Coffee-lovers and readers embraced the opportunity to converse with The Straits Times journalists and a special guest, DBS chief executive Priyush Gupta, at the inaugural Singapore Coffee Festival yesterday.
Forty people also booked early and paid $60 to secure a spot for an eight-course meal hosted by The Straits Times food editor Tan Hsueh Yun, who curated the omakase lunch to highlight some of the festival's best dishes. These included espresso-infused crackled pork from Curbside Cafe and a salted egg-yolk cream puff from Pulse Patisserie.
Twenty people attended the lunch yesterday and Ms Tan is hosting another sold-out omakase session for 20 guests this afternoon.
She moved around the tables, explaining each dish and why she selected it. Guests also had a chance to ask her questions in return.
"It was a really lovely bunch, asking lucid questions about my work. They were very knowledgeable and frank about their thoughts on the food," said Ms Tan.
At the lunch, the watermelon cake by local bakery Cream & Custard was a favourite dish. Made with layers of almond dacquoise (a cake made of almond meringue), rose-scented cream and fresh watermelon, topped with strawberries, grapes and dried rose petals, the cake had sold out from Cream & Custard's festival stall by 4pm on Friday.
Programme manager Catriona Poh, 35, said the meal was one of her highlights from the festival. "Hsueh was really nice to talk to, and we got some insight into how she thinks and how she writes her food reviews," she said.
Next to the omakase lunch, in the ST Reading Room, 60 to 100 people at a time crowded around sofas and sat on the floor to catch askST, a series of talks with The Straits Times journalists.
The intimate discussions lasted all afternoon and topics ranged from the ins and outs of covering politics in Singapore with opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong, to what it was like for deputy editor Ignatius Low to give up his job as a civil servant to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist, and insights on how to vacation like a pro from travel writer Lee Siew Hua.
Audience members were able to ask the journalists questions about their views and their work, and chat with them one-on-one after each talk ended.
Lively interactions and conversations ensued.
Senior correspondent Rohit Brijnath, from the Sports desk, led a lively chat session fielding questions about who he thought would win the European Championship this year, and also discussed what it will take for Singaporean athletes to excel.
"It's a pleasure every time a writer gets to meet readers and interact with them. A lot of the time, writing can be quite impersonal because you don't know who is reading you, so when you get the chance to interact with readers, it's an education," said Mr Brijnath.
"I was charmed by a lot of the questions that were asked and there's no question that ST should be doing more of this."
Six more askST sessions, featuring journalists such as senior writer Wong Kim Hoh, food critic Wong Ah Yoke and editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang will take place from noon till 7pm today in the ST Reading Room at the Singapore Coffee Festival.
Tickets to the festival are sold out.
•Tickets for entry today are sold out. No tickets will be available for purchase at the venue. Only those with pre-purchased tickets will be admitted. Thank you for your support.