Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Academy Bistro

The location was really unique; the local newspaper reviewed it fairly well and the last straw came when fellow blogger Chubby Hubby made a plug for it. Naturally, The Academy Bistro went on my radar screen since and I finally scratched it off my "to-try" list when I made reservations for us to have our anniversary dinner there. I was looking forward to a delightful fusion dinner, as its Executive Chef Jimmy Chok, was known for his exquisite and classical French dishes infused with an Asian touch. Unfortunately, I do not have both the reviewers' luck because my experience fell short of what I expected.

My inital fears of tight and inconvenient security checks were unfound and we found ourselves seated in a rather spacious and sparsely decorated "dining area" cornered off from the vast lobby floor of the new Supreme Court very quickly.

Dinner was made available on Friday nights only and you can to choose to go with 3-courses ($45+++) or the entire 5-course ($60+++) menu that changes weekly. We both took the 3-course option. First up were our appetizers. I did not note down the descriptions of our menu so I have to just relate what was on my plate in a very amateurish manner. On my plate were a couple of seared scallops sitting on thinly sliced pear, perfectly done as they remained plump and juicy; a 1/2 piece of salmon just seared on the outsides so it was only warm and still raw in the insides. Surrounding them were bits of sun-dried tomato and dried apricot slices, a few greens, cherry tomatos, generous drizzle of olive oil and an interesting black sauce which definitely had hoisin in it. This appetizer was delicious and the portion, generous. I was looking forward to the rest of my dinner at this point. J took the other option, which was duck wrapped in a rice paper roll, with a foie gras terrine and mango salsa. No particular reaction from J on his dish.

Next up for me was the mushrooms in chicken consumme. It was another appetizer because I did not like the choice of dessert - it was bananas. So anyway, the soup tasted much like traditional chinese double-boiled soup, with a generous handful of dried shitake mushrooms but the extra dose of oil often drizzled as a finishing touch to creamy western soups seemed to be out of place here. No "wow" factor here for me.

For main, I had the fish option (as pictured above). Stated on the menu was panfried cod with a lime salsa dressing but what appeared on my plate seemed to be some variety of seabass instead. It lacked the "fishiness" and oiliness associated with cod. I was sorely disappointed because I simply LOVE fish and an oily fish will only bring me up to the next level of satisfaction. Anyway, moving past the issue with the variety of fish, the fillet was also overcooked and hence, the flesh got fiberous and slightly chewy. The only saving grace was the bed of sauteed mixed funghi that the fish was sitting on. They were delicious! In anycase, I was hungry so I still finished every morsel on the plate. J, the meat eater, took the lamb option. The meat was tender and thus, no complains from him. He also enjoyed the mushrooms, which was the same as mine.

Dessert was a warm option; a whole banana was accompanied with chocolate and wrapped in filo dough, baked until crisp and served with caramel sauce. A simple dessert hard to go wrong, especially when you have chocolate. But I have an issue with bananas all the same so no dessert for me.

So while service was attentive, I doubt I will make my way out to go back again. But if you are looking for a quiet and unique place to have a decent dinner without busting your wallet, you may just find the right spot at The Academy Bistro.

The Academy Bistro
1 Supreme Court Lane
Level 1
Tel: (65) 6337 3558

Monday, November 28, 2005

Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving!

Although it is not customary to celebrate Thanksgiving in Singapore, having studied a few years in the US, I want to recognise this tradition even when I am back, if anything, only to justify another excuse to bake and make something delicious.

Sweet potatos are somehow associated with this holiday and I am not complaining since they are one of my favorite tubular vegetables. They are not only healthy for you (fiber and vitamins), they can be almost be dessert when slowly roasted until they become caramalized in their own juices.

So Hazel invited us over for a housewarming & thanksgiving party last Saturday night and since it had only been a couple days since the actual holiday itself so I thought I could bring a housewarming gift of a sweet potato pie to add in a bit of the US-centric tradition too.

Yes, that was the "pie" I brought; more like a "tart"because once again, I did not prepare the ingredients beforehand so in a rather gung-ho manner, with what amounts of butter and sweet potato mash I had on hand and a bit of courage, I modified a recipe to make enough for a tart.

I would really have preferred a pie, because the shallowness of the tart meant that the filling dried out more quickly and was not as "custardy" as I liked. Also, I had to sacrifice a pate sucree crust for a regular pie crust, which lacked butter and flavour and to make matters worse, I thought it was slightly underbaked. Ahh!! It could have been perfect! Oh well, lesson learned, make preparations! In any case, the filling is a good basic recipe so I shall share that, with amounts meant for a pie. Use your own favourite pie crust recipe.

On a more serious note and somewhat obligatory for this post, I am thankful for my loving and supportive family and more importantly, to God, for making my life smooth-sailing thus far.

Sweet Potato Pie filling

1 prepared 9" pie crust

2 cup packed, mashed, sweet potato
2 large eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup whole milk
rind of an orange, grated
6 tbsp brown sugar, packed
6 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C.
2. Whisk sweet potato mash with egg, cream and orange rind, until fluffy. This should take about a minute on medium.
3. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
4. Pour into prepared crust, smoothening the top so it is level.
5. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes, until the sides start to firm but the center remains a bit wet looking and jiggly. IMPORTANT if you wish for a custardy filling. Leave the tart to cool in the pan.
6. Serve it warm with a garnish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar + ground cinnamon mixture, or sprinkle on a bit of orange rinds (as I simply did). Serve it cold with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of the above sugar/cinnamon powder.

Friday, November 25, 2005

SHF/IMBB - A Cookie Swap for Thanksgiving!

The Domestic Goddess is combining powers with Alberto for a joint SHF-IMBB event and it's a "Cookie Swap"! How wonderful is that? Everyone needs a cookie, especially me. These past couple of days have been really irritating because I keep waking up in the wee hours of the morning and cannot seem to go back to bed.

So needless to say, I put my awakened hours into good use and revisited an old recipe finally! I first made these cookies way before I started blogging and meant to repeat it again. Of course, many other wonderful recipes managed to snag airtime away from these but fortunately the chosen theme brought them back to my attention. And it is also such a coincidence that the said cookies go in tune with American Thanksgiving. So what did I make? Just a batch of really delicious sweet potato cookies. You can even consider them healthy, full of beta carotene and fiber from the addition of oatmeal and whole sweet potatos. These are slightly cakey, given that they do not spread out too much. But if you rather a crispier cookie, just flatten the dough a bit more and bake as per normal. Don't bother keeping them; they go fast!

Sweet Potato Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup packed sweet potato mash
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Cream butter with both sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. Mix well together with oats.
3. Lightly beat the egg and add into the sweet potato mash, together with vanilla extract.
4. Mix in sweet potato mixture into creamed butter and blend well. Then add in the dry flour mixture and mix until no dry ingredients in sight. Finally fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Preheat oven to 350F or 180C. Drop the cookie dough by tablespoonfuls. Slightly flatten the doughballs as these cookies do not spread too much. Bake for 14-16 minutes until the edges are starting to brown.
6. Remove from oven and let cookies rest on the sheets for a couple of minutes to firm up further before removing them to cool completely on a rack.
7. Enjoy! Makes about 26-28 cookies.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Getting to the Heart

One of my earlier culinary epiphany was when I was a student in the States. It was back in my university and meat-eating days and I was in another relationship. Our anniversary was coming up and we had the excuse to indulge in a higher-quality dinner. It so happened that Black Angus had a "steak and lobster" special going so that was it! Being a poor student, I was looking forward to that meal for the entire week since we made our choice. You can imagine my surprise when our meal appeared and I saw this weird-looking flower sitting right beside my steak and lobster tail. I wanted to ignore it and focus on my mains, or what I came for, but the curious side of me, and perhaps the foodie inside me, gave me the courage to dig up some of the insides of this weird thing that looked like a flower. I took a breath and then a bite. Wow! It was delicious and addictive. I continued to dig out the insides and later, found my fork over at my ex's plate and poking at his "flower".

I found out much later that I actually ate a stuffed artichoke. Looking back now, I probably did not even get to the heart of it and foolishly ate just the stuffing, thinking how wonderful artichokes were. But that experience definitely helped me become more adventurous and led me to the discovery of yet another Mother Nature's wonderful creation. You may find out more about artichokes here.

Since I came back to Singapore, I have not had a fresh artichoke so it was such a delight when I saw them being sold in the more upmarket supermarket. At least I know they are there for sale if I do so crave for one. But yesterday, J decided to pamper me and got me that baby! My favourite way to eat an artichoke is also the simplest and most fuss-free way. After cleaning and trimming the outer leaves, I sprinkle salt over it liberally and then boil or steam for 25-30 minutes until the leaves are tender and can be pulled out easily. Then I proceed to eat it with a dip, usually whatever I have on hand. Last night's was made by mixing some mayonnaise and a sprinkle of herb mix and salt. Delicious! The only tricky thing when eating a fresh artichoke this way is when I get past the leaves, I have to get rid of the husky-insides first before I get to the heart. Oh but it is so worth it. Meaty and still slightly crunchy, each bite was savoured and relished. Yummmy! But I reckon I cannot sustain such a luxury often; that artichoke costs nearly S$7! (so no worries, dear, and thanks for being such a sweetheard!)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Hay Hay it's Donna Day!

There are fashion trends and there are foodie trends. If you are new into the foodie world, well, let me introduce you to the latest trend in the scene - CUPCAKES. There has been several foodblogging events surrounding cupcakes and suddenly, cupcake holders became a desire for many, including me! And we are not tired of cupcakes yet! The quest for cupcakes continues as Barbara came up with the brilliant idea for Donna Day. The idea is to make Donna Hay's very popular Self Frosting Cupcakes, which was probably germinated by Nic and has since flourished all around the globe.

Well, Donna's cupcakes definitely stopped over in sunny island of Singapore today. The original recipe called for peanut butter but I am not so much a fan. Many, including Nic, have found Nutella to be an excellent substitute but I do not Nutella on hand. What I do have is a bottle of Alice Medrich's lowfat chocolate sauce, so chocolate sauce it was. The batter was thick and made it rather difficult to swirl in chocolate sauce in a consistent spiral pattern. Hence, my cupcakes did not turn out visually exciting. Sigh - no sign of self-frosting! My brother thought I made marbled cupcakes! But oh whatever - still cuppca-delicious! I couldn't help myself but split a fresh-out-of-oven cupcake with my brother. Slightly sweeter than I would prefer but so very moist and biting into the swirls of chocolate was oh-so-satisfying!

Below's the recipe from Donna Hay's Modern Classics 2, as per the book. They are so easy to make; try it yourself soon! I managed to get 14 instead of 12 but baked them close to 27 minutes. You will have to use your own judgement here. The girls club are so in for a TGIF treat.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

1) Preheat the oven to 160C/325F.
2) Place 175g/6oz very soft butter, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 3 eggs, 1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour and 2 tsp baking powder in a bowl and mix, using electric beaters, until smooth.
3) Line 12 muffin tins with paper cases.
4) Spoon in the mixture and swirl 1 1/2 tsp peanut butter through each cake.
5) Bake for 20 minutes.
Makes 12.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I'm still eating!

Dear readers

I confess. I have been neglecting my blog because of work. I also apologise for being careless and exceeding my upload bandwidth so my last post do not have a nice, drool-worthy picture showing instead of that silly warning sign. I know I probably can fix it but really I am too tired to do any of that technical stuff beyond the basics.

But stay with me, I should be back to my normal routine by end of this week. In the meantime, while I have not been inside the kitchen, I have been catching up with J, with my old school mates etc, and contributing to the F&B industry in Singapore. Just briefly to share what I have been noshing on:

The first 5 pictures from the picture grid shows a Japanese meal from a sushi chain - Sushi Don. It only has 2 stores in the entire island so this being my first visit, I enjoyed the change in the variety on the conveyor belt. Taste was not bad and price was reasonable too. I made a mental note to come back if the need for sushi comes back.

The next 2 was at Menotti, a casual Italian cafe, where we went for dessert one night. I had a berry yogurt gelato and J had their vienna or expresso with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

On a Sunday afternoon, we had our lunch at Fish & Co, where I had the sesame seared tuna salad and J had the cajun grilled fish with fries fried to perfection

Finally, a girls night out where we finished an obligatory dinner in a hurry and dove right into the dessert cafe, Ice Cube, where we indulged in desserts of all sorts. Hey we're girls and we love our desserts! I only remembered to take a couple of them - a freshly-made and crispy waffle with strawberry ice cream and a chocolate mudpie! Of course that was not all. We also had a scoop of cookies & cream ice cream topped off with a shot of kahlua and honey walnut ice cream with Bailey's.

So drool over these pictures first. Kitchen adventures to follow soon!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

no more M.I.A

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oyster mee sua

Hi my dear readers, I am back from vacation since Sunday night but work has kept me from updating my blog.

Taipei is really a street food haven. There are so many different snacks, many of them just illegal stands by the passage ways, that too many times, my eyes got bigger than my stomach and I just cannot finish the food.

The oyster mee sua is a typical street food, very often eaten as a breakfast staple. This bowl was devoured the first morning when we discovered street stalls right behind our hotel. Usually made from an animal stock, the soup is thickened with a bit of starch so the noodles need little chewing and just glides down the throat so soothingly and easily. No exception from this bowl either.

I shopped and ate my 7 days through and amazingly, I still have not tried all the different foods I saw. I'll be back.