Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Skyfall 007

I may be alone in thinking this, but I was honestly disappointed in the latest Bond movie - Skyfall. 

Compared to the previous two Daniel Craig outings as James Bond (Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace), there was a lot more drama and less action in this one. The reason is because the plot was centred on M (Judi Dench) for reasons I can't completely tell you. 

But for nostalgic reasons, there was a lot of M and less of Bond, a lot of drama and less of action. And again because of M, there was less emphasis on the three most important reasons why I watch Bond :

1) Less action - as I said above

2) Fewer gadgets

3) Fewer Bond ladies - my biggest disappointment

Honestly, the only reason why I like Daniel Craig is that even though he's about as ugly as a bricklayer, he does action sequences extremely well - better than Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan. The dude is a pure action hero, but here we don't get to see him in what he does best - as an action hero running, leaping, kicking, shooting, beating up the bad dudes.

So yes, apart from the theme song sang by Adele, which i found pretty good, I do not like Skyfall. I think it should be retitled "Skyfail". Skyfall hits the big screen in Singapore on 1 November 2012, whether to watch or not - you decide. 

This was an invited media screening.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Loysel's Toy

Tucked all the way at the end of Kampong Bugis, just beside Kallang River, you'll find Loysel's Toy. I figured you will pretty much need to have your own transport (or take a cab) if you are thinking of dropping by because the walk in from the main road seems to be a bit long, and it does not help with Singapore's humid weather.

With very little seating capacity in the inside, we had no choice but to find a seat outside. I must say however, i am very glad they have enough (powerful) fans to keep you away from the heat, which was a plus point since no one wants to be sweating while having a cup of good coffee, or a meal.

Having hot coffee on a warm day didn't seem like a perfect idea for me so i went for the Ice Mocha, which i really liked. It was not too sweet, the coffee was aromatic and had the right consistency despite it being served with ice. You know, some places serve you diluted coffee when you ask for ice coffee. The hot Latte, served with a cookie by the side, was also good. I am quite assured that they serve good coffee here.

The Big L's Breakfast serves ciabatta bread, sausages, bacon, poached or scrambled eggs, sauteed mushrooms and fresh greens. There was nothing much to complain about this, except that the poached eggs were overcooked. I suspect they put their eggs into cling wraps before poaching it, hence the very nice round shape, which could also be the cause of it being overcooked. I wanted to try their pancakes as well, but was told that they only serve pancakes on weekends.

Thankfully, the French Apple Cake made up for it. With chunks of apples in the moist cake, it definitely complimented the coffee and ended the meal off on the correct note.

I'm not sure about the food at Loysel's Toy (or it could just be that they don't poach eggs well), but i am certain i'll be back for the coffee. After all, i am sure they are called "The Coffee Crafters" for a reason.

Loysel's Toy
66 Kampong Bugis, #01-02
Singapore 338987
+65 6292 2306

Friday, October 26, 2012

Swirls Bake Shop

When i first chanced upon Swirls Bake Shop on Twitter, i knew i definitely had to check them out some day. I just didn't expect that "some day" to come so quickly. This humble shop stashed at Rodyk Street (just under 8 Rodyk Residences) serves cupcakes. I had a hard time trying to find parking nearby because there isn't any public parking available on Rodyk Street. I ended up parking illegally on the side of a quiet road (the things i will do for cupcakes). By the way, there is parking along Mohamed Sultan Road if you can parallel park, or you can choose to park at Studio M Hotel or Gallery Hotel.

They have quite a range of cupcakes to choose from. Apart from the mainstream red velvet and chocolate cupcakes, you'll find flavors like carrot and coconut, which i found pretty uncommon.

I was told that the flavor of the day was Nutty Coconut, which is coconut cupcake with smooth coconut frosting sprinkled with desiccated coconut. I couldn't resist trying it after looking at the generous amount of freshly fine grated coconut on the cupcake. Just like how cupcakes should be, it was moist and not too dense for my liking. It was however, a bit too sweet.

And because Swirls Bake Shop claim they are an "all-American cupcake bakery", i couldn't help but pick out What's up Doc as well. This carrot cupcake with crushed pineapples and cream cheese frosting was heaven on earth. And before you go on thinking i am exaggerating, i want to explain my point. The cupcake was moist (like how all their cupcakes i tried were) and they do not stinge on the ingredients (carrots). The cream cheese frosting was the right texture as well, hence i really couldn't find any fault with this cupcake at all.

I initially wanted to try the Red Velvet but was told they ran out of the regular sized ones. Knowing two cupcakes will never be enough, i dived in for the Strawberry Burst, which was white chocolate and fresh strawberry cupcake with strawberry and cream cheese frosting. Again, it did not disappoint and the little cupcake sitting only a plate looking so elegant was wiped out within five minutes.

Upon leaving the shop, i glanced through their open concept kitchen a few Red Velvet cupcakes sitting on a tray. I initally thought they were freshly baked so i asked if i could order one. I was told by the owner (which i believe is also the person behind these ingenious yummy cupcakes) that those Red Velvets were rejects and did not pass her "quality control" hence she wouldn't sell them. I really liked how honest she was about it rather than offering to sell the cupcakes knowing it would probably sell.

All in all, the cupcakes from Swirls Bake Shop beat the ones that are opened by a former radio deejay and his wife (we all know who). I'll gladly come back to try their Red Velvet, and at the same time have another of their What's up Doc. Their cupcakes range from SGD 2.50 - SGD 4.50, depending on the size and flavor. I say for the price and taste, these delectables are pretty worth the calories.

Swirls Bake Shop
8 Rodyk Street, #01-08 (Off Robertson Quay)
Singapore 238216
+65 6634 4765

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tiong Bahru Bakery

Just what is the hype over this neighborhood bakery - i had to find out. Located at Eng Hoon Street, it is difficult to miss the bakery with a chinese symbol as their signage. They have also branched out to Raffles City Shopping Centre, which gives me the impression they are actually doing very well since rental there must be sky high.

I've heard so much about their plain croissant but was left disappointed as they were sold out. With quite a selection of pastries, bread and tarts, i found myself taking more time than i normally take to decide. They also allow you to taste some of their bread.

I found their latte to be mediocre, nothing special and a little too bitter for my liking. The Apple Crumble on the other hand, was good but a bit dry. I think it would have been better served warm. The sweetness level was just right for my palette and the bits of brown sugar on top of it was a bonus.

Because the Butter Croissant was not available, i was recommended the Chocolate Croissant, which i found nothing special about. The pastry was not buttery at all, and it did not help that the chocolate inside it was scarce and clumpy. I tried accompanying it with the jams and butter provided but somehow still couldn't find the taste that others rave about online.

I was also recommended the Kouign Amann, which has egg, salted butter and caramelized sugar. It was slightly better than the Chocolate Croissant, but also not fantastic or exceptionally good either. I don't expect a lot from pastries, but this merely passed the ordinary mark despite all the good reviews.

My conclusion? There isn't much to fuss about the pastries and tarts Tiong Bahru Bakery, but the hype about it just does not justify how they actually taste like. Unlike most food bloggers who have given them a positive review, i feel that unless you happen to be around Tiong Bahru or Raffles City, otherwise i don't think it's worth making that special trip down.

Tiong Bahru Bakery
56 Eng Hoon Street, #01-70
Singapore 160056
+65 6220 3430

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gillman Barracks

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep". Located off Alexandra Road, this place features 13 galleries of contemporary art sprawled over a large area. Do not expect to only be seeing paintings hanging off the walls.

I am clueless about art, and art isn't just about liking what you see, it is about understanding what it is about, and the process behind it.

The above installation, "And we dreamt we were birds" by Donna Ong features a room with beds hung up. I was thinking to myself why the beds look like they were floating, and how is that "art". The reason why the beds were hanging is because Gillman Barracks used to be a British army barrack and the reason for the beds to appear as if they are floating is remind people of its past - sort of like the ghosts of Gillman's past (soldiers, bunk beds, etc) floating in the air. It did creep me up a bit but i figured there isn't anything to be afraid of since it was broad daylight.

You can expect to see different kinds of art work at Gillman Barracks, from paintings, graffiti, installations, as well as art pieces. And because the art works are located at many different buildings stretched over 1km, good weather is a must. It started to rain after while we were halfway through viewing the galleries.

One of my favorite galleries was the graffiti works at Michael Janssen gallery. The exhibition is titled "Blended by Desire" by four very talented Indonesian graffiti artists - Mushowir Bing, Sanchia Hamidjaja, Ricky "babay" Janitra and POPO. Whoever said graffiti isn't a form of art? The gallery features a whole room of different graffiti. And yes, photos are allowed just in case you were wondering.

Out of all the art I saw that day, my favorite was the installation by IndieGuerillas (Indonesia). It's not difficult to spot this space, although tucked in the corner of Gillman Barracks. You can spot bright pink curtains as the entrance/door before you enter the space. Upon entering, you find yourself in a dark pink room with a lot of lights with graphic fixtures hanging down. 

I'm not sure if you are allowed to touch the art installations (i hope you are because i did just a little). We intend go back soon to check out the rest of the galleries, and also you might want to know that Gillman Barracks also has dining options such as Masons, The Naked Finn, as well as Timbre @ Gillman. I'd say for a place away from the crowd and heartland, spending my weekend here was more than ideal. For your info, entry is free, but like most art places, it closes on Mondays. 

Gillman Barracks
9 Lock Road
Singapore 108937

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween Horror Nights 2

Experience fear at a whole new level. When the invite for Halloween Horror Nights 2 came in, i knew i couldn't miss this one. Universal Studios Singapore never disappoints, whether it is their VIP tour, or any other event.

It was opening night at Universal Studios Singapore, Halloween Horror Nights 2. At 7.30pm, the first gate opened, and thousands of people eagerly waited to see what was in store for them. When the clock stroke 8pm, you could see that grin on the faces of kids, adults, as well as elderly people.

Featuring many scare zones and THREE haunted houses, just in case one isn't enough to run the chill down your spine, the park has more than 400 scare actors walking around just to make the atmosphere better. My favorite scare zones will have to be Total Knockdown and Bizzare Bazaar, both of which i think took a lot of effort to put together in order to give that extra impact when people are walking through. Also, upon entering, you will be greeted by House of Dolls, which is actually as creepy as it sounds.

Do not get confused by scare zones and haunted houses. Haunted houses are haunted houses and not scare zones. The three haunted houses (The Insanitarium, Death Alley and Dungeon of Damnation) each features a different theme. I personally think you should go for Dungeon of Damnation, which has pretty cool effects that's bound to inject at least some fear into you, as well as The Insanitarium, which is themed to be a mental asylum. And if you think you might need to back out halfway through the haunted houses, you will be glad to know that they have position quite a few staff inside the houses in case of an emergency.

Fret not if you think the scare actors are only out to scare you, because they do pose for photos if you ask nicely, or if you can bring yourself to stand beside them. With so many scare actors with such realistic make-up and appearances, you are bound to find at least one you like! I love the props that looked so real i really couldn't distinguish whether some props were real people or not.

Just a note, flash photography isn't allowed in the haunted houses, so if you are thinking of lugging your bulky cameras i recommend you not to. Skip the photography for once and just enjoy yourself with all the screaming and running around.

If haunted houses and scary props aren't your kind of things, you'll also be glad to know all major rides will also be in operation. This includes the 2 roller coasters, the indoor roller coaster, as well as a few other rides! I went on Cylon and Human, Transformers, as well as Revenge of the Mummy! 

The park opens from 8pm till 12am, which gives you ample time to go for the haunted houses, as well as some rides. Tickets are priced at SGD 68 for ordinary entry, or you have the option to top up SGD 40 to get an express pass. I highly recommend this because the feeling of not having to queue is simply amazing, and it also gives you more time to check out other stuff! Halloween Horror Nights 2 runs from 19 October - 21 October, as well as 25 October - 28 October 2012. I reckon Halloween this year will not be complete unless you experience this.

This was an invited media session.

Deadly Ever After

I have lost count of the number of Halloween invites i received this year. I decided i didn't have time and guts to attend all of them so i narrowed down a few. I found this specific event to be particularly amusing because it is presented by Singapore Cable Car and Sentosa 4D Magix. The mainstream one would be the Sentosa Spooktacular, which i think is over hyped.

It seems that there are a few Halloween events going on at Sentosa this year, but with cable cars involved, i knew this was one i did not want to miss.

Alongside other bloggers like Qin, Jacelyn and Thiang, we managed to succumb through the horror and frights of the haunted trail. I have to admit going through this whole thing with them made it more exciting than it should have been.

We were brought from Harbourfront Tower to Sentosa via Singapore Cable Car. It was a hair-raising experience for me because heights and me do not go well together, and it did not help that the view below was quite eye catching, i found myself looking down (and getting scared) half of the time.

I shall not be a spoiler and reveal too much about the whole event (which is basically just a haunted trail) that seems to be never ending. The props and characters were really realistic and i could tell from the make up on the characters that a lot of effort was put in just to make the whole event better.

The haunted trail isn't just about scary characters trying to scare you, it has a story line. It is about finding a women forced into a Chinese ghost marriage with a dead man. I shall not go into details, but what you can except to experience during the trail is the horrifying story of her with a walk through the haunted funeral home, ghostly marriage, creepy surgery theatre and other fright rooms.

We found ourselves taking the cable car up to Mount Faber to enjoy the scenic view, and then back down to Harbourfront Centre. This time, i got used to the heights and figured the cable car is actually very safe so i pretty much enjoyed the journey all the way up, and then down.

If you think you are up for the challenge (or if you just want to scare yourself for the fun of it), this event runs from from 26 October - 28 October and prices are SGD 17 (inclusive of admission to the haunted trail) and SGD 28 (inclusive of 1-way cable car ride and admission to the haunted trail). I'd pick the latter because i think one could use a therapeutic cable car ride after all the scares.

This was an invited media session.