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30 October 2014

Reculver Towers

As I've mentioned in a couple of other recent posts we were back in the UK (and subsequently Spain and France) for a month from the end of July.  Yes, as usual I am a little behind!  The first stop on the packed itinerary was Kent where my parents and the majority of my family live.  We all spent a few days there before my husband and my stepsons went to Spain and I stayed on a bit longer to spend some time with my parents as I hadn't seen them properly since the previous summer.

Whilst we were all there we had a couple of day trips out which included the obligatory trip to the fabulous Wildwood, a place I've mentioned before, for my youngest stepson who loves it.  On the way back to my parents I suggested a little detour to a ruin nearby, Reculver Towers, somewhere I've always been fond of and fascinated with.  The weather for the first part of our trip back to the UK was very good but this day was a little cooler.  The towers are very exposed on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea so whilst not cold it was definitely fresh.  However that didn't stop us and the exploring began.


Approach to the towers

As I said Reculver Towers are an imposing landmark and noticeable from some distance away.  The towers date from the 12th century and are all that remains of a ruined church which stood in the midst of the site of a Roman 'Saxon Shore' fort and a Saxon monastery.  Having done a little further research the Saxon Shore was a military command of the late Roman Empire which was made up of a number of fortifications on both sides of the English Channel.  Several of these fortifications still exist today of which four are in Kent, Reculver being one of them.

The coast line has changed greatly since the towers were built and much of the site has been lost to the sea.  The edge of the beach below now reaches the towers which still act as a navigation point for shipping in the area.  The towers are in an area of Kent known as the Isle of Thanet, today it is no longer an island as the land has since silted up but two thousand years ago The Wantsum (a sea channel up to three miles wide) cut off the Isle from the mainland.  The Roman fort stood on a promontory at the north end of this channel.  After the Romans abandoned the fort at Reculver an Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded and the church built.  The church was partly demolished in 1805 but the twin towers were left.  



Reculver is not somewhere you'll spend a long time at so is perfect for a quick stop after visiting somewhere else in the area.  It's fun to explore though and imagine what it would once have looked like.  Of course, being a ruin in a relatively lonely spot all sorts of ghost stories have sprung up over the years, who knows if any of them have any truth to them.

Our afternoon was rounded off with a light late lunch in a pub nearby, a lovely start to our trip back to the UK.  So if you are in the area, like history or lonely windswept spots Reculver is definitely worth taking a look at.



24 October 2014

ToTT Bistro and Tools of The Trade ToTT's 4th Anniversary Celebrations

Last Friday I went to the ToTT Bistro at Tools of The Trade to sample a few of the dishes from their menu.  Lets face it after some serious shopping etc. you definitely need something to eat to help you on your way.  Tools of The Trade are also celebrating their 4th anniversary this month with a load of exciting offers for you to enjoy, even more reason to get yourself over there!

I sampled several of their dishes having the bruschetta ($6.90++) to begin with, one of the bistro's snack dishes.  This is a perfect sharing dish and a great way to start your meal, full of flavour and nice and fresh.  This was followed up by the chicken cottage pie ($8.90++) a ToTT special.  You can see from my photo below just how cheesy and gooey it was, definitely one of my favourites of the evening.


Bruschetta

Chicken cottage pie

From here we moved on to trying a few of the mains, beginning with a steak sandwich with fries and coleslaw ($14.90++).  The steak was lovely and juicy and the side of coleslaw had a fruity tang to it.  Next up was the muesli battered fish and chips ($9.90++) which whilst appearing Western had a subtle Asian twist.  The muesli batter being a nod to the Singaporean dish, cereal prawns.  This was my first experience of this style of batter (I confess I wasn't aware of the dish previously) and compared to traditional fish and chip batter this was light, crunchy and very good.  Finally from the mains we had satay chicken chop with pandan steamed rice ($9.90++).  Another favourite from this part of the world.  I've never tried rice steamed with pandan before but it really gave the rice a nice subtle flavour as well as turning the rice a subtle shade of green.

Steak sandwich with fries and coleslaw

Muesli battered fish and chips

Satay chicken chop with pandan steamed rice

Although the last couple of dishes we tried from the mains had a bit of an Asian feel to them we then tried a couple of distinctly local dishes on the menu, the Mee Rebus Deluxe ($12.90++) and the Prawn Noodle Soup ($12.90++).  The Mee Rebus had a nice warming kick of spice to it (not including all the chillies you can see in the photo) and was really filling!  The Prawn Noodle Soup also tasted great and was really hearty.

Mee rebus deluxe

Prawn noodle soup

No meal is complete without dessert and to finish ours off we had Sugar Dusted French Toast with Strawberries ($9.90++).  I've said before that I have a sweet tooth and despite being pretty full by this point I managed to do the French toast justice and finish my piece.  Possibly one again to share but too good not to indulge in when dining here.

Sugar dusted French toast with strawberries

As I mentioned at the start ToTT are currently celebrating their 4th anniversary this month and whilst there may not be much of October left there is still plenty you can enjoy.  ToTT have recently launched a cookbook called, '365 Days of Fun' full of recipes designed by Singapore's favourite chefs, including Benjamin Siwek from db Bistro Moderne, Bernice Ong from Salted Caramel and many more.  The dishes have been created to compliment various themes including, movie nights and pets picnic!  This book is available exclusively at ToTT and is priced at $12.90 each.

In addition to buying the book you can also take part in, 'So You ToTT You Can Guess?' every Saturday and Sunday in October, so get there this weekend to join in the fun!  There are a trio of challenges waiting for you to take part in.  Just spend a minimum of $40 in a single receipt to receive a contest/lucky draw coupon.  Guess your way through three designated 'Guess Stations' correctly in the store and qualify for an instant dip prize.  Customers also stand to win up to $3000 worth of prizes in the Grand Lucky Draw so definitely worth having a go!

There are a range of exciting new kitchen tools and products available in store for you to browse through too.  There are also a load of store wide discounts and demonstration cooking classes throughout this anniversary month of October.  For the remainder of the month you can enjoy 'We are Four' $4 deals and up to 50% discount on products from Nordicware, Microplane and more.  There are also special one hour cooking demonstration classes available for booking up to 31 October 2014.  All classes are priced at $28 and include a $20 ToTT voucher.  For more information on the sale and cooking classes go to www.ToTTStore.com.


ToTT
896 Dunearn Road
#01-01A
Sime Darby Centre
Singapore 589472

Telephone: +65 6219 7077

Website: www.ToTTstore.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ToTTStore

Store Operating Hours:

Mon - Thurs: 11.00am - 8.00pm
Fri: 11.00am - 9.00pm
Sat, Sun & PH: 10.00am - 9.00pm

Bistro Operating Hours:

Mon - Thurs: 10.30am - 7.30pm
Fri: 10.30am - 8.30pm
Sat, Sun & PH: 9.30am - 8.30pm


This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to Tools of The Trade and Food News PR for the kind invitation.

17 October 2014

Weekend Brunch at Lower East Side

Living anywhere in Singapore ensures you have lots of great places to eat at right across the island whatever you are in the mood for, sometimes though it's nice to stay closer to home.  That's what we do quite a lot and one place close to us that has fast become a firm favourite is Lower East Side on East Coast Road.

Lower East Side is a relaxed Mexican inspired restaurant perfect for drinks and food.  It's somewhere we'll often go to in the evening or at weekends as it so close to us and never disappoints, firm favourites being the Signature Trio Tacos, a range of dishes including fish, pork belly, chorizo and vegetarian options.

On one of these very visits though we noticed a poster advertising a Sunday Mexican inspired brunch which we decided we had to try out.  The brunch options are eggs Benedict tacos, churros pancakes, brunch burrito and a cheese baked half avocado.  I was torn between the eggs Benedict tacos and the brunch burrito but in the end opted for the tacos.  I am a fan of eggs Benedict so it seemed fitting to opt for this fun alternative.  I was glad I did as they were delicious, the egg perfectly cooked and the avocado underneath (which you can just see in my photo below) complimenting it perfectly.  I opted to eat them with a knife and fork though as I think you'd get in a bit of a mess trying to do so with your hands but I'd definitely have them again.

Mexican hot chocolate

I admit to having a bit of a sweet tooth at times and despite Singapore's tropical weather still enjoy drinking hot chocolate.  So when I saw this on the brunch menu I had to give it a go too.  The hot chocolate had a hint of cinnamon to it which tasted lovely with the chocolate.  It certainly went down very nicely whilst I was waiting for my tacos to arrive.

After our mains and a couple more drinks (by the way they have 1 for 1 offers on some drinks) we decided to get some churros to share from the regular menu to finish off our meal.  These are wonderfully good with the churros being nice and sweet coupled with the slightly bitter chocolate dipping sauce.

Eggs Benedict tacos

The weekend brunch is a good option at Lower East Side and we'll definitely be back again for it soon!

Weekend brunch runs on Saturday from 11am - 4pm and Sunday from 9am - 4pm.

10 October 2014

Anjalichocolat at Pasarbella

Last Friday evening saw me pay my first ever visit to Pasarbella.  I was surprised by how big it is and just how much is there, it's clearly somewhere I need to return to.  My reason for visiting though was to attend a chocolate tasting at the one of the stalls, Anjalichocolat.  Having always loved chocolate and with a confirmed sweet tooth this sounded like a great way to spend my evening!


Anjalichocolat opened in August at Pasarbella and is clearly a real passion and love for its owner Anjali.  Her and her family have been very fortunate to live in many places all over the world which gave her the opportunity to explore her many interests away from her own career.  Whilst exploring these she discovered a love and a real talent for chocolate making.  Anjali was fascinating to talk to and truly passionate and knowledgeable about the art of chocolate making, something that clearly takes a lot of patience to get the chocolate just right.

The chocolate samples (white, milk and dark) to prepare our palates for the tasting

Anjali began by explaining that we would be sampling six different chocolates beginning with a white chocolate (the most subtle) up to a dark chocolate (71%).  She explained that when doing a tasting you shouldn't really try any more than about six in one go as after that point the palate finds it difficult to distinguish the taste and flavours.  It is also important to try the chocolates in order of the intensity of the chocolate.  The chocolates were paired with some sweet wines (after all chocolate is a dessert right so the wine should be sweeter) beginning with a light one to a slightly fruitier one for the dark chocolate.

Lemongrass Coconut truffles

For each different one we were to try we firstly had a small sample piece of the type of chocolate used to prepare our palates (see the photo above).  Anjali makes all her chocolates on site at her stall in Pasarbella and uses Belgian couverture chocolate alongside the finest ingredients, fresh cream, butter, fruit puree and whole spices and, of course, absolutely no preservatives.  These chocolates are meant for eating and enjoying now - not keeping!  

Salted caramel bonbons

Firstly we tried the Lemongrass Coconut truffles.  I'm a big fan of lemongrass and this chocolate was delicately flavoured, light and incredibly fresh tasting.  The slight crunch of the coconut on the outside of the truffle adding an extra wow factor to the chocolate.  These were a real hit with me!  

We then sampled the small piece of milk chocolate to get our palates ready for the next couple of milk chocolates.  First up were the Salted Caramel bonbons which were amazing!  I loved the lemongrass truffles but I think these were even better.  As you bit into them you got a real hit of comforting oozy chocolate.  I could happily eat these all night!  Next, before moving on to the dark chocolate, I tried the Earl Grey Tea Citrus, a really delightful mix of Earl Grey tea and citrus flavours.  These had a subtle delicate flavour and  I also loved the pattern on these chocolates.

Earl Grey Tea Citrus (in the foreground) and Fig and Ginger Truffles (in the background)

Finally it was time for the dark chocolate.  I would consider myself more of a white and milk chocolate person than dark and if I decided to buy some chocolate would not necessarily choose dark.  Anjali's love for chocolate making shone through again though as she explained to us that when customer's come and indicate preferences she will take the time to explain the subtle balance of flavours and encourage them to think about stepping out of their comfort zone and away from their usual choices.  

After sampling the piece of dark chocolate to get our palates ready once again I began by trying the Star Anise bonbons.  By this point we had moved on to the slightly fruitier wine which was a perfect compliment.  Star anise is not my favourite spice but the combination of this with the dark chocolate worked really well together.

Left to right: Earl Grey Tea Citrus, Fig and Ginger Truffles, Noir

Following that I tried the Fig and Ginger truffles and then the Noir.  I love ginger and the zing of the ginger combined with the sweetness of the fig was lovely.  The Noir was, as its name suggests, just pure dark chocolate ganache in a dark chocolate shell - all 71% of it!  Despite my natural leaning towards white or milk chocolate I was pleasantly surprised by all the dark chocolates I sampled.  So if you visit Anjalichocolat listen to Anjali and her wealth of knowledge and experience and be prepared to try the chocolates you wouldn't normally choose.

Star Anise Bonbons

The perfect combination chocolate and wine

I had a lovely evening sampling just a few of Anjali's wonderful handmade chocolates.  I truly never realised just how much of a labour of love chocolate making is and this passion shines through in the delicious and thoughtful chocolate combinations I got to try.  My personal favourites from the night were the Lemongrass Coconut truffles and the Salted Caramel bonbons which after a very informal poll of myself and the others there seemed to be the general consensus.  Go and buy them yourselves (and the others) to see whether you agree with me or not.  Anjali's chocolates would be perfect for a gift for any special occasion but also just for enjoying with some nice wine and good company!  I shall definitely return.

Selection boxes of chocolates just waiting to be eaten!


Anjalichocolat is open Monday - Sunday 10am - 7.30pm

Stall email: anjalichocolat@gmail.com

Telephone number: +65 9853 9663



This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to Anjalichocolat for the kind invitation.

30 September 2014

Kuching Cat Museum

The weekend before we travelled back to the UK we went to Kuching in Malaysia for another friend's wedding.  Unbelievably after four years in Singapore this was my first visit to Malaysia!  Obviously we were there primarily for the wedding and although we had planned to travel so we had a day for a little exploring beforehand we ended up travelling the evening before the wedding and back again the day afterwards.  I clearly need to return again at some point to experience a bit more of here and other parts of Malaysia.

In-between the celebrations and travelling back to Singapore we did manage to squeeze one thing in though, a visit to the cat museum in Kuching.  If you know me or have read any of the blog you might have realised I am a bit of a cat lover.  We have our own cat here in Singapore and I've lived with cats all my life, so when I found out we were going to Kuching and read about the cat museum I suggested to my husband that we ought to go and visit.

Entrance to the cat museum

The name Kuching is actually derived from the Malay word for cat, kucing, so it seems appropriate for a cat museum to be there.  We took a taxi from our hotel to the museum which is actually a little out of the main town in the Kuching North City Hall Headquarters.  When we booked the taxi our hotel asked if we wanted the driver to wait for us but we declined.  However, in hindsight, given its location if you decide to visit it may be a good idea to pre-arrange for your taxi to return or wait.  Luckily we managed to locate the Malaysian version of one of the many taxi booking apps available in Singapore and booked a taxi to pick us up through that! 

The museum is pretty kitsch and quirky (just look at that entrance in the photo above) and if you are not a cat fan then don't even think about going, it really is all about cats!  There are exhibits on everything and anything to do with cats, from cats in history, modern day famous cartoon and toy cats, looking after your cat, cats in art and everything else you can probably imagine.  It was bigger than I expected and there is a lot of information in the exhibits to read though and a lot to see.  Admittedly some of the exhibits look like they could do with a bit of a spruce up and an update, but perhaps that is part of the charm of the place.  There is also, of course, the obligatory cat themed gift shop at the end and yes I did get a little something as a memento.

I don't imagine I'd ever visit again if I were to find myself in Kuching but as a little quirky extra it was a fun and slightly random way to spend a morning!

18 September 2014

Gardens by the Bay East and Marina Barrage

Whilst everyone is familiar with Gardens by the Bay South (the side with the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest) how many of you have visited Gardens by the Bay East?  Well neither had I until quite recently.  It was actually my husband who discovered this side of the gardens whilst he was out running and on a slightly wet Sunday a few weeks later we decided to go and explore them a little more.

Whilst Gardens by the Bay South is usually always full of visitors this part of the gardens was practically empty.  I'm not sure if that's because we arrived just as the heavens opened and everybody else had checked the weather forecast first or if it's always like that.  Regardless though this meant we could soak up the serenity of the gardens and explore them exactly as we wanted to.

This was taken in the area called the Rain Garden, very apt for the weather that day

This side of the gardens seems a bit wilder than the opposite gardens, a lot more focused on the natural aspect of the gardens and in making them suitable habitats for various wildlife.  It is described on the Gardens by the Bay website as an interim garden and that future developments will be based around the theme of water.  There are already a lot of ponds etc. here and information about how it is planned these, and the water they hold, will be used going forward.

Of course you can also enjoy views across the water to the domes in Gardens by the Bay South as well as of Marina Bay Sands, the city skyline and the Singapore Flyer.  There isn't a lot of shelter in these gardens so come prepared for sunshine or rain.  Luckily though we did manage to find a spot with a seat and shelter as the rain came down heavier again whilst we were in the gardens.  This area however would be the perfect spot to come armed with a good book for an afternoon of peace and reading.



If you decide to visit this side of the gardens another thing you can do is walk across the Marina Barrage and back along the south side of the gardens which is exactly what we decided to do.  Well, to be honest, we weren't sure if we could just get across but we thought we would walk down and see.  Luckily you can and it's clearly a very popular route with cyclists!  So we got to walk right across the barrage, see the ships out at sea and get some good views back towards the city.  The reservoir that the barrage has created is the first right in the heart of the city and is its most urbanised catchment.  When you get to the other side of the barrage there is actually a visitor centre you can go into as well.  We didn't on this occasion but continued our walk instead up towards Gardens by the Bay South.

View from the Marina Barrage towards the city

We had had a very early start that particular Sunday and although it felt like the middle of the afternoon by the time we reached the barrage it was only lunch time.  So our final point of call that day was to Satay by the Bay, a collection of hawker style stalls in the Gardens for something to eat and a welcome cold drink.

Gardens by the Bay East seems to be a real spot of tranquility, perfect for some peace, quiet and downtime.  The walk through the gardens and across the barrage was a really delightful way to spend our Sunday.  Next time you are looking for somewhere different to go walking perhaps you'll think about here.

09 September 2014

Red Dot Roaming - Esplanade MRT - Jendela (Visual Arts Space)

After a month away from Singapore in the UK, Spain and France (more soon on all of that) I'm back and managed to get Red Dot Roaming again last week.  This time I decided to take a look at the Jendela Visual Arts space in the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and close to the Esplanade MRT station.

If you aren't familiar with the Jendela Visual Arts Space it is housed on the second floor of the Esplanade and is incredibly easy to find, just follow the signs.  I'd never heard of it though until I started looking at what was around the Esplanade area.  It is the only dedicated exhibition space at the Esplanade and holds regular shows often integrated with other events at the centre.



On my visit I chanced upon an exhibit by local artist, Jeremy Hiah called 'Tales from Jalan Buang Hoe'.  The exhibit is the artist's depiction of some of the local old myths and legends from a time long before Singapore became the thriving modern city it now is.  The legends he has chosen include the story of how Pulau Ubin came to be, a story I had heard before, the legend of a white crocodile that lives in the Kallang river (a new one for me) and a handful more.  All are presented in different ways including one recreated with Lego models (most ingenious I thought), a wall mural and a shadow puppet show.

The display area is only small and whether you chose to see this exhibit or another your visit would probably happily fill just a lunch break if you were in the area or maybe as a little extra something to do before seeing a show on a visit to the theatre.  Perhaps one to keep an eye on for something of interest to you.  From investigating the exhibit a bit more since it seems that the artist did some guided tours and interactive activities during its time on display.  So it is worth checking the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and specifically the Jendela page of the website as I'm sure other artists may do similar things in the future.

If you are interested in seeing 'Tales from Jalan Buang Hoe' it is on now until 14 September 2014 (so get there asap), Monday - Friday 11am - 8.30pm, Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays 10am - 8.30pm.  Admission is free.

If you missed any of my previous Red Dot Roaming posts, check them out here and let me know if you think there is somewhere close to an MRT (or LRT) station that I might like to visit.

Esplanade MRT is on the Circle Line (CC3). 
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