2014 Roundup

It’s been quite the year, with lots going on and a lot of time spent travelling, skiing and just living life in general, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging! I say every year that I hope to blog more, but I guess it’s not a bad thing that I’m spending more time living life rather than writing about it. There’s still plenty of blog posts in the pipeline though, and with 2014 almost done and dusted, it’s time to revisit some of my favourite moments from the year.

Peach picking at Pine Crest Orchard, Bilpin
Peach picking at Pine Crest Orchard, Bilpin

I kicked off the year with something I’d always wanted to do – fruit picking! Sir D and I spent the day in Bilpin picking some of my favourite stone fruits and eating pies at roadside diners. It was a great day out and something I’d definitely recommend.

Mini-don set at the Nijo Markets, Sapporo
Mini-don set at the Nijo Markets, Sapporo

In April, I visited Japan for the first time and realised that I would never, ever get sick of Japanese food. Continue reading 2014 Roundup

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I can’t believe it’s Christmas already! The year has flown by, especially the last few months which have been crazy busy for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have some time off work before Christmas so got stuck into the Christmas baking straight away, starting off with the usual gingerbread.

A photo posted by Jacq (@jacq_in_a_box) on

I’ve still got a couple of desserts and things to make over the next few days, but I thought that I’d revisit this flourless chocolate cake that I made last year for Christmas (but never got around to blogging about…. oops). Flourless chocolate cake was a cake I made from the first cookbook I was ever gifted, and probably kick-started my love of baking and cookbooks.

This flourless chocolate cake is adapted from a recipe from the queen of delicious, fattening things and midnight snacking from the fridge, Nigella Lawson. It’s a rich, fudgey cake that I think sums up well what Christmas feasting means for me – indulgence and a little bit of gluttony. Don’t be surprised if you find me piling my plate high with glazed ham, turkey and fresh prawns, and then collapsing onto the sofa for a well-earned post-feasting nap.

You could make this cake any time of year really, but a few strawberries and a dusting of icing sugar turns it into something a bit more festive. Even if you’re greeted with a few groans from people who have over-eaten when this cake is brought out, don’t pay attention to them and make sure that everyone has a slice. They won’t regret it.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas with their family, friends and loved ones over a delicious meal! Continue reading Flourless Chocolate Cake

The Smoking Panda, Sydney

I always get a little thrill when I find the doorway to a hidden bar. It’s that rewarding feeling of solving the puzzle of where the bar entrance is, and of knowing something that’s maybe a little bit secret.

That’s how I felt when we walked into the Hotel Coronation, a dingy looking pub on Park Street that I’ve walked past hundreds of times. We knew there was a small bar around here somewhere but it certainly didn’t look like there was one when we entered the pub. We wandered upstairs to what I think was the actual hotel guest rooms (yep, definitely no small bar there), back down the stairs again, and up another flight of stairs where we began to see the fluorescent glow of pink neon lights of The Smoking Panda.

Blackberry & Sage Smash – $17

There’s an old skool Chinese takeaway restaurant feel in the decor, with booth seating and Chinese restaurant-style chairs and tables, but we wander past these and the lanterns straight over to the bar, where we fix ourselves up with a cocktail or two.

Interestingly, the drinks list deviates from the Chinese theme, with an American slant on the cocktails and a big focus on bourbon – there’s more than 50 types of bourbon available from the bar! Our first cocktail of the night, the bourbon-based Blackberry & Sage Smash is fruity but not too sweet, with the tart blackberry and lemon flavours layered over the bourbon.

Georgia Peach – $17

The Georgia Peach is also a bourbon-based cocktail with fresh peach and mint over crushed ice, making for a refreshing drink.

Blue Lagoon – $17

We spy someone order the Blue Lagoon, a lurid blue drink that by all accounts was actually quite tasty. That blue stuff? That’s blue curaçao, gin, vodka, lychee and dragonfruit which is topped with a lemonade foam and popping candy. We got a little taste of the lemonade foam which tasted kind of like a Sprite creaming soda.

San Choy Bao – $5 each

Continue reading The Smoking Panda, Sydney

The Burger Shed, Mosman

There’s something about a burger that makes it so satisfying. It might be the soft fluffy bun, the juicy meat patty, or the melty, oozy cheese (cheese is a must!) – whatever it is, it always hits the spot. I’m always on the look out for a good burger, so when The Cheerleader (who also loves a good burger) told me about a burger place in Mosman, we headed there quick smart to check it out.

Upon looking at The Burger Shed’s menu, I thought it looked strangely familiar… and when I saw the truffle parmesan fries, it hit me that this was one of Justin North’s burger joints, and that the menu was similar to the one at Charlie and Co.

Watermelon and ginger crush – $6

Not to worry though, as I do love Charlie and Co’s burgers, and there were enough differences between the menus to keep us interested. Like this watermelon and ginger crush, which had a lovely pink blush colour to it and was super refreshing.

BBQ corn, chilli salt butter – $5

Despite being called the Burger Shed, the menu also had some non-burger items like salads, tortilla wraps, desserts and corn! Queen Chu and I both love our corn so this BBQ corn with chilli salt butter was a must.

Vintage Cheeseburger – $9.90
Continue reading The Burger Shed, Mosman

Ume Restaurant, Surry Hills

There are so many good Japanese restaurants on the north side of the Bridge and around the CBD, that I rarely feel the need to venture further for Japanese food. So it takes a special restaurant to warrant a trip beyond my usual sphere of comfort and convenience, but it certainly pays off when you’re visiting a restaurant like Ume.

Ume is tucked away in a leafy section of Bourke St, Surry Hills, which makes it a quiet and peaceful location for dinner. The restaurant is simply decorated, with a plum blossom painting on one wall that references the restaurant’s name, “ume”, meaning “plum” in Japanese. Head Chef Kerby Craig, who trained under Tetsuya Wakuda before opening Koi in Woolwich and then Ume in Surry Hills, has created a menu that focuses on Japanese food with traditional and modern elements using local and sustainable ingredients. Every day except for Saturday, diners can choose from a 5-course ($67) or 7-course ($87) degustation menu, or opt to go a la carte. Saturday is limited to degustation only.

Raw deep sea prawns, prawn oil, walnuts, okahijiki, 1 year old preserved lemon, saishikomi soy – $21

We decide to go a la carte mainly because of the ama ebi dish which is not on the degustation menu. I fell in love with ama ebi (deep sea prawns) when I was in Japan and I rarely see it on menus here in Sydney, so I had to order it. The sweetness of the raw prawns pair well with the crunchy walnuts, seaweed and the subtle tartness of the preserved lemon. After tasting this dish, I knew that the rest of the meal was going to be a treat.

Seared Hokkaido scallop, Shibanuma shoyu brown butter, native finger lime, dulse – $21

Continue reading Ume Restaurant, Surry Hills

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