26 Feb 2010

Time for Treats!

Posted by PastryPrincess at 14:18 1 comments Links to this post
When is a good time for treats? Anytime is a good time for treats I say! Particularly when you need a little pick-me-up... Nothing can better your mood aswell as a little sweet sum-sum. I'm a big sucker for treats, I've something sweet almost everyday. To scratch that sugary itch, ya know.

Surprisingly enough I haven't gone shopping at all in Sydney yet. Firstly because I haven't really seen anything I liked and secondly because I'm secretly thinking that I'm probably gonna find A LOT of gorgeous things I will want in London. That's for sure.
Therefore and because there's just so many delicious edibles waiting at each corner I've basically been spending most of my ca$h on food. If that isn't well spent money than I don't know what is!

Just this Wednesday ( half-time! ) I lived on treats alone. I knoooow it's not the healthiest but it was what I wanted and my mood needed. We had a housewarming party the night before and didn't get much sleep, you see. It was good fun and the massive pot of chili con carne without the chili (we didn't have any!) was completely devoured, easily more than 2kg! People do appreciate a bit of grub in their bellies to soak up drinks after all. Well anyway, although I don't drink I still felt the aftereffects the next day after being woken up by those stupid constrution workers at 6a.m.! What is wrong with them?!
Caro and I yawned our way to Newtown and certainly had looked better some other time. My mood improved significantly when I found Cold Rock, the Australian equivalent of the American Cold Stone Creamery. Yay! I had an extremely hard time deciding on one kind of ice-cream and "unfortunately" had to try several ones ( cake batter, donut, cookie dough, cheesecake, caramel etc ) before settling on peanut butter. It was just too darn yummy to resist; the other ones did sound better but failed to impress.
I decided on cookie dough, fudge brownie and a chocolate-covered peanut butter ball as mix-ins. The ice-cream melted quite quickly, unfortunately, because it meant that i had to eat faster and couldn't take my time savouring each spoon-full... Hmm, it was so good I could have eaten a whole bucket of it! I can't really say that I was able to taste each mix-in separately but the mixture of everything was simply scrumptious. Shall I go again?
On our way back to the CBD after having strolled around Glebe and the Sydney Uni Campus we walked around Darling Harbour where Caro wanted to show me a fudge shop. While I wasn't impressed by it my wandering eye fell onto a cookie stand I had to buy some little nibbles from.
 Macadamia white chocolate-chip, Caramel Chew, Choc chip

My choice fell on some miniature cookies because you've to try them before you go overboard and I could always come back and get more. It was a good decision not to go all out on them as they totally disappointed. Some lousy cookieman that is! The mass-produced cookies from the supermarket I had tried a few days earlier were much better!
The Lindt Café, also in Darling Harbour, on the other hand is pretty much safe bet when it comes to delivering good taste. I bought 2 lovely French macarons or "Délices" as they call them there and you all know about my weakness for them. They had been sold out the first time I'd gone there and I wanted to get to try all 4 flavours that had appealed to me: Peach with a sweet peach & white chocolate cream filling, a classic one with a champagne & white chocolate filling, Passion fruit dusted with cocoa powder with a zesty passion fruit & milk chocolate ream filling, Rose with a French rose, ginger & white chocolate cream filling.
This time it was the latter two and I've had the first two during my first week here. Peach and Passion fruit were my favourites and I especially liked the ever so slight tartness of the passion fruit combined with the sweetness of the chocolate cream filling. Not that you could actually taste chocolate in any of the macarons, they just add to the creaminess of the fillings. Besides the fact that a little bit of chocolate never hurts, right? The rose one could have been rosier though.
Yesterday after lunch at the amazing fish market I was supposed to get a mani-pedi at the beauty school I had already gone to for my very first experience of waxing on Tuesday. The waxing went okay pain-wise but the poor Asian girl with massive geek glasses was completely overwhelmed by working on an actual person for the first time in her training... It's safe to say that albeit being waxed and tweezed for over an hour or two I left with as much hair as I had gone there. That certainly can't be the purpose of it but at least it was for free.

The manicure went even worse... It never even came to the pedicure and the girl who was doing my nails must have never done her own nails because any little girl could have done a better job at putting nailpolish on! After 1 1/2 hours I was so fed-up with her getting more and more frustrated, hectic and hence sloppy that I asked for nailpolish remover, did my nails myself and left. You will understand that I needed some chocolates to make up for that! I didn't even mean to buy any, honestly, but they looked so nice when I walked past them in the shopping-centre that I couldn't resiste even if they were a bit pricey. They had such lovely descriptions and names at BonBon but I can't remember them exactly.
As far as I know theres supposed to be cinnamon and something in the dark chocolate heart, a passion fruit infused latin American caramel in the white chocolate one, peaches and cream in the orange heart and something or other in the dark one, must be something caramel-y again. It tasted rich and decadent and is probably my favourite right before the peaches and cream heart.
Then there is also the yummy caramel slice I couldn't resist buying at the fish market. Caramel and fish sounds weird, I know. It's good though, I still have some in the fridge. The thicker the caramel layer the better and the one on this is pretty decent. Not quite caramel-y but rather like the sweetened condensed milk stuff but still good. Buttery and decadent, a real mouthful.
Back at home I like to eat ice-cream every day. There's always room for some ice-cream, no matter how full you are after dinner because it melts into all the little gaps in your tummy. Amazing really. Quite differently to what you might expect in a warm country like Australia there aren't many good ice-cream shops around. Emphasis on good. Which is a real shame because there's nothing I crave more than a bit of cold ice-cream to refresh me when it's hot. Fortunately enough I bought package on special offer in the supermarket, not actually knowing how good it was gonna be.
 The brand is called Connoisseur and it was gourmet Brownie ice-cream with chunky brownie pieces and pecans, what a heavenly combination! This is some seriously good ice-cream I dare say! Just the right size and amount of chunky brownie and pecans in a delicious chocolatey ice-cream with a mousse-like texture. Not that I was able to enjoy the moussy texture from the beginning because the tiny freezer compartmet in the fridge is missing its door and therefore the ice-cream was more like a milk shake and I ate pretty much half of it as a liquidy sauce. It was still delicious though and I'm kicking myself for not having bought more of it when it was on special offer because it's apparently a quite pricey brand. The door's fixed now, yay!
Tomorrow I'm going surfing for the very first time and I'll be getting a lesson by a typical Bondi Beach surfer boy. Wish me luck, I'm sure I'll need it! Not just so I don't get whacked in the head by my board or swallow half the sea but also because I don't want to flash each-goers if my bikini gets swept away, uugghh! Surviving all of it is an occassion calling for that deep-fried Mars bar delight I've decided. I'll let you know how it goes!

23 Feb 2010

It's the Simple Things...

Posted by PastryPrincess at 04:01 0 comments Links to this post
Last week my two friends and I wanted to take the ferry to Manly Beach and lie on the beach but then the weather didn't cooperate...
So instead we walked aimlessly around the suburbs Surrey Hills & Darling Hurst. I can't say there was anything particularly interesting to see at all but we ended up checking out all these lovely food speciality shops which was nice. Food shops always make me happy, I could visit every single bakery, food shop and deli around Sydney and would have a jolly good time! I'm easy to please like that.

Even before we went there I had heard of and had been told about the Bourke Street Bakery and yes, you guessed right, it's on Bourke Street! Taa-daa, big surprise there! It's well-known around here and apparently people cue along the street on weekends but that might also be because the corner shop is teeny-tiny. They even have their own cook book with all the recipes for their breads and buns which you can buy everywhere.
We eventually got there in the afternoon which means that most of the stuff had already been sold and there was not an awful big selection left. It was still super hard to choose all the same. Maybe it was a good thing they didn't have much left though or it would have taken me even longer to pick my chocolate-raspberry tart than it already did and I would have still been standing there, looking at the display at closing time! The staff there are apparently used to it, people commonly seem to have the problem of choice and I'm the biggest sucker for indecisiveness! I don't think they sell any proper cakes there but rather small bits and pieces like muffins and small tarts apart from all the breads and buns. There really is an abundance of the latter and also many savoury little snacks like a scrumptious-looking chorizo pastry and little quiches. 
I wanted something sweet to go with my cappucino and although I would have certainly enjoyed the ginger crème brûlée tart, I went for the classic and delicious combo of chocolate and raspberry. You just can't go wrong with it! The coffee was nice too and they also offer freshly squeezed orange juice which my friend opted for and it was lovely and refreshingly cool from the fridge. My other friend went for the lemon tart and we took our seats outside in the sun. There arent many seats and tables as this is a tiny place but sitting in the window inside really looked like a cosy spot to read your newspaper and nibble on a bun. Some other time guys.
 
My tart was nice and yummy. Yes, it was. But not amaaaaazing. Amazing in a way that you would expect from such an uuhhh-oohh kinda place. That's the thing with these "famous" places, expectations build up and then they're not actually met. Wich is a shame because it is, in fact, a cosy and good little shop. If not a little over-hyped if you ask me. Which is the downfall of places with this kind of reputation, sometimes it can get a little bit out of hand. Anyway, let's get back to basics.
The shell of my tart was lovely crisp and flaky and I was positively surprised when I discovered it was not filled with a chocolate cream but with a mousse, hmm. Chocolate mousse is always a good idea! It was topped with something chocolatey ( I think...) and crumbly, maybe some kind of streusel which added a nice texture. What I was a little disappointed by was how little the amount of raspberry was. Okay, so it looked like fresh raspberry puree which can be praised as such but there was so little of it you could hardly taste it at all. The chocolate was over-powering and that's not really the point of a chocolate-raspberry tart, right? Maybe it's just me but I love raspberries and I would have liked to be able to get to enjoy their flavour a bit more. Especially considering the great produce Australia has to offer when it comes to fruit and veggies!
I also tried my friend's lemon tart and once again it was lovely but nothing surprising there. You order a lemon tart, you get a lemon tart. Delicious but not special. What am I even complaining about you may ask. I'm not complaining friends, just pointing out!

As the selection was pretty much irresistable we ended up buying two loafs of bread to take home. Way too much bread for 2 girls who hardly ever eat any! It's a week later and I still have about 2/3 of the bread left and no, I haven't thrown it out yet. Come on, it's still edible and I nibble on it every now and again. Really, I do. Sometimes at least, erm.... Ah okay so, maybe it's time to put it out of its misery, hahaha.
Why did I not devour the bread in one sitting, it was Apple Cinnamon Sourdough after all?! Weeeeeeell, let's just say it was a bit of a let-down... Maybe I had wrong expectations. Possibly. The thing is I LOVE cinnamon and apple, it's a classic and a whole bread of it - genius! It could have been amazing. For breakfast. Toasted. With butter. Hmmmmmm. Made me think of a breakfast muffin. It was nothing like that though. It was bread. Sourdough bread. And that's what it tasted like, reminding me of farmhouse bread, wholesome and healthy. 
I couldn't taste the cinnamon, boo-hoo, but I could actually see it. Weird. There was hardly any apple in it either and it was not exactly flavourful. I don't know, maybe it's just me but when I think of apple cinnamon bread I think of something slightly sweet, like other fruity breads but it wasn't in the slightest which was probably because it was a sourdough. Sourdough is ooommpphh. This bread definitely had ooommpphh. I didn't want ooommpphh... I wanted cinnamony-apply hhhmmm-ness.
I basically made my friend buy the other bread I would have picked had I not gone for Ooommpphh. It was a white, ciabatta-like bread with olives and rosemary. What a beauty. My friend doesn't even like olives! I luuuurve them, oh yes. This baby was gooood! Totally delivered. I had bread envy. At least I got to try some and yep, in this case I could have eaten the whole thing in one go. Delish.
It was light and with a good amount of dark olives and fresh rosemary. Fragrant. Hmmm. I put olive oil on it and it tasted like a holiday in Italy but in your mouth. You can't beat the simplicity of it. Pure foodgasm! More-ish. Even my not-so-much-into-olives friend really liked it. She had it with fresh tomatoes as a side to fish the other day and rolled her eyes it was that good. It's the simple things that taste best. Now she's bought a basil plant and you can imagine how good it would be with some of that now... Oh boy.
Simplicity is best. It can't be hyped.
Simplicity versus hype. I know what I'd pick.
A boulangerie is simple - Don't go and destroy it by overly hyping it... They have some good bread there after all!

20 Feb 2010

Yummy Yum-Cha!

Posted by PastryPrincess at 14:04 0 comments Links to this post
Today I conceived a food baby of the best kind. I've always thought that I must be the only person in the world who gets "food pregnant", meaning that you've eaten so much that your rounded tummy sticks out and you look pregnant. Or almost. Sometimes quite scarily similar. I was wrong. Food babies seem to be very common among my Aussie friends and apparently even guys can have them! Who would have known... Up until now I was only used to my boyfriend looking very freaked out whenever I held my stomach like a pregnant lady and said "I think I'm having steak twins!". I believed I was a weirdo. But it's the boyfriends who are the oddballs - there's no reason to be scared boys, you can have one too! Like the guys I went to lunch with today, all of them were happy food daddies. We even took our babies to the sunny beach afterwards where we passed out into a blissful food coma. I couldn't think of a better day!
Around noon we made our way to Marigold on George Street to go for Yum-Cha, my first ever. "Yum-cha" means "to drink tea" in Cantonese but it describes the getting together of families and friends for dim-sum at lunch time. Dim-sum can be best described as the Chinese equivalent to Spanish tapas, small and bite-sized dishes that are shared at the table. When we get to the 5th floor and the elevator doors open we are greeted by the loud noise of many, many people chatting and eating in a big open plan restaurant and a massive queue. This is obviously a very busy place and we're grateful to have reserved a big table so we don't have to wait around like so many others. Our table is in the process of getting cleaned and I'm a little taken aback by the general feeling of mass processing but once we sit down I start to unwind and want to get started.
The food looks appetizing and I'm intrigued by this whole experience. Finally we get our pots of tea, all friends have arrived and we start eyeing the presented food being pushed by on carts. And off we go.
In action
Whenever you like the food on offer you tell the waiter how many portions you want, then the plates and baskets are placed on a big wheel in the middle of the table and your little order card gets stamped accordingly. The wheel is turned around and everybody takes whatever they like, usually one piece at a time, then you dip it in whatever sauce you like and munch away.
Usually there's always around 3 pieces on a serving plate and depending on the size of the party you order several plates of the same food. Not really being able to work my chopsticks I make quite a mess of my place right at the beginning but at least I wasn't the only one... The carts come around quite frequently and whenever you feel like you can't wait for a dish to pass you by any longer you can order it and it's brought straight to your table.
3 different dumplings, clockwise: pork & prawn (one of my favs), vegetarian with chives, prawn

We all tuck in with great joy and although we always debate on what to order so everybody gets what they want, it's our "man on the inside", Darran, a Chinese Sydneysider, who makes a lot the decisions simply because he knows what's good and worth a try. I think he does a great job and only disagree once when it comes to dessert.
I find the joghurt-like tofu with sweet syrup is not worth trying at all because it doesn't really taste of anything and is quite watery...
Well, I probably wasn't the biggest fan of the custard tarts either but only because they were too eggy. Apperently one whole egg is used per small tart which is way too much if you ask me. The dough had a lovely flaky texture though.
Flaky, crispy dough folded around prawsn and vegetables, very good!
There's all kinds of different dumplings, meats, buns, spring rolls and other dishes and I'm so busy taking pictures of everything that I don't even realize what's in front of me... 
Chicken feet! My long-awaited chicken feet! I know it might sound a bit weird that I was looking forward to them but when I had found out that they were on the menu the day before I had immediately said that I would want to try them. I'm up for almost anything when it comes to food after all. 
So there they are, steamed and fried and nothing like I expected the texture to be. Instead of being crunchy and crispy, well apart from the bones you have to spit out that is, they are kind of gooey and wobbly and have a strangely familiar taste. Darran tells me that what I'm tasting is star anise and cloves. Aaaahhhhh!
It's really hard to say which dish was my favourite because simply everything was delicious. The choice is too big as there's not one single dish we ordered that I didn't try... 
 Soft rice-dough filled with prawns and vegetables
I did like some dishes slightly better and probably ate more of them than others I guess but it's a close call.
fluffy pork dumplings, hmmm....

I definitely did love the mango pancakes though that were for dessert. I had particularly asked for them because I had heard they were supposed to be good and they delivered.
 Yum! The thin, golden pancake is filled with deliciously ripe, sweet, yellow mango and ice-cream which makes for a surprising cold effect when you grab one.
 Albeit being full I ate two, that's how good they were!
Apart from the food and the great fun it was to try so many different dishes without knowing what to expect and pushing around the wheel on the table it was the social aspect that I especially enjoyed about Yum-Cha.
8 happy diners
 All food is shared so that people around the big round table are constantly interacting, discussing what to eat or order next, filling up tea cups and passing around food. Everybody tries to get their share when certain dishes are limited and it's fun to split dumplings, drip sauce all over the place and simply enjoy great food and great company.
 BBQ Pork buns and fried pork dumplings
I had the best time and loved every minute of it! Hopefully I get to go again soon - you just can't beat the fun you get for 25 Aus$, what a bargain!

18 Feb 2010

Fishy First Impressions

Posted by PastryPrincess at 13:37 0 comments Links to this post

You wanna know about Sydney, eh? Going literally to the other side of the world seems pretty exotic, doesn’t it? Only that it’s not… Odd but true. Don’t expect any cultural shock on my side anytime soon!                        
The culture is pretty much English and the climate as well as the plants around remind me of the U.S. Tropically humid, warm and sunny. Why, oh why is it not actually like that all the time though? It’s supposed to be the hottest month of the year and I desperately need a tan, especially before going to London! I’m not as seethrough-white as my boyfriend but not exactly Ozzie colour either. Oy, sun, get out and do your job!                   
There isn’t exactly any city centre because the city spreads out into suburbs and smaller areas and there’s not much sightseeing to be done because Sydney is only 200 years old. Which is nothing. This city hasn’t even hit puberty yet, it’s still a fresh-faced newborn baby! „Can Mummy and Daddy City please pick up little Sydney at the metropolis nursery, she needs a new nappie! … And some Formular so she’ll grow strong and big!“ Hence there are no old parts of town or buildings etc. to look at like you’d find in Europe. I didn’t expect that at all and had never even thought about it because it’s one of those places most people want to go to, right?
At least there’s the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge which are both nice to look at and I was fascinated by the Central Business District nearby and all its skyscrapers because I’m not used to them. They have some tall and shiney buldings and all the business men look like little ants when they squeeze onto the trains to go to work. I never want to be one of those ants. Another reason to become a chef! ;) 
When I went to the Botanical Gardens the other day, all the green made for a stark contrast before the über-urban backdrop of the CBD. Pretty cool. Especially the bats there hanging relaxedly off the trees. Vampires. I like them. Not just since Twilight! I used to nap in suitcases in a classmate’s attic in primary school pretending to be a vampire and I liked meat a bit too much. Rare meat. Hahaha. I don’t glitter and twinkle in daylight though, darn. That would make for a class party effect! ;) I’m rambling…
Water. Bays. Beaches. Coastal Walks. I love the ocean. J Sydney is obviously on the coast and so there’s a lot of water around and many a beach to be found. I’ve only been to 2 yet although I would have loved to spend way more time tanning in the sun but the weather hasn’t been hot and sunny enough lately… Ehum! Bronte Beach was quite intimate while famous and bigger Bondi Beach represents young, hip surfing culture and is probably more touristy. Somehow I preferred Bondi because it was more entertaining and it also offers a few streets with nice little shops and its very own athmosphere. There’s also a gorgeous coastal walk you can do from one beach to the next and which I loved and will have to do again and further.
It’s in Bondi that I went for fish'n'chips. Now you have to know that I LOVE fish’n chips… yum, yum, double-yum! :) The best fish’n chips there is is definitely the one you get in McDonagh’s in Galway, Ireland, so I’m pretty spoilt. Yep, I’m a die-hard fan!   
I do love me some fresh, crispy batter but in this case I went for grilled king fish, which of course is not your usual, traditional fish’n chips. Maybe I could have gone for typically Ozzie Barramundi but I thought there might be better places to eat it some other time and when my friend had it another day I didn’t think it was all that special… Unfortunately they slightly over-cooked my fish, which was a shame and it wasn’t seasoned at all but the chips were okay. Generally speaking it was an okay meal but not more. I did season it with salt, pepper and lemon which they actually do give you but the chips desperatley cried for some sauce or my beloved malt vinegar. I settled for BBQ sauce and enjoyed the greasiness of them. ;)
When my friend had the aforementioned Barramundi I went for a deep-fried crab claw. I doubt it was actually crab claw meat though because when I bit into it I could tell it was some sort of white, fishy meat formed into a ball with a skinny piece of claw sticking out. They seem to deep-fry everything at that place - I found the deep-fried oysters especially intriguing…
One thing I definitely still have to try there is the battered, deep-fried Mars bar! Ewwww? No, genius! Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of it! Some guy in Scotland came up with it and it’s world-famous or rather infamous. I can imagine the crispy batter and then when you bite into it you get to the ooey-gooey melted chocolatey caramel centre. Sure, it’s a heart attack on a plate but totally worth it! Right? Riiiight! The only thing I’m not sure about is that they take the Mars bar out of the fridge, already battered and don’t open a fresh bar, drop it in the batter and then into the hot oil like they would in Scotland… I will let you know all about it when I try it. Drool. ;P
 

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