Merry meals

Strawberry, watermelon and pomelo salad with white wine, strawberry and mint granitaThere’s nothing like home-cooked Christmas meals, which usually (for us, lah) comprise of one or two things we’ve never cooked before, which causes great concern among the family-folk, who know that I don’t exactly eat healthily.

But, thanks to one of the many cookbooks we have on our shelves, we made a great gratin, whose recipe (when executed properly) is such that someone inevitably asks, “how much cheese you put inside?”, to which we inevitably answer, “no cheese”, to which they say, “really? it tastes like there’s cheese”, to which we respond with a smug flourish, “nope, no cheese at all, good huh?”

Having a four-course meal increases the chances of your guests liking at least one of the courses, and because there were guests at this year’s family Christmas Eve dinner who didn’t eat beef, didn’t like milk, didn’t take cream, afraid of carrots, petrified of bread rolls and had a phobia of fish, we were very pleased that the reaction to dessert was unanimously positive.

But because this is not a food blog, and I am not a chef, and because we sorta made it up ourselves, we don’t have the exact recipe for the dessert here. All I can say is that we sorta adapted it from what we had a week ago at a friend’s wedding:

Fuzzy recipe for Strawberry, watermelon and pomelo fruit salad with white wine, strawberry and mint granita:

Ingredients:

A few punnets of strawberries, sorta diced
Some watermelon, sorta diced too
Some pomelo, sorta broken apart with your hands
Some caster sugar
Some white wine from the bottle after you’ve had a couple of glasses
A few sprigs of mint

Method:

First, you pour some wine and some sugar and some water into a large saucepan, fire up the stove and cook some strawberries in it, until it’s sorta pulpy, then you take the strawberries out. Then you put some mint into the thing and boil it some more. Then let the thing cool. Then put it in a bowl and put it in the freezer, checking and stirring the thing every half an hour or so until it turns into a sorbet-like thing. This thing is the granita.

Then you boil some more strawberries in a saucepan with some more caster sugar, but not as pulpy as you’ve made the other thing earlier. Then you put it aside in the fridge when it cools, to cool some more. This strawberry jam-like thing is the, um, strawberry jam-like thing.

When it’s time for dessert to be served, make your guests wait a bit as you go into the kitchen to fix it up. Get your mum’s serving glasses and fill about a third of each glass with the strawberry jam-like thing, then another third with the uncooked strawberries, pomelo and watermelon pieces, and the last third with the granita, after you’ve scraped it out of the bowl, because you forgot to stir the thing every thirty minutes.

Serve, sit back, and wait for your guests to ask for some more. Then go make some more.

Boxing Day dinnerWhat we usually do on Boxing Day is rue the fact that it’s not a public holiday in this country, plus the fact that it’s been raining cats, dogs and every other household pet.

Then we cook something hearty, like oxtail stew:

Anyhowly Sorta Italian Oxtail Stew

Ingredients:

Several pieces of oxtail
Coupla cans of whole tomatoes
Some Worcestershire sauce
A dash of mustard
Many carrots
One onion
Some garlic
Some olive oil
Some parsley

Method:

Put some olive oil into a large pot, slice one onion, some garlic. Throw oxtail, garlic, onion into large pot and fry till oxtail pieces are brown. Then open two cans of whole tomatoes and put them in. Add mustard, worcestershire sauce, carrots and bring to boil.

Then leave to simmer, stirring a few times every now and then. Then go out and pick up the wife from work, agree to go for an hour’s foot reflexology and massage, and then fight traffic all the way home.

Remove burnt bits from large pot and transfer edible bits into a smaller pot. Cook some rice, watch a bit of telly, then serve with some parsley.

Enjoy.

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Vaguely appetizing

Still vagueBecause of work commitments, we’ve been eating out a lot, and we haven’t had much luck with the quality of food either.

Being a little adventurous, we decided yesterday evening to drive all the way, 45 minutes and 30 km, in the evening jam, to Changi Village to dine at Charlie’s corner, only to find that Charlie’s corner’s closed on Mondays.

We did however, plonk ourselves down at this ‘Persian and Italian’ restaurant called Pardis, which, because it was labelled ‘Persian and Italian’, looked appealing enough for us to plonk ourselves down at.

However, the Persian part of the restaurant must have had some communication issues with the Italian part because they got three out of our four orders wrong.

They did however, apologise profusely and vow on their grandmother’s grave to compensate us ‘the next time we ate there’. Perhaps suspecting that there mightn’t be a next time, a staff member who looked like he was the proprietor gave us each a glass of his best sparkling grape juice after we had finished eating and asked for the bill, which they took 10% off as well.

A few days before that, and at the southern end of our fine island, we added one more restaurant to the list of eateries we’ve patronized at Vivo City. The Tung Lok Group’s new restaurant there, called Tung Lok something something, boasts a pleasant harbour view, delicate dim sum and waitresses with the weirdest outfits you’ll find in a Chinese restaurant.

I didn’t take any pictures of them though it was weird enough to warrant a few snapshots, but if you’d picture an Ao Dai with one whole side snipped off from the waist down, you’d be about right.

The food was good, though, as was the service from the lop-sided waitresses, who very helpfully explained and described every dish you pointed at in the menu – mostly because the menu really wasn’t helpful.

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of Al Vaivén de Mi Carreta (To the Rocking of My Cart) from the album “Distinto Diferente” by Afro Cuban All Stars of which I have the original CD.

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This is a community service message

RakuIf you happen to be in Holland Village and because you can’t decide what to eat, and stroll in to this Japanese Restaurant called Raku, please, walk out again unless money and quality of food is no matter to you.

I’m not saying that the service was bad or anything like that. But there are situations where even Going the Extra Mile for Service is not going to make anything worth $114 for two, and this is one of them. Not even the nice decor and quiet ambience is going to make up for the disappointing food.

First of all, a refreshing raw salad of cabbage leaves, radish, carrot and cucumber sticks was served as an appetizer. Then our order of Ikura Sashimi (Salmon Roe) was served and tasted like the stuff you can buy in supermarkets, which might have been alright with me if I had bought them in the supermarket myself for a lot less than $20.

Then came the $16 California Maki and the $20 tempura, the former being slathered with flying fish roe that tasted synthetic, and the latter being just a bit too oily.

But the killer had to be the Ocha (tea), which was probably made from teabags which had been left to steep too long, which would have been alright if I had bought the teabags from the supermarket and boiled the water myself, but for $6 a cup, no, no, no! To add insult to an injurious bill, the raw vegetable salad was not complimentary, but itemised as ‘Yasai Stick’ at $6, which is a bit like going to a karaoke place and being billed for the ‘compulsory’ fruit platter.

So, you heard it here (as well as here). Don’t go there. And no, I wasn’t grumpy before we dined there. I am now. We could’ve gone and had a real Nabe meal instead of this nabeh one.

Oh, wait. I’ve just been reminded that if you find the Ocha too exorbitantly priced, you can order a glass of warm water at a more reasonable $3 a glass, though we’re not sure if it’s free flow.

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of Japanese Sandman from the album “German Propaganda Swing Vol 1 1941-1942” by Charlie And His Orchestra of which I have the original CD.

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Particular flavours

at the hypermartBecause it is compulsory to go to a supermarket anywhere Naomi and I travel to, I got to see the varieties of potato crisps on the shelves. No mere salt ‘n’ vinegar chippies for the Chinese! Alongside the shelves of knock-offs, there were cucumber flavor potato chips from Lays!

Normally if I had a craving for cucumbers and potato chips at the same time, I’d have gone and bought cucumbers and potato chips. But the damn Chinese, they think of everything, including combined cravings for cucumbers and potato chips.

And while chicken-flavoured snacks are not new, they’ve gone one better, the Chinese. There were ‘crispy drumstick flavor’ potato crisps; For tomato-flavour afficionados, there were cherry tomato flavor potato crisps, and if you fancied BBQ ribs… you get the idea.

No, wait. There was the big daddy of them all – Italian Red Meat Flavor. Though what animal the red meat was from wasn’t specified.

at the hypermartWe also saw more of Stefanie Sun’s photos in the one supermarket than anywhere in Singapore. She’s selling all manner of foodstuff in China, and classier ones too (if you consider Lays classy) compared with what Gong Li (the unintelligible woman in Miami Vice) is flogging – some orange flavoured biscuits which look like if you ate them, you have to pamper yourself after with L’Oreal products.

I have a friend who wouldn’t have minded us buying her some Stefanie Sun (red meat or white?) flavoured snacks, nor Gong Li scented ones, but that’s another weird story I don’t want to get into now.

But then you’d want to forgive the Chinese for all their weirdness because in Shanghai, you can get a really decent Italian lunch for under S$15 at this place called Da Marco’s, which, after eating, we discovered to be within the building we were staying at, and needn’t have had to walk out in the rain bitching in the first place.

Being the gluttons that we were, we over-ordered of course and had to take out half a pizza, half a plate of fusili and a quarter slice of lasagne, then we spent a minute deciphering the Filipina waitress saying ‘fapeow mum’ repeatedly when we paid for our meals.

Turns out, or at least I’m guessing, she was asking Naomi if she wanted an official receipt.

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Alololo

Apple and rhubarb crumble, Corduroy Cafe
Apple & Rhubarb Crumble,
Corduroy Cafe

Before and after your movie at Vivo City, there are several places to hang out at that might tickle your fancy (with more food and beverage outlets yet to open).

But, and it is a very big but, the Corduroy Cafe on level 1 does not serve hot meals between the hours of 3pm and 6pm for reasons known only to their management.

Personally, I think that’s a freakin’ stupid policy, especially after I had mulled over the menu for a good five minutes before deciding on the beef stroganoff, only to be told by the cashier, who had been patiently waiting for me for five minutes to decide on the beef stroganoff, that there was no beef stroganoff to be had because it was a hot meal, and that there were no hot meals to be had between three and six.

So, Naomi and I went upstairs to this place called ‘White Dog Cafe’, which looked like another place which one might dine in the lap of luxury, and the decor, set against the 2nd floor outdoor boardwalk, looked as promising as some of the items on the menu.

Vivo Weekend
Fettucini Aglio Olio (Alololo)
White Dog takes the ‘Olio’ bit very seriously.

Naomi decided quickly on a pasta dish, and attempted to give the waiter a further request to ensure that the pasta was done al dente.

I gave her the ‘no, don’t bother asking’ look, and later told her that it was a lost cause asking a waiter anything else right after he’s repeated your order as Fettucini Alololo and Pungkim Shoop.

Of course, she already knew that because she’d observed the waiter’s blank look for about five seconds before saying never mind.

The rest of White Dog’s Cafe’s menu is interesting – there’s a Spicy Banana Chill which menu describes as:

A Caribbean Combo to tantalize the tastebuds with just a hint of heart in every mouthful of sweetness

Of course, I had no idea from that description what the Spicy Banana Chill contained besides bananas, so I just had to order it and try.

Naomi tells me I could’ve just asked the waiter(ess) before ordering. But after a sip of the drink, I ask anyway:

“What’s in the Spicy Banana Chill?”

“Um, banana and wait lemme check.”

Unfortunately, the waitress scooted off to check before I could ask further:

“OK, can you tell me what animal heart goes into it?”

But yeah, not so exciting, the contents. Only bananas, milk and some chili flakes.

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of Sweet & Lovely from the album “As Time Goes By” by Bryan Ferry of which I have the original CD.

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