Sunday, 27 July 2014

My new favourite place in Newtown

My new favourite place in Newtown

The reviews said that this place was slow, so I expected a slow service. It was Saturday, quite early (7 pm) and already packed. Contrary to my expectations, this place was fast! And the food was amazing!

We started with Haku Mari - Vegetable Spring Roll. These were nice and crispy and full with flavour. They were so nice that we had to order a second serving.

After this we had some Chicken Karaage - Deepfried Marinated Chicken. The chicken was moist and tender, and the flavour was so good! I loved the seasoning. Every dish had a generous serving of Japanese mayo, which was really nice.

Of course we needed to order some sushi. The Dragon Roll with fried prawn, eel and avocado was good. The prawn was crispy (could have been a bit crispier) and the eel gave the sushi some extra sweetness.

We also ordered the Terriyaki Chicken Roll. Not my favourite, but that is personal taste. MrBehomeforT was a big fan of this one. But cold chicken in sushi.... I'm not so sure....

The last sushi roll we had, the Spider Roll with deepfried softshell crab, was the best. I love spider rolls! The crispy soft shell crab is so good!

Service was super quick and the bill came to $40 - so cheap!!! We were both stuffed and there was no place for dessert. All that food for such a small price.

This is now my favourite place in newtown! Highly recommended!

Hikaru Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Google CityExperts

Have you ever written reviews? When you went to a restaurant and you really liked the food, or you really hated it. Or when you took pictures and wanted to share them with other people? I am sure you have all read reviews to find out whether you wanted to go to a place or not.

Usually for restaurants I use urbanspoon. For hotels and activities I use tripadvisor. But what if you have no idea where you are going? You are in an area you don't know, and you are hungry. You want to ea asap, but you don't want to spend your money on horrible food.

You could use the "nearby" option on your urbanspoon app, but you could also use google maps. Google maps allows you to see what is close by, and whether people like it or not. With the introduction of CityExperts, it is easy to write reviews through the google maps app, or the google plus app.

According to google, when you become a city expert you get access to fun, exclusive events in your local area and special online recognition.

After a long day at work I attended a Google CityExperts event. I joined up when I received an email from DailyAddict about the event, and I was keen to know what it was all about.

After a brief explanation about CityExperts, we (I brought Mr BehomeforT - I wasn't keen to go by myself) got a nice beer and a cider from Sydney Brewery. We got a welcome cocktail which was yummy, and we also got two drink tokens. Sydney Brewery cider was quite sweet but that's the way I like it :-)

There were some canapes going around and Cornersmith Cafe had a little workshop going where you could learn how to pickle vegies and fruit. One of the Google girls walked up and explained how CityExperts worked, which was quite handy because I had no idea.

There was a little "bingo" game where completed activities or finding people who had done something earned you a stamp. People who completed the bingo sheet or who wrote 5 on the spot CityExpert reviews got a small present from Google.

This was my first blogger event and I wasn't sure what to expect. Surely it's all about the brand. But in a fun way. At least I know a bit more about Google CityExperts now, but I'll have to see whether I use it or not. 

See, Google plus never really took off, but perhaps cityexperts may change this. Google plus is handy because you can link all your social media updates and display them on your profile. But is it better than facebook or instagram? Is CityExperts better than urbanspoon or tripadvisor? I don't know. What I do know is that this was a fun night and that I know how to pickle vegetables now.


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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Yes to Yarra (and to Melbourne)

If you have been reading my blog lately you are probably asking yourself whether I do things other than wine tasting? What happened to all the dinners I have been cooking and all the restaurants I usually go to? Well, after coming back from Europe the travel bug bit me and I decided I wanted to see a lot more of Australia. I have been living here for 5,5 years now and I realised that I haven't seen a lot of Australia yet. 

When MrBehomeforT's birthday was coming up I decided to book a surprise weekend to Melbourne. The only problem being that I accidentally told him we were going to Melbourne so it wasn't a surprise weekend anymore. 

Melbourne was cold, rainy, dark and gloomy. Exactly how I like it! (I know, it is a bit strange). After a short flight and a quick check-in at the hotel we went to a nice wine bar for some vino and some good food. Like we haven't had enough wine in the last few weeks!

On Saturday we decided to go on a wine tour. It's always easier not having to drive when you go wine tasting. I mean, are there really people who are happy to use the spit bucket? A wine tour is a convenient way of getting around and also getting some background information about the area and the wineries.

The Yarra Valley is fairly close to Melbourne, an hour or so away. I chose Epicurean Tours which was a bit more expensive than the other tours on offer, but it was well worth it.

We started at De Bortolli, a nice but fairly commercial winery. 'Special price today' - 'sign up for our club' etc. We were given a nice cheese platter and of course we tried some nice wines. The Yarra Valley has beautiful chardonnay's and pinot noirs on offer. Because of the colder climate, the reds are less intense and full-bodied. I also thought that most reds were a bit more peppery.

After De Bortolli we visited a smaller winery, Dixon's Creek. The wine maker was quite a character. So was the lovely winery dog. There were some beautiful views from this winery and we bought a few beautiful wines here.

I'm sure most people have heard about, or drank, Chandon. They make nice bubbly wines and (something I did not know), also some nice reds. The place was huge and had a very popular restaurant where we had lunch. The lunch was really nice and included two full glasses of wine. 

Coldstream Hills Winery was another success with many wines to taste. The last winery was Dominique Portet where we had some coffee and tea with macaroons and a few wines. These wines were a bit different and I didn't enjoy them as much as the wines from the previous wineries. 

This was a successful wine tour and we were struggling to fit all the bottles of wine in our baggage. 

After the wine tour we had a nice dinner at Gill's Diner in the heart of Melbourne. Gill's was nice and warm after a day of wine tasting in the cold. The place has a cosy atmosphere and there were a few groups celebrating a birthday. 

I did not take pictures of all the food this time, but it was good. I was so excited when I saw some Dutch Oliebollen on the menu! Oliebollen (translated to English: "oil bolls/balls") are a Dutch snack made of a dough/batter with apple and/or raisins, deepfried and served with icing sugar. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I have been told that one of the chef's at Gills used the recipe from his Dutch 'oma' (grandmother). The Oliebollen were served with a custard and they were absolutely delicious! It is so nice to see some Dutch food on the menu in some Australian restaurants. 

The rest of the dinner was lovely too. We had some beautiful aranchini for the entree and I had a delicious roast pork dish as a main. The portion sizes weren't big but the food was beautiful. And although we had to wait for a fair bit for a tea that I ordered, our overall experience was good. I would highly recommend this place, especially for the Oliebollen!

We watched the Dutch game (the Netherlands v Mexico) in the pub at 5am, which was a bit too much for me. Back home I would have easily gone to the pub to watch the game, but at 5am when you have just woken up it is not very pleasant. Unless you have done an all-nighter, like most people in the pub had. 

The rest of the day we walked through Melbourne and I had a cheeky look in the H&M (why are you not in Sydney??). We had a beautiful lunch at HopHaus, a German bar. I was surprised and very happy to find Dutch 'bitterballen' on the menu there. Bitterballen are a Dutch snack. The filling is made of a gooey meat ragout and the outside is crunchy. These little deepfried balls are often served during the 'borrel' (around 5 'o clock, before dinner) and with mustard or mayonnaise. 

Before I knew it, it was time to fly back to Sydney and go straight back to work the next morning. In a week or so we will be flying to New Zealand and I will be hopefully able to share some nice pictures from Queenstown with you.


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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Back to Australia. Adelaide, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley

A little detour from Italy. A nice break in Australia. A short weekend trip to South Australia.

A few weeks after we got back from Europe we decided to visit friends in Adelaide. Don't worry, there are many more posts about our Italian adventure and all the food we ate to come. But I just wanted to show you these pictures of beautiful McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley.

After a reasonably calm flight we arrived from sunny Sydney in rainy Adelaide. Very rainy. 

Adelaide was cold, very cold (for Australian understandings). That's why our friends were really happy with the onesies we brought for them from Sydney. What's better than sitting in front of a fire place in your onesie with a glass of wine and some nice cheese? And that is exactly what we did! 

We had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant on Friday and on Saturday we left for McLaren Vale. Fortunately one of our friends (let's call them M&M) was happy to drive after a boozy Friday night which worked out well for us. McLaren vale is absolutely gorgeous. I would say it's even prettier than the Barossa Valley. Beautiful trees, flowers, and vineyards. Amazing sunsets. A rainbow here and there. Warm cellardoors with smokey fireplaces and sometimes a winery dog or a restaurant. Tasting wine near the fireplace. Cold outside, warm inside. I loved absolutely everything about it.

We visited Maxwell Wines, Tapestry Wines and Lloyd Brothers. The first two wineries were lovely and had lovely wines. Lloyd brothers was not so nice. The wine tasted cheap and there were only a few wines available for tasting that day. I love the smaller wineries. 

McLaren Vale is closer to the ocean and therefore the vines are more exposed to the effects of the ocean. I found the reds a bit lighter and not as full bodied as the Barossa reds. Still very nice though.

On Sunday we visited Taste of Eden Valley, Turkey Flat, Rockford Wines and Grant Birch in the Barossa. At Taste of Eden Valley you can taste wines from small wineries which do not have a cellardoor. Turkey Flat is a lovely small winery (with a cute winery dog!) in a beautiful area. We bought an amazing Pedro Ximinez! 

We also had a lovely lunch at Casa Carboni, an Italian cooking school in the Barossa. I could stay in the Barossa for days. For weeks even. Wine tasting in winter is the best! I would highly recommend both the Barossa and McLaren Vale!


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