Eschalot, Berrima, New South Wales

Eschalot, Berrima, New South Wales

 

It has been more than two years since Chopinand and I had a weekend away in one of our favourite places in New South Wales.

We love the Southern Highlands because of its fresh air, lush greenery, beautiful gardens and most importantly great food and wine.

One of the first few restaurants that has earned a great reputation in this region is Eschalot in Berrima. I remember discovering this place when I first visited its original premise in a motel in Moss Vale. I was impressed by the authentic French flavours with an inventive twist and the friendly service.

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The Wine International Group Sydney – Meeting #45

TWIGS Italiano Festa

“Dove regna il vino non regna il silenzio”

~~~~~O~~~~~

If you have ever been to an Italian dinner party, you will be familiar with this Italian proverb. Whether it is the celebration of a wedding, All Saints’ Day or Christmas, meals with family and friends in Italy are always accompanied by good wine.

Hence the proverb … where wine reigns, silence does not reign.

The Wine International Group Sydney
Meeting #45 ~ Italian wine and food theme

Tall palms in the gardens of the Fezes'

Tall palms in the gardens of the Fezes’

It is Dr. Fez and Dr. Mrs Fez‘s turn to play hosts for this wine tasting and they have chosen Italian as the theme for wine and food.

After a short one-hour flight from Sydney, we arrive at the sprawling estate of our hosts in Coffs Harbour. Mango, lychee and other tropical fruit trees are thriving in this ten-acre compound.

I am captivated by the majestic palms that reach up towards the skies.

Narrow palm lily (Cordyline stricta)

Narrow palm lily (Cordyline stricta)

The tall palms jealously surround a large swimming pool like a precious possession. Tropical flora abound amidst the song and laughter of cockatoos and kookaburras.

Scene of the "crime" is set

Scene of the “crime” is set

Throughout the day, about 148 champagne and wine glasses are being assembled on the dining table while the aromas of hearty Italian cooking are wafting from the kitchen.

Pol Roger Champagne to kick off proceedings

Pol Roger Champagne to kick off proceedings

It is customary for the host and hostess to serve sparkling wine or champagne to guests.

This evening we kick off proceedings with five bottles of Pol Roger, Piper-Heidsieck and Billecart-Salmon champagne from France.

Antipasto

Antipasto ~ olives, sundried tomatoes, stuffed peppers, grilled capsicum, bocconcini, salami, prosciutto and pancetta

Antipasto ~ olives, sundried tomatoes, stuffed peppers, grilled capsicum, bocconcini, salami, prosciutto and pancetta

Antipasto this evening is a platter of red and green olives, sundried tomatoes, baby capsicums stuffed with feta, spicy salami, bocconcini, prosciutto and pancetta.

“Feels like I’m in the middle of the Mediterranean!” someone quips.

Sprigs of fresh English parsley and basil garnish from the garden complete the tri-colours of Italy.

Toasting sourdough for bruschetta

Toasting sourdough for bruschetta

Meanwhile, Dr. Fez is toasting sourdough slices on a cast iron skillet in his outdoor kitchen.

“Now, who says I never use this kitchen?” he muses.

Bruschetta

Bruschetta with diced tomatoes, onions, basil, EVOO

Bruschetta with diced tomatoes, onions, basil, EVOO

Bruschetta has been enduring so many variations from its tradition of sourdough rubbed with a fresh garlic clove then drizzled with EVOO and a pinch of salt.

Restaurants these days are calling it with smoked salmon, prosciutto, chicken pâté or even satay chicken.

For me, nothing looks better than good old diced ripened tomatoes, onions and basil with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil. Well, maybe not when Dr. Mrs Groovy O & G is presenting bruschetta in a large platter (Cover image above).

Arancini

Arancini balls

Arancini balls

Arancini balls are traditional made by deep-frying leftover risotto rice coated with pangrattato.

We are enjoying these crisp golden brown balls with a creamy rice centre and a pesto mayo dip.

Porchetta Italiano

Porchetta Italiano

Porchetta Italiano

Chunky bite size pieces of porchetta Italiano are being washed down with tastings of Italian vino.

Blind tasting of Italian wines

Blind tasting of Italian wines

As always, the challenge is to decipher the vintage, varietals and wine regions through a blind tasting.

This evening’s theme has us all guessing from Barolo to Amarone, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and super Tuscans.

Italian whites and reds

Italian whites and reds

There is so much good wine in Italy that it is an educational sojourn for me this evening.

Dr. FZ has been unanimously voted to keep wine tasting notes and as usual, he has done a sparkling job. Here’s just a selection of the wines we uncovered this evening and his accompanying tasting notes.

2014 Pieropan Soave Classico

2014 Pieropan Soave Classico

2014 Pieropan Soave Classico

Served blind. Screw cap, 12% alc. Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave.

Mid yellow hue. Smells of tropical fruit mainly, with a herbaceous note. Light to
medium palate. Initially tastes a little sweet, but this reflects the generosity of
fruit.

It’s certainly dry and fresh. There’s a hint of bitterness on the short finish.

2011 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Chianti Rùfina Nipozzano Riserva

2011 Marchesi de' Frescobaldi Chianti Rùfina Nipozzano Riserva

2011 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Chianti Rùfina Nipozzano Riserva

Served blind. Cork. 13% alc.

Ruby coloured. Smells earthy, herbaceous. There’s cinnamon and dark fruits like
cherry and plum. Tastes a bit stemmy, like there’s a little Cab Sauv in there.

It’s medium bodied, with good acidity and a decent length on the clean finish.

2010 Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

2010 Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

2010 Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

Served blind. Cork. 13.5% alc. 90% Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese Grosso) and 10% Canaiolo Nero.

Spends more than 2 years in oak casks, and 1 year in bottle before release. Looks quite dark red. Peppermint, spices, florals, berries, pepper and tar aromas. The palate follows these queues.

It’s medium bodied, with youthful tannins, which bring the wine to a strong finish.

2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

Served blind. Cork. 16.5% alc.

Dark and brooding appearance. Raisins, plum, prune, currants. Almost Christmas
cake like. The palate is full bodied, with sweet and juicy black fruits. Bordering on
porty.

The density and rich style of these wines is unique and unforgettable.

Personally, this is my favourite wine of the evening. Though it is a little sweeter for my liking, its tradition of concentrating sugars from late harvest fruits make this wine rather distinctive with prune-like flavour and taste. Thanks to both Dr. Groovy O & G and Dr. FZ for introducing me to this wonderful drop.

2003 & 2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

2003 & 2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

2003 & 2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

Served blind, and immediately after the 2007 vintage of the same wine. Cork. 16.5% alc.

Nose full of raisins, prunes, liqorice, dark chocolate and vanilla. Palate is full
flavored, complex and lush and follows the nose. There’s also leather and a mix
of sweet and pure dark fruits. Is there a touch of heat here, compared to the
2007 vintage?

The depth, density and texture of these wines is astounding. The finish is long, and carries both sweet and savoury nuances.

2010 Linnaea Trifulau Barolo

2010 Linnaea Trifulau Barolo

2010 Linnaea Trifulau Barolo

Served blind. Cork. 14% alc.

Pale garnet. Nose of florals, dried herbs, sour red cherries. One taster (Chopinand) could
smell octopus(!).

Really aromatic and stylistically typical of the grape. It’s medium bodied, with good acidity and those characteristic puckering and gripping tannins which cry out for food.

2013 Castello di Bolgheri Bolgheri Varvàra

2013 Castello di Bolgheri Bolgheri Varvàra

2013 Castello di Bolgheri Bolgheri Varvàra

Served blind. Cork. 14.5% alc.

Smells a little confected with sweet black fruits and raspberries. The medium
bodied palate is meaty and shows dark chocolate and tobacco. Maybe a touch of
heat from alcohol. The tannins are well on the way to being integrated.

There’s collaring potential here. Made up of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Shiraz.

Baked cauliflower and cheese

Baked cauliflower and cheese

Baked cauliflower and cheese

Osso bucco

Osso bucco

Osso bucco

The hostess’ osso bucco is impossibly tender, its meat falling off the shank bone in a rich and flavourful sauce made with tomatoes, carrot, celery and fresh herbs.

A selection of Italian cheeses, chocolate cakes and ice cream rounds up this fabulous Italian food and wine theme.

Chocolate cakes

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cakes

Italian formaggio

Selection of Italian formaggio

Selection of Italian formaggio

Vanilla ice-cream with aged balsamic vinegar

Vanilla ice-cream with aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy

Vanilla ice-cream with aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy

The sweetness from an aged balsamic is rather addictive when paired with a relatively neutral vanilla ice-cream.

Who says Modena is only famous for its Ferarris?

Pistachio and raisin biscotti

Pistachio and raisin biscotti

2009 Cooperativa Agricoltori Vallata di Levanto Cinque Terre Sciacchetra

2009 Cooperativa Agricoltori Vallata di Levanto Cinque Terre Sciacchetra

2009 Cooperativa Agricoltori Vallata di Levanto Cinque Terre Sciacchetra

Cork. 14% alc.

Honey/amber coloured wine that smells and tastes like honey soaked figs, with a
hint of orange rind. It’s quite sweet and full flavoured, much like a Muscat. Ideal
accompaniment to biscotti.

Grapes used are Grappoli di Bosca, Albarole and Vermentino. Air dried prior to
fermentation.

The line-up of wines tasted for our Italian Fiesta

The line-up of wines tasted for our Italian Fiesta

Thanks to our host and hostess for upping the ante on yet another fabulous wine tasting session and for hosting Mysaucepan and I in their beautiful abode.

Pathway leading down to Sapphire beach with South Solitary Island in the distant horizon

Pathway leading down to Sapphire beach with South Solitary Island in the distant horizon

We take a wander around the next day along Sapphire beach just a stone throw away from their home.

It is a beautiful day to also walk off the indulgence from the evening before.

Sapphire beach north of Coffs Harbour

Sapphire beach north of Coffs Harbour

So dear readers, what is your favourite Italian wine varietal and food?

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Celsius Coffee Co., Kirribilli

Celsius Coffee Co

Breakfast eggs with a twist for less than $20 and throw in stunning waterviews
this is truly a gem of a cafe by Sydney harbour.

~~~~~O~~~~~

Sunny Saturday mornings bring a smile to my face because they are my favourite times of the week.

It is the time when I conduct real estate research by attending open house inspections and auctions. On a good run, I attend up to six auctions around a cluster of Sydney suburbs. Mysaucepan, however, is not a big fan as she finds it totally stressful hopping from one house inspection to the next within a space of thirty minutes.

“Do you like this house better than the first one?” I ask.

“I can’t even remember what the second one looks like” she says.

“Oh well, I think we better go for lunch then.” I say.

You see, her condition for having to come along with me on Saturdays is she gets to choose where we go for lunch.

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Lucky Suzie, Darlinghurst

Lucky Suzie

Street food in Malaysia is bloody tasty as it is.
I wonder if there’s any reason to tweak it for the sake of being different.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

Having spent my formative years in Kuala Lumpur, I love Malaysian street food, and why wouldn’t anyone for that matter.

Former Malaysian premier Dr. Mahathir Mohamad once quipped that street food is so intricately woven as part of Malaysian food culture, it will never disappear even if Malaysia becomes a first world nation one day. Or if ever, judging by the scandal-plagued political system in the country.

Malaysian-style kaya toast and soft boiled eggs crept onto the menu of Zacharay Tan’s Devon and Devon at Danks. So it’s hardly surprising he recently chose Darlinghurst for his funky Malaysian diner.

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The Wine International Group Sydney – Meeting #44

TWIGS Spanish Fiesta

“Drink wine. This is life eternal. This is all that youth will give you.
It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment.
This moment is your life.”

 – Omar Khayyám

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

“Spanish??!! Oh my god, I love Spanish and I’m going to miss this one!” Mysaucepan laments.

Realizing she will be at work in Europe during the next tasting for The Wine International Group Sydney, she is determined not to miss any future tastings.

A simple suggestion from Dr. O to match the country of origin of the wine with its cuisine has fuelled members of The Wine International Group Sydney to seek out unusual and exotic drops for each of our wine tasting dinners. Not to be outdone, the food served during dinner these tastings has been ramped up a few extra notches to be in cultural sync with the wine.

It all began with an exquisite French wine and food tasting in his house. Tonight, it is Dr. Groovy O & G and Dr. Lady Groovy O & G‘s turn to host the wine tasting and Spanish is their chosen theme for the evening. Continue reading

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Harvest Buffet, The Star Sydney

Harvest Buffet, The Star, Sydney

Harvest Buffet offers a glorious spread from seafood, cold meats and salad to
hearty roast beef, osso bucco and delectable desserts.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

“Make sure you check out the fried chicken!” Rachael at Access PR tells me.

Now who doesn’t like fried chicken, especially when it is going to be as much as you can handle.

“I better get on the cross trainer before this meal” I say to Mysaucepan.

“I think you better get on that machine before AND after this meal” she replies.

So with a kind invitation from Access PR, we find ourselves here at Harvest Buffet located in The Star to check out its lunch time spread on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.

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Food Safari Singapore 2016

Food safari Singapore 2016

Whenever I’m in this food haven, I feel a sense of urgency.
So much food, so little time and a limited capacity.
My goal in Singapore is to always make every calorie count.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

It has been a little over three years since I was last in the Lion City.

Since that time, this metropolis of South East Asia saw the passing of one of its most revered statesmen, its founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 23 March 2015. Later that year in August, Singapore celebrated its 50th anniversary since its independence in 1965.

This country is also Mysaucepan‘s home city and along with her cousins and friends, we are keen to hit the streets to find out what’s been happening, food and otherwise.

There’s a system here – both Mysaucepan and I have our own food favourites as well as the overlaps, dishes that we both enjoy. Whenever, we hit the streets, logistics are important so that we don’t waste precious time though hunting down our favourites do help to burn the calories!

So dear readers, here they are… in no particular order, some of our firm favourites this trip though it difficult to fit so much into one single blog post.

My deepest respect goes to the people that make food such an iconic pastime in Singapore – the chefs, providores, local authorities who have done so much to promote its food to the world. And lastly, food writers, bloggers and food lovers who form such an integral part of this food chain.

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The Wine International Group Sydney – Meeting #43

TWIG Sydney Meeting #43

 “Appreciation of fine wine is like an appreciation for the beauty of women.
If I proclaim a woman to be beautiful, who are you to tell me she is not?”

~ Chopinand, co-author, ChopinandMysaucepan

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

“Would you like to become a member of our wine group” the President of TWIGS asks.

Comprising a distinguished group of specialist medical professionals, The Wine International Group Sydney or TWIGS as they prefer to be casually called, these medicos would take turns to meet at each other’s homes to indulge in their passion for fine wine.  And in doing so, good food has become an integral part of the gatherings to complement the wine.

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Waterman’s Lobster Co., Potts Point

ChopinandMysaucepan“Choosing between these two is like choosing between two beautiful women.
Both qualify as Sydney’s answer to Supernormal‘s lobster rolls in Melbourne”

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

“Isn’t it apt we are having lunch with our Melbournian friends today?” I say to Mysaucepan on a cold and wintry Saturday morning.

“So we should. After all, she is such a long-time friend of yours” she replies.

“That’s not what I meant, sweet. It’s such lousy weather, surely this would make them feel at home in Melbourne” I explained in jest.

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Johnny Lobster, Crows Nest

Johnny Lobster

Who in the world doesn’t like lobster unless you are allergic to crayfish?

When I think of lobster, I imagine the rather chubby villain in a James Bond movie, dressed in his silky black robe, devouring chunks of succulent shellfish while gently stroking his sinister-looking feline and plotting doom to the civilized world.

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Pilu at Freshwater, Freshwater

Pilu at Freshwater

Strozzapretti is appropriately “priest choker” or “priest strangler” in Italian
because of its rope-like appearance.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

Not long ago, Sydney’s Italian food scene was dominated by restaurants serving popular pastas and pizzas that were great but not differentiated by regional flavours.

Now there are Lombardian-inspired Ormeggio, Sardinian-inspired Pilu and the creativity continues with Japanese Italian-inspired Lumi and Korean Italian-inspired Acme.

Chopinand and I love Italian food and as the weather turns cooler, we crave for the comforting warmth of pasta and the earthiness of Italian cooking.

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Missy French, Potts Point

Missy French

Spanish mackerel is one of my favourite fish.
And this one is deliciously simple enough for anyone to cook at home.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

“The earliest booking they have is 9pm” Mysaucepan says.

“That suits me just fine … we can avoid the hip crowd” I say. “We might even score a park on a busy Saturday evening!”

If you happen to be the daughter of a celebrity chef like Neil Perry who is opening a restaurant in Sydney, is there any other suburb to do it other than in Darlinghurst, Surry Hills or Potts Point? Continue reading

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Peppercorn, Cremorne

Peppercorn Cremorne

The skin of this duck confit is crisp,
its strands of succulent meat soaking up a sweet star anise sauce.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

(Note: This is a sponsored blog post.)

I am curious because it was so many years since I dined at this Cremorne stalwart serving European style dishes for the last fifteen years.

Located off Military road, Peppercorn shares a communal al fresco dining area with neighbouring restaurants. I recall fish and chips lunches washed down with Crown lagers on lazy afternoons in summer.

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Brooklyn, Claremont

Brooklyn Cafe Restaurant Lounge Claremont

This wagyu burger is pretty good but at $25, it’s up there with Perth’s most expensive too.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

“You have to try their bread with maple butter, it’s one of our favourites there” my sister Alice tells us.

“I’m all for pub grub as long as there’s meat” I reply.

“It’s a New York style pub so there must be the cocktails too!” Mysaucepan says gleefully.

“Yaay, I’m in!” our niece Rene says.

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Odyssea, City Beach

Odyssea, City Beach

The vibe is casual, just like the food.
But the view of the Indian ocean is nothing short of spectacular.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

It might have been a long time coming for this stretch of paradise along City Beach where my sister and her family lives in Perth.

Finally, gone is the dated old beach arena of yesteryear. Continue reading

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Guillaume, Paddington

Guillaume, Paddington

Olive oil and ink is slick against the squid with thread marks of a Michelin car tyre.
Unfortunately, its texture is also quite similar.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

Have you guys been to Gooleemee? our friend Jeff casually asks over dinner.

“Where?” I ask .. a little puzzled.

“French restaurant in Paddo … the Mr. Gooleemee chef who used to run his restaurant at Sydney Opera House” he says in his usual non-chalant fashion.

“You mean Guillaume!” Mysaucepan says, accentuating the phonetics gee yom.

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Cookbook review: Spice Temple by Neil Perry

Cookbook review - Spice Temple by Neil Perry

I was never a big fan cooking with Sichuan pepper but
its subtle nuances in this beef brisket has brought me back again.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

Neil Perry’s love of Chinese food – first eating it, and then cooking it – goes back to his earliest memories. Since then, he has dedicated himself to mastering its unique balance of flavours and textures, culminating in the Spice Temple journey.

Here, in seductive and sultry surroundings, diners experience fiery heat, silken coolness and numbing spice. From signature pickles that fire up the appetite to classic yum cha dumplings, three-shot chicken, flathead drowned in heaven-facing chillies and Sichuan peppercorns, these are the authentic tastes of regional China.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

Sydney celebrity chef Neil Perry has been cooking good food for well over thirty years.

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Goodbye 2015 ~ A Feast For Our Tummies

Goodbye 2015 - A Feast For Our Tummies

Time passes really quickly when you are having a good time but we prefer to say
time passes really quickly when there is so much food and so little time!

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

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He Tai Open Kitchen Yum Cha, North Ryde

He Tai Open Kitchen Yum Cha

Beautiful wok technique and homemade XO sauce give due justice to these king prawns.
The bonus is tangy finger lime popping in my mouth.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

Sydney’s dining scene has never been so vibrant and competitive in recent years. Each week, new restaurants, cafes and bars are sprouting all over the city like wild mushrooms. Boisterous fanfare and promo by a well-oiled PR machinery is the preferred mode of entry for many restarants, let alone the legion of food lovers spreading the gossip via social media.

So it’s rather surprising that a modern 250-seater Cantonese has slipped into the fray this week without a squeak in the media except for a few dumplings on instagram.

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Firedoor, Surry Hills

Firedoor, Surry Hills

This piece of meat is good but at $138,
it epitomizes the economic concept of diminishing marginal returns.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

There’s apple, cherry, pear, orange, olive and pecan on the menu though it’s not meant to be put into your mouth.

Instead, it’s chef Lennox Hastie‘s range of fire wood to impart chargrill flavours into meats and seafood. Honing his skills with head chef Victor Arguinzoniz at Etxebarri, this wood fire restaurant in the Basque region of Spain collected its first Michelin star and made the World’s Best 50 Restaurants during his tenure.

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Malaysia’s Best Sarawak Laksa

Malaysia's best Sarawak Laksa

The stock is a gritty blend of pepper, chilli, onion, ginger and candle nut
whilst the ingredients could not have been any fresher.

This is truly Malaysia’s best Sarawak laksa.

~~~~~O~~~~~

“You’re going to be a very lucky boy” she tells me in my face.

“Are you’re finally coming to your senses relenting to that big crush you had on me all these years?” I say to my childhood friend.

She retorts immediately. “You wish … though what I have in mind could be just as tasty!” she teases.

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Food Safari, King Street Wharf, Sydney

Food Safari, King street wharf, Sydney

It has called the eastern foreshore of Darling Harbour home for more than a decade now.

But fast taking shape just north is the much larger Barangaroo retail and commercial precinct with an earmarked 50 new restaurants when it eventually opens in 2018. So, the restaraurants at King Street Wharf are looking to reinvent themselves in anticipation of intense competition from its next door neighbour.

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Book review: The Light Between Oceans, by M L Stedman

The Light Between Oceans

Standing on fine white sand at the edge of the Indian ocean in Western Australia, I gaze at the seaport towards the south. Through misty ocean spray roughed up by the roaring surf, the silhouette of Fremantle reinforces the vast distance of this magnificent coastline.

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Beef tripe salad with coriander and grape tomato

Beef tripe salad with coriander and grape tomato

If you are not a fan of beef tripe, this salad is just as versatile with
charred squid or baby octopus from the BBQ.

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

“Thanks Molly for your inspiration” I tell my friend. “I love beef tripe at yum cha and this recipe is right up my alley!”. Continue reading

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Malaysian style fish ball noodles

Malaysian style fish ball noodles

Street food in Kuala Lumpur can be damn tasty.
But nothing beats comfort street food served in the comforts of your own home.

~~~~~O~~~~~

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