Ah Meng The Orangutan And Conservation In Singapore

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With Mother’s Day recently passed, I thought it fitting I talk about about Singapore’s most famous non-human mother, Ah Meng, the Sumatran Orangutan.

Ah Meng, the Orangutan on her walks

Ah Meng, the Orangutan on her walks

Ah Meng, was the poster girl for Singapore’s conservation efforts and tourism industry.  She starred in more than 30 documentaries, including one with the legendary Steve Irwin.  She also made the impression on many other famous visitors including Prince Philip, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Bo Derek- just to name a few!

Although she died in 2008, many still think of Ah Meng when they think of our Singapore Zoological Gardens.  She was the star attraction at the still hugely popular Breakfast with Ah Meng (now changed to Breakfast with Wildlife since her passing) at the Zoo.  Many tourists still flock to Singapore just for the experience of dining with one of these lovable creatures. 

In 1992, Ah Meng became the first and only non-human recipient of the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board’s (STB) Special Ambassador Award for her contributions.  A special sculpture now stands proudly at the zoo in her memory.

Ah Meng didn’t have an easy start in life.  She was born around 1960 and smuggled from Indonesia and illegally kept as a pet until she was rescued in 1971.  Despite her difficult start, her gentle nature attracted those she met, ultimately advancing the cause of conservation in her own way.  Beyond her public role, Ah Meng also had four children, two males and two females named Hsing Hsing, Satria, Medan and Sayang respectively, and six grandchildren and now one great-grandson, Bino. 

Ah Meng and her daughter

Ah Meng and her daughter

She was the epitome of a working mother.  With a strong cause, wit and charm she influenced many people and won them over to the side of conservation.

This May, we may be celebrating our real mothers, but let’s spare a thought for the millions of animal mothers out there who are working hard to look for food their babies and to keep their babies safe.  Deforestation is happening at an alarming rate destroying the homes of many animal families.  Orangutans are listed as endangered by the WWF with many asserting that numbers have fallen by more than 50% in the past 60 years.  It is important Ah Meng’s legacy live on and the message of conservation with it.`

If you are interested to learn more about Singapore’s conservation efforts and to have breakfast with the wildlife, our Personal Assistants at Capella Singapore will be more than happy to make arrangements for you.  The Zoo is an easy 25-minute drive from Capella Singapore.  Please contact them at +65 6591 5035/34 or email them at pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.  

 

Image via yesterday.sg 

A Truly Unique Mother’s Day Gift

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May is one of my favourite months.  This is because the second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day.  As a new mother, it has become even more meaningful — signifying to me the true beauty of life.  I have learnt to appreciate my own mother a lot more as well. As such, I decided that instead of buying my mother a generic Mother’s Day gift this year, I would do a bit of my own research so that the flowers I buy her will have significance and meaning.

What better place to learn about flowers than the Singapore Botanic Gardens — which was where I headed to last weekend.

Opened in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Garden is home to the National Orchid Garden, which features the largest display of tropical orchids in the world.  As the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid is the national flower of Singapore, I thought it fitting to give my mother a bouquet of orchids for Mother’s Day.  Covering more than 3 hectares of ground with more than 60,000 orchid plants representing 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids, I was sure to find the perfect orchid for my mother.

National Orchid Garden Singapore

When I was there, I found out that many famous people had orchids named after them, such as, Princess Diana, Lady Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela and even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!  Apparently, the National Orchid Garden has named more than 100 VIP orchids.

Orchids named after Princess DianaOrchids named after the late Princess Diana

Orchids named after Margaret ThatcherOrchids named after the late Lady Margaret Thatcher

It was at the National Orchid Garden that I realised that you did not have to be a VIP to name an orchid after someone.  An orchid can be named after your loved one for a fee of anywhere from S$5,000 to S$15,000.  The National Orchid Garden can put you in touch with a local orchid breeder who confer a unique hybrid after the name of your choice.  He will then send the details to the Royal Horticultural Society in London.  How amazing is that?  Who wouldn’t want an orchid named after them?  Don’t you think it is a truly unique Mother’s Day gift?  One that will live on forever.  I might just name one after my mother this Mother’s Day!

For those who are interested in finding out more about naming orchids, please contact your Capella Singapore Personal Assistants at pa.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5034.  Alternatively, The Knolls is offering guests the opportunity to create a bouquet of flowers for their mothers during the Mother’s Day Sunday Brunch on 11 May 2014.  Please contact theknolls.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5046 to find out more.

How to Make the Perfect Mojito

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In my mind, Mojitos are the quintessential summer cocktails as they are both refreshing and easy to drink.  And, as it is summer all year round in Singapore, they are an absolute favorite beverage here.

Recently I sat down with  Capella Singapore’s Bob’s Bar bartender, Brendan, who was happy to share his mojito knowledge with me.

“It is very important to use fresh ingredients in your mojito as compared to artificial flavours because you do not know what is in the artificial flavours,” Brendan shared.

He also explained how the taste and flavour of fresh ingredients are integral to the creation of the perfect cocktail, “Always use a good mint and if possible a freshly squeezed lime.  The acidity in the fresh lime ensures that the drink blends nicely and isn’t too tart.  Here at Bob’s Bar, we also use fresh sugar cane juice which injects an unmistakable blend of natural sweetness to the mojito.”

Created with white rum, Bob’s Fresh Pressed Mojitos are one of the many rum-based cocktails now available at Bob’s Bar.  A Cuban-inspired bar, Bob’s Bar is really the perfect place to enjoy the perfect mojito while watching the sun set into the horizon.

For those interested in re-creating Bob’s Fresh Pressed Mojito at home, here it is!

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Bob’s Fresh Pressed Mojito

Serves 1

Ingredients:

45 ml Plantation 3 Star White Rum
15 ml Fresh-pressed lime juice
60 ml Fresh-pressed sugar cane juice
10 ml Simple syrup
2 sprigs Aquaponic fresh mint leaves

Method:

  1. Build in a Collins glass.
  2. Muddle and fill with crushed ice.
  3. Garnish with grilled sugar cane stick, lime wheel and mint sprig.

 

For those who would prefer to enjoy Bob’s Fresh Pressed Mojito at Bob’s Bar, the mojito and other delicious cocktails and mocktails are available to order from 12 noon to 12 midnight daily.  Reservations can be made by calling +65 6591 5047 or emailing bobsbar.singapore@capellahotels.com.

 

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!!!