Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Merry Christmas In Christchurch

Our Christmas sojourn to Christchurch was like a quick whizz round the block, although in that time, we managed to eat ourselves silly. But not quite as silly as those trips to Singapore, I mean greed is a relative concept, isn't it?

There were 3 parties in the 5 days we were there, I guess it would have been rude to reject yummy, festive food during the silly season, especially when one is meeting the entire extended clan of relatives, family friends and neighbours all at the same time. And so I was polite. Very polite actually.

Everything edible laid out on the dining table seems to be home-made (what a different and wonderful generation!), from all the lovely sweet treats, to the pinwheel sandwiches to the salmon roulade (a delicious and yet easy-to-make spreading thingy in a roll hence the name) which I've committed to memory for the next party . N's 70th birthday cake, the Christmas cake, our wedding cake! Yes, we scored a traditional wedding cake from this trip, and G got the traditional cake he had wanted, made by his mum. What a relief that we don't have to be sampling more cakes in the next few days in order to make our choice. Now all I need is to wizard up some cake toppers, my choice of decoration would be some red satin ribbon rosettes, G's choice of text would be "Last Day of Freedom". A lovely combination.

We bought the materials for making the corsages and buttonholes, browsed through H's gardening books and discussed flowers. We wandered round her garden and admired the colourful plants and flowers blooming, H is going to rehearse making a corsage over the next few days with the charming little rosebuds she had picked. Another item ticked off the checklist. Ah, delegation is such a wonderful thing, especially to competent resources...

So we enjoyed our first Christmas together, in Christchurch, surrounded by family and lots of homemade goodies. We came back laden with pressies and wrapped in love and good cheer, for the holiday season and beyond.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008


We decided to do a food tasting of the degustation menu at Cochin after we had made an exclusive booking of the premises for the Big Day. Cochin is one of the finalists for best Asian restaurant in the Restaurant and Catering Awards for Excellence 2008, conveniently located in our neighbourhood and serving French-Vietnamese cuisine, seems like an apt choice to reflect our East-West union. Having dined there before, we also like the food and the ambience.

We visited exactly a month to the Big Day. I forgot how many courses there are exactly in the degustation menu, and they also combine a couple of courses listed in the menu into a plate when they serve. But boy, were we stuffed by the time we got to the 3rd to last course and were just able to roll ourselves down the road home. But I am getting ahead of myself here. So I shall start at the beginning.

The starter was an asparagus veloute served in a larger version of a shot glass. I like this creamy soup, the portion was just nice seeing that this was just the first course and we should not be filled up with too much liquids.

Next came the spring rolls and the summer rice paper rolls. I especially like the fried spring rolls of pork and prawn.

I got the Peking duck pancake next. Peking duck is one of my favourite dishes, and I've had many, many Peking duck from various restaurants in various cities, including the famous one in Beijing. This one was all right, it wasn't anything special

G got the crab claws as he is a fishisaurus and they had done a special menu to cater for his culinary preferences. I think his crab claws, with the chockful of crabmeat, were a winner over my Peking duck.
Next came the coconut garlic prawns with sourdough bread. This was a little strange to me, as it tasted exactly like the coconut hard candy we have back in Singapore and Malaysia. G liked it very much, but I just couldn't get over how much the sauce for the prawns tasted like coconut candy and still am undecided whether I like it or not. The prawns were big and succulent though.

The pork hock with papaya salad was really, really good. I think this was one of the stars of the menu. The skin was crispy, the meat was tender and moist, the savouriness of the meat juxtaposed with the crunchy, tanginess of the papaya salad. Clearly a winner. G was served a grilled barramundi fillet with a side sauce. I believe he enjoyed the fish. As my pork hock was an enormous portion, I didn't ask for a taste of G's as I was busy trying to tackle my own dish.

Next was a tempura soft-shelled crab each, served with a french salad of goat's cheese. I am not fond of goat's cheese and my attempt at a small cube reaffirmed that.

The attentive waiter presented the next dish of a huge slab of sesame-crusted salmon with some Chinese greens and explained to us that I was supposed to get the tea-smoked duck while G gets the salmon. But as it was impossible to serve half a portion of duck as they normally serve the menu to a minimum of 2 people, we were both getting the salmon instead. I was a little disappointed as the duck was a highlight of Cochin's menu and I had the tea-smoked duck once and it was excellent and I was so looking forward to a repeat of that experience.

By this time when we had the salmon with pandan-flavoured steamed rice, we were holding our tummies and we figured this surely must be the last of the dishes and the next had to be dessert. We had lost count of how many courses we had but we knew that we were about to surrender. Our gluttony had its limit too.

But no, the waiter brings us yet another dish. It was a tumeric fish. We looked at it almost in despair, and at each other and asked the waiter if he could pack it for us to take away as it was just futile to even try. The waiter announced that this was it! The last thing to come next was dessert, of course G told him in that case, there is always room for dessert. We put on a brave front and waited some time for our choices of creme brulee and chocolate mousse to arrive. I think they needed some time to torch the creme brulee, which was good as it gave us some respite.

We spoon our desserts down, our valiant attempts finally succumbed to good sense which probably came a little too late. Overly satiated with too much, too rich, we completed our food tasting experience and felt that although the food was good, it was just way too much. We had eaten more than for our own good. We could not subject our guests to the same experience. We wanted people to enjoy themselves and not eat themselves sick. So we decided to do the sensible thing and pick the banquet menu which is only 1 main and a salad less than the degustation menu. Hopefully, our guests would be able to deal with that and enjoy the Big Day without the need for an antacid!

PS. I didn't eat anything the following day till 3.30 pm (when I ate a small piece of bread with vegemite) because I was still full from the degustation dinner. This was the extent of the over- indulgence and how very overstuffed I was. Gluttony is indeed a sin...

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Mama Mia

Usually when we crave for Italian, and pizza in particular, we head out to our favourite pizza restaurant on Crown Street, Pizza e birra. But if it's a Thursday or Friday night, then we know the chances of scoring a table is probably close to nil.

G has a great pizza recipe, and it's all in the base actually (with a secret ingredient), however it's all the hassle of mixing all the stuff together, kneading the dough, rolling it out, cleaning up afterwards, that only saw us only making it a couple 3 times or so in the last year and a half.

However the other day when I came home with some extra Lebanese bread from work, we decided to use them as bases to make hassle-free, time-saving pizza. It's easy to make and really yummy, we just slathered the bread bases with tomato paste, threw on the 2 different types of mushrooms - cap and shitake, asparagus and a big handful of cheese and 5 minutes later, voila! Pizza! How easy is that?
We also like our pasta and this was something G made the other day. I forget what went into it, all I recall are the 2 plumrose sausages I had with it. They were delicious and about the only type of sausages I care for Down Under. I don't really like their sausages, even the gourmet sort. They have a strange taste and I always have an image in my mind of the sausage maker adding all sorts of odds and ends into the mix. And that probably accounts for the strange taste. So I think I'll stick with the Danish sausages in a can, thank you very much.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Day Trip To Canberra

With G headed off to Canberra for a meeting for just the day, I decided to tag along for the ride and to visit the Art Gallery as I had missed it on my last visit to Canberra a couple of years ago to see the Floriade.

I got dropped off at the Australian Museum first. The architecture was pretty cool and I think in general the modern architecture in Canberra surpasses that in Sydney. It has a more contemporary and cutting-edge feel about it.

Inside the museum, what caught my (camera) eye was close to my heart or rather stomach. I liked the old-fashioned cooking stuff. I loved the aerodynamic design of the 60s caravan with all its curves in a romantic pink. It's just got such a nostalgic feel about it.

On the opposite scale of romance but perhaps a type of gruesome nostalgia is somewhat closer to it, is this formalin-preserved heart of the famous racing horse, Phar Lap, which had won almost every single major race during its name. It had died from being (allegedly) poisoned and its heart is twice the size of a normal horse's heart. Well, I thought it was pretty interesting, morbid as this photo may be...

G finished his meeting and we wandered around the National Art Gallery together. I liked this "floating" wire sculpture outside the building. It had an almost ephemeral feel about it. A type of reality being suspended, and you aren't quite sure then whether the reality that you know, is truly the reality of the environment around you or whether it is just the reality in your own mind...