Categotry Archives: Events

17

Shiori’s Sweet Shoppe

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My blog post this time is not related to travel or food. This post is dedicated for my precious S, who just celebrated her first birthday. Initially, I did not plan to celebrate her birthday since A had already gone back to New York earlier last month. However, I could not just let a special occasion go by without any celebration. So, I finally became busy planning and arranging my lil S’ first birthday party in Indonesia.

First, selecting a suitable venue in my small hometown, Solo, was not an easy task. I wanted a place with a relaxing and cozy ambiance, with an outdoor space for kids to play. After careful thought and consideration, later I decided to hold the party at Goela Klapa Restaurant. The place has a classic traditional architecture profile with a mix interior of little Indonesian touch, with the ambience of luxurious, classic, elegant and cozy. At the back of the restaurant is a small beautiful garden and outdoor area. It was exactly what I had in mind, just excellent for a kid’s party.

Second, after meeting a few decoration vendors, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. That time, I already had some ideas how I would want to decorate the room. I doubted if someone in Solo could realize my ideas perfectly. So, I finally decided to decorate the room by myself. Yeah, it was a LOT of work, but worth it. I had to finish much of the art work myself in order to achieve what I wanted.

I got very busy starting from a week before the party. When the D-day arrived, some items were still not completed and not perfect. But, overall, I was very glad everything went smoothly as planned. One day after the party, I realized how difficult it was to be a single parent. I had to organize the party, arranging the sweet table, planning the menu list, setting up the decorations, and so on and so forth, all by myself. Phew… I think next time I should get an assistant. Not to forget that I was very grateful for having a full-time nanny for S, so I could concentrate to the party.

I can’t mention one by one for everyone who contributed their effort  to make Shiori’s sweet shoppe memorable.  Thanks much!

Birthday Planner and Organizer: Shiori’s Mom
Cake: Blessing Cake
Cupcakes: Baking Bee
Cookies: Olanos
Decoration: Shiori’s Mom

5

The Eruptions of Mount Merapi

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Around 400,000 people are currently without homes and had to take refuge at temporary tent shelters, after Indonesia’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi (which literally means “Fire Mountain”), erupted on October 26th, 2010. Since then Merapi continued to sporadically spit out hot clouds and fiery lava. Experts say that the recent eruptions are the most violent listed for Merapi. Rescue workers have been recovering bodies from the affected villages and at least 300 villagers are dead due to burns and respiratory failure by hot volcanic ash. Nearby airports are still closed due to air travel safety reasons. Even US President Barack Obama was forced to cut short his whirlwind Indonesian visit because of volcanic ash clouds. The volcano’s intensity has decreased significantly, but a danger zone remains within a 12-mile radius from the volcano. When the eruption is going to end still cannot be determined.

Merapi overlooks the densely populated city of Yogyakarta in Central Java Province, and is only 30 miles away from the city of Solo/Surakarta, my beloved hometown. I’ve been staying in Solo since mid October, and now would like to blog my experiences with the Merapi eruptions. Fortunately, Solo is within a safe distance from Merapi, so the eruptions do not pose serious danger so far to life in Solo. Volcanic ash rains quickly struck Solo a few days after Merapi’s first eruption in October, enforcing officials to close Solo’s airport for several days. An airborne flight from Jakarta to Solo in which my brother in law boarded was forced to turn back to Jakarta after reaching (but not landing at) Solo, because some volcanic ash reached a certain height above Solo’s airport.

Three weeks after the first eruption, A and I traveled to some of the affected villages to see the destruction from the eruptions.  Our drive started from Solo to three affected villages: Cepogo, Selo, and Musuk. The three villages suffered from evident physical damages resulted from Merapi’s hot clouds. Thick volcanic ash blanketed homes and streets. Trees were all white, covered with thick gray ash. Their leaves were burnt by the acid ash. With heavy rains, the thick ash turned into mud. Consequently, many trees fell (some landing on houses) and rooftops collapsed because they were not strong enough to support the heavy burden of the ash. Dozens of villagers, including children, were busy cleaning their homes and main roads, some scooping ash from the ground while others sprayed water.

Merapi buried surrounding crop fields with a thick heavy layer of ash mud. Farmlands within 12 miles are now dead and it is difficult to determine when the fields become arable again. Experts believe it could take years for the farmlands to become productive again. Snake fruit industry is hardly hit by the disaster as it is one of the most important commercial plants that local residents near Merapi grow.

Our final destination was the Ketep Pass/Hill, located between Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu (another mountain north of Merapi), which offers a spectacular view of the Central Java’s big five: Mt. Merapi, Mt. Merbabu, and Mt. Sindoro, Mt. Sumbing and Mt. Selamet. However, when we were there, we could not see any parts of the mountains because of the thick ash clouds from Merapi.

I also went to one of the evacuation camps in Sleman (a suburb of Yogyakarta) which accommodates around 22000 people. The evacuees took shelter in Maguwoharjo Stadium, which is a football stadium and the home for the soccer team “PSS Sleman”. Most of the refugees are farmers who lived near the slopes of the volcano. It was a very relieving sight to see that they had shelter and enough aid for food, clean water, medical supplies and clothes. Hundreds of Indonesian soldiers were involved in every form of assistance, from logistics to health support to cooking and playing with children.

The stadium and piles of boxes of donation

Many humanitarian organizations, private parties and volunteers showed concern for the victims of the disaster by setting up new tents for food aid distribution. High piles of boxes of water and instant food could be seen at the aid reception area, managed by volunteers. Teams of doctors from nearby universities came to the stadium to help with health and sanitation issues caused by prolonged stays in the crowded stadium. Even, evacuees could benefit free haircut and wash provided by some hair salon employees. It was amazing to see that many people were trying to help the Merapi victims by giving whatever they could give.

They’re wondering when they could be back to their villages

The refugees preferred to stay in the stadium building, rather than in the provided tents. Mats and blankets were the beds of choice. Some used piles of donated clothing as their beds. One of the refugees said they had no problem with food, as it is always available. Snacks and instant noodles were always readily provided. The situation for children was more bearable. Classes from damaged schools were taking place in the stadium. Children could make a lot of new friends coming from different school districts. Teachers had their hands full of activities entertaining children, hoping to help heal the trauma after evacuation.

Refugees in the Maguwoharjo Stadium

Despite the small comforts in the evacuation camps, many evacuees hoped their stay there would not be long and they could go back to their homes soon. Many refugees said that they were worried about their future as they had lost their crops and livestock, which were their main source of income. Indonesian authorities promised to compensate evacuees for livelihood and livestock lost to the eruptions. Let us all hope and pray so that the distribution process of the disaster fund relief can go smoothly without any major obstacles.

Preparing food for evacuees

I also would like to note that, although aid supplies are adequately available in the evacuation camps, people who are already back in the affected villages obviously still lack of food, medicines, baby supplies and other kinds of goods. So, for readers who are still planning to provide aid to Merapi disaster victims, I would suggest to send the aid supplies directly to the affected villages.

10

Per Se

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Back in the time when we stayed in the Bay area for one entire summer, I was trying hard to reserve a table at French Laundry but, unfortunately, no success. French Laundry is located in Yountville, California. It is owned by Thomas Keller, one of the best chefs in America. I guess I don’t need to share story in my blog about how famous French Laundry is. If you google his name, you can certainly find much better articles about Thomas Keller and his famous restaurants. After his huge success with French Laundry, in 2004 he opened another restaurant, called Per Se, in New York City. A year later, Per Se was awarded a three-star Michelin-Guide rating, which is exceedingly rare. He is the only American chef who has multiple Michelin star awards for two different restaurants.

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Once I knew that we would move to NYC, I started to think to have a dinner experience at Per Se. Considering that my belly was already big and I could not travel to a warmer place during Christmas and New Year holidays, so I decided to make a reservation at Per Se for our anniversary celebration. I’m well aware that to secure a reservation at Per Se is not easy at all. They start to take reservations by phone two months in advance, starting from 10 AM. Exactly two months prior to our anniversary day, we dialed Per Se’s phone number right after 10 AM and we were put on hold and anxiously waited for about 25 minutes. We finally managed to get a table for two for a 9:15 PM dinner on Dec 26th, 2009. We were so excited. Yay!

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Positioned in the Time Warner Center complex at Columbus Circle, Per Se has a fabulous view of Central Park. Immediately after arriving there, we were warmly greeted and notified that our table was still being cleaned and prepared. We were told to wait in the bar area. Not over than ten minutes, they guided us to the dining room. With no more than sixteen tables, the dining room is divided into two floor levels with gentle and dim lighting. It is very elegant. Then we began our four-and-half-hour culinary journey.

We both chose to experience the chef’s tasting menu but due to some pregnancy food restrictions, they replaced some of the menu for me.

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We started with amuse bouche, “Goujeres”, a typical French finger food pastry with cheese inside, and “Mini Ice cream cone with salmon tartare and crème fraiche”. For me, they replaced the salmon tartare with beets.

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For the first menu, A got “Oysters and Pearls”, which was Sabanyon of Pearl Tapioca served with Island Creek Oysters and sterling white sturgeon caviar. This is Thomas Keller’s signature dish. And I had “Parsnip-Vanilla Veloute”, which was Quatre Epices Mousse with garden tarragon and served with prune puree poured into the cup. I know it is my loss for not tasting his famous dish. I wish I came here while I was not pregnant.

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Second, A had “Terrine of Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras” served with honey crisp apples, hakurei turnips, mulled cider gelle, candied pecans and mustard cress with warm unlimited toasted brioche. Whereas for me, I had “salad of young beets” consisting of garden mache, navel orange marmalade and crispy oats with black winter truffle “aigre-doux”

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Third, “Crispy skin fillet of madai”, which was a Japanese fish served with compressed English cucumbers and French breakfast radishes with watercress pudding.

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Fourth, “Pan roasted Maine sea scallop” served with black trumpet mushrooms, glazed Brussels sprouts and parsley shoots with sunchoke-almond puree.

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Fifth, “Cavendish Farm’s Caille en Crepinette”, a quail served with cranberry relish, confit chestnuts and celery branch with celery seed in a bit of quail jus poured over it.

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Sixth, “Elysian fields farm’s Selle D’agneau Rotie Entiere”, a rib eye of lamb with caramelized globe artichoke, red pepper coulis, young fennel and sylvetta leaves with lamb sauce.

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Seventh, “Serpa”, a Portuguese cheese served with panisse croutons, royal Blenheim apricots, cauliflower florettes and frisee lettuce with Za’atar dressing.

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Eighth, “Mandarin Orange sorbet”, which was a refreshing sorbet with wild peppercorn sable and orange tuile served in nyons extra virgin olive oil emulsion.

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Ninth, A had “Pumpkin-chocolate”, which was mast brothers’ chocolate marquise with pumpkin bavarois served with hazelnut marshmallow and spiced ice cream. And I chose to have “Pear and Caramel”, which was a Madagascar Vanilla-poached Bartlett pear filled with caramel mousse, served with pear pate de fruit and glace au beurre noisette.

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The tenth menu was “Coffee and Doughnut”, which was a cinnamon-sugared doughnut with cappuccino semifreddo. It is also another chef’s signature dish.

And the last menu was assorted “mignardises” ranging from different kinds of chocolates. Three leveled tray of tasty treats were served on our table as well. They also gave two packages of chocolate cake for us to take home. I finished it couple days later and they still tasted great.

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On our way back, we were given a kitchen tour by one of the waitresses. Sadly, it was a little over 1 AM and the kitchen was pretty much closed down already. However, some of the chefs were still there discussing and planning for the next day menu.

Overall, a dinner at Per Se is very pleasant. You obviously should go there at least once for the outstanding dinner experience and the impeccably creations of Thomas Keller. And we’re happy to be there to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. So, the question is: Will we go back there again? Uhm… Perhaps, it would be better if we can try French Laundry first before going back to Per Se for the second time. It would be exciting to visit both of Thomas Keller’s restaurants.

7

Wedding Anniversary

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Our previous years’ wedding anniversaries were always celebrated in Indonesia together with our families. But this year was very special and unique for us as for the first time, we celebrated our wedding anniversary privately. We spent our anniversary day in Qamea Resort in the beautiful Fiji Islands, where we had a romantic dinner by the beach. The food provided by the resort was superb. The dinner was ended with a surprise anniversary cake (prepared by the chef) and a Fijian anniversary song beautifully performed by a group of local musicians and hotel staffs. How sweet…

Shrimp with sweet and spicy sauce and pan fried reef fish

Grilled lobster and dessert

6

Singapore Flyer

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While I was staying in Singapore last August, my auntie asked me and A to accompany her family to go to Singapore Flyer, a giant observation wheel in Singapore. When I heard about Singapore Flyer for the first time, I naively thought that it would be similar to any Ferris wheels typically found in amusement parks or funfairs, with small passenger cars/gondolas that could accommodate a few people. Then on the day we planned to go to Singapore Flyer, the weather was unfavorable. It was raining since early morning. Assuming that the cars of Singapore Flyer had no cover, I said to my aunt, “Perhaps today is not a good moment to go to Singapore flyer since it is rainy now.” But she replied, “Don’t worry, we won’t get wet! Believe me.” without even telling me about the covered capsules of the Singapore Flyer.  Although I was a bit puzzled, I didn’t question her statement and later I joined them to go there.

Arriving at Singapore Flyer, I was very amazed seeing that it was way much better than what I previously imagined. The fact that each capsule was covered and air-conditioned released me from my worry of getting wet in the rain. Each capsule can carry up to 28 people. A private capsule for rent will also be available if you intend to hold a company meeting or family gathering with a spectacular view of Singapore. I told my aunt, “I didn’t expect that this would be even better than the London Eye.” Then she responded, “Yes. The reason why I didn’t want to tell you earlier was because I didn’t want to raise your expectation. It’s good that you like it.”

Singapore Flyer is currently the world’s largest observation wheel, as now larger and taller observation wheels are already proposed to be installed in Germany, United Arab Emirates, and China. Singapore Flyer is expected to be one of Asia’s major tourist attractions. It was just launched in March 2008, just several months before we came. A total of 28 capsules are attached to its rim. Each revolution can take approximately 30 minutes. Standing at a stunning 165 meters from the ground, the flyer has a height of a 42-storey building. That’s some 30 meters taller than the famous London Eye. It offers you a breathtaking view of the Marina Bay, Singapore, Malaysia and some Indonesia’s islands.In September 2008, Singapore was the historic host of Asia’s first F1 street race and world’s first F1 night race. And Singapore Flyer offered one of the best seats in the area with a clear view of the racing action from the observation wheel. It was certainly wonderful to watch the race from the flyer! But, don’t ask about the price… I believed it cost a huge amount of money to rent a private capsule during the F-1 racing period.

At that time, not so many people were coming to Singapore Flyer. And we luckily needed not share our capsule with other people. So, we had a private capsule containing only our family members. It was an exhilarating and memorable experience.

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