Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bakeeelicious Christmas

So what's baking this christmas?

X'mas is all about our annual family get-together, with me contributing some sugary treats to the party spread. This year's desserts is no grand affair, nothing fanciful or complex, just edible bites to appease the sweet tooth(s) of both young & old.

On a side note, Dad requested for some cookies as gifts for his colleagues. Shed some sleep to bake an assortment of pinwheel, checkerboard, chocolate-chip walnut & winnie-the-pooh danish cookies, then packed them into little snowman bags ready to give away. Childish, but i like them cute this way!

Pinwheel Butter Cookies

Chocolate-chip & Walnut Cookies

Cookies N' Cream Cupcakes w Buttercream

Cranberry Orange Cupcakes w Rose Icing

Macha Madeleines

Chocolate Walnut Brownies

Duo-tone Strawberry Marshmallows

Each of them had their share of supporters phew. And the feeling of watching others chow down your food with glee is simply contenting! For a moment, all the invested money, efforts, forfeited sleep & time gets effaced (:

My personal favorite had to be the walnut brownie. Totally loved the way it turned out- crisp flaky crust, soft moist interiors (without the irksome brownie-stickyness), starring plenty of walnuts. I used a mix of semi-sweet chocolate and cocoa powder in my batter so the sweetness is controlled. yummieebrownieelicious~

And what's christmas without a requisite logcake?

Forget the swissroll & buttercream tales from before. This year i attempted a french-style Chestnut Yule Log, assembling a few of my own unprofessional & haphazard ideas...

French chestnut mousse, vanilla bavarian cream, praline crunch, almond succes, candied roasted chestnuts. Tasted real sweet.

bite in.

With a wink, christmas is history & a brand new year approaches... Time to round up my best meals of 2009 and start on new year resolutions.

Have a blessed festive season!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

OSO Ristorante

After my last paper i soared into the skies with lightest mood and landed at Bukit Pasoh. Right next to Absinthe. Just me, my favourite person & my favourite cuisine...

Oso blissed the evening. They executed every proper demeanor a fine dining should possess, with service matched by few others. Chef Diego's food was spick-and-span and nothing to fault about.

If there's one thing to nitpick about Oso, it would be their breads. Sad to say none of the focaccia, wholewheat loaf & flat grissini arrived warm or particularly appetizing, even for a ravenous bread junkie like me.

For starters we shared a panfried eggs 'tegamino'. Here's half a portion, for the kitchen thoughtfully split it into 2 individual portions for us. There's black truffle puree, melted cheese and a cheery sunnyside up melded altogether within each little pan, served with bread crisps & a rosemary stalk for smells.

It takes diligence to whizz up a good pesto, and punctiliousness to use it well. At Oso the Linguine Vongole with fresh baby clams is coated in a basil pesto dye, making it a welcoming change from the usual white vongole. Dad enjoyed his green vongole.

Because monkfish cheek tagliolini was removed from the menu, i opted for my next best alternative...what else but Seafood Pasta haha.

The kitchen kindly obliged to switch spaghetti to tagliolini for me and served up a marinara prim & proper. Its real heartening to tuck into a virtuous plate of nicely cooked homemade strands, fresh seafood, garlic pieces and a subtle yet palatable red sauce. I didn't go head-over-heels but i happily slurped up to the very end.


And then i have to share about my love-hate relationship with the Dark Chocolate Crostata.

Loved the semi-oozy 70% dark chocolate fillings seeping out of its immaculate tart shell, blessed with a petite scoop of milk gelato. Think Hokkaido-milk-richness possessed in italian body, melted over those decadent gooey innards.... Totally sublime!

Hated the lingering cocoa aura that got me thirsting for more.

chef slicing cold cuts ala-order!

OSO easily clinched my favour. Having endured weeks of grueling exams, a spotless dinner like this is exactly what i needed. I'm officially putting them in my list of Italian reliables; one of those you could go knowing you won't be disappointed.

OSO is for keeps (:

OSO Ristorante
46 Bukit Pasoh Road
Singapore 089858
6327 8378

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Buzz buzz buzz

Been busy baking & eating this festive season... updates tomorrow!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

La Strada

I'm having full faith in the Les Amis Group, since all my experiences with them have been disgruntlement-free so far. From splendid Au Jardin to the unparalleled Aoki to dandy Canele Patisserie, memories remain sweet and pleasant (: Next up: their italian counterpart.

La Strada offers a set lunch at $28++ (2 courses) or $34++ (3 courses), with three selections available per course.

In the bread basket was a decent ciabatta and wedges of their wood-fired pizza crusts smeared with tomato and herbs.

Butternut pumpkin soup

Memories were blurry from the few sips of butternut pumpkin soup i took, except it not falling into the too-thick or too-dilute extremes.

Smoked salmon with yogurt dill dressing

Smoked salmon is always my prime choice; even if this was just an average-joe smoked salmon salad comprising dressed mesclun, capers, mini croutons, balsamic glaze & olive oil drizzles.... Hmmm and was there supposed to be a yogurt dill dressing?

Char grilled 70 day grain-fed sirloin beef, mesclun salad, cream potatoes

Hearing the title of a '70 day grain-fed sirloin beef' is enough to make any beef-loving human smile. And indeed, the beef-lover across me spoke only praises of his tender, well-grilled steak served with creamy mash.

Pan-fried Salmon with mesclun salad, roasted new potatoes

For a non beef eater-cum-salmon fan like me, the choice is none other than a panfried salmon steak. La Strada's execution of the mundane dish was creditable... The skin was seared to a skillful crisp, flesh kept delicate, slightly rawish in the middle & pleasurably fat-laced ooooohhh. It's been a while since i had a decorous salmon steak like that.


Their puffy light tiramisu-in-a-teacup was decent at best, without distinctly stunning details.

Orange ice nougatine

The orange ice nougatine was essentially a mascarpone parfait with chockfull of nuts & candied fruits, set over a chocolate feuillete base. I liked the nutty textures and christmas-y feel attached to it... makes me wanna sing the chipmunk song haha. Eat it quick before you start to see a grossly melted mush on your plate.

Planning to return for a taste of their famed pastas.

La Strada
1 Scotts Road
#01-10/11 Shaw Centre
6737 2555

Botan: For the Ravenous

There are generally two kinds of restaurants.

One, the fine-dining where you pay hefty prices for a tasteful experience. Two, the unpretentious who renders hearty homey food and send you leaving like a happy kid. Botan belongs to the second.

Familiar to the office crowd, Botan is most notorious for dishing out overly generous portions. Their Chirashi Don ($25) is arguably the most liberally filled chirashi in town and sure to fill even the hungriest diner.

Never underestimate how far this bowl can take you.

Uncovering the sashimi garden, some fresh some not so, i found morsels of hamachi, maguro, ebi, kani and fat-gleaming salmon (orange-to-white ratio hovering around 2:3?) over a crazily compact bed of rice. Oily fish is love and i rarely dismiss excessive fats. A spoonful of tobikko (flying fish roe) and some sweet pink cod floss contributes to enliven the dish.

But before you proceed into your rice, i suggest you have the chawanmushi first. Their silky, clean-tasting steamed egg custard with shiitake, fishcake & chicken met expectations and felt strikingly homey.

While nearing chirashi-completion, a realization struck me... Where was my tamagoyaki? If memory didn't fail me i recall having some tamago during my previous visit. After prodding the waitress, she returned with 2 omelette rectangles & then directed my attention towards the sushi chef... who gave two apologetic nods for his busy lunch-hour negligence. How mannerly.

Omg this was superb stuff. The meticulously layered sponge was baby soft like never before & finished off with a tiny smack of savouriness... nice!

The Botan Set ($25) consisted of sashimi, tempura, fried tofu, chicken and a compartment of random items. For those who like a variety.

Although Botan clearly lacks the poise & finesse of top-players like Aoki & Tatsuya, this is one place i would head for the heartiest honest japanese fare, or whenever a massive yen calls.

The comfort derived here is one of a kind.

P.S. It is really easy to miss Botan's obscure signboard so do look out!

Botan Japanese Restaurant
36 Pekin Street
#01-01 Far East Square
6536 4404

Friday, December 18, 2009

Strawberry Extortion!

If there's one berry capable of trascending you to Berry Heaven, its got to be japanese strawberries. Hakata-bred. 110% plump, sweet and voluptuously juicy, almost juice-squirtingly amazing.

Look here's what i bought from a friendly old man at Yanagawa, Kyushu...

The Hakata 博多 berries on the right cost me ¥350 a punnet, which works out to about S$5.60. One full punnet of bliss.

And guess what i saw at Isetan Shaw, Orchard Road?

Glaring extortion!

Now i regret not buying down the whole stall from the old man.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Strawberry Almond Tart

If life is a tart, i'll be a strawberry tart.

Doesn't the bright red hue beguile you? I constantly keep a punnet or two of strawberries in my fridge and the turnover is rapid... I add them to my breakfast cereals, icecreams, dunk into chocolate or simply eat them fresh & unaltered. I could squat beside the refrigerator and pop in one after another until the punnet goes poof!

Strawberries can come from US, New Zealand, Eygpt, Korea, Japan & Aussie yada yada... but i especially love the korean breed (japanese is best but unaffordable here haha). Those juicy softies are pumped with a sweetness so fragrant it simply perfumes your mouth! Can never get enough of them.

The best time to make a strawberry tart is during the berry season. When in harvest, you start to see them stacking up on supermarket shelves with irrestibly low prices. That is the call.

This tart is merely frangipane (almond filling) on sable dough, sans custard or cream. It may sound plain or dry but i've gone a step further to flavor it with Bailey's so the result is perked & sufficiently moist. I also used New Zealand strawberries (happened to be the NZ berry season when i made it) which may not be as saccharine as the Korean ones but their firmer flesh can keep well much longer.

Tarte Aux Fraises
makes 1 large tart & a few small tarts

Sable is French for 'sand'. It is a crumbly, sandy dough baked just like cookies. For a perfect tart, go the extra mile to make a vanilla custard and spread inbetween the berries & baked filling... Your efforts will be rewarded.

Sable Dough
175g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
100g icing sugar
250g plain flour
35g finely ground almond
1 egg

Almond Cream
200g ground almonds
125ml cream
20g corn flour
150g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
125g eggs
2 tbsp Bailey's (or replace with rum)

In a mixing bowl, cut butter into cubes and allow to soften at room temperature. Cream the butter, sugar and salt until pale. Beat in the egg ans make sure it is well-incorporated. Sift in the flour & almond powder and mix on low until the dough comes together. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before use.

For filling: Beat the ground almonds, corn flour, butter and sugar in a mxing bowl for 10 mintues and totally free of lumps. Add the eggs one at a time and ensure well blended in. Stir in the cream and Bailey's and mix into a smooth paste.

Roll out the chilled sable dough into a 0.2cm thick sheet and line the tart pan. Trim away and excess edges. Spoon in the almond cream to fill about half the pan then spread evenly with a palette knife. Bake at 180C for 30-35mintues or until golden brown. Allow to cool.

Brush the surface with sugar syrup if desired. Arrange strawberries on top and dust with icing sugar. To maintain the bright color, simply brush the berries with mirror gel or apricot glaze as a finishing touch.

Now's the Korean strawberry season btw, you can find them even at Fairprice & Giant so hurry go grab some!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Axis Lounge, Mandarin Oriental

You know you've found the right companion when a girlfriend speaks your language...

We share the love for idle sundays.
We share the love high teas.
We share the love for every congenial edible.

Call us the tai-tai wannabes.

Mandarin Oriental's teatime deal is quite a catch. For $32++ you get to enjoy a stunning triple-tier stand cramped with goodies for 2, amidst hushed ambience and an esplanade view unobstructed. There's both sweet & savories neatly decked, a bowl of mini pastries on the side, plus two Ronnefeldt teas of your choice. Unbelievably value for money.

smoked salmon+chive+creamcheese on pumpernickel is a combination to keep!

smoked salmon pumpernickel
roast beef crostini
cucumber open-faced
egg mayo sandwich

forest berries tart
chocolate macaron
mango cheesecake
plain scones
cranberry scones

cream puff
canele bordelaise
carre grand cru
1001 leaves

I love tarts & i love berries hence the forest berries tart naturally became my fave. Greenish pistachio custard smeared over an ultrathin shell, lavishly stacked with an avalanche of berries too much for its dwarfy base. None of the rest shone too spectacularly.

Our greatest disappointment came from their scones. Both way too dense and lacked the butteryness a virtuous scone ought to have. After the cranberry i found absolutely no incentive to reach for another plain... That's how uninspiring they were.

Hightea is one of my bestest friends (:

Axis Lounge
5 Raffles avenue
Mandarin Oriental Singapore
6885 3098

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Back from Kyushu

10 days of non-stop eating all over Fukuoka, Hakata, Yanagawa, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Ibusuki & Yufuin. Sweet & savory inclusive, countless of calories involved.

Gastronomical memories and a good news to be shared... soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cugini Trattoria

Somebody save me... i think i am sinking into the Cugini well!

He endorsed it. He too, seconded the thought of appraisal.

Tempt me like this (words & photos responsible) and chances are, my resistance vanishes. I just had to leap to Club Street one evening to experience that stupefying Frutti di Mare dish.

Whenever a 'Marinara red & hearty' craving strikes, i know exactly what i desire.. It has to be fresh handmade pasta cooked aldente or slightly beyond, coalesced with a rich flavorful tomato & herb sauce, fresh seafood and a sprinkle of ground black pepper to seal the deal. Amateurish renditions would only leave it awkwardly hanging.

If you still remember these guys from Robertson Walk (formerly known as Cugini Ristorante), they've now relocated as a casual Trattoria in Club Street. Much ceremoniousness axed but a new comfortable, laid-back charm exudes from the Ristorante-to-Trattoria transformation.

When food comes to talk, chef-owners Mauro & Gerri don't disappoint.

As usual, nothing better activates my stomach than a warm yeasty homemade hunk. We nibbled on soft dense whites and decorous focaccia cubes centered with cute tomato depressions. What's most interesting, is their unusually diluted tomato-based dip that lends a veneer overlay to the bread.

This was it. Cite Seafood Pasta to the waiter and he'll nod.

Just look at that brilliant sauce yelling phenomenal. A unique seafood-enriched flavor beneath sheens of country italian notes, olives & full-bodied tomato goodness i fell for. It tasted so so robust and complex, like as if a million ingredients had gone in there to mystify you.... practically impossible to decipher.

The chef adorns it with (paltry) pieces of mackerel, squid & shrimp and made the sauce ultra thick in consistency for close-knitted coating. The homemade spaghetti was cooked firm to the bite, hitting aldente almost immaculately. I twirled & twirled, scraped & scraped until everything was polished off. Delizioso.

This is indeed an addiction.

If pasta happens to not be your cup of tea, Cugini's risotto is another made-to-order alternative.

Rejoice when restaurants notify you of a 15-minute wait for your risotto, cos likely you'll be getting grains cooked from scratch just after you say "one risotto please". And this is a determining sign of quality. Pre-cooked (& reheated) risottos are habitually overcooked mushy or congee-ish, which puts the honourable dish to shame. Yet unfortunately due to the grains' fortified nature, it is unfeasible for most restaurants to accede to the demanding duration.

Cugini's Risotto mari e monti ($22.90) is clearly a lighter version, creamed simply by stock and the natural starches of italian riso. You don't get much creamy-cheesy gratification but the result is comparably palatable. Prime issue: too little seafood again, almost too beggarly to uncover.

We wrapped up with a White Chocolate Panna Cotta ($7.90) with raspberry sauce. Soft jelly-like cream pudding with a pronounced body of white chocolate. Beware this can get potentially gerlat if not for the small size.

one last closing shot bcos this is one darn good pasta!

I wonder why despite its popularity & credibility (almost like a signature!), the seafood pasta is still absent from the menu. Is it not available everyday, or are they trying to create a mirage of exclusivity?

Anyways. Since we cannot rewind it, the other 3Rs apply. I'm gonna have to Recollect, Revisit & Repeat it. Soon.

Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria
87 Club St
6221 3791


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