Burnt Ends

Burnt Ends won't be "new" to most of you anymore, but I figured in the off-chance that you haven't had a chance to try it/haven't read a thing about it (how can that be!!?! It's been everywhere from Soshiok to Today) then this little write up might in some way encourage you to try it out.

The establishment is the latest in LLP's (Loh Lik Peng) series of trendy upper-end eateries. Located in his favourite enclave of the Keong Saik/Jiak Chuan/Teck Lim triangle (I swear he must be buying up all the real estate in that area), it's a stone's throw from his other equally famous upper-end eateries, Esquina and Keong Saik Snacks. It's nice to have three tasty options to go to when you're in that area, unfortunately, they're normally perpetually full and do not take reservations, but three > one.

When P told me about the concept behind burnt ends (in essence, it's a high class smoke shack), I wasn't particularly enthused about paying the place a visit -- I mean, how exciting can BBQ possibly be? And that, my friends, is where I was wrong, wrong, wrong. In the event you're still under the impression that all BBQ resembles char siew, then you definitely need to do yourself a favour and have dinner here.

The food is simple, but very sophisticated. Not in the let me molecular-gastronomize the crap out of these beautiful flown-in-from-around-the-world-ingredients, but in the fact that the cooking process manages to highlight all the natural flavours, and bring out the best characters in each ingredient.

Take for example, the humble leek, who knew that smoking it would bring out all it's buttery goodness? Or the unassuming quail's egg (comes in a clean white bowl with 5 little eggs), so small but packs such an amazing smoky punch with a perfectly runny yolk. I had an entire bowl to myself, P had to order a second one for himself. 

As for the meats (because BBQs should be about the meats), we had the Burnt Ends Sanger (it looks like a burger), Onglet, and Duck Hearts. Now, I never, ever eat innards of any sort, they really weird me out, but these plump little morsels, golden brown on the outside and the perfect shade of pink inside were absolutely sensational. There isn't a doubt in my mind that I'd order them again in a heartbeat (hurhur). Served with mushrooms, wilted vegetables and some kind of garlic dressing, it was one of my favourite dishes that evening.

The Sanger is essentially the Burnt Ends Burger (because it isn't a BBQ joint unless there's a burger somewhere on the menu) - succulent pulled pork shoulder mixed with coleslaw and some kinda crazy delicious dressing may actually convert me from a die-hard beef fan to pulled pork forever. But then we went and ordered a serving of the Onglet (which they portion according to the number of people dining and how much you've already ordered), and my conversion was very short-lived. The steak was lightly charred on the outside, and again, perfectly pink inside - I like my beef on the rarer side and this "rarer than medium rare" was just right, and super duper flavourful.

Finally, we ended with some sort of hibiscus dessert. To be honest, I hated the hibiscus bit, but I loved the smoked ice cream served with it. I wanted to order a second serving, telling them to hold the hibiscus, but I feared having my ass kicked out of the establishment so had to settle for just a single serve. 

Like all of LLP's establishments, this place will set you back somewhat, we paid about $75 per person which isn't cheap but we think it was well worth it. 

Burnt Ends 

20 Teck Lim Road
6224-3933
Open: Mondays to Saturdays, 6pm to midnight. Closed on Sundays

They say it's no-reservations but if you call on the day-of and ask for a 6.30pm seating they will save you a seat or two.

I can hasz chiz pls

Between a wedding website and a personal blog I'm quickly running out of time for real life. Which is why I'm particularly glad for entertaining ideas such as this one! I've said it before and I'll say it again, but it's so very, very easy to host a chic little wine and cheese party at home without going completely loco, it's really one of the easiest home parties to pull together - the only drawback is that it can get pretty pricey!

For our Saturday affair, I hit up my usual spots to pick up the party essentials and came home to plate everything (it all happened in under 2 hours!)

  • For decor, I bought two bunches of Eustomas from Cold Storage and shoved them in clear-glass vases all around the living area. Simple.
  • We have a very nice wooden serving platter at home, but if you don't have these handy, Crate & Barrel and IKEA's have some inexpensive options that are just as awesome -- Acacia Wedge Server (USD$22), Kraftig wooden chopping board ($29.90) or this adorable wood lazy susan by Snudda ($9.90).
  • For palette cleansers, I served a selection of fresh fruit (strawberry and grapes), nuts (macadamia, almonds, etc), and dried fruit (raisins and apricots).
  • Prosciutto, parma, salami and ham were served to complement the stronger cheeses.
  • A friend brought honey which was a wonderful accompaniment that I'd completely forgotten about! So that was a really nice surprise. 
  • As for the cheese, I went a little crazy at Cold Storage and Culina, I was only supposed to buy two or three but ended up coming home with six different options. There's that adage - something old, something new, something goat and something blue which I try my best to stick to, and this time round I think I hit all categories! [Cheeses: roquefort, reblochon, goat, morbier, manchego and jarlsberg]

On the whole I think it went down very, very well. When you're next pressed for time and having folks over, you'll definitely want to consider this idea.

Cheese parties

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We have the delightful Patricia Chang, lady behind the NY-based label Patrica Chang, to thank for the inspiration for today's post. I was cruising through her instagram feed looking for pretty new dresses for Spring/Summer when I saw she was in Napa fully enjoying the wonders of a simple but chic wine and cheese party. Now all I want to do is get prepped for the weekend and whip up a guest list for a super spring-y wine-and-cheese party at home.

The problem with hosting these wine-and-cheese-affairs is that you can be certain your bank account won't be spared. They're among the most expensive things to put together if you live anywhere outside the wine-growing-regions of Northern California and Southern Australia.

Thankfully, the internets (wunderkind that it is) have provided ideas on how to save when hosting these soirees. Below, a cheat-sheet to el-cheapo wine and cheese parties, by yours truly:

  • For decor, buy tall-stemmed blooms from the market and arrange them in old wine bottles. It's perfectly in theme and won't cost a bomb -- if you need some visual inspiration, you'll find it over here.
  • If you don't have actual cheese boards at home, fret not, IKEA has a couple of inexpensive options and alternatives - I like this Kraftig wooden chopping board ($29.90) or this adorable wood lazy susan by Snudda ($9.90).
  • For the crafters among us, you could DIY a slate cheese-board using tile from a hardware store - don't forget to follow these instructions to make the surface safe for consumption.
  • Prepare palette cleansers like nuts, fresh fruit (strawberries are a nice touch), dried fruit (raisins and apricots) and vegetable sticks (celery and carrot), and provide a selection of cold cuts like salami and parma ham.
  • Consider cooking up some cheese-themed items using cheaper cheese alternatives -- I love the French Onion Crostini and Fried Cheese Bundles by Rachael Ray.
  • And then let your guests do the rest! Ask them to each bring a bottle of wine and a wedge to share. You can help them in this process by giving suggestions of which cheeses go well with the different types of wine (if you aren't sure, the Wine Enthusiast provides a very straightforward pairing chart).

Looking forward to the weekend -- now all I need is some cheese and attendees.

Photo credits: Patricia Chang and Pinterest.

Boozy Brunches > Loud late nights

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It might be a function of age (god forbid), a function of personal preference, or a function of the fact that I’m an unabashed greedy face, but I declare – hand over heart – that boozy brunches (lunches, teas or dinners) beat the crap out of loud late nights spent in clubs (in kayteevee rooms it’s somehow okay).

Maybe it’s because we’ve reached an age where barely-there-bandage-dresses have forever been banished from our fashion lexicon (resulting in us – or me anyway – constantly feeling incredibly over-clothed in clubs). Maybe it’s because the concept of getting crushed up against sweaty strangers has completely lost its appeal (we're never tipsy enough to ignore it anymore), and we seem to have lost the ability to bounce back from a hard night out the way we used to (which means writing off premium weekend time nursing hangovers and what have you).

Or maybe it’s because as people with precious little time out of the office, we find our time is best spent being able to hold actual conversations with people we actually care about // verses screaming over the music and gesturing wildly with champagne glass in hand to some friend of a friend you met five minutes ago. Please don’t be offended if I’ve met you in a club recently and did exactly that – I find these interactions enjoyable and incredibly entertaining, but I’d probably like you better if we met in day-light and actually had a chance to get to know you.

Or perhaps I’m just – as my sister often likes to say – old and boring (let's hear it for Old FOGEYS!) This could well be the case. Next thing you know I’ll be spending Friday nights in my PJs with a movie on the telly and my cats for company (nevermind the fact that I hate cats) – and for the sake of complete disclosure: one Saturday night a couple of weekends ago was not far off that particular mark – after dinner at Chopsuey the bunch of us headed to Imperial Apple for foot massages and a screening of To Rome with Love (great movie, by the way, Penelope Cruz plays a hooker with a heart, and the Juno girl is in it, being her awesome-if-sometimes-predictable self). We were probably the youngest people in the establishment by at least a decade.

Anyway, Chopsuey is hardly the point of this post. The point is booze-laden brunches (or lunches, or teas, or dinners). Basically anything that allows for hours of conversation and day-time drinking with friends. Maybe we’ve graduated into the club where drinking in the day (while not on holiday) is acceptable? Is it? What are the rules for day-time drinking for young adults? I feel like in college, drinking at pretty much all hours was condoned (though before 10am would sometimes illicit a concerned look from your housemates), but what about as a working adult? I suppose most week-day lunches are out of the question unless you’ve just closed some kind of major deal or project, then you damn well deserve it (or do you?) You see, there needs to be a guide on these things.

Anyway, again, that was hardly the point of this post. This post is about booze-laden brunches! As you can see, I just hosted one this past weekend to get a group of people who met in the dark of the night together in the light of day.

 

Everytime I have folks over, they seem amazed by the fact I can pull together brunch for a dozen at home. But here's the thing about entertaining - like everything else - it requires some practice and gets easier over time! For one, you'll figure out the recipes that are the most hassle-free and easy to execute at 9am in the morning when you're running on 5 hours of sleep -- for me, that go-to recipe is some form of roast chicken. Which is why you see it so often on this site. Two, the more you cook, the less you worry about following a recipe to a T (e.g., I used to wonder what constituted a "pinch of salt," now I just trust my gut when it comes to seasoning things) and the more you enjoy the process. Three, the best hosts know that entertaining is all about timing - the more you entertain, the better you become at figuring out the rough timeline for when you need to start cooking, plating, mixing drinks and entertaining guests, and the less stressed you'll be.

Maybe next time I put together a post I'll have a rough guide on timelines, but for now I'll leave you with the menu for Saturday's Brunch.

On the menu for Saturday's Brunch at BJP

For starters 

Mini pancakes topped with strawberry+mint or blueberry+mint, served with nutella, maple syrup and chocolate sauce on the side

Old school fried spam and scrambled egg sandwiches

For mains

Baked eggs with potato puree, bacon, sautéed onions and parmesan cheese

Roasted chicken with garlic, citrus and bacon dressing

A big leafy green garlic-soy salad

To drink

Peach bellinis, Strawberry rossinis, and Mimosas

You'll need to give me a while to write all the recipes out - as always, all the dishes were more "trial and error" or "grandma style" or simply "an adventure" than it was a demonstration of a well-calibrated execution of recipes. I cannot wrap my head around following recipes to a T.

Happy midweek-almost-end-week folks! Don't you love 4 day work-weeks? Hurrah!

Lamb Chops Play Along!

This might be the world’s best lamb chop recipe. I know, I say this ALL the time of practically ALL the recipes I’ve shared online, but really my friends this recipe is the winner of all winners for a few reasons.

I actually never have lamb, I don’t like it – it rarely tastes good, is often gamey and is almost always overdone. Because of this, cooking lamb actually scares the bejeezus out of me (I’d rather wrestle with some lobsters), but yesterday while I was stuck in cold storage for an entire half hour, completely uninspired by anything in the meat or seafood section, I decided to take a chance on the most appealing-looking thing in the cold section which happened to be the discounted lamb cutlets. I had to deal with P’s raised eyebrows for most of the way home – scepticism over what he was going to have to have for dinner.

Fortunately for me, there was a wonderful rosemary-and-garlic crusted lamb recipe that popped up near the top of the search. Rosemary? I like. Garlic? I love. It’s safe to say I have an unhealthy obsession with it, and though the dressing was designed for 12 lamb cutlets, I made it for just four pieces (only cutting back on the salt). Which explains the incredibly intense and flavourful outcome that landed on our dinner plates.

You will need:

  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary (take the leaves off the stems please!)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used ¾ teaspoon of sea-salt and 1½  teaspoon of cracked black pepper)

Combine all 5 of the ingredients above and coat both sides of the chops. Turn your grill on high and wait for it to get “sizzling” hot (drop water, see if it sizzles). Place coated chops on grill and let cook for just 3½ to 4 minutes per side for a medium-rare that is closer to the rare than medium side. If you don’t have a grill, you can use a broiler or a pan, but you might have to experiment with the amount of time per side, but my guess would be 5 minutes a side for the broiler.

This recipe is jam-packed with flavour, and because of the coating of garlic and rosemary, the lamb will turn out pink, juicy and tender even with the extremely high heat. If you’re using the grill, you’ll go from chopping ingredients to plated in approximately 20 minutes. It’s a really good week day dinner option.

rust me and try it.