Archive for March, 2009

Babka or Badka?

Posted in Breakfast, Restaurants in Melbourne with tags on March 30, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

I have made many a rave review about Babka before. It ranks near the top of my list as far as favourite breakfast places in Melbourne are concerned. They make a kickass scrambled eggs on toast, the mushrooms are completely out of this world, and the shoofly buns are even better. But there is a problem.

On my last couple of visits there, it seems like it has been cursed by the curse of the popular. It’s not the long queues that were off-putting; it was the snobbery of the place that made me one very pissed-off customer. They make no qualms about displaying their displeasure; they won’t serve you if you arrive 5 minutes before seven even though the doors are already open and sign outside doesn’t tell you that they’re still closed.

I hate snobbery in good places. Actually, I just hate snobbery! Especially when I made a special trip down to Brunswick Street in hopes of a lovely breakfast all by myself. When I arrived, I was greeted by none other than a/the very cold waitress whose eyes had the most icy stare in them. She looks like the maitre’d.

“Table for one please”, I muttered before she waved her hand in the direction of the table near the window sill without casting me a second glance – ah, perfect. That’s my favourite seat. “Do you need a menu to order?”, she asked. Duh. Menus are one of those things you offer a customer when they sit down; food, or drink, is what you ask a customer to order. Asking me if I needed a menu to order was a simple display of service slip-shoddery.

The situation was redeemed quickly enough by a chirpy waitress who offered to take my drink order. I ordered a skinny latte (the first coffee I had in 2 months by the way), but when it came, it was a disappointment. The coffee was burning hot; anyone knows that coffee that scalds your lips equals burnt coffee/milk. But I let it pass since it’s not one of the big boys in the coffee scene. I placed my order of poached eggs on toast this time. Said chirpy waitress also acceded t0 my strange request of “with a slice of vege toast and multigrain toast” instead of the usual white casalinga. She saves the day.

I sipped my coffee (although barely – I drank no more than a tenth of the glass) and flipped through my paper while waiting on my breakfast order. 5 minutes passed; they might be busy. 10 minutes passed; they must be REALLY busy. 15 – ok this is getting a bit much but patience is key; 20 – it took me 5 minutes to finally get the attention of the waitress. Chirpy waitress came. “Excuse me, I’ve been waiting a really long time for my order to come. Could you please help me check if it’s ready?”

Soon enough she came back. “I’m sorry but your order has accidentally been wiped off but I’ll get them to make one for you again”.

WT*?! First of all, I was obviously miffed that my order was wiped off; secondly, that they took 20 minutes and a customer’s request to figure out that their breakfast hasn’t arrived yet is completely unacceptable; they may be busy, but they’re definitely not a 40-tabled restaurant with only 5 staff on hand. I cancelled my order in the end and ordered a hot cross bun instead. This time it wasn’t good either; the bun arrived at my table cold, whereas in the past it would always be sliced into half and toasted. There was no doubt the bun tasted great, but by then the repeated disappointments overshadowed the good food.

And just to add salt to the wound, a snobby couple pushed their way through the tables and plonked their arses onto the two seats next to mine. I have no problem with sharing the space, but a simple courteous “excuse me” would have been nice, especially when I was already struggling to find space on that meagre benchtop with my toast, coffee and paper. Perhaps if Babka really wanted to improve their quality of service (which is in the dire straits), a suggestion would have been for the waitress to ask if it were ok if I shared the space. Whatever happened to basic courtesy?

On a side note, I noticed that the Cold Waitress was particularly warm to other customers, but cold to me. It doesn’t help her cause when I realise that I’m the only Asian amidst the whole sea of Caucasians. It also wasn’t the first time that the Jman and I observed/encountered this. Do we sense an undercurrent of racism there? Or are we just being oversensitive?

Whatever the case, there should be no excuse for poor service regardless of who your customers are. Would we return to Babka? Absolutely not for a sit-in meal anymore (because you are actually charged extra for sit-in service, and I don’t see why I should be paying for service when I’m not getting it), but there is no doubt they still make a pretty good loaf of bread. That said, there’s always Dench and Natural Tucker down the road from where I live!

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Buah Keluak

Posted in Cooking with tags , on March 26, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

Buah Keluak - image taken from eatingasia.typepad.com

Buah Keluak - image taken from eatingasia.typepad.com

“Buah keluak” is a black nut originating from Indonesia, more famously known for the wonderful aroma in one of the Peranakan‘s most famous dishes – the ayam buah keluak.

Peranakan Chicken with Buah Keluak - image taken from umami.typepad.com

Peranakan Chicken with Buah Keluak - image taken from umami.typepad.com

It is a dish that requires arduous work, from soaking the nuts, to cracking it open, grinding it into a paste and stuffing it back into the shell, then stewing and slow-cooking the meat until it is fall-off-the-bone tender. It is a labour of love for the ones you cook it for.

The dish, like durian although much milder and less of a shocker to unsuspecting tastebuds, is also an acquired taste; some find it aromatic, others pungent, and there’s those who sit on the fence. I fall into the category of those who “like it”, and I like it very much.

The Jman’s grand-aunt in Singapore makes a fantastic rendition of it, and I had the pleasure of having a little bowl to myself during my trip back to Singapore in December.

I’m now trying to find the nut in Melbourne in the hopes that I can get the Jman’s grandma to teach me how to make this dish, since she herself is a true-blue Nyonya (who makes a real kickass beef rendang, if I may add). Now that leaves me to beg the question: does anyone know where I can find buah keluak in Melbourne?

Chocolate Guinness Cake

Posted in Baking, Chocolate with tags , , on March 23, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean
Chocolate Guinness Cake

Chocolate Guinness Cake

Curiosity got the better of the cat and I ended up making the chocolate Guinness cake. It turned out very well, although the taste of Guinness wasn’t as prominent as I’d have liked it to be. Nevertheless it made for a great chocolate cake – moist, dense, and sinfully fudgey.

I especially loved the cream cheese icing that was smothered over the cake. The slight tangy-sweet cloud of cream cheese+icingsugar+cream, calorie-packed as it was, seemed to soften yet highlight the intensity of chocolate in the cake (and trust me, it was VERY chocolatey).

It was at its best straight out of the oven, but I’ve had it in the fridge for the last 2 days and it is still delectably moist and fudgey even when cold.

Would I make it again? Yes I would, but only if I weren’t serving it to a group of girls on a diet. Does Nigella ever make anything healthy?

Which Chocolate Takes The Cake?

Posted in Baking, Chocolate with tags , , on March 20, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

We’re celebrating JC’s birthday tomorrow, and I have volunteered my cake-baking expertise (or lack of) to make her a birthday cake. This is a perfect excuse to try out the treasure of chocolate cake recipes in Nigella’s Feast, but this unfortunately leaves me with another problem: which recipe should I try?

There’s the chocolate espresso cake that I made the last time (that was highly successful and a show-stealer, and is almost fail-proof), and then there’s the chocolate Guinness cake, the honey chocolate cake, etc.

I love the chocolate espresso cake for its moistness. Flavour wise, it was intense almost to the point of being dense, yet it was light and airy too (lots of eggs and only a few tablespoonfuls of flour – you do the math); at the same time the Guinness cake sounds intriguing enough to attempt, and I have read many a rave review about the cake.

So I will head home tonight and contemplate which cake my dearest JC would be getting for her birthday. That leaves me with one last consideration: how kosher is it to serve a Guinness cake at your Bible study meeting?

Superstart

Posted in Life with tags , on March 20, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

I’ve been feeling somewhat under the weather of late. The gastro bug went around the office and left me pretty crook for a good half of the week. I’m on the mend now, but the recent bout of illness has made me cautious about my food intake (ok not entirely, given that I had char kway teow on Wednesday night).

So for the last two mornings, I’ve given myself a super breakfast to kickstart my day. Whole-wheat bread or a banana, and a vitamin C-packed juice.

I’m feeling worlds better now 🙂

Soul Food

Posted in Breakfast with tags , , , on March 19, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

Breakfast at Ya Kun

The best things in life don’t come easy, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t come cheap.

In this case where soul food is concerned, a classic Ya Kun kopitiam breakfast of kaya toast, kopi (meaning coffee) and soft-boiled eggs takes the cake and it is only in recent times that I’ve become increasingly fond of that aspect of my Singaporean roots.

During my recent trip back home, one of my best mornings was spent at the Ya Kun outlet in Holland Village enjoying the aforementioned feast – just me and my morning paper, and it cost a mere $3.50 for the works of toast, coffee and eggs.

I was in between errands and decided to walk around the corner to enjoy a facial afterward on one of the occasions, and on another (actually, it was just the day after), I popped by for a foot massage.

If this is the life of a lady-of-leisure-on-a-shoestring-budget (after all I could very well do without those preppy tea parties), you’d find me back home in a heartbeat.

p/s. I like my toast without the butter – just a thin spread of kaya is enough to make me happy.

Food Is The Best Medicine

Posted in Cooking, Life with tags , , on March 3, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean
Nigella's Chocolate Espresso Cake

Nigella's Chocolate Espresso Cake

For today, I am The Sick Epicurean, quite literally. After declaring on Sunday that I had been bug-free for 2 months (to which the Jman had warned me not to jinx myself), I finally succumbed to the nasty weather fluctuations and actually fell ill. Who’d have thunk?

I spent the whole day in bed nursing a sore throat, fever and a headache until I was sick of being in bed. So instead of moping around and feeling miserable, I decided to get my blood pumping by driving myself down to the supermarket and take a walk around in the comforts of the air-conditioned aisles.

By the time I got home, I was feeling a little psyched up to cook. Supermarketing has that effect on me. So without thinking twice, I pulled out a cake mixer, pots, pans and went full on head-down-bum-up into cooking. I made a crema di funghi (cream of mushroom soup) and a spaghetti al funghi for dinner, and a Nigella chocolate-espresso cake for dessert.

I’ll post up the recipes later but for now, all I can say is that all the kitchen activity made me feel heaps better. The fever’s broken and the headache has magically disappeared. Talk about food for the soul!