Nomad

Review: Nomad (Surry Hills)

Last week my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary #10 (!). We’re not into big celebrations so we (I) prefer to splurge on a nice but not too fancy dinner on occasions like this. I had a few options lined up and asked for the infallible wisdom of my fellow Sydney food bloggers. I ended up with even more appealing choices and ended up booking one of my original ones: Nomad.

Pickles

We changed our booking time due to unforeseen circumstances and got seating at the window, which was perfect for us. The bench is decorated with jars of house pickles to distract diners from whatever is happening on the street. Just kidding. We were offered drinks but I had been drinking since lunchtime (it was my last day at my old job) and Alvaro couldn’t drink because he had to work the next morning. As much as I hated not trying any of the wines, I was happy to note in the bill that the endless supply of sparkling water costed a fraction ($4.50) of what a glass or three of wine would have. Alvaro ordered a pomegranate and cinnamon soft drink. And that, kids, is how an old couple celebrates its tenth anniversary.

Pomegranate and cinnamon soft drink

Pomegranate and cinnamon soft drink ($7)

Even though I had been eating all afternoon, I thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience. We started with a charcuterie board with duck breast, pork & fennel salami, coppa, pastrami and another cured meat that escapes my mind, all top notch. I also had a single oyster with Nomad Worcestershire.

Nomad Charcuterie

Nomad Charcuterie ($29)

Oyster with Nomad Worcestershire

Oyster with Nomad Worcestershire ($5)

Our main was the wood roasted Melanda Park pork with romesco and potato, guanciale and sage. The pork was perfect (can’t go wrong with roasted pork shoulder with crackling) and the potatoes, outstanding: crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The fatiness of the guanciale paired well with the crispness of the potatoes and the fried sage.

Wood roasted Melanda Park pork with romesco

Wood roasted Melanda Park pork ($47)

Potatoes, guanciale & sage

We also ordered the spiced cauliflower with cashew and wild rocket as a side. Awesome dish that deserves to be upgraded to “vegetarian main”, IMO.

Spiced cauliflower

Spiced cauliflower ($17)

Nomad
16 Foster Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9280 3395
Website

Nomad Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

gg

Review: gg (East Melbourne, VIC)

This seemed to be the perfect restaurant for me and my sister to try, given its name is also our initials. From the docket, I learned that gg stands for Grandpa Giuseppe, which is more suited for a traditional trattoria than this stylish European wine bar and restaurant. We visited for an early dinner on a Sunday and, apart from two Asian men enjoying a meal, we were the only customers. We toasted with a glass of Delas Freres Côtes du Rhône (great wine!) as a farewell until the next visit.

French wine

Delas Freres Côtes du Rhône ($11.9 per glass)

After politely rejecting the bread basket we were served, the waiter offered us gluten-free bread. We were glad we accepted because it was delicious, with hints of cumin that went beautifully with the olive oil provided.

Gluten-free bread and olive oil

Gluten-free bread and olive oil

Instead of ordering a few different dishes, we chose one of the large specials to share: herb-rubbed pork belly with golden raisin, cauliflower, candied walnuts, apple, chives, and hand cut chips. Little can go wrong with pork belly, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was more than enough food for both of us, too.

Herb-rubbed pork belly, golden raisin, cauliflower, candied walnuts, apple, chives, hand cut chips

Herb-rubbed pork belly, golden raisin, cauliflower, candied walnuts, apple, chives, hand cut chips ($56.90)

Hand cut chips

Golden raisin, cauliflower, candied walnuts, apple, chives

Herb-rubbed pork belly

gg
150 Clarendon Street
East Melbourne VIC 3002
(03) 8415 0411
www.gg150.com.au

GG Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards wines

Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards masterclass

I don’t talk much about music here but it has been a big part of my life. I spent a good chunk of my younger years playing in bands and writing music. As a Tool fan (one of my two favourite bands ever), I follow all things Maynard James Keenan (the singer), and a few years ago I learned he was making wines and someone was selling them in Australia. I bought three bottles of the Chupacabra, which were enjoyed on special occasions. I’m probably biased but I really liked them. I found it to be a very complex and balanced wine, highly enjoyable and well worth its price ($100 for the 3 bottles).

Caduceus wine masterclass

Fast forward and I found out the distributors in Australia (Sip Wine) were running a master class on Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards wines. The master class was ran by Matt Irwin, who is not only passionate about wine but knows a thing or two about MJK and the wine regions he has chosen for growing his wines.

Caduceus wine masterclass

Caduceus wine masterclass

With MJK’s music on the background, we got to taste ten (!) of his excellent wines:

Whites

  • 2013 Chupacabra Blanca
  • 2013 The Diddler

Reds

  • 2013 Chupacabra
  • 2013 Shinola
  • 2013 Tarzan
  • 2012 Sancha
  • 2012 Nagual de la Naga
  • 2012 Le Cortigiane Oneste
  • 2012 Primer Paso
  • 2012 Anubis

Caduceus wine masterclass

Caduceus wine masterclass

They were all good; in fact not just good but complex and balanced. My favourites were The Diddler and Nagual de la Naga, with Tarzan and Chupacabra coming close.

Caduceus wine masterclass

Caduceus wine masterclass

These wines are not cheap ($35-$99 a bottle) but well worth their cost if you can afford them, especially if you are a MJK/Tool fan. Find out more in the website below.

Sip Wine

www.sipwine.com.au

Review: The Wine Plate (Newtown) – Closed

We’re in Lima! A couple of weeks ago, in preparation for our trip (that’s the excuse) Gladys and I had lunch in The Wine Plate, a newish restaurant close to the City Road end of King Street. What does it have to do with our trip? Well, the restaurant’s name is kinda misleading because it makes you expect standard wine-friendly fare but one day I actually bothered looking at the menu and realised they sell Peruvian and other South American dishes.

It turns out that the chef is Peruvian and apparently he has good experience under his belt. The waiter, however, was a very attentive gringo. When we arrived the restaurant was virtually empty, which normally isn’t a very good sign but the place looked good and so we stayed.

The Wine Plate

Bar

We figured out two share plates (entrées) and one main would be plenty for the two of us. The first dish was chicharrón, a twist of a very popular breakfast item of fried pork traditionally served with fried slices of sweet potato as a sandwich filling (yes, the sweet potato goes in the bread, too), with salsa criolla on the side. Here they serve it in a more refined fashion, on a small plate, with cute little forks, , topped with crackling slices and chilli jam on the side. It was tasty, and the chilli jam combination was good but we found the meat on the dry side and the crackling very chewy.

Chicharrón

Chicharrón ($7.00)

Next plate was the duck ceviché [sic], again another personal interpretation of a traditional dish. Unlike the more orthodox version, this one was prepared more like a seafood cebiche, i.e. it was served cold and covered with a chilli citrus dressing, with the mandatory corn and sweet potato on the side, but in the form of purées. The duck was very tender and we enjoyed the dish a lot, but I do think the dressing was way too sour for the Australian palate.

Duck ceviche

Peruvian-style duck cebiche ($18.00)

The main we chose was one of my favourite Peruvian dishes, lomo saltado, which again was a chef’s interpretation of a classic. Instead of strips of beef stir-fried with thick slices of onion and tomato, this one is served as two medallions of grass-fed beef tenderloin (240g in total), with confit potato, eschallots, roasted cherry tomatoes, candied chilli and roasted capsicum jus. Classy. The beef was served medium-rare as requested and was absolutely delicious. Washed down with a glass of Argentinian red, it rounded up a very tasty lunch.

Lomo saltado

Lomo saltado

Lomo saltado ($30.00)

The Wine Plate
62-64 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
info@thewineplate.com.au
thewineplate.com.au

Wine Plate on Urbanspoon

Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra 2006

Tool and Dream Theater are my favourite bands ever. So much so that I have Tool’s eye tattooed in my right arm and shoulder and DT’s logo tattooed in the back of my neck. So much so that when I heard from Fourth Eye that there was an Australian wine importer Sip & Listen would sell Merkin VineyardsChupacabra 2006 I immediately placed an order.

Merkin Vineyards, for those who don’t know, is Maynard James Keenan‘s (singer for Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer) winery. Apparently, wine making is to Keenan what visuals are to Adam Jones (Tool’s guitarist): the perfect complement for their musical selves.

I had no idea of how good the wine would be, but I had to try it. Its price is a lot higher than what I usually pay for wine (3 bottles for $100, 6 for $200, 9 for $300); I was cautious and only reserved 3. The Chupacabra was supposed to hit Australia in October last year so I was hoping to drink a bottle in my birthday, but it didn’t make it until January. Fortunately, I had a new excuse to celebrate with a bottle.

Last year I applied to uni. It was a long and expensive process, and finally, on January 18th I got an offer. It’s exciting and scary at the same time, and it needed a celebration. My sister came to our house for dinner, we had some steaks and I opened my first bottle of Chupacabra. It was exciting and scary at the same time, too. What if the wine was crap? Would I be able to tell or would I be biased by my musical taste? If I admitted it was crap, would I like Tool less than before?

I know, so much anticipation over a bottle of wine is a bit stupid. I swear it didn’t last more than the 30 seconds that took me to uncork the bottle (yes, it has a real cork). The Chupacabra’s colour is deep and much darker than what I was expecting for a 2006 wine. It has a very decent body and smell. Knowing it was a Cabernet/Syrah (Shiraz) blend I was a bit worried about not liking it to drink on its own (I find some Cabernets too dry and oaky, and most Shiraz too acidic) but the taste was amazing. It’s a wine with character and complexity but, at the same time, easy to drink. I could taste ripe fruit and warm spices. And it went perfectly with the steaks and Tool music in the background.

Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra

I’m looking forward for the next excuse to open bottle #2.

Happy Australia Day everyone!

Australia & NZ 2011 (23 March)

Our last day in Gold Coast was as beautiful as the last few ones. With a banana in my belly I went to the beach for a sprint workout and then came back to have breakfast with Alvaro. We basically tried to finish off all the leftovers: apples, bananas, yogurt, a Lebanese bread, an avocado and some slices of tasty cheese. I had a cup of instant coffee with milk but we didn’t manage to empty the carton.

There was an interchange of leftovers in the bus, apparently not only us South Americans feel bad when tossing food away. In the airport I was thirsty and craving a fresh juice. Pure NRG (natural, refreshing, good) had exactly what I needed: a Healthy Kick Start juice with apple, orange, pineapple, carrot, ginger & multi-vitamins.

Pure NRG - Healthy Kick Start juice

Healthy Kick Start juice, regular ($6.95)

Our flight to Canberra stopped at Sydney for a plane change. Most of us bough lunch at Wholefoods by Santos. Alvaro had a roast beef baguette, and I a tuna nicoise salad. Both were very good for pre-packaged food standards, the roast beef was tender and the baguette’s crust crunchy instead of chewy, the dressing in my salad was awesome. I bought a passionfruit yoghurt to share but Alvaro was staying at Sydney and he realised he’d better get his luggage before they tossed it in the bin, so I had the whole creamy and tangy yoghurt for myself. I think I’ve eaten more yoghurt in this trip than in the rest of the year.

Wholefoods by Santos - Roast beef baguette

Roast beef baguette ($8.90)

Wholefoods by Santos - Tuna nicoise salad

Tuna nicoise salad ($8.90)

Wholefoods by Santos - Passionfruit yoghurt

Passionfruit yoghurt ($5.90)

We arrived at Canberra, for me one of the most boring cities in the world (Osorno in Chile is still top 1), checked in our accommodations, had a shower and headed to CSIRO Discovery, the venue chosen for the public lecture that night.

Our lectures often finish around midnight, and our local friends knew it’d be pretty impossible to get food at that time, so they got heaps of Crust pizzas to sell in the venue’s cafeteria. They also sold glasses of wine, beer, and soft drinks. The small slices of pizza were $2.50, the big ones $4. It was the first time I ate pizzas from Crust and I must say that they’re way better than Pizza Hut and Domino’s. But they still taste too junky for me.

Crust - Tandoori pizza

Tandoori pizza
Chicken breast fillets marinated in tandoori spices, shallots & crushed cashews, topped with mint yoghurt.

Crust - Vegetarian Supreme pizza

Vegetarian Supreme pizza
Grilled eggplant, marinated artichokes, baby spinach, roasted capsicum, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes & bocconcini, topped with homemade pesto aioli.

Crust - Meatball pizzas

Meatball pizza
Homemade style Italian meatballs, roasted capsicum, spanish onions, sundried tomatoes, bacon & bocconcini, garnished with basil & Napoli sauce.

I had a large slice of tandoori, a small slice of meatball and a small slice of Chicken Avocado Tick Pizza (not pictured), with chicken breast fillets, mushrooms, shallots, spanish onions & avocado. All washed out with two generous glasses of red wine (first Pinot Noir and then Merlot).

Pure NRG
Gold Coast Airport
Bilinga QLD 4225

Wholefoods by Santos
Arrivals and Departures
Sydney Domestic Airport
Mascot NSW 2020
www.santoscoffeebars.com.au

Crust
new.crust.com.au

Review: Let’s Do Lunch at Fix St James (Sydney CBD)

So October is almost over and I failed in exploring the Crave festival as much as I planned to in the beginning, partially because of a tight budget, partially because of tight pants. My metabolism is pretty crappy so if I eat out just once a week I’m already having trouble with keeping my body fat within my goal range.

But I still felt I was missing out on the wonderful opportunity of diving into this month full of food indulgence, so I managed to find an excuse this week to eat at one of the restaurants offering Let’s Do Lunch menus (the excuse, if you’re wondering, was a visit to the Peruvian consulate to change the address in our IDs).

I booked a table in Fix St James via Twitter and learned that Twitter bookings don’t work. When we arrived, my name was not on the list, but fortunately there was a free table for us.

I already knew I was after the Let’s Do Lunch roast of the day (whatever it was), but I still heard the description the attentive waiter gave us. It was a roasted shoulder of lamb with white bean purée and seasonal veggies, with a free glass of Brown Brothers wine. Alvaro was a bit confused about what we where there for (I suppose I shouldn’t assume he’s in the same page as me regarding food events) so I suggested him one of the pastas (primavera and sardine); he chose the latter. We were offered a side but decided to save room for dessert instead.

Two crusty bread rolls arrived while we waited for the mains. We dipped it in olive oil sprinkled with coarse salt, simple and delicious.

Fix St James: Bread and olive oil

When I saw the size of my meal I thought that maybe ordering a side wouldn’t have been a bad idea. Luckily for me, Alvaro agreed to share both dishes (eat half of the serving and then swap). I must admit that taste-wise I was a bit disappointed. I’ve been reading all those great reviews about this place so my expectations were quite high. But the roast was just alright, and it was served warm. Besides the few pieces of meat there were peas on the dish, plus one asparagus stalk and one baby zucchini. For $35. The wine was the festival’s bonus, but I discovered that I like Brown Brothers whites better than reds.

Fix St James: Roasted shoulder of lamb with white bean puree and seasonal vegetables

Roasted shoulder of lamb with white bean purée and seasonal vegetables w/ a glass of Brown Brothers ($35)

The pasta was better. At least it was served hot and it was flavourful. It was cooked al dente, dressed with a classic tomato/olive oil sauce with pine nuts and parsley, and topped with the glorious oily little fish. But still, $28 for it seemed a little too much for me.

Fix St James: Sicilian Sardine Spaghetti

Sicilian Sardine Spaghetti ($28)

Guess what? There was room for dessert. I was tempted to order the chocolate mousse with strawberries but Alvaro doesn’t like things that are too chocolate-y so I let him choose. He selected the honey & clove set milk with rhubarb and ginger, and I added two chocolate nut truffles to satisfy my chocolate craving.

We weren’t so sure about what to expect (we weren’t familiar with the term “set milk”), and it turned out to be a panna cotta, beautifully arranged in a huge pasta plate. The dessert was amazing. One of the best I have had in Sydney. Seriously. It totally made the whole lunch worthwhile. The delicate flavour of the panna cotta with the not-too-sweet sweetness of the rhubarb, the crunchy super thin ginger slices and the crumble were just perfect together.

Fix St James: Honey & Clove Set Milk w/ Rhubarb & Ginger

Honey & Clove Set Milk w/ Rhubarb & Ginger ($14)

The cocoa-dusted chocolate nut truffles were very good too but not as good as the previous dessert. I ate a bit more than one and a half because Alvaro hit his chocolate roof.

Fix St James: Choc Nut Truffles

Choc Nut Truffles ($3.5)

Will I go back to Fix St James? Maybe, but I’d order something cheap and focus on trying wines from the impressive selection they’ve got, and, of course, the desserts.

Fix St James
111 Elizabeth Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9232 2767
www.fixstjames.com.au

Wein torte (wine cake)

Wein torte (wine cake)

On Wednesday night I baked a cake, just to try my new Microplane zester. No, not really, I baked it for bringing it to Thursday’s meditation, because right after that we had farewell drinks and nibbles for a friend who is leaving Australia after 6 months. She is German, so she likes to drink. A couple of weeks ago I told her I’d bake a cake for her last meditation with us, she told me to bring wine instead, and I remembered having a wine cake recipe in my file. I copied it ages ago from elgourmet.com, the Latin American Food Network Channel (kind of).

The recipe calls for a 26 cm baking tin, which I don’t have, so I three-quartered the recipe to fit in my tin. I haven’t bought an electric mixer yet (I’m waiting until my bank account is healthy enough so it doesn’t care if I get a Kitchenaid), so I whisk everything by hand. My forearm was sore from training, so I failed to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, hence the height of the cake.

The Microplane made its appearance for the orange zest needed for the batter. I must say it’s a fantastic tool that does the job wonderfully. The zest doesn’t stick to it, and it doesn’t reach the white bitter part of the fruit’s skin.

Orange zest with Microplane

As for the wine I used a merlot/cabernet bottle I had closed with a wine saver a few days ago. As per the recipe, I boiled the wine with a cinnamon stick for 5 minutes and let it cool before mixing with the batter.

The wine used for the cake

The other ingredients in the cake are flour, eggs, chocolate and nuts. The cake was baked for 40 minutes in a medium oven (180 degrees), the result was fragant, but as I said before, not too spongy.

Wein torte (wine cake) before the icing

Mental note while looking at the photo: I need to get some skewers to test cake doneness, my Japanese-style chopsticks leave big holes.

While the cake cooled down, I whisked the icing: more wine, orange peel and icing sugar. The Microplane wasn’t needed for this step, because the recipe indicates chopping the orange peel and not grating it, don’t know why. The photo on the top of this post is how the cake looked while the icing slowly covered it.

The cake tasted nice, not great, but it was good for variety. At least people seemed to enjoy it at the party.

How things led me to cooking again

During all this time (school, uni, first years as a professional) I cooked once in a while. My favourite dishes to prepare were cebiche (raw fish marinated in lime juice with onions, chillies, sweet potato, and corn) and pasta. I baked desserts once in a while, too.

As mentioned before, I had a new friend called gastritis, who magically appeared around the time when I started traveling for work. Whoever thinks that traveling as part of your job is cool has obviously never done it or has a job that doesn’t involve programming software in the client’s office. Anyway, I had a few trips over the world, I really enjoyed having the opportunity of visiting places like Hong Kong, but I hated the stress and long hours that were involved in almost all of my trips.

On June 2005 I was in Mexico City, programming an accounting software and wondering what should I do with my life. As I left the office at lunch time and went to this cool restaurant in which you built your own salad with really yummy ingredients, it stroke me like lightning. I knew I wanted to cook for a living.

I stayed a few weeks in Mexico and after getting home I started getting quotes from all cooking schools I knew of. Le Cordon Bleu was my first choice but it was really expensive and classes were only at daytime (meaning I would have had to quit my job and lose the money income I needed for the tuition fee). Most options were unviable because of the starting times but there was this school just a block away from my office with a one-year program in which classes started at 6:30 pm. That sounded perfect, so I started studying on September 2005. I told my boss that I wouldn’t be able to travel anymore during the next year because I had enrolled in a course (I didn’t mention what kind, but he eventually found out).

I was very short of time at that moment but still managed to train, work, study, be in a band, and have a boyfriend. Soon after starting the program I began preparing desserts and selling them at my office and my sister’s office. So my typical day was something like this:
6 am: Wake up
7 am: Taekwondo or weights
8 am: Take a shower and go to the office
6:30 pm: Get out of the office, walk 100 meters, wait until being able to cross safely the Javier Prado avenue, enter the cooking school, change my clothes and go into the classroom/kitchen
Anywhere between 9:30 and 11:50 pm: Go home. Three days a week prepare desserts and package them.
Go to sleep.

I had lunch with Alvaro (my current husband) on Wednesdays and spent more time with him on weekends. On Saturdays, after going to the gym, I met him in his kung fu class and then we went to his house. On Sundays I played tennis, had lunch and went to rehearse with the band. Alvaro went with me and read a book or something while we rehearsed.

This went on for a while until my energy was completely depleted. First I stopped playing tennis, then I started skipping training days. I gained weight as a consequence of cooking and tasting food every day, but I tried to adhere to my eating and training plans outside from the classes. Later I quit the band.

I noticed a few things changing within me during that year (besides my body fat, of course). One is that I became increasingly interested in nutrition. I began to think that maybe that was another career path I should think about (I still think that, but haven’t done anything about it yet).

The other thing is that my palate evolved very quickly as a response to constant exposure to prime quality ingredients and dishes prepared by top chefs. While it was true that my interest for highly processed foods decreased as a result of my healthy eating awareness, my tastebuds started to demand better prepared food. This is what anyone would from cookery students, but I was surprised to see that the vast majority in my class chose KFC for group lunches and fried super fresh salmon and sole sashimi as soon as the Japanese Cuisisine teacher left the kitchen.

I began to truly appreciate all dimensions of food and wine: smell, texture, taste, depth, contrast, temperature, harmony, layout, colour, etc. Naturally, I started to expend more money, both when eating out and when buying groceries for cooking at home. My family and Alvaro got some side effects too: yummy food and body fat increase.