Archive for 2014

Pink Salt, Double Bay

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Pink Salt is located on the corner of Cross Street and Bay Street in Double Bay, and is open and airy and pink. While I would go to it purely because of its name (inspired from the pink sunsets that set over the salt water of Sydney's beautiful beaches), the food is amazing, and we also had the best service.

We went for an early lunch, so it was very quiet and we had the waiter's attention all to ourselves. I'm usually an annoying patron and I love asking the waiter what their favorite dish is, because I'm super indecisive about my food. 
The table had fresh wildflowers in mason jars, which I always love, and of course, little dishes of pink Murray River Sun Salt. 

I had a great chat with the owner, Evan Hansimikali, who shared with me some of the secret tips that are used to create such delicious food. The calamari, for example, is soaked in kiwi to make it tender and not chewy before being battered and fried. And it was really, really good.

He also told me about the fried chicken that they do, which we didn't have, unfortunately, which they sous vide for ages before battering and deep frying. On top of that, they churn their own ice cream, and have home grown herbs, and house baked bread, so it is all very natural and organic, with fresh, quality produce. 

The best part is that Pink Salt has great lunch specials, and sometimes deals on Groupon or LivingSocial. A friend of mine recently asked me if I thought restaurant deals on sites such as these were good, or if you got different or smaller portions of food. I thought about it for a while and I think good food is good food, and discounted (or free!) food is always the best food ;) 

Anyway, that aside, the next time I see one for Pink Salt, I'll be snapping it up. But even if I don't, I'll be back.

My indecisiveness = tasting platter for our entrees. Yes? Yes. I wish you could get tasting platter everything. Tasting platter entree, tasting platter main, tasting platter dessert. For the indecisive souls in the world like me. 

Tasting Plate: $22/person

Three Cheese Zucchini Flowers with Romesco
These were absolutely heavenly. Crisp and crunchy on the outside and creamy and cheesy and just so good on the inside. And deep fried veggies are the best - like veggie chips, and they remind me of the deep fried kale or basil you get when you have Thai fish cakes in Thailand. Mmm.

Pink Salt & Pepper Squid with Chilli & Coriander
The special kiwi trick obviously worked (apparently the acid breaks down the tough/cheweiness of the squid) because these were just the right amount of chewiness but not squishy and powdery, and the seasoning and perfect were just (insert Emoji of thumb and forefinger touching for universal symbol of 'okay'). Can't describe it any better than that. Perfect kick of spiciness with the chilli.

Pan-fried Tiger Prawns with Virgin Mary Shot & Celery Salt
A Virgin Mary shot is like a little shot of gazpacho with a little bit of spice, and the lemon for extra tanginess. It was delicious. I wish there was more. The prawns were good, with the crispy fried noodle bits that come with Chinese food.

Goats Curd & Baby Beets Salad with Spinach, Sweet Potato, Candied Walnuts & Hazelnut Vinaigrette
I loved this so much that I went home and replicated it for my lunch for the next three days. Yes, I have obsessions. Goats cheese + beets + candied walnuts = the top three best salad ingredients in the world. I encourage you all to add caramelized walnuts into everything you ever eat.

And onto the mains.

Grass Fed Fillet of Beef (200g) $39
with paris mash, mushroom duxelle, wilted spinach & merlot jus

I really love mash. I used to say that potatoes were my favorite vegetable (so versatile! so easy! so delicious!) but it's now broccoli, which I eat almost every day. But anyway - the mash was good. Creamy, delicious, smooth, buttery. Super healthy.
And the beef - perfectly medium rare, succulent and juicy, and those grill lines. (insert above Emoji again) 

Confit Duck Leg $34
with paris mash and steamed greens 

I had a lot of trouble picking my main, and in the end I had to ask the waiter to tell me his favorite. He said the duck, and there was no duck on the menu for lunch! But the way he had described it made me really, really, really want it, so he went to ask the chef if she could make it... and she said yes!

The verdict: The waiter was correct, and it was every bit as delicious as it looks in the picture, maybe even better, and I loved it and want more. 

In summary, always ask your waiter for help because they know what's best. He recommended the dessert as well.

Chocolate Ganache Bar $14
with vanilla ice cream, vanilla sauce, berry compote and walnut powder

So deliciously rich, and the acidity of the berry compote balanced it perfectly. 

In (a final) summary, I loved eating here and would definitely go back again. It was lovely at lunch, with all the light streaming in from the giant glass windows, and Evan said that there's a lunch special at least once a week.


Discover Rome through Italian Cuisine

Monday, 8 September 2014

I'm so sorry about the very long delay between posts! Thanks to everyone who has messaged me privately to see what I've been up to - it's very much appreciated! I'm back and promise regular updates (:

I have for you today a guest post from Emily Jones, a freelance travel writer, who has kindly written about Italian food in Rome. 

I loved Rome, and Italy as a whole because the food was so, so, so good. The pasta. And the pizza. And the cheese. Anyway, I'll let Emily take it from here!

Rome is known for its ancient history, architectural beauty and most importantly, the Italian cuisine. Roman dishes are wonderfully unique as they are delicious, making it a culinary experience as much as it can be an artistic or historical journey. Traditional Roman food is rich and delicious, made from the freshest local ingredients that come from the Lazio region. Many people have yet to discover what Roman cuisine truly is, and just like you won’t find in Rome a truly authentic Bolognese sauce or Neapolitan pizza, it is definitely the right place to indulge in real Roman food. So take in the true flavors of the city and if you are traveling to Rome in the near future check this site for accommodation.

Roman food is delicious yet simple, and this mantra is perfectly embodied by the dish known as tonnarelli cacio e pepe. Made up of only Pecorino cheese, black pepper and leftover pasta water it is much more delectable than it should be. All of this comes together to create a cheesy creamy pasta dish without any oil added, truly an artistic balanced creation when cooked to perfection. Two of the best places to try this eternal dish are Felice on Via Mastro Giorgio and Antica Pesa on Via Garibaldi.

The most savory Roman dish is by far saltimbocca alla romana, made with veal medallions skewered together with prosciutto crudo and sage, covered with a white wine sauce. Try this at Ristorante Hostaria Romana on via del Boccaccio to get the best experience. Another savory dish is the ever-famous spaghetti alla carbonara, a rich pasta dish with a sauce made from eggs, pecorino cheese, pancetta and black pepper. Go to La Carbonara on via Panisperna for some truly authentic and delicious Roman carbonara.

Roman cuisine has also been defined by the Jewish population, which has inhabited the city since the age of antiquity. One of the most Jewish Roman dishes is carciofi alla giudea, a wonderful way of preparing artichokes. It is made by beating the artichoke against a hard surface until the pedals open, and then deep-fried to perfection. The Jewish ghetto in Rome has some of the best carciofi and site seeing, so be sure to find this Roman treat there. 

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Game of Thrones Dinner at Gastro Park

Friday, 18 July 2014

Every year, for a few weeks, Gastro Park does a special Game of Thrones themed dinner to celebrate the season premiere. In March I checked the website constantly to find out when the dinner was but there were no details at all so I thought they must have decided not to do a GOT dinner, and was very sad and consoled myself by going back and stalking Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella’s photos from 2012.

Luckily I was wrong!

They had GOT dinners in June, and then one final one on Tuesday, which I was lucky enough to be able to go to.

Gastro Park is in Potts Point, just down the road from Gazebo, and there was a movie/TV show/something being filmed on the corner so we had something interesting to watch in between courses. The restaurant is dimly lit with appropriate music from the GOT soundtrack playing. A tree sits on a table in the middle of the room, with a jug leaking dry ice smoke to impressive effect.

Our menus came rolled up in scrolls, coffee-stained and tied up with twine, as GOT menus should be, on dragon's egg shaped plates. 

I really loved all the table settings at Gastro Park. The food descriptions were deliciously vague and we spent a good amount of time debating what we thought each course would be.

The first course comes fairly quickly, in about ten minutes. 

We have house baked sourdough, whole roasted garlic, and ‘dripping’.

This is not a candle. It is the dripping. Beef fat (yeah, what?) that they have somehow candle-ised, and you eat it as it melts into the balsamic vinegar. It is delicious, and 100% unhealthy.

The garlic is soft and mushy from being roasted, and we smear it onto the sourdough (crunchy on the outside, super soft on the inside) before dipping it into the fat. I’m not even going to pretend to call it anything else, because it really is. When some drips onto the table, it hardens into a small, round pool of wax-fat, and we pretend not to think about it going down. It’s worth it.

Earth tarts and raw flesh.

The earth tart shell is made of thinly shaved truffle with cheese gratin and is the most heavenly little bite.

And the raw flesh kangaroo carpaccio is just as good, perfectly flavored and not too chewy.

We can’t wait for the next course – ‘Fish on hot rocks (you will cook your own)’. We speculate – maybe it will be like a bibimbap? Maybe we will get a tiny stovetop grill?

After 30 minutes, the fish arrives, and it is literally, on rocks. Thin sushi-like slabs of jewfish on large, smooth pebbles, in a bowl of smaller pebbles, with half a king prawn for each of us. There is also ‘broccoli mud’ that looks like tiny godswoods. We are told to flip the fish so in 30 seconds so it can cook, so we do just that.

The jewfish is delicious – melt in your mouth. We only get one little slice each, so we savour it as much as we can. The broccoli is perfectly crisp and goes perfectly with olive tapenade mud, which is just the right amount of salty.

When we came in, there were a table in front of us who had started just before we did, so their courses were coming a few minutes before ours, so we could see and speculate what everything was before ours came. A second table arrived midway through the bread and dripping, so their first and second courses were about 10 minutes behind us. However, the arrival of our third course represented a shift in our food order for the rest of the night. Half an hour after the fish on rocks, a waitress comes out with three platters of the third course, but our table had not yet been cleared, although we had finished quite a while ago.

Instead of putting our dishes down and clearing the table, which would have taken about a minute, she gave our food to the next table, who somehow had already had their fish on rocks cleared. She left, and ten minutes later our table was cleared. It was another 15 minutes before our blood cake and bitterness arrived, and the other table had already finished eating. By this time, it is already 8.30 pm, which meant it had taken 2 hours for 3 courses to arrive. Don't worry, I assured everyone else. It'll be fine, we only have two more courses left.

The blood pudding and roasted beetroot is served on a stone chunk of treetrunk, and is not bitter at all, but really delicious. The boys, who declared that they had been apathetic to beetroot, confessed that they enjoyed it thoroughly, and gleefully examine the blood red colour of the dish. 

Another 45 minute wait before we finally get onto our main course. The kill of tonight is goat, quail, and lamb. The meats are served with a barley risotto and sautéed kale. 

The goat is absolutely divine. It is in some sort of heaven sauce (really, I cannot describe, and we weren't given anything more than a rudimentary elaboration of 'it's goat', so I really have no idea. But trust me, it was good), which goes perfectly with the warm and comforting barley risotto.

The quail (we were apportioned half a quail each) has crispy skin and is perfectly cooked, and we speculate over the decorative leaves on the plate (probably picked from outside?). 

The lamb doesn't arrive until we are almost done with the goat and the quail, without an apology or explanation, but we are more preoccupied with how it is served. On a stone, but there are only two cutlets for three people. It takes five minutes to flag down a waiter, who confirms that there should be three, and disappears into the kitchen. A replacement lamb dish arrives 15 minutes later, after we have awkwardly divided the two cutlets into 3 portions. It is very rare, but good, and I find myself almost full after it, but I'm much smaller than the boys. They discuss stopping for kebabs on the way home. By this time, the two tables that were in front of us, were onto their 'Final Bites'.

The super rare replacement lamb.

Dessert arrives half an hour later, at around 10 pm. It's a chunk of the wall, with the menu printed on it, which the waitress extracts from a smoking container of dry ice and places onto our plates. 

The menu is printed on rice paper, which is then placed on top of meringue and then frozen. Unfortunately two out of three of our menus are broken, but is still delicious. The dish also incorporates yuzu ice cream, coconut foam, pineapple and basil seeds, and is absolutely divine. The flavours are perfect, and the chunk of wall, has to be broken up into little chunks due to how frozen it is, so you get a little mouthful in every bite.

We wait excitedly for our final bite, as it is getting quite late. The two tables in front of us have paid and gone. The two tables on either side of us, who arrived an hour after us, are onto their dessert by now. Still no final bite. At 10.30 pm, a waiter emerges, and serves the table to our left their final bite, and we finally decide to ask where ours were. They're on the way, we are promised.

Fifteen minutes later, our final bites emerge. The couple on the left have already paid and gone. The final bite is carrot sorbet with toasted marshmallow, served on a tiny stone pillar. I think by this time I was too tired and frustrated to enjoy it properly, and found the sorbet to be too overly carrot-y, and the toasted marshmallow tasted like Pascall's.

Another 5 minutes of hand waving to get someone's attention to ask for the bill, another 10 minutes before the bill actually arrives. We left Gastro Park at around 11 pm, from a 6.30 pm reservation. While the food was amazing, bar the carrot sorbet, the service was unfortunately, quite horrible. There was no explanation or reason as to why tables that had arrived later than us were served quicker, and managed to leave significantly earlier than we did. The mess-up with clearing the tables was one problem, later exacerbated by giving us 2 lamb cutlets although we were a table of three. So while I really enjoyed the ingenuity and deliciousness of the food, the competency of the front of house staff make it doubtful that I will ever eat at Gastro Park again. Which is a shame, since I love A Game of Thrones, and the feast was delicious.

The Game of Thrones menu costs $110 per person, 
not including drinks. 
A glass of Vale Ale cost $10 each.

5-9 Roslyn Street, Potts Point
Sydney, Australia
Ph: 02 8068 1017


Carrot, Walnut and Oat Muffins with Cream Cheese Icing

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My best friend's mom made the best carrot cake when we were in junior high. And I mean the best. I don't know why, and I don't know how, but it was the perfect mixture of carroty-walnut-moist-spongy goodness. And that icing. So. Good. We would just sit in front of the TV eating it before we had Science tutoring classes, and it almost made those lessons worth it. Almost. I was/am terrible at it. 

Her mom made amazing food generally as well, but I can't pinpoint exactly what, only that it was good. One of my clearest memories, though, is that we used to eat spoonfuls of condensed milk, straight from the tin. Judge me, I don't care. It was delicious. I feel happy thinking about it. Although I do remember that we were only limited to one spoonful each. If that counts for anything.

Anyway! They now have a bunch of restaurants with lots of amazing Malaysian treats and food, but no carrot cake, as far as i know. And, there aren't any branches in Australia. Sad face. 

These cupcakes are not quite as good, sorry, but they are still good. And you can smother as much cream cheese icing on as you like. I decided to make these because:

(a) I have four big end-of-semester essays to write;
(b) In my procrastination I made some juice (apple, orange, carrot, strawberry, pineapple - it's delicious, and you'll feel much better making it at home than paying $7 at a juice bar) and felt bad about wasting the juice pulp/whatever that leftover stuff from juicing is called, so had to use them for something. 

So these are made with that pulpy stuff! You can, of course, just grate some carrots, but if you have a juicer and you like carrot juice, go for it. Also, I'm a very lazy human. I though the muffins might be a bit dry because the pulp is de-juiced, but they weren't at all. So that's good.

You can substitute a lot in this recipe. Walnuts can be substituted for almonds, or macadamias - probably any kind of nuts, but I've only tried it with those two so I can only guarantee they are great. But I'm sure any nuts would be fine. I used honey because I didn't have enough sugar, and I used oats because I didn't have enough flour. So, yes, that was probably a sign for me to get back to writing my Environmental Law essay, but I didn't take it and these turned out great. Anyway - you can substitute honey for sugar, and oats for flour, if you like.