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Gontran Cherrier’s Rye and Red Miso Bread from Tiong Bahru Bakery, Trends, An Unfashionable God

May 10, 2012 1 comment

The appearance of bizarre (or fashion forward, depending on individual taste and future fashion) fig-leaves on an old friend reminded us all how, quite some time ago when we could (and would) fit into such clothes and some even model them, we used to hang out at fashion shows dissecting trends and cheering on friends who were trying not to slip and fall off the catwalk. The haute culture trickle-down effect was less obvious then than it is now with Zara, Forever 21, and all sorts of people scouring the web for the latest shows so they can manufacture “inspired” clothes for the masses.

Lucky Peach Issue 3: The Cooks and Chefs IssueSo it was serendipitous to read, in the most recent issue of Lucky Peach, that our plebian treats/trends had also devolved from the food gods. That molten chocolate cake, for instance, had in fact been “inspired” by the haute cuisine of Michel Bras (reinvented by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, pre-invented by Ella Helfrich for a Pillsbury bake-off in 1966, says Lucky Peach).

And perhaps just as the hundredth monkey effect gives birth to fashion trends for the season, so it is for the chefs in haute kitchens? (Though the effect now supposedly discredited due to failure to take into account a rogue coconut-washing monkey who sojourned on the other island.)

Gontran Cherrier's Rye and Red Miso Bread from Tiong Bahru BakeryGontran Cherrier‘s rye and red miso bread (from Tiong Bahru Bakery, 56 Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate) is apparently quite trendy, though it hasn’t quite started a trend of its own, perhaps owing to home bread-bakers not being in quite the same supply as home cake-bakers.

The rough + umami make a great pairing and can be used in much the same way as Marmite or Vegemite on toast – lightly toasted with a bit of butter and cut into soldiers to scoop up soft-boiled eggs;

Gontran Cherrier's Rye and Red Miso Bread from Tiong Bahru Bakery x Adam's 100% Natural Peanut Butteror with nut butters (HT: Chocolate and Zucchini) – this slice with Adam’s 100% Natural Peanut Butter was an excellent pairing;

Slices of Gontran Cherrier's Rye and Red Miso Bread Boule from Tiong Bahru Bakery x Dumpling soup from Real Food Killineyor as a very good companion to the dumpling soup at Real Food Killiney.

Gontran Cherrier's Rye and Red Miso Bread from Tiong Bahru Bakery x Sweet Ripe Pear x Morbier cheeseBeing mostly umami, it enhances the taste of whatever you put on it or eat it with – like slices of sweet ripe pear and Morbier cheese.

What was obvious from reading Jeremiah with someone on Monday and 2 Samuel with another last night was that the God of the Bible has never been quite fashionable. Where it has always been easy to control gods with offerings of their favourite food or the sacrifice of virgins, the God of the Bible could not be told what to do; he did not need sacrifices of things he created himself; he had his own mind and he set the rules. While the trend has always been for gods to reward their followers with prosperity, good health, loads of children etc., the God of the Bible has been quite different: his main concern since the beginning of the world has always been that they acknowledge him as God and obey him from their heart and therefore would bring judgement on them if they did not.

Basically, a really God-like God.

So when God’s king David despised God’s word and did evil by taking Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and then killing her husband (2 Samuel 12), God declared he would punish his sin by ensuring that his own wives would be taken by his neighbour and that the sword would never leave his own house. This was fulfilled over a number of years as Absalom kills Amnon for taking Tamar, Absalom tries to depose David and takes his 10 concubines, Joab and gang kill Absalom, fighting between the tribes who would later split into Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 13 – 20).

And a few centuries later, when the tribes had already been split into Israel and Judah, and Israel had already been defeated by the Assyrians because of their disobedience to God, God sent Jeremiah to warn Judah that they would be wiped out by the Babylonians if they did not repent and turn back to God. What God wanted was for his own people to repent from despising him and to acknowledge him as God (Jeremiah 1-6); he was not concerned with cheap victories over other nations just to show who was in control. Because the whole world was his, he did not need to keep a nation intact just to show he had power. (Nor did he need to scrounge around for the dreams of random followers, a la the old gods in Neil Gaiman‘s The Sandman.) Yet, despite his omnipotence, he always wooed his people in such a loving and patient manner, which is more than you can of minor dictators these days.

Now, that is a truly a God.

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Tiong Bahru Bakery. World-building.

May 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Artisan bakeries have followed in the wake of the Third Wave specialty coffee movement. Representing the Kiwis, Dean Brettschneider’s Baker & Cook, with most of the rest being either French (Paul Bakery), French-Japanese (Maison Kayser), Japanese (Pullman Bakery, DONQ Bakery (facebook)), or French-inspired (The French Bakery, plus some German – Nick Vina, plus “old world technique” – The Bread Project (facebook)). Bread recipes seem to take to the Singapore humidity badly, so foreign bakers have had a tough time putting a rise on quality levels.

Regardless, all these new entrants are great for carb-fiends.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

The most recent opening has been Gontran Cherrier’s modestly-named Tiong Bahru Bakery (56 Eng Hoon Street, facebook), another good trend-read by Cynthia Chua and her Spa Esprit Group F&B arm, Food Collective.

Between The Hunger Games (which i had to watch for research purposes – a terrible waste of money and a great disservice to the book(s)) and some messing about with cocktails before meeting The Avengers (why did Tony Stark have the best lines? We loved the silly wisecracks and slapstick so much we kept repeating the one-liners through the night, enough that any mother within earshot would have smacked us), hoofed it to Tiong Bahru for some sustenance.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

The main door would be fantastic for a gongfu movie involving clueless baddies standing too near two-way doors, but generally not so good for clueless innocent bystanders lining up past the Synesso machine. Loads of natural light, big bold flower arrangement, requisite retro furniture (+ tables with sharpened legs), IKEA? wooden bowl lampshades, well-trained friendly staff.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

Even the toilet was note-worthy, gushed the lady at the next table, insisting that we take a look. The blue glass panes and the biscuit tins as bins were a nice touch.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru EstateAs were the bread-shaped namecards (not exclusive to toilet).

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

A good range of breads, viennoiseries, and pastries: olive bread, croissant (plain, chocolate, almond with chocolate), brioche, kouign aman [sic], raisin bun, apple crumble, brownie, tarts, baguette (plain, cereal, curry), squid ink bread, rye and red miso boules.

Bread samples, Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru EstateThe samples at the cashier sold many people on loaves they may never have thought to buy. All crusty (but not hard) with soft flavourful interior.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru EstateDecent foccacia topped with stuff, though there are probably more interesting breads to try.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

Croissant was a winner – crunchy without shattering to little pieces that disappear into your windpipe. Slight butter taste but not lip-balm replacement oily, enhanced by the good butter, Alain Milliat jams and Les Comptoirs de Saint-Malo‘s Caramalo Cafe caramel au beurre salé (oh man!) available on the sideboard.

Criossant Chocolat, Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

The croissant chocolat was similarly crisp with chewy interior and well-placed melted chocolate bits. The almond chocolate croissant was apparently quite standout stuff too.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Kouign Aman. Gontran Cherrier, Tiong Bahru Bakery

Other viennoiserie (“raisin roll”, “kouign aman”) similarly excellent.

Viennoiserie? Gontran Cherrier, Tiong Bahru Bakery Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

Other breads (eg. “Vienna Chocolate”, “Brioche”) were a bit dry on the inside.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

Couldn’t quite appreciate the flan vanilla nor the chocolate mendiant (similar to what one usually expects of confections bearing this name, there’s chocolate and mixed fruit and nuts, but in a tartlet shell).

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate Tiong Bahru Bakery, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Estate

This was not going to be a destination for coffee, but 40 Hands trained the baristas sufficiently that they didn’t ruin a good brunch/lunch/tea.

Unfortunately, my hair was such a mess that the nice lady at the next table politely enquired if i lived nearby.

M. John HarrisonNo idea how M John Harrison, only one of my favourite authors, keeps his long hair quite so neat because on the best of days, i look like Hagrid…on a bad hair day. But of greater interest, Mike’s views on world-building. My quarrel with movie adaptations of books is precisely that in order to bring them into being, word-building is necessary.

In some sense, it would be like the folly of Jorge Luis Borges’ (another favourite) On Exactitude In Science, itself allegedly based on Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, in which there is an empire where the study of cartography is so exact that a map of the empire is the size of the empire, and coincides point for point with it.

So it is also my quarrel with those who dismiss the Bible because it does not contain the world. Yes, it does not even contain information that could be found in an encyclopaedia nor a list of answers to FAQs (like: “If God created everything and knows everything before they happen, then why did he create the serpent?” or “Why did God create us if he knew that he would have to send his Son to die for the sins of the world?”), because that is not its nature. The nature of the Scriptures is that of a message, a rather lengthy note; it tells us the danger we are in and how to be saved from this danger; it is both a warning and an offer.

I would not find issue with a Caution sign or an instruction manual just because they failed to mention the existence of dinosaurs (itself a theory we have come to believe, ironically in this context, as gospel truth!).

Print Gocco in Singapore

March 18, 2012 Leave a comment

A happy afternoon messing around with the Gocco printer. (Monster Gallery‘s session by Joseph Chiang (via BooksActually) came just as i was directed to ask Su Lin of Pupsik Studio about her printer.) The thick smell of ink in an enclosed space and the murmur of people working at art made me a little nostalgic for childhood Saturday afternoons spent learning Chinese brush painting (and a lot of gossip about the Singapore art scene) from a very nice couple, one of whom was eventually awarded the Cultural Medallion, much to our amusement.

Pencils, Print Gocco Micron Pen
Print Gocco Inks, Pencils, Pens Easter Card Design, Print Gocco
Print Gocco Prints

This method of printing is quite simple; it was access to a Gocco printer i really wanted:

1. Draw design with [Micron] pen on a piece of paper.
2. Move over to the printer. Cover the printing pad with a piece of paper.
3. Insert screen (red arrow first) into printer.
4. Insert two new flash bulbs into head.
5. Place design onto paper-covered printing pad.
6. Close lid and press down. The bulbs with expend their lives with a bright flash.
7. The design should have been transferred to the screen.
8. Keep the design on, flip open the plastic film and put a good amount of ink on the screen.
9. Return to the printer, insert the inked screen, place target card on printing pad, press lid to print.
10. Leave prints to dry.

Cleaning the Print Gocco ScreenTo clean screen, scrape off excess ink with a scrap card first, then wipe with a bit of Gocco ink remover, turn it around and wipe other side once with dry tissue. Clean the plastic sheet with wet wipes.

P3172490 P3172489
P3172483 P3172484
P3172487 P3172486
P3172485 P3172488
P3172480 P3172481
P3172482 The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru

After, we moseyed down to The Orange Thimble for our first meal of the day at 5.30pm,

Flat White, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Espresso Con Panna, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
English Breakfast, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Breakfast Roll, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
Avocado and gula melaka shake, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Sandwich, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru

and a chat and/or laugh about typography, the font of Singapore street signs, teaching people to really Look at their surroundings, the relationship between typography and architecture, Simon Garfield’s Just My Type (a book about fonts), cross-cultural communications, and silly interpretations of each other’s prints from the afternoon. (And, apparently i am a one-person peanut gallery.)

Despite the problems in determining culture-specific indications of “no!”, words are still far more effective tools of communication than visuals. The Draw Something app (+ fat fingers on an iPhone not an iPad) wouldn’t have provided so many hours of entertainment if trying to understand what the other person was attempting to communication didn’t involve so much guesswork (sometimes!):

KFC, Draw Something Scotland, Draw Something
Bon Jovi, Draw Something Director, Draw Something
Macarena, Draw Something
Twilight, Draw Something Avengers, Draw Something
Furby, Draw Something Kirby, Draw Something
Dumbo, Draw Something Koopa, Draw Something
Avatar, Draw Something Spinach, Draw Something
Beavis, Draw Something App Adele, Draw Something App
Timeout, Draw Something App Shrek, Draw Something App

And as i was protesting the interpretations imposed on my design by friends (both old and very new), it occurred to me that the Bible featured in my print, taken by them as representing faith or purity, is actually the primary means chosen by God to reveal himself to humans. We are not left with the task of trying to guess at God’s will for us from dodgy visions or shifty dreams (if any); the Bible is accessible to all and tells us clearly our place in this world and how we are to live – we can enjoy our coffee and tea and sweets because they are all good gifts from God, we can love in a way that we were built to love, we know who God is and how to please him. Next time, i should adopt the imagery of Psalm 119:150:

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

More Espressos, Lattes and Chemex Brews in Singapore

August 10, 2011 5 comments

UPDATES:
It Must Be Raining Beans: Even More Specialty Coffee Joints in Singapore
Yet More Interesting Coffee Joints in Singapore
and here

*******

Happened upon a clutch of new coffee places the last few days. When asked by the barista at the first and third if the visits would be on a blog, i thought the photos would merely be available to a Facebook audience and said so. But coming upon 5 places all at once was too noteworthy not to, erm, note.

Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar Menu, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar
60 Robertson Quay, #01-11 The Quayside
Industrial chic* design with white brick walls, hanging light bulbs, concrete laminates for the tables facing the bar, wooden laminates on benches, unique antique-referencing wood-and-wire basket for coffee condiments and an overhead storage space that created cozy seating nook underneath. Well-designed logo. The owners are Darren and Hongyuan but the man behind the counter that day was Vic (Vignesh s/o Surandran) who’d worked at Oriole Cafe and Bar for 4 years and was placed 5th in the Singapore National Barista Championship in 2010.

Giesen Roaster, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
On Tuesdays, they roast in-house on a Giesen roaster that stands next to the entrance.

Mirage, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar Three-group Mirage, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
Behind the counter, a beautiful shiny three-group Mirage Veloce.

Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
The array of coffee and tea paraphernalia for sale included Pullman tampers, Grindenstein knockboxes, VST filter baskets and Rattleware pitchers for the home barista.

Brazil Cup Of Excellence beans, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
In the hoppers, the in-house Thumper espresso blend and Brazil Cup of Excellence Sitio A. Santos do Altemir, leaving the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and Bolivian Familia Mamani Mamani Organic for the Chemex.

ET Artisan Macarons, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar Carrot Cake, Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar
For nibbles, macarons from ET Artisan, carrot cake (looked like it might be from Room With A View) were of usual good standard. 20% off after 9pm.

Broderick's Bar, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
Also available were Broaderick’s bars and Firefly Tonics.

Latte Art, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar Ethiopian Yirgacheffe in Chemex, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
Pouring Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from Chemex, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar Chemex-brewed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar
But back to the coffee: latte art was lovely to behold and well-defined. But the Thumper blend was harsh and caught at the back of the throat. Am not discerning enough to tell if beans were over-roasted or over-extracted. Having had many a Yirg, I wasn’t sure whether the lack of complexity and fragrance was just the Chemex doing its thing. But even with the calming effect of the Chemex filter, the brew was again harsh with bitter aftertaste. Perhaps roasting too dark might have masked any subtle flavours?

They’re probably still de-gassing from their opening a month ago so will return for another taste.

The Broers Cafe
3 Petain Road, Residences@Somme, Singapore 208108
Farrer Park MRT Farrer Park MRT
Well-and-truly hidden under Residences@Somme near Farrer Park MRT,

Petain Road Petain Road
Petain Road Petain Road
Petain Road Petain Road
across the road from the lovely shophouses of Petain Road.

The Broers Cafe, Petain Road, Farrer Park The Broers Cafe, Petain Road, Farrer Park
The Broers Cafe, Petain Road, Farrer Park The Broers Cafe, Petain Road, Farrer Park
The Broers Cafe, Petain Road, Farrer Park The Broers Cafe, Petain Road, Farrer Park
Happened to be passing by and am glad the caffeine antennae were working enough that I did a double-take and went to investigate. Minimalist design. The man on the Vibiemme was Teo Hui Kiat (Kiat). Highlander‘s Supremo Espresso Blend in the latte and Costa Rican Strictly Hard Bean on Chemex.

The Broers Cafe, Petain Road, Farrer Park The Broers Cafe, Petain Road, Farrer Park
The Costa Rican was smooth but not terribly interesting. The latte, though lacking the nice microfoam etching we have come to expect, was an explosion of intense flavours and acidity; the milk was well-done so produced a  pleasant round mouthfeel when combined with the coffee. This was just like how Phil (not the younger barista who now does weak ones during lunch hour) pulled it back in Highlander Coffee. Delicious. When asked about the lack of publicity about the place, Kiat said that they wanted to ensure consistency and quality before calling in the crowds. Good thinking.

The Orange Thimble
Blk 56, 01-68, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
Was on the way to rendezvous with the rojak of my dreams when I saw this:
The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru

National Day, Tiong Bahru National Day, Tiong Bahru
Naturally, it was necessary to return on National Day.

The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
Chairs and egg crate protectors, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
Befitting the whole yuppie-expat retro chic* of Tiong Bahru (where old flats with only 3 – 4 decades left to their land lease go for more than S$1,000,000), the raw concrete floor was complemented by the folding door and grills (preserved even though those things are a pain to open and close), an eclectic collection of chairs and stools, old timey crockery, Coca Cola in glass bottles, retro-looking cakes and prominently, on the shopfront table, Homespun‘s Taxi Lamp,

Drinks Menu, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
but updated with Melbourne cafe scene sensibility with the drinks menu on a large blackboard and a range of quiches, breads and sandwiches,

Beeping System, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
and a beeping device that lets you know when your order is ready for collection.

The Orange Thimble is certainly not an artisanal coffee joint (“What beans do you use?” “Uh, beans? Oh, Brazil.”) and does not market itself as such. Instead, opened by the same folk from White Canvas Gallery nearby, they say The Orange Thimble is where “art meets cafe”:

A corner for creativity fuelled by passion and espressos. It’s a slot between the walls for thinkers, believers, individuals, travellers and neighbours. It’s simple earnest food created by those people who grew up running and ducking through these very streets and alleys of Tiong Bahru. A place dedicated to ideals of honest neighbourhood living supporting the creative community.

Other than the art hanging on the wall, not sure what they have planned for the creativity side of things. (If indeed the designation of spaces for creativity is not antithetical to the concept of creativity.)

Spinach and Tomato Quiche, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
Cakes, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru Rapshody, Raspberry and Cream Cheese Cake, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
But food is certainly well done there – at least the spinach and tomato quiche and (no not the hyped-to-death red velvet) the Rasphody (raspberry and cream cheese) cake. Overheard several orders for the BBC (bacon brie cranberry).

Latte, The Orange Thimble, Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru

For a cafe that isn’t enthusiastic on discussing coffee, it does a very well-balanced cup indeed. Lattes are single shot unless you ask for a double. You can eyeball the three-group La Marzocco GB/5 and Mazzer Elettronico when ordering at the counter.

Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences
Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences Jimmy Monkey overlooking cafe, Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences
Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar
9 One-North Gateway, #01-51 One-North Residences, Singapore 138643

Toilet, Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences
Dripping-edge industrial chic*. At least there’s still toilet paper.

Jimmy Monkey overlooking cafe, Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences
When asked, cautiously, if the lattes would have two shots in it, owner/barista Michael Ryan exclaimed,”Of course!” and said to trust him to do good coffee because he was from Melbourne and knew about good coffee. The marketing literature went along the same line describing the cafe as “arguably Singapore’s coolest third wave coffee destination. Come for the ultimate coffee experience.” Did The Slayer deliver?

Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences The Slayer espresso machine, Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences
The house blend was roasted in situ on a Giesen and intriguingly comprised solely of Central American beans: 20% Costa Rica, 80% blend of Guatemala Antigua and Guatemala Las Minas – reminiscent of Square Mile’s Summer Espresso, though not entirely alike of course.

Latte, Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences Espresso, Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences
In the espresso, sweet, citrus, almost bracingly lively (that’s the Antigua, said Mike) yet rich, velvety. Unexpectedly enjoyable in milk as well – testament to the skill of the barista for getting it just right. Jimmy Monkey’s chief employee can be counted on for a coffee conversation even if he looks really tired. Has cunning plans for a brew bar.

Smoked salmon spaghetti aglio olio, Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences Triple Chocolate Muffin, Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar, One-North Residences
Food from equally bushed-looking chef very decent indeed.

Coffeesmith Singapore
62 Collyer Quay #02-11, Singapore, Singapore 049325
CoffeeSmith Latte, Coffeesmith
Lemon Raspberry Friand, CoffeeSmith Best ever banana bread, CoffeeSmith
Double shots of Papa P’s Terra Firma blend delicious with inhouse lemon raspberry friands and slices of their best ever banana bread.

It’s fantastic that indie espresso fix-me-ups are blooming, and that the analogue coffee brewing scene in Singapore is certainly on the boil. Just last year, there wasn’t a Chemex to be had in Singapore and i had to have one specially imported via a coffee crack dealer. A few months later, there are suddenly loads more people to talk to about pulling and brewing and all sorts of coffee geekery.

None were quite as evangelistic as Mel and Chloe from The Steeping Room. But whereas TSR was about educating people about coffee, perhaps cafes have different aims. Still, the inability to observe the process of coffee filtered through a Chemex really deprives the customer a great chunk of the experience.

Other newcomers that have had some press are:
Jewel Coffee – La Marzocco Strada, Uberboiler and brew bar
Blackbird Cafe
Group Therapy Coffee

In the pipeline is 93 degreesC Coffee at 16 Morse Road No. 207 (edit: and also Toby’s Estate in Robertson Quay, says Business Times).

Consistently enjoyed the coffee at these places:
Highlander Coffee (if Phil is pulling)
Papa Palheta / Loysel’s Toy
Oriole Cafe & Bar – competition cups are very interesting indeed, especially Citrus Sin
The Plain – Graffeo beans
Viking Coffee – low profile but consistently good cuppa from the La Cimbali
The Pigeonhole – suspect it’s the novelty of a brown latte made with chocolate milk. Anyway, it’s more interested in being a “dynamic arts space”.
Espressoul – competition judge Danny Pang’s place

Found the following not quite to taste**:
Black (both the Hitachi and TripleOne branches) – apparently they get their beans from Highlander but since I’ve had good espressos from Highlander blends, the bitterness suggests something didn’t work out in the process. Fairly similar reviews on beanhunter.
EDIT: this chap at TripleOne does a very decent cup. But this isn’t his normal gig.
Black Coffee, TripleOne Somerset Black Coffee, TripleOne Somerset
Latte, Black Coffee, TripleOne Somerset Latte, Black Coffee, TripleOne Somerset

Joe & Doughthe one at Hitachi is usually underextracted but Terence at Suntec does a good cup
EDIT: this guy at Hitachi Tower also produced a very balanced cup indeed (and i’m not talking about the lovely triple rosetta pour art) with what tastes like Highlander’s blend
Joe & Dough, Hitachi Tower Latte, Joe & Dough, Hitachi Tower

Forty Hands – the cups i’ve had there were bitter and harsh but they weren’t pulled by Harry Grover. Reviews on beanhunter suggest inconsistency.
The House of Robert Timms – weekend afternoon: flat, bitter, harsh
Dimbulah – lunchtime rush hour: harsh
Cuppachoice – weekday lunchtime: harsh and barely lukewarm. Not pulled by Suhaimie though.
Kith Café – bitter, harsh but very friendly folk

*on the assumption that if one tags on “chic” to the end of every string of adjectives, one might be able to communicate some sort of pandering to contemporary concept of fashion, which in the present means Old School neo-traditionalism and raw-ness

**hey, that’s just my personal preference and experience. Maybe my poison is your meat. Maybe it is, as one barista did,”Harsh? That’s just how coffee tastes, you know.”

Here is my beef with the infiltration of postmodern thought into daily life: Is it really solely a matter of personal subjective taste? Is there no such thing as good and bad coffee?

Ignoring the different visions of cafe operators (and hence their relative friendliness and enthusiasm for beans) and concentrating solely on the taste of the coffee, and assuming the sort of coffee one gets from a particular place is always consistent (it is not but that is irrelevant to this part of the exercise), the presence of concurring reviews suggest that there is some common experience of how coffee molecules are perceived by the tongue. If the vast majority of the population would consider bitter and harsh stuff to be unpleasant (distinguishable from coffee that is pleasurably strong or intense; meaning bitterness in a way that is a burnt bitter as opposed to natural bitterness; harshness similar to the nastiness of a smoke made of improperly cured tobacco not in a general manner of “heatiness”), and if certain actions in roasting, grinding, tamping and pulling produce a cup that tastes like that to most people, then:

  • there can be such concepts as over-roasting or over-extracting,
  • there can be such a thing as good and bad coffee
  • there can be objective standards of right and wrong ways of preparing coffee

There is such a thing as truth.

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