But as the year wore on, there was a renewed vigor and purpose, mainly through the discovery of new faces and new places.
It began to dawn on me that the real purpose of maintaining this blog, is a far more valuable attribute to food than just great tasting and well-made dishes. And now, as we conclude the year, there is a sense of gratification.
The discovery of the essence of food creation, and understanding the people behind this process began to take hold of my faculties more than just merely critiquing on food itself. This spurred me on to write beyond just food reviews and detailing recipes. Which brings us to the end of 2013.
And as I was deciding on how to end this year's blog with an obligatory best of list, I have decided to do something completely different.
I won't be touching on what's the best dish or where is the best eatery this year. Instead, I want to share with my readers what I feel were the best food moments during the year. Some of these might not necessarily feature the best tasting food (though most are), but rather, they are the food memories of the year that hold the most meaning to me in 2013.
So, here goes. My 10 most favorite food moments of 2013:
|The Village Food of Yen Duc|
10. Yen Duc Village
Vietnam will forever hold a special place in my memories, and Yen Duc Village exemplifies all that is beautiful and good about the people of Vietnam. The earnestness in the preparation of their cuisine, the simplicity of flavors and the freshness of the produce all came together to provide an utterly unforgettable dining experience.
Food made from the heart. By people with great heart.
9. Morning Tea Breakfast with Kenry
Although I have attended Kenry's tea breakfast sessions far earlier, it was only in 2013 that I made it a point to go on a regular basis. And what a wonderful experience this has been. Great tea, great company and wonderful conversations permeate every session.
Compound that with Uncle Lim's exclusive cooking for the sessions, breakfast is beyond just food. It's the pure joy of camaraderie and friendship.
8. PinkyPiggu Hawker Post
I have read more food blogs this year than in previous years, and there have been many highlights (as well as a number of low ones, too), but none captivated more than this post from PinkyPiggu, and her recounting of her days as a hawker cooking Char Kway Teow.
The post itself was a surprisingly courageous account of her past, but most of all, was her ability to empathize with the folks who made hawker food. The best quote the entire year "No self respecting hawker wants to serve bad tasting food on purpose". Well said, and shows a maturity even more experienced bloggers lack. Myself included.
|Eyes That Will Melt Your Heart|
7. The Family of Volcano Thunder Tea in Johor
No other family touched me more than this one from Kudai, Johor and their amazing unity and hospitality that warmed us when we went there for the first time. A family of 3 generations, all working and playing within their eatery compound. In harmony and with joy.
The kindness of this family run business that is so missing here in my own homeland. The simple, humble food that they serve up warms not just our bellies, but our hearts too. And just look at those baby eyes.
|Lost in Bistro Du Vin|
6. The Birthday Bash at Bistro Du Vin
I was skeptical when Pauline wanted to celebrate her birthday at a Les Amis outlet, this one in Zion Road and next to the famous food market. But one meal there changed my mind, completely. The shocking low prices, the cosy Parisian like bistro surroundings and the better than expected service.
And the food. Wow. For this price, it was tantamount to daylight robbery. The best potato mash I have had, the best beef short ribs, the best foie gras etc. Did I mention the ridiculous price already? In a country where almost every food joint is over charging for below par food, this is a heaven sent.
5, The Return of Sergeant Kiang
After some issues, 2013 marked the return of Sgt Kiang's chicken rice. This time, he has resurfaced at Koptitiam's many different outlets. And although he actually started in 2012, it was 2013 that he managed to get settled in and is now busy starting new Kopitiam outlets on his brand of chicken rice.
To date, he has about 5 outlets in various parts of Singapore, and next year, he plans to increase that to probably 10 or 12. This all bodes well for fans of his, and despite the fact that he hardly cooks himself these days, his strict training to his staff means that whichever outlet that carries his name, will not be too far off either.
|Twe Kee's Hainanese Chicken Rice|
4. The Hospitality and Generosity of the The Tengs
From one chicken rice legend to another, Twe Kee has sadly closed their stall for good. But this year, I was more than fortunate to have tasted their authentic brand of hainan chicken rice for another two times. Mr and Mrs Teng are kind and generous folks who love to feed their fans. And those who attended roundly agreed.
What was even better on the second visit, was Mr Teng himself giving us a masterful lesson in chicken rice making. It was totally invaluable, and truly remarkable. Things like this do not come along often, so I count myself fortunate to have attended this last session. But if nothing else, it was ultimately the Tengs' humility and willingness to share that impressed me the most.
|One Man and His Craft|
3. Capturing Johor Kaki in His Element
One of the best times I have had, as far as food is concerned, in 2013 was making a couple of Johor trips with JK. His immense knowledge of the food places in JB is second to none. And although he would baulk at the idea of dedicating an entire blog post to him, there is certainly more to write about him than most people are aware of.
But, his humble self and his dedication to his passion is the thing that I will take away most from the man. And nothing tickles me more than to silently sneak in a picture of him taking a food shot. The above one is my favorite.
|Soon Huat BKT Team|
2. The Social Good of Soon Huat BKT
Very little f&b businesses today exist beyond the single purpose of making money. Soon Huat is an exception. Through the owner, Jabez, Soon Huat is dedicated to giving ex-offenders a second chance at redemption and just going there, you can see how well this enterprise has turned out to be.
But the joy of visiting Soon Huat extends to beyond supporting the social aspect of this eatery. Because the food is really quite good on its own. The fusion BKT, the clever dry BKT and most of all, the tasty fried tau kee are all valid reasons to eat there.
|Making New Connections|
1. Making New Connections, Forging New Bonds
As for my favorite top food moment of the year, well, that's easy. It was the one thing that kept me going this year. Meeting new blogger friends, forging new bonds with food owners and chefs/cooks. Just like every industry, there are good guys and there are ... not so good ones.
Thankfully, the positive always seem to outweigh the bad. And throughout the latter half of 2013, I have been fortunate to make new ties with new folks that share my philosophy on the subject of food. There are others whom I know prior to 2013, and have managed to reinforced our friendships throughout the year.
And there you have it, my favorite moments of 2013. I did not mention my favorite hawker, nor favorite restaurant, nor favorite dish, nor favorite chef, nor favorite food blog.
For, what's the point really? If there's one thing I really have come to appreciate in 2013, is that we can only really agree to disagree. There is no such thing as a best, for the best will always be subjective.
By what reference, and by whose yardstick are we measuring? There can be no definitive, and sometimes that has led to some rather vindictive responses online. Let's arrest that in the new year.
As for the new year, my resolution is a simple one. Rather than trying to find the best food/dish/cook/eatery out there, I am resolved to uncovering the best stories for those who follow this blog. And that means finding the best people out there.
The ones that will dedicate their time, and their lives to making their diners happy. The ones that are not concerned with revenue, but the satisfaction their diners derive from their cooking.
The ones that will continue to evolve and improve. The ones that are humble to learn from others. The ones that are adventurous and willing to take new risks.
The ones that do not necessarily make the best tasting dishes, but the ones that actually give off their best in doing so.
And finally, the ones that can touch not just our stomachs, but our hearts with their stories.
To quote Steve, let's stay hungry, and let's stay foolish. Cause we are the hungry ones.
Happy 2014, from the Silver Chef.