Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

Paris Big Names

Big name products that we had during our visit to Paris!

Berthillon Ice Cream:

I loved their vanilla flavour, but I was disappointed by the three others that we tried (figs, caramel au fleur de sel, and something else that I forget). Although the flavours were intense, they were all so cloggingly sweet. And the hefty prices (9.90 euros for three tiny scoops from the cafe where we went to) didn’t help either.

Brie de Meaux from Laurent Dubois Fromagerie:

Maybe it’s just me, but do all Brie de Meaux taste stinky?

Patrick Roger‘s Caramels au Fleur de Sel:
Even though Patrick Roger is most famous for his chocolates, these salted butter caramels that I found in his shop were absolutely amazing as well. They were soft and sticky, but not exactly chewy, and you can taste all the ingredients so clearly. The butter, the sugar, the salty hints; they’re all there.

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Look at that window display!

Poilane:

The poilane loaf that I tried had a nice sourdough taste, but I found the texture of the interior too crumbly and dry. And the outside crust was too hard. Maybe I just went on the wrong day. However, their punitions (little butter cookies) are to die for indeed, and the brioche was awesomely buttery; would be great for making French toasts.

Jean-Paul Hevin‘s Turin:

This elipse-shaped cake consisted of a sugar crust at the bottom filled with meringue and some blueberry jam-like thing and topped with a thin layer of chocolate. I didn’t find it mesmerizing but it was definitely good; not too sweet and the meringue was light and soft.
A separate post featuring macarons coming up!

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Bakery, Desserts, French, Paris, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Paris: Brasserie Balzar

49 Rue des Ecoles, Paris

We had our last meal in Paris at Brasserie Balzar, a restaurant near our apartment at St. Michel. After a week of trekking around Paris our feets were too sore to venture too far just for a meal but I was determined to try steak tartare before leaving. So Brasserie Balzar fitted the bill for being nearby and for having steak tartare on the menu!

Bread: Those small sourdough rolls were amazing! They had a great sourdough flavour.

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Os moelle au gratin (ox bone marrow): A bit oily, but the marrow tasted great on grilled poilane. Too bad one of the bones had no marrow…

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Pork feet: Fall off the bone meat, but a bit too salty.

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Steak Tartare: My first time trying steak tartare and I found it all right. Nothing off-putting nor super-redeeming about this specimen of steak tartare. I did think, though, that there was a bit too much mustard mixed in there, making me sneezy after a few bites.

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Fries…

Endives braisses from Brasserie Balzar: Tasted a bit bitter.

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Very decent, traditional French meal, no doubt about it.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | French, Paris, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Singapore: Copthorne King’s Princess Terrace Cafe

403 Havelock Road

On Christmas Day (2009! Super-late post, sorry) we had dinner at the Princess Terrace Cafe at Copthorne King’s hotel. Lots of sources seem to point out this restaurant as one of the more reliable ones for local cuisine, so we decided to give it a try.

Rojak: I was too lazy to mix this all up, so I just topped some miscellaneous fruits with the sweet + spicy rojak sauce. This was my first time trying this dish so I don’t have anything to compare it to. Well, the sauce was pretty tangy and accompanied the fresh fruits/veggies quite well. One of the veggies/fruits, however, had that raw taste that I find really off-putting.

Random cube of chicken salad chicken: Very lame. No idea why I bothered trying this.

Beef stew: I ate this off of my dad’s dish. The beef was pretty tender but didn’t have very complex flavours. It was one of the three Western Christmas dishes on offer so I’m guessing this wasn’t one of the restaurant’s specialties.

Turmeric glutinous rice: Great chewy texture but somewhat lacking in flavour. Because glutinous rice isn’t the type of grain that one eats w/ accompaniments due to its density, this dish’s subtle tastes didn’t quite work. The little peppercorns strewn throughout did add an extra kick, though.

Curry chicken: I found this rather bland because the large piece of chicken that I got had yet to soak up the curry’s flavours. Also, sadly, as with most chicken in Singapore, the chicken used wasn’t free-range and alas had that boring, floury texture.

Pig trotters stew: Decent, but the flavours weren’t complex enough. Adding some star anise in there would have been nice.

French green beans: Nothing special, just needed some veggies.

Chicken satay: Awesomely juicy satay with an sweet-spicy peanut sauce. Now, I know that raw cucumbers and onions are often served as accompaniments w/ satay but how exactly does one eat them correctly? W/ the meat, or separately? Oh, and apologies for the crappy photo…

Pho-like soup noodles: I forget the actual name of this dish, but it was prepared fresh. Awesome flavourful soup. Tasted like pho with a non-beef soup base.

Otak-otak: Again, I’ve never had otak-otak before so I can’t make comparisons. Otak-otak is apparently fish paste seasoned w/ spices and grilled in banana leaves. The version that I had here was very soft and salty. Creamy, but too salty.

Bak choy: Found this too oily.

Herbed rice: Lemony + crunchy w/ the herbs.

Popiah: The first time I tried popiah and I loved it! Such complexity in flavours and textures: sweet + spicy from the sauce, the savouriness from the stuffing, and the crunchiness from the bean sprouts, the chewiness of the wrapper, and the slight gooey-ness of the other vegetable stuffing that I was unable to identify. I’ll be trying to recreate this at home sometime.

Bean sprouts + veggies w/ sweet sauce: Nice sauce.

Vermicelli salad: I found the noodles too mushy.

Marinated veggies: Standard.

Pig stomach soup: VERY good broth. The offals were nice and creamy, too.

Chili clams: Spicy + slightly sweet. Wow, lots of spicy + sweet stuff around here.

Peanut pancake: Made fresh, so that was a plus. The pancake part was nice and crispy but I found the filling rather too wet from the steaming. Peanuts should be crunchy!

Pancake w/ banana sauce: The pancake had large holes and tasted a little yeasty, which was fine with me. The banana sauce was neither too sweet nor mind-blowing. Just all right. I think when it comes to creative dishes or dishes that require considerable effort to prepare, complexity of flavours is a must in order to achieve an optimal product.

Desserts: Sooo many, all with slight variations in taste. It seemed, however, that coconut was present in all of them.

Shaved ice w/ toppings: I didn’t like the watered down condensed milk sauce that was basically tasteless. The green jelly stuff was pretty tasteless too. The creamed corn was VERY weird…tasted like it belonged in soup, not a dessert. The only part that I liked was the red beans, which were really only mediocre at best. It was fun making the dessert but not that fun eating it.

Oh my goodness, such a long meal! It was fun, though; buffets are nice ocassional treats. The offering at Princess Terrace isn’t large, but the quality makes up for it. I have to say that this restaurant definitely stands as one of the better buffet places that I’ve tried.

August 23, 2010 Posted by | Buffets, Restaurants, Singapore, Travels | Leave a comment

Toronto: The Ethiopian House

4 Irwin Avenue
http://www.ethiopianhouse.com/

A few nights ago, I tried Ethiopian food for the first time. With four other friends, we headed to the Ethiopian House, one of the more well-known restaurants of its kind in Toronto.

True to its fame, this place did seem pretty popular. The interior was small and dark but almost all the tables, along with those on the patio, were taken. The whole restaurant had only one waitress, though, so service was a bit slow for it was difficult to catch her attention sometimes. However, contrary to many reviews, I found that the food came out within a reasonable amount of time, perhaps 15-20 minutes after we placed our order.

We ordered a vegetarian platter for four. Initially, seeing that other tables with only two people have such large platters, we thought that a platter for two would be enough. However, the waitress insisted that we up it to four so we relented. Well, one would expect that for paying that extra 25 dollars, there should at least be more food in the four-person platter, but it was the exact same size as all the platters seen on other tables with fewer customers than us! Perhaps we got more injeera rolls on the side, I don’t know, but I did feel rather cheated, for there was barely enough food on that so-called 4-person platter for the five of us.

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Vegetarian platter

But that aside, I must say that the food was pretty decent. I enjoyed the lentil stews the most, for they had that wonderful starchiness often found in legumes and ranged from mild to spicy. The kale was quite sour, so I didn’t enjoy that as much for it only added to the sourness of the injeera. There were stir-fried veggies, which included string beans cooked to a degree of softness yet still retaining a bit of mouthfeel. The “Tikil Goman” (“Cabbage, carrots, potatoes, cooked in turmeric sauce”) was mild and rich. All this was served with injeera crepes to scoop up the stews, communal style. Despite the cost versus size discrepancy of our meal, it was definitely a novel and fun eating experience.

August 22, 2010 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Restaurants, Toronto | Leave a comment

Toronto: T&T Nightmarket

From August 6-8, T&T held evening nightmarkets at its downtown branch on Cherry Street, and I and a group of friends went to check out the food on the first day.

I arrived right when the market started and before the crowds innundated the place. Thus, initially the lines were short and the foods were more readily assessible. But unfortunately, we somehow managed to miss out on the nightmarket’s best offerings while the chance allowed.

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Tiramisu disk ingredients

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Tiramisu disk thing

First off, my friend got a tiramisu rice disk from one of the Asian dessert stalls. It was an interesting concept: a sweet rice cake disk topped with some form of tiramisu-ey sauce, fruits, and cream. I didn’t try it but apparently, it was reminiscent of tiramisu.

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Mango salad

Next, we had Thai food from Pi-Tom. They had the typical Thai stuff, including pad Thai, lemongrass something, cashew chicken, etc. We got a 3-item plate ($5) with pad Thai, green curry chicken, and mango salad to share. The pad Thai was quite typical in flavour, but the noodles were mushy. The mango salad wasn’t any good for it lacked an amalgamating component. It was as if they julienned some mangoes, carrots, etc., tossed them all together and called it a salad. There was a fish sauce based marinade, but it was hardly detectable. Also, the absence of chopped peanuts took away any texture contrast that may have uplifted the dish a bit.

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Green curry chicken and pad Thai

The curry chicken, though, was pretty decent. It had a nice creamy flavour, not too spicy but still slightly tingy. However, the chicken used was factory-farmed, making each morsel floury and texture-less…=(

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(Sweet) Curried samosa

After that not-so-great dish, we trekked around for a bit and then decided to get a curry samosa from another Thai food stall. Hmm, the crust of the pastry was pretty crispy, though no longer warm, but the curry inside was strangely sweet. It came sort of as a surprise, the sweetness…and it wasn’t like Japanese curry sweet either. Strange.

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Braised fish cake

Later on more friends arrived and they got various foods, including braised fish cakes, BBQ squid, corn on a cob, and bubble tea.

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Churro

I ended the night with a churro, which was overly greasy.

So overall, the food that we tried was pretty so-so. But I guess part of the problem was that the most popular stalls selling interesting looking foods (fried yams and stinky tofu, for instance) had these MEGA LONG line ups and me, I’m not much a fan of lines. So perhaps we just tried the wrong stuff. Anyways, it was a fun experience nonetheless, and nightmarkets are often about the atmosphere more than anything else.

Random photos from the night =):


People lining up at Asian food stalls
 
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Indian food stall
 
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Spicy hot pot stuff
 
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Toronto skyline

August 13, 2010 Posted by | Events, Toronto | Leave a comment

Toronto: Wanda’s Belgian Waffles

http://www.wandasbelgianwaffles.com/

A new branch of Wanda’s Belgian Waffles recently opened in Pacific Mall, so while I was there with a few friends some weeks ago, we decided to check it out.

Truth be told, this location choice seems quite out of place amidst all the Asian food booths in the food court on P. Mall’s second floor. Those manning the store look like the only non-Asian employees in the whole mall.

Anyways, the waffles. We had an original vanilla waffle dusted with icing sugar and a maple waffle. They grill the waffles to order, thus ensuring maximum freshness. It is interesting to note that unlike typical waffles, the ones from Wanda’s contain yeast in the batter, which is a lot more doughy as well. Thus the resulting product was quite doughy and dense, with the very middle somewhat undercooked, as opposed to light and fluffy. THere was some texture contrast between the crispier outter layer and the innards, but it wasn’t too noticeable due to the denseness of the waffle.

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Original vanilla waffle

Taste-wise, I thought both the original and maple waffles were quite similar. They both had a distinctive yeastiness from the batter and were very sweet. In fact, I thought that a plain plain waffle itself, with neither icing sugar nor a maple crust, would suffice on the sweetness scale. But then again, it may be because my taste buds aren’t used to the copious amounts of sugar found in everything here.

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Maple waffle

Overall, I thought the waffles’s taste trumped their texture. The yeastiness wasn’t bad for it brought an extra dimension to what would otherwise be mundane sugary-ness.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Desserts, Restaurants, Toronto | 1 Comment

Toronto: Yutopia

Main Floor in Pacific Mall
4300 Steeles Ave, Markham
http://www.yutopia.ca/

Ever since I tried frozen yogurt for the first time at Pinkberry in New York last summer, I’ve been having on-off froyo cravings all year. Unfortunately, I haven’t had many opportunities in China to satisfy such yearnings, but now that I’m back in the West it’s time to tend to my froyo-deprived digestive tract.

I haven’t really tried many frozen yogurt places in Toronto. Partly it is due to the fact that I’ve had a few rather distasteful experiences with bad yogurt in the past…plus, frozen yogurt tends to be pretty expensive around here. So I tend to be cautious when venturing into any froyo place.

Yutopia in Pacific Mall definitely ranks as a noteworthy find. Unlike all other froyo stores in the city, Yutopia’s yogurt is self-serve and priced by weight. Customers simply grab a yogurt cup, pump in as much yogurt and sprinkle on as many toppings as they please, and then pay-by-weight at the cashier. Simple concept, yet I like it because it gives the customer more freedom to adjust the treat to his or her tastes.

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One of our creations

Yutopia has four flavours available at any time. So far I have tried original (strange after taste, not too reminiscent of yogurty-creaminess), taro (has a pretty convincing creamy taro flavour), pomegranate (tangy), mango (my favourite; very refreshing & not too heavy), and ferrero rocher (tasted like chocolate). One thing to note about Yutopia’s yogurt is that it tends to be on the icy side, unlike their creamier counterparts elsewhere, and thus the froyo melts quite fast. I guess that can come across as both a good thing (if you’re not into heavy desserts) or a bad thing (if you’re after an ice-cream-like creaminess).

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Mochi topping!

Topping choices at Yutopia differ from time to time, but they include fruits (berries, mango, bananas, canned peaches, etc.), cheesecake (whose heaviness rather overwhelms the delicate flavours of the yogurt), cookie dough, cereals, chocolates, and MOCHI, a slightly sweet, chewy Asian dessert that works surprisingly well as a froyo accompaniment. Another notable and unusual topping is cucumber, which is supposed to accompany the original flavoured yogurt. I think the cucumber pieces add a crunchy texture contrast more than anything else because their delicate taste is trumped by the yogurty sourness.

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Cucumber topping…hmm…

The ambience of the store is simple and chic, standing in stark contrast to the surrounding Asian stores. The place is rather small and has no seats, so plan to enjoy your yogurt while strolling through the mall.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | Desserts, Toronto | Leave a comment