Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Queenies @ The Forrester

Looks like I am doing the rounds of the Drink n Dine Groups establishments and I am one a happy eater at the moment. I'm looking forward to new ventures the group has going on.

So it was only natural on a recent girls night out (where I am in charge of booking a restaurant) that I suggest Queenies at the The Forresters.  We always start our nights at The Clock for happy hour cocktails (that will be another post soon) so we only had to walk around the corner to our dining location.

Upstairs inside The Forresters is Queenies, a Caribbean style restaurant.  The decor certainly screams the Islands and it's dimly lit and moody offering a great space to dine in.  All I needed was a palm tree and white sandy beach and I would be transported there!

There are 7 of us girls tonight and we are hungry and eager to sample the menu. To continue the themeing of the night (both in terms of drinking and the Caribbean) we decide to start with a rum fuelled cocktail from a menu that is very enticing - I opt for a Coconut Daiquiri - a blend of Havana 3 rum, coconut puree, lime, chili with a salt rim.

Coconut Daiquiri, Banana Espresso Lime and Mango and Pomegranate Mojito

It is coconuty and creamy and with the hint of lime - reminds me of paradise!  A couple of the other cocktails sampled are the Banana Espresso Martini - a mix of wyborowa, Kahlua, Banana puree and espresso - if you love coffee you will love this! and a Mango and Pomegranate mojito which is a blend of Havana 3, Pomegranate liqueur, mango puree and lime.

We are talked into trying the Bammies. A bammy is a Jamaican cassava flour flatbread, grilled or baked until crispy and served with any toppings you desire.  We opt to have both that are on offer, prawn, mango and ginger and a pulled pork & pineapple. 

prawn, mango and ginger bammy and pulled pork and pineapple bammy

* Please excuse the first picture - who knows what was going on with the camera phone. Food blogger photo fail!

They are both fantastic but I'm pulled towards the prawn, mango and ginger one as a favourite between the two.  Crispy, crunchy discs of flatbread with plump prawns and fresh tangy mango.  The pulled pork and pineapple one is sweet and smoky and richer in flavour and good too.

Coconut soft shell crab w hotstepper sauce

A basket of soft shell crab appears and all cut up into 7 pieces for us.  It's thick yellow batter coating the decent pieces of soft shell crab, hot and crispy and very tasty.  The hint of coconut in the batter makes a difference but is not overly coconutty and dipped into the spicy, chili hotstepper sauce is a marriage made in heaven.

BBQ Jerk Corn w/ coconut

I'm eager to try the corn here. After tasting it at The Californian @ Santa Barbara I wanted more - of course this is different spin on it but I love the pairing of corn and coconut.

Calypso coffee Ribs w/ tropical cauliflower

The aroma wafting off these ribs before they even hit the table have us mesmerised.  We dive on them instantly and they are sticky and sweet and smokey and the hint of coffee grabs the back of your throat.  The meat is tender and juicy and melts in the mouth.   The cauliflower is a tangy accompaniment that cuts through the richness of the ribs.  I'm left licking my fingers.

Sweet potato fries with spiced mayo

Always one for opting for sweet potato fries over regular spuds.  These are sweet and soft in the middle and crispy on the outside.  the spiced mayo offers hints of spice and we can't stop going back for more.

We actually order this salad as a 'last dish' effort to balance the meal - I think we may have been over enthusiastic in our ordering (in terms of the amount of food we have ordered) but this salad is really good. 
Teriyaki caribbean chicken salad w/ mango, cashews, crispy tortillas, cheddar and lime dressing,

The stretchy pants (and dresses) are put into use by now - as we tuck into the most succulent, spiced jerk chicken with just the right amount of char.  We had to use our fingers and tear pieces off as everyone wanted a piece - we were fighting each other off for the tidbits.  The BBQ sauce coating the jerk chicken is sticky and sweet and well, I think it's all over my face, which is a good sign.  The 'burnt' bits are the best

BBQ jerk chicken w jungle slaw
There is something very comforting about slow braised beef cheeks with soft pureed sweet potato. We only had a bite of this dish each but it was purely comforting and full of rich flavours from the Guinness and meat. We are left sopping up the 'gravy' and puree from the plate (using forks not fingers :))

Guinness beef cheeks - slow braised w sweet potato puree and yam chips

We are moaning about having to order dessert  (do you believe that!) - but we have to do it (research purposes of course).  The waitress promises us we won't be disappointed.....and we aren't!

Kingston Kreme Donuts w jerk cream and chocolate and coffee sauces

The donuts are light and fluffy and perfect little bites.  The chocolate and coffee sauces are good but I will admit I wasn't a fan of the jerk cream (but that is just my taste buds talking).  Anything rolled in sugar and cinnamon is a good thing.

Impossible pie with toasted marshmallow and black treacle icecream

The dome of the impossible pie is gooey and toasty marshmallow goopiness and I love it but its the black treacle icecream that is hands down the winner (but you know I love icecream).

Carribean fudege cake with salted caramel chocolate icecream
This fudge cake is moist, dense and gooey and absolutely decadent.  Served with a smooth salty caramel chocolate icecream this is a dessert best shared (or for one if you love chocolate!)  We ordered two serves.

Queenies is heaving on a Saturday night so make sure to make a reservation.  The food is absolutely fantastic and definitely a little slice of the Caribbean in Surry Hills.  Unique and delicious it won't disappoint!
Queenies on Urbanspoon

Monday, 23 September 2013

Sushi Hotaru - sushi train at it's best

I have recently discovered a sushi train restaurant near my new office block and I am finding myself returning regularly.  It appears I have an addiction. Not such a bad addiction however I think I'm going to have to limit my visits for a bit. Sushi Hotaru can be found upstairs in The Galleries andat Town Hall.  They also a branch on Bathurst St.

Arriving you are greeted and whisked to a seat at the counter which gives you a good perch to watch the chefs prepare the fresh ingredients.  You can select your plates from the train that whirls around the whole restaurant or you can order off the menu via the individual ipad for your seat number.  Here you can select soups and speciality items such as gunkan, sushi, sashimi and hand rolls.  Service is fast and efficient. It is a quick and cheap lunch or dinner and the food is delicious and fresh.   I've been working my through the menu but going back to my favourite ones.

There is a huge variety on offer and at only $3 a plate a fantastic deal.  Sashimi runs at $7.90 a plate but its a good serving of raw fish and there are other speciaility items at various prices, which are noted on the menu on the ipad. 

It can get crowded at lunchtime but there is a sheet at the front where you can right down your name and how many people and rip off a number and wait your turn. 

crab, tako, grilled scallop and deep fried salmon skin

scallop and salmon combo, salmon and spicy tuna hand roll

crab, octopus karage, soft shell crab hand roll and grilled scallop
kingfish, scallop, tuna tororo and soft shell crab handroll
grilled scallop, squid, prawn balls and soft shell crab handroll (yes it's a favourite!)
salmon and avocado hand roll, tuna nigiri, grilled scallops, deep fried squid

SUSHI HOTARU The Galleries on Urbanspoon

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Californian @ Santa Barbara

Stairway to Santa Barbara

A recent invitation found me joining fellow food bloggers at a dinner at Santa Barbara. I had been eager to check out the menu at the recently reopened The Californian, found inside Santa Barbara at Potts Point (under the famous Coca Cola sign).  I was not only excited about sampling some of the menu but actually meeting some fellow food bloggers too. 

Typical fashion, I arrived early, so with a glass of sav blanc in hand I popped my head into the kitchen to say hi to Jamie and then perused the menu and absorbed the atmosphere, where retro meets tacky but oozes fun! From the neon signage our front and the hip swinging bear in the entry stairwell to the ivy leaves hanging from the roof. My mouth was watering at the selection. I love the blend of LA with a hint of an Asian twist and a touch of BBQ.

Valley Girl Sour
It was not long after everyone arrived that cocktails were ordered and discussions about the menu ensued. I chose to start with a Valley Girl Sour – a blend of Vodka, Crème De Mure, Acai Berry Puree, Lemon Juice & Rose Water. With the heady scent of rosewater it was a good choice.
Edamame with lime & chilli salt
 Always a good bar snack to start with drinks.
BBQ Corn with Chipotle & Toasted Coconut
It is deceiving as it arrives at the table.  First looks make you think it's a lamington and the taste of the coconut hints at that, but one bite and it sweet juicy corn.  The chipotle hints at a bit of heat and oh so delicious
Calamari slider w mango salsa, slaw and habanero mayo
These little bites were winners.  The freshness of the mango salsa and slaw is a great combo with the crispy calamari.
Short Rib slider w kimchee, radish and sriracha
 These little bites were good too.  Meaty with a chilli kick from both the kimchee and sriracha
Ocean Trout Ceviche with cassava crisps, pawpaw, avocado, chilli and lime

One of my favourite dishes of the night was the ocean trout ceviche.  I'm a big fan of ceviche.  I find these are refreshing bites and the cassava crisp is awesome.
Grilled watermelon with jalapeno and smoked salt
I was curious with what the grilled watermelon would taste like.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Weird I know, but it reminded me a little of a warm marshmallow. Okay maybe my tastebuds were messing with me but this was an intriguing dish.

Korean Fried Chicken w Red Dragon sauce adn Daikon Pickle
Not as crispy as some korean fried chicken but that doesn't change the fact that it was good.  The red dragon sauce covering the chicken wasn't to thick and not to hot! Good bites size pieces.

BBQ Ribs w coffee mole & buffalo cucumber
By this time I think my tummy was starting to rebel and I knew that we had quite a few more dishes to go.  So I only had a bite.  These were tender and smokey and the coffee taste hit the back of the throat but was not overpowering...more a hint

Red Braised Pork w jalapeno mustard & slaw (back)
Crispy Duck w Hoi Sin BBQ, Green Onions & Cucumber (front)
Baja Fish w guacamole, salsa verde and red cabbage
It's taco time and  we enjoyed a bite of all three tacos that are on the menu. The duck taco is nodding towards the duck pancake and very similar in taste and texture. The red braised pork taco is rich in porky goodness with a deep flavour.  The fish taco is delish - crispy fried fish and guacamole is always a good one for me.

shaved zucchini and asparagus salad w green strawberries, mint, goats cheese and black sesame

This intriguing salad had us all digging for a slice of the prized green strawberries.  This was a winner salad and the little rolls of herb rolled goats cheese throughout was a bonus.
Salt Baked prawns w fennel, orange and pomegranate
By now my tummy was using the little spaced reserved for 'full and I was struggling.  But these giant prawns (or killer prawns as I like to called them) were succulent and salty and I loved the fennel, orange and pomegranate salad

Coca Cola chicken w finger pickles
I don't know if it was just that I had hit my food wall or whether it was the dish but I wasn't a fan of the coca cola chicken.  It smelt fantastic but I did find the sauce thick and cloying.  it tasted sweet and tasty - but as I said I may have just hit my wall by this point.  Next visit I may just give them another chance

Sweet potato fries with mayo

Who can say no to fries, especially sweet potato fries?  I managed to gobble a few of these.  They were crispy and hot and fluffy inside. 

I'm so glad I wore my stretchy dress... but who can refuse dessert. 

Pineapple Parfait w coconut, pineapple jelly and cherries
I really liked this pineapple dessert but I'm a sucker of any type of icecream/gelato/frozen dessert. The pineapple parfait log was yummy - yep that is the only way I can describe it.

churros w five spice & Chocolate
As for the churros they were good, rolled in cinnamon and sugar oh so good.  The chocolate sauce had hints of 5 spice that gave a new dimension to this mexican classic.

When forks and spoons were finally put down we all let out a sigh of relief (and perhaps a groan or two).  This was an amazing meal for both the food and the company.  Jamie and the Drink n Dine Group definitely have another winner and I'm really loving the whole concept at their establishments.

I want to thank Jamie for the invitation and for allowing us food bloggers to enjoy over 75% of the menu.  That's right - 17 dishes out of the 22 on offer we sampled and I will be definitely returning for some fab eats (but perhaps not as much next time) and remember to wear the stretchy pants.


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

September Travel Photo of the Month - Skydiving Namibia - 2001

Back in 2001 while trucking our way through the African continent we took the opportunity to jump out of a plane.  Where the desert meets the sea the Nambian sand dunes was the ideal place to jump.
One of the most scariest things I've ever done  and it was one of the most awe inspiring, exhilarating, liberarting things I have ever done. Actually come to think of it I did alot of extreme sports in Africa including bungy, rafting and sandboarding! I was feeling alive again!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Baking: Friands - Lemon Curd and Raspberry and White Chocolate

We all know I’m not much of a baker but I am learning and trying out new recipes. I don’t eat baked goods very often so when the urge hits to bake something I know I have my guinea pigs at work to test on. The boys never let me down!
I have owned friand pans for awhile and use them to bake mini meatloaves but this weekend it was time to actually make a friand.
I found an easy lemon curd friand recipe in an Australian Woman's Weekly cookbook  and seeing as I have a huge jar of lemon curd in the fridge to use up it was a no brainer. Using the base recipe I also decided to be 'daring' and do a raspberry and white chocolate friand too.
I could not believe how easy the recipe is and I am really happy with the results (and seeing how the friands disappeared as soon as I came into the office I think the boys agreed!). I am quite proud that I didn't burn them!
Base Recipe
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • 1 ½ cups of icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup of plain flour, sifted
  • 185g melted butter
  • Lemon curd
  • 1/2 Frozen raspberries
  • White chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven at 200 (180 for a fan forced oven)
  • Sift dry ingredients into bowl
  • Whisk egg whites until just combined
  • Add to dry ingredients
  • Add melted butter
  • Grease friend pan
  • Pour into pan
*For the lemon curd friands - bake in the oven for 10 minutes then glaze the top of each friend with 1 teaspoon of lemon curd and bake for a further 10 minutes.
*For the raspberry and white chocolate friands – place 3-4 frozen raspberries into the recipe mix and a few white chocolate pieces push them into the mix. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Take out of the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning them out onto a rack to cool complete.
  • Dust with icing sugar (which I forgot to do).
These were incredibly moist and full of flavour. The lemon curd ones seemed to ‘caramelise’ and became a bit toffee like on top.  They were tart and delicious. 
The raspberry and white chocolate one was sweet and crumbly.
These were a hit and so easy to whip up I will be certainly adding them to my repertoire! Perhaps I will become a baker eventually?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Damascus, Street Eats and Singing Underwear - eating my way through Syria - Part 1

It saddens me to see what is happening in Syria at the moment.  My heart goes out to a nation that is living amid a war, unthinkable acts against the people, a government regime that is destroying the country and faith in humanity!  I won't even try to talk politics or try to justify it, yes it needs to stop, but whose job is that?  Who should get involved?  What outcome could that possibly lead to?
So while this is going on I want to share my happy, amazing, wonderful trip that I took to Syria back in 2009, when the streets were safe(r) and freedom was a little easier.  I never really excepted to much from Syria.  I was more eager to discover Jordan, but like a few countries with low expectations when I visited have actually been the best! I did discover was a country that was amazingly friendly, full of culture, history, wonderful landscapes and fantastic food! (and I preferred it over Jordan)
It was winter in Dubai (okay still a balmy 25+ degrees) but winter nonetheless.  I had just hosted an Orphan's Christmas Brunch in Dubai, overindulging on good food and sparkles (as one does in Dubai).  Bleary eyed and slightly worst for wear we fly to Syria (I still make promises to myself I will stop flying hungover). 
Bulky, woolly warm coats and beanies in hand (buying them in Dubai was not easy), we arrived in Damascus to cold, blustery weather with a hint of snow in the air.  After a long hot summer, cool weather was welcomed (and a novelty).  Even though geographically, Syria is only a hop, skip and a jump away from Dubai, the weather couldn't be more different. 
The weather does not stop us hitting the streets of one of the oldest and longest continually inhabited city in the world.  I was immediately drawn into this old, walled city.  The hustle and bustle of  Al-Hamidiyah Souq does not disappoint.  Lane ways of clothes shops, spices, sweets, household items and singing underwear (yes you heard me correctly and more on that later). 
We came upon our first sweet shop, full to the brim with neatly packed towers of baklava, znood es-sett (pastry cigars filled with cheese),  halva (a sesame paste with fruit and nuts) and kenafeh (lace pastry with white cheese, nuts and oozing with syrup) to name only a few.  But its all nuts, fruit, sweet sticky syrup laden pastry heaven.  You can purchase by the piece, by the bag and even by the kilo!
towers of sticky, sweet heaven

nuts about pastries


My eyes light up like a kid in a candy store, literally.  It's a lolly shop, but having a savoury tooth I was actually more interested in the chips, which turned out to be pasta!  Not sure why this combination of sales was chosen but it certainly makes you stop and browse!

lollies and pasta shop

A spice shop selling frying pans full of 'wax'.  I think something may have gotten lost in translation as the male shopkeeper tried to explain using body gestures that it was for waxing - but I think it may have solidified fat and used more for cooking purposes than spreading over ones body! (but then again singing underwear and all who knows!)


a giant coffee pot - I couldn't fit this into my bag!

mint and lemon juice

The middle east use lots of dried flowers in their cuisine, particularly in sweets.  The most famous would be rose and orange blossom.  Everywhere you look you can bottle bottles of heady scented rose water and orange blossom water.

dried rose buds, petals and other flowers
There is a line 3 people deep at this little stall and we need sustenance.  They were selling kibbeh (which is typically bulgar wheat, lamb mince, pine nuts,onions and spices and shaped into torpedos and fried).  You can also have it slab baked.  However these little balls looked very different. The casing was actually made from wheat (similar to bread).  Inside they were steaming hot flavourful mince and pine nuts.  Perfect finger food in cold weather while wandering the markets.


 This is a typical lane way in the old market.  Spices galore
Al-Hamidiyah Souq
I was very tempted to purchase Arabic scrabble and Monopoly but didn't.  If you are learning Arabic scrabble is the best way to practice!

fancy a game of scrabble or monopoly in Arabic
And as for that singing underwear?
singing underwear - be discreet , it's kept under the counter or in the back!
Syria has an exotic little secret - singing underwear.  There is a whole lane way dedicated to the sexy, lacy, satin, frilly undergarment and sales are booming.  Inside the intimates are little hidden electronic devices playing different tunes, some vibrate, some have fairy lights and flash and some have remote controls to fall off the body at the push of a button.  It's doesn't stop at knickers either bra and knicker sets and sheer lacy babydolls too.  Definitely something to spice of the honeymoon and bedroom.
...............and fyi I did buy a pair of singing knickers that vibrate! (and still sitting in my drawer never worn!)