31 December 2009

Sugar Train Townsville - From Woeful to Wonderful

Have you ever had such a bad meal at a Restaurant that you felt compelled to write to them and tell them about it?

Have you ever wondered, at a later date, whether they did anything about it?

While I highly doubt that this had anything to do with my feedback – a few months ago when I stayed at the Grand Mercure Apartments in Townsville, I ordered Room Service. It was one of those odd set ups where the Restaurant was on the Ground Floor of the Hotel, but was run independently and provided Room Service as another facet of their business.

Anyhow, I digress. I got in late, I was starving and decided to sample their menu. I hate to say it - but the entire meal was a complete and utter disaster. I was impressed when I read the menu… but any compliments ended there.

30 December 2009

The Christening of 2 Gifts - Kenwood Patissier and Bourke Street Bakery

Do you ever get the feeling you've just stuffed something up? And wonder if it's too late to fix it or just be positive and "will" it to be okay?

Well my Dad bought me the most gorgeous Recipe Book for Christmas - "The Bourke Street Bakery". 365 glossy pages of pure food porn. Sharing every delicious, detailed recipe that has made said bakery the foodie landmark we all know and love.

So I'm loath to blame the book and much more willing to blame my own aversion to reading recipes all the way through before diving headfirst into them.

In this instance I think that the reason for my downfall was a mere tablespoon of sugar.

Vapiano - My only reason to pay for parking in the city.

Tell me this - when was the last time you walked into a Restaurant and saw the Chefs making the pasta you were just about to eat?

Or what about the last time you got to chat with your Chef while he whipped you up a quick Pappadelle Carbonara?

Or - just for fun now - when was the last time there were fresh LIVING herbs on your table, and a nursery within arms reach where they lovingly tend to them for your eating pleasure?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you might have had trouble answering those questions...?

Well if you want to change all that - I can tell you where you will get all of the above and more. Much, much more. You'll find it all at Vapiano on Albert Lane, Brisbane City.

27 December 2009

Yes I'm crazy - I prefer Kitchen Bling over Shiny Rings...

Apparently there is a new trend where people are referring to their Engagement Rings as "Promise Rings". That although they are buying the nicest ring they can afford, it is a promise that when they are more established and financially secure - that they will upgrade to their real Engagement ring.

Part of me found this interesting and part of me found it insulting. But then I'm not really a jewellery girl, and I'm too sentimental to book in for an "upgrade". So I find it quite funny that I have married into a jewellery family that loves their bling.

When I finally got through to hubby that I really don't care for sparkly things in the traditional sense - that there was another kind of sparkle that I lusted for - I think he was quite relieved. And while we couldn't afford the one that I really wanted (Candy Apple Red KitchenAid, you will be mine one day...) - I have negotiated the Promise Ring Contract to include my Mix Master.

Ladies and Gentlemen - meet the new addition to my family and reason #758847 why I love my husband.

This is what he bought me for Christmas.
It is beautiful, it is shiny and it gives me happy goosebumps.

I can't wait to christen it - and although I wonder if I'm tempting fate by using it to make something that could be an utter failure... it deserves something classy as it's first conquest.

I was thinking chocolate souffle.

So dear Reader, who is the love in your Kitchen?

25 December 2009

New Years Resolutions - 2010, I'm ready.

That time of year is suddenly upon us and it gets me thinking about all the things I want to achieve next year.

These are my New Years Resolutions for 2010:

Of course there are the usual, boring suspects...

Lose weight (Isn't this on everyone's list??)
Work smarter, not harder (
Basically I want to earn the same money if not more - but lose the bags under my eyes)
Exercise more (
More than nothing isn't hard - consider this one achievable)
Travel (
On the list is UK, USA and maybe even some of Europe)

But what I really want to do this year is:

Drink more cocktails.
I don't drink much or often anymore, so I'm going to splash out this year and order fancy drinks with umbrellas - or at the very least, in a nice glass!

Try sashimi.
I don't eat fish. I'm even allergic to some of them - but I'm intrigued. So this year, I'm going to try it. Probably just one piece, but at least I can say I tried it.

Schedule "Date Night" more frequently.
Maybe I'm just feeling melancholy because I travelled so much in November and December and we have spent Christmas apart - but I'm going to make more effort to spend quality time with hubby this year.

Cook a souffle.
I might do this in private so that if it's a complete flop (literally) no one will ever know... but I really want to give it a go.

Host a Dinner Party.
Not just a BBQ, because we do those a lot already. I mean a real dinner party, with bottled water, fancy candles and real linen.

Catch up with the girls more often.
When we caught up for the Journo's birthday - we agreed that we would have girlie drinks at least once a month.

Find the perfect cupcake recipe.
I've tried some good ones, and I've had some spectacular failures. This year - I want to find my failsafe, idiot-proof recipe that works everytime.

Take Hubby to Sydney.
I really want to take him to Rockpool, I think he would love it. And secretly - I'm just desperate to go back!

So, dear Reader - what are your plans for the New Year?

All I want for Christmas is... Sweet Potato Crumble...

Lets be honest. I’m a little bit of a Christmas Grinch.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t tackle Santa in the street or anything but - I don’t like Christmas Music, I don’t send Christmas Cards and I don’t have a Christmas Tree… But I do LOVE Christmas.

And I guess my one redeeming quality in all of this, is that I love it for all the right reasons. I don’t care too much about getting presents (although I do love to give them), for me – this whole day is about family. It makes me so blissfully happy to spend this one fabulous day with my family who I really don’t see enough.

I love the phone calls from my Mum in the weeks before Christmas discussing the menu plan, the somewhat cryptic phone calls from Dad trying to suss out some present ideas – and the blatant “what do you want” from my Brother on Christmas Eve as he battles the last minute shoppers.

I love dancing around Mum’s kitchen that is much too small for one person, let alone the both of us trying to measure flour and sugar and fight over the MixMaster. I love trying new dishes, drinking Champagne before midday and having seconds of dessert at lunch without feeling remotely guilty.

24 December 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - A Gingerbread House

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I waited eagerly through my "probation" period with the Daring Bakers counting down the days until my first challenge would be posted! When it was announced that this month's challenge was going to be Gingerbread Houses - I was both excited and terrified all at once. I am a complete klutz and anything pretty and fiddly is generally beyond my capabilities. BUT, isn't this what I signed up for? To be challenged? To be dared? To try something new. So with equal mixtures of hope (that I wouldn't screw it up) and trepidation (that I most probably would!) - I began measuring ingredients.

23 December 2009

The Cupcake Bakery QVB - You go ALL RIGHT!

What's girl time without a little too much sugar and midnight snacks?

With this thought in mind - and with Mum happily occupied at Planet Cake Cake School - I went on the hunt for "something nice" to share with her over coffee.

I was super excited to try and find Sparkle Cupcakery because I thought it was a cute concept - but a lot of the reviews were pretty uninspiring. They are the minimalist conception of cupcakes. Identically iced in white butter cream, and differentiated with a coloured Smartie. Boring!!

When I want cupcakes - I want pretty, I want imaginative - I want OTT! And I pretty much got all of that at The Cupcake Bakery.

Located in the thoroughfare of the Queen Victoria Building - I quite literally found them by accident and what a happy accident it was.

It took me a good 5 minutes of slack jawed staring before I finally decided on just two - Hummingbird and Tiramisu. I loved the fact that even though I was only buying 2 cupcakes, they giftwrapped them separately for me, and didn't charge me for the pleasure.

The cakes themselves were gorgeous. Light and luscious - the Hummingbird was actually Hummingbird cake. Not "just add water" cake mix with a different flavoured icing. I like that they went to the trouble to keep it authentic.

The Tiramisu was coffee flavoured cake and a light mascarpone frosting and dusted with chocolate shavings. So much effort, so muchly appreciated!

To be honest - we liked these cupcakes so much we went back the next day and got another one...

The Verdict: A really nice cupcakery that makes nicely different cupcakes.

Recommendations: Go with your hearts desire - we had four different ones and loved them all - by those odds, you can't really go wrong!

Contact: The Cupcake Bakery

The Cupcake Bakery on Urbanspoon

Rockpool Bar & Grill - I am in AWE of you.

As a Sales Rep, I travel a lot and with the constant driving and hauling of luggage and laptops - it all takes its toll on my back.

Chiro: Well, sometimes back problems can start with a bad fall. Have you fallen over recently?
Me. Yes.
Chiro: Ahh... do you fall over much?
Me: Yes.
Chiro: Oh, Okay - do you fall hard?
Me: Yes.

I'm sure you get the picture. I have no co-ordination. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I don't think it's genetic - both my parents manage to walk small distances without skinning their knees and my brother played almost every competitive sport available to him. I think it's just me. *sigh*

Anyway... So when my Mum and I went to Sydney to cash in her birthday present - "Class 101 in Cupcake Making" at the divine Planet Cake - there were a few places we wanted to visit while we were there - and Rockpool Bar & Grill was top of our list.

The Oaks Sydney - I love you. Thats all I have to say.

Peking Duck Sausage Pizza with Hoisin Sauce and Julienne Cucumber

I've had many a night out where the company has been fabulous but the food has completely failed to hit the mark. So it was an odd occasion the other night, while in Sydney for a work conference - to have the people we were eating with ruin my night.

Maybe I'm just a spoilt brat. I lived overseas when the UK brought in it's no-smoking policy and arrived back home to Brisbane just in time for QLD to launch ours. So it was with complete horror that I sat down to dinner and watched 2 girls happily light up cigarettes over our Gourmet Pizzas.

21 December 2009

Mugshot Coffee - Awesome Coffee in Auchenflower

Monday's are my nemesis.

If ever there is a day where something, or everything, will go wrong - it is almost always a Monday. This is the day that my alarm clock doesn't go off, that all the towels are in the wash and when I forget to swap my Uggs for work shoes...

But today, everything ran smoothly and I was actually in the car and on track to get to work EARLY. Almost unheard of. So to reward myself for this little fluke of nature - I decided to finally treat myself and try the elusive coffee shop that I pass daily in peak hour traffic and wonder what it's like.

Mugshot Coffee - by the way that I travel - has to be one of the most inconveniently located coffee shops in Brisbane. On the corner of Milton Road and Ridley Streets in Auchenflower, you either have to park and walk, or attempt the trifecta of crossing 4 lanes of traffic, parking and then making it out again. But today - seeing as I was doing so well for time - I thought why not, lets mix it up a bit!

I'm happy to report that the coffee is great. It was great on every level to be honest. The coffee itself was nice and mellow, the milk not warm - but not scalding, and you could actually taste it. Always a positive!
Its always a relief to see the Barista making themselves a coffee (as I did this morning). Not all Barista's drink where they work you know... I also like the fact that they have a sense of humour. When I asked for a "large" - he asked me if I considered the biggest cup the large. which got me mildly excited that they had special, hidden, bigger cups for blatant caffeine addicts like myself. No, apparently not - he had just learnt the hard way that size is a matter of perception.
I had to choke back a laugh when I saw that their Loyalty Program was called "Ugly Mug". Now that is what I call memorable!

While I waited for my coffee he suggested that if I didn't already have all my Xmas presents - he had a cacti breeding program out on the deck - thinking that he was joking - I stuck my head out to have a look... and yes, he really did.

So although I don't feel the need to get a cactus - I will definitely be going back for more coffee. Traffic permitting of course!
Mugshot Coffee
Cnr Milton Road and Ridley Street

20 December 2009

Fresh Sushi Co James Street - Big on Flavour... and the purse strings.

"You get what you pay for". A fairly simple statement, but one that I adhere to strongly - especially where Ice Cream and Sushi are concerned.

I recently grabbed a quick lunch at The Fresh Sushi Co - and it was fantastic. There is no doubt about that whatsoever. But considering you can get a handroll at any Sushi "hole in the wall" for about $2.20, and probably just a little bit extra at my favourite Sushi Station on Brunswick Street - I was completely pampering myself when I paid a whopping $8 for a Tempura Prawn Handroll, $6 for Prawn Salad Handroll and $4 for Miso Soup. That's an expensive takeaway lunch - but it was very nice. $18 and "still hungry" nice... but still!

If its quality Sushi and Sashimi you want - this is as good a place as any to start. They have all the staples and considering that they are attached to one of Brisbane's nicest Fishmongers - you have to assume that the fish is so fresh it's still flopping around out the back.

And the bonus is that it's part of the James Street Markets - the attached Fishmonger had me drooling for Fresh Seafood and lucky I'm travelling to my Parents for Christmas or I would have remortgaged our house stocking up on seafood...


The Fresh Sushi Co
James Street Markets
James Street
New Farm

Ph: 3852 6659

Fresh Sushi Co on Urbanspoon

17 December 2009

Hotel Urban Sydney - The Run Down

Maybe I should wait until tomorrow to write this because I'm pretty grumpy - I tend to get that way when I'm hungry.

But as someone who travels alot - I wanted to get something off my chest. Hotels that don't think drive me insane. Yes
Hotel Urban Sydney - today I'm talking about YOU.

So from a Grumpy Sales Rep - these are my top peeves.

16 December 2009

Hotel Urban Sydney - How could 4 minutes ruin my day completely?

I'm tired. I'm cranky and I'm hungry. I'm still hungry.

After a nightmare trip to Sydney where our
Virgin flight was nearly 3 hours late, we finally arrived at Hotel Urban, our sanity hinging completely on the fact that they had 24 hour room service.

After trudging up to my room, struggling to find the light switch in the dark and then tripping over my bags in my desperation to order dinner - I was flabbergasted when I called Room Service only to be told that the dinner menu finished at 11pm. Oh the Humanity - it was only 11:04pm.

All I wanted was a Club Sandwich with Chips - at this point I would have sold my first born for one - but I was told in no uncertain terms that the only option available was either a Ham, Cheese and Tomato Sandwich or Beef Lasagne. I settled on the H,C&T and politely asked for a side of Chips. No, sorry - these are not available on the late night menu. OMG - I nearly pulled my hair out. Out of sheer desperation for there not to be spit in my sandwich, I ground my teeth and accepted the fact that I was not going to get what I wanted - no matter how simple that request may be.

15 December 2009

Cupcakes for Christmas - Try... and try again!

Today was Secret Santa day in our office - and more than price-enforced mandatory gifts - do you know what that means??? Yes people, it means Champagne at 10am!

In honour of this special day, we came bearing our $20 gifts and a plate of goodies. It was obviously the season for cupcakes as both M and I made loads! There was also the good ol' Aussie staples of Sausage rolls and Chocolate crackles. YUM!

I found a gorgeous new blog on the weekend, Milk and Honey, and felt inspired to try one of her recipes - I'm still on the hunt for the perfect cupcake recipe - and it was the perfect occasion to give it a whirl.

Although I had a supreme blonde moment, I had meant to make the Chocolate Cupcakes and White Chocolate Icing - but somehow ended up with Vanilla Cupcakes and Chocolate Frosting... I didn't even realise until I had finished making the chocolate frosting and licked the beaters that I had got it back to front. *sigh*

So back to the drawing board - I rifled through Donna Hay's Chocolate book and decided to whip up a quick batch of the White Chocolate Frosting. This was a complete FAIL. I don't know what I did wrong but it looked like it had started to split and because I am a relatively new baker - I had no idea how to put it back together again... But seeing as it was still thick enough to put in a piping bag - I decided to continue on as normal and hope for kind lighting at the party!

13 December 2009

Onyx Bar and Restaurant - Cocktails, Tapas and Girl Talk...

I'm always a bit nervous taking people somewhere I love. What if they don't like it? What if the staff are having a bad day and ruin your night? Or what if the food - that is normally awesome - is suddenly crap?

I didn't have any genuine concerns when I met the Journo and the Shrink at Onyx but it's still just a little bit nerve racking. As always - and I have lost count of how many times I have been here - Onyx delivered. I'm not quite sure what it is I like about this place. They just seem to get it right, every single time. And consistency in itself is a damn fine trait to have.

12 December 2009

Poppy Cakes - Blissfully full fat

I love, love, love other people's birthdays! There is something so special about helping people you love celebrate special milestones in their lives and birthdays are one of the perfect examples.
Tomorrow is the Journo's birthday but TODAY is girlie celebration day. She is one of the hardest people to buy gifts for - but she is so easy to feed. So today we are off to Onyx for cocktails and tapas - and they have been kind enough to let me bring cupcakes. Because after all, it's not a birthday if there's no cake!

The Journo and her Mum have trialled most of the cupcake shops in Brisbane, but to be honest, I can't remember their verdict on Poppy Cakes but I have read good things about them, and (most importantly) I really wanted to try them - so I schlepped up there this morning and got a nice little selection to try.

Belle Epoque Patisserie - I expected more... Chocolate

I have been a very naughty girl today... actually, lets be honest here - I have eaten so much crap this month that I should be asking Santa for Lapband surgery and Lipo...

Do you need more detail? Last week I ate out every night. Birthday Parties, Xmas Parties, Work Dinners and impromptu guests all mean that my kitchen is currently spotless... and my thighs no doubt a little bit thicker. *sigh*

To add to the list - tomorrow is the Journo's birthday - but we are celebrating today while the menfolk are away. And by celebrate I mean Cocktails, Tapas and Cupcakes... what better way to spend the day?

So it was up early this morning to go get said cupcakes and because you can't (well, aren't meant to) have cupcakes for breakfast - I called into Belle Epoque for a Cafe au Lait and Pain au Chocolat... When the Valley used to be my stomping ground, I used to look longingly at the Patiserrie window but never actually made it in. So today, while I am playing Bachelorette - I snuck in for a calorific breakfast treat.

Elixir HQ Coffee - It's Roasting HOT!

I'd heard about Elixir HQ Coffee at Stafford from hubby who works at Everton Park, and they have quite the little gossip station there. They know all the comings and goings about all the local businesses - and hubby, knowing what a caffeine fiend I am - was pretty excited to be the first to tell me about them opening a cafe hub.

Yes, thats right - My name is Joy and I'm a caffeine addict. Or rather, a semi-reformed one. I have made massive progress since my years in London where I was known for inhaling a good 12 cups a day - now I'm down to 2... 3 if I'm having a bad day. But still - if I haven't had my fix by 10 am I'm guaranteed a migraine... so the addicition has definately not eased its hold on me yet.

So while hubby was away throwing himself out of planes and swimming with sharks (Yes, I'm married to an extremist) I took the opportunity to go and suss out this new comer. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I have no sense of direction, so TomTom and I set off to find Elixir and sample it's wares.

Good thing I had my GPS or I would have been screwed. At the very least, I would have turned around and gone home. Surprisingly they are in a very industrial area of Stafford - so much so that I literally only found them because I wound down my window (heavy tinting on the work cars!) and followed my nose. There is no smell quite like freshly roasting coffee in the morning - thats for sure!

11 December 2009

Heinz - I am sooo disappointed in you. Chicken does not belong in a can.

So I ask you this question... Is it fair to condemn a product you haven't actually tried yet? I say 'yes', if said product is gross enough to warrant it. But my friends - and especially D - have a real issue with me bagging something before I can offer a legitimate opinion.

So this post will be a 2 parter - mainly because tomorrow I have to actually go out and buy one... What am I talking about?


It is wrong on so many levels. I don't even eat fish in a can - so chicken is obviously beyond me. The only meat that I buy in a can is Cat food... but for the sake of transparency - tomorrow I will buy a tin and offer you my opinion.

I'm pretty sure it isn't going to change...

Don't believe me? The photo evidence isn't enough? Check out the Heinz website!

10 December 2009

Chouquette - A little bit of Paris in New Farm

I remember when my first friend got married and she told me that her Mother-in-Law was a nutcase who belonged on “Everyone Loves Raymond” so I was hugely concerned about acquiring my own family of inlaws – especially when she told me “They even started out normal… but as soon as we were married, all the kookiness came out”. So it’s such a nice surprise for me to have a whole other family that I really do adore. (We’ve been married for almost a year now, and no new kookiness to report on yet!)

It was my MIL’s birthday recently and it was just too revoltingly hot to make her a cake – even though it went against everything I believe in – that birthdays should ALWAYS be celebrated with cake. So to try and make up for it and to help ease my guilt – I promised to take her out for a nice coffee (and cake of course!). She had just recently come back from Paris and was desperately missing the wonderful Boulangere’s that dot every street corner in France – so where else could I take her but Chouquette.

Lone Star Steakhouse - No Stars from me.

I don't have many fond memories of Boarding School - and unfortunately that was the last time I had been to Lone Star - so when our friend D had his birthday and chose this American Steakhouse as the venue - I had to stomp down all the traumatic flashbacks those years entail.

Looking back on the night, it's not hard to see that it was doomed to fail. In the car on the way over, the Journo happily told us that she had booked our table a week early and confirmed it that day. It was a Tuesday night, so I wasn't concerned in the slightest, but did find it quite funny that the Manager had no idea who we were or that there were ANY bookings for that night...

And it just got worse.

09 December 2009

Ioesco Sanctuary Cove - Authentic Italian at its best

"They serve this at the Pearly Gates you know" the waiter said as he picked up our empty plate of what was once Sticky Date Pudding. I was (moderately) embarrassed by how quickly we demolished this dish, but that shame faded pretty quickly when I saw another girl at our table actually pick up her plate and lick it. That is how you know a dessert is good. When a girl who prides herself on being impeccably presented, loses herself in the moment and licks clean the china.

But I've gotten ahead of myself... After drinks at Bubbles on Cove, we hightailed it to Ioesco before our stomachs started to digest themselves - for all the complaining that men do about how long it takes us to get ready - we were at the bar on time, and still waiting over half an hour later for the Metrosexuals to arrive... but gee they were handsome when they finally made it!

Service at Ioesco was swift and friendly, drink orders taken the instant bums were on seats and delivered soon after. Big tick there, and many more to follow throughout the night.

Bubbles on Cove - A Sanctuary of gorgeous wines...

"Should we be cheeky?" the Boss asks... "there's only a $10 difference?". And while I was internally salivating - I somehow conjured the sensible part of my nature and convinced her that drinking Veuve Clicquot ($80) on a Wednesday night - while thoroughly enjoyable - was probably tipping the scales of "cheeky" and managed to talk her down into the bottle of Moet ($70) instead.

I tell you what, life is good when you can end the day with some bubbles - but life is magnificent when those bubbles are French!

After a big day at the round table, discussing next years business plan - Champagne was definitely in order for the debrief, and where else but "Bubbles on Cove" in the Sanctuary Cove Village.

This was my first trip to Sanctuary Cove but I am definitely a fan. I will be making a concerted effort to bring hubby back here... although we probably won't be drinking Moet on that trip!

07 December 2009

Life is Grand when you get free recipe books!

Ever since I was a little girl I have been obsessed with my Mum's collection of Recipe Books. Taking up almost 3 shelves on our bookcase at home, they were an oasis of colours, flavours and delicious looking wonders that were usually unavailable in the small, remote town I grew up in. They were a reminder of the places that my Mum had been, the travels that, one day, were ahead of me.

So it is no wonder, now that I have a home (and bookshelf!) of my own - that it is filled with a variety of Cook books. Asides from the one lonely "Dirty Weekends: A 4wd guide to Queensland" - this is my domain. In fact - I don't even know why that book is there in the first place...

So it was squeals all round last week when I got not just one, but 2 free Recipe Books!

Marie Claire: Spicy

I have always been a big fan of Marie Claire books, everything is so delciously well styled, the photos are gorgeous and recipes always work. The secret is to get a book that actually has recipes you want to cook and eat at home, rather than just daydream and drool over.

It has a broad range of dishes from nibbles, to mains and even a few desserts as well as a great "basics" sections to get you started. If Quince and Red Wine Duck, Cider Glazed Pork and Hazelnut Meringue with Marinated Berries sound appealing... then this book is a winner for you. There are even some cocktails just to round it off as the perfect last minute entertainer.

How did I get it free? Mt Ommaney Shopping Centre sent out a mailer with a coupon. All you had to do was present the coupon and walk away with your book. Easy? Not quite. The shopping centre is new and badly signed. I walked the entire place twice before I finally found the office and then had to hand over my Drivers Licence, allow it to be photocopied and have her sight my signature... I felt quite violated and secretly wondered if they were doing some kind of social experiment... but I did get a free book, and a Marie Claire one at that.

Delicious: Summer

I was super excited when this book arrived in the mail, I have been a long time subscriber of Delicious Magazine and absolutely love the way they produce this magazine. I was slightly disappointed when I flicked through it though as it all seemed a little bit weird.

Don't get me wrong - I love to try new things and experiment a little - but the majority of people I cook for are pretty "safe" - so when I flicked and saw recipes like: Curried Crab and Watermelon Salad, Lamb Cutlets with Strawberry and Feta and Chilled Cucumber Soup with Spicy Crab - I was intruiged, but disappointed as I couldn't think of a single way that I could dress those meals up and make them look "normal". I could already see the horrified faces of the Carnivores at our next BBQ... "I think your wife's gone mad, she's put some of the dessert on the meat..."

But today, I have had a chance to have a better look - and I'm hooked! Pork and Chorizo Kebabs, Coconut Cream Tarts with Tropical Fruits and Herb Crusted Beef with Confit Cherry Tomatoes had me drooling and will easily pass inspection by the less-than-adventurous! I cannot wait to pull some of these recipes out of the bag for Christmas!

How did I get it for free? PayPal and ABC Online were doing a promo where any purchase at ABC Online that was paid for with PayPal would score you a copy of Delicious: Summer.

I love ABC Online and I love PayPal - so for me it was a no brainer, it just meant that Dad's Xmas present was bought via internet instead of the local shop - but no clues Dad!

Would I recommend either or both of these cookbooks? Absolutely - but like I said earlier - make sure they are recipes that you will actually try out one day! Happy cooking :)

06 December 2009

Qantas - What a surprise you are...

Because I travel so much - I often get asked who I "choose" to fly with. It's a fair enough question I guess, but one that is usually hard to answer.

The answer being - I love Virgin! I think Richard Branson is a Legend and I love that he expanded his entrepreneurial vision to Australia. On the other side of the coin - I refuse to fly Jetstar . I say that and it sounds quite Diva'ish doesn't it? But I have found out the hard way that I can't trust them to get me where I need to be on time, with my sanity (and luggage) intact.

But last but not least - I like Qantas - they can be expensive, but funnily enough they seem almost designed for Sales Reps. They always seem to have a flight that fits my schedule perfectly - so although I use Webjet to compare my flights and book the cheapest - more often than not, it is Qantas that wins because of timing.

But I do have to give Qantas credit where credit is due. They have improved their refreshments 100% in the last couple of years. From weird sludgy "things" that required an imagination and cast iron stomach - to absolutely divine cookies and drinkable coffee. Whoa! I'm not sure when it happened - but I'm liking it!

To give you an example - today was a choice between Raspberry and Apple Muffin or White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies.

The Muffin was supercute, with visible raspberries and fresh, sticky, icing; The generous biscuit was from the well known and loved Byron Bay Cookie Company . If neither of those were to your liking - they also had some stray Luken & May Butterburst Cookies available. Amazing. Customer Service and Quality Bites have made it our skies!

Considering all of this is available within the cost of your *cough, exorbitant * fare - it is a nice added extra.

And given that both the Cookies are Australian Companies... I can't speak for the Muffins - it's great to show a bit of Aussie Loyalty too!

Cairns... the Round-up...

It's been quite an eventful trip this one - I've found some new places that I love, finally found the courage to dump those that have been "unfaithful" and discovered some experiences I want to come back and share with Hubby.

Lets get the bad out of the way - I have finally walked away from my (previously #3 favourite) Sushi joint - they have disappointed me for the last time. That being said, although I was obviously on the rebound - I found my new love fairly quickly.

05 December 2009

Skybury Coffee - Cairns Airport Saviours...

Sometimes I feel a little bit like Tom Hanks in that Airport Movie "The Terminal" - so much of my working life revolves around airports and my struggle to get in and out of them with most of my sanity in tact.

My weak point is that so much of my sanity really does hinge on coffee. And as I'm sure most of you know - Airport Coffee is usually revolting, and hideously overpriced at that.

So thats why I was so surprised (Read: Delighted, ecstatic, in awe) that one of the new tenants of Cairns Airport is Skybury Coffee.

I have just paid $12 for a Large Mocha, Ham and Cheese Croissant and a bottle of water. By Airport standards - I have just committed highway robbery. And to top it off - it is droolworthy wonderful.

While everyone whinges about coffee - I am a particular snob when it comes to pastries. I blame it on my years in London where I worked with a real French and a real Austrian baker. They made pasties so light you nearly had to tether them to the bench. So when I see that stodgy dough you usually see here called "Croissants" - the hackles on the back of my neck go up.

But their croissants (and I could see it from the display cabinet) were superlight and fluffy with millions of tiny butter infused layers. Heaven.

But on top of it all - not only did they provide me with a breakfast I would have been happy to have in any cafe in the country - they also delivered it to my table - didn't stand there and schreech out "Nuuuuumber 3... Nuuuumber 3....?". And guess what else? There was a little chocolate on the side. God I love you guys!

So I ask you Skybury Coffee, where have you been all my life and what took you so bloody long to move into the airport??? :)

04 December 2009

ba8 Lounge Bar - No lounges to be had, but fabulous Spring Rolls!

There are some great perks to being a Sales Rep - I get to travel a lot, (usually) stay in nice Hotels and eat out at Restaurants I couldn't afford normally.

One of the downsides, however, is that I usually travel alone. That in itself isn't so bad, being on my own reminds me that I'm a big girl that can look after herself - it reasserts my independance - but I absolutely hate eating by myself. I feel like such an idiot, sitting alone in a Restaurant, so self concious that I honestly can't enjoy my meal.

So, that being said, I almost always have Room Service. I looooove Room Service. There is something so luxurious about eating dinner in bed, getting crumbs everywhere and knowing you'll have fresh sheets tomorrow! (Through no effort of my own either!)

But today - well today was a shocker, I had such a bad day that all I wanted was to go to the bar, have a few drinks to unwind and hopefully wash away the disaster that was Friday.

03 December 2009

Sushi Zipang - Cairns newest sashimi on the block

Well after yesterdays disaster - I was still hankering for a sushi fix - and unexpectedly my afternoon suddenly wasn't so busy and I actaully had a proper lunch hour.

Seeing as I had so rudely dismissed a friend's sushi reccommendation last time - today I decided I would track it down and see if I could make a new find.

Let me start by saying that I have absolutely no sense of direction. Pair that with my complete lack of spatial awareness and i'm a pretty dangerous combination when lost.

But I had hope - and an Iphone - and was fairly sure that I could find it on my own without having to admit defeat. It did take me about 45 mins of wandering around Cairns in 40C heat - but when I found it - it was so worth the effort. Lets just hope I can find it again the next time I'm in town... I think I will program it into my GPS... might be easier...?

When I finally found it - it wasn't what I was expecting... it almost looked like a Barber shop from the outside - complete with striped poles and flags, but as soon as I ventured inside, I was welcomed with a hail of Japanese greetings and big toothy smiles.

There is something so comforting about eating in an ethnic restaurant where not only is it filled with customers of that region, but also run by staff who don't speak English. It just feels so authentic.

So although I battled through a conversation for water, a menu and directions to the bathroom - the sushi (and thats what I was there for!) was faultless. It was super fresh, at least 15 different kinds on the train at any one time and the sashimi was glistening and quite obviously straight off the trawler.

By the time I left, there was a line up of about 20 people out the front waiting for a seat at the train, and I cursed myself for taking so long to find this place - it is definately worth the wait!

If you're in Cairns - call in and see them - you won't regret it! I miss them already.

Sushi Zipang
39 Shields Street

Sushi Zipang on Urbanspoon

Sushi Train Cairns Central - You've dropped the ball.

I think I have always been a comfort eater. I’m not really sure when it started, but when I think back to its origins – I have one distinct memory that could possibly hold the key. I was 12 years old, unceremoniously shipped off to boarding school and crying my eyes out at the airport. How upset I really was, I can’t remember – but I do remember hoping against hope that if I could just wield a guilt trip big enough – maybe my parents would bring me home. So, cue the tears and a hysterical phone call home – I was met by my calm but sooky father on the other end who said to me “go find a vending machine and get yourself some chocolate – that will make you feel better.”

So, with that one memory as evidence – and along with my Maori thighs, ugly feet and propensity to scar – I would also like to blame him (lovingly of course!) for my emotional eating habits. Sorry Dad!

So today was one of the worst work days I have had in a long time and the only thing that kept me going, and off the verge of tears was that I was going to be in Cairns for lunch, and could go perk myself up at my 3rd favourite Sushi Train. I had pinned a lot of hope on my lunch today, while I love that I get to travel for my job, some trips are harder than others and therefore need a silver lining. On this trip, that silver lining was meant to be Sushi but it didn't quite happen.

I had been given recommendations for the next time I had Sushi here – but I loyally (read: stupidly) and politely ignored them. The last time I ate there I was horrendously disappointed, I ran in for a late lunch between appointments and despite it being (only) 3pm, there was only one kind of sushi on the train. And while I tried to catch the attention of the Chef to order something else, she did her absolute best to NOT make eye contact with me and continued to make several rolls more of the SAME sushi…

So out of frustration and lack of options, I ate the one, boring sushi and left, but convinced myself that it was just an off day. After all, I have been eating here for almost 3 years – and this was the first bad experience.

So today, me and my emotions showed up for lunch only be confronted with some very messy and average looking sushi. I say messy because it looked like I made it. And I wouldn’t pay money for the sushi that I make. Nevertheless, I took and seat and ordered my favourites; Prawn with Avocado and Snow Pea Shoots and Teriyaki Chicken with Avocado; only to be looked at blankly and told that they “don’t make that anymore”.

With frustration mounting, I picked off other items that looked vaguely appetizing and was unimpressed on all counts. The ones which were meant to be hot, were cold and the ones that were meant to be room temperature were frigid and stiff. They had some wonderful sounding specials available but they were all hot – and seeing as it was nudging 40C outside – it was way to hot to even consider them.

So while I still feel a twinge for loyalty for Sushi Train – I think the next time I’m in Cairns, I really will have to take a look at those recommendations…just in case - because I think my #3 favourite spot is up for grabs...

Sushi Train
Cairns Central Shopping Centre
Shields Street

Sushi Train on Urbanspoon

02 December 2009

The way to a mans heart is definately through his stomach...

I've noticed a trend with my hubby - whenever I'm getting ready for a big trip away, he gets moody and irritable. It's sweet in it's own weird way - but difficult - I know that he misses me, but being a grump the day before I leave isn't pleasant for either of us.

So after almost 3 years of doing this job, I have the "day before leaving" down to an artform.

It usually involves Breakfast - he pays, that way he feels like he's spoiling and providing for me before I venture off on my lonesome into the big bad world of retail.

Then, comes the mid-morning downer that is generally followed by some kind of reflective "man activity" like mowing the lawn, playing with the dog or cleaning his car.

Last but not least, comes the "Serious Sads" where he acts like his favourite goldfish has died. The big pouty lip is out and words like "abandoned", "neglected" and "lonely" get bandied about quite a bit. And after about half an hour of letting him wallow in self pity - I get started on a fabulous dinner to perk him up. (See, told you I had it down pat!)