Capella Singapore’s Insider’s Guide To Singapore

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Singapore, often synonymous with its tall skyscrapers and giant shopping centres, also has a rich tapestry of culture and history that is sometimes overlooked.  However, to fully appreciate present day Singapore, it is essential that we look back to the past and appreciate the firm foundations on which our future has been laid.  It was an honour for me to help put together and attend a curated tour of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, called the Insider’s Guide to Singapore, especially designed for Capella Singapore’s guests.

The tour began with a visit to Singapore’s oldest temple, Thian Hock Keng temple. While at the temple, I learned how Taoists and Buddhists worship together, side-by-side.  Thian Hock Keng temple, built in 1841, is also significant because, prior to land reclamation, it sat right at the shoreline allowing Chinese sailors to pray to the gods the moment they came ashore.  As sea sojourns in the past were often perilous and fatal, sailors risked their lives to come to Singapore in search of a better life and were so overwhelmed with thanksgiving when they arrived that they donated money and goods to the temple, allowing it to continue operations until present day.

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The two gods of death, 黑白無常 (Heibai Wuchang) work together to bring people to the afterlife. Legend has it that they are easily distracted by cigarettes and alcohol which is why believers leave cigarettes by their altar!

After the temple visit, I had a personalised tour of Little India where I walked through the busy streets taking in the sights, sounds and scents.  The tour shares much about the importance of gold in Indian culture and includes a visit to several old family-run goldsmiths.  Gold, which signifies purity, prosperity and fortune, is still a form of dowry and savings among the Indian people.  But gold wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye in Little India!  I also had the opportunity to choose and wear our very own traditional Indian flower garland.

Lunch was the next stop.  I could choose between a Muslim Malay lunch and a Singaporean Chinese lunch.  The Muslim Malay food option allowed me to dine in an authentic Minang-style house.   Minangkabau, an ethnic group indigenous to Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia, has people scattered throughout the Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns, including Singapore.  The Chinese option gave me the chance to eat my favourite, Bak-kuh-teh, a rich herbal soup brewed with pork bones.  This soup is popular with Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia.  I decided to go with the Muslim Malay lunch and dug into a plate filled with rich flavourful curries.

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(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After my belly was full, my walking tour through Kampong Glam and Arab Street began.   One of the most interesting experiences was being able to create my own perfume at Muslim perfumery Jamal Kazura AromaticsMinyak Attar is a natural oil based perfume derived from organic sources.  The owner, Jamal Kazura, gave me the opportunity blend scents, creating a one-of-a-kind perfume that is unique to me.   Jamal Kazura Aromatics traces its origins back to the early 1920s.

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(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After a culturally rich day, it was time to head back to Capella Singapore.  It was truly a unique experience being able to walk through history with my very own personal guide and one I would recommend to others.  

This tailor made Insider’s Guide to Singapore can be enjoyed by booking the Capella Experience package or directly through your Capella Singapore Personal Assistant.

Jeremy Monteiro – Singapore’s Jazz Music Maestro

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If you are like me, you will agree that the best way to wind down after a busy day is listening to live music with a cocktail in hand.  So when I found out that household name Jeremy Monteiro was going to be playing at Bob’s Bar at Capella Singapore in April, I was so excited!   He is truly a jazz icon and has been called “Singapore’s King of Swing” by many!

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with him to learn more about his music and motivations.

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Jeremy, when did you start your career in music?

My professional career started in 1977 as a bandleader and pianist for the Club 392 Quartet.

What was your most memorable gig?

Playing on the mainstage of the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1988. The concert included Latin Jazz Legend Mongo Santa Maria, Chick Corea and the Yellowjackets and was played to an audience of 3,500 people with Live broadcast across Europe.

Who are some of the most famous people you have played with?

I have played with many famous people such as James Moody, Michael Brecker, , Bobby McFerrin, Lee Ritenour, Herbie Mann, Ernie Watts, Charlie Haden, Leroy Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Vanessa Rubin, Carmen Bradford, Matt Monro and Simon & Garfunkel to name a few.

One of the most memorable experiences I had was playing with the legendary Brazilian Percussionist Paulinho Da Casta, originally from the Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 Band.

What in life motivates you?

I always strive to make the best music I can make in any given situation. This motivates me a lot. I also love seeing members of the audience leave my performances with a smile on their faces.

You are one of Singapore’s most talented musicians.  You have released almost 30 albums!  How did you learn music?

I had eight years of formal Classical Piano training from age seven onwards.  I learned jazz at first from instruction books where I taught myself and from listening to and studying hundreds of jazz albums.

What are you hoping to bring to Capella Singapore?

Bob’s Bar is really conducive to playing and listening to music. I can imagine that when we play there, it will feel as though we are playing Latin Jazz and Brazilian Jazz by some lovely beach in South America.  I hope that the music, atmosphere, great food and drinks and service will truly make the patrons feel like they have been transported to a lovely holiday destination in South America.

Capella Singapore is truly a unique location in Singapore, perhaps you can share what it is at Capella Singapore that inspires you?

I am inspired by the lovely colonial buildings juxtaposed with the beautiful sea-view and balmy sea breeze.

Thank you so much Jeremy for speaking with me.  I am thrilled to have you onboard and look forward to hearing you play.

 

Jeremy Monteiro will be playing at Bob’s Bar every Wednesday to Friday from April 2014 onwards starting from 7:00 pm.  Table reservations can be made by ringing Bob’s Bar at +65 6591 5047 or emailing them at bobsbar.singapore@capellahotels.com.

The Perfect Profiteroles Recipe

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I have a confession to make.  I have a sweet tooth and easily succumb to delicious treats made with milk, butter and most importantly sugar.  Given that, you can only imagine my sheer delight when Capella Singapore’s Pastry Chef Sam called me into his kitchen to share the new profiteroles recipe he is working on for The Knolls.

I was very grateful that Chef Sam took time out of his busy schedule to teach me.  According to Chef Sam, “I always believe to teach is to learn twice. By teaching I get to learn a second time, and also it gives me insights on ideas other people may have, which could eventually become part of my next idea for a new creation.”

Chef Sam’s profiteroles were indeed heavenly and they were surprisingly easy to make.  They were light with a slight bite and with a rich golden brown colour.  The profiteroles were sweet at first bite, but with a mild salty aftertaste perfectly complementing the chocolate sauce we made.

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Profiteroles
Serves six

Ingredients:
50g Milk
50g Water
¼tsp Salt
1Tbsp Sugar
50g Butter
60g All Purpose Flour
2.5g Baking Powder
2 Eggs

Method:
1. Mix the milk, water, salt, sugar and butter into a saucepan.  Bring to boil allowing the butter to melt.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.
3. Remove from heat and pour the flour into the boiling liquid and cook until a smooth dough forms and it pulls away easily from the sides of the pot.
4. Put the hot dough into a mixing bowl. Continue mixing while adding in 1 of the eggs to cool it down immediately.
5. Add in the second egg and continue mixing until the dough forms a smooth shiny consistency.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
7. Pour the mixture into a piping bag and pipe onto a tray lined with baking paper.
8. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until dark golden in colour.
9. Remove from oven and once cooled on a baking rake, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to two days.
10. Once chilled, poke a hole into each profiterole and pipe in ice-cream and serve with chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce
Makes 1 ½ cups sauce

Ingredients:
½C Water
⅓C Sugar
2Tbsp Corn Syrup
¼C Cocoa Powder
100g Dark Chocolate Chips

Method:
1. Bring water, sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in dark chocolate pieces.
3. Stir until smooth.
4. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
5. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
6. Pour generously over profiteroles.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!!

Finding Romance In Chinese Astrology

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On 31 January, Singapore celebrated the Lunar New Year – this is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar as it symbolizes the coming of spring.  I personally love the Lunar New Year celebrations because it is a wonderful opportunity to get together and celebrate with the family.

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The Chinese culture has its own zodiac or astrological signs, which rotate each Lunar New Year.   The different signs are named after 12 different animals, (see my post HERE for more information on the animals and the story behind them). This year marks the year of the horse.

Like the western astrological signs, each character in the Chinese zodiac has unique characteristics and personality traits.   As a result, different signs are more compatible as friends, companions and lovers than other.  Because we are approaching western culture’s Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to share a chart outlining compatibility.  You may be surprised to learn that many people still rely on these charts when determining if a mate is suitable for them!

Chinese Astrology

If you are in Singapore and would like to know more about your zodiac sign, you can always approach a Capella Singapore Personal Assistant who can arrange you meeting with a Chinese Astrology expert to teach you more about your sign and the significance of the Chinese zodiac.

Romance In Singapore

Romance in Singapore

This February, love is in the air, especially in Singapore where the Chinese Valentine’s Day, which is the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, coincides with the Western Valentine’s Day.

To commemorate this occasion, I sought to uncover some of the most romantic spots and activities where you can savour the best of Singapore while enjoying the company of your loved one.  These are my top 3 recommendations:

The Jewel Box Cable Car Dining
I particularly love this because you get to enjoy a private dinner with your loved one high up in the sky with a panoramic view of the vibrant Singapore city and Sentosa Island below you.  It is certainly a remarkably memorable experience to watch the glistening lights below.  You will truly feel the romance of spending quality time in a space which you can call yours exclusively for the evening.

Romance in Singapore

Be My Valentine: A Spa Villa at Capella Singapore
Last week, I had the pleasure of having a preview of the Be My Valentine package here at Capella Singapore.  Now this is romance!  Enjoy one of Capella Singapore’s romantic villas for the weekend, which has been completely transformed with romance in mind.  This weekend getaway includes in-Villa Auriga spa treatments, a special Valentine’s dinner at The Knolls and even a one-hour photo-shoot to memoralize the weekend.  Of course there is plenty of champagne and chocolate as well.  Frankly, I can’t imagine a more romantic way to spend the holiday!

Take A Trishaw Ride Though Singapore
In my book, nothing says romance more than a whimsical tour though Singapore’s rich colonial heritage.  Trishaws are bicycle drawn carts, an evolution of the rickshaws, which were used as transportation for the wealthy in old Singapore.  Today you can cosy up to your loved one as you take a ride though some of Singapore’s most culturally rich places like Chinatown – just you and your partner, and of course your friendly trishaw guide who’ll be eagerly share fascinating historical tales.

If you would like to know more about any of these couple’s activities in, please approach your Capella Singapore Personal Assistants who would be pleased to share their favourite romantic haunts in Singapore.

Auriga Detox Day At Capella Singapore

Detox Tips

With the Christmas season behind us, here in Singapore, the festive feasting continues with the Lunar New Year just around the corner.  During this time, Detox is the buzz of the town.

I had the wonderful opportunity to try out the Auriga spa Detox Day treatment which was something specially designed by Auriga spa to compliment The Organic Pharmacy’s 10-Day Detox Programme, a special kit that comes complete with tailored menus, recipes and activities to guide you through a 10-Day Detox ritual.

Detox Tips

While I was looking through The Organic Pharmacy’s 10-Day Detox Programme, I was thrilled to find a series of simple Detox tips to an effective detoxification process.  Here are a few of my favourite:

  • On waking each morning, drink glass of hot water with half a lemon squeezed in it.  The lemon provides nutrients to your body, which is quickly absorbed because there is no food yet in the body.  This practice also helps to break down the mucus in the body and alkalises the tissue.  Not to mention, the tangy zest from the lemon is a sure wake-me-up.
  • Ten minutes of breathing exercises, followed by another ten minutes of stretching is great for clearing and calming the mind as well as to get the blood circulating.  If you do not have much time, reduce the time to five minutes for each.  I felt so refreshed and rejuvenated after taking time off from my busy schedule to do this.  Stress is one of the biggest causes of the buildup of toxins in the body so this is the perfect preventive measure.
  • Before taking a shower, gently dry brush the skin to improve blood circulation and remove impurities on the skin.  I particularly love the soothing feeling of the dry bristles exfoliating the skin.
  • Shower and massage the body with body oils containing rosemary and grapefruit essential oils.  Besides its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, Rosemary has been known to boost the immune and circulatory system.  Meanwhile, grapefruit oil is not only a lymphatic stimulant, but also has anti-depressant properties- sure to keep you feeling positive.

If your New Year’s resolutions are of the wellness variety, these Detox tips are something to consider.  In fact, you can also pamper yourself and get detoxed in style at Capella Singapore’s Auriga spa with the Auriga Detox Day treatment.