Sunday, July 26, 2009

Review: Crumb, Concord

Before we left for Blue Mountains the five of us had decided to visit Crumb in Concord for a quick lunch. Little did we know that I would find another little gem which will go into my book of "Places that will offer good gnocchi".

The design of this place is sleek and stylish, with plenty of fresh air and sunlight mid-afternoon. There was plenty of room around each table which made the whole dining experience very comfortable for all.

Most of the dishes here come in two sizes - entree and main. As I was ordering I asked the waiter what the portion sizes were like, and he kindly suggested that I should order the entree size. I had been starving at the time and was highly tempted to go for the main, but I stuck to the waiter's suggestion.

Gnocchi Sorentina - Entree size - $14.90

I think judging by the photo one would agree that the waiter's suggestion had been a hugely responsible one. The main size probably would have fed two of me very easily that day. Big tick for service right there.

On top of that, the gnocchis were soft and pillowy and a huge delight to eat. Some were a tad doughy, but on the whole they were great. Still not as good as Machiavelli's, but definitely worth a visit back. Farfalle with Prawn and Broccoli - $19.90

AL and VH ordered off the board and got the Farfalle with Prawn and Broccoli. It was a tad on the bland side, and definitely the weakest order we received.

Linguine Gamberi - Main Size - $21.90

JL was absolutely starving to the point of potentially able to demolish an entire cow by himself. He opted for the Linguine Gamberi - Main size. All I can say that this place is definitely great value, and to top things off the prawns were fresh and bursty, and the scallops were cooked to perfection and so sweet.

It's going to be a tough choice between this and my gnocchi when I come back. Oh and yes, JL did finish the plate- except I don't think he could eat anything else for the rest of the day.

Spiendi Gamberi - $28.90

Spiendi Gamberi was HL's pick of the day. The prawns were grilled perfectly and boldly flavoured with parsley, garlic and lemon juice. The flavours were immensely satisfying and the portion size was pretty good.

However to put things into perspective, we were there on a Monday afternoon and the place was pretty quiet apart from a couple of other tables having a late lunch. Our glasses of water didn't come despite having repeatedly asked for it, but apart from that the service was pretty good. Quality wise I would suggest to order off the menu. The board was a disappointment for us, but the orders off the menu were really superb and gave smiles to all.

Crumb Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria
Shop 5, 114 Majors Bay Road
Concord, NSW 2137
Tel: (02) 8765 1414
Fax: (02) 8765 1413

Meals of Love - Blue Mountains

Ok, I'm very backlogged in posts. This is the year where all my friends (and myself included) are turning 21, so I ask that you just all bear with me while the posts trickle through in what little time I have in front of the laptop between drinks, dining, studying, working, and heavy sleep deprivation.I don't really have accurate recipes for any of the following things we made up in the Blue Mountains. Things just got too difficult to record as we all worked on individual elements of the dish and just combined everything at the end. Hopefully the photos will make enough sense to provide some sort of inspiration for experimentation.

Menu for the night:

Entree: Broccoli and Carrot Cream Soup with Toast
Main: Spaghetti with Chicken and Grilled Vegetables
Dessert: Icecream with Oranges and Strawberries (Maple Syrup may have gotten involved)
Cocktail: Pina Colada
We had our work cut out for us that night, but the great thing about cooking with friends is that you don't feel the effort that goes into making a huge meal because half the time you're just chatting and oohing and aahing at all the strange concoctions people come up with.

It's also good fun to get the boys to do some work around the house.

I got to work on deboning the chicken. The legs would go into the soup for the stock base, while the meat was going into the main course.With the meat, I marinaded it with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I wish I could lug my entire kitchen with me when I go on trips, but alas, a travel-sized kitchen-in-a-box does not yet exist.

The bones went into the stock which contained carrots, broccoli and large sticks of celery. We chucked the celery in because we had to use them up, so we just left them in huge pieces so we could pull them out later before we pureed everything. Oh and we ate them. Girls like their vegies.
AL focused on cutting up all the vegies for the grill. They were pretty. And yummy too.Right before we popped the grill pan into the grill, we realised we had forgotten the parsley, so we sent VH on a mission to finely chop some parsley.

While we're here I would like to just complain about how blunt all the knives are at every single holiday house we've ever been to. Gosh. Is a sharp knife in the kitchen just too much to ask for? Surprisingly at this house there wasn't even a knife sharpener available, so I just used my dad's ad hoc method of using the bottom of a ceramic bowl as the sharpener. It works wonders.

Finally the parsley goes on top.

AL mixed the vegies with what I would presume to be clean hands. She drizzled the pan with a little olive oil and seasoned with a little salt and pepper.Finally the pan goes in for grilling.

While all that was happening, I got to work on browning the chicken in a thick-bottomed pan. The smell eminating from the kitchen with all that was happening was really inviting to say the least.After the chicken was browned, the same pan was used to cook the garlic, onions, tomatoes, canned tomatoes, stock and tomato paste. We just let the sauce simmer away and thicken slightly.If I remember correctly, while all this was happening, we were running back and forth from the kitchen to the lounge room to watch MasterChef. Gosh, that show nearly destroyed me. I couldn't bare to miss a single episode.

Either way, at some point during that show, AL remembered the vegies in the grill and ran back to save them. Timing-wise, I think it was spot on as the vegies were grilled to perfection.We then added the grilled vegetables and chicken into the tomato sauce and heated everything through. Dinner was almost ready.

I think at this point VH was on the side mashing the broccoli and carrot soup and combining it with a tub of cream. Why mashing? Because we didn't think to check whether there was a blender available. This is why we need the portable kitchen-in-a-box!

Someone smart go invent it already. Chop chop!

Either way the soup was delicious. We made plenty so we had some for breakfast the next day. Usually people complain about having to eat leftovers the next day, but this soup was an exception. I think JL would have drank it from the pot.

We topped the sauce with a little more parsley. Yes, parsley is our friend.*mutters* Excuse the lighting issue, but VOILA!

How beautiful does it look?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Red Door Cafe, Leura

After our trip back from Jenolan Caves on the very last day of our visit to the Blue Mountains, it was well after 3:30pm, and most cafes along the way were already packing up and closing for the day. The period between 3pm and 4pm is undoubtedly the most wretched time to find oneself starving as it is too early to contemplate dinner, and it is often too late to pop oneself down for a light lunch at a cafe.

Luckily for us, we found the Red Door.
The decor in this place definitely has character in its own humble manner. The dark wooden furniture is understated, and the bright red provides a lovely backdrop to liven up the atmosphere. Hanging on the walls are a few brightly coloured paintings, and on one side is a large, lengthy mirror to extend the feel of space within the otherwise tight cafe.

Food here is friendly, fresh and considerably healthier than what is on offer from other cafes. The portion sizes aren't ridiculous, nor drenched in oil/dressing/fries/sauces etc etc. Each dish was filling nonetheless.
Zucchini Fritters with Cumin

First up was AL's Zucchini Fritters. These had a distinct cumin flavour and were a pure delight to eat. I would've loved to have ordered that dish myself.Steak Sammich

HL was starving off his face by the time we had arrived, and as AL correctly guessed, he chose the Steak Sandwich, which was an epic mound of filling on an open turkish bread. Judging by the speed he ate it, it must've been good.Chicken and Mushroom Pie

Both VH and I had the Chicken and Mushroom Pie. I don't know why, but I was seriously in the mood for pastry that day, and the Chicken and Mushroom from Red Door just hit the spot. It was heavily flavoured in oregano, which I personally didn't mind, but it was very potent indeed.
Omelette with Chorizo, Onion and Tomato with Olive Tapenade

JL chose the Chorizo Omelette, which is an old favourite of mine. We shared our dishes, and while I loved the spicy chorizo in the omelette, JL found the omelette to be a bit bland overall.

This was our very last restaurant visit before we headed back to Sydney. As we drove away from our holiday house, a tinge of sadness set upon everyone as we realised that the next set of visitors had already moved in. Oh well, it's not like we can't come back?

Red Door Cafe
134 The Mall
Leura, NSW 2780
Tel: (02) 4784 1328

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review: Silk's Brasserie, Leura

I don't remember the night anymore...not really anyway...

It went something along the lines of a bunch of friends wanting to go up to Lithgow in hope of adventure and finally reach the destination and realise that there REALLY wasn't much to do after 5pm over there, then driving all the way back to Leura in search of some food.

We came across Silk's Brasserie, and even though we had no reservations and there was an explicit recommendation that bookings are essential, we were starving and cold, so we tried our luck nevertheless and sent two scouts inside to see if there was any room.They came out with smiles on their faces, but the only remaining table were the two closest to the door. It was freezing outside, so the cons were obvious.
We walked away at first, but having browsed through the menu displayed outside, we quickly changed out minds and walked back towards the restaurant. Cold wind or no cold wind, we wanted the chance to dine at Silk's.Not long after we were seated, the waitress brought a basket of bread freshly out of the oven. It was still warm, and the delicate sweet scent filled the table and we all eyed the basket keenly. It was a struggle to back everyone off while I took the photos. As we bit into it, we noticed that it was rather sweet tasting, and extremely soft and delicate in the centre, but crusty on the outside. AL pondered over whether we could buy a loaf off them to nom on later.

I had asked the waitress what was in the bread, and she kindly informed me that it was a multigrain bread with two secret ingredients. The first one, honey, was obvious, as VH and AL both called it out as if they were on a game show. The second, we guessed, was thyme, but unfortunately we were wrong.

Until this day, we still know not of the second secret ingredient. Any guesses?

Saffron Mussel Cream Chowder with Smoked Trout + Horseradish, with 3 Premium Oysters and Cheese Straw - $22

We ordered two entrees to share as a way of starting things off. JL and VH chose the Saffron Mussel Cream Chowder, which I happily shared with them. Despite being slightly on the salty side, it was an absolutely delightful dish which I would be absolutely thrilled to have over and over again. The oysters were very fresh and perfect with a splash of lemon juice. I wish I had saved some of my bread to dip into the Chowder, but alas I had been too eager. The bread was just tooooooo good.Pan Seared Scallops on White Bean Puree with Avocado Gremolade served with Tempura Zucchini Flower - $21

AL and HL chose the Pan Seared Scallops to share. Needless to say, they looked gorgeous and plump as they came out, and were so moreishly sweet and fresh.House-made Potato Gnocchi + Asparagus Spears, served with Blue Cheese Cream, Sage and Parmesan Straw - $29

VH ordered the Potato Gnocchi as her main. The gnocchi, while delicious and plump, were not as soft and pillowy as I would have liked, but were still far, far better than the store bought stuff. JL thought the Blue Cheese sauce was too rich, and he would have struggled to finish, but I found it to be the accompaniment for the gnocchi. It was beautiful and creamy.Beef Cheeks Slow-braised in White Wine + Star Anise, served with Dutch Carrots, Broad Beans, Potato Gnocchi and Onion Jam - $35

HL opted for the Slow-braised Beef Cheeks. The beef was really well braised and as we watched HL pierce into a piece and watched it fall apart, a smile appeared on everyone's face.
Pan-fried John Dory fillet on Asparagus with Cherry Tomatoes, Cocotte Potatoes + Beurre Blanc - $34

The John Dory was a popular pick of the night as it appeared on many tables around us. There were two plates of this on our table alone as AL and JL had both picked it. Personally, I would have preferred it a little less dry than it was, but having said that, I'm really just nitpicking. The serving size was on the generous side and both AL and JL enjoyed their pick.Confit of Spatchcock on Baked Polenta with Muscatels, Garlic Grapes, Toasted Almonds + Lemon Rosemary Butter - $33

Then there was my Spatchcock. I don't know why I chose it, but I'm glad I did. I'm not usually a fan of having fruit in my savoury dishes, but for some reason, the Grapes really gave me quite the surprise as a thoroughly savoured each bite of it with the spatchcock. The dish was on the sweet side, very much to my liking. My only beef with the dish is that I was not a fan of the baked polenta. Don't get me wrong, I like polenta, but I just found that in this dish it was a bit out of place, and the taste was lost in amidst the garlic grapes and spatchcock.

And then came the desserts...Vanilla-bean Creme Brulée with Sumac Strawberry Salad + a slice of Almond Financier - $15

VH, AL and I all vied for the Creme Brulée. Luckily the serve was HUGE and we all managed to get a good share of the creamy goodness. VH was given the honourary task of cracking the top and we all ooh-ed and aahh-ed at the sound of the gentle shattering.
Mille Feuille of Slow-Poached Quince layered with Creme Patissiére, served with Corella Pear + Saffron Syrup - $15

Obviously we could not leave the boys out of dessert, so someone on the table (most probably me), chose the Mille feuille. The creme patissiére was light and sweet, and the individual layers were crispy and totally moreish.
And to top the night off, we were given a complimentary chocolate which resembled somewhat like a Ferrero Rocher - minus the Hazelnut and wafer centres. The dark chocolate inside was simply divine and I think I would have eaten both AL and JL's share if it weren't for the fact that I was already so filled to my eyeballs in food.

Gosh I want to go back there...

Silk's Brasserie
128 The Mall
Leura, NSW 2780
Tel: (02) 4784 2534

Josophan's Fine Chocolates - Part II

Not far from the actual chocolate shop is Josophan's Chocolate Cafe. The idea is similar to that of Max Brenners, less the chain store mould type decorations. No poster ads of the latest fads in chocolate nomming, just a simple sit down menu in cozy comfort.Embracing the cafe was a strong European air mingling with the dark wooden furnishings and photos of Paris tempting the mind to escape into another landscape.
Mug of Hot Chocolate with Cream and Chocolate Shavings - $ 6.00

It was sooo ridiculously cold outside that I couldn't stop myself from ordering the mug of hot chocolate. As expected, it was beautifully rich, but not overly sweet, and just like the chocolate itself, incredibly smooth in texture. Hot chocolate with Marshmallows - $4.50

JL ordered the standard cup of hot chocolate, which was very much the same as mine, less the cream. He's much more health-conscious than I am. Waffles served with Josophan's Chocolate, Vanilla Ice Cream and Cream

AL and HL decided to go for gold and bring home the waffles drizzled in Josophan's chocolate. I honestly don't know how they managed to finish the plate, but I imagine that it must've been too darn good to let it go to waste.Chocolate Mousse

VH decided on the the Chocolate Mousse after been swept off her feet upon the sight of the glass fridge cabinet just in front of the counter.
And gosh, it was really really smooth in texture, despite being somewhat heavier than some of the other mousses I've tried. The slight bitterness of the dark chocolate against the delicately sweet was simply moreish.Even the local cockatoo would have to agree with that...