Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Of the cities that i visited in Cuba, Santa Clara was certainly my favorite. Havana was scam heaven, Camagüey a little gritty, Trinidad a recluse's oasis, and Santa Clara the charming City of Che (as i call it). 
Getting There

Like i mentioned in my previous Cuba travel post, Viazul provides several buses a day to/from major cities such as Camagüey, Havana, Sancti Spiritus, and Santiago de Cuba. A daily service to Varadero, Cienfuegos and Trinidad is also available. 

Flying is also an option, and on hindsight, i should have just flown directly back to Canada from Santa Clara instead of taking the route via Havana. My advice is to get an open jaw ticket if you're headed east. Several Canadian airlines operate connecting flights between Canadian cities and the Abel Santa Maria airport so you have plenty of options. The airport connects some European cities such as Warsaw as well.

The must visit spot would be the Che complex, 2km west of Parque Vidal (via Rafael Tristá on Av de los Desfiles), near the Víazul bus station. The complex is a mandatory stop for those on a Che pilgrimage and it houses a monument, mausoleum and museum in honor of Ernesto Guevara. The above statue was erected in 1987 to mark the 20th anniversary of Che's murder in Bolivia.
Nearby, the mausoleum contains 38 stone-carved niches dedicated to the guerrillas killed in that failed revolutionary attempt. Che's body was recovered from a secret mass grave in Bolivia in 1997 and reburied here. 

The adjacent museum provides an insight to the charismatic Che's life. There you'll see his transformation from a school boy to a revolutionary guerrilla leader.
Make a trek up Loma del Capiro aka Capiro's Hill for a view of the city. Che used this as a hideout and command center to invade the city in a battle known as Battle of Santa Clara during the Cuban Revolution. 
A monument commemorating the battle was erected here. It's not easy getting to this spot and we had to ask for directions several times. Several detours through many unmarked roads later, we finally found the hill. The view is pretty amazing as you can see and there were locals and tourists alike chilling out on the breezy summit.
Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado is another place where Che left his mark. 
Here marks the spot where Che and his band of revolutionaries derailed an armored train using a borrowed bulldozer and homemade Molotov cocktails on 29 Dec 1958. 
There wasn't much to see here but it's kinda on the way back from Capiro's Hill.

We wanted to go for the cigar factory tour to learn a little more about these pricy smokes (not that we even smoke). Guided tours (45mins for 3CUC) were said to be available. However, when we were there, we were informed that the tours have stopped since Oct 2012 even though the factory is still in operation. That said, the tours may be back in operation again with greater relaxation in policies. 
A little on the cigar factory. They hire about 300 employees to hand roll the cigars for brands like Romeo y Julieta, Hoyos de Monterrey, Montecristo and Partagas. Even if you can't visit, you can certainly get the cigars in the small shop across the street (add: Calle Maceo #181, e/ Berenguer y Julio Jover).
These quality cigars are super cheap by the way. They were going at 20 sticks for 50 pesos (which is about 2 Euros). I think the local sg price is about $50 or more EACH. When we got back to Toronto, we were chided by the immigration officer for not buying any. :P
Other than the above suggestions, if you're really lazy to walk around, you could just chill out by Parc Leonico Vidal, which is the main city square. 
Catching a play isn't a bad idea if you understand the language. The theatre was rather packed.
At night, music and dance dominates the square. There were bands playing at different corners and people spontaneously breaking in dance. We joined in of course!

I highly recommend Casa stays in Cuba as they are a great way to interact with the locals. Also, they are cheaper than the hotels. That said, casa stays are booked using a trust system so it's the casa owner's words against yours. There can be situations of overbooking and you just gotta pray that they can find you alternatives as good as their casas. Remember to call ahead to reconfirm your reservations at least 2 days before.

For our stay in Santa Clara, we booked our lodging via for 2 nights at Casa Hostal Autentica Pergola - Street Luis Estevez #61, Independencia (Boulevard) Y Marti, Santa Clara +53 42 208686/ +53 53427936. It was slightly more expensive than our other casa stays and costs about 30/35 CUC per night depending on the season. The casa comes highly recommended on several sites and i was really glad that i managed to book 2 nights here (it's a pretty place). However, they screwed up our reservation and we could only stay for a night. BAH!
Here's our room on the ground floor. It looks kinda dated but was sufficiently comfortable. There's no air-conditioning but it was breezy enough and there's a fan in the room. You can expect a hot shower though the water pressure is nothing like your regular hotels.
The interior of the casa is well maintained. It looked like a museum actually. Rocking chairs are available outside our room and there is a nice garden with a fountain in courtyard just beyond.
There's even a nice rooftop garden/dining area where you can enjoy your breakfast. We met other guests and they said the breakfast was decent enough. 

Well, the not so friendly owners arranged for another casa for our remaining stay in Santa Clara and it was 10 CUC cheaper. At this point i was just grateful for a place to stay and it was just around the corner as well. It's called Hostal Amalia and it sits in a conservation house. For 25 CUC, we got ourselves a big room with hot showers.
The owners were super friendly and they helped us with booking a 'taxi' to send us to the station on the day of our check out. 
I liked the nice rooftop terrace where we could chill out with our books. 
The owners accommodated our early breakfast on our check out and i loved the fresh fruits, bread and omelette that they prepared for us. 
We did try to look around for another casa while Pergola was trying to sort the overbooking problem. I'll certainly recommend Hotel Florida Center! It's not as as glitzy as Casa Hostal Autentica Pergola but it sure felt very homey. Plus it was only 25 CUC per night!!! Sadly they were fully booked.
We love to check out the 'supermarkets' (though they are nothing like our super and hyper marts). Santa Clara's supermarkets are very well stocked with snacks, fresh meat and alcohol (very cheap rum too).
Street vendors hawk their fares around Parc Vidal so you can dig into some porchetta sandwiches while people watching. The buns are freshly made from the bakery just off Boulevard street.
It's also interesting to see where our meals come from and I sneaked a few shots at the local market.
We had our best peso meal at Restaurante El Alba and even stood in line with the locals to get a table at this popular establishment. Another tip, remember to get your CUC changed into Pesos because you'll get access to these really cheap and good meals!
I had a Cordon Bleu for only 45 pesos (2 CUC/Euros) and it came with a huge serving of salad, black rice and chips. It was really tasty. 
The grilled fish was only 70 Pesos and it was delicious as well

If you're not ready to rough it out at the peso restaurants (honestly the food was great), your best bet for a good but not overly overpriced meal (price is relative) would be from a casa. We did not eat at Hostal Pergola Autentica as it is a bit more pricey and we were put off by the mix up.
Even if you don't stay at Hotel Florida Center, you should head there for a meal because their food is AHMAZING. We paid 12 CUC for shrimps and lobster and that sauce was reminiscent of my best meal in Split!!! The boiled beef in olives and onion was light and sourish. I was expecting a rich beef stew but well.. In short, go for the seafood!
As for dessert, there's the super cheap Coppelia. I believe there is at least 1 in every major city.
BUT BUT BUT, we found a better quality ice cream parlor in Santa Clara!
I'm practically the statue of liberty with her towering ice cream cone! Head to El Batazo, a hole in the wall ice cream parlour just off Boulevard street. It's on some dark street and it was the only lit spot but look at that queue of Cubans. It's pricier than Coppelia (6cuc for 2 scoops) but it tastes so much better! Oh and they open from 9am-11pm! Yes that is how crazy Cubans are for their ice cream.
Super long post here but Santa Clara is certainly a must visit if you're headed to Cuba. I'll try to update on the other cities soon (fingers crossed).


I'm an Eastie and i'm absolutely loving how there is a growing cafe scene in the east, alongside my local favorites. Carvers & Co is one such addition along East Coast Road. This bistro-carvery opened by the people behind One Man Coffee focuses on communal feasting over hearty roasts and comfort food. While roasts are the highlight, let's save that for another time because the time wasn't right and i wanted brunch.

Upon stepping into the shophouse unit, we were greeted by a strong truffle scent. 
First up, my daily dose of coffee. Flat White ($5) with a dry crema. Nutty dark roast with a light sweetness at the end.

Pretty art to boot as well.

A lean brunch menu, with a little more variety than One Man Coffee, is offered. The Paprika Candied Bacon Chips ($6) sounded interesting enough and reviews of it have been good. I do remember liking the toad in the hole at OMC pretty much and the Truffled Eggs Toast sounded like a good upgrade with the bacon chips as well so obviously i had to.

Sadly, S doesn't indulge in breakfast food as i do, else an order of the Earl Grey Custard infused French Toast ($15) would also be on the table.

An arty shot while waiting for the food. The space is pretty tight and we sat at the elevated communal table.
Truffled Eggs Toast ($15) comes with bacon jam, cheddar, sous vide eggs, bacon chips and truffle oil. On hindsight, i think they forgot the bacon chips. I didn't check back with the servers because i thought the chips could be the little bits of bacon that were sprinkled. Disappointing.

The brioche was bouncy and soaked up the egg yolk. I preferred the sunny side up at OMC instead of the sous vide eggs here as they were kinda underdone. The whites were still transparent and i don't think that was how it was supposed to be presented. As usual, loved the sweet bacon jam with a hint of spice. It tasted a bit like hae bee hiam! Truffle oil was well, just truffle oil.

Next trip, i'll be back for the roasts which change every week. Portions are limited and specials written on the board. Do call ahead to book a roast in the event of them running out. Seats are limited as well (40 pax max).

Carvers and Co.
43 East Coast Road Singapore 428764
Tel: +65 6348 0448
Weekdays: 11am - 10pm
Weekends: 8.30am - 10pm (Brunch till 5pm)
Dinner service from 6.30pm
Closed Tues
It's all about Chinese New Year dining this month as we approach the celebrations in February. From 2 Feb till 5 Mar 2015, Pan Pacific Singapore will be welcoming the Year of the Wooden Goat at all its restaurants. Here's a review of the dishes available at Hai Tien Lo

I had the good fortune to finally enjoy the Singapore Airlines Suites Book The Cook Kyo Kaiseki after missing out on that in 2013. 2014 was the year to make it happen and that also allowed me to do a more detailed review of the most premium offering by Singapore Airlines. YAY. 

It's Chinese New Year already (almost there anyway) and i've had my fair share of yusheng (chinese salad) even before 2015 started. Well well, you guys would know how hard it is to get a table at a good chinese restaurant for CNY reunion right? Here's introducing the offerings at Yan Ting (one of my ultimate favorite chinese restaurants) at The St. Regis Singapore.

The food options in the Far East (and by that i mean Changi/Loyang) have been growing, much to my delight. It's amazing how The Coastal Settlement is forever packed considering the ulu location but well the food is pretty ahmazing. So so, they have opened a sister restaurant just across the road (yea you heard it from me). Jubilee Coffee House and Bar serves local and western food in a charming restored bungalow, complete with its little garden. 
As compared to The Coastal Settlement (who also does a mean Mee Goreng), the emphasis is more local flavors with snacks like Battered Otah Sticks ($13). Local delights such as Chicken Satay ($12), Chwee Kueh ($5), Fried Carrot Cake ($10) and even Chicken Porridge ($10), are available. Prices seem to be high for local dishes, well that's the impression until we were served our mains.
If there is a current F&B spot that is a big boy's dream come true, it has got to be Hungry Heroes. One can live his superhero fantasy with all the life size figurines on display, TV screens that play superheroes cartoons and at the same time, he can dig into the hearty meat platters and guzzle down craft beers. How about that!
Well for me, food was the only thing on my mind. A hot deli counter serves a range of ready-to-eat meat dishes such as the Classic Pulled Pork ($9/$14), the Veal Osso Bucco ($16) and Bratwurst Sausages ($6/pc).
Or pick your preferred cut of meat from the cold deli showcase and they'll fire it up for you on the grill. I think the 150-day Grass-fed Tenderloin ($32/200g, $43/300g) would serve me dainty.
We went for the communal feast of course. Platters come in various sizes. We had the “Steak-out” ($108, serves 5 to 6) and it featured a 200g ribeye, full rack of pork ribs, pulled pork, sausage trio, 250g de-boned chicken leg, beef stew and veal osso bucco. Yes that was a lot of food!

Now on to my favorites on the platter. Top of the list belongs to the Pork Ribs ($16/$30 ala carte). Twice-cooked, the pork ribs are first braised over low heat before being glazed with house marinades and placed in the oven to seal in the juices. I loved the caramelized crispy bits and the marinade wasn't overly sweet and definitely non-artificial. Hell, i will make a trip back for the ribs and that says a lot because I'm not typically a ribs girl. 

The pulled pork, another of my favorite, was cooked in a less intense version of the ribs marinade. It is also available in a burger form which i'll sample next time.

I practically finished the beef stew by myself as well. I would expect some secret stock to go in there (they really do have some)! It is kinda soupy so i thought it rather perfect for a cold day. If you prefer the hearty Italian style, then the tomato based veal osso bucco would satisfy your taste buds. I thought it was a good way to take away any gamey flavors of the veal.

In all, the meats were pretty well prepared. All that was supposed to fall off the bone did so easily. The exception was perhaps the steak. I felt the meat was a little too thinly cut, and our medium rare was served medium so that could have explained the slight toughness of the meat. The chicken steak was rather meh as well but the in-house created sauces kinda compensated for it. My favorite was the Hero sauce, which was a creamy pepper gravy and tasted of the yummy Christmas pimento cheese scone from Starbucks. There are plans to keep changing the sauce so you may be in for a surprise next time.
Each platter also comes with fries or roasted potatoes, caramelised onion, and sautéed buttered corn. The corn was super sweet and juicy and i found it hard to resist the starchy roasted potatoes (carbs be damned)! We ordered the truffle mash potato ($5) but it was a tad dry and nothing to shout out about (it's simply truffle oil). Luncheon fries are well luncheon fries.

The boys behind Hungry Heroes are also crazy over their craft beers and they opened bottles after bottles to induct this girl into their world. Well i didn't need much convincing with their curated list. Award winners like the Rogue Mocha Porter ($13/355ml), or the nutty Hazel Nut Brown Nectar ($14/355ml) are great accompanying beverages.
I took a liking to the Hitachino Espresso Stout ($15). Well they had me at espresso. I believe it's my virgin stout experience as well.
The boys were raving over the Beavertown Gamma Ray ($15) which was very hard to source and stock in Sg. It's kinda on the bitter end and so it's more for seasoned craft beer drinkers. 
Currently there's only 1 dessert on the menu but that gooey brownie with a heap of chocolate sauce sure does satisfy my sweet teeth. HEE,
Another thing you might notice about the restaurant would be the quirky decor. If you like something, you can probably buy it too (sans the toys)! Art Art And Away (managed by the same folks) provides these products at an affordable price if you wish to purchase something. They also provide customization and framing services as well. If i'm not wrong they have taken over a shop house unit 2 doors away.

Besides showcasing its products at the retail store, Art Art And Away will also be launching an online shopping platform in the near future. Customers can browse through the full range of products and make purchases from the website.
So yea, Hungry Heroes is a great spot to pig out with the boys. Do make a reservation as they are like waaaay packed these days. Remember to get the ribs!

Hungry Heroes
33 Tessensohn Road, Singapore 217656
Tel: +65 6295 5401 (no reservations)
Weekdays: 4pm – 12am
Sat: 11am – 12am
Sun: 11am – 11pm