Friday 7 February 2014

Quickie in Melbourne over Chinese New Year - Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Melbourne is a beautiful city bursting with phenomenal food, culture and fashion, and only a short plane trip from Brisbane scoring it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Leaving on a Friday night after work, Mamma BellyBlogger and I land in Melbourne and are ready to check into our apartment and get a good night’s sleep before an action packed weekend.

The apartment is located on Collins Street in the heart of the city, and only moments after checking in, the keys turn in the lock and we are unexpectedly greeted by two half naked men inside the apartment demanding  to know what’s going on. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” is all we could reply followed by a speedy escape down the hall back to reception, bypassing woken and worried fellow guests.

Following sincere apologies from reception and an upgrade to the VIP level, we made our way to an empty apartment and made sure to slide the latch across as the door closed.

The morning sun welcomed a heatwave over the city that endured the entire weekend creating the perfect atmosphere for a Brisbanite to take a stroll to the bustling Queen Victoria Markets.  Make sure you get a bag of sweet chilli coated macadamia nuts, or honey coated if you prefer it sweeter, these moorish delights are a must have and great for grazing while shopping and sightseeing.

For doughnut lovers a trip to doughboys is imperative! All the way from America, Doughboys is  a cool place to hang out and you won't find fresh doughnuts oozing with exotic flavoured icing like these anywhere in Brisbane. The Double D was my favourite, with the Maple Bacon a close second followed by the Peanut Butter Strawberry. If you dig ribs and pulled pork there is an American place right next door where you can feast on these savoury sins before indulging in doughy deliciousness.

Two of my favourite foodie destinations are St Kilda and Port of Melbourne, however, on this occasion I spent lunch at a family friend’s place, which was something pretty special because it’s not often you have an Australian Actor / Film Producer / Chef make you an authentic Italian lunch followed by a delightful white chocolate and berry cake. Mirko and Amanda Grillini used to own a restaurant in Brisbane known as Nonna Pia and used to teach cooking classes at the Black Pearl. They have moved to the big city to work on many interesting projects, stay tuned to find out more!

After an afternoon of chatting and relaxing, it was time to head to the Yarra River to check out the festivities for Chinese New Year. Check out the multi-coloured dumplings!!

Sunday morning brought about another bright sunny day and a short walk over the bridge down to Southbank promenade led us to breakfast. We stopped at Bear Brass and I was surprised at how cheap the options on the menu were. Given the prime location, I assumed it would be expensive and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a quality meal for an affordable price.

Walking off breakfast back through the city to Southern Cross station, we purchased a sky bus ticket to the airport and were on our way home. Public transport is fantastic in Melbourne, the trams are everywhere and it’s really easy to get around. Purchase a Myki card from any Seven Eleven for $6 and you can top up with required fare - $6 for a whole weekend! It would cost you that much for one trip through the city in Brisbane.

I’ll be headed back down to Melbourne in a couple of weeks for FitX - the feasting is going to be of schwarzenegger proportions. 

Thursday 31 October 2013

Fellowship of the Food – Destination: Azafrán

Living and working around the CBD area with an abundance of restaurant options can morph you into a creature of comfort, rarely venturing far from City-ville because a journey without chariot seems analogous to Frodo’s journey through Middle Earth. However, some journeys are worth the effort if you know the final destination will be rewarding...your eating adventure at Azafrán will have you coming back for superb breakfasts, 3-course week day lunch deals and dinners because Azafrán is the precious (insert Sméagol voice). 

Elated energy flowed through the Friday night air as a food lovers’ meat-up was in order; new faces to meet, regular friends to greet at a new venue which proved to be a real treat. Azafrán is an award-winning gem located in Annerley. Only a short trip from the city thanks to fellow blogger - Melissa Loh - the restaurant revealed to be the owners’ home once upon a time; full of character and artistic flare featuring an ever-changing menu of Modern Australian food. 

Seated in a private dining room – previously the owners’ bedroom - the remaining places at the round table were occupied by dolcie bunny, foodmeupscotty and feedmenowbrisbane armed with an appetite ready to begin our epic adventure through the tasting menu. 

The five course tasting menu was a unanimous decision allowing the opportunity to experience a variety of options that were especially selected by the Chef and Menu Maestro, Marc Bocquee. 

The journey began with a selection of sourdough breads with hazelnut dukkah and soft butter with sea salt. 

The first entrée set the scene for a serious feast to follow; beautifully plated seared scallops with spiced cauliflower, prosciutto crumbs and saffron emulsion. It’s interesting to note that Azafrán means saffron in Spanish. 

Entrée numero dos was  a pan roasted barramundi with poached asparagus flaunting a prawn ravioli hat and cardamom emulsion; it’s obvious why Azafrán was awarded an Australian Good Food Guide chef’s hat by their use of fresh and quality produce . Before moving onto the mains, a sphere of watermelon flavoured palate cleanser was presented, refreshing the tastebuds for more action. 

The first main to arrive - to outwardly busting excitement - was a slow cooked pork belly with pumpkin puree, braised cabbage and a crunchy-on-the-outside, awesome-on-the-inside beef croquette. This dish was so deeply enjoyed that I was literally dancing with delight in my seat, and Melissa Loh licked a love heart in the remaining jus on her plate - for footage view @brisbellyblog instagram. 

The savoury flavours had almost come to an end as the second main arrived revealing a confit of duck leg perched upon spring vegetables, gnocchi and pinot nois jus. Confit is a salt-curing preservation technique followed by cooking the meat in its own fat resulting in a beautiful, rich flavour. 

Pork and peanut butter are two of this belly blogger’s most pleasurable tastes. Tonight was a particularly lucky night where these two favourites brought heavenly delight. Perfect proportions of each dish allowed room for a delectable peanut butter dacquoise topped raspberries and creamy Belgium chocolate ice cream, which was consumed in complementary silence, reflecting on the voyage that had come to an end.   

During the Middle Ages a Round Table tournament was a lively festive event and similarly  this eve was filled with plenty of cutlery jousting, phenomenal feasting and loads of laughs while reminiscing past food adventures and planning future meal missions– it’s a good thing our noisy fellowship of the food had a private room. After appetites of the hungry hobbits were appeased, we travelled sleepily back to our shire to drift into a blissful food coma. 

Azafran on Urbanspoon

Sunday 27 October 2013

BirdCage - Portal to Pan Asian Adventure

photo credit: Lady Lex

Here is your passport to an exotic location; flying North over the South Pacific Ocean. Soar over ancient civilizations with majestic architecture, gaze upon the Angkor Wat. Glide over the Mekong River, rice paddies and rainforests; experience a sensory adventure punctuated with plenty of taste and texture surprises. 

 Travelling through Asia takes you on a tour not only of wildly exotic countries but also of cuisine that is distinctly different from country to country. Someone who has spent many years abroad capturing an in-depth knowledge of Asian culture and cuisine is Darryl Marsden, owner of BirdCage restaurant. Combining his travel adventures with experience in the hospitality industry, Darryl has created an authentic environment designed to unify the exotic and flavourful taste of Pan Asian cuisine to share with his hungry flock, all under one roof. 

Spices, sauces and herbs are integral parts of Asian food added to enhance taste, texture, aroma and colour. Selecting one entree will be a tough call so order a shared platter, set to satisfy desire for variety, all for an excellent price. Boasting innovative names and techniques like Thai fish cakes with snake beans and Kajang style beef skewers threaded onto lemongrass stalks, all entrees are paired with flavoursome sauces. King prawn and chicken rice paper rolls are especially refreshing when dipped in a Vietnamese mint and coriander sauce, and you can’t go past the Potstickers packed with Pork, Shiitake and bamboo accompanied by black rice vinegar and pickled ginger dipping sauce. 

By far the most impressive dish is a whole snapper; visually spectacular and de-boned daring you to devour.  Bold, strong and exotic flavours are the driving force behind all of the accompanying salads and are pleasantly refreshing coming into Summer. 

Even the Berkshire pork belly tastes light, braised in sweet soy and star anise balanced with a Kim Chee and cucumber salad. Kim chee is a traditional fermented Korean dish, rich in vitamins and aids in digestion facilitating the breakdown of the fattiness in the pork belly.  

Southeast Asia is busting with ancient traditions and folklore. There are some superstitions behind the chilli in Southeast Asia; some say chillies are used to ward off the evil eye, however, no matter what your belief the chilli is certainly guaranteed to ward off the evil cold! For beef and chilli lovers or those after a healthy kick, the beef sirloin seasoned with coriander will go down a treat. Be sparing with the ‘crying tiger’ sauce, the fiery colour glimmering from the saucer will give you an indication of the intense flavour waiting to pounce. 

photo credit: Lady Lex

The ingredients used in Asian foods create flavours that are intense, subtle, deep and contrasting. Inject some colour into your work day by taking advantage of the excellent weekday lunch time specials. Peck on crunchy prawns perched atop an explosively fresh papaya salad. Take a sticky beak in the basement level and book in your next function, guests will admire the transformation of this historic Moreton RubberWorks building. 

photo credit: Lady Lex

No meal would be complete without dessert, a popular snack food mostly found throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and the Phillipines is Pisang goreng or Fried Banana. BirdCage have superbly transformed simple banana fritters into a moreish dessert by adding salted coconut caramel and vanilla ice-cream. 

Never get the opportunity to leave your birdcage and travel?  Want to re-capture fond memories of Asian adventures? BirdCage is your local portal to the perfect Pan Asian experience.   

BirdCage on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Love Bucci

It’s only fitting to dine at an Italian Restaurant during the Italian Film Festival week with a gorgeous Italian friend. Film festivals are an eccellente way to experience another culture and watch movies very different to the usual Hollywood blockbusters. 

Italy conjures feelings of love through some of the most beautiful creations in life. Fall head over your Salvatore Ferragamo heels with Italian architecture, think the Colosseum; and literature - enter stage - Romeo and Juliet. Love the sexy fashion trade that has evolved from buff Romans in Togas to Valentino. Love the language, which is so sexy and melodic that the great Romantic English poet, Lord Byron, described Italian as a language that sounds "as if it should be written on satin."

Arguably the greatest love of the land is Italian cuisine; who doesn’t love pizza, gelato or espresso?  

Matthew Evans, the Gourmet Farmer, explained at a recent Queensland Writer’s Centre workshop that many Italian cookbooks do not have the accurate measurements in the recipe because the Italians have cooking in their blood. Their measurements judged through feel, taste, and an abundance of family feasts. This knowledge, coupled with a Gnocchi-making lesson from my Italian housemate’s mother, stirred a deep appreciation for Italian food. 

Bucci Restaurant is an enchanting venue on James Street in Fortitude Valley. Bucci is run by husband and wife, Shaun and Tanja Malone, who work with producers to source organic, local and free-range products wherever possible to create fresh, traditional dishes. 

Share plates are a wonderful way to try a variety of dishes and they make for great topics of conversation; especially for those virgin tête-à-tête scenes.  After placing the order, a special dish arrived from the kitchen – thanks Shaun for the lovely surprise!  Longing to discover what lay beneath an upside-down wine glass filled with smoke; as the glass lifted from the plate, the smoke cleared to reveal a beautiful smoked swordfish with a salad of fennel, cannellini beans agrodolce onions and crispy salami. It looked, smelt and tasted simply spectacular. 


An absolute favourite on the menu is the Arancini Piccolo. Breaking open the crunchy exterior bares the pea and mozzarella risotto inside; seducing you to sprinkle smoked pancetta salt on top with a layer of lemon aioli.   

For Calamari and Sausage lovers, try the Calamari Ripieni alla Calabrese. It is a char grilled local squid wrapped within homemade Calabrian sausage beautifully plated on a film of squid ink and lemon aioli, which makes for a very interesting combination. 

Some things are just too good to let go and the Burrata Tartufata is an old favourite. A sweet tasting sensation of stretched curd cheese with crisp pancetta, truffle honey, blueberries and walnuts is such a devine combination of ingredients. A perfect dish to transition your taste into dessert, perhaps accompanied by a glass of Limoncello. 

Bucci’s sensuous desserts are impossible to resist. The Chocolate nemesis del really is the best chocolate cake ever, it is soft, velvety and melts on your tongue. For a refreshing Springtime flavour try the Zabaglione semifreddo with strawberries or a lemon meringue crumble with limoncello gelato. Tiramisu is a popular Italian dessert with coffee and alcohol, Bucci create their own style served with an icy twist. 

On my previous blog, Food for Thought Initiative, I pledged to donate dollar for dollar of the total bill from my next dining experience to a wonderful cause “DoItInADress”.  Bucci was the best place to spread the love and try out their latest Spring menu in my favourite frock. 

The total bill came to $77.50, which went straight to the cause the next day. A small amount can make a big difference to someone’s future. 

Buon Appetito! 

Carpaccio Di Manzo
Thin slices of aged Angus beef fillet with evoo, garlic crisps, hot truffle pecorino, herbs & lemon.

Bucci on Urbanspoon