Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Breakfast at Gunshop Cafe at West End

I've been meaning to post about Gunshop Cafe for some time, and I knew I had to get a move on when I found out we were also having a blogger dinner at Gunshop. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to post a before blogger dinner and after a blogger dinner ensuring my first review remained unbiased and thought it could provide a good basis for comparison between the two seperate dining occasions. I will be posting about our blogger dinner a day or two afterwards (if I get my butt into gear quick enough!)

If you live in Brisbane and like food you will have probably heard of Gunshop Cafe in West End. Gunshop has been a well known breakfast haunt for many years, and more recently enjoyed extra publicity stemming from their Delicious magazine award - the prestigious Australian Cafe of the Year. I know the Brisbane food scene was super excited to have the honour go to a Brisbane based recipient!

I had eaten at Gunshop a number of times prior to their awards, but decided to go back after the awards (a fair time afterwards I might add!- Don't blame me, blame the emerging Brisbane restaurant scene.) When my Grandfather and one of his pals came to visit, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to hop over to West End for brekky, as Grandfather and Gus would love to tell all the boys back home that they ate at 'The best Cafe in Australia.'

Luckily Grandfather and Gus are early risers, as I told them I would come to pick them up from their hotel at Southbank at about 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning so we could beat the rush to Gunshop. I didn't want to have to line up with the oldies in tow. We arrived at 8:20 a.m and already a line!! Luckily there were only about 5 people in front of us, and the line was moving relatively quickly, so we only had to wait for about 15 minutes before we were seated- although I must admit, Gfather and Gus were a little bemused by the whole queuing thing-they weren't complaining, just thought it was a little funny.

Gfather and Gus were interested to know a little bit about the history of the actual gunshop but I couldn't really help them out too much and one of the waitresses didn't know much more than I. I have since googled around a bit and found out a bit of info so will share it with them when I'm on the phont next. We settled in with the menus after ordering a juice and some coffees.

Gfather and Gus, decided to have the double smoked bacon and poached eggs for $15.5 so they really could judge if they were having the best breakfast ever- Gfather was tempted by the black pudding (he is an adventurous Gfather) but was probably scared off by the $18.5 price tag. Now, Gfather is by no means a stingy man, he is in fact the polar opposite, but I think he baulked at paying $18.5 for black pudding because he used to eat it all the time when he was a child.

I spied the potato and feta hash cakes with spinach and herb sour cream for $15.5 and C went with the toulouse sausages, sweet potato hash, rocket, poached egg and bush tomato relish for $18.5. It was nice to see some basics with a twish on the menu- something a little more inspired than eggs benedict etc etc. It was clear that the menu was very considered and there seemed to be a really good range of options, both for those who are more traditional and those who want to splash out with a more unique brekky choice.

As the restaurant was so packed, it was a little squashy. After a little bit of waiting, the breakfasts arrived and it was hard to fit them on the tables, but once we did, and I secretly took photos (which is hard to do, given that we were situated just through the 'window' behind the cash register) we all tucked in.

My potato feta hash cakes were good. The crispy outside was just holding together the fluffy, light inside. The herbed sour cream was well matched, but I felt there could have been a little too much cream dolloped on. By the end of the second hash cake, I was starting to tire and would have liked something to 'break it up' a little bit. The lemon helped to cut through the cream. That being said, these were quite good hash cakes.

C loved his toulouse sausages and I snitched a fair bit of his sweet potato hash. I like the bush relish tomato too- the two together made a great flavour combo. The egg was perfectly poached.

Gfather and Gus both enjoyed their bacon and eggs. They thought the bacon was well cooked, but the eggs could have been a little softer. When gus cut his egg open, there was no runny yolk smearing down the plate as he'd have like, so that was a bit of a disappointment. However, by any standard, this was a nice version of the humble but popular bacon and eggs.

The service at Gunshop was good. There weren't really any bad problems, but we did have to wait a long time for the meal to arrive and then for the bill to be brought to the table. I have to admit that the restaurant was packed and I'm sure this had some bearing on the wait time.

The only other problem I had was the noise factor. I don't usually mind a bit of noise, but it was very hard to hear what people were saying. I like breakfast time to be a little less loud, particularly when the oldies are with us. It could help to have some sort of plants or something to try to absorb some of the noise (I'm sure they have probably already thought of this), because with the quality of food and the great reputation, I'm sure they aren't going to be able to count on fewer customers to lessen the noise.

Gunshop has some really good menu options and aside from the noise, is a really pleasant place to eat. I am really looking forward to going to the blogger dinner, as I have never had the privlidge of dining at Gunshop for dinner and am excited to see what they have on offer. I can totally understand why they won the 'Best Cafe in Australia' award- the menu reveals that take their food very seriously but manage to serve it up in a fun and interesting way.

When to go: Why for breakfast of course! Go early though, unless you want to queue.

Tell me readers: Do you like potato hash cakes? McDonalds style or soft and fluffy?

Gunshop Cafe
53 Mollison Street
West End
07 3844 2241
Gunshop Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sugo Mi- Bulimba

I don't know if you have noticed, but I have been eating a lot of pizza lately. However I can't even pretend that I was disappointed when one of my PIEs (Partners in eating) DiR invited me to her birthday dinner at Sugo Mi in Bulimba. (Still no photos sorry- they were deleted by accident~!)

I rarely go to Bulimba and this was a much needed kick to get my butt over the other side of the river to try out their pizza offerings. I might mention that DiR is Italian so she is pretty picky about her pizza and went to Sugo Mi on a recommendation from a work mate.

I arrived at the venue after a doozy of a cab ride, but that's another story. The al fresco dining area was pretty full and the place oozed simplicity- which is always good in a Pizza restaurant. DiR and LMc had already arrived and bless their little hearts, they had a glass of red waiting for me already- they know me too well. The wine list was a little longer than most Pizza places. LMc went for a bottle of Rymill's MC2 Cab Merlot- which was a peppery South Australian wine. It was a shame to see only one option for Italian red although the homeland options were quite good.

I was in the mood for Pizza and luckily so was DiR. LMc had other ideas as she had already spied a risotto that had her drooling.

DiR and I decided on one bianca and one rosso pizza - a Palermo and a Patate. DiR's first choice was the Termolese but LMc isn't a fan of anchovies, so we had to go with the Palermo. As you can see there is a bit of a theme to the pizzas I have been ordering. Usually I am more adventurous but I tried to order similar pizzas to those on offer at Beccofino and Il Posto for a fair assessment.

The service was pretty unobtrusive and smooth all night- both wait staff that attended to our table were polite. As a starter the girls ordered one serving of Bruschetta at $8.9. The topping was finely chopped and served on thin pieces of bread. I'm pretty picky about my bruschetta and this really didn't live up to my standard. I like generous servings of tomatoes on thick pieces of crusty bread. This version could have used more salt and pepper, nicer tomatoes and less red onion. I don't even know why people insist on using red onion in Bruschetta- olive oil, tomato, basil and salt are perfect enough without- but if you like to use it, please don't let it overpower every other ingredient- it should be an addition, not the main attraction. Rant over.

Next LMc's roast pumpkin risotto with rosemary, pinenuts, spinach and honey cream ($23.9), arrived very shortly before our pizza. LMc and DiR loved loved loved the risotto, and even I, a risotto skeptic, thought it was good. The grains were aldente and the fusion of flavours worked well. LMc isn't the most adventurous eater but this was simple and satisfying.

The patate pizza @$22.95 was the bianco pizza (without tomato or sugo on the base) topped with potato, pancetta, mozzarella, rosemary and parmigiano reggiano. The pizza arrived on a wood pizza chopping board with a pizza cutter. I liked this little quirk as it meant you could cut slices as big or small as you like. The pizzas were not the typical round shape but more a rustic oval and looked quite good upon arrival. Unfortunately, biting into the patate pizza revealed a lack of flavour and a doughy base, not dissimilar to naan bread. Potato pizzas always do have the potential to be boring and this one screamed plain jane. I was sad, as this is a great pizza if done well.

The rosso (with sugo or tomato base) was last to arrive. Luckily it wasn't least. The sugo, which one would assume is good, seeing as though the joint is named after it, was good. Really good. Very sweet with a great deep smoky tomatoey flavour. The proscuitto was silky and although the leg ham was a little thinly sliced for my rustic taste, the flavours were all there. The one problem with this pizza was the base. It was again, naan esque- soft and squishy. Had it been crispy, this pizza would have been A+ instead of A-.

The prices for pizza are a little more pricey than other similar places, though perhaps a little larger too. They range from $18.9 to $24.9 and have a gluten free base option available for +$3.

Sugo Mi offers a good range of simple Italian dishes. For me, the bases didn't quite nail it, and whilst I wouldn't bother with ordering a bianco pizza again, I would go back for the sugo. The service is faultless and the setting is simple yet pleasurable. Sugo Mi is obviously of a different calibre to any chain styled venues, including those that claim their pizzas don't taste like the cardboard box they come in. They have an understanding of the ingredients, it's just a shame the bases are doughy and the bianco pizzas boring.

When to go: On a Thursday night after boutique hopping at Bulimba, before popping across the road to Riverbend books to check out the latest Cook Book Selection.

Tell me readers, do you like your pizza bases crispy too?

Sugo Mi
3/190 Oxford Street
07 3395 6327
Sugo Mi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Porchetta Day in Gunnedah - My home town

Most of you know that I grew up in Gunnedah in North West NSW. Yep for my first 16 years I was pretty much kicking around in the bush. Generally there weren't a lot of diverse food options available and until Woolworths started stocking Asian/Italian/Greek/Mexican/Whatever goods, there really was NO WHERE else to buy them. I had to save my Yum-Cha cravings for trips to Sydney and it was only because of my food loving parents being that I had ever had the opportunity to try something other than San Remo with Dolmio.

For as long as I can remember we have always had various friends around for various feasts- depending upon what Dad felt like at the time. Dad and his best friend have been known to dress up, donning traditional costumes of various countries and partaking in a culinary feast. One particular meal that Dad and Ken became fixated on was Porchetta- they just loved it. And rightly so! They decided to have a Porchetta Party at our house and it was such a successful day. Picture glorious pigs on spits basted in fennel and olive oil, about 90 bottles of red wine + beer + spirits between 120 people (20-30 of which were non- drinking children). As you can imagine- it went down in the history books for being hilariously messy, but the food and friends were fabulous. It was so great, Dad and Ken decided to see if they could make it a public event - something where Gunnedarians can come down, munch on some delicious pig, partake in some pasta eating and drink some Italian wine and beer.

This was two years ago, and we are now gearing up for the 2nd Annual Porchetta Day! After much planning and preparation, the event went ahead in September last year (and despite the horrid dust storms) was really well received. We sold out of all the Papa Pasticcerie ricotta cheesecake within the first couple of hours!!The success of this event proved that Country people really do support events like this- and are craving culinary delights that are often more common in city life. More importantly, It is great for the town to have a cultural event they can be proud of, particularly for the tight knit Italian community who have embraced the festival with a lot of passion and gusto.

The nicest part about all of this is that Porchetta Day Committee is a not for profit organisation, in fact only a few of the commercial vendors make marginal amounts of money on the day- everything else is done for 'the love of it.' This includes all the voluntary labour- and it is so nice to see so many people willing to lend a helping hand- country towns really are cute like that!!! The committee just want some nice events happening for the town- **squee!**

The first year meant a lot of lessons learnt, and this year the program has changed a little to incorporate suggestions from festival goers, as well as new ideas to keep the festival fresh. I can't wait to go down for September 25th and spend the WHOLE day eating, as well as drinking, and I guess helping out will be on the cards too! If last year is anything to go by, Dad and I will be down at the grounds at 5am to get things rolling.

If you are in the area and love food- you should definitely drive down for the day - or even the weekend. Gunnedah really is a cute little town and the festival will be spectacularly fun- I've had a fair few of my friends confirm attendance which automatically means the evening could get quite wild. At any rate- check out the website and my posts about Porchetta Day last year so you can see what you are in for if you make the trip.

If you are going to visit, be sure to let me know so I can catch up and say hi!

Porchetta Day:
Saturday 25th September 2010
10:00 a.m. onwards
Under the Olive Trees
North West corner of the Gunnedah Showgroud
Oxley Highway
Gunnedah NSW 2380

The iconic Gunnedah event. A rustic Italian-style festival with pigs roasting on spits being basted by swatches of rosemary dipped in olive oil. Traditional pizzas. Gelato. Cannoli and the famous Papa's cheesecake from Haberfield. Food stalls, Italian-style bowls (bocce), a pasta eating competition. Music from a string quartet wafts through the grounds while wine flows abundantly and city folk and country folk discuss local produce and celebrate the fruits of the land. Many say this is the best social event in country NSW and a wonderful way to savour the new sophistication of country living. You don't have to go to Tuscany this year. Come to Gunnedah.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

MoVida's Frank Camorra at Black Pearl Epicure

One of my favourite restaurants is MoVida. It's certainly my favourite tapas restaurant, and my Spanish restaurant (sometimes the two can be mutually exclusive). It may even be my most favourite restaurant. Ever. Well- It's in the top rotating 5, and as you would know, for someone who loves food, this is a big deal.

I love Spanish food and I visit MoVida time and time again when in Melbourne but when I found out that MoVida was coming to me, I was REALLY excited, perhaps ridiculously so. What do I mean when I say MoVida is coming to me? Well sorry to create hysteria for all those readers who started to jump up and down. Sadly I have to make clear that the restaurant is NOT moving to Brisbane (we asked Frank), but, on Tuesday night, Frank Camorra, the man behind MoVida, came to Black Pearl Epicure to do demonstration and I went along!

Black Pearl Epicure run a range of cooking classes and demonstrations and C was lovely enough to buy me a voucher for 4 cooking classes/demos for Christmas last year. I stalked the cooking class calendar and when I saw this one pop up- I booked months in advance. I have been a fan of MoVida for a long time - my Dad used to take me to MoVida when there was only MoVida! Since then I have been to 2 of the other MoVida restaurants (Next Door and Aqui) and I hope to go to Terraza soon. For now, I have to say I am happy to watch Frank demonstrate and hope he comes back to Brisbane more often.

First of all I must make a point that sometimes, Chefs with a reputation can be a little divaish (we all know who they are). I think I'm going to use the term 'reputable Chef' or something similar as the term 'celebrity chef' irks me as it is bandied about a ridiculous amount, now used to describe Chefs that have occured on an ad for some marginally related kitchen product. Anyway- Frank Camorra is not one of these- he is a Chef with a reputation, who apparently, has no plans to become a 'celebrity chef' or move into the TV world any time soon.

Frank seemed like the most down to earth guy EVER and he was really NICE to the people who were helping him out. He happily fielded questions through the 2.5 hour demo- answering with open answers and even joked about losing the Masterchef challenge to Marion, which he didn't seem too worried about. He talked about his love for good, authentic Spanish food - really showing his passion for honest fare. He spoke about the explosion of Spanish food in Australia, touting that Brisbane is probably the next home of good Spanish food as we have had an explosion of good Spanish eateries opening up here in the last couple of years. Yes, he actually said that, and Yes he actually meant it!! Frank was also excited about going to Ortiga after the class.

It was so refreshing to meet a guy who loves food but cuts the bullshit out. When talking about fiddly techniques they use in the restaurant, he was more than happy to say - if you are doing this at home, don't waste your time doing proper quinells or getting every piece of the skin off the peppers- life is too short, just do it quickly and as best you can, the effect will still be there without the food having to be technically perfect. Can you tell I'm a little starstruck?!

As I should be! Frank is one of the forces that have changed the face of Spanish food in Australia. He is a pioneer and really seems to be an all round great guy who makes some all round great food!

I was seated at the 'singles' table for the event- those of us who came without bringing a partner along. C didn't really want to come and $140 is a lot to fork out for something you are only marginally keen to see, so I have been to all the cooking classes by myself. I actually quite like it! It gives you an opportunity to talk to other people, and some of the other food lovers at my table were really interesting people.

The first dish we were served was Anchoa. These were basically anchovies served on white toast with smoky tomato sorbet. These were absolutely amazing. I don't really love anchovies, in fact I don't even really like the tiny little hairy bony things (except white anchovies) but these were sensational. They changed everyone's opinion of anchovies. Most people were reluctant to try, but after they did, would have appreciated more. I'm probably going to get a tin or two of anchovies soon!! They would be sensational on a pizza. The smoky tomato sorbet was an interesting touch. Whilst I'm not totally sure of the texture, the flavour was perfect. It would probably be lovely as a simple summer tapas item. The anchovies were Ortiz anchovies which are HEAPS more expensive than normal anchovies but Frank explained that this is because of the quality of the product. They are Atlantic anchovies, caught fresh (never frozen) and pickled straight away. Apparently the fillets are cut from the anchovy and laid BY HAND into the tins. Incredible! ON the flipside I have also done some research which leads me to believe that the price you can pay for a tin of these babies is RIDICULOUSLY high in comparison to a supermarket competitor. You might be interested to read all about 'The great anchovy debate' hosted by Tomatom. However, until I can find some anchovies that live up to the standard or a comparable standard (according to Frank- there aren't any), I'm willing to believe they are worth every cent of the $12.5 for 47 g.

Next up were the infamous bombas . Yep - these were part of the dish that were on Masterchef when Frank lost to Marion. (Frank joked about this all night!) These were probably my least favourite item on the menu, but were by no means bad. They were soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside but nothing about the bomba really grabbed me. They are made from a waxy styled potato and chorizo. The smoky sauce saved the bomba, that's for sure.

Frank mentioned smoky paprika A LOT and said that he feels it is one of the distinct defining flavours of Spanish food. Smoky paprika is very different to normal paprika so it is important that the two aren't confused. This is the same for sherry and sherry vinegar - another spanish staple ingredient that can't be substituted for the other.

Frank explained that the chorizo we have in Australia isn't really authentic enough for his liking. Due to importation laws, Aussies can't import Spanish versions, so MoVida make their own. According to one of the other diners, Ortiga are now creating their own smallgoods and selling them at some delis i.e Ortiga branded Chorizo. Although I haven't tried it, so I can't vouch for it, this could be worth a try if you are after a spicier version than the commonly available chorizo.

Next was the Conejo Agridulce- braised sweet and sour rabbit. This dish takes at least an hour to cook, and amazingly needs no stock given all the other ingredients that are thrown into the pot. The loin of the rabbit isn't used as when overcooked, becomes rubbery, so the legs and shoulders are used instead. I have to admit, the smell of rabbit cooking in my own house makes me feel a little sick but it smelled fantastic here, and this rabbit tasted a little less gamey than the rabbits I usually cook. I really like the simplicity of this dish- the rabbit was much richer than chicken but still unfussy and easy to make. This worked well with small portions, and the people on the table commented that they couldn't have eaten a large serving- I tend to agree! I think Frank had this in mind as all the dishes at MoVida are designed to share.

Frank raved on about bar food that you find in Spain, particularly Madrid, saying that Bocadillo de Calamares -Calamari sandwiches- are something that is available everywhere- one of the most popular bar foods in spain. Calamari on a sandwich didn't initially sound that appealing to me, until I tried it. The photo I took isn't really very appealing either but the tender calarmari came on tiny mini buns with aioli and 2 small Guindillas peppers was FABulous. I can imagine wanting this after a couple of drinks- actually I'd eat it before a couple of drinks and then again after a couple of drinks. It was such a simple combo yet sooo good. Make this. Seriously- next time you have friends over, make it for them, they will be your friends for life! I only photographed one half of the bun, but you get the drift. On the other side of the bun was the peppers which added a different taste sensation.

When I saw Cadillera de Buey Con PX (wagyu beef cheeks with pedro ximenez) on the list, I was instantly excited. I have always wondered about making beef cheeks and the recipe that Frank used was relatively simple and could be done at home. The key to this baby is the cooking time. At the restaurant the MoVida team cook their beef cheeks over night for 10 hours on 90 degrees. It can be done over a period of about 6-8 hours at about 170 degrees, but the longer you can cook these for, the better.

Before we go any further let me explain that the beef cheek is literally the face cheek of a beast. I'm always a little confused as to why people ask where it comes from. It was pointed out to me that it could be confused with a butt cheek. No people - it's from the cheek. And it's delicious, so don't be squeamish and miss out. The reason it needs to be cooked for so long is because a beast spends it's entire life chewing, so the muscle is really strong. It needs a long time to break down. Beef cheeks, up until recently (and reportedly due to MoVida making popularising them) have been a cut usually reserved for the dogs- but are now in demand more than ever.

You can buy beef cheeks at Woolies for about $4.99 a kg, you should also be able to get them from your butcher and they will probably be more expensive depending on the type of beast the cheek comes from.

These cheeks were cooked for around 8 hours and were deliciously tender. They broke down immediately and whilst I would have like the glaze to be thicker and more potent, they were still great. The cauliflower puree was a great addition as the flavours merged well and the dish is a lovely hearty meal that you could easily make at home.

For dessert we had Churros and hot chocolate. Apparently churros are usually an early morning dish i.e. brekky time or 1 a.m. when you are coming home- but having them for dessert was just as nice. They look like they are easy to make, as long as you can master the art of frying them, and have a good sized nozzle for your piping bag.

The churros were delicious- crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside- the cinnamon sugar mixture was perfect. The ratio for sugar to cinnamon is 1 part cinnamon to 10 parts sugar- and you should make sure you use castor sugar, as it is much finer and creates a dusty texture rather than a grainy finish. The churros were served with hot chocolate, but as you know, I don't really drink milk so stayed clear of this one. Everyone else at the table loved though, though some were surprised by the more bitter taste that is not usually associated with drinking hot chocolate (probably due to the sickly sweet commercial mixes available.) I know it was made with good quality 55% cocoa and milk- and melted down- you could probably add some castor sugar (to taste) if you want it a little sweeter.

At the end of the cooking session, Frank fielded questions about his career and general questions about the food. He has just written another cook book and will be releasing ANOTHER book focused on travelling through Spain - specifically Barcelona and Madrid which will include all his hints about where and what to eat. Look out for that one next year sometime (it's not written yet!- but will be after his trip to Spain in October. Also there will be another MoVida opening at the Tullarmarine International Airport- so that should be a treat for travellers to look forward to aswell.

I want to make it clear that I have been very gushing about this review simply because Frank is awesome. I did NOT have my ticket paid for (guys, you should know me by now- I will always ALWAYS tell you this.) As a general rule I pay for all my own stuff and on the odd occasion I am invited to some kind of paid for dinner-I make sure I clearly say this in the review and I generally let the venue know in advance that this will not, in any way, stop me from writing my true feelings about the event/food.

I highly recommend that you go to MoVida next time you are in Melbourne, or keep your eye on the cooking calendar at Black Pearl so that you can go to Frank's next demo. He was REALLY good and his food is nothing short of FABULOUS!

Tickets for this event were available through Black Pearl Epicure for $140 although all the prices vary depending upon what class you attend.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

LaRuche - The Valley

LaRuche has been on my 'to visit list' for some time. You all know I'm a sucker for good cocktails so actually, I surprised even myself by waiting this long to visit. I put this down to the fact that Brisbane's dining scene is so busy at the moment- my 'to visit' list is considerably longer than it was this time last year. (Sorry guys- there will be no photos for this post either- my phone had a coniption and lost the images.)

The opening of LaRuche attracted a lot of attention some even spruiking it as the 'new cloudland.' Personally, I don't really think this description suits the place at all. Even though the interior design is complex and quirky, the only comparison I can draw between the two is that they are both quite different to your usual Brisbane establishment so therefore have been lumped together as being the same. Don't be fooled. LaRuche has a completely different, much more intimate feel than Cloudland. The staff are friendly, happy and knowledgeable and genuinely seem like they enjoy each other's company - and working in the bar. They were honestly high fiving each other and hugging staff members who were just arriving. And it somehow worked. The atmostphere gives off a very cool vibe, as do the staff. The decor is worth checking out for sure.

We dined earlyish on a Friday night-around 7:00p.m. We arrived to find some rogue ladies sitting in our seats, but they were promptly kicked off and we were seated with drinks ordered under the five minute mark. We were seated at the marble tables at the end of the bar which are a great place to watch the goings on within the establishment. At the time we were there, the crowd was generally older i.e 50's (now I'm not saying that is OLD but saying older than the usual Valley constituant)- but one of the waitstaff informed me that this usually changes later on in the evening when they play host to a 20something crowd.

Clearly the focus of LaRuche is not the food, but even so, they have put together quite a handy little menu comprising of mainly of small bites, nibblies and share plates- with a couple of larger dishes and desserts. C and I were in the mood for some smaller share plates because we also wanted to indulge on a couple of cocktails, which I find harder (please, by no means impossible) to do on a really full stomach.

If you are going to go to LaRuche, I would suggest checking out their website first. I could leave the background music ALL day whilst perusing the menu, which is exactly what I did, until my boss asked me to turn off the music because she had already heard the song eight times in a row. Fair call. Maybe, just for me, they could chuck another couple of tracks on there too. The drinks menu is 21 pages long- which is extensive, but not too long and the cocktail list offers some interesting options. The prices are pretty standard at $16-$18 each.

To start I ordered the Lychee and Lemongrass Love $16, which, as the name suggests contains lychee, lemongrass, lime and vodka. Although relatively simple, this is a winner, and although perhaps better sipped in Spring rather than winter- I would find it hard to pass up any time of the year. The fusion of lychee and lemongrass is a favourite of mine. C's Italian Sour comprised of Campari, Galliano, lemon and eggwhite($16) and was exactly that- short, sharp and sour. I'm a fan of campari (depsite a one time binge that miraciously didn't turn me off for life) and enjoyed the tang. C probably would have preferred his usual toblerone styled something, but was happy enough with this mix for a change.

First out food wise was the herbed polenta chips with roasted garlic and porcini aioli ($9). One thing to say- Get these damn chips! Go to LaRuche just to get the delicious morsels. They are crunchy on the outside, yet so smooth and creamy on the inside. The herbs add extra flavour and the aioli is garlic packed and some of the best I've tasted. I almost ordered a second serve because they were so good. The perfect bar food- just salty enough to make you need more cocktail!

Next, and far too quickly out, was the confit duck and sweet corn spring rolls with plum pisco and chilli jam for $12. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy prompt service- but I had only half finshed my first polenta chip when the spring rolls were being placed on the table. I have a problem with food not being timed because it means that the table becomes crowded, and more importantly, I feel rushed to finish in an effort to stop the food going cold. At one point, we had all the dishes we ordered on the table, and this was a little too much to handle - slow down please!! Despite being too early to arrive, the spring rolls were good. The corn and duck combo was good and the plum pisco was a nice touch.

The jamon serrano croquettes, tomato and sage puree, basil and mayonnaise $12 were an odd shape- rolled long and round instead of oval shaped. Whilst this wasn't completely bad - it meant that you didn't get as much flavour as there was more crumbing and less filling. The insides were creamy but the jamon flavour didn't come through as much as I'd have liked.

To balance out all the fried, I predicatably chose the QLD scallops which were served with shaved fennel and herb saute, chilli jam, charred lemon and kettle one vodka emulsion for $12.
I thought the scallops were good- though halved, so not as fat as my greedy scallop loving self would have liked. The fennel was great and the vodka emulsion was fresh, meaning it complimented the natural style of the scallop. I appreciated this and think it was a much better fit that a creamy, saucy topping that masks the flavour and texture of the glorious scallop.

By this stage we were well and truly ready for my pink gin gin mule ($18) and the special Bailey's based something that they concocted for C, also $18. The grenadine with a nice touch to the usual gin gin mule. I think this is one of the greatest cocktails of all time and was pretty happy with LaRuche's version.

My only huge gripe from the night was the speed at which the food came out. Aside from that- the evening was seriously enjoyable. In fact, LaRuche are serious about a lot of things- the decor, the food, the service and the alcohol- but manage to pull it off in a fun and cosmo way. The food is definitely some of the best bar food I've come across and the cocktails were consistently good. The prices were also really reasonable. I welcome the presence of LaRuche into Brisbane and hope places like this continue to raise the bar for venues here.

When to go: Early on a Friday evening after work- don't forget to call ahead to book one of the tables so you can nibble on some bar snacks in comfort.

Tell me readers, What do you look for in a cocktail bar?

LaRuche Bar and Supperclub
680 Ann Street
07 3666 0880
Fortitude Valley
La Ruche on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 12, 2010

C's home made Pizza

So I've already blahed on numerous times about how good C is at making pizza. He really nails it. So I never complain when he wants to make pizza, even if it is a day after our visit to Beccofino- you guessed it, to eat pizza. A pizza weekend- sounds good to me!

Aside from his margherita pizza, most of C's pizzas usually contain meat. He's just that kind of guy. Even though he does like to experiment, he was a little reluctant to try making me this asparagus pizza that I found on an American blog- A Country Farmhouse. I found this blog courtesy of the gorgeous Digella featuring a couple of her favourite blogs. Just going to put it out there, that one of them was mine, so was truly chuffed about this! Thanks Digella and thanks for pointing me in the direction of A Country Farmhouse- it is a truly gorgeous blog.

Back to the pizza! So C was commissioned to make the Asparagus pizza, a margherita and also another general creation that had various toppings including ham off the bone and olives. They were all great!

The sauce was slow cooked with a whole heap of garlic and red wine. It had so much depth, and was such a hit, I have requested this sauce be used on every other pizza in the future. C and L both agreed!

I'm just going to post a couple of happy snaps of the pizzas that L took with his new camera (which I have considered stealing). The recipe for the asparagus pizza can be found at A Country Farmhouse - with the only difference being that I used baby asparagus, and C used sauce on the pizza, wheras the original recipe did not. I also salted my asparagus because it just tastes sooo much better. The bases weren't as thin as they usually are- a result of another of C's experiments. He continually tries different sauces, and bases hoping he will one day find the ultimate combo. So far he has gone pretty close- and the red wine sauce i've tried.

I also decided to makes some home made lemonade as I had an excess of lemons and I LOVE homemade lemonade. Gee- I'm getting hungry posting about this pizza- and may just have to go and eat some lunch to persuade my stomach to stop demanding it!

I might pop the recipe up for the sauce a little later on when I can find it! Happy viewing.

Tell me readers- Do you like vegies on Pizza?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Well meaning but didn't quite happen

Hola Readers,

another lame excuse post from me- I had planned to write some blogs this weekend and a story about upcoming Porchetta Day- but these have been put on hold! I have instead, been in bed all weekend with the dreaded flu (damn you Ekka time). At least I got the time to start- and finish- Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain which has been on my list for some time now! Have you read it yet?

In the mean time, do yourselves a favour and check out Porchetta Day website. Porchetta Day is fun by my family and friends in my home town, and is a not for profit food festival. Growing up in country towns means there is a lack of anything really cultural, so my Dad and my Godfather have set about to get something great happening. We started having porchetta at our house years ago with all our family and friends, and now it has developed into a real festival!! You can read about the festival here and check out last year's inaugural festival here. You should definitely consider the trip down for the weekend if you live in NSW!

I also wanted to let you know that I have been on the waiting list for literally 5 months now, to have my blog redesigned. HOPEFULLY it will be happening soon (within the next couple of weeks). The girl that is doing it, has had some personal trauma and I seriously love her designs, otherwise would have gone with someone else long ago. So G.G is going to undergo a make over really soon!! I'm excited about that!! Lots of new features!

Anyway- I'm off, back into my bed, to snuggle down. I must say, C was looking after me rather well yesterday, but has slacked off considerably today, even if he did go and get me KFC nuggets. What!!??! KFC NUggets I hear you shriek. I know, I know, believe me, I already know. I never eat McDonalds or Hungry Jacks or anything similar, and the only time I give in to 'real fast food' is when I have the flu. There is something about their nuggets with sweet and sour sauce when I'm feeling off colour. Weird I know. They are somehow bland without being too tasteless and the sauce is always deliciously repulsively gross.

So I bid you farewell and will crawl back under the covers feeling slightly sorry for myself, whilst I look forward to something a little more nourishing for dinner.

Tell me readers, Do you ever eat Fast Food? When and what do you eat most frequently??

Monday, August 2, 2010

Will be back soon- Trip highlights

Hi guys, Just recovering from a work trip all last week- got back on a delayed flight late last night. Ate some fabulous food that I won't be blogging about, sometimes I just want to enjoy the food too! I promise I will post soon! Meanwhile, what's been going on in your world.

Some of the highlights from my Sydney trip:

Eating some FAB braised eggplant with the lovely Denea from Gourmet Rabbit @Chinese Noodle House in Chinatown, Haymarket.

Vanilla and pomegranate Caipirinha @Churrasco in Coogee.

Ricotta cheesecake from Papa's Pasticceria- (I ate some for breakfast)

Finding a pizza supplier for our Porchetta festival in Gunnedah - more deets soon peeps!

Crepes at Pocket in Surry Hills- mmm nutella and strawberries!

The cool set up at Tokonoma - pity about the snooty, rushed, rude service!

The wonderful spinach dumplings and beans at East Ocean Restaurant.

Some duck and salt and pepper tofu at Kensington Peking.

Fresh, fat salty Oysters at Cargo Bar.

Carpaccio at Vessel for the launch of the Upper Class cocktail- official cocktail of the Virgin Atlantic on board bar.

Some awesome spinach, corn and ricotta hashcakes at a cafe in Woollahra that I can't remember the name of!

Obviously, I didn't have enough time to eat enough, in my opinion, one never does. I've got some must visits for next trip already!!

So tell me- if you had to recommend someone eat at one place only in your home town, where would it be and why?!

See you soon! x
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