May 31, 2015

Out and About In New York. At Home in Sydney.

We've been making the most of the great indoors at SSG Manor this weekend.

Bed socks are serving double duty as running around the house socks.

And the kitchen's been the place to hang.

Breakfast at home...

There was a bit of a crisis at our local Italian cafe on Saturday.  With a burst water main affecting our suburb, the espresso machine was out of action.  Fortunately, order was restored later in the morning and the cafe was pumping out espresso shots for its adoring fans but for us earlybirds, it was a walk home for a mug of Moccona to go with our morning pastry.

and breakfast in New York.  Featuring a matching combo of a blueberry scone and yoghurt.

Not the smoothest segue into another session of sharing my NYC photos but it'll do.

Time was running away from us on our second last day in New York.  Which meant a power walk through and cursory glance at 'the sights' of the Manhattan beyond our Midtown base.  So I'm afraid I don't have much to share beyond my photos and thoughts.  But they're rather pretty pictures for a grey Sunday in Sydney.

The thing about visiting New York from the position of being an honorary Sydneysider is that you're already spoilt rotten with regards to the cuisines and cultures of the world.  Not only do we have our own Little Italy and Chinatown (and Koreatown and Little Lebanon, the list is endless...), we also have satellite cities of these dotted all over our sprawling, dynamic and diverse city.

So, I'm a bit embarrassed to say that Little Italy was a place that I was happy to have merely walked through rather than lingered.  To have seen the colour and charm of its neat blocks accented in red and green and its nod to its roots through 'typically' Italian store fronts and displays.

As I walked, I searched desperately for what Little Italy meant to me (a Chinese Australian who loves food, coffee, chocolate and people watching).  The lyrical chatter of the community's elders as they went about their daily business, the bustle of visitors 'borrowing' cafes and eateries from the locals and the sense of family that envelops the communities of Sydney.

Perhaps I was a little too hangry and touristed out for my own good by the time I visited Little Italy because I found it lacked the human charm I had hoped to find.

From what I've read, Little Italy is getting smaller as neighbouring Chinatown spreads and sprawls beyond its dragon and lantern festooned boundaries.

There are bursts of the colours we Chinese love - reds, golds and yellows.

As well as the businesses we seem to create in Chinatowns world wide - stores crammed with nick nacks

and bakeries offering comforting wedges of sponge cake held together with mock cream.

My friend and I cooled our heels at this Chinese bakery and stocked up on our favourite baked goods.

We then hit the avenue again, Fifth to be exact and caught the Flatiron building under the blueish glow of the Manhattan setting sun.

The ground floor currently showcases an art installation.

The thing about sightseeing evening walks is that once you start, you can't seem to stop.

Despite having been on our feet all day, we crossed over to Union Square.  It was a hive of hip youthfulness and with a dress code that seemed to be relatively more relaxed than Midtown, you couldn't help but feel recharged by association.  Even if the hiking shoes and backpack that look all laid back chic on your fellow pedestrian look decidedly more 'suburban mom let loose on her own in the big city' on you....

It's only as I look back on these more random photos from my trip that I realise just much of Manhattan I didn't have time to fully absorb and experience.

With time rapidly getting the better of us, we suddenly realised that we hadn't eaten properly for 8 hours.  Those Chinese sponge cakes?  They don't even count when you're burning kilojoules walking everywhere.

Being in university territory, it didn't take long to find a healthy well priced place to eat.

Fresh & Co  serve a wide array of ready to go meals as well as these power bowls that are cooked in front of you and feature everyone's favourite superfood of last year - quinoa.  Those spindrift soft drinks are also delicious - managing to be full of fruity flavour without being sugary.

Meanwhile in Sydney, we are all about the sugary and super sweet.

Who knew that you could create art from Frootloops?

It's been lovely chatting but I'd better get back to work.  I've got good chocolate to the left of me.

And a photo of the 'Do Not Disturb' sign I wish I'd bought from this store at the Chelsea Market.

Hope you're having a lovely Sunday.

Did I completely misread Little Italy?  Totally not get the charm of Chinatown?

May 28, 2015

The Sunny Days of May. Cooking.

It's been lovely having the full two weeks off work.

The sun's been out making rainbows on the most unexpected surfaces.

Whilst indoors, the grocers are radiant with all kinds of blooms.  I had no idea how beautiful kale flowers were.

With that bit of time up my sleeve, cooking hasn't felt like a chore at all this week.  I made a batch of Karen Martini's Maltese-style Baked Rice (ros il-forn) yesterday.

Which lead to the discovery of ready combined pork and beef mince at Coles.

Cooking with saffron always makes me feel adventurous.  There's something about taking pinches of its delicate strands and sprinkling them over your cooking.

Ros il-forn is the ultimate all in one meal.  I added a grated carrot to my meat balls and some panko crumbs to counter the increased moisture from the stealth vegetable adding.

To make things more toddler friendly, I added some cheddar to the parmesan topping.

The verdict?  This is going to be a much needed new regular fixture on my tired rotation of batch cooking dishes.  The rice turned out to be briyani like in texture and taste after its baking with the eggs, tomato sauce, cheese and meatballs.  Fortunately, the spice and curry powder combination wasn't too much for Toddler SSG and added a warm and unique diamension to the good old combination of tomatoes, garlic and onion.  Plus, it was oh so easy to make in the morning and reheat for dinner.

Today's home cooking project took a little while to get off the ground.  Do you know how hard it is to find a 400g bag of almond meal you hid from your toddler a month ago?  I thought it was so ingenious hiding them in an old noodle carton way back in April.  In honour of these first lemons of the season from our tree, I baked this lemon drizzle cake from the AWW website.

It's always such a soothing sound, the motor of your KitchenAid.  Especially on a Thursday morning of your annual leave.

You've gotta love a bit of syrup pour over too.  Don't know why my skewered reservoirs for the syrup ended up being so large.

Despite the over stabbing and the poorly defined drizzle icing, it was one delicious lemon cake.  Very moist from the syrup and almond meal and not as sweet as you might have thought.  Even with the icing.  Not to mention the fact that lemon flavoured baked goods always test that much better when you've made them yourself with your own lemons.

May 27, 2015

High Tea at the Shops. Other Shops.

Neither the timing nor the breaking were the best, to be honest.

My Australis AConTour palette, her time on this earth was too short.

There I was feeling so smug about my responsible buying at Sephora, Columbus Circle the other day.  Now here I am one and a quarter pans (the ones I use most, naturally) short of a complete facial contouring kit.

Ambient Power Wardrobe, $76 AUD at Mecca Maxima.

I'm going to take it on the chin for a bit and see if I can survive without falling prey to the siren call of Mecca Maxima with her Hourglass products.  How long do you think I'll last?

It's all about the monochrome for me at the moment.  Leggings under dresses, wraps over dresses.  And thermals under my jeans.  But we probably shouldn't be going there.

Can we change tack and talk shopping centres and supermarkets for a moment?  There doesn't seem to be a limit on what you'll find in them as they strive to be one stop destinations.  I do worry about the future of our small businesses though.  How can you compete with a Woolworths with an instore cafe that's open 17 hours a day, seven days a week?

Or a Big W with a Party Store within it?

Toddler SSG, party planner, choosing decorations for his first birthday.

For me, the charm of party stores lies in the fact that they are often family owned businesses.  Usually housed in warehouses and shops that are more about function than sleekness, their shelves are crammed with a bit of everything for everyone at a nice price.

Beyond the supermarket, shopping centre Chinese restaurants are getting pretty fancy these days.  There's bamboo waving gently between the tables at Lan Yuan on the Top Ryde Piazza.

Which temptingly overlooks the Piazza's water fountain feature.  I have a hot tip if you're ever there for Sunday lunch.  Best and Less have great $6 track pants in case you need to change your soaking wet toddler after their fountain experience.  And they even cut off the tags for you.

Over at the Macquarie Centre, we had a girl's morning out over high tea at Passiontree Velvet.  The high tea house occupies prime position under the skylights at the centre of the fresh produce wing.  Sounds an odd combination but it somehow works with the natural light and relative spaciousness here rather than on the upper levels in between the spendy shops. 

I have Not Quite Nigella  and her review to thank for discovering Passiontree Velvet.  She was right, the glittering, jewel like display of cakes and macarons is impressive.

Which isn't a good thing for indecisive people like me with eyes larger than their stomachs.

Fortunately, all the hard decisions are made for you if you select the Duchess Full High Tea ($34.95 per person).

I ordered a caramel flavoured tea which was so smooth I could have quite happily sat there all morning sipping tea and gossiping.  Actually, that was  what we did.   The staff are all incredibly helpful and lovely.  They refilled our teapots regularly and nothing was too much trouble for them.

I always like starting at the bottom with the sandwiches.  Does it make you feel spoiled when someone else makes your sandwiches for you and cuts off the crusts before arranging them precisely on a china plate for you?

Our scones were fluffy centred with a firm crust.  Topped with cream and jam on a wintery morning?  Say.  No.  More.

And then there were the cakes on top.  Delicately textured, fresh and with a fine sponge base in the case of the mousse layer cakes, they were all my kind of tea cake.

In addition to high tea, Passiontree Velvet have a wide selection of chocolates, light meals, waffles and child friendly menu options.

With such lovely staff on hand, I can see myself planning my next 'treat yourself' shopping trip around a meal here before hitting the shops.

Do you have a favourite high tea in Sydney?

How about the highlighting and contouring situation?  What's your go to?


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