Sunday, 24 August 2014

Oldtown in Newtown

Another rainy afternoon in Sydney. The last weeks consisted of rain, rain and rain. We were looking for a place close by, and Oldtown in Newtown came to mind.

We have been living in Newtown for about a year now, and have walked past Oldtown in Newtown quite a few times. The interior looks cute, cosy and comfortable. I made a reservation that same day and there was still a spot left at 9.30. Often, restaurants have 'sittings' where you can choose a time to dine. I could choose either for 6.30 or 8.30 - and because it was a Saturday night I opted for  8.30.

A table was put aside for me and we were seated immediately. The menu mainly consists of Italian food. There were a few options to pick from, and it was difficult to choose. However, I knew I wanted pasta. This place makes their pasta from scratch, and even has cooking classes. So I had to try the pasta. And I was glad I did. I picked the Duck pasta with fresh Duck ragout. 

I made the mistake of eating a whole cheese platter pretty much by myself before we went for dinner. Considering dinner was a bit on the late side, I decided to buy some cheese from the Stinking Bishops. And their cheese is so good! So good that I ate a whole 100 gram piece of the Holy Goat and a 100 gram piece of the Brie. Gosh I am happy I bought that fitbit to get me to walk off the calories. Anyway....the pasta.....

The pasta was very fresh and the Duck was nice and meaty. The dish was well balanced. I had three bites and I was full (damn you cheese!). But then I managed to eat most of the pasta anyway. Did I have problems with standing up afterwards? Yes. Was it worth it? Hell yeah! Had some lovely red wines to accompany my pasta too. A perfect Italian dinner! 

MrBehomeforT had the steak with crunchy chips and some salad. Oh did he have food envy! But I returned his food envy when the desserts came in. I ordered the Tiramisu, which was nice, but not fantastic. MrBehomeforT ordered the chocolate tart with caramel and ice cream. He was happy. He loved his tart.

And then I ordered the tea. The T. Ohmy! I LOVED the teapot! And the teacup. And the thing with milk. I was having a little tea party and thoroughly enjoying it. 

I would definitely go back to Oldtown in Newtown. I want to try their pasta with vodka and beetroot. Sounds delicious! It wasn't too expensive either, so this may well become our Italian local.

Oldtown in Newtown on Urbanspoon


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Monday, 18 August 2014

Donna Hay's Chicken (Minestrone) Soup

The weather hasn't been particularly delightful this weekend. In fact, it was pouring down this morning and on Sunday morning. Very unusual for Sydney.

I don't mind a bit of rain, especially when you don't have to go anywhere. I love waking up on Sunday morning hearing the rain pouring down outside, knowing that I can stay in bed and don't have to get up. Too bad it also rained cats and dogs this morning and I had to get to work.

This soup adapted from Donna Hay is perfect for a rainy day inside. It's healthy, filling, warm, comforting and tasty. The original recipe uses a whole chicken and no stock. This is the best way to make the real thing. However, you'll be fishing for bones for ages and the chicken skin contains a lot of fat. Usually I leave the soup in the fridge overnight and scoop of the fat the next day, but this time I wasn't that patient. I wanted to eat this soup immediately. I used chicken thighs instead.

Filled with Kale, Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, Carrots, Celery and Fennel, this soup is the ultimate flu buster. Donna's recipe has Cavolo Nero, a Tuscan Kale, in it. But it is unlikely you'll find this at your local Coles or Woolies. I replaced it with normal kale which was just as good. Another change I made was leaving out the spaghetti. Including pasta in your soup can make the soup a full meal, however, sometimes it makes the soup thick and starchy. I like my soups clear with big chunks of meat and vegies in it. I have used a lot more vegies than Donna, but hay (get the pun?) there can't be anything wrong with that!

If you make double the quantity and put the soup in the freezer in separate portions, you'll have your lunch sorted for the next few weeks. Enjoy!

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
5 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 pack of rindless bacon
chicken tights, as many as you like, sliced
8 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
4 fresh bay leaves
3 litres chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 x 400g can cherry tomatoes
sea salt and cracked black pepper
3 bulbs baby fennel, chopped
100g spaghetti, broken into small pieces
1 zucchini (courgette), sliced
1 bunch of kale
100 grams spaghetti (if you would like a more filling soup)

The recipe

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, half the carrot, half the celery and the bacon. Cook, stirring, for 4–5 minutes. Add the chicken, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 1½ hours. Add the tomato paste, cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining celery and carrot, the fennel (and pasta - if you like) and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and chicken and cook for a further 2 minutes or until warmed through. Add the kale to the soup and cook for 1 minute or until just wilted. Divide the soup between bowls and sprinkle with salt and pepper to serve. 


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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Queenstown, New Zealand

Another long weekend, another weekend trip. This time to Queenstown, New Zealand. 

As long as it's winter, I want to make the most of it. And what could be better than flying south, to a cold cute little town surrounded by mountains? I had been to Queenstown before, but MrBehomeforT (like many Australians) had not. 

I took two days off and we flew in on a Friday. Unfortunately it was very, very windy in Queenstown that day, resulting in a very, very turbulent flight. MrBehomeforT was already scared of flying, and now he is terrified of flying. Most flights were diverted or cancelled and apparently our flight was the only international flight arriving in Queenstown that day. Although I was happy we landed in Queenstown and not in Christchurch, sitting on a plane which is moved from left to right and up and down between a very small mountain passage is not something which is particularly pleasant. Pale faces, but very, very relieved passengers once we landed. We immediately bonded with some people on the plane over this scary experience. Will it put me off flying? Absolutely not! However, I may need a valium the next time if the weather isn't so good.

It was quite warm for the time of the year, and consequently the snow wasn't very good. I am not a big fan of skiing, but MrBehomeforT likes snowboarding. Unfortunately he didn't get the chance to hit the slopes but we did a lot of fun things whilst in Queenstown.

After we had a well deserved drink to calm the nerves, we checked in at the Millennium Hotel. This hotel is located on the edge of Queenstown on a hill, about 10 minutes by foot from the centre. It's quite a big hotel and it's right on the lake (like the rest of Queenstown). I really enjoyed my stay here. Toiletries were replaced every day, towels were changed and the bed was made. The bed was so comfy!! I love watching tv in bed, especially when the room is nice and cold and the doona is warm and fluffy!

On our first night we had dinner at Captain's Restaurant and dessert at Cookie Time. I will share my reviews in separate blog posts. We were pretty knackered from the flight and decided to go to bed early. 

When we woke up the next day it was pouring down rain. Not what we expected! We tried to find a place for lunch as quick as we could and ended up in a tiny little pizza and pasta place called 'the Cow Restaurant. I did not take any pictures, because pizza's and pasta's are not that exciting for the eye, but they are for the mouth! We had to wait for 20 minutes or so, which wasn't too bad because we were seated in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine. Lovely!

We were seated together with one other person who was by himself, which was quite unusual but it was a really nice guy to talk to. I had the best pizza bolognaise I ever had, and the wine wasn't too bad either.

What else do you do on a rainy day other than eating? Well, it is a bit unusual, but we visited one of Queenstown's newest attractions, the fear factory. It looks a bit cheesy on the outside but I read the reviews (very good) and it actually turned out to be heaps of fun! Imagine darkness, total darkness and trying to make your way through a maze, having no idea what is happening. I won't tell more, but I would highly recommend this place! 
In the evening we went for dinner at rata which was amazing (separate review soon)!  

The next day we planned a wine tour with NZ Wine Tours. It was so much fun that I will also have to write a separate review about this. We tasted some amazing pinot noir and drove through beautiful landscapes. Kiwi's are so friendly! After a full day of winetasting we had dinner at Flame Bar and Grill. Real manfood and huge portions of steaks and ribs! We had a few drinks at Pub on the Wharf where they do an amazing mulled wine (cinnamon sugar!!).

Our last day we hired a car and drove to Glenorchy, about a one hour drive from Queenstown. The drive is beautiful and there are heaps of places to stop and to take pictures. The landscape is just amazing. Have a look at the pictures. Perfect, right? We drove to a place called 'paradise' which is not more than a paddock, but it's more about the drive itself. Glenorchy is a tiny little village with not much more than a pub and a cafe. It has a beautiful lake too! When we got back to Queenstown (I drove so I was amazed we arrived safely - I'm not the best driver (it's still on the wrong side of the road for me!) we had some dinner at Farelli's. Best bolognaise sauce ever. It had quite a few secret ingredients but I will tell more about that in a separate post. 

Unfortunately our stay in Queenstown was too short. What a dreamy village! I would love to see more of it, and of the rest of New Zealand. One of my favourite places in the world!


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