Saturday, December 10, 2016

My journey to noma in Copenhagen

A truly magical yet crazy adventure with three lovely ladies from the Girls Love Travel group. This food experience will be one I'll remember for a long time. 

My favorite dishes from noma
Sent to my email on Nov 23, 2016:

Dear Alaine,

I am writing to you from restaurant noma in Copenhagen.

We have you on our waiting list for the 29th of November 2016 for a table for 4 people. Please let us know if you are still interested in coming at 12:00 for lunch. 

Please note that we unfortunately cannot put the table on hold and guarantee its availability given the short notice, so we hope to hear from you soon.

Med venlig hilsen/Best regards
Booking Manager


Oh wait, I need to fill those remaining seats because I can't just eat at noma alone and it's noma so I could probably find others who are as crazy as me about wanting to dine here.

I messaged everyone I knew that might be interested and the possibility to join me. I couldn't find anyone. I took to Facebook and posted in my female travel bloggers group and the Girls Love Travel group. I've met a few people in real life from these groups so I know that these women are as passionate about travel as I am. I was hoping that some were also diehard foodies as well.

I found them after a few hours. Allie was first to respond then another person tagged her Rachel who then messaged Allison. It was totally an adrenaline rush but also nerve wrecking, truly amazing that these ladies came through!

So HAPPY to be able to have this beautiful belated birthday lunch here!
The beautiful nondescript entrance

For a very long time, I've been fascinated with this restaurant. I can't even remember how many years its been that I've been wanting to come here to eat the avant-garde new nordic cuisine. When it started to receive the accolades of Worlds' Best Restaurant, I watched and read closely on the success of this restaurant. Passion, pushing the envelope, creativity, amazing produce, talent are the forefront to Rene Redzepi and his team's success. When one dreams far and impossible then pushes relentlessly forward to realize the dream, it is hard not to notice and be inspired to do the same in one's life.
So I began to plan. I also wanted to make sure that it was the right time. The right time meaning, the food scene is bursting from the inspiration of nordic cuisine in the city of Copenhagen. I've always been fascinated with Nordic history, culture, cuisine, fashion, design, lifestyle, and language. In fact, when I was an undergraduate student at UCLA, I took a number of Scandinavian literature, film, and Swedish classes.

I planned my first trip to Copenhagen as part of a 30th birthday trip at the end of 2013. It was my first visit to Copenhagen and it was cold, rainy, dark but I was happy. I didn't plan noma for this trip because I just wanted to get to know Copenhagen. A few short trips later that resulted in visiting some landmarks like Amalienborg, Nyhavn, Rundetårn, Den lille havefrue (The little mermaid), and some good meals. Fast forward to 2016. I just graduated from my Postgraduate program in hospitality management and was completing my internship in social media for a large hotel company. No plans had been solidified for the rest of the year and I had always wanted to go to noma. With the announcement that noma would be closing to re-open as a different restaurant concept I knew I had to go.

Its been 10 years since my last amazing fine dining experience (which was at Eleven Madison Park in New York when I was living there). It was time...

Ugh. A waiting list. noma releases their bookings 5 months in advance and I tried to book in August as soon as the schedules were open for November bookings. Ugh. Waiting list.

As the months passed, I made plans for a nice dinner at Relae for my 5 day trip to Copenhagen. I also planned for Tivoli gardens, Copenhagen street food, Torvehallerne, a dance class, and wandering around Nørrebro.

Then that email appeared in my inbox while I was traveling through Finland... I half-jokingly now refer to food as Before noma (B.N.) and After noma (A.N.)

A beautiful lounge area
I love wine and I was excited to see so many beautiful bottles of wine from small batch wineries


I arrived earlier than the other girls and was greeted by the entire service staff with huge smiles on their faces. It was a little intimidating at first to see all of them there to greet you at the door. I was also first to arrive for lunch service so there was no other guests in the restaurant. I waited for the others to arrive in the lounge area which was situated by the collection of beautiful bottles of wine. 

I opted out of the wine pairings but two of the girls did the pairing. However, I did order two glasses of wine with a couple of the courses. I love wine and food pairings. It was only lunch and I had dinner at Relae the same evening, I decided to pace myself. 

Photo Credit: Allison M.

The starters:
Apple starter
The contents of this juicy apple starter
Scallops carpaccio
Some leaves and ants! ;-) 
Ants served on a cracker made to look like a branch with cheese and leaves
Radish tart - it looked so beautiful!
The wine pairings and mains begin...

The first wine pairing was a refreshing natural white wine
Milk curd with fresh walnuts and parsley

Sea Urchin wrapped in cabbage - This is probably my favorite!
Langoustine with grilled onion and hot lavender oil - My second favorite dish. The other ladies Loved this dish a lot!
Another beautiful biodynamic white wine paired with the langoustine

A white paired with the butternut squash
Butternut Squash and Barley

I had a glass of this beautiful Moustillant white wine paired with the crab
Steamed crab with egg yolk

The wild duck cooked on top of hay was presented to the table with a caution to look out for the bullets!

A wine with almost port wine qualities to it that was an acquired taste

Cool knife 
Charred greens with scallop paste
An Italian red wine pairing with the wild duck - I also had a glass of this. A traditional pairing for the wild duck.
Whole roasted Wild Duck
Served with a side of greens and horseradish
And pickles of gooseberries, pickles, flower, and leaves
Something Sweet to end the journey:

Sweet dessert wine

A Scandinavian dessert of plum, mashed potatoes, whipped cream in an aquavit sauce
Black current wood ice cream Popsicle with roasted konini flowers

Chocolate moss and chocolate flower

Served with whipped cream and aquavit sauce

A very alcoholic egg cream liquor. Photo Credit: Allison M.

We really didn't want this noma food experience to end... :-(

My favorite dishes were the Sea Urchin, Langoustine, Crab, Plum and Potato dessert, and the Chocolate covered Moss. Overall, I loved the personalised and warm service, attention to detail in the presentation of the dishes, the clean and rustic ambiance of the restaurant, and they even accommodated our food allergies. 

We had such an amazing time talking, eating, gossiping, and the experience ended with a tour in the kitchens. (Next post!)

What was the most memorable dish for you?

Allie L. says...
I would say the chocolate covered moss was the most surprising. I would never have expected that something you see so often out in nature could be not only edible but delicious! I also really enjoyed the langostine with lavender oil. It was a wonderful mix of flavors. I definitely want to incorporate lavender oil in my cooking now.
 Allison M. says
I agree completely with allie! Also really liked the ants (surprisingly) and the crab with egg yolk
Rachel S. says
I would say that I also loved the langoustine. The touch of lavender was very unexpected but made all the difference. The chocolate moss reminded me a lot of chocolate covered kale chips, which I occasionally eat back in California. They also did a great job making all of the dishes gluten free for me! They even made a special gluten free roll with almond flour which was served warm. This was one of the best gluten free breads that I've had and I was super impressed with the result.
Photo Credit: Rachel S. 
L-R: Alaine, Rachel, Allison, Allie
Photo Credit: Rachel S. 

A Very Short Film About the Past, Present and Future of Noma from Rene Redzepi on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Bourgeois guide to eating, drinking, shopping, and pampering in Singapore

Scrambled eggs and bacon on a flaky croissant from Populus Cafe

My friends will probably laugh at the title. I've made some lovely friends online from the travel blogger community groups but one thing was bothering me... I'm not a backpacking hostel type of female traveler nor am I into full-on luxury travel. I fall somewhere in between and I think a lot of you do too. I like a bourgeois way of life that is not overtly luxurious or bargain hunting for the cheapest hostel around. Its the middle of the road for me. I also do my research for the best places to eat, shop, drink.

I enjoy good food whether its from the corner street stall at the hawker centres commonly found in every area of Singapore to fine dining. As long as it tastes good. ;-) I like a good massage but it doesn't have to come from the most luxurious spa. I will take public transportation but if its raining or too hot to walk outside and I have to look presentable then I'd take a taxi or Uber car. You get the picture...

PS Cafe Petit at Robertson Quay
Black fried carrot cake and fresh watermelon juice at Makansutra Gluttons by the Bay

Food & Drink:

1) P.S. Cafe at Robertson Quay
I've grown to love this homegrown chain of restaurants for the food, ambiance, design aesthetic of the restaurant, and locations they tend to open. My favorite location is P.S. Petit Cafe at Robertson Quay. The location is a bit on the residential side but close to Robertson Walk where there are a number of al fresco dining options. A very chill vibe in this neighborhood that reminds me of life in Europe but more tropical weather. The restaurant is also beautifully designed with a design hipster sensibility i.e. white exposed tiles, cake displays, handwritten chalk boards, flower arrangements. Order the parmesan truffle fries! I've not had a bad meal at P.S. Cafe so you can't really go wrong.

2) Wild Honey at Mandarin Gallery
You may start to notice that I like quiet, chill, eclectic type places. The decor at Wild Honey is eclectic, colorful, yet has a hip grandmother-feel to the upholstery and choice of dining room furniture. A good place for brunch and catching up with girlfriends over strong black coffee and eggs.  I like the eggs benedict.

3) Imperial Treasure at Ngee Ann City
This is my favorite Chinese restaurant in Singapore. I really like the dim sum here. The ambiance is less chill and beautiful design-centric as the other two but like I said, the food is good. Be prepared to wait for a table when it gets busy for dim sum lunch. They also have really good Chinese food. I like to order the Beijing dumplings here. The pork and scallions with a hint of ginger is addictive!

4) Satay club at Makansutra in the Esplanade
This curated outdoor food centre is particularly lovely at night after a performance. The Satay is made Malaysian style served together with a peanut chilli sauce. Wash the satay down with a fresh juice from the juice stand then take a walk towards the bay. The views are wonderful with the backdrop of the city lights from the Central Business District and the behemoth Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino.

5) Manhattan bar at The Regent Hotel
This is probably the most expensive from this list as this bar is a top-rated luxury hotel bar. But for the discerning drinker who likes a smooth negroni, only the best mixologists will do. I don't come here often but I have been here a few times over the past 4 years. I threw my birthday party/going away party here a couple years ago. The food here is good but overpriced, the drinks are phenomenal but overpriced but on the same level as other bars in Singapore of the same caliber. The dark interior and leather reminds one of being inside a cigar room for dapper gentlemen or a speakeasy of the 20s. A great place to have a birthday or a date.

6) Cedele at Wheelock Place
This chain of restaurants and cafes are found throughout Singapore but this location is a sit down restaurant with a chill vibe and views overlooking the fountain and the busy road intersection from above. The food here is pretty good and they have a focus on nutrition and wholesome food. My favorite things to order here is the caesar salad, pumpkin or butternut squash soup, and earl grey with fig ice cream. Prices are middle of the road so you won't break the bank eating here.

7) Boon Tong Kee at River Valley Road
A fairly clean chicken rice restaurant that has renovated itself to be a full fledged restaurant from the chicken rice joint that it once was in the 90s. I still like the chicken rice and its my favorite place to get chicken rice in Singapore. They also serve other dishes that are found in Chinese restaurants. I like to order chicken rice to go but if I eat here, I order steamed chicken with chicken rice, a veggie dish, and an appetiser to share with my dining companions.

8) Bar hopping on Club street, Ann Siang Hill, Keong Saik Street
I never really know where I'm going when I meet friends in these areas for drinks. There are so many bars and restaurants on these streets. After work hours are the most popular times. This area is also good for people watching. Some bars to look out for: The Library, The Cufflink club.

9) Sanpoutei Ramen at Holland Village
I like my ramen noodle soup at this casual ramen place because the noodles are springy, thicker, and the soup is a nice rich broth. When this place first opened, the broth was a bit too fatty for my tastebuds but now I know not to order the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) and all is well with the world. I like tonkotsu ramen but not at this place. The shoyu or the tori + miso ramen broth works really well with the springy noodles.

Yoga Movement at Robertson Quay
Getting foot reflexology at Natureland

Shopping and Pampering:

1) Jurlique Spa and the shops at Wheelock Place
The Jurlique products and the facials at the spa keep my skin refreshed and glowing. When I'm in Singapore, I try and fit a facial appointment here to rebalance my skin out. The change in temperatures while traveling can really mess the moisture levels of my face.
The shopping centre is a curated experience of smaller boutiques and they are fun to poke around in because some of them have a focus on local designs or hard to find products.

2) Natureland at Robertson Walk
There are a few rituals in Singapore that I do when I'm in town. I book myself a foot reflexology appointment because my feet take a beating from walking miles and miles, exercise, and dancing up a storm in studios. Foot reflexology is my time to unwind and get all the kinks out. When I was teaching over 48+ hours of dance, this became a necessity. My feet and legs were taking a massive beating and I needed this badly. My foot reflexologist is based here and the space is relaxing but not too posh. I like that I can use the free wifi and catch up on blogging while getting my feet massaged!

3) Mandarin Gallery Shops
I like wandering around this little shopping centre in the middle of Orchard Road because the air conditioning is strong, quiet and peaceful, and the shops are not your run of the mill shops that you can find in any other mall in town. However, they did just open a flagship Victoria's Secret so I don't know how quiet this place will be or a sign that more mainstream shops will occupy the stores inside eventually.

4) Kampong Glam boutique shops
In the Kampong Glam area around Arab street there are some adorable little boutique shops and cafes that have opened up in the recent decade. It is the place with an eclectic mix of styles that border from hipster cool to urban fashionista. Definitely a fun place to walk around.

5) Far East Plaza
This old shopping centre houses some eclectic boutiques, nail salons, eateries (the rojak shop is good!), and hair salons. I like browsing some of the shops here for the eclectic and quirkiness that other new shiny malls lack. This place was also a favorite place to shop as a pre-teen for baggy jeans, flannel, and used books. You can still find some really good deals here. There are also tailors here that can do alterations for not exorbitant prices.

6) Manicure and Pedicure at Holland Village Shopping Centre
There are so many places in this complex. I no longer get manicures or pedicures done regularly because its easier to keep my nails looking neat and healthy by keeping it short and no polish. Also because I'm traveling quite a bit that its difficult to maintain a pretty polish from looking chipped. When I do feel like a little pampering, I come to Holland Village Shopping Centre and get my nails done. I like I love Nails for efficient service, affordable prices, and they do a pretty good job. Its a no frills place so don't expect a spa atmosphere.

7) Yoga class at Yoga Movement
I started to go to weekly yoga classes again this year and it has been wonderful to find yoga classes during my travels. When I'm in Singapore, I go to Yoga Movement. The classes can be purchased per class or by a class card. There are a lot of yoga studios in Singapore but most of them require some kind of membership which doesn't work for travelers like me. Thankfully Yoga Movement has been expanding throughout the island and opening up new studios in different locations.

All of the places mentioned in this post are my own opinion and suggestions. If you like my post please follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I am also available if you would like to do a collaboration post or sponsored post, just drop me an email