Food you won't find anywhere else
THREE new enterprises are hoping to spark interest in a low-tech but high-quality way of making things - by growing their own produce, making their own drinks or curing their own meat.
OPEN FARM COMMUNITY
130E, Minden Road
Mon to Fri: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm; Sat, Sun and public holidays: 10am-10pm
It isn't by chance that celebrity chef Ryan Clift's new restaurant - Open Farm Community - is set in a 35,000 sq ft garden in Dempsey, nor is it for the sake of a natural ambience. As its name suggests, the space is really a microcosm of entrepreneur Cynthia Chua's grand plan to make urban farming a reality in Singapore.
A reformed naysayer, she is now out to prove by example that commercial and responsible farming is possible in a land-scarce city like ours.
She believes that not only can enough be grown to reduce our existing carbon footprint and dependence on imports, but it can also be a viable career option for young millennials looking to make a difference.
"For an urbanite, when you see something, first you have a lot of obstacles in your head. You ask: 'Are you sure you can grow eggplants in this weather?' So it was an interesting subject for me because I was just like everybody else, but I've embraced the vision, and now we're executing it," says Ms Chua, who is chief executive of the Spa Esprit Group, which runs Common Man Coffee Roasters and Tiong Bahru Bakery.
Its collaboration with chef Clift consists of a 120-seat restaurant, plus a large outdoor space where it is working with social enterprise Edible Garden City to start a farm growing herbs and vegetables like chilli padi, radishes, eggplants, sweet potatoes and Mexican tarragon.
LITTLE ISLAND BREWING COMPANY
Block 6, Changi Village
Tue to Fri: 11am-11pm; Sat and Sun: 9am-12am
Feel like a cold can of Coke after your morning jog along Changi Beach? Well, you won't find that at Francis Khoo's week-old, 250-seat restaurant in Changi Village, but what you will find may be healthier.
The eatery serves a range of unusual soft drinks like spiced vanilla cola, ginger beer and apple spritzer - all made from scratch. For instance, the apple spritzer is made using fresh Granny Smith apples.
These house soft drinks are the proud handiwork of the Little Island Brewing Company's operations manager, Darren Hilditch, who comes up with all the recipes himself to make unique and "healthier" soft drinks.
Once the brewery is fully up and running in two months, the eatery will also be selling its own beers with the help of brewmaster Steve Spinney, who used to run his own brewery in Bali.
"We really want to be a craft place," says Mr Khoo, who is one of the four co-owners and used to run his own financial service company. "I think a lot of places carry big brands like Coca-Cola, Tiger Beer and, after a while, I got tired of it. So we put a lot of effort and energy into creating good craft food, beer and (soft drinks). I think that's what's missing in Singapore."
He proudly points to four posters hanging next to the beer taps - beer labels by a local designer - for upcoming offerings such as an ale called The Whiter Shade of Pale, a golden ale named Sister Golden Ale and a dry Irish stout called That Old Black Magic.
Elements of its food will also be made in-house, says Mr Khoo. For example, sauces will be made from scratch when possible and, instead of using frozen french fries, the eatery's will be cut from fresh potatoes.
Customers can expect most of the menu to consist of dishes cooked over a charcoal grill or smoked in the oven. These include beer belly porchetta with crispy skin and salsa verde ($12 for 100g), roast chilli pumpkin with cacciatori sausage ($13) and 15-hour smoked Cape Grim brisket with truffle balsamic sauce ($13 for 100g).
He has plans to start a herb garden in the backyard of his 10,000 sq ft space, and hopes to brew cider and beer within the next year or so.
Park West Condo, The Club House, Block 8, #02-02, Jalan Lempeng
Tue to Fri: 5pm-9.30pm; Sat and Sun: 8.30am-9.30pm
Do you know what goes into those sausages you get from the supermarket? Because Patrick Heuberger knows exactly what goes into his. "Lamb shoulder, herbs, eggs and milk, infused with vegetables and spices like chilli, cumin and paprika," he says.
"Today's charcuterie that you can find on supermarket shelves is all industrialised, mass-produced, and it's all about cost," says Mr Heuberger, who not too long ago gave up running his successful restaurant, Le Bistrot du Sommelier, to start his own charcuterie business.
At his little eatery Casse-croute, which is located in the clubhouse of the Park West Condo, he has a production kitchen where he turns whole animals like ducks and rabbits into all sorts of sausages, pates and terrines. By the end of this month, he will also start bringing in whole free-range pigs (chopped up, of course) from Australia.
Emphasising the importance of using whole carcasses, Mr Heuberger explains that each part of the animal is needed in order to achieve a good balance of fat, meat and gelatin. "Like with a duck rillette, I will never make it with just the legs. All the parts play a role in making up the textures and flavours."
It's a demanding trade as each item requires deboning, cleaning, curing, cooking and packing - a process that can take a few days. However, it's a "beautiful trade" too, he adds.
One of his favourite parts about doing everything from scratch is that it puts him in full control of whatever he produces, plus there's the challenge of being able to experiment with his ingredients.
THE BUSINESS TIMES