Jun 29, 2010

Goodbyes. Red. Cold. Red and Cold.

It's been a series of goodbyes recently.  Steve Baker of St Kilda has said goodbye to the next 9 weeks of the AFL season, Mr Rudd and his family have said goodbye to The Lodge and here at SSG Manor, it was time to farewell some items from my vast collection of cosmetics.  I think I said the least painful goodbye.  I only know the first 2 pieces of news because I've been listening to ABC news radio in the car as I defrost on the way to work.  Mr SSG 'fixed' the car radio recently and it's the car equivalent of watching one of the news channels on foxtel.  Good work, Mr SSG!

That red lipstick that promised moisture and lustre (but dried up after a few weeks) and a near empty tube of face mask.  It is such a rare event that I discard anything makeup related - the lipstick especially deserved to be placed on a cushion.

Things were getting desperate with regard to the face mask.  Thankfully, austerity measures came to the rescue.  The tube was cut and several faces worth of mask were found in what appeared to be an empty tube.

For every goodbye there is a hello.

And today I said hello to a box from Strawberrynet.

Which cheered me up no end.  But such is the power of Strawberrynet that a simple purchase intended to replace 2 items multiplies to 4.  In my defence, the pixi lip booster was free.

My friend B described my previous red lipstick purchase as a false economy and I now agree.  I have gone High End and bought a Rouge Coco lipstick in shade #19 - Gabrielle.  I also have a new red lip pencil.

With a slick of Gabrielle on my lips, I wonder if I'll be able to soldier on through the winter with a little spring in my step if not the formidable style of Gabrielle Coco Chanel.  Does a long black scarf draped around my neck count or the wearing of long black boots count?

In Australia at the moment, no discussion of the word 'red' would be complete without reference to our new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.  The rumours are running hot that we will go to the polls early August.  Just in time for my birthday which will make it a Leonine Election.  I hope in vain that there will be fashion, flair and excitement aplenty in the next 6 weeks.

In the US at the moment, no discussion of the words 'red' (echoes of the Communist past - am I allowed to write that, Senator Conroy?) and 'cold' would be complete without reference to the current Russian spy ring story that is breaking news at the moment.  For many of us, this is the first time in our lifetime that 'spies' and 'The Cold War' are real world events and  not the subject of popular entertainment or our history books.  From the news I have heard so far, the events that have unfolded could have come straight from the pages of a spy novel or script.  Life imitating art imitating life.

On a more cheerful note, life in the land of Terry is carrying on at quite a pace.  Today, Terry reviewed Luke Benchmark in Sylvania Heights (tel: 9544 6233).  Bless him, he paraphrased one of my favourite films, 'Ocean's 12' to describe the restaurant's star dish - a dozen oysters (6 hotties and 6 coldies, referring to the way they are prepared).   The oysters sound as attractive as the 12 of the George Clooney film.  Ahh, George...  I am this close to buying a Nespresso because of you.

Which is a rather lovely way to end this post.  And hasn't it been a strange one?  I guess it's what you get on a day that started with a box from Strawberrynet, continued with a drive accompanied  by a soundtrack of news radio and finished with a few educational docos on SBS.  I've been learning about the life of David Ogilvy the last 'Mad Man' of advertising and the origins of human speech and now we have something about braving the extreme cold.  If there are any themes in this post, I think they can be found in amongst all that programming.

By the way, thank you for following!  We are at 79 as of today and this fills me with joy.

Good night and stay warm!  I'm going to hibernate for the rest of tonight.

Jun 28, 2010

Boon Chocolates, Darlinghurst.

The much anticipated conclusion to Saturday night's dinner at Spice I Am.

Our intrepid band of foodies decamped in search of hot chocolate.  Once again, W had the answer - Boon the chocolate experience, which was just down Victoria Street in what I think must be the foodie centre of the suburb.

Boon is owned by Fanny Chan, a microbiologist and chemist.  She studied chocolate under Patrick Mertens in Europe (who works for the Callebaut chocolate company).  We met one of the other owners on the night we were there and he was lovely - a Perth boy himself too!

The whole store is a beautiful boutique devoted to chocolate.  The tiny ground floor is divided in half by a long glass paneled display cabinet of all the unique single chocolates for sale.  Plus that handbag.

And the other half is an open area displaying pre-packed chocolates.

To the right is a staircase that leads to the cafe area.  There are gaps in the stair case, allowing you to always be able to see the chocolate wherever you may be in the store.

We reached the top of the stairs and entered a cozy lounge area.  Softly lit and wallpapered with a beautiful grey printed print and some vivid artworks were on display too.

There were comfortable couches and little stools.  Yes, the owners were able to create a space for the 5 of us.  Phew.

With stomachs full of that wonderful Thai meal, it was time to find our second stomachs.

I ordered a Connoisseur chocolate set featuring a dark hot chocolate, a mousse and a praline.

Which was every bit as delicious as it looked.  The hot chocolate is basically molten chocolate with just the right amount of richness and wasn't overly sweet.  There was also no bitterness.  It was perfect.

I told you I was in the company of foodies with apetites.  We also shared some other items from the menu.

The Boon Specialty Cake.  A must try.

The Racion De Churros.  

Not only is there melted chocolate in the dipping 'salsa' -  but also an exotic spice blend of cinnamon, cardamon, chilli and vanilla.

It was the perfect food over which to laugh, debrief, laugh some more and get the gossip.

On our way to paying the bill, I explored the displays downstairs a little.

The things that can be made from chocolate!

Chocolate balls.

Champagne truffles.

Combining the two of my favourite foods in the world.

More chocolate gifts.  I really have to get serious about my hot chocolates this winter and get some of those chocolate blocks on sticks to use for my drinks at home.

70% dark chocolate truffles.

My brother left for Perth last night and his visit was too short.  Nevertheless, it was lovely to see him and have him stay with us.  We laughed and chatted properly for the first time in months.  I did have a tear in my eye when he left.  I do this every time one of my brothers leaves our house in Sydney.  We are all so busy with our adult lives at the moment but the bond we have from our shared childhood will always keep the three of us together in spirit if not body.  

When we are together, we will always have new dining adventures to share as well as revisiting some of our favourite childhood foods.  This time, the return to childhood was represented by a Coles rotisserie chicken which we ate in sandwiches with soft white bread and mixed salad leaves.  Just like we did back in Perth almost 20 years ago.

Boon on Urbanspoon

Jun 27, 2010

Spice I Am, Darlinghurst.

Last night we went out to dinner with my brother C and our friends from Perth, A and W.  The mission was to find Sydney's best Thai.  Which is no mean feat because Sydney Thai food is universally acknowledged as the best Thai food outside of Thailand.  Though, some in Sydney would dispense with that caveat and say it is simply the best Thai food period. 

I had a short list of names and the winner was Spice I Am, Darlinghurst.

Due to the lateness of our booking, we were seated outside so this is as far as I got with my photographs of the restaurant.  The interior is dark and very tactile.  There is a wall of earthernware bottles above the bar with their necks jutting into the room.  There were banquettes and low lying chairs, wood and interesting textures.  

Fortunately, we were all rugged up against the cold and there were heaters above us as well as the lively night life around us to keep us warm.  I don't get out enough to this end of town but each time I've been here, I've been rewarded with a great time, great food and lots of gorgeous photos.  There was something about the lighting last  night or perhaps it was the decor at the places we went but the images I returned home with really amazed me.

Everything in Darlinghurst is just a little quirky.  I love the name of the brand of sparkling water we had. Antipodes - that's colloquial for us and New Zealand.

Fortunately, we were dining in the company of seasoned foodies.  A and W were familiar with the menu and also have fantastic taste so we left the menu in their capable hands.

Which left me time to take in  my surroundings.  Just up the road from Spice I Am is the Victoria Room, where I had high tea recently.  

Service was friendly and fast.  I'll say it now to save repetition.  The food at Spice I Am is fantastic.  It takes Thai food to a totally different level.  On the whole, the food is not as sweet as many other restaurants.  There is a creative use of the vegetables native to Thai cuisine and their interpretation of seafood is outstanding.  

We had an entree of the Ho Mok - a steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaf.

Yum Gai - spicy shredded chicken salad.

Bour Tod - fried prawns.

Moo Gob Pik Pao - fried pork belly.  The first time I've eaten pork belly and I am beginning to understand what the fuss is all about.

Yum Hua Plee - shredded banana leaf salad with king prawns.  All the dishes were so beautifully presented it seemed a shame to eat them.

I then lost my train of thought and have had trouble relating my photos to menu items and think I missed a photo of one dish.  I am pretty sure we had the  Snapper Prid Pik King as well as a super spicy Green Curry with different kinds of egg plant.  

I think the photo above is our green chicken curry and the dish below is the snapper.

I am however certain that this is the duck curry.  The duck takes on the flavour of lychees in the Spice I Am version.

We had great fun catching up and reminiscing as the dishes were shared and exclaimed over.  There were 5 of us at dinner and we left no food behind.  There was still room for dessert and we melted into the Saturday night crowd of young girls off to the clubs, couples and the creatively dressed in search of something sweet, chocolatey and decadent..... 

To be continued.

Spice I Am - the Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Jun 26, 2010

Much Loved Australian Drinks. A Matinee. My Neighbourhood.

My brother C arrived from Toronto yesterday and is staying with us for the weekend before heading back to Perth.

The satchel was the giveaway as to his location for the last 6 months.  The other clue was the massive sports bag that he brought with him.  I am sure a small child could sleep quite comfortably inside it.  Apparently it is an ice hockey bag.  NHL must stand for National Hockey League.

Whilst he was away, C missed Boost Juice and Gloria Jeans Coffee the most.  So I was happy to be able to help him find both when we went to the post office today to send some of his luggage back ahead of him.

These were our two coffees before I spilt one in an impressive way at the post office.  For some reason, Gloria Jeans were giving away free copies of New Idea with each order.  This would be the first time I've ever read a new copy of the magazine, usually I read it in waiting rooms or in the tea room.  It's gossip with more words than candid telephoto shots from the paparazzi.  In addition, most of the subjects are people who are on to their third or fourth wives.  At least there are good recipes inside too.  This issue featured Greg Norman and his new lady on the front cover.... Thankfully Jennifer Aniston was there to add interest and good hair to the cover.

C and I had a chat about life.  He had a fantastic time in Canada and managed to visit the US a few times too.  He found Toronto a lot like Perth in terms of the friendliness of the people and its size.  It was just lovely to spend some time together and have C stay with us.  While we were out, mum and dad rang and we somehow managed a 4 way conversation without speakerphone.  Almost like being at home.

I never would have picked it but C turns out to have the shopping gene in him too.  He had an impressive collection of A&F, Gap, American Eagle, Under Armour and Tommy Hilfiger in his luggage.

Our mission accomplished at the post office, C took a trip into the city to explore Market City and I returned home to take a walk to the local shops

I don't often take the time to just walk around where I live.  I'm usually off on an epic list of jobs on the weekend.  Today was dedicated to pursuing life at a leisurely pace.

There's something about tree lined streets and pavement.  I find it soothing.

My travels took me to a new secondhand (contradiction in terms?) book cafe that has opened down our street.

The cafe, Bean Read, boasts an impressive stock of recent and past best sellers and prices around $5.  It doesn't work on the book exchange principle where a store credit is obtained on returning books.  The owners are currently accepting books as donations rather than for payment.

It must have been my 50 Things post (a list of my fears that never quite happened), but I was drawn to the Jean M. Auel section.  Coincidentally, this happened to be the first set of shelves on entering the store.  Funny how the system of alphabetical order works in my favour.

And then I found the Virginia Andrews / VC Andrews section.  I think the VC Andrews books are ghost written books created by the executors of Virginia Andrews's estate.  Will have to check up on this to confirm.

I think I'm going to be returning here often.  $5 isn't too much to pay for a preloved bestseller or two.  Books in general are quite expensive in Australia.  I still like holding books and turning their pages, the physicality of reading - which is why I've held out on buying a Kindle or similar.  I just hope there are enough people out there who are with me.  Wouldn't it be terrible if we lost the ability to read books?

I walked home with the novel that started it all, Flowers In the Attic and one of the Earths Children novels.

The day of leisure continued with a matinee viewing of Nine.  The Daniel Day Lewis musical featuring Fergie, Nicole Kidman, Penlope Cruz (obviously putting Tom Cruise behind them), Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench (an amazing actress) and the beauty of Italy.

My beverage of choice was Lemon, Lime & Bitters.  Muddled with the signature SSG Manor pink chopstick.

Drink by my side, I got myself settled in for the movie.  New Idea is very wordy but not much of it is easy to read.  I pulled out the pages of recipes I  liked (pies and casseroles) and pondered over Princess Mary's shoes.

Are they the very same camel LouboutinA Decolletes in my shoe cupboard?  I think so.  Princess Mary, I fall out of my shoes too.  Thank you for doing so in solidarity.

If there are any shoes more treasured than those with red soles, it is those with red discount stickers on the insole.

A cute and comfortable pair of flats from the DJs winter sale.

Nine was a visual feast.  As reviewers have noted, it's not a sing along, toe tapping kind of musical like Chicago (the films share the same producer) but it is beautiful.  The sets, the costumes, the dance sequences and yes, all the actresses.  I was very impressed by the strength of all the ladies who shared star billing on this film.  I am not sure if they were all professional singers and dancers before shooting this film but they were uniformly strong in both disciplines.


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