I had never attended food tastings. When I finally did, it was right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, during Phase 1.

So naturally, the PR companies who hosted the tastings did what every company was doing—they took it online.

Was it weird being introduced to the food via my computer screen? Was it strange eating in front of my screen with a group of strangers as my eating buddies? Here’s how it went down.

PS.Gourmet

PS. Gourmet
Image: Sally Manik

If you didn’t already know, PS.Gourmet recently launched a few delivery-exclusive brands, Chopstix, Popsup and Sipsy, which offer meals from well-known Singaporean restaurants PS.Cafe and Chopsuey. 

For this virtual food tasting, I was given the opportunity to try out Chopstix and Popsup’s offerings, where they gave a variety of dishes, from both Western and Asian cuisines. The food reached me at around 1pm. 

The session took place over Zoom, and two PR personnels and another media representative were in the call. It was my first time “meeting” my lunch buddies, but thankfully, we hit off just fine. In fact, more than a PR sesh, it felt more like catching up with friends—our conversation topics extended from the food (the stars of the session, obv) to our work-from-home experiences.

The only difference? I had to remind myself that I was still in a professional setting, so I put in extra effort to not make my biting and chewing look “unglam” (let’s be real, nothing is permanently deleted off the World Wide Web).

On top of that, I had to sort of ‘time’ myself properly—knowing when to eat, when to talk and when to stop eating. After all, I can’t just be gobbling down the food the whole session, right?

We started with food from Chopstix. First up, the appetiser Spicy Mushroom Spring Rolls ($12.50).

Spicy Mushroom Spring Rolls Chopstix
Image: PS.Gourmet

This dish was a tad bit hard to handle when you’re eating in front of the camera. They’re big, which makes them value for money, but I made the mistake of putting too much sauce from the get-go and took an uncomfortably large bite, which may have given off a less-than-pleasing image to the other people in the call. (If anyone has screenshots, please delete, thanks.)

But the dish itself, despite it being delivered and not fresh from the kitchen, was really crispy and light—the texture was near-perfect. 

The filling itself was also extremely enjoyable as it was savoury, salty and tasteful. The sauce made a great pairing, giving it a spicy kick that added more depth to the overall flavour.

Next, after taking a few bites of our first dish (to reserve our appetite for the other dishes), we were told to move to our mains. 

Wok Fried Broccoli with Beef
Image: PS.Gourmet

The Wok Fried Broccoli with Beef. This dish. The beef was extremely tender and soft. I was really shocked when I first took a bite, as it was hard to believe that this was actually delivered. 

The beef was a perfect medium to medium rare, and each bite was divine. The sauce and broccoli were also good, matching well with the beef. 

I’m not sure if my mic captured the sound, but since the broccoli was crunchy and there was a lot of chewing going on, I’m pretty sure the other people on call heard some ~ ASMR chewing ~. And since there was only 4 people on call, I didn’t mute my mic at any moment, as I felt that it wasn’t necessary, given the continuous conversation flow, as well as the small group.

Lastly, for Chopstix, came the Crispy Banana Dumplings with Toffee Sauce for dessert.

Crispy Banana Dumplings Chopstix
Image: PS.Gourmet

To put it simply, this dish was like having really good bite-sized banana cake. Each ‘dumpling’ is the size of a ping-pong ball, making it an easy, airy and crispy bite. The toffee sauce that came along with this dish was mellow in comparison to the ‘dumplings’, as it wasn’t too sweet. 

In fact, the sauce was a tad bit bitter, which was unexpected but welcomed, as it gave the overall ‘dumpling’ + sauce combination a pleasant taste.

If you’re thinking of having a snack during virtual dates with bae (if you’re too lazy to go out), this will be a good choice.

We were then told on to move on to the food from Popsup, which offers classic Western dishes with a slight twist. 

I received a Mixed Slider Box ($30), which contained a Hawaiian Slider, Impossible Slider, Cheese Slider, and a Chicken Slider.

I also received ½ Truffle Fries ($9.50), and a Tangy Vegetable and Potato Slaw ($6). For dessert, I got a Sweet & Sour Raspberry Slice ($7.90). 

I started off with the Mixed Slider Box. As if I didn’t learn my lesson from Spicy Mushroom Spring Rolls from Chopstix, I took too big of a bite. Again.

Before anyone passes any judgment, I’ll have you know that I did it because I wanted to get all the elements of the burger in one bite. Not a great idea, obviously. I’m not sure about how it came off on-camera, but I tried my best to keep it pretty low-key, constantly using a tissue paper to remove any stains from my mouth. 

But these burgers were worth the mess because the taste made up for the whole embarrassing situation. 10/10 would do it again.

Mixed Slider Box Popsup
Image: PS.Gourmet

First up, the classic Cheese Slider. Simple, but satisfying. Next, I tried the Hawaiian slider. As someone who’s a pineapple-on-pizza type of person, I thoroughly enjoyed this burger. It had the salty, savoury taste from the beef patty and ham, as well as the sweet and zesty from the pineapple. The perfect balance of both sides. However, if you are not a pineapple-on-pizza type of person, consider giving this slider a pass.

The third burger was the Chicken Slider, which was crispy, delectable, and much like the Cheese Slider, simple and satisfying.

Lastly from the Mixed Slider Box, I tried the Impossible Burger. For those of you who don’t know what ‘Impossible’ food is, it’s basically meat-free food that’s meant to be a replacement for meat. And as someone who hasn’t tried any Impossible products prior to this food tasting, I was shocked as to how realistic and tasty this slider was.

It genuinely tasted like beef, and it even had a pink tint in the middle of the burger, replicating what a real beef patty would look like. A definite must-try slider. 

Whilst tasting the sliders, I also took bites of the Truffle Fries and Tangy Vegetable and Potato Slaw. 

Shoestring Fries Popsup
Image: PS.Gourmet
Tangy Vegetable and Potato Slaw.
Image: PS.Gourmet

The Truffle Fries tastes… well, normal. The Tangy Vegetable and Potato Slaw, however, was refreshing and new to me, as it had hints of apple in it, making it even more full-bodied flavour. The slaw worked well as a palate cleanser throughout the entire food tasting process.

A meal is not complete without desserts and for this tasting, Popsup sent the Sweet & Sour Raspberry Slice. 

Sweet & Sour Raspberry Slice Popsup
Image: PS.Gourmet

If I were to give this dish’s flavour a word to represent it, it would be ‘ZING!’. It was strikingly rich, sour, and also, obviously sweet. 

If you’re not into sour tastes, this dessert might not be for you. But if you are into sour tastes, this dessert will be right up your alley, as it packs a punch of fruitiness, sourness and gives hints of raspberry in every bite. 

Quorn & REBEL

Quorn And REBEL Food Tasting OBOY!
Image: Sally Manik

About a week later, I had the opportunity to go for another virtual food tasting. And I started to wonder if this will be the future of food tastings.

This time round, Quorn & REBEL had arranged for a session to introduce their upcoming food releases, featuring a variety of meat-free dishes. 

Quorn is a brand selling meat-free products globally, including here in Singapore, whereas REBEL is a local sandwich eatery that opened last year in Somerset. 

Quorn and REBEL have collaborated a few months back, launching a series of vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, but now, they’re collaborating to bring not only sandwiches, but a salad and rice dish as well, under the name “OBOY! REBEL”

This virtual food tasting session had a larger party, comprising of around three PR personnel and 2 marketing folks in the call, as well as around 14-15 media representatives. This session was presented by the Singapore CEO of Monde Nissin Corporation, Rufino Tiam-Lee, as well as the founder of REBEL, Sandy Monteiro, who gave us more information about the respective brands and dishes as we enjoyed the meal.

As it was quite a big party, I decided to take a backseat this time round and simply listened instead of actively engaging in the conversations. As such, I was able to eat more than I had initially expected. But did that make me feel less awkward about eating in front of the camera in front of people I’ve met for the first time in my life? No.

But I’ve learnt my lesson and stopped taking huge bites. To be honest, I’m not one who gets too concerned when I bite off more than I can chew (literally), but it flustered me to do so in front of strangers because, who wouldn’t be?

The session was free-and-easy (for the lack of a better phrase), so we could choose whichever food we wanted to taste first. They sent over a Vegetarian Saucy Sandwich, Vegan Katsu Curry with Rice, as well as a Goma Salad. Naturally, I went straight for the Vegan Katsu Curry with Rice. 

Vegan Katsu Curry With Rice Quorn REBEL
Image: Quorn & REBEL

Despite it being vegan, the dish was unexpectedly substantial and filling. The katsu was crispy, and the curry was tangy and flavourful, making a great pairing to the rice and egg that was also served along with it. To be honest, if you had told me this dish had real meat, I would’ve believed you. 

Next, I tried the Vegetarian Saucy Sandwich. At first glance, it looked like your typical meatball sandwich, which is pretty surprising, considering the fact that it doesn’t use real meat! 

Saucy Sandwich Quorn and REBEL
Image: Quorn & REBEL

The taste of the sandwich was identical to the real thing—the tomato sauce was rich, the ‘meatball’ was packed with flavour, and the crisp bun was able to hold all the elements together, and add texture to the overall experience.

As the presentation went on, I tried the last dish on my list: the Goma Salad. Yes, I’m getting the order of food all wrong, but it was free-and-easy, OK?

Goma Salad Quorn and REBEL
Image: Quorn & REBEL

The combination of lettuce, cherry tomato, cabbage, cucumber, radish, nori and spring onion went well together; it was refreshing and crisp. But what tied the entire dish together was the Quorn nuggets and the sesame dressing—both added an extra layer to the dish, making it a pleasant tangy, refreshing, salad. 

I’m no stranger to vegan and vegetarian options, but these three dishes took me by surprise. With dishes that are plant-based, you can usually tell that it’s mock meat. However, with these dishes, everything was spot on—the texture, the flavour, the pairings. Everything worked well with each other, making it comparable to its non-vegan origin. 

After two virtual tastings, I would say I’m an expert at virtual tastings now (HAHA). I can probably eat in a refined manner on video. But do I miss being in restaurants and in the company of real people? Absolutely. But until Phase 3 starts and the new normal starts, let’s make do with what we can. 

Chopstix and Popsup is now available for delivery on various platforms including Deliveroo with islandwide delivery options on PS. Cafe’s official website via third party, Oddle. 

The release date for Quorn & REBEL OBOY! dishes have not been confirmed.