Saturday, May 31, 2008

Salad Days

My vegetable man in the nearby market has been good to me. He has over the years been a good supplier of fresh crisp greens and other colourful roots but in the recent years he has been sourcing for a wider variety of vegetables and has cultivated a substantial and growing choice of organic products.

After a monster meal yesterday, I decided a salad was the only way to go today. I walked to the market today in search of fabulous things for my chopped salad and digestion. I find the idea of a chopped salad very appealing. One of the reasons is strange and self serving. One of my favourite things to do in life is to mise en place. It is weird I know. And I love working with the knife, slicing, dicing and chopping. So for me, the chopped salad is perfect, I get to savour the whole process of preparing it and then I get double the pleasure from forking through it. The salad combinations are unlimited and just think of it of a mix of something light, something fresh and a clever mix of things in my fridge or the guiding principal can be – select the things you love to eat.

This was my chopped salad of the day.

Romaine lettuce
Sautéed shiitake mushooms
Manchego cheese
Leftover roast beef
Quail’s eggs
Vinaigrette made from the best olive oil you can get, vinegar and your favourite mustard

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hamburgers at Relish

#02-01 Cluny Court (next to Serene Centre)
501 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6763-1547

Here’s more about eating hamburgers. I recently headed down to the chic casual burger bar Relish to see if I’ve found the place for burger craving emergencies.

It didn’t quite do it for me. I had the signature wild rocket burger with sun-dried tomato relish and arugula. Hamburger versus hamburger, sure the patty was generously thick, the cooking was spot on with the medium-rare and it had great texture and mouth feel when chewed on but I didn’t get an ounce of the transcendent char-grilled beefy taste that I was looking for! Not to discount the sun-dried tomato relish or the Sarawak pepper sauce which was delicious but I still have beef about the patty and my semi-hot fries that seemed to have spent too long on the pass.

Maybe I don’t belong in a gourmet burger bar or maybe when it comes to hamburgers or maybe I am a hamburger purist or simpleton (I’m not sure which), but it is really simple, all I really really really want is a really tasty no fuss hamburger where I can taste that it is good beef (no Kobe or Wagyu required), it was cooked deliciously pink to order and served with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and squirts of ketchup and mustard. Fries optional but preferred.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Burgers and how I like them

I have a strange relationship with hamburgers. I never crave them as a comfort food but when I do spot one on a menu, I occasionally have a compulsion to order it even though it might not be what I really really want.

Whilst I never crave them, I still find the need to find a good burger joint for emergencies. The good news is that I’ve found one the horrible part of that news is that it isn’t on the same continent as my regular home address.

Just a short walk away from the Albert Cuyp market is where I think is the best place to roll up your sleeves and to bite into in Amsterdam: Burgermeester.

This smallish, narrow and unassuming shop makes fine burgers. The good people that operate this place are really friendly so that makes the burger eating a happy experience. And in case you were wondering, they serve side salads and milkshakes as well, but the focus is really on the burgers.

Once you’ve sized up the burger menu, narrow your choice down to your favourite three and then I recommend ordering the mini trio plate that way you get to eat all three of your choice burgers. And don’t forget to ask for the burger of the month. Every burger is made to order, so if you go during the busy hours a wait is expected.

I tried the plainest of them all, the beef burger. It was good. They use mainly organic ingredients, implication: good, fresh and happy ingredients = tasty burger. For their beef, they make their patties with Blonde d’Aquitaine beef. After the process of being chopped, shaped and grilled, what emerges is beef patty that is juicy and flavourful, fantastic for burgers. My first bite and to my delight had me reaching across the table for the napkins to save the beefy dribble from hitting my clean shirt. It was nothing grand in this crazy gourmet burger era where Kobe, Wagyu, foie gras and truffles are now its frequent bedfellows, but it was a thing of basic beauty.

Albert Cuypstraat 48
Tel: +31-206-6709339

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Singel 404

I’ve been away. After about two weeks of sleeping in foreign beds and waking up to a hammered jet lagged feeling; I’ve just made it home.

The feeling of being home is a strange feeling. You can be perfectly alienated at home and at home in a completely foreign environment. This trip I went back to a place that I called home for a while, parts of it still looked foreign and other parts looked and smelled familiar. The supermarket that was a seven minute walk away from my then home, my supermarket, had the same smell that it had five years ago. Thankfully not one of those bad smells, but just a distinct smell that was strangely reassuring.

After walking down the aisles of the Albert Heijn and reacquainting myself with the delights of pindakaas (the Dutch version of peanut butter that taste nothing like the smooth Skippy’s/peter pan types that I grew up eating), stroopwafels those waffles that justify are thin enough to hold the maximum amount of caramel, speculaas a Dutch spiced biscuit that I was seriously addicted to and the cheese, I started feeling more at home.

Old cheese with egg, sun dried tomatoes, honey mustard, sprouts, avocado, garden cress and walnuts

Once I pulled myself out of the supermarket, I did the next thing that was top on my priority, to eat at my favourite sandwich shop in Amsterdam. Anyway, the Singel 404 is small, so you need take any choice table that you get and if the sun decides to come out, sitting along the Singel to watch the boats, bikes and people pass it a great way to spend lunch. The menu here is huge – with nearly fifty different bread + ingredients options ranging from the failsafe toastie, club sandwiches, and my personal favourite section: specials where they have great combinations – it is hard not to at least one option that you would like. Or the last option is for you can be an impossible person like me on my first visit where I insisted on creating own sandwich despite the dizzy array of choices, but I am not too sure if this option is still available.

This trip I made it to the Singel 404 twice – for lunch and brunch. In the peak lunch hour, it is annoying having to stand around and to watch people eat whilst you are starving but in a seriously twisted manner, there is perhaps a magnified sense of gratification when you grab a choice table and savour lunch with conversation. For brunch, I made it there really early and so I enjoyed a full twenty minutes of quietness from me being the solo diner in the lunchroom. Everything I’ve ever had in this place is good. Everything. That and I’ve had fabulous memories at this place. Needless to say, I love it.

Singel 404
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tel: +31-204-280154

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