Monthly Archives: August 2013

SPAGHETTI HOUSE

So Ben treated me to Spaghetti House on Boundary Street in West End. Isn’t he the best? Even with a Sunday dinner booking, we had to wait a little while (less than 10 minutes) because this place had a tight turnover every night of the week.

We were right out on the street, which was fun but less nice when a guy started harassing us for money. His son found him and took him away but it was kind of awkward. You really don’t get much of that in Australia, so I was waiting for the waiter to do it (like in Europe) but dealt with it myself. All good. Not the restaurant’s fault.

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We were served olives and bread sticks to start and I loved the serving ware- it was all quality stuff with nice touches like a bowl of salt crystals. Cute.

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We ordered a starter of buffalo mozzarella and pesto bruschetta which was very fresh and used very real ingredients.

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We also had this starter, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called and the menu is no longer online, so I can only guess that it’s pan-fried gnocchi in a creamy sauce. Take that, blogging professionalism. I do, however, remember it was great and we squabbled over the last piece.

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For our mains, the waiter advised us that their smaller plate size would be adequate and he was spot-on. We were stuffed and couldn’t imagine eating the large serve, especially with a starter. I ordered gnocchi (again!) with butter and sage sauce and parmesan and Ben ordered the Cacio E Pepe (Parmesan and pepper).

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We couldn’t believe Ben’s dish- served in a Parmesan lace bowl!

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They were really generous servings, but we managed it.

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Well, Ben almost managed it.

It was a good night with good service and ambiance and great food. I have read some other online reviews knocking the amounts of meat in dishes and sometimes the service, but we were looked after from start to finish. Perhaps a perk of the vegetarian choices. Next time, I would book a table for two inside and save the group booking for outside, as large groups on the street are less likely to be hassled by “interesting” locals.

There were tomato based sauces suitable for vegans (if asked for without the Parmesan garnishes) but the pasta was freshly made, meaning there was egg. You could always call ahead or, as I recently read one gluten free blogger do, bring your own approved pasta (although gluten free peeps would also need to carefully specify fresh cooking water). I find this idea fascinating and if anyone has done this, I’d be interested to know the restaurant’s response.

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Will I be back? Yes we will!

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Spaghetti House on Urbanspoon

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Tortilla Bake

So back in high school, my first job was working at a Mexican take-away shop in the food court of a shopping centre. I know. Magical. We made nachos with liquid cheese and crumbed chicken burgers with the corn chips that crushed and were left in the bottom of the tub. Tres authentic. Three afternoons a week and all day Saturday I would smile patiently at the lady and her adult son who would come in, order, eat most of the meal and then come back with a complaint and demand a refund (Dad taught me how to deal with them and I would make every step of the meal with them watching me, asking them if I was putting on too much salsa, if they wanted me to zap the final product so it was extra hot, etc. etc. Thanks Dad). On Thursdays, in the lull between afternoon and late-night shopping, I would clean every inch of tiles and counter, scrub out the deep-fryer and fold a million paper napkins around two million pieces of plastic cutlery. I would get free pizza and garlic bread from the (also now gone) Italian take-away next door at the end of the night. I was so special.

I started on 6.64 AU an hour and started saving for a car immediately. Later I saved for schoolies and then moving out to go to uni. My first boss was great but the couple who bought the business later were really nasty and didn’t like that another part-timer and I had been working there more than a year and therefore couldn’t be easily fired and were also getting on in age (17. Over the hill).

Even thought the other girl quit, storming out one lunch after being accused of stealing from the register (an embarrassment I would also later be accused of) and I was berated in front of customers if I was too generous in my servings, I stuck at that job until I moved to Brisbane.

AND YET…

I never liked Mexican food.

That’s right. Mexican was never as popular in Australia as it has been for a long time in the USA, because Mexican meant Old El Paso taco shells or tortillas, salsa and sachets of mince meat seasoning. There were no other brands to buy, you couldn’t get flat bread in the bakery of the supermarket yet and so it was quite expensive. Add to that I never liked cheese and (still don’t like) sour cream, I was not one to beg for Mexican for dinner. Hell, I didn’t even like corn chips and salsa at parties.

And I’m not sure what changed. I’d like to tell you a story about a friend’s mum who made amazing authentic Mexican taught to them by Indigenous people of Mexico’s highlands (does Mexico even have highlands?), but I can’t. I have no idea when my taste buds changed (probably when I stopped being such a picky eater) but I would place a bet and say it was probably nachos. White people love nachos 😉

One dish that I loved and began recreating from the take-away store was tortilla bake. We made a chicken and a beef on and people lost their minds over it. This tortilla bake is obviously vego, could be vegan if cheese was left out and could be healthier if I had used less cheese. It was supposed to be special and “what the hell”, we had the cheese to spare. These days, I see tortilla bakes all over sites like Pinterest but, back in 2001, this was the best you could get.

In pictures, with explanatory captions, is my current incarnation of tortilla bake.

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I have, from the left, a can of Mexi beans (basically kidney beans in sauce but we had no home made ones), chipotle sauce, corn, pre-cooked capsicum and onion, olive oil spray, tortillas.

I have, from the left, a can of Mexi beans (basically kidney beans in sauce but we had no home made ones), chipotle sauce, corn, pre-cooked capsicum and onion, olive oil spray, tortillas.

Spray the bottom and sides of a pie dish, cake tin or whatever dish fits your tortillas and place your first tortilla inside.

Spray the bottom and sides of a pie dish, cake tin or whatever dish fits your tortillas and place your first tortilla inside.

Start layering. You can see a layer of beans, capsicum and onions, and corn here. Change the ingredient to suit your budget and preferences.

Start layering. You can see a layer of beans, capsicum and onions, and corn here. Change the ingredient to suit your budget and preferences.

Add a layer of cheese (I thought I'd leave out that photo because I'm sure you know what cheese looks like) and then add a second tortilla. . I've then used the back of a spoon to smear a layer of chipotle sauce onto this tortilla. This can be done on the first tortilla too, depending on your tastes.

Add a layer of cheese (I thought I’d leave out that photo because I’m sure you know what cheese looks like) and then add a second tortilla. . I’ve then used the back of a spoon to smear a layer of chipotle sauce onto this tortilla. This can be done on the first tortilla too, depending on your tastes.

Add another layer of beans, veg and cheese followed by a tortilla until you fill your pan. Our dish is really shallow so we only get two layers. Then add a final tortilla, more sauce and top with cheese. Chuck that puppy in the oven until the cheese is cooked and it's hot all the way through.

Add another layer of beans, veg and cheese followed by a tortilla until you fill your pan. Our dish is really shallow so we only get two layers. Then add a final tortilla, more sauce and top with cheese. Chuck that puppy in the oven until the cheese is cooked and it’s hot all the way through.

It's good to let it rest and firm up after you get it out of the oven. If you can wait. Otherwise, serve with sides of your choice, like a green salad, corn cobs, or in our case, European styled cabbage and mushrooms. Yeah, I don't know why we chose that either.

It’s good to let it rest and firm up after you get it out of the oven. If you can wait. Otherwise, serve with sides of your choice, like a green salad, corn cobs, or in our case, European styled cabbage and mushrooms. Yeah, I don’t know why we chose that either.

AI AI AI.

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Versatile Blogger Award

VersatileBloggerAward

I’ve been nominated by krumkaker for a versatile blogger award. Krumkaker lives in Rome and has a lovely lifestyle blog. Thank you for nominating me and visiting my blog.

This award asks winners to reveal seven things about themselves, so here are mine:

  1. The reason I blog less about clothes than I would like to is because I’m too shy to go up to strangers and ask to take their photo!
  2. I am actually from the state of Victoria.
  3. When I read, I can’t hear you. This annoys my husband no end.
  4. I’m on a strict no sugar diet, which is pretty much the bane of a food blogger.
  5. My family dog is 15 and a 1/2 and very sick. 😦 She’s the little sister of the family (sorry fur-less little sister)
  6. I dream of writing novels, particularly for young adults. I have ideas for two and have started one of them.
  7. I could eat Ben’s homemade bread all day, especially if it was fresh from the oven. He’s baking bread for me to take to work this week 🙂

I want to nominate the following people for this award:

Le Zoe Musings

Stupid Ugly Foreginer

witchin’ in the kitchen

To pass it on, thank the blogger who nominated you, note seven things about yourself you’d like to share, and nominate other bloggers!

Thank you again, krumkaker!

Guest Recipe- Vegan(ish) Peach Cobbler

So I love chocolate sweets, yet who can resist seasonal fruit? In Australia, it’s winter, and thus not peach season, but here’s a post that will remind us southerners of summer and can be taken advantage of by my northern hemisphere readers at the end of peach season.

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This recipe was made by my sister and I; a bit of kitchen cooperation we’d never tried before. Rather than re-type it, I’ll leave it in her charming handwriting (although she’s accidentally written “pears” instead of “peaches” in the recipe.

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We ate it for breakfast and snacks for the next few days and even savoury-tooth Ben enjoyed it served with the tartness of a good natural yoghurt.

Putting on the topping. Cooperating and shit.

Putting on the topping. Cooperating and shit.

 

And finally: YUM. It’s super easy and as sister-dearest writes, honey can easily be swapped for agave or a similar substitution. It’s gluten free as the crumble has no oats, only nuts. Obviously, if you have a nut allergy, this isn’t the cobbler recipe for you!

 

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OM NOM.

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LUCKY DUCK ESPRESSO

So we went to Lucky Duck on Gladstone Road today for some lunch. They open from 8-1 on weekends and even though we turned up at 12.30, they were happy to make food, which was really nice.

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Silly me. Turn the page and there are the snacks.

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I like it how they are happy to cater for vegos and remark about the substitution up front.

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We ordered a latte and an iced latte, both on soy and I ordered a Breakfast Puck, which is a muffin with bacon and egg, so of course I had the haloumi substitution. I wanted to order a Canadian Bomb milkshake but with my recommendation to reduce sugar (I’m not pre-diabetic or anything it will just help some health areas), this might not happen anytime soon. Any Brisbanites who want to go and document the experience in the comments section would be greatly appreciated!

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The guy at the counter was nice and we sat just inside the window, which opens right up with the door making the front of the cafe nice and open. There were about 3 tables outside that could cater for 15-20 on stools and about 5 tables inside that could cater for 2-3 people each.

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There were three groups ahead of us and two people working and there was a bit of a gap between the arrival of Ben’s coffee and mine. Unfortunately, mine came out hot but was happily replaced with an apology. They had also run out of English muffins for the Breakfast Puck and offered to put it in a tortilla wrap, which was just fine by me. I felt like it was getting too close to closing time but they were not rushing us and were still making food for another table so all was good and we waited for the food.

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There was a calm vibe about the cafe despite being on a busy road and things like the chess set were laid out for people to while away time. When my wrap came out, it was bacon, so it was again back to the counter and again, they were very nice and apologetic and said they’d fix it straight away.

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When the food came out, it was delicious and was served with a free cookie as further apology (Ben ate it). The wrap, which was basically upgraded to one of two Breakfast wraps, was haloumi, a fried egg, grated cheddar and relish. It was delicious and would normally be $8 had I ordered it off the menu (I also liked how I wasn’t charged for them running out of muffins, that is increasingly rare to find).

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It was a lazy Saturday arvo and the mistakes didn’t phase me. Had it been a quick mid-week lunch bite, I could understand someone getting upset. I’ve been to places where things like this have happened and you feel horrible for pointing out errors (I tend to feel that way anyway because, back in the day as a waitress, I was mortified if/when I mucked up so I know how it feels) but at Lucky Duck it was handled really well. Ben enjoyed the coffee and liked that there were affordable eats for under $10.

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Overall, I think Lucky Duck had an unlucky day but had good food and coffee and professional, friendly staff who dealt with the mistakes in a way that made me want to go back and give them another chance. I will definitely do a short follow up post over the next few months to see how they go next time. I want to be fair rather than nasty for the sake of it, and getting grumpy only increases my blood pressure, so we’ll see what happens next time and find out whether this was typical or not.

Who can be unreasonable to people who are nice to dogs?

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Lucky Duck Espresso on Urbanspoon

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ARCHIVE BEER BOUTIQUE

So it’s no secret that I like quieter places to eat and drink. When I don’t have to go to Boundary Street Hotel because they have some of the cheapest beers in West End, I enjoy Archive with Ben and a couple of friends who drink beer. I don’t drink beer, but enjoy Archive during the week because they are quieter, have pool and most importantly, have walls covered with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. That someone would cut these up for wallpaper is a tragedy, but it means that while I avoid playing pool, I have beautiful walls to read and stare at. I must look a little special.

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In the worlds of the beer drinker: “The beer’s good, it’s got couches, it’s comfortable. The people aren’t always nice, [some are] kind of snobby… I like that there’s pool tables”.

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During the weekend and some evenings, be prepared for a dinner crush (they pair beer recommendations with their food) and then a uni-aged crush later into the night. This of course, will suit many people just fine. During the day, it’s a good place for a lunch time beverage.

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While not ridonkulously vego-friendly, you can still get some good noms and snacks. Currently, there’s a pasta and pizza option for larger serve-seekers and a salad and finger food for lighter fare. The pizza is margherita so not suitable to simply remove cheese to create a vegan option. As a place that promotes beer over everything else, there are lots of hearty non-veg options floating past you during mealtimes, so if this isn’t for you, then you are now forewarned. The prices on my photo are now a little off- the beer-battered fries and Turkish bread are now cheaper, the garlic bread is now a garlic pizza and is a little more.

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Most bottled beers start from about $7 although there are a few cheaper light beers as well. If you’re a beer fan, you will be well looked after with their reserve and imported beer menus and can pay as much for a beer as you want!

Enjoy.

 
Archive Beer Boutique and Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Walking part of my city

So I found this quote and I love it:

“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.”

― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

As I mentioned earlier in the week, it was our wedding anniversary on the weekend. We went on several walks, mostly because fancy dining and expensive activities were simply not an option for us. Here is what we saw walking Southbank, the inner south and cultural centre of Brisbane.

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I know these aren’t great photos but they really capture a fragment of Southbank that I love…

and Subway graffiti. Te he. You do indeed YOLO, random vandal, you do indeed.

I love Brisbane.

 

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Getting Loaded

So it may be my Irishy-Scottishy ancestry, but I LOVE potatoes. I’ve never eaten a potato I didn’t like. Snack, meal, side, whatever. They don’t exactly have a sexy image or a brilliant healthy reputation, but I think that’s just because we don’t always do them justice.

This (loose and non-exact) recipe is neither sexy nor healthy, but it freezes well and tastes awesome. So just try it.

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Loaded Potatoes.

  • Small clean potatoes
  • A little milk and/or butter of your choice for mashing (soy or other non dairy versions work fine)
  • Cheese/s of your choice (I used a blue cheese and a Parmesan) (The amount you use will depend on how many potatoes you make)
  • Herbs of your choice (I used chives and garlic with the Parmesan and nothing with the blue cheese).
  • Salt and pepper.

You’ll also need foil, and cling wrap if you plan to freeze them.

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A freezer bag with my potatoes all ready to eat. No need to seal the bag as everything is individually wrapped.

  1. Wrap the potatoes in foil, pierce all over with a knife or skewer and bake them until tender. Save electricity by baking them with something else.
  2. When cool, unwrap and cut in half. Scoop out most of the centre with a spoon, but leave enough flesh in the skin to keep them intact. Set skins aside.
  3. Mash your potato flesh with the milk, butter, salt and pepper to your liking.
  4. At this point, I split the mixture in half because I was making two kinds of filling. You don’t have to do this if you’re just making one flavour.
  5. Add grated or crumbled cheese and herbs of your choice to the mixture. Make it as cheesy or as subtle as you wish. Mash in well.
  6. Carefully spoon and press mixture back into skins. They will probably be a bit mounded because you’ve added extra filling.
  7. At this point, you can either bung them back in the oven and bake them until they are hot and the cheese is melted, or you can prepare them for freezing. Take two halves and cling wrap together. Label with flavour and date and then freeze.
  8. To reheat, either allow to defrost in the fridge or microwave. You can either put them back in the oven or, in potato emergencies, just eat hot from the microwave. Serve alone or with other noms, such as a vegetarian chili (as in the bottom picture).

To be honest, I enjoyed the Parmesan and herb ones a lot more as the blue cheese ones tasted a little floury (delicious, but floury). I would probably add a mild cheddar or mozzarella to the blue cheese mix to add some moisture next time. These were great to grab on my way to work and let them defrost before lunch.

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Enjoy!

 

What other flavours do you think would work in loaded potatoes?

 

 

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GUZMAN Y GOMEZ

So I love me some Mexican. Mexican-styled beans with chipotle and rice are a staple in our house. We had been to Guzman Y Gomez at the Emporium and so got quite excited when we heard GYG was opening down the road from us at Southbank. I’m not going to wax lyrical about a “fast food” joint, but I will tell you that we both really liked it.

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We ordered a veggie burrito, veggie quesadillas and guacamole with corn chips. You can also order the burrito sans tortilla in a bowl, although they do have GF options. You can tell that someone has actually had to stand at a grill cooking onions, capsicum and mushrooms. Everything is made from very “real” ingredients. It was a bit on the early side of lunch so service was especially quick. We didn’t get drinks here but have always enjoyed the alcoholic slushies they sell- perhaps it’s the white trash coming out in us? 🙂 We spent just under $25 for our three items and were very happy in the tummy.

The thing I like about GYG is that it’s some of the easiest veganisable (I know, I know, not a word. Sue me) food around. Guac is included automatically for vego meal options and they practically expect people to mix and match. We have a carni (vore, not val) friend who likes coming here because he doesn’t like cheese and they reliably leave it off for him. You can get gluten free very easily. Everything is very mild and hotter flavours are added at the sauce station. The non-reusable serving-ware is easily broken down and they have two bins- recycling and “Everything Else”.

It really is the kind of place that’s easy to go with a diverse group of people and although it’s obviously not fine-dining, it’s a large, cheerful and efficient place that sells real food that’s really tasty. ‘Nuff said.

 

 
Guzman y Gomez on Urbanspoon

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Yoghurt for the culture vulture.

So is that the most terrible title ever or what? Suggestions for edits welcome.

A while back, I posted the process for yoghurt making. I didn’t add photos, because I didn’t have any at the time. So, to accompany the instructions, here are my pics.

Don’t be nervous about making your own yoghurt. It’s easy, yummy and has saved us a LOT of money over the last two months as it’s basically served as our only other protein source besides beans. We have figured that it costs between $1-2 per litre of yoghurt since we started using dairy milk again. For soy, probably $2-3. It’s common knowledge these days that eating cultured food is beneficial for our health. It can easily be vegan if you don’t mind a thinner yoghurt, as milk powder serves as the thickener. We’ve also found that if you just use milk powder milk, you don’t need to heat your milk and let it cool, you just make the milk, heat to 45 degrees and add your culture (leftover yoghurt from last batch). This also makes the thickest yoghurt.

When I started yoghurt making, one of the things that worried me was keeping everything at the right temperature. This isn’t hard in summer- we just put it on the balcony- but in winter it was challenging. At our new place our hot water system is in a cupboard in the kitchen. There’s just enough space in there to put the jaffle iron… or our yoghurt. The temperature is between 40 and 45 degrees. Perfection.

If my outstanding photography doesn’t convince you, perhaps the picture of the final product served with almonds and a blob of my mum’s quince jelly will convince you.

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Let me know if you plan to have a go or if you have and questions.

 

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