October 27, 2009

Parcel


Look what I just got in the mail! so cute and pretty! I love Asian Food Channel, now I wish I was back home watching it, they've got some pretty exciting programmes coming up! Do look out for it if you have it on cable!

Posted by ShoZu

A 6-Star Week Part I

This post has been long overdue (and warning to all, it will be long). Where do I begin? To tell the tale of 4 foodies (well 6 if you count the friends who joined us), 8 days, 2 countries, 6 stars, countless restaurants and 20 courses of food and countless pintxos (pronounced pinchos), not to mention many pounds poorer and heavier. That sort of summarises the gastrohedonistic week we started in San Sebestian and ended in Bray. Of course it was so much more than these numbers, but it would be difficult to describe with justice all the wonderful flavours and foods we savoured.

San Sebestian is truly a food capital. With bars lining the street serving all sorts of pintxos, we really didn't know where to begin or stop. I think we must have eaten at more than ten restaurants in all walking around in the 2 days. We'd walk into one, gawk at the wide array of colourful pintxos, proclaim that we should try one for posterity sake, and then proceed to eat about ten as we couldn't stop ourselves. Most of the bars served classic pintxos, which were different combinations of jamon (ham), egg, cheese, peppers, anchovies, salami, prawns and generous dollops of mayonnaise, served open faced on a slice of baguette or in sandwich form. How can one go wrong with these ingredients?

Our favourite bar however, Fuevo Negro, served more modern interpretations of these little snacks, their signature being a Mak Kobe - a mini kobe beef hamburger (which we doubt was really kobe since it was so cheap) served with fried banana chips and an elusive mushroom, ham and egg pintxo, which was always not available during each of the THREE times we went there. During our three visits, we managed to try their tortiilla, which was essentially potatoes in scrambled eggs, a salted cod dish, almond coffee with sweetbread cookies (yes brain), jamon with sundried tomatoes and cheese, a slowbraised vanilla pork with lemon foam, some chicken dish. Their stuff was pretty innovative (they won the most innovative cookbook recently) and it seemed pretty popular with the trendy set. We left a message in their toilets (since it has a blackboard wall inviting people to graffitise) on how much we loved them.

Some of the more memorable classic pintxos we had were a scrambled eggs with mushroom and bacon, a jamon, egg mayo and prawn skewer and basically anything with ham and egg haha. Feast your eyes on all the various incarnations of the pintxos we ate.

09 San Sebastien & Bilbao (Eugene)

Of course, other than food, there was also the usual tourist sights to take in. A pretty seaside town, with beaches, hills and of course a old city centre that were filled with cute shops and many pintxo bars. A very colourful town, with nice sunny weather. As you can see below, the foodies turned into Gap models for the weekend lying in the sun.

09 San Sebestian

09 San Sebestian1

Foodies that we were, we had tried to get a table at the famous Arzak (the chef was the mentor of Ferran Aria of El Bulli fame) but lost the last table to some unnamed persons. Nonetheless, we managed to book Martin Berasategui, another 3-star Michelin restaurant (SS has so many of them that you can just throw a stone and hit one) and boy, was that the best ever decision made. With the same 4 foodies that went to Fat Duck last month and a guest foodie, we were all prepared for a showdown as we sat down in a beautifully decorated dining room that resembled a stately dining room. Cosy but not stiff, points to Martin over the blah nondescript small dining room at Heston's.

09 San Sebestian2

Once seated, our maitre d', who was this serious man, friendly while creepy at the same time, came and asked us whether we'd like the tasting menu and if we had any dietary restrictions. Three of us promptly said no cheese, no oyster and no bananas respectively and to our surprise, he said he will get the ktichen to change the dishes to suit our requirements. Wow, once again, points to Martin.

Lightly Smoked Cod with powder of hazelnuts, coffee and vanilla
Mille-Feuille of Smoked Eel, Foie Gras, Spring Onions and Green Apple
Peach Gazpacho with Cockles and txakoli
Squid Soup, creamy squid ink ravioli with squid crouton

09 San Sebestian3

The appetizers were pretty amazing. The foie gras terrine with apple and eel (top right) really stood out. The textures and flavours really worked well together. The squid ink dumpling, which was full of flavour bursting in your mouth as the skin was delicately thin.

Little Pearls of Fennel in raw, risotto and emulsion
Cheese and Carabana Oil Bubble with endives, red onion juice and iberian bacon
Fam's Egg with beetroot and liquid herb's salad, carpaccio of basque stew and cheese
Warm Vegetable Hearts Salad with seafood, cream of lettuce hearts and idionised juice
09 San Sebestian4
Martin seemed to like serving 'bubbles' or 'pearls', basically they were these sacs of liquid that would burst in your mouth as you bite into them. They were a joy to eat as you don't know what was going to come! His dishes were also full of colour, like a painter's palette as you can tell from the pictures above. You can't really see from the pictures but the dishes that the food were served in were shaped like shells. The dish in the middle was one of his signature dishes (similar to Sound of the Sea at Fat Duck) - pretty to look at but I wasn't a big fan of the gel it was set in.

Roast Red Mullet with crystals of soft scales and juice of white chocolate with seaweeds
Roasted Araiz Pigeon, fresh pasta with mushrooms and spring onions, touches of truffle cream

There were 2 main courses as part of the degustation - a fish (can't remember what fish) with these deliciously melt-in-your-mouth pork morsels, and pigeon. Yes, pigeon again, what's with pigeon and Michelin-star chefs this season?? Luckily, Martin's pigeon was much better than the one we had at Fat Duck, at least it didn't taste raw but if you ask me, I wouldn't really opt for pigeon if I had a choice.
09 San Sebestian5
Warm and Cold of Apple and Roots
Coal Crumbs with frozen yoghurt and little acid touches of strawberries, lemon grass and passionfruit
As a Cold Soup, banana and vanilla stew, with citrics and ice cream

The desserts were not traditional, quite bold with non-traditional pairing of flavours and again, playing with textures - foam, bubbles, granitas etc. Refreshing and interesting. I really liked the acidic and sweet, hot and cold, smooth and rough interplays. Very clever.

09 San Sebestian6
And a picture with the man himself! Such groupies we are. By the end of the night, we were really enthralled with Martin and his food and all unanimously agreed that Heston was wayyyyyy behind. Fat Duck was an experience in itself but the food here was pure, clever, simple and flavourful.

Stay tuned for the second-part of the 6-star week - where do the foodies go next?

Home Made Food

You can probably tell I'm trying to clear my backlog of posts. Here are some pictures I took around my neighbourhood one Saturday as I explored the farmer's market downstairs my house (Pimlico Farmer's Market) and the Partridges Market at King's Road.

09 Neighbourhood

I haven't gotten around to baking much but I did manage the below. Made a blueberry and fig tart with some figs I brought back from Barcelona. They were squashed on the way back so I had to quickly do something with them. I made a shortcrust pastry from scratch which was surprisingly quick, easy and came out well. The lattice was also fun to weave and turned out really pretty. Also made a brownie for a quick dessert the other night using a recipe from my Hummingbird Bakery book, which also turned out fudgey and chewy.

09 London Homemade Food

As for cooking, I've been trying to cook and eat at home but it's been quite hard since my schedule isn't very fixed and it takes planning to buy the ingredients, defrost things and portioning the food. Most of the time, I cook too much, which means I end up eating more than I should, or I throw out quite a lot of stuff. Like bread, I hardly ever finish any loaf I buy.

Well, I don't take pics of everything I make but here is a selection. I should start keeping recipes and blogging them down. Like the chwee kueh I made that day, turned out pretty well except I overfried the chye poh. Will try again and take some pics. I also finally got around to using one of the Prima pastes that I brought with me. Tried the chicken rice mix and it was really quite decent. I felt like a real hawker as I was deboning and smashing my chicken thigh and chopping it up haha.

09 London Food2
The top pics are actually of a beef stew I attempted over the weekend. I finally took out my Le Creuset pot to make the stew :) A stab at Boeuf Bourguignon, but not really true to the traditional recipe since I didn't have mushrooms so I used a root vegetable mix. Put in a bit too much tomato paste but otherwise really yummy. Paired that with a simple potato gratin made in my mini Le Creuset, a gift from a fellow foodie. It was a good dinner and I had plenty more stew for 2 more meals. The other 2 pictures of the ham was from the stash of Jamon Iberico de Bellota that I lugged back from Barcelona. Shared it with the San Sebestian gang at a pintxos party at my place before we trooped off to Waterside Inn. I need to have another party soon to finish up the stash :)

October 26, 2009

YAY!

The cable tv has come back!!!

Trials & Tribulations of Living in London Part II

I can't believe this. After I waited about 2 months to get my broadband (and thank God it is here and working), guess what? My cable tv decides to go kapoot on me. You can truly never have the best of both worlds, can you?

Since it was installed, it had on occasions decided to go on holiday especially when there's inclement weather but it always returned within an hour or so. Not this time. It's decided to take a permanent holiday. Since yesterday, I've had the ominous "No satellite information is being received" blue screen permanently on my tv everytime I switch it on. Initially, I thought it was the usual tantrum so I left it alone for a while, but each time I tried to coax it back, it never came back.

Today I called Sky up to ask them what's up, and after going through a whole bunch of steps to check the system health and resetting the box, it STILL couldn't work. I was told to check if anyone else in my building was not getting Sky and if it was just me, to call up the vendor who sold me the box to get it fixed (gosh, I can feel another 1 month wait in there). What's worse, now the box seems hung! I couldn't even switch it off after I put down the phone with the helpdesk. I've resorted to just switching the power off. Sigh. And what's more, my almost new work laptop gave me the blue screen of death today. And my gmail doesn't load properly on my Mac. Urgh. Technical problems SUCK.

October 25, 2009

Dreams

I dreamt of my friends and family last night. In fact I think there were several dreams, the first involved Aniki and there was also this whole thing about catching mice. Apparently wherever I was at was overrun with mice and we were told to catch them for a reward. I can't remember if it was one or two dreams, you know how they all sort of melt together?

Next it segued into this big party in a house I don't recognise where my friends (the girls) and my family (including extended) were present. I had apparently made a cake and brought it to the party, and so I was going around telling everyone to go eat cake but no one wanted to (as it happens in real life hmpf). Afterwards, I realise that my cousin had also brought some other cakes and so everyone started eating. I somehow distinctly remember FY playing a guitar in a corner hiding from everyone else. Yes, quite weird.

We got one more hour last night since the clocks went back, I could do with more free hours though. It's quite nice and sunny today, hope it stays that way.

October 20, 2009

Chilli Crab Invasion


I just thought the sight was too cute to pass up. Packing all these crabbies to Paris with me. Now I just hope the customs doesn't stop me and accuse me of crustacean cruelty.

Posted by ShoZu

Travelling again

It's been quite a busy couple of weeks so I haven't really blogged or twittered much. Got a few posts backlogged on draft mode, mostly from the San Sebestian trip and foodie posts in Waterside Inn. It takes a while to pull together all the pictures so pardon me for the silence. Those who've told me I haven't posted for a while - I hear you, I will endeavour to put it up this weekend.

Actually, what do people like to read about? Food? Travel? Trials and tribulations of living in London? Do leave a comment and let me know so I know I'm not boring you all with my rants.

I'm off to Paris for a 2 day work trip tonight, am feeling quite anxious as I'll be expected to present and engage the participants in French. I haven't really gotten all my terms and jargon memorised yet - seems like back to when I had to do Chinese presentations to clients back in china. Shudder butterflies in my stomach.

Posted by ShoZu

October 8, 2009

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya


While I haven't really been able to see much of Barcelona during this trip since the conference is tucked in some ulu corner of the city, we did go out to an amazing venue this evening for the conference host dinner. As it was being sponsored by Barcelona Turisme and all the various federal/state/provincial tourism entities, they were pulling out all stops to impress the British travel trade. The dinner, which was for approximately 1000 pax, was held at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. This means 100 banquet tables, no mean feat by itself in trying to find a venue that can accommodate this many tables. I was trying to think where in Singapore we could do something similar other than boring ole Suntec or Expo. This wasn't a run of the mill hotel function room or convention space, it was a historical building, working museum, that overlooked a large fountain piazza (something like Washington? or Vatican), which was superbly grand in the night with the lighting. Inside, other than the galleries, there was this huge cavernous space that had a high domed ceiling which could accommodate 100 tables (with room to spare) and tiered arena seating. According to wiki, it was built in 1929 for the World Fair, but it definitely looks older than that.



Other than the amazing space and architecture, the night ended spectacularly (at midnight, after dinner was served at 10pm in timely Spanish fashion) with a Cirque du Soleil-esque performance. 5 performers rappeled down slowly from the domed ceiling, where trusses and structures had been rigged (in a historical building no less) and entertained the captivated audience with different acrobatics that involved swinging, twirling, somersaulting, all while suspended in the air. One of the performers then twisted and twirled without a harness around a hoop and was followed by other feats performed on bungy cords. It was really quite awesome. Much better than the human towers that were the first part of the entertainment. I really wonder how long it took to rig up all those structures, I'd say the floor-to-ceiling height was probably about 4-5 stories. In Singapore, it would be a nightmare getting clearances and all that I bet. It does help that the museum is run by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Now if only we had the same sort of spaces to play with in Singapore.

October 4, 2009

Home Sweet Home

*commercial break from food*

Long overdue post on my apartment. Many have asked me to post pictures of my apartment so I finally got around to taking some pictures, it's hard to get proper lighting since London is grey and dreary quite a fair bit.

The first set of pictures is from when I first moved in, before I changed the furniture layout, moved in my things from Singapore and added in some touches to make it more homely. Like I mentioned to some of you, I think it's getting a bit cluttered now, the 'before' pictures do seem a lot more spacious compared to the 'after pictures. What do you think?

Before

09 Apartment

After

09 Apartment1

09 Apartment2

09 Apartment3

I turned around the couch so as to separate the dining space from the living space. It looks smaller now cos it's hard to get a through-picture from one end of the hall to the other. I originally envisioned a lot more white and bright furniture but since the apartment's tables were mostly in dark wood, it was quite hard to add in white. The kitchen is getting quite cluttered as I don't have much counter space to put my appliances and frequently-reached for food. I will probably need more free weekends to reorganise. Need to make more space!!

October 3, 2009

San Sebestian - food capital of Europe

A quick hello from SS. Here on a foodie weekend eat-out with 4 other gastronomes (is there such a word?). We spent the day eating and eating non-stop. Renowned as the foodie capital of Europe with the highest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants, it's not hard to see why this beautiful seaside city earned that reputation. With tapas bars at lining the streets serving exquisite and delicious pintxos, which is what tapas are know as here, we were completely spoiled for choice as we wandered from bar to bar eating these little meals on toast. We must have had at least two dozen or more different pintxos in the five or six places we stopped at. Ranging from jamon (ham), anchovies, prawns and mayo, sweet peppers and sardines, to avant garde creations like ham and almond coffee with sweetbread biscuits, mini hamburgers with banana chips, they were a joy to share and savour in a group.

The city itself was beautiful and quaint. With less than 200,000 population and not overrun with tourists, it is pleasant to walk around the city, admire the pretty architecture and stop for pitstops at the bars. most of the spanish brands are here too so you can shop to your heart's content. There's also the beach for those who want the sun sand and surf. Too bad I didn't bring any shorts or flip flops. The city isn't very big so you can see it more or less in 1-2 days. We trekked up to Mont Urgull, where there is an old castle and a staute of Jesus overlooking the city. Great view from up there and peaceful since it wasn't crowded with tourists. Having worked off what we spent the entire day eating (yah right!!), we started eating again after we came down the hill haha.

Well, the food part of the trip deserves its own entry with pictures so till then, we are off to eat some more!

Posted by ShoZu

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