Thursday, February 7, 2013

Awesome afternoon at Opera Bar

On the heels of an incredible Bday dinner, M & and I planned to spend the arvo at The Morrison for happy hour wine and oysters.  Being from the east coast of Canada, we both have a weakness for bivalves...We had already purchased our tix to Les Miserables, and were looking for a way to pass the time in advance of the film.  We caught a bus up to Circular Quay with the intention of meandering down to The Morrison.   However, when M suggested that we spend some leisurely time on the waterfront - and have a drink at Opera Bar, I was all too happy to oblige!  I  ended up that we quit trying to "rush a good thing", and so The Morrison was forgotten, and we quickly ordered another tasty bevy and snacks at Opera Bar.

Our drinks were further enhanced by a plate of Yam crisps and prawn popcorn. 
The Yam crisps were OK.  Certainly not life-changing.  They provided a good bit of crunch to go along with our wines, but they were pretty greasy.  I wouldn't likely order them again. 
Yam Crisps ($8)
The prawn popcorn, on the other hand, were delicious - I'm hungry just thinking about them now.   The plum, juicy prawns were coated in a light, crispy batter and served with a luscious, mayo-based spicy jalapeno dipping sauce.  YUM.

Prawn Popcorn ($13)
w/ spicy jalapeño sauce 
Opera Bar, I've determined,  is one of those spots that cater to both tourists and locals alike; tourists because it's the Sydney opera-based bar, but locals, because it's simply a damn-good spot to spend a sunny wknd afternoon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Birthday and dinner at the Himalayan Char Grill

Happy birthday to me and to With Bite!  It's unbelievable to consider that I started With Bite 6 years ago!  What a journey it's been.  Since blogging about my culinary adventures in Halifax, I've had some incredible food - and life - experiences, and I'd like to thank everyone who has followed (and lived)  these adventures with me since then.

This past wknd marked my 30th birthday.  Holy cannoli!  I feel so old, but yet so young at the same time. Thankfully, I have some incredible friends here in Oz and my birthday (week) was so incredible that I'll remember if for years to come.

My best pal Maria - whom I met at Uni in Halifax - lives in Brisbane and made my (life) weekend, by travelling to Sydney to spend my birthday with me.  Maria is one of those friendships that are lifelong - we don't talk all that often, but she's always there when you need her and, no matter how much time has passed, we pick up where we left off.

Anyway, Maria arrived in Sydney on Friday, picked me up from work, and we got to the first night's celebrations in the backyard with a bottle of S. C. Pannell's Pronto; a blend of Sauvingnon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Grigio.  I had ordered a great bunch of wines from work for my bday festivities and this was among the best.  It's funny since M sent me a msg. upon arrival that she was looking forward to a good glass of wine and I had already put 6 btls. of white in the fridge to chill.  Priorities, ppl!

The really amazing part to the wknd though, was that my friend Christine had told me the Wednesday prior that she was throwing a BBQ for me in my own backyard and that I didn't have to do a thing.  I didn't really believe her, but I should have.  At about 7 pm on Friday, she - and my friends - arrived with sausages, pasta salad, baguette and a brownie bday cake for me!  Oh, and sparklers. :)  

Me, blowing out the candles on my
M&M-studded brownie 'cake'

It was an awesome night.  One that ended up in me having a bit too late of a night and I leaving a bit too late to make my much-anticipated birthday hot air balloon ride.  Yup, they left without us.  And so, in an effort to drown my (liver) sorrows at having missed the ride, we got MacDonald's breakfast.  Don't judge. 

But it gets better! Upon leaving Macca's with our bfast, I just so happened to look up at the sky and see... our balloon headed to the heavens. After M snapped this shot, we did erupt into peals of laughter at the irony of it all. We even ended up having our Macca's in a park over-looking the departure site. Sidenote: can I just say that Macca's bfast is delicious?  Seriously - how often do I have fast food?  Never, that's how often.  It's nice to indulge every now and again.

See that speck in the sky?
That's the balloon I shoulda been on had I had my act together!
And so, we drowned our sorrows at Coogie Beach...

Later, we met my pals at the Himalayan Char Grill for dinner.  But, not before some pre-dinner drinks in the backyard - a btl of bubbly as an aperitif. And so, we floated off to the resto on a cloud of bubbles.

When we arrived, I opened up the real treat: a btl of Jacquinot Champagne NV for my bday festivities.  This is an awesome drink - much less commercial than Moet or Veuve and way better on the palate.

I was happy to influence the whole group on their selections. My housemate had ordered takeaway in the past and I raved about the beef cheeks and the scallops which I had tried of theirs.  M and I shared two dishes: the beef cheeks, obviously, and the samosa.  The samosa was incredible; crispy and luscious, served with a tomato salsa and a creamy yogurt-based tamarind sauce that was juuuust sweet enough. I'd go back just for the sauce....

Samosa Chat ($12.90)
Veggie Samosa w/ spiced yogurt, tamarind sauce &
tomato-onion salsa

But seriously, the beef was incredible. So, so, succulent and tender, they were well worth the price and the hype.  The sauce was rich and heartwarming, and served with some roti and raita, this dish would have been an indulgent plate for one.
Masala Beef Cheek ($22.90)
Diced Beef  w/ peppers in Himalayan spices

Once dinner was over, we headed up to The Little Guy on GPR for some cocktails - an awesome spot for wknd drinks, or a Sunday arvo session.  This is M and I with ond of my faves - a good, really good, G&T.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Turkish food at Harvest

One of my favourite things to do at festivals is, wait for!  Yes, it's a shocker, but I truly appreciate fair food and Aussie's do it pretty darn well.  I've seen/smelled/eaten some great dishes at the various neighbourhood festivals here.  It's always hot, so freshly squeezed lemonade is a favourite (had one today actually at Mardi Gras), as is ice cream, obviously.  I also love the fried/baked potato on a stick - it sounds trashier than it actually is.  

Anyhow, my favourite item of fair food thus far is Gozleme, a bite that was so good, it took a spot on my Top Ten Bites of 2012 list.  I've since realised that Gozleme is available every Saturday in my hood at the Glebe Markets, but I like to maintain its special-ness by only eating it on the appropriate occasion.  I mean, would rum & eggnog really be as good in the summer?!?  

Gozleme is, essentially, a cross between a flatbread and a crepe, filled and sprinkled with lemon.  The options are usually feta w/ either beef; spinach, spinach & mushroom, or all three.  I say this again, and I can't stress it enough: I am NOT a vegetarian.  But - I do enjoy meatless I went for the spinach & mushroom option.  

It was so tasty.  I imagine that it was one of those occasions where the company and the setting enhanced the food experience, but to my memory, it was certainly one of the best bites of 2012.  My friends and I were attending Harvest Festival, which was bittersweet for me, since one of my favorite bands - Beirut - pulled out on the morning of!!  Who does that?  I was heartbroken.  BUT, Harvest did rekindle my love of Cake and Ben Folds Five (their new album is amazing) and introduced me to The Dandy Warhols and Santigold - whom I had loved before, but never knew the name of the artist.  

Anyhow, we parked ourselves in the shade of a gumtree with our cans of (overpriced) Sunshack apple cider, and had our snacks while waiting for Cake to grace the stage.  The gozleme bread had that awesome chewy consistency, which was both nutty, yet slightly sweet.  And obvs - how can you go wrong with spinach, feta & shrooms?

Yes, it was a cultural discovery in both bands and Turkish cuisine, one that I'll happily repeat any (festival) day!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top Ten Bites of 2012

And so, we've come to the end of 2012.  As many people do at this time of year, I've been considering the past twelve months and all the changes that have come with it.  2012 was a big year for me; I left a good life in Halifax and now live a great one in Sydney, Australia.  One of the things that was lacking for me in Nova Scotia was the opportunity to try wines from all over the world.  Working with the company I'm with now, makes this desire a reality and I'm not only trying wines, but meeting their amazing winemakers as well.

I thought about the great dining experiences that I've had this year too.  And there were many; I actually had difficulty trying to choose the 10 most special.  Some are from restaurants near and dear to my heart in Halifax, while others are from my new 'home' in Sydney.  Many of these bites weren't exactly what you would call 'gourmet', but as I transitioned into this new life, sometimes comfort food was more important that gourmet. The underlying theme here though, is that these experiences will always be fond memories because of the people I got to share them with and the lessons that I learned along the way.

Enjoy the photos, and try some of these dishes if you can as they're certainly worth it.  I hope that this blog post might offer you the inspiration to 'bite the bullet' and take a chance .  Don't let 2013 pass you by without taking some risks and maybe having a little adventure along the way.  Perhaps a change of scenery is just the thing to help you find what you're looking for.  All the best to you this year, and again, thanks for reading. 


Top Ten Bites of 2012
(in no particular order)

Amuse Bouche at Seasons by Atlantica

This is one of those meals that was made even better by the circumstances.  On a cold winter's night we called up another couple (who appreciated good food and drink as much as I do) for an impromptu dinner to try out Season's at Atlantica.  This was the amuse bouche; a piece of buttery brioche topped with a slice of mellow Brie and crowned with a soft-poached Prosciutto-wrapped egg yoke.  How satisfying it was to slice through the paper-thin Prosciutto and watch the creamy egg yoke pool in the bottom of my plate.

And the evening was equally satisfying: we started with cocktails; I brought some nice bottles; and we had apps and mains (trying one another's and critiquing them).  We shared a dessert and then they introduced me to my new favourite digestive: a shot of ice-cold Limoncello paired with one of espresso.  The coffee helped to digest the meal, while the Limoncello's tangy, citrus burst helped to refresh the palate after the bitter coffee.   Sadly, my friends are no longer together, but the memory of this dinner will be one I cherish for years to come. 

  Scallop Entree at Saege (Halifax)

This is another meal made better by the circumstances.  After struggling with a knee injury for almost two years, I had decided to overcome it by challenging myself and running the 10K Bluenose run with Team Myles, its ambassador running team.  On this particular evening -  after running up and down Citadel Hill 20+ times as part of our hill training - I decided I deserved a lazy late-night meal, and met my bf at Saege for dinner.  This was my entree and consisted of some of my favourite ingredients: plump seared scallops; creamy sweet potato; wilted spinach; roasted cherry tomatoes and, sandwiched in between it all was a slab of bacon! You can check out my post of the full meal here.

Ekmek at Estia (Halifax)

I really, really love Estia in Halifax.  Every meal that I've eaten there has been satisfying and delicious without breaking the bank.  This is a shot of their Ekmek had during my birthday 'week'! The smooth vanilla custard is topped with pillowy whipped cream and sprinkled with shards of toasted almonds and pistachios.  The best part, though is the base; a mess of shredded phyllo pastry soaked in sweet honey.  For a bit more about Estia's Ekmek and other delicious fare, click here.  

Radicchio Salad at The Bicycle Thief (Halifax) 

This is the dish I was eating when I decided that I had to make a move from Halifax - not knowing where - just to a wine region in general.  Over dinner,  dining companions (uber winos and uber Bicycle Thief fans) were discussing the wines they had tried on their travels and I thought: "If I'm gonna learn about wine, I gotta get out there and try some!" And that's when the trip to Australia truly started to materialize.  This dish was spectacular and super cheap (like $9 or something) for the portion.  The crunchy, bitter radicchio was tossed in a warm pancetta vinaigrette, studded with toasted pine nuts and dusted in salty Parmesan.  My mouth waters simply thinking about it.  You can read all about his meal here.

Avocado Creme Brûlée at Pipa (Halifax)

Avocado creme brûlée!  I was pretty skeptical about this dish.  I was dining at Pipa and my bf and I decided to share some dessert.  When we asked the owner for her reco she said -  hands down - the avocado creme brûlée.  Avocado is considered a sweet in South America and this is a common preparation for it.  There isn't a blog post for this one, but all I can say is that it is totally worth the trip to Pipa.  Beneath the crisp sugar topping, the silky avocado custard is the epitome of luscious.

'Back Door' Pad Thai from Fid Resto (Halifax)

It's no secret how I feel about Fid.  It's one of my favourite restos in Halifax.  This meal was no exception -  except that it wasn't eaten at Fid.  During the Open Halifax event, Fid started doing 'Back Door' Pad Thai, where one could order their Pad Thai as take-away for a reduced price.  

This was a particularly warm/sunny afternoon in June and my bf and I munched happily away on our take-away by the duck pond in Halifax's Public Gardens.  As lovely as the afternoon was, the memory is bittersweet as I knew that it was one of our last.  See the full post about Fid's Pad Thai here.

Calamari at James Street Bistro (Brisbane)

I am such a sucker for calamari.  When I was snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef this year, I was mesmerized by the magical world hiding our beneath the ocean's surface.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw several sets of bulging eyes coming in my direction; that of a school of squid!  Little did they know all the ways I was contemplating cooking them...

This was the calamari that we had at the James Street Bistro in Brisbane on my first night in Australia.  Maria (my bestie from Canada) and her husband Josh took me out to dinner where we shared this delectable dish.  You can read all about the full meal here.  Thankfully, they didn't get offended when I practically fell asleep at the table from jet lag; at that point, I had been travelling for over 30 hrs, but awake for about 48!

Savoury Muffin at The Little Pantry (Brisbane)

After my first big night out in Brisbane - exactly a week after I arrived - Maria and I decided to do a little pub crawl.  We were in pretty rough shape the next day, but I managed to venture out to our local coffee shop for some java, and much needed carbohydrates.  This is the best muffin I've ever had in my life; buttery, salty and rich; it just what the doctor (would have) ordered.  Here's the full post: The Little Pantry.

San Choy Bow at Dragon Palace (NSW)

This is a discovery from the Dragon Palace restaurant that I visited in Tamworth, rural New South Wales, AUS.  The memory of this particular meal will always be marred by the fact that it was shared with my boss, who later totally ripped me off in an 'overworked/underpaid' kind of situation.  However, I've since repeated this dish with Maria, my gal pal from (PEI) Brisbane,  so I choose to remember that instead.  It's also a pretty good lesson learned about work/life situations too; a late lesson, but "better late than never".   Read all about this tasty dish here

  Veggie Burger from Chicken's Plus (Sydney)                           

This was my first real hangover meal in Sydney.  After a pretty crazy night out, my housemate and I were bracing ourselves for the worst when our other housemate (a raging alcoholic) would come home.  As I sat there at 5 pm eating my veggie burger from Chicken's Plus, I knew that big changes were to come.  And they did; our housemate was arrested and evicted and my resolve was tested.  I put on my big girl pants that night, and now really consider this my 'comfort food'.  Click here for my post about burger culture in Oz. 

Gozleme at Harvest Music Festival (Sydney)
Festival food! When I arrived in Oz, I said I wanted to take in as many festivals/concerts as I could.  This photo was taken at my first; Harvest Festival in Sydney.  The dish was delicious, but further enhanced by the fact that:  I can't resist festival food;  I had a slight beer buzz;  and I got to spend a day in the grass listening to great music with wonderful friends.  This snack is called Gozleme - a traditional Lebanese crepe filled with cheese, spinach and mushroom drizzled with lemon juice.  For any Newfoundlanders out there, it tastes like toutons! No blog post for this yet, but it's coming.

Happy New Year from sunny Sydney!

Welcome 2013!
Fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Monday, December 17, 2012

Urban Bites - a bit underwhelming

A few weeks ago, I went to meet my friend Margaret for brunch in Newtown. On this particular day, we were meeting for brunch at a cafe called Urban Bites in Newtown.  This is one of the many spots I've noted on a warm, sunny day, and had been jealous of the people actually eating there.  Today, it was my turn.  The forecast was particularly sneaky; when I got dressed, it read 23, so jeans were appropriate.  However, by the time I reached the midpoint, the temp. had shot up to 31 degrees and I was dying; having to call M to tell her I'd be delayed since I could barely function putting one foot in front of the other, let alone doing it quickly.  

I'm pretty used to the Sydney temps these days, but when you're not dressed for it (as in, wearing as little clothing as possible), it's a bit of an ordeal for a Newfie girl.  When I got to the resto, after downing about a litre of water, I noticed a canine a few feet away.  Normally, I'm not a fan of animals in restos (it's gross; am I wrong here?) but M and I agreed that this pathetic-looking pooch pretty much summed up how all of Sydney was feeling that day.

Margaret ended up ordering the Big Breakfast - I think - which consisted of bacon (back bacon) 2 eggs and (sourdough) toast for something ridiculous like $8.  This is a bargain, folks.  I also love how Aussies tend to add a grilled tomato to breakfast - that's my kinda garnish.  

Big Breakfast? 

I was feeling eggs and smoked salmon of some kind, so I went for the scramble with spinach.  It was delicious.  I felt like shoving the whole thing between those two slabs of Turkish toast and making an awesome sambo, but I erred on the side of conservative calories, and simply had my pile of eggs with a touch of toast. 

Smoked Salmon & Spinach Scramble
w/ Turkish Toast ($15-$17ish)

I also ordered a pretty good coffee - but one that ended up costing me about $6! Australians are serious about their java.  I once ordered an iced coffee and received a glass of the brew topped with about two scoops of vanilla ice cream.   I wanted cold coffee, not a calorie fix!  Anyway, on this occasion, I ended up with a frappucino-y type-thing, which sated my fix for both caffeine and a cold  drink -  though it wasn't wallet-friendly.

That being said, I recall my b-fast bill being about $24 for the eggs/java, so l likely won't head back to this spot again.  And in Sydney, why would you - when there are so many options for bfast right around the corner.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Countless options for bfast at the Clipper Cafe

Last week, I met my friend Margaret for brunch in Glebe. Margaret is a pal that I 'borrowed' from my sister - they met in Manhattan. Actually, Margaret is the wife that my sister 'borrowed' from her boyfriend's best friend.  Keep up people!  Anyhow, luckily for me, M now lives in Sydney as opposed to Manhattan, so I get to meet her sporadically to catch up; talk about life, food, fun and how much we both miss my sister.

Since we met up in her 'hood (Newtown) the last time, we decided to reunite in Glebe on this sunny Tuesday am.  We decided to go to the Clipper Cafe because: a) my gal pal Christine works there, and b) I wanted to introduce Mags to the amazingness that is La Banette.

When I arrived, M was already waiting patiently with her latte in hand, so we set about ordering some bfast.  Having already poured over many of Sydney's food blogs at images, I decided on the baked eggs Napoli while M decided on a panini sambo.

Baked Eggs Napoli w/ Chorizo & Mushroom
w/ Toasted Sourdogh ($10ish)

Sadly my gal Christine wasn't at work, however, one of her colleagues assisted me with my dilemma: Instead of having to choose between Chorizo and mushroom (pancetta was the other option), she suggested that I have 1/2 and 1/2!  And she didn't charge me extra either.    But seriously; this was such a fantastic dish - and such a creative one too.  The poached eggs (which were a little runny for my taste) were nestled deep within the tomato sauce, topped with a pile of the piquant sausage and tender 'shrooms.  There were even bits of halloomi cheese scattered about.  In all honesty, I haven't eaten this much in one sitting in a long time, but it was just so good - and not something I was going to get packed up as a takeaway.  And, who doesn't love to mop up the tomato sauce left at the finish?

Toasted Sandwich
w/fresh tomatos, pesto & Bocconcinni ($8)

I didn't try M's sambo (I had enough to deal with), but she did rave about the quality.  Looked delish, as did the Prosciutto, mushroom and Brie option.

And once we were finished, I took M over to La Banette where we ooo'd and aww'd over the precious baked goods.  Naught was had however - were were both ready to roll down GPR at this point after our uber satisfying and well-priced bfast at Clipper.  Return visits are soon to happen too, as ther were so many tantalizing options on that menu board. I should note too, that many of the items were vegetarian friendly. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shellfish at Bar Reggio & I'm Angus Steakhouse

I was pretty excited to see my bestie when she visited me in Sydney last week.  She was in town on a conference, and we ended up having some great meals (and drinks) together.  Once such night was the one we went to Bar Reggio, a little Italian BYO in my work hood.  The boys in the office are quite familiar with the restos in this area, and when I asked if there was a good spot for BYO, they said that this was one of their favourites.   There would be quite the line up on a Friday night however, and they only take resos for large groups, so I headed over right after work to put my name down for a table for two.  The gyuy at the door said it would be 9pm for a table for was 7:15.

Once M joined me, we set off to the bottleshop and picked up a couple bottles of wine. Of course, having already scanned the menu we knew that we would be having mussels and picked up a nice Riesling counteract the chili in the tomato sauce. In the meantime, while we waited for 9pm, we headed over to   Pocket Bar; a super cool little bar in Darlinghurst. PB was a great discovery, and I've been back to it several times since; with a funky interior and some serious cocktails, it's a great spot to catch up with friends.
My tab card...
When we got back to Bar Reggio there was still a serious wait, but it was well worth it.  The aromas wafting from the resto were intoxicating and quintessential for an Italian resto: sweet tomato sauce; yeasty bread dough and greasy cheese.  While we stood in the doorway, we watched one of the kitchen guys top a beautiful flatbread with a vibrant blend of fresh tomato and herbs - the bruschetta - which we ended up ordering as well.  

Mussels w/ chili & Napoli sauce
We were really pleased with the mussels.  Both M and I grew up in the Atlantic provinces in Canada, so seafood is very important to us, and we're pretty particular.  These suckers were fresh, plump and flavourful - and a generous serving too.  The sauce was certainly more-ish.  I found myself enjoying that to the same extent as I did the shellfish.  Unfortunately, by the time we got our bruschetta, the tomato topping wasn't quite as generous, but it was still delicious.  In fact, we ended up saving the broth from our muscles and spooning the bits of red pepper, tomato and onion onto the bruschetta base.  That was my idea.  I'm a genius.

Later in the week, we headed over to Cockle Bay in search of some oysters.  We ended up at I'm Angus Steakhouse at a table overlooking the boardwalk.  In that heat, a refreshing bevy was needed, and what better than a gin and tonic. As a side note - my favourite bevvy to beat the heat at home in Sydney is a tall glass of tonic water with a good squeeze of lemon and a generous handful of mint from the garden.  
Oysters Killpatrick ($20)
We ordered some oysters as a little snack before heading to the grocery store to get some ingredients for dinner.  We got 1/2 a dozen, and after debating over Natural and Killpatrick for a good while, we chose the Killpatrick; a topping of bacon and Worcestershire sauce.  The price wasn't too bad for oysters - especially in such a 'touristy' location.  They were Sydney Rock Oysters and the quality of the shellfish was top notch.  Beautiful oysters topped mysterious Worsh. sauce and salty bacon - we were some pretty happy gals.

The following am, I took a stroll over to the Botanical Gardens as my friend had mentioned that the rose garden was in full bloom.  My iPhone was full of flower shots afterward, but these are some of my faves.