Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Visit to Singapore

Wow. I can't believe I actually visited Singapore and survived both the long flight times and the humidity. I'm so glad I put aside my objections. Singapore is vibrant, orderly, and architecturally intriguing. English is the official language. A good way for a Westerner to get a glimpse of Asia without totally going into culture shock. Based on the dozens of multi-story malls along Orchard Road, shopping and eating seem to be the major past times. But we also visited Little India and Chinatown as well. We loved the Botanic Gardens, especially the National Orchid Gardens. And the Gardens by the Bay, especially the Supertree Grove at night.

So, a few random observations before the photo show. Alcohol is EXPENSIVE in Singapore. A lot of restaurants do not even offer wine by the bottle. The wine by the glass prices would be bottle prices here in the US. And the US dollar to Singapore dollar ratio is not too far off the mark. So, we imbibed less, which was probably a good thing since the air is so humid one gets wringing wet after about a couple of hours. Our hotel did have a cool bar called Manhattan, however. They specialized in barrel-aged cocktails and had a glassed-in barrel room of concoctions waiting their turn. We indulged once, but at ~$21 a pop, we only went the one time.

Yes, it's that humid, even at night. Our friends who live in Singapore said it took them about 6 months to get acclimatized. Thus, the dilemma: do we eat outside at some lovely places along the river or the outdoor food stalls in Chinatown or do we head inside for air conditioning? We chose air conditioning. It was a way for us to recover before going back outside. Our hotel was kind enough to provide us two bottles of water each day and changed our towels twice a day since we usually took two showers every day. Since I am not a fan of heat and humidity and make a point of never going to the beach in the summer, I impressed myself at being able to survive. Shopping centers, the subway (MRT), and taxis all have excellent air conditioning, thank goodness.

The MRT is super easy to use and cheap. One-way fares are less that one Singaporean dollar. Taxis are fairly inexpensive, too. This is a good thing since owning a car is outrageously expensive. A Subaru costs upwards of $150,000 (yes, this is not a typo). We were also told that if one owned a car, the government required one to pay for the right to drive it for 10 years.

Singapore offers a huge variety of restaurants, from traditional Asian fare to familiar American fast food places to chain eateries that were new to us. It allows us as Americans to be adventurous one day and then return to our version of comfort food the next day. Reputable hotels and restaurants have good water and ice, so no real worries from that perspective. There is one fast food place in Singapore called Toast Box. They do toast with salted butter and jam (traditionally coconut jam), but what I became addicted to was the milk tea - extremely strong tea with sweetened condensed milk. OMG. They also have egg tarts. We need a Toast Box here.

Enough comments. Please enjoy some of my snaps.

Boats along the Singapore River
Bumboats along the Singapore River
Christmas Decorating Comes Early in Singapore
Christmas decorations were being put in in mid-Oct. These along Orchard Road are brought to you by Hitachi
Barrel-aged Manhattan
Barrel-Aged Manhattan at Manhattan
Chicken and Rice
We met some friends for lunch one day. They took us to a local food court and ordered all manner of items. This is chicken and rice. The rice is cooked in a concentrated chicken broth.
Rojak - A fruit salad with shrimp paste
Rojak contains fruit and cucumber and mixed with shrimp paste
Noodles with Shrimp
Noodles with Shrimp
Making Sugar Cane Juice
To drink we had sugar cane juice flavored with lemon juice
Malaysian Shaved Ice Dessert (Ice Kacang)
Malaysian Shaved Ice - Shaved ice with coconut milk, syrup, sweet beans, and "green twizzlers"
Traditional Milk Tea
Yummy milk tea at Toast Box
Nalli Chinnasami Chetty
Little India
Deepavali in Little India 21
While we were in Singapore, they celebrated the Deepavali holiday, a Hindu holiday (we know it as Diwali). This is a "bank holiday." Singapore has 10 holidays and honor Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, and Western cultures.
Deepavali in Little India 11
Foodstuffs for sale during Deepavali
This is what happens to the camera lens when walking out of the air conditioned hotel and entering the humidity of Singapore
This is what happens to a camera lens when you step outside from an air conditioned hotel
Burrata with Tomatoes and Rocket
We ate at La Forketta one evening and enjoyed a lovely burrata.
Red and Green Spikes
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Most of the graffiti that we saw in Singapore was on plants
Golden Arches
One of the many species of orchids in the National Orchid Gardens
Tiered Fountain
Also part of the National Orchid Gardens
Prawn Satay with Mango Salad
Prawn Satay with Mango Salad at Halia
Strolling Through Chinatown
Beijing Duck
Beijing Duck at Fatty Weng's
Sri Mariamman Temple 8
Hindu Temple
Maitreya Trinity
Buddha Tooth Temple
Sangria at Ku De Ta
Ku De Ta sits atop the Marina Bay Sands hotel and offers a lovely view of Singapore. We enjoyed some sangria.
Singapore View
Singapore Flyer and Gardens by the Bay
Cloud Forest Dome 1
Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay
Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay
Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay
Pollen Calamari
Calamari at Pollen Restaurant
Supertree Grove 24
Supertree Grove - A Spectacular Light Show
Marina Bay Sands at Night 2
Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Singapore Flyer at Night 1
Singapore at Night
Dim Sum at Asia Grand Restaurant in Singapore 5 - Chicken Feet
Letter on in the week we met up with friends again and had Dim Sum at Asia Grand. I tried Chicken Feet
Dim Sum at Asia Grand Restaurant in Singapore 7
Pork Crepes
Dim Sum at Asia Grand Restaurant in Singapore 15 - Bamboo or Razor Clams
Bamboo or Razor Clams
Dim Sum at Asia Grand Restaurant in Singapore 17
Herbed dessert jelly. Definitely herbal, slightly sweet with a bit of anise. This reminded me of Italian amaro, just non-alcoholic.
The Original Singapore Sling
An original Singapore Sling from the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel
Merlion 5
Merlion Fountain - The merlion is a mythical Singaporean creature
The Clifford Pier Restaurant
The Clifford Pier Restaurant
Pork Belly Buns
Pork Belly Buns at Clifford Pier
Singapore at Night 6
Night Time in Singapore
Last Look From Our Hotel Room
Last look at Singapore from our hotel room

Singapore was well worth the trip. And I recommend Singapore Air for any long-haul travel.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Original Burger at the Original Burger Bach

Ah, burgers at Burger Bach. Such deliciousness The Original features awesome New Zealand grass-fed beef (I suggest you order it pink) with uncured bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, NZ  cheddar, dill pickle, and "original" sauce. Yum! The Bach also features a whole host of draft beers and some decent wines from the lands down under.

The Original Burger
The Original from Burger Bach
I can even watch Arsenal lose on the telly.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Tale of Two Alexandria Restaurants

Both made lovely cocktails. Both were a bit loud and very busy on the weekend. Both attracted a tourist crowd. Both featured interesting architectural details. One made us very happy. The other reminded us of how bad touristy service can be.

The good place was The Majestic. The Majestic has been around since the 1930's and has a cool iconic neon sign. The place was packed on a Friday. Since we did not have reservations and we like bar action, we opted for the bar. Two bartenders were busy crafting a variety of cocktails. They were cool under pressure and handled a few difficult customers with a practiced diplomacy. We had tasty food and were never treated like a tourist. A warm, friendly atmosphere.

Happiness is a Well-stocked Bar
I appreciate a well-stocked bar
Guacamole - slightly hot
Red's She-Crab Soup
She-Crab Soup - very tasty
Virginia Skirt Steak with Fries
Virginia skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

The Columbia Firehouse is indeed an old firehouse converted into a restaurant with a huge Victorian era bar and exposed brick on the dining side. Wonderful space. Unfortunately, our waiter seemed to be someone who knew he was waiting on tourists and that he could get away with nonchalant behavior. I wanted a wedge salad, but did not want blue cheese dressing (hubby gets violently ill just smelling the stuff). I asked about a creamy substitute. No options. Hubby decided to get onion rings that came with a buttermilk goat cheese dip. When we got the app, we realized that the dip would have been perfect for the salad. The onion rings however used the very outer skin for some of the rings - not a good practice since these were tough and inedible. The dinner menu featured fried chicken, but as we discovered after we placed our order, the sparkling wine we wanted was not available (other options were way too expensive). Extreme disappointment and a lesson re-emphasized for me: Order the wine first and then order the meal once the wine choice has been confirmed. The rest of the meal descended into a desultory downward spiral. Plates set down with inaudible explanations on sauces or features; asking about dessert before the meal ended; long wait time for the check. In the end we realized this place was nothing but a tourist trap.

Empty Table
How Columbia Firehouse left us feeling - empty

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Early Bird Biscuit Company Pictorial

A couple of Saturdays ago we headed for the Early Bird Biscuit Co. to try out the newest sensation in town. The biscuit gods favored us since there wasn't a line out the door when we arrived. The place is teeny-tiny and we now understand the line. Biscuits are made from scratch and specialty biscuits vary daily. We had traditional ham biscuits. I liked the crunchy top; hubby liked the soft middle. The ham was decent, but tough to chew. I would opt for the buttered version with a bit of jam next time. Upon exiting with our precious cargo, a line had formed. The only change I would make is to have these guys do enough business to open on Sunday.

Enjoy a few photos.

Early Bird Biscuit Company
Early Bird Entrance
The Early Bird...
Cute Vintage Touch
Makin' Biscuits
Making Biscuits - Notice the square design
Ealry Bird Ham Biscuit
Ham Biscuit - Crunchy on top soft in the middle
Early Bird Cards
Early Bird Opens at 7 AM Tues - Sat