Sunday, 24 February 2013

Random Thoughts 2013 Part Uno

Ok ... so 2 months into the year and what have we got ... quite a lot actually. M celebrated a milestone with catering from Safari Restauarant. (He draws a bigger crowd than I do ... oh!) Our travel bugs are finally back which means yay! pool! And biggest thing of all, we're off to Europe!! Well Barcelona and then quite a bit of Italy. So as you can imagine, the planning has taken up much of my spare time. So let me quickly break some things down for you:

- I dropped my iphone in water (ok I'm fessing up ... it was the toilet bowl) for the second time!! The Shame prevents me from schlepping out to Donnie to "meet a Genius" at the Genius Bar. Besides which they will probably just offer me the same phone at $180, so I've decided to risk all manner of false economies and order an ex-display iPhone 4 online. Only time will tell how wise a choice this was. Fingers crossed. Meanwhile texting has been an absolute nigtmare on the work crackberry! And I miss my music and phone numbers ... thank god for the cloud is all I can say, despite the inherent privacy risks.

- I'm officially over Food Trucks, after sampling White Guy Cooks Thai for the first time in the cutest little park in Seddon ... to all you Seddonites ... I am soooo jealous of where you live! Once the novelty wears off, the food really isn't up to scratch, and doesn't quite warrant all the associated angst of finding out where the damn thing will be on the day, and getting there early before things run out.

- I still get a kick out of paste-ups ... but I won't pretend to understand what it all means

- Garamerica over in South Melbourne is not bad at all! May need a post all of its own ... but here's a taster:

- The congee at Huu Huu Thanh in Footscray market is so so good! A definite must have:

- So is the Macaroni and Cheese over at Woolly Bully in North Melbourne. Just across the street from 'tude central but a world away as far as service is concerned:

- 80s stalwarts crawling out of retro-anonymity and doing relevant work!! Amazing! 2 of the best so far:

- In May, we will be here!! Entry and exit flights and half of the accomodation have been booked. Next up we need to settle whether its a hotel or apartment in Rome, and which Car rental to use (yes we are attempting to drive in Italy!). So, we fly into Barcelona for a few days, then fly to Venice, train to Milan, car round Lake Como down to Cinque Terra and eventually into Florence. Another few days there, then car through the Tuscan region to Rome which is wear we finish off our Meditarranean sojourn. I can't wait!

- I keep garnering subscribers on my YouTube page, which is fantastic. I have to remember to put another video up soon, or I may lose their interest. This video has the highest number of hits so far:

- And I recently discovered this little gem from, wait for it, SINGAPORE!! Who knew that my little hometown that is all about the 3 R's could produce such musical gems like this??!!

- I recently tweeted! But as I have next to zero followers, and don't really have anything interesting to say,  its like a tree falling in a forest, or one hand clapping, oh shit I dunno, insert your own analogy here.

- And I can't really look at our Magnolia Tree anymore, but life, as expected, has moved on. Here's Sascha keeping Finney company:

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Saying I love you with Crab! Dinner at Omah's Restaurant

Ok ... I was intending to include Omah's in a sort of Random Thoughts round up on food we enjoyed over the recent holiday period, but I think its good enough to warrant its own little post.

Omah's restaurant is situated on Burwood Road, almost at the corner of Glenferrie, and opposite the imposing Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Even though this is a busy road, in a wealthy suburb, it still does have the touch of the village green about it somehow.

We had a window seat tucked away from the busy kitchen and bar area Nothing suits relaxation better than the colour of an open window mixed with a warm summer's evening.

Proudly spruiking their nonya and hawker culinary skills (and don't they all!), it was the humble Pepper Crab that led us to their door, and Pepper Crab we had.

It was a special occasion and we were prepared to binge. But at $50 per crab, and a choice of 7 different sauces, you could afford to splurge a little. And one crab is more than ample for 2 people.

We began our repast with a number of starters, including one from the specials board - crispy fried kang kong ($6.50) - i.e. kang kong fried in batter.

Quite an unusual idea, but one that I'm not quite sure entirely works. I guess its a good bar snack for a vegetarian? But at the end of the day, you're really just enjoying the batter with that spongy texture of the kang kong. The accompanying coconut sauce was pretty delicious though - tasted like coconut milk with a dash of fish sauce - good combo!

We also had the Crab Omelette ($8.50)! What is it about shredded crab and egg ... lovers destined to be together in a smoky hot wok. Surely it can't be because they both exist within shells that have to be cracked open to release the sweetness inside. If I could I would be whipping them up at least once a week. And unless the crab is so stale that its reformed a shell, even the shittiest omelette maker could not mar this union.
The gingery sauce was the perfect chaperone.

Our last starter was the Yam Scallop ($7.50) - lightly seared Scallops on a yam cake base. This was nice. But I was hoping for more of that steam trolley yum cha taste, or perhaps another element to tie the 2 components together. They were oddly separate in flavour and texture.

Then it was time for the piece de resistance (M hates this phrase!) - Pepper Crab. I love my mother's Pepper crab. In fact I prefer it to Chilli Crab (one of Singapore Tourism Board's more successful campaigns). Although the sweet buns they serve at some establishments are to die for dipped in the sauce.
My mother's method is quite simple - butter (lots), garlic, salt and pepper! But the restaurant version throws in a soy and vinegar element (both dark) to the mix.

So $50 doesn't buy you the biggest of specimens, but its more than ample as mentioned previously. And it was done reasonably well. The Crab was fresh and sweet, and the sauce extremely moreish.

Our greedy palates also ordered the Sambal kang kong (Belacan Veggies as its called on the menu - $16.90), which was served with whole prawns, absolutely infused with the breath of the wok. The first few mouthfuls were amazing, you could taste the whole cooking process in a single bite. Oddly enough, although the flavour didn't exactly pall, it sort of diminished in richness. Hard to explain.

Our third main was the Ikan Bakar ($24.90) - fish grilled with mild chilli paste, onion and okra - this was dissappointing. It was lacking in flavour. Perhaps a bit of kafir lime leaf or lemongrass would not have gone amiss. And perhaps a stronger belacan hit in the chilli. I would certainly avoid this. There are other equally enticing dishes on the menu that you might want to check out first - like the Ginger Flower Duck.

We finished off our meal with the Sago pudding - done in the same way, uncannily, as M used to do his. Coloured green with pandan essence and shaped in a little mould of almost exactly the same size.

I'm not sure if I'm waxing lyrical about the restaurant or being excited by the act of finding Pepper Crab in Melbourne, but I think in summary I would recommend that you check this place out. You may come away with the same thoughts, or have an adverse experience altogether. But seek the crab out - leave etiquette at the order - and have a great night.

Omah's Nyonya Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 7 February 2013

More than a Superstar - Laneway Festival 2013

Ok ... larks its been awhile!! We're already a month past and I'm only just getting round to a blog post. There's so much to catch up on, but death is a cruel mistress and you must give me some emotional room.

Perhaps its fitting then that I start the new year with something that has always given me great solace and fortitude ... music.

Despite the flagrant beer-soaked display of snobbery on the part of my very good friend (questionable!) DL, I still love the West and love even more the fact that her unassuming beauty is host to what I consider one of the better organised music festivals in Melbourne, the Laneway Festival down on the banks of the Maribyrnong.

The 2 bands I was really here to see were Perfume Genius and Bat for Lashes. And I was prepared to go it alone. But Natasha Khan is in my friend DL's Top 5 list pf artists so he had to be there too. And at the 11th hour KH scored a ticket through a work colleague of mine, so what began as a solo venture, with another friend JL in tow, turned into a quartet of music appreciation.

KH and I got in early so that she could catch The Twerp's set. The singer is her husband's cousin. Not really my cup of tea, but a nice way to ease into the proceedings of what was going to be a long day. Our Padre coffee from Footscray Milking Station (they cleverly set up a machine outside for takeways ... you could say they were milking it at the milking station ... boom tish!) certainly helped to gird the loins and toughen our constituitions.

We left The Twerps before they finished so I could get a prime possie at Perfume Genius, which turned out to be quite unecessary as there was still plenty of room. In fact I managed to head right up front of stage, although my pics are still pretty shit.

It was a great set, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for Mike as his music is more suited to intimate venues and loses some of its emotional stridence competing with the elements and general human chatter.

Still it was exactly what I wanted and needed. I sat in the full bore sun and got quietly burnt, oblivious to the exciting turn of events just round the corner.

Next it was time for a toilet stop and a brief sojourn to the Eat your Ears stage for the opposite end of the musical spectrum which was Cloud Nothings, the much feted raucous American quartet serving up a thrash metal wall of sound that has seemingly captured the attention of the young indie crowd. Needless to say we lasted perhaps 3 stanzas short of a song and opted for more prosaic sustenance instead ... Lunch.

Beatbox Kitchen always serves great hamburgers and fries, so it was a no brainer when it came to choosing what we were going to eat ... and there were plenty of choices to be had.

This time round, Beatbox Kitchen served up an even greater more unexpected treat ... Mike Hadreas from Perfume Genius in the queue!!!

It made my day, perhaps even my year.

Meanwhile DL had arrived with JL in tow. So we met up at the River Stage and sampled Minneapolis band, Polica, fronted by elfin-like Channy Leaneagh who throws the cutest shapes on stage. Strong voice too, and not anything like Enya JL, but I will concur with the Cat Power resemblance, KH. With the Bon Iver seal of approval, the band ticks most of the danceable indie boxes.

But we will need to wait for their sophomore album to see if they have the chops to last the distance. Oh and if you had had any doubts about hitting the 90s fashion paylode, check out Channy's T-shirt, cut off denim shorts and boots combo ... Girlie Show anyone?

I was intending to take in Alt-J's set, but the crowd was starting to piss me off, so leaving KH behind to take in Chet Faker, I trundled off to the Future Classic Stage to see Jessie Ware, who I have perhaps unfairly written off as Sade-lite in the past.

I'm not sure if my perception has entirely been altered, but Jessie is a spunky performer, with a great stage presence and repartee, and a suitably tight backing band. And I loved the uk-grimy bling. Its a good soul voice, strong but unadorned. And the grooves are smooth, but perhaps therein lies the rub. It is a little on the Cafe Del Mar side. And there are only so many life situations when a chilled soundtrack like this applies. I left when the Madonna cover came on. (And yes, Melbourne's mayor-in-waiting, Andrew MacConnell got a shout out. Jesse sampled his Lobster Roll over at Golden Fields).

By this stage, DL was freaking out about Bat for Lashes' impending set as the afternoon inched ever closer towards evening. Less than enamoured of the space surrounding the main stage, we formulated a plan to hang out at the peripheries during Yeasayer's set, then slowly work our way up to the front once the shirts-off-fist-pumping crowd left for more verdant climes (I hear that Flume was the hot ticket as far as headline acts were concerned.)
Our plan worked!

We were virtually up the front ensconced with the rest of the "poor and unwashed" as it were, when Natasha and Co took to the stage. Dressed in an oil-slicked pleated cape and matching skirt, Natasha and her band were an absolute revelation, and one of the best live performances I have seen in a very very very long time.

This wasn't just a band playing a set, it was theatre and catharsis and all those other big $10 words you can think of. I didn't expect the sense of creative release that Natasha brings to the fore and goes through herself even as she performs up there on stage, drawing the rest of us into her arcane world filled with fantabulous creatures suffering the gamut of human emotions.

And the girl can certainly get a groove on!! Those shoulder pops and rolls she does, with the little leg kick out the side! Adorably sensual ... is the best way to describe it. And that smile of hers - cheeky, irreverent, genuine, joyful, inclusive yet also exclusive ... and perhaps a hint of relief and wonder that its all going so well and that we the audience were responding so positively.

My advice is, even if you're undecided about their material, go see them live if ever there is another opportunity. You will not regret it. And Laura has to be, has to be, one of the few truly perfect songs.

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