Archive

26 June 2016

The Daily Face v2.0

Skincare


Over the last couple of years my key takeaway as far as my skin is concerned is that it is generally happier with less. For about a year or so I struggled with massive breakouts, and I tried so many products only to find that if I pared my routine down to include only the essentials it would all go away. Imagine how much I would have saved (both financially and emotionally) had I known this at the very beginning. Admittedly it's a challenge to stick to a bare-bones routine, what with the constant bombardment of anti-aging adverts but I figure it's easier to live with wrinkles rather than pock marks from acne.



Not in picture: my facial soap. At the moment I'm using this carrot soap that my aunts gave me (I was breaking out so bad that they took it upon themselves to try and fix it), but generally I'm happy with any normal foaming cleanser.

I'm happy to be reunited with Fancl's cleansing oil, and I hear they've reopened in Singapore as well which is awesome. Proactiv and SK-II, well, these need no introduction, no?

I wish I took a picture of my lashes before I started using the DHC lash serum, because while I feel it's working, I have no way to confirm if it is indeed effective or if it's all in my head :/

Last but not least: Curel Intensive Moisture Cream - the only Japanese moisturizer that ever worked for me. It's a very no-frills moisturizer which has seen me through winter and Singapore weather. Definitely a keeper.

Makeup


I try to keep my daily makeup routine short and sweet, all for the glory of ten more minutes of shut-eye. Also I find that the less products I pile on my face in the morning, the less haggard I look in the afternoon (I should probably do a midday touchup but ain't nobody got time for that).



The Temptu Air is the Chris Brown to my Rihanna - I hate how much I love it. I keep trying to go back to my other foundations, but not only is airbrush better aesthetically, it's also a lot more hygienic and less irritating to the skin (and I also have no brushes to wash every weekend). So let this serve as a warning, because THERE IS NO GOING BACK. I use the Lancome Hydra Glow primer as base, and do a quick dusting of the Nars light reflecting loose powder on top (I hated the pressed version btw, but this one I love).

The fact that I kept my Benefit Rockateur blush despite the horrid, bulky packaging is a testament to how good it is. I actually tried to look for dupes that aren't housed in a giant box with faux snakeskin print, but there is none to be found. It's like Chris Brown, Jr. Lately I've also been loving Nars Douceur, just because it's a very easy blush to wear and it goes with anything. It has, of course, been discontinued, because we can't have nice things. Seriously, Nars, first Napoli and then Descanso and now this. Why do you do this to me?

These days I've been keeping my brows fairly natural. I just got so fed up with the whole brows-on-fleek movement and seeing crazy chiseled brows everywhere that I started craving for normal, human brows. Well, that, and I've been really behind on the brow upkeep. Heh. Anyway I've just been filling them out with powder using this giant Hakuhodo eyebrow brush. I asked the lady at the counter for recommendations and she gave me this brush along with the promise that my brows are going to be ready with one swoosh. It's not going to give the most sculpted result, but that's kind the point, yes? I then set everything using this drugstore discovery called Brow Lash Ex which keeps everything intact for the entire day. I have no idea what's in it, but it's a miracle product, is what it is.

For lashes I usually go back and forth between the Shu and Shiseido lash curlers (today it's the former). I have switched mascara loyalties, however, and am now a big fan of the Heroine Make Volume and Curl. Like any Japanese mascara worth its salt, it's will absolutely not budge and holds a curl like nobody's business.

I'm not a very big lipstick wearer, although they are the most numerous of all the items in my makeup drawer (and I should probably do something about that). I just drink so much coffee throughout the day and I hate leaving a mark on the coffee cup (there is a song about this which will probably be on repeat in my head for the entire week). Recently though I have been liking Clarins lip oil, although to be honest I treat it more like a skincare product than makeup - I apply it first thing in the morning and before I go to bed. It imparts absolutely no color at all, and it's too shiny for my liking, but it has kept my lips really moisturized, much more so than a regular lip balm.

Not in picture: Nars creamy radiant concealer. I'm on my fifth or sixth tube, and I swear to God if Nars discontinues this I will raise hell.

PS Click here and here for v1.0.

23 June 2016

Wedding Diaries: The Engagement Shoot

Our prenup pics just came in the mail and I am completely floored by how well they turned out. All credits go to our awesome photographer Gail, because all Abe and I ever did was show up.



I was initially averse to the idea of a prenup/engagement shoot - I've never been one to enjoy being photographed, and I have yet to hear a happy photoshoot story (the prevailing sentiment appears to be just wanting to get it over and done with). But my friends made the very good point that I should consider this a trial run for the photographer to learn my good angles (because heaven knows they are few and far between) and for me to learn how to smile without looking like a total derp. So we decided to push through with it, and by some grand alignment of the stars we even managed to schedule it at the tail end of cherry blossom season.



The day before the shoot Abe and I were zipping across Tokyo and Yokohama cram-shopping for clothes - he just got back from a business trip to the Netherlands and had absolutely zilch to wear, and the dress I ordered online was still stuck in customs (it arrived at noon the next day, when we were right smack in the middle of shooting). H&M ended up being our savior, with the only blazer that actually fit Abe, and a newly-launched collection of dresses (bonus: dress has pockets!).



I wasn't able to find a local hair and makeup artist, so I had to do everything myself. It was not the easiest of mornings - I had to use a transformer for my Miracurl because of the voltage difference, and it shut down every ten minutes because of overheating. I remember just staring at my reflection in the mirror for a good minute or two, a quarter of my hair all curly and the rest of it a frizzy mess, and thinking "what now?" It was nothing short of a miracle that I managed to assemble my face without turning into a giant ball of stress, and even managed to stick on a fancy pair of falsies (lashes make a world of difference, I shit you not).



We started shooting around seven in the morning, flitting from area to area, and by the time we're done it was almost six in the evening! That's a hell of a long time for a photo shoot, but surprisingly at the end of it all Abe and I were neither tired nor irritable. I mean sure, I wasn't able to smile for the next couple of days without my facial muscles quivering, but I honestly, thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Gail just has a way of putting everyone at ease, and it never feels too directed or contrived. I'm already excited to see our wedding photos, even if it hasn't happened yet!

My one regret was doing the shoot while I'm still fat, but you know what, maybe after a couple more pounds I could convince Abe to do a second one. Hah :p



Photo Credits: Gail Bitoon of Foreveryday Photography

P.S. So what does one do with the engagement photos, exactly? Asking for a friend.

19 June 2016

Tyrwhitt

The lease on our teeny tiny apartment has just ended, so I'm feeling a bit sentimental. Also it has been very rainy recently, and nothing reminds me of Singapore quite like crazy showers and humidity.

Legal vandalism: graffiti was encouraged before they demolished this building

When I moved into this corner of the little red dot I thought I picked a quiet little neighborhood - it was all hardware stores and shophouses, and a football stadium that now plays second fiddle to a shiny new one with almost seven times the capacity (and with its own MRT station too, aptly named Stadium). In fact when I googled "Tyrwhitt Road" the only hits, apart from the apartment listing, were all about this hardware store turned coffee shop ("I tried it once," our landlady shared. "The coffee there, so watery!"). But apparently it was the first of many; as the days went by, shops started to close to give way to "hipster" things - the Chinese drugstore around the corner is now a 23-tap bar (including IPAs, natch), and the lumber store now sells luncheon meat fries with lime aioli.


But, while I often complain about how the neighborhood gets invaded by tweens every weekend - it's like a zombie apocalypse, if the zombies wore fedoras and those infuriating lens-free spectacles and took selfies in every street corner - it is admittedly very interesting, this whole hipster circus. And while it's rarely gastronomically rewarding, my sister and I did have fun visiting as many of the cafes as our general weekend laziness would allow. It's quite amusing how hard they try to out-special snowflake each other and yet end up being exactly the same - water in giant glass jugs with slices of lemon and lime, mismatched (and very uncomfortable) chairs and tables that look like they would give you tetanus should you scratch yourself on the unfinished edges, food served on wooden slabs or anything that is not a plate, really, and the piece de resistance, cutlery on repurposed steel pails. The latter I see so often I almost feel like it's a requirement (Are you putting your cutlery on steel pails? No? Then no permit for your hipster cafe, lady).



Chye Seng Huat Hardware

Source of the aforementioned "watery" coffee. To me it will always be the big daddy of all hipster cafes in these parts. Every single Saturday morning I watch as people get off their cabs, look at the sign, walk around the block wondering if that's really the cafe they saw on Facebook, and if it was, where the hell the entrance was, and then, lightbulb moment and selfie. Every single time.
I do admire their dedication to preserving the facade, and they do seem very passionate about coffee. BUT. Food is meh, at best, and their brews are extremely acidic. Maybe that's how a true connoisseur takes his coffee, I don't know, but my plebian taste buds are not happy. But their cold brew coffee bottle is nice.



The Bravery

So I actually thought this was some sort of drug den, because it is so unapologetically hipster I can't even. There is no visible signage, I even had trouble locating the door, and from outside you can vaguely make out the silhouette of a horse on top of one of the tables. When you finally figure out how to enter, you will discover that it is, indeed, a horse on top of a table, and it's decorated with a string of colored lights. There's little else to say.


They serve lavender coffee, which tastes exactly like it sounds: like coffee with a bit of fabric softener. The pancakes were quite thick, and raw in the center. Everything else was forgettable. But hey, horse. With lights.

Windowsill in the Woods

Made awesome pies, and then closed (and moved elsewhere). Pffft.



Two Bakers

Cutlery in metal pail: check
Pain-in-the-ass sugar dispensers: check
But I forgive them for all their sins because they serve luncheon meat fries, and that is all it takes.



Tiramisu Hero

They have a mascot (Antonio Banderas, but in cat form), and fake grass on the patio. They also have a quiz you can answer to get free iced tea. Every single day I pass by that chalkboard and never ever figured any of it out.
For some reason it never occurred to us to order Tiramisu, which is a mistake because the main courses were largely unremarkable. It's a shame because I really wanted to like them, especially since they have this:



AEIOU Cafe

It used to be an antique store (and is sorta still is), so it's full of things. The tables are repurposed window grills, and the food is served on wooden slabs shaped like a cartoon dinosaur. It was featured on one YouTube channel as a "top instagrammable cafe" and while that makes my eyes roll so very hard, this is actually the one place in Jalan Besar where the food is actually good.


Whenever I pay a visit I always say a little prayer beforehand for the Sriracha chicken to not be sold out.


I also love the Beef Cheek Papardelle.


The spring rolls with flowers, not so much. But look how pretty.


Drinks are served in repurposed Absolut vodka bottles. I approve, because I use the exact same bottles to store water in the fridge at home. Their signature drink is avocado shake served with espresso on the side and you're supposed to mix them together. I prefer to have them separately (two drinks for the price of one!), but either way it's yummy.

Bonus points for keeping it real with the plant on the throes of death

It's been a good run, Tyrwhitt Road (and Tyrwhitt-adjacent areas). We'll see each other soon enough :)



06 June 2016

Flavor of the Week: Chazuke

I have this tendency, when I find something I like, to eat it every single chance I get. The last few weeks, for example, have been all about Chazuke, and it has gotten so bad I've had to force myself to stay away so I don't get tired of it (I kinda miss it already *sniff*).


It's from this restaurant called こめらく (Komeraku), which I stumbled upon one night because it was right beside my regular Korean place which happened to be full and I was in no mood to wait (read: hangry). It's a charming little shop, with only maybe a dozen or so seats, and for some reason, all of the patrons were women - the only men I ever saw there over the course of my many, many visits were always with their significant others - so it almost felt like a secret club of sorts (it's really not but I have this need to belong).


Chazuke, simply put, is hot tea or broth poured over rice. The first time I ever saw it was on television, and I thought it was vile - it reminds me too much of when you collect all leftovers in one giant bowl before doing the dishes. But then I realized it was just like sinigang or nilaga, except with infinitely more broth. I also realized how much I loathed doing the dishes(enough to make me not want to eat things, and that's saying something).


Komeraku's menu is composed almost entirely of rice bowls, including a bibimbap-style offering (in the Landmark Tower branch) and a couple of options served in Staub cast iron pans (in the Yokohama Porta branch). All of them come with a tiny thermos of dashi, which is a Japanese broth made of dried kelp and bonito flakes.


As you can probably tell, I kinda went through as much of the menu as I could, and my favorite out of all of them is a bit of a surprise, even to me: the maguro (raw tuna) bowl! After seven hundred days in Japan I can finally eat (and enjoy!) raw tuna. It's served with what I assume is lightly pickled daikon (the yellow bits), some wonderfully bitter greens, and a perfectly poached egg.


There is, apparently, a process to eating Chazuke, which I like because it feels like my own little ceremony. First, you eat it like you would any other rice bowl.


But not too quickly though! When you're about halfway through, transfer some of the rice into the empty bowl provided. And then load it up with toppings, which come in the most charming little canisters.


They have nori (seaweed), bonito flakes, little tiny crunchy things whose name I do not know, and a spicy green paste called wasabi-something-or-other (the wasabi part is all you need to know because it is very indicative of the taste). Personally I avoid the nori, because I still have not developed a taste for it. In seven hundred more days, maybe. Everything else I just pile onto the rice like there's no tomorrow.


And then you pour in the dashi from the mini thermos and voila! It's a brand new meal!


The heat from the broth cooks the tuna and the egg ever so slightly, so you really get a totally different flavor profile. And it's really warm and comforting without being heavy (read: not ramen).

I've always known there's more to Japanese food than sushi and noodles and deep-fried-breaded-somethings (although let's face it, they're awesome), but unfortunately I am not as adventurous as I would like to be, so it sure is nice to discover something new once in a while.

21 May 2016

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Temptu Air

Back with a review!

I've had the Temptu Air for two months now, so I guess we're past the honeymoon phase. It was initially purchased for our prenup shoot, because I was too cheap to hire a professional for what was essentially just a single day's worth of makeup. Even if it did cost an arm and a leg, I still ended up with substantial savings, plus I get a new toy to play with! I kinda haven't stopped using it since the day it arrived, so I guess that tells you the direction this review is heading towards.



Temptu has been coming out with airbrush kits for years now, and in this latest reincarnation they have managed to get rid of the giant compressor box, and the electric cord as well, leaving behind an ultra-portable, ultra-nifty handheld device. Makeup is fed into the airbrush gun via snap-in cartridges called airpods. I only have one for foundation, but blush, bronzer, and highlighter cartridges are also available.



Usage

For the uninitiated, airbrush makeup is a type of application technique where an airbrush gun is used to spray the product to the face in a fine mist. Not to be confused with "airbrushing" in Photoshop which is a technique used to make all other women feel inferior to the model in the glossy magazine. My only prior experience with airbrush makeup was for a friend's wedding, when it was applied by a "professional" (air quotes because she set the foundation with MAC Studio Fix - if I wanted MSF on my face I would have just done it myself, you know), so I came in with zero experience, but it's pretty easy to get the hang of it. The key is to keep moving in small circles and maintain a distance of two to three inches from your face to prevent splotches. Also, keep you eyes closed - I had an eye check-up and the doctor was really worried that I have "gel formations" on a fresh pair of contacts, and guess what they were?

The Good

  • You know how products always claim to "look like real skin" but they really don't? Well this one does. Real, healthy skin.
  • It's a breeze (heh) to apply. Just give the pod a couple of shakes, attach it to the thing, and spray your face to perfection.
  • It lasts a very, very long time. My prenup shoot started at seven in the morning, and I still had a full face of makeup by the time we got home at eleven in the evening. Crazy.
  • Zero cleanup. No more aching back and pruny fingers from washing a crapton of buffer brushes over the weekend. Bonus: it's a lot more sanitary, too!
  • Completely foolproof. Once you get the hang of it, it's very difficult to mess up.
  • It travels extremely well. Granted, the airbrush gun is not the lightest thing in the world, but it's compact enough to chuck into a weekend bag, and the airpods when detached are spill-proof.
  • It has a micro-USB charging port. Hallelujah! One less cable to faff with.

Photo taken post-dinner

The Bad

  • When you start increasing the number of layers, it starts to look less natural. Not cakey, but not skin-like either. 
  • It does cling to texture. I'm not sure if I would love this as much if I had dry patches or active breakouts, for example. And I am loath to admit it, primer is a really good idea with this. 
  • It takes forever to dry! I mean, sure application takes only two minutes, but then I have to wait a couple more before I can proceed with the rest of my makeup so I don't disturb the finish (my workaround for this is to apply my foundation, then blow dry my hair, then do the rest of my face).
  • Because of the nature of the pods, there is no way to customize the foundation shade. Temptu does have an extensive range, and the shades are very forgiving, but if you have no match then you are shit out of luck.
  • The price is, well, it's not something you buy on a whim. Let's just put it at that. Although I think it's not so much a question of "are you getting your money's worth?", because the cost is reasonable for an airbrush gun, but rather it's "do you really need this gadget in your life?", because not everyone needs an airbrush gun.

The Ugly

  • It transfers. Ugh. Abe has a giant beige splotch on his jacket on maybe half of our prenup pictures because of this. Although this could be because I applied more layers. But still. Ugh.
  • It's a pain in the ass to get ahold of. Sephora has stopped carrying it, the Temptu website does not ship internationally, and Temptu Japan only has the old-school airbrush kits. I ended up ordering mine off Nordstrom, and went blind on the foundation shade (not the smartest move, I know, but it miraculously worked).
  • I used up an entire airpod's worth of foundation IN ONE MONTH. I have never, in my life, finished a full-sized amount of makeup that fast. And these pods don't come cheap, as well. And I have to order them overseas. This almost makes me want to stop using it. Almost. At the very least, it makes me hate myself a little each morning as I excitedly spray my face with expensive awesomeness.
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26 June 2016

The Daily Face v2.0

Skincare


Over the last couple of years my key takeaway as far as my skin is concerned is that it is generally happier with less. For about a year or so I struggled with massive breakouts, and I tried so many products only to find that if I pared my routine down to include only the essentials it would all go away. Imagine how much I would have saved (both financially and emotionally) had I known this at the very beginning. Admittedly it's a challenge to stick to a bare-bones routine, what with the constant bombardment of anti-aging adverts but I figure it's easier to live with wrinkles rather than pock marks from acne.



Not in picture: my facial soap. At the moment I'm using this carrot soap that my aunts gave me (I was breaking out so bad that they took it upon themselves to try and fix it), but generally I'm happy with any normal foaming cleanser.

I'm happy to be reunited with Fancl's cleansing oil, and I hear they've reopened in Singapore as well which is awesome. Proactiv and SK-II, well, these need no introduction, no?

I wish I took a picture of my lashes before I started using the DHC lash serum, because while I feel it's working, I have no way to confirm if it is indeed effective or if it's all in my head :/

Last but not least: Curel Intensive Moisture Cream - the only Japanese moisturizer that ever worked for me. It's a very no-frills moisturizer which has seen me through winter and Singapore weather. Definitely a keeper.

Makeup


I try to keep my daily makeup routine short and sweet, all for the glory of ten more minutes of shut-eye. Also I find that the less products I pile on my face in the morning, the less haggard I look in the afternoon (I should probably do a midday touchup but ain't nobody got time for that).



The Temptu Air is the Chris Brown to my Rihanna - I hate how much I love it. I keep trying to go back to my other foundations, but not only is airbrush better aesthetically, it's also a lot more hygienic and less irritating to the skin (and I also have no brushes to wash every weekend). So let this serve as a warning, because THERE IS NO GOING BACK. I use the Lancome Hydra Glow primer as base, and do a quick dusting of the Nars light reflecting loose powder on top (I hated the pressed version btw, but this one I love).

The fact that I kept my Benefit Rockateur blush despite the horrid, bulky packaging is a testament to how good it is. I actually tried to look for dupes that aren't housed in a giant box with faux snakeskin print, but there is none to be found. It's like Chris Brown, Jr. Lately I've also been loving Nars Douceur, just because it's a very easy blush to wear and it goes with anything. It has, of course, been discontinued, because we can't have nice things. Seriously, Nars, first Napoli and then Descanso and now this. Why do you do this to me?

These days I've been keeping my brows fairly natural. I just got so fed up with the whole brows-on-fleek movement and seeing crazy chiseled brows everywhere that I started craving for normal, human brows. Well, that, and I've been really behind on the brow upkeep. Heh. Anyway I've just been filling them out with powder using this giant Hakuhodo eyebrow brush. I asked the lady at the counter for recommendations and she gave me this brush along with the promise that my brows are going to be ready with one swoosh. It's not going to give the most sculpted result, but that's kind the point, yes? I then set everything using this drugstore discovery called Brow Lash Ex which keeps everything intact for the entire day. I have no idea what's in it, but it's a miracle product, is what it is.

For lashes I usually go back and forth between the Shu and Shiseido lash curlers (today it's the former). I have switched mascara loyalties, however, and am now a big fan of the Heroine Make Volume and Curl. Like any Japanese mascara worth its salt, it's will absolutely not budge and holds a curl like nobody's business.

I'm not a very big lipstick wearer, although they are the most numerous of all the items in my makeup drawer (and I should probably do something about that). I just drink so much coffee throughout the day and I hate leaving a mark on the coffee cup (there is a song about this which will probably be on repeat in my head for the entire week). Recently though I have been liking Clarins lip oil, although to be honest I treat it more like a skincare product than makeup - I apply it first thing in the morning and before I go to bed. It imparts absolutely no color at all, and it's too shiny for my liking, but it has kept my lips really moisturized, much more so than a regular lip balm.

Not in picture: Nars creamy radiant concealer. I'm on my fifth or sixth tube, and I swear to God if Nars discontinues this I will raise hell.

PS Click here and here for v1.0.
No comments
23 June 2016

Wedding Diaries: The Engagement Shoot

Our prenup pics just came in the mail and I am completely floored by how well they turned out. All credits go to our awesome photographer Gail, because all Abe and I ever did was show up.



I was initially averse to the idea of a prenup/engagement shoot - I've never been one to enjoy being photographed, and I have yet to hear a happy photoshoot story (the prevailing sentiment appears to be just wanting to get it over and done with). But my friends made the very good point that I should consider this a trial run for the photographer to learn my good angles (because heaven knows they are few and far between) and for me to learn how to smile without looking like a total derp. So we decided to push through with it, and by some grand alignment of the stars we even managed to schedule it at the tail end of cherry blossom season.



The day before the shoot Abe and I were zipping across Tokyo and Yokohama cram-shopping for clothes - he just got back from a business trip to the Netherlands and had absolutely zilch to wear, and the dress I ordered online was still stuck in customs (it arrived at noon the next day, when we were right smack in the middle of shooting). H&M ended up being our savior, with the only blazer that actually fit Abe, and a newly-launched collection of dresses (bonus: dress has pockets!).



I wasn't able to find a local hair and makeup artist, so I had to do everything myself. It was not the easiest of mornings - I had to use a transformer for my Miracurl because of the voltage difference, and it shut down every ten minutes because of overheating. I remember just staring at my reflection in the mirror for a good minute or two, a quarter of my hair all curly and the rest of it a frizzy mess, and thinking "what now?" It was nothing short of a miracle that I managed to assemble my face without turning into a giant ball of stress, and even managed to stick on a fancy pair of falsies (lashes make a world of difference, I shit you not).



We started shooting around seven in the morning, flitting from area to area, and by the time we're done it was almost six in the evening! That's a hell of a long time for a photo shoot, but surprisingly at the end of it all Abe and I were neither tired nor irritable. I mean sure, I wasn't able to smile for the next couple of days without my facial muscles quivering, but I honestly, thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Gail just has a way of putting everyone at ease, and it never feels too directed or contrived. I'm already excited to see our wedding photos, even if it hasn't happened yet!

My one regret was doing the shoot while I'm still fat, but you know what, maybe after a couple more pounds I could convince Abe to do a second one. Hah :p



Photo Credits: Gail Bitoon of Foreveryday Photography

P.S. So what does one do with the engagement photos, exactly? Asking for a friend.
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19 June 2016

Tyrwhitt

The lease on our teeny tiny apartment has just ended, so I'm feeling a bit sentimental. Also it has been very rainy recently, and nothing reminds me of Singapore quite like crazy showers and humidity.

Legal vandalism: graffiti was encouraged before they demolished this building

When I moved into this corner of the little red dot I thought I picked a quiet little neighborhood - it was all hardware stores and shophouses, and a football stadium that now plays second fiddle to a shiny new one with almost seven times the capacity (and with its own MRT station too, aptly named Stadium). In fact when I googled "Tyrwhitt Road" the only hits, apart from the apartment listing, were all about this hardware store turned coffee shop ("I tried it once," our landlady shared. "The coffee there, so watery!"). But apparently it was the first of many; as the days went by, shops started to close to give way to "hipster" things - the Chinese drugstore around the corner is now a 23-tap bar (including IPAs, natch), and the lumber store now sells luncheon meat fries with lime aioli.


But, while I often complain about how the neighborhood gets invaded by tweens every weekend - it's like a zombie apocalypse, if the zombies wore fedoras and those infuriating lens-free spectacles and took selfies in every street corner - it is admittedly very interesting, this whole hipster circus. And while it's rarely gastronomically rewarding, my sister and I did have fun visiting as many of the cafes as our general weekend laziness would allow. It's quite amusing how hard they try to out-special snowflake each other and yet end up being exactly the same - water in giant glass jugs with slices of lemon and lime, mismatched (and very uncomfortable) chairs and tables that look like they would give you tetanus should you scratch yourself on the unfinished edges, food served on wooden slabs or anything that is not a plate, really, and the piece de resistance, cutlery on repurposed steel pails. The latter I see so often I almost feel like it's a requirement (Are you putting your cutlery on steel pails? No? Then no permit for your hipster cafe, lady).



Chye Seng Huat Hardware

Source of the aforementioned "watery" coffee. To me it will always be the big daddy of all hipster cafes in these parts. Every single Saturday morning I watch as people get off their cabs, look at the sign, walk around the block wondering if that's really the cafe they saw on Facebook, and if it was, where the hell the entrance was, and then, lightbulb moment and selfie. Every single time.
I do admire their dedication to preserving the facade, and they do seem very passionate about coffee. BUT. Food is meh, at best, and their brews are extremely acidic. Maybe that's how a true connoisseur takes his coffee, I don't know, but my plebian taste buds are not happy. But their cold brew coffee bottle is nice.



The Bravery

So I actually thought this was some sort of drug den, because it is so unapologetically hipster I can't even. There is no visible signage, I even had trouble locating the door, and from outside you can vaguely make out the silhouette of a horse on top of one of the tables. When you finally figure out how to enter, you will discover that it is, indeed, a horse on top of a table, and it's decorated with a string of colored lights. There's little else to say.


They serve lavender coffee, which tastes exactly like it sounds: like coffee with a bit of fabric softener. The pancakes were quite thick, and raw in the center. Everything else was forgettable. But hey, horse. With lights.

Windowsill in the Woods

Made awesome pies, and then closed (and moved elsewhere). Pffft.



Two Bakers

Cutlery in metal pail: check
Pain-in-the-ass sugar dispensers: check
But I forgive them for all their sins because they serve luncheon meat fries, and that is all it takes.



Tiramisu Hero

They have a mascot (Antonio Banderas, but in cat form), and fake grass on the patio. They also have a quiz you can answer to get free iced tea. Every single day I pass by that chalkboard and never ever figured any of it out.
For some reason it never occurred to us to order Tiramisu, which is a mistake because the main courses were largely unremarkable. It's a shame because I really wanted to like them, especially since they have this:



AEIOU Cafe

It used to be an antique store (and is sorta still is), so it's full of things. The tables are repurposed window grills, and the food is served on wooden slabs shaped like a cartoon dinosaur. It was featured on one YouTube channel as a "top instagrammable cafe" and while that makes my eyes roll so very hard, this is actually the one place in Jalan Besar where the food is actually good.


Whenever I pay a visit I always say a little prayer beforehand for the Sriracha chicken to not be sold out.


I also love the Beef Cheek Papardelle.


The spring rolls with flowers, not so much. But look how pretty.


Drinks are served in repurposed Absolut vodka bottles. I approve, because I use the exact same bottles to store water in the fridge at home. Their signature drink is avocado shake served with espresso on the side and you're supposed to mix them together. I prefer to have them separately (two drinks for the price of one!), but either way it's yummy.

Bonus points for keeping it real with the plant on the throes of death

It's been a good run, Tyrwhitt Road (and Tyrwhitt-adjacent areas). We'll see each other soon enough :)



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06 June 2016

Flavor of the Week: Chazuke

I have this tendency, when I find something I like, to eat it every single chance I get. The last few weeks, for example, have been all about Chazuke, and it has gotten so bad I've had to force myself to stay away so I don't get tired of it (I kinda miss it already *sniff*).


It's from this restaurant called こめらく (Komeraku), which I stumbled upon one night because it was right beside my regular Korean place which happened to be full and I was in no mood to wait (read: hangry). It's a charming little shop, with only maybe a dozen or so seats, and for some reason, all of the patrons were women - the only men I ever saw there over the course of my many, many visits were always with their significant others - so it almost felt like a secret club of sorts (it's really not but I have this need to belong).


Chazuke, simply put, is hot tea or broth poured over rice. The first time I ever saw it was on television, and I thought it was vile - it reminds me too much of when you collect all leftovers in one giant bowl before doing the dishes. But then I realized it was just like sinigang or nilaga, except with infinitely more broth. I also realized how much I loathed doing the dishes(enough to make me not want to eat things, and that's saying something).


Komeraku's menu is composed almost entirely of rice bowls, including a bibimbap-style offering (in the Landmark Tower branch) and a couple of options served in Staub cast iron pans (in the Yokohama Porta branch). All of them come with a tiny thermos of dashi, which is a Japanese broth made of dried kelp and bonito flakes.


As you can probably tell, I kinda went through as much of the menu as I could, and my favorite out of all of them is a bit of a surprise, even to me: the maguro (raw tuna) bowl! After seven hundred days in Japan I can finally eat (and enjoy!) raw tuna. It's served with what I assume is lightly pickled daikon (the yellow bits), some wonderfully bitter greens, and a perfectly poached egg.


There is, apparently, a process to eating Chazuke, which I like because it feels like my own little ceremony. First, you eat it like you would any other rice bowl.


But not too quickly though! When you're about halfway through, transfer some of the rice into the empty bowl provided. And then load it up with toppings, which come in the most charming little canisters.


They have nori (seaweed), bonito flakes, little tiny crunchy things whose name I do not know, and a spicy green paste called wasabi-something-or-other (the wasabi part is all you need to know because it is very indicative of the taste). Personally I avoid the nori, because I still have not developed a taste for it. In seven hundred more days, maybe. Everything else I just pile onto the rice like there's no tomorrow.


And then you pour in the dashi from the mini thermos and voila! It's a brand new meal!


The heat from the broth cooks the tuna and the egg ever so slightly, so you really get a totally different flavor profile. And it's really warm and comforting without being heavy (read: not ramen).

I've always known there's more to Japanese food than sushi and noodles and deep-fried-breaded-somethings (although let's face it, they're awesome), but unfortunately I am not as adventurous as I would like to be, so it sure is nice to discover something new once in a while.
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21 May 2016

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Temptu Air

Back with a review!

I've had the Temptu Air for two months now, so I guess we're past the honeymoon phase. It was initially purchased for our prenup shoot, because I was too cheap to hire a professional for what was essentially just a single day's worth of makeup. Even if it did cost an arm and a leg, I still ended up with substantial savings, plus I get a new toy to play with! I kinda haven't stopped using it since the day it arrived, so I guess that tells you the direction this review is heading towards.



Temptu has been coming out with airbrush kits for years now, and in this latest reincarnation they have managed to get rid of the giant compressor box, and the electric cord as well, leaving behind an ultra-portable, ultra-nifty handheld device. Makeup is fed into the airbrush gun via snap-in cartridges called airpods. I only have one for foundation, but blush, bronzer, and highlighter cartridges are also available.



Usage

For the uninitiated, airbrush makeup is a type of application technique where an airbrush gun is used to spray the product to the face in a fine mist. Not to be confused with "airbrushing" in Photoshop which is a technique used to make all other women feel inferior to the model in the glossy magazine. My only prior experience with airbrush makeup was for a friend's wedding, when it was applied by a "professional" (air quotes because she set the foundation with MAC Studio Fix - if I wanted MSF on my face I would have just done it myself, you know), so I came in with zero experience, but it's pretty easy to get the hang of it. The key is to keep moving in small circles and maintain a distance of two to three inches from your face to prevent splotches. Also, keep you eyes closed - I had an eye check-up and the doctor was really worried that I have "gel formations" on a fresh pair of contacts, and guess what they were?

The Good

  • You know how products always claim to "look like real skin" but they really don't? Well this one does. Real, healthy skin.
  • It's a breeze (heh) to apply. Just give the pod a couple of shakes, attach it to the thing, and spray your face to perfection.
  • It lasts a very, very long time. My prenup shoot started at seven in the morning, and I still had a full face of makeup by the time we got home at eleven in the evening. Crazy.
  • Zero cleanup. No more aching back and pruny fingers from washing a crapton of buffer brushes over the weekend. Bonus: it's a lot more sanitary, too!
  • Completely foolproof. Once you get the hang of it, it's very difficult to mess up.
  • It travels extremely well. Granted, the airbrush gun is not the lightest thing in the world, but it's compact enough to chuck into a weekend bag, and the airpods when detached are spill-proof.
  • It has a micro-USB charging port. Hallelujah! One less cable to faff with.

Photo taken post-dinner

The Bad

  • When you start increasing the number of layers, it starts to look less natural. Not cakey, but not skin-like either. 
  • It does cling to texture. I'm not sure if I would love this as much if I had dry patches or active breakouts, for example. And I am loath to admit it, primer is a really good idea with this. 
  • It takes forever to dry! I mean, sure application takes only two minutes, but then I have to wait a couple more before I can proceed with the rest of my makeup so I don't disturb the finish (my workaround for this is to apply my foundation, then blow dry my hair, then do the rest of my face).
  • Because of the nature of the pods, there is no way to customize the foundation shade. Temptu does have an extensive range, and the shades are very forgiving, but if you have no match then you are shit out of luck.
  • The price is, well, it's not something you buy on a whim. Let's just put it at that. Although I think it's not so much a question of "are you getting your money's worth?", because the cost is reasonable for an airbrush gun, but rather it's "do you really need this gadget in your life?", because not everyone needs an airbrush gun.

The Ugly

  • It transfers. Ugh. Abe has a giant beige splotch on his jacket on maybe half of our prenup pictures because of this. Although this could be because I applied more layers. But still. Ugh.
  • It's a pain in the ass to get ahold of. Sephora has stopped carrying it, the Temptu website does not ship internationally, and Temptu Japan only has the old-school airbrush kits. I ended up ordering mine off Nordstrom, and went blind on the foundation shade (not the smartest move, I know, but it miraculously worked).
  • I used up an entire airpod's worth of foundation IN ONE MONTH. I have never, in my life, finished a full-sized amount of makeup that fast. And these pods don't come cheap, as well. And I have to order them overseas. This almost makes me want to stop using it. Almost. At the very least, it makes me hate myself a little each morning as I excitedly spray my face with expensive awesomeness.
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