As most of you know, I will be moving soon. I'm travelling light. I am excited! and scared! and a little sad... There are things about my life in Rochester that I will let go of with great reluctance. I wish I could capture this sense of peace and equilibrium, put it into a bottle and keep it by my side!
Coupled with this reluctance, like George Sheehan said, there is also "the desire to secure the self yet to be." One of these days, I will wrap things up nicely with this blog but in the meantime, many thanks for your wishes, for your generous affection and most of all, for your love.
Picture: The Chokilait maestro in Melbourne
Heres a round-up of my favorite chocolate destinations! I certainly do not lack for distractions... The Chambourcin truffles we made at the New York Culinary Center were quite yum. And then I stumbled upon Vosges Chocolate Bars at Parkleigh. As if living within walking distance of Stever's is not enough temptation! I've held myself back with excruciating restraint. Happily, I surrended to temptation at Phillips European and Goodness Cakes on University Ave. And who can resist the miniature Opera Torte at the Little Bakery. Sigh.
What better way to sweat off those pounds than to sign up for a Chocaholics Historical Walking tour!! Suzie Wharton leads tours in Melbourne and shows off the city's gorgeous arcades. We paused for sustenance at 4 specialty chocolatiers in 2 hours. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
We started in Royal Arcade, at Haigh's Chocolates. Much ooh-ing and aah-ing over Haigh's creations. We trotted out to Deva, a specialty gift store. They had the most exquisite designs I've ever seen on handmade chocolates. Deva was a hard act to follow but Chokolait held its own. Tucked away in one of the rare calm nooks in the middle of Melbourne's shopping epicentre, Chokolait is where one goes to revive one's spirits. Their iced dark chocolate drink was perfection. With a spring in our step, we walked to Koko Black's. Really, we should refer to this as the Koko Black's chocolate temple. Their menu reads like a wish list and I could happily stand by their store all day, nose pressed to the glass, watching their chocolatiers work their magic. But I digress. We sampled their classic Belgian truffle. My worldly cares slipped away. I progressed into a higher state of consiousness.
Last, but not the least, my fondest chocolate memory is Soma in Toronto. We strolled into the shop plus kitchen one rainy summer afternoon. The Mayan Hot Chocolate piqued our interest... a combination of chocolate and Australian ginger, Madagascar Vanilla, orange peel, chili and SOMA spices! It was rich and sumptous, majestic and completely entrancing. It exceeded our wildest expectations. 'twas the high point of an incredibly good year ;-)
As most of you know by now, I have excellent taste in food and men. (What? I never said I was modest!) The happy intersection of these two, led me to bills in Sydney!
I went to the original location in Darlinghurst for brunch on a Friday morning. The legendary communal table was gone but the the place was bustling. The restaurant is housed in an unassuming grey building, a block away from busy Victoria St. The wait staff, dressed in black, are a blur. Honestly, their movements are choreographed, those embodiments of efficiency.
So I put myself in their hands, ordered a cappucino and bill's famous corn fritters. Allow me to explain. Many items enjoy star status on the breakfast menu. For example, the eggs routinely get rave reviews! The ricotta hotcakes and corn fritters please the most exacting palates. bills is known for not just good food prepared with fresh, flavorful ingredients but CONSISTENT good food. The latter, as we know, is much harder!
The restaurant is great for people watching. One table was in the middle of what looked like a business meeting, complete with macbook and coffee, over breakfast. In a nook, two women dove into fruit and coffee, looking like they had stepped off the covers of a magazine. Quite likely they had!
My favorite thing to do is to watch people interact with food in the context of their relationship! Take for example, the folks seated on either side of me. Two couples to be precise. The couple to my right looked like newly-weds, in the early stages of developing their couple-equation. Still aglow with marital bliss. He had the eggs and she had the corn fritters. Their glances shy and happy. The couple to the left of me were well-ensconced in togetherness. The music between them was a familiar, oft-played tune, one that lingered and seemed to always play in the background. They spoke little, seemed comfortable in their own skin and with each other. He had the eggs and she had pancakes.
At the end of their respective meals, they looked into each others eyes. The food, the ambience effortlessly fell away, highlighting the simple emotion underlying their enjoyment of life. Love! Truly, theres a simplicity to bill's that somehow enhances the whole experience of eating, and indeed, being!!
Corn fritter image credit: Dimsum Dolly
Bill Granger's Corn Fritter:
(recipes from Bill Granger's Bill's Food
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob
1/2 cup sliced spring onions
1/4 cup chopped coriander and parsley
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and paprika into a large bowl, stir in sugar and make a well in the centre. In a separate bowl, combine eggs and milk. Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth, lump-free batter. The batter will be quite stiff.
Place corn, spring onions and herbs in a mixing bowl and add just enough batter to lightly bind them (about 3/4 cup). Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non-stick fying pan on medium heat, then drop in 2 tablespoons of batter per fritter and cook 4 fritters at a time, Cook for 2 minutes, or until the underside of each fritter is golden. Turn over and cook fritters on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining batter.
Corn fritters on the web:
All about Bill
Isn't it amazing how one always picks the hottest, summer days in July to move? Between packing, labelling and cleaning, staying cool was a challenge. The fridge needed emptying anyways and so heres a dessert for the occasion!
Heres what I did:
Original recipe: Gale Gand's Passionfruit Parfait featured on Ming Tsai's website
- Mixed together 2 eggs, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup passionfruit puree, 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste).
- Cooked the mixture over water, whisking continuously till it thickened.
- Chucked it all into the freezer for 4-6 hours. I stirred every hour to break up crystals.
Delicious! Tart, sweet and creamy, it adds a whole new dimension to my passionfruit sorbet experience. If I'd taken the time to whip the cream, I might have achieved a creamier texture. Cut corners not-withstanding, the parfait was really quite refreshing.
Heres what I did:
1. Made the multigrain bread from Peter Reinhardt's "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" I read every sentence in the first chapter and then read the recipe about four times. Chock full of details.
2. Made the multi grain struan from Floyd's post at The Fresh Loaf
The struan used whole wheat flour and about 5 minutes of vigorous kneading, while the multigrain bread extraordinaire (MBE) called for bread flour and 12 minutes of kneading. Ouch. I confess that the MBE was harder to work with, but the resultant texture was incredible. Golden crust and hearty crumb. The struan had more interesting ingredients in it and was an easier dough to work with. I added quinoa, millet and brown rice. However, unlike Floyd's version, mine did not rise as much. I am sure I will have to give this a couple tries before I figure out exactly whats going on! Used the breads for toast as well as sandwiches. It works with honey, butter, hummus and mild cheese. All in all, I am very satisfied with both recipes and if I HAD to pick one, it would be the MBE. However, clearly, I need to practice :-) Wish my hapless victims luck!
PS. Top 2 pictures: MBE, Bottom 1: Struan. It has occurred to me that I could just clear the table and take pictures. For now, please forgive the background clutter. I was too fixated on the bread (read 'too lazy to clean up or even crop'!)
My sweeth tooth has been clamoring for some attention... so I made Nibby Buckwheat Cookies! This time, we discovered the happpy marriage of buchwheat, butter and cocoa nibs, recipe from 101cookbooks.com, originally featured in Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert
Heres what I did:
Halved the recipe. Subbed whole wheat pastry flour for allpurpose flour and followed the recipe to the letter. Refrigerated the dough for 8 hours. Stuck it in the freezer between rolling and re-rolling. One needs to keep a close eye while baking the cookies. Since they are small, they tend to brown easily.
Like the walnut sticks, these cookies are perfect - rich, buttery and always satisfying. Buckwheat is a suprising ingredient in a butter cookie and works remarkably well. The nibs add crunch and the texture of the cookie is perfect.
Nibby buckwheat cookies on 101cookbooks.com and Orangette.