Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Samies Girl

I had a real longing for a seafood lunch yesterday, so I headed over to Samies Girl at Hamilton. I'd heard lots of good things about Samies Girl, but had never actually made it into the shop until yesterday.

Anyway it turned out to be a great place to buy seafood. There are prawns, oysters, scallops, mussels, whole fish, fish fillets, crabs, bugs and octopus in the display cabinet, together with a few doors of frozen seafood. I was there at about 1pm on a Tuesday and the place was surprisingly busy. Obviously I wasn't the only one in need of some good seafood on a hot Summer's day.

I ended up with a dozen small oysters from Port Macquarie and two plump Moreton Bay bugs for $26. The bugs had plenty of flesh in them and were particularly good.

If you live on the Northside, pop in to Samies Girl next time you're on the lookout for good seafood. It sure beats driving all the way out to Scarborough for a trip to Morgans.

Samies Girl
15 Hercules Street
Hamilton 4007
P - 07 3131 4120
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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Gelateria Cremona

I've been to Gelateria Cremona a few more times over the last couple of months. Their gelati is so good that I now make excuses for detours to Rosalie at any time of the day. Over the last few months I've been lucky enough to try:

  • pomegranate (tart & tangy with an amazing colour)
  • earl grey tea (subtle, but a good match with pomegranate)
  • coconut (delicious, even though I'm not the biggest fan of coconut usually)
  • feijoa (a really weird, slightly gritty texture, but good flavour)
  • lemon, lime & bitters (fantastically refreshing - you could walk out with a tub on a hot day)
  • persimmon (lovely smooth texture, with a subtle flavour)
  • Christmas spiced chocolate (perfect for chocolate lovers in the festive season)
  • macadamia nut (smooth & rich - I'm a big fan of any macadamia ice cream)
When I was in there the other night they also had a Christmas pudding flavour, which tasted delicious. By that stage of the night, 3 scoops of gelati was going to be a struggle, so sadly I had to give it a pass.

It's great to see new flavours popping up at Gelateria Cremona all the time. That's what keeps us all coming back for their amazingly good gelati.

Gelateria Cremona
Shop 5, 151 Baroona Road
Rosalie Village, Paddington 4064
P - 07 3367 0212
E -

Monday, 29 December 2008

Peter's Fish Market

My favourite place to get fish & chips at the Gold Coast is Peter's Fish Market. I can't remember how I stumbled across it the first time, but for the last few years it's the only place at the GC where I buy seafood.

Peter's Fish Market is a pretty innocuous looking building, only just down the road from more salubrious places like Palazzo Versace, Marina Mirage and the Sheraton Mirage Resort. Once you step inside though, your senses will quickly be drawn towards all the terrific fresh seafood on display. You'll find oysters, bugs, crabs, prawns, octopus, whole fish and the list goes on.

The best part about Peter's Fish Market though is that you can pick a fillet of fish (there are usually about 15 or so to choose from) and get that fillet cooked exactly how you like, with a serve of crunchy chips, wedges or whatever takes your fancy. It's much more fun than the fish & chips "special" that we've all eaten at some stage or another. For me, usually it's a toss up between red emperor or coral trout, which are my two favourite fish. This time I went for a good thick fillet of coral trout, which was grilled perfectly. You'll pay for the fillet according to its weight, plus a small cooking charge. Believe me, its worth paying a few more dollars for some quality fish & chips.

Once you've got your prawns, oysters or fish & chips, there are tables outside and across the road. If you're there at a busy time though, seats will be at a premium.

Next time you're feeling peckish for some seafood at this end of the Gold Coast, drop in to Peter's Fish Market. You'll find it hard not to walk out with bags full of fresh seafood.

Peter's Fish Market
120 Seaworld Drive
Main Beach 4217
P - 07 5591 7747
E -
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Sunday, 28 December 2008


I've been wanting to visit Absynthe for a while now. Gourmet Traveller have considered it to be the best restaurant in Queensland for the last two years, which meant my expectations were very high.

Before you read too much further, I'm warning that this is a very long post. I wouldn't be doing justice to the 7 course degustation menu if I didn't write about each of the amazing meals we tasted. I also apologise for the lack of photos. It was a bit of a celebration dinner, and I was more focused on enjoying the food than madly trying to take photos of wasabi ice cream before it melted in front of me.

We managed to sneak into the bottom of the Q1 tower just before a storm broke on us. It was a cool feeling sitting inside this really modern room, at the bottom of an enormous tower, listening to thunder cracking around outside, with occasional flashes of lightning. I guess it just added to the whole experience.

The room was surprisingly half-full for a Saturday night. Perhaps the presence of schoolies still at the coast put off more discerning diners - who knows?

On Friday and Saturday nights, it's a degustation menu only at Absynthe. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were only too happy to put together a vegetarian degustation menu for my wife. The menus were on the table as we sat down, and were headed "A Journey into Taste".

The first stop on the journey was "soft green olive, vanilla crouton". The theatrics of this amuse-bouche added to our enjoyment of it. We had two Asian-style large soup spoons, each with a tiny vanilla crouton sitting on them. Our waitress arrived at the table with a jar of green olives, and ladled out an olive onto each of the spoons. We then devoured the whole lot in one go. Although you couldn't really taste a lot of the crouton, apart from its crunchiness, the olive was divinely soft. It didn't have the usual harshness of green olives, rather tasted like you were eating the best extra virgin olive oil you can imagine. It was a great start to the night, leaving us anticipating what was to follow.

Next up was the imaginatively named "Bite Me Un, Deux, Trois!!!". The un, deux, trois were a golden egg, a beetroot soda and a cauliflower velouté & pesto. The presentation of this course was amazing. The golden egg was an egg shell, filled with an extremely rich, eggy mousse. Perched on top of the egg mousse was a small square of soy & maple jelly, which was in turn topped with a piece of gold leaf. Just to complete the presentation, the egg was sitting in the coolest metal snail shaped egg cup I have ever seen (it even had little snail feelers sticking out of it). I enjoyed this, but after I'd eaten the soy & maple jelly with the first mouthful of mousse, I found the rest of the mousse extremely rich. The beetroot soda was served in a tall shot glass, with a handle on the side and a straw sticking out the top. It tasted like an extremely concentrated glass of borscht, and was fantastic. The concentrated beetroot flavour completely wiped out the richness of the egg mousse. The final part of the trio was the delicate cauliflower velouté, served in a small tea cup. The velouté had a spherified blob of pesto floating in the middle of it. The taste when the pesto sphere burst in my mouth was one of the highlights of the night. I'm not normally one to hunt cauliflower down in restaurant menus, but this was fantastic. This course was served with a glass of 2007 JE Ngeringa rose (made from pinot noir), which was a fairly good match for the disparate flavours on the plate.

Our journey then took us to "North Queensland" for cured trout, chocolate cannelloni & wasabi ice cream. The cured trout was beautiful, and just melted in my mouth. A small blob of wasabi ice cream was sitting on the trout, giving the dish a Japanese feel. The cold zinginess of the ice cream worked well against the rich flavours of the trout. The chocolate cannelloni seemed to be some kind of fish roe wrapped in a cannelloni of white chocolate. I didn't enjoy the cannelloni as much as the trout, but at least it added another contrast of flavours. This course was served with a glass of 2008 Ravens Croft Verdelho from the Granite Belt. Although it's great to see Queensland wines being served at a calibre of restaurant like this, I found it a bit underwhelming with the rich seafood flavours on the plate.

At this stage of the night we had our only real blip on the service front. Our French waitress brought out one of the North Queensland plates for my wife, who quickly reminded the waitress that she was vegetarian (we'd made that clear when we booked). The waitress quickly took the dish away. She also wanted to take mine away too, which I thought was an excellent way to handle the situation. I insisted that mine was fine, and could stay on the table. Eventually I had to start eating it though, as the wasabi ice cream was melting quickly. I should have listened to the waitress.

Our waitress re-emerged with a beetroot salad for my wife. This was presented on a cool, round glass plate. The small chunks of beetroot were accompanied by goat's curd, cherry tomatoes, shallots or leeks and a scoop of wasabi ice cream. Although I didn't get to try any of the goat's curd, I was told it was amazingly good. I did eat plenty of the rest of the salad though, and it was lovely.

The next course was simply called "The Ocean", which was a fillet of pan-fried barramundi with a horseradish crust and pumpkin & citrus puree. Although the barramundi was perfectly cooked, and I really enjoyed the pumpkin & citrus puree, this was probably my least favourite dish of the night. Not that there was anything wrong with it, I just enjoyed the other courses more. I found the Iron Pot Bay sauvignon blanc/semillon (from Tasmania) to be a good partner for this course. It was a more delicate style of the blend, which worked well with the barramundi.

The vegetarian course was a Burgundy black truffle risotto. This was listed as an optional extra course on the menu for $15, unless you're vegetarian. Although it looked small, it was beautifully rich, the rice still had a good bite and there were plenty of truffle shavings.

From the ocean I then went to "The Farm". At Absynthe, the farm consists of confit rabbit loin, potato gratin, chanterelles and pencil leek. It was served with a glass of 2006 Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage "Les Jalets", which was the perfect match for this food. I absolutely loved both this dish and the wine. The rich, gamy, mushroomy flavours on the plate were complemented by the beautifully perfumed shiraz. I was scraping every last drop of this off my plate at the end.

The next vegetarian course was a modified version of my rabbit, with a type of mushroom cannelloni, served with the potato gratin and chanterelles. My wife found the cannelloni casing a bit too meaty tasting, but enjoyed the richness of the rest of the dish.

It was now time to leave the farm and move on to "Heavenly Sweets", as you do at this time of the night. Not one, but two courses of heavenly sweets here at Absynthe.

The first dessert course was candied apricot, basil syrup and lychee sorbet. There were 3 pieces of apricot, which had a lovely flavour. The flavour of the lychee sorbet was amazing, and the basil syrup lifted the whole dish. This was an excellent, lighter, fresh style of fruit dessert.

The candied apricot was followed by a "Banana Split". To be perfectly honest, I was really dreading this, as I'm not the biggest fan of banana at any time. I certainly would have never ordered this dessert off a menu. It turned out to be fantastic, and probably one of the best dishes of the night. The banana had been caramelised, and sat on a strip of thick strawberry jelly. However, the real star of this dish was the frozen chocolate cream, which was served out of a canister. The chocolate cream had been frozen in liquid nitrogen, which gave it the most unique texture. Although it looked almost crunchy, it just melted away the moment it hit my mouth. When it was topped with the creme anglaise that came in a little beaker, it was a brilliant dessert.

The banana split was served with a glass of 2007 Vietti Moscato d'Asti Cascinetta. I was a bit let down by this wine, which I think was probably the weakest match of the night. It was a really light style of moscato, and I found it was completely overwhelmed by the food on the plate.

We were then offered coffees, which we elected to skip. The couple next to us were enjoying coffee and petit fours, but I thought the banana split was a fantastic way to finish the night. Not to mention by this time we were both pretty full.

The 7 course degustation dinner at Absynthe is $98. In my opinion, that's amazing value. I know some people will disagree with me, but having 7 courses of food at this standard is something you don't come across very often. I hadn't asked the cost of the degustation menu when we booked, but I was expecting it to be much more.

You can elect to have the matched wines with your degustation dinner for an extra $77. For 5 glasses of wine that works out to just over $15 a glass. Otherwise you can select your wine from the huge wine list. You'll need a decent table of people though if you are ordering bottles of wine, as it will be difficult to find one or two bottles that will match the diversity of food arriving at your table. The wine list runs to 37 pages, covering everything from Badel Sljivovica (Croatian plum brandy) to an amazing 1966 Moet & Chandon Cuvee Dom Perignon Oenotheque (at $2,600 a bit out of my price range). Or, if you are really looking to wipe yourself out, there are 9 varieties of absinthe to try.

The room itself is a pretty modern, sleek design. It really gives you a sense of entering somewhere special, and adds to the anticipation of an amazing meal ahead. Also, tables have a good amount of space between them, which is a great thing if you are here for a special meal.

Other than the slight blip I mentioned earlier, service throughout the night was professional and efficient. As each course arrived, its contents were explained to us, and our waitresses were happy to answer any questions we had. There was a good space between each of the courses and at no stage of the night did we feel rushed. I did wish my glass of Crozes-Hermitage would never end though, so that was a bit disappointing when it did.

If you're looking for a restaurant to enjoy a special dinner, Absynthe is it. I'd have to say that overall, this is probably the best meal I've had anywhere during 2008. And considering the quality of the food, I think it's well priced too.

What does all this mean? A high class journey into a variety of flavours and quality ingredients, with excellent service and a huge wine list. Food doesn't come too much better than this.

food bling ratings
Food - Top shelf
Service - Great
Ambience - Classy, understated dining room with spacey, modern fittings
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Top shelf
Vegetarian - Great

Shop 4, Q1 Resort & Spa
Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise 4217
P - 07 5504 6466
E -
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Absynthe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Elderberry Flower Drink

Last time I went to Ikea I had a good hunt around their Swedish food section. One of the things I picked up was a bottle of Elderberry Flower Drink. I've always been a big fan of the Duchy Originals elderflower cordial, so when I saw this one at Ikea I just had to buy it.

Anyway it turned out to be the perfect summer drink. It's basically an elderberry flower cordial, and mixed with ice cold water it makes an extremely refreshing drink. Unfortunately we've demolished the bottle now, so I'll have to make the long trip back to Ikea to pick up a few more for these hot summer days.

Ikea Logan
3539-3565 Pacific Highway
Slacks Creek 4127
P - 07 3380 6800

Friday, 26 December 2008

Lab Bar + Restaurant

I've eaten at the Lab Bar + Restaurant a few times over the years and generally speaking the food has been dependably good. I also had memories of a good wine list, so I headed back there for dinner recently.

The room was pretty noisy when we walked in. If you haven't been before, there is a big, impressive looking bar which takes up one wall, with the tables located between the bar and the windows on George Street. Unfortunately our table was right against a big pillar and a large wine storage cabinet. I had the wine storage cabinet right next to me. Pretty bizarre place to put a table if you ask me, but it kept me entertained checking out the wine for a couple of minutes. Not exactly great ambience though.

We ordered a couple of glasses of wine to start. I had ordered a glass of the Pewsey Vale gewurztraminer, but the waiter started to pour me a glass of a different gewurztraminer. He didn't show the label of the bottle to me before pouring, just poured it straight into the glass. After I spotted it was the wrong wine, the waiter apologised and told me they wouldn't charge us for that glass. He came back a few minutes later with a glass of the wine I had ordered as well. Not the greatest start to the night, but at least it was handled well.

For entree I ordered the pan seared calamari with avocado salsa, baby cos & tomato gazpacho ($19). I really enjoyed this dish - the calamari was cooked perfectly, it looked great and was a good combination of clean flavours. The gewurtraminer was a great match.

We also ordered an entree of asparagus served with egg and truffle salad. This dish was ok, but the asparagus had been crumbed, and I thought the batter & crumbs overpowered the delicate flavour of the asparagus.

I had Bangalow pork cheeks with sweet potato and apple for main course. It was a cool night, and this dish turned out to be delicious. The pork cheeks were meltingly tender, and served with some excellent, crunchy crackling. Good pork crackling is something you don't come across on restaurant menus very often these days, which is a shame. For some reason, pork crackling just isn't "fashionable". I don't care if its fashionable, I just love crackling. Although it sounded a fairly simple dish, the salty/sweet contrasts between the crackling, the pork cheeks and the apple really made this an excellent main course.

My vegetarian companion ordered a cauliflower tart with rocket & figs for her main. Unfortunately the filling of the tart was runny in places and obviously hadn't been cooked quite enough. It tasted lovely, but the texture let it down. Also, the tart was served with a ratatouille that wasn't mentioned on the menu. Sadly, the robust ratatouille didn't sit with the delicate flavours of the tart and figs. Mystery ingredients which aren't listed on the menu are one of my pet annoyances, especially when they just don't complement the rest of the dish.

The wine list at the Lab is good. There is a strong selection of wines by the glass. And if you're looking to really spend some money on wine, have a look through the cellar list, which includes the likes of Yquem and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. With our main courses, we had a glass of Curly Flat pinot noir (an excellent wine) and a glass of Jimbour Station Ludwig reserve merlot. It's great to see more Brisbane restaurants supporting the Queensland wine industry.

For dessert we ordered one of the ginger creme brulees, which was served with lime sorbet and a pineapple & coconut macaroon. The creme brulee was excellent. The "macaroon" turned out to be a slice of deep fried pineapple.

None of the desserts jumped off the page at me after my excellent main course, so I decided to order the Lab kitchen churned sorbet & ice cream with tropical fruit. The ice creams included lychee & honeydew melon (I couldn't pick the other flavours), which were served with pineapple, grapes and kiwifruit. It was ok, but not in the same class as the creme brulee.

Overall the food was a bit hit and miss. My main course and entree were both very good, as was the ginger creme brulee. But overall, the food lacked the consistency across the board which would really have turned it into a memorable evening.

Service during the night was very friendly, but a bit slap-dash at times. Again, more consistency with service would have added to our night out.

Finally, vegetarians will find the Lab good value. There is a separate (although small) vegetarian section on the menu, and the vegetarian meals are significantly cheaper than the other main courses.

What does all this mean? A good selection of modern-Australian food and a great wine list, but lacking a bit of consistency in both the food and service.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Ok
Ambience - A classy dining room, dominated by the impressive bar
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Great
Vegetarian - Ok

The Lab Bar + Restaurant
Hotel Conrad
Corner George Street & Stephens Lane
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3306 8647
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Lab Bar on Urbanspoon

Main Beach Delicatessen

Until just recently, the Main Beach Delicatessen had been my favourite breakfast spot at the Gold Coast. But I went there for breakfast a couple of weeks ago, and the breakfast menu has really changed since my last trip. It was sad to see some of the delicious breakfast options have been taken off the menu and gluten free bread, although listed on the blackboard, was apparently no longer available.

Grudgingly we decided to give it a skip, despite memories of all the great breakfasts I've had there in the past. So if you head along to the Main Beach Delicatessen after reading my previous post, you might be a little disappointed.

There was a happy ending to the story though - I found a great place just around the corner called D'Lish Cafe, where we had an excellent breakfast (there's a post about D'Lish to come).

Main Beach Delicatessen
Shop 10, 14-16 Tedder Avenue
Main Beach 4217
P - 07 5564 0288

Friday, 19 December 2008

Pho Vietnam

On a hot summer's day, there's nothing more I love for lunch than some really good Vietnamese food. That's why on most trips to the Gold Coast I usually end up at Pho Vietnam for lunch.

I don't normally have time to post about food court eateries, but Pho Vietnam is so good, it's more than worthy of a mention. Although it serves plenty of very reasonably priced noodle dishes, their rice paper rolls are king if you ask me. For $6 you get 3 big rice paper rolls and there are plenty to choose from - prawn, prawn & pork, chicken, chicken & avocado, tofu, vegetable or avocado. Team up your favourite flavours with one of the dipping sauces and its happy days.

These are some of the best (not to mention cheapest) Vietnamese rice paper rolls I've ever come across at a food court. So next time you are wondering what to have for lunch at the coast, head along to Pho Vietnam for fresh, tasty rice paper rolls. And there's a great Asian grocery store (Ming Mei Asian Supermarket) just next to the food court, which is definitely worth a visit.

Pho Vietnam
Fig Tree Foodcourt
Australia Fair Shopping Centre
42 Marine Parade
Southport 4215
P - 07 5591 5746

Butterfingers Shortbread

I try my best not to harp on too much about gluten free food. But every now and again I come across a new gluten free product that I've really been missing. The first one was of course beer. This time it's shortbread. I used to love shortbread. But unfortunately its been off limits for the last couple of years.

That is until I came across Butterfingers gluten free shortbread. You can pick up a packet at most supermarkets around Brisbane. Unlike some gluten free products, it tastes pretty much like any normal shortbread. And best of all, the company is Australian owned & operated. So it ticks all the boxes. I'll be buying a box or two to help me through the Christmas break.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


I got an email the other day from the director of a new show called MasterChef, which is going to be on Channel Ten. Here is the blurb:

The search is on to find Australia’s first true MasterChef. Network Ten wants every kitchen wannabe from amateur chefs to budding foodies to toss their chef's hat in the ring…each hoping to become…Australia’s next super Chef. A real life drama will play out as the contestant’s kitchen courage is put to the ultimate test. From the lows of failure to the highs of success, our cast of characters will be catapulted from starters to mains then desserts and back again. IN 2009 WE ARE ABOUT TO SEE WHO CAN TAKE THE HEAT…AND WHO HAD BETTER GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN! To apply, go to

Hopefully it will be a good show. People with tertiary or catering qualifications aren't allowed to enter, so that should even up the playing field a bit.

I've seen the ads on Channel Ten, so we'll just have to keep our eyes peeled for the new show next year.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Christmas Drinks

One of my favourite activities in the lead up to Christmas is finding some great wine to enjoy over the break. If you need some inspiration in tracking down a few special bottles, here are my favourite wine shops in Brisbane:

The Wine Emporium
I'm the first to admit that The Wine Emporium isn't the cheapest place to buy wine in Brisbane, but they have an amazing range of wines from all over Australia and the rest of the world. The staff are friendly and helpful, whether you're looking for a $25 bottle of riesling or a $500 bottle of Champagne.

Shop 47, Emporium
1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley 4005
P - 07 3252 1117
E -
W -

Although WINE@Era doesn't have a range as big as The Wine Emporium, you'll find some great wines here that you just won't come across anywhere else. I think it's a fantastic selection, with some excellent imported wines. And once you've stocked up on your Christmas beverages, you can pop into Era for a delicious lunch or snack.

102 Melbourne Street (Corner Merivale Street)
South Brisbane 4101
P - 07 3255 2033
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Stewarts Wine Co
Stewarts Wine Co have three stores across Brisbane. Every time I walk into one I'm impressed with the range and inevitably end up walking out of the store with a few bottles I've never tried before. They also have a good range of well-priced Champagne, if you're looking for that special bottle for Christmas lunch or dinner. I think that the Stewarts store in the city is the best place to buy wine in the CBD if you're ever in need of a last minute bottle on the way home.

Stewarts Wine Co stores are located at Ascot, Portside Wharf and the City
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Champagne Gallery
Champagne Gallery is a Brisbane based website that specialises in Champagne (as you probably guessed by the name). It really has an unsurpassed range of Champagne, including houses like Benard-Pitois, Jose Michel, Veuve Fourny and plenty of others you've probably never come across before. They are still selling a few 1996 vintage Champagnes at reasonable prices, so check out the website if you're after a bottle of bubbles to accompany your prawns or scallops on Christmas day.

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Cru Bar + Cellar
If you can find a park at James Street, it's worth popping in to Cru Bar + Cellar. I'm always impressed with wines I come across at Cru that you just can't buy anywhere else. With Christmas just around the corner, Cru is also very handily placed right next to the James Street Markets.

James Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 3252 1744
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Dan Murphys
I know Dan Murphys is an enormous Australia-wide chain, but when it comes to great prices, it's hard to go past them. Particularly now summer is in full swing, Dan Murphys is the perfect spot to stock up on all your favourite rieslings, sauvignon blancs and pinot grigios. There are Dan Murphys stores all over Brisbane.

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Christmas Lunch

I was going to post up a list of places that are serving Christmas lunch in Brisbane, but then I found there was already a pretty good list at So if you're looking for a restaurant for Christmas lunch, here is the list. Hopefully between all of them, there will still be a few tables left.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Suspiro de Limena

Without a doubt, the best dessert I came across in Peru was Suspiro de Limena. If you translate the name of this dessert to English, it means something like "Sighs of a lady from Lima". As soon as you take your first mouthful, a sigh will pop out, along the lines of "how will I ever finish this?"

I don't normally post up recipes, but I enjoyed this dessert so much, I just had to put it up. I should warn you though, it's very rich and very sweet, so you don't need much. We made a giant batch of about 35 for our housewarming party a couple of weeks ago, and they all disappeared, which is always a good sign. The recipe is pretty simple, so there's no excuse not to try try it out.

Suspiro de Limena
(Serves 6)

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
6 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 small glass of port
1/4 cup sugar
Cinnamon power

1. Empty contents of both milk cans in a medium sized, non-stick, heavy saucepan and stir constantly with a wooden spoon over medium/low heat, watching carefully to avoid sticking or burning. After 20-30 minutes, when the milk thickens and coats the spoon and the bottom of the pan can be seen while stirring, remove from heat (the cookbook actually says fire) and let cool for 10 minutes.

2. Add vanilla and beaten egg yolks, stirring briskly, until smooth. Pour in individual dessert glasses.

3. In a separate small saucepan, make a light syrup by melting sugar and port, swirling pan until sugar is completely dissolved.

4. Beat egg whites and gently pour syrup in a thread until meringue holds stiff peaks.

5. Top individual servings of suspiro with meringue (use a piping bag), sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon powder and serve at room temperature.

The recipe comes from Peruvian Cooking - Basic Recipes by Annik Franco Barreau, a terrific Peruvian cookbook which I picked up in Lima. If anyone is keen to get your hands on some more Peruvian recipes, please let me know.

Once you try this, you'll be hooked, believe me.

Food Safari

Food Safari is my favourite Australian food show. I think the reason I enjoy it so much is because you can sense that Maeve is having such a good time with every single episode, no matter what country's food is in the spotlight.

So I was really happy to read today that a new season of Food Safari kicks off on Wednesday night. Apparently the first episode is all about South America, and it looks like Peru will get a mention.

If you haven't watched Food Safari before, put it in your diary for Wednesday night. Maeve O'Mara is a terrific host, and the food is always tantalising.

Food Safari
7.30pm Wednesday nights, SBS

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Stewarts' Champagne Tastings

If you haven't already noticed, I'm a big fan of champagne. It's great to see more and more champagnes making it to Australia these days, and a few places in Brisbane now have a fantastic selection.

The good people at Stewarts have one of the better selections of Champagne in town. Luckily for all of us, they are putting on a few free champagne tastings in the lead up to Christmas. The tastings will be held at their Portside Wharf store over three Saturdays in December. Here are the wines that will be on offer:

Saturday 6 December 2008
Dom Perignon 2000
Krug Grande Cuvee NV
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1998

Saturday 13 December 2008
Pol Roger Brut Reserve
Pol Roger Brut Vintage
Pol Roger Rose Vintage

Saturday 20 December 2008
Laurent Perrier Non Vintage
Laurent Perrier Rose Non Vintage
Laurent Perrier Brut Millesime 1999

The tasting on Saturday 6 December covers some pretty awesome wines. It's not often anyone gets the chance to try Dom Perignon, Krug & Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame all at the same time, so it will definitely be worth your while to pay a visit. As luck would have it, I'm going to be down the coast.

The tastings start at 2pm. If you're not there at 2pm, there's a good chance you'll miss out on the best champagnes.

Stewarts Wine Co Portside Wharf
Shop 7/39 Hercules Street
Hamilton 4007
P - 07 3216 4444
W -

Monday, 24 November 2008

Christmas Markets

Well Christmas will soon be upon us. As far as I'm concerned, the best way to stock up for days of non-stop eating is a trip (or two) to the markets. Usually you can find fresh, local produce at great prices. And while you're shopping for your favourite fruit, sausages or cheese, you're bound to come across something you've never tried before (which is my favourite part of any trip to the markets). I'll be dropping in to the Christmas Twilight Markets at Mitchelton to pick up as many Christmas supplies as I can carry.

I've listed below a few of Brisbane's regular food markets which are running in the lead up to Christmas. As I come across any other special Christmas markets, I'll add them to the post.

Fair Trade Christmas Market
Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 December 2008 - 10am to 4pm
Marymac Community Centre
616 Ipswich Road
Annerley 4103

Green Flea Community Market
Saturday 6, 13 & 20 December 2008 - 6am onwards
Davies Park
Corner Montague Road & Jane Street
West End 4101

Jan Power's Farmers' Markets

Mitchelton Farmers' Markets
Sunday 7 December 2008 - 6am onwards
Tuesday 23 December 2008 - 5pm onwards
Blackwood Street
Mitchelton 4053

Powerhouse Farmers' Markets
Saturday 13 December 2008 - 6am onwards
Sunday 21 December 2008 - 6am onwards
The Brisbane Powerhouse
119 Lamington Street
New Farm 4005

Manly Fresh Food Markets
Saturday 20 December 2008 - 6am onwards
Manly Esplanade (between Cambridge & Cardigan Parades)
Manly 4179

Kelvin Grove Urban Village Markets
The Village Christmas Market
Saturday 20 December 2008 - 6am to 1pm
Blamey Street (between Musk Avenue and Victoria Park Road)
Kelvin Grove 4059

Organic Growers Market
Sunday 21 December 2008 - 6am to 10.30am
Northey Street City Farm
Corner of Northey and Victoria Streets
Windsor 4030

Saturday Fresh Market
Saturday 20 December 2008 - 6am to 12pm
Brisbane MarketPlace
250 Sherwood Road
Rocklea 4106

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Queensland Cricketers' Club

The other day I was lucky enough to score a ticket for the first day of the test against New Zealand at the Gabba. Even better, it was a ticket to seats in the Queensland Cricketers' Club.

The tickets included a 3 course set menu lunch at the Cricketers' Club. I usually think of club food as being a bit stuck in a time warp, so my lunch expectations weren't particularly high. Boy did I turn out to be wrong. The lunch we had was excellent.

Things started off well when our table was right against the glass. It was floor to ceiling glass, so we had an amazing view of the entire field. It feels a bit surreal having someone serve you a delicious lunch while the cricket is going on out the window, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

Our entree was a delicious prawn & fennel salad. This was probably the best dish of the whole lunch. It had already been plated up on our table when we sat down, so again I was a bit sceptical. But the prawns were fresh, sweet and tasty. They were a perfect match with the fennel salad. A bottle of 2005 Jim Barry "The Florita" Riesling ($79) made this probably the best start to any meal I've ever had a sporting venue. It sure beats a box of tired old chicken & chips.

By this stage my expectations of lunch had risen remarkably and I was looking forward to the next course. The main meal turned out to be a very generous chunk of medium rare beef, served with asparagus, grilled tomato and a slice of a potato dauphinoise type dish. Although it wasn't quite in the league of the prawn & fennel salad, it was very good. After finding a bottle of 1995 Katnook Estate cabernet sauvignon on the wine list for $99, we couldn't pass it up, and it turned out to be a lovely match with the steak.

Dessert was a baked cheesecake. I'd already had a few drinks by this stage of the day, so I can't actually remember what flavour it was. I do remember though that it was good. We rounded off a great lunch with one of Australia's classic dessert wines - De Bortoli Noble One botrytis semillon ($33.50).

It really was a decadent way to watch a few hours of cricket. If you're ever offered a ticket to the Cricketers' Club, grab it with both hands - you'll have a brilliant day.

Queensland Cricketers' Club
411 Vulture Street
East Brisbane 4169
P - (07) 3896 4533
E -
W -

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Pandemonium Cafe

Pandemonium Cafe has been a popular spot in Paddington for as long as I can remember. I've eaten breakfast and lunch there plenty of times over the years, even when it used to be a bit further up Given Terrace.

Pandemonium has a retro/70's feel to it inside, with old mis-matched chairs and tables for an authentic touch. On this visit we were after some breakfast. It was about 9.30 on a Sunday morning, and the only spot inside (which is air conditioned) was on the couches in the corner. Not thinking our co-ordination was up to juggling bacon & eggs with a coffee on the couch after a big night out, we sat out the front instead. There are a few tables out the front, which really don't have the ambience of inside, and I think are a bit pokey. But weekend breakfasts at Pandemonium are always busy, so outside it was.

Pandemonium's breakfast menu covers toast, muesli and a good selection of hot options. I was really in need of something a bit greasy to help with a hangover, so although the spinach and feta omelette sounded delicious (three eggs, spinach, feta, tasty cheese & thick toast with Pando's sauce on the side - $12.50), I ordered the bacon & eggs instead ($12.50 with gluten free toast).

It was a big serving of bacon rashers, with two poached eggs that had been poached in moulds. Whenever I'm served eggs from a mould it brings back memories of cooking poached eggs when I was about 6 years old. They don't exactly look as cool as eggs which have been freely poached in a big saucepan of water. Anyway they were perfectly cooked, so once I'd busted them open, their shape was quickly forgotten. The bacon & eggs were served with a cooked tomato and one piece of gluten free toast (which I thought was a bit miserly given all the bacon and eggs). Next time I'll have to remember to order two pieces.

My partner in partying the night before ordered the avocado toast with a side serve of baked beans ($9.50). This was two enormous thick pieces of toast, smothered with fresh avocado. The toast wasn't gluten free, so I couldn't eat it, but it looked (and apparently tasted) fantastic.

There are plenty of other breakfast possibilities, including French toast ($9), a breaky panini ($8), pancakes with mixed berries or seasonal fruit & ice cream ($12.50) and the steak breakfast if you are ravenous (150g rib fillet, bacon, sausages, eggs, homemade hash browns, mushrooms, tomato & thick toast - $19.50).

I had a flat white ($3) with my breakfast, which was good. We also ordered a coffee frappe, which turned out to be terrific. I don't normally order iced coffees, because I usually find them way too sweet. This one however actually had an authentic coffee bitterness to it and, coupled with the icy/slushy texture, made for a great start to a very warm day.

My only gripe with Pandemonium was the water. They don't serve any water for free. A small bottle of water will set you back $1. I know it's not much, but I really can't understand why a cafe can't serve water free of charge.

Pandemonium is a good place to visit if you're looking for tasty, home style food. There's a good reason why its been popular for so long - prices are very reasonable, service is usually snappy and the portions are healthy. They are also happy to accommodate coeliacs, vegetarians and vegans.

Pandemonium is now open for dinner on Thursday and Friday nights and also offers a catering service.

What does all this mean? Tasty, home-style food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with good sized servings and friendly staff.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Ambience - Retro/70's feel inside
Value for Money - Great
Wine - Small selection or BYO
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Good

Pandemonium Cafe
215 Given Terrace
Paddington 4064
P - (07) 3369 4420
F - (07) 3876 2094
E -
W -

Pandemonium Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, 10 November 2008

James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion

I'm the first to admit that I'm a bit of a wine tragic. Over the years I've bought loads and loads of wine books, plenty of which end up lying around the house collecting dust.

When it comes to books on wine, I think James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion is the best guide to current release Australian wines. The 2009 edition was released recently. This book just gets bigger every year, reflecting the ever increasing number of Australian wineries.

The 2009 edition contains information on 1,661 wineries and 5,778 wines, from Abbey Creek Vineyard through to Zonte's Footstep. It's well set out, easy to follow and means your next wine purchase shouldn't be a dud. I always take a copy with me when travelling around wine regions, to make sure I always get to the best local wineries.

If you're looking for a guide on Australian wine, this is a great place to start. The recommended retail price is $34.95, but I picked one up on sale at Borders for $24. Happy drinking!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

food bling update

Just the other week food bling, Brisbane had its 10,000th visitor. I just wanted to say a big thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog since it kicked off 12 months ago. It's great to see so many people interested in the Brisbane food scene.

There's been plenty of feedback about getting more pictures up, which I'm trying to address. I've just bought a snazzy new digital SLR camera, so I will be doing my best to get more photos posted in the future. As always, feel free to send me any suggestions, improvements or comments that you have for food bling, Brisbane.

My collection of notes, menus, clippings and other food bits & pieces has recently graduated from a manilla folder to a shoe box, so that should give you some idea of the amount of posts I need to get through. Over the last couple of months I've eaten at Urbane, Isis, the Lab Bar, Morgans, the Litse Lounge, Zafron, Miros and Wilson's Boathouse, so keep your eyes out for those upcoming posts.

On the other hand, the list of places to visit is never-ending, believe me. I'm going to Absynthe at the Gold Coast in a couple of weeks time, and I can't wait. Other places I'm trying my best to get to are Simpatico, Alchemy, Suburban, Sprout, Lure, Dell' Ugo, Montrachet, The Lark, Salon, River House, Pearl, Paolo's, Jellyfish, Mao Mao's, Vida and the list goes on ...

So thanks to all the readers out there and happy eating!

Queensland Wine Awards

This year's winners of the Queensland Wine Awards are being judged today, 9 November 2008.

If (like me) you're not lucky enough to be a wine judge, you can try plenty of the great Queensland wines at the public tasting next Sunday, 16 November 2008. The public tasting will be held at the Mercure Hotel and tickets are available at the door for $20. It's a great chance to try some new Queensland wines, as well as to find out which wines picked up the medals this year.

Queensland Wine Awards Tasting Day
12pm - 4pm, Sunday 16 November 2008
Mercure Hotel
85-87 North Quay
Brisbane 4000

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Pisco Sour

I've already given a wrap to the Pisco sour, which is basically the Peruvian national cocktail. If you're keen to try one out, here's how to make it:

90 ml Pisco
30 ml sugar syrup or 1 tbsp sugar
30 ml fresh lime juice
1 egg white
4 ice cubes, crushed
4 drops of Angostura bitters

In a blender, pour in egg white and mix until foamy. Add ice half way up, mix and add the rest of the ingredients, except the bitters. Keep blending until ice disappears. Serve and top with drops of bitters. Makes 1 cocktail.

I haven't yet found a bottle of Pisco in Brisbane, but the extent of my search has been my local bottleshop (which I knew wouldn't have it anyway). When I track one down, I'll let you know.

If you'd rather have someone else whip one up for you, pop into The Bowery. I was there last night and was glad to see that the Pisco sour makes an appearance on their current cocktail list. As you can see, there's a fair bit of Pisco in the drink, so be warned.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Good Food & Wine Show

If you're looking for something to do on the weekend of 7-9 November, get yourself along to the Good Food & Wine Show at the Convention Centre.

Ainsley Harriot seems to be the main attraction this year. You might have seen him as the host of the UK version of Ready Steady Cook. I actually got hooked on that show when I was living in Ireland and watched it religiously. He's a pretty entertaining presenter.

Other chefs making an appearance include Tobie Puttock, Matt Moran, Ben O'Donoghue and Alastair McLeod. Matt Skinner will also be there to give you the lowdown on wine.

As well as the chefs' shows, there are loads of exhibitors covering all kinds of food, wine & beer. Tickets are $20 through Ticketek.

Good Food & Wine Show
7-9 November 2008
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Corner of Merivale Road & Glenelg Street
Brisbane 4101
W -

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Mice on Sticks

After my guinea pig post, I've been walking around trying to remember the weirdest street food that I've seen. Then I remembered mice on sticks. Pretty hard to beat that one.

When I was in Mozambique there was a kid on the side of the road selling mice on sticks. We stopped and bought a couple. Not surprisingly, no-one ate any of them.

I'd be keen to know the craziest street food everyone has come across - post up a comment on the weird and wonderful local foods you've eaten.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Guinea Pig

When you think of guinea pigs, the first thing that pops into your head is cute, fluffy things that little kids keep as pets. In Peru, guinea pigs (or cuy) are still cute and fluffy, but they're also considered to be something you cook up for dinner.

I'd read about eating guinea pig before heading off to Peru. I always like to try out as much local food as I can when travelling. Thinking I probably wouldn't come across guinea pig anywhere else in the world, I ordered cuy for dinner one night at a restaurant in Puno. One of my friends on the trip was crazy enough to order it as well. It was a modern, cool, upmarket type of restaurant, so we thought we'd be in safe hands.

After a bit of a wait, the guinea pig came out. It was served whole, flattened out on the plate and didn't look particularly appealing. We were getting looks from the other side of the table as if to say "are you really going to eat that?". The whole dining experience wasn't really optimised by one of our dinner party pointing out that you could still see the guinea pig's teeth.

My theory is that the restaurant staff bring the guinea pig out whole, just to get a bit of amusement in watching gringos like me try to eat it. After I'd had a bit of a go at it with my knife and fork, one of the waiters came over and asked if we'd like it cut into pieces. "Great idea" I thought.

Soon the guinea pig came back in more manageable pieces. It had been deep fried whole. Although I'd been told you were supposed to eat the skin, it was like lino and I would have been at the restaurant for the next week if I'd attempted to eat all the skin. The guinea pig on my plate was a pretty lean one, and there was hardly any meat on it at all. It didn't take long before we both gave up on the guinea pig and focused our attention on the vegetables on the plate, which were looking more mouth watering by the minute.

So the guinea pig didn't turn out to be a particularly filling meal and we headed off to the local supermarket late at night in an attempt to find a bit more dinner. Along with the enormous plate of tripe which I randomly ordered off a menu written in Swahili when I was in Nairobi, guinea pig is one of those local foods that I'm not in a big hurry to track down again. But I'd rather be trying guinea pig than lining up at the local McDonalds - it's all part of the travelling experience.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Peru Trip

Well I'm back from Peru after a brilliant holiday. The main reason we went to Peru was to walk the Inca trail and see Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was of course amazing, but the rest of the country surprised me with its people, landscapes, culture and of course the food - all of which added up to a great trip.

I headed off to Peru with a bit of a stereotype in my head that all South American food revolved around chilli. That turned out to be way off the mark. Although chilli pops up in plenty of Peruvian food, it normally lends only a very mild flavour, rather than blowing your tastebuds out of your mouth.

The potato is the staple food in Peru, where they grow about 2000 different varieties (according to our local guides). Although some form of potato turns up as a side vegetable in pretty much every meal, there are some traditional dishes where the potato is the star, like ocopa (potatoes with a sauce made from chilli, walnuts/peanuts, huatacay and cheese), papa a la huancaina (sliced potatoes with a spicy cheese sauce) and causa (mashed potato with lemon, onion, chili and oil - often served with chicken, seafood or avocado).

Given the long coastline of Peru, seafood is also an important part of its cuisine. Lima is famous for cerviche, which is seafood marinated in lime juice, onions and chilli. The seafood isn't cooked - it's just served once the seafood has been marinated for the appropriate time. Cerviche is traditionally served with raw onion, boiled sweet potato and giant corn kernels. I had some fish cerviche in Lima, and it was delicious (see photo).

When it came to meat, I tried beef, chicken, duck, pork, alpaca and guinea pig (look out for the post on that one). Some of the traditional meat dishes are lomo saltado (slices of beef stir fried with with onion, tomato, soy sauce and chilli), arroz con pato (duck with coriander flavoured rice - see photo), papa rellena (potato stuffed with minced beef, egg and olives) and aji de gallina (chicken with a creamy spicy sauce).

We also came across some plants and cereals that I hadn't tried before - quinoa, kiwicha and kaniwa. Quinoa forms an important part of the locals' diet in the south of the country, especially around Lake Titicaca, where I had some delicious quinoa soups.

Peru has some fantastic desserts. My favourite was suspiro limeno, which is an incredibly sweet dessert made from condensed milk. It was so good I'm going to put up a separate post with the recipe. Other desserts include locally flavoured ice cream (like prickly pear or lucuma) and alfajores (small biscuits with a caramel filling).

Being a bit of a snack food addict, I was glad to find Peruvians shared my love of snacks. In every town there were snack stands on most corners, selling things like fried plaintain chips (my favourite snack in Peru), peanuts, Brazil nuts, crunchy fried corn kernels, biscuits and all kinds of chocolate bars. Most of these snacks cost 1 Sol (about 40 Australian cents) so I tried plenty of them.

Pisco sour is probably the most famous drink in Peru. Pisco is a grape brandy, made in Peru. Apparently Peru and Chile have an ongoing argument as to which country first made pisco. Anyway, the pisco sour is a cocktail made of pisco, lime juice, ice, sugar and egg white. It ends up as a fairly frothy cocktail and is served with a few drops of bitters or sometimes cinnamon (see photo). They taste great and plenty of restaurants would offer a free pisco sour to get you in the door. Now that I'm back in Brisbane, I'm on the hunt to track down a bottle of pisco. If you've seen any in your local bottleshop, please let me know.

We also got to try chicha, which is a home made corn beer (see photo). It tasted ok, although it's pretty filling. An enormous litre sized glass of chicha costs about 40 cents, so you can see why its popular with the locals. There's also a strawberry flavoured chicha for the ladies.

There are of course local beers (like Brahma, Cristal and Cusquena) and there is some wine made in Peru, although I didn't get to try any. My local drink of choice (when I wasn't drinking pisco sours) was Inca Kola.

Inca Kola, although called cola, is actually bright yellow and tastes like creaming soda. Not exactly what you'd expect from cola, but I was a big fan.

I also drank plenty of coca tea, especially at altitude. It's supposed to help out with altitude sickness. Generally it's made by just throwing a handful of coca leaves into hot water. Although they do grow some coffee in Peru, we had a hard time finding a good cup of fresh coffee. The hotels usually served this incredibly thick stuff, that was so strong it had to be diluted with lots of hot water and milk. One morning I made the mistake of pouring about a third of a cup of condensed milk into my coffee (thinking it was milk) only to end up with the sweetest coffee ever.

Of course there's no way I can do any justice to the amazing variety of Peruvian cuisine in one post, but hopefully this gives you some idea of the delicious food on offer in Peru. I've got a few more Peru posts in the pipeline, so keep your eyes out for those over the next week or so.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

food bling update

I know its been a while since I've actually put a post up. The last few weeks I've been working crazily long days trying to clear off my desk before a much needed holiday. After working 14 and 16 hour days, I haven't exactly been keen to sit down at the computer and tap out a few posts before bed.

Anyway the good news is I finally left the office, and now I'm in Peru. So food bling is going to be a bit quiet while I'm over here. In the meantime I'll be trying out all kinds of Peruvian food, like cerviche (seafood 'cooked' in lime juice), cuy (guinea pig) and pisco sour, the national drink. Tonight we're off to dinner at one of the top restaurants in Lima, Astrid y Gaston. The menu looks fantastic - if only I could understand a bit more Spanish.

Anyway its adios for now, but when I get back I'll have plenty of Peruvian tales to tell you about.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Atomica Eat Drink

I used to go to Atomica Eat Drink for breakfast all the time. But I haven't been there for about 3 or 4 years, after waiting more than an hour for breakfast on my last visit.

We were trying to find a breakfast spot before braving the crowds at Ikea. Our first choice was The Boys House of Coffee at Kelvin Grove, but that turned out to be shut on Sunday morning. Trying to think of somewhere vaguely on the way, we ended up in West End, at Atomica Eat Drink.

Every time I walk past Atomica I always remember having breakfast there one day and a guy at the table next to me complaining that the three breakfasts they had ordered were all too big. Who complains about their breakfast being too big? If you've got too much, then just don't eat it. Better to have too much than not enough. At least that's what I think.

So I decided to give Atomica another go. The first trick at Atomica is getting a seat. Luckily a lady at one of the tables on the footpath heard me talking about the gluten free bread on the menu. She had just finished breakfast and was just waiting for her bill. She jumped up, told me the gluten free toast was fantastic and then offered her table to us. It's days like this when you just know you're going to have a good breakfast.

A very friendly waitress came out not long after to clear the table and give us a couple of menus. Atomica's breakfast menu covers most bases - bircher museli, fruit toast with ricotta, pancakes, lamb & rosemary sausages, eggs benedict and a big breakfast for customers with nasty hangovers.

At the moment I'm finding it hard to go past plain old bacon & eggs for breakfast. I know it's a bit boring, but when you come across a plate of crunchy bacon and nice runny poached eggs, it's happy days (at least in my world). So I ordered the poached free range eggs with bacon and roast tomato jam. This is usually served with sourdough, but I had some gluten free toast instead. When it comes to gluten free toast, Atomica gets two thumbs up from me. This is the first place I've been to that actually had a selection of gluten free toast - pumpkin or multi-seed. I had the pumpkin toast, and it was delicious. Although I didn't ask, I'm pretty sure it was the pumpkin bread from Sol Breads.

Boring as they might be, the bacon and eggs were terrific. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the bacon was a little bit crispy. I found the roast tomato jam a bit sweet, but it was good to have another contrasting flavour on the plate. At $10.50 this was a great breakfast.

We also ordered one of the vegetarian breakfasts, which was a plate of Swiss brown mushrooms, tomatoes, bubble & squeak, spinach and sourdough ($10.50, extra with eggs). This was another winner. The Swiss brown mushrooms were the standout though - a lovely flavour, and cooked so they still had that distinctive mushroom squeakiness on your teeth, which I love. There's nothing worse than an overcooked, soggy mushroom if you ask me.

Atomica Eat Drink only uses free range eggs (I wish more places would) and Barambah Organics milk. After making plenty of coffees at home over the last few years, I'm convinced that Barambah milk makes such a difference.

After this breakfast, I'll definitely be back to Atomica Eat Drink on a more regular basis. The food was delicious, the service very friendly, and it's great value for money.

What does all this mean? A busy West End breakfast spot, serving delicious food with an extra attention to detail and topped off with friendly, attentive service.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Casual, modern cafe feel
Value for Money - Great
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Good

Atomica Eat Drink
Shop 3, 173 Boundary Street
West End 4101
P - 07 3844 0333

Atomica Eat Drink on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 11 September 2008

31 Days of Chocolate

If scary amounts of chocolate are your idea of (a) lunch, (b) dinner, or (c) both, then get yourself along to 31 Days of Chocolate.

31 Days of Chocolate is currently being held at Bistro Allure at the Sebel & Citigate King George Square. For $18 you get to graze on a chocolate buffet which includes white chocolate pudding, violet crumble cheesecake, chocolate obscenity gateaux (whatever that is) and chocolate praline. I haven't been, but it sounds like pretty good value to me. It sure beats having a food court lunch.

For those of you who don't plan your calendar by chocolate, the 31 Days of Chocolate started on 4 September 2008.

31 Days of Chocolate
Bistro Allure
The Sebel & Citigate King George Square
Corner Ann & Roma Streets
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3222 1128
E -
W -

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Valley Fiesta

Ok, I am the first to admit that the Valley Fiesta isn't a food festival. But it's a great excuse to have a big night out the Valley. In between all the free music you just have to squeeze in a few cocktails and a cheap BYO dinner at your favourite Valley institution.

Last year we had a terrific Valley Fiesta night out. It all started with a few cocktails at The Bowery. Then it was down to the Chinatown Mall to see Silversun Pickups, who were fantastic live. As there wasn't a lot of room left in the mall when we got there, we ended up on the roof of one of the Valley's carparks, which turned out to be a great spot to watch the band. We stuck around to see Youth Group until the grumbling of our stomachs won out, at which time we headed off to Kim Lan for a tasty, cheap Vietnamese dinner.

I'm a bit annoyed this year because I was planning on seeing Operator Please on Friday night. But it turns out my indoor soccer game has been evilly scheduled for exactly the same time, so there won't be any Operator Please for me.

If you're any kind of music fan, make the most of the Valley this weekend. There are so many different bands playing, places to eat and bars to explore that it's hard not to have a great night out.

Valley Fiesta
12-14 September 2008

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Euro Cup and Plate

During Euro 2008, I put up a few posts about places in Brisbane where you could find food from each of the countries that were competing. I still haven't quite finished it, because I lost my internet access for more than a month just at the crucial time when Euro 2008 was coming to an end.

Anyway, I have been meaning to put a post up about The Euro Cup and Plate for ages. The team from Gustoso went to an amazing effort to post up recipes and drinks from all the countries that were competing. I can't even imagine how much time they must have put into it, but the end product is pretty amazing. Make sure you check out a few of the recipes.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Browns of Mooloolaba

I always love coming across new places that sell fresh seafood. Browns of Mooloolaba sell seafood that is about as fresh as you'll ever get. Their prawns, crabs and bugs are locally caught, which means they come straight off the boat to you.

I was lucky enough to have a feast of fresh prawns and Balmain bugs today for lunch, which were delicious. The best thing about really fresh prawns is that you just can't stop eating them. Luckily we only bought a kilo, so we had to stop eating eventually.

Browns of Mooloolaba also sell oysters, fish fillets and a variety of gourmet foods from the Spirit House, Tetsuya, Maggie Beer and Simon Johnson.

Browns of Mooloolaba
10 Parkyn Parade
Mooloolaba 4557
P - 07 5444 6422
E -
W -

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Louis Roederer Champagne Tasting

Stewarts Wine Co at Portside have been putting on monthly champagne tastings during the year. If you haven't been to the Stewarts store at Portside, it's definitely worth a visit. It's one of my favourite wine shops in Brisbane. Sure it's not the biggest, but Stewarts have plenty of wines that you just don't see in most bottle shops around town.

This Saturday the Louis Roederer Champagne tasting is on, which means you can try the Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV, Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2002, Louis Roederer Vintage Rose 2003 and Louis Roederer Blanc de Blanc 2002. Best of all, it's free! And with father's day coming up on Sunday, it's the perfect place to pick up a good bottle for your dad. Not surprisingly, these tastings are pretty popular, so make sure you get there at 2pm, which is when the corks will be popped.

Louis Roederer Champagne Tasting
2pm, Saturday 6 September 2008
Stewarts Wine Co Portside Wharf
Shop 7, 39 Hercules Street
Hamilton 4007
P - 07 3216 4444

Monday, 1 September 2008

Ferran Adria

I know it's probably a bit late now, but The Weekend Australian Magazine had its yearly food issue last weekend. If you can still get your hands on one, it's worth tracking down. I think it's the only edition from the whole year that I (almost) read from cover to cover. It usually takes me a few weeks to get right through it, but I'll get there in the end.

Anyway at this early stage the only article I've read is the one about Ferran Adria on page 31. Ferran Adria is widely regarded as one of the best chefs in the world at the moment, if not the best. His restaurant in Spain, elBulli, is apparently impossibly difficult to get a table at. But every time I read about elBulli I want to jump on the next plane to Spain. Fancy a cherry dipped in Iberico ham and raw egg yolk wrapped in caramel or a parmesan and ice cream sandwich? Then try and get a reservation at elBulli.

Anyway we are in luck because the great chef is coming to Australia to promote his new book, A Day at elBulli. Unfortunately though he's not making it to Brisbane. But if you're looking for an excuse to get to Melbourne or Sydney, then I've found you a darn good one. Ferran Adria is in Sydney on 17 October 2008 and in Melbourne on 19 October 2008. You'll need to pre-book tickets through Ticketmaster. A copy of his new book and a ticket will set you back $75. He hasn't been to Australia since 2002, so I don't think tickets will last for long.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Quan Thanh

I love Vietnamese food, so I'm determined to try out as many of Brisbane's Vietnamese restaurants as I can. This time I was off to Quan Thanh at West End. Quan Thanh is on the strip of restaurants at Hardgrave Road that includes Tongue & Groove, Wild Pepper and the Tibetan Kitchen. There are 4 Vietnamese/Chinese restaurants just in this little patch, all of which seem to be fairly busy.

Quan Thanh has a few tables out the front, but most of the restaurant is inside. We didn't get there till about 8.15 on a Friday night. At that time the place was pretty packed, so we ended up at a table right at the back of the room near the kitchen.

There are two sides to the menu - one has all the Vietnamese dishes, the other is Chinese. Although I love Vietnamese food, I've got a couple of favourite dishes that I usually order to see how a restaurant stacks up. Normally it's either pho or a similar soup for entree, followed by a rice noodle salad for mains. I know its a bit boring, but I love the flavours and textures of those dishes so much.

Anyway this time I broke away from the usual order, because Quan Thanh has a pretty large Vietnamese menu, which you don't often find in Brisbane. I ordered the steamed rolls with pork loaf, which sounded intriguing. I like ordering things off the menu when you're not quite sure what they are going to be. There were 4 of the steamed rolls, which I'm pretty sure were rice paper rolls. But because they had been steamed, they were much thicker, with an almost spongy texture. That also made them pretty hard to eat with chopsticks, because they just broke into pieces. So I gave up on the chopsticks and ploughed in with my fingers instead. The rolls were filled with pork mince, and were served with slices of pork loaf (which looked like a type of processed sausage), bean sprouts, chopped mint leaves, fried shallots and fish sauce. They were pretty tasty, especially when combined with the bean sprouts, mint and dipping sauce. They were also really filling. I didn't get through all four, because I knew I'd never get through my main course. I also didn't eat all the slices of pork loaf - I think you'd really need to be a big fan of processed pork.

The other entree we had was make your own rice paper rolls with tofu. These came out with lettuce, mint leaves and coriander to fill the rolls, along with a fish sauce. As usual, there was way too much for one person, so I managed to steal one or two. There's nothing quite like the texture of a crunchy rice paper roll. It has to be one of my favourite foods from any cuisine.

When it came to main course, as hard as I tried, I just couldn't resist the rice noodle salad with marinated beef. This came out in a huge bowl, and there was no way I was ever going to get through it after the size of the entrees. There were plenty of bits of the marinated beef on top, which was in fairly big chunks. The salad was made up of noodles, lettuce and bean sprouts. I stole a few bits of basil from our other main course to add to the flavour of the salad. The salad was ok, but not one of the best I've ever had. I couldn't put my finger on what it was missing, but maybe it was just that the fish sauce was a bit bland.

Our other main course was the vegetable rice noodle soup. My vegetarian guest was pleasantly surprised when the waitress asked if she would like the soup made on vegetable or chicken stock. Unfortunately the soup was a bit disappointing. It was a big serving, but most of the vegetables had been overcooked and the stock itself was a bit bland. Luckily the soup was served with a side plate of bean sprouts, basil, lemon and chilli, so we could spice up the flavour a bit.

There are plenty of other Vietnamese dishes you can try, including pho, spicy Hue pork & beef noodle soup, broken rice with pork chop (which I almost ordered just to find out what broken rice was) and a range of other rice noodle salads. There is also a full menu of Chinese food if you're not a big fan of Vietnamese.

The decor inside is pretty basic, in line with plenty of other suburban Vietnamese/Chinese restaurants. Service was attentive and very friendly throughout the meal. They didn't appear to have any wine coolers though, so our bottle of white just sat on the table. I always think that if a restaurant is going to charge you corkage, they should at least be able to give you a wine cooler, but that's a pretty minor complaint. There is a bottle shop right next door to Quan Thanh, which is very handy if you're in need of a drink or two.

Prices at Quan Thanh are very reasonable. All up our dinner was $38, so a trip to Quan Thanh isn't going to break the bank.

Overall our dinner was solid, but not great. I think the food I had at Kim Thanh (about 25 metres down the road) was probably better, based on my recent visits to each restaurant. I'll have to try the other two Vietnamese restaurants on this little strip though, to see which one is the best.

What does all this mean? A solid BYO restaurant with a good range of Vietnamese food, big servings and friendly, attentive service.

food bling ratings
Food - OK
Service - Great
Ambience - Fairly basic decor
Value for Money - Great
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Good

Quan Thanh
5/75 Hardgrave Road
West End 4101
P - 07 3846 3849

Quan Thanh on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Sunsuper RiverBBQ

If you wake up this Sunday morning wondering what to eat for breakfast, or just couldn't be bothered making anything for breakfast after a big night out, head along to the Sunsuper RiverBBQ, which is part of this year's Riverfestival.

The RiverBBQ is being held on the Goodwill Bridge and, best of all, your BBQ breakfast is free! Sounds great to me.

Sunsuper RiverBBQ
9-11am, Sunday 31 August 2008
Goodwill Bridge
W -

Monday, 25 August 2008

Penfolds Re-corking Clinics

The Penfolds Re-corking Clinic is coming to town on 25-26 November 2008.

If you've got a Penfolds red wine which is 15 years or older, you can take it along to the re-corking clinic and get it checked out. If the wine is still ok, it will be topped up and re-capsulated. On the other hand, if it gets opened and it's not ok, you'll have to either take it home and try and drink it, or pour it down the sink (if it's really bad).

It's a terrific free service which Penfolds offers. You can also get a free appraisal of what the wine is currently worth on the secondary market from Langtons.

So if you've got some old Penfolds wine and you're worried about how it's been cellared, head along to the clinic at the Emporium Hotel. However, places are limited, so you'll have to pre-register through the Penfolds website. Registrations open on 15 September 2008.

Penfolds Re-corking Clinic
25-26 November 2008
Emporium Hotel
1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 1300 651 650
W -

Saturday, 23 August 2008


After the disaster at Viet de Lites before our last trip to the opera, this time we went back to Ginga, a tried and trusted Southbank dinner spot. Ginga has been at Southbank for as long as I can remember and I've eaten there plenty of times over the years. I should start off by saying that I don't eat a lot of Japanese food. That's not because I don't like it, it's just that the gluten free diet really cuts down my menu options.

Ginga has two parts to it - there is a more formal restaurant, which has some great booths to sit in along the back wall, as well as a more casual, sit outside/takeaway part. It wasn't exactly warm the night we were there, and it was raining, so we sat inside.

Even at 6pm (which is very early in my books to be eating dinner) there were a good few people in the restaurant. When we told our waitress that we had to be out by 7pm, she said it would be no trouble, and took our orders straight away.

My favourite thing about Japanese food is ordering lots of little dishes. If you go with a big group, you get to plough through about half the menu. Tonight there was only two of us, but we still managed a good selection from the menu.

To start with, we had a plate of edamame (soy beans) which were $6.90. I can't go to a Japanese restaurant without wolfing down a few edamame - they are so moreish. They came out almost straight away and were demolished equally as quickly.

I ordered the maguro (tuna) sashimi ($16.00). I didn't used to be the biggest fan of sashimi, but I've had some really fantastic sashimi at Sakura and now I'm hooked. The sashimi came out as about 5 pretty big chunks of tuna, served with a soy based dipping sauce and some wasabi. I don't think it was as good as Sakura's sashimi, but it was tasty nevertheless.

Keeping on an (almost) raw theme, next I had the beef tataki ($12.90) which was served with ponzu sauce and pickled ginger. I also ordered some steamed rice ($2) with the beef tataki, as I didn't know how big the serving would be and I didn't want to have my stomach grumbling during the opera. Beef tataki is beef which is only just seared around the outside, then sliced very thinly. It was delicious.

Our meals were being brought out as soon as they were cooked, which is exactly what we needed for a quick getaway. We also ordered the Shojin bento ($19.00), which is a tray made up of vegetable tempura, steamed fresh vegetables & tofu, vegetarian sushi, miso soup and steamed rice. The vegetable tempura was probably the winner from the bento plate with delicious fresh pieces of broccoli, mushroom & asparagus. The miso was also particularly good.

Like any good Japanese restaurant, there are plenty of other things to choose from. The menu is split into sashimi, sushi, maki sushi (nori rolls), temaki, salads, robata yaki (grilled meals), tempura, noodles, sets, hot plates, bento and a few dishes which are called a la carte.

There is a fairly compact, but good, wine list. We had a couple of glasses of the Jim Barry Watervale riesling ($7.50 a glass) which was a great match for my raw fish and beef. We also had a yuzu sour ($8.90), which was vodka with yuzu juice (or some kind of yuzu drink). The yuzu sour was a super drink - sour, tangy and refreshing. It would be hard to stop drinking them on a hot summer night, believe me.

Service throughout the night was excellent. Our food came out extremely quickly. A waitress was never far away, and our bottle of water was replaced with another as soon as it was empty.

Ginga is a good, reliable option for lunch or dinner at Southbank. It's deservedly popular with both locals and tourists. That's why Ginga is still going strong after all these years.

What does all this mean? A great selection of Japanese food at reasonable prices, with excellent service.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - A Japanese feel inside or relaxed outdoor seating (try to sit in a booth)
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Compact, but good selection
Vegetarian - Good

Ginga Japanese Restaurant
Shop 11-12, Little Stanley Street
South Bank 4101
P - 07 3846 2313
W -

Ginga on Urbanspoon

Gourmet Traveller Top Brisbane Restaurants

My September edition of Gourmet Traveller arrived the other day, along with their 2009 Australian restaurant guide. If you don't normally buy Gourmet Traveller, go out and grab the September edition, because the restaurant guide is great. I always find it really handy whenever we are interstate or just away from Brisbane. You can just flick through it until something takes your fancy.

Anyway this year Absynthe remains Queensland's best restaurant according to Gourmet Traveller, coming in at 41 on the list of the top 100. It's dropped from number 28 last year. Here are their top 10 Brisbane restaurants:

1. E'cco
2. Montrachet
3. Urbane
4. Restaurant Two
5. Isis
6. Baguette
7. Gianni
8. Restaurant Manx
9. Alchemy
10. Two Small Rooms

I haven't yet eaten at Montrachet or Alchemy, but there aren't any surprises in the top 10. Urbane is still my favourite restaurant in Brisbane, but I don't eat at all these places 4 or 5 times a year, which is probably how often they get reviewed for Gourmet Traveller. I thought Era might have just scraped into the top 10, but maybe next year. I'm hoping to eat at Alchemy and Montrachet before the end of the year, so hopefully both meals will be terrific.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Gourmet Traveller 2009 Restaurant Guide Awards

The Gourmet Traveller 2009 Restaurant Guide Awards were held last night (even though the rest of us are still in 2008).

The great news for Brisbane is that The Bowery won the award for the best bar in Australia. I love The Bowery, so it's fantastic to see it being recognised with an Australia-wide award (hopefully it doesn't get overrun with tourists now). You can read my post about The Bowery here.

These are the winners of each of the major categories:

Restaurant of the Year - Quay (Sydney)

Best New Talent - Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate, Bodega (Sydney)

Best New Restaurant - Bistro Guillaume (Melbourne)

Outstanding Contribution to the Industry - Donlevy Fitzpatrick

Sommelier of the Year - James Erskine, Auge (Adelaide)

Bar of the Year - The Bowery (Brisbane)

Maitres d' of the Year - Liz Carey & Paul Guiney, Universal (Sydney)

Regional Restaurant of the Year - Royal Mail Hotel (Dunkeld, Victoria)

Wine List of the Year - Balthazar (Perth)

I've been lucky enough to eat at Quay and it is still the best dinner I've had anywhere in Australia. I had this amazing dish of abalone and pork belly that I just wished would never end. There aren't too many restaurants in the world that can compete with the view at Quay either. The night I was there, we sat in the tower, with panoramic views over Sydney harbour, the harbour bridge and the opera house. Pretty much the perfect night out if you ask me.

I haven't been able to track down the top 10 list of Queensland restaurants yet, but I'll put another post up when my September edition of Gourmet Traveller arrives.

Sunday, 17 August 2008


When it comes to Australian wine writers, Max Allen is my favourite by a country mile. His articles are usually funny and down to earth, while still being informative. There's none of the pretentiousness which (unfortunately) seems to find itself into so much wine writing these days.

Last week in The Weekend Australian Magazine, Max Allen conducted some first hand research in order to answer the eternal question "Does cheap plonk really give you a worse hangover than expensive wine?". I thought it was a great article, so here it is:

Does cheap plonk really give you a worse hangover than expensive wine?
Overwhelming anecdotal evidence does tend to support this widely held view, doesn’t it? Anyone who has ever had more than one hangover can tell you the after-effects of overindulgence vary enormously. And they’ll swear blind that it’s the quality of what they drank the night before that determines how bad they feel the morning after.

Why do I feel so bad after a night on the grog?
Alcohol, as we all know but often choose to forget, is a poison, a diuretic and a drug. Drinking too much of it increases the acid in our system, making us feel sick; it dehydrates the body, inducing a raging thirst the following day; and the worst symptoms of a really bad hangover – including anxiety and depression – feel like drug withdrawal because it is drug withdrawal: you have introduced your body to intoxication and then taken the intoxicant away.

Surely the severity of a hangover is just a question of quantity, not quality. The more of the drug you consume, the worse you’re going to feel.
You’d think that, wouldn’t you? After all, the “active ingredient” in any wine, the alcohol – or, to be more accurate, ethanol C2H5OH – is chemically the same, whether it’s in a cask of cheap shiraz or a bottle of Grange. And about 85 per cent of the rest of the wine, however expensive, is water. So the difference between cask wine and Grange really hinges on less than one per cent of other stuff such as the flavour and colour extracted from the grapes.

Can such a small amount of “other stuff” really make that much of a difference?
There’s only one way to find out: by putting the theory through some rigorous testing. So I did. I raided the cellar and pulled the corks on some very posh bottles: vintage French champagne, a single-vineyard Adelaide Hills chardonnay, a 10-year-old Coonawarra cabernet and some rare Rutherglen muscat. Then, over dinner, and using the “standard drinks” declaration on the labels to measure my alcohol intake, I proceeded to drink immoderately – all in the name of research, you understand. Then, a few days later, I repeated the exercise, and drank exactly the same amount of alcohol but made sure it was a selection of the cheapest plonk I could find: a glass from a $5 bottle of fizz, some cask chardonnay and bargain-basement shiraz cabernet, and – I didn’t even know they still made it – a few hearty draughts from a two-litre flagon of McWilliams Royal Reserve Brown Muscat.

Come on, we’re dying to know – how did the hangovers compare?
For a start, the difference in cost was alarming. On the expensive night, I calculated that I drank $400 worth of wine. The very same volume of cheap plonk added up to a minuscule $12. Frightening, isn’t it? Sobering, even. I was also surprised to find the posh-drop morning-after really wasn’t too bad: only slightly sick, dull headache, a bit foggy, a bit grumpy, but back to normal by early afternoon. The $12 hangover was, without question, much worse. When I did manage finally to crawl out of bed, my head was pounding, my heart was racing, and I was breathing fire. By mid-morning, a big lump of Plasticine in my head started to dry out and harden. By mid-afternoon, I was shrouded in cold self-pity. No doubt about it. Cheap wine really is worse for you than expensive wine.

But why is there such a difference?
No one knows for sure, but the most convincing theory I’ve heard concerns that one per cent of “other stuff”. In red wines particularly, the colour and much of the taste comes in the form of grape or oak-derived polyphenols – the tannins, pigment, flavour compounds and so on. In young red wines, most of these compounds are “short-chain” polyphenols. As the wine matures in the barrel and then in the bottle, however, the compounds polymerise, forming longer chains, altering the mouth-feel of the wine, and even dropping out of solution. This is why older red wine tastes more mellow, and why you find sediment at the bottom of the bottle. The theory is that while the body readily absorbs short-chain polyphenols, making the hangover worse, longer-chain polyphenols are less readily absorbed. And this goes some way to explaining my wildly differing hangover experiences, as the cheap wines I drank were barely a year old, whereas the posh wines had spent many years maturing.

So what you’re saying is that it’s not just a question of price – it’s a question of age.
Looks like it. Expensive wine may well give you a less severe hangover not because it’s expensive but because it’s likely to be older than the cheap plonk. All of which supports that other well-known wine-lover’s aphorism: drink less, drink better.

You can also read the article here on The Weekend Australian Magazine's website.

If you're keen to find out more about Max Allen, check out his website. He also writes for Gourmet Traveller, The Wine Magazine and various other publications around the globe.