Tag Archives: food

A food-obsessed guide to Sydney’s Inner West

Let’s get one thing straight before corrections pile in and objections are made (as if I had the reader base): we are not experts on the Sydney food scene yet. In fact, we’ve only been here for two months, give or take a week, and while we do tend to plan every outing around some food destination or another, we have only just begun to discover the best bits of our own neighborhood. Sydney is a big place, and clearly has a fantastic, diverse, exciting food scene for those who like to try out new cuisines from around the world.  These are just our initial impressions.

The farmers’ market scene in Sydney is serious. There is a market in pretty much every suburb you can think of.  Near us, the Eveleigh (Carriageworks) market is probably the biggest, and it’s every Saturday, so we frequently end up buying our produce, bread, and meat there.  Most of the vendors give out samples, too, so you can taste before you buy.  If you go, check out the bread selection at the La Tartine bakery stand. It’s the cheapest and best of all the bakers at the market.

Saturday 8 am – 1 pm, 243 Wilson St. Eveleigh NSW

The Marrickville market is a bit more fun, and has a greater variety of (non-edible) goods. It’s a bit crunchier, but it’s a better lunch destination, and seems to have more variety in terms of produce.  As we’ve found, most Australian farmers market producers aren’t particularly adventurous with heirloom fruits and veg, which is a shame, really.  But that may just be a seasonal thing.

Sunday 8:30 am -3 pm, Addison Rd. Community Centre, 142 Addison Rd. Marrickville NSW

Campos coffee gets my vote for the best coffee in Sydney. I know people who make it a destination for the weekend, and there’s always a long line out the door if you want to actually sit in the tiny cafe.  The coffee rivals some of the Kona coffee I’ve tried, and is about as expensive as all the other beans in this city. Dark City is my favorite so far, but the Obama blend is pretty nice, too. Another plus? They roast the beans in our neighborhood, which means they’re always fresh.

Various locations. Mine is 132 Missenden Rd. Newtown, NSW.

Mamak is closer to the CBD than Newtown, but I’m including it because it’s one of those places that you line up for without regret.  They make the best fresh rotis in town, and rival even the Deep South (USA, folks) for their fried chicken. Their curries are pretty tasty, too. Their prices and late night hours on Friday and Saturday (2 am closing time) demand repeat visits.  Even better, they are BYO, with a $2 corking fee, so the absence of a wine list really isn’t an issue.

15 Goulburn St. Haymarket, Sydney NSW.

Other places to check out:

Dae Jang Kum Korean BBQ Restaurant, 35 Goulburn St. Haymarket. Excellent and affordable Korean BBQ. Bring friends.

Doythao Thai, 343-345 King St. Newtown. Try their Massamann curry or spicy noodles. Order less rice than you think you’ll need.

Istanbul on King, 159 King St. Newtown. Excellent pide, and a funky little dining area (past the flouro takeout counter in front) featuring Turkish music videos and intricate carpets.

Pho 236, 236 King St. Newtown. Excellent pho for cheap, BYO. This place is always packed, despite a less than charming atmosphere.

Happy Chef Chinese, 264 King St. Newtown. Cheap, delicious, and not necessarily greasy.  Order noodle soups with veggies — they always taste fresh and are properly cooked.

(Brasserie Bread’s soy and linseed loaf)

Sydney has a decent selection of artisan bakeries. None of them make the crackly, almost burnt crust you crave after a trip to Paris, but they do seem to do a decent job with sourdough loaves. Brasserie Bread makes a good soy and linseed loaf, but is otherwise not really worth the price. Sonoma bakery has some decent whole grain loaves, as well. Bourke St. Bakery (633 Bourke St.) is the best for the price, and often has interesting loaves (fig and barberry was one of my favorites, with big, juicy figs throughout the loaf for just $4.50). There’s a line there, too. La Tartine is also similarly price, and has the best loaves across the board. I get their bread at the Eveleigh Markets (see above).  Other notables are Le Pain Quotidien (yes, it’s a chain, but it’s an excellent one) and the Paris Patisserie Francaise (no bread, but their tarts are decadent; 91 Bondi Rd. Bondi). There’s also one across the street from the Kings Cross Farmers market whose name escapes me, but they make the most heavenly almond croissants I’ve ever tasted.

Finally, this is our awesome spice rack, made of a “Victorian whatnot” from Mitchell Rd. Auctions (one of our favorite places in Sydney), spice jars left over from our wedding decorations, and spices from random places around Sydney. Which reminds me: if you’re ever in need of 5 kg of smoked paprika, or any other spice, flour, or grain, visit Fiji Market (591 King St.). If you only need a pinch, try the Alfalfa House Organic Food Co-op at 113 Enmore Rd, Enmore. Join for a 10% discount, and bring your own containers. Yes, we are members, and yes, we have purchased everything from cacao butter to spinach pasta from this particular bulk food paradise.

That’s all for now… I’ll try and keep you posted on our current discoveries, but am in the midst of a new, exciting project that’s eating up some of my time. More on that soon!

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Filed under Australia, Beginnings, travel

Oh, the places you’ve been

Have a look at the spiciest meal I have ever had. The rabbit (the dish in the foreground) was nothing in comparison to the spicy chicken dish, which was the first food that ever brought tears to my eyes.  It’s amazing what you find in your cupboards when you’re moving: in this case, a CD full of photos a friend from my REU in Beijing put together for all of us after we returned home.

It has been, oh, more than five years since that trip, but as I explained here, it was probably responsible for my current  obsession with food.  Despite my father’s adventurous (and usually experimental) talents in the kitchen, it wasn’t until I traveled all the way to Beijing that I started realizing that I had not yet stepped outside of the boundaries of my comfortable culinary existence.

I guess this is one of the reasons I’m enjoying Fushia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fins and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China.  I find familiarity in her initial explorations of Sichuan cuisine, and share her fascination with the unfamiliar flavors and textures that she encounters along the way.  I’m only about halfway through the book, but it already has me googling “Mandarin lessons, Sydney” and wondering if it’ll be easier to find cooking classes that I can actually afford to attend in a bigger city.  Obviously, I should wait to review the book properly, when I’m finished, but for now, all I can say is that her story has me thinking about adventures that I would probably have written off as too expensive, or silly, just a few years ago.  Now? I can’t wait to try something new, learn some new languages, explore a new cuisine… Oh, and plan some trips.

Yes, there will be trips — there is no doubt about that.

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Filed under China, stories, travel

Perth & Margaret River

Yes, I realize, I promised this post a week ago. I apologize. I’ve been entirely too wrapped up in *what to do with my life* (now that I don’t have a job lined up for next year for the first time in my adult life) to think about things like posts and food and, oh, the little things that I really should be paying more attention to.  Like gorgeous beaches, sun (when it happens!), berry picking, and the massive stack of vacation pictures I finally put up on my flickr page.  This first one is from Little Creatures, in Fremantle, which is one of the best places I can think of to have a beer by the sea and dream about living anywhere warmer than CT.  As long as you don’t want a stout, of course, but Australia isn’t really the place for stout anyway.

Perth itself looks like this:

It’s a small city, but it has the most amazing park right near the city center with preserved Bushland and all sorts of gorgeous places to while away the day.

Kings Park aside, Perth was just a good chance to catch up James’s family and go shopping for passionfruit tea and delicious jam donuts and all sorts of other good stuff at the Fremantle Markets and this greek spice market whose name I can’t recall at the moment.  This was good in its own right, but I wanted to see something new, so we ended up heading down to Margaret River for a few days.  We stayed near Yallingup, which is a tiny town a bit north of Margaret River, with cheap campsites and views like this:

It’s nice seeing the sun set over the water again.  There’s also a pretty awesome cave nearby:

It is one of a few sandstone caves in the region, and it was worth a trip, even if we did have trouble getting pretty pictures. We headed down toward Margaret River, as well, to check out the Karri forest (pictures do not capture how awesome this was):

They’re as tall as redwoods, almost, except they all seem to reach the same height, so you feel like you’re under this light, open canopy of green.  It’s the kind of place you’d expect to find fairies if you happened to be five years old and less cynical than I am.

In Margaret River, we stopped for lunch at the Margaret River Bakery, which was cheap and awesome.  I had a burger with the works,

which was something like AU$7 with the chips.  Beetroot, fried egg, and grilled onions were all involved in this masterpiece, and while I was skeptical at first, there is a reason burgers in Australia come with this particular combination.  The beetroot and onion were a sweet counterpart to the savory grilled beef and fried egg, and despite my misgivings, I ended up liking it.  James had a AU$4 pie, chips, and gravy special:

This was proper Aussie tucker, as James would say if he happened to be feeling homesick and in the midst of making pie.  Yes, gravy and chips are brilliant together, if slightly indulgent.

Now, Margaret River is probably not known for its bakery, however delicious our lunch happened to be.  It IS known for wineries and food producers, which happen to be all over the region, which you can go check out if you have a car and an adventurous stomach.  We didn’t do much wine tasting (I was driving — on the wrong side of the road! And James doesn’t drink.)  but we did check out some local cheese producers, a chocolate factory, and an olive oil producer or two.   Olio Bello was my favorite one, I think.  They had new olive oil they had just pressed that week, which was green, fresh, spicy, and tasty. We picked up a bottle to bring back with us, and had to restrain ourselves from buying more.  The liquid ban in airports is cumbersome.  We also checked out The Berry Farm, which makes jams, berry-infused ports and wines, and this incredible sparkling strawberry wine that I seriously would have bought if we could have brought it back.  We also stopped for a coffee on their grounds, since we ran into a guy that said they made “incredible cappucinos”  on our way into the tasting room.  He was right, though the setting might have helped the experience.

Most of the wineries have cafes and restaurants on their property, and this was no exception. I’d say go for lunch and a glass of strawberry wine and just hang out for a little while in the sun, if you have the chance.  If we hadn’t already been eating almost continuously all day, we might have done just that.

It was a different sort of vacation.  You have to understand that you will be driving everywhere, stopping for free food at random little farms and shops all over the place, and spending more money than you really planned on spending.  This wasn’t a bad thing at all, and we balanced it with plenty of beach walks, which I sorely miss here.  (The Long Island sound is just not the same!)  I think I need to look for a job somewhere warmer.

So that’s finally Western Australia, more than a month after our return.  Maybe I’ll even get back to posting about our garden (which is growing like mad), that awesome strawberry rhubarb tart with the easiest crust ever that I made ages ago, or berry picking in CT. You’ll have to wait and see…

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Filed under Australia, travel

Strawberry basil lemonade

Perth seems like another lifetime by now.  I think I’ll save my report on Margaret River for later this week, since I have yet to upload the photos from that trip.  At the moment, I want to talk about strawberry basil lemonade, and the three weeks I spent in nuclear camp.

Yes, you read that right.  I am a nuclear physicist, and in an effort to try to figure out important life questions like what the hell I want to do with my life, I occasionally try new things. This was a summer school on nuclear nonproliferation, which covered everything from cold war nuclear hysteria* to what it would be like to be a UN weapons inspector.  It was awesome. So were my fellow students.  Maybe it was the return to dorm life, or the fact that we spent way too much time in the same classroom together, but I haven’t actually had so much fun since I was an undergrad. Perhaps that’s telling.  But I digress.

My point is that I realized I essentially want to save the world, to put it bluntly, and that I’m not the only one with that ambition.  It’s kind of cool to find out there are other people out there who feel this way, and that they’re talented, motivated, and fun to hang out with to boot.

Don’t worry. I won’t get totally serious on you all of a sudden. I plan on finding a job — any job — that gets us to Europe for a couple of years, before we have too many responsibilities.  The world can wait a little while.

So… Where was I? Oh, right. Lemonade.  It has absolutely nothing to do with this post, except that I was making it while I was thinking about career options today, and it sort of got tangled up with all of this in my head.  That and it’s a delicious accompaniment to a day full of making jam and putzing about in the garden.

*30,000 weapons, US / Soviet Union? Really? You could destroy thousands of worlds with that kind of stockpile…

Strawberry basil lemonade

I’m obsessed with lemon + basil at the moment, because I bought this tiny globe basil plant (with mini leaves) and can’t resist using it whenever and wherever I can.  We went strawberry picking on Sunday at a nearby orchard, and I happened to be making jam when I started craving lemonade, so that’s what this particular combination came from.  I sort of mashed up the strawberries and basil and threw it into the lemonade, chunks and all. You can blend it a little more thoroughly, or strain out the pulp, but try it first as is.  I sort of liked the texture.  Make sure your strawberries are ripe and flavorful.

  • 1/2 c. strawberry mash (This consists of ~6 medium-sized strawberries, pressed into a pulp.)
  • Juice from 6 small, juicy lemons
  • ~1 c. simple syrup (Heat about 3/4 c. sugar in 3/4 cup of water until the sugar dissolves, and let cool). Add this to taste — the amount of sugar you need depends on how sweet your strawberries are and what your personal preference is. Make extra simple syrup if you like things on the sweet side.
  • handful of basil, crushed
  • 3-4 cups of water.  This is also to taste, as the amount of juice your lemons produce will vary, and you may prefer a stronger or weaker drink.

Mix all ingredients together. Taste and adjust as required. Strain if you want a smooth drink; otherwise, don’t bother. Enjoy cold, preferrably somewhere sunny and warm.

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Filed under drink, lemon, local, strawberry, Uncategorized

Matteo’s on Brunswick Street

I didn’t plan on writing this one up, so here’s the sole picture, in all it’s cell phone-quality glory:

Thanks for sending it along, PG.  You’re looking at tempura-wrapped squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese from Matteo’s, in Melbourne’s North Fitzroy neighborhood, which I had as a starter (or entree, as they called the first course).  Yes, it tasted gorgeous, as deep-fried squash blossoms tend to do.  The watermelon and veg balanced the richness of the tempura batter quite nicely, which I would say the restaurant tended to do very well as a whole.

The food at Matteo’s is probably best described as Australian-Asian fusion.  It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a nice place to eat in North Fitzroy, it’s worth checking out.  There’s a tasting menu, an a la carte menu (which I ordered from), or, if you’re there for lunch, a two course + wine fixed price lunch deal for $35.

For the main course, I ended up having a decadent mushroom tart with a brioche crust, topped with a poached quail egg, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and a shitake mushroom sauce.  Now, I love mushrooms, so this dish may not be for everyone, but if mushrooms are your thing, you will love the creamy, mushroomy tart filling.  It paired really nicely with the Tasmanian Pinot J picked out for the main course.  Everyone else was pretty happy with their mains, minus those who got the duck.  The duck itself was good, but the Japanese omelet side was a bit on the greasy side, which may be why this particular option has since been taken off the menu.

So, to sum it up: I’d recommend this place if you’re looking to spend some money on a nice meal in Melbourne. The food was excellent and fine dining atmosphere wasn’t uncomfortably posh, which is always a good thing when you’re traveling with someone who refuses to admit he owns a single pair of long pants.

And with that, I’ve finished my report of Melbourne, mostly because we didn’t do much there this trip. We only had a couple of days, and we’ve both been there before, so there wasn’t anything too exciting to write about.  I will say you should check out the Melbourne Museum if you have a chance, because live spider exhibits are the most awesome thing you will ever find in a museum.  One of the first supercomputers is there, too, which I never get tired of checking out. I mean, seriously, memory made of vacuum tubes? How could that not be cool??

Yes, I am a total geek sometimes.

Next, I’ll post on Perth and Margaret River, though it may take me a little while … I’m at a summer school during the next couple of weeks and am learning lots, so the blog is sort of on the back burner for the moment.

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Filed under Australia, restaurant review, travel

Carrot and arugula risotto with roasted walnuts

Forgive the picture, but when I cook at night, the photos just don’t turn out as well as I’d like. If we were going to be here for more than a year, I’d build myself a light box or something. But for now? I’ll just tell you that this dish is worth trying, and prettier than you might think.

It’s a springtime risotto, and a weeknight take on a dish we had in NYC during restaurant week at the DB Bistro.  That version was also a risotto, and also used a sort of arugula pesto (as far as I could tell) to make the dish a vibrant green color.  Its sweetness was from butternut squash, which was appropriate for January but not quite right somehow for the start of spring.  So I improvised: I sweetened some chicken broth with a bunch of carrots and used that as the base for the dish.

This isn’t a recipe so much as a formula. I find risotto pretty easy for a weeknight meal, especially when we’re short on ingredients.  Yes, there is stirring involved, but not as much as you think … Just don’t turn up the heat too much.

** I’m on vacation at the moment, and wrote this post before I left.  Be back at the end of May with more about my trip! **

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under carrots, main, rice, vegetarian-friendly

Pumpkin cake

I know what you’re thinking. Pumpkin cake? In spring? Yes, it’s a somewhat odd choice, especially given the 30 degree (Celsius) weather we had this weekend.  For some reason, I woke up Saturday, inhaled the slightly humid New Haven air, and thought squash in dessert form would be a good idea.

Please, someone, I need an intervention.

Ok, so there’s a back story to this. I love pumpkin. We have a party planned for October. And this? it’s the start of our attempt to sort of feel out the menu.  And for your purposes, this is actually quite adaptable.  Swap pumpkin for grated carrot or zucchini, and I think you’ll end up with a semi-healthy and delicious dessert.  Turn it into cupcakes, each with a frosty peak.

Or just do what I really wanted to do and forget healthy: just make the cream cheese frosting.

You will notice we didn’t frost the outside of the cake. We couldn’t have — there wasn’t enough of it left.

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under baking, dessert, eggs, frosting, ginger, pumpkin, squash, vegetarian