Carrot Cake of the Singaporean Kind

Maxwell Food Centre

Last September when I visited Singapore—that sleek, sexy, steam room of a city—the first thing I did was hit its famed food stalls. (Well, okay, the first thing I did was sleep for 16 hours and sweat through what felt like my entire two-week wardrobe.) We were fortunate enough to have food and travel docent Vivian Pei and Willin Low, chef and owner of Wild Rocket, as our guides. By “we” I mean my college girlfriend, The Original Grace. As in, “Will & Grace.” The One had to stay home and make us some money.

We commenced our opus of eating at the Maxwell Food Centre (shown above) in the city’s Cantonese neighborhood. In Viv’s inimitable, tireless, Type A fashion, she motioned us over to a plastic table in the open-air market, pulled a packet of tissues from her purse, and placed some on three seats to stave off any impertinents, an act Singaporeans call “to chope a chair.” The Original Grace and I followed as Viv did her rounds, stopping at nearly every stall the way a devout Catholic kneels and worships at every sign of the cross, until she found a dish suitable to undo our hawker virginity. She triumphantly carried over the booty from Marina South Delicious Food, stall 35, and pushed the green plastic plate across the table at us. On a banana leaf was what looked like a heap of scrambled eggs with chunks of potatoes, fried shallots, and a sprinkling of scallions. Read more »

Can’t Get You Outta My Head

Rosemary Clooney

Sometimes I think there’s an iPod implanted in my head, hidden beneath this mop flop of hair. More times than not, there’s some song on permanent repeat, looping endlessly through my auditory cortex. Correction: a snippet of a song–what professionals call “a few bars”–and it bores into my brain like a Phillips screwdriver until, out of desperation, I start to hum a different tune, just to try to knock the ineradicable melody out of its groove.

Usually it’s a silly refrain that’s unrelated from anything in my life du moment. Snappy things. Like the old Enjoli and Oscar Mayer bologna commercials. Or every single jingle Barry Manilow ever wrote. Read more »

Our First Al Fresco Dinner of the Season

Al Fresco Dinner

I really don’t like candid photos. Whenever people want to take a picture of me, I a.) make them sign a contract that gives me full PhotoShop approval–in perpetuity–over any image of me they publish, and b.) insist on spending an inordinate time on my hair and teeth. Once contractual obligations as well as buffing and fussing are out of the way, I give the go ahead to take that sparklingly spontaneous shot.

But when I saw this little moment of supper loveliness tonight, I grabbed my iPhone and just snapped. I didn’t even have enough sense to remove the Costco salt grinder or fluff the spaghetti. This was our supper table, unstyled. But to me, it sums up everything about outdoor dining: casual, simple, unpretentious, and, yes, bounteous. (It’s The One and me we’re talking about here. That man can polish off three-quarters of a pound of pasta in a single sitting.) Read more »

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