When spending the holidays in Bangkok, we are finding that it pays to be a bit flexible about tradition. We gently weave holiday tradition into moments that celebrate this place and time. It takes an open mind, a sense of adventure, and a little holiday sleight of hand. Case in point – our friends have discovered a style of pine tree that grows in these tropical parts. It’s a bit sparse, comes planted in an enormous pot, and doesn’t smell particularly piney, but darned if it isn’t festive with a few ornaments hanging from its branches.
And so, while Frank and I would typically find ourselves bundling up this time of year to see the Christmas pops concert at The Kennedy Center (complete with my annual insistence on downing a cranberry cocktail at intermission despite my inability to drink something so bubbly and boozy in the allotted 11 minutes), we found ourselves searching for an alternative activity late last week. This is when Singapore started beckoning to us. Singapore. With its surprising (to me) passion for all things Christmas, brightly lit streets, festive holiday music, and wonderful food. We booked the tickets last Thursday and were on our way first thing Saturday morning. We even snagged tickets to an afternoon showing of Wicked. It wasn’t a Christmas pops concert, but it felt just as celebratory. We even snuck in the annual practice of downing an intermission glass of bubbly.
Tomorrow I am going to devote an entire post to Singaporean food, because I just had to use today to share some of my other favorite things about the weekend. Among many memorable local dishes we devoured, we also were delighted to walk out of the afternoon showing of Wicked and find ourselves facing the rich, wooden, inviting façade of Mozza, Mario Batali’s Los Angeles-based restaurant. We opted for the more casual pizzeria (over the white table-clothed osteria) and at 4:45 were kindly told that there was an hour wait for a table (the place was already packed). It only took an instant and an exchanged glance to answer that yes…yes, we would wait for a table, particularly as they were more than willing to call our Thai cell phone to let us know when the table was free. (It seems that the combination of Batali’s fantastic pizzas and the somewhat irregular dining hours of the theater crowd mean that even those seeking to eat at a time typically reserved for the early-bird-special can have trouble at Mozza.)
Despite the wait, Mozza delivered. The fried goat cheese over creamy lentils came to the table redolent with spice and bursting with creamy, rich cheese.
The bruschetta was coated in fruity olive oil, rubbed with garlic and topped with ciccioli (finely diced, fatty, mouth-watering bits of pork) and black pepper and thyme. Those fuzzy pickled shallots on the side…I could eat them by the bowl-full.
The pizza was a perfect twist on a classic. Oven-roasted tomatoes, creamy burrata, and lots of oregano. It was gone before we could even discuss its perfection.
We ended that night high above the city, toasting our luck at having been successfully spontaneous while still feeling adequately Christmassy.
Between the food and long walks to explore the city, we found ourselves at one of my favorite places on the trip. The National Museum of Singapore. Despite the fact that we planned to only spend a hour, we wandered the halls until our feet hurt and we had to give in to the temptation of dinner.
The museum is executed as well as or better than any other museum I have ever visited. With a combination of historical exhibits that explain the history of this city/state in a way that is fun and visually beautiful (and totally not the snooze-fest of the high school history lesson you may have once) and short-term exhibits, there was something intriguing around every corner. Not to mention that it was all presented so beautifully that I could have photographed it for hours. Several brides were there having portraits done, and I would have joined them had my wedding dress been conveniently tucked into my travel bag. It was a breathtaking space.
In addition, the Singapore museum has an entire exhibit on regional food. It is interactive, includes unique cooking tools, short movies where the food is the star, brilliant photographs, sound demonstrations, and even a section in which you can smell the spices. And it is done so well that I would go again tomorrow if I could.
The week got away from me, but I’ll be back soon with another post on the rest of our Singapore adventure. Because the food of Singapore…it is deserving of some extra special attention.