eats, Food, restaurant, travel

Orange is the new black

I’m going to tell you what I know. That is the tiny amount after two visits in six weeks, maybe it should be, here is then potential of Orange. Orange is a very cute town, about three and a half hours drive from Sydney.

Orange Food Week has just completed it first weekend. Food week is a great time to go but the joys of Orange are not limited to Food Week Activities. In fact, they may even be a diversion. We hung at at Reggae and Wine Party for a few hours, when we realised the vibe had plateaued it was an easy stroll to the Philip Shaw cellar door where we enjoyed the gardens, table service and an excellent local cheese platter with a bottle of  No 8 pinot noir.

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Philip Shaw Cellar Door

Hotel Conobolas has pub rooms and a motel out the back. Clean, neat rooms with a retro vibe without even trying. It was great for one night. On the weekend we stayed at Magnolia Cottage. It’s very cute, clean and perfect if you need a kitchen or more than one bedroom. It was $750 for three nights. Both these spots are very close to the centre of town.

Great food separates Orange from most other rural centres. Cafes to visit are Bill’s Beans, the BLT is sensational and the Reuben on rye with cheddar and pickles is also a great option. Thin crisp bacon and salads make the blt extra juicy and is my fav breakfast option in town.

Byng St Cafe is another popular Orange breakfast spot. Like Bill’s Beans the coffee is good. My fav breakfast item here is the Pork Katsu burger, yes I was hung over when i smashed mine. Maybe it was the wine, which is easy to do in Orange. Wine is a major activity in Orange, multiple cellar doors are open. I like Philip Shaw as you can sit with a cheese plate and i’m not interested in trying ever single wine on offer. I know what I want, I try a few and then get a bottle of what I want. The gardens and space at Philip Shaw make it a great place to chill.

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Katsu Burger

Hotel Conobolas is a well run pub with plenty of food options. I’ve only had the pizza here and it’s good. Other noteworthy food establishment are Charred Kitchen and Bar for Australian Food, Mr Lim for Korean. Our other dinner was at The Night Markets for Orange Food Week. I tried the Borrodell the house made sausage. This Pork and Venison bad boy had put the restaurant, Sister’s Rock, at Borrodell Estate is now at the top of my Orange hit list.

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Borrodell Dog

Sunset at Mount Corodoblas is another activity i’ll being doing on my next visit to Orange. The Millthorpe Markets are also worth visiting. Apples, salami and cheese is what I got but there is also plenty local crafty stalls. Those markets are on twice a month. The local nightclub is great for fun and packs in everyone from miles around for the decades of top 40 play list.

It’s great to a see rural centre on the rise and you have so many great option when in Orange. Worth considering if you want a rural break. You can fly , check out Rex, but three and a half hour drive V’s going to the airport, parking, checking in flying etc, i’ll take my wheels any day. Plus i love to drive The Bells Line of Road.

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Mushroom Ragu Recipe

1 kg shrooms

1 glass white wine

4 gloves garlic

Parsley handfull

1 cup Veg stock

Dried Shrooms

Shroom dust

Rosemary twig.

Bay leaves

Passata

Pine nuts

Pecorino

Bacon ( if not going vego )

Heat a large pan to medium hot. Take half the shrooms and de stem. Break stems with fingers and throw the lot into the hot pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. Slice the parsley including most of the stems. Add 3/4 to the pan. Crush garlic and add to pan.

Take half the remaining shrooms and cut into quarters, add to pan. Dice the remaining shrooms and add to pan. Add more olive oil if needed. Add rosemary and bay leaf. Cook until brown and shrooms release juices then turn up heat. When the pan is hotter, add white wine, let bubble then add veg stock. Reduce heat and add passata. Taste juices and add seasoning as needed. Cook down for about 15 mins or as desired, add more veg stock if the liquid reduces too much.

Add remaining parsley as garnish.

Serve on wet cheesy polenta ( lmk if you want to know how i cook this ?)

Add crisp bacon chips as desired.

Add toasted pine nuts & pecorino to the top.

Dried shrooms and shroom dust available from Urban Cooking CollectiveIMG_5434

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Poly

In the latest instalment of casual dining that defines Sydney is Poly. Mat Lindsay’s new project is called a snack bar and viewing the simplicity of the kitchen, with a fire place, grills stacked on bricks, you may expect some simple camp fire cooking. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Crispy spiced fried onion and camp bread with salted cod and parsley dip seem simple and are also delicious. And what a joy to be able to drop in for a snack and have some exceptional vino. You can also dig in, get the more substantial dishes and throw down on some exceptional wines too. We did both. LRG__DSC5808

The crispy onion is crunchy squiggles, lightly dusted in flour and spice and perfect at causing salivation. An intense parsley hit from the oil with the cod dip will fill a small empty spot in your stomach, the bread is kind like a damper and cooked over the open flame. Our first bottle was a tasty Chenin Blanc from Loire France, a scrumptious wine, far more complex than the price suggests. LRG__DSC5813

Bbq pipies are becoming a new fav of mine, good spice hit as well as a distinct lemon myrtle flavour. The bowl is not huge so they still qualify as a snack. The duck cigar tho is too big for one person and a delightful parmesan custard is great for dunking. The gnudi pillows of ricotta pasta is a must, sublte yet rich and six of these bad boys are great to share. We moved to a Amphros Daphne green wine, another unusual and delicious number. I have never seen green wine anywhere except Potugal and this one is well worth a sample.LRG__DSC5819

LRG__DSC5934More serious food is the beef rib. I’ll call it, best in Sydney. This bad boy is cooked in a pot on coals and the finished over fire. It melts in your mouth. A perfect pair with the celery Caesar salad, wow, sexy celery, i’ve never had it so good. At this stage i was enthralled in the wine list so we had a Bornard Ploussard and then a Boudy Poulsard, these light flavoursome French reds will go with anything on the menu and you pay for that privilege! LRG__DSC5852

Cheese and lettuce cups work so well especially when paired with the poor mans orange marmalade. Queen of puddings is a dense bowl of pudding goodness with burnt tips of meringue and sublime churros are also available.

Mat Lindsay has transitioned from wood oven at Ester to open bbq coal with ease. The relaxed vibe in the open room with impeccable service and a well balanced fat sound system has me hooked. Another chilled spot with incredible food and wine with options that will have me running back on the regular….. I just need to cool my jets on the big money wines available.

Poly

 

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Restaurant Hubert

Restaurant Hubert

Sgt Donny Donowitz says “ You know , Lieutenant, you’re getting pretty good at that.” *

The qualities of dining 1. Great food 2. Quality service 3. Great environment

Merely being in Restaurant Hubert could be like stepping into another time. An environment of Paris pre WW2, romantic, rich drapes, piano stage, wood panels and eons of memories on the walls. After descending underground past a vast collection of miniature alcohol bottles you arrive, big room and bar to the left , booths to the right. Suit attired charming gents welcome you at the bottom of the stairs. Several dining options are available, the bar, booths or tables. I’m yet to experience bar dining at Restaurant Hubert and as the gloriously lit and stocked back bar, crowned by the extensive wine cellar with the charming staff, I cant wait to be alone in the city and pull up a stool. Bar dining is an essential asset for the lone diner.

The room is rich. Sitting here feels luxurious, as if having snuck into a private club from days long gone whose members memories linger in the air, in the walls and in the menu. The menu heralds times past as food trends are ignored, its French, its decadent, yes there are carbs and butter, lots of them. The menu reads simply, similar to chef Danny Pepperell’s last restaurant 10 William street. The food, like 10 William St, is far from simple. Potato gallette, sliced thin and fried crisp, wading in a pool of creamy sauce. I picked up mine with my hands and dunked in sauce repeatedly, mopping as much sauce up as I possibly could.

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Only several ducks are available each day. It takes days for the brining and prepping. Then stuffed with sausage, cooked and served. This duck is amazing, crisp skin, juicy flesh with sausage stuffing, insert Instagram drool here.

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My favourite starter is the Gruyere. A deep fried disk of rich cheese until the crisp outside releases the gooey indulgent centre, tre Frenchy, oui? The Clams Normandy are delightful, slippery seafood morsels in buttery broth that is made for dunking crusty frog bread in to.

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Steak tartar is fatty and hedonistic, served with real french fries. Fat, meat, crisp, fried slivers gangbang each other, do you dare go there? The simple quality many French Restaurants I’ve been too miss, is, the meat here is room temperature which allow for soft fat and tasty meat.

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Blood pudding is served as a slice from a loaf. Suitably rich and as a loaf more surface area allows fore more good crisp shell and crunch . And that is why you eat black pudding, for the crunchy outside! The Instagram superstar egg dish here is good but food for me needs to bring more hearty flavour. In my view hot and tasty go far. The cool seafood jelly with all sorts of seafood eggs is a great old school homage and represent genius and skill but is not a tasty wall banger for me.

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A couple of steak options are available on the concise menu. The Bavette, a tasty cut with fries might be the one dish is this restaurant that has any attachment to todays world. And that is only because hipsters have done some research and now love underprivileged cuts of meat. The T Bone at $130 is supreme, five of us gorged ourselves on this one night, my daughter chewed the bone to the core.

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My night did get weird. I have done business with these boys and as much fun they have, the clarity of their vision and direct negotiating style led to some terse moments. After closing deals through tight moments, drinking at Anton and Jason’s Bars Shady Pines, Baxter Inn and Frankie’s Pizza privileged me to witness wild and rowdy times. To have Anton as my waiter, with boyish polite charm was foreign to me. So polite, so caring, I’d forgotten this cat has serious pedigree in hospitality.

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I know these boys from booze, their drink knowledge is deep . Jason Scott and Anton Forte are industry stalwarts . The wine list here is extensive and I’ve focused on the French region of Jura , with great advice, exceptional wines can be found in the deep catalogue. I know a little about wine and after chatting with the sommelier we’ve enjoyed a Domaine Pigner ‘A la percenette 2013, Jean Bourdy Cotes du Jura Blanc 2010. Both natural, textural, with balanced minerals and dry finish. French mountain wine. An Austrian Trauben, Liebe und Zeit from Strohmeeier, and a Gafin, are in the same vain, big wines with natural qualities and euro refinement. By this time my label photo skill had deteriorated , so Gafin is all you get for the last one. We finished with Georg Breuer Auslese 2013.

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There are three choices for dessert, Crème Caramel, Profiteroles and Melon sorbet. Seems sparse but each are brilliant examples of each dish. The Crème Carmel is firm and soft, decedent but not rich with a light sweet syrup. The profiteroles crisp and chewy with rich chocolate coat and light custard filling. Melon filled with sorbet and little balls that pop is a clean refreshing end to an extravagant experience.

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And Lt Aldo Raine says “You know somethin’, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece”*

* Quotes from Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglorious Basterds

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All photos taken on an Iphone6+

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MASTER Restaurant

Breaking down perceived conceptions about dining, Master is a Chinese restaurant. Watch the video on their website, breaking down the walls and they are breaking dining ideals in the restaurant. It is a clean grungy space with magnificent food and wine, hip urban beats jam the airwaves, spice and flavour run rampant. The menu is made from many small share dishes. Many restaurant do this now, just like the original neighbourhood Chinese restaurant. The menu at Master has traditional elements but is serving modern Chinese food.

Beef Tendons

Beef Tendons

Puffed Beef Tendon with Haidai Salt is a light crispy number. A fun play on the most old school Chinese restaurant snack, the prawn cracker. Chicken skewers loaded with flavour and covered in nuts is a simple and delicious starter. Scallops silks confused us to what they actually are, perhaps noodles made from scallop somehow, with XO, light and refreshing, a perfect vehicle to get saliva moving.

Scallop silks

Scallop silks

When you see Noma, Quay and Momofuku Seiobo on a resume of chef John Javier expectations run ripe. I did not know any of this of course, I’d seen photos of the food from Master on social media and managed to score a table before the word gets out in a big way. IMG_8296 I anticipate it will be much harder to get a table soon. I love Instagram for finding hot new restaurants, just follow the right people.

Eggplants that is fried crisp, sweet and salty, this is not a brand new sensation, it is just delicious.

Eggplant

Eggplant

Spicy crumbed sweetbreads pack some heat. Deep fry is a great way to cook these little nuggets, they arrive on a plate loaded with chilli. Luckily, we were warned about the license restriction after 10pm and quickly ordered more wine,

Sweetbreads

Sweetbreads

I wonder if legislation will extend to amount of chilli served on a plate soon! If Sydney wants to truly be a considered an international city this legislation must stop and restaurants need to be prepared to stay open later. Too many times I’ve been turned away from a restaurant after 10 pm leaving me only with fast food options.

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Buttery cabbage

The buttery burnt cabbage is gloriously rich. It is charred black on the outside with fish butter, the soft juicy cabbage takes some slurping when eaten. We then had smoked pork jowl with Peking pancakes. All tradition is abandoned as the pancake is large, texture as if the love child of naan and roti. The jowl with a section of fat that keeps the meat gloriously juicy, delicious smoky strips of pork and it is fun eating with your hands.

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Pancakes

And you’ll need those hands if you tackle the crab. It was spanner crab on our visit, I have also seen images of mud crab from Master’s Instagram account. So much moist sweet crab flesh dripping in sauce which we devoured in an instant. What Chinese feast would be complete without a festival of crustacean and this was the Burning Man of a Chinese meal.

Spanner Crab

Spanner Crab

The deserts are divine. The potato flour dust on the deep fried ice cream is light and sweet, the shell to the ice cream firm and crisp. Immaculate. This is the best version of this dish I have ever tasted. Deep fried ice cream is the most famous Chinese desert in Australia and done here nothing like my childhood memories. Congee, pear and coriander is the other dessert, the bright green is spectacular. My body tries to deny me carbs this late at night but the fresh flavours here won the fight. I could eat this for breakfast any day.

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Congee

There is still so much left on the menu for me to try and I will be back, I’d just better be quick, before word gets out and I can’t get in.

Deep Fried Ice Cream

Deep Fried Ice Cream

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Simple Yellow Curry

I think I’ve got this right right. If you try to make this please let me know what you think. This recipe was born out of flavours I put in my dhal, then one day I wanted to make a curry with coconut milk again. I can not make green curries because they will NEVER compare to Sujet Saenkham ‘s  so i no longer try, i just buy them at his restaurants for my fix.

This is really simple and can be done in 30 minutes. Plus the Turmeric is now a superfood so it has to be healthy. Check the VIDEO

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Yellow Curry with pickled cauliflower

Simple YELLOW CURRY

Spices

1 tablespoon turmeric

1teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

2 cinnamon quills

4 star anise

6 cardamom pods

4 whole dried chillies

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Spices needed

Herbs

handful fresh coriander

3 large organic garlic cloves

fat thumb of ginger

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Herbs. I grate my ginger with a cheese grater

1 Lemon

Sesame Oil

Fish sauce

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Add baby corn and use red chilli instead of green

1kg chicken thighs.

300 ml coconut cream

THE PROCESS

Dice chicken thighs. Set aside.

Mince garlic, grate ginger and chop coriander stems. Set aside.

Heat pan to hot, add sesame oil . Brown chicken. Add Herbs, turn over.

Add spices. Mix.

Add coconut cream. Stir through. Several dashes of fish sauce.

Add salt to taste. Cook for 15 minutes. See VIDEO

Squeeze lemon over curry.

Serve with rice and salad of cucumber, coriander leaves and tomato.

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serve with a cucumber and tomato salad

Tip: I soak my cardamom pods in 60ml boiling water and then pestle and mortar, I separate and discard the husks. I add the water and seeds to the curry.

check the video here COOKING YELLOW CURRY VIDEO

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Food

Spice I Am

SPICE I AM

Ok, lets get this straight, I love this joint. The food is great, its economical and it is easy for me to get to to. What more do you want? I love the authenticity and originality of the food. Food this good, at their prices, is a bargain. They also serve great seafood and unique specials if you want to try truly delicious food.

Fish Balls

Fish Balls

I started frequenting Spice I Am years ago when I worked in the city. They have a lunch special for $10.50. After exhausting all the specials I’d try to drag who ever I could with me so we could order more food and try more dishes. Now it’s where I meet my mum for lunch ever few weeks. One of my favourite dishes is not even on the menu, is a Tamarind Fish Fillet. The fish is deep fried in an uber light batter, the sauce and fresh herbs are added and it is served over Asian greens with sweet sticky onions.

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Secret Dish, Tamarind Fish Fillet

This joint has a reputation for its Chilly Pork Belly, caramelized cubes of spicy sweet crunchy chewing bites of delight, each chewy morsel in sticky sweet spicy sauce just makes you want another until, they are all gone. There are many old favourites here , like their Green Chicken Curry. This is what got me hooked to the place. The sauce is rich spicy and creamy but the major draw, for me, is the Thai vegetables and the cube of pork blood jelly. Having those veg in my curry took me staright back to the streets of Bangkok, the blood cube I’ve not seen before, or elsewhere, adds another element and brings balance to the curry sauce. This authenticity makes Spice I Am spectacular in a city filled with Thai restaurants. But don’t get stuck on the old favourites here.

Prawn Chu Chee

Prawn Chu Chee

When something is so good it becomes hard to try other dishes and here you must. Another sensation is the Prawn Chu Chee curry. Again the seafood is fried in that alluring batter with spicy curry sauce added over the top. The batter and prawns absorb the sauce and form a harmonious team with the sweet prawn flesh. There is also several prawn/seafood salad

Seafood Salad

Seafood Salad

combinations. The joy of the salads here is the joining of fresh cooked protein and the fresh salad and herbs. They have a little seafood vermicelli number which has great texture added by dried prawns that are chewy and roasted peanuts for crunch and a salt hit . My daughters favourite is their Chicken and Papaya salad with coconut milk. A very generous portion of crisp fruit, tangy fresh herbs and sweet milky coconut chicken.

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Chicken Papaya Salad

Some current specials at Spice I Am include Steamed Vegetarian parcels, Duck Massaman Curry, and a Prawn and Banana Leaf Salad. The parcels are fresh light and scrumptious. The Duck is divine and rich, it has a little dried Kaffir Lime leaf garnish that brings texture and

Vegetarian dumplings

Vegetarian dumplings

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Duck Massaman

flavor. The salad looks amazing with prawns, banana leaf , nuts and herbs loving each others company as the flavor and texture is sublime. There is also several whole fish options which are great to share.

Although I have not been to Thailand in some time the fresh intensity and flavor of the food reminds me of the food there. Spice I Am’s ingredients are true Thai ingredients and will not be found in 95% of Thai restaurants in Australia. If you are not after the lunch special from 12 -2, take a bottle of wine ( BYO only, bottle shop over the road ) , read the menu thoroughly and have your own mini Thai experience here in the streets of Sydney.

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Sand Whiting

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Snapper

Spice I Am

CASH ONLY

End Note. There are now three Spice I Am’s, check website. They also have House and Surry Hills Eating House restaurants in the Triple Ace Bar.

TIP: not much dessert here but their other restaurant House  50 meters away in the Triple Ace Bar has exceptional desserts.

13.5/20

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