Table for one, please!

This was what I proudly said to my server when I arrived at Bar Boulud London on a Thursday night. ‘Table for one?‘. Heck, make that dining for one – a concept that would be totally shunned by yours truly years ago.  But something that I’m comfortable with doing now.  Yikes, could this be a function of aging?

The Man was in London for a work trip, I tagged along but couldn’t join him for his work dinner.  So it was either going to be room service or suck it in and enjoy dining in one of the celebrity restaurants at the hotel that we were staying in.

Dining alone?  Would you do it?  As mentioned earlier, it was something I never dreamed I could do.  ‘It was a ‘loser’ kind of thing to do.’ or ‘I’d rather dine at home alone than be seen dining in a restaurant on my own!’, the younger version of me would say.  The ‘mean girl’ version of me could also say ‘Look! That person is pathetic to dine on her own!’

The concept of dining alone became comfortable only when I moved to Tokyo.  The city was vibrant and I noticed that many girls actually dined on their own.  I took baby steps, first, dining in a fast-food joint on my own, then having coffee on my own in a crowded cafe and lastly dining on my own in a nice little restaurant.  I was warming up to this concept and could enjoy a leisurely lunch by myself in this city without inviting stares.

It was a Thursday evening and  Bar Boulud was crowded so I was half-expecting a counter seat.  Instead, I was shown to a table situated rather centrally in the room.  Suddenly, I felt a little conscious.  ‘Could I really do this?’  My server asked again, ‘Are you sure you are dining alone?’  ‘Yes.’ and affirmed further with a nod.  ‘I’ll bring you a paper’, she smiled and cleared the remaining cutlery off the table.  Well, I guess she probably felt sorry for me.

But you know what?  Dinner on my own here in Bar Boulud didn’t turn out all too bad.  I had the paper; I had my iPad (as a back-up; I had my iPhone; I had my camera – I had things that could clearly be my ‘companion’ for a simple meal.  So, I surveyed the menu, picked out a starter and a main for myself.  Then moved on to the wine list and selected 2 glasses of wine – a white and a red – for the meal.  The Cevelas Lyonnais en Brioche as a starter was really yummy.  It was a Lyonnais pork sausage with pistachios and truffle stuffed and baked in a brioche.  I kinda wished that I had someone to share this with for it felt a little too big for me as a starter.

For the mains, was feeling a little greedy and since Bar Boulud is pretty much famous for its burgers, I went with the Piggie burger with BBQ pulled pork, green chili mayonnaise served on a cheddar bun.  Server recommended that I add on sides with the burger, so I chose the fries to accompany the dish.  Was pretty pleased with my choice for the burger along with the pulled pork, it was simply amazing.  The green chili mayonnaise was special too but not too overpowering.

So, there.. my dinner for one on a solo night out about vibrant London.  Didn’t turned out all too bad and people-watching from my side of the table made it a fun and interesting evening for me as well.  🙂

Just the way I like it..

Macarons.  They are often said to be too sweet.  But truth be told, we’ve tasted those heavenly macarons from Pierre Hermé and Luxemburgerli (macarons) from Sprüngli and the verdict?  I say a match made in heaven with flavours from the filling and the shell complimenting one another and tantilizing the taste-buds further.

When I started making macarons, I was worried that it would turn out all too sweet.  But along my macaron journey and under the guidance of many other macaron- bloggers out there (namely R from The Pleasure Monger), I started experimenting with different flavours for the macaron shells and the fillings.  R once told me that you can’t really reduce the quantity of the sugar for the macaron shells for it needs the exact amount of sugar for the macaron shells to be firm but you can control the amount of sugar you put in for the filling.  Sound advice from the Macaron guru herself.  🙂

My macaron journey started some 9 months ago when we moved to Geneva.  I had no strong desire to learn French but didn’t know how to fill my days so I started to read up on how to make macarons.  After days of reading, it kinda felt like I was studying for a big macaron exam.  I finally summoned enough ‘courage’ to attempt baking macarons in the kitchen.  It took up half my day baking these tiny ones.  As the final product emerged and popped off almost perfectly from the baking sheet, I was over-joyed and the macaron madness began.  Haven’t looked back since I had friends plus the Style Princess who were only all to happy to taste what I whipped up.

As I close this chapter of my macron adventures in Geneva, I thought I’ll share one of my favourite macaron combo – Popcorn Macarons with Salted Caramel Buttercream.  This combo has been really special to me and with every bite, a blend of sweet and salty flavours emerge to tease the taste-buds further.  This is how I really enjoy eating macarons, so even when choosing which flavours to buy, the sea-salt caramel flavour would always be my top choice.

Also, I’m going to give it another go and participate in this month’s challenge – ‘Macaron Day‘ over at MacTweets.  I don’t know if I will start picking up the electric whisk to make more macarons when we return back to Singapore.  But if you are willing to taste what I have to bake, I’ll be happy to start baking again.  😉

If you’ve been following my macaron adventures, thanks very much for reading.  And if you’ve tried any of my recipes, a big thank you to you too! I hope you found success in making these macarons.  Following one of the suggestions by Vivian to post a step-by-step guide on how to make macarons, I forgot and only managed to take one picture during the macaron baking process.  But the next time I bake macarons, I’ll remember to document the process.

Salted Buttered Popcorn Macarons with Salted Caramel
Makes about 10 filled bite-sized macarons

For Macaron Batter

  • 1 egg white (preferably aged for 3 days) brought to room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
  • 38g icing sugar
  • 36g powdered almonds
  • 30g granulated sugar
  • Crushed salted buttered popcorn

Method:

  1. Line baking tray with 2 pieces of parchment paper.
  2. Sift powdered sugar with the almond powder to ensure that there are no lumps
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg white until they begin to foam. At this stage, add the cream of tartar and the granulated sugar gradually. Continue beating until very stiff and firm. When you invert the bowl, the egg white batter has to stay put. That’s the time you know when you should stop. I decided to play it safe and whisked the egg white batter for about 5 minutes before stiff peaks were formed.
  4. Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in 3 batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula (ideally). Stop folding when the mixture is smooth and there are no streaks of egg white. I used about 40 strokes to incorporate the dry mixture into the egg whites. Scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you’re alone).
  5. Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles, evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.
  6. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons and to remove the air-bubbles in the macarons.
  7. Sprinkle on top of macarons crushed popcorn.
  8. Leave the macarons out in the open for at least 30 minutes to an hour. This step is important to allow the top of the macaron shell to dry up so that you get a smooth surface for the macarons. You will know when to pop the macarons into the oven when you touch the macarons and the batter does not stick to your fingers. Be careful not to leave them out too much for it will give you crunchy macarons and you don’t want that. This step is important and if you skip it, your macarons might flatten . While waiting, preheat oven to 140 degrees C.
  9. Bake for 15 mins and let cool completely before removing from baking sheet.

To make Salted Caramel Buttercream:

Whisk 3 tbsp of butter (room temperature) for about 1 – 2 minutes until the butter becomes light and fluffy.  Add 2 tbsp of heavy cream and whisk further for 1 minute. Add 2 tbsp of icing sugar and continue until they are thoroughly mixed. Lastly, add approximately 2 tbsp of salted caramel, mix thoroughly.

Assembling macarons:

Simply spoon Salted Caramel Buttercream on the macaron shell. Sandwich and you are done!

It’s recommended that you let the flavours sit inside the macaron for 1 day before having them. :)

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I’ve been busy in the kitchen… Click here to check out my baking adventures in Geneva.

A sweet surprise indeed!

Our final days in Geneva (just 3 more days to go) saw me packing up stuff and passing some of the useful items and/or food over to our friends.  I was feeling a lot better so was out and about making arrangements to meet up with friends to catch up over coffee.

I’ve been meaning to catch up with L over at the Swiss Watch Blog after her surgery but had been too ill to do so over the past 2 weeks.  So, I was really glad when I received an email from her last week asking if I was free for tea before our departure from Geneva.  Yay to an afternoon out, for I really wanted to could catch up proper with her.  I asked if it could be a bigger gathering asking if the other gals were free, I knew I wanted to meet with A (The Switzerland Hughes) to pass her our rice-cooker.  L said she would arrange, but I thought no one else other than A could make it.

Boy, was I wrong!  I rushed in carrying 2 heavy bags filled with stuff for the pair but as I stepped in, I was greeted with shouts of ‘Surprise’ by familiar faces!  So it seems that L had been planning this surprise and I was not to know that the rest of the girls were going to be there.  Must say they were pretty good at keeping me in the dark for I met with S from Schwingen in Switzerland earlier that morning for coffee and she gave me a quizzical look when I asked if she was going to join us for tea.  I also met with N at for a morning session yoga but there was no mention of the party.  L, you certainly did a great job on planning this little surprise!  Thank you!  😉

That’s not all!  A lovely spread of afternoon tea delights (they knew I was crazy about making macarons) were prepared in my honour by these superb ladies.

It was indeed an afternoon that got us all on a sugar high – macarons from Laduree from A, home-made peanut butter cookies by N, home-made pumpkin brownies by L, home-made matcha (green-tea) tiramisu by T, chocolates and other treats from S and L.  We had girly conversations and stuffed our faces silly with the sweet treats.  The girls also compiled a little online album filled with the adventures that we had taken during our stay in Geneva.  Aww.. thanks ladies for everything!  Once again, am really touched.

Prior to moving to Geneva, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make any friends and I’d probably become a hermit by the end of my expat journey.  Honestly, making friends from scratch can be rather challenging but looking back, I most certainly did not become a hermit for I’ve gone on to make this small but amazing group of friends.  How?  One of the ways was through blogging.  It has really opened doors for me here and after that, we kinda expanded the group further by pulling people we knew separately into the group.

Thanks again ladies for the wonderful memories and the great times that we spent together exploring Geneva.  It was short but I’m thankful that our paths crossed.  It’s goodbye for now but hopefully we’ll get to see you real soon.  And be sure to give us a shout-out if you ever come to Singapore.  🙂

[All photos courtesy of L over at the Swiss Watch Blog]

P.S: Vain me talking here but I wished I put on some make-up before leaving the house.  And let’s not talk about my bad hair day!  😉

A great meal in Venice

Traveling with our foodie friend meant only one thing, we were very well-fed during our stay in Venice. While having our pre-dinner drinks, the men chanced upon this bistro and decided to book it the very next day for lunch.

After missing out the private museum tour because it was conducted primarily in French with no translation, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon with a long leisure lunch before dressing up for the gala event.

For starters, I had the scallops served over mashed brocoli with cream of pumpkin and black truffle. As strange as it may sound, it the flavours surprisingly all blended in harmony. For the main, I chose a eel with seaweed pasta. Was really looking forward to the dish but it kinda disappointed. The freshwater eel was rather bland and the seaweed ended up looking like a mess on the plate of pasta. The Man’s duck fillet was a far better choice.

But having said that it still made for a very lovely meal. I guess the wine and company mattered more.

Bistrot de Venise
Address: Calle dei Fabbri, San Marco, 4685, 30124 Venizia
Tel: +39 041 5236651
http://www.bistrotdevenise.com

Au Revoir Geneve with Whisky

The men talked about a whisky night last year during this party. We never really gotten round to planning it proper, it was supposed to be in January and then it went all quiet because of our crazy traveling schedules.  In the end, we decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone – combine the whisky night with our farewell party.

We invited friends we’ve made during our course of stay here in Geneva.  The apartment wasn’t too big so the party of 14 people suited us just fine.  Friends bought along bottles of whisky to share and even helped whipped up some of the food.

Prior to hosting this party, I ran off to the whisky guru – the Imp – asking her for help with what type of foods I should serve up for the party.  She gave me a couple of tips.  Apparently, smokey types of food, cheese, chocolates and even gummies would pair well with whisky.  Not too difficult, so we cooked up a little storm and served our guests these simple dishes – Teriyaki Drumlets, Char Siew Ribs, Truffle French Fries, Baked Mac & Cheese Cups, Crab Rangoon Dip with veggies sticks and Cherry Tomatoes with Prunes topped with plum powder.

And for the fun of it, I even got the friends to chip in and bring along a dish that they think will pair well with the whisky.  L from the Swiss Watch Blog whipped up an absolutely delicious Bourbon Bread pudding that went down very well with practically everyone at the party.  A from the Hughes made a refreshing cucumber salad along with home-made salsa and Tortilla Chips.  Talented T from Sirenatoco in Europe made a huge platter of Chirashi Sushi.  S from Schwingen in Switzerland kindly brought a box of gourmet chocolates from Stettler.  N also contributed a cheeseball that she made from scratch.  The food spread looked amazing thanks to the additional contributions from our friends.

[Photo credit: L from the Swiss Watch Blog]

All in all it was a very good night.  The alcohol flowed, everyone ate merrily and pockets of conversation took place throughout the evening. Think the guys did pretty well, finished close to 3 bottles of whisky with the Yamazaki being the whisky of choice for the night.

Thanks all for coming to our little farewell soirée!  Thanks for your wonderful gift of friendship for it definitely made our stay in Geneva a lot more memorable.  Au Revoir Geneve, it’s been one amazing roller-coaster ride, thanks for the lovely memories and till we next meet again… 😉

Side-note – Whisky or Whiskey?  It’s kinda like you say Tomato, I say Tomatoe type of argument.  Did a little online research and here’s the explanation why it’s spelt differently.  The Scots spell it whisky and the Irish spell it whiskey, with an extra ‘e’. This difference in the spelling comes from the translations of the word from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms. Whiskey with the extra ‘e’ is also used when referring to American whiskies. This ‘e’ was taken to the United States by the Irish immigrants in the 1700s and has been used ever since.  Scotland, Ireland and America all have a rich heritage in the whisky industry.

Every day in Rome,

we have our daily fix of gelato at Il Gelato di San Crispino.  It was but a stone’s throw away from our hotel and we couldn’t resist stopping by for sugar fix.

If you’re wondering why the name may sound familiar, that’s because Il Gelato di San Crispino was also mentioned in the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.  The Style Princess had her daily fix of Stracciatella while I attempted to try different flavours everyday – Mandarin Sorbet, Lemon Sorbet, Grapefruit Sorbet and Honey Ice-cream.  They all tasted so good especially the Honey one.

Prices for the gelato starts from EUR 3.20 and above.  If you are wondering if they serve the gelato in cones?  The answer is no for the flavour of the waffle cone will change the original flavour of the gelato.  Whoever knew huh?  🙂