Nov 30, 2010

Burger Gargantuan: Butcher’s Steakhouse

Last night in Beijing. Train ticket to Fuzhou; ready. Stories; edited. Time for dinner.

But nothing like this. And never again.

Butcher’s Steakhouse at Sanlitun north exit serves meats carved straight by the butcher. Its main claim to fame lies not in the quality of the meats, but in its size.

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Butcher’s Burger

In particular, the Butcher’s Burger (138 yuan): a 5-lb monster with 1,000g meat patties, half a lettuce, 4 fried eggs, and plenty of other vegetables for a well-rounded meal (more like a day’s worth for most families!).

One can only blame an opportunistic and sadistic turn of mind when the owner created this challenge -- wolf it all down in 2 hours, the burger’s free and your name gets penned in on the wall of fame.

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Butcher’s Burger in relation to a normal burger

I and Natalie’s boyfriend, Luke, tried. Oh how we tried. We dived and cut with gusto. Our lips smacked of onion stains and sesame seed buns, while our teeth gnashed at  the crispy lettuce and tore apart meat and runny eggs.

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What’s inside it.

We went on and on for half a burger. No mean feat in itself. Our jaws ached from all that chewing. We had come, sawed, and munched, but we were ultimately conquered by this monstrosity.

My ego had taken a beating, and I’ll never make it on their wall of fame. But the Butcher’s Burger had certainly achieved its aim: to stuff, to fill, fare thee well hunger, and hello Peptide.

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End game: Dissected in despair

Advice: Go with friends. Share the damn burger and remember to starve for a day and night prior…longer if you can.

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The Butcher Burger’s Wall of Fame

Butcher’s Steakhouse

Add: 8 Dongzhimen Wai Dajie (东直门外大街8号) Sanlitun North Entrance  
Tel: 150-1082-1675

Nov 28, 2010

Scenes: Beijing

Cities can be utter bitches at times. After all, 18-million people jammed into a relatively tiny space are quite unlikely to be smiling at each other. They’re often scowling or simply indifferent to other human beans.

Yup, beans. The abundance of people in cities resemble soy beans grown in furrowed asphalt.

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Friendship store near the Great Wall of China. The main entrances are boarded up and you’ve to enter via the side which leads through like a maze.

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Traffic jams are business opportunities for this man who peddles rubber tubings.

Traffic jam in Carpark City.

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Ain’t got a place to sleep until my train tomorrow morning.

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Can’t fault the sunset at 4pm. It’s gorgeous.

Nov 26, 2010

100 Dumplings

Dumplings: meat-filled thin-skinned flour packets.

It’s versatile dish which contains anything edible. Sometimes it could be pork crushed with chives, chopped liver, or shredded shrimp. Perhaps a little donkey for richness. Or salted egg yolk and foie gras mashed into a mellifluous bundle.

The packets are boiled and served with a side of garlicky sauce spiced with chilli oil. There’s also its fried cousin (Gayoza, Pot-stickers; all the same things) – crunchy on the outside but just as flavourful on the inside.

The dumplings won’t win points for looks. In fact, it borders on obscenity with more than passing resemblances to blanched-white shrivelled testicles.

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Dumplings | Tien Jin  Bai Jiao Yuan

But this common (even peasant) fare has never been about looks. It’s about how the ingredients fit together in an oh-so Q skin, and how they explode upon  bite to linger on the palate.

There are easily a hundred different variations. Each one as different as night is to day. Ask yourself: “Do you have time and stomach space to try them all?”

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Mushroom with bamboo shoots | Tien Jin  Bai Jiao Yuan

Taste notes: Salty, like eating a raddish-less version of Teochew Kway with less pepper.

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Donkey meat with herbs | Tien Jin  Bai Jiao Yuan

Taste notes: Rich. It can simply overpower a fragile palate. Best with whisky or stronger alcohols.

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Shirmp with chives | Tien Jin  Bai Jiao Yuan

Taste notes: Like a fish out of the sea that’s popped wriggling and alive down your throat.

Tian Jin  Bai Jiao Yuan (Tianjin 100 dumplings)

Add: Xin Wenhua Jie 12A, Beijing, China
Tel: 010-6605-9371

Nov 25, 2010

Scenes: Beijing

“I like Beijingers. They’re very straight-forward.” - Alain Cislaghi

I met Alain in Beijing, 2004. He was French-Quebec, owned and stayed in a 4-bed guesthouse situated in a hutong with neighbours pulled straight out of a sitcom, and he was constantly drunk (or in the process of it).

I liked him for his unusual position and outlook on life, and that the Chinese people seemed to genuinely look out for him. That’s strange as the city was filled with folk that’s as cold and as abrasive as the sandstorms that whip through it.

But I guess if you’ve to understand a city, you’ve to stay there for a while, mingle and expectorate loudly.

I’ve captured these images during my month-long trip through China & Taiwan. 

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Wahahaha: Come laugh with me

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Forbidden City: 1 lonely tree

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Forbidden City: Love the sun and how it casts shadows.

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Forbidden City: Rise the red guard.

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Forbidden City: Forward march!

Streets in Beijing: What does this do?

SWAT: “Sure. Take a photo. But not too close. Please.”

Nov 18, 2010

The Daily Tip

Beat the Clarke Quay cab queue. Walk to Liang Court cab stand and pop into one. Or if you’re feeling peckish, walk onwards to Mohammed Sultan for Bak Kut Teh beside the main road.

Nov 17, 2010

Utterly Art: Affordable Art Fair

I found Utterly Art back when I was researching & writing Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Singapore. It’s a simple white box where art pieces are displayed in all its glory.

For them, it’s about the emerging artist. Managing partner, Dr Pwee Keng Hock, actively seeks out new artists to showcase in their fortnightly shows which have since numbered into 250 art exhibitions in Singapore for nearly 300 artists and photographers from Southeast Asia and farther afield.

Talk about being prolific!

What’s more, I like his answers to my standard questions. Open-mouthed smile 

Utterly Art Gallery | Galley: Utterly Art

This post contains additional material that I couldn’t fit into an article for CNNGo (5 galleries to visit at the Affordable Art Fair).

What is your gallery all about?

We like to showcase both established and emerging artists. We have put on many first solo shows for artists, as well as first overseas solo shows for our Filipino artists, whom we specialize in. Many of our artists have subsequently won awards, and their artworks collected by museums or auctioned in top-ranked auction houses.

Why take part in the Affordable Art Fair?

It fits our demographic. Emerging artists do not cost so much, and even many established artists in SE Asia are very affordable, although they are very good. Much of the art we sell costs below 5-figured sums, which is the limit for AAF.

Josue Mangrobang Jr., Reflection Follows, oil on canvas, 3x3ft, 2010
Reflection Follows by Josue Mangrobang Jr. | oil on canvas, 3x3ft, 2010 | Galley: Utterly Art

Wouldn’t selling art cheaply devalue it?

In the first place, wouldn't you expect the work of young and emerging artists to be relatively inexpensive?

Our gallery has never artificially pushed up the prices of art way beyond what the artist would expect for it, but this is NOT true of some other galleries who may mark up prices of work. They might be situated in expensive downtown locations, have high rentals and need to make sales targets just to meet manpower, running costs and rents.

We are well-known for offering good prices, and our database of seasoned collectors who support us again and again testifies to the good value of our works, and the subsequent performance of the artists in the market testifies to the quality we offer.

Which artwork do you admire?

I’m not really sure what you mean here, but all art stands on its own merits -- whatever its costs. It would be a piece that attracts me, speaks to and connects with me, with technique and content that I admire. Whether I can AFFORD to buy it is a separate issue -- but it won't stop me from admiring it. Alas there may be a trend of investment-oriented collectors who admire works just because they fetch high prices in auctions.

Utterly Art

Where: 229A South Bridge Road
Tel: +65 6226 2605

Nov 16, 2010

Eric Khoo: His First Times...

Eric Khoo’s films disturb, celebrate the anti-hero, and showcase Singapore’s underbelly. That’s a breath of fetid air away from the usual glass-and-steel skyscrapers and manicured leisure parks. 

Wikipedia says:

eric khoo - Zhaowei Eric Khoo: His First Times...“Khoo often features a complex anti-hero as the protagonist of his films: the lonely old man who commits suicide on his birthday in Symphony 92.4, the pork-seller in Carcass who takes comfort in television dramas and regular sex with a prostitute, the outcast necrophilic hawker in Mee Pok Man, the model citizen who breaks down in 12 Storeys - all dysfunctional individuals struggling to cope in a rigid and yet fast-paced society administered by harsh norms…”

What it doesn’t tell us is that Khoo has a wickedly sharp sense of humour.

I’ve interviewed him for his First Times in Singapore for CNNGo, and I loved his answers! In fact, it’s a shame if I didn’t share the rest of it.

So here they are.

The First Time when Eric Khoo…

…Ate something weird

A snail in my garden.

…Heard something that made me cry

The music score from Somewhere in Time at Jade cinema on Beach Road

…Someone said to me: “I love you.”

A girl classmate told me that. She had sneaked into the kindergarten toilet.

…found beauty in Singapore’s underbelly

Mitre Hotel along Killiney Road was a completely dilapidated horror house with large rats, oil riggers, whores and beer anytime -- even after 3am. [Check out Übersee’s pictures of Mitre Hotel]

…made magic

While shooting My Magic at Orchard Towers.

My Magic still from Eric Khoo: His First Times...
Movie still from My Magic

Nov 15, 2010

Vue Privée: The Affordable Art Fair

My truth about art: “I’m not quite sure what it means. But I know when it looks good.”

And I like the images from Vue Privée. It’s one of the many art galleries at The Affordable Art Fair. And its key niche is photography and art-related photography.  According to founder Olivier Henry, the gallery was as result of a dream: “to create an exciting platform for artists and collectors to share their love and passion”.

I like good-looking photographs. The kind that tells a story of more than 10,000 words.

Craig Redman_TheSkyIsBlack
The Sky Is Black by Craig Redman | Gallery: Vue Privée

This post contains additional material that I couldn’t fit into an article for CNNGo (5 galleries to visit at the Affordable Art Fair).

What is your gallery all about?

I created Vue Privée 12 years after moving to Singapore. I am a professional photographer from France, and I wanted to expand my love and passion of photography and towards the arts in general to a wider public.

Why take part in the Affordable Art Fair?

We believe that art should be accessible to a wider audience, not only to the elitist. There is a huge gap in the art world for beginning and young collectors.

Beside buying art museum posters, there is only fine art gallery works that are available for art aficionados. These works usually cost 1,000s of dollars. We wanted to fill that gap by creating museum-quality photographs and photography-inspired artworks in editions of 100. Hence making them more accessible to a wider audience.

We believe in democratizing art and that everyone should be able to own at least one original piece of art, numbered and signed, in their home. The AAF seemed to be the obvious platform for us to launch our new venture.

Les 7 pe¦üche¦üs capitaux
Les 7 pelücheüs capitaux by Olivier Henry | Galley: Vue Privée

Wouldn’t selling an art cheaply devalue it?

There is no cheap art, there is just art. The monetary value attached to an artwork is not necessarily an expression of its intrinsic worth. Something bought today for $200 from a new or emerging artist could be worth $10,000 in the future if the artist becomes a sensation.

The value of the work should first be the value it holds in the person's heart and how that person connects to it. At the end of the day, one should only buy art because he or she is in love with the art piece first.

Which artwork do you admire?

I would admire any artwork that triggers an immediate response from the heart.

It sounds clichéd, but one should not even have to consider to buy a piece that he or she does not fall in love with at first sight.

An art piece that creates inner passion is a wonderful opportunity to share with friends and family as the collector would feel excited when talking about their new possession.

Vue Privée

Where: 20 Cairnhill Road
Tel: +65 6339 6271

Nov 13, 2010

The Affordable Art Fair

Art can be affordable.

In fact you should be able to buy artworks from between S$100 to S$10,000, with 75% going for less than $7,500.

Really. No joke.

Artists: Yann Chatelin & Alexandre Dupeyron | Gallery: Vue Privée

That’s the premise upon which The Affordable Art Fair was built on. The Fair which showcases 60 galleries from 17 countries aims to make art accessible to the viewing public, and the public accessible to the artists. Singaporean galleries include Indigo Blue Art, Sunjin, Red Sea Gallery and Vue Privée.

Curious, I spoke to Fair Director, Camilla Hewitson, on the Fair. Her answers are below, and if you’re thinking heading to the Fair, it’s happening from 19-21 Nov at F1 Pit Building (1 Republic Boulevard). Entry costs S$10.

This post contains additional material that I couldn’t fit into an article for CNNGo (5 galleries to visit at the Affordable Art Fair).

Why an affordable art fair in Singapore?

We currently have AAFs in many different cities around the world such as London, New York and Sydney but never before in Asia.

Singapore, with its diverse museum and gallery scene, growing arts industry and strong economy, is the perfect place to launch our first Asian edition!

What are you looking forward to during the fair?

Of course, the variety of art, the Education Programme that we have in place and the thrill of bringing this to Singapore. One of the main things though, with any new AAF, is that of seeing the new crowd coming to the fair and buying.

On average, circa 50% of our visitors are people who have not bought original artwork before and many make their first ever purchase at the AAF. This then starts to develop the art market locally – and that is amazing to see.

We also curate a recent graduate show, with artists from the Singaporean art schools – so I am looking forward to seeing these artists.

Spanish Fire by Mandy Tay | Gallery: Tay Gallery

What are some of the more exciting art pieces in the fair?

Vue Privée gallery is showcasing some exciting photographs by artists: Yann Chatelin & Alexandre Dupeyron. Watch out also for young talent Mandy Tay who originates from Singapore!

The fair in 5 words

Fun, relaxed, inspiring, eye-opening, and inclusive

The Affordable Art Fair

When: 19-21 Nov
Where: F1 Pit Building

Nov 12, 2010

Jiaoxi: Spa Central with Great People

What did I like about Jiaoxi?

Nothing much except that I found some of the friendliest folk (and the Taiwanese are quite friendly!) in this spa town.

First off, description: Jiaoxi is a spa town, hence you’ll see block after block of “hot spring” resorts. Prices vary -- bargain when during the weekdays or off-season periods.

Geography: Jiaoxi is so small that it’s only an hour to walk around it. 

Jiaoxi: Spa Central with great people

The best part: People. Hotel receptionists gave me great advice and planned my trip from Jiaoxi to Taitung. I met a 72-year old man who spoke Hokkien-accented Mandarin in a little snack shack. We share beers, and he bought me dinner.

Jiaoxi: Old man

Entertainment: Skimpy but past the snack shack was a live music bar. Skip the bottled stuff, go for the microbrews. They’ve got a green beer that’s sweet and hoppy, unlike  Reddot’s green beer which tastes like grass.

Jiaoxi: Green beer in a piano bar

Social Browsers

We use browsers to read news, surf for images, watch videos, and chat with friends. But the browser is changing.

Firefox has its add ons (Echofon, Hootsuite, Fireshot) which do all sorts of funky things. But there’s a brand new breed of browsers – the social browser. They’re purported to be built entirely around social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds.

Take RockMelt for instance.  This social browser, according the folks at Engadget:


…the left edge integrates your Facebook friends so you can chat, send messages or check out status updates no matter what site you're visiting. (Oddly, there doesn't seem to be a way to poke from the interface! Blasphemy!)


The right column is meant for Twitter and RSS feeds -- both are updated in the background and use "push notifications" to let you know how many unread messages or posts you've got piling up.


You can update your statuses from both rails as well as share the site you are reading by just hitting the large share button to the left of the search bar.

Checking the Google results for social browsers shows that RockMelt’s just the tip of the internet-berg. There’s Flock, Cruz, and Fizzik. While they’re mostly in the beta stages, these browsers might just be it for our social generation.

Would you use them?

I’ll leave y’all with promo videos from the companies.

Interview with RockMelt founders

Nov 11, 2010

Music: Shirlyn Tan of The UnXpected

I first saw Shirlyn Tan at Wala Wala (31 Lorong Mambong). She was a slip of a girl with colourful streaks in her hair. She sauntered to the stage in slippers, slipped the guitar strap over her head, ohhh…how she riffed that guitar.

Her voice was earth and soul akin to Alannah Myles on Black Velvet. That night Rock (of the Jon Bon Jovi breed) wasn’t dead. And here’s hoping that it never does – at least when Rock chic Shirlyn’s up on stage.

Music: Shirlyn Tan of UnXpectedPhoto by Shirlyn Tan

This post contains additional material that I couldn’t fit into an article for CNNGo (5 great live music acts in Singapore).

How did you get started in the pub circuit?

I am a fan of live music and I used to follow a few bands for their gigs. I got the opportunity to start gigging in the now defunct Off Quay when I watched a guitarist play and asked him if we could jam together.

What’s the best thing when performing?

Getting the crowd to move with the music!

The worst?

A flying beer mug barely missed me when a fight broke out midway through my gig!

Walk Away by UnXpected

Your thoughts on your audience

What an eclectic bunch of people! Young or old, they really love the music we play, which is why we keep at it. The music that we play hardly gets any airtime on the radio but we choose the best that we can offer and love to share it.

Your fans say?

Mostly good things, I hope. It's nice when they come up and tell me the memories that the songs bring back, and how they relate to the music.

Where does she play?
  • Thursdays & Saturdays at Wala Wala -- Shirlyn & The UnXpected
  • Friday at Barstop (Devonshire Road) -- Ren & Shirlyn
All I wanna do is make love to you–UnXpected

Nov 10, 2010

Five trucks to fix a telephone cable

My internet’s been wonky for the last month. Turns out that it’s the fault of an external cable that runs from under the paved road to University Road.

It took five calls, a whole bunch of fixit and maintenance men, five SingTel trucks, and a stoppage in the middle for them to investigate an underground cable…and I don’t even know if the problem’s going to be solved yet.


But such a large turnout for a wear-and-tear problem?

That’s just massively cool.  Kudos to the guys on making our cables reliable for Facebook, Email, and of course porn (Work comes in a close fourth).



Update: After three hours, five friends, opening lobangs [manholes], and threading a cable under the paved road. They’ve fixed it! I got my phoneline back! W00t! Thanks cable guys…that was great work!

Nov 9, 2010

Music: Chicken Shack Revival

“So long
It was so long ago
But I've still got the blues for you.”

- Still Got The Blues by Gary Moore

This is an unusual find – a band that plays old blues, jazz, swing and roots music.

The Chicken Shack Revival is comprised of four friends: lead man and multi-instrumentalist Louis Lam; bassist Chris Gomez; drummer Justin Teo; and guitarist Gregory Leow.

Music: Chicken Shack Revival (Singapore Live Band)
Photo by Chicken Shack Revival

Jammin’ the Blues isn’t the easiest road for the band. As Gregory Leow says:

“Pub owners feel that Blues doesn’t sell. It’s really due to the stereotype that Blues is boring, very samey and depressing, or too rockish and loud.


“Truth be told, it’s the sound for much of Blues music that’s out there. So I don’t really blame them for sticking to top 40s and established genres to sell their bar (Funk, Jazz, Latin and Bossa Nova) but hey, we try.”

And so they do.

This post contains additional material that I couldn’t fit into an article for CNNGo (5 great live music acts in Singapore).

How did you get started in the pub circuit?

We started by asking around for pub gigs through friends and family. Then it became a mailing list approach, and we got offers to play. We also sent emails to pub owners and showed them our gig list and YouTube videos with the hope that they’ll take us up.

We get quite a bit of repeat business from bar owners who have taken a chance on us and we credit them for being forward-thinking.

What’s the best thing that happened?

The usual applause, encore and dancing people. Personally as a guitarist, the cheers that I get from doing a conceived surf medley is satisfying.

The worst?

An unappreciative audience. On the whole, expats seem to get our music more than locals, which is a shame. We try our best to reach out to Singaporeans to show them that Blues music is not slow, boring or with droning vocals. :P

Oh Baby - Little Walter @ Prince of Wales (Singapore)

Thoughts on your audience?

The audience reacts to a band playing well and having a good time. It’s not just about the skill of the band but how entertaining we are. So we inject some humour into it by putting little Showtune licks that people might recognise – Pop Goes the Weasel, Sheik of Araby etc – to break up the Blues form.

What do fans say?

Aside from the usual compliments on our playing ability, people who haven’t seen our band normally say that they didn’t think Blues sounded like this, and that it is refreshing to hear us.

Where do they play?

Chicken Shack Revival doesn’t have a fixed gig list. Do check out their Facebook Fanpage for more information.

Nov 8, 2010

Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

Burgundy paired with delicately poached quail and a side of sautéed foie gras.

Passé, clichéd, boring.

When everyone’s doing it, it’s no longer mind-blowing; like Waygu beef – good but commonplace now. So restaurateurs have been innovating their alcohol-food pairings. After all, wine goes with dine. 

At Infusion, dining goes with single-malt whiskies. The kind that you’ll only find in Scottish distilleries. I’m not actually sure many types of whiskies that they have – but it’s a lot.

There’s Highland, Lowland, and Island whiskies. Each with their own characteristic bouquet, bite on the tongue, and fire down the throat – which makes it quite challenging to create a menu around.

Interior Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey
Infusion interior

John See, corporate chef, says “In alcohol-food pairings, either the food goes with the alcohol or vice-versa. Whisky has about 40% alcohol which can overpower the food. Thus I’ve created a menu where the food accompanies the whisky.”

In some cases, John’s menu works extremely well.

Such as the Starter which cleanses the palate with rice (weird but it works) before imbibing the whisky, and the Main course where the duck fat nicely complements the Isle of Jura’s “wok-hei” flavour – reminiscent of excellent char kway teow.

While the soup was great on its own, but its gust-of-sea-breeze aroma blew away the whisky’s nose...and that’s a huge loss to the alcohol. The flowery  Bruadar Whisky Liquer would certainly excite folks with a nose for Bai Jiu, but I’d much prefer the whisky-vanilla cream. 

In all, it’s a fun menu which would appeal to drinkers and experimental diners.

The Menu


Brown Rice Salad Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

Whisky: Dalmore (Highlands)

Food: Wild Brown Rice Salad with semi-dry tomatoes, baby quail egg, Dalmore Whisky aspic and citrus orange dressing.


Seafood soup Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

Whisky: Glenfarclas (Speyside)

Food: Seafood Bouillabaisse, Glenfarclas whisky creme, bouquet of Shiso mix


Duck Confit Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

Whisky: The Isle of Jura (island)

Food: Confit of salt-herbed crusted duck leg timbale, caramelized onion potatoes, arugula leaf and whisky-malted vinegar glaze


Rich Fruit Cake Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

Whisky: Bruadar Whisky Liquer

Food: Rich fruit cake with a shot glass of whisky-vanilla ice-cream


Infusion @ Dempsey
Add: 16A Dempsey Road
Tel: +65 6479 6188

Photo gallery

Exterior Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

The View Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey
The View

Canape Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

Canape Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

Whiskies Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

Whiskies Whisky & Food pairing: Infusion @ Dempsey

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