Tag Archives: restaurants

Weekend Coffee Share 22nd May, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share. I apologise for adding two posts to the link up but I added the Chocolate post by mistake and being well past my bedtime, I’ll have to leave it be.

This week I’m asking you to fasten your seat belts for what’s not quite a 1000km drive from the NSW Central Coast to Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast. We’ve driven up here for the weekend for Geoff’s sister’s 60th Birthday.

So, in addition to offering you the usual choice of tea or coffee, I’m also offering you a glass of bubbly sarsaparilla, a popular Queensland drink (which could well be root beer in the States).

However, before we get too settled on the Queensland side of the border, I thought I’d fill you in on the previous week.

Last Monday, I finally had an ultrasound done on the lump on my arm. While the lump felt noticeable enough, it proved quite difficult to pick up on the ultrasound, which is a good thing. It meant that it showed no sign of being a cyst and is probably a lipodema or bubble of fat. That was naturally quite a relief as I was concerned that a weird lump on the arm could be a secondary for much bigger troubles lurking somewhere else.

What a relief!

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A Cappuccino & A Mookie…What more could I want?

On Wednesday, I caught the train down to Sydney to for an appointment with my neurologist. That was all expected to be pretty routine. However, the appointment is not the story.

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Meeting My Mookie, Koi Dessert Bar.

Rather, it provided the justification for me to check out the Koi Dessert Bar in Kensington Street, Chippendale not far from Central Railway. Of course, I had to change trains at Central and so this provided the perfect justification for what really was quite a detour from my appointment in St Leonards, on the opposite side of Sydney Harbour and there are other, much more efficient stations for changing trains than Central but they didn’t have dessert bars. More to the point, they didn’t have a dessert bar run by last year’s Masterchef Dessert guru, Reynold, to tantalise their taste buds and lead them completely astray.

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Reynold…The King of Desserts.

Needless to say, I was completely blown away by my dessert experience which you can read about here: My Affair With Chocolate Mookie

After leaving Koi, I walked around the adjacent streets, photographing crumbling old buildings, posters, graffiti as well as checking out a few of the shops. This used to be the Tooth’s Brewery site and I still remember workers wearing blue singlets and Stubbies (shorts) pouring out onto George Street as I walked past on my way home from work.

The vibe around there is very different now.

It was quite a nostalgic journey and I would have loved more time to head down to Glebe and revisit Sydney University, where I did my degree. So many fabulous memories and seemingly no chance of going back.

Anyway, that was Wednesday done and dusted.

Friday, was spent in the car driving up to Geoff’s other sister’s place in the hinterland behind Byron Bay, which is our base for the weekend and we drive home Monday. We had a wonderful picnic in Surfers Paradise and went back to our niece’s stunning hotel win expansive view across the bright lights of Surfers and out along the beach. Brought back many memories of childhood holidays there.  I’ll be writing more about that during the week and for next weekend’s Coffee Share.

I also wanted to apologise for being a bit off the air of late. The A-Z Challenge took a lot out of me and writing about some difficult times for me, raised many questions and dragged me down further than I’d thought. It is great to be a survivor and overcome your hurdles but I am still human. That so-called process of “moving forward” is actually much more complex than we’d like. It’s great to get an ink pad and stamp “better” on our foreheads,  but perhaps “Work In Progress” would be a more honest and realistic descriptor.

It’s done me a lot of good to get away and have such a change of scenery this week.

Anyway, how was your week? I don’t have Internet access at the moment and am posting this by connecting my  laptop to my husband’s phone. I didn’t want to miss you all, even though I’ve slacked off lately.

Hope you’re all doing well.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. Please click here for the Linky

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

My Affair With A Chocolate Mookie.

Yesterday, I met my chocolate Adonais and fell deeply in love. Indeed, staring doe-eyed at his lush sensual exquisiteness, it was love at first sight. I was swooning.

Of course, I couldn’t dream of taking a bite and spoiling such untouched perfection straight away. Or, heaven forbid, brutally stab it with my fork.

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Meeting My Mookie.

Oh no! I had to wait.Soak it all up with my eyes.

A flawlessly smooth, dark chocolate dome with a purple pansy on top and a smattering of magic gold dust, I was in love. Not Tim Tam love, which I experience almost every night with my evening cup of decaf tea. No, this was something inter-galactic. A wild, unrestrained passion, which sent all of my senses into overdrive.

Indeed, my passion was so strong, that I even started to question myself. Blown away by feelings so far beyond lust, attraction and soul mates created in the same forge, I felt such a strong vibe between us. Yet, I am a married woman…a married woman with two kids, two dogs and a home. I had a lot at stake.

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So, naturally I had to wonder whether my love for this luscious chocolate creation called a “Mookie”, equated to a betrayal of my sacred marriage vows. Had I committed the ultimate, unforgivable sin? Me who puts such weight on the importance of good character and holds the Golden Rule as my personal holy grail? Would I now be going direct to hell, without so much as a stop at Go to collect my $200?

It was starting to look that way.

Yet, as I said, I still hadn’t taken a bite. I hadn’t actually crossed that line.

Then, my cappuccino arrived.

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It’s a sign….love on a cappuccino.   Photo: Rowena Newton.

That’s when I knew it was love. Not lust, fancy or a momentary lapse of reason but the real thing. There was a heart etched in the foam. It was a sign! We were going to be together forever and ever living happily ever after.

However, if our relationship was really going to kick off, I couldn’t keep sitting there goggle-eyed. I had to make a move, even if it ultimately meant my lover’s death, as we fused together becoming one flesh.

I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, I could feel myself diving through his lush chocolate sweetness in the same way I’d paddled through that chocolate river as a kid watching Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It was an out of body experience.

Adonais, who in real life goes by the name Mookie, could well be described as “a work of art”. However, paint never tasted this good. I savoured each delicate mouthful and then, as I’d long suspected, Mookie had a heart…a heart of rich, red tangy raspberry gel.

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Mookie’s Beautiful heart.   Photo: Rowena Newton.

What more could a woman want?

By the way, while I’m delving into Mookie’s anatomical details, I should also mention that he sits on a biscuit base, known as a chocolate sable (I cheated and had to ask. When it comes to food writing, I am very much a novice and could well have described it as a “whatsy-me-call-it” or “thinga-me-gig”). If you have ever watched Masterchef, then you’ll know that a sensational dessert has to have sweetness, creaminess, tang to cut through as well as that all important “crunch”. So, the biscuit provided the crunch, although I thought I also detected a subtle touch of crunch in the mouse but couldn’t be sure.

Naturally, when you fall so deeply in love, you want to spend the rest of your life together. Say “I do”. Walk down the aisle and head off together on the ultimate chocolate honeymoon.

However, I’m a married woman and there’s the added complication of my kids. How could I possibly run away from home? Leave Geoff and the kids, not to mention the two dogs, behind? Trade all of that in for a Mookie? Or, to to be precise, a succession of Mookies. After all, one Mookie could never be enough.

That was when reality threw quite a spanner in the works and I had to wake up.

So, that was it. I had to leave Mookie behind. Be responsible and call it quits. Of course, our final adieu was filled with such anguish but I took a deep breath and made the break. Toughened up.

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Delectable Delights!         Photo: Rowena Newton.

However, before heading home, I had to atone for my sins. Sorry, Mookie. I didn’t take you with me. Wanting to try more of the selection, I bought a Mango Yuzu (a mango mouse) and a Tiramisu for the family (which, of course, included me!)

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Heaven on Earth.

After all, the family would have killed me once I confessed to going to Koi, a dessert bar in Sydney’s urban Chippendale, not far from Central Station, and didn’t bring anything home.

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                Reynold Poernomo                                                  Photo: Rowena Newton

While you could wonder how my kids know anything about a dessert bar in urban Sydney, Koi is owned by the family of Reynold Poernomo who we all fell in love with on Masterchef 2015. Reynold made the most exquisite desserts, which totally tantalized my tastebuds. Indeed, I found out about Koi when Reynold returned to the show last week and the contestants had to make his dessert: “Moss”.

Indeed, as much as I LOVE watching Masterchef, it can be incredibly cruel watching all those scrumptious dishes on TV and you can’t taste a thing. It’s particularly hard, too, when you’re there eating leftovers and the hero of your dish is a limp carrot, which somehow responded to CPR when it should have been “retired” to the worm farm.

“Such is life”, Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, said before being hanged at the gallows.

I know what he meant.

So, that is what took me to Koi while I was down in Sydney heading to a medical appointment on the other side of Sydney Harbour. It was to fulfil all of my unadulterated chocolate fantasies and I wasn’t disappointed.

Indeed, I know I’ll be back.

However, before I leave, I have one last wish.

I wish I could be a kid again and lick the plate. While it’s not a good look for a 40 something mother of two (that’s how similar acts of insanity are routinely reported in the news), leaving even those few last remaining crumbs, is such a waste!

I’m sure you’d agree!

xx Rowena

PS I will admit that after I finished my Mookie, I did consider buying a second dessert. I was there alone without anyone watching, pointing the finger or calling me a glutton. I could do whatever I liked. Moreover, it was lunch time and surely God isn’t going to strike me down if I have two desserts for lunch just this once…even if I do have a Vegemite sandwich from home stashed away in my bag. It wouldn’t be the first time that a sandwich has arrived home untouched… Thanks kids!! However, I behaved but only because I know I’ll be back!

Koi is located at 46 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney.

Phone 02 9212-1230.

Therapeutic Indulgence: A Rendez-vous with Laksa and a Saucy Chocolate Cake.

In my last post, I confessed to running away from home for the weekend for some seriously self-indulgent R & R after a rough week of medical tests for our daughter .

While Saturday saw me catching the ferry to Palm Beach and time traveling back into my early 20s, on Sunday I caught a lift to nearby Avalon for a seriously indulgent feast. That’s right…food glorious food! So you can go stick your green smoothies and assorted super foods where the sun don’t shine. I’ve now subscribed to the pleasure principle and I’m in hot pursuit of some seriously indulgent foodie treats!!

Yoda has relocated to Sydney's Avalon Beach.

Yoda has been relocated to Sydney’s Avalon Beach.

My first stop was lunch at Yoda. Yoda is the sort of place you’d expect to find tucked away in an alleyway in South-East Asia. Yet, it has somehow astro-traveled to beach-side Sydney via the Millennium Falcon so now I can safely enjoy those authentic Asian flavours without catching some ghastly, turbo-charged, gastro bug. I’m not always an adventurous restaurant eater and often stick with what I’ve had before and really enjoyed. I don’t get to eat out all that often and so I don’t like taking chances. The food not only has to be good, it has to be something I love. L-O-V-E LOVE!! It also has to be better or different to what I cook at home and I’m a good cook. When we go to Yoda for dinner, I tend to order the Tea smoked duck with freshly spiced orange sauce & coriander salad or the Vietnamese chicken cabbage salad with peanuts, roast garlic & house dressing. These are both fabulous, authentic dishes. However, I thought I’d try something different and chose Laksa lemak which is a coconut soup with chicken, prawn, fishcake, noodles & cucumber/coriander salad. This was such a treat and I felt like I was casting a fishing line into the richly fragrant soup. Hey presto! I caught some octopus, fish cake and then a few prawns. It was such a treat and much more productive than any of our fishing expeditions where we’ve only caught fingerlings we had to throw back.The seafood was really well cooked and tender and the Laksa soup with it’s rich, aromatic flavours, was just divine.

However, the food wasn’t all I experienced at Yoda. As I shared in my previous post covering the ferry and bus ride over, when you travel alone you met such a smorgasbord of interesting characters.

Sitting at Yoda, the gentleman next to me struck up a conversation. I’m not saying he was trying to pick me up or anything like that. It’s just what Avalon is like…so community oriented and friendly that you don’t think twice about talking with total strangers. Anyway, my new-found friend is “batching” while his wife’s away for an extended time looking after her sick mum. This has left him in a bit of a spot. Should he spend month after month staying home in front of the box by himself or get out there and keep living? It’s a hard call. He kept saying: “you only come this way once”, which is so true. Nobody wants to waste whatever precious time they have left. From what I understand this means going out to see a few bands. Eating out. We all want to carpe diem seize the day but when you’re married and your partner is out of action for whatever reason, what are you supposed to do? Stop breathing? I don’t know. As an extrovert myself, I could sympathise.  We all have to get out, although that said, there are certain activities which should be curtailed.He told me his wife had called saying she’d heard he was at Palm Beach with a blond and he replied: “At my age, what did you expect me to have? A bucket & spade?” No to be fair, mentioning a blond conjures up all sorts of connotations where as if she’d been hanging out with a woman with glasses, for example, would it be so evocative? Anyway, he had a fine wit and certainly had me in stitches and I suspect he’s been up to no more mischief than wishing he was 21 again!

After indulging at Yoda, I headed across the road to Bookacino, a landmark Indy bookshop with a cafe out the back. For a die-hard bibliophile, Bookacino reminds me of exploring your grandparents’ home with all its nooks and crannies. Exploring row after row of titles, you never know what you might find and the new worlds those pages will open. Being an insatiable sticky beak, I just love it.

Of course, despite our cascading  columns of books and claustrophobically packed bookshelves, I can’t go into Bookacino without taking new “friends” home. After all, how could I ever leave a great book homeless and alone? Oh no! It needs love, family, a place to call home! This might sound like very faulty logic. After all, how could a book living in a crowded bookshop with thousands of friends, or possibly rivals, ever be considered homeless or even  alone? However, the heart tells a very different story. I hear its cries!!

This time, I walked out with The Art of Belonging by Australian social commentator, Hugh Mackay and a colouring-in book: The Impressionists. for our daughter.

Chocolate Cake heaven!!

Chocolate Cake heaven!!

Next stop was Cafe Ibiza. To be perfectly honest, I must confess that I wasn’t going there for health food. Rather, I was looking for the most indulgent, decadent chocolatey chocolate thingy that I could find.  Something so evil it would smash the evil calorie counter. What I found, even exceeded all of my superlatively luscious, chocolate fantasies. A simple chocolate cake warmed and smothered in chocolate sauce and as I ate the cake, the chocolate sauce became a sumptuous soup. I dove deep into its incredible depths and didn’t even rise to draw breath. Oooh! Death by chocolate never tasted so good!

Sumptuous Chocolate Soup

Sumptuous Chocolate Soup

After such indulgence, I’m of a view that “when you’re on a good thing, stick to it” and I’d much rather stick to an endless supply of chocolate sauce than a can of Mortein insect spray.

So now I’m on the search for the ultimate chocolate sauce recipe to hold me over until my return. It’s a matter of life and death!!

“The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate.”
― Sandra Boynton

After such therapeutic indulgence over the weekend, I’ve decided that I need to throw caution to the wind closer to home and break out more often. After all, we only live once!

xx Rowena

Why We Have Birthdays!

What with kids, dogs, activities and more et ceteras than we ever thought possible, at times my husband and I look at each other wondering: who on earth are you?
Far from being alone in all of this, we’re all guilty. Well, perhaps not all of us.
Anyway, this is why celebrating birthdays is so important. For at least one day of the year, each of us is special and we get our moment of glory in the spotlight as we glow in golden candlelight and actually blow out our own candles. That is, if the kids don’t beat us to it!

Happy Birthday Geoff...21 Again! (and again!!)

Happy Birthday Geoff…21 Again! (and again!!)

Last week, it was Geoff’s birthday and it is a sad reflection of my priorities that it’s almost taken me a week to wish him Happy Birthday on my blog. My justification is that I was too busy cooking up a birthday feast on the day and considering it was 40 degrees Celsius that was no mean feat. The chocolate for the cake had already melted before it hit the microwave and me along with it.

Geoff used to drive an Austen Healy Sprite which now in storage. I created this ceramic paint of the Spite seemingly flying along the Yellow Brick Road for his birthday before we got married. You could say the rubber hit the road what with the mortgage, kids and my health issues.

Geoff used to drive an Austen Healy Sprite which now in storage. I created this ceramic painting of the Spite seemingly flying along the Yellow Brick Road for his birthday before we got married. You could say that the rubber has since hit the road what with the mortgage, kids and my health issues.

Since then, I’ve been responding to my Versatile Blogger Award…shameful priorities, I know!
You would think that by the time you’re our age that birthdays wouldn’t matter anymore but for some reason birthdays always seem to be special. While I was having chemo, the very elderly man next to me remarked that it was his birthday and said: “I sure know how to pick ’em”. He was quite upset about being there for his birthday and I guess we all have that idea that birthdays are somehow sacred..no matter how old and supposedly “mature” we are. That we are somehow entitled to a Happy Birthday. That our birthday has to be special and we must be spoiled rotten. Moreover, if our birthday doesn’t go to plan, we somehow feel entitled to a refund or a repeat: “Play it again, Sam”.

Yummy Happy Birthday Lasagna!

Yummy Happy Birthday Lasagna!

In my usual style, I did what I always do for family birthdays. I cooked up a feast. The day before the birthday, had been relatively cool and that’s when I decided to make my variation of Jamie Oliver’s Lasagna. I’ve changed so much about the recipe that it really is my own dish now yet I still like to call it our: Jamie Oliver Lasagna. This is quite a luxurious lasagna dish with a layer of diced pumpkin roasted in “bruised” coriander seeds which I guess is what really gives it Jamie Oliver’s stamp. The point of cooking this fancy lasagne, of course, is to say I love you without words and through actions in a way that reheating a non-name frozen lasagna simply can’t achieve.

This birthday cake wasa a gushing, oozing waterfall of chocolate icing. Not one for the stylist!

This birthday cake was a gushing, oozing waterfall of chocolate icing. Not one for the stylist!

Likewise when it came to the home-made chocolate cake we had for dessert, our daughter sprinkled popping candy over the top and the chocolate icing cascaded over the side a little too enthusiastically creating a gushing waterfall or what my son unceremoniously  called: “a mess”! Although I would have preferred restaurant perfection, our creation was oozing with love and was absolutely scrumdiddillyumptuous!

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Miss made this card for Daddy. It shows the two of them working on our Morris Minor.

There was also a home-made birthday card.

Handwriting to warm up even the coldest of hearts. Happy Birthday Daddy love from Mister!

Handwriting to warm up even the coldest of hearts. Happy Birthday Daddy love from Mister!

Plus handwriting money can’t buy…

And move over Garfield, there were also two greedy dogs trying to ambush Geoff’s lasagna. For some reason, Lady considers the dining table an extension of her domain!

Happy Birthday Daddy xx Bilbo and Lady with Mum.

Happy Birthday Daddy xx Bilbo and Lady with Mum.

However, by going out to a restaurant or cooking something really basic, we do actually get more of a chance to talk and catch up instead of me exhausting myself over a very hot stove on a real scorcher of a day and then needing to clean it all up.

But when you show your love through cooking and infuse it into your food, there’s no other way to say Happy birthday…especially when you’re on a budget.

Sometimes all this family stuff can seem a bit sickly sweet and too “Brady Bunch” or “Happy Days”. However, for most families, these birthdays are just a temporary ceasefire on the home front. Time to lick your wounds. Take a deep breath and recuperate. Get fresh ammo. If you’re particularly blessed, you might even get to enjoy some leftover cake in relative peace and quiet the next day although don’t go getting your hopes up. This is real life… not some fantasy novel.

Somehow, birthdays often seem to bring out the worst in people too and it’s more than likely that your perfect birthday is going to descend into the war to end all wars. That instead of eating your cake, you end up feeding it to the dog…or perhaps the dog already beat you to it. You always need to be on the look out for little patch jobs on cakes.

That’s right. No one’s going to tell you that your cake has dog germs…especially not on your birthday!

xx Rowena

PS: In case you are wondering why Marge Simpson in a bikini was on Geoff’s birthday cake, it was left over from my 40th birthday cake. My best friend and I almost share birthdays and we had a Marge each on our cake.

Yoda: A Food Journey to SE Asia in Sydney.

For something like the last 3 months, I’ve been trying to write a post about our favourite restaurant, Yoda. Yoda is located in Avalon, just south of Palm Beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and specialises in South-East Asian street food.

I was quite excited when I stumbled across Yoda. It has been a long time since I’ve been able to visit SE Asia and when I was there last, I had the sort of lurid gastro that could’ve scored me a certain role in Monty Python’s movie The Meaning of Life. Therefore, I was looking forward to going into Yoda and having the whole Eat, Pray Love experience, close to home without getting sick.

Yoda is owned and operated by couple Michelle and Brendan. Brendan runs the kitchen. I don’t know what his official classification is whether he is a chef, a cook or just a brilliant actor but the food is sumptuously good. Michelle is the beaming smile who greets you on arrival and it doesn’t take long for you to feel right at home. Actually, when you dine at Yoda, you feel like you’re in their lounge room at a big dinner party. Of course, everybody sticks to their own table but being on the insular peninsula, everyone doesn’t quite know each other but there’s often a flash of recognition. We’re from out of town and even we knew someone. Of course, if you’re there for a romantic meal and just wanting to stare into each others’ eyes, you can also do that, although Yoda also home-delivers.

Yoda has what’s known as an open kitchen, which is located at the heart of the restaurant. This means diners can watch Brendan and his team at work, which certainly creates a bit of theatre. At the same time, I admire Michelle and Brendan’s courage. How many couples can work successfully together at all, let alone in the public pressure cooker environment of a hot, super busy, open restaurant kitchen? There’s no room for anyone to chuck a “Gordon Ramsay” let alone have a domestic. Yet, of course, Michelle and Brendan are all genuine smiles.

Our family at Yoda celebrating my birthday in July.

Our family at Yoda celebrating my birthday in July.

Even though we have been to Yoda quite a few times, I found writing about experiences proved so much harder than I’d thought. I wasn’t setting out to be a food or restaurant critic. I simply wanted to share a sensational experience. After all, vicarious experience is one of the beauties about blogging on the world wide web.

Not having written a restaurant review before, I wasn’t quite sure what to address and as I started thinking about the decor, my mind went blank. I just remembered Michelle’s beaming smile and the sumptuous flavours of the food and in particular the magnificent mango with sticky rice for dessert. I asked Geoff if he knew what colour the walls were and he replied very matter-of-factly: “How should I know? I don’t go to a restaurant based on the colour of the walls.”

Good point.

Of course, when we had been out to Yoda for dinner, I wasn’t in food critic mode and hadn’t taken along a note book, camera or even my phone. We were there to eat, chat and absorb the lively ambience. Anyway, I decided to cheat and we went back on Sunday afternoon with the kids and the dog in tow to do the required research. I know this might also sound funny but I also wanted to introduce Michelle to our dog Bilbo as she had been minding a friend’s Border Collie recently. Perhaps, you don’t know what it’s like but when you own or are even associated with the same breed of dog, you are virtually family. Moreover, that’s what Yoda is all about…warm, friendly and community-minded. It is also personal and of course, we’re all on a first name basis.

When we turned up unannounced, Brendan was more than happy for me to photograph the cooking in action and while looking at the kitchen through the focused gaze of my SLR, I appreciated the organisation that goes on behind a busy kitchen. There’s no time to pull the kitchen cupboard apart searching for that missing, essential ingredient or dash to the supermarket either. Behind all that friendly, casual dining is a lot of tight planning and organisation just like the duck who seemingly glides so effortlessly over the water while madly paddling its feet underwater.

Behind the relaxed, casual Yoda experience is detailed preparation and organisation.

Behind the relaxed, casual Yoda experience is detailed preparation and organisation.

I made a mental note. Perhaps, I, too, could become an oasis of calm organisation cooking at home.

I can also confirm that the walls were actually red, not orange.

However, I haven’t discussed the name.

Now, just in case you watch Big Bang Theory and you are thinking Yoda is just the place to take Sheldon out for dinner, it doesn’t have a Star Wars theme although there is a small statue of Yoda. However, all is not lost. On the 4th May each year, they have a Star Wars night to celebrate International Star Wars Day. (May the Fourth Be With You!)

Last, but certainly by no means least, there’s the food itself. The food has an exotic blend of Asian flavours which really tickled our taste buds. That’s my way of saying that I loved the food but am too unsophisticated to break it down into its individual components. My justification is that too much analysis can ruin a great meal!

The menu itself has been very carefully prepared and you’ll notice various symbols throughout as meals are marked child-friendly gluten-free and I believe the chilli is kept fairly mild because the menu asks you to tell them if you want it spicy.

Mister and I enjoying the Mussels steamed with coconut & ginger broth. The sauce was divine.

Mister and I enjoying the Mussels steamed with coconut & ginger broth. The sauce was divine.

We haven’t tried everything on the menu but my favourite main would be Vietnamese chicken cabbage salad with peanuts, roast garlic & house dressing for $18.00, although the Tea smoked duck with freshly spiced orange sauce & coriander salad at $20.00 is a close second. The whole family also enjoyed the Mussels steamed with coconut & ginger broth served with roti for $20.00…especially our ten year old son. We can’t go past the warm sticky rice, mango & coconut sauce for dessert although on our last visit we finally ventured out and ordered the Pandan creme brulee which is a traditional creme brulee infused with pandan.

Miss enjoys a non-alcoholic pina colada

Miss enjoys a non-alcoholic pina colada

We are regulars at Yoda and have been there for more intimate nights as a couple, as a family with the kids and also with my parents. Probably the best reference for the place comes from our kids who love the restaurant, love the food and actually eat. Michelle has actually been impressed at how they try new foods and flavours and are more adventurous than most kids. What she doesn’t realise is that our kids are both fairly light, picky eaters so it is a real testimony to the food.

Wally sought help from the Force and consulted Yoda.

Wally sought help from the Force and consulted Yoda.

So if you feel like paying Yoda a visit, here is their website which includes menus:http://www.yodafood.com.au/index.php

Enjoy!

xx Rowena

A Taste of Brazil

Last night, my husband and I went out on a date. The kids were having a sleep over at their grandparents’ place and my husband and I actually managed to go out with each other. That’s right. We actually went out on a date together! Hurray!

Instead of meeting up at the ubiquitous Town Hall Steps, which is the place to meet anyone in Sydney’s CBD, we met up in the back streets of Mona Vale which in located in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, about an hour’s drive north of the CBD. This is where my husband changes buses on his way home from work and I found a park around and around the corner. As it turned out, getting a parking spot wasn’t much of a problem . Even though it’s school holidays, Mona Vale wasn’t a thriving metropolis. Although to be fair, it is winter and this is a beach area. You’d have to be some kind of lunatic, a surfer or a kid to go swimming at the moment. It’s totally freezing and I’m actually starting to wonder whether we’ll be able to go ice skating on the Hawkesbury River soon. Despite those lying weather reports of daytime highs around 18 degrees celsius, it is definitely sub-zero here and icicles are dangling from the rafters.

Anyway, it’s been a long time since we’ve been out for dinner in Mona Vale and weren’t sure what to expect. We found a Lebanese place down a side street which looked interesting as well as the usual Thai and Indian places. The Thai place is very good (or at least it used to be) but I wasn’t in the mood for Thai. We were on a special night out and Thai felt a bit ordinary. We have Thai so often at home, that it’s now on par with baked beans on toast. I wanted something exotic which would not only tickle my taste buds but was also festive, lively and surrounded by people. I have spent the last week looking out at the sea and as much as I love the view, I needed to see some faces.

There were probably good places to eat out in Mona Vale but the overall atmosphere didn’t appeal and so we headed for Newport, which is the next beach down when you’re heading north towards Palm Beach. As we drove down the hill and hit the main drag, I remembered the Brazilian barbeque place we’d been wanting to try and that was it. We were going Brazilian.

Braza is what is what is known as a churrascaria, which means they barbeque meat in the traditional Brazilian way developed by the “Gauchos” or cowboys on the pampas in Southern Brazil around Rio Grande do Sol. The meat is generally marinated overnight in sea salt, garlic and lime and then it is roasted on a spit over a coal fire. Meat was traditionally sliced off and the Gauchos ate their fill. In keeping with this, the restaurant is “all you can eat” and provedores move from table to table offering beef, lamb, chicken, prawns, sausage and for the more adventurous, even chicken hearts.

Of course, we knew none of this when we walked in off the street. That’s one of the benefits of Google…being able to do your research and actually sound like you know what you’re talking about despite being ignorant. We had no idea what to expect and were totally impressed with what turned out of be a cultural and culinary adventure. We were two humble Australians without a passport or plane ticket, touching down in Rio experiencing World Cup soccer fever and the tastes,flavours, sounds and traditions of Brazil.

Initially, like when you try anything new, the whole Brazilian experience was a little overwhelming. The waitress was Brazilian with a strong accent and the menu was quite foreign, talking about this thing called “churrasco”. I read that it was “all you can eat”. I understood all about that from my high school “chew-and-spew” Chinese experiences where friends competed over who could down the most sweet and sour pork without exploding. Aside from that and a few of the side serves, the rest of the menu was foreign, different and very authentic. We were no longer in Newport. We were now tourists in Rio struggling with a foreign language, menu interspersed with English but fortunately a very helpful waitress appeared and came to our rescue. I don’t know whether she sensed our uneasiness but straight away she asked us whether we have been there before. Phew!!! She walked us through the menu. We order and almost immediately our sides appear and a Brazilian dude in a t-shirt, which I later learn is called a provedore, turns up with some huge king prawns on a plate. I’m sold. They are delicately cooked with a subtle flavour which I love but can’t place. I have so much to learn before I can become a Masterchef, or even write well about food and cooking. It’s not as easy as it looks and takes real talent.

We are three-quarters through dinner and starting to consider statements like “elegant sufficiency”, “riding the porcelain bus” while conjuring up images of medieval feasts and of course, that immortal scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, where Mr Creosote regurgitates gallons of minestrone with unforgettable force repainting the room. All these thoughts( or should I say warnings), are going up and down between my head and my stomach when drumming heralds the arrival of the much anticipated Brazilian dancers. When it comes to describing dancing, I really am attempting to write in a very foreign tongue. I love dancing but unlike singing, it’s not something I can do in the privacy of the shower without causing myself grievous bodily harm. So from what I can glean from Google, these dancers were doing the Samba and are referred to as Sambistas. Goodness knows what you call their luxurious, towering headpieces made of intensely colourful feathers and their itsy-bitsy teeny weeny bikinis which jingle jangle as they move rapidly yet smoothly like well-oiled machines. However, the drumming and the dancing certainly created the kind of electric, festive atmosphere I was looking for on our special night out and the place was packed.

By the end of the dancing, I was really reaching the end of my culinary road. Or, to be really honest, I had passed that point and was saving that very, very last rather borrowed space for something extra special and superlatively scrumptious.

That’s when the provedore offered us some of the barbequed pineapple, telling us that it was “good for digestion”. It didn’t take much encouragement to twist my very malleable, rubber arm. This pineapple, which had seemingly drenched in sugar and cinnamon before barbequing, was absolutely scrumdidillyumptious. Yum! Yum! Yum!

I think it is a measure of a truly excellent restaurant when you can be so completely transported beyond your current reality and into another world, even for just a few hours and be some place else. That’s what we experienced at Braza.

As the saying goes, we’ll be back.

Given all the excitement of the World Cup currently being held in Brazil, why don’t you get into the spirit and try a Brazilian Restaurant near you.

Xx Rowena

Featured image Source: Classic picanha cut of beef, sliced at a churrascaria, photo by Nikchick/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Wedding Anniversary by the Sea.

I was listening. I swear I was listening. I just wasn’t 100% focused. That’s all.

I know that as a loving, attentive wife, I should have been staring deeply into my beloved husband’s eyes at all times and not even remotely distracted, especially considering we were celebrating our wedding anniversary. Yet despite my very best efforts to be the perfect wife, my poor husband had some stiff competition.

No! I wasn’t checking out the scenery. Well, not THAT kind of scenery and especially not on our wedding anniversary. That would have been particularly poor form and I do have some standards. I was trying hard to listen. Be attentive. I know how precious these moments are because it’s not often that the two of us get away without the kids. I get that! I didn’t need to be reminded.

Yet, as much as I was trying to focus and connect with my husband, I still couldn’t take my eyes off the sea which stretched out all around us like a marvellous palette. The waves were frolicking in the warm spring sunshine gently rolling in towards the beach. As I watched the waves, I could feel my heart rate actually starting to slow as I lapsed into some kind of semi-dream state. I have painted the ocean a bit lately in an abstract kind of way and I could almost dip my finger in the foam and smear it across the canvas. It was absolutely gorgeous and only a thin pane of glass away.

How could I not be distracted, even just a little by such serene, almost heavenly beauty?

But we were not there to eat the view. We were there for the food although the view was a huge contributing factor. You see, we wanted to Immerse ourselves in some kind of divine culinary symphony where the food was so good that your eyes almost pop out of your head. We wanted the whole Masterchef type experience with our view of the ocean and the sandy beach right at our feet and we got it.

Who else would photograph a reflection of the view on the furniture?

This is why I was more than just a little distracted. The food was stimulating. The view was stimulating and we had a glass of sparkling wine each and you know what, my husband even told me a story I hadn’t heard before. You know after being married for 11 years how incredible that was! He was talking all about flying in a light aircraft in the Solomon Islands. I was pretty sure I’d heard all his old stories. I know he hasn’t heard all of my old stories but he’s heard all the stories he’s going to hear…at least from me!

Backtracking just a little, Geoff and I went out for lunch at a local restaurant to celebrate our 11th Wedding Anniversary. I’m pretty sure this is the first year that we haven’t gone away but in what looked like some kind of conspiracy, our weekend was even more cluttered than our house.  I don’t know why the world didn’t stop for us. After all, isn’t anything sacred? Apparently not!

With no hope of getting away, we decided to have lunch at a favourite local restaurant. Although this restaurant is only down the road, we haven’t been there for over 5 years. It’s been completely redecorated and changed hands in that time. If we liked it so much, why haven’t we been back? Have we been half-asleep or somehow trapped in Sleeping Beauty waiting for some kind of jolt to wake us up? As I said, it’s only down the road and last year we managed to get all the way to Silks at Leura in the Blue Mountains for our anniversary dinner. That was over 2 hours drive and an overnight stay away.

Why is it that “we” (and here I’m referring to the collective “we” because I know it isn’t just us) overlook so many great local gems and yet somehow manage to explore foreign fields? We miss out on so much! A few weeks ago, I drove all the way to Morpeth and back, which was close to a 4 hour round trip but I haven’t been on the ferry to Palm Beach for probably almost 5 years and that’s only a just short drive away. What is wrong with me? I talk all about carpe diem and all of that but I don’t put it into practice. I don’t live it.

But things are changing. I recently made a decision to explore somewhere local once a week and I’m pretty much pulling it off. The school holidays are coming up and I’m determined to explore our local beaches with the kids instead of just being lured like a moth into the bright lights of Sydney. I am determined to do it and will commit it to paper. Write a plan before my best intentions disappear into the ether again. That somehow happens to me a lot.

Anyway, back to our meal.

Cannoli filled with chocolate mouse. I apologise for the crumbs. It’s not quite the done thing to lick the plate when you’re out fine dining.

This meal also had a special resonance for me. Tomorrow, I am going back to the Brown Hospital (as the kids call it) for a repeat endoscopy. That means I’ll be fasting from 6.00AM. So I am conscious that this meal is very much like the last supper and the taste is therefore almost surreal. As much as I would like to just focus on the two of us, enjoy the meal and soak up the beautiful blue skies and the waves outside, I can’t help painting a few dark clouds on the horizon. No matter how much I try to “think positive”, “carpe diem…seize the day” and all that, life is what it is. It takes sun and rain to make a rainbow…light and dark. I love rainbows and paint them in my waking dreams. I guess that’s what it takes to make a rainbow but I would still love clear blue skies all the same!

But in the end as much as the company, the food and the view were all out of this world, like anyone who is caught up in the daily family cook fest, I was also grateful that the meal was:

a)      Cooked by someone else

b)      Didn’t come with a toy included.

c)      Child free

d)      Didn’t have to clean up afterwards

e)      Wasn’t served in a clear plastic container.

PS: Got through yesterday’s hospital visit much better than last time. Didn’t get quite so freaked out by the white hospital gown and woke up feeling very refreshed after a blissful sleep.

Must confess though that I did indulge in some chocolate cake on the way home. As I said, you always need to balance the light and the dark… beautiful dark chocolate flourless cake with a white chocolate button on top!

But… we did have a gorgeous healthy salad with the dinner tonight. I really am trying to eat healthy to be healthy. I’m about to take this to a whole new level so stay tuned. This is up there with the Tai Chi (I have been once) and takes a bit of educating, planning and commitment. I have to keep reminding myself that chocolate is not my friend but it can sound so convincing: “Don’t lie, Rowena! I know exactly how much you really love me!!!”

Wish me luck and an iron will to resist the temptation. I’m completely surrounded but I just need to practice the two-letter word….NO!

I’m sure I can do it!

xx Rowena