Sunday, 29 April 2007

food-bloggers, nick's seafood @ cockle bay

It was probably a year ago that I came across these 4 amazing foodies. At that time, web logs were the in thing and absolutely everyone had their own blog. And well, the story goes, I started my own Xanga site and started my daily blogging. A month or so into it, my blogging turned into regular updates on food and my adventures in the kitchen. And well, when I started tying food together with my blog, this led me to find like-minded others in the blogosphere.

Allow me to introduce to you (from L/R): Suze from www.chocolatesuze.com, (me), Helen from www.grabyourfork.com, Swee San from http://foodaholic.wordpress.com/ and Suyin from www.cookingismypassion.blogspot.com. These girls have been the ultimate inspiration for me to cook, to eat and to find and enjoy food in all its possible forms. Admittedly, I am still an amateur when it comes to food blogging but what one thing I've learnt is that food does bring people together and since I've started my blog, I've met these girls and encouraged others to enjoy and appreciate food (find Charissa at www.charpost.blogspot.com).

One person I need to mention in particular is Swee San; someone I've got to know in a rather bizarre sort of way. From following her adventures at Le Cordon Bleu, this year found me studying Basic Patisserie whilst she was completing Superior Patisserie, and be it sheer bizarreness, I looked up at work one day and there she was in the shop across from me making a crepe. Our first proper meeting involved her giving me 3 huge cakes she made in class and really, how can I not come to be friends with a girl like this?! Swee, I really hope you come back after your trip home. Will miss you.

So with a little excitement and a note of sadness, we farewelled Swee San at Nick's Seafood on Cockle Bay this weekend. For the first time I met Helen (whose restaurant reviews have seen me eat my way around Sydney), Suyin (who's cooking has inspired me to be more creative and spontaneous in the kitchen) as well as Suze (who's crazy eating adventures match mine and someone who has become a friend and a source of inspiration - it took me less than a day to get through that bag of Biscotti! Btw, if I don't find that Gingerbread Man, I'm coming to steal yours!). Some of us brought along partners and despite the dreary Sydney weather, we had a nice, 'long' lunch by the harbour (the 'long' adjective is input from J).

With 7 of us at the table, we really managed to order right across the menu. From fish to lamb, kangaroo to pasta (this could adequately feed 3!), we had all bases covered. I ordered the Salmon Fillet with chips (salmon was perfect! although I must admit I've been on a salmon steak shriek lately, chips could've been better but not bad). J had the Lamb Cutlets (cooked medium rare) and really, no complaints from me. It amazes me how a seafood restaurant can do a better meat dish than leading steakhouses. This is probably my third time at Nick's and often, I've been tempted to order a meat dish over seafood. So to those leading steakhouses out there, pick up your act!

After lunch, we conveniently moved next door to Lindt Cafe. Let's just say that being a foodblogger, there is always room for dessert! I did mention that foodbloggers tend to be quite like-minded right? Ok, I admit there's the usual clicking of cameras and deliberation over the menu, and perhaps what people may call abnormal behaviour, but in essence, we are money savers. Unimpressed by the $10 slices of cakes on display, we opted for the full sized Lindt cakes and picked out the Pistachio & Berry Dacquoise to share. Ingenious I tell you! Here's a photo of Suze and me before we stuffed ourselves with a massive blob of Pistachio white chocolate ganache (almost sickingly sweet).

A food-filled good day! Swee, I wish you a safe trip home and look forward to your return. Keep us updated while you're away!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

the waffle factory @ castle towers


It's name might just be that tad deceptive; I can imagine some of you might be thinking along the lines of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and all those Oompa Loompas preparing chocolate, only here you're talking about waffles and all things waffle related. And really, I would've thought so too hearing that name but thanks to Suze from www.chocolatesuze.com, I was more than well prepared for what to expect. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that this place has a certain aspect of novelty to it but it won't be a place I'll come rushing back to. For me, I can eat waffles any time of the day and well, the waffle factory failed to wow me like I've been with other waffle places (namely Max Brenner and the store at Paddington markets). Nonetheless, it's still a place that serves up a decent waffle and at the same time, readily accessible from home.

I suppose what's really interesting about The Waffle Factory is that they serve up both sweet and savoury waffles in various waffle forms. Really, finding a decent waffle in Sydney is rare (especially when you're me and I don't particularly like the English waffle but only eat the Belgian waffle with the deep pockets) so I was particularly happy to find my Belgian Waffle available. J&I both opted for sweet waffles (of course) with a serving of gelato. Actually, I had the works with the cream, strawberries and belgian chocolate drizzle plus gelato; probably not the best idea when I'm constantly sitting on my butt these days. Anyways...My overall comment is that the waffle is a bit doughy but still crisp like a Belgian Waffle should be. My favourite is still the one you get from the Paddington markets (speaking of which, it has been awhile!). The gelato was perfect; not overrefrigerated...and maybe a glass of water would've been good but I always forget about then when I'm in the middle of eating dessert.

I actually wouldn't mind trying their savoury waffle one day. I don't think I've had one before.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

4 years: iwa @ chatswood


J & I had planned on Zushi in Darlinghurst; a 12-seater restaurant which was recently reviewed in the Sunday magazine and had boasted a half-price menu between 6-7pm (I'm still heading back there! Apparently they have a Strawberry Tempura for dessert - yes...I know). But as things always are, something else tempted us before we made it there and we found ourselves inside a rather quaint little place called iwa in Chatswood. It's been awhile since either of us have been in Chatswood and we were rather surprised to find the restaurant there - previously, I think it must've been Strathfield mobile or some other mobile shop. Anyhow, the entrance caught our eye (it's hard to describe - it' like black, really black but at the same time, extremely classy. It reminded me of a good Japanese restaurant and a squizz at the menu revealed Wagyu and more Wagyu...score!)

What can I say? Iwa's another one of your Korean-owned Japanese restaurants. I was speaking to a Korean girl at work today and she was telling me how Koreans prefer opening up Japanese restaurants because Japanese food is a lot easier to cook and the fact that when you call something Japanese, makes it more prestigious. So for those planning to head to Iwa, you'll find a good selection of Japanese delicacies with a few added Korean dishes on the menu - really, I think the Koreans do a good job with Japanese food. I particularly recommend the Yakiniku (Wagyu beef served raw which you cook yourself over charcoal - make sure you only cook it for 30secs on either side else it gets overcooked!), Beef Yukke (raw beef and egg) and a Korean cold noodle called Nang Myun. As you can see, J & I managed to order a bit of everything and really, I have no complaints. I suppose worthy of note is that if you just order the Yakiniku or Wagyu, it's best to order some rice or noodles to go with it.
Honestly speaking, it's probably an expensive place to grab a quick bite and really, leans towards your fine dining where the portions you get are small and arranged to perfection. Everything is literally photo quality! :D Strange by comparison, the noodles are massive and would definitely fill you up quite decently and hence why I would recommend trying the Yakiniku or Wagyu with a bowl of noodles. Service is maybe a little too attentive but at least they don't double charge for a pot of tea which two people share. The stumps for chairs are probably not the most comfortable things to sit on but if you can locate yourself a piece of padding, it becomes quite bearable.


I strongly recommend Max Brenner in St. Ives for dessert after dinner (even if it's a little too much on the stomach :P). Shame they closed down the one in Chatswood! It was a good night of eating, definitely!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Happy Birthday Mandy!


Hope you make good use of the baking set! I sure had a good time putting it together and really, learnt a few new things along the way (I'm actually quite jealous of your hamper of goodies - my kitchen seems so dull and primitive compared to what you're equipped with now. Don't be surprised if I come knocking on your dooor to use what you have!). But anyhow, here goes for the things I learnt and might come in hand for shopper's of baking and kitchen equipment.


For starters, a lot of those kitchenware supply places are a rip off - they've got the variety and all, but many of the things they stock can actually be purchased elsewhere much cheaper. I actually have to give the thumbs up to Myer for stocking many of the things the home baker might need at a very reasonable price. Thumbs up to Ka for his input. That certainly saved me from deciding between all the various pans and utensils; and really, I'm quite surprised myself at how varied pans and utensils can be! Those interested in some shopping, it's worthwhile heading to The Essential Ingredient (Pacific Highway, St. Leonards/Crows Nest), Chef's Warehouse (Albion St, Surry Hills) and also that little restaurant and catering equipment place we have in Eastwood (a good deal cheaper but in a much more limited range). Might I add, supermarkets and discount shops are also excellent places to have a look.

Marie Clare do some of the cutest kitchen utensils plus tea towels, I was extremely tempted to buy some stuff for myself but fortunately, managed to hold off and concentrate on the task at hand. Even if you don't do any baking, Marie Clare can definitely snaz up your kitchen to make it look like you do. Might I add, Marie Clare do some of the most aesthetically appealing range of cookbooks which are worth a squiz at.

And I suppose the other thing I learnt (but unrelated to shopping for baking equipment and something I learnt last night) is that there's an awesome patisserie at St. Ive's. Double the thumbs up to Ka for the cake. I've just gone to google it and all cake-lovers can find it at http://www.lapetitelorraine.com.au/index.html. The Fleur de Lyse is definitely recommended!

Also, welcome back AJ! And yay, I survived my first week at work!

Monday, 9 April 2007

forster 2007

Despite some rainy weather and that little bit of traffic, our Forster trip over the Easter weekend was awesome! Thanks Justin, Ka, Mandy, Pang, Emily, Anthony, Adam and Karen for an awesome trip, of lazing about in front of the TV, of soaking in the jacuzzi, the laughter, the moments and the opportunity to learn about each other's quirkiness and strange habits. In particular, I've learnt that Kaho is extremely evil and dangerous; I'll get you back Ka, trust me. I admit I failed miserably this morning but I hey, looks like you were the one on guard all night just because I said I'll get my pay-back before the trip was over. Hmph...just you wait and see!


Double the awesomeness was the apartment we stayed in (the Penthouse might I add!); fully furnished with jacuzzi, 3 plasma TVs, 3 bathrooms, air-conditioning, just a walk to the beach and town centre, and a truly amazing view from all 3 levels which formed the penthouse. Honestly, I don't see how it can get better than that! Rubbish disposal, not enough cleaning liquid, mozzies and the absence of locks on the doors were perhaps some minor issues that came up but in the end, we managed. Hey, turns out handsoap is just as good a cleaning agent as your regular dishwashing liquid!


On the topic of food, there was definitely plenty. As like any trip, we had our dose of Hungry Jacks on the way there and KFC on the way back. Breakfast and dinners were rather glorious affairs with Pancakes, French Toast, English Breakfasts, Steaks, Cabonara and Bolognaise being served. The first night was pizzas from Eagle Boys but in the space of the other days, we managed to fit in the local fish and chips, oysters, and waffle cones. Oh, and let's not forget the snacks and the alcohol. Quite embarrassingly, 4 of us puked on the first night.

We were probably more than well-equipped with boardgames, video games, dvds, videos, and the like to pass the time. It's a shame that we didn't get around to doing everything (4 days just wasn't long enough!). Canoeing and spending time at the beach were probably the highlights; a few sore muscles but nothing too serious. At least none of us capsized!


It's actually pretty hard to summarise all that happened over 4 days. You can imagine how there might've been some indecisiveness, some difference of opinion, and just that tad of conflict with the 9 of us but really, we battled it out in the end. I felt everyone really brought themselves to the trip and made it a good one. I certainly had a good laugh every day and well, sad now that the trip's over. It was an Easter that was spent without any Chocolate eggs nor anything particularly 'easter-y' but it was certainly a good trip. I might not miss those episodes of Simpsons though; argh...who came up with a Super-Simpson weekend!

Thursday, 5 April 2007

le cordon bleu - day 30


Cheesecakes go hand in hand with my love for cakes and baking. Chilled cheesecakes, baked cheesecakes, Japanese style cheesecakes, I’ve tried them all and at the same time, had a go at baking them at home. I can’t say that all the cheesecakes I’ve made in the past have been a huge success but nonetheless, there’s just something about cheesecakes which I just love and over time, I’ve relentlessly tried to perfect the art of making one. I read that cheesecakes are like 40% fat but eaten in moderation, I think it’s the one dessert that will satisfy cravings for something sweet and will definitely make bellies grown in appreciation. It’s perhaps a tad expensive to make at home and wasteful when you can’t really eat that much in one go, so I do recommend the Baked Cheesecake from Bread Top (yummy!)

My last class of Basic Patisserie at LCB was spent making both chilled and baked cheesecakes; the latter which is my absolute favourite. Actually, I was surprised at how the chilled cheesecake turned out; it turned out a lot better than I thought. My previous attempts tasted more like lumps of chilled cream cheese or rather, a swimming pool of cream cheese when the gelatine hadn’t set the cake as it should’ve. Anyway, to the person who sent me the message ‘Ur cheese cakes taste so good’ last night; I’m glad you enjoyed them; it’s encouraging to know that I am getting better at baking. If I’ve learnt anything at LCB, it’s probably how wrong I’ve been in the past and how bad I was at baking. I can’t say that 10 weeks of Patisserie has made me a pastry chef but at least I have a better idea of what baking really is.

So to sum up 10 weeks at LCB, I well and truly loved it! Yes, maybe I might’ve gained a kilo or two (I haven’t bothered checking but I’m guessing that in all likelihood, I would’ve), the early mornings were sometimes a bit crazy, cuts and burns galore (2 cuts making ├ęclairs, 1 burn from an oven tray, 1 sugar burn), a scary teacher every now and then, but really, the friends, the food, the skills, the world of opportunities which has opened up more than made up for it. Hey, I even had the title ‘Assistant Pastry Chef’ for a couple of weeks; how awesome is that?! Seriously, I recommend anyone with a passion for patisserie to give this course a go; you won’t regret it!

Man…how can one resist a fridge full of cheesecakes…

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

le cordon bleu - day 29


I had fun today assembling my cakes :D. In particular, ecstatic that my sponges were thick enough to cut into three; the fact that I didn't cut myself in the process and I suppose, just the simple fact that I assembled a rather fancy cake from scratch. There's definitely a lot I still have to learn with cake decoration (seriously, I'm quite hopeless...I was probably looking at my cake for 10 minutes and then managed to pipe some blobs of poo which i ended up squashing down...and well let's forget that now, my end products look alright). The other thing is that my cakes are probably too tall to be French cakes; the French prefer more petite cakes compared to what you see here in Sydney and what my product ended up to be. Anyhow, I didn't want to waste my three layers of sponge so I'll remember for next time that 2 pieces of japonaise and 2 pieces of sponge will make a more decent cake. Lol...I can't wait till mum comes home so I can slice both the cakes and see how they turned out on the inside. *fingers crossed that the buttercream layers aren't too thick*

And well, what is buttercream? I'd always thought it was some combination of butter and cream whipped together and really, it goes without saying that buttercream tastes a lot nicer than frosting and icing sugar mixes. Well, I suppose I got half the ingredients correct; buttercream does contain butter, in fact, 750g of it in the recipe we used today. To that, you've got 300g of egg whites and another 500g of sugar syrup; just a bit over a kilogram of fat and sugar sweetness. Might I add, you're really meant to flavour buttercream otherwise you're eating a cake that tastes purely of butter. And did I tell you that I absolutely love praline paste and chocolate? Well I divided by buttercream batter into two and added a good heap of each into each batter. I don't even want to think about the number of calories that are in the buttercream alone. *shudders*

As a special treat from Chef Geraldine (a chef who is passionate about what she does and a source of immense knowledge - she's been one awesome chef during Basic Patisserie!), she made us a traditional Swiss cake which she has back at home. Far out, I don't know much Kirsch she soaked the sponge cake with but when I bit into it, a torrent of it came flying out of my mouth - literally. Surprisingly, I didn't go red in the face but then Justin tells me that there's not much alcohol in Kirsch. Anyhow, something I've learnt is that the Swiss are big on their alcohol. Then again, I've never been a big fan of alcohol but still, that cake was yummy!


Hmmm...cheesecakes tomorrow, can't wait!

Monday, 2 April 2007

le cordon bleu - day 28


Today starts the countdown to the end of Basic Patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu. Sad? Yes. Restless? Yes. Puzzled? Yes. Undecided? Yes. Tired? Extremely. Still can't believe 10 weeks of class passed by so quickly. Figuratively and literally speaking, I've been soaking up breads and sweets like a sponge and it's been one amazing journey all the way; learning how to do things properly and very realistically, learning from mistakes and understanding what it means to be careful when someone tells you to be careful. I've worked with a diverse background of friends who I'm sure will be friends for a long time; we each have our quirky habits, craziness, weird antics but most of all, these are people who share my passions for patisserie and all things sweet in life. It's definitely been a sweet 2.5 months!

This week is particularly sweet with gateaux' and cheesecakes cooking (cheesecakes have got to be my favourite! Although I find that I keep saying this when I discover some new sweet. e.g. the Chocolate and orange cake from Lindt Cafe which I had yesterday night - absolutely scrumptious!!) Anyhow, one of my classmates made the remark today that this week is actually the first time we've assembled a cake since doing this course. It does actually come as a little strange considering that most people would think that doing a patisserie course, you'd be spending most of your time assembling cakes. I suppose a big part of Basic Patisserie is learning the foundation skills to building those cakes. Well let's say that I'm officially qualified to make a cake now :D By the way, the chef let me know that I aced the theory exam from last week...YAY!

So if you can see from the photo, today was spent making a basic Genoise Sponge and a Chocolate Sponge. I strongly recommend using baking paper to line the bottom of the tins; I ended up having to do another batch with a classmate cause I lost one of my mine (really, it's quite annoying!) On top of the sponges, we did those Japonaise discs - Japonaise is basically an almond meringue. Stupid me was really stupid today and used a small piping bag (owing to some stupid logic I had in my head and ended up getting meringue everywhere), hence I recommend everyone to use larger piping bags when piping these meringue discs. Aside from that though, my discs turned out fine so should be good for assembling the gateaux' tomorrow. Oh, and we spent the afternoon making chocolate garnishes. As usual, I left the class looking like I'd been swimming in chocolate. Really, I can't stand it. Even if I'm just using a little bit of cocoa powder, I can still somehow look as if I've been smearing chocolate all over me. Just one of those things you can't explain.

On the topic of chocolate, can someone explain to me why Godiva Chocolates are so expensive? Mum brought some back from her work trip and really, I can't justify why someone would spend that much money on a box of their chocolates. Perhaps not so strangely enough, it's all got to do with marketing and branding...hmmm...