Already when we last met, the Valtulina family hinted at that they were preparing a move to a new location. It would be a great improvement they told me, since they had seriously outgrown their family living room sized premises in the Bukit Timah area. Because of this, it was with great expectation we went to take a look at the new restaurant, Valentino’s, at Turf Club Road.
Greeted in family tradition with a warm hurricane of emotions at their door, we were whisked almost immediately, into the kitchen, where Valentino stood at the heart of it all.
I had certainly missed the Valtulina Family!
Gianpiero Valtulina, setting up the private dining quarters of the restaurant. Gianpiero, or ‘Papa’, has been a guiding hand in the process of the building of the new place. His influence and finishing touches can be seen in the beautiful decorations furnishing the home and restaurant.
The private room here can seat about forty-five persons. Perfect for that larger family or corporate event.
With so much movement in the place, I couldn’t help wanting to capture all details on camera, from the rustic brick enclaves in the main dining hall to the stash of deliciously piled ripened tomatoes and garlic that sat in proximity to various cheeses all carefully stored.
It took about a half hour to orientate myself in the new expansive place, from walk-in freezers to the various bakery and kitchens, the main dining hall and the Valentino Garden outdoors that already housed a healthy citrus tree, to finally sit down and come to process the information and impression of their new restaurant.
It was about a generation ago that anyone who wanted to swim in the waters of Singapore, whether river or sea, would and could in kampong spirit and enthusiasm simply jump in. Today, a stunt like that would most certainly get some raised eyebrows, if you didn’t end up yourself being hauled in by authorities in reminder of areas cordoned off, for reasons accorded, from bathing possibilities.
In the prescriptive social fabric of Singapore that can be both helpful and hindering at the same time, an area promoted for leisurely activities that includes sun basking and swimming is the Island of Sentosa with a mission of being “the world’s favourite leisure and lifestyle resort destination”.
Somewhere along the road on Sentosa stood this fellow. Perched and looking critical at us, he somehow reminded me of a nightclub bouncer.
Obviously, we were not on his list.
After visiting W Hotel and skimming past Universal Studios a while back, I was hesitant about finding any beachfronts left on Sentosa that were not fenced in and tarmacked over. But the researcher in me couldn’t help but be curious about the recent developments that I had only been able to read about thus far. So, I drove there anyway.
In the Visitor’s Guide to Sentosa I had found that there were now four beaches of choice. According to the information given, Palawan Beach, was for “family fun under the sun”, Siloso Beach was the “hippest”, Imbiah Lookout was for “exhilarating experiences for all ages” and Tanjong Beach was specifically assigned for “chilling out” and “winding down” with cocktail in hand (sentosa.gov.sg). It was mid-day in mid-week, and the last option of “chilling out” in near seclusion devoid of crowds, sounded paradise to my senses!
Stepping out of the car, at Tanjong Beach, I was happily surprised by how close in proximity the carpark was to the beach and how much beachfront there actually was left to spread a towel over.
As a little Garden of Eden of sorts is the Singapore Botanic Gardens, that’s beautiful for an afternoon stroll. As an integrated part of the Botanic Gardens is the National Orchid Garden that houses innumerable exotic varieties of the country’s national flower.
Sitting happy in the Orchid Gardens’ collection, the largest display of tropical orchids in the world, are more than 3,000 species and hybrids with about 600 on display. Every year, more vibrant and enduring hybrids are added on.
Within the compounds of the Botanic Gardens is Burkill Hall. Built in 1866, it is a fine example of an early colonial bungalow with its trellis constructs to its ground floors, tall windows adorned with matted drawn blinds.
Burkill Hall used to be the Director’s House, and its current name commemorates the only father and son pair, Isaac and Humphrey Burkill, to hold the post of Director of Singapore Botanic Gardens.
It’s been just about two years since my last visit to Trattoria and Pizzeria Capri in Singapore. In the ever changing landscape of Singapore, it’s a relief to step into Capri again, to find friendly and familiar faces and to pick up the conversation where it was left off, with hardly a glitch.
Interior of Capri with tiles of the Amalfi Coast, home of the Iannone family.
Much of our conversation revolved as usual around the different types of Italian food by region.
For anyone coming to Singapore for the first time, or the occasional visitor who wants to check what’s up in the city, the Singapore River with its numerous landmark bridges and quays is the natural place to start.
Since the founding of Singapore in 1819, the Singapore River has been the center for much of the island’s trade and economic activities.
The area around the mouth of the Singapore River was known as the Old Harbour. This was the busiest part of the port, with most trade taking place along the south bank of the river, at Boat Quay.
As early as 1822 this area was designated to be developed as a Chinese settlement, after which the Chinese, mostly traders and labourers, settled here in large numbers. Conditions were squalid but Boat Quay flourished, rapidly exceeding in volume the trade on the north bank, where the Europeans had their offices, houses and government buildings.
Mid-19th century and onwards
From the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 the new steamships started calling at the port of Singapore. Hundreds of bumboats would fight for limited berthing space. Incoming cargo were laboriously carried from the ships anchored outside of the river mouth. Sacks of goods streamed into the road on the shoulders of coolies. Here was a brisk trade of raw material such as rubber, tin, and steel to food and manufactured goods.
Only in the 1960’s did the commercial importance of Boat Quay start to decline as the ships grew and the role of the bumboats in the shipping industry was superseded by mechanized container handling.
It is difficult to talk about Marina Bay Sands in Singapore without mentioning numbers. However, from the moment you set your eyes on this building the first time, until you enter its car park and start finding your way through its numerous shopping malls – complete with in-built waterways, fountains and sampans – the proportions of this undertaking becomes mind boggling.
Furthermost out at one end of the Sands SkyPark, on a 46 meter overhang, is the KU DÉ TA nightclub.
Marina Bay Sands’ three hotel towers are connected by a sky terrace on the roof named Sands SkyPark that among other things features an infinity swimming pool and a number of restaurants and bars. Furthermost out on the 46 meter overhang, is the KU DÉ TA nightclub. In the middle of a lush garden, with trees and plants and a public observatory deck on the cantilever, you can enjoy a stunning view of the Singapore skyline.
A few weeks ago, a new restaurant opened in an old shophouse along Club Street in a dining concept that combines fine quality ingredients with culinary heritage and tradition.
It is perhaps not surprising that Truffle Gourmet is located in the heart of the most fashionable and lively district in the midst of Singapore.
Club Street is one of Singapore’s older streets. It is situated at the edge of Chinatown just adjacent to Cross Street and Amoy Street. In these quarters during the 18- and 1900s, Chinese immigrant labourers would find letter writers and calligraphers to help them stay in touch with their loved ones back home.
Today, a long stretch of bars and restaurants offers a variety of interesting places presenting good food in stylish surroundings.
I wonder what it is with sons of carpenters. One launches an entire institution of religion and the other, saves us from bad travel experiences and gives us the gift of luxurious, resilient travel bags.
The name Louis Vuitton evokes in me, not the large conglomerate fashion house with Marc Jacobs as artistic director of the empire, but rather the humble beginnings of the son of a carpenter who at age 14, in 1835, packed his bags in Anchay, Jura where he was born in France, and headed for Paris – on foot. He took odd jobs along the way to pay for food and lodging, all this while, perfecting his carpentry skills and expanding his knowledge on various types of wood.
400 km further away and one year later, Louis arrived in Paris to find a flourishing haute couture culture, where lavish and elaborate dressing was all the rage. It was here that he learnt to pack such elaborate outfits to perfection. And it was his dress packing skills and not foremost his carpentry skills that attracted the attention of Empress Eugénie. He became her favourite packer.
It was not long before he combined his dress packing skills with his carpentry skills to produce the first flat, stackable trunk for transportation. These stable and solid trunks were covered with grey Trianon canvas.
The CHIJMES cluster of buildings along Victoria Street is what to me remains as one of the more beautiful architectural features in the changing landscape of modern Singapore.
Having grown up in another Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), I feel right at home strolling the grounds of this one in the heart of the city. From the rooftop, you’ll get a good overview of the courtyard and the corridors of adjacent buildings that lead to once classrooms, today turned into office spaces.
The Chapel’s gothic architecture is breathtaking when basked in the morning light, in the quiet hours just prior to the rush of the city’s daily traffic.
A few years ago in Singapore, I had the opportunity to accompany some friends on their apartment hunting. There were several newly built units to view and we drove from place to place, spending long days on the road, bouncing from northeast to east and then west of the tiny island state.
From growing up in Singapore I remember how my mother spent time in the kitchen, over the weekends and in the evenings when she got home from work. Sometimes we dined out, but very often it was wet marketing where possible and then home to cook.
What caught me by surprise on this round of apartment hunting was how much smaller the kitchens in Singapore had become. It was as if the architects did not think of kitchens as a working space that should be able to function. In these apartments, home cooking seemed a non-activity for the household’s engagement, the oven being relegated to a token that marks the minimal existence of the kitchen space.
But being in Singapore, and considering all its wonderful facets of dining out, I can see how the kitchen at home has literally been spatially re-configurated both in the minds of people and in material dimensions, simply because eating out in Singapore is so much more than, a necessity.
I have an affinity for quiet corners in today’s current targeted 7 million inhabitants Singapore. And whether explained by quantum theories of alternate realities, or on a less philosophical level, simply taking the time to find that quiet spot during peak hours in the heart of bustling Chinatown, PS Café at Ann Siang Hill is an utterly serene and cosy meeting place.
Ann Siang Hill is the name of a one-way road located in Chinatown in Singapore. Situated immediately inland of the old harbour, it is today one of the more authentic areas that remain of old Singapore, right at the heart of where all trade of the olden days of this developing city would have taken place.
Having grown up in Singapore, I’ve had the opportunity to observe Sentosa transform from a relatively quiet and exotic city getaway with accessible beaches that you could drive up to, park and picnic if you so wished, to one filled with attractions today such as Universal Studios alongside Resorts World that have both locals and visitors gather by the hundreds over the weekends for some fun.
This time my curiosity was piqued about the American W Hotels Worldwide’s newly opened W Singapore hotel and residences located at Sentosa Cove. A place targeted as part of the Singapore government’s efforts at building exclusive residential areas, this one in particular being currently the only seaside marina residential area in Singapore.
Part of my culinary adventures is to combine bits and pieces of knowledge and inspirations picked up from one context and transfer that to a different context, in anticipation of the results. Besides which, I didn’t think I could get away being back in Singapore without cooking or baking with the family.
If it were not for a kind Samaritan I met along the way who pointed out directions to the Fullerton Pavilion in Singapore, I would have taken much more time before landing at the day’s lunch venue – Catalunya Singapore.
Coming in from the scorch of the mid-day tropical sun, it took a few seconds for the eyes to adjust to the dimmer interior of the bar and restaurant, though the line of sight didn’t need to venture farther than the reception to find a touch of Gaudí’s influence in the gleaming white broken mosaic pieces that clung to the columns of the dining interior. This influence of Gaudí would also continue, as I found, through the dining experience in the shapes and motifs of the plates and utensils on the table. Not two steps into the place, I was surrounded by individuals who spoke Catalan and Spanish, déjà vu and I felt right back in Barcelona again, and felt right at home.
Scope and Teaching Approach of Sexuality Education in Schools
Abstinence before marriage is the best course of action for teenagers. Sexuality Education teaches students the possible consequences of sexual activity and that pre-marital sex is not desirable as there are inherent risks.
To reduce the incidence of STIs/HIV and teenage pregnancies among our young, a practical approach is adopted. Sexuality Education teaches students facts about contraception, repercussions of casual sex, and the prevention of diseases from a health perspective. This is in addition to teaching teenagers about building healthy relationships and how to say “no” to sexual advances.
Sexuality Education teaches students what homosexuality is, and the current legal provisions concerning homosexual acts in Singapore.
Both teachers and MOE-approved external speakers should respect that they are in a position of trust with respect to students and ensure that schools are not used as arenas for advocacy on controversial issues.
A quick discourse analysis of the text uncovers the Singapore governmental institution’s underlying sense of Victorian values and lack of ease with the subject of sex education. The opening paragraph that outlines the “scope and teaching approach” of sex education in Singapore schools raises a few questions due to inconsistencies in conceptual definitions (defining “secular” vs. “mainstream” values in multicultural, multi-religious Singapore) and logical fallacies, one of which is faulty correlation that the discourse tries to equate facts (how STIs are spread) with social values (preferred abstinence from pre-marital sex).
One wonders what kind of cat and mouse game teachers and students would play during class on the topic of sex education, or on whom the blinkers will lay when “abstinence before marriage” (a material act of individual choice) is considered “the best course of action for teenagers” (a social value hegemonically advocated in this discourse) that is also “a practical approach” (begs the question, from whose perspective and for which party concerned – the teachers, the parents or the teenagers?). Even the Roman Catholic Church in their long history of struggle and balance of politics and power, where abstinence, the result of which was a purposeful lack of heirs that dissolved assets in their division amongst many, was deemed a necessary measure of wealth building, power retention and consolidation for the institution and regime of the Church, has had trouble keeping their ordained leaders chaste.
I have often written about Italian hospitality and how their spontaneous generosity has the ability to grab and wrap you as a warm blanket. Just a few days ago I found myself back at what I have to admit is one of my all time favourite Italian restaurants in Singapore, and was hardly out of the taxi when I met the first of the Valtulinas outside of their restaurant at Jalan Bingka.
In an instant I was properly greeted Italian style, and promptly whisked into Perla Valtulina’s next door pastry boutique for a peek at her latest creations for their upcoming new restaurant and pastry boutique, to be located at 200 Turf Club Rd (#01-19) in Singapore.
Having not been back in Singapore for a while it felt I had missed quite some happenings on their side, not in the least that there is now a sit-in dining possibility at the pastry boutique – an option I thought brilliant for a chocolate addict such as myself – with the equally delightful possibility of takeaway gelato.
Naturally everyone has their own shortlist of things to do when swinging by their hometown and when the opportunity arises. One of those pit stops on my list is to hit the pretty touristy Long Bar at the Singapore classic Raffles Hotel.
The perpetual question when coming home to Singapore from a long stay abroad is – what developments will I discover this time?
The rapid speed of life in general and the perpetual state of flux and development in Singapore make for that the only constant one can expect in Singapore, is change itself. In the background would be the distant rumble of hundreds of gigantic diesel engines of the more than 400 container ships and tankers anchored along the skirts of the Singapore shoreline. The humidity, the temperatures and along the East Coast, the curious intermingle of the salty sea air and the familiar aromas of various types of food – Malay, Indian, Chinese, Nonya etc.
One of the distinctly comfortable things to find is that there still exists home made ice-lemon tea, and with it why not a portion of the Indonesian influenced Nasi Padang in a heartland coffee-shop of the East?
A comfortable lunch in a non-air conditioned place – a priceless comfort in a rapidly developing world.
One of the more enjoyable part-time jobs I’ve held as a young student in Singapore some more than fifteen years ago was that of waitressing in a small restaurant. There I was on my feet, running to and from the kitchen with orders, water pitchers, new plates, napkins, most anything and everything that made a restaurant work at rush hour, and I didn’t feel the strain. It was more a constant pulse of a beating heart, that happily kept going.
In my very brief stop-over in Singapore this time around, I considered it an absolute privilege to have been invited to spend a late evening at No Menu with owner and Executive Chef Osvaldo Forlino, with his team and Head Chef Daniele Devillanova.
What struck me more than the food by itself which is the obvious thing to experience in a gourmet restaurant of this magnitude, was the atmosphere that at No Menu is spirited, generous and warm. The air was most often punctuated with bouts of heartfelt laughter and goodwill, where the food, the people and ambiance feels like an orchestrated symphony by light, set against a fabric of seductive fragrances wafting from the kitchen… making the full experience of dining here so much more than just one more dinner however excellent.
Impromptu. It seems that’s the word these days when it comes to meeting up with family and friends when back in Singapore that is always at full speed. But seeing that there was a glitch in communication on whereabouts and places to meet for various groups of persons on different days, I figured, for impromptu, this day’s lunch at Trattoria Capri at 3 Binjai Park, turned out uncomplicated.
As I’ve experienced countless times in the past both in Singapore and in Italy, the warmth and hospitality of the Italian people is a treasure to hold in this day of fast paced living and dining. A quick phonecall to Luca was all it took for them to keep the kitchen open till after their usual operating lunch hours and upon our arrival that was just a tad later than the expected late, we were greeted with broad and genuine smiles with the question, “What do you want to eat?”
Famished, we all had just a single craving – white truffles. Since we knew it was white truffle season in Europe, white truffle anything would be fun to have right here in the midst of the Singapore tropics. A smile back from Michele and a knowing nod – not a problem! And no, we didn’t so much as browse the menu, but had left the Chef instead, to surprise us with some magic!
I think my experiences with Mexican food prior to Casa Latina in Singapore, with the girls Azul and Janice, were mostly American Tex-Mex style limited to tacos, salsa, guacamole, tortillas, quesadillas and tequilas! Azul herself is from Mexico City, having lived in Singapore for some years now, and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful for this excursion on Mexcian culture via food when she introduced us to some Mexican fare right here in Singapore! And recently in November of 2010, Mexican cuisine was added by UNESCO to the list of world’s “intangible cultural heritage”.
In the past month of December 2010, I had the pleasure of organizing an executive education program delivered in Singapore for the Asian wing of a large Swedish multinational. The three moduled program that launched in Singapore focuses on the topic of Doing Business in Asia and the Singapore module in particular, focused on the Challenges of Leadership.
The one thing that strikes you when you land coming into Singapore from the Swedish west coast which is right now experiencing one of its coldest winters in a century at -11 C and several inches of snow, is the wall of humidity and the tropical warmth that surrounds your very being. I was instantly relieved and even reveled in the tropical thunderstorm that greeted me when touching down in Singapore.
But as events go, I was not going to miss Sweden this Christmas because I was just in time for the Swedish Business Association of Singapore (SBAS) to host their annual Julbord and celebration of Saint Lucia.
It was somewhere between lunch and tea, that I met with Valentino and Perla in the Ristorante Da Valentino, located along a stretch of previous shophouses at Jalan Binka, nestled in the midst of a housing estate in the Bukit Timah area that to me, was quite like Opera Estate where I grew up in the East of Singapore. Here Valentino has three units, a private dining room, a pastry shop and their main restaurant.
Upon entering the restaurant I was greeted by Singaporean families decked in their most casual Saturday wear, in t-shirts, Bermuda shorts and slippers, finishing off their lunches at the pink table-clothed tables, as if they were at home in their very own kitchens. The sight and the atmosphere could not help but fill you with a feeling of warmth and sincerity. You felt welcomed right into their family.
The Executive Chef for the restaurant and this family business is Valentino himself, and on the menu you would often find dishes created by his mother, Alma. As a guest, you could expect to be greeted and seated by his father, Gianpiero.
An exciting part of this venue is the pastries and dessert shop that is taken care of by Valentino’s sister Perla, literally adding the cherry on the top of the entire dining experience at Valentino’s.
The United Nations Association of Singapore (UNAS) recently celebrated their 40th anniversary with a charity gala dinner, with the event opening with a Welcome Speech by Dr. Tham Seong Chee, who is President of the UNAS. The event was held at the Shangri-La Hotel and the purpose was to raise funds for the association’s educational and humanitarian efforts.
At the United Nations Association of Singapore, UNAS 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner, Singapore. In a black and gold underlay gown by Francis Louis Ler of Amor Meus, 36 Purvis Street in Singapore.
The main goal for UNAS when it was formed was to build awareness and support for the United Nations and its ideals. As such, this event marked Singapore’s milestone in its efforts in continued support of the United Nations and their international programs.
The Guest of Honour this evening was Mr. Kamal Malhotra, UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei and UN Resident Coordinator for Malaysia.