Archive for November, 2009

Il Ciao

Before coming to Perth, I had no idea what Italian food was or tasted like. But since coming to Perth and discovering Ciao Italia, I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with creamy risottos, addictive chilli mussels and tomato cream pastas (love the taste, hate the carbs). So I’m always on a look out for good Italian restaurants, so far I’ve tried a few pretty good ones, Ciao Italia, Al Sito, Catalano’s, but have yet to try the famous Spaghis which is on my to-do list.

il Ciao is a restaurant that has been on my to-eat list for quite a while too. Rumour has it that Ciao Italia’s boss and chef used to work in il Ciao before upping and leaving to set up his own business (and taking the chef with him!), the now famous and roaring Ciao Italia. So I was interested to sample the roots and beginnings of Ciao Italia, having heard il Ciao is an institution itself.

A buzzing family restaurant, I immediately preferred the friendly, spacious and orange tones of the restaurant (surrounded by pictures of Italy) to Ciao Italia’s ‘elbow in the next table’s food’ space (they have expanded to the shop next door but I’ve heard it’s still a tight squeeze). I figured Spaghetti Marinara ($23.00) was a must-try since Ciao Italia does such a wonderful version. Sad to say, it was no Ciao Italia BUT it was still tasty,fresh and light. I’ve been spoilt by the huge chunks of seafood in Ciao Italia and the burst of seafood goodness in every bite of their risotto marinaras, so il Ciao’s version paled in comparison.

Their Calzone(enclosed pizza $19.50) came with tomato, mozzarella, chicken, capsicum, mushroom and sundried tomato.

It was an impressive sight, but taste wise it was only alright, the filling wasn’t err filling and the dough a little too thick for our liking. We probably should have stuck to ordinary pizzas.

Ciao Italia’s chilli mussels is a must order for me so I was interested to see if  il Ciao’s Zuppa di Cosse ($20.00) was any good. It was surprisingly similar to Ciao Italia’s version but perhaps not as flavourful but definitely cheaper and good for value. The mussels were kinda on the small side but the sauce was great with bread. That’s what I ate the whole night, bread dipped in chilli mussel sauce, ahh so indulgent.

Our favourite of the night was the Penne alla Vodka ($19.50) with bacon, onion in a Vodka tomato cream sauce. They don’t serve this in Ciao Italia (so one up for il Ciao) which is a pity because I love the after taste of vodka (buzzy feeling) in pastas, I’ve recently tried Catalano’s vodka pasta and it didn’t even come close to this addictive sauce.

So all in all il Ciao is a nice family restaurant that I would return to for a nice, casual, stress free (seriously Ciao Italia’s 1-2 hr waiting time is ridiculous, I hope it has changed with the expansion) pasta and carb laden meal. And I would return for the penne alla vodka.

Daitaoha ratings:

Food : 6/5/10

Service :6/10

il Ciao
771 Canning Highway
Applecross 6153
(08) 9364 9966

Project November wrap up

Today I helped my colleague hang up Christmas decorations around the office. My colleagues were amazed when I said I’d never hung Christmas decorations before except for the odd Christmas tree. So they insisted that I hang up the tinsel around the walls to get into the Christmas spirit, I secretly think they were just finding an excuse to make me do the work (=-____-=).

It’s almost the end of November and the end of 2009, amazing how time flies. Project November has been very successful so far, I think we have a budget surplus so I’m hoping to cook an extra special dinner on the 30 Nov, seafood and steak perhaps?

I think it started with rock sugar spareribs and tofu.

I revisited an old favourite of cabbage and fishball soup, so easy and comforting.

I had an idea of grilling chicken skewers. So bento lunch was Japanese chicken and leek yakitori, tamagoyaki and rice.

For dinner I made a Thai/Malaysian inspired chicken satay with cucumbers and rice. I quite liked my first attempt at the peanut satay sauce but I think I will try an authentic Malaysian recipe next time.

I’ve discovered these mee pok lookalike noodles at my local veg store and it even tastes like mee pok too. So this has been used in several variations of breakfast noodles. This version was just a simple dry noodles tossed with sesame oil and chilli which we had with soup.

My first attempt at Jansson’s Temptation, a Swedish anchovies, potato and onion baked casserole. The problem with cooking something you’ve never eaten before, you have no idea what the casserole is supposed to taste like! This one took some time to bake and was a bit too runny for my liking, but the potatoes came out light and tender.

For dessert I baked a upside down caramelised pear tart. I thought the tart was a bit too sweet for my liking even though I had already halved the sugar ingredients in the recipe, but with puff pastry it went pretty well and I’m sure it would be better with a scoop of vanilla icecream. Maybe next time.

Foochow mee sua which I cooked with rice wine, sesame oil and lots of ginger. Something we usually have during Chinese New Year and birthdays but I just felt like cooking it that day. Richard and HC liked this one because they’re both Foochow.

We had a few different versions of chicken wings this November because chicken wings were on sale, haha. Jo cooked Coca Cola wings, exciting or not? This one was baked sweet chilli and garlic wings, yummy.

My mum told me about cooking this dish and enticed me into cooking it as well, Nonya Ayam Pongteh which is cooked with gula melaka and yellow soy beans.

Ok, lots of cooking stuff, I promise to put up a restaurant review soon, I have so many I don’t know where to start!

Fly me to the moon

Guess what came in the post??

Jan’s dear friend Heri sent us a parcel filled with goodies like star shaped cookie cutters (which I will be using very soon), cute hello kitty pouches and best of all, this wonderful gadgety lamp that projects stars and moons and the galaxy when lighted up.

I cannot begin to describe how beautiful it looks when the lamp is lighted up, suddenly my bedroom is transported into another universe, one filled with stars, moons and moving planets.

Thank you so much Heri! You have no idea how much joy this lamp brings me, it’s nothing short of magical. In fact, lately I’ve been humming the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon.

Fly me to the moon
Let me sing among those stars
Let me see what spring is like

On jupiter and mars
In other words,
hold my hand
In other words, baby kiss me
Fill my heart with song
Let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you

Finally…. Perth Royal Show 2009

Perth Royal Show was so long ago that  back then, we actually wore thick jackets during the day. It’s one of those long photos overload posts that I kept putting off and putting off till it got to the point that I was making promises like ‘tonight I will blog about Perth Royal Show’ every other week. But of course I procrastinated and forgot about it (=^____^=)

So here goes, the long promised Perth Royal Show post.

It started bright and early with the guys gathering at my place to car pool to the Show.Notice all the jackets and scarves? It was a cool and cloudy day.

For some reason we always enter at Gate 10 where the kiddy rides are. Here’s MingSian and Bryan examining the Show map.

I always like to check out the baking display at the Show, this year there were some really nice creations. Edible Jimmy Choo shoes anyone?

One of the highlights of the Show is eating Show snacks like donuts and candy floss. Jo likes the frozen chocolate banana sticks, these were yummy.

A must-eat for us at the Show – sausage sticks. I forgot how much these sausages were, $1 for 2? Pretty cheap anyway so we bought loads and shared them around.

Here’s Jo posing with my bubble gun. I was very happy this year because I finally bought a bubble gun, every year I’ve stare in envy at the kids with bubble guns but can never bring myself to fork out the $10 price. Well I did it this year and spent the rest of the day annoying everyone by shooting bubbles in their face, even threatening to charge extra dollars for the ‘bubble effect’ in photos.I think everyone wanted to break my gun by the end of the day. In fact it did break (cheap China product) and I noticed no one was very sad except for me.

Jason and Wendy and their friends joined us and it was more sausage sticks around.

First group picture of the day. Some Australian teenage girls were so bemused with our ‘V’ poses that they asked whether they could take their picture with us.

And then we stepped into the Sideshow Alley also known as the ‘blood sucking money grabbing male conning’ gallery where the guys just lost control of their wallets and flung their cash at the games attendants ‘Take all my money! Con me into playing mindless games where I win nothing but hard giant stuffed toys!’ they yelled in enthusiasm.

It was game after game after game after game.

HC won Jo a toy!  Can you tell she was very happy?

Of course as the afternoon went by, Jo’s arms filled up with toy after toy after toy. She was delighted then but I think regrets cheering the guys on now that her room resembles a mini toy store.

Another first for me at the Show, sitting on this ride which I’ve wanted to for ages. Bryan bought me a ticket (thanks Brio!) and Richard accompanied me on the ride. It was soooo good, I felt like I was flying and the wind in my face was glorious. Jo was quite nervous for me though and thought I would fly off my seat.

Panda the photographer. This photo reminds me of Jan because she loves Pandas and loves taking photos.

Xinlong joined us and Jo showed off her loot. I think he was amazed at the sheer size of the duck.

Another group photo at the Greatest Show on Earth.

Then it started to turn dark and out came the neon glow thingys which I bought for everyone. I know that they all hung the glow sticks on their doors, cars etc after the show. Richard hung his dolphin in his car and it melted in the sun (T___T).

Dinner time! Some of the guys had the $10 lamb shank from the Lamb Van which looked good but was apparently tough and tasteless. I guess there’s a reason why it’s only $10.

My lamb roll with gravy which is what I have every year at the Show ( I don’t know why it’s just a tradition) was much better.

It started to drizzle but I had already told the guys to bring their umbrellas beforehand so we were pretty dry. Luckily the rain stopped just before the fireworks show and it was fireworks galore from then.

It was time to go home, the kiddy rides were all closed and it was quite surreal looking at the empty carousel.

So another year, another Perth Royal Show. Every year the show stays the same, but every year it feels different because we’re always going with a mix of old and new friends.  I know I had fun again this year, the bubble gun probably made a lot of difference (^_^)Y.

This is how we felt when we got home. Even the toys looked kinda tired.

Dunsborough Bakery pies (^__^)

Remember how I said I would compare the Miami Bakehouse pies with pies from another famous bakery? The said  famous bakery is the Dunsborough Bakery located down South in Dunsborough, I’m so sad it’s not a stone’s throw away but hey, at least it’s another reason to go for a very long road trip (about 3 hours drive from Perth!).

Legend has it that  the Dunsborough Bakery is an icon of the southwest and one of the oldest remaining businesses in the costal town of Dunsborough.

Established by Nanty (Anthony) Curtis, in 1941, the bakery was originally situated a few blocks down from where it sits today on Naturaliste Terrace. Nanty constructed the first ovens himself using hand-made mud and straw bricks. He would prepare the doughs at his home before carting them to the bakery via horse and cart for baking. Nanty would use a feather as a thermometer and would know when the bread was ready by the way the feather curled. As one of the first food businesses in the small town the bakery serviced many locals and Nanty would deliver fresh bread daily via his horse and cart to many of the residents and businesses even as far as Yallingup. Since then,  the bakery has undergone many changes since but is still renowned for its famous pies.

Sounds good ? The good thing about the pies, they weren’t overly expensive like the ones in Miami Bakehouse and were around the $3 – $5 range. Pretty good value for famous pies. They had all the classics like pepper steak pie, chicken pie, I didn’t know which one to choose.

The bakery is also pretty famous for their sourdough bread which looked good but I didn’t get any *regret* Nothing smells better than the smell of freshly baked bread and pastries in the morning. Truly, it’s one of my favourite smells in the world.

We bought our pies, bought takeaway coffees from Dome and drove a little way down to the popular Smiths beach. It was quite early in the morning so we pretty much had the beach to ourselves except for a few early morning surfers. Such a pretty beach, it was so gorgeous and relaxing just sitting on the sand, surrounded by beautiful scenery, the sounds of waves, hot pies in our hands,sipping on good coffees and feeling the sunshine on our faces. Like my sister Jan puts it ‘This is the life!’

Ok ok back to the pies. I had a chicken and mushroom pie because well, I prefer chicken pies to beef pies.

I think it would take a really bad baker to bake a bad chicken pie, but this pie was lovely, tender chicken chunks, peppery creamy sauce, I would eat it again.

He had a beef and bacon pie or something along those lines.

I was quite surprised because it wasn’t beef chunks but minced beef, this was really yummy too. I’m still not an expert on pies, but these pies were delicious, so nice that I returned in the evening to buy some for Jo and HC. If I had to rate it, I’ll give it a 6.5, but if I were rating based on value, and how I felt that very morning, it would be somewhere along 7 to 7.5, very bias right?

What can I say? It was the combination of beach, sky, sand and pies.

So now you know, to have the ultimate pie experience, go to Dunsborough bakery, grab a hot piping pie and drive down to the nearby beaches to picnic on the sand. If I could, I would go again in a heartbeat.

Dunsborough Bakery
Naturaliste Terrace

Peach & Pie

I finally made a real pie, with crust, lid and all! Haha so excited, I really love the versatility of puff pastry, you can make desserts, savoury pies, tarts, everything.

I wanted to make individual pies for everyone but haven’t gotten round to buying pie moulds yet, so I baked my pie in a cake tin instead and it worked. Came out looking like a giant pie cake (=^_^=). Can you guess what kind of pie it was?

It was a Japanese beef curry pie! Instead of eating our normal Japanese beef curry (I made it with beef brisket which I braised tender) with rice, I decided to use it as a pie filling for dinner and pack the curry with rice for our bentos the next day.

To go with the pie, I made a grilled white peaches and tomato salad with baby spinach leaves,red cabbage and a dijon mustard, mayo lime dressing. Just in time for summer.

I am loving pies more and more.  I’ll blog about one of the nicest pies I’ve had soon, not mine I promise!

Bryan’s birthday @ Nicholson’s Bar and Grill

I’ve blogged about Nicholsons Bar and Grill before (where I gave it 7 daitaoha ratings), so I won’t elaborate on the food (for once). Most of the pictures turned out kinda yellow-y due to the lighting and me refusing to use the flash so please be forewarned.

It was a big group of us with Brio the birthday boy being at the head of the table. We didn’t let him know that he was coming to Nicholson’s Bar and Grill before hand but I don’t think he was very surprised since it’s one of his favourite places in Perth. I think Nicholson’s is a great place for a big gathering albeit a bit too noisy, but the atmosphere is warm and lively and it’s a cheerful buzzing pub.

There were lots of couples that night,  the new couple WuiHau and Serena (too bad it’s a long distance relationship now that WH has gone back) were in for lots of teasing and the cute couple are back from their holidays! For some reason I didn’t get a good picture of Jo and HC.

Because it was such a loong table, there were separate conversations going around at different ends of the table. Xin Long and Ming Sian are very ‘hard to get’ people so I was glad that they could make it that night.

Some food photos! The Livingston steak ($37.00), which I’ve blogged about before (clearer photo in old post) was a popular favourite, I think people just can’t get past the description of ‘grilled scotch fillet covered with prawns, garnished with oysters smothered in a rich creamy garlic sauce’. I know Ming Sian really liked his steak and said he was never returning to Outback Jacks (another overpriced steak joint) again.

Calv’s beer battered fish and chips ($20.00) which always looks good and is probably what I would order if I return again. I think Nicholson’s is just the sort of place where they have big hearty servings of fried food and artery clogging steaks and ribs.

Xinlong wanted chicken so I suggested the chicken cordon bleu ($26.00). It’s chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese covered in a creamy garlic sauce served with beer battered fries and salad, Xinlong really liked his chicken especially the part where cheese oozes out from the chicken, haha.

I opted for chicken too and went with the Wicked chicken ($19.00) which was a grilled chicken breast topped with bacon, avocado, cheese, lettuce and mayo served on toasted focaccia with beer battered fries. It was frankly disappointing, I could have done better in my kitchen, the chicken was tough and dry, even the bread was hard. I think it’s possible to cook juicy chicken breast but this one just wasn’t done right.

Luckily mine was perhaps the only disappointment of the night (except I don’t think Wendy really liked her seafood plate), Richard and HC both had the Atlantic salmon special ($26.00) which came with a creamy sauce, mussels and scallops. I was actually thinking the bar wouldn’t be good at cooking salmon, but it came out good and was possibly the best value of the night with three salmon pieces, mussels and scallops.

Adrian and the birthday boy both had the scotch fillet (33.00) served with beer battered fries and salad. Adrian opted to have mash potato instead.

Birthday cake time which Nicholson’s does sooo well. They take out the cake for you, light the candles,  place it in a nice plate, dim the lights, put on the bday song and even bring it out with a smile, the whole works. Fantastic service.

The yummy cake was a zebra torte with layers of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry cream. I love light fluffy layers of sponge cake and this one was delish.

The obligatory group shot of everyone. It was a fun night so thanks for coming guys!

Happy birthday Brio, hope it was a good one (^__^)Y.

Nicholson’s Bar and Grill
6 Birnam Road
Cnr Nicholson Road
Western Australia 6155
Tel: 08 9455 1800

Let’s go look at the boats

Sometimes my work and personal life is so emotional that even a Friday coffee doesn’t help.

I often joke to my workmates that working in my organisation has turned me to caffeine, drink and cakes. A told me that last night he went home, opened a large bottle of something and downed half a litre in a session.

I succumbed to a slice of cheesecake yesterday. (T___T).

It’s Friday today and I had my ‘start of the weekend’ good coffee from Velvet. But nothing seems to be helping and the caffeine fix doesn’t seem to be working. T my favourite colleague has gone home after causing most of us to tear with a tragic story. I bought her a hot chocolate with extra marshmallows but it doesn’t seem to have helped either.

Most of my friends have finished their exams and are gunning to celebrate tonight. But going home or going out after work has no appeal to me. I just want to go to Matilda Bay, walk a long long way, sit down by my favourite bench and look at the boats for a while.

The only reason why I’m upset both professionally and personally is because I really care about my work, my colleagues, my loved ones. Motto of the story is, I should be thankful and feel lucky that I’m still passionate about my work and people around me.

So I shall stop blogging, start working really hard and hopefully catch some time to look at boats this weekend. Happy weekend guys.

Puff pastry experiments

I’m having lots of fun experimenting with frozen puff pastry, and I hope my friends are enjoying being my puff pastry guinea pigs.

Nutella and banana puff pastry parcels. Nutella and bananas are the perfect combination, yums.

Tomato, basil and mozarella tart which I spread with tomato paste first, it was like a plain pizza only with flaky puff pastry base.

The problem with Project November is that I’m hit with this baking and cooking urge, I want to try everything, cook everything, it doesn’t help that my Ah Ma is enticing me with her recipes and stories of her different experiments everyday. Where to start, where to start. Mexican, Yorkshire puddings, laksas, tom yum and satays, pies, I want to cook them all!

Ok ok, enough about food. I promise the next post will be a birthday post with pictures of friends (and food) instead. And perhaps when I get round to it … I’ll finally blog about Perth Royal Show *hang head in shame* (T____T).

The weekend is over yet again

It’s Monday and I’m back in the office again. Boo. But obviously not working as you can tell.

Today I took the bus to work, which should be the norm but hasn’t been of late because dear HC has been sending Jo and I to work for the past month. Which I must admit is pure bliss and so super convenient. I am also reaching the office super early (as in I am the one who switches on the lights) and leaving work early, hiak hiak.

When my bus stopped at Grey Hoodie’s boy stop, I looked out even though I knew I wouldn’t see him (way too early for him). There was no little bubble of anticipation and as expected, he really wasn’t there. As the bus moved on, I felt happy that I made so many new friends including GHB this year.

In comes the new out goes the old. So many friends have left or are leaving. In fact out of the boys, there’s only Gerry and Bryan left. We celebrated Bryan and Wui Hau’s birthdays last week. Wui Hau is returning to Kuching for good today. He has matured so much from when he first arrived in Perth, I’m sad to see him go but I know he will be happy back home.

It’s Jason’s birthday today! Happy birthday Jaso in Gero. I hope things are going well in Geraldton and you’ll be returning for a Perth weekend soon. But even if I don’t see you in Perth, I’ll see you in Kuching! It’s so amazing that you’re finally coming after we’ve been talking about if for so long, I can’t wait to bring you around and rediscover new and old foodie haunts in Kuching.

Ok, it’s back to harsh reality and work for me now. Have a good week everyone J

November 2009