scones in the UK or the American pancake. And they were definitely reheated.

It being a pub, I managed to finish the meal by washing it all down with a pint of cider (yes, it was available even at breakfast time). That made everything tolerable. Ah, the effects of cider.

in eating and drinking |


Lunch tomorrow will be on the train, so I made strawberry sandwich. The bread is the Best.Bread.Ever from poilane, and instead of sugar, there’s a generous helping of peanut butter. Apparently it’s standard fare in Holland. It’s official, the Dutch have great taste.

in eating and drinking , photography is life |


Been a while since I posted a homemade food pic, so here’s one of my most “famous” ones — lamb shank with roasted root vegetables. Must get back to cooking more.

in eating and drinking |


The first time I went to le relais de venise was when I was in new york last year. The one in London is just north of Bond Street and the menu is identical. Sis and I were supposed to go running for a bit then to the Thai place opposite the station, but I decided to take her to steak frites instead.

The food was as good, the sauce buttery and creamy. We had a whole bottle of corbieres and followed with dessert. Must go running tomorrow to make up for the rich food, heehee.

in eating and drinking , family first , in the news |


Met Sis’ friend C and his partner for dinner at Strada. Pretty okay food, nothing special. The best was the garlic pizza bread starter. I had risotto. First time I’ve met them together (can’t remember C that well), but we had a great time and good conversation.

In other news, after a week of outlandish and outrageous revelations, the announcement came in the afternoon that the news of the world will close after sunday. I’ve been following the story all week, and I can truly say good riddance. There are no words to describe what they did, the invasion of privacy of ordinary folks at their most vulnerable is just…inhuman.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Met Sis after work and went to Brick Lane. Had a nice Indian meal — chicken bhuna, paneer mattar, lamb biryani. Then walked to the famous 24hr authentic bagel shop and got some plain bagels. Ah memories.

in eating and drinking |


This is a very simple, healthy, no oil recipe from elise. It keeps the juices intact so the meat doesn’t get dry, and even people who don’t like chicken breasts should like it.

Cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise, season with s&p, herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice. Wrap up tightly in cling film (American: plastic wrap), tie the ends in a double knot — using the type that is microwavable. Alternatively, wrap in parchment paper or foil then plastic for people who don’t like plastic touching their food.

Bring a pot of water to boil and turn the heat off. Place the wrapped chicken in the hot water, cover and allow to slowly cook for 20-30mins, depending on the thickness of the chicken. It’s just like sous-vide, only no need for expensive equipment. Remove and serve with a nice salad and sauce. I used an apple & chilli jam although pesto, gravy, even ketchup will be good.


in eating and drinking |


I was invited to my friend CC’s friend S’s house for bbq. There was another couple with 2 kids, 4 kids in all. Lots of yummy food — beef, chicken, pork chops, lamb meatballs, mushrooms, potato salad. I brought s’mores wrapped in foil. Didn’t have the traditional graham crackers so I used digestives instead. It was a gloriously sunny day to spend with friends.

in eating and drinking |


Free range veal chop from the real food festival a few weeks ago. I lightly browned it and then finished cooking in the oven. Meanwhile I made the sauce. I don’t normally make separate sauce or gravy, although I know the principle — the sauce makes the dish. It’s too much bother for one portion. I find it’s often enough to just have s&p plus the juices from the de-glazed pan (okay, I use flavoured salt and flavoured pepper so there are about 10 different ingredients in my s&p, that’s the secret).

This time, inspired by Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s recipe, I made a reduction from red wine, garlic and thyme. It tasted too sharp and vinegary so I added a drop of honey and a teaspoon of apple & chili jam. It was just right, lifted the whole dish to another level. I might have to invest in one of those very small saucepans to make sauces.

in eating and drinking , outside interests |


There are 5 Whole Foods in London, the largest, at high st ken is only a bus ride away. I’m so glad I made the trip. Had lunch at their restaurant — a kind of high end food court with salads, sandwiches, hot food, Mexican food, vegetarian, pizza, Japanese. Tried the shabu shabu of lamb with udon and veg. Nice, but pricey. A very decent iphone pic here.

The store itself is split on 2 floors and by London standards very large. Actually, it’s comparable in size to the Ashland store. I couldn’t help myself and came home with a veritable treasure trove of food I love and have missed: t-bone steak, osso bucco (in brown packaging underneath steak), tahini, clay pot yogurt, my beloved goose island beer, passion fruit, legbars (blue) eggs, abate pears, heirloom tomatoes, coulommiers cheese, st nectaire cheese — altogether £53, not cheap. I remember Car saying Whole Foods = whole paycheck.

And then I had to go to Tesco afterwards to get regular stuff like ham, fruit, vegetables and salmon, which set me back another £20. I was on whatsapp with mm throughout and I told her I bought more than enough food for 2 people for a week. Hee.

in eating and drinking |


This is what I collected this morning at the station, free food — vitamin water, soy milk, tea bags, cereal bar, soy yogurt. The soy milk people have been there all week, and it was nice to have free breakfast for 5 days. I don’t like the after taste of regular milk (not even skim) so this soy milk was great. Their marketing may work, I’m going to look for chocolate soy milk, which is perfect for post long runs.

in eating and drinking |

gingericecream fiveminticecream

I ran 12km this morning, so I’m allowed ice cream. I had this Waitrose stem ginger ice cream that’s supposed to be “seriously creamy”. Well, it’s okay, but why do they have to put chocolate bits in it?? Sigh. Looking around the ice cream cabinets at Tesco or Sainsburys and it’s 90% chocolate or caramel or one of those very sweet flavours. The Haagen-Dazs page on ocado shows: cookies & cream, choc choc chip, pralines & caramel, chocolate midnight cookies, cookie dough, vanilla, belgium chocolate, white chocolate & raspberry, dulce de leche. The only respite from the chocolate, cookies and caramel attack is strawberry cheesecake. Sigh. I know H-D has many more flavours in the US. Why aren’t they available in the UK?

It’s the same story when I look at Ben & Jerrys available here — phish food, chocolate fudge brownie, cookie dough, cherry garcia, caramel chew chew, half baked. I wonder if British people only like chocolate or heavy flavoured ice creams? I know there are other choices, but I don’t find that there is enough for me. The problem is I’m confined to smaller stores, and therefore the choices are not great.

What I miss are the delicate five ice creams: mint, lemon, strawberry, vanilla bean. Only 5 ingredients. Frozen yogurts. Talenti gelatos and sorbets. Starbucks ice cream. Dairy Queen. Even rainbow sherbert. I’ll stop now.

in eating and drinking |


This beautiful mondrian cake is enough to make me want to go to SF MOMA already. Made by pastry chef Caitlin Williams Freeman who is part artist, part chef:

she bakes a big oblong white cake and smaller yellow, red and blue cakes, and cuts them into long thin shapes. She coats each of the pieces in ganache - a thick, rich covering of cream and dark chocolate - reassembles it all in a long loaf pan, lets it chill overnight, then ganaches the whole thing

Not hard technically, just takes time. And oodles of creativity and inspiration.

in eating and drinking |


Another vegetarian wednesday. Last night I made a stir fry with quorn pieces, broccolini, baby corn, mange tout, red and yellow peppers. Easy to heat up for lunch. Didn’t have it with anything but could have added noodles or rice or pasta or something starchy, except I try not to eat too much carbs.

in about me , eating and drinking |


Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m slowly accepting that I’m here now, I made chicken stock today.

in eating and drinking |


I like Stella Artois beer for its nice clean taste. Plus, of course, it’s reassuringly expensive. Just a couple of weeks ago, on royal wedding day in fact, they launched their own cider, called so imaginatively, Cidre. I bought one yesterday and tried it today. Pretty clean, not too sweet, quite apple-y. And no longer reassuringly expensive, it was the same price as the Magners and the Koppabergs.

in eating and drinking |


When I made shakshuka for the first time, I liked it very much. So for this week’s vegetarian day, I thought I’d have it for lunch. Made the base last night — garlic, tomatoes, red pepper, yellow pepper. Brought 2 eggs with me, cracked them into the base and microwaved in the office. Took about 2mins to get to the soft-boiled stage. Scooped it up with a naan. All done in a lunchbox. Healthy and filling.

in eating and drinking |


I was at the real food festival early, even before the doors opened at 11am. It was a nice day out, lots of stalls and demos at the exhibition centre:

  • Cesar Garcia from iberica showing us how to make 3 spanish dishes in 30mins, including a nice looking red berries gazpacho
  • Mark Gilchrist showing us how to skin a rabbit
  • Polish food, Chinese food, Indian food, Welsh food, food boxes, organic everything
  • beer, cider, wine makers
  • cheese, cheese and more cheese
  • game meat, meat pies
  • sauces and condiments
  • sweets, baked goods, dessert, coffee, tea, drinks


And many many more. I was there till past 3pm, sampled lots and my backpack was very very heavy when I went home. This is what I bought, from left to right: beer, cider, buffalo burger, ostrich burger, venison chops & filet, calves liver, Indian meals, chutney, organic caviar, apple & chili jam, jerk seasoning, balsamic vinegar, assorted cheeses, naan, beef pie.

in eating and drinking |


This was the highlight of the real street food festival at the south bank this bank holiday weekend. A whole roast hog. Several, in fact. Served in a white roll with apple sauce, rocket and crackling. So good, I had two of them. Two sandwiches, not even I can eat 2 whole pigs.

Aside from roast pigs, there was a seafood van, pulled pork, churros, burgers, indian lassi, curry, crepes, cakes, beer, cocktails and many more. It was a gloriously sunny day, perfect for a day out with good food. I texted my friend S and his girlfriend, and we met up for a good chat and a couple of drinks.

More pics, the whole set at flickr.

in eating and drinking |


Easy roast gressingham duck recipe. Cut off as much of the skin and fat, make sure the skin is dry, rub salt all over. Roast at 180-200°C for about 1 hr. The best part, roast potatoes with the duck so they are cooked in the fat. Delicious, delicious, delicious. I’m not allowing myself the potatoes unless I go running.

in eating and drinking |


Still on the royal wedding theme, I had this Windsor Knot Ale made by windsor & eton brewery with my dinner today. It’s nice, pretty strong hop flavour.

in eating and drinking |


Vegetarians and those who are squeamish about their food should skip this post. (Although I should have posted the photo under a cut. Ah well.)


I only realised it when I had finished and was washing up, that it’s Easter Monday and I had rabbit casserole so I ate the Easter Bunny, ack! It was totally unintentional. I bought a nice duck and needed the freezer space so the rabbit and venison sausages came out. I had the rabbit from last time I was at the farmer’s market, it’s chopped up, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it. I’m not that squeamish about my food, but I can’t get used to a rabbit-shaped rabbit yet. It’s like people say cuy, or South American guinea pig, tastes wonderful but on most travel and food program they serve it whole and I don’t think I’ll be able to tackle it looking like that.

The options were to roast, pan fry or make a casserole. Mum says that when she was younger she had roasted rabbit, which was quite nice. I had a bunch of carrots and root vegetables so I thought I’d casserole it. Pretty standard recipe — rabbit, sausage, garlic, onion, carrot, swede, red wine, canned tomato, in the oven for 2 hours. There wasn’t a lot of meat, less than a chicken, hence the addition of the sausage. I deboned it and served with rocket and roasted butternut squash. Tasted a little more gamey than chicken, but still pretty mild.

in eating and drinking |


I don’t do the give something up for lent thing. No particular reason. I do, however, abstain from meat on good friday. No particular reason either. This was a beautiful Scottish organic salmon fillet that I got from Waitrose this morning. I was stuck by how pale it was, there was almost no pink and when cooked the colour was more chicken breast than salmon. As for taste, it was good.

in eating and drinking |


It’s “friday” and a colleague’s birthday, so naturally we went for a drink. I only had 2 beers, one Amstel and an Estrella, nothing too intense. But that was enough for me already. Have I been too used to weak American beer? Age? Not running enough? I’m glad though, the days of 6 pints in one sitting have no appeal anymore. I do find myself missing a good 312 beer.

in eating and drinking |


I came across yotam ottolenghi’s shakshuka recipe the other day. I’m not familiar with chef ottolenghi, although I gather he’s fairly well known in the UK. Shakshuka is a middle-eastern dish that has many variations.

The normal recipe calls for sweating onions in olive oil, but I skipped it and used 2 cloves of garlic instead. Then I added sliced peppers, one red and one orange. Cooked for about 5mins with fresh basil, thyme, paprika and cumin till soft. Added 1 can of tomato and cooked even more until the peppers were very soft and the mixture with a consistency of pasta sauce. Made 2 depressions and cracked in 2 eggs, covered the pan and cooked until the eggs were just done.

The best thing about this dish is that it’s so delicious that you just eat it straight from the pan. Scoop it out onto bread and that’s it. Heavenly.

in eating and drinking |


My downstairs neighbour, a retired lady, invited me for tea today. To an American, it would have been oh so quaint — best china, leaf tea, buttered walnut loaf. So very English.

I’ve lost my feel for the British, I don’t know if she was being neighbourly or wanting to see what i was like. Probably a bit of both. I think I surprised her that I actually am local and brought up in the area. We had a nice chat and she showed me round her apartment. I don’t know if I should reciprocate. In any event, I can’t until the flat is sorted.

in eating and drinking |

hk391camboprawn hk393camboballs

Woke up later than expected, by the time I got to the office it was 11am. Chatted with my department’s people, went out for dim sum with them at a nearby place. All very familiar and usual.

Got my hair cut and picked up my new glasses. Hair is a little shorter but a lot lighter but it’s not that obvious. Glasses have a darker and thicker frame, mum says I look even more studious, hee.

Dinner with Ricky at a famous neighbourhood Thai/Vietnamese restaurant. I can’t find its website, but here’s an English writeup of cambo. We had mostly the signature dishes — prawn sashimi marinated in garlic, lots of chili and fish sauce; “juice bursting” fish balls; satay; soft shell crab; fried rice. And a sticky thousand layer pudding. Ricky is living pretty close to my parents’, he grabbed a taxi and I took the bus home.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Originally we were going to a Japanese restaurant at the Peak, but sis called when we were waiting for the bus to say there’s a change of plan and we were going to saikou at LKF. It’s a new place, and we all ordered the mini rice set — choice of 2 small bowls from a selection of 6-8. I had uni fried rice and one with uni and salmon roe, it’s a uni type of day.

Afternoon was spent as Sis’ place sorting out her mbp. She says it’s old but it’s newer than mine, but she upgraded to 10.6 and it’s been slow. I was thinking it’s to do with all the files she has, I did disk utility, fixed some permissions and showed her how to organise her iphotos. She also wanted me to set up a fb account for her so she can try it out.

Dinner was with mm’s family, her mum’s birthday. At the usual restaurant and everything specially made by the master chef. I had a couple of bottles of tsingdao, heehee. I’m at mm’s tonight.

in eating and drinking |


I woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep again, blah blah. Lunch was at Wa Sa Mai Japanese restaurant. The story is that Mum called mm for a recommendation, as they all know I wanted to have Japanese food. So mm recommended this one, and got invited to lunch. Okay, is it freaky that my mum asked my gf to go out to lunch with the family? Heh. I had the sushi set and it was brilliant, came with appetiser, salad, miso soup, steamed egg and dessert.

Afterwards we went to get new glasses, it was just me, mum and mm. I was all done, picked my frame, got my eyes tested and all. They were still at it. Jetlag caught up with me and I fell asleep in the chair. Eventually they took pity on me and finished quickly. Quick dinner with Mum and I can’t be happier to be getting ready for bed.

in eating and drinking |

Met up with CC for lunch at nearby pub. She had a club sandwich and I had a steak sandwich. Pretty tasty, came with sweet pickled onions which I even ate. She didn’t have to go back to work so she had an ale. I thought about it for half a second, and joined her. I’m guessing there may be some rules on lunchtime drinking. I didn’t feel any worse for wear afterwards, but I can’t see this being a habit. May be very occasionally.

in eating and drinking |


I’ve been subsisting on ncg soup, salad and cheese since I moved here. Seems so long since I cooked, and it will still be a while cos the kitchen isn’t set up. Sigh. Now is a good time to remind myself what I can do, and so simply. This is grilled scallops on rigatoni.

in eating and drinking |


No, not in Spain but the tapas bar just down the road from the serviced apartment. I did research and wanted to take mm to this place at Old Street, but we saw this other place as we were walking towards the bus stop. It’s only 5 mins from our place, so we came here instead.

It was still early, only a couple other parties there. We ordered serrano ham, white anchovies, fried potato in tomato sauce and mushrooms. It was happy hour so we ordered a jug of sangria for £6.50. Overall it’s pretty okay, not super but it was great conversation and just nice to be together.

in eating and drinking |


At mm’s special request, I made rack of lamb. Marinaded 2 racks overnight with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Browned all over, then roasted at 200°C for 15-20mins. Nice and pink, served on rocket.

in eating and drinking |

bspicecheesecake bspicechoccake

We went to my new home to drop off some stuff and move some furniture around. Still depressed, thinking about the lack of space. Walked to Warwick Ave and had tea at baker & spice, the chocolate and blueberry cheesecake were nice, but expensive.

Took a bus down to Marble Arch and spent a couple of hours at M&S before taking another bus back to Liverpool Street. Dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Did our usual after work rounds at Tesco’s and then mm made me this very simple fried vermicelli with minced beef, bean sprouts and ready made stir fry veg pack.

in eating and drinking |

bouchon001lamb bouchon002tartare

By the time we got off work we were both hungry and didn’t feel like cooking. So we went to le bouchon, which we had wanted to go to for a while. It’s a french brasserie, serving the typical french fare. We didn’t have any starters, mm had the lamb chops with dauphinois potatoes and I had the steak tartare. Haven’t had tartare for a long long time, and it was really nice to see the waiter prepare it tableside. He also recommended a couple of nice red wines for us. Nice meal out.

in eating and drinking |


I took mm to borough market, we both loved it. It was crowded though. We bought a tray of clementines for £1.99, a couple of speciality beers for me and 5 different types of cheeses — a couple from a small cheese maker from West Sussex, a Caerphilly and a Jura and Camembert. The last store also had this moldy soft cheese, may be next time I’ll give it a try.

in eating and drinking |

roastlamb01 roastlamb02

We bought this really nice boneless lamb shoulder roll last week and i made it for mm this weekend. The joint was 700g, or 1.5 pounds. The cooking time was recommended at 25mins per 500g, plus 25mins for medium. I reduced the additional 25 to 15mins so it was nice and pink. Roasted it with garlic and rosemary plus a whole garlic and brussel sprouts. The new potatoes were boiled. While it was resting, I made a small amount of gravy with potato water and a bit of stock cube — had to improvise, don’t have a ready supply of homemade stock here.

Had mulled wine that we didn’t drink over christmas, so I warmed it up and we had it with the lamb dinner. Kind of a perfect meal to bring in the new year, right?

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

ldn196xmassoup ldn197xmaspheasant

I was supposed to wake up at 3am to get to Heathrow by 5am to pick up mm, but I was too antsy and ended up waking up at 2am. I did go to bed at 9.30pm last night, so at least I got some sleep. It was dark, and the roads were empty so it was an easy drive. It took me until the end of the Embankment almost to Earl’s Court to get used to driving this car, and driving on the once familiar roads.

Her flight was the first to arrive, and by the time I’d reached the meeting point the board showed that it landed at 4.43am. About 10mins later I got a text from her that she’d arrived. And then I replied that I was already there, heehee. It was so great to see her.

I introduced her to the crappy apartment, and she was generous enough to say it’s fine. She set about unpacking while I got our Christmas feast ready. The carrot & butternut squash soup I made yesterday turned out very nice, even though I could have done with a dollop of creme fraiche for presentation. We also had mushroom pâté on some krisprolls with the soup.

The main course took longer than expected because of the barely functioning oven. I’d already broken down the pheasants but they still took a while to cook. Made a rudimentary gravy with chicken stock and some of the bones. Served with carrots, parsnips and new potatoes, all of which had been par-boiled then roasted. Everything washed down with this fabulous châteauneauf-du-neuf from M&S.

We were too full for dessert. While waiting, she got tired so went to bed for a nap. I joined her for a little while and then got up in the evening. Watched tv, played mafia wars while she sleeps on, she needs the rest. What a great Christmas with mm.

in eating and drinking |


Almost ready for Christmas and mm arriving — chocolate, wine, mulled wine, cider, stilton, christmas pudding. And this is just drinks and stuff. Tomorrow’s plan is to prep and make our christmas dinner —- make soup, prep the veg, defrost the meat, make part of the dessert.

in about me , eating and drinking |


Woke up at noon, didn’t believe it when I glanced at the alarm clock, but the clock radio agreed. Slept for over 10 hours, which is okay, hopefully this gets rid of the jetlag. The ice on the road has mostly melted when I walked to the Tesco and bought more stuff. That was the only time I went outside today.

I wanted to make roast chicken, but found out that there is only a small baking sheet. I could have spatchcocked the chicken, but finally decided to make chicken stew. Carrots, celery, potatoes and 1/3 bottle of red wine. I took the skin and bones off, so the meat ended up shredded. I’ll use the rest to make a pasta sauce.

in eating and drinking |


This is from nyt.

medium tub small-curd cottage cheese (it’s a 2 cup tub, I’ll need to check weight next time)
50g shredded mozzarella
750g | 1.5lbs assorted courgettes and squash
1 small onion
4 eggs
parsley, garlic, s&p

  • strain cottage cheese for at least 20mins to get rid of excess liquid
  • sprinkle salt over diced courgettes and drain
  • sweat onion with garlic until soft
  • beat eggs, add cheeses, onion, garlic, courgettes, parsley, season
  • bake at 180°C for about 1hr until golden brown
  • rest for 5-10mins in pan before serving

Next time I’m going to skip the onion. I should have known better. They suggested serving with tomato sauce and I agree, eggs and tomato sauce go well together. It was a great dish to eat hot or cold; as main dish or side.

in eating and drinking |


There are still some summer squash left at farmer’s markets. I got green and yellow pattypans and small yellow courgettes. Two new recipes, the first one is rigatoni with summer squash, bacon, basil and goat’s cheese, from the kitchn.

  • cook and drain pasta, keep a little of the cooking water
  • fry up the bacon and cut into pieces, drain on kitchen towel
  • pour out all but a little of the bacon fat, sweat garlic
  • add courgettes and cook till done
  • add pasta to pan, season
  • add fresh basil
  • turn heat off, crumble goat’s cheese over
  • add a splash of pasta water to make a creamy sauce

My bacon was in bite sized pieces, unlike the recipe which used it as topping. I wanted to eat that bacon! I used rigatoni, I think a smaller and more delicate pasta would have made the dish prettier. But no complaints. It tasted wonderful. I made this on Saturday, for carb loading for the 20-miler on Sunday. I had TWO helpings.

in eating and drinking |


They were cooking elk on chopped, which reminded me that I had a delicious venison tenderloin. Car’s cousin gave it to me, her husband hunted and they had lots of venison in their freezer. All I did was pan fried it with some fresh thyme, and kept it very rare, almost undercooked. It wasn’t gamey at all, delicate and tasty. Served it with rocket and cherry tomatoes.