It's the first week of Summer, and I almost forgot that this means the arrival of stone fruit season! I was reminded of this when I had, not one, but TWO consecutive ripe, juicy, honey-sweet white peaches, with just the right amount of give, from the fruit drawer of the fridge. It was so juicy that juice literally flowed down my arms to my elbows as I was devouring them, one delicious bite at a time. The skin could even be peeled off quite easily, without prior poaching of the fruit. Amazing. I don't know about where you are, but here in Australia, I find that even when fruits are 'in season', they are not always perfect, like you'd imagine in-season fruit to be. It is nigh on impossible to find the perfect peach, which is pretty much of the description given above.
And yes; that is why I've decided to jump online to blog about it. I get excited like that when I come across these rare occurrences. What's more, these peaches were purchased from my local Woolies (!). Forget all the talk about mass-consumerism and big-chain supermarket monopoly; if supermarkets can provide me with a steady supply of the Perfect Peach, I will haunt their fruit and veg section. Heck, I will even buy their overpriced-with-sometimes-only-little-usable-portion leeks and defrosted potatoes.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
You will not believe how many 'draft' posts I have sitting in my blogger account, waiting to be finished and published since... well, let's just say a very long time. I have completed another project during this time, but since I have yet to block it and take pretty pictures of it, I shall leave that for another day - I will definitely publish that post and soon! - and report instead on the project I currently have at hand: I am working on my first knitting project design! yay!
Okay, so it's only going to be a small, rectangular scarf, but still! One has to start from somewhere, right? I've knitted my own scarves before, but this is different; this will be my first grown-up, elegant scarf that can (hopefully) complement a polished, dressy outfit, rather than just being a chunky winter scarf, with little technique and noteworthy detail. For this project, I will be using the 100% pure superfine alpaca yarn by Artesano, which is a lovely, 4ply fingering weight yarn. The main feature of the scarf will be a simultaneously knitted lace edging. That's the plan so far, anyway.
I am still trying to decide on whether or not to add beads to the scarf edging. I found some new packets of seed beads in my stash, 2 of which I thought might work with the red: silver-lined glass beads and crystal AB ones. My sister, who the scarf is for, can't decide either, so I guess I might resort to just trial and error-ing to see which look is best.
I think I've overcome my fear of lace knitting, after having done a few lace projects and becoming comfortable enough with lace techniques; hence my newfound love of lace knitting. I think after I complete this knitting project, I will be ready to take on more advanced lacework, using lace-weight yarn. Bring it!
Sweet yarn dreams x
Monday, July 1, 2013
|Dudley St Espresso and Collectables|
494 Ipswich Rd, Annerley QLD 4103
Opening hours: 8am - 3pm weekdays
|Crème Brûlée Chiller @ Gloria Jean's Coffees|
I have since curbed my sugar intake, and have developed a habit of not adding any sugar, or adding very little sugar, to my tea and coffee. (Yes, it is do-able, people. No matter how sweet you like your food, if you try to abstain from it for a while, you will eventually become accustomed to the less-sweet taste, and may even prefer it. Try snacking on something healthy, like grapes or carrot sticks, to put your mind off the cravings/withdrawal effects.) It is not easy to cut out sugar entirely from our diet, and I do believe that the key to healthy, happy living is eating everything in moderation; that is to say, I think it is perfectly okay to give in to not-so-healthy indulgences every now and then. After all, we do have to look after our emotional health as well as our physical health.
Even superheroes have their weaknesses, and I think I have met my new match in the Caramel Latte at Dudley St Espresso & Collectables. The other coffee variations they make are not bad, but this is by far my favourite, and the one I keep going back for. The latte is wonderfully smooth on the palate and the caramel adds the perfect amount of sweetness to this dreamy elixir. On a reality note though, they do add a whole shot of caramel syrup to the small size, so if you're going to order a large, you may want to kindly ask the barista not to add any more than this amount (as I'm not sure if they do or not).
(Edit: 24/09/13: Of late, after having ordered the large with half a shot, I have decided that it tastes better with the full lot - and no, they don't add anymore than 1 shot of caramel syrup, and hence, the large actually tastes slightly less sweet than the small. On another note, the guys who currently own the place (one of them being the barista) have sold it and will officially stop working there at the end of this month. As such, I don't know if the caramel lattes there will ever be the same again :( But I will keep you posted.)
Luckily for me, and everyone who lives/works in this under-developed suburb of Annerley, where the café is located and which usually brings to mind unattractive strip malls filled with second-hand and bric-a-brac stores, rather than a place to head for lunch with friends, this funky little corner café offers good food as well as good coffee. They don't make food to order, but there is a glass cabinet filled daily with freshly-made sandwiches with delicious fillings, and a mouth-watering selection of sweet offerings (mini Baci chocolate mousse cake, anyone?). The ready-made options make it extremely convenient for those wanting to quickly buy food takeaway on the way to work, or during short lunch-breaks. Most of the sandwiches use herbed bread, which makes the sandwich all the more aromatic and scrumptious, and the sandwiches are lightly toasted, at time of ordering, to crispy-crusted perfection. My favourite is the turkey with cranberry sauce and Maleny Brie - who, indeed, could ever resist warmed, oozing, soft white cheese? No, not I. In fact, I could do with one right now.
|A delicious sandwich with dill mayo in it|
|Quiche of the day with basil pesto|
(I love the addition of the pesto, as it provides another flavour dimension)
|Various sandwiches (+ caramel latte)|
|Mushroom soup with a ciabatta roll + butter|
(and yes, that is a caramel latte in the background!)
As its name suggests, the café also sells collectables, which form part of the shop's décor, adding a quirky charm to it, and helping it to 'fit in' with the theme of its surroundings. There are a few small tables and a bench, but these usually fill up fast at lunchtime. As such, the food in the cabinet also goes pretty quickly, so I would advise dropping in earlier rather than later for lunch, to avoid disappointment. I have read some reviews, in which there are complaints about the busy, noisy street that the café faces, but I personally haven't found the street noise to be a problem at all, in terms of affecting my dining experience or appetite. There is always the takeaway option for those who might prefer to eat in the perfect silence of their car or home. The staff at the café also seem to be lovely people.
I'm not sure how I have only just started going there in recent months, as it first opened its doors back in 2008. I would hate for others to have to wait 5 years to discover this place. In truth, I do have an ever-so-slight ulterior motive for posting this review: as much as I'd like to keep this little niche to myself, and reduce competition for sandwiches (the selfish little thing that I am), I know that the only way to ensure the never-ending availability of said sandwiches and the best caramel latte in town, in the years to come, is to promote (even) more foot traffic.
With the new, expensive housing units and property developments in the area, as well as the popping up of a few quality cafés, like Dudley St Espresso, I am sure that this long-neglected suburb will get a total facelift some time in the future, in order to meet the demands of a more becoming locale.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
I've never read any graphic novels by DC comics before, bar the short comic strips in the newspaper, when I have nothing else better to read (I'm more of a Calvin and Hobbs fan); hence, I judge all superheroism of comic characters from the big/silver screen adaptations. I like the Spiderman movies the best, but - let's face it - Superman is by far the best-looking one of them all. Yes, it's a fickle world, both in fantasy and reality.
I've never really been a sneakers kind of girl, but when I saw the DC comics and Converse collab collection last year, I had to get a pair. This is the hi-top pair I ended up choosing:
The shoes also come with one complimentary set each of blue with white spots and plain white shoe-laces. I personally like the blue laces best. I'm not too sure they really fit in with the rest of my going-out wardrobe, but I'm sure they'll look just right with a pair of trackies or super skinny jeans. I've worn them to the dance studios before, and although I don't really take hip-hop classes anymore, I think they would fit right in. In fact, which Converse shoe wouldn't?
I think they're really cool, so naturally, when I was notified that Converse had released a few more DC comics designs recently, I jumped online to see what was on offer. What caught my eye this time was a pair of pink low-top shoes with a simple design of the Superman logo and the words printed on either side of the shoe. Like the other pair, this one also comes with spare shoe-laces in pale pink and white. I rather like the low-top ones more than the hi-top ones, because I don't really think the latter suits me much.
I will admit that they are not the most comfy pairs of shoes in the world, as you would probably know if you are already the proud owner of Converse canvas shoes (I wore the new pair to dance in recently, and let's just say it was an experience on the side of discomfort). However, I like the rubber sole and shoe cap, and I think the prints are quite funky, if you're into comics and Superheroes. Just remember to wear them with a pair of thin, cotton anklets for the most comfortable fit. :)
Thursday, June 20, 2013
These days, I'm starting to see more and more ice-cream versions of chocolate bars available in supermarket freezers. I love homemade ice-cream, the gourmet varieties, and so on and so forth, but sometimes I feel that only the mass-produced, fun-flavoured confectioneries hit the spot. These particular ice-cream bars are fab for when you can't decide between having ice-cream or chocolate. I love all of the following, but I think the Snickers one resembles its chocolate bar version most, and it's also the one I like best, because it really feels like I'm eating the chocolate bar, but in a much bigger size, and with ice-cream :) What's not to love?
A word of warning though: since they contain ice-cream, they are probably more fatty than their chocolate counterparts (I haven't directly compared the nutritional info though, so don't quote me). They are also very more-ish, so are probably not suitable for those counting calories!
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Collins Place, 45 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Opening hours: Mon-Fri (+ Sat for dinner only, 5pm - late)
Breakfast: 7.30am - 11.30am
Lunch: 12pm - 2.30pm
Dinner: 5.30pm - Late
I can't remember the last time I walked into a random restaurant for a proper sit-down meal without having read up on any reviews prior. I had zero expectations and only the barest inkling of the price point. Thus, this restaurant review will run slightly in reverse, in terms of my usual format. It was on the first day of my recent Melbourne trip that I stumbled across Pei Modern.
I stayed by myself at the Sofitel hotel on Collins Street on the first night. While the hotel itself is quite nice (once you eventually find your way in) the format of the entrance is quite strange and confusing. Basically, there is no main entrance. I ended up accessing the escalators to go up to the hotel lobby by walking around the bend behind the Collins Place building, which is where Pei Modern is hidden. At a glance, it looked pretty closed off, and I couldn't see inside it, so it didn't appeal to me at all. Like the Sofitel, the entrance to this eatery is also not immediately obvious. The name sounds Chinese, so I assumed it served modern Chinese cuisine.
So how did I end up going there? Well, by the time I got back to the hotel that night, it was already approaching 9pm, and the restaurant I wanted to go to, Maha Bar and Grill, closes its doors at 10pm. Since it was already late, I just wanted to go somewhere for a quick dinner; for just a main and a dessert. Upon enquiring about the opening hours and table availability at the hotel's restaurant, No35, at the hotel reception, the person on duty, noting that I was just eating by myself, kindly advised me that since said restaurant was bordering on fine-dining, and menu prices would reflect this (he estimated $50 for main and dessert), he could recommend some good casual-dining places close by that are more reasonably priced for a solo dinner. He mentioned an Italian and a Mexican eatery, but I opted for his first suggestion of the Pei Modern bistro, since it was just downstairs, and he said it was modern French cuisine. I figured that since the receptionist is French, he must know good French food from bad, right?
Before I launch into my review of the food, let me clarify first up that the food at Pei Modern is not French at all, but very much modern Australian; although, I guess, the food may well be vaguely French-inspired. The price point of the menu items, while not extortionately high, are also not the 'casual-dining' prices I was led to expect. In fact, looking at the No35 menu now, online, the prices are comparable. Despite the inaccurate information I was given, I have to thank that receptionist for introducing me to this bistro.
I was shown to the bar while I waited for a table in the dining room. The bar area is partially closed off from the dining area by a wooden partition, but there's also a few tables with tall chairs here that you can choose to sit at. Here, I ordered a mocktail composed of orange, apple and lime juice, watermelon soda, and mint ($9). I've never had watermelon soda before, and having a carbonated mocktail was definitely a bit different. It was refreshing and tasted quite nice. My table in the next room was ready in a matter of minutes, and I was seated in a cozy corner with comfortable padded seating, the open kitchen to my left. Apart from this type of seating along the wall of this side of the room, the rest of the furniture consisted of white, plastic chairs and bare four-legged wooden tables with natural or white-coloured table-top surfaces. Paired with dark-coloured walls and ceiling, wooden accents and dim lighting, the bistro takes on a simple yet contemporary and chic look. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, and guests can freely chatter loudly.
I was served by 2 different waitresses during my whole sitting, and both were very friendly and knowledgeable about the dishes on the menu. It's great to be made to feel welcome by waitstaff at a restaurant. It's the way it should be in the whole of the hospitality industry, really, but unfortunately, I've found this to not always the case.
The house-made sourdough bread was served in a rustic cloth bag, with some salted butter alongside. There's nothing usually much to say about bread and butter, but I remember this particular butter being much creamier (in a good way, of course) than the usual.
The waitress recommended most of the items on the menu, so I ended up choosing the wild barramundi with diamond clams and green tomatoes ($38). This dish was lovely and delicate, dressed in a simple clear broth, and garnished with micro herbs and tiny white flowers. The absence of a rich, creamy sauce allowed the fresh flavours of the food to take centre-stage. The barramundi was nicely cooked and the skin was wonderfully crispy. The clams were nice, but few; I think there were about three on the plate. The most interesting element in this dish, for me, was the samphire, which I've never eaten before. A fleshy stem-like plant that resembles super skinny baby asparagus, the samphire is a coastal succulent that grows along the Victorian coastline, as well as on that of Scotland and other parts of the UK. Overall, I loved this dish. I think the last time I was this impressed by a fish dish was when I had a swordfish dish for lunch at Gary Mehigan's Fenix, which is also located in Melbourne.
Main: Wild Barramundi, Clams, Samphire and Green Tomato
For dessert, I was tempted to get the stuffed caramelised tomato with star anise ice-cream, because it sounded interesting and is the bistro's signature dessert dish, according to the waitress. I don't particularly like liquorice-y flavours or raisins, with which the tomato is stuffed, so I chose, instead, the buttermilk and banana ice-cream with hazelnut praline, chocolate ganache and chocolate tuile ($15).
|Dessert: Buttermilk and banana ice-cream, hazelnut praline, chocolate ganache, chocolate tuile|
I didn't mind the ice-cream; it tasted of ripe bananas, like its name suggests. However, I was not a big fan of everything else on the plate. The chocolate tuile had a burnt taste, and I wish the hazelnuts were just toasted and not pralinéd, so that there wouldn't be too much of the hard crunch element present. There was also a flat, rectangular piece with a cake-like texture, resembling a softened chocolate biscuit. I'm not too sure what it's supposed to be, but whatever it was, the dish could have done without it.
Despite the fact that I didn't love my dessert, I was still overall well pleased with my dining experience here. I will not lie; the serving sizes for both main and dessert are small, and may not appear to be worth the cost for those with very big appetites, but I find it is perfect for someone like me with a small stomach. For those belonging to the first category, I would definitely recommend ordering an entrée as well, to ensure you won't leave hungry. Will I go back again? Very likely.
Now, the interesting thing is that when I was Googling this restaurant online, just before writing up this review, I found out that my serendipitous discovery, contrary to my belief, is not at all just a random hidden bistro waiting to be discovered, but one opened just last year by Mark Best (owner of renowned Sydney restaurant, Marque), Peter Bartholomew and David Mackintosh (both from my favourite Melbourne Spanish tapas restaurant, MoVida), and which has been awarded the title of 'Best New Restaurant' by this year's Good Food Guide. The Pei kitchen is headed by Matt Germanchis, who has worked at MoVida, and the bistro is managed by Ainslie Lubbock, who is from Attica, a highly rated fine-dining restaurant in Melbourne.
It's probably a good thing actually that I didn't know Pei Modern is owned by Mark Best, because I probably would have avoided dining there. I haven't written up a review for Marque yet, which I dined at last year, but in summary, the food was okay, but my whole experience there was ruined by the snooty attitude of one of the waiters there that served us. When he asked whether our party wanted still or sparkling water and we replied that still, plain water would be fine, he didn't bother hiding an arched expression on his face, and said in a condescending tone that the restaurant filters and carbonates its own water, so regardless of which we choose, we would still have to pay $4 per person. Basically, he was suggesting, and assuming, that we had chosen what we had, because we were being cheap, and his attitude made it clear that he thought we were somehow unworthy of his service and of his even feigning a genuine smile.
This was not the first time I've met waiters who think they can have a high and mighty air about them, just because the restaurant they work at is fine-dining or quite popular; however, this is not acceptable, and should not be accepted by customers, especially those paying good money for the food and service. Thus, I make a point of never revisiting restaurants that give me bad service, especially if the food is not that particularly outstanding. I'm glad that the service at Pei is at the other end of the spectrum from what I received at Marque.
The last point of interest I discovered is in the reasoning behind the Asian-sounding restaurant name. (Clue: The bistro is at the 'Paris end' of Collins Street.) If you're thinking about the Louvre pyramid in Paris, you would be correct: the name is a nod to the Chinese-born architect, I.M. Pei. Unbeknownst to me, until I read the hotel newsletter in my Sofitel hotel room, his architecture firm, Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, actually designed the Collins Place building (completed in 1981), which is incidentally where Pei Modern resides. Interesting, non?