Thursday, 21 August 2014

Taste Orange @ Sydney (Martin Place)

Luck was on their side today as the the heavens held off the rain for the opening of Taste Orange in Martin Place.  It's on until Friday.  Wine tastings and food during the day and there is a pop up bar on Thursday night (also last night) along with music and food.

I popped down early to beat the crowds and managed to have a good chat to a few of the wineries. 

First stop has to be Ross Hill Wines.  I have been a fan of Ross Hill wines since I first tasted their reds at the Taste Orange 2012.
I particularly like the Pinnacle Series Shiraz 2012 that is on offer today. This vintage has been awarded the top Shiraz in New South Wales by Huon Hooke. Always a pleasure.
Orange grapes are grown at higher altitude and cooler climes. It's perfect conditions for wine grapes, along with some of the best fruit in New South Wales including apples and stone fruit, amongst others (and no, oranges do not grow in Orange due to the cooler climate).
Second stop is Tamburlaine Organic Wines.  So, I have been a long time drinker of Tamburlaine.  It was recommended to me on a visit to the Hunter Valley many years ago when I mentioned that I sometimes had a reaction, which turned out to be sulphur, to some wines.  Being organic there is very low usuage of sulphur dioxide.
After a few tastings, I signed up as Wineclub member and enjoyed many bottles of Reserve wines.  However, when I moved overseas for a few years I stopped the membership.....and since returning have been meaning to sign up again....and I think it's time!
Although the Cellar door (and some vineyards) are in the Hunter Valley, Tamburlaine also have vineyards and a range of wonderful wines in Orange.  
Over at The Agrestic Grocer, there is a range of jams to be tasted.  I end up with a jar of a awesome burnt fig jam (perfect for a recipe I want to try).  Also grab yourself a unpolished, unwaxed fresh apple or pear!

 Fresh Fodder has a new offering in dips.  It's the Smoky Roe taramasalata and it's devine.  The smokiness throughout this taramasalata is only a hint but makes a huge impact (on me at least).

A Slice of Orange is a regional providore in Orange and works with local farmers and artisan producers to bring the seasonal products to you easily.  They sell a range of products from the region in store or online.  Their philosophy is local - and that's the way it should be. 

If you are in and around the city, get down to Martin Place over the next couple of days and have a looksy.  Orange is a beautiful part of New South Wales and I can't wait to visit again (I haven't been since I was a kid)....I will get there soon!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Ramsgate Organic Foodies Market

Saturday found me at Ramsgate Organics Foodies Market held in the grounds of Ramsgate Public School.  I had a lovely time wandering this market, filled with lots of small producers selling honey, truffles, french sausage, bread, homebaked goods, take home meals, burek, nougat, meat, seafood, flowers and nuts along with food ready to eat on the spot.  The market is also smattered with clothes stalls and boutique designers.

Everyone is friendly and took the time out to have a chat with me.  The vibe of the market is morning fresh, family friendly and has a huge community feel to it.

I noticed families out, people walking their dogs, groups of couples and friends grabbing a coffee and a roll for breakfast and locals doing their weekly shop.

First stall I come to is All Things Truffle....

truffle crisps
fresh black truffles
Many products are imported from Europe.  There are vinegars, oils, crackers and truffle crisps (from Spain) that I have a nibble on.  Wow!  However it's the fresh truffles from Tasmania that are on offer today that spark my interest.  I have a peak in the esky where they are nestled together and the aroma that wafts from the esky is heady and entoxicating.  At only $2.50 an ounce it's a bargain and I am tempted.  There is perhaps only 2 weeks left of this year's truffle harvest.
black gold

I couldn't help myself purchasing a slab of cheese and feta burek to take home and I stopped by the My French Food stall who make wonderful french sausage.

french sausage

I was in awe of the giant sausage rolls in the oven at Stevensons.   I had a chat with Meg, who lovingly bakes all the products on offer.  You can buy to eat straight up or purchase cold to take home.

There are 9-10 pies and rolls to choose from and I take home a 6 hour pot roast beef pie with an onion pumpkin gravy.  I had this for lunch yesterday (no photo) and I have to say it's the best pie I have had the pleasure to eat in a very long time. The tender grass fed beef and the richness of the gravy is so tasty!  I know I'll be back here for some pastries....and I understand that Meg's pates are amazing too.

Meg also prepares dinners to take home and the menu looks delicious.

gourmet dinners to take home

Over at Tamanu Oil, Nathan informs me that today's new product is roasted coconut crumbs.  He is very excited to be one of the first to sell this new product from Vanuatu.  They smell heavenly.  The crumbs can be used in baking or crumbing. There is something very tropically comforting with toasty coconut.

coconut crumbs
Tamanu Oil is from Vanautu, which is produced from the Tamanu Nut.  It is sustainable product.  Harvested after the fruit naturally falls to the ground.  The nuts are then collected and processed.  There is no impact on the tree.

Dr Oz is an advocate of Tamanu Oil and Volcanic Earth is one of the brands sold in Australia.

tamanu oil products
Being a pho girl I couldn't resist trying out Eat Fuh.  They have a huge following at local markets (they are also at Marrickville Markets on a Sunday).  The layers of flavours are warm and comforting on a cold winter morning like today.  Tender slices of rare beef, crunchy bean sprouts, flat rice noodles and herbage floating in a wonderful rich broth.  I like to call this a hug in a bowl.

Lastly, I stopped by to taste the Hangover Roll by Christina Battista.  I will admit I have been a fan of Christina since she appeared on Masterchef 2013.  I love her cooking style and love 50's fashion (although don't wear it as often as I would like - I always feel that I don't really 'fit' the fashion).   Anyway, it was a lovely opportunity to introduce myself and have a nice chat while she freshly prepared my roll. Barbequced chorizo and a gooey runny fried egg on a crusty roll with onions and capsicum and I add a good squirt of chimichurri sauce.  It's good and hits the spot (see you don't need to be hungover to enjoy this).

the hangover roll

I was tempted as always for a Waroo lamb roll (which I have had at other markets previously) but I was so full and had alot of goodies to take home...
Waroo lamb - get your lamb and a roll
but there is always next time................
* I have linked to the stall where I can for contact, if not I have linked to the markets for further information.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Caffiend Cafe, Rusty's Markets and The Courthouse Hotel @ Cairns

Our first ‘free’ day in Cairns just happened to be a Saturday and it was sunny and warm.

I needed my morning caffeine fix so headed off to  Caffiend Cafe Art Music, which is tucked down a graffiti laneway on Grafton St across from Rusty’s market, it’s a trendy cafĂ© that also specialises in music and art.  There is cupping sessions, live music sessions and art displays.

Menu is not lengthy but what is on offer is drool worthy. 
Here we start with the Morning Glory - two poached eggs, Marshes local bacon, roast pumpkin, oven dried tomato, smashed chat potatoes with red wine vinegar dressing with slaw.  I am told this was pretty good. 

I go with the Chilli Jam Poached Eggs - two poached eggs on wood fired sourdough, house made chilli jam, avocado and Marshes local bacon with pickled cucumber slaw.
This was a fabulous breakfast.  The poached eggs are gooey and oozes yolk all over my sourdough, exactly how I love my eggs and toast. The chilli jam offers some heat and the pickled cucumbers offers a little zestiness to the dish. 
After a leisurely breakfast we head over the road to Rusty’s markets. Buzzing with locals, families and tourists and definite regulars are out doing their shopping for fresh produce and sampling some great coffee’s, juices and tropical fruits. Rusty’s is held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and offers up some wonderful tropical fruits and so much cheaper than what we get in Sydney (obviously as it’s all local). 
The rainforest is perfect for coffee. Coffee Works has a stall at Rusty's or you could visit Coffee world out in the Atherton Tablelands. 
Loads of different blends and flavours. 
coffee beans
I jumped on the giant avocadaos for $1 each.  My avocado lasts three breakfasts and was unblemished and the best ripened avocado I have ever had. So creamy and rich spread on my toast!
hass avocados
Always a delight to sip on fresh sugar cane juice and by the length of the line PTN sugar cane is a popular one.
sugar cane and lime juice
garlic, ginger, tumeric, galangal
The red dragon fruit is vibrant and the deep red of the flesh is mesmerising.
Red dragon fruit
I eye off a stall on the other side of the market where the line is 3-4 deep and I wonder what people are waiting for.  Any curious foodie would be intrigued, so I headed over to see.  I could see people sipping from freshly husked coconuts, always a great sign, but a little further beyond this stall was the grated coconut and honey stall.
OH HELLO! This is more like it.
For $2.00 you get a half a freshly grated coconut drizzle in local honey and then you get to scoop it out with little spoons whitled out of the outer layer of a coconut - absolutely ingenious! 
I'm in awe!  the honey is sticky and sweet and blended with the shredded fresh coconut flesh it is a great little snack.

grated coconut and honey 
The markets are a must do on a visit to Cairns over the weekend.  Grab some fresh produce and have a picnic down along the Esplanade (or at the public pool that is there).  The markets also have a few food trucks that offer up burgers and noodles.  There is a small bar and you can sit back and listen to some live music too. 
I wish I had the room to sample some of the food trucks.  It looked pretty delicious.
After a few hours of some down time, shopping and some sunbaking by the public pool and reading we headed over to the Cairns Courthouse Hotel for the afternoon of cider a early dinner and just generally some chill out time.
Played a few games of Keno (which I don't noramlly partake in) and had a few ciders.  Before the bistro closed we had a burger and some flathead fish and chips. 
Standard pub grub.
and I won $3 on Keno......

cider and some keno
works burger and chips
fish and chips

Caffiend on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Red Lantern on Riley (and Red Lily)

When asked what my favourite cuisine is I will answer Vietnamese straight up. Saying that, this is always a question that makes me think.  Being the world traveller and global eater that I am there are many cuisines that fall into this category of 'favourites'.  So the question should be more on the level of what Asian cuisine is your favourite.
I have been a long time follower and fan of Luke Nguyen.  I have a number of recipe books and watch his TV shows.  I also have a copy of the 'Secrets of the Red Lantern' and have thoroughly enjoyed reading this too.  I'm always inspired to re-create dishes from these books.
Red Lantern has been on my radar for sometime and with friends visiting from Dubai (via Quebec) this was the first place that was a must to celebrate my friends birthday.
Red Lily cocktail menu
Arriving at the Red Lantern on Riley, I first notice the friendly welcome, the warmth of the space and the definite feeling of being transplanted into any restaurant in Saigon or Hanoi.  I'm left with a yearning to return to Vietnam instantly.
We are shown through to Red Lily at the back of the restaurant, which is the cocktail bar. 
The menu is vast and vibrant and rich with tropical fruit infusions.
cocktails all round
Top left - Berried in Chocolate - Mozart dark chocolate liqueur and creme de mure blackberry shaken with lime and a hint of lily's spiced winter syrup
Top right - Poached As - Spiced Wild Turkey and poached pear puree with Lily's spiced winter syrup and a red wine reduction
Bottom left - Ho Chi Minh Sling - lychees, lemon, cucumber and mint topped with dry gin, lychee liqueur and jasmine tea 
Bottom right - Pham Fatale - house infused kaffir lime leaf vodka shaken with lychee and ginger liqueurs and coconut water
I had the Pham Fatale and it was so refreshingly tasty.  The intense kaffir lime hit makes my taste buds tingle with pleasure.  Love this cocktail.
Well take a sip of each others (for reviewing purposes) and they are all delicious.  I could drink these cocktails all night.
We were finally seated and ready to devour the menu.  There is so many amazing dishes and it was hard to choose just a few to share.  Choosing entrees's seemed to be easier than choosing mains.  Entree's just seemed to pop out at us. 
We start with 3 entree's to share.
Cuon Thit Nuong
fresh rice paper rolls
Soft rice paper rolls of char grilled honey pork and Vietnamese herbs.  Fresh rice paper rolls are always a great way to start a meal.  Fresh, herby and so very tasty when the filling is perfectly balanced.  The honey pork is wonderfully sweet and charred.
Banh Bap Chien va Tom
I was curious about the prawn and cauliflower fritters and just had to sample them. 
Spencer gulf prawns and cauliflower fritters served with sweet fish sauce. 
Enveloped in lettuce, herbs and peanuts, dipped into the sweet fish sauce...popping these into your mouth was a pure pleasure.
But it was the last entree that stole the dish of the night for all of us. 
Banh Bot Chien
This is Aunty 5's rice cakes with tiger prawns, caramelised pork, pork floss and shallot oil.  I think there was a moment of silence with a moan or two  from the four of us as we relished every single bite of this dish.  This will be ordered again for sure!
I know I have the recipe for this but to try and duplicate it might just burst the bubble.  
Aunty 5's rice cakes
As mentioned earlier, mains were a little harder to choose.  We wanted everything but knew the tummy capacity was not going to allow that. 
In the end after much discussion we went with 3 dishes and a side with steamed rice too.
Bo Luc Lac
I ate many versions of this dish while living in Cambodia and it's a staple favourite.  Red Lantern's version is made with O'Connor Black Angus beef strip loin tossed in oyster sauce and sesame (although traditionally it is made with garlic and black pepper).
This was delicious. 
bo luc lac
Ca Nuong va Goi Hoa Chuoi
Pan fried fish fillets with tamarind sauce and banana blossom salad
We are torn with this dish.  half the table enjoy it, the other half not so much.   The  seeded crust is crunchy and nutty however the actual fish leaves a 'muddy' taste in your mouth.  That is not necessarily a bad thing.  If you prefer your white fish only you may have some problems with it. I'm okay with the 'muddiness' of the flesh and it doesn't displease the pallate so much  AND I WISH I COULD REMEMBER WHAT TYPE OF FISH IT WAS!
It appears that I haven't a decent photo of our third dish (but it's here in the background).
Ca Ri Vit
Burrwaong duck yellow curry with eggplant and cherry tomato. 
This was a lovely light curry and the duck is cooked between a medium and well done. 
We go with a side of tossed greens and steamed rice.  The tossed greens in bean curd are moreish and I keep going back for another piece.
Of course no dinner is complete without dessert and we decided that we would share one.
As we were celebrating Mrs Fu's ('25th') birthday she was surprised with a sparkler.
We had the banana fritter..  They only way to eat bananas in Asia in my opinion!
Coating in shredded coconut and served with icecream.
This was truly a delightful dinner and I will be returning again soon (even if it's just for Aunty 5's rice cakes).  Happy Birthday to my lovely friend Mrs Fu...hope your birthday holiday was amazing (even if you didn't get to cuddle a koala!)
Red Lantern on Riley on Urbanspoon

Friday, 8 August 2014

WDW: Narcoossee's at Grand Floridian

Another signature meal at the Grand Floridian Hotel is at Narcoossee’s. A signature meal is basically Disney Fine Dining and on the dining plan that I had it equates to two table service credits.

I arrive before sunset and gaze out upon the lake. Narcoossee's was a restaurant that I was really looking forward to dining at....even though it is "Floridian" it reminds me more of Maine? Not sure why as I have never been to Maine!

Grand Floridian

I start with a pre-dinner cocktail. Only a Key Lime Martini will do.

It’s dessert in a glass with a tangy zing. I’m liking it.

Key Lime Martini

Most meals start with the bread basket and the bread here is warm and fluffy.

Bread & Butter

For starters I go with something light and summery. Crab Cakes with southern slaw and cajun remoulade.

crab cakes

Crispy and full of sweet crab. There isn’t a lot of filler in these cakes and they are so tasty. The Southern slaw was perfectly creamy (and not swamped in dressing!) and the cajun remoulade was a great dipping sauce for the crab cakes.

For mains I chose the Steamed Whole Maine lobster, baked sherry cheddar orchiette pasta and asparagus.

maine lobster

A full plate of lobster and drawn butter...who can complain. The lobster was cooked perfect and it was tender and sweet. Meat chuncks fell out of the shell. The pasta was al dente very tasty. However I only took a mouthful or two of the pasta as I didn't want to have any was cheesy and a great accompaniment to the lobster....The asparagus was steamed perfectly...

I just couldn't do any more sweet stuff (I think I had finally hit my sugar ceiling for the trip) but I do love to end a meal (or start a meal too) with a good cheese platter. That I can do!

Artesinal Cheese Platter: Reypvaer VSOP, Purple Haze Goats Cheeseand Fourme D'Ambert

I had already sampled the Reyvaer VSOP and Forrme D'Ambert at California Grill but I was quite partial to the Purple Haze goats cheese.

This was a nice way to end a meal and a perfect end for my last day in Walt Disney World....