Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vessel Italian, King St Wharf

Tuesday night date night had come around once again. Fortunately there was not much to think about this time around because luckily enough we were invited to come and dine at Vessel Italian. Situated on the ground floor of the new Macquarie building it is easy to get to and would be perfect for those wanting something to peck on after the Friday booze sessions especially as the silly season approaches.  
After finding parking on nearby Hickson Road Gianna and I meandered down toward Vessel lapping up the sun on this balmy Tuesday night. I must admit that nothing beats the summer weather, sun shine and good food - exactly what was in store for the evening. Having booked an early table, we were able to admire this beautiful restaurant before the other guests started to arrive.

Vessel has a very good location and when the sun is out and fills the space inside you can't help but feel that you are out having Sunday lunch, such a good respite for those slogging through yet another rough day at the office. Its location is prime for CBD workers who just want to whisk themselves to a elegant space and forget about looming deadlines. It is a beautiful venue and makes good use of the space. Open, airy with lots of light and accentuated with glass, steel and timber - it's like an architect's dream. I really liked the chairs, honeycomb openings matching the honeycomb cladding of the building, a nice touch. Once settled and seated we were given the menu and our friendly waitress suggest we begin with stuzzichinni (starters).

Along with the delicious bread, a selection of mixed marinated olives arrive with some crunchy grissini, a perfect accompaniment as we go through the menu

We also started with Suppi 'al telephono - fried saffron risotto balls with mozzarella and basil. There were a few starters that sounded quite delectable such as the asparagialla milanesse - grilled asparagus with poached truffled egg and parmesan but we settled on something small to get going. Nonetheless I think you can't ever go wrong with olives. Throw some bread in the mix, some olive oil and salt and you can sit quietly and eat to your hearts content. Well that's what I think anyway, must be the Greek in me - please ignore my momentary Mediterranean inspired musings.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Domo Birthday Cake!

I have a very obsessive streak, so much so that it is borderline massochistic.
Well thats not really the best way to start a post - but my goodness this week has been one of the busiest ever. So why on earth would I attempt to make a 3D Domo-kun cake? Well because its Demos' birthday thats why!! Happy Birthday Demos - Please join me in admiring this cake while I collapse in exhaustion!
Happy Birthday Demos!
I have been excited to share this birthday suprise with Demos, he did have an idea that I was making him a Domo cake, but he had no idea what madness I was be up to! Yes, every spare moment of this busy week has been spent baking, ganaching, and decorating this Domo cake - and here is my honest account on how I did it. Oh, did I leave out the part where I have never made anyone a Birthday cake before?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Adriano Zumbo 2010 Summer Launch - Cake-walk time!

My head is still spinning, as I write this, from a major sugar rush….an Adriano Zumbo dessert sugar rush! There is a reason for not having sweets before bedtime, so consider this post and tonights fuelled by pastries.
It started when Mrs Fridgemagnet invited me to be her plus one at the launch of Adriano Zumbo's 2010 Summer Collection at Rosebud Bar & Restaurant in Balmain The show was supposed to start at 7:30pm, so I rushed down straight from work. Knowing loyal Zumbo fans we were expecting a queue What's more, the event would be filmed for an upcoming doco about Zumbo on SBS. The wait was worth it, since we were seated by the cakewalk and got up close and personal with all of Zumbo's fabulous concoctions.
Once inside, it was pretty chaotic. People were jostling for prime position, cameras were in your face, and the Zumbo models were scatered everywhere. The organisers really should have anticipated that the die hard Zumbo fans would be out in force and hired a larger space. Each cake was "escorted" down the runway - which is fitting because Zumbo's cakes are the epitome of food fashion - its simply fitting that he had a "cake walk" and I just sat and admired the yummy cakes doing my best Nicole Richie / Rachel Zoe front row attentiveness. Thank God no models fell over..think of the cake! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Toko, Paddington Sydney- $3 Mad Mondays

No matter what you do, there will always be something about Mondays. It's usually the day of the week when you get stuck in hellish traffic, forget something at home, stuff something up or leave the house with mis-matched socks. Its a scientific fact that humans, by nature, will always whinge about Mondays - coming up with terms like 'Monday-itis' and songs like 'Manic Monday' - its proven. If the thought itself is giving you the heeby geebies - then snap out of, because I would like to share with you the best thing about my least favorite day of the week. 

Behold - the infamous Mad Monday at Toko - where $3 plates of awesome sushi can really turn your day around and provide you with the sustinence you need to start the week. As you see on the photo's above - here at Toko ,they know how resuscitate anyone from the post-weekend lull .
 So yes, you read right - on Mondays, each plate on the conveyour belt, or small japanese a la carte dishes are at the bargain basement price of $3.00. And that is why I have an extra spring in my step. The day can't all be bad when there is delicious sushi involved right?

Usually there is a line out the front from noon, as the seats fill in quickly. Our strategy at work is getting there s few minutes before 12  (my office building is just behind Oxford Street so its 3 minute walk in heels). On every visit are greeted by the super friendly and bubbly manager – Hera. She is so efficient and once you step inside the first question is “How many babe?” so that she can organize seats for your group.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Charlie and Co. Burgers, Westfield Sydney CBD

 Hamburgers. I could write endless sonnets about my love for this food group. I have always been on the hunt for new tasty burger varieties - some fancy, some obtained at a drive through counter at an ungodly hour. Burgers are little patties of happiness in a bread bun, and word on the street is that the newly opened Charlie and Co. has burger affecionados falling truly madly deeply in love with their offerings.
Navigating your way through the newly opened Westfield Sydney is hard enough when you get distracted by shiny objects - but Demos and I were on a food mission. The last time we visited this centre was during their opening weekend and I was traumatised by the crowds, distracted by Gucci and pretty much lost in a "Christian Louboutin Opening Soon" daze. It was desperation to try Charlie and Co. that drove us there that day but it was just far too crowded and I just had no sense of direction. Its the first time a shopping mall defeated me (only because I was weakend by hunger). This time I kept my focus, and I sucessfuly led Demos to level 4.
Since we both rushed to get there after work, we luckily beat out most of the thursday night shopping crowd. We were seated almost immediately, but noticed there was a long line of office workers ordering to go. The menu tells the tale of Charlie - the man who gave the human race fire. Well not really, the story is that our mate Charlie "invented" the hamburger by sandwiching the meatballs he was selling in between bread. The rest as they say is history, but thanks to Justin North his legend lives on - with a side of fancyness of course.
Fries with Parmesan and Truffle Oil $8 - i'll get to this soon!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Angry Birds Cupcakes with a scared looking Piggy!

I have been so so so very excited to share these Angry Birds cupcakes here! The moment when I finished there I was like a hyperactive little child jumping up and down at home! I have had so many failures in the kitchen and I was so happy that this was not one of them. I actually pulled the idea off!

Continuing my iPhone/Pad/Touch game theme after the fun Words with Friends Scrabble cake - its time to pay hamage to another time consuming, insanely addictive obsession - ANGRY BIRDS. Basically, the point of this puzzle game is to launch these helpless angry birds into the air, "bombing" the pigs who stole their eggs. You have to concentrate and judge distance and get past obstacles to hit these piggy targets. Oh its so very addictive! Addictive to the point that I got home one afternoon, pulled into the garage - and then sat in my car for the next 40 minutes trying to beat a level!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Words With Friends Cake

I turned into a mad woman this weekend. A mad, crazed, obsessed woman to be exact - all because of a cake. It clicked in when Demos and I were out on friday night. I mentioned that one of our friends would be back on Monday from a month long trip. "Great, going to get my ass kicked on Words with Friends (WWF) again". You see, our friend that is returning is what can only be considered a professional Words with Friends player. For those that don't know, its an absolutely addictive game on the iPhone and iPad, where you play a real time scrabble game against different users and friends.  "Danni-jack" is the girl to beat, and im sure she suffered severe WWF widthdrawals while travelling. What better way to surprise her then with a Word With Friends / Scrabble themed cake?

I was up and motivated on a Saturday morning. Forget the fact that it was Macaron Day, I was a girl on a baking mission. I should point out however, that my baking escapades should be called The Empty Pantry... and baking supplies and ingredients needed to be bought! With my long shopping list in tow, I was off!
Orchard ready to roll icing - $4 a box
Someone had told me that Spotlight sold cake decorating supplies, but as soon as I got to Town Hall (in torrential rain mind you!) I found out that the CBD store had closed. After a minor detour to Victoria's Basement and impulse cookie cutter and piping bag purchases, I then drove to Burwood to buy actual cake ingredients from Coles, luckily for me the had plenty of White Ready to Roll Icing for $4 a box (Thanks to The Dainty Baker for the tip!). Of course I bought some extra packs of flour, sugar, butter, buttermilk... but I still had no gel colouring to dye my fondant! Next stop was another Spotlight store at Birkenhead Point. They had a few tools, decorations, writing icing but no gel fondant dyes.
Creative Colour Dyes for colouring fondant - $7.95 each

I then drove to Balmain, and oh, it was so painful to drive past the Zumbo store and not want to wait in line on Macaron day! I got to say 'Hi' to Simon through my car window - and he was holding his precious Macaron haul! Thank goodness for Essential Ingredient at Rozelle - now why didn't I think of going there first! I went a bit overboard, and finally headed home - not just with my precious fondant dyes, but with a new rolling pin, cake leveller, spatula and maybe a few new cake tins as well.

Now for the baking. I decided on a Red Velvet base, with a Buttercream Frosting. I used the Red Velvet recipe from Joy of Baking as well as their Frosting recipe. I filled my 8x10 rectangular cake pan with this goes red mixture and after leaving it to cool, I iced them to smooth the surface in preparation for the fondant.

I use the extra batter for red velvet cupcakes which I set aside for my next project :)
I roll out the icing to cover my cake slab, which I do ever so carefully. Its harder than it looks to get a smooth layer - and up close, my cake looked like it had a bit of cellulite. Not bad though for my first attempt! I also use my gel dyes to colour the fondant, lucky for me I only needed primary colours as I wanted to keep it as close to the image of the game as possible.
You cant really see it in my photos, but I also then rolled out a light grey piece to go onto the white slab - this is the grid board. Using the straight end of a butter knife, I cut out the individual tiles. The hard part was trying to connect all the words together, folling official scrabble rules of course! I position the tiles by making marks directly on the icing, and then I draw the grid using a tube of black writing icing. I was surprised that the lines I drew were not too wonky, and I that the tiles I used were (mostly) a similar size. I had to throw in the word 'QI' as it was my friend's signature word - if it is in fact a word!
I am still very proud of my first decorating effort, and danni-jack's reaction and excitement was well worth the effort! The red velvet cake was definitely a good choice as it was not too sickeningly sweet, something i'd like to avoid with already a thick layer of icing. The end result is well worth the effort and once again, Welcome Home danni-jack! 
Stay tuned.. I have another decorating feat to share, those cupcakes needed some detail too..and I can't wait to post the end results! On a side note, my Words with Friends username is 'Gbangs' and i'm always up for a challenge! Until next time!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Winery, Surry Hills

Ah The Winery, Surry Hill’s fun little hangout – and when you mention the name people either say they love it or hate it.
"We booked a table there and they told us we had to be gone in 45 minutes!"
"They have the BEST share plates and coktails!"
"I called two weeks in advance and they would not give us a table!"
"I love that place!!"
I find these four descriptions relatable when it comes to The Winery, and despite a handful of little disappointing experiences, I still enjoy coming here. One rainy afternoon, Demos and I were deciding on some place for a nice snack and dessert – So why not The Winery?

It always feels like a big spectacle trying to get a table here - whether its just getting a table for two or even when you are just meeting friends. Walking though the laneway entrance is like stepping into a secret garden hideaway. It’s only until you run into the sharply dressed doorman with an earpiece that you realize you are in the middle of the city. This is the Surry Hills equivalent to the professional Yum Cha door lady - you know your chances of being fed all rely on them - and their magical earpieces. We score a table and from the doorman, we get passed onto someone who led us to our seats and then finally, a friendly waitress.
I wouldnt describe Winary's decor to be quirky at all..in fact I Cant even think of just one word that describes it. Who knew that random chandeliers or flower pots hanging from the cieling actually fits so attracively well with the cowhide barstool? There is a very unique charm about this place - like a mash-up of a very Shabby Chic and the Marlboro man..in a garden of some sort.

Come on, any place with mounted deer heads cant be all too girly right? Clockwise from top left - faux animal hide bar stools, the overhead overflowing flower pots (watch your head) and vintage chandeliers, The upstairs bar and dining area, and A happy family of four deers. Its seems like everywhere you look there is something interesting to look at, and I half expect a cowboy riding a unicorn to appear from nowhere.
 I think that once that you are comfortably seated, thats it - your battle is done.The service cannot be faulted here as everyone is attentive and very helpful. Once, we even had a waiter who was a bit hung over - but it was still service with a smile and enthusiasm like no other. But the biggest decision any person is faced with now is which drink to order. With a name like Winery, of course there would be a selection of over 50 wines, and a fancy cocktail list to match.
 But since its a lazy afternoon, we stick to the Rose Sangria - a favorite - and on Sundays, its $15 dollar jug day. In my professional Sangria opinion - the Rose variety is most refershing with a generous serve of strawberries. We have previously tried their fruitier white wine version, with mint and lychees and the red wine verison - which is strong and spicy. Oh and we also ran into Mrs Fridgemagnet out and about with her Girlfiends! Hi Mom!
We decided to take Domo out again, we have been keeping him at home since he decided to eat little children when we were in Tokyo. He is well behaved now and getting behind MO-vember. No, its not a disguise from Authorities.
Okay, enough gratuitious photo's (That is our friend Sancho, he live's in the entrance door to the mensroom, handsome fellow) - Chow time!
It was well past luchtime at 3pm, so lets call this a hearty afternoon tea.
I order one of their share plates - just for myself of course. The "Warm bread, Olives, Cheddar and Today's Dip". Unfortunately this time, the bread was not warm nor was the Pumpkin dip a standout. A bit dissapointeing as this shareplate was $16, one of the lesser priced dishes on offer.
A hungrier Demos order's the Sunday Roast of the Day plate for $23. It was generous serve of roast pork shoulder, with the most amazing gravy. I think its a bit like russian roulette when it comes to the gravy, but this one was a winner. I immediately forgot about my boring pumpking dip - my bread got dipped in the warm gravy instead. There was also a handfull of green string beans and snow peas to help snap you out of the cholesterol coma that this succulent roast brings.
I do love it when Demos insists that we need dessert. I couldnt say no of course, so we choose The Double Chocolate Brownie with vanilla ice-cream and fairy floss for $13. Such a great choice!
Persian fairy floss or Pashmak is my absolute addiction, and we find ourselves fighting over which side of the plate the bundle goes. Lucky we were sharing - the brownie is so sinfully rich I 'had to 'cut' the choclatey-ness with the vanilla ice cream. Domo wanted his share too, he was tired of terrorising birds.
 I think the best way to catch up with friends is over sangria and share plates - and if you are after a social place where you can just kick back with your nearest and dearest I would definitely recommend the Winery. Call ahead to make a reservation to avoid any hassles, but usually half the restaurant remains un-reserved for those spontaneus hunger pains. I like to remember that this place is a wine bar first, and they just so happen to serve food. I Wouldn't say the food is cheap either, so its definately not a cafe - so i think ill stick with the "Wine Bar + Food + Great Atmosphere = Winery" equation.
Cold bread aside and pricy dishes aside, I still enjoy lazy afternoons getting lost in the whimsical madness that is The Winery. They had me with the Sangria from the start.

Winery - 285A Crown St Surry Hills 2010 Phone : 02 - 9331 0833
http://thegazebos.com.au/winery/ have a look at their awesome website.

The Winery on Urbanspoon


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