Saturday, 31 May 2008

World's Sexiest Vegetarians

A while ago I read about the World's Sexiest Vegetarian awards in somewhere like MX. It was one of those "stories" that you read and wonder whether its actually real, or just filling up a bit of the paper.

Anyway, it turns out it is real. If you don't believe me, have a look at the website. It's run by PETA or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Past winners are Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone, Andre 3000 and Tobey Maguire.

This year's nominees include Abbie Cornish, Hayden Panettiere, Petra Nemcova, Joaquin Phoenix, Chris Martin and Michael Franti. Natalie Portman can rest assured that she'll get a vote from me this year.

I'm no vegetarian, but if you are, PETA's website has plenty of resources on it, including recipes and a free vegetarian starter kit.

The Bowery

Continuing on with the drinks theme from the last few posts, every now and again we all really need a cocktail or two (well at least I do). And when it comes to cocktails in Brisbane, look no further than The Bowery.

I'm the first to admit I haven't been to every bar in Brisbane, but for me, The Bowery has the best cocktails in this town. Sure, they aren't exactly cheap, but by the time you've had about 3 of them, you'll know it.

The cocktail list has been re-done just recently, but there are still plenty of favourites from the earlier lists. And we're not talking your everyday, boring, run of the mill cocktails here. Some of the drinks I've tried out here include the Zombie, Negroni, Pisco Punch, Gin Re Fashioned, Maryland Fair and the Corpse Reviver no 2. As the title suggests, you know you're having a drink the second a drop of the Corpse Reviver no 2 hits your mouth. A shaken cocktail of Plymouth Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, absinthe and lemon juice served straight up, it really packs a punch. Drink a few of those and you'll be under the table before you know it.

The Bowery isn't all about cocktails. The bar has an amazing range of spirits that you just don't see at most places. Their selection of Scotch Whiskies, American Whiskies, Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, Cognac etc can make it pretty hard to choose which drink will be next.

The other thing I love about The Bowery is the bar itself. It looks amazing. Sometimes it can take the guys a few minutes to whip up your cocktail, but while you are waiting admire the view of the bar and the way the staff whizz around, flipping things in the air, shaking and sipping the drinks with straws to make sure they're all on track.

The only downside to The Bowery is it can get packed. That's because it's not the biggest place in the world. Friday and Saturday nights are especially busy, and you might be lining up outside for a while if you're trying to get in after 11. If crowds aren't your thing, head there earlier in the evening during the week, when you should have no problems finding a comfy seat to relax and enjoy their amazing drinks.

One other thing I should mention is if you don't know where The Bowery is, it can be a bit hard to find. It doesn't exactly have a big sign. If you are walking up the Brunswick Street mall towards the New Farm end, turn left at the top of the mall into Ann Street and the door is just past the little laneway.

So round up your friends, order a few cocktails off the list and its happy days.

The Bowery
676 Ann St
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3252 0202
E -
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Friday, 30 May 2008

Central Otago Roadshow

If you're a fan of Central Otago wine (from New Zealand) head along to the Central Otago Roadshow, which is being held at Brett's Wharf on the 17th of June.

I'm not entirely convinced about the style of Central Otago pinot noir, but I'll probably still go along. Tickets are $30, and can be purchased from The Wine Emporium.

At this stage, the only information I've been able to track down is in the weekly email from The Wine Emporium. Mt Difficulty, Quartz Reef, Olssens and Two Paddocks (Sam Neill's winery) are supposed to be there, but if I can find out anything else, I'll post it up. Contact The Wine Emporium for more details.

Central Otago Roadshow
6pm to 8.30pm, Tuesday 17 June 2008
Brett's Wharf
449 Kingsford Smith Drive
Hamilton 4007

Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Wine Emporium

I am one of those people that can easily wander around a good wine shop for an hour or so. Unfortunately, Brisbane is now dominated by places like BWS, Liquorland and Vintage Cellars that sell some pretty average wine at very scary prices. I buy most of my wine on-line, simply because it's the cheapest way to buy wine. There are some great wine shops down south, like Winestar, Cloudwine and Boccaccio Cellars, that have fantastic ranges, low prices and deliver to Brisbane for free.

Having said that, there are a couple of really good wine shops in Brisbane that stand out from the predictable supermarket chains. My favourite place to buy a special bottle in Brisbane is at The Wine Emporium. Personally I find the whole Emporium complex a bit pretentious, but every now and again I get dragged along there and always sneak into The Wine Emporium (and end up spending way too much money).

I'm a bit of a Champagne fan, and I think The Wine Emporium has the best selection of Champagne in Brisbane. They have Champagnes from about $40 a bottle upwards, including some that you just can't find anywhere else in Brisbane. Recently I bought a bottle of 1996 Bruno Paillard for about $105. I had it for lunch with some friends at Harvey's (which I'll eventually get to post about) and it was terrific. The 1996 Champagne vintage is regarded as one of the two best vintages in the last century and whenever I see one in a shop, I buy it. I'm yet to be disappointed by a 1996 Champagne and many of them will continue to cellar for another 10 years or so.

If you're not into Champagne, there are French, Spanish, Italian and American wines, together with plenty of local Australian bottles. Walk in here and you'll find loads of bottles that don't even register on a BWS catalogue.

The Wine Emporium has free tastings every Saturday, and the tastings vary from week to week. To give you an idea, this week you can walk in and taste the new release Boireann wines from Stanthorpe (which I think are the best red wines in Queensland), but next week its one of the most famous producers in the world - Louis Latour from Burgundy.

The Wine Emporium also conducts wine education classes, led by the amazing Bernadette O'Shea. Bernadette is probably the leading Champagne authority in Australia, and her passion for Champagne never ceases to amaze me.

Next time you pop into Emporium, make sure you have a look at The Wine Emporium. If you're after a special bottle, or just something different, it won't let you down.

The Wine Emporium
Shop 47, Emporium
1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3252 1117
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Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Gemtree Wine Dinner

I've been a bit slack with wine posts, so here's one to keep all the wine buffs out there happy. Wineaway is holding a Gemtree Wine Dinner on Friday 13 June 2008.

I was lucky enough to do a tasting of Gemtree's wines on a visit to McLaren Vale a couple of years ago. Not only are Gemtree's wines great value, but they have been pursuing new varieties in Australia like tempranillo and albarino.

Mike Brown, the winemaker at Gemtree, will be presenting the wines during the night, which will include the 2007 Citrine Chardonnay, 2008 Moonstone Albarino, 2006 Cadenzia Grenache Tempranillo Shiraz, 2006 Uncut Shiraz and the 2005 Obsidian Shiraz.

The dinner is $90, and tickets include tastings of all the wines, canapés on arrival, a main course and gourmet cheese at the end of the night. As always, tastings at Wineaway are pretty informal affairs, with plenty of opportunities to ask questions of the winemaker during the night.

If you haven't been to Wineaway before, its the leading professional wine storage facility in Brisbane. I've been cellaring my wine there ever since it opened and have been lucky enough to attend some great tastings and dinners over the years. Contact Jody at Wineaway if you're keen to attend the Gemtree dinner.

Unit 3, 276 Abbotsford Road (entry via Taylor Street)
Bowen Hills 4006
P - 07 3852 1891
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Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Jakarta Indonesian Restaurant

Its been a while since I've eaten at Jakarta - I haven't been in for dinner since the restaurant moved from Paddington.

Anyway it seems to be going well in New Farm. I went along on a Saturday night with a few friends and the place was pretty much full, which is usually a good sign.

Once I opened the menu, I realised why it was full. The food is cheap. The entrees are between $3.90 & $6.90 and the mains range from $10.50 to $16.90. If the food's good, the place will always be packed at those prices.

Satays are my big weakness when it comes to Indonesian food, and I just couldn't go past them for an entree. If you can resist the call of sweet, tasty satays, then other entree options include Lumpia Sayur (vegetable spring rolls - $3.90), Perkedel Kentang (potato & corned beef fritters - $5.50) and a variety of soups (such as ox-tail - $5.90).

The chicken satays ($12.90 for eight) were absolutely delicious. They were not the biggest satays you've ever seen, but the chicken was tender and perfectly cooked. Once you've covered them in satay sauce, it's pretty hard to stop eating them. Luckily they were gobbled up by the rest of the table pretty quickly. We also had a serve of the Perkedel Kentang and one of the mixed entrees ($6.90).

When it comes to main course, there's a wide selection, covering satay (of course), vegetable & egg dishes, chicken, meat, seafood and rice/noodle dishes. Some of the more interesting sounding ones are Telor Belado (specially cooked eggs in red chilli sauce - $10.50), Ayam Rica Rica (I didn't ask what Rica Rica is, but it sounds good - $14.50), Ikan Bakar (whole sole marinated and char grilled - $19.50) and Semur Sapi (sauteed beef, tomato and fried potato in an Indonesian stew - $14.50).

We had five main courses between us, and some of them were particularly good. The Rendang Sapi (beef rendang - $14.50) was probably the star of the night, with its rich flavours and meltingly tender beef. Knowing how good beef rendang usually is, three of us tried to order the Rendang Sapi, but table rules prevailed and we ordered a few non-rendang dishes instead. The Opor Ayam (marinated chicken cooked in lightly spiced coconut milk - $14.50) was recommended by the waitress and was another distinctively flavoured dish. The Gulai Kambling (Indonesian lamb curry) was fine, but didn't have the wow factor of the beef rendang or Opor Ayam. We also had a serve of the mixed satay ($14.90) which didn't last long (nor did the satay sauce).

Steamed rice is $2 per person, or you can try the Nasi Kuning (yellow rice) instead for $3. If you want a couple of Indonesian side dishes, there's Acar (mixed vegetable pickles - $3), Serundeng Kentang (roasted peanuts and potatoes - $3) and sambal (hot chilli sauce).

By this stage of the night we were struggling to finish off the last few bits of the main courses, so dessert wasn't an option. If you manage to get through mains and are still feeling peckish, then its time for an Indonesian dessert. Some of them sound great - Es Cendol (a drink of tear drop shapes of rice jelly, served with brown sugar syrup, jack fruit and coconut milk - $4) or longan, lychee and rambutan with crushed ice ($4). If you really want to try something new, there's always the Es Cincau - diced grass jelly in cocopandan syrup - $4.

Jakarta also has Indonesian food for sale, in case you get hooked and want to take some home. It's both licenced and BYO wine. Corkage is $2 per person, and there's a bottle shop about 20 metres away, which is pretty handy.

Service throughout the night was friendly and efficient. Our waitresses were happy to make recommendations, which turned out to be delicious. The restaurant is decorated with Indonesian touches, and has a fairly casual, relaxed feel to it.

Jakarta is definitely worth a visit, especially if you've never tried Indonesian food before. The food is not only delicious, but its priced extremely well. We walked out paying $25 each, including corkage, and had loads of food. No complaints from me after a dinner like that.

What does all this mean? Tasty and interesting Indonesian food at crazy prices, with relaxed, friendly service.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good
Ambience - Casual, with Indonesian touches
Value for Money - Top Shelf
Wine - Licensed & BYO
Vegetarian - Good

Jakarta Indonesian Restaurant
2/702 Brunswick Street
New Farm 4005
P - 07 3358 5715
W -

Jakarta on Urbanspoon

Monday, 26 May 2008

Gordon Ramsay (again)

The Weekend Australian contained an article about Gordon Ramsay last weekend. If you haven't read it, you can find it here. I didn't learn anything really new about the great Mr Ramsay, but I did like this bit:

Yet at the same time, if the money and the timing are right he won’t rule out selling up. “I’m 41, how long can I go at this pace? Minimum another 10 years? Then I’ll f..k off to Australia and retire, then I’ll do the opposite of what I’ve done in my career. Open a restaurant in Queensland and open the f..king thing one day a week and close six days and just open for the fun of it.”

Maybe he's got his eye on the sunshine state? That would definitely be a tough place to get a reservation.

Sunday, 25 May 2008


I've already done a post about Sakura at Highgate Hill.

I've been told by a few friends that eat there all the time that Sakura is no longer BYO, so I've updated my earlier post. It's still worth a visit, and if you've got a decent sized group, book the private room for a great night out.

9 Gladstone Road
Highgate Hill 4101
P - 07 3844 9935

Viet de Lites

We headed off to Southbank the other night for a pre-opera dinner. In the past I've had no problems getting a quick dinner at places like Campari, Ahmets, Satay Hut and Ginga. After all, if restaurants can get people in at 6pm and out by 7.15, they're happy, because they can take another booking for 7.30pm.

Campari was our first choice, but the menu seems to have recently changed away from Italian food to more of a steak place (which is a shame, as I've had some great Italian food there in the past). As steak wasn't particularly appealing to my vegetarian dinner guest, we looked for somewhere else.

I thought we'd give Piaf a go, but it was pretty busy even at 6pm, so I didn't like our chances of a quick dinner. Instead we wandered into Viet de Lites on Little Stanley street, which only had about 4 other tables of diners when we arrived. I hadn't eaten there before, but I'm always willing to give any Vietnamese restaurant a try.

When we were shown to our table, I explained we had to be at the opera by 7.30. "No problems" said the waitress. We ordered two serves of rice paper rolls for entree, and two rice vermicelli salads for mains. The waitress assured us we'd have time to eat and still make the opera.

The rice paper rolls came out pretty quickly, as did a couple of glasses of white wine. I had ordered the prawn and pork rolls (which were pre-rolled). There were 4 pretty large rolls. They were clearly fresh, but didn't have a lot of distinctive flavour. The vegetarian tofu rolls on the other hand were much tastier.

It was after we had finished our rice paper rolls that things started to go downhill. Since we had arrived, the restaurant had started to fill up. Service didn't seem to be coping, and there were a number of tables where people were jumping up just to grab a waiter's attention.

Our finished plates sat on the table for what seemed an eternity. As time was ticking by, I grabbed one the waitresses to remind her we had to be gone before 7.30. She came back to tell us that our orders were "running a bit late". At that time I told her that we had to go in about 10 minutes, so if the food didn't come out soon, we'd just have to leave. She relayed that to the kitchen, and came back a few minutes later to tell us that the chef could start cooking our meals in 5 minutes. That's when we got up and left. I paid for the entrees and wine, but made it clear to the guy at the counter that we'd been assured there would be no problems with getting our meals out in time, which obviously didn't happen. No discount was offered to us.

The most annoying thing was that there were 3 or 4 tables that had arrived about 10-15 minutes after us, but had eaten 2 courses while we were there. We'd only ordered rice paper rolls and rice vermicelli salads, so there wasn't even much cooking involved.

I don't often get annoyed eating out, but lots of restaurants only get one chance with new customers. There are so many other restaurants at Southbank that are able to get food out quickly when they need to, that I won't be back to Viet de Lites in a hurry.

We headed off to the opera with our tummies rumbling and munched on emergency snacks of chips and Byron Bay cookies at the interval. Luckily for us, the opera was great.

Viet de Lites
Little Stanley Street
Southbank 4101
P - 07 3844 8979
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Viet de Lites on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Masterclass Weekend

The program for the Brisbane Masterclass Weekend is out now. You can find it here.

Presenters this year include Herve Augustin (Ayala champagne), Mark Best (Marque, Sydney), Brett Graham (The Ledbury, London), Michel Richard (Citronelle, USA), George Calombaris (Press Club, Melbourne), Frank Camorra (MoVida, Melbourne), Paolo de Marchi (Isola e Olena, Italy), James Halliday, Julie Leflaive (Olivier Leflaive Freres, France), Bruno Loubet, Sandro Mosele (Kooyong winery), Luke Nguyen (Red Lantern, Sydney), Xavier Pellicer (Restaurant Albac, Spain) and Thomas Schnetzler (Lindt).

There are 20 sessions each day, so there is plenty of variety. The pick of the sessions as far as I'm concerned are James Halliday's Dr Loosen riesling class, Julie Leflaive's "La Belle Burgundy" (watch out for the $85 surcharge on that one), Paolo de Marchi, Rollo Crittenden & Stefano Manfredi's "A Moveable Italian Feast", Thomas Schnetzler & Dean Merlo's "A Blissful Marriage" (of chocolate & coffee) and Luke Nguyen's Vietnamese "Stimulating the Senses".

Get in quickly, because I reckon some of the sessions will sell out pretty quickly. It's not exactly cheap though - a one day ticket is $350, or its $595 for two days. Your ticket includes morning & afternoon tea, lunch and tastings in all the sessions. There is plenty more information on the website, so start saving up your pennies now.

Masterclass Weekend
26 & 27 July 2008
Hilton Hotel
190 Elizabeth Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3231 3239
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Sunday, 18 May 2008


I went along to Paniyiri today. It was absolutely perfect weather for wandering around, snacking on delicious Greek food and downing a few glasses of Greek wine/beer/ouzo.

There seemed to be loads of people there today with the same idea as me. I'm always amazed at just how much food they cook at Paniyiri. It must be a massive exercise.

Anyway I had a serve of the grilled octopus (great), halloumi (moreish as usual) and a couple of scoops of ice cream (which isn't that authentic, but it was a warm day). Between our friends we also munched through a souvlaki, calamari and some Greek yoghurt.

I watched a couple of heats of the olive eating competition. Eating 13 olives in a minute doesn't sound that tough, but try doing it with your hands behind your back.

Anyway it was good to see so many people supporting this great festival. Hopefully it will keep getting better every year. If you missed it, make sure you get along next year.

Fix Restaurant

I've already done a post about Fix Restaurant, but I was back again the other day for a Friday work lunch. Last time I went, my steak didn't exactly set the world on fire.

This time I ordered the fish of the day, which was pan-fried snapper with green papaya salad ($28). It was delicious. The snapper was perfectly cooked, still moist, and just melted away in my mouth. The green papaya had been julienned, dressed with lime juice and a hint of chilli. The snapper also came with a serve of rice, just in case you were really hungry.

Service was again a bit hit and miss to start with - we had to ask a couple of times for our first bottle of wine to actually make it to the table, but after that things went fairly smoothly.

On the strength of this great dish, maybe next time I'll stick to the fish of the day.

Fix Restaurant
Port Office Hotel
Corner Edward & Margaret Streets
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3210 6016
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Restaurant Vue

Restaurant Vue is the in-house restaurant at the Boonah Valley Motel. We stayed here for a couple of nights recently, and thought we'd give the impressive looking restaurant a try for dinner.

It's a pretty enormous restaurant. There are seats inside, and also a big outside deck. It was a bit cool on the night, so the deck had been closed in with those clear plastic shutter things.

Anyway, we sat inside, where there was also a combustion fire going. The first thing we noticed on the menu was that cocktails were $8. $8 for a cocktail is a bargain in anyone's language, so we ordered a couple of those. They were a bit hit and miss, but at $8, who cares?

I was planning to leave room for dessert, so we ordered a bowl of the hand cut potato, sweet potato and eggplant chips with aioli ($6) for an entree. This turned out to be an absolutely enormous bowl of the various chips. The aioli was good, but we didn't get close to eating all the chips. This dish was great value at the price.

There is a compact wine list, including wines by the glass, at reasonable prices. I ordered a glass of pinot noir with my main course. I was amazed to find out it was served cold. I know some people like to slightly chill red wine in the warmer months, but it wasn't remotely warm weather, and this wine wasn't just chilled, it was cold. Of course the flavours of the pinot were completely masked by the temperature at which it was served. If restaurants are going to serve red wine cold, they should at least check with the customer first. I didn't order any more red wine after that glass. I should have stuck to the cocktails.

Next was main course. There were some interesting sounding mains, like tempura salmon in sea salt with purple wakame ($25), prawn, pumpkin, opal blue, salmon and black sesame tortellini ($17) and marinated char grilled lamb rump with Israeli cous cous, green olives, preserved lemon and eggplant ($25). There are a number of gluten free options, which are clearly marked on the menu.

The roasted duck breast on fig and mandarin salad with orange blossom and cinnamon water and warm chickpea falafel ($25) took my fancy. I don't see mandarin in many main courses, so I thought I'd give it a try. Unfortunately the dish wasn't as good as it sounded. Although the duck had been spiced with some lovely flavours, I found it overcooked and a bit tough. When it comes to duck breasts, I enjoy them when they are just cooked, still pink, juicy and tender. The fig and mandarin salad was ok - the figs in particular were a good match with the spiced duck. The falafel turned out to be a giant size and seemed to overwhelm the rest of the ingredients. It was also a really floury consistency once you broke into it. Overall, this dish just didn't work for me. I think a smaller portion of each of the accompaniments would have worked much better. With less mandarin and a much smaller, chunkier falafel, the flavours and textures would have been more balanced. A good idea, but not quite carried off on the plate.

Vue Restaurant has a separate vegetarian menu, which is always good to see. We ordered the halloumi with with falafel and fig & mandarin salad from the vegetarian menu. This was basically the same dish I had ordered, but with halloumi instead of the duck. The halloumi turned out to be a great match with the mandarin segments - the salty, squeaky texture of the cheese a perfect foil for the juicy, sweet mandarin. Again though the falafel was very powdery and overwhelmed the other ingredients due to its size.

We were both a bit disappointed with our mains, but decided to give dessert a run. We ordered the trio of house made ice cream tasting plate with sides of figs, rosewater Turkish delight and fresh berries ($8.50). Other desserts include pumpkin brioche bread and butter pudding with double cream and vanilla bean ice-cream ($8.50) and poached nectarines in amaretto with buttermilk puddings, fresh passionfruit and Italian meringue (also $8.50).

Our dessert turned out to be a winner. We had fresh figs at a few places in Boonah, and they were delicious every time. The ice cream flavours tonight were Midori, rosewater and mango. All of the ice creams were beautifully made, but the rosewater was the standout. A lovely delicate flavour, churned into an extra creamy ice cream - I could have eaten about 4 scoops of it. The Turkish delight was also good, its customary chewiness providing a good contrast of texture to the ice cream, figs and berries.

Other than the cold glass of pinot, service was excellent throughout our meal. There were only 2 waitresses for the entire restaurant, but they were both friendly and efficient, and no-one seemed to be waiting for meals.

The servings at Restaurant Vue are big, and prices are good. But our main courses didn't quite hit the mark. Maybe we just made bad choices for mains (after all we did almost have the same dish). It's certainly an ambitious menu.

Restaurant Vue is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was doing a good trade with the locals on the night we were there. Hopefully there will be more restaurants like this popping up in country towns all over Queensland.

What does all this mean? Big servings, good prices and an ambitious menu, but some dishes don't quite hit the mark.

food bling ratings
Food - Ok
Service - Good
Ambience - Modern, stylish interior and outside deck seating
Value for Money - Great
Wine - Compact selection
Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - Great

Restaurant Vue
Boonah Valley Motel
3908 Boonah-Ipswich Road
Boonah 4310
P - 07 5463 4738
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Friday, 16 May 2008

Gordon Ramsay

You've probably heard, but Gordon Ramsay is coming to Australia in June. As far I as I can find out though, he's not coming to Brisbane. So if you want to see if he really does swear as much as he does on tv, you'll have to jump on a plane to Sydney. You can grab tickets here to see Gordon at the Good Food & Wine Show, but I don't think they'll last long, as he seems to be the bees knees of celebrity chefs at the moment.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Cheesy Times

There seems to be some kind of new food event popping up every day at the moment (not that I'm complaining).

Today I picked up this card about Brisbane's Big Cheese Bite, which is happening at Rosalie on Sunday 15 June 2008. It looks like there will be music, wine, comedy, dancing and of course plenty of cheese. I've had a look at the website, but it doesn't tell you exactly what cheese will be there on the day. The website does however promise the "largest range of Australian-made cheeses ever seen in one location for tasting, savouring and buying." Hopefully it lives up to the hype.

The Brisbane Cheese Awards are being held the day before, so hopefully some of the top cheeses will make it along to Rosalie. Anyway, there is plenty of info on the website, where too much cheese is not cheesy enough. Tickets are $25, although apparently they're cheaper if you buy them through Ticketek.

Brisbane's Big Cheese Bite
10.30am - 4.30pm
Sunday 15 June 2008
Norm Buchan Park
Baroona Road, Rainworth

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Noosa Food Weekend

The not so catchily named Settler's Cove Celebration of Australian Food & Wine - Noosa Style is happening this weekend at Noosa (surprise).

If you've got nothing to do this weekend, or you're going to be anywhere near Noosa, it's well worth checking out. There is so much on over the weekend, I won't even try to cover it all - have a look at the website. The lineup is pretty impressive, including Meyjitte Boughenout, Frank Camorra, George Calombaris, Serge Dansereau, Stephen and Prue Henschke, Huon Hooke, Philip Johnson, Matthew Kemp, Rick Kinzbrunner, Cheong Liew, Kym Machin, Andrew McConnell, Matt Moran, Neil Perry, David Pugh and Steve Webber.

There are some awesome sounding dinners at local restaurants happening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, including The Press Club cooking at Season ($85), Restaurant Balzac cooking at Alegria ($85) and Icebergs & Rockpool (fish) cooking at Wasabi ($100). Hopefully there are still some tickets left.

Sounds like a pretty fine way to spend the weekend if you ask me.

Settler's Cove Celebration of Australian Food & Wine - Noosa Style
16-18 May 2008
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Sunday, 11 May 2008

Boonah Trip

Recently we drove out to Boonah for a long weekend of relaxing, bush-walking and general exploring. We did our bit to support the local cafes, pubs and restaurants, and here's my wrap of where we ate...

We went to Cafe 17 a couple of times, once for lunch and the second time for coffee. It was absolutely packed at lunchtime, both with locals, bike riders and day trippers. The menu at Cafe 17 covers sandwiches, salads and a few hot options.

I had the Mediterranean salad for lunch ($13) and it was really tasty. I don't usually find loads of gluten-free options in country towns, so it was good to find a decent salad selection here. My salad was made up of warm chorizo, rocket, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, feta and artichokes. It was a good serving for the price. We also had a salad sandwich ($5.50), which was groaning with salad fillings. There is also an organic food store which adjoins Cafe 17, where you can pick up all kinds of supplies.

On the Friday night, we had dinner at the Dugandan Hotel, along with plenty of the locals (who apparently know it just as the Duggie). The pub was so busy it was hard to find a seat anywhere, and people were standing around waiting for tables to clear. The Dugandan Hotel serves up fairly traditional pub food, including steaks, roasts, fish & chips and calamari, together with other options like quiche and a selection of salads.

I thought the best option here would be to go with one of the steaks, and ordered one of the large T-bones ($20). The steak was so big it even came with its own oversized plate. Although the steak was not spectacular, if you do order a steak, you also get to serve yourself from the vegetable and salad buffet. I've had some pretty memorable roast vegies at country bowls and RSL clubs, and was hoping that the Dugandan Hotel would be in the same boat. It didn't disappoint. Although the hot vegies were sitting in a bain marie type arrangement, the volume of people ordering food meant that hardly anything was there for more than a few minutes. The mashed pumpkin, green beans, carrot and potato salad were particularly good. This is what vegies should taste like. They were just cooked simply, but had us both scraping every last bit off our plates.

At one stage one of the local kids tried to head back for a second serve of the vegie/salad bar, only to be warned off by one of the staff. The thought had definitely crossed my mind, but if the local kid didn't get away with it, I sure wasn't going to. We had to be content with what we could load onto our plates the first time round. Luckily with my oversized T-bone plate, there was plenty of room for vegies.

The steak aside, it was a great country pub dinner. There are plenty of tables inside, where there was a fire going. We found inside a bit too warm, so sat outside under the covered deck. The Dugandan Hotel is definitely worth a visit, if only to remind yourself what good vegetables should taste like.

We also had breakfast one morning at Flavours Cafe. Again, this seemed to be a spot favoured by the locals. You can sit inside or out, and there's even a pool table if you're not in a hurry once you've finished your meal.

I went for the full breakfast ($12.95), which was a generous serve of bacon, eggs, tomato, 2 hash browns and toast. Flavours Cafe uses local bacon and sausages in their breakfasts, which is always good to see. We also ordered a serve of their fruit toast ($4.75) which was sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. They serve Monte coffee, and both our coffees were well made.

Flavours Cafe is a busy spot, with a relaxed, friendly feel, open for breakfast and lunch. It's a good place to fill up on a big breakfast before heading off for a walk in one of the nearby national parks.

We stayed at the Boonah Valley Motel, which was great. The motel also has a restaurant, with a fairly adventurous menu. I'll put up a separate post about our dinner at the motel.

Cafe 17
17 High Street
Boonah 4310
P - 07 5463 2671

Dugandan Hotel
Boonah - Rathdowney Road
Boonah 4310
P - 07 5463 1048

Flavours Cafe
8 Railway Street
Boonah 4310
P - 07 5463 2699

Boonah Valley Motel
3908 Boonah-Ipswich Road
Boonah 4310
P - 07 5463 4738
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Gourmet Haus

I recently headed over to Racecourse Road for breakfast at one of my favourite spots, the Ascot Continental Deli, only to find it was closed. It always had a great selection of gluten-free breakfasts, so I was sad to see it gone. Obviously there weren't enough other people out there who liked it as much as I did.

After a quick scout around, we decided to go to Gourmet Haus over the road, and it was a good find. I hadn't eaten there before, but they have a great breakfast menu. If you're sick and tired of seeing bacon and eggs or pancakes with maple syrup on your local cafe's breakfast menu, head over to Gourmet Haus, where you can try kippers, black pudding and a range of wursts to get your day started. If wurst isn't your bag, then there are vegetarian breakfasts, gluten-free options, breakfast specials and even bacon & eggs.

The service during our meal was excellent and friendly. Although there was a bit of a mix up with our initial order, it was fixed up quickly, without any hassle.

Gourmet Haus is also a deli, and there is a tempting range of sandwiches that you can order for breakfast, lunch or to take away.

Next time you're looking for something a bit different for breakfast, head over to Gourmet Haus. Its imaginative menu and friendly service stand out from the usual breakfast crowd.

Gourmet Haus
68 Racecourse Road
Ascot 4007
P - 07 3216 4899
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Gourmet Haus Delicatessen & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Gluten Free Food and Allergy Show

I came across this great post during the week on Confessions of a Food Nazi . Nothing annoys me more than people who think Coeliac disease is a fad or just a diet that you're taking to stand out from the crowd. Usually those people have no idea what Coeliac disease is. Luckily that's changing a lot in the food industry, thanks in a large extent to the great work that organisations like the Coeliac Society are doing.

There are also loads more gluten free products on the market now, available at local supermarkets all over Australia. Which leads me to the Gluten Free Food & Allergy Show, running at the convention centre next weekend, 17 & 18 May 2008. Its a great way to find out about new things that are available, try a whole lot of gluten-free food and attend seminars that run throughout the day. Tickets are $14, but its free for children 12 and under. There is plenty more information on their website.

I'll definitely be going along, and then heading over the road to Paniyiri for some delicious Greek food to round out the day.

Gluten Free and Allergy Show
Hall 2, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Saturday 17 & Sunday 18 May 2008, 10am to 5pm

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Sutton's Apple Juice

I picked up a bottle of Sutton's Granny Smith apple juice at the Mitchelton farmers' markets on Sunday. If you haven't come across Sutton's apple juices before, you really should hunt them down. They make a great range of apple juice from loads of different apple varieties, including Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Jonathon, Mutsu and Royal Gala. You don't realise just how good apple juice can taste until you've tried their different varieties. And if you're not really into drinking juice, they'd make a fantastic cocktail.

You can usually find Sutton's apple juice at either the Mitchelton or Powerhouse farmers' markets ($4 for a 1 litre bottle). I've also seen them at the Rosalie Gourmet Market (but they are more expensive). Otherwise, you can order them directly here.

Next time you're out at Stanthorpe, pop in to Sutton's farm, where you can taste all the different juices, ciders, liqueurs and brandies. We always drop in to the farm whenever we are anywhere near Stanthorpe. Be warned though, you'll go through a litre of these great juices pretty quickly, so make sure you buy a few. Best of all, you'll be supporting a local Queensland product.

Sutton's Juice Factory & Cidery
10 Halloran Drive
Thulimbah QLD 4376
P - 07 4685 2464
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Sunday, 4 May 2008

Croque Monsieur at Belle Epoque

I've already done a post about Belle Epoque at Emporium.

Recently we were looking for a spot of dessert in the Valley, and ended up at Belle Epoque after deciding that the queue at Freestyle Tout was way too long. My crême brulée ($13) on this visit was a bit disappointing. Although it tasted great, it was missing the crunchy top. Like Amelie, one of my favourite food experiences is cracking through the top of a crême brulée and this one let me down.

Anyway, the whole reason for this post is their croque monsieur, a classic French dish. One of my friends ordered it, and when it came out it looked amazing. To call this a baked ham and cheese sandwich with fries just doesn't do it justice. Although it's definitely not gluten free (so I couldn't even have a nibble) it looked like the most perfect late night snack you could ever imagine. It was served on a long plate with a good serve of fries and even a bit of salad. Pretty good value at only $14.

If you find yourself wandering around the Valley, hungry, but not sure exactly what you need, wander into Belle Epoque and order yourself a croque monsieur. Your stomach will be eternally thankful.

Belle Epoque
1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3852 1500
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Red Hot Thai

Red Hot Thai at Kingscliff is one of those restaurants that always seems to be busy. Usually that's a good indication of the food quality, and its certainly the case here.

Although Red Hot Thai covers the usual Thai suspects, there are also a few dishes that you don't always come across on your standard Thai menu. Their starters include crab and chicken steamed dumplings ($8.50), deep fried spicy fish cakes served with sweet chilli or plum sauce ($8.50) and spring rolls ($8.50).

I ordered the satay gai to get the evening going - chicken marinated in Thai herbs, served with peanut sauce ($8.50). I really am a sucker for Thai chicken satays and these ones were great. Over the years I've come across a lot of chicken satays where the chicken was so overcooked that the resulting satays were chewy and tasteless. These, on the other hand, were tender, covered in herbs and had a lovely delicate flavour. They were delicious, served with both a mild peanut sauce and a tangy, clear Thai sauce. They were quickly demolished.

We also ordered a serve of the pak tod for entree - fresh vegetables in tempura batter, served with sweet tamarind and ginger sauce ($8.50). Again these were great - fresh cauliflower, broccoli, beans, mushrooms, capsicum, zucchini and shallots fried in a light, crunchy tempura batter. The tangy sauce was also a winner. Admittedly these were more Japanese than Thai, but they were fresh and tasty.

When it comes to mains, the menu covers curries, soup, salads, seafood, stir fries and noodles. Some of the salads sounded particularly tempting - like the yum nua (char grilled beef with fresh lemongrass, lime juice, coriander and chilli) and the larb gai (spicy minced chicken, Thai herbs, lime juice and ground roasted rice).

We were at the beach, so I went for the gang penang prawn curry ($22) as a main course. This was a creamy red coconut milk curry, which was served with broccoli, carrot, fresh kaffir lime leaves and roasted peanuts. It was a beautiful dish, in the fragrant, lighter style of Thai curries. There was a generous amount of prawns in the dish and the sauce was so good I ended up dunking loads of rice into the bowl to soak up all the delicious flavours.

We also had the vegetarian Red Hot Thai noodles as a main - wok fried egg noodles with tofu, chilli, shallot and basil ($15.50). Although there were plenty of fresh, crunchy vegetables in this dish, it was a bit bland, and could have done with a bit more of a flavour kick. There were a few red chilli bits through the noodles, but not enough to really give them a distinctive taste.

Red Hot Thai is both licenced and BYO. Corkage is $2.50 per person if you do take your own wine. Although we had to ask about 3 separate waiters for a wine cooler and some glasses at the start of the night, after that small hiccup the service was good. Red Hot Thai does get very busy during school holidays and on weekends, so it's always a good idea to book ahead.

What does all this mean? Well priced, tasty Thai food in a relaxed, friendly setting.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good
Ambience - Relaxed indoor & outdoor seating
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Licenced & BYO
Vegetarian - Great

Red Hot Thai
80 Marine Parade
Kingscliff NSW 2487
P - 02 6674 5299

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Gourmet Traveller

I've been subscribing to Gourmet Traveller for the last 5 years or so, and I think its a great food magazine. I'm not so keen on the travel side of the magazine, as it usually concentrates on luxury or exclusive accommodation, which isn't my idea of travel. But this isn't a travel blog, so I won't bore you with my views on that.

The only problem I have with Gourmet Traveller's food coverage is that, historically, it has had such a Sydney and Melbourne focus that it's hard to find much written about Queensland (or the other states). According to their 2008 restaurant guide, Queensland only has 4 restaurants in the top 50 Australian restaurants (with Absynthe picking up the highest spot at 28).

However, Queensland has been creeping a bit more into its consciousness over the last 2 years or so, which is good to see. I think the increased profile of Queensland food in Gourmet Traveller is associated with the rise of some great restaurants in North Queensland (like Nu Nu at Palm Cove).

Gourmet Traveller's April 2008 magazine was its "Best of the Best" edition. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Queensland is starting to pick up some well-deserved kudos on the national food front. Here are the Queensland dishes, restaurants, shops and hotels which got a mention as "best of the best":
Let's hope that the great restaurants we have here in Queensland continue to receive the national coverage that they deserve.


Until I went to Africa a few years ago, I really wasn't a big fan of tea. The only time I ever drank a cup of tea was when I was really cold and there was no other hot drink on offer except tea. But after travelling around Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia I got hooked on their black tea, especially the ones served with loads of sugar, or sometimes a bit of spice. Tea like that was surprisingly thirst quenching on hot days. And in Morocco, we'd drink between 5 and 10 cups of refreshing mint tea every day. I still make mint tea at home on hot days to bring back fantastic memories of Morocco.

Now I only drink black tea, with a couple of sugars. I'm not a big fan of milky tea. One of my favourite spots to pick up tea in Brisbane is from tlicious at Southbank. tlicious has over 150 different teas to pick from, so there is no excuse if you can't find one you like. Their teas are categorised as black tea, green tea, white tea, rooibos, chai, herbal infusions and fruit blends. Some of the more eye catching teas are Oz bushfire caravan, genmaicha (Japanese tea with roasted rice), Casablanca (North African blend of gunpowder and spearmint) and Turkish apple. Prices for 100g of tea range from $8 for orange pekoe Ceylon to $32 for the vanilla pearls white tea blend.

It's a great shop, because there are little jars of tea on the shelves, which you can open up to smell the aromas of all the weird and wonderful teas. There is also usually one tea made up for you to try as you wander around the shop.

If you just want to buy a few teas to try at home, you can get three 20g packs for $10. The tea is so good that you need surprisingly little to make a cup, so 20g goes much further than you would expect.

tlicious also sells teapots and tea accessories. You can also buy a cup of tea if you aren't in a hurry to head off. If you're looking for something a bit different to your next cup of Lipton's, give tlicious a try.

Shop 9, 176-178 Grey Street
South Bank 4101
P - 07 3844 3305
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