Saturday, 29 June 2013

Bangkok Fruit Market, Or Tor Kor - Part 1/3

Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok - well known to the tourists for their extensive choice of fruits, vegetables and foodstuff. One of my favorite "Must Go" places in Bangkok before I leave for home.

Or Tor Kor is probably one of the cleanest wet markets in Bangkok. Be prepared to pay slightly higher prices here compared to other markets. But the quality is definitely worth it. Following the haze situation when I can imagine Singaporeans buying boxes of N95 masks instead of boxes of fresh fruits, I told myself I had to make it to Or Tor Kor Market this time to grab some fruits in season. The market is as usual buzzing with crowd and plenty of stalls to choose from.
Food Stalls in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketStalls03.jpg
Food Stalls in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketStalls04.jpg

Nearer to the entrance are where most of the cooked food stalls are. Thai tidbits, grilled seafood and dried foodstuff all displayed neatly under bright lights.
Food Stalls in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketStalls01.jpg

The seafood is as fresh as one would expect and the fresh water prawns are huge! Each easily 200 grammes. When grilled, they are sweet but a little chewy. Also available are freshly peeled crab meat.
Seafood in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketSeafood01.jpg

And the start attraction for me is always the fruit stalls. Durian stalls selling everything durian from the fruit to durian paste, durian chips… You name it, they probably have it.
Durians in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketDurians02.jpg

But Thai durians are not as pungent as we like. The Thais prefer it less ripe and a little hard. What we consider as soft durian flesh is unwanted by the Thais. Too soft they say… The texture of the Thai durians are like that of cheese. Slightly harder on the outside but creamy on the inside.
Durians in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketDurians01.jpg

Most of the stalls sell Thai fruits while some sell imported fruits like this one. Spotted were white Rainer cherries from the US, small champagne grapes also from the US and the "seedless" lychees from China. "Seedless" because the seeds are so small it is 98% lychee flesh! More on that on my next post.
Fruit Stall in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketFruitsStall01.jpg

And in season are mangosteens too. Grown locally, they are much smaller than those we find in Singapore. But sweet they are! And a great counter-balance to the "heatiness" of durians and mangoes.
Mangosteens in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketMangosteens02.jpg
Mangosteens in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketMangosteens01.jpg

When you buy more than your fair share, they pack them into boxes for you as check in luggage. This is service for you. Remember to ask the airline check in counter staff to apply a "Fragile" sticker on the box.
Boxed Fruits in OrTorKor BKK photo OrTorKorMarketFruitsinaBox01.jpg

Part 2 coming up when I cover the Mangoes, Lychees and more on the Mangosteens.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Our GTG - Onion Restaurant, Part 2 - The Gang & The Watches

The two themes for the night were Nato straps, coloured bezels and interesting case backs. The idea was for all to at least fit one category but two would be even better! And as usual, some nice pieces present.

The group started trickling in at around 6pm - no surprise who was first at the bar with beer in hand. All were seated by 7.30pm and the traditional table shots of all the gang present.
The Gang @ Onion photo OnionGTGTheGang01.jpg

For once, we caught Peter instead of him catching us!
The Gang @ Onion photo OnionGTGTheGang03.jpg

After the main was served, the traditional table shot of all the watches - the highlight of the evening - the Real main course!
The Gang @ Onion photo OnionGTGTheGang04.jpg

And more milling around and depositing their PRECIOUS!
The Gang @ Onion photo OnionGTGTheGang05.jpg

And when all was down, here's what you get! See some unusual pieces?
Onion GTG Table Shot photo OnionGTGTableShot01.jpg

Many Rolexes with their colored dials, Seikos too and one very rare black AP RO. Several Nato straps and three interesting case backs - Chopard, Grand Seiko Spring Drive and the IWC Ingenieur.

Some of the Nato straps...
Onion GTG Table Shot photo OnionGTGTableShot02.jpg

Some of the interesting case back - I was actually expecting one or two more Chopard LUC and waas looking forward to counting the number of bees. But alas, there was only one. But then there was the Limited Edition Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer and two IWC Pocket watches!
Onion GTG Table Shot photo OnionGTGTableShot03.jpg

Then there was the colored bezels. Green sub, Pepsi GMT, Fifty Five Fathom Seiko, All Black AP RO and the Seiko Velatura Automatic Chronograph plus more...
Onion GTG Table Shot photo OnionGTGTableShot07.jpg

And now for some closer shots of some unusual pieces on show that night… First up - the Black AP RO. Easily my favorite piece of the evening.
Onion GTG Table Shot AP RO photo OnionGTGTableShot06.jpg

A comparison between the new and old Sea Dweller. Look at the difference in size!
Onion GTG Table Shot Sea Dweller photo OnionGTGTableShot05.jpg

And another favorite in our GTG - the IWC Pocket watch.
Onion GTG Table Shot IWC pocket Watch photo OnionGTGTableShot04.jpg

And of course everyone was angling for the best shots they could get… Thanks to Harry for this shot.
The Gang @ Onion photo OnionGTGTheGang06.jpg

And when the night came to an end for us, we are already speaking about the next GTG, the theme as well as the next venue. Open to suggestions...

Onion Restaurant & Bar is located at 791 Bukit Timah Road. Thanks Dee and the team from Onion for a wonderful night.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Our GTG - Onion Restaurant, Part 1 - The Place

Our second GTG in 2 months - the last one being in April where we bade farewell to Goris of IWC. This time, a smaller group got together for food, great company and of course the watches. The two themes were - Nato straps, coloured bezels and interesting case backs. It is not just about watches but also about finding new places to explore and share good food.

The Onion Restaurant and Bar is located along Bukit Timah Road just before Sixth Avenue. I have been there several times for dinner as well as for Sunday brunch. Dinner was good and so was the Sunday brunch especially if you are one of those who like free flow of sparkling wine on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The Onion Restaurant photo OnionGTGRestaurantFront.jpg

The Restaurant has two levels - level 1 being the bar, dining area and the open concept kitchen. We had a group of 20 so we were given the upper level where they laid out two rows of tables - 10 each.
The Onion Restaurant photo OnionGTGRestaurantInside01.jpg
Onion Restaurant Upper Floor photo OnionGTGRestaurantInside02.jpg

The upper level is great for a group gatherings as it gives the privacy we needed. First up was the French Sparkling Wine for all guests and some finger food.
Onion GTG The Champagne photo OnionGTGTheChampagne.jpg

I was slow in taking picture of the finger food - by the time I did, the spring rolls were all gone! Next fastest to go was the seared tuna and the black olive tarts. Also part of the Canapes were Brie de Mealix on Toast and Quail eggs topped with Caviar.
Onion GTG Finger Food photo OnionGTGFingerFood01.jpg
Onion GTG Finger Food photo OnionGTGFingerFood03.jpg

Now the main course - grilled salmon or the Spanish Iberico Pork Chop. The salmon was very well done, slightly over done but still moist enough on the inside. Those who had the salmon liked what they got.
Onion GTG Grilled Salmon photo OnionGTGTheFood01.jpg
Onion GTG Grilled Salmon photo OnionGTGTheFood02.jpg

Most of us had the Spanish Iberico Pork Chop served with garlic demi glaze, mashed potatoes and vegetable stew. A nice portion pork chop, well cooked as a piece of pork should be but still moist and tender.
Onion GTG Iberico Pork Chop photo OnionGTGTheFood03.jpg
Onion GTG Iberico Pork Chop photo OnionGTGTheFood04.jpg

And the wine of the night was the house pour - The Cabernet Sauvignon table wine. Pretty good stuff considering it is table wine quality. But definitely goes well with the nights food.
Onion GTG The Red Wine photo OnionGTGTheWine.jpg

And to round off the night, we had the KaVaLan Taiwanese Whisky. Fruity on the nose and great value for a single malt. As I understand it, the malt is imported but the water used is local spring water from around the area where they make the whisky. No information on the age of the whisky though.
Onion GTG The Whisky photo OnionGTGTheWhisky.jpg

Sorry I did not post the soup which was the seafood soup in Cava Broth. Too busy mingling I totally forgot about it. I also did not feature the dessert - an ice cream cake. To me, that was too sweet. But overall, it was a good dinner. Service was attentive and definitely better than many establishments I have been to. But most of all, it was great company for the night!

Onion Restaurant & Bar is located at 791 Bukit Timah Road. The next post will be on the gathering, the gang and the watches!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Wearing Kopi - Fancy A Nespresso on Your Wrist?

The idea of recycling is not new but someone came up with a term upcycling. Here, they use the waste from a product as raw material for making another "sustainable" final product.

Blancier Quartet photo Blancier06Quartet.jpg

Willem Kamerman is the Founder and CEO of Blancier Handmade Watches and he created a new line of watches using the used Nespresso capsules as dials.
Blancier Blue & Bronze photo Blancier01BlueampBronze.jpg

The Blancier Grand Cru watches comes in different color dials and will be done when the orders are confirmed. Lead time is around 6 weeks from order to fulfillment. Matching strap color further accentuate the watch. Because the dials are crushed capsules, Willem assures you no two dials are identical. Comes in a presentation box with three capsules.
Blancier Box, Capsules & Watch photo Blancier05BoxCapsulesampWatch.jpg

Housed in the steel case is a mechanical 6497 movement. Workhorse movement that is reliable and has its roots from the pocket watch. However, the movement is an unfinished movement which to me was somewhat disappointing. For a finished movements, one has to pay more and there are different grades of finishing. According to Willem, the watches are assembled in Germany.
Blancier Movement 6497 photo Blancier04MovementSide.jpg

I must say that winding the watch feels a little raw. Not as smooth as my other watches with a similar movement. I wonder if it has anything to do with the dial. But as a fun, match your outfit weekend watch, I guess its alright.
Blancier Blue photo Blancier03Blue.jpg

This is my favorite piece - Le Bleu. And Willem tells me I am his first customer from Singapore. And the Bronze for Thailand, that is a first too!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Swissness Redefined

It is often said - The Swiss make the finest watches - debatable especially if you ask the Germans and Japanese. But the proliferation of watches of different quality (and price range) has cast some shadow on what constitutes "Swiss Made".

Following is an article from Bloomberg announcing the new Swiss regulation as passed by the Swiss parliament. I think it is a positive step to further ensure consistency and quality and to safeguard the "Swiss Made" label. The Swiss Watch Federation is said to support this Bill.
AP Royal Oak RG photo APRoyalOakRG01.jpg

The Swiss parliament voted to tighten requirements on products labeled “Swiss-made,” responding to calls by the country’s largest watchmakers such as Swatch Group AG (UHR) to clamp down on foreign components. Under the new rules, watches and industrial products can be advertised as “Made in Switzerland” only if 60 percent of the raw materials come from the Alpine country. That caps a six-year dispute between Switzerland’s largest watchmakers such as Swatch, which makes Omega watches priced at more than $30,000 in addition to its plastic namesake brand, against smaller rivals such as Mondaine, which makes $200 timepieces styled after Swiss railway clocks. The measure replaces rules that date from 1971, which in effect could allow a watch that has 80 percent foreign components to be called Swiss-made, according to Rene Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel.
Rolex Submariner 14060M photo RolexSubNoDate14060M01.jpg

“It will be positive news for the Swiss brand,” as it will increase consumer trust in the products, Weber said. “It’s important to get the Swiss-made rules done more properly.” The old rules focus only on the watch’s movement, or the mechanism that makes it tick, rather than the entire timepiece. They allow watchmakers to use non-Swiss components for less than 50 percent of the value of the watch’s movement. The new rules apply to the entire watch, creating a tougher hurdle as many Swiss watchmakers use foreign cases, hands and dials.

Watches were Switzerland’s fastest-growing major export last year, increasing 11 percent. The industry has rebuilt itself since teetering on the brink of collapse in the 1970s. To keep its lead as other manufacturers shift to countries such as China in search of cheaper labor, the industry is trying to erect higher barriers to entry, which would make Swiss watches a scarcer luxury. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, which includes Swatch and competitor Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, asked the government in 2007 to strengthen the rules. Not all watchmakers agree. The new rules could destroy jobs, according to IG Swiss Made, a trade group that includes Mondaine and has argued for a 50 percent limit for timepieces.

So will we see prices of "Swiss Made" watches going up? As a buyer of Swiss Made watches, I applaud the tightening of regulations but hope this is not a ploy to keep prices high. Non-Swiss anyone?
Glashutte Senator Perpetual LE photo GlashutteSenatorPerpetualLE03.jpg

Source - Bloomberg

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Ice Cream Mango - The Season is Now!

The Jill Pasanth mango also known as the Ice Cream mango from India - so named because one scoops the flesh off the mango once halved. When properly chilled, the consistency of the flesh is similar to that of eating mango ice cream - only that it is pure fruit!

The season comes around once a year around early part of June. These mangoes are air flown from India after they are harvested from the southern part of India. According to leaflet in the box, these mangoes are left on the trees without protection from the elements and harvested when they mature to the right size and ready for export. Unlike the varietals from Thailand, these mangoes are round shaped instead of oval.
Ice Cream Mango Box Close photo IceCreamMangoBoxClose.jpg

The mangoes are packed in styrofoam boxes and air flown into Singapore as evident on the labels on the boxes. Marked on the size shows the number of fruits per box - they can range from 13 fruits to 17 fruits per box.
Ice Cream Mango Box Open photo IceCreamMangoBoxOpen.jpg

This box contains 14 fruits all wrapped in paper to prevent the mangoes from damage. Clearly labelled on the mango is a pink label - Indian Ice Cream Mango. As this is the start of the season, the fruits are a little green and hard to the touch.
Ice Cream Mango Day 3 Comparison photo IceCreamMangoComparisonDay4.jpg

These picture shows how fast the fruits ripen over a period of three days. These fruits comes with small kernel (seed) and are very fleshy.
Ice Cream Mango Half Cut photo IceCreamMangoHalfCut.jpg

See how juicy the mango is? Best eaten cold. The "proper" way to eat these mangoes are to refrigerate them after they are ripe. An hour before eating the mango, put them in the freezer compartment. This allows the flesh to somewhat harden. When you take them out from the freezer, half cut the mango the way you would an avocado, twist to remove the seed and the mango is ready to eat.
Ice Cream Mango Skin & Seed photo IceCreamMangoSkinampSeed.jpg

Scoop the flesh with a spoon. Notice how thin the skin is? Excellent taste and very juicy - none of the fibrous texture found in other types of mangoes and super sweet. The ice cream mango season lasts for about 4-6 weeks. For me, I've started enjoying mine already.
Ice Cream Mango with Ice Cream photo IceCreamMangowithIceCream.jpg

Thanks to my friend Thomas Choong of XiYan Private Dining, he shared with me his way of eating the Ice Cream Mango - with Ice Cream of course! The vanilla ice cream adds to the chill and actually balances the little sour and tanginess.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Feature of the Month - Vianney Halter's Deep Space Tourbillon

It is not everyday one gets to meet a watchmaking legend and I was lucky enough to meet the man - Mr. Vianney Halter. Watchmaker extraordinaire - a legend and a true artist. That is why he is The Feature of the Month.

In town to launch his new Deep Space Tourbillon, I was lucky to handle his latest creation. I am sure by now Vianney will be used to words like Creative, Visionary, Genius just to name a few, I must say the Deep Space Tourbillon (DST) is a departure from his often recognized rivet style watches. But what a departure!
VH DST Watch photo VH_DST_3_Quarter_1.jpg

The DST as taken from the press kit. Many watch brands start a "new" watch by developing what they want. If they want to make a tourbillon watch, they go design a tourbillon. With Vianney, he started with a blank sheet and sought inspiration and as with many creative souls took themselves away from the main field just so they will not be saturated by their surroundings. The result is a space inspired watch which represents time in four dimensions.
VH DST Tourbillon photo VH-DST_Tourbillon.jpg

Vianney feels that to represent those four dimensions is to use a tourbillon - a triple axis tourbillon at that. Three axes - up, down and depth all difficult to differentiate in outer space due to the lack of gravity. And the fourth dimension is Time. The tourbillon (1st axis) rotates in 40 seconds while the "Rotisserie" like main carriage (2nd axis) rotates in 6 minutes and the watch's main plate rotates in 30 minutes (3rd axis). Mesmerizing is the only words I can use to describe the movement of the tri-axis tourbillon. The picture of the tourbillon from the press kit.
VH DST Ed 01 photo VHDeepSpaceTourbillonED01.jpg

On the hand, the watch is lighter and smaller than one anticipates. The titanium case ensures the lightness and the dome-shaped sapphire glass gives the watch an out of this world feeling. Wears well on the wrist even as it measures 46mm in diameter. The manual winding in-house VH 113 calibre has a power reserve of 55 hours.
VH DST Ed 02 photo VHDeepSpaceTourbillonED02.jpg

My poor attempt at capturing the watch. Apologies as I had not brought my camera - not sure if it would have made much difference given my skills…
Vianney at Reception photo VHatDSTLaunch.jpg

Many thanks to The Hourglass for hosting the event and the invite. After several years of hiatus, THE MAN IS BACK! Deep Space Tourbillon is the result when Inspiration meets a talented Genius.