Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Christophe Willem

This is the other of The Girl's favorite French singer. Without fail, the moment she hears the first few bars of any of his songs, she would jump up & down shouting "Christophe" - she is his biggest fan.

He was the winner of the fourth season of Nouvelle Star (the French version of The American Idol). He has an amazing voice & it took me a while before I could put his face to the voice. Listening to him sing, you would think you're listening to a female vocal.

Here he is performing one of my favorite of his songs, Jacques a dit. If you like it, don't forget to check out the beautiful video here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Le Pont du Diable, Thueyts

Le Pont du Diable translates to mean The Devil's Bridge.

There are apparently more than 80 bridges in France with the same name. And legend has it that, due to the difficult terrain, most of these bridges could not be built by men so they made a pact with the devil to construct the bridge in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge. Once the bridge is finished, they would then send over a cat (sorry my cat loving friends, Jim & Barb) or a donkey.

Last week, The Girl was getting bored cooped up at home all day so I thought it would be a good idea to check out our own version of The Devil's Bridge in Thueyts. I've brought guests there before but never had the time to walk around.

In fact the last time I was there, 2 summers ago shortly after I got my driving license, the car got stuck in soft mud. Thankfully I found some workers nearby who had a truck & tow cables to pull my car out of the mud. Driving in the countryside 101 - Never steer off the road after a few days of rain.

So you can imagine my trepidation at going back there again. While I was making the exact same turn, I noticed that they had widened the road & even put a bar at the spot where my car had been. I'm glad somebody did something about it.

The bridge itself is not very spectacular but the views from the bridge of the water below.....gorgeous. I'm going to guess that in the summer, lots of people must be swimming in the river.
It was of course too cold for us to even dip our toes but we had a nice walk along the river

The Girl decided to do a little impromptu posing session

More of that beautiful clear water I was talking about

This is the view from the bridge on the right

View on the left

And because we still had some time to spare before we picked up X from The Site, we visited the close by village of Meyras - a pretty village & it's church.

All in all, a wonderful day out
just mother & daughter
before she starts school again next week

Monday, February 23, 2009

La Villa Tartary

When we are in France, we don't eat out very often which is why you don't see a lot of reviews on this blog. Last week with The Girl staying over at her grandparents, we decided to make a date & went out to town.

We have been meaning to try out this new restaurant cos whenever we drive past, the space looks amazing & plus we know the owners. The lady, worked at the baby store where we had a list for when The Girl was born, who together with her husband, the chef opened up this restaurant last November.

The space is indeed awesome - high ceiling & done in a contemporary style which is unusual in these parts. For a Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed, another rarity so we were really looking forward to the food.

The beautiful glass mirror with the specials of the day

Glass panel which shows the action in the kitchen

To complement the contemporary decor, they put up some interesting art pieces too - the round one by the window, not the one holding the menu.

Being the inexperienced food blogger that I am, there are no pictures of the food here. Not that I'd forgotten to take pictures of the food, I feel awkward doing it. I don't have a problem taking pictures in a casual dining environment but somehow it doesn't seem right to take pictures in a fine dining restaurant. If you noticed, even the pictures above were taken before the rest of the diners arrived.

In any case, the meal was good but not spectacular. I had a starter of Breaded pork feet & shoulder (trust me, it tastes much much better than it sounds) & was my favorite dish of the evening. My dessert was a citrus tart with slices of fresh fruits & topped with a grapefruit sorbet - very refreshing. X had 2 fish dishes which were both rather forgettable.

La Villa Tartary

64 Rue de Tartary
07200 Aubenas

04 75 35 23 11

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scenes from Ardeche

It has been a while since I last posted scenes from Ardeche. After our trip, we just haven't been going out much. I blame it on the weather & also on our own lethargy.

But last weekend, with good weather, I practically pushed the family out the door. Time to go out for much needed exercise & for The Girl to get rid of her excess energy which was starting to get on my nerves.

We stumbled upon this village just outside Ucel & decided to look around. I tried looking for the name but there was no sign whatsoever. We shall just call it an unknown village.

The architecture is typical of the type of villages around here. The houses are well maintained. Perhaps everybody was out & about on a Sunday cos we didn't meet a single person while we were there.

Just to give you an idea how cold it is right now. With the sun, it is still bearable but when the wind is blowing, it sends chills up your bones.

We then headed over to one of our favorite spots for a walk. I don't know the name of this place but it lies between St Privat & Lussas near the Gorges of Louyre. Apparently a favorite walking spot for many cos we saw dozens of cars parked there.

That's wild thyme that grows in abundance in that area
which makes the whole place smells lovely

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pomelo Salad

Until a few months ago, X has never tried pomelo. I was shocked. But then again, pomelos over here falls under the category of "Lucky if you can find it". Of the supermarkets & grocery stores I normally go to, only one seem to stock these on a regular basis.

It has already become our family favorite. We can easily finish one per meal. So it was a no-brainer that I make a salad with it. There seem to be many recipes out there for Yam Som-O - with coconut cream or dessicated coconut, with chicken etc.

None of the recipes, as authentic as they may be, appealed to me so I decided to just make it up as I go along. Shredding the pomelo took a long time because The Girl kept interrupting me for some. But other than it, this was really easy to put together.
I wasn't particularly thrilled with this attempt although X gave a thumbs up. It may have to do with the fact that I ran out of limes & didn't use enough in the dressing. I wished it would have been more flavorful.

In case you're interested, here's what I toss with the pomelo - cooked shrimps (shells removed), lime juice, fish sauce, cut chilli, sugar, crushed roasted peanuts & dried shrimps.

Honey Tumeric Chicken Wings

Chicken wings & I go back a long way. For as long as I can remember, I love my wings. Doesn't really matter how they are done. One time, a friend bought several kilos of these babies, braised them & we ate every single one of them in front of TV watching Japanese serials (in the days when they were popular).

When I lived in New York, I always ate wings particularly buffalo wings when watching baseball / football. On top of that, there were restaurants selling nothing but chicken wings with different levels of spiciness. The spiciest are called, get this, atomic wings - that should give you an idea how spicy they are. I was in wings heaven.

One of my favorite ways is to eat them with Marie Sharp Habanero Pepper sauce.

I'm always on the watch out for new wings recipe so when Wrong Side of Thirty posted this, knew I had to try it. Recipe here. I didn't grill mine over the stove top tho'. I just roasted the whole bunch in the oven.

Random thought while painting

I'm back at the Site. It has been a while. What with our trip back to Singapore, school vacation, sick days etc, I haven't been going there lately.

So today dressed in 5, yes 5 not a typing error (including 2 fleece tops) I started painting the fence. Some 30+ metres of fence have to be painted.

Not only do I have to deal with the cold but also these kamikaze insects that insist on plastering themselves on my "wet" masterpiece. Which means I have to remove them. Which means I have to repaint over their death spot.

You can tell I really enjoy painting outdoors during winter.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Because I like to torture myself

Photo credit : Adelyne

I know Chinese New Year is already over but I had to share these 2 photos. They were taken by my sister in law & are the only 2 of The Girl in her chinese cheongsam. Don't ask me why I didn't take any (bad maman). The rest are photos of our food fest in Singapore. I'm putting them up as a reminder of all the food I can't get here. You see I like torturing myself.

Aside from my mother's cooking (which unfortunately she doesn't do as much now), the next closest comfort food for me is the fare at Soup Restaurant - steamed yoke bang with salted egg, lotus root soup, steamed chicken. We went overboard, as usual & probably ordered every dish on the menu.

This was our reunion dinner cocktails. Lychee martini with pork floss chips (unfortunately I only brought one packet back from Phuket) & on the right, representing the West, olives stuffed with red peppers.

Our reunion dinner - Steamboat. Although we make shabu shabu often here, see that plate on the left, that's what we're missing in France - fish balls, beef balls, fresh enoki mushroom & tau pok.......
Tossing yu shang @ Taste Paradise. If you're looking for good Chinese food & don't feel like going to yet another Tung Lok or Crystal Jade restaurants, then I'd recommend checking this place out. The food is awesome & the service even better.

I really have been away for a long time cos I didn't realise that there were hip beach bars in Sentosa. The music at the Cafe del Mar was a little too loud for my taste but they have a pool which was great for The Girl to splash around. Why would the pool be useful since we are by the beach ? Have you seen the view from Sentosa ? The one of the many cargo ships docked just offshore. No thank you very much, I ain't dipping my toes in there especially after I'd just enjoyed beautiful clear waters in Phuket.

This is what a vacation is all about
Champagne at lunch

My best friend's mum makes a mean popiah & I always try to get myself invited to her popiah parties. The deluxe version with chunky crab meat & whole prawns.

This was a new discovery this trip. We stumbled on this sichuan restaurant in Chinatown that serves what I consider rather authentic sichuan food that is hard to come by in Singapore. My favorite starter dish - ox tongue & tripe in spicy pepper sauce is really good (which I forgot to take a picture of). But I did take a picture of this interestingly presented boiled pork belly.

This was a delicious plate of dried beef hidden amongst the mounds of red pepper.

The very famous River Valley Nasi Padang - the one where their recipes are stored in a safe. It's good but I couldn't figure out what the fuss was all about.

That's it for now, are you drooling yet ?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tod Mun pla or Thai fish cakes

Tod mun pla is something I inevitably order in a Thai restaurant which means it's something I want to learn how to prepare at home.

It's easy, delicious & I'm wondering why I hadn't done so earlier. It was a big hit with both X & The Girl. This will definitely be making a comeback. Perhaps as finger food for the next party.

I served them with wedges of lime & a simple dipping sauce of cut chillies & fish sauce.
They are usually made with snake beans or long beans but since these are out of season, I just left them out. I don't like coriander so left those out as well.

Tod mun pla or Thai fish cakes

makes about 16 pieces

500g firm white fish, remove skin & bones
2 Tbsps red curry paste
2 kaffir lime leaves (I left out)

2 spring onions, chopped coarsely (I used a small onion, sigh even spring onions are hard to find here)
1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp fresh coriander (I left out)
3 long beans, chopped finely
(I left out)
2 chilli padi, chopped finely (I left out cos I made them for The Girl)

yikes I just realised I left out about half the ingredients but that didn't seem to compromise the taste too much. I will have to make sure I add long beans the next time tho'

1. Cut fish into small pieces. Blend or process fish with curry paste, lime leaves, onion, fish sauce & juice until it becomes a smooth paste

2. Combine the fish paste with coriander, beans & chilli

3. Form patties with the fish paste (dip fingers in cold water when shaping to prevent mixture from sticking). If you have the time, you can put the shaped fish cakes into the fridge for an hour to firm them up before frying (I didn't do this & the fish cakes didn't fall apart)

4. Heat oil in pan or wok. Make sure it's smoking hot before you start frying. Deep fry in batches, until browned lightly

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Feast of St Valentines

First off, let me start by saying that I'm not a romantic person. I don't believe in celebrating Valentine's Day, paying outrageous prices for flowers or meals nor exchanging gifts. One shouldn't tell the people you love only on that one day.

However I wanted an excuse to kick in my cooking mojo so I thought I'd use the occasion to try out a couple new recipes. So this was what I prepared for the 2 loves of my life.

Despite a recent survey at whereby the majority thinks the most romantic cuisine is French or Italian, I didn't want to do either. After our trip to Phuket, I wanted to re-create our vacation, so it was a full blown Thai meal.

The starter - Tod mun pla or Thai fish cakes. Using my cookie cutter, I even made them into heart shape hehe. Trust me, I'm really not romantic, I only had the patience to do 3 of them (one for each of us). I'll put the recipes on another post.

Pomelo is our current favorite fruit so I was really keen to do another Thai classic - Yam Som-O, spicy pomelo salad. The recipes I came across seem to vary quite a lot so I just adapted to our taste. It turned out good but not great - I still prefer yam woon sen or grilled beef salad.

For the main course, I did a red chicken curry with bamboo shoots. I personally prefer red duck curry but X is partial towards chicken curry so I accommodated him, just this once.

What's Valentine's Day without flowers - here's a pretty potted plant which was a gift from X's niece.....

.....champagne (any excuse to bring on the bubbly)

and chocolates from Pierre Chauvet

I've been meaning to buy these chocolates for X since trying them last summer but never got round to it. For a chocolatier here, they have a rather exotic selection which includes ingredients like sichuan pepper & ginger. So I did something out of character & presented X with a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day.

Regardless of how you're spending it today, I hope you're with the ones you love.