i’ve got lots of pictures in my head

T-1 day to lift off. London, Paris, be part of my tidal memories.

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La Cantina in Venezia, Changi Village Hotel, Singapore

I’ve been here so many times I can’t even count the number of visits on both hands and I was appalled at how I’ve given this place the cold shoulder on this space of mine. So I’m making up for it by sharing all the dishes I’ve tried at this dining delight and I hope you find at least one dish that appeals to your buds, and I mean taste buds at that.

Nestled at the east end of Singapore, La Cantina in Venezia overlooks the lush greenery and shore of our island to provide a tranquil dining environment. I have rotated my dining experience from outdoor to indoor, lower deck to upper deck [pictured above] and I would suggest first time diners to take the alfresco seating overlooking the sea for an unforgettable experience. That lingering kiss of sea breeze, a sip of good white and you’ll feel all the frustrations and tension melt away from your shoulders as you relax into your seat.

I usually arrive famished from the long drive to what I would refer to as the ‘outskirts’ of Singapore and am always thankful for the hospitable greeting in a basket.

No complications, no fancy-schmancy pretentious appetizers, just straightforward well-baked bread. This home baked goodness evokes the image of an Italian mother dedicating her life to the ‘soul [sole]’ duty of feeding her family of 12 [don’t ask me where I got that number from], never wavering in her dedication and always producing the best for the satisfaction of her family. Served warm with olive vinegarette on the side, I always tell myself to go easy on the bread but ‘once you start, you can’t stop.’

Starting with cold antipasti, the Caprese is a staple order for me every visit for that unbeatable freshness of the tomato, the light creaminess of the buffalo mozarella, finished with the fragrant olive pesto drizzle for simple contrasts of textures and harmony of flavors that lingers on your tongue. Be sure to have fresh ground pepper sprinkled on just before you tuck in for that heightened flavor. Another good option is the Proscuitto E Melone if you’re in a large group and can afford more appetizers.

Just because we’re Singaporeans and we all love our fried food, the Calamari features regularly at our table and is a safe option for the hot antipasti. It’s not the best calamari I’ve tasted but somehow we just can’t keep ourselves from ordering it especially since I have calamari lovers for pals.

A sucker for thin crust pizza,  La Cantina delivers crisp goodness in a slice with sufficient bite and weight that distinguishes and prevents it from turning into a cracker. Pictured above is the Parma Porcini, my choice selection, for its hearty satisfaction – the thin crust is topped with a layer of pomodoro [tomato sauce] for that sweetness and tartness as a base, layer in the mozzarella for the gooey creaminess and touch of saltiness, add to that a generous spread of succulent italian mushrooms finished with a fresh and generous layer of parma ham. Is that a winning combination or what? The menu at  La Cantina offers a selection of 20 different pizza toppings to suit your palette and balance your table’s orders of need for options. If you are seeking a vegetarian balance to counter heavy meat orders, go for the Funghi Porcini that is equally heavenly.

Moving on swiftly to pasta and risotto, I do admit that the choice of 22 different dishes can be daunting to power through but those in the know would agree that the Linguine Al Granchio is the reason why every first-timer visits and why every repeat customer returns. This crabmeat linguine comes with generous chunks of crabmeat unlike the pretentious scrapes we get at most other restaurants. Tossed in a creamy tomato sauce, this is the winning factor of the dish as the sauce is perfectly balanced and leaves the diner diving in for more. I usually add a splash of tobasco sauce for that kick in a bite but it tastes perfect as served.

An alternative to crabmeat is the lobster option which is seasonally available only. When I tried this, I found the flavor to be wanting and preferred the regular Linguine Al Granchio to the fancier version.

Another pasta dish that I can’t stay away from is the Linguine Al Nerro Di Seppia which translates simply to squid ink linguine. A personal affection of mine, it is again not the best I’ve had but if given the liberty to order another pasta dish, this is my go-to due to my simple attraction to squid ink.

Main courses are also available and you cannot go wrong with the Filetto Di Manzo Al Gorgonzola. Medium rare tenderloin topped with gorgonzola cheese sauce, paired with the flavorful roquette, this dish goes straight to your heart. Most times, sides are neglected on dishes like this but the potato chunks on this is roasted perfectly that it actually leaves you craving for more.

If you’re a regular patron and are tired of the regular menu offering, La Cantina offers specials so if you’re not informed upon menu presentation, do check in with the staff on the special for the day. Being adventurous on one of my visits, I ordered the Lambshank Risotto just for a change of pace. The lambshank was cooked just right and the tender slices of meat fell of the bone by the forkful. Didn’t quite agree on the direction as the flavors were pretty mediterranean but I can’t deny the skill that went into the execution of this dish.

Despite my repeat visits, it is evident that I’m not an adventurous eater and am not out to taste test the entire menu. As mentioned, repeat visits are the result of the addictive flavor of the Linguine Al Granchio and I’ve clearly fallen victim to it.

GETTING THERE

Opening Hours: 
Tue to Fri
11am to 3pm and 6pm till Late
Weekends
11am till Late

Tel: (65) 6546 9190 Fax: (65) 6546 9153

Mezza9 Martini Bar – Happy Birthday Singapore!

I’ve been on an alcoholic binge. No more than what I use to inhale back in the agency days but definitely a stark upswing since I moved in-house. That familiar buzz, the freedom of laughter and that overt friendliness were old friends I’ve not visited for a while and it felt good to see them again.

So on the eve of National Day, to cheer a pal up, we went bar hopping to lift some spirits and well, celebrate the nation’s 45th independence anniversary.

We started the night off at Bar Canary at Grand Park Orchard. An outdoor space, it was the perfect spot to start a chill-out night under the stars, figuratively speaking. Between us three, we drained a bottle of white over an exchange of laughter and teasing. In less than an hour, we were on to our next hot spot feeling slight buzzed and me, with a pair of wooden chopsticks in my hair.

GETTING THERE – BAR CANARY

Making our way by foot, we crossed the street and headed towards Grand Hyatt Hotel which houses the Martini Bar at Mezza9. You probably won’t be able to find this glass-enclosed Martini Bar on your first visit unless you ask as its 2 entrances are tucked at the extremes of the Mezza9 which may explain the lack of a massive crowd even on weekends or public holidays.

We settled for a table right next to the bar with panels that allowed for a glimpse of Scotts Road. Upon settling, we placed our drinks after much deliberation and I allowed my eyes to roam, taking in and appreciating the interior decor. The grill and lamp before our table, I absolutely adored [pictured above, center]. To keep the alcohol at bay, a cheese platter was ordered accompanied by cashew nuts, compliments of the bar and let me tell you, those cashew nuts are highly addicted. Roasted to perfection enhancing the nuts’ fragrance with cracked black pepper added to that golden brown perfection, we were practically inhaling those nuts like chipmunks storing nuts in their cheeks for winter.

On to the stars of the night, the Martini Bar at Mezza9 offers a stunning array of 40 different martinis to suit every palette, well except the savory [which Bar Stories will offer]. Deciding to avoid the classics on round one, we ordered the Tiramisu, Lemon Custard and Watermelon martinis to start.

The Tiramisu Martini was as the name suggests and delivered the dessert in a glass the name promised. A concoction of Imperia-Russian Standard, Baileys, Kahlua, Espresso and Banana Liquer, we were off to a rocking start with that drink.

The Lemon Custard Martini came highly recommended from the pal who has visited the bar prior and I admit to being highly skeptical of the order and sipped gingerly at the drink only to find myself wanting to gulp it down. This glass comprised of Imperia-Russian Standard, Advocaat, Vanilla Liquer, Lemon Juice and Egg White. Tad squeamish knowing that fresh egg white went into the drink but man those flavors were so fresh and rewarding, that I was left lusting after the drink after that first sip. Everyone should have this when visiting the Martini Bar at Mezza9.

The bore in me, I ordered a Watermelon Martini to start with the excuse of wanting to freshen my palette before diving in. It was beautiful, simple and understated, a flavor I’ve long been acquainted with as its one of my favorite fruits in the world. A glass of this consists of Tanqueray Gin, Watermelon Liquer and Freshly Squeezed Watermelon Juice.

Soon enough, we were on to seconds and polishing off the cheese platter and cashew nuts like we’ve not eaten nor drunk in weeks. It was also at this time that the clock struck 12 and we toasted to the nation’s birthday. Yea, we patriotic like that.

Round 2 orders were a tad more adventurous and our table was served the following – Rick’s Cucumber [i know, sounds wrong], Hazelnut Martini and Vanilla Snow Martini.

So I’ve definitely found my sex in this drink – Rick’s Cucumber Martini. It’s almost the taste I’ve been searching to recreate since a chance order years ago of a cucumber based drink. A simple mix of Hendrick’s Gin, Fresh Cucumber, Lemon Juice and Brown Sugar with a Salt rimmed glass, I was taken on a sensory journey to satisfaction. This is my kinda drink, I don’t know about you.

The Hazelnut Martini was another winner of the night, finished with a white chocolate praline for a sweet end. The mix includes Absolut Vanilla, Frangelico, Vanille de Madagascar and a White Chocolate Praline.

Round two was reined in with a Vanilla Snow Martini featuring Absolut Vanilla, Creme de Cacao White, Vanilla Liquer and Cream. This did not suit my fancy as a result of my long standing aversion to milk and most things dairy. But hey, my friend who is a regular milk drinker loved every drop of it so don’t pass this up if you’re a milk/ vanilla person.

Round three was an order for the person on your right round and it resulted in a longer than usual deliberation and a deep need to focus and sober up from that giggly high state. Here’s the trio for the table – Espresso Martini, Saint Dragon Martini and a Dry Hendrick’s. The round also kinda gave insight into how well you know the next person’s taste.

The Espresso Martini was an all-round crowd pleaser with its coffee flavor perking up everyone at the table. The glass featured Imperia-Russian Standard, Kahlua, Espresso, Sugar Syrup and a dash of Frangelico.

The Saint Dragon was the order for me and it is very aligned with my preference for use of fresh fruits and vegetables in my drinks. Again, the flavor is as what one would expect but with good execution. The Saint Dragon comprises Imperia-Russian Standard, Saint Germain, Lemon Juice and Freshly Squeezed Dragon Fruit.

My order for the pal was a Dry Hendrick’s, a very masculine drink for a female only because of her preference for a good gin tonic whenever we head out for a drink. Tad strong for me but if you’re a gin tonic person, you should be able to appreciate this drink which consists of Hendrick’s Gin, Noilly Prat and Cucumber.

Round four, also known as the finale round. We’ve moved from bar side to the plush couch at the back of the bar. Snuggled in the comfortable softness and tucking in with glee on the chocolate chip cookies, compliments of the bar. Remember how I mentioned the cracked black pepper cashew nuts were addictive? Well, these chocolate chip cookies are premium and we switched our alliance to the sweet treat as we fought to keep the alcohol at bay with our next round of orders – Almond Martini, Berries Martini and the Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Martini.

The Almond Martini was pleasant but inferior to the Hazelnut Martini in my opinion, a concoction of Imperia-Russian Standard, Amaretto and Lemon Twist.

Another fruit based martini, no prizes for guessing who ordered it but the Berries Martini was the perfect way to round up the evening of drinks with its sweet, tart flavor and a refreshing zing provided by the mint leaves. The Berries Martini is a combination of Imperia-Russian Standard, Mixed Berries, Cranberry Juice and Mint Leaves. Satisfaction it was.

Last on the list is the Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Martini which is everything the name promised with no hidden nuances. I was shocked to learn that cayenne pepper was used in the drink but I guessed it did something to elevate the flavors and tie everything together – a mix of Absolut Vanilla, Baileys, Kahlua, Creme de Cacao Brown, Nutmeg and Cayenne Pepper.

You may have noticed we did not order the classic lychee martini and I’ll bet it tastes fabulous but with a selection of 40 martinis to choose from, why stick to the regulars? Till next time, I bid you adieu.

GETTING THERE – Martini bar at mezza9

Hours: Monday to Sunday 11.00am to 2.00am

Reservations: Please call +65 6732 1234

Dress Code: Smart Casual [strictly no singlets, bermudas, shorts or slippers]

Valet Service:  Available until 2:00 am daily


Phu Qoc, Vietnam – Resort Side

Because its a Sunday and the sun is a-blazing, I’m fantasizing about an island surrounded by crystal blue-green water, foaming with each tidal crash. I searched for a memory, a place where I can relive the moment and the experience of Phú Quốc just earlier this year floats to mind.

The largest island in Vietnam, it occupies approximately 574 square kilometers with a permanent population of about 85, 000. In the lead-up to our Vietnam-ventures, the pal sent me links to this getaway and it was love at first image, I knew I was hooked and it was immediately shortlisted and worked into our itinerary.

Our strategy was to visit the cities and have a rest pit in the middle of our journey to ensure we return to our hectic lives well-rested and a-glow. So here’s what we did – Sinapore – Ho Chi Minh – Phú Quốc – Ho Chi Minh – Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh – Singapore. You’ll realise that the only flight operating to Phú Quốc is Air Mekong, a domestic carrier, from the Ho Chi Minh airport. That left us perplexed as it was not cost effective to return to Ho Chi Minh repeatedly but after exhausting all alternatives, it was the best plan we could come up with. It was frustrating, no less, but once we had all the tickets booked, we tossed all frustrations aside and settled in for the ride.

After 3 days in Ho Chi Minh, we were ready and eager to soak up some sun and we arrived at the airport to be greeted by this…

… snaking long queues, barely there facilities, bus shuttles form the terminal to the aircraft etc. We were somewhat deflated but envisioning the end destination – Phú Quốc, we soldiered on.

While waiting for our plane, we goofed around at the waiting area and that was the proof of our ‘sanity’ while travelers seated around us offered looks of amusement and puzzlement.

The promise land closer, the waiting bay behind us, we approached Air Mekong which I have since dubbed the ‘flying school bus’. Its tight, just like the school buses back in the 1990s which we rode to school on. Compact and fucntional with wings, that’s what the Air Mekong is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mocking it but I found the experience quaint and refreshing, bringing back fond memories of innocence and that sense of wonderment at every little thing. In fact, if I were to do a quick comparison between the two domestic flights we flew, I’d give Air Mekong  a 7/10 for experience and Jet Star Vietnam a 1/10. It was that bad but that’s a story for another time.

Buckled in, we landed in Phú Quốc in the blink of an eye and the airport experience there came as another shocker for us city girls.

First, we made our way by foot along the runway to the airport that laid mere metres away. Next we watched as crew unloaded our bags onto trolleys and wheeled it to the conveyor belt that was so small that I found the idea of even having one ridiculous. Seriously, just place the bags on the ground and we could have easily picked our bags up. But hey, perhaps they’re attempting to modernise and eliminate physical manpower and until the process is completed, they’ll remain in limbo.

Picking up our bags, we looked for our driver and were immediately bundled up in the car and transported to our resort. Things can’t get any worse right?

We checked in at our resort which was rustic, laid-back and as we meandered through the garden of our resort, I felt that peace returning to be and I thought to myself – I am going to be so rejuvenated at the end of the next 3 days. Until we opened the door to our room. My jaw literally dropped.

This was the sight that greeted me. There I was expecting an air-conditioned room, lust soft beds that I could melt into after a long day under the sun. But no, I was greeted by mosquito nets, bare furnishing and a flat ass bed. I laughed. I laughed a deep, exasperated laugh and said to my pal – ‘Welcome to the kampong.’ We kept laughing. I think we were in shock, but we kept laughing – in an attempt to keep the mood light, or an attempt to console ourselves or the other, I don’t know. But we kept laughing as we unpacked, as we explored the bare essentials available in our room, we kept laughing. Deciding to hunt down what we came here for, we pulled on our swimwear, locked up our kampong resort and made a beeline for the beach.

There, everything changed. We gasped at the blueness of the ocean that greeted us, the fineness of the sand below our feet. It was beautiful, magical even, and we tossed all our tragic experiences of the day at the foot of our resort and embraced the beach.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach, beer bottles by our side.

We tanned,  read, fell asleep..

We cooled down in the ocean and splashed around like kids..

We buried our feet in the cool sand, a respite under the scorching sun…

And we goofed around some more..

The sunset captured my heart and I will never forget it.

And oh young love, that smooch against the setting sun. Romantic as hell, perfect getaway for a spot of romance indeed. Didn’t mean to be stalker-ish but it was a really beautiful scene, don’t you agree?

We concluded our first day on Phu Qoc with a garden dinner by the sea at the La Veranda Hotel, specifically the Le Jardin restaurant. We had Vietnamese spring roll to start, a seafood platter to share and fancy chocolate dessert to end the night on a beautiful note.

That concludes day #1 on the island, stay tuned for day #2 for hidden gems.

Shrooms a-cookin’

The weekend just past was one of experimentation. The pal decided to whip out the pots and pans and attempt a mushroom risotto. I’m not fond of the kitchen having seen the look of utter disgust on my Home Economics teacher’s face yonder years back but I was ready to lend my gut and serve as guinea pig for the experiment.

First step/ stop was grocery shopping and its an activity I absolutely adore. I was slightly distracted by the Da Paolo Gastronomia store with their gleaming little cupcakes and oversized scones but I managed to pull myself together and get on with the shopping at hand. With the grocery list directing us, we sought out the following items as prescribed in the recipe.

  • 1 tray of shitake mushrooms
  • 1 tray of oyster mushrooms
  • 1 tray of portobello mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 block of Golden Churn butter
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 2 cups of Gallo arborio rice
  • 1 pack of Perfect Italiano parmesan
  • McCormick pure ground black pepper – use as desired
  • 1 pack of Campbell clear chicken broth
  • 1 pack of Campbell real stock chicken
  • 1 pack of thyme – handful
  • 1 pack of Jacobs Farm organic bay leaves – handful
  • 1/2 cup red wine
With the shopping down pat [we cheated and got a slice of roast pork belly as our back-up plan], we proceeded back to the pad to experiment. So here’s kinda how it all went down, I’m not the best person to reference, I would recommend for you to google up some reliable sources and follow their recipes.
Prep work – Finely chop onion and garlic, place aside. Rinse all ‘shrooms, slice and set aside.
Step 1 – Warm chicken broth in a pot over low heat. Ours was a mixture of Campbell’s Clear Chicken Broth and Campbell’s Real Stock Chicken.
Step 2 – Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium high-heat and stir in the onions and galic. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until soft.
Step 3 – Stir in the mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes, lightly season with salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 8 minutes until the fresh mushrooms have softened.
Step 4 – Add rice into the pan and cook for about 1 minute. Pour in the red wine and let it bubble, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Keep pan over a medium heat and pour in a ladle of chicken stock. Allow rice to simmer, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Add about the same amount of stock again and continue to simmer and stir. Note: the rice should start to become creamy, plump and tender. Repeat this action until the rice is al dente [about 15 to 20 minutes] – the rice should be just cooked and slightly chewy.
Step 5 – Remove the rice from the heat and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper (to taste).
Step 6 – Spoon into bowls and tuck in! For those who like their cheese, load up on the parmesan. If like me, you’re a cracked pepper nut, go crazy!
Oh and here’s a shot of the pork belly we polished off that same meal. It’s no wonder I have rolls myself.
Till the next adventure. Hang tight.

‘Tis Addiction, The Bar

It’s no secret that I’m addicted to Bar Stories and with good reason too – good banter, tinkling laughs topped with cocktails fixed to your crave. Find me another place that can afford that level of personalised service or I’m not moving. Period.

haji lane

Housed in the renovated shophouses of Haji Lane, its a gem of a find along the Lane I’ve come to love. The fact that its housed in a shophouse creates that immediate affinity. Shophouses strike a chord in me like no other and when I first entered I remember smiling to myself, looking around and taking in the intimacy, soft lighting and quirk of the place, wishing it were all mine.

On my first encounter, we were seated on couches by the window and I was expecting a menu of some sort listing available ingredients for selection. Refreshingly, no menu was produced and instead I was queried on my taste preferences to which I shared – sweet, refreshing, hint of mint and Jeremy, declared the Black Forest Mojito the first drink of the night for me. I’m not used to not knowing what to expect and was a little peeved when I tried to request for a drink that was more out-of-this world only to be put in place by Jeremy with a simple ‘The drink will surprise you enough.’ So I resigned myself to the order and allowed the eyes to roam before the first sip..

.. and Jeremy was right. The refreshing burst of berry flavors with the cool of mint leaves danced in my mouth and I was in ecstasy. The sorbet provided a sour twist of coolness on the tongue and I was thrilled till the very last sip. Fortunately, we managed to get our seats ‘upgraded’ to bar side and I would recommend for everyone who visits Bar Stories for the very first time [and subsequently as well] to always sit by the bar. Full access to bar side entertainment, drink creation and even the occasional test taste of concoctions. It be sheer delight.

The second drink I had that night was a specific request for something with cucumber and a refreshing twist. Lead bartender/ mixologist, Jeff, fixed me a Cucumber Saketini of sorts that included the following ingredients – crushed cucumber, sake, galangal and lemon. It did not live up to what my palette was craving but I give him full credit for creating a drink in mere minutes from my ridiculous request. Call me a snob, but I do believe that same drink would have tasted better if he had used Japanese cucumbers instead of our regular species of cucumbers which lacks that certain level of freshness and flavour.

Chng Sue-Anne Anoir Nan

On my next visit, I sat myself right at the bar counter and challenged Big Zach to give me a drink to pick-me up, specifically, a recreation of liquid toasted marshmallow. I saw him register the challenge, I felt myself place faith in his skills and on a delightful journey he brought me on. Watching him create the drink was as fulfilling as tasting it, indeed the journey is as rewarding as the end result. There were points I thought to myself this is not going to work out as he pulled out cream and milk which were products I shy away from every single day of my life but in his hands, magic. After layering the flavors in a glass to create the body of the drink, he frothed a good amount of milk and gently topped the glass with it before flambéing the concoction before me. You know that feeling of warm love, of contentment and satisfaction? I experienced all of that in that one glass.

That same night, I was blown away by another of Big Zach’s creation. I was going to go down the regular route after being satisfied with the Toasted Marshmallow Flambé with a Kyoho Grape Martini but Big Zach challenged me back with a taunt. Why go for something regular? Licking my lips, trying to make sense of what my palette craved, I was struggling to come up with words/ ingredients to guide Big Zach on the next creation and so I said – ‘Go crazy, create me something you think I’d like.’ Silence. A serious look crossed his face and again, ingredients flew. It was a blur, I didn’t quite manage to register all the ingredients but I noted rose syrup [another ingredient I absolutely loathe], organic apple juice and topped with saffron. Viola, he placed the drink before me and declared it The Lover. I smiled, took a sip, felt my smile grow wider as I savored the nuances and notes of the different ingredients. Sheer genius this one, sheer genius the creator, sheer genius the place.

Since then, I’ve been back numerous number of times, each time with different folks as I shared my excitement at discovering this gem of a place. Bar Stories brought out the alcoholic in me, so much so I returned there 3 nights in the same week. I did tone it down and my most recent visit on Saturday reminded me of the simple joys this place brings me.

Turning up on a Saturday is never wise and I was glad Jeff opened the space downstairs, belonging to A Thousand Tales to accommodate us. Settling ourselves at the counter, I declared my want for something sour and refreshing and Jeff declared a Mai Tai [pictured above] to start. Jeff then proceeded to recommend the Mangosteen Martini [pictured below] for my pal as the fruit was in season. What bummed me was that I couldn’t watch them create that Mangosteen drink. Nevertheless we were off to a good start.

We tackled our next drinks with flourish. Anything with Pimms for the pal and a cocktail of gooseberries and passionfruit [pictured below] for me. By then, we were a good way intoxicated and I was itching to get bar side.

Patience paid off and Jeff arrived triumphantly announcing we’ve been upgraded bar side and I trooped on in glee. Seated, we picked up the pace with an order of Kyoho Grape Martini each and that sweetness, well, it’s unrivaled.

Whilst polishing off our martini’s, we spied a concoction of strawberries and frangelico in the mix and our curiosity was piqued. A quick query and we learnt that the drink in progress was a dessert in a glass – Strawberry Shortcake and an order was placed. I must say, these guys are good at recreating desserts in a glass. Now the question I have is, which do you think holds lesser calories? – The actual dessert or the liquid recreation? Any case, be sure to give the strawberry shortcake a shot.

Having craved that Toasted Marshamallow Flambé for a week-ish now, I was not going to be denied the drink and signalled to Big Zach for two orders of that wondrous creation that lifted me on that dark day. Unfortunately, recreation is not one of his fortes and that spirit of inspiration was amiss that night. Nevertheless, I am confident that that magic touch will return.

We rounded off on a good note though. Despite being on break, Big Zach went back behind the bar to create a Jam Donut Shot and I urge you to give it a whirl if you’re seeking something sweet. I do have a person in mind who I know will fall head over heels in love with this shot.

Oh and if you’re looking for some chow to keep the alcohol at bay, don’t fret. Bar Stories serves up a simple menu of bar foods and even desserts to keep the hunger pangs at bay.

So you see, I’m addicted. While the concept of bespoke cocktails is definitely not new but the experience is rare on this little red dot of ours. I’ve since learnt that there’s another establishment along Telok Ayer that serves bespoke cocktails but till I visit, Bar Stories will remain a staple for me. And oh! What makes Bar Stories unique? The place is kitted out with designer pieces and you can purchase any of the furniture there or below, at the A Thousand Tales furniture store to take a piece of the pleasure home with you.

PS. As the boys chime, I repeat, ‘Please avoid Fridays and Saturdays!’

GETTING THERE


Taking Flight

On the road yet again, this time 3 cities in 4 days – namely Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur. I’ll miss you, miss me too.

For now, enjoy the silly shots of me ‘taking flight’ under the scorching heat of Thailand.

And oh, I do think I look like a Cheshire cat in this shot. Not very flattering eh?

Of arrondisements and accommodations, Paris

Approximately a month to go till we leave for London/ Paris and boy have we been doing the leg work – from planning itineraries, researching go-to places for chow, vintage shopping and attractions to the mundane of figuring out the transportation systems and exchange rates. But one activity has captivated my heart – apartment hunting.

Honest to goodness, I can’t wait to start hunting for a place of my own. *head in clouds moment*

Back to Paris, thought I’d share some of the accommodation tips I’ve gathered in my journey to securing one for our stay there.

First point to note: Paris is arranged in 20 arrondisements, in a clockwise spiral with the 1st on the right bank of the Seine. You can easily google up a map for reference. What I love about the system is that it makes travel planning that much easier as you lay out your itineraries and location for stay based on the areas that holds your interest best. This means increased efficiency, less travel to and from your desired hotspots and ease of navigation.

So, you’ve figured out your flights to Paris. The next logical step is to book that accommodation so you don’t end up sleeping on the streets [though that’d be an experience in itself]. Here’s the second tip – rent an apartment. It’s the most value for money proposition you can find in this French city. For the same amount, you get better maintained units, spaciousness, privacy and the chance to live out that secret fantasy of being a Parisian. What’s not to love? Bonus – you get to throw your own party and do a spot of grocery shopping.

These are the links we waded through and shortlisted in our search phase which you can hit up:

Paris-Sharing: ParisSharing is a new approach to vacation rentals, home exchanges, B&B in Paris and beyond. It’s all about authentic and unique places to stay, friendly people to welcome and assist you.

FlipKey: FlipKey is a vacation rental marketplace with more than 100,000 rentals around the world. Find the perfect place to stay for your trip, and get great value along with the space, privacy and amenities of home.

ParisRentalConnections: Paris Rental Connections offer Paris and London accommodation for holiday vacation rentals or corporate lets. The apartments are fully furnished and have free high speed internet connection.

ParisPerfect: Our hand-picked Paris vacation rentals offer every comfort in the heart of the city. Walk through charming streets to markets, boutiques and monuments. Wander home along the Seine at sunset to your luxury apartment with dazzling Paris views. The perfect location, the perfect apartment, the perfect stay – Paris Perfect.

ParisInsight: Paris Insight offers that unique combination – an apartment, a short term rental, your little home in Paris – and personalized, off-the-beaten path walking tours of Paris.

Halldis: Halldis creates tailor-made solutions for travellers looking for an alternative to the traditional hotel. Its rich portfolio consists of centrally located apartments available on a turnkey basis, with a minimum nights and competitive prices for long stays.

Saved the best for last and here’s a peak at our apartment during our stay there. We settled for a loft style studio apartment in the 3rd arrondisement and were lucky to secure the place which was pretty recently renovated in August 2010. What caught my fellow travel mate’s eye was the angel on the exterior of the 18th century period building.

Behold the kitchen..

Revealing the living space..

Stairway to heaven..

Unveiling the boudoir..

Just writing this is painting a smile like no other on this face. Let the countdown begin and stay tuned for post stay updates. Here’s where I leave you with a wide grin and wink, till next time.