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Archive for January, 2011

Are scones from Scotland, Ireland or England? No one is sure but what I do know is the English love their scones like no other. And I’m there to find out what a scone is supposed to taste like. Is it a big, dry, heavy brick dotted with a few pathetic raisins, or is there really a real, honest- to-goodness scone that’s so light and fluffy that just melts in the mouth?

I didn’t want to have scones in London cuz that seems too modern, if you know what I mean. Whenever I think of scones, my mind conjures up images of prim and proper British ladies sipping tea in gardens, with multi-tiered stands of sandwiches, cakes and of course, this cross between a biscuit and a muffin that’s known as a scone.

So I had my first English scone in Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire, England. It’s a charming town steeped in history and Thomas Oken Tea Rooms (right beside Warwick Castle) looks too inviting to be missed, especially on such a chilly morning.

20 Castle Street

I had high hopes for the signature giant sultana scone. Sadly though, it was not to be. Giant in size this was, but lacking in substance. Remember the aforementioned dry and hard brick? This belongs to that category.. Even the excellent strawberry preserve and clotted cream can’t save the day.

I was crushed. Is that how scones are like? No, it can’t be. Otherwise, why would there be people who are crazy about scones?

My next stop was Stratford-upon-Avon, the small market town synonymous with William Shakespeare. There, I found the promised light as air scone at Deli Cafe, a wonderful cozy place frequented by locals.

13-14 Meer Street

I’m happy! Cuz I’ve found what I was looking for: a scone that’s slightly crisp and crusty on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside, with a clean buttermilk-like flavour. Perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up.

IMO, this is what an authentic scone is supposed to taste like :)

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We were a rowdy table of 16 at En Japanese Dining Bar, there to take advantage of the ongoing good deal: 50% off all sushi and sashimi from 6 to 8pm everyday! Not surprisingly, we ordered a truckload of food, from platters of assorted sashimi, sushi and temaki hand rolls to cooked food like ramen, yakitori and okonomiyaki. My favourite is kawaebi, mini river shrimps fried perfectly to a crisp that’s oh-so-addictive! Decent food aside, service was quite a let-down. Orders were either mixed up or forgotten, and staff didn’t bother to inform us when the popular salmon sashimi was sold out—while the poor friends waited in vain for their food, sigh.

En Japanese Dining Bar
207 River Valley Road
6735 2212

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B Bakery

It’s been a really long while since my last visit to B Bakery. The initial plan was to have some good solid sandwiches for dinner here but those are only available for lunch, my bad for not knowing :( From what I can remember, their cakes are pretty lovely so we just ordered a couple to try, sort of as a pre-dinner starter.

I’m loving sweet and sour pairings these days so thumbs up for the chocolate raspberry tart! The tart crust is thin and the smooth layers of bittersweet chocolate and tangy raspberry ganache are irresistible~

Quite a pedestrian chocolate fudge cake this is. Too dry and sweet for my liking but dense and chocolatey enough, I guess.

Tart, tart, tart, I want tart! :)

B Bakery
15 Bussorah Street
6293 9010

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I’ve had Pierre Hermé’s macarons in Paris, then in London, and now in Tokyo, and I’m happy to report that they are consistently good! More than good, actually. They are still the best macarons I’ve tried :)

Do you know the first boutique of Pierre Hermé was opened not in Paris, but in Tokyo? That’s at the New Otani Hotel, followed by the Salon de Thé Pierre Hermé in Ikspiari. It’s right beside Tokyo Disneyland and we went there after the last wonderful Disney parade to get desserts before dinner :) With so many pastries in sight, choosing was not an easy task!

Easily the dearest of the lot, Marron et Thé Vert Matcha combines two of my all-time favourites, chestnut and green tea; Mogador (milk chocolate and passion fruit) is still as nice as before; Rose is not bundong-or-perfume-like, but light and pleasant with a floral aftertaste; Chloé has a lovely raspberry infused bitter chocolate ganache that’s a classic hit; Montebello hides a raspberry compote within a smooth pistachio ganache; and Réglisse Violette has a tangy-sweet black currant filling with no weird licorice taste, thankfully.

2000 feuilles, a gorgeous creation of thin crispy caramelized puff pastry alternating layers of creamy hazelnut praline custard, yum. I missed this when I was in Paris cuz the person queueing in front of me took the last piece (darn!) so I jumped at the chance when I saw this in the display case, hee.

It’s messy to eat, but who cares when it’s so delicious? That said, I think I still prefer Sadaharu Aoki’s not-as-delicate-but-still-awesome matcha mille-feuille.

Guess what? Less than 24 hours later, I couldn’t resist popping by the boutique counter in Isetan Shinjuku for a look. And I just can’t bear leaving without getting a few more of those beautiful macarons!

I didn’t manage to catch what’s the names of these macarons (the Japanese lady was having a hard time describing what’s what) but here’s what I had from memory: a fantastic yuzu gem, gloriously pistachio on its own, and (I suspect) an apricot-orange-like macaron that’s very refreshing.

By now, I’m a big fan of Pierre Hermé and whenever it comes to macarons, I only go for his and his alone. But since Henri Charpentier also has a counter in Isetan and I’ve read positive comments on his caramel macaron, I bought one for a taste test.

One bite was all it took for Sis and I to shake our heads simultaneously. The shell was not as light and airy, and filling was too sweet.

“No good, Pierre Hermé’s is still the best”.

Enough said.

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Tokyo: Hidemi Sugino, I Love You.

Going to Hidemi Sugino‘s one and only boutique dessert store ranks first on my must-eat-in-Tokyo list. Specialising in mousse cakes, he’s the famous guy who won the World Pastry Competition in 1991, and horror stories online share how queues form even before the opening time and how his cakes are usually sold out by midday!

I didn’t want any chance of that happening so my strategy is to make sure we reached there decently early, barely one hour after the opening hour of 10am. Thankfully, no queue at all when we arrived, phew. And the sight of the display case with the full range of beautiful cakes available for the day (no photography allowed) lifted my spirits, haha.

Sugino seems to be a perfectionist of the highest order; there’s some cakes which must be consumed on-site, i.e. no takeaways allowed, since the travelling time and weather may damage the ‘best cakes in the world’. This is the first time I’ve heard of such a strict rule! But no matter, our plan was to dine in anyway :)

And of course, if you are such a talented baker, you can come up with all the rules you want. I have to admit, his cakes are amazing. Really really wonderful (an understatement, seriously). So light, so smooth and delicate! In fact, all the cakes we ordered have something in common: light as air, with very distinct but not confused flavours. There’s not a single cake I tried that I didn’t like! If Pierre Hermé is the God of macarons, then Hidemi Sugino is that of mousse cakes. To me, anyway.

Ambroisie: chocolate and pistachio mousse with raspberry jam, covered with a layer of chocolate glaze~ This is Hidemi Sugino’s signature cake, his trademark which won him the Coupe du Monde. Definitely worth the hype!

Larme: marron mousse. Chestnut cream? I’m sold~

Sugino’s version of Foret Noire: Charme.

 Acapulco: blood orange and chocolate mousse.

Bresilienne: coffee and caramel mousse.

 Diplomate: dried fruits pudding, tastes like posh egg tart filling! 

Total bill came up to ¥3,860 (approximately S$60), expensive cuz the cakes are really small (more like tiny) but the quality is top-notch and execution flawless. You can’t find anything like his cakes in Singapore, that’s for sure. Ah, I can’t wait to go back again!

Click here for a scarily detailed analysis of Sugino’s cakes by the guy from Eat That Yellow Snow. I will never know as much as him; I just eat.

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Tokyo: Sushi Dai @ Tsukiji Market

I love my family to bits. Not only did they agree to go back to Tsukiji Market for another round of sushi breakfast, they queued in the freaking cold weather for 2 hours with me! Waking up so early and wasting 2 hours of their vacation time tweedling their thumbs doing nothing. And they are not even foodies, haha. I’m such a lucky girl :D

Here’s the legendary queue outside Sushi Dai bright and early in the morning at 6.50am. And that’s not all..

Cuz there’s so many people, the queue was extended to the side of the building! While there’s virtually no queue outside Sushi Daiwa and Sushi Bun (I went to kaypoh and checked, hee). Unbelievable~

While waiting, a Japanese lady came out to take our orders. 2 omakase and 2 jyou, please. The omakase costs ¥3,900 (approximately S$61) and comes with 11 pieces of nigiri sushi, sushi rolls and tamago; jyou is the standard meal with 7 pieces of nigiri sushi, sushi rolls and tamago for ¥2,500 (approximately S$39).

Time check: 9 am. Finally, we are in!!! Woohoo~

Like Daiwa and Bun, the restaurant is extremely small and squeezy. But it’s ok, we are there for the food, not for the ambience or setting. Let the meal show begin!

Otoro, the most valued sushi ingredient.

Ika (squid).

I can’t match the names of the fish to all the photos cuz there’s just too many and all I wanted to do is eat. But I do remember that we had some delicious sea bass, yellowtail, flounder, sardine etc etc. 

So fresh and bloody!

Weird looking shellfish.

Fabulously creamy uni (sea urchin).

Aji (horse mackerel).

The reddest maguro (tuna) I’ve ever seen.

Baby shrimp. So sweet!

Big and fatty tuna rolls.

My favourite anago (sea eel)!

One more anago <3

Thick and fluffy tamago, best when served warm!

 For the last piece, we were handed a list of sushi and told to choose one (only for omakase). It was a very tough decision!! Anago? Otoro? In the end, we had the buttery uni (after much analysis, haha) before finally putting down the chopsticks :(

Happy and full, with our super friendly chef!

So, what’s the verdict? Is Sushi Dai worth the 2 hours’ wait??

Hmm, I’ll have to say no, sadly. Don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful meal there and the chef is the friendliest out of the 3 sushi restaurants I went. This was also the least rushed meal and photography is allowed, yay!

But in terms of quality, it’s comparable to Daiwa and Bun. So if you just want good sushi and delayed gratification is not your thing, I’m sure other sushi restaurants at Tsukiji can satisfy as well :)

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Good news for you people who stay in the East! Larry from Blic has opened a new ice cream cafe, at an admittedly ulu area near Bedok Reservoir. Once you make your way to Varietiez though, you are in for a treat! A good selection of ice cream (even diabetic ones!) hides behind the plain-looking facade and all the ice cream are freshly made by the self-taught ice cream chef so you can be assured of the quality. It’s time to chuck out those pints of Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs in the fridge and go for ice cream made with fresh ingredients and no added preservatives, I say =)

I tasted all of the flavours available that day and what stood out were the incredibly smooth Baileys Mascarpone and my specially-made-to-order Grapefruit Champagne.

Before dropping by, Larry asked whether there’s any flavour I’m craving for that can’t be found in Singapore and Grapefruit Champagne gelato was what I wanted. The texture is just right, creamy yet a little icy; and the tangy grapefruit and bittersweet champagne play off each other so well!

Surprisingly, New York Cheesecake is another hit. Surprising cuz I don’t even like cheesecake. And I like this cuz this is so not cheesecake-like! Rather, it’s like tart yogurt ice cream on a crumbly cookie base.

The Peanut Ice Cream is fabulous too, deliciously rich and topped with aromatic bits of crushed peanuts. In fact, this may well be the best peanut ice cream I’ve ever had!

For such yummy homemade ice cream, I think the prices are reasonable and affordable, comparable to other ice cream parlors. So why not give Varietiez a try? There’s a wide variety of flavours (hence, the name?) and you may find a couple that will leave you wanting more.. Like that peanut ice cream I’m dreaming of now!

Many thanks to Larry for hosting such a calorie-laden tasting session. I wish you all the best! =)

Varietiez Ice Cream Cafe
Blk 742 Bedok Reservoir Road
#01-3089
6242 8602

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I just came back from Tokyo and didn’t bother to eat at Freshness Burger since there’s so much more to eat in Japan than burgers. And now that there’s 2 outlets in Singapore, one in Serangoon Nex and the other at Tampines Century Square (which we went to and which no one seems to know about), there’s no need to fly to Japan for a taste of FB.

The tofu burger ($5.90) was rather disappointing cuz I was expecting a tofu patty but this is literally just a block of silken tofu sandwiched between two buns. Nothing special and definitely something I can replicate at home.

Likewise, the Hokkaido potato wedges were average.

Not sure how the salsa burger ($6.80 with wedges and drink) fared with the friend cuz we were so engrossed with our topic of conversation (haha!) that I forgot to ask her about it.

Hmm, I really don’t get what’s all the hype over FB about…

Freshness Burger
#01-37 Century Square

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Well over a century old, Sushi Bun at Tsukiji Market comes highly recommended by a Japanese colleague of mine so the family came here for our first breakfast in Tokyo, mere hours after touching down in the early morning. Thankfully, there was no queue and we were ushered into the teeny-weeny restaurant in less than 15 mins, yay!

There’s 2 types of omakase; one priced at ¥3,675 (approximately S$57) for 10 pieces of top-grade sushi, 3 rolls and 1 tamago, while the other at ¥2,625 has only 8 pieces and 3 rolls.

We had 3 orders of the former and 1 of the latter =)

Photography is STRICTLY not allowed here (the auntie looks fierce) but I managed to capture a couple of shots hurriedly before putting my camera away and concentrate on eating, haha. Like Sushi Daiwa, the quality of the seafood is excellent and the rice.. Oh, the rice. Stunningly well vinegared and so flavourful. As for my favourite sushi, it has to be the anago (eel), which is the house specialty here. This was so soft and melted in the mouth completely~

Blissful sigh.

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There is chocolate and then there is chocolate.

With over 2000 chocolate shops throughout the country, Belgium takes her chocolates seriously. As with Brussels, chocolate shops are everywhere in Brugge, but given the number of shops, it is very difficult to choose. Luckily, I did my research and already knew where to head for to indulge my chocolate cravings!

First on my list: Dumon

Eiermarkt 6

Dumon is a well-known family owned shop and crowds are always present in the cute tiny shop. Madam Dumon and her two sons make handmade chocolates daily. There are no English labels but no worries! The friendly Madam Dumon described her fresh chocolates so well that I bought 500g of truffles and pralines without hesitation, hee.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy them as much as I thought I would have cuz being a dark-and-bitter-choc kind of girl, these are too creamy and buttery to me =(

After Dumon, I went over to the The Chocolate Line near Market Square for one-of-a-kind concoctions.

Simon Stevinplein 19

Specialising in making gastronomic chocolates, Dominique Persoone dubbed himself a “shock-a-latier” cuz his chocolates are anything but traditional (the exact opposite of Dumon). Think shiso leaf, saffron curry, wasabi, sakura etc. He’s also the man who brainstorms a couple of times a year with Heston Blumenthal, the molecular chef behind The Fat Duck (I wanna go!!) in the UK.

Another 500g of chocolates to go and this time, I wasn’t disappointed! I love his chocolates, especially interesting creations like the potent Havana cigar, refreshing lemongrass and a Buddha-shaped gingery ginger chocolate~ Gorgeous stuff. And it’s a wonder that the unexpected flavours didn’t result in a taste bud rebellion.

That’s the magic of a shock-a-latier. 

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