Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Snake in the garden of G.G.

Today was a pretty busy little day in the garden. With the help of M.D formerly known as Brodie , I spent the middle of the day clearing a complete new garden bed next to my other precious garden. I didn't really have any motivation after the Christmas week but M.D has landscaping aspirations so he was keen to get stuck into it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Time to relax

"Let's begin by taking a smallish nap or two." Pooh Bear couldn't have summed up the day after boxing day any better, could he? 

A place to sit and read my latest book: The life and times of Dave Grohl.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day: 
Spent eating leftovers with the fam, tending to the bloody pigweed, catching up with a few good friends and finally relaxing in the garden on a chair reading the new Luke Nguyen cook book Indochine whilst sipping some Rose and eating Pate. Bliss. 

I stayed on my chair in the garden for hours, until it was far too dark to read and had to employ the use of a few citronella candles -but still managed to get some mozzie bites in odd places like the folds of my fingers. The stars really are beautiful in the country. I tried to take a photo but couldn't capture the gorgeousness. In fact, all I got was black with one star. I'm pretty sucky at taking photos... perhaps time to call on the generosity of a family friend to teach me some of the tricks of the trade...

Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Christmas Menu at our house

Merry Christmas

We decided on cold Christmas lunch with the exception of hot pork. Mum really wanted hot pork, so she got it! Dad and I cooked furiously the whole day before hand and all morning and managed to come up with the following spread. 

This was for ten people and as usual, we had enough for 30 people but we will eat the leftovers during the following week when we have lots of guests popping in. Unfortunately, I was a bit sick on Christmas day and didn't really eat much at all and didn't drink any alcohol at all, but I do plan to get stuck in today and do my fair share.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gastronomy Gal Garden: Waging war on weeds is a dangerous business

It turns out that waging war on weeds is actually a really full on, time consuming, quite dangerous business. Perhaps I should have consulted Obama before opening my big mouth. The bloody pigweed is everywhere. It has got little shoots (the enemy) in every crevice of the garden. Getting rid of this stuff is really starting  to take a toll on this old amateur gardener, but I am becoming more wise and developing some tactics.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gastronomy Gal Garden: My old enemy pigweed

Dear Pigweed,

I returned home from a little mini break away to find that you have decided to become my new enemy. With all the rain when I was absent, you thought it would be a great little opportunity to try to dominate my garden.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nambucca Valley Farmer's Market and Davis Seafood Nambucca

Well thanks heavens I'm feeling a little better than when I last posted. Ick. Getting a virus really does Suck. I'm at the coast recovering and like the rest of the east coast of Australia, we've had lots of rain. Hasn't really mattered though because it's still relaxing to just read a magazine or book. The latest read that I devoured in a day and a half is Sam DeBrito's latest - 'Hello Darkness' definitely worth picking up and you may find, as I did, that you also can't put it down.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sydney visit gone wrong

So from my previous posts, you can see that I've been kicking it in Syd, eating my way around and having a glorious old time. I've still got some posts to write up -The four in hand in Paddo, Toko and El loco once I get a chance. Don't you think it's just fab that I actually had two restaurants that rhyme? Not intentional of course.

So what could possibly go wrong, you wonder? Well today, I was supposed to be catching a flight to my second mini break destination, but instead I'm stuck here in bed waiting to see the doctor. Obviously I haven't slept all night and am pretty sick of myself aswell as being sick, hence the blog post. Thankyou Ipad. Readers, You can't accuse me of only seeing me at my best now- can you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bondi Farmer's Market

There are some really good things about visiting my parents at their home town over the summer this year like my veggie garden, however, one of the worst is going to be not having access to the beach frequently. Im not a big wave girl, but I love just floating around. There's something about the water that makes me feel a bit free- the pull of the tide perhaps. I was almost accidentally born in a pool, so im sure it's no coincidence that I feel rather at home floating about. I'd like to think if past lives exist, that I was possibly a mermaid.
Luckily I will have some beach time.My sister lives right near the beach in Sydney, and when I go for walks around the headland, you almost forget where you are.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sydney Visit

So, I've been in Sydney for a little while - almost a week, and will be here for a little while longer. I've been eating my way around and had a fab time. The weather has been pretty mixed but there have been some lovely beach days, if a little windy. We still braved it - and lay and read for a couple of hours.

Monday, November 28, 2011

G.G. cooks Grossi Florentino Lasagne

It's actually been raining and coldish here at the moment. Odd weather. Sometimes, life does throw you some serious thunderstorms followed by months and months of dreary rain- that is certainly what it feels like at the moment.

I'm worried that the poor little garden will be flooded. I went out today in the pouring rain - (tried waiting for a break, but it never came!) to try to make sure the rhubarb and beetroot didn't have water pooling at the base. I made some little walls around them on the order of the gardening man who knows everything from the nursery, except now I'm a little bit disillusioned by the gardening man's advice - he seems to have been telling a few untruths.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

R.I.P Frogbert: Gastronomy Gal Garden

The garden is coming along quite nicely, but there were a few mishaps over the last couple of days.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The end is the beginning is the end or is it the beginning is the end is the beginning?

You may have noticed a couple of changes on G.G. - just a few cosmetic things, but also, in time the blog will have new segments - much more than just the usual reviews and recipes. I've had lots of emails from readers checking up on me as I haven't been posting regularly so really appreciate that- you're lovely. I have had an incredibly tough couple of months and so have decided to go and take a holiday for a couple of months and among other things, spend some time with my family in North West NSW.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Post: The Cook Book Club

Last post told you all about an idea that my friend Kay had for The Cook Book Club, you can read the details of the event on the website but I wanted to do another guest post, which details the wrap up of a typical cook book club meeting. One of the very popular recent meetings was focused on last year's Masterchef winner; Adam Liaw's cook book, Two Asian Kitchen. Kay posts the possible recipes, then attendees choose one and let her know, then on the day they all bring the food to a central location, which is usually Kay's house, but can alternate. Great idea! This is what happened at the Two Asian Kitchen's Cook Book Club meet:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

G.G. Giveaway - Good Food and Wine Show

So, as you all know, G.G. is undergoing some changes! But whilst you patiently wait, a little giveaway is in order.

I have a double pass to the Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show to giveaway. Included in the prize is also a double pass to attend a cocktail making class where ' Expert mixologists take you through a simple, step by step guide to making and serving some of the world's most iconic cocktails, demystifying the art of cocktail making and turning you into the ultimate cocktail party host.  Interactive sessions will focus on classic cocktails including the legendary Mojito, Cosmopolitan, Pina Colada, Breakfast Martini and the Daiquiri...'

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Undergoing changes

Dear Readers,

As you know, blog posts have been a little scarce lately! G.G. is undergoing some big changes- so bear with me while the site looks a little funny through this process.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011 Porchetta Day a huge success

Porchetta Day was a huge success. So many people came, that we sold out of pork! Can you believe it? We doubled the amount from last year and still ran out. So great to see people supporting what started out as a small community food festival that paid homage to Italian food! This article from the local paper- the Namoi Valley Independent- has more details. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Porchetta Day is here again!

So, by now you probably know the evolution of Porchetta Day - how my Dad and his best mate turned one of our gatherings into a food festival for the thousands, but if you don't - check it out. Porchetta Day is this weekend, so if you are up for a fabulous day or porchetta and all things Italian, take a weekend trip down to North West NSW and eat and eat and eat. If you haven't left enough time to plan and think next year may be the go - check out or visit the facebook page for updates. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guest Post: Mizuya Japanese Restaurant

Whilst I'm taking a little break, my friend who you may remember me talking about before- Possum, has kindly done a guest post. Thanks Possum!

Mizuya had me at ‘touch screen ordering system’. So much so that I starting writing this post two days before actually dining there. I realise this may not be behaviour befitting a good food writer or blogger but lucky for me I am neither. I am merely making this contribution as a guest and friend of GG. From the outset you should know I don’t really know the difference between sushi and sashimi and that alone should indicate I am not a professional food connoisseur. Having said that I am still happy to be sharing my thoughts on my experience at Mizuya.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

G.G goes Greek

This story was originally written for a publication - although it has yet to be published in print, I didn't think there would be any harm in sharing it with my readers. Obviously a story like this takes a bit more effort than the usual blog post, so I wanted to thank a couple of friends for the editing and encouragement you have given me. You know who you are.

Due to personal reasons, I've had to take a little break from blogging. Hopefully I will be back soon, but wanted to share a few tidbits with you in the mean time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guest Blog: Laksa Thursday

For the moment, I'm taking a short hiatus, but am bringing you some guest posts from some great bloggers, like this one from my friend Kay (@monkylicious). Check out her blog, it's very cool. You can also see a previous guest post from Kay here.

"There’s a lot of noise on my twitter feed so I miss many things. But there are some words that will jump out at me. Some really delicious words, like duck fat potatoes, oysters, cake, cheese… oh how the cheeses call to me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guest Post: Cook Book Club

Today's post is to tell you about a fabulous idea,  my friend Kay had ( @monkylicious on twitter) to start a cook book club. The Cook Book Club is a great idea, new and old friends getting together to share food. Kay also has a food blog - - that you should check out for both Brisbane and Melbourne based reviews. There are details on the site about starting your own Cook Book Club, if you are inspired. I will also be posting some of the blog posts she has written that show the events in detail.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gastronomy Gal: Girl's Dinner

At a birthday dinner in May, some of my friends and I, after a couple of glasses of wine, decided we were going to have a monthly Girl's dinner, hosted at one of our houses. It's similar in some ways, to Gastronaut's Supper Club, but that's all about meeting new people, whereas Girl's Dinner is old friends who bring new friends because we don't see each other nearly often enough.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gifted Gab: Difference between frittata and quiche

The other day I was making frittata and was asked what the difference was between frittata and quiche, or any other egg based similar dish. Whilst I thought I knew the difference, I couldn't really articulate it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

G.G. cooks Pete Evans' Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Frittata

Lately, I've had so many pumpkins to use and the thought of any more pumpkin soup is making me feel that I may well turn into a pumpkin! Camb's dad has a very prolific pumpk vine on the farm and sent some pumpkins (count 5 pumpks) home with us after our last visit. What the hell do two people do with five rather large pumpkins? Well, I gave a couple away and have been busy trying to use the others in creative ways. When I realised we also had some smooth and very subtle blue in the fridge, I thought a pumpkin and blue cheese frittata would be the way to go. 

Notes- Adjustments I made: 
I added caramelised leeks;
I also left out the basil leaves, because I wanted the main focus to be the sage;
I cut the pumpkin into smaller cubes as I was short on time and needed the cubes to cook more quickly.

Pete Evans' Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Frittata 

  • 1 butternut pumpkin cut into 1 inch cubed
  • 1 bunch Sage no stem
  • 1 head Garlic Broken but not peeled
  • sea salt
  • cracked pepper
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons Blue cheese -St. Agur the best to use, ( I used Tarago River Cheese Co's Shadows of blue) 
  • 2 tablespoons Grated Parmesan
  • 9 Eggs
  • ¾ cup Cream
1.     Roast the pumpkin with a good amount of olive oil with the sage, garlic pieces, sea salt & pepper until golden.
2.     Beat the egg with the cream and some salt and pepper
3.     Heat up a large frying pan with some oil, swirl the oil right around the pan then pour a thin stream of egg mix and swirl around the pan (this creates a base).
4.     Place in the roasted pumpkin, sage, pop out the garlic from its skin and place that in, sprinkle some blue cheese around and top with basil leaves.
5.     Pour the rest of the egg mix in so that it nearly reaches the top
6.     Sprinkle over some grated Parmesan cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes in a medium – hot oven 160-180 degrees Celsius.
7.     Take out of the oven when it has set.
8.     Serve with a rocket and pear salad

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gastronomy Gal Grapes: Monkey Shoulder Triple Malt Whisky

As you may know, Gastronomy Gal is going to be introducing a couple of new segments and G.G. Grapes focusing on all thing alcohol, is going to be one of them. I'm happy to report that Ryn and Cordie, two sassy wine and food matching experts from Brisbane are going to be writing regular guest posts and of course, there will be lots of other posts about wine, cocktails etc.

About six months ago, I received a bottle of Monkey Shoulder Triple Malt Whisky in the mail. I am a fan of whisky but really don't know anything about it. I have been meaning to get to the Whisky Appreciation Society (who meet monthly in Brisbane if you are interested) to learn a little more, but things have been so hectic lately, I haven't had a chance.

Monkey Shoulder is being branded as the 'World's first triple malt whisky' and the quirky name comes from the temporary condition suffered by 'malt men' when turning the barley by hand. Although the barley is still turned by hand today, innovation in the modern world ensures that 'monkey shoulder' is an injury of the past. The name lives on in honour of the malt men of yesteryear.

I finally cracked open the bottle of Monkey Shoulder to give it a try. Other than to say I really liked it, I'm not going to get into reviewing the whisky, I'll leave that to Jim Murray. As a twitter friend wisely suggested, writing about whisky is a minefield, and I'm no expert...

However, one thing I do know about, are cocktails, and Monkey Shoulder is an ideal whisky to go into cocktails. I tested some out (made by me and not a proper bartender) and the results were fab, especially great for adding a warming element to cocktails in winter.

The Mellow Monkey and the Show me the Monkey in particular took my fancy, but there were also more summery and fruity versions available if you want to use it in the warmer months. It is easy to forget that whisky is a great addition to a cocktail, so even if you don't use Monkey Shoulder, I definitely think you should try using some sort of whisky when you are being an awesome DIY mixologist. Whisky is something I would like to see more of, and see a greater appreciation for as it is really complex and quite wonderful. I myself am guilty of being quite ignorant, something I'm going to change.

Whisky Magazine actually have a great list of whisky cocktails here if you are wanting to try something different to the usual cosmo or martini. I also happen to know that Sling Bar in West End and The Bowery in Fortitude Valley are using Monkey Shoulder in some of their cocktails, if you wanted a pro to mix you up a concoction.

Tell me readers: Do you like whisky? Do you choose whisky based cocktails when you are out and about?

G.G. received Monkey Shoulder as a gift from Weber Shandwick.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nekoya Paddington

When I was meandering around Paddington, I noticed Nekoya, a little place tucked in beside a real estate agent and directly across from the Paddo Tavern. It gives me hope to see new places pop up, especially in unexpected locations. When I wandered across to have a look, the premises looked small and simple, but very clean and the menu had promise. I took a take away menu with me, and shelved the location into the back of my mind.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was in need of some take away, but wanted to go somewhere new. One bittersweet part of being a food blogger is always looking for new places, so that you can blog them. This is great at times, but other times when I go to an old favourite, I almost feel guilty that I'm wasting the opportunity. 

Anyway, I knew a little visit to Nekoya was in order. As there was just me, I only ordered a couple of items, so didn't get enough to really get a good feel for the whole place. The items I did order though, were good enough to leave me wanting more, so last week, Camb and I decided it was time to head back there to grab some take away on a night when I was just too tired to cook.

Nekoya have a menu online which is quite extensive in comparison to the take away paper menu but they seemed to be happy enough to let me order off the online menu. We phoned our order in and had a wait time of approximately 15 minutes, which is more than satisfactory. Nekoya does have dine in options available with limited seating but we wanted to eat at home. I'm going to apologise now, these photos are terrible as per usual, but I had more important things on my mind, like eating the food while it was still hot!

Gyoza come in a serve of 5 for $6.5. They were hot, and the skin was thin and crispy on the bottom. The filling was quality and tasty with a bit of a gingery bite. I wanted more.

Karaage chicken ( 6 pieces for $7.5) isn't something I would usually order, but after eating my friend Kay's karaage chicken at the recent Brisbane Food Blogger's Picnic, I ordered it on a whim. The chicken was tender and the outside, gloriously crunchy. I preferred to eat on it's own, rather than with the mayo dipping sauce that was provided.

Because I'm obviously a fan of fried, but want to somehow justify it to myself by eating vegetables, tempura vegies were a must order. $7.5 the serve of vegies is good value and includes a range of vegies some of which included broccolini, sweet potato, beans and lotus root. The batter was not overly oily and could have been a bit lighter- but was still crunchy and a good dish.

Even though Camb isn't really a fan, I went for the salt and pepper tofu. I know- ANOTHER fried dish, but I really think salt and pepper tofu is a good benchmark dish. It's funny, but something so simple can sometimes be a good indicator for the rest of the food available. 

This salt and pepper tofu was just lovely. Small squares - incredibly thin but crispy batter which housed some soft silken tofu. The salt and pepper batter actually tasted like salt and pepper. It had zing which is sadly lacking from so many 'salt and pepper' dishes and even Camb agreed that this s&p tofu was kicking it with some of the big guys, which are much more 'prestigious' restaurants.

With the amount of fried food I'd ordered, I'd already sold out so felt no shame in going for the teriyaki chicken and avocado sushi ($6.5) and the prawn nigiri ($5). The sushi and nigiri were very fresh and the teriyaki chicken packed some actual flavour- which is nice for a change.   

I admit on this visit, I did go for many of the fried options but have since eaten the sashimi and can say that it was okay. Although not the greatest sashimi I have ever eaten as it was cut a little too thickly, it was definitely passable. There are also many other options including a large range of bento boxes, seafood options like garlic and herb scallops and some rice and noodle dishes on offer, if you aren't after a fried food affair. 

On my number of visits, the staff have been ridiculously polite and very helpful. The prices are reasonable and the food, for a little place, is pretty decent. There aren't too many Japanese take away places around the area, and Nekoya is a great addition. 

When to go: Whenever you want a bit of take away Japanese, or to sit in for a simple cheap and cheerful meal on Given Terrace.

Tell me readers: have you seen any new eateries open up in unexpected locations?

Shop 3, 183 Given Terrace
Paddington QLD 4064
p: 07 3876 2367
Nekoya Japanese Restaurant and Take Away on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gastronomy Gal Gadgets and Gifts: Indian Spice, Sleep Tight and Tummy Tea

G.G. is introducing a few new segments.. Gifts and Gadgets is one of them. I sometimes stumble across some amazing products and would like to tell you all about them. Whether it's something to eat or drink, something to make kitchen life easier, or just something I think is totes cool that readers will appreciate too.

It's safe to assume that most of these products are things I have bought myself. On the odd occasion, I am sent or receive things as gifts. I am no under obligation to do anything about these gifts. But... if I really like them, I may tell you about them. In this instance I will ALWAYS CLEARLY state that I received the good for free.

Right now all that's out of the way........... 

I love tea. My love for tea started at a very young age. I can remember being on camp in year 5 or 6 and nicking about 300 sachets of tea that were available at the breakfast buffet to take back to our room so we could sip on it all day. It was quite lovely, and funnily enough, among an unlikely crowd of other eleven year olds, I found some other tea drinking kindred spirits. Herbal was my (un)poison as caffeine and I aren't great friends. 

With this love, it makes sense that I am a regular visitor to various tea shops around the place. When perusing through T2, The Tea Centre, T'licious or wherever I am, I usually ask for advice. I give specifications for what I want the tea for and then consider my options. 

Indian Spice is not something that would usually appeal, but I decided to try something different and I'm so very glad I did. The mix of Cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper has an amazing aroma and was really calming and warming. It's now one of my fave teas. 100 g for $14.5 - or you can always ask for a small sample to try and see if you would like to purchase a larger amount.

Other faves include the Tummy Tea - a really full flavoured mix of peppermint leaves, liquorice root, fennel seeds and calendula petals 50g for $13.5 and the Sleep Tight- a blend that actually  makes me feel sleepy without the usual chamomile - but with lemonbalm, jasmine flower, lavender and rose petals also $13.5 for 50g.

Where to buy: 
T2 Tea are located in lots of places and you can also buy online. 
T2 also have a really great comprehensive website and a personali-tea style quiz.. Who doesn't love a quiz!?

G.G. sourced and bought all these products.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

G.G. cooks Spirit House Red Curry of Duck and Lychee

On one of my many trips to Melbourne in the last couple of years, I managed to eat out quite a bit. Gingerboy was located right near my hotel and so I visited a couple of times. Although other parts of the meal were unmemorable, the red duck curry leg stuck in my mind.

As described in my review, the curry was... "Thick but not gluggy, with an alluring, rich, sweet red curry flavour, that was in no way, underwhlemingly or overwhelming. Somehow, it struck the perfect balance." I've always hoped to come across something similar, but alas, up until this point I have been left disappointed. 

After scoring some duck breasts at the markets on the weekend, I decided it was time to try my hand at a red duck curry- even if it wouldn't be exactly the same as the masterpiece at Gingerboy. A quick flick of my Spirit House cook book revealed a recipe I was happy with, Red Curry of duck and lychee. Lychees obviously aren't in season, and even though I'm not a big advocate of buying tinned, I ended up caving and grabbing some.

The curry was surprisingly easy, and had I used a Chinese duck as was suggested, the whole process would have been incredibly quick - about 15 minutes quick, so very easy to do on a weeknight. I was totally happy with the results - the curry was rich, creamy, had a bit of kick and was the perfect dish for a winter evening.

The Spirit House cook books are really great. If you like Thai cooking, I highly recommend you get your hands on one.

Spirit House Red Curry of Duck and Lychee
2 cups of coconut cream (you could always buy the light version if you are trying to cut back on fat...)
3 tablespoons of red curry paste (I used spirit house curry paste)
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 Chinese roast duck, boned and sliced (I used duck breast that I cooked at home)
2 large red chillies, halved and deseeded
6 kaffir lime leaves
12 lychees, halved and stoned
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves (I only had a little bit of basil in the garden, so popped in coriander as well.)

Skim off 1/2 cup of the coconut cream and boil in wok until starting to separate. Add the curry paste (Spirit House have curry paste available for purchase in the freezer section at some delis) and fry for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar, cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining coconut cream and bring to the boil. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bamboo Basket: South Bank, Brisbane

I've been craving dumplings. If you follow me on twitter, I'm sure you have already heard. I'm not sure why, but I could have eaten dumplings every day this month. That's right- could have, not have. Therein lies the problem, which I must admit would have created other problems (hello ever expanding arse), but still a problem in itself.

It's funny that I can easily find good dumpling stashes in Melbourne and Sydney, yet when it comes to finding dumpling here, I am very lost. Good yum cha places  do exist, but where in Brisbane does one go to get a good serve of dumplings after dark?

I started by asking my ever resourceful resource, twitter. Again the results were inconclusive. A few people mentioned a couple of names, Bamboo Basket at South Bank being one of them, but aside from that, there was a real lack of suggestion an the suggestions were mainly vague- 'I'm sure there is a dumpling place at Sunnybank - somewhere' ... When I tried to follow up the lead of Yong He Dumpling Restaurant, I came to a dead end as their phone had been disconnected and there was little written about them online, except another restaurant being listed with the same address. Kay, one of my friends who is usually in the know, suggested that Yong He still exists, but under another name. In any event, I wasn't planning on driving to Sunnybank in the rather nippy weather to find out otherwise.

So, I went with the suggestion of Bamboo Basket in South Bank, where I have dined before, but only ordered one serve of dumplings, so thought I would give it a go.

As my search for dumplings would suggest, good Chinese fare is particularly hard to come by in Brisbane. Bamboo Basket specialise in Shanghainese food, but there are a smattering of menu items that are more mainstream. Being located in South Bank, Bamboo Basket is a bit of a spiffy joint, much more glam than the average Chinese restaurant. The glassed open kitchen which overlooks the street provides much interest for passers by who can look in to see the chefs stretching pulling noodles or folding dumplings.

On the Saturday night that we visit, we arrive early, about 6:30 p.m. and the place is packed. They don't take bookings for 2 people, but C and I wrongly thought we would be fine at such an early timeslot. The manager takes our number and tells us he will give us a call when there is a table free, 'shouldn't be long,' he assures us.  True to his word, the phone rings about ten minutes later and we head back to the waiting table.

There was no need to muck around perusing the menu, C and I knew what we were there for- the dumplings, we just had to decide which versions we would be having.

Xiao Long Bao (4 for $7.9) were an obvious starting point. When done properly, I would vote that Xiao Long Bao are the ultimate dumpling- flavoursome meat and soupy insides. Bamboo Basket's version was solid- thick skin encasing the soupy inside, which burst into my mouth when popped, but I would note that they were a little large to fit in my mouth all at once. I was SOUPer happy (sorry) that ALL of the dumplings remained completely sealed until we ate them- it's so disappointing to find that half are busted before you get to them.

Next obvious choice was the pan fried pork dumpling (6 for $11.9), which are also an old favourite. Having to break through the 'pan' of dumplings makes for impressive presentation, however, I was less excited about the base of the dumplings which were still quite doughy.

I love when the base is a little crunchier- it just perfects the dumpling. That being said, the filling for these dumplings was pleasantly plump although not as packed with flavour as I'd have liked.

Chicken water dumplings (8 for $11.9) had good texture. The outside skin was aldente and the fillings were plain and simple, but nice. I'm a bit of a fan of boiled dumplings, they aren't as flavoursome as their fried or steamed cousins, but I like them all the same.

Steamed pork and prawn dumplings caught C's eye, so we ordered a serve of those which were 4 for $7.9. These dumplings lacked distinction and the frozen prawns that went into the mixture added unwanted liquid.  I really couldn't place any of the other flavours and these really didn't tickle anyone's fancy.

Steamed seafood dumplings (3 for $7.9) are also a fave of C's- he orders them almost everywhere we go, even though there are very few that live up to his standards. Unfortunately, these didn't. The skin was quite good - a nice texture, but the insides tasted a little bit odd, like there was something missing. They weren't overly offensive or anything, but really weren't a stand out, and honestly, I would expect them to be considering they are more than $2.5 a piece.

Even though we were on a dumpling binge, we were able to find space for some shallot pancake ($7.9). These shallot pancakes were more similar to a fried shallot doughnut, and were rounded instead of the usual flat pancake style. There were crunchy on the outside, and were filled to the brim with shallot filling. Although a little different to any other shallot pancake I've tried, these were not unpleasant and filled us to the brim.

Service at Bamboo Basket was friendly but patchy. After waiting a long time for our orders to be taken, we eventually got the attention of the drinks Waiter and he wrote down our orders. Although the staff were pleasant, when you miss out on things like water, despite asking a couple of times then giving up, it signifies that things need to run a little more smoothly than they do. In fairness to Bamboo Basket, they were extremely busy, but I noted that it was not just our table that missed out or had orders mixed up.

Something else worth mentioning is the tourist tax Bamboo Basket have slapped onto their prices. Whilst they are not outrageous, they are significantly more expensive than you would expect to pay at any usual dumpling place. I'd imagine that being located at South Bank would come with a hefty price tag, so obviously the diners have to cover that through the prices. If you are prepared to go suburban, you will get more bang for your buck.

Whilst some elements of Bamboo Basket weren't great, we did have an overall pleasant evening, and most elements were good. It is the best Chinese place I have come across close to the city. I would go back to Bamboo Basket and see if the problems we encountered were a result of being overly busy or just standard. I have tried a larger section of the menu on previous visits but wanted to keep this post dumpling specific. Bamboo Basket are a nice restaurant, located centrally and have some good dumplings on offer with the Xiao Long Bao, Chicken water dumplings and the pan fried pork being the highlights.

When to go: If you are in Bris City or close by and are craving dumplings.

Tell me readers - Where do you go for a dumpling fix?

Bamboo Basket
189 Grey St
South Brisbane QLD 4101
07 3844 0088
Bamboo Basket on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gastronauts' Supper Club: June 2011

Last Saturday night, I was lucky enough to attend my second Gastronauts' Supper Club. Read about the first visit here. Gastronauts was inspired by Jamie Oliver's visit to a New York supper club in his American Road Trip Show - if it's good enough for New York, it can happen in Brisbane. The general idea is that dinners will be put on at Gastronauts' homes around Brisbane, with the odd special occasion for variety. They email out the menu for the next dinner - and if you're interested, all you have to do is reply to the email. Diners are then be selected randomly, and you'll be sent the location on the day of the supper club dinner. Once you have eaten, a pot is passed around where guests make a contribution to the host to cover the cost of ingredients. Gastronauts is an opportunity for foodies to enjoy a fantastic dinner, while at the same time meeting new new people who are equally keen on food.

It seriously is a great idea, and both times I have been surprised at how easily the evening flows. I have met some fabulous new people and now am considering becoming a host for one of the dinners. If only my kitchen wasn't so hideously small. Richard (one of the key Gastronaut's) very kindly offered to lend me his kitchen, but I wouldn't feel right doing that! I feel like I should host the evening in my own home.. I'm going to start thinking about my options and Camb and I are considering moving (not till later in the year though), so maybe I could host a supper club as my first function when we move. Anyway, clearly you don't want to listen to my ramblings, but rather, want to see what I ate!

Richard aka Food Bling and his wife Rebecca hosted the evening and did a fabulous job. The theme was Spanish food and Richard used a couple of Ferran Adria recipes as well as some Spanish classics. He talked us through the process of the El Bulli recipes and pulled out some packages to explain how he had completed each recipe, but it was pretty well lost on me. Molecular Gastronomy is far too complex for me to attempt but Richard managed to pull it off with some great results. Don't panic if you were thinking about hosting a supper club and have visions of horror about molecular gastronomy -The Gastronauts love all sorts of food, home cooked/rustic are just great!

 Melon with jamon 2005: This was the first dish- sort of like an amuse bouche - and was a Ferran Adria recipe. Syringes, white powders and some sort of gel were all involved in creating this little wonder. The melon balls were amazing and the texture was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Served in shot glasses, it made for an impressive sight.

Next up was a tasting plate which contained deconstructed gazpacho, prawn stuffed cherry tomatoes, Saffron tortillas with smoked paprika aioli and chorizo with apple cider. The deconstructed gazpacho was amazing. Again using some crazy techniques, Richard managed to get the tomato into tiny balls which were full of tomatoey flavour. Speaking of tomatoes, the prawn stuffed cherry tomatoes were so delicately done - they had their skins peeled off and were cute like packages. The smoked paprika aioli was seriously good- I'm sure lots of efforts went into making it- but it worked well with the saffron tortillas.

Next course was the pea and sherry soup with chorizo oil and croutons. This dish was my fave of the night- the soup was thick and really fresh with the chorizo and croutons adding some nice little highlights.

By this stage, I was getting quite full, but then Richard and Rebecca pulled out the pyrenees style lamb with sherry and paprika, poor man's potatoes and broccolini. Although I couldn't eat all the potatoes, some of the other guests were raving. The lamb was really tender as a result of being slow cooked for ages.

As a palate cleanser, pineapple infused with fennel was served, which was quite interesting. The freshness was a great contrast to the lamb and almost the polar opposite to the Crema Catalana which was served for dessert.

I didn't manage to grab a photo of the Crema Catalana, but by this stage, I shared a dessert with Camb as I was so full I almost felt like I couldn't sit down comfortably. I have to admit, prior to going to the supper club, I had been at the Brisbane Food Blogger so I was at my limit. The Crema Catalana was really great, very rich and almost everyone agreed that it was one of their favourite dishes.

As if we hadn't eaten enough already, Richard and Rebecca pulled out the 'petit fours' to just finish everything off. At this stage, there was NO way I could eat another thing, so had to leave the toffee eating up to the others. 

As you can see, we were treated to some fantastic food and importantly, the conversation and company was just lovely. I'm so thrilled that events like these are happening in Brisbane. If you are interested in getting involved in Gastronauts - please visit their blog and register your interest. They are on the look out for new guests and hosts all the time and they really are lots of fun. If you think you would like to do something similar i.e. start your own supperclub within your own group of acquaintances (I suggest extending outside your immediate circle- this is one of the major benefits), please let me know. I would love to let G.G. readers know about the event.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

G.G. Garden: In distress

Last week I told you proudly about my garden and how well my seedlings were doing. All the while, dreaming of my silverbeet being used mixed with feta and cased in flaky, buttery filo, or my cauli's being made into a creamy soup, topped with truffle oil croutons. I had high aspirations for you guys, and through no fault of your own, your lives have been sabotaged. 

I went to ridiculous lengths I went to so that nothing could get to my little green babies. However, it is with a sad soul that I bring you some distressing news. SOME CREEPY LITTLE CREATURE MANAGED TO GET THROUGH MY NETTING AND CHOMPED ON ALL MY BLOODY VEGETABLES. I am beyond angry. I'm going to go rambo (Rambo meaning yell and threaten but not physically hurt to confirm for all the animal activists out there) on the creep's arse, if I ever find that possum/rat/whatever the hell it is.  I already have enough problems with sunlight and small space but to have also set up a task force to deal with deliberate sabotage is another matter. Sigh. I'm beginning to think that whilst I'm living at this address (indefinitely) I'm not going to be able to have a garden. Actually scrap that. Game on creeps. It's going to take a lot of time and strategy, but at this point, I might just be mad (crazy and angry) enough to rig up an Azkaban style arrangement.

Before:  Coming along nicely.

After: All that is left

Any advice appreciated.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

G.G.'s Reader's Favourite Blogs

Just a quick post today. I find myself reading more and more blogs, and wonder if you do the same. There are so many out there, I often breathe a sigh of relief when I come across a really amazing blog, and I just want to share it with everyone else. I've already got a QLD Food Blog Directory, but want to compile a list of blogs from further and wider.

I'd love to know about your blogs so I can put them onto the list. These blogs don't have to be Australian - they can be from anywhere. 

Let me know your fave: 
Aussie Food Blog
Food Blog (not Australian)
Lifestyle blog
Home Blog
Mummy Blog
Fashion Blog
Health Blog
Travel Blog 
or any other blogs you just totally love.

I think it's really important to support great blogs because as you all know, most bloggers work really hard, a lot of the time, with little pay back. A little bit of recognition can go a long way! 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gastronomy Gal Garden : June

I dream of a time when I am not confined to a small apartment and I can have a really large kitchen garden. Not that I have a particularly green thumb, it's more a shade of yellow. I am, however, trying to do my best with the little space I have. I know some people have awesome apartment gardens- Indira Naidoo in particular has a very inspiring green space, right in the heart of the city. I can't help but think it would be better to have extra space, but if I want to live in the city, I have to make some sacrifices- this is one of them.

Cauliflower (these guys are taking a bit longer than the carrots or snow peas)

Living in Brisbane does have it's advantages though- we rarely get a frost and so luckily we can grow lots more plants through the winter (that will survive) than most places south of here. 

Snow Peas

About a month ago, I planted some new silverbeet, snow peas, cauliflower, baby carrots and asparagus. I also cut back all my herbs completely as the basil was going to seed and my sage looked a little bit yellow.  Also, my dwarf lemon and lime trees are obviously very upset- they look awful. Will have to find out what I'm doing wrong with those too.  I can't wait until the vegies are ready- I'm such an impatient girl.

Baby Carrots

Speaking of which, the bloody possums are rather impatient too, and try to eat all my plants before they are ready for me to plant. Look at the ridiculous lengths I have to go to to stop the possums having a nibble.

Anyway- I'm also going to go back to the nursery this soon to get some more plants and advice about what else I can plant at this time of year- I want to keep adding to the garden so I am getting produce all year round. Nothing better than growing your own organic vegies.

Some cool links : 
City Chicks  - These guys have a cool range of sister websites. City Chicks, My City Garden and Eco City Living. My City Garden stocks mushroom kits as well as sells insects that are good for your garden.

City Food Growers - Some great posts about growing organic vegies in South East QLD. They also run workshops and seminars if you want to get serious. One of the coolest things on this site is the market which aims to match backyard city growers with buyers! I'm definitely going to try to find someone local to buy my produce off. I think they are in the process of updating this website so hopefully they will get some new additions to this section soon.

I'd love to know what you guys are growing at the moment? Feel free to send me in a photo of your garden. I would love some inspiration and to feature your garden on G.G.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E'cco Bistro Brisbane

We've all been in a restaurant when something goes wrong. Whether it's with our own meals, the service or another patron causing a fuss for whatever reason. Sometimes, these situations make everyone feel uncomfortable, and other times, there is not much you can do but sit back and watch the action unfold, which is what I did when I was recently invited to dine at E'cco Bistro in Brisbane.
E'cco is one of Brisbane's most loved, long standing restaurants with Philip Johnson at the helm. Philip Johnson was a celebrity chef back before there were celebrity chefs. E'cco has long been regarded as one of the top three in Brisbane but unfortunately, this doesn't mean it is immune to certain situations unfolding, as it did when I last visited.

Camb and I were seated at a table for two, just on the left of the main entry- at the window. Next to us, were an older couple who had already started their meal and were chatting away. Even though the staff knew that I was G.G. and I had brought my camera along, I didn't really feel too confident whipping it out, as the seating arrangements are quite close and I didn't want to attract undue attention or make other diners feel uncomfortable (hence the photos are taken on iphone and quite crap).

The very swift waitress had already given us menus and taken our drinks order when something at the next table started to go awry. The couple had just received their mains, and were now discussing, loudly enough for me to hear every word, the fact that the both the meals were cold. Uh oh. Neither seemed to be too uncomfortable when the man, not so bashfully, called the waitress over to complain, explaining that it was not good enough for the meals to be cold. At this point, I was inclined to agree. If you go to a restaurant with high expectations and are paying $40 +  for a main you would hope the meal would be, at the very least, warm.

Meals were re done within the blink of an eye, and soon, the couple had two new meals sitting in front of them. Ahh- disaster averted. I was about to turn my attention back to Camb when suddenly, again, the man voices his disappointment with the temperature of the meal, but continues to eat about half of his meal anyway. When another waiter walks past to enquire about the meals- the man replies something to the tune of 'these meals are not even marginally better than last time', the waiter confirmed that he had heard correctly and then, with a look of horror on his face, goes to get the manager.

The manager comes over to enquire about the problem, explains that the temperature the meals were served at was closely checked, apologises profusely anyway and asks if he would like the half eaten meals to be returned to the kitchen. The man says he would like them to be, but he would like to try another option. The woman says she has 'had enough' and asks that the remainder of her meal be taken away and she not be served with another. At this point in time, the kitchen goes into overtime, and again, within 10 minutes, the man has another new meal in front of him. This time he is not pleased, but not displeased with the results, and eats his whole meal.

Camb would, without a doubt, leave me, if I caused such a fuss. Of course, I wouldn't. What struck me as rather odd, was the fact that neither of the couple seemed particularly embarrassed about the fiasco, which had certainly left the wait staff with some red faces. I'm going to assume (I know- assuming makes an ass and all that stuff but.....) that they have done this kind of thing before. They almost seemed like experts at complaining and having no qualms doing so. The restaurant do have to do their best to accommodate this sort of behaviour, and to, essentially, let the customer leave having enjoyed their experience. But what if the expectations are too high or completely unreasonable? What happens in that situation?

You see, in this situation, if I was the waitress, I'm not so sure I would have retained my temper or composure as well as the staff did, (who handled this situation with aplomb.) Had we not been seated directly next to the couple, we would have never known what was going on. I'm quite confident that after having the meals sent back once, the kitchen would have done their best to ensure everything was as close to perfect as possible. In fact, on the Saturday night that we visited, the restaurant was completely booked out, with several patrons waiting at the bar and everyone else in the restaurant seemed to be happy.

The experience was obviously meeting with everyone else's expectations. I'm also not sure if this man had an ulterior motive, (like his meal being given to him for free- which it was) or if he really, honestly, felt the three meals he was served just weren't good enough. I'd like to ask him- was it just the temperature that wasn't good enough? The flavour? Composition of the food? Service? All round experience lacking?

Were the couple next to us being unfair with their expectations? I think so. I think they were unnecessarily rude, demanding and downright grumpy. But still, the restaurant had to cater towards them. This, is why, we as diners also have a responsibility to be reasonable and adjust our expectations accordingly. I'm not suggesting that you should not have high expectations when dining at the a restaurant the calibre of Ecco, however I am suggesting that the man may have had a very different definition of hot to everyone else.

I'm also suggesting that whilst a restaurant is in the business of people pleasing, there are obviously, some people that can't be pleased. Whether in this case this was 'rightly so' or completely unreasonable, the restaurant still had to do their best to cater towards this couple, and do so with a smile. I'm not sure I would last very long as a restaurateur.

Whilst all this fuss was going on, we were not left without attention, and ordered our meals. Camb was asking me to stop eavesdropping, but even if I wanted to (I didn't), I basically would have had to put ear plugs in to not hear the conversation at the next table.

Now, to the food. Camb ordered the field mushrooms on olive toast with rocket, parmesan, truffle oil and lemon as his entree whilst I went with the carpaccio of kingfish, nori, shiso, edamame and ponzu dressing (all entrees are $24.5)

Camb's entree was a simple dish, a classic ecco styled arrangement. Philip Johnson specialises in simple done exceptionally well, as this dish proved. The mushroom was gorgeously textured, the rocket fresh and the truffle oil splashed sparingly to ensure the rest of the dish was not overrun by the flavour. This dish is actually pretty sought after, and I managed to find the recipe online for you to use if this is something you would like to create at home. I'm going to give it a go this weekend.

I chose the carpaccio of kingfish which was served with herbs, edamame and ponzu dressing. This entree was light and almost cleansing- great to start with. The kingfish was fresh and the texture good, although, I would have preferred a little less ponzu to get a little bit more of the kingfish hit I was after.

As you know, it is my duty to try as many dishes as possible, and in every other instance I can remember, Camb and I ALWAYS order different dishes- but on the evening we dined at E'cco, both of us had our eye on the rabbit loin wrapped in smoked bacon served with rabbit leg ravioli, pea purée, baby carrots and maple jus for $42. Neither were willing to budge. Stubborn old things, aren't we?! This one time, we decided that it would be ok to order the same because we were both enamoured with the dish when we saw it being served to a neighbouring table (not THE neighbours) earlier in the evening.

The dish looked like a garden on the plate- very tempting. Peas and carrots were seriously special, even though they were just a little something on the side. 

The rabbit loin and stuffing wrapped in bacon were just beautiful. The loin was tender, the stuffing had flavour and the bacon added just the right salty touch. The maple jus was rich but whole, adding depth to the dish. 

The ravioli inside was falling apart tender, however, the ravioli case was overcooked, a little chewy and lacked the softness of a great ravioli case. That being said, the dish as a whole worked incredibly well and Camb and I were more than happy with our choice.

As you know, I'm not a big dessert eater, but this time, something caught my eye. Whilst Camb couldn't go past the special a chocolate souffle, served with chocolate sauce, honeycomb and chocolate icecream - the honey bavarian cream with gingerbread, compressed apple, coriander and green apple sorbet took my fancy.

The chocolate souffle had risen and Camb enjoyed every bite,  blah blah blah- I simply cannot write anymore about it because I am so excited to tell you about the honey bavarian cream.

This honey bavarian cream, served with gingerbread, compressed apple, coriander and green apple sorbet (yes, I am showing reverence by repeating the full description again) was the single best dessert I have ever eaten in my life. Ever. There are no exceptions, nothing even comes close. This dessert was absolutely bewitchingly fantastic- it was as close to perfect as a dessert can taste for me. The cream was rich and full but not overpowering. The honey provided a sweet yet somehow almost earthy taste which was matched with the crunchy, bitey gingerbread. The dreamlike compressed apple and syrup had a beautiful soft texture and the syrup, drizzled over the cream, with a little bit of gingerbread too was basically the most wonderful dessert flavour combination. When all the sweet side of things got a little overwhelming, a bite of the fresh, punchy coriander and apple sorbet was all that was needed to bring the palate back down to earth and prepare it for the next bite of heaven.

So... that was my experience - a little bit of heaven for me, and a little bit of hell for the waitstaff. Is that the mark of a great restaurant? Something like the 'send it back 3 times situation' can occur right next to me, yet my dining experience was still fantastic. At times, I do see people getting a little self righteous about their dining experiences, it is surely an easy trap that we can all fall into. Particularly when you are paying good money for the experience and it doesn't live up to your expectations.

In these situations, I think, before complaining, it is important to ask- 1. Are my expectations reasonable? If you answer yes, then I think you are within your rights to politely point out the fault/problem. If you are polite and reasonable, I believe most establishments go out of their way to fix their error, and if they don't then your bad word of mouth is their punishment. If, however, like E'cco, they do everything in their power to rectify the error and the evening is saved, then surely that is something you would like to tell your friends about too.

....Tell me readers, what do you think about dining expectations? Have you ever been in a restaurant where a situation like this has unfolded?

When to go: For a special dinner, perhaps a birthday or anniversary. Or anytime you think you deserve to eat the best dessert of all time. (I'm hoping it stays on the menu forever.)

E'cco Bistro
100 Boundary Street
Brisbane QLD 4001
07 3831 8344
E'cco on Urbanspoon
Blog Design by April Showers Design Studio