Thursday, July 28, 2011

Era Bistro

It has taking me three years part time to complete my Masters Degree. That's 36 months, 1095.7266 days, 1577846.3 minutes or in my world, ages! So after the graduation ceremony, the family ambled from the Queensland Performing Arts Complex to Era Bistro. Era offers modern Australian cuisine in a contemporary setting and is split into two areas, casual cafe style dining or the fine dining restaurant. Though I would have loved to have stayed outside, we decided to selected the fine dining area and indulge in the Discovery Menu. The Discovery Menu is Era Bistro's disgustation and is updated monthly.

The July Discovery Menu opened with Seared Scallops, Duck Rillettes, Girolles, Asparagus and Chorizo Veloute. I found the amount of seasoning confronting initally but as my taste buds adjusted, I came to appreciate how harmous this dish was. I adored the texture of the Duck Rillettes and if I wasn't being polite I would have lifted the dish to my face and licked up the Veloute Sauce. Veloute Sauce is a French sauce and designated as one of the four "mother sauces" (along with Allemande, Bechamel and Espagnole) by Antonin Careme.

The next dish to follow was Pig Trotter with Chicken Mousse, Soft White Polenta, Apples, Bacon and Calvados Jus. Pork and apple is a classic combination but I appreciated Marcus Turner's bold decision to use a cheaper cut of meat. This cut is full of collagen and when it is well cooked the Trotter just melts away. I thought this dish was quite beautiful.

To cleanse the palate a small glass of peach sorbet was served. The peach flavour was evident and the sorbet had a balanced and natural sweetness.

Black Angus Beef Fillet, Spinach, Dauphinoise Potato with Red Wine Jus. This was a robust, comfort food dish. You would think that the Black Angus Beef Fillet was the star, but everyone at the table just loved the Dauphinoise Potato. Though you can never go wrong with cheese, cream and potato, there is something so dainty about dissecting the paper thin slices of potato.

I assumed that the next course would be served as a share plate, but it can individually plated. The Ashgrove Farm Cheddar (Tasmania) was mild and worked well with the Lavosh. Mind you I had no other choice as I had already enjoyed the French Buche D'Affinois Brie with Walnut Taste and a generous spread of Fig Chutney.

Era's dessert menu looks like a window into Heaven as it currently features:

  • Hot Apple and Apricot Strudel, Butterscotch Sauce and Cinnamon Ice

  • Strawberry Cream, Milk Crumbs, White Chocolate Sponge, Strawberries and Chantilly

  • Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, Biscotti and Chocolate Sorbet

  • Hot Banana and Chocolate Beignets, Honeycomb, Peanut Butter and Milk Sorbet

  • Upside Down Lemon Tart, Blackcurrent Coulis, Lime Curd and Meringue

  • Churros (Spanish Cinnamon Doughnuts) with Hot Chocolate Sauce

So I was slightly disappointed with July's choice of Chocolate Parfait, Cardomom Custard, Mandarin Puree, Cocoa and Citrus Glass. However the Chocolate Parfait was just so much lighter than I expected, once it melted in your mouth it was like mousse. Roll the parfait with cocoa crumbs and oh my goodness amazing! In fact the whole experience was just gorgeous, the Discovery Menu is $85 per person, or $130 with wine. Best enjoyed on a Saturday night, celebrating something special.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Address: 102 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane, QLD 4101.
Open: Lunch, 7 days a week: 11:30am - 2:30pm. Dinner, Monday to Saturday: 5:30pm - 10:30pm.
Phone: (07) 3255 2033.
Price: Entree: $21 - $27, Main: $39 - $43, Dessert: $9 - $16.

Era Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An open address to Queen Elizabeth II

Your Majesty,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and high spirits. I would like to congratulate you in advance on the upcoming Diamond Jubilee which will mark the 60th anniversary of your accession to the throne of several countries (2012).

One of the books residing on my bookshelf is Eating with Emperors by Jake Smith and he claims that Queen Mary, paramour of King George V, introduced a system for daily communication with the Royal Chef. This red leather bound book allows the Royal Chef to make menu suggestions and the Ruler to make amendments and any feedback necessary. The book further claims that you still uphold this fine tradition.

If I may be so bold your Majesty, I would like to table a suggestion to ensure you reach your much anticipated milestone as a fully prepared and complete individual. I think it is absolutely marvelous that you are a skilled enough to hunter to provide fresh pheasants for your own table (this is especially useful in a zombie apocalypse), an accomplished rider and patron to hundreds of charities ... but I don't think you have lived until you understand the joy of licking the remnants out of a bowl of uncooked cake batter.

There is nothing as delicious as making a cake and then fighting with your partner or sibling for the bowl or beaters. My favourite uncooked cake batter happens to be chocolate cake and I highly recommend using the full length of your index finger to scrap the circumference of the bowl. For a really clean job and to maximise the job, then a rubber or silicone spatula is the tool of choice. But if you happen to only receive the beaters, then you need to ensure that you switch off the power and remove them from the mix master. Take the beater and ensure you guide your tongue along each plane. Please note you will look silly, you may get batter on your face so I would recommend dismissing all commoners and servants. This activity should also be shared with a loved one who has a great sense of humour. Though Prince Harry looks like a hoot, I would perhaps opt for Prince Philip as there would be a more even match in strength, thus you may be able to capture the lion's share in this noble Australian past time. I do appreciate your majesty's consideration in this matter.

I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty's humble and obedient subject,

Friday, July 22, 2011


Yuppies, New Age Hipsters or Wankers as they are more colloquially called in Queensland often reside in small family units within the suburbs New Farm, Teneriffe and Bulimba. To ensure I successfully penetrated their inner sanctum I cast aside my suburban look and popped into The Deli, Bulimba on the way home. I absolutely adore the Jocelyn's Provisions Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti so I am going to burn in hell for making this comment. But ... I think I've found something better in Phillippa's Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Biscotti. They have a rich chocolate flavour, a generous amount of hazelnuts, a touch of orange and center that has a tiniest fraction of give. This gives this product an edge and pushes it into the category of amazing. If you are Biscotti mad, it's well worth braving Bulimba to purchase a packet.

I've been waiting a while to discuss In Season's Rosemary and Seasalt Baby Baguettes. These Baguettes look great on a cheese board and are wonderful crisp and savoury. However heed this warning, some cheeses are just too mild to be paired with this cracker (like the pictured Tarago River Gippsland Brie) so take this into consideration before purchasing.

My workplace is just full of lolly connoisseurs so I've seen almost every type of sweet available. I've recently encountered these darling miniatures and I'm just mad about them! I haven't seen Nerds in years but I just love their blatant honesty, in the age of organic each tiny packet declares itself as artificially flavoured. But if you are feeling more like chocolate you need to check out these Miniature Toblerone. Each bar is embossed, sectioned off into the classical Toblerone triangles and comes individually wrapped. I recommend waging a war for the white chocolate ones.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cafe Citrus

As an idealistic young soul, I was actively involved in grassroots politics so one evening the group decided to book a table and meet at Cafe Citrus to talk shop. While everyone made a purchase, the group kept to the lighter end of the meals spectrum being poor students. So you can imagine our shock when a waitress trotter over, slammed the bill on the table and declared, "when you book a table here, we expect you to dine." I was furious and from that moment on declared that I would never return to Cafe Citrus.

Several years down the track, I find myself back at Cafe Citrus to catch up with the very elegant Sara and Rob over Sunday Breakfast. Though the establishment has doubled in size, not a lot has changed as it still has the same wicker style chairs, standard menu and sub par service. The staff neglected to provide crucial pieces of cutlery, the drinks order was slow and it took several enquiries to determine that they were unable to provide heating as they had run out of gas.

I decided to select the Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon but as you can see from my photograh that my $18 didn't provide me anything imaginative. Cafe Citrus continues to baffle me as to how it continues to survive with such a poor service and menu offering, perhaps it is all location location. Honestly, you may as well go to the Coffee Club than stop here. Keep walking and don't look back.

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Address: 2/161 Oxford Street, Bulimba, QLD 4171.
Open: 7am - 10pm. 7 days a week.
Phone: (07) 3899 0242.
Price: Breakfast: $6.50 - $18. Lunch: $11 - $28.50. Dinner: $14 - $32.50.

Cafe Citrus on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

5th Battery

Sometimes you strike gold in the most unexpected places and I had heard whispers that there was a rather decent slab of it on Warry Street in Fortitude Valley. 5th Battery's industrial roller door is nestled amongst residential apartments but once you step inside you are greeted with light, colour, modern stained glass doorways and an atrium.

5th Battery is a unique establishment as they roast their own coffee. They offer two blends: Brother Espresso House Blend (the beans are sourced from Indonesia, India, Ethiopia and Nicaragua and blends fruity flavours with the aroma of spices and toffee) and Fifth Battery Seasonal Blend (this bend uses beans from Brazil, Ethiopia and Nicaragua and combines fruity notes with chocolate sweetness). Here is a photograph of my mocha, served in a cheerful red cup with a sensible handle (I have issues with handles that cannot fit my lady fingers through them as it makes me feel fat).

On this particular morning I was joined by the most awesome-tastic Carmen and Tania. The girls both decided to order a Breakie Burger as they had heard rumours that it was the must have item on the menu. The Breakie Burger features fresh avocado, prosciutto crudo, vintage cheddar, a sunny side up egg and aioli on two slices of organic sourdough. Tania is gluten free so to make up for the lack of bread the kitchen provided an additional egg and strangely neglected to add the cheddar. But our theory was it might not present well and perhaps the cheese was melted directly onto the bread. Either way, the team were pretty with their burger.

Here is a photograph of my second breakfast which was a delightful Almond Croissant. This particular morning I had managed to ruin my appetite my making myself a soft poached egg with ham on toast. So while I wanted to consume something more robust, I'm sort of glad as I would have a hard time choosing between the Smoked Salmon, beetroot relish, creme fraiche and baby rocket served on rye vienna or the Grilled marinated mushrooms with a side of organic sourdough served with fresh buffalo ricotta.

Does this breakfast sound awesome to you? Well the price will make you even happier as breakfast ranges from $3 to $10. What a steal! But if you can't make it into 5th Battery then I am sure a Brother Espresso could assist. They are all a part of the same chain but Brother Espresso tends to be more accessible with two stores in the central business district and another in Bulimba. So breakfast ... make it happen.

Edit [10 January 2012]: Since I wrote this article I've also managed to have lunch at 5th Battery and give my stamp of approval. Behold my beautifully tender Sirlion steak sandwich served on organic sourdough with spanish onion, roma tomatoes, vintage cheddar, baby rocket, mustard sauce and a petite salad. Sounds amazing yes, but don't get too fixated on the online menu as it isn't current. There isn't any soup or Sand crab lasagne with abalone cream. This made me sad ... well that was until my lunch arrived and all was forgiven.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Address: 23 Warry Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4005.
Open: Monday - Friday: 7am 4pm. Saturday: 8am - 2pm.
Phone: (07) 3852 5396.
Price: Breakfast: $3 - $10. Lunch: $11 - $17. Coffee: $3.20 - $3.70.

Fifth Battery Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cloverly Estate City Cellar Door

Despite being a restaurateur my Grandfather has never consumed a a drop of alcohol and my Mother started in her mid forties drinking a teaspoon of port in winter for health benefits. So my consumption of three alcoholic beverages in one night makes me the family alcoholic. It's taken me a while, but over the years I've really warmed to wine so I was terribly excited about my visit to Cloverly Estate's City Cellar Door. Cloverly Estate's City Cellar Door is conveniently located on Musgrave Road and offers guests onsite parking. But if you are lazy like me, just turn onto Enoggera Terrace, park on one of the many side streets and wander up the hill into a world of wood panelled charm.

Open 11am to 7pm, the space is warm, buttery and just channels country warmth and hospitality without the kitsch that so often accompanies these kinds of executions. There is a beautiful feature wall of framed sepia photography, a flat screen television with slowly rotating images and beautifully upholstered furniture. It's designed to bring the vineyard to the city, which is great for someone like me who lacks the time and inclination to drive for three hours to enjoy afternoon sun and a glass of fine wine.

We greeted at the door with a flute of Cloverly Estate NV Brut Reserve before we were seated at table full of glassware. We were then poured a taste of White Label 2010 Verdelho and Estate Reserve 2007 Chardonnay. As soon as I heard the word Chardonnay my mind instantly registered a note of disgust as I though might despise Chardonnay, I absolutely abhor wooded Chardonnay. But I'll admit now that the Estate Reserve 2007 Chardonnay is actually surprisingly pleasant and buttery. We enjoyed this wine over a gorgeous cheese platter and some salmon mousse served in savoury cones.

We then moved onto the reds: Left Field 2009 Nebbiolo and an Estate Reserve 2007 Cabernet. Nebbiolo is an intriguing beast, it looks and smells delicate like a Pinot Noir and then it just punches you in the face. It's the Thai Lady Boy of wine, but once you get past that initial surprise, you'll find it is rather charming. So what is pictured above? Top left (clockwise direction): Prawn Salsa Tarts, Chocolate Cream Tart, Prawn Twisters, Beetroot Arancini and Goats Curd and Mediterranean Vegetable Scone.

We finished the adventure with Cloverly Estate NV Sparkling Shiarz and Left Field 2010 Botrytis Semillon. Why oh why, was I driving? Cloverly Estate's wine is just gorgeous, the food is exceptional and space ... well I could have stayed a little longer if I didn't have a mad schedule. I do recommend a visit or two.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Address: 210 Musgrave Road, Red Hill, QLD 4059.
Open: 11am - 7pm. Tuesday - Saturday.
Phone: (07) 3876 3100.

Thai Wi Rat

Bean and I used to work in the same organisation and after accepting new positions, we realised that we work within walking distance of each other so agreed to meet for lunch in ChinaTown Mall. Tasty, budget friendly food was on the top of our agenda so we decided to settle on Thai Wi Rat. Thai Wi Rat doesn't look impressive from the outside but once you order at the counter, the service is brisk and the tables are clean. I actually find it quite pleasant to dine outside as you can enjoy the mall's water feature.

Bean decided to order a Thai Green Curry with some steamed rice. It was a good portion size and contained a variety of vegetables and slices of chicken. Also most importantly the sauce to rice ratio was right.

I know it isn't traditional but I am rather fond of Chicken Pad Thai and I was extremely happy with my dish. The noodles were wonderfully textured, the chicken was tender, sauce was flavoursome and the bean sprouts were a lovely accent. I polished off the lot and felt over full as ambled back to my desk. But I still hope that I will repeat this journey again in the near future.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Address: 48 Duncan Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4005.
Open: 10am - 9pm. 7 days a week.
Phone: (07) 3257 0884.
Price: Entree: $5.50 - $8.90. Main: $9.90 - $16.90.

Thai Wi-Rat on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bread Pudding with Chocolate Beer Sauce

With my Pear and Marsala Crumble Cake going a little pear shaped I decided I would present a Bread Pudding with Chocolate Beer Sauce. This dessert is actually one of my little brother's all time favourites to make as it is delicious and oh so easy to create. Preheat your oven to 180°C and place five large eggs, 5 tablespoons cocoa powder and five tablespoon of raw caster sugar into a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and silky.

Then gradually whisk in 300ml of single cream and 700ml of skim milk.

Take thick slices of white bread and dip into the liquid so they soak up the gorgeous chocolate custard and place on the bottom of a rectangular baking dish. I know Jamie Oliver recommends removing the crusts but where possible I like to minimise waste, so I just leave the crusts on. Then take a few pieces of 70% dark chocolate and a sprinkling of roasted nuts (my recommendation is pecans or hazelnuts) and scatter around the dish. Then repeat until your dish is full and pour the rest of the chocolate custard into the pan.

Once the dish is full, sprinkle with some more nuts and sugar on the top and place into your oven for 30 minutes or until the top is golden and the center wobbles gently. While it is baking, take 100ml dark beer, 100ml double cream and two tablespoon of raw caster sugar and stir until it comes to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and add 100g of 70% dark chocolate. Serve pudding warm with chocolate sauce drizzled over the top. It's glorious and keeps well in the fridge. Yummo!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Going Pear Shaped

The Winter chill heralds the start of stores being filled with a bounty of gorgeous brown Beurre Bosc Pears which are just dying to become beautiful desserts. I though I entreat you to use this bounty, I thought I would share some of my favourite pear disasters:
  • The first time I made Poires Belle Helene, I was unable to source Beurre Bosc Pears so I attempted Matt Moran's recipe with Ya Pears. I was lucky that my guest was so forgiving but this is not something I recommend as Ya Pears remained crisp even after hours of cooking.

  • I also recently attempted this Pear and Marsala Crumble Cake. Unfortunately I forgot to add the crumble topping until 30 minutes into the cooking process, so after hastily placing the topping on the cake, the visual ended up being like the cake version of being dragged into hell. All I could do was stand outside of the oven yelling, "nnooooooo!" It wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever made but its pretty tasty so I am going to attempt it again soon.

So when has it gone pear shaped for you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chickens and the Art of Procrastination

Last week wasn't terribly productive for me, I spent two out of the five working days zonked out on antibiotics to combat Bronchitis and then my weekend was sucked into a pocket dimension when two week ago chicks dictated time and space. Since I last spoke to you about the joys of raising poultry, I also had to experience some of the sadder aspects. The majority of the flock were between 8 and 10 years old and within the space of six months, they left. They would just look tired one day, close their eyes and you would find they were gone.

So on the weekend I had the pleasure of picking up a box of two week old chicks. Thankfully we have avoided my Mother's suggestion of naming a red one Gillard and have named them:

  • Harriett: Bright eyed, stretched tall, Harriett will always be the first one to greet you. The risk taker.

  • Rouge: Closely following behind Harriett in the show pony stakes. Has a strange interest in moles and freckles.

  • Souffle: Our token bossy yellow chick. We hope Souffle isn't a rooster.

  • Minuetto: Tends to stand in the shadow of her show pony siblings but we're taking time to get to know her.

  • Largo: Though she might be the smaller of the Australorp chicks, she is messy! Always the chick to get right into the chickstart and enthusiastically scratch half of it out!

  • Gertie: Always found next to Largo. Settles really well.

Since it's still a tad cold for little chicks, they will spend their first few weeks with us indoors. They currently live inside a cut down one tonne fruit box located in the study. Here is all the flock perched curiously.

Though they have been a major source of procrastination, I wouldn't change a thing. Chicks grow so quickly and in another six weeks, they'll be all grown up. :'(

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ice Crystal Dumplings

The family's latest food obsession is Taiwanese Ice-Crystal Dumplings. It's very rare that we will all agree on the same food fad but these things are incredibly moreish. Each box contains eight pieces, beautifully wrapped in bamboo leaves and a red string and contain cassava flour and red bean paste. They cost $8 per box direct from a whole seller, so I am sure they will be available in the freezer section of your local Asian Supermarket soon. The best news is each piece contains less than two grams of fat which makes the consumption almost guilt free.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Au Cirque

One of my favourite things things to do is to rise early, fossick through the Brisbane Powerhouse Markets and then head to Au Cirque for breakfast. I recommend getting to Au Cirque before 9am in the morning as you will find parking difficult (though Au Cirque has a brand new car park which I am loving) and could be left waiting in line. Though the staff will fetch you a coffee, it can be mighty cold in the concrete shade of Brunswick Street. But once you enter, Au Cirque is wonderfully warm, I love the way the sunlight filters through the room and how your senses are delighted by the rose wallpaper and the smell of fresh lillies.

The breakfast menu at Au Cirque features a number of wonderful dishes such as Sweet Corncakes with smashed Avocado and Tomato Salsa, Porridge with Winter Spiced Poached Fruit and Toasted Banana Bread with Ricotta and Honey. But if that doesn't tickle your fancy, then turn around and cast your eyes towards the black board containing the specials. The dish pictured above is Hot Smoked Salmon, Poached Eggs on a Parmesan Rosti with Beurre Blanc Sauce.

Here is a photo of the Chowdown. I would have taken photos of everyone else's breakfast but we were too busy chatting and getting our brood on for photos (a recent study claims that brooding men were more attractive). So in summary, great friends with a fabulous breakfast. I recommend trying it sooner than later.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Address: 618 Brunswick Street, New Farm, QLD 4005.
Open: Breakfast and Lunch, 7 days a week.
Phone: (07) 3254 0479.
Price: Breakfast: $3.50 - $15.50.

Cirque on Urbanspoon