17 July 2012

Lets Go Racing

As a little girl I fell in love with horses and all things equestrian.  This of course meant I had riding lessons, subscribed to pony magazines, devoured pony books - imagining myself to be the heroine of the story having the adventures and harboured dreams of competing at the Olympics in the show jumping or some such event and, of course, winning gold in the process.  I longed for a pony of my own too though I knew realistically that was never going to happen no matter how much I hoped and hoped it would.

All of this interest and dreaming also I meant I enjoyed watching show jumping (always my favourite) whenever it was on TV.  This included convincing my Mum to let me stay up far later than I was ever normally allowed to, just to watch the highlights of the day's competition, which was always on TV late in the evening.  I may never have got a pony of my own but I was lucky enough to be taken to see various horse shows, watch my heroes in action and get their autographs and soak up the atmosphere as much as I could as a spectator.

When I entered my early teens I discovered horse racing and fell in love as well with the thrills and excitement this provided.  One thing I'd never done though was get to go to a race meeting, always having to make do with watching it on TV.  I'd come close several times but fate always intervened and prevented me from going.  For my sixteenth birthday my parents had taken me to the National Stud in Newmarket (the home, in the UK, of Thoroughbred breeding) which I was on cloud nine about but I still wanted to experience a race meeting for myself someday.  So when my husband recently got an invitation to one of the Friday night race meetings at Kranji he did not need to stop and ask me if wanted to go too. 

View of the racing from the Corporate Box

Jockeys and horses in the parade ring

Having not been to any other race meetings I can't make any direct comparisons for atmosphere, fun, entertainment and so on.  We were lucky enough to able to spend our evening in one of the corporate boxes and so had an excellent view of the whole course.  As well as easy access for placing bets and getting food, drinks etc.  As fun though as having access to the box was I also felt we were a little removed from all the action in terms of soaking up some of the atmosphere of the night.  So when I had the chance to go and see the horses in the parade ring I jumped at it.  Down there was where the majority of race goers were enjoying themselves and this also gave me the chance to see the horses and jockeys at close quarters.  After watching all the build up I then watched that particular race from down near the parade ring as well.  Although obviously you don't have a view of the whole course and have to watch some of it on the huge TV screens overlooking the course, hearing the thunder of horses hooves as they galloped to the winning post and the roar of the crowd really made me feel part of the night and the racing.

We played it safe with setting a limit on how much we were prepared to bet per race, we were really just out to have a fun evening.  We also placed, what in the UK at least (not sure if they are called the same in Singapore) are known as 'each-way' bets.  So we stood a greater chance of getting a bit of money back even if the horse was only placed rather than betting on the horse only to win.  Of course you don't get so much back in return if you do get a result, but as I said we were just out to have an enjoyable evening at the races.

I am so pleased my first opportunity to go racing came in Singapore, who knows perhaps someday I'll get back to Hong Kong and have the chance to enjoy some racing at Happy Valley.  Hopefully too I'll also get to go racing one day back in the UK where my love of the sport was first born.  Then I'll be able to compare a warm, humid night's racing with the inevitable cold weather out on a UK race course.

11 July 2012

Jazz Nights at The Halia

Sunday nights are all about relaxing, as you try to forget that nag in the back of your mind reminding you it's nearly Monday and time to go back to work again.  The perfect place to unwind and finish your weekend in the right way might just be by enjoying a jazz night at The Halia in the Botanic Gardens.

   Image courtesy of FoodNews

Exterior of The Halia
Image courtesy of FoodNews

The jazz nights take place every second and last Sunday of the month and feature local jazz sensations including Claressa Monteiro and Richard Jackson.  Claressa Monteiro has over two decades of singing experience and has recorded three albums.  She has performed at many notable events including the Singapore Arts Festival.  Richard Jackson was a featured artiste at the first Singapore F1 Grand Prix in 2008.  He has also performed at numerous jazz festivals both in Singapore and elsewhere.

To accompany the jazz there is, of course, great food too, all created by Chef de Cuisine Reynaldo Arriola who has introduced several new creations inspired by his five years based in France.  I've dined at The Halia once before and I enjoyed my second visit and the food just as much as on my first time there.  We began by enjoying an amuse bouche of vine cherry tomato drizzled with honey vinaigrette.  The tomatoes were super sweet and juicy and certainly prepared me for my dinner.  I chose an appetiser of a tian of vine ripened tomato, pine nut, guacamole, mango salsa, shiso and braised courgette ($28).  A refreshing and light way to start my evening with a mixture of sweetness from the mango and tomatoes contrasting with the guacamole and the crunchiness of the pine nuts beautifully.

Halia means ginger in Malay and ginger is an ingredient found in a number of the dishes that are available on the menu.  My appetiser was followed by a ginger flower sorbet palette cleanser.  The ginger gave the sorbet a refreshing tang and ensured my taste buds were ready for my main course.

Tian of vine ripened tomato, pine nut, guacamole, mango salsa, shiso and braised courgette

My main course choice of 300 days grain-fed Rangers Valley Black Angus tenderloin (180gm), truffle celeriac mash, edamame, baby carrot, asparagus, tomato confit infused with thyme and garlic with a red wine jus ($68) was delicious.  The beef was perfectly cooked and melted in my mouth as I savoured every bite.  The vegetables were delicious and great accompaniments to the beef.

300 days grain-fed Rangers Valley Black Angus tenderloin (180gm), truffle celeriac mash, edamame, baby carrot, asparagus, tomato confit infused with thyme and garlic, red wine jus

For dessert I chose freshly baked fig tart, bacon pear ice cream, almond date, brie cheese, sour cream sabayon with wild mountain honey ($16).  I really could taste the bacon flavour in the ice cream which was an excellent contrast to the sweetness of the fig tart.  I admit to generally being a little dull when it comes to cheese.  I mainly eat cheddar and would never consider ordering cheese and biscuits.  However the brie cheese element of the dish worked wonderfully well against the sweetness of the dish.  It would possibly be the perfect choice for someone wanting a sweet dessert but who also enjoys their cheese and biscuit fix too.

Freshly baked fig tart, bacon pear ice cream, almond date, brie cheese, sour cream sabayon, wild mountain honey

To conclude my meal, and in addition to enjoying a Ginger Cosmopolitan (ginger flower, vodka, triple sec, cranberry $19) and a glass of white wine, I enjoyed a Hot Halia Infusion (sun-dried ginger from Hanoi steeped in hot water for an hour, served with wild mountain honey $10).  I actually had one of these on my last visit to The Halia and it really is delicious and great for settling your stomach after a large meal.

I enjoyed an evening of good food and good live music which awaits you too on jazz Sundays at The Halia.

 Ginger Cosmopolitan (ginger flower, vodka, triple sec, cranberry)
Image courtesy of FoodNews

Hot Halia Infusion (sun-dried ginger from Hanoi steeped in hot water for an hour, served with wild mountain honey)
Image courtesy of FoodNews

"Jazz Nights at The Halia" is held every second and last Sunday of the month at The Halia outdoor deck, from 7pm-8pm (1st set), 8.30pm-9.30pm (2nd set) and 9.45pm-10.30pm (final set).

1 Cluny Road
Ginger Garden (enter via Tyersall Avenue)
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore 259569

For reservations, call (65) 8444 1148

Dress code:  Smart, Casual

Modes of payment:  Cash / American Express / Visa / Mastercard

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 FoodNews and The Halia for the kind invitation.
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