Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fun new grits at The Abercrombie

A favourite of university students and workers from neighbouring construction sites, The Abercrombie in Broadway is part of the Drink N Dine group of pubs and boasts a new menu of food to keep any dude happy.

It's an old pub done new, Drink N Dine style, with the slightest Scottish influence within the dark and still dingy main pub bar and the light- and people-filled beer garden with loads of seating.

One kilo of chicken wings at The Abercrombie, Broadway
Group executive chef Jamie Thomas sure has been busy with great specials and new menu items across all the venues - it was The Abercrombie's $10 Friday special from 6-10pm on a one kilogram bucket of chicken wings that got me.

My visions of a large tin bucket were way off though: one kilogram is a lot smaller than I was imagining and I probably could have polished off the basket of crisp, greasy, cornflake-crumbed mid wings and drumettes myself with the mild, orange-tinted 'Red Eye' mayonnaise.

Mac and cheese balls with spiced ketchup
I wasn't really sure what to expect from macaroni and cheese balls, but I suppose if you can make arancini balls from rice, there's no reason pasta can't be used in the same fashion. I was surprised that macaroni can be moulded to such perfectly spherical shapes.

Mac & cheese ball innards 
The pasta balls are best devoured straight-from-the-oil hot and heavily dunked in the accompanying tomato sauce. When hot, the cheese strings from every bite of the soft pasta, invoking immediate carb, cheese and naughtiness overload.

Chicken Caesar salad with bacon, lettuce, queso cheese and ranch dressing
I thought I'd lighten the load with a salad, which ended up being gigantic and having more chicken, bacon strips and corn chips than a 'healthy' dish really should.

Add ranch dressing and grated queso cheese and you can pretty much cancel out any goodness from the cos lettuce or kernels of grilled corn.

Mexican dahl taco with green chilli yoghurt and sweet potato
There was slight redemption in the vegetarian taco option with a Mexican-spiced dry lentil dahl, served in a soft taco with red cabbage, shavings of sweet potato and quite the refreshing, not-spicy chilli yoghurt.

Korean short rib taco with slaw and sesame mayo
The beef short rib taco was a definite winner: tender pulled short rib cooked in Korean chilli bean paste on a bed of red cabbage slaw. Coriander leaves and a flavoured mayonnaise were the icing on the cake of an impressive fusion taco.

Reuben Dog with mustard, sauerkraut and dill pickle relish, served with chips
The Reuben Dog is new to the menu of 'dawgs' and is described as a Reuben sandwich inside a hot dog.

Other than the lack of corned beef - although it's a pretty decent frankfurt encased in the white roll - the tang of both the sauerkraut and lurid green dill pickle relish hinted at a Reuben, while the crinkle cut potato chips were pure nostalgia in a paper cup.

Deep fried Golden Gaytime
There was going to be a dessert order of The Abercrombie's infamous deep fried Golden Gaytime ice cream regardless of how stuffed we were.

As if the original caramel/vanilla ice cream pop with chocolate and biscuit crumb coating isn't already awesome perfection, this version is battered, crumbed and deep fried as a whole, served with a fanned strawberry and drizzled with syrup.

Inside the deep fried Golden Gaytime
Personally, I think perfection can be left well alone, but for those inclined, dig in quick as the ice cream is on a melting path; perhaps made too sweet with the addition of syrup but itwas certainly a novel dessert that had to be ordered and shared.

The Abercrombie beer garden
The beer garden didn't empty much over the course of the night, with happy hour jugs keeping things rolling. There was a lot of food out in the beer garden too, proving that fun food, or grits, go a long way.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of The Abercrombie, with thanks to Folke.

The Abercrombie on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 25, 2013

Singapore slinging - part 3: Cocktail bars

I went to Singapore late last year and didn't manage to have a namesake cocktail, Singapore Sling (I also went to Rome and didn't go to the Vatican City, but that's a different alcohol-related story).

Time restrictions aside, we did manage a few great cocktail bars designed to deal with the sticky humidity of Singapore.

Martini at Ku De Ta, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
It was a bit drizzly the night we ascended to the top of Marina Bay Sands and since the lookout was closed, we settled on martinis on the balcony at Ku De Ta, overlooking the harbour and alongside the hotel guests-only infinity pool.

It has to be one of the most amazing pools in the world, though I wouldn't be swanning around in it while the skies were illuminated with lightning.

The view from Ku De Ta, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Cocktail prices are really quite reasonable when you consider the view: the Singapore skyline just over the water, light shows and a general feeling of wonder.

The feats of humankind seem pretty impressive from up there, but that could be the spiced gin talking.

The view from The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore
Later that same evening, we moved to the other side of town; oddly enough, looking back up at where we'd been earlier in the night.

The clear, unobstructed views of Marina Bay Sands from the rooftop bar of The Fullerton Bay Hotel are almost as breathtaking as the reverse.

Lantern at The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore
Lantern is an open-air, low-rise rooftop venue beside the gleaming hotel pool. The luxe deck chairs and outdoor lounges and table service add to the glamorous and posh tent feel.

A DJ plays live and I can only imagine the awesome club nights that could erupt here, partying away in the moonlight on a hotel rooftop.

Lantern at The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore
Ice-packed mojitos were the order of the steamy night, enjoyed reclining on lounges staring at the moon that appeared and hovered over the buildings of the casino hotel and its ship-like roof feature.

The view from The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore

Bartenders at work at Bar Stories, Haji Lane, Singapore
In the Muslim quarter, it's obvious that everything old is new again - Haji Lane is all trendy fashion by day and noise-filled bars and cafés by night. Hidden away upstairs from a shopfront-turned-restaurant is Bar Stories: a tiny cocktail bar where there's not really a cocktail menu.

Bespoke cocktails have been their thing since 2010: pick a flavour profile (sweet, sour, bitter), agree or otherwise to their key ingredient additions and wait for your own personalised cocktail.

Berry cocktail at Bar Stories, Haji Lane, Singapore
We were all kind of flabbergasted at this icy creation which came from an order of 'sweet' and an 'OK' to berries. Chatting away and not paying much attention too the mixology, I'm not sure what liquors made it into this sweet cocktail, but that's not remotely the point.

Like an ice sculpture attached to the outside of a metal shaker tin, it ended up a little on the wet and drippy side but certainly worth the cooling and novelty factor while the 'boat' garnish of berries was healthy at the very least.

Yuzu cocktail at Bar Stories, Haji Lane, Singapore
A request for a sour cocktail and agreement to Japanese citrus fruit yuzu produced a martini-glassed fizz with foamy egg white, an inverted lime half and what looked like fennel pollen applied with metal tweezers.

It was sweet for a sour cocktail and featured only white spirits (don't ask which).

Passionfruit cocktail at Bar Stories, Haji Lane, Singapore
My sour cocktail featured passionfruit and again, was too sweet for my preference, even overpowering the alcoholic taste (but perhaps that's the point here).

Also an egg white fizz, it was garnished with a fresh half of passionfruit and dried rose leaves, and from memory had a fair few passionfruit seeds at the bottom of the pretty glass.

The 'Merlion', Singapore
And it was after a decent cocktail session one night that I finally got to see the Merlion - Singapore's mascot with a lion's head and fish's body - although not spurting water by night and as a result, not quite so interesting.

This was part of my urge to do the most touristy of touristy things when I travel, just beating out my need to check out the local drinking holes. More Singapore posts to come.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Three's a charm at Taste of Sydney

Taste of Sydney 2013, Centennial Park, Sydney
Another year, another filling weekend spent at Taste of Sydney. Blessed by the weather gods this year, I was particularly looking forward to the four days at Centennial Park following a preview 'Taste safari' trip with the organisers and PR firm the week prior.

The chefs of Taste of Sydney 2013
On arrival at the Miele VIP lounge on a cloud-threatened Thursday evening, it was Laurent Perrier champagne and canapés all round as we readied for the Best in Taste awards announcement as part of the opening night gala event - a little 'Oscars' of Taste.

It was chock-a-block in the Miele tent as Kitchen by Mike was awarded the best front of house display. Popolo won third place in the Best in Taste with its pasta offering while Longrain took out second place for its rice noodle dish.

It was full attention for the announcement of the Best in Taste award which went to Taste first-timer Porteño for its wagyu beef brisket, cooked in an American style barbeque which was shipped over especially from the US.

Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate from Porteño
Post the awards announcement and a quick bubbles top-up, we made a beeline for the Porteño restaurant stall, which turned out to be a very good idea as they queues quickly grew and stayed that way for most the rest of the festival.

It was all hands on deck with maitre'd Sarah Doyle in charge of distributing plate upon plate of barbecued goodness from the hands of Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate.

BBQ wagyu beef brisket with BBQ sauce and pickle from Porteño
The best dish of the festival as deemed by the judges, Porteño BBQ wagyu brisket comprised a few slices of fat-streaked beef, smoked to a point of redness and fall-apart tenderness.

The rich meat was set off perfectly with a subtly smokey BBQ sauce and a pickle, while the crisp and creamy coleslaw mound beneath was a total highlight for me.

Chorizo with chimmichurri from Porteño
I couldn't resist Porteño's chorizo dish either; something I had in mind to try on my next visit to the Surry Hills restaurant.

The chubby and chunky pork sausage burst with flavour and spiced juiciness, and was served a with fresh and herbaceous chimmichurri that was a meat-eater's match.

Jackie M and Poh Ling Yeow at Malaysia Kitchen stall
We scurried towards the unmistakeable spice smells of Malaysia Kitchen feature, where Jackie M, Poh Ling Yeow and a Malaysia Tourism official launched their first year of participation in Taste of Sydney.

A demo kitchen was set up aside stalls selling Malaysian sauces, pastes and snacks, while a different pop-up restaurant was featured every day.

Poh Ling Yeow demonstrates Hokkien noodles in the Malaysia Kitchen feature
Poh did a quick demonstration of Hokkien noodles in a dark soy sauce, which had the tent area salivating at the aromas and queuing for the subsequent samples.

Dilmah tea lounge
Dilmah had quite the luxurious tea lounge on site where free cups of tea were offered alongside a high tea experience.

Biota Dining chef James Viles in the Dilmah Chef's Skillery tent
Also a new feature of Taste was the Dilmah Chef's Skillery which was presenting chefs in a number of up-close sessions demonstrating a particular skill, with a few tea leaves thrown in, of course.

Bowral's Biota Dining chef and director James Viles was good fun to watch as he torched tea leaves to make a smoked tea butter, churned with a KitchenAid and 45% fat content cream from his local dairy farmer, and strained through a (brand new) blue Chux wipe and served on a river stone.

Croquette - Southern crayfish with paleta and Biota garden onions
Biota had a restaurant stall popping-up as part of the Destination Dining feature which this year featured three regional NSW restaurants.

Viles' passion for his sustainable practices, and a few pre-event tweets, had me excited for his croquette offering. The crunchiest golden crumb you ever did see, or hear, held fluffy potato-ey innards with sea-sweet Southern crayfish flesh.

And while it was the crayfish I was most excited to try, I was blown away by the creamy white onion purée served beneath the three croquettes which had sweetness and heat in equally thrilling parts.

Roast Murray Valley prok salad, crisp rice, mint, chilli and peanuts from Longrain
We shuffled next door to the Taste-seasoned Longrain guys whose Thai salads are a never-fail. The topping of triangles of pork crackling bode well for the roast pork salad, with the amazing crackling balanced with fresh flavours of mint, lime and a fair whack of fresh chilli.

Chia seeds with a Nudie crushie

Pasta from Pasta Gallery

Chocolate, yuzu curd, miso butterscotch from Three Blue Ducks
While there was a suitable amount of tasting to be done across the exhibiting stalls, not even including the dozens of wine stalls, we found room for dessert from Three Blue Ducks, drawn in by the promise of yuzu curd.

It was a surprisingly harmonious combination of rather diverse ingredients with just the right amount of richness: chocolate ganache, curd, cake bits, citrus segments lightening the whole lot and even honeycomb from memory.

Taste of Sydney weekend

Weekend crowds at Taste of Sydney
I returned to Taste on the weekend, where a it seems a great proportion of Sydney decided to spend a rare sunny weekend. The stiflingly hot Saturday was somewhat better than the windy Sunday, but in all, it was great outdoor festival weather, and Sydney was loving it.

Cointreau Strawberry and Mint Fizz
Having being introduced to the Cointreau Fizz recently (with Dita Von Teese), it was hard to resist an icy, freshly mixed drink in the heat.

Most irresistible was the plastic Cointreau conical flasks the drinks were served in, with strawberry and mint or cucumber and lime or a number of other flavour combination, and Cointreau and soda water as a base. I'll be able to make my own fizz in a flask at home now too.

Jackie M char kway teo demonstration at the Malaysia Kitchen feature
Over the whole festival, Jackie M and Poh were alternating demonstrations in the Malaysia Kitchen feature. I caught Jackie M doing char kway two with chicken, which she told the audience wasn't exactly traditional but "whatever" - totally my attitude to cooking.

Martin Boetz (soon to be ex Longrain) in Dilmah Chef's Skillery
I also managed to catch Martin Boetz in the Dilmah Chef's Skillery, putting together a smoking mix for a hunk of kingfish. Green tea, various fresh and dried spices, rice and citrus peel made their way into the mix, which Boetz would normally smoke in a wok.

His departure from the Longrain kitchen after 14 years (last day is 30 June) is bittersweet as he moves on to focus on his Cook's Co-op farm: a couple of hectares of land up Hawkesbury way where Boetz is growing produce for Sydney restaurants in an attempt to reconnect chefs to the land, to where food really comes from.

BBQ ocean trout with tangy Mexican street salad from Peter Kuruvita's Seafood Barbeque
Just over at Peter Kuruvita's self-named restaurant stall, the grill burners were pumping out gorgeously fresh dishes of seafood.

The barbequed Petuna ocean trout was cooked beautifully and barring a few bones, it was an excellent match to the 'Mexican street salad' which could also have been named a tropical fruit salad given it comprised paw paw, dragon fruit and grilled pineapple.

Fregola alla zafferano con ragu di Maialino - Saffron infused toasted fregola pasta,
suckling pig ragu
I made a point of trying out Popolo as it's somewhere I've wanted to visit since the restaurant opened last year. Its fregola pasta dish also achieved second place in the Best in Taste awards, probably solely for the mouthwateringly rich suckling pig ragu.

The little pasta is much like Israeli couscous, like nubbins of a thick round noodle, and perfectly textured for the meaty sauce.

Slow braised pork cheek with black fungus relish roll from Claude's
The feasting continued at Claude's where the pork jowl rolls we sampled at the preview were going like hot cakes.

Slow cooked, fatty slices of pork cheek will do that, especially when it's on a scoffable little bun with a relish of black woodear fungus to cut through the fat.

Head chef and owner Chui Lee Luk of Claude's

Twice baked cheese souffle from Claude's
There's none of Claude's chef and owner Chui Lee Luk's Malaysian heritage in the Icon Dish of a cheese soufflé though. It's pure French decadence as we attack the hot, cheesy mound, made to order on site. It's almost an unfair advantage, but it might well have been the best dish I tried at Taste this year.

Chef Mike McEnearney of Kitchen by Mike
The Kitchen by Mike stall was also doing a roaring trade in its fairground themed offerings of sweet corn on a stick and Pluto pups.

Mike's pluto pup (front) and sweet corn with jalapeno salsa (back) from Kitchen by Mike
It was definitely my first battered sausage on a stick in a very long time, and I have a feeling fairground ones aren't this good with a smokey sausage inside golden batter, and a house made to tomato and capsicum sauce - an easy dish to love despite its apparent simplicity.

Cha Begendy - Scotch fillet cha kebap on charcoal spit, eggplant and kashar puree
It was meat central at Efendy's stall, with a couple of charcoal spits fired up over the four days for lamb, beef, eggplants and capsicums.

, The Scotch fillet cha kebap was the easy choice with thin slices of the tender, fully cooked beef laid atop of a smokey eggplant purée I could have eaten by the bowl.

Deboned and roasted sheep's head with local garlic and cherry tomatoes tandir
I wasn't game or too keen on the sheep's head offering which was served deboned - although I had a funny if not ghoulish vision of sheep's skulls doing the rounds at Taste.

By all accounts, there was meat to be had in the head, in addition to plenty of roasted sheep's brain. Eyes were not mentioned.

Mussels and suckling pig on at Four in Hand / 4Fourteen

Wagyu brisket coming out of the barbeque from Porteño

Cheese plate from Salt Meats Cheese
Inside out pizza boxes from Salt Meats Cheese were the accessory of the festival, highlighting the popularity of grazing at reasonable prices.

The generous 'plate' of three cheeses came with copious amounts of thin, Sardinian style crisp bread; and while the super stinky soft cheese polarised some, the hard (parmeggiano or pecorino) was a definite winner.

The Sommelier's Natural Environment session at the Plumm Taste Wine Theatre
We spied some free seats at the Plumm Taste Wine Theatre just in time to join GT Wines' Nick Stock and a panel of sommeliers going through five wines and potential food matches.

It was a very entertaining session with some interesting new tastes and tidbits learnt. The Between Five Bells rose was a fruity, summery highlight I'll need to seek out again.

Chocolate dipped pistachio mastic ice cream from Booza
I finished at Taste with the guys at Booza who were making plenty of friends over the hot weekend weather with their unique mastic ice cream. The authentic Middle Eastern flavours were made modern with a Zokoko chocolate dip and popped on a stick; just perfect for festival strolling and scoffing.

The sesame-based halva flavour was superb although I still can't decide whether I like the rose Turkish delight or pistachio flavours more.

Taste crowds on hot and windy Sunday
As Taste continues to grow and mature, I once again departed the white tented stalls in Centennial Park pretty stuffed, wallet pretty emptied but pretty happy with the state of food and wine in Sydney and beyond.

See more photos from Taste of Sydney 2013 on my Facebook page.

The big pink Taste fork at the entrance

Food, booze and shoes attended Taste of Sydney 2013 as a media guest, with thanks to Stellar Concepts. Food and Crowns were paid for independently.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...