Friday, 31 December 2010

Walks ... but not along the Seine

Ok ... in an effort to keep fit and stay healthy, I have successfully convinced M to accompany me these last 2 nights on an evening constitution.

We have one last party to get through for the year, and then a short break before more baccalanian excess when we hit the sodden Sunshine Coast and the tropical heat of Singapore.

But there's nothing like a summer's evening walk along the river ... so its not the Seine, but its local and has a name as inscrutable as the Gallic tongue ... and its mine!

Hope you are seeing in the New Year in good company and some cheer. Alot of people had a fucked up year, so it may be wise to start the new one on the right foot.

Its New Years Eve, and for the moment at least, opportunities are endless, whether real or imagined.

I wish you dear readers all the best and a safe Happy New Year.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Boxing Day Bulleen

Ok ... we're at the end of the festive season, "greeting cards have all been sent, the christmas rush is through"!

So nursing slightly bruised livers and the odd brain spasm, we made our way down the chandler to our good friends J & CC in Bulleen for boxing day celebrations.

Knowing that a hot oven would have to be manned at some point, I started the day gently, making sure my first glass was emptied at a glacial pace until after kitchen duties were over and done with.

M brought his curry puffs and mini plum puds, and I made a Filipino signature dish called Chicken Adobo. It always a risk to make something that you have never made before for a party where expectations are high, especially when said party also includes your culinary nemesis who churns out restaurant quality dishes with effortless ease. I am speaking of our good friend DV.

 Final stage - adding coconut to the sauce

Chicken Adobo has relatively few ingredients, but the cooking process involves a number of different stages. It takes about 2hours to prepare and is well worth the effort. Although cooking with vinegar makes me nervous. I don't really like the stuff and I'm never sure if I have used too much or too little. The recipe I worked off called for about 3 cups of vinegar for 3kilos worth of chicken. So I was back on the "no one's going to touch it" train and most probably driving M quietly insane. I say quietly as he is now well and trully used to it and pretty much just rolls his eyes and ignores me.


DV trumped everyone again with his home made Loh Bak which was absolutely out of this world. There's nothing like crispy bean curd skin, and the filling had just the right amount of crunch from the chestnuts.

 Loh Bak - ready for the fry pan

Served sliced with chilli sauce and cucumbers

He also contributed home style mee siam which in our part of the world is quintessential party food. DV's does not come with a sauce but he made his cheat's sambal belachan to go with it. You can easily do this at home by buying a commercial brand (I recommend Seah's) of Sambal Belachan and frying a portion of this with onions and sugar. I don't really have to tell you how yummy the whole thing was, do I.

 Mee Siam - homestyle dry version

There were other delights to sample at the table including a slab of turkish dellight covered in Rose petals which was divine and an apple slice with cinnamon made with a gluten free flour mix.

Unfortunately given our schizophrenic summer, we were unable to take advantage of the swimming pool, but whiled away the hours with wine and conversation.

As the party gradually diminished in numbers, the remaining dregs contemplated a barbeque and before long the chops and snags were out, and I was frying rice in a wok.

We sat down to more food and wine before an impromptu floorshow from CC which kept us entertained until it was time to go. Another sterling effort guys. Now if we can only ...

 And yes that is real unfortunately - picked up from a bin somewhere in Paris - outrageous!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Day at D's

Ok ... all I have to say about Christmas Day at D's is that we are forming a band and calling it the Pinoy Trannies!

Off to the next one ...

Christmas Eve 2010 at the H/N black hole

Ok ... I do believe that the H/N's pulled out all the stops this year and then some. As always, Captain M was at the helm of this culinary behemoth, skillfully manning his mis-en-place, while a crowd of deck hands scraped, washed, and cut their way towards our Christmas Eve repast.

Eschewing green ivy the H/N's headed straight to the Holly Berry for their decorative inspiration. Combined with the sunlight of a perfect summer's evening, the scene that met us as we walked in was one indeed of "good tidings and good cheer".

We were charged with providing an entree, and as it was to be a French theme, M prepared some chicken and mushroom voul-a-vent. But before this was served, we had a throwback from the past: Prawn Cocktails!

Preparing the prawn cocktails

A forest of Prawn Cocktails

MN actually made mayo from scratch which took the final thousand island sauce to a whole different level.

J bought some fresh plump oysters for those partial to that sort of thing at the table. And by the tone of that last sentence, you can correctly surmise that I am not. But they did look yummy.

K's mum, the lovely G, put together something called Smoked Salmon Crispy Wontons (I hope I got this right!) and they were very much worth seconds.

 G putting the finishing touches on her take on wontons

 The final product

Then it was time for M's voul-a-vents which went down a treat.

 Ready for the oven

Dispensing with tradition again, we opened a few presents and then trundled off (yup, yet again!) to Casa Tackisimo (see last year's Christmas post) to beg the question why and to muddle over how much and the damage to the environment ... but I am no scrooge (ok maybe a little bit), and seen through the eyes of a child, the lights and fixtures were a magic Christmas wonderland. With the exception of the serial killer snowman ... Merry Axemas Everyone!!!

Come to Daddy!

Safely ensconced back at the house, we sat down to another bout of tummy stretching goodness, which were the mains for the evening.

MN cooked a Duck L'Orange.

He also served a Beef Wellington with a stunning layer of home made pate that MN made from scratch (which I guess is what qualifies this as a French dish in some way):

The duck was succulent and perfectly cooked, but the beef was out of this world!!

To accompany these 2 sterling dishes were some asparagus spears served with walnuts and goats cheese. J put this scrumptious salad together and she cooked the spears in the microwave! (J, your secret is NO longer safe with me!)

We also had a carrot salad with thyme and Champagne wine vinegar and a rocket and pear salad dressed in black truffle oil which moneybags MN drizzled a veritable fountain of. Me and J scored a few drips straight out of the bottle ... Heaven! I will beg to differ with M, as I would most certainly welcome a big bowl of pasta with just olive oil and shavings of truffle! MN also made a Pommes Dauphinois - simple but so effective!

To round off the evening, J made a Tarte Tartin ... and despite her worry that it was a little burnt (see the what it should have been and the after shot below), it was delicious! M also passed round his mini plum puddings and finally dinner was at an end.


We are so blessed to have such amazing friends and to be welcomed so generously into their families. Apparently we have now been sucked into the H/N blackhole! Cheers!!!

And on to the next one ...

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The folly that is Singapore ... Final

Ok ... I have one word/two characters to say to you ... Bak Kwa!!!

How do I describe the Asian love affair with Bak Kwa - sweet, succulent and smoky!! Melburnians, you are totally out of luck!!! There is no decent Bak Kwa to be found here. But beggars can't be choosers! So if you've never had it, give it a go. You can buy a single slice at some of those Chinese snack stores.

The best Bak Kwa I have had to date was in Penang, at one of those shophouses lining the island's city streets, where straddling an uneven drain trough constitutes a foot path. It was dirt cheap, and freshly roasted!

But I recently had the opportunity to sample Fish Bak Kwa!!! It was super! And so very la!!

I had this at a little (well maybe not so little) bar tucked away in a little side street called Bar Stop. It was a cool enough evening for us to sit outside and watch the day draw to a close.

Oh and G did the interiors by the way ... 

Friday, 24 December 2010

The folly that is Singapore - Part 2

Ok ... it had been some time since I had a breakfast from my childhood. On my first morning in Singapore, I woke up to a cool 25 degrees and a rather dull morning, which was quickly livened by what was waiting for me at the breakfast table: omelette cooked with onions and green chillies, and pan-fried pieces of luncheon meat (yes ... spam indeed!)

2 things marred this for me - dad only had instant coffee (with creamora no less!!). And dad only buys this sweet pappy white slice that barely passes for bread! But the meal stabbed me in the heart and I felt both like smiling and crying at the same time.

I managed to catch up with some dear friends who met me at a shopping complex near the hospital. We had a quick meal in between cups of coffee and lengthy bouts of D&Ms. We went to a little Thai eatery in an upstairs food court where for the paltry sum of about S$7.00 you get a set meal offering a variety of main dishes all served with a bowl of tom yam soup, pickled veg and salad ... but most importantly ... you help yourself to the accompanying chilli sauces!!!! I love that about eating in Singapore ... self-served condiments. Which means you can take as much as you like and sample however many types there are on offer. I chose garlic chicken as my main and it was pretty darn good!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The folly that is Singapore - Part 1

Ok ... aah the lion city - a study in modern capitalism, a society fraught with social contradictions; whilst the bulk of the expatriate community sweat and toil under the equatorial sun, the largely Chinese population zoom by in the air-conditioned comfort of their luxury vehicles, and dream of their next million in any of the hundreds of opulent condominiums that form part of the island's skyline.

So I exaggerate, but in its quest for commercial relevance, the country remains the jewel of the Malayan Peninsula, steadfastly upholding the tenets of free economic enterprise, whilst turning a blind eye against social discrepancies like inequality and exploitation. Hello Myanmar!

Anyhoo, there is much to admire, and also much to ridicule and here are some random thoughts to mull over:

- at the luggage carousel, there are actually airport staff who hang around straightening the bags as they travel round the conveyor belt - admiration or ridicule?

- when you set up a new bank account, all you need is one form of identification and your atm/debit/credit card is issued on the spot - admiration or ridicule?

- at KFC they have black pepper chicken, and also chicken strip congee in the mornings - and there's a rendang burger at Burger King - ADMIRATION!!!!

In the lap of luxury from the depths of despair

Ok ... I wish I could say that my trip to Singers was the usual cavalcade of consumerist wonder and gluttony, and whilst I have sampled the better part of what the hospital canteen has to offer and even managed to tick off a culinary point on my to-eat list, I can't really report back with much enthusiasm.

Dear mum is looking at spending Christmas in a ward where she remains the longest fixture, whilst the other 3 beds empty and fill up again with aggravating regularity. But we must remain upbeat as that has had a positive effect on her mood.

So let me just say that thanks to a generous older brother, I have travelled in style where every stage has been on priority and express, and I have luxuriated in expensive linen and intimidating splendour.

Despite all that has been going on, I am determined to have myself a merry little Christmas and to see in the New year with hope and determination.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

... suddenly its hard to breathe ...

Ok ... I'm wishing this was under different circumstances but nobody said that life was easy ...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Silly Season - of beer gardens, mirages and worker's clubs

Ok ... as christmas inexorably burns the proverbial hole in pocket quicker than a wikileak, I think its time to have a round up of what festiveness has happened so far.

I think the first event to kick off the season was the old work christmas party, and you know ... it wasn't all that bad. Most of my kaki's (refer to earlier post for an explanation of this term) have gone, but I still managed to get mildly intoxicated and enjoy trading licks with all and sundry. It was a lovely evening to boot. And despite the slightly average fare, the Belgium Beer Garden has its charms. But I did find it strange that they we could only do shots at the bar itself. Must be some kind of drug and alcohol regulation, or did they just think we were a bunch of drunktards in need of a handbrake.

The Drinks Tab

Anyways, me and M recently did a spot of Christmas shopping and managed to tick a few off Santa's list, before resting tired legs and attending empty stomachs over at El Mirage.

We all know that the East Brunnie end of Lygon Street has gone beyond the tinted glass and fake chrome banquette set to include the disenfranchised fitzroy set displaced by skyrocketing rents and the increasing presence of chain-store establishments. I think that gelati place started it all!! Well El Mirage has been around for awhile, but this was our first time venturing past the disproportionate front decking perfect for a bevvy, smoke and something breakfasty. Our rockabilliy hosts met us with a casual nod and set us up with table and menus in a whir of coloured tattooes.  I think M was a little intimidated but succumbed to the guy's slightly brummie (could be wrong) accent which he found a-dorable!

I wanted a snack and ordered the crumbed sardine fillets. M went for the slightly heavier Tex Melt, which was a bean/cheese/toast combo (true to rockabiliy form, there's a couple of tex mex-y style dishes on the menu). But let me tell you these were the best crumbed sadine fillets I have ever tasted ... whatever they mixed for the crumb was just the right side of crunch and flavour ... and could the aoli be more perfect? I think not!!

M's Tex Melt was equally delicious. A little on the subtle side for M but he would love to drench the world in chilli sauce ... so you know ...

So if ever you're stuck without a table at Sugardough, head a little further down and check these guys out. Its worth the trek. Oh and if they have both doors open, you won't be able to see the sign, so just look out for Five bouroughs and its about 2 doors up.

And then we caught up with the lovely P over at the Worker's Club for a couple of beverages or so and some light (yeah right!) noshing.

For the price you pay these are decent serves. P was hanging for the kitchen to open at 5, and I believe ours was the first orders up. P had a plain old burger which was actually pretty good. It wasn't your plain old aussie rissole nor was it one of those overrated (yes it is a bit of a bubgear) wagyu concoctions ... it had a nice hint of spices ... perfect for the festive season. But alas no pic ... in terms of plating its pretty much like every other garden variety pub burger ... although a little stingy on the chips!!!

M and I shared some yummy Calamari (nicely seasoned with cracked pepper) ...

... veal and pork meatballs in a well balanced tomato sauce

... and thick polenta chips served with a spicy capsicum dip

Pretty impressive!!

And I love the fact that there's always something new to discover on the wine list.

We had the Fifth Leg "Whippersnapper" which is a Tempranillo/Shiraz/Grenache blend. A little on the "heavy leave a coating in your mouth" side, but a reasonable quaffer ... can't vouch for what its like with food because when the meals came we switched to a Seville Estate Pinot Gris which was suitably refreshing but tasted rounder with food.

All in all a great start to Christmas 2010.
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