PasarBella

pasarbella

I hadn’t visited Turf City (now The Grandstand) in ages. The unmistakable landmark—once a venue for Thoroughbred horse racing—housed a mish-mash of clothing, homegoods, and toy shops. No more. The building has been given a complete facelift. Now, instead of Cze Char seafood and Mixed Economy Rice/Porridge stalls, the complex is home to ET Artisan Sweets, a bespoke bakery, and VeganBurg, an organic vegan burger fast food joint.

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PasarBella: A “Farmers'” Market, the first permanent collective of fresh and cooked food stalls under one roof in Singapore, anchors the new Grandstand. Firstly, it’s not a farmers’ market. It does not wholly embrace the fresh food movement nor does it attempt to make great, local produce available and affordable to all. It is, rather, a gourmet market. PasarBella carries hard-to-find culinary items such as special ingredients and fine foods. If you are searching for high-end products, PasarBella is your destination. Desiree Koh, writer and foodie (and my friend), says, “You can’t really shop here everyday. There isn’t a wide enough range of produce. And its location, tucked into a Bukit Timah nook a long walk from public transport options if you’re grocery shopping for the week, makes this a very unmarketable market.”

PasarBella, its founders claim, was “inspired by the sights, scents and vibes of other global markets. [We] sought to offer a similar experience here in Singapore.” They ask visitors to “bask in the rustic interiors and reminisce the simpler days of yesteryear.” But whose yesteryear, I ask? The branding of PasarBella is flush with faux Parisian marché and Victorian market motifs. Again, to quote Desiree, “Why try to be something we’re not? Certainly, the ambiance is more bella than pasar (of which Singapore has a great heritage).”

Having said that, PasarBella is still worth a look, if only once. The Cheese Ark, purveyors of rare, raw milk, artisanal cheeses, is a must see, er, must taste. We bought a wedge of cirone, a nutty, Swiss, cows’ milk cheese which I have yet to open and devour. Le Patio‘s paella was divine, or so says my partner, the paella connoisseur that he is.

We were told only to visit if we had a car (we don’t!) or a ride. But, we discovered free shuttle buses from Toa Payoh, Newton and Botanic Garden MRT stations which made our journey to and fro quite easy.

(Additional credits: Photographs via  PasarBella; photo layout via Pugly Pixel.)

WHENIWASFOUR

Two weeks ago, I visited BooksActually’s “Art + Design Market” at Sculpture Square. I’ve never met a market I didn’t like and I particularly enjoyed this one. As was to be expected, it was thoughtfully curated by the creative team at BooksActually.

The market billed itself as one showcasing “sensible design and art practicality.” It was here that I discovered WHENIWASFOUR, a line of whimsical paper goods and accessories. Their newest product is a cushion inspired by an exam exercise book. But my favorite item in their online store is a “Fa Gao” canvas tote bag. I lurve huat kueh. Is there a better way to show my appreciation?

Connect with WHENIWASFOUR on Facebook.

(Additional credits: Photographs via WHENIWASFOUR’s Facebook page; photo layout via Pugly Pixel.)

Singapore Arts Festival 2012

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I had a blast at last year’s Singapore Arts Festival. I attended two events in the Festival Village: Nitin Sawhney and The Last Days of Meaning and the DJ Tigerstyle Showcase. Yes, I had issues with the venue. But, hey, shows in the Village are free this year!* My picks?

– Huzzah! More drum ‘n’ bass! Circle of Sound by Soumik Datta and Bernhard Schimpelsberger fuses the sounds of the sarod (a lute used in classical North Indian music) and the Western drum kit. Can. Not. Wait.

– My mother-in-law introduced me to Theyyam, an ancient ritual form of Hindu worship performed in the North Malabar region of Kerala. (William Dalrymple writes beautifully about theyyam in his travelogue, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India.) I saw a spectacular display of theyyam in New York City years ago and look forward to seeing this sacred dance again in Singapore.

– I caught one quarter of the T’ang Quartet in December; now, I hope to hear the entire ensemble! A Musical Snapshot of Nostalgia is a celebration of Singapore’s traditional folk songs.

– I’m curious about Flame of the Forest, a trio of brothers who jam on the sitar, tabla, and violin. Their repertoire includes jazz, pop, and Chinese music.

– And I’ll likely drop by Public Garden Flea Market, too.

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* There are ticketed shows as well. Download the festival guide (PDF) for more information.

A Bird of II Feathers by Mimipong

One of the more delightful items I spotted at last month’s Public Garden was Mimipong’s A Bird of II Feathers. The sturdy, canvas bag is reversible and flips from swan to cygnet. “Elegant or beguiling; you decide what your bag says about you,” reads the accessory’s tagline. It’s unexpected and whimsical, like many of Mimipong’s previous creations. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

(Additional credits: Photographs via Mimipong’s Flickr stream. Used with permission from the artists; Photoshop brushes via Pugly Pixel.)

Public Garden

On Saturday, I dropped by the first Public Garden, a new monthly flea market. Public Garden, in addition to jewelry, art, and crafts by local artisans and designers, also featured an overwhelming hodgepodge of repurposed furniture, vintage clothing, “blogshop” wares, and secondhand goods.

I especially enjoyed participating in Singapore-based illustrator MessyMsxi’s ‘Breakfast Barter.’ (I drew a bagel with cream cheese, natch.) And I enjoyed connecting with Wey Ling of Veira. Her new collection is launching in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to see it.

With items at a range of price points and of various provenance, Public Garden had a little something for everyone. The only thing missing? Delicious fresh food by this city’s talented food crafters.

(Additional credits: From left to right: from Teri’s Most Beautifuls by MessyMsxiterrarium by Mimipong.)

MAAD [UPDATED]

I visited MAAD (Market for Artists and Designers) last December, barely weeks after we moved to Singapore. Our bags weren’t fully unpacked and I decided to run off to a local handmade market. (Yes, my priorities are a little whack.) Then, I didn’t know much about the independent design scene in Singapore; MAAD was a great introduction to several local labels.

Fast-forward eight months. On Friday night, I popped by MAAD’s inaugural “MAAD Pyjamas” night. Now, I know quite a bit about local design. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet, collaborate with, or cover (on this blog) so many of Singapore’s creative talents. I went to support my friends and catch up with a few colleagues.

Red Dot Design Museum was packed and the room had great energy. Craft, drinks, music, presidential candidates*, and artisanal ice cream all make for an excellent night. The dates for the next MAAD have not been announced, but I assume it will be in early- to mid-September. The next MAAD will be on September 9.

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Next week, I’ll be checking out Public Garden, a new monthly market launching on August 20. I’m getting a Brooklyn Flea-kinda vibe.

* For my readers based outside Singapore: the city-state is holding presidential elections at the end of August. Two of four candidates visited MAAD Pyjamas.

(Additional credits: Clockwise, from upper left-hand corner: “Moustache George” by Cookie Cutter, floral make-up pouch by Etincelle Creative Studio, Organic Apple t-shirt by Bon Chatnatural ruby cabochon with sterling silver lacy heart filigree by My Vintage Jewel Box; scallop medallion via Pugly Pixel.)