“Italian” Breakfast

Some hipsters like it rough… And that’s probably what brings them to Chye Seng Huat Hardware, the repurposed coffee joint. It’s nice seeing older buildings given a new lease of life instead of just getting demolished, as do many buildings in Singapore. The indoor dining area is pretty small, or at least felt that way when my food buddy HL and I were there. We were there on a weekend and obviously nearing lunch time. We settled with seating outdoors on stools and a rickety wooden table. Oh well maybe it would’ve been a better experience if it wasn’t warm (noon, no outdoor fans facing us) and the air was hazy.  Despite this being a coffee place, I have regretfully not ordered a cup of coffee during my time there. The menu just didn’t entice me to order one. Maybe they could throw in a bit of fancy Italian terms to whet my appetite like say cappuccino, macchiato, or maybe a yummy affogato. I can’t say the same about ordering coffee with espresso with water (americano? yucks…)  or espresso with milk (latte?); seemed all too clinical.

This brunch item was given the name Italian Breakfast. Hmm… Not very sure what makes it “Italian”. Is it the poached eggs? Nah… The crustless toasts? Doubt so… Oh maybe it’s the arugula placed casually on top of the eggs? But that still doesn’t make a convincing case to me. Alright, maybe it’s the minced meat with gravy that looks tomato-ish… But hey… They named this dish Italian breakfast but they couldn’t drop some Italian names on the coffee. This I don’t get it…

I have no idea how it tastes. But I did notice the disappointing choice of a dull blue melamine plate… I asked my food buddy HL how her her brunch tasted. I think she said ok or alright. Well, not quite a picky eater unlike me…

 

 

Picture taken with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens.

 

 

ODP Burger

Probably the saltiest fries I’ve ever had comes from Open Door Policy. The burger was posh but the garlic fries… I can’t forget the ridiculous amount of sodium added to it.

On the whole ODP reminds me of one of the hipster cafes/restaurants seen aplenty in New York City. It’s cool that Singapore’s F&B scene is getting more vibrant. But some things don’t change, table service is still rather abysmal. Seating was also really cramp.

I remembered the waiter asking me how I felt about the burger and why I didn’t finish up the fries. I told him I’ve no complains about the burger, it was pretty good. As for the fries, I thought the chef could probably go easy on the salt. I was thoroughly rebuffed by the waiter who thought I was being offensive to the chef. Well maybe I have a lower tolerance to sodium. However it didn’t make any sense for the waiter to ask the diner for their opinion and to only shrug off when he didn’t get the answer he wanted.

 

Picture taken with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and the XF 35mm f/1.4 lens.

Truffle pies on the board

I recently revisited Windowsills Pies with my favorite food buddy HL and naturally ordered a slice each. I think these are white chocolate truffle pies, if memory serves me right. I like indoor cafes, you get shelter from bad weather and air-conditioning for the dastardly heat. We had lunch earlier at a semi-alfresco cafe earlier and boy do I not enjoy that experience… It was a hazy day and the bad air made me lethargic.

I asked if some of the pies on display were seasonal and decorated for Halloween. Haha, the pie we ate sure looks the part! One of the staff told me no. But the pumpkin pecan pie was “seasonal” since it was pumpkin season (not in Asia, I believe). It’s quite novel how your pies are served on wooden boards. They look like chopping boards to me.

The pie had texture and was rather crunchy, which I liked. However I found it too sweet, and could certainly kick down a few notches for perfection. Or maybe I could have a pot of black tea without sweeteners to compliment the pie.

Anyway… The pies at this place are fine, but in my opinion not that worth traveling often to Jalan Besar to patronize. Some people commented the pies are expensive (I think the slice I ate was upwards of S$7). Well if it’s awesome I’m fine ponying up for it. But honestly I think the pies I had in U.S. are way better… Donuts too. :|

Picture taken with my D800 and my ole manual focus 55mm macro lens.

Orchids at Sunset

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Nothing beats the golden hues of light at sunset… The picture was captured after a rain at around 5pm in the National Orchid Garden. Who says you need strobes and flashes to creatively light your subjects? Nothing beats the flattering distribution of sunlight, unless ahem… The dastardly noon light. But even that is not entirely impossible to overcome.

Picture taken with a Nikon D800 and my trusty old macro lens, Nikkor MF 55mm f/2.8 Micro.

When turtles meet

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I was at the Singapore Botanic Garden, photographing specifically orchids, as I usually do. I wasn’t expecting myself to shoot anything apart from flowers so I coupled my D800 with my macro lens along with my X-Pro1 (for anything else). On my way out of the garden, I caught sight of a kid feeding bread to critters in the swan lake. With all my gear packed away, the only available camera I could use in a split second was my iffy X-Pro1. Oh well, if I could predict the future, I would’ve fitted a longer lens instead of a wide 23mm. (Haha… I find myself saying otherwise when I have a long lens on it.) But beggars can’t be choosers, there’s no way I could replicate this moment on my next trip. What do I do? Lean in as much as I can towards the lake and pray I don’t fall in. With all the feeding activity going on, all the aquatic animals were gathering close to the banks. It was at this moment when I chanced on these two red-eared sliders (terrapins) cozying up to each other! Not sure what was going on exactly… Are they showing affection, confronting each other or just peacefully interacting? God only knows… But they do seem lost in their moment as the fish beneath the surface go about rushing for their share of crumbs. What a fleeting moment…

Manza Beach

Found the perfect view at a quiet spot after viewing Cape Manzamo… The view from the cliffs overlooks the beach and the ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort. The white boat on the far left looks to me like a semi-submarine. It’s funny how most of the tourist hog the view of Cape Manzamo but seemed relatively nonchalant about exploring other points around the cliffs. I’d love to hang out a bit longer and explore the surrounding village but was time-restricted. One of the usual woes of group traveling. But there’s nothing much I could do since I don’t speak Japanese, self-traveling on the island is going to be tortuous.

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Okinawa is the livelier version of Esperance, Australia (I so loved the beaches there!) and more family friendly than say Phuket? Not suggesting that there ain’t vice in Okinawa, but it’s definitely not right in your face (except those Pachinko parlors) unless you deliberately seek it.

Picture taken with my D800 and the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED zoom lens. Wished I had a circular polarizer or a variable ND filter plugged in front of the lens to capture the clouds in full glory. The weather was mild and breezy when I visited fortunately. It would have been really disappointing if Neoguri hit the island during my trip. Typhoons are no joke…

Guanyin Shan

Guanyin Shan

Overheard a couple of mainland Chinese tourists talking about the mountain on the opposite shores of Tamsui River and got to know its name. The weather was just so terrible for the entire day spent at Tamsui. There was a mini-typhoon going on… The river was swollen, there was even reports of landslide in the neighborhood. I spent my time seeking shelter from cafe to cafe as the rain poured heavy and intermittently. Every time the rain came to a drizzle, I went out with my camera and continued shooting. Just as I getting into the groove… The rain hits back with vengeance. Ain’t that farcical.

Chapel by Tancha Bay

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Woke up to this balcony view around 5.30am. The sun sure is bright so early! Yup it was also pretty windy too. That chapel, which is part of the beach resort, doesn’t look exactly fitting on Okinawa though. Probably the result of the theme wedding trend the island is experiencing. Quite ironic since couples have made the island a popular wedding destination, shouldn’t they opt for something more reflecting of the island’s heritage? Oh well, people are just tough to understand.

Aerial view of Taoyuan, Taiwan

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The airplane flying above Taoyuan, Taiwan, in full view of Taoyuan International Airport and the surrounding towns. The aerial view of this part of Taiwan seems rather disorganized and scattered… It felt incredible to get a full view of the airport before the plane lands, which is probably attributed to the geographical location of the airport and the flight-route. The plane made a U-turn after passing the airport, for descend.

The view from out above

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The view from the window seat of an Airbus A300 above the South China Sea, somewhere between the Philippines and Taiwan. Lucky to snag it. I haven’t got the chance to sit next to the window of a plane for a pretty long while…

It was the strangest flight (heck everything on this airline is bizarre), as the crew kept reiterating how all electronic devices should be shut throughout the flight, citing this as FAA regulation. Really… They’re clearly either out of loops with the latest developments with FAA or trying to go all archaic. It’s been more than 6 months since FAA gave the OK to use personal electronic devices throughout all phases of flight. I simply can’t believe this airline still thinks turning on your iPod (for example) is going to bring down the plane.

I whipped out my X-Pro1 and snapped for the last quarter of the flight as the light outside the window mellowed till the plane touched down. Loved every bit of the experience. :)

P.S.: I got the lovely blue hue with a bit of extra help from my circular polarizer. But of course the weather was perfect too that day.

Choco

Choco

Choco, the beagle with long luscious eyelashes who’s often found in a corner in a pensive mood. No idea what’s on his mind though… Choco was an excitable, extroverted dog when he was younger. Not sure if his change to a more introverted temperament has to do with maturity…

Gaze

I can’t ever get angry with my hamster. Then again, I don’t have much of a temper with animals. I do wish I had the same level of patience and concern with people as I do with animals. It’s tough being mad at a cute-looking critter though. My hamster was arranging “crop circles” of bedding around his home when I took this shot. He prefers biting those paper pellets than resting on top of them. Everywhere he goes, he sweeps them away. He gnaws them when he’s bored too.

Animoo was in the midst of re-arranging his nap area, conveniently located next to his food bowl, when he saw my camera. I do wonder how he feels whenever I show him playback images of shots I took of him. Does he comprehend the photo as an image of himself or does he think of it as just another hamster? He stares really hard at them until the screen blackens, all the time.

Gazex

Typewriter

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Saw this at one of the exhibits in MoMA I think… I’ve never used a typewriter before, although there was one at home. Probably fortunate to have skipped that portion of technology since I’m prone to typos. After all, the correction fluid is my best companion back in school. This typewriter looks like something more recent, probably the late 1970s or 1980s… A bit of sleuthing on eBay led me to the identity of this typewriter: a portable Brother Deluxe 1350. My Mum swears by Brother, which is the brand she uses at work. Such a diligent luddite eh…

Analog Toronto

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There’s always a special place in my heart for Toronto. Strangely the city reminded me of home, for whatever odd reason, when I was studying in Buffalo. My return to this city reminded me how much has changed over the years. There’s even more new construction around. This city has this perpetual urban redevelopment going on… Lots of condos being built at the waterfront of Lake Ontario. I love the bay-and-gable style houses in the city, hope they don’t disappear.

The funky post-processing is a result of some experimenting on Analog Efex Pro. Not a big fan of the plug-in for daily use. It’s not as customizable as other plug-ins from Nik Software.  I still prefer using Color Efex Pro if I need something done fancy. :)

P.S.: I took this shot from a window in Casa Loma. 

Singapore Redux

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Every time I’m down at Marina Bay with a camera, the weather plays foul on me. The sky was grey and overcast the day I took this shot too. Weather seems so finicky these days anyway. Well since the sky was of a dreary color, I decided to go along with that and capture the essence of the depressing mood that seemed to envelop the city skyline. Heard recently from an acquaintance how Singapore is experiencing a recession. Think this picture visualizes her words pretty well. Depressing no doubt, but not all an ugly sight.

Hamster

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My dearest hamster who is formally known as Felix, and casually known as Animoo (Moo Moo at times). How we ended up with a variety of nicknames for this furry critter is lost on me. Then again I’m fond of nicknames myself and have countless aliases under my belt. This photo is taken with my X-Pro1 and paired with my bread and butter Nikkor 55mm macro lens.

It’s rather a pain manually focusing on this camera (way worse with auto focus). I find myself MF-ing much quicker on my D800 than on this camera. I suppose the reasons deal more with my familiarity with the D800 over the X-Pro1, and the fact that the weight of the lens (with attached adaptor) feels disproportionate against the camera body. But I do like how the picture turned out in the end. The color rendered by the X-Pro1 is such a gem.

French toast with roasted berries and vanilla ice cream

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Chunky cuts of french toast garnished with mixed berry compote fresh off the stove, sprinkled with some powdered sugar and mint leaves. If it wasn’t enough, it came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This brunch-dessert is one of the limited items of the brunch menu at Open Door Policy. Not sure how it tasted but it was presented pretty well and my friend enjoyed every bite of it. Alas the quality of service at this restaurant was dismal and the seating was horribly cramped. My friend and I were seated at a table the size of a regular classroom desk. Yes, those desk we had to use back in secondary school but this came with a smooth copper finishing. Same goes for those retro school chairs. Imagine the delight of dining under what felt like 18ºC air-conditioning and sitting on chilly chairs… It didn’t take too long for me to start sneezing. The worst bit was that the space between my seat and the next one behind was just millimeters apart. There was simply not enough room for me to get in and out, without causing disturbance and discomfort for the diner behind me. The decor of the restaurant does remind of the many cafes in East Village and Upper East Side, which was the primary reason why I decided to check out the place. However when it came right down to the quality of the table service, you definitely know for sure you’re in Singapore. :|

Cold Drip Coffee

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That’s a one-shot cold drip coffee from Drips Bakery Cafe served in a minimalist Bodum Pavina double-wall glass. Apparently this is the cafe’s house special. The drink sure seems pretty with the sun shining down from the skylight, creating that half under shade sunlight look. Alas it’s such a tiny cup my friend sipped her drink like she was sipping whiskey on the rocks. Yup that was some fancy schmanzy coffee, costing my friend a pretty penny. It’s a cold hard drink for a latte lover, not something I’d like to try.

Cinema

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George Segal’s Cinema (1963) is one of the more prominent pop art sculptures on display at Albright Knox Art Gallery. The last time I was at AK, I only had my iPhone with me and I snapped a photo of this sculpture too, alongside the other pop art paintings near it. AK has a huge collection of artworks from many prominent artists: Gauguin, Kahlo, Lichtenstein, Monet, Mondrian, Picasso, Pollock, van Gogh, Warhol, etc. But my recent visit to AK has left me feeling the collection seems to have shrank in size. Are some of the artworks under restoration or on loan to other galleries, or maybe they’ve sold some of these works again? God knows, but I do hope the missing art pieces are either on loan or under restoration.

Guaranty Building

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There’s nothing not to like about the ornate and organic details on the terra-cotta facade of Guaranty Building. Does makes you wonder why office buildings aren’t build this way anymore. The Guaranty Building was one of the most advanced high-rise office building in Buffalo’s heyday in the late 1890s. It was designed by famous American architect Louis Sullivan, who’s known as the father of skyscrapers and mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright.

I’ve passed by this building countless times from the distance whenever I rode the train to downtown, but it just didn’t stick in my mind. I was first introduced to it when I crashed a schoolmate’s town planning class tour of downtown. If I didn’t remember wrongly (since happened roughly 3 years ago), this 13-storey building was considered a skyscraper back in the good ole’ days. I’ve to admit I’ve not read up much about Sullivan, but I did read up on Wright’s works. That was precisely the reason why I was determined to visit Wright’s Martin House Complex during my return to Buffalo. I’m thankful that I was reintroduced to the Guaranty Building when I met up with my photography professor. The building is a reminder that Buffalo needs to see better days and get back into the game… Those days are coming pretty soon, fingers crossed.