The Beauty of Burnt

My seventh crème brûlée attempt, on13 June 2018, with the kind of brûlée, burnt top I had been chasing: sexy, lace-like, sheet-thin, and elegant . (Photo: viv)

NOT all food memories are transporting or transcendent like the kind that the villainous food critic Ego encountered at his first taste of the Thomas Keller-inspired ratatouille by Remy the rat. Some are just so vague and distant you search hard for that first encounter only to find nothing, just the hopelessness of a time passed and a record all but lost at sea. 

Crème brûlée is one such memory. 

For a long time now, this simple, elegant custard dessert has held a special place in my heart. It’s one of several I would name if you were to ask me what my favorite desserts are. 

Did I first have it in Paris, at Le Marais, in the fall of 1994 during my very first trip to France, or was it at this chic French restaurant at the Hyatt called Hugo’s? No, maybe it wasn’t Le Marais, but Le Quartier Latin, I don’t remember. Then, the memory would get a little messy — could it be that it wasn’t  even crème brûlée I had at that bistro, but Tarte Tatin? All I remembered clearly of that soirée was the fromage du chevre, the weird bug-like back note and plastic taste of goat’s cheese from that deadly morsel I had picked from the plate of my dining companion, Richard, a long-ago friend with whom I’ve lost touch. 

Such annoying quandaries of a foggy brain could well have been avoided if I had kept a journal. It’s a habit I still don’t keep, alas, which is not to say that my memory is poor or sluggish . . .

Continue reading the rest of this essay here


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Croissant, My Darling

Shall I bite you first, or pull, or tear? (Photo: viv | 27-Layer Croissant: Ken the Baker, Crown Bakery)

LOVE, as you would have it,
Comes first with a throbbing in the eye.
Behold that robe,
How intricate, so many-layered, so golden!

Some say it’s twenty-seven layers,
Others say it’s twenty-one.
But do I really care?
Do I really want to count?

This moment, my mood is all languorous and mad—
All I wish to ask you, sweet Madame, is this:
How would you like me to come to you?
Shall I bite you first, or pull, or tear?

I’ve never met any Madame so blasé, so cool:
You don’t even care what I do.
Etiquette can paint the painted faces of prissy girls,
But all you care about is the real mess that love makes.

Today, I choose to pull you apart,
The other day, I disrobed you layer by layer—
Not as fun to eat you this way,
But pleasing to the fingers, perhaps the eyes too.

But my favorite is this:
When I bite you at your nether left,
You shatter into smithereens,
And flaky kisses go helter-skelter about my mouth.

Today, seven stuck their lips upon my upper lip,
The other day, one kissed the chin, and yet another, the cheek.
Ingrate lover Me, why do I sweep them all askance?
As punishment, those self-same kisses land on my lap.

I pick them up this time,
A gentle finger press, one dab at a time,
Till that one lone finger could take no more,
I send them all, your kiss crumbs, to my mouth.

I pick them all clean,
These frisky, frivolous, flaky kisses.
Even the ones on your naked white platter,
Every one awaits that dab-a-dab-dab of my finger.

So full of you now, my darling,
Your kisses, your robes, your body, your netherness,
I grow less mad, but more languorous,
Ready for a nap where all I shall feel in my body is


~ Vivienne Yeo
Croissant, My Darling

October 10, 2017
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And the Wish Dish For Our Canteen Is? Katsudon!

Katsudon (Image: Tabelog)

GOOD morning Ms —, good morning everyone, 

Today, I’d like to propose a brand new dish for our canteen. Let’s call it our spotlight dish, a dish I like to think all of us would enjoy. It’s an idea for Auntie Ling, the stall owner of Oishii, the most popular stall in our canteen, serving up wonderful Japanese food for five years now. We’d love her to introduce this one iconic Japanese rice dish. It’s called katsudon. Continue reading

Pho, Winter’s Warming Panacea

Paris, January 2, 2017

IT happens to me every winter during my six years in New York from 1997 to 2003. A cough develops, a wheezy feeling descends deep in the chest, and the dry air in a heated room becomes both friend and foe: yes, it warms you, but it has this devilish knack of tickling, teasing, and scratching away at the throat. The pesky feeling said hello on New Year’s eve, my seventh day in Paris, and the second day Paris fell below zero degrees Celsius since my arrival. Continue reading

On Boxing Day, Oysters, Champagne, and a Brush With a Star

Paris, December 26, 2016

THE best kind of holiday mornings are those where you sleep in, disappear under the sheets, and proclaim to the sun, “You aren’t going to wake me up, even if my alarm isn’t.” Our morning dawdled, fitting for one still gripped with jet lag, and the other who hardly caught deep, meaningful winks of sleep the entire week on account of the mad hours passed at the pastry shop over a Yuletide season of endless customers seeking good eats and and even better sweets. Continue reading