Operation plastic detox step 3: Jar

Following part 1 and part 2, it’s was time for another plastic object in my kitchen to be cut from the roster. This is the item I got rid of:

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This plastic pitcher has been with me a long time. It’s got measurement increments on the side in both imperial and metric and that’s a feature I really like. I didn’t think I’d find a good BPA-free replacement with this feature. I was wrong..
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Meet Mr. Heavy Duty thick glass pitcher with big bold measurement increments in both imperial and metric! This is so much better than my wobbly, old, thin plastic pitcher. A most welcome addition to team kitchen! Testosterone-lowering-plastic will no longer contaminate my fluid measuring. Next week there will be a really important player getting cut from team kitchen – and a very promising free agent signed to take his place! Stay tuned.

Operation plastic detox step 2: bowls

So the operation is up and running! Feels very good to invest in my health and eliminate all that plastic in my kitchen that touches my food. And besides – buying quality items for cooking is such a pleasure! It’s also good for the environment. If you didn’t know, plastic is just one of the hundreds of materials used in daily life that comes from the oil industry. For this week, I chose the following item to replace:

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Take a look at these plastic bowls. I’ve used them for years.. No more! Say hello to Mr. Stainless Steel bowl!

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Take a look at these high quality brushed stainless steel bowls from Kökskungen. I like the measuring on the inside, and I LOVE the silicone coated bottom that protects the bowl from sliding around when you are working it. The coating also dampens the noise of when the bottom of the bowl clanks against the counter top. Good investment that will serve my kitchen for MANY years! I already know what to replace next week..

Operation plastic detox step 1: food containers

The first step will be to change how I store my food. This is what I currently use:

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When warm food comes in contact with plastic, it’s even MORE likely to be contaminated by these hormone altering substances. That’s another reason to not use a plastic cover in your microwave oven, and never to re-heat the food while store in plastic boxes. After a recent trip to my local supermarket, I am now a proud owner of these instead:

These babies are made of durable glass and can stand high temperatures as well as the freezer. Although the plastic lid is claimed to be BPA free, I’m not taking any chances. The lid won’t touch the food anyway, and I won’t put it on while the food is warm. An added benefit is that I can even microwave my food directly in the glass box now, or even make the individual portion directly in the containers (if it’s an oven dish), which saves dishes to wash! Every week from now on, I will change two of my plastic boxes for two glass ones, and also choose one other plastic thing in my kitchen to change.

Irish coffee

Following the post about café D.O.M, next up is Irish coffee! This is probably the most well known and popular coffee drink. There are a few variations of the recipe, but the original is said to be with Jameson, and brown farin sugar. Brown sugar is also the kind used in the I.B.A (International Bartender’s Association) recipe. Irish whiskey has (in most cases) not the smoky taste so characteristic for the Scottish counterpart. This makes the Irish whiskey a bit sweeter, and pairs better with the coffee and sugar.

Irish coffee

Category: Longdrink
Skill level: Medium
Glass: Irish coffee glass. I have never seen one in a store, but they can probably be ordered online. If you happen to know a bar manager, ask him/her to order glasses from the supplier with the next batch of Irish whiskey. If you can’t find that, use a wine glass.

Ingredients:

  • Jameson Irish whiskey
  • Teaspoons of brown sugar (some recipes also use cane sugar)
  • Black coffee
  • Whipped cream

Instructions:

  1. Put 1-2 tsp of sugar into the glass
  2. Add 4 cl Jameson Irish whiskey
  3. Fill up with black coffee. You should leave some room for the cream
  4. Whip your cream. It should be thick but not firm, you should be able to pour it
  5. Pour cream on top of coffee. If you are inexperienced with this procedure, hold a small spoon just above the coffee and pour the cream with your other hand. Pour onto the spoon and let it act as a “shield”. The cream will run off the spoon gently on to the coffee. After you’ve tried that a few times, you won’t need to use the spoon. If you made the cream right, it will layer perfectly without the help of the spoon.
  6. Garnish with 2 coffee beans, and a sprinkle of sugar

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History:

In the 1940’s, a group of American passengers were stranded in an Irish airports. It was freezing winter, and the bartender (Joe Sheridan) added whiskey to the coffee to warm his guests. When asked by a few of the passengers if it was Brazilian coffee, Sheridan replied “No, it’s Irish coffee”.

Tested: Ben & Jerry’s Coconut Seven Layer Bar

I was actually finished trying and reviewing all the flavors of Singapore that I’ve never had. But I still had two weeks left in Singapore which meant room for trying two more flavors. I knew that B&J recently developed non-dairy flavors, but I hadn’t tried any of them yet. The question I was asking myself was if it was worth it? Technically it isn’t even ice cream, since it doesn’t contain any cream (non-dairy). So if I tried one of them, would they still be allowed to compete against the other “real” ice creams on my list? Only one way to find out right.. I decided to pull the trigger on the flavor called Coconut seven layer bar. Good.? Read on to find out.

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Sweetness balance: 8/10
Sweet. Maybe just 2% too sweet.

Texture: 9/10
Very chunky, I like it!

Lives up to description: 10/10
Perfect execution. I can taste all the elements.

Other considerations (creative flavor pairing, innovative, boldness, etc): 10/10
I must conclude that I’m VERY impressed. Not only is it good – it’s actually better than most of their real ice cream flavors! It’s bold, adventurous, exciting, tropical – it’s got the works folks. From past experience, vegan & non-dairy version of popular foodstuffs often taste like shit, but B&J’s pulled of a miracle on this one.

Overall summary: 37/40 points, which equals a 93% rating. Highest rating so far! Definitely recommend it. I would consider buying it over any of their flavors. And I probably will..

Singapore Sling: Trying the original

Another bucket list cross off for me! I recently had a Singapore Sling at the original place where the legendary long drink was invented 1915: Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

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The hotel now and then. It still holds it’s beautiful colonial style of architecture. During the years, many world famous guests have stayed here.

It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for over 15 years, ever since I became a bartender myself. The Singapore Sling has a cool history and is of the world’s top 10 most influential long drinks. It’s been an official IBA (International Bartenders Association) recipe for a long time and has a given place in the heritage and traditions of bar tending. It would sure be a shame for anybody in the profession to visit Singapore without trying the original. I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t take the opportunity while staying in Singapore!

So what is the history of the Singapore Sling?

It was invented 1915 at Raffles hotel in Singapore by the bartender Ngiam Tong Boon.

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During that time, it was not socially acceptable for women to consume alcoholic beverages in public. Women had to resort to fruit juice or tea, while the men had all the fun with whisky, gin, rum, etc. According to the legend, Ngiam Tong Boon saw a “niche in the market” and decided to make a long drink that looked like fruit juice, was appealing to the eye, but secretly contained alcohol.

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Photo by me 🙂

This way, women could enjoy drinking too, while still maintaining their social status and not braking the strict etiquette of the times. Needless to say, the drink became an instant hit.

It’s a common mistake to refer to any alcoholic drink as a cocktail. To be anal about it; the Singapore sling belongs to the drink family long drinks, and then to a sub category of long drinks called slings. It’s served in a hurricane glass and garnished with a pineapple and cherry. As any professional bartender must know, the soft drinks part of a long drink determine the garnish, which the Singapore Sling is a perfect by the book example of. The main soft drink contained is pineapple juice.

I documented my adventure by making a short 6 min movie. Have a look here:

Half way into my drink, a pair of clueless, badly dressed, overweight guys walked into the Raffles sling bar and asked for beer.

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Epic fail

Seriously guys? Ordering beer at the birthplace of one of the worlds most iconic and legendary long drinks? They left after the bartender politely informed them that they didn’t serve beer, but recommended them to try a sling. Everybody in the bar looked around at each other and had a chuckle. No words necessary 🙂

After finishing my drink I must confess that I was almost drunk. It was the first time since coming to Singapore four months ago that I had any alcohol what so ever. At this point you’re probably wondering how I can call myself a bartender ha ha. I feel you. But I chose to skip the booze here and get back in shape instead. I don’t regret it; having lost 15 kg’s (33 lbs)  over the last four months (while at the same time having had about 20 pints of Ben & Jerry’s).

Cheesecake battle: New York style vs. Japanese style

Recently I came across a style of cheesecake that I didn’t even know existed: Japanese style! It happened to be the time of the year when cherry trees blossom (Sakura, in Japanese), and a local bakery chain here in Singapore had created these beautiful Sakura Japanese cheesecakes!

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Sakura time in Japan. It’s pink everywhere! Occurs during march!

The temptation was too big to turn down for a cheesecake fanatic like me. I had to try it! I personally LOVE the New York style cheesecake. It’s thick, dense, heavy, and firm. So I was very curious to try the Japanese version. Could it beat my favorite? A cheesecake battle was about to take place.

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I asked in the bakery about it, and the girl told me that the Japanese style is almost the opposite. It’s very light and creamy, the texture has a lot of air and it’s often made from ricotta cheese as opposed to cream cheese in the New York style.

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I managed to get it home unharmed and uneaten! It sure looked great. It was made from layers of sakura cherry infused sponge cake bottoms and white whipped ricotta cheese layers.

So how was it?

The bakery girl was absolutely right. It’s VERY light to the texture, almost like whipped cream. To be honest, it’s didn’t taste very much. Luckily, I had some ice cream and huge cookies on the side 🙂 It was fun and interesting to try but I’m still sticking to NY style as my favorite.

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My first visit to a 2 star Michelin restaurant!

After trying the somewhat disappointing worlds cheapest 1 Michelin star meal here in Singapore, I thought I’d bounce back with trying a two star joint for the first time. The chosen place: Shisen Hanten.

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It’s about time I tried a next level Michelin star joint. I’ve previously tasted a handful of 1 star establishments, with the outstanding Cafe China in Manhattan, NY topping the list of my life’s best meal experiences. Could Shisen Hanten beat them? I admit that I was sceptical. But according to the Michelin guide, they should. After all, Shisen hanten is awarded two stars and Cafe China one.
I arrived with a friend about an hour after SH opened without having a reservation. SH is located on the 35th floor of the 5 star luxury hotel Mandarin Oriental. We were greeted very courteously and the hostess asked if we were OK sitting in the middle of the restaurant since they didn’t have any free window seats. Sure!
Interior design

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Stunning. It’s hands down the most luxurious restaurant I’ve been to. High ceiling, open space and uncrowded, lot’s of chandeliers, dark wood, palm trees, fat velvet drapes and lots of Asian style elements to the design. Jackpot! It really is indescribable, the picture doesn’t do the place full justice. It’s something you have to see with your own eyes.
Menu
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There is a lot to choose from here. The menu offers a very wide range of tempting dishes across a range of price tags. Everything seems good. Extensive wine list as well. I had a hard time choosing! Eventually,  we both settled for having an appetizer consisting of four smaller samples of the menu. For main, I went with the chefs signature dish – a sichuan flavoured tofu stew. My friend ordered Beijing duck.
Sound levels
Very important for me, there is nothing that ruins my meal experience more than a loud and noisy environment. SH passed the test well, you could easily hold a good conversation without screaming or being disturbed.
Service
Simply outstanding. We had three different staff serving us and all of them managed to make a personal connection and make us feel at home. Staff constantly refilled our tea, and they knowledgeably answered all of the questions we had about the food or menu. I ordered a martini to go with my appetizer, and my waitress politely informed me that it would take 30 min before the bar would open, which I was OK with. She brought it after less than 10 minutes – that’s good service.
Prices
SH is probably the most affordable 2 star place I’ve seen. The prices are low considering the accomplishment of raking in 2 stars! Everybody can afford to eat here. I wouldn’t call it cheap, but definitely affordable. Main courses starting at about 20$ and up.
Food
Let’s start with the appetizer. It contained of jellyfish, chicken with peanut sauce, shrimp, wagyu beef, and bbq pork. Small sample of all. The strongest performer among them I’ll surprisingly have to give the jellyfish. The only other time in my life I’ve had it was actually at Cafe China and I must admit that SH beat themvalue here. It was excellent. The other parts of thethe appetizer were decent, but not spectacular.
Moving on to the main. My tofu stew was delivered in a large ceramic black pot, and my waitress refilled my bowl as soon as I ran out. It was really good! Not a mind blowing experience, but definitely delicious. I’m no tofu expert, but it was silky and smooth.

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The best part of the experience was my friends meal. The waitress prepared the food in front of us, and she very skillfully made small rolls of fresh steamed wheat pancake that she filled with the Beijing duck ingredients. It was totally amazing. Like an Asian style fajitas, I thought to myself. She even made two for me to taste! I was in heaven. She also informed us that the chef made the Beijing duck sauce from scratch. On a larger plate, she also delivered the rest of the duck that hadn’t been used in the rolls. It was plenty of food, the portion sizes here are not too small.

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Lastly, I took a leap of faith and ordered an almond pudding for dessert. I wasn’t impressed, it tasted kind of flat. Definitely not worthy of the rest of the food. But then again, I’m not a pudding guy. It’s just not my kind of dessert, so I probably should have ordered something else. I prefer no holds bar desserts that are a bit decadent over the top and come with a phone where the coroner is on speed dial one. Pudding..? What was I thinking..
Final conclusion
So, is SH worthy of two stars? It’s a hard question to answer and I haven’t made up my mind. The place definitely has a lot going for it. Stunning, luxurious interior design and world class service. But to be honest, my food didn’t take me by storm. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in any way dissatisfied! It was delicious! But I’m not blown away like i was by Cafe China, which has one less star. And what’s more, I even had two visits at Cafe China during that trip and both of the visits were equally good!  Maybe it’s because I had the tofu dish which I’m not that familiar with? And the dessert was a let down. It tasted like the mass produced snack pudding I ate as a kid and bought for 50 cents in a grocery store. The presentation of the dessert could be improved as well.
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I draw the conclusion that SH is definitely worthy of at least 1 star. But 2? I kind of want to go back again and try something else before making up my mind.

I tried the worlds cheapest 1 Michelin star restaurant!

Singapore has a plethora of restaurants in all price ranges, this is somewhat of a food lovers heaven. The  country currently has one 3-star Michelin place, quite a few 2-star places, and many 1-stars. Here is the complete list.

It stirred some controversy not too long ago when two hawker stalls made it on to the list of the 1-star places! Many raised their eyebrows, wondering if a hawker stall even should be considered a proper restaurant. But if they got awarded my Michelin, it must mean that the food is delicious right? I decided to try one of them: Liao fan hong kong soya sauce chicken rice & noodle. It’s the worlds cheapest Michelin meal, with a plate of chicken rice landing around 2-3 $.

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I have some experience with one star places before. So I was naturally very curious – have the Michelin testers become sloppy and watered down the quality of the award, or is the hawker stall really able to produce food of the likes of Cafe China in New York, which still today is my life’s best restaurant experience? I must admit that I was skeptical.

I arrived on a weekend around noon. The place was crowded, and looked to be a bit more renovated than the usual street food stalls. There was a line going up to the counter, with the menu propped up on posts here and there. I knew what I was having: the chicken rice.

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I ordered, and a very stressed auntie at the counter assisted me without any smile or welcoming service minded gestures. I got a ticket and when my number was up I could collect my food at the counter – almost like McDonald’s style of eating.

I didn’t have to wait long. When I got my food, I found a free seat and dove right into my meal. I’d had chicken rice before at the NTU campus, and while this meal was quite good, I didn’t find it that much better from what I’ve previously tried. The meat was tender and the soy sauce was nice. But mind blowing? Hardly.

Conclusion

You get what you pay for, I guess. The place has totally non-existent service. Looking forward to eat in peace in a nice environment? Don’t go here. The place was very noisy, packed, and reminded me more of a McDonald’s than a real restaurant. But then again, it IS a hawker stall so don’t expect too much. Is it worthy of one Michelin star? While being a quite good meal for a cheap price, I don’t think it comes anywhere close to the previous one star places I’ve tried. Not by a long shot. For somebody who is after the novelty of trying the worlds cheapest Michelin meal, I could recommend it. But don’t go here if you are expecting the kind of service, eating environment, and level of food that normally comes with a 1 star joint.

Tested: Ben & Jerry’s Keep caramel and cookie on

Boom! Just as I was finished trying and reviewing all the flavors of Singapore that I’ve never had, B&J hit me right in the solar plexus with a new one: Keep caramel and cookie on! Can it be a serious contender to the amazing Red Velvet, or vanilla caramel fudge..? Read on to find out.

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Caramel Malt Ice Cream with Shortbread Cookies, Fudge Flakes & Caramel Swirls

 

Sweetness balance: 8/10
Sweet. Maybe just 2% too sweet.

Texture: 8/10
Good! Nice mix of elements, easy to eat.

Lives up to description: 7/10
I can taste all the elements, but the shortbread is very difficult to spot. Too weak presence from that element.

Other considerations (creative flavor pairing, innovative, boldness, etc): 7/10
It’s promising! Not a heavy hit home run, but definitely good. Could consider buying it again!

Overall summary: 30/40 points, which equals a 75% rating. I recommend trying it!