Monday, September 30, 2013

BaoTown pop-up @VellaNero Cafe, Sydney

On Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited to the media preview of the soon-to-be-launched BaoTown pop-up that is being put together by fellow food blogger T (aka Theresa), from the blog, The Gook.



Until a few years ago I had no idea what a Bao even was (an infliction not uncommon to most Aussie kids growing up in Aussie country towns), but in the space of a few short years I've grown to know them...and love them. A LOT. Unlike me, T grew up eating Bao -- they were practically a daily after-school treat made for her by her nan...hence the source of her Bao passion and the inspiration behind BaoTown.

The lovely T, chief Bao-ologist and mastermind behind BaoTown
So what is a Bao? You know those Pork Buns that we all know and love at Yum Cha? That's a Bao. Bao (pronounced "bow") simple means "bun"...a doughy casing for whatever inventive filling the bao-maker wishes to stuff them with.  Like all good food, it's meant to be eaten with your hands...so put those knives + forks down people and tuck in.


At the media launch we got to try all four of the savoury Bao's that will be appearing and the pop-up PLUS the two incredible sweet baos on offer. I may have snuck an extra Bao when noone was looking and just so you know eating seven Bao may be one too many. Maybe...

Miso Eggplant Bao - sweet eggplant slow roasted with shiro miso, sake, mirin, sesame seeds and ginger. Topped with a coriander salsa.
Coconut Pork Belly Bao - pork belly slow cooked for 4 hours in young coconut juice, soy and fish sauce + star anise (I may or may not have had two of these. Don't judge)!

Yellow Chicken Curry Bao - fragrant chicken curry made with turmeric, curry leaves, fish sauce and coconut cream (sadly I could not fit in two of these - my stomach let me down).

Beef Bo Kho Bao - traditional beef stew slow cooked in soy sauce, tomato, lemongrass and cinnamon.
From my limited Bao knowledge sweet fillings in Bao isn't uncommon, but T took her sweet fillings to a whole other level. Behold the Molten Chocolate Bao (you can put in a drum roll there if you like cause I think it's kinda worth it).

On first glance it looks innocent enough - some pastry wrapped around some chocolate. No big deal. But then you bite into it and a river of glossy, oozy, molten Marou chocolate runs out like a river of sweet silk.  This baby sh!ts all over those Nutella crepes I was scoffing in Paris a few weeks ago.

 

The Lemon Polenta Bao is also pretty dang great, especially for those people (like me) who love the tart zinginess of a bit of lemon in their food.


As the pop-up is being hosted by CBD cafe + coffee roasters Vella Nero we also get to indulge in some fine Vietnamese Iced Coffee (which I REALLY appreciated as I'm still feeling a tad jet lagged and still on London time).


So what are you waiting for? It all sounds delish, right?

The first BaoTown pop-up is being held on 12th October at Vella Nero, 259 Clarence Street in the city between 10.00am - 5.00pm.

There is also a November + December pop-up on the cards.

 Vella Nero Coffee Couture on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Parramatta for Foodies this October

It seems that Parramatta is getting a bit of a reputation as a burgeoning foodie destination. Whilst I was off gallivanting around Europe (and eating all of their food) the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food supplement ran a blurb on Parramatta. Of course anyone who's alive, living in Sydney and a cafe lover has heard of Circa, but the article also mentioned other foodie gems like the newly (re)lauched Farmer's Markets (each Friday in Church Street Mall).



I'm going to let you in on a little secret food lovers...October is going to be a good food month for Parramatta. There's Pop Up dinner scheduled in one of our many arcades and another year of the Parramatta Lanes festival!

I absolutely LOVED the relaxed vibe of last years Parramatta Lanes and cannot wait to check out all the great food stands, and pop up venues at this years gig. CANNOT.WAIT! I also have it on good authority that my BBQ BFF, Smoky O, is going to be BBQ'ing up a storm at Parramatta Lanes. Like I said....CANNOT WAIT!  Parramatta Lanes is on 17 +18 and 24 + 25 October from 4.30pm - 9.30pm each night. There's more info here.



I'm also pretty chuffed that I've invited by Pop Up Parramatta to attend the pop up dinner that's happening in Connection Arcade on October 23rd.  The three-course dinner has a focus on sustainably and minimizing food waste featuring local farmers and growers with matched wines and Batlow Cider.  The arcade will be transformed by local Pop Up Parramatta artists.  I cannot wait to see how these guys transform the arcade...Geraldine from the local Prospector Store is in charge of styling and she is one stylish lady!


There's still tickets left if you're interested.




I'm not wanting to wish my life away but HURRY UP OCTOBER, I'M HUNGRY. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Normandy, France

During our stay in Paris we made a weekend detour to Normandy so that The Boy could fulfill a long-held dream of visiting the WWII d-day battlefields. Queue the yawning from me. Truth be told I could thinking of nothing worse than giving up Paris time to visit old war sites.  I'm not a history buff and definitely have no interest in military history (although I have the utmost respect for those men + women who give up their lives to go to war). But being married is a partnership (so I'm told) and every now + then The Boy gets his way.


There were a lot of whirlwind tours leaving from Paris that did most of the top Normandy sites in a day...but the thing is you didn't really SEE anything and you spent half the day driving to/from Paris in a crowded bus. Couple that with the fact that many of the tour buses would just drive by the major sites, often without stopping the bus and you have a pretty awful sightseeing tour.

After a little research The Boy found the PERFECT tour, D Day 1994 Tours,  run by an English couple (Ben + Jaye) who have lived in Normandy for years.  Best of all we would travel up from Paris on our own by train and stay in Ben + Jaye's manoir house that dates back from the 1550s!  Even better than the tours are private so we didn't have to share our tour with anyone else. The weekend cost us 600 Euros which I think is pretty reasonable.


I have to say I loved this tour which surprised me. I knew I'd like the countryside but had no idea I'd find the "war bits" themselves so interesting. I think this is a credit to Ben who has researched many of the personal stories of soldiers than fought in his immediate area. He brings the individual element to the tour which makes it much more accessible.


Along with details of the major battles, and seeing the major battlefields, we also learned about individuals who fought during D Day, their lives, their families and their deaths rather than just "on this day xxx happened". He also had piles of photos of soldiers taken on the actual spots where we were standing - mainly just happy snaps taken by the soldiers themselves - which was amazing to see! It made it all very real and relatable for me. I actually learned quite a bit on this tour. Yep, really.


Of course touring is hard and hungry work so we had a quick lunch stop overlooking Omaha Beach. I had a croque monsieur (my first ever and it was fantastic) and in honour of the Americans who fought on Omaha Beach The Boy had a cheeseburger...with fries.



An unexpected highlight of the stay with Ben + Jaye (for me) was the food. Whilst Ben was out touring around with us, Jaye was busy in the kitchen making us a wonderful feast. The food she cooked for us during both  nights of our trip was WONDERFUL and it really highlighted the seasonal nature of French cooking. We came home from our tour to find Jaye pouring over cookbooks as the seasons were changing and she was looking for new ways to cook the next seasons ingredients. Fantastic! Whilst we have seasonality at home it's not as evident as it is in France. Once something is out of season that's it....it's gone of the shelves until next year.

Dinner on day one was a wonderful rock melon salad with feta, tomatoes and mint (yum), a very French dish Salmon en Papillote (salmon cooked in a bag) and stone fruit with ice cream for dessert.  I loved these dishes so much that I'm going to make them at home (Jaye kindly gave me the recipe for the salmon so watch this space).


Dinner on day two was also great - we started off trying some of the local apple cider (apples are big business in Normandy) and it was so tasty I think we just about polished off the entire bottle. 


Our entree was an amazing twice-baked Roquefort soufflĂ©s. Oh boy, this was GOOD! Main meal was another traditional French winner, beef daube (beef stew with red wine for which I also brought home a recipe for) and we took a trip to the UK for dessert with a delectable sticky toffee pudding.  I was also joined during dinner by their lovely dog Saffy. Sorry Saffy, Miss Piggy never drops her food on the floor (or almost never).


We finished the day with Ben loading up his canon (he has an impressive personal collection of military artifacts, many found locally, including this canon that he built himself) for The Boy to fire. They then spent 10 minutes trying to find where the canon ball went - but I think this rates as one of the highlights of the WHOLE trip for The Boy!


All in all it was a great tour that I would highly recommend to anyone...even to history imbeciles like me.

You can find out more information on the D Day 1944 Tours here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Harvest Monday - Holiday Fatalities

After our four week trip in Europe it was with some trepidation that I stepped out to survey my (neglected) balcony garden. I gave all the plants a BIG water before we left and had a friend pop over a few times to give them a drink, but I think we had some super hot weather when I was away that not everything survived...oh dear!

The fatalities: interestingly (and surprisingly) it was the plants that just would not die when I was home that gave up the ghost the minute I turned my back for a bit of time off.

This was SAGE...but not anymore. 


Remember ALL those posts with garnishes of PARSLEY...and how proud I was that I had a never-ending, never-dying supply of parsley?  Well the parsley is no more. Both my flat parsley and curly parsley are as dead as a do-do. Oops.

 

I'm sad that the THYME has carked it even tough I really had no idea of what to use it all for (I mean I had TONNES of the stuff and nothing to use it for).  I loved going out onto the balcony and running my hand through the thyme as it has had the most wonderful aroma.


This mint has been through A LOT in its short life and even though it's half dead here it is already sprouting little bits of greenery. I'm going to cut all the branches off today and see if it makes another comeback.


The living dead:

The kale is half-dead. I'm not sure what I was planning to use this KALE for anyway as other than kale chips I have NO idea what to do with kale. I think this is going straight to the bin.


Although the tops are looking a bit crunchy I think my CARROTS might be still alive under all that dirt. Only time will tell - fingers crossed.


My SAGE was starting to flower before I went away and it's gone into full-bloom now. I'm wondering if I cut off all the flowers will I have usable sage underneath? Hmmm....



The survivors: 

I lost my mind about two weeks before we flew out and planted these BEANS. I have no idea why and I am gob-smacked that the plants are still alive AND they have beans on them. Albeit, the plants aren't as big as they'd be if they'd be watered and fertilized, but hey, beggars can't be choosers.


 

ROSEMARY. You just can't kill it can you (well I usually can, so I'm surprised that this is pretty much in one piece).  There's a few brown, crunchy bits but nothing a pair of scissors cannot fix.



Now that I'm back to reality I'm going to have think about what I want to plant on the balcony for summer. I'm starting to think "less is more" so I think it'll just be a few things for the coming months. Probably tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums. Some new parsley wouldn't go astray either.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Frenchie, Paris

Whilst most of our Paris eating was fly-by-the-seat-of-our pants I did book ONE meal. I'd received a few recommendations on great Parisian restaurants but most of them didn't take bookings, or were already booked out.


By some stroke of luck I nabbed a booking a Frenchie, one of the new, hip bistro type eateries popping up in Paris.  This place is notoriously hard to get a reservation for, but I managed to score a table at 9.30pm on our second last night in town. When the day arrived I knew I was mad making a dinner booking for a time that I'm normally getting ready for bed - I want to be in bed at that time of night, not eating! Lady Luck was smiling on me that day however I was able to move our booking to 7.00pm as they'd had a last minute cancellation. Woot!



The style of food at Frenchie is less traditional French - no confit duck, french onion soup or steak tartare was on the menu for us.  The style of food is quite modern, pretty much like the mod Oz food we get at our fancy  restaurants at home. They have a strong focus on seasonal cooking and as such the menu changes almost on a weekly basis.

The menu is three courses with a choice of two dishes for each course.  There's an option to add Foie Gras as a pre-starter which we decided to do for "research purposes" seeing as our first try of Foie Gras on our food tour was...underwhelming. We thought maybe our minds would be blown if we had it prepared in a top notch restaurant.  It was still underwhelming and even though people around us were ooh'ing and ahh'ing I just don't "get" Foie Gras and I don't think it's worth what the animals are put through in order to produce it.


Entrees were lovely - mackerel for me and quail for The Boy. I liked my entree but I had food envy when I tried The Boy's quail...it was GREAT with wonderful smokey, savoury flavours.


We both went with the Pork Belly for mains...because it's pork and noone wants to share pork we decided we needed one of these to ourselves.


And dessert! I can't actually remember what we had now (it's been a few weeks since this dinner) but as to be expected they were lovely, a great way to end a special night out in Paris. It was berry season when we were in Paris so the desserts features loads of sweet fresh berries, berry sorbets and berry jus. It was berry berry good!


Frenchie is at 5-6 Rue du Nil, 75002 Paris, France.  The restaurant is VERY small (only 25 tables) and reservations are a MUST. We watched so many people try to get a table just by walking in...and we couldn't believe it when a group of 8 turned up trying for a table. Crazy!

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