Saturday, September 28, 2013

Frankfurt 2013 - Romerberg Square

Romerberg is the central square in the Old Town (Altstadt) of Frankfurt. Probably the most visited sight in Frankfurt - it has a collection of interesting looking buildings surrounding the Square. Most of these buildings have been rebuilt though - as the original buildings were destroyed during the War.

There's an interesting history behind Romerberg. Since the 12th Century it has been the site for large trade fairs drawing visitors and merchants from nearby countries. It was the forebear of the Frankfurt Messe - the famous Frankfurt Trade Fair Grounds which is still being used for large global trade fairs such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Motor Show, Furniture Fair, Light+Building,etc.

The Square is also a good place to try some local food as there are many shops and small cafes around. In the evenings it'll probably fill up with people enjoying a pint or 2, judging from the number of tables and chairs around.

I ended up trying a pork chop bun. It was served with a barbeque sauce and some lettuce. The bun was nice - soft and fluffy with a slightly crunchy crust. The pork chop was a bit tough and dry. Probably would have been better served warm.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Frankfurt 2013 - Frankfurt City

We made a trip to Europe this year and the first stop was Frankfurt. It was beginning of April - supposed to be springtime but this year spring was at least 2 weeks late. When we landed it was freezing cold ! In fact just a couple of weeks earlier Frankfurt airport was closed due to heavy snow and ice.

Frankfurt is the 5th largest city in Germany, and the biggest financial centre in continential Europe. It is home to the European Central Bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange - one of the biggest in the World, so in terms of world ranking it is no slouch. As a tourist attraction though - it may still have a lot of work to do to catch up with other more popular destinations in Europe. Most people would probably think of Frankfurt as a boring business city - to be avoided if possible.

As it turned out, the City itself is not as boring as I had imagined it to be. That has a lot to do with the River Main which runs roughly East-West through the city. Developments are mostly concentrated on the Northern banks, whereas on the Sourthern banks you will find the museum district (Museumsufer) which includes an impressive roster of museums - the Stadel Institute, Museum of Applied Art, Museum of Ethnography, German Architectural Museum, etc. 

Much of Frankfurt was destroyed during the 2nd World War. What you see on the streets are mostly post-war architecture. The classical or old buildings you see dotting the streetscape are mostly replicas.

 The Alte Oper (Old Opera House) is one of the most handsome classical buildings in the city. It was completely destroyed during the 2nd World War and subsequently rebuilt. 

The square in front of the Opera House is called Opernplatz and is a beautiful plaza and great for people watching.

If you see a sausage stand nearby, be sure to stop and order up a wurst or two. They are usually delicious.

Being a business oriented city, Frankfurt has its share of modern commercial buildings. One of the most well known is probably the Commerzbank Tower. Designed by Norman Foster, it was the tallest building in Europe from 1997 to 2003. A a ground-breaking office building when it was complted, with a series of 4-storey garden atriums which spiral all the way to the top of the building - it was considered one of the first ecological skyscrapers - and still look pretty good today.

One of the best ways to see the Frankfurt skyline is to take a river cruise. Unfortunately there is not much else to see besides the skyline, so you can safely give this a miss if you are rushed for time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kuching 2013 - Boardriders Cafe

I came across this great looking cafe at the new Plaza Merdeka shopping mall recently. It caught my eyes with its bright colours and nice design touches. Upon closer investigation it turned out to be a cafe operated by surfer fashion label Quicksilver. A quick search on the net also reveals that they have another outlet in Mid Valley Megamall KL.

It is like a more hip version of Starbucks. The concept is very similar - create a nice cozy ambiance for hipster to drink coffee and chill - maybe with some bites of sandwiches to keep the stomach happy. A quick check on the menu confirms that food is not the main thing here. Its all about the lifestyle.

Plaza Merdeka Shopping Mall opened towards the end of 2012. It is one of the nicer new shopping centres in town, and due to its strategic location in the heart of the city - has become quite a popular local hangout.

The shopping centre building boom in Kuching shows no sign of slowing down. There are a few under construction, and some more in the pipeline. Soon we may overtake KL as the shopping capital of Malaysia !

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kuching 2013 - Sin Kee Siang Bak Kut Teh

The original Kuching Bak Kut Teh has a light broth and and strong peppery taste. It is still the taste that I prefer, but unfortunately the Klang style Bak Kut Teh trend is just too strong and has slowly taken over the market. Today many young Kuchingites probably don't even remember what original Kuching Bak Kut Teh taste like. Everywhere you go the Klang style of strong herbal flavour and rich soy-based broth predominates.

One of the better Klang style Bak Kut Teh restaurants we have found in Kuching is Sin Kee Siang. They have 2 outlets now, but the one at Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho is closer to home so that is the one we usually go to.

The restaurant is actually in a tatch-covered shed, and probably because of that it has a simple rustic charm. Their main offering is of course the Bak Kut Teh - and you can offer your preferred cuts of meat and garnish to go in the soup. They have a very wide choice from the loin to the belly, shin, ribs and even trotters.

The broth has a subtle herbal taste and sweetness of pork without the gaminess. Served piping hot - it goes great with a bowl of rice. You can even ask for additional soup at no extra charge.

We normally order a couple of side dishes to go with the soup. The bean sprout is stir-fried with salted fish - it is sometimes a bit soggy. 

The egg omelette with long beans is quite mediocre and best avoided.

If you are longing for Klang-style Bak Kut Teh then you should give Sin Kee Siang a try. It is one of the better bets in town.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kuching 2013 - Malaysia Day 2013 Victory Flotillas

Today is Malaysia Day. Many people forget that Malaysia is actually a Federation. The Federation of Malaysia was formed on 16th September 1963 when Sarawak and Sabah joined Malaya to form Malaysia. Its been 50 years since that day - and there are many areas where we have done very well as a nation, but there are also many areas where we have a lot of catching up to do. Nevertheless it is still a day worth celebrating.

This year the focus falls on Kuching which is hosting the celebrations. There were a series of big events in the City culminating in the Victory Flotilla at the Kuching Waterfront on the eve of Malaysia Day 2013. There were over 40 flotillas taking part in the event - mostly from various government departments and some from the private sector. 

Though it was a pretty wet evening - the crowd still came out in full force.

The flotillas were followed by an impressive fireworks show which lasted for almost half an hour.

When Malaysians celebrate together - we forget about colour, race or creed. We celebrate as Malaysians !

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kuching 2013 - Cloud99 Ice Cream

It is always good to see people trying new things in the Kuching Food Scene. One recent addition which has drummed up a lot of excitement is an ice cream shop cutely named Cloud99. It is located at the Jalan Song Commercial Centre - in the Tabuan Jaya housing estate.

What's different about Cloud99 is that they make the ice cream to order. You choose the flavour, and they pour the mix into a mixer together with liquid nitrogen. After a few minutes of blending the mixture becomes ice cream right in front of your eyes.

I ordered the caramel and vanilla flavour. As there were no other customers around, the ice cream was prepared and served in a matter of minutes. I was expecting something rich and creamy - sadly the texture of the ice cream was more icy then creamy. It was more like a sorbet, and for some reason it was very soft and runny and started to melt very fast.

I checked online and it seems the idea of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen is a sound one. As the ice cream is made to order - it doesn't need stabilizers, emulsifiers or even egg yolks. You should get the pure flavour ingredients with just cream and milk, and should taste awesome ! I think Cloud99 have some issues to iron out before it becomes the premium ice cream shop that it wants to be. The concept is a good one, but the end product need lots of improvement.