August 03, 2017

Perth is OK

Every year, I take a sort of home-coming trip to Perth with my mother, as a break in the middle of the year from work and a girls' trip. 

This year I told myself I would commemorate it with a blog post I could look back on next year, to remind myself to visit again. If not for the food, then for the friends I still have there, and the memories I keep safely in Perth's winter air and rain. I am not a tourist when I am in Perth - I am simply back home. 

We also got a great deal on our flights this year too, with my very clever mother using her mileage points to swap us a pair of two-way Business class seats on Singapore Airlines; our nation's pride and joy in the sky. Since it was a new(er) plane, we made full use of the Book the Cook function to order us the most Asian of all breakfasts - the Nasi Lemak. 

It's difficult to avoid coffee in most parts of Australia, and Perth is no different in terms of cafe culture. Visiting in the winter meant more opportunities for me and my mother to take a breather in the fresh air over a fresh cup - you will find plenty of nooks and crannies for this purpose, like Eillo, a clever shop which also serves bites and drinks. 

They also serve their coffees with a Hello Panda cookie which is adorable. 


218 William Street, Northbridge 
Mon - Fri, 730AM to 6PM 
Sat - Sun, 8AM to 5PM 
420 757 321 

Big breakfast from Cioccolato Espresso, a favourite (and repeated) haunt of ours in the cool district of Applecross. Anything you might need or never knew you needed from a breakfast plate, from thick bacon, charred tomatoes to house stewed beans on toast.

They also serve lunch and desserts, all of which I guarantee you, there will be no guilt in consuming. I particularly love their bottle of lemon and ginger tonic, which was very effective in relieving my holiday-flu symptoms.

Cioccolato Espresso:

31 Ardross Street, Applecross
Mon - Fri, 630AM to 4PM
Sat - Sun, 7AM to 4PM
8 9364 2299

Lavender Bistro is a new find for us, and while we didn't stay for lunch, we dropped in for a lavender shop over some tea and a delicious scoop of lavender ice cream.

I recommend this if you ever decide to visit Swan Valley for a short road trip, it's exceptionally lovely for those who enjoy the aromatherapy of lavender flowers over high tea or a purple themed meal. They actively try to incorporate lavender into their ingredients, so it's worth a try.

Lavender Bistro: 

6 Cranleigh Street, West Swan 
Mon - Sun, 9AM to 5PM
8 9250 7711 

If you have nothing to do late in the night and crave for sweets, Greens & Co is the place to drive to - You won't miss it - they have a beautifully large space decked out in bright lanterns and decorated walls, and a fridge stuffed full of beautiful cakes which change daily. Ironically, my favourite is the lime tart. 

Leederville is also an amazing place to visit for independent shops, whether day or night. 

Greens & Co: 

123 Oxford Street, Leederville 
Mon - Sun, 6AM to 12AM
8 9444 4093 

Ciao Italia's famously generous servings of Italian grub, from pastas to pizzas and everything in between. I only ever have the Rigatoni alla Buongustaia, tubes of pasta tossed with mushrooms, peas and italian sausage in a perfect pink sauce of tomato and cream. Perfect, on point, and delicious with every visit I am here - if you're not impressed by the food, you will be impressed by the 100% consistency in every plate that comes out the kitchen.

Wash it all down with a steel bowl of cozze pomodoro, or the better known Chilli Mussels, fragrantly spiced with garlic tomatoes in a sort of stew-soup seafood broth, steaming open unctuously fat mussels.

Ciao Italia: 

273 Millpoint Road, South Perth (corner of Douglas Avenue)
Tues - Sat, 5 to 10PM
9368 5500

39/88 Broadway, Nedlands (Corner of Caporn Street)
Tues - Sat, 5 to 930PM
9389 6689

For more, read my post here.

The rest are pretty much miscellaneous photos, all of which will be a treat to try out.

Jus Burgers: 

743 Newcastle Street, Leederville 
Mon - Sun, 1130AM to 9PM
8 9228 2230 

Recommended items: House-made onion rings, Pommy Burger, Cheeserburger Royale, Buttermilk Fried Chicken Burger.

Seoul Buffet Korean BBQ & Steamboat: 

253A William Street, Northbridge 
Mon - Sun, 6 to 10PM 
8 9328 2398 

For more, read my post here.

The Cool Room: 

2/114 Holland Street, Fremantle
Thurs - Sun, 8AM to 3PM
422 039 482

Recommended items: Nutmeg spinach with goats cheese, Big Brekky, Cauliflower soup.

Ending it off with a not-for-sale item, our daily in-house breakfast, full of the good stuff Australia is best known for. Fresh fruits, yoghurt, good coffee, organic juices.

Questions? Protests? Mindless banter? Comment away!

May 08, 2017

Anxiety, More Like An-sigh-ity. (TW: self mutilation, anxiety, unhealthy coping mechanisms)

I like the stupid title - puns are funny. 

I have anxiety. Let's just get that out in the open in case anyone has difficulty reading past the first few lines of anything. 

We talk about it a lot nowadays but I don't know when exactly I realised I had it. I only remember, very clearly, the feeling of everything suddenly just making sense - it was a very strange mix of happiness and trepidation. Knowing I diagnosed myself was what made me question it; we believe in medicine and psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors so much, we question our own ability to say for ourselves, we don't feel this is normal for our minds, or our bodies. I'm not saying we don't need them, I'm saying it's ok to listen to your own body once in a while and know when to take a break.

Anxious Men, by Rashid Johnson

Let's break it down. 

  • I'm anxious about speaking to strangers, whether its work, or just ordering food or social events.
  • I'm anxious with speaking in public to a large forum. 
  • I'm anxious when faced with change. 
  • I'm anxious about merging in heavy traffic, or travelling in any form of transport.
  • Anxiety is the voice that says to me, 'you're boring this person and they are going to spend the rest of their life avoiding you so they don't ever have to speak to you again. Who's irrelevant? You! Ding ding ding.' It's what makes me talk loud then pull back into not speaking at all. I practice what I'm going to order while I'm in line, so it doesn't hiccup when it's actually my turn to order food. I avoid eye contact and study hands and shoes and blank spaces between a person's eyebrows to stop myself from rambling on.
  • Anxiety is the crushing panic that shows me how many people here it would take to actually crush me alive - it's what makes me get to the venue half an hour early to check where all the washrooms and exits are. 
  • Anxiety is what pulls me back, mumbling quietly that change is not good - it won't help me get away from it. It keeps me awake at night, pushing my brain and muscle tension into overdrive until I get to my dog, feeling the warmth of his fur and mimicking his breathing patterns to stop my heart from pounding out of my eyeballs. 
  • Anxiety is my minds' eye imagining me causing a traffic collision; i won't die, but everyone else will be killed and I will live with it for the rest of my life. It's why I constantly research my seating plans on my booked flights -  if the plane crashes I will die on impact and not suffer for two hours until the plane explodes. 

Do you see the difference? Sometimes I think speaking about it never helps because I see the incredulous expression that people have when they actually hear me tell them this. It's the same expression they have towards people who preach that the world is ending on the streets while wearing an adult diaper with a placard sticking out their bum proclaiming the apocalypse. Not fun. 

I didn't write this for the sympathetic vote - i just felt that it's something people need to be aware of. Don't dismiss someone as just being shy, or antisocial or unfriendly. Everyone has issues they have to deal with - some are better, some are worse. We can't judge, we can only try our best to help or leave them alone to heal on their own terms. 

We never question it; we never say, 'Are you sure you had a bad day, or was it just all in your head?', or 'I think you thought you had a bad day but you're just being too sensitive.' 

If you've ever said that to another person in your lifetime I hope you got slapped with a spade. 

(If you created this image, please let me know and I will credit you or remove it.)

The Japanese have a beautiful word for putting broken things (pottery) together again, often with gold lacquer, called Kintsugi

The ability to do this requires the mind to be detached from clinging to the ideal visualisations of what is perfect. That we can create our idea of beauty or loveliness from even broken things; being imperfect is a human condition that we have to accept. 

I don't know how to fix myself. I find that doing hot yoga helps me, because I focus on that intense heat and trying not to fart in classes. Having a cute-as-hell dog helps, especially when he's not against the prospect of me resting my head on his chest to hear his heartbeat and steal his warmth. I often read and write as I am now to you, whoever you are who is reading this. My family distracts me from my anxiousness by not really getting it so they deflect by feeding me or buying me shiny things or being complete goofballs. I draw sometimes but I stop when I feel angry at myself for not getting it right. I shop sometimes, but money is hard to come by. 

It's not easy. I sometimes smoke to calm my breathing down. The smoke opens up my air ways and buzzes me into a calmed state, tingling my fingers and gives me a sense of quiet I cannot have anywhere else. I can't drink, because the effects of alcohol mimic the panic attacks, so I smoke. I used to go through a pack a day six years ago - and now, it's gone down to one almost every other month.

I used to hurt myself. If this triggers you, know that it never helped me. If anything, giving myself cuts made it worse. I was terrified of showing my arms and it only peaked my anxiety about being out in public. It's been seven years since I last self mutilated, and it is still a battle for me to fight the urge. I don't even keep paper cutters in my office cubicle or my room for this purpose. I have trichotillomania, where I obsessively pull out my hair, strand by strand. I even have bald spots when I was young, where I removed all my eyebrows, and patches on my head.

Marc Johns
If you've made it this far down this whole post, I just want you to know it will suck. It will be okay some days, worse on others, great even on occasion. Frustration will build, but it always gets worse before it gets better. Do something you love, create a routine of knowing what to do for yourself in high-stress situations, as long as it causes you no physical or mental harm. There's a difference between self-medication and self-healing. We can't expect everyone to get it, because I think sometimes even we don't get it ourselves. 

If I had to give you any pointers, it'd be that if you ever feel like you're about to lose it, just look around you and list down all the things you can see. Tell yourself where you are at that moment, your exact location, and the items around you will create an effect of rooting you to the present moment without your brain going too fast for your body to keep up. 

Before this gets any weirder or more cumbersome, i want to thank you for being with me. We are always busy and always thinking of whats next, what happened, what's coming up, we don't engage in just being here. So thank you, if you read this whole kerfuffle. You're not alone, and neither am I. Have a nugget, bask in the sunshine, and let's try again, try harder, or just not try - it's all good, at the end of the day. 

I love you. 

May 08, 2016

Food Review: Jamie's Italian (Forum)

Read my first, and second review of Jamie's Italian here!

It's entirely possible that I have a problem when it comes to Mr James Trevor Oliver. 

This post is also a great way to celebrate Mothers' Day, with my parents and some of our close friends. My parents share a good relationship with not just me, but also my close friends, so it is normal for us to sit together and have meals or catch up. We actually do a Christmas and Chinese New Year meal annually as a group, so it makes sense for me to celebrate Mothers' Day, or most birthdays, or anniversaries, or random visits to each others' homes... 

Before I prattle on, here's my third review of Jamie's Italian, but this time, on home soil, at its Forum outlet. 

How could you not be happy, being welcomed by these very purposefully rustic, aged wooden walls and those fluorescent lights, or those enamel merchandise sitting at the window. It's a hive of Italian home decor, clay dishes and yellow lightbulbs.

In preparation for the weekend crowd, I made my reservation on Chope for my group of six online, and was seated at a round table in a private corner. The only issue for me about this was that I was seated in front of what I could only imagine is the pizza section, where it radiated a fair amount of heat against my back. 

It wasn't too bad, but I had to ensure my mother (who gets warm very easily) was sitting as far away from this area of the table as possible. We got seated, menus passed around, tables set, Bloody Marys', Refreshers, soft drinks and iced waters ordered as I set about ordering for our lunch ahead. 

We kicked off with some antipasti starters, of Crispy Squid ($12), Ultimate Garlic Bread ($9) and Italian Nachos ($8.95).

Two of the three starters were a little underwhelming, the squid was lovely, a little on the tough side, but crispy enough as per their name, sprinkled with chilli and crispy garlic bits. The Italian Nachos were confusing to me, since the ones we were served had no stuffing in them, and were not crispy at all. In fact, they were on the other end of being crispy, just soft and chewy, dipped in their zingy tomato sauce. 

Oh but that garlic bread.

Soft buttermilk buns, similar to those little square loaves of hotel breakfast rows - except these buns are glazed and baked to a golden brown top, and absolutely stuffed with a herbed butter, heavy on rosemary, bits of garlic and salt. 

Pulled apart they are steaming soft inside, deliciously pale and soaked in a fragrant butter garlic with just a touch of crustiness at the edges, and topped with a sprinkled heap of toasted rosemary and golden garlic strips. 

I also got two antipasti planks to share, one cured meats and the other with seasonal vegetables. If anything, the planks are a signature sharing plate (or, well, plank) for anyone dining at Jamie's Italian, and depending on the amount of people on the table, you could change the variation accordingly - I ordered up three servings of each. 

The Seasonal Vegetable plank ($14.50 per person) consists of sliced, chargrilled and marinated vegetables like aubergine, peppers and chillies, in a garlic and herb oil, served with sections of crostini topped with whipped ricotta, thin sesame seeded cracker-bread topped with roasted pumpkin, little lumps of buffalo mozzarella. 

The Cured Meats plank ($16.50 per person) consists of ribbons of San Daniele prosciutto, pistachio mortadella, bresaola and hot soppressata, with the same little buffalo mozzarella, aged pecorino cheese on music bread topped with chilli jam. 

Both planks also come with a heaped bowl of rainbow coleslaw, and a selection of lovely pickles and olives. 

There's very little to describe about these planks that I have not said before - but what I can tell you, is that the quality and presentation of these antipasti sharing planks are exactly the same from when I dined in the Perth outlet the last two times. 

I have my favourites, of course, the buffalo mozzarella, the chilli jam, pecorino cheese on music bread, and especially the ability to combine the different types of cured meats onto different types of cheeses, olives, pickles and breads to have varying taste results. I may be wrong, but I think that's the entire point of these antipasti planks - that you can switch it up, and see what results you get out of your favourite Italian combinations. 

Just looking at the cured meats makes me so happy - I've never been a big lover of cured meats, since they are often too salty for me, but these strips and folds of lovely cured meats just work so well on crusty breads and velvety whipped ricotta. You get a spicier kick out of the oilier soppressata, or a marbled prosciutto with a depth of sweet and savoury, roll them under some nutty cheese on a slab of bread, and you've got a winner. 

I also really the slight oiliness of the crunchy shallots, the sour-spicy chilli pickles, and the good old rainbow coleslaw from the vegetable plank, but too much of this would no doubt have left a greasiness on my palate. 

My dad is a big eater, and hungry since our lunch was later than usual - so we got him the Jamie's Italian Burger ($29.50) with a side of Funky Chips ($4). My father was very much in love with this enormous burger, and he was entirely silent through his process of scarfing this down. 

Look at this beauty - piled high with a dripping juicy beef patty, some pancetta, sweet balsamic onions, tomatoes, sharp provolone cheese, pickles and chillies. We did not have one bit of this burger since my dad finished it in about 15 minutes. If you can get my father to not want to share, or be this quiet, your food is already a success in my books. 

Pasta - that is one of my favourite things in the world to have. Especially at Jamie's Italian, where the noodles are made fresh for your pasta choice. 

I ordered up three plates - Tagliatelle Bolognese ($26.50), Penne Carbonara ($24) and Fresh Crab Spaghetti ($26.50). I also got a pizza, cheekily called the Gennaro's Italian Sausage ($24.50)

The world and its people can promise you many things and never fulfil them, but I can definitely swear -- on my never ending appetite for pasta -- that you will never be disappointed by the pasta dishes at Jamie's Italian. Big on flavour and big on texture as well, so, so good. 

Speaking of big, I am also very big on the staple tomato-based Bolognese, and the dish at Jamie's is a winner, this comforting recipe from his mentor Gennaro - a stew of pork and beef and topped up with crispy herbed breadcrumbs and parmesan. It's almost a ragu, sticky-savoury on the silky egg tagliatelle and just so lovely from start to finish - it remains one of my all-time faves. 

Carbonara is a hot favourite with our group, with sweet, soft leeks and crispy pancetta with a traditional, creamy, buttery carbonara sauce with tubes of penne. Lemony and indulgent with absolutely no residual greasiness from the sauce, it can get on the heavy side especially after a significant amount of starters. 

What was new on the table for us on this meal, was the Fresh Crab Spaghetti - which I decided to order so our lunch would have three different variations of pasta. This was a clean and fresh plate of goodness, the sauce barely a hint of oiliness despite a visible sheen coating the lovely spaghetti, sweet crab meat with garlic, spicy kick of chillies, punch of salt from the anchovies and capers. 

Generally speaking, I'm not a big pizza eater when I have pasta on the table, but I can tell you the leftovers we brought home are no longer in the refrigerator anymore. 

It'd be difficult to find any faults with a crispy, freshly-made pizza with a Bianco (white) base of bechamel sauce, Italian sausage filling, crispy rosemary, sweet piles of balsamic onions, and black olives. I hate eating olives in any form, but they are there on the pizza for a reason, so if you, like me, don't prefer these ebony pitted monsters, order up a standard tomato basil (I had my heart set on that, but the name of this pizza made it impossible for me to ignore). 

You'd think dessert was a far away dream after all this food, but post-meal sweets are never off the table when I have six of us together in a place like Jamie's Italian. 

Two desserts were requested, Amalfi Lemon Meringue Cheesecake ($13) and Vin Santo Tiramisu ($11.50)

Both of which we have had in some variation before in Perth as well. While we have a lemon meringue tart in Perth's outlet, the tiramisu is the same - just a smaller slice. The cheesecake, like its namesake, was a creamy slice of lemon curd and tart blackcurrent sauce, which would be quite tangy on its own, but paired with the barely charred meringue and the sweet cheesecake - it's a treat. It was not cloying at all, almost refreshing for a cheesecake. 

The Vin Santo Tiramisu, as I mentioned, tastes the same to its variation in Perth, and this Italian dessert is just perfection on its little clay dish. Deep, bittersweet cocoa, creamy-light souffle of a tiramisu with a hint of orange and coffee liquer darkness. It's almost a complete opposite to the cheesecake in terms of the flavour palate, but this was a personal favourite between the two desserts ordered. 

Service, as always, is busy and very friendly, so as long as you've got yourself a booking, you'll most definitely be set with a lovely meal regardless of whether it's a long lunch, or a relaxed dinner. I spoke fondly of my experiences in Perth with the maitre d, and also had a short conversation with one of the chefs - who'd met the man himself and told me what we see on television, is 100% how he is when he is face-to-face with you (The man is also not as short as he appears on the telly). 

So, with that extremely filling, and lovely meal, here's to all the mothers in the world, and especially mine, from whom this blog would not even have its name. 

Jamie's Italian can be located at:

Forum, Orchard Road
583 Orchard Road #01-04
Singapore 238884
Tel: 65 6655 7676

Sunday to Thursday
1130AM to 10PM

Friday to Saturdays
1130AM to 11PM