Friday, September 26, 2014

Good Eats - Hong Kong Edition - The Library Cafe (Ep. 6)


Address: G/F, Lane Crawford, 3 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
In a somewhat hard to locate location, The Library Cafe is an ambient and pleasant cafe in the heart of Harbour City shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui. I walked around for about 20 minutes trying to find the cafe, asking multiple information desks how to get there, but of course, knowing me and my navigational struggles, it was still a challenge to find. Just to make things easier for any of you trying to find The Library Cafe, here is my attempt to give directions. Notice how the address (listed above) says Lane Crawford? Well Lane Crawford is a department store/clothing store located on Canton Road so just walk on that road (which is packed with high end, luxury brand stores) until you see the door opening to Lane Crawford. Walk in and go down the stairs/escalator and go past the shoes section and you'll see the cafe. If you're not really sure but you're inside Lane Crawford, just ask a sales associate and they'll direct you (as they did for me). Because Canton Road has all the nicer shopping malls in Hong Kong with all the expensive brands, most sales associates know pretty decent English so if you're a tourist, you should have no problem asking your way around.
The ambient lighting and decor of the cafe really adds to the pleasant feel of the entire cafe. It's quiet in a way Starbucks could never be and secluded enough to give you the privacy of a nice afternoon tea by yourself or with a friend. I love the little details that make this cafe so unique with the perfectly placed decorations on the shelf to the little kettles containing sugar packets and the classy stands holding the silverware on every table. The Library Cafe is a perfect place to go if you want a cup of tea or coffee as they have a wide range of flavors, but they also have a good number of choices when it comes to salads or sandwiches. They also have an afternoon tea set which is presented on a lovely stack of 3 plates containing mini sandwiches, pastries, and cakes along with coffee or tea - all of which you can choose from their menu.

I ended up trying the caramel latte which came with a small cookie shaped like a lady's high heel. I'm really not a coffee/latte/any caffeine drinker but this was definitely something I would come back for. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and the drizzle of caramel on top with the sprinkle of crushed pistachios really enhanced the caramel flavor. The cookie was a nice addition though it was really just a normal sugar cookie. My friend ordered the cake set which came with a cake of your choice and a coffee or latte of your choice. I think she got an Americano (can't remember for sure), but I love the feathered coffee art they added on her cup. She also chose the raspberry mousse cake which according to her, was really delicious.

Overall I would recommend The Library Cafe for tourists looking for a quiet place to relax or rest from a long shopping hall. The atmosphere of the cafe is perfect for those looking to get away from the bustling malls that surround it. If you guys have stopped by The Library Cafe, let me know what your thoughts of it were and what you ordered so I can try them out next time! I hope you enjoyed this mini review and have a wonderful day xx.

Nails on Nails: The Signs of Freedom

As many of you know, I recently was in Hong Kong for bout 2.5 months doing research in a lab as well as visiting my relatives and of course, seeing the sights of the country. I also got to spend time with a lot of my aunt's friends, one who was quite skilled in the art of doing nails ;D So we got together and today, I wanted to share one of the designs she created on me. We chose to use the combination of a pink and nude beige nail polish (from the brand 3CE which is a popular Korean high-ish end brand - I'm planning on doing a review of their nail polish as I picked up a good amount of them!). I've listed pictures of them both down below for your reference if you want to pick them up ^__^
Anyways all of the birds are hand drawn and I love how the white birds contrast the beige background and the extra bling at the bottom of my nails also added the glamor of the nails. What do you feel about this design? I hope it gives you some inspiration if you were looking for some sort of bird or feather designed nail art. Let me know if you have any other designs you want me to recreate and I might do a tutorial on it! Till next time xx.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Good Eats - Hong Kong Edition - Holly Brown Cafe and Gelato (Ep. 5)

Being an ice-cream addict, it's no surprise that one of the places I had to visit was Holly Brown. There are many locations in Hong Kong including, but not limited to, Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan, and many other places so if you're looking for one, trust me, it won't be too hard to find!
Address: G/F, 22 Stanley Street, Central
中環士丹利街22號地下
Website: http://www.hollybrowncoffee.com/en/
    
A friend of mine initially told me about Holly Brown saying that their ice cream was quite good and when I looked up reviews on OpenRice (the Asian version of Yelp), many American reviewers compared it to the American Coldstones. I absolutely love Coldstones' ice cream creations especially Founder's Favorite which is a mix of vanilla ice cream with brownies and nuts and other additions that makes a wonderful mouthful explosion. Tempted, I had high hopes for Holly Brown as I entered the shop (which happened to be one of their [many] locations in Central). Not all Holly Brown shops include a cafe, some only have an ice cream/gelato stand, but the one I went to had both the cafe and the ice cream bar so when I first walked in, I was greeted to both. The atmosphere and decor of the shop is quite nice with lots of comfortable sofas and chairs and tables (sort of like a Starbucks) and at least my experience with the servers was a pleasant one (I can't say for all locations of course). The cafe offers a pretty wide selection of breakfast, brunch, and lunch foods such as sandwiches, salads, pasta, coffees, honey toast, and waffles, but of course I only went there for the ice cream ;D
Being my typical indecisive self, I took about 10 minutes just staring at the ice cream menu trying to decide what to get but I finally settled with Eenie Meenie (and yes they have another creation titled Minie Mo and yes I did play that game in my head to decide between the two). I decided to get Eenie Meenie as its description said that it would include brownie bits and it seemed most similar to the Founder's Favorite that I usually get at Coldstones and I wanted to have some sort of comparison starting line. I do agree that Holly Brown is quite like Coldstones in the way they make ice cream mixtures/creations and they do it on the spot, out in the open, so you can watch them mix up your order, but the presentation was definitely not on par with Coldstones'. I mean, just look at my pictures and you can see.. it doesn't exactly look appetizing does it? Of course, maybe it was just my creation that is the uglier looking one because I've seen photos online on OpenRice and other people who ordered other creations - well theirs looks much nicer with decorations placed nicely on top. Nevertheless, despite the slightly disappointing first impression, my gelato tasted quite delicious and yummy. It's quite a hearty portion, and even though I shouldn't have, I finished the entire thing and the waffle. One complaint I have though is that all the creations come with the waffle and you can't just get your ice cream in a cone for a lower price which was a little bothersome because their gelato creations are not cheap! The creation I got cost $56 HKD if I remember correctly which is about $7 USD! (And I thought Coldstones' was expensive at about $5 for a similar sized cup!). However, gelato/ice cream in Hong Kong is actually quite expensive so I suppose the price was "normal" as buying a tub of Dryer's ice cream in Hong Kong is like $50 for a tub that is about 1/3 the size of a normal Dreyer's bucket here in America (and we wonder why America is the fattest country in the world).

All in all, I would recommend Holly Brown's gelato for all my ice cream lovers out there. Yes the price is a little high, but the taste is definitely there and next time I go back, I'm planning on trying another creation or a honey toast or waffle with ice cream on the side ^__^; If you're looking for a place for a client meeting or somewhere to study or just some place to get out of the Hong Kong heat, stop by Holly Brown because hey, it's a nice change up from your usual Starbucks or Pacific Coffee and probably less crowded (unless you come in around lunch time). The wide selection of gelato and normal savory foods makes Holly Brown a perfect cafe for everyone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good Eats - Hong Kong Edition - One Dim Sum (Ep. 4)

Address: Shop 1 & 2, G/F, 15 Playing Field Road, Kenwood Mansion, Prince Edward
On this lovely day, I will be taking a break from my sweetie Good Eats posts and sharing with you my experience eating at One Dim Sum, a Michelin Guide Recommended dimsum restaurant located in Prince Edwards (also known as Tai Zi in Cantonese). It is only about a 5 minute walk from one of the Prince Edward MTR subway station exits (I forget which one ;P) and you can easily spot it by the long line of people waiting in front of it. Nicely enough, they have stools outside for waiting customers to sit on (uncommon for most Hong Kong restaurants!) and Fa Yuen Street is also located closely by so you can walk over there (about a 5-10 minute walk) and shop around while you wait for a seat. My cousin and I arrived around 3 PM on a Saturday afternoon expecting not much of a wait seeing as dimsum is most popular from 11 AM to 1 PM, but when we arrived at One Dim Sum, we were surprised to see quite a bit of people waiting in front of the shop. We were given a number and told that the wait would be about half an hour so we decided to walk over to Fa Yuen Street to do some shopping and returned a little less than half an hour later and were given a seat about 10 minutes after returning.

Obviously we were pretty hungry as we hadn't eaten since breakfast (aka 8 in the morning!) so we decided to order 6 dishes (yes my cousin and I can EAT!). As a standard, we ordered siu mai, baked (not steamed as there is a difference!) barbeque pork buns, ha gao (although I've seen online people spell it har gao), deep fried tofu skin (also known as fu pei), cow intestines (not sure if that's the exact right English translation and I know it sounds a bit gross but trust me, IT'S DELICIOUS!), and turnip cakes (pronounced lo bah gou in Cantonese).
Siu Mai - basically shrimp dumplings with orange fish eggs on top and covered in a yellow rice sort of wrap
Baked Barbeque Pork Buns - this type of pork is known as cha-siu (or char siu) which is sweet and super yummy!

My attempt to beautifully rip the bun in half to show you the inside which obviously didn't turn out so well but hey at least you can see the delicious yummy inside! As you can see, the top is shiny which, I'm not sure what they do, but it makes the bun super sticky so be careful if you want to use your hands to eat these little suckers!
Ha Gau (or Har Gau) - another shrimp dish which is literally just a steamed shrimp inside a glutinous rice wrap but is SO freaking yummy.
Fried Tofu Skin with vegetables inside

Cow Intestine - I absolutely love this dish and always love to get it when I go eat dimsum so don't be afraid to order it!
Turnip Cake - another one of my favorites. The turnips are mashed into a fine paste and then mixed with some tiny dried shrimp and some other goodies and then pan fried to create a firm somewhat crispy on the outside but soft on the inside cake.
One thing I love about soley dimsum restaurants are their incredibly fast service. We received our first plate (or well wooden dimsum container.. not sure what they're called really) steaming hot in about 5 minutes after we had ordered and all our other dishes came in about 15 minutes so we were soon overwhelmed with our six dishes crowding up the tiny 4 seater table we were sharing with another couple (yes most small food shops will shove multiple parties into large tables in order to get you in and out as fast as possible). The food was definitely fresh and straight out of the kitchen and I thought all the dishes were delicious except... (try and guess? ;D) the fried tofu skin. Honestly I'm not sure why we ordered it since I've never gotten it at any other dim sum restaurant but my cousin suggested it so we decided to just go for it. I like tofu skin when it's normally cooked (usually steamed or in a soup) but the whole fried thing.. not really my thing. All the other dishes were definitely good, but I'm not exactly sure why One Dim Sum is Michelin recommended as the dishes I tried seemed to be at the same level as any other dimsum restaurant I've been to in Hong Kong. But then again, my grandma and relatives usually take me out to dimsum so I'm assuming they know the better places in the area so I've never had to try a particularly mediocre dimsum restaurant ;P Nevertheless, I think One Dim Sum is a good dimsum shop for tourists as it has an English menu and I think lots of tourists do stop by it because when I went, there were quite a lot of foreigners (myself included really). The shop has a wide selection of traditional dim sum items for you to try and the food is definitely fresh and tasty and best of all, it's cheap! My cousin and I split the bill and if I recall correctly, it was only around 100 HKD in total (maybe give or take a few but IT WAS LIKE CHEAP!). The service and waiters are also quite nice which is a plus for a Hong Kong restaurant as most places have pretty meh service because waiters want to just get you out of the shop quickly and are more about efficiency than politeness really. So yes another successful shop knocked off my list of food places to try ^__^ Leave a comment if you've been to One Dim Sum or any other dim sum places you thought were better and would recommend me to try out ~! xoxo.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Good Eats - Hong Kong Edition - Teakha (Ep. 3)

Address: Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street,
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
上環太平山街18號B鋪
Located in the quiet street of Tai Ping Shan, Teakha is a low-key must-stop-by cafe in Hong Kong. Aimed at being a "lifestyle concept tea cafe" and "zakka store", the shop is decorated with many little tiny decorations that each add their own touch and life to the cafe. It took me a good half an hour to find Teakha from the Sheung Wan MTR station, but for a typical person with a well-developed sense of direction and Google maps, I would reasonably say it would only take you about 10-15 minutes to arrive at Teakha. Tai Ping Shan street is located just a little ways from Holllywood Street which there are many signs leading to (yes in English!) so as long as you follow them, you'll be headed in the right direction!
The outside front of Teakha. Just around the corner is another entrance to a seating area that you can go to after ordering and obtaining your food if the front seats are already taken (which they likely will be as there is only one table and a small bar area in the front of the cafe).


Looking down the alley nook (away from the front of the store). The horizontal street is Tai Ping Shan.
Once inside the cafe, I was greeted with a nice cool breeze of air conditioned air (well what else?) and then an awkward stare from the three staff members all situated at the front of the store behind the counter. I'll admit that I must have looked a little funny covered in sweat in an awkward post-interview outfit with two giant bags but I did feel a bit uncomfortable with me being the only customer in the shop at the time and three workers just standing in front of me with nothing to do really. I'm not sure why they need so many staff since the cafe is so small, but perhaps it gets busier later on in the day. I arrived at the cafe around 12 PM and there were two other customers before me but when I entered the store front, they had already gotten their food items and had headed to the additional seating room making me the only one in the store front. The first impression I got from walking in to the cafe was "Wow..this place is so.. hipster." Hipster is really the only way to describe it. With all the bits and bobs cluttered in the small area, it's hard to think of anything else. The decorations are very nice though and the light pale blue color really catches the light nicely in the cafe. On the counter with the cashier, they have their freshly baked pastries lined out in glass covered displays and upon walking up to the cash register, I was handed a paper bound menu with a list of items.
In my awkward Cantonese, I managed to ask one of the staff what was the most popularly ordered item from their menu. The lady told me it was their Green Tea Cheesecake along with a hot cup of Masala Chai tea. Looking at the price of the cheesecake ($40 HKD so about $5 USD) and seeing as I was TRYING to eat healthy, I decided to opt out of the heavy cheesecake (though it looked absolutely delicious) and try for the "Scone of the Day" which was recommended by a few on OpenRice (a site like Yelp for Hong Kong diners). There were two scones of the day and I decided to go for the Roselle scone. I wasn't exactly sure what kind of fruit (or if it even was a fruit) Roselle was and the staff wasn't sure how to explain it either but they showed me a pot of dried Roselle and it smelled decent enough that I decided to go for it.

As mentioned on OpenRice, the staff warmed up my scone for me right on the spot in a small conventional oven before serving it to me. This allowed me to take the time to look around the cafe some more and enjoy its nice arrangements. I noticed they also had a blackboard with specials of the days and lunch sets like sandwiches with tea that I could have ordered had I been a bit more observant (as these weren't on the menu) or more hungry. I'm glad I just got the scone because along with the Masala tea, it filled me up quite a lot (mostly the tea filled me up really since it was so large!). The Roselle scone turned out to be extremely delicious though different from the kinds I might get in America at Panera or some other bakery. It was soft and warm due to the heating but had just enough of a crumble without being SO crumbly that it fell apart. I was able to easily cut into the scone using the side of the fork (meant to be used as a butter knife) and the Roselle tasted somewhat like dried cranberries. It had the perfect amount of sweetness and moisture without being too over the top and maintained scone like qualities. I just wish they had waited a little bit to serve me the scone because it didn't take long to warm it up and my tea wasn't quite ready so they served me the scone about 5 minutes before they served me my Masala tea so the scone did cool a little bit before I got to enjoy it with the tea. I'm not generally a big tea drinker but as I was at a placed called Teakha, a tea cafe, I decided it was only appropriate to order tea and the lady did say Masala was a popular tea drink. Though it was a hot day, the air conditioned cafe made drinking the hot Masala tea bearable and it was quite good. It came in an extremely large mug (so large that I actually couldn't finish the last 2 sips D; ) and was freshly brewed and steaming hot (yeah I was the fool who burned her tongue). The tea had a unique taste.. I'm not really sure how to describe it, maybe like English Breakfast tea but with a more sweet taste? Maybe I shouldn't even bother trying to describe it because I'll make you think it's something it's not and either disappoint you or make you NOT try the tea when you really would like it haha! Regardless, it was quite good and I'm glad I did try it out.

All in all, I had a pleasant experience at Teakha. I did feel a bit awkward with the 3:1 staff to me ratio, but the food and decor were so nice that I could get over it. I would definitely suggest you stop by Teakha as it is a unique and urban "hip" cafe with yummy food. If you go check out their website (teakha.com), you can see part of their menu (not the whole thing!) and decided if you want to check it out :) Hope you enjoyed this review and have a lovely day~!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Good Eats - Hong Kong Edition - Phoenix Sweets (Ep. 2)


The lighting is pretty off since the place is very well lit but I think the white walls made my camera get confused and dim all my photos a tad.

On the rare occasion that I didn't have anything to do on a lovely Friday, I was able to go out and explore a couple of cafes I had on my bucket list of places to go before I leave Hong Kong. One of these places I stopped by was Phoenix Sweets - partially on accident - but I was in the Central and Sheung Wan area and found PMQ. PMQ is a sort of like a shopping plaza but not really since it's basically just a building filled with lots of hipster type small shops that are either dessert/sweet shops or ridiculously overpriced clothing shops or random small useless item boutiques (you get my point.. basically places you take pictures of but don't actually buy anything from besides the foodies). Anyways, Phoenix Sweets drew me in right from the start with the elaborately decorated cakes all across the shop and the super cute pastel coloring. They can do personalized cakes which you can order in stores or online at their website (definitely go look at their site if you're looking for cakes for a wedding or some sort of party because they are freaking amazing looking). On display, they have beautifully decorated cupcakes and the lady was super nice and friendly and helped me pick out the Rose Earl Grey cupcake. Honestly my current pictures don't do it any justice because I walked around the entire day before getting back home and taking the photos so the frosting sort of dropped BUT I think it still tasted quite nice. I actually had difficulty getting it out of the container which was like a good and bad thing. The lady put my cupcake in this nice plastic cup with a lid and their logo on it which was super cute in my opinion and a really smart way to hold the cupcake to prevent it from getting squashed or anything. The only problem was actually getting out my cupcake because, as you can see from the photos, I sort of ruined the frosting while trying to get it out T__T I mean there's no other way other than to shake the cup/tap it gently to sort of wiggle the cupcake out and.. well you get the point hand + cupcake coming out of cup = not so pleasant. 
The Rainbow Vanilla is supposed to be a special that is not always around but it seemed pretty standard in flavor and just different looking so I decided to go with the Earl Grey :)
Sooo cute although a bit pricey but I love the packaging and detail.

Admittedly I had high hopes for the Rose Earl Grey cupcake. I mean first off it cost $40 which is pretty pricey for a cupcake (about $6 US dollars!) but it also just looked very nice and the lady said it was one of the more popular flavors. I liked the bottom cake part of the cupcake as it was very moist and I could definitely taste the Earl Grey with hints of rose and it wasn't too sweet at all. Sometimes cupcake bottoms are too sweet or they're not sweet enough but this was the perfect middle. The frosting however... wasn't as amazing. It wasn't exactly a smooth texture in my mouth and felt more grainy like I could feel the sugar particles in the frosting, but then the frosting actually wasn't even very sweet, like not sweet at all! I suppose you can say that it's a good thing for those of you who aren't too fond of overly sweet treats but I do feel like the frosting could have had a bit more flavor. I could taste a little bit of rose but that was really it. I ended up scraping off most of the frosting because I just couldn't get over the strange grainy-ness of it but the cupcake part still tasted delicious!



Taken inside Holly Brown Cafe earlier in the day so the frosting is a bit higher haha!
Despite the slight mishap with the frosting,  I had a pleasant experience at Phoenix Sweets and would recommend you check it out if you are in the Central area and stop by PMQ. There are a lot of other sweet shops (that I'll be sharing in later episodes!) but make sure you leave room to stop by Phoenix Sweets. The decor and presentation of the shop is nicely put together creating a pleasant atmosphere and there are two small tables (though outdoors) for customers to sit and enjoy their sweet buys. The lady who helped me out was absolutely nice despite my horrendous Cantonese and she even helped tape up a box I had got from another shop that I had accidentally torn. The shop is definitely a bit pricey but if it's just a one-time thing, it doesn't hurt to try their cupcakes ;P They also have gluten free ice cream for the hotter days which apparently is pretty good and is also sold at the PMQ night market. Though I'm not particularly fond of the frosting on my cupcake, I did appreciate the "not-too-sweet" aspect of the cupcake and the way they were able to incorporate the earl grey and the rose without it being too much or too little.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Good Eats - Hong Kong Edition - Awfully Chocolate (Ep. 1)

I'm currently staying in Hong Kong with one of my aunts volunteering at a research lab in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Maybe not as prestigious as the University of Hong Kong but it still has an amazing research faculty and I'm definitely honored to be able to participate in the lab that I am currently in. Of course it's been taking up a lot of my time and I've been studying for the MCAT - a test that you really have to do well in to get into medical school in the United States - but that hasn't stopped me from getting my yummy Asian food. Unfortunately, being a fatty in US has backfired on me as I'm currently trying to diet while living in one of the best food places in the world. Oh the delights I've missed out on... But still, I've been able to splurge every now and then so I wanted to share a bit of my food adventures, or good eats might I say (no copyright infringement on Alton Brown's original Good Eats show which BY THE WAY I LOVEE <3) with all of you.

So here's my first episode of Good Eats - Hong Kong edition. The first place I wanted to share is called Awfully Chocolate. You can click here to redirect to their website - after you read this post of course ;D. I visited the Awfully Chocolate store in Tsim Sha Tsui which is located in the K11 Shopping Plaza. You can find this shopping plaza about a minute walk away from the D1 exit of the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, but really if you're not sure, just Google map it and you'll easily find your way.

Honestly I wasn't sure what to get at first and wasn't exactly planning on buying anything from the store (never really gravitate towards the all chocolate shops) but to be honest, the "Free Samples" sign totally drew me in LOL. I was able to try the Super Premium Dark Chocolate cake but well, you know me. I prefer the sweet unhealthy chocolates, not the at least somewhat healthy antioxidant rich dark chocolate ;P The lady who helped me out was super friendly and nice despite my gosh darn awful Cantonese and she helped me decide between the White Chocolate Creme Brulee Tart and the White Chocolate Butterscotch Block. I ended up choosing the latter one but I kind of wish I got the creme brulee just because I lovee creme brulee in general, but the White Chocolate Butterscotch Block was still quite delightfully yummy.

I love how you get this cute plastic spoon although it's a little awkward because the handle is so small but hey, I love little mini things~! Honestly I should have taken a picture before I took a bite but the delicious look and smell of the entire thing won me over and I "accidentally" took a huge scoop out of the cake before I got a decent shot of it haha. You can't blame me.. it looked and smelled soo good! The texture was definitely a bit of a shock to me at first. I thought the white part would be more of a standard vanilla cake or like a Japanese Swiss roll so spongey and fluffy. Instead, it's actually some sort of cream like texture but it's so light and still fluffy..just in a different way. The brown rolled part was more like the standard cake that I'm used to but super moist and then the inside and top brown coating is milk chocolate with butterscotch bits sprinkled throughout (probably my favorite part of the cake). The cake is definitely sweet so you'll need coffee or tea to go with it and I definitely couldn't finish the whole thing, but it's still something nice to try. I didn't realize they had ice cream until I went on their website later that night but from what the reviews say, it's pretty good so maybe I'll try it next time! (Though I'm not particularly a fan of all chocolate ice cream). If I were to go back, I'd definitely try the creme brulee but I would recommend this to anyone who wants to try something unique and new. I'd also see if you can get smaller than a 100g slice (mine was a little bit under) as it cost $40 HKD per 100g - not too bad since I expected everything at the shop to be crazily overpriced. I would suggest less than 50g if they let you buy that small of a slice and even then that's probably quite a lot in my opinion.
Anyways overall I thought the place was nice. Not a sweet shop you absolutely MUST try, but if you are looking for a cake for a celebration and you know that the people who will eat it like dark chocolate, I'd definitely go for their famous dark chocolate cakes (the one I got to sample). They have one filled with banana and another with Rum&Cherry or just a standard all dark chocolate for the less adventurous folks ;P I'll be posting up more Good Eats blog posts so subscribe or follow me if you want to be updated ^__^