Sunday, April 18

Picture, Picture, Picture!

I am foodie first, blogger second. As much as I remind myself that I have to photograph the food that I've ordered to prepare for my weekly blog, when it arrives, the visual attraction usually triggers my Pavlovian response to consume the food, short circuiting the reminder in my brain to take the photograph first. Hence, if you were to scroll through all past photos on this blog that I have taken, you will notice upon careful inspection that at least one bite has already been taken. Thus, on our recent trip to Fearrington Village this past weekend to celebrate our 10th anniversary, after having forgotten to photograph my brunch of eggs benedict with smoked salmon washed down with mimosas, and high tea of fragrant Darjeeling tea with finger sandwiches, scones and carrot cake served on a tiered-plate stand, my husband and I were determined to remember to photograph first and eat second for dinner at the Fearrington House Restaurant.

If you have been to the Fearrington Village (, you will know that it is one of North Carolina's best kept secrets. The hotel is top notch - spacious rooms set within the village, which itself is scattered with the best of English gardens. It was a visual treat, with tulips, pansies, and a host of other spring-time flowers. The dinner at the restaurant, a highlight during our stay, followed with the theme of visual beauty. As the first course of vanilla panacotta topped with elderflower jelly surrounded by beets and sweet onions arrived, my response to dig in was in full force as I cut into the smooth panacotta only to be stopped by my husband's cry of "picture, picture, picture!" Alas, it was too late.

My second course was house-smoked bacon served with vanilla creme fraiche and lobster. The bacon was something from heaven - crispy on the outside, and soft and creamy on the inside, very much like foie gras. Our German waiter from Detroit (who also fit in with the theme of visual beauty at the Fearrington, objectively speaking, of course) had very kindly pointed out that my choice of lobster for the third course would pair quite well with my second, and so, I had to have the lobster with a pepper cream sauce served with a potato dumpling. You will notice that all three courses were served with micro-herbs (has anyone heard of such a thing? I had not!) grown in their backyard.

I had refused to order the fourth course of dessert, and so felt obligated to my blog readers to try some of my husband's chocolate souffle, which was definitely the best of its kind.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Fearrington, thanks to our neighbors who had shared their secret with us. My husband and I informed our gentle waiter that it was the best meal we have had in 10 years, comparable only to dinner at Gaddi's at the Peninsula in Hong Kong.


Wednesday, April 14

Going with the Seasons

Hello dear readers! So, my darling sister Cinnamon has been complaining that I'm too hesitant to reveal anything about myself and my life on this blog. My initial thought was, well, living in grey old London, in a little flat on the top floor of a building (i.e., no garden and no kids), what am I supposed to share? ;)

So let me share with you a little of my day today (don't worry, there's a recipe at the end). I'm learning to play the guitar, and I had my weekly lesson this morning. The reason I'm learning guitar at this ripe old age is that I've always loved music and, since I changed the course of my life last year, I've started to write songs. And being able to play the guitar helps a lot with the songwriting. The song I learned in today's lesson is Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours", and it's a beautiful song, with very meaningful lyrics. I'm sure most of you have heard it already. Some of the lines really spoke to me this morning, and I wanted to share them with you.

"I've been spending way too long checking my tongue in the mirror
And bending over backwards just to try to see it clearer
But my breath fogged up the glass
And so I drew a face and I laughed
I guess what I be saying is there ain't no better reason
To rid yourself of vanity and just go with the seasons
It's what we aim to do
Our name is our virtue

And so in the spirit of just going with the seasons, here is a dish of simple pleasures. This made up part of lunch today.

1. Toast two thin slices of millet bread. You can substitute your favourite bread, but I like millet because it has a dense nutty, crunchy flavour and texture when toasted. I'd recommend using a bread that's not too light and airy, because something heavier will go well with the smoothness of the next ingredient.

2. Layer the bread with slices of freshly cut avocado.

3. Spritz some good quality olive oil onto the avocado slices. (Spraying on the oil instead of pouring it gives it a lighter flavour and a more even coating.)

4. Add some pepper from a pepper mill.

5. Sprinkle some flakes of parmesan cheese.

And there you have it! A yummy Italian-inspired dish to have as part of lunch (with soup, for example) or as a snack on its own.



Sunday, April 11

Food and the Outdoors

What is it about eating outside that improves the gastronomic experience? It is springtime in North Carolina and the wisteria is blooming. My family and friends know about my obsession with gardening and probably surprised that I am blogging about food instead of the backyard. So, this evening, as the weekend was winding down, we had dinner on the steps of our deck, next to our wisteria vine.

Dinner was boiled edamame, grilled Teriyaki chicken legs, and another variety of Simply Asia noodles - roasted peanut - not that great. The food, to be honest, was not exceptional, though I was quite pleased with the result of having added Mirin to the pre-made Teriyaki marinade - the sugar of the Mirin really enhanced the glaze on the chicken.

I decided to split the meal up into three courses, much to the merriment of my children. The first course was edamame sprinkled with coarse sea salt (husband's input) served in plastic bowls, the second was the plate of chicken legs served caveman style and the last were the noodles served in blue ceramic and chopsticks. We had a nice bottle of prosecco (Prosecco Veneto, attractively priced at Lowes Foods) and the children had apple juice. Entertainment included an edamame-throwing contest and shrub-pruning critique-ing.

I was told many years ago that we enjoy food outdoors more because of the additional oxygen incorporated in our mouths as we bite and chew. Oxygen might have something to do with it, but I personally think it has more to do with the beauty of nature and the relaxation that it brings that adds to our enjoyment of our meal.


Saturday, April 10

Fire and Ice

Flavour combinations are something we set out to talk about on this blog. And they can be amazing. But one doesn't often think about the reasons some of those flavour combinations came about and the purposes they serve. Some examples I've been thinking about recently come from the Indian and Thai cooking traditions.

The good ol' red chili can be delicious and add some fiery taste sensations to a meal. But chili also triggers acid production in the body, and this isn't always good. Isn't it interesting that, while Indian and Thai dishes can have plenty of chili, they often contain other ingredients that balance out those effects? Allow me to introduce lemongrass and tamarind (no, they're not cousins of Cinnamon and Truffle). Lemongrass is used liberally in Thai cooking, in almost everything from stir-fries to tom yum soups to green curries. And tamarind, used in South Indian fish curries and mulligatawny soups, is a staple of the Indian store cupboard. These two ingredients have an alkaline effect on the body, balancing out the chili's acid. So not only does the combination of chili and lemongrass/tamarind taste great, it also helps out your body!

Even if you're not having chili, eating certain foods (like some meat proteins) could stimulate excess acid production in the stomach and cause discomfort (e.g., gas and acid reflux). A traditional remedy in Singapore/Malaysia is to boil stalks of lemongrass in water (cut the stalks up for quicker brewing) and drink the resulting tea once cooled. If you don't have lemongrass to hand, grab a slice of lemon and put it in a mug of hot water. (It's strange but true: while lemons contain citric acid, the effect they have on your body, in the digestive process, is alkaline. If anyone out there's a Chemistry major, please feel free to enlighten us!)

And, finally, here's a little helpful tip just in case you're not sure what to do with tamarind packaged as shown in the picture. You can get tamarind like this in most Asian supermarkets. This is basically tamarind fruit plucked off a tree, prepared and packed. To use it, simply put the required amount of tamarind in some warm water, and allow it to stew for 5 minutes or so. Mash it up well in the water (with your hands if you like) and drain it. The bit you want to use is the drained liquid (with some of the tamarind pulp), which you can then add to your curry.

If you really have no idea what to do with tamarind, I promise we'll post some recipes to help you out!



Sunday, April 4


I love noodles. Is it because I am Singaporean? Probably. Analyzing my life experiences to figure out my obsession with noodles, I have discovered that I love noodles probably because I ate Mee Pok at the school canteen for 10 years - Mee Pok, or Mee Kia "gaan, ai ham jio!" Egg noodles dunked in hot water, with some chili/soy-based sauce, slices of fish cake, and pork crackling - with or without soup. The SCGS mee pok stall was the best. They even used to sell to households on Emerald Hill, with the assistant tapping away a forgotten Chinese rhythm on bamboo sticks to let them know he was taking orders.

So, Easter Sunday at Davidson, NC, all I wanted for lunch was some version of mee pok and I chanced upon an excellent substitute. Simply Asia Spring Vegetable Instant Vermicelli served with Aidell's Teriyaki and Pineapple Chicken Meatballs, with a couple of drops of Lee Kum Kee Chiu Chow chili oil. Yes, rice vermicelli not egg noodles, chicken meatballs and not fish cakes. Hey, I was desperate! It was very good! And if you could overlook the fact that it was instant noodles, it was quite a healthy meal.

My seven-year old asked me the other day if I had one day to live, what would I want to eat. My answer? Mee Pok.



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