Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Beauty's Luncheonette - Montreal

Quebec is in the Timing
Once upon, I spent six months working in Montreal.  It was in the thick of winter so forgive my recollection of dull grey skies and depressing cold.   The buildings along rue St Jacques had salt shadows taller than me and my daily jaunt to the office could have been made on ice skates.  Our recent road trip, perfectly timed to the height of Montreal's two week summer, erased all my frigid memories.  Beauty's Luncheonette did a fair share of the erasing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Absinthe Cafe - Paris

AKA the "Grandma/Grandpa" Spot
Since leaving Paris many have asked what I miss most about it.  The list of what I don't miss is longer and easier to compile. I admit though, after three years I started to love the place a bit.  During a recent layover in Charles de Gaulle, on a slow crawl from Singapore to NY, I observed myself from afar. What would I do with my six hours in Paris?  I zipped by metro into the city on autopilot and walked into my "local", Absinthe Cafe.  It was like I never left - there were Grandma and Grandpa welcoming me to breakfast, all warmth and smiles.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cheok Kee Braised Duck Rice - Singapore

Laziness, Personified
I recently quit my job, pulled stakes in Paris and settled in Singapore.  I tell myself I'm in early retirement and will repeat it like a mantra until my money runs out.  With little to worry about I anticipated a blog creativity burst that never arrived. Rather, I've become lazier.  I can easily pass a day without doing a whole lot.  For hours I ponder deep questions such as "should I swim before dinner or after?"   Then I stumbled into Cheok Kee, where they take the bones out of the duck for you.  These are the types of incremental improvements that can jolt a listless retiree back into the blogosphere.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Emperor Chops (君悅排骨) - Taipei

There's Nowhere like Home
The Taiwanese diaspora try in vein to replicate the pork chops from home.  Those I've sampled in NY are but the distant cousins of the Taipei originals.  I don't blame them for trying, something this good should be shared.  The 君悅排骨 version were juicy planks of pork kept warm in a crispy, deep-fried coat.  They'd no doubt been dunked in a soy sauce, white whine and garlic bath and then dusted with corn flour, sugar and five spice, the most important of the five being the szechuan black pepper. This was a quiet, blind meal, each of us happily chewing with our eyes closed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Coffee Alley - Taipei

Interesting Coffee Choices
On my first visit to Taipei I took note of the coffee fanaticism. It looked to have recently blasted off and dropped the boosters.  Just thirteen months later it's arrived at the outer rings of Jupiter, at least at Coffee Alley. Ordering a "tiramisu latte" seemed like a good idea.  My logic was something like this: I like tiramisu and I like latte.  She was a skin deep beauty, so pretty for her picture, but lacked depth and charm.  The powdery topping lodged in my lungs like asbestos and I nearly coughed up the bland espresso.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Street Noodles - Taipei

Back to the Streets for Eats
Bouncing around the globe, trailing crumbs in my wake, I land in Taipei with the cutesie on my arm.  I feel confident, worldly, hungry.  We take down a batch of street noodles like two pros, she with the order, me with the mouth.  Well, ok, she with her big mouth too!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Panini Durini - Milan

Pork Belly Perfection
When I moved to Brooklyn, nearby Carroll Gardens was still rough and tumble.  I used to tiptoe over for an Italian sandwich once in a while.  I sported a sidewalk gaze and acted humble, hoping to pop in and out without any static.  The sandwiches were worth the risk but their equivalents in Italy might tempt you to greater feats of daring.  Whole other level of tasty!  At Panini Durini I chomped down on a memory-rending combo of pancetta tesa, caciotta dolce and peperoncini, aka black-peppered pork belly, sweet cheese and peppers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Van Bol & Feste - Milan

Full Stomach Revenge, Cont'd
I don't eat a lot.  Matter of fact, for a food blogger I'm a disgrace.  In Milan, however, I flipped it.  Maximum jealousy potential, remember?  Van Bol e Feste fit the bill - just the kind of schwank-a-billy place the fancy-Dodo likes.  Counting Sugar, I was two-fer-two.

Antica Focacceria San Francesco - Milan

Going South on Sunday
Like Paris, Milan is a bit sleepy on Sundays.  You take what you can get and are glad for it.  I was looking for a typical Milanese lunch, but settled for Sicilian instead.  It was educational, because other than "rigatoni", I didn't recognize one word on the menu.  They must speak a special kind of Italian in Sicily.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sugar - Milan

Pasticceria as Revenge
"If you go to Hong Kong without me, I'll go somewhere too" I threatened.  I was due in Paris the next day and she was hinting about going to a meeting in one of my favorite places.  By the time I boarded the plane in Singapore, she was booking her flight.  A few days later, she was gloating about dim sum.  I immediately plotted my response: Milan.  Yes, I'm vengeful.  At Sugar, I ordered based on maximum jealousy potential.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Breakfast Toasts - Kuala Lumpur

In Malaysia, they're Simply Better
I get down from time to time.  At its worst, the world seems dark and meaningless and I can barely drag myself out of bed.  As bad as it gets, I am always excited for breakfast.  I absolutely love the first meal, no other comes close.  If you were to plot my day on a graph, starting with breakfast on the left, the line would slant steeply downward, past lunch, going negative near dinner.  While I'm still eating my morning meal I often ask the Dodo "what's for breakfast tomorrow?"  She usually rolls her eyes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Restoran West Lake - Kuala Lumpur

KL Hokkien Mee
Looks can be deceiving, my friends.  What appears to be a plate of fetid earthworms is in fact the famous Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Mee.  Thick yellow noodles, pork and specks of cabbage sauteed in a dark soya sauce over a charcoal fire.  Bits of deep fried pork fat lurk within, setting off a frantic chopstick battle royale that I lose time and again.  Dodo brought me to Restoran West Lake to show me how this dish is supposed to taste.  For reasons I cannot discern, it's miles better than the wan versions I've tried in Singapore.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Roti Canai - Kuala Lumpur

Waking Up with Street Breakfast
Dating a superstar has its perks - getting a lot of sleep isn't one of them.  She often learns about her big-shot meetings the day before and then puts on her sweetest, squeeky-mouse voice "You wanna go KL, baaaaaaaaaaaaaabe?"  At 5:45am today I wasn't sure why I'd agreed.  We caught the 7am flight and just a few hrs later, sitting at a street stall in the warmth, I was glad I did.  The spicy sauce served with the Roti Canai here is just what you need to get the blood platelets flowing again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cafe Einstein - Berlin

Einstein's Closet
I've heard stories, don't know if they're true, that Einstein kept a closet full of identical dark suits.  One less choice he had to make when he got dressed for work.  The cafe that bares his name takes the same approach with their meals.  Everything I ate in Cafe Einstein tasted the same - like nothing. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mom's Favorite - Berlin

Inter-Movie Snack
I'm not the best planner and when it comes to film festivals I'm overly ambitious.  On Saturday, I loaded myself up with back-to-back Berlinale movies with nary a space in between.  Mom's Favorite came to my rescue.  They quickly set me up with a slice of cake bigger than my big head and a bowl of coffee they call milchkaffee in these parts.  Now, I don't know about momma, but this one didn't quite end up as a favorite.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Miss HoneyPenny - Berlin

From Cold to Colder
I was so enthralled by the idea of the Berlin Film Festival that I didn't stop to consider that it's held in Berlin, in February.  I was already cold when I arrived and I still haven't warmed up.  I've been eating non-stop, not because I find German food that enticing, but because I need protection against the German winter.  Miss HoneyPenny was close to the hotel and open early so I gave it a try.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Piment D'Or - Paris

Welcome to the Deep Freeze!
Air France is on strike - what's new?  I got swapped over to a Singapore Airlines flight, which is like escaping the slums for a penthouse.  When we landed it took me a while to calculate what the pilot said.  "Moins neuf" - multiply by two, subtract 33, carry the nine and, and.....  SIXTEEN DEGREES??  What the fuck?  I thought of hiding in the bathroom on the outbound back to Singapore.  I didn't bring a coat so it was an extra joy shivering at the empty taxi stand for 20 minutes.  Strikes, freezing cold, non-existent taxis.....welcome back to the 3rd world, kid.  At least I can warm up with a delicious bowl at Piment D'Or!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Kid Survives - Bangkok

Steel Stomach Prevails
Now that I'm safely back in Singapore, I'm bragging.  Puffing out my chest, lording it over the Dodo, aka "weak link."  I survived all the street food: the street meat sausages, deep-fried bananas, runny egged rice bowls, wok-fried spicy pork, buttered charcoal bread and iced coffee.  My only regret?  Not going for some deep-fried crickets when I had the chance.  Next time....

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Little Spoon - Bangkok

Monsoon Protection
Sunny Bangkok can take a turn for the soggier faster than you can duck into a cafe for cover.  When I sat down at Little Spoon I was a bit damp but fared better than most.  Thai rain attacks from all angles - even upwards.  The unfortunate were stuck outside, caught like laundry in a violent rinse cycle.  I patted myself dry while waiting for my latte and blueberry cream cake to arrive.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Victim One of Two - Bangkok

Was it the Street Breakfast?
We're hardcore street eaters.  We know we'll eventually pay.  Rather, I know I will eventually pay - I've a much weaker stomach.  So, it came as a surprise that Dodo got knocked out of the game this morning.  It's hard to say what did it.  Was it the pork porridge she had for breakfast?  It looked pretty good coming out of the bag, into the bowl. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sukhumvit Soi 38 - Bangkok

Street Food for Dummies
As luck would have it, we are staying just two map dots away on the skytrain from a nice eating street, Sukhumvit Soi 38.  The nice thing about the street is that the vendors have picture menus with English translations.  So, instead of ordering like a mime, pointing at unknown foods and making thumbs up signs, all I had to do was use my finger to point at a picture.  First up - fried chicken chunks with rice.  Not quite as good as the chicken we had on Day One, but not bad at all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Street Food - Bangkok

Bangkok, I've Missed You
It's been two eventful years.  Though it's not obvious to this visitor, there were riots and floods and a change of government since my last visit.  Mostly, it looks like it did.  There is still a gentle thrum to this large metropolis with its tree-shaded lanes and famed street stalls.  It's a city that is easy to fall in love with.  Let's call it an affair, since I'm here for just a few days.  It's not a coincidence that the first foray involved both pork and egg, two of my favorite food groups.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Passion 5 Patisserie (패션5) - Seoul

I Won't Be Controlled
My parents passed me their stubbornness genetically and nurtured it through upbringing.  So, when one of the chef's at Passion 5 formed an X with his forearms to warn me off taking photos, I smiled and complied.  Or so he thought.  I was angry and intent on taking even more photos than I normally do.  I hate places which have an anti-photo rule - it's so stupid in this day and age.  I hoped to despise their goods and slam them but guess what?  Anti-photo rule or not, they craft some scrumptious goodies, both savory and sweet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Homemade Meal - Seoul

Warding Off the Korean Winter
On the streets of Seoul in December, the wind finds a way through the defenses.  It scrapes past your scarf and crawls up your pant leg, taking frosty bites.  We called in the reinforcements at Homemade Meal, a ten seat matchbox that quickly became a favorite haunt.  The first visit I got pork with chilies and on my return I took it up a notch with a plate of rice, kimchi and spicy pork topped with a fried egg.  As I chomped I fantasized about staying there for the rest of the vacation.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Potong Pasir Kopi Pau - Singapore

They're Not Famous But They Should Be
Bao or pau?  Kopi or coffee?  Regardless of word choice - we're talking about a steamed bun with a sweet coffee-flavored belly button.  I tried to sell my local friends on it - they just gave me the "what does an Ang Mo know about bao" look.  Especially a bao from Potong Pasir - one of the smallest estates in Singapore. PP is a bit dog-eared in a lovable way.  While the rest of the island has been upgrading like crazy, PP has retained some original small-town charm.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Haecheon - Seoul

Seafood Karma
I recently attended a funeral in Singapore and learned a bit about Buddhism.  The priest made an interesting point about how rare it is to come back as a human.  Most of the time when you're reborn you're probably a bug - of which there are billions.  Think about that a moment.  You are lucky.  Of course, after going to Haecheon and eating their seafood pancake I considered that to be reborn a shrimp and end up on this pancake would be quite satisfying.  Simply spectacularly delicious.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Myeongdong Gyoja - Seoul

In Korea, they Replace the Z with a J
Not gyoza, but gyoja.  We heard this was the place to be for dumplings in Seoul.  Judging by the line and the fact that so many were willing to wait in it through bitter cold, I expected good things.  The place runs like an efficient assembly line.  You're given a table and a menu and they take you order and your money without leaving your side.  About three minutes later, ta-daaaaaaaaa.