Monday, 28 September 2009

Urbane reopens in mid-November + Brisbane's first laneway bar

Premier Brisbane city restaurant Urbane will reopen its doors in mid-November after five months of renovations.

But there are steak knives - co-owners Andrew Buchanan and Drew Patten have taken their winning formula and announced the addition of two new venues. The Euro and The Laneway will be unveiled in just over six weeks to coincide with the re-launch of Urbane. The Euro will be a contemporary café style restaurant located next door to Urbane that will serve a range of European inspired food and the The Laneway will be Brisbane’s first laneway bar and will be accessible off Margaret Street, opposite the Stamford Plaza.  Whoo hoo! Way to go! Finally, a bit of intimate laneway culture in Bris city.

Chef Kym Machin will head up the impressive new imported European kitchen that will service both Urbane and The Euro with the assistance of 16 chefs.

Urbane was first opened in 2001 and was recently named one of the 50 best restaurants in Australia by The Weekend Australian. It is one of only two Queensland restaurants to receive three stars from The Courier-Mail’s 2008 Food and Wine Guide while Machin himself was awarded the 2008 Young Chef of The Year.

Brisbanetimes.com.au has also recently recognised Urbane’s success, awarding it 2009 Restaurant of The Year as well as a coveted two hats and Chef of the Year in 2008.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Cook your favourite dish and win

Still having withdrawals from Masterchef? Been watching Dine With Me lately? Think you can do better?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (always wanted to say that) you should line up for the Siemens Signature Dish Series at The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail Home and Design Show from 8 - 11 October.

Why? Does the chance to win a Siemen's Liftmatic Oven and Cooktop or Siemens products to the value of $9,000 pique your interest?  And there's more - even the runners up will win great prizes from cooking store Taste for the Love of Cooking.

So this is what you have to do. First get an entry form (go to the visitor page and download the form). Then you have to post or email a photo of your dish, your recipe and a photo of yourself. If you are selected to cook, you have to bring all your own ingredients and utensils for cooking and plating up the dish.  You have one hour to prepare and cook the dish - just like Masterclass!

Why am I telling you about this? All the entries will be judged by The Courier Mail's food critic, Lizzie Loel and I'm keeping Lizzie company for one of the sessions. Hope I see you there!

River Canteen wine sale



Here are some bargains for wine lovers. You've probably heard River Canteen at South Bank will serve it's last meal on New Year's Eve. However the doors are not shut yet and they have a new Spring menu with seasonal flavours and some of their signature dishes. 

The owners, Peter and David, are empting the cellar  built up over the past 17 years with all reserve stock to be sold. Expected to go fast, don't miss out! Call 3846 1880




Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Search for the perfect cupcake - links for lovers

For anyone who loves cupcakes and for all those who think these cakes are a flash in the pan - some links to New York Times stories on my favourite fascination.

Food Stuff
It’s a Cupcake Truck. Need We Say More?
By FLORENCE FABRICANT
Published: June 3, 2009
CupcakeStop is a truck that travels between Union Square and Chelsea.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/dining/03cup.html

One Cupcake, One Mouthful
By FLORENCE FABRICANT
Published: March 18, 2009
Melissa Bushell’s mini-cupcakes are likely to be the ultimate recession-proof treats.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/dining/18cakes.html

Yes, We Speak Cupcake
By ANNA LOUIE SUSSMAN
Published: September 23, 2009
The shop Sugar Daddy’s in Amman, Jordan, has brought the cupcake craze that has swept some American cities to the Middle East.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/dining/23cake.html

Enjoy!

Search for the perfect cupcake - Silavadee

The search for the perfect cupcake continues to occupy too many of my waking moments.

On my recent trip to Thailand I had the good fortune to visit Koh Samui and stay at Silavadee Resort.

Resort Manager Luke Salway caught my cupcake enthusiasm and suggested I try the cupcakes baked in house. A veteran of the muffin plate at hotel buffets, I'm always sceptical of hotel cooking. But these were different - deliciously light, moist and flavoursome, topped with a lovely creamy icing.

Luke has kindly shared the recipe (below). It includes a little condensed milk which adds a touch of difference and also means the recipe is flexible for campers (if you can get the oven temperature right!)

Silavadee is a wonderful hideaway on Koh Samui about 20km from the airport. It's located on a hill overlooking a lovely beach with stunning sea views. The rooms are kitted out in teak and hand-made local fabric.

I had a tour of the ocean front pool villas, which have their own private pools, and can report these are to die for.

Vanilla Cup Cake

Ingredients:

130 g Unsalted butter
150 g Icing Sugar
2 Eggs
175 g Cake flour
1 tsp Baking powder
80 ml. Condensed milk unsweetened
5 g Vanilla essence
3 g salt

Method of cooking:

Sift flour baking powder and rest
Whisk butter and sugar till fluffy and add salt
Add eggs to butter mixture
Add flour then vanilla and milk
Mix well and transfer to molds filling 2/3
Bake at temperature- top 185 C bottom 180 C 20 min.

Silavadee +66 07796 0555

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Taste goes Italian


Last night the monthly Taste Wine and Cooking Club was cooking Italian, one of my favourite cuisines, so I jumped at the chance to be the one to choose the best dish on the night.

The cooking club is not a cooking class and it's not targeted at either amateurs or professionals, it's just for those who want to share their favourite recipes, pick up some hot tips and have plenty of laughs along the way.

Taste owner Jodie Macaulay started the club which is based on a different cooking theme each month. There are several groups of 10 to 20 participants who bring pre-made home-cooked meals along a theme to share on the night. They also share their recipe.

And what a great bunch of people they were (pictured above and apoligies to those missing from the photo) All happy and chatting and boy did they cook some great food.Congratulations to all of them!


Amongst my favourites were:
  • Janelle Mulherin's Sweet and sour rabbit (a family favourite cooked regularly on a Sunday),
  • Brenda OBrien's Gnocchi alla Romana which used semolina to give a slightly crunchy texture,
  • Julie Stephens' Zucchinni Ripieni (Stuffed Courgettes) which had a strong mushroom flavour and a crisp crust on top,
  • Adam King's 'Pizza that I've picked up here and there',
  • Deanne Higgins' Porchetta - loved those crunchy bits of pork crackling,
  • John Gray's Gnocchi with Gorgonzola (heart attack in a dish but so tasty).

We washed it all down with two Italian wines available at Purple Palate - a Montrose Estate Rose of Barbera and a Montrose Estate Barbera. Both are made from the same varietal, just in different styles and both were very pleasing to drink.

However my job was to pick a winner and, being a dessert gal at heart, I chose Michelle Laney's Tiramisu. Michelle used Philip Johnson's recipe from his Ecco Restaurant Cookbook. It was seriously good, but seriously rich. The three types of alcohol added a lot of punch.

Here's the recipe

Tiramisu
Prepared by Michelle Laney from Philip Johnson's recipe

5 egg yolks
100g (31/2oz) caster sugar
500g (17oz) mascarpone
4 egg whites
400ml (14fl oz) hot espresso coffee (or strong plunger coffee)
30ml (1fl oz) Galliano
30ml (1fl oz) tia maria or kahlua
30ml (1fl oz) brandy
400g (13oz) savoiardi (sponge fingers, preferably Italian)
200g (7fl oz) best quality dark chocolate, shaved
250ml (9fl oz) cream, softly whipped
Cocoa powder

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale then stir in mascarpone until well combined. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks and fold into mascarpone mixture.

Use a 24 x 4cm round deep sided pie dish or a rectangular dish. Combine coffee, Galliano, tia maria or kahlua and brandy in a bowl. Dip half the savoiardi into this mixture, ensuring they do not become totally saturated, and arrange in a pattern inside the dish. Cover with half of the mascarpone mixture and sprinkle liberally with half the shaved chocolate. Repeat layers with remaining savoiardi, mascarpone and chocolate. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, place a wedge or square in the centre of each serving plate. Top with whipped cream and dust generously with cocoa.

# Michelle says this recipe is from the Ecco Restaurant Cookbook. She has made it several times and it always gets rave reviews.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Granite Belt Growers Market at Southbank

There's another of the seasonal Growers Markets on at South Bank this Sunday (September 20)


You'll find a wide  variety of Granite Belt wine and food makers, growers and producers showcasing some of the best the region produces.

Expect to find mushrooms, fresh hand made pasta, fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables, organic beauty products, olives and olive oil, farmhouse cheese as well as the traditional favourites - wine, pickles, relishes and sweets.

Some of my Granite Belt favourites are:
  • Wine from Robert Channon, Symphony Hill, Pyramids Road, Summit Estate, Ballandean Estate- the list goes on here
  • Jams from Jamworks and Greedy Me
  • Anything apple from the Suttons - Hello Dave and Ros!
  • Magical muesli from the Vineyard Cottages

The market begins at 10am on Little Stanley Street.

Cupcakes with bling!

Is my cupcake addiction getting out of control? I hope so!


Just when I thought things were settling I’ve found the perfect addition to my life – a new lust object.


It’s small, it’s silver and would fit perfectly onto my bracelet – yes, a silver cupcake!




Nikki Johnston is an enterprising gal I’ve known for more than a few years. She specialises in jewellery that just a little different and has heaps of sentimental overtones. The sort of things mothers give to daughters and babies get when they are born.


Nikki says the best thing about her new cupcakes is that they are 100 percent calorie and fat free. What’s not to like about that!


There’s also an icing choice. Which would madam like - silver or gold?


Find your new cupcake at www.ohmygiddyaunt.com.au

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Brisbane Food Blogs

I've decided to make a list of Brisbane food blogs just because I can. These are blogs that mainly talk about food in Brisbane. If you are not on the list and want to be, leave your details below.

A word of warning - If you are a PR and want to use this list to contact Brisbane Food Bloggers remember to follow a few rules. If you are a blogger and don't want to be on this list because you don't want PRs to contact you - just say!

  • Read the blog before you contact the blogger. Blogging is a highly personal pastime and not everyone will welcome your intrusion.
  • Ask first - ask if a blogger would like to know about your restaurant, product or event
  • Establish relationships
  • Remember few bloggers are paid so they don't want to spend money to blog things in which they are not interested. This includes parking in the city to attend events of doubtful interest. Think people!
  • Don't expect a blogger to always be complimentary, blogging is all about having an opinion.

This list is in no particular order

Eat, drink and be Kerry - of course. Where to eat, what to drink, where to go in Queensland. I like blogging almost more than chocolate! Writer, editor and publicist http://eatdrinkandbekerry.blogspot.com http://www.twitter.com/eatdrinkbekerry

Foodbling - food, wine and travel - who needs anything else? www.foodblingbrisbane.blogspot.com/ twitter.com/foodbling

Rhubarbwine- Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. Would you like a whine with that? http://rhubenesque.wordpress.com/ 
twitter.com/rhubarbwhine

Eating Brisbane - Welcome to my challenge - eating in all the Brisbane restaurants all 276! Join me! www.eatingbrisbane.com
twitter.com/eatingbrisbane

Snack Queen- searching for the perfect snack, in the perfect perch with a heavenly drop . aaahhh you gotta love it. http://www.tastetrekkers.com.au twitter.com/snackqueen

Natascha Mirosch - Food Reporter@The Courier Mail newspaper in Brisbane.
http://blogs.news.com.au/couriermail/food/ 
twitter.com/nataschamirosch

Wendy Hall - Foodie Girlie and City News blog http://city-news.whereilive.com.au/blogs/list/category/eat/ twitter.com/foodiegirlie

Martin Duncan, Freestyle Tout
http://freestyle-freestyler.blogspot.com
twitter.com/dessertboy

Cakes by Judy C http://cakenews.blogspot.com/

Mark and Narelle Tognini, Tognini's Deli http://foodwtogninis.blogspot.com

Kassie Strano The Dining Quarter - I live in Brisbane and dearly miss travelling the world, love escaping and indulging in great food and wine.http://brisbanerestaurantrecommandations.blogspot.com.

http://www.thediningquarter.com twitter.com/diningquarter

www.italianfoodbrisbane.blogspot.com

David Costello (food fossicker) Foreign editor Courier-Mail, Fossicking columinist, daggy family guy
twitter.com/foodfossicker
www.treattrackers.blogspot.com

Marilyn Domenech, Tasty Bites http://marilyn.com.au/

Belly Good - mixture of Brisbane, Melbourne Sydney postings http://www.bellygood.net

New Brisbane - Brisbane night life http://www.newbrisbane.com

Life at the Tuna Ranch - Musings about various cooking and coding (mis)adventures. http://blog.tunaranch.net

http://motherfoccacia.blogspot.com twitter.com/beeso

Just a girl blogging about food www.gastronomy-gal.blogspot.com

Barbara is on the Gold Coast but talks about Brisbane food www.winosandfoodies.com

http://thepoisondoughnut.blogspot.com/


http://anemptystomachisthebestcook.blogspot.com/

http://rabbitsimsparadise.blogspot.com/


http://thebookerycook.blogspot.com/


http://www.eatdrinkbrisbane.com/

http://iatebrisbane.com/

http://oz-gochisousama.blogspot.com/

www.icedbean.blogspot.com

http://lantanaland.blogspot.com/
twitter.com/beeso

Brisbane Budget Bites - Writer, publisher, eater determined to discover Brisbane's multicultural eateries for under $20   http://www.brisbanebudgetbites.com.au/
twitter.com/bbbites

http://melanger.wordpress.com/

http://delicieux.wordpress.com/

Become a RocketFuel Influencer

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Search for the perfect cupcake - Sparkle - Sydney

The search for the perfect cupcake has inspired dedication beyond my dreams! Here's a guest blog from Paperdoll Princess Zoe who, before she moved south of the border, was a member of the E,D+bK cupcake tasting team.


"I had heard about Sparkle even before I moved to Sydney. The upmarket cupcake store to end all cravings. Inside its modern and shiny and slick. Their menu isn’t made up of ‘normal’ cupcake varieties and they sell Moet by the glass.


Safe to say I had pretty high expectations when I visited there. I also got really excited because they were located in the same street as the one I work in. So I quickly found and visited Sparkle within days of being here. And I wasn’t that excited. So I decided to wait until I had time to properly review it and I went back.

They all look the same so the only way to tell them apart is by using the colour chart.

My particular addiction is vanilla cupcakes and this was their special so I was excited. No need to be- the general consensus was that the cakes were quite dry and the icing was never quite right. They only real standout was the celebration cake- kumquat and passion fruit which is limited edition. The lavender and honey one tasted like I was drinking lavender and the apple cinnamon variety was just cinnamon.

All in all I wasn’t really impressed by Sparkle, but it does get lots of positive recommendations from Sydneysiders.

Sparkle Cupcakery
132 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills 2010
Phone (02) 9361 0690

Search for the perfect cupcake - Tabitha's Place


Here’s another cupcake destination people have been telling me about - Tabitha's Place at the Portside Boutique monthly markets.

The rumour was these were cupcakes that shouldn’t be missed and I tend to agree. Named after the owner’s daughter, they are available via direct order and some in some shops.

Visually they are very appealing with little glitter touches on some and beautifully precise decorations. Each one is a gourmet treat. Only the mini cupcakes were available for purchase by the time I made it to the market, so we decided to try one of each that was left.


Caramel Mud filled with gooey caramel topped with white chocolate ganache – this was a wonderful surprise with rich creamy caramel hidden inside such a small cake topped by equally rich icing with a delightful crunch from gold cornicon.

Coconut lemon meringue filled with lemon curd - wow a cupcake that tastes just like a lemon meringue pie with a delicious centre of curd and a soft but crispy meringue piled on top. A cupcake that’s hard to beat.

Chocolate gluten free – the coffee choc flavour here was rich but not overpowering.

Apple, maple and pecan with maple icing and toffee shards – this one was good but not as special as the others, though I did like the toffee shards.

Chocolate with chocolate fudge icing - went down very well with extra points for the pretty glitter and choc-mint stick.

I bought a matching doggie cupcake from the stall next door but the dog was too busy woofing it down to give me any comments.

Mini cupcakes start from $2 each with a minimum order of two dozen of one flavour. Large cupcakes start from $4 each with a minimum order of one dozen of one flavour.

Bottom line: Some of these cupcakes are exceptional.

Tabitha's Place
at the Boutique Markets- Portside Wharf Hamilton on the second Sunday of each month 8am- 1pm or call 3630 0097.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

New Trad British Fish & Chip Shop on Brisbane Bayside

They are billing it as the most southerly, truly authentic, British Fish & Chip shop in the world and it’s due to open in October on Brisbane’s bayside just two minutes from the sea front.

The owners of Chumley Warner's Traditional British Fish & Chip Shop say they will be the only people in the whole of Australia selling North Atlantic Cod, Haddock, Plaice and Scampi.

All their key ingredients will be brought in from the UK including the batter mix, mushy peas, curry sauce and gravy. The chips will be fresh cut chip and the frying range has been made in Birmingham and is being shipped as their preferred style doesn't currently exist in Australia.

The café has seating for 30 and offers a range of traditional British foods including Chunky Steak & Guinness Pie, Cheese & Onion Pattie, Battered Sausage, Battered Haggis, Battered White Pudding, Battered Black Pudding and Cornish Pasties. All the sausages, pies, pasties, haggis, black and white pudding are handmade by artisan British Craftsmen to traditional British recipes.

You can add a dash of Daddies Tomato Sauce, Daddies Brown Sauce or Chip Shop Vinegar. Finish off with a Deep Fried British Mars Bar. The calorie count is scary.

Chumley Warner's Traditional British Fish Chips.
Aquatic Paradise Centre
Shop 8, 190 Birkdale Road Birkdale, 3822 7787

Queensland's best awarded

Last night 39 winners were announced at the 2009 Restaurant & Catering Queensland HOSTPLUS State Awards for Excellence at a dinner at Hillstone St Lucia.

The supreme Restaurant of the Year title belongs to Philip Johnson’s Brisbane Restaurant E’cco Bistro. E’cco was also named Queensland’s Best Contemporary Australian Restaurant.


Michel Flores from Townsville was honoured for his contribution to the industry and presented with the 2009 Queensland Lifetime Achiever Award.

So who were the winners?
  • Brisbane’s Mons Ban Sabai Thai Garden Restaurant, Queensland’s Best BYO Restaurant and Best Thai Restaurant.
  • Best Seafood Restaurant with Lure Seafood Restaurant at The Coro (Milton), 
  • Best Pizza Restaurant with Sugo Mi (Bulimba), 
  • Best European Restaurant, C’est Bon (Woolloongabba), 
  • Best Coffee Shop/ Tea Room, High Societea (Clayfield), 
  • Best Café Restaurant, Boroughs Café Wine Bar ( Sandgate), 
  • Best Chinese Restaurant, Enjoy Inn (Fortitude Valley) 
  • Best Italian Restaurant , Bar Alto (New Farm) and 
  • Best Fine Dining Restaurant, Gianni’s Restaurant (CBD). 
  • Brisbane Restaurateur John Kilroy’s new Jellyfish Restaurant (CBD) picked up both Best New and Best Specialty Cuisine Restaurant while Cha Cha Char (CBD) regained its title as Queensland’s Best Steak Restaurant. 
On the Sunshine Coast

On the Gold Coast


Nu Nu Restaurant (Palm Cove) was awarded Queensland’s Best Breakfast Restaurant; The Beach House (Hamilton Island) was awarded Best Tourism Restaurant whilst Capers at the Beach Bar/Grill (Airlie Beach) won Best Professional Development under 100 Staff.

Best Restaurant in a Winery went to Sirromet Winery - Restaurant Lurleens.

The crowned winners from Queensland will now compete in the Restaurant & Catering Savour Australia National Awards for Excellence to be hosted in Canberra. The prestigious national awards evening will be held on the 19th of October and the winners will be announced at a presentation dinner at Parliament House.

Monday, 14 September 2009

River Canteen closes for South Bank development

South Bank’s River Canteen will close its doors in December after more than 17 years of operation.

The  Queenslander-style building which houses the restaurant will demolished to make for a new South Bank Corporation development. It's unclear at this stage whether riverside dining will form part of the redevelopment.


I've dined at River Canteen many times over the years and always been impressed by the food and service.  There are too few opportunities to dine on the river and I hope the South Bank Corporation keeps this option available for diners.  Somehow I suspect they have a bigger agenda.

Restaurant owner David Carter said he hoped to relocate the restaurant sometime in 2010. The final night of trade will be on New Year’s Eve.

While he would not rule out a return to the redeveloped South Bank precinct, Mr Carter said he was exploring a number of options – including the CBD. The closure was a factor driving the launch of River Canteen’s corporate catering arm.

River Canteen  p 3846 1880


New restaurant opening at Twin Waters

Update:
Isles Restaurant has opened at 175 Ocean Drive, Twin Waters p 07 5450 705


Highly regarded Brisbane chef Gary Farrell, will open his first restaurant at Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast in November.

The 120 seat modern restaurant will have a focus on British influenced dishes showcasing traditional recipes that have morphed into modern Australian fare.

He's looking forward to having considerable creative flexibility. Having enjoyed some of his previous efforts and been fascinated by dining in the dark at the Walnut Room at Royal on the Park, I'm looking forward to tasting his new direction.

Gary has worked in some of the best restaurants and hotels in Australia and the United Kingdom and was youngest recipient of the prestigious Australian “Black Hat” award.

The restaurant will called ‘Isles’ (as in British and Irish Isles) and will operate seven days a week.

Weekend getaway - Cafe Fest in Launceston

As a coffee lover I couldn't resist the idea of this weekend which combines coffee with the undoubted delights of Launceston, Tasmania.

If you are not familiar with what Launceston offers, check out James Halliday's list of Launceston wineries in The Weekend Australian Magazine September 12 -13. Names like Pipers Brook, Jansz and Bay of Fires sound familiar?

Launceston’s inaugural ‘Café Fest’ is scheduled for 3 October. The centre of Launceston will become a showcase of the city’s celebrated café culture with coffee inspired fashion shows, a latte art competition (featuring the world latte-art champion), street theatre, international tea and coffee stalls, a historical coffee lovers tour, chocolate face-painting, chocolate and coffee cooking workshops and demos all part of the celebration - plus, local baristas will be brewing up coffees for only $1! There is also a chance to win a home coffee maker valued at $1200 simply by voting for your favourite café.

Need somewhere to stay? Mercure is offering packages from $159 per night including overnight accommodation in a superior queen room and breakfast for two – plus complimentary offerings from their Pure Pleasures range of premium brewed coffee and hot chocolate. Or if you’re all ‘coffee-d’ out, try the ‘Blooming Tea’ for two - a careful fusion of exquisite herbal flowers and whole white tea leaves.

More information: Mercure Café Fest 03 6333 9999 or visit www.mercurelaunceston.com.au

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Portside Markets

It's all happening at Portside this week with their monthly Boutique Market scheduled for this Sunday (September 13) from 8am - 1pm. The market showcases the work of more than 50 south east Queensland based stallholders including artists, designers, stylists, crafters and artisans.
Best of all it's dog friendly. There are a couple of stand out stalls for dog lovers including Puppy Love with stylish gear for four footed pals and Pret a Pawte who create pet collars and accessories using funky fabrics and trims. 

You probably have to be small, white and fluffy to appreciate these according to my boy who is a really tough corgi (no comments about short legs pleeese!).

Friday, 11 September 2009

Search for the best brekkie - James Street Bistro



James Street Bistro is conveniently located in James Street which is a great spot for all types of activities. There's the James Street Market which has a superb range of food stuffs, several great restaurants and bars and the cinema which has a predilection for art house movies.

Around the corner is a new perfume shop, Libertine Parfumerie, which definitely worth a look. And keep your eyes on the revamp just around the corner as there are some exciting shops opening there.

James Street Bistro is an open air casual place with lots of seating. The breakfast menu is varied and I was tempted to stray but stuck with my theme - two eggs, bacon and tomato. And it was good! The free range eggs had bright yellow yolks, and the slow roasted tomato was full of flavour, and there was plenty of bacon - yay! Turkish bread was a nice twist and those little black seeds (I think coriander rather than the traditional nigella) added another flavour dimension. All for $13.90.

There are a lot of extra options on the build your own breakfast menu for $3 - $4 including cheese kranskys,
hash browns, grilled mushrooms, house beans slow braised and bubble and squeak

Sensible but boring people might choose the spiced fruit toast with butter $7 or the banana and date bread with spiced ricotta $8.90.

Other interesting option would be the breakfast burrito with roasted ham, avocado, spinach, onion, salsa and egg $16.90, or deluxe bacon and egg sandwich $14.90.

I found the wait staff here particularly good and breakfast and coffees came quickly.

Bottom line: Good breakfast, great location, good service.

James Street Bistro
83 James Street, New Farm. 3852 5155.

James Street Bistro on Urbanspoon

Hot new Brisbane bar - alloneword

























You gotta love a bar that doesn't need to shout that it's there!

One of the things I loved about Queenstown in New Zealand was wandering the streets listening for the good bars. No signs, just a reluctant tip from a local to open the blue door. Wow, walk inside and you're in another world - the sort of place you never want to leave.

Now you can do it in Brisbane and in the skanky end of the Valley no less! Bring it on!

Look for a simple door on Brunswick Street next to the Step Inn – no red carpets, no flashing lights and sirens, no fireworks… just a door. This is what I've been told is inside - a low black cushioned ceiling, cool bar, clever lighting and further through, an incredible open, outdoor space bounded by brick walls covered in amazing stencil art. Think New York rooftop bar where you can see all the other roofs and tops of buildings, but in a private space.

Music-wise, it’s DJs playing house – classic, underground.

alloneword is a guest list venue and to jump on the list just email the owner andrew@alloneword.com.au, this will get you priority entry. Of course your friends are welcome with prior arrangement. Remember, there’s limited space only. Which is a good thing!

www.alloneword.com.au 188 brunswick st, fortitude valley

Oyster happy hour


Wilson’s Boathouse Seafood Restaurant has an Oyster Happy Hour from 4.30pm to 5.30pm every Friday during September. Indulge in a dozen Moreton Bay Rock Oysters for only $10. If you haven't tasted these sweet, local gems do yourself a favour and get down there.  
They are not the biggest oysters around but they capture the freshness of the Moreton Bay waters.  Remember those days on the beach at Moreton? Tobogganing down the sand hills, snorkelling around the wrecks, swimming in the lakes and climbing up to the lighthouse? Ah, memories.

Wilson’s Boathouse Seafood Restaurant, Portside, Hamilton.
3868 4480

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Best Thai travel tips


What happens when 130 travel writers, travel public relations representatives and their partners descend on Thailand for their annual ASTW (Australian Society of  Travel Writers) conference?

Well lots of talking and drinking for a start but also a good exploration of what Thailand has to offer. Thanks to Thai Airways  for getting us all there efficiently and comfortably and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for organising a great showcase of Thailand.

After a few days conferencing in Bangkok we spread from one end of the country to the other. Judging by the rapturous ravings post conference on Facebook, everyone had a really outstanding time.

Here are some tips from seasoned travel writers and travel PRs for making the most of your Thailand travel experience.

A very good but not cheap tailor is World Garments at 1302 New Rd - between the river end of Silom and the Oriental. Can have a suit in two days but need to allow time for an intermediate fitting. See Mrs Keng. David McGonigal

When booking on guest house websites - take all the info given with a grain of salt - we found pics were way better than the actual rooms and some claims of restaurants and bars were wrong.  
Jodi Clark

Mix up your transport. Take a tuk tuk for the wild ride but make sure you have sufficient energy to barter hard and then sufficient energy to avoid being taken to his auntie's jewellery store or his uncle's knocking shop. Then take shanks pony (that's olden day talk for walking). Brave the streets then compare the airbrushed experience of a walk under Skytrain, where the hustle-bustle goes down a notch. Then catch a metered taxi. Make the driver put the meter on. Insist. It'll save you many, many baht. You'll also be able to put pink Corolla on your life CV. Then ignore the journey and make for a destination: Skytrain is ludicrously efficient. And so's the underground. Use these simple, hassle-free transports to recharge your batteries then go all tuk tuk again. Fail to do these simple things and you risk being overwhelmed by Bangkok and its 11 million.
David Scott

Try stir-fried morning glory – it’s delicious, particularly when paired with a Singha beer. If you’re staying around Siam Square and Patumwan, take a map and walk to the many nearby shopping centres (MBK, Siam Paragon, Central World). A Skywalk is available. Don’t forget to pack your smile and wear it – this is the Land of Smiles, after all.
Kara Murphy 
Carry a pocket full of local sweets to give to any children trying to sell you tissues or lighters while you dine. Giving them a lolly makes their day - they are kids after all! After a massage, pay the owner of the salon then give at least a 10 per cent tip to your masseur.
Jo Hegerty


Pullman Bangkok is the place to go for one of the best wine lists in Bangkok without paying the earth (which is what we've come to expect with wine in Bangkok and Thailand for that matter). The Pullman's 'Wine Pub' is a great concept because it's neither wine bar or pub but its a bit of both and they mark down the wines (international wine list including French) considerably. Accommodation is excellent as well and the pool is to die for!
Yvette Peverall


It usually works out cheaper to take an airconditioned taxi than a tu-tuk. eg from our hotel, the Chao Phya Park Hotel, to Khao San Rd it cost us about 120 baht. David did the same trip by tuk-tuk and it cost him 300 baht!
For live music - forget the hip-hop and doggy 80s cover bands - and head to a blues/jazz bar. Adhere 13 - 13 Samsen Road , Watsampraya Pranakron, is the best in the business.
Kerry Van Der Jagt 

The Lumphini Night Market in Bangkok was well worth a visit. We went via the underground rail system which was easy to decipher and very efficient.  The market was full of local colour and great bargains. Everything from fake designer undies and Tiffany to fish that eat the dead skin off your feet - yes, really! Another good place for shopping is the MBK Centre which also has the advantage of airconditioning.  Everything is here from massages, clothes and shoes to a full food court. Quicker to walk or train it as the traffic can be legendary.
Kerry Heaney

Here are some of my favourite Thai water scenes

From top:
Beach at Silavadee Pool Spa Resort, Koh Samui. Great place to stay. Very helpful Australian manager Luke.



Ang Thong National Marine Park - some of the 40 islands with stunning rock formations, coral reefs for snorkelling, great beaches for sunbathing, rock caves - has it all really!






Looking towards Ang Thong National Marine Park from Baan Taling Ngam Resort and Spa, Taling Ngam Beach, Koh Samui.  Exceptional views from all rooms.  Set high on a cliff overlooking the beach with beach access as well.
 























Koh Nanh Yuan - a delightful swimming spot where the fish came right up to us. Excellent snorkelling earlier at Koh Tao which was equal, if not better, than what I've experienced on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Beach at Bandara Resort, Samui

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Search for the perfect cupcake - Saabi



Here's a tip from a reader who came across the search for the perfect cupcake on the Ourbrisbane site and has joined the noble cause.

On the weekend Dianne went to a relatively new cafe in Albion called Saabi on Manson.It's named after the owners' dog.

Saabi is set in a suburban street and is surrounded by lovely old Queenslanders. A friend took her there for a father's day brunch.


 
Dianne managed to take a photo of this luscious cupcake before her four-year-old stuck his finger into its icing. The owners make all of the cakes.

116 Manson Rd, Hendra. Ph: 3113 3636.

Search for the perfect cupcake - Milkbar, Asgrove

Milkbar is the latest addition to the dining scene at Ashgrove in Brisbane's inner west.

Located at the front of the new Woolworth's building, it has a bright, cheery yellow interior with plenty of seating and even more seating outdoors.  The outdoor area will require some serious shade protection as summer approaches but owners Amanda and John Scott are on to it. There's plenty of parking underneath.

You  may have met Amanda and John before when they were at the helm of the much loved Continental Cafe at New Farm.

This new operation is styled like an old fashioned milk bar but with an update which notably includes the flavour of the moment - cupcakes.

Amanda has even designed and imported her own stylish cupcake carriers.

Now to the serious business.Amanda has gathered a team of cupcake makers and currently has four different suppliers so the cupcake styles are quite varied.



They are all the usual cupcake size and range in price from $3.50 to $4.50.  On Fridays there are some mini cupcakes as well.

The pretty pink and white cupcakes are her best seller and it's easy to see why.  They look very attractive with a cherry and choc stick and live up to the promise when you bite in.  It's a light but tasty sponge cake with thick creamy icing - a traditional style cupcake.

The moist poppy cake with a tangy creamy lemon icing is another flavour hit as is the carrot cake which is light and just appropriately carroty!

Although it looks like a cupcake, the gingerbread with honeycomb on top does not really fit the description. However certainly don't let that put you off.  It's light, like a sticky date pud without the dates, with real cream piled in the middle and shards of choc honey comb on top. Very sweet and very delicious but you would have to be brave to do more than one. Please someone remind me of that next time I am tempted!

Keep an eye on Milkbar in coming weeks as new chef Lee Gibbs joins the team. Lee is ex Pamela's Pantry and Jocelyn's Provisions.

Bottom line: These are very good cupcakes. Milkbar is worth a visit.

Milkbar is open 7.30am to 6.30pm seven days a week.

Find it at 16 Ashgrove Avenue, Windsor. p 3366 2007

Milk on Urbanspoon

Monday, 7 September 2009

Food and wine weekend

This looks like a good way to spend a weekend!

The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa will hold its first Food & Wine Weekend on November 20 and 21 with special guests Philip Johnson of Brisbane’s e’cco bistro, Justin Telfer from Bangalow Cheese Company and Mary Jeanne Hutchinson from New Zealand’s multi award winning Craggy Range Winery.

I've had many outstanding meals at e'cco which is reliably good. Several of Philip's cookbooks line my bookshelves but I'm more inclined just to take the back seat and let him do the cooking.

And this is a beautiful part of the world. If you go, do make the time to explore away from the resort. There are plenty of interesting food options including tropical fruit farms and local coffee growers. Some of the small local pubs are a snap shot of Australian history, well worth a pot.

The price is a hefty $989 Single Share/ $1,328.Twin Share but the list of inclusions - wine, workshops, breakfasts, dinner and accommodation - is long and well worth checking out. Call 1300 554 362 or visit www.thebyronatbyron.com.au

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Thailand - Samui airport


This is a one off blog as I can't imagine I'm ever going to say this again – I'm was really pleasantly surprised by an airport!

I'm going to tell you that they had free drink and food in the public lounge and toe tapping music playing. And, you are not going to believe this, there were comfortable seats, and plenty of them.

Despite the fact that I was heading home after a wonderful but all too short stay on a tropical island, it was a really a pleasant place to be. If I had more time I would have explored what seemed like endless shopping opportunities as I walked down to the gate.

So it really came as no surprise when I discovered Samui Airport has been announced in the world’s top ten in the “Best Airports Worldwide” category for the fourth consecutive year in an annual “Best Asian Travel Brand 2009” poll surveyed by one of Asia’s forefront online travel magazine, Smart Travel Asia.

Samui Airport, the only regional airport on the list, sees over 6 million passengers and more than 15,000 flights per year mainly by Bangkok Airways and other airlines such as Thai Airways International. Samui Airport serves domestic and international direct flights to and from Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Pattaya (U-Tapao), Krabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

Bottom line: Obviously an airport is only a small part of the travel experience but this one shows just how much better it could be. Yes, there is an alternative to grey walls, endless rows of stained, hard seats and expensive, tasteless food.
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