Australian Idols Mania

August 30, 2007

Last year, when I arrived in Australia, I got caught up in Idols Mania. Every Sunday and Monday evening, Tam and Rich were glued to the TV to see whether the hottie Saffa Dean would get through. Tam and I were very keen on Dean-o. Richard, not being dazzled by Dean’s gorgeous looks (as I have to admit T and I succumbed to), was voting strongly from Damien – who actually landed up winning.

Now, Idols has started again and I’ve made Nathan a fan. Every Sunday and Monday we’ve been laughing ourselves silly at the hillarious antics of the country-wide auditions. Some of these people have been pretty ridiculous, while there have been hints of talent rainbowing through.

We’re now onto the shaping of the final 24 into the final 12 – it’s nail biting stuff. And to make it even more competitive, Nath and I have introduced a wager.

DanielIf Daniel (the gorgeously sensitive scarf-loving day soapie star) with a magnificent voice wins, the Nath will take me to the famous Rockpool restaurant (at $150 a head for a 5 course meal).

mattBut if Matt (also a looker – aren’t us women lucky- but younger (he’s only 16) but I guess more teenie bopper posterboy) who also has a great set of vocals, wins, then I will have to take out a bank loan for dinner at Bennelong at the Opera House (it’s something like $110 for high tea so who knows that the damage would be for dinner).

And if neither wins, whosever star goes out first in the competition, has to take the other to a restaurant of their choice (but a little more modest than the winning wager).

I’m a little in shock as on Monday, Daniel didn’t get into the final 12 – while Matt did. I saw my credit card turning green at the thought of making the trip to chef Guillaume’s eatery. But never fear, there’s always the wildcard entry when the judges get to pick someone who wasn’t voted into the audience. I bet Daniel gets in. Actually, one second thoughts, maybe I’ve done enough with the betting. It’s starting to get expensive.

The competition heats up……


Edible Review: Brown Sugar – Bondi beach

August 30, 2007

Meet my new favourite restaurant – Brown Sugar situated in the world famous Bondi beach (not on the beach but up one of the side streets).

I’ve been there three times now and each time, I’ve enjoyed my meal thoroughly. It’s warm, friendly and cosy and the food is top-notch and has a wonderful home-made style with a dash of modern Australian thrown into the mix.

 The dining area is small – it must hold about 50 people so when it gets full (which it most often does), it can get slightly buzzy. But that just adds to the atmosphere.

menuThe menu is written on the large blackboard on the wall, although it hasn’t seemed to change during my visits – perhaps they adapt the menu seasonally.

I usually start with the lentil and haloumi salad which gives a nice healthy-ish boost to the meal. They not exactly overally generous with the cheese but haloumi is actually quite rich so sharing between two, you get about two strips of this rubbery but delicious cheese each. The lentils are interspersed with small blocks of beetroot and sweet potato.

fish pieBrown Sugar is famous for their fish pie (they use blue eyed cod for the filling). as you can see from the pic, it is large and golden crusted and looks really delicious. Since I’m not a bit fishy fan, I had to rely on my sister and mom for their verdict. My mom felt that the topping was on the saltier side but the creamy filling got a thumbs up from both. The empty dishes were obviously a good sign.

 I have my usual – fresh linguine pasta with roasted pumpkin and rocket. You won’t find this on the blackboard – it’s actually on their lunch menu which I happened to check out on the ‘net before coming to eat. Anyway, it was even better than it sounded and was bursting with taste. Perfect winter comfort food. I usually have this without the chilli oil but if you like a bite, then keep this in for some added spice.

They also have specials every night – like their seafood bouillabasse which a friend of mine had and seemed packed to the brim with a variety of seafood. Yet again, the bowl was licked clean.

Nathan’s tried the lamb (delicious) and the duck (roasted so that the meat just falls off the bone) which was served with caramelised pear and rosti. Others ordered the osso bucco (also reported to be excellent).

Dessert is another highlight – with the farm chocolate soufle a decadent treat – it’s a small choccy dome housing oozing chocolate molten lava – wow! The pannacotta (a special) was deemed delicious and the tipsy tart packed all kinds of fruit was also very good.

My favourite part though is paying the bill – who would have thought that. ‘Cause instead of the peppermint, they bring you a sliver of the most delicious melt-in-your-mouth brownie. I always ask for two pieces – one is never enough. I’ve tried to get the chef to bake me a whole brownie but i haven’t succeded yet. I will keep trying and I will keep on returning to Brown Sugar.

Theatre Review: Finding Nemo on Ice

August 30, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, Tamara and I went to see Finding Nemo on Ice at the Homebush Sydney Olympic Centre. It was my first time in Homebush – and we got there easily with the help of my GPS (although it struggled to locate the Acer Arena in it’s databrain – I had to find what road the stadium was in and then look from there).

If there was any hint of broodiness in my system, it was forcibly evicted by the 5-million-plus under eight year olds streaming into the arena. The hall was packed with stalls selling everything from finding nemo hats ($22) to the ridiculously priced Nemo stuffed toy ($44) and of course the ubiquitous flashing Nemo thingymabob ($30). I could just imagine the cries of “Mommny, please can I have a Nemo hat” or “Daddy, I simply won’t be able to live unless I have a Nemo flashing toy”. Well, it looks like the whines worked, ‘cause the arena was spotted generously with Nemo-hatted kids and ones sporting the light-up fish.

The show started and so did the camera flashes. I have never been to a live production that allowed photography from the audience.. We almost got evicted out of Priscilla last week when a mate of mine produced a camera. But here, it says clearly on the website that cameras are allowed (unbelievable!). And so my head was blipped with camera flashes coming from all over the room at 5-second intervals – you would think that we were at a world famous rock star concert, not a kid’s show about locating a clown fish.

The highlight of the show was probably the costumes – very elaborate. The skating was pretty basic, except for one number where there was some lovely partner lifts. I think the voice-overs were form the original movie so no surprises there.

So all in all, it was a fun romp with the fish but I’ll probably think twice before booking for a kids-only show again.

I’m back – last bit about Melbourne

August 30, 2007

I’ve been a blog-slacker. Bad Lisa! But I’m back. The last blog was about Melbourne. I think to complete the Melbourne bit so I can start afresh on something new, I will include an article that I wrote about my experience in the 2nd best city in Australia.

 Melbourne is a foodie’s fantasy By: Lisa Wolff

Ask any Australian to name the two primary attractions of Melbourne and most will answer: food and shopping. Two of my favourite things – and I’m sure I’m not alone in that declaration. If a woman could wish up a dream city, Melbourne, I reckon would come up trumps.

Let’s start with the retail therapy side of things. If shopping is your way of relaxing, you’ll be tranquillised after a weekend in Melbourne. The CBD has an old fashioned feel to it, with restored architecture and ornate façades. I almost felt as if I should don a lady’s hat, corset and Victorian dress to amble along the streets. But while the city may exhale history, the fashion is anything but old, and neither are the prices. It’s boutique heaven here with all the world famous designers displaying their chic wares.

I always feel slightly “Pretty Womanish” (before her transformation) when visiting these austere shops. So I headed straight for the fashion famous Chapel Street, which boasts hipper, edgier clothes. Here I picked up some unique designs at good value. Then there’s also the mall experience and Melbourne offers a good variety. Melbourne Central boasts something like four shopping centres all interconnected in a rabbit warren of store-lined corridors. I was after bargains and I found some here. As for the rock-bottom deals, I visited the Queen Victoria Market, where I came away with some “made in China” duds and some ornate cushion covers thrown into the mix.

Victoria MarketThe main attraction at the Market was the food stalls. For a dedicated gourmand like myself, this was the essence of bliss. There was a hall dedicated to the juiciest fruit straight from the farm (including an extensive range of organics). Then there were stalls specialising in cheese, bakery goodies, an entire section for butcheries and even a South African stall with biltong and boerewors.

tramGetting around Melbourne is a breeze. I made ample use of the free vintage city trolley service which stops at all major attractions. To get into the suburbs, I could hop onto a speedy tram, bus or train. It took about 30 minutes to tram from the centre to St Kilda, a charming village and the gourmet capital of Melbourne. There’s even a beach here but Melbournians are clearly not soak-up-the-sun types. On a sunny day, there was not a sole on the sand. With such a scrumptious food culture, it’s understandable though – they’re probably too embarrassed to strip off. And anyway, who has time to catch some rays when there’s serious eating to do.

acland streetAcland Street, one of the bustling strips in St Kilda, holds the holy grail of cakes. The store windows are all edible art with a showcase of baking. I walked from one bakery to another in a sugary daze. After hours of contemplation, I finally picked a hedgehog (it’s an Aussie brownie dotted with finger biscuit morsels). Lunch was at an authentic Polish deli, Scheherezade, offering traditional Eastern European dishes such as cholent (slow cooked stew) and borscht (beetroot soup). Portions are overly generous and after a home-style wiener schnitzel and home-style veggies, there’s was hardly any room for dessert.

But we all know we have a separate stomach for sweets so I was able to continue on my epicurean journey. The chocolate shops in the city are as posh as the fashion boutiques. There’s not a smidgen of emulsified fat in these parlours. Here, they use only the good stuff – chocolate is either made straight from the cocoa bean or imported from Belgium. Each choccie is a confectionery masterpiece both in taste and appearance. There’s even a Hot Chocolate Bar in the trendy Docklands area, where I relished every sip of my rich chocolate drink topped with cookie ice-cream.

Windsor HotelFresh from a glucose high, I almost hugged the top-hatted doorman, who greeted me by name as I entered the red carpeted lobby of my hotel. Brimming with old worlde elegance, the Windsor Hotel is a grand dame of yesteryear hospitality. The florally rooms may be an acquired taste but for a romantic like myself, I’ll take the princess treatment over any modern alternative.

 high teaThey were just setting up for traditional high tea as I lumbered into the lounge. Pyramids of profiteroles, dainty cupcakes and fluffy scones lured me once again in decadence. After this, I promise, I’ll never eat again.

Never say never. With night, comes the inevitable ‘where to have dinner’ question. The variety of restaurants in Melbourne are mouthwatering. It seems that restaurateurs have bookmarked this city as their location of choice. The glitzy Crown Entertainment Centre on the South Bank has attracted famous international chef Nobu Matsuhisa while Jamie Oliver’s ‘delinquent to chef’ culinary incubator Fifteen is inconspicuously housed in the city.

Everyone knows that good food is enhanced by great wine. So to complete my gastronomic voyage, I joined a tour to the Yarra Valley. Besides being blessed with some fine vines, the Yarra is also the brussel sprout Capital. I think I’ll stick to wines though.

We stopped at four wine farms – the pretty Yering Station, Rochford where we endured a below average lunch, the boutique cellar Yering Farm and finally the highlight Domain Chandon. It is here that I learnt that Moët Chandon have expanded their ‘champagne’ operations to four other wineries throughout the world (Argentina, Brazil, the US and Australia). So while we can’t call this sparkling wine Champagne, it is made in the exact same way as Moët. Clearly, I bought a couple of bottles to see if I could taste the difference.

I know that a Melbournian would probably be most disappointed in me that I haven’t spent more ink expounding the cultural and sporting array of attractions. I’m sure the city has much more to offer than a taste and fashion sensation. Maybe next time, I’ll find out.