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A Sydney food and restaurant blog
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    Get your good food face on – Good Food Month officially starts on Wednesday this week. From Sydney's favourite Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park to young chefs featured in the Omnivore World Tour; from Let's Do Lunches to Hats Off Dinners through to Sugar Hits – it's all back for the entire month of October for our eating and drinking pleasures.

    Last year's Citi VIP tent at Night Noodle Markets, Hyde Park, Sydney
    Presenting sponsor partner Citi also returns for its seventh consecutive year, and I for one am glad they're again offering the #CitiVIP area with concierge service at the Night Noodle Markets – which this year is opening on weekend nights too.

    Citi VIP concierge service at the Night Noodle Markets, this year from 10-26 October 2014
    As part of a progressive dinner through the city last week previewing Citi-friendly Good Food Month offerings, it showed that our city is indeed a Moveable Feast and Sydney's venues are turning it on for October.

    Freshly shucked oysters from The Morrison, George Street, Sydney
    We started at CBD favourite The Morrison for entrées and wine that's featured in the Citibank Dining Program, where Citi cardholders get a free bottle of wine at selected partner restaurants when paying with their card.

    Delightfully and as I was hoping for, we started with a range of freshly-shucked oysters including a sample that's not yet on the menu.

    The Gold Band Pacific oyster from Tasmania apparently features a gold band colour across the bottom of the shell, but I was too busy immersed in its stunning creaminess and full flavour to notice.

    With as much, if not more flavour than a rock oyster, this spring season-only mollusc may be the one that turns me from my long-favoured Sydney rocks. But that's not to say that the Wagonga Inlet and Pambula Sydney rock oysters weren't briney and great as well, but they're just not the ones I'm currently dreaming of.

    Crab and lettuce taco with salmon caviar and chardonnay vinaigrette from The Morrison
    For Good Food Month, The Morrison is jumping into the Bar Hop with a Tanqueray gin based cocktail and a crab and lettuce taco for $20, as well as Let's Do Lunch featuring oysters then crab linguine (or mushroom gnocchi) with a Yalumba wine, Coopers beer or Schweppes mineral water.

    We followed up our sensational oysters with the cos lettuce 'taco shell' filled with shredded crab meat, salmon roe, chives, chardonnay vinaigrette and a fresh chilli slice that, on this occasion, was bitingly hot.

    Duck fat chips from The Morrison
    And they wouldn't have us leave without sampling cones of Sean Connolly's signature duck fat chips which, served with a house tomato sauce, are about as good a beer snack as there is.

    Thin hand-pulled noodles from Chefs Gallery Jamison, Margaret Street, Sydney
    We toddled on over to our next venue, Chefs Gallery Jamison, for our mains with an interactive component. Head noodle Chef JPL, aka Chef Panda, was on hand for noodle stretching demonstrations as well as lesser seen knife-sliced and piped noodles.

    Noodle making demonstration at Chefs Gallery Jamison
    (Hi, Simon!)

    Seasoned wonton crisps from Chefs Gallery Jamison
    Starting with moreishly seasoned wonton skin crisps and my favourite Macanese pork chop buns, we were treated to a degustation of noodles with accompanying interactive demonstrations.

    Macanese pork buns from Chefs Gallery Jamison

    Pumpkin soup tureens
    We also got a sneak-peek at other seasonal specials, like the pumpkin-contained tom yum soup designed as a special offering in time for Halloween.

    Pumpkin tom yum soup

    Pumpkin seafood tom yum soup serving
    The sour, spicy tom yum soup with a variety of seafood and vegetables is served in a whole steamed pumpkin with its flesh softened for scooping out with the thin soup which is both novel and unique.

    Zha jiang hand pulled noodles
    The hand-pulled wheat noodles became zha jiang noodles in a tasty pork mince sauce that many likened to an Asian version of bolognaise.

    Chef Panda knife-cutting sorghum noodles
    Meanwhile, I was taken by the thick salmon-pink hued knife-sliced sorghum noodles that Chef Panda essentially shaved from a huge block of dough, straight into a pot of boiling water.

    Sorghum knife-cut noodles
    Served with a spicy Shanghainese chilli and soy sauce, it was all about the texture and al dente chew of the thick noodles, as well as the grainy flavour of the sorghum flour.

    Piping fish noodles
    (Hi, jeroxie!)
    Lastly, the fish noodles squeezed out in single noodle formation from a piping bag into boiling soupwere completely new to me. A moussey dough of minced fish and flour, the piped noodles were served in a clean chicken soup, allowing the airy textured and delicately fish flavoured noodles to shine.

    Fish noodles in chicken soup
    For Good Food Month Chefs Gallery, and Chef Panda, will make nightly appearances at the Night Noodle Markets; demonstrating his craft, as well as a Chinese Food & Art night with an eight-course banquet at Chefs Gallery Jamison.

    The private dining room at Sokyo, The Star, Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont
    Image courtesy of ChopinandMysaucepan
    We hightailed it to our final destination of the night, Sokyo at The Star for desserts. Graced with a private dining room which I've never seen before, we were laden with sweet, sweet gifts from the pastry kitchen.

    Mochi ice cream from Sokyo
    The sweet bounty included my favourite mochi ice cream: a thin sheet of softly chewy and glutinous, green-tinted Yatsuhashi Kyoto mochi encasing a nugget of strawberry milkshake ice cream. This is Sokyo's go-to desert for non-sweet tooths and something smaller and lighter.

    Goma Street from Sokyo
    My other favourite, Goma Street, goes to the other end of the richness scale. Black sesame ice cream is the sesame in the translated ‘Sesame Street’ dessert while the tower of tempered chocolate rounds, caramelised white chocolate mousse and black sesame candy take the dessert way beyond child's play.

    Tofu cheesecake from Sokyo
    I adored the playfulness of the tofu cheesecake which incorporates cream cheese and tofu in an airy filling that's then re-moulded into tofu cartons with a biscuit base. Highlighting the kitchen's creativity, the thyme sugar and strawberry consommé could well have been superfluous afterthoughts to the excellent cheesecake.

    Strawberry meringue
    I couldn't manage the rich-looking dark chocolate and peanut butter fondant served with vanilla ice cream, nor the lighter strawberry meringue option with sheep’s milk yoghurt sorbet with a veritable 'salad' of garnishes

    But I did not refuse the award-winning McWilliam's Morning Light Botrytis Semillon which was well suited to the richer, sweeter desserts.

    Peanut butter and chocolate fondant
    Sokyo joins Good Food Month’s Bar Hop with a choice of Tanqueray gin cocktails and their delicious seafood offerings. Chef Chase Kojima is also taking small groups through the Sydney Fish Markets in the Instant Expert sessions while their Let’s Do Lunch offering is a varied bento box.

    See the full Good Food Month program for details on all associated events and activities, and I’ll see you out and about this great eating town throughout October.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the Citibank Moveable Feast preview of Good Food Month as a guest, with thanks to Haystac.

    The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room on Urbanspoon

    Chefs Gallery Wynyard on Urbanspoon

    Sokyo on Urbanspoon

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    The new Central Park Sydney development on Broadway, or Chippendale, is quite something. On the site of the former Carlton and United Brewery which closed in 2003, Central Park comprises a shopping centre, heaps of restaurants and apartment buildings that loom over Broadway – at least prettily with innovative hanging gardens and artistry.

    Entrance to Ippudo, Central Park, Broadway, Chippendale/Ultimo
    In a bit of a coup for the brand new development complex, Central Park's lower ground courtyarded The Dining District is home to Ippudo's second Australian restaurant – officially opening today.

    Inside the restaurant
    With the same ramen noodle menu as the flagship Westfield Sydney restaurant and slight variations to the other portions of the menu, Ippudo at Central Park is a smaller venue with the same ethos of loud, shouty welcomes; comfortable seating; heart- and stomach-warming tonkotsu pork bone broth and seriously good hakata style thin ramen noodles.

    Nikumiso tofu salad
    Quite aware of the substantial portion sizes and rich Ippudo tonkotsu broth, we started with a cold tofu salad topped with a miso flavoured ground pork mince sauce.

    With mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes, avocado and shredded carrot and daikon doused in a creamy dressing, the meaty miso sauce with was simply delightful with the refreshing cubes of tofu.

    Shiromaru Special - original tonkotsu broth with black mushrooms
    For the main game, I opted for the Shiromaru Motoaji ramen – which in hindsight, I realised is the same one I order every time at Ippudo.

    Served with the original, creamy white tonkotsu broth, thick-cut pork loin, bean sprouts, shredded woodear mushroom and shallots, the Shiromaru Special option brings an additional side plate of a whole flavoured hard-boiled egg, chashu simmered pork belly slices, nori roasted seaweed sheets, bamboo shoots and extra bean sprouts, mushroom and shallots.

    Shiromaru Special toppings
    It could almost be two meals but it's interesting to compare the pork loin with the thinner-sliced but fattier chashu.

    The noodles, requested 'hard' but available in 'medium' and 'soft' too, take in a lot of the flavour of the creamy broth which boasts plenty of depth and not an overwhelming fattiness. The addition of crushed, roasted sesame seeds and layu chilli oil at the table finish off the Shiromaru Special perfectly.

    Akamaru Shinaji - tonkotsu broth with red miso blend
    The red-hued Akamaru Shinaji is also based on the original tonkotsu broth but is enhanced with a red miso paste blend and a drizzle of black garlic oil.

    A more modern style of ramen than the classic tonkotsu varieties, the miso broth still shines with porkiness while chashu, corn kernels, bamboo shoots and shallots complete the bowl.

    Kitchen and counter seating
    I find it hard to contemplate a whole lot of sides or dessert when it comes to ramen as with extra toppings, all the soup and noodles – it's a really substantial meal in one bowl.

    Kaedama extra noodles are available for those looking into a noodle-less bowl of soup still hungry but Ippudo also does a pretty good job of entrées and sides, like the chashu gohan pork belly rice bowl and the ubiquitous gua bao style pork bun.

    So, it's number two for Ippudo at Central Park, officially opening today for your queuing and ramen-eating pleasure, Chippendale.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Ippudo Sydney as a guest, with thanks to SD Marketing.

    Ippudo Sydney on Urbanspoon

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    As part of Good Food Month, for the month of October King Street Wharf restaurants are offering Signatures by the Wharf: a set of a signature main meal or dishes with a drink, enjoyed by the sparkling waterside.

    I shouldn't have been all too surprised at the bloke-heavy population at Steersons Steakhouse on a weeknight dinner, where corporate cards seem to get a good workout. The restaurant at the northern end of Lime Street overlooking the wharf was almost completely full by the time we put orders in, and with steak, wine and a whisky trolley out the front – it makes perfect sense.

    Freshly baked damper with salted butter and mixed marinated olives from Steersons Steakhouse,
    Lime Street, King Street Wharf, Sydney
    We started with freshly baked damper that was almost as soft and light as fairy floss; certainly softer than any white bread I've known and nothing like the damper I made at school camp all those years ago. Served with plain old butter, I'd recommend having it with some of the other very tempting starter options.

    The mixed marinated olives were an ideal accompaniment, comprising meaty Sicilian green olives as well as kalamata olives in a chilli, citrus and herb marinade.

    Pan-Fried Chorizo with mint & basil in a hot pan
    There was even more flavour packed into the chorizo entrée, served in slices in a small, hot frying pan with mint, basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar – the latter cutting through the fatty, well-spiced pork sausage. With oils from the chorizo pooling at the bottom of the pan with the vinegar, it combined to make all too delicious (and naughty) a dipping oil.

    Petite Grasslands (NSW) rib-eye with chips
    Steersons' Good Food Month signature offer is the petite Grasslands rib-eye with red wine jus and a choice of potato: mashed, baked in its skin or fat chips, plus a glass of house wine. At 220 grams, the petite rib-eye steak is a good size for dinner with a couple of entrées and sides although hungrier types may look to the larger steak offerings.

    Done medium-rare and served with hot English and seeded mustards, I was delighted with my petite steak which was pink and juicy but not bloody, so very tender, well-seasoned and charred on the surface, and full of beefy flavour.

    With crisp, wide (and well done) chips and a few token green leaves, it was all about the signature steak that was so well executed by the Steersons kitchen.

    Havericks Dry Aged Beef, NSW – Riverina rib on bone (pasture fed)
    Outside of the Good Food Month special, the Riverina rib on the bone came highly recommended. Dry aged by Havericks for six-to-eight weeks, the tenderness of the not-too-thick 400 gram steak was a marvel, though I found my petite rib-eye tastier – if only for seasoning.

    The coin of confit garlic and thyme butter was a rich addition along with the pot of red wine jus. Cutely, the serve of mashed potato was presented in a cloud-like fashion next to some plate greenery.

    We paired our steaks with the easy-quaffing, excellently fruity, medium-bodied Jed Limited Reslease Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.

    Wild Rocket & Parmesan with goat cheese & beetroot
    We added vegetables by way of the rocket and parmesan salad, differentiated from the masses with the addition of tartly-pickled beetroot – both the usual and golden varieties – which were thinly sliced but maintained an earthy firmness.

    A goat's cheese dressing was served with the rocket leaf salad, both drizzled atop and in a side pool, while I think there was also a touch of balsamic vinegar.

    Sauteed garlic mushrooms
    I adore mushrooms in most forms but it would be hard to top the sautéed garlic mushrooms at Steersons. Served in another small frying pan, I think it was a mix of Swiss brown and button mushrooms cooked just so with the perfect hit of garlic, topped with breadcrumbs. If I were a vegetarian (I probably wouldn't be at Steersons Steakhouse, but), this is what I would want to eat all the time.

    We didn't leave time or space for dessert on this occasion but for me, when it"s all about the steak – as is Steersons' signature – it's all about the steak.

    There's a wide range of dining options on King Street Wharf and so there's a wide range of offers from the likes of Bungalow 8, Cargo Bar, Casa Ristorante Italiano, George's Mediterranean Bar & Grill, Kobe Jones, Wharf Teppanyaki, La Cita, Nicks Bar and Grill, The Malaya and Steersons Steakhouse. See all of the Signatures by the Wharf dining offers at King Street Wharf.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Steersons Steakhouse as a guest, with thanks to The PR Partnership.

    Steersons Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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    Despite the name, Good Food Month isn't all about the food. Bar Hop, this year presented by Tanqueray, sees Sydney bars match a Tanqueray gin cocktail with a bar snack, for pre or post dinner snacking or as the name suggests, bar hopping your way around town.

    Good Food Month Bar Hop presented by Tanqueray, at select Sydney bars, 1-31 October 2014
    With 49 participating venues, you're not short on options for bar hopping, especially in the Sydney CBD, Pyrmont, Surry Hills or Bondi areas.

    Rolling into the meat of Good Food Month, bar hopping was high on my agenda last Thursday night with an especially-arranged Bar Hop courtesy of Tanqueray.

    Tanqueray Bar Hop transport courtesy of Prestige Chauffeurs
    It was rather nice to be picked up from work by a pristine chauffeured car from Prestige Chauffeurs - a family-run business based in the Northern Beaches.

    The evening's plan was to hit up four bars around town for their Tanqueray Bar Hop offerings, all very responsibly with thanks to Prestige Chauffeurs picking us up and dropping us at each bar. If that's not bar hopping in style, I don't know what is.

    Grain Bar at Four Seasons Hotel, George Street, Sydney
    We kicked off the Bar Hop at Grain Bar adjoining the Four Seasons Hotel (in which Sydney's own Pei Modern by Mark Best is opening on 15 October 2014).

    Packed to the gills with the after-work crowd, it was a nice and sweet start to the night with the Violette Royale cocktail featuring Tanqueray gin and Creme Yvette liqueur of violet petals and berries, topped with sparkling wine.

    Violette Royale cocktail with Hiramasa kingfish with limoncello mayonnaise from Grain Bar 
    The girly pink cocktail was matched with a canapé of raw Hiramasa kingfish delicately coiled on a spoon with with limoncello mayonnaise inside.

    There's not really any elegant way of eating small morsels from a soup spoon, and so scoffed in one mouthful it was; the creamy mayonnaise being a highlight flavour.

    Tanqueray gin martini (left) and Bramble 2.0 from Grain Bar
    We managed to squeeze in a cheeky extra round of drinks, including a gin martini (Tanqueray, of course) and Grain's take on the classic Bramble, reinterpreted as a sweet fizz cocktail with great blackberry undertones with the gin.

    But nothing beats a good martini to start a night of drinks and food, especially when there's fat green olives in the mix.

    Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters fron Grain Bar
    We self matched a little food, being unable to resist the thought of freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters, which are a bargain $1.50 each on Thursday and Friday evenings at Grain (from 5-9pm). Salty with brine and served with lemon and red wine vinaigrette, we demolished these beauties in moments.

    Prestige Chauffeurs pick up for next bar on Bar Hop
    With our Prestige Chauffeurs car ready and waiting outside for us, it was all a bit posh leaving a five-star hotel after drinks and hopping into a chauffeured car - to head to another bar. I could get used to this.

    French 75 cocktail at Gilt Lounge, QT Sydney, Market Street, Sydney
    We were dropped off right in front of our next venue, QT Sydney, which boasts three separate bars within the boutique hotel. This evening, Gilt Lounge was our target so it was up the elevator (which customises its song choice based on how many people are in it!), past the quirky lobby, upstairs past Gowings Bar & Grill to the luxe lounge space.

    Gilt Lounge's Bar Hop offering is the classic French 75 champagne cocktail, featuring Tanqueray gin, lemon and sugar, topped with sparkling wine and finished with a lemon twist. It's a great, relatively light cocktail that's totally food and canapé-friendly.

    French 75 cocktail and snapper ceviche spoon from Gilt Lounge
    Gilt's cocktail is paired with their snapper ceviche spoon featuring the fresh diced raw fish dressed with lime juice, super-finely diced red capsicum, baby coriander and shallots on a base of avocado puree - the acidity matching well with the cocktail's light tartness.

    Water and spiced peanuts at Grasshopper Bar, Temperance Lane, Sydney
    Next we stopped in at seminal laneway small bar Grasshopper Bar, which has recently added outdoor seating and a Chinese-inspired food menu.

    As one of the first bars to use jars as glassware, they're forgiven for the water glasses and thanked for the super moreish, salty and spiced peanuts which I felt I ate by the handful.

    Golden Axe cocktail
    Grasshopper's Bar Hop offering was the Golden Axe cocktail of Tanqueray gin and Amaretto - my least favourite liqueur (for the "almond" flavour) - shaken with passionfruit and fresh apple juice. Thankfully, for me, most of the amaretto flavour was hidden beneath the passionfruit, while it did give the cocktail a nice weight.

    Golden Axe cocktail and crispy pastry, duck breast
    The sweet cocktail was paired with Grasshopper's fresh take on Peking duck pancakes featuring a beautifully cooked slice of duck breast presented on crispy pastry with cucumber, pickled vegetables and a sweet brown sauce.

    The concept was great and the flavours fantastically modernised, but structurally the crispy pastry had nothing on traditional pancakes; basically disintegrating on first bite and necessitating the need to either shove it all in in the one mouthful or let it fall to bits on the wooden board.

    Cocktail shaker collection at The Roosevelt, Orwell Street Potts Point
    Back in to our chauffeured car we made the jolly drive to Potts Point and The Roosevelt Bar & Diner, which at this late-ish time of the night was full with a combination of couples and noisy groups at the end of their drinking nights.

    The Roosevelt's gorgeously-presented Bar Hop cocktail and canapé came as one, the salmon gravlax sitting on a concave glass dish balanced atop the vintage glasses.

    East Side Peach cocktail and salmon gravlax from The Roosevelt
    The East Side Peach cocktail was probably my favourite and the least sweet cocktail of the Bar Hop drinks. With Tanqueray gin and a beautiful array of fruit and aromatics, namely ginger poached peaches, pink grapefruit, honey, lime and bruised mint, the cocktail was a star on its own.

    It was served with house-cured Tasmanian salmon gravlax (we were hitting all the raw fish canapés it seems) with a tiny bit of roast kipfler potato and beetroot in a pretty, artful composition that didn't last long.

    Bar Hop completed, it was a comfortable and safe ride home thanks to Prestige Chauffeurs, who have a fantastic service and certainly made bar hopping in heels much easier. The Good Food Month Bar Hop is a great way to discover Tanqueray gin cocktails in Sydney bars, both new and old, near and far (especially if you've got a chauffeur).

    Food, Booze and Shoes participated in the Bar Hop presented by Tanqueray with thanks to Leo Burnett Sydney. Special thanks to Sean and Prestige Chauffeurs.

    Disclaimer: Food, Booze & Shoes is acquainted with staff at Gilt Lounge and The Speakeasy Group.

    Grain Bar on Urbanspoon  Gilt Lounge on Urbanspoon

    Grasshopper on Urbanspoon  The Roosevelt on Urbanspoon


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    Citi VIP area at Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets, 10-26 October 2014, Hyde Park North, Sydney
    If you thought the Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets couldn't get any bigger in Sydney's Hyde Park, you were slightly off. Introducing the first ever Sunday Sessions of the infamous Noodle Markets, from Sunday afternoons at 4pm to 9pm from 10-26 October 2014.

    Lantern feature near the St James entrance
    That's right, the Noodle Markets are on for our outdoor eating pleasure seven nights a week for just over two weeks during Good Food Month.

    Chinese lion dancers
    But wait, there's more. The Noodle Markets have enlisted dessert big guns Gelato Messina, which are killing it in the themed festival scene, as well as bringing up bao barons Wonderbao and Filipino street food maestros Hoy Pinoy up from Melbourne to Hyde Park.

    Citi VIP area
    The opening Friday night was insanely packed so I was glad to be able to squirrel away to the Citi VIP area, with its signature canopy of fairy lights. With a dedicated bar, Chefs Gallery noodle making demonstrations and the in-demand Citi concierge, it's the place to be for Citi cardholders.

    Seating in the Citi VIP area

    Citi concierge in action
    As per last year, the Citi concierges will fetch food from stalls, bypassing the usual queues to deliver food to you in the Citi VIP area.

    I'm not sure if there are rotating options through the two weeks, but on Friday it was only East Ocean Restaurant and Chat Thai on offer.

    Deep fried options of the Jumbo Pack from East Ocean Restaurant

    Steamed dumplings and bao from East Ocean Restaurant
    With Friday drinks well underway, East Ocean's jumbo box of basically everything they have was a good option.

    Top picks would have to be the Peking duck pancakes and salt and pepper pork chops, while the salt and pepper squid legs seem to be my annual Noodle Market must-have. Some of the steamed dumpling options were wanting, and without chilli sauce some were just downright dull.

    Steamed bao and gua bao from Wonderbao
    Sydney loves something fresh, so aside from the long queues in the direction of the literally smoking Hoy Pinoy stall, Wonderbao seemed to be a popular pick with steamed buns as well as gua bao with various fillings on offer.

    The latter garnered nods of approval all round, while the vegetarian steamed bao was moderately interesting to a herbivore.

    OzHarvest stand
    There are fortune cookies on offer at the OzHarvest stand in exchange for a gold coin donation, near the giant inflatable lucky cat.

    Thatchers Cider area

    New seating options

    Yalumba bar (left) and Gelato Messina stall (right)

    SMH subscriber seating area
    Ticks to the organisers for what looks like more seating options this year and some great sponsored spaces like the Thatcher's cider area, Tanqueray Gin Garden, Yalumba bar with upstairs space, and dedicated SMH subscriber seating beneath a tent-like structure.

    Lantern feature near St James entrance

    Lanterns
    I'll be heading back to the over the next couple of weeks - maybe even on a Sunday night - with a hit list off the menu and some nostalgia for another year of Noodle Markets.

    SMH subscriber hub
    East Ocean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

    Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Jan

    We were just a little bit tired when we checked into our hotel in Hobart but I couldn't quite contain my excitement for our dinner booking. A short walk away from the hotel we spotted a little signboard signalling our destination - Ethos Eat Drink.


    Hidden down a little laneway, Ethos Eat Drink, Elizabeth Street, Hobart
    We wandered down the brick-tunnelled corridor and were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful, genuinely rustic venue amid a vegetable garden. Showing some serious Tasmanian heritage, the Ethos dining space was constructed in the 1820s and its surrounds all date back way beyond the 'rustic chic' trend.

    Rich with Hobart history, the restaurant retains strong links to its past with story-filled bits and pieces all around the venue, while it is very strongly linked to the Hobart of today with its focus on locally-grown produce.

    Homegrown herbs and vegetables
    Ethos offers set menus for dinner sittings, made up of whatever is in season and arrives in small batches at the restaurant on the day.

    I opted for the eight course as opposed to the six once I learnt that the extra dishes were going to be charcuterie and cheese. I am, after all, a meat and cheese type of girl.

    Jacob's Ladder Amber Ale and gin with house tonic water
    We skipped the matching wines in favour of our usual: for him, a local beer in Jacob's Ladder Amber Ale from Van Dieman Brewing and a gin and tonic for me. A novel surprise was that Ethos make their own tonic water, bringing that Tassie touch to a simple G&T.

    Jerusalem artichoke chips and crème fraîche
    As an appetiser we first received Jerusalem artichoke chips stuck into a blob of crème fraîche. The curled, skin-on chips were thinly sliced and great with a light crunch.

    Jerusalem artichokes are typically winter vegetables that I don't often cook as they are such small knobbly creatures and require patience, but I'm glad to have learnt a simple and delicious new way of cooking them.

    Fermented apple, apple and miso puree
    The next dish of fermented and fresh apple with miso purée and both herbs and vegetables from Ethos' own garden was a mouthful of sweetness, saltiness, crunch and softness.

    As we were to discover, each dish at Ethos was made using just a few ingredients, together on a plate in a way that still allowed each flavour to shine.

    Confit shallot, leek custard and fermented strawberry
    The rather curious dish of leek custard with confit shallots and fermented strawberry was almost too pretty to eat.

    I'm usually wary of shallots as I find they can overpower flavours but the whole dish was delicate and yet another example of multiple flavours and textures all in one mouthful.

    House made charcuterie
    When the shared charcuterie board arrived I was in food heaven, and missed most of the waiter's descriptions.

    I know that the terrine was moist and beautifully seasoned and that the rilettes were just the right texture of tender, but it was the cured meat that stole the show. I couldn't quite figure out what cut of porky goodness it was but the excellent proportion of fat to meat made each bite just right.

    Dover mussels, dry aged sausage, pickled red cabbage and baby carrots
    Ethos' version of a surf and turf was probably my favourite shared dish of the night. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness of pairing simple vegetables of potatoes, carrots and tangy pickled red cabbage with smoky mussels and a salty, spiced sausage.

    The flavours of each ingredient could either stand by itself or be eaten together in a wondrous land and sea combination.

    Ox tongue, beetroot puree, rapini, pickled onions and cauliflower
    While for some there's something about tongue that's just a bit like chewing a tongue, I adored the ox tongue dish and probably ate more than my fair share.

    This was my first experience eating rapini raw, which has a slightly bitter taste as with most green leaf vegetables.

    Slow cooked pork, broth, kale, spring onion, leek and pickled kohlrabi
    Most other diners had started earlier than us so I'd seen bowls of the slow cooked pork arrive at their tables and smelt its earthy scent. This dish could have been my favourite but I found the pork just a bit dry. I did however slurp up all my broth and eat all my vegies.

    The problem with multi-course menus is that I tend to overeat on the earlier dishes so by the time the mains/proteins arrive, I'm just too full to eat them. I also blame the bread.

    Cheese course
    More bread showed up as an accompaniment to the soft goat's cheese, served with a sweet fruit paste and preserved cherries to mellow the saltiness of the creamy, white cheese.

    Fresh fig, fig puree, sorrel sorbet, chocolate shortbread, rhubarb syrup and buckwheat
    No one was surprised that I barely ate the dessert of figs with sorrel sorbet, but I wasn't too sure about the chocolate shortbread which was just a bit too hard. The sorrel sorbet was a pleasant palate cleanser and tasted as green as it looked.

    Bottle chandelier in the dining room
    We were pretty much the last diners in the place when we finished but not once did we feel rushed. I did feel bad though and forgot to take a picture of the Tasmania's oldest plumbed toilet (circa 1900, viewed through a glass wall) on our way out.

    I like and admire that Ethos uses traditional methods of fermenting, pickling and curing in the food they serve. Ethos is a great representation of the movement by chefs to serve seasonal local produce in a simple, less fussy way - and in a completely, through and through Tassie ethos.

    Ethos Eat Drink on Urbanspoon

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    OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinners, weeknights from 13-24 October 2014 at
    OzHarvest HQ, Maddox Street, Alexandria
    A decade of somethingis a serious achievement these days – 10 year anniversaries; 10 years in the workforce; 10 years since university. Food rescue organisation OzHarvest this year celebrates its 10 year milestone and it's certainly been an incredible journey for the once-fledgling charity and its effervescent, often yellow-clad founder Ronni Kahn.

    OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn
    Since 2004 OzHarvest has delivered 30 million meals to people in need across Australia and saved 9 million kilos of surplus food from going to the landfill.

    OzHarvest facts and figures at the mobile kitchen
    In addition to rescuing surplus food and providing meals to charities with people in need, OzHarvest has expanded into education and training.

    Its NEST nutrition education sustenance training works with people at the food drop-off points while the new Nourish education, training and mentorship program seeks to provide a pathway to food and hospitality industry employment for disadvantaged youth.

    Table for 10 table settings
    OzHarvest is celebrating its 10th birthday and Good Food Month with a series of 10 dinners at the new OzHarvest HQ in Alexandria – a large, multi-purpose warehouse space donated by Goodman as a birthday gift – where they've only recently moved in.

    The Table for 10 dinners – on every weeknight from 13-24 October 2014 and supported by Virgin Mobile and Vittoria Coffee – will raise funds whilst offering a unique dining experience that is, as Ronni puts it, made with love and good for the soul.

    Matched wines by Handpicked Wines
    Starring a secret chef every night – Café Paci's Hanz Gueco did the Monday night while Ester's Mat Lindsay, Bar H's Hamish Ingham and 10 William Street's Daniel Pepperell are yet to go – diners also get a sneak peek into OzHarvest HQ, where food rescue happens daily – often by the pallet – and its emerging kitchen and training space and thriving on-site garden.

    Of course, there's also a beautifully soulful meal in a gorgeous setting with matching wines by Handpicked Wines which has vineyards and grower partnerships all across Australia.

    Long table for OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinners
    For the second of the 10 dinners on Tuesday evening, OzHarvest's own Chef for a Cause Travis Harvey was at the helm in the warehouse's mobile kitchen, with students from the Nourish program and a whole lot of rescued ingredients and produce harvested freshly from their own kitchen garden.

    That Travis and the team could transform what would have otherwise would have become landfill into what was one of the best meals I've had all year was an unbelievably amazing feat – you'd only be so lucky to get him for one of the dinners next week (booking details at end of post).

    Kale and other vegetables growing in the onsite OzHarvest garden
    Our night started with a quick garden tour before escaping the rain inside HQ with a dry Handpicked Eden Valley riesling, enjoying fellow company and the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. This later turned into outright raging downpours accompanied by a light show, but several wines in by that time we weren't too worried.

    Labneh with flat bread
    We nibbled on labneh strained yoghurt and flat bread to start – a combination I could just eat forever. The labneh was made from rescued yoghurt and garden herbs while the flat bread was made from rescued flour.

    Spring pea falafel with preserved lime hummus and almond dukka
    Seated at gorgeous, artsy timber tables (rentals donated by Timbermill) we shared two entrées that were seriously impressive, paired with the similarly outstanding Handpicked Margaret River chardonnay that was full bodied and fruity, which I never would have thought I could say about a chardy.

    The crisp-surfaced falafel – made with rescued chick peas and spring green peas from the kitchen garden – sat contentedly in a generous and nutty pool of hummus. Packed tightly and green within, I'd say the pea falafels were an improvement on the traditional pea-free version and so good that seconds were definitely justified.

    Salmon dolma
    Alongside the falafels were the slightly odd-looking salmon dolma featuring fillets donated to OzHarvest wrapped in vine leaves, battered and fried. Served on a salad of spinach, radish and pomegranate, the delicately-cooked salmon was a complete revelation within the soft, subtle leaf – enhanced stunningly by the sweet pomegranate seeds.

    In true OzHarvest style, the generous shared servings meant that any leftovers were shared amongst the lovely volunteers who were there on their own time to wait on tables and share the OzHarvest story.

    8-hour lamb shoulder with tomato confit
    I could smell the main course coming a mile away and may just have swooned at the sight of a huge shared dish of slow-roasted lamb shoulder, pulled from the bone and served with the most sensational tomato confit. It was gold: soft and mushy skinless tomatoes cooked down to a chunky almost-sauce, so rich and full flavoured that it felt completely groan-worthy luxurious.

    The tender lamb, crisp and burnished deep brown on the outside, almost played second fiddle to the tomato but together, they were utterly comforting and truly joyous.

    Pistachio pilaf
    Not to be outdone, the sides were perfect accompaniments to the bounteous lamb. The pistachio studded pilaf rice was lovely on its own but made for a delicious base to soak up the tomato with the roasted lamb.

    Artichoke, parsley and mint salad
    Meanwhile, the deceptively simple salad of sprightly parsley and mint leaves from the kitchen garden with shaved raw artichoke, dressed with lemon and oil, was a fresh, light and healthy reprieve that was simply superb.

    Hanpicked Central Otago pinot noir from a custom-made decanter
    Mains were matched with Handpicked's pinot noir from Central Otago, New Zealand. I don't know if it was because it was served in a stunning earthenware decanter, but the fruity red had an earthiness to it that matched the lamb and sides exceptionally well.

    Cardamom panna cotta, poached rhubarb and black sesame caramel
    It was almost as if there couldn't have been any more goodness to have but there was dessert to come, updated from the printed menu to account for some rhubarb that had been harvested that morning from the on-site garden.

    The cardamom scented panna cotta was like a beautiful thick cream rather than a jelly, with just the right amount of spicing. The rhubarb, softly and sweetly poached to a shape-holding mush, was joined by small strawberry segments also from the garden and stunning shards of deep gold toffee shards, filled with the prettiness and nuttiness of toasted black sesame seeds.

    Handpicked Italian moscato with dessert
    Matched with Handpicked’s Italian moscato d'asti, it was a sparklingly sweet finish to the meal and night. While the weather outside was frightful, OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinner by chef Travis Harvey was truly delightful, nourishing the body and soul, and obviously cooked with lots of love.

    The sharing of joy and celebration was palpable on the night and I basically felt like I'd walked into OzHarvest's home and received a giant, warm embrace on the other end – one of food and booze, but also of passion, care and trying to make our world a better place. Congratulations to OzHarvest on the 10 year milestone and cheers to many more years of your great, valuable work.

    See more photos on my Facebook page and information on OzHarvest and the Table for 10 dinners. You can also find OzHarvest at the Good Fortune Cart (near the lucky cat) at the Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets at Hyde Park, 10-26 October 2014.

    OzHarvest’s #mealforameal campaign is still going, where for each and every food picture posted on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #mealforameal, OzHarvest can deliver one real meal to someone in need, thanks to Virgin Mobile.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of OzHarvest.

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    It seems a barbeque in any language is a good reason to get together with people and have a good time eating meat around a heat source. Opened just last week, Gyuzou is the newest yakiniku Japanese barbeque restaurant to hit town in that somewhat stranded area north of Chinatown but not quite CBD.

    Taking over the two-storey shop that was once an ice creamery, accessed from Harbour Street rather than Sussex Street, Gyuzou offers Japanese style barbeque or yakiniku, which literally translates to "grilled meat".

    Yakiniku Japanese barbeque and sauces at Gyuzou, Sussex Street, Haymarket
    While it looks most similar to what we probably know in Sydney as Korean barbeque, yakiniku differs in that the raw meat for cooking on the barbeque is not marinated. Instead, simply seasoned, it's cooked and then eaten with dipping sauces, of which Gyuzou offers three as standard: chilli, salt and a sweet soy yakiniku sauce.

    Gyuzou specialises in wagyu beef and even has an opening month special of half-price wagyu yakiniku dishes for the whole month of October 2014.

    Upstairs dining area
    The fitout is more refined Japanese than the usual cheap and cheerful Korean barbeque venues, with lots of dark wood offset by gorgeous Japanese fabrics.

    Part of the Yes Food group of Japanese restaurants (which also owns Wagaya and many others), Gyuzo also uses the iPad ordering system made infamous at Wagaya many years ago. As such, it's pretty easy to go nuts on the menu, especially if you're ordering as a group as we were.

    Cinderella cocktail
    With a range of large range of 'cocktails' on the menu, we couldn't go past the sweet lychee liqueur based Cinderella with a literal base of blue curaçao and a prettily contrasting red grapefruit and mint garnishes.

    Lime chuhai
    The shochu-based highball with fresh lime was more my pick, with a refreshing sweetness that was ideal in front of the barbeque.

    Okonomiyaki
    It's always a good idea to order some starters that are ready-to-eat in these self barbeque situations. At Gyuzou, the menu runs from sushi and sashimi to noodles and soups and a large range of side dishes/appetisers, in addition to the yakiniku items.

    We started on okonomiyaki savoury pancake which tasted freshly made beneath its usual condiments of okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi bonito flakes but not overly exciting.

    Takoyaki
    We also grabbed a side of takoyaki octopus balls which were pretty decent deep-fried versions, slathered in the same condiments.

    Yukke
    The small bowl of the Korean yukke raw beef salad even looked like wagyu beef, with the thin strips of raw beef marbled with fat.

    Served with julienned cucumber and a raw egg yolk all stirred through at the table, the yukke made for a nice precursor to lots more wagyu.

    Menu excerpt showing cow/beef parts
    (image courtesy of SD Marketing)
    I always like seeing a meat map as it reminds me of muscle structures and why certain cuts are the way they are. Gyuzou's printed menu is most helpful on the cow front and also shows a marbling level for each cut on offer.

    Wagyu chuck tail flap
    I like a moderate level of fat marbling so the wagyu chuck tail flap was my pick. From the shoulder region (thanks, cow map), it was tender and juicy - even without one of the dipping sauces.

    Wagyu oyster blade
    The yakiniku sauce was the easy, cover-all sauce while the chilli was relatively mild and the salt sauce better with non-beef items, I thought.

    Wagyu short rib
    For the full-on, fatty wagyu experience though, it has to be the short rib which has some pretty impressive marbling. I managed to cook out a fair bit of the fat on the barbeque but it was still a buttery mouthful that almost just melted on the bite.

    Vegetables for cheese fondue
    For a vegetable fix, definitely go the option that comes with a 'cheese fondue' for dipping. Put the metal cheese tray on the grill and separately cook the vegetables, then dip into the almost liquid cheese. It's like the cheese of packaged mac'n'cheese and it's so very good, with almost anything off the barbeque.

    Wagyu ox tongue
    Wagyu ox tongue is becoming one of my favourite cuts of offal and when it's as tender (with a slight bounce) as the dish at Gyuzou, it's as glorious as some of the more expensive cuts.

    Yakiniku barbeque
    Most of the dishes arrived with a garnish of mushroom but we added a side order of the buttons, pearls and king browns too, given the ease of getting carried away with fatty, juicy meat.

    Wagyu rib finger
    Speaking of fatty meat, the wagyu rib finger topped the list. Coming from the part right on the rib, they were cubes of almost pure fat with some meat marbling, and certainly not for the dieters.

    Pork cheek
    Neither was the pork cheek which rendered down nicely on the barbeque, leaving just a touch of meat with the caramelised porky fat.

    Scampi
    With scampi on the menu it was a no brainer but when it arrived (three serves pictured), it was more a question of: to cook or not to cook. The beautiful specimens looked sashimi-friendly but we compromised with a short stay on the barbeque for that rare-cooked sweet and creamy scampi flesh.

    Scallop
    Raw scallops for the barbeque arrived rather theatrically huddled in a shell, like the greatest scallop ever found with six pieces of the sweet, sweet mollusc. I found these particularly nice lightly grilled and dipped into the salt sauce.

    Pork sausage
    I can't go past a good pork sausage and the chunky filled, smoked ones here were pretty decent and just needed a touch of mustard for that authentic izakaya feed.

    Corn butter
    While I've had mushrooms and garlic cloves cooked in butter over the grill, corn kernels were a new one. Forever forgetting that stuff cooked in, basically, boiling butter are equally boiling hot, these sweet little kernels were dangerously tasty.

    Mountain chain
    I've left the most interesting (read: strange) and unique dish till last. The dramatically named 'mountain chain' is a muscle attached to the cow's rumen and forms a type of tripe, quite literally a few steps before the honeycomb tripe that's much more common in various cuisines.

    With a dark 'skin' like outer and various tube-like pieces, the mountain chain is not for the faint of heart, nor the hard of chewing, as we found out. Flavour-wise, there's not much going on; hence the marinade probably, but the texture is that of the chewiest muscle you can imagine, then with a chewy skin layer on top. One for the thrill-seekers, I think, and not one I'll be having again.

    Seafood barbeque action
    On the cooking front Gyuzo has invested into some pretty high-tech ventilation that's built right into the barbeque unit. No visible ventilation hoods hanging from the ceiling here, but just the small holes in the ring of the barbeque, sucking in smoke before it has time to infiltrate all your clothes and hair.

    I was noticeably less smoky-smelling than when I normally leave Korean barbeques, but also quite possibly due to the fact that the meat wasn't marinated and thus did not burn its marinade on the grill as is common in Korean barbeque, emitting plumes of smoke usually.

    Green tea parfait (front) and berry parfait (back)
    After all the grilled protein, some might jump at the opportunity for sweets, which are fairly basic at Gyuzou. Most elaborate are probably the parfaits which feature ice cream, fresh cream, conflakes (which is such an adorably Japanese touch) and a topping like the green tea syrup or berry syrup, with fruit and wafer garnishes.

    Full as a boot with Gyuzou's yakiniku offerings, particularly its so-tender wagyu cuts, dinner at Gyuzou certainly confirmed that a good time will be had at a barbeque - and that's a good time in any language.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Gyuzou as a guest, with thanks to SD Marketing.

    Gyuzo on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Kath

    For anyone feeling nostalgic about past New York forays, or if it's just cloudy out and you're hankering for some meatball action, roll on in to the Original Meatball Company on York Street in the Sydney CBD - for weekday lunches or dinners on Thursday and Friday nights.

    Dining area of the Original Meatball Company, York Street, Sydney
    The quick service New York style meatballery bustles with the CBD suit set during weekday lunch hours, with diners lining up to try the creative range of traditional and untraditional meatballs on offer, either atop soft sub buns or the healthier option of green vegetables.

    Meatball subs on the pass
    For those that aren't able to make it during lunchtime, the Original Meatball Company is open on Thursday and Friday nights until 9.30pm (and they were waiting on a liquor licence when we visited but now they're serving balls and booze!).

    The Yankee - Beef balls with American mustard, ketchup, cheddar cheese, sweet pickles, onion, shredded iceberg lettuce, served on soft brioche
    Being a New York themed eatery we couldn't go past The Yankee on a soft and sweet brioche roll. It was jam-packed with tender beef meatballs, pickles, onion, shredded lettuce and cheddar cheese, all slathered in ketchup and tangy American mustard.

    The Yankee sure brought back memories of New York street vendors in its appearance and flavour, though not so much the brioche.

    Mama's Balls - Pork and veal balls with ragu sauce, melted provolone cheese, dressed rocket leaf, served on rustic white
    Mama's Balls took us to a classic Italian flavour combination. Served on a soft white roll were tender pork and veal meatballs covered in comforting ragu sauce with melted Provolone cheese and rocket to freshen things up.

    OMC Fries Poutine - fries with ragu, parmesan cream sauce, caramelised onions
    Another famous dish that Original Meatball Company have reinterpreted on their menu is the OMC fries poutine.

    I was looking forward to the promise of golden french fries covered in a meaty ragu sauce, sweet caramelised onions and parmesan cheese cream. While the portion size was most generous, I'm sad to report that the flavours didn't quite hit the spot.

    Rosemary fries
    Our last stop on this journey of flavours was a simple yet delicious side of rosemary fries, which were crispy and laced with just the right amount of rosemary and salt.

    So it's not quite New York but on a cloudy day, I'm sure there's a chance of meatballs to cheer you up, especially on a post shopping or drinking Thursday or Friday night.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of Original Meatball Company.

    Original Meatball Company on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Hendy

    As part of Good Food Month this October, we the masses are being asked to give 'a fork. Sustainable Table - a young and innovative not-for-profit organisation from Melbourne - uses food to explore sustainability issues, like seafood last year. This year, they're asking people to 'Give a Fork!' about waste, particularly food waste.

    The 'Give a Fork!' campaign encourages us all to think about the environmental impacts of our groceries choices - how we shop with our eyes and not our tastebuds, or brains really - and how we can each wholly use the produce we use in our cooking (think off-cuts, carrot tops, onion peel etc).

    Shopping with your tastebuds and picking visually imperfect produce provided by Harris Farm Markets featured at Sustainable Table dinner for Give a Fork launch, 14 October 2014, Studio Neon, Waterloo
    And why we should give a fork? Australians, on average, discard up to 20% of the food they purchase, amounting to around one out of every five bags of groceries we buy ending up as landfill.

    This is costing the average Australian around $1,000 annually, which translates to around $8 billion worth of edible food that is thrown out each year throughout the country.

    When we throw away food, the food rots with other waste in landfill and produces methane - the potent greenhouse gas that is much worse than the typical carbon pollution we all experience on our roads.

    Dining space at studio NEON, Raglan Street, Waterloo
    To start the discussion on the major environmental issues of food and packaging waste, Sustainable Table hosted a simple, minimal waste dinner at the eccentric, eclectic warehouse dining venue, Studio Neon in Waterloo.

    The goal of the night for chef Aaron Turner was to create a multi-course meal using produce supplied only earlier in the night and to create a meal with minimal to zero waste.

    Cassie Duncan of Sustainable Table
    To kick off the night co-founder and general manager of Sustainable Table, Cassie Duncan, was joined by the equally passionate Ronni Kahn, founder of OzHarvest.

    Cassie and her Sustainable Table team partner with restaurants across Melbourne and Sydney to help raise awareness of the food and packaging waste issue through the Give a Fork campaign.

    Carrot with organic yoghurt and black olive crumb
    The dinner showcased a number of dishes that make the best use of the produce available on the night. The pre dinner canapés were simple and made full use of a handful of ingredients, namely roasted heirloom carrots and a bread crumb of olives.

    Baba ganoush, dukkah, crispy skin on crackers
    The second set of canapés that followed made full use of eggplants. The soft. mushy flesh of the eggplants was used with onion and garlic to make the traditional eastern Mediterranean baba ganoush dip, served on a small cracker topped with nutty dukkah and a crumble of eggplant skin, crisply dried.

    Smoked onion risotto with organic 62 degree hen egg
    The main course for the night was risotto made with a stunning smoked onion base stock, which made use of whole onions including the onion skin. The risotto was complemented with a soft and delicate organic 62 degree egg.

    The dish was then garnished with a host of different herbs donated by OzHarvest from their kitchen garden in Alexandria, as well as leftover onion skin not used in the stock which was dehydrated, powdered and graciously strewn over the risotto.

    Launch of 'Give a Fork' Campaign Dinner
    The former journalist, now blogger, media personality, wellness coach and Give a Fork ambassador Sarah Wilson spoke about the different ways each of us can help to reduce food waste.

    She shared some tips on making full use of the produce we buy, including freezing onion skins with other vegetable off-cuts in a zip-lock bag and using the bits later on to enhance any base stocks with a simple, nutritional and flavoursome boost.

    Tim Silverwood of Take 3, Campaign Ambassador
    We also heard from Tim Silverwood, another Give a Fork! campaign ambassador and co-founder of the Take 3 not-for-profit organisation. He spoke about how we all can play a part in reducing beach waste by picking up three waste items each time we visit the beach and being mindful of our use of disposable plastics.

    Tim also reflected that waste is often tied with what we consume and how we consume; reiterating a number of the earlier messages around how we can improve the way we consume the produce we buy.

    Imperfect orange dessert
    Capping off the night was the dessert which was aptly named, imperfect orange. Making use of what is termed as second grade oranges - oranges that might not look their best on the outside yet taste equally as amazing as those that do look perfect on the outside.

    The dessert plate comprised orange zest sponge, orange rind purée and Janni goat's curd. The notion of making use of the whole fruit extended to the use of the orange pits which were water soaked, dried, powdered and made into a slightly bitter garnish, cleverly balancing the sweetness of the sponge and tanginess of the curd.

    The meagre residual waste from the dinner service
    The night ended with Cassie presenting to the dinner the residual waste from the dinner service. What was left was a few egg cartons and the used vegetables from the stock - both of which can be re-used again.

    Reflecting on the night, the 'Give a Fork!' campaign made me ask what we can each really do to help tackle the food and packaging waste issue. Sustainable Table have shared a few ideas:
    1. Plan ahead and plan better, being mindful of what we are using and what we are throwing out;
    2. Start a compost bin to generate some fertiliser that can be re-used to grow your own produce;
    3. Get involved with the 'Give a Fork' campaign and get your friends, families or colleagues together to organise and host a 'Give a Fork!' themed, waste-free dinner (or lunch or brunch), and raise awareness and funds for Sustainable Table; or
    4. Give a fork at participating local Sydney restaurants through their #wastefree 'Give a Fork!' specials offered at those restaurants.
    Given the seriousness of the issue at hand, we can all play a part and make the decision to 'Give a Fork!' See the Give a Fork website for more information and our Facebook page for more photos of the dinner.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the launch of the 'Give a Fork' campaign as a guest, with thanks to New Future PR.

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    Having been asked quite a few times about my favourite dining experiences in Sydney recently, I was surprisingly short on answers. For anyone who asks now, it's without a doubt a recent early dinner at Cipro – pizza al taglio in Alexandria.

    Cipro is the casual Italian brainchild of former Rockpool Bar & Grill head chef Khan Danis and partner (and creator of Rockpool's famous date tart) Catherine Adams. It seemingly followed into south Sydney in the footsteps of fellow Rockpool alumni Mike McEnearney's Kitchen by Mike in nearby Rosebery.

    Cipro's pizza concept strays from the Sydney norm of thin-based, round Neopolitan style pizzas to a Roman style on a thick base, still baked by wood fire but formed into large rectangular slabs to be served by the slice.


    Pork sausage, spicy peppers and olive pizza from Cipro – pizza al taglio, Fountain Street, Alexandria
    At $12 a rectangular slice, it's some pretty extravagant pizza to be had in a converted warehouse space. Pre-prepared and displayed mouthwateringly behind a glass cabinet, there are a number of colourful topping options that seem both modern and very Italian.

    Dining in the airy restaurant space looking into the large open kitchen, we opted to share the fennel scented Italian pork sausage pizza slice with colourful, softly roasted capsicum and pitted Sicilian olives. The pizza slice gets reheated and dressed up with fresh parsley and olive oil, going some way to justify the price tag.

    I hadn't had a thick-based pizza for years and the last one I did have was probably a franchise-delivered one. Cipro knocks thick-based pizzas out of this world. With a well-crisped bottom, the thick base is unexpectedly airy, softly chewy and not at all unbalanced in ratio to its toppings.

    There's a seriously good, herby tomato sauce beneath the toppings and the thick slice is capable of holding more toppings than your Naples-style thin base – they certainly load them up at Cipro although a lot of it falls off when you pick up the slice. I resorted to cutlery to slice through the crisp-bottomed base, remembering that thick bases weren't so bad after all – in fact, the pizza was sublime.

    Caprese salad
    Not wanting to fill up on pizza only, we explored the rest of the quite substantial and relatively standardly-priced menu, with a full page of desserts that I regret not leaving room for. But at least I was able to discover what has to be Sydney's best take on the classic Italian insalata Caprese or Caprese salad.

    Featuring a ball of fior di latte mozzarella, torn and scattered over beautifully ripe, tri-coloured heirloom tomatoes, topped with young basil leaves; I think it was the quality of tomatoes, the addition of pitted Sicilian olives and pickled onion rings, and the finally the balsamic vinegar dressing that made the salad simply spectacular.

    Wood fire grilled lamb loin chops with caponata and crispy polenta
    A lot of the main meals feature a stint on the wood-fired grill or oven, which I hadn't entirely expected but certainly wasn't complaining about. Lamb loin chops are rarely seen on dinner menus outside of the home so it was a delight to receive three of them off the wood fire grill, burnished with a charred aroma that had us salivating.

    Much like very well-seasoned lamb chops off a barbeque, there was a pure homeliness about battling the tendons and fatty rind for the tender meat on the bone. The lamb loin chops were served dry with three perfectly golden, crisp cubes of deep fried polenta and a smattering of mushy diced vegetables in a sweet caponata.

    Prawn linguine with cherry tomatoes, snow peas and parsley
    The generous prawn linguine was hands-down the best seafood pasta dish I've had – ever. Without the support of a tomato base, a lot of prawn and shellfish pasta dishes are insipid at best with bits of garlic, parsley and white wine for flavour.

    Cipro's prawn linguine was a superb dish in its own right and not just the pasta category. Brimming with chunky pieces of fresh prawns, sweet cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas, it was properly seasoned with loads of parsley, garlic and a whole red chilli.

    Every mouthful was a burst of flavour – firm, sea-fresh prawns or juicy tomato quarters – with the well-olive-oiled linguine. There was nothing that could be improved, save for an addition Cipro's sensational house-made chilli paste for those wanting a bit more of a spice kick.

    Their opening hours – recently updated to midday till 9pm on Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30am till 9pm on Saturdays, and 10:30am till 6pm on Sundays – indicate that the owners have some more family-friendly hours than the industry generally, which rather suits the casual air of Cipro being more the neighbourhood restaurant. With its serious restaurant quality, Cipro has certainly captured my slice of the local dining pie, or should I say, pizza.

    Cipro Pizza al Taglio on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Hendy

    At the ground floor of the still gleaming new renovation and refit of 1 O'Connell Street in the Sydney CBD, Bowery Lane is the newest entrant to the evening dining scene on the suits-abundant street.

    Just off the building's lobby entrance, the modern, Manhattan-inspired interior provides a sense of alignment, if not aspiration, in the heart of corporate Sydney.

    A glass of Bannockburn Douglas 2010 at Bo wery Lane, O'Connell Street, Sydney
    Named after the oldest thoroughfare on Manhattan Island, New York, Bowery Lane has extended its existing breakfast and lunch services to offer a different menu for the evening alongside a short, eclectic wine list, a selection of craft beers and chic cocktails.

    A number of craft brews come from the Big Apple, including the Brooklyn Lager and Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. The wine list features a number of increasingly popular blends, like the multi-varietal Bannockburn Douglas which was pleasantly aromatic with its blend of cabernet, shiraz, merlot, malbec and pinot noir.

    Manchego croquettes with smoked chilli aioli
    Bowery Lane's dinner menu of snacks, entrées, shared dished, sides and mains are more wholesome options than its lunch options, taking inspiration from Manhattan in that rustic-mod way that Sydney's so good at.

    We started with golden crumbed croquettes filled with Spanish manchego cheese from the snacks menu. Served with a smoked chilli aioli, the croquettes were delightfully light and soft within while the creamy aioli brought a lingering heat.

    House smoked hickory salmon with puffed wild rice, bottarga salad, burnet
    We opted for three entrées to share, including the house hickory wood-smoked salmon. Plated in coils with puffed rice and shaved bottarga cured mullet roe, the smoked salmon was light and creamy with a subtle smokiness. The dish was paired with salty bottarga-topped crisps in delicious contrast to the soft, velvety texture of the salmon.

    Jamon serrano with buffalo mozzarella, witlof rocket and shaved pear
    The jamon serrano cured ham was another light entrée served as a salad with radicchio, pear slices and rocket leaves. Having been sliced so thinly, the jamon serrano could have been mistaken visually for radicchio leaves while I thought the dish could have benefited from a drizzle of olive oil.

    Master kobe skirt wagyu (marble score: 9+) with chermula and lemon
    To follow two lighter entrées, we had the kobe skirt wagyu which is one of the many meat based dishes that feature on Bowery Lane's dinner menu.

    Lightly seared and topped with a chermula marinade, rocket and radish slices, the beautiful slices of high quality wagyu beef took on a lot of the chermula's tanginess which added a necessary overtone to the fat-marbled skirt steak.

    1kg braised wagyu short rib with horseradish cream and roasted garlic
    Continuing on the wagyu theme, for mains a 1-kilogram braised wagyu short rib was the first shared main dish to arrive.

    Slightly charred on the surface, the braised wagyu short rib was beautifully cooked and looked, and felt, as if it literally had fallen off the bone.

    Two whole roasted garlic bulbs were popped alongside the large serve of short rib, waiting to be peeled and smooshed for their caramelised sweetness alongside the zingy horseradish cream.

    Whole BBQ organic chicken with lentils and grains and smoked yoghurt
    The next shared main was a whole BBQ organic chicken, served in pieces with lentils and various grains mixed through smoked yoghurt.

    A great, homely sharing dish, the lentils and yoghurt gave the comfort food, family favourite a new lease on life that was still utterly comforting.

    Tempura soft shell crab burger with Asian slaw and miso mayonnaise
    Two burgers feature on the dinner menu, including the towering soft shell crab burger. The undersized burger bun attempted to hold in a whole, tempura-battered soft shell crab, an Asian style cabbage slaw and what looked like half a bunch of coriander - a win for coriander lovers.

    Complemented with a Japanese-style mayonnaise with miso, the salty, crunchy soft shell crab pieces were large enough to be eaten in a 'deconstructed' manner which is always easier for burger towers.

    Barramundi fillet with king brown mushroom, smoked leek jus gras, parsnip
    The barramundi fillet provided a lighter option for mains. With crisp, golden skin, the nicely cooked barramundi flaked easily and worked well with the parsnip puree and leek jus, and surprisingly, the king brown mushrooms.

    Old Fashioned
    On my visit the standalone bar at Bowery Lane wasn't yet in action, but it will surely be a popular one to prop up against for the building's suited tenants when the bar stools and seats are in.

    With a good range of bourbon whiskies, to finish the night I opted for a good ol' Old Fashioned cocktail with Bulleit Rye whisky from Kentucky, which features on the cocktail menu in the Wall Street and New York Sour cocktails.

    Bowery Lane
    So realistically, Sydney mightn't be in the same ball park as New York but with Bowery Lane doing breakfast, lunch and dinner with some NYC inspiration and enthusiasm, we might just have a touch of Manhattan in our midst.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Bowery Lane as a guest, with thanks to Wasamedia.

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    It's here - critically-acclaimed and multi-hatted chef and restaurateur Neil Perry's first dedicated burger eatery opened to the public on Friday at World Square in the CBD south. Brace your burger-loving self for some serious queues at Burger Project.

    Rockpool Brewing Pilsner and burgers at Burger Project, World Square, Sydney
    First things first: it ain't Rockpool Bar & Grill. Indeed, it's a casual venue with an almost fast food feel when you look behind the service counter where you order and get a buzzer.

    And with most burgers under $10, we shouldn't be expecting RB&G quality and service (although I wonder if there is merit in a standalone venue for Perry's $24 wagyu burger and fab RB&G sides).

    Burger Project, upstairs at World Square next to Din Tai Fung
    Burger Project is located in a relatively vast 100-seater upstairs at World Square that makes me wonder what on earth used to be there, next door to the flagship Din Tai Fung  restaurant and its nightly queues.

    And with Burger Project now freshly open, expect it to be queue central up those World Square stairs.

    Ordering counter
    On a preview night last week there was an army of a blue T-shirt clad crew who (in a sure sign of my ageing) mostly reminded me of The Simpsons' squeaky-voiced teen. Him, or basically any stereotype of a fast food chain employee: young, energetic and a touch green.

    Warmer oven for chicken wings
    Their lives are not made any easier with the various seasoning choices available with the chips or chicken wings, for example. I suppose they're all at least 18-years-old as Burger Project is licensed and currently offers three beers and four wines.

    White wine on tap
    The white wine offerings came from a chilled tap and were served in disposable plastic cups, as is the single red wine.

    Meanwhile, the three beers available by the bottle are Coopers Premium Lager, the highly drinkable Lord Nelson Three Sheets Pale Ale and the group-branded Rockpool Brewing New Age Pilsner, brewed in-house in Victoria. The latter was quite clean, none too light and ideal with the spicy menu items.

    Crispy hot wings with classic hot sauce (front) and Sichuan pepper and salt (back)
    Burger Project's menu features five beef burgers, two chicken, one pork and one vegetarian mushroom burger which is inexplicably the most expensive of the lot.

    Then there's two hot dog options and crispy hot wings, served whole in one golden battered piece. The classic hot sauced buffalo-style wing retained a nice crunch to the batter which was a little thick for my liking, but I was a fan of the tangy spice kick of the hot sauce.

    The Sichuan pepper and salt seasoned wing in the same batter could have done with some more pepper, but the juicy innards couldn't be faulted.

    House made chips with sea salt (left) and chipotle chilli (right); vanilla milkshake (back)
    The house made skin-on chips are thrice cooked and a little oily for it, but pleasingly crisp. The plain sea salt ones were fine with tomato sauce available but the chipotle chilli ones were excellently spiced with just a hint of smoky chilli heat.

    I ended up with a plain vanilla milkshake as my request for malt went unheard. With plenty of ice cream and quite the sweet vanilla hit, there'll always be something pleasingly nostalgic about a milkshake, although it became a little heavy going together with burgers, chips and wings.

    Cheese and bacon burger (front, left) and The Korean (back, right)
    And so we come to the burgers. Burger Project uses a blend of whole 36-month Cape Grim grass-fed chuck and brisket steak, ground thickly in-house to make the chunky meat patties. And thank goodness, there's no brioche in sight.

    My cheese and bacon burger featured a quite rare beef pattie, though granted it was basically Burger Project's first operating day. The toasted white buns encased some serious quality bacon, American cheese, raw onion rings that were surprisingly not bitingly pungent, cucumber pickles, tomato, lettuce and a secret sauce. Sounds familiar.

    The burger was quite large in size, making for a very substantial meal especially with sides. It had all the flavour you'd want and expect although the meat gets a little lost amongst all the sauce and additionals. The pattie itself was decent but not quite the star quality of the RB&G burgers - it is, after all, what chef Perry calls "the people's burger".

    The less-filled Korean burger featured the grass fed beef pattie with kim chi, which was actually a great combination. Finished with raw onion, lettuce and a spicy Korean dressing, The Korean burger was an unexpected winner over the cheese and bacon burger.

    Chef and owner Neil Perry (back)
    Dessert comprises a menu of house churned ice cream and gourmet toppings like Valrhona crunchy pearls or chocolate sauce, meringue, rhubarb compote and salted dulce de leche sauce. Having struggled to get through most of the burger, dessert was not happening for me this time.

    With a fairly broad menu and pretty good value to be had, I foresee more burgers and queues in my near future. They sold-out at lunch on the opening Friday, which is a sure sign that the masses are keen for a taste of Rockpool at Burger Project.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Burger Project as a guest, with thanks to The PR Partnership.

    Burger Project on Urbanspoon

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    It feels like the early summer is trying its best to get here, although it's occasionally obstructed by bouts of spring and indeed, some wintry weather. But when pop-up bars like the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar start to make an appearance, we can be sure summer's on its way.

    Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar, Bligh Street, Sydney
    Open on weekdays and Saturdays for three months till 23 January 2015, the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar pop-up is located in a pretty awesome spot for CBD bar: in a building lobby level space that used to be a pretty average sushi joint, across the road from Spice Temple on Bligh Street.

    Asahi Super Dry and ice feature
    Having already done stints in Asahi's homeland Japan and Korea, the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar pours the standard Super Dry as well as the newer Super Dry Black at subzero temperatures; specifically, minus 2.2 degrees Celcius.

    Asahi Super Dry served at -2.2 degrees Celcius
    As alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water, the subzero serving temperature is about as chilled a beer you can probably get; though I'm a little curious to know at what subzero point the beer pulled would be like a slushie.

    Pulling an Asahi Super Dry
    The intriguing, space-age style beer taps at the pop-up bar pull both ways - first, for the body of the beer and then, to top the glass with a creamy head for both the Asahi Super Dry and Super Dry Black.

    Pulling an Asahi Dry Black

    Asahi Super Dry Black
    As it the first time I'd had the opportunity to try the Asahi Super Dry Black, I had to give it a whirl even on a particularly warm launch evening.

    Surprisingly nothing like Guinness and not similar to any other dark beer I've tried, the Asahi Super Dry Black was unexpectedly light and dry for a dark beer, and very, very easy to drink.

    Mac and cheese balls
    The Super Dry Black even matched well to the wide range of substantial beer snacks doing the rounds, catered by the team behind Bondi's The Corner House.

    The mac and cheese balls were a highlight of fried, cheesy pasta goodness, though I would have liked more seasoning.

    Pulled pork burgers
    There was plenty enough seasoning, and spice, in the mini pulled pork burgers which were sloppily messy and probably even tastier for it running down my arm.

    Other morsels on offer include on-theme edamame soy beans and gyoza steamed dumplings to highly beer appropriate popcorn shrimp, sauce-smothered hot wings, parmesan fries and even cheese burgers and fish tacos.

    Asahi beer taps
    With indoor seating and an outdoor terrace space overlooking the Hunter and Bligh Street intersection, the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar is set to be a summer favourite for the CBD's beer lovers - particularly if you like your Asahi super dry and extra cold.

    Asahi 2-litre can

    Asahi coasters
    The Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar opens from 4pm-10pm Monday – Wednesday and 12pm- 10pm Thursday – Saturday until 23 January 2015.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the launch of the Asahi Extra Cold Bar as a guest, with thanks to Haystac Communications.

    Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Jan

    Glebe Point Road is one of Sydney's eat streets where you can pretty much find whatever you happen to fancy. As a local, I love how it's a blend of long-time favourites and new, up-and-coming trends. A relatively new addition is Brixton Lounge and Dining with its a modern Australian and British approach to neighbourhood dining.

    Brixton Iced Tea from Brixton Lounge & Dining, Glebe Point Road, Glebe
    Having walked past a few times when they opened, I was pretty curious to try out the new kid on the block, which does breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. I recently attended a special spring menu degustation by invitation, in association with Burge and Rathbone Fine Wines.

    After a hard day I was pretty happy to be ushered to a comfy armchair and served a Brixton Iced Tea - possibly the most delicious cocktail on Glebe Point Road. I loved the mix of organic basil & rose tea, peach schnapps, vodka & strawberry.

    Salt and pepper eggplant
    We had a couple of nibbles while waiting for our dining companions to arrive. I like fried things so was naturally biased towards liking the salt and pepper eggplant. 

    I think these could be the new french fries. I liked the crunchy outside that was just salty enough before giving in to the lovely, sweet softness of eggplant. 

    Gruyere balls with homemade tomato relish
    The gruyere balls were a revelation for me: crunchy on the outside and oozy with melted cheese on the inside. 

    The homemade tomato relish was delicious and my dining companions liked it with the cheese balls, but for me, nothing could distract me from oozy, cheesy yumminess. I even tried to surreptitiously eat more than my share. 

    House-cured salmon, crème fraîche with pickled fennel
    The first entree taster of the 6-course degustation was a fresh-tasting and tender sliver of house-cured salmon. The dab of crème fraîche and pickled fennel added just a touch of tartness to contrast the sweetness of the fish. 

    The bread was a tasty rye (I think from Sonoma just down the street) but I refrained from eating too much as I knew there was more to come. I enjoyed the accompanying glass of crisp Yarrabank Sparkling Cuvee Brut from the Yarra Valley. 

    Warm bacon, asparagus & haloumi salad
    The next dish was a warm salad of bacon, asparagus and perfectly grilled chunks of haloumi, served with a honey mustard dressing.

    This fabulous salad could just be a whole main course and would be great for a summer's day when you want something lighter but substantial. 

    Signature salmon spring roll
    Brixton's signature salmon spring roll was pleasingly crisp on the outside with the salmon cooked just right within. The homemade chilli jam was gently spicy and added pizazz to the spring roll and presentation. 

    A light and refreshing Happs chenin blanc from the Margaret River was paired with the salad and salmon.

    Tomato & ricotta tortellini with black olive butter

    The next two rounds showcased the perennial Italian favourites of pasta and risotto and how these dishes should be cooked just so.

    I could smell the butter sauce the moment the tomato and ricotta tortellini landed on the table. The light pasta filling was perfectly complemented by the salty black olive and rich melted butter. 

    Pea & goat cheese risotto

    The pea and goat cheese risotto was cooked exactly how I like it: pleasingly al dente with a tiny hint of crunch. There was also mint stirred through the rice that added freshness to the dish, which I could have eaten a main size of without problem. 

    A delicious marsanne/viognier/roussanne blend from Yering Station was matched with the pasta and risotto.

    Pan roasted NSW lamb, pistachio crust with cauliflower puree

    As a seasonal menu, the perennial spring favourite of lamb was bound to appear. The pistachio-crusted lamb was quickly seared for a crunchy exterior before being pan-roasted to a perfect medium-rare. The lamb was tender and juicy; gently complemented by the cauliflower puree and crunchy carrots. 

    Another Yering Station wine was well chosen to pair with the lamb. I like the full-bodied fruity flavours of the 'Village' shiraz viognier. 

    Mixed berry ravioli with Galliano & passionfruit anglaise

    I am not much of cake-type desserts person so was pretty pleased to see a yellow and maroon plate of mixed berry ravioli with a passionfruit anglais sauce. 

    It is an interesting approach to incorporating seasonal berries; however, I felt that the passionfruit flavours overwhelmed the Galliano liqueur in the sauce. 

    My favourite seat in the house for people watching
    In a street of many food choices, Brixton Lounge and Dining fills a niche created by the ever increasing cost of real estate and cramped eateries on Glebe Point Road.

    It is a rare luxury these days to have such a large, un-crowded space for a slow unwind after a long day or just a casual weekend catch-up with friends - and you could have a taste of it too.

    Giveaway - two-course dinner for two at Brixton Lounge and Dining


    Food, Booze & Shoes is giving away a two-course dinner for two at Brixton Lounge and Dining (not inclusive of drinks).

    All you need to do is like and follow our Facebook page AND like the Brixton Lounge and Dining giveaway post.

    A winner will be selected at random on Thursday, 13 November at 12.00pm noon and contacted via Facebook.

    The winner must book in advance with Brixton Lounge and Dining to take up their prize. Winners' details (name and email) will be provided to Brixton Lounge & Dining for contact purposes. Food, Booze & Shoes takes no responsibility for the redemption of the prize. 

    Brixton Lounge & Dining on Urbanspoon


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    In a growing sign that restaurant empires are the only way to go chef/restaurateur Mark Best, of globally-acclaimed Marque and the more casual Pei Modern in Melbourne, has brought the latter restaurant brand to Sydney, replacing the still relatively new The Woods just beyond the Four Seasons Hotel's front lobby.

    Woodfired sourdough bread and butter from Pei Modern at Four Seasons Hotel, George Street, Sydney
    I'm not one for politics of any sort, so I'll say that the restaurant's current look and feel is a bit slicker than previously, and leave it at that. The huge wood-fired oven remains in the kitchen and so wood-roasted dishes also continue to dominate the menu, starting with wood-fired sourdough bread.

    Pei Modern dining room
    While Pei Modern Sydney will be headed up by Pei Modern Melbourne chef Matt Germanchis, it was nice to see chef Best at the kitchen's pass during the restaurant's first week, in which I'm told it was very well received by Sydney locals.

    Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol
    In typical fine dining and/or top-end hotel style, it's always a great option and educational process to leave the wine to the experts.

    For a sizeable group sharing a large proportion of the entire menu, the sommelier did well in pouring the Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol white wine, which matched exceptionally to a broad range of starters.

    Clyde River rock oysters
    Pei Modern's menu is split into a number of cutesy titled sections (one includes the term "go Cray-Cray" - seriously), but basically snacks and appetisers, salads and vegetable sides, larger dishes, meaty mains, and desserts and cheeses.

    There's no better place to start than with "Some raw"; namely the simply stunning specimens of Sydney rock oysters from the Clyde River on the NSW south coast. These Sydney rocks were just outstanding; so fresh, creamy and packed with flavour.

    I couldn't comment on the vinaigrette as a few drops of lemon were all I needed for oyster heaven before I started to worry that there was no way the rest of the meal could reach the heights of the oysters.

    Culatello 'King of prosciutto'
    Seeing my favourite salumi land on the table was reassuring though, with the culatello cured pork leg (literally translating from Italian as "little bum") served with pickled pear slices.

    The culatello was thoroughly satisfying in both texture and flavour. Cut thin, but not too thin, with a slight edge of fat and some marbling, it had a real creamy, melt-in-the mouth characteristic and none of the stringiness you sometimes get with normal prosciutto. Personally, I didn't need the pickled pear although it made for a unique partner to the dish.

    Anchovy, parmesan shortbread
    We continued on raw snacks with a fairly intense combination of a salty Ortiz anchovy fillet on a crumbly parmesan shortbread with a dab of parmesan custard.

    There was something quite striking about the simple presentation of the anchovies as a snack, and then palate-wise too with the major hit of salt from the anchovy which I found a little overwhelming with its cheesy accompaniments.

    Beef tartare, local sea urchin, horseradish on toast
    The last snack was the beef tartare with baby capers on toast, finished with crème fraîche, a casual draping of local sea urchin and grated horseradish.

    I adored the velvety texture of the well seasoned raw beef which was piled generously onto the toast thin, though I'm still yet to appreciate sea urchin and its rather alkaline-y flavour.

    Young dandelion, blood orange, bronze fennel
    We moved on to the 'clean & green' section of the menu with an interesting salad of dandelion greens, which was definitely a first for me.

    Crisp and slightly bitter, the dandelion leaves were paired with sweet blood orange slices and segments and topped with bronze fennel fronds in a very modern, very Australian and very sustainable dish.

    La Luna goat cheese custard with asparagus
    There was much more interest in the roasted asparagus dish which featured a blob of the most sensation custard made from La Luna goat's cheese. With the gorgeously charred asparagus spears dipped into or drizzled with the cheese custard, this may well be the one of the most impressive vegetarian dishes of the year.

    Burrata, Romanesco, egg yolk jam
    That full honour would probably go to the dish of burrata, sourced locally from Italian cheese masters Paesanella.

    The stretchy, cream-filled cheese was an utter delight and anything but subtle, made only prettier and more desirable with its playmates of green Romanesco broccoli and a vibrant egg yolk with jam-like consistency.

    Salt cod croquettes
    The TV snack-worthy crumbed, potato gem-like croquettes were more traditional than I had expected and not at all oily, with hot, fluffy salt cod and potato innards and a golden outer, served with aioli.

    Tiger prawns and slow cooked pineapple
    Still on the snacky, appetiser menu, the large butterflied and roasted tiger prawns came dressed with a vadouvan spice blend which was enhanced by the small dice of sweetly and slow-cooked pineapple in an unexpected pairing.

    Ricotta dumplings, kale, hazelnuts
    The 'bigger bites' menu is designed to be a more substantial main or shared amongst the table, and the ricotta dumplings were pure comfort.

    The large, soft pillows of gnocchi were paired prettily with kale leaves and a browned butter sauce, and contrasted nicely with the delicious crumble of roasted hazelnuts.

    Whole Holmbrae chicken with yams
    The whole Holmbrae chicken is a feat of kitchen technique. Not satisfied with a simple roast, the chickens are brined, steamed and smoked before being roasted in the wood-fired oven for beautifully crisp, golden skin and ridiculously tender flesh; pink bones to boot.

    Salmon tail cooked on the bone, samphire and rouille
    The most gorgeous main/shared dish had to be the salmon tail which is roasted on the bone in it's full skin and tail-on glory. The fatty flesh was cooked to flaking perfection and was simply divine with the sea-salty samphire, roasted tomatoes and traditional rouille sauce.

    Milly Hill lamb shoulder cooked in chamomile
    Sydney's favourite cut of lamb also makes an appearance on the menu, with the slow cooked Milly Hill lamb shoulder cooked and dressed in chamomile. The lamb shoulder wasn't quite falling off the bone, but the tender slices of self-sliced meat with the pan juices was as homely a dinner as could be.

    Throw in some hand-cut sebago potato triple-cooked chips and it's a party for at least four diners to share.

    Tamarillo, vanilla ice cream
    We somehow made room for dessert, at least shared among the table. I loved the look of the roasted tamarillo dessert which featured the uncommon fruit with house-made vanilla ice cream. The softly roasted, tart fruit made for a lovely contrast with the creamy ice cream.

    Spiced doughnuts, blood orange, whey butterscotch
    I'm not one for doughnuts but I couldn't resist the cute, squat spiced ones filled with blood orange curd - just about as sophisticated a doughnut can get, served with a whey butterscotch sauce.

    Meringue, white chocolate ganache, blueberries
    The eye-opener was the brown sugar meringue served with a spectacular, thick, gooey ganache of caramelised white chocolate. All the sweetness was cut by fresh blueberries and lime zest, and even as a non-sweettooth, I was enamoured.

    Duck egg sauternes custard and crostoli
    We headed into classic Mark Best territory with the sauternes custard, served in a cropped egg shell with crostoli designed for dipping into the egg, soldiers style.

    The duck egg custard was pure faultless luxury with the toffee-sweet sauternes, and satisfying enough on its own without the fried pasta strips.

    Chocolate tart, eucalyptus cream
    And it just kept going with Pei Modern's take on a chocolate tart, not so much deconstructed but reimagined. The biscuit base topped with chocolate ganache and tempered chocolate shards was a beautiful composition alongside a pool of rich salted caramel and eucalyptus-scented thick cream.

    Cheese selection with quince paste and crackers
    There was strong interest in the cheese selection of Holy Goat Brigid’s Well goat's cheese, the Pyengana 20-month clothbound cheddar and my absolute favourite of the lot, the Benison Blue from Gippsland, Victoria.

    With quince paste, jam and some fabulous crackers, this was a classic cheese board promoting the very best of Australian cheeses.

    Feeling like we'd eaten half the restaurant's menu, the clear highlights were the starting Sydney rock oysters, the burrata, the roasted salmon tail and the cheese selection. But with coverage over both standard hotel fare (read: steak and chips) and line-pushing modern Australian cuisine, Pei Modern is a key pillar of Best's restaurant empire that looks to dominate both casual and hotel dining in Sydney.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Pei Modern as a guest.

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    Posted by Kath

    Head down any one of Balmain's winding backstreets and you're sure to stumble across one of the many local pubs that the area is famous for.

    One of these historic pubs is the Welcome Hotel which was founded in 1878 and still retains a local charm, with the benefits of a recent make-over and the brilliant introduction of head chef Daniel Mulligan (previously head chef at Pilu at Freshwater).

    Entrance to the Welcome Hotel, Evans Street, Balmain
    The pub recently welcomed Ajó restaurant into a cosy and sophisticated dining space, with sheltered outdoor seating to be enjoyed in the upcoming summer months.

    Chef Mulligan brings a Sardinian inspired menu to the backstreets of Balmain. At a glance the new menu of regional Italian fare looked to be an exciting journey into one of my favourite cuisines. Accompanying the new menu is an impressive list of Italian and NSW wines with an equally impressive array of local craft beers for the beer lovers.

    Freshly shucked Pambula oysters with shallot jelly
    Being a newly converted oyster lover, after years of being put off by some lacklustre offerings, the freshly shucked Pambula Lake rock oysters were a fantastic indicator of what was in store for the night.

    Adorned with delicate cubes of slightly zingy white balsamic vinegar and shallot jelly, they were fresh and creamy, making them a delight to eat with or without the jelly.

    Marinated W.A sardines with charred foccacia
    The majority of the dishes served up from the Ajó menu this night were largely seafood based, which I definitely had no complaints about.

    To keep on theme our next dish was a row of thinly sliced and marinated sardines hiding under an eye catching bed of refreshing herbs and flowers. The oily goodness of the sardines and the refreshing salad of fennel, parsley, capers and flora were accompanied by some charred focaccia slices which provided the perfect vessel for consumption.

    Queensland spanner crab, fregola, almond and marjoram
    Highlighting the Sardinian influence on the menu was a moreish dish of fregola - a type of Sardinian pasta like large couscous grains.

    This dish basically had the whole table silently enjoying the slightly chewy consistency of the pasta which was infused with the creamy flavour of sweet spanner crab and marjoram, with an added nuttiness from a smattering of almond flakes. I could have had two of these if only it wouldn't have called for a double dose of antihistamine.

    Huon salmon, slow cooked peppers and vongole
    Next up was a perfectly cooked piece of salmon on a bed of deliciously sweet peppers and onions, speckled with a few little clams. The skin on the salmon had a lovely crispness to it while the flesh flaked away and melted in the mouth.

    The salmon combined with the sweet peppers made this one of my favourite dishes of the night, with the clams being a potentially unnecessary addition to the already wonderful flavours.

    Mutton, baby artichokes, broad bean and olive caramel
    The last main of the night was a surprising dish of mutton. I found the salty and sweet flavour of the olive caramel to be a welcome combination to the juicy pieces of medium rare mutton, pureed broad bean and slight tang of the artichokes.

    Eton mess, strawberries and pistachio
    To cap off the night we were presented with a not-so-Italian but spectacular rendition of an Eton mess. It was a cloud of delicious whipped cream studded with tiny pops of sugary meringue which had just the right amount of crunch and chew. Sliced strawberries added a refreshing tartness to cut through the delicious mouthfuls of sugar and cream, while the pistachios added another level of crunch and flavour that went beautifully when all combined.

    Throughout the night we were plied with many a fine wine from various regions of NSW and Italy that were matched exceptionally well to each course by passionate owner Liam O'Keefe. This passion obviously extends across the whole offering at the Welcome Hotel, particularly within the casual elegance of the Ajó dining room - making it an enviable place to call your local.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Ajó as a guest, with thanks to The Cru Media.

    Ajo on Urbanspoon

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    Finding restaurants for large group dining in Sydney is hard enough but add the limitations of budget and Pyrmont – and it's a whole next level.

    Luckily for me, taking a punt on the literally hidden gem of Signorelli Gastronomia in the Accenture/Google building on Pyrmont Wharf paid off way more than the nearby casino could ever, despite the latter's ability to draw in the masses, including the fine dining and post lock-out crowds.

    Shelves at Signorelli Gastronomia, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
    Owned and run by the group behind functions venue Doltone House, the entrance of Signorelli Gastronomia is like a hidden, back door, mouse hole into the corporate building, with a dark hallway revealing a cornucopia of Italian gastronomic delights: a warmly-lit open kitchen, shelves filled with pasta and Italian groceries, and dining tables in and around the wine cellar, cool room and other food-centric spaces.

    Crispy skin snapper, caponata, sultanas and parsley puree
    For large groups there are two set menus available, each with 2- or 3-course options – we went for the Long Table menu with its shared main and dessert platters, which make group dining a breeze, particularly when there are no or limited dietary requirements.

    We started on great, big platters of snapper fillets, elevated from the table to a mouthwatering eye-level. Paired with a soft, sweet caponata medley of vegetables and a sprightly sauce of parsley puree, the crisp skin and perfectly cooked flesh of the snapper were utterly delightful and as satisfying as fish dishes come.

    Braised beef cheek, polenta ‘Mugna’ button mushrooms and lardons
    Alongside the snapper were hearty serves of tenderly braised beef cheek atop polenta with a rich mushroom sauce. As lovely and comforting as it was, it didn't feel like a spring-appropriate dish especially on a humidly warm night out.

    Roasted potatoes
    Sides included gorgeously crisp roasted chat potatoes with plenty of salt and rosemary, and a rocket and pear salad with walnut, parmesan cheese shavings and balsamic vinegar reduction as a dressing.

    Rocket, pear, walnut and balsamic reduction

    Butternut squash risott, leeks foam and confit lemons
    Last to come out, pretty much after the other two mains were done which was unfortunate for the vegetarian, was the creamy pumpkin risotto that was beautifully rich in hue, texture and flavour. Sweet, creamy and with a bit of bite, it was about one of the most perfect risottos I've had around town.

    Amaretto and Montenegro semifreddo
    The Long Table menu's dessert offerings cater for both sweet and savoury preferences with a house Italian cheese selection and a platter of semifreddo wedges. The latter was like a particularly rich ice cream, with a subtle nuttiness that accentuated the velvety but saccharine dessert.

    The cheese plate was initially served without crackers, which was interesting, though I couldn't quite reach the full selection of cheeses across the long table; probably for the better since I went pretty hard on mains earlier anyway.

    Signorelli Gastronomia is a real deal, genuine Italian restaurant in an area that sometimes lacks authenticity and warmth. Fantastic for groups (and apologies to the couple near us who would have had to endure endless girly photos) and family dining, it strives for simplicity done well, and genuinely achieves its goal.

    Signorelli Gastronomia on Urbanspoon

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    Bringing a new perspective to the barbequed meats trend that's so in right now, Kong BBQ in Melbourne introduces us to Asian barbeque and smoking techniques under a cutesy Japanese-styled panda logo.

    Inside Kong BBQ, Church Street, Cremorne, Melbourne
    By the same group behind the always popular Chin Chin in the Melbourne CBD, Kong BBQ in the inner Melbourne city suburb of Cremorne was impressively busy for our late lunch drop in, with plenty of couples seated around the open kitchen counter seats and groups contentedly hoeing into meat platters.

    Kong house kin chi
    We started on the house pickles and kim chi fermented cabbage; the latter full of crunch, squish and chilli heat. I adored the pickled carrot strips alongside interestingly soft walnuts, while daikon white radish rounded out the pickled offerings.

    Wood grilled edamame with chilli and salt
    Giving the usual edamame soy beans a new wood grilled look and taste, as well as keeping on the barbeque theme, the heavily salted edamame continued to ramp up the meal's spice levels.

    Hot wings with gochujang and chipotle
    Chicken wings were irresistible given a whole menu section dedicated to the boney cut and we opted for the saucy gochujang Korean chilli paste and chipotle variety.

    Deep red and garnished with extra fresh chilli slices, the wings weren't overly spicy and featured some very juicy midwings.

    Nasu miso - miso eggplant
    I couldn't pass on one of my favourite vegetables, served with a twist on the traditional Japanese nasu dengaku style, in a lettuce leaf in Chinese san choi bao style.

    The hunk of soft eggplant, beautifully caramelised and packed with miso flavour, was adorned with sesame seeds, fried strips of something and coriander in a clever fusion offering.

    BBQ baby back pork ribs with Kong 'crazy horse' chilli
    Our barbequed pork ribs selection seemed to feature the same red chilli sauce as the chicken wings, with the same chilli, spice and all things apparently "crazy horse".

    The tender ribs on the bone made for an ideal lip-smacking, finger-licking main dish to share - carbs on the side would be ideal.

    Bossam BBQ tray
    Continuing on the sharing trend, the bo ssam BBQ tray was definitely the way to go for most groups and even some couples.

    Served in the same style as American-style barbeque platters with a selection of meats on a metal tray, the platter arrived with kim chi, pickles, pork crackling and butter lettuce and perilla leaves for wrapping and eating in traditional Korean ssam style.

    Bossam BBQ tray
    There was smoky chicken breast, pulled pork, pork belly and my favourite, beef brisket - each with a slightly different cooking method, sauce and personality as part of the platter.

    Between four of us and all the other dishes, we completely cleaned up the tray of meats.

    Spicy cabbage salad with pickled veg and Kewpie mayo
    We supplemented our meat-fest with a very well-executed cabbage slaw, with spice, pickle and Kewpie mayonnaise making it one of the more impressive slaw salads of recent times.

    Bar and open kitchen
    While it's so on-trend that it almost hurts, Kong BBQ is doing its Asian barbeque well with a sense of fun and a modern, casual approach. Meat and the charcoal grill are king at Kong BBQ, and it's so hot right now.

    Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

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    Le Dîner en Blanc Sydney, 29 November 2014, McKay Field, Centennial Park
    When it's behaving, summer in Sydney is hard to beat - blue skies, sun shining and people out and about, enjoying life and cheeky drinks in the sun.

    We managed to celebrate both the end of spring and start of summer at Dîner en Blanc over the weekend - the third annual Sydney event of the Parisian guerilla picnic phenomenon that's popped up all over the world.

    A sea of white in McKay Field
    I'd been lucky enough to attend the inaugural Sydney event two years ago, which remains high on my list of all-time most fabulous event experiences. For the third year in a row, the event's been blessed with an evening of clear skies, despite our increasingly volatile Sydney weather.

    Dîner en Blanc has grown substantially since landing in Australia, with the wait list for an invite ballooning after the first year. This year's Sydney outing, at the secret location of McKay Field in Centennial Park, hosted 4,000 picnickers all dressed in elegant white as is the DeB tradition.

    Guests arriving to the secret location
    Boarding a bus near Town Hall with other excited guests of this year's wine sponsor Seppelt Wines, guesses of the secret location came thick and fast as we headed east, out of the city.

    We entered the Randwick gates of Centennial Park and saw glimpses of our eventual destination, which was reached on foot through a picturesque tunnel of paper bark trees.

    I didn't know McKay Field, our picnic location, even existed till this weekend. Somewhat closed off on three sides by rows of trees, it forms a rather secluded, sheltered meadow of Centennial Park not far from the Duck Pond. For DeB, the space was encircled by five huge, white illuminated rabbit sculptures which also made an appearance at this year's Vivid Sydney festival.

    Seppelt Wines table, dressed in white and ready to go
    It was here, in our own little piece of Centennial Park, that we and thousands of others would set up for a pop-up picnic of epically sophisticated proportions.

    The Seppelt Wines table was set with a white tablecloth, mismatched chairs and fresh white flowers in jars - and of course, plenty of chilled Jaluka Chardonnay and Great Western Riesling (and Piper Heidsieck bubbles to start).

    Other diners setting up their tables
    It was great fun to watch all the other tables go about setting up their own tables for the night. With foldable chairs and tables in tow, matching their all-white outifts, diners unfolded and decorated tables with great flair and enthusiasm.

    I spotted lanterns and baby's breath flowers galore, as well as helium balloons and even live white goldfish - and of course the DeB-essential white cloth napkins at every spot.

    Seppelt Wines table
    As we sat down to our tables, it was white on white on white - just bliss with the sun shining and champagne in hand. Suffice to say, plenty of photos were taken: of people, outfits, table settings and the gorgeous surroundings.

    White on white on white
    Catered picnic options are available for those who don't want to carry food along with their furniture, with boxed hampers by Kitchen Catering available for pre-order and collection on site. We scored the Premium Hamper which was a huge box of delicious goodies for a very hungry two (or even three).

    (clockwise) Rosemary and chilli focaccia, pickled vegetable and dips&
    We started with triangles of Sonoma's rosemary and chilli focaccia, served with Pepe Saya butter and an array of dips: pureed beetroot with yogurt; a super-smokey eggplant dip with tahini and a deliciously spicy hommous with pine nuts and parsley.

    Tartly pickled cucumber, carrot and crunchy cauliflower completed the picnic-friendly grazing quartet of plastic tubs.

    Potted shrimp and antipasti
    I was a bit excited to open up the cardboard tubs to find, essentially, a prawn cocktail salad. With loads of small, creamily dressed prawns set on top of shredded iceberg lettuce, it was a classic if not retro combination that will always taste amazingly of summer for the fresh crustaceans.

    Antipasti
    The first of the cardboard boxes held more picnic favourites of antipasti and grissini bread sticks. Salami and a spice-edged pastrami joined marinated artichoke and zucchini, juicy flavour-bombs of semi dried tomato pieces and olives.

    Seppelt Jaluka Chardonnay
    Seppelt's white wine to start and match was the highly drinkable Jaluka Chardonnay which matched the scene and the sun-setting vibe to a tee.

    Pasta salad with prosciutto and char grilled lamb on burghul salad
    While I could have happily stopped at dips, antipasti and wine, two filled-to-the-brim boxes of cold salad mains awaited.

    The first was a farfalle pasta salad with parsley and green beans, topped with three folded ribbons of prosciutto that were divine to devour on their own.

    The other was a vibrant burghul salad with kale, pumpkin and red capsicum that was particularly moreish, topped with cold slices of tender, char grilled lamb backstrap.

    Seppelt St Peters Grampians Shiraz
    Following tastings of the refreshingly dry, clean Great Western Riesling, we had a taste of Seppelt's flagship St Peters shiraz, which was as smooth as it gets with both boldness and fruit very, very restrained - quite the opposite of a big, fruity shiraz.

    Cheeses and candied walnuts
    Having eaten too much of the generously sized picnic - not even counting the desserts of fig pannacotta or the chocolate mousse that was initially mistaken for pate - I actually struggled to polish off the cheese.

    A very good brie and corner of Red Leicester were served with lavosh crackers and a pile of fabulous candied walnuts.

    Jake Meadows performing on the harp
    There was music throughout the evening but when the live-looped harp performance from singer and musician Jake Meadows came on, the wide-ranging audience was captivated. He made way for more partying and dance tunes as the night went on.

    Dîner en Blanc Sydney

    Waving napkins, signalling the beginning of DeB festivities
    As is DeB tradition, during the night the official 'waving of the napkins' is meant to signify the beginning of the night's festivities.

    Given the satellite-style layout of the tables outwards from the centre stage and DJ in McKay Field, we could see the Mexican wave-like, ripple effect of the napkin-waving as they got picked up around the spread out tables and flung around in the air.

    Sparklers come out, signalling the time to mingle and dance
    Photo by Shayben Moussa, courtesy of Burson-Marsteller
    Later in the night post dinner, sparklers are handed out to guests to light in unison and wave about, signalling the time to get social and boogie on the dancefloor - and try to make as many new friends as possible in the process.

    Even later, when the last dance has been danced, DeB guests pack up their tables, chairs and rubbish and leave the space without a trace of the evening's proceedings.

    An organisational and logistical feat, the white night in Centennial Park that was Dîner en Blanc capped off another successful year and event for the lucky 4,000 guests - and it's promised to be bigger and better yet again in 2015. See more photos on my Facebook page.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended Dîner en Blanc Sydney as a guest of Seppelt Wines.

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    Posted by Kath

    Nestled in the back streets of Darlinghurst, quirky, old world charm is the backdrop for what is probably one of the most laid-back and unique high tea experiences around town: the vodka high tea at Food Society.

    Table setting at Food Society, Riley Street, Darlinghurst
    Food Society is known for its unique eastern European offerings as well as being the original masters behind the Cuban themed food offerings at The Lobo Plantation. Head chef Fernando Sanchez ventures into the land of the high tea set on Saturdays, with an almost complete twist on tradition and plenty of flair.

    An exciting arrangement of savoury and sweet canapés are matched with premium single origin teas, bubbles and/or vodka-based iced tea cocktails.

    Watermelon Caipiroska (front) and  Spiced Apple Pie (back)
    To kick off the high tea with a cheeky, boozy twist, we ordered a round of Food Society's signature vodka and tea infused cocktails. A perfect match for a summer's day was the Watermelon Caipiroska with a watermelon black tea, fresh lime and house infused melon vodka, finished with novel and refreshing watermelon ice cubes.

    The Spiced Apple Pie cocktail was fuelled by house infused spiced apple juice, cinnamon, star anise, lemon zest and dangerously delicious Zubrowka bison grass vodka, served with crushed ice and a green apple garnish.

    Goat's cheese tartlet
    The allure of tiny pastries on pretty vintage tiered stands never fails to elicit an inner squeal of excitement from me, and the offerings at Food Society were definitely squeal-worthy.

    The top layer of savoury canapés featured a delicate miniature tart of goat's cheese, pine nuts and mint; baked within a buttery shortcrust pastry shell and topped with a fine dice of caramelised fennel and parsnip, which added sweet notes to the creamy quiche.

    Duck vol au vent
    Next on the menu was an oh-so-retro vol au vent which, on first bite, overwhelmed the senses with a hit of white truffle. Divine with the flaky pastry and chanterelle mushrooms, the truffle flavour matched well with the soft confit duck, finished with a light chestnut cream - so much deliciousness in one little puff pastry case.

    Salmon pastrami on truffle salt toast (left) and mini beef pie (right)
    The second tier kept the flavours coming with my favourite offering of the day: smoky green tea smoked salmon pastrami atop a small crisp bread vessel of truffle salt toast, paired with pure chamomile flower jelly, celeriac cream and shiso leaves - unique and delicious at any angle.

    To finish was a relatively substantial mini beef pie with a house made relish that was just as moreish as the other tiny offerings of the day.

    Classic cucumber sandwich (top) and "The best chicken sandwich" 
    On another tiered stand high tea tradition ruled with a selection of crustless finger sandwiches, beginning with a traditional cucumber sandwich of shaved cucumber ribbons, chervil cream cheese and pink peppercorns, topped with an added, luxurious surprise of salmon caviar.

    Providing a more filling end to the savoury course was "The best chicken sandwich". Sandwiched between buttery, charred brioche slices were flakes of smoky Lilydale chicken with its classic herb partner - tarragon - as well as nasturtium flowers, all held together with a creamy duck egg hollandaise. Best chicken sandwich? Pretty close.

    Tea set
    At this point a spot of tea was more than welcome to provide some respite between courses. An impressive array of teas is available for selection, including a wide range of single origin tea leaves.

    Berry macaron, sweet tea trifle, alfajores and dark chocolate truffle
    The selection of sweets was brought forth on a beautifully arranged share platter, without a scone in sight. I started with a berry macaron that was lovely and light, bursting with berry flavour, while the dark chocolate truffle was all you'd want it to be with oozy chocolate inside and hints of lavender and earl grey tea.

    The sweet tea trifle presented in a small glass jar was a nice transition from the darker, richer treats - and an exotic one at that. With a light custard of pomegranate and acai berry, a vodka-cured rhubarb jelly, vanilla sponge and sweet pickled Australian hibiscus flowers, the very modern trifle was finished with a salad of pomegranate and acai pearls.

    Last of the small bites was the dulce de leche filled shortbread alfajores which had me wishing I could buy these by the box. Light buttery shortbread gave way to creamy dulce de leche that wasn't too sweet but bordering on the perfect, dreamy side of burnt caramel.

    Czech style honey cake
    What looked like the piece de resistance, lovingly surrounded by pretty white flowers, was the Czech style spiced honey cake. Unexpectedly soft, this delightful cake was crumbly and moist, laced with salted caramel cream and topped with some of the best honeycomb I've had, house made too, and finished with slices of sweet caramelised pears.

    For a thoroughly delicious high tea experience that's not the same-old, Food Society provides a beautiful location and experience with a proper twist and all the quirk and flair you'd expect from an eastern European establishment - and with vodka, of course.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Food Society as a guest, with thanks to The Buzz Group.

    Food Society on Urbanspoon

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    While I've crossed the Harbour Bridge more times than I can count this year (usually I can count the annual trips on my fingers and toes), the Spit Bridge is still one I only see on rare occasions. And not even on my recent visit to Manly's Papi Chulo, which can be accessed idyllically via ferry from Circular Quay (though mind the Sunday summer queues if you’ve got a reservation).

    One of the more recent additions to the Merivale portfolio, I finally got the chance and fellow willing ferry travellers together to visit the waterside venue (where way back, I’d once attended a Chinese banquet wedding reception!).

    Oysters at Papi Chulo, Manly Wharf, Manly
    The American-style barbeque offerings are well known at Papi Chulo, and the menu surprised with various Asian and South American influences rolled in too.

    Looking picture perfect on ice in a metal dish, we started with well-sized Pacifics which were lovely and briney on their own with lemon, but improved significantly with the tart but well-balanced mignonette dressing featuring a fine dice of green apple.

    Cravado cocktail (left) and Bloody Maria (right)
    Drinks arrived during the oyster appreciation session, with the ice blended Cravado cocktail ideal for the humid day. Featuring loads of fresh mint, blitzed with ice, vodka, coconut water, lychees and lime, it reminded me of another venue's non-alcoholic slushie but ended up more watery than a proper, boozy cocktail.

    The Bloody Maria was a winner though with its almost comical garnish of a large, fresh peeled prawn. The house tomato and spice mix was standout and definitely on the upper end of the spice heat scale; stirred well with tequila and mezcal and served in a huge glass with lots of ice.

    Snowcrab, green mango, watermelon, herbs, peanuts, chilli lime dressing
    As we were going for the signature Papi Chulo BBQ platter to share among three, we went easy on the starters and opted for the light snow crab salad, which turned out to be a delightful Thai or Vietnamese style shredded green mango salad.

    With lashings of fresh mint and coriander, roasted peanuts and a bang-on chilli lime dressing, the snow crab flesh shone amid the subtly sweet green mango and chunks of bright red watermelon in the summer-perfect salad.

    Papi Chulo BBQ platter
    Our small round table could barely handle the main game (which is designed for 2-4 diners) amid the share plates and drinks. A large, metal dish held the varied BBQ meat platter of all the good stuff, starting with my favourite of Ranger’s Valley wagyu beef brisket, smoky and tenderly marbled with fat.

    The also fatty Suffolk lamb ribs were super smoky, and we could have polished off well over the 150 gram serving. There were serious rows of fat in the free-range pork belly slices although the maple black pepper was a bit lost on me.

    Last was the Kurobuta pulled pork shoulder and as much as I’m a bit over pulled pork, this particularly smoky rendition made for a superb sandwich in the soft bread roll with coleslaw.

    The Vietnamese coleslaw comes as part of the BBQ platter – a crunchy red cabbage slaw that was a pleasingly mayo-free zone – and we added a side of curly fries: proper loops and tubes of curled, crunchy potato fries, best dipped into the BBQ sauce that accompanied the platter.

    Berry sundae
    We requested a birthday dessert to share, not really expecting the rough-and-tumble looking bowl of a berry sundae. With a vanilla-y ice cream showered with a mix of fresh raspberries and blackberries; freeze-dried raspberries and blueberries; minute crisp meringue drops and crumbled shortbread biscuits, it was actually quite a sophisticated take on an ice cream sundae.

    Over the remnants of our Pachamama Riesling, we noticed the range of seating options and the more linger-friendly bar counter or booths. The middle aisle tables are fine for waiting out the next ferry though, which is how the rest of our lunch played out.

    Thoroughly stuffed with BBQ and all the wonderful additions, it was a short roll to the ferry wharf and its Sunday queues. With soft waves and salty air in our hair, it was a day trip ferry well spent over in Manly.

    Papi Chulo on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Kath

    Perrier-Jouet bottles at Champagne Room, upstairs at The Winery, Crown Street, Surry Hills
    It's that time of the year when champagne flows and one too many is just too hard to resist. For bubbles at brunch too, the new Champagne Room upstairs at The Winery in Surry Hills offers its new brunch menu with champagne on arrival.

    Champagne Room bar
    The Winery is surely a staple on the Crown Street strip by now, but that hasn't stopped them from re-inventing their upstairs real estate into the perfectly decadent retreat that is the Champagne Room.

    Perrier-Jouet Champagne flutes on arrival
    A-la-carte options are available but let the work be done for you with the new weekend brunch offerings and $75 set menu which includes that all important flute of Perrier-Jouet Champagne on arrival.

    Champagne Room service button
    The well-stocked bar upstairs is beautifully decorated with an impressive number of chandeliers, while blue velvet booths and a service bell for when the bubbles are running low offer a luxe escape from reality.

    Freshly shucked oysters and raw Hervey Bay Scallops
    Champagne Room's new weekend brunch menu is more lunch than brunch, and couldn't have started any better than with a serving of the most creamy Sydney rock oysters in a light champagne vinaigrette with a lemon cheek on the side.

    Accompanying these were another favourite of mine, Hervey Bay scallops, covered in a lemon salt, truffled peaches and crispy pancetta which added great contrast to the sweet raw scallops.

    Jamon, bresola & sopressa with chicken liver parfait, cornichons, green apple chutney and mustard fruits
    Continuing with things I love, out came a very generous serving of chicken liver parfait which was incredibly light and fluffy, and would have been more than enough to keep me happy for the entire meal.

    It was served alongside charcuterie from Byron Bay: paper thin jamon and bresaola, and sopressa salami; all accompanied by a gorgeous selection of cornichons, green apple chutney and mustard fruits.

    Seasonal beets salad with sorrel, red kale, Jannei goa'ts curd, sunflower seeds, sherry vinaigrette
    A nice side to the share plate was a fresh sweet red and golden beet salad. With on-trend ingredients of sorrel and kale, as well as the always excellent Jannei goat's curd, a zingy sherry vinaigrette helped cut through the richness of the cured meats and chicken liver parfait.

    Mini mushroom pie and mini wagyu burgers
    Our last savoury items were the mini mushroom pie and mini wagyu burger. The mushroom pie was full of flavour with champagne, thyme, garlic and truffle salsa mixed through with wild mushrooms and encased in freshly made puff pastry.

    The sliders sandwiched very well seasoned wagyu beef patties with sliced heirloom tomato, mixed leaves, gruyere cheese and a truffle mayonnaise which I would have loved more of.

    Chocolate brownie
    To complete this journey of Champagne Room indulgence, there were two desserts on offer; first up a chocolate brownie.

    While brownies can be hit or miss, this one was definitely a hit: rich and moist, it practically melted in the mouth, and served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    Summer fruits with champagne sabayon, vanilla and sugared pistachio
    A perfect match for a balmy summer's day was the summer fruits dessert, including strawberries, raspberries and blueberries drenched in a champagne sabayon and topped with a berry sorbet.

    With brunch available on weekends from 11am, Champagne Room certainly doesn't peddle the usual brunch offerings. The gorgeous selection of fresh seafood and heartier meals, and of course, Perrier-Jouet champagne makes it pure brunch decadence on Crown Street.

    Champagne Room signage
    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at the Champagne Room as a guest, with thanks to The Mint Partners.

    The Winery on Urbanspoon

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  • 12/28/14--12:13: 2014: A tale of two years
  • The 12 months of 2014 have been some of the craziest yet in my life, and not in that drunken, dazed manner of my early 20s. With new responsibility, the year has had so many distinct twists and turns that it feels like at least two years in one.

    Here's some of the high points of the year in food, booze and events, including highlights from contributors Hendy, Janice and Kath & Mark.

    House charcuterie at Nomad, Foster Street, Surry Hills
    I fell head over heels for Nomad this year, which seems to be a collection of all the things I love in a space I wish I had and done in just a slightly more hipster manner than I can identify with, But with the calling card of the platter of completely house-made charcuterie, Nomad well and truly has my number.

    Mac and cheese at Miss Peaches Soul Food Kitchen, Missenden Road, Newtown
    My appetite for pasta, and carbs generally, hasn't waned one bit and the American-style mac'n'cheese at Miss Peaches Soul Food Kitchen above Newtown's Malbourough Hotel hits all the right spots. Ridiculously cheesy and rich, garnished with chives and a house chilli sauce on the side, it's pure cheese and carb bliss in a side dish.

    Insalata Caprese at Cipro - pizza al taglio, Fountain Street, Alexandria
    It's taken me a while to discover the joys of thick-based pizzas at Cipro - pizza al taglio in Alexandria. And it makes me sad that I didn't know about their sensational Caprese salad earlier. Heirloom tomatoes, pickled Spanish onion rings and smashed green olives take the classic insalata Caprese up several levels.

    Mussels.... at Three Blue Ducks, Macpherson Street, Bronte
    I've really come to like mussels over the last couple of years post realising that they're only rubbery when they're overcooked. The best version I've had yet has to be Bronte's Three Blue Ducks' steamed mussels with coconut sambal, fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes - dish licking good.

    Club Limbo at Pinbone, Jersey Road, Woollahra
    Kath: Pinbone wins for making the best club sandwich ever. Turkey, confit duck leg, bacon jam, crispy prosciutto, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and chips on the side. More than enough said.

    Anchovies and fish pate at Bodega, Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
    A relatively quiet achiever in the quieter but burgeoning western end of Surry Hills, Bodega is the older but seemingly more experimental sibling to the wildly popular Porteño in the same suburb.

    Argentinian tapas produces the likes of a creamy fish pate served alongside pickled anchovies, loud music and unmissable rockabilly style.

    Fried chicken with chilli powder at Hot Star Large Fried Chicken, Liverpool Street, Sydney
    The mere mention of 'Hot Star' gets me salivating. From Taiwan, Sydney's first Hot Star Large Fried Chicken outlet in the city south is what 3am dreams are made of. A half chicken breast, deep fried fresh to order with a sprinkling of house recipe chilli powder, served piping hot in a paper bag - sweet dreams are made of fried chicken.

    from the 'A Taste of The Dairy' at Intercontinental Sydney, Phillip Street, Sydney
    The 'A Taste Of...' series of dinners at Intercontinental Sydney earlier in the year were excellent opportunities to learn about local producers and enjoy them in a fine dining environment. As part of the 'A Taste of The Dairy' dinner, the baked Reblochon cheese with confit fig was a knee-weakening rendition of a cheese course.

    Carbonara from Roscioli Deli and Restaurant, Rome, Italy
    Janice: My favourite dish this year had to be the carbonara in Rome. It was so spectacular because it's my quintessential dish of carbs, cheese (pecorino romano) and cured meat (guanciale or pig cheek, in this case). I've taken to never eating it when I'm out any more because nothing beats the ones I had in Rome.

    Grilled octopus and white beans at Alpha, Castlereagh Street, Sydney
    I'm glad I got to tick Alpha in the CBD south off the list this year, as was Kath. The grilled octopus tentacles were an unexpected standout for me, cooked tenderly and smokily for one of the best occy dishes I've had in ages.

    Kath: Alpha was a highlight for bringing a modern twist to traditional Greek food. The highlight of the menu for me was the melt-in-the-mouth pickled octopus with cucumber and sun-dried olives.

    Bacon aioli and bread at Bishop Sessa, Crown Street, Surry Hills
    Bacon. Aioli. It's all I needed to hear at Bishop Sessa at the quieter end of Surry Hills' Crown Street. Their 'I Dream of Pork' degustation was absolutely dream-worthy with all sorts of porcine goodness ranging from chicarrones to blood sausage.

    They had me from the bread course which was served with a smokey bacon fat aioli that was probably a nutritionists' nightmare but dreamy on all other counts.

    Pork cutlet bun at Chefs Gallery Wynyard, Metcentre, Margaret Street, Sydney
    Undoubtedly one of the naughtiest things I've eaten this year are the Macanese pork buns at Chefs Gallery Wynyard. Featuring a deep fried pork cutlet and spicy mayonnaise on a deep fried man tou style bun, the fried-on-fried burger oozed with fatty deliciousness.

    Events

    Long lunch for Melbourne Food and Wine Festival at Red Spice Road, Melbourne
    I made it to Melbourne for their annual food and wine festival this year, joining in on the long lunch action at Red Spice Road. With numerous courses of shared dishes, heaps of seafood and wine flowing, it was a most pleasant lunch experience in one of Melbourne's iconic laneways.

    Strawberry caipirinha from Flavours of Brazil dinner at Bridge Street Garage, Bridge Street, Sydney
    Hendy: The emotional roller coaster that was the World Cup was hosted in Brazil this time round. We all shared moments of tears, laughter and joy at the Flavours of Brazil dinner at Bridge Street Garage, including this lovely and colourful Caipirinha. Unlike at the soccer, this was a winner from Brazil.

    Atura Blacktown, Cricketer's Arms Road, Blacktown
    A famil to Blacktown this year was quite an event for this inner city/inner west dwelling girl. Atura Blacktown is a relatively new boutique style hotel in the area next door to one of Sydney's only drive in cinemas. The hotel is modern, quirky and very well equipped for the Wet'n'Wild guest, business travellers and western suburbs tourists alike.

    Chauffeur pick-up for Tanqueray Bar Hop for Good Food Month 2014, Sydney
    Definitely the most fun event of the year was the Tanqueray Bar Hop as part of Good Food Month. One night, two girls, one chauffeur and four bars serving Tanqueray gin cocktail specials. I still keep a hopeful eye out for a chauffeur outside my work to pick me up and take me to a bar for cocktails.

    Table of 10 dinner at OzHarvest HQ, Maddox Street, Alexandria
    One of the more heart-warming events of the year was OzHarvest's 10 year celebration dinner at their new warehouse headquarters in Alexandria. With a combination of rescued and donated food, OzHarvest's chefs whipped up an amazingly homely, comforting and thoroughly scrumptious dinner, shared with great wines and even better company.

    Carrots with organic yoghurt, black olive crumb from Sustainable Table dinner, Studio Neon, Raglan Street, Waterloo
    Hendy: Also for Good Food Month Sustainable Table, an  innovative not-for-profit organisation from Melbourne, launched a clever campaign to raise awareness of food wastage. The food that was presented at the campaign dinner not only demonstrated the elegance of simplicity but also reminded us that good food and good produce can also look a tad imperfect.

    Dîner en Blanc Sydney 2014, McKay Field, Centennial Park
    The sea of sophisticated white that is Dîner en Blanc returned to Sydney bigger than ever. About 4,000 guests participated in the great white picnic in the secret location of Centennial Park this year and thanks to Seppelt Wines, we were wined and dined in total style - in full whites, of course.

    Goodbye 2014!

    As the year comes to an end, I'd like to send a huge thanks to my team of contributors - Hendy, Janice, Kath & Mark - for their inspired food-eating and photographing efforts this year. It's been loads of fun, sharing the passion for food and booze (perhaps less so the shoes?), and .

    Thanks also to all the readers and followers over the past year, and the five years before it. It's been a year of change, some stress and new responsibilities - and always plenty of food, booze and shoes - thanks for joining me and the team along the way. See you around in 2015!

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    First, apologies for the prolonged quietness. It has been, and will no doubt continue to be, a very busy year for me and as such, this is the last blog post you'll see on Food, Booze & Shoes for a while. The reason?

    Small bar Tokyo Bird opened in a quiet Surry Hills laneway in late December 2014 with my partner Jason at the helm and a small crew that includes, on some nights, me. That's right, Food, Booze & Shoes is transitioning to something more like Booze, Booze and some Food.

    Tokyo Bird, Belmore Lane, Surry Hills
    Tokyo Bird is the realisation of a long-held aspiration for us, especially Jason who's been shaking Boston tins for at least the last 12 years.

    While we've been hit with all manner of delays over the past 12 months or so, we're proud to finally be open on the unbeaten, footpath-less Belmore Lane in Surry Hills, right behind Brooklyn Hide and around the corner from Bodega and the Keg & Brew pub.

    The bar at Tokyo Bird
    Photo by George Hong
    Our concept brings together Tokyo's refined cocktail bars with the Japanese 'salaryman' favourite of a yakitori-ya, in a very Sydney incarnation of a laneway small bar.

    With an intimate space licensed to hold 60 patrons, it really is a place that we would want to hang out in for chilled drinks – whether it's beer, our award-winning bartender Yoshi Onishi's house cocktails, sake or an introduction to Japanese whisky.

    Snacks and yakitori at Tokyo Bird
    Photo by George Hong
    On the food side, particularly having determined that I'm most definitely an eater after a few drinks, we've got a selection of nibbles and yakitori grilled skewers for some pretty decent drinking food.

    Check out what the lovely Lee Tran from The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry; Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella and Corinne from Gourmantic had to say about us, as well as articles in SMH's Good Food, Broadsheet, The Urban List, Concrete Playground and TimeOut Sydney.

    Cocktails at Tokyo Bird
    Photo by George Hong
    It's been six great years of Food, Booze & Shoes with more than 700 posts published on Sydney restaurants, bars, events and festivals. But it it feels like the time is right to put the blog to rest for now as the food blogging community continues to evolve and change, and my own spare time and resources have all but disappeared.

    Personally, it's been six wonderful years of eating, drinking, getting around town and connecting with very like-minded individuals. It's also been six long years of photo selection and editing, late nights writing and trying to remember what something I ate weeks ago tasted like - these parts I won't miss so much.

    Heartfelt thanks go to my contributors - Hendy, Janice, Kath & Mark - for their efforts over the past year or so - it's been so great to share the blog with you and in return, experience your perspectives and passion for all things food and booze. Many hugs to the other bloggers (and no-longer bloggers) out there who I can happily call friends - I won't be seeing you at events and picnics any longer, but Tokyo Bird hopes to see you soon!

    So while you won't find me here much any more, you will certainly be able to find me at Belmore Lane in Surry Hills, or on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter– and even on our own blog from time to time.

    Signing off with love, food, booze & shoes,
    Tina