Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cochin - A French-Vietnamese Culinary Experience

We tried the $30 mid-week banquet that Cochin offered and I thought it was really value for money.

We started with a creamy asparagus soup that was served in a stylish shot glass. The emerald colour through the glass added a nice aesthetic sense to the soup.

There were 2 types of spring rolls for our entrees. The 2 tightly-rolled but small deepfried rolls stuffed with minced meat and vegetables (Jew's ear I think - what a great name for a vegetable!) were really yummy and I enjoyed them a lot (deepfried, meat - what's not to like?). The Summer paper roll with prawns, vermicelli and carrot and cucumber strips was refreshing.

For our mains, we had a choice of about 6 dishes. As the 3 of us were sharing, we picked the 5-spice duck which was my favourite with the meat falling easily off the bone, the pork hock which was not my favourite (it was too crispy and hard on my jaw) and the spicy beef stew served with sourdough bread. We were served pandan rice with fried shallot garnishing which added a fragrance to regular steamed rice. We had eyed the portions rather sceptically when they arrived, but they were more substantial than they had first looked to us and we were filled up quickly and struggled to finish the food.

Desserts were shared as well, we ordered all 3 on the dessert list - the creme brulee, the dark chocolate mousse and the passion fruit creme caramel. They all came with a little sliver of red jelly which was more of a cross between jelly and agar-agar.

Cochin stays on my list.

Labels: , ,

Treasure Trove

This was a weekend of treasures.

The bowl of tomatoes and a variety of herbs - rosemary, thyme, Thai basil and mint, was courtesy of S's home garden. An unlikely gardener S was, in my eyes, but he can surely grow some lovely vegetables and herbs. We promptly cooked some tomatoes and herbs into a fish curry that night.

Next was my great find at the Vinnie's in Berry. I had forgotten I had been to Berry some 4 weeks ago when my sister was in town. I had bought my retro ceramic coffee pot, creamer and sugar pot for the princely sum of $5 then. This time, the set of 6 dinner plates, 5 slightly small plates, 5 side dishes, 4 shallow bowls, 4 saucers and 2 cups, was obtained all for the grand sum of - wait for it - $2!! I was almost sure there was some mispricing and asked for confirmation that indeed, it was $2 for the lot. Oh dear, they really need to learn how to price goods better at this particular Vinnie's, there is a lot more money that customers would gladly part with for the things they get here.

We hit the auction on Saturday for the viewing and Monday for the action. I finally got my Christmas pressie from G. He had promised me a floor lamp, with a custom-made shade from the Bondi Beach market. I wanted a wooden one which wasn't too ornate and had trawled through charity shops and ebay for a couple of months. This finally fitted the bill. And the price was very right too - only $35 including the auctioneer's premium.

The green and white tile top coffee table was an impulse bid at the Monday evening 20th century design sale. I was really pleased with this buy, the table was in mint condition which was good because I did not get a chance to inspect it before the sale (as I didn't see it at the viewing and so didn't form an intention to purchase it and hence didn't inspect it). I had seen several orange and white tile top coffee tables earlier but the green and white was more unusual. This win made up (kinda) for the fact that the prices for the sunburst clock, the Kartell round plastic nesting tables and the teak rocket floor lamp that G was eyeing from the viewing,were pushed up by the presence of the traders and also couples who were obviously buying up loads to furnish their houses. Seems like the interests were focused in a handful of items, judging by the heated bidding.

I know I will be back again at the auctions, I just need to find room for the stuff I want - like a Parker dining table and chairs, a couple of West German ceramic vases, a ball clock ... Treasure hunting is my very favourite pastime and living off the finds is a way of life.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dream House

The friand craving is still there although that has been somewhat assuaged by the yummy custard tart and the chocolate mud cake I had from the Surry Hills Patisserie today. Enough sinful pastries to last to the next weekend. So I didn't get a chance to bake some friands, but we did inspect a good handful of properties in the neighbourhood on Saturday. And we even saw one that we both fell in love with. The first one ever since we started viewing properties (for research purposes).

This was a house that had a modern apartment feel. Judging from the personal items in their bedrooms, the occupants were very likely to be designers or architects. The clean lines, good layout, simple yet tasteful fittings won us over. The bedrooms overlooked the neighbours' gardens instead of into someone else's rooms. The little patch of a garden was just nice, not too big to take care of, not too small to render useless. It was a house that we could clearly see ourselves living in.

But G reined in the emotions and figured that the returns on this wasn't going to be as good as that on a cheaper apartment in the same area. This would be good for our own occupation but as an investment, not so good.

I'm going to just keep dreaming a little...

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Friand Craving

I've always liked madeleines. And could polish off six at one go if unrestrained. Then I moved to Sydney and started on friands which tasted a little like madeleines. I like their shape, their taste, their texture. I like the fact that they are quite little and don't fill you up so that you feel stuffed up to your gills the way muffins make me feel.

Tonight I've been having a friand craving. I found out that another name for friand is the financier. I didn't realise that cos I've had financiers before in Singapore. They have a different shape from the friand. The financier is rectangular somewhat resembling a gold bar, hence its name. The friand is somewhat oval with a spill-over muffin top.

Two more days to the weeknd. Plans? I'm going to try to make some friands.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Life's Treasures

This was a good weekend, it started out quite good with G making a lovely 4-mushroom risotto with pan-seared scallops and ended up fabulous with me finding a couple of treasures.

The scallops were sweet and juicy and the risotto was just flavoursome with the different types of mushroom. We topped it off by sharing a lemon meringue tart from the new pastisserie which we wanted to try out. The baker, a lovely Asian woman, friendly and generous and understands building goodwill, gifted us with a little tart of our choice after we picked the regular-sized lemon meringue tart. We chose a chocolate swirl tart. That got my undying loyalty and I vowed to support her business which didn't look very busy when we went. We returned on Sunday and bought a small sourdough baguette and a cherry cheesecake tart. Once again, she gave us a free little tart, we picked the chocolate meringue this time and it was delicious.

After dinner, we wandered down to Hyde Park for the opening night of the Sydney Festival. We wanted to hear "The Pink Martini", a group from Oregon, play their multicultural blend of music. The music was great, even though the drizzle came and went, in various intervals, but cooling down the temperature considerably. The night ended with a fireworks display. It was a really pleasant night.

On the treasure finds, the first was this beautiful gold-flecked, dark glazed lidded container from the local Salvos store. The form was professionally thrown as well, it was not an amateurish piece I could tell, the potter's signature was a flourish on the base of the container. I would have to do some online research to try to identify the potter. When JF's gallery reopens for the new year, I'm going to pay him a visit and tap his expertise. I could hardly believe my eyes and the price tag which was not very clearly written - it was going for the princely sum of $1.

Hugging this to my chest, I had crossed the road to the retro furniture and bric-a-brac shop that was closing down. I had wanted to visit the week before after seeing the closing down sign but didn't get the chance. Entering the shop which was housed in a Victorian terrace house, I immediately spied a lovely dining table sitting forlornly in the middle of the centre room. It was a table which could be extended or retracted and had lovely legs. The wood was strong and firm, it was a beautiful piece. I peered under and found the label "Parker Furnitures" - bingo!

I went out to the front and asked the guy tending the shop for the price, he hesitated and pointed to the lady in front of us - she was waiting for her son to view this table in 15 minutes' time and she was very likely going to buy it. I was disappointed but didn't think that it was quite ethical behaviour to try to cut her by offering a higher price (it was only $90) and an immediate binding offer! The guy told me half in jest to return in 15 minutes because he didn't want to be stuck with the table if she didn't take it, as they were clearing the last bit of stock. Well on my return trip later that evening, I did pop my head in and checked if she had bought the table, not surprisingly she had. My last hopes were dashed...

On Sunday, I convinced G that we should walk past that retro furniture shop just to see what else was left. I saw a small wooden cabinet sitting on the front of the shop, we quite liked it but I wondered aloud what the little bolt sticking out of the top was for. We then saw a display cabinet inside and from what we could see (as there was a box of stuff wedged up against it), it looked quite nice - firm wood, clean lines and in a really good condition. I asked the price. $60 and the base was the cabinet we had seen out in the front! Now that explains the little bolt. I had been wanting a display cabinet for my glass and ceramics and this was perfect. I immediately bought it. The guys were nice enough to agree to transport it at the end of the day after they closed up, down the road to my apartment.

We checked out the cabinet after we moved it upstairs. The label inside said "Chiswell". Another good buy! It was lovely as it was before we knew it was a Chiswell, but knowing that I got a Chiswell for $60, I could not stop smiling the rest of the evening.

Finding treasures unexpectedly is one of life's happiest moments.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 - Chasing The Gulls

2008 should welcomed with the gusto and glee like a little girl running through the grass chasing the gulls. Seeing one's goals and dreams and pursuing them without hesitation. Life is uncertain, life may be short, just like the gulls may all fly away at the first dash towards them, or the little girl might trip and fall as she makes a run for the birds.

Life is about looking forward, remembering the past and with the benefit of experience and perspective, the onward journey should be easier.

This 2008, I want to live my life with gusto and glee. I want to run through the grass barefoot. I want to chase the gulls.