Whiskey with an E: Two Irish Specimens

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DC’s parents brought back two bottles of Irish whiskey from a recent trip and we were excited to finally try whiskey. The friends who introduced us to whisky are fairly staunch Scotch single malt fanatics and woe betide anyone who dares to spell whisky with an E. Folks, they drink whisky and would never be caught dead with whiskey. Beware the difference!

Now we plebs drink anything whiskey, E or no E. And this is what I think of the Knappogue Castle 12 year old (40%). For a fairly young whiskey, it does really well on the complexity front. The bright yellow-orange liquor gave a first wash of sea salt over the tongue, followed by light smoke and plenty of orange peel and grass. I liked how it was hard and robust, yet had a good whiff of vanilla, with some floral honey notes. I think the hardness I perceived came from the mineral aftertaste that I love so much in white wines like chablis and muscadet. It’s great stuff considering how young it is. I wonder how the older ones fare.

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Next was the Connemara Peated Single Malt (). DC likes it a lot more than me. I’m not sure about it as I feel that while it’s got a lot of peat that I like, it’s rather unbalanced. It’s as if the whiskey was turbo-charged on peat and has little else to offer. Sadly, it doesn’t make my to-collect list.

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Holiday from the Holiday: Stop-over in Kota Kinabalu

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After six days of doing nothing but diving, eating and sleeping, it was time to take a break from the stresses of it all and unwind at a nice resort. We checked in at the Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort to relax and wash our gear. Yes, you saw it right, we like to unwind in a place where we can wash and dry our gear in peace so that we don’t have to deal with it when we get home. It’s nice to really chill out and do nothing while waiting for our wet suits to dry. Here’s the lovely view of the bay from our room.

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We had very decent weather the whole time, with hot, clear days (ideal for drying our stuff) and clouds rolling in only in the evenings. It was lovely how a rainbow hovered over the resort just as we were strolling round checking out places to eat.

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There were two casual dining places at the resort, one was al fresco and only served barbecues, and the other was the cafe where the sumptuous buffet breakfast was served. Lunch here was pretty decent too, with a good selection of western and local favourites. My Sarawak laksa was very decent. Not having been to Sarawak, I wouldn’t know whether it was authentic or not, but I enjoyed what tasted like a cross between curry and mee soto. A winner in my books!

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Sunset here was very beautiful. The resort was built on a shallow bay and the curves dotted with coconut trees looked lovely silhouetted against the evening sun…

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… as did this wader looking out for fish.

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We sat under some coconut trees for happy hour drinks, waiting for sunset to arrive.

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It was lovely to put up our feet and sip our cocktails.

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Post-cocktail shishas and more drinks didn’t hurt either! It was fun messing about blowing out vanilla-scented smoke through our nostrils. No incriminating pictures here though, sorry!

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What a lovely end to our holiday.

Applebee’s

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Ever since spying Applebee’s from across the road at Oriole cafe, I’ve been wanting to check out this American chain diner. I remember reading a blog somewhere in which some random American girl (I know, not a particularly good source) said that it was her all-time favourite and was intrigued since then.

We started off with a Sour ApplebeeTini, an apple-flavoured martini with a cute stick of apple pieces to garnish. It was more apple juice than alcohol and  not particularly sour, though very palatable. This is one of those drinks that you could easily have on an empty stomach, it’s so mild. I’d imagine teenagers would adore this drink. Not your manly man type drink but very apt for the place and the food.

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DC the burger king ordered the Fire Pit Bacon Burger. It was a big burger with an even bigger portion of fries on the side. The seasoned fries were very good: soft inside and crispy outside. It was a good start already. The burger was very well seasoned, though I felt it a tad overcooked. It could be juicier but the melted cheese topping compensated nicely. No big deal with the jalapenos, they hardly added any heat but then again this is Singapore and we’re used to far hotter. I wasn’t very keen on the bacon because it was a bit too burnt and didn’t taste very bacony. But on the whole this was a very good burger with a nicely toasted bun, loads of ingredients that made a mess and excellent fries.

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I had the half rack ribs with Southern BBQ sauce. Those ribs were quite something. They were incredibly soft and tender with the meat practically falling off the bone and coupled with the sweet, smokey BBQ sauce, ambrosial. I don’t normally like sweet mains, but this was an exception. The accompanying coleslaw was surprisingly fresh and good quality. Coupled with the aforementioned excellent fries, this dish seemed pretty faultless to me!

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Now despite our full tummies, we couldn’t leave without trying dessert could we? There was no choice but to share a Maple Butter Blondie. The blondie was served  topped with vanilla ice cream on a hot skillet and maple butter sauce was poured on top to sizzle away. This was one of the few desserts that really worked the contrast between hot and cold, making it very special. I especially loved how the maple butter sauce caramelised on the skillet. Eating that those bits with the crisped up bottom of the blondie with cold creamy ice cream was such a sensation to savour.

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In short, expect loads of good, honest to goodness American food. None of it is gourmet, but it’s got me wanting to go back very soon!

[Edited to include the fajitas.]

So DC and I did go back another day. This time DC had the steak. Don’t bother with that sinewy excuse for meat, just head straight for the fajita combo. This sizzling plate of seasoned rice has lovely strips of beef and chicken nestled on a huge pile of  onions and peppers.

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Accompanying it was a generous plate of four tortillas, shredded cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo (basically onion and tomato salsa), sour cream and shredded lettuce. Making up the tortillas so that I didn’t overstuff them was a big challenge, I’m so greedy. I wanted a bit of everything inside and ended up squishing half the contents onto the plate by the time I got through the tortilla. It was very yummy though, with plenty of spice and smoke from the meat and onions and creaminess from the guacamole and sour cream. There’s enough for two people, so you could try sharing and ordering more starters and desserts. I certainly couldn’t manage a blondie dessert the second time round!

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Applebee’s
111 Somerset Road
#01-11/12 TripleOne Somerset
Tel: 6735 9671

A Breakfast Smoothie

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Carrefour had a strawberry sale, so it was strawberry smoothie for breakfast. Too bad the strawberries weren’t particularly sweet, so I had to add some manuka honey for a herbal kick. Also added in a secret ingredient that really brought out the strawberry flavour. If you can’t figure out what it is, you can use vanilla essence instead. (A rather oblique hint: vanilla essence is the same colour as my secret ingredient.) If not, you could try using better flavoured strawberries, or just swap the strawberries for a good ripe mango. That’s also very good.

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Ingredients:

1 punnet strawberries, washed and hulled
1 tbsp Manuka honey, or to taste
2 tsp secret ingredient, or to taste OR ½ tsp vanilla essence
approx 1 cup milk, or till it covers the fruit

Method:

  1. Easy peasy: just combine all in a tall plastic tumbler and whizz with a stick blender till smooth.
  2. Drink immediately.

Serves 1 or 2.

Basement Restaurants at Liang Court

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I wanted to have Okinawa food again and DC suggested trying Ichibantei at Liang Court. While not strictly an Okinawan restaurants, it served pretty decent food. The deep fried mini prawns were pretty good even though they didn’t quite have the oomph of the version done at Nirai Kanai next door. I liked how they were so crispy everything could be crunched up nicely. The only problem was making sure that I put the prawn in  my mouth tail first, if not I’d get pricked by the spikes on its head.

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The goma salad wasn’t particularly exciting, though the deep fried noodles add a nice touch.

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An unexpected find was the pork belly ramen. I wasn’t expecting much but I liked this quite a lot. The soup was rich and the noodles firm and bouncy. It’s runner up to my favourite at Ken’s.

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Last dish here was the deep fried prawn roll with tai and mentaiko. I liked how the rich grilled mentaiko topping went really well with the prawn. While the tai added a smooth, almost silky dimension, the delicate flavour was a little overwhelmed by the prawn and mentaiko. A bit of a pity as this imaginative dish could have been that much better.

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The desserts at Ichibantei weren’t very inspiring, so we headed over to Tampopo Deli where we tucked into the tart pudding. It was lovely! The tart at the bottom was buttery and nutty (almonds?) and went really well with the rich caramel pudding on top. The syrup topping and real cream gilded the lily incredibly well. It’s a simple pairing that worked incredibly well. Definitely a winner.

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Ichibantei
177 River Valley Road
#B1-50 Liang Court Shopping Centre
Tel: 6338 0393

Tampopo Deli
#B1-16 Liang Court Shopping Centre
Tel: 6338 7386

Privé Cafe

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I’d been meaning to try Privé Cafe for a while and breakfast was as good a meal as any to check it out.  The website says that it opens at 9.00am, so we got there slightly after nine only to be told that while the place was open, only coffee and selected drinks would be served for then. It wouldn’t be till 9.30 that they would take orders for food and other drinks like smoothies. I found it incredibly bizarre because it was a bit silly to open for breakfast and tell people that they could only drink coffee and tea for the first half hour. No smoothies even! How hard is it to load a blender and flick the switch? The manager explained to us that even pastries couldn’t be served because they were still baking. It was obviously a lie because the pastries, while not stale, came at room temperature and the glaze of the Danish pastries were definitely not freshly set. The worst bit of it all was that they did not even offer to take our order first and get it to the kitchen so that our food would arrive just after 9.30. (Back story: we had an elderly person who couldn’t stay out for long, hence the need for speed.)

Well, we finally got round to getting our food and it was decent. The berry smoothie had lots of (frozen) mixed berries blended into vanilla ice cream. It was more of a milkshake than smoothie. My impression of a smoothie is one made with yogurt instead of ice cream, it was a bit too rich for the morning, especially with my main course.

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The stack of pancakes was quite lovely. It was the best I’d had in a while, with each pancake warm and fluffy, accompanied by fresh fruit, softly whipped cream and syrup on the side. A nice touch was the honeycomb bits which really added to the flavour and texture of the dish. All in all very satisfying.

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Discount the odd order-only-at-9.30 policy and not particularly attentive service and the food and ambience are great. It’s lovely to sit by the marina with the sun climbing up over the boats, feeling like it’s going to be a lovely day ahead.

Privé Bakery Cafe
2 Keppel Bay Vista
Marina at Keppel Bay
Tel: 6776 0777
info@prive.com.sg

A Civilised Lunch at The Marmalade Pantry

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The Marmalade Pantry is one of those places to go to when I need a civilised lunch where the food and service are consistent, one of those days when I don’t want any surprises yet want the option of being a bit adventurous.

Having woken up late from a night of whisky, I thought I’d skip breakfast and go straight for lunch then shopping. I went for The Ultimate Beef Burger, medium done. It was a substantial burger, made from scratch not one of those pre-made frozen patties. It had charred cherry tomatoes, pickle and a generous spread of mayonnaise on the soft toasted bun. The french fries were well made, crisp on the outside and softly grainy on the inside. They were soaked in salted water before frying. I prefer them as is so I can sprinkle salt on top instead as I like the little bursts of salt on the tongue better.

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The burger itself was alright, though I felt that it was slightly too done for medium. Even though there were plenty of juices  oozing out as I cut into the patty, it was somehow rather dry in the mouth. The beef was probably too lean. I also found it too salty and there wasn’t a lot of flavour to it. It tasted rather generic, nothing special.

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My mum had the Pan Roasted Red Snapper with Almonds [sic] Herb Crust & Chickpea Salad. She liked it a lot. It’s a perfect light lunch, healthy from the fish and vegetables. It was also great that the complex carbs came from chickpea, a better source of protein and fibre than most grains. The fresh fish went well with the mustard in the  herb crust and the squeaky-crunchy sweet peas.

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For dessert, we had Basil Crepes with Caramelized Bananas. The crepe itself was an almost luminous green from the basil, reminding me of kueh dadar. I was surprised that despite the many flecks of basil in the pancake, there was hardly any basil flavour at all. Nonetheless, the banana and the caramel worked. You can’t go far wrong with soft banana pulp and sweet buttery caramel. The rich vanilla bean ice cream helped a lot too.

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We rounded off the meal with coffee. Check out the cool fern pattern on my caffe latte. I sipped at it carefully, keeping the pattern until about halfway into the cup. The hot coffee flavoured milk was a nice end to the meal.

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The bill came up to $82.85. It’s pricey but that’s what you pay for the decent food, genteel ambience and the Orchard road location.


The Marmalade Pantry

Unit B1-08 to 11
Palais Renaissance
390 Orchard Road
Singapore 238871
Tel: 6734 2700