[Amsterdam, Holland] – Of Pancakes, English Breakfasts and Chinese Roast Meats

20 11 2013

While there are many coffeeshops in Amsterdam, not many actually sell coffee so it was great that we managed to find a decent cafe called Greenwoods that served a proper English Breakfast. I’d imagine it would be a great way to perk yourself up after a visit to the coffeeshop that does not sell coffee.

Ground Floor of Greenwoods

I had the Full English Breakfast (9.95 Euros), comprising two eggs with bacon, sausages, grilled mushrooms & tomato, baked beans and toast while friend JS had the Eggs Royale (8.95 Euros), comprising two poached eggs with smoked salmon on toasted English muffins topped with Hollandaise.

My toast was crisp but at the same time rather airy, the grilled mushrooms were flavourful, the eggs poached to perfection and the Hollandaise sauce rich and smooth. Nothing short of excellent.

Full English Breakfast

Eggs Royale

Another plus point was that while the cafe was pretty popular, the staff were uber friendly and I never once felt rushed during the meal.

Another cafe that’s hugely popular and also worth visiting is The Pancake Bakery, which has the widest selection of pancakes I have ever seen. Initially I was a little bummed, mainly because I perceive a restaurant with a wide menu selection as a jack of all trades but master of none. Thankfully, I was painfully mistaken this time around.

Question marks all around whenever someone asks about what foods are authentically Dutch. Well, something I learnt from this trip is that the Dutch invented a type of mini-pancake called Poffertjes. We had the Poffertjes with Honey, Nuts, Mandarins and Whipped Cream (7.10 Euros) and it was wonderful. Compared to the other pancakes we had here, this one was more on the fluffy side, with the texture of hotcakes but with a lighter body and less floury taste.

If you like Hawaiian Pizza, then you will surely love the Pineapple and Bacon Pancake (9.95 Euros). It was my favourite of the 3 pancakes we ordered. The bacon wasn’t overly salty and there was a pleasant smoky tinge (from the bacon) lingering within the batter.

Pancake with Apples, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Cinnamon Liquor and Whipped Cream (12.15 Euros)

Having had to skip lunch to make it for a bicycle tour of the city, we were pretty famished when it was over and couldn’t wait for our pancakes to arrive. So while waiting, we had some Taco Chips with Melted Cheese and Chili Sauce (4.65 Euros) to nibble on. Was appreciative that the cafe took the effort to toast the chips before serving.

For tourists, do remember to flash your Holland Pass to enjoy a drink on the house.

Zaanse Schans Windmill Village

PS: This advice is mainly for Asians in Europe hankering after a decent Roast Meat and Roast Duck Rice. Say goodbye to 4 Seasons in London, Amsterdam’s Nam Kee is the place to be for Roast Meats. It might just run some stalls out of business if it ever opened shop in Singapore.

Nam Kee

Zeedijk 113, 1012 AV Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 624 3470

The Pancake Bakery

Prinsengracht 191, 1015 DS Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 625 1333

Greenwoods English Tea Room & Restaurant

Keizersgracht 465, Amsterdam 1017 DK, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 420 4330

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[Paris, France] – Pierre Herme vs Laduree

15 10 2013

Laduree or Pierre Herme? Truly a question for the ages that I sought to solve whilst visiting Paris. There are multiple branches scattered around town for both iconic names but if you are short on time as I was, I would suggest heading to Rue Bonapart, located in the 6th arrondissement (aka district) of Paris, where both names are present within walking distance.

Inside Laduree

Flavours available at Laduree

Pierre Herme had a much longer queue

Inside Pierre Herme

I conducted a simple taste test with 3 other friends whom I was traveling with to determine who we should crown king but we encountered one problem; the 2 brands didn’t have that many identical flavours! Well, we carried out our taste test anyway with a few more commonly found flavours that both brands carried.

Rose – We voted unanimously for Laduree because it carried a more distinct rose flavor that wasn’t overpowering. We also preferred its crispier shell (which was more brittle and sadly more prone to cracks) compared to the slightly more chewy shell of Pierre Herme (shall refer to it as PH from here on).

Dark Chocolate – We voted unanimously for Laduree. We liked that both PH’s and Laduree’s macaron shells were crisp but preferred the slightly deeper flavour of Laduree’s. Overall, we still thought there was room for improvement for the chocolate fillings and their flavours could have been made more aggressive.

Salted Caramel – 3 votes Laduree, 1 vote PH. I personally preferred Laduree because the caramel flavour was way more intense with a chewy shell in this instance.

While it seems to me that Laduree does better in “common” flavoured macarons, PH stands out with its list of flavours that are seemingly more “creative”. For example, instead of having just a simple Pistachio macaron, PH has one that is also spiced with Ceylon cinnamon and Griottine (Cherries steeped in Kirsch). What emerges is a pistachio macaron that has a hint of what tastes like mocha, overshadowing the “basic” pistachio macaron from Laduree.

Other macaron flavours that we found remarkable were the Coconut from Laduree and the Jasmine from PH.

Macarons are one of the most photogenic desserts, period.

Still, at almost 2 Euros a pop, I would say that macarons are an indulgence I can live without. Give me a 50 cents Euro Magnum anyday (yes Magnums are that cheap in Germany) or KFC.

Laduree

21 Rue Bonaparte

Tel: +33 144076487

Pierre Herme

72 Rue Bonaparte

Tel: +33 143544777





Cedele – More than just sandwiches and cakes

24 05 2013

When I think of Cedele, what comes to mind is the relatively healthy sandwiches and the carrot cake but it seems that such is just the tip of the iceberg and applies only to their bakery cafes. There are quite a number of other outlets that do all-day dining (Great World, Wheelock Place, Raffles City) and semi-dining (Rail Mall, Parkway Parade, Serangoon Gardens, Marina Bay Link Mall to be open soon, Greenwich V) as well , where an impressive array of hot mains are available.

The Company’s philosophy of “Eat Well, Be Well” drives Cedele’s operations and is evident with their stand on using organic unrefined sugar, grapeseed oil and ingredients with no trans fat. In addition, much emphasis is also placed on making food with ingredients that are as natural as possible (which I guess is also a healthier option), so no preservatives, emulsifiers or premixes are used in their kitchen.

Running slightly late for this tasting, I had the Apple Cranberry Cinnamon Lassi ($6.70) to cool myself down. Organic yoghurt was used to create the lassi, which was slightly lighter as compared to its Indian counterparts. Didn’t take to the cinnamon though, as it made the drink too powdery such that it didn’t go down my throat smoothly. Moreover, the liberal use of cinnamon musked the apple and cranberry.

Nothing too fancy about the Burmese Shan Tofu ($8.90). It was more or less a simple tau kwa (豆干) dish in Balsamic Dressing garnished with homemade Garlic & Onion Flakes and Fresh Coriander leaves. What I did like though was the garlic and onions, which tasted freshly fried.

For those on a low carb diet, you might want to consider their Grills & Greens Salad Meal: Chicken & Walnut ($15). Different dressing are available such as the Sesame with Plum which coincidentally tastes very much like the plum sauce used for yu sheng (鱼生), the Honey Mustard and the Caesar Dressing. My favourite would be the Caesar. Might be my mind playing tricks on me but their Caesar dressing tasted a lot less unhealthy then what I’m more used to having. Not complaining though, I did eat a KFC Double Down Max with an accompanying piece of Chicken for lunch.

The Vegetable Stacks ($18) was made by stacking a Potato Kumara Cake (a type of Sweet Potato from New Zealand) at the base, followed by a Grilled Eggplant, a Portobello Mushroom and Red Pepper, which is then surrounded by a moat of Tomato Coulis scented with Marjoram. Credits have to go to the Tomato Coulis, as it complemented the vegetables really well and was not overly tart.

Unlike some restaurants which soak their prawns in sugar or salt solutions to give their prawns a nice springy texture, I was given assurance that nothing of the sort was practiced here for the Prawn Paprika Risotto ($17.90), so the fresh crunchy texture I experienced from the prawns was the real deal. To give the risotto a healthy twist, pumpkin and edamame beans were also used as ingredients and it all turned out well.

Finally, something somewhat less healthy for a change, the the Black Pepper Crab Pasta ($17.50)! I like Fried Soft Shell Crabs in general. The one I had here was not as crispy as expected though. That aside, I really loved Pasta, which was scented with Curry Leaves and Pepper. It packs enough heat to make one reminisce the last black pepper crab dinner without being overly choking.

The Lemongrass & Lime Fish Pasta ($17.90) was a nice sequel to the crab pasta. I thought that the lemongrass and lime was titillatingly tangy enough to placate the spice. I’m not a fan of Sea Bass because it tends to get too lean and dry for my liking upon grilling. Apart from the extremely generous size of the fillet, there was nothing extraordinary about the Grilled Sea Bass but it did give off vibes of home-cooked food with the healthy toppings of tomato salsa and edamame beans.

I have to say that desserts were the climax of the meal. I was given a tasting portion of 7 cakes, of which the salted caramel isn’t shown below. My favourite would undoubtedly be the Black Sesame Tahini Cake. It had a very light texture but oh so rich. I literally had a little tingle when I popped the first piece into my mouth. Utterly heavenly.

Other flavours I would recommend as well are the Red VelvetCarrot Walnut Cake and Blueberry Hazelnut Cheesecake while skippable flavours would be the Chocolate Banana Espresso Cake, Strawberry Rose Cake and Salted Caramel (not shown below).

From left, Black Sesame Tahini, Red Velvet, Strawberry Rose Cake, Carrot Walnut Cake, Blueberry Hazelnut Cheesecake, Chocolate Banana Espresso Cake

This meal was sponsored by Cedele. Special thanks for the invitation.

Cedele

1 Kim Seng Promenade, #01-01/02 Great World City

Tel: +65 6836 1426





Skyve Wine Bistro – Fixing what isn’t broken

21 05 2013

This is going to be a really long review as it will combine a review of their 2-week old new menu, in addition to snippets of their former menu (back when I dined there in March’13 for my 24th birthday).

al fresco dining

I have been a fan of Owner/Chef Vincent Teng since his days at Table 66, where I was officially introduced to sous vide style cooking. I still remember the lamb shank I had back in June 2010, which felt like butter as my fork pierced through it. Table 66 has since ceased operations but in its place, Chef Vincent has reincarnated his cooking concept within a more casual and light-hearted environment that many fondly now know of as Skyve (an apt name to emphasize the shift towards casual dining).

the restaurant

Prior to this review (covering 2 of my dinner visits), I had been to Skyve only once for brunch. That was when R and myself still had the luxury of time to indulge in regular weekend Sunday brunches. Apart from the more pricey brunch menu, there’s an ongoing $6 nett breakfast promotion set (Toast, 2 Eggs, Sausage, Ham & Baked Beans) which is available between 10am-11.30am on weekdays too. That’s about the same price as a Mcdonald’s Breakfast, how awesome is that!

the lounge

There are 3 separate areas to the restaurant, which are the al fresco section (probably more for brunches), the restaurant section (for lunches and dinners in the comfort of aircon) and the lounge area (for light bites and booze). The lounge area in particular is really intimate and a perfect place to relax after work, knocking back a glass of wine while indulging in half a dozen oysters.

Review of the New Menu

Instead of having the mindset of “Why fix something that isn’t broken?”, Chef Vincent decided that it was time for a facelift of Skyve’s menu. While feeling a bit sad to see some really commendable items ceasing to exist, I was simultaneously rather eager to see what new creations were being introduced next.

We commenced the tasting with the a sampler of raw oysters, prepared in various styles. Of the lot, the one with the most distinctive taste was the ‘Escargot’ Style Oyster, which was gratinated in nori butter and topped with shaved bonito flakes and toasted sesame seeds. In my mind, while the taste is quite similar to an escargot, this definitely trumped a regular escargot by virtue of the desirable soft fleshy texture absent from a cooked snail. Truth be told, apart from aesthetics, there wasn’t much separating the Compressed Watermelon Oyster (topped with diced compressed watermelon, pickled watermelon rind and extra virgin olive oil) from the Lychee ‘Saketini’ Granita Oyster (topped with lychee & sake sorbet, seaweed “caviar”), as the natural creamy taste of the fresh oysters came across as most evident. Oysters of a single style are priced at $34++ for 1/2 dozen, or $38++ if you desire a mix of styles.

From left – Compressed Watermelon Oyster, Lychee ‘Saketini’ Granita Oyster, ‘Escargot’ Style Oyster ($34++/half dozen)

Another signature from Skyve’s new menu would be the Sous Vide Egg & Spaghettini ($18++). It was definitely tasty but also came across as slightly heavy for an appetizer, especially with so many flavors like the truffle salsa, iberico ham, hollandaise sauce and egg yolk all vying for attention. I must admit though, that if a sous vide egg could be labelled as a poached egg, it would probably have been the best poached egg I have had so far.

The thin crust Vegetarian Pizza ($34++) was garnished with pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, radish, all prepared in sous vide style, with grilled asparagus & capsicums, arugula leaves, truffle salsa and shaved parmesan cheese. Sous vide style involves cooking the vegetables (or meats) under relatively low temperatures in a vacuum under prolonged periods of time. Relative to simply boiling the vegetables, sous vide expands the time frame where the vegetables are cooked to a proper doneness, allowing the chef to get the texture and consistency right almost 100% of the time. In addition, the natural sweet flavors of the vegetables are less likely to be leeched out as well since it is cooked in a sealed vacuum bag, allowing for a more intense and concentrated flavor. That said, I would still prefer a pizza smothered in cheese with loads of seafood and meat.

The duck confit was one of my favourite dishes the last time I was here so I was so looking forward to the reworked version. The Asian Inspired Confit of Duck Leg ($36++) was done sous vide style and marinated in Asian five spice, served with pickled fennel and orange segment salad, polenta fries & orange sauce. The first thing that drew my attention to this dish was the robust aroma from the five spice marinade, which engulfed the entire restaurant. I’m sure it must have drawn some jealous looks from other diners who didn’t order it. Taste and texture-wise, it was also close to perfect in my view, especially the savoury crisp duck skin. Another plus point is that Skyve doesn’t scrimp on its portions and 2 duck legs are served per order. Downsides to this dish were that the Orange sauce didn’t quite complement the duck and I took to eating the duck in its unadulterated form, and while the polenta fries was novel with an internal texture similar to cous cous, I would have preferred just regular fries.

It was difficult to decide which was better, the duck or the Sous Vide Pork Shoulder ($36++) that had been braised in root beer and spice and served with savoury crackling skin, pineapple and pomegranate salsa, toragashi pepper & plum salt. The texture of the pork was really tender, similar to a well-executed Cantonese braised pork dish. It was also hugged by a sweet glaze and thoroughly marinated with the root beer whose flavor comes as a light aftertaste. I didn’t have much issues with the crackling but one of the other diners I was with felt that it was a little dry.

The Callebaut Warm Chocolate Molten Cake ($14++) was nicely done. They got the timing down right so the cake benefited from a lovely viscous core of warm chocolate. Funnily enough, the maple walnut gelato reminded me of po chai pills (保济丸) used for diarrhea relief because of an initial deep pungent taste from the maple. The other diners only drew this association after I mentioned it and had all found ice cream amazing initially. They reasoned that my sense of taste was acute because of food blogging but the real reason was because I choked on a fish bone and swallowed a whole mentos before, which resulted in my fear of swallowing tablets in general. So when I was in primary school, I had a case of diarrhea and chewed on po chai pills. The taste was so repulsive I vomited after and the taste of po chai pills has been etched into memory since then.

My favourite dessert was the Mango & Cheese Semifreddo ($12++). Think of a semifreddo as a creamier, more mousse-like version of ice cream. This one was really delectable, tasting much like cheesecake ice cream. The frozen lime foam perched on the semifreddo did well to balance the creaminess, thus avoiding running the risk of an over-cloying dessert.

Another dessert I would recommend would be Inspired By Reds ($12++), a strawberry parfait with sous vide strawberry in balsamic vinegar, raspberry sorbet, flower tuile and dehydrated raspberry. Highlights of this dish would be the smooth and balanced strawberry parfait, and the dehydrated raspberry bits which tasted like little bits of sweets with a concentrated sour zing. Apart from being visually stunning, this was also the perfect palate cleanser.

I abhorred the Tiramisu ($12++) becuase of its over-soggy nature but this view wasn’t shared by everyone, as almost all the lady diners present adored it precisely for that same point. One even went further to say that she preferred it soggier. Only today did I realize the vast misalignment in what different individuals would consider a good tiramisu.

The dinner was an invited media tasting and paid for by Skyve. Special thanks to Shasha from FoodNews for hosting the evening. I enjoyed myself tremendously!

A Review of the Old Menu

I was desperately thinking for a place to celebrate my birthday dinner, somewhere that had good food and ambience, wasn’t too obscure for people taking public transport, not too extravagant nor too crowded for a Saturday night. Such a selective filtering procedure lead me to shortlist Skyve.

For my appetizer for this dinner, I had the Seared Foie Gras ($22++), which was actually quite value for money in my book. Saveur fans might start hurling rocks at me saying that Saveur does it for $8 but I reason that the seared foie gras here is thicker, more fatty and tasty. And once you adjust for the size/weight of the foie gras (there’s actually 2 pieces of stacked foie gras in the picture), it all work out. The compressed watermelon, macerated watermelon rind, caramelized almonds, ume compote were pretty much useless adornments though and didn’t contribute much to complementing the foie gras. I ended up eating the foie gras and the watermelon separately.

The Squid Ink Spaghetti ($30++) was also really tasty. While this might potentially be one of the biggest no nos to order on a first date, trust me when I say the one here is worth the risk.

The Lamb Shank ($32++) braised in Red Wine wasn’t as tender as the one I had in June 2010 but still good nonetheless.

Despite being a recommendation by the staff, the Grilled Beef Chateaubriand ($40++) was quite a let down as it was rather lean and tough. There was some redemption from the Potato Rosti, Wild Mushrooms in Veal Jus Reduction and the accompanying Bearnaise Sauce, which added some flavour to the otherwise rubbery steak.

The Sous Vide Crispy Pork Belly ($34++) was a winner. I would say it’s better than the one at Ember, just because the sous vide cooking made the meat incredibly tender. I was sincerely shocked when my fork delved straight into the pork with almost no resistance. It was so jaw dropping and unbelievable that I had to ask my best friend K to poke at my pork as well. It’s just not something you’d encounter everyday. The problem I often encounter with Crackling Skin is that it’s so darn hard to cut it, especially if it gets soggy or overcooked. The crispy crackling here however, broke apart relatively easily to my relief. Tastewise, I think the pork belly was perfect on its own without the prune sauce, which tasted surprisingly savoury rather than sweet (like a mild Hoisin sauce). While I wasn’t a big a fan of the Potato & Apple Gratin and Fennel Salad with Mustard Seed on the side, it does help to cleanse the palate from the unctuousness accruing from the pork.

Confit of Duck Leg ($34++), Sous vide crispy duck leg, Maple caramelized Seasonal Root Vegetables, Sweet tamarind Sauce

Sous vide Petuna Ocean Trout ($34++), Poached warm Ocean Trout in Extra Virgin Oil, Black Olive & Seaweed Crust, Seasonal Vegetables, Potato Pave, Herb Fondue

Textures of Hazelnut & Chocolate Cake ($14++), Hazelnut Mousse, Chocolate Caramel Cream, Feuilletine Crust, Bing Cherry Coulis

Ivory Dome ($14++), Mango & Marscarpone, Passionfruit Jelly, Dark Chocolate Sponge, Mango & Lime Salad

Homemade Maple Ice Cream ($14++), Caramelized Apple infused with Cinnamon, Fleur de Sel, Wafers

Creme Caramel ($12++), Vanilla Egg Custard, Caramelized Orange Caramel, Sauternes Jelly, Sous Vide Pear

Let’s just put it this way, Skyve is currently within my top 5 favourite restaurants in Singapore. It’s a great place to find out more about sous vide style cooking without busting your budget…much.

Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar

10 Winstedt Road Block E, #01-17

Tel: +65 6225 6690





2am Dessert Bar – Contemporary Desserts with Wine Pairings

22 10 2012

It’s no secret Singapore lacks a wine culture. For most, the urge to splurge on a bottle of wine costing as much as the meal itself just doesn’t seem all that appealing. It doesn’t help that when a wine menu arrives, one meets lines and lines of words that seem all too foreign. Not wanting to buy something that we might not enjoy, we typically settle for a lesser soft drink or a more approachable beer.

Harbouring such feelings for the longest time, I decided to take a little more initiative over the past 2 months by attending wine tastings. Rather than just buying bottles off the rack, I think wine tastings are the best way to get a crash course on wine appreciation. That’s because by trying different wines one after another, you will be better able to appreciate the subtle and not so subtle differences between different labels.

The latest wine tasting I attended was at 2am Dessert Bar, an event organized by the SMU Wine Appreciation Club. I paid a nominal fee of $30 for 3 desserts with wine pairings and if you are vaguely aware of 2am’s price catalogue, you would have realized that I probably saved about $90, much thanks to SMU subsidizing my meals! Now you now why SMU charges school fees that are 20% higher than NUS’s and NTU’s…

While there’s classical fare like Tiramisu, Cheesecake and Chocolate Cake available, I’d imagine that 2am prides itself more on creating contemporary desserts that play on all your senses. To enhance the whole dessert experience, every dessert on the menu also comes with a recommended wine pairing. Friend R tried their degustation menu a while back and told me for one of the courses, she was given a test tube smelling of Popcorn to whiff at while having her Popcorn dessert. Interesting much?

The first dessert I had was the Popcorn ($17++) but it wasn’t the same one as what R got previously if that’s why you are wondering. It’s a creative concept, where 2 different types of popcorn mousses (sweet and salty) sprinkled with dehydrated popcorn are at the opposite ends of the dish, with Passionfruit sorbet in the centre. The silky popcorn mousses totally worked for me, with both varieties tasting exactly how actual popcorn tastes like. Despite being polar opposites, I still found trouble deciding on my favorite. My only gripe was that the sorbet was extremely sour, much too sharp for the delicate tasting popcorn mousse in my humble opinion.

Pairing this dessert was Prophet’s Rock Pinot Gris Central Otago 2oo8 ($18++), a white wine from New Zealand. Despite taking down tasting notes, I shan’t go into describing the wines because I believe the articulation of wine flavours varies quite greatly from person to person and I’d hate to sound like a pretentious snob saying the wine tastes of vanilla, pine nuts and lychee.

For the 2nd dessert, I had the Kayambe H2O ($18++), which is essentially Chocolate Rocks with Caramel, a Burnt Caramel ball, Chocolate Soil and Yuzu Sorbet, made using 72% Michel Cluizel Chocolate (a French chocolate with 72% cocoa content), and Evian water. This dessert didn’t quite agree with me as the chocolate comes across as a little too heavy. The best thing in this dish was probably the yuzu sorbet.

This dessert was paired with Finca Constancia Petit Verdot & Syrah 2010 ($21++), a red wine from Spain that smells of matured fruit (imagine stewed fruit) rather than fresh ones. Anyway a random wine tip I learnt at this juncture was that as red wines get older, it gets a lighter shade. When white wines get older, it gets a darker shade.

Lastly, I had the Cheese Avalanche ($18++), a deconstructed Cheesecake with Biscotti, Candied Figs, Spanish Corn and sous vide Cantaloupe (a classy synonym for Rock Melon). My favourite of the 3 desserts, I was amazed at how balanced this dish was in flavour. The cheesecake was smooth but by itself, it would have been merely pleasant and uninteresting. I liked how the rock melon cubes added the extra sweetness while the spanish corn (tastes like those corn snacks you get from Philippines) added a savoury tone and distinct crunch.

This dessert was paired with Pauleczki Tokaji 3 Hungary 2000 ($16++), a sweet dessert wine that goes down pretty smoothly, downplaying the actual alcohol content.

Desserts take centre stage at 2am Dessert Bar so apart from the few snacks like Fries and Drumlets, there isn’t much “proper food” here. Then again, you might be surprised at how 3 desserts can fill you up quite nicely for dinner.

2am Dessert Bar

21A Lorong Liput, Holland Village

Tel: +65 6291 9727





Mid-Autumn Taiwan Pineapple Cakes – SunnyHills vs Din Tai Fung

11 09 2012

I always thought that feasting on Pineapple Cakes was only meant for Chinese New Year, but it seems that the Taiwanese trend of having Pineapple Cakes for Mid-autumn festival is also picking up here. I recently received 2 packages of Pineapple Cakes, one from SunnyHills and the other from Din Tai Fung, and I shall provide some insight on their gift packages for this Mid-autumn Festival.

Helming from Taiwan, SunnyHills is possibly one of the most well-known Pineapple Cake brands in Singapore, with its Singapore branch located within the iconic Raffles Hotel. SunnyHills doesn’t simply operate a bakery and retail shop, but goes all the way upstream within the supply chain, where it also manages pineapples farms in Taiwan to ensure quality control of its pastries.

Priced at $25/$37.50/$50 for 10/15/20 pieces, SunnyHills Pineapple Cakes are made using New Zealand Butter, Japanese flour, eggs from a local Taiwan farm and pineapples from their Pineapple Estate on Bagua Mountain, Taiwan, without the use of preservatives or additives. You know as with all pineapple tarts, it’s always the case of personal preference. So compared to the ones from Din Tai Fung, I prefer SunnyHills’ Pineapple filling, which has chunkier pineapple bits and is also more tangy and less sweet.

As for Din Tai Fung’s Mid-Autumn Taiwan Pineapple Cake Gift Set ($24.80 nett), it consists of 8 Pineapple Cakes, and 2 boxes of Jasmine Green Tea as a complement to the pastries.

Just like SunnyHills, Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cakes are free from food additives, preservatives and trans-fat, making it a safe and healthy snack. Songshan pineapples, which are known for their special aroma and low acidity, are used to make the pineapple fillings, resulting in a sweet jam that isn’t too tangy. What I like about Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cakes over SunnyHills is that its pastry has a more buttery texture.

So as cliche and PR friendly as it might sound, I guess there’s no clear winner between SunnyHills and Din Tai Fung just yet.

Oh by the way, DBS/POSB cardmembers get 15% off with the purchase of 2 or more boxes of Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cake Gift Set, and an additional 5% discount for purchases of 6 boxes and above.

At the same time, Din Tai Fung has also launched a new dish, the Truffle Chicken Soup ($19.80++), which is only available at the Marina Bay Sands, Paragon and Resorts World Sentosa outlets. I headed down to Paragon to see what the fuss was all about and I have to agree that this is one hearty soup with strong umami flavours, recommended for fans of their existing chicken soup who don’t mind spending a couple extra bucks for the added experience. I’m not sure if truffle oil was added into the soup or if the few slices of black truffle are just that fragrant, but the aroma of truffle was very discernible.

On a side note, my mum actually goes through the arduous process of making homemade pineapple tarts for Chinese New Year (which taste way better than any tarts you can find outside), so I know how time consuming it is to make the pineapple jam. So if anyone ever offers you a homemade pineapple tart, do take the time to savour the fresh ingredients and love that has gone into that little parcel.

Special thanks to SunnyHills and Din Tai Fung for the Mid-autumn gifts sets / meal and have a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

SunnyHills

328 North Bridge Road, Raffles Hotel Arcade #03-05

Tel: +65 8522 9605





Chalk Restaurant @ Old School – Rediscovering 1st Loves

11 03 2012

Three years ago, I found my first love right here at Chalk. She was sweet, gentle and warm, and the dates were always memorable. I promised myself to see her often, but she soon went out of sight and out of mind as I begun to be swarmed with relentless waves of work. That’s how most relationships end doesn’t it? I never thought I’d see her again. I tried to find someone similar but no one seemed to match up. And then, just last Friday, my friends arranged a semi-surprise birthday dinner for me and she was to be in attendance…the first Sticky Date Pudding that stole my heart.

Located at Old School @ Mount Sophia (sharing the same compound as Timbre @ Old School), Chalk is no newcomer to the local dining scene. It has been in operation for the past 3 and a half years, serving up a mix of Italian and French cuisine, not to mention a kick ass dessert menu as well.

Indoor and alfresco dining options are available, with both eluding the homely and casual vibes of a bistro rather than a restaurant.

In line with the restaurant name, chalkboards are used to display the daily specials and given their relative scarcity, I decided to go for the Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Puree ($31), which is not part of Chalk’s regular menu. I never really thought of Chalk as an authentic Italian eatery, so I was genuinely surprised to discover how great the risotto was. I detected the use of truffle oil which complemented the cheesiness well and helped to lift the flavours of the dish. This was easily the best main we had for the night! Chalk should seriously consider adding this into the regular menu.

The Duck Confit with Sweet Potato Mash and Rocket Salad with Balsamic Dressing ($33) is probably one of the best-sellers on the menu. Personally however, I find the meat too dry and salty so its really fortunate that there’s the sweet potato mash to bring the sodium level down a notch. Then again, as long as you are not a fussy food snob, frying a duck thigh in duck fat will still yield a tasty treat.

Didn’t sample the Beef & Red Wine Stew with Mashed Potato & Sauteed Spring Vegetables ($31) this time around but from what I remember, it’s decent.

The Grilled Ribeye with Roasted Garlic Potato, Garden Vegetables & Red Wine Jus ($39) was another surprise. The beef is juicy and tender with the right amounts of fats and a rich and savoury gravy.

The Catch of the Day happened to be Baked Snapper ($30). I usually stay away from snapper as the flesh is really too lean for my liking and it proved true in this case. Moreover, the dish was almost totally bland.

I liked the Duo of Pork – Roasted Pork Belly & Confit Tomato Stuffed with Minced Pork, with Lentils & Fine Beans ($33). The pork comes with a nice proportion of meat to fats, and is absent of any gaminess. Italian 烧肉 anyone?

Chalk does a mean Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream & Sesame Snap ($13) too. Unlike the conventional chocolate lava cakes, this Chocolate Fondant is encrusted with sesame snaps, which results in a crispier exterior.

Just like your first kiss, no other kiss is just as memorable. That’s probably the reason why I am so fond of Chalk’s Sticky Date Pudding with Brandy Butterscotch Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream ($13). Compared to the other Sticky Date Puddings I have tried elsewhere, the ones at Chalk have a higher concentration of date and is less sweet.

If you are dining with friends and don’t mind sharing, I would definitely recommend the Sampler Plate ($25), a chef’s selection of 4 desserts. For this occasion, we were given tasting portions of Creme Brulee, Sticky Date Pudding with Ginger Ice Cream, Blood Orange Sorbet and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Berry Compote. While I am a huge fan of Chalk’s Sticky Date Pudding, I have to admit that their Creme Brulee and Panna Cotta are in a league of their own. The Creme Brulee doesn’t commit the same faults that plague most restaurants; the density is just right, viscous enough to support the caramelized seared layer but not overly so that it resembles a chawanmushi. As for the Panna Cotta, apparently it is incredibly easy to make, just a heated mixture of cream, sugar, vanilla, gelatin and water which is then left to cool so I tend to avoid ordering it at restaurants but Chalk does it so perfectly that it’s making me rethink my future dessert ordering strategies.

Reassessing Chalk objectively at the end of the day, the main draw would be their desserts and I’m glad I took the time to rediscover my first love and her friends.

Chalk Restaurant

11 Mount Sophia, #01-03

Tel: +65 6883 2120








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