Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Love Food, Hate Waste pop-up, Parramatta

Miss Piggy and The Boy dinned as guests of Parramatta City Council. Thanks to Parramatta City Council and photographer Alex Wisser for allowing me to feature some of their professional photos on my blog (basically the good ones are by Alex Wisser and the terrible ones are by moi - natch).

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to what I'm pretty sure was Parramatta's very first pop-up dinner as part of Good Food Month. It's great to see more foodie events coming to the neighbourhood.  With this pop-up and Parramatta Lanes both happening during October I have to say...Parramatta was the place to be for me.

The theme of the pop-up dinner was "Love Food, Hate Waste" and the message to not waste food was an important that we heard more about during the night from guest speaker (and flute-playing lady), Jane Rutter.

Whilst The Boy and I don't waste too much food in our household (we prefer to eat it...ALL) we could do things better - like checking the fridge/cupboards for items before we grocery shop to save on doubling up on ingredients. Often I go on memory and my memory ain't that great I have to confess. It was also be helpful to take my weekly menu plan plus shopping list to the supermarket as it may help me stay on track and not buy things I don't need. Of course I'm still trying to figure out how to make a compost bin or worm farm work in our flat so that I can get rid of food scraps that day.

Parramatta's Connection Arcade was transformed in a dreamy dining space by Geraldine Mills - owner of my favourite shop in Parramatta, Prospector Store. Geraldine used upcycled and recycled items to create a space that was both inviting and warm. I was stunned at how great this arcade looked on the night.

Parramatta's very own Leanne Beck, of Sweet Street Bakery fame pulled together what can only be described as an incredible feast. Leanne is well known for her amazing pastry skills, but I had no idea that she is such a great, all round chef.  Leanne prepared a "family style banquet" which saw our waitstaff visiting our tables with trays of tempting dishes.  The menu featured lots of hearty fare, some with a Middle Eastern twist.


We had wonderful white-sangria ciders to help the food along and I loved that the one of the chieftain's from Batlow Cider was behind the bar. I was told that Batlow Cider is a cooperative between the apple growers of the region...a pretty smart business idea really to keep demand up for their product -- and to stop so many surplus applies going to waste.

To help us keep the memory alive of our great meal each guest was able to take home their dinner plate from the event. The "flatware" was all made by a local clay artist who imprinted herbs + veggies from their garden into the clay. Really lovely stuff!

This was a great event, with a great message. I cannot wait to see what Parramatta pops-ups with at next years Good Food Month.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Harvest Monday - Sacrificial Kale

I've read a bit about gardeners sacrificing certain plants in their garden in the hope of saving others. It's a deliberate strategy of enticing the "bad bugs" to chow down on a plant that you've deliberately grown for the pure purpose of offering it as a sacrifice to the creepy crawlies...all the time you're hoping they'll leave your damn tomatoes (or whatever) alone.

Seems that I've inadvertently done this with my kale...the kale that I don't really know what to do with so I've just ignored it.

Whilst the caterpillars have been gorging themselves on the kale, the kale I don't care about, they don't seem to have noticed the rebirth of my mint (or they just can't see that far away). Normally the mint is CRAWLING with caterpillars that strip it bare within a few weeks but so far so good - the mint is going gangbusters. They also haven't noticed the SIX new tomato plants that have just moved onto the balcony, nor do they seem interested in new basil plants. Suckers.

Happy gardening...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

MissChu, Manly

Miss Piggy and The Boy were invited to MissChu's new Manly Tuckshop to try some items from the menu. Some of our lunch was a freebie and some we paid for ourselves -- I'll point out what was a freebie below FYI.

MissChu, the Queen of Rice Paper Rolls, has crossed the Harbour Bridge and opened her first tuck-shop north of the harbour. Welcome to Manly MissChu (hopefully you're next stop will be Parramatta - hint hint).

You'll find MissChu's latest venture just across the road from the bustling Manly like us, you can visit Manly for lunch without actually even looking at the beach. I was so excited about the promise of rice paper rolls that I totally forgot to go wiggle my toes in the sand.

There is ample seating inside the tuckshop but  The Boy and I decide to perch on the teeny tiny chairs out on the footpath - mainly as I wanted to see if a) they could hold my ample weight and b) if I could get up once I got down (they did, and I could).  I like a good challenge.

It's a lovely sunny day when we visit Manly and I'm happy to try the deliciously fresh and refreshing Frozen Young Coconut Crushies (normally $8.50 each but these were complimentary on the day). I opted for Lychee and The Boy chooses the Pineapple. There's also a banana version on offer and you can get your slushies with vodka if you so desire (we didn't desire).

The first dish we're given to try is the very very moreish Salt and Pepper Squid (normally $14.00 each but these were complimentary on the day).  This is a special dish only available at the Bondi and Manly stores and it is so tasty that I'd definitely travel to have it again...and again. The squid was very tender and covered in a shatteringly crisp batter that was not at all greasy, as some dishes of this ilk can be.

At first we were just scoffing the squid "as is" but as we got towards the end of the plate I had a light bulb moment. Perhaps we were supposed to wrap a piece of squid in the accompanying perilla leaves, top with some pickled veggies and sweet Thai basil and then eat it? Judging by how much this elevated the flavours of the squid I'm suggesting this a good squid strategy.  I love the fragrant, almost minty taste that the perilla leaves have and Thai basil is much less overpowering than the kind I've been growing on my balcony. Oh Boy! So good!

The next dish brought out for us to try is a serve of the delicious banh cuon to share (normally $12.00 but these were complimentary on the day). The menu refers to these as a "steamed long dumpling" and I'd say that's a pretty apt description.  The savoury filling of  traditional minced pork was wonderfully flavoursome. This is a light, but filling dish that I would happily eat again.

Now, most normally people would be full by now, and I guess I sort of was, but it would be silly to drive all the way from Parramatta and not indulge in a few more of our MissChu favourites.

We start with a petite serve of Peking Duck Pancake (2 for $7.00) and also try a serve of the delicately crunchy Prawn and Crab Net Spring Rolls (4 for $6.00).   It would be remiss to visit the "Queen of Rice Paper Rolls" and go home without trying at least one rice paper roll wouldn't it?  The Satay Chicken and Young Coconut Rolls (2 for $7.50) were light + fresh and I really noticed the different in a Laos style satay sauce over the Thai satay we're more used to in Australia - it's much less thick and creamy and has a good tomatoey under note that I enjoyed.

The always say leave room for dessert and it's a good thing the desserts that we were given we just bite-sized as I was starting to fill a bit...full!

Look, if I'm being honest my stomach could be exploding out of my pants and I'd still find room for anything that involves pandan and coconut. Wouldn't you? I loved this sweet, bite-sized pandan jelly topped with luscious coconut cream (normally $4.50 but these were complimentary on the day).

Our last dessert was a sticky rice topped with a soft type of sweet flan-ish type thing (normally $4.50 but these were complimentary on the day). How's that for a description? I'm sure it has an actual name but I don't know what it is. It was good, I can tell you that much.

MissChu's is at 5/54 West Esplanade, Manly. Phone them on 9976 3682.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Harvest Monday - new Basil + Tomatoes

Since I got back from holidays I think it would be safe to say that I've lost my gardening mojo (and all my other mojos too if I'm honest). I'm in a bit of a post-holiday funk and staring out at the empty pots on the balcony just helps to re-funkify me. I just haven't been motivated to plant anything, to go to Bunnings and buy potting mix, to empty out the dead plants from the pots, to water the existing plans. Tres dull!

So when my friend Danny offered me some his extra tomato seedlings I jumped at the offer. Danny comes from an Italian family so he's genetically predisposed to growing awesome tomatoes. I on the other and am not Italian and nearly threw myself off the balcony last year when my tomatoes all went belly up.

Give I'm the grim reaper of the tomato-growing world it would be stupid to say no to some of the Tomato Whispers Seedlings?

I was given six tomato seedlings and a pot full of basil seedlings also - I see a lot of tomato, basil and mozzarella salads coming up. Because I don't have too many pots big enough to house tomato plants I've decided to buddy the tomatoes up with two basil seedlings each.  Hopefully things won't get too crowded, but I figured if they can share a salad they can share a pot out on the balcony. It's probably not the Italian way, but hey - I won't say anything if you don't.

This is the first time I've grown so many of one plant...I'm interested to see how I "feel" about specializing in one thing.

I'm pleased to say though that since popping these seedlings in yesterday afternoon I've also planted some cucumber seeds and coriander too. Perhaps I'm getting my gardening mojo back...?

Happy gardening xox

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lord of the Fries, CBD

Hallelujah! Lord of the Fries has finally opened up in Sydney and if this isn't proof that dreams can come true then I don't know what is.

LOTF have swung open their doors on George Street, just near the cinemas.  They opened about three seconds before we headed off to Europe so I had to wait about six weeks to finally get my Sydney LOTF fix. It was a torturous wait. On Saturday I happy danced into their store and had to refrain myself from odering EVERYTHING!


Whilst LOTF does loads of things like vegetarian hot dogs, vegetarian burgers and chicken nuggets (yes EVERYTHING here is vegetarian) it's really their glorious fries I have a love affair with. Why? Because they're AWESOME!

LOTF has a bunch of different sauces and toppings to cover their crunchy, hand cut fries but I cannot CANNOT go past the French Canadian - piping hot vegetarian gravy smothered over super melty shredded cheese. SO. GOOD! I noticed that there's a range of fries on offer now - regular cut, fat cut and sweet potato. I think next time I'll go for the sweet potato fries with Belgian sauce (aka mayo)!

This LOTF is literally a hole in the wall so you'll have to go find a spot somewhere to perch and eat your mound of yummy, crunchy fries. I headed over to World Square and found a seat in the courtyard.

Lord of the Fries is at 537 George Street, Sydney. 

Lord of the Fries on Urbanspoon

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