Monday, 22 July 2013

A Royal Post

"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children." Charles R. Swindoll

The imminent birth of a new prince or princess seems like the perfect time for me to resurrect my blog. 
Kate and William are about to experience one of life's most amazing journeys. Parenthood. The least I can do is give them my two cents worth of advice.

"Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be." David Bly

Here are Mr LBT and I about 30 minutes before I went in for my c-section delivery over 8 years ago. We look so young! We look so happy!!
We had no idea what was ahead.
We got along like a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical for the first week we bought Amelia home from the hospital, falling over each other to attend to the baby and I had to resist breaking into a song as I pushed the pram through the park each day. Then things started to unravel. Prolonged sleep deprivation, Mr LBT going back to work and the realisation that I wasn't going to be able to learn a new language as the baby slept peacefully all day. We were living separate lives - I was up all night and Mr LBT was at work all day. And we had hugely supportive parents, a baby that breastfed like a dream and huge workplace flexibility..., things could have been so much harder.
We had loved going out for dinner prior to having a baby and planned not to let a newborn stop us. I mean, how hard could it be? Great amounts of planning and precise timing had to go into every meal out and when we were there we sat on edge that any minute it could all implode. "What on earth is taking them so long to make a basic spaghetti marinara?!?! Can't they see we have a baby, a real live baby, with us?!?" was about the only conversation topic I could manage and I couldn't focus on what Mr LBT was saying as the man at the next table bumped the pram and I wondered whether the chilli in my pasta would go through to my breast milk....., where was the waiter? I better change my order.....
The reason we went out for dinner wasn't for the food, but because it forced us to re-focus our attention on one another. We needed this time to talk to each other - and it was ok to talk about the baby - in fact time to share a funny sleep deprivation story, discuss a new sleeping routine or that nappies were on sale at Coles so we should stock up was cool. As was time to express fears and doubts about my ability as a mother, how I was feeling about my body, ask what was happening in the office and give Mr LBT time to share his feelings as a new father - all of this was important for us to discuss in a calm, serene and safe environment. 
To enable this I created date night at home and the tag-line "make a night in a night out" was born. Suddenly, at least one night a week we were able to take back time for us. Sometimes Amelia was awake and in her bassinet in the dining room and sometimes she was tucked up in her cot. Either way, we lit candles, put flowers on the table, played our favourite music and enjoyed a meal and chat together. 

My thoughts are with Kate and Will and I wish them every opportunity to enjoy the wonderful journey ahead.

Finally, here I am 8 years later with Amelia on the right and our second daughter on the left. This photo was taken out at a restaurant for dinner - we weren't nervous at all and I had extra chilli in my pasta.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Greenhouse, Perth

I loved this place. I loved the concept, the atmosphere, the menu, the service. That's a lot of love.
  • the concept "Greenhouse is about designing and operating better places for people. Places that let us touch natural materials, understand where everyday things come from and taste fresh food straight from the garden. All the features of the Greenhouse are carefully considered first for their practicality, recyclability, life cycle and embodied energy and then for their aesthetics and cost." There is a lot more about this on the website including a time-lapse video of the building being constructed.
  • the atmosphere Walking up to the outside of the building you are presented with a living framework - hundreds of terracotta pots of ivy. It feels alive and refreshingly different. That's just the outside. Inside the colour is amazing. The warm tones of yellow are so inviting. Given we had travelled so far from Adelaide to be here, we decided it would be silly not to at least take a look at the rooftop bar. Think rustic stools and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the herb garden. Literally able to rest your champagne flute on the wooden board resting over the dirt. The kitchen is open and the furniture entirely appropriate. It was all designed by Joost Bakker and includes tables made from the plywood floor of the original Greenhouse from Melbourne and chairs made from old road signs.
The exterior of the building is clad in corrugated iron covered by a vertical garden
4000 terracotta pots filled with ivy and strawberry plants

Light shades made from reclaimed fencing wire

Bar stools/tables made from wafer board recycled from old wooden palettes
  • the menu It's tapas style and they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. It includes ingredients I love but don't often find in restaurants like quinoa and tahini.The prices vary and items may change daily due to availability. At least you know it's fresh and seasonal.
  • the service We had the services of lovely Hannah who was youthful and full of energy. She helped us with our choices and was happy to let us pace our meal out. It was relaxed service with a smile and a tatoo. She got additional brownie points for running our camera lens cap out to us as we waited for a taxi after our meal.
Onto the food. I was so excited when our starters arrived. A combination of how fabulous it looked and jet lag meaning it was hours after our usual dinner time! The 'afghan bread with tahini dip' was a great combination. The dip was spicy but not hot and the paprika gave it a dustiness whilst the bread was doughy and fresh.
afghan bread, tahini dip

The second starter dish was a classic served with a twist. It looked impressive but fell a little flat although only if you were expecting strong flavour as it was quite mild. Strong in texture - crunchy megas, cold melon, soft prosciutto.
prosciutto, melon, fennel, megas

Next came some spicy squid which we could have consumed in under 5 minutes but made ourselves wait to enjoy it with the rest of the dishes. A squeeze of lemon juice cut through the chilli and made the flavours zing. The squid was meaty and cooked very well.
squid, ancho chilli, coriander

What I loved about this dish is that there is no way I'd shave vegetables at home! It meant that the flavours were so light I couldn't really identify any exact vegetables but that wasn't an issue. Tasty.
shaved heritage vegetables, goats cheese, honey

The hero of the dining experience was the beef main course. It was amazing and the only reason Sean shared any of it with me was because he knew how hungry I was after a 12km run earlier in the day. So, back to the beef. It literally fell apart. I now want any beef I eat accompanied by a creamy almond paste. So delicious. The beef presented on the bone was an interesting touch as well although it could have been used as a weapon to fight off forks getting the last scraps. I'm going on a bit about that as the portion size was small for a main course. The only criticism.

wood roasted beef belly, wheat, garlic & almond sauce

Not a particularly good photo of our other side dish but you should get the idea. It was simple, nothing complicated just crunchy vegetables with a nice oven roasted flavour tossed together. Given quinoa isn't sticky and is such a small seed presenting it on a board - and not in a bowl - may not be the best idea. It made a mess as it fell off the sides and onto the table.

wood roasted asparagus, quinoa salad

I would have loved to try the cheese board but the Burswood Casino was calling Sean. Summing up I would definitely dine at Greenhouse again and recommend it to my friends. Sean wasn't so sure but that was mainly due to the portion sizes. Oh, and that the environmental awareness extends to the toilet where the lights must be set to switch off after a certain time period. Toilet pressure!

We dined on 12 March 2012

salt on the beach, Fremantle

Whilst on a family holiday in Perth we found ourselves with a free Sunday afternoon. A hot Sunday afternoon.

After a blissful late afternoon glass of sparkling at 'The Indiana' which is an iconic and beautiful building in the trendy beachside suburb of Cottesloe we had to decide where to eat.

First choice was 'Barchetta' in Cottesloe but the 40 degree blazing sun wouldn't let us enjoy the small balcony table we were shown to. It was stifling as the rays reflected off the concrete floor and aluminium table. Our fault for not making a booking weeks ago as the place was buzzing. Generally a good sign.

Our second option was 'salt on the beach' in Fremantle. I had read about the indoor playground and thought our two young daughters would enjoy that whilst Sean and I could relax over our meal. I should have known better after 7 years of motherhood. Any restaurant that has an indoor playground is generally too family friendly for the sort of cuisine you write a glowing blog post about.

The problem with salt is that it has a personality disorder. It's a kid friendly venue seating up to 300 people with a menu consisting of largely fried food. Then it describes itself as having "beautiful seaside romantic dining in the elegant 150 seat restaurant" and after that throw in a micro brewery operating on-site as well as a beachside kiosk. That's many fingers in many pies.

We decided to sit in the playground area but order off the restaurant menu. Not allowed as I was informed in a most unhospitable manner. Apparently if they did it for us, they would have to do it for everyone. And so? Anyway, all 4 of us moved into the "romantic" area which was fine as the girls amused themselves with sticker books. The view of the ocean was lovely and we were inside with air-conditioning so the heat wasn't an issue.

As requested, all our dishes came out at once so we could eat together and then leave to get the little ones back to the hotel in time for bed.

The girls insisted on fish and chips and I figured that would be fresh. It was and they devoured it without complaint. No leftovers.

We ordered a mini crusty loaf with smashed roasted garlic in olive oil which was ok. Definitely warm and crusty.

I had the salmon dish and the redeeming features where the juicy and perfectly cooked scallops and sweet oven-roasted tomatoes. Unfortunately the salmon fillet was overcooked for me - I prefer more pink on the inside. Oh, and the eggplant decided not to show up.

Tasmanian salmon and seared scallops, miso braised eggplant
and tomato, bok choy and ponzu sauce
Sean was bitterly disapointed with his meal. The steak was tough and overcooked and the jus thin and bland. We were also expecting more from prawns this close to the ocean! If you are going to charge $45 for a main course, you need to deliver a bit more.

Surf & Turf, chargrilled Scotch fillet served on a leek & potato gratin
with pan fried prawns, brocolinni & a roasted garlic jus
Side dishes were a good variety of green vegetables (asparagus, broccolini, bok choy) and one of the limpest rocket salads I think I've ever encountered. Sean refused to go near it. At least they remembered to put the dressing on the side as requested.

I'm not keen on writing negative reviews and if you want a venue that can cover pretty much any eventuality then give salt a try. Just don't expect too much in the way of extreme top-class food and make sure you enjoy the view.

We dined on 11 March 2012

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Auge, Adelaide

We couldn't think of anywhere we would rather celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary than our favourite restaurant in Adelaide - Auge which is well located in the city centre. We love everything about this place:
  • the decor which manages to combine a slick and modern interior whilst still feeling warm and inviting
  • the food which is Italian, but not cafe style, using only the freshest ingredients. You know they are serious when you can choose the olive oil you want served with your bread. The menu is comprehensive but easy to read as it is split into cured meats, appetisers, entrees, pasta & risotto, main course, sides, desserts and cheese. There are also a selection of degustation menus but we are yet to indulge in one of them - we keep promising oursevels "next time".
  • the wine there is something for everyone although we generally don't even look at it, putting our trust in the sommelier.
  • the service is professional, friendly, discreet (if you want it to be) and I just love the aprons worn by the staff. They look neat, tidy and so very Italian. Thanks in particular to Martin (Restaurant Manager Extroidonaire) and Terry (Host with the Most)!

The website states:

For the ultimate combination of modern dining and style, you have to experience Auge pronounced (OW-je). Welcome to our warm and modern atmosphere in the dining room from the long bar, where guests can enjoy a selection of Spuntini or a drink before or after their meal. If you are looking for a something relaxing and casual, why not just come and enjoy a simple classic Italian meal and a aperitivo in our Spuntini bar. Come relax and enjoy the experience that we take pleasure in offering to our guests.

So, onto our night. We started with champagne in the bar and a plate of "fritto misto di pesce" which translates to "fried local fish & shellfish with fresh lemon". I'm not a fan of fried food generally but found some firm white fish amongst the octopus which was delcious and not covered in crumbs or dripping with oil. Needless to say Sean had no trouble polishing off the entire plate - he loves salt and pepper squid which is a very similar dish. The presentation was exceptional.

We moved from the bar and onto our table which was intimate and set with a crisp white tablecloth, candlelight, quality glassware, sea salt and pepper.

To start with I went light and fresh, selecting the "finely sliced citrus cured salmon with a petit salad of organic herbs & extra virgin olive oil". This was the highlight dish for me, complimented perfectly with a glass of crisp white wine from local winery, Bridgewater Mill. The flavours were amazing, particularly the addition of lime segments amongst the oranges and nothing works better with soft, juicy salmon than dill. Loved every mouthful, especially with the carroway seeded fresh bread. The meal looked like art....., lovingly presented.

Salmone agli agrumi con piccola insalata da coltura biologica

Sean went with his favourite Italian entree - finely sliced beef tenderloin with pickled mushrooms, truffle cream & extra virgin olive oil. He described it as "delicate, fresh, clean and a top class carpaccio."

Carpaccio di manzo

The time gap between our entree and main was perfect, not too rushed. We talked and sipped our wine, enjoying the restaurant ambience. A bottle of Barolo had been decanted earlier and we looked forward to tasting it when our mains arrived.

The fish of the day was pan-seared kingfish served with mussels and prawns in a white wine broth. I just love this sort of dish. The crispy skin of the fish with some of the juiciest mussels I can remember having (wish there had been more than 3!) and a rich but not creamy sauce to dip my bread into and douse the broccolini in.

Last time we were at Auge Sean had tried to order the pork dish but it was sold out. You should have seen his face! Thankfully there was pork available for him, specifically "12 hour braised berkshire pork belly stuffed with aromatic herbs & served with shaved apple & fennel salad garnished with micro radish & sour apple sorbetto". What an amazing description - it almost made me want to order it too. I tasted a mouthful and it was delicious. A beautiful piece of pork - crunchy and salty - happily served next to an old-school slaw and unexpected and fresh sorbet.

Porchetta aromatizzata alle erbe servita con salsa al finocchio e mela, piccolo ravanello e sorbetto alla mela acerba
I love sides dishes almost as much as mains and Sean generally lets me choose. That's why we've been married for 12 years. Bring on the crisp lemony broccolini and bitter radicchio with fennel and walnuts!

Broccolini al limone e aglio
A thoughtful surprise by the staff was the presentation of a white chocolate pannacotta with a message just for us :)

We won't be waiting until our 13th wedding anniversary to enjoy a meal at Auge again. Highly recommended if you are in Adelaide.

We dined on 3 March 2012

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