Friday, June 29, 2012
My friends are the best in the world. Seriously. Steph and Karen gave me the choice to go anywhere in Sydney for my birthday lunch, and after much deliberation I picked a restaurant I'd been meaning to try for a while, Orto Trading Co in Surry Hills. Nestled in right next to El Capo and Izakaya Fujiama (both awesome) on Waterloo St, the three restaurants couldn't be more different to each other, but I guess that's why it works.
It was a gorgeous sunny day and the restaurant space was light, bright and airy with pretty flowers hanging in bottles over the bar for a cool design feature. Though it was so light and bright that as the afternoon went on we found our table in full sun even though we were inside and were almost sweltering. Crazy for winter!
I think on your birthday you're allowed cocktails for breakfast right?? I had the Espresso Martini, which was one of the best I've tried (and I've had a fair few in my time!) with the perfect hit of caffeine and of course booze, made with Belvedere Vodka, Brinley Gold Vanilla Rum and Kahlua.
Karen got the pretty pink drink you see in the back there, a Berry Fizz with house made berry sorbet and Prosecco, and Steph decided on the Bloody Mary, made with basil-infused vodka, muddled heirloom tomatoes, tobasco, worcestershire sauce and lime. I'd never actually tried one before (not a huge fan of tomato juice) but surprisingly I quite liked it. The kick of tobasco will definitely wake you up! Plus, it had a stripy straw! This is definitely my kind of place.
As is our usual custom, we ordered way too much food, starting with this unexpectedly generous serving of crispy whitebait to snack on. I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed these, especially with the tarragon aioli. They would be perfect to snack on with a glass of wine too. Yum!
Look at this beauty! The Ploughman's Lunch was served on a rustic wooden board with duck scotch egg (I didn't try this, but Steph and Karen thought it was great), house made pickles, a hunk of cheddar, wagyu silverside and house-baked sourdough rolls. We enjoyed nibbling away at the various components of this colourful dish.
We had a tough time deciding between this dish and the Boston Baked Beans with Pork Belly, but the Bangers and Mash won out and boy am I glad we chose this because it was our favourite of the day. Actually it was the only dish we managed to finish! The pork, sage and prune sausages were house made, and I loved the use of colcannon mash instead of standard mash, that was strewn with red cabage and silverbeet. And that delicious onion jus brought all the flavours together. I'd definitely come back for this dish.
Okay, so I know waffles are technically a breakfast dish, but we saved this one for our "dessert" and I must say, they were still crispy and delicious when we finally got to eating them! The cinnamon butter was out-of-this-world good, plus I liked the nice crunch from the walnuts. Orto's waffles are served with seasonal fruit, in this case poached pear. Sooo good.
I really enjoyed the food, drinks and lovely decor, although the service was a little aloof and occasionally slow. Orto Trading Co is a great brunch spot, and I love reading "house made" so many times on one menu, from the jams to the sausages to the bread rolls. Their garden of herb and flower pots outside is really nice too. And any place that serves breakfast cocktails is fine by me! I'll definitely be back.
Orto Trading Co, 38 Waterloo St, Surry Hills Ph: 0431 212 453
Monday, June 18, 2012
I've come to the conclusion that I don't blog with sprinkles often enough. It always makes me so happy when I do, so I have set about remedying this sad situation! It did help that it was my birthday over the weekend and instead of a traditional cake, I thought I'd experiment with "cake" flavouring (I've been reading the Momofuku Milkbar cookbook, can you tell?) and that led me to these sprinkle-ful birthday cake marshmallows.
I've been kinda obsessed with the idea since we had cake batter ice cream at Cold Rock a few months ago (with smashed up freckles in it for good measure) and it was amazing. If you didn't know what the flavour was, it might be hard to pick. It's definitely vanilla-y but it's so much more than that. These marshmallows really do taste like vanilla birthday cake. I will say it has been quite a while since I've bought a cake mix though!
The last few times I've made marshmallows I've had some trouble when adding flavourings, as my mixture would deflate when they were beaten in. So my biggest tip would be to carefully fold in your flavourings after the marshmallow mixture has become thick and fluffy, whether the flavour be liquid or powder like this recipe, I've personally just had more luck with it this way.
I decided to make 2 layers of marshmallow, a while one with sprinkles (although they all sank to the bottom) and a pink one on top. I’m pretty thrilled with how they turned out and looking forward to experimenting both with more marshmallow flavours (because homemade ones are about a hundred million times better than storebought – no exaggeration) and of course more ways to utilise vanilla cake flavour in other desserts!
Photo by Raspberri Cupcakes
Also speaking of birthdays, you have to check out this seriously amazing cake that Steph made for me. She knows me so well - Pimms is one of my favourite drinks and she's managed to combine so many of my favourite things all in the one beautiful cake - ginger sponge, strawberry Pimms jam, and interestingly enough there's cucumber purée in the icing. It's absolutely delicious. And if that wasn't enough, Steph and Karen took me out to lunch as well, but more on that later in the week. Thank you so much for making my birthday so much fun xxx
Thursday, June 14, 2012
I wasn't sure how to start this post, because really, these mini bundt cakes were not at all what I had planned to bake last weekend. I had visions of a wintery cake, maybe some brioche and if I got time, a batch of fun sprinkle-covered marshmallows, but I spied some cute mini bundt tins while shopping for something else entirely and thought about the Meyer lemons I had at home from my tree, Sparky. And then it all fell into place.
One of the most important lessons I've been learning lately is to just go with it and see where I end up. I've fallen into quite a few serendipitous opportunities, which never would have happened if I kept trying to force things to happen. So maybe there's something to this whole "come what may" mindset...
Anyway, back to the cake! I based the recipe off Sweetapolita's vanilla bean bundt, which was so lovely the last time I made it. I stayed fairly close to the recipe except of course for adding lemon juice and zest, and reducing the sugar a little since I would be covering the outside with a zesty lemon sugar coating, inspired by Donna Hay's spiced version. Also, I halved the quantity which was the perfect amount for 4 smaller bundt tins. The lemon flavour came through beautifully and we all loved these sunny little cakes.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I was about 9 years old when we moved into our house, which at the time had beautiful gardens lovingly tended by the retired couple that lived here before us. I would spend hours outside, chasing my chickens to try and catch them and pet them (which they probably hated me for) and pretending I had my own secret garden - it was one of my favourite movies. I have some great memories of those times, and I have to say that is what I thought of when I visited The Grounds in Alexandria.
Located right next door to 4143 at the James Barnes, the gardens outside feel a world away from the industrial surroundings, yet the warehouse space feels just right. I was surprised at how busy they were for a Monday lunchtime, but the 15 minute wait for a table allowed us to scope out the veggie patches, say hello to the chickens, and take some gorgeous photos.
In fact, I found it hard to stop taking photos of the beautiful space, and now sorting through the 90-odd snaps, I’d be back there tomorrow if I could. Yep, it’s that good. If you were facing a longer wait (I hear on weekends the wait time can be up to an hour!) you can grab a take away coffee and enjoy it at one of the lovely garden tables. Flowers are planted in all manner of vessels, from recycled cans to cute retro wagons. I wish this was my backyard.
We were shown to our table inside and I ordered a long black coffee and was treated to one of the best coffees I've had in a while, probably the best I've had since visiting St Ali in Melbourne and possibly one of the best I've had in Sydney ever. I usually like my coffee very strong and quite sweet, but this was such a smooth blend, I could have skipped the sugar entirely.
Steve ordered the Chicken Schnitzel, which came in a very generous serving with an interesting slaw on the side - red cabbage and sultanas studded through it. The extra-crunchy coating on the schnitzel looked like it had cornflakes in it - an interesting twist. The chicken could have been a little more juicy, but was delicious nonetheless.
A side of chips turned out to be a very wise decision, as they were kind of a stand out! I'm continually frustrated by restaurants charging up to $10 these days for a side of soggy fries, but these were earth-shatteringly crisp, perfectly cooked and definitely worth a try.
It was a tough decision for me as I liked the look of, practically everything on the menu, but went for the slow-braised lamb shoulder sandwich on our waitresses recommendation. The meat was fall-apart tender and the sandwich was stuffed with lettuce, roasted capsicum, house-made pesto and apparently spiced eggplant, although unfortunately I couldn't really taste it in there.
"The Bakery" as they called it was a cabinet at the counter filled with all manner of delicious looking sweet treats from tarts to brownies, carrot cake to banana bread. After much deliberation, I settled on an almond and rhubarb tart, and Steve chose a strawberry and white chocolate muffin. They were the perfect end to the meal, with a rustic look that suited the place perfectly. The tarts come from Luxe Bakery in Newtown, which is also on the list as a must-visit.
The weekday crowd was a quite a mix of different people - from suits on their lunch break to a table of young creatives catching up, a few yuppie mums with their kids on the balcony and at least one mother-daughter catch up. I can see why this place is busy though, because it ticks all the boxes - great food, coffee, atmosphere and prices - and those things are worth waiting for. I'm looking forward to coming back for brunch in the near future - there's some brioche french toast with my name on it!
The Grounds of Alexandria, Building 7A, 2 Huntley St Alexandria