Thursday, May 27, 2010

Entertaining times are ticking

For anyone else like me that was blissfully unaware, Monday is the last day to use your 2009/10 Entertainment Book . Last chance to make the most of your vouchers and gold card. Looks like I'm going to have a busy few days.

Mr. Owl says it's time

The 2010/11 books will be on sale too - check out the website for details. Good food for good causes - it's all good.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Come again another day

The rain is here to stay. This news does not make me happy, and it most certainly does not warm the cockles of my heart. I'm struggling a little for fun weekend activities that can be conducted in rainy weather (housework does not count), so I guess every now and then, you just have to plaster on a grin and bear it.

This particular rainy Sunday, I've only a fold-up umbrella and I'm in Havs - it appears my reasoning went out with summer. But on the bright side, I feel I could be in Paris: running in from the cold, wet day into a warm and welcoming cafe proffering tarts, slices and cakes and the promise of good coffee.

Wall decorations at Le Petit Tarte, Glebe Point Road, Glebe

Le Petit Tarte is the cosy cafe of choice, the charming indoors having an immediately defrosting effect on my toes. All the better to walk with, to the back area next to a non-functioning fireplace. The reverse air is certainly effective and it's not long before short sleeves are appropriate and a coffee ordered to cuddle and warm the insides.


The coffee is good, creamy without being spectacular, although I must admit that I'm looking for more than a caffeine fix. Afternoon as it may be, I'm on the breakfast trail, while my already-breakfasted companion feels a sweet tooth coming on.

Eggs Benedict with bacon and hollandaise sauce on the side

Is there a more satisfying - without being overly indulgent - breakfast than bacon and eggs? I suppose it depends on mood and a number of other variables, but my excuse is that it was beyond noon and I hadn't eaten a thing all day.

Eggs Benedict is not a dish I'd normally order but there was a hungry thought in my tummy that wanted hollandaise sauce. The particularly lovely toasted white sourdough bread was weighed down with a generous pile of well-done bacon - a crisp piggy after my own heart.

Oozey poached egg yolk spillage

On top, two quite perfectly poached eggs,enticing with their wobbly posture, finely chopped chives and cracked black pepper. I've yet to master poaching eggs without the aid of about a metre of cling wrap, so I'm impressed with the two almost identical, natural shapes presented before me. Even more delightful is piercing the eggs, orangey-yellow molten yolk cascading down onto bacon, toast and then the white plate - even though the whites are my preferred part of the egg.

In hindsight, Benedict isn't really my thing as I don't really like hollandaise, or at least not this one. Served as requested on the side, it was rather cool, and too creamy and rich for my palate, although the tanginess was pleasant and appreciated with some lonesome bites of bread.

Lemon tart

Speaking of tang, the glossy lemon tart is sugar hit of choice for my (non) breakfasting companion who declares it sumptious - the short pastry not too short nor sweet, the curd not overly sour - but in the end, still quite a large snack.

My brow furrowed, and still does, at the blob of whipped cream and chocolate sauce lines - distracting and not at all necessary. On that, I wonder if places do that to justify an additional eat-in charge or something of the like. Anyway, I don't like the practice.

A few hours and thousands of spoken words later, having finally thawed out entirely, it seems the rainclouds have dissipated leaving those fluffy grey-white ones in their wake. It's time to come out and play; momentary relief but the rain's sure to come again.

Le Petit Tarte on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good times collective #1

Perhaps the winter days are getting shorter, but time has certainly flown by. It's been a big couple of weeks, with Mother's Day, birthdays, weddings and more lunches than imaginable. Even my casual non-skinny jeans are getting tight. It's got to be a good time in life when friends and family and food take over - and clothing retail sales are more plentiful these days, anyway.

Sago, lychee and coconut dessert/drink

After some seriously swoon-worthy sago dessert in weeks prior, I'd been motivated to do something similat at home. With inspiration from the restaurant and about five different recipes, and armed with sago, coconut milk and lychees; I fought a brave but ultimately losing round one.

Having added too much water to the coconut milk and tinned lychee syrup, the sago mixture was nowhere near as thick as I had intended. Some nearby clever thinking turned it into a dessert drink with a sugar syrup which sunk attractively to the bottom of the ice-filled glass.

Oysters from buffet dinner on Majestic Cruises

There's only one way to do a seafood buffet. Especially one with endless fresh, tasty and creamy Sydney rock oysters. Plate upon plate of oysters. There might be the odd impatient eater behind you in a queue while you select and pile oysters one by one onto your plate - but it's probably because they're eager to do the same thing.

Mediocre salads and warm foods need not apply for a position on my plate, but a dessert table is always welcome. In particular a dessert table that features cheese and crackers, and fantastic whole cakes of pavlova. I may look stuffed to the gills. And I probably am.

Aunt's classic sponge

I've never really attempted to make sponge, but if and when I do, I know where to go for a classic recipe. I hear murmurs of beating eggs only by hand and other secrets being traded - but on this occasion was too busy drooling to take note of the cooking tips.

Jam filling in the sponge

There are only two allowable fillings in the classic sponge: strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream. And maybe topped of with some chocolate shavings. Noone can resist the classic sponge. It's impossibly fluffy and light, but distinctly eggy and subtly sweet. And aunt always tends to use the heart shaped tin - it must be love.

Home made cheeseboard

Love love my cheeses and even better at home without hefty price tags. This still life was constructed spontaneously with toasted grain bread in place of crackers, fresh red grapes in place of muscatels, the remnants of a wheel of brie and a pate loaf, pickled onions, gherkins and a pile of meticulously picked mizuna leaves. Such the luxury of being at home. Indeed, this was actually dinner for two alongside a glass or two of shiraz.

Black forest trifle at Curzon Hall, Marsfield

I can't say I'm a huge fan of most in-house catering; where sometimes appearance, speed or consistency take priority over quality. It's understandable, especially at functions of large numbers, so I should really learn to keep my expectations in check. I suppose it doesn't help that they have menus written up like fine dining establishments.

This tray of black forest trifles certainly has the appearance impact and looks inviting, but seems to promise more than it gives. A slightly sour cherry compote, unspectacular vanilla cream and cake are topped off with a light and airy chocolate mousse, cream, chocolate shapes and shavings, and a maraschino cherry. In this case, I think less could have been much more. You could have given me a ramekin of chocolate mousse and I would have been that much happier.

Fresh made fettucine

My pasta machine hasn't been feeling the love of late; and it creaks and whinges at me to let me know. The rollers must need oiling and it's all too easy to do it next time. I'm sure it will punish me for that at some point, but in the meantime lovely ribbons of fettucine are still coming off the rollers into some boiling salted water and into a simple tomato and basil sauce. Next time, it'll be an oil treatment and lasagne sheets. Next time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ironing out the cheap seats

I've taken to only going to the movies on cheap Tuesdays - it seems silly to be paying 35 per cent more on other days when you're getting exactly the same thing. And with online ticket purchases, there's not even those insane queues that Tuesday nights used to see. All this makes me quite happy to see movies that I don't even particularly want to see; Iron Man 2 a point in case. Fans of the first movie shouldn't be (too) disappointed and boy, is Mickey Rourke one person I would not like to meet in real life.

The George Street cinemas are great for their proximity to food all round; whether you have hours to kill before the movie or need a quick pre show feed. We were more towards the latter on Iron Man 2 night, so took the neighbourly option to Ton Ton at the hushed Regent Place. On one of the recent-change chilly (read freezing) nights, a steaming bowl of ramen does wonders to warm the hands, nose and mind.

Mabo ramen from Ton Ton, Regent Place, George Street, Sydney

The half empty, mostly closed (granted it's evening time) Regent Place is an oddly lacking space. Other than the Azuma franchises, there seems to be a severe lifelessness about it; perhaps due to it being somewhat set further back from street level. Ton Ton, however, is buzzing on a Tuesday night, possibly with other cheap-Tuesdayers keen to continue the cheap theme. Ton Ton's convenient, mostly one-bowl offerings make the perfect hasty meal, while the seating feels a mix of food court and open air dining.

There are a few options for the spice inclined - one being the mabo ramen, featuring silken cubes of tofu, minced pork and a whole bunch of other impact-adding ingredients. This sweet-ish sauce was of a good but serious chilli heat level in my opinion; and whilst I would prefer it with rice, it's nonetheless enjoyed with the ramen noodles beneath.

Karaage chicken ramen

I find my karaage chicken ramen infinitely more interesting, probably due to the array of toppings and irresistable deep fried chicken (I currently have a fried chicken problem that I'm trying to shake - struggling). The presence of shallots, various seaweeds and bean sprouts at least make me think that the once-crunchy, now-soft golden battered chicken is being slightly offset healthwise. Aside from the huge and incredibly juicy chunks of chicken thigh, my favourite component has to be the wakame seafood with a mouthful of yellow eggy noodles.

There's always a niggling thought in my mind that something as tasty as a bowl of ramen cannot be good for you, but after (over)filling my stomach with a bowl, soup and all, the feeling of sustenance and revitalisation is undeniable - which is also a scene and sentiment in this Japanese movie. And such satisified minutes before the movie, without need to visit the candy bar, cheap Tuesday was more fulfilling than ever.

Ton Ton Regent on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Let's eat, then laugh

With the Sydney Comedy Festival on in full force, tickets to see a crazy Swede at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville came with the perfect reason to visit a new, nearby establishment for pre-show dinner. There's no fun in laughing on an empty stomach.

Let's Eat Thai, Illawarra Road, Marrickville

The straightforwardly named Let's Eat Thai sits in a quiet block near Marrickville train station. With a chef hailing from the venerable school of Spice I Am, the promise is set at a rather high bar. A constant stream of diners and takeaway orders gives the restaurant a casual feel. The main chalkboard menu lists all the Thai favourites plus some of the lesser known, with another (which I saw only at the end of my meal, behind me) listing the specials.

Lychee blend drink

A slushy ice concoction of sweet lychee prepares the palate for a potential onslaught of chilli heat. Going by the menu's heat indicators - ranging from no chillis to two chillis - we're on four chillis overall. It's always hard to know what a description of 'hot' is - I've had medium heats that have sent my tongue running scared back down my throat.

Curry puffs

The deep fried curry puffs are exemplary samples of their kind - a thin, crisp and utterly scrumptious pastry in perfect triangles with perfect pleats. The deep gold covering encases a mild curry of diced vegies and partners delightfully with the sweet, slightly tart accompanying dipping sauce.

Som tum

I adore a paw paw salad - there's something very sophisticated about the mix of flavours and textures; a fine balancing act indeed. This version has slivers of green paw paw piled up high with slightly chewy green beans, juicy cherry tomatoes, chopped peanuts and whole dried shrimps - showered with a sweet and punchy dressing spiked with chilli. The freshness and crunch of the paw paw has me at "hello"; the balanced flavours of the ingredients and dressing just the icing on the cake.

Kra prao moo grob

I'm also immediately sold on 'crispy pork belly' on the menu description, as it seems many at the restaurant are. The kra prao moo grob is naughty decadence on a plate - with two chilli indicators. It's quite obvious on the plate that there are significantly more than two chillis, but also deep fried basil leaves and a great big pile of pork.

Following the silence from the first bite come the raves - although not from all. The small blocks of pork belly are fried to a crunch - the skin and, admittedly, the fat are blissful. The meat has also taken a long vacation in bubbling hot oil to come out hardened and crisp - a bit dry for some opinions, but an exciting textural contrast for others. I enjoyed the pork immensely, with lots of rice to temper the chilli and make it appear healthier to the mind (though I think I failed miserably on the latter).

Red curry with chicken

The red curry arrives looking quite attractive, flashing fresh peas and Thai apple eggplants from within its saucy red coat. By this time, having already faced three chilli indicators, my tongue is starting to numb from chilli heat - although not to the point that I can't taste the lovely flavours of the curry. It too is hot - in terms of chilli and temperature - but seriously moreish. The fresh peas are larger than your regular frozen variety and while the eggplants have retained some bitterness, their texture make them perfect to soak up the precious spices of the curry.

Sticky rice with Thai custard

Having spotted the dessert list earlier on, we'd deliberately ordered lightly on the meal to ensure space for sweets. It's a simple choice between two very Thai, if not Asian, desserts and the arrivals surprise me, to say the least. My order of the unknowingly patriotic Thai custard is small-ish but packs a filling, stomach-expanding punch. The green tinged glutinous rice is only lightly flavoured - sweet with perhaps a pinch of salt too. The bright gold-yellow custard is eggy and airily textured, although this still struggles to offset the extreme sweetness. Teamed with the sticky rice is the way to go flavour-wise but be warned - it is heavy.

Sago with coconut

So heavy that a quarter of the way through my custard order, I hijack the similarly verdant sago dessert from across the table in a not-too-subtle switcheroo - and I'm glad I did as I now have a dessert crush. I've fallen for a green, spotty blob swimming in thick, white goop. The green blob is a jelly-like pudding of sago pearls, almost unsweetened, swimming in mildly sweet coconut cream with seductive and slippery pieces of young coconut flesh. I like you.

I like that it's just sweet enough to let the young coconut flavour through, nudged along by the cream. I like the feel of the soft pearls submersed in the thick coconut. And oddly enough, I like the unapologetically green blob peeking out of its white pool. I'm fascinated by the use of green colouring through the desserts, although I'm informed it's common in desserts of various South East Asian cuisines.

Downing my final mouthfuls of creamy sago with the constant filled water at the table, the meal has ended on an absolute high. While the food was hitting bull's eyes left, right and centre; the service was also nothing less that what I'd expect at a white tableclothed establishment - for the entire night. Paw paw, pork belly, sago, service - I'll be laughing all the way back here sometime soon.

Let's Eat on Urbanspoon


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