Sunday, September 21, 2008


The last few weeks of yoga have been as follows:-

Week 1: Sick. No yoga.
Week 2: Auckland. No yoga.
Week 3: Back to yoga, ached for exactly 7 days which is unusual but probably expected in light of the 2 week lapse.
Week 4: Decided to skip regular Saturday morning power yoga which turned out to be a good idea as G's friend, Kylie rang up at short notice for brekkie with her baby in tow. Missed the afternoon class and had the first swim of the season instead which was really refreshing. Ended up going to Sunday vinyasa class instead.

And what a workout I got at today's vinyasa class with Andrew. It was my first time in his class and it wasn't a fast-paced class but holding those poses for durations longer than I thought humanly (my definition of what I humanly could do) possible, really got the chi (or qi) going very quickly. The internal fire was burning strong, finger tips were engaged and the flow was coursing through my limbs. The feeling of the chi flowing through was a physical sensation. Holding oneself in a particular position for an extended period of time required inner core strength and also a degree of mental strength, to overcome the physical strain and pain one feels.

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Next goal: to be able to do the Crow. And that I know is going to be not just overcoming the physical aspect which is just building up my arm and inner core strength, but the mental part which is the bigger challenge.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Off The List - Bills

G and I thought that after the long, hard work week we have had, we would have a nice dinner tonight. And we figured we would go to Bills, (I've had weekend brunch once there about 2 years ago) to check out this well-known restaurant for dinner. That brunch was above average but pricey, I did not recall being blown away, but the constant crowds waiting outside on the weekends seem to have a different opinion. Or perhaps, like us, they just want to check out the place and see it for themselves.

In any case, dinner tonight was not the enjoyable, relaxing experience we were hoping for. The noise level was so high, it was probably about that of a bar on a Saturday night. We had to shout across our table (and everyone else at the neighbouring tables had the same idea so the din was just deafening) and even then, I could hardly hear myself. Every clink and clank coming out from the kitchen was amplified in the surroundings. Conversation was difficult, service was not friendly and the food was average with my main course cold. With its reputation (what with the celebrity chef/cook book writer) and the prices charged, we had expected more.

When we escaped from the restaurant, the relative tranquility and silence of the street was palpable and rather ironic, considering that it's the busy Crown Street on a Friday night, but what a relief from that aural assault.

And so, Bills is off the List.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Lion City In Sight

It seems like just not too long ago when G and I had strolled along the promenade along the Esplanade, with these silken balls on poles lining the water side in a festive Oriental manner, where across the water, the recognisable skyline with the grand facade of the Fullerton Hotel, formerly the General Post Office, stands elegant amidst the modern, towering skyscrapers.

In a week's time, I'll be back again to the Lion City, just in time for the inaugural F1 weekend. I have no tickets to the races, and to not be caught up in the whole chaos, it makes good sense to keep away from the race area during that weekend although that really puts a damper on my plans to go shopping, have lunch and take G's jacket back to the tailor in that very area.

So soon I will be back again - to family, friends, food and the humidity.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Support The Freeland Gallery

The "Support the Freeland Gallery" effort involved contributors putting $10 weekly till Christmas (total 26 weeks at the time of its inception) to help keep this unique ceramics gallery going. It is a one of its kind gallery and is a (hard) work of passion by John to keep it going, more as a venue for the education and enjoyment of Australian pottery than a commercial gig. As my ties to this wonderful place went back to 2006 when I did my internship with John and developed a friendship and bond with the place and the wonderful people who ran the place, John and Masako (at that time), and I have great memories of my association with the gallery, I wanted to be a part of this special support effort. How often do people feel so strongly as to contribute to a commercial entity (since it is not officially a non-for-profit organisation) to keep it open? Obviously, this place is pretty special for so many people to want to be part of this effort.

I handed over my pledge today and in return, received a totally unexpected gift. Anna Choi, an Australian potter of Chinese origin, whose works I greatly enjoy, had contributed small bowls with interesting glaze and colours which were a result of the clay used, for John to give to the supporters as a token of thanks.

With difficulty, I chose my bowl after inspecting the variety available. Every bowl was beautiful in its own unique way. I am grateful that I've had the chance to work with John and Anna, and all the other talented potters, and enjoyed the ambience and zen tranquility of the Freeland gallery in the period I worked there and also on every subsequent visit. Holding my bowl in the palm of my hand, I hope that the efforts to keep the gallery going, will be enough. It would be a great loss to the art scene if the gallery goes.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

City Of Sails

Back from the City of Sails in the Land of Sheep. For the record, I did not see a single sheep in Auckland. We arrived in Auckland on Friday afternoon, dropped off our bags, sorted out our sleeping quarters and dashed out to Stark White, an art gallery owned by G's friend, Dominic who had to jet off to Shanghai the following day for the Shanghai Art Fair.

We ended up in Zipangu, a Japanese restaurant on Ponsonby Road, which was to be the restaurant strip on which we had many of our meals during our stay in Auckland. In between sashimi, ebi gyoza and tofu steak, G, Dominic and Kirtsty polished off 2 bottles of wine and a few more bottles of sake, while I stayed dry, being responsible for the lives of these 3 loud, wisecracking (sufficiently high and happy) crazies subsequently when driving them home. The food was good, I had merely wet my lips with the plum sake and concluded it tasted like plum cough syrup. Not my cup of tea. The next dinner was the big (blended) family dinner at Pastis, a traditional French brasserie. I knew I should have followed my instincts and gone with the duck confit for my main course but instead I went with the cassoulet because it had the duck, AND the braised pork (too too fatty) AND the traditional sausage. Obviously greed overcame good sense and taste. And I had a wee moment of regret when I saw the lovely duck confit sitting in front of Denice who was next to me. The entree of escargot did not disappoint, it was garlicky and buttery and yummy. I traded for one of G's delicious scallops and it was a good trade. His fishy main course was better than my cassoulet.

As there was crepe suzette on the menu, I had to have that since that is such a hard to come by dessert. Even my usual no-brainer dessert of choice, creme brulee had to take a back seat. However, the alcoholic fumes remaining after the flambe died down, overcame me as I took the first bite. Disappointing.

In between eating, we managed a couple of touristy visits to Mount Eden, a dormant volcano in the middle of the city, Piha, a black sand beach about 40 minutes' drive out of Auckland in quite threatening weather which cast a surreal shadow over the scenery, and a quick stop at the casino in the Sky Tower where I had no choice but to cave in to my Chinese genes and blow $20 in approximately 2 minutes, on 2 bets on the "Big/Small" table. We also had a run of the Auckland Museum and saw interesting things like the Moa, largest bird to ever walk the face of the earth

And back again to the food. We were recommended the Richmond Road Cafe for brekkie and so we duly went. I had mushrooms on sourdough which was tasty but a tad too creamy for breakfast. My other cafe (of an unpronounceable name) brekkie of a toasted bagel with lemon curd was just nice, a balance of tanginess with the sweet. I also tried a cake which holds a place of fond memories in every Kiwi child's childhood, the lolly cake, which was really not so much a cake but a soft ginger snap type confectionery with colourful sweet stuff of no real discernible flavour or taste apart from sweet, embedded in it.

We were invited back to dinner by Jo and Kelly at their house on our last night in Auckland. Kelly had whipped up a spinach soup, 3 main courses - beef stroganoff, a fish pie and a chorizo pasta and had bought a berry tart. I chose to have all 3 mains, in reasonable portions of course, as they all looked so tempting. They tasted as good as they looked and I had seconds of everything.

SPQR, a trendy Italian restaurant where we had one of our last lunches at, was overrated in our opinion. Expensive, with attitude, and food which was underwhelming. My tagliatelle did not taste freshly made but more out of a packet, and did not have the taste of fresh and simple ingredients that it was supposed to have. G's complaint was that his basil and tomato pizza, again a simple and clean dish, came overladen with cheese, and the tomatoes were of the canned variety rather than fresh ones, and 2 basil leaves were all the greens he got.

The holiday was relaxing and unrushed. Meals were occasions where we ate with friends and family. Apart from the fact that we love our food, we also enjoyed the hanging out. But because we "hung out" so much during my 5-day trip, we are now back on the Nazi diet...

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Japonaise Et Chinoiserie

Following from the previous post about a prime example of great Japanese design, we had lunch at Cafe Ish, an Australian-Japanese cafe, run by an Aussie bloke and his Japanese wife. My soy flat white came in a white cup with a streamlined overhanging handle. A little biscuit sat in the nest of the teaspoon, a perfect, tiny accompaniment to the coffee, more for visual gratification than for gastronomical, in my opinion, seeing that it was about the size of a pea (or 2). Again, clean and simple lines/curves of the cup made for a great design, no clutter, very minimal. The aesthetic appeal continued with the placement of a small biscuit on the teaspoon, everything was just so.

M arrived Sunday morning, with her son, J and the precious commodity I had requested (craved) - a box of Teochew mooncakes with yam paste filling. Moon worship of course is sight (sometime next week I was duly informed) but the only type of mooncakes available in this place is the traditional baked mooncake with red bean paste or lotus seed paste with egg yolks and more egg yolks. Unfortunately, this is not my favourite sort of mooncakes. I like the snowskin and the Teochew mooncakes much better. And so I rationed out little cut segments of the 4 mooncakes that arrived, slowly drawing out the time spent savouring them. At this point, I think I have 5/6 of a mooncake left. They go so well with the lovely stash of Oolong tea my Taiwanese colleague brought me some time back. I sure am lucky to have friends who bring me quality, hard-to-come-by edible treasures.

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