Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, La Pizza and Devine Gelato @ Cairns

The only thing we wanted to do and see on our first day in Cairns was jump on a catamaran and head out to the Great Barrier Reef.  Of course this just also happened to be one of the worst days to do so in the week we were up North...But we decided to still go out.

Overcast, cool and with threats of rain we boarded our vessel and sat out on the top deck for tea and muffins trying to catch the small amount of rays that were trying to shine through the clouds. 

choc chip muffins

Once we headed out to sea, we had to move inside.  30 knot winds and bouncing around the sea is not ideal (let's just say that for someone that never really feels seasick spent most of the trip out to the reef sitting on the back of the boat a little green!).

However, once we did reach the reef, things calmed a little and managed to spend a good couple of hours in the water, although quite choppy, the water was a warm 25 degrees (warmer in than out of the water) and we snorkeled around Milln and Flynn reef.

We swam with huge green turtles, saw a reef shark, a lagoon ray plenty of fish and some amazing coral (and yes we goofed around some with the photographer).
guess where I am?

snorkeling the reef

We got to meet this little (okay large) fella...goes by the name Dustin and/or Nigel depending on who you speak to.  He is a Napolean Wrasse and very friendly.

meet Dustin
We did manage a bite to eat, which was served buffet style.  A few local prawns, sushi, rice, chicken, stew and some salad.  It was basic stuff but tasty enough, however I really didn't have much of an appetite and barely touched it.

buffet offerings
After a fabulous day out, we had a few drinks and nibbles on our balcony overlooking the mangroves of Cairns.  I could easily get used to this. 

olives, dips, cheese and crackers with a vodka soda

For dinner we headed to La Pizza on the Esplanade, along with all the hordes of tourists, backpackers, families and the general population.  This place gets busy.

A few wines, some good conversation and we shared a pizza.  The menu offered to many wonderful toppings and we ended up with a half/half with Zucca and Alagnello.

The Zucca side had tomato, mozzarella, roasted pumpkin, feta, pine nuts and fresh rosemary.  The Alagnello had tomato, marinated lamb, red onion and red peppers topped with tzatziki sauce.  The pizza base was thin and crispy and held up with the delicious toppings.

gelato makes me happy
No night out is complete without gelato, so we headed up the road to Devine Gelato which is voted number 1 on Tripadviser. 

Epic fail on my part - but I don't seem to remember exactly what we ordered.  I think Mr C had caramel and something and I had a scoop of macadamia and a hazelnut one (I think)....boohoo.  It was creamy and very tasty, but I was just to full after (sharing) a pizza....

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Salthouse @ Cairns

Our first evening in Cairns was fabulous.  We left a very cold Sydney and landed in warm, sunny weather and I was excited about spending a week in the sun with my man (although the nights were very cool to cold). 

It seems I had been celebrating my 40th birthday for the past few days and who was complaining - so I wanted our first night in Cairns, which also happened to be the first night of our first holiday together, a little bit special.

The Salthouse was the only place I wanted to go and belive me when I say I did alot of food research for this holiday.

Strolling through the park watching the sunset set and the tree line walkway lit up was magical.  I could breath - we were on holidays.

beautiful sunset views from the park
We arrived and decided a pre-dinner glass of bubbles was the ONLY way to start the evening (okay we may have already polished off a bottle of Patriache Hermitage on the balcony.  The outdoor bar area is lovely (if not a little too cool for this time of year).  Big comfy chairs and cushioned benches scattered around, soft lighting and bubbling lit fountains.  It certainly made for a romantic mood setter.  Definitely a tropical and seaside/marine feel to this marina restaurant and bar.

life is flat without bubbles
Feeling a little peckish we headed into the restaurant and were seated by a bubbling fountain on the outdoor patio area (which is undercover).

Salthouse restaurant on the patio
Salthouse is known for it's seafood, however they also have a woodfired grill which using local ironwood timber.

The menu is mouthwatering, however we both knew we wanted the chilled seafood platter.  It consisted of king prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, natural oysters (from Tasmania), local red claw crayfish, baby octopus, Tasmanian smoked salmon, glazed yellow fin tuna and matching condiments.

We also added a caprese salad with plump balls of boccoccini, a variety of tomatoes and aromatic basil.

We also choose a bottle of the 2012 Fat Bird Saviougon Blanc.  Crisp, cold and pairs well with seafood.  We cannot help people watch in the restaurant and drooling over others dishes.  The woodfired steaks coming out of the kitchen look devine.

However, that changed when I had big cheesy grin on my face when the platter was placed in front of us. I was in my seafood happy place and we dug in with gusto.

seafood platter

The Tasmanian oysters were sprinkled with fish roe and tasted like the briny sea, fresh, plump and absolutely delicious, in fact the best oysters I think I have ever eaten.  I love a good bug and the Moreton Bay bug was simply steamed.  Easy picking out the tasty flesh and dunking it in a thousand island style dressing. The local red claw crayfish were yummy and the baby octopus was so tender and juicy.  What more can I say. This platter was perfect.

caprese salad

Niether Mr C or I are big dessert people (okay, maybe I should word it that we are partial to dessert occassionally but try not to indulge to often)...but we are celebrating and we both eye off the Chocolate Terrine.  So we share - how romantic (and better on the waistline!). Three heavenly wedges of chocolate terrine with peanut brittle, raspberry gel, chantilly cream, forest berry sorbet - I'm kinda of wishing I didn't have to share.  Do you think I could pull the 'it's my birthday' line to get more dessert?  No....

heaven on a plate

Satisfied, content and happy we revel in the atmosphere and the moment and thoroughly enjoy our evening here.  As far as seafood platters are concerned, this has to be one of the best platters in Cairns with a fantastic price tag!

Being a Tuesday night, it's quiet and not much happening but we do come back a couple of times during our stay (but more on that another time).

Marina Point,
6/2 Pierpoint Rd,
Cairns, QLD 4870
+61 (0)7 4041 7733

Salthouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 18 July 2014

Travel Photo of the Month - Swimming with the Fish

Last week I returned from a fabulous winter escape in Cairns.  I was whisked away for my 40th birthday by my wonderful man.

Our first day was spent out on Milln and Flynn Reef where we met Nigel, the Napoleon Wrasse...he was beautiful and friendly and very inquisitive.

Napoleon Wrasse on Flynn Reef, Cairns

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Masterclass with Matt Moran @ Sydney Seafood School, Fishmarkets, Pyrmont

I have been blessed with wonderful family and friends, who in their ultimate wisdom and knowledge of my passions and hobbies, have been overwhelmingly generous celebrating with me reaching the big 4-0 and have lavished me lots of foodie gifts!  

One of those gifts was a hot date with Matt Moran (okay I had to share him but that's not the point).

Last night found me sitting beside one of my dearest friends A (along with 40 odd other randoms), smiling and laughing along with celebrity chef, Matt Moran at the Sydney Seafood School at the Fishmarkets at Pyrmont.

This was my first time doing
a class at the Sydney Seafood School and I was super excited about doing it with a Celebrity Chef (yeah that sounds naughty!)

We were greeted in reception and ushered through to the lecture style room. Tiered seating offered a great view of the kitchen bench which also offered TV screens and mirrors for added coverage.

After introductions were made (not that any were really needed!) we were regaled of stories of his upcoming Season 2 of Paddock to Plate, along with chef/kitchen stories and of course following instructions on the 3 recipes that he was cooking (which in turn is what we would be cooking following the session).


Matt in action

My mouth was drooling just watching him cook and I have to say watching a chef in action is amazing.  They are so methodic and make it all look so easy. 

After this session were were then ushered into the main kitchen area where we were put in to groups of 6 at a bench and after introductions to our team for the evening we discussed amongst ourselves which dish was being cooked by whom. Two people to a dish. A and I were eager to do the Crab and Pea Risotto.

Everyone ended up helping everyone prepare our ingredients anyway, and we all were chatty and happy as we chopped, diced and sliced.

A having a go at skinning a squid

Matt made his way around to all the benches, overing tips and advice on our dishes, along with some photo bombing.

I really enjoyed this cook.  It was social and fun and learning to cook dishes that I hadn't attempted before.
icing down my peas (and yes I pea'd on the floor!)

This was the first time my friend A had attempted to cook seafood - I think she may just give it a go in her own kitchen now!
During our cooking time, I quickly popped out to purchase yet another cookbook (so don’t need another one right!!!!) and chose Dinner at Matt’s. He was close by to sign my copy and for a quick photo or two. He also signed my huge Birthday badge that A asked me to wear for the evening.

meeting Matt Moran

Matt Moran cookbooks

So what did we cook?
We start with risotto.  A dish that I very rarely eat.  I have attempted risotto in the past and I have always been disappointed in it. It's either to chalky, gluggy or starchy.  Over the past 5 years I haven't been eating alot of starchy carbs (ie bread, pasta or rice) not because of any allergen or dietary issues, just because I have adopted a high protein, low carb approach due to some surgery I had on my tummy.  There are days I wish I could eat a whole bowl of rice or pasta (just never going to happen) *sigh*...anyway I digress......

 Crab & Pea Risotto

 So this is the dish that A and I were allocated.  A did most of the actual cooking of it.  I mainly chopped and threw in the ingredients.

crab and pea risotto

I haven't cooked crab before.  Love to it when the luxury permits.  We used prepacked raw spanner crab (which takes the cooking and picking time out of the equation) and fresh peas.  We all mentioned how shelling fresh peas took us back to our childhood when we used to sit with our mum (or grandma) and shell a big bowl.  One of the ladies on our bench mentioned that her grandma made the kids whistle during the shelling.  Why I asked?  Because if you weren't whistling it meant you were eating the peas!!!! true!!!

I was very taken with this risotto and it's a definite on my recipe radar.

Chilli, Salt & Pepper Squid

chilli squid with fresh lime
Again, calamari is a dish I love to eat when out but never attempted at home.  But that has changed.  this was spicy and the calamari was tender.  Just make sure that your oil is very hot to ensure a crispy batter.

The ladies did a fantastic job, and plating was very pretty.

Steamed Blue-eye Trevalla with garden herbs and Sauce Vierge

blue-eye trevalla

This was surprisingly simple and easy to cook and definitely will be on the menu at a dinner party soon.  I think this is the first time I've taste trevalla.  It's a good meaty white fish but light and so very tasty.  The fresh herbs used are sensational and the tomato, lemon and peppery flavour of the sauce pairs well.

Receipes were easy to follow and plenty of staff on hand to show you where all our ingredients and cookware was placed around the benches.

I have always been wary of cooking seafood at home, mainly because it can be a very expensive protein to stuff up (and easily at that) and there have been plenty of times I've overcooked my fish but after tonight’s cooking class I feel a little more confident that I could do more seafood dishes at home.

Overall, I think we cooked, dished up and plated rather well in the 1 hour time slot and it was lovely to sit down with our ‘team’ and eat our creations ‘family’ style, chatting over a glass of wine and some fine food (if I do say so myself).
A & I celebrate over a glass of wine

The dining room is abuzz with activity.  We have set our own tables and we are to also clear them at the end of the meal.  Helps the staff with clean up.

I love the lighting in the dining room and absolutely love the design of the lights!

lighting in the dining room

If you like cooking, learning new techniques, cooking classes, celebrity chefs and/or seafood, I would recommend booking in to do a class.  The School offers a great current program.

Thanks to A, I and A for the wonderful birthday gift and being able to share this experience my my dear friend.  It was a fabulous night.  I have a feeling we will be back doing another class in the future!