Unblogged Food: January – March 2014

The first three months of the year were full of eating experiences – from cafes to eating adventures interstate.

The Grounds of Alexandria

The Grounds of Alexandria

I started the year with my first ever visit to The Grounds of Alexandria, not just for the amazing breakfasts that everyone raves about, but with the ultimate aim of scoping out the venue as a potential wedding venue. One of my favourite parts of the visit was visiting all the market stalls they have on the weekends, with the fresh lemonade being a top pick.

(We ultimately decided not to go with The Grounds as a wedding venue because some close friends have chosen to get married there early next year. We just wanted a venue that was a bit more unique to us.)

The new hot Reuben club sandwich with wagyu salt beef, rangers valley rump, spiced wagyu pastrami, stacked in rye bread with sauerkraut, pickles and mustard, $16.50

The new hot Reuben club sandwich with wagyu salt beef, rangers valley rump, spiced wagyu pastrami, stacked in rye bread with sauerkraut, pickles and mustard, $16.50

I always remember the amazing Reuben sandwiches I ate while I was in America. I had a craving recently, and Reuben & Moore was my Reuben-purveyor of choice, with amazing soft and salty beef and a healthy dose of sauerkraut and pickles to top it off. This was a huge serving, and definitely satiated my craving. I find myself more and more impressed with the food offerings at the Westfield Sydney Level 5 food court every time I visit.

Roast pig on the barbecue

Roast pig on the barbecue

In January, I went to the Barossa Valley to help staff the annual Ride to Cure Diabetes fundraising event that my organisation runs. Over the course of a weekend, nearly 400 people from around Australia fly into the beautiful Adelaide Barossa Valley to challenge themselves to a bike ride of 35km, 80km or 160km to raise funds for type 1 diabetes research. We raise in excess of $1m every year at this event – an amazing result! This year as part of the ‘carb-loading dinner’ that we serve to Riders before the next day’s big Ride, we had whole roast pigs on the barbecue, with succulent crackling.

RivaReno Gelato in Darlinghurst

RivaReno Gelato in Darlinghurst

By invitation of owner Kieran Tosolini, I also had the chance to visit RivaReno Gelato in Darlinghurst and sample a range of their amazing gelato flavours. It’s since become our favourite gelato joint, even beating Gelato Messina. The point of difference is that they store their gelato differently (in canisters that preserve the integrity of the gelato rather than in open canisters with constant blasts of cold air), they make it fresh every day, and they use only the best ingredients including authentic cows milk from Italy. Even more exciting considering my new diet, they do fantastic dairy-free sorbets as well!

Haul from Best Taste Dim Sum in Flemington

Haul from Best Taste Dim Sum in Flemington

On the same day that we went to have pho in Flemington, we picked up $60 worth of delicious delicious dim sum from Best Taste Dim Sum on Henley Street. For a month afterwards, we feasted like kings in the morning, steaming up a serve of buns, dim sum, lo mai gai, dumplings and amazing Malay cake. It’s fantastic value, so if you have some room spare in the freezer, I highly recommend a visit!

Chinese New Year banquet dinner

Chinese New Year banquet dinner

No Chinese New Year celebration is complete without three full tables laden with amazing dishes at K’s grandparent’s favourite Chinese restaurant, Lee Central Park Chinese Restaurant in Thornleigh.

Lamb racks

Lamb racks

K’s dad doesn’t cook very often, but when he does he always cooks an amazing meal – I still remember the paella he made last year. This time he cooked some incredibly tender and flavourful lamb racks on the barbecue, better than I’ve ever had at any restaurant.

Home-made mini-quiches

Home-made mini-quiches

K’s work has a tradition whereby every week, someone is responsible for bringing some snacks to share on a Friday. When it came to K’s turn, he struggled for an idea about what to make until I suggested mini-quiches as a simple and easy-to-make option that would keep well. He ended up making two versions – a traditional quiche with bacon, egg and cheese, and another with salmon and cream cheese.

Bowery to Williamsburg, Melbourne

Bowery to Williamsburg, Melbourne

On a recent visit to Melbourne, I went to Bowery to Williamsburg with a friend for brunch. Here I had one of the yummiest bagels I’ve ever had in Australia. They have a great bagel range here, and it’s very popular with both the corporate and creative crowds.

Kitchen Table Cafe, Aspendale

Kitchen Table Cafe, Aspendale

My dad lives almost forty-five minutes out of the city in Melbourne but for some reason, I find that I always seem to go into the city whenever I want to meet a friend for dinner. I moved away from this habit the last time I was in Melbourne and met a friend locally for brunch at Kitchen Table Cafe in Aspendale where we had a great simple breakfast of avocado on toast with tomatoes and a perfectly poached egg.

The Porch, Crows Nest

The Porch, Crows Nest

My colleagues and I usually bring lunch to work, but lately we’ve been trying to make a habit of going out for lunch at least once a fortnight together – we put it into our diaries so that we’re guaranteed to carry through with it! One of the meals we had recently was at The Porch cafe in Crows Nest where I ordered the most delectable shakshuka eggs and others enjoyed corn fritters and lovely eggs and avocado on sourdough. The food is great and the atmosphere warm and friendly, but a word of warning – the service isn’t fantastic due to some language barriers.

Protein Pancakes at Wholemeal Cafe, Darlinghurst

Protein Pancakes at Wholemeal Cafe, Darlinghurst

I mentioned in my special engagement announcement entry that K and I dropped by Wholemeal Cafe for breakfast on the day we officially got engaged. There, I had protein pancakes for the first time in my life, made with the cafe’s special protein pancake mix which you can also buy separately for at-home pancake meals. These pancakes were surprisingly filling and I only needed to eat two before I was uncomfortably full. The cafe also does protein bread (only 3g of carbs per slice!), so if you’re on a fitness kick like I am at the moment, it’s a great place to visit pre and post workout.

Harmony Day lunch

Harmony Day lunch

Finally, we celebrated Harmony Day at work with everyone bringing in a dish to share. We started with Irish sausages, Israeli salad, Aussie garden salad, continued with mini Portugese chicken sliders, fried rice and silken tofu, and finished with mini pavlovas and Ukrainian poppyseed scroll. For a small office, we all come from relatively diverse backgrounds, and it was great to share a meal together – so often we neglect to socialise with our colleagues!

To finish off this entry, let me just note that you might not hear from me for a while. Over the next three weeks, I’ll be travelling with a week in Hong Kong, a week in Shanghai and a week in Seoul. Trust me when I say that I’ll be eating like a king while I’m over there!


Review: Sydney Picnic Company (and a special announcement)

A few weekends ago, K surprised me on the weekend with the announcement that we were going to Sydney Olympic Park for a day of bike riding and a picnic. We started the day with a quick breakfast in Wholemeal Cafe where I had some fantastic protein pancakes – delicious! After breakfast, we dropped by the Sydney Picnic Company to pick up the picnic that K ordered – the Sydney Picnic package.

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Beautifully presented in a rustic style burlap bag, Sydney Picnic Company did a wonderful job with presentation with cute hand-stitched personalised menus and stamped wooden utensils. We drove then to Sydney Olympic Park with growing trepidation as the sky grew darker and darker and the clouds began to roll in.

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By the time we got there, it was absolutely pouring down with rain with no sign of the rain abating. We definitely weren’t going to be cycling that day – but why waste a good picnic? We put down the back seat in the back of the car, and settled ourselves for a car picnic.

Organis sourdough baguette with spiced chickpea dip

Organis sourdough baguette with spiced chickpea dip

Unpacking the picnic bag, I was extremely impressed with the attention to detail that Sydney Picnic Company brought to their packages – I mean, the red paper packaging around the bread matched to the napkins, and hand-written tags on the food? Wonderful.

Australian King Prawns with Lime and Sichuan Salt and Pepper

Australian King Prawns with Lime and Sichuan Salt and Pepper

Our first course is prawns with a spicy salt and pepper dipping sauce. The prawns are super fresh and firm, and the tangy spicy sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the otherwise simple dish. A light and refreshing starter course.

Chorizo, tomatoes, roast almonds and parsley

Chorizo, tomatoes, roast almonds and parsley

We moved onto a cold Spanish style salad with crispy smokey chorizo, marinated tomatoes and wonderful crunchy almonds. I avoided the feta, but again it was a simple dish done extremely well.

Fregola with harissa toasted, free range roast chicken, chilli, spring onions, sugar snaps, mint, green olives, lemon and toasted pepitas

Fregola with harissa toasted, free range roast chicken, chilli, spring onions, sugar snaps, mint, green olives, lemon and toasted pepitas

Our mains was a pasta dish, but unique in that they’ve chosen to use fregola which I’ve never really had before but reminds me of pearl cous cous which is a favourite of mine. This dish is perfectly balanced both in terms of flavours and textures – the softer fregola went really well with the crunchier toasted pepitas and crispy snap of the sweet sugar snaps.

Valrhona chocolate brownies with cranberry and almond

Valrhona chocolate brownies with cranberry and almond

We finish our meal with some of the more luscious, soft, rich and moist chocolate brownies I’ve ever tasted. The cranberry and almond gave the brownie a bit of interesting flavour and texture as well.

Now…a confession. Going for a romantic picnic in the park isn’t something that K and I do on a regular basis. It was a special occasion, and I knew something was going to happen…especially as we had gone to a jewellers late last year to design a ring together.

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And so he popped the question! It wasn’t quite what he was planning as he ended up going down on one knee in the boot of the car (we have a hatchback), but it happened, and it was special, and romantic, and perfect for us. It’s been great sharing the news with all our family and friends, and I’m so excited to finally share this news with you, my readers.

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Review: Bills Beans, Orange

I’m recommended Bills Beans by a few coffee connoisseurs prior to my visit to Orange – who unfortunately don’t know that I’m not actually a coffee drinker as I’m a dedicated tea lover! However, K is definitely a coffee lover and once he hears these recommendations, he’s keen to visit. We head over for a quick brunch before heading back to Sydney that afternoon.

Cappucino

Cappuccino

After a restless night in the heat of an un-airconditioned hotel room (more on this in future entries!), K needs a cup of strong coffee to kick-start his day. He happily sips the pretty cappuccino delivered to our little table outside, pronouncing it strong and rich enough to wake him up for the drive home.

Bacon and Egg Sandwich

Bacon and Egg Sandwich

I stood in front of the little display counter in the cafe for a few minutes, trying to find something dairy-free to order. In the end I order a simple bacon and egg sandwich, which to my disappointment, has a thick slice of melted tasty cheese inside. It’s melted to the point where I can’t simply remove it from the sandwich, and disappointed, I end up eating my first bit of dairy in over two weeks.

This disappointment doesn’t mean that the sandwich was bad however. On the contrary, the bacon was nice and crispy, and the egg yolk had delightfully melted into the bread. It simply would have been nice to see dietary requirements marked on some of their menu items, but as I progress on this new eating regime, I’m finding that very few places actually do this!

Roast Vegetable Quiche and Salad

Roast Vegetable Quiche and Salad

K orders a roast vegetable quiche which comes with a tiny bite of a side salad. The quiche is very eggy, but at least the pastry has remained flaky (despite sitting in a display cabinet) and there’s a good variety of roast veggies in the quiche.

Overall I rate Bills Beans a 7 out of 10 – Bills Beans is clearly popular with the locals in Orange, and seems to attract a crowd even though it’s not situated in the centre of town. It’s worth an early morning visit for a decent coffee or other hot beverage if you ever find yourself in Orange!