Sunday, May 31, 2009


Pie in the Sky is a well-known lunch-stop for tourists, commercial travellers, bikers, and pensioner bus trips on the way to the Central Coast north of Sydney. For as long as I can remember, and well before the F3 freeway was built, it has been landmark on the Pacific Highway at Cowan. As a kid, coming home from the arduous drive from the Central Coast (well, that's how it seemed back then), anticipating its appearance around each bend became a game and made the trip home easier. It even made a quick appearance in the Australian movie Lantana back in 2001, albeit as a creepy isolated place where the lead character goes missing in the middle of the night! Far from its every day persona as a bustling hub and meeting place. Open 7 days from 9-5, it has become a local meeting spot for bikers taking the winding drive up the "old" Pacific Highway. Weekdays and weekends alike, it is full of leatherclad men and women of all ages. In fact, it is seems to be an unofficial meeting place for the Ulysses Club, a band of over 50's bikers intending to grow old disgracefully. They look menacing as they cruise in on gurgling ducatis, harley davidson fatboys, motor guzzis and other assorted shiny beasts. Once they remove their helmets, the charade is over! Groups of them enjoying a good coffee, perhaps a devonshire tea, or just a hearty hot pie while they rest before once again climbing upon their lovingly cared for mechanical horses and roaring off into the distance.The name of the Ulysses Club comes from a poem of the same title by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It tells how the great Greek hero Ulysses, now middle-aged and securely in charge of his kingdom of Ithaca, is getting bored with things around him and longs to go adventuring again with his shipmates of old. It describes very well indeed the sort of person who still has enough spark to go on riding into middle and later years. Too long to quote here, you will find it in any good poetry anthology such as the Albatross Book of Verse. A very respectable bunch!The first glimpse you get is an unremarkable weatherboard building, then the delightfully retro style sign reveals its identity as "Pie in the Sky" - you have ARRIVED! Pulling in to the gravel driveway, you pass an old timber boat (not sure why its here, but it does provide rustic decoration, and moderate interest to the kids). You are forced to slowly cruise to the carpark as people and bikes mill around you at an easy pace. It certainly has a faded charm, and an extremely casual feel about it. Looking around you see all types. Pensioners fresh from their daytrips, walking frames in action, scoffing scones in the glassed in eating area, burly bikers having a smoko and coffee, with one eye on their bikes and the other on who comes in on what. Admiring glances and back slapping all around. Now to the food...Pie in the Sky bake all of their pies on the premises and have an incredible variety of pies on offer (beware, not all are available each day). Egg & Bacon, Beef, Beef & Mushroom, Pepper Steak, Steak & Kidney, Curried Beef, Beef Burgundy to name a few. Lamb varieties include Lamb Sate, Lamb honey & Rosemary, Lamb and Pea, Lamb Honey Chilli Garlic, then the Chicken...with Asparagus, with Mushroom, Satay, Thai Chilli Chicken, Tandoori Chicken of course a Vegie pie. They also do fruit pies for dessert (Apple, Apricot, Blueberry and Peach), They also have the usual accompaniements : hot chips, sausage rolls with delicious flaky pastry, gravy, peas and mash for those who have a gap to fill. These pies are Gourmet at a pinch, but definitely HEARTY and crowd pleasing. Great flavours, great prices and great must make it a stop next time you are heading North.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yes please, I want some more!

Now who could resist a pack that looks like this?

Actually, with no english description on the front of the pack and the product looking a bit like ribbons of caramel, you could be forgiven for mistaking this for a pack of sweets!

This wouldn't necessarily have been a bad thing but pre-disposed as I am to salty snacks, I wouldn't have enjoyed the whole thing!

What was intriguing was the look of it and the product name: "everyone says good good eat". This translates literally into Cantonese which re-translated means "very good to eat", a pretty heavy promise when you're not sure who is going to buy you!

My question is, if the contents are so good to eat, why is the little girl on the pack frowning?!

Further investigation netted the website on the back of the pack:

Unfortunately, the site is all in Chinese, however a google search led to the following site which explains everything! Part 1

My Itchy Fingers Part 2

It appears that this is somewhat of a Taiwanese packaging phenomenon. This is one of a line of products which uses the same character to urge you, visually and via the writing on the pack, for the most part to buy this snack NOW! The reason behind the frown is that the character is annoyed that you still haven't made up your mind yet to buy this pack!

More intriguing is the description of the product (above). So, it's a Taiwanese-made Japanese chicken-flavoured ramen noodle snack!

Sounds dodgey to me!

Which wasn't helped by the fact that my local store sold it long past its use-by date! Yes, that does say 08 on the far right!

Let's just say I wasn't feeling overly confident!

But at least it looked like the product on the pack, albeit a little crushed!

The best thing was, it actually tasted quite good! It was crunchy but didn't shatter into crumbs when bitten into and it was totally greaseless so it felt wholesome. (For my Aussie friends, it was a little like a SAO biscuit but less flakey.) As a snack, it wasn't overly salty or heavily flavoured with powdered stuff that gets left behind on your fingers. Quite handy at the cinema or on a shopping trip. I could also see it crumbled over a bowl of congee.

The ads typically feature a motherly figure wanting her child to take a bowl of steaming hot ramen with him or her as the child is running out the door. How inconvenient! But with a packet of these ramen-flavoured snacks, you can have your ramen on the run! (I can feel a product innovation coming on!)

Next time I return to the store where I bought these, I will be sure to check out the use-by date before buying but if they taste this good this far out of date, hopefully the fresh ones will be even better!


I have always been intrigued by my favourite dinosaur's obsession with Rosie Tea, and wondered about its taste. Now, everyone loves roses, not just dinosaurs and pirates, so I'm not surprised that the "idea" of it was very attractive to me. I have to say though that I didn't really think it existed, I simply thought it was a figment of the Wiggles imagination. Imagine how excited I was to notice a pack of Flower Wish Rose Tea in my local Asian supermarket while waiting at the check out and I snapped up a packet immediately!

How could I resist the bag as it was packed full of lovely little wine coloured rosebuds - very pretty indeed. Even if I didn't like the flavour, the novelty of brewing these little delights was worth it. I turned the packet over and was gratified to find that not only is the rose regarded as a symbol of beauty and the messenger of love (this perhaps explains why Dorothy and Captain Feathersword LOVE it so much), this tea also helps to promote blood circulation, eliminate weariness, nourish the liver and promote metabolism! Everything the doctor ordered! I was on a winner here. At home I began my own little tea ceremony, getting out my dainty teacup and my favourite little teapot, both befitting the beautiful rosebuds. I followed instructions and brewed a pot.

It was a delicate colour, not strong when brewed, and the taste wasn't sweet or fragrant like I expected, but subtle and a little bitter. Not unpleasant, not mindblowing either, but as I sipped, I was warmed by the thought that I was kick-starting my metabolism and doing some good for my innards! It also impressed the children, they wondered why I had flowers in my tea? It started off as a novelty but will continue to be a part of my daily routine. A small enjoyment in each day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Today my partner-in-crime and I set off to Burwood for an appointment. Not knowing the neighbourhood very well, we parked at the local Westfield knowing it would be the hub of the suburb. On route to our destination we came across Burwood Road. It is a bustling strip of small businesses, mostly cafe’s and restaurants mixed with a few boutiques. As it was almost 2pm, we were very behind schedule for lunch. With tummies grumbling, we quickly cased the joint...and our eyes rested on a cute little Japanese restaurant on the corner of Burwood Road opposite the park - Kado Sake House. We looked at each other and decided immediately on trying it.

The location opposite the park gave it a nicer outlook than others on the busy street. Small, cosy, but light with decor that was a fusion of traditional Japanese with funky touches (especially the vertical flouro lights with bright lime cube-like shades). Another nice detail was the stone featured walls, with sake lined shelving making an interesting display.

Now this is by no means anything but a cheerful neighbourhood restaurant and the pull is the good basic food, nice efficient service, pleasant atmosphere and great prices. We chose the lunch specials and at $10 a pop, they were great value.

My friend ordered Gyoza, 5 pieces of crispy fried dumplings with an energising cup of steaming hot Ginseng Tea. I decided on one of the specials, Chicken Oyakodon which was crispy grilled chicken on top of a bowl of rice with cooked egg and vegetables and fish eggs. This came with a delicate mixed salad (all chopped up in tiny slivers) with a soft vinegar dressing, and a bowl of Miso Soup. For the time of day, this was a little too much, but as a fast and hearty lunch it on a busy shopping expedition, it would be perfect.
I have the eternal frustration when out shopping or in shopping precincts, that it can sometimes be hard to find decent food that isn’t of the “fast” variety. This is just the type of restaurant that would fit the bill for me on any mission, even with kids in tow. It is fast, the kids could find something un-fancy in the menu that they liked, and if they DIDN’T like it, it wouldn’t break the bank either, and I would get something delicious and nutritious as well. I think I’ve definitely found a solution for this very common minefield, at least in Burwood!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

COASTAL DINING at Mooney Mooney

Mooney Mooney is an unassuming suburb just off the F3 freeway to the Central Coast. Its quiet location on the Hawkesbury river being its biggest drawcard. We took the old Pacific Highway from Hornsby and enjoyed the winding, tree-lined road catching glimpses of the river along the way. Once we crossed the bridge at Brooklyn, we knew we had arrived. The old Mooney Mooney Workers Club has always been a "funny little place". Since it was taken over by the Revesby Workers Club about 3 years ago, it has become a popular eatery for locals and visitors alike.

First impressions as you walk in are "isn't it small?". The staff are incredibly friendly and it has a nice casual feel about it. The updated decor is quite serene, not like the usual club decor, where the loudness can be quite confronting! Once led to the dining room, your eyes are immediately drawn to the the view of the river. The dining room opens up onto a verandah overlooking a grassy reserve, then to the Hawkesbury river.

A perfect location for a long summer evenings with the family as there is also a closed in play area just below so while you enjoy a relaxing meal, you can be sure the kids are occupied.

Today we were celebrating an anniversary and decided to have a seafood feast. This club has a wide variety in the menu, from regular sausages, steaks, roasts and schnitzels, through to the full seafood extravaganza. There is also a comprehensive kids menu with the usuals such as fish & chips, spaghetti to name a few. All priced at $9.90 and including dessert and drink. Dessert being icecream with flavoured sauce or jelly with a freddo "frog in a hole".

Now it is advisable to book, as even on a weekday, the dining room is full. Apparently you can't book the verandah, but can just put in your "bid" for a position and they will do the best for you on arrival. We were lucky on this occasion. As we were handed our menus, the waitress also handed a colouring in sheet and coloured pencils to our son. Great thinking! It gave us time to peruse the menu.

As it was a special occasion, we decided to go all out seafood and I started with an entree of grilled scallop and crispy prociutto salad with vinaigrette ($16.70). Hmmmm....delicious, subtle flavours and light enough not to spoil my appetite! My husband had a dozen oysters kilpatrick, an old favourite of his and one he doesn't partake in often ($17.80 per doz)

Satisfied, we moved on to the serious matter of mains. There really was no choice to be made, we had seen the Coastal Platter for 2 glide past us en route to other tables, and just had to have it. The platter is a melding the Cold Seafood Tasting Plate and the Trawlers Basket. What a sight to behold!

The top layer included half a lobster morney, tempura prawns, deep fried soft shell crab, salt and pepper squid, yellow tailed schnapper and chips. Below was the local oysters au natural, cooked prawns, a whole crab, smoked salmon, mussels in their shells, and marinated octopus all accompanied with dipping sauces and salad. The price for this was $93.50 (for 2). However, if you join the club for $5.00 you can get a 5% discount on all meals and drinks. Well worth it if you decide to become a regular here.
So after demolishing this, and entertaining the 4 year old with a nutcracker and a crab shell (endless fun), we decided we were at the point of no return and were definitely going to order dessert! Shamelessly, we again perused the menu and both decided on the Butterscotch schnappes creme brulee with mixed berry compote, ice cream and cinnamon palmiers. What is dessert without a a nice milky moccha for hubby and a chai for me.

At that point, we had to give in and down tools. It was time to pick up the firstborn from school and we had a 20 minute drive home to make.
We left with membership forms in hand, and the thought that we would definitely come up here again in the future. It is a great, child friendly location for larger family groups who are usually seated next to the window overlooking the playground, but still with full view of the river. Or even just for a quick afternoon meal. I've heard it is really busy on Sundays, so you must book. They do Mothers Day buffets, so its good to check what is on the menu for your chosen day. We also were quite extravagant with it being a special occasion for ourselves, but it could easily just be a quick kids meal, and a pasta or steak instead of cooking dinner, followed by a quick run around the play area during daylight savings. Hapi eating one and all!

Monday, May 18, 2009

When Raw Fish+Wasabi Does Not=Sushi!

From a distance, it looked like sushi but what on earth was it doing in a pack hanging off a hook?

So I had to have a closer look and when I did, I discovered they were Salmon & Wasabi Sushi Flavoured Potato Chips!

Well everyone knows I love potatoes and I love sushi. However, while I tolerate wasabi in miniscule amounts (as an enhancement rather than a smothering!) I wouldn't go out of my way to add it to non-sushi items (wasabi peas and soy beans being the exception!).

So it was with some trepidation and caution that a few of us opened the packaging only to find ... another packet within!
Of course you learned readers will tell me that it is obvious to you what was going on here but we had to turn the outer packaging over and read the fine print. Unfortunately it was all in Japanese! Thank goodness for pictograms - the universal language!

We did as they suggested (yes, no surprise there, the contents settled into the bottom third as soon as the pack was opened - sigh!) and poured the inner pack into the outer pack, then shook the separate little packet of wasabi powder all over the chips.

To get a better look at the result, we tipped them onto a plate and sampled.
If you close your eyes, apart from the crispness, they definitely tasted like sushi. Whether you could say it was salmon in a blind taste test I'm not so sure.

The chip itself was crispy and dry, not greasy and the wasabi wasn't too "biting" and made for quite a nice flavour. I'm not sure that this product is going to steal hordes of consumers away from its nearest competitor (I'm thinking chilli & sour cream) but for something a little out of the ordinary, I'd buy them again. Just don't invite a huge crowd around! : D

Friday, May 15, 2009

Night at the (New) Marigold

Tina & Alan's Wedding Banquet
(or Lessons in All You Can Eat)

Some people believe that going All You Can Eat is good value - some like the variety, some like the price. In some ways, attending a traditional Chinese Wedding Banquet is a little like All You Can Eat.

At Tina & Alan's wedding banquet, which took place last Sunday night at the New Marigold in Chinatown, I ate more than I did when we recently sampled the fare at the Central Coast RSL. There, it appears, I was quite restrained. I ate a wide variety of dishes but, with each forkful, I really considered whether every morsel that I put into my mouth was worth the space in my stomach. I knew there was a lot more food than I could ever conceivably fit in at one sitting.

Which leaves me asking why that night, I ate till I literally could eat no more (and yes, in good old Chinese tradition, we took home the leftovers)!

We know that a Wedding is a cause for celebration. Every family wants to show their happiness at the union of two people who were fortunate enough to meet and fall in love. A traditional Wedding Banquet contains 8 dishes - eight because the Cantonese word sounds like the word for "good luck". But there is also the great tradition of giving your children the best - perhaps that is why there were 12 courses on Sunday night's menu!

The evening starts promisingly with empty stomachs and empty dishes taunting the guests who, knowing what they're in for, have starved themselves in anticipation.

The MC assured us that each dish was specially selected as it was symbolic of one or more aspects of a good union.

Thanks to a little googling and L. K. Yee, ( ) I can also reveal the following:

The lobster (or dragon) symbolising the man, the chicken (or phoenix) symbolising the woman; having both representing balance in the new relationship. Also, the Cantonese word for Fried Chicken sounds like "good life".

Roast pork is the symbol of purity, Shark's Fin Soup (as the principle ingredient is quite expensive and illegal to harvest) symbolises wealth.

Serving fish indicates hope that the couple will experience a life together with abundance because “fish”" sounds like “plentiful” in Chinese" not only in financial wealth but progeny. (Having witnessed our fervent photography of all the dishes served, our waiter expertly dissected our whole fish then reassembled the head, tail and fins to create the decoration below!) Noodles served at the end symbolise longevity because noodles come in long, long strands.

The rice is served at the end because no one needs to eat it, indicating the hosts are wealthy enough to provide plenty of protein.

Sweet Red Bean Soup and Sweet Cakes are for wishing the newlyweds a sweet life. In addition, the hot sweet red bean soup should contain lotus seeds (lian zi) and a bark-like vegetable (bak hop)because together, the words sound like "wishing the newlyweds a hundred years of togetherness".

But there was also crab claw, scallops, whole baby abalone, fresh fruit and wedding cake (purple taro, not chocolate!) along with tea, red & white wine and softdrinks!

So aside from being a visual feast (everything tasted as good as it looked), why did I eat beyond my normal capacity? I believe it's because at a buffet, you serve yourself - you know when you've had enough and can eat at your own pace.

At the wedding banquet, you are at the mercy of the kitchen and then the waiter. The kitchen prepares everything whole, regardless of the number of people at the table. The waiter's job is to divide the contents of the serving dish into equal quantities determined by the number of diners at each table to ensure that no one goes without! Who could send food uneaten back to the kitchen at a wedding banquet?! So, in spite of all logical reasoning, we ate and ate and ate and ate.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why All You Can Eat has nothing on the Chinese Wedding Banquet!