Essen, Ultimo

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the snow for the first time since I was a kid and I got hooked. We went two weekends in a row, and because we couldn’t stop thinking about it, we are planning to go again before the season ends. I am officially a snow addict. So an alpine lodge setting for dinner at Essen seemed perfect for our snow-addled brains (there was a ski on the wall which I got stupidly excited about!).

Essen – the home of bier and the Schnitzilla challenge

Essen provides loads of bier and hearty food in a homely setting which was the perfect start to our non-skiing weekend. I’m not usually a bier drinker but the Mango Weizen bier provided enough sweetness for me to down the whole thing. Sir D went for the the more traditional Rodeberger Pilsner Saxony bier, available on tap at Essen. Also featured at Essen is the Schnitzilla challenge – a whopping 3.5kg mountain of schnitzel, sauerkraut and potato roesti to be finished by one person in one sitting!

Pilze – $8.50

We’re not game enough to face the Schnitzilla so we take the easy way out with a few entrees. The crumbed button mushrooms are deliciously crunchy on the outside but with meaty, juicy innards. The saffron aioli is a sunny yellow blob on the side, and is a nice creamy accompaniment to the mushrooms.

Knobli Brot – $5

I’m intrigued by the Knobli Brot – a Swiss garlic bread with Gruyère and paprika. I was imagining a piece of garlic bread oozing with melty gruyere on top, but instead its just a bit of grated Gruyère that garnishes the bread. It is garlicky though, and the smokiness of the paprika is a unique twist on your standard garlic bread.

Camembert – $10
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Fairy Wand Cookies

It’s been a while since I’ve done a cookie post so here are some fairy wand cookies I made a while back for a girly afternoon tea birthday celebration. The cookies are just my usual plain sugar cookies glazed with royal icing and sprinkled with tinted caster sugar.

Getting the cookies onto the lollipop stick was the hardest part. I hunted around for some non-plastic lollipop sticks and ended up buying these paper Wilton lollipop sticks from a cake decorating store, though I also saw them later in an arts and crafts shop. I inserted the lollipop stick into the cookies before baking (I realised just now that it actually says “not for oven use” on the website but too late… I had them in the oven for about 10 minutes and they were fine). I found that I had to roll the cookies out a little thicker than usual to make sure that the stick was fully covered by the cookie dough. The lollipop stick also made some of the cookies go a bit out of shape or caused them to crack so a little patching up and reshaping was required.

I wanted to make the cookies have a little bit of glitter on them like a real fairy wand, so I made some pink tinted caster sugar and dusted the still-wet icing with it. In hindsight, I think it would have been better to press the wet icing into a plate of tinted sugar for a more even colour over the whole cookie. We wrapped them up in some clear cellophane and attached a pink ribbon around the stick, and the guests took them home as cute and edible party favours!

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Burnt Orange, Mosman

Cafe area

Burnt Orange is the perfect place for a girly day out. Not only does it boast harbour views, a quaint setting in a Federation-style mansion, and delicious food, but it has two levels of retail rooms with cute-as-a-button homewares, womenswear, jewellery and accessories which you can literally spend hours wandering around in (and we did).

A spontaneous trip to Burnt Orange one weekend meant that we didn’t have time to make a booking, and the place was absolutely packed. We were given an approximate 30-45 minute wait for a table, but we spent the time poring over the retail rooms which made the time pass much more quickly.

Soup of the day served with homemade Avoca bread – $10

We’re eventually seated in the cafe area in amongst families enjoying their Sunday lunch and girlfriends catching up over the latest goss. We choose our meals from the extensive menu and Charm opts for the soup of the day. Today’s soup is roasted capsicum which arrives with a swirl of sour cream, a sprinkling of chives and a side of homemade Avoca bread.

Hot smoked trout salad – $25
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Better Homes and Gardens LIVE Giveaway!

Since moving into my own place, I’ve had to start doing a lot of things for myself. With no more parentals to cook, clean and pick up after you, it’s been an endless learning curve for Sir D and I, and we’ve had to figure out things like how to get rid of carpet stains, how to fold a fitted sheet (which I still can’t do…) and ideas on quick post-work dinners and decorating the place to make it feel more like home.

The Better Homes and Gardens LIVE event is on in Sydney this weekend (14-16 September 2012) and is a great source of information, ideas and inspiration for anyone interested in home and garden projects. There are heaps of different zones to visit depending on your interests, including a home decorating zone, craft zone, gardening zone, pet zone, kids zone, a renovating and DIY zone, and of course, a food zone!

Live stage shows will be presented by some of the Better Homes and Gardens team like Johanna Griggs, Dr Harry Cooper and Fast Ed, and for those of you who like to get in on the action, there are interactive, hands-on workshops such as cupcake decorating and making your own herb garden.

Penguin says Feed Me is giving away two double passes (valued at $80) to the Better Homes and Gardens LIVE show courtesy of Morey Media. The Better Homes and Gardens LIVE event will be held from 10am-5pm, 14-16 September 2012, at Sydney Showground in Sydney Olympic Park. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post answering the following question:

“Which Better Homes and Gardens LIVE zone do you most want to visit, and why?”

Entries close at 9.00pm AEST, Thursday 13th September 2012. Two winners will be selected by Penguin says Feed Me based on creativity and entertainment value. You may enter as many times as you like. Please enter a valid email address – this will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winners. Winners will be notified via email and in the comments section. Good luck!

Sushi & Sashimi Masterclass @ Ocean Room, Sydney

It’s a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in Sydney and I’m headed to Ocean Room, which is perfectly positioned to enjoy the view of sunny blue skies, the sparkling harbour and some of Sydney’s most famous landmarks.

Inside, the view is equally as stunning with Ocean Room’s dining area housing a ceiling of thousands upon thousands of bamboo cylinders, forming a chandelier of sorts above diners.

Fresh fish display, including some prized bluefin tuna (left); Executive Chef Raita Noda (right)

I’ve dined here before, but today, Ocean Room’s Executive Chef Raita Noda treats us to a sushi and sashimi masterclass to learn about their philosophy, the preparation of sushi and sashimi and where they source their seafood from.

Cooling and mixing vinegar into the rice

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