Category Archives: Brunch

Department of Caffeine

Opened two years back, DOC is increasingly known for making wonderful pancakes and waffles. So when my friend was going through a pancakes craze, I said why don’t we give DOC a shot?

Brunch crowds at DOC are usually pretty long, so it’s wonderful that they are conveniently located at Duxton, surrounded by amazing shops like Flor Patisserie. and Littered With Books. There were about 5 people in the waiting list before us, so we spent the 20 minutes waiting time exploring the area.

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Long Black (S$4.50)

What surprised us about the weekend brunch menu (not the one featured above) was that half their food menu was crossed off. Savoury items like salads and meats were removed, leaving us with the typical brunch fare of waffles/pancakes/French toast and the usual scrambled eggs. It was a tad disappointing. Given the highly saturated brunch scene in Singapore, I would think that most cafés would try to stand out with interesting or slightly unique items. With that narrow a menu, DOC must have a great confidence in those few items.

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Flat White (S$5)

Having had Ronin’s coffee almost daily for the past month, DOC’s fell short. The Long Black was not as fragrant nor as strong. For the newly converted though, it is light enough and not overly acidic. Decent coffee at the very least. The Flat White fared better. The coffee was smooth and creamy, while the foam was really fine. Altogether a pretty well executed cuppa.

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Stuffed French Toast (S$16)

French toast is not usually featured on brunch menus, so we decided to give up on the waffles and have this instead. Essentially slices of brioche stuffed with maple syrup bananas, served with vanilla yogurt, blueberries and toasted almond slivers; this was nothing much to rave about. While Wild Honey uses brioche to their advantage, resulting in a buttery and fluffy French toast, DOC’s brioche fell short. They might as well have used normal bread. The bananas were overly mushy, there was no hint of any maple, and the tart yogurt sauce tipped the dish over. It sounds impressive on words, but a simple thick cut French toast with caramelised bananas, a dollop of yogurt and drizzles of maple syrup would have fared much better.

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B.O.E. (S$20)

Very adorably named “Bit of Everything” thus “B.O.E.”, it’s described as twin nests of premium spanish serrano cured ham & onsen egg and dill dressed smoked salmon with citrus dressing on herb and parmesan english muffins. A decent dish, nothing disastrous and nothing amazing. The combination of smoked salmon and serrano ham in a single dish does lend to the B.O.E. idea, and it very welcomed. We got a taste of everything within a dish. It would have been great to have another egg though cause one is just plain stingy. The downsides are the muffins, which had none of that amazing flavours and was just dense; and the salad which was not seasoned and tasted extremely raw.

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Shepherd’s Pie (S$16)

Smooth melt-in-your mouth mash atop a mess of piping hot saucy mince, this was the most impressive dish of the lot. Having diced vegetables together with the mince, as in a traditional shepherd’s pie, would have made it perfect. That, and a seasoned salad of course.

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This visit’s seen more hits than misses. I have visited on the weekdays though and know they make pretty decent savoury dishes, so there’s definitely more to DOC than their slightly disastrous brunch. For their famed waffles and pancakes, it’s still worth a visit.

Department of Caffeine
15 Duxton Road
Singapore
S(089481)
6223 3426

Mon-Tue: 10:30am-7:30pm
Thurs-Fri: 10:30am-7:30pm
Sat-Sun: 9:30am-7:30pm

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The Fabulous Baker Boy

The Fabulous Baker Boy is not news to brunch junkies. Most famous for it’s cakes, this quaint little bakery cafe has been garnering a steady crowd and following in its 2 years of operation. It recently went through a renovation, refitting the cafe with air conditioners. In the sweltering hot Singapore, who can say no to a good brunch and yummy cakes in an air conditioned area?

The usual problem with popular brunch venues though is, well, its popularity. There are so many people it takes ages for the food to arrive. That’s where desserts come in.

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Valrhona Chocolate (S$8++/slice)

Using chocolate of 70% cocoa, the Valrhona Chocolate cake was fudgy, chewy, yet moist and light at the same time. We loved this an polished it off in less than a minute.

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Carrot Cake (S$8.50++/slice)

Touted to be one of the best carrot cakes in Singapore, it certainly tasted so on the first bite. It was fluffy and lightly sweetened, and the shredded coconut was a wonderful addition. However it fell flat after a few mouthfuls. The cream cheese frosting lacked the tang, the walnuts and raisins weren’t significant enough, and the carrot laden sponge tasted like any normal vanilla sponge. It was quite the disappointment.

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Salted Caramel (S$8++/slice)

I loved how luscious salted caramel is generously slathered between the layers of valrhona chocolate torte. It gave the otherwise dense chocolate cake a welcomed salty balance. It’s my favourite out of the 3 we tried. It is quite a big slice though so it might be good to share it with a friend, to prevent it from getting too jelak.

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Corned Beef Hash (S$17++)

Chunks of corned beef, with onions, potatoes, and a little bacon, this is an absolutely hearty dish. I’m far from being English, but a spoonful of this sent me straight home. Simple fare, cooked with passion and love. This unconventional brunch dish is a definite must-try when visiting TFBB.

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Wild Mushroom Salad (S$14++)

Anything with an egg looks awfully awesome. Sadly the only other commendable part of the dish is the reduced balsamic dressing. Not many F&B establishments use reduced balsamic, which definitely kicks any salad up a notch. The mushrooms though are mediocre, simply sautéed with garlic. The salad didn’t taste like a properly composed dish, but more like a handful of veggies with a side of mushrooms.

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Towkay Ng’s Eggs Ben(S$12.50++)

TFBB’s eggs ben stand out from the others because of the way their eggs are made. Most eggs ben come with the average poached egg – a harder exterior of egg white encasing liquid yolk. TFBB’s eggs are similar to that of Symmetry’s, like a soft-boiled egg, with a softer egg white exterior encasing the yolk and semi-cooked whites. The hollandaise sauce was very well executed. It is a pity the brioche slices used were not distinct, so much that swapping it with the normal muffins would be preferable.

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Guinness Beef Pot Pie (S$18++)

A perfect pot pie, if not a tad too salty. It takes 15 minutes to make a pot pie, so you are assured it’ll come fresh out of the oven, steaming hot to your table. Crisp buttery pastry and delicious tender stewed beef, it’s absolutely worth the wait.

Several hits and misses, but the hits do explain why TFBB is such a popular spot. They don’t merely sell your usual brunch fare, including their interpretation of many local dishes. While their cakes have been slightly disappointing, the savoury dishes were executed pretty well. In the highly saturated ‘hippy’ cafe scene, TFBB is definitely one to look out for.

The Fabulous Baker Boy
The Foothills
70 River Valley Road
#01-15
Singapore
S(179037)

Closed on Mondays
Closed from 4:30pm-6pm daily

Tue-Thurs: 11am-10pm
Fri: 11am-11pm
Sat: 11am-11pm
Sun: 10am-5pm

Brunch/Lunch till 2:30pm
Tea till 4:30pm
Dinner till 9pm

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boCHINche

A new venture by folks at the Spa Esprit group, who is behind some of the most amazing eateries like Forty Hands, Tiong Bahru Bakery and Skinny Pizza, I was extremely excited learning about this collaboration with famed Argentinean chef Diego Jacquet. Needless to say it topped my to-brunch list and I went ahead to make reservations. But then I met the biggest problem ever: I couldn’t pronounce boCHINche.

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Bochinche (noun) Gossip.

Indeed. A semi-open-kitchen concept where diners can sit around the cooking stations, it allows for light conversations between chefs and diners, casual conversations among diners; and of course a little gossip never hurt no one.

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boCHINche’s layout allows for diners to take a peek into what actually goes into their plate: the cooking, preparations, and plating. It’s amazing cause it’s times like that where you can see the amount of effort put into preparing your dish, and that makes the meal much more intimate. It’s also really cool and a lotta fun to see chefs at work.

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Latte (S$6)

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Provoleta, Almonds & Honey (S$17); eaten with Pan & Manteca (S$7)

We were told that the Provoleta is supposed to be eaten together with the Pan & Manteca. The melted honey and almonds added a floral and tangy edge to the otherwise boring grilled cheese fare; the deliciously fluffy focaccia and cheese breads kept the dish light and were perfect to soak up the pan juices. A wonderful balance of savoury and sweet. This was in fact my favourite dish of the day. An awfully high benchmark to start the meal with!

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boCHINche Beef “Chimichurri” Burger v2.0 (S$28)

Soft grilled buns with tomato, caramelised onions, pancetta, (more) provolone cheese and topped with a fried egg, with a side of pickled cucumbers. This burger wasn’t bad at all. I loved how the different condiments complemented each other, resulting in a complex array of flavours. Taking a bite and slowly chewing on it, I could taste every component of the burger. Which isn’t something I get from every other burger. A pity the most important component – the patty – was overcooked.

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House Chorizo sausage, braised Ox Cheeks & caramelized onions (S$20)

This, however, was an utter disappointment. It’s perfectly acceptable for a dish to be so-so-, not outstanding but at least pleasant and edible. Yet this was wrong on every count. The ox cheeks were braised so well they were soft and buttery, yet utterly tasteless. The caramelized onions were too sweet and too much. Together with the drizzled reduce balsamic, the dish became overwhelmingly sweet.

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Milk cake, Passionfruit Sorbet & roasted Almonds (S$14)

Not wanting to end our meal on such a nasty note we decided on getting desserts. The Milk cake sounded really interesting cause I’ve never heard of a milk-flavoured cake. What this turned out to be was a delectably moist cake, further sweetened with a sauce made of 3 kinds of milk (heavy cream, dulce de leche, and something else). It would be too sweet if not for the tart and sour sorbet. Eaten together, this is a refreshing and really unique dessert.

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“Dulce de leche” Creme Brulee & Banana Split Ice Cream (S$17)

I was excited to eat this when I saw the chefs bringing out the flame torch and burning the sugar right in front of me. I thought, this surely must result in a cold-hot contrast a creme brulee should have? And I was not disappointed. Cold straight out from the fridge, the torching made the crisp surface slightly warm in contrast. Finally a creme brulee that has that distinction! The only downside was the ice cream. There wasn’t anything banana splitty about it.

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As a first visit there were equal numbers of ups and downs; yet given the interesting menu and the impeccable service, I think there’s still more to bonCHINche than today. With dishes like Organic Poached Eggs on toast, braised Ossobuco and Chive Hollandaise on the menu, I’ll definitely be back for more.

boCHINche
22 Martin Road
#02-01
6235 4990
Brunch: Weekends from 11am-3.30pm
Dinner: Daily from 5.30pm-10.30pm

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Laurent Duchêne

Croissants = French. French = Croissants.

They seem synonymous, no?

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If not for their various desserts and breads, Laurent Duchêne demands a visit by virtue of winning the title of the best croissant in Paris in 2011 and 2012.

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I visited the outlet at Rue Wurtz, and my single and largest complaint is that they do not have a sit-in option. So friends and I had to look for nearby cafes, and grab a cuppa there in order to use their tables.

My sole purpose of visiting them was to try these famed croissants of theirs; but of course when ever do I stop at one? With the array of sweets and vennoisseries on display resistence is futile.

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10 minutes of hopping about on each foot and nail-biting, we decided on a few vennoisseries and pastries to share amongst the 3 of us.

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Croissant (€1.05)

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Lightly browned, the beautifully caramelized glaze was such a teaser. It tore easily with a slightly audible crackle, revealing a pale yellow, airy and absolutely fluffy interior. Buttery yet not greasy; soft yet crisp; fluffy yet substantial; I understand why this was voted best twice. Can’t say I’m the expert but LD’s croissant is really the best I’ve ever tasted.

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Kouign Amann (€2.20)

Think of it as a cross between a croissant and a butter cake. Essentially bread dough and puff pastry rolled with butter and sugar, Kouign Amann is a unique gâteau that promises perfectly caramelised exteriors for a maximum dose of caramel. With Tiong Bahru Bakery’s as my only other basis of comparison, I’m definitely not one to judge this pastry. I can say though that it is without doubt addictive and packed full with yumminess. One thing: the pastry dough was a little soggy and hard to bite through.

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Paris-Brest (€4.00)

Good choux pastry, decadent praline creme patisserie and a generous sprinkle of crushed almonds make this a very pleasing pastry. The very first Paris-Brest I had in France and I must say it lived up to expectations.

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Millefeuille (€3.20)

Perhaps our visit to Jacques Genin was too early, cause every millefeuille we had after paled in comparison. LD’s wasn’t too bad. The puff pastry was decent, crisp enough. The creme patisserie however was a let down. I would call it whipped cream instead. It didn’t help that it had alcohol in it, which was not stated previously.

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Financier (€2.80)

This was surprisingly good. It was moist and had a nutty fragrance from the browned butter, without being overly sweet.

It’s hard to judge with the limited items we’ve tried. One thing for certain, is that LD makes hands down wonderfully delicious croissants. And for that, just for that, I’ll definitely return.

2 Rue Wurtz
75013 Paris
Tél/Fax : 33 (0) 1 45 65 00 77
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 0700-2000

238 Rue de la Convention
75015 Paris
Tél: 33 (0) 1 45 33 85 09
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday mornings, 0700-2000

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Jacques Genin

Just a mere 15 minutes walk from Musee Carnavalet at Le Marais, Jacques Genin was the first sweets stop I scheduled into our itinerary. Having read so much about its amazing Pate de Fruits, chocolates and Paris Brest, I was dying to try them for myself. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s because Le Marais seems to be such a gothic district, I was expecting a small wood-furnished boulanger patisserie. Jacques Genin is anything but that. Huge glass windows reaching to the ceilings, bright orange lights and neatly arranged displays, it’s chic interior was extremely attractive.

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Food displays (left to right, clockwise): chocolates, packets of chocolate treats, caramels, pates du fruits.

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Pates de fruits

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Spiral stairs to the kitchen.

We came in a big group of 7, but the staff was very nice in preparing a table sufficient for us. It was really pleasant to find that he could speak fluent English! I know we’re in France and should learn to speak French, but…really it gets annoying when you’re trying to order food with that language barrier.

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After a 10 minutes wait or so, we were shown to our table where we were immediately served glasses of water. Thereafter the staff informed us about the pastries of the day, in which the Paris Brest was not included. So I asked about it, and I was told that since about a year ago they’ve stopped making regular pastries. They still have a few basics like eclairs featured on the menu, but the rest of the pastries change on a daily basis.

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Complementary chocolates

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Degustation aux caramels

This degustation featured a selection of 6 of their signature caramels. I can’t name the various caramels cause they weren’t written down, and in the mess of eating the various sweets I didn’t pay that much attention to these. What I can tell you though is that they are superb. That says a lot, coming from someone who doesn’t like caramels. Smooth, velvety and rich without being cloyingly sweet, these caramels are perfect. Perhaps what was lacking was the obvious difference between the 6 caramels. If I couldn’t tell the flavours of the caramels, I guess it isn’t that obvious or well done. Kudos for mastering a beautiful caramel though.

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Hot Chocolate

This isn’t your Starbucks diluted sugar-spammed hot chocolate. Parisian hot chocolate is much more different. Thick, decadent, and extremely rich, the hot chocolate tastes more like a melted block of chocolate than a drink. As delicious as it is, it becomes hard to swallow after about half a cup. It is very nice though, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who visits Jacques Genin, except it might be wiser to share it with a few friends.

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Praline Millefeuille

Having eaten millefeuilles at almost every bakery I pass in France, I would say that this is by far the best millefeuille that I’ve had besides Laduree’s I tried a few years back. The puff pastry is extremely delicate, with a perfectly caramelised outer layer, yet sturdy enough to hold the smooth praline creme patissiere. The best part of eating a millefeuille is cutting into it for the first time, hearing the crackle of the puff pastry, then putting a spoonful of that mess into your mouth. Il est parfait. JG’s millefeuille stands out because of its puff pastry, in particular how it remains crisp even in your mouth. I felt that the praline creme patissiere could be more pronounced though. It tasted like a slightly nuttier chocolate instead of having that very distinct praline flavour.

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Eclair Chocolat

They definitely have the best chocolate eclair I’ve tried thus far too. Perfect choux pastry, with a crisp surface and a fluffy interior; filled with amazingly smooth dark chocolate creme patisserie. Absolutely heavenly.

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Tarte au Citron est Basilic

I loved how the basil was subtle yet definitely discernible here. It kept the tart from getting boring after a few bites. In addition the lemon curd was just the right amount of sour. Eaten with the lightly sweeted shortcrust base, this tart was a breath of fresh air to all the chocolatey sweetness. A must-try to balance out all that sugar.

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On hindsight, it probably wasn’t such a good idea to put this first in my to-eats list. Cause everything pales in comparison now. If you happen to be in Paris, be sure to pay Jacques Genin a visit. Trust me: you won’t regret it.

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War of the Falafels: L’As du Fallafel V.S. Chez H’anna

Researching on the must-eats in Paris led me to these 2 rival falafel restaurants in the district of Le Marais: L’As du Fallafel and Chez H’anna. For one, they apparently make extremely delicious falafels. More importantly they’re filling and easy on the pocket. At an affordable €5 , these falafel wraps make a delicious street food.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that our apartment is situated right in the middle of that very district! I made it a must to have lunch there on our very first day.

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L’As du Fallafel

David Lebovitz called it a favourite quick-bite on the streets of Paris; and rightly so if the queue is any indication of its popularity. En route we saw many students munching on their falafel wraps, and that hiked up our anticipation for this amazing falafel.

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Basic falafel wrap (€4 for takeaway). Left is the non-spicy one, where the right has a dash of piquante sauce.

Using that fork provided, dig into warm pita bread stuffed with marinated crunchy cabbage, silky grilled aubergines, cold sesame hummus, and that burning crisp-fried balls of chick-pea falafels. I love that wonderful contrast between the cold vegetables and hummus, against the falafels. Together with the spicy piquante sauce, it was absolutely heavenly. I had no trouble demolishing one on my own!

I was happily gobbling up my lovely falafel wrap, when I made a turn along the street and found Chez H’anna. Now know that no matter how I might look like one, I am certainly not some glutton with a bottomless tummy. I was pretty filled by then, but I simply couldn’t bear the thought of giving it a miss. You mean I’ll have to walk across these streets again just to get back here to try out Chez H’anna? Uh-uh, ne pas possible. My itinerary is way too packed to make a revisit possible. That I am lazy is not a contributing factor to my final decision

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Chez H’anna

Rated half a star lower than L’As du Fallafel on Trip Advisor, Chez H’anna has been receiving mixed reviews. Time Out called it a favourite spot frequented by locals. So I wondered if the former was merely some teenage-hangout-touristy place, while the latter is the real treasure?

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Vegetarian falafel a.k.a. basic falafel wrap (€5.50 for takeaway)

The sauces here distinguished it from L’As du Fallafel because it was tastier. The piquante sauce was honestly spicy and gave the wrap a wonderful kick. It was a tad too salty though. Chez H’anna’s hummus was more fragrant and memorable, as compared to the former. Yet they have a really hard pita pocket that ruined the whole dish. I ended up literally eating the fillings on their own, then throwing the wrap away.

The verdict? None really. Both are good in different ways.

Maybe it’s time for them to collaborate instead of being rivals.

Chez H’anna
54 Rue des Rosiers
75004 Paris, France
Opened from 1100-0000, closed on Mondays

L’As du Fallafel
34 Rue des Rosiers
75004 Paris, France
Opens from 1200-0000, closed on Sundays

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The day my DSLR failed me

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A product of editing with the PicsArt application.

I used to be an Instagram hater (that I use it now doesn’t mean ANYTHING). Pfft what filters? Lo-fi? Hudson? X-Pro? Good photographers need #nofilters. No way is my good ol’ DSLR ever losing to some no-name-filtered-mobile-camera-picture. And I never thought there’d be a day I was grateful for mobile cameras and their numerous editing applications.

Today proved me wrong. Somehow my many DSLR shots just didn’t seem to work. The lighting was too harsh, even after manual adjustments. As with everything food-related, I have to take a picture with my phone and – yes – Instagram it. So imagine my surprise when I realise that the pictures I took with my phone turned out better than those in my camera! With a little editing those pictures turned out to be pretty decent. I guess mobile pictures and apps can possibly be passable with good lighting and a lil editing.

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French toast breakfast I made for my Aunt for her birthday this morning!

Today’s my Aunty’s birthday, so I decided to give her the whole B-in-B shebang. Pancakes I’ve made way too often; so French toast it shall be. Another one of your sweet breakfasts, French toasts are usually accompanied by honey or maple syrup, and some caramelised fruits. I was afraid that would be a tad too sweet, so I decided to try my hand at making some salted caramel and creme patisserie. I had no worries about the latter cause I’ve made it before, but the salted caramel was a different story altogether. I never liked anything salty+sweet in my desserts; I don’t understand how that works. I’m only recently beginning to like it thanks to Milk and Honey’s Salty Malty gelato. That means I’ve never tried salted caramel anything, except for maybe that 1 or 2 “ok imma give it a shot” bites of sea salt caramel macarons. Which also means I wouldn’t know if I’ve nailed the flavour.

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Being the daredevil that I am I gave it a shot anyway, and I’m pleased that my Aunty, and my family, seemed to really like it! So I guess I did get it right after all (: my only qualm was the crème pâtissière. Aunty ate hers the moment I served it up so the consistency was just perfect. The rest of my family decided to have theirs as tea, so they refrigerated it, and toasted it before eating. Totally unwise because overheating the creme patisserie caused it to curdle a wee bit. That aside everything else was wonderful, and this is definitely going into my list of BinB recipes!

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French Toast with Caramelized Bananas, Crème Pâtissière and Salted Caramel (serves 3)

Salted Caramel (will make more than required)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 tablespoon fleur de sel

Vanilla Crème Pâtissière
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour

Caramelized Bananas
3 bananas, separated
4 teaspoons of honey

French Toast
6 slices of bread
4 eggs
half cup of milk

The crème pâtissière and salted caramel should be prepared ahead.

To make the Crème Pâtissière:
1. Add the vanilla extract to the milk and bring the mixture to simmer, then remove from heat.

2. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Whisk in the flour until combined. While continuously whisking, add a bit of the hot milk to the eggs then pour the egg mix back into the pot.

3. Place the pot over low heat and stir constantly until custard is slightly thick, rich and creamy. Be careful not to overcook the custard and curdle it. To avoid lumps, strain it while pouring into a bowl. Cover the surface directly with cling film to stop a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until needed.

To make the Salted Caramel:
1. First, make sure you have all of the ingredients ready. Once you start the caramel sauce you have to pay close attention so you don’t burn it. To begin, heat the sugar over medium high-heat. When the sugar starts to melt, start whisking the sugar. The sugar will clump up, but keep whisking. It will continue to melt. When the sugar is melted, stop whisking.

2. Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber colour, watching it carefully to avoid burning the caramel.

3. As soon as the sugar reaches the dark amber colour, carefully add the butter. Whisk until all the butter is melted.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until cream is incorporated and caramel is smooth. Whisk in the fleur de sel

5. Let the caramel sauce cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Pour the caramel into a large jar and cool to room temperature, before storing it in the refrigerator up till a month.

To make the Caramelized Bananas:
1. Heat a non-stick pan over medium high-heat.

2. Working in batches of 3, heat drizzles of honey over the pan for about a minute. Add in the slices of bananas, leaving enough space between each slice to flip them. Leave the banana slices to cook and form a brown caramelized crust on one side before flipping it over. If the honey starts to bubble, reduce the heat and continue cooking.

3. Wash the pan after each batch. Place the caramelized bananas aside while you prepare the French Toasts.

To make the French Toast:
1. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a flatter, wider bowl/dish. Dip each slice of bread, both sides, into the egg batter until soaked through.

2. Heat up the pan over medium heat, then fry each side of the eggy bread slices until golden then set aside.

To assemble:
1. Spread the crème pâtissière thickly on one side of the french toast, then layer the bananas on top. Spoon a little caramel over the top and sandwich the lot with another slice of toast.

2. Serve with extra salted caramel sauce and scoops of ice cream if you have em!

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The BEST Muffins EVER.

The title’s not just a declarative. It’s an imperative. Period.

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I’ve baked several muffins to date, and yes I’ve made some pretty delish ones like my Citrus Muffins, but this is hands down the best I’ve made thus far. It’s not because of the fillings that went into it, cause pfffwt we all know cheese/carrot/apple muffins ain’t a stroke of genius. It’s the base recipe that makes these muffins shine.

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Simple, versatile, with ingredients you can grab from your pantry right now, this is the best basic recipe I found so far. And with a few tweaks of my own it yields the softest and moistest muffin. I’ve been looking for such a recipe for a really long time cause my friends and family prefer moister muffins. If cakey fluffy ones are your preference this might be slightly a bit too moist, though fluffy enough for me I’d say.

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The base recipe’s really versatile, and everything stays the same except for the 150g of added flavours. Be creative with your muffin fillings! Pistachio and chocolate chips; citrus and coconut; cheese and raisins; the possibilities are endless. Let your imagination run wild with this amazing recipe (:

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Cheese, Carrots and Apple Muffins (makes 12)

220g spelt flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 olive oil
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/2 medium carrot, grated
*1/2 apple, grated
*100g cubed cheese

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line muffin trays with cases.

2. Sift the flour with the baking power and salt.

3. Mix the wet ingredients together. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix everything till its just combined and not overmix it.

4. Pour in the grated carrots, apple, and cubed cheese into the mixture and fold it in till just combined.

5. Divide the batter into the muffin trays, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

*These ingredients can be substituted with 150g of whatever ingredients and flavours you desire!

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Sun-dried Tomato and Carrot Stovetop Frittata

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Yes, those are not omelettes. No, omelettes and frittatas are not the same.

According to my best friend (it’s Wiki this time), there are four key differences between a frittata and a conventional omelette.

1. Optional ingredients are combined with the beaten egg mixture while the eggs are still raw rather than being laid over the mostly-cooked egg mixture before it is folded, as in a conventional omelette. Frittatas can hold a deeper filling and yield a fluffier result.
2. The mixture is cooked over a very low heat, more slowly than an omelette, until the underside is set but the top is still runny.
3. The partly cooked frittata is not folded to enclose its contents, like an omelette, but it is instead either turned over in full, or grilled briefly under a broiler to set the top layer,or baked for around five minutes.
4. Unlike an omelette, which is generally served whole to a single diner, a frittata is usually divided into slices.

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So you see I’m not being a food snob! There are real tangible distinctions between a frittata and an omelette!

But of course there are similarities too. Besides the glaringly obvious fact that both are made of eggs, frittatas and omelettes are easy, utterly delicious, and extremely versatile. Frittatas can be vehicles for almost any veggies, cheeses, or meats you happen to have around. When you have leftovers, you can make frittatas. When you have random ingredients and no recipe in mind, you can make frittatas. Heck even when you have egg cravings you can make frittatas!

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What may come as a shocker to most is the sheer amount of eggs required in this recipe. “The cholestrol!!” was a comment on my instagram post. While it’s true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol – and so may weakly affect blood cholesterol levels – eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D.For most people, cholesterol in food has a much smaller effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful cholesterol than does the mix of fats in the diet. In fact moderate egg consumption – up to one a day – does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet.

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And what better a dish to make when you have a non-stick pan? The thing about frittatas is that it can only be made using non-stick pans. Essentially a one pan dish, you have to be able to cleanly remove the frittata wedges from the pan, or else it’ll just look like some scrambled eggs-y mush. Tefal’s Comfort Touch Sauté-pan comes in real handy here. Not only does it boast Tefal’s signature non-stick qualities, its raised sides allow for more fillings, a thicker frittata, and neat straight edges. I must admit it was a breeze cooking this frittata with the sauté-pan. Easy and fantastic as a light meal, I guess frittatas will be making more of an appearance in my house!

Sun-dried Tomato and Carrot Stovetop Frittata (serves 4-6)

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 onions, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 jar of sun-dried tomato, drained and roughly chopped
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 teaspoons soy sauce

1. Whisk the eggs, milk and soy sauce till lots of air bubbles are formed.

2. Pre-heat the sauté-pan. Over medium-high heat, sweat the garlic and olive oil a little before adding in the carrots and sautéing for 2-3 minutes. Add the onions to the pan, sweat them for a minute, then add the remaining vegetables and sauté for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are tender and any moisture has evaporated.

3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and give it a stir. Make sure the egg mixture covers the vegetables. Put the lid on the pan and cook the egg for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your pan. The frittata is ready when a toothpick stuck into the middle of the egg comes out clean.

4. Remove the egg from the pan and cut into 8 wedges. Serve immediately.

VARIATIONS
Dairy-free – replace milk with coconut or nut milks.

More savoury – throw in a handful of parmesan cheese into the egg mixture.

More substantial – replace a carrot with some chickpeas or cannellini/white/kidney beans.

Spicy – add 2 tablespoons of chilli flakes when sautéing the vegetables, and add a few dashes of tabasco into the egg mixture.

Other fillings – any kinds of fillings, meats or vegetables, can be used in frittatas. Just make sure that there is enough egg mixture to cover the the ingredients.

If you liked this recipe, please vote for me here!

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Restaurant-quality dishes with Tefal pans: cooking workshop at ONAKA

Say “quality restaurant food”, and I doubt “healthy” is the first word that comes to mind. Duck confit with creamy mashed potatoes and pan gravy; Spaghetti Carbonara with crispy bacon bits topped with a 42 degree poached egg – fantastically fancy, delicious, and utterly sinful. Hardly healthy at all.

Yet ONAKA Restaurant and Wine Bar disagrees. An acronym for Optimum Nutrition and Kitchen Arts, ONAKA revolves around the concept of conscious eating with a passion for cooking healthily. What’s really impressive is that the restaurant uses all-natural and selective organic ingredients without artificial additives, chemicals, colorings, flavorings, MSG, and trans-fats. About 50% of their menu is Vegetarian with special focus on Low Glycemic, Gluten Free and Vegan options; and no pork and lard is served at the restaurant! One word: A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

It’s no surprise that Tefal, reknowned for their non-stick cookware, is the restaurant’s the natural choice conscious and healthy cooking. Where better to showcase the qualities of Tefal Comfort Touch Pans than at ONAKA? Attending a cooking workshop there thus marked the beginning of our culinary journey!

So to ONAKA at Alexandra Retail Centre (ARC) us 5 privileged bloggers headed to one fine Saturday afternoon. Conducted by Head Chef Jason Vito and his Sous Chef Benson Tong, the 2-hour workshop featured three dishes all whipped up with the Tefal Comfort Touch Frypan: Garlic Prawns on Toast, Roasted Mushroom Soba, Butternut Squash Pancake with Banana Ice Cream. For recipes and detailed cooking instructions, click on the title of the dish to view the respective cooking videos.

Garlic Prawns on Toast

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The meal started off with a wonderfully composed dish.

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Aromatic herbs and vegetables were first sautéed with some olive oil, before the prawns were added and flambéed with white wine. A knob of butter was later whisked in to emulsify the pan juices into a sauce. To plate, the prawns were placed atop a slice of homemade rye bread, drizzled with the sauce, and garnished with some micro-herbs. The final touch was a dollop of lime foam, made by passing some soy lecithin and lime juice through a handheld immersion blender.

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Prawns searing beautifully and evenly in Tefal’s frypan.

I must say I was extremely impressed with how Tefal’s Frypan allowed the even heating of the pan, which was reflected by the beautiful pink-ish sear of the prawns.

With Spanish cuisine as the backbone of this dish, the addition of chilli and kaffir lime leaves added a subtle Asian touch. The rye bread was lightly toasted in a panini press before being plated, and when soaked with the sauce resulted in a delectably chewy texture. Absolutely divine.

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Chef Jason holding up a dish to the camera for the omy crew!

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Our portions: sitting and ready to be gobbled.

And the cherry on top is, from preparation to serving, this simple but elegant dish can be whipped up in a mere 30 minutes! A perfect appetiser for any dinner gathering.

Roasted Mushroom Soba

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Smoked shimeji mushrooms were first sauteed with roasted shiitake mushrooms. Then dashi, tamari and mirin were poured in and brought to a boil. Next, blanched soba noodles were added and heated through before serving. A drizzle of truffle oil, and presto you have yourself a delicious vegan lunch!

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This deceivingly simple set of instructions undermines the sheer amount of thought and effort behind this ingenious dish. Chef Jason explained this to be intentionally designed for vegetarians. And not just any Lacto-ovo Vegetarian or Vegan, but Buddhist Vegetarians who cannot take even garlic or onions. This is no easy feat, because the dashi that is used as a base cooking stock in typical Japanese dishes is made with stripjack tuna and konbu (a.k.a. edible kelp). Talk about commitment to their trade, what the geniuses at ONAKA did was to go through a tedious 1.5 hour process of making their own dashi using dried konbu, specially shipped from Hokkaido, and smoked shiitake mushrooms in place of the traditional tuna.

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Plates of mouthwatering drool-inducing soba prepared for us!

Besides the special dashi, other elements of the dish came together in this perfectly composed dish. I especially loved the idea of roasting the mushrooms to give them a meaty texture, which is usually absent from vegetarian dishes. The truffle oil was also an unexpectedly welcomed addition. I dreaded tasting this dish because I have this thing against truffle oil. But I was extremely surprised that I actually liked the addition of truffle oil here! It gave this seemingly Asian dish a very subtle Western influence, simultaneously preventing the dish from falling flat after a few bites. Trust the truffle-hater when she says that it works wonders here and it is absolutely delish.

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Pumpkin Pancake with Banana Ice Cream

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Our tummies were a little more than bursting at this point, but dang pumpkin pancakes sound way too decadent to be missed.

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Ingredients required for this dish includes roasted butternut squash, and Chef Jason saw it necessary to show us the difference between a squash and a pumpkin.

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Cutesy smiley drawn on our butternut squash by Chef Jason 😀

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These pancakes are shockingly easy to make. They follow the standard wet ingredient-dry ingredient procedure every baker is familiar with. First, mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients separately. Next make a well in the middle of the bowl of dry ingredients, pour the liquids in and stir the mixture until it is combined. Cook the batter over a pre-heated pan over medium heat, and presto you’ve got yourself a wonderful pancake! The key here is to take care to not overmix the batter, as it could result in flat and tough pancakes. Now that would be nasty wouldn’t it.

Tefal Frypan’s non-stick qualities were best displayed here. Despite having no oil added to the pan, the pancake browned evenly, and flipped beautifully without leaving a trace of batter behind.

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Oven-roasting the squask could take up to an hour depending on the sizes of your chopped squash, so it’s good to know that it can be prepared ahead and refrigerated before being used in this dish. What is wonderful about this recipe is its versatiliy. Want it to be gluten-free? Replace the white flour with gluten-free flours like nut flours, bean flours, or simply King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Flour. Don’t like squash? Replace it with other root vegetables or even caramelised fruits, like bananas and apples.

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Boy oh boy was I lucky I decided not to skip out. The squash gave these cloud-like jacks a savoury bite, while the macerated berries and ice cream added to the contrasting textures and flavours of the dish. Fluffy and lightly sweetened, it will suffice to say that I am definitely saving these pancakes for a special occasion. Maybe a birthday breakfast-in-bed?

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And that was the last dish of our 2-hour cooking workshop. Thanks to the amazing staff from omy.sg, Tefal, and the wonderfully talented chefs over at ONAKA, I left the restaurant feeling overly ambitious and inspired to whip up my very own super healthy 7-course meal. That and feeling horridiously full to the brim.

I felt ridiculously happy for a few reasons. For one I have never found a restaurant living up to its claims of serving healthy yet delicious food. The Living Cafe was an utter disappointment, and vegetarian restaurants – with all their oyster-sauce dishes and fried mock meats – aren’t no better. Having personally seen the ingredients that go into the preparation of ONAKA’s dishes, I am honestly impressed at how they mastered the fine line between restaurant-quality, even fine-dining worthy, dishes and healthy conscious eating.

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Chef Benson Tong told us about this chilli jelly they made to serve with their “Oyster Omelette”, essentially their rendition of the traditional hawker oyster omelette that we have here. Eaten with their homemade rye bread, the jelly kinda tastes like a solidified cube of chicken rice chilli.

The wonderful food aside, I’ve never interacted with chefs this intimately before. Cracking jokes with them, learning about the different steps that goes into the preparation of their dishes, even down to where they source their ingredients from. It’s so easy and quick for people to make a judgement about a dish, to nit and pick at it, that we often forget the tremendous effort invested by every person in the culinary team. From the head chef down to the very waiter. This experience has made me more aware of what goes on behind a dish. And I’ll be sure to hold my reservations and talk to the chefs or servers before fixing my judgement.

But of course the ultimate motive behind this cooking demonstration was for us to learn more about Tefal pans’ functions, before coming home to whip up a few of our own dishes. We left ONAKA with our very own 2 pans from the Tefal Comfort Touch Pans series, ready to head on to the next part of this challenge!

Do scoot over to Tefal Chef Challenge for updates on my progress, and stay tuned for the recipes! Check out our posts and vote for the one you think deserves to win, and you might just win yourself a Tefal blender!

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