May 16, 2011 § 15 Comments
“If we didn’t have birthdays,
you wouldn’t be you.
If you’d never been born,
well then what would you do?
If you’d never been born,
well then what would you be?
You might be a fish!
Or a toad in a tree!
You might be a doorknob!
Or three baked potatoes!
You might be a bag full of
hard green tomatoes.”
~ Dr Suess
It’s not uncommon to see Marvel characters wandering the streets.
This Thursday past marked my first birthday in the Northern Hemisphere and what a novelty it was to wear a sundress out to dinner on the 12th of May! As I mentioned earlier it is tradition for my family to extend birthdays for as long as possible, so not only did I get my early birthday present and my lovely birthday dinner with friends, but then NB whisked me away to the mountains for a weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.
I would describe Asheville as the love child of hippy Bellingen (NSW) and trendy Bangalow (NSW) with a little Manly (Sydney) chill thrown in. The city is eclectic, but not in the slightly grotty way that can be parts of Newtown, and it thrives on organic, sustainable living. Asheville’s architecture is as diverse as its population, with a nod to both Parisian chic and Greek Revival as well as the Federal design you might expect to see on a southern plantation.
If it’s architecture you’re after then wait until you catch a glimpse of Biltmore Estate, the extravagant 175,000 square foot residence built on 125,000 acres. The Biltmore House was designed in 1889, by architect Richard Morris Hunt, for George Washington Vanderbilt and his wife Edith Stuyvesant Dresser. The family moved into the residence on Christmas Eve, 1895, and can you believe it, they only had one child to fill the 38 guest bedrooms! No wonder they were always hosting parties! A visit to Asheville would not be complete without touring this amazing home ($60). Not only will you get to see Napoleon Bonaparte’s chess set in the library, you’ll also get the chance to ogle the three massive kitchens (main kitchen, meat rotisserie kitchen, pastry kitchen), giant walk in pantries and one of the first ever industrial cool rooms… but remember to save time to nip across to the wine tasting as you leave the property.
The food scene in Asheville is incredible and I’ll tell you now that one night is simply not long enough to eat your fill! As I said, Asheville is all about the local, the organic and the sustainable. Expect to find restaurant menus that are shaped under a strict farm-to-table philosophy. Here are 30 places to get you started.
We arrived in Asheville around noon and went directly downtown in search of lunch. The downtown area is about the size of five square blocks, busting at the seams with cafes, restaurants and bars. My ears were filled with live music coming from a nearby tavern while my nose was leading me towards the tantalising aromas floating from within a small Himalayan restaurant. As much as I wanted to fill my belly with curries and flatbreads and rice, we had booked a Spanish tapas restaurant for dinner and I was trying to save my appetite. Instead we followed the stairs that lead to Wall Street, a little road that sits above the main downtown shops, and found an organic vegetarian cafe that I had been reading about the day before.
The Laughing Seed is a global fusion vegetarian restaurant with friendly staff and interesting cocktail combinations. We perched outside at a table covered by the leafy pergola, hoping that the rain wouldn’t sweep in sideways and wet our feet. I know NB had only said yes to ‘the hippy place’ because it was my birthday weekend, but from the moment we sat down I watched his eyes scanning the plates of nearby diners in hungry anticipation.
The menu is a terrific combination of appetizers, sandwiches, salads and entrees (i.e. an Australia main course) that incorporate tastes from Louisiana to Asia and anywhere in between. I had read great reviews about the raw spinach-pesto manicotti (zucchini noodles stuffed with live sunflower-spinach pesto, cashew ricotta, and fresh basil served over sun-dried tomato marinara with house-marinated olives), and in hindsight I wish I had ordered it, instead opting for the Open Market Plate on which I chose to have dhal, tempeh and steamed vegetables ($8). The plate size was modest, which is perfect for me at lunchtime, but if you are a big eater I would recommend one of the bowls or sandwiches. My little serving of yellow dhal was creamy and delicious and hit the spot that was still craving Himalayan curry. I also really enjoyed the grilled tempeh and I’ll probably begin to use this in cooking, instead of tofu, in the future. The steamed vegetables were a bit on the plain side, although they were steamed to perfection with a nice bit of crunch, I would have liked a little sauce to drizzle over them. It was a yummy little meal for me but the menu is so excellent that next time I’ll not try to design it myself!
NB was tossing up between the cuban sandwich and the special of the day which was a vegetarian version of a Philly cheesesteak, using seitan instead of meat. Our waiter recommended ordering the Havana Cuban (herb and spice battered organic tempeh, crispy housemade pickles, black bean spread, tomatoes, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and Asheville’s Lusty Monk mustard on grilled flaky Cuban bread. $10) which turned out to be a delicious choice and came with a side of crunchy jalapeno fries and creamy pesto pasta salad. I think the meal basically converted NB and it reminded me of the time that BR introduced her boyfriend to Pure Wholefoods, one of Manly’s organic cafes. While initially there was plenty of knuckle dragging and nail biting, apparently these days you can’t keep him away from the haloumi burger on Sunday mornings!
We left Laughing Seed Cafe with bright eyes and bushy tails, ready to explore our way through the champagne second hand bookstore (yes really) and the French chocolate lounge.
Other places to eat in Asheville:
1. Dinner at Curate, 11 Biltmore Avenue, 828 239 2946.
This was the only tapas restaurant that I had been to since Kika in Darlinghurst, and it was even better than my first experience. Make sure you book ahead because the place was bursting.
Must haves: chorizo with olive oil potato puree, lamb skewers, grilled green asparagus.
Not as much: potato bravas.
2. Breakfast at Early Girl Eatery, 8 Wall Street, (828) 259-9292
Traditional southern cooking, made from scratch with a local focus. This place is cheap as chips so order a few dishes to share for the table and get a real sense of what it is to enjoy a good southern breakfast.
Must haves: Ginger and pumpkin bread (3.25); grits with cheese ($2.25) these ones are the perfect texture, more like rice pudding than mushy oatmeal; omelette with local fillings ($7.95).
Not as much: Everything is excellent, and even the coffee tastes more fresh than is usual in American cafes.
3. Thirsty Monk Pint House and Beer Bar, 92 Patton Avenue, (828) 254-5470
What a fun place to stop for a drink and a nibble. We ordered the Local Flight, which was a selection of four beers from the local breweries for $6. We tried #1 Nantahala Pale Ale, which I thought was a bit reminiscent of James Boag and very yummy, #2 Highland Cattail Peak wheat beer, hints of raspberry on the palate, #3 Pisgah pale ale, a little more gingery, and #4 Pisgah Red Devil. To accompany our drinks we shared the hummus platter which included original hummus, chipotle hummus, tabouli, sundried tomato tapenade and thai cashew butter (NB’s new favourite spread) $7. The pizza also looked delicious and we were entertained by a man dressed as a nun running in and stealing another patron’s beer.
4. A sweet treat at Marble Slab creamery, 14 Biltmore Avenue
BS to NB: ‘Can I be fat?’
NB: Yes, of course!
BS to server: Peanut waffle cone with dark chocolate ice cream smashed with Oreos and coconut and topped with whipped cream.
…Also come to experience a real American milkshake, where it’s so thick you can’t suck it up a straw.
NB summed it up when he said that in Asheville I was able to find my food-town soulmate. What a revelation! Tell me Blushers, where do you escape to for a weekend away?
May 2, 2011 § 5 Comments
I have great news! The porch is ready!
Anyone that knows me will freely admit that I have a habit of creating jobs for myself. Not only is our kitchen table covered in To-Do-Lists for immediate jobs, but also to-do-lists for longer term jobs and to-do-lists for backup jobs that I could do if I ran out of jobs. Needless to say, I don’t understand free time.
For some reason I thought that the move to America would teach me to chill out a bit more. Perhaps even sit back and smell the roses. But then I realised – we had no roses to smell. Unfortunately for NB, this was the beginning of the end for our free weekends and not until two months later was the garden deemed finished.
Alas, this is not all. As I was standing outside in the early morning light, admiring our handy work and whispering sweet nothings to our darling little seedlings, I was struck by how grubby the back porch appeared in comparison. Oh dear. At this stage NB threw up his hands in despair and retreated to the safety of Family Guy reruns, and to be honest I can hardly blame him. Fortunately for me FoodieFresh was happy to don her painting shorts and a few weekends ago we made 5 hours of serious progress.
It was somewhere around here that the project stagnated. Admittedly the state was being ravaged by terrible storms, of which we were getting the tail end, and we were also busy with various eating engagements, but to be honest I think I had just run out of steam.
Saturday arrived and I was busy in the kitchen preparing for a little dinner soiree that night. We had some friends coming over who had lived in Sydney when we were there (they only returned to America a few months before we did) and NB and I thought it would be a good idea to relive the Thai scene that is so dominant back home. Lost as I was in marinating ribs, grating ginger and folding dumplings, that is was a couple of hours before I realised that I hadn’t heard a peep out of NB!
With a trail of shredded cabbage falling behind me, I went searching.
And wouldn’t you know it, there he was out on the porch finishing the painting. Hurrah!!
Ace of Spade’s delicious butter biscuit shortbread with strawberries and cream
That night, as I chinked my prosecco glass with our guests, I made a little promise to myself that next weekend we would relax…Do you believe me?
Sticky Asian Spare Ribs (the style that an Aussie girl can be proud to present in the South)
1.5kg (3 1/4 lb), or 16 American-style pork spare ribs
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbl grated ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine
2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch chilli flakes and a squeeze of lime.
Bring a large crockpot of water to the boil and blanch ribs, rinsing and refreshing under cold water.
Mix marinade together in a large ceramic baking dish and toss ribs to coat. Cover and allow to marinate for 4+ hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 160C/ 280F and remove ribs from fridge, allowing to return to room temperature.
Leaving the baking dish covered with foil, cook ribs for 3 hours or until meat begins to flake off bone. Remove from oven and stand, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
For thicker sauce, drain some of the sauce from the baking dish into a saucepan and bring to the boil, whisking constantly until thick.
Serve with steamed rice.
March 21, 2011 § 9 Comments
Last night I was messing about on the Internet, trying to think of something to write for the next VoulezVous post when NB asked me if I had heard about the Twinkie diet. Ummm, no! Truth be told I’ve never even seen a Twinkie, but I was intrigued. So I Googled it, as we all do these days, and hot damn there was a man who had lived on Twinkie’s for six weeks and lost a whole bunch of weight. I stared at my rocket salad with barely concealed disdain. Here I am, day in day out trying to be healthy (ok maybe not day in AND day out) and this guy grabs his fill from a packet every 3 hours and ends up a skinny minny. Not cool dude! Anyway, I thought I would share my findings with you and maybe I’ll start listening to the little voice that keeps telling me how chocolate will make me happy…SupaSista – heard!
What have you eaten today? Was it poached eggs on whole wheat for breakfast or a tuna salad for lunch? How about Twinkies, Oreos or some Doritos? You might remember Mark Haub’s Twinkie diet from December last year, which saw the Professor of nutrition at Kansas State University shed 27 pounds over six weeks. Yep, a ‘guilt food’ made him drop 27 pounds. Why? Because one Twinkie every 3 hours was nearly all he ate.
This isn’t the first time someone has lost weight on a crazy diet, I once had a Pilates client who ate nothing but oranges for a week to lose weight while her husband was away. Others claim that the potato diet worked wonders for their waistline.
Yet realistically the food irrelevant, it is the overall calorie reduction that has led to the weight-loss.
Of course the long-term health effects of permanently existing on these diets would be disastrous (hair loss, organ stress, loss of bone density, cognitive impacts, malnutrition and potentially even death), but they raise an issue that is very close to my heart. Portion control.
The people of Okinawa, Japan, one of the longest-lived and healthiest populations in the world, practice a principle they call hara hachi bu: Eat until you are 80% full. This is a sensible idea but how on earth can we tell when we are 80% full? By the time our mind has registered satiety, we have generally OVEREATEN, with majority of Americans (and many Aussies Blushers…) needing some visual cue as to when they should stop eating (when the plate is clean, when the package is empty, when the TV show is over). It’s time we start learning to react to internal cues, instead of those external reminders.
In his book, In Defence of Food, Michael Pollan, author, journalist and healthy eating activist, explains how eating less has repeatedly been shown to slow aging and prolong lifespan in animals. It is also linked to the prevention of cancer as cutting back on calories slows cell division and stifles the production of free radicals.
Here in America we face a culture of cheap and abundant calories, as well as a lack of formality or occasion surrounding meals. While the French eat modest portions and observe that second helpings are taboo, America continues to ‘Super Size Me’.
We’re also living in a society that’s low on time and big on outsourcing their food preparation, yet eating out can really be the killer. Did you know that restaurant portions can be up to four times the size of a recommended dietary serve? And don’t even get me started on free soda refills.
Remember the last time you were at an all you can eat buffet and ate until you feel sick, just to get your money’s worth? (NB’s cool aunt makes the joke that it’s All You Can Eat, not You Eat All!) Or when dining out in a restaurant and you make yourself finish all the sides for the table so they ‘don’t go to waste’. The Duck has a terrific saying for this: If your body doesn’t need it, it’s just going to waste anyway. Huzzah! Or my Nan will wrap up half a slice of bread to take home if she can’t finish it (she also washes Glad Wrap but that’s a whole other story.) I would feel confident in saying that no restaurant or cafe would refuse you a doggy-bag. By packing it up not only do you save your waist from overindulgence, but you save money on the next days lunch.
This is just a little food for thought. I think you can have your cake and eat it too, just maybe ask for half a slice.
February 22, 2011 § 5 Comments
Have you ever imagined a place, only to arrive and realise it’s nothing like you had expected?
This happened last weekend when NB and I went to Charleston, SC. The Charleston of my mind was a low populated town of plantations, massive colonial homesteads and not much else. So slap my cheeks and call me Charlie when we arrive in this quaint city of magnificent architecture and gastronomical treasures. The lack of three-tiered, verandah wrapped homesteads surrounded by acres of field has made me acknowledge that I must stop referencing the entire South solely from Gone With The Wind (until I travel to Georgia that is, and I’ll expect Rhett Butler to be every man on the street!).
Charleston is South Carolina’s oldest city and you can jump into a horse and buggy for an historic tour, or simply walk down the main street to the French Quarter to see the eclectic design of the homes that are a tribute to the past three centuries.
NB and I were in town for Sunday brunch, which is a magnificent occasion in this part of the world as most shops are closed and, after church, the day is to be spent eating and drinking with family and friends. I like that.
We had made our reservation at High Cotton a few days before and I’m glad that we had because all the tables in the big, sunny dining room had been filled and ‘walk-ins’ were seated in the darker bar area.
We started with mimosa’s while a table of elderly women next to us thirstily sipped Bloody Mary’s, Pimm’s Cups and Classic Bellini’s – brunch isn’t brunch around these parts without a juicy cocktail!
I spied that every table had a basket of cornbread on their tables and I was like an excited puppy when our waiter brought a serve for us. I had never tried cornbread before, and I think this recipe was the sweetened one because it tasted like cake, delicious, yellow, breakfast cake…drool.
When I had devoured the cornbread, and felt too sheepish to ask for more, we ordered our meals. It was a tough decision because the menu was divine, what would you choose between BBQ Duck Hash, Crab Cakes Benedict, Huevos Rancheros or the Farmer’s Market Omelette? I know! In the end I went the way of the egg and ordered a delicious vegetarian omelette with goats cheese and a side of home fries AND a side of grits! No holding back ladies! The eggs were a rich yellow and the goats cheese had gone gooey and mellow, similar to the way I am after watching The Notebook (my favourite movie of all time AND filmed in South Carolina).
NB went with Huevos Rancheros and it was very brave of him to steer away from Eggs Benedict, we fear he has an addiction. I stole some beans and salsa when he wasn’t looking and they were delicious. I’ve been addicted to beans since Bottega
We left just enough room in our belly’s to walk around the corner and devour a brownie sundae with three scoops of icecream at Kaminsky’s.
I think we might have just started a tradition!
Tell me Blushers, where is your favourite weekend away and do the breakfasts make you smile?
Blush. Eat. Sigh. Love.
January 19, 2011 § 10 Comments
I’m not a big fan of lunch. it flummoxes me. The problem is I LOVE breakfast and I LOVE dinner and, well, lunch just seems to get in the way of maximising that consumption. So here I was yesterday, minding my own business and filling up on breakfast beans at Bottega (yes, I may be obsessed) when I am invited out to lunch. Sure, I think to myself, licking the remnants of spicy tomato sauce from my lips and eyeing the raspberry friands that adorned the counter, I’ll go along for the company and just order a vegetable juice or a cup of tea. Blushers my darlings, I failed. I gorged. I loved it.
What, you may ask, is the straw that broke the camels back?? Why look no further than Armidale’s Bistro on Cinders.
Cinder’s Lane in Armidale is a cute little back street with a rather sophisticated air. This bistro opened back when I was still living at home but it has since been taken over by the lovely Marie and Vinko, who I had the pleasure of meeting fresh off the plane from their Vanuatu holiday when I went in for lunch. And what a lovely couple they are! I walked in with The Pharmacist and Mrs Brady to be greeted with hugs and smiles and handshakes. What a nice way to start a meal! Shortly after we were seated, Vinko came over with ‘the usual‘ coffees for The Pharmacist and Mrs Brady, and during the meal he kept a watchful eye on refilling my glass of water.
Now I really wasn’t hungry at all but the menu was a little ohhhhh and I succumbed. Mrs Brady said the servings were a nice smallish size and there were a number of light meals to choose from so how could I say no?? In the words of NB: “Well, I don’t want to be ruuude!”
Lunch is written on the blackboard each day and will reflect what was fresh at the markets and in the whim of the kitchen. I was having a hard time to decide between Beetroot salad, white wine, lemon and garlic calamari or the pate. And then the table next to ours ordered a chicken pot pie, from which the delicious aroma sent me into fits of confusion. Perhaps I could ask for a bite…??
In the end I ordered the duck breast on Asian snowpea salad with coriander, chilli and lime. The salad was the size of a neat deck of cards, topped with 6 generous slices of tender, juicy duck breast. I couldn’t fault it. Both my dining partners ordered prawn fettucine which was made light by capers, lemon and dill.
I also learnt that Vinko will not stop grinding the pepper until you say thankyou – so keep an eye out!
The 40 or so minutes that we were there saw the cafe filled inside and out (there’s a sweet courtyard out the side door) and large white plates of delicious looking food kept walking past me in a dangerously tempting display!
Bistro on Cinders opens for breakfast and specialises in scrambled eggs, mushrooms and pikelets (although turkish toast is the only bread on offer). During the summer months they open weekend nights for dinner and you might find yourself tempted by ‘Kinkawooka’ mussels or marinated lamb rump with minted peas and roast capsicum.
So now I’ve given you food for thought for breakfast, lunch and dinner – I think there’s little else to do but road trip to Armidale and check it out!!
January 15, 2011 § 13 Comments
I have a secret for you! But please don’t tell too many people, it’s already a struggle to find a seat after 10am. My secret is called Bottega.
‘Bottega’ means atelier, shop, artists workroom, and this little cafe/deli in the heart of New England is certainly a space for stylish tastes.
Established 3 years ago by Phil and Donella Tutt (who you might remember from the Elephant Bean cafe in Katoomba or at Solitary Kiosk in Leura), Bottega brought to the town of Armidale the ‘casual eatery’, showcasing regional produce and local flair. While the eatery was sold in early December 2010, it hasn’t skipped a beat. From the kitchen you can still expect simple and elegant meals based around regional produce, with honey from Tenterfield, organic Pasture Perfect Pork from Ashford, and lamb and beef from the properties just outside town. When rainbow trout is on the menu it will have been sourced from nearby Arc-en-Ciel at Hanging Rock. At Bottega, the dream of Paddock-To-Plate is coming true.
I’ve come back home to Armidale for a few days, to catch up with the family before NB and I choof-off to America. The area has always been known for good land, which means good meat, cheese, potatoes, berries and fantastic cool-climate wines, but seeing it all exhibited together on the one menu – well I was both impressed and proud of my little town!
This morning’s brunch was in the delightful company of The Duck and Major General CFC – Saturday morning regulars of the cafe. We took a seat at the back of the room, which is light and airy thanks to two walls of windows facing the tree lined street. Within moments Major General CFC had conducted a nifty eyebrow conversation with our friendly barista Steve, which basically said we’ll have the usual (extra extra extra hot lattes with extra hot milk on the side). Impressive, I know! The three of us like to think of ourselves as the EXTRA HOT LATTE Muskateers, yet rarely do our journeys end in really hot milk. I didn’t believe The Duck when she said that Steve is a magician on the machine, but oh oh oh was she right! The milk was hot, not burnt! The grind was strong, not bitter! The crema was rich, not frothy! I am considering offering this man a space in my suitcase!!
After our cafe au lait we ordered breakfast. The menu is succinct but quality, with options for sweet or savory tastebuds. Perhaps you’ll order scrambled eggs with fresh basil, tomato and prosciutto, sourdough with mushrooms and sauteed spinach or rich fruit toast with ricotta and Hanks Jam. Lunch is a number of different toasted paninos as well as a tempting daily blackboard special. The Duck and Major both stayed true to form with poached eggs, prosciutto and toast, while I savoured the most delicious slow baked borlotti beans that I have ever eaten, must I really share?!?!
The Major and I both have a sweet tooth that is hard to tame so we couldn’t help but order one of the giant homemade chocolate brownies ($7), with two scoops of icecream! If chocolate at 10am is too intense you might like to try the polenta, lemon and almond cake, a slice of apple and pear torte or a piece of the baklava ($4.50).
On your way out, pick up some goodies to take home from the selection of relishes and jams, Doodles Creek dressing, vinegars, cheeses, cured meats, Morpeth sourdough and pannetone, just to mention a few.
So tell me Blushers, what’s your local secret?!
January 6, 2011 § 11 Comments
I’ve just left a 90 minute massage and am floating on a cloud of orange oil and rosemary essence bliss. Obviously I can’t be expected to do anything productive this afternoon, so instead I have opened a coconut and am going to tell you about Govinda’s (112 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst NSW 2010).
If you read my last post you would know that NB and I are on a mission. A mission to finally visit the little locals we’ve talked about for months. Govinda’s has long been on the mission list, which is somewhat silly as NB lives right across the road, and now I’ll put on my Tom Cruise sunglasses when I say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
If you’re not familiar with Govinda’s it is a movie theatre and vegetarian Indian restaurant in one. For $30 you go and enjoy the all you can eat buffet and then head upstairs to catch either the 7:30 or 9:30 movie session, where you lie down on cushions and lengthen yourself out like a resting cat.
It was a cold Tuesday night when we booked in and we shook our heads in astonishment that we had to wear jumpers in the last week of December. Oh well, the weather made it a perfect night for an aromatic curry and a snuggley movie-seat.
We were greeted by a pretty Norwegian girl in a field green sari and shown to our seat around the back corner of the room where the lights were dim enough for ambience but light enough for a good view of the food. She explained to us that you may return to the buffet as many times as you want, but take a new plate each time. All the food is vegetarian and some is vegan.
We started with bowls of yellow split-lentil dhal, a warming mix with a smooth flavour and not too much chilli. Then back to the buffet for plates of curry – a cheesy tasting cauliflower and potato, tomato based beans and fried tofu and some sort of tempeh meat balls (which I think could have fooled even the hardest carnivore). There was white rice, brown rice, and a couscous, chickpea and vegetable pilaf, as well as chutneys and raitas, pappadams, seeds and kernals and even pasta bake, potato wedges and iceberg lettuce leaves for those less adventurous.
We spied the table next to us as they received their desserts. Less Indian than Dairy Queen I think, chocolate mousse with canned- whip cream, banana splits and cake hidden with ice cream and topping. Mmmmm maybe not! Instead NB ordered a delicious mango lassi while I sipped on a big pot of steaming hot English Breakfast tea.
Very full, we struggled upstairs, happy to lie down on one of the day beds and watch the 9:30 screening of Winter’s Bone. The only problem now is trying to keep yourself awake, full, comfortable and oh so content!
January 5, 2011 § 8 Comments
When I decided to move to the other side of the world I didn’t fully grasp the amount of effort it would take! In hindsight, packing up my life and moving during the Christmas/New Year/ Summer Party season was not my finest thought! Somehow I have been trying to organise myself in between sipping cocktails, cooking BBQs and catching a few summer rays before the Northern winter. Through all this I’ve found that it’s the little things that take the longest amount of time, like choosing which novels I have to leave behind or remembering to change the address for my FlyBuys card (which reminds me…!)
But it’s really the last minute eating that is stressing me out! NB and I have nibbled (and gorged) our way through some amazing Sydney eats, but I’m still feeling weighed down (pardon the pun) with that – oh we should have gone there! – feeling.
These thoughts have seen us diligently crossing off a few extra locals over the past few days. Grill’d served up some top-notch steak sandwiches, herbed chips and vege burgers. While Sushi Yachiyo outshone its reviews with the nicest edamame I’ve had in Sydney, as well as hot fried agedashi tofu, melt in the mouth wagyu cheek, light and crunchy tempura, pork-filled gyoza (we were obviously on a health binge that day!) and a neat plate of nigiri sashimi.
It’s time like these that also require you to pop in to Messina for an afternoon scoop of choc-mint gelato or get a tub of WowCow frozen yoghurt with crushed almonds and M&Ms for the walk down William St. Or you might find yourself ordering ‘The Inferno’ from Danny’s La Bussola Pizza even though it’s Tuesday night and only days after a New Year’s resolution of healthy eating…(actually the resolution was to use less technology. Fail.)
AsI leave Sydney on Saturday and head back home for my last two weeks in Aussie-land I decided to spend today
chilling out at the beach packing, something that tends to leave me hot and bothered. Now picture this, it’s midday, you have two days left in Sydney and should be hanging with the cool kids but instead you find yourself sitting on the floor in a room surrounded by clothes, books, hairdryers, handbags, skipping ropes and gym mats. It’s simply a recipe for disaster (like that time I forgot to put the caster sugar in the orange and poppyseed cake – & I’m not even lying!) Enter NB and the grand suggestion that we take a wander down William St to eat lunch at Miss chu – Rice Paper Queen (which had moved to the top of the must-try list ).
I want to sound like Usher when I say “oh oh oh oh oh oh ohhhmygod”
We lined up at the tuckshop and our food came ready in a paper bag and cute little boxes. I just love the packaging!
The Fresh Spring Rolls with Duck & Banana Flower ($8 for 2)
We ordered 2 lots of steamed dumplings, the Shanghai pork were my favourite although the Asian vegetable with garlic chives were also nice, a duck pancake that received great reviews from NB, a pork char sui bun (not normally my thing with all the dough but this was pretty darn tasty! Just like pork stew in soft bread) and a serve of duck and banana flower fresh spring rolls (from which they get their namesake). The fresh spring rolls were so packed full of herby goodies, not just the obligatory noodle, although you definitely need the dipping sauce for that added flavour hit. But I loved that they made me feel incredibly healthy and self-satisfied! Add to this two bottles of water and it still comes to a total under $30 (you can’t get two sandwiches in Sydney for that price anymore!) .
Why oh Why did we not try this place before?!?!
December 21, 2010 § 7 Comments
When was the last time you were truly spoilt? For me it was Wednesday, December 8, when the amazing NB took me to dinner at Tetsuyas.
I remember receiving my first subscription to delicious. magazine in 2004 when I was fifteen years old. It was around this time that degustation had become the new black, Tetsuyas was on fire and I was sitting at home in a small country town bemoaning the fact that I would never experience a romantic dinner at this great institution. I’m sure many of you can empathise! So when NB told me that there was no way we’re leaving Australia without going to Tetsuyas first…it was a dream come true!
Here is a quick run down of the day:
- 6:00 AM teach pilates in Alexandria where I share excited gossip with Fit-Mama-Chef who had recently visited Tetsuyas for her birthday. I now understand why her eyes glazed over with mention of ocean trout confit!
- 10:30 AM have a session with my PT who kills me with compound-weight exercises and then suggests that the best remedy for aching triceps is dinner at Tetsuyas (and possibly an epsom salt bath!)
- Midday Meet AB for a coconut water and a handful of nuts – I’m trying to save my appetite. We spend a few hours lolling around down at Bondi (ps – how civilised is my life sounding right now?!!?)
- 2pm Decide I really need to eat something lest I collapse and decide to head home for a bowl of peas and a white peach. I then lay on the carpet and read every site that mentioned Tetsuyas
- 4pm Begin the ‘Princessification’ process
- 6pm…still fiddling around with hair and nails and dresses and realise I am running late to get the bus
- Meet NB at Town Hall and we walk to Kent St
- 7:30pm Enter Tetsuyas with two door men, a maitre d, and a fourth waiter to show us to our seats
And then it began. Fleur was our waitress for the run down of the menu and our go-to-girl should there be any problems. She kept an eye on our drinks waiter, refilled our bread and checked to make sure the pace of the food was enjoyable (it was). When she sat us she asked if we were there on an occasion – umm yeah – the occasion is that my boyfriend’s awesome! Then we had a waiter to top up our water glasses and take our wine orders and another to bring the food to the table.
The ten-course degustation is $210 pp and there is an option for matching wines at $95 pp but after speaking with Fit Mama Chef, who found herself a bit giggly around the fifth course, and reminding myself that I had to be in the gym at 6:30 the next morning, we decided to order drinks as we went. The wine list is an absolute tome, I’m sure it’s one of the finest in Sydney, and it was a tough decision that led me to a Viognier from the Adelaide Hills. NB tried a couple of different beers.
The place is incredible, broken up into three or four (or five?!) dining rooms that felt, like NB said, as though you were eating in someone’s rather fancy home rather than a restaurant. In the room we were seated there were 11 tables, so you had plenty of private space to whisper sweet-nothings or whatever it is people do on such occasions…The glass wall looks onto Tetsuyas Japanese garden with a real-life sized waterfall and a pond that I imagined would be full of golden carp. As the evening darkened and little white lights twinkled outside, I felt as though we were in a fairytale.
The presentation of the food was second to none – a dust of celery here, a swipe of avocado soup there, a sprouting of sea cucumber. While I wish I had photos to share it just didn’t seem like the appropriate thing to do. So instead I’ll write out the menu and let your imagination run wild! Any last words?
Oh My God.
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Chilled Cucumber Soup with Sheep Yoghurt Ice Cream
Sashimi of Kingfish with Blackbean & Orange
Marinated NZ Scampi with Avocado Soup & Avruga
Confit Petuna Ocean Trout with Konbu, Celery & Apple
Fillet of Mulloway with Asparagus & Pil Pil
Braised Ox Tail with Sea Cucumber & Yuzu
Pancetta Wrapped Quail Breast with Fresh Sprouts & Onion
Seared Veal Fillet with Sea Urchin and Wasabi Butter
Blood Orange Sorbet and Summer Pudding
Golden Peach with Peach Granita
Chocolate Pavé with Cream Cheese Ice Cream & Cinnamon Twigs
November 30, 2010 § 9 Comments
Some people love airports and love flying. My dad will always arrive at an airport many hours before his flight to watch the planes land. My brother believes that longer flights are a haven for movie watching and whiskey drinking. Similarly NB doesn’t mind hanging about in the terminal as long as he has access to hotdogs, a good book and a bag of chocolate-peanut-sultana trail mix.
Not me. I don’t like airports and I don’t like flying. I don’t like waiting. I don’t like sitting. I don’t like bad coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts. I don’t like being inside. I don’t like turbulence or being stuck in a capsule way up in the sky. And I don’t like airplane scrambled eggs.
But I love to travel, and when you live in Australia you have to accept that long flights and holidays go hand in hand.
So here I am, sitting on the floor with NB in an American airport, waiting for a delayed flight to Atlanta, another (also potentially delayed) flight to LA, before boarding a plane for the 15-hour flight back to Sydney. If I were a clairvoyant I would predict the next 25 hours to include: Inside. Waiting. Turbulence. Bad eggs.
But I really shouldn’t complain, having spent the last ten days holidaying in Charlotte, North Carolina, where we spent Thanksgiving with NB’s family and friends, savouring good food, good drink and good company.
Now I know America gets a bad rap in the media about their eating habits, but I am happy to report that there is a lot of good amid the bad.
Admittedly, sometimes it is too goooood if you know what I’m saying – When was the last time you had a country fried steak for breakfast? It takes me back to my childhood of homemade veal schnitzel, densely crumbed and fried, but never eaten before 6pm and not usually served with an extra plate of hash browns and fried eggs.
Other goood Southern specialties that might tickle your fancy include buffalo wings, sticky ribs and red velvet cake.
Or perhaps you would rather a giant meatball stuffed with mozzarella cheese? Why not! It’s really really goooooood.
A side dish to breakfast at Cook House, Cornelius.
But there is also some ‘real’ GOOD. We snacked on berries and nuts and one day after the gym I found a nice place to buy sushi. Another morning I only paid $4.50 for a massive plate of hummus and flatbread at Pewter Rose and today, on the way to the airport, I got a yummy takeaway vegetable soup from Panera bread. Plus the waitstaff work on the tips system so if you want to order a plate of plain lettuce with dressing on the side and a bottomless glass of soda water then you’ve got it.
My way to start the day.
But of course it wouldn’t be America without the bad. The country can do things to scones (‘biscuits’) that would make an Australian grandmother shudder in her knitted cardie. There is also liberal use of cheese at every opportunity, such a variety of sodas that would make your teeth ache and the sheer affordability of crap is simply dangerous. It’s enough to make the mind boggle.
The menu at Bojangles.
Here is some advice that I would like to share with you, dear blushers, for eating in the Land Of Opportunity.
- Do not wash and iron your jeans mid-holiday. They will shrink. You will not enjoy this.
- Do not feel that it’s necessary to blog about the top three fast food joints in the area during the Thanksgiving/eating holiday period. Later, when you’re rolling around with indigestion, you will realise that this was not a good idea.
- Avoid loitering around bowls of pistachio nuts, cake slices or corn chips.
- After ignoring Tip. #3 and devouring the above…blame the dog.
But most of all just go with the flow. Now is not the time to be paranoid about
- OR remembering that upon returning to Australia it will be beach weather (gasp and die).
Finally, here is my list of American foodie surprises for your enjoyment!
Number one grocery surprise:
It is very difficult to find full fat, plain, unsweetened Greek yoghurt. The country is obsessed with low fat/added sugar.
Number one grocery discovery:
EarthFare – which will become my organic wholefood haven in 2011. Thankyou NB Senior!
Number one cafe surprise:
Packets of potato chips as a ‘side’ to sandwiches
Number one cafe discovery:
Free refills of drinks!
Number one food surprise:
Scones are called biscuits (and they make the jam and cream variety look healthy).
Number one food discovery:
Shrimp and grits…a Southern delicacy!!
Every tub is flavoured and low-fat. Every tub. Incredible.