Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Random: Easter Show 2014, Sydney

Sydney Royal Easter Show is probably the largest 'pop-up' annual event, held around this time of year - as the title suggests - of Easter. However there are a lot more of the easter show than just easter eggs and bunnies. It exhibits crafts, arts, cakes (yep), cats & dogs competition, to farm animals.

Last Saturday we drove to Olympic Park to go to the Easter Show. We arrived early - around 9 a.m. - and there were hardly anyone around yet.

The admission ticket is not inclusive of vouchers you will need to purchase separately to ride the various of amusement/ theme park type rides inside - from roller coasters, bumper cars, to a ghost house. Nothing as grand as the ones at Movie World or Dream World at Gold Coast though, and the vouchers are expensive too. I guess if you had kids, you would be spending more than a pretty penny at the Easter Show.

I have to mention that the Easter Show is a pretty big area to cover, so it's a good idea to get the map and daily schedule information leaflet from the information stand. We headed to the Domestic Animal Pavillion to see .... ... cats! I was a bit disappointed that despite what the online schedule said, there was no Scottish Fold or Munchkins in sight. But well, cute kitties are cute kitties, no matter what type they are :D

These are pamper felines worth of medals, and that's exactly what it was about - a competition. Kinda felt sorry for them though as they were cooped up inside those tiny cages for quite a while, while the judges examined each cat from ear tips to paws.

The cat on the right was very energetic and kept trying to escape from its cage - to no avail of course.

And some cats didn't look too thrilled to be probed around by the humans.

Not only cats, they also have dog shows and competitions

Around closer to lunch time, we headed to Woolworths Fresh Food Dome for some free food because we were too stingy to spend our money on overpriced snacks sold samples. The pavilion houses of a lot of food manufacturers & suppliers, most of them provide free samples to try. I suggest to come early rather than late in the afternoon. Around brunch time should be good, as the stands inside would still have a lot of supply to give to visitors. When we headed back later on in the afternoon to get more free food buy some stuff that strike our fancy, there were hardy any noteworthy food samples left. We ended up buying some chilli sauces from The Chilli Factory (I almost run out of the Scorpion Strike I bought from them about a month ago) and a very fragrant and yummy Fig Balsamic Vinegar from Pukara Estate.

Pretty neat display on oyster farming, describing various stages of their maturity level.

Then it's just more walking around to other exhibits... .

Pumpkins on steroids? Look at the weights of those monsters written on them. No joke, they are bigger than people

Flowers/Plants exhibits...

The cake/sugar arts exhibit is always a popular spot, as it showcases crazy awesome skills from cake artisans.

Cakes featuring more well known characters...

And after all those, well, more farm animals...

Row Row Row of butts....

I should have had more pictures - if only I did not forget to bring the spare battery for my camera -_-. We ended up spending around 9 hours at this year's easter show - the longest we have ever spent. We mainly got stuck watching the animals though :D

Sunday, 19 January 2014

NomNom: Grounds of Alexandria, Alexandria

One hot Saturday morning, I decided to wake up earlier than 11 a.m. (:D) and forced convinced 1/2heart to drive to the suburb of Alexandria for a lovely Saturday breakfast. Amidst the usual industrial buildings and factory-warehouses well known to the suburb, Grounds of Alexandria was bustling with customers.

We arrived at 10 a.m., duly put our names on the waiting list and just shrugged when we were told that we would have to wait around 45 minutes until our turn. We knew about the notorious length of waiting time at this place. However it is actually quite lovely to pass time while waiting to explore the grounds - from the small farm, the lovely flower beds, and the herb gardens.
People on the waiting list receive a buzzer that will beep (much like the food court buzzers) when it's their turn to come. So there won't be any problem to walk away from the reception area.

There is also a dining area outside and a small takeaway kitchen serving simple breakfast options if you didn't want to wait to get inside the main dining area.

right: the pig with the tastiest name ever

And some space for furry guests...
The grounds also has small stalls outside selling lemonade, pastries, and snacks.

True to their word, 45 minutes later, our buzzer produced the best sound we had heard all morning: empty table for us!

Well-Being Breakfast ($19) was plentiful, simple, and soulful. The green bean & fennel salad is seasoned to the minimum, letting the natural sweet taste of the vegetables to shine through. I have to say, the star of this dish would be the beautifully smoked trout, yumminess added when combined with the beetroot relish. Ooh, so good.

1/2heart had The Grounds Breakfast ($19). The home-made pesto was so fragrant and delish.

We also ordered some ice coffee and mocha. The iced coffee and mocha were a bit too weak for my taste, I think next time I will order some espresso instead to have a real taste of their coffee.
The counter also serves various pastries and tarts - all looking divine. Alas, our breakfast was more of breakfast + lunch fare (due to the portion), and we could not push ourselves to eat any more - not even those jam doughnuts we have been eyeing at the outside stall.

Lunch is served from 12 p.m. onwards, so we are looking forward to come back to this place and try more on their menu.

Also worth mentioning, is the deli/grocery/food store located just around the corner: Salts Meats Cheese. Beautiful (and expensive) imported food, lots of organic and home-made sauces (pasta sauces as well), home-made olive oil, etc.

You can fill the bottles with some home-made olive oil or balsamic vinegar.

Worth the waking-up early? Definitely

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Random: Collins Beach, Manly, NSW

It is almost an end of yet another year. Looking back, I have had a lot of blessings. Sure, there were sad times and there were even times when I really wanted to murder some people, but when I pause amidst the chaos, take a deep breath, and try to reflect on what I have and who I have around me:

Life is awesome.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the new year ahead, although I don't think I will travel as often as I would like next year - all in pursue of building a house. *sigh... succumbing to the great Australian dream.
As when that's done, 1/2heart and I will move to the northern suburbs, we decided to hit one of the many beaches strewn across the northern line. I'm sure sydney-siders are very familiar with Manly (no, we are not building a house there), but this time we visited a quiet beach located just above the Little Manly Cove: Collins Beach.

Collins Beach is tucked away from the main road and can be accessed from a small walking trail at the end of Stuart St.
Pretty as a picture.

Actually, it kinda reminded me of the old Little Bay beach. Mostly untouched but beautiful, small and quiet. The unfortunate side of it, is that the beach is quite dirty (in comparison to more crowded touristy beaches such as Manly or Bondi) - lots of plastic wrappings and glass bottles left by irresponsible patrons.

Apparently it is also home the little penguins. The sign says that their breeding time is in between July until February, but we did not come across the cute birds.

The Waterfall

Look at that beautiful clear waters. More daring people will probably jump from this spot into the emerald waters below, but count me out -_-

Thus the end of our small weekend excursion. If you don't know of this little spot, it is definitely worthwhile to check it out. There is no eateries or shops within the vicinity, so if you decided to bring your own food, please make sure to clean up and take away your rubbish.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Travel: Singapore Day etc Part 2: Katong Food Trail (Part three); And Of Course More Food; Flight Back Home

Yay! Finally got a chance to update. I am now back in Sydney and this post will be the last part of the Singapore travelogue.

For our last bout of Katong food eats, we visited Chin Mee Chin (204 East Coast Road) - a small coffee shop probably more well know for their kaya toast and other kaya pastries (puff and tarts). Forget Toast Box! This place sells the ultimate kaya. The fragrance and taste just linger in your mouth. Their coffee is pretty good, too. For 2 Kaya Toast, a cup of coffee, and two soft-boiled eggs, we paid SG$4.50. Cheap and tasty breakfast.

I wanted to try their kaya puff and tarts, too, but decided against it as we had to visit another eatery. Well, originally we wanted to visit Geylang Lor 29 Hokkien Mee - but it was closed when we came T_T, so we went to well-known Beach Road Prawn Mee instead (370 East Coast Road)
Apparently, the owner of this shop is related to the one at Joo Chiat? However I have to say, the taste cannot be compared. The Joo Chiat's one was so much better and richer. I don't understand why the hype about Beach Road Prawn Mee. The soup was so diluted and bland in comparison.

The only thing outstanding is that they have jumbo prawns here. But then again, you do have to pay the price (SG$10.80 per bowl)

BUT! The Ngo Hiang/ Lor Bak stall within the same shop is worth mentioning, because they were cheap and yummy :P 

With that, it is the end of our Katong Food Adventure.

During our retail therapy visit to Orchard Road, we stopped by Cornery - a small popcorn shop located at B4 level of ION Orchard. You might think...'Meh, Popcorn... what's so special?' Wait until you see the range of flavors they offer.

Green Tea popcorn, guys! How can you not like this! (Ok, maybe just me?). And wasabi popcorn - perfect snack to open up your blocked nose. :D (I actually really like the sensation). Now you know my top two favorite flavors from the range. There are other more boring normal ones like butterscotch, chocolate, cheese... .
Now if they can invent durian flavored popcorn next....

On our third year anniversary day (23 October), 1/2heart and I decided to go to Palm Beach Seafood at One Fullerton to have a nice dinner. Actually, it is one restaurant we distinctively remember because of one outstanding dish: Double Baked Crab. 

We had our first taste quite a number of years ago with our friends who resided in Singapore. At that time, I did not pay too much attention to the name of the restaurant, but I could still remember the amazing taste. Actually, later on I thought we had dined with our friends at No Signboard, but finally figured out that Palm Beach is the correct restaurant for that dish.

The restaurants at One Fullerton have stunning waterfront view, suitable to impress your date or guests. But we chose to sit inside anyway, because what could be more beautiful than this beauty:

The crab costed A$60 per kilo. Ours was almost 2 kg and ohemgee, it was massive. The pincers were almost as big as my palm (and I certainly don''t have itty-bitty hands). 
The crab tasted just as wonderful as I remembered from our first visit. Double baked with cheese and butter, it was rich although not too powerfully laden with too much flavor you still could taste the crab sweetness. 

We also had Four Treasure Vegetable dish and then Tofu Pudding with Longan and Sweet Coconut.The vegetable was a great accompaniment to the crab, to balance out the richness. The Pudding was not too sweet and refreshing - a perfect finish for our cholesterol-heavy anniversary dinner. The bill came to around SG$113, and I think it was a much better fare than No Signboard.
So ... we have eaten 4 type of crabs in the span of 2 weeks... . (-_-);

Our Singapore trip came to an end to quickly, and so we had to catch our flight back to Sydney - this time on Airbus (A380). The business class seats are much better than the 777, with noticeably more space as well as better design (I think). The seat could also be converted to a fully-flat bed, however you need the flight attendant to assist you, as this could not be done with any push of a button (still require manual folding :P)

fully flat bed. Sorry for the messiness. On a plane or not, that is the state of my bed everyday

Plane Food: Lamb Satay, Dim Sum with Noodles, Omellette & Sausage breakfast
Sigh... now when will be our next holiday... .

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Travel: Singapore Day etc Part 1: More Food; Katong Food Trail (Part two)

It is nearing our final days in Singapore, and we ran out of 'touristy' things to do. So what else to be done apart from spoiling our tummy more?

After browsing row after row of shopping malls along Orchard Road, we decided that we deserved to have a proper yum-cha for lunch, so off we went in to Taste Paradise (ION Orchard #04-07). Dim Sum is only served during lunch hour.
This is yum-cha - fine dining style. Dining set up is sophisticated, modern, and somewhat much more silent than the usual chaos I am more used to in Sydney yum-cha restaurants. Instead of picking and choosing your dim sum from the carts pushed by chinese ladies, you ordered your dim sum here a la carte.

Not your usual dim sum plate either
Baked BBQ Pork Pastry (SG$4.80) was beautifully flaky and contains juicy aromatic honey BBQ pork. This would be my favorite version of this dish I have ever had so far. If you ever dined here, I suggest you give it a try, especially if you are a fan of BBQ pork or BBQ pork buns.
Steamed Tofu with Prawn (SG$5.80) was kinda ordinary, although this was apparently on of their chef's recommendation/signature dishes.

Har Gow/ Prawn Dumplings (SG$5.80) usually serves as a benchmark of a good dim sum, as this always appears on any menu of any yum-cha restaurant. Taste Paradise did not disappoint - the prawn fillings had those fresh crunch with each bite, and enveloped in the right texture of the translucent skin.
Crackling Pork Belly (SG$12.80) was perfectly crunchy and the fatty parts made them just melt in our mouth. There was not hint of toughness or chewiness from the skin, and this would mean that the pig skin had been perfectly and thoroughly pricked to create that even crunchiness throughout. However, for the price, I don't think I would be ordering this again if I came back. The size was no bigger than a standard passport cover.

Lau Sar Pau/ Steamed Custard Bun with Salted Egg Yolk (SG$5.80) was OK, but despite a lot of hype of Taste Paradise's version, I felt that these were very sweet and did not contain enough salted egg yolk. The bao was of good consistency, but overall I still prefer the version served by a stall at Food Republic at VivoCity.
Steamed Rice Roll with Dough Fritter (SG$4.80) was very good. Another must order.
Loh Ma Gai  / Glutinous Rice in Lotus Wrap (SG$4.60) was juicy and flavorsome too. An ordinary item served in a lot of dim sum restaurants, Taste Paradise serves them with just the right consistency and flavor. The glutinous rice grains' texture could still be extinguished individually, not one big soggy mush.

Over with lunch, we roamed over the shopping malls and decided to go to Bugis for more cheaper retail therapy. Alas, I did not find much there, even on the upper levels boasting Korean style products. I prefer shopping in Malaysia, to be honest (or straight to Korea).
But walking around was still a good way to burn calories (every calorie burn counts!). I found this prop - advertising for the incoming Thor movie - was a very smart idea :)

Hey Thor, you left your hammer in Singapore!

Night came, and it's time for dinner ^_^ As we were still in the city area, we headed to Makan Sutra at Gluttons Bay - just by the Esplanade. Hawker food prices with fine dining view.

Satay Bee Hoon, Fried Tofu, and BBQ Wings.

The next day we decided to explore more of what Katong has to offer, which means... another section of Katong Food Trail - lunethings style!
We headed to Katong Shopping Centre - where people can go shopping for maid services, literally. The whole complex has so many maid service agencies. But we did not go there for domestic help, we went there for a hidden gem located at the basement - in the form of delicious chicken rice.
Seriously people - Tian Tian Chicken Rice is overrated. If you were at Katong, go here instead. The long queue of people lining up this stall (while the other stalls could hardly compare) would agree with me.

A plate of Chicken Rice and small portion of the Roast Chicken and Steamed Chicken costed SG$6.50. Soup was included, and the condiments ( pickled vegetable/fruit or acar ) and the chilli, garlic, and soy sauce was self-served. You would have to notify the lady who received the order if you wanted your chicken to be boneless. I forgot to mention it to her -_-; nevertheless, we devoured them off the bones in no time.

Trying to lighten up our load a bit, we decided to walk to our next destination - Eng's Noodle House (287 Tanjong Katong Rd). We were met with another queue already forming up - a promising sight indeed.

Before long, we were seated and ordered Dry Char Siew Wanton Mee (Small SG$4.50), Soup Char Siew Wanton Mee (Small SG$4.50), and small servings of each fried and boiled wantons (SG$3 each). Might as well order the drinks (SG$1.50 each): Barley, Lime Juice, or Water Chesnut. We had Barley and Lime Juice. You would need the cold drinks to cool your burning throat a few minutes later - because that small bottle containing chilli sauce with the apt warning 'Beware Hot Chilli!' on your table is not for decoration.

I love that chilli!! I used about one soup spoonful of the liquid gold and mixed them into my dry wanton mee. Burning and tasty!

As our second Katong food adventure was laden with lots of carbs and highly filling, we stopped our trail there.