Monday, July 25, 2005

Second session at the French kitchen

Back from my second session at the restaurant tonight. It was a quiet night with only 3 reservations, but we ended up with a restaurant of 20 pax (quiet night even for a Monday apparently)
I walked in and received some smiles of recognition and to my horror - Celine Dion playing on the stereo! (if you recall, last week was hard rock and this week - song after song of weepy Celine! (i'm not a fan)
I was just about to think the kitchen staff had the temperament of schizophrenics when the souz chef started making faces at R, the french chef obviously responsible for the music, asking him to turn it off. (phew - there are some consistencies I can at least rely on). After much boisterous teasing about R feeling sentimental, going home alone every night, he finally changed his music choice to a 'cafe del mar' type CD. Still in extreme contrast to last week - but better nevertheless!

So let's see - what did I learn tonight?
1) That cold Japanese tomato with Fleur de Sel tastes like pure heaven
(Fleur De Sel is 'cream of the crop' salt that is harvested by hand off the village of Guerande in brittany in July and August, when the sea is calm and the weather conditions are right. It's super super expensive - a small little pack (that looked like 100 g costs apparently $14). I had a taste of it and found that it lacks the bite and 'saltiness' of normal salt. The souz chef puts a pinch of it in his aquarium every few days for his 1 beloved pirhanha!

Japanese Tomato (apparently imported from Tokyo) costs $3 per tomato. I was shocked! I had also tasted nothing like it. Billy Idol let me try a bite after i had asked one question after another about what it tasted like, he sliced me half a tomato, and sprinkled on some fleur de sel. It was mind blowing! It looked like such a plain little starter and something i would have HATED having just because it looked like such poor value for money, but i was so SO wrong.

2) Chives should be sliced in a fast slicing motion (instead of pressed on with a knife when cutting it) to retain their 'freshness'. If you press on them, they become mushy because you have crushed their structure.

3) A dash of Vinegar is drizzled on the sauce for fatty fish like cod and salmon because some acidity is needed to break up the 'fat' of the fish. Lean fish like Seabass don't require this acidity.

4) Basil Oil adds lovely colour to a dish (comes out as a flourescent green oil on the plate)

5) Herbs can be kept fresh after being cut in iced water.

6) Chervil is used as garnishing for almost all dishes.

7) Their amazing raisin walnut bread requires imported organic unbleached flour.

8) A simple 'tool' like a round metal ring (about 2 inches high) can be used for making a 'stack of salad', well contained in the centre of the plate.

9) Squeeze bottles with long thin nozzles are ESSENTIAL for the 'fine art' of plate decor.

10)Black cod with miso paste, chopped mango, onion and tomato makes for a lovely dish (oven baked)

11) So MUCH of fine dining is in the art of 'plating' and presentation. The essence here seems to be good ingredients, simplicity, and taking pains to 'present' it in the best way possible.

12) Balsamic glaze requires balsamic vinegar with some icing sugar (v handy for plate decor - a few fast streaks across the plate does wonders!)

I'm less nervous around the kitchen staff now. I ventured into the pastry section this time. This took a bit of courage because this domain belongs to the only other female in this kitchen who talks brash, blunt and someone you really don't want to get on the wrong side of. I suspect this is what is needed in the kitchen if female. A lady who can weather the most testerone charged of environments. Surprisingly, she was very welcoming, answered all my nosy questions in good humour. I noticed that she had large callouses and cuts on her hand, to which she said 'I'm allergic to flour'. Needless to say, I didn't think she was the sunniest of personalities and no wonder. A pastry / dessert / bread chef who's allerfic to flour!

I didn't do much tonight, but I am certainly learning. Slowly but surely. I wrapped up the night with my last task for the night- wrapping cling film over the steel containers of gravy.

The virtues of cooking

I was a piggy all weekend. I went home to see my parents (in KL) and had a variety of different foods ranging from wood fire pizza to chocolate molten cake to durian, mangosteens and rambutans to king prawn noodles to pork chops to vietnamese set lunch, to Penang hawker food. And i did no cooking and much to my dismay, forgot my camera and have only a bloated belly to prove my weekend indulgence (again! again!)

So my post for today is to share something i read in 'Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone' by Deborah Madison:

'Why Cook'?

'Practically speaking, if you're concerned about the quality of the food you eat, cooking should be of vital importance for it's the only way you can really know what you're eating. If money is a consideration, your home cooked food will cost less than eating out or buying packaged food. There's also satisfaction in taking responsibility for what we eat instead of turning it over to others. Further, cooking a meal produces immediate results, unlike many of our jobs. After a long day of routine work, many people find the creative act of cooking a relaxing change of pace that restores their energy. It's a gift to be able to cook for others - and it's wonderful to be cooked for.'

I thought i'd post this because this really hits home.
So now that i'm back in the safe confines of my own kitchen, i'm back on the roll to share my next adventure!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

My first 'kitchen internship'

You might have read about my dinner date at Saint Pierre (post titled My Weekend of Indulgence) - a French restaurant in Singapore renowned for its fine French cuisine.
What i didn't mention was that i had asked the restaurant manager that night if they allowed people into their kitchen for internships. I was surprised at how open they were to the idea. She had asked me to email the owner/chef- Emmanuel Stroobant to propose the idea to him.

And so I did. After an email, a phone call and a chat, we agreed that I could come on Monday night to 'help out'. He warned me that 'you should know zat when you are ze guest, i divide myself into four to pleeze you, but when you are in my keetchen, you work for me and i am tough. In my keetchen, it's very hot and my cooks are like aneemals. it eez like a Zoo.'(imagine french accent, spoken at a fast pace).

Objective of doing this?
I went home and had to think very hard about what i wanted to get out of this 'expeerienze'. I really did not want to cop out after 1 session but I also needed to know what this was all for given that i have no aspirations of owning a restaurant. I concluded that:
1) I might learn some valuable lessons on cooking / plating/ baking / chopping / ingredients etc
2) I would have a really good understanding of what it's like in a kitchen of a fine dining restaurant. If not to put to use, then just to know. (Besides, it makes for good dinner conversation!)
3) It might just change my life. I had no idea in what way - but what did i get out of not committing to this? (apart from one more thing i'd be ignorant about?)

Monday Night in the Kitchen
And hence i found myself on a Monday evening, waiting nervously for Mr Stroobant himself at the restaurant reception area to meet me. i was a teeny bit worried about what i had signed myself up for when the alternative would have been comfort food in front of the tv. I will henceforth refer to him as Billy Idol. He really does remind me of a rock star. All spiky peroxide blonde hair, alert blue eyes, brimming over with energy such that he looks like he's ready to pounce on stage and PERFORM.

He looks at me, smiles and says 'you need a chef uniform?' i nodded thinking 'wow! chef uniform! i get to wear a real one!' and he comes back with a heavy black 2 piece that i put on in the toilet. Made from material that is thicker than winter curtains, i later learned that they are made from material that don't catch fire, protects you against spitting oil and boiling stock and any other kitchen mishaps.

The Kitchen
Billy Idol introduced me to the kitchen and his staff. There was the souz chef, a burly guy with a goatie. A thin gaunt looking french man overlooking the meat and fish section, another younger french man overlooking the vegetables and pan frying section, a chinese man overseeing the garnishings and 'fine art' of the dishes and the one lady in the kitchen that overlooked the pastries, desserts and breads. Finally, Billy Idol -the conductor overseeing his powerful quintet.

I walked into the kitchen to 'We will Rock You' blasting from a corner of the kitchen. The men all looked up, gave me polite smiles and Mathhiue (french man - young,kind face) gave me my first job. Putting salmon into a plastic bag and placing in vacuum pack machine to shrink wrap it. He showed me how - then i tried it myself and it didn't work.
The other french man overlooking the meat and fish section hurried over and did it for me, putting his finger to his lips (suggesting that i should not tell Mathhiue i could not even do such a simple task.)
Great, i thought. First job and i couldn't even get it right!

Other jobs for the night:-
Cleaning (de-bearding) European Mussels (i suspect this is a job someone hates because i was soon splattered with lots of sea mud and tried very hard not to scream when i saw a slug wiggling about amongst the mussels).
- Plucking the vines from a container full of cherry tomatoes from Sicily.
- Peeling potatoes and chopping them into square sticks.
- Slicing puff pastries into 2.
- Wiping down a kitchen counter that had been soaped.

A spot of bullying
I had just finished peeling five potatoes when Billy Idol came over to show me how to 'handle my knife' to slice an onion. As he was saying 'no, no, no - your finger here eez too close', Raphael (thin French man) dumped the peeled potatoes on my chopping board and yelled 'This is WRONG!! Like ZIS!!' and starts peeling away furiously at the potatoes, shaving away the little brown spots i had left on them.
Billy Idol gives me a look that sorta says 'you're in trouble' and quietly says i shouldn't leave any spots on them. As i'm apologetically peeling away at them again, Raphael marches over and starts chopping up a potato into square sticks and says 'cut like zis! now!' so i try my best to follow his instructions, but before long, he's marching over again yelling 'no! no! NO! WRONG! Zees! (he says holding up one of the sticks i had cut') is WRONG! SQUARE! not rectangular! like zees! (holding one that he had cut to demonstrate earlier) Do it right and do it NOW! (shouting)
i sort of see Billy idol looking down with a small smile, and i'm getting the idea that this is part and parcel of the 'initiation' of newbies and I take it all in good stride, head bent, trying REALLY really hard to cut regular square sticks.

Five minutes later Raphael yells again 'I want more potatoes! Quick quick QUICK! NOW NOW!', and i start scrambling to peel more when Billy Idol says 'there's only one order for fries. Stop. Enough'. A look up - look at both of them. Billy idol is smiling.

The potatoes go into the deep fryer and 15 minutes later, i'm handed a bowl with a few french fries and salt by Raphael (tormentor of potato episode) with a wink and a smile.

I think about Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and note that perhaps Anthony's stories were not exaggerated after all!

The atmosphere in the kitchen is high energy, a pace that starts as a slow rumble, builds up to a crescendo with the men shouting at each other a lot (a lot of it in French - and they sure sound like expletives!), Billy Idol shouting out orders and getting a lot of 'yes CHEF's!' in reply, testosterone boiling over in bucketfulls.
Billy Idol is the epitomy of the alpha male, in his movements, his speech, his commanding presence, his energy. (can i just say - yummy?)

In summary, i ended the night feeling good. There was certainly a sense of family amongst the group (despite all the yelling and cursing), and when the desserts starting coming out, the music came back on with the guys nodding away and singing along. Billy idol offered me a glass of red wine and we all sat outside over a ciggie getting to know each other a little bit after the cleaning up had been done.

So this will be a weekly endavour - every Monday night at Saint Pierre. And i promise my next entry on this won't be so lengthy. I just wanted to describe everything i saw that night- it was all so new and interesting. And hopefully, given more time, i'll actually get to learn a few tricks or two (with a lot of yelling in my ear)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A week FULL of cooking

pizza Posted by Picasa

Let's chart my cooking adventures for the week:

Tuesday: Home made pizza (Everything from scratch!)
Wed: 3 course dinner for 4 at my place which comprised of the following:
Crab Omellete
Silken Tofu with grated ginger

Baked Seabass infused with lemon grass and rice wine

Warm Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Saturday: 4 course dinner for 6 at friend's place

I am totally cooked out. I actually walked past a shelve full of new cookbooks today at Borders and almost flinched at the thought of looking at another recipe for the rest of this week!
Good thing it's already Sunday. I'm sure the new cravings to try yet another new recipe will surface soon enough.

Pizza Night
I'm afraid this pic of the pizza looks quite horrendous. Something out of a bad horror full of teenagers and leftover cheap pizza. i almost feel like apologizing to the pizza for completely doing NO justice whatsoever to it's true and simple beauty. It was gorgeous. It totally hit the spot, and I MADE IT ALL FROM SCRATCH.

So you might have detected a smidgen of pride. I've been craving pizza for a while now. and armed with my new 'baking with Julia' cookbook, I was ready to try the pizza dough recipe as my second baking adventure from this book.
The pizza dough was made on a Monday whilst watching yet another few episodes of sex in the city (a newfound discovery for me - yes, i'm behind times,i know).
Dough is really not hard to make - it just takes some careful time planning - you basically need to sit around this bubbling bowl of dough for about 3 hours to see it to its completion. but the operative word here is 'sit around'. There's really nothing to it (especially with a robust little kitchenaid dough hook handy!)

I wrapped the fully risen dough in cling film and refrigerated it overnight, waiting with relish on Tuesday night to experiment with the toppings!

I made 2 different toppings (for 2 different pizza's). The first involved onion confit (recipe also found in Baking with Julia), topped with sliced tomatoes, gourmet pork sausages and a combination of parmesan, mozarella and cheddar cheese.
I had planned to bake this pizza on a terracota tile (the recipe had instrructed for a baking stone - what is a baking stone?) but alas have not managed to find one in Singapore (although truth is that i sent my boyfriend out to find it, and after visiting 2 tile shops, he surrendered proclaiming it was impossible to find!)

So i baked it on a baking tray, which turned out fine, although i'm sure baking it on a tile would have given the 'crisper' effect one normally craves from a wood fire pizza.

The second pizza had a pesto base, topped with sliced tomatoes, sausages, pineapple and the 3 cheeses. I would say I preferred the former combination, but overall - both were delicious, minimised no less by the satisfaction of having made my own pizza of bubbling cheesy heaven!

I'm looking forward to making it again because one can improvise with so many other combinations to come up with a new and interesting pizza! So I do recommend anyone who cares to try this, even if the pic I've posted isn't very appetising!

If anyone wants to know the recipe for pizza dough, let me know and i'll trek to my kitchen and post it.

Saturday Dinner for Six

roasted veg tart Posted by Picasa

With my fellow cooking 'partner' Steph, we decided we would organise a dinner for 6 at her place. We had decided we were never going to do another 'Soul Cravings' dinner again (visit the site soulcravings.blogspot.com) - see under Links where we documented this concept, but knew that we wanted to cook AND eat with our guests, making a night of it.

We invited another couple that Steph had worked with, and planned the menu:

Roasted vegetable Tart

Oxtail stew with Pumpkin Mash
Rocket and Butterhead Salad with a Poppy seed and caramelised onion dressing
Lemongrass, Mint and Lime Sorbet
Espresso Profiteroles and Ice Cream drizzled with a Warm Dark Chocolate Sauce

The starter, sorbet and desert was to be my domain, whilst Steph would focus on the Main course.
After my weekly Sat morning yoga, Steph and I met up at Tekka Market, quite easily the most amazing market in Singapore. There is NOTHING that you can't find here. It's about 40% cheaper than Cold Storage, and the variety is mind boggling. For a food enthusiast, going to Tekka Market for the first time after you've been subjected to limp vegetables and well, dead looking fish at your nearby supermarket is like a kid going to Disney land for the first time.
The vegetables look like they've been freshly plucked from a nearby farm, the herbs don't come in plastic packets in stingy limp proportions, but in big leafy bunches. The fish look quite positively alive and many of the stall owners are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.

I took pictures on Steph's camera, but unfortunately it's on film so it might take us a while to finally get it scanned and posted. I will definitely do an entry on Tekka Market though, because I really do think it's a fascinating place.

Anyway, We bought what we needed for the night, and started preparing once we got home.

Let me start with the Roasted Vegetable Tart.
Make a portion of shortcrust pastry
Chop up aubergine, yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes and courgettes into bite size chunks. Place them in a roasting pan and drizzle over some olive oil and salt.
bake at 375 degrees for half an hour.
Line 6x 10cm tart tins with the shortcrust pastry and bake blind for 15 mins, remove the baking weights, puncture base of tart with a fork and bake for another 10 mins.
Chop up mozarella cheese into bite size chunks, mix into the roasteed vegetables.
Place a teaspoon of pesto sauce into the base of the tart, fill tart with roasted vegetables and bake for another 10 mins.
Remove when the cheese has melted.
Garnish with a Basil leaf.

It was quite tricky removing the tart from it's casing without breaking up the tart altogether, but i managed after my ginger attempts to ease it out. i love this recipe. I think it looks great, and it's a nice little starter.

ox tail stew Posted by Picasa

rocket and lettuce salad Posted by Picasa

profiteroles Posted by Picasa

The Main course was a total success but I'm going to have to get Steph to post the recipe. The ox tail was also purchased from Tekka market, and was stewed to tender perfection, with the meat falling off the bone and madee flavourful by the carrot celery and onion in the stew.

Lemongrass, Lime and Mint Sorbet
My first attempt at sorbet and have to say i was happy with the results! it was probably sweeter than i would have liked, and the recipe I looked up on the net was for a more 'creamy' variety. Steph suggested that she would have preffered a less creamy version, which probably just means ommitting the full cream milk.

Anyway, it was taken from gastronomicmeditations.com

Below is the recipe:
Serves 8 to 10

1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
5 stalks lemongrass, 1 or 2 outer leaves peeled away, coarsely chopped (yield a generous ¼ cup)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, gently packed (tender leaf-end stems are okay)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Pinch of sea salt
1 Tbsp Vodka (optional)
2 cloves (optional)


Prepare an ice bath, by placing a large bowl filled with ice cubes in the sink. Fill the bowl with cold water.

Put the milk, water, sugar, lemongrass and cilantro in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep for 10 minutes. Cool the mixture by placing into the ice bath; stirring the liquid frequently.

Pour the cold mixture into a blender or the bowl of a food processor and add the lime juice and sea salt. Process until lemongrass and cilantro are finely ground and incorporated into the mixture. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, extracting as much liquid as possible from the remaining solids.

The Espresso Profiteroles
These did not 'puff' up as much as I'd hoped. I was supposed to be able to divide these in half and put in a scoop of ice cream in each profiterole, but that didn't quite work out, so i scooped a generous dollop of ice cream over 3 profiteroles and drizzled over the chocolate sauce, which still did the job!

These were my THIRD recipe attempt from my Baking with Julia book (i'm getting real good value out of this purchase) and they were called 'Choux Paste'.

If anyone wants the recipe for this, let me know and i'll post it!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Sunday Dinner with friends

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

These pictures really don't do justice to the food. It's so hard taking presentable pictures when it's hastily taken in front of guests (which i still tend to get a little embarassed about) - harsh flash, blurred image from close ups - no setting up of nice background etc.
Anyway, this was a dinner for 4 at my place - for 2 girlfriends, one of whom i had only met once but had discovered was my neighbour and someone whom I had immediately wanted to get to know better.
It was one of my first weekends in a month where I didn't have to work, and i was ecstatic! I had decided on the outset that the weekend was going to be spent indulging in my 'art'.

Here was the planned menu:

Japanese Eggplant topped with chopped prawns, grilled with a Sake Miso Sauce
Cold soft tofu with grated ginger and a lemon soya sauce topped with spring onions

Grilled Salmon with Otsu


Lemon Delicious Pudding

I wanted to try my hand at a new recipe. The salmon and otsu i had made before (it's truly one of my favourite home made dishes), but the eggplant and the lemon pudding were 'virgin recipes'.

I have to say everything turned out fantastic. Otsu is one of the most amazing dishes i have ever had the pleasure of tasting (and making). It's taken from 101cookbooks.com under the same title. Heidi of 101cookbooks had started her entry for Otsu with the following sentence: 'Listen up close, because I am going to tell you about the best recipe I've come across all year.'

She was not exaggerating.

I would strongly urge ANYONE with an inclination to eat a light noodle dish to make this at least once. It's easy and has an amazing combination of flavours. The salmon - i had made before (as seen in my posting Wednesday night dinner).

The eggplant recipe was taken from the Nobu cookbook i had borrowed from a friend of mine over the weekend. I had watched a chef i was helping out 2 nights before make a beautiful black cod with sake miso sauce and had asked him how he had made the sauce?
He asked me to look it up in the Nobu cookbook, and so when I discovered my girlfriend had the very cookbook sitting on her shelf, I rushed out to borrow it from her.

This eggplant dish is beautiful. And the sauce is really easy to make.
White Miso Paste
Granulated sugar

Heat all ingredients over a pan until the sugar has dissolved.
set aside to cool.

The Lemon Delish Pudding, I made with my girlfriend in mind, who has a totally soft spot for lemon desserts. I also thought a light lemon sweet to finish off a fairly fresh and uncomplicated meal would be the perfect end not. I was convinced this was going to be a disaster, because as I put them into the oven in their respective ramekins, I discovered i had forgotten to add the milk into the batter!
No wonder the batter had looked so strange and eggy.

I quickly retrieved them, poured them back into the mixing bowl, hastily threw in the milk, and hoped for the best. The result was light, 'souffle' like but substantial enough to satisfy the palate for a tangy warm dessert.
The recipe was taken from Donna Hay's cookbook.

My proudest loaf of Bread

 Posted by Picasa

I now know why the phrase 'the best thing since sliced bread' exists. I have finally managed to make a loaf of bread that i can truly say I'm proud of. Eating a slice of this bread fresh out of the oven, warm enough to watch the salted butter melt rapidly into the soft porous texture of the bread had me singing to it. No kidding. I was SINGING to my loaf of bread, humming an unidentifiable tune whilst singing lyrics along the lines of 'you're beautiful'.

You might think I've gone mad, but try this recipe and tell me you disagree. You won't, believe me.

It was taken from a newly purchased book called 'Baking with Julia' that i had spotten in Borders for it's 'sticky pecan bun' recipe (i thought this would give me the sticky soft buns I was looking for from my cinammon bun adventures).
The recipes in this book look a little more complicated than your average baking recipe, but it certainly looked 'credible' and 'professional' and serious enough for me to believe they would produce goodies that would be a cut above the rest.

I haven't tried anything else from this recipe book, but if this bread is anything to go by, I'm telling you bakers out there - go and buy this book!

Anyway, here's the recipe, It's v lengthy, so I'm going to try and summarise it as best I can, but really - it'll be worth your money - go buy the book:

2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
7 cups *approx) bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

mix yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup water in a bowl, whisk to blend.
Working with a mixer with dough hook in place, add remaining 2 cups water and about 3 1/2 cups flour. Mix on low speed.
Add 3 1/2 cups more flour, increase mixer speed to medium and beat until dough comes together.
Add salt and continue to beat and knead for about 10 mins.
When dough is thoroughly mixed, add the butter, a tablespoon at a time.

First rise
Please dough in a large buttered or oiled bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise about 45 mins to 1 hour.

Shaping the dough
deflate dough, and then divide dough into 2 and work with one piece at a time. Rolll out each piece into a rectangular shape. Fold in dough on both sides (vertically) to meet in the middle. Fold in half again and seal the seams. Shape to fit into a loaf pans. Repeat wih other half of dough

Second rise
Cover loaf with oiled plastic wraps and allow to rise in a warm place until they double in size again.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

When loaves are fully risen, bake for 35 to 45 mins.

This bread makes FANTASTIC toast. The butter in it apparently allows the bread to toast to a honey golden brown,

 Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 03, 2005

My Weekend of Indulgence

Image taken from www.saintpierre.com.sg

Continuing on my mission to treat myself well this weekend, Saturday night was spent out on a 'date' with my boyfriend at SaintPierre.
If you visit their site, the home page introduces the chef and owner of Saint Pierre who has become quite a celebrity in the culinary circles in Singapore:

'EMMANUEL Stroobant is the kind of chef whose energy you wish you could siphon into little bottles and sell at some holistic flea market. Even reading his menu takes your breath away - if you think this is an exaggeration, try saying "low temperature roasted canon of lamb scented with purple garlic and summer herbs, pimientos del piquillo, edame beans, lemon confit and roasted pine nuts" in one breath.'

The Chef

We walked into the reception area of the restaurant and were greeted by Emmanuel himself. If you have been watching the cooking shows of today, you'd know that the stereotype image of the overweight and jolly chef doesn't quite prevail today. And if you ever entertained such stereotypes to begin with, Emmanuel would be the first to dispel these illusions.

Here's a chef that looks more like a rock star / Hollywood actor than someone who spends most of his time in a kitchen. Think Billy Idol without the snarl and leather- all blond and spiky hair and piercing blue eyes. He'd met my boyfriend before on several ocassions and warmly invited us to our table, asking us if we needed any guidance with the menu, highlighting that the restaurant's signature dish was their Foie Gras Classique. He also mentioned that their special for the night was the Wagyu beef cooked with slices of pan fried foie gras. His eyes lit up as he described it, adding with a slight wince 'But it is very fatty. It's not lean meat'. At this point I broke into a huge smile. 'I'm not on a diet,' I said. And couldn't have meant it more!

Wagyu Beef

Let me tell you a bit about Wagyu Beef. Known as the 'caviar of beef', wagyu beef has been described as follows:

"Wagyu meat is striking because of its wonderful marbling which results in a never-before-experienced succulence that sends the taste buds reeling. The fat in the meat has more monounsaturated fats and melts at room temperature which makes Wagyu beef suitable as part of a lower-cholesterol diet.
The high degree of marbling adds an extraordinary depth of flavour which makes Wagyu beef a culinary delicacy."

I had recently had a conversation with a friend that had grown up in Japan,talking about the wonders and beauty of Kobe beef and Wagyu beef. We talked about the cattle being massaged and fed with beer, which resulted in their tender flesh. What i didn't know was whether Kobe Beef and Wagyu beef were the same thing? I know both were horrendously expensive, but what was the difference? (if there was any?)

Here's what I found on the net:

All Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe beef.

All Wagyu beef is not created equal … if you’re looking for is best-quality Wagyu, you should expect to pay $100 or more per pound. Wagyu for $30.00 per pound? It’s just not the same.
You may already be familiar with the famed Japanese Kobe beef — the most expensive beef in the world. Wagyu is the same breed stock that yields Kobe beef. However, to earn the appellation of Kobe beef, the cattle must be raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture and its production must conform to standards imposed within that region.

Because of the scarcity and expense of open land and the high price of grain in Japan, Wagyu cattle have been raised successfully in Australia and the U.S. to meet the growing demand for this pricey delicacy.

Our Meal
I gave in to ordering the Wagyu. I figured that if I was going to indulgence in a fine restaurant, I might as well try Wagyu beef for the first time! I did not even ask what the price was - it was not featured on the menu, and this was not the kind of restaurant that had a chalk board mounted on the wall with the day's specials. I dived in and figured I'd make the money back later anyhow!
My boyfriend ordered the Cassoulet, a typical pork filled French meal I had read about before but had never tried.

I LOVED my Wagyu beef, served with pan friend foie gras. Thin Slices of almost rare marbled beef, paired with succulent foie gras that melted in my mouth. It did not disappoint and it was heavenly. The kind of meal you ate in small bites, closing your eyes in a beef filled rapture.

The cassoulet however, was not my cup of tea at all. To me, it tasted like barbequed pork you get at hawker centres with Char siew - except this was dry and came in huge porky salty chunks, paired with cassoulet beans (not a favourite of mine either),

I had not brought my camera with me, and teased my boyfriend about whether he would be embarassed if I started snapping away at my plate of food like an over zealous culinary tourist!

The Walnut Raisin Bread
Good bread is always a perk of fancy restaurants. The walnut raisin bread served here was one of the most delicious breads I've ever had. The waitress did not stop coming back to offer more slices of warm bread until I had to plead with her to stop!
The butter that was served was also the best butter I've ever tried. Apparently semi salted French butter available at places like Culina.

It was probably because of the bread that neither my boyfriend nor I could fit in dessert. I had a quick flick through the dessert menu and had not found anything I really wanted to try anyway. Crepe Suzette is not a favourite of mine.

Overall verdict, a good restaurant that takes pride in their food. The staff were friendly, but I have to admit not totally knowledgeable. For their signature dishes (foie gras) one cannot fault them and the special - was divine.
And I have made it a not too distant mission to master a walnut raisin loaf like the one served there. With good conversation thrown in revolving around subjects like being a 'citizen of the world' and 'Americanism' - it was a lovely dinner date.
Oh yes, and extremely expensive!

Me in A Kitchen

kitchen Posted by Picasa
This was one of the pics taken of me for the shoot. I thought i'd post it since it's in the kitchen and therefore 'relevant'.
If i had a kitchen like this, I would be a very happy chappy, but unfortunately this was a 'model' kitchen with the 'dream' centrepiece chopping area.
my kitchen is about 1 tenth of the size.

More Apple Streusel Muffins!

Apple Streusel Posted by Picasa

This was my 'saviour batch' after my blueberry muffins fell apart. If you think these look good, look below for the detailed posting on this. I've decided this is one of my best recipes for muffins. Fool proof, esthetically pleasing and totally totally YUMMY!

Blueberry and Lindt Dark Chocolate Muffins

Blueberry dark chocolate muffin Posted by Picasa

Another installment of muffins for this weekend's delivery. I had bought a packet of Blueberries last week. I have avoided doing so for a while, figuring that it wasn't financially viable for my 'muffin business' to use a fruit that was sold at such a high price in Singapore. I wasn't sure what recipe to use for these blueberries. I had a recipe downloaded from baking911.com that asked for 1 pint of blueberries (i had 125g of blueberries and was pretty sure that didn't translate to 1 pint), so i quickly discarded the recipe.

The batter mix Posted by Picasa

I decided to 'live on the wild side' for this one, adapting from a recipe I had seen for rasberry and white chocolate muffins, figuring that replacing this with blueberries and dark chocolate couldn't be too much of a bad thing.
Although the picture shows a fairly decent looking muffin, what it doesn't show was that they actually have tattered bottoms.

When I tried to lift the muffins out of their tins, they crumbled and collapsed, the bottoms sticking to the pans and crumbling as I tried to ease them out of their moulds.
I'm not sure what was the cause. My guess is a few things: the blueberries and dark chocolate chunks were too large, resulting in the muffin not holding together easily, -or perhaps it was the sort of muffin that had to be baked in their paper lined cups (as advised in the recipe).

The combination tasted fine, but the use of canola oil somehow didn't taste right. Not my best attempt, which is why I won't bother including the recipe. I don't think i'll try this again. Because of the crumbling bottoms, I couldn't deliver these and had to bake a whole new batch for Sunday's delivery!
But if anyone's curious to try these, let me know and I'll post the recipe (For rasberry and white choc muffins!)

A big waste of good quality Lindt Chocolate too!