Tag Archives: NSW

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.

P1020087

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

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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

Picasso and Lunch: Chophouse

5 Jan

A trip out of the house over the Christmas period was required to ensure that I didn’t turn into a book reading, champagne sipping hermit. Not that there is anything wrong with that. An outing to see the Picasso exhibition currently showing at the Art Gallery of NSW, followed by lunch seemed like an enjoyable way to spend a day and a change from my slothful pace.

After an hour of looking at Picasso paintings with my head on tilted angles while squinting hoping that like a magic eye, the picture would jump out at me, I was starving and ready for lunch.

We had picked Chophouse and although I was feeling really over meat (way too much turkey and ham over the Christmas period) I needn’t have been concerned about the menu choices.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a waiter dashing outside with some lovely looking meals. Shortly after we were approached and told that the table outside we had requested would be available in a few minutes and so we ordered a drink and sat at the bar. The inside of the restaurant is rather cavernous with moody lighting and high ceilings. I noticed that most of the seating inside tended to be booths. I don’t know why but I love booths at a restaurant, I don’t know if it is because it reminds me of childhood dinners at pizzerias or because it seems like clandestine meetings could be going on and I am intrinsically nosy.

The wait staff were very friendly and explained the specials and answered all our questions, they seemed very well informed and happy to help. I ordered the octopus salad with a pomegranate dressing and a side of shoe string fries. You didn’t honestly think I would just eat a salad! 🙂

Salad $19.50

The octopus was tender and perfectly paired with the haloumi,watercress and smoky eggplant. The haloumi added just the right amount of saltiness without be overpowering. The pomegranate dressing was light and tart and I made sure I located all the seeds because I love that little juicy pop when you bite in to them.

Dad had the kangaroo burger with chunky chips. The burger wasn’t overly large which was good, if you are looking for a filling but not overwhelming lunch. I got to try some of the burger and the kangaroo pattie was juicy with a tangy aioli and a soft bread roll.

Kangaroo Burger $18.90

The shoe string fries I had as a side were crispy, with just the right amount of salt. They were not oily and I found myself picking at them long after I was full.

The chunky chips served with the burger needed a bit more salt, but were light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside just the way they should be.

I did eye off a gruyere cauliflower gratin and some risotto balls that I would have loved to try, but given that I was trying to reign in the excesses of Christmas over consumption, the less is more philosophy of ordering food was imposed.

Are you a shoestring fry fan or a chunky chip fan?

Chophouse

25 Bligh St, Sydney 2000

Ph: 1300 246 748

Ladies, Jazz and Liquor: The Martini Bar and Restaurant

1 Nov

Yes it was ladies night last week and Miss Wallflower and I went for a movie and dinner. I decided a return trip to Martini in Leichhardt was in order. I had been there once before and recalled the food was good, but my memory of the meal was a bit tarnished by some stressors at the time of my last visit and I wanted to go there under much happier circumstances.

It was a Thursday night and I had tried to book the restaurant earlier in the day but no one had returned my call, so I wasn’t sure if there would be any tables available. I recall last time I went there for dinner, they were pretty much completely booked out. Martini is in the same complex as the Palace Cinemas in Norton Street Leichhardt, making it a perfect dinner spot before a movie. We arrived shortly before 7pm and we asked for a table for two. When asked if we had a booking, I told the waiter I had left a message making a reservation, but no one had returned my call. To that he very charmingly replied with a wave of his hand, ‘we are Italian we don’t return messages, its ok’ and led us to a table 🙂

The menu is Italian in style, with a good range of pasta, and pizzas as well as secondi’s like lamb and pork. Miss Wallflower and I are both carb junkies and decided pasta was what we were in the mood for. We ordered our meals and some wine and settled in.  Jazz Connection, some very accomplished young musicians were playing that night. The waiter who served us was quite concerned the music may have been too loud, but Miss Wallflower and I enjoyed it. I have absolutely no musical ability whatsoever. I have never learnt an instrument and cannot hold a note, so I really envy young people who have such tremendous talent, and I enjoyed having some live music to add to the ambience and my enjoyment of the night

We had the zucchini flowers for a starter. I love these and I never make them myself. They were stuffed with cheese and herbs, lightly battered, fried and served with a tangy sauce.

The fight for the last zucchini flower

The flowers were not soggy, as sometimes happens and the little baby zucchini attached was firm and full of flavour.

Mis Wallflower had a Garganelli with fried eggplant, capsicum and fresh burrata.

Delish Burrata

The burrata was luscious and smooth and added a lovely freshness to the pasta. The dish was light but filling.

I had a ravioli stuffed with scallops and potato in an asparagus sauce. The sauce was distinctively asparagus in flavour and I had never thought of doing an asparagus sauce for pasta before.The potatoes were firm and it was clear that both pasta dishes contained freshly prepared pasta.

The sauce was such a rich green

We accompanied the meal with a side of insalata mista, the highlight of which was the large green olives, which I started fishing out with my fingers while enjoying the music. The mustard vinaigrette was perfectly seasoned and balanced.

Searching for large green olives....

Jazz, fresh well prepared Italian food and some wine. What more could you want.

Do you like live music when you are out to dinner? Do you play an instrument?

Martini Bar and Restaurant

Level 1, 99 Norton Street Leichhardt, Sydney, NSW, Sydney, NSW. 2040

(02) 9568 3344

Lolli Redini and the Foodgasm

13 Oct

Ok I admit it…. I am a planner……the phrase ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’ it really should be tattooed on my body.  I am not sure this admission will in anyway facilitate my rehabilitation, as my predisposition to planning is so strong and I would argue genetic that it possible that it will never be overcome.

I have thought about this personality trait quite a bit. I have even tried to squash it in the face of opposition, read non planning lazy ex-boyfriends, but despite my best efforts it persists. Why? Personally I think that the reason I plan is that I love anticipation. The reality is that most pleasurable experiences are only fleeting. The anticipation of the rapture to come can last days, weeks and even months, depending on your delay of gratification skills 😉 Planning allows you to extend the excitement, by glimpsing, contemplating, preparing and even fantasizing about that future event. This is why I love to plan a menu for a dinner party and think about the table setting, the wine to be served, the shoes I will wear and equally importantly the music, because music like a dress code sends the signals of what to expect. Think about it, Cold Chisel and thongs, you are not thinking confit of duck! I suspect that this is not an unusual female trait.  Who doesn’t love knowing that you have a special dinner coming up somewhere fabulous? You start thinking about what to wear, whether to go for cocktails first or what colour your nail polish should be.

My love for planning truly comes in to its own when going on holidays. I do a lot of research and plotting of my adventures, to ensure I can squeeze every last bit out of the experience. You can just imagine the frenzy I whipped myself up into for Orange….. all that wine and food, pleasure central! Now I realise that such unbridled enthusiasm and forethought is frankly annoying for other people, so when travelling with Miss Wallflower to Orange I tried very hard to limit my absolute must do’s to a few things only. One of these was dinner at Lolli Redini. I had heard such wonderful things about the restaurant and had looked at the menu and decided I could not leave Orange until I ate there. Miss Wallflower was happy to indulge me.

I booked us in for dinner on Thursday night. The menu is structured so you can have 2 courses for $60.00 or three for $80.00. We had decided to do two courses.  One of us would get an entrée and the other a dessert thereby getting the best of both worlds and limiting our gluttony. The restaurant is situated in town, in a small house. There are a reasonable number of tables but it maintains an intimacy and was well heated, which I was very grateful for given how cold Orange was during our visit.

We started with the cheese soufflé, I am told this is Lolli Redini’s signature dish. The soufflé was made with Gruyère cheese. As you would expect it was light and fluffy, while at the same time having a silky consistency. A mouthful was like a cheese cloud on your tongue.

Gruyère cheese souffle

It came with a sauce that carried a hint of blue vein character. The sauce was the perfect complement to the soufflé as it was luscious and velvety. On top of the cheese soufflé was a chiffonnade of spinach which at first I suspected was one of those unnecessary cheffy embellishments, but it was in fact a perfect sharp contrast to the cheese. It had been cooked with pear and hazelnuts which gave crunch and tang.

Miss Wallflower had the veal with potato dauphinoise, with spinach and mixed exotic mushrooms. The veal was rare and was buttery and tender. The mushrooms were superb, robust in flavour and fragrance.

Miss Wallflower's veal

I had the lamb on Caponata with eggplant and an olive mash. The Caponata was a perfect balance of sweetness and the pine nuts popped in the mouth when chewed adding a toasty aromatic counterpoint.  The salty olives against the medium rare cooked lamb and the sharply sweet tomatoes created a balanced and truly delightful plate. I had a  Collector Wines 2008 Marked Tree Shiraz with my main course.

Lamb with caponata

We finished with a strawberry parfait Mille Feuille. The pastry was a flaky buttery delight that cracked as we plunged our spoons in. Between the layers of pastry was a strawberry parfait that was creamy but not heavy on the palate. The strawberry sorbet that came on top was clean and fresh and the whole dish really showcased the flavour of the strawberries. I really needed a private room in which to consume this delightful dessert and I think Miss Wallflower was grateful that the tables were spaced a good distance apart so that people couldn’t hear my lip smacking and little moans of delight.

Strawberry parfait mille feuille

The service was attentive without being overbearing and the staff knew what they were serving and were happy to answer questions. While the meal may only have lasted hours,  I can tell you the anticipation was worth it! 🙂

Are you a planner?

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?

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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