M.A.C. Flamingo Park / Zac Posen Preview - Launch at Ngee Ann City

Saturday, 27 February 2016

*Cross - posted on Happyberrynaiad*

I don't often do make-up posts, not because I don't like make-up. Lord knows how often I check out all those awesome make-up videos that pop up on my social media feed.
Unfortunately, that's about all I do. Well, other than wishing that I have half the make-up skills some of the girls (in my social media feed) have! I don't often wear make-up to work, simply because I don't wake up in time to do it.
Yeah. I can be a morning person, if morning happened around noon.
Just crawling out of bed to get to work on time takes one hell of an effort from my mom. At times, she even has to resort to rolling me out of bed. Ain't kidding when I say it's effortful on her part!
On those rare occasions that I actually get out of bed on time, I'm limited to very simple make-up:
Eye-brows, eye-shadow, eye-liner, powder, blush and lipstick.
I probably have tons of eye-shadows lying around, and my mom is constantly stealing my lipstick since I barely use them.
Yet, despite all that, I persist in looking at make-up. And with looking, comes buying.
So when someone at M.A.C called to send an invite to their Flamingo Park / Zac Posen Preview-cum-Launch, I just said yes.
Zero hesitation. While the wallet heaved another sigh of despair.
So anyway, since Ngee Ann City was pretty near where I work, I was able to reach early, which was my intention anyway. If anything, the one lesson I've learnt since attending such events, when the crowd comes along at the stipulated timing, you can forget about getting any decent photos, and you would very likely have to join the snaking queues just to get what you want.
Benefits of arriving just that little bit earlier, you can take all the time to snap photos. Well, the trick is to be thick-skinned enough to ignore the stares of others in the store.
And oftentimes, I'm more interested in all those preparation work prior the event.
And despite arriving earlier, I still couldn't get pictures of a full collection display.
I figured it wasn't a big loss for me. Since this isn't a make-up blog, any readers interested in this MAC collection would already have read (and seen better pictures) on make-up blogs elsewhere.
Well, I did manage to get the Zac Posen collection display in full. Do I score points for standing around to wait?
Now, check out the crowd! And this was just the early crowd. I was just so thankful that I had already made my decisions and purchased what I wanted.
Part of the event included a make-up demonstration. Since I had already been viewing a lot of YouTube vids and Instagram vids on make-up, I wasn't really interested and barely paid mind to the make-up artist.
I admit. I didn't hang around to the end of the event. I had already gotten what I wanted, I hated crowds and I was getting famished.
Well, I might not be interested, but check out the crowd who were!
M.A.C also had a couple of dudes decked out in cute, preppy outfits going around giving out refreshments. One of them happily agreed to pose for my camera. All I had to do was ask!
And because this IS a nail polish blog, I just had to get close-ups of the nail polish.
MAC Spoonful of Sugar, described as a soft pink glitter with pink pearl.
MAC Miami, described as a warm pinkish coral.
And here's what I got for myself:
MAC Zac Posen Eye Z You Palette
MAC Flamingo Pink Powder Blush in Let's be Friends
MAC Flamingo Pink Beauty Powder in Pearl Blossom
and MAC Lipstick in Silly.

Hua Ting Steamboat Restaurant

Sunday, 21 February 2016

With this being the Lunar New Year period, many Singaporean Chinese would have had steamboat very recently. It's almost like the de facto gathering meal for friends and family during this period. Which is absolutely great for me, since I love a good steamboat.
In fact, my group of foodie friends and I come together for steamboat pretty often round the year. I believe we've tried most of the major steamboat restaurants that has been sprouting up in Singapore in recent times. So when one of us suggested a new-to-us place, I was pretty excited.

Hua Ting Steamboat Restaurant opened only in October last year. While we were there, I observed several diners being confused between the Hua Ting Restaurant and this newer outlet at Claymore Connect. The original Hua Ting (Cantonese) Restaurant is located within the Orchard Hotel premises, level 2.
Hua Ting Steamboat Restaurant is however, located at the mezzanine level of adjoining Claymore Connect. If you come in through the hotel, look for the entrance to Claymore Connect (next to a pair of escalators, near concierge). Once you walk down that short flight of stairs, turn left and you should be able to see Hua Ting Steamboat Restaurant.

We were given seats very near the entrance of the restaurant, but since the place was relatively quiet, the arrangement was fine with us. In fact, at first glance, we were a little taken aback as the place was deceptively small for a restaurant. Until we realised that there were at least 2 private rooms and additional hidden space.
Hua Ting is one of those outfits where customers make use of iPads to place their orders. For steamboat places like this, I actually appreciate this use of technology as it makes it so much more convenient for us. Especially when you would like a second order of ingredients while already in the midst of your meal, an iPad is so much more convenient than having to keep trying to catch the attention of a passing staff. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has had to put down my utensils so that I can fully focus on catching the attention of one of the staff. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who gets annoyed at failing to catch any of their attention. In fact, some occasions, I secretly wonder if I should just jump up and start wriggling my hands and butt just to grab some attention.

Another little item that I appreciated - you see that little napkin like thing on the plate in the photo above? That's actually a bib. It might seem frivolous to some, but to me, it indicated some thoughtfulness on the part of the management. If you're of those persons who puts each dainty morsel of food directly into your mouth, and looks at others spilling their food in disgust, please stay away from me. We're just going to ruin each other's appetite. And you probably can't appreciate the presence of this bib.
However for those of you who have groaned at the splash-back when peeling off a prawn head, or have had chilli soup/sauce accidently drip off your piece of meat, or had that prawn ball slip off your chopsticks? You'll be delighted that Hua Ting has thoughtfully provided that bib.

All right, since it's the Lunar New Year, we went for a yu sheng. For readers (if any) who are not local, the best way I can describe yu sheng (also known as lo hei) is that it's a Chinese version of a salad that's eaten during the Lunar New Year period. Ingredients are generally similar across places, restaurants as they are meant to signify good, prosperity, wealth, etc. OK, a lot of things during Lunar New Year is always to signify good, health, wealth, prosperity, abundance, blah blah blah, so you should know that this yu sheng is no different.
The fun is in the tossing of the salad. Everyone gets in the fun with their chopsticks and you're supposed to shout well-wishes while doing the toss. Needless to say, it can get quite messy and rowdy. If foreign friends ever visit Singapore during the Lunar New Year period, you really should get to a Chinese restaurant during this time to observe the spectacle.

For those of you who love yu sheng and want to know if Hua Ting's version is any good, I'm sorry to say that I personally find this just average. I've had better yu shengs (think Peach Garden and Prima Tower). There's really nothing much to shout (or in this case, write) about for the one at Hua Ting.

I have 3 personal markers when I judge a steamboat restaurant. Pretty obvious markers actually:
1) The condiments provided
2) The soup base
3) The ingredients for the steamboat
Most major steamboat restaurants now provide a variety of condiments to go with your food, so seeing that array is no longer unusual. What I do look out for, is whether the items are fresh and whether they run out. Well, Hua Ting didn't fail in any of this. Additional plus, they do seem to have some stuff that are not always seen at other restaurants, e.g. dried chilli shrimp, fried scallions. Definitely no complaints in this department.

Next, the soup base. Hua Ting's menu boasts of 8 interesting soup flavours, including Sea Treasure Flambé, Superior Fish Soup with Winter Melon & Conpoy, Shark’s Bone Cartilage Soup with Fresh Bean Curd Sheets and Bak Kut Teh with Whole Pork Bone.
Again, like most steamboat restaurants, you can choose up to 2 different soup bases for your steamboat. We went with the Shark's Bone Cartilage (on the right in photo above) and a Sichuan Style soup (obviously then the left one in the photo).
Between the 2 soups, the Shark's Bone Cartilage one was a clear winner with us. My friends and I generally tend to order a spicy soup and a more traditional soup base when we go for our steamboats. However, we found the Sichuan style a tad too spicy for us, and we didn't even up the spice level. So for those of you who cannot take spice, our advice to you is to lower the spice level when presented with the option on the iPad.
The Shark's Bone Cartilage one however, is just awesome. A couple of tips if you're ordering this:
1) Order the drunken chicken as well and dump the wine into the soup. What was initially good is going to get fantastic. If you're Hua Ting and reading this, hey, how about adding that hua tiao jiu into the soup too?
2) Pls save on ordering the fresh bean curd skin. The soup comes with it and there's plenty swimming in there.

Having passed 2 out of my 3 markers, what about the last marker then? I didn't count but Hua Ting's website boasts of over 150 dishes to choose from. For sure we didn't feel like there was nothing much to order. On the contrary, we had to be careful not to over-order since it seemed like there was so many to choose from. They also had some items which were not always common in steamboat restaurants, e.g. the pig's intestines, fried bean curd skin stuffed with salted egg. Items were also pretty fresh and that often makes all the difference.
I'm always put on ordering restriction when I'm with my friends. I tend to over-order, especially when I'm hungry. However, here are some recommendations:
1) The homemade items such as the balls and the paste were pretty good.
2) The fried beancurd skin stuffed with salted egg yolk. Yeah, ok, I know. Its salted egg yolk everything these days, but these fried beancurd skin were pretty good.
3) Skip the fried beancurd rolls. Not the best I've had, and comparing it to the one stuffed with the salted egg yolk, the rolls paled in comparison.

Price wise, Hua Ting Steamboat would be on the pricier end. Given the price tag, portions appeared smaller than some other restaurants. Our group of 4 paid almost $100 per pax. We ordered items from almost every category except seafood, and the end tab also included second helpings of some orders, a couple of desserts and the yu sheng.
Bottom line: would I/we return again?
Yup, definitely. Though I still prefer Imperial Treasure to Hua Ting, I'm not striking it off my list. In fact, there are already plans made to bring another friend along in the near future.
Address: Claymore Connect, mezzanine level #01-08, 442 Orchard Road, Singapore 238879
Operating hours: Lunch 11:30am - 2:30pm, Dinner 5:30pm - 10:30pm 
For reservations: Call (+65) 6739 6628 or email steamboat.huating@millenniumhotels.com

Dynasty Travel: 8D6N Colourful Hokkaido Tour, Day 5 (Part 2)

Saturday, 13 February 2016

I finally got around to changing the layout of this travel blog too! Yeah, it's been bothering me for a while, but not enough to get my ass moving on it till now. See! Honest-to-God renewed motivation to move this blog along!
Day 5's itinerary:
Kitanomori Ice Pavilion --> Furano Tomita Farm  --> Furano Winery (ふらのワイン工場) --> Furano Cheese Factory (富良野チーズ工房)

Once we were done at Tomita Farm, we headed off to the Chateau Furano aka the Furano Winery. It was a pretty short ride since the attractions were all pretty close to one another, so I didn't feel like I got properly cooled down before I needed to head out again. Thankfully, this was an indoor facility and yay to modern technology that gives us air-conditioning.

Ok, this was sort of my first disappointment for the day. While entrance was free, we were mostly left to roam on our own. Our tour guide Ms Reikko did give us a brief description of the cellar. Well, I assume that's a cellar since there were so many barrels of wine being kept there. Since there was no proper tour conducted, it was a little boring. I mean, how long can you stare at barrels?
Having said that, if I ever get a chance to come back to Furano, I'll drop by the winery again for sure! I'll tell you why (very) soon.
So once, I was bored of the cellar (which was pretty quick), my parents and I proceeded upstairs for free wine tasting. I'm not a wine connoisseur. In fact, I drink very little alcohol. So I'm definitely not the best person to write about whether the wines were fantastic or not. However, the little that I did sip to try, seemed to go down the throat pretty well.
On the other hand, what I can definitely say, was that the grape juice was AWESOME. Yup, there's grape juice testing too! And the very reason why I'll come back again - simply just to purchase the most awesome grape juice and grape juice jelly ever! I suspect that the jelly also had a little bit of wine in it. We bought a large bottle of the grape juice and 3 packets of the jelly home. The family finished them so fast, I never got to grab photos of them at all. They were THAT awesome. My mom is forever lamenting that it was the best grape jelly she ever had and till now, continues to regret buying only 3 packets.
Well, if I ever get the chance, I'll cart an entire box back the next time!

Once we were done at the Furano Winery, we boarded the tour bus to the Furano Cheese Factory. Our Dynasty Travel tour itinerary included an ice-cream making workshop at the cheese factory. Mom couldn't stand the smell of milk and declined but dad had a blast of a time making his ice-cream.

This was the ice-cream making machine although we were told that the trick to making good ice-cream was in the proportions of the milk and sugar.

While our ice-cream mixture went churning in the machine, we were being shown how to make our ice-cream waffles.

I have to say, I think my waffles were a lot tastier than the ice-cream we made. Otherwise, it must be the fault of the many yummy soft serves and ice-creams that I've had on this trip. Our self-made ice-cream paled a lot in comparison.

Once we were done with the ice-cream workshop, we were left to roam the place on our own. My parents and I headed upstairs (again) to the shop where we were greeted by this massive cow model. It seemed like everyone was taking a photo of it, and I succumbed to following the crowd as well.
There was a variety of cheese/dairy related products for sale at the shop, including cheesecakes, cheese (of course!),  milk, etc. As I was super stuffed from constantly eating, dad and I bought a small piece of the cheesecake just to try. Not too bad, but I've had better memories of the cheesecake from Mt Rokko in Kobe, Japan.
There were also samples of cheese available for tasting. What struck me was the "interesting" flavours that were available: original, wine-infused and squid-ink. I didn't grab pictures since it was only a few slices of cheese left on each platter. And unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough to grab any of those slices to try either.

Adjacent to the cheese factory is a little park where you can find these 2 "treasures", a gelato shop and a pizza shop! Heh. See how food-driven I am?
I was really too full to even attempt stuffing a slice of the pizza, but I was told by our tour guide Ms Reikko, that the pizza here is really delicious.
However, I did get a scoop of gelato to try since they had really interesting flavours as well. There was corn, pumpkin, asparagus and some of the more traditional melon, milk, grape, etc. Well, since I don't usually come across vegetable gelato, I decided to go for the "extreme" and got myself a cup of the asparagus gelato.
Not my cup of tea. Imagine a pureed veggies and milk mix. Bleah.
I'll just stick to the real greens in future.
Thoughts from Day 5:
For once, day 5's itinerary felt less rushed. The attractions were much smaller or simpler, and were located closer to one another so lesser time was spent on travelling on the roads.
Of the 4 attractions, Farm Tomita is a must during flower season in my opinion. Unless you're allergic to pollen or hate flowers. Otherwise, this place is really good for photos. Plus, you get pretty decent deals on lavender products, great for the home and as gifts.
The Kitanomori Ice Pavilion would be great as a side trip if you're nearby and especially if you have kids. You can probably cover the place in about an hour so that shouldn't take up too much time in your itinerary plans.
The Furano Winery and Furano Cheese Factory is also pretty close to each other. There's also a grape orchard near the Furano Winery (but I didn't have the chance to visit). I strongly recommend getting the grape juice if you ever visit. Just make sure you pack and secure it well on your flight home as their packing is not protective enough. However, if you're not into wines or cheese, and if you don't join in the workshops, then there's really nothing much to see or do here. Both places also don't take up a lot of time.
Tourist Information:
Furano Winery
Address: Shimizuyama, Furano, 076-0048 Hokkaido
DID: 0167-22-3242
Operating hours: 9 am to 6 pm from June to August,
9 am to 4:30 pm from September to May 
Entrance fee: Free entry
Furano Cheese Factory
Address: Nakagoku, Furano 076-0013, Hokkaido
Local address: 〒076-0013 北海道富良野市字中5区
DID: 167-23-1156
Operating hours: 9 am to 5 pm from April to October,
9 am to 4 pm from November to March