Monday, April 20, 2009

"You're not the boss of me!" -Little children everywhere

Post by: Beth

The other day we dropped in to Haagen-Dazs for an ice cream mid-afternoon. This was our first visit to Haagen-Dazs in Asia, so we plopped down and looked over the menu. It was one of the most extensive menus I'd ever seen in my life. Pages and pages of creative desserts, ice-cream laden creations, fruit-inspired concoctions, tempting milkshakes.. it went on and on. Raja and I were eyeing several different selections, and neither of could make up our minds.

It wasn't long before I hesitantly tested out the idea of coming back later for say.... dinner... ?? I mumbled it quietly, ready to break into laughter and say "Joke!" when he looked at me incredulously. He was silent, and I kept my eyes focused downwards, holding my breath and waiting for his reaction. People could expect this from me.. but this wasn't exactly Raja's style. He kept flipping a few menu pages and said "Well.. there are some items on here that are quite large for only a snack." I knew I had to strike fast. My eyes darted over to his menu and I sneakily saw that he was on page 17 of the menu. I casually flipped to page 17, and nonchalantly mentioned "Yes.. like this fondue dish here on page 17.. this is MUCH too large for a snack.. even too large for lunch probably!" He looked up in surprise and said "That's what I was just looking at, too!"

I read the description silently: 16 mini scoops of ice cream (4 flavors total), chocolate chip cookies, warm chocolate brownie chunks, fruit pieces (strawberries, bananas), warm pound cake pieces, choice of toppings (chocolate sprinkles, almost slivers, etc), all to dip into warm chocolate fudge. Raja must have been reading the same thing because he looked up with a small smile and said "This is exactly what parents tell you not to do when you're little. Not to eat ice cream for dinner. But we can pick what we want for dinner. We don't have our parents bossing us about these things anymore." I grinned and slammed my menu closed, grabbed my purse and Raja by the hand, and rushed over to the waiter. "We're coming back for dinner instead," I announced. He looked a bit taken aback, but smiled and nodded and opened the door for us with a "See you then!" Sure enough, 6 hours later... we sat in front of our fondue dinner and happily plunged in.

And that's how a married couple of 26 and 29 comes to say "You're not the boss of me!," just like little children everywhere.


"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." -Annie Dillard

Posted by: Beth

I sometimes run outside in the couple of miles surrounding our apartment. There's a river that runs for quite a while, and a pathway that follows it on both sides. It winds through a riverwalk area with several malls and lots of waterfront restaurants, and also through the Robertson Quaye area, with lots more restaurants and shops. There's always people running, dining, relaxing, reading, and shopping all along the path. I took my camera along my route the other day to take some photos, since it's a pretty good way to show what we see during our everyday lives.










“If you're going to live by the river, make friends with the crocodile.” -Indian Proverb

Post by: Beth

One of the good things about traveling so much is the opportunity to see things that you just wouldn't see in the U.S. Like touring a crocodile farm where the animals are bred and reared.

From the website (www.singaporecrocfarm.com):

Six decades ago, not long after the end of the Second World War, an enterprising Chinese man, Mr. Tan Gna Chua, decided that he wanted to share his home with these unloved reptiles. With the help of his family, he transformed the one acre of land that surrounded his home at Upper Serangoon Road into a reptile farm, which was the first of its kind in Singapore. They started with only ten crocodiles. With careful breeding, the numbers grew rapidly. Being the entrepreneur he was, Mr Tan opened his farm to the public. Within its premises he set up a factory, where the crocodile skin was processed, made into various products, then sold at the gift shop as well as overseas. Visitors were free to come in to take a look around, without having to pay an entrance fee - and this is still the case today.

By taking a walk on a path surrounded by trees, one can find well-known species such as the Tomistoma, Caiman, Prosus, and many more. One can also learn here, the differences between the various species of the Crocodylus family.
After viewing our scaly friends, one can take a walk through the now defunct factory, where crocodile skin was once processed at the time the farm was established, in 1945. We no longer use these equipment and methods to do the job, but have maintained everything in its original form, for your viewing pleasure. This is something you will not be able to see anywhere else!

Ok, so how do you say "no" to that, right? We trekked on down and had our look around. Raja and I were both surprised that I was a bit alarmed.. the crocodiles aren't all completely surrounded by fencing as they are in the zoos, and you can get really close to these huge creatures. Not that much, animal & wildlife-wise, really makes me nervous.. but these did the trick. I ended up hanging around in the dead center of all the crocodile pens, so I could see them all at once, and my back was to none of them if I continuously moved in a circle. (I may have looked crazy, but I felt less in danger.) Raja had a great time and fearlessly took photos for our memory preservation and your viewing pleasure. :)


This little guy was my favorite crocodile of the day. He was much less scary than the others, what with his being made of stone and all. ;)












video

Restaurant Review : Billy Bomber's Classic

Post by: Beth

Billy Bombers Classic (The Central)
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#02-78 The Central @ Clarke Quay

In a word.. well, two words.. "Not Good."

We picked this place in a bout of American nostalgia.. Think Johnny Rocket's, but in Asia. Diner-style, primary colors, old rock memorabilia, quarter-slot jukeboxes on the tables, and classic oldies (Elvis, Buddy Holly, etc) playing over the speakers (including a rousing rendition of... "Jesus Loves the Little Children"... ? Makes no sense, but we sang along anyway, despite blatant discrimination made evident by the lack of "brown children" in the song. I took offense as this dawned on me, as my husband is neither red, yellow, black, OR white. But I digress.)

We scoured the menu, and should have gone with the obvious, traditional choice: hamburgers. But as most of you have probably noticed by looking at us, Raja and I aren't the go-to's for picking the "traditional, obvious" choice. Usually it works out for us... usually.

Our order:

Raja decided on a philly cheesesteak sandwich, and I, in a surprising twist, picked their "famous Buffalo wings." In a not-so-surprising twist, that was a mistake.

Raja got along okay with his philly cheesesteak sandwich.. It came topped with mushrooms and onions, and fries were served alongside. He shrugged and said "It's okay considering I'm about as far away from Philadelphia as I could get." The fries were bland and flavor-less, quite the disappointment from an American-style diner.

I hated my "famous" chicken wings... Raja hated them more. The menu touted them as "marinated with cayenne pepper and vinegar," and I was allowed the freedom to pick between a hot or tangy sauce (woo-hoo). I picked the tangy sauce, hoping to balance out all that "cayenne pepper" I was expecting. Upon first taste, I chalked it up to a fairly-awful Chinese sweet-and-sour chicken dish. With bones. Raja pronounced it the worst thing he's had since arriving in Singapore.

The service at the restaurant wasn't fabulous, either. They did the bare minimum.. no asking us "Is there anything else you need? How is everything?" or any of those niceties. No sir. And despite my huge plate of saucy "famous" buffalo wings, they didn't provide any napkins other than the one that came with the place setting. I had to reach over and snag a napkin from the table next to us.. I guess they spied that maneuver, since more napkins were delivered to me about 1 minute later.

Overall, not a great experience, and not one I'd recommend. The only reason we would maybe venture back in Billy Bomber's is to try the hamburgers and shakes. And that's only a shaky "maybe."

Our Rating: 4/10




Sunday, April 5, 2009

"No, Watson, this was not done by accident, but by design." -Sherlock Holmes

Post by: Beth

At noon today, I woke up and discovered Raja was not still in the bed. This was unsurprising, as I knew basketball was coming on this morning around 7am-ish Singapore time, and he'd been anxious to make sure he could watch the games online. That privilege is, of course, dependent on how fast the internet connection speed is at the time of the game. He was a bit worried, as sometimes it's really fast here in our new apartment, and at others, it's too slow for streaming video to play properly. After all, these were the final four games coming on this morning, so tensions were running high in our home.

This is what I walked into when I stumbled blurry-eyed from our bedroom into the living room:




When I squinted up at the ceiling and back at Raja, he simply said "The internet wasn't fast enough before I did this." I silently walked back into the bedroom and retrieved the camera. That was the end of that conversation.

Restaurant Review: Coffee Club

Post by: Beth & Raja

Next restaurant up for review:

Coffee Club
#01-18, 3B River Valley Road S(179021), Clarke Quay
Tel: 6336 5663
www.coffeeclubworld.com

We visited the Coffee Club for lunch on a rainy day... Since the Clarke Quay area (just an area that has lots of restaurants/lounges/pubs/etc near the Riverwalk) is covered with huge white round screens, it's an area you can still eat outside in, even in inclement weather. You can dine inside as well. The restaurant serves wine & beer... not sure about liquor as we didn't really check.

Our order:
Raja: Fiery Garlic Prawn Pasta
Beth: Alfredo Pasta

The dishes here were okay... Beth's alfredo pasta (served with ham and mushrooms) had a baked cheese layer on top which she pretty much pulled away, but that's only because she doesn't usually like baked cheese layers anyway. It lacked flavor for the most part. Raja's prawn pasta was advertised as "fiery," so there was a little spice, but still couldn't really call it "fiery." What flavor WAS there tasted fairly artificial. So if the rest of the dishes are about the same, you can expect either little to no flavor, or artificial flavor.

Service was fine... Nothing to write home about, but there's really nothing negative to say. We ordered, they brought our food, we asked for a side of bread, they brought our bread. Our water glasses did stay filled throughout the meal, so that's a plus. All pretty cut and dry for the most part, but at least our orders were correct, served pretty promptly, and our requests were delivered upon.

Our verdict: We probably won't be back here for a meal. We MAY come back to try some of the coffee drinks and desserts, as their menus for both of these sections looked extensive and yummy. But we'll be eating our meals somewhere else. As Raja said "We should have gone back to Antonio and just ordered another of his pizzas."

Our Rating: 6/10




Restaurant Review: Bella Pizza

Post by: Beth & Raja

So we've decided to do something a bit new on the blog, in addition to the regular posts. One of our favorite things to do in a new city is try out some of the new restaurants and cuisines. We throw diets to the wayside, agree to eat things we never thought we'd try, and ask a lot of questions (i.e. Raja: "How do you actually eat a fish head?"). We always make it a point to take pictures of the restaurants and the dishes, since it's a major part of our experience each time we move. So we've decided to post a mini-review here and there of some of the restaurants. This way, if anyone we know ends up visiting any of these places we spend time in, they'll have a couple of restaurant recommendations and also a couple to stay away from. (Plus, it's just fun for us, but we prefer to seem chivalrous and helpful, rather than self-indulgent. :) ) We are NOT food connoisseurs, and don't know jack about how a restaurant should be run, how many minutes should lapse between courses, etc... But we have a good time trying out the restaurants, and have our own little things we do and don't like when eating out. If it helps anyone that's traveling at any point, all the better. :)

First up...

Bella Pizza
30 Robertson Quay #01-14 Riverside View
Tel: 6734 0139

This small Italian restaurant located at the river's edge serves up pizzas, pastas, appetizers, and desserts in an exposed-kitchen setting. There's seating available both inside and outside, and liquor, wine, & beer are all available.

Our order:
Bruschetta appetizer
Pizza - mushrooms, Parma ham, and mozzarella cheese
1 glass of Chardonnay, 1 glass of Pinot Grigio

Our opinions:
The bruschetta was wonderful... It was served on piping-hot bread that was slightly crunchy in the middle and crispy around the edges, and the tomato topping tasted fresh and flavorful. (Forgive us.. We didn't have plans at the time of doing little reviews on our blog, so we didn't pay much attention to what went into the topping. Next time, we'll pay closer attention and give you more detailed facts.)

The pizza was equally as good... It was served immediately after we finished our appetizer, and had a good covering of Parma ham and mushrooms. The sauce was just right -- not bland, and not overpowering, as the ham, cheese, and mushrooms carried lots of flavor and it would have been a shame to have the sauce be competing with the yummy meats and cheese. The size was perfect for us to share since we'd ordered an appetizer to share first.

Service was REALLY fast and the waiters were nice and helpful. The owner, Antonio, even stopped by our table to ask us how our food was and if it was our first time in the restaurant. He was very personable and seemed genuinely interested in ensuring his patrons were having a good experience. He even personally dropped off a couple of complimentary after-dinner treats to our table, plus happily posed for a photo for Beth.

Final verdict: The food here is definitely good enough to stand alone, but the service and personal touch provided by the owner & staff made it even better. We hate to start repeating at restaurants so early in the game here, but we can safely say we'll definitely go back to Bella Pizza, and it'll be a battle over whether to order the same dishes and risk missing out on something new, or ordering something new and missing out on the dishes we loved so much the first time.

Our Rating: 10/10 (This simply means there's really nothing missing, and nothing we would have changed.)



Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." -Seneca

Post by: Beth

So we're here and survived our first day and night in Singapore! It's a really cool city to explore, so we've had a good time over the past 24 hours.

First impressions so far:

1. It's as clean as everyone said it would be.. There's not a piece of trash or paper on the ground anywhere.
2. Many Asians wear tiny pieces of clothing, and little of it. It's quite a change from the conservatism of India's streets.
3. The amount of shopping is unbelievable. There are malls, shops, and stores EVERYWHERE. "BSpend" is in trouble...
4. There's pretty much every kind of food available, at a huge range of prices.
5. It feels incredibly safe. It's well-lit, organized, and has lots of people walking around and taking public transportation.
6. It's surprisingly quiet for such a bustling city. Your eyes take in lots of energy, but to your ears, it seems fairly quiet and calm after the chaos that is Bombay.
7. It is REALLY expensive compared to Bombay. Gone are the days of the 400 rupee meal...

So far, I think we'll have a great time here. Lots of shopping, fun nightlife, pretty scenery, and it's clean and organized. Not too many negatives going on here... :)

Here are some pictures we've snapped so far. More to come, of course. :)

Almost time to take off... We're excited! :)
Bye bye Bombay....

Flying through sunset....

First glimpses of Singapore:
I know it's blurry but taking pictures from a plane isn't always easy. All those dots you see in the water are boats, docked close to the main island.

The public transport buses in Singapore are really clean, air-conditioned, and efficient.

Inside a mall called "Plaza Singapura" :


Raja picked a restaurant advertising "St. Louis-style Ribs!" for dinner tonight. Since we arrived, we've already noticed an eating pattern: Raja's eaten nothing for dinner besides what I lovingly refer to as "meat feasts." I've latched on to the salads. Those are 2 things we missed quite a bit in Bombay. :) For lunch, we did eat a traditional Singaporean lunch of Sambal fried rice with seaweed soup.
Outside of the shopping mall:
And, finally, here are some more scenes from the streets as we walked around after dinner. Singapore seems great so far, and we're excited to continue exploring and making our way around. :)