Sunday, August 29, 2010

Snaps & Tapas, Mumu Grill, Crows Nest

Attending the A Table for Two -  Food Photography Workshop has to be one of the better life decisions I have made. Not only was I able to learn alot - I was also able to eat! Billy @ A Table for Two probably thought I was a mad woman when I desperately answered his tweet one afternoon. "One spot left for this weekends photography workshop" -  I was on a mission! Luckily, I got the spot last minute!

I often stalk many blogs on my lunch break and admire their photography as much as I enjoy reading their stories and reviews. Food has to be aesthetically pleasing as well as delicious, and more often than not I am drawn to beautifully arranged dishes. I am still a newbie when it comes to both blogging and photography, but I want to share some half decent photo's with you guys and do both the restaurants and dishes some justice. 
Look at this yummy spread! Without the tips and tricks I learnt at the workshop, my photo's would not do the food any justice at all. There was a good selection of food - our models for the afternoon. We all snapped away like maniacs once all the share plates started to arrive. We shared some yummy Jamon, a sourdough herbed bread with dips, potatoes cooked in duck fat - the food just kept on coming! It was very surreal being in a restaurant with fellow food bloggers and photographers who unashamedly snapped away at the food - normal behaviour!
Throughout the 3 1/2 hour class we went through different topics ranging from Camera settings, Setting up the scene, Photo Editing, Copyright Information, Optimizing photo's for your blog and just discussing handy tips when shooting food. Lots to learn indeed - but everything was hands on and Billy was great at explaining everything and made it seem as easy as pie. It was very refreshing being around like minded people who are pretty much as food obsessed as I am - and who were happy to keep snapping until the food got cold. Luckily for us the shared dishes were staggered throughout the course. Hello fellow food blogging friends - Rhonda, Ja, Ashley, Sam and Evita!
We had some Cheesy Chorizo and some grilled marinated organic chicken, a delicious Cherry Tomato and Feta salad and a very yummy Grass fed seared T-Bone served with green beans. All the dishes very very tasty and it was a good selection of dishes and flavours. There was definitely something for everyone on offer. My favourite were the Crispy Sichuan prawns, I could not get enough!  

And now for dessert. As pretty as it was, it didn't last very long in that perfectly arranged state on our side of the table. We demolished the platter!
Im not usually a fan of pavlova or passionfruit, but the Mumu Grill version gets my vote. The chocolate torte was also attacked by all - you snooze you loose!
I learnt so much at this workshop, as tempting as it is to leave the dslr camera at home and take discreet photos with your iphone, it sometimes lacks the detail and magic. And yes, the iphone habit is hard to break but from now on I want to show the full food experience by making more of an effort with the photos. Its about sitting at your desk, wanting to lick the screen. That is what I hope to achieve with you guys after attending this workshop, and practice makes perfect right? The course costs $85 pp, including lunch and drinks - and a lunch alone with fellow foodies is worth the money. A big thank you again to Billy and Mumu Grill for having us. Sign up for the class and check out Billy's amazing work here.

Mumu Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Death by Double Blueberry Cheesecake - and how not to make it.

Well, Hello to you too Mr Cheesecake! Looking at you now - I dont seem to be at all disapointed in the events that took place. Yes folks, I bastardised a perfect recipe by the wonderful chocolate folks at Lindt. "Excellence Blueberry Cheesecake" How could you not want to try baking that? An after seeing the recipie in last month's masterchef magazine, I thought - why not? Last Saturday, I was (and still am) recovering from painful dental procedures, so being unable to go out or eat, baking was a last resort.
"Blueberries are in season" yes, I knew this, but why on earth could I not find a punnett of fresh berries anywhere? Maybe because it was 6pm on a saturday and all the yummy organised mummies would have completed their shopping, thus depleting the produce at my local Coles. Sara Lee frozen berries it was, and we know that frozen fruit is not always the best.

As I prepare out the ingredients, we realised that in the Demos household, the food processor is broken. Out came the malet. Yes, the mallet - used for flattening the chicken and veal schnitzels, and now for crumbling the buscuit needed for the crust.
We also had to hand-whisk the cream, for lack of a mixer and use a cake tin that was far too big! The recipie called for the New Lindt Blueberry Intense chocolate - which was delicious! I dont think there was the right amount of chocolate in the cake itself because a few sneaky chunks were stolen.

Exhaustion and bad judgement started to kick in. "I really cant be bothered baking this..Im looking for a no-bake cheesecake alternative" Thank god for the trusty Ipad, and the Philladelphia no-bake cheescake recipe we did some off the cuff alterations.  
May have also burnt myself when melting chocolate. Fail.
This cheesecake is what I would describe as a double decker cheesecake. You have the biscuit base, and the first layer is the chocolate cheesecake. This is where the melted blueberry chocolate is mixed with 1/2 of the cheesecake mixture and gets plonked over the base. Because our cake tin was far too big, the layers were not as thick as I wanted them to be. Fail # 31.
The second layer then goes in after the chocolate, and this is just the non fancy  no bake cheesecake mixture. Again, another thin layer, another dissapointment.. I absolutely bombard the cake with my frozen blueberries, to try and preserve my baking dignity. If my grandmother, aka, the ultimate baking goddess saw this - she would disown me.
Demos got his little serve to attack, and I get my cheesecake mix - all smiles now. The big cheesecake was supposed to just sit overnight in the fridge - it seemed like a good idea at the time to but it in the freezer chest...and then we forgot about it. And then there was frozen cheesecake. Ugh.
So im left with the washing up. Demos decides to play around with the camera and he calls this piece "The life of Demos with Gianna getting angry in the background"
The next morning was taste test time! This is kitteh, she wanted to get involved with the cake too. If only she knew about the ordeal. The cake, once thawed, was quite delicious. It was not super-sickly sweet, and the blueberry chocolate through it was so good! 

I blame the pain meds for this minor fizzle in the baking department. I don't profess to be a culinary pro, the fridge has always been empty, BUT I'm always keen to try new recipes. Like anything, it just has to be made with lots of love and preparation is always the key. Here's to the second attempt - I might just stick to my grandma's classic sweets, they always help make the pain go away!

You can find Lindt's Excelence Blueberry Cheesecake recipe HERE and the Philadelphia No-Bake Cheesecake recipe HERE (minus the Oreo's for my cake, but it sure looks good as well). Hope you have better luck than I do, just add love! So foodies of the world, tell me - Any baking skeletons in the closet you would like to share with us?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jamon Heaven - El Mercado Cafe and Delicatessen, Mortlake

"Are you Spanish? You look Spanish." says the lady behind the deli counter.
"No, but my name is Demos and I really like chorizo..and jamon" was my reply. Welcome to El Mercado, a little slice of Spain tucked away in the quiet suburb of Mortlake. Conviniently a 5 minute drive from Gianna's place. How is it possible that we discovered this awesome local Deli only now? We have been missing out!

Deli's have been a constant part of weekend routine. Always having to make the trip on Sunday morning to fetch fresh bread and small goods like mortadella, prossciutto and cheese to have for lunch with the family.  The usual haunts being around Haberfield, Abbotsford and Five Dock - the Italian trio. Don't get me wrong, I love Italian food, so does Gianna. Especially their small goods of the meaty and antipasti variety. Coming across this place was a great change and I didn't feel any Italian driven guilt or any disloyalty to my regular deli.

We were excited when we walked in and had a look at what was on offer behind the counter. An assortment of various Spanish cheeses and cured meats - different variations of Jamon and Salami are on offer. It was exciting to see prossciutto under a different guise. Darker colours, different smells and names. Change is such a wonderful and exciting thing. 

El Mercado doesn't profess to do anything overly complicated. They are all about offering quality delicacies imported from Spain. What you see is what you get, and the beauty of this deli is that everything you can see behind the glass of the counter can be made then and there for you to eat. How convenient is that? They do an awesome coffee as well. This is officially our new breakfast destination, which is an incentive when doing the weekly deli run!

Having a look on what was available Gianna decided to get a chorizo and fried egg sandwich and I got a Jamon Iberico sandwich with provolone, avocado and tomato. Both were amazing. The chorizo exploded with flavour, such a better alternative to the classic bacon and eggs sandwich.  The Jamon Iberico was the best I have ever had - simplicity is the key. You most definitely have to make the trip there to try it for yourself. Soft, salty and just pure chewy goodness. The fillings are also very generous - and you can see that you are getting fresh top quality ingredients. Unfortunately, we missed out on the homemade empanadas.

Just to fully satisfy the appetite Gianna ordered a cup of Spanish hot chocolate as well. Pretty much like a glass of hot pudding, it's chocolatey goodness is too good to resist. Possessing this knowledge, the lovely lady gave me a small cup as pity cup. This still didn't stop me from drinking Gianna's. Sorry bub.

Between the eating and drinking you can peruse the shelves at the back of the store and pick up some canned and jarred goods - pickled peppers being a favourite, just like those I attacked at Movida. Here you can find Authentic spanish ingredients - spices, condiments, flour, rice, oil - anything you'd be after to cook a mega Spanish feast ... even a gigantic paella pan. They also have authentic spanish cocoa and chocolate bars, but Gianna was after the Churrera, which was sold out. There goes my dreams of homemade Churros.

What is Nenuco? I thought the same thing, but apparently its  the Baby Cologne Baby Giannitta grew up smelling like. 

I cannot wait to come back here again and we suggest you do the same. We've already thought about just ordering an antipasto plate and eating as much Jamon Serrano, Queso and Chorizo as we can. We wen't off with our tasty deli goods - the tub of Sicilian Green Olives hardly makes it home as Gianna could not stop snacking. Spain did win the world cup so there's an excuse in itself to peel away from the Italian deli's. Viva Espana!!!

72 Tennyson Rd Mortlake NSW 2137 (02) 8757 3700

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lazy Sundays at Bloodwood, Newtown

Sunday. Traditionally a day of rest, where you find somewhere comfy to read the weekend papers and psych yourself up for the working week ahead. I miss those days when I was a Uni student and having everyday feel like a Sunday. I was a professional lady of leisure without a care in the world. Of course I had assignments and exams to worry about, but procrastination was my forte. 

Enter the grown up world of 9-5.30 Mondays through Fridays. Now, Demos and I value every minute of the weekend and there is no time for procrastination, especially when the Blue Skies are out. For us, Sundays are spent having quality time with food and this particular Sunday afternoon was happily spent at Bloodwood, Newtown.

We have been wanting to visit Bloodwood after walking past one morning and seeing the menu displayed outside. "They have duck Demos. Duck Sausage with Plum Sauce." And for the next few weeks, Bloodwood seemed to be popping up everywhere. Magazines, Newspapers, Websites - most proclaiming their affection for this new King St eatery. Now it was our turn to try it. With the sun out, we start off with some Sidra Escanciador ES Spanish Cider ($9.00) - So refreshing! This drink was suggested by our lovely waiter after our original choice was unavailable. Another bit of sad news was that the Duck dish was also sold out (Okay, we had a bit of a sleep-in, and already managed to do a bit of shopping, so at this stage we were having lunch at 3.30 pm..)

We thought we'd sample a few small dishes instead of having a huge feast. The simple brown paper menu was a treasure trove of tempting dishes.  The ever so popular Polenta chips with gorgonzola dipping sauce ($9) was a hit in my books. So much so that on our next visit - a double serve is in order. The chips are crunchy and light, and i didn't feel an ounce of guilt as I coated each millimetre of golden polenta with the rich gorgonzola sauce. So delectable, it will have you pining after having the last bite.

The fried bean curd roll ($15) is hands down one of the most delicious and unique dishes I have had. It was pretty much a bundle of yummy flavours, rolled up and fried. Thank you, chef Jo Ward from the bottom of my little heart for creating this dish - I honestly could not stop eating this! It was like a sausage of Crab, Pork, Shitake Mushrooms encased in a crispy, and not too oily, skin.
Its the inside-out sushi roll's naughty cousin.

For something sweet we decided to try the Bloodwood Trifle ($12). Demos and I have had our share of daggy trifles - soggy, super sweet, and mega rich trifles. This particular variation, erased all those bad 90's birthday trifle memories. Fresh sweet strawberries, Whipped cream with vanilla seed through it, buttery sponge cake, honeycomb biscuit pieces for crunch, a gutsy custard and we suspect, some naughty champagne jelly it was a High Distinction all the way. Demos tried to salvage every last drop of this delicious dessert, we'll be coming back for more!

Bloodwood is an awesome addition to the Newtown eating scene. We live so close to Newtown, but unfortunately neglected to recognise the awesome places that have been popping up. Newtown, it has been a while. We were frequently found in the neighbouring cafe's during our last year of Uni (yes we were both skipping lectures) and it has also come a long way since I was working at RPA hospital. We promise to never overlook you again when hunger hits. What an enjoyable Sunday meal indeed.

And now, to re-start the working week. Hope you all had lovely weekends! Let us know what you got up to, or if you have any exciting Newtown gems to share. Oh how I wish tomorrow consisted of only a 1 hour class at midday and being at home in time for Ready Steady Cook on TV.

Bloodwood, 16 King St Newtown NSW 2042 - (02) 9557 7699

Bloodwood on Urbanspoon


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