Happy Lunar New Year y’all!!! May you prosper, enjoy good grades, languish in good health, live a long life and just generally have a good time in the year ahead. If you’re not familiar with it already, Chinese New Year happens in the first 15 days of the lunar calendar cycle, and I see it as an excuse for Chinese (and Vietnamese and Thai) all over the world to see their family and friends, and party and feast hedonistically and guilt-free for slightly over two weeks.
Which is why I would like to share the recipe for this pomelo salad – pomelo is meant to signify abundance so it’s lucky to eat. And besides, it’s darn tasty.
The Boss, $8, from Woofy’s
Okay, I must admit: I’m not much of a festival goer. I try my best to stay indoors for as much as possible, and the only reason I’d ever head outdoors is when I have to go somewhere, or where there’s food.
Which is why I was drawn to Festival Village in Hyde Park, as part of Sydney Festival 2014. Gelato Messina serving up carnival themed wacky treats you say? I’m there.
Or any reason to get a hot dog.
Woofy’s Gourmet Sausage Sizzle had a stall there selling their gourmet hotdogs. The idea is that the base sausage is the same – Angus Beef – and you get to choose your toppings. The hotdog was satisfying and filling enough, but the two guys who were manning the stall over the late lunch period didn’t look particularly happy to be there. So, for $8 a pop, I could take it or leave it.
But now, for the pièce de résistance.
For weeks now I’ve been
taunted tempted by my friends’ posts about Gelato Messina‘s incredibly creative and intriguing carnival sweet treats. Pluto pup made with ice cream and pancake batter? Red skin and banana flavoured gelato lollipop? Duck fat caramel fudge on a caramel cheesecake gelato? BACON MARSHMALLOWS??!!
So my dining partner was gallantly dragged into ordering five desserts to share with me. The Messinaweiner was a hot (no pun intended!) favourite, with it’s pancake batter coated maple syrup gelato. The pancake batter added a kind of moreishness to it, but to be really honest I couldn’t really tell that the gelato was maple syrup and the sauce was plum-flavoured. It made for a delicious bite, but I was envisioning slightly more discernible flavours in my head. The Eyescream Lollipop was the most recognisable, and every bite screamed out Redskins to me. The pop rocks weren’t quite popping, but the bites were still delicious and easy to finish. I wanted the So Wrong, It’s Right to be right so badly, but unfortunately it didn’t quite hit the mark. Once again I couldn’t really discern all the flavours that were meant to be there – duck fat caramel, bacon marshmallow etc – but it really could be that my tastebuds were still rioting in protest to all the sugar. The Gelatofee Apples were a really creative take on traditional toffee apples, and the refreshing green apple gelato providing great balance to the creamy milk chocolate. The surprise gelato for me came in the form of the Samurai Fairy Balls, which had a yuzu popsicle hidden underneath a mound of pink fairy floss. I do wish there was a way to incorporate all of it in a single bite – we ate through most of the fairy floss before we got to the yuzu sorbet, which was foot stompingly tart and actually needed a bit of the sugar to temper it – but I really did enjoy the citrus kick of the yuzu sorbet.
In all, Gelato Messina took us on a crazy sugar-fueled roller coaster ride that left us in a sugar coma afterward. Two lessons to learn: Don’t order 5 frozen treats all at once to finish on a balmy warm night, and maybe it’s a good idea to space out that much sugar over a longer time frame.
If you’d like to grab your Gelato Messina fix, or enjoy the rest of the attractions at Sydney Festival 2014, it will be on till the 26th, so head on down to Hyde Park after 4:30pm, except for Mondays.
I’ve finally popped my Parramatta Lanes cherry!!! After missing the previous years because, well, life got in the way, I finally managed to make some time to go! My mission was to stuff my face with good food, and I wasn’t disappointed!
The first stop was The Piazza – Town Hall Lane. A fantastically whimsical tram greeted me the moment I entered the laneway, looking like it came straight out of Alice in Wonderland.
La’Toosh is an old tram converted into a food tram – with a decked out kitchen and all that – and travel around much like food trucks to festivals and food events. They serve a range of coffee, teas and drinks, as well as sweet and savoury crepes.
The crepes range from $10-$15, and because I went there so early, the kitchen wasn’t quite ready and there was a bit of a wait. The staff were amazingly nice, and the coffee was excellent. The is great for a light meal, and it was hot and fresh.
But La’Toosh wasn’t the only one that was in the Town Hall Lane. There was also Grasshopper, which was a bar served built with milk crates. Super cute!
Stop #2 was the UNE Future campus, where Veggie Patch Van was conveniently parked.
The Haloumi Burger was tasty, with a generous amount of haloumi. The onion jam was a touch jarring for me, personally, but otherwise it was an enjoyable burger.
But the next sandwich for me, was the most memorable of the night.
Stop #3 was at the Craft and Cider Garden at Erby Place. Cantina Mobil made an appearance but after seeing people all atwitter about Smokey O’s BBQ I decided to go with that.
If you are a fan of slow cooked meats and go nuts over pulled pork, let me tell you that you ain’t tried nothin’ till you’ve had Smokey O”s pulled beef. There is almost all the dark flavour of beef jerky, but with the moistness of the slow cooked beef. IT WAS PHENOMENAL. I actually felt like getting a whole container of that beef and calling it a day. And accented with pickles and with the heft of the bun? It was transcendent. LOVED IT.
I also had it with some 69 Summer Ale from the Riverside Brewing company. It was light and fruity, and a fantastic accompaniment to the pulled beef.
I then moved on to the aptly named Laksa Lounge, in the Roxy Carpark. With appearances by Temasek, Spice and Lan Lans Shanghai Dumpling, this was a stop I should have made earlier on in the evening. I was absolutely stuffed by the time I got there, and only ended up ordering a Pad Thai and a Thai Iced Tea from Spice.
The pad thai was nice, but at that point of fullness, the Thai Iced Tea really hit the spot for me. If you haven’t already had it, Thai Iced Teas has an extremely strong tea base that can be sweetened with condensed milk. It usually is extremely sweet to start out with, and on this particular evening, the lady at the stand actually offered to add more condensed milk to my drink. It was like Thai Iced Milk Tea concentrate and was definitely a more a dessert item than a drink for me.
With my appetite satiated and my tummy full, I wondered back to the Connection Arcade, where I saw a fantastic take on container gardening.
Rachel from Vintaged Garden upcycles everything from Wine Boxes to wine glasses. Everything can be a little garden, and they have very smartly used the wine corks for little signs for the plants!
I really loved the way Parramatta Lanes was really organized for us to explore the hidden alleyways of Parramatta. Overnight, Parramatta seemed to be transformed into our own little version of Diagon Alley, with magical hidden worlds spread throughout Parramatta CBD.
All we need now is the floo network!
It’s that time of the year again! SMH’s Good Food Month has rolled around again, and the whole of October is filled with amazing food from all around the world. The Night Noodle Markets are a must-visit for me every year, which gives me my need-for-variety fix in one place.
This year there was an appearance of the Ramen Burger (pictured above) from On Ramen. The Ramen Burger – brainchild of Keizo Shimamoto – features a patty (beef, pork rib or tofu) sandwiched between two “buns” of crispy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside Ramen.
At about $12.50 a pop, the Ramen Burger seems to be coasting more on its reputation than what you get for it. It’s tasty and all, but TINY, and therefore, overpriced. Worth a try though, just so you can see what everyone is on about.
I then moved on to Jackie M’s stall, where you can get all the Southeast Asian delights for your Asian food fix.
The Otak Otak, $4.50, is soft and moreish, and I guarantee that you’ll want more than one. Flavoured fish paste is barbecued in banana leaves, imparting an earthy fragrance that you can’t get any other way.
I find that it’s rare as an adult to look forward to a full weekend. Most people I know have such a packed week that having many plans on the weekend isn’t such an attractive thing. I feel for you man, I feel for you.
But what if it was a weekend filled with food?
I am an absolute advocate of reducing food waste. Not only is it bad for the wallet – you wouldn’t throw money into the bin would you? – I also find it incredibly disrespectful of people’s hard work in producing the food for you to buy.
But what happens when you don’t believe in the food producer?
As part of the admission, I got given a bag of goodies from the sponsors of the event. As you know, I absolutely getting new things to try, but then I saw Barilla products in the bag.
The CEO of Barilla, Guido Barilla, recently made some comments on Italian radio about how he didn’t support gay couples adopting, and how he wouldn’t use gay families in Barilla marketing because they aren’t a “sacred family”.
OH NO HE DIDN’T.
This then led to huge international furore and a boycott fuelled by outrage. I stopped buying Barilla, but the reactions of others were more extreme, and I saw many posted pictures of Barilla products in the bin.
Barilla has since apologised, but it almost seems like a case of too little too late. I still have an aversion to buying their products, and I’m sure it’s pretty obvious to them what a PR nightmare they’ve created. The only thing that would really redeem them in my eyes is the resignation of the CEO, but that’s another story for another day.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a quandary: do I throw away perfectly useable product that was given to me, just to prove a point? I very nearly did: I was quite blinded by the instant distaste the moment I saw their products in the bag. Then I stopped. I feel equally strongly about not wasting food, and I didn’t shell out my money buying their products, but I still refuse to have that in my kitchen.
So what to do?
I finally decided to donate them to Oz Harvest. They were there, and thankfully accepting food donations, so I dropped it off. I think that taking a stand is a luxury that thankfully I can afford, but if my kids hungry and I was given Barilla products, I’d be hard pressed to say no. So while I’ll not be using it, I’d rather help feed the hungry than to put it to waste.
What would you have done in this situation?
I was very lucky to get double passes to this year’s Australian Garden show from Destination NSW and Sydney.com. Those who know me know that I’m not the most outdoorsy person, but as part of being obsessive about food, I’m trying to grow my own food.
And summer is approaching, shouldn’t we take advantage of this gorgeous growing weather?
At any rate, I’m trying my luck to see whether I’ve inherited any of my mother’s green thumb. She’s a horticulturalist, so you’d think that I would’ve learnt something after all these years. I remember the amazingly gratifying feeling of eating freshly grilled corn that was harvested from the garden earlier in the day. It gave me so much more appreciation for the food that I was eating.
Lindeman’s had a beautiful tree of hanging garden pots. They were giving out little hanging pots to each person, and a 3 little plants – 1 herb and 2 flowers – for each to plant. You got to create your own little pot, then hang it on the tree with your name till you’re ready to bring it home. I had mint, a marigold and a pansy…but we all know that the mint is what I really want.
They also had plenty of stalls and displays to inspire – I particularly loved the ideas for planting in small spaces. I live in an apartment with no balcony, and so I’m hard pressed for window space, and I’ve currently got a little milk crate garden bed going.
I got some excellent advice from the people selling these seeds on what I can and can’t grow – I can’t grow potatoes successfully in a milk crate for example – and I ended up getting beetroot and a micro greens mix. Microgreens are really just the young underdeveloped shoots of edible plants – this mix had sunflower seeds included – and they had it growing out of coffee cups. SO CUTE! Apparently it takes as little as 7 days for you to have your classy meal topping.
From a food perspective, I’ve just learnt so much. I think that it is so important – if you’re into your food – to not just strive to cook food well, but to also have the best produce to start off with. And if you’re a control freak like me, you’ll start wandering into gardening territory, just so that you can control the produce as well. Now just to wait till I get to harvest my food!!
When I got an email inviting me to a decorating workshop from Queen Fine Foods, I somehow didn’t make that mental connection in my head with the omni-present down-every-baking-isle “Queen“. So imagine my surprise and delight when I got there and found all these decorating products at my disposal!!
Decorating basics was really the agenda for the day, and we were taught the basic techniques that can help you get to the point of expressing your inner artist.
The people teaching the class were from Temptation Bites, and gave really good pointers on how to control the point and flow of the gel pens and icing. We were given Marie biscuits and gingerbread men to decorate.
The one big takeaway for me was having a steady grip on your gel/piping bag, and making sure that there are no air bubbles in it. Also, if you want your buttercream icing to have a good consistency, you have to make sure that you don’t over-soften the butter before you start whipping.
But the most important thing of all is to have fun with it! Practice really makes perfect, so just take your time with it and let your imagination run wild.
That’s how I end up with a gingerbread woman with overly botoxed lips. Or maybe its’ a drag queen. I don’t know yet.
Besides the awesome cake decorating workshop, there was much free yummy food to be consumed!!
There were steaks sizzling over Himalayan salt bricks..
Cured meats aplenty…
And the most amazing Kingfish ceviche from Three Blue Ducks.
In all, it was a very fulfilling, productive day. I did have some camera issues at the beginning, but what can’t be fixed by good food and CUPCAKES!!!!
Last year I had a look at the Chinese New Year Festival at Belmore Park, and thought I’d go again this year. Even the intermittent and very grouchy weather couldn’t dampen (haha!) my spirits!
Somehow, though, the festival this year didn’t have the same bustling atmosphere. Sure, there were a lot of people, but it felt like there weren’t the same number of stores, or that the stores were wayyy more spread out. And there weren’t the same randoms! Where are the bunny people???
Anyway, entertainers aside, the only interesting stall that I found this year was this one:
I have no idea what the background really is, but anywhere that I can get a serving of noodles for $4 is well worth a shot! (Mappen still has a special place in my heart)
For a grand total of $10 combined, Sean got his dumplings…
…and I got this
This bowl of 凉粉 (cold noodles) was surprisingly good! It suited the warm, humid weather well, and had a refreshing zing to it. A light addition of chilli oil made it interesting, and the jelly-like slippery noodles made the kid in me giggle. Quite fun to eat.
For that matter, it was really fascinating to watch them make! The noodles came off this translucent dome
Some guy with a hand grater carefully grates off a pile of noodles.
When you order, it gets put into a container with the relevant sauces, and you get a noodle dish!
I think part of the reason why I like it so much is the novelty of eating it – I must admit that it’s not something that I’d enjoy a massive bowl of.
Oh and the dumplings? They were ok. Not mind-blowing, but really we didn’t expect it to be. But they were at least better than the random “Dim Sim” *shudders* places that they had there.
I miss spending Chinese New Year at home!!!!!!