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Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

In the last six months, things have been a bit hectic – I had a very sad death in my family, I quit my job and had a baby. I am still trying to juggle having a child and blogging about food because my days of sitting in front of a computer have definitely reduced.  Although having a baby did not deter me from celebrating my wedding anniversary!

My due date was a week before my anniversary and was hoping that the birth and anniversary wouldn’t coincide but luckily I ended up giving birth a week and a half early. By the time the anniversary rolled around, my bub was nearly three weeks old.  Having just gotten over being shell-shocked from caring for a newborn, we were so pleased when a new restaurant called Sparrow opened up not too far away. When I called to make reservations, I had a choice of 6:30 pm or 8:30 pm. The old me would have chosen the later reservation but I knew that it would be too late and boy was I so glad that I chose the earlier time. The thing that I had to get used to was to tell them that we were two people and a pram (stroller). I desperately fed bub on the way to the restaurant and hoped bub would stay asleep.  The staff were nice and very accommodating to us and for a weeknight, it was absolutely packed (which is fortunate because the baby wasn’t able to be heard about the noise).

The menu is extensive and you can have a choice of tapas, pasta, pizza or meat.  Up until we ordered the food, it was going great – bub was asleep. Then just as the starters arrived, bub started to whinge and I was getting so stressed out. My husband lovingly spread their lovely French butter onto the homemade bread and tore me pieces of the Bresaola that we ordered and popped a Spanish olive into my mouth. Phew, just a short cuddle later, bub went back to sleep!  Sparrow’s pasta is very tasty.  If you love spaghetti bolognaise, you should try their take on it – an amazing ragu with a few different types of meats.  Next time though, I will try their degustation menu.  My friend Jacqui has eaten there many times now and has recommended a few tapas items.  They have quirky things like “duck donuts” which I am dying to try next time.  We were able to eat our meal with bub asleep almost the whole time and had a fabulous time. So many people are scared to take their babies out but I think that it can be done with some planning and of course – luck. Right now, my baby is a bit more difficult to take out but I have not altered my lifestyle too much yet. It should be interesting to see how things change especially when they are able to run around!

Tell me your stories of when you first took your bub out to dinner.  Any tips?  Funny stories?

Sparrow's Bolognaise

Sparrow's Bolognaise

Sparrow's Rabbit Pasta

Sparrow's Rabbit Pasta

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Isn’t it amazing? Apparently approximately 3.7 million Australian viewers (that’s not even counting the regional country areas) tuned in Sunday night for the Masterchef Australia two-hour finale show – that’s nearly 20% of the country’s population and highest rated non-sports show ever!  It is so interesting to see that a food-related show was more popular than Australian Idol.  Communication of food has definitely come a long way, especially with the rise of celebrity chefs and reality shows.  Food is now viewed as entertainment and being “sold” to people of all walks of life. These are the types of topics that I have studied and written about while doing my Masters of Gastronomy course and it will be interesting to see whether this type of reality show will actually increase interest in cooking or whether it will just make everyone into a food critic.

At first, I wasn’t watching every episode of the show because I had no idea that it was on nearly every night (and it didn’t help that I just had a baby). Then when the show got down to its top 20 contestants, I started to pay more attention. As with any reality show, I started to vest some interest in certain individuals and found others bland or arrogant. But on Monday morning when I went to read the online articles about the Masterchef finale, I was amazed to see so much negativity out there.  The final two contestants were Poh and Julie who are vastly different types of cooks but equally passionate.  It astounds me that so many people who commented on various websites think that the competition was “rigged” towards favouring Julie.  Even the contestants felt that the judging was fair based on their performance that night.  No need to be so nasty people!  It is just a TV show!

Chris was my initial favourite because his dishes were unique and inventive but I can see why he didn’t win on the night that Donna Hay was the guest judge because she did say that “layers of brown” were the worst for food photography and all of Chris’ dishes were some shade of brown and not very photo-friendly.  That was the one night where looks were just as important as taste and I don’t think Chris had a chance with how his dish looked compared to two women.  On a side note, I was surprised to finally see Donna Hay’s face!  She is the queen of publishing here but never shows her face so I had always wondered if she was young or old or whatever.  She’s not what I expected and those high heels she was wearing that night were very stiletto!

When it came down to the two finalists, I didn’t care who won – I thought that they both deserved it and that they both brought their own unique style to the competition.  Poh Ling Yeow is definitely an artist and I love her meticulous ways in plating and desserts (but I wonder why she’s so messy when cooking).  Julie Goodwin is generous in her style and her food exudes comfort.  That Matt Moran signature chocolate plate was very tough (lots of skill needed) and I don’t think a lot of people at home really appreciated that unless they’ve done all of the desserts components before.  The thing that really got me on the night of the challenge was when Poh put her chocolate cigar in the fridge even though the recipe said no to!!  In culinary school when I learned my chocolate skills, it took me three months to learn how to temper chocolate properly and had to do it to the point where I used my bottom lip to test for temperature, not a thermometer…it is by no means easy.  I think perhaps no one explained the point of tempering to them and thus she thought that chilling the chocolate would make it set better (or firmer) but the whole point of tempering is so that the chocolate sets at room temperature (with a beautiful shine and good snap when broken).

Then there are the controversies of on set romances and the young ones belonging to a “Kiddie Mafia”.  The headline that makes me laugh the most is that Poh “shockingly” posed nude for Austrlaian artist David Bromley!  For god’s sake, she’s an artist – it’s no big deal!  It is not as if she posed for some porn magazine!  And really, who cares?

I saw Poh on Saturday at Adelaide’s Central Market.  She was talking to some friends outside of T-Bar and I wanted to tell her good luck but then I realised that if she is already in Adelaide, then the finale was obviously taped a while ago and that she already knew who had won and I didn’t want it to be awkward.  Besides, I’m sure she wants to be left alone.  Or perhaps I didn’t feel like being rejected, like the time when I was on the same Qantas flight as Kylie Kwong and when I asked her if I can have a photo with her while waiting for our baggage, she said no…but she wished me a happy Chinese New Year…

Oh and for those of you who don’t live in Australia, Julie was the winner.

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In a previous post, I was bitching about the tedious task of having to always have our garden draped with bird-netting due to these cuddly Ring-tailed possums that live and forage in most urban neighbourhoods around here. When I tell my friends in the U.S. that we have Possums, most think of those ugly triangular-faced creatures in North America. Possums here are marsupials, relatives of cute Koalas and Kangaroos but although cute, they wreak havoc on gardens…including mine.  I have a love and hate relationship with them but I must confess – last year, I saw one walking along the top of my brush fence with a baby on her back and that was absolutely adorable.

Well, I finally got a picture of one sitting in the neighbour’s Lilly Pilly tree.

Australian Ring-tailed Possum

Australian Ring-tailed Possum: They may be cute but will decimate your garden.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

byo bags

The South Australian government has done something pretty radical – it is the first state in Australia that has decided to phase out and ban lightweight plastic shopping bags to help the environment by 04 May 2009.

The one thing that I noticed when I first moved here was that reusable bags were already very commonplace at supermarkets and farmer’s markets.  What made me even more happy and surprised was that people were actually using it for environmental reasons and not just because they got $0.05 credit per bag re-used at a supermarket like they do in many U.S. supermarkets.  My childhood home of Hawaii has a long way to go before people start to get less wasteful – I’ve only recently seen reusable bags for sale at drug stores and supermarkets.

We always keep at least 6 to 8 bags in our car at all times just in case we do that “spontaneous grocery shopping”.  But I have to admit, even someone like myself who is very environmentally conscious, has forgotten my reusable bags quite a few times (especially if I shop on my lunch break at work).  Luckily I have a great reusable bag that folds up into the size of a wallet that can fit in any purse. Having worked at a produce store in my late teens, I know full well how many bags an average supermarket goes through in one day (it is astonishing) and it is so wasteful because the majority end up in landfills.  The only thing that I will admit to being sad about is not having free wastebasket liners…I like using those plastic bags for my office and bathroom bins but I’m sure I’ll get over it.

You can watch the television ads running here about this on Youtube:

Of course, we are not the first city to have a ban on plastic bags.  My former city of residence San Francisco, was the first city in the USA (yay, go SF!) to ban bags in March 2008.  http://www.sfenvironment.org/our_programs/interests.html?ssi=7&ti=6&ii=142

Although China has not banned plastic bags, they have stopped giving away free plastic bags which is great news for a country that wasted billions of bags a year.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/7443530.stm

Here are a few more places that have had a ban:

Plastic bag bans around the world

South Australia joins an increasing number of countries that already restrict plastic shopping bags or plan to do so:

AFRICA: Rwanda and Eritrea banned the bags outright, as has Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia. South Africa, Uganda and Kenya have minimum thickness rules, and Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho and Tanzania are considering similar measures.

BANGLADESH: The first large country to ban bags in 2002. Bangladesh blamed millions of discarded bags for blocking drains and contributing to floods that submerged much of the country in 1988.

BHUTAN: The isolated Himalayan country banned plastic shopping bags, street advertising and tobacco in 2007, as part of its policy to foster “Gross National Happiness”.

CHINA: The ban on ultra-thin bags that goes into force on June 1 will cut pollution and save valuable oil resources, the State Council, or cabinet, says. In May 2007 Hong Kong proposed a 50 cent “polluter pays” levy on plastic shopping bags.

ENGLAND: In May 2007 the village of Modbury in south Devon became Europe’s first plastic bag-free town, selling reuseable and biodegradable bags instead. London’s 33 councils plan to ban ultra-thin bags from 2009 and tax others.

FRANCE: In 2005, French lawmakers voted to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags by 2010. The French island of Corsica became the first to ban plastic bags in large stores in 1999.

INDIA: The western state of Maharashtra banned the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags in August 2005, after claims that they choked drains during monsoon rains. Other states banned ultra-thin bags to cut pollution and deaths of cattle, sacred to Hindus, which eat them.

IRELAND: A plastic bag tax was passed in 2002. The tax created an initial 90 percent drop in bag use, according to the Environment Ministry, though usage gradually rebounded.

ITALY: Outright ban to be introduced from 2010.

TAIWAN: A partial ban in 2003 phased out free bags in department stores and supermarkets and disposable plastic plates, cups and cutlery from fast food outlets. Most stores charge people who don’t bring their own T$1 ($0.03).

UNITED STATES: San Francisco became the first and only US city to outlaw plastic grocery bags in April 2008. The ban is limited to large supermarkets.

Source: Planet Ark, May 28, 2008

Hopefully more cities will follow suit.  Don’t forget your bags next time you go shopping!

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I hope that everyone has/had a lovely Christmas. I spent the day with good friends and we all shared the task of providing food and it worked out very well. Lunch that was a colourful feast and stuffed to the gills!

What makes an Australian Christmas different from any Christmas I’ve spent in the UK or back home in the US is that not only is it summer and warm, big bowls of fresh cherries are a must on the table! Also either lobsters (crays) or large prawns (both eaten cold) are a big feature on many Christmas tables in Oz and to top it off, a lovely summer pavlova for dessert.

Happy Christmas!


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Individual pavlovas made by me 🙂

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Prawns made by Jacqui with a great sauce

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Our lovely festival table with ham made by Jacqui, turkey made by Brenda with a very good grape relish called Mostarda, salads made by us and wines provided by Jen & Matt!

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My very colourful Christmas lunch plate

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A few more things I made for lunch...buttermilk pecan pralines, oatmeal raisin cookies, mince pies using homemade mincemeat and Mexican wedding cakes (the best!)

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I personally feel that SODA and its INEXPENSIVENESS in America, is one of the many causes of the huge obesity problem in the U.S.A.  Don’t get me wrong, Australia has a big problem too but the stats don’t lie, the U.S.A. is the fattest nation on earth and it is because junk food is so cheap and accessible. According to MSN Health & Fitness who got its source from Beverage Digest, Americans spent $68.1 Billion USD on carbonated soft drinks last year which averages it as 828 8-ounce servings per capita!!!  That is crazy.  What a load of empty calories that is!

Soda is one of those things that you can get extra super duper sized in America.  At 7-eleven stores in most parts of the U.S.A., you can get buy their “Double Gulp” soda in 64 ounces (1.89 litres or 1/2 gallon)!!  Also, if you are on the market for a brand new car in the states, check out how much larger their cup holders are…big enough to at least fit a “Big Gulp”.  In Australia, our cars are big, much like in the states but cup holders are still small and the biggest sized plastic soda drink it will fit are the 500ml (16 oz) bottles.  If you go to fast food restaurants here like at McDonald’s, a “small” drink is what I remember a small was in my childhood – I think they are now called “kiddie” size in the U.S.A.  I was surprised to have gone home recently and ordered a “medium” drink and they gave me this HUGE thing that was not medium in my head.

I am not against soda – in fact I do love a frozen coke as a treat but I rarely buy soda for the house.  Part of the reason is because it does nothing good for my body and the other is because it’s so bloody expensive.  When I first moved here, I was shocked at just how much little bottles of soda cost ($3) and was able to curb my American taste for sugary drinks.  Now, I go to the supermarket and marvel at the prices of 6-packs of Coke.  As you see in my picture, a 6-pack of Diet Coke, on Special, is $7.54!!  Now how much is that with the conversion rate you ask?  Well, up until last month, the Australian vs. U.S. Dollar were nearly 1 to 1 but the Aussie $ has slipped this week so as of Sept. 3 ($1US = 0.82AU), the 6-pack costs $6.22 at a GROCERY store.  I’ve seen 36 cans of name-brand soda on sale for $10 in the U.S.A. and it gets way cheaper than that if you go to the big wholesale stores or Wal-Mart and especially if you buy generic brands.

I think I’ve made enough comparisons and I’m done w/my ranting.  I just find the cultural differences so interesting and I think that American beverage companies should raise the price of soda to help with the nationwide obesity problem and perhaps, people might start losing weight!

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OMG!!!  After years of dealing with the Australian immigration, we have now been granted Permanent Resident (“Permie”) status!!!  It has taken nearly 8 months since we applied for it and after 3 different visas prior to this and thousands of dollars later, we have the right and privilege to come and go freely from this beautiful country!!  I really can sympathize with people who immigrate to any country now and can understand why there are so many illegal immigrants.  It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure.  Going through this process has been one of the most trying, frustrating, hair-ripping, financially-draining things we have had to do but it was worth it in the end.  I just don’t know why they make you suffer so much before you get your prize…especially since Australia NEEDS more people.  The thing I am grateful for the most is that I can now get access to great medical care for free, if I need it although most people (including us) have private health insurance as well to cover extras.  Still, it is something that I hope that Americans will have access to some day.  The U.S. being the only industrialized nation without the right to free medical care is sad to me.

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