Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflection of 2011: how my food blog reflected parts of my year

January- After finishing my extended thesis in late 2010, I organised the trip of my lifetime where I travelled to the USA/Europe/Hong Kong. It was the perfect reward after a tough Honours year and I enjoyed every second of it. See my post about aeroplane food. In this month, I relocated to Canberra for a work grad program.

February/March/April/May- I began my first full-time job. Being new to Canberra, I socialised rampantly, ate and drunk maybe a bit excessively. The grad program's 'honeymoon period' eventually wore off and people stopped going out as much. Work became the centre of my life and I didn't have any outlet for creativity or self-expression... so I started up this blog!!! See my first post.

Juneish/July- My flatmate and I hosted a massive afternoon tea for our Canberra friends. She went overseas and left the apartment all to myself. I contemplated throwing wild tequila parties where I'd encourage my guests to lick the salt crystal lamp in the apartment, invite homeless people over where we'd strip and dance.

I kept myself occupied by visiting Sydney a lot. There I enjoyed home food and hung out with friends. A few of my Sydney friends visited me in Canberra, including Milly and Jacqui. This definitely cheered me up from the Canberra cold.

August- During the few months up to August 2011, I was appealing the mark that I received for Honours. Theses normally take 9 months, but I my whole journey with my thesis and the body of research spanned over 2 years. I tackled barrier after barrier in university and government politics, structures and bureaucracy. The appeal was the icing on the cake as it was rejected by the university. I was so tired of fighting for what I believed in. I felt that no matter how much blood, sweat and tears I put into something, there are sometimes structural forces that work against me. In August, work in Canberra was also very stressful and I had a few personal things going on.

Nevertheless, writing for this food blog was the easiest thing in my life. I would: take photos, write, my post would get published and friends/family read my blog.

I needed to get back on my feet and to combat the biting Canberra cold. I made warm food such as daal kofta curry. Luckily, there were things to keep me busy in Sydney. I visited the city to show around a friend from America and for my graduation.

September- The weather warmed up, more events were going on and I enjoyed food outdoors.

October/November- I disappeared from this blog as I immersed myself in work travels, social events and volunteering to organise a wine tour. November was the anniversary of when my long-time best friend passed away. I took it more harshly in 2011 than normal, because I missed sharing things with my friends, being able to love them, chilling and being myself. I tried to make a life for myself in Canberra and the pictures show this.

December- Everything work-wise quietened down but my social life went nuts. I realised that where ever I live or travel to, to some extent, I somehow recreated similar lifestyles in each location. I spent time with my closest friends and ate out at every chance to laugh about this. All the opportunities to take food photos made become a bit addicted to this blog. It was the festive season after all!


macarons at the the cupcake bakery

The instance I bit into the strawberry macaron from the Cupcake Bakery, I knew it was a bad choice. The macaron's exterior shell was tough and the centre of the biscuit was as chewy as hard bubblegum. The chocolate ganache was also difficult to bite into. If this ganache was used on a cake, I doubt the dessert spoon would be able to cut through it.

The macaron was a waste of calories. Sorry. The cupcakes in the Cupcake Bakery aren't bad. It's probably best for this franchise to stick to their day job - cupcakes, not macarons. 

Cupcake Bakery
Parramatta Westfield
Parramatta, Sydney

Emma's on Liberty Lebanese Eatery

I lived in Sydney for the majority of my life. Living in Canberra allowed me to realise that travelling overseas, or the strong desire to, is a well-pronounced trend among most of my friends more so than other Gen Y people. Not all Gen Y people want to do this or have the finances to do so. It feel fortunate to have seen what I have overseas, but I also feel like a spoilt brat.

Yonks ago, two of my friends had a farewell dinner at Emma's on Liberty in Enmore. I think it was the first time I had Lebanese food outside a takeaway shop - haha.

We had the typical falafel and tabouli. It felt odd to eat falafel with a fork and knife, but I realised that there is more to falafel than the stuff in kebab shops. I had fried cauliflower for the first time and it was amazing (essentially cauliflower lightly fried in spices). I thought: 'What? Cauliflower doesn't have to be in a wet stirfry but just be cooked with dry spices?!?!'

I have fond memories of the Ladies Fingers, which were filo pastry rolls, filled with lamb, pine nuts and pomegranate molasses. The fillings were sophisticated but a bit heavy. I brought some away in a takeaway container, and the fat of the lamb just hardened up. Some foods aren't suitable for takeaway :S. But I loved the casualness of the rolls and being able to eat with my hands.

And for dessert, we had baklava and turkish coffee. Delicious and difficult to share!
Emma's on Liberty: Lebanese Eatery
59a Liberty St
Enmore, Sydney

The Last Emperor exhibition and Mamak

One of my Sydney neighbours volunteers for the Art Gallery of New South Wales and kindly offered me two tickets to the opening exhibition of The Last Emperor at the Gallery. This was one year ago. I grabbed this opportunity as it was the day after my thesis was due and I was in SERIOUS SERIOUS SERIOUS need of alcohol (i have my priorities in order).

The exhibition was okay... in fact, I thought it was over-rated. There were tons of people, which was a shock to my system after being 'hermitted' (adj) in my bedroom for months. We queued up for the exhibition, which contained heaps of tiny Chinese artefacts and a few terracotta warriors. I like reading and studying about history and mostly respect galleries, but this exhibition was a bit boring. Knowing that thousands of terracotta warriors exist, the sight of just a few didn't excite me. Maybe my judgement is misinformed, uneducated about how the exhibition was put together. But the exhibition per se didn't do it for me. Maybe a 'taster' of Forbidden City wasn't enough.

Oh yes, and we went to Mamak, a popular Malaysian Restaurant. The food was flavoursome, filling and different to what I normally eat. Mind you, I can't stand really hot curries and welled up in tears throughout the night. I was amazed by the puffy roti (top left hand corner). In real-time, it looks massive but I could eat it like crack on a stick.
15 Goulburn Street
Haymarket, Sydney

Friday, December 30, 2011

high tea at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

In 2010, I received a membership to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. One of the benefits of being a member is having vouchers for gallery events and tours. I wanted to share this with my friends so I invited them to an tour of Art & Soul accompanied by high tea.

I enjoyed the combination of food offered for high tea. However, at $35 for members, you get what you pay for. The dishes were commonplace, not necessarily made on site and rough around the edges.

We started with a pumpkin soup and a mini sausage roll with rockmelon/proscuitto. Crustless sandwiches had either roasted veges/feta (just like your typical panini at the local take away shop) or curry chicken of some sort. Although the sweets were aesthetically appealing, they were the key downfall of the tea. The cakes were clearly pre-packaged, scones were hard/dry (I can make better) and the macarons could have been skipped as they were a bit stale or hard.

Okay, to step down from my high horse, the high tea was just a bit of fun, and at least my friends got to experience it. I have high expectations for high tea and should understand that not all high teas are equal. It was good for what it was. After all, the art in the gallery should out shine the food.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road
The Domain, Sydney

Almustafa Lebanese Restaurant (Glebe)

Looking back at all my food pictures and preferences, I'm starting to think that I'm a tad obsessed with Middle Eastern/ Lebanese/ Turkish cuisine. Maybe I fancy their use of chickpeas, or I crave a refined version of falafel. I also crave baklava at random parts of the day (after a work lunch, when eating salad, going for walks)- maybe I love the complexity of take away baklava. Whatever it is, it is yum and I should stop trying to pin-point my taste through self-analysis.

The Almustafa Lebanese Restaurant in Glebe was lively but had intimate mood lighting, bustling but guests could have {{private conversations}}. We ordered Baba Ganouge, Falafel, Vine leaves and Shishbarak (Pan fried pastry ravioli filled with lamb, pine nuts, and onion, served in a sauce of yoghurt, coriander and garlic and on the side, white baked rice with vermicelli noodle). This last dish I remember being amazing and something I've never tasted before.

Each dish was presented beautifully and had sufficient (and interesting) sides to complement the star act. There's absolutely nothing that I could complain about.

As the night went on, belly dancers came out onto the restaurant floor to entertain the restaurant guests! This was a lovely surprise. Some guests probably felt that it added to the authenticity of the restaurant. I kinda felt like a tourist (note that Glebe isn't really a tourist hot-spot, so I'm probably just being a sceptic).

I'd definitely go to this restaurant again and would recommend anyone else to go :)

Almustafa Lebanese Restaurant
23 Glebe Point Road
Glebe, Sydney

yum cha @ Golden Jade Seafood Restaurant

Yum Cha (meaning 'drink tea' in Cantonese) is something that I miss in Sydney. It's not that Yum Cha in Canberra is bad, but its either in a place that's far away from where I live, doesn't have 'yum cha ladies' who push around metal carts or the food is just not as good.

On a recent Sydney trip, my mother brought my little brother and I to the Golden Jade Seafood Restaurant to have yum cha. This is a popular restaurant in Eastwood, frequented by Chinese grandparents who insist their adult children join them at the table and 20-something year olds from HK/China who came to Australia to study and miss food from home.

The food, as always, was great. The dumplings are usually considered as a key indicator of the overall quality of a yum cha restaurant. Here, the pastry of the dumplings was appropriately 'bouncy' and there were no holes in the pastry. My fav dumplings are the ones with chives or asian veges. I also love the sago dessert- here it is like a baked custard with little balls of sago.
Golden Jade Seafood Restaurant
140 Rowe Street
Eastwood, Sydney

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Massive cakes @ Buzzzbar Cafe in Newtown

I caught up with the Honours 'kids' at the Courthouse in Newtown. We were drunk off our faces (typical), or maybe it was just me. Either way, we were starving, not really thinking the nutrients we should be consuming and wanted quick food. We rolled over to the Buzzz Bar Cafe and stuffed our happy flushed faces with massive cakes (at $7.50 per cake, you get a size for what you pay). Chocolate flourless, baked cheesecake with an apricot topping, some sort of fig cake and some sort of almond gluten free cake. 

All cakes were delicious. We ignored all social ettiquette and ate of each others plates as if we were cats. The chocolate one might have been a bit heavy and needed to be shared. Despite the context of our consumption, the cafe is not just the type you'd go to soak up alcohol but the food was delicious and I'd definitely go again.
Buzzzbar Cafe
349 King Street
Newtown, Sydney

christmas cake recipe recieved through viral email

I recieved this wonderful Christmas cake recipe through a viral email. Good for those who "can't remember last year's cake recipe"

* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4 large eggs
* Nuts
* 2 bottles wine
* 2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the wine to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the wine i...s still OK. Try another cup... Just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Go to Woolies and buy cake. Pick the stupid fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the wine to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something.. Check the wine. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the wine and wipe counter with the cat.

Bingle Jells!

moscato summer pudding

I wanted to make a dairy-free, mostly healthy but 'different' dessert for Christmas Dinner with my cousins. I wanted the dessert to match the warm climate of an Australian Christmas, as opposed to heavy puddings and fruit cakes which are better for a colder Northern-Hemisphere Christmas.

For some time, I held a recipe for Summer Pudding with Moscato from Gourmet Traveller, and this was the occasion to experiment! After all, if it failed miserably and my family hated the dish, my family is still my family (mwahaha, yes).

Summer Pudding is a quintessential English pudding. It's usually made with forest berries, white bread, vanilla bean paste and sugar. This recipe had boozy Moscato in it, which I thought was appropriate since my cousins and my family are all adults now.

The final result ended up looking like a lopsided blotchy alien which failed to develop a perfect tan from the red glare of the planet Mars... Nevertheless, it was pretty and fruity (as long as anything is aesthetically appealing and healthy, its okay).


apple coffee cream cheese cake

For one of our Christmas dinners, I baked a Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Cake, using this recipe. The cake has three layers: a coffee cake layer, cream cheese layer and an apple topping. Note that the coffee cake doesn't actually have coffee in it, but is just the colour of coffee. This might be an American thing to do- to give a cake a description based on its appearance rather than taste (i.e. red velvet).

It was a nice cake with a good proportion of cake to apples. The cream cheese was a 'special little extra' to the cake, but I got the sense that it confused my family/family friends as cream cheese isn't a common addition to cakes.

christmas celebrations

For the first time on Christmas Day, my family went to church to attend a morning service and eat lunch. The whole experience was odd because most of my family is unfamiliar with the conventions of church-going. I anticipated that we'd 'commit' various faux pas. For instance, I had no idea what would be appropriate to wear. My only guide (sadly) was the cartoon flowery dresses 'Lisa Simpson' awkwardly wore to church when she was forced to go. I was embarrassed because Lisa Simpson, the archetype of young American females, was my only guide.

Food-wise, every person who attended contributed $11 for lunch for communal platters of typical Christmas food, such as turkey, ham, salads etc etc. The layout of the food, wandering individuals connected by a seemingly common lifestyle/belief and the act of being grateful of the food actually reminded me of a homeless shelter I volunteered for a few years ago.
On Christmas Day, my family had dinner at a family friend's place. It was great to have their company on Christmas Day. The food was eclectic and amazing. It included chicken soup covered in puff pastry, tuna sushi, quiches, salads, seafood, oh and the typical turkey/ham.

On another day, we had dinner with our cousins. The food was healthy and not from your typical Northern-Hemisphere Christmas (turkey/ham etc). Instead, there was sashimi, wonton noodle salad, falafel salad etc. One of my cousins creatively cooked 'Christmas scallops' by using the colours of Christmas (red chilli and green parsley) to flavour the dish. There IS art in everyday life!

And some food-orientated presents...
Home Restaurant
There is no street like it, or is there?
A Sydney suburb for you to guess

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Paddo Bowls

On Boxing Day, I went to my cousin's partner's birthday celebration at the Paddington Lawn Bowling Club. The club is located in the leafy area surrounding Edgecliff Train Station. The neighbourhood is filled with expensive near-$2M houses with nicely-kept hedges, ornate gates and shiny black European cars. The club was up-market but casual- there were large comfortable wicker chairs and a restaurant/bar with a varied mostly-healthy menu. The price for drinks was good for Sydney, as I paid just $6 for a cider.

There were a few food platters at the event, each having either Mediterranean food, deep fried calamari, spinach/cheese filo triangles and falafel. Finger food is normally over-filled with bread crumbs and lacks protein. However, the food here was good enough for my entire lunch (reminder: I am a health-freak).
My cousin put together a fantastic slide show of photographs taken of guests at the event. Authentic of ye olde times. Check it out here.

Paddington Lawn Bowls Club
2 Quarry Street

Sushi Bay

After spending months in Canberra, I've learnt to appreciate more my friends in Sydney who know me as a person outside of work. As most people in their 20s, I've been through a lot of stages in the past couple of years. But it's important for me to have a couple of friends who, no matter what mindf*** I experience or particular anxiety I draw myself into, at the end of the day, they'll empathise, laugh and love me for who I am :).

I caught up with an old friend at Sushi Bay in Castle Towers. The food was good and beats most of the stuff in Canberra. Most of it wasn't mind-blowingly spectacular, but this is just what I needed - comfort and familiarity. There was just one sushi plate that looked a bit odd, as the rice was purple?!?! I suspect it was some type of glutenous rice or white rice coloured with red bean or something.

I've been here several times and would continue to go. It's a good and convenient sushi place for the North-West of Sydney :).
Sushi Bay
Piazza, Castle Towers Shopping Centre
Castle Street, Castle Hill

Sushi Hotaru

Everytime I visit Sydney, I insist on eating sushi as there is a serious lack of good sushi in Canberra. My friend brought me to Sushi Hotaro, the new-ish sushi train under the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya in Galleries Victoria. It was right after Christmas, so the place was packed with tired (mostly Asian) shoppers. Each dish was $3 + 10% holiday surcharge. The price per dish was definitely value-for-money as most dishes had some form of seafood. It was one of the best sushi trains I've been to in Sydney!

Apparently, seafood is one of the most environmentally-unsustainable foods to consume as it is farmed and sourced using an extraordinary amount of natural/man-made resources. I ignored all of this, just for this meal. I promise I'll eat less seafood in 2012 :) and I usually stick to my convictions.

There was a magnificent artwork in the centre of Galleries Victoria with hundreds of books suspended from strings. It was like a massive diorama (there's probably a more sophisticated description for this type of art).

Salmon sushi, blow-torched

Salmon and scallop sushi, blow-torched

White fish (snapper?), blow-torched, sprinkled with chilli powder

Edamame sushi

Avocado roll with salmon

Scallop sushi, blow-torched

Cooked tuna & tomato sushi

Cooked tuna and salmon avocado sushi

Sushi Hotaru
500 George Street
(Below Kinokuniya)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kazbah: Middle Eastern and North African

On Christmas Eve, I went with a friend to Kazbah, a Middle Eastern and North African restaurant in the Top Ryde Shopping Centre, Sydney. The restaurant’s décor was coloured with an exotic blend of red and brown. The most noticeable things for me were the red/golden lights hanging like waterdrops at the front of the restaurant and the golden-framed mirrors at the back. If the restaurant had any more decorations, it would be over the top.

The restaurant was a bit moody and even a bit romantic. I went with a male friend which, for some, could've ended up in an awkward 'is this a date?' situation. But I am very familiar and comfortable with my friend, so it was all okay.
We ordered two mezzes, one being Shredded Lamb, Pistachio Sauce, Pita Crisps. This was delicious! There was protein, something elegant (pistachio sauce), something to hold the whole dish together (pita) and a sauce to cut through the rich flavours of the meat (yoghurt sauce). Typical of Middle Eastern restaurants (or like the ones that I’ve eaten at), the meat was a tad heavy. Good dish nevertheless.

The other mezze we ordered was Fried Cauliflower, Eggplant Jam, Pinenuts with Yoghurt Tahini Sauce. This was delicious as well! The cauliflower was wonderfully flavoured with spices. This was well balanced with the sweetness of the jam, depth of the nuts and freshness of the yoghurt.
After two mezze dishes, we were already full. However, out came the Harissa Marmalade Beef Shish Kebab, served with Sticky Pearl Couscous, Moroccan Eggplant, Tahini Sauce and Red Wine Onion Marmalade. This dish was definitely the heaviest, as it had big chunks of meat and carbs (couscous). We should have probably ordered another vege or white meat dish, so that was a mistake on our half. The couscous was a bit odd, as it was flavoured with some flowery fragrance (or maybe that’s just the taste of the pearl couscous). However, the beef was cooked well, and the condiments of the dish were really needed to break up the massiveness of the dish.
The dinner costed 35pp. Although it was a tad expensive, it was a treat and I’d definitely recommend it to others!

La Piazza, Top Ryde City Shopping Centre
Cnr Devlin St & Blaxland Rd, Ryde
(Also in Balmain & Darling Harbour)

Monday, December 26, 2011

street food, street art

As much of a health-freak I am, I love street food for its simplicity and easiness. With a friend, I enjoyed gözleme in The Rocks Markets. We walked around the area to see MCA's Primavera exhibition. I love stumbling upon art on the streets and the quizzical moment of 'is this meant to be here and is this really art?'

We also checked out Outpost, the street art exhibition on Cockatoo Island. Can you see my friend's repeated tag in the pictures? It's a statement that would permanently alter the landscape of politics...

Viet in Eastwood

Im currently in Sydney for my Christmas/NYE break :)

My mum and I went to the Pre Pho Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant in Eastwood. It's a low key place filled with locals a smell of some Asian herb, such as Thai Basil. We ordered Beef Pho and Vermicelli with Pork. The meals were large, decent and hit the spot.

Pre Pho Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant
261 Rowe Street

Monday, December 19, 2011

Belluci's bombe alaksa

I just came back from having dessert at Bellucis and am blogging in the act of being on a ‘sugar high’. AMAZING! My flatmate and I ordered Bombe Alaskas. This is an Italian dessert, with a maderia cake base, topped with gelato covered in a meringue. I’ve seen this dessert in many cookbooks and have always wanted to try it. And the Bombe Alaska at Belluci's did not fall short of my expectations.

To start, we were going to order this to take away. However, my work supervisor wisely advised me that if you eat in the restaurant, the dessert comes out with FLAMES. The takeaway price for this dessert is $12 but the sit-in price is $14. It came down to the all-important question – Would we pay $2 for flames? Why, YES! Of course!

In the restaurant, it only took 15 minutes for the dish to come out of the kitchen. And with flames!!! It was exciting to think – those flames are pretty and are they for me? Yes! However, there was a teeny mistake as the restaurant thought that we only ordered one. There was a slightly awkward moment where I was stuffing my face and making orgasmic noises by myself, in front of my flatmate. Within 10 or so minutes, the second one came out and that eased the situation. No biggie.
The first bite – amazing. Breaking into the crispy meringue was just like taking the first spoon-full of a crème brulee, or in layman’s terms – kissing someone for the first time. HAHA. Yes. There was this amazing moment of: What? I am eating a meringue AND ice cream AND cake? What? It was everything that you could ask for in a dessert – elegance through the meringue, childhood dreams through the ice cream and cake which has connotations of celebrations.

It was exciting as the meringue oozed out – this tricked me into thinking that my dessert was ‘dying’ so I should quickly ‘save’ it by eating it. My flatmate thought it was a ‘doozy’. The ice cream was three-tiered with dark chocolate, ferrero rocher and tiramisu.

The maderia cake base had a slight taste of liqueur, probably because the dessert had to be drizzled in liqueur for it to be flamed up. However, the base was a bit stale and hard, but this was probably important to maintain the structure of the dessert. My flatmate wasn’t a fan of it.

The meringue’s sweetness overpowered the dish towards the end. However, I do realise that meringue needs a high percentage of sugar to keep its shape. And it was served with a raspberry puree, which was complemented the dish really well. The strong fruity taste cut through and balanced all the creaminess of the dish.

Each Bombe Alaska was massive - half the size of my face! I would most definitely go again but share it with at least one other person.

We were in and out of the restaurant in 30 minutes, giggling on a sugar high. And I realised that the front door of the restaurant is reminiscent of a cross-section of the Bombe Alaska
Dickson, Manuka or Woden (we dined at Woden)

sweet stuff

I can't blog at the same rate at which I eat - AHHHHHH. So here is some sweet food porn, with minimal explanation:

Flatmate's chocolate orange cupcakes
And I rediscovered the joy of lollies... Harrod Coca Cola drops - Each ball carried the flavour and bubbliness of a whole can of coke.

For my birthday, my cousin gave me 'Fairy Drops'. Each ball was different coloured and lightly dusted with a powered sugar, giving them a rustic aesthetic. There was a heaven of playfulness in every ball.

wine, roses and jazz festival

In Canberra, graduates across government departments have many opportunities to attend interdepartmental social mixing events. I wanted a wine tour to happen, but rather than asking someone else to do it (and it possibly not happening), I put up my hand to organise it (yes, I am a sucker).

The capacity of the wine tour was 77 people. 3 separate groups of approx 25 rotated around different wineries, essentially a ‘tour’. The tour purposively fell on the same weekend as the Wine, Roses and Jazz Festival. This allowed the graduates to not only go wine tasting, but enjoy the music and pretty scenery. We visited the Murrambateman region because a committee member advised that it is one of the more picturesque regions.

Tallagandra Hill Winery
This was, by far, my favourite winery on the day. The winery has a contemporary café feel. We enjoyed a sit down wine tasting outside under shelter. Brad, one of the owners of the winery, talked us through each wine we tasted, what food would complement each wine and answered our (mainly mine) bizarre and inane questions. For example, I asked why do people swirl their glasses before they drink the wine? I can’t remember Brad’s exact response but it was something along the lines of allowing people to fully smell the wine and to allow the aromas of the wine to come alive. After all, the sense of taste is dependent on smell. Brad also told us a bit of history of the winery and made the whole experience very personal.

Another group had lunch at this winery and they were thoroughly impressed by the generous servings of food.

I’m not a red wine drinker, because I find it too strong and too fruity. I actually feel like a Queen Lear when I drink red wine. However, the 2011 ‘Sassy’ Red was amazing. Even a couple of males liked it. My wine tasting notes describe it as being made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, tasting and smelling of sweet berry fruits, with a delicious touch of sweetness on the palate. I thought the wine was zangy (like citrus), playful and light. My favourite red wine in the world, so far!
Dionysis Winery
This winery reminds me of the cute country cafes and shops that you’d find in small towns, such as Berrima. Normally guests enjoy a stand up wine tasting in the shop front, where they are surrounded by delicious condiments etc. For our wine tasting, we were in the back shelter where all the barrels of wine were stored – it felt natural and raw. The new 2011 Reisling was my favourite and was well liked by the male/female crowd. It wasn’t overly strong and had a good balance between fruitiness and sophistication.

At this winery, we had a light lunch – either a smoked salmon salad or goats cheese salad. I enjoy the first offering but many of us still needed more food to soak in the wine that we consumed throughout the day. A few of us shared a Dionysis platter, which included cold meats, cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, dips, chutney, relish, tapenade, pesto and olives. This dish has a better presentation on non-festival days, as it would be served on a wooden chopping board, giving the dish a country gourmet feel.
Long Rail Gully
This is a large shed filled with barrels of wine and make-shift wine tasting tables. I didn’t taste much wine here because I was trying to sober up for the drive home. This was the first winery where my group actually got to listen to jazz. The highlight of this winery would be the gorgeous dam at the back. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of it.
Jeir Creek Winery
This is a small and cute winery. There are flowers and leaves climbing the walls and is exactly what I imagine a country winery to look like. I remember tasting a nice dessert wine here… But my technical memories of this part of the wine tour are pretty vague.

People seemed to enjoy themselves a lot at the wine tour. I had a lot of fun planning it (thanks to the committee) and hanging out with the grads. This was probably my favourite social event of the year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pork Barrel

I’ve heard lots about this restaurant through colleagues. The restaurant is listed in the ‘gold section’ of Canberra’s Entertainment Book so I expected a slightly formal dining experience. Instead, the restaurant had no white table cloths but exposed wooden tables and a café feel as waiting staff stood behind a U-shaped bar and as there were floating/make-do blackboards with the menus. The locals knew this and dressed appropriately. My flatmate and I just came back from work so were a bit more formal. But after 10 minutes, we felt at home.

We ordered/shared a pizza and salmon. The pizzas here are the same as those in Debacle, a famous Canberra pizza institution (my ‘evidence’ is heresay and if you compare the menus, they are exactly the same). The selling feature of the pizza was the doughy base – fresh, as addictive as crack on a stick, fluffy and just yum. However, I’m more of a toppings lady (maybe due to my avoidance of carbs) – while the base was amazing, if I was craving pizza, I probably wouldn’t choose to go here. The salmon was good – maybe slightly small, but it wasn’t overcooked (very common in restaurants). Sorry, I can’t remember what accompanied it.
Being the sweet freaks that we are, my flatmate and I brought home a mini blue(berry?) macaron and a mini raspberry friand. The macaron was weird – I couldn’t taste any blueberry whatsoever, so it was just a smurf-like macaron – two-dimensional.

Pork Barrel
King George Terrace

La Dolce Vita

One of my favourite things in the world is catching up with a friend or two, over dinner, with a couple of glasses of wine. I love the social side of it – debriefing each other on the day/week that has gone past, talking about what’s in store for the next week, sometimes gossiping, then when the alcohol has kicked in, talking about shit (more than the usual).

Oh yes, and I also love the food aspect – such as warning my friend(s) that I am armed with a camera and seeing them laugh, sharing the food, praising or critiquing it, the wait for food. I love dining in restaurants so I can watch other customers’ faces brighten up or darken when they take the first bite of their food and how the waiting staff addresses tables throughout the night.

It was my friend’s last weekend in Canberra so we had our final ‘proper’ dinner in La Dolce Vita in Kingston. Every time I walk past this little restaurant, it is packed with bubbling people so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The waiting staff were appropriately polite, decent and friendly. We ordered two wood-fired pizzas – I can’t exactly remember what they were, but one had chicken and the other ham. The bases were crispy thin but cut well with a knife. As you can see in the pictures, the crust was a bit burnt. The toppings were nice – thin but flavoursome and not too salty. Probably not the best pizzas I’ve had in Canberra, maybe because I’m used to eating vegetarian food. But there’s little that I could complain about.
p.s. At the beginning of the grad year, I promised myself that I would try the ever-so-expensive Moet and Chandon champagne. I would definitely have it again. It wasn’t overly sweet, but sophisticated, delicate, fruity and balanced.

La Dolce Vita
34 Giles StreetKingston

Friday, December 16, 2011

wholesome food

After numerous weekends of excessive drinking, I went through a health-kick. I steered away from alcohol and craved unprocessed food. Most of this food is so mundane and not worthy of this blog, so I’ve included the more aesthetically appealing stuff.

Toast covered with cottage cheese and blueberries or strawberries.

Soybean cakes with a home-made cucumber and sweet chilli dipping sauce
Spinach and ricotta dumplings with white wine tomato sauce (Women’s Weekly recipe) – If I needed to, I could live on these for a week

Home made baked beans with fetta and toast – DEVINE food that reminds me of my mum’s cooking
It can be a challenge to be healthy and eat food that still tastes good. When I was much younger, there was a stage where I strictly avoided all types of junk food. For two years, I imposed a ‘food challenge’ on myself where I strictly didn’t eat any chocolate or ‘junk food’ such as lollies, chips, sugar-loaded cereal, raisin toast etc etc. Why? I binged on chocolate and coleslaw at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and it REALLY turned me off junk food… That year I lost 10 kilos – amazing for someone my size. However, I had a really unhealthy mindset. I never ever want to go back to extreme dieting again and haven’t needed to. Balance is essential.
After this, I realise its important to not restrict yourself too much in your diet. Instead, I now opt for 'wholesome food'. At the end of the day, its not always about what you look like, but how you feel about yourself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Asian Noodle House

A couple of weeks ago, the grads organised a lunch at the Asian Noodle House in Woden. I ordered a Pad Siew. I love Pad Siew as it’s not as sweet as Pad Thai and behind its layered taste, it has a subtle reminder of something like oyster sauce. I was pretty happy with the one here. The dish was also MASSIVE – I brought it home in a doggy bag and it lasted three separate meals! Crazy.

My only complaint would be the excessive oiliness of the dish. If I didn’t add extra vegetables to the leftovers, I would feel disgustingly groggy. I should learn to expect that from takeaway Asian food. Still good nevertheless.
Asian Noodle House
6 Launceston Street
Phillip ACT 2606 

dobinsons: chocolate ganache tart

One benefit of being with my family is I know I can pick whatever I want to eat and if it’s too big, they will share it with me. I guess I struggle to live up to the large standard portion sizes as a petite female!

So far, I have loved every tart that I’ve eaten from Dobinsons. But I wanted to try something else: the chocolate ganache tart. I am a bit of a chocoholic, but this tart was way over the top. It would be a girl’s edible best friend if she had severe PMS. Just imagine your whole mouth filled with the icing of a chocolate mudcake – this tart was just like this. I should have expected it, given it was a ‘ganache’ tart – I just thought it’d be more palatable. Still good for die hard fans of chocolate.

Turkish Pide House

One day recently, I was pretty upset and in desperate need of company and comfort food. My friend and I went to the Turkish Pide House in Woden, and this acted as the perfect distraction.

We enjoyed a Turkish Pide Pizza – ‘Turkish Deelite’. Basically, it was a turkish pide with an inside like a pizza with roasted chicken pieces, spring onions, tomato, capsicum, cheese topped with chilli aioli and yoghurt dill dressing ($17.50). The red plastic plate and the pide concept brought me back to memories drunken nights and working in a bar in Sydney. But the pide pizza in this restaurant wasn’t of the same quality as those you get in takeaway shops – there was more meat and more complex, complementary and thoughtful flavours.

Turkish Pide House
Shop G99 Corinna Street
Westfield Woden, ACT

Monday, December 12, 2011

big weekend

I love seeing how people’s choice of food reflects what’s going on in their lives.

On the weekend, I graduated from my work grad program, drinks with colleagues, partied and debriefed.

National Portrait Gallery: Graduation
The weekend kicked off with our graduation at the National Portrait Gallery. The ceremony was boring and I grumpy due to lack of sleep. However, the food was a highlight! We had crustfree sandwiches (either with smoked salmon, cream cheese etc or roasted veges etc) and cakes, such as orange and almond meal or chocolate brownies. It was a work event but the socialising aspect of it blurred work into the weekend.

Kingston Hotel: Work drinks/dinner
The grads went to the Kingston Hotel for drinks and a pub dinner after the graduation. As much as I love having dinner with the grads, I hate talking about my work outside of hours. Luckily the topic of food and the psychology of birth order came up. Love it! At Kingos, you’ve got the option of an a-la-carte menu or DIY menu (where you pick some raw meat and BBQ it).

I had a roasted pumpkin and pine nut salad. It was good overall, but it was covered in some heavy oil or dressing which made me feel a bit gluggy afterwards. My friends had a parma, chargrilled vege skewers, goat etc. Typical pub meals - laid back and no fuss.

Kingston Hotel
73 Canberra Avenue  
Griffith ACT 2603

Civic: a drunken night
Some of us headed out to Civic for a Graduate party. Everytime I go out, a person must have a greasy slice of pizza. Comforting convenient food when drunk is needed to soak up the immense amount of liquids consumed.

Pizzazz Cafe: farewell
One of my closest friends was leaving Canberra, so we caught up for brunch as kinda 'the last meal' she'd have in Canberra. She had eggs Benedict with bacon and I had muesli with rhubarb compote, and natural yoghurt. It was presented as a trifle in a clear glass - sophisticated. However, I thought the meal was okay - there was a bit too much yoghurt for my liking and could have done with more muesli. But maybe that's just because I am a cereal/muesli addict. I probably wouldn't order it again.
Pizzazz Cafe
41 Kennedy Street, Kingston 
Kingston, ACT

Tosung Korean BBQ: debrief
A chilled out debrief meal needs to follow every big night out. I went with a close friend to the new Korean BBQ in Manuka. I needed to vent and was drunk (again, whoops) so thankfully, my friend did all the cooking. I probably wasn't craving meat at this stage but apparently one craves meat if they need a boost of energy.

Compared to the Korean BBQs that I would have in Sydney, it was bit small. But the meat was of good quality – what I mean by this is that there was not too much excess fat. The venue was good as the exhaust pipes were moveable, so we could place it near the smelly stove, minimising the heat from scorching our faces and the smokiness penetrating our clothes.

Tosung Korean BBQ
Manuka (old Zeffirellis)
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