Monday, May 24, 2010

French Flair in the Kitchen

Just hearing the theme song of Asian Food Channel's French Food at Home, makes me wring my hands in glee and anticipation. I love watching Laura Calder glide around the kitchen as she whips up delectable French dishes & pastries. She's so pretty to watch! *LOL*

I am so not a cook. I always tell people I can't bake to save my life. "But have you tried?" My BFF asked me the other day. Well... not really.... But I do entertain the fantasy of being a Domestic Goddess on weekends, when I blast French music, put on an apron, and whisk flour & eggs in the kitchen.

The BFF started baking recently and that has inspired me to at least consider dipping my finger into it. Maybe I can start by being her assistant? And watching Laura Calder makes me feel like I can do this.

There's an episode of Season 3 that I particularly like. It's on Simple Pleasures. And she bakes petit fours, powder puffs with cream & raspberry jam, canele, and stirs up a mean lait de poule (eggnog). Oo-la-la! *drool*

Although this Canadian lass loved cooking and baking from a young age (she won her 1st competition at age 6 for her chocolate cake with peanut butter icing!), cooking as a career never did cross her mind.

No, she pursued a degree in Linguistics in Toronto, then a Masters degree at the prestigious London School of Economics, and even began a career in print & broadcast journalism (radio!), all the while cooking & baking as a hobby.

"Even when I traded all my textbooks (after graduating from LSE) for cookbooks, and carted all the crates back home, it didn't hit me that it was what I was meant to do," she says with chuckle. "It was in my face all the while, you'd think I'd have seen it!"

But it was a particularly low point in her life, and a failed relationship, that led her to give up everything, take that leap of faith, and enroll herself in a cooking school in Vancouver. And as they say, the rest is history.

A chance meeting with cookbook author & chef Anne Willan led her to spend the next decade of her life in Paris, learning the finer art of French cooking. And what ensued was two cookbooks of her own, French Cooking at Home (HarperCollins, 2003) and French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating (2009).

In 2005, she was served up a TV series of her very own, titled after her first published cookbook, and it's been so successful it's into its 3rd season! *beams* I guess when you're born to do something, the universe makes a way for that to happen, no matter how you try to skirt around it. I guess you just have to listen to your heart and trust your instincts.

A very tall Laura Calder, host of AFC's "French Food at Home".

I was thrilled to meet Laura face-to-face in The Living Room and to get to know her better. I found that we have much in common! For one, we're both writers at heart. And it's in the expression of the word that we're able to crytalise our thoughts best. *grin*

She keeps a journal which she carries with her everywhere. She never leaves home without it. And it's there that she scribbles her thoughts, ideas and reflections. I asked her why not start a blog? She smiles and declines. I love that "old schoolness" about her somehow, especially since she's an celebrity chef and must face so much pressure to do so!

Well, you can bet I'll be tuning in French Cooking at Home 3. You can catch Laura too on Mondays 9pm on the Asian Food Channel (Starhub Ch435), or visit her website to find out more about her.

Tip: Read her bio page! It really gives a hint of the sort of person she is! I so totally enjoyed reading it... *wink*

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Class of Budding Glass-makers

The still moist air was an unwelcome prelude to the morning drizzle. The heat perhaps set the mood for what was to be a flaming hot affair at working with glass. Except for two participants who joined Pam and I at The Living Room's Hot Glass Bead-Making workshop, it was the first time they were going to work with glass. It certainly is a rare find to chance upon a professional glass artist than say a ceremic artist in Singapore, so Dominic Fonde, co-founder of Art Glass Solutions was a gem!

What distinguished this workshop apart from many other events before this, would be that this was almost wholly hands-on. The theoretical bits were kept to the minimum and not long after welcome words were exchanged, participants were split into two groups and herded to the back of the colonial studio space on Kuo Chuan Avenue. One group was going to start with engraving on lemonade glasses while the other group would begin with bead-making.

Before we could start engraving, Hannah who's from Germany, had each participant prepare a design on a piece of paper. It would later be rolled up and stuffed into the lemonade glass, and we just had to trace our design with the engraving drill bit. It would be advantageous to possess the ability to produce a good design and to have steady hands. I was down on both counts. I can't draw anything decent, nor are my hands apt in keeping the swirling drill bit from pirouetting away from the design I was to trace.

I did slightly better in the bead-making though Dominic did most of the work. After all, you had to work with a flame about 1,200 degress that shot out from a canister tightly clamped to a table.

In between activities, participants gathered around another table to watch Dominic's friend Katherine demonstrate how copper foiling's done. Most of the pieces that participants produced that day were either for a partner or a child who wasn't in attendance. Such sweet gestures!

Meantime, stay peeled to 938LIVE for details of the next Living Room outdoor event!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Christian conversion

While there are those who swoon over a certain Italian crooner coming our way next month for a one-night-only concert, we're happy to report we've got one of our own who just as effortlessly makes women weak in the knees with his ballads. Just ask Pamela, who got serenaded to live on air in The Living Room this morning. No wonder he comes in the way of boyfriends and their girls. It's this easiness and charm about him. This is the magnetism of Christian Bautista.

Vocals aside (he has a rich baritone timbre that glides on higher registers, transporting you to third heaven), it doesn't hurt to have chiselled good looks and looking dapper yet relaxed. Words flow easily for this 28-year-old, who first struck out as a singer in 2004 after a decent showing at Star in a Million, a reality singing contest in his native Philippines. Christian's music has won hearts not just among his country(wo)men, but across Southeast Asia. Indonesia in particular loves him, with album sales there reaching the triple platinum mark. Not that his music hasn't won over radio listeners in Singapore. Back a few years ago, his rendition of 'The Way You Look At Me' made it it to #1 on the Perfect 10 chart (what is now 987FM).

When asked why his music appeals to such a wide audience across cultures, he puts it down to digging deep into his emotions. "Every time I sing to my audience, I do my best to romance them, look them straight in the eye and tell them from my heart what I want to say. I think it's important they feel what you're singing...even if it's in a recording studio or on tv. I believe that's the way to go - to get that connection".

Christian's music is slow, sentimental, reflective and reminiscent, and there's no splitting hairs between his music and his personality. He adds, "I believe that we Asians are really romantics at heart. We love singing, we love romance, we love break-ups. There are so many good break-up songs that we just want to listen to them and cry".

I'd read in another interview that Christian begins and ends each day with prayer. I couldn't help but ask him if his faith shapes his life. To which he relates this story:

"When my mother named me Christian Joseph Morata Bautista, my grandfather said "You better be sure this man grows up to be a good boy because of the name you give him". You've got 'Christian' there, you've got 'Joseph' there, and 'Bautista' is Tagalog for 'Baptist'! So wow! I have to live up to that name."

Speaking of names, singing aside, he's also made a name for himself on both the tv & silver screens. Another feather in the cap - playing Tony in a musical theatre production of West Side Story back home. He fancies being in more musical theatre productions because he gets to be another character. For the time being however, this character has a lot going for him, releasing his second album in Singapore titled "Romance Revisited: Love Songs of Jose Mari Chan". Christian's latest album can be found in all leading music stores.

If you are a new convert and want to keep him in range, connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Watch Out Boy She'll Chew You Up!

She's no 'man-eater' like how Darryl Hall and John Oates described, but she's definitely an eater! Cutting a slim finger more befitting of a beauty queen than a professional eater is Juliet Lee. The native of the People's Republic of China up until 1992, Juliet now calls Maryland in the land of star and stripes home.

Pam and I have played host to all kinds of people from all sorts of background and varying stature, but none as fearsome as this lady with a voracious appetite. The night before, Juliet had swallowed 160 shrimp dumplings in 8 minutes. That's just over 3 dumplings in a second! When she sashayed into our living room this morning, she radianted health and didn't look weighed down or sickened by her feat of a feast less than 24 hours earlier.

She has us know that her strategy is to use her hands as teeth, especially when she has to wolf down pizzas. Before stuffing the next mouthful, she'd grab the slice in waiting and roll and form it into a shape and size that would go down easier). She didn't need to employ this technique at yesterday's CP Biggest Eater Competition 2010 - a wonton challenge organised by CP Foods. The boiled dumplings were already softer than say hotdogs or hamburgers, and with the smooth skin, they went down easier than most other foods. But Juliet admitted that the going got tougher in the later stages. As each dumpling contained whole shrimps, she had to chew on the dumplings in the closing stages just to get more in.

When asked if she felt bad about such ravenous eating while half the world was starving, she sets the record straight, saying competitive eaters like herself did what they did to promote foods rather than the act of binging or extravagant wastage. We also learn that she and many of her competitors make donations to impoverished communities, so they do plough back part oftheir winnings.

If you're wondering if there is a 'hall of fame' for the competitive eating fraternity, bingo! They call themselves the Major League Eating & International Federation of Competitive Eating! Juliet currently ranks #11 on the Eater Rankings, with only one other lady ahead of her in the male-dominated pack.

When Juliet's not gorging, she leads an active life playing mother to two teenage daughters and runs her own hair salon back in the States. She also claims she's as good in the kitchen as she is at the competition table, preparing meals for her family and her cat, but she says she eats most "gracefully" when the clock's not ticking down.

And as a true blue Chinese, she jests that she'll eat anything that has legs, except tables. Eating is truly Juliet's 'Romeo', and being Chinese gives her an edge!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sushi Ice Cream Anyone?

I can't be impartial when it comes to ice cream. I'm known among my friends as the die-hard foodie, and I go only for the real quality stuff. Ever since I discovered Haagen Dazs years back at my (rich) aunt's party, I have not looked back. For the record, it's the only strawberry ice cream I like. And don't even get me started on their Belgian chocolate... *drool*

When Jansen Siak (Word of Mouth Communications) invited us for the launch of Haagen Dazs' new menu, I said Yes on the spot. C'mon, I'd clear my work schedule for this! *LOL*

The media tasting was held at Haagen Dazs' Suntec outlet (#01-017A), and Senior Marketing Manager, Mandy Saviour, came down to introduce us to the new menu. What's this we hear about sushi ice cream???

These are usually created at their out-of-bounds kitchen (with ideal temperatures), but for the media, they brought a "chef" down specially to demonstrate how the sushi ice cream is made...

This ice cream block is made up of thin layers of mango ice cream, alternating with vanilla. It's done kueh lapis style: One layer after another, manually. In fact, it takes them a whole day to make this! No kidding.

These ice cream blocks are then sliced up into sushi-sized chunks, depending on whether they are the "rice" or the "salmon" [pictured below]. But what about the "seaweed wrap"?

Dark chocolate, of course! The demonstrator brushes some dark chocolate onto a strip of paper and wraps it around the ice cream sushi. Then it's off to the freezer! Once the chocolate is hardened, she removes the strip of paper, and... tada!

It's starting to look a lot like sushi! *GRIN* And now for the final touches....

To create the explosion of tastes, fresh kiwi fruit and strawberries are carefully spooned onto the sushi pockets. At this point, I wasn't sure how the flavours would come together, but visually, it was already a treat for me. Look at 'em lovely colours!

Voila! Haagen Dazs' sushi ice cream!

I love this mango one (which is supposed to look like salmon maki!). The other one I really like is the tamago (egg) maki, which boasts a unique combination of macadamia nut ice cream and (I think) passion fruit. Mmm.

The dark chocolate "seaweed" is unsweetened. I think if you don't have too sweet a tooth, it balances off with the very sweet ice cream. But I do have a sweet tooth, and I do wish it was sweeter!

And that's not all. We were also introduced to HD's new selection of ice cream cakes, including this Double Chocolate Royale. It came to us quite dramatically, I must say! Dry ice effect and all....... *LOL*

And if you're not a big fan of chocolate, well there's always the fruity option for you.

Each of us got our very own personal-sized Double Chocolate Royale. Now this is the type of dark chocolate I like... slightly sweetened... I could just eat the coating on its own! *LOL*

And what's inside?

Macadamia nut ice cream.

Eat your heart out! If you love quality ice cream + an explosion of flavours (from rich dark chocolates to fresh fruits) + a visual treat, then I suppose it's time to head down to your nearest Haagen Dazs outlet to check out their new menu? *wink*

Bon Appetit!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Experiencing Dili in Running Shoes

The Chain Reaction Project (TCRP) is a group of four young women - Zhang Tingjun, Alexandra Toh, Anina Boshoff and Jasmine Wong - who describe themselves as "catalysts for change".

Last year, they took part in the Tour de Timor, riding 450km across Timor-Leste, and raising over $50,000 for Hiam Health, an NGO focused on education, rehabilitation & prevention of malnutrition.

Stan & I had them in The Living Room before and after their trip to share their experience. That was August 2009, and we remain firm supporters of these spunky girls and their cause.

Well, fast forward nine months and the girls are back! This time, they are roping YOU and ME in as they participate in the Dili Marathon 2010 to raise funds for Hiam Health, their beneficiary for the 2nd year running.

Don't switch off at this point if you can't run 42km! Neither can I! *LOL*

There are other options: The Half Marathon (21km), 10km and 5km. And if you are like our guest today, participant John Gordon (or Johnnie, as the girls call him!), he will be walking the 5km and enjoying the scenery of Dili! That sounds doable, no? *wink*

Alex, Johnnie & Tingjun tell us about the Dili Marathon 2010 project.

Coming down with John were Alexandra Toh and Zhang Tingjun, now regulars on our show! *LOL* I have to say they have become good friends of ours!

Of course, this is more than just a sporting challenge. You'll also get a once-in-a-lifetime private audience with the President of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos, plus a 4-wheet drive up to one of the country's highest points to spend a day! You'll also get to meet new "like-minded" friends, experience the beauty of Timor-Leste, and embark on an adventure like no other!

And it's all for a good cause. 100% of the proceeds go to Hiam Health.

19 - 22 June
(Dili Marathon on 20 Jun)
$2,100/pax OR $1,9oo/team of 4.

To register, click here.
For more info, click here.

Stan & I are seriously considering doing this... Imagine the interviews we can do there, including one with the President of Timor-Leste? *wink* Hope to see you there!!!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Singapore Graphic Novel

When we think of Graphic Novels, Neil Gaiman's Sandman and the hugely-popular X-Men or V for Vendetta (which were made into blockbuster films) come to mind. It's ambitious to say the least ~ I mean, how many people are proficient writers and artists?

It requires a team of talents ~ which can include a writer, artist, colorist, inker, letterer, penciler etc. In Asia, Japan seems to be taking the world by storm with its manga, but a graphic novel created in Singapore? Hmm, that seems unlikely.

But thanks to IGNITE!, a graphic novel initiative by MDA & in collaboration with the Association of Comic Artists Singapore (ACAS), a generation of young graphic novelists is rising up in Singapore, and being published for the first time.

Take a look at what IGNITE! has unearthed...

Well, today in The Living Room, we got to chat with the President of the Association of Comic Artists (Singapore), Jerry Hinds, as well as three winners of IGNITE!

Singapore's very own graphic novelists: Tan Soon Meng (Ockham's Razor), Beryl Kwok (Memorium) and Regina Ying (Bridge), together with Jerry Hinds, President of ACAS.

It was an enlightening chat indeed, and we learnt quite a bit about the whole process involved into creating a graphic novel, as well as where the industry is heading.

"What we need now most are good writers, people who have strong concepts. I see these storytellers moving into gaming in a big way - that's where the big money is!" says Jerry. "The artwork may be so-so, but if you have a strong story and concept, you will still go far. Just look like South Park and The Simpsons!"

To find out more about the work of the Association of Comic Artists (Singapore), click here.

Catch the encore broadcast of this interview:
Tonight, 10.10pm - 11pm, on 938LIVE.
2am, Channel NewsAsia.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Peter & Blue's Forest Adventures!

A bumble bee that falls in love with a butterfly. A playful dog called Blue who fights a lot with a lazy cat called Calico (but they're apparently also very fond of each other!). And a pure-hearted little boy called Peter who goes into the forest in search of treats to surprise his mother on her birthday.

In the woods, Peter meets curious characters like the Blueberry Boys, Apple Blossom Girls, Mr & Mrs Strawberry, and more... but all these enchanting forest creatures are only visible to those with do good deeds!

How charming! Stan & I were tickled pink when the Singapore Dance Theatre's Artistic Director, Janek Schergen, related the story of Peter and Blue's Forest Adventures to us ~ a story he's written from "taking a little bit from here & there", but especially inspired by a Swedish children's writer he grew up with.

Also joining us today was a very nervous Peter, the latest addition to SDT. He's 20-year-old Naoki Kataoka from Japan. He had a certain wide-eyed innocence about him, I swear! *LOL* That's probably why Janek picked him to dance the role of the young boy.

Our third guest was Singapore-born Ginny Chan plays Peter's lazy cat, Calico. "When Janek first told me about the role, he said 'I need you to do one thing: You need to be very, very, VERY lazy'!" Ginny reveals with a chuckle, admitting it's harder than it sounds.

Personally, another reason I'd go watch this would be the set. Designed by a student of Lasalle College of the Arts, it promises to be stunning. This SDT production is suitable for kids 4 years & up, and plays through the weekend including Mother's Day, so why not make it a family outing?

Peter and Blue's Forest Adventures
(Singapore Dance Theatre)
7 - 9 May
11am & 2pm
Lasalle SIA Theatre

For details, click here.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Farewell to Mel

938LIVE is a family. And while you may be a regular follower of The Living Room, I'm sure you're familiar with the two voices that come on after we sign off: F-Cubers, Eugene Loh & Melanie Oliveiro!

Well, if you didn't hear Melanie's voice over the airwaves today, it's because last Friday was her last day. *sniff* Stan & I decided against doing our on-air tribute to Mel before she made the announcement herself cos we thought it wasn't appropriate.

But now that it's out there, we just want to say this to her:
Mel, you have been a great friend. A touch of sunshine to our day. You are sorely missed.... already!!! We love you, and know that we'll always be good friends. All the best in your new adventure, and know that you'll always have a second family right here at 938LIVE! *hug*

Stan & I with our dearest colleague & friend, Melanie Oliveiro, who has left 938LIVE to embark on a new adventure!

Of course, we want to say a very warm welcome to the baby of our 938LIVE family as well, Levisha Kumar. She is the sweetest girl ever, but oh... what big shoes to fill! :D

As for Mel, we will not say goodbye to you, girl.... only ta ta for now!