Friday, July 31, 2015

Johnny Marr in Singapore

After sorting out ticket refunds to the canceled gigs in both Seattle and Singapore last year, we wondered if we would ever catch Johnny Marr live. It doesn't matter so much to me, but the man loves The Smiths. Well, there's this perennial argument. I love The Smiths too, but the band isn't just about Morrissey or Johnny Marr. Watching them solo isn't the same as watching The Smiths all together. Anyway.

Since 2005, Johnny Marr is supposedly vegan and also a teetotaler. At 51 years old, he looked great on stage. Post The Smiths, besides dipping his finger into every pie in the scene, Johnny Marr has also released solo albums of 'The Messenger' in 2013 and a year later, 'Playland'.

At this weird but comfortable venue of the concert hall of the University Cultural Center, at least the gig began on time. Not like Morrissey's 2012 gig that made us wait a full hour. Boo. I truly HATE waiting around for gigs. Johnny Marr did a solid 1.5-hour set, opening with 'Playland', then The Smiths' crowd favorites including of 'Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before'. There was of course 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out'. Stoked that the night ended with five songs for the encore. He already put 'Panic' into the main set, so for the encore, he did 'Dynamo'. We really really wanted to hear 'Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want', and he did that! Woot. There were the covers of Depeche Mode's 'I Feel You', and The Clash's version (or rather The Crickets as the original) 'I Fought The Law',  and the night finally ended with 'How Soon Is Now'. (See that setlist for yourself.)

It must be the age or something. It was a great night, but it wasn't rock-out sweat-dripping awesome. Like I said, Johnny Marr isn't The Smiths on stage all together. Morrissey has to be on stage too; Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce are needed too. Kinda strange that not many people attended the gig. There must have been less than 600 persons in the hall. Whatever. It meant that everyone had plenty of space to rush up to the front. All of us stood and jived throughout the 1.5 hours. Evergreen tunes, classic riffs, good melodic sing-along rock songs.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cakes :: Little Favors by Ethel

So we shimmied down to Little Favors by Ethel's pop-up over two weekends at the atrium of Orchard Central mall. Bought loads of cakes for the man and the friends. The man's never been so thrilled as these few weeks. It was great to get slices of different flavors. It'll be crazy to buy a few whole cakes just to taste. We can't throw that many dessert parties or find enough humans to share cakes with over two consecutive weekends.

Although Ethel does send out her cakes to shops here and there, nothing beats seeing a full range like that on display, and the exciting different flavors. Doubt there'll be many pop-ups in future. Ethel's going to culinary school and can only do this 'part-time', i.e. accept some cake orders over email over the weekend or something. Check out their facebook and instagram for the latest updates. The pop-up's still happening over THIS FINAL WEEKEND at Orchard Central mall. Go!

The past two weekends were fantastic in tantalizing us with all the colors at Little Favors by Ethel's cheerful dessert table. Presentation is always important. Ethel took lots of effort in creating rustic gardenscapes, and ensured the itty bites flowed well into a welcoming table.

The man merrily lapped up all the cakes, especially the Millionaire's Cake of chocolate sponge, vanilla cream, dark chocolate, shortbread crumbs, et cetera. And the Cookies & Cream. Those were full-on chocolate and rich cream.

He also loved the Lime, Raspberry & Coconut, Rose & Pistachio. There was a Spiced Apple & Speculoos which many liked. I didn't mind the apple pie filling and spices, but it held too much cream, and my much-hated caramel sauce.

Earl Grey Lemon Bundt
You know me. I'm not that big on sugar and cakes. Stuck to tasting portions and little bites. Not even swayed by chocolate. I'm one of those who're not into nutella. Heh. Don't mind light sponge/chiffon cakes, and am okay with Bundt cakes as long as the sugar portions are lowered.

Bundt cakes can easily be least sweet of all. Importantly, they don't hold cream in between layers. The bulk of the sweets could go to the toppings of either frosting or icing, and one could scrape them off instead of quaffing the whole thing.

There was a very good Citrus Carrot Bundt with Housemade Granola, topped with wildflower honey cream cheese frosting. My favorite of the lot is the Earl Grey Lemon Bundt. It was quite the perfect foil to a brew of Sumatra Mandheling. No thanks to Ethel and her gleeful experiments, I've had way too many cakes these two months than the whole of last year.

Citrus Carrot Bundt with Housemade Granola
topped with wildflower honey cream cheese frosting

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

九年剧场 :: 谢燊杰的《底层》

Rehearsal photo from Nine Years Theatre's facebook page.

Watched Nine Years Theatre's adaptation of Russian playwright Maxim Gorky's 1902 'The Lower Depths'. 九年剧场呈现的《底层》,改编自俄国剧作家高尔基最具震撼力的作品。Translated, adapted and directed by Nelson Chia (谢燊杰) from Gorky's best known 'The Lower Depths', this Chinese version with English surtitles kept to the same number of characters (seven actors played 15 roles) and plot, but removed their names and identified them simply by their jobs, bringing the stark realities closer to home.

Uhh, I couldn't think of the characters in this adaptation as Russians though. There's a certain pain in being Russian in that era. The actors didn't hold that sort of believable deep anguish of having been dealt a terrible hand by the cruel quirks of Fate. However, the impoverished circumstances and of human suffering paint a universal picture a century ago; a century later, nothing much has changed. Poverty and the lack of education remain a vicious cycle. In an interview with The Straits Times, Nelson Chia said,

...Gorky's play reminded him of Singapore's widening income gap and disparity in the quality of life between different social classes. He says: "While we're celebrating the success of the nation with SG50, I thought of those left behind. Whenever a society progresses, there are always those who cannot catch up."

Pride and integrity versus hunger and poverty. What is dignity in the face of illness and death? The articles promoting the play didn't mince their words and linked these themes to the growing income disparity in Singapore as well, noting that in this jubilee year, it's time to take a hard look at who's cleaning the streets, the tables at the hawker centres and those who lurk in the back alleys.

‘尊严这种东西是有钱人才会想的’ | ‘如果诚实的话,三天之内一定饿死’

We scooted off after the show. The post-show dialogue held over tea was too intimate. We were already a group of eight. There would be plenty to chat about over supper. In a separate interview with Lianhe Zaobao (联合早报), Nelson Chia hoped the audience would see the workers in the lower-income bracket and think of their circumstances and reflect upon how differently people live, and how everyone is human at the end.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Photo credit: dear Y.

It's been a long while since we hung out leisurely at an uncrowded cafe for a morning piece of toast, eggs, coffee and orange juice. Spent a quiet hour brainstorming and sketching with my favorite little girl in the whole wide world.

Monday, July 27, 2015

All Those Fairy Tales

It's quite amazing how writers could turn fairytales into more fairytales. It boils down to our imagination and how much we're limited by that. Kate Danley's 'The Woodcutter' was a surprisingly a quirky and entertaining read.

The author took a ton of Grimm's fairy tales and linked them into one story of how the Woodcutter, with magical axes taken from the River God, and one special yet plain fairy ax of his own, kept peace in the Twelve then Thirteen Kingdoms. It was rather well linked. It's plausible how the world of Faerie and the humans are joined in this story. (Reviews here, here and here.)

This story could probably spin off into a whole new fairy tale. It drew on many. Dead pixies. Someone killed Cinderella and one of Odin's hellhounds has gone rogue. A malevolent Queen and a cruel Gentleman of the Vanishing Mansion are trying to destroy the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms to take over and destroy the protection of the Woods ruled by King Oberon and Queen Titania of the fae. The author even managed to make the Princesses less annoying and helpless than usual. The Queens and Baba Yaga were rather awesome.

It isn't a bad read, especially when treated with a large pinch of salt. It does get a tad confusing, but if that's how the author wants to play out the fairy tales, it's cool. It isn't unenjoyable. Just don't put too much thought into it. It's light reading, kinda fun and rather cheesy. It's pretty fluffy. I almost died of laughter at various junctures.

Yes, true love's first kiss. 
"The spell has been broken," said the Woodcutter. He sheathed the Platinum Ax. "The hellhound that stalked you will have lost your scent, for you are no longer that which you were and will forever be more than you ever thought possible. 
In losing yourself to one another, you have won. The blood of the face within your veins has been tamed and you have fulfilled your role in the treaty—for you have chosen to love. 
The Wood shall now grant you safe passage to your home. Whatever danger you were once in has now passed. Tomorrow, Prince Martin, no matter what direction you travel, you shall arrive in your kingdom by sundown. There you shall wed your Rapunzel, and together you shall live happily ever after." 
The couple smiled curiously at one another. 
The Woodcutter rose to retire for the night and leave the young couple to discovery. He knew they no longer needed him, for wild magic does not meddle with the hearts of those who have tamed it with true love. 
For true love conquers all.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Grilled Salmon At Home

Not a fan of raw salmon, but prefer it grilled. I usually get salmon fillets from Meidi-ya because it always stocks decent cuts. Fassler's more convenient outlet in Tiong Bahru is cool to get supplies of seafood too. Now that The Alaska Guys are bringing in good salmon to the shops, we've got more choices. Woohoo.

Grilled fish make for a comforting meal when the stomach tire of eating out. Been having indigestion. Yes, I've upped the intensity of the exercise routine, but there've been too many work meals and too much food all around. I haven't been as draconian about meal contents when eating with work associates and new acquaintances, and have been careless with taking too much meat and the stomach has sounded its disagreement. UGH. So in order to pacify the churning stomach, I've been doing mainly vegetarian meals, salads and the occasional fish.

Stayed in that evening. Had a couple of fish fillets in the freezer that should be eaten soon. Lovely gifts from the friends who brought them for us when they flew in from Seattle. Thawed out sockeye fillets to grill for dinner. Seared them to crisp the skin. The man was most enthusiastic about it. He also wanted an additional item of soup. He fried up roux to thicken an oyster stew. All right. He scuttled off to the supermarket to grab some frozen oysters. Gonna be cooking them in a pot. Didn't need them freshly shucked. I rustled up an easy spicy pot of farro with tomatoes and basil. Taadahhh. A yummy dinner.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Macallan Rare Cask

Launched since last October, I haven't tasted the 'Macallan Rare Cask' yet, because, erm, Macallan's flavor profiles generally aren't my favorites. It was apparently available only in the United States initially. And I said no to a few drams last Christmas. Hahahah. Right up, I'm more of a fan of Islay and peat, not the unpeated and perhaps friendlier Speysides and Highlands. Also not fond of Japanese whisky at all.

Honestly, I was more curious about Macallan's marketing campaign and utilization of space more than the whisky itself. Curious about how much marketing budget a whisky distributor would commit to setting a brand image, and of course, sales figures. It's obviously not a professional curiosity since I don't work in this industry or a scope remotely related to marketing and public relations. It's more of... wanting to see how the marketing is done in order to convince consumers to part with a not-too-crazy S$470 for a bottle of this expression. After this launch it retails at about S$550. Nope, it's highly unlikely that this would be stocked at the duty-free shops.

The interactive exhibition built for the launch of the 'Macallan Rare Cask' is scheduled over three weekends from 18 July to 2 August. Held in a colonial bungalow at 35 Scotts Road, the space is nicely partitioned to take visitors through the history of the distillery, its process, craftsmanship and the making of this expression, including a quiet-enough faux dunnage warehouse/tasting room for 20 persons. Very meticulously fixed up.

A single malt whisky is still a blend because it isn't a single cask. It just happens to be a blend from all the whiskies at one distillery. So we're tasting the skills of the Master Blender of each distillery. Same goes for the afternoon's tasting of 'Macallan Rare Cask'. Aged in American and Spanish oak oloroso first-fill sherry casks, this expression holds no age statement. Not really a problem. Not having an age statement simply means that it won't go beyond a certain price point, and also, the associated sharpness in its youngest blend would be evened out by the maturation in the sweet sherry casks. Also, they really wanted to explain to the audience about their casks, and how the expression is created from the distillery's oldest casks over 16 different styles in a production run of 125,000 bottles.

At the retail section, the man and I gave the bottle a quick thought. It's lovely to have tasted it. The man wouldn't mind getting it as an addition to the overflowing whisky cabinet. He's really easy to persuade when it comes to whisky. I don't want to own this expression. It's too sweet, not unlike a dessert wine. It's got all the flavors of a Christmas fruitcake or pudding, both of which I stay away from. It comes down to individual preferences. I wouldn't get it for myself, and friends would know not to get it as a gift for me either. But I would buy this as gift for friends who appreciate its flavors.

Cherries and cinnamon with a hint of spice; sweet and big on the cream.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fatty Meat Feast

It's been a long time since we last went to a meat BBQ buffet thing. It's just too much meat and oil. Can't even remember the last time the man and I did this. So when the friends suggested Tenkaichi Restaurant to make a table of four, we went along. The two-year old restaurant is moving from its Keypoint Beach Road location to Marina Square soon.

I guess these yakiniku buffet restaurants are popular here. They all either have chefs trained in Japan or affiliated to a Japanese big-name chain. The other much raved about is the newly opened Shabuyaki Kazu-ya at Stanley Street which serves ramen in the day and the meats in the night. There're the non-buffet options, but those are way pricier. Like Ito Kacho and Yakiniku Yazawa, and uhh Prime Gyu-kaku.

Tenkaichi serves mainly wagyu. Cuts of short rib, skirt, etc at 7+. Okay. Less enthusiastic since I'm not a fan. I like my meats lean. But I think many people will be very happy with the choice and cuts of meats available at S$60++ per pax. It seems to be a great price for the quality and quantity. Meats are ordered from the menu and brought out upon each order. There was the ever-popular cut of pork jowl too. It also has a buffet table of vegetables, carbs and dips for variety.

I'm less impressed by how Tenkaichi charges $1 for water. This always gets me. We live in a city where tap water is potable. I tend to avoid restaurants and eateries that charge for water. Tenkaichi knew they'd earn like $300 including a bottle of sake from our table. Still they said if we didn't opt for $5-each for free-flow drinks which included water, iced water was chargeable at S$1 each. At least it would be free-flow. Still, wtf. I could very well have said, fuck the sake and we'll just drink water, and your restaurant can earn $4 from us instead of S$100. SERIOUSLY. Do the math, Tenkaichi and stingy restaurants. Anyway, I was a bit annoyed but asked very politely if they could waive the $1 for our iced water since we were ordering a bottle of sake. To their credit and sense of logic, they did.

The man had a really light lunch so that he would have sufficient stomach space for this dinner. I was clever and had a big lunch and a salad prior because I wouldn't be eating much. Since I don't appreciate wagyu, I don't know if it's supposed to be very good. Kinda spat out most of the meat because it was really too chewy (intercoastal muscles especially) and too oily. I did enjoy the sake very much. Had chosen a dry one to cut across the meat and oil. The ox-tongue was nicely brined and thinly sliced. Dips included grated garlic, chilli padi and shoyu. I was set. Importantly, the table had a blast. We walked out with full stomachs smelling of oil and beef.

Even though I limited my intake of meat, my stomach howled in protest for three days after. Can die. Indigestion. UGH. No meat next week.