2012 – Food and more food

I told you I would go batshit crazy eating my way through Brisbane in my last year. All the dishes I’ve posted a photo of below and have tasted it myself were worth every penny. When the new year started, I have been cooking and baking many new things; too frequently I may add (thank god I’m a physically active person. I would look like a whale by now if I wasn’t). I promise you this, I will make at least one new dish every week for the rest of the year. Let it be an appetizer, or dessert. Simple or complex. Side dish or sauce. I will try to incorporate new ingredients and textures along the way. While intensely exploring restaurant food has taught me so much about what I like, it’s time to move that towards the back burner and get my hands dirty.

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Chicken Tikka Masala – Taj Mahal in New Farm. The most tasty and affordable Indian restaurant I know of!

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“Lucie”, from Le Bon Choix – a French patisserie. Strawberry fillings with coconut base.

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Amandine Poires – Chouquette in New Farm. Another well established French patisserie

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Pesto scrambled eggs on house cured salmon with chili jam – Little Larder in New Farm. Excellent breakfast overall but the chilli jam was to die for!

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Poached egg on toulouse sausages and sweet potato hash cakes with tomato jam – Gunshop Cafe in West End.

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Potato and feta hash cakes with herbed sour cream, spinach and bella rossa tomatoes – a Gunshop Cafe breakfast classic!


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cranberry and macadamia, poached blackberries, fresh strawberries and yoghurt – Comfort at my Table in Milton. Cutest breakfast cafe in Brisbane!

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breakfast bubble and squeak with bacon bits, caramelized onions, spinach and chilli oil – Anouk in Paddington. An extremely memorable dish. Definitely wasted no time inhaling all of it

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avocado and roast cherry tomatoes on toast with goat chevre, rocket, dukkah and fresh lemon – Anouk in Paddinton. Cal ordered this and I had a bite, it was delicious!

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I believe these were baked Turkish eggs that Quynh ordered – Anouk in Paddington. Everything at this place is made with the freshest ingredients and never a disappointment!

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Was not able to get through a day without coffee this year. Now I know what it’s like to get hooked on coffee

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Always enjoyed visiting the fine food stores in Brisbane. Found some interesting products…

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A whole shelf devoted to Olive oils

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Probably one of the best combination of salads I’ve never had at this quaint cafe called Three Girls Skipping beside my work. One was potato, another was couscous and lastly a leafy tomato balsamic. So good.

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scallops, pumpkin chips and wagyu beef. Public in Brisbane. Not many people know about this tapas place but when you’ve discovered it, you’re in for a treat!

Duck egg baked in toast sprinkled with shaved truffles - Public in Brisbane city. Such an interesting dish. I have had duck egg in the past but not presented like this!

Duck egg baked in toast sprinkled with shaved truffles – Public in Brisbane city. Such an interesting dish. I have had duck egg in the past but not presented like this!

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field mushrooms on goat cheese, caramelised onions and puff pastry – Gunshop Cafe in West End. This gem of a breakfast cafe can always be found with a line up out the door!

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Rhubarb, aperol savin dessert – Public in Brisbane city. Was worth every penny. Sweet and slightly sour combination served with creme fraiche to neutralize the perfect flavours.

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Although I didn’t taste this dish nor was it found in Brisbane, I was still very impressed by its presentation. Poached pear, yoghurt and… some other stuff. I strive everyday for healthy breakfasts like this

Eating out in Shanghai and Japan

This summer (Canadian summer, Australian winter. Just to be clear 🙂 ) I decided to take a trip back to the motherland and spend some quality time with family. During holidays like Chinese New Year, and special occasions (i.e. me visiting, ha), by far the most common “activity” Chinese people partake in is dining out; and I had a lot of family to see. Their lifestyle revolves much more around food than what I’m used to. But then I started to understand how it’s not easy to resist the urge to eat when there’s damned good food every street you walk down and every corner you turn. Not just the type of cuisine, but the type of Chinese food all the restaurants offer boggles my mind. So needless to say, I spent a LOT of time eating these past 3 weeks, which I did not have the slightest issue with. Eating and bonding, what can be better? There’s always room for delicious food. I decided to put together a little gallery for some of my dining experiences while I bounced around Japan and China. Keep in mind that these were just a small percentage of what I ate.  It was undoubtedly the greatest food journey of my life.

Bye bye #2 On My Bucket List

I just want to cheerfully announce that I am now able to scratch/cross out/check off-whatever you want to call it-the 2nd thing on my bucket list! It may not seem like a big accomplishment but there’s this feeble warm and fuzzy feeling on the inside that lets me know I am taking small but necessary steps. The only time I have ever had a macaron was when I was down in Melbourne last year; and it is without a doubt THE food city of Australia. Every few steps you take, something delicious slaps you in the face. Every corner you turn, almost guaranteed you’re heading down another food alley of awesomeness.

My first thoughts on macarons:

1. “It looks plastic.”

2. “Why isn’t macaron spelled with double ‘o’?” (…I’m such a spelling freak. I’m still bothered by people who cannot tell the difference between words like their, they’re and there. But if I correct them I’m the asshole.)

3. “There are too many colours and flavours… great, now I’m going to spend forever here making a decision. It’s not a life changing decision…just pick something… wow I really do have a problem”

I chose vanilla.

Despite my first impressions on this little gem, I’m pretty sure an orgasmic food bomb went off in my mouth as I bit into it. From that moment on, I wanted to try as many flavours as I can and make my own someday!

Then I came back to Brisbane without the first clue on where to find macarons. Aside from Starbucks but I don’t exactly want to pay an astronomical amount for just one. Until recently, my friend Jackie told me there’s a guy in the city every week on market day that sells them! And to the city I went…

Coconut macaron

Oh, what’s this? Pistachio macaron? Why not!

I loved both flavours and all the other nutty ones! Although the fruity ones were worth a try, they were too sweet and not as refreshing. In case you guys are wondering why I specifically wrote coconut macaron on the list; it’s because I love coconut. There’s no story behind it. I’m sure the title of my blog says how much love I have for coconuts. Did I have high expectations before trying the coconut macaron? Yes, I have been anticipating it. Did it meet my expectations? You bet!

TTFN

High Tea

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 3 years since I first came to Australia. Why is it that people have a tendency of picking the farthest place on the map whenever they want to go somewhere? Having lived in Toronto (well, Cambridge, but most of you are familiar with Toronto) for 16 years now, I never once visited NYC, Vancouver or Banff. Those are some pretty popular destinations that are not too far from me right? And when I ask some of my Aussie friends what Melbourne and Sydney are like, a few of them simply told me they’ve never been outside of Queensland. It’s an interesting observation, how sometimes we are not so inclined to explore what’s around us, but deviating far from the place we are most familiar with just seems like a refreshing thing to do. It’s almost as if we want to break away from our quicksand-like comfort zone so desperately before it pulls us even deeper.

At least that’s how I felt 3 years ago.

I remember being so excited to move far away and start a new chapter in my life. However, it didn’t take too long before I realized how I overestimated my ability to live on my own. An incredible sadness overcame me – and lingered like a fog for a long time- when I started to miss my comfort zone more than ever. I immediately wanted to get back on a plane and go home; but I didn’t. Well, because it would have been the most ridiculous thing ever; having paid $2000 for that flight, I am not a rockstar so I sucked it up. And I’m glad I did. Now I’m living happily in Brisbane and couldn’t be more ecstatic that graduation is just a mere 6 months away. After I finished my first year of University in Canada, I never would have dreamed of having a pharmacy degree at the age of 24 (because my grades were crap), let alone be fortunate enough to attain it while living in Australia.

One big thing that I’ve learned over the past few years is that the future is never exactly what I imagine it to be. For example, when I was in my first and second year University I never thought I would want to have a blog, a passion for food and now I want to start my OWN BUSINESS!? The old me would have said “don’t be stupid, focus on pharmacy”. I miss the old me.

Just kidding. But seriously, why can’t I do both? I feel so fulfilled that I’ve found the things I love doing. So I want to give a big thanks to all of you who have been alongside of me on this ride over the past few years. Yea yea, it’s still early in the year I’m not graduated yet why am I being such a cheeseball. That’s what I’m picturing some of my friends saying right now. Hey whatever, take it before the offer expires. 😛

Anyway, huge thick pair of graduation goggles are on and they seem to be glued to my face. Metaphorically not literally. If you don’t know what graduation goggles are or watch How I Met Your Mother religiously, they’re kind of like beer goggles only in your graduation year, everything about the student life seem much more attractive than usual. Symptoms include; but are not limited to: the urge to drink like a fish all day everyday (which can also cause beer goggles), fist pumpin’ that nasty club air with more enthusiasm, eating out as if there’s a zombie apocalypse coming (I’ve already mastered Rule #1 – Cardio), and striking up a conversation with people you’ve known for your entire degree but never talked to them until now. (Not that I didn’t think you’re an interesting person. I am just shy sometimes)

I’m trying to put a cap on the eating out thing. Lately I have been encouraging myself to explore the diversity of cuisines in Brisbane before I no longer have the opportunity to. Couple of days ago I had a fantastic afternoon at the Stamford Plaza with Kim and Quynh and finally experienced how delicious and elegant high tea is.  I am way overdue for photos in this post…

I’m still trying to learn about all the functions on my new camera. It takes time!

“Sipping on tea like a female sir”
Haha

Salmon on a piece of… pancake? Kim and I thought it was a cracker at first. How wrong we were

The waitress was suppose to be well trained at naming everything as soon as they’ve served us. She had to apologize as she forgot what a few things were. I said “don’t worry, it’s not like we’ll remember what you just said anyway”.  It’s true, we didn’t. My favourite was the salmon appetizer by far, and raw fish isn’t even my cup of tea! (I had to) The tarts and mousse were amazing as well and there were also curry puffs that I failed to include in the photos. My least favourite was the cucumber sandwich. It was just too bland!

It doesn’t seem like a lot of food but by the end all three of us were stuffed! Had to leave the leftover scones. Shame.  The inspiration from high tea influenced me so much that I want to master a wide variety of little delectable treats and host my own high tea someday haha 😀 All in all, another memorable afternoon in Brisbane. If you’re looking to go somewhere for high tea around this area, Stamford Plaza is it for you.

Cheers to the rest of 2012 and more great experiences 🙂

See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil

A lot of you may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging about my kitchen creations since my return to Brisbane. I’m not lazy, nor did I lose interest. Just that the student life is catching up to me. I have a shitty oven that merely holds a 5lb bird, and very limited kitchen supplies – ’cause it would be silly if I lugged it all back from Canada. Well, I have pots and pans and basic utensils. But I miss my electric mixer, baking trays, spices, and… coffee maker. The things I would give for my coffee maker right now. Nope, not about to get into what my instant coffee tastes like. Anyway, I find it frustrating to search for proper ingredients at grocery stores in this area. Last year, in an attempt to recreate a cupcake recipe of Martha Stewart’s, I quit after failing to find half of the ingredients at Coles. HOW IS IT THAT YOU DON’T HAVE BROWN SUGAR IN STOCK!?

… *ahem*

So, I’ve temporarily taken a new direction with this blog while I’m overseas. I will write about my new experiences with food as I utilize my precious last 7 months exploring Brisbane. A food-travel blog, if you will.

Of the 3 years I have spent in Brisbane, and being a cafe lover, I have found THE gem in this city. And from this place, located subtly on a street corner in a suburb called West End, the most delicious piece of chocolate cake was discovered.

The Three Monkeys

The first time I came here I almost missed it. It didn’t look like a cafe from the outside. Through the miniature front yard and sliding door, there’s an immediate claustrophobic feeling that is dissipated as quick as it came as soon as you walk down the side corridor into another backyard seating area. That’s probably what it feels like to enter Narnia from the wardrobe…

You can now sense that this is not just your typical cafe or a hole in the wall, but rather somewhere inbetween. It can be private and peaceful but at the same time filled with so much character that you cannot help but to come back again and again. ONE cake in the front display case hits the jackpot every. single. time. Their variety of teas is amazing; from the typical store-bought flavours to the tropical fruity herbal spicy soothing light surprising kinds whatever it’s there.

Filo wrapped chicken mushroom ham with garden salad seasoned with rosemary. It may not look like a big portion size but took me ages to devour this plate and still had leftovers. You can taste the quality and freshness of their ingredients. A nicely balanced lunch.

Saving the best for last. Who is Diane and what other heavenly cakes does she make!?!? Diane, if you’re out there, just know that I will bow to you when you show your face. Do not underestimate this piece of cake, for it is the best chocolate cake I have ever had. Moist cake and fluffy mousse layers. Covered in a thin coating of dark chocolate, but not thick enough that you need a glass of milk. That’s my rule for cakes: if I need a glass of milk to wash it down, it ain’t good enough. It’s obvious that I am about to make it my life mission to figure out the recipe. If you are a chocolate cake lover, or not, go try it. More importantly, if you know the recipe, don’t tell me. This is a personal challenge.

This post is dedicated to my best friend, who is just as unreasonably crazy about Chocolate Diane as I am. The obsession began when she visited me in Brisbane last year. I’m confident she will appreciate the fact that I have the advantage of enjoying this cake whenever I want since she is far away now. It’s a cruel world we live in. But no fear, when I have successfully imitated this god-sent cake, I will share the recipe with you all. 😀

To sum it all up, this is Three Monkeys in my books:

  1. Quality food. Check
  2. Reasonable price. Check
  3. Good atmosphere. Check
  4. Speedy service and friendly staff. Check

I would say my checklist is quite reasonable in terms of what I look for in cafes. But surprisingly it’s not easy coming across places that can check off all 4. If you’re looking to steer away from the hectic streets of the city, and the uncomfortable silence of your own home, Three Monkeys is your temporary escape.