San Francisco: Huevos Rancheros & Beignets

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You can see why I needed to go on a cleansing program after taking a holiday in the US.  ‘Cos the trip involved eating copious amounts of good food and drinking even better wines!

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Two more types of food that have been ticked off on my bucket list.  Beignets and huevos rancheros!  I loved the tomato-chilli version of the huevos rancheros that I tried at a Mexican-style eatery in SF (unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of this place).  My friend tried the spicier green chill huevos rancheros which I took a few bites from her plate and it was delicious too.

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The beignets were yummy but they are a little too sweet for my taste.

Old Port Lobster Shack, Portola Valley

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Lobster rolls at Old Port Lobster Shack at Portola Valley.  My friends ordered this platter to share.
As I am not a big fan of cold seafood, I ordered the New England clam “chowdah” whch was super delicious. Again, I was so besotted with eating the chowder, I forgot to take a photograph of it.

I was suddenly reminded of the lobster roll and clam chowder after watching an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares featuring a beachside seafood shack in Boston.

San Francisco: Brenda’s French Soul Food

I have always been fascinated with Creole food.  No idea why.  From the descriptions I have read in books set in New Orleans or the South, Creole food sounds so delicious, comforting and earthy.  But I have not heard of a restaurant serving Creole food in Singapore, until very recently, when I googled the Internet and noticed that there is one such restaurant in Serangoon Gardens.

While in San Francisco, we ate at Brenda’s French Soul Food in downtown SF.  We decided to drop by for brunch at around 10.30am on a Thursday and to our surprise, there was a queue outside the restaurant.  On a weekday! The food must be good! 🙂  And it is.  The restaurant does not accept reservations so we had to wait approximately 15 – 20 mins outside the restaurant for a table.

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The interior decor is modern-casual, bright and quite hip. In my mind, I have always associated Creole/Cajun places with dark moody interiors. I took a panorama photograph of the interior of the restaurant using my iPhone.  This function in the iPhone is mega useful.

The annoying thing about this restaurant is that there are too many yummy things to order, I wrung my hands in despair at the number of things that I would like to eat but I only have the time to make one visit to Brenda’s.  I need another stomach.

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See those 2 pieces of fried chicken in the background? They are TO-DIE-FOR Brenda’s fried chicken known as BFC.  They were the tastiest fried chicken I have ever eaten.  I was so besotted with eating the chicken, I forgot to take a nice photograph of it.

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Red beans and rice – Smoky, spicy stewed kidney beans with steamed white rice & andouille sausage

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Chicken etouffee – chicken smothered in spicy creole tomato gravy, served with rice. I ordered this as my main course.  I have always wanted to try etouffee…!  I love the creamy-tomato texture and flavors.

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Okra gumbo.  Another Creole dish that I have always wanted to eat…!  Etouffee + gumbo + BFC = Seven heavens of happiness. 🙂

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Pork belly with smooth, creamy grits.

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Cream biscuit!  I didn’t have the stomach to try this but C gave it the thumbs-up.

The food at Brenda’s is EXCELLENT.  There are so many other things on the menu that I wanted to try.  Beignets.  Shrimp étouffée. Jambalaya. Crawfish!  If I ever make another trip to San Francisco, I must go to Brenda’s and try all these items.

San Francisco: Afternoon At Stanford Mall, Palo Alto

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After Sri Lanka in February 2013, I took another trip to Seoul and San Franciso in March. I still have one more post to write on Sri Lanka before moving on to the next destination, whichis Seoul. Since I am so behind time in writing my travel posts, I figured that there is no point in pretending to be organised by writing all these posts in some kind of order. After visiting the Tulip display at Gardens by the Bay today, I am reminded of Stanford Mall, in particular, the gorgeous flowers that could be seen nearly everywhere in the mall.


Sri Lanka: Fortress Hotel In Galle

The penultimate post of our holiday in Sri Lanka that is 3 months overdue!

The last stop in our holiday was Galle where we would stay 3 days and 2 nights at the Fortress Hotel. The 6-hour drive from Kandy to Galle was just too much for me. I was dying to haul my old bag of bones into the bathtub and soak myself in a hot bubbly bath till my skin resembles a wrinkled prune. We were looking forward to a complete R&R in the resort where we could chill out all day long. And a massage to work out all the kinks in my back and my arse.

Fortress Hotel is a 20-minute drive south of Galle town, at Koggala.

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Fortress Hotel is stunning. We were given an ocean view room and this is the scenery that we woke up to in the morning. Though I get a bit nervous thinking about what happens if a tsunami turns up…

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The hotel is built to resemble a fortress.  This huge wooden door does look a little like one of those seen in Game Of Thrones.


Detoxing With Sanacleanse

I have been feeling lousy recently. Tired. Lethargic. Sluggish. Moody. It is a combination of work stress, lack of exercise, poor diet and an overindulgence in rich food and wine on my last trip to the US. When my friend mentioned that she was signing up for a juice detox with Sanacleanse, I decided to follow suit and sign up for the cleanse as well. I did it over a weekend, Saturday, Sunday and spilling over into Monday, a couple weeks ago.

The 3-day cleanse program required me to live on organic, cold-pressed vegetable and fruit juices and smoothies provided by Sanacleanse for 3 days. I was not to consume food, coffee and alcohol during the cleanse. The whole idea is to let your liver ‘go-on-holiday’ for 3 days, to let it rest and heal. In the meantime, the nutrient-intense juices and smoothies would nourish and renew the cells in your body while  it undergoes a detoxifying process.

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The week before my cleanse was scheduled to start, Sanacleanse sent me daily emails to give me information on how I should prepare for the cleanse in terms of diet, activities and expections. The company is really quite effective in how it communicates with its customers – daily emails the week before the cleanse really made me feel that someone is managing my expectations. I was supposed to cut down on meat, alcohol and coffee and eat plenty of salads during the few days leading up to the cleanse. Well, I didn’t exactly heed their advice and happily ate my sinful meals right up till the day before the cleanse.

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Sanacleanse delivered the juices to me on the night before the cleanse. The juices came in 3 bags – one bag for each day. Each bag had 6 bottles labelled with numbers 1-6, indicating the order that I should drink the juices. The colours of the juices look great right? 🙂

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For each of the 3 days, I started out with 250ml of warm water followed by another 500ml of warm water with juice from one lemon. Throughout the day, I drank 6 500ml bottles of juices and smoothies – 1 bottle every 2 hours. In addition to the juices, I was also required to drink another 2 litres of water. That’s 5 litres of liquids everyday! As you can tell, I spent quite alot of time in the bathroom. And felt like a bloated water tank the rest of the time.

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How did it feel during the cleanse? I felt so hungry on Day 1, so hungry that I was ready to cave in and eat something. I could not imagine going without food for another 2 days. I swore never to do a juice cleanse again.
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By Day 2, I stopped feeling hungry. Instead, I experienced the full impact of the detox symptoms. I felt slightly nauseous, my chest was terribly uncomfortable and I had a massive headache (which I couldn’t tell came from caffeine withrawal or from the detox or both.) I was lying in bed, feeling very sorry for myself and berating myself for being crazy to do such a program. In the end, I decided to cheat a little and allowed myself very small sips of expresso till the headache went away.

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By Day 3, I felt neither hunger nor any physical discomfort. Partly because it was a working day and I had a full-day of meetings. There was no time to feel sorry for myself as I was busy shuttling between meetings and the bathroom.

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On Day 4, I felt GOOD. I felt refreshed, alert and not much of the fatigue and lethargy that I was feeling before the cleanse. There was a light spring in my step and I didn’t feel sluggish as I went about the day. It has more than a week since I ended the cleanse. The ‘squeaky-clean’ feeling in my body that I experienced after the cleanse has dimmed a little. I have signed up for Sanacleanse’s Trio this weekend – this is a gentle cleanse which requires me to drink 3 bottles of juices for 2 days and I can eat salads to supplement the juices.

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Strangely, I am looking forward to drinking my juices, especially the Nut Milk, this weekend. 🙂

Kaixo’s Churros Dipped In Chocolate

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It is a rainy Sunday today. And I have an craving for churros dipped in hot chocolate.

I have never really enjoyed churros, until I stumbled upon a little gem of a cafe that sells churros in Hongdae, during my March trip to Seoul. Its fried doughnuts were so very delicious.  Never thought I would find such a place in Seoul.

This plate of churros was made by my friend after I returned home.  Really want some now.

Oslo: A Pile Of Seafood At Solsiden

Even though I have been using a DSLR for 3.5 years, I have not used Photoshop and Lightroom to post-process my photos. I usually shoot in JPEG and edit the photos in Picasa.  JPEG files have limitations in how much post-processing one can perform on them, but they are smaller in size and I don’t have to carry too many SD cards.

I know about the benefits of using Lightroom and Photoshop but just never got around to learning how to use the softwares.  I finally purchased a copy of Lightroom 4 recently and have been learning how to use it by experimenting with the various functions and presets myself and reading up tutorials online.

I almost never shoot in RAW but I unearthed a stack of photos of my trip to Oslo last July which were shot in RAW. Amazing! I imported these photos into Lightroom and tried a couple of presets that I came up with.  I like the ‘desaturated’ look in photos where the colours appear washed-out because it gives off an edgy yet nostalgic feel.

Some photos of our first day in Oslo.  This is the very charming square, dotted with pots of flowers, behind our hotel that we walk through to get to the harbour area.

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Overlooking the harbour.

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Queuing up for a hot-dog at the stand. It was the most expensive hot-dog I have ever eaten! S$10 a piece.

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The Akershus Fortress which overlooks the harbour.

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Strolling along the harbour area, heading towards Solsiden, a seafood restaurant, for dinner.  There are a number of restaurants housed in converted warehouses with a great view of the waters located along the harbour.

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I like the casual, airy and spacious layout of Solsiden. I did some research online and this restaurant came up highly recommended and well-reviewed so I was looking forward to dinner. Solsiden’s service is great, food is good but pricey (given that we are in Norway) and we felt very relaxied in the laid-back atmosphere. Because it is summer time, the day-light hours are long and you could enjoy the view of the harbour from the restaurant all the way till 9pm at night.

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A massive seafood platter for 2 persons.  It was waaaay too much food for the two of us to finish.  By the time we worked through the mussels, oysters, crabs, clams, lobster, we barely had room for the huge pile of shrimps lying at the bottom of the platter.  The seafood was extremely fresh and delicious but I have always preferred to eat my seafood hot, not cold. This is making me crave for a plate of chili crabs.

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Post-dinner walk to work off all that food.  We walked as far as the newly constructed Oslo Opera House, a snazzy glass and cement structure and turned back.  The area that makes up the Oslo city centre area is fairly compact and is pretty easy to navigate on foot.

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I love the colors of these buildings in Oslo.  Besides the usual brick-and-cement buildings, we saw many buildings painted in gorgeous colours. Salmon-pink. Bright yellow. Teal green. Blood orange.

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Using Lightroom does improve the efficiency in editing and uploading photos. I like it. 🙂 It looks like I will have to start shooting in RAW.

Sri Lanka: Mamas Galle Fort Roof Cafe

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I am SO annoyed with myself. I have not been able to locate most of the photos that I took of Mamas Galle Fort Roof Cafe on my camera’s SD card. I am 100% sure I took plenty of photos but I have no clue where they are now. I have been checking all my SD cards but no luck there.

Now, all I have are these 3 photos that I took on my second visit to the cafe. 🙁 And they are not exactly what I call good photographs.

Mamas Cafe was a place that I wanted to dine at in Galle. It was recommended to me by Sakura 🙂 and listed in the Lonely Planet as a ‘Top Visit’.   When we arrived at the quaint little eatery located on the rooftop of a 3-storey shophouse during the late afternoon, I was immediately charmed. It looks to be a hit with tourists ‘cos the place was packed and every diner was a foreigner holding a Lonely Planet.

Service is a little slow at Mamas Cafe.  It took the staff a while to bring us our menus, then it took them a little longer to take our orders, then it took an even longer time for the food to arrive.  Many diners took turns to remind the staff of their orders and you could hear people muttering under their breath about how slow the service was.  After a while, I couldn’t tell whether the food took a long time to arrive because of the time taken to prepare the food, or that the wait staff had simply forgotten to put in our orders. Later, I realised that the kitchen was on the first floor and the poor wait staff had to climb up and down 3 flights of staircases just to to put in their orders, collect the food and return the dirty dishes.

We are so used to living in a fast-paced environment that we have forgotten that not every country and culture has the same heartbeat (is this the right expression…? :-)) and what we think is slow or fast is relative to our living habits.  Anyway, we are on holiday and could afford to wait.  I took the time to take plenty of photographs of the cafe and the panoramic rooftop view of the cafe’s surroundings – which I have now lost.


Old School Wanton Noodles

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Depending on which you prefer, this local dish can be called ‘wan-tan noodles’ or ‘wan-ton noodles’ or ‘won-ton noodles’, or shrimp dumpling noodles. In Singapore, the first two names are more common than the last one. Some of my Caucasian friends who live here are amused to hear that they are eating ‘wan-ton noodles’ – “why do you guys call your noodles ‘promiscuous’?”

I love wan-ton noodles, the dry version using mee pok (flat noodles similar to fettucine) with lots of chili. There was a period of time in college when I ate this every single day for lunch for a period of 3 months because I liked it. (I am a bit extreme – if I like a dish, I can and will eat it everyday.)

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to what they like about wan-ton noodles. Some folks are particular about the quality of the char siew while others are fussy about the size and taste of the wan-tons. Me? I am fussy about the bite of the noodles and the flavour of the sauce. I prefer the Singapore version which uses tomato ketchup, chili sauce and sesame oil in the sauce. The Malaysian version omits tomato ketchup and uses mainly dark soya sauce and usually comes with deep-fried wantons. I know many friends who love this dark sauce version but I don’t.  My husband prefers the soup version, Hong Kong-style.

It is sad to know that our hawker culture is gradually disappearing. I ate this plate of noodles at a hawker centre in Cambridge Road, cooked by a hawker who is in his 60s. I wonder if I will still get to eat authentic wan-ton noodles (or any other local hawker food) 10 years down the road when the current generation of hawkers retire. I guess we will still have hawkers in the future, just that they will be foreign labour and I am not sure about the authenticity of the flavors.

Promontory@Marina Bay

I bought a Panasonic Lumix GF2 a couple of years back because I wanted a small camera but had capabilities similar to that of a DSLR. I wanted to be able to bring along a camera in my handbag so that I could snap photographs as I go along my daily life. However, the experience with the camera hasn’t been positive and I have been toying with the idea of selling it. I wasn’t satisfied with the quality and colour of the images that my GF2 has been producing. Some camera-phile friends think that there might be a problem with the focusing function of the camera and have suggested that I send it to the service centre. I am going to do just that soon.

Last week, on a whim, I took the GF2 to work with me. On my walk to between MBS and the MBFC during my lunch-hour, I saw these boats at the Marina Bay promontory. A sailing event! It was the Extreme Sailing Series and Singapore was part of Team Aberdeen. So instead of hurrying back to work, I paused and took some photos of the boats sailing right in the middle of the Central Business District, on the Singapore River. I thought the skyscrapers formed a fantastic backdrop for the sailboats.

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There was a period of time in my life when I spent time at a sailing club scrubbing the hull of a catamaran. I have also gone out to sea in a catamaran, a laser and a bigger boat (the sort with a cabin but I cannot remember the name now), and capsized in the middle of sea. For someone who hates the sea and can barely keep her head afloat in water, these experiences are amongst my life’s greatest achievements. 🙂 Watching these sailors brought back good memories of those sailing days of mine. Nothing will make me get onto a sailing boat now!

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As part of the Extreme Sailing Series event, there were other side events going on in the promontory, including inviting two gourmet food trucks, the Kerbside Gourmet and The Travelling C.O.W., to spend 2 days in that area. I have been excited by the idea of gourmet food trucks and have been looking forward to trying their food. It was great that they were just a short walk away from my work place.

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The problem about food trucks in Singapore is… the weather. Eating under a huge tent in the sweltering heat made it difficult for us to enjoy the experience. One could keel over from heatstroke. I nearly melted into a puddle of fat in the heat. I am gonna try the food again another time, hopefully, in a shady spot. Or I will bring along a portable fan.

Sri Lanka: Tea Country

I decided to tweak the look of this blog a little, by giving it a 2-column look instead of the previous 3-column. I wanted a wider space so that I need not spend time resizing my photographs, especially the landscape format ones, to make them fit a narrower column. Photos also look better when they are larger in size.

After we left the Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya, we drove down the tea country and headed to a tea plantation known as Mackwoods.  It is a beautiful property with a great view of the hills.

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Zooming into the hills through the viewfinder of my camera, I can see the workers in the tea plantation removing each tea leaf by hand. It is a very manual and laborious process, and undertaken only by females. See the huge bags that are attached to their backs.

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The closest I could get with my lens.

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The tea room where all guests are brought to for their complimentary pot of tea.

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We sat down and drank a pot of tea. Orange Pekoe.  Though I am not much of a tea-drinker , this tea was delicious.  Fragrant with a slightly fruity tang to it.

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After tea, we were brought on a short tour of the factory.  I didn’t take photos during the tour – it was too difficult to multi-task, taking photos and listening to what the guide had to say about the tea-making process.

We bought lots of tea to bring home as souvenirs, including two boxes of the Queen’s Jubilee tea. Souvenirs – checked.

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