“Water, water everywhere
But not a drop to drink”
This could be said for myself in the case of blogging – I’m surrounded by computers and Internet access everywhere, but I’ve nary had the time to sit down and blog, much less download, edit, and upload photos of my gastronomic endeavours in here.
Nevertheless, it’s not been all that still in the kitchen front. I’ve spent the weekend catching up on my cooking at the expense of vacuuming my carpet, but at least I am happy as a clam and so is the Jman.
The Foodworks store near my place had these lovely skinny chickens (they even had less fat than some of the free range ones I’ve seen!) on offer (2 little chooks for $10) and I couldn’t resist so I bought a pack and went home to cook Hainanese chicken rice, complete with the zinger-of-a-chilli-sauce and ginger sauce.
Guess who was a happy man?
[stay tuned for recipe!]
Weekend @ Bistro Vue
It was our 4th anniversary last weekend, and to celebrate the occasion, I baked him a tray of fudge-coated mocha cupcakes and arranged them into the number “4″…at the risk of looking/sounding tacky (as you can see, I’d already exhausted all creative avenues in the first 3 years). I had a bit of an (mis)adventure there: the first batch I made were a total flop due to not one, not two, no not even three, but FOUR factors that could’ve possibly contributed to the disaster. I haven’t decided which was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but I’ll leave you to decide for yourself:
- I used duck eggs (after reading about it from Haalo‘s)
- The duck eggs I used were twice the size of normal eggs and I altered the recipe accordingly (to the weight, that is). I could’ve mis-measured the ingredients!
- I had a dumb blonde moment and kept thinking that 2oz off oil equated to 2 tablespoons. Guess who had a rubber cake?
- I handwhisked everything (although I can’t see why this would be a problem)
It was about 1pm when I was done with the first batch, and 3.30 by the time I decided that I would have to make a second attempt. It would’ve been a shame if we’d gone by our fourth anniversary without something, wouldn’t it? So between then and 5pm, I went and made a fresh batch of cakes and a fudge frosting a la Awfully Chocolate.
The result (I went back to using chicken eggs) was beautiful although the rushed frosting job meant less-than-perfect-looking cakes, but thankfully the Jman is not particularly fussed when it comes to the aesthetic department.
Later that night, the Jman took me out for the REAL celebration at Bistro Vue (kid sister to the highly-accoladed Vue de Monde, but more on that later). Through the course of dinner, we discovered a couple of interesting things about ourselves, our Vue de Cuisine (which means view of the kitchen, figuratively – sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), and how our literal view of the kitchen from where we were seated served more as a bane than a balm to our whole dining experience.
We were seated right in front of the kitchen window which was far too noisy. We could hear too much shouting, the head chef for the night seemed to be running on the edge, and the overbearing noise was nothing like what we remembered in our past visits. Suffice to say, it wasn’t the best spot for a romantic 4th anniversary dinner although I’m sure that the couple schmoozing at the corner of the restaurant might beg to differ.
In short, we found that the restaurant is no longer as good as what it used to be (we saw limp soufflés being served!), and the bread was no longer to-die-for (we even thought it was a little bit stale). This, I confirmed with the baker-of-a-Jman, was not a figment of my South-Beach-permeated imagination.
For starters, I had the escargots with chicken spring rolls. I loved the escargots, and wished I could just have an order of them. The spring rolls were nice, light and crispy but it was a little too Asian for me. The Jman ordered the French onion soup; he loved the soup, but hated the puff pastry on top and wistfully wished that it was served fitted with a perfectly-cut round of real toast instead. I liked it anyhow and had no complaints.
Then we had our mains. He ordered the wagyu sirloin to be done medium rare, while I ordered the prawn salad (hello South Beach). Unfortunately his steak came out medium (almost medium-done) instead, which he lamented was a shame because he could feel the tenderness of the meat trapped in its overdone state. Pity, pity. The real winner of the show, however, was the prawn salad – a generous serving of 7 perfectly-grilled HUGE prawns served on a tiny bed of mash and salad leaves. They were thick, fat, juicy and sweet, almost like mini lobsters but even better. We enjoyed them tremendously and wished for some more!
Dessert, unfortunately, was the least impressive of the lot and a very sad way to end off the meal. It was my fault as I insisted on dessert, thinking that a fine meal like this would be sad without one. Typically, I’d have made the natural selection of the soufflé au chocolat, but since (1) I was full, (2) there was chocolate cake back home, and (3) the last 2 soufflés I saw were limp, we chose the lemon cake with banana and coconut sorbet instead.
We were sorely disappointed: the lemon cake was too dense and too sweet. The rum on the banana was overpowering. The coconut sorbet tasted like frozen coconut cream. We didn’t end up finishing our dessert and left the place feeling a little…unsatisfied. If anything, it was the impeccable service of our Very Tall Waiter that saved the day.
So what went wrong? Was it a case of a “bad hair day” for the chef? Are they new and inexperienced? Or heavens forbid, complacency?
We initially made plans of saving up for a grand dinner at Vue de Monde one day, just to experience it for ourselves and see what the hullaballoo is all about. Apparently it’s one of those 100 things you’ve got to do before you die and I’ve really been looking forward to it. Well, we’re not all that sure now, and we’re thinking that that money might be put to better use by getting us two-thirds way to a KitchenAid mixer.
I’ve also since nicknamed the restaurant to Flu de Monde, or Bistro Flu in this case, after having that notoriously familiar feeling of the flu when I went home that very night. Familiar because it was the exact same feeling I had the first time I went there half a year ago, and was struck down with the worst-ever case of the flu that very night. It was the flu that I’ll never forget as it left me incapacitated for two full weeks and it sucked dry my year’s supply of medical leave. Was it the cassoulet? Or was it the frites fried in goose fat?
Thankfully, “the feeling” went away with my arsenal of peppermint tea, vitamins and supplements.
Perhaps it’s my impending trip back home, or it could be the weather, but I felt like something Chinese, something familiar, yet something different and something I’d never tried before.
So I made “claypot rice” (sans claypot), or “one-pot rice” as better known in some other parts of the world. The Cantonese call this “sar poh fun” (claypot rice) or “yao mei fun” (tasty rice), and this basically consists of any marinated meat mixture cooked in the rice. The authentic ones, traditionally, have chicken pieces, Chinese sausage, waxed meats and mushrooms in them and are cooked over very high heat before it is simmered. The result is a smoky one-pot treasure bursting with flavour and a charred crusty layer of rice at the bottom to boot.
I will post the recipe of what I cooked last night (as well as my chicken rice recipe) in my next post, although it is a pared down version of the Real McCoy that you get in hawker centres in Singapore. The bonus of this recipe is that you really don’t require special equipment, and ingredients are pretty standard fare in anyone’s pantry.