Sunday, December 30, 2012

The year that was, 2012

It's been a whirlwind year and I'm really not just saying that. I remember last new year's eve all too well and the 12 months that have transpired since then have been jam-packed with work, life events, new and old faces, and an almost unbelievable amount of food and booze.

Below are some of the highlights of my year in Food, Booze and Shoes.

Food and Booze

Steamed brioche and smoked trout roe from Grain, Sydney
One of the most exciting new bar openings in Sydney this year wasn't a small bar but rather a hotel bar: Grain at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney with food by Bar H's Hamish Ingham and chef Josh Niland.

With a bar menu to rival some restaurants about town, Grain raises the bar so even locals join hotel guests for drinks and unexpected bar snacks like smoked trout roe and crème fraîche on house-made steamed brioche buns.

Pig's tail salad, walnuts, sorrel, currants, pomegranate, farro from The Apollo, Potts Point
It was a great year for modern Greek food with both David Tsirekas' Xanthi and Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie's The Apollo picking up inaugural hats in this year's Good Food Guide.

The latter, Potts Point restaurant did an out-of-this-world pig's tail crackling salad that probably wasn't all too healthy but showed a liveliness in modern Greek cuisine that was new to me.

Orecchiette with lentils, pine nuts and mascapone from Table for 20, Surry Hills
I've been to Table for 20 a couple of times this year, and adore the homely pasta entrée every time.

I've had second and third helpings, brought my own wine and had a ball every time, all the while remembering to leave room for their rich, always-pleasing whole cake dessert offerings - to share, of course.

Xiao long bao from Mr Wong, Sydney
The year's biggest restaurant opening had to be Merivale's Mr Wong, where Cantonese cuisine went high-end in an impressively atmospheric, two-level, laneway restaurant setting.

Dan Hong and Jowett Yu's golden touch continued with a classic Cantonese menu dotted with additional Sydney favourites, like xiao long bao pork soup buns which are simply divine with a cocktail at Mr Wong's bar.

Pork pintxo, lima beans, guindillas from bloodwood, Newtown
A new favourite was discovered in bloodwood, which is a bit of a difficult one to categorise. In any case, bold international flavours, amazing service and interesting wines make it a winner in my books.

The explosive flavours in small share dishes like the pork pintxo means bloodwood is ideal for drinks and snacks, light meals or the all-out meal with a set menu group banquet.

Spiced popcorn and Bloody Maria from Tio's Cerveceria, Surry Hills
It was the year of the Shady Pines Saloon spin-off bars, with new Sydney CBD booze-quaffing venues from Anton Forte and Jason Scott, and a tequila-focused offering from a couple of ex-Shady guys.

Tio's Cerveceria is my casual, Surry Hills back street, go-to place for free popcorn and good times fuelled by tequila refrescos like the Bloody Maria which almost feels healthy.

Pulled veal ravioli, broad beans, cornichons, shiso from Chiswick, Woollahra
I think Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan's Chiswick has a firm place in Woollahra hearts. Indeed, it feels like it should have been in Chiswick Gardens all this time and is the epitome of a long lunch venue.

Their seasonally-driven menu is supplemented by an expansive kitchen garden, which I hope is an enduring restaurant trend. The pulled veal ravioli was a stunner at the De Bortoli Windy Peak wines launch.

Ayam goreng kalasan with nasi uduk and ati goreng from Ayam Goreng 99, Kingsford
It's not only the new restaurant openings with no-bookings policies and queues out the door. A favourite cheap eat, Ayam Goreng 99, still draws crowds to its low-key store, with local students and those in the know waiting for quarters of fried chicken and coconut rice.

Maltagliati with osso bucco, gremolata from 10 William Street, Paddington
One of the best pasta dishes I've had all year came a little unexpectedly from wine bar 10 William Street, where the narrow venue belies the depth of its rustic Italian menu and well-considered wine list.

The maltagliati sheet pasta with osso buco ragu was a dreamily perfect pasta, ideal with any wine recommendation from the very knowledgeable staff.

Pan fried pork dumplings from Chinese Noodle Restaurant, Haymarket
There were no signs of my dumpling obsession abating this year, whether home made or from Chinatown cheap-eat, Chinese Noodle Restaurant.

I seem to have a scarily insatiable appetite for dumplings, especially pan-fried ones filled fresh with minced pork and chives, and definitely a combination of chilli oil and vinegar sauce on the side.

Goat’s cheese lollipop, mandarin glaze, quinoa crunch from Cara & Co, Westfield Sydney
Innovativeness is a double-edged sword in the land of restaurants but dining at Cara & Co, in the middle of a Westfield Sydney fashion retailer, was a clear win for innovation.

Its Modern Flemish cuisine aided by innovative techniques was such an eye-opening journey; both curiously fun and tasty, particularly the goat's cheese lollipops in mandarin glaze.

Fried chicken wings from The Norfolk, Surry Hills
There are no signs of the fun ending at The Norfolk and its merry band of other Drink and Dine refurbished pubs across Surry Hills and Sydney.

Fun themes, quirky fitouts, affordable booze and food made for drinking is a winning formula - like Bloody Marys in tin cans and crunchy fried chicken wings.


There were several 'firsts' this year as a result of various cooking classes and demonstrations that I was lucky enough to take part in.

Snapper with Vernaccia, green olives and parsley from Sydney, Seafood School, Pyrmont
I cooked my first whole snapper. I've tended to cook fish fillets at home more than whole fish which are a little daunting for a home cook of limited ability.

But with a friendly fishmonger and a Sydney Seafood School class with hatted chef Giovanni Pilu under my belt, roasting a four-kilogram whole snapper doesn't seem as scary anymore.

Feta cheese made at Zigi's Wine and Cheese Bar, Chippendale
I made cheese for the first time. A highlight of the food year overall, the cheese making class at Zigi's Wine and Cheese Bar was so much delicious fun I would recommend it to any cheese lover.

Creating a number of fresh cheeses from scratch in a few hours was made possible by the effervescent Chef Zigi, quality raw ingredients and solid teamwork in the commercial kitchen in Chippendale.

Gently poached Southern rock lobster, hand caught Tasmanian squid,
golden tapioca, lobster velvet from Quay, Circular Quay
I dined at Quay for the first (and second) time. I now understand what all the "fuss" around Quay is about. There were enlightening kitchen tips from chef Peter Gilmore during the Electrolux masterclasses, but the degustation dinners I was treated to were another level above any other Sydney dining experience I've ever had.

Luxe ingredients and modern techniques deliver harmonious dishes that are stunning to look at and even more satisfying to eat - which isn't always the case in fine dining or technique-driven cooking.


There was a trip to Japan this year, highlighted by various food, booze and tourist experiences.

Fish at Tsukiji Fish Market, Tsukiji, Tokyo, Japan
The early-morning visit to the world's largest wholesale fish markets - Tsukiji Fish Markets - was a highlight of the trip, even if we didn't make it to see the tuna auctions. Sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai added to the lengthy and wet experience.

Martini at Tender Bar, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
There was no doubt that we were going to hit up a few cocktail bars in Tokyo and the gin martini at Tender Bar was a memorable, if not pricey, one.

Pork shoulder, grilled on a stick, Namba, Osaka, Japan
Our short side trip to Osaka from Tokyo may well have been an eating trip, especially of street food. It was in Namba we discovered a pork-only yakitori-style restaurant where we gorged on all manner of pork and vegetables grilled on a stick.


David Chang at the Good Food Guide Awards 2013
I honestly jumped and squealed with excitement when I got invited to the SMH Good Food Guide Awards for 2013.

It was an unparalleled experience of endless champagne, canapés and chefs all doing the (tight) rounds at Establishment, and plenty of happy smiles in the face of hats, awards and general celebration of the Sydney restaurant industry.

Dîner en Blanc, Museum of Contemporary Art forecourt, Circular Quay
Hands-down event of the year has to be French pop-up picnic phenomenon, Dîner en Blanc, which took place at the forecourt of the Museum of Contemporary Art for its inaugural Sydney outing.

It was a memorable sight seeing 1,500 people in head-to-toe white waving white napkins and then sparklers in the air as they dined on gourmet picnics to the bemusement of passing tourists and Sydneysiders.

Beef empanadas at Marrickville Festival
I made it to the Marrickville Festival this year for the first time; a community street event that stretches around two main roads. Goodies on offer included these amazing beef empanadas, fresh out of the deep fry with a golden corn meal concealing a tasty beef filling.

This year saw a number of restaurants farewelled, especially a sad number of high profile venues and chefs, including the following:
13bAniseArgyle BazarAssietteAzuma KushiyakiBecasse and Quarter Twenty OneBerowra Waters InnBird Cow FishBistro OrtolanBling Bling DumplingBruno's and Hunky Dory Social ClubDistrict Dining relaunched as Mexico Food and Liquor, Element BistroEtchFirestick CafeGothamGourmet Pizza KitchenKable's RestaurantLanzafame TrattoriaMad CowMonkey MagicPagewood SteakhousePiano RoomRambutanSummit relaunched as O Bar and Dining, Sushi Choo and The Montpellier Public House.

It has been one heck of a year. Many thanks to all my readers and followers here, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - thank you so much  for your support and kind comments throughout 2012. 

I hope to see you for more Food, Booze and Shoes in the New Year. Cheers and happy (and safe) drinking tonight to see out the year that was, 2012!


john@heneedsfood said...

What a great year of food and travel you've had! Happy New Year and may next year bring as much tastiness!

Shanshan Lam said...

Happy New Year Tina! Looks like you had a fab year, can't wait to read more about it in 2013!

Jacq said...

It's sad to see so many closures in 2012 but hopefully it means that there will be even more restaurants to try in the 2013! Happy New Year Tina!

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

You sure have had an amazing year and I somehow managed to keep up! It was lovely to meet you and hopefully we can get round to meeting again. Happy New Year, fellow Tina and here's for a bigger and more awesome 2013! xx

My Kitchen Stories. said...

Congratulations on a great year. I hope 2013 is as full of food , booze and travel and that you are wearing really nice shoes when it all happens

gaby @ lateraleating said...

What a year! Happy 2013 Tina!

Nic said...

What a busy, food filled year you've had! Amazing! I look forward to reading about this years adventures!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Looks like 2012 was a delicious year. Let's hope 2013 brings some fabulous food your way!

Forager said...

What a jam packed year! And a damn tasty adventure it looks like - hope 2013 is even better and tastier for you!

billy@a table for two said...

Funny I have actually never been to any of the restaurants in your highlights! Okay maybe a couple. I am slowly retiring from the sydney food scene, sadness.....

Happy New Year all the same, and I am sure there will be more tasty adventures in 2013!

Tina said...

Hi John - HNY! I'm hoping for more travel and tastiness this year!

Hi Shanshan - Looking forward to sharing 2013 :)

Hi Jacq - There was a spike in new openings late last year - fingers crossed 2013 is great for new and old x

Hi Tina - Thanks so much for keeping up; hope to see you again soon!

Hi My Kitchen Stories - Ain't that right about the shoes! HNY!

Hi gaby - Thanks, and back atcha!

Hi Nic - Looking forward to your cheese adventures too!

Hi Lorraine - Thanks, HNY!

Hi Forager - Thanks and the same to you :)

Hi billy - No way! I've been considering retirement for the sake of my waistline but... HNY!

chocolatesuze said...

happy new year tina! here's to an even more delicious 2013!

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

Happy New Year. What a wonderful one 2012 was. here's to a brilliant 2013.


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