Monday, 18 September 2017

AIA Summit Convention 2017 - into the Land of the Rich and Famous

    This year AIA heads to the land of the rich and famous - Hollywood in Los Angeles, US of A. The annual convention is an incentive trip that celebrates the achievement of the top consultants in AIA. I was privileged to be part of this select group. The fully-sponsored trip included airfare and accommodation at the Loews Hollywood Hotel; as well as a hosted tour and a gala dinner. This year is the first time in many years I went without the wifey. Here are the highlights.
View of the famed Hollywood sign from the hotel. It was originally placed there
by a real estate company to advertise property in the area.
    One word of advice to would be travelers to LA; don't rely on the airport shuttle unless you have time to spare. My colleague and I waited almost an hour for our shuttle. What made it worse was that we were the last to be dropped off. A journey that would usually take 45min ended up taking 2hours. Uber shared with a friend or two would cost the same but you'd be travelling in much more comfort.
First dinner with SP Junxiong at the Cheesecake Factory,
compliments of the boss.
    The next day was a hosted tour to Long Beach and the Queen Mary. This legendary ship started life as a luxury liner and later saw action as a troop carrier during the Second World War. It holds the honour of playing a role in every theater of war and yet not losing a single man in combat. The city of Long Beach purchased it when it was decommissioned and it is now a hotel and tourist attraction.
Supposedly haunted corridors of the Queen Mary.
Mexican Food. This year AIA took the easy way out by giving each of us USD40 each for lunch.
The marina at Long Beach.
Dinner that night at Callenders with new friends. We hit it off right away.
Lots of jokes and letting down of hair. Thanks to Kevin and Marissa for introducing Perry and Amber.

     More fun and craziness after dinner at the LACMA Lights. It was 10pm in the night, yet there were still people taking photos (besides us of course). We even witness a proposal.
         The following day was a tour around greater LA sponsored by the district director. Bevely Hills, Santa Monica Beach and Pier, lunch at In-N-Out Burger, Venice Beach and Farmer's Market at the Grove. Then it was back to the hotel to prepare for AIA's gala dinner. Meanwhile I took the chance to wander along the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame. Nothing much here. Nothing to buy. Just a whole stretch of souvenir shops and theaters (not even worth a pic).

Walking the red carpet.
    I finally rounded off the trip with a visit to Universal Studios, courtesy of Junxiong. It confirmed my belief that Paul and crazy rides don't go together.
Butterbeer anyone?

     It was a good chance to take a break and not think about work. However, it would've been much more enjoyable if I had the wifey and the little muchkin with me. Nevertheless, it was a good experience to travel alone (at the airport and plane at least). Thank you AIA. Thank you my faithful clients. Thank you wifey and lil muchkin. And most of all, Thank you Heavenly Father for this blessing.

First Staycation with the Lil Hurricane - Sofitel Sentosa Resort

    Since I won't be taking the wifey and Shiloh along to LA with me, the wifey suggested that we take a staycation instead. It was a chance to spend some time as a family of just the three of us. One of the benefits of working for the Ministry of Education, is to enjoy discounted rates at the Sofitel Sentosa Resort. Thankfully the wifey fitted the bill. Thus Sofitel it was.

Mandatory time in the pool
    It turned out that Sofitel is a sanctuary for wild peacocks. The little one had her introduction to the birds - up close and personal.

    The resort boasts a "chateau" for children as well; the "Chateau Les' Enfant" - better explained as the kid's club. This was where the little one transformed into a hurricane. She was in her element as she tottered to and fro and climbed up and down. Thankfully the walls and floor were padded.

    Sofitel Sentosa Resort was surprisingly extremely child-friendly. We found the staff very accommodating. It is no wonder that the majority of fellow guests here came with their families. Vacationing here feels like a world away from Singapore yet it has all the convenience of being reachable by car. This will certainly remain on our list of to-go places. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Michelin in The Forest

    I was feeling a bit bored about posting on food, but this place takes the cake. By now, most foodies would be familiar with celebrity chef Sam Leong's Michelin-starred Sentosa's restaurant. Named after his wife (according to my wife), The Forest serves contemporary Chinese cuisine with a western twist. The portions are officially for one, but they're just enough for two or three if a few are shared. 

    It's my little foodie's behavior that prompted me to complete this post. The home-made tofu was too hot her but she refused to remove it from her mouth, as would be the natural instinct of any youngster. It had to be good.
    Chinese cuisine, presented western style, starting with the amuse bouche. Despite its Michelin star, the setting was surprisingly relaxed. In no way did I feel pressure to behave uppity eventhough I was just in my berms and loafers.
      The avocado cream was simply delightful. It was superbly light on the palate, nothing like the avocado juice drink we're so used to from Alexandra Village Food Centre. 
    In conclusion, this place does deserve its Michelin star. An excellent choice if you're looking for a relaxed yet refined atmosphere, with excellent food.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Blue Ginger - Peranakan on the Bib Gourmand

    A visit from a distant relative prompted this visit to a restaurant on Michelin's Bib Gourmand list. We were hosted by Daisy to up-town  dim sum when we were in Hong Kong a couple of month's ago. This time, it's our turn to play host. The venue - The Blue Ginger, along Tanjong Pagar Road. As our usual practice, we had the baby in tow. 
    We ordered rice with an assortment of dishes. For the uninitiated, Peranakan food is a mishmash of Malay and Chinese cuisine. It marries the spiciness of Malay food with the lightness of steamed Chinese goodness. The first dish that arrived was the beef rendang. Beef Rendang once had the honour of being named the world's most delicious dish (I can't remember by whom; saw it on the TV). Blue Ginger's beef rendang did not disappoint. It was spicy but not too spicy. Those who cannot usually take spiciness would find this dish palatable. A lot of similar dishes I've tasted have been too salty. This dish on the other hand, has just the right balance of spice and salt. One can eat it on it's own without rice.
    Some other dishes we ordered...
Ngo Heong: minced pork and prawn roll. It is easy to understand why
this is Daisy's favourite. Goes extremely well with the sweet sauce.
Chap Chye: mixed vegetable in special prawn stock.
Something for the young one: steamed cod on tou fu. You can't
go wrong with fresh cod.
     We also ordered the Bakwan Kepeting soup (minced pork with crab meat balls). I didn't realize there was crab at first and it tasted a bit off. The little one, whom we originally ordered it for didn't like it; possibly because of the spices used. Other than that, the rest of the dishes were not too salty nor bland. In this aspect the Blue Ginger got it down pat. In fact, I don't think they used much monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is another plus point.
     The desserts deserve special mention. Check out the pics...
Durian Chendol: you can't go wrong with such a generous dollop of  real durian. 
Gula Melaka: chilled sago, supposedly topped with honey sea-coconut.
The sea-coconut was a bit lacking though. If only they were as generous
with it as with their durian.
      If you're looking for an uppity venue that serves Peranakan food, the Blue Ginger would do well. There were some misses with the food we ordered, but by and large, the food was satisfying. One advice would be to go for a variety of dishes, as each dish serves only 2 or 3. I'd return, but only after I've tried other restaurants.