Gelato Messina

This post is long overdue, and dedicated to the friend who drove all the way to Darlinghurst at 9pm on a Wednesday just so i could get some Messina.

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Gelato Messina has often been cited as “Australia’s best Gelato”, and while i love Gelato Messina’s crazy and mostly ingenious combinations, i wouldn’t want to dissuade potential new gelato stores from usurping such a title.

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The best thing about Messina is the variety of the Gelato that’s available. It doesn’t matter if you’re feeling fruity and light, or creamy and rich, Messina is guaranteed to have a flavour that will tickle your fancy. They also have a bunch of specials up regularly, and although i couldn’t say whether they were weekly or monthly, the combinations that were available when i visited seemed to have been engineered to be consumed by me.

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Umeboshi, Black Forest and Hummingbird Cake; Triple Serve
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I got a takeaway pack of 3 flavours; Black Forest, Hummingbird Cake and Ultraviolet – which were the specials on that particular night, and a single serve of the Green Tea & Yuzu flavour. I’ve been a huge fan of Yuzu since tasting Yuzu sorbet at Azuma last year and Messina did not disappoint. The gelato was creamy and proper Green Tea powdery with just the subtlest citrus hit of Yuzu.

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Takeaway Pack with a Single serve of Green Tea and Yuzu

What i’ve found with Messina is that some of their flavour combinations are quite hit and miss. I still remember, but not with fondness, the horseradish, rhubarb and something else combo flavour that i decided to try some time back. It was not pleasant. But the number of pleasant combinations do undoubtedly outnumber those flavours less fortunate.

With the takeaway pack, it was surprisingly the Ultraviolet flavour that was kinda disappointing. It was extremely yoghurty, with just the smallest trace of blueberry, and i can’t say i tasted any violet in there. Nonetheless, it wasn’t inedible, but just wouldn’t be a flavour i would reorder. The Black Forest and Hummingbird Cake combinations were rather safe, and tasted like you’d expect, with chunks of glazed red cherries in the former, and coconuts and walnuts in generous amounts in the latter.

The queues may be long, and the store may be narrow, but the endorphins are well worth the wait.

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Cafe Topiary

Brunch is probably my favourite meal. I’m never that hungry when i wake up, and breakfast/lunch at 11:30am sounds like the perfect compromise for someone who usually wakes up at 10am. But yesterday, after an 8am bushwalk with friends, we were half-starved and decided to head into Epping to have brunch at Cafe Topiary, a small “garden-themed” cafe that i had been to once before, because i was craving breakfast food, such as EGGS.

Since Cafe Topiary is rather small, and i had underestimated the number of people willing to wake up at 11am on a Sunday to brunchfast, we had to move ourselves around a couple of times until they could find a table for 4. However we did have to go up to the counter to ask them to clear our tables, we waited about a half hour for a flat white and a hot chocolate, and we had to ask them about our food since the table next to us who had arrived after we did had already gotten theirs. Granted the staff did seem rather flustered and busy, but it did detract from the beauty of the brunch at least a little.

I ordered the Vege Benedict, since the allure of the Zucchini and Potato Rosti was too strong, and i have to say, i was not disappointed in the slightest. The poached eggs were well cooked, but had to be salted and peppered to taste. The hollandaise sauce was also rather delish, but i left the tomatoes alone because they were rather mushy from being…roasted.

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Vege Benedict: Zucchini and potato rosti topped with rocquette, roast tomato and poached eggs drizzled with hollandaise sauce served on sourdough toast – $16

My friends ordered the Topiary French Toast and the Eggs Benedict (with Salmon) and although i didn’t sample the latter, my friend assures me that it was good. I did however have some of the French Toast, and although i didn’t have it with the bacon, the bread with caramelised banana and maple syrup was rather good. I can’t really say i was a huge fan of the strawberry compote however, just cause i don’t like compote in general. It’s always far too tart for my liking.

The french toast was sadly not as good as MY french toast, which is bread steeped in egg batter, milk and then in sugar before being pan fried, but Cafe Topiary’s FT was passable.

Although service was on the slow side, the staff were amiable and overall, the Vege Benedict definitely hit that sweet spot. I’d however recommend that you make a reservation before deciding to brunch there, just to save some much valued time.

Cafe Topiary serves breakfast ALL DAY, and have a lunch menu that is accessible from 12pm onwards.

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Easy Chicken Tikka

I’m extraordinarily lazy when it comes to weekday meals. I prefer one pot recipes (less clean up) or minimal numbers of ingredients in the recipes (less expensive). So this chicken tikka recipe is a lazy student dream. I wouldn’t say it’s totally authentic, cause it involves the use of tikka masala paste, but HEY, it tastes better than a sandwich, and i had most of the ingredients in my fridge, so BOOM.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tikka masala paste
  • 400g can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup pure cream
  • 75g baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves (which i omitted)
  • Steamed rice and plain yoghurt, to serve
  1. Heat oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add onion. Cook until softened. Add chicken. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned. Add tikka paste. Mix for about a minute or until fragrant.
  2. Add the diced tomato and cream and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low then stir occasionally for about 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  3. Add the spinach spinach and stir until spinach has wilted. Divide rice between bowls. Top with chicken mixture and coriander. Serve with plain greek yoghurt.

Happy lazy/budget (STUDENT!) eatings!

The Hummingbird Bakery: Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes

So recently i’ve been baking to stave away boredom, and i’m actually getting wooden-spoon induced callouses on my hands due to not owning an electric mixer, so i’ll probably have to invest in one preeettty soon. I was doing my daily rounds of the internet when i came across this recipe from http://www.lauraashley.com for The Hummingbird Bakery Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes.

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I’m a huge fan of the Hummingbird Bakery as i think their cupcake recipes are the most fool-proof of the many i’ve tried and since i’m a huge fan of tea, and cupcakes, i figured this would be a fun Thursday morning endeavor.

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Makes 12-16 cupcakes

For the sponge:

3 Earl Grey teabags

3tbsp just-boiled water

80g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened

280g (10 oz) caster sugar

240g (8 ½ oz) plain flour

1tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

200ml (7fl oz) whole milk

2 large eggs

For the frosting:

50ml (1 ¾ fl oz) whole milk

500g (1lb 2oz) icing sugar

160g (5 ½ oz) unsalted butter, softened

One or two 12-hole deep muffin tins

  1. Place the teabags in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, then leave to brew for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas mark 5, and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Use a hand-held electric whisk or freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk by hand. Add the brewed tea, squeezing every last drop from the teabags into the milk mixture, then set the teabags aside for the frosting.
  4. Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Then mix on a medium speed until smooth and thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and beat until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. If there is batter left over, spoon it into more cases in a separate tin. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch, then leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.
  6. While the cupcakes are cooking, place the used teabags in a small bowl with the milk for the frosting and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and give them a good squeeze to extract maximum flavour.
  7. Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is still powdery. Pour in the tea-infused milk while mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy.
  8. Divide the frosting between the cold cupcakes, smoothing the tops and swirling with a palette knife.

The ingredients and method of the Hummingbird Bakery are easily accessible and easy to follow, so the cupcakes turned out rather amazing. I’d even go so far as saying that they were tied second place as the ‘best cupcakes i’ve ever made’.

The earl grey tea flavour was realllly subtle, so if you want more of a bergamot-ty hit, increase the number of teabags to brew. The one thing i found surprising was that this Hummingbird recipe actually made about 18 cupcakes, despite the recipes in their recipe book only making about 9, which was quite a nice surprise.

I also halved the amounts in the icing mixture as i KNOW the Hummingbird recipes overcompensate for their icing, and since i don’t like my cupcakes overly sweet, i end up with a lot leftover. The halved amount was more than sufficient to cover all 18 cupcakes, and i was more than happy with the texture and flavour of the icing.

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DEFINITE must try to bake!

Chock Full of Beans

So today was my first real day in Singapore, and a friend and i decided to head to Pulau Ubin, a small island off the south-east coast of Singapore for some tourism and sightseeing. Months before, while planning my trip, i remembered reading about Chock Full Of Beans off the Timeout Singapore Website, and they were noted for doing awesome Latte Art. Being the sucker that i am for novel cuisine, i knew i had to check it out when we got to Changi Village and it DID NOT DISAPPOINT.

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Perusing the menu, i noticed that they were selling flat whites, and since it had been less than 24hrs since i had actually arrived in Singapore, and since i was feeling slightly homesick for the unique Australian-ness that is flat whites, i decided to order one to perk me up for the intense walk ahead.

And they surprised me with this:

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Flat White –  $4.50

VS ordered an Iced Hazelnut Latte and got this scribbled on hers:

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How festive!

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Bacon and Mango Sandwich: Bacon, Mango, Swiss Cheese and Basil on a Turkish Pide – $12

During my research of Pulau Ubin, i had also heard that i should bring some food with me onto the island, so when i saw that they were offering a BACON AND MANGO sandwich, i knew my mind was made up. Despite not liking bacon, i’m a huge fan of odd combinations, and teamed up with swiss cheese and basil, this little sandwich was delish. So much so that i couldn’t stop talking about it for the next half an hour hahaa.

Not to mention the staff at the restaurant were cheery and extremely efficient  Chock Full of beans is a definite stop if you want that cosy cafe atmosphere in the middle of an isolated nowhere.

Chock Full of Beans

4 Changi Village Road

#01-2090

Tel: 62148839

Azuma (Sugar Hit 2012)

A couple of weeks ago, 3 friends and i headed to Azuma for their version of Sugar Hit, which was part of the Crave Sydney Food Festival. We only managed to get a booking on the LAST ever night of Sugar Hit for the year, but boy was it worth it for the $20.

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ET and I opted for the plum wine menu option, as the “East meet West – Dessert Bento Box” came with the option of a glass of Azuma’s Special Blend Japanese Green Tea or Hakutsuru Plum Wine.

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We did have a sip of the others’ green tea too, and it tasted like the seaweed-y, traditional green tea made at Japanese tea ceremonies. I was happy i opted to go for the plum wine as it was sweet and rather refreshing. Definitely something i’d be happy to drink again.

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The set also came with a shot of Yuzu Nigori Sake, which tasted a lot like Limoncello!

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The 2 cookies next to it were Homemade Marbled Gateaux Cookies, which were meant to be chocolate and vanilla, but tasted nothing really like either, but just nice and delicately sugary. The Gateaux Chocolat next to that was served with fresh cream (yum!), seasonal fruits and CANDIED VIOLET. The candied violet was AMAZING because it tasted just like Wonka Nerds, and although the cream and fresh fruit were delicious, the Gateaux was nothing really that special. Tasty however.

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Now for the real reason i wanted to go to Azuma for Sugar Hit – the Kawaii Panna Cotta! (Pictured top left) The panna cotta was made from soy and cow’s milk, and you could definitely taste soy milk in there, which was fine by me, considering i only ever drink soy milk anyway. Since it was named after the Japanese word for cute (Kawaii), the face was made up with seasonal fruit and had a “buckwheat soba noodle hairstyle” which i thought was rather ingenious. The base of the panna cotta was made from a brown sugar jelly (WHAT?!) which was a totally nice surprise, considering none of us had bothered to read the menu properly before we dug in.

Last, BUT DEFINITELY not least, was the Home-made Yuzu Sorbet which was definitely the highlight of the night. Yuzu is a hybrid of sour mandarin and ichang papeda – which wikipedia tells me is a slow growing species of citrus. Coolcoolcool. It was light, refreshing and just AMAZINGLY tasty AND it had pop-rocks inside it. WHAT?! Way to make an insanely good dish insanely better.

I enjoyed Azuma’s Sugar Hit offerings tremendously.

TWO THUMBS UP!

Opening hours: Lunch (Mon – Fri) 12pm – 2:30pm; Dinner (Mon – Sat) 6pm – 10pm

Telephone: (02) 9222 9960

Address: Level 1, Chifley Plaza, 2 Chifley Square
(Cnr. of Phillip & Hunter Street)
Sydney NSW 2000

Website: http://www.azuma.com.au
Azuma on Urbanspoon

Grazing (Gundaroo)

On Sunday, my parents and i drove down 259km to Gundaroo, a small town just outside Canberra, to eat lunch. NBD. It was a belated birthday present of sorts, so not entirely on a whim, but it was quite a unique dining experience. I first heard of it while perusing Grab Your Fork’s wonderful food blog, and half-jokingly insisted that we should go there. My mum jumped on the idea, bless her heart.

I recommend you make a booking, especially if you live 250+km away, just so you don’t miss out on a table! It wasn’t that busy when we arrived for our 12pm booking, but the tables started filling up not long after.

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Grazing prides itself on using locally imported produce, and have a small vegie patch and chicken coop out back that you can have a wander in. The exterior of Grazing was rustic and charming little farmhouse-esque, with ivy creeping round the sides of the building, and chopped up blocks of wood lazily dropped around the property. The interior was cozy and inviting, with multiple rooms available for dining in, fireplaces and locally sourced art hanging on the walls.

The pricing is easily laid out. There is however a 5% surcharge on each item on Sundays (which I didn’t know about until I got there, DANG.)

 Entrées – $17 ($17.85 on Sundays)

Mains -  $33 ($34.65 on Sundays)

Desserts – $16 ($16.80 on Sundays)

There’s also some sides, vegetarian options and kids meals and dessert which vary on price – but can be checked out here: http://www.grazing.com.au/dining-menu.html

For starters, my parents decided to splurge and grab some homemade bread rolls, priced at $2.50 each. Bit of a rip but they were warm and tasty and came with an olive oil/vinegar dip and some butter, so they went down pretty well.

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Homemade Bread Rolls – $2.50/bun

We then decided to get the BRAINS (lamb style), which came with shaved fennel, citrus segments and a parmesan custard which really didn’t taste that parmesan-y. Since I was a newcomer to this whole “brain eating business”, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but since they seemed to have been fried in a caper and lemon crust batter, the first taste was quite nice, though the texture of the brains did remind me of thick custard. Despite being interesting, I soon lost my appetite by being reminded that I was indeed eating the mushed up brains of baby sheep. But if that’s your thing, BY ALL MEANS try this dish.

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Brains – Caper and lemon crusted lamb brains with shaved fennel, citrus segments and parmesan custard ($17/$17.85 Sundays)

We next got the Kangaroo Tail which was DELICIOUS and probably the best dish of the entire meal, which came with a garden beetroot relish (drools), goats cheese and wattle seed burnt butter. The tortellini was delish and fresh, and the kangaroo tail was tender and flavoursome, and had the texture of corned beef, purely because of the length of cooking time required. Definitely a must order.

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Kangaroo – Kangaroo tail and beetroot tortellini with garden beetroot relish, goat’s cheese and wattle seed burnt butter ($17/$17.85 Sundays)

Now on to the mains. I ordered the Rabbit, cause I figured WHY NOT, and my dad ordered Spatchcock while my mum ordered the Lamb.

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Rabbit – White Jindabyne rabbit, deboned and wrapped in garden cos on cumin and olive oil poached carrot, hazelnuts, lentil wafer and wild roquette ($33/$34.65 Sundays)

The Rabbit was amazingly tender! So soft that it was pretty much falling off my fork, and I understood then why it had to wrapped in garden cos lettuce. The presentation of the dish was impressive, and I have to admit, I felt pretty smug in my choice of dish. The lentil wafer was amazing, primarily cause I had seen nothing like it ever before, and it was light, salty, crispy and extremely lentilly.  The rabbit had a sweet meaty taste, and although I enjoyed the first few mouthfuls, it soon got a bit overwhelming. The roquette in the accompanying salad was SUPER peppery, almost to the point of being spicy, and although the hazelnuts in the dish complemented the sweetness of the rabbit with its nuttiness, it too got old fast.

It was an interesting dish, and I can now cross rabbit off my to-eat list.

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Spatchcock – Roast young chicken with red grape and radicchio, steamed potato, bacon and preserved lemon butter ($33/$34.65 Sundays)

Wikipedia tells me that Spatchcock is “poultry or game that has been prepared for roasting or grilling by removing the backbone and sternum of the bird and flattening it out before cooking”. The spitchcock was well cooked, and  the grape was a nice touch to an otherwise, quite regular meal.

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Lamb – Slow cooked and spice rubbed lamb rump with toasted barley, goat’s feta, roast garlic, stinging nettle and green pea puree ($33/$34.65 Sundays)

The Lamb dish ordered by mum had a distinctly indian taste to it, probably due to the spices that it had been rubbed with. The stinging nettle and green pea puree set off the lamb nicely, but hers was probably the most ordinary dish of the bunch. As always, the meat was well cooked and reasonably portioned, but we still managed to have room for TWO DESSERTS.

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Chocolate – Baked espresso and prune cake with chocolate parfait, cocoa crumbs and fresh raspberries ($16/$16.80 Sundays)

We ordered the Chocolate and Crème Brulee, mainly cause an expresso and prune combo sounded quite interesting, albeit mildly laxative, and it was interesting, but the expresso/chocolate cake was rather “black coffee-ish” which meant that it wasn’t very sweet. It did come with a serving of some sort of chocolate ice-cream, which made up for the lack of sweetness in the cake.

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Crème BruleeClassic vanilla crème brulee with rose water and champagne strawberries, chocolate truffle and petit cinnamon doughnut ($16/$16.80 Sundays)

The Crème Brulee came topped with a mini doughnut which had been filled with a sort of custard with “champagne soaked strawberries” within, which was a nice surprise, and the Brulee-ing had been done to perfection. I managed to crack the top with the back of my spoon, and although tasty, the “Crème” component was a little too watery for my liking, despite having a surprise bottom layer, which although tasting like caramel, should be “chocolate truffle” if the online menu was to be believed.

Overall it was definitely an interesting dining experience, though probably not one I’d travel over 500km for EVER AGAIN. The food was fresh, well prepared and flavoursome, the variety was impressive, the service was exceptional and the ambiance nice and cosy.

Thumbs up!

Grazing on Urbanspoon

Hugos Lounge

Tonight JA and i headed in to ye olde kings x to get some drinks and dinner for a friends birthday and headed into Hugo’s for the first time in my life. I had heard about their legendary $5 pizza, and due to an Absolut Vodka promotion, managed to score a free Vodka cocktail and silver mask on entry. Who doesn’t love free stuff?

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After making our way into the lounge, we perused the pizza menu and decided on the Pork Belly and the Pepperoni and for $5, i could not fault them.

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Top – Pepperoni (pepperoni, tomato, chilli, mint and buffalo mozzarella)

Bottom – Pork Belly (slow roasted pork belly with buffalo mozzarella, sweet and sour onions and radicchio)

I personally was a huge fan of the pepperoni, as the radicchio in the Pork Belly was kind of a new experience for me. It had the texture of cooked spinach (which i love) but had a slightly bitter tang, which i was not expecting. Regardless, i managed to chow down on 2 slices of each before calling it a night! The best thing about both dishes was definitely the tiny balls of buffalo mozzarella, so dang tasty.

Since we took up residence in the lounge area, it was quite relaxed and laid back, and the bartenders there were nice and chatty. The bar at the entrance was a little bit more formal and crowded, and the bartenders there tended to have “personality issues” as a result, but it still didn’t detract from a rather good night.

I will definitely make my way back to try the other award winning $5 pizzas – margherita, mushroom, pineapple and prawn, when the opportunity arises. On a side note, the drinks were well prepared, and reasonably priced – Shots being $9 and Vodka mixers being $5 due to the Absolut promotion.

However Hugos is also well known for its Sunday $5 cocktails, so if you’re around the area on a Sunday night, are fans of Sneaky Sound System, who play there every Sunday night and are willing to pay the meagre $5 cover charge to get in, it’s definitely a fun atmosphere to spend a few good hours in.

Opening hours: Thurs – Sun, 8pm – 3am

Address: Lvl 1, 33 Bayswater Rd, Kings Cross, NSW 2011

Telephone: 02 9357 4411

Website: http://www.hugos.com.au

A Bloggers Breakfast

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Crispy baked croissant with Honey + Irish Breakfast tea with Soy

For the croissant, buy some croissants from a grocery store, or bakery, preheat your oven at 185 degrees, then stick it in there for 5 mins or until desired crispiness is achieved. Then drizzle with honey.

For tea, boil water in kettle, grab mug, chuck teabag in, pour boiling water into mug over teabag, pour in desired amount of whatever milk, and sugar if you so desire, then stir, AND ENJOY!