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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Of Spud, Scud and Sparky

I finally got down to watching all of Tim Burton's Frankenweenie last week.  The only reason I'd delayed for so long was because I knew I'd break down into a blubbering cooing teary mess every time the lead character's dog appears on screen.  And I was soooo right.  Pass the Kleenex.  Cue the sniffles.
The story is a clever riff on the original, decades-old, raise-from-the-dead, "It's alive!" monster genre, but with a more tender approach. Essentially, it's about a boy and his best friend, Sparky, and what transpires after the latter meets with a fatal accident but is later brought back to life through a literally electrifying science experiment.  Of course, I have to admit that the movie's extra pull at my heartstrings is based solely on the fact that I have my very own Sparky at home, in the form of my nearly 12-year old, super laid back English bull terrier Emma. 
As movie merch marketing is wont to do, Frankenweenie also sparked - pun fully intended - a clothing line by, of all retailers, the Japanese mega chain Uniqlo.  That got me digging for other brands and movies that have used this stout pooch with the distinct wedge-shaped head as the main draw (and if they're playing secondary characters, they're always memorable scene stealers) in their respective enterprise.  Here are some of my favourites:
Uniqlo promotional poster
Target's limited edition soup can labels (featuring their ad mascot Bullseye) that are reminiscent of the iconic Warhol-inspired print.
Target gift card
Bud Light and Spuds MacKenzie
Bullie peddling coffee
Bullie peddling tea

George C. Scott and the bullie Abraxas Aaran 
playing the general's dog William "Willie" the Conqueror in Patton
Scud from Toy Story

My own Emma

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Portraits: Eric Dussault and Evelyn Yo

 I like the romantic feel of these two photographs, especially considering the portrait subjects, the Wuthering Heights weather (minus the fog and bone-chilling damp,) and this wind- and wave-swept backdrop provided by the laid back retro outpost village of Shek O in Hong Kong.

 Photographs by Weng Ho.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Cheesy Affair - An E 'n E Culinary Creation

To be invited to the first dinner party of good friends is a special event.  
To have them painstakingly prepare a themed menu consisting of fine cheeses, 
with each course more gorgeous than the next in terms of physical and sensory aesthetics, 
is a glorious occasion that's filled with fine food, good wine and excellent company.  
This is a pictorial essay of the culinary creations of Evelyn and Eric from the first weekend of 2013.
The delightful La Vache Qui Rit (mini cubes by Laughing Cow)
Four Cheese Soufflé (reggiano parmigiano, brie, comté, matured cheddar)
Grilled Halloumi Salad
Eggplant Parmagiana
A prelude to the deluxe cheese platter
Chèvre Banon
Isigny-aged mimolette, gruyere
The divine tiramisu

Monday, January 14, 2013

Her Name is Jyoti Singh

  India's Gang Rape Victim's Father:  I Want The World To Know My Daughter's Name Is Jyoti Singh
 Devastated dad tells The Sunday People he hopes revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived such attacks.  (Read more...)


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Vivienne Gan's NYC Essentials |

The address for the best dim sum in NY outside of Hong Kong 
and where to go to catch a glimpse of adorable red pandas

By Vivienne Gan, told to Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary, Friday
First published on February 4, 2011
Took this photo of Lady Liberty in 2010 when our ferry was circling Liberty Island
As the regional director for public relations for The Ritz-Carlton, Middle East, Vivienne Gan has travelled to NYC about a dozen times in the last 15 years and tells Friday why her favourite city makes such a great winter destination. (Read more)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bite-Size Review: The Aviary Dessert Kitchen

So there I was last November driving back from the South Australian wine country to Adelaide's downtown core, when I received a call from my favourite radiologist-doctor-cousin asking me to lunch.  Said it was at her colleague David White's eatery at the trendy-ish Parade where he's trying out a relatively new lunch menu and would we be willing guinea pigs.  Would we? Does my bull terrier inexplicably dance on her butt when she's feeling itchy? (If you are pausing even for a moment to consider what the right response is, you may as well stop reading my blog now. Right this very second. There's so obviously nothing of any redeeming value here for you.) After making some deft maneouvers through the city's lunchtime traffic, I found myself streetside five minutes later at The Aviary Dessert Kitchen.  That's right, a dessert kitchen.  On its website, we are told that "their gallery of decadent and velvety chocolate, melting macaroons, and light and creamy treats are sure to set your heart aflutter."  So just when I thought I was going to have a meal consisting of sugary, diabetes-inducing confections - it wouldn't be my first, btw - I was escorted upstairs away from the aforementioned displays of velvety chocolate and melting macaroons to a bright cheerful cafe enclave where I was treated to some serious carbs and fibre in the form of The Aviary's new-ish menu of tasty sandwiches and flavourful salads.

Here are some highly recommended highlights of that lunch:
Grilled Portobello mushroom with melted mozzarella, basil
and dollops of pesto on toasted sourdough
I could eat dozens of these in one sitting:
Roast duck, cucumber, spring onion and hoisin sauce on a steamed bun 
A Nicoise-style salad with a baked trout and salmon kicker

Downstairs at the chirpily cheerful Dessert Kitchen
The Aviary Dessert Kitchen - 227 The Parade, Norwood, South Australia 5067, Australia
Telephone +61 8 8332 4646

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Work Neighbourhood: Mongkok

Maybe I should clarify that my office is located in this neighbourhood
(in a shiny domed tower soaring 60 floors above street level,)
since being a working girl in this particular stretch of Mongkok - a notorious red-light district -
has different meanings to different johns people.
Corner of Portland Street and Shan Tung Street in Mongkok, Kowloon


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bite-Size Review: Cafe Malacca at Traders Hotel, Hong Kong

I got rather excited around this time last year when I first heard that the all-day dining cafe at Traders Hotel - that outpost at the extreme western part of Hong Kong island - was finally changing its menu concept to Malaysian, or more specificially (or generically, depending how you view it) Straits cuisine.  As I was working for the company at the time, internal invitations were sent out during the trial phase for us to sample the dishes at lunch or dinner time.  But the distance from Quarry Bay proved to be too much of an obstacle, even if I had a hankering for the sour taste of assam laksa.  Then when all the trials were done and the restaurant was fully re-introduced to the public in the late summer under its new moniker Cafe Malacca, I took heed when my Singaporean colleagues remarked that the food was a tad on the disappointing side, so I never bothered heading there at all.  
Chicken Satay (set of 6)
Fast forward to this past weekend when I met an Aussie couple of Malaysian origins who downright raved about Cafe Malacca.  Raved, I tell you.  They proudly claim that they've been there more than a dozen times, have pretty much tried everything on the menu and were not shy (as they are not wont to be) about airing their opinions back to the chefs and servers regarding the quality of the dishes.  Both were tripping over each other's words to tell me how surprisingly authentic the food is (believe me, we former Malaysians have been known to be the Charlie Browns, with restaurants claiming to serve real Straits cuisine to be the football that the Lucys of the world always yank away at the last moment.) But I suppose that securing actual Penang-based chefs, some from the sister hotels, as consultants, and more importantly, to take time to painstakingly train the locals to produce the distinct dishes that would meet the approval of highly-critical Malaysian and Singaporean foodies, gives Cafe Malacca a big step up from its very limited competition in this field.

And so that is how I ended up at the nethermost regions of Sheung Wan a few days ago, armed with an appetite and a half, and a friend who brought along her blessed employee discount card which gave us a whopping 50 per cent discount off of everything we ordered.  We put that baby to good use 'cos while those dishes may be Penang hawker-approved, their steep hotel prices weren't.

Here are our most recommended dishes at Cafe Malacca (including that chicken satay in the above photograph) :
Char Kuay Teow
Bak Kut Teh (the broth was a tad too sweet, but otherwise yum)
Penang Prawn Mee Hoon
Fried Carrot / Radish Cake
Hainanese Chicken Rice - the best one in Hong Kong to date
The bright, airy, high-ceilinged and naturally lit Cafe Malacca

Cafe Malacca at Traders Hotel, Hong Kong -508 Queen's Road West, Hong Kong
Telephone +852 2974 1234

Monday, January 7, 2013

Raise The Red Lanterns: Chinese New Year 2013

As seen on Queen's Road West, Hong Kong

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bite-Size Review - Golden Valley Restaurant

The temperature in Hong Kong nowadays is hovering around 10 degrees Centigrade and the weather outlook is a bit on the bleary side, with gusty winds and peeks of sunshine from time to time.  On the culinary front, that just means one thing:  it's hot pot season.

Found this gem not a two-minute walk from my apartment - the Michelin-starred Golden Valley Restaurant in the decidedly four-star Emperor Hotel here in Happy Valley.  The first time I was there about a month ago, I was struck by the large number of hot pot diners that were in the relatively small, low-ceilinged restaurant; one table even had 12 giddy guests, all obviously colleagues from the same work place, having an enthusiastically rip-roaring, sweaty hot pot experience that was heightened by a birthday celebration, pre-Christmas jollities and a healthy dose of those lethal Szechuan peppers in their soup stock.

I went back with three friends over the weekend and here's the thing with hot pot dining.  One tends, no, scratch that, is guaranteed, to over-order as each dish of raw vegetables, seafood and meat seems initially so deceptively puny, and then, bam! two hours later, one inevitably feels the discomfort of a distended belly over the skinny jeans that doesn't seem now like such a good idea to wear for a mostly liquid smogasbord.  (Un-sexy as they are, smocks and elastic-waisted pants are the uniforms of choice for this gourmet overindulgence.)

Speaking of a free-for-all, my favourite part of the experience was heading to the condiments-slash-DIY sauce station.  There, I could whisk up any blend of chopped garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, strained ginger, shallots, coriander and chili sauce that's to my liking, and go back for seconds and thirds.  Fantastic concept all around.

Now, we opted for the two-soup hot pot combo as we were quite sure we'd die (or at least our tastebuds will) if we only stuck with the Szechuan pepper soup stock - the other was mushroom-based - and then dunked in our orders of raw slices of beef, lamb, octopus paste, fishballs, beef intestines, tofu, bakchoy,  watercress, vermicelli, udon, and spam.  Yes, spam.  For hot pot.  For some unfathomable reason, my friends, both of whom have lived and worked in parts of China, tell me it's the absolute thing for hot pots over there.  Spam.  Huh.

Here are some of the highlights of our feasting:

Golden Valley Restaurant at The Emperor (Happy Valley) Hotel
1 Wang Tak Street, Happy Valley.  Telephone +852 2961 3330
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