Wednesday, September 29, 2010

corn sisters, caffeine sippers

One of the best memories I have of my Thailand trip was Day 1 with Cynthia. We were all given 50 Baht each ($1.70) to buy our meals for the next 24 hours. I honestly thought we were fucked. But high on holidays and berocca, we dived into the pissed-off behive of traffic, people, sights and smells that is Bangkok city.

We emerged one hour later with bags full of local market grub: vegetarian dumplings, curious little seed jellies, coconut-custard pastries, pad thai, grilled banana in pandan leaves, dragonfruit, and an intriguing sort of thai wrap made of digestive leaves, ginger cubes, shallots, bean sprouts and plum sauce. Devouring all that delicious food with Cynthia on the rickety train ride to Chiang Rai was something I'll never forget.

For that whole month, me and Cynth shared everthing: Bedrooms, bathrooms, toilets (as well as facilities that would not exactly classify as toilets), internet cafe minutes, bus seats, an elephant, clothes, cash, and even the weight in our backpacks. But the most special thing that we shared on our trip was food. We always ordered together, carefully planning our courses and splitting our meals 50/50 so that we could sample as many flavours as possible. We never ordered the same thing twice. Every mealtime was an adventure.

Every now and again, me and Cynth like to catch up over coffee and relive the old days. We went to the Next Cafe in Applecross so I could get a Green Tea Latte ($5.8). The weather was beautiful this morning so I ordered it cold on ice, and with soy. And my god... it was so wonderfully refreshing and smooth to drink. I completely forgot I had even ordered soy because the green tea flavour was just so pure. I predict that I'll regularly be spending a share of my paycheck at this place in the summer weeks ahead.

Cynth ordered the Iced Passion-Me ($6.8) which was a bizzaire combination of espresso and passionfruit pulp. I didn't quite know what to make of it. It was more of an drink that engaged my senses rather than pleased my tastebuds, which is something I wish more cafes in Perth strived for. Very unique drink.

The owners were lovely, asian and therefore incredibly polite. I so dearly wanted to take some shots of the interior design: they've got a wicked set up of bookshelves filled with contemporary fiction, some funky couches and for some reason, lots of motoring memorabilia. But as Cynthia's a regular, I didn't want to embarass her with my zealous happy-snapping. But check out the coffee menu board above - I'm definitely getting that orange mocha next time.

After practically licking our glasses clean (okay, so it was only me) we took a stroll around Ardross St which is a nice little strip of cafes, beauty salons, florists, and suffocating gift stores for middle aged ladies. We found a few treasures: a quaint little hidden garden shop, a gorgeous florist with a thing for pregnancy and a boutique with the sexiest collection of vintage shoes I have ever seen.

On a final note: the Good Grocer sells a large selection of gourmet cupcakes. Instant approval.

Next Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the dancing goat

Whilst shopping in Freo at the beginning of this semester, me and a friend popped into one of those upper-class surf/skate stores; the type where you go in and flip over a price tag and you have to supress your reaction. Whilst waiting for Ann to come out of the fitting room I started talking to the shop attendant, partly to kill the awkward silence, partly because he was kinda cute. Somehow it escalated into this passionate, animated conversation about coffee and turns out he's also a barista, opening his own indie cafe in Perth this year. So I asked him what his favourite cafe was. He scribbled something on two pieces of paper, smiled and gave them to me on my way out.

Unfortunately the one with his number on it went throught he wash, but not all was lost. I still had the one with the address of The Dancing Goat on it.

The staff were great. Most kitchenhands just hide out in the back, carelessly pushing your food together and waving it out. But here, the guy who made my bagel actually came out to serve it with a relaxed smile. The girls at the counter were very cheerful and laid back, which was inspiring considering they were all wretchedly hungover (I overheard them laughing and giving each other shit in the kitchen).

The Dancing Goat is built almost like a beach house, elevated off the ground. There's a lot of bare timber, metal and a messy chalkboard set into the wall on the left. The quirky wallpaper is all hand drawn and some of the cartoons hilariously inappropriate. And although everything was so raw and simple, at the same time it was so clean, fresh and real. And the glass bottles had these cute little angels on them.

Amanda had the chocolate & coconut muffin ($3.5) It had real shredded coconut in it and real chunks of milk chocolate through it. Wholesome, unlike the muffins you get at uni which are processed so much that they possess a shiny, smooth, plastic-fruit kind of sheen to them that sticks to their plastic packaging. Crusty and crumbly on the outside, soft on the inside. What a good muffin should be.

I ordered the vegeterian bagel bagel ($11) which was so, so good. Roasted pumpkin, toasted pine nuts, fetta cheese, chutney, fresh avocado and spinach. It seems like such a common and simple combination of every day flavours, but for some reason it was one of the best combinations of a form of bread + sandwich fillings I've ever tasted. It didn't need lashings of thick, salty dressing to pull all the ingredients together. It just worked.

Rounded off our brunch with a mixed berry smoothie ($6), refreshing and sweet. Again, you could tell they had used produce, not products. Delightful stuff.

Dancing Goat on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 27, 2010

ode to two very special people

Today I was invited over to my piano tutor's house for lunch, which may seem a little strange to some people. But not for us. Susan and John were my piano teachers for a very, very long time.

I had piano lessons once a week, every week of the school term for 13 years (not including double-lesson weeks and extra exam preparation). At times I saw them more often than my dad. They gave me the gift of music, and taught me so many things about perseverance and reaching my potential. They are both incredibly generous, passionate and dedicated teachers who I owe so much to because they were willing to give up the one thing that is so valuable: their time.

Being an asian kid, I am always eating rice, noodles, or rice. And more rice. And sometimes, rice. I know I was very lucky to have a mum who cooked me delicious chinese food every day of my childhood, but you gotta admit the grass is always greener on the other side. I get excited by these flavours like sundried tomato, fetta and marinated olives because I never grew up with them. I loved these.

Amber's Vegetable and Pesto Pastries.
Serves 4.

  • 2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomato pesto/basil pesto/olive tapenade (from the jar is fine)
  • Assorted antipasti - marinated artichokes, olives, marinated mushrooms, sundried tomato strips, roasted capsicum strips
  • Fresh tomato slices
  • 150g feta cheese (or other cheese)
  • Fresh basil (optional)

    Preheat oven to 220C. Cut pastry sheets in half. Place on greased or lined oven trays. Fold in edges of pastry to make a 1cm border. Spread pesto within the border. Arrange tomatoes and veges over hte pesto and sprinkled with crumbled cheese. Bake uncovered until pastry is puff and bronwned - about 10 to 15 minutes. If trays are on different shelves, swp them over halfway through the cooking time. Serve topped with fresh basil and with a side salad.

    Susan and John are the only people I know who make their lemon-lime bitters from scratch, with a bottle of bitters bought from the liquor store. Which automatically makes them awesome in my eyes. Do you know anyone else who makes their lemon-lime bitters from scratch? Nup?

    Didn't think so.

    I have waited so long for an excuse to buy Maggie Beer Ice Cream from the IGA down the road from my house. I bought the Vanilla Bean and Elderflower to go with our dessert of apple crumble, but they also had Strawberries and Cream and Dark Chocolate and Orange available. That ice cream is heavenly.

    Furthur evidence that Susan and John are awesome: they buy Gloria Jeans coffee, the vacuum bag types. John made me a cup of Hazelnut blend. I dearly wish there was a button on this window to 'attatch' a smell, not just photos. The aroma from those beans... yum.

    And for an end note: Susan keeps her spices in these old antique Spencer's tins. Gorgeous.
  • Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Mill Point Caffe Bookshop

    When I was in primary school, I took this PEAC course which required me to go to this little purple shop in South Perth once a week, to drink hot chocolate and read books with other kids. God, I miss doing useless shit-all like that. So in the spirit of reliving happy memories, we hit the Mill Point Caffe Bookshop after shopping in the city.

    This place is wonderful. There are books on cooking, gardening, dating, psychology, politics, Europe and photography lining the walls and beautifully laid out. All the tables, bookshelves and photos on the wall are vintage. When you walk in, everyone has their heads down, their noses stuck in a book, some browsing standing up and some with a half-empty cup of coffee on the table in front of them.

    I have come to the conclusion that a good coffee has the following traits: the froth does not stick to the sides of the cup when you tip it from side to side, and the crema pattern on top keeps its original shape perfectly unless you break it. My usual extra hot SLM ($4.3) was both of things, and it had that distinctive nutty, sweet flavour that only comes from proper espresso. Very good.

    Here's a tip: always ask the people who work there what they recommend and 90% of the time you can't go wrong. I always do it, whether I'm eating at an Italian restaurant in Fremantle or choosing a pie at Jester's. I asked the girl who was cleaning the coffee machine and she insisted I try the apple strudel ($7.5) and said she'd bring it out with cream and ice cream. And holy shit.

    Filo pastry. Cubes of sweet, melt-in-your-mouth apple. Raspberry sauce. Topped with flaked almond and icing sugar. There was custard mixed in with the filling. True genius. And a standing ovation for the waitress who plated it up for me; girl got style.

    London Court Cafe

    I have always wanted to live in London one day. I want to catch those red busses. I want to go on a $1000 shopping spree in Harrod's. I want to see a white Christmas. I want to wear a big furry coat, high heeled boots and ear muffs out into the street every morning. I want to see Mass celebrated on a Sunday in an old cathedral with choirboys, an organ, hymns, the works. I want to go to Buckingham Palace and kiss one of the guards on the cheek and see if he moves. I want to work Monday to Friday in an English law firm, and spend my weekends in Paris speaking fluent French and eating pastries. Call me a hopeless romantic and a naiive idiot who will only be disappointed... but hey, a girl can dream.

    We started out on King's street, but due to Perth's level of epic fail combined with faulty website information on opening times, everything was closed. We inevitably found ourselves in the CBD. A foodie's worst nightmare: nothing but food courts with no taste (no pun intended), shit coffee, and overpriced sushi.

    My companion was feeling very accomodating that day, which was good, because I was feeling very difficult, so I dragged him over to the London Court Cafe. I'd been there before, but only by myself when I was once craving scones. It happened to be an excellent choice on this occaision. There wasn't a mass of tourist traffic coming through London Court like usual, and our seat was just inside the french doors which they had opened to take advantage of the beautiful weather. And there's only one thing left to drink when there's beautiful weather: iced tea.

    My peach iced tea ($3.5) was just what I needed. I never buy that lipton rubbish from the supermarket. It's packed full of sugar, over-flavoured and overrated. This was real iced tea, with a subtle fruit flavour and you could actually taste the tea. I was delighted with the Horlicks ($4), I've never seen it served anywhere in Perth except for the bubble tea flavour. I had to lick my lips after taking a sip. The best way I can describe it is it was like drinking a biscuit. Yum.

    I'll admit I was dissapointed with the utterly boring menu which consisted of mostly toasted sandwiches on fancy bread and some average-looking breakfasts. I'm slowly coming to terms with the way Perth's just like that. Very conservative. So I just picked the CRAZIEST thing I could find on the menu, which was a Chicken Vol-au-vent ($18.3). Rebel.

    It wasn't mind blowing, but very pleasant to eat none the less. The chicken was just tender, and the sauce was surprisingly herby and fragrant. The salad was basically raw, but at least fresh. My friend had the chicken caesar ($18.5) which was a winner. Lots of places don't get the balance right. The bacon will be too salty, the cheese will be too strong or the dressing will be too thick and too much. But this one had the balance just right. And it took him a while to get over the fact that there was a big poached egg sitting on top of the salad. Cute.

    After lunch, my companion took me shopping. Much of the day was spent laughing, talking and in fitting rooms. He bought me a new dress because I had no money. We drove around South Perth looking out for new cafes for me to visit and walked to the jetty in Como to look at the water. I practised some parking in my new car.

    Consider the entire Sunday that I spent out enjoying myself as my little way of saying: Fuck you.


    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    retour au petit-déjeuner de nouveau seul

    My mum knows how I love my eggs, so she went out and bought this completely ridiculous addition to our kitchen inventory: a pot, which exists for the sole purpose of poaching eggs.


    I deliberately opted for poached on this morning. "Sunny" side up seemed sadistically inappropriate at the time.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    chutney mary's

    That curiously-named, funny-colour-schemed, well-known restaurant on the corner traffic lights in Subiaco that I had never really taken much notice of. How foolish I have been to disregard Chutney Mary's. Oh, the ignorance! I have nothing but praise for this restaurant. Quick foodies will be able to tell from the pictures that I actually went to 'Little Chutney's' next door, which is owned by the same company, and differ only slightly in menu and decor.

    I was apprehensive about walking in at 7:30 on a Friday night without a booking; I asked how long service would be. Chutney's was already packed, but the waitress looked so relaxed. The middle-aged Indian lady just replied with a kindly smile: "Just fifteen minutes after your order, and then your food will be ready!", as if a long wait was a foreign concept, and she was educating the culturally clueless foreigner, me.

    The interior design is so beautiful. There are these enormous chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and lovely warm lighting against the dark wallpaper covered in this shimmery silver pattern. The vibe: classy, but not pretentious or snobbish. Fresh orchids at the counter. The furniture modern but simple. That's what I like about Subiaco. It can be a little more expensive and fancier than I'm used to, but I always find it very down to earth nevertheless.

    The service was a breath of fresh air: ample and responsive waiters who talked to you like people ("An extra entrée? The which? ... got it. No worries man." ) and our waitress took away our empty bottle of water and replaced it with a fresh one with ice without us even noticing. Applause.

    And the food? On the website, Chutney's claims to pride themselves on "authentic dishes, the freshest ingredients, natural herbs, low cholesterol oil and special emphasis in homestyle cooking." Golly, no wonder the food tasted so amazing.

    The Chicken Tikka: "Fillet of chicken marinated in yoghurt, chilli, ginger, coriander and traditional Indian spices – cooked in the tandoor oven" ($19) was perfect. On the outside I thought it would be dry, but it was just lean and tender and delicious all over - the marinade was excellent and not too overpowering. Paired with a curious little fresh salad on the side and that psychadelic-coloured yoghurt sauce. Really hit the spot - 10/10.

    Our main, the Beef Korma: "A mild and very delicately spiced, mouth watering dish made with ground nuts and hints of ginger, garlic, onions and coriander" ($24) made me melt. I decided to go all out towards the end and just ate the curry and Garlic Naan ($6) with my bare hands. The meat: pull-apart-tender. The spices: so well balanced and just warmed me to my toes. Best curry I've had in years.

    Round off that meal with some home-made gluten-free moist chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream, compliments of the lovely Siobhán. Cue 'Lie to Me' marathon.


    Little Chutney's on Urbanspoon

    2 & 5

    5 Vegetables:
  • Olives
  • Spring Onion (It's green: therefore a vegetable)
  • Capsicum (Packed with vitamin C)
  • Tomato (pureed form still counts)
  • Garlic (... shut up, it's a vegetable, as far as I'm concerned)

    Yes, I'm a repeat offender at Lo Zuccheros. And for damn good reason. The 'Milano': Italian sausage, peperoni, roasted capsicum and kalamata olives ($18) has put me off Dominos/Pizza Hut's crassly-named 'Meatlover' type pizzas forever. I shall nevermore accept meat pizza of lesser quality. The Milano was salty and oily but delicate at the same time. The meat was thinly sliced, not chewy, not too crispy, just finger-lickin' good. The crispy thin bases and wonderfully stringy cheese at Lo Zuccheros make any of their pizzas special. And that pepperoni... you know the way Homer Simpson drools?


    The four of us also ordered a 'Bari': Chicken marinated in garlic, honey, soy & chilli tossed sesame seeds, mature cheddar, shallots & chives ($18). The asian flavours of soy and sesame seeds; a very unique pizza, never had anything like it, but was pulled off well. My tastebuds were so confused yet so delighted.

    2 Fruits:
  • Chocolate (derived from a bean; ...obviously a fruit)
  • Strawberry (can't you see the lolly on top?)

    The day that I finally walked into Sweet on Cupcakes felt like an astronaut stepping onto the moon. My (culinary) life flashed before my eyes, I felt weightless, and there was an amazing sense of achievement, wonder and awe. Although I'd dreamed of it, I never thought it would actually happen, as prior to getting my licence it would have taken me a 1 and a half hour bus-train-train-bus-bus trip. But on Saturday morning my destiny was fulfilled.

    A White-Chocolate Malteser Cupcake ($3.5) for him, a Strawberry Cupcake ($3.5) for me. Words cannot describe that icing.

    By the way... Did I mention that both of these visits were for breakfast?

    At least I found my daily recommended intake of fruit and vegetables.