London, Emily, and a basic breakfast

8:58am, 1st January 2015. Holy mackerel.

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I wrote up this blog post a serious while ago. So what happened? I could say something silly like ‘life’ and ‘work’, but really it just didn’t feel too right to talk about certain things so special and close to my heart, immediately after having experienced them. I’m talking about London. To say it was upsetting to come back after being there for just a week would be a tad bit of an understatement. I only lived there for a couple of years when I was little, but ever since then we’ve (the family) found ourselves going back again and again, our home away from home. And so I mourned a little, moped a little, a slug bobbing on the waves of sadness.

But I do miss blogging regularly, and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to start doing so again. 2014 was basically a big bad ball of craziness (IB, anyone?). University applications, last minute decisions, the waiting game, trepidation. Baking adventures, some of which were great but others, not too much. Books, family, friends. I was going to write up a recipe on chocolate banana cinnamon rolls, something I made for a close friend (Hi Ruru!) during her party, which was right after graduation. Wow, that does feel like a long time ago. But I think I’ll save that for another long and detailed post. Right now, on the 1st of January, I just feel like being all shloppy. Cue the reminiscing mode.

The highlight of London, apart from the food and meeting my close friends, was meeting someone I have never had the opportunity to meet in real life before. Ever. If you don’t know her, you’re missing out. Emily Tapp, this one’s for you!

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I know I know, I look like a pig’s bum next to her. I do love how we’re both wearing grey sweaters, though. Em is the girl I’ve been writing to for over a year now, which is just crazy to think about. A gorgeous one, don’t you think? Not to mention her drool-worthy blog cortadochronicles, which is full of the most outstanding vegan recipes. Her photography is sublime. It all started after Christmas of 2013, when she commented on my handwriting. All of a sudden, I was thrust into one of the most priceless relationships. Despite some air mail mishaps (I’m actually laughing now), we pushed through and continued to send letter after letter. I doted on each one. We always meant to see each other in real life, but to be honest, a little part of me was afraid that this would never really happen, like wishing for a vintage Mercedes on Christmas. It could happen, it just might, but what are the chances?

But it happened, and I still can’t believe it did. I remember stumbling into Kopapa, the brunch place we agreed to meet at, late that morning. Gosh, I remember every single detail it’s scary. Would she think me weird? People always think I speak a little weirdly, with the mixed wishy washy accent. Also, my hair felt incredibly dry. My left eye was swollen, and I was fiddling with it the whole time. Ooh, don’t get me started on my reptile skin. It’s like it thrives on humidity, so much so that it’s still dry here in Singapore. Did I look human? I wasn’t there long before she came, all perfectly primped and blonde and smiling. An angel with sparkling eyes. It was so weird; all the worries I was preoccupied with 10 seconds ago just vanished. Who was I kidding– why was I even scared? She wasn’t (and isn’t) a stranger to me. She’s Emily, the girl I’ve been writing to for the longest time. It’s like I’ve seen her before, anyway. I’ve always had a picture of her in my head when I write, and it was surprising to see it come to life, but the long and short of it is that all those letters which connected us, two girls thousands of miles apart, made me feel comfortable. At home. Happy. It wasn’t in the least bit weird. Getting lost in conversation over poached eggs (she had avocado toast which looked ridiculous) and flat whites was really the best thing ever. We wandered around Covent Gardens, then took the Tube to Borough Market where we drooled over everything and made quite a few stunning purchases. Thanks to Miss Em, I convinced myself to buy the most gorgeous honey drizzle and a wooden plating board from Borough Kitchen (see below). Before I had to leave, we hugged three times. It definitely wasn’t enough. We did so much in one day, and I had so much fun. I can’t wait to eat and shop together again some time in the future! Ah, the future. Em and I have an art cafe planned. I can see it all already, and I’m starry-eyed.

In my second or third letter to Emily, I told her that one of my favourite foods ever is French toast. A few days ago, I made it out of habit. Before I dished out the goods on a plate, I decided to change it up a little and put it into a bowl, all dressed with a myriad of toppings, drowned in syrup and milk. It was a pretty revelation. I call it the French Toast Bowl. But be warned. Those averse to sogginess should skip this recipe! I’m the sort who fawns over soggy cereal, so…

French Toast Bowl (serves 1)

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Make your french toast as how you would usually do. Use fresh or day-old bread (I used a soft walnut raisin loaf here). So go ahead! Cut the bread thick enough so that the inside is still a little gooey after cooking. That’s my favourite bit, really. Whisk together one egg, a splash of almond milk, vanilla extract in a shallow dish. Take two slices of the bread and dunk into the mixture for a good few seconds on each side. I have a good recipe for vegan french toast, which you can find here. Fry with a good pat of butter on a pan preheated on medium-high heat. The sides take 2 minutes and a minute respectively. The slices should turn golden and tender, and the middle soft to the touch. Once done, cut into pieces, as large or small as you like.

Dish out your french toast into a bowl. Top with whatever you want– I used maple syrup, banana coins, sea salt caramel and homemade maple peanut butter. I think nut butter is a must. Then comes the best bit– the milk! Take that carton and do the Splash. Drench your little french toast cubes in cold milk. After a while, the pieces will go all soggy and delicious. Mixed with the syrup/honey and nut butter, it makes for a wonderfully sweet and satisfying breakfast. It’s like oatmeal, except you actually get to chew the stuff this time.

Strangers’ Reunion

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So I couldn’t find the door. The large glass door which lead directly to the light wood enclave so appropriately named Strangers’ Reunion. Let… Let me tell you a short story. I leave my house, take the bus to Tiong Bahru, get lost, hail a cab. Typical, normal, I would say. Nothing not very Alex-like. But I think the embarrassment peaked when I found myself floundering about like a complete and utter idiot even when I reached the shophouse. The words were clear, right there in front of me, I even saw my two cute and nice and short friends Celeste and Liz (probably laughing at my incapability as a human being) sitting in the corner. Not finding the door is just not acceptable. The whole time I was there I felt like lashing out at all the sensible people who were capable of opening the right door at the first try. Ha, they’ve probably been here before anyway.

You come in and the first thing which greets you is a jovial crowd, some bespectacled bohemians quietly, nonchalantly sipping away at their flat whites (or the more sophisticated with their espressos) behind the mysterious screens of their macs. Small tables aligned along the sides, all rather close to one another, all wooden and shiny, plastered with the faint drone of orange light. I? I was an SR virgin. I’ve seen pictures and things of course, all of crisp 6-inch wide browned buttermilk waffles with lashings of beautiful toppings accompanied by even more beautiful cups of coffee. We were already past the lunchtime-nigh, so tragically I wanted something savoury. Ordered and waited, the three of us chatting non-stop over various social situations and nonsense like the wonderful nonsensical beings we are.

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cappuccino, $4.90 and iced mocha, $6.50.

Say hello to the long-locked ladies who lunch- Liz (left) and Celeste. Aren’t their smiles gorgeous? Don’t ask me why the camera focus is on the glass bottle because it just so happened to be that momentary mistake and regret. I ordered the cappuccino, seeing it only fit to try their famed milky concoctions, a little startled by the price but this surprise was stunted when I was greeted by the beautifully and intricately decorated image of a swan nestled in a large purple cup on a yellow saucer. Plater certainly knows his complementary colours. One of the best foam art works I’ve seen yet, almost perfectly symmetrical, the swan itself brimming with a delicate life, albeit the fragile wispiness. The coffee itself isn’t robust enough, and I didn’t finish it. Heard a myriad good things about it, though. Perhaps it was one of those one-off circumstances. Despite the (oh-so) tiny letdown, I was highly impressed by the quality of the bean, which I could taste in the first tender sip. Yes, it must be tender, because rushing through a coffee just isn’t very connoisseur-like now, is it.

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Poached eggs on english muffin with a side of honey baked ham, $8.00+$4.00, eggs florentine with spinach, smoked salmon and hollandaise on ciabatta,  $18.00

What I like is how you can choose from all the various sides as well as the type of bread you should like to nicely sop up all the yolk and hollandaise. Their hollandaise was a little on the thicker side, but the flavour was preserved with the right amount of tang, the butter not saying farewell to the well-whipped yolks. The poached eggs fared eggsellently. See what I did there. Yolks and more yolks! It was disgustingly yolk-y heaven. Rich and sodden, yellow and beautiful. One soft slip of the fork caused an outrageous, glorious burst of bright yellow, spilling over onto the sides, buttering the lonely spinach leaves, offering a soft glaze for the lovely salmon beneath. Everything mixed together in perfect harmony. I enjoyed this a little too much, but the one thing I regret not getting for myself was this baby right below.

‘Can I have a bite?’

‘Sure.’

And thank God for that.

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Before you die of a visual orgasm, let me just make it clear that yes, this was both beautiful and delicious. A lot of beautiful things aren’t worth all the praise, but this… This.

Special of the day: Buttermilk waffles with caramel bananas, walnut crunch and vanilla ice cream, $14.90

You’ve heard of buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk scones, buttermilk in your pants. These buttermilk waffles are the lightest, crispest babies in the universe, and when fastened in that ridiculous, flawless, unbeatable, traditional (alright I’ll stop) combination of banana, vanilla and caramel, I warn you, you might cry. Yeah, in public. Everyone will watch you shed buttermilk tears into your perfect circle of yeast and flour and sugar- oh, sugar. Cut into it. Crisp, golden, carnal. It’s dangerous, it implores you to go on, zombie-like, to take your fork and smear a little of that ice cream on top, make it pretty with a sliver of caramel (note I say caramel, not caramelised, because that’s just the way they serve it, perhaps to make you feel a little less guilty over your pre-New Year gluttony, in an effort to kid yourself over your wondrous efforts to nourish that slovenly little body of yours) banana and walnut, go on, go on. I could go on, but that might be a little mean. When I say fluffy and light, I mean it. Too many a time I encounter stodgy, dense rocks with little square holes pricked in the middle to resemble (gasp) waffles.

Please just go and order this. I implore you.

Rating: 4.7/ 5.0

Strangers’ Reunion

37 Kampong Bahru Rd
6222 4869