The high tea tower!

The high tea tower!

On the way out to the Blue Mountains, on a ridge overlooking a spectacular view down one of the valleys used to be an old, run down closed hotel. It has now been done up and reopened as the Hydro Majestic Hotel Рsee here.

At $400 a night for a cheap room (!!) there isn’t much chance of me persuading Matt to go and stay there, but I did get to go with my friends Mel and Karen for high tea.

The Wintergarden Room is a semi circle, with the outside of the circle all window looking out over the Mega Long Valley. I requested a table by the window and we got one which made me happy! ūüôā The window could have done with some better cleaning and surprisingly there were quite a few cobwebs on the outside, but the view was great.

In the room there was a three piece band playing relaxing background piano music which I really enjoyed, and the chairs were nice and velvety. They high tea was $55, but actually $65 becasue it was a weekend (cheeky!) For $69 you could upgrade to have a glass of sparkling wine too, and that was the same price on the weekday and weekends, so really only $4 extra. I was driving so stuck with the tea, but the others went for the wine of course!

There was a balcony outside which the waitress told us about, so we went and took some pictures out there while we waited for our drinks to come. They didn’t serve the wine until we were back at our table which was nice. There was a choice of tea (3¬†black ones and about 4 herbal ones), and coffee too. I went with Earl Grey.

On the balcony

On the balcony

After the wine I had my tea and the tea came out. It was in the traditional three tier wire stand. Because there were three of us we ended up with two of them – one for me and one with two of everything on for the others. They took up a fair bit of room on the table, so it was good when the waiter took them away and left us with just the cakes near the end!

On the bottom were two warm¬†scones, one plain and one fruit with cream and ham. The waiter suggested eating these first becasue they were warm. It seemed a bit wrong to me to have cake right before sandwiches, but I went for the plain scone as requested becasue it was nice to have them warm. The jam was fancy and tasty, although unfortunately the cream wasn’t clotted. It was something similar, but not the real deal from Devon or Cornwall!

In the middle tier were 4 crustless finger sandwiches, plus a billini with a lot of smoked salmon and a creme cheese tartlet topped with some caviar. Three of the sandwiches were white and only one was wholemeal which was a shame, but the bread was very fresh and tasty. There was a cucumber sandwich (with the cucumber cut lenghways Рis that right?!), a chicken and walnut, beef and mustard, and another meaty one I cant remember. They were all pretty tasty, and the salmon was good too, even though there was a lot of it. We did only get one knife and a spoon each so I did end up using my same knife for my salmon. I have it a good lick first to get all the cream and jam off of course, so it was OK!

And then the top layer was of course the cakes! I still had my fruit scone from the bottom, plus 4 cakes on the top which were:

  • An almond firand. This was perfectly edible but fairly unremarkable. They could have added some berries or something¬†to jazz it up.
  • A lemon tartlet. This was hands down my favourite thing on the stand. It had crisp thin pastry and a very creamy filling with lots of lemony flavour and a raspberry on the top. Very tasty indeed.
  • A salted caramel macarron, half dipped in dark chocolate so it stood up on the plate. The other tray had a lime and apple version too. The macaroon was good. Pretty sweet with a good chewy texture and nice flavour.
  • Honey panacotta with mango. I saved this until last becasue I thought it would be the tastiest thing, but unfortunately none of us really liked it. We did’t know what flavour the pancaotta was (we assumed mango from the mango on top), but it tasted quite strange. I thought it was a bit like surgical spirit, and definitely artificial. We asked the waiter who said it was honey. In the end i left half of mine as I was pretty full by then anyway!
Lemon tartlet

Lemon tartlet

By the end we were all really stuffed! I got to eat an extra lemon tart too which Karen couldn’t eat – win! ūüôā¬†We had a walk and nosey around the grounds after, and then did some sight seeing and short walks in the mountains.

Overall it was a really good experience. I particularly liked the piano music which I didn’t expect. There is some room for improvement with the food I think given the price, and they should really give you two knives and clean the windows! ¬†I would definitely go back though if anyone twisted my arm!

View out the window

View out the window

 

Messina1

When Hannah came to visit I thought it was a pretty good excuse to get around to checking out the Messina dessert bar. Messina gelato has won a lot of awards, and until recently was regarded as the¬†best gelato in Sydney, and even beat a lot of Italian ones at the annual championships (yes, they have gelato contests!) Recently the Cow and Moon at Enmore has also scooped some international prizes, so that’s next on the list to try!

The Dessert Bar is a new concept, next to the regualr gelato store in Darlinghurst. Messina have some pretty exciting flavours and about 5 or 6 new special ones on a regular basis. Apparently the idea behind the dessert bar was to get the customers more involved in creating different flavour combinations – sounds good to me!

I had a look online before we went, so got the general idea. Basically you can choose from some pre-designed combinations, or make your own from the menu board. The menu board was pretty overwhelming, with 10 different sections and a total of ¬†31 different things! You have to stand and read it too, rather than sit and peruse at your leisure. ¬†I didn’t understand why a plain cup with no ‘base’ costs the same as one with churros or pancakes etc. Maybe you get more gelato with that option.

The menu

The menu

I know I wanted Churros becaue I love them and hadn’t had them for ages. I also fancies the raspberry meringues, but it turned out they were rosewater ones. I hate rosewater, so quickly ditched that idea. I found the list too long in the end, so decided to go for the pre-designed Ay caramba! It is ‘a swirl of blood peach and toasted macadamia gelato, churros, creme anglaise, Peruvian chocolate and dulche de leche foam’.¬†

Pre-designed sundaes

Pre-designed sundaes

 

When it came out it looked pretty damn amazing! And quite like the picture too, which is always a good sign.

So, the verdict. The churros were warm, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, covered in yummy sugar and absolutely amazing. It was great they made them fresh. The dulche de leche foam was very very light and amazingly tasty and the dark chocolate went with it all really well. I couldn’t really find or taste the creme anglaise. I’m not generally a fan of soft serve ice cream, normally I find it pretty bland. Unfortunately I wasn’t convinced by the soft serve from Messina either. The blood peach flavour was definitely zesty and you could taste it, but the toasted macadamia didn’t really taste of much to me and drowned out the peach. I know they can’t have all the flavours of gelatro from their ¬†shop next door as that would definately be too many, but I think there is certainly room for improvement in the tastiness of their soft serve. A few more flavours of that would have been good to, as there were only two to choose between which didn’t seem like enough to me.

Ay caramba!

Ay caramba!

So overall i’d probably give it an 8.5/10. I would go there again and create something else, most likely still involving churros and dark chocolate, as long as they had some better soft serve flavours. Otherwise i’d probably stick with a couple of scoops of awesome gelato from next door – you can’t go wrong with that.

If you want to make your mouth water more, you can visit the website, here. 

 

Fondant Aussie animals

Fondant Aussie animals

In August we got invited to a friendly Bake Off at a friends place in the Blue Mountains. This was their fourth one, but the first for us. They needed people to bake, and judge. Seeing as I love making and eating cake, I was totally in!

I’ve never done a bake off before, but having watched a lot of Great British Bake Off (which happened to have started again about the time of this bake off), I wanted to do something exciting. A few people I know have made some pretty impressive decorated cakes before. I’ve made a lot of cakes, but had never done sugar work before, so this seemed like a good opportunity to give it a try. Conveniently I also had a few days off from work, so had some time to research and practice my new skill.

I decided to go with a¬†Great Aussie bake off theme. I particularly like animals, so decided to decorate the cake with fondant animals. I drew a very bad design on some paper, with a round cake, map of Australia and 5 Aussie animals I like around it. I planned to do them sort of to scale, with a big kangaroo as the centrepiece, along with a koala, wombat, snake (becasue its easy) and of course a penguin! I went to a local cake shop and bought some fondant, gel colouring (which doesn’t make the icing runny like liquid colour does) and tools.

I found some guidance about doing a kangaroo and a penguin on the internet which was helpful as I had no idea what to do! I started with the snake as it was basically a sausage! I made it a red bellied black snake, so two sausages stuck together. I bought black and white icing and coloured the white with the gels. Its better to buy black as its hard to get a true back colour with the gel apparently. After the snake I went for the penguin, and was really pleased with how well he came out.

Icing penguin

Icing penguin

The other animals were bigger, so I used something called tylose powder. This is basically plant cellulose, so totally edible. you mix a small bit into the fondant and it makes it harder and easier to work with. It holds it shape better, but also makes the fondant prone to cracking, so you have to be careful not to use too much. The wombat, kangaroo and koala were all made in a lot of stages, and left to harden up over night in various stages of creation. The koala and roo each had a cocktail stick in them to hold the heads on. I also used various things to keep them in shape overnight like little magnets, nail varnish pots and pots of herbs! I used edible glue for some of the limbs too on these ones too. You can use water or alcohol, but I was nervous about how well that would work. Seeing as I’d not done it before I decided to play it safe and use the glue.

Having opted for doing sugar work the outside of the cake was going to look pretty cool, but I knew it had to taste good too. I thought about doing chocolate, but decided this might be a bit obvious. I’ve only made one other cake in our new oven, and it is viscous so I decided to go for a recipe I’d made before. I went for a 4 layer cake, with vanilla, caramel, choc caramel and chocolate layers. I covered it in a chocolate butter cream which I left to harden a bit overnight before covering it with the fondant. The cake has ground almonds in which make it quite robust, so I thought it could cope well with the weight of the animals. You can read about when I made it before, and get the original recipie, here.

 

Sharks!

Sharks!

 

Originally I thought about making the top of the cake green for land, and the sides blue for sea, but I thought the join might be tricky. In the end I went for a blue marbled covering to represent the sea, and made the map of Australia light green. I don’t like really bright dyed cakes as they seem quite artificial, so I kept them pastel tones. I printed a map of Australia out and made a template for it with baking paper, complete with Tasmania.The cake itself was pretty tall, so I thought the sides needed some decoration. I through about ribbon, but then decided it would be better to make more animals! I didn’t want to go much¬†more complicated with many different sea animals, so went for three big sharks circling the cake.

We transported the cake up to the mountains carefully wedged in the car foot well. I kept the animals separate, wrapped up in another tin and put them on when we got there. The bake off was really good. We started with roast lamb and pumpkin pie (also entered into the bake off), with lots of other yummy savoury things including a very nice pasta with yoghurt, pea and mint. The bake off then had EIGHT cakes. They were: my cake, chocolate brioche, lemon cupcakes, peanut butter brownies, sticky date pudding, pear and ginger cake, chocolate chip cookies and ginger cake. Matt made the penut butter brownies which came a respectable fifth out of ten. I had two lots of four cake, which was a lot even for me.

 

Winning cake

Winning cake

I loved the chocolate brioche which came second. My cake won by a pretty big margin – woo! There were actual prizes as well. I got a card with makes clapping noises, a lovely sparkly tiarra (which will be passed on next year) and a $50 Bunnings voucher! I was just happy to get to eat a lot of cake really.

I have a lot of blue icing left so need to think of something else to try next. I think I’ll try and make smaller decorations next time as they’re a bit big to be easily edible. Matt is gradually making his way through them now, part from the penguin which I’ve hidden!

View from the O Bar

View from the O Bar

Back in 2013 I went with my friend Toby to the 360 revolving restaurant at the top of the Westfield tower in Sydney (the tallest building). You can read about that here.

On a recent Sydney city tour, we found out about a similar place called the O Bar and Dining (see here). This is similar to the 360 in that its a revolving restaurant. This one is 47 floors up and takes about 1 hour and 46 minutes to do a rotation. Its less well known, but now we know about it!

We went about a week before Valentines day (when the prices hike massively). We got a window seat as we went in the week when it was a bit quieter. The views were excellent. We went in about 6pm and stayed a bit over 2 hours so got to see the city in the daytime from high up, as well as the sun going down (which was slightly blinding at times). We started with the view over the Harbor and Opera House which I think is just great, and becasue of the rotation speed we got this a second time too before we left. I think the view was better than 360, as you can’t see the Opera House from there becasue of the tall buildings in the way (like the one O Bar is in). That said, I think the 360 revolves faster so you get to see more if you stay for just a shorter time.

The food is pretty pricey as you’d expect, but¬†definitely¬†well presented and yummy. If you go before 6.30pm (which we did) you can have a deal with 2 courses for $56 or three for $72. We went for three plus some bread and drinks¬†on top. This saved me $17 and Matt $25. Although it was on the expensive side, for $200 we got three courses, bread, wine and world class views so in my mind it was totally worth it for a special occasion (not¬†something¬†we’d do¬†regularly!)¬†

O Bar with Elly

O Bar with Elly

Here is what we ate for the foodies – I’m not totally sure what a couple of the¬†accompaniments¬†are!

  • Spiced prawn cakes with¬†quinoa crust, chilli, lemon yoghurt, soft herbs (E)
  • Organic chicken sausage & farro, agave roasted carrots, flame grapes, chickpeas (M)
  • Blackened miso salmon & white miso, shaved asparagus, young shoots, supergrains (E)
  • Seared beef fillet & red pepperoncini, la chinata, salsa rossa, red elk leaves (M)
  • Hot chocolate souffl√© & raw cocoa sauce, mint chocolate ice cream (E)
  • Selection of cheese & agave fruit pickle, walnut bread, seeded lavosh (M)

The raw cocoa sauce with my souffle was particularly good and amazingly rich.

You can go just for drinks and get¬†similar¬†views, and they have a cheaper bar menu too. I’d totally¬†recommend¬†it for a special¬†occasion.¬†I will¬†definitely¬†be thinking about taking our next lot of visitors up there, even if its just for drinks (that’s¬†you Horsham gang!) To go up the Tower Eye¬†for¬†the view without any food is about $30, so you can probably get a couple of pricey drinks for that.

Who else is going to come and see it?

 

Tea

Tea

Yup, this a post about tea! The drink kind.

‘Hello, I’m Elly and I used to be a tea addict’

Now I was more than happy to freely admit that I used to have a tea problem. Not only would I not really communicate in any way until I’d had a cup in the morning, I’d have on average about 7 cups a day, and typically they were monster sized.

I knew this wasn’t great for me, but you know, it’s not like I smoked, did drugs or drank any sort of coke or other fizzy drink. Sometimes I’d cut down a bit but then inevitably with work pressures and my general love of tea I’d creep back to my old ways! I also noticed when I didn’t have tea I’d get headaches – not good!

Last year I got food poisoning and it was terrible. When I was ill I didn’t want any tea anyway so was probably on only a couple a day. When I went to the doctor after the 5th day he said to avoid dairy for at least two weeks after as you become sensitive to it after food poisoning. I took this as an opportunity to cut down and now only have generally two cups a day, often even one.

The big change was to not have tea first thing in the morning. I enjoy tea, I really like it, but to feel like you need it to get going isn’t good, so now I have water or juice with my breakfast and have a first tea once I’ve been at work an hour or two or later on a weekend.

I do still like a hot drink, especially at work so I’ve been having some non caffeinated tea substitutes. I’m not a huge green tea fan but do like peppermint, Indian spice tea (a yummy mix of clove, cinnamon, ginger and pepper) and recently some orange and cinnamon tea (festive tasting!). We have a shop called T2 (like Whittards only not in administration) which has a huge range and very helpful staff who will give you samples to take away. I’ll also drink decaf tea if it’s after 4pm and I just want normal tea! (I find it messes up my sleep to have caffeine later).

So there’s my tea story. I’m not advocating anyone else changes, do what works for you. I just wanted to share because I’m pleased with myself and reckon I’m a bit healthier too.

Apprentice Restaurant, Sydney

Apprentice Restaurant, Sydney

We went for a meal out recently at the Sydney TAFE Apprentice Restaurant. This is nothing to do with The Apprentice TV show or Lord Sugar. Rather, its part of the collge where they train chefs and front of house staff.

For $30 you can book in which includes a welcome drink and a 4 course meal ‚Äď bargain! I People at work did make some food poisoning jokes, but I‚Äôd heard good reviews and figured they wouldn‚Äôt let anyone loose on the paying public if they couldn‚Äôt cook things that were edible!

The restaurant was on the 7th (top) floor of the college building, and set out like a proper restaurant. It was half used as it was a slow week night ‚Äď with a table of 10 celebrating a birthday and 4 tables of 2. Our welcome drink was our own choice (woo), so we went for a different wine each. I had a NSW Semillion Sauvignon Blanc. They were very generous and filled our huge wine glasses very full, so we probably had about 1/3 of a bottle each in one glass! They were very drinkable too. By the end of the second course we decided to go for another glass each and pay for that on top.

For each of the four courses there were two things on the menu. We weren’t too sure if we got a choice or not. Turns out we got one of each dish and it worked out well as we probably would have ordered different things anyway. We ate:

Appetiser:

King fish ceviche with tomatoes and avocado wrapped in a courgette slice (E)

Sushi rolls with wasabi soy sauce (M)

Entrée:

Warm salad of duck breast with roasted beetroot and cider dressing (E)

Cream of pumpkin and ginger soup (M)

Main:

Stuffed roasted leg of lamb with mint jus, garlic potatos and baby vegetables (E)

Green chicken curry with green beans and jasmine rice (M)

Dessert:

Vanillla panna cotta with strawberries and almond biscotti (Shared)

Bannana pudding with toffee sauce and pistachio ice cream (Shared)

The duck salad was my favourite thing. It was presented really well on a long rectangular plate  (shame I didn’t take a photo) and had loads of tasty bits and pieces in it. The duck was medium so still pink with crispy fat. In the salad was also roasted beetroot, salad, tomatoes, grapefruit segments for sourness and honey roasted macademia nuts for sweetness and crunch.

Laura our waitress was helpful and friendly. Apparently they are assessed a every service. At the endof the night we got the bill for the extra drinks, and it turns out the extra wine was $3.50 per glass. Considering getting wine anywhere in Sydney for $7.50 is a total bargain, this was amazing!

Overall I’d give it a definate 8.5/10 ad would be keen to go back. There was¬†very nice food, good service and overall a total bargain!

The wine haul

The wine haul

In late October Matt and I went for a weekend away in the Hunter Valley. We had it booked before his work trip came up, and thought we might as well go again and see some different wineries. You can read about our first trip here.

We headed up Friday night and got dinner in Cessnock on the way. We stayed just north of there in the YHA for a bargainacious $85 a night. It was in a good rural location although the showers were cold!

Adventurously, we had hired bikes for the Saturday to ride around the wineries! Given the last time I rode a bike resulted in a broken helmet and a lot of scrapes, I was a bit nervous, but decided to face my fear! We did well, and I reckon we cycled about 25km! It was mid 20’s in termprature, so pretty warm but not too hot with a nice breeze. The day went a bit like this:

10am: Drive to Cessnock for breakfast – bacon and egg rolls to set us up for the ride

11am: Get the bikes and helmets all sorted and set off up the road

12am: First winery – Calais Estates! I was well ready for a nice chilled white after the longest cycle i’ve done in a long time.

12.30pm: On to Waverley Winery. The only winery doing aged wines, although the lady was vague about what counts as aged. We enjoyed the 2006 Cab Sav.

1pm: First Creek winery. I really enjoyed a lot of the wines here, and our pourer was very friendly and helpful.

2pm: Lunch at the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. We had the large cheese pizza and chips to share. It was ¬†totally epic amount of cheese. We didn’t even have space for a nice palette cleaning ice cream after.

Cheese overload

Cheese overload

2.30pm: Tamberlaine winery. These guys make organic wine and some ‘biodynamic’ wine too. I was keen to go as we had some of their wine at a restaurant and really enjoyed it, but none of the ones we tasted really hit the mark. Heading off from there we cycled past a dead kangaroo which was pretty upsetting.

3pm: Olive, jam, chutney, oil and balsamic tasting at the Hunter Olive Centre. We bought some caramelised balsamic – yummy!

4pm: Final winery – Hungerford Hill. The winery is shaped like a barrel. They had some good drops worth a trip back for too.

Proof of me with a bike

Proof of me with a bike

After a shower and rest back at the YHA we walked 450m for dinner at Potters Brewery just up the road. We were stuffed by then really so didn’t managed much more food and drink before tottering off to bed tired, full and happy!

We didn’t buy any wines on the Saturday, but made some notes (yes – In am that organised) and went back with the car and picked them up on the Sunday – after another nice breakfast of course (Eggs Benedict and smoked salmon for me and with Bacon for Matt.)

At Waverleyx we inquired about the free case. Turns out they had some 1999 Chardonnay and 2001 Shriaz that were getting near the end of their lives. They reckoned most were fine, there might just be the odd bad one as long as we drank them soon. So we took the plunge and spent $100 on fancy aged Cabernet Sauvignon for Christmas and took the 12 free bottles! We also went back to my favorite winery from the first trip – Pepper Tree – to buy their liqueur wine I didn’t buy last time. Turns out it sold out, but I got the summer substitute version which was also pretty yummy!

We went on a house long wine tour at Tyrells for $5 too. It was jam packed full of information and very interesting. The guide was good and the winery has loads of history, still being family owned in the 5th generation. At the wine makers reunion dinner of 17 guys they drank 84 bottles!

We ended up with 20 bottles, slightly more than planned but with the free case they came in at an average of just over $10, so can’t complain! For the wine buffs, we got:

  • 2 x 2010 Organic Pianco Puro from First Creek ( a mix of Verdelho, Chardonnay and Semillion)
  • 1 x 2011 Late Harvest Shiraz from First Creek
  • 2 x 2013 Hunter Valley Early BIrd Semillion from Hungerford Hill
  • NV Muscat from Pepper Tree in fancy bottle
  • 2 x 2005 Cab Sav from Waverley Wines
  • 6 x lottery 1999 Chardonnay from Waverley Wines and
  • 6 x lottery 2001 Shiraz from Waverley Wines

All in all a top weekend! ūüôā

Vines

Vines

Wine in progress

Wine in progress

In late September we went on a weekend day trip organised through Matt’s work social club to the Hunter Valley. The Hunter is about 2 hours north of Sydney and is a large wine producing region. It’s also a big foodie destination with lots of cheese, chutneys, jams and other yummy food stuffs.

After meeting at McDonalds with our mandatory silly hats for the bus, we piled into the minibus and off we went. The Hunter is most known for Shiraz, Chardonnay, Semillion and Verdhelo. I am not a Chardonnay fan unless its unoaked, so set about sampling the other regions well known wines and some others too! The places we went were:

  • Ballabourneen – tasty balsamics and a parrot to entertain us
  • Pepper Tree – this was a lovely winery in really nice countryside with beautiful flowers. It turned out to be my favorite of the day, along with their liqueur muscat in a round bottomed bottle so you couldn’t knock it over! I ended up kicking myself for not buying one.

peppertree

  • Tempus Two – one of the big wineries in a big complex with all sorts of food.
  • We had lunch next door at Tuk Tuk burgers to soak up some of the wine.
  • Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Co – tasted some yummy cheeses but didn’t buy any as they wouldn’t do well in the heat on the bus. Had some yummy ice creams.
  • McGuigan wines over the road and the associated Hunter Valley Cheese Co for more cheeeeese. They had nice desert wine too.
  • Hunter Valley Chocolate Co – we didn’t buy chocolate becasue of the heat but this place had chocolates shaped like penguins! Awesome. Matt picked up some uber sour sweets from the British Lolly Shop and promptly have them to his colleagues – not a great career move!
  • Off licence with a beer wall! They had a great beer selection and Matt picked up a couple of British favorites.
  • Lindemans. Nice and friendly and they even gave us a discount on some ‘Tawny’ as they were closing. Apparently they;re not allowed to call it Port any more as its not from Portugal, but it tastes just as good as Port!

It was a good day out with friendly company. Not very healthy, but very very tasty! We already had another trip to the Hunter booked for the two of us when this came up, so read about that – including cycling between wineries – in an upcoming post!

UK section of the beer wall

UK section of the beer wall

Post warning: Best not to read if you’re really hungry!

For our first wedding anniversary we went for a meal at Restaurant Tristan in Horsham, which was awarded a Michelin Star shortly after and was excellent. I totally recommend it.

How time flies – recently it was our second anniversary and being a bit of a food lover I thought we should go somewhere for a nice meal. In¬†Australia¬†they¬†don’t¬†have the¬†Michelin¬†system, but use Chefs Hats instead. Good top restaurants can get one, two or three hats.¬†

After deciding I wanted to go somewhere with a degustation menu (‘A menu in which a series of small portions of unusual dishes is offered for tasting’ (Wikipedia)) I did some research and picked Sails in Lavender Bay. Its a One Hat restaurant, which seemed like a good place to start our Sydney fine dining adventure. The 9 course menu looked great, was reasonably priced in comparison to other places offering a similar thing and the restaurant itself it on the waterfront opposite Lunar Park with a view back to the Bridge and Opera House.

We decided to go all in with the matched wines which I’ve not done before. All in all we got 9 lots of food and 7 drinks – prosecco, 2 whites, 2 red, dessert wine and a port!

Here’s what we ate:

 SailsMenu

Its hard to pick a favorite course. The goats cheese pannacotta was really nice, super smooth and was presented really nicely with bright flowers, normal and orange beetroot slices and little colored jellies.¬†I really enjoyed the scallops and surprised myself enjoying the cauliflower puree with those ass i’m not a cauliflower fan. The duck was awesome with masses of flavor and of course the chocolate desert with port was top notch. Although the wines were small 7 was quite enough!

10 our of 10!

I made some cookies recently. Matt wanted brownies, again. I wanted to do something different, so I went with these. They have a cake like texture rather than being biscuity, so it seemed like a good compromise. They were tasty, and reminded me of my friend Bex’s ‘cakies’ – a cross between cookies and cakes. I personally still find the texture a bit weird, why not give it a try and make up your own mind?

Ingredients (to make about 20):

  • 60g butter
  • 175g plain chocolate
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • white chocolate chips (optional)

1. Melt chocolate and butter over a pan of hot water. Leave to cool slightly.

2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt

3. Beat eggs and sugar until pale (about 2 mins)

4. Reduce speed and add chocolate mix and vanilla

5. Add flour

6. Cover and refrigerate for between 1.5 hours and 2 days (I did 2 hours). Resist the awesome smell!

7. Put icing sugar in a shallow bowl and preheat over to 160c

8. Roll the dough into 4cm round balls and roll in sugar

9. Put on a lined tray and flatten with the back of a spoon

10. Bake for 12-15 minutes so centre is still soft

11. Cool on sheet for 5 mins and then on a rack

 

 

 

Yummy brownies - not many left by the time I remembered to take a photo!

Yummy brownies – not many left by the time I remembered to take a photo!

Everyone loves a chocolate brownie right? Here’s my recipe, totally stolen from Jane Short. They are excellent!

Ingredients:

  • 400g white toblerone (or white chocolate)e¬†
  • 350g plain chocolate
  • 250g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3tbsp black coffee
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 75g self raising flour

1. Melt chocolate and butter over a pan of hot water. Last time I made these I also added some rum (we bought it, its not very nice to drink, seemed like a good way to get rid of some. They turned out to be the best ones I’ve done so I might try that again next time.)

2. Roughly chop the toblerone. I find 4 bits per large triangle works well.

3. Whisk eggs and sugar  together. Add in the coffee and vanilla.

4. Add melted chocolate mix to the eggs and mix.

5. Stir in flour and then add in toblerone.

6. Pour into a greased and lined tray

7. Bake at 180 degrees. – unhelpfully i didnt write down how long – I check after 30 mins and go from there

Yummy! ūüôā

Waffles and hug mug

Waffles and hug mug

Here in Sydney, there are quite a few chocolate cafe’s. These are places which serve hot drinks and cakes, mainly chocolate based with some standard caffinated drinks to broaden their appeal.

Recently I’ve tried out two kinds, a Max Brenner and a Lindt cafe.

At Max Brenner I had the dark hot chocolate drink and waffles with dark chocolate sauce. Ellie had milk hot chocolate and chocolate crepes with banana.

We took Matt to the Lindt cafe too and enjoyed milk and dark hot chocolates again, profiteroles and chocolate and pear cake.

So which was better?

The Max Brenner hot chocolate was lovely, but so rich I couldn’t finish it (even though a lot of it went on my waffle as it was nice and thick). At the Lindt cafe you get hot milk and hot chocolate sauce which you mix together yourself. This tasted awesome, although I would have preferred it slightly hotter. The Lindt cafe had a better selection of high quality cakes (compared to mainly waffles, muffins, cookies, crepes and chocolate pizza at Max Brenner), although the price tag reflected the extra effort involved in creating them. Both had a shop with a selection of things to take away, including some Lindt ball flavours I’d not seen before like raspberry, milk and white chocolate together and mint. The Max Brenner rounded ‘hug mug’ was nice to drink out of, and a bit different. Both places smelt gorgeous.

All things considered, Lindt edges it for me.

Next up is a San Churro (Spanish themed, with churros) and a Guylian cafe. ¬†Maybe not for a while though or I’ll end up super fat! I think Ill make a proper decision on which one is best once I’ve tried them all!¬†

The Baxter Inn wall of whiskey

The Baxter Inn wall of whiskey

Down a lonely looking alley way in Sydney, and further down a concrete stairwell, we recently found The Baxter Inn, one of the Top 10 small bars in Sydney. It specialises in whiskey.

Luckily we had the address, or we’d never have found it. You go down an unmarked access road into what looks like a loading bay. We spotted a man there who turned out to be a bouncer, so when we asked for directions he pointed us down the equally unassuming stairwell into the basement. I see why they have someone outside!

We went on a Monday night. There were a few seats left, but it filled up more after we arrived. Normally there is a queue to get in apparently (one in one out), so pick your time carefully.

Inside are two large walls stocked full of over 300 different kinds of whiskey on 5 or 6 rows of shelves, which the barmen access via moving stepladders. There place has a sort of 1930’s American smooth vibe, and free pretzels! ¬†As well as the straight up whiskey you can have whiskey cocktails and whiskey with freshly made apple juice, which apparently is a classic!

Verdict: 8/10  Good place, worth a visit, be prepared to stump up some cash though!

N2 Nitrogen Gelato

N2 Nitrogen Gelato

We have had my friend Ellie (confusing I know) staying recently, and have had an action packed time. The weather has been very rubbish, so we sought out some indoor activities. One of our trips was to N2 Gelato. 

N2 gelato make gelato using liquid nitrogen! Its super fresh, super creamy (well, milky) and super smooooooooth. For $6 you get a massive tub, which is pretty reasonable for Sydney really considering you get the nitrogen wizardry thrown in too.

Ooooh, sciencey

Ooooh, sciencey

 

They collect the nitrogen from a machine, put it in a jug and pour it in the mixer with the ingredients and it atmospherically pours all over the bench, looking all sciencey (complemented by lots of conical flasks with mysterious liquids in them, big glasses and white coata). We sampled the black salted caramel and the passion fruit sponge flavours, both of which were pretty yummy.

They make sorbet too, and the flavours change every week, so there’s the perfect excuse to go back. AND its about a three minute walk from my office!

Hope all you folks in the UK are enjoying the summer weather with some nice ice cream!

Slated black caramel flavour

Slated black caramel flavour

P.S There is an informative article on the difference between ice cream and gelato, here.

Kurtosh

Kurtosh

I am getting into yoga at the moment. Luckily the studio is about 5 minutes walk away, and even more luckily its next to an awesome cake shop called kurtosh!

I fairly regularly walk past, sometimes popping in for a quick browse and sample! Recently with Ellie visiting, we had an excuse to go properly.

Kurtosh is a small chain of several cafes, named after ‘Kurtoskalacs’ – Hungarian pastry based chimney cakes (see here). The pastry is rolled out in a thin ribbon, and wrapped around a wooden cylinder to make the chimney. They’re then baked in a rotating oven, fresh to order in about 10 minutes, and served lovely and warm. They make a whole lot of other delicious looking and very tasty cakes too including cookies and chilled cakes.

There are 7 flavours Рsome like nutella are added in before the pastry is rolled out, others like cinnamon or nuts go on just before baking.   

Nutella kurtosh

Nutella kurtosh

It was a tough choice, so on our visit we went for a nutella version and the classic cinnamon too. They are $7.50 each, or $8.50 for nutella. Really one between two would have been fine, unless you’re really hungry! On balance I slightly preferred the nutella one. The flavour was yummy with the runny nutella¬†in the middle and it was glazed which was nice, but slightly doughy on the inside. The cinnamon was nice too, with a slightly better texture inside.

Sydney is an awesome place for food and I love that there is more (often better) European food than you get in the UK, which is much closer to Europe.  

Anyone eaten or made anythign super tasty recently?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After my recent adventure to Goat Island with Toby and Kendall, and trip to the Vivid festival, they had organised a dinner surprise, to the 360 restaurant which is at the top of the Westfield tower (see here). (In the picture its the tallest building, the thin tower with the round bit at the top.)

The restaurant has good food and a very extensive wine list. It’s called 360 as it has a 360 degree view around Sydney, AND it revolves, about once an hour so you get the whole view from your seat. This can be a bit confusing if you get up to go to the loo!

The views from the restaurant were really cool, especially as the Vivid festival was on so we got to see lots of buildings all lit up and with projections on them. We even caught the end of the Darling Harbor firework show too.

I can’t remember the full details of the food and wine, but essentially I ate and drank: Mixed starter with yummy meats, olives and oysters; roast duck breast; roasted pumpkins; Tasmanian red wine; lemon brulee tart with red berries and seriously good Italian desert wine. The pudding, desert wine and pumpkin were particularly good. I was surprised by quite liking the oysters as previously I’ve just found them to be too slimy and salty!

Getting a picture was a bit tricky as the floor revolves around as you try and take them!

The restaurant isn’t cheap, but actually given the views its not unreasonable for the whole experience compared to other restaurants in the city.

Overall verdict:  8.5/10. Brilliant views, good food and wine and excellent company too. I reckon this would be a good choice for a special occasion and to take visitors.