Friday, January 31, 2014

Buffalo Dining Club, Darlinghurst

Let's take a moments silence shall we to pay respect to the wonder that is pasta served in a GIANT WHEEL OF CHEESE...

So now that you've seen...and drooled...over that photo are you BUSTING to get down to the restaurant that serves this magical, magical dish? I sure know I was.

Buffalo Dining Club is a small restaurant in Darlinghurst that serves up amazing Italian food. There's pasta (of course) as well as cheeses, prosciutto's (and other meats) and a range of other antipasti delights. This place has been on my list for SO long that I'd almost given up hope of finding the time to make it big thanks to fellow blogger T for arranging this dinner.

This restaurant is very very popular (no surprise as the food is amazing) so we arrive just before 6pm in order to nab a table for four. A tip for y'all, you won't be seated until your entire group is at the make sure you pick your most punctual friends for your outing to Buffalo.

We start off with a Pinot Gris that our waitress highly recommends (as it comes from the region in Italy that she hails from).  It's a great wine and I now know 100% that Pinot Gris is my tipple of choice.

Everything we ordered here was spectacular.  Looking at these photos again is making me plot exactly when I can get back to Buffalo for more amazing food - like this Mortadella ($11.00) that has been pan-fried so it has a nice charred layer. Mortadella is slightly fatty so the colourful medley of zesty, fresh heirloom tomatoes is a perfect companion.

I'm always in awe of stuffed zucchini flowers ($14.00). Having grown zucchinis myself I know how flimsy the flowers are. They tear so easily and I just cannot imagine stuffing them with cheese and not having the flowers burst or rip apart.  These zucchini flowers were filled to the brim, but only when we pried the flowers apart with our knives did the river of cheese within escape. Oh So Good!

Burrata ($19 with a choice of any two sides from the menu) has always been high on my list of foods to eat before I start "that diet" once and for all!

The outer layer of this incredible Italian cheese is made of solid mozzarella and the innards are a soft mixture of mozzarella and cream. The Burrata innards were not as runny as I was anticipating, but more like a soft cream cheese. It was pretty amazing. Our dish was served with (our choice of) potato croquettes and cherry tomatoes and also came with some bread and crunchy pretzel type biscuits.  I could actually quite happily head to Buffalo one day for lunch and just have this...


It's always great dining with someone who knows a restaurant menu really well. T knew what was what and highly recommend this Ricotta Gnocchi ($18.00). I think this was probably my favourite pasta dish of the night (yes, I liked it even more than the pasta in the giant cheese wheel). The gnocchi was so soft - it was like eating little pillows of cheese.

The crab linguini ($18.00) was another great dish - the crab was succulent and sweet, yet the flavour was quite subtle.

Ah - does this really need any introduction? Cacio e Pepe ($18.00) translates to "cheese and pepper" which is exactly what this dish is - spaghetti with pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. The pasta is mixed in a giant wheel of cheese to give it that extra cheese WOW factor. If you're curious (I was - so I asked), the cheese wheel is wiped clean each night, stored and lasts about two weeks. Eventually all the cheese melts away on to the pasta and the wheel has to be replaced. I have no idea if this is a traditional way of serving cacio e pepe but it sure works for me. 

And last, but not least, a sensational Tiramsu. Often I find the esporesso flavour in Tiramsu quite overpowering, but our Tiramusu had a lovely mild flavour to and was the perfect way to end a glorious meal.

Like I said before (a thousand times) I really cannot wait to come back here - it's not often that I'm really excited by a restaurant so much so that I plot my return ASAP! And I cannot end this post without saying how friendly the staff are here -- everyone was super nice, just like a big hug from Nonna. Ciao xxx

Buffalo Dining Club is at 116 Surrey Street, Darlinghurst. Phone them on 9332 4052 (and they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays FYI...and possibly also Sundays?)

Buffalo Dining Club on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pizza Mario, Surry Hills

My first visit to Pizza Mario was with my blogger friends on the night of our visit to Tio's and Wild Rover. I knew I wanted to come back ASAP as I'd enjoyed one of the BEST pizzas of all time here. Strong words indeed but I don't mess around when it comes to Pizza.

You'll find Pizza Mario hidden within the St Margarets complex on Bourke Street. I find this a really s-t-r-a-n-g-e area.  A courtyard is surrounded by modern apartments that have been developed around the old St Margaret's hospital. The hospital part is really cool, but to me the courtyard is kinda soulless and it's a mega wind tunnel so being outside on a day when there is the slightest breeze is not fun.  But...head in doors to Pizza Mario and none of that matters anymore (you'll also find Morena here plus an awesome looking cheese shop).

We start our dinner with a Ruchetta Salad - rocket, Parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice ($8.00). I always like to have a simple salad when I'm indulging in pizza. I think it tricks me into thinking I'm being healthy. It works for me so it's a theory I'm going to stick with.

Our only meat pizza of the night is the Calabrese - mozzarella, ‘ndujia (hot salame) and gaeta olives ($22.50). I love how THIN the pizza bases are here and they have a wonderful, almost smokey flavour from the wood fire oven. This is a good pizza, but not the one I've been lusting after since my first visit.

Ah, behold my beloved Gorgonzola - con radicchio mozzarella, gorgonzola and chopped radicchio ($21.50). I ADORE the earthiness and saltiness of the gorgonzola on this pizza - I'm a salt fiend so perhaps this is why I love this pizza so much. The radicchio is just window dressing really although its bitterness does offset some of the pungent gorgonzola.

The margherita  ($17.50) is a true Naples style of pizza - tomato, mozzarella and basil ($17.50). It's simple but as is so often the case, the simple things in life are often the best.  This is also the only "red" pizza we ordered for dinner - all the others come sans tomato sauce.  I think this style of pizza just illustrates how gross all those "stuffed crust" abominations really are...blergh. 

Last but not least is the Patate - sliced potato, sea salt and rosemary ($15.00). This is something that I often make at home as I have more rosemary growing on the balcony that I can poke a stick at!  What I make though cannot compare to this.  The base is cooked directly on the floor of the hot oven is just marvelous and I think impossible to recreate in a conventional home oven. Shame.

Oh we also had wine. I think this is a Pinot Gris...whatever it was I REALLY liked it. It was quite sweet in an understated way and I think it paired really well with all the "white" pizzas we enjoyed. Bottoms up!

Pizza Mario is located at the St. Margaret's complex; shop 9, Ivy, 417 – 421 Bourke Street, Surry Hills.

Pizza Mario on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 27, 2014

Balcony Garden: Harvest Monday #55

So, with all the talk around here about tomatoes and basil you're probably wondering what's been going on with my mint. The "mint that just will not die"!

I'm pleased to report that it's doing fine...more the fine.

I prune it, it grows back, the caterpillars devour it, I prune off the dead bits and it grows back again...and again...and again. Out of everything that I've grown on my balcony the mint is a keeper, as is my rosemary. If you're having trouble getting your gardening started then mint is the way to go (just make sure you plant it in a pot on its own as it has a massive root system that will strangle everything that it's planted with).

After the last pruning I decided to use some of the mint in a homemade potato salad that we had on Christmas Eve with prawns. Yum!

Happy gardening, Miss Piggy xoxo

Friday, January 24, 2014

Coffee, Tea and Me, Redfern

Coffee, Tea and Me is a teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe that can be found on busy Redfern Street in...Redfern.  This is the cafe that first kicked off my obsession with hole-in-the-wall cafes and I've been obsessed with them ever since.

I think I first heard of this place via John's blog and then The Boy and I kept driving past it on our way to "somewhere else". Every time we went by I'd beg him to slow the car down so that I could stare, longingly, at this petite little cafe.  Often I'd sigh and say "this is the kind of place I want to own".  It's seems small, and manageable for someone - like me - who doesn't know the first thing about owning or running a cafe.

This cafe is SO small that there is absolute NO seating inside. There's pretty much just enough room for the three staff working there and one customer at a time to step in, place there order, and then step back out onto the footpath to await their order. The ordering process reminds me a bit of the Soup Nazi episode from Seinfeld, except for everyone is really nice and the staff serve every customer with a smile and an hello.

I step in, place my order, step out and go find a seat at one of the mini-sized tables scattered along the footpath outside the cafe. I often worry about seating like this - I mean I'm no feather weight. What if I break the chair, or get down but can't get back up again - my knees don't work so well afterall (for the record, all was well on this occasion...I got down and up again incident free).

I'm here for a quick pre-working breakfast so a coffee is in order. They serve Campos coffee here and it's a really good cup. Not much else to say really - tastes like coffee, wasn't bitter and I didn't need to add sugar. Two thumbs up.

Food wise, the only thing on offer besides a few sweet treats is a selection of bagels. These are some of the flattest bagels I've EVER seen...but this smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel was also one of the most delicious I've had. I think the flatness makes the bagel quite crunchy and the texture is less chewy and doughy then regular bagels. I LOVE the toasted sesame seeds on top.

Coffee, Tea and Me is at 93b Redfern Street, Redfern.

Coffee Tea & Me on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bridge St Garage, Sydney CBD

The recent opening of Bridge St Garage in the "big end of town" is another welcome addition to CBD dining. I remember first working in the city in 1995 and there was NOWHERE to eat after work unless you wanted to venture down to Chinatown (which is fine, but just not EVERY time you wanted to go out).

Needless to say, I really think it's wonderful that more casual style eateries are opening up in the city. Recently we've seen Jamie's Italian open, then Mejico and now Bridge St Garage (plus everything that's going on in Westfield too). It certainly makes catching up with friends in the city after work for a meal SO much easier.

Sometime in its past this building was a "car garage".  I'm not sure if this means cars were serviced here...or parked here but I'd LOVE to know (so if you know please tell me). I also wonder how recently this place was a many questions! Given it's garage-y past there are, of course, nods to the buildings history all throughout the restaurant - an oil can here, some spark plug boxes there. It's pretty cliche really, but it's cute and gives the vast space some personality. It seems like a lot of thought has gone into the fit out of this restaurant.

The space occupied by Bridge St Garage is HUGE! The front part of the building is a bustling (and very busy) bar.  I'm glad when we're lead around the back of the restaurant to an equally large area that is reserved for diners only. Whilst this space is also pretty busy and also noisy (you have polished cement floors to thank for that I think) it's more more spacious feeling as everyone is sitting down...and eating.

Bridge St Garage seems to have a "thing" for red lighting and as we all know red lighting = BAD BAD BAD food photos. I struggled to take a photo of my lamb burger (don't you love it's pink hue) with the crazy lightening so you'll just have take my word that everyone's meals looked great and that the ribs got two messy thumbs up from Swah and Katie.

The menu is a mix of American diner-style food with some South American options. I've heard good things about the burgers so I already know what I'm having before I even arrive.

The lamb burger ($20.00) is massive and unlike the burgers my friends ordered, it comes on long roll (and a plate rather than a wooden board, thankfully). I like the Greek flavours in this burger - feta, olive tapenande. YUM! All of the burgers come with a side of fluffy hand cut potato chips and mine had the added bonus of a side of coleslaw too. It's not the best burger of my life, but it's flavoursome and filling and I feel like I got my $20 worth.


Bridge St Garage is at 7-19 Bridge Street, Sydney. Phone them on 9251 9392 (they take bookings)!!!

Bridge Street Garage Bar & Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 20, 2014

Balcony Garden: Harvest Monday #54

It has been exciting times out on the balcony garden with the first tomato ripening a few weeks ago and ready to eat. I cannot tell you how excited I am that this tomato has come full-term.

Of course I spoke too soon... I was leaning in to pick my beloved tomato I noticed that it had a big spot of blossom-end rot...on it's bottom! Noooooooooooooooo! This is usually the result of inconsistent watering. Even though I was extra careful this year about watering regularly I think all of the rain we've had followed by super hot days was my undoing.

There was no way however that Mother Nature was stealing my first tomato of the season away from me. I chopped off the bottom and the rest of the tomato was totally fine - so The Boy and I ate it.


On a non-tomato related noted I found this poor little guy floundering in one of my buckets of water. I didn't notice him at first and he got a squirt with the hose and was looking rather worse for wear for about 15 minutes. He hang out on my hand for a while and dried off.  

When he was feeling better, and could stand up straight, I popped him onto whatever-this-plant-is. He hung around for I named him Eric! Praying Mantis are one of my MOST favourite bugs...I spend AGES checking them out whenever we go to the zoo. My favourite are the kind that look like leaves (which is not Eric). LOVE them!

Happy gardening, Miss Piggy xoxo

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