Saturday, 1 December 2018

Popular Naganuma Ice, Hokkaido's Number 1 Soft Serve Ice Cream Opens in Singapore



The very first Naganuma Ice outlet in Singapore

Savouring the Red Wine Soft Serve

The very first Singapore outlet of Naganuma Ice, Hokkaido’s Number 1 best-selling soft serve ice cream opened in Singapore at Carlton City Hotel at Tanjong Pagar yesterday (1 Dec 2018).

Founded in 1994, in the town of Naganuma, this renowned Japanese brand has three stores in Hokkaido and three in Taiwan, drawing long queues from avid fans. Naganuma Ice has plans to launch two more stores in Singapore by April next year.

Famed for its rich, full flavour and milky taste using Hokkaido raw milk (Nama milk) and Hokkaido eggs, Naganuma Ice is reportedly the only Hokkaido company certified by the prefecture’s authorities to use raw Hokkaido milk in their products.

The refreshing Red Wine Soft Serve

I was first introduced to the lovely Gelato at Naganuma Ice’s booth at Takashima 25th Anniversary Matsuri in September/ October this year and was besotted by the smooth, creamy and delectable flavours.
Lovely assortment of flavours

There are 12 classic Gelato flavours including Double Cheese, Pumpkin, Matcha, Fresh Milk, Strawberry, Yubari Melon, Chocolate, Banana and Azuki Beans, Mango Yoghurt, Cookies and Cream and more priced at S$5.50 for single scoop, S$6.50 for a double scoop and S$0.50 for cone. The Strawberry and Mango Yoghurt flavours stole my heart.

For the Soft Serve, you can look forward to six delightful flavours such as Red Wine, Rich Milk, Ebisu Pumpkin, Yubari Melon, Corn and Matcha. I was completely blown away by the Red Wine flavour. I expected it to be slightly tart and bitter, however, it was light and refreshing with the pleasant sweetness of grapes. I was told that it was made with premium grapes from Hokkaido. Each soft serve is priced at S$6.


Crème Brûlée Soft Serve


The Making of Crème Brûlée Soft Serve 

There are two made-to-order desserts exclusive to the Singapore outlet, including the Crème Brûlée Soft Serve (S$6), a luscious combination of rich milk soft serve topped with fresh custard (air flown every week from Naganuma Ice Hokkaido factory) and scorched to a perfect golden brown texture and the Black Lover Parfait (S$8.50), comprising of layers of fresh cream, strawberry jam, crunchy cookie crumbs and a decadent Asahikawa dark chocolate wafer.

Naganuma Ice is open daily from 11am to 9pm at Carlton City Hotel, 1 Gopeng Street, Singapore 078862. For enquiries, call 67419108. For more information, visit their Facebook.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

TGFF 2018 - Singapore's Largest and Most Spectacular Food & Lifestyle Festival




At the Star Chef Arena

Following its success last year, The GREAT Food Festival (TGFF) returned in late September this year with aplomb at Resorts World Sentosa. This gastronomic extravaganza was Singapore’s largest curated food and lifestyle festival showcasing exquisite creations by Celebrity and Michelin-starred chefs, beautifully crafted desserts and amazing wine concepts. There were four main thematic segments, namely the Star Chef Arena, Rollin’ Sweet Times, The Cellar and Feast of Kings. 

I visited the TGFF on Sunday, 30 September 2018 and was glad that I got to experience most of the segments, except for the Feast of Kings. 

Some of the highlights include:

Star Chef Arena 

Chef Richard van Oostenbrugge’s creations were one of the most memorable at the festival. Every dish was sublime, adroitly crafted and artistically assembled. He is famed for helping Bord’ Eau in Amsterdam’s Hotel De L’ Europe attain the coveted two-star Michelin rating and has garnered prestigious awards such as the Gault illau Chef of the Year, Best Fromager of the Year Award and a near perfect Gault & Millau score of 19. Currently, he co-owns 212 Amsterdam and Table 65 (slated to open at Resorts World Sentosa in December 2018). His most outstanding dish at the festival was the Langoustine Albufeira, Coffee and Katsuobushi. 

Langoustine Albufeira, Coffee and Katsuobushi

Featuring succulent and sweet laungoustine sourced from Albufeira, Faro, Portugal, it was plated in a luscious, creamy broth made of fresh cream and langoustine stock, accented with coffee powder and bonito fish flakes.

Sea-Anemone of Scallop, Black Truffle and Fermented Oxtail.

Another dish which I found spectacular was the Sea-Anemone of Scallop, Black Truffle and Fermented Oxtail. The scallops had a firm texture and I love the pleasant combination of aromatic black truffles with the earthy taste of the fermented oxtail.

Foie Gras Seaweed Broth Umeboshi

The Foie Gras Seaweed Broth Umeboshi was very unique and was completely different from what I expected. The foie gras was expertly executed to the right degree of tenderness. What I liked was the tangy taste of the Umeboshi combined with the savoury seaweed broth. The refreshing broth balanced the rich taste of the foie gras.

With Chef de Cuisine of Fratelli, Davide Bizzarri

Fratelli helmed by Roberto and Enrico Cerea featured Italian rustic dishes rooted in authenticity.

Braised Ekro veal cheek in red wine

The Braised Ekro veal cheek in red wine was a standout dish, cooked with parsnip velouté and Jerasulem artichoke chips. The texture of the veal was soft, tender and juicy, leaving one yearning for more. 

Red Tuna Tataki Style, Bagna Cauda Dressing and Pistachio Crumble

The Red Tuna Tataki Style, Bagna Cauda Dressing and Pistachio Crumble was another satisfying dish, which was a hit with fish aficionados. The pistachio had a crispy, crunchy texture which contrasted with the juicy tuna flesh. 

Potato and Beetroot “Gnocco” filled with Cheese Fondue, Butter & Sage Emulsion, Baby Spinach and Truffle Shavings

 The Potato and Beetroot “Gnocco” filled with Cheese Fondue, Butter & Sage Emulsion, Baby Spinach and Truffle Shavings was a delightful creation, which caters to all taste buds. The truffle shavings gave it a touch of elegance and elevated a simple dish to greater heights.  

With Celebrity Chef, Sam Leong

Celebrity Chef, Sam Leong who is the consultant for Forest, a forerunner of modern Chinese cuisine in Singapore showcased Chinese cuisine infused with European flavours at the festival.

Wagyu Beef Short Ribs with Lycee in Red Curry Sauce

The Wagyu Beef Short Ribs with Lychee in Red Curry Sauce was flavourful and tender and was perfect for those with an inclination towards Thai flavours.

Lamb Rack marinated and baked with Lemongrass and Cumin served with Peppermint Black Pepper Sauce

The Lamb Rack marinated and baked with Lemongrass and Cumin served with Peppermint Black Pepper Sauce was an innovative creation encompassing the spices of Thai cuisine and the sleek presentation of Western cuisine.

Renowned chefs from Bo.lan, Samuay & Sons and Trang Ko’e brought diners on a mystical culinary journey of Thai cuisine with unique specialities such as Issan-style Chicken wrapped with Steamed Cabbage and Larp Dipping Sauce and Thai Rice Noodle with Siracha Pineapple, Dried Prawn Floss and Chilli accompanied by Simmered Prawn Dumplings


Issan-style Chicken wrapped with Steamed Cabbage  and Larp Dipping Sauce

The Issan-style Chicken was very unique and aromatic and the irresistible sauce was prepared using traditional Thai spices such as lemongrass, coriander, black peppercorn, garlic and fish sauce.

Thai Rice Noodle with Siracha Pineapple, Dried Prawn Floss and Chilli accompanied by Simmered Prawn Dumplings

The Thai Rice Noodle was deftly executed with tangy and zesty flavours, which made it perfect for the summer season.  I liked the unique combination of Siracha pineapple, dried pork floss and chilli, which helped to whet one's appetite before the main course. 
Rollin' Sweet Times -Philip Khoury Station

At the Rollin’ Sweet Times, I was delighted to be able to savour the goodness of Chef Khoury’s delectable creations. The renowned chef who has recently won the Savour Patissier, brought his award-winning Date Caramel Tart to TGFF 2018. His intimate knowledge of the art and science of sweet treats, offering truly memorable tastes, textures and presentation was truly admirable. Every gorgeous creation was a masterful showcase of art, which awakened the five senses. The Date Caramel Tart was an innovative dessert of dates and caramel which had the right degree of sweetness and the addition of the dates added notes of toffee, butterscotch and lemon. The crumbly shortbread crust complemented well with the smooth date and caramel ganache. The Chocolate Truffle was equally tempting, sending bursts of delight to my taste buds.

Tanqueray Citrus Terrace

For a post-dessert digestif, one could head to the world's first-ever Tanqueray Citrus Terrace and relish the exciting world of Gin-and-Tonic.

Another shot at the pretty Tanqueray Citrus Terrace

Rainbow City

Decked in vibrant rainbow colours, the VIP area was transformed into a rainbow city, an exclusive zone for Ultimate Fan Pass Holders.

HAPPIPLAYGROUND

In addition to the exquisite food, kids could also play to their hearts' content at the HAPPIPLAYGROUND - a fun and interactive fun zone for the little ones or snap pictures at the insta-worthy spots.

The Secret Garden

Picnic set-up at The Secret Garden


Video clip of TGFF 2018

Overall, TGFF was a great success, bringing different dining and lifestyle concepts under one roof. Look out for the next TGFF in 2019!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

IPPIN Celebrates Japanese Food and Beverage Culture at Takashimaya 25th Anniversary Japan Food Matsuri


At the Sake Bar at IPPIN's Booth


Takashimaya 25th anniversary Japan Food Matsuri was one of the most spectacular fairs in Singapore. From 28 September to 14 October 2018, IPPIN celebrated Japanese culture with an impressive showcase of sakes and Japanese specialities from over nine Japan prefectures such as Niigata, Fukui, Ishikawa, Gifu, Ibaraki, Nagano, Miyagi, Fukuoka and Kumamoto.

IPPIN's booth featured a Sake Bar with sake from 12 breweries from Japan, including Japan's oldest sake brewery, Sudo Honke. There were 29 premium sakes at affordable prices, from S$51 per bottle and S$15 for a sake tasting set. Sake aficionados also attended sake tasting sessions to sample the different varieties of sake.


25-year old Vintage Kakunkou Junmai Daiginjo Sake by Sudo Honke

The most prized item at IPPIN's booth was the 25-year old Vintage Kakunkou Junmai Daiginjo Sake by Sudo Honke - Japan’s oldest sake brewer. The sake is priced at S$38 000.

In fact, the sake is so unique that it was sent to guests of Prime Minister of Japan as gifts. I was honoured to have the opportunity to meet up with the President of Sudo Honke, Mr Gen-uemon Sudo, who shared with me some of the secrets of brewing sake.

With Mr President of Sudo Honke, Mr Gen-uemon Sudo

Another sake brewery, Hashimoto prides itself on using traditional methods of brewing sake since it was established 258 years ago. I was delighted to meet up with sake brewers, Mr Yoshiyuki Hashimoto and his wife who shared with me the history of their brewery.

With Mr and Mrs Yoshiyuki Hashimoto  and the Dai Ginjyo 25-Year Aged 1993 Sake

The Dai Ginjyo 25-Year Aged 1993 Sake is one of the most unique sakes produced by Hashimoto. It has a gorgeous, mellow aroma and ripened umami taste. This sake is the celebration of 50 years of brewing techniques of sake maker, Ryohei Mei. Priced at S$627 per bottle.

Other popular sakes from Hashimoto

Other popular sakes from Hashimoto include the Honjyozo Dry Shoki, Honjyozo Jyudaime and Daiginjyo Gendainomeikou.

Honjyozo Dry Shoki
(1st from left)
Brilliant sake with dry and refreshing taste. It has a mellow flavour with delicate texture.
Priced at S$53 per bottle.

Honjyozo Jyudaime
(2nd from left)
Produced by Ryohei Mae, it has the mild aroma of rice and a soft aftertaste. It is well-balanced and can be served hot. Priced at S$55 per bottle.

Daiginjyo Gendainomeikou
(3rd from left)
This sake was brewed to commemorate Ryohei Mae who received a prize for brewing sake for 50 years. It has a mature taste and pleasant fruity aroma. Best to drink chilled.
Priced at S$128 per bottle.

Sommelier from IPPIN, Ayumi preparing the sake for the tasting session

With Mr Toshio Sasaki, Deputy Manager of Sake Brewery, Showa Shoji

I was also delighted to meet up with Mr Toshio Sasaki, Deputy Manager of Showa Shoji and had the pleasure of trying some of the brewery's popular sakes. The most unique is the 2-Year Aged Daruma Masamune priced at S$393. The rice flavour is blended into the "moromi" (solid mass of swollen rice grains) and the taste gets richer and deeper with the passage of time. 

25-Year Aged Daruma Masamune Sake

Maiko getting the sake ready for tasting.

High Quality Sakes from Showa Shoji

Takesuzume, Yamahai Junmai
(1st from left)
Having been pressed pasteurised in 2014, this sake was cellared for two whole years, resulting in its rich dry taste.

It has a rich amber colour, deep savoury and acidic taste and a sharp finish.
Priced at S$75 per bottle.

Kinran Kamenoyo Kumejiro
(2nd from left)
Made from Fukiokoshi rice in Nagano prefecture, this sake is best served on the rocks due to its dry taste. It is particularly popular with men. Vinitaly 5-star Sake 2018: Selected Prize.
Priced at S$70 per bottle

Shuho Alps Masamune Daiginjo Shizuku
(3rd from left)
Made from Yamadanishiki rice in Hyogo prefecture, this sake is made using underground water of the Alps mountain. The “moromi” (solid mass of swollen rice grains) is controlled by low temperature for a long time. Sake is dripped from hanged bags by gravity. This premium sake has won the Gold Prize for the Annual Japan Sake Awards for the Daiginjo category.
Priced at S$203 per bottle


Fruit, brown rice and ginger vinegar


In addition to the Sake Bar, there was also a retail section showcasing premium fruit, brown rice and ginger vinegar as well as exquisite mosaic sushi, sushi rolls and bara chirashi sushi handmade daily by skilful Ninja Chef, Takanobu Matsuto. My favourite was the Bara Chirashi Don which was delicious and bursting with freshness.

Chef Makanobu Matsuto at work

Shoppers sampled succulent boiled octopus and grilled kurama shrimp and took their pick from the delightful range of condiments and retail items from Umaiya such as sweet ayu fish, candied prawns and walnut with young sardine.

Japanese condiments and retail food items from Umaiya


My favourite Bara Chirashi Don

Succulent Boiled Octopus


Overall, the 25th Anniversary Japan Food Matsuri was a fun, enriching and interactive showcase of Japanese food and culture in one location and I loved the sakes and food products at IPPIN's booth.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

SINGAPOPERA - A Spectacular Showcase of Dick Lee's Musical Songs



SINGAPOPERA

A household name, Dick Lee is a talented composer, singer and performer. Dubbed the Andrew Lloyd Webber of Asia, his numerous musicals and songs have touched the hearts of many and revolutionised the musical scene in Singapore. The most memorable song he has composed is of course the popular and stirring National Day song, 'Home'.

Pictures with Dick Lee over the years

My first encounter with this great man was in 2011 when I was with MediaCorp VizPro and I was promoting Beauty Kings, a joint collaboration between MediaCorp VizPro and Dick Lee Asia. Dick came across as a very down-to-earth and approachable person. I have always been an avid fan and have collected his CDs and DVDs over the years, therefore I was elated to be invited to review his concert, SINGAPOPERA.

This concert was a celebration of the musicals and extensive repertoire of Dick Lee’s songs over the past three decades. It was a nostalgic evening featuring songs from notable musicals including Fried Rice Paradise, Beauty World, Sing to the Dawn, Nagraland, Forbidden City performed by a stellar cast of Singapore’s renowned musical stars such as Sebastian Tan, Alemay Fernandez, Denise Tan, Dwayne Lau, Frances Lee, Benjamin Chow, Cheryl Tan and Dick Lee. The cast was accompanied by a 9-piece band, led by Musical Director, Indra Ismail.

Cheryl Tan captivating the audience with her sweet and powerful vocals. 

There were a few segments that I especially enjoyed. Malaysian talent, Cheryl Tan captivated me with her sweet yet powerful vocals as the youthful Yehenara in the 2017 production of Forbidden City, singing ‘Starting with the Eyes’ and ‘My Only Chance’. It was an emotional performance, enthralling everyone in the theatre.

Benjamin Chow was also equally impressive, singing tunes from Forbidden City, with interesting renditions of ‘Now China Has A Son’ and ‘Stories’, giving character through his strong, deep voice.

'When All The Tears Have Dried' by Alemay Fernandez

Another remarkable performance was by Alemay Fernandez who enchanted everyone with her amazing vocals and her rendition of ‘When All The Tears Have Dried’ from the musical Sing to the Dawn. Her fervour and passion were truly remarkable and laudable, evoking strong emotions from the audience.

‘Love is Forever’(爱是永恒) by Dick Lee

The main highlight of the musical was Dick singing the Cantonese ballad ‘Love is Forever’ (爱是永恒) from Snow.Wolf.Lake. Despite not having Cantonese roots, he skilfully delivered every word, dazzling everyone with his alluring stage presence, charisma and talent.
'No Class' from Beauty World performed by Denise Tan and Frances Lee
Other noteworthy performances include Dwayne Lau’s delivery of ‘Look A Little Closer’ from A Twist of Fate, Frances’s rendition of ‘Waiting’ from Mortal Sins, Talent (Hotpants) sung by Benjamin, Dwayne, Cheryl and Alemay and ‘No Class’ from Beauty World performed by Denise Tan and Frances Lee.
Talent (Hotpants) sung by Benjamin, Dwayne, Cheryl and Alemay
In addition to the stunning performances, what made this concert extremely interesting was the lively banter from the cast, sharing their first encounter with Dick and the influence he had on their musical careers.
The cast singing Bunga Sayang, Fried Rice Paradise and Beauty World (Cha Cha Cha) 
The finale was spectacular, with the cast singing 'Bunga Sayang' and 'Fried Rice Paradise', the song which ignited his passion for his illustrious career in music.

Cast singing Beauty World (Cha Cha Cha)

A rousing finale with the cast singing 'Home'
The spectacular concert concluded with an animated and zestful encore of 'Beauty World (Cha Cha Cha)' and 'Home', a song which continues to instils in Singaporeans a sense of belonging, identity and solidarity.

SINGAPOPERA played at the Esplanade Concert Hall from 25 to 26 August 2018. It was a wonderful tribute to Dick Lee, allowing us to walk down memory lane, reminiscing his amazing musical songs over the past three decades.

With the cast during the Autograph Session

With Agnes and Cassandra

Concert photos above are provided by Dick Lee Asia.
Thank you Agnes of ATMC for the invite.