Carpenter and Cook

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Passionfruit Meringue Tart– $6.50

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Brain dead. Slow, lethargic. We trudged uphill. And lo and behold, we found the quaintest little hideout at Upper Bukit Timah. Felt like the queens of the hill, and frankly, all energy was restored soon after. Walking at least a mile in that heat was pretty worth it.

Did I say quaint? I said quaintest. The plates, the decor, the everything. I had been meaning to visit this place for at least a year and half, and finally I can announce I have been, and have eaten. Eaten what, exactly? Why, only some of the best tarts I have tried in the country. Starting off with this passionfruit meringue babe, one in their ‘The Queen of Hearts Tarts’ series. Yeah that’s right, they boast six different sorts of tarts to please the senses. One walks in and marvels at the Alice in Wonderland clocks and cutlery, but marvels even more at the quality of double-baked (yes!!) crusts. And I don’t mind double-baked crusts. Frankly, I prefer it. This tart sings with the zesty tang of passionfruit without letting it dampen the filling. Cutting into it was admittedly a little tough, with my fork splaying everywhere, but the surprise lay in the filling, which in contrast to the stout and hardy crust, was very moist and more runny than other fillings I have encountered. Silky, rich, topped with the prettiest dollops of sweet meringue.

And goodness, the lemonade. Fizzy, sweet, gorgeous, refreshing.

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chocolate sea salt caramel and lemon cream tarts– $6.50, lemon drizzle ‘Eat Me’ mini loaf– $5.00

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I couldn’t not try more babies. Saying it like that is horribly sadistic, but I really can’t find any other appropriate way to describe them. They are such… babies. Mini, petite, pretty, delicate. Too much so to be touched by even the most delicate of forks. And I am extremely, eternally grateful to my friend Liz’s mum for helping me buy them. I still feel a little embarrassed!

The lemon cream tart was my queen. Probably the best lemon tart I have tried so far.

Lemon anything is God-sent. I personally don’t know what would happen to me if I was deprived of this angel of a fruit. And I certainly felt like a queen eating it for breakfast this morning. Equals. The filling, contrary to popular belief, is not too sour at all, and perfectly complements the extraordinarily buttery and only mildly sweet crust. The sourness wasn’t let down by a dribbly consistency, but instead was spread evenly throughout a bright-hued, sacred pale yellow. Vivid and creamy. It’s hard to stop yabbering on about both shell and filling. It’s calling me.

Most everything about it was faultless, from the smooth and silky chocolate top and gooey, almost smoky caramel insides. Cut like butter with a mini fork. Ravishing. A little more salt and perhaps a more sophisticated grade of chocolate would be preferable, but overall, my, my.

The lemon drizzle cake is part of their ‘Eat Me’ loaf cake series, and other options include banana, pear almond and apple cobbler. As I have mentioned time and time again, lemon anything is irresistible. I couldn’t.. not. I was heavily impressed by this one in particular; the cake was of the right tart to sweet ratio, the inside was dense enough to pack in the perfect amount of flavour, light enough to hold the title of a posh fairy cake.  The icing was an uplifting experience, I swear.

The downside to all of this was the price. Let’s be real. I was extremely hesitant to pay more than 6 bucks for one minuscule tart, which might not have lived up to expectations. Considering this place was rather off-the-beaten track, and required quite a trek to get to, the prices incited a moderate degree of annoyance. Then again, they do make everything themselves and the quality is pretty unbeatable. They obviously take great pride in their work and efforts, although the service available could have been a tad more professional. I overheard one at the counter asking, in a rather audible tone, if some strange liquid in a cup ‘smelt like shit’. I could’ve said it, anyone could have said it. But right when I was eating a passionfruit meringue tart…?

If anything, go for their lemon-themes tarts or cakes. Those are certainly worth every bead of sweat. They also sell savoury dishes such as quiches, savoury brioche buns and make their own jams. I highly, highly recommend at least one visit!

 

Carpenter and Cook

19 Lorong Kilat (Upper Bukit Timah area)

6463 3648

Tues-Sat: 10am–10pm

Sun: 10am–7pm

Closed Mondays

A Very Fishy Ramble

Before I blabber on nonsensically, I would like to first tell you about the literature blog Ruru and I set up for the benefit of all literature-loving peers: sjiinookofbooks.wordpress.com. Belles-Lettres was a good way to go. A feminine start to our bright passion! So do go and support us.

So now. Gotta shout it from the rooftop, hollering till my lungs fail and collapse and dissolve into the dense air. Declare it loud and proud. Before I proceed, I must warn you that this post might be extremely non-sequitur, since my mind likes to twirl and fall off a direct one-way path.

I have a very, very fishy fetish. Quite literally, too. I mean I can be fishy at times habits and personality wise but this, my friend, is an entirely different matter altogether. Most people cringe at my ghastly penchant for any animal with an attached edible head and most importantly, brain. For who am I kidding, that’s the best part! No incertitude there I promise.

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Little twins. These two guys look very similar, though really they aren’t. One’s from Sushi Tei and the other, Ichiban Boshi. I actually prefer the former, since it bore more crunch and sourness (two things which encourage a great deal of guilty pleasure whenever I do feel like ordering this.) Squeeze on all the lime and liberally apply some crumbled radish or ginger or both. Cast away the knives and forks and all sense of common dining etiquette. Crack your knuckles and exercise your joints a little, just to get ready for the task at hand. Smile and tuck in like how our ancestors did thousands of years ago. We were born to do it like savages.

One bite of fish head warmed and softened by an ooey gooey light grey brain and slighter darker pituitary gland plops angels in the backdrop of this harmonious dream, singing an ecstatic chorus of fishy glee and rounding out my senses, forcing me to even close my eyes just to savour the wondrous saliferous joy of fish head. Fish tail and stomach is good, don’t get me wrong, but the joy of popping those bulging eyes of translucent, wobbly jelly is simply indescribable. You eat around the perimeter of the head before cracking the very middle with your teeth and swallowing the tender chewiness of that brain. Carnal? Yes. But oh so painfully pleasurable.

And why on earth am I suddenly talking about this?

It got me thinking, as I sat down to another round of head gorging last night, as I sucked on crab roe and bit into a chicken head’s brain for the first time in my life. (I am now extremely proud to say that I, Alexandra Lim, am no longer a chicken head virgin.) Heads bring me such inexplicable joy and excitement it’s ridiculous, childish, absurd. Never mind the weird looks my friends give me, or the slight twerk in my heart as a little show of guilt whenever I imagine that animal as an unborn embryo cooped up in its promising shell before the first signs of cracking. But by gum I just love it. Not just me, of course. Many share the same fishy passion as I, though I’m pretty sure the majority don’t. It’s like the whole durian thing again. And may we all just admit that messy eating is the best thing ever.

But how do we really perceive something to be ‘odd’ or ‘strange’ in the first place?

Bring on the TOK (Theory of Knowledge) talks. I was listening to my ex-math teacher Mr S a few days ago, on human perception and ideals in realism, or how we assume things to be the way they are in the real world. Hell, we are humans with two eyes and a nose and mouth. But how on earth can we take that to be normal with our partial comprehension of the ever strange and glorious world which surrounds us, and which we face on a daily basis? All these shapes and silhouettes make up a minuscule fraction of what actually exists, that is, if we take all those scientific conjectures to be full-on true. Incredibly shattering just to think about this one side of a notion. We looked at the story of Helen Keller, who was an extraordinarily gifted woman in spite of being BDD (blind, deaf and dumb). But to her, this never was a disability, since she never could fully or freely experience the other three senses. She was trapped in a mental gate lock which only her helper Annie Sullivan could pull her out of, with unbelievable persistence made doable by the miracle of love. Nothing is strange or odd or a disability if one has never experienced the fullness of life without any shortcoming. We must be pretty miserable creatures since we only possess only 5 out of a possible 1000 senses. Just because we don’t live in darkness and can enjoy stuff like foie gras terrine.

Charles Baudelaire said that ‘strangeness is a necessary ingredient in beauty.’ Looking at it one way, I like fish because ever since I was younger I’d crave the simplistic and pure white flesh of the red snapper or the juicy amber goodness of the common salmon. I saw no joy in much else, except peas perhaps, which my father would pour on the ledge of my high baby chair as a toddling duckling. Pick and mash and mush and happiness galore. Nothing strange about eating fish head, but maybe what gives it an odd edge is the fact that I find it almost to be just like a drug. I have to have it at least twice a week. Ice cream is similar, though not half as much as my love for fish head and gory bits and bobs which people pick out and happily leave on their little places. And I now come to my second honesty claim: I am a dreadful picker.

Can you imagine how annoying it is for me when I’m surrounded by people at a table who don’t lick out the bone marrow of chicken thigh bones or don’t polish up every little strand and nickel of fish hanging limply on their scales? It’s chaotic mental paranoia. I’m almost afraid that by not engaging in this OCD with bony bits, they might actually miss out on a fleeting taste of heaven. So strange but absolutely part of me. This is the sad way my mind works. Only natural to feel my brain cogs turn and clack when I see a pile of abandoned onions or half picked at fish or chicken bones. I become fretful and worried. I think I even started sweating once. No, Baudelaire, this is not a beautiful trait of mine, but I have indeed almost come to embrace it once or twice, as I feel so accomplished when I feel  the fish head snuggling in the pit of my stomach, not gone pitifully to waste. But it’s sad how I only enjoy these leftover, unwanted nicks and nacks. As if by eating them comforts the inanimate things into knowing that no, they are never always abandoned.

So to me, this is normal, and to other people, strange.

To people who wear a lot of makeup regularly, such habit comes  naturally, but i find it the oddest thing in the world to wake up at 5 every morning just to perfectly conceal that one red smidgen of a dot on your upper cheek.

People like white chocolate, but I (and Ruru of course) find it so one-dimensional.

People throw on a purple or green blouse or dress as and when they feel like it, but I just can’t bear to. Unless I actually feel an aggressive chemical connection, of course. Now that’s an exception. All these things I find strange, strange, strange, but the only thing which separates me from you is our perception of the world and all the existing things in it.

And I find the combination of familiarity in all the stored memories of my existence as well as a cold oddness inherently beautiful.

‘There is no excellent beauty that hath some strangeness in the proportion’ – Francis Bacon