Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sydney Tea Festival Part 1

The Sydney Tea Festival was so hugely popular last year that this year was bigger and better (so they say). I missed out on last year so I was super excited to be going this year.
I arrived early and after purchasing a tea cup. I decided that my plan of attack would be start at the beginning and work my way down one side and up the other.
Introducing a tea tasting cup. Yes this is the cup that the thousands of visitors to this years Sydney Tea Festival sipped from throughout the day. A wonderful little keepsake from the day and an absolutely fabulous way of decreasing paper waste (imagine how many paper cups would have been used throughout the event!) and a great way to raise some funds for this free event.

First stall was The Loose Leaf Tea House.  High quality products from around the globe, hand picked, hand packaged, these teas are a winner (and it's my first stop of the day!).  There is wide variety of black, green, red and white teas along with herbal teas.

I am a bit of a fan of ginger tea.  It's soothing on the tummy and refreshing with a quick of heat.
I Am Infusion, are organic herbal infusions for the body, mind and spirit. Beauty, Brains, Love, Dreams - there is something for everyone.

So here I start to question what is the difference between tea and a tisane?  So many are advertising 'tea' yet they speak of 'tisane', so a quick explanation reveals that real tea is the infusion of tea leaves, whether they be black, green, white, oolong tea leaves.  A tisane is an infusion of herbs and spices and has no tea leaves used in it nor does the infusion have caffeine.  I feel like I'm becoming a tea expert! (haha not really).
FYI - I have loosely used the term tea throughout this post whether or not it is herbal or real tea.
Over at Bees Knees Teas I was intrigued by not only their tisanes but the ethics behind the name.  Organic herbals  which are caffeine free too and with 10% of profits going towards sustainable bee projects.
I really liked the Bee Playful blend with hints of pineapple and it's kid friendly too. 
Head over to their website for more information on the sustainability of bees and how our environment and food consumption is effecting the bees.
Next up is Tea Forte - I as taken with the Vienna Cinnamon and it smelt heavenly.  They didn't seem to be tasting teas and it was a little too crowded. 
You can't have tea without tea treats (well any type of sweet treats)  First foodie stop is at Black Pantry, where there is a spread of delectable hand cut marshmallows that are soft as clouds.  Picking just one is hard, so I tasted them all!  Salted caramel, snickers, rosewater, vanilla and vanilla berry. 
I would say the vanilla berry and the rosewater one was the best.
Not only did the tea infuser win me over, but the teas on offer at Altitude Tea was a highlight. 
The tea is grown at a high altitude (over 3,000 feet) in Southern China.  The leaf maintains a sweetness and less bitterness and astringency than other teas may have at lower climates.
Pesticide free and handpicked these teas are very refreshing on the palate.  The intensity really shines through with the Buddha's Brew which is a green tea with floral notes coming from Jasmine flowers, the flavour is intensified due to higher concentrate of oils from high altitude growth.
Ovvio Organic tea is created based on traditional herbal medicine principles and using only high quality ingredients (which is something of note here at the festival today, so many organic/herbal teas on offer).
I sampled the chocolate mint organic tea and it was really good (like a warm after dinner mint)!
Fruity teas and tisanes here at Blossom Blends, the colourful canisters are fun and fresh.  They work with naturopaths and tea masters to ensure wellbing as well as therapeutic benefits.
Generally speaking, I don't really like fruity blend teas, but today I have tasted a few surprises, like the Complexion Perfections tea, which is a blend of rose and hibiscus and lavender.  The Passionfruit Perfection is too fruity for me though, although it has a wonderful passionfruit smell.
Coming in a firm favourite of the festival, The Chai Room is offering a super chai range of chai made with fresh cashew milk.  Making it dairy free and gluten free, it's a great choice for vegan and those with lactose intolerance.
Today's offerings include the cacao chai, turmeric and a intriguing beetroot chai.
The cacao is chocolately and comforting and spicy (but not heat wise).  The turmeric is earthy and herbal, but it's the beetroot chai that wins!  It' is creamy and nutty and has savoury elements reminiscence of a good soup rather than a chai!
The beauty of this chai is that it comes in a glass bottle and can be heated up or it can be drunk cold.  Chai smoothie anyone?
Samantha Robinson is a local designer showing her handmade porcelain bowls and I fall in love with her watermelon bowls. 
You can read all about how The Tea Project got started here.
I am being drawn to the lemongrass and liquorice teas today and the Apres Meal at The Tea Project is refreshingly great! 
Blended with lemongrass, lemon verbena and peppermint, liquorice and rosehip it's perfect for digestion or when you have a tummy ache.  I take a bag home with me.
Madame Flavour is fast becoming a tea brand that many know.  I remember receiving samples earlier in the year (from the Royal Easter Show) and really like the blends. 
 Moringa Organics is next up.   I sampled the Energiser tea expecting a really big hit of ginger but was left disappointed.  I didn't really get to know more about these teas, until I started reading their website after the event.   
So what is Moringa?  It's apparently a super nutritious treee (and leaves) and is very vitamin and mineral dense.  It appears that I had sampled a 'tea' from the  Wellness Range, a moringa based range of  tea.
Are you still with me?  We are a quarter way through!
It's not all about tea tasting.  There are a few stalls selling kitchen/tea related products and at The Tea Cosy (who are located in The Rocks) you could grab a freshly backed scone with jam and cream or pick up an awesome knitted tea cosy.  I feel in love with Mr Tea - and is probably my one biggest regret of the day!
Here are a few more - a minion and the Star Wars collection.
100% Linen tea towels with witty quotes and sayings are on sale at Ink & Weave.  They are so pretty I don't think I could use them as a teatowel and rather like the idea of hanging them on the wall.
The Little Wilding Co  is quiet unique as not only the herbs organically grown but also wildly grown and mostly local ingredients.  With tea names such as I am a Goddess, Dirty Dandy Chai or Hibernate and Chill, these teas are a tease on the taste buds. 
I have been a longtime follower of The Jam Bandits and their Pear and Wasabi jam is awesome.  A jar is in my bag and headed home to be served with a good vintage cheddar!
We are nearly there!  Addiction Food has a selection of vegan friendly goodies at great prices.  I decide on a square of the chocolate macadamia brownie, which is made with olive oil diary free chocolate and organic nuts.
The Vegan Teahouse is a nice little surprise, not only teas but a great range of nut buttes and slices.  The salted nut butter is delicious.
Last but not least (for this side of the shed) is Hari Har Chai.  Okay, I'll admit, although this was packed and many people purchasing and sampling and enjoying it, I didn't enjoy it as much as other stalls today.  I don't know what it was perhaps it was a little to watery for my liking.  But that's's not everyones cuppa (no pun intended).
I did notice that they have several chai products including a chai concentrate and also an icecream.
So that's half my review.  By now the shed is starting to get packed out and I'm half way there.  I need to take a little break and breather before plunging in for more.....stay tuned for Part 2.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Sapore di Napoli @ Kingsgrove

It is nice to see that Kingsgrove has started to grow a little over the past year or so. With the new development at The Pottery, new shops, supermarkets and restaurants have started to breathe some life into this sleepy little hub.

Seeking a dining destination for a dinner with friends (and kid friendly), Sapore di Napoli was suggested. Nestled in the square of The Pottery (across from Woolworths) this well lit busy open restaurant is just the ticket for 5 adults and 4 kids on a Saturday night.

2GB radio has voted Sapore di Napoli No 1 choice by customers (according to the sign out front) and offers the authentic woodfired pizza. Always striving to find the best meals, here I am.
Once we are settled with drinks (and wine buckets eventually) we catch up while choosing what we are going to share.

We start with the special of the evening. The Antipasti platter which has a selection of marinated artichokes, marinated capsicum, salami, shaved parma, olives, tomatoes and rocket, cheese and a ball of mozzarella. It’s a decent starter for the five of us.

We also went with a serve of Crocchette di patate con bufala (potato croquettes with buffalo mozzarella. 
The kids share a garlic pizza and a  bianca con prosciutto cotto (hold the chilli) and they are happy campers reading books (yes I know!) and chatting amongst themselves.

We all end up having a piece of the garlic pizza because it looks so good.  It's fluffy and full of toasty garlic!

The bianca con prosciutto cotto (hold the chilli)  looks good too.  There is something about cream based sauces for pizza and the fior di latte is gooey and cheesy.

Penne Vodka – penne pasta with bacon, cream and vodka. Surprisingly this cream based pasta sauce is light (or is it the vodka?). I love penne because the sauce gets inside the tube and coats the pasta more (I'm sticking with that). Smokey nubs of bacon are delicious.


Another share bowl is the fettuccine tri colore with Italian sausage, cherry tomatoes in napoletana sauce. the simplicity of this bowl of pasta is what makes it a winner. The intense tomatoes flavour is so yum and the pasta just past al dente. Very comforting dish.


Couple of  pizzas for the adults makes a very carb laden meal, but tasty and yum all the same!

Pizza Contutti Carne – tomato base, fior di latte, beef mince, italian sausage, spicy salami, caramelised onion and olive oil.

I have to admit the pizza is pretty good.

Pizza Garlic and Sausage with San Marzano tomato base, fior di latte, Italian homemade sausage, garlic and rosemary

I like the use of fior di latte, the stretchy curd melts easily and goes all gooey on top of the cheese. Nubs of sausage through out with hints of garlic. I like this pizza!

Fior di latte is fresh mozzarella made from cow’s milk rather than the traditional buffalo.
When there is room for dessert I have to take advantage.  Sapore di Napoli are well known for their homemade gelatos.  The stracciatella was calling my name.  What is that?  Vanilla gelato with chocolate chip.  Plain and simple but the perfect dessert.

My friends went with something a little traditional and had the cannoli. one filled with vanilla and one filled with sweetened ricotta.  the filling was lovely and light but unfortunately the pastry was soggy, which was the only small let down.  I like them crispy!
The kids finished off with the nutella pizza with strawberries.  By the look of it all around their mouths I think they enjoyed it very much.  and secretly who doesn't love nutella on a pizza!
I was delighted to find yet another restaurant in my area that is casual and fun and family friendly.  It's BYO as well as licenced.  The service, although very friendly and outgoing was a little hit and miss, where we had chase up a couple of requests (like an ice bucket for our wine, but that is okay.  It was busy and we eventually were given what we needed.   They also hold functions if you are looking for a venue for a private event.

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Monday, 17 August 2015

Mappen @ Bondi Junction

For those that have been long time readers and or know me personally, you know of my love affair. It's a love affair that is comforting, loving and it's warm embrace is welcoming and needed on occasions. It was love at first sight and has deepened over time. It’s faithful, loyal, trustworthy and never stands you up. That love affair is with Mappen on George street in the city.  

So when I was recently invited to dine at Mappen at Bondi Junction I was curious and intrigued by the menu. The Bondi restaurant offers a combination of the menus from Mappen, Oiden, Tenkomori and Dera Uma (all owned by the same company) which gives a lot of flexibility and choice and it also serves Japanese alcoholic beverages including Japanese Orion beer and sake (and for the record I have recently become a sake convert all thanks to Yuri at Washoku Lovers).

Tough choice when there are various restaurant dishes on the menu but we eventually come up with a worthy meal!
I grab a tray and head on down the line, first ordering out soup and rice then pick and mix a selection of tempura which is kept hot under the lamps. Next up is the cold salads and desserts.  Then you pay at the end.  Easy.
There is a small condiments bench where I fill up on shallots and mounds of crispy tempura pieces (my little guilty pleasure!)
Check out the tempura goodies. 


I have ordered a sake (cold), which is served in a cute square Japanese cup. As a Washoku Lovers members, you can add a side of pan fried gyoza (3) for $3 with your sake. That’s a great deal.
Our table is laden with delicious food and after a few snaps (yes I few LOL) we are ready.
So here from top and clockwise we have the Wagyu BBQ Beef bowl, gyoza, chicken katsu, prawn tempura,  udon soup with chilli tofu mince and daifuku.
I have gone with my traditional udon with chilli tofu mince with pickled mustard greens.  Silly me forgot to order an onsen egg to go on top (insert sad face here).
Yes I may have walked around the restaurant to pose my bowl of soup above.  Below is where we ate at the communal tables.  I just love my udon soup topped with shallots and lots of crispy tempura. The broth is light and full of salty flavour and the fat, silky udon are slippery and chewy.
My dining partner for the evening is Mr M  and he starts with his pan fried gyoza and says they are really good.  I didn't try one tonight. Followed by the BBQ Wagyu beef rice bowl with coleslaw, pickled ginger and sesame seed.
The wagyu beef is tender and sweet and delicious.  The crunchy coleslaw is a nice addition and good texture.  The beauty of the rice bowl to is that you can choose your size bowl making this a great way to portion out your meal (depending on your appetite).
After my bowl of noodles, I have saved my tempura bits for last.  I bite into the crispy prawn tempura and the prawn is delicately cooked and the tempura is super crunchy. I am always intrigued how they keep it hot and crisp.

The chicken katsu is perfection. Crispy and perfectly cooked chicken thigh its super tasty and I nibble on it through out the meal. I love it.
Ending our meal with daifuku but we are full so I take them home to have later.  Here we have the lovely pink sakura daifuku. Filled with a not so overly sweet red bean, it's a lovely way to end the meal.  I also had the black sesame daifuku too.
Mappen Bondi is the perfect spot for a casual meal or snack. The many options and variations available makes for an easy choice for those that just don't know what they want of for those that want a bit of everything.

*Roofood dined as a guest of Mappen and SD Marketing.  Thank you for the invitation.

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