Thursday, October 19, 2017

In the Living Room with Nicholas Chim

It was very generous and brave of B to open up his home to host a mini living room concert. Not ticketed of course. Many responded, and sat down for a mellow and intimate evening with local singer-songwriters Fym Summer (Foo Yumin), Debra Khng and Nicholas Chim.

As how it works with these gigs, I didn't need to schmooze. I didn't know everyone in the room, but ended up chatting with people I sat next to. B's two cats were so curious, but weren't too fussed with the humans. We brought our own drinks and nibbles. B told us to use the fridge at will since people bought stuff to share. Crackers, chips, and cheese. There might even have been a pizza. There were beers, whisky and wine. I brought a little tumbler of iced water that kept cold. It was tasty when I needed to go alcohol-free for an intense cardio session in the morning.

Nicholas Chim has written new songs, and is headed off to Europe on a ‘Terrible Luck’ tour. Debra Khng will join him on this European sojourn. He did his new single ‘Down The Way’, and it sounded really good. Different from his earlier songs. Lots of new influences in the music. What a lovely way to spend an evening. Good luck and have fun, Nick!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

da:ns :: Stuttgart Ballet’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’

You know I have no fondness for Shakespeare and his romantic tragedies, silly star-crossed lovers, the Capulets and Montagues. But I sat through ‘Romeo & Juliet’ performed by the Stuttgart Ballet at Esplanade’s dan:s festival. The ballet was accompanied by Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra in the pit playing Prokofiev’s familiar compositions.

Some of the friends weren't impressed with the leads for the other nights. (The leads changed for each night of the Singapore performances.) The performance I watched had Alicia Amatriain as Juliet and Friedemann Vogel as Romeo. That pas de deux was just a tad underwhelming. I’ve watched many many many Romeos & Juliets. This one belongs to John Cranko’s (1927-1973) choreography. This 50-year-old choreography is conservative and I suppose, somewhat relevant since it's a classic staple in any company's repertoire. The ballet company is technically very strong.

I ignored the story, and resolutely stuck to watching the dance, its movements and the dancers. At least I could rave about that at the post-performance drinks and supper instead of being negative and letting on to acquaintances just how much I bloody hate ‘Romeo & Juliet’ (detest, really, since I had to study it in school), the plot and the play. I'm very fond of Stuttgart Ballet's productions. 'Romeo & Juliet' isn't their strongest showing, but it still made for a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Deanston X PIM PAM

Went for a Deanston whisky tasting + dinner hosted by PIM PAM by FOC and Quaich Bar. They had invited (Deanston Distillery is owned by Distell Group Limited, who also owns Bunnahabhain and Tobermory.) The bar launched its specially bottled Deanston 14 y.o in Spanish oak cask, and I was curious about it. I can be rather fixed in my whisky preferences, so tastings done this way are a great opportunity for the tastebuds to try new flavors. Tonight, the Deanston Virgin Oak, and the 18y.o spoke to me.

Blinked at the dinner menu. That was a loong list of food! The selected tapas served weren't decent. But I couldn't stomach that much food and had the friends take my portions. The Spanish anchovies were wonderfully salty, delicious and full of umami. Dessert was churros with chocolate sauce that everyone loved; as usual I gave away mine. Haha. I was really only waiting for the squid ink paella with prawns. Hurhurhur. In fact, I could have had two servings of that and skipped all the previous fun tapas selections. FOC’s paella never disappoints at any of its three locations.

The wonderful thing about this dinner- it was more casual instead of the usual fine dining style adopted for food and whisky pairings. The friends and I weren’t placed at the communal table! Yayyyy! Didn’t need to schmooze or show fake interest in people (who could be nice, but nobody really needs a bump up in the number of facebook friends)! Got a table to ourselves and managed to have more meaningful chats since the surroundings weren't that noisy.

Monday, October 16, 2017

'Finding Comfort in Food'

Glanced at the email that came in and opened it up. Sounded like it deserved a proper read. It was from Life & Thyme, and carried senior editor Stef Ferrari’s introduction and summary of the weekend edition with the subject ‘Carrying On’. She referenced feelings about the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Music Festival shooting, and wrote,

And yes, eating can be a brief interlude from insanity; food has always had an element of escapism. But it's also been critical to communication, to collecting and connecting people in one place, to giving a reason to sit down and strategize. And it is still important for us to take care of ourselves and one another so we can continue to have the conversations that will help us illicit change. 
Real revolutions have been planned at cafés and around dinner tables throughout history. Let us not forget the strength we have in numbers—and one way to accumulate those numbers is to sit down, share a meal, inspire thought and exchange ideas.

It's a sobering introduction and a reminder that we don't live in a bubble where everyone shares the same opinions and feelings, or rationality. The magazine is fairly America-centric, but it tries to diversify its content and works with writers who actually can write, and know their stuff. This isn't about food reviews or fine dining. It's about honest-to-goodness foods we know.

We tend to sit down with people whose company we enjoy. In this format, we tend to be a little more forgiving about the quality of food on the table. We're lucky that Singapore offers many decent dining options, and even takeaway portions turn out well at potluck parties. Often, we treasure homecooked meals because those are prepped with sincerity and much effort.

I enjoy the stories Life & Thyme carries. Loads of good stories about great food from everywhere. I like to read about food when they're written like that. In this edition, there're many good articles, as usual. Deepi Ahluwalia's 'Bone Deep: East Meets West' talks about 'the fine line between appreciation and appropriation'. For someone like me who grew up in a multi-cultural family speaking a myriad of languages, the food I was fed with also came from a mixture of many cultures. I'm never very sure if I know the fine line, or what exactly others might perceive as 'appropriation'. But yes, when I cook, I seek to re-create the true flavors and understand the reason behind certain cooking methods. Once I understand the science, I can make the necessary tweaks to suit whatever my kitchen lacks.

Carolyn Phillips's 'Good Graces' talked about her Chinese mother-in-law who was visiting them at their Long Beach apartment in the autumn of 1978. She had invited her Chinese mother-in-law over just to feed her some homemade Northern Chinese dishes, instead of the Cantonese style dishes Los Angeles offered when her husband's clan gathers. I couldn't stop laughing. Finally, the mother-in-law opened up to her, and even to the husband (her son), about stories from her youth.

Nevertheless, I pester my husband for more clues, and one day he mentions the steamed little thimbles called chestnut wowotouer. When a tattered Chinese memoir tells me that such pastries had also been a favorite of the Dowager Empress Cixi, I can’t help but make a few inappropriate connections in my mind between the famed old lady who had once terrorized the Forbidden Palace and the one who is so nonchalantly intimidating me now. 
As she slows down, I realize from her story that she had never managed to leave China––and especially her hometown––behind. There was too much unsettled business back there in Tianjin that still had to be addressed, processed and perhaps even forgiven. And then by never bothering to learn to drive or speak much English or even make a friend or two here, she had managed to keep America a distant reality safely beyond her family’s walls. That is, at least until I came along. My defensiveness wanes as I no longer see her as my tormentor, but rather as someone who has simply turned her life in on itself.

Brooklyn Chef Hetty McKinnon shares her recipe for spinach and garlic chive dumplings in an essay titled 'Finding Comfort in Food', and tells her story of childhood memories and smells. I love dumplings. Except that I'm not a fan of meat dumplings. I love vegetarian dumplings. At some points, I might try out her recipe. She wrote,

Comfort food is not fancy or complicated. Its roots are humble, stemming from family and home. Across the world today, we see people on social media, and friends in the real world, turning to comfort food to heal pain—political or otherwise. Baking is on the rise, dinner parties have taken on new relevance, and the kitchen has become the small place in this vast world where we feel safest and most powerful. During hard times, food and memory become our sharpest weapon against isolation and affliction. Comfort food trumps all.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pangdemonium's 'Fun Home'

Took a deep breath and sat through Pangdemonium’s musical ‘Fun Home’ written by Lisa Kron, and with music by Jeanine Tesori. This musical is based on Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir 'Fun Home' (2007).

I like Alison Bechdel's humor in her drawings, and I love her honest and frank sharing in her autobiographical memoir about her struggle with gender identities and roles, and the painful relationship with her father, a funeral director in the family business of operating a funeral home. But, well, this is a musical, and would unfortunately involve singing. The ‘fun’ in the title stands for funeral. I’m not sure that the grahic novel translates well onto stage as a musical. It felt a little, thin. Perhaps it was in the way it was presented. But yeah, it’s the dramatization of one person’s family and personal drama, identifiable with many.

The singing on stage was a little grating, never mind how good it might be. I cannot deal with singing when one could simply speak. There was one song I didn’t mind- when the children sang the cute little tune as a ‘commercial’ to their funeral home business while dancing around and atop the coffin. Think it's called 'Come to the Fun Home'. I obediently lasted through the 80-minute musical. It’s a fitting round-up to their 2017 season which has depicted alternative family models instead of the traditional ones we know and what our society is comfortable with.

Bought the theatre company's 2018 season ticket. Looked at its line-up and realized that I'd probably watch one out of its three scheduled shows ('The Father' written by Florian Zeller), because I've watched 'Dragonflies', and the last one is always the dreaded musical (Rick Elice's 'Peter and the Starcatcher') I'm never keen on. Oh well, it's mainly to support Pangdemonium and its work. I could always give the tickets away since redeeming them on SISTIC in e-ticket format makes it a breeze.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Gattopardo & Friends: Lino Sauro X Darryl Martin

The friends signed us up for a four-hands cookout with Darryl Martin of Barzaari (Sydney, Australia) and Gattopardo Ristorante's Lino Sauro. A six-course menu (including dessert) was to be served at dinner. I opted out of wine-pairing. Seven wines would be too much, and I'm really not particularly hot about wine and food together. It would be completely wasted on me. And an expected grueling pilates session the next morning meant I should steer clear of alcohol.

The starter was pretty appetizing- cured kingfish with red onions, toasted sesame and black fig gel. The duck leg pastilla with sticky date, BBQ cos and sesame was delicious. Of course I looked forward to the pasta. It certainly didn't disappoint. Loved the homemade egg tagliolini with fresh sea urchin sauce. It was soooo good.

I wasn't too fond of the pan-roasted Kuhlbarra barramundi on Israeli couscous in tahini, crisp buckwheat bread. Well, the fish was excellent, but I'm not hot about Israeli couscous and definitely don't like tahini mixed into it. By the time the beef arrived as the last savory course, the stomach couldn't accommodate it anymore. Too much food. Slow-cooked beef shin with thribi and garlic pita, herbs and pickles. Gave it away to the friends who were more than happy to eat my portion. Dessert was interesting, that was why I took three bites of it. Pistachio cake with bitter orange, blossom, kataifi, and vanilla ice-cream.

Said fabulous egg tagliolini with fresh sea urchin sauce.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Easy Travel Shoes

I'm totally on the bandwagon for Anothersole shoes. They're right up my alley- full rubber soles to roll over gravel and grime, and comfortable to wear all day, withstanding a ton of walking. I'm not a sneakers girl. Converse, Vans, Adidas and Nike hurt my feet so badly that I don't ever want to buy anything from these brands again. Vibrams FiveFingers are my preferred footwear for running and at gym classes.

Importantly the price points of Anothersole work for me. I'm a rough user of bags and shoes, watches and everything. I’m not fussed about being fashionable or owning delicate stuff. It's too much hassle. Things need to be practical. I've no qualms wearing shoes into all sorts of mud, dust, rain or into ankle-deep water (like Bangkok's flash floods). Unfortunately this pair of gold Anothersole have to be thrown away in Bangkok. I've had them for about three months now. They were soaked many times, and because these aren't solid boots, unsurprisingly, I've managed to rip their seams too. :P Nope, I didn't bother to go shopping in Bangkok. Not in the mood. The city's got a disgusting volume of malls and markets that I'm in a hurry to get away from.

It's okay, I ordered another pair in gold that has been delivered and was waiting for me at home even before I got back. I've also bought many other colors from the same brand. Oof. 😁 Yes, I'm boring this way. Whenever I manage to find reasonably-priced shoes that are kind to my bunions, I buy them in bulk. Anothersole closed-toe lace-ups do rather well to meet my needs for both casual and dressy days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wild Rice's 'Grandmother Tongue'

I missed Wild Rice's staging of 'Grandmother Tongue' last year. When it came around this year, I wasn't actually sure I wanted to watch it. It's just too....I dunno. It doesn't appeal to me. It's too much of a reminder of what my old folks have to face on a daily basis. Too familiar, and I really don't want to be reminded of it in a stylized stage play, regardless of whether I understand Teochew.

I couldn’t quite relate to this play in terms of my relationship with my grandparents either, or their opinions of the world. Both sets of grandparents knew their gadgets and tech trends better than I did. They also spoke four languages, and could rather creatively yell at me in whichever language of their choice when I disobeyed their instructions. It was fairly fascinating back then to hear each of them opting for a different language (from what we normally conversed in) to scold me.

Written and directed by Thomas Lim, it's got both English and Chinese surtitles. The clever use of surtitles lent a depth to the play, and also left audiences who don’t understand Teochew or Mandarin bemused at one point, effectively highlighting how language barriers alienate. It's a very Singaporean play that shows the audience of a young man's struggles to connect with his 84-year-old Teochew grandmother who doesn't speak any other language, besides Teochew. It's in those daily things of buying her groceries, teaching her how to use a mobile phone, and predictably, visiting her in hospital after she had a bad fall.

I didn't take to the play at all, through no fault of its excellent actors or its very real script. It’s a wonderful play full of nuanced emotions, messages of love, understanding and generosity. It's just a matter of 'too much'. I take my old folks through this daily, weekly, through the years. I feel for them, understanding their confusion at the pace of life, sense of abandonment or being left behind by fellow residents. Seeing these issues of how old folks are alienated as society progresses, and how it's played out on stage isn't something enjoyable for me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Birthday Brunch At Basilico

Celebrated the man's Dad's birthday late as we were away in Bangkok, and it was Rosh Hashanah, then Yom Kippur. Once his fast was over and he was back to his usual food intake, off we went for a birthday brunch.

Took the parentals to an Italian brunch buffet at Basilico at Regent Hotel. As far as brunch buffets go, there’re cycles of ups and downs depending on how generous the restaurants are. Currently, we really like Basilico since it isn't stingy with its grilled whole fish, roast meats, lamb chops or other dishes. Love its selection of bread. Its prosecco is decent, so we tend to have copious amounts of that. Then there's THE CHEESE ROOM. It was very nice to unexpectedly run into friends too. Nice to see everyone out and about.

The man's father likes his sweets and sugar. Ugh. He isn't allowed so much, but on special occasions, he gets to indulge in itty bits. Bought the Dad his favorite old-school classic Victoria sponge. Not the whole cake, of course. Slices. We've graduated to getting slices of cakes for birthdays. There's not much point to getting a whole cake anymore if the recipient has to eat stale cake for tea for the next 10 days.