31 December 2009
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
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.
27 December 2009
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
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!
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?
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
23 December 2009
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
Chiro: Well, sometimes back problems can start with a bad fall. Have you fallen over recently?
Chiro: Ahh... do you fall over much?
Chiro: Oh, Okay - do you fall hard?
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.
21 December 2009
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.
20 December 2009
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.
17 December 2009
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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?
CHICKEN. IN. A. CAN.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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!
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
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
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
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.
39 Shields Street
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...
Cairns Central Shopping Centre
02 December 2009
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!)