Pita and Olives

The vegetarian platter with additional kebabs!
The vegetarian platter with additional kebabs!

What: Teeny-tiny Israeli restaurant located in 100 AM mall.

Pros: The food is delicious, healthy (ish) and comforting. I felt like we were eating in someone’s home. I also loved their smoky baba ghanoush (top-most, middle, green mush) and kept going back to it for just a little more, just a little more.

Cons: The ambiance is non-existent. The food is clearly pre-prepared and then heated up and given to you when you order it. I mean it’s good – but I’m just saying it’s like the opposite of fancy.

Verdict: It’s a good option for Mediterranean food in Singapore – and it’s healthy too. Go with good friends (BECAUSE YOU CAN’T TAKE ANYONE ELSE) and enjoy!

We paid about SGD45 for two people (platter, 3 orders of meat and drinks – we over-ordered, clearly). By the way, I stole the idea of putting the total amount spent from the awesome Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow.

Details:
Pita and Olives
100AM
​100 Tras Street, #03-10
Singapore 079027
6636-3779

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Costly Coping Mechanism

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset
I have a confession to make.

When I get stressed out, or bored or feel like my life is out-of-control – I shop.

I go out and buy new clothes. I shop for food in grocery stores, specialty grocery stores, on health food sites online. I stock up on body care and make-up.

And how do I justify it? I tell myself, I need a wardrobe revamp or that my parents always told me to eat well or that I need those lotions ANYWAY.

I’m never in debt (though there was that one time in college my Dad was pretty understanding…) but I don’t like that it’s something I turn to, to feel in control, or better or distracted. It’s not sustainable (both personally and for the planet) and it’s unnecessary,

As my next birthday draws closer I’m starting to think about how I want my next year to unfold, what habits I want to discard and who I really want to be.

For the most part I am happy with the way I have evolved over the years. For instance:
– I now embrace the fact that I love writing
– Being nice is not a priority
– I’m more comfortable in my skin than before
– And because of the above, my diet is more about health and less about being thin
– I am able to negotiate with the demons in my mind so they don’t take over

So, if I have been able to achieve all of the above – maybe it’s time to take on the one bad habit I have never been able to kick – because I never wanted to address it.

Stop shopping superfluously. Hmm.

Can I stop AFTER my birthday?

Relish

BURGER
BURGER
What: Best. Burger. Place. Ever. Okay fine, a restaurant/cafe type establishment situated in a mall that services European tai-tais that serves Very. Good. Burgers.

Pros: The burgers – especially the blue cheese, poached pear and walnut burger (I’m literally swooning just typing this) – are so, SO good. Their onion rings served with this curry dip are also divine.

Cons: The service can be patchy and their renovation has made the space a little less cozy and a little more whatever.

Verdict: I would say it’s still one of Singapore’s better kept secrets, restaurant-wise. Go. But don’t tell anyone. And use this Groupon.

Details:
Relish
501 Bukit Timah Road
#02-01 Cluny Court
Singapore 259750
+65 6763 1547 (reservations recommended)

Cooking with… Regina

Final product!
Final product!

I’m a super judgmental person.

I figured this out when I met Regina for the first time. Regina was a new colleague who joined the adjacent department a couple of months ago.

I met her and decided:
1) She was too hot to be nice.
2) Her heels were too high and she laughed too much which meant she was silly.
3) She was too hot to be nice.

And then.

Despite me being a judgmental ahem and a little cold, Regina didn’t care. She didn’t let it affect the way she treated me. She was unflappably friendly, optimistic and so kind – when I needed it most (I was going through my bimonthly existential crisis) and I was forced to admit I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

We got closer and I discovered that in addition to being hot and able to balance (and DANCE TANGO) in crazy high heels, girlfriend can cook. Which is really the only thing that matters.

SO fast forward to many months and many laughs later, I decided to invite her over to be a part of this whole Cooking with DiniBlini series (I need more volunteers – can you cook? Are you photogenic?)

So Regina, in addition to being generally awesome, has generally awesome genes. Basically she can eat anything and still be skinny. Yes, you can resent her secretly. I won’t tell.

She wanted to make a chocolate tart which morphed into a salted caramel chocolate tart which morphed into salted caramel brownies (too lazy to make the crust) and then finally we settled for salted caramel peanut butter brownies.

Sugar and water
Sugar and water
This recipe… had many steps. We had to make the caramel sauce from scratch and I was like “Nooooo Regina I don’t want to do thisssss.”

Brown sugar and water
Brown sugar and water
But she didn’t let my whining phase her nor the steps. Regina comes from the school of eternal optimism, as in, “It’s ok! Just wing it! It will be fine! Don’t use measuring cups! It will be fine!”

Peanut butterrrrrr
Peanut butterrrrrr
And it was fine. We made our own peanut butter salted caramel sauce which turned out to be easy.

Brownie batter!
Brownie batter!
We melted chocolate over a makeshift double broiler.

ME!
ME!
Me – confidently trying not to burn my hands.

Batter
Batter
Chocolate in
Chocolate in

So in
So in
We mixed in the melted chocolate, post flour addition – which was wrong, wrong, WRONG. If I was alone I would have been on the verge of a meltdown BUT Regina calmed me down and told me it would be fine. It was.

Close up
Close up
All ok?

The glamorous Regina - in the flesh
The glamorous Regina – in the flesh
And then we had a conveyor belt system where Regina very efficiently scooped batter into these waxed cupcake liners and I clumsily tried to put a dollop of peanut butter salted caramel sauce in the middle of it… and… she didn’t say anything.

She decided my knives were too blunt (they still are)
She decided my knives were too blunt (they still are)
While we waited for the brownies to bake. Regina sharpened my knives and told me stories about all the things she’s done. Ok I can’t remember what we actually talked about, but Regina tells lots of stories because she’s been there and done that. And it used to irritate me when I first met her but then I realized that she shares, because she cares. It’s about spreading knowledge and information and experiences so that I, or anyone else she meets, can learn from it.

If you make desert for me I will force feed you salad
If you make desert for me I will force feed you salad
And that’s important because learning is important. I might be a risk averse cook but I can learn to be more laid back in the kitchen. Regina might be averse to eating green things but she can “learn” to eat a salad. Especially when I gave her no other choice.

Taste test
Taste test
Ultimately the brownies were a hit (remember to underbake and if you’re baking them in individual cups like we did, cut the baking time anywhere from 12-15 minutes).

We added marshmallows because Regina wanted them. She also wanted to add alcohol. And peanut butter chips. So we had three versions.

We taste tested them all and they were delicious. So, clearly, in cooking/baking and life you can wing it and in the end, it will all be fine.

Saveur

Duck confit with potato mash!
Duck confit with potato mash!

What: An affordable french restaurant with very minimal attempts at decor (minus some questionable chandeliers) because: affordable.

Pros: The food is good and it’s really good value-for-money. They have a set lunch and you can choose the entree, main and dessert for SGD22.90. I had a wonderful garden salad that came with hazelnuts (what??), duck confit (a bit heavy but whatchoogonnado) and pandan creme brulee to end. Not too shabby considering how much you would pay ANYWHERE else for something like that.

Cons: The ambiance – it’s very minimalist and very spartan but hey, just squint and you can call it industrial.

Verdict: For Singapore, it’s good value and I say go and enjoy a nice fancy meal (you can even get steak – yo!).

Details:
Saveur – Two outlets but I went to the one @ Far East Plaza
14 Scotts Road, #01-7B
Singapore 228213
6736 1121

Lucha Loco

It's so good it's loco!
It’s so good it’s loco!

What: Very hip taqueria (restaurant that serves tacos) and garden bar (aka they have outside seating and some potted plants) situated in trendy Duxton, with more pretty people as customers than I could count.

Pros: The tacos are so good that I literally wolfed them down before I could take any pictures of them. That’s why the only picture you have is of a coaster.

Cons: EXPENSIVE. It’s SGD11 for a teeny taco – no sides – and the drinks are on the pricey side too.

Verdict: OMG go – the food is good, drinks are quite good, the people are “good” and there are twinkly lights. Twinkly lights!

Details:
Lucha Loco
15 Duxton Hill
Tanjong Pagar
6226 3938

Validation – where do you get it from?

The selfie - the ultimate tool of self-validation
The selfie – the ultimate tool of self-validation
What is validation? The free, online dictionary says it means to make valid; substantiate; confirm.

For me, validation is what I feel when I belong somewhere, have a purpose or when I’m being recognized for doing something well.

Usually, I feel validated as a result of interacting with different people.

In the past (and still) that feeling mostly came from my family, who validated my very existence by telling me I was THEBESTPERSONEVER in different ways. As you can imagine this has led to my somewhat distorted sense of reality and an inflated sense of confidence that has only increased over the years (yes, I know, it’s borderline obnoxious, but you cannot deny that I am also very aware of my faults).

Most of my validation, these days, comes from friends. After I have spent time with a very close friend one-on-one, or a group of like-minded friends, I feel like I belong, that I’ve contributed, that I’ve helped in some way. This is especially true when I’ve given a good bit of advice or we’ve worked through some situation together.

At work – say I write a kick-ass press release, and all the media I invited attend a press conference I arrange and the news is brilliantly covered – I feel validated. This is then bolstered by thank yous and compliments from colleagues, involved parties and of course bosses.

And now, in this weird day and age, I also get my validation from the Internet people. These are real people (like you!) and people I vaguely know from Internet-land. When they interact with me on social media and I get notifications that tell me – I’m doing a really good job at taking staged pictures of my life on Instagram, or that my taste in dining room tables is so good that someone is actually re-pinning it on Pinterest and the ultimate – when my readership spikes for a particular blog post – I feel like I’m on some crazy validation high.

Validation is important and necessary and I think is a way to feel love and belonging and boost my self-esteem.

But what then happens, when I’m alone at night and I’m not working on work and no one has whatsapped and there are no pings. I have to be by myself and with myself.

I’ve been realizing more and more that I don’t want to keep reaching for and relying on that next hit of validation.

I want to know that I am ok as I am, without needing someone to validate me.