Sunday, May 16, 2010

An English Wedding

Checklist for An English Wedding
1. Venue 
Preferably in the outskirts of London, in a traditional manor-type with idyllic sprawling grounds.
Check. Northbrook Park in the gorgeous country side of Farnham, only an hour by train from London.
1a) Check grounds
Check. Ah yes, the English garden in full bloom. Very nice!
2. Cute as a button Flower Girl
Check. The groom's adorable niece
3. Hand bouquets
Pretty in pink peonies
4. Guest List & Dress Code
Invite good looking people but always make sure they are not quite as good looking as you are. Any guests who attempts to steal the limelight with inappropriate attire will be kicked out. 

Check. Yeah, stay out, you poser!
5) The Cake
designed to keep the guests in their seats while the speeches are going on.
Check. Three tiers of chocolate cake with three separate layers of passionfruit, raspberry and chocolate filling. Top tier was reserved for the bride and groom. Gorgeous! The best chocolate cake I've had in a long time. Made with real Belgian chocolate! So lovely! Cake from www.cakeindulgence.com
6) Decorations
Check. Assorted sweets not just for display. Good for keeping energy levels up!

7) And lastly, the Bride & Groom

Check. Looking beautiful and so radiant! 

We woke up to a sunny day on the 14th May. Hunky's sister was going to be married to her boyfriend of five years. Its my first English wedding and I still can't wrap my head around having a "wedding breakfast" which was actually "dinner" at four in the afternoon. Despite it being sunny, it was still rather chilly at 14C. The venue at Northbrook Park was lovely. Just what I imagined it would be. It was so nice to just wander around the garden as all the plants and flowers are in full bloom. And the peacock and peahens were the perfect addition to the plush backdrop. After the exchange of vows, we had cocktails and canapes in the garden. Once they finished arranging the tables, we were ushered back in for wedding breakfast. Hunky and I had chosen one of each from the menu so that we could share. Hunky had asparagus with quail egg and smoked salmon while I had the stuffed portobello mushroom with spinach and creamed leek. The colour of the asparagus dish was eye-popping. The bright coral colour of the smoked salmon, grapefruit and cocktail sauce was incredibe against the leafy greens. Taste wise, not as much wow as it looked but still good. The mushroom was not bad but I never like my mushroom cold because the texture gets all spongey and wet. 

The mains were roast rack of lamb with red cabbage and dauphinoise potatoes and globe artichoke risotto. The risotto was slightly under done but tasty nonetheless. The clear winner of the day was definitely the lamb. It was cooked just right for me, pink but not bloody. The slight acidity of red cabbage went very well with the rich lamb. And the potatoes! Damn, I could've eaten the whole tray! Dessert was a lemon meringue pie with a compote of summer berries. My god, the berries were even more tart than the tart! Good pie with a nice crisp meringue crust which I prefer to an italian meringue one. After the very satisfying meal, came the speeches. The bride's mother gave a very short and sweet speech while the best man, who is the groom's brother, went to elaborate lengths for maximum embarassment. Hilarious! Cake was served, booze was overflowing and the DJ was belting out the best dance tunes. It was strange to be dancing the "night" away when it was still light outside at 9pm. By this time, my belly was full and feet aching. And when the conga lined formed, it was sign of things to come. Once everyone started to do the macarena, I knew it was time to go. It was a really lovely wedding and so civilised! We left around 10:30pm, just an hour before the whole thing ended. And everyone helped pack up too. So civilised! 

Thank you M & M for including us in your special day. We wish you both the very best for the many, many wonderful times ahead!
 

Friday, May 07, 2010

Evergreen Strawberry Tart

Oh strawberry tart, how much do I love thee? Let me count thee ways!
(strawberry tart before adding the jam glaze)

Is there ever an occasion that would not benefit from the presence of a good tart? Whether the edible or titillating kind, I think we can all agree that a tart is always fun. Hunky and I entertained some friends this week and no surprise, he made risotto. I reminded him to make sure he cooked extra this time. When we had Bald Eagle and Lemongrass over last, there was barely enough the first round. Then Bald Eagle beat everyone to seconds and that was it. Not a single grain left in the pan. Sigh. Oh well, food always tastes better when there isn't enough to go around right? I took care of dessert and after looking through my usual repertoire of recipes, I decided to make a fresh, creamy and luscious strawberry tart. I haven't made one of these since university and let me tell you, that was quite a while ago. I made a sweet pastry dough, added a layer of chocolate ganache, filled it with creme patisserie, topped it with fresh strawberries brushed with diluted jam. Scrumptious! Even if I do say so myself. Below is the recipe. It may seem like quite a lot of work but everything is pretty quick and easy. Its definitely worth the effort!

Sweet tart dough (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking)
You will need a loose base 9" fluted pan
  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 110g very cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  1. Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in food processor and pulse a couple of time to combine. I don't have a food processor, my mixer worked just fine.
  2. Scatter pieces of butter and pulse to combine
  3. Stir the yolk to break it up a little and pour into mixture
  4. The dough will barely hold together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped.
  5. Butter the tart pan and press the dough into the pan. Do this fairly quickly as the dough will start feeling oily in this heat of ours. Pop it into the freezer for at least half hour.
  6. Heat up the oven to 190C. Prick dough all over with a fork. Butter a piece of foil (shiny side) that is large enough to cover the pan. Place it firmly over the dough shiny side down and bake for 20-30 mins depending on your oven. Mine was a little too brown on one side.
Creme patisserie (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup corn flour
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes
  1. Bring the milk to boil in a small saucepan
  2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together until well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of milk to temper the yolk mixture.
  3. Whisk in the rest of the milk and place pan over medium heat, whisking all the while. It will thicken quite suddenly. Don't worry if it looks very thick and "dry".
  4. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for a few minutes before adding in chopped up cubes of butter. The mixture will become smooth and silky.
  5. Pour into container and place piece of cling wrap over to prevent a film forming. Refrigerate once cooled.
Chocolate ganache
  1. Melt 125g of plain, dark or cooking chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  2. Pour in 1/2 cup of cream and whisk together. Don't worry if it seizes up, just keep whisking and it will become smooth and glossy again.
Assembling the tart
  1. Pour in ganache and spread evenly around the bottom and sides. Place in fridge to firm up quickly.
  2. The creme patisserie will be quite stiff from the fridge but a good whisk will restore it to its creamy glory. Pour into tart and level the top before placing strawberries on top.
  3. Dilute 1/3 cup of jam with 1 tsp water and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Spoon or brush over the top of the strawberries. Voila!
Happy eating!

Luscious, tarty, sweet and delicious, not unlike me!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"Not Another Italian Restaurant"

Right to Left: Lovely fresh bread from the Favola kitchen; shell pasta baked in parchment paper; moreish and rich wagyu lasagne


Yes, that was my first thought when I heard that Al Nafourah was being demolished and replaced with a hot, spanking, new.... aiyo Italian again? Favola is the latest edition to Le Meridien's list of fine restaurants. I was fortunate enough to be invited to dinner last September along with several other food bloggers. Yes, nine months on, I'm finally blogging about it. And despite my initial scepticism, the meal is still fresh in my mind. For one thing, I found it really refreshing that the flavours were fresh and simple. And despite it being in a hotel, there is something quite warm and down to earth about the place. I'm just a little fed up with all these lun si Italian restaurants which is so wrong in my humble opinion.

What I remember most about the dinner was the seared scallops on a bed of chopped sauteed cauliflower. It was such a surprise because I think all of us thought it was risotto. It was nice to have the crisp texture of the cauliflower against the plump scallops. I also like the risotto with lobster. What amazing flavour! However, the rice was over cooked for me. Otherwise it would've been really good. An interesting dish was the mussels stuffed with chicken in tomato sauce. It sounds a little strange I know but it works. The chicken was very tasty but I think it was the novelty of it that really sold us. Definitely unusual and a talking point for me anyway as I've never had anything like that before. The shell pasta baked in parchment was light and had a lovely tomato sauce.

Left - mussels stuffed with chicken in tangy tomato broth. Right - plump and juicy seared scallops on a bed of cauliflower, gorgeous!
A couple of days ago, Sabby and I went to Favola for lunch. We didn't go for the crudo bar buffet as we were both craving for pasta. The set menu looked good too but we decided not to be greedy. Cuz joined us for lunch so we had a pasta each. I ordered the capellini with shrimp, chilli, mushroom and parsley. Sabby, ever the carnivore, went straight for the wagyu cheek lasagne and Cuz ordered gnocchi with crab dumplings. We were starving and fortunately our waitress was very swift with the piping hot bread and assorted dips. I lurve the bread at Le Meridien. It is oh so gorgeous! There was a really nice potato and pumpkin dip that we devoured within seconds. Lately I haven't had much of an appetite but when my pasta arrived, f%$# me sideways! It just hit the spot! I mean it was such a simple dish but the flavours just came together. It was tasty, subtle, appetising. In fact, I didn't want to share and Sabby liked it so much, we decided to order one more! Its hard to explain because its not as if it was anything special. It just goes to show when something simple is done right, it can be truly beautiful.

Left - simple but so lovely, capellini with shrimp, parsley, mushroom and chilli. Right - gnocchi with crab dumplings with pepper sauce.
The lasagne was as good as I remembered it to be but to be honest I would not have noticed it was wagyu if you didn't tell me. The gnocchi with crab dumpling was actually very nice but I didn't realise it came with a roasted pepper sauce. Its a personal thing because I really don't like peppers in any form except raw or grilled. So despite hearing mixed reviews about the dip in quality, I have to disagree. Every dish was still very clean on the palate and the prices haven't really gone up all that much. Its slightly cheaper than the various Neros but not as much as bang for your buck as Opus or Larisata in terms of pricing. Who would've thought hotel Italian restaurants could be unpretentious eh? Thank you for not having clanging plates and singing waiters.

Favola is located on the 8th Floor of Le Meridien Hotel. For more information, proceed to their website

Saturday, May 01, 2010

French, Italian and Chinese in Bangsar

Pressroom's sexy interior in Bangsar Shopping Complex

There has been much hype about Bangsar Shopping Complex’s revamp. The blogosphere is alight with posts on new eats and of course the much talked about gourmet village. I’ve visited Kuriya and House & Co but I was most keen to try The Pressroom. I've heard mixed reviews and was keen to finally dine there. Initially I thought it was press as in news. After studying the logo, I realised it was the other press. Ah. See what preconceptions do to you? The d├ęcor is tastefully done and definitely draws in the more cash-rich crowd of suburbs nearby. The menu is a mixture of French and Italian dishes ranging from escargots to pizzas. It was lunch time and I wanted something simple. There is a separate lunch menu which didn't grab me so I lunged for the nicoise salad instead. A simple salad that can be super delicious if done well. ZY and Sis ordered the red snapper, seabass with ratatouille and squid ink risotto with scallops to share.

My side dish of seared butterfish pretending to be nicoise salad

I was pretty surprised when my salad arrived because it looked more like a side dish and where the hell was the nicoise in my salad? I did not order seared butterfish on a bed of boiled potatoes, quails egg and tomatoes with three stems of fine beans. WTF! If you’re going to jazz it up, at least point it out in the menu to avoid confusion. I don’t know about you but I get very put off when something does not satisfy my craving. Anyway, the snapper came wrapped in an envelope of foil. Very promising as the maitre d came by to slice it open releasing the perfume aroma of curry leaves. Very appetizing! However, the taste was a tad on the bland side. Sis thought it didn’t taste very fresh but ZY thought it was okay. The seabass on a bed of ratatouille was met with much disdain. I don’t know why they ordered it in the first place. I hate food like that because it reminds me of airplane food. It was okay. The fish was nicely cooked and the ratatouille was as exciting as ratatouille gets. The best dish of the day was definitely the risotto. Surprisingly, despite the inky black colour, there wasn’t much seafood taste. Oh it was definitely tasty but more like a cheesy, salty taste rather than a seafood one. The scallops were nicely seared but a tad stingy with only one each between the three of us. Nice ambience but food is lackluster in my humble opinion. I’m still stinging from my RM22++ side dish “nicoise” salad experience. RM220 is a lot of money to spend on lunch that ain’t great (price included two soft drinks and one tea).

The Pressroom is located on the ground floor of BSC, next to LaBodega. Tel: 03 2095 8098


I also ventured to One Bangsar last week to meet my bff from school, Jellybean. I’ve known her since Standard One! We always laugh about how she is a principal now when she was such a lazy bum in school! Ironic. Anyway, we met up for lunch at House Of Tang. One thing good about One Bangsar is that there is always parking. It’s a smallish dim sum menu which was fine by us as we didn’t stray from the classics anyway. Woo kok, cheong fun, har gow, siew mai and char siew soh. There was a bit of communication with the waitress as she spoke only mandarin and a smattering of English. I asked her for lime soda with no sugar. At first she said it was indeed fresh juice but when I asked for no sugar, she said there was already sugar added. Fresh huh? Anyway, what eventually came was honey calamansi with water. Oh well. It was close enough, ish. The dim sum was a bit hit and miss. The woo kok was lovely and crisp with gorgeous wispy deep fried threads of batter but the filling was a tad on the sweet side. The har gow passed the test but the siew mai was kind of tough and meaty. The red rice cheong fun which was a complimentary dish was surprisingly good. Nice crisp texture on the inside surrounded by a delicate red rice skin. We both agreed the char siew soh wasn’t nice. The pastry had a very strong lardy taste to it which was pretty off putting. We both managed a bite and that was it. We shared a tofu fah and that was quite lovely. Very smooth and delicate. Lunch came up to RM50 which was okay I guess. I don’t think I would rush back to have dim sum here but it is a nice and serene place for lunch. It was full but it wasn’t hectic and noisy like more Chinese restaurants

House Of Tang - 63B Jalan Ara, Bangsar Baru 59100. Tel: 03 2282 1111