31 January 2010

McDonald's: The illusion of the perfect Big Mac, Randwick (31 Jan 2010)

73 Belmore Road, Randwick NSW 2031

Lazy Sunday Lunch

So hands up those who have ever had a Big Mac that actually looks like the advertising menu. Anyone? No one?

I actually used to work for McDonald's when I was a young one for about 5 and a half years and even when I cooked a Big Mac for myself with much care and attention to detail I still couldn't make it look like the advertising photos — hence the power and illusion of advertising aka Photoshop and Food Stylist. As I'm sure most of you know the celebrities are also reliant on having their photos retouched too — no wonder we have so many self-esteem problems in our society. And now that my Big Mac has provided 44% of my daily saturated fat intake along with 50% of my protein and 42% of my sodium I think I'll go for a nanna nap while my sugar rush subsides to normal levels.

PROS: Cheap, Quick, Easy, Childhood memories
CONS: Waistline, High in saturated fat and sugar
MUST TRY: Not eating it too often

The way it will never look when you get one

Reality – Big Mac and French Fries.

% Daily intake — I'm now halfway through my protein for the day.

Before and after photoshop — if only magazines showed the truth.

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30 January 2010

Chef's Armoury: Professional Knife Sharpening Service, Rosebery (30 Jan 2010)

Shop 251, 747 Botany Road, Rosebery NSW 2018

Finally sharp knives again

I've been using my set of Mundial knives for about nine years now and have not sharpened them once until today and what a difference it makes. They used to struggle cutting a tomato but now they slice them beautifully and it even makes a scary 'Freddy Krueger' slicing sound on the wooden cutting board which I've never heard before — probably because it's been so long since they were actually sharp. The Chef's Armoury provide a same day service which is good if you just want to drop them off and pick them up later in the day. They also have knife sharpening classes and food tasting events which I hope to check out like the Wagyu Tasting Event, oh yeah! Hopefully I won't take as long to sharpen them next time because it makes such a difference having super sharp knives — check out my video of the paper cutting test below.

Other visits to Chef's Armoury:
19 June 2010 - Japanese Stocks and Soups
15 May 2010 - How to make Takoyaki (fried balls of octopus)
27 Mar 2010 - Wagyu Tasting
30 Jan 2010 - Professional Knife Sharpening Service

PROS: Friendly and professional same day service
CONS: Finding time to get to the store
MUST TRY: Wagyu Tasting Event

Water cooled sharpening stones used

Chop and knives display

Shop front


Free events

My new sharpened knives

Top: New sharpened knife, Bottom: Old knife unsharpened

Prices: less than 10 cm $8, 10 to 18 cm $11, 18-26 cm $15

The sharpness test

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28 January 2010

Hotel Chocolat: Dipping Adventure, United Kingdom (19 Jan 2010)


For the love of chocolate

This generous Christmas gift for Chef Loz made it all the way over from the UK to Sydney. The four pots of chocolate are heated up in a microwave before dipping your preferred sweet delights. The pots included white, caramel milk, 40% milk and my preferred 74% dark chocolate. The fudge was my favourite for dipping along with your classic marshmallow. Other dippers included were florentines, brazil nuts, breadsticks, gianduja cubes and sesame & sea salt paper waffles. Part of the challenge of dipping was trying to get your dipped item back to your plate without making a mess. The table ended up looking a bit like a chinese yum cha with spillage everywhere due to malfunctioning wooden chopsticks — that's our excuse anyway.

There was enough for five people to share with left over chocolate to make a morning hot chocolate out of. I'll definitely have to look out for the stores over in the UK when visiting next time.

PROS: It's chocolate!
CONS: Can be messy and increase your waistline
MUST TRY: 74% Dark Chocolate with Caramel Fudge

26 January 2010

Chish n Fips: Australia Day Lunch, Coogee (26 Jan 2010)

Cnr Arden Street and Coogee Bay Road, Coogee NSW 2034

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! ...

'I would like to show my respect and Acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land, of Elders past and present, on which this eating takes place'

Whether you're celebrating Happy Australia Day or commiserating Invasion Day, there's one thing for certain, many Australians love being patriotic with their proud display of Australian flags and fake tattoos, beach towels and swimwear at the beach. I'm sure many will be feasting on beer and BBQ while I enjoy my equally Aussie passion for fish n chips in the sunny weather.

Chish n Fips seems to occupy a heritage tram shelter in the middle of Coogee Beach. It's in a prime location for the beach goers passing by. The service is efficient and friendly and seems fairly reasonably priced. It's pretty basic fish and chips with no hidden surprises although the tartare sauce is quite nice. The fish fillet is on the thin side and I've had crispier batter but it's all pretty decent. Calamari rings are quite small and have about as much crumbing as calamari. They have a few salads to choose from which is good.

PROS: Close to beach, convenient, efficient service
CONS: Parking, backpackers
MUST TRY: Tartare sauce, finding a shady spot

Fish, Chips and Salad $11.90

Crumbed Calamari, Chips and Salad $11.90

Tartare sauce $2.50 (large)

The bill


Menu and service counter

Shop front

Coogee Beach

Beach volleyball

Coogee beach rock pool

Surf rescue

Table with a view

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Gertie&Gilbert Cupcakes: Secret Indulgences, Smithfield (25 Jan 2010)

Shop 1, 694 The Horsely Drive, Smithfield NSW 2164
Shop front hours: Wed, Thur, Fri 8.30 am – 3.30 pm
Every Saturday at the Warwick Farm Trackside Markets

Moist cupcakes with real flavour

"At Gertie&Gilbert we believe that every bite should awaken a little trip down memory lane of childhood favorites, secret indulgences and sharing moments of sheer happiness"

Gertie&Gilbert Cupcakes are tucked away in the semi-industrial main street of Smithfield and promote themselves as specialising in designing uniquely themed cupcake stands for all occasions. Cupcakes are made from scratch using the finest ingredients and don't use any preservatives or additives. How could I say no when the owner Kym Latter contacted me to sample her cupcakes to provide her some feedback — she hand delivered eight different regular sized cupcakes which retail at $3 each.

I could sadly not test alone (guilt is a terrible thing) so I shared with four friends on Australia Day eve. The delightful looking cupcakes were first cut into six pieces each which provided a crumble test which you wouldn't usually do anyway. Banana Bliss, Ultimate Chocolate, Heavenly Hazelnut and Poppy Sunshine came out best while the others didn't hold their shape as well. Then began the taste testing starting from the light coloured Banana Bliss and continuing to end on the darkest Ultimate Chocolate. We all noticed that the cake itself was a lot more moist and tasty than many others we've tried like Cupcakes on Pitt and The Cupcake Bakery which tend to have the same cake base and use different flavoured icings on top. Most of the cupcakes had a distinctive taste and my favourite was the Banana Bliss for it's taste and resilient crumble factor — I also enjoyed the taste of the Heavenly Hazelnut. Favourites for others around the table were Luscious Lemon and Ultimate Chocolate. The least preferred were the Poppy Sunshine (very citrusy icing), Cappuccino Crush and Vanilla Passion which we thought needed more vanilla taste although if it was named just Passionfruit then we wouldn't be expecting to taste any vanilla.

Gertie&Gilbert Cupcakes uses a base of either almond-meal or hazelnut-meal for most cakes (except the Ultimate Chocolate and Apple Royale) with a small amount of flour for stabilizing, and oil instead of butter to create a cake texture that is more moist. Frostings range from smooth poured 'flat' icings and ganaches to thick, lush 'buttercreams'; incorporating either 100% full cream milk or fresh fruit juice/pulp. I look forward to trying their other standard flavours and depending on season they sometimes create special flavours like Rhubarb Rumble in winter. Will they be the 'best' cupcakes in Sydney?

PROS: Moist cake, Real flavoured toppings and cake
CONS: Smithfield, Find a cafe that sells them, Visit Warwick Farm Markets
MUST TRY: Banana Bliss
Other cupcake places tried:
Gertie&Gilbert Cupcakes - 25 Jan 2010
Alanna's - 14 Oct 2009
The Cupcake Princess - 10 Oct 2009

Ultimate Chocolate, Banana Bliss, Poppy Sunshine, Cappuccino Crush, Vanilla Passion, Heavenly Hazelnut, Luscious Lemon. Other flavours not sampled are Apple Royale, Classic Chocolate and Va-va Vanilla.

Banana Bliss: Fragrant, banana cake with creamy vanilla frosting and white chocolate.
TASTING NOTES: Good banana flavour (4 real bananas used in every 12 cakes)

Vanilla Passionfruit: Delicate, vanilla cake with tropical passionfruit frosting.
TASTING NOTES: Would like to taste more vanilla. Definite taste of passionfruit (real passionfruit pulp used).

Poppy Sunshine: Stunning, marmalade and poppyseed cake with fresh lemon frosting.
CRUMBLE FACTOR: Fairly stable
TASTING NOTES: Reminded me of a orange and poppyseed friand. Very citrusy icing. Would like to see and taste more noticeable orange peeling in cake.

Luscious Lemon: Refreshing, lemon and pistachio cake with zesty lemon frosting.
TASTING NOTES: My brothers favourite. Hand-squeezed lemons used in the icing.

Cappuccino Crush: Full-bodied, espresso cake with velvety espresso frosting rolled in crushed walnut.
CRUMBLE FACTOR: Very delicate
TASTING NOTES: Definite taste of coffee but the least liked. I didn't mind it but visually thought it was going to be a carrot cake. Would suggest coffee icing with a chocolate coated coffee bean on top.

Heavenly Hazelnut: Rich, chocolate and hazelnut cake with decadent ganache.
CRUMBLE FACTOR: Fairly stable
TASTING NOTES: Tasted like a hazelnut cake rather than a traditional cupcake.

Ultimate Chocolate: Super-rich chocolate fudge cake with gorgeous chocolate frosting.
TASTING NOTES: The heaviest and richest tasting. Like a chocolate mud cake. Uses dutch cocoa and 85% dark chocolate.

Gertie&Gilbert Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

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