My current state is: mangy. The monkey can attest to that, having spent a quick and despondent dinner yesterday with a grunting duck. At the food court in Wisma Atria, many chairs were missing, resulting in several underutilised tables (and presumably non-diners). When we were barely half-way through our noodles, the cleaner was already trying to remove the plates for disposal. Later, after I instructed the taxi driver to go via Thompson and Moulmein Roads, he got onto the CTE regardless. In a vain attempt to relieve my state of manginess, I bought lots of comic books and a blue lego brick.
Antibiotics and alcohol make for a bad combination. Despite that, it's probably better to suffer in good company than in bed with my duck. So we headed off to the Oriental on Saturday for one of the better if not best Slow Food tasting sessions this year: at Dolce Vita.
After some high class roti and bubbly, the starter was a supposed house specialty: Parmesan Spaghetti (chilled noodles with frutis olive oil). The chef took the trouble to explain to each table how he uses an elaborate freezing process to separate the noodles (which was totally lost on my duck) and how one is supposed to consume the final extrusion down in one suck. Unfortunately, I could not detect any parmesan. The only bit of flavour came from a slice of black peppercorn dawdling beneath the strands. Thus, my duck decided to dub this dish: tasteless cheesy noodles (cheesy not referring to the flavour). The accompanying wine (2003 Chateau Prieure Les Tours, Cuvee “Clara”, Graves) matched the starter in character.
Next was something called: Two Faced Scottish Salmon Cured & Tartare over Reddish-Fennel Slaws, Trout Roe & Honey Blossom Vinaigrette. Fortunately the fish did not taste as treachearous as it sounded; it reeked of sashimi freshness and the paired 2000 Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives, Josmeyer Alsace added a touch of piquant spiciness to the marine flavours.
It was one of those outings that kept getting better: the subsequent Veloute of Farmed Chicken, Ragout of Morel & Swirl of Truffle Oil was came in an untypically Slow Food portion and was much creamier and richer than it looked (the foam should have warned me). The earthy aroma of the morel was not overwhelming but gently permeated the senses, probably enhanced by its fellow fungi. After that was a glass of Spanish Omelette “XXI” century. It clearly had egg inside, but didn't look much like an omelette. Bits of bacon were swimming inside, which my duck delicately plucked out, as the surrounding emulsion was a bit too raw for his taste.
Next was Striped-Bass with Shallots Risotto, Preserve Lemon & Apple Emulsion. It came with a chip on top, which my duck gobbled up swiftly. As fish go, bass is bland but the fruity elements lent some life to it. A little more risotto would have been nice. Following that was a 6 Spices Duck Confit, Duxelle mixture, Porcini Froth & Madeira jus.
My duck enjoyed the dessert. First was Fourme d’Ambert, Vanilla Pear with Frisse Leaves, Walnut Dressing. The cheese is reckoned to be an excellent vintage, but just one whiff convinced me that more than a mouthful would trigger a full-blown migraine, and so I dumped the whole lot on mrs budak's plate. The pear was excellently sweet on its own. Finally came a Tahitian Crème Brulee with Grand Marnier & Blood Orange Sorbet. I would have liked a few more servings of this. The concluding beverage, Orange Armagnac le Mousquet, is now on my buy list.
- - - - - - - - - - -
On the junction of East Coast Road and Joo Chiat Road (opposite Katong Mall) is Astons Specialties, a kopitiam anomaly that draws protein-starved prowlers and occasional motley crews of sweat drenched drinkers. Today being its final day at the present location, the googlybear arranged a send-off lunch featuring a kilo of prime roast beef.
The gang ordered some fried beancurd while waiting for two late ducks. Joe brought stemless tumblers for the bottles of duty-free grog we lugged along. The Lonely Ham also brought along a Norwegian friend (Tore?) while beside me was an Englishman who looked almost as inebriated as my drug-filled duck. Before the main course was hearty mix of homemade mushroom soup, coldslaw, apple salad and jumbo onion rings. We also ordered two plates of "knock-out chicken" which deserve the name.
Powder blue must be the mufti theme for NUS folk outside the lab... The roast, which had been marinated in burgundy for a couple of days, came in thick chunks laced with marbling. mrs budak and I shared a piece which she meticulously defatted. Halfway through I ordered an ice Milo to bind the gunks of protein in my tummy.
The googlybear then ordered a chocolate cake from Awfully Chocolate. I was
on the verge of puking yesterday's lunch a good duck and declined dessert, letting mrs budak have my share. No wonder she looks so pleased!
My duck is
sicko sick (or maybe the monkey has found a Laotian voodoo duck doll and is squeezing it mercilessly). I probably should have gone to the doctor's much earlier, but I wanted to finish writing an editorial piece and so left the office only after three yesterday. Despite the medication, I spent last night moaning and groaning in bed, while my head spun and duck rolled about in agony (Angel got kicked off the bed quite a few times).
Today, I thought I could try to be a little productive at home, but after a flavourless brunch (no thanks to my blocked nasal headspace), I found that sitting upright made my duck woozy (and ooze a clear, slimey fluid) and so reverted to a horizontal position (while Angel sat on, by and above me). The way things look, I might be grounded tomorrow as well. Meanwhile, mrs budak is making pumpkin soup...
Well-wishing visitors are welcome. Please bring some chocolates for my duck.
- - - - - - - -
Went to the clinic again after a night of untoward sensations. The doctor said my duck is feverish and prescribed an antibiotic which he cheerfully added might result in the runs. To this mrs budak suggested that I take some of the probiotic powder the vet prescribed to Angel when she had loose stools.
Untoward events brought me to the east side today. Though refreshingly low rise and rife with charming villas that deserve to be torn down for condominiums, the Katong-Marine Parade area is really rather alien to me. The sentiment must be mutual, as the first taxi that I jumped into outside Parkway Parade rolled a little before the driver confessed that he didn't know how to get to Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 from Marine Parade. It didn't help that I had no idea either. He helpfully suggested that I try another cab.
I recall telling the Media Development Authority a couple of years ago that we have never had a TV, do not have one and will never own one. I hope they share the same definition of never as my duck.
- - - - - - - -
In the local scheme of things, it appears that attempting to round up and kill off whatever that displeases you is the first and final solution for any object regarded as a public nuisance, be it neighbourhood cats or cartoons on blogs. The way town councils deal with complaints about cats in HDB estates seems to be all too often a quick call to pest control companies who then come and catch the felines for delivery to the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority for convenient disposal, i.e.
euthanasia death by injection.
Never mind the fact that often it is not proven that community cats are the cause of whatever filth that a complainant encounters, or that the volume of visible litter, deliberate vandalism and noise generated by humans vastly outweighs the incidences of actual misdeposits by cats. But thankfully, some town councils and HDB residents do understand that it is virtually impossible to eliminate cats from the vicinity of human habitation, unless one resorts to an islandwide feline holocaust, and have embraced an alternative way of managing strays.
As promoted tirelessly by the Cat Welfare Society, an approach that is both more humane reasonable as well as sustainable in that it prevents an escalation of cat populations, is the Trap, Neuter, Return & Manage strategy, whereby cats in a particular neighbourhood are trapped, sent to a vet for neutering and returned to their original hangout, where a few local residents feed and oversee their daily constitutionals. These animals as a result do not contribute to the production of new kittens that would have to survive on the streets for lack of willing owners. Being territorial creatures, they also serve to drive out any feline strangers that attempt to enter the neighbourhood. Conversely, the removal of these community cats (by town councils who refuse to appreciate or even hear about the TNRM approach) leaves a vacuum which is in time filled by a new set of cats and the cycle repeats itself.
It seems that recently, some pest control companies have been catching cats and dumping them in different neighbourhoods, rather than sending the animals to the AVA. It may well be that the individuals involved did not want to hand over the animals to certain death and deemed it more merciful to drop them off at a new locality where the residents might take to them more kindly. However, one feels about these acts, the results are becoming apparent, as a small number of new cats have appeared in recent weeks at our housing and adjacent blocks.
One is a long-tailed black-and-white tom, sterilised and slim, who now hangs out close to the lift corridor (the resident population of strays prefer the shelter of the bushes near the rubbish dump). He is exceedingly friendly, unlike the established strays who quickly flee from humans and ducks, and miaos a gruff greeting to passerbys. We sometimes bring down a morsel, which he accepts readily. Clearly he is accustomed to interaction with humans and sadly, this friendliness may prove to his second downfall, as I already hear parents telling their children not to get close to him lest they get bitten. The hungry little tortie we meet a little earlier is also sterilised and she now prefers the opposite block. But when we approach her, she does a little roll-over like Angel when we return home at the end of the day. Does she recognise us, or is she merely being a trifle catty?
Plus: some weekend webvideos:
A bird that has clearly been the subject of too many shutterbugs.
And in this age of raging road bullies, one should never leave home without your friendly trunk monkey. Now there should be a version for buses, so that one can deal with foul-mouthed mommies. Some models even double up as cat washers.
And while my duck was away, here's where I found mrs budak at play!
In Bangkok, I hear large fish tanks are a big draw for some. Certainly they do no harm in this food court at the Siam Paragon (a dubious new establishment so desperate for business that it resorts to touting showrooms by Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini on its 3rd floor) where diners tuck into fingers n' chips or pan fried Pla Krapong Khaw while pondering matter of the flesh.
Following its recent bout of free-wheeling electoral posturing, Thailand is clearly slipping into a chasm of social chaos and general ungovernability, a state of affairs that renders the nation an economic pariah shunned by savvy foreign investors who would doubtless prefer the safety of a polity where the oppression of political choice is fixed, lest any viable alternative emerge in the wake of a failing future. But of course, some would regard such thoughts as nought but crab, a sentiment as unsavoury as the vast Ocean World that lies in the bowels of this shopping complex. A multi-storey public aquarium in the basement of a downtown mall? Like Integrated Resorts with bad fengshui, that must sound like veritable water down the drain to those who believe in the power of onomatopoeic semiotics.