High Tea for 3

Some people may call me a pessimist, but I prefer to see myself as a realist.  I find it very hard to take what other’s may call a ‘really good deal’ at face value and I’m always looking for the catch.  As the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.  So when all these deal, coupon, group-buying websites burst on to the scene a few months back, I was very hesitant to jump on board.
But sometimes my stomach can overrule my head.  Which was the case when I saw a Scoopon deal for High Tea for two people at Museum of Sydney Cafe for $58.  I read the fine print over and over to make sure I wasn’t just paying for some scones and whipped cream, then I signed up.

Ever since my husband found out my sister organised high tea for me, her, our mum, my mother in-law to be and my brother’s girlfriend for part of my Hen’s day, he’s always wanted to attend high tea – you see, we’re kindred spirits in that we both share a love of cakes.  And to attend a meal where you’re presented with a selection of sweet treat equals heaven for the both of us 😀

MoS Cafe

The day we went was a glorious autumn’s day, I could’ve even thought it was summer.  The Scoopon was only valid for Sundays, which was fine for us as I hoped it would mean avoiding a bunch of Hens out on their Hen’s day.  Once seated we were offered sparkling Voss sparkling mineral water.  I’m usually not a fan of sparkling mineral water, but as we couldn’t get the attention of the waitress and I was quite thirsty after a walk from the car park station in the unusually warm weather, I downed half a glass before I realised it was sparkling and that I didn’t mind it at all.

Champers

The Scoopon also included a glass of Moët champagne on arrival, but I was a little disappointed that the waitress brought out glasses of champagne to the table and did not pour the glasses of champagne from the bottle.  In my books, I think that could leave room for a little cheating on the cafe’s part – how does the patron know they’re getting Moët?  It didn’t bother me too much as I’m not really a fan of Moët and I wasn’t drinking either that day.

Sandwiches

Another point of contention, our tower of food was served to us before we were asked whether or not we wanted tea.  So we started anyway with the ribbon sandwiches.  The bread was so pillowy soft especially the brown breads.  Our selection was one poached chicken, house made aioli and parsley ribbon sandwich, one smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese and two cucumber ribbon sandwiches.  Between the two of us.  It was at this point during the high tea, when I was mentally planning a solution to the usual moaning from my husband, complaining that we’ve gone out to eat somewhere and he hadn’t had enough to eat.

We halved the chicken and salmon sandwiches so we both could get a taste of each.  Both the chicken and salmon sandwiches were very tasty especially the chicken sandwich with the aioli.  The cucumber sandwich was quite bland, I’m not sure what was in with the cucumber, apparently it was aioli, but didn’t really add any flavour to the sandwich.

Quiches and Scones

Second level on our tower featured two varieties of quiches – mushroom and Lorraine and two types of scones – date (well a tiny piece of date on top of a plain scone) and plain.  Don’t ask me what was in the little ramekin next to the whipped cream, because I don’t know what it was.  I think it was a type of fruit chutney, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it as to exactly what it was.  It tasted nice, but I was expecting strawberry jam to go with the scones and cream.  This dish was a little Meh.  A bit of sustenance, but nothing to write home about.  The scones were ok, but after having Devonshire tea at Betty’s in York, UK, nothing beats clotted cream with scones.  The quiches were a tad undercooked – the pastry on the bottoms of the shells could’ve done with an extra 2 minutes or so in the oven.

Sweets

The top and favourite plate.  Sweets. Featuring cannoli filled with sweetened ricotta, strawberries dipped in ganache, chocolate cups filled with creme patissiere and mini cheesecakes.  I loved the little filled chocolate cups.  The strawberries were ok, but I prefer strawberries dipped in tempered chocolate so that you really have to bite to get into the strawberry then you have the shards of hard chocolate in your mouth with the soft juicy strawberry.  The cannoli were just the right size to go on a plate with sweets.  They were lovely, but my standards are pretty high for cannoli after visiting La Casa.  I’m not really a cheesecake fan, but these little mini ones were just the right size for me.  But the cannoli were definitely the highlight of the sweets plate for me.

Overall, for the price we paid for high tea for two, I can’t really complain too much.  We were fed and sated and luckily for me, Hubby didn’t complain that he was still hungry!

Oh, and if you’re wondering as to the title of this blog post, who the third person at the high tea was…. our first little Bump!  At the time of the high tea I was 10 weeks pregnant, now currently 25 weeks and yes, it’s taken me this long to blog about this day.  The biggest symptom I’ve had so far is tiredness – I’ve never felt so tired in all my life which has meant that any spare time I’ve had is either sleeping or just lying on the couch totally exhausted.  And that’s had the follow on effect of  hardly any cooking, definitely no baking or blogging.

But I’m glad to say, finally at 25 weeks, I feel like I’m getting back into my groove even to the point of meal planning for the week and some impromtu baking.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get a few more posts out before I’m back to feeling exhausted again 🙂

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Malaysian Food Kitchen Market

The Malaysian Food Kitchen Market was on in Sydney from Wednesday 16th till Friday 18th February in the State Theatre lane way, off George Street, which if you weren’t looking for it would be easily missed.  And if it wasn’t for some the lovely people I follow on Twitter, I wouldn’t have found out about this event until it was over.  Then I read Chocolatesuze’s, Grab Your Fork and Noodlies’ blog posts on the event and I knew I had to go.

For the past few months, I’ve had a bit of a fascination for Malaysian foods and in particular Mamak, which everyone seems to be raving on about.  But as well as raving about the food, there’s also lots of discussion on the huge lines and queueing required to dine there (at both the Haymarket and Chatswood restaurants).  So when I saw Mamak would be one of the restaurants featured at MFKM and the fact that is was $10 for 4 courses from some of Sydney’s best Malaysian restaurants and I couldn’t let the opportunity go by.

On the day I went  – lunch session on the last day, I made sure I got there nice and early as I heard the queues to get in were really long and each dining session was at capacity half an hour before it was due to start!  So I got there at about 11:15 for 12pm session and there were already 20 people lined up.  Within 15 minutes, the line was already 2 shops long down George Street.  Thank God I got there early!  By 11:40 the line started moving in, we paid our $10 and shuffled into the lane way for the next bit of lining up.

Lining up inside the lane way

After a short wait, we were ushered around the corner to where the tables were set up and the place looked pretty cool.  Yellow and orange lanterns hanging overhead with long communal tables with mirrored tops.  So purty!

We we were finally seated, I found out to my disappointment, there was no Mamak on for this lunch session.  Dammit!! I was really looking forward to their Roti Canai and Ayam Goreng (fried chicken) as seen here and here.  Oh well, guess it just means, I’ll have to join the queues with everyone else to try out the tasty morsels from Mamak 😦

As soon as we sit down, the food comes out.  First dish off the mark is from Kaki Lima.

This dish is Jahoran chicken and beef satay served with peanut sauce, cucumbers, onion and compressed rice.   I luuurved the peanut sauce on this dish, I was dipping everything in it – the rice and cucumbers.  It was sweet with just the smallest hint of heat in it.  The beef was a little too dry for my liking, so it went well when dipped in the sauce.

Next dish to come out was from Malacca Straits.

This dish was my favourite of the day.  It is a Penang chicken Kapitan – a Penang style mild chicken curry with lime juice, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, coconut and candle nuts served with steamed rice.  I definitely had a case of ‘eyes bigger than stomach’ when it came to this dish.  Each plate that was served was 2 servings, as I was dining on my own, I had the 2 servings of each dish all to myself 😀  It was mild (how I like my curries) with just a little bit of heat coming through.  It was fragrant, sweet and coconutty with plenty of chicken thigh pieces as well.  I actually wasn’t expecting as much chicken as I got as usually with these ‘tasting’ plates, you get lots of sauce and a bit of meat.  But I was very chuffed with this dish.  So I ate it all.  Not a good idea with 2 more dishes to come…

Next up was the Nasi Lemak from Jackie M.

The Nasi Lemak consists of fragrant coconut rice with anchovy sambal, peanuts, egg, cucumber and achar (pickled vegetables).  This dish was super tasty, no wonder it’s the national dish of Malaysia.  I loved the combinations of all the diffrerent textures and flavours in your mouth together, the sweet, sour crunchy and soft.  It’s definitely a dish I’d like to try again as I was really getting full about a quarter of the way through this dish.  My most favourite part of this dish was the little deep fried anchovy, I could even eat those on their own as a little snack food with a nice cool beer.  I did find the sambal a little too spicy when I ate it on it’s own, but combined with some rice and the achar, it toned it down a little.

By the time I got half way through my nasi lemak, I knew I was too full for anything else.

So when the vegetarian Gado Gado from Lees Malaysian came out, I knew I was too full for this.  It was a combination of cabbage, french beans, carrots, bean sprouts and crispy tofu with Lees signature sauce.  I had a few mouthfuls just to get a taste of the dish, but I found the sauce really spicy for my liking.  And a part from the sauce, it was just a bowl of blanched vegetables.  And speaking to the group of Malaysian ladies dining next to me, they were saying it wasn’t an authentic gado gado, so after hearing that, and listening to my stomach, I decided I’d had enough for the day and left the rest of the dish.  All I needed now was a fridge trolley to roll me outta the lane way.

All in all, I think the event as a whole was a great success, if the lines to get into each session is anything to go by.  And pricing it at $10 for 4 courses is a great way to introduce the cuisine to people who might not readily try it.

If you missed out this time, keep an eye on the Malaysian Kitchen Insiders Facebook page as they might put on another event later on this year seeing as this was such a success.

La Casa Risorante, Russell Lea

A few months back, when I first joined Twitter, there was a Media140 event for food bloggers and ‘foodies’.  The event featured a live cooking demonstration and lively debate on the role social media such as blogging, Twitter and 4Square have on the food industry.  Participants included said food bloggers and journalists, food suppliers, food business owners and consumers.  Mixy who is studying internet studies as part of her degree was keen on attending and I, being interested in food and the rise of social media also wanted to attend as my favourite food blogger, Lorraine, was a speaker at the event.

During the event we tweeted our thoughts and they were shown on a large monitor at the front of the room.  Afterwards, I was being followed (on Twitter, not literally :P) by @carmR, so I started following her as well and realised quickly that she’s the queen of Twitter and was a few months away from opening a restaurant – La Casa Ristorante at Russell Lea

La Casa has been open for about 5 weeks and has been getting rave reviews from both food bloggers and mainstream media.  Twitter was abuzz for La Casa.  A lot of the people I follow were posting photos and raving afterwards of the food and service.  I thought, I need to check this place out QUICKSMART!  I did a quick Google search for La Casa to see what other photos and reviews were out there and I came across Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s blog post about eating at La Casa and I was hooked even more.

So that brings me to last Thursday. Sitting at work, lost in the oblivion of repetetive clicking of the mouse and staring at the computer monitor, I hear a ‘Ting! Ting!’  A message from my brother’s girlfriend, A.  She starts with the usual salutations then at the end of the SMS the words “I’m Engaged”  Woo Hoo!!  After calling to congratulate her and find out all the necessary details, my next thought is: We need to celebrate and I know the perfect place! 🙂  I give the restaurant a call after work and Carm tells me there’s probably no chance of getting a table, but she’ll see.  A few minutes later and she calls back to say nothing available around 8, but I could get 8:30.  Hmm, too late for us for dinner (especially on a ‘school night’) so I have to turn the table down.  Doh!!  So close to getting what I had my heart set on, but no cigar 😦
Then then phone rings again.  Ooh, same number that called before.  I answer with a tentative “Hello?”  Carm’s excited voice replies “Guess what Toni?  There’s been a cancellation! We can fit your party in at 8!”  Yaaaay!

Hubby, Mixy and I arrive early.  We are quickly greeted by one of the wait staff then Tony (Carm’s brother) comes over to greet us.  As our table isn’t free yet, he directs us over to the bar where we can have a drink while we wait.  And there she was.  The bundle of energy I only knew as @carmR standing there with a huge grin on her face, arms outstretched as she’s recognised me from my avatar.  Carm greets me with kisses and the same warmth is extended to my husband and Mixy.  I’ve never met Carm before, but she welcomes us like long time friends and introduces us to Tony and Smiley (Carm’s husband), who works the bar.  We order some drinks – me: a Bellini, Hubby: a Stella and Mixy: a dirty martini (Smiley makes a mean martini :)) and in amongst answering the phone, ringing up the bill for tables and calling Papa to see if he can bring in some milk to restock the fridge, Carm has a chat with us and tells us there are some other Tweeps in the house.  Then she informs me, she’s been telling some of her follwers that she’s being followed by Toni Tones (AKA, me!) who is an actress and singer!!!  I nearly fell off the stool laughing!!

While we were at the bar also, I read one of the restaurant reviews on La Casa and found out that Tony use to work at Napoli on Bocca in Haberfield which used to be one of mine, my husband and a friend of our’s usual Italian.  Every monday night, we used to play tennis at Haberfield Tennis Centre, finish at 8 then head over to Napoli on Bocca for a garlic pizza to share and mains.  And boy, the pizzas were good!  Lovely thin base, fluffly light crust mmm mmm.  But sadly, cold winter nights and injuries (and me working every 3rd Monday night) put a temporary hold on the tennis nights which in turn put a hold on Napoli…
So there was no guessing that we were very excited to read that the pizza maker from Napoli had also come over to La Casa!!! F. T. W.  Well, that sorted the starters out – pizzas to share!

Our table was ready and the rest of our party arrived, which was very good timing as the smells coming from the kitchen was making me salivate.  From all the blog posts I read I had a fairly good idea what I wanted for mains, the only problem was it was half the menu!!  So I tried my best to influence everyone on what to order so I could have a bit… heh heh heh.  I definately wanted to try the slow cooked rabbit in tomato and balsamic and I knew it would be easier to order that for myself instead of trying to get someone else.  I just had to convince someone else to get the ribs, papardelle, penne…
(I have to apologise now for no photos of dishes, but have a look at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for some good photos :))

First to come out were the pizzas.  OMG.  Just burting with flavours!  We got the Bresaola and the San Daniele pizzas.  Delicious.  Definately on list again for our next visit.  The pizza bases were just like we remembered from Napoli on Bocca, but these were better – not as saucy so not as ‘sloppy’.  Perfecto!

As well as bringing a bottle of sparkling red, we ordered from the wine list – some very nice options.  I’d heard about the “Foreign Minister” which I will definately try next time, but on this night I ordered a glass of the Cab Sav and Mixy ordered a glass of the “Puglia”.  Both very good reds, but the Puglia is my kind of wine – smooth and full bodied, very easy to drink 😉

The pizzas and mains were spaced out nicely giving the happyily engaged couple a chance to fill us in on all the little details of the proposal as our mains arrive.  My rabbit smelt delicious.  Hubby’s ordered the lasagna, Mixy the John Dory, A the fettucini and J the Barramundi.  All the dishes were  very tasty and beautifully presented.  My rabbit was so tender, the meat falling off the bones.  The idea of having a dish described as ‘sweet and sour’ was a little strange, but as soon has a had my first mouthful I got it.  The tomato stew had a slight zing to it (I guess from the balsamic vinegar), but it was deliciously sweet.  I’m not usually a fan of tomatoe-y sauces (give me a creamy pasta any day!), but I couldn’t get enough of this.  And thankfully it came with a piece of bread to mop up all the lovely sauce.
Hubby was very impressed with his lasagna.  For him, lasagna is his ‘yardstick’ for Italian restaurants.  And La Casa goes to the top of the list.  Now, he usually eats fast, but this night he inhaled his food.  So quick that Carm missed out on a chance to feed him,  though she did feed J some fish 🙂

Finishing mains always gets me excited because it means it’s dessert time 😀  I’d seen photos of gorgeous looking cannoli on Fig Jam & Lime Cordial so I only had eyes (and tastebuds) for the cannoli.  Hubby ordered the frangipane tart, Mixy couldn’t go past gelato and A the tiramisu.  We were all happy customers, sitting quietly bar a few ‘mmms’ and ‘oohs’, transfixed by our desserts.  There was a bit of sharing between us to get a taste of each other’s desserts, but I think no one was really keen on sharing…

We all came away very satisfied and happy.  Me moreso because I was pretty chuffed I recommended somewhere new to go for dinner and everyone was very happy and satisfied; I met Carm and her family and they were so welcoming and hospitable and instantly made us feel like long lost friends and because my brother finally proposed to his girlfriend.

We will definately return to La Casa.

Complimentary massage from Smiley

La Casa Ristorante
271 Lyons Rd, Russell Lea
Ph 9712 3882
www.lacasarisorante.com.au

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