You've got to throw your boomerang to get it back, otherwise you're just carrying around a bent stick!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A happy union indeed

In case you didn't know, TGIF means thank god it's friday! And boy was I thanking everyone for the Friday I had, especially my uni (UTS aka the University of Technology Sydney). Why thank? Well, for starters Friday marked the beginning of my two week uni break, which was welcomed with open arms after a bout of assessments and exams over the past few weeks. Plus, this Friday was the night of the first official UTS union annual dinner. What has this dinner got to do with happiness? Well, my good friend Georgia is the President and founding member of the UTS Arts Collective (a network of arty minded folks learning, exploring, appreciating, creating and interacting with all things art, craft, media, and cooking), and being a union society we were invited to the dinner. She advertised that she had a plus one on facebook, and I of course leapt at the chance to dine and network at such an important calender event. 

On the night of the event Georgia and I met outside the Jones St building, jumped in a lift up to the seventh floor (the roof top level) and walked into a cocktail and canapé oasis. After checking in we were greeted by professional hospitality staff bearing trays of beer, red wine, white wine, beer, Champagne, orange juice and Cosmopolitans! Naturally, I went for the Cosmo! There's nothing better than working a room lightly grasping the stem of a martini glass and letting the v-shaped cone bowl rest on your hand whilst sipping the cocktail concoction inside. The benefits of a martini glass are that by holding this wide stem one is able to keep the beverage it's initial chilled temperature, whilst the wide cone design allows for the drinker to enjoy the aroma of the cocktail. How fantastic! For those of you who aren't aware of what a cosmopolitan is, let me break it down here: 

Traditionally a cosmo is
  • Vodka
  • Triple sec or Cointreau
  • Cranberry Juice
  • fresh-squeezed lime juice

All ingredients are shaken not stirred with ice, and then strained and poured into a Maritni glass. The cocktail is best served with a coin sized orange peel flamed on top of the surface of the drink. Other variations have it served with a lime wedge on the glass edge or a sugar rim.
The cocktail gained huge popularity following it's frequent mention in the 1990s on Sex & the City. It has a lovely tart sweetness, bitterness and citrus notes, and as vodka is the strongest component, a good cosmo has a slight punch of vodka in the aftertaste. But it is generally easy and smooth to drink. A great staple at any bar, and is not a bad pre-dinner drink.

Canapés making their way around the room included scallops in a lime chilli oil - pleasing but slightly overcooked, mini mushroom pies - buttery, crisp and soft, little pepper met pies - flaky, thick pastry, soft gravy meat, and sweet bursts from the sweet chilli sauce, and oysters with salmon roe - divine, fresh, meaty oysters. The venue itself was charming. The perfect mix of casual, sophistication with wood-panelled areas, a wide bar, a large stone balcony with gas heaters, and plenty of space for mingling without stepping on other peoples toes.

Upon waltzing into the main function room, Georgia and I discovered we were to be dining alone on our table that evening. Most of the other tables were a mix of society groups, academics, union associates and alumni, whilst, there must have been some unable to attend leaving a blackhole at ours. Where one may have ordinarily cried out in despair, or moped in annoyance at this utter isolation, we were delighted at this opportunity to feast upon each option of the alternate drop. The function room was a wide room, with a standard cream wall colour and round tables spread about the room facing a centre platform for speeches. The room would have been a little boring if it wasn't for the sexy table decorations of large, cylindrical glass vases with floating red orchids atop pebbles and below a large semi circle red floating candle. These sat atop a mirrored tray which reflected the red on to the ceiling creating warmth and ambience in the room. Also, through the long windows at the front of the room the Anzac Bridge and surrounding apartments and buildings in Pyrmont could be glimpsed, their fairy lights flashing in the night.

Barbequed duck salad with a caramel chilli dressing
To the delight of two pairs of greedy eyes, eight plates arrived and were placed on the table. I began with the duck salad. The smoky, fatty duck strips with fresh mint, and shredded carrot rounded off with the sweet, spicy dressing, was a pleasurable mouthful of temperatures, textures and tastes.
Still sipping on my champagne I was also offered a glass of the Yarra Valley Point Noir Rosé to accompany the first course.
Twice-baked goats' cheese souffle, asparagus and smoked salmon sauce
The twice-baked goat's cheese souffle was soft and pleasing like a warm cheesy mousse, whilst the smoked salmon added a salty chewiness to the dish. The asparagus was ok, but seemed a little soft, possibly from over blanching. If they had a cleaner bite, it would have improved the dish, but the spears did help soak up the buttery salmon sauce.

Roasted blue eye cod fillet, butterbean puree, chorizo sausage, king prawn, slowly roasted tomatoes, salsa verde
The main event arrived after some wonderful speeches by the union. A blue eye cod flaked beautifully, but tasted a bit bland. The roasted tomatoes burst to perfection, but the real hero was the chorizo prawn. Salty, slightly crunchy chorizo wrapped around a sweet, meaty prawn. A little more salsa verde on top or butterbean puree below would have supported the fish more to make a better dish.

The matching wine, a De Bortoli Deen Vat 7 Chardonnay, was a round drop with melon, peach and floral aromas. A strong contrast to the saltiness of the dish.
Roasted lamb rack, pimento, pistou, charred zucchini, caramelised garlic and creamy polenta

Before I even stuck my fork in, I was consuming the lamb rack with my eyes. That very red meant and soft cooked veggie stack looked good enough to eat. Alas, it was too good to be true. The lamb was quite dry, and nothing like that tender, melt in your mouth flakey sensation of a rare-ish roast. The vegetables lived up to expectations, soft and smoky with sweet garlic. The polenta added cream to the otherwise dry lamb.

The matching wine, a De Bortoli Gulf Station Cabernet Savignon was smooth, woody and full with tannins. A warming drop that made digesting the slightly dry lamb a bit easier.


More speeches were made and the guests table hopped more feverishly than before. The mad hatter's tea party eased as desserts began to flood the floor. It appeared the dream was over, our gig was up, as our table not only received enough desserts for it's inhabitants. Thankfully, our friend James' had been sitting at our table, do we scored an extra dessert.
Fruit Pavlova, Tia Maria and chocolate custard with crushed amaretti biscuits
Georgia and I attacked the pavlova first. Plunging our spoons through the sticky, fluffy meringue, we popped it in our mouth. Letting the meringue melt with the fresh, bright fruits on our palate, was sweet, but cleansing. The custard however, had an unappetising appearance, a somewhat grey brown colour, but the crushed amaretti biscuts lifted the dessert, giving it crunch.

Chocolate mud cake with honeycomb ice cream and chocolate jelly
 The chocolate mud cake was an unfortunate prime piece of evidence of the flaws that turn foodies off ordering such a dessert. Dry and slightly crumbly, where it should have instead been moist, rich and decadent. The chocolate jelly was intriguing. It had the taste and consitency of Allen's chicos (chocolate jelly baby lolllies) but was a thin circular shape. Heaven in this dish was the honeycomb ice cream. Sweet, cold, and refreshingly creamy compared to rest of the dish.

The Dessert Wine that accompanied was a Deen Vat 5 Botryis Semillon. How my eyes lit up when I glanced the words, Botryis Semillon on the menu. That bittersweet drop, goes down like liquid honey. For some unknown reason, I was tortured as I watched trays of that liquid gold parade around, until I finally got a glass, after having to call over a waiter. Apart from that the waitstaff had been so attentive all night. The wine did not disappoint and those sweet fruity flavours, followed by a crisp acidity, left me in a very happy place. Botryis Semillon gets its concetrated sweetness from the "Nobel Rot", as the grapes develop fungus from certain conditions like moisture. The grapes are then drained of liquid leaving behind behind sweetness, fruit acidity and minerals.

Ending on a high note, the scheduled tea and mints were arrived, but in the place of mints there were moorish macarons. There were four flavours. The delicate morsels were soft and chewy, with a jammy filling, different to the the velvety cream filling of macarons such as Adriano Zumbo's. 

In short a function at the Aerial Function Centre is one of sophistication, but is certainly relaxed enough for one to soak up it's many culinary delights and fresh city night air on the balcony. 

Aerial Function Centre
Level 7, 235 Jones St (Building 10) 
Ultimo NSW 2007.
Phone: 9514 2633

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Breakfast Club does Broadway

Sydneysiders, what a busy life we lead. Travelling at such a hectic pace, darting to and fro, here and there, sometimes it feels without a care. Living in this day to day way brings to mind Pink Floyd feelings of being 'lost souls living in a fish bowl year after year'. Jumping from one task to the next, always with the goal of crossing and ticking an act off one of countless to-do lists. Deadlines, d-days, work and study, it can all feel so overwhelmingly important that we stay on track to meet these. But allowing ourselves delightful detours from completing our tasks doesn't lead to death. In fact they just enhance life.

One of these such delights I have discovered is 'doing breakfast'. Last semester a simple request to sample a few breakfast spots with two of my close girlfriends, in a bid to make more time to catch up, has now led to a beautiful ritual. The breakfast club, is what we call our informal meetings, and although they don't happen as regularly as we'd like, the fact is they do happen.

This year we have enjoyed breakfast at a few venues including Hungry Darling at Balmain, Bambini Trust Cafe just off Hyde Park and now Qube on Bay at Broadway. I stumbled upon this gem when playing around with my sexy new iphone4. Of course, when my handset had finally arrived I downloaded dozens of free apps including this gem: urbanspoon. The app is super for searching for cafes, restaurants and bars in sydney - you can use your iphone gps and allow a search by location, so that the app will find places to dine by kilometre raidus. But my favourite way of searching is the shake, which consists of three columns, one for location, one for cuisine and one for price range. When you shake the phone, all the sections roll around until finally stopping on three choices - for example - parramatta, Lebanese, $ - these choices will find a relevant matching venue (El Jannah in this case).  At the moment I have been shaking it like a polaroid picture. You can actually lock a section or two if you want a more specific search, an option I opted for when finding a breakfast place in Ultimo.
From the suggestions, you can then view menus and other reviews which assist the research process immensely. Qube on Bay with it's convenient location at a stone's throw from my university and rave reviews about it's great coffee, and cute all day breakfast, was very enticing!
Street Art near Qube
We strolled from Central Station, along George street and then skipped down Bay street, which slips down the side of Broadway. Bustling down Bay street we were greeted with unfamiliar shops, like a cool wine outlet and wicked street art.

The cute barred window view from our table
Stepping inside we were instantly in admiration of the mis-matched furniture, quaint courtyard, and huge, chunky muffins on display in a basket on the counter.
The dining room

We grabbed a round table by the front window and the counter so as to be able to ogle both the muffins and the early morning sunglight streaming through the wrought iron bars. Shortly after we arrived a waiter came by and provided us with menus. Not long after these menus arrived a waitress decked out in hot pink doc martens sashayed up to us, but we simply needed more time. We realized later why she'd been so eager for us to order, as suddenly a crowd of a dozen formed at the counter ordering coffees - business people and parents crowding like flies. We deliberated over the menu with dishes like the Qube bagel including bacon, avocado, hash brown, the buttermilk pancakes and the grilled mushrooms on toast, tempting our hungry breakfast bellies. It was hard for me to select a savoury option as I love something sweet in the morning, usually a fruit smoothie or muesli (that's why I'm such a sweetie I guess :P), but we eventually settled on some cool sounding egg dishes. The prices were all very reasonable for students, around $15 for what we ordered, and less than $10 for favourites such as banana bread, muesli and a bacon and egg roll. There was also a selection of juices, coffee, shakes and other beverages under $6.
White clouds (scrambled egg whites) with avocado, tomato relish and cheddar cheese
Katie and Courtney ordered the white clouds - a heavenly sounding dish. It arrived with all the components in their own little ramekins, allowing for easy, personal assembly of one's breakfast - perfect for fussy eaters. The white clouds were scrambled egg whites, fluffy and well seasoned with pepper. The avocado was creamy and perfectly presented, simply astoundingly intact! The tomato relish was pleasing, a sweet, rich, chunky blend, salted just enough to complement the subtler elements of the dish. The cheese, cheddar, was tasty, but I would have loved something with more bite. The bread was just ever so lightly toasted and needless to say the girls gobbled it up to no avail.
Truffle scrambled eggs with goats cheese and roasted tomato on sourdough
Wanting to try something different as always, I leapt for the truffle scrambled eggs. It appeared looking divine. It was a winner. The mound of smooth, scrambled eggs, enhanced with the rich truffle oil married wonderfully with the oily, creamy, blobs of goats cheese and chewy sourdough bread. The tomato was pleasingly roasted, warm, a little crisp, but still chewy. The only flaw I could find was the forest of rocket underneath the scrambled eggs. Myself, not being a big rocket fan found it torturous trying to consume the bitter leaves with the rest of the sweet, rich creamy dish. For others it may have provided a great break in taste and texture, but I would have preferred spinach. Also, I would have loved more of those tomatoes!
Retro bric a brac
Looking around the room after breakfast, the bustle had died down a little closer to 9am. I was now able to scout out the decor which consisted of some random artworks. My favourite find was a small table by the bathroom with an assortment of old household items. Being a huge retro fan, I was pretty rapt by it :) The impending time of our lecture meant I had to grab my coffee take away, but I'm sure glad I grabbed it. Served in cute takeaway cups with a brown and white swirly pattern, the coffee was roasted wonderfully, with sweet, citrus and chocolate notes. I loved it so much I kept trying to get my friends to try some! 
Overall, Qube on Bay is a lovely, hidden escape from the noise and pubs of george st. A lovely Surry Hills esque dining option, but in the heart of uni territory. I'd definetly go back to while away an hour or so in that quaint courtyard and try the buttermilk pancakes with blueberries!
Qube on Bay on Urbanspoon

Now, I like nothing more than a bit of deep reflecting. Cause when things get so busy I often tend to let my brain jump into auto-pilot. The take away shop I work in called 'Building 12, is the perfect place to showcase this state of mind. When asked the other day of whether I get into some deep thinking in that little shack when it's quiet, I admitted that my thoughts or lack thereof are so vacant it feels like a stone skipping over the water. It's songs like this smooth, genre meshing number by lo-fi band Mount Kimbie, called 'Before I get off' that kicks a chilled out, but active thought process into my mind. It's the perfect Sunday afternoon study music, best played in that fading sunshine, with a laptop or book in hand and just not quite enough momentum to tackle the books.