Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Cocktails @ Hinky Dinks

Cocktails are always fun and when you have friends visiting from overseas and it's their birthday why not choose Hinky Dinks for a fun, quirky, retro and brilliant venue for a cocktail or three.
Great cocktail menu
It's all about the cocktails here.  So many to choose from.  So I go with something really fun!  Popcorn in a cocktail. Why not?

Popcorn Paloma - popcorn infused tequila with fresh vanilla syrup, salt and topped with sparkling grapefruit soda

This was so refreshing and could have stayed on these all night.  The caramel popcorn is toffee like with a hint of salt and floats on the surface of the jar. 

Cocktails need snacks so we ordered the salsa and corn chips to nibble on.

Birthday girl and me 
Love this girl to bits.  We haven't seen each other since I moved from Dubai over 3 years ago. Celebrating her birthday in Sydney was awesome! I miss her.....

I feel we are going to work our way through the list and go with the Automobile (pictured front) next.  Mixology of Tanqueray Gin, fresh lime, a dash of grenadine, fresh mint & ginger beer.  Another winner!  Okay, I'll admit THIS is the one I could drink all night.  Again, refreshing.  I love ginger beer in drinks.

 I am led to believe that the fancy yellow cocktail in the background is a Glenlivet & Let Die - mixed with 12 year old Glenlivet, amaro, orange sherbert reduction, fresh lemon, egg whites, orange sugar crust rim.  It looks fancy and girly and we have a giggle as Mr Fu sips on it.

The boys behind the bar are friendly and fun and will help you out with whatever tastes you have.  The bar has a retro 50's feel to it and I like the old fashion bar....but I love the pineapple jar on the counter!

Next up for Mr Fu is a old fashioned Manhattan (I think).  I know this wasn't on the menu.  I may have become a little less observant by this stage.

 To finish off the cocktail session (before heading to more cocktails and dinner) we end with a Dr Gonzo which has Mezcal, cherry brandy, Benedictine, triple sec, fresh lime topped with pineapple juice, raspberry syrup and a dash of bitters.

Not sure what I was thinking with this one.  I'm not a cherry brandy person (or anything cherry except for fresh cherries) so this was an odd choice for me.  Not the favourite of the night I'm afraid, but that's just my taste buds.  Still drinkable though.
Hinky Dinks is a great little cocktail bar in Darlinghurst and is the perfect place to meet friends or for a hot date! 
Hinky Dinks on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Peacock Trattoria @ Kyle Bay

A friend had been raving about a restaurant for awhile and telling me we should go.  We were due a catchup so she organised a long lazy lunch (where she surprised me with other friends coming along).   Always up for a girly lunch!

Who would have thought that this gem of a restaurant would be found in the quiet suburb of Kyle Bay in the St George area.  Actually I shouldn't say that because it's these little neighbourhood gems that brings the locals together! So where is it?  It's the Peacock Trattoria in Kyle Bay. Nothing really reminded me of Trattoria nor Italian about it....but I loved it.  More contemporary bistro/cafe feel, with a colourful peacock adorning the walls and an open feel about the place it's inviting.

Upon arrival we are seated outside in the sunshine and the delightful and witty manager with his Irish lilt charmed us!  We all piled in to read the lunch menu off the board inside the restaurant with lots of suggestions and recommendations and in the end we basically decide to go with the 5 dishes he has recommended.  Talk about easy pickings! 

The rose is opened and poured, glass in hand all I can say is the afternoon was full of girly conversation, gossip and lots of laughs.  Definitely what I needed to restore the soul.  Girlfriends always put great  perspective on things!!!!
We start with the crispy duck salad.  The bitterness of the witlof and radicchio and the pepperiness of the watercress set off rich, crispy duck pieces.  The toasty hazelnuts scattered throughout add some crunch and the sweet vino cotto dressing is sticky and light.

Crispy duck salad with pear, watercress, witlof, radicchio, hazelnuts and vino cotto

This daily special was thrown in as a contender at the last minute.  I love Balmain bug but find there just never is enough.  Two bugs cut in half and deep fried, was crispy, hot and the bug was tender and sweet, but as I said never enough. The egg, avocado salsa was creamy and very surprisingly good with the bug meat.  I like the presentation in the wooden box.

Daily Special - Bug fritters with an avocado, egg and broad bean salsa
I wasn't enthused about the roast peppers when I read it on the menu but the mixture of  saltcod stuffed into the peppers and a puree was a surprise.  The grilled octopus in the sauce made it even better!  The peppers were sweet and tender.

Roast baby peppers with salt cod, chickpea, grilled octopus and salsa crudo

We have obviously gone with a seafood theme (which I have just realised) and these scallops do not disappoint.
The scallops are charred and just cooked through perfectly (like they should be) on top of a bed of jerusaleum artichoke, spiced purple cauliflower and broadbeans.  I will admit I think this is the first time I've had jerusaleum artichoke and I'm hooked.  Definitely would like to have that again.  In fact, I'd definitely have this dish again!
Sicilian scallops, jerusalem artichoke, spiced cauliflower and broadbeans
Everyone was keen on the Pepperoni Pig pizza and who could argue?   Cubes of chilli roasted pork, pepperoni, asiago cheese and tomato sauce.  Rustic, crispy and moreish!  A winner.

Pepperoni Pig Pizza with chllli roasted pork, pepperoni, asiago and tomato

There may have been another bottle of wine opened at some point and we were definitely enjoying the moment with a long over due catchup.  Girls lunches are always fun and full of laughs.  We were enticed by the dessert options, but were way to full to fit it in....which is a shame, because they sounded delicious....just more reason to return....
Note that it is cash only and there are no ATM's around, so come prepared.  It's very reasonably priced.  It's BYO as well as offering a range of wines too.  I have to agree with their motto too...'it's all about the food'
Definitely one of those neighbourhood gems that I would love to come back too.  I am now working on a list of other little hidden gems in around the 'burbs.  What's your neighbourhood gem?
Bellies full and laughs continuing....I do know that we decided to continue on at the Kyle Bar Bowling Club for more drinks well into the evening (because we're classy like that).....but that's another story!!!!

Selfies at the Bowlo

Peacock Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Making soft cheese @ The Cheesemaking Workshop

I love cheese.  Soft cheese, hard cheese, fresh cheese, aged cheese and stinky cheese.  I love it all. 

So it was only natural that I was keen to learn how to make cheese.  I have wanted to do a workshop for sometime and I was very spoilt by a very dear friend for my 40th birthday who was generous with a gift certificate for The Cheesemaking Workshop soft cheese making course. 

Lyndall (who is the founder)  along with Sue and David run workshops all over NSW.   They offer both the soft cheese workshop and the advanced cheese making (which incorporates harder cheeses along with blue vein) as well as other workshops and corporate courses.

With eager and excited anticipation I headed over to Northbridge on Saturday to partake in a day of all things CHEESE!

I was greeted by Sally, who is vibrant, friendly and welcoming and will be our facilitator for the day.  There are nine of us today (the workshop can accommodate 12), aprons are passed around and I teamed up with a lovely married couple and after introductions we become the 3 R's for the day.  There are three groups of three.

We are all eyeing off the cheese platter on offer and it takes awhile before we all start to taste.  The platter consists of camembert, feta, labne and a blue camembert, along with some natural yogurt and mascarpone - all of which we are learning to make today except for the blue - that's just a teaser for the advanced course!

The feta is amazingly salty and sharp and I'm liking it.  Hope mine turns out like that!
We are given a breakdown of all our equipment and keeping things separate to stop cross- contamination of the cheeses.

Our workspace for the day.  The polystyrene boxes have a big 10ltr container which is our cheese vat and helps keep the dairy environment nice and warm and cozy, perfect conditions for making good cheese.
We start with making ricotta.  We gently heat our milk to the required temperature, add in white vinegar and watch as it starts to come together (which is called a raft).  This sits for 20 minutes or so as the curds and whey separate.

Ricotta turns out to be the most easiest cheese to make and something I know I will be making at home!

We then move onto preparing our milk for both the camembert and feta. They are mixed in a vat in the polystyrene box (to keep it warm).

While that is doing it's thing we stop for morning tea. Tea and coffee in hand we sit down to the large 12 seater dining table and munch on these lovely mascarpone and ricotta tarts.  Creamy but not very sweet and they delicious.

It's not long and we are back in the kitchen.  We are now ready to hoop our ricotta (see I'm learning the lingo) and our 4 litres of milk gives us two decent size hoops.  Once the whey is drained away it's ready to eat (roughly 20-30 minutes).  Our ricotta is going to be used in our lunch today.

Over to the benches to tend our feta.  Here we are cutting the feta into cubes before we start to 'turn' the curd.  It's starting to set to a pannacotta consistency.  When we start to turn it it will allow the whey to separate more.
We are then given a demo on how to make natural yogurt and then to hang the yogurt to make labne.  I get to do the hanging for this one.  Labne is sometimes called a yogurt cheese.  It's middle eastern in origin and is delicious rolled in dukkah or fresh herbs.  I suggest rolling in sumac too, which gives it a lemony taste.
We learn about the different cultures used in the cheeses and get to taste the products at each step to learn the textures and tastes of what the end result should be.  There is no waste once you learn what to do with it.  Even the by product whey can be used (if you want to).
As an extra element, Sally shows us how to make a quick pullapart bread with feta and olives and homemade butter (and buttermilk) which will be served with our lunch.  So easy!
After turning our curd and draining the whey we hoop our camembert.  This fills four hoops and I think they are going to be huge wheels.  But I can confirm that today (2 days after hooping) the cheese has drained and is more dense and compacted (about 1/3 of the original size).

We break for lunch and the spread is fresh and inviting.  Even though we have been picking on cheese and crackers all morning I am still hungry.  Alexia, who is in the kitchen today, has cooked up a lovely lunch of baked camambert with caramelised onions, a salad with feta, spinach and ricotta tarts with a capsicum sauce, the pullapart bread and the freshly made butter.



It was delicious and light and refreshing!  The communal lunch is full of chatter and laughter as we all get to know each other.  Feeling revived and refreshed with food we move onto the afternoon session, we are shown how to make the rich and divine mascarpone (which doesn't have as much cream in it as one thinks!).
We invert our camembert and you can see just how much whey has already come away from the cheese and the cheese is shrinking.
It's time to do one more turn on our feta before hooping it.  Our team ended up with loads of curd from our batch and made 4 very full hoops (and then some).
This will show exactly how much it shrinks over time (see photos below).
By the end of the afternoon we are armed with cheese recipes, enough knowledge to make the cheese and we are all eager to go home and experiment.  After purchasing kits and cultures we say our thank yous and goodbyes and head off ....
The soft cheese making workshop was a fantastic experience and I learnt quiet alot about cheese and what effort goes into to making it. The camembert and feta are definitely the most time consuming cheeses to make in this course, however in the grand scheme of things it's not really labour intensive. Just needs the TLC to get it to the eating stage!
I hear good things about the advanced cheese making course where you learn to make cheddar, blue vein, havarti and mozzarella to name a few. Now I just need to choose a date to do this one too! I'm hooked....but perhaps I need to perfect some of the soft cheeses first.....
I can highly recommend this day to anybody that is interested in making cheese!  I know my head is spinning with possiblities.
Thanks Cheesemaking Workshop for a great experience.
Three days later..........
.....this is what my cheese is starting to look like.  The top cheese is camembert and the bottom is my feta.  On Sunday morning I gave my camembert its brine bath with added mold spores and is now drying out in it's cool esky (in my garage) for the next 8-10 days.  Hopefully little white hairs will start to grow on it and then it will be ready in a few weeks.
Yes I had to colour code my cheeses so they wouldn't get mixed up.  They look exactly the same.  So to ensure the right step was done to the right cheese I had to have a system.  In future it will be easy as I will only do one type of cheese at a time.
The bottom cheese - the feta - is ready for it's briny bath this morning and will be ready to eat tomorrow.  I can't wait to try this.


Friday, 12 September 2014

Travel Photo of the Month - September 2014

Somehow I have missed August's Travel Photo of the Month.  What with the ups and downs that life throws at you time passes way to quickly and it's time to slow things down again. 

I am always planning the next holiday, dreaming of far off destinations, working on a bucket list and reminiscing of past travel and fun times (there has been a bit of that lately), living in the present and refocusing on the here and now and the near future.  There can only be good things to come.

So jumping for joy here is a place that left me a little breathless.....

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Bridge St Garage

I try to avoid mixing business with pleasure - in this instance dining out for a work function and blogging about it, but I couldn't help myself today there was just to much good food.

A team lunch (for 2 farewells) found us at Bridge St Garage. An American style bar and diner with a latin American twist on the menu housed in an old garage in the heart of the CBD.

Enter from bridge St into the bar area or there is an entrance from Bridge Lane that takes you into the bistro area out the back.  Entering the bar you definitely feel like you are stepping back in time to an old era garage complete with old oil company signs, tyres, exposed brickwork,  old tiling and quirky little knicknacks shelved on the walls.  I like the feel and atmosphere!

Check out the mechanic's tools beer taps.

We are seated in a booth opposite the kitchen, perfect for food gawking and kitchen watching.  Browsing the wine selection we choose a Trumpeter Malbec, a red to go with burgers.


The menu is Latin American inspired American pub food and it's a hard decision what to go for.  We start with a couple of serves of the Guacamole and Chips.  It's a classic!

For mains there is many choices had by the team.  Luckily they let me take photos of their dishes before noshing in.... one reason why the quality of the photos are not so good.  No time to set up and style, low lighting (one of my colleagues was kind enough to light his phone up for extra lighting - I told him he would come in handy at a food bloggers dinner *giggles*) and generally didn't want to be a nuicance around colleagues!
First up the Bridge St Garage Reuben - New York classic, shaved pastrami, bacon sauerkraut, gruyere cheese, special sauce, coleslaw and pickles.
New York cut grass-feed steak - 300g of stiploin, coleslaw, hand cut chips and beer battered onion rings.  This got a rave review!
Onto the burgers. 
A Garage burger - dry aged Angus and Waygu beef patty with tomato, beetroot, pineapple, bacon, provolone cheese and special Garage sauce on a toasted bun and hand cut chips.  It's an Aussie works burger meets Latin American style! 

....and then there was my burger (a few of us actually ordered this).  The Gaucho Burger - A dry aged Angus and Wagyu beef patty, spanish onions, lettuce, radicchio, provolone cheese, chimichurri sauce on a toasted bun, this also is served 'hot-rod' style with a spicy patty!!!! 

The beef patty is medium rare (exactly how I like my meat) and is juicy.  This is a good burger and it certainly had some kick to it. 
I love the cute baskets that the hand cut chips are served in and all our meals are served on wooden chopping boards. 
Overall, the food is tasty the atmosphere is good for a CBD lunchtime and feel that this could be a great venue for drinks and dinner after work or a Friday night.


Bridge Street Garage Bar & Diner on Urbanspoon