Gastronomic Journeys with Reine Sammut

Queen of Hearts Reine Sammut whipping up love

I have always believed that it is impossible to fully enjoy a chocolate éclair without ever being in love, being to Paris, or being in love in Paris.  Food, to me, has always offered the most immediate path to emotions and experiences – whether it conjures up a crisp Spring morning in France, riotous family dinners at home, or warm fuzzy feelings of love.

The best chefs maintain this ongoing ‘conversation’ with you at the dining table.  Like master storytellers, their food tells you about themselves; their personal journeys, joys and heartbreaks; and also trigger your most private memories and intimate experiences.

So it was a rare treat to speak with one-star Michelin chef Reine Sammut before relishing her creations at The Knolls, Capella Singapore, from 13-16 November.  In this short tête-à-tête, the reigning Queen of Hearts talks about meeting her husband, her greatest source of inspiration, and what true love tastes like.

Queen of Hearts Reine Sammut whipping up love

Queen of Hearts Reine Sammut whipping up love

Reine Sammut on Food and Love…

If I weren’t a chef, I would have been a doctor.  I fell in love with cooking when I fell in love with my husband Guy.  I was studying medicine then, but I decided to leave school for him and learn cooking from my mother-in-law Claudette.

My greatest source of inspiration comes from travel and books.  They are my portals to new worlds and perspectives. These experiences help me create food that evokes genuine emotions and create a sense of place.

My favourite comfort food is pasta.  It’s like how some people would dig into a tub of ice cream when they are having a bad day…  I think it’s impossible to have a bad day when you have freshly made pasta.

My favourite ‘cheap thrill’ food is sardine.  They are chockfull of omega-3 fatty acids, and are sustainable and delicious. Even when prepared simply with olive oil and salt, they will win you over with their rich flavour.

An unusual and delicious food I’d recommend is Melokhia.  This popular Middle Eastern soup or stew contains a namesake vegetable, which has a thick, viscous consistency somewhat similar to okra.

One of my favourite French restaurants is La Chassagnette in Arles.  Set in the middle of an organic vegetable garden, this restaurant’s décor and food are irresistibly charming.

If I had to prepare one last meal, it would be bouillabaisse.  This traditional Provencal fish stew contains many kinds of fish, seafood, olive oil, vegetables and herbs. You can taste the freshness of the sea and the garden in every single bite.  We usually make this in a large pot and share it with family and friends, so this dish always makes me feel warm and think of the people I love.

"Calissons” is a Provencal-style iced cream made with almonds

“Calissons” is a Provencal-style iced cream made with almonds

Reine Sammut will be conjuring up culinary magic at CapellaSingapore’s The Knolls from 13-16 November. View her stellar menu HERE.

A Visit to the Singapore Art Museum

The Singapore Art Museum is housed in the former St Joseph's Institution, originally built in 1867.

Located in the heart of the arts and culture district of Bras Basah, the Singapore Art Museum is the perfect stop for art lovers. Featuring one of the world’s largest collection of contemporary Southeast Asian art, it is easy to get lost inside just admiring and appreciating the art.

Just yesterday, I spent the whole afternoon walking through the halls of the art museum. While visiting the museum, I learned that the building was a former Catholic boys’ school, St Joseph’s Institution. Originally built in 1867 by a Catholic Father and a group of La Salle Brothers, the St Joseph’s Institution in Brash Basah was the educational home to boys here in Singapore for more than 120 years. Wanting to preserve the beautiful 19th century French architecture, the building was gazetted in 1992 as a national monument and after a S$30 million restoration project, was opened in 1996 as the now Singapore Art Museum.

The Singapore Art Museum is housed in the former St Joseph's Institution, originally built in 1867.

The Singapore Art Museum is housed in the former St Joseph’s Institution, originally built in 1867. Photo credit: Lay Leng Low (via Pinterest)

It was wonderful just walking through the hallowed halls learning all about contemporary Southeast Asian art. The art took on various forms, many were interactive mixed-medium art pieces and some were very experimental. I especially enjoyed the very interactive exhibition entitled Sensorium 360 which explores the way we use our senses to interact and understand the world. The exhibition will be on until 22 October 2014 and is worth visiting. I especially enjoyed walking through a completely darkened room surrounding by laser lights, not unlike the laser lights seen in movies like Mission Impossible. That particular installation challenged my perception of space and reality.

While walking through the museum, I imagined myself travelling back in time to the 19th century. As if I was one of the St Joseph Institution students running to class through the beautiful hallways. When restoring the museum, the architects tried to be as faithful as possible to the original architecture as possible. They even tried to replicate the old school hall to its original glory by following blueprints they found. The architects even managed to commission new tiles that matched the old original tiles exactly. No detail was too little to be left out. The courtyard, which were the old school quadrangles where the boys used to have their morning assembly and play basketball, are now spacious courtyards where guests can enjoy coffee or just the peace and tranquility the museum affords.

Two very important additions they had to include are the glass windows to ensure that all 18 galleries have climate controlled temperatures to preserve the artwork and also the reinforced concrete floors necessary to support the heavy art installations.

The Singapore Art Museum is an easy 20-minute drive from Capella Singapore. Entry is free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents and S$10 for visitors. Our Personal Assistants would be delighted to organise a tour of the Singapore Art Museum for you. They can be reached at +65 6591 5034/35 and pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

All About Rum at Bob’s Bar

Cuban Fever at Bob's Bar - experience three different rums

I recently learned that Bob’s Bar at Capella Singapore features some of the region’s most rare and unique rums. Wanting to learn more about Bob’s Bar’s exclusive collection of rums, I sat down with Bob’s Bar’s lead bartender Brendon Khoo who shared more about rum.

Brendon Khoo at work creating a delicious cocktail

Brendon Khoo at work creating a delicious cocktail

Can you tell me how rum is produced?

Rum is a spirit that is made from molasses, the by-product of making sugar from sugarcane.

Can you share with me about one of the more exclusive rums that we offer?

One of the rarest rums we offer is the Diplomatico Single Vintage 2000. In the year 2000, the weather conditions were just perfect in Venezuela (high temperatures during the day, cool at night, high humidity and lower than average rainfall) that created the best and sweetest sugarcane harvest in the country’s history. It was during this season that Diplomatico created this single vintage rum which is a limited edition. The harvest was so good that the rum was created from fresh sugarcane “honey” and molasses together and pot-stilled in very old copper pot stills, which produce a rum with distinctive character. After which the rum was aged as a mixture of single malt and bourbon casks, before being finished in Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks. There are not many bottles of this rum available in South East Asia but Bob’s Bar has it!

That’s amazing. What are some of the cocktails you serve that feature rum?

As a Cuban bar we try to serve cocktails that are predominantly rum-based such as Daiquiris and Mojitos which are created using white rum and Rum Old Fashioned made using dark rum.

I would love to learn more about rums. How can I do so?

We recently launched an exciting rum-tasting experience called Cuban Fever where you will be able to try three unique rums – a classic, a distilled and a premium reserve rum.

Taking place daily from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, the team and I will share the stories and tasting notes for each rum – allowing you to fully appreciate and enjoy each rum for all its glory.

Cuban Fever at Bob's Bar - experience three different rums

Cuban Fever at Bob’s Bar – experience three different rums

If you would like to make a reservation at Bob’s Bar you can contact them at +65 6591 5047 / bobsbar.singapore@capellahotels.com or book online at here.

A Visit to Singapore’s Little India

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

I had the chance to visit Singapore’s Little India this weekend. I love how Little India is just bustling with excitement and activity. The vibrantly coloured temples, together with the unmistakeable scent of exotic spices stimulate the senses, are truly an incredible experience.

In order to make the most out of my time in Little India, I set out to accomplish two main things: firstly, to take in the sights, sounds and scents of the district by walking through the famous historical five-foot walkways and secondly, to visit and appreciate one of the local Hindu temples.

I started my journey at Serangoon Road, the main thoroughfare of Little India, taking my time to wander through the little streets.  There are so many meandering walkways and streets that one could venture off into. Along the streets there are many little stalls selling floral garlands. These garlands,  which are used as a form of offering and adornment for the Hindu deities, are truly beautiful – handmade and created with fresh brightly coloured flowers.

Colourful garland stalls can be found all over Little India

Colourful garland stalls can be found all over Little India

I also enjoyed admiring the colourful animated altars that sat prominently on street corners and outside of Hindu-owned shops.

The Hindu god Ganesha is one of the more popular gods that can be seen in little altars around Little India

The Hindu god Ganesha is one of the more popular gods that can be seen in little altars around Little India

After taking my time exploring the effervescent streets of Little India, I decided to spend the next part of my afternoon in one of Singapore’s most famous Hindu temples, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. Located along Serangoon Road, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of the oldest temples in Singapore, built by Indian immigrants who came to work and live here in Singapore in the 1800s. The choice of deity, Sri Veeramakaliamman as the chief deity is also significant.  In the pioneer days, Indian immigrants experienced many hardships and obstacles.  Sri Veeramakaliamman is seen as a goddess who destroys evil and therefore worshiped for her power to help them overcome their struggles and challenges.

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Visiting the temple was really an eye-opener. Life-like deities filled the temple with dedicated devotees paying homage to them. There was a distinct smell of incense in the air as the priests lit bowls of fire and incense to honour the gods and goddesses.

Little India has since become one of my favourite places to recommend to visitors. Its distinct character so far removed from the skyscrapers that fill the Marina Bay skyline and the air-conditioned malls of Orchard Road. It is a place where time has learnt to stay still, and, hopefully, for many years to come.

Little India is an easy 25-minute drive from Capella Singapore. Our Personal Assistants will be able to assist to organise tours and transport for you. They can be reached at +65 6591 5034/35 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

 

An Insider’s Tour of the Sultan Mosque

The Sultan Mosque

One thing I love about Singapore is that people from all races and religions live harmoniously together.  Because of the diversity of our citizens, we have public holidays to celebrate significant days within the different religions and cultures.  The most recent holiday we celebrated was Hari Raya Aidilfitri on 27 July 2014.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a celebration that comes right after Ramadan, a month of fasting for all Muslims who are physically and emotionally able to.  To learn more about Ramadan, I decided to pay a visit to one of the most prominent mosques in Singapore, the Sultan Mosque.  The Sultan Mosque regularly welcomes guests to teach them more about the history of the mosque as well as share a little bit about Islam.

The Sultan Mosque

The Sultan Mosque

One of the most distinguishing features of the Sultan Mosque is its golden dome.  Its golden dome glistens in the sunlight, enhancing its beauty.  Another unusual feature are the rows of soya sauce bottles that line the building.  Soya sauce bottles?  Yes, indeed!  When the mosque was built in the early 1800s, the villagers nearby wanted to donate something to the construction of the mosque.  However, they did not have much money and decided instead to donate soya sauce bottles.  These soya sauce bottles were readily accepted and formed a unique decorative feature of the mosque!

Soya Sauce Bottles form a decorative ring at the bottom of the golden dome

Soya Sauce Bottles form a decorative ring at the bottom of the golden dome

The inside of the mosque is as beautiful and as distinctive as the outside.  Dark green ornate carpets cover the prayer hall.  The moment I entered the mosque I felt a sense of peace and serenity.  I appreciated how simple the prayer hall was.

At the entrance of the prayer hall was a digital signboard filled with a row of numbers.  When I asked my guide what the numbers meant, my guide shared that the numbers were actually times.  The time Muslims must say their prayers everyday, the time of sunrise and the times Muslims must start and stop fasting.  It was very interesting.

The Prayer Hall

The Prayer Hall

When we finished our tour of the prayer hall, my guide brought me up to the roof.  This was a very special experience, offered only during Ramadan.  The view from the mosque’s roof was breathtaking, the experience itself was truly unforgettable.  While we were on the roof, I had the rare opportunity to listen to the beautiful Azan (call to worship) from the neighbouring minarets, watch the fiery orange sun descend into the grey-blue sky and feel the gentle evening breeze wrap itself around me.  It was truly a moment I will never forget.

The Sultan Mosque is open to visitors daily until 4:00 pm.  They have local guides that will be delighted to share more about the history of the mosque and Islam.  If you do plan to visit Sultan Mosque, I suggest spending a day walking the streets of Kampong Glam where you can enjoy delicious authentic Malay food, visit the Malay Heritage Centre and browse the shops selling authentic Malay clothes, perfumes and accessories.  Capella Singapore’s Personal Assistants will be more than delighted to arrange for local tours of Kampong Glam for you or perhaps recommend a good restaurant in the area.  They can be reached at +65 6591 5034/35 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

The History of Sentosa Island

officers_mess_-_party

I love history.  I find that knowing the history of a place adds to its unique character and personality and makes it even more endearing and charming.  With that in mind, I thought I would share a bit about the history of Sentosa Island and Capella Singapore.

Did you know that Sentosa Island, where Capella Singapore, is located, is the largest of Singapore’s southern islands and an island with a rich history and heritage?  In the past it was an island fortress and military base for the British army and today it is an island of pure entertainment and recreation.

On the western side of the island was Fort Siloso which has underground passages, bunkers and gun emplacements dating back to the 1800s.  It was built in the 1880s to protect Singapore, which was a thriving port under Great Britain’s rule.  Fort Siloso was part of Singapore’s coastal defence with Fort Serapong and Fort Connaught.  The guns at Fort Siloso were used during World War II and are part of Singapore’s rich history.

Capella Singapore is home to four colonial buildings – the two blocks where the main lobby, Capella Library and Chinese restaurant, Cassia, are located are actually two Colonial Manors.  In fact, they received conservation status in 2000.  These colonial buildings were formerly the Royal Artillery Officers’ Mess.

 The Officers’ Mess was where the officers and their families had their meals and recreational activities such as dining, dancing and tennis. There was a tennis court beside the block.

Royal Artillery Officers Christmas Party 1951

Royal Artillery Officers Christmas Party 1951

Christmas and New Year parties were celebrated at the Officers’ Mess.  Formal table settings extended out to the wide corridors of the block and band performances were held in the room at the entrance. From the Officers’ Mess, there was a good view of the Singapore harbour and it was a practice for the officers and their families to welcome in the new year with the loud horning from the ships in the harbour.

After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the government decided that it was important for the emerging nation to have a place of recreation.  Soon after, Sentosa Island was chosen for this purpose.  Sentosa Island was then given the name Sentosa Island in 1970, which means “Isle of Tranquility” in Malay and developed by the Singapore government into a recreational area in 1972.  It has now become an island of fun, filled with amusement parks, beaches, museums, restaurants, aquariums and many more attractions.  It is truly amazing how in just a few decades it has transformed from a military base into an exciting playground.

If you are interested in the history of Sentosa, you may wish to go for a tour at Fort Siloso or visit Images of Singapore where you can learn about the colourful history of Sentosa and of Singapore and how we became the thriving and successful country that we are today.  Do speak with one of our Personal Assistants to organise a tour at +65 6591 5035 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

Historical pictures of Capella Singapore’s past as the Royal Artillery Officers’ Mess are available for viewing in The Library.