Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lunch at the Garden

You must know by now how much I love nature, food and my friends. Well, I was in Seventh Heaven when a few of us gathered for lunch at Halia Restaurant in The Botanic Gardens!

Even though the restaurant is tucked away in the lush Ginger Garden, walking there in the light drizzle was a most pleasant experience.

How can one not enjoy the beauty of the plants and flowers along the way?

When the trickle turned into a downpour, I made a quick dash into Halia Restaurant. In case you're wondering, Halia is the Malay word for ginger.

Dining in a glass house situated amongst greenery is so relaxing, especially when it's pouring outside.

Two of my friends were already seated. Another one was stranded at the bus stop. Luckily the rain stopped just as quickly as it started and she arrived before our tummies started to growl.

The lunch menu looked so good, we wanted to order everything! According to my friends, the tuna tataki (below) did not disappoint.

My appetiser - prawn cakes with mango salsa - turned out to be surprisingly succulent and flavourful. The lightly pan-fried patties went very well with the tangy mango cubes.

For the main course, they had grilled beef sandwich and chilli crab spaghetti.

My choice of seafood skewers was a good one. The scallop, prawn, mussel and cuttlefish were tender and delicious. The couscous that came together was also very nicely done. I would order this again if I return.

The portions here aren't too big, leaving us with enough room for dessert. The Cappuccino Dunking Pit was slightly bitter but the crunchy and sweet brownies made the dessert complete.

We also tried the restaurant's signature dessert- ginger nougat ice cream with roasted pineapple. Its unique sweet and gingery flavour made it an instant hit with my friends.

Our fun-filled afternoon was suddenly interrupted by phone calls and all too soon, we had to part ways to return to the real world. Spending an afternoon with good friends is such an indulgence for busy women like us. If only we could do this on a more regular basis.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

An old client

Today I saw a man (David) who once made me cry. That was more than 20 years ago.

At that time, he was the owner of a company that manufactured lighting fixtures. They were also the distributors of European light fittings. He inherited the business from his father, so he was well-traveled, well-off (he drove a Sports Beemer) and spent many hours playing golf at SICC (prestigious golf club). At 40+, he was tall, dark, handsome and athletic. He had a beautiful wife and two kids. His world seemed so perfect.

I was merely in my early 20s, fresh-faced and starting out in my career. We had just formed our graphic design firm and he was one of my first clients. Whenever they developed a new product, his secretary would summon me down to work on the product catalogue.

I was quite terrified of him because of his stern and no-nonsense demeanour. He can be gruff and blunt. I was also in awe because he reminded me of my father. During one project meeting, he raised his voice at me and sent me off. When I walked out of the office building, I burst into tears. I felt terribly hurt and wished I never had to return again.

As we did more projects for him, I came to realise that he was a good man who contributed alot to charity. I also saw him as a reluctant business owner. He might have been happier being a professional golfer or something.

With the rising cost, they eventually relocated their business to Malaysia. We lost touch after that.

This morning, while I was buying my cuppa at the food centre, it was his wife who caught my eye. No wonder this beautiful lady, who is in her sixties, looked familiar. The man sitting beside her still has the tanned complexion and physique of a sportsman. He looked relaxed and happy, certainly nothing to be fearful of.

I couldn't decide whether to go over to greet him or not. Eventually I chickened out and moved to another part of the food centre. By the time I built up the courage, they had already left.

Oh well. Maybe if I'm lucky, I might see them again.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

I can run!

If you think all I do is eat, I'm here to dispel the myth. I can run too! :-)

We've just completed the SPCA 4.8km trail running at MacRitchie Reservoir. We arrived early to secure a parking lot even though the event is a small one. There were less than 700 runners, merely 1% of the popular Standard Chartered Marathon!

I prefer smaller events like this. Afterall, running is supposed to be fun and relaxed. I did quite well considering it's my first race this year. Then again it's only 4.8km, very manageable distance for the casual runner.

I'll be doing the 10k event next Sunday at the Great Eastern Women Run. I hope to do well in that race too.

Waiting for the race to start @ 7am.

The mascot looks like Rusty!

Prizes galore for the winners.

Deirdre Moss, Executive Director of SPCA delivering her thank you speech.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Food in Batam

I'll be the first to admit that I always overeat when I am on holiday. How to resist all that tempting food? My mantra is to eat and work it all off when the holiday is over.

I've been running diligently and thanks to the extra calories, I find myself with so much more energy to run. I used to tire out so easily on my normal (meagre) diet, so I guess we must feed the body well if we want to be sporty.

Now back to the food we ate in Batam. Some of our friends are foodies, so they knew exactly what to eat in Batam island. We had seafood dinner at 128 Restaurant at Harbour Front on the first night.

It is not difficult to find good seafood in Batam but be careful not to walk into the tourist traps. Most of the restaurants here cater to hordes of tourist from Singapore, so they pretty much offer the same menu like sambal kangkong, cereal prawns, shellfish, butter crab, steamed fish and steamboat.

You wouldn't believe this but many people (men in particular) love eating blood (cubes) and offal. Our friends were looking forward to a satisfying Bak Kut Teh meal, one that is chockful of blood, liver, kidney and intestines in the flavourful soup.

I do not enjoy eating exotic meat, so I had only the pork ribs.

While offals turn me off, I find myself being drawn to the crepe cart. After trying both the savoury (beef) and sweet (banana and Nutella) versions, I still like the sweet one better.

Eating crepe.

Dinner on the second night at the Grand Duck Restaurant was very good. The roast duck was particularly tender and delicious.

We find the lemon grass chicken very unique and tasty.

The Indonesians love eating deep fried food from fried chicken to keropok (crackers). Even the inoki mushroom (below) is deep fried in palm oil. They remained crispy for a long time. This dish is unhealthy but tasty.

The fried kway teow (rice noodle) with shredded duck meat was surprisingly good.

The best dish was fried fish garnished with fresh mango and pineapple, served with a tangy sauce.

The eggplant was nicely done too. We highly recommend the Grand Duck Restaurant at Nayoga Mall. The food is good and prices reasonable.

Before we took the ferry out of Batam, we lunched at Ayam Penyet Ria at Batam Centre Mega Mall.

I'm not sure if it's the same as the Ayam Penyet Ria outlets in Singapore because while the presentation appears similar, the portions are tiny.

The tahu telor turned out to be something else altogether. While we were expecting a 'nest' of tauhu (bean curd) fried in egg batter, we were served tauhu cubes scattered on top of a small omelette, and garnished with peanut sauce and keropok.

We couldn't get any tickets on the earlier departures, so we had several hours to spare. Some were spent shopping and drinking coffee at J.Co Donuts. Each drink comes with a free sugar glazed donut which was surprisingly soft and tasty.

Our friend insisted that we should try the special mee goreng which turned out to be different from what we have back home. Don't be deceived by the light colour of the noodles. This dish was actually full of flavour, likely due to amount of msg used.

Kuah Bakso (below) seems to be a common food in Batam. I came across several food stalls selling this. They are basically meat (beef) balls. Not my favourite dish.

And what is Indonesian food without nasi goreng? We just had to try a plate before leaving Batam.

Monday, 20 June 2011

A foolproof salad

This salad is for the moms out there who are fretting because their kids refuse to eat their greens. It is also for the men out there who think that salads are for rabbits, and for the busy executive who thinks making a salad is as harrowing as public speaking.

Here is a salad that is so easy to whip up that it makes a grown man cry. And it is so delicious that you can eat it everyday, especially if you're on a diet like me.

Presenting... the mango & tomato salad!

What you need - a handful of cherry tomatoes, one ripe mango and a small onion.
Cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces, peel and cut mango and onion into small chunks.
In a bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil, pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (or lime juice or balsamic vinegar). Toss the cut fruit/vegetables into the bowl and give a good stir. Garnish with black pepper, fresh chilli and coriander leaves.

It's best to leave the salad in the fridge for about 15 minutes for the flavours to meld together before serving.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Batam whirlwind trip

Now that the kids are all grown up, I'm beginning to enjoy my short getaways with friends. Traveling with good companions can be great fun. I can imagine going on regular holidays with my friends until we're all too old to travel. With great company, it really doesn't matter where we go to.

Last weekend, a group of us took a ferry to Batam, an Indonesian island nearby. For someone who used to think that there is absolutely nothing to do in the little island I was surprised we kept ourselves occupied throughout the weekend.

Our friend got us a really good deal at the new i-Hotel. It's conveniently located in the popular district of Nagoya, within walking distance from a new hypermart and shopping centre.

From the hotel room, I could even see the Singapore skyline on a clear morning. The area surrounding our hotel is flat, with clusters of factories and houses co-existing happily.

We spent many happy hours swimming, shopping, eating and relaxing.

Watching the sunset with friends can be an awesome experience.

We dedicated an entire afternoon for hair treatment at Johnny Andrean Salon and massage at Isabella.

Batam Island used to be a sleepy coastal village until it underwent major transformation into a shipbuilding and industrial zone starting from the 1970s. Today, one can find food chains like McDonalds, KFC, J.Co and A&W in the major malls.

There are all sorts of shophouses, coffee shops and street vendors lining the major streets.

This textile shop caught our eye. We went in to look at the fabrics.

Nagoya Mall is one of the most popular malls in Batam. It is packed with boutiques, salons, restaurants and food outlets.

I ended up buying myself a pair of rubber boots, the kind that Power Rangers wear. CH got himself two batik shirts from Batam Centre Mega Mall.

It was particularly crowded last weekend due to the school holiday in Singapore. Batam's close proximity to Singapore makes it a popular destination for Singaporeans.

When it was time for us to leave, the seats on the afternoon ferries were fully booked, we had to settle for an evening one.