Friday 22 April 2016

FOOD DIARY: Oscillate Wildly

Where: Oscillate Wildly
When: 15 March, 2016
Price: $120pp, 8 courses + snacks

Oscillate Wildly is so unassuming, you could easily walk past it. In fact, when we turned up to the restaurant, one of my friends thought it was closed. I only know about the place because it is right next to Black Star Pastry in Newtown, which often has such a long waiting line that I decided to pass the time reading the Oscillate Wildly menu and thought "dang, I need to go to there."

So I rustled up some friends — degustation newbies, at that — and we had some good food and good times.

Here's what we ate:

Wednesday 20 January 2016

FOOD DIARY: Bennelong

Where: Bennelong
When: 28 November, 2015
Price: 2 course menu $100, 3 course menu $130

I turned 26 in November and to celebrate, my partner treated me to a 3 course lunch at Bennelong restaurant, in the Opera House. He had celebrated his birthday there in August, and spoke highly of the wagyu tartare, and the special birthday cake they bring out if you tell them it's your birthday. Later in the night, we had tickets to Taylor Swift, so it was one of my more ~exciting~ birthdays.

Bennelong is all glass and steel and optical illusions, which made for a gorgeous dining experience as well as a tasty one. The floor-to-ceiling windows looked out onto the harbour and the Opera House steps, which during a Saturday afternoon had a constant stream of people walking up and down them. It was an interesting experience, eating tartare in suits while mere metres away tourists were sweatily climbing steps in t-shirts an shorts. But isn't that what fine dining in Australia is all about?

Smoked Blackmore Wagyu tartare
fermented chilli paste, cultured cream & grains mushrooms, seaweed, egg
Not gonna lie, the dish I was the most excited about. It was crispy and fatty, meaty and salty, the best thing I have put in my mouth ever. I could eat ten of these.

You have to really mix it up for maximum deliciousness.

Cocktail / Bread and Butter
I think I got the Botanical Garden, which I swear was a gin cocktail, except that the menu insists it's vodka. Anyway, it was poured in the most elaborate fashion, with a flourish of liquid nitrogen and everything. I loved it.

The bread was adequate.

Snapper fillet 
strawberry clams, purple asparagus, garlic chives, ice plant, garlic blossoms 
While my entree was a no-brainer, I had a much harder time deciding on my main dish. They all seemed great but simultaneously not quite right, and a number of viable choices makes for a world of indecision. This is why I prefer degustations, because there is no need for decision-making, and you get to try everything.

I chose this dish because of the clams, but in hindsight I should have gone with something else. My partner got the suckling pig, which was a much more satisfying choice.

Cos Lettuce salad / Chat Potatoes
The salad looks deceptively boring, but it was actually one of our favourite dishes. Dressed in a cabernet sauce, it was fresh and flavourful. The potatoes were unremarkable, but a nice accompaniment to our meals.

Birthday (Cup)cake
 I was looking forward to a more elaborate cake, but was told that they stopped doing it because it was wasteful. I understand their reasoning, but couldn't they have stopped doing it after my birthday?

That said, this was the best vanilla cupcake I have ever eaten.

Chocolate cake from across the water
This seemed to be the most decadent option on the dessert menu, and it did not disappoint. Eight textures, all chocolate, all delicious.

While we were there, a couple friends were also there for Cured & Cultured, a more casual dining experience that Bennelong offers. It looked amazing - and then GrabYourFork blogged about it, so of course I need to go back to see what a $22 cheese toastie tastes like.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Thursday 10 December 2015

FOOD DIARY: Automata

Where: Automata
When: 14 November, 2015
Price: $88

It is rare that I go to a degustation for no reason; eating extravagantly is usually associated with birthdays, or anniversaries, or holidays. But I was reading through some food blogs, stumbled across Automata, and liked it so much that I mentioned it to my partner. Coincidentally, his boss had also been meaning to go there (being situated in the shiny new food hub of Kensington Street, and its relation to the Old Clare Hotel probably had something to do with it), strengthening our resolve to eat there. At $88 four five courses plus snacks, it was one of the more affordable and we assumed low-key degustation options, so we immediately booked a table, and the rest was history.

We were seated upstairs, which is just one long communal table, but comfortably spaced so that each party can have their privacy. I loved it because we were close enough to hear other people's reaction to the food, which is my favourite part of eating at restaurants (besides snarkily - but lovingly - dissecting the food myself with my dining mates).

Not pictured: the cocktail I had with my meal. It was a gin-based one that I have since forgotten. I am sure it was delicious though.

pre-dinner nibbles
This plate doesn't have much going for it in terms of aesthetics, but they somehow managed to make a slice of lettuce be tasty with what I assume was magic sauce. The fish skin was also enjoyable, but I always welcome interesting texture in my meal.

bread & butter
You can't go wrong with Pepe Saya butter; infuse it with chicken jus and anchovies, then top with sunflower seeds and you get something that is too decadent for words. Also, it was served with warm, house-baked bread. Warm bread is my favourite.

stracciatella, fermented peach, kelp oil, tomato & sea blite
I'll be honest with you: I had no idea what half the above ingredients were. I still have no idea what a sea blite is, but apparently I ate it. The stracciatella was the milkiest cheese I have ever eaten, and while the fermented peach tasted a little weird at first, the flavour eventually grew on me.

king prawn, barley miso, asparagus & shiso
I know the king prawn is supposed to be the hero of the dish here, but that asparagus though! It was crunchy but not undercooked, and was amazing with the barley miso. The prawn was alright.

lamb heart, green sauce, cumin & fennel
I have no opinion on the lamb heart, but my partner enjoyed it. What he did not enjoy was the green sauce, which turned out to be made of coriander and thus, a deal breaker. The surrounding greens were a nice counterbalance to the meatiness of the lamb heart.

wagyu intercostal, dill pickle & turnip
As far as meat goes, I preferred the wagyu intercostal over the lamb heart - both texture- and flavour-wise. Speaking of texture, this dish had it in spades: crunchy fried capers (which were hella salty, in the best way possible), creamy turnip puree, and the sour pickle paired amazingly with the meat. My favourite dish of the night.

walnut ice cream, aged mirin & blood plum
I am a huge fan of the walnut ice cream, which was smooth and earthy, and not too sweet. The blood plum was crispy and sour, but I felt it a little strong for my palate. My partner seemed to like it though, and he's an ice cream connoisseur, so maybe you should defer to him on this.

Overall, the whole dining experience was charming, and it introduced me to a few surprising culinary delights (more stracciatella and fried capers on everything, please). Automata changes its menu regularly, and I can see that they're offering smoked quail right now, so I totally plan on going back.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

FOOD DIARY: Momofuku Seiobo

When: 24 September, 2015
Price: $185 plus cocktails

Traditionally, my partner and I celebrate our anniversary by eating way too much food, via a fancy degustation menu. Degustations are great, because it covers all your bases food-wise, and you don't need to make any decisions, which means your energy is conserved for critiquing the food with your partner. Which is obviously the best part.

The Momofuku Seiobo menu draws inspiration from Australian produce, focusing on the ingredients. We were seated facing the prep area, so we got to see all the food getting plated up. A fun place for food nerds.

Here is everything I ate when I was there.

gin cocktail - I forget which, but it was very tasty.
You can opt to get a beverage pairing with your meal, but I find that it is too much liquid (and if you choose the wine pairings, too much alcohol), so I always choose a cocktail to accompany my meal instead.

plantain, guava, caviar
A real cute amuse bouche, maybe too cute.

scallop, davidson plum, sawtooth coriander
The thing on the right is fish skin, and they told us to eat it with the scallop. It was a good idea.

Close-up of the scallop on the fish skin.

egg, potato, salt cod
Soft and salty. I can't really remember the specifics of this dish, but I am sure it was delightful.

crab, native pepperberry
I was expecting this to be some peppered crab, but putting the pepperberry into a cracker was much better. That is why I am not a chef, that is the only reason.

black pudding, cucumber, desert lime
I am not a fan of black pudding usually, but this one was different, and pickled, and limed. It was interesting. 

 jerk chicken skin, lime
This dish is inspired by Jamaican cuisine, with an Australian twist. They recommended not eating the lime leaves, but I tried to anyway! I don't recommend eating the lime leaves. 

calamari, green mango, papaya
A palate cleanser after that salty, fried chicken skin. It was like eating super-light noodles.

busted roti, onion, muntrie
And right back into the fried stuff. This was the most fun dish to eat, I used my hands and ate more than my fair share of roti. It was great. 

marron, young coconut, koji butter
Earlier in the evening, our server introduced us to a couple of marron, just siting around on a plate. I named them Sid and Nancy. Later, Sid and Nancy were came back to us stuffed and buttered - I am delighted and horrified to say that Sid and Nancy were delicious.

 carrot, oxtail. hibiscus
Chewy oxtail, soft carrot, barely noticeable hibiscus, but it brings a nice colour to the plate.

lamb, black eyed peas
Just your classic roast, but way smaller and fancier.

fiji apple, buttermilk, jalapeno 
Another palate cleanser to ease us into the dessert portion of the meal. Jalapeno was a nice touch - I'll never say no to a bit of heat in my sorbet.

lime, almond, green banana, cassava
This dish's name was perplexing to me, I had no idea what to expect. I'm still not entirely sure what it was. Lime ice cream between two almond biscuits, I think? 

"conkie", banana leaf, raisin
The name of the dish basically makes no sense to me, but I think there was something squishy down the bottom.

spiced rum, blood lime, squash
"I love dirt!" I said to my partner, at the end of a fancy meal. And I do. The dark orange ice cream (?) was denser than its creamy-coloured counterpart. I cannot tell you which is spiced rum, blood lime, or squash. Sorry. 

Tiny peach detail hidden in the final dessert! So cute!

Overall, an A+ experience, would recommend. At the end of the meal, they give you a little packet of Momofuku blend tea by T Totaler. I have yet to drink it, so I have nothing to say about that, but it does seem to be a roasted green tea, which is one of my favourite kinds of teas.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Get Unready with Me: Drunk Edition

This blog has been silent for months, and I'm not proud of that fact. I've been meaning to get back on the blogging bandwagon, but I just keep getting distracted by other things. Mostly naps.

In an attempt to revive this thing, I logged into Blogger and immediately found the following in my drafts. It is some sort of advice/get unready with me post that I wrote one time when I was drunk. I appear to be writing to an external audience, but I can tell I was really trying to write to Future Drunk Me. Though I am sure some of you can relate.


I love beauty gurus as much as the next person, and I am sure there is value in watching their ever-popular "Get Unready with Me" videos - you know the ones, where they enact the end of their day, from getting home from work to falling asleep - but ladies, I don't really need to know how you wind down on a Wednesday night. What I really need help with is how to crawl into bed on a Saturday night without feeling terrible the next day.

So in that spirit, I have compiled a series of things I think everyone should do to make their post-party nights a more pleasant experience.

1. Drink a glass of water. It's been a long night, and you've probably made a lot of bad decisions - don't add going to bed dehydrated to your list. Do yourself a favour and get some water into your person. I promise it'll be good for you.

2. Remove make up. You don't need to stick to your ten-step cleanse routine, you just need to get that crap off your face. I like to smear coconut oil on and work it into my skin. It breaks down even the most waterproof of mascaras, so that when you take a cotton pad or wash cloth to your face, everything comes clean off. Perfect for when you're too lazy to even make it to the bathroom.

3. Pajamas. Put them on. Fit in a shower if you can, but pajamas are less wet and are comfy as hell. Future you will thank you. If you know it's going to be a late night, lay your PJs out before you leave, so that drunk you many hours later can just slip out of those gross party clothes and into something snuggly. It won't mess up your bed sheets either.

4. Stop drinking. Hair of the dog is bullshit. If you're that thirsty, drink another glass of water. In fact, I hope you have a carafe of water next to your bed. Hydration is important! And maybe keep a bucket there as well, in case you throw up.

5. Go to bed! Put down your phone, close your laptop, turn off the TV. Get your drunk, tired fingers away from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and go to sleep before you inflict some terrible damage that could have easily been avoided had you just. stayed. offline.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

How to Feel Better

Being human means sometimes being sad. Sometimes when you are sad, all you can do is ride the sad out until it goes away. It could be that you spend this time in the foetal position on your bed, or under your office desk, or in the quietest part of the shopping centre (sometimes you just have to make do) until you feel strong enough to power through the rest of your day.

But feeling better could take an indefinite amount of time, so here are some things you can do to speed things along, but only if you feel up to it.

+ Light a scented candle. Make sure it is large and three-wicked; stare into the flames and take lots of deep breaths. This works particularly well if you’re using a good quality candle, and if scented things calm you. If you hate scented things, this will probably make you even sadder, or even angry, so maybe don't do this one.

+ Listen to music. Sad music, or angry music, or instrumental music — whatever will help you get out of your funk. It's different for everyone. When I am sad, I like listening to music by people who are also sad, because it gives me a sense of solidarity. Listening to people being happy when I am not makes me want to BURN THE WORLD DOWN, because HOW DARE THEY! But maybe you will find it inspirational, I don’t know. You do you.

+ Go for a run. Or do something that will get your heart rate up. I find I work out the best when I am just the right level of sad, the kind of sad that can escalate to anger fairly quickly. This way, I spend the time walking to the gym being sad, but by the time I hit the rowing machine or treadmill, I have worked myself up into a blind rage and power through my workout like a crazed robot. Maximum efficiency!

+ Cut up some paper. There is something soothing about wielding scissors, I think. Take a fashion magazine and cut out supermodels, and then glue pictures of cheese onto their heads. And their hands. And their feet. Now you've made a sexy cheesemonster! 

+ Cry. It's a really simple thing, but I feel like often we don't give ourselves permission to cry, even if we really need to. Find a safe space where you can be alone, and then make like an ice queen and let it go

I hope this helped. I really recommend the sexy cheesemonster. And I'm sorry for the Frozen reference1.

1 no I'm not.

Sunday 22 February 2015

The Perfect Mug

Size: Large enough to hold enough coffee to get through the morning — ensuring I can interact with coworkers and answer emails from 9:00-11:00 without being a total dick.

Handle: Has enough room for my fingers, so that when I walk from the kitchenette to my desk, my knuckles do not accidentally graze the hot hot body of the mug and get burned. In the absence of a handle, a heatproof band is an acceptable substitute.

One that either hides or compliments any shade of lipstick that might find its way on the rim of the mug.

Shape: Cylindrical, all the way around. Novelty mugs are okay in certain situations (e.g. thematic tea parties) but are not for every day. The mug may exude personality by way of hilarious saying, house insignia, fanart, etc. printed on the side of the mug only.

This is the criteria for my perfect mug. I have yet to find it, but am content in using my KeepCup Brew — for now. What is your perfect mug?

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Coffee Sadnesses

The first time I started drinking coffee as a regular, everyday morning thing was while completing my first internship, and the situation has only escalated from there. Whether it be a strong, black morning jolt, or a sugary, milky, venti mid-afternoon treat, coffee has long been a comfort close to an actual friend. Especially when accompanied with a paperback and a lazy Sunday afternoon at my favourite Starbucks. Stop judging me.

But, as with any relationship, there has been highs and lows. In our storied history, I have since discovered the number of ways in which coffee can disappoint me. It’s been frustrating at times, sure, but as with any relationship worth a damn, the highs are totally worth the lows.

Coffee machine takes too long to ready itself for use in the morning. How long does a self-cleaning usually take anyway? You grip the kitchen bench to stop from collapsing into sleep.

Coffee machine at work has run out of beans, but the bag of extra beans is on a shelf that you are too short to reach — probably due to stunted growth from drinking too much coffee as a pre-teen. There are no step ladders or taller people around to come to your aid. You drink terrible instant coffee instead.

Coffee machine at work says it needs more water, so you fill its water tank with filtered water (as the machine specified). Coffee machine still insists there is no water in its tank and refuses to work. You stare angrily at the machine, and drink terrible instant coffee instead. It tastes like plastic. Why do you continue to drink it down to the last drop? Think about how you may have a problem.

You decide to be indulgent, and order a flat white from your favourite cafĂ©. This makes you a little late, so it’s only as you’re in the lift that you take your first sip of coffee and notice you forgot to order soy. Your bowels do not thank you later.

You come into the office, and are hit with drowsiness so powerful and ongoing that you drink cup after cup of coffee throughout the day. It does no good, and you trudge through your workday lethargically. At 5pm, caffeine finally kicks in, and you stay up all night.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Red Lip Classic

Let it be known that I love a bold coloured lip. Let it also be known that I love eating, and talking, and kissing, which are all inconducive to the staying power of said bright lips. More often than not, I apply my lipstick in the morning, only to have it wasted all over my first cup of coffee, or smeared about my face by mid-morning and I can't be the only one.

So after much trial and error, as well as — let's face it — my penchant for buying far too many lipsticks, I have consolidated my go-to collection of lip products when I want the colour to last all (work) day. 

I’m sticking to red lip products, because red is bold, powerful and classic, and you should have at least one great red lipstick in your make up arsenal, because you never know, right? All of the lower-end variety, because that is my jam (and price range).

NYX Matte Lipstick - Perfect Red
Matte lipsticks are generally more long-lasting than their high shine companions, but since they are lack moisturising agents, they also get pretty uncomfortable to wear, fast. However, NYX’s Matte Lipstick magically skips that gross feeling and goes straight to being extremely pigmented and long-lasting. Also, it’s hella cheap, so you can’t go wrong.

Special mention: NYX Retractable Lipliner - RED 
Because it's a pencil, NYX's lipliner is super easy to put on. It’s also waterproof, stays on the lips, and is retractable, so you don't need to fuss with a pencil sharpener. It's a lazy person's dream. Though you might want to pair it with a little gloss, or even your favourite moisturising red lipstick (this is a lip pencil, after all) because it does tend to get a little dry after a while.

Rimmel Provocalips - Play with Fire
While I am not a huge fan of the two step colour/gloss combo, I decided to give Provocalips a try — it was on sale after all, and I had heard good things. Play with Fire is the darker of the reds, blue-based and super flattering for my skin tone. I recommend applying the colour onto a clean lip canvas: wipe off any balm or gloss you may have on, because the product is going to slide right off. It dries kind of uncomfortably sticky, but that’s when the gloss swoops in and makes your lips feel like normal again. Also it makes everything shiny.

Special mention: Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquer - Apocaliptic
The predecessor to Provocalips, this is Rimmel’s version of the lipstick/lipgloss hybrid that was so popular a few years ago. The Apocalips line is crazy pigmented and similarly, it transfers like crazy. But I’ve noticed that even though I’ve left a trail of lip stains all over my coffee cups, spoons, and tissues, there’s still enough product on my lips to say “nope, haven’t eaten a goddamn thing”. So it’s obviously magic.

Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm - Standout
Again with the matte! But I’m slightly addicted to the Revlon chubby stick rip-offs, so I have them in several colours and finishes, and I’ve found that they all have quite good staying power. Some of the glossier original balms fade to a nice stain, which is really all I could ask for. Once though, I wore a combination of Romantic and Crush, then proceeded to eat my way through a fancy degustation menu. Right before dessert, I got up to use the bathroom and noticed that the colour had lasted all the food and wine. I was amazed. I was also possibly food-drunk (and regular drunk). But still, that’s how good the Revlon Colorburst balms are. 

I heard that Standout is a dupe for Revlon's Strawberry Suede lipstick, which is sadly now discontinued. So I highly recommend this particular colour, if you're into that.

Obviously, the trend in long-lasting lip products is a little bit of matte action. Everybody says you can extend the staying power of any lipstick by blotting, applying powder, reapplying, and continuing until you get the desired effect — 

but who even has the time?