Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Taipei Day 3: Cultural Learnings of Taipei Make Benefit of Malaysian Bloggers

Much to our embarassment, we have not finished blogging about our Taipei trip which happened during the CNY this year. So without anymore self-pity-wallowing, we're gonna get down to it. This was Day3:

We were surprised that we could find art in Taipei underground MRT, particularly at the Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall station. Excellent use of existing public space.

This was an exhibition that featured beautiful ethnic women in their costumes, some referring to historical & legendary figures. You can read more about it here.

And then there were wierd installations like this which could be quite petrifying to Nee. I don't encourage exposing her to displays like this anyway lest it disrupts her cooking & baking.

Killer blowup dolls which pretend to be cute. They will electrocute you if you come too close.

This was our destination on our 3rd day in Taipei - The Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall. We thought we shouldn't miss this since Taiwan was founded by this guy after all.

The 3rd day was still as rainy, as wet & as cold, & we were already thinking of hot food.

Sorry to disappoint keen fish hobbyists, the activity in the water is not fish-related. It's raining.

Much like the Lincoln Memorial, the giant statue of Chiang Kai Shek sits gallantly in the great hall.

This was the bugger that was mainland China's biggest thorn in the butt for a long time. I bet that smile was for Chairman Mao.

You could actually witness the change of guards here but we missed it that day.

The guy in the suit is in charge of checking the guard's uniform, straightening out what needs to be straightened.

In the other part of the building is the man himself. This used to be his administrative office where he stragetised on how to be a bigger & more painful thorn in China's butt. Here he looked like he hasn't aged one bit. I wonder what he thinks of Ah Bien.

The same building also housed a collection of all things that once belonged to the General; like his letters, documents, photographs, clothes & even his bullet-proof car. I didn't bother to take any photos of those though.

These were some kind of lantern exhibition on display.

The building also holds a few art galleries exhibiting the more traditional Chinese paintings which weren't very impressive unfortunately. We LOVED these carvings though.

You can view some of the woodwork here.

The Memorial Hall faces a huge courtyard right down below; something much like the courtyard in the Forbidden City. Normally that is the place where the masses converge to celebrate the National Day but for now, there was a long row of tents selling food & fun fair going on.
I can tell you that in the cold weather like this everything that is steaming & hot feels good. We stopped at this stall selling various soup and fried noodles cos they had reasonable crowd size.

The fried noodles were nothing to shout about, but they definitely gave us the carb we need. If we remember correctly, this is like NTD 50-60 (RM 5-6).

However the bowl of soup is definitely what we wanted. Piping hot dumpling soup, with meatballs, bamboo shoots and strips of carrots. They called this the Flower Stem Soup (Hua Zi Gen). NTD60-70 (RM6-7)

I think this the Ping Tang Hu Lu, a Chinese style kinda fruit lolly. We didn't try this cos we couldn't help imagining what it'd taste like in our mouths.

These were some potato snacks. They sell them by the whole stick I reckon. Now looking back, I regret not trying them out but at that time, we were really full & had to prioritise.

These fried sweet potato ball snacks were in every night market, every where you turn your head. Yummy stuff. Anyone has the recipe for this?

There were also high-cholesterol quail eggs.

We forgot what these were cos we didn't try them.

And just before we left the place, we found that the best cream puff in the world was in Taipei.

Day 3 was supposed to be more of a cultural trip & it was, but somehow it ended up with food again.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Something Nice from Nee's

Saw these two delightful cakes coming out from the kitchen today. Just thought that I'd share the cakes photos with you.

This is a Chocolate Cheesecake with Almond Toppings.

There's one mom out there that's a very lucky mom today!

Nee hasn't made this one for quite some time now but she's quite happy that someone ordered it. It's a Blackforest Cheesecake & it turned out quite well.

And out of the many Terry's out there, there's also one lucky one!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nee's Birthday at Raintree Restaurant BCCK

Kuching is really running out of good places to dine in.

"Western Cuisines" in Kuching revolve around Aussie and/or American-influenced, huge chunky plates of typical BBQ, roast, deep fried meat, sausages, fish with mash potatos and garden salad. And it is always ceasar salad, and they can't even do one properly (Ceasar sauce suddenly becomes thousand island or worse; plain mayo). Once in a while, we would get a place with a slight fusion of Japanese or Thai or Vietnamese-infused western cuisine.

Every year, at this time of the year (I don't mean Christmas), when my birthday is just around the corner, Greg gets very nervous. This year there's no more Sarah from Magenta to depend on, nor is there a romantic island getaway (which makes the food part inconsequential). This year there's only Kuching & Greg can do Junk & Blablabla only so many times & it doesn't work anymore. Four Points & Pullman feel the same.

But guess what, the last-minute Greg managed to pull another rabbit out of the hat. If this one wasn't good, he would have been in trouble but it was good. Either God really loves him, or maybe it's just a case of good timing; happened to be looking at the right page of the newspaper when Raintree happened to do a press release on its Christmas promotions, and atoms subsequently collide.

This is Raintree Restaurant at the new Borneo Convention Centre in Kuching. The modern building structure itself is a sight to behold on its own, not to mention the interior. Greg didn't take a photo of the building exterior, so this is what you'd have to contend with.

Excellent use of the Orang Ulu Design on the ceiling. This completes a whole 360 degree environment that envelopes you as soon as you sit down.

Nice use of moving projection. Somehow it worked here. I think normally this is a risky thing to do in a classy restaurant cos it may backfire & the whole place can turn into a seedy karaoke lounge. But those guys did it well.

It's always a pleasant surprise to find a musical trio. There's another female pianist hidden somewhere behind the wall off-frame. And the best thing was this wasn't a group of old musicians playing cob-webbed John Denver or Cliff Richards. And the guy with the guitar sings.

The restaurant takes the shape of a semi-circular stucture, with panoramic windows that look out onto the courtyard & the wide river below. In fact, the BCCK sits on an island-peninsula-like plot of land in the middle of the huge Santubong River.

Although it may look like Tiger Beer Garden at night, but I'm sure you can see the vast expanse of the mighty river & be in awe during the day. I can imagine a Western outdoor wedding out here.

So with the music playing & our stomachs drumming, we began to do what we came here to do.

Sesame bun ~ served warm and soft.

Our appertisers: juicy scallops pan seared to the just-right tenderness. Topped with tapenade and water crest salad. Presentation is delicate and pretty.

Cream of asparagus soup with chicken potato quenelles (dumplings). Served piping hot which is what it is supposed to be. Maybe being Chinese, I don't have a thing for lukewarm soup. The soup was a little runny though. Then again, thicker, creamier ones would probably be an overkill. Quenelle was yummy in the soup.

I had the turkey gallantine. This is excellent stuff because it is always hard to cook edible turkey. The chef, Virginia Kedit (whom we had an opportunity to chat with later), had done a excellent job by doing a roulade with thinly sliced apple, chestnut and sage stuffings. Very tasty, tender, definitely not the usual tough and bland turkey meat that needs lots of cranberry and brown sauce to cover up what's lacking. The cranberry sauce and pumpkin potato puree add to the layering of flavours. I didn't know I could do it but I walloped the whole thing to a knockout.

Greg had the roast rack of lamb with the potato hash and spinach, instead of the cod fish which I advised against (otherwise he would have to make very good friends with the toilet when we get home). 

We had the meat done medium rare, which came as nicely juicy with a crispy outer layer, probably from the honey, and served with a dollop of your choice of English, French mustard or mint sauce. See, this is what I'm saying. There's none of that need for the usual pepper or mushroom or brown gravy as cover-ups. Serving a dish as it is tells you a lot about the skills of a good chef in the kitchen. Virginia  is one chef who knows how to bring out the original flavour in her meat. Oh, the hash is really good.

Ok. I should have expected this since it's done before but I was surprised again. Greg must have put something in my drink.

Raintree arranged a special treat of ice cream cake coated with meringue for this occasion. We find the staff attentive, polite and generally friendly. No As for the singing though, but they did try. TQ Raintree for making the effort.

I've always been intrigued by this thing. I've seen it in restaurants several times now. Apparently it's called gooseberries & they're imported. Anyone knows where we can get this in Kuching?

And finally, the dessert: Christmas pudding with cinnamon ice cream. Thumbs-up for this. The pudding was coated with chocolate. It had the right sweetness and very rich, and it went  really well with the cinnamon ice cream.

The Raintree Restaurant is the definitely the place to go when you have functions. It has the right environment, the right space, the right music & most importantly the right food. We'll definitely recommend this place to friends & family & we'll be back for more. We also hope that the quality stays consistent.

Thank God there's one more place to go to in Kuching. That should help us pull through the next year.

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