Friday, August 31, 2012

Bali belly + other eats, Bali

After our unexpected mini-break in Melbourne we FINALLY arrive in Bali - a full 34 hours after we left Sydney.  It's normally a five hour flight...just for the record. Did I mention that we had booked a villa in Bali...with our own private pool. That pool made the dramas of getting to Bali just melt away.  Not having to bags a banana-lounge before sunrise just so we could sit by the pool was a true luxury!

Our villa was in Seminyak - far away from the mayhem of crazy-busy Kuta, but still close to the action (which is basically at your front door everywhere you go in Bali unless you go to a rural location and "zen" out). We had shopping right on our doorstep and the beach was about 800m down the road. We spent our days lazing about, wandering along the beach, stopping for cold drinks, shopping (and trying to bargain but mostly failing) and of course...EATING!

We mostly stuck to the local-style eateries near our villa - though we did go fancy twice + I'll write about those later.  Without a doubt our favourite place was Warung Mimpi - a small warung (eatery) that served up simple (but great) Indonesian food...and only Indonesian food. So many of the eateries in Bali try to cater for all tastes so you end up with an odd mix of Indonesian, Balinese, Hamburgers, Mexican, Pasta, Pizza - blah! 

Nasi Campur - probably my favourite meal in Bali - is something I had more than a few times at Mimpi.  Simply go to the counter and point to whatever takes your fancy (tuna curry = OMG). It's kinda easy to overload your plate this way but Mr Mimpi (if that is his real name) gave me a nod when he thought I was getting out-of-control.  The Boy was stuck on Nasi Lemak (fried rice with a satay skewer, fried egg + giant prawn cracker) but broke out of the mold a few times for grilled whole snapper ($8 !!!!) and a plate of fried noodles with seafood. I even got my fix of Ikan Bilis (little dried/fried fish)...I kept going back until they finally had it on the menu. Ah Mimpi, we miss you!

Another warung not too far from our villa was Warung Ocha which we tried out for lunch one day. It was much bigger than Mimpi, on a pretty busy road (Jalan Seminyak) and I don't think the staff were anywhere near as friendly as Mr + Mrs Mimpi who ran Mimpi by themselves.  That said we had pretty good lunch at Ocha and they have a nice open courtyard with free wifi! I tried the Ayam Goreng (fried chook) which came with a tasty piece of Tempeh (yum) as well as a bowl of Lodeh. I had no idea what Lodeh was...but it turns out to be a pretty tasty coconut based curry with mixed veggies. The Boy went for a plate of fried noodles...with a non-runny egg! Crimes against eggs...tut tut.

One of the best things about our villa was its proximity to a bunch of great little eateries on the  Seminyak beachfront. None of them were fancy (we weren't in the fancy part of Seminyak), but I guess they were all touristy...but hey, we're tourists so that's fine with me.  We found ourselves at La Plancha quite a few times - mostly for a cold drink (or two) and to sit and watch the waves roll in and the sunbathers get hassled by hawkers.  My favourite drink was a really refreshing lemon-soda with fresh mint (which gave me a GREAT idea of what to do with all my homegrown mint).

After my brief dance with a bout of Bali belly I laid of the Indonesian food for a while and was craving plain, starchy foods.  La Plancha served Spanish Tapas and a bowl of hot chips (aka patatas) and a potato tortilla were just what the doctor ordered. The Boy indulged in serve of grilled prawns and some grilled chicken. All of these dishes were around $4 - amazing...and even more amazing when you can watch the sunset.

And the reason we were in Bali?  The Boy's birthday of course! And a birthday means a birthday dinner.   The birthday boy decided on a Warung near our place called Delicious Onion (I didn't see any onions on the menu though...curious) which was tucked down a fairly quiet street with a lovely big (shady) tree over the outdoor area.

We started with a (lethal) cocktail and an entree of Thai Kafir Lime Leaf Chicken in a wonton cup - like a fancy vol-au-vent. I'd read about the Double Happiness on TripAdvisor when checking out local restaurants so knew before I arrived that this is what I was going to order.  Two types of pork (Char Siew and Roast Pork) with rice, pickles and soup...all for SEVEN DOLLARS! It was such a great meal and it blows my mind that the food in Bali is so cheap!

I don't seem to have much luck tracking down "real" street food vendors when I travel in Asia.  I always just seem to miss the motorbikes full of food as they dash past me, or I've just eaten a HUGE meal and am too full to fit in one more thing. I did try Bali Kopi (aka coffee) a few times...SO good! So sweet, thick and totally addictive.  And we were lucky enough to snag a mystery brown packet off the back of a motorbike which turned out to be a delicious chicken with rice. Prawn or pork crackers are always a good snack too...but whatever the weird coconut drink with vegetables in it was...blergh!

And so ends the first installment of my Bali eats. Stayed tuned!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Balcony Garden, Winter update

Things continue to tick along nicely with the second "crop" on my little balcony garden. This time around I've basically stuck to the same formula as my first attempt at farming - if it ain't broke why fix it?

That said, the Rosemary is well and truly cactus. Everybody said that Rosemary was really hardy - I could basically neglect it and it would spring back to didn't.  It became more twig-like as the weeks progressed. When I was away house-sitting for my brother the boy was looking after my garden. He told me he was watering the plants with "warm" water as it was so cold outside he didn't want them to freeze. Maybe he boiled my Rosemary to death?

The first time I grew lettuce it was from some seeds a colleague gave me - for Cos + Mignonette . This time I decide to just stick with's more compact so take up less space in the pot, plus I like it better - especially in homemade Caesar Salads.  I still haven't had any luck with the Radicchio that same colleague gave to me...the seeds are uber-stubborn and only two have sprouted in about two months. Maybe it's just too cold (like I'd know what these pesky plants need).  I'm tempted to pull out the seedlings and plant something else (space is precious after all) but I'll leave it a bit longer as curiosity is getting the better of moi.

Remember last month when I only had one shallot sprout. One! I mean REALLY! I aborted mission with that little fella and planted some new seeds in a (not much) bigger pot and things are going quite well. Even if I do say so myself!  I love how the shallot sprout had this tiny little black dot on it's tip (which is the seed it's sprouted from) - like a mung bung. These guys are still growing, but I'm thinking I'll be able to pick them soon.

Ah, radishes! These must be one of the easiest things to grow (and the tastiest). A few of these ended up in salads...but I mostly just ended up picking them, rinsing them off and them eating. They are so fresh + crunchy. The literally burst out of the soil when the ready to pick, just screaming "eat me NOW". Unlike the carrots - I have NO idea what's going on under the soil and when is the "right time" to pick them.

Pak choi is another fail-safe crop on my little balcony. This time around it's been too cold for the fat little grubs to dine out on my pak choi so The Boy and I have gotten to enjoy the lot ourselves. As it should be!  I've been using the pak choi in a wonton noodle soup (with frozen, store bought prawn wontons thank you very much) that's pretty much a staple in my house, and Muppy just blogged a good soba noodle recipe that calls for leafy Chinese Greens so the last of this crop was used for that.  I've finally found some Bok Choi seeds so will give that a whirl soon - just for something different.

I'm having a bit of trouble thinking of what to do with all my mint - so it just keeps going into homemade mint teas.  The mint looks like it's dying off a bit however, I'm not sure if it's from the cold weather over winter, or perhaps the pot is too...snug.  I also noticed that "somebody" has taken a bit chomp out of just one of the mint leaves...shoo grubs.

The good thing about the balcony garden is having to think of things to use the vegies for.  I've been a little bit more creative in my cooking and I'm enjoying cooking just the little bit more as I've grown some of the ingredients myself.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Beach Burrito Company, Newtown

There's no doubt that there are many restaurants out there who really don't like people taking photos in their fine establishments, especially dreaded "food bloggers". I mean it is kinda weird isn't it? To go into someones business and start snapping away, turning the plate this way and that to get the "best angle". If someone came into my office and started taking photos of my work, well - I'd certainly think they'd lost their marbles. That's not all I'd do, but I'm sure kids read this blog so I shouldn't write swear words here.

Some restaurants just tell you outright "no photos".  Others, like the Beach Burrito Company in Newtown, turn the lights down real low and use orange tinged lamp shades to give everything a "certain glow". Like that's going to stop me taking photos.  I'm a blogger on a mission!

So let me present you my very orange looking Mexican dinner.  The food at Beach Burrito Company was pretty tasty so please look past the fact that the food looks like it's come out of a nuclear meltdown - it's the lighting, not my photography skills...I swear!  Oh look, there's an orange looking (but tasty) Margarita. These things are pretty toxic - I was pretty "happy" but the end of dinner I can tell you. Wheeeeeee!

I'm dining with The Baking Lady From Work (TBLFW), her son (who looks a lot like one of the Super Mario Bros) and the BLFM's sister. We're here on a Cudo, or Living Social or Spreets or something voucher deal which allows us to order four entrees AND four mains. Explode!

TBLFW insists we order the Jalapeno Poppers ($10.00) and they are GREAT - green Jalapeno's stuffed with cream cheese which are then crumbed and fried.  We also order some corn chips with guacamole (awesome guacamole - really "limey"), corn chips with salsa and a Cheese + Pico Quesadilla ($10.00) for good measure.  The Quesadilla is big enough for a main meal which means we're all struggling when our mains do arrive.

For my main I decide on the Grilled Fish Burrito ($13.95) which is huge and delicious. The grilled fish is perfectly charred which adds a unique level of flavour to the burrito.  As much as I loved my burrito I have to admit I had food-envy when I saw TBLFW's (not-orange in real life) Burrito Bowl. I know what I'm having next time. Super Mario ordered a serve of pretty epic looking Nachos ($9.90 for a small serve) - again I have food envy.

Beach Burrito Company is at 1A Bedford Street, Newtown (in between The Hub and the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre). They have other locations in Sydney also.

(Hey Super Mario - where are we going for our next dinner date. I'll be nice, I promise)???

Beach Burrito Company on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hardware Societe + Mamasita, Melbourne

A strange thing happened on our way to Bali.

About 5 months before the flight Jetstar changed out direct flight to Depensar to go via Melbourne. Now, I'm no pilot but I'm pretty sure that Melbourne is in the opposite direction to Bali, right?  When our plane touched down in Melbourne we were notified by Jetstar's very NOT NICE Cabin Manager that our onward flight had be cancelled.  Just like that we were stranded, freezing in our beach-gear to spend a brisk 24 hours in cold Melbourne. We couldn't even get through customs for nearly an hour as Jetstar hadn't notified them that our onward journey had been cancelled.

Sigh...not a good start to the holiday. We were put up in a hotel near the airport (Mantra Tullamarine) and dinner in the hotel (+ breakfast) was Jetstar's shout.  I was pretty surprised at how GREAT our hotel dinner was: creamy mushroom soup, wicked beef ribs and delicious homemade ice-cream. 

Because we had an entire day to kill before we finally jetted off to Bali the following night we headed into Melbourne town to tick off a few places from my wish-list. I was pretty upset about our cancelled flight at first, but I was also kinda pleased for our short detour to Melbourne.  I was pretty ecstatic to finally get a chance to head to Hardware Societe.

Because I had lunch plans lined up for The Boy + I we just stopped by Hardware Societe to check out the lay of the land and have a coffee.  The cafe is totally the opposite of what I was expecting. Rather than a retro granny-inspired cafe (ala Petty Cash) Hardware Societe is a modern looking, French inspired cafe with trendy Eames-style chairs and a swish yellow coffee machine (though they do have a great collection of tea cosys).  My Chai Latte was very decent and The Boy enjoyed his coffee - we both enjoyed the teeny tiny donut that came with our hot drinks.

No time to dilly-dally over coffee as we had a lunch-date with Mamasita for a Mexican feast! I've heard that Mamasita gets busy...really busy, so we arrived 20 minutes before opening time and nabbed the first spot in the queue (yes I'm OCD, what about it)! Within about 10 minutes of taking our seat the restaurant was CHOCKER BLOCK full, but our waiter told us this was a quiet day as they usually have a queue down the stairs and out the door. WOWZERS!

I was all ready to eat everything on the menu, but The Boy wasn't overly hungry having over-indulged at the hotel's buffet breakfast - rookie mistake.

I have a soft spot for Mexican corn so ordered myself two pieces of the Elotes Callejeros ($4.90) - "street style" char-grilled corn with queso, chipotle mayo and lime.  SO GOOD! We also enjoyed a serve of de Cangrejo Tostaditas. Not cheap at $16 but these crab, avocado, cucumber, tamarind mayo + habanero tostaditas were pretty darn yummy...but sadly inhaled all too soon.  Being a fan of all chip-like-treats I couldn't pass up the Plantanos Macos ($7.00) - fried plantains with pico verde + queso fresco. Really yummy, really really yummy (a plantain is kinda like a green banana...sort of).

Between us we probably ate most of the Tacos on the menu (well, we gave it a good shot at least). They were ALL so fresh and flavoursome - the soft taco shell was so fresh and light. I really enjoyed the vegetarian taco as the filling was pretty unusual - eggplant + zucchini + crispy qunioa (is there ANYTHING that qunioa cannot do I ask you)?  I think The Boy's vote for his #1 taco when to the Chipolate-braised goat with cabbage and roasted sweet corn paste.

Clockwise from left: Marinated prawn taco ($7); Chipolate-braised goat ($6.00);
Chargrilled chicken ($6);Grilled fish ($6);
Vegetarian taco with crispy quinoa + eggplant + zucchini ($5).
I suppose, at the end of the day (or lunch) our unexpected mini-stay in Melbourne wasn't too bad afterall. Now...onto Bali!

The Hardware SociƩte on Urbanspoon

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Commons, Darlinghurst

Some people may think that blogging and tweeting is a bit of a sad hobby...sitting at home all alone in front of the computer instead of getting out and about with "real" friends. The thing is blogging, especially food blogging is one of the most social activities I've ever been involved in.  Since I started my blog I've literally met hundreds of other bloggers, add that to the new twitter friends I've made I'm struggling to find the time these days to stay at home, put my feet up and blog.

This brunch at The Commons in Darlinghurst has come about as my new twitter friend, Beth, is visiting Sydney for a few days. Beth and her husband, Haydn own Burrawong Gaian - a free range pork and poultry farm on the mid-north coast.  Now you all know how I feel about pasture raised produce and how "anti" factory farming I am.  So as you can imagine I was beside myself at the chance to meet two real life free-range farmers!

I choose The Commons because the ethical butcher Feather and Bone lists them as one of the restaurants they supply to.  For some reason though The Boy goes for a meatless breakfast - Mushroom and Parmesan Cheese Omlette ($12.00) - I dare say it's because he's a mushroom addict.

I immediately decided on The Commons Corned Beef Hash ($18.00).  I'm not sure why though as I had corned-beef hash in San Francisco and it was literally one of the worst things I've ever put in my mouth. I'm please to say that the corned beef hash at The Commons was great and totally moreish. It came with a soft-cooked (free-range) egg and beautiful chuncks of potato.  Despite the generous serve of tatters I managed to relieve The Boy of half of his toast!

Of course it's not brunch with a decent cup of coffee - skinny cappuccinos for both myself and The Boy...and a berry muffin just to finish things off.  Just as we were getting ready to leave the waitstaff were writing up the lunch menu on the blackboard - it looked delicious, so delicious I was tempted to settle in and go for Round 2.

The Commons is a lovely restaurant - set in an old, sandstone farmhouse that dates back to the 1850s is is the oldest house in Darlinghurst. Back in the day the entire area was farmland...hard to imagine really, especially as drive home via Oxford Street where it's heaving with people and traffic.

The Commons is at 32 Burton Street, Darlinghurst. Phone them on 9358 1487.

The Commons Local Eating House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hartsyard, Enmore

Hartsyard is the new kid on the block in Enmore and it's brought a bit of life to a part of Enmore Road that's been a bit of a barren wasteland up until now.  The restaurant is owned by husband and wife team, Greg and Naomi.  Naomi has kept a blog leading up to the restaurant opening (and she's still keeping it up to date). It's fascinating reading - especially if you've ever wondered what goes on before a restaurant flings its doors open; or how tired restaurant staff actually really are as they're flinging plates on our tables each night.

Hartsyard has been packed out every night since it opened in June.  With a spate of recent restaurant closures it's made me think about why some restaurants go gang-busters from the moment they open and others slowly whither away and die. Whatever the formula for success is Hartsyard has worked it out.  It has a great fit out - it's a bit industrial and a bit homely, there's great menu of southern USA inspired comfort food, super-friendly staff, great cocktail list...and George the Duck who overseas the goings on from his perch at the front counter.

Despite the restaurant only being open for a short while the Oyster Po'boy ($16.00 for two) has gotten itself quite the reputation.  A homemade English Muffin sandwiches crumbed oysters (they're fantastic - even non-oyster fans will LOVE me), mayonnaise and coleslaw. I top mine with some of the house-made hot sauce...I'm totally addicted to these Po'boys after only one try. Can't wait to come back and stuff myself with more more more (oh, I did come back and I ate FOUR po'boys all to my self. Best Day EVER)!

The food at Hartsyard isn't going to win any ticks from Weight Watchers...but it's fun, it's delicious and it's made for that means somebody can share the worry about the calories.  I can't wait to come back and eat more, way more, Oyster Po'boys.

Hartsyard is at 33 Enmore Road, Enmore.  Phone them on 8068 1473 or make a booking via their website.

Hartsyard on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 10, 2012

Double Roasters, Marrickivlle

When Big Sister suggested brunch at Double Roasters in Marrickville I totally dismissed her. I mean what do Big Sisters know about stuff like cool cafes and eating (never mind the fact that she actually lives in Marrickville and around the corner from Double Roasters).  Instead I dragged her to Petty Cash Cafe. At our next brunch catch up I having serious decision-making issues...chopping and changing my mind about cafes so much that I decided we should just go to Double Roasters and be done with it.

WOW! What a GREAT cafe. Turns out Big Sister does know a thing or two about great places to eat.  The cafe is buzzing - even on a wet, cold and windy Friday morning. Double Roaster is located in an old warehouse on Victoria Road - it's main purpose was as a coffee roasters and they've now branched out into a cafe. The space has a distinctly industrial feel and the cafe is fitted out with loads of interesting retro pieces - old style cash register, vintage scales, old drawers used to hide the cutlery. LOVE it!  So much to look at.

We both start with a Skinny Cappuccino ($3.00 for a regular) that comes in an enormous cup.  I'm not going to pretend I know much about coffee just because I'm eating brunch at a coffee was good, strong with a generous sprinkle of chocolate (very important)!  We later switch to a pot of Fresh Mint Tea ($4.00). I love this - it's something I've actually made at home after investing in a small mint bush for my balcony garden.

The staff at Double Roasters are SUPER friendly and happily answer questions about the menu (their meat isn't free-range yet, but they hope to get this side of things sorted by the end of the year...good job).

I choose the Sauted Field Mushrooms on Sourdough topped with Percorino cheese ($8.00) and it's good, really simple flavours, but the meaty mushrooms are a winner.  Big Sister decided to have Poached Pembroke Farm Organic Free-range Eggs with Toast ($8.50).  To this she added a side of smoked salmon ($4.00 as a side) avocado and roasted tomatoes ($3.00 each).

Because we're lingering and catching up (and because I'm still a tad peckish) we decide to split a Caramel Slice (I can't remember how much this was, about $3 or $4) to have with our Peppermint Teas. Our slice was wonderful...really crumbling biscuit base, gooey caramel and the best chocolate layer.

Double Roasters is at 199 Victoria Road, Marrickville.

Double Roasters on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 06, 2012

In My Kitchen, August

For the second month in a row I'm actually not in my kitchen (are you sensing a pattern here).

The Boy and I booked ourselves a week long winter-getaway to Bali.  Our private villa (with it's OWN PRIVATE POOL) also came with a maid, the lovely Ketut, who would come each morning and cook us breakfast. What luxury!!!   I did laugh at the stove top compared to my brother's monster stove in last months post...though I did have one very similar in my little studio flat once upon a time.

Each morning Ketut would cook us up a killer breakfast complete with banana pancakes and a mixed juice (the mixed fruit juices are one of my favourite things about traveling in Asia).  We'd top our fried eggs with ABC Sambal Sauce and ABC Kepis Manis which seems to be a staple on every table in Bali.  It's hard to believe that after this enormous feast we'd be off searching for lunch in just a few hours time.

One of my favourite things about visiting other countries is exploring the amazing world of International Supermarkets of Mystery as my friend Miss Chicken calls them! On first taste Seaweed Pringles are a prime example of Yum-Yuk in action, but they are salty and full of artificial turn out to be really addictive.  The Tempe Chips on the other hand, not so nice. I really LOVED the "real" Tempe so this was a bit of a let down (I ate the whole pack though just to make sure I definitely didn't like them).

The Boy and I arrived home on the weekend and it's back into my own kitchen I go - boo.  My mint plant has been going gangbusters lately and survived my holiday (without watering) really well.  I've been busy making fresh mint tea using this teeny mortar + pestle the boy gave me.

As for what I'll be cooking this month...hopefully I'll be cooking up another holiday soon!

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