Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wedding Cake Tasting Grand Finale

We found the perfect wedding cake at Satura Cakes in Palo Alto. I always have a good experience eating the baked goods from this bakery. It is a Japanese European bakery, so the cakes are not as sweet, yet the flavors are still really intense. Plus, the presentation of the cakes are really nice. Once, I went with a friend, and she said the cakes almost look too pretty for consumption.

This was by far the most professional cake tasting experience that we had. We went for our appointment, and the catering manager brought out a big plate with 11 different kind of cakes. The attached picture is not taken by me, I found it on Yelp, but I thought it gives a rough idea of the crazy amount of cakes that we got. She gave a description of each cake before the tasting, and the order of the cakes start from the lightest to the richer flavors towards the end (again, the order was a bit different from the picture).

1. Strawberry shortcake
2. Shortcake with mango-passion fruit cream and red currants
3. mango coconut mousse
4. green tea cake with vanilla cream
5. chocolate cake with caramel-mocha cream
6. chocolate cake with chocolate cream
7. carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
8. red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and fresh blueberries & raspberries
9. triple chocolate raspberry with raspberry preserve
10. classic chocolate - rich chocolate sponge with light & dark chocolate mousse
11. yuna - rich chocolate cake with bittersweet whipped ganache (gluten free)

I enjoyed most of their cakes, except the chocolate cake with caramel-mocha cream because I don't like both caramel and mocha, and the yuna, just because it is a gluten free cake, and hence left a strange after taste and the texture was a bit odd. However, it was definitely one of the best gluten free dessert that I ever tasted.

My all time favorite from Satura is the Strawberry shortcake - the sponge cake is light and fluffy, and the fresh cream and strawberries are just to die for. Matt loved all the chocolate cakes that we sampled (no surprises there), but our favorite was their classic chocolate. The chocolate sponge was moist, and the milk and dark chocolate mousse gave it a more intense flavor, plus the toasted almonds on top added a nice touch to the cake. One cake that we both really liked was the green tea cake. The green tea flavor was subtle, and the combination with the vanilla cream worked really well. You first taste the vanilla, then later you can taste the green tea. These are our top three choices, and will be the flavors of our wedding cake. I am very happy with our pick, and hope everyone will enjoy the cake on our big day.

Overall, the wedding cake tasting experience was pretty good, but I am glad we finally made a decision on where to go. How can you complain when you get to eat all these cakes, right?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wedding Cake Tasting Part II

2 weeks later, we ventured out to Icing on the Cake in Los Gatos. First thing you will notice when you walk into this store is the strong sugary aroma that just lingers in the air. Since they have 2 complimentary wedding cake tastings every month and they do not take reservations, you can imagine what a mad house this bakery was when we walked in. We had to wait about 30 minutes before we got served. While we were waiting in line, I got a chance to look around the bakery. The decor in the bakery is defintiely cute, and and not only do they sell cakes, cookies, cupcakes, they also sell cute little plates, mugs, cupcake holders, etc.

The tasting here was somewhat different than at Prolific Oven. There, the cake manager just brought out the flavors that they have for us to taste; here, they give you a sheet with their different cake flavors (8), fillings (8), and icings (7), and you pick which cake you want with which filling in the middle, and what icing on the top. So theoretically speaking, you can have a total of 8x8x7 combinations. However, certain cakes only go with certain filling and icing, so if the manager thinks that you have created a strange cake, he will advise you otherwise. We actually did very well, he only changed one out of the 6 cakes combo that we picked out.

Below are the flavors we tried (cake+filling+icing):
1. Chocolate buttermilk+chocolate fudge+white buttercream
2. Chunky carrot+cream cheese+cream cheese
3. Fresh banana+chocolate fudge+cream cheese
4. Classic white+raspberry+white buttercream
5. Marble+almond buttercream+almond buttercream
6. Marble+mocha buttercream+mocha buttercream

The first reaction when I took a bite into the cake was - jeez, the icing is extremtly sweet! After several bites, I think I adjusted to the high level of sweetness in the icing. I love the texture of the cakes here - they are just right, and absolutely moist. I think if I were to eat their cakes, I will just scrap off all the filling and icing, and I will be perfectly happy just eating the chocolate buttermilk cake. One of their icing I really liked - the almond buttercream. The marble cake with the almond buttercream was my absolute favorite that day. Between the 3 of us, we picked out 3 of our top choices - chocolate+fudge+white buttercream, marble+almond buttercream, and white cake+raspberry+white buttercream. I must say the white cake and carrot cake here pales in comparison to the one at Prolific Oven. Matt prefers the Prolific Oven to Icing on the Cake, but I think Icing on the Cake actually has better cakes than Prolific Oven. Plus, the designs of their cakes are much better that at Prolific Oven. However, Matt being Matt, said that he will be fine with either of the choices. I on the other hand, still find these cakes too sweet for my palette. I never understand why a lot of these American bakeries put so much sugar in their product that it just overwhelms the real taste of the cakes. Plus, the buttercream icing is just heavy, I want something lighter. So, I am still on the quest to search for the perfect wedding cake.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wedding Cake Tasting Part I

For the past month, we have been cake tasting. The first place we went to was Prolific Oven in Palo Alto. We tried a total of 6 different cakes - carrot cake, chocolate rum cake, chocolate mocha cake, orange almond cake, white cake with raspberry filling, and a chocolate orange almond cake. In general, the cakes were decent, although I do find them to be too sweet. Matt didn't seem to have any issue with the 'too sweet' part. Plus, the texture of the cakes is a bit more 'crumbly' that what I normally like. One nice thing is that we can pick to have 3 different cakes for the 3 tiers of our wedding cake. Overall, our favorite cake from the Prolific Oven is the carrot cake. If we were to order our cake there, we would have picked the chocolate rum, orange almond, white cake with raspberry filling, and of course the carrot cake. The designs of the cakes were alright, nothing really caught my eye. One thing that I really did not like is that they usually freeze their wedding cake after they make it, so the cake will go through a freeze/thaw cycle, and I find that a bit disturbing since who knows how much that will affect the texture of the cake. Oh, and since this was our first cake tasting, the 3 of us gobbled down all the cake and was on sugar high the rest of the day, hehe.

After that, I went to Sheng Kee, a Chinese bakery, since I really like light fluffy spongy cakes. I asked if they offer a cake tasting service for wedding cake. The lady behind the counter looked at me as if I have gone nuts! She just pointed at the cakes they sell, and said - pretty much this is what you will get - vanilla sponge with cream, chocolate sponge with cream, or orange sponge with cream. So I ended up buying these cakes and brought them home for our self made cake tasting session. I have always love Sheng Kee cakes because they have a great light texture, and the flavor is not overly powerful, plus the dosage of sugar is actually reasonable. Matt said that although they were delicious sponge cake, they were not fancy enough for a wedding cake. I do have to agree, plus the ability to get 3 different cakes did not seem to be an option at Sheng Kee.

So the hunt continued...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Our visit to Ah Yi

On our way back from KL to Penang on 30th of March, we learnt that Ah Yi is now staying in a nursing home in Sungai Dua. So we made a detour to pay her a visit.

While we are sad that Ah Yi has to end up in a place like this, we believe this arrangement is good for her for the time being, as she is recuperating well.

Apparently, she was quite sick before admission, but her condition is much better than I imagined. Her general condition looks good, except that her knees had degenerated badly. She can't walk by herself now.

Hopefully, she will get better soon, and be able to discharge and stay with her daughter.

This is where she stays now, "Comfort nursing home":

Entrance to this nursing home:

Ah Yi with a big smile ;)

Choon Ping showing her Ah girl in her wedding dress.
She is so happy to learn that Ah girl has graduated and getting married soon.

Choon Ping showing her Ah Bee's photo

We were so sad to learn that Ah Pek is also staying in the same nursing home, only 2 doors away.

He is bed ridden and situation is quite bad :(

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ko Lipe Day #4 & #5

Day#4 22nd March 2008
Today, our boatman, Ah Liek, brought us to a beach where we explored giant corals. There were many varieties, and we saw 2 huge Murray eels too. However, we failed to see any 'Crown of Thornes ', the coral eating starfish here. The one we saw yesterday was bright purplish in colour, and had 18 arms. We spent some two hours around this reef......... Then we adjourned to Ko Rawi.

Ko Rawi has always been my favourite island. Surprisingly, there were so many tourists this time, and mainly were locals. Perhaps because today was a Saturday. The snorkeling site brought nostalgic moments, we came here with Don, Dave and Xiao Li some 5 years ago.
Many were topless on the island, so was this one :)
First thing first. We had our lunch, made in Ko Rawi.

As we entered the water, there was originally a strong current . Thus, we snorkeled along the rope provided, but it calmed down after a while. I remembered the current was much stronger those days. After a few hours, we were all tired, satisfied, and started to come back.

You can easily imagine how was it looking at fishes through our goggles. But this was how the fishes saw us, though our goggles.

This couple found the right swing, as it had 2 ropes. The background was the snorkeling site.

Pei Yean's swing was design for singles, as there was only a single rope :) She was probably the first girl from Singapore to have landed in Ko Rawi :)

The beautiful thing in Rawi was the availability of fresh shower after soaking in salt water.
It's such a luxury!
Looking at Pei Sun's face, you can easily gather that the water must be very cold :)Everybody had fun..............

From here, our fishing appetite had grown bigger! We decided to trawl for "Pla Insi", which is the Thai equivalent of Mackerel. Choon Ping and Pit Fuh were the first guinea pigs.

They looked so motivated and enthusiastic, initially.

Once a wise man said,
" On one end of a fishing line may be a fish, but the other end is probably a fool".

This is how they looked after sitting in the hot sun for 1 hour without any bite!

Those of us in the shade felt no excitement too. Suddenly, the ladies in the shade did the best thing on earth, opened up a snack and started eating! Wow! That woke up everybody! Including the 2 fishermen :)

However, some people were luckier..............

After this, Pit Fuh was back in full action again!

Then, the ladies did what they did best....................... sleeping! ........................while we then set on auto mode to trawl. However, according to Liek, Mackerel will come in more in July or August. So our timing s not good this time!

After making a ew more rounds with no luck, we decided to go back and enjoy our dinner. One little excitement we had prior to going out after dinner was shown in the picture below:Sudenly, the girls grew taller than Pit Fuh. Why?

Well, that's because of a giant centipede, some 6 or 7 inches long, crawling outside our rooms. As it was groping towards our rooms, we had no choice but to stop it from coming in permanently!
We then walked through the village and had dinner at Jumping Monkey Bar on Pataya Beach.

The BBQ squid was the best we had ever taken :)~ Slightly crispy outside but so juicy internally.

Day #5 23rd March 2008
This was the day of departure. We woke up early, and had to change our plan as Bundhaya Speed Boat was fully booked today. We had to take the normal ferry back to Pakbara.

Bye, Cabana Resort................Bye, Ah Liek...............Good bye, Ko Lipe, Ko Adang. We will be back again..........

Friday, April 04, 2008

Ko Lipe Day #3

Day #3 21st March 2008
This day began early.
By 5:45am, we were already out waiting for the Sun to rise.

Dawn is always cool............and full of hope!

The sea was calm, the boats anchored, while all fishermen were still in their sweet dreams.........

Then at 6:23am, the sun first show his face........

And within seconds, the whole beach came to life again.It's time to get ready for yet another exciting day. Today, we started with a place to witness some colourful soft corals. However, the current there was too strong for comfort. We had to clink on to a strong rope just to station at the right spot. However, the visibility was not too good after a while. Nevertheless, it was a good experience!

Next, we aimed to go for bigger groupers, but due to very strong waves, Pei Yean and Bee Gim were down within seconds. Hence, we resorted to some sheltered bay for smaller fish, which we pulled out quite a bit.

Bee Gim was lucky to hook up a small squid this time. It's pretty translucent, looked delicious too.

When it's lunch time, we headed towards a white sandy beach somewhere in Ko Adang, and you could see the corals in the crystal clear water behind PeiSun

This beach was incredibly beautiful, calm with crystal clear water.

We were the only group landed today.

This hermit crab welcome us with a smile as we stepped on his private beach........Everybody asked, "What shall we have for lunch today?"
'What we fished is what we eat!' was the answer.
Lets look at our catch: and.....

Hmmmmmm! We voted for 2 ways of cooking:
First, we have our Japanese chef,preparing sashimi, fish and squid

And also, we hired a BBQ chef, doing some wild fire 'ikan bakar', Ko Lipe style.
with the help of 2 assistants
Almost cooked now..........OK Lunch is ready...........! Notice our wasabi and soya sauce :)

A very healthy lunch of only 20 fishes and squid!

However, we took so much time enjoying ourselves that the tide receded too much for our boat to depart when we were ready to go :( So we had to wait for some 1.5 hours, till the tide was high enough for the boat to glide out without damaging any coral. Meanwhile, we all had a good rest on the beach. As we left the beach, Pei Yean was back to normal- no more sea sick, as you can gather from her sweet smile.

Pit Fuh caught a last shot before leaving this unnamed beach..........
And we called it a day.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

More on Ko Lipe : Day #1 & day #2

This is my 6th trip to Ko Lipe, and there has been tremendous development since I last visited in Dec 2003 with Choon Ping and mummy. Nevertheless, Islands of Tarutao marine park are still very beautiful. This trip, we have 4 new faces, PeiSun, PeiYean, Pit Fuh, and Bee Gim.
Our group spent 4 nights in Ko Lipe, and chartered a long tail boat for our island excursion for 3 full days at 1500Baht per day.

We managed to contact our old boat man, Liek, who most impressed me with his new mobile phone , ( No: 0831836055). Below are some of the more exciting part of our adventure.

Day#1 19th/March 2008
When we arrived at Cabana Resort, after travelling for some 11 hours from home, the first thing we pampered ourselves was a good dinner, at the 'Porn Resort'. Here we had an excellent BBQ Mackerel, which was consumed within seconds.
So we added another BBQ yellow tail.

The bill was about RM100 for 6 persons, reasonably priced.

Day #2 20th March 2008

Life in Ko Adang/Lipe always starts with snorkeling, you can see the corals even from the boat.

After we are happy talking to the fishes, we visit Ko Hin Ngam, which is famous for it's beautiful glittering black stones

No visitors dare to bring any of these stones back, as there is a curse by the God of Tarutao.

In stead, using those stones, many build their own 'tower', and we design something different ;)

This is what we called" Ninja Turtle rock"

Some towers are taller than human, as you can see from our pictures. We made some interesting shots .

This is our chief photographer in action.

A day in Ko Adang without fishing is incomplete. So let's start fishing! It's a tough job preparing everything for 4 beginners, yet we put a smile on every one's face ;(

Pit Fuh is the hero of the day, pulling in a huge 'Squid' as shown in the previous blog,

He also landed a couple of Ikan Mabong or Patut, and another big coral fish.

Look at his million dollar smile :)

We fished till sunset before we earned our dinner, 22 fishes cooked in various styles:)

And a big squid steamed with chili and lime, yum yum

However, all these come with a price.

Look at Choon's half baked back!

Now he learns the meaning of Sun Block cream :)

What is SPF 50!

Let's call it a day till now................

More to come soon...........