Ms Skinny Fat.

Skinny.Fat. Sophisticated.Fun. Adventurous.Grounded. Material.Zen.

I'm a Caffeine Addict

Sipping on my 4th cuppa at Seven Seeds. Melbourne, Australia.

Breakfast Any Time of the Day

Perfectly cooked Sous Vide Eggs Benedict. Skyve Wine Bistro, Singapore.

A weakness for sweet things

My love for cupcakes. It all began at L'uisine. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

Itadakimasu

Colours of Autumn: Omakase Hidden Find at Giro Giro Hitoshina. Kyoto, Japan.

Wanderlust

The World is my Oyster. Home is where my heart belongs.

Frozen in Time

Shooting old school muscles on our off-the-beaten-path trip. La Habana, Cuba.

Riding into the Purple Sunset.

Decadent villa getaway complete with black golden sand. Alila Villas Soori, Bali, Indonesia.

Bagism is my religion

Latest addition to my bag family- The Proenza Schouler PS11 Mini Classic in Textured Brown. 2013.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Salt grill and Sky bar Festive Dining 2014

Since Christmas and New Year are so close to each other and you're probably worrying about both meals, here's highlighting the Christmas and New Year's Eve Dinner Menu at Salt Grill and Sky Bar Singapore

Start dinner off with a G.H Mumm Champagne ($98++/bottle; $55++/half bottle).
The Amuse Bouche of Coconut broth with Sydney spice. Just like i remembered it to be, this kaffir lime coconut broth is so very Thai. Mod-Aus is highly influenced by Asian flavors imo. For the second seating for the NYE dinner, an oyster tasting plate is available too. 

The entree options are as follows.

Seared foie gras, pine nut crust, scallops, peach, brioche (only for NYE). It was a huge chunk of seared foie gras which could be better seared to complement the creamy texture. The pine nut crust didn't come through and i was missing the nuttiness. The plum was a nice alternative to the usual berries though.
Star Anise Pork Belly, with seared scallops, cauliflower puree, pickled cucumber. This dish is available on both menus. This is what a kong ba (braised pork belly) would taste like but the pork was on the dry side sadly. We had no issues with the beautifully seared scallops and the amazingly creamy cauliflower purée (will pick this over mash anytime).
The Tuna Tataki (only for NYE) may not look very appetizing with the yellow saffron coloring but the texture of the puffed rice with stringy smoked enoki and sweet onion worked pretty well. The tuna could be less well done though.  
The cigar of whipped goats cheese was enjoyable since i love cheeses but some people did not like the sharp tartness. I thought the dish could do with sweeter elements than the beetroot hummus and fresh figs (which weren't very sweet). For Christmas, you could also opt for the signature Tea Smoked Quail as your starter.

On to the hearty mains. For Christmas, how can we not have festive favorites such as Turkey Breast and Honey Roasted Ham right? Sides include fries/mash potato, fine beans confit shallot or pear, blue cheese, walnut and rocket salad (this is my personal fav).

The Portuguese baby chicken was our favorite main from the NYE menu. The flavors reminded me of the home cooked Turkish meals that i had on my travels with the spice rub of paprika and mint. Pair the crispy tender chicken with the thick saffron sauce and you have a winning combination. Lovely roasted vegetables and spiced chorizo added helped to lift the dish through the differing textures and flavors.
I also enjoyed the Sydney spiced barramundi with thai styled char sui mushrooms and bok choy. I've taken a liking to the firm fish with a light sweetness. 
We were a little confused by the Cape grim strip loin with caramelized endive, eggplant purée and salsa verde. The meat was decent but the sauce tasted of Japanese curry with some minty residue.   
While i liked the initial fresh notes of the pan fried potato gnocchi due to the medley of corn, asparagus, zucchini and truffle verjuice dressing, it was overpowered by the oily gnocchi. The potato pillows, while fluffy, were too big and doughy and I felt myself slipping into a food coma after 2 bites.

For desserts end with one of the 4 desserts. My personal favorite of the NYE menu was the Chocolate tart
This tart was a hybrid of a regular chocolate tart and molten lava cake. Think powdery and gooey filling with a crunchy buttery base. Icing on the cake were the praline ice cream and brûlée banana. Good news is that it's available on both Christmas and NYE dinner! I much preferred this over the other desserts. 
Raspberry cheese cake was meh. The cheese was too gelatinous in my opinion. 
The Mango and Coconut bomb Alaska had a rather dry sponge which was like a traditional kueh bolu imo. Too sweet for my liking as well.

Cheese lovers could go for the very substantial cheese selection with quince paste lavoch. The Pouligny Saint Pierre was a delightful crumbly goats milk cheese. For Christmas, there's also the traditional Christmas Pudding or Raspberry Panna Cotta.

Overall, sufficient selection of items for a decent festive meal to end/start the year. Plus the view is amazing. You'll probably be able to catch the fireworks (i'm assuming there would be some). 

3 Course Christmas Dinner Menu ($100/pax)
24 and 25 Dec 2014
3 Course New Year's Eve Dinner Menu
31 Dec 2014
First seating: 6pm - 8pm ($125/pax)
Second seating, 8.30pm. Last order at 12am. ($148/pax)

Salt Grill and Sky Bar
55th and 56th floors, ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801
Tel: +65 6592 5118

Sunday, November 23, 2014

30licious by AMEX and HungryGoWhere

Riding on the coattails of Restaurant Week and providing the excuse to start the festive feasting early, American Express and HungryGoWhere jointly present 30licious - S$30 culinary treats till 2 December 2014. An exciting selection of restaurants has come on board this round, including big and familiar names like Lawry's, Bedrock Bar & Grill, Gyu Kaku and NUVO.
We visited The WEJS by Medici Cafe, a little alfresco joint at the secluded far end of Rochester Park. Service was extremely slow (it was just the chef and his wife) but i loved the hearty Tunisian food!
For starter, choose between Chicken & Spinach Soup or Salade Mechouia. The spinach soup wasn't too creamy so you could still taste the goodness of the vegetables. I thought a touch of cream would gel the soup better though. 
I also enjoyed the traditional tunisian oven baked red and green capsicums cold salad which was served with bread.

For mains, the Tunisian Chicken Couscous was fabulous. I may be biased towards the couscous but I simply love the fluffy little grains that tasted so light. The chicken leg absorbed the rich flavors from the tangy vegetables and tomato stew and became fork tender with.
The Chakchouka was also one of the better ones that I've tasted in Singapore and certainly not as overpriced as that of Wild Honey. This is best paired with couscous!

The set meal also comes with a drink (we had fresh juice) and dessert (very common man). Perhaps you could give their churros a try. We had the mixed can fruits cocktail which was meh of course.
UNA @ One Rochester is also an excellent choice for a romantic dinner under the fairy lights. Word is that the ex-Bomba chef has made UNA his home and has been dishing out the hearty and authentic paella that we know of. We started with a glass of 2012 Malacapa Rioja ($14/glass, $75/bottle) that came with the meal. It was an extremely enjoyable blended Spanish red and we would certainly come back for another bottle of this.

After waking our palate with the tangy gazpacho, we dug into the Signature Seafood & Chicken Paella, a rich and intensely flavored pan of short grain with generous toppings of perfectly grilled prawns, fish, chicken, mussels and clams. I thought the dish was a little salty, especially with the sliced chorizo but a small portion of it was just right.
The Pluma Ibérica was a great piece of tender Kurobuta Pork simply paired with a smoky sweet marinade and creamy mash (the kitchen was a little heavy handed with the salt).

I wasn't too impressed with the Churros (a la carte) which had a really milky center. I prefer churros with a little more crunch on the outside.
During the offer period, American Express® Card Members can enjoy 30licious special menus at more than 30 restaurants across the island for just S$30++ each. Customers who do not have American Express Cards will be charged at S$35++. To enjoy the delectable 30liciousdeals, you simply need to log on to book.hungrygowhere.com/30licious to make your bookings.

Friday, November 21, 2014

48 hours in Cappadocia

Cappadocia (Kappadokya) is a fairytale, complete with whimsical fairy chimneys, magical hot air balloon rides, and mystical sunsets over valleys. It's the reason why i fell in love with the country i've not been to (Turkey), until i made it a reality of course. Well long distance relationships just don't work for me, so i made this city, in the Anatolian region, my first stop on my Turkey trip.

STAY
Upon arrival, take a 1h transfer from the airport to one of the towns and check yourself into a cave hotel. A trip to Cappadocia isn't complete if you don't stay in one. It is certainly part of the charm of the place. The hollowed out soft volcanic rock accommodation is anything but shabby. Most of these lodging are luxurious with all the modern comforts you can imagine- electricity, wifi, baths, central heating, ac, beds etc. Each cave room has its own character- stone (made from blocks)/cave/chimney, with windows or not, view etc. so it all depends on what you prefer. It was a real headache deciding which town, which hotel and then which room! 

I decided on Goreme because it is fairly accessible to sights and activities (Goreme Open Air Musuem and Hot Air Balloon rides). Considering we only had 48h (or less) in Cappadocia, we didn't want to waste it on traveling around. I would love to check out Ürgüp and its boutique caves but it's just a little far off.

Here are some Goreme Cave hotels that i considered. 
1. Kelebek Hotel (I stayed here)

Room 5 and 6 are in the top of the fairy chimneys and for only 55 Euros (what a steal)! However, they do not come with ensuite bathrooms and are on the smaller side but hey, it's in a fairy chimney! Go for the Junior Suite Room 4 if you want a chimney experience with a bathroom. If you're claustrophobic, pick the Junior Suites (85 Euros) with windows. They come with lovely views of Goreme. I like Room 19, 113, 18 and 15 (somewhat in order). The organic breakfast spread was amazing (love the pides) and facilities include a Turkish hamam and a pool! (more on Kelebek later)

2. Aydinli Cave House 
This is a small home boutique, family-run guesthouse located just a short stroll from the city center. Double rooms are from 70 Euros onwards. I liked Room 10. For suite rooms (100 Euros), I'd go for 12, 3, 8, 9, 5 in order of preference.

3. Koza Cave Hotel
4. Terra Cave Hotel

If i were to visit Ürgüp, i'd pick one of the following: hotels for your consideration: 
Esbelli Evi- Charming place. The first cave hotel in Ürgüp.
Selçuklu Evi Cave Hotel- Near good restaurants.
Kayakapı Premium Caves- Very grand. Super lux! Some caves have private swimming pools.

DO

The Goreme Open Air Museum is a short 1km walk away from Goreme city center. Do not miss this UNESCO World Heritage site which was once a Byzantine monastic settlement and 17th Century pilgrimage site.
It was hard not to be wowed by the rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries on site. 

Wander around the area, explore the valleys before grabbing a bite at Firin Express in the Goreme city center.
The freshly oven baked pides (turkish pizzas) were crunchy morsels and make for a cheap meal (6tl onwards). We ordered 1 for our pre-dinner snack and it turned out to be an early dinner because it was a massive portion. 
Or head to Seten restaurant at Sultan Cave Hotel or Topdeck Cave Restaurant if you're looking for something fancier. Since Seten was just next door, we popped over for our first kebab meal. The Palace kebab had 3 types of meat- chicken (a little tough), lamb chops (great but such a meager piece), and beef meatballs (a little too minced but still delicious). Skip the fried beef meatballs with walnut as the batter was too thick and dry and the filling overly salty. You get a 10% discount if you're staying at Kelebek or Sultan Cave Hotel. 
Begin Day 2 with an early morning Hot Air Balloon ride. Make sure you pre-book a slot before heading to Cappadocia. 

Popular (and safe) balloon companies like Butterfly and Royal are guaranteed to be fully booked. Thanks to S who wanted to 'check out' the companies after we arrive, we obviously did not get to fly with any of the 2 companies. Turkiye Balloon (130tl for 1h) was recommended by our hotel and thankfully it was safe enough! Our pilot is very skillful as well.

The ride was very peaceful (like it should be) sans the occasional blasts of hot air. While it may not be a life changing experience, we did get a beautiful view of the landscape. It was as though we were looking at a picture.

The view of Rose Valley from 600m above.

Some tips for hot air ballooning for you!

Tip 1: In summer, it doesn't quite matter if you take the late afternoon flight since you still wouldn't be able to catch the early sunrise during the first flight (more time for sleeping in). For other times of the year, make sure you take the early flight to experience the changing sky lights! All balloon rides come with a pre-flight buffet breakfast. Turkiye's breakfast was super meh compared to what we had at our hotel though so save your calories for a better breakfast instead.

Tip 2: Pay in cash to get a 10% discount!

We headed back for better breakfast before heading out again on our 7 hour History and Adventure Tour (60 Euros each, entrance fees and lunch included) and we booked this through our hotel. It was a small group of max 15 pax and we were driven around in a comfortable minivan. We had an English speaking guide to introduce the various sights and he was very informative. 

We started with a hike through the Rose Valley. It's advisable to have proper shoes with grip as the roads can be quite sandy and pebbly. 
During the 1h hike (it was more walking for us), we saw local farms and stopped by for some dried fruits and nuts. 
We passed through Pigeon Valley which is between Göreme and Uçhisar. Pigeons were used as messengers in this region in the past. Their droppings were also used by the local farms to fertilize their crops. For those who wish to attempt the hike on their own, the semi hilly trails are marked.
Breaks are given during the hike and we had freshly squeezed juices and Turkish tea along the way. The walk took us to the old Cavusin cave village where the church of St. John the Baptist sits precariously atop the hill. The 5th century cave church is the biggest in Cappadocia. 
Then we were driven to Pasabag Valley, aka Monks Valley where we saw mushroom shaped fairy chimneys and St. Simeon's monk chapel. The fairy chimneys here are rather unique with twin and triple rock caps that resembles mushrooms. It's called Monks Valley because the monks used to distance themselves from the world by living in the hollowed out chimneys. Rooms are fairly decent with a 10 - 15m tall space. Climb to the elevated viewing platform for a better view of the mushroom chimneys. Sandals not recommended unless you have reptilian climbing abilities like i do. ;)
Lunch was at the remote King's Valley near Goreme in a property that is owned by Kelebek Hotel. You could also do your organic breakfast here if you live at Kelebek Cave hotel (check it out here). The journey to the valley was quite fun in fact. It was almost like a roller coaster ride. 

Dining under the trees in the middle of nowhere was rather interesting and the food was fantastic. I loved the stuffed zucchini and peppers with tomato rice and side of yogurt. The baby meatballs, fresh greens and soups were healthy and hearty as well, and we were very well fed.

We caught a view of Uchisar Castle from afar. I would certainly have loved to visit if given the time. The natural rock citadel is the tallest point in Cappadocia. 

A trip to one of the underground cities is a must. As part of our tour, we visited the largest underground city, Kaymakli Underground City. This carved underground is used for hundreds of years by locals to hide from Romans, Persians and Arabs. Another underground city to visit would be Derinkuyu, which is the deepest underground city.

It was at Kelebek Hotel where we were initiated into the Turkish way of life- Hammam baths (Turkish bath) and Baklava (a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey). I'm a baklava convert already. Dinner at the Kelebek Hotel restaurant was pretty good if you're too lazy to head out like us. The kebab was better than Seten's imo.

If you have more time in Cappadocia, you could check out the Göreme National Park (another UNESCO World Heritage site) or the Ihlara Valley (deepest gorge of Anatolia). 

Cappadocia is my favorite city in Turkey and the 48 hours was more than amazing. I certainly wouldn't have minded another day to explore the other towns. What else would you do in Cappadocia? 

XOXO
Travelerintransit

Thursday, November 20, 2014

SoulCycle NYC


I've never gone to an indoors spinning class till New York and i guess that kinda spoilt it for all the other spin classes that i'll ever go to. Yes i've sold my soul to SoulCycle (that's if i really have to ride). SoulCycle is the indoor-cycling cult that has people paying $34 per 45 mins class plus extras for shoe rental ($3) and water. Yes it is anything but cheap but it's NYC and New Yorkers will do anything to have them somebody tell them to believe in themselves and that is the appeal of SoulCycle.

SoulCycle is more than indoor cycling. It is a motivational exercise experience that combines crazy spinning, music and therapy. 

Once your shoes clip on, the lights dim and you'll be surrounded by flickering candlelight. The instructor (who is also a DJ and motivational speaker) starts spinning his/her set. You pedal on the beat and you lose yourself to the blaring music. There's no giving up because you ride as a pack, as a community. You will push yourself to the limits because you will not accept anything less. At least that's what the instructors will tell you. Nobody gives up. Until you attain that perfect you.
SoulCycle is fitness reinvented. It has put fun back into fitness and they claim that 45mins is all it takes to transform the way you look and feel. I can bet on that feel good factor. Why do you think there are so many gorgeous New Yorkers with slim waists and perky booties coming back to Soul again and again? I have not walked out of the refreshing lemon smelling facility feeling like i haven't pushed myself enough (other than the time when we had a lousy instructor and that is a rarity).
Along with Lululemon, SoulCycle is certainly the other crazy fitness phenomenon/brand taking US by storm. S is absolutely crazy over them (he needs that external motivation to work out whereas i'm naturally intrinsically motivated. I'm a type A yogi.). That said, i'm good with the occasional adrenalin pumping fat-burning cardio, full-body workout sessions (with hand weights as well). SoulCycle is the best spinning experience ever and sadly we just do not have that kinda crazy inspirational instructors or exciting facilities with great music in Singapore. I guess i'll stick to yoga here.

Do you exercise when you travel? Have you experienced similarly great spinning classes in Singapore? 

XOXO
Travelerintransit