Monday, 31 August 2009

Perfect combo - chocolate and coffee together


As a long term fan of coffee and a serious lover of chocolate it's hard to go past the combination offered by chocolate coated coffee beans. Once you learn to appreciate the gritty texture of the bean when you crunch into it, it's all pleasure.

One word of warning - I discovered the hard way that these coffee beans do pack a punch of caffeine. Don't, as I did, eat them too randomly or you may be up all night!

merlocoffee’s Dean Merlo says it wasn't easy to find the perfect balance between coffee and chocolate, particularly when trying to ensure the benefits of the antioxidants in both ingredients were not altered through the roasting process.

Rich, creamy and delightfully decadent, the bottom line is that indulging in a small amount of dark chocolate and a coffee bean (or five) might just be the perfect pick me up.

merlocoffee chocolate coated coffee beans come in 100gm packs in both milk and dark chocolate, and retail for $7.95. Find them at merlo coffee stores www.merlo.com.au

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Search for the perfect cupcake - Desley Clark's Patty Cakes



Well before the cupcake phenomenon started to take over morning and afternoon tea and just about any time in between, there was a time honoured tradition of baking patty cakes.


Somewhat smaller that the average cupcake, patty cakes have been delighting Australian households with their delicate sweetness for generations. I remember standing at the kitchen table in my grandmother's kitchen while she showed me the finer points of baking. Always keep the spoons level, make sure the eggs are room temperature and grease the pan well were some of her tips to an eager ten-year-old.


If you hanker for the real thing head to St Lukes Anglican Church cake stall on Ekibin Road East every second Sunday from 8:30am to 9am and buy some of Desley Clarke's patty cakes. The church charges $3 per half dozen cakes, but you have to ask for Desley Clarke’s cakes by name and they go in minutes! The proceeds go to supporting ‘The Bush Mission’ for families in need in country areas (Tara and Leichhardt in Western Queensland).


Desley has been making the delectable mouthfuls since she was taught by her mother in law Aimee Clarke in 1952. Aimee was taught to cook these and many other fabulous recipes by her aunt Millicent Thompson who brought her up in Vulture Street South, Brisbane back in the days when that was a prime residential address rather than a freeway.


She makes them in vanilla, coffee or chocolate flavours and they can also be iced in passionfruit, coffee or chocolate butter icing for patties or vanilla butter icing for butterflies.


There are two secrets to these delicious cupcakes. One is a higher butter to flour ratio then most recipes which makes them moist and light. The other is strained passionfruit juice in the butter icing.


Desley has graciously agreed to share the recipe. If you can make these amazingly light and flavoursome cupcakes as well as she does, you'll have a real hit on your hands.

Desley Clarke's Patty Cakes

  • 127 grams of butter
  • ½ cup castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs (large)
  • 1 ½ cups S R flour (sifted three times)
  • ¼ cup milk
Directions

  • Cream butter and castor sugar in mixer
  • Add eggs one by one until combined
  • Add vanilla
  • Stop mixer and mix by hand flour and milk alternatively
  • Fill greased patty pans to just below the top and bake in 180 degrees oven for 14 minutes (fan forced)
  • Remove from tin and allow to cool
  • Ice with butter icing for patty cakes
  • For butterflies cut well in ½ in a shaped disc from the top and then cut in half
  • Fill the cavity with butter icing
  • Replace and top like wings and top with icing sugar 
Butter Icing

  • 75 grams of butter
  • 1 ¼ cups pure icing sugar


    Tuesday, 25 August 2009

    DI Bella coffee open day

    Di Bella Coffee are holding their fourth annual Open Day at the Bowen Hills Factory on Saturday August 29 with food entertainment, barista demonstrations and of course, the alluring aromas of Italian style coffee. Activities include factory tours with Phillip Di Bella as well as in-store home roasting demonstrations. For swimming enthusiasts, former Olympic Sam Reilly will judge the home barista challenge and trivia competitions.

    Monday, 24 August 2009

    Prawn Pad Thai - Thailand - Bangkok

    Day 3 35 degrees
    Today's adventure was a guided bike ride through the back streets of Bangkok. It was only 20 km but the 35 degree heat made it seem longer. The trip was eventful and I'll be writing about it in full.

    Bottom line: A great way to explore parts of Bangkok that a tourist would normally not venture into. Tip - make sure you wear runners!

    Here's another Thai favourite recipe

    Prawn Pad Thai
    (serves 6)
    250g rice stick noodles
    2tbs peanut or rice bran oil
    20 peeled green prawns, tails intact
    1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    2 spring onions finely chopped
    1/4 cup (60ml) fish sauce
    2 1/2 tbs tamarind concentrate*
    1/4 tsp each chilli powder and mild paprika
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    1 bunch chines cun into 2cm lengths
    2 cups (160g) bean sprouts
    4 fried tofu puffs* (optional) halved
    1/3 cup (50gm) peanuts, toasted, chopped or 2tbs dessicated coconut, toasted
    1/2 cup chopped coriander
    lime wedges to serve

    Method
    1 Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Stand for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring with tongs, then drain.
    2 Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the prawns, garlic and spring onion, and stir fry for a minute. Add noodles and stir to combine. Add fish sauce, tamarind or vinegar, chilli powder and paprika and stir fry 30 seconds. Add egg and stir fry for a further minutes or until egg is set. Add the chives, sprouts, tofu, peanuts and coriander. Stir fry until well combined. Serve immediately with a wedge of lime.

    Tips
    Tamarind concentrate and tofu puffs are available from Asian food shops. Substitute rice vinegar for tamarind concentrate if unavailable.

    How to make great plunger coffee

    Here are some tips from Campos in Fortitude Valley, Best Coffee Shop in Australia according to the Lifestyle Channel’s public-voted I Love Food Awards.

    • Use 10g per 150ml of water or 20g for a 300ml plunger.
    • A coarser grind is preferred, but not too coarse. It should put up soft resistance to the plunger as you push the filter down.
    • Use water a minute or so after boiling, so the temperature goes down to around 95 degrees.
    • Steep the coffee for five minutes..
    • Stir softly before plunging.
    • Pour immediately after plunging.

    Sunday, 23 August 2009

    Bangkok - Thai Green Curry


    Day 2 Bangkok 33 degrees
    One of the delights of visiting Thailand is, of course the food. I've sampled local Pad Thai and Tom Yum soup and both were delicious. The Pad Thai came with a side of pennywort.
    Here's a recipe for Thai Green Chicken Curry which has been a feature on just about every banquet so far.
    Thai Green Chicken Curry
    serves 4
    2tbs sunflower oil
    2 baby eggplants, halved lengthways, cut into 2cm pieces
    2-3 tbs green curry paste to taste
    500 gm skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into 3cm pieces
    2 cups (500 ml) coconut cream
    2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
    2 kaffir lime leaves roughly torn, plus
    2 finely shredded leaves to garnish
    125gm fresh baby corn, halved lengthways
    2 tbs fish sauce
    1 tb lime juice
    2 tsp grated palm sugar (see note)
    sliced red chilli and Thai basil, to garnish
    steamed jasmine rice to serve
    Method
    1 Heat oil in a wok or deep frypan over high heat. Add eggplant and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until golden. Set eggplant aside.
    2 Add paste to wok and stir briefly. Add chicken and stir-fry, tossing to ensure paste doesn't burn, for 2-3 minutes until seared. Add coconut cream, stock, lime leaves and corn and bring to the boil. Return eggplant to pan, then reduce heat to low and simmer for a further 5 minutes until chicken is cooked and corn just tender. Stir in fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and heat through for 1 minute.
    3. Garnish with red chilli, extra lime leaves and Thai basil. Serve with steamed rice.

    Granite Belt Nude Food Calendar

    First it was Nude Food, the Granite Belt's food trail that takes you throughout the Stanthorpe, Southern Downs area, to all the best foodie places.

    Now they are keeping the theme going with a Nude Calendar.

    Settle - we're not talking Pirelli here. It's a little Calendar Girls but more just great photos of the Granite Belt, sure to whet your appetite for another visit.

    Here are my favs - the cute bare babes (photo Kath Ives) and celery man - gotta luv a man with plenty of celery!

    I have been very reliably informed that the man holding the celery is in fact, Peter Harslett, one of Australia's top three celery growers. The photographer was Michele Cozzi, and Peter's wife did approve the photo.

    The calendar will be available from the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre and various Granite Belt Wine Tourism members for $9.90 from Monday 24 August. They'll also be for sale at the South Bank Growers market on September 20.

    Saturday, 22 August 2009

    Thailand - Bangkok





    Day 1, 33 degrees.
    I'm here in Thailand for just over a week for a travel writers conference. It's a great opportunity to catch up with all my friends and hear what's happening in the industry.

    The flight over with Thai Airlines was a good experience. The late departure, 11.59 pm, meant a night sitting up but we arrived at our destination with a full day to spend exploring the city. The plane food was plentiful and reasonable, in terms of airline nosh, and the staff helpful. Based on this experience I would say fly with them. You might think that with a bunch of travel writers on board any airline would make sure they get it right, however I can tell you from experience, particularly an overnight flight on Vietnam Airlines with a seat that didn't recline (sigh, stamp my foot), that doesn't always happen.

    From the window of my room at the Centara Grand Hotel I have a magnificent view over the city including a face-to-face with Bangkok's tallest building. Yes, the skyline shows signs of pollution but there is plenty of blue sky to be seen. The city I've seen so far is clean with plenty of green around. It's warm but doesn't feel as humid as Brisbane at the same temperature.

    I ventured out onto the streets to nab a couple of bargains and complete my pre-holiday glam up which started a couple of days before departure in Brisbane.

    There's nothing like a massage to get you into a holiday mood and the fact that Ripple came to my home was such an extra bonus. After two hours of pampering I felt my holiday had already started.

    I followed it with a spray tan at Blossom at The Barracks, Petrie Terrace, for that 'I've been on holiday' look before I left. It was another good move. Then the manicure and pedicure in Thailand - cost me all of $28 and I paid too much.

    Bottom line: I'm liking it here. It's cleaner, less chaotic and more friendly than I imagined. The shops are filled with bargains and the massages are great.

    Friday, 21 August 2009

    At Our Table



    The Q150 and State Library of Queensland’s At Our Table - celebrating Queensland people, our stories, our food – begins this month with the launch event – The Winemaker’s Story in Stanthorpe.

    I wish I could be there on Sunday (23 August) when the Queensland College of Wine Tourism opens their doors for a day of good food, fine wine and tales of the Granite Belt. Local winemakers will be sharing their stories, traditions and techniques to unearth the region's 150 year wine making history.

    Chef Andrew Simpson has created a menu inspired by Stanthorpe’s history and they will be releasing the long awaited Nude Food Calendar. Big secret - check E,D+bK on Sunday for the choicest calendar photos revealed!

    You can visit the State Library stand and don the white gloves to view precious materials from the Collection including a recently discovered Queensland Cookbook dating back to 1860.

    The next At Our Table event is a fine-dining experience - Fresh to the Table - at the Noosa Springs Resort on Monday 31 August. I've stayed at Noosa Springs and it's a great spot. The dining room has magnificent views over the golf course.

    It's a chance to talk to chef Matt Golinski and chat with local farmers to talk about the future of fresh food.

    Find out more about the events at www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on

    Wednesday, 19 August 2009

    Search for the perfect cupcake - Sweet






    I've got to admit it. I think the Ferry Road Markets are probably one of my favourite places on the Gold Coast. It's the combo of good food, easy parking, great homewares and flowers, plus an atmosphere that makes me want to linger. Plus it's another option when you are on the coast for the foodie extravaganza - Tastes of the Gold Coast.

    My cupcakes hunt took me back into Sweet (boy what was a tough ask, not) where I had to gaze on a carousel of cupcakes for several minutes before I could even begin to select some. I chose ones that are generally popular according to the very helpful person behind the counter, although the decorations change every day depending on the whims of the decorators, some with the attention to detail which only comes with Japanese flair!

    Although Sweet has been here for a while the store has been recently acquired by Eric who is a pastry chef and chocolatier. The walls are lined with a great assortment of all types of sweets, including chocolates, but Eric will also be introducing his own brand soon.

    The cupcakes are freshly made and there's plenty of flavour in the deliciously moist, traditional sponge style cake. Those who find cupcakes overly sweet will enjoy these variations.

    Choc topped cupcake - this had very light, smooth buttery icing on a choc coloured sponge.
    Rocky road - pieces of good rocky road anchored on top with a smooth, hard icing.

    While you are at Sweet, make sure you check out the coated dried fruits, lollipops, liquorice, fruit jellies, nougat, tarts, mini Danish, pastries, muffins and brownies. And, yes, there is still more.

    Bottom line: Good cupcakes and a shop (and centre) well worth a visit.

    Ferry Rd Market
    Brickworks Centre
    107 Ferry Rd Southport
    www.brickworkscentre.com.au

    Tuesday, 18 August 2009

    Market in the city

    Wednesdays have taken on a whole new meaning in Brisbane's city centre with Jan Power's Farmers Markets transforming the bridge end of the Queen St Mall.

    Here's what’s new.

    Fresh Hot Smoked
    The delicious smell of wood smoke drifts over the market as the Original Hot Smokers prepare Tasmanian salmon freshly smoked on the spot to order, with dill, herb, parsley or chilli from father and son team, Campbell and Ian Green.

    The Cheese Tent – All Queensland Softies
    Macquarie Banker Carey Krause swaps his pin stripe suit for an apron on Wednesday to present a bunch of softies. The Cheese Tent has a great range of soft Queensland cheese from Kingaroy, Stewart River triple cream brie, and Bunya Black ash brie, and Barkers Creek camembert all running off the plate. The East Brisbane labna is to die for, with chilli and garlic, traditional or sumac.

    Gold Coast Fishermans Coop
    Straight off the boats at Main Beach, the fisher folk have a full range fresh seasonal fish and shellfish. Their best seller is a simple lunch or dinner size platter in a box, two oysters on the shell, six king prawns, one Moreton Bay Bug, old fashioned Marie Rose sauce and a wedge of lemon. At $10, they literally sell hundreds.

    Dehydrated Dragon Fruit
    Gorgeous ruby coloured disks of dried dragon fruit that looks great as a garnish on ice-cream, cakes or pastries. Dragon fruit tastes of raspberry, pineapple and rockmelon all at once according to Paul Atherinos of Mary Valley Fruit, who grows and dries them $4.50 for a bag.

    Village Meats Rosalie
    The best sellers at the moment according to Lyndsay Stephenson are slow cooking cuts for wintery casseroles and roasts, rabbits, beef cheeks and osso bucco.

    Lyndsay says that Master Chef and Jamie Oliver’s new magazine have made a big impact on the business. “We now have seven year old boys coming in with their mums ordering cuts for dinner,” she said. “And when Jamie Oliver did a lamb shoulder on the bone, every butcher in town sold out in hours!”

    Frugal Foods
    Sue and Michael Brooks cook up a storm pre-prepared ready to eat meals with hearty, simple flavours and all under $10. Pea and ham and other homemade soups all $4.50, beef osso bucco, cottage pie, Asian twice cooked belly pork, to name a few mains all $9.50. Desserts include carrot cake and cape brandy pudding, $6.00.

    Michael and Sue said that the meals, which can be delivered, are popular for busy people, the elderly and students, as well as office workers. “Many clients have them delivered to student children or elderly parents, so they know they are having at least, one good meal,” said Michael.

    Monday, 17 August 2009

    Melbourne my way - accommodation

    On our recent trip to Melbourne we stayed at the Jasper Hotel in Elizabeth Street. It's right at the top end, next to the Victoria Markets which was handy for a quick snack in the food hall. The tram drops you almost at the front door and can take you all over the city inexpensively – love those trams.

    Jasper was well priced on the internet and was exactly what we expected. Neat, stylishly decorated, well-fitted rooms. The surprise here was the spacious bathroom and large bath which was great for a soak after walking the town – sore feet. :(

    Bottom line – Would definitely stay here again and recommend it to others if price was right. Staff were very helpful printing tickets for shows. Clean and close to everything.

    Saturday, 15 August 2009

    Deadliest catch dinner





    I'm not much of a boating person except for cruising around tropical islands, but I have seen more episodes of "Deadliest Catch" than I care to remember. It's all to do with a holiday where the Foxtel was limited and the weather not so wonderful. Ahh - the stuff of which memories are made!

    If you have more than a passing interest in "Deadliest Catch" (Discovery Channel) or Andy Hillstrand, the easy-on-the-eye skipper of the "Time Bandit", join the folk at Wilson’s Boathouse Portside Wharf next Saturday evening, 22 August. You'll find out about life at sea and what it takes to be the captain of a trawler ship and crew, fishing in some of nature’s most challenging and dangerous conditions. (Wish I could say that in one of those deep sultry television voices.)

    Wilson's Executive Chef, Shane Keighly, will be presenting a five-course menu with some great Aussie wines.

    Deadliest Catch Dinner, Saturday 22 August.
    Time: 6.30pm for 7.00pm start
    Tickets: $150 per person
    Phone: 3868 4480

    Friday, 14 August 2009

    Search for the best brekkie - Spendelove


    You'll probably be heading to the Gold Coast over the next few weeks to take advantage of some of the great events in Tastes of the Gold Coast.

    While you are there dine like a local at Spendlove in Southport. This is a long way off the tourist trail with open plan dining in middle of an upmarket shopping mall, Ferry Road Markets. The surrounding shops include Sweet (will be blogging cupcakes from here soon), Merlo Torrefazione, Wheel and Barrow, and a great florist.

    There's also a very large market very similar to the James Street market where you can buy almost anything food wise.

    Spendlove is the sort of place where they bring you a glass of water without being asked. There's soothing background music and plenty of papers to read while waiting for brekkie to arrive.

    My Spendlove mini ($13.50) included rashers of bacon, two eggs, toasted Vienna bread and herb crusted tomato. It came exactly as described. The eggs had bright yellow yolks and there was plenty of delicious crispy grilled bacon. The tomato had a crusty breadcrumb topping which was a great addition.

    The breakfast menu is available until midday and offers eggs nine ways eggs & pancakes muesli fruit salad

    The breakfast stand out is wagyu steak, poached egg ($22). A prime export quality wagyu steak char grilled served with poached egg, sautéed spinach, balsamic mushrooms and confit tomato.

    Or the cheese soufflé ($17.50). Two cheeses Hanks tomato chutney, spinach, char grilled rasher of bacon, mozzarella cheese and confit tomato 17.50

    Spendlove's skinny option is bircher muesli ($11.50) with fresh honeycomb or fruit salad ($10.50) .

    Breakfast prices range from $7.50 to $22 The coffee is Segafredo with a smooth rounded flavour.

    Bottom line: This was a great, well cooked breakfast. Loved the crispy grilled bacon and herb crusted tomato which took it well above normal fare.

    Spendlove Bistro and Bar
    11 The Markets, 107 The Brickworks, Ferry Road
    Southport, 4215

    Thursday, 13 August 2009

    Prawns fly at Benihana






    When a prawn hit the side of my face I knew it was time to employ duck and weave tactics.

    No, this wasn't a food fight, but part of the entertainment at Benihana Japanese Steakhouse on the third floor of the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa. And while it was a bit messy, the night was heaps of fun.

    For the uninitiated, the proper technique is to catch the prawn in your mouth. Marriott Executive Chef Andrew Fraser showed his style with a napkin turned into a prawn catcher funnel - very effective!

    With Teppanyaki your meal is cooked by the chefs on a hot plate built into each table right in front of you. Watching the chef's antics is great entertainment and a good family event. There's plenty of tossing, juggling and chopping and an omelette made after three eggs are balanced on top of each other. It's a great show!

    The great thing about this food is that the ingredients are all super fresh and there's not too much in the way of additives apart from a bit of soy and oil. The wagu steak was the stuff of which dreams are made. I was still thinking about it two days later, as were some of the other foodies at the dinner. The prawns and scallops also were exquisitely fresh.

    Benihana also offers cooking classes and there's one as part of the Tastes of Gold Coast Festival. You'll learn some of the chef's tricks (maybe not how to catch a salt shaker on your head) and devour a three course lunch. Yum.

    Tickets for the class on 22 August cost $95 each. Call 5592 9800

    Tastes of the Gold Coast is a fabulous way to explore the diverse range of local food available on the Goldie. It's not all sun, surf and sand now days!

    Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa
    158 Ferny Avenue, Surfers Paradise
    p 5592 9800

    Benihana the Japanese Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

    Wednesday, 12 August 2009

    Search for the perfect cupcake - Carousels Cupcakes







    Don't blink or even with it's brightly coloured sign, you'll miss Carousels Cupcakes while dodging traffic on frenetic Gympie Road at Chermside.

    However, step inside this retro haven and you'll be transported back to a much calmer decade when women were mothers and wives and excelled in kitchen gymnastics.

    Just to show they don't take that all too seriously, there's a great sign for those who like to colour coordinate all aspects of their life.

    This is a fun 50's diner style cafe with a bright and perky decor and staff to match. You gotta love the bright pink booth seating, chandeliers, LP covered walls and retro posters. I was told the shop had recently changed hands but the cupcakes are still being made by the original owner.

    It's always hard to choose from the delicious array in a cupcake cabinet and this shop was no exception.

    Our picks:
    Hot Date - had a laugh with the name and liked the good touch of ginger with the expected date cake topped with a moist cream cheese frosting.

    Rascally rabbit - this was a light moist carrot cake and you could see the grated carrot in inside and taste nuts. The surprise was hidden stash of caramel. It was topped with a cute small sugar carrot and cream cheese icing just the way I like it.

    Oreo - Small pieces of Oreo biscuits were dotted through this cupcake but it had a slightly oily after taste. One of my favourite ice cream additions at Hard Rock but obviously not so easy to convert into a cupcake - not our top pick.

    Vanilla cupcake - this was good in the old fashioned way with a nice light sponge balanced by, rather than overpowered by the icing.

    The coffee is Di Bella.

    The full range is much more extensive and also can be ordered online.

    Bottom line: You could visit Carousels Cupcakes either for the decor or the cupcakes.

    Carousels Cupcakes
    819 Gympie Rd, Chermside QLD 4032 p 3630 5946

    Tuesday, 11 August 2009

    Wine dinner at Manx

    Here's an opportunity to try some very special food with some very special wine. Manx at Portside Wharf will host a Felton Road wine dinner on Monday 17 August.

    I've been a fan of Paul McGivern's food since his early days at Tognini's. He used to be so excited when he found a new local supplier of spinach or lettuce. Paul's interest in local produce and his expertise in cooking translate into very fine fare at Manx which is a great place to dine.

    For this event guests will enjoy a five course menu matched with current and back vintage wines from Felton Road winery in Central Otago. Central Otago is one the most southerly wine regions in the world producing some of the best examples of new world pinot noir, chardonnay and Riesling. Winemaker Blair Walter will be Manx’s guest to present the wines on the night.

    Apart from Paul's food, I also like that there's normally plenty of free parking at Portside.

    Date: Monday 17 August, 2009

    Time: 6.30pm

    Cost: $150 per person

    Bookings: 3216 4999

    Brisbane's best

    Which are the best restaurants in Brisbane? Well here are the top picks from the 2009 Restaurant & Catering Queensland HOSTPLUS Brisbane Awards for Excellence which were presented last night.

    Much loved E'cco Bistro was awarded the supreme award ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and 'Best Contemporary Australian Restaurant'.

    Those who took home more than one award on the night included; Boroughs Café Wine Bar at Scarborough (Best Café Restaurant and Best Entertainment Restaurant) and Jellyfish Restaurant in the CBD (Best New Restaurant and Best Speciality Cuisine Restaurant).

    New Farm had two winners this year with Watt Modern Dining (Best Alfresco Dining Restaurant) and Bar Alto (Best Italian Restaurant 2009).

    The Brisbane CBD proved a hot spot for some of 2009’s best venues including; Cha Cha Char Wine Bar & Grill (Best Steak Restaurant) , Jade Buddha (Best Pub/Tavern/Club Restaurant), and Gianni’s Restaurant (Best Fine Dining Restaurant).

    Bulimba’s Citron Restaurant took home Best Asian Restaurant, and Best Pizza Restaurant 2009 went to Sugo Mi. The Coro Hotel’s Lure Seafood Restaurant won Best Seafood Restaurant. The Gunshop Café was named Best Breakfast Restaurant and fellow West End venue Bombay Dhaba took home Best Themed Restaurant. Best European Restaurant was awarded to C’est Bon, Woolloongabba. Best Informal Dining Restaurant went to a Toowong restaurant, Two Small Rooms.

    Monday, 10 August 2009

    Melbourne my way - Markets





    Here's a quick summary of my markets experiences in Melbourne at the beginning of July.

    Markets Queen Victoria Markets Food Hall
    Foodie heaven – everything from kangaroo sausage to beetroot pizza. Plenty to choose from with many specialist stalls for cheese, wine, deli items and coffee. If you were self catering you could buy all supplies here as there are a fruit and veg market and fresh produce (fish, meat, chicken) sections as well. There's even a large organic area.

    I tried a salmon bagel ($5) and a beetroot-based mini pizza topped with pumpkin and feta ($6.50). The egg and bacon roll we grabbed as a quick brekkie ($4.50) was not so great but the almond croissant ($3) after was.

    Bottom line: Well worth the visit especially if you love food.

    Victoria Markets
    What an amazing collection here. Buy a chook (definitely still clucking), a bag, a tee shirt or leather coat all within a few paces. There's a lot of repetition here but plenty to choose from. As with all markets, not everything is a bargain but it's fun to browse.

    Bottom line: Worth a look, a unique slice of Melbourne.

    St Kilda Markets
    We hopped a tram and went to St Kilda to check it out. The market sprawls along the esplanade for quite a distance and has lots of 'stuff' – soaps, photos, jewellery, bags etc. Interesting but not outstanding. At the end is Melbourne's Luna Park with roller coaster rides and more. We walked down and had a coffee (bitter) on the sea front and tried to image it when the weather was warm. The pier looked interesting but we didn't walk it.

    Bottom line: Much like any other market I've visited. Worth the trip to see St Kilda only.

    Photos: The birds were outside the general section of the Queen Vic markets. Other photos were taken inside the massive food hall.

    Saturday, 8 August 2009

    Vine dining

    With all this beautiful weather, it's almost a crime not to head out and explore a bit of the country. How much better to do it when you know there's going to be excellent food and wine at the end!

    Vine Dining on Saturday August 15 is a day when you can explore the wonders of the South Burnett. This is a very picturesque part of south east Queensland, full of wineries producing some very good drops. Three wineries have got together for this event and organised four great chefs to provide food. There's a bus to take you around the different locations do you don't have to drink and drive, and plenty of accommodation in the area if you decide to stay the night. It's a good three hour drive from Brisbane so overnighting will make it a fun weekend. The program even offers Sunday morning brekkie.

    Here's the deal. You'll be following the Barambah Wine Trail, Moffatdale and enjoying food at Barambah Wines, Bridgeman Downs & Clovely Estate.

    Once parked at either Clovely Estate, Bridgeman Downs or Barambah, the Vine Dining Shuttle Bus can deliver you from winery to winery. All you need to bring a is picnic blanket and hat.

    At Barambah, PJ McMillan of Harveys, James Street, Newfarm will be cooking up Barbecued barramundi on a wild rice, chickpea and salted lemon salad, with tahini yoghurt dressing matched with a Barambah 2009 Unwooded Chardonnay. There'll also be Slow cooked lamb shoulder with rosemary, mashed potato, field mushrooms and aioli matched with Barambah Vineyard Selection Red 2008.

    The dessert option, by Martin Duncan of Freestyle Tout, is Crème Brulee with strawberry compote and Persian fairy floss matched with Barambah 2007 Rack Dried Semillon.
    Asa Broomhall and Band will be the entertainment.

    At Bridgeman Downs, David Pugh of Rest 11 will be offering Braised Kinbombi Beef Cheeks on soft polenta with Bridgeman Downs 2005 Shiraz and Ballotine of Angels Chicken with tomato braised chickpeas and Barambah yoghurt with Bridgeman Downs 2008 Verdelho. The dessert, again by Martin Duncan, is Caramel chocolate tart matched with Bridgeman Downs Liqueur Muscat. A legendary local blues band, 'Blues Excuse', will keep you entertained.

    Clovely Estate Cellar Door has Matt Golinski of Rolling Dolmades, Noosa and Ready Steady Cook cooking Organic Local Duck on a tomato and black olive Penne Ragu matched with 2008 Clovely Estate Grenache, Shiraz, Mourverdre and Slow roasted Pork Belly Salad served with a cucumber, chilli and roasted peanuts with 2009 Clovely Estate Verdehlo. Martin's dessert is Chocolate Fondant pudding with double cream matched with Clovely Tawny Port or Sparkling Shiraz. Luverly! Guitar vocalist Arthur Nettlefield will provide the music.

    On Sunday morning you can join a Pastry & Dough Buffet Breakfast at Windera Hydroponics and buy some fresh produce and herbs to take home!

    Sounds like a wow of a weekend. Get some friends together and go!

    Friday, 7 August 2009

    Search for the best brekkie - Denim





    Denim is one of a number of cafes at Southbank that does a roaring trade on the weekend mornings when I've been walking past. There's always a queue which I generally take as a good recommendation.

    This Sunday morning it was particularly busy as it was the monthly Young Designers Market which sparked a completely different morning outing than the usual fast paced walk.

    After browsing the great fashions on offer we were ready for brekkie but the queue was long. When I finally got to order I was told it would be a 20 minute wait and it was. I appreciated being advised that I would have to wait as there's nothing worse than smelling cooking bacon and not getting any.

    For the Search for the best brekkie I'm going to try a standard two eggs and bacon on toast, or as close as possible, each time. If they can make such a standard order memorable then they are doing a good job. Also it's a good benchmark for comparative pricing.

    Denim's closest fit was Eggs on turkish, available scrambled or poached, with grilled roma tomato and turkish toast $7.90. I added a side of bacon $2.90. Total $10.80.

    I was impressed when the meal arrived as there was a heap of bacon and the meal looked very appetising. When I started eating I noticed the bacon was soggy rather than crisp and the poached eggs were overdone rather than medium as ordered. Both the bacon and tomato were surprisingly sweet as though sugar had been added.

    Overall it was a reasonable meal but not outstanding and I was left with a persistent oily film in my mouth.

    The healthy option would be bircher muesli with mixed berries yoghurt and toasted almond flakes or toasted avocado with cracked pepper sea salt and lemon $7.90.

    The standout breakfast option is the Big Brekkie which is scrambled or poached eggs, bacon, mushroom, chorizo, grilled roma tomato and turkish toast $16.90.

    I'd love to try the Fluffy Coconut Pancakes with mixed berries vanilla ice cream and maple syrup $12.50.

    Prices on the breakfast menu, available from 7 am to 3pm, range from $5.90 to $16.90.

    Lunch options include a selection of pizzas around $10.50 and soup priced around $8- $12.90 .

    Desserts include Italian peach sugar coated sponge soaked in Galliano with a custard centre $8.90. Mmm - these look delicious but were sold out.

    The coffee is Lavazza - $3.40 for a cappuccino.

    This is a dog friendly cafe and the staff happily brought water for my dog Tucker on request.

    Bottom line: It's a value for money breakfast but not one you'll dream about.

    Denim
    Little Stanley Street, Southbank
    p 3844 0302

    Thursday, 6 August 2009

    Guilt free lunch at Baguette

    When you just want to eat a healthy lunch but it still has to taste great, Baguette at Ascot has a great solution.

    Their new healthy lunch menu has been scientifically analysed by dietician, Desi Carlo from Tree of Life, so you know exactly what you are eating. Notes on each dish indicate calories, fat, GI, carb, lactose and fibre content.

    The menu, available to eat in the bar or the pavement tables, is priced from $10-14. Dishes include home made ham and veg soup, prawn and avocado baguette, chicken salad, grilled steak and salad and a cajun chicken salad wrap. It's available until August 31.

    Baguette
    150 Racecourse Road Ascot p 3268 6168

    Local heroes


    Here's a story I wrote recently for Where Magazine

    Wednesday, 5 August 2009

    Thai Cuisine - Tom Yum Goong

    This hot and sour prawn soup is a favourite for many people. You can make the stock mixture a day ahead and add the prawns and remaining ingredients just before serving.

    Ingredients
    1.125 litres (4 1/2 cups) fish stock
    750 ml (3 cups) water
    1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh lemon grass
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh ginger
    2 Thai red chillies sliced thinly
    2 Kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly or 2 teaspoons grated lime rind
    16 (800g) large uncooked prawns
    2 tablespoons fish sauce
    60 ml (1/4 cup) lime juice
    4 green onions, thinly sliced
    2 tablespoons coriander leaves
    2 tablespoons Thai basil leaves
    4 Thai red chillies, seeded, sliced, extra

    Method
    Place stock in a large saucepan with water, lemon grass, garlic, ginger, chillies and lime leaves. Bring to boil then simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Strain into a  large jug or bowl. Return to pan and bring to the boil.

    Meanwhile, shell and devein the prawns, leaving tails. Add prawns, simmer until they change colour. Add sauce and juice, remove from heat.

    Stir in the onions, coriander, basil and extra chillies.

    Not suitable to freeze. Suitable to microwave.

    Recipe courtesy Thai Airways

    Search for the perfect cupcake - MySweetopia







    People have been telling me about MySweetopia for a while so I'm glad I finally made it there. Despite Google Maps insisting it was just near QPAC, the shop is down in the heart of the retail part of Grey Street at Southbank.

    There's certainly wow factor when you walk into the shop with rows of delicious looking cupcakes and some wedding cakes that are very special. The cupcakes are made on the premises, fresh daily, to an old family recipe.

    There's plenty of seating around the outside of the cafe and the area is dog friendly as well. On weekend mornings it seems to be very popular with bikers (pedal type).

    Now onto the cupcakes! We hit My Sweetopia with a team of four seasoned cupcake lovers - Jayne, Zoe, Kate and Kerry. All cupcakes were tried by four people - yes I know this is getting way technical! The shelves were full of cupcakes and it was very hard to choose as they all were beautifully decorated.

    So here's the report -
    Most popular was the tallest and prettiest cupcake was Meringue Berry. It had an awesome first bite and a dense white chocolate cake with a berry hidden inside. The meringue was soft and gooey.

    Choc mud cake was also very popular. It combined a dense moist mud cake with creamy icing that was a good foil.

    The traditional fairy cake certainly had the look and reminded me of the ones my grandmother used to make. There was a hint of berry inside the cake which was a light moist sponge. It was a hit as well.

    Passionfruit was our least favourite cupcake as we couldn't really get the passionfruit flavour. The icing was very buttery and needed more passionfruit flavour too.

    On a second visit we sampled a White Chocolate and Rose Water cupcake which had us both very excited until we actually bit into this one. Couldn't really taste the rose water at all in the cake and the icing was just a hunk of flavourless creamy topping.

    The range of flavours includes Classic Sponge, Banana Coconut, Apple Crumble, Lemon Meringue, White Chocolate Mud varieties, Dark Chocolate Mud varieties, Strawberry Butterfly, Caramel Mud, Neapolitan and Hazelnut Praline which is gluten free. The coffee is Elixir. Prices range between $3.50 and $4.50 for the gourmet cakes. They have some very nice boxes for take aways.

    Bottom line: Well worth trying but stick to the tried and true.

    MySweetopia
    Shop 8, 180 Grey st, Southbank

    My Sweetopia on Urbanspoon

    Monday, 3 August 2009

    Fun in the sun at Ambiwerra

    If you missed this year's Ambiwerra Festival you are probably kicking yourself as it was a perfect day for eating, drinking and listening to great music, all the hallmarks of a perfect day at Ambiwerra.

    An 18+ event for the first time this year, the festival still attracted a healthy crowd of around 4500 .

    One of the big attractions at this event is the range of food on offer from great Brisbane restaurants. They are all smallist entrée-size dishes so you can taste plenty.

    This year's culinary winners were Restaurant Two won the festival’s Best Restaurant Award. Chef and co-owner, David Pugh's menu included Porcini mushroom risotto and a Braised Stanthorpe venison pie floater. (Watch out for Stanthorpe venison - it's a great product and environmentally sensitive as well.)

    The Best Wine Award went to Bouchon Wines for its selection of more than 20 wines from Australia, France, Italy and New Zealand.

    Here's a reminder for your 2010 diary - Ambiwerra will be held on August 1. Find it at the large tree-lined Ambiwerra sportsground at Corinda, just nine kilometres from the city.


    Qld wins in the I Love Food Awards

    There were several Queenslanders who were national winners in the I Love Food Awards. Judged by popular vote, the mix of winners is interesting as many are well deserved and others - what the?

    Congratulations to national winners -
    EUROPEAN Baguette Bistrot+Bar, Ascot
    ITALIAN/PIZZA Parso's Gourmet Pizza, Pacific Pines
    MEDITERRANEAN 1 Two 3 Mediterranean Dining, Broadbeach
    CAFE Campos Coffee, Fortitude Valley

    In the Queensland section the winners were -
    ASIAN Siam Orchid Thai Restaurant, Burleigh Heads
    CAFE Campos Coffee, Fortitude Valley
    COFFEE Merlo Coffee, Fortitude Valley
    EUROPEAN Baguette Bistrot+Bar, Ascot
    FISH AND CHIPS The Fishmongers Wife, East Brisbane
    HAMBURGER Grill'd (Healthy Burgers) Rosalie, Rosalie
    ICE CREAM The Chocolate Room, Coomera
    ITALIAN/PIZZA Parso's Gourmet Pizza, Pacific Pines
    LATIN AMERICAN Serrano's Mexican Cantina, Beenleigh
    MEDITERRANEAN 1 Two 3 Mediterranean Dining, Broadbeach
    MIDDLE EASTERN Taboon, Robina
    MODERN AUSTRALIAN Restaurant Lurleen's at Sirromet Winery, Mount Cotton
    PIES Yatala Pie Shop, Yatala
    PUB/BISTRO The Caxton Hotel, Petrie Terrace
    SEAFOOD Fish D'Vine, Airlie Beach
    VEGETARIAN The Forest Cafe, West End

    Amongst the well deserved winners are Baguette, Restaurant Lurleen’s, Campos Coffee, Merlo Coffee and The Fishmongers Wife - all fine establishments.

    I won't comment on those I haven't visited but the last time I had a pie from the Yatala Pie shop I swore never to go back again. Now I’ll have to give it another go but they are only getting one chance.

    Grilled, Rosalie's win has sparked another personal 'Search for' on E,D+bK. This time it will be the perfect burger because I think I can find something better than what I've had at Grilled. Stay tuned for this one.

    Saturday, 1 August 2009

    Campos Best Coffee Shop in Australia

    Campos in Fortitude Valley was today named Best Coffee Shop in Australia by the Lifestyle Channel’s public-voted I Love Food Awards.

    Campos owners, Eugene Phua and John Ronchi (pictured), were up against some very prominent and well-established outlets from across Australia and the inside word is that it was a strong win. This speaks volumes for Brisbane's burgeoning cafe culture – Melbourne and Sydney watch out!
    It's a quirky little coffee shop with a entrance that wanders past a dumpster, quite unusual for Brisbane where rubbish bins are usually something to be avoided in the heat of summer. The plastic astro turf lifts the dull grey exterior and inside it's funky and interesting. Particularly love some of the light fittings!

    Campos’ coffee is roasted on site in Brisbane and is now on offer at a growing number of coffee shops around south-east Queensland. I recently attended a coffee roasting and cupping demo there and learnt some interesting stuff. Campos post blend their coffee, not in the roaster. So if there are 10 beans in the coffee, that's 10 different roastings. They believe roasting different blends together loses individual characteristics, so it's better to roast separately and then blend.
    Their big silver roaster had some impressive computer screens but John helped the group listen for popping as an indication that the beans were progressing through the roasting process.
    The cupping process involved sipping spoonfuls of black coffee from a long line of different varieties that Campos is considering using. I tasted coffee from New Guinea, Nimbin in New South Wales, Kenya, Mexico, Columbia, Honduras, Brazil, Java, Sumatra and El Salvador.
    Here's something to think about - does your favourite coffee taste a little different? Now is the time that new season beans are coming through and the flavour does vary.
    Another interesting thing that changes a coffee bean's flavour is the time it takes for the green beans to get from the farm to docking in Australia and the way they are treated. Green coffee is affected by extreme heat and after loading into metal containers it can spend weeks baking in the sun in a depot or stuck in a truck which cannot make it through a flawed road system. Some coffee farms are now vacuum packing their green beans and shipping them in refrigerated containers to ensure the quality is not affected.
    The age of the beans is also important and there is a significant decrease in quality after the beans reach nine to ten months after harvesting.
    11 Wandoo St
    Fortitude Valley
    p +61 7 32523612

    Campos on Urbanspoon

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