Wednesday, September 14, 2016

It's just a dog.

When it comes to matters of the heart, I don't wear it on my sleeve; I've found that my outlet of expression is through written words.

We're picking up Tofu's ashes this evening.  Even though he was getting old, you can never be mentally prepared for it. He died suddenly on the afternoon of 12 September.

"It's just a dog," some people say.  I have no expectations nor demands of anyone to understand that particular bond between human and dog.

It goes beyond human relationships.  Frankly, I can't think of other situations when I'd actually miss having someone follow me to the bathroom solely for the contentedness of being near me whilst I shower or defecate.  I suppose Tofu was just returning the courtesy, since I'm around when he showers and poops too.

He joined me in Singapore, when I moved here alone.  On Sundays, when local friends had their own family matters to tend to, Tofu was my kin and company.  For years, he was there for my ups and downs.  He was with me since New York when I had my first serious boyfriend in college.  He was there during the warm moments, the fights, and the heartbreaks too.

He was there snuggled up in my arms whilst I was reading, he was there to prance and jump along on the bed to my shameless pajama dancing to Pop songs – even though he prefers Coldplay.

He knows I don't like being slobbered on, so in the mornings when he wanted to wake me up, he'd nuzzle his nose into my cheek and then nuzzle some more.

Like many small dogs, he liked to be the tough guy.  I don't usually leash him up when we go on walks, but once he was when there was a fat cat twice his size nearby.  He pulled at his leash while he barked big-boy noises at it.

Then he yanked once a little too hard and the leash dropped from my hand. He quickly moved towards the cat without me, barking until he realized there was no resistance pulling him back.  He tilted his head and looked back around at me in apprehension, then sheepishly came scurrying back.  From behind my ankles, he quieted down to a scoff and a grumble.

Tofu loves girls.  Since his puppy days hanging in Washington Square Park, he'd naturally gravitate towards anything in a skirt, perhaps knowing they would be a guaranteed source of squealing and fawning attention.  He loved people, and didn't have much interest in other dogs.  

He was particular though, because he seemed to know who wasn't quite a 'dog person' (or perhaps something else).  He couldn't be bribed with treats or food from these people.  He'd walk away uninterested.  Funnily, this test extended to my potential dates too - and sure enough, he knew how to pick out what turned out to be the bad eggs.

We both have an unreasonable fear of thunderstorms. We moved to Singapore, which has pretty much the scariest thunderstorms we've ever experienced – thunderous booms that would rattle the windows and lightning that tears across the horizon.  When he sensed an impending storm of doom, he'd come in close into my arms, and I'd hold him tight and pull the covers over.  He was my thunder buddy until our last days together.

He became my security blanket.  He was there whenever I did something stupid or mortifyingly embarrassing at my first internship and my first career jobs out of college. He never bore judgement, just kisses and wiggles. Still now, when I relive these embarrassing moments in my head —and this next part has become habit— I call out loud "Tofu!" even when I was overseas away from him.  I really do.

He's seen me through some serious downs and several pivotal moments through the 12.5 years.  He too was involved in some of the moments.  Never in my adult life have I knelt crying and begging, except once, and that was to save him when he was taken from me. I was 27 then. I learned a lesson of what love and humility means in your own household. And there finding that having difference in values can never be changed, and discovering within myself that this as the most important aspect in human relationships.

In return, he's displayed a fierce loyalty I've experienced no where else.

Then came a recent and perhaps one of the most extreme phases in my life; which resulted in moving apartments in Singapore every few months while I tried to figure out life and the idea of even continuing my own.  He was there, but in spirit I was not.  It was a dark period.

As I prepared to move him back to Hong Kong and couldn't bring him along with me to my temporary accommodations, I was fortunate enough to meet someone who was curious to dogsit this little dog named Tofu.

From there, I witnessed someone who soon grew to love Tofu like her own. While I figured out my situation, she took him in and put so much heart into giving him the best she thought there was. It's a wonder she ever cared so much, because he was horribly grumpy and mean in big social settings (and she's a social gal) during his last years.  I'm so grateful for her care, and I thank you Caryn Cheah for loving him. He loved you too.

I apologize to folks who encountered him in his final months, when he decided to rock his old age  and do whatever he willed – peed on who he disliked, bit without consequence, smooshed his face in poop.  I wish I witnessed more of it, the stories half embarrass me, half crack me up.

So, I understand if I sound ludicrous right now to some readers.  It's just a dog.

And now, I'm closing this post so I can pick up his ashes this 14 September 2016.

I'll be releasing his ashes where we spent countless quiet nights along Henderson Waves by ourselves. Goodbye Mister Tofu.  ro ro.


---
[For posterity, quoting my Facebook eulogy to him here]

13 good years, Tofu. You saw me through college since your puppyhood in wintery New York when Jonathan Lee almost convinced me to name you 'Escalade' or 'Dom'—as in Perignon (thankfully Helene Yatrakis McNannasuggested the most perfect name which you bear now). Went to Hong Kong and you continued being my little spoon, and where you met your girlfriend, Miso. Then I went to Singapore, and along you traveled again. You were my thunder buddy in this place that has pretty much the scariest thunderstorms we've ever been through.
You weren't very popular in your last 2 years, as the biggest crankiest oldman grumpface. But you truly touched a good handful of us in a big way through these years. I'm so grateful for people who understood the wonder of your fierce loyalty and loved you as much.. And you lived your last year as a beloved Prince with Caryn Cheah Hsiao Fen, when I couldn't. Loved and snuggled by Serene Lim too. Patiently handled by roommates and friends Varian Lim Norman Hartono Rika Lam Maggie Luk Lau and more.
13 years, you remained sprightly and ridiculously good looking. You were there for my toughest moments over the past decade, snuggling into my face when I was sad, or happily jumping along with me to shamefully bad pop music in my bedroom. Cooking was the best with you around my feet in the kitchen, cleaning up scraps that accidentally fell (I still have the habit of not immediately picking up fallen food.. Except onions and garlic, I still freak out when I drop that because of you). And you always knew how to help me suss out the good boyfriends from the shitty ones. Ha.
You're my best bud. You are kin. I don't think there are thunderstorms in Heaven, so you'll be alright there with Miso.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Moderating at Millennial2020

It was my first time moderating at a conference, usually I'm interviewing or on the panel. I was really hoping to moderate the Content Marketing panel, darn. Nonetheless, thank you for the invitation to moderate this discussion, Millennial20/20.

It's a shame a lot of the replies were canned PR-type responses, but perhaps I can also improve as a moderator and insist on harder hitting questions next time. Some nice insights from Kiyan Foroughi from Happy Fresh though - I'm interested to see how the industry plays out as competitors (RedMart, HonestBee, etc) begin to intersect markets.




For more information: http://www.millennial20-20.com
2016 conference at Singapore's ArtScience Museum.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Caffe Vergnano 1882 in Singapore

World's such a funny place, how it all comes back around after a time. This first happened a while back, before third-wave coffee was even a thing in Asia.

10 years ago, whilst I was still wet behind the ears, fresh out of school, I entered the F&B business beginning with Caffè Vergnano Hong Kong. It was the Vergnano family who taught me how to appreciate coffee, and the culture behind an Italian coffee bar. The world digs Aussie-style coffee now, but remember, it was the Italians who brought it to Australia! 

It was during those 5 years where I learned the kind of dedication and unforgiving hours it takes to run restaurant operations (and probably why I eventually opted for the dark side instead: media).

Anyway, fast forward to this afternoon: I was really happy to receive an email announcing Caffe Vergnano's 100th outlet opening... Here in SINGAPORE! Caffè Vergnano 1882 Singapore
Congratulazioni! I'm elated to see you guys here too.

One of our Hong Kong promos in 2007.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I'm the worst digital influencer


Sometimes I wonder if I am just a crap social media "Influencer".  I can't be assed to go to x location and dress up in a certain manner, or do my makeup a certain way, or constantly coordinate with a photographer to take photos for the sole purpose of posting it on Instagram. I prefer the candid nature of Snapchat as a platform. Most times, I just don't feel like taking photos and rather enjoy the moment without a lens. 

These days, "Authenticity" just sounds kind of douchey and in most cases, not even true when bloggers/Youtubers/instagrammers say it. Yet as a result of sheer can't-be-fucked-ness, Authenticity is indeed my jam; but is that what people really want?

Are you sure you don't want to see beautiful photos of people or things, aspirational living, flattering bikini shots? These things all take effort to pose and edit and post.

A friend asked me on this facebook post on how to become a digital influencer.  Here's what I said:
There are two approaches. I adopt the latter:
 1/ Post click bait. Beautiful photos of people, aspirational living, cute animals, funny memes, or hot girls in bikinis. Or post your own original content - it must be visually stunning. Work with as many brands/sponsors as possible. Don't get me wrong, this still all takes a lot of work.
2/ Cant-be-assed approach. Post whatever you want to post. Never endorse brands you don't personally love. Don't post about an item just because it was 'free' or a gift. Don't sell out with sponsors or posting things that make you question your ethics or self-respect. Be yourself (well, maybe the better or more interesting part of yourself). Specialize in a topic or a passion and share it - not just hollow posts that are nothing more than a reflection of your vanity. Once in a while, share the wisdom you've learned from (not whine about) your flaws, your weaknesses, your struggles - it makes you real. And it's the realness that makes the 'social' in social media. 
The thing is, #2 is a slower growth approach. It might not even work if all you want is 100k+ followers. #1 is like a guaranteed formula for followers.
Meanwhile, thanks to the lot of you who don't mind my nonsensical jammy jams and follow me, for (hopefully) me.
Instagram @victoriacheng
Youtube.com/gastronommy
Facebook.com/gastronommy
Twitter.com/victoriacheng
Snapchat @gastronommy

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Funny Thing ... at the gym



Last Friday at the gym lobby area, I was working on my laptop around 6:30pm. A woman approaches me...
Her: Pardon me, I have a BIG favor to ask you. (She's holding up her phone in front of her in a pleading position)

Me: Hi, yes! What's that?

Her: Could I borrow your headphones? Please???

Me: (stunned. Presuming it must be an emergency skype call or something) Er... ..sure. How long do you need?

Her: About an hour; you'll be here?

Me: (Assuming she's making her call in the lobby, so why is she asking that... where's she going?!)
An hour??? That's a bit long. Yes, I'll be here, where are you going to be?

Her: Oh, right upstairs.

Me: (huh?)

Her: On the treadmill.

Me: (shock) um..

Her: (grin)

Me: (shock) UMMMM...

Her: (grin)

Me: I need it a bit sooner than that actually, sorry. Maybe you can ask the front desk.

Her: I did! They said no, already. (She looks at me with, "I know, can you even believe that they said no?!" expression).

Me: (oh, totally... how could they possibly say no! :\ )

Her: How about I use them until 7pm?

Me: ..um.. no... I need it sooner than that. Sorry!

Her: 6:50pm?

Me: (seriously?) Actually, I think I need them right now in 10 minutes. It probably won't be worth your time for just 10 minutes.

Her: (she actually pauses to consider 'just 10 minutes')

Me: Right. Sorry about that!

Her: Oh.... (crestfallen with a slight expression of disgust, like I just refused an orphan begging for food) ...Oh alright. I guess I'll just have to--

Me: (cuts her off) ...Okay, good luck. Bye!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dating, Marriage, and Negativity in Asia


I don't like to share deeply personal opinions publicly, unless it's about food, politics, or how I feel about the GoT storyline. Yet, this day-to-day issue below has just been weighing on my mind for some time, and I hope it will help all of us be kinder to one another.

There's something I see more prevalent in Asian societies than Westernized ones.  Why is that whenever there is a relationship breakup, people instinctively assume it's the woman's fault first? That she's the pitiful thing who is losing out? Why is it a woman is defined by her relationship, but a man is defined by his achievements? Worse yet (and seemingly universal), the first people to cruelly put down that woman first... are usually other women.
Maybe, just maybe, it was her call to end the relationship; maybe she, like some men, aren't rushing to get married or find the need to prioritize a relationship at that point in their lives. Maybe, he's the one losing out.

People of course, shouldn't assume anything in the first place, because it's not their business. But let's not kid ourselves that's ever going to happen. It's a rare thing to find someone our age who keeps their opinions on such things to themselves amidst squawking gossipy kings and queens, and even more rare are the ones who simply don't think about it at all.

I know a married couple just a few years older than me. The husband comes from privilege, a family name of the upper echelons of our current society. For as long as I've ever known of them, there were constantly whispers and sneers at his girlfriend and later wife, only being in it for the money. It's so easy to accuse and put someone else's happiness down, isn't it? I don't know her well, or what her real motivations are. But I do know that her husband, regardless of his family background, undoubtedly has a magnetic personality. He's incredibly charismatic, the kind of person who knows how to light up a group conversation, and all around fun to be around. This might be hard to grasp for some... perhaps she wanted to marry him, because he's just a cool guy.

I don't see the people of England going, "Kate is just in it for the crown jewels." I mean yeah, she's in it for William's 'crown jewels', but you know what I'm trying to say.

Sometimes it feels so hopelessly negative here. I see people who can't be happy for their own supposed friends, even harsher are the acquaintances who don't stop their judgemental comments to think, "Actually, I don't know the full story at all." Some people seem to expect or hope for the worst outcome of their own friends they were just hashtagging #squadgoals with an hour before.

And when these acquaintances come and "confide" in me and everyone else around them, it doesn't make me feel more included when you talk badly about your own friends. I question how you're handling your insecurities, your character, and your loyalty to people you love. And it makes me sad.

Maybe it's age, maybe it's these kinds of issues, (maybe it's Maybelline). This is why I've become more socially selective these days. The friends I do have and care to see, I cherish them to bits. Their big fat heart full of similar values I treasure, their solid characters, their unconditional friendship helps me keep faith. Good people, who are realistic, intelligent, who have their own problems like anyone else, yet choose to be overall optimistic about those around them. For you friends who realize your own flaws and mine, but nonetheless wish the best for me.. Ah, I am grateful to have you in my life. Thank you friends for being who you are.

PS. For the soulless gossip mongers, who are presuming "Why this post?", I have not broke up with anyone recently that triggered this. I just wanted to point out what jerks you are, and know that it's never too late to change.
PPS. Sometimes, it is the girl's fault. But that ain't none of your beeswax either.


Friday, July 8, 2016

[Video] New Crafted Cocktails at The Westin



I was invited to try out the handcrafted cocktails at The Westin Hotels & Resorts newly launched Crafted at Westin, as part of their Well-Being Movement


Adam Tun-Aung and I were perched at the 32nd floor of The Westin Singapore's sky high Lobby Lounge with views over the South China Sea to try out these cocktails (see video above). The artisanal cocktail program only uses fresh, local ingredients and don't have any artificial sweeteners, syrups, or preservatives. The drinks are unique to The Westin properties, with two that you can only find in Singapore. 


Two of my favorites, incidentally, are the ones that are unique to the Singapore Westin.
Green Day Hendricks Gin • Lemon Juice • Basil Leaves • Green Grapes • Cucumber Slice and Faulty Sours Monkey Shoulder • Basil • Strawberries • Guava • Lemon were two of my favorite cocktails on the menu.


There's also La Branca, a cocktail containing Cointreau • Red Zinfandel • Fernet Branca • Fig Jam • Fresh Lime
Fun-fact about the industry: Now that the craft cocktail scene has become prominent in the global spectrum, with bartending competitions and a second renaissance of cocktails, bartenders are making a name for themselves. It's become a tradition amongst these bartenders, that upon visiting a fellow bartender's venue, they are greeted by a shot of Fernet Branca. But why fernet? While fernet is far from the lowest shelf, it is usually the spirit that sells the least. So, a bartender in theory will usually be in abundance of this supply. It's sometimes code these days, when you request for fernet with the bartender as a signal that you are in the bartending industry. Read More: Origins of the Cocktail

I will confess that I'm not a heavy cocktail drinker. Let me explain this in the words of Disney Ratatouille's Anton Ego, "I don't like food. I love it. If I don't love it, I don't swallow." While the cocktail trend has gotten popular again, there are still many venues that use ingredients that aren't fresh or local (therefore, not crisp/sweet/flavorful etc), thus leading to an overcompensation with extra preservatives or syrups to mask the taste. It's like dumping subpar quality sushi into soy sauce to compensate for the blandness of the fish. Often, this leads me to ask for a simple drink - usually scotch on the rocks, or anything with as little ingredients as possible.

It was a pleasure to discover that this isn't the case at Lobby Lounge. Crafted at Westin's 3-pillars are fresh, natural, and premium. Judging by the ingredients and how the cocktails are concocted, they practice what they preach.

Find out more about Crafted at Westin here.

photography by Adam Tun-Aung @tunaunga


The Westin Singapore
12 Marina View, Asia Square Tower 2, Singapore 018961
As Singapore’s first integrated hotel located within an office building, The Westin Singapore occupies levels 32 to 46 of Asia Square Tower 2 commercial development in Marina Bay, the heart of Singapore’s bustling financial district. Embracing the Westin brand’s promise For a Better You, The Westin Singapore offers 305 guestrooms and suites, 4 distinct dining venues, an outdoor infinity pool with a stunning view over Singapore’s south coast, the Heavenly Spa by WestinTM and 1,350 square meters of versatile event spaces, all designed with guests’ well-being in mind.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Funny Thing ... about my feelings

Bringing up the past has been a horrible experience. Things are getting better again, so I thought I've forgiven and forgotten, but reliving the betrayal... the deceit... has been nothing short of gut wrenchingly painful. It's tearing me apart all over again. It was a mistake to rewatch Game of Thrones from season one.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Shakshouka / Shakshuka recipe video


Shakshuka Recipe

Ingredients
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
· 1 red bell pepper (capsicum), seeded and thinly sliced
· 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
· 1/2 – 1 chilli pepper (or to taste), stemmed, sliced in half and deseeded, finely diced/minced
· 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
· 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
· 1 teaspoon paprika, smoked or sweet
· 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
· 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed, or 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
· 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
· 2 14-ounce cans of diced or crushed tomatoes (plum tomatoes)
· 2 tablespoons tomato paste
· 2 teaspoons honey or 4 teaspoons brown sugar
· 1 teaspoon red wine or cider vinegar
· 1 cup (20g) loosely packed greens, such as radish greens, watercress, kale, Swiss chard, or spinach, coarsely chopped
· Chopped cilantro
· 4 ounces (about 1 cup, 115g) feta cheese
· 4 to 6 eggs

Method
1. In a wide skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and red capsicum and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook until golden. Add the chilli pepper, the salt, pepper, and spices. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly.

2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar, reduce the heat to medium, until the sauce has thickened somewhat but is still loose enough so that when you shake the pan it sloshes around (12-15 minutes). Stir in the chopped greens.

3. Add the cubes of feta into the tomato sauce. Crack an egg ontop of the sauce.

4. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a gentle simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes, taking some of the tomato sauce and basting the egg whites from time-to-time. Cover, and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

5. Sprinkle generous amount of chopped cilantro over the top before serving. Serve with lots of crusty bread for scraping up the sauce.

Friday, May 27, 2016

[Video] #GirlsGetIt Hen's Trip in Melbourne


Together with Publicis, Scoot, and Tourism Australia, I got to take two of these galpals on a weeklong trip to Melbourne!  Xindi just got proposed to recently, so this trip turned into a practice hen's trip.  All Most of the naughty bits were edited out of the video, but here's a glimpse of what Cheryl Tiu, Xindi Siau, and I did one Autumnal week in Melbourne.


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