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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Oh no! They’ve closed the Singapore Carrefour! Both of them!

Panic. Where am I going to get things?

“Imagine not having a Walmart or a Target to go to,” I tell Leslie back in Texas.

“Yeah, I could see how that would be annoying,” she says.

It’s not that either of us like or philosophically support Walmart, it’s just that sometimes it becomes a necessary evil.

“Can’t you order things online?” Leslie asks.

“No,” I sigh. “Some things you can, but its not like they have an Amazon here.”

“Can you Yelp it?” she suggests.

“Nope no Yelp either,” I answer.

Hopefully someone more business-minded and less lazy than myself will see this as an opportunity.

But alas, this may be an overreaction. Afterall, there’s always the Mustafa Center.

In the heart of little India and open 24 hours, it’s 75,000sq ft of random and not so random items, a hotel, café and supermarket. It is the place to go to buy tomato soap, an engagement ring, an ipad and an eye massager all at 2 am on a Tuesday, emerging three days later after a sensory overload induced psychosis has finally run its course.

That’s right, I said tomato soap, not soup. And yes, an eye massager as well.

Eye massager. Multiple varieties available.

Did you think I was kidding?

In the spirit of Diwali, maybe I’ll head down to little India. Since I’m there anyway, perhaps I’ll pick up a curry, some aspirin and a new laser printer.

If I’m not back by Friday, send a search party out.

Editor’s note: Yelp has answered my plea! Or maybe I was mistaken in the past. Seems like some Singapore places are rated on the site. It’s a start.

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Have you had a walk around Bugis Street Market?

It may not be a great place to head if you know what you want and are in a hurry, but if you are looking for some aimless interesting walking and shopping, maybe some bargaining or snacking, it’s a good place to be.

You can buy everything from purses to iPhone covers to $1 fruit juices. Do you realize how much fruit has to go into a juicer to make a glass of juice? I recently acquired a juicer and I promise you that a knob of ginger, an apple and three carrots only makes about a third of a glass.

It reminded me of a very small and Asian version of London’s Camden Market with a mix of cheap items, food stalls and slow moving people. There even seemed to be some astrology reading sessions going on just outside the tent. The writing on the tent was in Mandarin, so maybe I will never know.

Unless I have a volunteer to come along and interpret for me.

Bugis Street Market

Fruit Stall at Bugis Market

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Carrot Cake in Singapore is made of neither carrot nor cake. Woh.

The dish is basically an omelet, or maybe more of a fried egg, with steamed rice flour and radish “cakes” and spring onions. You can get it black or white. The white is without soy sauce and the black is with soy sauce, which is more popular in Malaysia.

Why do they call it carrot cake then? Well apparently the radish is known as “white carrot” in Chinese.

This one is from Holland Village Food Centre. $3 for a small, $4 for a medium, $5 for a large, prices in Singaporean dollars. Honestly I’ve seen the small and medium portions and they seemed the same, so I’m not sure why the price difference. Maybe the man thought I looked a bit skinny when I ordered the small.

Have it with hot sauce. Lots and lots of amazing hot sauce. Yum.

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Sun. Paella at La Pepica. Roman architecture in the city centre. Spontaneous street parades. Independent designer street vendors. Reflexology from my beach chair. 14 girl hen / bachelorette party. Sangria. Cava.

A great weekend in a beautiful city with a wicked group of ladies. I really do love Spain. Although Seville is so far my favorite Spanish city, it does lack a beach, a quality Valencia delivers highly on. Unfortunately my fancy pants camera is in the shop. Again. Well, technically it’s not in the shop anymore. It’s being held ransom in UK customs. Here are a few shots I took with my extremely vintage iPhone. Let me know what you think.

We were greeted at the airport by these lovely gluten free, vegan hen cupcakes. What a great way to start our journey.

Valencia has a thriving night life and the old city at night is absolutely breathtaking.

The silly sunglasses man made out like a bandit on us. Here is the normally gorgeous Anna giving the rest of us a fair shot at looking beautiful too.

Valencia Beach. If you get a reflexology on the beach, pick the lady with the Dora the Explorer bag and flowered hat. The rest pale in comparison. Kind of like standing next to Anna when she’s not wearing those ugly glasses.

After some partying and beach time with the ladies, I took a later flight so that I could explore the old city myself. I am so glad I did as I ran across many spectacular moments in the short span of a Sunday afternoon.

The Cathedral.

The Cathedral.

The Cathedral.

Torre del Micalet.

Couple at Torre del Micalet.

City view from Torre del Micalet..

Fountain in Plaza de la Virgin

Child vs. pigeon standoff in Plaza de la Virgin.

A bit of modern architecture mixed in.

Valencia street view.

Random street performance. These ladies were amazing.

Clarinet player in the street performance band.

Costumed men joining the street performance.

And now I’m finding it difficult to get back to the mundane tasks that life is requiring. I guess that’s what Monday is all about. What do you think the people of Valencia are doing right now?

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Courgette Fries from Byron

In case you were wondering, the grilled portobello mushroom burger with roasted red pepper and goat’s cheese was pretty damn good too.

http://www.byronhamburgers.com/

Byron on Urbanspoon

 

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People love Sacred. Time Out recommends it, my coworker recommends it, random stranger on the street recommends it, so I decide to try it.

Sacred plays on it’s name as a place of worship. The barista is set up on a pulpit and the congregation spills out onto the street at it’s Soho location near Carnaby Street. This makes it a very nice place to hang out on a sunny day soaking up the rays or people watching, on your lunch break, or in-between shopping.

A customer approaches the pulpit.

Sacred offers plenty of sandwiches and pastries. It’s run by New Zealanders who sell things like  jelly lolly cake. My experiences at Sacred and the Roastery are causing me to wonder what exactly is the deal with antipodeans and London coffee shops. Two coffee shops in a row- is this a chance thing or are NZ natives really into their coffee hangouts? I think I’m going to have to make a trip to New Zealand to get to the bottom of this. Either that or call up a friend and ask. The former option seems more dramatic and fun.

Scrambled eggs with wholewheat toast.

I had scrambled eggs with feta and spring onion on wholewheat toast and an Americano. This set me back between £8 and £9. Quite a bit for what is basically an egg sandwich and regular coffee. It took about 20 minutes to get my eggs and coffee, even though there weren’t many in the congregation that morning. In their defense, it was early morning so there were probably a lot of unseen to go orders and I think one of the baristas was training. Also, the coffee was very good.

Empty early morning.

Coffee!

Sacred on Urbanspoon

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For years I heard about the Wagamama chain. When we lived in the U.S., Husband told me this was a top choice for broke university student night out food in London. Wagamama is all over London, so it’s surprising that it took me this long to try it.

I understand why it’s an old standby. Wagamama is healthy and affordable. The atmosphere is casual and it is a comfortable spot for solo dining. Staff approach you at long benches or booths on the side of the restaurant.  It’s style is dining out for the masses, albeit well designed.

The dish was standard issue but the warm broth and noodles in my Saien Soba were comforting on a cold day. I left utterly stuffed.

Saien Soba: whole wheat noodles in a vegetable soup topped with fried tofu, bean sprouts, courgettes, asparagus, red onions, leeks, mushrooms, mangetout and garlic. Garnished with spring onions.

Wagamama on Urbanspoon

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Molly needed to pick up twelve antique picture frames. Where should we go? The first place that springs to mind for antiques is Notting Hill, but that sounds a bit pricey. I suggest Spitalfields market. That place is bound to have a random booth full of quirky old picture frames for cheap, right?

Wrong. We went on Thursday because that was antiques day, but we were unable to locate anything suitable in her price range. Most of the frames had things like hand drawn maps from the 1800’s inside and we weren’t about to purchase them at £40 a piece only to ditch the map.

So we gave up (or rather decided to rely on the internet for this purchase) and get some lunch instead.

We stopped into Leon. I was really excited to try this place. Their model is healthy, fresh and cheap. They’ve done so well that they even have their own cookbook!

I stepped up to the counter and ordered the sweet potato falafel with aioli hot box and passed over my £6. A few minutes later I was presented with a box on a tray. Molly ordered a salad and hummus.

When we sat down I opened my box and urm, was a little disappointed. Look at it, it just seems so squished and sad.

Sweet potato falafel hot box

 

Well I suppose presentation isn’t everything. The meal tasted fine but I’m a calorie snob who would prefer great. Visible in the box is brown rice, coleslaw, sweet potato made into falafel-like shapes that were warm and mushy, and a slight drizzle of aioli.

The hummus was really nice but the flatbread was dull. The flatbread would have been really nice if it were toasted or warm.

 

Molly tucking into the hummus.

Did I catch Leon on the wrong day? Did I order the wrong thing? The food was decent, but not great. Definitely not cookbook worthy. Still, I am grateful for affordable healthy options.

We stopped into Montezuma on our way out where we were greeted with samples of peppermint dark chocolate. I’m not really big on sweets but I love dark chocolate and this was really delicious. I contained myself (mostly) but left with a bar of Sea Dog, dark chocolate with juicy lime and sea salt. I am addicted. Which is OK because it’s gluten free and vegan, right?

Image courtesy of Montezuma

Bottom Line?

  • Antique Picture Frames – Ebay.
  • Leon – Maybe, but probably not.
  • Montezuma – Oh yes.

Leon on Urbanspoon

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I was at Harrod’s pricing inherited bone china purchased there decades ago that our movers (EuroUSA and IMS Relocation / Mayflower) lost during our transatlantic relocation. I won’t go into details on that right now other than to say that they really botched the job.  I was unable to get the information regarding the pieces as they are no longer in production. This wasn’t a huge surprise. I figured that while I was at Harrod’s, I might as well have a stroll around.

Since I am currently unemployed and therefore broke, strolling through the luxuries was not really appealing to me. I had heard about the food halls, and well, a girl’s gotta eat. I strolled through the massive rolling areas complete with built in restaurants and took a peek at a few menus. Yikes! £15 for a sandwich? No thank you. Luckily the take out areas had more reasonably priced fare.

Harrod's food halls

Harrod's takeout areas

The food halls stretch on and on with delis, bakeries, candy shops, a fromagerie. It went from one room to the next. I was starting to understand the legacy.

My stomach was growling so I became serious about my search for a snack. That’s when I spotted this disaster.

Moroccan Roll? Which Morocco?

“What do you mean by disaster?” you might ask. Well, look closely. The Moroccan roll here is 31% pork. Morocco is a country with a  population that is over 95% Muslim (source Pew Forum.) I’m no religions of the world expert, but I am certain that the Muslim faith forbids the consumption of pork.  I’ve been to Morocco. I do not remember seeing one person eat pork or sell pork the entire time I was there. My dear friend Ghita from Casablanca even refused to eat turkey bacon, just in case. I felt embarrassed for Harrod’s and their ignorant snafu.

But enough about that. I settled on a Beancurd Vegetable Parcel. For £1.65, it was a steal.

mmm, beancurd.

Having purchased my lunch, I was on a mission to find somewhere to eat it. The clerk was of absolutely no help. When I asked her where I might go, her response was a firm “You can’t eat it in here.” Set on a mission to find a place to snack, I exited Harrod’s and went walking about.

In hindsight, I should’ve gone to Hyde Park. Instead, I wondered around the neighborhood running into small private parks that I was not allowed entry into. London’s full of these member only parks. I suppose it’s a brilliant thing if you are a member. It’s a nice way to compensate for the urban density of London, but I just feel like I’ve been expelled from something potentially great. Standing on my tiptoes peeking between bushes, I try to imagine what it’s like inside. One weekend a year about 200 of these gardens are open to the public. I missed this year’s open garden weekend, which takes place in June. I guess I’ll have to wait around 9 months to find out what I’m missing.

I ended up chowing down sitting on a ledge across from one of these parks in a very posh neighborhood. I tried to imagine what it was like to be one of these “Sloane Squarer” types as I munched on my cold and slightly disappointing vegetable beancurd parcel. It wasn’t a mind blowing treat, but not all was lost as it was filling and affordable. Tell me Interwebs, what must-have food item did I miss from Harrod’s Food Halls?

Harrods on Urbanspoon

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17 Took’s Court
London EC4A 1LB
020 7242 2622

www.vanillablack.co.uk/

One thing about living in a world city like London is the totally different class of vegetarian restaurants available. In many towns, the vegetarian establishments are typically cute and quirky but not particularly fine dining. Don’t get me wrong, I love my quirky and fun veggie restaurants, but it’s nice to branch out for a special occasion.

The name, Vanilla Black, creates images of stark contrasts. The establishment rides on this theme with a fine but demure atmosphere. During lunch the crowd was mostly polite people in business attire and a solo me in my denim and trainers plopping down a humongosized hobo bag with camera, maps and books spilling out the edges.  At the moment, I felt like Vanilla in a world of Black, but it was lunch and I had been on the lookout for upscale vegetarian dining for a while.

Weekdays from 12-2:30 Vanilla Black has an amazing set menu of 2 courses for £18 or 3 courses for £23. I decided on 2 courses: an appetizer of Sweet and Sour Glazed Baby Beetroot with Candied Fennel and Wasabi Cream and a main of Asparagus and Chervil Pesto Crumpet with Yoghurt Curd, Potato Cakes and Leek Tagliatelle.

The staff was courteous, polite and attentive but formal. In keeping with the contrast theme, the server brought bread with sea salted butter and black peppered butter which I immediately chowed down on along with a glass of white wine.

Sea salted and black peppered butter for the bread, wine.

The wonderfully presented beetroot dish had the most amazing wasabi cream. The power of the wasabi mixed with the cooling cream made an unusual but perfect pairing and flowed nicely with the natural sweetness of the beetroot.

Sweet and Sour Glazed Baby Beetroot with Candied Fennel and Wasabi Cream

The unlikely combination of ingredients were proving to be well thought out and delightful. I conquered every bite of the beetroot and was anxious for the main course.

Asparagus and Chervil Pesto Crumpet with Yoghurt Curd, Potato Cakes and Leek Tagliatelle

“This is what crumpets are?!?” I thought as I vowed to eat crumpets every day. The aparagus, yoghurt curd, potato cakes and leeks were extremely pleasing. At this rate, my ordering skills were  having a 100% success rate. I decided to go ahead for the dessert. The plates were small-ish, I reasoned.

The peanut butter parfait sounded a bit rich so I chose Olive Oil and Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Chili Syrup, Mango Pureé and White Chocolate Ice Cream. That’s where my lucky streak ended. The Pineapple overpowered all the other ingredients and left the dish feeling stagnant. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t live up to the expectation after the other two courses.

Olive Oil and Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Chilli Syrup, Mango Pureé and White Chocolate Ice Cream

Bottom Line: Vanilla Black works the contrast theme with amazing and inventive results. The pricetag is a little hefty for everyday, but the restaurant boasts a decent set lunch best with dessert skipped.

Vanilla Black on Urbanspoon

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