Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I'm sure that parents statewide are breathing a sigh of relief now that school has resumed! Don't get me wrong, I love the school holidays, and really enjoy the short break from our usual schedule to allow for free-range days of play and adventure. However, there is an additional expectation, and escalated excitement about what to do which by default includes WHAT TO EAT! Now as a MO2, I always leave the house with a full complement of vegemite and honey sandwiches and assorted snacks. In the holidays this just doesn't cut it I'm afraid. They are totally fine for a play date at the park, but when cruising along the beachside promenade on a blade scooter, with saltwater whipping our faces, only fish and chips will do. You see my point? So, I found that it is very important to have a vague idea of what is available foodwise in the area you are heading or your best laid plans can go very awry VERY quickly. (Case in point...Fort Denison. Yes, there is a very swanky eatery on the island which I would have LOVED to have tried, but my pockets aren't bottomless, and frankly, a more simple meal option would have helped me that day). We were "stranded" on the island for longer than anticipated as we had to wait for the 1pm cannon to be fired. In the meantime, we bought an overpriced icecream which ended up having to be thrown away in haste to allow us to take the walking tour of the fort! No food or drink allowed inside! With tears and tantrums, we made the tour, but with my point blank refusal to replace the overpriced ice-cream when we got out, it didn't add to the joy of the day. We travelled quite widely on our day trips, and only the more successful quick-bites are included here. THE ROCKS. I know that as a tourist destination, the focus is on opportunity and dollars, rather than good food and good value. However, on a Friday trip to Susannah Place museum (note: it has an olde worlde corner shop which has great lollies, english treacle and very stylish and cute "pie birds") we happily stumbled on the Rocks Food Markets. How fortunate for us that it is the time of year to re-ignite this Friday tradition. Food stalls of organic produce, sauces, spices and some local eateries supplying simple menus. We excitedly lined up at the Pony stall, and were rewarded with a sumptuously tender and juicy combo of bbq lamb, in a pita roll with baby spinach, hommous, yoghurt and lemon. Simple and delicious. It was under $10 too! From there we popped our heads into the La Rennaissance Patisserie to peek at the little mouse cakes, and the tri-colour macaroons but the line up was too much for the first born, so we slipped across to the Argyle Centre and found Sticky, a sweet shop with hand made rock in more flavours than you could poke a stick at. We took our time tasting and looking at the many varieties and finally settled on a bag of rainbow rock (very pretty), and lavender rock. That was exquisite! I love lavender and violet flavoured lollies. I have beautiful memories of some violet pastilles I used to get in my frequent trips to Paris (pre-children), so before we LEFT the store I had popped a lavender pillow into my mouth. What flavour!! It was too much for the firstborn, she got stuck into the rainbows while I happily sucked away enjoying my newfound favourite. The sales assistant very smartly pack our selections in one of those orange stringy bags used for fruit. I thought it was just a quirky, cute looking way to present the product, but realised that it was a fantastic option for keeping those busted cello bags in check. How many times have you opened a big bag of lollies, had one, popped it in your handbag, only to fish out handfuls of beautifully sticky lollies covered in detritus formerly languishing in the dark hole that is a ladies handbag and had to throw them out? At $6.00 a bag, they aren't cheap, but do last longer than I expected (well..the way I was putting those lavender lollies away..I wasn't sure the bag would make it home!). THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM. Well, at a place like this food is not the drawcard, and thats the way it should be. How can you possibly compete with dinosaur bones in the eyes of a 4 year old? In my view, the cafes should only really provide re-fuelling options for tired and hungry families, needing sustinence. The cafe at the Australian Museum does just this. There is two options, the one we tried is just in the main foyer, in full view of the majestic whale bones dangling from the ceiling. The area is airy, light and open, painted white with bright red accessories. It is nicely presented, well ordered and the staff are helpful and quick. You can see from the menu board (and isn't it cute?) that they actually do serve vegemite sandwiches here, so even though we travelled with same, basic simple options are available for the less organised. We stopped for shakes, lattes and carrot cake this time, but they do have more on offer in way of cakes and wraps. This is a pleasant sit down point before tackling the special exhibitions. But beware, the prices will add to the already pricey adventure of visiting the museum and that is BEFORE you get to the gift shop. CENTRAL COAST. We often travel to the central coast for days by the beach and visiting relatives. Today we visited the holiday fair at the Entrance. We popped in to see our favourite uncle, and spent some time scootering around the promenade lakeside. Now, as our previous trip to Patonga has proved, seaside location plus captive audience does not always equal good eating. We were very disappointed with the fish and chips on offer at Patonga Seafoods and won't be blogging it anytime soon. Today we tried Darrons Seafoods at Wamberal which was a great success! Not only were the staff, chirpy and helpful, they gave us suggestions from the vast menu to fulfil our needs. With two children in tow, it is easy to over buy, based on their state of mind and lack of patience at the time. So, we decided on the fishburgers (huge bun, lots of fresh salad and a good sized battered fish fillet with mayo inside), and two of the smaller fish and chip packs at $6.50 each. These were great value and just the right amount for us. We have found ourselves many-a-time with all fish gobbled up, and a mountain of soggy chips left over that get fed to the seagulls. Not today. A beautifully golden battered fish fillet (forgot to note what the fish of the day was sorry), with a neat amount of crunchie golden chippies to match. Darrons is also a fish market, so you can buy supplies for dinner, and they also sell sauces and other accompaniments for the seafood. Darrons can be found on what is now called the Central Coast Highway (or as the locals know it "the main road" formerly the Entrance Road) at Wamberal. We took ours back to uncles house, but if you just slip down the road heading towards Terrigal, there is some nice spots right by the Wamberal lagoon to enjoy your feast outdoors. I highly recommend Darrons for your next central coast trip. GALSTON. From the sea to the countryside we go. Today was horseriding at Dural, and after a tiring few hours, we stopped at the local and very unassuming bakery for our quick fix. Goodies Bakery and Cake shop is tucked away at the back of the Galston Village Shops. It is not fancy, and I can't say the cakes set the world on fire either (mock cream to-boot), but the pies are faultless. We enjoyed a chicken and veg, beef and mushroom, and a thai chicken pie which I have to say was totally fabulous. They are reasonably priced, and the coriander and thai flavouring of my pie was really superb, and a nice surprise (especially after the bee-sting/fake cream debacle). If you are heading out Galston way, make sure you look up Goodies. Finally, what is a school holiday without some home cooking? My two kids love to cook, and enjoy helping me in the kitchen. We have recently planted broccoli, strawberries and herbs for our edible garden, and I am sure I have at least one budding foodie in the pair. After an hour in the cubbyhouse, I was very pleased to be presented with my first mud/dirt pies of the holidays. Beautifully plated up on plastic, for my eating pleasure! We all had a laugh pretending to eat them, and pretending to be the masterchef judges giving scores. My kids are only 4 and 7, but both avidly followed the contestants on the show and really took note of what was on offer (thus their enjoyment of my Goat curry). Long live the school holiday fun and long live quick and tasty food! Happi eating.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
A few weeks ago, I was intrigued to find a sign at the new local butchers advertising "goat curry". Feeling adventurous and thinking it was a pre-mixed meat and seasoning, I bought a kilo. As I was shopping with the lad, I became a little distracted, so continued choosing other items, paid and left. Once home, I realised it was simply a kilo of meat ready for the making of curry!!! What to do now? Within 1/2 an hour of my shout out to Ya Ya and Friends I was more than well equipped to begin my newest foodie adventure. This of course, was two weeks before Poh chose Goat as the staple ingredient for her challenge on Master Chef, so now there is even more scope, recipe-wise for my goatie adventures. I chose to go ahead with a recipe from the FoodNetwork.com which was Curry Goat and was posted by Gregory Joliff (thanks Greg..it's a beauty!). As with all recipes, you need to tweak them a little to adjust to what ingredients you have in the cupboard, and what your family's tastes will allow, so I will give you the original recipe, with my little tweaks included. Firstly, you start with 2 pounds goat meat or lamb without bones (well...I had 1 kilo WITH bones and it was great), 1 lime juiced (I only had lime squeeze), 1 tablespoon salt (mine was Maldon sea salt), 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, 1 scotch bonnet pepper (I had to look this up, it is quite hot, so I replaced it with a red capsicum to appease the kids..and where would you GET a scotch bonnet pepper anyway?) chopped and seeded, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (I had fresh sprigs), 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 3 tablespoons curry powder, 2 whole scallions sliced (I had 3 spring onions from the garden), 1 onion sliced, 3 cloves garlic minced, 1/4 cup vege oil (I don't think I used that much..just a slurp here and there), 3 tomatoes diced (I used a 425gram tin of tomatoes), 1/2 cup coconut milk optional (I used a small tin of coconut milk which gave me almost a cup...it all went in), 7 cups water (oops..I didn't see this and just put a cup or two in before simmering). DIRECTIONS : rub lime juice over goat meat, place meat in a bowl, then add salt, black pepper, scotch bonnet, thyme, allspice, curry powder, scallions, onion and garlic. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours in the fridge, longer would be ideal (mine was left for at least 8 hours). Heat the oil in a pan until very hot, saute the meat until golden brown. Then add the marinade, tomatoes and coconut milk (if using), and simmer for approximately 3 more minutes. Add water, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally until meat is tender. For me this was 2 -1/2 hours. I chose to serve mine with plain rice, and the kids absolutely loved it! The meat was tender, and had fallen off the bone while simmering, so before serving, I picked the large bones out of the mix. The capsicum added a nice sweetness, and after so many hours in the pan, ended up more like tomato than capsicum which was great as my kids aren't huge fans of it in cooking unless it is well concealed. The result was a very tasty, earthy, and delicious meal. I had a moment of despair when I realised I hadn't put any thought into the wine matching of the dish? Ya Ya helpfully suggested a lovely cool pale ale, but as it wasn't a really spicy dish, my Cab Sav worked rather well with it. Really, if they didn't know it was goat, the kids would have thought it was a lovely beef stew, but the fact that it WAS goat was a lively conversation starter around the table. The kids sang "my highland goat was feeling fine" with the words changed to.......until it ended up in mummies pan (!) It doesn't rhyme..but gave us a laugh. Since the Masterchef goat episode, I have had discussions with a Greek friend of mine, who suggests that her family replace goat for lamb in ANY recipe, so keep that in mind if wanting to find a recipe to use goat. It certainly opens up the options. All in all, I have to say it felt like a triumph...how was I to know that from these humble beginnings, such a glorious achievement was to be made! Happi eating.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
It hasn’t even been a week yet and I’m already having Masterchef withdrawls and suddenly finding 7pm tv a bit boring. In honor of a very successful 1st series of Masterchef Australia your challenge is to name the 7 ingredients of the mystery dish below…..
Several suspending ad-breaks later along with a long pause of dramatic music. George yells out “There’s no port in Gary’s Beef Bourguignon” or in Sprinters Beef Bourguignon flavoured chips for that matter.
I love finding different, out of the ordinary, weird and wonderful, strange but intriguing food items in Asian / foreign food stores. On this occasion my venture point took me to aisles of Aldi during my lunch break.
At first taste, as you could imagine from the answers below, it was a bit strange. Subtle tomatoey, and herby flavours came through with a surprising aftertaste of slow cooker meat. The chip was fragrant with smells of sweet praprika, and certainly no traces of any port. Texture was crisp and crunchy as expected and not very oily. As I’m usually quite ravenous with hunger after work I wasn’t going let an exotic flavour enhancer get the better of my taste buds – nom nom nom!! Admittedly though, I didn’t mind the taste at all.
I also found it quite bizarre to have a French flavoured chip, made in Malaysia, sold by Germans in Australia!!
Rumors are that due to the phenomenal success of Masterchef they’ll be airing Celebrity Masterchef at the end of the year - bring it on brother!!.
Till next time … we eat!!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I first noticed Bees Knees by accident as I was on my way to pick up Japanese takeaway for dinner one night. As I scurried past with great intent, I caught a quick glimpse inside a newly opened vintage shop on the “old side” of Hornsby. Not a place you just wander about, off the main thoroughfare, it is a place you go with a destination in mind, so I was really interested to see that they had set up a cosy looking cafe in the back of this store and I immediately LONGED to go in. It took me a couple of weeks to actually get there, but I was so pleased I did. What a whimsical, wacky, and eclectic place! The first clue to its character is the shopfront, with display windows full of interesting vintage pieces, a homey white cane table setting piled with cushions and magazines (a nice sunny spot in the morning), and the sounds of an espresso machine and laughter drifting out. You really just stumble on to it before you realise it is a cafe which of course adds to the enjoyment of finding it. I was on a shopping expedition with my firstborn today, so just a quick morning tea for sustenance before “getting on with it” was our mission. We couldn’t help but smile on entering, the place is packed with furniture and vintage wares ranging from old books, art, bric-a-brac, handbags, jewellery, and even some re-worked denim garments given new life with some artful arranging and attaching of mens ties! Yes, I did go in for coffee and come out with an original new skirt! There’s nothing wrong with that is there? He he. Once inside, our biggest issue was deciding WHICH little cosy nook to sit in! Given the smorgasbord of styled spaces to choose from, we had to decide whether we were in the mood for “shabby chic”, “boho babe”, “nanna’s lounge” or a “psychedelic dream”! The owners have artfully arranged little clusters of furniture, lounges, tables and chairs to create many spaces with many personalities. It is a cacophony of style but strangely it all works! It is a delight to sit waiting for your treats and explore the strange and wonderful pieces for sale, this is how I found my skirt. Apart from the main cafe, there is the sunny spot out front (one table only so you have to grab it when you see it), there is also a cosy back room, and a cluttered courtyard, with a little display nook. The courtyard is full of quirky things, but not as pretty as the main room, I can imagine this would be a great place to hang on a summer evening with a group of friends though. It would be a perfect meeting spot before a night out. The whole place seems to have taken on the energy of the owners. They obviously have an arty or creative background and their passion for all styles of design is apparent. Both quiet, they take our order. The food is not as eclectic as the decor, this cafe offers a range of the usual suspects, croissants, friands, cookies, toast, scones, so the real inspiration is in the surrounds. We decided to share the waffles and ice cream. Lucky we shared as it was much more than one person should attempt! A hot choccie for the firstborn, and the usual chai latte for me, we enjoyed an hour eating, drinking and poking around the bits and bobs. I have to say it was one of the nicest spiced chas’s I have had for a while, and the owners were delightful, and delighted that we enjoyed their lovingly put together cafe. Only open for 2 months, I hope that word gets around that it is a great, quiet and interesting place to relax and recharge before tackling Westfield. Kids are genuinely welcome, and the cosy welcoming feel is certainly something I will be making the effort to experience time and time again. Bee’s Knees Vintage Cafe can be found at 14 Coronation Street, Hornsby.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Belle Fleur Cafe is a light, airy lunchspot within the popular Flower Power nursery at Glenhaven. On entering the nursery, you find yourself in the homewares shop and after wandering through, imagining each piece in your home, you are led gently down a ramp lined with water features. The sound of trickling water is mesmerising and as you arrive at the statue with two water urns running over, you realise you have arrived at Cafe Belle Fleur! What a nice surprise. I have visited Belle Fleur before, and the first thing I notice this visit is that it is a little bit "tired" looking and in need of a quick spit and polish. Undeterred, we are led into the cafe and happily find that our table looks directly over the man-made lake. My eyes are drawn immediately to the huge weeping willow shading the glassy water, the rocky island in the middle with the water spout keeping the water moving. The huge windows open onto the lake, which in summer is lovely . Each table today is full, and the play area is humming with activity! The idea is inspired, a calming view for harried parents trying to enjoy their meal, a fully enclosed play area with slippery dips and climbing equipment in the corner to keep the kids occupied, all housed in a pleasant, open and light room with high ceilings with a casual air. Pots line the restaurant, and plants wind their way up the beams to the ceiling, and a stray family of sparrows have flown in the open window and are perched amongst the greenery above us (Poo alert!). Now, on to the menu. As usual, I was dining with my son, so the kids menu was perused for something suitable. There was fish and chips, mini burger on turkish bread, "gingerbread man" sandwiches, to name a few, but we settled on a grilled chicken pita pocket with salad and a scrumptious garlic mayonaise. All were $7.50. The cafe is open 7 days, and the breakfast menu is available until 11.30. As it was nearing 2pm, we were well and truly into the substantial lunch menu. I had trouble deciding between a few dishes in particular, the wagyu beef and mushroom pie with mash, the pumpkin, lentil burger with chilli jam and capsicum, morrocan chicken but I finally settled on the crispy pork belly with asian greens and water chestnuts and chilli jam. I have to admit, I couldn't eat the three slabs of pork belly, two would have been elegantly sufficient. As a treat, I also had a fresh fruit frappe which tasted mostly of strawberry...it was delicious! Of course many come for a quick afternoon tea and cake or scones. I saw many mouth watering styles passing my table, but after our meals we didn't have room. In any case, there are many ways to enjoy this space....a full blown meal, or a quick cup of tea and a play. We decided to continue our time here by following the path around the lake, enjoying the quiet, marvelling at the size of the carp, and then ending up in the retail nursery where my 4 year old picked up some seedlings of broccoli and strawberries for our wine-barrel planters at home. Another foodie on the make!
Belle Fleur can be found at 609 Old Northern Road, Glenhaven. and is open 7 days a week.
Belle Fleur can be found at 609 Old Northern Road, Glenhaven. and is open 7 days a week.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Sushi is part of everyday life these days for most and there is a lot of bland, flavourless sushi around, and Chatswood has plenty of outlets to choose from. The girls at work suggested a quick lunch and I was pleased to be led up the road to Sushi Bay in Brown Street. It occupies the street level of an unassuming office block, and looked like the regular sushi train style restaurant, clean and cute. Almost all stools were full by the time we arrived which is promising and we were greeted enthusiastically by the chefs and waitresses alike - always a nice touch. With eyes glued to the food "train" we were seated and settled. No real conversation could start until the first choices were made. Smoked Eel nigiri for "B" and Avocado and Tuna rolls for "Long Legged Lolly" in her hot new happy jeans! I picked a delicate and flavoursome pair of scallop nigiri. Ohhhhh yummmmmmm, it was "all aboard the flavour express" for us! With appetites whet, we ventured on. Again, all conversation now turned to the varieties on offer, puddings, steamed dumplings wizzed past, tempting us at each turn, but we reverted to our regular favourites : Crab with a sliver of squid, egg omelette, lettuce and seaweed topped with fish roe (scrumptious), Rice cakes with finely sliced raw fish and a solid whack of wasabi, Fried chicken and avocado...to name a few. Each was incredibly fresh, the chicken rolls were still warm and crips from the fryer. Really, there is nothing like simply cooked or prepared food that is so fresh it melts in the mouth. Now, as I said, there is many a sushi house in Chatswood and some more enticing than others, so it was refreshing to have this impeccibly made food in a nice clean atmosphere which was quick and not costly! I was very surprised to see they have many outlets, and most in shopping centres (not usually known for their fresh and delicious fare!). As usual you pay by the plate, and each colour represents a pricepoint. The waitress perkily asks if we three would like separate bills? It was so easy as each of us had multi-coloured plates piled high in front of us, so she simply ticked off the colours on the bill and handed it over. Convenient yummy and quick! I can't wait to go back to try more. Hapi Eating!