Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sydney Royal Easter Show 2014 - a quick look

It's been years - perhaps getting close to 10 years, if not more - since I went to the Sydney Royal Easter Show in Olympic Park.

I'm one of those who reminisce about the good ol' days of the Show in Moore Park, but I had to share this very quick post about this year's Show. It's unbelievably large and pretty awesome.

A friendly goat at the Farmyard Nursery at the Sydney Royal Easter Show,
Showground Road, Olympic Park
There is so much to see and do that I think one full day doesn't actually cover it. The larger showgrounds have made this possible with a 'something for everyone' ethos - and there's lots to enjoy.

Arm yourself with comfortable shoes, water, sun protection, clothing as it gets pretty chilly at sundown and the showground map, which is necessary to map out the hit list.

Central District display in the Fresh Food Dome
The Fresh Food Dome has always been the place to start for me. It was always my dad's first stop when we went as kids, and I think it may just have the slightest bit to do with my appreciation for food today.

Northern District display in the Fresh Food Dome
In its current form, the Fresh Food Dome combines the regional districts' fruit, vegetable and grain displays with a more commercially-minded food stall exhibition part and cooking demonstrations.

Natural oysters in the Fresh Food Dome
Packed as it was, I managed a sample of tomato soup with a cheese toastie and a half dozen of natural Sydney rock and Pacific oysters for morning tea in the Fresh Food Dome.

Alpaca
For the kids, and the kids within, the Show is about animals, games and rides - in about that order. There are plenty of horses on show, as well as cats, dogs, sheep, pigs and an entire pavilion dedicated to alpacas, if you can believe.

Walking a small, shaggy Suri alapaca on a leash was right up there with my highlights of the day.

Food Farm pavilion
The Farmyard Nursery is just about the most fantastic thing I remember from the Easter Show in recent history.

Not only does its entrance cleverly force children and all through the Food Farm pavilion where they learn about where various food items come from, it's just a spectacular experience and logistical feat.

Petey Pie beef pie from inside the Food Farm

Farmyard Nursery
The Farmyard Nursery is a huge, open space where goats, sheep, lambs, chickens and even a dog roam free amongst Show-goers. An inclusion as part of the Show entry, it's like a pimped up petting zoo and I, probably like most city folk, have never experienced anything like it.

With $1 cups of feed for sale, it's a frenzy of feeding activity with smiles all round. Kids are happily petting and timidly feeding while the animals are most certainly enjoying the abundance of food. Indeed, most of the farmyard animals looked rather plump.

Chickens hatching from eggs

Feeding lamb
The best feeling would have to be the feel of tongues on your hand as goats and sheep inhaled their feed straight from hands, large or small. The cow's tongue was probably less pleasant but hilarious nonetheless.

Watch for the larger, slightly more aggressive animals - like some of the goats with horns - while keeping in mind not to chase or catch the animals, despite how silky soft the chickens' feathers are.

Carnival section
There are plenty of rides and sideshow games on offer as always, ready to swap your dollars for use-challenged toys, but then, it's not the Easter Show without a game of the Laughing Clowns. Some things just don't change.

See more photos on my Facebook page.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chill-out Sunday session at Café del Mar Sydney

Café del Mar, Rootop Terrace, Cockle Bay, Sydney
Café del Mar is synonymous with chill-out music, beach parties and Mediterranean glamour – and it's now here for Sydney-siders to enjoy. Opened late last year on the rooftop terrace at Cockle Bay Wharf, Café del Mar Sydney is a more food-focused offering than its Ibiza party animal counterpart.

Rooftop balcony
While it's not quite a beachfront location, the rooftop terrace position offers a unique view of Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay. With the balcony facing the west, it's about the best we can do in terms of watching the sun set beyond the casino and other Pyrmont buildings.

Inside restaurant
In a nod to Café del Mar's Spanish heritage and the Sydney venue's food focus, they have appointed Miguel Maestre as a brand ambassador, while head chef Ben Fitton incorporates Mediterranean touches to the menu's share plates and mains which features Australian produce and the fun flavours that Sydney is known for.

Rojo tres red sangria
Seated on the edge of the outdoor balcony, the pitchers of house sangria from the outside bar were too much fun for a group of girls to pass up for a Sunday lunch.

With three of each red and white sangria variations, we started with the Rojo Tres – a deep red concoction of Ketel One Citroen vodka, Westend Tempranillo, saffron syrup, pomegranate, lime and a long sprig of rosemary.

Pretty and full of diverse flavours, the Rojo Tres was a nice start to lunch, and certainly not too strong on the boozy content.

Blanco uno white sangria
The second pitcher, the Blanco Uno was perfect for the warm afternoon, featuring St Germain elderflower liqueur, Square One Vodka, Richland sauvignon blanc, lemongrass syrup, cucumber and lime topped off with soda.

Bread and olive oil
Having decided to have a range of the share plates among four of us and plenty of chatter, we first dived into the complimentary sourdough bread and olive oil.

La Luna goat’s cheese, roasted baby beets, glazed pecans
For cheese lovers, there are cheese plate selections as well as the Holy Goat La Luna cheese in the share plate section of the menu.

Divine in its warmed, melted state atop toasted bread, the La Luna goat's cheese – some of our country's finest – was the absolute star while the salad of baby golden and red beets, frisee and other leaves, and sweetly glazed pecan nuts was extremely well matched.

Flash fried dusted baby prawns, jalapeño mayonnaise
We adored the deep fried school prawns in the short moments they survived; a bowl full of crisp, golden and well-seasoned, shell-on crustaceans, served with deep fried herb leaves and sliced chilli alongside a bitey jalapeño mayonnaise.

Devoured in their whole, crisp state with a squeeze of lime, school prawns done well like this are just about my favourite seafood starter.

Crispy cased Berkshire pig jowls, truffle mash
The pig jowl dish sounded too interesting to ignore, served as two crisp rolls split in half encasing pulled meat from Berkshire pigs' cheeks.

The "spring rolls" were oily, though considering a fatty cut of pig that's then deep fried, I shouldn't have expected any less.

Crispy cased Berkshire pig jowls, truffle mash
The truffle mash was a comfort, despite being a bit odd as part of a share plate. Indeed, something more refreshing to cut through the richness of the pork jowl may have reduced the dish's sense of gluttony.

Chilli salt & pepper squid, black ink, finger lime aioli
Café del Mar's jaw-dropper rendition of Sydney's favourite salt and pepper squid was impressive in both appearance and taste.

Chilli salt & pepper squid, black ink
Inky black on the surface, it was a bit of a scary proposition but the tender pieces of squid were anything but. The squid was livened up with sliced red chillies in a salt and pepper seasoning, with zingy finger lime aioli served alongside.

Chick pea and cumin crusted quail, shaved baby fennel, blood orange
The quail dish presented one plump quartered bird, deep fried in a chick pea and cumin batter.

Like a really fancy take on KFC, the medium-rare cooked quail was served on a sprightly salad of shaved baby fennel, blood orange segments and parsley; making for a fantastically fresh and moreish dish that was perfect for sharing between four.

Café del Mar-tini
We ended our lunch session with drinks in the sun, with my choice of the Café del Mar-tini serving well as a sweet dessert too.

Featuring Ciroc coconut vodka, pineapple, basil and lime, it was like a clean, fresh take on a piña colada with just as much sweetness as the original.

Outdoor balcony bar
With a DJ at the far end of the outdoor balcony, the music noticeably picked up in volume at about 2pm when Sunday Sessions commenced, with a less chilled and much more made/dressed-up crowd taking over the balcony.

Conversation became impossible at this point, especially when seated directly beneath an outdoor speaker, and people watching/gawking took over, which was a pretty chilled out way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Café del Mar Sydney front entrance
There are plans in train to open Café del Mar venues at other waterfront locations around Australia, but in the meantime, Café del Mar Sydney is the sunset, chill-out place to be.

Food, booze and shoes dined at Café del Mar Sydney with credit, with thanks to Agency G.

Cafe del Mar on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Stinking Bishops: Smells good to the cheese fiends

Cheese fiends. There are lots of us out there. We will happily eat a hunk of cheese with crackers or bread and some fresh or dried fruit, and call that a meal. Add a glass of red wine and it's a complete, balanced meal.

The cheese fiends of the inner west are rejoicing with the recent opening of The Stinking Bishops at the Newtown end of Enmore Road. Cheese, charcuterie, wine - it's like they've recreated my last meal in a new, hip shop space beneath a block of low-rise apartments.

Cheese from The Stinking Bishops, Enmore Road, Newtown
Named after Britain's smelliest cheese, The Stinking Bishops is a neighbourhood cheese and wine bar and retailer that exudes a passion for cheese and all the great eats that belong alongside a cheesy feast.

Cheese menu board
A chalk board displays a changing menu of more than 20 imported and Australian cheeses - all available for consumption in the venue or for take-home indulgence.

Cheese fridge
An open cheese fridge behind the counter seating displays a delectable range of curd offerings alongside Salumi Australia and other hanging charcuterie.

Seating for groups is a little limited with just one larger table and a table for two up the front, while counter seating and and a bench table up against the wall offer stool seating, ideal for lazy Golden Cobra coffees, glasses of wine and of course, cheese nibbling.

Duck liver pate
At the counter, we started with the full range of red wines by the glass among four of us, accompanied by a brick of duck liver pate.

With credit given to Redfern's Eathouse Diner, the creamy, liver-y pate was densely flavoured with a nicely contrasting jelly layer; served with fresh Grain Organic sourdough bread and a sweet jammy condiment.

Cheese board
The main game has to be the cheese boards, which come in two, three or four cheese sizes. Diners can choose any of the cheeses from the menu to have on their board, with the serving sizes adjusted for any of the more expensive, imported cheeses.

Choosing one from each white mould, washed rind, hard and blue mould categories, we had a rather French board of the deliciously nutty Marcel Petite comte, not-so-stinky Époisses, Delice du Cremier, and the Irish Grubb Cashel Blue.

The cheeses are served with a fabric basket generously filled with more sourdough bread, fancily branded crackers, dried muscatels and a slice of a jammy fig and walnut log. In all, happiness on a wooden board.

Charcuterie board
There is more wine and happiness to be had with the charcuterie selection that showcases some fine Aussie produce. I can never go past the Salumi Australia nduja spicy salami paste, even though the chilli heat is absolutely ferocious.

Also available in two, three or four meat selections, we added to our charcuterie board fennel salami, fat-edged cured pork cheek and streaky smoked wagyu whichwas like a creamy, fatty corned beef that was made to be with sliced pickled gherkins.

Comte at home
Over a few boards of food and glasses of red, we whiled away a rainy afternoon quite idyllically at The Stinking Bishops. It has got its positioning down pat: cheese, wine, charcuterie and more substantial eats that are simple and soulful; all extremely well designed for the so-hip-it's-not neighbourhood.

It's only improved with, say, a huge chunk of the Marcel Petite comte to take home - with that, The Stinking Bishops sure smell good to me.

The Stinking Bishops on Urbanspoon

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