Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve: Ricotta Dip with Country Bread

Chef Inspired Recipes: Victoria on FoodForLifeTV (Ricotta Dip)

It's been a fantastic 2012.  I don't even want it to end!  But alas, New Year's eve is here and now we celebrate the end of this year into the new.  Tonight, thirty of us will be gathering at a friend's house for a black tie pot luck (we should be dressed our best to ring in the new year!).

I don't have much time to prepare today and everyone else seems to be bringing heavier dishes like roasts and potatoes.  So I'm turning to one of my favorite quick antipasto recipes.  Andrew Carmellini's A Voce ricotta cheese dip.  It sounds simple, and it is, but the dish blew me away the first time I had it at A Voce NYC all those years ago.

Urban Italian offers Andrew Carmellini's signature ricotta recipe

One of the keys to the spectacular nature of this dip is, as always, the ingredient(s) involved.  Carmellini uses a particular Sardinian sheep's milk ricotta, whereas most ricotta you'll find at specialty stores are made of cow's milk.  The second key is to whip in a splash of milk for extra fluffiness against the denseness of the cheese.  This results in a richer, tangier, velvetier ricotta dip that will usually have guests scraping the bottom of the bowl for.

Here's Carmellini's recipe for the dip:

Sheep's Milk Ricotta Antipasto
adapted from Urban Italian

serves 6
2 cups Sardinian sheep's milk ricotta (if you can't find this, use sheep's milk or regular cow's milk ricotta)
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp fleur de sel
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbls dried oregano
2-3 Tbls extra-virgin olive oil
Grilled Country Bread rubbed with garlic, for serving

1. Beat the ricotta and the milk together in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle (or in a medium bowl with a whisk) until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the fine sea salt and mix well.
2. Place the mixture in a serving bowl. Generously sprinkle the sea salt, pepper, thyme and oregano over the top.
3. Top with the olive oil, which will settle on and around the cheese.  Add sliced fresh figs or shaved truffles. Serve with grilled bread.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What Foodies Want For Christmas

Merry Christmas!  This holiday season, we asked nine notable individuals in the food and drink scene about what they want this Christmas.  Together with my buddy and fellow culture editor, we spent a week hopping from spot to spot to see what they had to say.  Check out the photo story below. Photography by Adam Tun-Aung.  (Original article for here)

KF Seetoh, Founder, Makansutra
This makanguru is Singapore's champion of local street food (and a columnist at  What does Seetoh want for Christmas?  "Sexy cha kway teow ladies in our midst."  As if cha kway teow wasn't sinful enough.

Guo Yi, Director of Operations, Jigger & Pony
Co-owner of one of Singapore's latest cocktail bars, Guo Yi wants a ticket back to Madrid to visit Michel Alessandro and Carlos Mureno. Co-owners Guo Yi and Indra Kantono met the hospitable duo one fateful evening in Spain. Alessandro and Mureno's warmth, kindness and great food and wine offerings inspired Guo Yi and Indra to open their own venue in Singapore. Guo Yi hopes to bring the same Spanish hospitality she experienced to her guests at Jigger & Pony. (Read here for more on Jigger & Pony)

Nicholas Lin, Owner, Platypus Kitchen
Heavily influenced by the food culture while he was working in the United States, this consultant turned cookbook author and chef craves nothing more than the comfort of food truck goodness.

Amy Van, Editor, Appetite Magazine
Amy Van, editor of one of Singapore's most established food publications goes back to basics. But as we know in the food world, the simplest dishes can be the hardest to perfect.

Harry Grover, Owner, Forty Hands and Broadcast HQ
It is often said that Forty Hands was the key in transforming the Tiong Bahru area into Singapore's latest hipster locale. This Australian-born barista is getting what he wants for Christmas. He flew off to Australia the next day after this shoot... and is now probably sipping his crisp, fresh white wine as you read this.

Yvonne Wang, Editor of The Muse, Communications Manager for TripAdvisor
Yvonne is an avid home cook (I can personally vouch for her amazing cooking), but has what may seem like the extra difficulty of living gluten-free. ”A gluten-free lifestyle can be challenging especially around the festive seasons. I want to raise awareness that there are great Christmas recipes that don’t contain gluten,” she says, confident that having a gluten-free holiday isn’t as daunting as it sounds.

Mohd Irwan, Head Bartender, CUT by Wolfgang Puck
Trained in the Japanese-style of bartending, Irwan dedicates his life to the craft (he has the battle scars to prove it during his ice-carving and fresh ingredient handling). This Christmas, he wants a 24 karat gold Bar Set. And it's not just for the bling. He explains, "Gold tends to control the temperature better rather than stainless steel, so the temperature of the ingredients won't alter while stirring or shaking."

Jon Yongfook Cockle, Director, 24-12 Systems
Mr. Cockle, the man of many talents is also a contributor for and has developed countless recipes for the public. “Big-ass soup pot” doesn’t quite capture the truth about the elegance of his cooking, so he elaborates, “I’ve been eating lots of Cantonese soup in the last half of 2012 and love it. I enjoy anything that’s cooked low and slow and I admire the purity of these soups – often there’s nothing more to it than a few fresh and dried ingredients (less than you’d think), water and time. I would love to be able to nail Cantonese-style ginseng chicken soup and pork rib / lotus root soup in 2013 to add to the several classic French soups I already have down pat. Although I’m a software entrepreneur, I do harbor fantasies about opening my own soup place one day!” We may see the revival of the Soup Nazi just yet.

Victoria Cheng, Editor-in-chief of
Hey, it's me! Adam suggested that we include my photo in this series... When I moved to Singapore, I ended up selling most of my kitchen--an extremely heart-breaking process, might I add. This Christmas, I want to begin re-pimping out my kitchen, one cocotte at a time. But first, a Misono santouku knife would be a nice start.

Norman Hartono
Norman's wish for Christmas: For the Mayans to be WRONG.  This photo was taken two days before the world was supposed to end and today is now Christmas.  Looks like he got what he wanted for Christmas!

What I got for Christmas

As a follow up:
Christmas Eve morning, Norman presented me with this!  An 8" Shun Chef's Knife!  I hadn't even hit "Publish" for this article yet before getting this.  =)  It also looks like that most of us on this list have gotten what we wished for this holiday too!  

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Customize your sushi on a budget at Maki-San

What do you get when you have two advertising designers and a shop space to serve sushi? You get some of the quirkiest pop-art decor and creative packaging — they’re so attractive that even the owners, Joseph Koh and Omar Marks, have been surprised to learn that customers have often returned simply to collect the maki boxes.

At Maki-San, you can design your own makisushi (rolled sushi) or Japanese-inspired salad, so to speak. Offering over 80 ingredients to choose from, you can put together your own healthier option of unseasoned brown rice with unagi in a Soy-Seasame wrap, or maybe you want to add so many bacon bits that your maki is near bursting at the seaweed seams.

This isn't quite the place to go if you are the sushi purist. The casual concept reminds me of a Japanese cuisine alternative to Subway sandwiches. This isn't a bad thing if you're on a budget and are craving a better balanced Asian lunch alternative to typically high cholesterol option of hawker food.

The Cathay #B1-17/18
2 Handy Road
Singapore 229233
Tel: 6737-8772

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Educated Cook

Not too long ago, you would often find that the older generation of star chefs first got into the industry not necessarily through passion... but rather, because they dropped out of school and/or needed a way to earn some cash to support their under privileged family (this includes Joel Robuchon and Wolfgang Puck!).  You won't find many Michelin-starred chef owners who have a completed Bachelor's degree.  Dishwashers and line cooks?  You'd pick them from your favorite lot of immigrants and raggedy kids who could take it.

These days, new recruits are coming in from college, if not college with additional culinary school training.  They're backed with knowledge and are complete nerds about the food scene.  Some are just doing it for their shot at Food Network fame, but overall, it's been fascinating watching the evolution of this industry.

Many chefs complain of the 'softness' of the incoming generation -- this new batch tend to be indignant when scolded and own a sense of entitlement after swooping in with their expensive culinary school diplomas.  For the most part, I empathized with these long time chefs, restaurateurs and operational staff.  Recently though, in an issue of Lucky Peach, I read Thomas Keller's take on it.  Overall, his point was, "When is too much education ever a bad thing?"

Good point, T-dawg.

Just wanted to jot down that late night last thought.  Good night, Moon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Best Brunch Spots in Singapore

Restaurants listed in order of personal preference under each sub-category.

Best for Something Different

Address: 82 Collyer Quay Singapore 049327 
Tel: +65 6534 0886

Address: 68 Orchard Road, #03-01, Plaza Singapura, 238839 
Tel: +65 6884 4566

Address: 16 Jiak Chuan Rd, 089267 
Tel: +65 6222 1616

Address: 22 Martin Road #02-01, 239058 
Tel: +65 6235 4990

Tong Le Private Dining read more here
Address: 60 Collyer Quay, OUE Tower, Level 8 & 10, 049322 
Tel: +65 6634 3233

Best for Groups

The Disgruntled Chef read more here
Pros: Mini portions, great for a group to share multiple dishes or if you're a hungry guy who likes bite-sized eggs benedict all to himself.
Cons:  If you're a hungry guy who doesn't like to share. 
Address:  26B Dempsey Road, Singapore 247693
Tel: +65 6476-5305

Trio of Oysters at Skyve

Skyve Wine Bistro
Pros: There's plenty of natural light pouring in through the floor to ceiling windows.  The restaurant itself is spacious, making it ideal if you need to make reservations for a big group. Recommended dishes include the Trio of Oysters, Spicy Kalbi Short Ribs, Skyve Beef Tartare, and the Mango & Cheese Semifreddo.
Address: No.10 Winstedt Road Block E, #01-17 (next to Anglo Chinese School)
Tel: +65 6225-6690 
Best for Atmosphere

Rider's Cafe
Pros:  Beautiful settings amongst the greenery and nature at the quiet Bukit Timah Saddle Club.  Watch the horses gallop in the grassy fields around the stables from your seat.
Cons:  Very inconvenient to reach unless take a taxi, have your own car or maybe own your own horse.  
Address:  Bukit Timah Saddle Club, 51 Fairways Drive, Singapore 286965
Tel: +65 6466-9819

Kith Cafe (Quayside Isle)  CLOSED, visit their other locations
Address: 31 Ocean Way, #01-08 Quayside Isle, 098375 
Tel: +65 6734 9007

Best for Hangovers

Pros:  American fare, American portions, NYC West Village quality.  Breakfast/brunch served everyday (until 11am on weekdays, 2:30pm on weekends). 
Cons:  A pretty compact place, so you'll probably want to call ahead to make sure there's seating available.
383 Jalan Besar, Singapore 209001
Tel: +65 6298-8962

Address: 136 Telok Ayer St, 068601 
Tel: +65 6224 6091

Best for a Swanky Weekend Brunch

Bacchanalia Brunch Series  Update: Bacchanalia is now a Michelin-starred restaurant, and no longer runs this brunch series.
Pros: Starting as a pop-up champagne brunch series, Bacchanalia has evolved into a full scale restaurant and cocktail bar. Bacchanalia has set the trend for chic Saturday brunching, recreating the weekend atmosphere you would find in New York City and London. With Chef Ivan Brehm (formally from The Fat Duck and Per Se) helming the kitchen, you'll find innovative touches on familiar brunch favorites.  But at 2:30pm as diners begin to polish off their plates, the lights begin to dim and the DJ cranks up the music.  Socialites and young professionals break out the Moët, Dom Perignon and Belvedere bottles and party until sunset.
Cons:  Usually a chance of champagne showers.  Don't let your Birkin get wet.
Address:  23A Coleman Street.  Check Bacchanalia Facebook Page or e-mail for more information.

Best for Champagne Brunch

Brasserie Les Saveurs
Pros:  For SG$170++ you get a main course, endless access to the elegant antipasto, seafood and dessert counters, and free flow Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut, Bloody Mary and juices. 
Cons:  This is the anti-Bacchanalia brunch.  The crowd tends to be more mature and the price reflects the atmosphere (ie. if the socialite tai-tai scene isn't your thing, you might feel uncomfortable here).
Address:  The St. Regis Singapore, 29 Tanglin Road
Tel: +65 6506-6888

Pros: Ritz-Carlton's Sunday Vintage Brunch at Greenhouse is nothing short of decadent. (SG$168 – 2002 Vintage Moët & Chandon champagne, wine and selected cocktails $84 – kids aged 6 to 12 $42 – kids aged 3 to 5).  Twice a year, Ritz-Carlton also holds the SuperBrunch, featuring an endless buffet table, spannin across the entirety of the first floor by special guest chefs.
Address: Ritz-Carlton Millenia, 7 Raffles Avenue, Singapore
Tel: +65 6337-8888 

Best for Cantonese (Dim Sum)

Tunglok Teahouse
Address 1: Far East Square 9-13 Amoy Street, #01-01 Singapore 049949 
Tel: +65 6877 1123
Address 2: Square 2 10 Sinaran Drive, #01-73, Singapore 307506 
Tel: +65 6893 1123

Taste Paradise
Address:  #04-07 ION Orchard, No. 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801
Tel: +65 6509-9660

Pros:  There's a reason I wrote a glowing review about Cassia last year.  The interior design by Hong Kong designer, Andre Fu, is beautiful and I say without hesitation, the service is phenomenal.  Attentive, patient, helpful, warm, gentle and all around professional.
Cons:  Transportation is a problem without your own car or taxi.  There have been reports on dim sum quality being somewhat inconsistent - I admittedly have only had their dim sum once, so cannot confirm (I've dined there numerous times for dinner).
Address:  1 The Knolls, #03-00 Capella Hotel Singapore
Tel: +65 6591-5045

Lei Garden
Address: #01-24 Chijmes, 30 Victoria Street, Singapore 
Tel: +65 6339-3822 
Opening Hours: Lunch 11.30am to 3pm, Dinner 6pm to 11 pm

Best for Health Fix

Common Man Coffee Roasters
Address: 22 Martin Road, #01-00, 239058 
Tel: +65 6836 4695

The Missing Pan
It's a modern bakery & brasserie that prides itself on freshly-baked goodness and offers hearty, all-day dining options (that includes all day brunch). Try the Beetroot Quinoa Salad.  It contains candied beetroot, arugula, herby flatbread strips ($12++)
Address: Tel: 619D Bukit Timah Road, #01/02-01

Toby's Estate
Toby's Estate is a specialty coffee roaster from Australia. They opened their doors in Singapore in 2011, serving cafe bites and their in-house roasted coffee.  The bircher muesli is addictive.  And the coffee is pretty swell too.
Address: 8 Rodyk Street, 01-03/04 Singapore 238216 
Tel: +65 6636-7629

Real Food
Address: 110 Killiney Rd, 239549 
Tel: +65 6737 9516

Address: 01-01, 12 Gopeng St, Singapore 078877 
Tel: +65 6221 3029

The Daily Cut
Address 1: 1 #B1-31 One Raffles Place, One Raffles Place, 048616
Address 2: 1 Fusionopolis Pl, 138632

Joe and the Juice
Address: 30 Raffles Place #01-35A Chevron House Singapore 
Tel: +65 6221 2126

Best for Brunch Buffet

Equinox Restaurant
Pros: Quality spread, especially if you love Sunday roast and Yorkshire pudding -- award-winning Chef de Cuisine Lee Bennett hails from Yorkshire, after all.  The crêpe Suzette here is also one of the best I've had in Singapore (Le Saint Julien makes my favorite crêpe Suzette, but that's for another post).  The excellent panoramic view from the floor-to-ceiling windows over Singapore's Marina Bay is also hard to beat.
Cons: The offerings aren't as wide or varied, as say, Shangri La Singapore's brunch buffet spread.  Also be sure to make reservations for Sunday brunch well ahead of time... request for a seat by the window while you're at it.
Address:  Level 70 Swissotel The Stamford, 2 Stamford Road, Singapore 178882
Tel: +65 6837-3322

Ash & Elm
read more here
Address: Level 1, Intercontinental Singapore 80 Middle Road Singapore 188966
Tel: +65 6338-7600

The Line (Shangri-La Hotel)
Pros:  Is there anything The Line buffet doesn't have?  Indian, Japanese, Western, Chinese, dim sum, seafood, roasts, fresh juices, smoothies, desserts -- heck, there is even a candy section with cabinets full of gummy bears and lollipops, and a station for local drinks such as teh tarik.  Best yet, buffet is offered every day of the week.  Not too shabby for SG50++ (Saturday), SG$78++ (Sunday), SG$47++ (Weekday).  
Cons:  It gets extremely noisy on weekends when families bring their little ones -- try not to trip over them as you waddle back to your table with your piled-up plate.
Address:  Shangri-La Hotel (Lower Lobby), 22 Orange Grove Road, Singapore 258350
Tel: +65 6213-4275

Best Eggies

Baker & Cook
Pros: The smoked salmon eggs benedict hits all the right notes, especially when it's supported by Baker & Cook's freshly baked bread.
Cons: Besides the eggs benedicts dishes, many of the other cooked dishes are lacking in presentation, value, and taste (especially the simple scrambled eggs and sausages).
Address: (Two locations) 77 Hillcrest Road, Greenwood or 38A Martin Road.

Halia at Raffles Hotel
Pros: Presentation and composition of Halia's brunch dishes are lovely, including the eggs benedict.  The atmosphere is quaint and grand all at the same time with the elegant colonial surroundings of Raffles Hotel.
Cons: The menu at Halia at Botanical Gardens and Halia at Raffles Hotel are completely different (created by different chefs).  I personally prefer Raffles Hotel's menu by far.
Address: Raffles Hotel, 1 Beach Road, #01-22/23 Singapore


If you don't see certain places listed it means one or more of the following:
1.  I didn't think it deserved to be there.
2.  It slipped my mind!  Remind me, please.
3.  I didn't have the time/stomach space/cash to check it out yet.

If you think a place deserves to be considered, please message me or leave a comment below.

Friday, November 23, 2012

An interview with Matt Preston, Masterchef Australia

Masterchef Australia television host and award-winning food writer Matt Preston shares his thoughts on food trends, food critiquing, and being a celebrity.

Written by Victoria Cheng for Appetite Asia, August 2011
See the full article in the printed issue.

Behind Berardo’s Restaurant in Australia, I was quietly peeking into the kitchen where seven of some of the world’s greatest chefs were preparing a one-of-a-kind degustation dinner to celebrate the last remaining hours of the Noosa Food & Wine Festival, when I noticed a looming presence behind me. It was British-born Matt Preston towering over most of us, sporting his signature cravat (cream-coloured that night). He broke into an easy smile, and I soon find out he is as warm, amicable and as engaging off-screen as he is on. His passion for food is wholly apparent as he speaks enlivened with the memories of Singapore and of food trends, global trade, marketing, people—everything, really.

Matt Preston once had childhood aspirations to be a soldier or footballer, but the day his friend rang to offer him a role as a food reviewer, he never looked back. The 50-year-old food journalist and television presenter remarks, “Food is a universal language,” with his favourite part of the job being the people he gets to meet. He has been based in Melbourne for the past 16 years, now hosting for Masterchef Australia and writing for delicious. magazine and the food section of The Age.

Biggest gripe about the TV world?
Shooting 85 episodes of a TV show takes up so much time which keeps me away from the things I love most: my job as a food writer, my family and travelling around eating when I’m not with them.

Where do you see food trending towards in the next few years?
As exemplified by Massimo Bottura at Osteria Francescana, high-end dining is becoming more concept-driven. Vue de Monde in Melbourne is currently developing a dish inspired by the Victorian gold rush in the 1850s with ‘nuggets’ of golden liquefied honeycomb hidden in chocolate soil.

We are also seeing the growth of true regional expression, as exemplified by Rene Redzepi’s food. Noma already has traction but I’d expect to see more wild greens and less fashionable fish on New World menus.

Is there any chef you’re dying to meet or work with—or have you met them all?
I’d love to do more with Massimo Bottura who is a fascinating and inspirational character. Rene Redzepi (Noma), Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck), Juan Mari Arzak (Arzak) and Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz) are all great to be around, but the best fun that I have been having recently has been cooking with ‘aunty’ style home cooks from a range of different cultural backgrounds.

What advice would you impart to the thousands of aspiring food critics out there? 
Start a blog and review everywhere you eat. Write reviews to the length that they are published in your city (50 word thumbnails, 200 mini reviews, 450 word full reviews). This will help you find your own unique voice. Always try to improve your knowledge and develop special areas of expertise and interest.

Tell us about your most memorable meal.
There are so many: strips of steak cooked with butter and chives pulled from the wood-fired AGA in my grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen; homemade pasta served with shaved white truffle that I had foraged for myself in the hills behind Gubbio in Umbria; my last meals at The Fat Duck, Noma, Arzak and Mugaritz; eating pork buns with George and Gary in Mongkok (Hong Kong) and at Ssäm Bar (New York)… A good burger or souvlaki almost anywhere.

Do you have a lucky cravat?
No, all cravats are lucky. I do have a cream silk scarf that I am a little fond of.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fat Duck chefs killed in Hong Kong

The tragic news is spreading across the globe about the death of two chefs from Fat Duck.  Jorge Ivan Arango Herrera, 34, and Carl Magnus Lindgren, 30, were senior staff from the Heston Blumenthal's triple Michelin-starred kitchen in Berkshire, England.

Herrera, Lindgren, and driver Wong Kim Chung were pronounced dead in Hong Kong after an oncoming double decker bus crashed into their taxi in Chai Wan.  Blumenthal was in a separate taxi and is uninjured.  The trio were in Hong Kong to promote an upcoming restaurant.

The top chefs and food writers in the social media world -- David Chang (Momofuku), Thomas Keller (French Laundry), Mugaritz restaurant, Ryan Sutton (Bloomberg) --  are tweeting their condolences.  Rene Redzepi of Noma (Copenhagen) understandingly tweets, "Unimaginable - your chefs are your family.  Condolences to the families, Heston & team Fat Duck chefs killed in crash."

For more details on the accident, read Wall Street Journal Asia's article.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eating through Los Angeles

I guess there are worse places to be stuck in when Sandy messes up your New York plans.

Traveled to get my annual dose of home in New York, but first made a pit stop in southern California.  Plans changed when Hurricane Sandy hit New York, followed by a snowstorm that blew in a week later.  Stuck on the west coast this Autumn, Norman brought me to some of his favorite spots and we explored a good handful of restaurants that were new to both of us.  Suffice to say, we've both gotten visibly softer around the middle section.  Here's the list and the verdict below.

Eating machines.

(List in this post is still in progress.  More restaurants will be added over this week whenever I find a minute to pop it in!)

Vito's Pizza
846 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(310) 652-6859

Reputation:  This joint is repudiated as one of the best pizzerias in LA, and serves some of the best NY-style pizza on the west coast.  It's been reviewed among many publications and blogs as being able to stand among the best in Manhattan.

Verdict:  I disagree.  There is nothing New York about the place.  Even the service is anything but New York -- Louis, the guy handling the cashier was probably the nicest and on-the-ball pizzeria server I've come across.  Ever.  Patient, outgoing, offering utensils, extra plates before we even thought to ask, and he sports the most genuine smile I've seen on the west coast.

Unfortunately for LA, if this is the "best" NY-style pizza this city has to offer, then I dread what the pizza must be like in the rest of the area.  After being welcomed by the likes of Louis, we started with a white cheese pesto slice -- it was an exceptional start to our pizza stop. Big dollops of sweet, creamy ricotta is generously dotted across the pie, coming together into a rich bite with swirls of pesto and olive oil.  This pizza is highly recommended.

It started to go downhill when we tucked into the fresh mozzarella slice and the Garibaldi (meatball, jalapeños).  The crust was too thin and flimsy by any standard, and it lacked any flavor.  Save for the amazing ricotta, it seems LA has yet to master the NY pizza... but I guess that's why it's called a "New York style" pizza in the first place.

Carney's Restaurant
8351 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 654-8300

Reputation:  It's hard to miss Carney's.  A yellow train car sits along the Sunset Strip with an enormous crossing sign advertising burgers and hotdogs.  Mr. Hartono explained how Carney's is practically a Los Angeles landmark since its opening in the late '60s and is a must-visit for any LA-noobs such as myself.

Verdict:  Skipping the burgers, we popped by just for a quick hot dog (we still had Pink's Hot Dogs and K-Town food to do next).  Call me simple or call me a New Yorker, but I like my dogs with nothing more than mustard, ketchup and sauerkraut...  or else a chili cheese dog.  It was a chilly evening and the sight of all the tall leggy aspiring-actresses strolling along Sunset Blvd made me crave the more gluttonous option of the latter.

The dog was thin, juicy, flavorful, and the outer skin had that vital snap as my teeth broke through the top layer.  I could have done with some chopped raw onions on this baby, but the addition of fresh tomato slices was a nice touch.  Maybe it's because I live in Singapore now and haven't had a good hot dog in almost two years, or maybe the hot dog really was that good.

Slap Yo Mama Food Truck, Pigs Feet Under, Rancho A Go Go Barbeque

Reputation: I hadn't gotten the chance to try any food trucks during my stay in LA.  On the last day, my flight was postponed by 12 hours.  I was so angry at United Airlines for once again screwing up my travel, but it gave us the opportunity to scout out a food truck or two in between.  Norman found a bunch of trucks on the way back to the airport, and we were drawn to the rather unusual name, "Slap Yo Mama Truck - Soul Food".

Verdict:  The woman taking orders saw what must have seen the look of indecisiveness on our faces.  With a smile, she welcomed me to California, then listed her favorite eats from the neighboring trucks, "Have you ever had Grilled Cheese Truck?  The grilled cheese at the truck next door at Pigs Feet Under is even better, hands down.  And I love Rancho A Go Go Barbeque - I've never had pulled pork better than theirs.  See that truck across?  They do a cool fusion of Japanese and Persian cuisine..."  She listed a few more before modestly introducing one of their own truck's specialties: The Snoop Dogg Crizto.


I've never tried Roscoe's or any other chicken & waffles place before.... and now was a good time as any.  The Snoop Dogg Crizto was named as such (renamed, actually) after Snoop Dogg/Lion himself had the dish and declared it one of his favorites.  It's serious biz when you have chicken and mac n' cheese enveloped in a thick cushion of waffles and syrup.  Don't get too excited or worried about the white dusting on top.  It isn't coke.  It's icing sugar -- which in my book, is close enough.  I officially dig chicken & waffles - I crave this dish even whilst I type this now in Singapore.  I think Norman was quite literally licking the plate clean that evening, while I was polishing off Rancho A Go Go's pulled pork.

Photo by Rancho A Go Go

The Porky Fries from Rancho A Go Go is out of this world.  Slap Yo Mama was not kidding when she said their pulled pork was some of the best out there.  The juicy, soft pulled pork was served over curly fries and topped with tangy barbecue sauce.  If we hadn't already gotten the Snoop Dogg Crizto and a bacon grilled cheese, I would have gone back for seconds (next time, I'll be trying the "Rhino" - pulled pork grilled cheese stuffed with mac n' cheese).

We finished the Bacon Grilled Cheese from Pig's Feet Under last.  I've never had a grilled cheese with so much bacon before -- and we're talking perfectly cooked bacon.  The generous portions of bacon were cooked crisp, but not till burned.  It was salty, flavorful... god, I love bacon.  The fig jam was a nice touch; its natural sweet and tartness balanced the bacon.  We were least enthusiastic about the grilled cheese in this one instance, but only because the other two dishes we ordered were heavy on the caloric richness, making the bacon grilled cheese combo seem more subtle.  It still, however, is one of the better sandwiches I've had.

Spago, Beverly Hills
176 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 385-0880

Review pending.

The Spice Table
114 S. Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 620-1840

Review pending.

California Fish Grill, Irvine
3988 Barranca Parkway #B
Irvine, California 92606
(949) 654-3838

Review pending.

Urth Caffe, West Hollywood
8565 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(310) 659-0628

Review pending.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Food For Thought: Fruity Art

Turkish artist and photographer, Şakir Gökçebağ, looks at fruits a little differently.

See the full works at Şakir Gökçebağ's online portfolio.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Party-Goers: A Hangover Cure


Whether you're regular party royalty or just a happy-hour kinda guy, there is one thing most of us dread: The Hangover.

Earlier this year, the first time I tested out this supposed hangover cure in Tokyo.

I recently managed to involve cake in my last outing at Avalon Singapore when Steve Aoki was in town.  End result:

What is Steve Aoki talking about on his Instagram?  Check out the video clip below.

Did that really happen? (Caked clip at 0:30)

I wish I could say this was all there was to the night, but there was much more... someone accidentally knocked one of my heels into the Marina Bay, and there was a little bit of crowd surfing (thanks to Aoki).  I guess there's a first time for everything... and everything that night was indeed a first time!  I woke up the next morning, feeling something like the guys in the movie, The Hangover - minus an actual hangover.

Kids, this is why you shouldn't do drugs.  Copious amounts of vodka and champagne can do enough damage as it is!

Mom, I swear this was all in the name of research.

At least we're keeping to the food theme, here.

As if the previous night's festivities were unbelievable enough (trust me, I do NOT do this sort of craziness on a normal basis), the lack of what should have been a raging hangover made it all the more unbelievable.  Unfortunately, seeing an empty can of Ukon and dozens of images and links of my antics being sent to me the next morning confirmed the reality of it all.
Click here to see my chance at revenge... I caked Aoki BACK.

This saved my weekend.

Ukon Power is the Japanese salarymen's lifesaver (white-collar business men).  In a culture that sees a lot of sake and beer drinking even over the weekdays, Ukon Power is sold at counters from every 7-Eleven to public vending machines.

I would not recommend doing this outside of Japan.
See more about the drunk Salaryman here.

Saying Ukon is a hangover CURE might not be the best term.  It's more of a hangover PREVENTION.  The secret ingredient is curmumin - otherwise known as turmeric.  My friends familiar with their spices roll their eyes whenever they find this out.  Places like India have been using spices for various ailments for centuries.  The curcumin "fights the free-radicals in your body caused by a heavy night of drinking that would otherwise cause you to feel like a wet mop the next morning."

I don't know about you, but I'd rather just have a convenient little canister to pop open before the night gets started rather than yellowing my fingers with a homemade turmeric remedy (this spice stains a deep golden yellow very easily).

Ukon Power is now being sold in Singapore!  While Avalon doesn't provide Ukon (yet?), the company so kindly provided me with a case of the goods to try out.  Thankfully, I decided to give a go the night I saw Steve Aoki.  Not my proudest moment in life, but I had one hell of a night... and I was still able to function the following day. I just have to explain myself to my mother.

Ukon Power is available online for SGD$55 for 12 x 100 ml canisters.  It is also sold at The Royal Room, Filter, Mink, Overeasy, Loof, Zouk, Attica, TAB, The Merry Men, and The Butter Factory.  Visit Ukon's Facebook Page for more information.

Taken before, during or right after (not the morning after - it's too late to save you by then!).  You can mix it with vodka or use it as a chaser for a particularly heinous shot.  I personally take one right before the night begins and another right before heading home.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Food (and supplements) for thought

Saw this photo being passed around on Facebook (photo via Information is Beautiful).  The larger the circle, the higher Google search rate.  Depending on color, this photo organizes based on actual evidence of effectiveness for the conditions listed inside the bubble .  I haven't done any deep research on these items myself, so I can't verify how true all of this is.. but hey, more food for thought.

This image is a “balloon race”. The higher a bubble, the greater the evidence for its effectiveness. But the supplements are only effective for the conditions listed inside the bubble.You might also see multiple bubbles for certain supps. These is because some supps affect a range of conditions, but the evidence quality varies from condition to condition. For example, there’s strong evidence that Green Tea is good for cholesterol levels. But evidence for its anti-cancer effects is conflicting. In these cases, we give a supp another bubble.This visualisation generates itself from this Google Doc. So when new research comes out, we can quickly update the data and regenerate the image. (How cool is that??)

(Click image to enlarge)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Banh mi and Vietnamese noodles [Singapore]

Just got wind of a new Vietnamese restaurant in town.  Opened by the same folks who opened up Annam, Les Amis now presents NamNam Noodle Bar.  Unlike its sister counterpart, NamNam is much more reasonably priced, with Banh mi going for $5.90 and various Vietnamese noodles anywhere between $7.90 to $16.90.

I just came back from my first trip to Vietnam two weeks ago, where banh mi costs a buck each.  But who am I to complain?  My friends and I were whining about the lack of banh mi options in Singapore the whole trip home.

I have NOT tried out NamNam Noodle Bar yet, but it is on my ASAP-to-eat list.  Will report back soon if it's any good.  If you manage to get there before I do, please share your thoughts!  In the meantime, here is their menu:

Raffles City Shopping Centre
Wheelock Place

Friday, September 28, 2012

Poppin' in Little India at Broadcast HQ [Event]

From the gents who brought you Forty Hands, the Grover brothers are celebrating the coffee joint's 2 year anniversary at their newest venue BROADCAST HQ.  I'm heading to ONE Fighting Championship (link for free tix) that evening, then heading over to this hidden bar in Little India for my free pint of beer.

This isn't any ordinary beer.  This is the Forty Hands & Archipelago Coffee Beer.  They're down to their very last kegs of this unique beer, sharing it with the masses on Saturday 6 October complimentary from 10pm-11pm.

Saturday 6 Oct, 9pm-2am
Grover bros as the evening's DJs!

Happy Birthday Forty Hands!

Broadcast HQ
109 Rowell Road, Little India, Singapore


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