Sunday, 31 July 2011

Upstairs Brunch Event Trial #3 - Pancake heaven...

It’s been a busy weekend for Brunch & Co!  Firstly, we had a request from our lovely, but slightly wacky friend Faith for cupcakes for her new goddaughter’s first month party. I happily obliged by baking 50 Madagascar vanilla bean cupcakes with a baby pink snow meringue icing, topped with perfect, fresh cherries (yes, the cherry season seems to still be going strong – lucky us).  

Happy first month Mila & congratulations again to Emily & Marcus!!

We also held our third trial brunch event today with 7 more foodie friends.  We had a great day catching up with everybody and bouncing around more ideas about our venture.  One of our lovely guests prompted some thinking about what “brunch” actually means.  For me, coming from Melbourne where weekend brunches are the norm, the reason why I love brunch so much is as much about the food (I LOVE eggs) as it is the chance to slow down & take some time to either catch up with friends and family or the weekend newspapers over a good meal.  No rushing, no pretension, just good, homemade, tasty food surrounded by special people.  I hope we can provide the right ambiance and setting to enable our guests to experience what brunch is all about.... as well as of course, serve up some fantastic food!

For today's event, I must admit I wasn’t as organized as I should have been hence I completely forgot about the poached cherries that I had bottled a few weeks ago and planned to serve with our pancake starter… Anyway, we ended up with fluffy American style pancakes served with options of poached apples with cinnamon & star anise, sauté banana slices with butter & brown sugar, and finally, grilled bacon with maple syrup.  I used my trusted Betty Crocker Favorite Pancake recipe that my family has used ever since I was little.  We often had pancakes on the weekends and these fluffy numbers are the best pancakes ever.  In my slightly dis-organised state, I also forgot to take more photos - including one of the banana walnut muffins, topped with a cinnamon sugar that we had.  They were pretty yummy!  I did however manage to grab a picture of a last mouthful of pancake, covered in poached apples and maple syrup!

For our main course, we had baked eggs with smoked salmon, spinach, Camembert & Parmesan cheese served with whole grain toast soldiers.  

This was followed by a rather long comfort break where I took the opportunity to bake some freshly made croissants (my second attempt, much improved from my first go – possibly due to my new super duper rolling pin which I am able to fill with chilled water which helps to keep the pastry cold).  Count those 81 flaky layers!

I also whipped up some meringue frosting for these freshly baked red velvet cupcakes, topped with heart shaped marshmallows.  These decadent treats were served up with freshly brewed Illy coffee & Gryphon teas.

So there you go, all the crockery & glasses are washed, polished and stacked away ready for the official launch of Brunch & Co next month.  I will be publishing the date for the big day, the menu & how to grab yourself a seat at our upstairs private dining table in the next couple of days.  Hope you’ll come and join us!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Upstairs Brunch Event Trial #2 - Bigger & Better than ever!!

Brunch & Co decided to pull out all the stops with our second trial run event - we invited 10 wonderful friends to join us for brunch last Sunday to sample our new menu & give us more feedback & advice.  This was a considerably larger group than the first trial run and necessitated a few splurge purchases! 

We happily welcomed into our home two of the world's most beautiful fire engine red metal Tolix chairs! Aren't they beautiful?  We (ok, actually “I” was the procrastinator) ummmed and ahhhed about which color to choose as these chairs come in so many amazing shades.  I’m glad we chose the red as the bright, happy color makes me smile every time I look at them…

Photo by Haf
Anyway, the chairs are happily settling in along with our other new addition – a dining table of a simple, sleek & clever design from a shop called The Foundry on Purvis Street - we love it.  We bought this extra table thinking it was the perfect design to be able to easily dismantle and stow away after each Brunch & Co event.  However, I severely underestimated how heavy glass can be - this thing weighs a ton!  It was at the exact moment when four burly delivery men heaved the piece of glass into our apartment that I realized Hubby & I may be in trouble…. Oh well, we now have a very long double dining table at which we can watch TV and also have 15th century style dinners where the master of the house sits on one end of the long dining table and his wife a mile away at the other end….

Photo by Haf
Onto discussions about the main attraction – the food!  To get the party started, we had strawberries poached in a vanilla bean syrup served with homemade muesli & topped with Greek yoghurt.  The strawberries I used were those particularly large ones recently on sale at Coldstorage supermarket.  Amazingly, they did have a nice flavor and scent.  Normally strawberries here in Singapore are lovely to look at but disappointingly tasteless.  There is nothing more exciting than picking up a punnet of strawberries and catching that sweet strawberry smell through the packaging.  For the muesli, I used a special recipe given to me by my good friend Sally’s Mum, Mrs de Jager.  They are South African & whilst Sally now lives in Cape Town, she grew up on the family farm in the middle of South Africa in a place called the Karoo.  There really is something special about recipes that come from a country kitchen! 

Along with the muesli starter, our guests were also able to munch on their name card holders – Blueberry muffins, freshly baked.  Just a little bit crispy on the top but soft and yummy in the middle with pocket bursts of blueberry squidginess.

Photo by Haf - Bernie we missed you!
In the meantime, I rushed back into the kitchen to prepare our main course.  This consisted of corn fritters topped with perfectly ripe avocado sprinkled with lemon juice, home cured star anise infused salmon & a poached egg.  (I did make a special alternative for Liz who is not an egg eater of an oven baked Portobello mushroom topped with lashings of butter, tasty cheese & thyme).  I must admit, I do feel a little bit of a brunch enthusiast imposter as I am hopeless at cooking one of the core foundational elements of a brunch – the dreaded poached egg….  But as with any challenge, I decided to tackle my lack of egg poaching prowess head on – what better way to learn than by having to poaching 11 of them on the trot?? 

For this task, the Google search function was put into overdrive as I scoured the Internet for egg poaching tips and tricks.  The list turned out to be mind boggling – add vinegar to the water versus adding salt, create a swirling water vortex before adding the egg, using a deep pot, a shallow pan, poaching in barely simmering water versus turning the heat off & covering the pan after the eggs go in, cooking the eggs in plastic wrap, breaking eggs onto a metal spoon and lowering into water gently, using poach pods, putting the egg into simmering water for one minute before cracking it open into the water…..the list was endless and I was mesmerized…. 

The one tip I did happen to read over and over again was that it is imperative to use only the freshest eggs for poaching (no more than 3-4 days old).  So no supermarket eggs for us, I hopped on the MRT and headed to Little India’s Tekka Market in search of Singapore’s freshest eggs.  In the middle of the produce section are two egg stalls right next to each other.  One stall (the one on the left) had a particularly long line of customers so using this as a good indicator, I joined the queue.  My request for “30 of your freshest eggs please!” was instantly met with a knowing pointing of the finger at a certain pile of eggs, “you’ll be wanting these then!” replied my Egg Man.  I eagerly put the eggs to the test when I got home.  I had read on the Internet the way to check if an egg is fresh is to place it in a big bowl of cold water – if it floats, it means the air bubble in the egg has had time to grow big enough to make the egg float which means the egg is not fresh.  What we want to see is the egg sitting horizontally flat at the bottom of the bowl.  My Egg Man was right – these were fresh!  I won’t go into the details of all the trials and tribulations of going through each of the different poaching techniques, but suffice to say, I am still in search of the idiot proof egg poaching technique… If you happen to have a magic trick PLEASE let me know, I will be eternally grateful!

Photo by Haf
We ended the brunch with big plates of freshly baked goodies – raspberry & white chocolate muffins, homemade croissants, fruit & spice scrolls & more blueberry muffins.  Washed down with plunger coffee & tea.  Phew! 
Photo by Haf
Huge thanks to our friends Kate, Tom, Gail, Jeremy, Rach, Haf, Steve & Liz for all their brilliant suggestions, support & encouragement.  A special thanks to Haf for his beautiful photographs – you have such an amazing talent!  (Check out Haf's site to see his beautiful portfolio). 

Photo by Haf

Photo by Haf
The third and final trial run now in the planning stages – on the menu will be American style fluffy pancakes plus more yummy baked treats!  One thing’s for sure, we’ll definitely be making use of all these amazingly beautiful cherries available at the moment – check them out before they disappear!  Brunch & Co will officially “open for business” at our upstairs dining establishment mid next month.  Stay tuned!