Duck Ham with Butternut, Cima Di Rapa, Apple, Celtuce & Yoghurt
Barramundi with Blood Orange, Baby leeks & Red Witlof
Sorrel Marshmallow with Spring Greens, Basil Sorbet & Crème Fraiche
I know I just wrote a treat today but while the juices are still flowing and the food experiences of my Sydney trip are still fresh I will keep treating. So it’s no secret I love brunch, I plan walks with friends around lakes just so I can get my poached eggs at the end. The walk is non-compulsory but the brunch is a must. I will state now my favourite brunch place in Perth is… drumroll please… Sayers in Leederville. Why? Because whatever you order you can’t make at home. Plus they give you poached eggs with everything and if there’s one thing I love about brunch the most it’s poached eggs. So in Sydney there was many occasions for brunch. First stop Bills in Darlinghurst owned by celebrity chef Bill Granger who I admit I don’t know much about but my friend Kirsty has his book and she says it has a good baking section. The menu at Bills has an all-day breakfast so already he’s a winner in my eyes BUT here comes the scary part. They don’t do poached eggs – I repeat – they don’t do poached eggs. So after walking from the city down Liverpool Street to Darlingurst (when the Bills on Crown Street in Surry Hills would have been closer and less hilly) I came to the realisation that I had to have my eggs scrambled. I overcome my worst fear and had my eggs scrambled and enjoyed what was a simple and very filling breakfast. Another brunch experience is a family favourite introduced to me by my cousins and friends for having the best pancakes ever – and the winner is Pancakes on the Rocks. I have been to 2 of the franchises – Darling Harbour and Northmead and either one you go to once you order the Banarama you are onto a winner. On a personal note I like to make mine healthier by ordering strawberries and a scoop of chocolate ice cream for the antioxidants. I tried being super healthy once and getting the pancakes with the walnuts and bananas but that was too walnutty – it had maybe half a kilo of them. Where next on this brunching tour of Sydney – well here’s an unorthodox twist – is 10am too early for macarons and amazing looking desserts? Absolutely not, plus if you don’t get in early you miss out (like my friend Kirsty who rocked up at 3pm to see a lonely loaf of bread – sorry Kirst is it too soon?) Who am I talking about? Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie in Balmain of course. I took my cousins there after arriving at 7am in Sydney and we went straight there. We bought a selection of pizzas, pasteries and macarons and enjoyed them at the park nearby on what was a sunny day. The pizza blew our socks off – the pumpkin and pesto flavour was insane and unexpected. Here I was thinking it was all dessert we’d be eating and it was the savoury that walked away as prize favourite. The pasteries were also sensational and the random macaron flavours can impress or distress. Flavours like wasabi and black sesame may have one scratching their heads, a recent flavour rice pudding had me puzzled but one bite and the texture of rice took me back to childhood and my mum’s riz-bhaleeb (Lebanese rice pudding). A special mention to the coffee creme brulee and raspberry shortbread flavours. On this most recent Sydney trip my friends and I went back to the Balmain store and enjoyed the wonderful offerings again of Zumbo to a busy Sydney line where people were spending in the $100s. Here’s a hot tip! Zumbo’s macarons are cheaper and tastier than the Lindt macarons – so do yourself a favour embrace the randomness of Zumbo and don’t fall for the trap of the Swiss Chocolatiers (don’t tell them I said that because I really love Lindt chocolate). Now I want to get back to my favourite brunch topic – poached eggs! On the windy, cloudy and stormy Sunday where the Melbourne Storm weren’t playing but Manly and Warriors were for the NRL Grand Final (sorry Sydney-siders I still struggle to use the word footy for rugby league) we headed to Bondi for a swim. As if! We went to Bondi for Sunday brunch because it sounded like a good idea at the time. Even Bondi agreed with the wind blowing us towards the restaurants and away from the breach. My friends and I went to Nikos on the main strip where I have been with my cousins previously and had a scrumptious breakfast. The team of us (all three) ordered the exact same thing – flat white, poached eggs with spinach, mushroom, hash brown and tomato as sides. The table next to us had this impressive mocha with melted chocolate and I had drink envy while I sipped my flat white. The poached eggs were overcooked for my liking, I usually like mine runny but I won’t fault the place because they had them spot on the last time I was there. There’s a How I Met your Mother episode when Marshall goes on bromance brunch dates – I can relate brunch is such a relaxing and fun thing to do with friends and I will continue to make pretend exercise date with friends so I can brunch. I also will make a shout out to Kirsty’s brunch day when she had a few of us girls over to a feast of bircher muesli, eggs benedict and home-made pastries (she even made the puff pastry) with evidence in the photos attached. I contributed by supplying the flowers on the table (well that’s my dad’s contribution – thanks dad!) What have I proven in this treat – I love brunch but that was no secret anyway. So really you haven’t learnt anything except that macarons are a breakfast group and exercise is not compulsory to indulge in brunch activities.
THE FOOD JOURNEY
Perfectly acceptable brunch food.
Do yourself a favour and try the vegetarian pizza..you can thank me later.
This has dairy in it….just like what you’d pour in cereal…same same but different.
Bananarama….you can never go wrong.
Devil’s delight….is delightful without the devil.
Black Forest pancakes….yes it really exists.
Home-made pastries…inspired by the French brunch.
Poached eggs….Bill Granger seriously how can you not have poached eggs on your menu?
Home-made bircher muesli
I thought long and hard about this next treat and realised one treat was not enough for the number of treats I have experienced in the last 5 days in Sydney. In the lead up to this food journey I read the Sydney Morning Herald religiously, examined their Good Food Guide, ripped pieces of newspaper out and then lost those papers and forgot to print out my list of places but still we had so much to do and eat without any of it. Here is my number 1 tip when dining in Sydney – BOOK! Book weeks in advance, take the time to enjoy that meal at a leisurely place and feel confident that you will get good service. So here begins the first treat at Billy Kwongs where to my absolute surprise and sheer delight I saw Chef Kylie Kwong cooking in the kitchen. She actually was there cooking my dinner – why I was so surprised I do not know. I think celebrity chefs sometimes become famous for their books and TV shows that you forget where they all started -in the kitchen. So what did I expect from this restaurant with a no bookings policy (please ignore my previous advice) to line up in the rain, luckily for once in my life I was on time and was third in line before the restaurant even opened. The restaurant is very small and you sit on small stools, which for an uncoordinated person like me wasn’t the ideal setting. Throughout the night I dropped my chopsticks, almost toppled the table over while picking up my chopsticks, almost hit a plate out of a waiters hand while I spoke in my animated way with hands and all – so yes I found it challenging to leave their without a damage bill against my name. Let’s get to the food – well I couldn’t read the specials, I guess Kylie has better knife skills than handwriting but no fear the waitress was used to this and explained the specials. One of them was a crispy skin duck with tangelo sauce. One word for you – divine! The cinnamon flavours and burst of tangelo freshness was like a party in my mouth. The duck was perfectly cooked and succulent – wow! It was definitely the highlight of the meal. The vegetarian dumplings were nice but fairly pedestrian – same same to ones I’ve had in dim sum experiences except different for one word – Biodynamic. So this word pops up a lot in Kylie’s menu, to reduce carbon footprints by using locally produced ingredients (that’s what the menu said). However, to this day I still have no idea what biodynamic food actually means and have had no time to Google it as yet. The other dish we ordered was a plate of Asian greens and noodles but again it didn’t have that Xfactor like the duck but the noodles did have the xo factor (it had xo sauce aka hot sauce). Overall my hat goes off to Kylie for:
A. Being in the kitchen and cooking the food.
B. For being environmentally friendly even though I may not yet appreciate what biodynamic means
C. For making the best crispy duck I have eaten.
D. For fantastic service and encouraging us not leave any polite pieces of the poached pear and awesome crunchy praline crumble dessert.
I will definitely return because I left my $3 umbrella there so I need to pick it up. Oh and to eat the crispy duck again.
This little treat is all about markets – the smell, the sounds, the taste and the surroundings. I love market shopping – not the cheap trinket type but the one all about food. I start this treat in Barcelona then head over to Versailles and Nice. The first market explored in the European food journey of July 2011 was the beautiful sights and sounds of Barcelona. Just off the main strip of La Rambla – you will find this chaotic and enchanting market atmosphere. The colourful sight of fruits and vegetables where the variety would astound you – all your berries from the tart cranberry to the above average size blueberries all made me berry excited (sorry lame joke I know)! The hot Barcelona day was cooled down by a refreshing coconut and mango juice as we continued to explore the many alleys of this market. I admit it – I stared at the fruit and vegetables and was so impressed that the camera had to go out. Yes I was taking photos of fruit! It didn’t end there though because as much as the fruit captivated me I was struck by awe in the seafood section. Large prawns, sea urchins, salmon and mussels had me in a daze. I didn’t know where to look. Some produce I had never seen before had me both curious and hungry. So for a unique breakfast we indulged in piping hot empanadas, a spanish omlette (as I stared next to the lady tucking away next to me with an early morning seafood platter) and a light dessert of berries and juice that we took down to the pier and enjoyed the sea breeze. Also for the first time I was able to try a donut peach and nectarine. Now this donut peach revelation was first brought to my attention in the Australian summer of 2010. I went to a local produce shop near my work wanting to try this healthy donut to only find out I missed the season by a week. This time I didn’t miss out and the verdict -the slimmer design makes eating peaches much easier without losing any of the juiciness. I would repeat this donut peach experience many times on our travels. The photos of these markets do not do it justice – you have to also imagine the sounds and the smells that make a market experience. The colourful delights of those markets I will never forget. The next market experience we also stumbled upon after exploring the beautiful palace of Versaille and indulging in a hearty meal at a local brasserie. This market also had a scurry of people getting their locally-made bread and fresh produce. Though we had an impending flight we took the moment to have our dessert with a locally made strawberry tart and again a donut peach to add a healthy touch. We finally end this market treat in the old part of Nice where you will find the middle of the day loaded with tourists and locals buying flowers and fruits. These experiences made me realise how much I love market shopping – yes it can be busy with all that hustle and bustle but I am too distracted by all the colours to notice. So for a different treat experience try the markets and be captivated by the sights and sound. BUYER BEWARE: warning it will make you hungry and you may buy things you don’t need.
Salt is a chef’s staple ingredient, it’s on every restaurant table and is a guaranteed seasoning on all your dishes in Barcelona. In fact salt is beyond a seasoning in this Catalan city, it gives food texture as you feel the salty crunch in each bite. I will be honest I struggled at times with the seawater taste from the extra salt that my palate wasn’t accustomed too. My mum’s cooking leans towards spices and herbs with salt being a companion rather than a hero to the dish. So when I had my first paella I was absolutely overwhelmed by the salty taste in my mouth. I was also deeply disappointed not to find a crust at the bottom of my pan, which Masterchef had taught me. My travel buddy, Kirsty’s dish was even more salty but it was a salted cod so the menu was accurate in it’s description. Another food adventure was Ohla Cafe, a restaurant and bar famous for not only its gastronomical food delights but making whizz bang cocktails with foam. We didn’t try the cocktails but we did enjoy a selection of tapas. The extra salt gave the mussels some nice crunch (donated my serve to Kirsty), the beans and poached egg was also supported by sea salt particules (I’m a sucker for poached eggs so didn’t mind the salt here) and enjoyed a refreshing gaspazho soup (salted by anchovies). At this point I was getting confused – why was I struggling so much with salt? Here I am in Barcelona, the gastronomical molecular cooking capital with its creative and innovative recipes and I was struggling with a pantry staple. So how did I overcome this? Well I didn’t give up – I kept eating. I tried more paellas (still no crust) and I indulged in amazing seafood and after 3 days my palate had begun to embrace salt. A highlight for me was the seafood platter on the seaside of Barcelona (see photo) with wonderful prawns, sea snails and crustaceans in the mix. My favourite eating experience was at the markets off La Rambla – the beautiful produce (fruits and vegetables galore) and the amazing seafood (huge mussels, oysters, salmon made me want to sing my Little Mermaid favourite ‘Under the Sea’) had me in awe. I feel silly but most of my photos of Barcelona are from the market – it just captivated me. At this point I wished my parents were there to see what I could see, so I took photos and they were a bit puzzled at why I had photos of apples. The camera does not do it justice, the food needs to be eaten to be believed. I left Barcelona with a sense of satisfaction that I had experienced as much of the culture and taught my palate to embrace Catalan cooking. While visiting the Picasso museum Kirsty and I had three amazing food experiences. We first found a wonderful tapas restaurant where we enjoyed succulent scallops, empanadas and prawns. Then the second round was dessert – drum roll please…. creme brulee icecream. The most amazing gelati of my life – it had the sugar crackling and cream vanilla bean and caramel taste of a creme brulee. I was in heaven. The proof is in the pudding (or gelati in this case) – the happiness on my face says it all. Another wonderful food moment was this cute chocolate shop where we completed what became a three course meal with locally made dark chocolate (that was featured in the New York Times) so we were onto a winner. Barcelona was my first taste of Spain and I look forward to coming back to this country with a greater understanding and a more welcoming palate.
THE FOOD JOURNEY
Mussels @ Ohla Cafe
Instead of going to the Picasso museum.
Carbs – people say you shouldn’t eat them but without them Italian food would not exist. Pizza, pasta, the desserts – really are the essential dietary requirements of the Italian culture. I have a love affair with Italian food – the way it sounds is as delicious as it tastes. Here is my favourite Italian eating moment – I have been through a lot of hits and misses to get to this point. Today’s indulgence is gnocchi – a potato flour dumpling (if I may call it that) that is like a pillow in your mouth. But good gnocchi is hard to find – if you overcook it becomes hard and so more like swallowing a rock than a pillow. On my recent travels to Europe in July I had a rushed visit to Florence, a half day visit does not do justice to the food of Firenze. The plan was to leave Florence by 12.30pm and continue to the journey to Rome. It was my mission to try the Florentine steak – 1kg tbone steak with special herbs and spices cooked medium rare (just how I like it). So to have enough time to eat this 1kg of cow we had to find a restaurant that was at least open at 11.30 because it takes at least 25 minutes to come out (and you also need to take into account finding enough time to get back on the tour bus especially in the maze that is Florence). Could we find a restaurant that would serve us at 11.30am – absolutely not! Why? Because lunch does not start till 12pm and we found that at every restaurant as we walked the streets of Florence in search of this Florentine steak. We had to compromise so we had dessert first – a wonderful coconut and peach gelati. That helped lift our spirit as we continued the search of the florentine steak. We finally came to our crossroads, threw in the towel, the hunger headache had appeared and the miles of walking in our search required carbo loading. We ventured into this somewhat opened restaurant at 11.45 and scanned the menu in 2 minutes. In my rush I ordered the gnocchi – a dish I am often scared to order in case of a harrowing rock experience. As my companions and I waited for our meals, carefully checking their watches, tapping our feet in anticipation and we waited…. and we waited. We called the waiter over and told him of our rush as we had a bus to catch in 20 minutes. Could we do takeaway? The waiter was puzzled at our haste and the chef even more perplexed at why we were speeding up this food experience. Finally the food arrived and I eagerly had a forkful of gnocchi. WOW! Those pillows were sent straight from heaven – so soft and creamy. I finished this whole plate of gnocchi (see photo as evidence) within 5 minutes, such a shame to rush but at this stage we were cutting it fine. My travel companions had to get their meals in doggy bags, the poor waiter was beside himself at this point. Then the run began, we had less than 5 minutes to make the bus and we didn’t actually know the way to get back. Through the weavy streets and alleys began our chase, then the moment we realised we were lost and the cheerful help of the policizio with my broken Italian (I gave up quickly and let my fluently speaking Italian friend take over. I try but it’s hard to get my aussie accent out and I unfortunately can’t roll my rrrr’s making it even harder for my Italian to sound well Italian). We continued our race to the bus, by that stage it was 12.45 (yes 15 minutes late) with doggy bags in tow and we saw the light (the bright yellow bus) and the run became a sprint. We made it (the bus waited for us thankfully) and the journey continued onto Rome. Was the rush worth it? Absolutely – that gnocchi alle salmone was cooked al dente! I officially give it the title of the best gnocchi I have ever had in all my life. Also if it wasn’t for that carbo load I probably would not have been able to that run back to the bus. I would like to make an honourable mentioned to the tagliettele dish I had in Cannes, France – with your lemon foam and chunks of salmon (I will never forget you). For it’s those experiences that get me through the challenges I put myself through (Exhibit A -12km city to surf race) Thinking about food (especially carbs) makes crossing the finish line much easier. I toasted this experience with a hand made tagliettele with lamb, peas and ragu. I’m not sure if you are meant to carbo load before or after a race but really it doesn’t matter because I was surrounded by a wonderful group of friends and we ate our lunch in a slow leisurely pace. The waiter at the Florence restaurant would have been proud. For that is what Italian food is all about – it’s not about the carbs or the calories – it is about taking the time to share this experience and the joy it gives you with those close to you.
BEST GNOCCHI EVER!
So as you gathered by now we have explored the city of lights and tasted the Parisian delights. This city is so big – full of food and history. One of the most fascinating facts I discovered on my travels was in Versailles – learning that King Louis XV and Marie Antoinette would dine in public. Eating was a public affair that was shared (more like seen) by the people. While the royalty ate with such gusto this was their potential demise as the people got food envy. I can relate I get it all the time. When you are at a restaurant and the person you are with orders the better meal. It happens to all of us – especially me who is so indecisive, spending all my time trying to pick the right thing where I keep changing my mind and then for the rest of the meal I’m staring at the other person’s meal longingly. Food envy is ugly – it brings out the worst in us, a possible decent meal is ruined by the green eyed monster and you often feel a sense of regret. Of course food envy in this case does not involve a guillotine or people yelling ‘off with their head’ but it does emphasise how often our minds don’t switch off. While we are eating our food many of us use that time to think hard – about life, friends, family, situations, world peace, the list goes on and on. Do we ever stop thinking? Here I want to explore with you the French style of eating – not to answer the question why French women are skinny – no this has nothing to do with weight loss. Instead I want to explore the French culture of eating – the long leisurely traditional lunch or dinner. I first learnt about this way of dining from my Uncle Joe as we welcomed in 2008. Firstly it consists of many courses, which are not large meals by any standard – they are more like small snapshots that end up being a collection of food. From anything like foie gras and croutons, smoked salmon, escargots, ham and fromage (cheese) – it’s these simple little articles that can leave one quite satisfied. Many history books when describing the French art of wining and dining emphasise the length that these proceedings go for. Yes the French have mastered the art of entertaining to a tee, turning one minds off to enjoy life’s simple leisures. So the lesson here is when one is eating their meal, it’s time to switch of the TV (even if it is Masterchef), switch off the mind – and focus on being with the people you are and the food you are eating. This is a hard lesson for us to learn but with time and practice (I prefer this than when I had to practice the piano as a youngen) we too can master this art of true French eating. So I will leave this treat with of course a treat experience – dining with my treating buddy Kirsty for her birthday at the Eiffel Tower restaurant, Le Jules Verne. Now this was an expensive but wonderful lesson in French fine dining. Instead of waiting in the massively long line to get up to the Eiffel Tower on Kirsty’s birthday, we decided to pay that little extra and eat instead. Here is what came – fresh bread (how I got used to eating that at every meal), a complimentary gaspacho soup, an interesting chicken and duck terrine (after seeing the Masterchef contestants attempt it I now realise how much work went into making it and the fact I was eating chicken skin freaked me out a little but by the time I saw that episode I had digested it) and a main of dory fish with a random selection of legumes (not lentils but vegetables – something I kept forgetting everytime I ordered). For mains Kirst had the traditional beef tartare and frites – the waiter was like ‘Are you sure Madmesoille it is raw’ and Kirst was like ‘Oui Oui’ (or something to that effect). Now dessert was the best part as we sipped our expensive champagne and this insanely amazing chocolate and raspberry fondant. Here we are scraping our dessert plates when the waiter puts down a plate of macaroons and chocolate truffles (I wanted to steal those and take them back to Australia). After all this food we felt like we were on top of Paris (we sort of were as we were high up the Eiffel Tower). This leisurely long lunch went for 3 hours – gave us time to chat with the couple from Philadelphia next to us, laugh at the long line below and eat many courses of wonderful food. In this moment I can definately say my mind was switched off assisted by all the food putting me into what I like to call a food coma (when you can’t move out of your seat and anything that comes out of your mouth makes no sense). After this experience I have become a true advocate of the long lunch. Here are a few tips to make your lengthly dining experience even more pleasurable:
TIP #1: OVERCOMING FOOD ENVY – To overcome food envy just order what the other person is ordering – it’s boring but it does work. But I’m not boring so I never follow this tip and well my food envy rages on.
TIP #2: AWAKENING FROM A FOOD COMA – It is no coincidence that many countries in the Mediterranean – France, Italy and Spain are the main ones that come to mind – enjoy a siesta after a long lunch. I am a big fan of napping after eating – I find after a big meal my eyes dozing. In a way it is genetic – after my dad eats dinner he falls asleep on the couch to the sounds of the TV. I am also gifted with falling asleep after a meal, which is not handy while on travels as there is so much to see and do. This tip I give to you now is from my travel buddy Kirst who told me to harden up (not in those words) and start moving. So to overcome this sleepiness after eating enough for 3 people is to get on your feet, start walking and exploring and before you know it you will be awake, excited and ready to probably eat again in half an hour.
Till next time keep treating!
|Long line vs 3 course meal|
|Chicken and duck terrine (ala Masterchef style)|
|Dory fish and legumes (i.e vegetables)|
|Beef tartare = raw mince|