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If you give a girl a MILO, she’ll be so delighted with the chocolatey goodness that she’ll want to explore what other local (but foreign) beverages can excite her taste-buds.

When in any foreign land, one must take full advantage of the unique offerings in all its incarnations—drinks included.  Experimenting is all the more enjoyable when your work vending machine is rich in variety and low in cost (Canned bevs are SGD .50 or about USD .35).

Although I haven’t tasted the complete range of SE Asian drinks, I think I’ve been quite adventurous, going well beyond my comfort zone of water and soda and taking a dip into the bizarre; sometimes to my delight and other times, not so much.

Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the just plain gross.


MILO—the infamous chocolate malt drink. The nectar of the gods, as referred to by a fellow Singapore mate. Served hot or cold; with a thick layer of foamy froth or blended with ice and topped with crunchy MILO powder –the MILO Dinosaur, a devilishly decadent beverage that puts milk shakes and ice cream floats to shame. And what’s more, MILO boasts health benefits.  That’s right, MILO is a fudgy, calcium packer. The name actually comes from the Greek athlete “Milo” who was known for his strength. But the only thing MILO ever gave me was a stomach ache.

There’s no O.D. warning on the label, so when there’s an unlimited supply of MILO at work, the only thing stopping you is the sudden sour stomach.

I’ll miss my MILO come August, and think I need to start weaning myself away for fear of experiencing serious withdraw symptoms when I return to the U.S.

Aloe Vera +any fruit juice drink: One thing about “fruit juice drinks” in Singapore: There is no trace of fruit, except for the artificial sugar flavoring that tricks you into believing you’re drinking the real stuff.  Now, with some fruit juices and definitely those that contain Aloe Vera, there is an added surprise in the can…“pulp.” No, not the OJ pulp that has been perfected by Tropicana. This pulp is more like a very soft gummy bear…floating around in your drink. Sometimes these gummies get clogged in the opening of your juice can, but what’s really frustrating is when you want to chug your juice, but are slowed down by the pulp chunks of Aloe Vera or pulp “beads” of Oranges that will cause you to asphyxiate if swallowed whole.

Other than the initial chunky surprise, these pulpy fruit juices make for a nice, sweet refreshment. When I need something other than water, I usually go for the Pear Aloe Vera from the vending machine.

Grass Jelly Drink

Grass Jelly Drink: This just may top the list of the oddest drinks around. I was so curious about this grass jelly stuff that I had to try. As you might guess by the name, this juice has little cubes of grass jelly gummy pulps floating around. Unlike the sweet fruit juices, I do not like grass jelly. At all. I don’t know what exactly the stuff is made of, but Wikipedia does a good job of explaining:

It’s very popular among Singaporeans and other SE Asians for its refreshing taste in the paralyzing tropical heat. It has a medicinal taste that is a mixture of licorice and what resembles a strong alcohol. Needless to say, I didn’t find it pleasing; rinsed my mouth out and threw the can away after 2 sips.  I think grass jelly is actually an herb or plant and supposedly has health benefits. Whatever it is, I tried it, didn’t like it and won’t be going back for more.

But the jelly doesn’t stop with drinks. Grass Jelly can be eaten plain as in just a gummy cube of glass jelly (a popular dessert enjoyed by my co-workers) or it can be found mixed in with other drinks, such as milk. Ewww.

Soya Bean Milk

Soya Bean Milk: The furthest thing from the Soy milk I’m used to in the U.S. This is basically sugar water. Much thinner than milk and sans pulp; it’s very smooth with a sweet milky taste.  At first I wasn’t too fond of it because of the hint of a nutty aftertaste, but I’ve since acquired a taste for it. I’ll pick it up if I’m in the mood for something cool and creamy.

Chrysanthemum Tea: A sweetened herbal tea that can be enjoyed cold or hot. It has a light and refreshing taste. Chrysanthemum is a flower that reminds me of Chamomile; probably because of the soothing yellow floral design on the label.

Real Fruit Juice: Can NOT be found in a vending machine. Instead, make your way to any Hawker Center or Food Court “Drinks Stand” and you can watch the vendor make the freshest juices from just 3 ingredients: whole fruit, ice and water… all blended into a deliciously healthy shake. It’s the perfect beverage any time of day.

2 in1 / 3 in 1 Instant Coffee Mixers: Quite good, very efficient, but so bad for you. 2 in 1 combines instant coffee with powdered creamer and 3 in 1 is powdered creamer, sugar and instant coffee. They come in little convenient tube-shaped packets. Just add hot water and you’ve got a nice mild cup of morning Joe. I was drinking 2 cups of the 2 in 1 a day, before the ladies at work introduced me to the “Espresso” machine. It’s like one of those Tassimo contraptions. You put the packet in, push a button and the result is a heavenly cup of strong frothy Italian coffee (might not be Italian, but the packaging looks European). I prefer the real stuff, but don’t mind the 2 in 1 if it’s the only option.

Singapore Sling

And of Course, The Famous…. Singapore Sling. Way, way too sweet for my liking. But then again, I am not a cocktail drinker—I prefer wine or beer… if you’re thinking of sending a care package.

The Sling is quite a concoction, with Gin, pineapple juice, sugar and some other unpronounceable mixers, all blended together and topped with a pineapple slice and maraschino cherry—a B*t@# drink at its finest.

At Raffles hotel, where the Sling was developed, it comes with an astronomical price tag of SGD $23. Unless you like your cocktails sweet and in a glass that should only be allowed for Caribbean vacation imbibing, I wouldn’t waste my liver or my money on it. But then again, when you’re in Singapore it’d be a shame not to try the famous Sling—so go for it, but split one amongst a few friends.

I foresee a follow up to this post as there are several other drinks (not to mention foods) that are unique to SE Asia. I just haven’t built up the courage or the stomach to try them yet.

Several times since living over here I’ve found myself being saved by the humble tissue packet—an invention that I’ve come to regard as ingenious. Absolutely necessary if you live in or visit Singapore. “But it’s just tissues,” you may say. Wrong. Besides your usual snot rag, these little portable packets have a myriad of uses. Let me count the ways…  

1. Choping
For many of you, (for most, if not all) you won’t be familiar with this term. To chope or “reserve” a table is the only way you’re going to be able to eat a good cheap meal at a Hawker Center around here. The practice of choping follows: If you see an open table, reserve your spot with your, wait for it… tissue packet, and proceed to the food stall to order your food. By placing your tissue packet in the spot on the table, it’s a universal sign that this seat is taken. Don’t try to leave an article of clothing or a newspaper or any other item to reserve your seat, though. You’ll come back to an occupied table with your belonging pushed aside. I’ve grown quite fond of this system.  

Place your tissue packet down to chope your seat


2.Non-existent napkins at restaurants
Food Courts, Hawker Stalls, even some fine-dining restaurants don’t have napkins available for their patrons. So odd especially considering one of Singapore’s most famous dishes is Chili Crab- the messiest food to eat known to man (okay, its tied with baby-back ribs). Chili Crab is basically the largest crustacean you have ever seen in your life- bigger than King Crab in the states—covered in spicy chili rub and sauce. And you eat it with your hands, left only with a little petri dish of warm water and half a baby lime to clean off (the water becomes dirtier than your hands half-way in). But, since you come prepared, you whip out your tissue packet and “look Ma, clean hands.” Once again, the tissue saves the day.  

3.The heat here makes you sweat like Iced Tea in August
Ten minutes outside, nay, five minutes outside and you feel the sweat beads starting to form around your hairline. Then they make their way down to your nose and cheeks and before you know it your neck not to mention every other part of your body is dewy and sticky.  This happens during daily activities, mostly waiting for the bus or while on your way to the next building where the A.C. will be your saving grace. But during this period, to soak up the perspiration and clean yourself up before you head into work or a public space, your portable tissue packet can be your best friend. Just blot away the sweat and you’re good to go.  

4. Public restrooms aren’t well stocked
There are many casual outdoor dining places in countries lying on or near the equator that serve cheap and scrumptious local food. But it seems their focus is strictly on the food and service and not on other parts of a dining experience. During a recent trip to Malaysia, we stopped at an outside restaurant for dinner and before I headed to the bathroom, my friend suggested I take my tissue packet with me. He’s lived over here for a considerable amount of time and knows what types of places warrant bringing your own toilet tissue to the restroom. Needless to say, I’m glad I had my Kleenex packet on me. There are public restrooms all over this island and I’m just saying, it doesn’t hurt to have good old Kleenex with ya at all times.  

So you see, the old boring hankie is a hot commodity over here. But one that you’ll never run out of with stores stocking them to the brim and people on the streets selling them in bulk for as little as $1 Sing a bundle.  

I’m sure I’ll come across other ways in which these handy dandy tissue packets will surprise me yet again over the next three months, so I’m  off to stock up.

The other night found me overindulging in Brazilian churrascaro at Carnivore. As you can probably guess from the name, this is not a place for you meat-phobic herbivores (though there is a pretty nice salad bar.) And if you are a vedge-head, one visit to this restaurant and you just may find yourself crossing over to the other side.

What probably made the experience all the more entertaining was that I happened to be one in a party of 15—a farewell bash for a Navy lass who’d been stationed in Singapore for the past few months. Needless to say, it was quite a jovial bunch.

So there I was, dining alfresco in the hot Singapore heat when the churrascaria experience began. Before I knew it, men- all with skewers of large portions of meat- started popping up at our table. They were like Knights; so swift and dexterous with their skewers and knives(though they looked more like swords,) slicing the Rump roast, Beef wrapped in bacon, Lamb, chicken hearts and buttery white fish. So skilled were these servers and so seriously focused on their routine of swiftly slicing and dodging to the next diner, I didn’t know what was more entertaining, watching them or watching what type of meat came out next.

Dining at Carnivore is a very structured system based on paper discs (coasters)— one side red, the other green—that are handed to you by your server after you’ve ordered your beverages. On the green side is written a Portuguese phrase translating into what I came to understand as, “Please sir, can I have some more.” And the red side reading, “No more. I’m full and about to bust a gut.” Quite a unique concept.

And let me tell you, these soldier-like meat slicers played by the books, man— if your green side was facing up, it was a shower of mini sausages, brisket, chicken legs & hearts, ribs, lamb, and Lord knows what— all the finest cuts, sliced ever so thin, just falling onto your plate in a mountain that screamed cardiac arrest. You start off savoring the succulent and tasty, though quite salty meats. Then, somewhere in between the beef wrapped in bacon and the chicken heart, you find yourself full, but meat keeps making it’s way on your plate. You can’t get to your coaster in time to flip it to red, so soldier boy carves another fine slice of flank and it falls gracefully on top of your pile. He shoots you a quick grin before he’s off quicker than he came in , leaving you perspiring in the 90-degree humidity only leaving the condensation from your now luke-warm Tiger beer to drip onto your hot skin to cool you down. But you’re all smiles because never in your life have you been treated to such a feast; with men beckoning to give you a taste of their meat before you can even say otherwise. Then you’re back to your plate, not leaving any traces behind. After all, this was an all-you-can-eat Smorgasbord of a meal and who in their right mind wouldn’t take advantage.

….$100 Sing later and we retreated. Slowly pushing ourselves away from the table, we headed to Raffles for the classic, yet much touristy Singapore Sling. I passed on the Sling as it’s not my Thing, but found entertainment in the 5-man band with a lead singer starkly resembling Otis Redding. And so it was the perfect ending to the night, listening to a wonderful rendition of Barry White’s “My Everything” over a peanut shell fight (though there were some whole ones involved—no casualties, though) in Raffles.

I think I just found the first thing I want to bring back to the States with me upon my return. Maybe I’ll become a restaurateur, opening Hoboken’s first Brazilian churrascaria. Now taking applications for meat severs. Apply within.

Kudos Carnivore- your service and meats are impeccable.

A Singa Mate


Just as I was thinking I needed to find a hobby or join a group to keep my weeks from falling into the mundane work, home, sleep routine, the Iceland Volcano erupted. And in the theory of 6 degrees of separation, a family friend(one I’ve never met) just so happened to get stuck in Singapore without a way home. So I met up with my new “mate” (he’s a Kiwi, from New Zealand) on Monday for a drink and a “yarn” (picking up catchy New Zealand terms is probably the last thing I expected to get from Singapore, but this one has staying power and can see it becoming a solid staple in my vocab) at the Fairmont hotel

We kicked off the evening at New Asia bar on the 70th floor of the Swisshotel (a standard for him when he’s in the area.) If you’re ever in Singapore, you MUST put this place on your “must see” list. The view from the restaurant is unmatchable. Sitting there in the restaurant with champagne continuously being poured in my glass by the attentive wait staff, watching the sun set over Singapore as smooth jazz played in the background placed the past 2 evenings in the Top 5 most amazing experiences of my life.

Once the champagne was kicked, on Monday night we went to Fatty’s for some authentic local food. Fatty’s has a history here in Singapore. A family run, well established hole in the wall Chinese/Malay restaurant that serves a fried rice, clay pot chicken and spring roll with flavor you will never get from a Chinese Take-Out restaurant in the States. Paired with a nice Tiger beer (the local brew) it made for a perfect way to end Monday and a good start the week.

Which brings me to post-New Asia bar, take 2. Tuesday night and it was time for some good German food. I know you may be skeptical, but you can get some really good “Western” cuisine in Singapore. The restaurant is called Brotzeit, as wieners and steins is what they do best. Not since I’ve been to Germany (4 years ago now) have I had a stein of good German beer of this size and German potato salad. Good stuff all around and a very, very nice change from the Asian cuisine that has been my breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past 2 weeks.

Satisfied from the good beer and good food (not to mention the champagne and skyline sunset at new Asia), and with the night still young, we were off to our next stop.

When in Singapore, when it’s about a solid 80 degrees outside and you’re a little tipsy on a Tuesday evening with a family friend you’ve only just met, one thing beckons—a Rickshaw ride to the next bar! No question it would have been faster for us to walk, but my mate insisted I experience my first Rickshaw ride through Singapore. So there we were, sitting in the Rickshaw seat as what probably must have been a 90 year-old Asian man with no teeth and sinewy limbs slowly peddled us to our next destination.
Just when I thought that was the apex of the evening, we arrived at Divine bar— a very Gotham-esque building with a design resembling the Empire State building (the waitress later told us it was designed by an architect from Tokyo—only 9 yrs. ago)

The place was quite empty; and as we took our seats in front of the towering wine case , a pianist, cello player and vocalist took to the floor and performed a Grammy-worthy rendition of Allison Krauss’ “When you Say nothing at All.” (Mikki and Lo- no joke tears filled my eyes when the lady started singing. CSM and you 2 are with me even all the way over here!)

A “little” Asian girl, probably around 25, dressed in a silver sequined ballerina outfit with a tutu and fairy wings approached our table and we proceeded to order a bottle of South African red wine. Next thing I knew, that little fairy girl was prancing over to the base of the towering wine case, harnessing herself into some sort of Cirque du Soleil contraption and with remote control in hand, floated whimsically up the 12-story wine case, to find our bottle. All the while, we’re sitting there with our heads arched back watching and giggling like little kids–A riot. What a job—imagine being hoisted up to fetch wine as you’re dressed like Tinker Bell for crowds of wine guzzlers to get a rouse out of—just looking up your skirt and having a good laugh at you –or at the absolute wackiness of the whole thing.



Knowing people in a foreign country where you’ll be living for 4 months is a good way to ensure survival and prevent death from loneliness. Other than the few JWT people I’d spoken with over email and phone, I had my old boss, who’s since moved to Singapore, to show me around and help get me situated.

Then there are the people you don’t know directly but through a connection –and because you want to avoid watching re-runs of Jersey Shore every Friday and Saturday night for the next 4 months— you make them your friend. Thus, how I became a self-appointed Navy groupie.

Thanks to T and his Navy crew, my time in Singapore has been reminiscent of a typical summer back in the states—nightly BBQs complete with Taco Dip, Bud Lights, board games and good tunes (no other place in Singapore can you find Tortilla chips–Doritos, yes. But plain Tostitos, you’re out of luck—unless you’ve got an “in” with the Navy) not to mention some of the nicest Americans who are living some pretty amazing lives, traveling and living in places I’ve only dreamed of visiting.

I joined the Navy crew for a good old Trivia Night last week at a bar/restaurant called Brewerkz—your typical American-style chain sports bar. The MCs were 2 Brits with thick accents and they constructed on one challenging competition. This was global trivia, catering to the groups of participants hailing from countries across the world. Definitely not a game for novices, but there were a bunch of pop culture references in the mix that I got excited about knowing—I think they throw them in to give people a little pick up in the middle of all the impossible questions that they ask. Although we had strength in numbers, we unfortunately didn’t bring home any prizes but I have a strong feeling that won’t be the last Trivia sees of me.

There is quite a considerable amount of information I need to pack into this first post. But if any of you have an attention span that is even slightly akin to mine, I know I’ll lose you after the first paragraph. And we just can’t have that happening, now can we. I am, after all, on the complete opposite side of the world, immersed in a culture and life where new experiences and new learnings pop up around every corner, every day. Plus, I know my absence from your everyday lives makes you that much more interested in hearing about everything I’m getting into over here. So, without further banter, I begin my Singapore chronicles.

This Friday marks 3 weeks since I landed in Singapore—my home for the next 4 months. The first and quite possibly most important thing I’ve learned thus far…never underestimate jet lag. It took me 3 whole days to get adjusted to the time change. Long nights of being wide awake only to lead to random sleeping times during the day.

But that didn’t stop my overzealous nature from taking over. Thanks to the 2 tour books (love ya mom and Lo!) that I memorized front to back, I planned out a loosely itemized 4-month itinerary before arrival. I knew if I was to make the most of my time here, I had to jump in right away and see everything from the get-go. I’ve found over the years that if I don’t do something right away, I’ll never really get around to doing it. First stop on my agenda, Little India—a quite ambitious first stop as it’s one of the most culturally rich neighborhoods in Singapore with the Indian population more dense in this area than anywhere else throughout Singapore. The smells, sights and sounds that filled the air were something that you can only fully grasp from experiencing it firsthand. Bright colorful flower garlands curtain the outdoor markets and stalls that line the old weathered streets. Shop after shop of produce markets, Indian gold jewelry stalls and ethnic apparel stores fill the crowded sidewalks. The streets are congested with tourists and locals walking by, motor bikes weaving in and out of auto and pedestrian traffic—motors revving and horns honking. Smells of pungent Indian spices like cinnamon and cumin fill the air and I just tried to soak everything in, capturing what I could on my camera, and everything else in my mind.

It started to rain in the middle of my tour through the neighborhood. Sudden rainstorms are quite common in Singapore—I always carry an umbrella, though the rain feels refreshing after hours in the heat. So the rain, along with my unfailing jetlag was a sign that I needed to call it a day. I later found out this wasn’t even a crowded day in Little India—my coworkers and other locals have said Sundays are a complete hectic mob scene—I’ll be planning a return visit one weekend.

I don’t know what sparked my Italian father to bring out the bling. Maybe he became bored with his ho-hum style after 61 years, maybe he thought he could reinvent himself by adding a little pizzazz to his look, or maybe he just wanted to piss off my very conservative mother. Whatever his reason, I was naturally caught off guard by the gaudy, diamond-studded, crown-setting “TV” jutting from a 14-karat gold ring that he chose as the sole accessory for his friend’s wedding reception.

You might be wondering why I’m making such a deal about this. After all-TVal being a full-blooded Italian reared by a extended paisan family in the Bronx- you’d expect a little tinsel to be part of his daily get-up. Well, let me tell you a little about TVal. He’s no guy to don the tinsel. We’re talking about a chili-loving, sweatpants-wearing, unassuming, traditional Italian man who my mother can’t even get to wear his wedding band. And yes, he’s a bit of a softy. So when he saw my reaction to the eye sore of a ring, he blushed a little, pulled his hand back and then willingly agreed to get his camera out so I could snap this photo for my blog.
Huge right-The ring and the girth of his fingers. The index alone has got to be at least 2” in diameter.
He must have dug through the archive to unearth this. I vaguely remember seeing it as a young girl, fishing through my mother’s jewelry case. But never have I seen him wear it for serious.

What I want to know is, where the heck did the ring come from? I’m hoping it was a gift and not his own purchase. But then what acquaintance of his would pick out one of the most stereotypical Italian-American ornamental pieces for the man who could pass for Tony Soprano?

TVal, thank you first of all for giving me fodder for my blog. I can always count on you to shake things up on the Valpster. And, I do have to say, you surely know how to rock the bling at an age where many struggle just to get dressed in the morning without some assistance.

Rock on TVal.

If you haven’t heard of Carlon yet, it’s about time you become familiar with them. This four-man band from New Jersey is making some amazing music and are climbing their way to the top of the scene.

“Cantaloupe,” a relatively new song and one of my favorites from the group is the highlighted track on Billboard’s World Song Fan Favorites Contest. A little bit of folk, a little bit of rock and a great deal of soul, “Cantaloupe” strkes a chord with listeners.

If you like what you hear, first thing, vote for Carlon. Then check out their website,, to hear their other songs and view upcoming shows. They mostly play in New York (Brooklyn, Manhattan) and Hoboken, NJ. And every Monday in November they’ll be at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn (I’ll be there next week!) so drop in to hear a few sets if you’re in the area. You’ll be glad you did.

You can listen and vote for “Cantaloupe” here… Let me know what you think, and vote Carlon!

The lunch orders were in, the stretch limo was waiting and the weatherman was spot on when he forecasted clear skies and 70 degrees of pure bliss. On a recent fall Saturday morning, I, along with a couple of my like-minded wine-o friends, set out on an all day excursion far away from strenuous Manhattan. We were headed to Long Island wine country for an early fall harvest wine tour.

A complete contrast to city life, North Fork, LI greeted us with its warmly colored countryside full of pumpkin patches, produce stands and row after row of grape vines. So many grape vines in fact that a glace out the limo window, would place you in a mesmerizing trance.
At 11:00 a.m., after the two-hour drive, we arrived at the first of four vineyards on the tour. Let me just preface this by saying that North Fork wineries offer a more casual wine tasting experience, one that was perfectly suited for our not-quite-experienced palates.

We started and ended the day with the best of the four vineyards. At the first, we were allowed to taste to our heart’s content. There must have been about 30 varietals and blends, from dry to sweet whites, strong reds and crisp roses. And we tried them all, enjoying some so much that we just had to get a few bottles for the ride home. It was a great way to start the day.

At the tasting table

At the tasting table
The next two stops didn’t quite make the cut, though. For one, the unfriendly vibe we got from the servers wasn’t what we expected. Not to mention, they had a strict limit of 3 tastings. That’s all we needed—we tasted and bolted, not wanting to waste too much of our precious time at unworthy places. Our driver raved over the last place, so we were excited to get to the final stop.

The girls- In front of our limo after the 2nd tasting

The girls- In front of our limo after the 2nd tasting
We pulled up to an old house off the side of a busy road that seemed to have been repurposed as a winery. There were tables set up outside and a band that was playing some good classic rock and country tunes. Inside, we were given a list to chose from and without being rushed, were poured tastes of their new and vintage. This, we decided was where we’d spend the next hour and a half. We enjoyed our tasting and, with a little buzz, relaxed outside with our lunch and the music under the fall afternoon sun.

I have to say that the success of the day was due in large part to Vineyard Tours, who handled everything from the limo, to the wineries, to the lunch, flawlessly. All I had to do was make the booking. And it’s always an added bonus when the company is accommodating to your needs, as in our case with the addition of an extra person at the last minute and our plea for an hour extension to the day. Because, after all, five hours of wine touring is not enough when you’re getting little tastes of such a variety. Curious as to what the other vineyards had to offer, an extension was necessary.

Although I’ve had my fair share of wines, and consider my palate to be quite developed for someone my age, I still have lots to learn. But like everything, true excellence comes with experience. So bring on the next tasting!