Armory Wharf Café – Newington

Tags

, , , , , ,

Dining options in the Home-bush/Newington area, generally leave a lot to be desired. Being the recent purchaser of an apartment in the neighbouring Wentworth point, I wanted to scope the area out for any potential local café to be my new ‘haunt’.

armory outside 2

Rocking up this rainy Saturday afternoon the place was incredibly busy indoors, I had reserved a table prior, knowing that it is quite popular. It’s such a shame they don’t have adequate coverings for their outdoor seating, seems a bit silly not to capitalise on the extra tables. I saw a number of parties being turned away because there just wasn’t any room indoors yet there were 10 or so wet empty tables outside.

The café itself is nestled right on the Parramatta River in Blaxland Riverside park – my GPS virtually abandoned me on my quest to find it, something along the lines of “We cannot provide accurate directions but head to the red dot on the screen” mighty helpful whilst driving and navigating.

armory outside 1

Now, for those that don’t know me, I don’t visit a restaurant/café without checking out the menu first. So I knew what I was going to get before I even arrived.

Alas it wasn’t to be, the menu was slightly different and by slightly different the only thing that had changed was the ONE thing I was planning on ordering. The three sliders. I hate surprises.

Whilst settling on what to order,  my friend and I shared the ‘Garlic, oregano and parmesan sour dough slices (4 pieces” $6.50). All in all, a fancy way of saying ‘garlic bread’. No complaints here, it was very tasty. I could have happily eaten all four slices myself.

armory bread

I finally settled on the Crispy battered flathead fillets’ – w/ chunky chips & a side of lemon, caper & garlic aioli with a small salad on the side. $23.50. I LURVE a good fish and chips, I hardly order it when I go out because it is sooo bad for you. But now and then I do like to reward my fabulousness with a greasy treat. Unfortunately this was a let-down. The fish was crispy, that was about the highlight. The batter had absorbed an exorbitant amount of oil making the fish very heavy to eat. Not even a ¼ of the way in, I was feeling a little sickly. The chips were soggy, I’m assuming from the run off oil from the garnish salad. The entire dish, including the side salad needed a pretty big whack of salt and I never add salt to anything I eat.

armory fish n chips

My friend also indecisive, went with the ‘Armory Pie Floater’ – Lamb shank pie w/ shortcrust pastry and topped w/ smashed peas and red wine jus. $25.  The first thing we were struck by was the odd presentation, the ‘floater’ alludes to the pastry precariously balancing on top of the pie filling. With the shank bone, unceremoniously dangling out of the corner of the plate. Looks aside, this was also disappointing. The lamb was tender but the sauce marrying all the ingredients was very thin and the whole dish, again, lacked seasoning.

armory pie

Not the greatest start to my ‘new local’ hunting. Such a shame considering the view and its location.

I plan to come back again and check out the breakfast offerings. Fingers crossed.

Bianca

V.B.A

Armory Wharf Cafe on Urbanspoon

Vapiano – King Street

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Finding affordable, fresh and flavoursome Italian food in Sydney’s CBD is not necessarily an easy task. In saying that, a lot of city workers have no doubt heard of ‘Vapiano’. A restaurant that creates classic Italian offerings sourced from local Australian produce that pulls in crazy crowds at lunch and dinner. If you can stand the crowds at peak times then look no further, because you’ve found your perfect Italian restaurant!
_MG_0007A beautifully large open plan kitchen let’s you see all the action where you can watch your food being made right in front of you.

_MG_9915

As myself and Bianca arrived, we were directed to the bar before we took our seats (no complaints here). Bianca opted for a ‘Raspberry Crush’ and in keeping with tradition for the past couple of months, I got the ‘Espresso Martini’. The Martini didn’t have that thick texture on the palate that a lot of other places have but the flavours were fantastic, with a lingering coffee flavour. The perfect pick me up as I was a bit flat until that point. (Also notice the pot plant behind the martini? That is actually fresh basil that can be used to garnish your dish. A great idea and the fresh smell of basil always reminds me of my grandparents garden!)

_MG_9908

The first dish of the night was the Classic Pumpkin Soup’ with your choice of parmesan, cream, croutons, and basil $6.9. We got the whole lot on ours and this was actually one of my favourites of the night. Warm, hearty and perfectly seasoned. It was impossible not to finish the whole bowl. The garlic croutons added a further texture that worked so harmoniously with the thick and creamy soup. Definitely a winner.

_MG_9918

_MG_9990

Only up to the second dish of the night and the pumpkin soup left little room for what was to come but next was thePizza Porporano’, a home-made tomato sauce and mozzarella base topped with bresaola, rocket, shaved parmesan, and a drizzle of truffle olive oil. $19.90. With such an array of different flavours, I was at first a little apprehensive as to what to expect, but I was blown away. Each element complimented the next perfectly and with a fresh, well cooked pizza base it was definitely a crowd pleaser. The bresaola (air-dried salted beef) that Vapiano uses is supplied by Speiss Australia. The meat goes through a lengthy process of seasoning, drying, fermenting etc. before it reaches the plate at Vapiano. Interesting to know how the meat gets its distinct flavour. It was a nice alternative to the usual prosciutto based rocket pizza’s.

_MG_9932

When I saw the ‘Pasta Gamberi Con Rosso’ (freshly made pasta served with prawns, chilli, semi sun-dried tomatoes, and sun-dried tomato pesto) $19.90 come to the table I thought it’d be impossible to eat as it would’ve been to heavy, but as I started to take a few bites, I was surprised as to how light the pasta was. With no thick or creamy sauce in play, the dish was really fresh with the flavour of the sun-dried tomato being the stand-out.

_MG_9978

The final savoury dish for the night was the Risotto Pollo Levanto’, a creamy risotto with chicken, bacon, red onion, garlic, and chilli topped with parmesan and basil. $19.90. What a fantastic dish. The chicken had a slight crisp to it that complimented the little cubes of bacon, with a rich creamy texture to match. This vibrant, colourful and slightly spicy dish was the perfect way to finish and welcome us into spring!

_MG_9993

Of course we couldn’t leave without dessert and what was brought to the table was a heavenly White chocolate Cheesecake’ with Salted Caramel and honeycomb $5.90. The table was in silence as we all looked in awe at the gooey salted caramel and chunky pieces of honeycomb. The cheesecake was rich and creamy and melted in your mouth. At first I asked Bianc, “where’s the biscuit?”, but as I delved deeper I reached the biscuit base and alas, perfection was found. Each component worked so well with each other. By this point I was way past tipping point and thinking about walking back to the car made me cringe so unfortunately I couldn’t finish it off, but it was definitely a perfect way to finish a fantastic night off!

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

_MG_9973

A simple but effective layout, with great, hearty Italian food to match. Vapiano sure has won me over.

_MG_0003

Thanks to Vapiano, For Food’s Sake also has 4 vouchers to give away! Each voucher entitles the winner and a guest of their choice to a choice of a main from Vapiano’s Spring Menu as well as the delicious white Chocolate Salted Caramel that we had.

No booking is required, just show up to Vapiano and the team will be ready to help you out. The vouchers must be used by Friday 31st of October as that is when the spring menu finishes! The vouchers are for use at Vapiano Sydney ONLY, and For Food’s Sake will post the vouchers to each winner’s address.

You can enter the competition by going to instagram, following @4foodssake and @vapianoaustralia, and either commenting on our latest Vapiano post with your ideal Italian getaway, along with your favourite Italian dish, OR take a photo of your favourite Italian dish with the hashtag #getfreshwithvapiano and tag 4foodssake and vapianoaustralia in the picture.

Or for those that do not have instagram, leave a comment on this post, telling us your favourite Italian dish and where in Italy you’d like to be eating it. (Details will also be on our instagram on how to enter the competition) Have fun and good luck!

COMPETITION ENDS ON THE 25TH OF SEPTEMBER.

Alex

V.B.A

*For Foods Sake were invited to try Vapiano’s new spring menu, all opinions however are our own. A big thank you to the lovely Clare for the invitation.

Vapiano on Urbanspoon

Hunter Valley Hens

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Celebrating the first of two hens for fellow FFS’aker Vanessa’s upcoming nuptials, we headed to the Hunter Valley for a girl’s weekend away with eight of Vanessa’s friends & family. We ate, drank, laughed, admired the view …… then we ate again.

DSC_0013

The first night we feasted on cold cut meats, bread, crackers and cheese before moving on to dinner, consisting of a delicious home-made Beef Lasagna and Spanakopita made by Vanessa. As well as a Greek Salad and Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes, mixed nuts, dried fruits and cherry vincotto. One of the high points of our weekend away was the major surprise the bridesmaids managed to pull off. A stripper for our hen, virtually in the middle of nowhere. I don’t think anyone will be able to get the image of the ‘police officer’ coming down the stairs to perform for the horde of screaming women.

Hunter hens

The next day we had organised a wine tour, visiting four wineries, an included lunch, stopping for a cheeseboard and gobbling up some chocolate covered strawberries, all for $110. With Neal (our bus driver) steering the ship, our first stop was at ‘Tallavera Grove’, a stunning winery overlooking the rolling hills and vineyards of the Hunter. Also home to the restaurant ‘Bistro Molines’.

DSC_0069

DSC_0072

Second on our hit list was ‘Ernest Hill Wines’.

DSC_0102

Having started our tour at 11am in the morning and striking off two wineries before lunchtime, to say we were famished is well and truly an understatement. Lunch was at the beautiful restaurant ‘The Cellar’, in the heart of the Hunter Valley Garden Village. We all selected our desired mains at the beginning of the tour on the bus, so no need for indecision.

DSC_0111

DSC_0119

On the table were a selection of spreads and olive oil. ‘House Sourdough roll’ $3. I honestly could have easily eaten 2 or 3 of those little bad boys, warm out of the oven they were delicious, slathered in whichever ‘poison’ you chose. I was enamoured with the olive oil on the table, the ‘Olio Mio’ – Corregiola. So much so I tracked it down to take a bottle home with me. Easily the best $20 I spent that weekend.

DSC_0128

DSC_0129

All of the girls barring myself went with the ‘250g Cape Grim grass-fed sirloin’ – served with chips and a side salad. $32. Feedback was good, some of the girl’s steak were a little underdone but they all enjoyed their meals. Not wanting anything particularly heavy, I opted for the ‘Pan fried Haloumi’ – with roast Italian vegetables, preserved lemon, chilli, parsley and pine nut salsa. $39. As we ordered off a sheet without prices on the bus, I was a little puzzled when I saw the price for this dish whilst writing this post. It seemed quite exorbitant for what it was. While it was delicious and a generous portion I don’t necessarily think it was great value for money.

DSC_0139

DSC_0135

10622958_10152708410758417_4987120102603856698_n

After lunch we made a stop at ‘Brokenwood winery’ where I picked up two of my favourite type of wines, a tawny port and the gorgeous ‘Sticky Wicket Semillon’. I’m all about the dessert wines. The last winery on the tour was ‘Misty Glen Wines’, a charming cottage in Pokolbin offering boutique wines. I really enjoyed their ‘White Harbour’ port.

The last two stops couldn’t have come at a better time, we needed a little something in the stomach to soak up four wineries worth of booze. We stopped at the ‘Australian Regional Food Store & Café’ where we shared three cheese boards between us. As this was included in the tour, I can only estimate prices based on their website. They offer a cheeseboard with three varieties of cheese, grissini and crackers for $17. We all enjoyed the variety of cheese but the cracker to cheese ratio was slightly off. Not enough for the amount of cheese on the plate, so a few little chunks were left behind.

hunter hens cheese board

Our final stop was at the ‘Hunter Valley Chocolate Company’ where we each had two strawberries coated in milk chocolate. After hoovering that up in a less than respectable time I made a beeline for the store where I picked myself up some ‘Salted caramel fudge’, ‘Dark chocolate coated peanuts’ and some ‘Hawaiian crunch’.

After a big day of wine tasting and eating, we made the trek back home and walked up the steep incline back to our rental abode for the weekend.

Our last day in the Hunter we had a leisurely breakfast then cleared out of the house. Of course having not eaten for at least two hours we were ravenous…I can honestly say I did not eat out of ‘hunger’ the entire weekend.

Our last meal before parting ways was at ‘Verandah Restaurant’ perched above the ‘Calais Estate’ winery. Overlooking the surrounding vineyards, we had a perfect spot on the verandah, right in the corner.

DSC_0182

DSC_0148

Service was slightly haphazard but the young female servers were nice enough. The emphasis here is shared tapas style dishes. We decided to order two servings each of four different main sized tapas. The first was the ‘Blue Swimmer Crab Ravioli’ – with sautéed zucchini flower and prawn bisque. $36 (main sized servings = 4 portions). This was my least favourite dish of the day, I found the smell and the taste incredibly overpowering. I don’t deal with fishy dishes at the best of times and I found this one particularly unbearable. I gave up after one bite. The consensus after the first course was a round of bread to soak up the residual bisque. I gnawed on mine whilst the others dipped theirs. The bread had a rather strong burnt/charred taste which I didn’t like, it didn’t seem to bother the other ladies.

DSC_0164

DSC_0167

Next up was the ‘Cumin and Cayenne baby calamari with lime aioli’ $34. I loved the punchiness of the Cayenne and enjoyed the smaller variation to the typical traditional size, I tried not to think of the wee baby calamari I was happily devouring. The only drawback was the excess oil it became a little heavy but it was a generous serving for the price.

DSC_0170

We then had the ‘Pulled and pressed lamb with potato roesti and gremolata’. $36. My favourite dish of the day. The slow roasted lamb was moulded into four little square servings topped with the potato roesti. The lamb was so tender it yielded at the slightest touch. I loved the contrasting textures, it was a subtle dish executed perfectly.

DSC_0172

Lastly we got one serving of the ‘Duck liver parfait with cornichons, onion jam and charred sourdough’. $30. I bypassed this one as I’m not the biggest fan of pate but feedback from the table was all positive.

DSC_0174

DSC_0175

For myself and the others not keen on the pate, we ordered the ‘Tea smoked duck breast’ – with orange and honey glazed rosemary cherries and pistachio soufflé. $36. The duck was perfectly cooked and paired well with the accompanying sauce. Most surprising of all, was how well the soufflé wedge went with the duck. Tying everything together and being a great vessel to mop up the left over sauce on the dish. We were all at tipping point, so most ladies got a hot beverage before we took off. I enjoyed the view and for the most part the food but prices were high for the portions.

DSC_0177

DSC_0151

After a little bit of a shop at the home-wares store downstairs, we all said our goodbyes and headed back to Sydney after our perfect little Hunter Hens getaway.

DSC_0146

Bianca

V.B.A

The Cellar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Verandah Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Panama House/Le Maison De L’éclair – Bondi

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

After being ill for a few weeks, getting out of the house was like a God send – so myself and Bianca decided to venture to the Eastern Suburbs. The weather was temperamental but for the most part the rain held off. So some hearty food was just what we needed!

Our first stop was Panama House’, positioned discreetly (to us anyway) on Bondi road, offering a fusion of American and Mexican dishes that brought back some pretty vivid memories from our recent trip to the US.

_MG_9675

The restaurant/cafe is quaint and while you might be within close quarters to other customers, in this circumstance I think it adds to the charm of the place.

_MG_9680

Bianca and I sat on some stools that looked out the window onto Bondi Road, yes the seats were uncomfortable, probably best to sit there if you’re just having a coffee and not eating, let alone taking hundreds of photos of your food and then having nowhere to put your camera, my mistake.

_MG_9688 _MG_9683

As we perused the menu we had noticed that many of the options that we had seen online were no longer on the menu, like the Po-Boys, the Mac & cheese and the onion rings so it took us a while to get our bearings and re think our situation! Eventually we decided to share the ‘Panama Burger ‘- hanger steak patty, grilled swiss cheese, house pickles on a soft bun with Parmesan Fries $19 and a new addition to the menu, the ‘Fajitas’ w. fried chicken, pulled pork, guacamole, cabbage, and black beans $22. To accompany the fajitas we were brought different salsas from mild (far left) to hot (far right).

_MG_9693

The fajitas were a bit of a hit and miss for me. The guacamole was almost perfectly seasoned, I just think it needed a bit more tang to give it some oomph and the pulled pork was fairly flavourless, even when combined with all the other elements on the plate. The fried chicken however was delicious. The skin was perfectly crunchy but still had the soft texture once you bit into it. I would’ve gone all fried chicken if I could’ve! Oh and I went for the tomato salsa, I chickened out on trying the really spicy one but Bianc did…and it was funny.

_MG_9694

The Panama Burger…wow, I think it’s safe to say that this is definitely up there for one of the best burgers in Sydney. The patty to bun ratio (very important) was perfect and the cheese flavour was evident but not too overpowering. My favourite addition was the crispy onion rings creating an added texture to the burger that stole my heart. The parmesan chips were also a knock out. Incredible smoky flavour from the chunky chips that was balanced so well with the hint of parmesan and yes we slowly moved all of the pickles out-of-the-way and left them so we could make way for the chippies! Now Bianca loves her burgers, so if she piped down after taking her first bite we knew we had a winner.

_MG_9697 _MG_9701

A great addition to the Bondi scene and once summer hits I will definitely be back to get the burger after a tiring day at the beach of doing nothing! If you really have some extra room go for a takeaway coffee with one of their freshly made cookies or muffins!

_MG_9692

For us though, some coffee’s weren’t gonna cut it. A quick stroll up the road from Panama House is Le Maison De L’éclair’. A place that is so delightfully dangerous, it’s almost impossible not to be tempted by all the beautiful eclairs. Flavours range from the classics, Espresso, chocolate, to the ‘W.O.W!’ collection including Lemon Meringue, and salted caramel, there is literally a flavour for everyone. They even do savoury temptations and croissants.

_MG_9719

_MG_9716_MG_9712

We got a bit carried away, but these are the eclairs we took home to live with us:

-Bounty 

-Raspberry 

-Salted Caramel + a mini one

-Snickers 

_MG_9733My favourite was surprisingly the raspberry, but all of them were delicious, it’s impossible for me to say anything bad. Bianca loved the Salted Caramel. They weren’t sickly or overly sweet, and there was a clear distinction between each flavour which was the best thing about them. So now enjoy some photos of these babies!

_MG_9765 _MG_9779

Clearly an eventful day of stuffing our faces, but hey what else is new?

Until next time!

Alex

V.B.A

Panama House on Urbanspoon

La Maison de L’éclair on Urbanspoon

Southern Adventure

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wanting to experience the south but finding the prospect of doing it ourselves a little daunting we decided to finish our USA adventure with a Contiki tour. We were all a little apprehensive about doing an organised tour especially a contiki. Everybody’s pretty much across what happens during a Contiki sojourn, the ‘contiki cough’, late nights leading into early mornings, and copious amounts of alcohol – not exactly my scene. Give me a good book and a slice of cake any day.

We started the tour in New Orleans which I covered in a previous post, our second stop was Memphis where we visited Elvis’s Graceland (a trippy experience if there ever was one) carpet on the ceiling anybody?

Most the of the meals on the tour were pre-planned with Contiki’s affiliate restaurants so most of the time it was pretty hit and miss, there were occasions when we were able to head off on our own and seek out any restaurant that took our fancy. We were advised that some of the best fried Chicken was to be found in Memphis, at the world-famous ‘Gus’s Fried Chicken’ to be exact. I’ve never been one for KFC, so fried chicken has never really held a place in my heart. But boy oh boy, was that some of the best chicken I had eaten in my life, it was slap your mumma good. I do this often, so my mum won’t be offended.  About 16 of us landed on Gus’s early one evening, lines for a table were insane but when you’re on holidays you have no excuse to be impatient everything is a treat.

_MG_8278

_MG_8291

We were keen to try some of the side’s we don’t experience much at home, so we got one each of the ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ and the ‘Fried Pickles’. Both served of course, with ranch sauce. The FGT were interesting but had no discerning flavour, it was very similar in taste and texture to the pickles. Which were awesome and I’m usually the one tossing my pickles on my McDonald’s cheeseburgers.

_MG_8297

 

_MG_8298

Now the reason for our visit, the chicken. Both Alex and I went for a serving of two pieces on the bone  -‘Breast pieces served with fries’. The exterior was ear shatteringly crunchy, the inside moist. Most surprising was how little oil the chicken had absorbed, any experience with KFC in the past has left the usual offending oily hands/lips. None to be found here. Alex and I were also impressed by the heat in the chicken, we weren’t expecting the chilli at all but it was most welcome. We ended our last night in Memphis, also Alex’s 19th birthday with a few drinks at ‘BB Kings Club’ where we watched some of the semi-finals for the International Blues Challenge.

_MG_8322

_MG_8324

_MG_8331

Dallas was our next stop and definitely not what one expects when someone thinks Texas. Where were the ‘Howdy Maams’, the cowboys, the quintessential Texas attributes? Okay I’m being very general and stereotypical here. We were surprised by Dallas and just how ‘urban’ it was. We came across quite a few boutique designer stores with exorbitantly priced goodies which Alex and I hopped in and out of for a looksie. Our first night in Dallas we had dinner at ‘Ellen’s Southern Kitchen’. We were bustled into a warmly inviting chic restaurant with bar space, that was (now looking back) deserted. Perhaps because our 50+ group took up more than ¾ of the restaurant but the food was absolutely delicious.  One of our favourite meals during the Contiki ‘portion’ of our holiday.

IMG_9948-2

I seemed to have gotten nostalgic on my travels and found myself ordering meatloaf a few times. Which is slightly weird because I have never eaten a traditional meatloaf at home, my mum would make the woggy version, Polpette. I had the ‘Ellens u.s.d.a prime meatloaf’prime angus beef meatloaf with pan gravy and crispy onions, also served with two fresh vegetables’ $13.99. I decided to go with the green beans and the mashed sweet potato. The behemoth that was brought to the table was both welcome and laughable. Things were starting to topple off the plate it was so full. Despite the enormity of the plate it was all very tasty.

meatloaf dallas

Alex always a sucker for schnitzel got the hilariously named ‘Chicken Fried Chicken’ – Organic chicken, breaded then fried, topped with cream sausage gravy and served with two fresh vegetables. $12.99. This is one place I would recommend for anyone making the trip to Dallas. To end the night, we headed to ‘Kung Fu Saloon’ which offer free arcade games, giant jenga and other large-scale games for free. Also props to the handsome bouncer who told me all about his life in the army and his experiences in Afghanistan. We noticed generally that the people down south were a might friendlier than what we had experienced so far.

IMG_9950-2

Our second day was spent at the John F Kennedy 6th floor museum, which was touching, mind-boggling and overwhelming. Lunch that day was a quick affair, shared a ‘Cheeseburger’ – with fries $7.75 with Alex from ‘Hoffbrau Steaks’.

_MG_8516

Our last night in Dallas, we headed to the famous Dallas stockyards. Dinner was at ‘Risckys Barbque’. Our longing for traditional Texas BBQ of any sort, no preference for styles. Was sadly not to be the case. This was hands down the worst meal of the trip. Having heard the many murmurings of delicious slow cooked brisket, I knew that night, we were to cross paths. I opted for ‘Risckys famous sliced Beef Brisket’ served with a piece of toast, coleslaw and potato salad. $13.99. Where do I even start….The brisket, thankfully, was moist and melted in the mouth but it was cold. The main theme running throughout my meal that night was the temperature of everything. Stone cold limp toast, potato salad (that was obviously meant to be cold) but tasted horrid and the sad little mound of coleslaw. Very disappointing indeed. After dinner we went to our very first Rodeo, definitely an American experience personified. It was at times confronting, some of the ways in which the animals were handled for those not so accustomed, seemed a bit rough, but when in Rome..I was also knee-deep in a Contiki game called ‘Assasin’ whereby we were all given names of a fellow travel companion who we then had to ‘kill’ by whispering and not being overheard, the words “1,2,3 you’re dead”. Before I was caught (by a bunch of cheaters, fyi) I had a nice little collection of 8-10 names. My Bounty Hunter licence is in the mail.

_MG_8547

We then spent one night in Amarillo, TX. Staying at the famous Big Texan Inn, which has a restaurant adjacent to the old school coloured hotel rooms. Home to the ’72 oz Steak Challenge’ seen on the reputable and classy TV show, Man VS Food, hahaha Adam Richman is my hero.

_MG_8723Two fellow Contiki travellers/suckers tried their hand at the 2kg+ steak and sides challenge but were beaten by the meat. The Big Texan also brew their own craft beers, that night I tried the ‘Pecan Porter’ – a dark ale, rich malty aroma of pecans, light notes of chocolate, molasses and brown sugar. On to the food, as the meals were pre-booked by Contiki, we had to choose our meals a few days in advance, so Alex and I would co-ordinate most times so we could try two options. I cannot recall the exact cut of meat I had that night. But as you would expect from a steak house, the meat was juicy and very flavourful. We were told, as we were such a large group they would be cooking all steaks medium. Beggars can’t be choosers here. Alex again went for the ‘Grilled Chicken’ which we then split.

IMG_8751

IMG_0030-2

IMG_8755

Big Steaks = Big Beers

Onwards and upwards, the next stop on our Grand Southern Adventure was Santa Fe, New Mexico. A really interesting amalgamation of old school Pueblo Indian villages and southern charm. Driving into Santa Fe was almost an ‘other-worldly experience’. The architecture is described as ‘The Spanish Pueblo Revival look’, with prominent earth toned buildings and rounded corners. This wasn’t to be an overnight stop unfortunately, an express lunch stop and some sightseeing.  Santa Fe, despite being one of the shortest visits on our itinerary became one of my US highlights. It was truly something I had never seen in my life. New Mexico’s food is a mish mash of Spanish, Mexican and Pueblo Native American, typically shying away from the standard Mexican and Tex-Mex found in other US states. After using my trusty Yelp, I happened across ‘Café Pasqual’s’, also a solid recommendation from our Contiki tour manager.

_MG_8839

 

Alex had the ‘Quesadilla with Chicken’, I couldn’t find the exact item on the menu but he enjoyed it.

_MG_8845

 

I had the ‘Blue Lady Enchiladas’ – jack cheese on two corn tortillas with red chile, black beans and cilantro rice. $12.75 (I added Chicken for an extra $6). This was SPICY, my eye’s may or may not have watered. Taking a bite, it pretty much put any comparable ‘Mexican’ meal to shame.

_MG_8849

 

Just for pure visuals I had to mention the ‘Huevos Rancheros’ – two eggs any style with black beans on a corn tortilla with tomatillo d’Arbol  salsa, melted jack cheese and scallions. $13.75. Our Contiki buddy enjoyed her offering and had a few of us on the table a little jealous.

_MG_8842

 

From Santa Fe, we made our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We only had a few hours of daylight, when we arrived, so Alex and I made a beeline for Old Town Albuquerque. We ducked into ‘The Candy Lady of Old Town’ where we wolfed down various samples of fudge – peanut butter, chocolate covered peanut butter, peanut butter brittle and peanut butter crunch.(yes, bit of a theme here). We also picked up a little sachet of the Breaking Bad candy, ‘Blue Ice Candy’, The Candy Lady store were approached to create the ‘Ice’ for use as props for the TV show.

_MG_8937Another one of those moments of a lifetime was our stop in Durango Colorado, where we snowmobiled on Purgatory Mountain. After our snow filled, freezing day we made our way to our accommodation then onto dinner. The streets of Durango City were perfumed by the potent whiffs of marijuana, having been made legal on the 1st of January 2014. We happened to visit during the annual ‘Snowdown’ festival – with this year’s theme being the ‘Safari so good’, which made for some interesting sights wandering the streets. We ate that night at ‘Carver Brewing Company’. I had the ‘Navajo Taco’ – Beef chilli served on a baked flatbread topped with local turtle lake micro greens, melted cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapeno’s and sour cream. $9. I was really interested in trying the Navajo taco, as I haven’t seen anything like it before. It ended up being a little disappointing, the ‘taco’ had absorbed a lot of the juices from the chilli mixture.

navajo taco

Alex was sitting on a different table that night but he thoroughly enjoyed his meal of ‘Carolina BBQ Grilled Chicken’ – Marinated grilled chicken breast, bacon and melted Swiss cheese topped with a honey-Dijon vinaigrette. Served with fingerling potatoes, sautéed green beans and onions.

IMG_0135-2

Moving on from Durango we made our way through to the Grand Canyon via Monument Valley, a pretty awe-inspiring view. We spent two days in the Grand Canyon, sightseeing, hiking (had to stop mid-way because snow and Alex’s ‘fashion’ boots weren’t totally appropriate) and generally just relaxing. Most of our time was spent in the main lodge where the heavenly wi-fi was located.

Our Contiki Southern Adventure was everything and more than we were expecting, we met some pretty awesome people, shared some unique experiences, great food, many laughs and way way too much alcohol.

Our last stop on our tour was Vegas but thought it should have its own special post.

IMG_8739

Bianca

Photos by Alex

V.B.A

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Ellen's Southern Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Hoffbrau Steaks on Urbanspoon

Riscky's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

The Big Texan Steak Ranch on Urbanspoon

Cafe Pasqual's on Urbanspoon

Carver Brewing Co on Urbanspoon

Brooklyn Social – Surry Hills

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

So I can assume most people have seen a few photos of THAT burger from Brooklyn Social. When I saw it I knew that it belonged in my stomach. Alex and I decided to go on a Friday for lunch, it took us a few good minutes to find it, when in reality it’s really in a prime location. Occupying the old ‘Mexico Food and Liquor’ site opposite Central station.

_MG_7637 copy

Now I wasn’t fortunate to make it to MF&L before they closed but Brooklyn Social hands down have the coolest entrance I’ve seen in some time, whether it was there before I do not know. Black vinyl strips hang from the ceiling cloaking the entrance, Alex couldn’t help but mutter as we walked in “I feel like I’m going to a brothel”. I haven’t been to a brothel so I can’t confirm the black vinyl….Alex?

Touted as a restaurant/dive bar, the inside is rather grungy with dark wood, photos of tittays and old school bands, not to mention a myriad of neon signs. As well as having the coolest bathroom. Props to the music selection as well, with some old school 80’s jams playing when we visited at midday.

_MG_7631 copy

_MG_7626 copy

I pretty much bypassed the hotdogs straight away, I kind of have an aversion to oddly shaped processed meat. We obviously went for the big kahuna the ‘Meat Packing District burger’ $14. When it was placed in front of us it was certainly a heart stopping moment, two thick wagyu patties wedged between a toasted branded brioche bun with oozy American cheese trickling down the sides.  Visually it was stunning but that’s kinda where it stopped being great. Taste wise, the meat was incredibly overwhelming, it was hard to differentiate any other flavours, I could see the cheese, the pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato and sauce but sadly couldn’t taste any of it. Very disappointing.

_MG_7645 copy

_MG_7663 copy

We also got the ‘Thunder Thighs’ – tender crispy chicken thighs, lettuce and chipotle mayo. $12. I feel like I need to high five the creator of this aptly named burger. While this one wasn’t as visually impressive, taste wise it blew the ‘Meat packing burger’ out of the water. The crispy skin was outta this world. I’ll gladly say it’s one of the BEST chicken burgers I’ve ever eaten. It was a task sharing this with Alex, it would continually make its way back in front of me.

_MG_7647 copy

_MG_7657 copy

_MG_7662 copy

 

Finally to share we couldn’t go past the ‘Curly Fries with Chilli Salt’ $6. Can’t go wrong with a batch of  these crispy bad-boys.

_MG_7639 copy

It was hard to describe the vibe in Brooklyn Social because it was deserted during our visit, it would be interesting to see this place on a Friday night.

_MG_7673 copy

We were too full to try the ‘Methodonuts’ $6 ea. There’s only so much my delicate little stomach can handle. We then tried to make amends by doing the Bay Run. If anybody saw us, I apologise for our heaving and heavy breathing (its damn hard with half a cow in ya).

Bianca

Photos by Alex

V.B.A

Brooklyn Social on Urbanspoon

Le Bouchon, Crows Nest

Tags

, , , , , ,

A midweek catch up with friends brought us to the quaint little French bistro, ‘Le Bouchon’. Situated in Crows Nest’s dining district, I will say from the outset that this is one to put on the list.  A fine recommendation from one of our friends allowed us to experience a lovely evening of French cuisine, in a small intimate setting, with French waiters to boot!

Being a school night, we felt obligated to exercise some control on the eating and drinking front so refrained from opting for the 8 course degustation menu ($95), although it does give me added incentive to return!  The dinner menu offers 3 courses for $60 which is very reasonably priced  and if you fancy a glass or two of vino, you will be pleased with the extensive wine list which is heavily geared towards French regional wines .

We were delighted at the sight of our waiter bringing forth an amuse bouche for us to enjoy prior to our meal. We were served an espresso cup filled with a vibrant ‘Pea soup infused with truffle oil’. This was a truly a great start to our meals backed up by a statement made by one of our diners,  who proclaimed “I would have licked the espresso cup if I could”   ..that’s how good it was.

photo 1

photo 2

We were a a party of six that evening and had strategically ordered a good mix of meals between us to try a bit of everything. Entrees arrived and the smell of garlic and olive oil wafted through the air, which is always a comforting sensation for me. I personally opted for the ‘French onion soup’, as I can’t seem to go past it if it’s on offer. The portion size was good, the toasted baquette with gruyere were delicious and the soup was substantial, although lacked a bit of seasoning for my taste.

photo 3

The crowd pleaser on the entree front that evening  was the ‘Escargot’ served with a warm baguette to soak up the flavours. Not only was this dish visually appealing it also had just the right mix of garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and herbs to compliment the escargot.  This is a dish I don’t normally enjoy and would never order, however, after tasting this serve I would put it on the list for next time.

photo 5

The other visually pleasing entrée on the table was the ‘Bacon wrapped scallops with blue cheese mousseline and baby herbs’. The scallops were juicy and paired well with the accompaniments. They were also beautifully presented.

photo 4

As we were very impressed with the first course, we eagerly awaited our mains. Between us we had ordered the ‘Confit duck leg with carrot puree , The Sauteed Calves Liver with Pomme Puree’ and the fish of the day, which are all priced at $32 each.

photo 1

Confit Duck Leg

photo 4

Sauteed Calves Livers

I personally opted for the fist of the day which was Hapuku, a lovely light textured fillet which had been pan fried to perfection. It was paired well with sauteed radish and brusell sprouts.

photo 3

Fish of the day

Reaching tipping point I opted out of dessert but was happy that others were able to squeeze them in . The dessert menu isn’t extensive but what is available sounds delicious.  The waiters brought us an ‘Affogato’ with a shot of piping hot coffee and Frangelico liquor by accident but we gladly accepted it!

photo 2

We had also ordered the ‘Berry claffoutis served with walnut and toffee ice cream and the ‘Chilled nougat souffle’ I may have only had a bite of each of these but that was enough to appreciate the work that had gone into creating them and the thought behind their well balanced flavours.

photo 1

Berry Claffoutis

photo 5

Chilled Nougat Souffle

If it is an authentic French meal in a relaxed setting you are after, that won’t break the bank, then I highly recommend you pay a visit to Le Bouchon. The food was sensational and really did leave me wanting to experience more. I am looking forward to going back to try the degustation!

Enjoy!

Vanessa

V.B.A

Le Bouchon on Urbanspoon

Zeus Greek Street Food

Tags

, , , , ,

With people frolicking to Zeus at all times of the day, waiting outside (even in the rain!). I was almost gob smacked when myself and (P.I.C) Michael drove past one day with literally no one there, not even inside!

_MG_9603

_MG_9611

Finally, this would be the day that I got to try the infamous souvla – pitas, wait jokes, scratch that. I would’ve been happy to skip lunch entirely and go straight to the Loukoumades…I didn’t though.

With so many undeniably great options it was hard to stick to one choice but I ended up going with ‘The Spartan’ – Baked chicken with Aegean slaw, preserved lemon mayo, caramelised onion and parsley. $9.50 _MG_9617_MG_9628Firstly it’s evident just by looking at it, how hearty the meal is going to be. It’s fresh, clean but still has that great street food style about it and with affordable prices. It’s no wonder Zeus has become such a well-known place in such a short amount of time. The chicken looked really fatty which I was worried about but when you bite into it, it was like an explosion of succulent flavour that was enhanced with the tangy mayo. The chicken had a bit of crisp on the outside and was deliciously soft once you took a bite and thankfully the parsley wasn’t too overpowering. A great dish, but unfortunately it was a little cold when it arrived at the table.

Michael ordered the ‘Uncle ‘Tzimmy’ Classic’ – chicken with tomato, tzatziki, onion, paprika and chips. $9.50. The tzatziki was fresh and aromatic and created wonderful flavours with the paprika, definitely a winner.

_MG_9619

_MG_9629

_MG_9622

 

Ahh, the main reason I came to Zeus was to try these bad boys. The ‘Loukoumades’ (Greek doughnuts, honey, cinnamon and walnuts). $8 were a complete knock-out. The flavours were so strong, it was almost impossible not to go back for more. With contrasting flavours from the walnuts to the soft centre of the doughnut, this dish is a definite must have. I’d go back to Zeus just to have the Loukoumades. I’m in love.

_MG_9635 _MG_9640

 

For hearty Greek street style food, Zeus takes the number one spot in Sydney in my books, if you’re planning to visit try a weekday, it’s not as busy and you won’t have to deal with ridiculous cues!

_MG_9649

 

Until next time..

Alex

V.B.A

Zeus Street Greek on Urbanspoon

Ippudo – Sydney CBD

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

It was a chilly Thursday eve when Madre and I made a beeline for Ippudo in the city CBD. This was our second visit, the first being for mum’s birthday last year. Now it’s become somewhat of a celebratory place/meal. I bought a bra in David Jones earlier…..so I guess we were celebrating that?

inside ippudo

No meal at Ippudo should be without their famous ‘Pork Buns’ – steamed buns with braised pork and ippudo original sauce. $4 each. These were a bit of a let-down this time around, the pork was dry and slightly rubbery. Nothing like the pillowy, soft, melt in your mouth pork last time. Very disappointing, not to mention they were a little rough around the edges and quite fugly but I’m always amused by the token lettuce slice. We also shared one ‘Ippudo Shrimp Bun’ – A steamed bun with deep fried shrimp and Ippudo’s original sauce. Each bite was virtually an explosion of flavours, with the crunchy fried prawns contrasting so nicely against the bun.

pork buns (2)

rough pork buns

We like to keep things simple because we’re fairly new to the ramen scene. Once I’m on to a good thing it’s hard for me to change it up. I HATE change. So I stuck with my favourite, the ‘Karaka Men Chashu’ – With the original Ippudo Tonkotsu broth with spicy miso and ground pork. $22. I opted for the chashu because, hey, more pork. I’m no ramen expert so it’s a little hard for me to describe flavours but I loved the punchiness of the spicy miso, slurping away with the rest of the restaurant I couldn’t help but get slightly teary eyed. From the chilli, I swear.

bianca ramen

Mum decided to change it up, moving away from the Karaka Men went with the ‘Tori Shoyu Chashu’ –with chicken, menma, leeks, Naruto and nori. $20. The chicken was deliciously moist, the broth itself was rather subtle – with gentle background flavours.

mum ramen

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Ippudo’s my general go to for a quick, heart-warming (pricey) bowl of ramen.

So after dinner I spent a good few minutes steering madre away from Becasse Bakery namely the enchanting sweets on display. Lo and behold where do we then find ourselves standing…? Just in front of ‘Yogurt World’. I never got swept up in the frozen yogurt scene, I like my ice-cream too much. We ummed and ahhhed, then saw the Nutella flavour. SOLD! We each grabbed a cup and went nuts. I got a combination of apple pie, Nutella, salted caramel and chocolate. With a ridiculous amount of toppings the colour of the rainbow. And what did this concoction cost me? $10+. Great flavours, toppings were fresh, the fit out was trendy and young (I sound like a Nanna) but ultimately very very pricey.

yogurtworld 2

We then made the slow slow trek with a belly full of ramen and frozen yogurt back to my car in Surry Hills.

Bianca

V.B.A

Ippudo Sydney on Urbanspoon

Aria

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

aria exterior

Every now and then I like to gussy up and get my fancy pants on. ‘Aria’ like ‘Quay’ was one that had alluded me till now. Joining me on my adventure was my pal Ivan (Ivanna – said naturally, in a thick Croatian accent). It was cold and windy this particular Friday night, so it was a welcome change walking into the warm and dimly lit room.

We were ushered to our table, where our coats and beverage orders were taken. The first thing I took in was the astounding view, we really do live in one of the best cities in the world. Just jaw dropping. The second – after the quick scan was how simply the dining room was decorated. I guess when you have the Sydney Harbour virtually in your restaurant you don’t need to waste any money on an interior designer. That’s not to say it isn’t an inviting space. With warm brown tones, sleek black chairs and the ever present white linen tablecloths, it was all in all a very sleek affair.

interior aria

We were brought out an amuse bouche consisting of a wafer thin cracker, hommus and pomegranate seeds, a great way to get the palate revving. I couldn’t help but think the texture of the cracker was a little stale.

aria amuse bouche

Ivanna and I both opted for a glass of red to go with our meals, Ivanna the ‘2012 Farr Rising Pinot Noir’ $22 and myself ‘2009 Davino Ceptura Rouge Merlot’ $17.

Always a fan of the carbohydrates, we were given the choice between a walnut slice or a sourdough roll, we both opted for the walnut slice which was served alongside a small pat of Pepe Saya salted cultured butter and seaweed butter. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t eat the entire pat of seaweed butter myself. Odd but incredibly addictive.

bread aria

butter aria

Now it took me over 20 minutes to decide what I was going to eat. I was a little overwhelmed by all the stunning options on offer. Then there was that whole two course/three course debacle. Ivanna bore witness to that eternal struggle.

I finally decided on the two courser an entrée of ‘Roast Chicken with Australian black truffle and potato’ and for desert the ‘Valrhona chocolate ganache with raspberries and warm chocolate doughnuts’. Two courses priced at $74. I picked the Roast Chicken from the ‘entrée’ course so it was obviously smaller than a main size. Size aside it was incredibly rich, with two small chicken ‘nuggets’ crispy chicken skin, velvety creamy mash and generous shavings of Truffle. To pad my meal out I got a side salad with radicchio, looking back the price of the salad was equivalent to bumping up to the three course at $89. Rookie mistake.  As I’ve gotten older my sweet tooth has definitely reared its ugly head, no meal ends these days without something sweet. My dessert was a splendid mix of tastes, textures and colours. Truly a feast for the eyes and the mouth. My favourite on the plate was the rich spoonful of chocolate ganache my least being the dollop of sorbet but that’s really reaching, it was all great.

chicken aria

aria salad

aria chocolate

Ivanna also went with two courses. A main of ‘Ranger’s valley flank steak with slow roasted carrots, red mustard leaf and xo sauce’ and for desert ‘Strawberry crumble soufflé with rhubarb gelato’. The steak was cooked perfectly medium rare and there was only positive comments about this dish. The soufflé was in a league of its own, I generally don’t stray from chocolate when I opt for dessert but was glad I had a few mouthfuls of that soufflé, crispy on top and gooey on the inside – especially when you plop the ice-cream on top.

steak aria

souffle aria

By this point we were well and truly content, happily sitting back and having a chat, we were then brought some petit fours on a wooden plank. I mean who doesn’t like little bite sized treats? I wish I could say what each was but I can certainly tell you…they were delicious.

aria petit four

Matt Moran I take my invisible hat off to you, it was an immensely enjoyable dining experience. I’d like to come back at sunset in summer with a table right by the window.

Bianca

V.B.A

Aria on Urbanspoon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers