Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Adventures of Tofu

I was still hungry a few hours after dinner, so in true Singaporean fashion, I went for supper at a small hawker centre down the block from my home.  I brought my little white maltese for the walk, mentally mapping out the longer route that would pass as few tables as possible (as to not offend anyone who didn't want to have a dog near them while they ate).

There was a different lady handling my favorite duck noodle stall than usual.  As I arrived, her expression perked up immediately into a smile at the sight of Tofu trotting in -- Tofu who looked more like a mongrel at this point, because of the rain.  ...Guess I didn't need to tabao my food back!  When I picked a table closer to the road, she even pulled up a chair and insisted that Mr. Tofu sit right besides me.  At first, I thought I was having a lost in translation moment, or she was kidding...

Nope.  She was thrilled to have him sitting there right besides me.

I suddenly felt very self-conscious as I felt the eyes of the aunties and uncles at the surrounding tables on me.  I didn't dare look at their expressions in case there were any of disapproval (the stall auntie really REALLY wanted Tofu on the chair).

A little Singaporean girl, not more than 5 or 6 years old, straight cut bangs and shoulder length hair waddled up to us (the stall auntie at this point simply stopped doing her job and just pulled up a chair next to Tofu).  She seemed to be family with the folks running the stall, and very comfortable around dogs.  She flinched, but didn't look scared when Tofu got a little cocky and decided to let out a loud RO-RO! at her in excitement.

She spoke to me in Chinese eventually, and I looked back with complete embarrassment at this adorable doe-eyed girl in this pink Angry Birds t-shirt, replying, "I...  um... don't... I uh don't really speak Chinese."  I more or less mumbled it under my breath, thinking there's no way she speaks much English anyway.  She blinked for a moment, then in perfect English (with the Singaporean twang of course) repeats herself, "I have a dog too!  But she's not as nice as this dog."

I don't really know what I was thinking, by assuming she didn't speak English just because she was somebody's daughter or niece at the hawker stall... and well, she was also this tiny little thing, so I wasn't sure how much she could speak at all.  Either way, I felt somewhat ashamed again for making what some might call small-minded assumptions.  (In all fairness, I was at a friend's son's 1st Birthday party with tons of other little toddlers today, so I'm all confused about how much a kid should be able to speak at what age)

Tofu ended up getting spoiled to bits.  The auntie and the little girl with the big eyes fed him a good amount of charsiu slices.  The little girl told me her name, but I couldn't quite catch it--sounded like Israel?--and sweetly asked if she could hold Tofu's leash.

It was pouring rain at this point.  She and Tofu pranced around the white plastic tables and the oddly colored stools under the shelter of the hawker centre, stopping only to introduce herself and Mr. Tofu to the patrons who belonged to a much older generation.  Meanwhile, I sipped on my barley drink then finally finished up the rest of my duck noodles in peace. 

When the rain let up,  it was finally time for us to go.  She handed me the leash and gently kissed him on the head goodbye. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm Not a Tourist....

Here is the video from our event launch:
 Recognize the voice?

For a photoshoot by Danny Santos, we had to complete the sentence: "I'm not a tourist, because...".  Ultimately, our team decided to go with the following quote:

Unfortunately, with the recent announcement about increased taxi surcharges, I'm not sure how relevant my quote is anymore.

So, let me share some of the other reasons that I listed for the shoot a few months ago:

I'm Not A Tourist, because...

... I know the difference between la, lor, leh... and the difference between ACS and Raffles.
... I know there is more to Singaporean food than chilli crab and chicken rice.  Give me rojak, mee rebus and chwee kueh!  River Valley is not the only place for makan.  (and I chope seats with tissue packet, though admittedly I always get a sense of disbelief that no one steals or ignores it)
... I know that 'steady pom pee pee' has nothing to do with how well you aim at the urinal.
... watching folks put ice in their beer doesn't phase me...
but doesn't mean I like it.
... I know my local celebrities.  And I know how to pronounce the names of Singapore's politicians correctly (it's Nah-than, not Nay-than!).
... I get (and love) the jokes on The Noose.
 ... I can order teh, teh bing, teh c or teh o without batting an eyelash.  Whether or not the stall auntie understands my bad accent is another matter.
... I know the phrase 'yum seng' will probably leave me voiceless the next day.
... I would feel weird calling a taxi driver anything other than 'uncle'.
... I'm a Velvet/Zouk member.  I know what it means when folks talk about the revered 'Doctor' from the prime Mambo Jambo days.

So how's that for you?  Or still cannot make it?

See original post here at my profile.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A restaurateur's personal menu [by André Terrail, guest contributor]

Throughout many interviews with all sorts of personalities, I've discovered that the seemingly harmless question, "What would your last meal on earth be?" can reveal so much more to a person's character, history and desires than the query let's on.

I've recently had the pleasure of getting to know and eventually interviewing André Terrail, the third generation owner of the famed La Tour D'Argent in Paris and Tokyo.  Our video interview with the gentleman is currently being edited, so look out for the final piece next week.  In the meantime, it's my pleasure to present him as today's guest contributor.

Upcoming video interview:
Victoria Cheng, Gastronommy & André Terrail, La Tour D'Argent Paris

André contributes a piece answering the question, "What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country?" It's been said that the young 31-year old can be a bit guarded when you first meet him (more on that in later articles), but I've learned that when it comes to his passions, you'll see Mr. Terrail's dark eyes grow wide with expression as he comes to life, sincere and full of excitement.  And here, through this narrative about his ideal menu, he somewhat unwittingly reveals the elegance of his palate, his adoration for France, a penchant for romantic tradition, and perhaps even a little more.

Here is his piece, with the original French text below.  If you are a gastronome, you may find yourself wishing you could be hosted by the man himself after this - he does have a natural grace for hospitality after all.  Rest assured, you can have the experience at his restaurant in Paris.

- Victoria, Gastronommy

Introducing France
by André Terrail

France is a land of plenty, so being a restaurant owner, there lies a happiness in this country that I cannot find anywhere else. Throughout the year, the diversity of the climate, the good earth and the seas enable exceptional artisans--from the cooks to the sommeliers-- proffer everything to delight us. In France, the cuisine follows the seasons.  And if you’re in luck, it is June, the month of bounty.  So, as a preamble to your new home, over the course of a meal this summer, come with me to discover the land of fine food and wine.

While the sun sets later in the evening, I suggest, over cocktails, some cockles and clams straight from the north, the coast of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, lightly sautéed in butter and dusted with parsley -- to be eaten with your fingers, for etiquette must bow to hedonism. To rouse our taste buds, let us seek out a light champagne, not too saccharine, a blanc de blancs, the 2000 vintage from the house of Selosse, a fine and confidential establishment.

For the appetizer, a half lobster is the perfect choice, the blue lobster of Brittany, of course!  And since a fine product must be exalted, keep it simple -- grilled over a wood fire, basted with a little olive oil and served with a few wild golden chanterelle mushrooms.  Voilà, you’ll find a savoury harmony of aromas, bringing together notes of the sea with the underbrush of the forest. Together with this beautiful crustacean, I will serve a Chassagne-Montrachet, a white Burgundy, from the House of Jadot, and, let us indulge, a 1996.

For the main course there is Challans duckling from Western France, whose protected designation of origin guarantees an extraordinary quality. It will be magnificent with cherries and Darphin potatoes, sautéed then baked with butter. To accompany this dish, let us head to the Atlantic coast to choose a fine Bordeaux. A Cheval Blanc 2000, for example, will transport us to paradise. 

For dessert, allow me to suggest a mille-feuille of wild strawberries served with whipped cream as light as a cloud. For the wine, let us wind up our small tour of France with an Alsace Gewurztraminer from Zind Humbrecht, a noble family establishment. The wine has a touch of sweetness, and I assure you, a 2005 vintage will not disappoint.

And so there you have a very pleasant dinner, but no matter the quality of the dishes and the wine, nothing counts more than the conviviality amongst your guests, for in France life revolves around the table.

In French (original):
La France est un pays de cocagne, le restaurateur que je suis y trouve son bonheur comme nulle part ailleurs. La diversité des climats, des terres et des mers permettent à des artisans exceptionnels de fournir toute l’année au cuisinier et au sommelier de quoi nous enchanter. En France la cuisine suit la saison et vous avez de la chance, nous sommes en juin, le mois de l’abondance. Alors, en guise de préambule à votre établissement et sur le thème d’un repas, découvrez avec moi le pays de la gourmandise.

Alors que le soleil se couche tard je vous propose en guise d’apéritif quelques coques et palourdes des côtes du Nord-Pas-de-Calais, juste revenues au beurre et saupoudrées de persil, à manger avec les doigts car l’étiquette doit plier devant l’hédonisme. Pour éveiller nos papilles, cherchons un champagne léger, peu dosé, un blanc de blancs, millésime 2000 de chez Selosse, une jolie maison confidentielle.

En entrée un demi-homard sera parfait, bleu de Bretagne bien sûre ! Et puisqu’un bon produit doit surtout être sublimé, restons simple - grillé au feu de bois, arrosé d’un peu d’huile d’olive et accompagné de quelques girolles  - voilà une belle concentration d’arômes, mariant pleine-mer et sous-bois… Je servirai avec ce bel homme un Chassagne-Montrachet, vin blanc de Bourgogne, de la maison Jadot et de 96 soyons fous !

Comme plat, un caneton de Challans, appellation contrôlée de l’Ouest de la France qui garantit un produit hors normes. Avec des cerises et des pommes Darphin au beurre ce sera magnifique. Pour l’accompagner rejoignons la côte Atlantique et choisissons un beau Bordeaux, un Cheval Blanc 2000 par exemple nous amènera au paradis.

En dessert je vous suggère un mille-feuille aux fraises des bois, avec une crème fouettée légère comme un nuage. Comme vin terminons notre petit tour de France  avec un Gewurztraminer d’Alsace de chez Zind Humbrecht, noble maison familiale. C’est un vin légèrement sucré, sur un millésime comme 2005 vous ne serez pas déçus. 

Voilà un bien sympathique dîner, mais quelqu’en soit la qualité des mets et des vins, rien ne sera aussi important que vos convives, car en France c’est à table que l’on vit.

- André Terrail

La Tour D'Argent
15, quai de la Tournelle
75005 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 43 54 23 31

Friday, December 2, 2011

J'ai un paquet... from Feiyue!

A few weeks ago, I was surprised with an adorable French-themed delivery from Feiyue.

 Handwritten to each of us by Pat Law
also a good sign that beautiful penmenship is not dead.

It included all sorts of goodies, including buttons, macarons, chocolate biscuits, pink lemonade, and of course... a pair of new kicks.  Feiyue, meaning "flying forward", comes from an interesting history originating in Shanghai - if I'm not mistaken, the shoes were popular amongst martial artists for their flexible and light material (think retro kung-fu movies)... This bit was of personal interest to me, given my 12+ years of dedication to martial arts. 

The lightweight canvas shoe evolved over time since its early days in 1920s China, taking on influences from the hip bits of today's French street fashion.

Celebrating the values of freedom and innovation, Feiyue is looking for more "Custodians of Freedom" to hand deliver more of these vintage-esque packages to.  To nominate yourself or a friend, visit the Feiyue Facebook page, Asia.

Photo from Zouk Singapore
Thanks Feiyue!  I'll be uploading my Feiyue x Zouk 20/20 Sneaker Launch event photos up on my Gastronommy Facebook page later on.

Victoria xoxo


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