High Spirits

Four wines were sampled in event
In English literature class, I studied, “Inebriety” a poem by George Crabbe published in 1775.  This poem often came to mind this month because I had several intoxicating indulgences in November. 

My exhilaration was not only from tasting various alcoholic drinks and delicacies but also from discovering EightLido, a wine bar believed to be JB’s coolest chill-out spot.  My visit to JB’s “poor man’s pub” was the ultimate but when I saw how my published articles were displayed in two restaurants, it hit me with an all-new high!

The month started with a French wine appreciation event with a women’s association, presented in the theme: “How simple can French wine get?” and hosted by Sylviane Siah.  Applying the “Five Steps of Wine Tasting”, I joined the ladies to See, Swirl, Smell, Sip and Savour two white wines and two red wines in a Chinese restaurant. 

A jug of fresh toddy at JB's toddy shop
Over lunch, I learnt how fresh and lively white wines can be perfectly paired with seafood while crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blanc are an ideal match with food like fish, chicken and beancurd.  On the other hand, red wines are great with grilled meat, poultry, cheese and even a salad.  I also learnt the ideal serving temperature of each wine but as a rule of thumb, the lighter the wine, the colder it should be served!

One sophisticated and sensual experience led to another, albeit less sophisticated but yet equally sensational time at a place that I had long planned to go but failed to do so until now.  Each time I passed that way, I was intrigued by the old building and longed to step inside to get the story about JB’s Government licensed toddy shop.  One day when Vincent D’Silva and I met for breakfast, I asked if he would be my translator at “the poor man’s pub.”  He agreed and we finally fixed a date to go the following week. 

Tasty tapai ubi at Pasar Rabu, Ayer Hitam

When Vincent and I walked into the toddy shop, the regulars there were understandably curious but as Vincent did the introductions in their language and explained my purpose, I noticed how everyone, especially the “bartender” visibly relaxed and happily cooperated with us. 

Suresh, the bartender/manager gave us a guided tour of the building that was opened for business since the 1920’s.  He gave a demo of the preparation and serving of toddy and besides pouring me shot to sample, he also helped to fix an appointment for me to meet the proprietor later. 

So when I walked into the shop again to meet him, I may still look odd among the regulars but I sensed that they were quite comfortable with me there!

Pear poached in Raspberry and Red Wine
at Barney's, Kluang
Next Wednesday, I was up at the crack of dawn to go to the Pasar Rabu in Ayer Hitam.  I was advised to have an early start to enjoy the cooler weather because it could get quite hot later in the morning. 

This colourful wholesale market was stocked mostly with bulk packs of various items of apparel and fabrics but there were still many interesting items to buy at bargain prices.  My shopper friend, Emily, assured me that I should find some super bargains there and I sure did!

While browsing around, we spotted a vendor selling packets of tapai ubi from the back of his motorcycle.  There were only a few packets left and this was proof that his recipe of homemade fermented tapioca is so good that they were fast selling out!  It was quite telepathic for us because Emily and I didn’t need much persuasion to decide and the vendor watched with amusement as we opened the wrapping made of banana leaves, to devour the tapai right there!  And yes, we remembered to pay him!

Real Rum 'n Raisin ice-cream spiked with sake
at Sushi Monzta
From Ayer Hitam, we made our way to Barney’s in Kluang just in time for lunch.  Barnabas Lim, the chef-entrepreneur better known as Barney, did not hesitate to whip up several of his specialties – not yet on the menu – for us to enjoy.  I must say the fresh watercress salad tossed with orange wedges, drizzled in piquant orange juice was just perfect after an exciting exercise like market shopping!

After tucking into a delightful meal, we still managed to polish off tiramisu and chocolate cake washed down with some lovely Lavender Grey designer tea. 

I thought we were done for the meal but Barney presented us with the piece de resistance, pear poached in raspberry and red wine with a side of vanilla custard cream, made with real vanilla!  Interestingly, I still found some space to do justice to this special treat.  Mmm…

Inside cover of menu at Ke Ren Lai
A few days later, I met a friend to celebrate her birthday at Sushi Monzta.  In addition to a sumptuous Japanese meal, the proprietors – friends of ours – were so kind to serve us a special sushi as a birthday treat: lightly baked salmon sushi rolled in mashed potato! 

As always, I needn’t place my order for dessert here because they know how I love their real rum ‘n raisin ice-cream, which for me, is specially spiked with sake!

As my food reviews are published, I know that many merchants choose to frame the articles for display in their restaurants or cafés.  The other day when my sister and I were feeling peckish, we popped into Ke Ren Lai at Sutera Mall and I was delighted to see my article framed as a poster on the wall.  This didn’t prepare me for what I was about to see. 

When I opened the menu, I was pleasantly surprised to spot my published piece printed with the design on the inside front cover!  I thought it was a clever way to let diners have a quick read to help them decide on what to order!

Natalie Ngu with that banner on the wall
at Yon Lai restaurant!
Since my “Wow Pau!” piece was published, I have not been back to that restaurant.  So last week when George Loong invited me for breakfast at Yon Lai, I happily accepted. 

After we sat down, I looked around and had a shock because instead of just a discreetly framed piece on the wall, I saw my article re-produced as a banner!  Natalie Ngu, the proprietress, said she kept a framed article at home but a friend made this banner for her.  And there it remains, hung up rather awkwardly in that corner coffeeshop in Kulaijaya!  

From good times to great food and giant posters, it’s been a rather amazing month – with more “highs” than usual – and while I anticipate more interesting happenings, I’m also bracing myself to expect the unexpected!


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