Tribute to all the food-snaps I take that go un-posted as soon as the physical item gets devoured / forgotten. Here’s a post to say, you’ll always be remembered. Tralala.
I love you, Los Angeles.
▷ Breakfast @ Denny’s for the first time and I liked it! Western portions are way too generous. With a selection like this it won’t be anytime soon for us to taste it all. A tad bit greasy on the side of mashed/fried potatoes but all else’s good.
“I love New York. You can pop out of the Underworld in Central Park, hail a taxi, head down Fifth Avenue with a giant hellhound loping behind you, and nobody even looks at you funny.”
― Rick Riordan
Eat, shop, dream, repeat! was all we did in New York during the winter. In early February, 0°C felt like much less, thanks to bone-chilling winds and an insufficient wardrobe. We had 3 days to spend right smack in the city, where you could literally shop all day and stay up at Times Square without realising it’s already midnight, and not even subzero temperatures could deter them creatures of the night.
Rick Riordan’s quote rang true when I realised literally anybody could dress up in anything and sell their crafts/ideas on Times Square. I forgot how many Big Birds, Cookie Monsters, Madagascar Penguins, Mickey Mouses and Eeyores I’ve seen accosting strangers in the streets, handing out pamphlets or just attempting to sell you something. Nobody found it weird and the reverse is true. The ones wearing them don’t feel judged at all.
Checking into The Paramount Hotel at Times Square felt like entering a club – dim lights, velvet couches, a DJ spinning on the console and bar drinks in the corner.
Straight off our flight, we headed for Koreatown in search of piping hot and spicy Korean food! Decided on New Wonjo because it looked spanking clean and boasts a really strong heater (we felt the emanating warmth just by walking past). Not once during our entire meal did we regret our choice. We had an amazing meal: Bean paste stew (된장찌개), Spicy Tofu Stew (순두부찌개), Short Rib Soup (갈비탕), Beef Glass Noodles (잡채), Rice Cakes (떡볶이), and Seafood Pancake (해물파전 ). Daresay this was one of the best Korean restaurants I’ve been to outside of Seoul.
During the trip I had one of the best Thai dishes in NYC too! New York’s melting pot of culture gives rise to an international array of good cuisines within the city centre. Yay me, who’s not a big fan of fast food. This was Thai green curry chicken from Pongsri Thai, a hip diner tucked between Broadway & 8th Ave, bringing you awesome Thai food since 1972.
The sweet-tooth in me jumped for joy at MAGNOLIA BAKERY, NYC’s very own vintage cupcakes store! This is one patisserie that I would seriously cry with happiness if it ever makes its way to Singapore…and guess what!! I just read this on their webpage:
“In addition to our current locations, Magnolia Bakery is continuing to franchise internationally and will soon open in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Singapore.”
OH LORD I’LL SHED REAL TEARS OF JOY. Let me show you why:
Day One: Red Velvet Cupcake and Banana Pudding.
I’ve always been a huge fan of red velvet, but this is a whole new level of velvety goodness. It was so soft and creamy, that there was nothing cake-y about it at all. Just melt-in-your-mouth smooth satiny velvet, made red with cocoa, vanilla and “a little southern mystery”, topped with special whipped vanilla icing and chocolate chips.
I’ve never eaten a banana pudding, and my first was pure orgasmic. I totally get why this is Sex-and-The-City-approved! Layers and layers of banana and melted vanilla wafers in a cup blended in rich vanilla mousse… this is helluva showstopper. Omg, so good I swear!
Day Two: Lemon Cheesecake and Magic Cookie Bars
Lemon cheesecake was my breakfast, and it was so totally amazing, I wanted to trudge back to the store in freezing winter just to get another. I love how moist their cupcakes are in the grand scheme of how cupcakes tend to be, and it’s sweet without being sinfully so (or at least they don’t taste sinfully sweet like a pure bar of sugar)
Curious about Magic Cookie Bars and just how magic they were, I tried one, and went to cookie heaven. Still wasn’t sure what was in them until I went over to their page:”Graham cracker crust with chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut topped with sweetened condensed milk then baked.“
Enough talk about food, moving on to the shopping part of my whirlwind stay. For me shopping is the main activity in the States. Without driving to outlet stores, NYC has a convenient selection around our hotel and down the streets. Big names are all listed on city maps designed with easy-to-navigate grids. Sephora awarded me their VI(B) thanks to my patronage every time I’m in the States.
We went into the Lego Store! – always such an innocently happy place. Larger than life-sized figurines such as the Statue of Liberty and Lego Movie characters were made of lego blocks only. I applaud the makers’ patience and their eye for details. This was where we took most of our shameless selfies that must have prompted many to judge us overenthusiastic Asian girls.
In the day, Times Square is incredibly, vividly lit. In the night, it’s not so different. Shopping from late evening on, I didn’t even notice that daylight was gone because the billboards were so intensely bright that they lit up almost the entire sky if you were to stand right in the middle of the streets. I’m reminded again of why NYC is the City that Truly Never Sleeps.
When it was time to go, I was just incredibly sad ): But knowing that I’ll be back someday makes me incredibly excited to explore new parts of the state and venture beyond the city centre!
Of course my bag suffered the brunt of my shopping.
Couple of days back, I chanced upon this interesting site that arranges professional gourmet food tours in Italy. The foodie in me was jumping for joy! I wish I had done more research before my trip to Venice (2014), which led to sub-par pastas and touristy rip-offs (although you never go wrong with seafood risottos). Venice is a perfect locale for sightseeing, but at the same time the hustling-bustling city is bound to overwhelm you unless you come prepared with a solid list of where to go and what to do. Loads of pizzerias and pasta houses would lure unsuspecting tourists into their midst and serve up mediocre cuisines, tricking you into believing that this is the best you can get in Venice.
There’s this Italian saying, “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.” – literally translated as “not all donuts come with a hole”, metaphorically alluding to things not always turning out as we expected. I’d projected all Italian restaurants to be fantastico. Truth is, locals have got way higher expectations than the average tourist, so it turns out you can actually hire a tourguide to bring you around for the best cuisines! Next time round probably I’ll be engaging tours – what better way to pamper your belly than Emilia Delizia’s filtered list of delis, chosen through personal samplings from the native Italians themselves. Way too cool!
Who: Experts in food and wine travel in Parma, Modena and Bologna
What: Holiday planning to various Italian destinations in your native language (Russian, English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, you name it)
What I love: Cicchetti Crawl
The same question popping up in your head right now was in my own, the first time I read about cicchetti. What’s that?
Well essentially they are snacks, rather like Spanish tapas, served in wine bars and taverns. According to Emilia Delizia, a cicchetti adventure should begin at bacari (wine bars) or osteria, both of which serve such simple, traditional snack foods: chunks of salami, pieces of cheese, fried olives and fried seafoods. However modern cicchetti can be much more elaborate, and can even be dinners in miniature. Also what better way to sample the best local wines than to get locals to drink them with you! The Italian vocabulary for wines is amazing: did you know, ombra are small glasses of wine (about the size of a double shot), and also nicknamed ‘shade’ after wine sellers in the Piazza San Marco, who kept in the shade to keep the wine cool and fresh. I remember having an aperitivo (a pre-dinner drink to whet my appetite) during my trip, and was awed by the wine selection. Due to our language disparity, unfortunately, the Italian wine connoisseur could not express what was in the aperitivo – I think it had something to do with sparkling wine and bitters. Which is why a food tour would be extremely helpful, and could save you a lot of trial and errors in the Venetian food-maze.
I should probably warn you not to read Emilia Delizia on an empy stomach…I got so hungry after reading their gourmet descriptions. I needed no further proof that these guys know their stuff. Popular cichettis include “tidbits served on toast (crostini) or on squares of savory grilled polenta”, and “squid ink toast with or without curried shrimp”, and “tramezzini (little triangular sandwiches) made from special, soft white bread, stuffed with a delectable variety of fillings including ham, olives, cheese or tuna”. Tramezzini. What a mouthful.
Where To Go: Rialto Fish Market The best seafood based bacari and osteria are in San Polo, where they serve “swordfish croissant and scallops served in the shell – all served in a buffet style” and “hearty plates of polpette (meatballs) served with an aioli sauce, topped with truffles, cheese and mushrooms”. Honestly, I never knew these existed till I read this off E.D.!
Venice, I’ll be back for you with a hearty appetite!
“I don’t believe in guilt, I believe in living on impulse as long as you never intentionally hurt another person, and don’t judge people in your life. I think you should live completely free”
― Angelina Jolie
2 Jan – 7 Jan // There are only two places I travel to on impulse when alone: Korea and Thailand. In under 24 hours I went from Christchurch – Singapore – Bangkok Suvarnabhumi with bare minimum rest. What made it all worthwhile was seeing Elizabeth, Dia, Ake and Terence in Thailand! Literally only booked my Bangkok-bound tickets 16 hours before, as I was contemplating between a solo-trip to Seoul, or a vacay with friends to Bangkok. Meanwhile, caught 5 movies onboard and savoured at least 6 Vanilla Haagen Dazs minis amidst fellow travellers who managed to fall asleep!
Upon touchdown, Dia brought us for fine Thai food. Could always depend on her to get us the best! Thai sticky rice, fried pork skin, papaya salad, crispy chicken, and my favourite lychee shake – I was completely satiated! That lychee shake is perfect for Thailand’s scorching heat as it expels heat from your body better than jumping into a pool of ice. Plus it’s sooo good.
Honestly I’d thought a solo trip might have been a better idea, because out of the five of us, I was the only single girl while the rest were attached to each other. But turns out I was wrong. I had a blasted good time!
On ur first day, we went easy on shopping / exploring. Aside from Terence who was only in Thailand for the first time, Beth and I liked to take it slow. Ake and Dia are Thais who lived within Bangkok.
Snoopy was having it seasonal run at Central World with its Universe Of Happiness exhibit for Christmas! Picture a sea of Snoopys and pop music blaring from gigantic speakers, and you get people fighting for pictures or plotting ways to kidnap a plastic white dog (I was tempted to!)
After lunch and picture-whoring with dogs, we made our way on foot to Chit Lom. Many foreigners make the annual pilgrimage to Erawan Shrine at the Chit Lom / Ploenchit intersection. I find myself back here more than twice a year to jostle with the fervent Buddhists. Do not expect a temple though as this is an open-spaced shrine on a street corner. This is a good place to explore Thailand’s culture as there are Thai dancers on special occasions as well as street stalls on the adjacent streets.
It’s way too hot here so be sure to ditch your jeans and sneakers for shorts and slippers!
The rest of the day was spent searching for funky local eateries, and knowing Dia and Ake, it’s never just street food. They’ve got a solid list of mid-high class restaurants they frequent, which only locals would know. Which I would post some pictures of in upcoming posts. So stay tuned 😉
Tourists are so darn easy to sniff out. If you’ve been to Macau, you’d know the Ruins of St Paul’s (大三巴牌坊) but a one-sided wall, completely demolished and naked in the back. So the first-timers (like us) would still clamour for pictures with the famed 16th-century complex, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. 68 steps would lead you to the southern stone façade, behind which lies the remains of the original pillars and a shrine. A wee bit of secret: the locals would tell you it’s customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins from the stairs, for good luck.
From here, you can spot the stone façade, far left. Pretty deconstructed huh?
As we got closer, I realised it was just a one-dimensional wall. Didn’t stop me from my touristy shots!
Way to the ‘top’ – 68 easy-peasy steps! And so crowded on a late February weekday, we had to jostle a few elbows outta our way. Since this wall’s one of ’em things you’ve got to check off your Macau Bucket-lists, we made it to the top and beyond.
The best entitlement of a tourist is not being taken for a fool at stupid pictures. Here I am receiving a scroll from…some great Chinese scholar! (My bad, I can’t even remember names of half of my university Professors.) I CAME IN LIKE A CAAAANON-BAAAALLL (way before wreckingball became a thing)
Next best tourist entitlement: you don’t get judged for meaningless hand gestures in awkward I-don’-know-what-to-do-with-my-hands shots.
Not far from the Ruins of St Paul’s is the Museum of Macau, filled with relics from the time Macau was part of Portuguese empire, and also most importantly these were sacred and holy relics of art. Read: Museu De Arte Sacra = Museum Of Sacred Art.
The Museum of Macau is located in the famous Monte Fortress, in the heart of the city where the Portuguese first set foot. Being a fortress from where battles were fought and Macau defended, actual live cannons were left behind.
I had a hard time saying goodbye to the cannon I grew so fond off. They made a good war relic, and a decent sunbed.
Herein lies the footpath from midlevel (outdoors) to the top of Museum of Macau. Great weather, amazing scenery and good company makes for a fantastic walk.
Right at the top is where you see a grand entrance to the Museum. Conventionally, you’re meant to enter from the ground floor. The top floor consists of a garden, a small still fountain, and the fortress formation in which cannons are still located.
So the view from the top stole my heart! I loooove the vantage point, though ought to have been scared shitless standing so close to the edge. All I really wanna do is get close to the heart of the city.
Further snapshots from within the Fortress walls.
Every city I go, I try to get the bird’s eye view. Much like the Eiffel of Paris or Burj Khalifa of Dubai. It pretty much lays the city out at your feet for a much clearer picture than any map will provide you.
“I looked to the ceiling and told God, “God, next time I want an adventure, strike me with lightning. You have my permission.”
― Kristen Ashley, The Gamble
We were crazy for adventure and found our answer in Macau. The idea came like a flash of lightning. So with one day to spare we grabbed a pair of ferry tickets and bopped our way to the land of egg-tarts, casinos and tea-houses. I expected a whole new environment much like the gambling sitcoms we occasionally glimpse channel-surfing, but Macau is really an amalgam of new world Hong Kong with traditional Portuguese influences. What really amazed us – casinos were entities made of everything shiny, glazed with glamour and all that glitters that is actually gold.
Starving, we stuffed our faces with the island’s most traditonal Portuguese egg-tarts (or so every store says)
Then meandered the streets of Macau on foot. The air tingles with hope, because most people there were keeping their dreams alive. Making it big at the gambling den, or simply making it out alive.
Look what we found! Art in the heart of the city.
God knows who created these art but they are pretty darn amazing.
In Macau, basically, you can find hand-made pastries and cookies every-damn-where. It’s like stores fight for business. It’s what this place is known for, and all tourists are suckers for. We all want to bring a piece of Macau home. Almond biscuits, pork-floss crisps, handrolls. As traditional as it gets. I love their almond biscuit and egg-rolls which are out-of-this world. I have never gone for another bakery’s eggrolls ever since. Especially since Koi Kei makes the best egg-white egg-rolls, ooh lala.
My favourite is still Koi Kei – never have I gone home empty-handed from Hong Kong and he’s the reason why.
So since we’re on this topic, more food-talk and less sight-seeing! Sharetea in Macau is actually a cafe. The bustling cafe scene in Macau isn’t hipster at all…this is as hippie as it goes. Traditional teahouses, or cha-chan-teng 茶餐廳, which are known for eclectic dishes from Hong Kong cuisine and Hong Kong Western fusion cuisine, are more prevalent.
Food’s always the start of an adventure, as Anthony Bourdain puts it well: “I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”. Every culture has its food norms. Anyone else finds it interesting MacDonalds’ caters to every country’s needs? Here’s a Red Bean pie from Macau. I still miss it.
Part One here was all about what we ingested plus wall murals we caught (well if I could inhale and live off devouring art I would but unfortunately graffiti is not food). The next one and thereafter’s all about the view, and what essentially keeps people coming to Macau. The mystery of the casinos maybe… I for one enjoyed walking through the Portuguese cemetery, reading headstones of all who’s walked the land and had the means to buy themselves a place here after death. #morbid