Monday, 20 October 2014

Dessert Spot: Two Bakers at 88 Horne Rd, Singapore 209083

Fresh out of the oven and into the neighbourhood I discovered today a new bistro/cafe called Two Bakers featuring house-made cakes, pastries and savory food. The place's so new it still had congratulatory flowers at the entrance but it doesn't hurt to have another place to get some decent coffee (they brew coffees with beans from Stranger's Reunion) in the very trendy Jalan Besar neighbourhood. Watch out, CSHH, The Bravery, Windowsill Pies and Tiramisu Hero! New kid on the block!

The shophouse had every trappings of a hipster cafe, but I liked the space because its quite airy and spacious. No food smells spilling out from their kitchen despite them having a lunch menu, which is always very good.


It's Halloween soon, hence the festive decorations, which is all very cute.


Here are their selection of cakes/pastries! Not much left, probably because there was a moderate lunch crowd when we visited after our Longhouse duck rice lunch at the coffeeshop opposite.

According to their Facebook Page, Two Bakers serves up "French and American pastries that are lovingly handcrafted and baked fresh daily in the cafe by two Le Cordon Bleu Paris trained chefs." They only use French butter and other high quality ingredients. And they can also do custom cakes using 3D fondant and caters for events.


Prices are honestly a bit steep, but they've rent and electricity bills to pay. The amount of effort and experience to create an exquisite pastry also comes as part of the price. Here's their newly minted menu. I hope they will have lunch sets soon! Their savoury items looked really interesting, especially the Sriracha Chicken Salad, Tau Yu Bak sandwich and Croque "Ah ma". LOL. Luncheon fries for tea time snack also sounds perfect.


There's beers and coffee too! Prices are normal.


I ordered a Salted Caramel Eclair ($5) to share with my colleague because we were too full for anything else after lunch. It was pretty good! Most importantly it wasn't too sweet, and I could tasted the caramel flavour. The cream filling inside was also light and fresh, so I didn't feel like I've committed a big sin by having this.

Source: Two Bakers Facebook Page



Looks like a great place to chill out, have some coffee and tea and smell the cakes. I'll be back to review their savoury items!
Two Bakers
88 Horne Road, Singapore 209083
+65 6293 0329
11am to 9pm on Mon, Wed, Thursdays
Closed on Tuesdays
11am to 11pm on Fridays, Saturdays 
11am to 9pm on Sundays

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Event Report: HPB launches Life is sweeter with less sugar campaign

I am so happy that our Health Promotion Board has finally kicked off the “Life’s sweeter with less sugar” campaign that encourages people to consume less sugar beverages in one of the most popular places to eat out at – the ubiquitous coffeeshop! In case you don’t know, sugar is one of the biggest and most insidious culprits in today’s modern Singaporean diet.

In Jamie Oliver’s 2010 TED talk, he wheeled out a wheelbarrow of sugar to describe a primary school kid’s year of sugar intake (21th minute onwards). That is A LOT, and a powerful visualization of just how much of that white stuff we consume.

In case you didn’t know, sugar is also more addictive than cocaine among rats, and can affect your memory. But the problem in Singapore is that most people do not realize how much sugar they are consuming!

For example. A can of soft drink can easily have 9 of these sugar cubes, or 7 teaspoons of sugar.

A teh tarik at your local kopitiam can have up to 5.5 cubes (20g). And that’s just one drink. In many instances, people will be having a morning kopi/teh, and then a soft drink for lunch, and maybe even one for dinner! That’s a super high amount of hidden sugars just from drinks alone. Not to mention sugar from other sources such as fruits, and even food (e.g. sugar in sweet/sour pork)

The WHO guideline for an adult’s daily sugar intake would have been zero if they could get away with it, I’m sure, but instead it is at a limit of up to 6 teaspoons, or 24 grams per day.

Instead of cutting sugar out completely from your diet though (we already established that it’s addictive right?), a good way to lead a healthier lifestyle is to start to cut down on the sugar intake gradually.

And this is where the Health Promotion Board’s Life's Sweeter with Less Sugar campaign comes into play to encourage people to choose unsweetened or less sugary (‘siu dai’ or ‘kosong’) drinks by rewarding them! For every purchase of a qualifying drink from any participating coffeeshop, cafes, food kiosk, canteens (it’s almost island-wide!), get a scratch and win card and stand to win shopping vouchers of up to $300 or discounts off your next drink.


I attended the launch of the campaign over the weekend at a coffeeshop where Minister Mr. Gan Kim Yong and CEO of HPB Mr. Zee as well as other guests gave a big healthy toast to all attendees.



I also ordered a low-sugar drink at the drinks stall, where if you see these signs below would mean they are participating in this programme.


I got myself a scratch card together with my “teh peng siu dai” (hot morning, need ice).

Here it is! Unfortunately I did not win this time round, so I’ll try again next time.



The promotion runs until February 2015, so plenty of chances to win. But from 17 October till 13 November, HPB is also running a “Life is Sweet” selfie contest on their Facebook Page. Simply submit a selfie with your healthier drink on this Facebook Post, comment on why you prefer that and tag at least 3 friends. You may just win an iPad Air. What’s more, there is a bonus prize of $150 worth of vouchers for the most number of friends tagged!

For more details visit: www.drinkhealthy.sg

Good luck, and remember - it’s best to be sweet in person than to drink sweet drinks!

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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

7 tips on how to engage food bloggers

So I was inspired after reading Alvin's article on "10 tips on how to engage bloggers" to come up with one for food bloggers specifically. He had made quite a lot of salient points in there (especially the time/location of invite and providing soft copy info), but I'll like to add on with some tips specifically if you own a F&B, or would like to engage food/lifestyle bloggers to write about a F&B place on behalf of your client.



1. Don't just send a media FYI in hopes that we'll be writing about it. It will often just be an FYI. If it's big enough, it should warrant an invite. That being said, sometimes these PR emails can look and read horribly. Nothing's better than a simple 3 paragraph email with what's important, the date/time, and deadline to respond to. No need for clipart photos. Or horrible grammar and spellingz.

2. Be clear whether its a group, individual or hosted event. Because it depends on what sort of arrangements we'll need to make.

3. Host appropriately. Don't sit and stare while two people are eating, but also don't just invite a blogger and leave him/her to figure out what is what, and even the staff/manager is clueless. Worst still if it is a group of food bloggers left to sit together without someone leading the conversation. Hosting a dinner well is really quite a skill, which not everyone has. This is where this particular type of PR is different from other PR due to the dinner host skills. 

4. Show food in the best light possible. Think ahead to what the blogger will need for a good blog post, other than good food of course. Information, and photos. Be sure to provide adequate lighting for the dishes and make sure the kitchen knows that they will be photographed. Also try to keep the area conducive for talking - nothing beats shouting across the table on what the dish is all about. It also helps if you know what the dish is about instead of say, this is roast chicken and I'm not sure who made it, and why it is made this way.

5. Portioning. Most restaurants would want to serve full portions and there is nothing wrong with sharing if its easy to portion, otherwise make sure tasting portions are provided with another one for photographing. Also, make sure dishes are kept to a manageable amount (unless it is a buffet of course), because I find that when its more than 5 courses it's hard to focus (plus the blog post gets really really long). The temptation to let all the dishes be reviewed will definitely be there, but you've got to pick your battles and send your best soldiers in.

6. Promotions should be available for at least a month, unless specified in advance that it is a 3 day guest feature, or 1 week promo. Otherwise there's no point for a blogger to review the promo deal or special dish if it will be gone soon - here is when bloggers are similar to traditional media in that you've got to give some lead time for their editorial schedule. It is very rare to get bloggers who can do a 1 week turn around (back to Alvin's point on us having day jobs).

7. Offer a promo for the blogger's readers just in a form of a quote to the cashier like "I read this from Alexischeong". Not only does it give the blogger incentive to share with his/her readers in a timely fashion and the readers an incentive to remember the post, it also gives your PR efforts a direct line to the return on investment. Unless you are a big food chain, most restaurants should be able to manage to give a discount, and recognize/track them.

That's it! I hope this is useful. Let me know which tip you'd agree with, and if there's anymore to add!
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Monday, 13 October 2014

Video Review: Pioneer Slim Micro System X-SMC11-K Speakers

Hi guys! I was sent a lovely gadget to review recently, and that’s the Pioneer Slim Micro System X-SMC11-K speakers (RRP $319 incl delivery via Courts e-store). I’ve been testing it out the past couple of weeks and a full review will be posted soon, but meanwhile here’s a short clip of how it looks and sound.

Hope you enjoyed the review!

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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Review: Mouth Restaurant Treasure Pot Feast 九大簋 at China Square, Singapore 048421

Despite the fact that more than 70% of Singaporeans are Chinese, there is a surprisingly little amount of good Chinese restaurants for diners nowadays to visit, in proportion. Which is good (we're an international buffet of cuisines) and bad (cos good Chinese food is awesome!). I am glad to say Mouth Restaurant has been one of those Chinese restaurants that has managed to stand on its own and do very well even though the F&B scene is so competitive and you have Crystal Jades and Imperial Treasures popping up left right and center in malls.

There are having a promotion now which is GREAT for all of us filial sons and daughters to bring out parents/grandparents/family out for a meal. It is a 9-course Treasure Pot Feast 九大簋 which is $31.80++ per pax (for 6 to 9pax) or $29.80++ (for more than 10pax). You can grab the deal here, and don't say I never share!

When I was invited  to try out the feast myself, it was for a weekend lunch, and boy was it sumptuous! It almost rendered me unable to eat dinner, haha.

We started by getting our hands dirty (metaphorically of course, gloves were given!) by trying out the hairy crab (not part of the 9-course feast which has suckling pig instead, but since they are in season crab lovers are in luck!). Personally I don't really know how to eat crabs properly so it is a little wasted on me, but those who do were happy with it! I also found out that hairy crabs are actually quite rare as they only come from specific regions in China, and there could be fakes on the market sometimes, so do go to places that procure it from legit sources, like Mouth Restaurant.


Next, some delicious sharks' fin soup that elders would love to have. I am happy to say that there's not a lot of sharks' fin inside, since that's the most useless part of the soup. It's everything else that gave the broth the rich flavor (no MSG needed for sure!)


We then had a Chinese old time classic - the Nostalgia Whole Prawn, where the entire prawn is stuck on toast! It's really well done - the toast wasn't too oily and the prawn was crunchy and fresh. In fact this might be my favorite dish among all.


There's also some greens, in the form of the Sauteed Asparagus with Wild Mushrooms in Truffle. Yes, truffle! That's quite a rare item to be used in Chinese cuisine, but it did surprising well with the asparagus (also done in the Chinese style). This style of cooking vegetables will really test the skill of the chef, seeing that if the 'fire' is too strong it might get overcooked and watery, and if its undercooked the asparagus will be quite dry and tough. Props to the kitchen for whipping it up just nice.


We then had some silky and soft Traditional Braised Pi Pa Tofu. I think I can see why it looked like a pi pa, the Chinese instrument. This dish I liked too, because tofu can be delicious! I'm sure older folks with not so strong teeth will also appreciate it.


Then, a head turner arrived. The Sauteed Basil Grouper Fish Meat in 3 Cup Sauce which was probably one of those shiok shiok dishes you can have with a bowl of rice, and be very happy. It was sizzling in the pot when it came to the table. The grouper was so unbelievably fresh -- there's absolutely no stale fishy taste. This dish alone makes the feast worth its money!


Then something that I've not really had positive experiences with, and tend to stay away from. Sea cucumbers! As the owner was dining with us he shared how there are many unethical and disgusting practices to treat this original delicacy which gives rise to a stink in their name. But here, the Braised Trio Sea Treasure in Abalone Sauce was made with authentic and the freshest sea cucumbers (mini sized) which was smooth and not at all gross! Again, older folks will probably love to have it. 


For carbs, there's also the Hong Kong Temple Street Claypot Rice which came in this huge pot covered with scallions. Nothing super spectacular about it, but tasty and flavorful enough to complement the rest of the feast. 


Lastly, we ended the meal with the Legendary Liu Sha Bao (salted egg custard bun). Yes, the Legendary is part of the name, and wait for it.. it's really legendary. The bun, unlike other places, is fried lightly so it becomes this golden shrine to encase the flowing liquid inside made with high quality butter (NOT margerine) and salted egg yolk. 

If there's one liu sha bao to be had in Chinatown, it will be from Mouth Restaurant's.


We also had nice round ending to the meal with some Doubled Boiled Ginger Tea with Glutinous Rice Ball (sesame). I liked how the ginger tea helps with the digestion (needed it!) The rice ball itself was standard.


Out of curiosity we also tried the Squid Ink Char Siew Bao which is not part of the feast. I had a tiny taste since I was already like a "bao" myself at the end of the lunch. The squid ink taste was not perceptible, but it makes for a unique look to the bao. I liked the honeyed pork inside too.


Mouth Restaurant is one of those solid, classic Chinese restaurant to get your traditional Chinese cuisine and dim sum from. It's good to bring your family there for a meal, and even to bring tourist friends to try out a sample of what a "Singaporean Chinese" meal can taste like. Don't forget to check out their promo!
Mouth Restaurant 地茂馆
China Square Central, South Bridge Court Shop House, 
22 Cross Street, #01-61, Singapore 048421
Tel: +65 64385798
Weekdays: 1130am -3pm, 6pm - 10pm
Weekends & PH: 10am - 10pm

Thanks to Mouth Restaurant and Derrick/sgfoodonfoot for inviting me!

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Travel: アレクシスTOYKO TRIPPING GUIDE 2014

Hi guys! This is a rough guide of places to go, eat, and visit if you want to visit Toyko, compiled from several of my colleagues and friends who visited it recently. Hope this is helpful, enjoy!
----

Part One: MY ITINERARY 

Getting to/from Shinjuku JR "East" Exit and Haneda Airport

By Keikyu Railways
1 transfer, 45 minutes, 610 yen, frequent connections
Last connection of the day leaves international terminal at 0:01
Take the JR Yamanote Line from Shinjuku Station to Shinagawa Station (20 minutes, 200 yen) and transfer to the Keikyu Airport Line to Haneda Airport (20 minutes, 410 yen).

By Tokyo Monorail
1 transfer, 40-50 minutes, 690-700 yen, frequent connections
Last connection of the day leaves international terminal at 0:10
Take the JR Yamanote Line from Shinjuku Station to Hamamatsucho Station (25 minutes, 200 yen) and transfer to the Tokyo Monorail to Haneda Airport (20 minutes, 490 yen). Instead of the Yamanote Line you can also take the Oedo Subway Line between Shinjuku and Daimon Station just next to Hamamatsucho Station (15 minutes, 210 yen).

Day 1, Sunday - Tsujiki and Harajuku

Lunch at Tsujiki Market (can skip if the good places are not open)
Lotteria cheese burger for snack – Best. fast. food. burger.
Tea at La Fe Delice on Cat street near Kiddy Land (kiddy land is where you buy all the cool jap toys)
http://lafeedelice.com
Crepes from the streets of Harajuku

Dinner at 
Shinjuku Numazukou (hard place to find but worth it)

Day 2, Monday - Hakone

Buy free pass from Shinjuku Station (West Exit) 
1st floor (Ground Floor),
Odakyu Railway Shinjuku Station West Exit
Food stuff not sure but quite fun to take the different modes of transport.

Day 3, Tuesday - Tokyo
Early lunch, Midori sushi at 10.30am (MUST GO)

The Shibuya outlet is inside a shopping centre called Mark City. If you are going that outlet, must go early like 1030am sharp. They open at 11am so you get in for the first sitting, if not have to queue for a long time.
http://www.sushinomidori.co.jp/shibuya.html

Tokyu Hands Takashimaya (Shinjuku South Exit) – can skip if not crafty.
Also shopping at Isetan, Takashimaya... Tokyo Banana can be bought at basement of malls

Early dinner, Fu Un Ji tsukemen at Shinjuku is so good!
http://www.fu-unji.com
http://www.ramenadventures.com/2010/11/fuunji-in-shinuku.html

Akhibahra... Yodabashi Camera...

Day 4, Wednesday - Tokyo

Ichiran ramen lunch at Shibuya 
3 minute walk from JR Shibuya Station (Hachiko Exit)
http://www.ichiran.co.jp/english/html/kt_shibuya.html
Tokyo Metropolitan Building (if you still want to see good views of Tokyo)

Yasukuni Shrine is located a short walk from Kudanshita Station on the Hanzomon, Tozai and Shinjuku Subway Lines.

From Tokyo Station 
Take the Marunouchi Subway Line from Tokyo Station to Otemachi (1 minute) and then the Hanzomon Subway Line to Kudanshita Station (4 minutes). The one way fare is 170 yen.

From Shinjuku Station 
Take the Shinjuku Subway Line directly from Shinjuku to Kudanshita Station. The one way trip takes 8 minutes and costs 210 yen.

Streamer Coffee at 1-20-28 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Yakitori dinner at Yurakucho
The Yurakucho District surrounds Yurakucho Station on the JR Yamanote Line, the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line and the Yurakucho Subway Line. The area is also accessible via Ginza Station on the Marunouchi and Hibiya Subway lines, and Hibiya Station on the Hibiya Subway line.

Nenohi at 2-3-3, Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
or TonTon at 有楽町2-1-20, Yūrakuchō, Tōkyō-to

Post-dinner Red-light district walk at Kabukicho http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabukichō,_Tokyo 

PART TWO: BY FOOD TYPES
For Tonkatsu - Maisen http://mai-sen.com/ (must reserve) at Omotesando (opposite Harajuku) is the BEST IN TOYKO

For Ramen - Kyuushu Jangara* - http://www.kyusyujangara.co.jp/
*I think it's not mind blowing but still pretty good; if you like thin ramen noodles which Kyuushu is known for, then you'll like it.

For Sushi

Sushi Zanmai – http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/ at Akihabara and Tsukiji Market
http://tummyfull.blogspot.sg/2012/07/sushi-zanmai-akihabara-tokyo.html
Affordable, fresh, very delicious. It's a chain, but it's the most delicious chain you'll ever come across.

Sushi Bun  – If you're going to Tsukiji; but don't go too late. They close by early afternoon. You will read about others like Sushi Daiwa and Sushi Dai, but Sushi Bun is better than both for my colleague.

Ganso Sushi 元祖寿司 (Shinjuku South Exit) -- many other outlets across the country across the road- it's beside yoshinoya. Many Singaporeans kept eating here because it's 2 mins away from Sunroute Shinjuku hehe.

For Shabu Shabu

Onyasai - http://www.onyasai.com/
The tofu and spicy soup base are the yummiest.

For Tempura

Daikokuya 大黒家 – Different kind of tempura because they fry it in a special sauce. Still delicious.

Sansada 三定 – This is the usual type of tempura we are familiar with

Owariya 尾張家 – If you're looking for Soba plus Tempura

All the above are in Asakusa, an area you should check out; it'll bring you back to olden Tokyo days.

For Yakiniku

Jojoen - They have many outlets around Japan. There are a few at Shinjuku and I have been to this one with quite a nice view: 京都新宿区西新宿1-5-1 小田急新宿西口駅前ビル8階 http://www.jojoen.co.jp/

For Cafes

Chachanoma at Omotesando

Brooklyn Parlour at Shinjuku - It’s at the basement of marui dept store so if you are shopping in or around there can go have coffee and cakes. http://www.brooklynparlor.co.jp/shinjuku/

Streamer coffee at Shibuya

For Gyoza

This will make a nice pit stop when you're around Harajuku/Omotesando. It's not the easiest to find but they've been referred to as best gyoza in Tokyo. I like it but it won't blow your mind away. It is after all, gyoza. http://www.picrumb.com/best-restaurants/harajuku/harajuku-gyozaro/

PART FOUR: BY AREA

Nakameguro
Taste and sense Western food http://www.taste-and-sense.com
Have never been only because I fell sick and didn’t have the chance. Heard it’s really nice and it’s just below W+K Tokyo office, so it’s a cool place.

Omotesando
Go to Maisen (tonkatsu) or le bretagne (crepe) for lunch, then go to OK right behind maisen for a hot cup of coffee to hold in the wintry weather as you burabura around the area.
http://mai-sen.com
http://www.le-bretagne.com/e/top.html
http://ooo-koffee.com

Yoyogi
You can go to Arms Burger for lunch then Little Nap is just down the same lane. Can grab a coffee and walk through Yoyogi park to Harajuku. Go Harajuku area on Sunday, there will be more people doing cosplay. They used to gather outside Meiji-Jingu and people can take pics with them but not anymore.
http://www.littlenap.jp
http://www.arms-burger.com/english
  

PART FIVE: THINGS TO DO

Suggest for you to cover Tokyo by areas so its more comprehensive.

Yasukuni Shrine (must go)
Asakusa for old-town Japan
Akihabara for electronics
Tokyo Tower (quite lame, but still cool)
Yebisu Garden Place (beer museum and lots of restaurants)
Tokyu Hands Takashimaya (Shinjuku South Exit)
Ginza Yamaha (if you are going Ginza, you can check it out-- is pretty huge!)
Jazz Places (walking distance from subway) ---
1) Sometime Jazz 
Cover charge depends on who is playing. Check the schedule
http://www.sometime.co.jp/sometime/live.html (Kichijoji)
Directions here http://www.sometime.co.jp/sometime/access.html
2) New York Bar at Park Hyatt (Shinjuku) 2200 cover charge. Drinks are pricey, but band is good, and awesome views
http://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/NewYorkBar.html


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