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Search for the perfect cupcake -Top 5 in 2009

Officially I’ve been searching for the perfect cupcake for six months now. I’ve taken this job seriously and the search has continued throughout Brisbane, Sunshine and Gold Coasts, Melbourne, Thailand and Bali.

Reviewing my finds for 2009, I’m surprised where I haven’t been and these will go to the top of my 2010 list. Can’t quite believe I haven’t actually blogged Poppy Cakes. I will be looking forward to that visit as these are amongst the best I have eaten – however since they have not been blogged they can’t be in this year’s list. I also must sample cupcakes from The Shingle Inn, The Welsh Lady and The Cupcake Parlour.

Like most things, the quality of the cupcakes around varies greatly and price is not always an indicator. I’ve paid $2.90 for a cupcake (Duke’s Deli, Sunshine Beach)and been pleased by the value. Equally I’ve paid $4.50 and been very disappointed.

I’d advise anyone against buying a cupcake on the weekend unless you ask when it was baked. I’ve found too many plac…

Search for the perfect brekkie - Chelsea, The Barracks

The Chelsea at The Barracks on Petrie Terrace has become a bit of a frequent stop for me. It's so convenient, the coffee is good, service professional and the menu has plenty to offer. You'll find it around the corner a bit - look for tables out the the shade or under umbrellas.  There's also plenty of seating inside.

I was over my standard bacon and two eggs this morning and just liked the sound of  Bubble and squeak.  I wasn't disappointed - the eggs were nicely poached, the toast crisp and the vegetable melange well flavoured.

However when my partner offered me a taste of his Poached pear on french toasted brioche with blueberry curd and ricotta, the world stopped! This is a show stopping combination - the blueberry curd is so rich and thick it looks like chocolate and tastes divine. Combined with the french toasted brioche, ricotta and pear - well the effect is amazing.  Chelsea chef Michael Hoare says the dish is a little fiddly but well worth the trouble and I ha…

All I want for Christmas - more Panettone

I'm a late starter in the Panettone stakes having only discovered this delicious cake in recent years.  It's so light I love it as an alternative to a traditional fruit Christmas cake, but that doesn't mean I'm going to miss out on that either.

Evidently it was devised by a 15th century nobleman who wanted to win over the daughter of a poor baker, so he invented a rich bread and added eggs, dried raisins, candied lemon and orange peel.  (Flowers and wine work for me, Honey!)

It's great with champagne, with coffee and also dipped into a latte.

Should you be silly enough to have some of this delicious cake left over - here are some recipes
Jamie Oliver's Panettonne pudding
Panettone Summer Pudding
Chocolate Ricotta Panettone Pudding

If you like to be local, buy your Panettone fresh from CIBO Espresso. Look impressive in gift boxes and sell for $25. Find CIBO Espresso
Or pick one up on sale after Christmas and use it in the recipes above - delish!


Search for the perfect cupcake - JudyC's Christmas cupcakes

Okay - I know I'm in danger of overdosing on JudyC cupcakes but these ones are special.

Remember standing beside your mother as she made the Christmas cake or pudding and waiting to lick the spoon or better still - the bowl?  These cupcakes capture that and more.  They are the essence and flavour of Christmas wrapped up in one little package with the twist of chai latte icing.

The moist cake is spiced with cardamon and mixed spice and dotted with currants.  The icing is very buttery and has the crunch of silver cornicons on top.  Yum.

Find them at JudyC's Ashgrove shop at 1/227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove +61 7 3366 9111 or at Coffee Hit, opening on Saturday at 100 Adelaide Street in the new King George Square area.


All I want for Christmas - a Turducken

WTF is a Turducken? 

I first heard about this Thanksgiving alternative that has long enjoyed popularity in the Deep South of the United States when a Brisbane chef mentioned it on his Christmas wish list.  He was suggesting someone else prepare it for him.

A Turducken is a chicken, stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey – now wouldn’t that make a splash on the Christmas table – move over plain old turkey, ham legs and chicken – you’ve got competition.

If you’d like to make your own here’s a Youtube link

If, like me, you like an easier life, the good news is that Zone Fresh are making them to order following customer demand.

Zone Fresh director Sam Mangano describes it as ‘a guaranteed crowd pleaser’.

Despite the sheer volume of meat, turduckens still contain a significant amount of seasoned stuffing and dressing, so cooking time can stretch to six or seven hours depending on size.

You can braise, roast, grill or barbeque your turducken and a meat
thermometer will help you wo…

All I want for Christmas - Dinner with Rick Stein

If you are a Rick Stein fan, this March jaunt at Bannisters boutique hotel on the NSW South Coast could be irresistible.

A small group will be able to eat, cook and play with Rick and G & L's Stuart Gregor who will match Tapanappa wines to Rick's seafood-rich menu on  March 10 and 11 2010.

It’s a two night package deal with dinners, cooking demos, a wine class and massage (not together!)

Rick Stein at Bannisters recently received 16/20 from Terry Durack of the Sydney Morning Herald.

This is the first time Rick will host a group at Bannisters and one of a few getaways he will host anywhere around the world in 2010. Who needs to go to Padstow, UK when you can head to Mollymook just three hours south of Sydney?

More information: Gregor & Lewis +61 7 5447 4666 or melindagregor@gregorlewis.com.au

All I want for Christmas - Farmer's market goodies

I'm a big fan of farmer's markets. There's something about buying from the source, seeing who's made or grown the product and having a little chat while making a purchase. I don't think I take too long doing this but my partner and daughter may beg to differ.

Plus there's always the excitement of the unknown - the new products, the seasonal changes and the simply must-haves.

This year I'll be stocking up my pantry, fridge and gift baskets for Christmas, with some select items from Jan Power's Powerhouse Farmers Markets. It's an old fave and I love that I can take my corgi with me for the morning outing and he can sniff up with the other dogs in the adjacent dog park.

What's on my list?

Suckling Pig Ham

German small goods specialists Chriberg have legs of suckling pig ham this year. Smaller than standard hams, they are sweet and tender, triple smoked over imported German wood chips at $22.50 a kilo.

Twist ‘n’ Roll Macaroons de Paris

One bite of…

Search for the perfect cupcake - Casa Gourmet

Lately, when I'm not dreaming of vibrant Bali sunsets viewed with a cocktail in hand, my mind turns to the delicious cupcakes I found at Casa Gourmet in Seminak Square, Seminak, Bali.

Walking into Casa Gourmet was like waking up in Oliver & Co or Zone Fresh in Bali. It is a very western style food market with everything from bread and meat to seafood and pantry staples.  For locals in need of a friendly food fix, when nothing but the old familiar will do, it would be heaven.

But it also had some nice style features that anyone could take on board to increase their dining experience offer. This included a little cup of small savoury shape biscuits in a cute Burbury paper container and also small shot glass of jasmine tea to follow my coffee.




The chocolate cupcake was flavoursome and moist with a hard, very choc icing decorated with Christmas sprinkles. All for the cost of 8500 rupiah or about 90 cents. The coffee was Black Canyon and good.  They also had an extensive juice menu…

All I want for Xmas- A massage from Ripple

Got someone difficult on your Christmas list? Chances are they would love a massage and even better, a massage that comes to them.

I also think a massage is a great pre holiday or post holiday present, particularly for those who fly. Airports and plane travel can quickly take the gloss off even the most wonderful trip. A massage restores energy to body parts that cramped by small seats and inactivity.

While I love any massage, putting clothes back onto an oiled body and walking through a shopping centre does take away some of the shine - much better to slip into something comfortable and relax in your own home.

That’s why I like Ripple Massages. The therapist comes to your home, hotel room or where ever and brings her own table. I’ve sampled many of the massages and even enjoyed a pedicure and manicure – delish – but I did especially enjoy a recent sea shell massage.

Ripple founder Alison Shaw has the tough job of tracking down new massages. She’s the one who discovered choc…

All I want for Xmas - Hilton Brisbane Masterclass Voucher

Some people are easier that others to buy for at Christmas and I can't think of a better present for a foodie than a voucher to the 2010 Hilton Brisbane Masterclass Weekend!

Held over 24 and 25 July 2010 the event, organised by fabulous foodie Alison Alexander, is sure to have another knock out program. Established in 1995, previous line ups have included chefs and winemakers including Antonio Carluccio, Gordon Ramsay, Michel Richard, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Michel Roux and many more. With 20 sessions each day there is plenty of choice.

Buy your voucher before January 11 and you'll get 15 percent off as well!

www.qldmasterclass.com

Search for the perfect cupcake - Christmas cupcakes

I found these Christmas cupcakes at Michel's Patisserie at Indooroopilly Shoppingtown but would guess that they are available at other Michel Patisserie outlets across town.

They are a basic sponge cake with a soft white icing and hard sugar decoration.  The cake is fairly tasty for the price of $2.50.  I wouldn't call them gourmet but I was pleasantly surprised.

Bottom line: value for the price.

Search for the best brekkie – Café San Marco

If you are looking for a breakfast with a river view, it’s hard to go past Café San Marco on the board walk at Southbank.

It’s a bit of a South Bank institution, having been opening its doors for more than 15 years.

Located a little upstream from Southbank’s famous beach and just across from the CityCat stop, this café has outstanding views across, up and down the river.  We sat on the outdoor terrace and watched a parade of craft, from jet skis to ferries, work their way up the river. The passing parade of people jogging, cycling and strolling showed just how well loved this part of Brisbane is.

A CityCat would be the perfect way to arrive here plus you’d avoid paying South Bank parking fees, although we managed to find street parking for just $4.


We were here for breakfast, but the house specialty is seafood.  Their special Sunday offer of Moreton Bay Bugs and champagne for two persons @ $45 each would be worth checking out.

Today’s breakfast was also on the specials list and include…

Search for the perfect cupcake - Vampire Cupcakes at Cafe Le Net

If you don't understand all the fuss about New Moon or think Twilight is just a time of day your @nowhere.com

Lift your street cred with a quick trip to the movies to catch the latest vampire flick and satisfy those unnatural cravings with a vampire cupcake from Cafe Le Net at Indooroopilly Shoppingtown made by the lovely Lisa Magnus, priced at $3.50.

Like the movie, these cupcakes have a soft marshmallow exterior icing with the touch of otherworld fangs. Bite in deeply and you'll discover a luscious red berry centre hidden in the moist sponge cake.

Bottom line:  good cupcakes with a red twist (probably better than the movie)

Find them at Cafe Le Net next to the cinemas at Indooroopilly Shoppingtown, 318 Moggill Rd
Indooroopilly. +61 7 3878 1679

Hunter Valley Chateau with style

I lunched at 1889 Enoteca in that quirky top end of Logan Road at Wooloongabba last week and the meal was outstanding. However the credit goes this time to Executive Chef of the yet-to-open Château Élan at The Vintage, Tony Maher.

Set in the Hunter Valley, Château Élan is a new, five-star golf and spa resort opening in February 2010.

And if I wasn’t sold on features like special menus to entice teenagers, sky walk ways that provide a less public way of entering and leaving the spa, and beds that move at the flick of switch, I would go for the food alone.

Tony whipped up two courses that had everyone at the long table in the Enoteca cellar commenting on the flavour. Generously, he is sharing the recipes (see below) so do give them a try. I was most impressed.

The $30m development, just two hours north of Sydney, has been co-conceived by the group behind the prestige Château Élan brand in Atlanta, Georgia.

Offering luxury retreats for up to 200 guests, the resort comprises a new ‘Des…

Beaujolais Nouveau Day at Belle Epoque

It is the law…French law. Corks will pop, snails will race, music will sound and French cuisine will be plentiful when Brisbane’s Belle Epoque French Bistro at Emporium stages a celebration for Beaujolais Nouveau Day. 
Each year the new Beaujolais is ceremoniously released on the third Thursday of November, beginning one of the most frivolous and animated rituals in the wine world.

Thanks to fine tuned logistical precision planning, Brisbane’s Belle Epoque French Bistro has 11 cases (132 bottles) of Beaujolais Nouveau winging their way from Paris at exactly one minute past midnight on 19 November to arrive less than 33 hours later in time for the venue’s own Beaujolais Nouveau uncorking celebrations - "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!".

The party on November 20 from will feature free flowing Beaujolais Nouveau available from multiple bars plus food stations dishing up Black Pearl cheese and charcuterie, freshly shucked oysters and other seafood along with a patisserie stati…

Read this and weep

Read this and weep! 

Bar Barossa’s Triple Treat Dinner with Hutton Vale, Radford & Spinifex is on tonight and fully booked says Darren Davis. And at $90 per person that’s no surprise.

Here’s the menu -
Freshly shucked Coffin Bay Oysters with lime & lemon
Fresh local Prawns
2008 HuttonValeEdenValley Riesling
2008 RadfordEdenValley Riesling

Salt & pepper Quail on shaved cucumber and watercress salad with Barambah yoghurt
dressing
2009 Spinifex Barossa Grenache Cinsault Mataro Rosé
2009 SpinifexLuxeBarossaValleyMataro Grenache Noir Shiraz Grenache Gris Rosé

Kassler (smoked Pork loin) on baby potatoes with sauerkraut, Dutch carrots, baby balsamic
onions & jus
2008 Spinifex Barossa Papillon Grenache Cinsault MataroShiraz
2007 Spinifex Barossa Taureau Tempranillo Carignan Cabernet Sauvignon Graciano

Braised lamb shank pie with Careme sour cream pastry on potato mash with green
pea puree and shiraz jus
2005 HuttonValeEdenValley Grenache Mataro
2006 HuttonValeEdenValley Cabernet Sauvignon

Baros…

Search for the perfect cupcake - Mountain Larder Deli

A yen for a bike ride saw us heading to Mt Tamborine on Sunday.  It was a great morning with blue skies although a little hot.

Find for the day was the newly opened Mountain Larder Deli owned by ex chef Michael Taylor. Although eating options are plentiful on what's known as 'Gallery Walk' on Tamborine, there are few places where you can put together your own meal to take out and enjoy in the the wonderful World Heritage listed surrounds.

Mountain Larder Deli has got it sewn up with a great range of meats, cheeses, sandwiches, wraps and other speciality foods. Michael really knows his cheeses and his range includes imported items you won't find elsewhere. He's happy to offer a taste as well.

I'd love to go back when I have an esky to try some of the locally cured bacon. Yum.

Another great idea of Michael's is the picnic packs that he has available for hire for the day or free with food purchased from The Mountain Larder.  I would certainly go one of those f…

FBI expands hospitality

Sometimes it’s all about who you know and a great example of the power of connections is FBI, the Queensland Food and Beverage Industry (QLD FBI).

QLD FBI is an independent organisation created by chef, restaurateur, business owner and industry identity, Martin Duncan. It aims to provide opportunities for like-minded professionals and encourage beneficial business relationships. The organisation generates events within the Brisbane and Sunshine Coast regions which provide attendees the opportunity to get together, meet, network, share information and resources in a relaxed, fun environment.

The ongoing philosophy of the QLD FBI is that strong industry relationships encourage professionalism and stability which provides longevity for businesses. Great things can happen over a beverage and conversation.

I've attended many FBI events and can only agree that the sharing and contacts have been more than worthwhile.  Many of my media colleagues also attend.

Martin Duncan is relaunching …

Low stress cocktails

I’m the sort that likes to keep options open, so friends dropping in for a drink or a sudden urge to picnic at the beach are often on my agenda.  That’s one of the reasons why I’m liking these new cocktails from Smirnoff.

Die hards will say they are not as good as the real thing, but given that they take a fraction of the time, I’m prepared to compromise (and it’s not much of an ask).

With one or all three of these bottles in the fridge, I am ready for a Friday night drink on Monday or Tuesday or Sunday.

I reckon I could hide the bottle and impress some of my friends with my cocktail making ability as well.


There are three flavours:
Vodka Mojito –a  blend of Smirnoff Vodka, Kaffir Lime Liquor and natural mint flavour.(my fave)
Grand Cosmopolitan  -Smirnoff Vodka, Triple Sec Liquor and a splash of cranberry juice.
Pomegranate Martini - Smirnoff Vodka, pomegranate juice, Meyer Lemon Flavoured Liqueur, and natural lemon flavour.

Here are some comments from my testing panel of seasoned…

Search for the best brekkie - Seafood Lovers Cafe, Margate

It sounds a bit silly to send you to a seafood cafe for bacon and eggs, but I can tell you it's worth it.  

This place is a little gem with well priced food and great ocean views. At $9 for a 'big brekkie' I was not expecting the world, but when it arrived I was amazed at how much there was on the plate.  A little inspection showed that careful arrangement created the illusion of abundance and there was no more food than normal, but it certainly was good value for the price.  My only criticism is that they used cheap margarine on the toast instead of butter or something that tasted like butter, and the sausage - not my sorta thing at all. The rest of the meal was great and the views, despite the cloudy, sometimes rainy day, were of the sandy shore of Moreton Bay. 






For the uninitiated, Margate is near Redcliffe, about 50 minutes' drive from the centre of Brisbane. It is a coastal strip which features one of Moreton Bay's longest mainland stretches of sand beach. It a…

Best burgers - Freestyle Tout

On a recent visit to Freestyle Tout I discovered their Freestyle burger special which includes a gourmet burger, chippies, alioli and a beer - all for $15. If you don't want the beer, you can have a soft drink instead.
I loved the burger and the chippies (I am something of an expert on chippies) were just as I like them - crisp, hot and not at all fatty.

Freestyle's menu has quite a few things I would like to try including Chilli salt calamari served on an Asian style salad $18.90 and a Peking Duck Salad with watercress and bean sprout salad $17.90.

If you have a late start on the weekend but still crave a real brekkie - Freestyle Tout at Emporium and West End do all day breakfast from 9am on weekends. There's nothing more disappointing than being unable to get a bacon fix when you need it - thumbs up to all day brekkie!

Of course Freestyle is best known for it's desserts. I've tasted many of them but my favourite is the chocolate macadamia brownie which comes…

Search for the perfect cupcake - Dukes Deli

My eagle eye spotted this cupcake while I was shopping for lunch on Sunday at beautiful Sunshine Beach, just south of Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.

This area is the world's best kept secret. Great coffee shop, great deli, several very good restaurants and a welcoming bar all in one strip of shops in Duke Street.

If you feel adventurous, just wander down the road a bit to the Surf Life Saving Club for above standard club food and views to die for.  On Sunday arvos there's even great live music.

But back to the really important stuff - the cupcakes!  The cabinet included both small and large cupcakes and they were well priced - just $2.90 for a large one.  From experience, I was not expecting much at that price and was very pleasantly surprised.  The cake was moist and flavoursome, despite coming from a cold cabinet, and the icing was shiny, hard and sweet - like royal icing. There was a jaffa on top and a touch of yummy chocolate under the jaffa.  

Bottom line - A good cupcake…

Belle Époque Duck Liver Parfait

This Duck Liver Parfait recipe from new Belle Époque Head Chef Trent Robson could be just the thing for the silly season when we tend to do rash things like entertaining large crowds of people. It would be perfect served with condiments like confit onion, cornichons and warm French bread.

Well travelled, Trent has spent time at The Firestables in Wimbeldon Village, UK and also at Kew Gardens working at two-Michelin-starred restaurants, The Glasshouse and The Trompette under Chef Antony Boyd. Trent won several Gourmet Traveller red stars at establishments like Double Cream in Coorparoo and Luxe on James St and then went out on his own at Noi on Brunswick St; a tapas and wine bar, before becoming Executive Chef at Pier Nine. In 2009, Trent put his stamp on 1889 Enoteca creating some innovative Italian cuisine. He now calls the French Bistro Belle Epoque home, where he creates authentic, inventive French bistro food.

Duck Liver Parfait
Makes 2 large terrines

2kg duck livers cleaned
¼ bun…

Play and stay

If you are planning a big night in the Valley tonight but have a Cinderella side, The Limes is the place to be at midnight.

Guests on their roof top bar until closing time at midnight can stay the night at for $99 – the price of a nice bottle of wine or a CBD parking fine.

Guests and Cinderellas must visit the front desk in person at midnight to make their booking which is dependent on room availability.

It's another of the quirky differences on offer at Limes. (I'd be tempted to stay the night just to eat the Dello Mano brownies on offer in the rooms.)

You also get to wake up in plush ‘Ploh’ beds and breakfast under blue skies on the rooftop – all inclusive.

I've enjoyed the roof top ambience of the Limes several times and can report that lounging under the cabana is an enjoyable way to pass the time - especially with a few hot chippies (the food kind). When it rains they drap the cabanas with tarps and it's just like having your own cubby house again - true!

Thi…

What are you doing for Christmas - Kingfisher Bay

Kingfisher Bay on Fraser Island is another of my top spots to stay. I've been there several times with family and just as a couple and had delightful experiences. I would highly recommend a full island tour with one of the rangers who will take you to places you never would discover on your own.

I like the idea of escaping Christmas madness and heading to an island for the silly season – if only I could take my dog. (Note to my nearest and dearest – I would take you too!)

Kingfisher’s Seabelle restaurant has a six-course Christmas menu featuring fresh produce with a bush tucker twist. Traditional turkey breast will be served with pepperberry and illawara plum stuffing, and the Christmas ham will be glazed with honey – that’s me.



There are several more casual restaurants at the resort and they are serving up local seafood amongst other menu items.

Christmas Day lunch sittings start from 11.30am. Christmas prices start from $90 per person (or $45 for children 8-14 years) and incl…