You are 16 going on 17 (plus 13 more)

Big birthdays, baby showers and beautiful weddings are all the events I have been going to. I guess we are all entering into the next big step. #gettingwiser #canberra #mudcake #cake #food #foodie #foodblog

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Royal Tara

It’s not that I ran out if places to eat in Canberra nor was I tired from the restaurant scene that I drove over an hour out of Canberra for a meal but I heard that there was an amazing place that I must try out in Binalong which only happens to open for dinner. So out we drove into the country to see what all the fuss was about at the Royal Tara.

The decor is simple and quaint, with all the effort placed in the food and serving it hot and fresh. This place has a very laid back atmosphere with all the locals wheeling in eskys filled with beer and wine, I even saw a guy bring in a bottle of vodka and casually placed it on the table and added it to his drinks. Tables are rearranged to accommodate large tables and families etc, you gotta love the country hospitality.

20131106-215520.jpgRiverport raspberry and lemonade ($4.00). A red slush puppy slushie to the tee!!20131106-212807.jpg

Entree~

Garlic bread 4 large pieces per serve ($5.00). There are some breads that fill you up and there are some other breads make you want more, wet your appetite and then leaving you more hungry than when you started. I had a little smirk when I saw it was topped with cheese. It was so good.

20131106-212504.jpgSpanish garlic prawns Chef’s specialtygreen prawns cooked in chilli and garlic ($18.00). This tasted like they used minced garlic from a bottle but it still had a good garlic punch to it (on the sweeter side) with a good mix of chilli. I love how this was served piping hot with all the oil, garlic and chilli. Lip smacking.20131106-213240.jpg

Crumbed chicken tenderloins with salad greens and sweet chilli ($17.00). Tender crispy chicken morsels that will keep any adult or kid happy.20131106-213354.jpgTempura battered calamari battered calamari rings with salad and lime aoili ($18.00). I didn’t really see much visual difference between the chicken and the calamari. The calamari had a crispy coating while the meat inside was very soft and not chewy at all.20131106-213525.jpg

Mains~

They kept it simple on the menu, there was a choice of fish, chicken or steak and as good as the other options sounded, I knew my stomach was get meal envy if I didn’t get a steak.

Fillet steak tender eye fillet topped with parsley butter – a selection of mustards is available ($28.00). A very tender piece of beef and probably more for the people who didn’t want to have their steak covered in a thick rich sauce.

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Pepper steak fillet steak with green peppercorn cream sauce ($30.00). There was a decent amount of peppercorn in that sauce which I loved, this would have been my second choice for a steak but I chose something different so there was no meal overlap.20131106-213721.jpg

Steak diane fillet steak with garlic cream sauce ($30.00). Every now and then I would steal a bit of TimmyC’s sauce, it was very nice and I probably would have licked the plate if I wasn’t eating at a restaurant with judging eyes around me.

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Fillet steak with mushroom sauce fillet steak with mushroom, tomato and onion sauce ($30.00). All the sauce may have looked ‘brown’ but there was a distinct taste difference between all of them I promise! This was a very good steak, I was worried about not disclosing the size (nothing worse than having a sad little piece of steak on the side of the plate) but it was good decent portion (around 300g?). I also liked how despite everyone having the same vegetables, they didn’t just make it ahead of time and let it sit on a bain marie to get overcooked and mushy, all the vegetables were cooked perfectly. You could really taste the steak and it wasn’t overwhelmed by the sauce of choice. It has been a while since I’ve had a good steak, such a shame this place is so far away!20131106-214126.jpg

No matter what the customer wanted (even if it was well done *gasp*), all the steaks were cooked to perfection.20131106-214325.jpg

and then back to entrees…

Oysters kilpatrick a dozen oysters cooked with bacon and Chef’s secret sauce ($23.00). Yes, while half way through my steak, I started to have eaters regret for not ordering oysters. Trust me, the waitress was as surprised as you were that I was ordering an entree after my main, but to cancel things out I shared a dessert rather than have one to myself, although I was tempted.  They were made very well and I’m always a fan of crisping up the bacon rather than under cooking them under a grill.

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20131106-215131.jpgDessert~

Sticky date pudding served warm with caramel sauce and vanilla ice-cream ($11.00). There was a bit of a dessert stand off, three out of four of us wanted sticky date pudding. I looked on with an unapproving blogger eyes. I convinced TimmyC against his will that he did not want this but rather the refreshing tangy taste of a lemon and lime tart. As soon as the sweet smell of caramel hit the air and the warm caramel pooled around a very moist pudding, I got a dirty look.  We all had a taste of this dessert but instead of relieving curiosity, it gave us all dessert envy. In short, do not get talked out of getting a sticky date pudding.20131106-215301.jpg

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Chocolate mudcake served warm with vanilla ice-cream ($11.00). Probably the most unexciting dessert on the table, it was moist and rich but it just didn’t compare with the other desserts.20131106-215339.jpg

Lemon and lime tart served with vanilla ice-cream ($11.00). Despite being the second choice, this tart was amazing. I was completely blown away by how smooth the tart filling was with the perfect balance between tangy and sweet. A lovely refreshing way to cleanse the palate after a fabulous meal.

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It might be a far way to go for a meal, but I encourage everyone to come out here if you love a good steak. They are supposed to also make fantastic frozen pies (even better than Gum tree pies which is a very big call!) which are usually made on Wednesday but are sold out by the Friday. You wouldn’t think that such a fabulous establishment was attached to a motel out in the sticks.

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Venue: Royal Tara

Address: 27-37 Stephens Street, Binalong, NSW 2584

Phone: (02) 6227 4310

Websitehttp://www.motelroyaltara.com.au/diningroom.htm

Royal Tara on Urbanspoon

Food coma -Thanksgiving 2013

A work friend of mine was disappointed in last years Thanksgiving festivities which resulted in her eating leftovers by herself on the day and celebrations were on hold until the weekend, so she took it upon herself this year to host her first Thanksgiving. Australia isn’t the biggest on gobbling down turkeys but obtaining one wasn’t too hard (Costco approximately 7kgs – $50.00). This thing was huge and almost took up most of the space in our small Australian oven.

The secret and tips to an amazing moist turkey: leaving time for turkeys to defrost (nothing worse than a half frozen turkey on Thanksgiving day!), marinating the whole turkey in a brine mixture overnight, buttering on top and under the skin.20131128-200327.jpg

After teasing us with its tantalizing smell for four hours, the turkey was finally ready with a gorgeous golden tan and succulent tender meat.20131128-200611.jpg

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Check out the size of the wing!

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A potluck lunch means  a wonderful mix of moist cornbread, salads, roast vegetables, dressing and homemade gravy *drool*. I only took a photo of my first plate. 20131128-200557.jpg

All finished off with a homemade pumpkin pie. So many spices with the sweetness of roast pumpkin equals a very good end to the meal.

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Nothing but a speckle of meat left and a carcass ready for stock making.

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That’s the perk of working with a diverse multicultural group, experiencing holidays from other cultures!      HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Now excuse me as I enter into a food coma…  

Cholo’s Peruvian Restaurant

**AIYA! I thought I hit post on this before I left for Asia, wah so late already!**

I haven’t eaten Peruvian food before and all I know about it is that they have guinea pig on the menu over there but that is not what I was particularly hoping for when I went to Cholo’s Peruvian restaurant in Dickson (there was no guinea pig on the menu phew).

I love their brightly coloured place mats and interesting ‘Inca Kola’ bottles that have been reused as water bottles.

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Chicha Morada Peruvian purple corn drink ($4.00). This wasn’t overly sweet and had an aftertaste of bubble gum but not so strong that I wouldn’t finish the glass. YUM and very interesting!

Entrees~

Empanadas ($12.50).

The filling wasn’t dry but a bit crumbly when we tried to cut it up to share. I’m a huge huge fan of the accompanying green sauce (be careful it has a bit of a kick to it)!

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Tequenos ($8.50). A smaller version of the empanadas with a different pastry. I think I prefer these if sharing with a bigger group, although it doesn’t have that wonderful green sauce (yes I liked it THAT much!).

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Ceviche diced Ocean Perch delicately spiced and cured in lime juice served with Spanish onion, celery and coriander, served cold ($19.50). There was only one of these left of the night so we quickly ordered this while we were figuring out which mains to order. I didn’t really read the description, so I was quite surprised when I discovered it was a cold dish. There was lots of lime juice and coriander flavours. People either loved it or had enough after one piece. I found it very interesting and slightly addictive as I kept going back for more.

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Mains~

Pollo a la Brasa 1/2 succulent, roasted Peruvian style char-coaled chicken  served with papas, fresh green salad and chili sauce ($25.00). This was a really moist char-coaled chicken with a really great seasoning on the skin. I thought the side of chips was a bit weird unless they eat a lot of chips in Peru?

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Carapulcra slow cooked spicy Papa seca (sundried potato) and pork pieces served with rice and sarsa criolla ($26.50). This had nice pork stewed flavours but I preferred the roast chicken.

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Crunchy cassava chips.

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Lomo Saltado beef stir fry with Spanish onion, tomato and coriander tossed through crispy potato fries served with rice ($28.50). I didn’t think there was anything special about this dish and the beef wasn’t particularly tender either.

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Locro de Zapallo potato and pumpkin casserole served with rice ($24.00). I liked this dish even though it seemed very mushy in texture. I would order this over the beef stir fry next time.

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Desserts~
Everyone was too full for dessert but I convinced a friend to get a little something with me and somehow ended up ordering two desserts. 
Pastry horn filled with dulce de leche ($4.00). The pastry was very stale so I just focused my fork in the centre, as delicious as it was, it was very intensely sweet (like eating ‘caramel from a can’ kind of intense).

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Torta Tres Leches sponge cake, smothered in 3 different milky creams. A taste you won’t resist ($12.50). I really liked this cake. The sponge was incredibly ‘light’ feeling and despite being soaked in syrups, I didn’t feel like the dessert was sickly sweet. It might seem a little pricey for a dessert but if money isn’t an issue, this is worth trying.

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Cholo’s has a friendly atmosphere and this Peruvian menu has plenty of new and interesting things to try. Get the roast chicken, it isn’t too ‘out there’ if you’re not adventurous and it is really well made. The entrees that we had were really nice and I would probably order the pork and the potato pumpkin casserole again. There was a dulce de leche that I was dying to try but they had sold out and I was so disappointed, please take a photo if you happen to order this!

Venue: Cholo’s Restaurant

Address: Shop 68, 12 Challis Street, Dickson, ACT 2602

Phone: (02) 6248 86483

Cholo's Peruvian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Portuguese tarts Lord Stow’s bakery – Macau

I sat there with a sweat dripping out of every pore. My feet were sore from excessive running in inappropriate shoes. My face was red and flushed and I might have annoyed a few people along the way. Yet I felt deeply satisfied with the resulting box that laid in my hands.

How did it all come to this?

60 minutes earlier

We were heading out for the morning after a night of R ‘n R staying at the luxurious Lisboa hotel. The plan was simple – buy our ferry tickets for our return trip to Hong Kong, hunt down Lord Stow’s bakery and then head back to the hotel just in time for our 1pm late check out, allowing time to wildly throwing everything back in our suitcase.

Me being as stubborn as I am, wanted to go to the original Lord Stow bakery hidden somewhere amongst the not so main streets of Macau but when Google, phone reception and the taxi drivers were not helpful in finding the store, we had no choice but to run wildly towards the Venetian hotel (I knew there was a store there), which seemed very far away and time was ticking.

Inside the Venetian was an awesome canal with gondolas paddling up and down between all the fabulous stores, there are gorgeous paintings everywhere all over the ceiling and there were human statues, magicians walking around performing tricks but there was no time for any of that, we were here for one thing – PORTUGUESE TARTS!

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It would have looked like four crazy tourists running in multiple directions and there might have been a bit of running around in circles but we finally found it!20131123-002057.jpg

Warm Portuguese tarts from Lord Stow’s bakery ($8.00 HKD per tart).20131123-002206.jpg

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The pastry is so flaky looking with beautiful imperfect brown spots.20131123-002617.jpg

The custard was so delicate and silky smooth, which a great contrast to the crispy flaky pastry. Oh my goodness, there is a party in my mouth.20131123-002659.jpg

You can see the pastry is swirled at the bottom and you can really feel that in the texture when you bite into it.

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Even the next day when the tarts were all cold, they were still amazing and while sitting in a five-star hotel looking over Macau just made the experience just even better.

While you’re in Macau, you have to make this as one of your ‘absolutely have to do’ things on your list. I would suggest going straight to the Venetian hotel and take time to browse around the mall and float down the canal in a gondola and not frantically scramble to check out of your hotel room.

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Koi Kei bakery – Hong Kong

I must admit while I was doing my shopping rendition of Home Alone’s “we slept in!”, 20131118-224558.jpgI didn’t think of going out of my way to hunt down a Koi Kei bakery, it was just a happy coincidence that I came across a shop front on my way to purchasing Hello Kitty shoes.smileys-hello-kitty-130611 

I stepped inside and cookie boxes were flying off the shelf like they were free. I found myself being drawn to the egg rolls (my fav) but my fear of being patted down in customs only led me to sample them. In fact there were samples of almost everything in the store. A helpful sale assisted recommended several things which were fabulous and helped me hunt down cookies that I didn’t know the name of (that is the trouble with eating something all during your childhood without reading the packaging).

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Buying almost $900 HKD worth of cookies and candies means getting one of the biggest bags that they had. They were very clever to wrap the plastic handles with bubble wrap which made holding this very heavy bag much much easier, it was not so clever of me to get these cookies in the middle of my shopping trip. 
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There is never a quiet moment in Koi Kei bakery, with people always coming and going. Chances are, you will see at least one person holding a Koi Kei bakery bag while walking in the street /traveling on a ferry /going on a plane .

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My favourite pick of the bunch: almond pastry. I had never had these before and I was very impressed, so much so that I bought 4 boxes, although none were for me.  I chose the handmade type over the machine-made candies/cookies.20131118-222659.jpg

Buying several kilos worth of cookies means that they threw in a few peanut candy freebies.20131118-222710.jpg

When I tasted these, I was amazed by how much ginger taste you could pack into a cookie. These are going to a friend who certainly loves ginger.20131118-222721.jpg

And of course I couldn’t leave the bakery without getting some peanut candy which is what they specialise in. They have so many types, I almost was full from trying them all – crunchy, chewy, peanut, almond, white sesame, black sesame and coconut, they have it all!

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I really wanted to try their Portuguese tarts while I was in Macau but as fate would have it, we just didn’t have good timing. These are a lovely treat as souvenirs (easy to take as carry on) or just good for general snacking. I would recommend you come and try everything, if you don’t like anything you could just leave, but I’d like to see you try to resist.  I took my bag of precious cookies as carry on with no trouble.

My Eat wish list before I leave Hong Kong

1/. Hotpot rice
2/. Egg waffles
3/. Cookies from Koi Kei bakery << I ate a lot more than I anticipated
4/. Beard papa sweets
5/. Lemon iced tea
6/. Cold milk tea

Beard Papa’s – Hong Kong

While I was in Hong Kong I had to see my Daddy, my Godfather and last but not least Beard Papa.  I had just a few hours before we flew back home so I ran there with several kilos of shopping bags dangling from each arm, a dehydrated body and very tired legs but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from tasting the very delicate and delicious cream puffs that is Beard Papa’s.

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I think the best ‘shape’ to get is the Paris brest($18.00 HKD) as it has a great cream to pastry ratio. All pastries were made fresh that day and when I took a bite,  I remembered why I had craved for it for so long.

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If you are in Asia or the States, you have to hunt this franchise down, I know I’ll be googling for the closest Beard Papa’s every time I travel.

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My Eat wish list before I leave Hong Kong

1/. Hotpot rice
2/. Egg waffles
3/. Cookies from Koi Kei bakery
4/. Beard papa sweets
5/. Lemon iced tea
6/. Cold milk tea

My last supper

When someone fleetingly mentions hotpot rice as an option for dinner, my eyes light up. I love hotpot rice especially the ‘not good for you glued on rice’ that gets stuck to the bottom of the pot.  That’s it. In my mind we have chosen what we are eating for dinner because in that instant, I have promised my stomach- hotpot rice.

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A Hong Kong trip is not complete without cramming into one of those busy street cafés with all the locals, sitting on little stools (hoping that it doesn’t collapse under your weight) and ordering cheap food where the wait staff all yell to each other to put orders in.

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The menu is huge, covering everything from typical Hong Kong cafe food (French toast and Horlicks drinks) to noodles and stir fries. There is a separate mini menu for hot pot rices, I can’t decide which one to choose so we order four to share. All the hot pot rices came out ridiculously hot (you can see the steam coming off in some of the photos) and had soy sauce for you to add according to your taste.

Hot pot rices are one of the token dishes you have to eat in Hong Kong when the weather gets cold (the air con was on so high it was simulating Winter inside that cafe, we could even see our breath!). All the rice absorbs the juices from the topping and also has a ‘charcoal flavour’ to it at varying levels depending on how close your rice was to the edges of the hot pot.

Pork spare ribs with black bean sauce hotpot rice ($48 HKD) Chinese sausage extra.

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I dug a little further down and could start seeing the rice that has stuck to the side of the pot. Mmmmmm…20131113-085344.jpg

Minced pork with salted fish hot pot rice ($48 HKD) Chinese sausage extra. I might not eat too many ‘traditional Chinese’ things but I have missed salted fish, OMG so good. Om nom nom.20131113-085403.jpg

Chicken with Chinese mushroom hot pot rice ($48 HKD). 20131113-085416.jpg

Beef with egg hot pot rice ($48 HKD).20131113-085431.jpg

Some pots were stickier than others and I couldn’t really dig with my chopsticks or plastic spoon.20131113-085442.jpg

So I grabbed my metal spoon from my drink and started using it as an excavation tool – success!20131113-085451.jpg

Washed it all down with some refreshing lemon iced tea. Two ticks with one meal! Three down, three more to go:

My Eat wish list before I leave Hong Kong

1/. Hotpot rice
2/. Egg waffles
3/. Cookies from Koi Kei bakery
4/. Beard papa sweets
5/. Lemon iced tea
6/. Cold milk tea

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