Saturday, 25 July 2009

Tour de France Finale at Limes Hotel

If you're a fan of the Tour de France, Limes Hotel in the Valley will be showing the final stage from 10pm on Sunday night, at its rooftop cinema. While I've been really enjoying the Tour, drinking cocktails on a Sunday night sounds particularly dangerous for work on Monday morning. If you're lucky enough to have Monday off, or have a very understanding boss, it sounds like a very civilised way to watch the peleton ride into Paris.

Limes Hotel
142 Constance Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3852 9000
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ARIA Brisbane

You might have already heard that Matt Moran is opening a Brisbane version of his highly regarded ARIA restaurant. The current plan is for ARIA Brisbane to open on 17 August 2009, which is only a few weeks away now. The restaurant will open at the site of the old Pier Nine, on the Eagle Street Wharf in the city. It's right next to where I work, so I've been keeping a keen eye on the construction work. The fitout must be costing a fortune, judging by the amount of people that have been working there.

As both Urbane and Isis are currently closed, I'm really looking forward to eating at ARIA. If you can't wait for the restaurant to open its doors, you can make a booking from Monday 3 August 2009 on 07 3233 2555.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Brisbane Festivals this Weekend

Until I got my regular OurBrisbane email the other day I had no idea just how many neighbourhood festivals were on this weekend. If this amazing weather keeps up, you'll be able to take your pick out of the Red Hill Fair, Mt Gravatt Show, Centenary Rocks! Festival, Einbunpin Festival (Sandgate), King of the Mountain Festival (Pomona) or the Morningside Festival. I think we'll try to get along to the Red Hill Festival, just because it's the closest.

Here is the OurBrisbane page with all the info, otherwise read on below. If the sun sticks around, there's no excuse not to get along to your closest fair/show/festival.

Red Hill Fair
Saturday 25 July 2009
Woolcock Park
Hawthorne Terrace
Red Hill 4059
P - 07 3369 4756
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Mt Gravatt Show
Saturday 25 & Sunday 26 July 2009
Mt Gravatt Showgrounds
1644 Logan Road
Mount Gravatt 4122
P - 07 3343 2322
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Centenary Rocks! Festival
Saturday 25 & Sunday 26 July 2009
Rocks Riverside Park
Counihan Road
Seventeen Mile Rocks 4073
P - 0439 789 677
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Einbunpin Festival
Sunday 26 July 2009
Einbunpin Lagoon Parklands
Brighton Road
Sandgate 4017

King of the Mountain Festival
Sunday 26 July 2009
Stan Topper Park
Main Street
Pomona 4568
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Morningside Festival
Sunday 26 July 2009
Thynne Road
Morningside 4170

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Divine Duval-Leroy

If you're a fan of champagne and find yourself at a loose end tomorrow night, grab a ticket to the Duval-Leroy tasting that's being run by Champagne Gallery.

The evening will start with the NV Fleur and run through to Duval-Leroy's vintage and prestige cuvees. Tickets are $75, and you can book through the Champagne Gallery website. That works out to be less than a bottle of the NV Fleur, so it sounds like a good investment to me.

Sorry about the late notice on this one, but I've been slowly working my way through my inbox this week and just read about it this morning.

Divine Duval-Leroy
Thursday 23 July 2009, 6.30pm for 7pm
Platform at Grand Central Hotel
270 Ann Street
Brisbane 4000
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food bling photos - Morocco

I'd really love to have more photos up on my blog. Although I've got a pretty handy Canon SLR camera (it's a 450D for all you real photographers), I don't want to lug it with me into every restaurant. So most of the photos you'll find on the blog are taken with my phone. While my phone takes some decent photos, it's hopeless in low light (ie most restaurants).

As I'm currently enjoying a week at home with our first bub, I've been slowly trawling my way through the ridiculous amount of photos on my hard drive. I thought that surely there would have to be a few decent ones to throw up on the blog.

The first batch of photos come from our honeymoon in Morocco in 2007. We had an amazing 3 weeks in Morocco, and food played a huge part of the overall experience. It's hard to find a bad meal in Morocco, and even travelling on the Australian dollar it wasn't difficult to enjoy fantastic food.

The first two photos are of the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech.

The Djemaa el Fna is the main square in Marrakech. Our riad in Marrakech was about 2 minutes walk to the Djemaa el Fna. At night time the Djemaa el Fna completely overloads your senses. It's impossible to give the full sense of the place on this blog, and these photos don't even start to do it justice. Just as it gets dark, hundreds of food stalls set up all over the square, serving all kinds of amazing Moroccan food. But it's not all just about the food - there are snake charmers, dancers, live music and these guys that tell amazing stories to huge crowds of people (I understand about 3 words of Arabic, but would listen to these incredibly theatrical story-tellers just for the entertainment and the reaction of the crowds).

As most Moroccans tend to eat dinner fairly late, we'd sit up on the roof of our riad in the early evening, wondering where we would end up for dinner. In the meantime, we'd hear constant drums and music from the square, see smoke rising in the air from all the ad-hoc restaurants and (best of all) smell the magical aromas of dinners being cooked for hundreds of Moroccans. As far as I'm concerned, visiting the Djemaa el Fna is one of the food (and sensory) highlights of the world.

To be perfectly frank, I have to admit that I got terribly sick in Marrakech, after eating at one of the restaurants in and around the Djemaa el Fna. Although I ended up not being able to eat or drink anything for two days, it will never deter me from eating with the locals. I'd rather end up sick for a couple of days than spending my holidays at the closest McDonalds.

The next photo doesn't include any food at all. But it's probably the most amazing setting in which I've ever been lucky enough to enjoy breakfast, anywhere on our travels.

This photo is the terrace at Madada Mogador in Essaouira, where we were served breakfast every morning. Our room actually opened up onto this terrace. We'd drag ourselves out of bed after a lazy sleep-in and walk out onto the terrace. What followed was a beautiful breakfast of fresh orange juice, yoghurt, fresh fruit, Moroccan pancakes, honey, jam, tea and coffee. As you can see, the terrace looked out over the whole of the bay that surrounds Essaouira. It was incredibly hard to actually get back out of the chair and leave - why would you bother with a view like this?

The last photo again lacks any actual food, but it's another table with an unbeatable view. This photo is the view from the terrace of Dar Mouna, our beautiful hotel in Ait Ben Haddou. Again we were lucky enough to eat breakfast from this terrace, admiring the view of an incredibly well preserved kasbah. Ait Ben Haddou is one of the most famous kasbahs in Morocco, which has been used as a background for films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. In the foreground is the bed of the Ouarzazate River, which is almost always dry.

As a result of our honeymoon, Moroccan food will always stick with me. Morocco traverses the entire spectrum of food, from the absolute simplicity of fresh, tangy orange juice which is served with every meal, to the delicious complexities of a slow cooked tagine. Ever since we returned from Morocco, I've had a jar of preserved lemons in the fridge - such a simple ingredient, but such a distinctively Moroccan flavour. I'm yet to cook a tagine at home that approaches any that we had in Morocco, but I'm determined to keep trying! Hope you enjoy the photos, and I'll try to find a few more food related pictures soon.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Wine on the Wharf

Stewarts Wine Co is holding its annual Wine on the Wharf event this Sunday at Portside Wharf.

The event is held over two sessions - from 11am to 2pm and then 3pm to 6pm - during which time there will be more than 400 wines for you to taste. Tickets are $38.50 per session, or $66 for both sessions, just in case you only get through 395 wines on your first visit. There will also be food from Gusto da Gianni and One Degree Bar and Dining.

If the current weather holds up, it would be a particularly good way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Have a look at Stewarts' website for more information.

Wine on the Wharf
Sunday 26 July 2009, 11am-2pm and 3pm-6pm
Portside Wharf
39 Hercules Street
Hamilton 4007
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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Des Alpes

Next time it's a cold, wet, miserable winter night, Des Alpes is the perfect restaurant to visit for some homely, warming food.

Des Alpes is a Swiss restaurant on Blackwood Street at Mitchelton. It's basically in my neighbourhood, so I've eaten there a couple of times in the last few months. My most recent visit was just last week, on a cold, rainy night.

Entrees at Des Alpes include walliser suppe (Swiss style tomato soup with cheese and cream glazing - $7.50), Bundnerfleisch mit nussbrot (thin slices of Swiss style smoked beef, served with homemade bread, butter, pickles and sour cream - $12.50) and a country terrine made with chicken, pork, walnuts, mushrooms, herbs and wrapped in bacon, served with homemade red wine jelly ($11.50).

Knowing how filling the main courses are, we skipped entrees. I'd ordered the Zurich geschentzeltes (sliced veal in mushroom cream sauce - $25.50) on my last visit, and enjoyed it so much I had it again. This dish is served as half a plate of the sliced veal, with the other half full of Swiss rosti potatoes. The rosti potatoes are delicious, and they're a perfect way to mop up the mushroom sauce from your plate. My only complaint was I ran out of rosti potatoes (because they tasted so good).

Other main course options are kassler (smoked pork tenderloin served with sauerkraut and mild pepper sauce - $25.50), monsieur Roquefort (pork fillets topped with red wine poached pears and blue cheese - $26.50) and fillet Des Alpes (three pork and beef fillets topped with homemade béarnaise, herb and pepper sauces - $26.50). All of the main courses are served with the lovely rosti potatoes and a green salad for the table to share.

If you want to give cutlery a skip for the night, then there are a few different fondues to enjoy. The cheese fondue is served with pieces of baguette to dip into melted Swiss cheese, with garlic, white wine and kirsch ($10.50/person for entree or $19.50/person for main). Then there's the meat fondue, where you can dip slices of beef, pork and veal fillets in beef stock. The meat fondue is also served with a variety of homemade sauces, mixed pickles and rosti potatoes ($27.50/person).

Given that it was particularly cold outside (at least by Brisbane standards) we ordered the chocolate fondue for dessert to share amongst the table ($12.50/person). The fondue burner was brought out to our table, followed by a pot of gooey looking melted chocolate. The chocolate fondue was served with marshmellows, meringues, almonds, strawberries, apple and grapes. We were all given fondue forks and proceeded to cover everything in the thick chocolate. As someone who generally doesn't eat a lot of fruit, this could be the perfect way to convert me - although I'm sure coating tiny bits of fruit in thick chocolate probably wipes out any health benefits. Apart from its taste, a fondue is a great communal way of eating, that gets everyone at the table involved in the food.

If you really want to go fondue crazy, then your table can order the three course fondue party - cheese fondue for entree, meat fondue for main and chocolate fondue for dessert ($44.50/person). But be warned - if you have a big table wanting to eat fondue, you'll need to give Des Alpes some advance notice.

Des Alpes goes out of its way for diners with special dietary requirements. It's the only restaurant I've been to in Brisbane that has separate vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free menus. There were loads of gluten free options for me to enjoy.

Service was extremely friendly on our visit, and all our food came out without any noticeable delay. Des Alpes has a small wine list, but you can also bring your own wine, with corkage $3.00 per person. There's a small bottle shop a few doors up Blackwood Street.

Des Alpes is all about generous, warming Swiss and European food. Sure it's not cutting edge cuisine, but sometimes we all need a plate of hearty, tasty food, which is Des Alpes' forte. Des Alpes has been operating as a family business since 1993, so it must have plenty of dedicated customers.

What does all this mean? Good value, homely, generous Swiss food, with BYO wine and friendly service.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Ambience - Relaxed, homely, European feel to the room
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Compact list or BYO
Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - Great

Des Alpes
47 Blackwood Street
Mitchelton 4053
P - 07 3355 9627
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Des Alpes on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Book Stars Book Sale

I was walking back to the office after a quick lunch on Friday and noticed that the old Dymocks bookshop in the MacArthur Central had re-opened. It wasn't Dymocks, but it was a giant booksale called Book Stars.

I was expecting it to be full of books that no-one actually wanted to buy (which is usually the case with giant book sales), and had a quick look around the food and wine books. Luckily there turned out to be a few gems in amongst the tables. I picked up Philip Johnson's dessert book Decadence for $10. I also nabbed Oz Clarke's Bordeaux, which I have been eyeing off for ages - it was a steal at $20.

I imagine the decent cooking & wine books will disappear pretty quickly, but if you're in the city this week, it's definitely worth a browse.

Book Stars
Corner Queen & Edward Streets
Brisbane 4000

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Little Singapore

During my one hour of freedom at lunch I've been slowly working my way through the Asian eateries in and around the Elizabeth Arcade. My favourite spot so far is Little Singapore.

Little Singapore is on Charlotte Street, between the Elizabeth Arcade and George Street. I've been there twice for lunch now, and really enjoyed the food. On the first trip I ordered the crispy pork belly rice ($11.50). I'm an absolute sucker for pork belly, so it wasn't a hard choice. Although I found the pork belly a little on the cool side, there was plenty of it. The pork belly is served with a bowl of clear soup and a big mound of rice, which is topped with a sweet sauce that I can't put my finger on. I know it doesn't sound adventurous, but I enjoyed the pork belly so much I ordered it again on my second visit. I wasn't able to finish it on either trip.

If (unlike me) you can manage to look past the crispy pork belly, there are loads of other lunch choices. Particularly exotic sounding dishes include Assam cuttlefish with rice ($12.90), Nasi Lemak (rice with fried sole, fried peanuts, pickled vegetables, curry chicken & beef, cooked egg and sambal sauce - $11.90) and beef brisket & tendon rice ($10.50).

The interior of the restaurant has been set up to look like Old Singapore, around the 1950s. The room definitely has character, although the giant TVs obviously weren't around in 1950.

Don't miss the drinks menu - there are some wonderful sounding options like jackfruit moussy drink ($4.50), passionfruit punch ($4.50) and winter melon tea ($3.30).

Service here is the no-fuss variety. You walk in and wait for a table to become available. A waitress then shows you to a table, and you're left with food and drink menus. Once you've worked out what's for lunch, you wander down to the back counter, to order and pay. Take your number back to your table, and the meals come out pretty quickly. If you get a chance while you're ordering, have a look into the kitchen. I was amazed how many chefs were in there, bustling away.

For me, Little Singapore is a terrific lunch spot. The food is good, servings are very generous, it's cheap and meals come out pronto. Amazingly, until about 2 weeks ago I didn't even know it existed. I love stumbling across new places like Little Singapore. And if you live on the Southside, there's also a Little Singapore at Market Square, Sunnybank.

What does all this mean? Cheap, tasty Singaporean food served in a flash.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Ambience - "Old Singapore" meets giant plasma TVs
Value for Money - Top Shelf
Vegetarian - Good

Little Singapore
42 Charlotte Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3211 1177
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Little Singapore on Urbanspoon