Sunday, August 31, 2014

ION Insider Launch at Gusto

This past Thursday, I headed to Gusto at ION Orchard for the launch of the ION Insider blog (finally!). There, I joined the other bloggers who will also be contributing content in their areas of expertise; ranging from fashion, food, beauty, to lifestyle. I'm very honored to be part of the selected 10, after the initial 40 shortlisted from more than 200 applicants. If you're interested in checking out the entries detailing my experience at the ION Insider workshop earlier this year, here's Part Un, and Part Deux


Shirt- Céline / Jeans- DL1961 / Ring- Balenciaga / Bracelets- Cartier & Gold Bracelet from Grandma / Bag- Céline Box Bag / Shoes- Mango Touch


Once everyone was settled in, ION's Assistant Vice President of Marketing Communications, Shien Yau gave a short welcome speech. After which we were treated to the cocktail demonstration by the talented Shahrul, Bar Manager at Gusto. While our eyes were entertained by Shahrul, our mouths were given similar treatment with delicious canapés! I especially liked the olive risotto, coated with batter and fried, topped with tomato sauce.  


I was paying super close attention because us bloggers would be making our very own cocktails afterwards. Shahrul demonstrated with two of his favorite drinks--Death by Chocolate (an alcoholic  chocolate milkshake, if I may) and Old-Fashioned (mixed the nostalgic way in a beaker, and stirred not shaken).

After the demonstration, it was time for us to get our hands dirty. Shahrul picked Thiang and I to go first. Since I don't drink (I'm allergic!), I came prepared with a mocktail recipe I thought represented my personality pretty well. I notified Shahrul of the necessary ingredients in advance, so all I had to do was measure out the right proportions and mix them together.


The key to making a good cocktail (or mocktail in my case), is finding the balance in the drink. First I added fresh watermelon juice, topped it up with coconut water, and because I love my spice, some jalapeño syrup! I look really awkward in the pictures below because I was so afraid of getting stains on my almost all-white outfit. 


Next, fill the tumbler up with lots of ice and get ready to shake it up. It looks a lot easier than it is, because your hands will get cold pretty fast! But of course, there's always time to pose for the cameras. After tasting my drink, I thought it could do with a little more jalapeño syrup so I added just a teensy bit  to amp up the kick, and gave it a couple more shakes for good measure.


Served in a Tulip glass, my drink, very aptly named Jalapeño Watermelon Agua Fresca was topped with a sprig of mint and a quarter of lime. Isn't it a lovely shade of ombre? Shahrul said it's the perfect hangover cure (H20 from the watermelon and electrolytes from the coconut)! It's actually really yummy, and you only feel the slight burn from the jalapeño when it hits the back of your throat. I would totally order it if it's on the menu... Which it might be, following my chat with Shahrul.

After trying my hand at cocktail-mixing, I now have a newfound respect for bartenders. It's  really challenging recalling different recipes at the drop of a hat, not to mention you'll need some upper-body strength to really give the cocktails a good shake. That being said, I'd definitely give it another go in a heartbeat!


Once the other bloggers were all done with their cocktails, the judging began. The best testing/looking cocktail with a good concept would be picked to appear on Gusto's special menu for a week. Thiang's cocktail, named MotivatION won! The concept behind her cocktail is really interesting. If you're looking for a little perk-me-up to chase away mid-week blues, her drink is a must-try. Head down to Gusto to check it out for yourself. 


Thanks Shahrul for making my mocktail dream a reality! I'm so happy you liked it, couldn't have created it without your guidance. I'll be back to visit. 


Major thanks to the ION Orchard marketing communications team--specifically Chermaine--and the fabulous team from Vocanic, Peggy, Zoe, and Sweta for granting me this opportunity to be part of the ION Insider experience. It was lovely to meet you guys once again. I love how our outfits were unknowingly coordinated, and I think we all look great in this picture! It's just too bad Sweta had to leave early...


Glad to have made new friends during the dinner, namely Thiang (the only one I recognized from our previous ION Insider Workshop together), and Stanley of Fashionide. So nice finding someone who speaks the language of Fashion, and to also compare buys!


Received a lovely door gift from Penhaligon's, which contained my chosen scent following my scent profiling there--Endymion.

Also, if you haven't already read my debut post, Essentials to Help You Pack Light and Right for Your Trip, on the ION Insider blog, get your ass over there now! Please do leave a comment and let me know if you've got any other tips to share. 

Gusto is located at:

2 Orchard Turn
ION Orchard, #01-15
Singapore 238801
Tel: (65) 6509 9380
Blogger Tricks

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Charm Cooks: Hearty Minestrone


While I haven't made the choice to go vegan yet, I've consciously made the decision to eat less meat (as much as possible!). If I have to consume meat, it'll mainly be poultry and sustainably caught fish. The same can't be said for my meat-loving other half, who will avoid things like celery and chickpeas like the plague. I quote, "The amount of beans I've eaten in this meal is more than the amount of beans I've eaten in my entire life". However, even he enjoyed every last bit of this hearty Minestrone soup I made. Make this and you'll never be able to go back to Campbell's Minestrone soup again.

I adapted SkinnyTaste's recipe for Crock Pot Minestrone Soup, and tweaked it slightly to my taste. 


Ingredients
  • 1 can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can of chickpeas (I used organic chickpeas, soaked overnight)
  • 900 ml vegetable broth (I used Pacific Food's organic vegetable broth)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced zucchini 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 box of cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 box of organic baby spinach (I used Earthbound Farm)
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • Herbs for taste (I used Masterfood's Mixed Herbs with additional fresh thyme)
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream (optional, I added this for a thicker broth)
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (I used Barilla's Fusilli)
  • Parmesan 


Directions
  1. Heat oil in a pot on medium heat.
  2. Sauté the garlic, onions, celery, and carrots until tender and fragrant (15-20 minutes).
  3. Pour in the broth, cherry tomatoes, and chickpeas. Add salt and pepper.
  4. Add in the herbs, throw in the sprig of rosemary, cover, and allow the soup to simmer for 40 minutes.
  5. Throw in the spinach and zucchini, and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the zucchini is tender. 
  6. Add more salt and pepper for taste, and here's when you stir in your heavy cream if you've decided to add it.
  7. Ladle your soup out into the bowls with your pasta waiting for their vegetable baths, and top with parmesan cheese for extra flavor. 

This is a balanced, wholesome meal on it's own with a good mix of vegetables, protein, and carbs. If I was vegetarian, I'd probably cook a huge pot of this once a week and consume it over two days. It's just one of those dishes that taste better the next day! We demolished a hot piping bowl of this Minestrone soup with a loaf of baguette, and it was super satisfying. Hope you love this dish as much as I do! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Denim singing the blues?


Last week I read an article detailing the decline of denim sales (six percent decrease of global sales year over year), and that denim could shockingly be in danger of going out of fashion. How is it, that such a utilitarian staple which has withstood the test of time and multiple fashion cycles, be losing it's popularity? As an avid wearer of denim (it's practically my uniform!), I find this incredibly hard to believe. 

While well-worn jeans has always been the epitome of comfort and casual wear (think of all those times you weren't allowed into a restaurant because you were wearing jeans), the sport luxe trend has become a strong contender. With celebrities and supermodels leaving gyms in tracksuits and yoga attire, it has become modus operandi to grab lunch, run errands, and hang out decked top-to-toe in T by Alexander Wang

According to Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, a leading consumer trends analyst and market research group said:

Six percent might not seem like much, but it's rare of denim to take such a dramatic drop. Since denim is a commodity business, we buy and replenish it constantly. 

I feel the death of denim is greatly exaggerated, and denim retailers shouldn't be so quick to get their panties in a twist. Denim isn't exactly the most delicate of materials. A well-made pair of jeans could probably last you a lifetime, granted you stay the same size. The wash might fade, holes and patches might appear, a rivet might even fall off--but this just adds to the denim's character! I couldn't agree more that denim is a commodity but not at the same scale of rice or sugar. You won't be buying a new one to replace your own pair every other week. A denim collection is built over time, and it's hard work finding the best fit and washes that suit you.

Sure, sales of denim might have fallen. But this to me is indicative of the massive number of denim wearers--so many that even though a sizable minority have ceased wearing jeans--has caused an inconsequential dip in denim's pervasiveness. Denim is hardly going to be exorcised from closets worldwide. While I can't deny the comfort of yoga pants, nothing beats the chic look of classic black stovepipes, paired with an oversized, crisp white shirt. 

So long as retailers constantly reinvent denim--such as Zoo Jean's getting big cats involved in their denim distressing process--denim will never go out of fashion. Consider this scaremongering rumor, busted. 

P.S.: I have just exercised my solidarity for denim by purchasing some Levi's 501s, which are currently a plane ride away. Will you show your support and buy a pair too?