Thursday, October 29, 2009

A-Z of Gastronomy- The quest for knowledge

You sit down, the waiter places the napkin on your lap and you open the menu- only to find you have no idea what estouffade, stracciatella or spatlese are. This awkward situation will only be exacerbated if you are on a first date and simply cannot risk looking like an idiot... So what do you do? Risk it and just take a punt, hoping that what you order will be something you are ok with eating? Ask the waitstaff hoping that they won't be too snooty and will give you a reasonable plain English run down? The first choice is high risk but can result in reward. You get to try something that you have never eaten before but the risk is- you have never ordered it before because it simply doesn't appeal.

This was the recent scenario involving a Sydney fine dining establishment and a friend's father. He is very much a meat and three veg man and ordered the carpaccio of beef. He figured any type of beef would be safe until the moment the raw beef slices were placed in front of him. I admit, he did attempt to eat it but it simply wasn't his thing. The result was he ended up paying $45 + for a meal he didn't like and didn't eat.

There is also the other possibility that you are quite sure you know what you are ordering and it turns out you were actually thinking cannelloni not cannoli... Easily avoidable you say? Just ask the waiter? Well why do so many people refuse to ask? Is it because they feel silly asking, don't want to be embarrassed in front of their PIE's (partner in eating) or just don't want the condescending reply from the wait staff?

Any person who works in a restaurant will be more than happy to explain the menu to you. They will not think any less of you for asking, and if they do- they have not been trained very well so have no reason to sneer. I admit, there are occasions where I don't want to ask either, but am always relieved when I do- especially when I was way off track. I usually suffer comments flying at me from me pies- the inevitable 'I thought you knew everything about food' and questions are usually directed at me by other Pie's don't know what they are in for. Sometimes I know the answer, sometimes I don't. Point being-No one should have to suffer through some hideous concoction of sweetbreads when all they wanted was some sweet bread. Moral of the story- ASK PEOPLE. And if you are still too shy to ask- just google the bloody menu before you go!

In the spirit of not-knowing most and wanting to know more I am going to introduce an A-Z of Gastronomy segment on my blog. This will happen maybe once a week, maybe once a month- just whenever I come across a new gastronomic word and feel the need to share. The stories behind the terms/food may also intrigue you as they do me- in any case- I'm going to share them.

So tell me- Have you had any mortifyingly embarrassing experience that have resulted with you ordering something you would have rather not known existed? Do you have any terms that you find fascinating or want to know more about? Let me know!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blogger Binge @ Bar Barossa

Last night Bar Barossa played host to 15 Brisbane Food Bloggers for their first Blogger dinner. Bar Barossa is a new bar situated down the very end of Queen Street - near Ecco. As the name suggests Bar Barossa is a wine bar that specialises in wine from the Barossa.. What's that I hear you say?- Wine bar in Brisbane that specialises in something... anything.... Yay!!!

I was so happy to hear that Bar Barossa had opened because it is another indication that Brisbane is starting to attract interesting people thus creating interesting places to go. A wine bar was very much needed.

Kerry from eatdrink and be kerry organised the dinner and upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to see that 14 other bloggers had also come along. It is fantastic to know that there are at least 15 other Brisbane bloggers out there blogging away all in the name of good food. It was also nice to put names to faces in an age where is it acceptable to f'book and tweet before meeting in person. I never thought I would go on an internet date, but essentially that was exactly what last night was- at the very least it felt like it.

I certainly suffered the pre-date nerves, wondering if the others would like me and hoping I had enough but not too much food knowledge to keep up with the pack. Sound ridiculous? I know! I had even pre-warned my boyfriend that if necessary I would him to call to pick me up early just in case. I was comforted by the fact that my blogger friend Ally from eatdrinkbrisbane was coming but still had some anticipation. I needn't have worried. From the moment we walked in, everyone was friendly and it was great to meet some like minded souls who were willing to talk pasta making, discuss their cooking idols and chat food, food and more food.

The bar is a bit different to a usual winebar and features some great grape chandeliers and a 29 litre hand crafted wine glass to hold the 29 litre, $50,000 bottle of wine.

Darren Davis, the director of Bar Barossa (all this alliteration is making me crazy!) had invited some of his winemaking colleagues to chat to us about wine. Truthfully, prior to going in, I was probably more interested in the food- but the Bar Barossa boys managed to focus some of my attention towards the wine.

I certainly enjoy a glass of wine, but as you all know by now, I am no wine connoisseur, however, I am willing and eager to learn as much as I can about food and any food related things including wine & cocktails.

I think we tasted about 5 wines. Among these was a Wilson 08 series Riesling from a Clare Valley winery. I have always avoided riesling - falsely believing that it would be too sweet but the myth was busted and I found out that Riesling can be some of the driest wine available. I was also happy to hear that because the demand for riesling is not as high, you should be able to get a very good quality bottle of wine for about $20. This particular wine was about 30 years old and was perfect with seafood, which came in handy because my entree was half a dozen oysters with salsa for $18.00.

The oysters were good. I'm usually a natural girl, but the salsa seemed interesting. I liked that the oysters were presented on ice and the oysters were very fresh. I was left wishing that the salsa had a bit more punch, but ultimately was left very happy after these little beauties.

Monkylicious from was seated near me and chose the tart for $18.00. I tossed up and decided to go with the oysters but had a bit of menu envy when her dish arrived. It looked lovely and fresh but we were too busy talking about food to discuss THE food so check out bellygood for her review on the tart.

Next up, Marco Cirillo from Cirillo Estate presented a couple of wines to us. Marco is an 8th generation winemaker from Italy- 1st generation Australian. His family still do things the old way, growing their own goats and chickens and curing all their own meats. I like their style. 2) wine was a semillon that was made from grapes planted in 1850. Apparently we were the first people in Qld to taste this particular vintage and only 200 cases a year. According to Marco, the wine was acid driven towards the finish- had distinct peary and cantaloupe with a lemon and lime zest. I got the pear and the acid but that was about it. That being said- this was my favourite white of the night and seemed very smooth to be- I do however, feel a little unqualified to comment.

3) off the cuff was a European styled 2007 Picary Chardonnay. I can't really explain the flavour but I was not a fan. I am typically not a fan of chardonnay and this one was particularly 'musky' i think. It definitely had a strong smell and I felt that it was too fruity and dry.

The mains arrive and once again a bit of menu envy sets in- Ally ordered the Atlantic Salmon on celeriac mash for $30.00 which was a little overcooked for my liking. The salmon roe was a nice touch and Ally enjoyed the dish.

Monkylicious ordered the home made pasta with scallops, prawns & salmon in saffron salmon cream & pearls. This was a particularly a huge serve given that is was just $18.00 and from the entree menu. The pasta was well cooked and the sauce was good without being overly creamy.

I decided on the Salt & Pepper Quail on shaved cucumber and watercress salad with Barambah yoghurt dressing which was also $18.00 from the entree menu. The shaved cucumber and watercress salad had some heat which I liked. The quail was a little dry in places but overall the depth of flavour was excellent. The salt paired nicely with the yoghurt dressing but I was left wishing my serve was bigger!

We then tasted a couple of other wines but the details of those were not so well documented. One was the St Jakobi 2006 Shiraz from the Barossa Valley but I honestly was too busy thinking about my yummy quail to take too much notice about the shiraz. Darren did get us guessing what region the shiraz came from and for a bunch of food bloggers- we were surprisingly spot on.

Another interesting fact I learnt from Marco is that the dry reds are usually classified dry if there is under 4 grams per litre of sugar in the wine.

They obviously saved the best till last because in my opinion- the 5th wine- a 2006 Cirillo Grenache was the star of the show. This particular wine takes some serious looking after but the end result was well worth it. To get the flavour the Cirillo use natural yeast and allow the grenache 15-30 days for fermentation which is double or three times longer than usual. Old wood is used and I think this was the distinct flavour that came through. I would say the wine was robust (good wine term huh!!) and we were very lucky to taste this wine because it is the oldest grenache in the world.

I would say the night was a raging success. Most of the other bloggers seemed keen to meet up again so I pretty much think that counts as a second date. Perhaps next time we will have to have blogger speed networking so I get to know some of the other bloggers better- we were limited to talking to those who were seated up our end.

Darren and the guys at Bar Barossa did a good job telling us about the wines- it was good to learn something about the wines from the Barossa region. The food was of a high standard- the quail in particular. I also think the all day menu deserves a look in- with pork belly and scallops and wakame on offer I will go back. I'm happy to have learnt more about the wines and suggest that if you are a wine buff or just want a change of scenery- you should get down to Bar Barossa.

Bloggers- Where should our next blogger dinner be held?

Bar Barossa
545 Queen Street, Brisbane(cnr of Adelaide and Macrossan Streets)
Ph: 07 3832 3530 
Bar Barossa on Urbanspoon

Gardening with a black thumb

The term black thumb is not really an exaggeration when used to describe me. Somehow I am able to make the most hardy of plants die. I can just imagine my poor Gran shaking her head as she was a keen horticulturalist. I have her Gates gardening guide, but it doesn't seem to help very much.

Anyway, scope for a garden is limited when you live in an apartment but I have been determined to grow my own herbs/vegies for a while now.

I have had several vegie/herb gardens in the past, most notably one out on the courtyard at my current residence. The possums managed to devour all the plants within about one week so I had to give the dream away. Recently, I had a bright idea - perhaps I could have a garden on the top balcony - off my bedroom. The balcony is very small- maybe 2 m x 3m and also has an air-conditioning vent to take into consideration but when I get something in my mind- it is not easily forgotten. Suffice to say that now I have a little herb garden on my top balcony.

The garden consists of the following:

  • one dwarf lemon tree
  • one dwarf lime tree

  • mint

  • coriander

  • garlic chives

  • chilli

  • pot tomato

  • parsley

  • basil and

  • lettuce.
There have been a couple of problems- the mint leaves initially turned brownish- I thought that maybe the fertiliser we used was too acidic?? but now the problem seems to have resolved itself. Also the parsley seems to be browning and only three of the lettuce's survived the replanting.

I am really looking forward to getting some fruit from the trees, and also want to plant some snow peas, tomatoes, beans and maybe even some other vegies- too adventurous?
Do you have any good ideas for a balcony garden?

On another note- they have just cut down all the trees in our back courtyard because they were causing water problems- Now we stare straight into the next door neighbours yard, or rather they stare directly into our living room- very creepy and not private at all. We used to have about 8 skinny little trees planted along and they provided a beautiful canopy - now it's just bare. Do you have any ideas for an instant canopy? Let me know ASAP! Not sure how long I can bear looking at the bare.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Breakfast at Flute- Rosalie Village

Rosalie is a busy little centre, particularly on weekends. It's not hard to see why. There are a myriad of places to eat and the little village has a relaxed yet trendy vibe. Salt is a staple for us but weekends at Salt are chaotic. Anytime after 8:30 there is a line- sometimes up to about 20 people.This particular weekend morning, I didn't have the time to wait around so decided against Salt and headed around the corner to Flute- a very similar styled restaurant that isn't yet as busy as Salt.

The rosalie Village gossip suggests that there is some sort of relationship between Flute and Salt. Legend has it that the owner of Salt sold up and opened Flute but I'm not exactly sure how true this is... As you all know, gossip can be pretty off track, but the food also suggests there is some kind of link. There appear to be many similarities between the breakfast menus. Apologies if this is wrong... And I would actually like to know the truth behind the situation if you are in the know.

Anyway- luckily there was a table available and we were seated straight away. A quick glance at the menu revealed that the prices were quite high for breakfast, but pretty much the same as surrounding restaurants. My main PIE chose the honey roasted bacon with eggs at $16.50 and I had the corn and potato cakes with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Poached eggs with hollandaise are pretty much my default menu choice when it comes to breakfasts and I get super excited when it comes with something to spice it up- so I really could not go past the corn and potato cakes. I was also eyeing the guy on the next table eating the fish cakes- which looked fab and smelled even better- so perhaps they are a choice for another day.

After our orders were taken, I settled back in the comfy lounge bench seat and watched the passing traffic. It wasn't long before our orders arrived and were placed in front of us in all their glory. Both dishes were stacked high and mine in particular was a huge serve. On the side came a grilled tomato and some avocado which was a nice touch.

I'm one of those annoying people that like to eat one thing at a time- usually leaving the 'best till last.' I HAVE to get rid of the avo and tomato first (maybe that stems from Mum always wanting me to eat my vegies first) and then moved onto the eggs. The avo was seasoned well and the eggs were cooked perfectly. I always like when my poached are done well, it was the first sign that the chef had some good things going on in the kitchen. C's eggs were served in little dishes a nice touch- and were similarly well cooked. I had stacks of bacon on the plate and the honey flavour came through nicely. The hollandaise was poured over the whole thing and was ok, but not great. In fact it was pretty standard, leaving me to wonder if they made it themselves....

Finally I worked my way (after offloading some bacon to my PIE) to the corn and potato cakes. Two HUGE cakes were left staring up at me, and by now I had probably already eaten enough but there was no way I was going to let the potato and corn cakes go to C's plate aswell. The cakes were well cooked- crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The corn and spring onion inside provided a nice touch, but honestly these cakes lacked va va voom. They were niceish- but pretty bland- maybe in need of some extra feta or onion to help make them a little more zingy.

C's plate of food was pretty standard- His bacon and eggs were served with turkish pide, eggs and tomato. Whilst this was not the most adventurous dish, it was a good version of the classic bacon and eggs. I would probably recommend trying one of the more inventive dishes- but if you are after standard fare- the honeyed bacon and eggs are not a bad choice.

By the end of the meal, the queue was starting to form, and there were at least three sets of customers waiting inside at the bar for a table. Flute's popularity it starting to build- and if it follows Salt in this department- it too, may build a cult following.

I have visited Flute a number of times before, but never for breakfast. To be honest, the first couple of times- it was a circus. On a number of occasions the service was so bad it became funny. I have had friends vow never to go back, and if you had the same idea- I urge you to give Flute another go. To their credit, it seems all the teething problems I experienced earlier on in Flute's lifetime are now resolved. This time, the service was virtually seamless. I was well impressed with their improved service but offer Flute one little hint- probably best to not stand behind customers who are just getting ready to leave discussing your booking problem and how to rearrange the table once we had gone. It leaves a little bit of a sour taste in their mouth.

Essentially, the food is pretty good and apart from the above faux pas the atmostphere is relaxed and I would recommend heading to Flute on a lazy weekend.

Shop 3
155 Baroona Rd
Rosalie 4064 QLD
Phone: (07) 3367 2514

Flute Food & Wine on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday is a nice day for Cheesecake

Ever since the best ever ricotta cheesecake , I have been wanting to try my hand at the cheesecake baking game. A lazy Sunday afternoon provided me with the opportunity to do just that. Sunday's are also a good time for confessional too and so here is an outpouring of my sins.

I am not very good at baking. It is like there is some block that prevents my baking from succeeding. Some people would argue that there is no difference between baking and cooking but somewhere in the realms of my brain there is. I leave things to burn ALL the time and this NEVER EVER EVER happens when I am cooking. We were once on our way to a boondal entertainment centre for a concert when C remembered that I had left muffins in the oven. Oh dear! I never even overcook lamb, let alone forget about it. I just don't understand how it can happen but it does. Does anyone else have this problem?!

Anyway, I decided to give the cheesecake a go despite my little um... problem. And guess what?! The cheesecake turned out pretty well. I'm quite confident if I can bake it, you can too! The recipe must be very idiot friendly. The result was a pretty good cheesecake with not too much effort. Next time I will try ricotta because PP's ricotta cheesecake was to die for. I know I probably can't match it, especially with my aversion to baking but at least it will give me something to strive for! I'm sure C won't be complaining!!

The recipe comes from the cook's book of everything. If you are trying 'to be good' or can't tolerate large amounts of fat/sugar this recipe is NOT for you!! A couple of hints

Baked Cheesecake with Sour Cream (serves 8-10)
250 g plain sweet biscuits
1 teaspoon mixed spice
100 g melted unsalted butter

500g softened cream cheese
145g caster sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 eggs

250g sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
ground nutmeg to sprinkle on the top

1. Lightly grease a 20cm spring form cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

2. Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor or place them in a sealed plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

3. Transfer to a bowl, add the mixed spice and melted butter and stir until all the crumbs are all moistened. Spoon the mixture into the tin and press firmly onto the base and up the side to create an even shell. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

4. To make the filling, beat the cream cheese with electric beaters until smooth ( I actually used a blender but if you don't have beaters- just use a fork.)

5. Add the sugar, vanilla and lemon juice then beat until smooth. ( I also added about quadruple the amount of lemon juice and double the amount of vanilla. My tip is (seeing my baking is on the way up is -- always use good quality vanilla extract- NOT vanilla essence.)

6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each egg is added.

7. Transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes (as a lame baker- I have worked out to ALWAYS check about 15 minutes before it is due to be ready- this cheesecake needed a little less than the time suggested.

8. To make the topping, combine the sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl.

9. Spread the topping over the hot cheesecake. Sprinkle with nutmeg and return to the oven for another 7 minutes. (Try and soften a little before you put it onto the cake.

10. Turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door ajar- This is important in preventing the cake from cracking. When cool refrigerate until firm.

Woo Hoo- only a couple of small cracks on the outer edge! Very happy with that- and when it cooled it looked and tasted pretty good! Maybe the baking curse is over- or I am getting too cocky too soon?! I'll have to try baking something else sometime soon and let you know.
What is your favourite type of cheesecake and do you suffer from a baking curse? Or maybe its a cooking curse. Let me know.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yum yum yum yum Cha- Landmark Restaurant Sunnybank

Yum Cha has a special place in my heart. My godmother is Chinese and I was introduced to Asian cuisine at a very young age. One of my youngest food memories is the flavour explosion I had the first time I went to Yum Cha at East Ocean Restaurant in Dixon Street in Sydney. As we grew up in the country, city trips were not as frequent as I'd have liked- but Yum Cha was always on the menu. I would fill myself with so much food I would almost burst.

My chopstick skills are pretty handy given the need to fight for the last morsels of food. I was so obsessed that when I was in Sydney for a three week period doing work experience when i was 15, I would take myself the 1.5 km walk EVERY lunchtime to the nearest Yum Cha (which happened to be Sky Phoenix in Pitt Street) and eat myself silly. The staff ended up knowing me by name by the end of my time and thought it was very funny that a little guilo girl would come by herself every day and eat SO MUCH FOOD. I had saved heaps of money to go to Sydney and I have to admit that most of it was spent on food. I was sad when I returned home to find all my friends had spent their cash on new clothes while I had focused on growing out of my old ones. I still have the memories and I'm pretty sure they don't still have the clothes. My how times haven't changed.

So it was natural that when I first moved to Brisbane, I sourced out a Yum Cha restaurant in the Valley. Being naive, I thought that Brisbane Chinatown would be like Sydney Chinatown and was most disappointed to find one chinatown mall and significantly less choice for quality Asian restaurants. It wasn't until only a couple of years ago that I ventured out to Sunnybank, and whilst the atmosphere is not the same, the food is almost as good.

For those of you unacquainted with Yum Cha is a Cantonese tradition of taking tea. I think the tea originally helped to digest the food that was eaten and tea is the focus. In Yum Cha restaurants it is customary for the staff to push around trolley's with goods either in steamer baskets or on plates and you can select what you like. They place it on the table and stamp your table card. Many trolleys will pass you by in the course of a yum-cha sitting and you can pick and choose what you like.

Landmark is one of Brisbane's most popular yum-cha restaurants. Oddly, it is inside Sunnybank plaza but once you step inside- the plaza is forgotten and the atmosphere envelopes you- You could be in any Yum Cha restaurant in Hong Kong.

The layout is pretty standard- but the line up is out of control. The first time I went, I didn't book ahead and we waited close to two hours for a table on a Sunday. Let this be a lesson- GET THERE EARLY to avoid this disaster. I'm talking 10:00 a.m. early.

The service is pretty standard for yum-cha, quite abrupt and there are always translation difficulties but this generally comes with the territory. The chandeliers hang high whilst the ladies with their trolley's go around offering everything from dumplings to tripe. If you are impatient, one option that Landmark does offer you is to take your card to a counter and collect some of the dishes from there. Even though this is not as great as the trolley system, it is a practical option if you are running short of time.

Landmark has a good selection of food. They offer plenty of dumplings and most are very good. My favourite on offer is most definitely the garlic chive and prawn dumpling. The dumpling case was soft and perfect, hiding a beautiful king prawn packed with loads of garlic chives that make the tastebuds on my tongue leap for joy. The pairing is so simple, yet so perfect. We also tried the King prawn dumpling which was good, but just a little bland although the quality of the prawn was better than you would usually find in dim sum. Scallop dumpling was good but the prawn the coriander was better. It packed a punch and my PIE and I were fighting over the last one (obviously bad manners on his behalf- shouldn't it be at the lady's disposal first? I think he has spent too much time with me in Yum Cha and now knows it is- fight to survive- style dining.) My PIE always gets the seafood dumpling which I find a bit of a waste because I'm not exactly sure what flavours are going to come through. If something is left behind- it is always a seafood dumpling.

One of my regular pie's has recently left on an overseas trek and I am really missing her, especially when is comes to Yum Cha. We both LOVE pork that is done really well and so I could always get away with ordering both pork ribs in blackbean and pork ribs in plum. I'm kind of glad she was not with us this time though because the pork ribs were not fab. They were ok- but the flavour had not penetrated through and the blackbeans were a little light on. The flavour should carry the pork ribs through and in this case they tended to be more just very fatty bits of pork that were a bit bland. I'll have to try the plum sauce next time- but I just couldn't justify getting two when the other main pork rib lover was not there with me.

Landmark does some fabulous greens- but be warned the greens are actually a great deal more expensive than the dumplings. The bokchoy was very fresh and the oyster sauce mixed was just right. Obviously a standard combo in Chinese restaurants but some places do it better than others and Landmark is one of those places. If you are in the mood for some more greens try the beans with mince on top- they are delish but are only served after 12 on weekends.

Duck, soy chicken and bbq pork are all offered on trays, and we had a helping of the duck. The duck did not blow my mind but it was tasty. The skin was crispy and the fat was rendered down well but flavour was lacking. Lucky the plum sauce was a lifeline and pulled the dish through.

My main PIE and his accompanying brother LOVE the squid. It is very simple but somehow just right. There are never bursts of flavour but the batter is cruncy and the squid is cooked perfectly below- tender. I think the plate looks quite impressive but other friends think the tentacles are a bit frightening- stop whinging, grow a sense of adventure and eat up I say! I think I am pretty much a nightmare host for newbies to Yum Cha because I will always offer them tripe and chicken feet! I don't even particularly like chicken feet or tripe but it is fun to get a reaction.

By the time this is over, the three of us are BURSTING at the seams and even pass up a mango pancake. I love a good mango pancake but unfortunately Landmark's are not fantastic. If I am feeling too lazy to go to sunnybank I have sometimes been known to frequent ChinaHouse Seafood in the Valley and they have the BEST mango pancakes I have ever eaten. They are not particularly authentic but are puffed with fantastic icing sugar sweetened cream. Yum Yum.
Back to Landmark...

Landmark does offer a good yum-cha experience. The place is packed to the brims and all the yum cha staples are there. Through my experience, they are probably the best yum cha restaurant in Brisbane- they offer more authentic versions and the food is consistently good.

Don't forget the tea- the tea is the most important and really does ( In my head anyway) aid digestion and it is a crucial part of the ceremony. Bo Lei is a personal favourite but Jasmine is well liked. Bo Lei is the same as Pu-erh tea and it is the best!! A little tip for first time yummers- you can just balance the lid on the top of the handle and the pot and the staff will refill your tea.
Don't forget to get there early or call in advance. Even calling in advance does not guarantee you a seat at your booking time but it should be within 1/2 an hour. I have no idea of the cost of anything at Landmark- they have the usual system of standard dumpling $, better dumpling $$, deluxe dumpling $$$, Big dish $$$$- you get the picture- not very helpful I know. I think our overall bill was maybe about $70. Next time I will take more notice- there is so much going on at Landmark- I bet you will forget you are in Suburban Brisbane too.

Landmark Restaurant - In Sunnybank Plaza
Mains Rd
Sunnybank QLD 4109
(07) 3344 3288

Landmark on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 19, 2009

Robert Channon Verdelho

I've already posted about Robert Channon Winery in Stanthorpe holding some must-attend events. To prove they are as fabulous as I raved about, they have taken home the Gold Award for their 2009 Verdelho in the 26th Annual The Courier Mail and Mercure Brisbane
Queensland Wine Awards.
Their chardonnay and reserve chardonnay also placed so it is definitely worth the trip to Stanthorpe to visit the cellar door. Brisbane stockists include

* Cru Bar in Fortitude Valley and
* The Wine Experience in Rosalie

Other gold winners include Clovely Estate, Golden Glen, Harrington Glen, Heritage Estate, Hidden Creek, Hill of Promise, Ocean View Estates and Tobin Wines. I have not had the pleasure of tasting any of these wines but hope to soon.

CONGRATULATIONS- I hope these awards continue to recognise and fuel QLD's wine indsutry.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The lunch that stops a Nation

What was that? It is supposed to be "The race that stops a nation"? My apologies. I must admit, I am a fan of a flutter. There is nothing quite like hearing the final lap bell sound, seeing the blurs of colour, screaming out a usually ridiculous name, hearing the races hooves storm home and smelling the grass flying up behind to reveal victory or defeat. It's not only the racing, because often the races are forgotten in favour of sipping and socialising. It's the whole air of formality. And there is one thing I love more than sipping and socialising whilst wearing a frilly at the filles, it's EATING something delectable when there.

If you are not lucky enough to be in a corporate box or the Emirates marquee, a usual race day feast may include a mini eagle boys, something fried and out of the hot box or even a festival staple- the beef and gravox roll. To prevent this sort of disaster happening on race day 09, why not book ahead. There are some lunches in Brisbane that look to be worthy of stopping a nation this year. Thank your lucky stars. This means you will probably be able to see the race and not have your stiletto stuck in the turf whilst trying to jump to see the track behind a crowd of 40 somethings acting like 20 somethings, dressed in a rainbow of suits, their female equiviliants with feather dusters on their head screaming so loudly you can't hear Greg Miles call the bloody race anyway.

If you are one for creature comforts and want something more than a BBQ chook and potato salad from Woolies then why not go the whole hog- or horse....

The hottest ticket in town at $225 bucks a pop is the Lexus of Brisbane Melbourne Cup Event. You can choose to have either a sit down 3 course meal or a canape/cocktail lunch. Either way, you can watch the big race plus fashion parades etc etc.. Sounds like a fun time.

$153 bucks will get you a ticket to the Brisbane Racing Club's Melbourne Cup Day Party. A buffet lunch and beverages are provided- which is always good when you need something to soak up all that champagne- plus you won't have to fight with the commoners as you will have exclusive TAB Access. Go that extra mile and for $195 pp grab a spot in The Home Straight Chalet or if Fashions of the Field is more your thing - $180 buys you access to the Fashion Lawn Marquee. These options also include food and drinks.

Philip Johnson is catering the One Fair Day at Limes Hotel. Gee I'm loving what Limes are serving up lately. First the Pulp Fiction Screening and now this. Tickets are comparatively cheap - $135 pp buys Johnson's famous Ecco style food plus Verve. Now I have had some mixed experiences at Ecco but this menu looks fab. It too includes a canape option and a plated dish option. Some of the Canapes include seasme crusted kingfish, gazpacho and soy marinated quail whilst the plated options include soy braised wagyu cheek, seared squid or porcini and swiss brown risotto. If I can get the day off- this looks like my pick. I know $135 seems to be a lot to spend on a day out- but imagine how much you would actually spend at the races- so basically you are saving thousands. I can rationalise anything food related, however I reckon Philip Johnson is a safer bet than whatever horse has the most appealing colours.

There are TONS of options for Melbourne Cup Day- many of them cheaper than what I have featured here. I just feel that Melbourne Cup Day is enough of an occasion to warrant $150 + per head. seems to have a good database if you are looking for comparisons.

If you are on a budget, why not grab a couple of friends- prepare a feast, grab a bottle of not-so-cheap-it's-nasty and head to a local park with a wireless to tune into the race (old-school, I know.)

And just a word of advice, start talking your boss into it now, first of all so these babies don't sell out and most importantly so you don't end up watching the Cup on the security tv in black and white. Somehow this kills the granduer of the occasion and the Melbourne Cup butterflies and lunches are depressingly far away.

What are you up to on Melbourne Cup Day? Do you have any traditions in your work place/family?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hows bout a $5 shake and Royale with Cheese?

Lovers of Pulp Fiction... Want to watch Pulp Fiction at an open air cool venue? Been waiting your whole life to order $5 shakes and a Royale with Cheese? Yes I hear you scream! Me too!

Limes Hotel are screening the cult film "Pulp Fiction" on Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 of Oct, at 6:30 or 9pm.

On these nights you can try their version of the "Royale with Cheese" and flavoured shakes. Don't forget to book.

See you there!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Map Magazine Eat and Drink Awards

Do you want to have your say? Don't forget to vote for your fave Brisbane eateries in Map Magazine's eat/drink awards. Be warned- the voting takes a lonnnngg time!

Friday, October 9, 2009


Update: 20th August 2011 - A friend and I stopped into Libertine for a quick snack. We ordered the char grilled baby squid w pomegranate nam jim and vietnamese mint for $18, four scallops w jambon cru and tomato concasse at $7.5 each and the kingfish and crab chao tom at $8.5 each. The squid and scallops were both good, however the chao tom was disappointingly dry and styrofoamy. We let the waiter know, he took the offending chao tom away, apologised profusely, removed the item from the bill and bought us out another 'surprise' - some rice paper rolls. This all happened within a matter of minutes and we were extremely impressed. The service was faultless and I will, on the strength of the response, of course return happily.

Libertine has been on my 'to eat at' list for some time. Although I have to admit that it never quite made it to top the top, always being pushed back by seemingly more important culinary adventure. When one of my friends suggested that we go to Libertine for a dinner, I was more than happy with her choice. Anywhere with Viet/French fusion cuisine is a must try in my book.

As we had a group larger than ten, we were required to have the banquet menu. Obviously, I jumped online to find the banquet menu to look at the options. Never have I been with so confronted by a menu. On the page before me lay a strict list of terms and conditions associated with booking for more than ten people. To be honest, I felt just a bit put out by the direct nautre of the rules. For heaven sake- we were booking to eat at a restaurant not at one of THE top restaurants in the world.

And the irony of the situation didn't escape me either. Libertine basically means devoid of restraints but reading the strict rules associated with booking for more than ten had me feeling like I was back under the iron fist of my boarding school house mistress.

With my nose slightly out of joint I continued on trawling through the menu to pick four of the street food and four of the main dishes to make up my choices for the banquet. Aside from the rules, the menu looked good. It features a wide range of interesting dishes that had both Vietnamese and French touches, that were also not too alienating- perfect for the group I was going with. I bossily emailed my suggestions even though it wasn't my dinner. My friends are used to my overbearing food behaviour by now but it worked out well because the organiser had many of the same ideas as me.

When we arrived at Libertine, I was surprised that the al fresco area was packed with what looked to be an after work crowd. Can't say I blame them- the area was perfect for relaxed drinks in at atmosphere a bit more cosmo than what is on offer at the close-by Caxton Street. I had obviously underestimated the popularity of this eatery, based at the new Caxton Barracks complex. The restaurant had a serious attention to detail and I would have to say the vibe was Asian chic.

We perused the amazing cocktails menu which was characterised by viet styled ingredients- very minty, limey, fresh and fun- just how I love them. I was happy to see my lychee and viet mint caipiroska arrive in reasonable time.
We had already pre-ordered the banquet for $50.00 a head. The food arrived about half an hour into our booking and the table was laden with all the street food components first up. A mixture of greed and wanting to try everything always leaves me concerned that the banquet will be a little on the light side, so when a plentiful amount came out I breathed a sigh of relief.
The wagyu tartare with crisp baguette and pickled vegies was a flavour bursting first bite. The tartare was moulded well and the chilli went well with the tender meat. The pickled vegies provided a good sweet and sour contrast to the heat of the meat.
The 'most excellent spring rolls' were relatively true to their name- the outside was crispy without being too oily and the minced insides meant that the pork and herbed flavours were well combined and presented prettily.
It's a shame the flavour that packed the last two dishes wasn't apparent in the fresh chicken rice paper rolls. Whilst they were really fresh, they were bland and the accompanying satay sauce couldn't add enough flavour to save the dish.
The scallops lacked the green mango they boasted on the menu, but the black seasme, mint and taro were a tasty addition. Unfortunately the scallops weren't plump and were a little over cooked for my liking which was a shame because with a little less cooking, this dish had the potential to be a show stopper.
After the enormous amount of street food, the mains arrived in quick succession. First was the pork belly with spicy apple salad and it was delicious. The pork was thinly sliced and the perfect combination of the cripy exterior whilst still remaining succulent and moist. The spicy apple and accompanying dark sauce were a winning combo and the pork kept me coming back for more. I am partial to a good serving of pork belly and the thin strips meant that the serving was not too overwhelming. In my eyes, this dish stole the limelight, however some of my PIE's disagree.
The duck was the most popular dish among my PIE's. The eggplant and tomato were well placed but I felt the sweet fish sauce could have been more plentiful. The duck was well cooked and falling off the bone with crispy skin and the fish sauce could have pulled the dish through to be the best dish.
The prawns were not to be sneezed at either. They were certainly eye pleasing, the coriander and tomato brightening the whole table. The sauce vierge with coriander added a great kick to the prawns which were meaty and fresh.
The chicken larb type stirfry had a nice flavour of shitake mushroom and chilli but was not overwhelmingly fabulous. It failed to differentiate itself from any other chicken wok dish from any suburban Vietnamese restaurant. Most of the other dishes were a cut above.
The service was good although not fantastic. We had so many different staff serving our table, it was impossible to tell who was assigned. We were pretty much left to our own devices and this was ok given that we had pre-ordered but the time it took to order the next delicious cocktail echoed this sentiment.
I found that we had more than enough food for our party of people and the standard was consistently good. The $50 per head fee for banquet was very reasonable. The cocktails were priced at $15 and were really well done. The rules and regulations put me offside early, but the food and drink won my heart. If you decide to go to Libertine in a big group, make sure the group are not rebellious and don't invite anyone that might do a 'no-show' because you are charged for them regardless. I will be heading back to Libertine especially for the great cocktails and the chilled out atmostphere. Perhaps i'll go back even earlier next time so I can make the most of their $10 cocktail happy hours between 5-7. If the cocktails and food are as good as this experience, I'll be a very happy girl indeed.

Update: 3/3/11 - Sadly, I went back to Libertine last weekend. I say sadly because I went with fond memories that are now tarnished. Whilst the service had improved out of sight from last time, the food was rushed and lacked spark. We ordered a number of the streetfood options (5) and they all arrived on our table within literally 5 minutes of ordering. The table was too small so it took some serious re-shuffling to get the dishes all on. Re-shuffling is not the problem. The problem is that we felt ridiculously rushed because we didn't want anything to go cold. We were in and out in 45 minutes and actually went with the intention of relaxing and having a long dinner. It's so unfortunate because Libertine had a great atmosphere last time, and this just wrecked the whole experience.

No, 5 The Caxton Barracks
61 Petrie Terrace
07 3367 3353
Libertine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Catering Companies in Brisbane

I am planning a spectacular Christmas event, and no Christmas party is complete without TONS of beautiful, glorious food. I am on the lookout for a good catering company in Brisbane that aren't too expensive and do loads of beautiful modern interpretations of Christmas classics. I also want wait staff so I don't spend the entire time cooking, serving then clearing!

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

IS Pizza & Tapas Bar Noosaville

Lunch at Noosa always means endless possibilities. There are so many places I have not been to and so many new places popping up all the time. Unfortunately, not being a sunshine coast native means I am a little lost when it comes to what is going on in the restaurant scene. However, I think this is a positive because I end up going to places having heard nothing about them AT ALL.A little research revealed that IS was established in August 2008 by the Withers' family who moved north for a sea change.

We decided to eat at IS at lunch time. It is right on the river (just accross the road like most of the Gympie Terrace restaurants) and on the first level. Set upstairs means that there is quite a beautiful view of the river. The restaurant has a light and airy feeling and we were lucky enough to score one of the bench tables facing the river.

Ok- I'll tell the truth. We scored one of those tables because we seated ourselves. We stood waiting for a while and then decided that we would sit and wait for the soul waitress who was busy clearing plates/ not noticing us. Once she did notice us she looked over and said "I will be there when I can." Right.... At this time I was asking my main PIE if we should leave when the waitress finally arrived. She gave us menus and a glass of water and scurried away. The water contained a slice of fresh orange which was a nice fruity, summery touch.

The menu looked enticing. The tapas menu listed about 20 options categorized into seafood, meat and vegetarian and the menu recommended that diners have 2-3 tapas per person BEFORE a main. At $9.50 for each tapas this seemed a little bit pricey but I was not too hungry and thought I would just try 3 tapas options for my whole lunch. Seeing it was a hot summery day I was drawn more towards the seafood and decided on the salmon and crab cakes, the scallops in shell with crisy serrano jamon and champagne and finally the chicken wings w/green tomato pickles. My PIE chose the picoso pizza at $18.50 which was topped with pepperoni, olives, baby spinach and jalapeno peppers.

The food came out very pretty quickly which showed that maybe the chef was more on his game than the wait staff. Just to point out, apart from the initial little hitches the waitress was very polite, it's just that aside from the food, the service was very slow. As an example we didn't receive our drinks (lemon, lime & bitters) until after the food was served.

The menu did warn me but taking into consideration that there was just under $30 sitting on the plate, the servings were quite small. The chicken wings were quite bland. Not much flavour and a little dry. They were coated in the green tomato pickles which were FANTASTIC but the flavour had not penetrated through the wings. The green tomato pickles were house made and were everything green tomato pickles should be- tangy but smooth.

The salmon and crab cakes were had a crunchy coating but once biting into the little balls, the crab and salmon were dry and chewy. Slapping on some green tomato pickles helped them a little, but once again the cakes were a little underwhelming and bland.

The scallop was well cooked and the jamon and champagne was a tantalising combo. The sweetness of the champagne with the meatiness of the jamon was fantastic and I found myself wanting to lick the shell. Though to be quite honest, I cannot believe I was served one scallop halved for $10. I would expect double or maybe triple the quantity for this price given that other similar restaurants in the same region usually provide four fat juicy scallops for about $12.

I did poach a piece of my PIE's pizza and it too was bland. It looked good, the topping seemed like a great combo, the crust was thin and crispy (BIG PLUS!!) but it was just like most other pizzas. The flavours somehow just didn't mesh together well to provide a flavour explosion the way good pizzas do. I found myself feeling disappointed as it had looked so promising.

The setting at IS was good. Relaxed and breezy and just right for a Saturday lunch. The service was polite but slow and I guess this fitted in with the theme of the place. Unfortunately the food wasn't as right. I was left feeling underwhelmed but the scallops were good, the green tomato pickles were fantastic and on the way out I saw another couple eating and commenting how good the calamari with smoked paprika, salt and saffron aioli was. The fact that the pickles were so good and were made in house does give the place a hint of promise.

What are your thoughts? Do you give places a second chance if they are mediocre? or do you believe that there are too many other places to try to bother wasting time somewhere that leaves you with a disappointed taste in the mouth?

IS Tapas and Pizza Bar
249 Gympie Terrace Noosaville
5447 1818

iS tapas & pizza bar on Urbanspoon

Noosa Farmer's Markets

I love the Noosa Farmer's Markets. I am at coast every couple of weekends so usually try to go to the markets and bring all my prized produce back in an esky for the coming weeks. The markets are held on Weyba Road at Noosaville every Sunday morning. I do like the West End markets too but somehow Noosa Markets are a cut above. The Noosa markets are set out better, have more specifically regional produce and the vendors seem to be more willing to talk to you about their produce. The vendors appear to specialise in one or two food areas rather than stock a whole load of different things. Noosa is fast becoming a foodie haven and is known as a very food conscious area. The are catering to a very different market to the West End Markets- essentially the Noosa population have money and want to spend it on great local food. The prices are higher, but in this instance, this directly correlates to the quality of the produce.

N.B. I have to apologise for the horrendous quality of the photos in this post. I got too carried away at the markets and didn't take any photos there so had to shoot the ingredients I bought when we got home.

Last Sunday I managed to get to the markets at around 6:45 a.m. (THAT's RIGHT! A.M!) which is a little bit earlier than usual. As devastating as it is to draw yourself from bed on a Sunday morning, it was well worth it. Though the markets were still buzzing, they were not as packed as they are at a later time. Nothing was yet sold out and the vendors seemed to spend more time talking to me about their produce.

Now, in my opinion the markets have something for everyone. I am going to run through a list of some of my favourite items but of course there are so many things I have not had the opportunity to try. These are listed in no particular order!

1.) Noosa Lime Co. make this zesty fresh lime cordial which has a hint of ginger and kaffir lime. Oh My! Lime and ginger can never go wrong in my book and this cordial once again proves that duo are truly lovely together. The cordial tastes of real lime, not the fake limey taste and is just wonderful with soda water or vodka if you are feeling naughty. This is the first time I have seen Noosa Lime Co. at the markets but I am really happy to see some wonderful fresh lime cordial and I hope they keep coming back. I seem to have drawn a blank at remembering what price the cordial was but I think it was around the $6-$8 mark. Apparently Noosa Lime Co are waiting for their finger limes to fruit so I can't wait to see what happens then!

Noosa Lime Co.
P. 61 7 5449 8990

2. Noosa River Smoke House Salmon Gravalax
The salmon gravalax comes in two different fabulous flavours- one is dill based and the other has a peppercorny bite. The salmon is cured using seat salt and brown sugar and is absolutely delicious. The salmon is so tender it is silky, and the taste is fresh. The peppercorns are a flavoursome addition without overpowering the salmon. We ate our gravalax in a fresh baguette from the French stand and some fresh salads and it was the perfect lunch. I know we got about 179 grams for $11.50ish and I would go back and buy a kilo tomorrow if I could. The salmon is vacuumed packed and the expiry date was listed at the end of the month but I'm not sure how many days it would last in the fridge after the package has been opened. the stand also offers hot smoked salmon fillets but I am not sure I could go past the gravalax.

Noosa River Smoke House
Greg Rasmusen
0400 551 378

3) Bendele Farm

Finally- somewhere to buy fresh organic duck!!! To give you an indication of Bendele's popularity- I have been trying to buy duck from the Bendele stand for literally 6 MONTHS and can never secure either the duck breast or a whole duck! FINALLY this week, I was out of bed early enough to grab some. I should have been smart enough to buy about 6 packs and freeze! Rookie error. 2 small duck breasts cost about $7.00 The ducks were killed on Friday so were very fresh!! I can't wait to cook them tomorrow night and will let you know how they go. Perhaps a warm duck breast salad with beetroot and pomegranate!! Yum Yum! Bendele Farm also sell organic chicken and turkey if you are after any other poultry.

Bendele Farm
(07)5484 7157

4) Cedar Street Cheeserie
Now I haven't tried the cedar street cheeserie's buffalo mozzarella but it looks great and I was happy to find some buffalo that was made locally. The vendor was very knowledgeable and happy to share heaps of info. Cedar Street Cheeserie had a ricotta cheesecake for tasting. I have to say it was not the best- esp after eating P.P's cheesecake just a few weeks ago. I am hoping and confident that the buffalo will be much better!

5) The Rolling Dolmade
Oh my gosh- Dolmades are VERY close to my heart. They are one of my oldest favourite foods. I suffered terribly for my love of dolmades and as a result our love affair is much stronger. My Dad used to pack dolmades and olives in my lunch box in kindy and the other kids absolutely picked on me relentlessly because of this! Growing up in northwest NSW meant that most kids in the late 80's early 90's had not even seen or heard of olives or dolmades and hence most thought I was so gross. I was torn between wanting my friends to sit near me at lunch or eating delicious food and of course, in true GG style, the food won out. Eventually my friends got over it and started asking to try it... Anyway... The rolling Dolmade do a rocking dolmade- fresh, crisp vine leaf stuffed with delcious pine nutty, ricey, raisiny goodness. The full flavour burst takes a moment to sink in. In face these dolmades are some of the best dolmades I have EVER eaten. Most importantly fhe leaf and filling aren't squished like in the tinned version. I have never tried any of the other mezze on offer but if they are as good as the dolmades then praise the heavens. The Rolling Dolmade have been around for a while and the locals just love it!
300 gm jar of dolmade = $12.50

6)Gourmet Gallery
Gourmet Gallery are a newish stand at the markets and they have some great ideas. I love being able to purchase some gourmet meats at the market including packs of four different cured meats. Perfect for a pizza making sesh. The lady at the stand was also SO lovely. She took about 5 minutes out explaining the methods they use and listing their product line (which extends to some very delicious fruit cake and )

The lady had no idea that I was a food blogger and sometimes I feel that people fob me off because I am younger but this obviously wasn't the case. She was so conscientious about educating everyone that came to stand. I could see she had a real love for food and was passionate about passing on info. Great to see!

We tasted the fruit cake ($12 for 300 gm or $34 for 1kg) which I will consider If I am feeling lazy around Christmas time, the bacon steaks and some of the cured meats. My main PIE loved the chocolate dolce forte which was made with rich cocoa ($12 for 300 gm)

We ended up going home with the four pack of cured meats or antipasto selection (140 gm for $7.50) and some ham off the bone ( 140-180 gm = $6.50). Next time I will probably grab some of the ham done with herbs and garlic!!!( $6 for 300 gm) This stall is well worth a visit if only to learn a little more about how cured meats are made.

Gallery Gourmet
Helen Jones

Notable mentions:

Spanner Crab Noosa Stand-
Crab and scallops from the Spanner Crab Stand are always beautiful. You can get either fresh or frozen scallops and they are in peak condition (not water soaked.) The crab meat is also fresh and sweet and the prices are good.

Chocolate stand - sells (among various other chocolate treats and cooking chocolates) goji berries covered in dark chocolate. My mouth waters just thinking about these delicious little treats which are a little bit unusual. They are pricey but well worth it. I feel that the goodness of the goji berries coupled with the well documented goodness of dark choc is a real hit!

Okonomiyaki Stand- Obviously I am obsessed with Okonomiyaki and this is where I first fell in love. The stand here does fish shaped pancakes that are admittedly not as good as the West End markets okonomiyaki but still give them a run for their money. Yum Yum on an empty Sunday tum.

French Stand has some delicious baguettes that are always beautiful and fresh. They also do a variety of pate that is in hot demand and some french favourites such as decadent chocolate croissants.

Supernatural Organics- Do some great Australian garlic. I have recently been reading about the benefits associated with Australian garlic as opposed to the bleached asian garlic you generally find in woolies. Seriously- get yourself some garlic that has some colour left. This means that meaning of the healing properties and nutritional benefits are still in tact rather than being bleached out. The flavour is much more intense than the asian variety too.

Traditions do breakfast but I go there for the homemade lemonade which is fab. They make it just the way it should be- lemony, sweet and chilled- perfect for a hot summer's day.

Do you have a favourite stand at The Noosa Farmer's Markets? Let me know~!

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