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Birthday Adventures to Berry NSW

14 Oct

So Miss Wallflower turned 30 a little while ago. How does a Legal Tart celebrate the birthday of a friend. By taking a road trip to Berry and seeing a palm reader.

A friend of mine had raved about the uncanny insights of Ric, a palm reader who operated on weekends out of a shop in Berry. I have to admit that I tend to regard such things as hocus pocus. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to claim no belief in the psychic world, I have no doubt that some people do possess a gift, but I am really hard to convince.

I had come home and retold the story about Ric to Miss Wallflower and she decided we should definitely go, so I said I would take her for her birthday. A road trip was born to one of my favourite places with a progressive dining plan to be followed by a palm reading for Miss Wallflower and I.

We started off nice and early and made our first stop after arrival at the Berry Sourdough Cafe. I have to confess that I have no photos here as the service was a bit slow, so by the time my macadamia tart arrived I was salivating and simply inhaled it. It was good…very good. I hadn’t realised before arriving that the café now did lunch which looked lovely and involved a wine list…very important 🙂 After we finally got our coffee and tea we departed buying a lovely sourdough loaf on our way out.

Next stop after a brief walk about was the Savannah Cafe and Bar. The café is licensed and serves South African inspired food. I had booked a table fearing that I would be unable to get a table during the busy lunch period, but we were the only diner besides one other couple. The restaurant is located down one of the arcades and I can only guess that this is the reason the restaurant is not very busy, because the food was certainly good and the service friendly.

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I had the bobotie with rice and a salad. The bobotie was arranged nicely with the sides on a plate and came out with a bubbling top just calling for a spoon to break through to the curried meat beneath. The sauce as well seasoned with a perfect mix of sweet and spice. The salad was lightly dressed and a nice fresh accompaniment. Wine was served by way of a piccolo bottle.

SAMSUNG

Miss Wallflower had the gnocchi with boar sausage. This was generously proportioned and the gnocchi was clearly hand made and was light as a feather. It was topped with a persian style fetta.

SAMSUNG

Before our palm reading we had some time to walk around and see the sights. First stop was Miss Pompadours. A fabulous little chocolate shop, where I bought some dark chocolate bark and a dried raspberry and milk chocolate bark. I have been very good with it and there is still some left…not much though 😦

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Then a little visit to the Berry Tea shop. A lovely little place with great gift ideas and quirky teapots.

Our final visit for the day was to Ric who was doing readings at Global Contact.

Ric is a lovely man in his seventies, who learnt the art of palm reading as a child from his grandmother who also had the gift. I don’t want to give all of my future away, because lets be honest I am not sure I can live up to the promise of my palms, but I will say this..boys… only those with potential waterfront property in their future need apply. Ric tells me my lunar crescent means I simply have to live near water 😉

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Have you ever seen a psychic

Peppers Craigieburn Bowral and Monfort’s Dining Room

23 Jul

I have discovered as I have got older, that I am not very good at doing nothing. Well I am great at doing nothing  as long as I am at work, but if I am at home I can’t just do nothing for extended periods of time and because work and uni can suck up a lot of my time I have a tendency to utilise every bit of free time to do things like housework, run errands and have the occassional drinkies, just the one of course! For this reason when a small window between trials finishing and uni starting again presented itself, I decided to pursue a little mini break. I settled on two days off work to go somewhere where I could not succumb to obligatory cleaning or ironing. So I picked my destination, Bowral and packed my bags.

Entry to the main house

I checked into Peppers Craigieburn and got my keys excited to see my room. I was a little disappointed because in my fantasy night away I was going to spend a good long time soaking in a bath with a glass of wine and a magazine, this room had no bath. So I returned to reception explained my dilemma to the lovely Nicole and she found me another room at a small additional cost. The new room was larger with a queen sized bed and a balcony.

Beautiful Sunset

The bed linen was thick and there was plenty of extra bedding if you happen to be someone who feels the cold like I do.

The bathroom boasted a bath and shower. The bath was neither long nor deep but it served the purpose I needed it for and I appreciated the roomy shower which is a change from some of the showers I have had at hotels in the past. There were Peppers branded toiletries and vanity kits and plenty of towels.

After a visit to the endota day spa on site, which left me feeling all floppy and relaxed and a long soak in my tub, I got ready for dinner at Monfort’s Dining Room which is located in the guesthouse through the lounge. The lounge deserves a special mention with its open fireplaces and big comfy sofas, but I didn’t have time to sit and enjoy as I had a much needed meal coming.

Monfort’s did have a Christmas in July special which involved 3 courses and a glass of house wine for $75.00 but I chose items on their standard menu.

Salty and Buttery

I had the dukkah crusted poached eggs with brioche fingers to start. The yolks were perfectly soft and runny and the dukkah added a lovely saltiness and contrast in texture. The brioche fingers were small but exactly the right amount for the eggs, given they were rich and buttery.

I followed my entrée with the slow roasted pork cheek in an apple cider reduction accompanied by pickled vegetables. The pork was divine, it simply melted in the mouth and was luscious and full of flavour. If you are not a pork lover you may find the taste of this pork cheek is too strong and while I can not claim that pork is my favourite meat, this was so unctuous and tender that I was in heaven. I was advised the pork is cooked for 12 hours. 6 hours at an extremely low heat and a further 6 hours at a higher heat. The reduction coated the pork and added a lovely sharpness and stickiness.

Slow cooked Pork Cheek

The vegetables were apparently pickled but I could not detect a strong pickled flavour. They were a good crunchy accompaniment to the pork. The only complaint I would have is that they were so firm that cutting them with a normal knife was difficult and I was concerned that another diner would end up with one in their lap due to it flying of the plate as I tried to saw through it.

While I don’t always go for dessert I thought in the name of a complete review I would on this occasion. I am so self sacrificing 😉

Gourmet Doughnuts!

I had the apple and ricotta fritters. They arrived hot and aromatic with cinnamon and sugar. They were accompanied by a raspberry coulis and a cider jelly. I have to say the dipping sauce and jelly left me perplexed as I didn’t think that the three textures and flavours integrated that well. The fritters however were light, crispy on the outside and with a distinctive apple flavour that combined with the cinnamon reminded me of strudel.

I would definitely go again but in the interim must heed the sirens call of ironing…..

Being led up the garden path

Peppers Craigieburn

Centennial Road, Bowral

Endota Day Spa

Monforts Dining Room

Indulging for Easter: Black Forest Trifle

2 May

When I was a kid, Mutti and I while shopping would sometimes stop for Kaffe and Kuchen. I loved being able to go up to the cake display and with my nose pressed to the glass look at all of the sweet offerings and decide what I would have.

I absolutely love chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, but I am not obsessed with mud cake like so many chocoholics I know, unless it is for breakfast where it seems to possess an all together different appeal……..rather like McDonalds at 2 am after a night out drinking 😉 So Black forest cake was often my pick. The slight sourness of the cherries against chocolate sponge and cream were just heavenly.

This Easter after weeks of almost no sugar in my daily diet thanks to my new health kick, I decided to go all out and make a heavenly trifle based on black forest cake I so fondly consumed as a child. There is certainly no shortage of chocolate in this recipe which seemed only fitting for celebrating the day where I can eat chocolate with guilt free glee.

Black Forest Trifle

I won’t lie, this particular version is not exactly a slap dash type of trifle. But I have taken some short cuts which hopefully will make you more inclined to make it. I used cherry brandy because despite Dads best efforts Kirsch could not be found. The cherry liqueur serves to add an echo of cherry flavour to all layers of the trifle and gives it extra depth. The chocolate cake recipe I have used is by no obligatory it just happens to be a quick one bowl wonder and is not so rich as to be over powering, but you can use your favourite chocolate sponge recipe.

I have  used the mousse recipe so many times it doesn’t bear thinking about. I usually use brandy, but in keeping with the cherry theme substituted cherry brandy. Don’t be scared that it will add some strong alcoholic component to the mousse. It really doesn’t but rather enhances the flavour of the chocolate.

While I knew all the components of this trifle were delicious by themselves, I had no idea if placed together they would really work the way I hoped. But I promise that this will not disappoint. Even Dad licked the bowl!

Black Forest Trifle

Serves 6-8

Chocolate Sponge

by Miranda Sharp in Epicure Chocolate

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp of cocoa
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

Chocolate Mousse

adapted from ABC Online

  • 300 mil cream
  • 30 gms of sugar
  • 130 gms of dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs, seperated
  • 2 tsp of Cherry Brandy

Remaining Layers

  • Jar of morello cherries
  • 300 mls Whipped cream
  • Vanilla pod
  • Store bought sponge cake
  • Cherry jam

Make the chocolate cake as instructed below;

1. Melt butter and combine with remaining ingredients. Pour into 20 cm cake tin and bake for 20 mins.

2. Once cooled and removed from the tin wrap in cling film and place in the freezer for approximately 30 mins before using. This will make it easier to cut in half.

Make the mousse as instructed below;

1. Whip cream with sugar until soft peaks

2. Melt chocolate in microwave on short bursts. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and then add brandy, egg yolks and whip until smooth and thickened

3. Fold cream into the chocolate mixture

4. Whip egg whites until soft peaks and then fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, you can be quite cavalier with how you combine this 1st 1/3 of the egg whites. Add the egg white and chocolate mixture to the remaining 2/3rds of the egg whites folding gently until just combined.

5. Chill.

Next prepare the cherries

1. Drain cherries, put the cherries aside and place the syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. Add 2 tbsp of cherry brandy and reduce the syrup until reduce by half and sticky. Take off the heat and put cherries into the mixture and leave to macerate. The cherry mixture must be completely cooled before using.

Slices are similar heights.

3. Slice vanilla sponge cake in half lengthwise.

4. Slice chocolate sponge in half lengthwise

5.  Slice 1 slice of vanilla sponge on the bottom of trifle bowl. Spread with cherry jam top with 1 slice of chocolate sponge.

6. Top the chocolate sponge with half the cherry mix and spoon over half the syrup.

7. Repeat process until all the sponge, cherries and syrup are used up.

8. Top with Chocolate mousse

9. Whip cream with vanilla seed from 1 vanilla pod and spread on top of trifle.

10. Top with chocolate shavings.

 

Apartments on the Park and The Union Bank

3 Oct

After our lovely stop over in Bathurst we arrive in the afternoon at destination Orange. We stop off at the visitors centre for some maps etc, I do love some vineyard maps and we then make our way to our accommodation. We are staying in the centre of Orange at a property owned by Apartments on the Park. They own more than one property in different locations close to town. I should have made a note of the number of the property we were staying at but completely forgot, so I asked Miss Wallflower to use  her phone to look up the address. She gave me the house number and we headed to that address. We had been told that the keys would be in the letterbox. So I bounded up to the front gate and attempted to locate the letterbox, but I couldn’t find it. So I opened up the gate to have a walk around the vernadah and see if I could find where the keys had been secreted. Miss Wallflower finally did locate the letterbox but couldn’t see any keys in it. As I peered through a window in the hope of figuring out the mystery of the elusive keys, I noticed that there was an unmade bed in the front room with personal items on it and suddenly it dawned on me…we were at the wrong address! Without making a sound I tried to creep away and gesture to Miss Wallflower to evacuate immediately lest we be spotted loitering… Then a gentlemen came to the door and asked us if he could help us. At this point I would have been happy for a giant hole to open up and swallow me whole. Instead of confessing our mistake, I initially tried to kind of wave him off like some non-English speaking tourist as I crept away, a vain attempt to make a stealthy exit.  Finally I confessed and hoped he didn’t think I was a complete bimbo. It turned out he was the son of the owner of the property I was looking for and he gave me directions on how to get to our accommodation. His father dropped around later to make sure we settled in ok, while I continued to apologise profusely for our intrusion.

The apartment is not so much an apartment but more like a cottage or house.  It has 3 bedrooms and a bathroom including a bath. It claims to have two toilets which is a little misleading as only one of those toilets is located inside and to be honest I don’t think outside toilets in this day and age can counted into the overall description of bathroom amenities. The house has had some renovation work done and is nicely furnished in a vintage style, without being to kitsch.

Dining Room

There is an ensuite currently being installed in one of the bedrooms which looks like it will be well-appointed with an additional toilet and shower. What struck me the most about the place was the size. It is probably bigger than the terrace I live in and the kitchen is certainly much more spacious. The gardens are beautiful and there is a lovely paved courtyard that would be perfect for some outdoor dining if the weather permitted. We very much appreciated the electric blankets and despite my early reservations, the heaters were very efficient. The house suited our purposes and the only criticism I would have, was a lack of attention to detail in the cleaning. Now I must confess I am slightly anal about having my house tidy but I don’t judge others by my standards…most of the time. There were clearly portions of the house that had not been dusted in some time. Tops of towel rails were covered in a well established coat of dust as were the inside of some cupboards. Despite this the house was well-appointed with mod cons like flat screen Tv’s, DVD players and a dishwasher, a nice spot to return to at the end of the day.

Lounge Room

After unpacking and ensuring that the champagne was cooling in the fridge Miss Wallflower and I headed out for a wander around the town. The parentals who had visited Orange a year or so ago had recommended we try The Union Bank wine bar, so after wandering through town taking note of shops to visit during our stay, Miss Wallflower and I settled in to the Union Bank with a glass of bubbly, just to tide us over while we examined the wine list 😉 The Union Bank makes a point of showcasing wine from the region and you could probably drink your way through the vineyards of Orange without even leaving the wine bar, an all too appealing invitation. The venue is intimate with an extensive wine list and a great selection of sharing plates and main meals. There is a communal table and some smaller tables near the fire. We did see an outside eating area but given the cold we were not prepared to venture outside.

The wall of wine

By the second drink, a Canobolos Smith Chardonnay, we start to feel the need to nibble and we order a dip sharing plate. It has three dips. An artichoke and yoghurt dip which was clean, citrusy and tangy, a pistachio and fig pesto dip. This was lovely by itself but was overborne by the other two dips. I felt it was the poor cousin of the three. The third dip was an olive dip with the expected saltiness and a  herby bouquet. The dips were accompanied by some sliced bread and some crisp bread which was lightly salted.

Nibbles

We returned to the Union Bank for lunch after some wine tasting on our third day. We resumed our position and ordered some sandwiches and a glass of Belgravia Cabernet Sauvignon. I had a Reuben sandwich which was made with corned beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and something they called a Russian dressing. The bread was toasted with a generous serve of butter which I always appreciate. Is there anything that butter can’t improve! The sandwich was served with a lightly dressed side salad. The sauerkraut was tangy and zesty but not overpowering, more subtle than the sauerkraut I am used to, a good complement for the delicate and tender corned beef.

Reuben Sandwich

Miss Wallflower had a roast vegetable sandwich with rocket pesto and goats cheese. The goats cheese was soft and luscious and not overly grassy or farm yardy. The pumpkin was perfectly cooked and the sandwich contained meaty mushrooms. The only criticism was that there seemed to be too much filling for the bread making it difficult to eat in a lady like fashion. The rocket pesto was not oily and packed some peppery punch against the sweetness of the roast vegetables.

Roast vegetable Sandwich

The staff at the Union Bank were friendly and helpful and the ambience during the day was just as welcoming and warm as the ambience at night. A lovely reliable watering hole with tasty, filling food packed with flavour.

Do you like a wine bar and a wall of wine?

The Pub Lunch

29 Sep

Greetings readers! I am on my Orange Mini Break. Miss Wallflower and I left Sydney on Tuesday Morning after packing the car and filling the esky with all my previously discussed essentials and we were on the road.

It is about 4 hours to Orange and the drive through the mountains were beautiful as Miss Wallflower and I sang along to some great 60’s and 70’s rock and blues classics, handpicked for the journey. Aren’t we groovy! Considering the length of the journey we knew we would need to take a break and get some sustenance, so we stopped in the historic down of Bathurst.

Now I am not sure why, but I absolutely crave a pub lunch when doing a road trip. There is something about pub lunches that says holiday to me.  Simple well known food without fuss and pretension. We easily found parking and saw the Knickerbocker Hotel, which I had read was one of the pubs in Bathurst offering a decent pub lunch. The building is a classic deco corner pub with a bistro and beer garden out back.

Classic Corner Pub

We made our way to the bistro and took a look at the menu. I picked the battered fish and chips. Yes I know they aren’t exactly a swish or even healthy food, but that is not why I came to a pub, I came for pub grub, so no judgement please! Miss Wallflower ordered a steak sandwich. We sat at one of the tables near the beer garden and listened to more 60’s and 70’s rock classics trying not to sing along too loudly, the music at the pub was clearly selected by a person who has fantastic taste just like us!

Our lunch arrived a short time later. The first thing I observed about my plate was the rather enormous serve of salad. I could pretend that I started with the salad for virtuous reasons but it would be a lie. I started with the salad because I wanted to get easy access to my fish and the chips and freeing up some plate space was essential. The salad was crisp and lightly dressed made up  of julienned carrot, capsicum and cucumber with rocket with some bean sprouts. The chips were a chunky cut and were crisp and not overcooked. The first thing I noticed on tasting the fish was that it tasted like fish. What you would expect..right? However quite often you get battered fish and chips and all you can taste is the oil and the batter. The batter on this fish was crispy without being oily and it lightly coated the fish without overwhelming it.

See there is green stuff!

Miss Wallflowers steak sandwich came loaded with tomato, beetroot and lettuce and the steak was tender and cooked perfectly. Miss Wallflower did have to adopt the elbows up position while eating it to avoid ending up with juice running down her sleeves and beetroot in her lap. Her chips were chunky cut like mine and went down a treat. I must confess I didn’t finish all of my lunch, damn that salad!

On the road again. Next stop Orange!

What is your favourite pub meal?

Mini Break!

22 Sep

I am heading off on a mini break next week. Miss Wallflower and I really needed a break and we love a good wine region. We are both big fans of the Hunter Valley but we thought we would try somewhere different, so we have decided to head to Orange. Girly Road trip!

We have rented a little cottage with full kitchen facilities and the plan is to sleep in to the late morning, eat breakfast in our pj’s and head out wine tasting at our own leisure. What I love about holidays like this is that they have a nice and relaxed rhythm and you really get to enjoy being somewhere different. I have a tendency when travelling to do things at a frenetic pace. There is so much I want to see that I tick of my ‘must do list’ with military precision. But this trip to Orange is designed to be a departure from the frantic pace of life and an opportunity to stock up on the elixir of life…wine.

Given that Miss Wallflower is off work the day before we leave, while I am slaving over files at work, I thought I would put her free time to good use getting us the essentials we need to make our home away from home even more enjoyable. Ever the forward planner I already have a list of gourmet requirements for a perfect relaxed mini break.

Chocolate

I must confess I eat chocolate every day. I love the stuff.
Organic dark chocolate is indeed a necessity.

Cheese.

I remember watching a show on TV, where they asked a French chef the minimum number of different styles of cheese you should have in your house, his response… 4 or 5. I wholeheartedly agree. But 4 or 5 seems like a bit much to take for 3 days. Triple cream brie, a hard cheese and a blue vein should be sufficient, then again…..

Champagne

What can I say, a girly mini break with no bubbles…well it just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Cheers Darlings!

Strawberries

In addition to the 3 C’s, some fruit. Whether accompanying champagne or cheese, strawberries fulfil some of the other nutritional requirements our bodies will have over 3 days.

Bread

Great start to the day or lazy ending.

Vegemite

Can’t travel anywhere without the stuff.

Tea

With so much wine, tea is essential to maintain the appropriate hydration levels.

If anyone has some must visit wineries or restaurants in Orange I would love to hear about them.

What do you find essential while away?

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