Friday, November 30, 2012

Two Peas, Glebe

It's really REALLY wonderful to see more and more restaurants focusing on providing us with produce from ethical sources. Two Peas in Glebe is the new ethical kid on the block and I'm tickled-pink that it's (sort of) walking distance from my office.

Two Peas makes no secret that they source their met from ethical, free-range farms. The chefs, fresh from a stint in the Jamie's Italian kitchen, also source seasonal + local produce which means the menu is constantly changing.  I think that a menu that is always changing is great - it shows that the chefs really know their stuff, being able to move with the seasons and cook what's available when it's available.

The menu is amusingly split into section such as "now", "soon", "later" + "and also" - it makes a fun change from the usual Entree, Main, Dessert and Sides.

I find it hard to resist a steak sandwich on a menu especially if the beef is 100% pasture-fed.  The almost paper-thin steak is wonderfully tender + slightly charred and is sandwiched between two fat slices of  focaccia bread. I like how focaccia bread is back in vogue these days as it's certainly filling and provides good bang for your sandwich buck! The steak is partnered with some wonderfully sharp cheddar (I could eat a plate of just this cheese!), fresh tomatoes and pieces of lettuce.

I'm always open to suggestions and do as the menu instructs and order the Polenta Chips as my "and also"! I probably would've order them "now" too if that had been an option! The chips were amazing - lovely and salty, super crispy on the outside with an audible crunch as you bite through to the soft pillow centre.

Miss Chicken orders the Free-range Chicken Caesar Salad and from the few tidbits I tried I can confirm that it was a wonderful choice.  The chicken was plump (and happy) and the creamy dressing would've have me licking the plate clean. And who could resist that oozing river of runny egg yolk. Bliss.

Miss Chicken and I return for another lunch and true to form I couldn't resist the steak sandwich. This time it comes with sourdough bread - maybe focaccia is out of season again hence the swtich-a-roo with the bread. Either way it's delicious, especially as I get a side order of big, fat hand-cut fries. The fillings are the same as my previous steak sambo encounter...cheese, tomatoes and lettuce.

Miss Chicken's free-range chicken + avacado sandwich comes wedged between too pillowy slices of focaccia . Bread envy - that's MY bread!

Two Peas is at 198 St Johns Road,Glebe (or Forest Lodge if you want to be technical about it).

Two Peas on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Balcony Garden: Harvest Monday #3

I think I should name these posts "Emergency Harvest" rather than "Harvest Monday". I always seem to be out on my balcony picking things in a panic as the white mould, caterpillars, sunburn and other nasties take hold of my plants.

My green beans started off SO well, beautiful little buds that promised to turn into a plethora of beans that I had earmarked for a tasty Green Beans + Pork Mince dinner. The beans were dripping off the plants like tears, ripe for the picking...

 ...and then the caterpillars moved in. At first they were chomping on the leaves - which is fine really as I don't want to eat the leaves. I'd still pick the caterpillars off though and toss them (gently) off the balcony to the lawn below.

I don't know if they were climbing back up to our second floor apartment to seek their revenge on me, or if their reinforcements were already laying in wait in the mint bush - but it wasn't long before those darn little green caterpillars from hell stared to eat MY beans! MY BEANS!

Panicked that I'd miss out on my long awaited (homegrown) Green Beans + Pork I harvested ALL my beans...which only gave me about 100 grams. So, it was off to the store to buy another 400 grams for dinner.

The free-range pork for this recipe came from Pete's sister-in-laws farm - Foxground, was sent to the  Wollondilly abattoir (which has a very good reputation for treating their livestock well before/during processing) and then butchered for us at the wonderful ethical butcher, Feather and Bone. I can even tell you the pigs name - P1, he was 73kgs and liked milk (and raiding vegetable patches - you can see him here). P1 is the furthest thing from a factory farmed meat experience that I've had in a VERY long time...and I'm so grateful to everyone involved as they've allowed this city-slicker to have a direct connection with the meat she's eating...and thanks P1. 

Ta-da! There we have it - (mostly) balcony-grown Green Beans + Pork. Massive thanks also to the lovely Shez from One Bite More who sent me her super easy recipe. Bloggers are always so generous in sharing their recipes.  I did receive quite a few different recipes from bloggers (thanks Julie, Mary and YYGAL) but Shez's was the most simple for this tragic cook!

You can view more Harvest Monday posts on Daphne's Dandelions blog.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Croft Institute + Double Happiness, Melbourne

I am completely obsessed with Melbourne laneways. I'm not sure why, but it's probably the thrill of possibilities. Of walking down what looks a derelict laneway full of garbage bins only to find the best damn bar...ever!

We'd walked down Croft Lane quite a few times over our previous trips to Melbourne - lured by it's awesome graffiti.  I knew there was something good at the end (the bench seats in the lane gave it away) but the place was NEVER open. This time The Croft Institute had kindly put up their opening times outside their door.

We pay them a visit after our dinner at Movida and arrive right on opening time - the best time I say as you can grab yourself a comfy seat, people watch, sip your cocktails and relax.

The Croft Institute looks a bit like a high school science lab - complete with beakers, test tubes and science benches fitted out with basins. And, of course drinks served with syringes.  It sounds a bit naff - but it's not. It's fun and down to earth - the staff are cool and the crowd seems relaxed.  The cocktail list is small - but the bar staff will make you whatever you want.   Let's just say I was VERY happy when I left here.

Double Happiness is another great, quirky hole-in-wall bar that you'll find on Liverpool Street.  It's not as "hidden" as the Croft Institute but the fact that the signage is not in English gives it a certain "hidden feel" (to me anway as I can't read Chinese)!

In the inside is a nod to all things Chinese + the fit out is quite old school "oriental". Statues of Chairman Mao are dotted around the place, Chinese murals adorn the walls and colour red features prominently. We particular loved the locked liquor cabinet behind the bar that houses booze bought by the regulars. Each little locked cupboard has someones name on it.

There are plenty more hidden bars to visit in Melbourne - if only we had more time. We poked our heads into The Toff in Town in the glorious Curtin House so that's on the list for next time.

The Croft Institute is at 21 Croft Alley, Melbourne (off little Bourke Street).

The Croft Institute on Urbanspoon

Double Happiness is at 21 Liverpool Street, Melbourne (also off little Bourke Street).

Double Happiness Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Queenie's, Surry Hills

Miss Piggy dined as a guest of Queenie's. Queenie's has quite dark lighting so Miss Piggy is going to blame them (in the nicest possible way) for her terrible photos.

If I'm honest with myself Jamaica is probably one place I'm never going to visit in this lifetime - so little time, so many countries to visit. But not to worry as new Surry Hills recruit Queenie's is bringing a little bit of Jamaica to Sydney.

This little bit of Caribbean paradise can be found upstairs The Forresters and is another fun + hip hangout from the crew behind my Surry Hills favouirte, The Carrington. A quick calculation and I work out that the last time I visited The Forresters was in 1994 (yes I'm THAT old).  A LOT has changed since then and the food is certainly way more fun.

We kick things off with a cocktail (or three) - which is how all holidays to a tropical paradise should begin.

We kicked things off with the amusingly named Bammies ($7.00) Traditionally a Bammie is more like a sandwich but Queenies take on it sees the toppings sitting on a rather thick round of bread that was a bit similar to a wholemeal Indian Roti in flavour and texture.  Queenie's Bammies come with a choice of two Asian inspired toppings – prawn, mango and ginger or pulled pork and pineapple. This was the perfect little morsel to start our Jamaican feast with.

My favourite dish of the night was the BBQ Jerk Corn with Coconut ($8.00). This was so fantastic that I may have snuck two pieces. I loved the sweetness that the dessicated coconut gave to the corn which offset the spicy flavour from the Jerk rub . Amazing flavours. As Helen so aptly put it this tasted like a sweetcorn lamington!

The Curried Oxtail Patties ($14.00) look fairly reminiscent of The Carrington’s lovely Empanadas and just as flavoursome and delicious. Biting into the crispy pattie/empanada revealed shreds of Oxtail that was so tender and well seasoned.

The Hellshire Ceviche ($16.00) was a zesty tasting dish of snapper, avocado, mango and chilli. Such amazing fresh, light and summery flavours – a really spectacular dish and probably one of the favourites of our group. Each bite felt alive in the mouth. The Pushcart Chicken Wings ($14.00) were another flavour packed dish with a sweet BBQ style marinade and the Calypso Coffee Ribs with Tropical Cauliflower ($15.00) were a real treat. The meat was SO tender that it just fell from the bone, a result of hours cooking in a water bath before its turn on the grill. The marinade was lovely – again smoky and sweet.

Next up is the Coconut Soft Shell Crab ($16.00) with Hotstepper Sauce. The batter was a bit thicker than you’d find in a Japanese restaurant, where Soft Shell Crab is a staple on most menus, and this gave the crab more “bite” and a texture more like firm fish. Really loved this (may or may not have had 3 pieces – oops)!

The Jerk Chicken ($18.00) is wonderful – the dry Jerk rub (aka seasoning) gives the tender meat an amazing flavour with just a little bit of heat.   The Sweet Potato Fries with Spice Mayo ($9.00) were also popular at the table being soft a fluffy with just a little bit of crunch  – a nice change from regular potato fries.  Fusion cuisine makes another appearance with the arrival of the Teriyaki Caribbean Chicken Salad ($16.00). The flavours to me seem mostly Asian – fresh and clean, with a bit of the tropics thrown in for good measure. The Teriyaki chicken comes with a medley of mango, cashews, crispy tortillas (hello Mexico) and Lime Dressing. 

We’re all feeling VERY full by this stage but I’m still eagerly awaiting the Dirty Rice ($5.00) and Goat Curry ($28.00). Goat Curry was a first for me.  I had expected the flavour to be similar to lamb but much stronger, however the flavour of the goat was actually quite mild, though gamey, and the meat in this curry was REALLY tender.  And what is Dirty Rice?  It’s not rice that they’ve thrown on the floor – but rice that comes mixed with spices like coriander, mint, allspice and spring onions.

By now I’m rubbing my belly and lamenting that I didn’t wear a looser dress. But wait there’s more!

Chef Jamie Thomas really knows how to challenge a table of food loving bloggers – sending out a platter of Jerk Pork Neck ($35.00).  Most of us are full, but we cannot resist the feast before us – Jerk Pork Neck, Jungle Slaw, Pineapple and Chilli Salsa and Bread Rolls. This would be a great platter for a group of 3 or 4 people – I love the concept of DIY rolls, it reminds me of a family BBQ.

Usually there’s always room for dessert, but I have to be honest it was a bit of a struggle after all the wonderful food we’d just eaten. I tried a little bit of the piña colada sundae - which tastes just like the cocktail, though this had the addition of a sweet berry coulis.  The doughnuts were really interesting (and thankful tiny) as they came with a slight peppery tasting jerk custard, along with chocolate dipping sauce.

So there you have it....terrible photos of amazing food (maybe that should become my blog name)! I'll be back as soon as I can to eat more Bammies and sweet sweet corn!

Queenies can be found upstairs at The Forresters - Corner Foveaux and Riley Street. They take call them on 9212-3035.

Queenies on Urbanspoon 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Balcony Garden: Havest Monday #2

Often I pick things from my balcony garden as I suddenly realise that if I don't harvest my veggies they'll just rot on the plant.  Things seem to just appear so quickly and everything fruits all at once and I get all overwhelmed about what to cook with my bounty. The growing is the easy/fun part...the cooking it all is a bit more stressful for me.

My peas started off SO promising.  I loved the way the little tendrils grabbed onto the trellis.  I couldn't have been more excited than if my own child (if I had one that is) had just learned walk.

Upon reflection I think it's pretty obvious that I over-planted the peas in this pot. In fact now that take a long hard look at myself I pretty much overcrowd everything I plant...not a good trait in a balcony gardener. That all said and done, despite there being FIVE pants in this pot (there were more but I did pull some out) the flowers kept flowering and then PEAS exciting.

Not long after the arrival of the peas however I noticed that the bottom leaves start to turn brown and become sort of the plant was dying from the bottom up. I ignored it and it got worse (funny about that).

I finally sought help from twitter.  People thought I might be over-watering the plant (who me?) and perhaps the pot was also sitting in a pool of water in the run-off tray causing a kind of rot.  Hmm, nope.  Someone else suggested it could be "white mould" and that a spray of milk/water might kill the bacteria. I did try the spray but it just made my balcony stink of sour milk - blerch! I was also told that peas just "do this" once they've fruited...but that my peas were also sick so it was dying quicker than normal. When it comes to peas I guess I have a brown thumb.

Whatever the problem was I knew that I had to get the peas off the bush before they started to go slimy and rotten too.  I needed to give peas a chance (ha ha, get it - give "peas" a chance. Peas = Peace...anyway...).  I probably only had 20 pea pods but shelling them was fun, especially as I got to sample a few peas straight from the pod - they were like sweet, fresh little dots.

Once again - sorry about the terrible photography/styling - I swear that this dish is DELICIOUS although my photographic abilities may lead you to think otherwise. This recipe for Spanish Rice Chorizo from The Stone Soup is a staple in my house. Sometimes I add baby spinach from my garden and this seemed like the perfect dish to chuck my handful of peas into.

Bye bye peas - you were wonderful, though short lived.

You can see more Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

#humanBrochure, Canberra

The Boy and I are already BIG fans of Canberra and we try to hop down there once or twice a year for a weekend out of the Big Smoke. Many people seem to think Canberra is boring...well, I'm telling you THEY ARE WRONG! There are great cafes + restaurants, GREAT shopping in the city, wonderful farmers + craft markets, a beautiful lake, wide open spaces, trees galore, galleries, museums and food...lots and lots of food!

Just recently I was lucky enough to be selected as one of "500 humans" to visit Canberra as part of a new tourism campaign called The Human Brochure (#humanBrochure on twitter and Instagram). What's the Human Brochure you ask?  It's the world's first crowd sourced online tourism brochure...and it was loads of fun.  I was thrilled to be choosen as over 30,000 Aussie humans applied for a spot!

Here's what we got up to (photos are all from my Instagram stream - you can see all my snaps on the Human Brochure website HERE).  You can check out what we ate and what we drank...loosen your waistbands as it was one hell of a weekend!

East Hotel - my eyes nearly fell out of the sockets when we got into our room at the newly opened East Hotel. I mean look at this palce - the Eames inspired decor is enough to make any girl swoon. Try as I might I could not figure a way to smuggle the beautiful mustard coloured chair out of the bedroom and into our car without be busted. D'oh.

The Australian War Memorial - the first night we were in Canberra ALL of the humans (plus their partners and kids) descended on the Australian War Memorial for the official welcome function. All four steams came together - the Foodies, the Arts + Culture people, the Adventurers and THREE BUS LOADS of families with children in tow!  The War Memorial is a wonderful place - it doesn't celebrate war, but remembers Australia's military history and those who have died during conflicts.It's a moving and humbling place that we should all visit.

Capital Wines - the next day their foodies jumped up their big white bus and headed off to Gundaroo for a wine matching lunch at Capiral Wines.  The food and wine was SPECTACULAR, really fresh + innovative - smoked lamb chops anyone, they taste just like bacon. I also really loved the flavoursome and unusual dish of  beetroot ravioli with kangaroo tail  - but it was the stunning (and large) kitchen garden, chooks and ducks that captivated my imagination. Such a restful place.

The National Gallery of Australia - after all of that eating it was time to squeeze a little bit of culture into the foodies life, so we made a pitstop at The National Gallery.  The Boy + I have been here before and love the chance to visit again and see the Sydney Long exhibition. I also enjoyed checking out the Sky Scene - a relaxing outdoor installation.

Rubicon - for dinner the Foodies were split into two groups and The Boy + I ended up dining at Canberra's darling restaurant, Rubicon. 

I don't like to be critical of restaurants on my blog as food blogging means talking about peoples livelihood.  I try to be respectful of the people behind the food who are putting their heart + soul into their businesses.  People have bad days at work - I sure I know I do.  Usually, if I don't have anything good to say I just don't blog the restaurant - what's the point?  That said as I'm writing about the whole #humanBrochure experience I'll give you my thoughts on Rubicon in the interests of full disclosure.  I have to say, for me, this wasn't the best Canberra dining experience I've ever had. The waitstaff weren't particularly nice or attentive towards our table (and didn't apologise when they spilled wine in our dining companions lap).  I thought the food just didn't "hit it" either in terms of flavour (other than the beautiful fish dish with stuff clams with I LOVED) - which is a shame as I was all set for a stellar night out.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens - Day 2 sees us waking up bleary eyed to some much needed Berocca that the East Hotel kindly left in the rooms of the Humans! Then we're off to the Botanical Gardens for a brunch with ALL of the other humans. Loads of fun, and loads of tasty food (like the yummy grass-fed beef snag sambos with caramelized red onions).

Mount Majura Vineyard - our last stop on the #humanBrochure weekend is at the stunning Mount Majura Vineyard where we don gumboots and wander through the vines. Beautiful. The afternoon ends with a wine tasting and I am thrilled to have FINALLY found a wine I like - I'm a Pinot Gris gal, thank you very much. I also enjoyed the cheese tasting and the amazing kangaroo prosciutto from Canberra's Poachers Pantry.

So there you have it. I had NO idea that Canberra has SO many wineries. We're heading back in January to explore a bit more on our own - and do the "Poacher's Way" drive.

Rubicon on Urbanspoon

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