Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Breakfast at Devon Cafe

So many reviews and so many visits this little cafe has had over the past few months but I was still eager to have an early mid week breakfast here.  Devon Cafe is a lovely little spot on Deveonshire Street near Central Station.  It was empty when I arrived, yet by the time I left it was full.
I sat on stools and bench overlooking the street and sipped on a good skim cappuccino while I waited for my breakfast.
The carnations made for a bright outlook!
I went with Two chicks in basque, which is a bowl of delicous, soft barely set eggs in a bath of a rich tomato based piperade topped with fresh, bright green pistou with a dollop of goats cheese.  My slab of charred sourdough was perfect dipped and scooped into the saucy mess.  The eggs are still slowly cooking in the hot sauce and oozing through it.  It's the perfect breakfast combination.

Two chicks in basque
Definitely on the list to return for more of the lovely looking menu.

Devon Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Thai Elephant @ Padstow

Occassionally, we get out and about in the 'burbs.  This particuarly night was a Monday, remember the big storm and hail last week....yeah, I got out in it and headed over to Padstow to catch up with some fabulous girlfriends.  We were long overdue a catch up and a *little* rain and hail wasn't going to stop us (much).
We have actually dined at the Thai Elephant before, so it was good to dine here again and see how it compares.
Ms B always has to start with moneybags! Always.  These little crispy parcels are pure joy.  A good dollop of pork filling is very tasty indeed.
money bags

Another must do dish is the chicken and cashew.  Yes, it's a staple on all Thai menus, but it's always good.  What I really do love here at Thai Elephant is the abundance of veggies added into the dish.  No skimping on protein too.
always nuts about chicken and cashews
No Thai meal is complete without a curry.  Red beef curry tonight for us.  Rich, creamy and not to hot for a red curry, full of morsels of beef, crunchy green beans and slithers of bamboo shoot too.  Love a good red curry poured over rice which absorbs all the lovely sauce.

red curry beef

We go with something completely random and go with a lamb satay.  This was a really great choice.  The lamb is tender and tasty and the satay sauce is peanutty and well balanced.  Full of veggies too which is always a bonus with me.


enough for three?
This was a lovely mid week meal (okay beginning of the week) but it's always made better when shared with girlfriends.  Tonight there was laughter, tears and a few belly laughs and snorts and very much needed by all three of us!  Looking forward to getting together again very soon.  Where to next ladies?
Thai Elephant on Urbanspoon

Saigon Queen @ Darlinghurst

I did warn you that my 40th birthday celebrations just keep on going.  Since my birthday in June I have been enjoying all the wonderful food focussed gifts my beautiful generous friends have given me.  My friends really do know me very well!
One such gift was a dinner for two at Saigon Queen for a 3 course meal.  Inviting said friend, L, we ventured out to Oxford St one Friday evening for a few wines at Shady Pines Saloon before heading over to Saigon Queen for a bite.
We were advised to make a reservation, however we were one of only a handful of people. 
The restaurant is BYO and we had taken a bottle of Sav Blanc to enjoy.
We start off with springrolls.  They are hot, crispy, a little oily but in a good way and the filling is generous.  Overall these are pretty good.
We decide to go with a pho bo (beef pho) and fried pork chop.  The bowl of pho is massive and is steaming and wafting aromas of strong broth and herbage.   Definitely a feasting bowl!  A plate of beansprots, basil and chilli is served alongside.  Even for two people, this bowl is so huge I doubt we will put a dent in it. 

and we didn't..........
The fried pork chop is a little on the dry side but dipped in Nuoc Cham helps moisten it.  It is tasty enough though.

The aroma wafting from the pho bowl is enticing and I was looking forward to it.  I have big love for pho bo, however although above average, the broth was just to salty for my liking, which was a bit of a let down.  The tender slithers of rare beef melt in the mouth.

Even though we are both bursting at by the end of the 'main' course we cannot help ourselves to tasting the icecream for dessert.  We select the taro icecream and the cheese icecream.  Both are surprisingly pleasant (in fact I'm really not sure what I was expecting). 
Saigon Queen is a pleasant little restaurant on Oxford St.  The staff are friendly and it's convenient right in the heart of it all. I personally don't think I will return as I have a few other favourite Vietnamese restaurants that I would rather go to for my pho but it was a fun night out with my friend, catching up, a few laughs and getting out to try somewhere 'new'. 

Saigon Queen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The 40th Birthday celebrations continue @ Aria, Sydney

So I celebrated my 40th back in June but over the last 3 months I feel that the celebrations are continuing as I enjoy some of my very thoughtful and generous gifts from family and friends.

Saturday night was just one of those nights.

Joined by my wonderful friends T &L we began the evening in the lounge at Aria. Sipping on a cocktail.  Of course, as always drawn by it's magical power, I couldn't resist the Bacon Sour. 

Bacon Sour
A glorious concoction of Makers Mark infused with bacon, maple syrup and lemon juice. The maple candied bacon sitting atop the rim of my glass was one of Roo's famous 'I need a moment to myself' moments.  The sweet tackiness of the maple syrup coats the crispy salty bacon.....excuse me I think I just need another moment to myself!

You know I'm a sucker when it comes to bacon anything and add maple syrup...well I'm an easy pleased young lady!

If only my lighting was better....or had a better iphone (time to upgrade me thinks)
The passionfruit martini is pretty good too.
Passionfruit martini
We are seated in the middle of the restaurant, with hints of the harbour bridge twinkling with city lights.  The restaurant is dim, however we are basked in soft lighting from the little table lamp perched to one side of the table.
This is to be my first fine dining experience in Sydney.  I was lucky enough to meet Matt Moran a few weeks ago at a cooking class at the Sydney Seafood School so I was super excited to taste the menu.  We toss up between the tasting menu and the 4 course menu and decide to go with the latter as a few of the options on the menu were part of the tasting menu anyway.
We are served an amouse bouche to get the taste buds started.  Here we have prawn with pickled watermelon and feta.  It's the perfect little bite in a bowl.  My taste buds are in for a party! 

can I amuse you with a small bite?
Sourdough rolls are offered along with Pepe Saya butter.  Here we have a salted buttered and a seaweed and dashi butter.  If I didn't have to share it I would have slathered that all onto my sourdough.  It was divine!

pepe saya butter

Mr T chooses a Sangreal by Farr 2012 Pinot Noir - it's the perfect red to be sipping with our menu choices.

pinot noir
I immediately fall in love with the Aria wine glasses.

Aria glassware
The only problem with a 4 course menu is that you have to choose your dishes and there are just so many to choose from.  With the tasting menu, you just go with the flow. I'm torn so go with the last minute option and hope it's the right choice. I am already preparing for food envy!
I start with the Southern calamari with Iberico Jamon, garlic custard and shiitake mushroom tea.  It's picture perfect and smells wonderful.
southern calamari, Iberico Jamon, garlic custard and shiitake mushroom tea
The calamari is so tender and slippery and the saltiness of the jamon is a lovely combination.  I love the cracker on top, although haven't worked out what it was.
T & L both go with the Raw Hiramasa kingfish with beetroot, lime and horseradish. 
Raw Hiramasa kingfish with beetroot, lime and horseradish
Our second course arrives not long after and it's another delight.
My dish is the pressed Jurassic quail and foie gras with smoked eel and radish.

pressed Jurassic quail and foie gras with smoked eel and radish
The Jurassic quail is served in a terrine style slice.  The crispiness of the radish gives great textures to the meatiness of the quail and foie gras.  The hint of smoked eel is lovely.
The other dishes that left me with a little food envy were the Murray cod with sour blueberries, guanciale and rosemary.

Murray cod with sour blueberries, guanciale and rosemary
The kurabuta pork belly with apple, swede and hazelnuts looked mouthwatering.
 kurabuta pork belly with apple, swede and hazelnuts
By the third (main) course came around I was already feeling a little full.  the main course is served with mashed potato and a mixed salad as side dishes. 
 I opted for the lamb loin with sweetbread sausage, broad beans and charred globe artichokes.
lambloin with sweetbread sausage, broad beans and charred globe artichokes

Cooked to medium rare and was melt in the mouth.  The sweetbread sausage is a delicious way to introduce someone to sweetbreads. 
T&L decide on the Cervena venison fillet and crepinette with Japanese pumpkin, red witlof, black pepper and riberry sauce and the steamed bass grouper with spanner crab, Coorong pipis and smoked dulse.  Having no idea what dulse is I was intrigued.  Turns out it's a sea vegetable.
Cervena venison fillet and crepinette with Japanese pumpkin, red witlof, black pepper and riberry sauce
steamed bass grouper with spanner crab, Coorong pipis and smoked dulse
Between courses we had a palate cleanser of sorbet.  From memory it was honey and [something] granita with yoghurt and fried mandarin.
Desserts had not yet been chosen, so we pondered for small break before ordering.  I go with something completely different to what I would normally sway towards and decided on the pineapple with Jerusalem artichoke, buttermilk sorbet, mint and lime.  It's a winner.  The pineapple is sweet and not so tangy, the buttermilk sorbet is light with a hint of creamy sourness, which is not unpleasant by a long shot.  The shavings of Jerusalem artichoke are draped lovingly over a quenelle of sorbet. 
sweet desserts
Other sweet endings (which aren't quiet at the end) is the passionfruit crumble souffle with macadamia nut gelato served in a very rustic copper saucepan for one and the blood orange with muntries, beetroot and coconut ice cream.

Both desserts look spectacular, particularly the souffle as the macadamia nut gelato is dolloped on top and melts and oozes into the souffle. Mmm.....dreamy.

We end the evening with an aperitif.  I choose a 2013 Massolino Moscata D'Asi - bright semi sparkling sweet wine style from a boutique produce in the seerralunga d'alba. Subte musk and sage aromatics with a pinch of peach and citrus twist.  Very sweet, light bubbles and definitely a pleaser on the palate.

However, no exquisite meal is complete without a platter of petit fours.  A wonderful selection of macarons, truffles, blackberry jelly, lemon marshmallow and a teeny tiny cupcake.

petit fours for three
I loved every minute of my experience here at Aria and they certainly live up to a two hatted restaurant.  The waiters are attentive without being intrusive, knowledgeable and friendly.  The food is phenomenal and I know that I would like to dine here again for a special occasion.
Thanks to my wonderful friends who gifted me this wonderful experience and for T&L you joined me for an amazing birthday celebration that is literally keeps going and going!
Aria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hanging out on a Sydney Dude Food Tour with Tastemaven

Always up for a food tour or a new food experience where ever I am in the world, I was lucky enough to join a group of fellow foodbloggers last Friday night on a Sydney Dude Food tour run by Tastemaven.  So what is Tastemaven I hear you ask?
Three friends who share a love of food, adventure and travel decided that the concept of a group of new friends getting together to share a meal, getting out of ones comfort zone and discovering food around our fair city was exciting. A way for a group of people to hang out, taste new foods, meet new people and explore. So Tastemaven was born.
Friday night was the pilot tour for the Sydney Dude Food tour run by Isaac - a Sydney Dude! 
The evening was kicking off at The Forresters which was pumping when I arrived.  As I was early and had a sneaky glass of wine before meeting the group. For research purposes of course.
wine at the bar
After some confusion about where everyone was meeting, we finally found everyone and introductions were made.  It wasn't long before we delved into some serious snacks.  And when I say serious I mean serious ....3/4's of the 'snacks' on the menu was ordered.  The table was piled high.

It also wasn't long before we were all chatting and getting to know each other.  Food will always bring people together (in my opinion).

eat all the snacks
From top clockwise we have the:
  • fried calamari slider with jalapeno tartare and rocket
  • supreme pizza pockets
  • fries with cool ranch dressing
  • buffalo cauliflower with cool ranch dressing
  • adobo meatball taco w smoked jalapenos, shredded iceberg and queso cheese,
  • BBQ garlic and corn bread with smoked mozzarella and jalapeno salsa
  • salt and peppa squid
  • dynamite slide with chilli beef, onion rings and bread an butter pickles
  • Korean fried chicken with kimchee sour cream
My favourite would have to be the buffalo cauliflower, the Korean fried chicken, the salt and peppa calamari.  The supreme pizza pockets were a let down.
Moving on, we needed to roll......(literally)
A brisk walk over to Chur Burger on Albion St, we find there is going to be about a 20 minute wait.  It's a Friday night and no reservations.  However, that's a great wait considering we are a party of nine.  It gives us a chance to chat and get to know each other a little more and more importantly a chance for a stomachs to get ready for the next 'course'!

what's your chur-ce
Chur burger may only offer a few options but the kitchen is pumping out these fabulous burgers.  It's all fast pace in the kitchen but they staff take a quick photo op!

I go with the very popular pulled pork with Chur BBQ sauce, red slaw and fennel mayo. I'm not disappointed, soft but chewy exterior bun with crunchy slaw and smoky tender shreds of pork is delectable and as I bite into it the juices start to run down the wrists.  I politely and discreetly lick my hands, which is not easy in a crowded restaurant and sitting at a table of people who are essentially 'strangers' even though we are mostly food bloggers who would probably do the same thing!     

pulled pork Chur
I do eye off someone's chicken burger which is grilled marinated chicken, hot sauce mayo and minted slaw and make a mental note for next time.

chicken chur
It's just a pity that we have no room for the sweet potato fries or a milkshake but there is one more stop to be had.  Never fear I will be returning to Chur soon.
Our last stop is over at Brooklyn Social, however when we arrived there is a 45 minute wait (again no reservations), so it is decided to head back towards Darlinghurst and end the tour with a sweet ending at Rivareno Gelato.  We all mention that all the walking that we are doing is walking off the calories!
I actually walked past this place a couple of weeks ago having no idea that they were so good!  It's not busy at around 9pm on a Friday so we take full advantage of taste testing some of the menu.

The gelato is a traditional Italian gelato and is made with milk, cream and cane syrup, which doesn't make the gelato overly sweet.  It's the flavour combinations that give it the most amazing texture and sweetness.  The gelato is so smooth.
After many tastings I opt for two scoops.  One is a speciality scoop of ricotta a figs, which is made with sheeps milk ricotta and deeply caramelised figs.  The second scoop is called Caramello Salato and is Himalayan salted caramel.  This scoop pops with salt crystals and is delicious.

gelato heaven
All in all, this was a pleasant night, meeting new people with the same interest - FOOD, eating some comfort food which is definitely on the Dude Food radar, great venues and all round lovely night. 
If you are interested in an evening of restaurant hopping or for another experience such as cupcake decorating, Indian street food, a Brazilian brunch or a have a sweet tooth head over to the Tastemaven website for more details.
I wish the girls all the best success for their new venture and thanks for a fab evening!

The Forresters on Urbanspoon - The Forresters

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon - Chur Burger

RivaReno Gelato on Urbanspoon - Rivareno Gelato

Travel Photo of the Month - October 2014

To this day, this is still one of my favourite photos from my trip to Egypt way back in the days circa 1999.

Up before dawns crack to ride a camel up Mt Sinai to watch the sunrise.  Half way up my camel 'broke down', one of the many times this happened to either my camel or my donkey on this trip.  Okay, okay, my camel didn't break down...let's just say there was a certain step up on the path that my camel was negotiating and tipped me up as  I slid off the back of it.....saddle broke and I was on the ground.

I hiked the rest of the way, which was not so easy for me at the time and still managed to watch a breathtaking sunrise.

In need of strong coffee, sustenance and a much needed bath (I was starting to smell of camel) we made our descent down the mountain.  Half way down we stopped for a breather and this is my moment. Sipping on hot, black, strong coffee and chatting to these two very shy camel boys on Mt Sinai.

Nothing can get much better in the travel moments