2010, has gone just as quickly as it seemed to have arrived. It really seemed not too long ago when I was counting down 2009. I’ve had a good year and I’m really looking forward to the arrival of the many surprises and opportunities that 2011 has to offer.
Let’s take a moment to look back in 2010. This may seem like a bore to you, but please allow me to indulge myself in some flashbacks. of yester-year. Oh, the memories…
“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.” – Euripides.
I had the luxury of travelling quite a bit in the last year, starting with my first visit to Hong Kong back in April, where aside from visiting the usual iconic yet touristy landmarks (i.e. Ocean Park), I took the opportunity to dine at some of the cafes/char-chan-tengs/restaurants. That trip, I fell deeply in love with HK.
Then May arrived and that marked my maiden trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with fellow bloggers cum foodies, Harris, Zaylene and Zoelene. I’ve not had the chance to blog about any of them, but I know that I will soon. If you’re curious, Harris has reviewed all of them. Another highlight that trip my first stay at a somewhat dodgy budget hotel that had (i) offered rooms on an hourly rate, (ii) no cupboard and (iii) women in high heels strolling outside the corridor in the wee hours of the morning. Add those to the fact that the rooms were really small in size and had no window! On hindsight, the hotel was not only an eye opener for me but it proved to be an excellent stay. The rooms just had an air of coziness about them that I thoroughly welcomed. Sleeping in a pitch dark room does have its perks, I’d say.
In August, I descended upon the shores of Hong Kong once again. You can easily tell where my heart lies. This trip marked a purely food-based itinerary; I basically skipped all of the touristy spots and went about ticking off all the restaurants on my check-list. I visited, amongst others, Cepage, Pierre, Amber, Mandarin Bar & Grill and Tim Ho Wan. Oh and how could I not forget Liberty Private Works, where I had my best meal in Hong Kong.
A short weekend get-away in November with friends to Bintan, Indonesia where we visited an off-the-beaten-track kelong restaurant was one of the highlights of that trip. It was one of those places that the locals have their meals – nothing fancy, nothing elaborate, just a simple almost home-cooked meal. I dare say, we were the only group of foreigners that travelled out of the boundaries of the Bintan resort, per se. We had our Indonesian driver to thank for (It is our good fortune that our Malay colleague could converse successfully with him with relative ease.
My year culminated and ended with my maiden visit to the United States, where I am blogging this post from. Just last week, I was in New York where I dined at some of the finest restaurants in the East Coast. Just to tempt you a little, Le Benardin and Daniel NYC were just 2 of the restaurants that I visited. But Michelin-starred restaurants were not the only highlights of my visit to the Big Apple, I had the good fortune of meeting up with relatives and fellow Singaporean foodie, Elaine of Divine Essentials. Not many people have the chance to deviate from the path of which is generally perceived by society as the norm (e.g. Pri Sch > Sec Sch > Poly/JC > University) for the sake of fulfilling their dreams.
But New York was not all that I visited. I am now in a small but very affluent town of Palo Alto – basically Silicon Valley, which is close to San Francisco spending the New Year’s with my sister and family. But aside from Palo Alto, I took a 2 hour drive up to Napa Valley from San Francisco. It was in Napa Valley that I paid pilgrimage to 2 of Thomas Keller’s restaurants – Ad hoc and Bouchon (Sorry, no French Laundry in sight) and where I had possibly the best meal in the US – Bistro Jeanty. More on that at a later time, but think Bistro du Vin and you get a vague, but nonetheless sufficient picture.
On a random note, in my many conversations with the house-keeping staff, cab drivers and street vendors in the US, some people assume that Singapore is part of China. P.s. This is just an observation that I wanted to pen down.
Food – Eating Out
Looking back, I dined out quite a lot in the past year; I visited Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong and in the United States, I tried out some of the cafes and restaurants here in sunny Singapore and I’ve taken to, much to my own surprise, having the occasional dessert in between meals or that need to have something sweet after a savoury meal.
I’ve been pondering long and hard about what my single contender for the Best Meal for 2010 would be and truthfully, I find it really hard to pinpoint the one meal. Each and every meal meal is an experience – one that encompasses hits and unfortunately, misses. But sometimes, it is those misses that allow the hits to shine through. But there were definitely memorable meals throughout the year and rather than speak of the meals per se, there were five restaurants that particularly stood out to me this year – OTTO Ristorante (Italian), Saint Pierre (French), Restaurant Ember (European), Nogawa (Japanese Sushi) and lastly Imperial Treasure Cantonese Cuisine (Chinese). These are the restaurants that I return to, time and time again and I have never left any of those restaurants feeling disappointed.
There were other notable culinary finds, if you will, that I’ve discovered (and only hoped that I knew about them sooner) – K-ki for their beautiful French-Japanese desserts, Pamplemousse for the casual French bistro styled meals and Ooi Japanese Dining and Nagomi (at Cuppage Plaza) for that hidden restaurant feel.
On the flipside of things, there were those meals that had more misses than hits – Clifford and Iggy’s. Many forms of media have complimented these two restaurants, some to the extent of waxing lyrically. I’m not sure if that is the reason as to why I was rather disappointed with my meals at these places. I have not blogged proper on these three places but here’s a brief one liner on each – Clifford with its Dry Duck Confit, rather tasteless cod fish dish and patchy service standards and Iggy’s for their heavy dosing of sodium on (not just one) but all of their dishes. I really wonder if it was just the chef’s bad day or it was a classic case of “pre-raised” expectations. But I have to add, both Clifford and Iggy’s have excellent ambience – Iggy’s particularly.
Food – Cooking at Home
I love to cook, period. My parents did, at one point or another, ask if I was keen to enroll in a culinary institute. P.s. My uncle’s an Executive Chef in New York and some of my uncles/aunties/cousins are trained in culinary techniques.
Yes it does get messy at times, yes it does get tiring most-of-the-time, and yes success is not guaranteed, but if it does, you can see it written on my face. In the past year, I’ve dabbled from Chinese (including a Brandy and Rice Wine marinated Drunken Chicken – with lots (and I mean lots) of ginger) to French bistro styled coq au vin to Italian pastas. Some were successful, some weren’t – but it’s been a journey thus far and I’m learning from each and every mistake that I’ve made and I look forward to improving on those that I succeeded in. But boy, each meal is indeed an adventure!
Plans for 2011 include getting my hands on that thermal circulator and vacuum pack (for purposes of sous vide) that I’ve always had my eyes on for the longest time and perhaps that cast iron oven-proof cassoulet!
I know my maids read my blog so, here’s a shout out to you: Thank you for all the help that you’ve given each and every time that I mess the kitchen up (and for helping out with the preparation and washing up)
“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.” – Bernard Meltzer
21st September 2010 marked a major milestone in my life; It marked the day that I was released from the mandatory military service! Like everyone other male serving (or who has served) National Service, would understand the joy of ORD-ing; the feeling of freedom – No more first parades, no more “Yes, Sir”s and “Yes,M’ams”, no more military regimentation. But I am appreciative for those months that my colleagues (i.e. other NSFs) have spent together. Being stuck in the same environment together, seeing each other almost everyday – not by choice, really allowed us to bond with one another and for that I am really thankful.
“Food is our common ground, a universal experience” – James Beard
Through this blog, your author has made quite a number of friendships that I will treasure. I enjoy the occasional food blogger gatherings that we try to have on a monthly basis (note: try) where we can sit down and mingle like long lost friends and share the one common love that we have – food. But hey, it’s the Singaporean past time! To those of you who have walked through my life at some point of another this year, thank you.
Looking forward to 2011
On the travelling front, I start off 2011 with a short trip to Seoul, South Korea – Yes, there will be food but they will be mostly of local/street food! To be frank, my tastebuds are done with all the Christmas and New Year feasting and I am really looking forward to all the sight seeing that Seoul has to offer. For all you Kdrama fans, no – I will not be following the K-Drama trails (i.e. Winter Sonata), but rather visiting some historical monuments and really, to soak in the atmosphere there! Somewhere in the cards too, is a trip to Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi with some of my NS colleagues friends in July.
The culinary scene locally definitely has sparkled somewhat with the opening up of the 2 casinos integrated resorts (bringing with them stellar names like Daniel Boulud and Santi Santamaria) and I am definitely looking forward to trying some of these celebrity chef restaurants sometime. But with such stiff brand name competition, I am really looking forward to seeing our own local chefs and restauranteurs upping their game and perhaps, our local restaurants can be awarded the recognition that they rightfully deserve – i.e. Andre. (Michelin Guide for Singapore in 2012, perhaps?)
Finishing off, I am looking forward to starting my Bachelor’s program in the University of Western Australia, Perth in February. I am confident that there will be short weekend getaway trips within Australia in between nights of mugging ~ Sydney and Melbourne would have more eats than the sleepytown of Perth and that is reason enough to travel!
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers and their families a fantastic year ahead and may you realize your dreams soon!