Pimp My Plate #7 – Teneriffe, QLD

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

Sourced Grocer – café and organic grocer

This week I’ve had to pimp my budget! Only by $1, and only in the interests of reviewing and sharing an innovative dish from Sourced Grocer café.

I first heard about this café while chatting about art, life, and food with a young Brisbane hipster – thank you! Further online investigation uncovered an enthusiastic review for Cabbage Pancakes. Trying to imagine what these might look like, let alone taste like, became the incentive for my excursion to this foodie oasis.

The Sourced Grocer café is planted in the middle of an area of rapid residential development, in Teneriffe, on the outskirts of Brisbane CBD.

A wall of potted green welcomes you on arrival. Once inside, this airy converted warehouse space is divided into a grocery section – chock full of mindfully sourced gourmet produce – a cold room, and a small restaurant area next to the open plan kitchen.

I take a seat near the kitchen, and scan the menu. I notice one of the cooks is busily chopping through a bundle of kale. Love it or hate it, kale is still the queen of green, and its presence signals organic sensibilities, and no-fear vegetable bravado. Or maybe that’s just my interpretation.

The menu presented a dilemma of choice. My tastebuds had travelled to taste the Cabbage Pancakes ($17), but another menu item grabbed my attention: Saltbush Spaghetti ($19) with sorrel leaves, cured egg yolk, and burnt garlic. If in doubt, ask. I did. The chef recommended I try the spaghetti so I did.

I also ordered a dessert – Coconut Tapioca Pudding with passionfruit, basil, bee pollen, and coconut ($16).

The food here is ‘eating clean’ with top marks for mouth feel.

My plate of Saltbush Spaghetti arrived – a green tumbleweed of sorrel leaves, with green spaghetti nestled below.

I foraged through my bowl, twirling the crispy sorrel leaves and al dente pasta together into a happy green mouthful. Crunch! It’s rare to find crunch anywhere in a pasta story.

The sorrel leaves were light as air, and as crisp and addictive as air dried potato or kale chips. It’s never a crime to pick up food in your fingers in the name of research, and I started nibbling on them like a rabbit.

No soggy clingy sauces here. Instead, imagine a nest of crunchy dried green sorrel leaves sitting on top of perfectly al dente spaghetti, creating a crunchy-chewy contrast in your mouth. Difficult to describe, but I recommend it.

The pasta was served just-warm, and I was grateful because it would have added moisture into the leaves, and it was a really hot day.

Dessert arrived. A confident, pretty bird’s nest of colour, and textures: fresh mango pieces, strips of young coconut, passionfruit, and a sprinkling of bee pollen, nestled on top of a creamy tapioca pudding base. I loved the simplicity and texture of the ingredients.

The food at Sourced Grocer is all about quality of ingredients, combined with innovation. Their dedicated-to-good-food-and-innovation earnestness radiates from the kitchen.

Enjoy the joie de vivre of this food – it’s feel-good, eat-clean food with a creative edge.

There is plenty of on-street parking midweek, or you can simply take the City Glider bus, like I did, and get off at the last stop by the water, and take a 10 minute walk which also takes you by a Swiss chocolatier, should you want to savour a few pieces of quality chocolate to eat on the spot, or take with you – for much later.

RATED: Maxxed!  FOOD: 6/5 yes, you read right
VALUE: 5/5  ATMOS: 4.5/5  VIBE: relaxed, airy, with kitchen staff 100% focused on showcasing quality produce
Sourced Grocer Café – 11 Florence St, Teneriffe, QUEENSLAND

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Pimp My Plate #6 – Chatswood, NSW

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

*Good Vibes has been renamed DUCK PHAT and offers a simplified quality organic Vietnamese menu

Good Vibes Organic Restaurant*

OK, I have to make a confession about this review.
All Good Vibes’ tasting plates are $16.50 each so they do meet my under $18 per plate criteria, but they are served as part of a degustation menu. There is no regimen, you simply choose as many plates as you like – but you will want to try everything on the menu.

The energetic and friendly staff suggested ordering a minimum of 3 plates to share, per couple. But once you taste the food, you know that’s madness, and you scan the menu for your next flavour hit.

I love surprises.

The exterior of this restaurant is low key and a peek through the window says friendly, organic, certified, and welcoming. It could be cosy Glebe, but it’s cosy Chatswood, just a few blocks down from the corporate towers and slick retail arena of Willoughby City.

A glance at Good Vibes’ website reveals quality, and the words Cordon Bleu and Organic meld together in symbiotic deliciousness. Modestly, they call their style ‘a modern European semi-fine dining experience’. Who knows what that means, and who really cares, when their plates are pretty, professional, and delicately assembled. The focus here is on beauty and flavour, not fussy.

Quality food and attention to detail often comes with attitude, but this is an attitude-free zone. The only attitude is dedication to the food. The night I visited, two of the three wait staff had called in sick. Young Chef and owner Huey, had no qualms about pitching in and helping the one waitress in a very busy restaurant. A chef cleaning a table is a rarity. So we’re talking soul as well as quality.

The food … Arrabiata Pasta w Lamb Stuffed Capsicum; Seared Scallops with Chilli Jam Lentils; Mixed Mushroom and Aubergine Tart; Slow cooked Scotched Fillet w Pomme Puree and Red Wine Jus; and to finish, an Orange Caramel Crème Brûlée.

Each plate was delicately executed, and full of flavour, and needs no further explanation, beyond an exclamation of ‘Yum’.

Good Vibes is BYO, and all produce is certified organic where possible. Seafood is wild caught, but due to the nature of seafood, it is not certified organic. The menu features gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan choices.

If you thought you knew the dining scene in the Chatswood area – or thought there wasn’t one – think again.

RATED: Pimped to the stars! FOOD: 5/5
VALUE: 5/5 ATMOS: 4/5 VIBE: friendly, multicultural
Good Vibes Organic Restaurant – 172 Victoria Ave, Chatswood, NSW

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Mini BREAKFAST pots

An easy DIY breakfast – add delicious Summer fruits before they disappear

If you make this the night before you have a quick, healthy, energy boost breakfast to eat in, or to go. Make 2 or more at a time, using different flavours of fruit or yoghurt.

These may look small – I use 1-cup capacity glass jars with a screw lid – but they filling and taste great.

PIMP YOUR OATS, AND MIX IT UP

Pack your screw cap jar with 50% oats, then fill up the jar to 3cm below the top with a mix of: sunflower seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, sliced or whole almonds. Add a tablespoon of plain Greek style yoghurt, and fill to the top with milk. Seal the lid, and let the ingredients soak overnight.

Next morning, add some chopped up some fresh fruit, and eat straight from the jar. Add more fruit to the jar as you go. Easy!

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Pimp My Plate #5 – BURWOOD

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

SAHARA by the Park

A large glass window exposes the view of the fire and grill, with skewers of juicy lamb and chicken. You can’t taste the flavour but you can see it.

Enter the door on the left of the window for take away food, and the door on the right, to take a seat in the restaurant area. There is outdoor seating on busy Burwood Road, but it’s noisy.

Sahara By The Park is a traditional, family-run restaurant that serves Turkish and Mediterranean meals, including Mezze dishes, Pide, Kebobs, Salads, and more.

I scanned the menu – walnuts, chilli, garlic, pomegranate juice, pistachios, Turkish coffee. Just the words to ignite my tastebuds into a flavour frenzy.

My $18 budget challenge meant avoiding the more substantial main meals, and ordering from the selection of Salads and Mezze plates, but there were plenty of options.

My waitress kindly suggested several alternatives to the printed menu. Not wanting to encourage possible future dining dilemmas for her, I ordered from the standard menu.

I chose the intriguingly named Sahara’s Chilli Nuts Salad ($16.50); the Chilli Prawns Hotpot ($16.50), a bottle of Gazoz Turkish Lemonade ($4), and I decided the Turkish Coffee Brulee ($9.50) was essential ‘research’.

The Chilli Prawns Hotpot is served with grilled garlic bread, prompting you to tear it into smaller pieces to plunge into the ‘authentic sauce’.

I take my chilli sauces seriously, and I’ve found that so many with a tomato base underwhelm and under deliver – either they lack enough heat, are too sweet, or maybe they haven’t been cooked with enough love? These prawns were swimming in a sauce of thick, rich, bold, and spicy deliciousness. Smallish prawns, but there were plenty of them.

When the Chilli Nuts Salad arrived I immediately understood why the waitress had suggested I didn’t order it as a main, and urged me to ‘pimp’ it up by adding a skewer of lamb or chicken.

To say this salad is a generous serving is an understatement. I mined through diced cucumber, tomato, mild red and green chilli peppers, and the freshest walnuts I’ve ever eaten, with a dressing of pomegranate juice, but it was too much of a challenge for one person, even a hungry one.

The flavours shout ‘Wake up!’ to your mouth in a vibrant flavour explosion that would complement any meat dish.

The Gazoz Turkish lemonade was a refreshing drink to balance out the heady flavours.

My Turkish Coffee Brûlée arrived with a topping of sour cherry jam, sprinkled with pretty, ground pistachio kernels. It was not a traditional brûlée with a hard caramel topping. Brûlée translates from the French word for burnt, which refers to the burnt sugar topping with a rich custard base below it.

This dessert was more a creamy, mousse texture, and the topping was sour cherry jam but I enjoyed it.

Sahara By The Park keeps it simple, local, authentic, and full of flavour.

RATED: Pimped with flavour!  FOOD: 3.5/5
VALUE: 4/5  ATMOS: 3/5  VIBE: mostly Turkish clientele, all ages
Sahara By The Park – 100 Burwood Road, Burwood, NSW

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Pimp My Plate #4 – ALEXANDRIA

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

POTTING SHED – The Grounds of Alexandria

Sitting in a leafy ‘potting shed’ – that has wait staff – on a hot Summer’s day is an ideal setting in which to eat lunch.

I tried two items from their menu – Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($16), and their Summer Fruit Pot ($14), pictured, which won on price and spectacular presentation.

The Summer Fruit Pot is a very pretty fruit trifle served in a terracotta flower pot, with layers of yoghurt and fresh fruit, on a base of vanilla sponge.  The sponge was a bit cloyingly sweet for me, but perhaps that’s personal taste as I prefer semi-sweet.

For me the other standout was the Eucalyptus Fizz ($7) – such an unusual and innovative flavour idea that’s an oh-so-refreshing summer sip.

Staff are super friendly and professional, which is always a treat when dining in Sydney. There are other indoor bars and eating areas in the Grounds Of Alexandria space, including a bakery selling spectacular cakes and an interesting range of loaves of bread, plus an outdoor cart with cool drinks and eye-gasm cakes and pastries.

A truly creative space with good food you’ll want to revisit – even if parking is a challenge.

RATED: Pimped!    FOOD: 4/5    VALUE: 4/5 
ATMOS: Surrounded by leafy eye-candy    VIBE: Buzzing!
The Potting Shed – (inside) The Grounds of Alexandria, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria, NSW

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NRG Bliss Balls sugar hack

A yummy high energy sweet snack with no added sugar – less than 1g in the cacao powder! I’ve been experimenting with a Sarah Dueweke recipe, but I’ve substituted cacoa powder instead of cocoa, and used finely ground coffee beans instead of instant coffee powder, and renamed it.

These are quite filling despite their tiny size, so you can’t overeat them either.

There are lots of recipes for these but this knocks the socks off the others for natural sweetness. Someone suggested I add rum to the recipe – I prefer my rum in a glass, preferably with lime juice, mint, and ice.

bliss-balls
Healthy and delicious!                                                                          Image: Awia Markey

 

How to make your own NRG Bliss Balls 

(makes 20-22)

30 pitted dates (from a 250 g pack)
1 tspn vanilla extract (not essence)
1 1/2 level tbspn very finely ground espresso coffee
3 rounded tbspn organic cacao powder
3/4 cup walnuts (buy whole or walnut pieces)
3/4 cup hazelnuts
1 tbspn melted coconut oil
3/4 cup dried coconut threads

Cut dates in half, and place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 10 mins, then drain and place the dates, vanilla, coffee, and cacao into the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the mixture starts to blend together.

Add the walnuts and hazelnuts to the mixture, and process again until the nuts are chopped into smaller pieces and the mixture starts to form a sticky ball.

Last, drizzle in the melted coconut oil and pulse until incorporated.
Use a teaspoon to scoop out mixture and roll mixture into 3 cm round balls.
Scatter coconut threads across a dinner plate, and roll the balls across to coat them.
Store in a sealed contained, in the fridge or freezer.

 

Pimp My Plate #3 – SYDNEY, CBD

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

Pablo & Rusty’s 161

A great find in CBD heartland – which explains why this space is always buzzing when I walk by.

Décor is industrial chic – a marriage of metal and wood – exposed brick walls, and hanging high on a wall above, circa 1970-something, macramé hanging potted plants. But below them, planted firmly in 2016, this space is buzzing with chat.

The conversation buzzing enthusiastically at the table next to mine was punctuated with words like strategy, CEO, and Whole of Organization which can almost sound sexy when animated by the sassy 20-somethings next to me. Don’t let that corporate speak demographic put you off, because the food is great and the staff are hip and friendly, and that positive energy radiates from your plate.

I arrived at brunch time, and was too early for the lunch menu. Scanning the menu, I noticed one of my favourite feel good meals was on the Lunch menu: Jerk chicken! Served with salad, pineapple and coconut, and … Sigh! I came very close to blowing my time and at $22 my PMP budget, so brunch it was.

From the items on the breakfast menu at $18, I chose the Broccolini, asparagus and eggs mimosa with Jamon (dry-cured ham from Spain), shaved grana (a hard Italian cheese similar to parmesan), and herbed mascarpone with chilli oil, on sourdough toast.

It was pretty on the plate, and delicious to eat. I love eggs, and I could easily rename this dish Eggy Cheesy Cloud of Ecstasy!

Between mouthfuls of delight I realized I had no memory of ever eating Eggs Mimosa, and if I did, it wasn’t like this! The recipe itself is a French twist on hard boiled devilled eggs – the egg whites stuffed with a filling, the egg yolks grated over everything. Maybe it was a sentimental French cook who likened these grated yellow egg yolks to the yellow mimosa flowers that grow in Provence? If you know, please let me know.

In this version, the egg white was chopped up and mixed through the cheese, so there were no football shaped egg halves rolling around my plate to manoeuvre. I’m always happy to see green on the plate – the broccolini was crisp and textured, and the asparagus spears were wrapped in a wafer thin sliced of jamon – delicious.

Confidence radiates from the wait staff, the kitchen, and the plating, to deliver flavour and fresh quality ingredients onto your plate.

Pablo & Rusty’s 161 are single origin coffee roasters so you can buy your coffee in a cup or as a bag of beans to take home.

Entry is from Castlereagh Street, but if you walk through the ANZ Tower via 242 Pitt Street, you’ll walk up the amazing staircase in my photo and into Liberty Place.

RATED: Pimped-Real-Good    FOOD: 5/5   Value: 5/5
ATMOS: High energy buzz   VIBE: Young professional + hipster
Pablo & Rusty’s 161 – 161 Castlereagh St, Sydney, NSW

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Pimp My Plate #2 – COFFS HARBOUR

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

Cocoa café

If you’ve just done a business deal, you want to sit down and chill out with some headspace to concentrate, not a headful of music, noise, or hustle. This is the place.

Arriving about 10 mins before the Lunch menu kicked in at noon, we ordered from the All Day Breakfast menu. On a previous visit I ate a deliciously memorable lunch of Moroccan-style Lamb cutlets resting on a bed of risotto … deserving of its front row seat in my food memory.

Our breakfasts arrived – the waitress smiled, the plates smiled with freshness, and my eyes and appetite smiled. The poached eggs were cooked with ‘volumptuous’ perfection. My Zucchini and Corn Fritters ($17) were marathon-sized, and despite my hunger I had to leave a quarter of the meal on the plate … That.Never.Happens.

My partner ordered the Poached Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Mushrooms and was equally impressed.

Cocoa is in the main retail strip and offers great value, and is a great place to meet up with friends, or an informal business meeting. The coffee is 8/10, and the menu is smart cafe food – what they do, they do well. There are a quite a few good places to eat breakfast in this area, I like this one for its consistency.

Rated: Pimped and pumped! Food: 4/5
Value: 5/5 Atmosphere: 4/5 Vibe: from tradies to corporates
Cocoa café – Shop R48 Coffs Central Harbour Dr, Coffs Harbour

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Take the coffee train to Chillsville

colour
DIY ChillsVille   Image: Awia Markey

 

 

Can’t take the heat, or just want to DIY and sip something different? Take your coffee to Chillsville and cool off on these hot Summer days…

ChillsVille Coffee
(serves one)

2 level tblspns pre-ground espresso coffee (if you don’t have a bag of coffee handy you could use a coffee pod – just break the seal with a knife)
1/2 cup boiling water
2 pinches of ground cardamon spice
1 pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tblspn honey, runny
1 cup cold milk
1/4 cup thickened cream
ice cubes
stalks of fresh mint, washed

Taste tip: This recipe has a mid-strength coffee flavour that isn’t too sweet. If you usually add sugar to your coffee then add more honey to suit your taste.

Put espresso coffee, ground cardamon, ground cinnamon into a small size (2 cup) French Press (plunger). Pour over boiling water, stir and let cool.

When lukewarm or cool, plunge the French Press and pour the strained liquid into your chilled glass or ceramic mug.

Add honey to taste, and mix well. Pour in milk, then spoon in cream and mix. Add a few mint leaves and mix through. Add enough ice to fill your mug, and garnish with a stalk of mint.

(Discard coffee grounds into your garden or pot plants)

Gluten-free Coconut flour Pancakes

pancake-1 copy

My Challenge: I’m not gluten intolerant, but I wanted to a create gluten-free pancake recipe for GF friends, using coconut flour, that compare with the pancakes I usually make with regular flour, which have a similar springy-spongy mouth feel when cooked.

The style of pancakes I like are thin but not crepe-thin. It’s best to keep the pancakes no larger than 7cm (3”) in size and around. I also recommend you eat them immediately after cooking as they dry out, and don’t keep very well.

Scroll down to see my preferred recipe below.

pancake-2

How COCONUT FLOUR behaves:

Well, it doesn’t really! It’s thirsty for moisture, you use less than regular flour, replacing flour with gluten means the pancakes require more care and attention. It imparts a subtle coconut flavour, so you could tire of the flavour if you ate too many.

I experimented with three different versions of pancakes: adding a paste of ground flax-seed to the coconut flour to make the batter more elastic; and two other versions where I added tapioca flour in varying amounts.

I found using ground flax-seed and warm water to the pancake batter made no difference to either the cooking or ‘flip-ability’ of the pancakes, except to add some fibre.

TAPIOCA FLOUR seemed to help smooth out the consistency and ‘flip-ability’ of the batter. Tapioca starch and tapioca flour generally are the same product but when buying tapioca flour or tapioca starch, you should take care to stick with companies that specifically label their products as gluten-free.

I decided to maintain the coconut theme and use coconut oil and coconut sugar. You can substitute sunflower oil (or high heat tolerant oil); and caster or fine grain sugar.

Now, onto the recipe…

pancake-3

COCONUT (gluten-free) mini Pancakes

yields 15 (7cm/3 inch)

You’ll need: medium size bowl; wire whisk; pastry brush; cast iron or heavy frypan; pancake turner or flipper

¼ cup coconut flour
¼ teaspoon McKenzie’s gluten-free baking powder, or make your own (see below)
1 level tablespoon tapioca flour/starch
2 rounded teaspoons of coconut sugar (to add subtle sweetness)
2 x large (700g) eggs
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup milk
2 teaspoons Coconut oil at room temperature

Make the pancake batter: Combine coconut flour, baking powder, tapioca, and sugar, and mix with a fork. Beat the eggs in a small bowl then add them to the dry ingredients, mixing in well with a fork.

Combine buttermilk and milk in a cup and slowly pour it into the dry ingredients, mixing through with a fork. Beat with the wire whisk until the mixture is smooth and runny.

Cooking: Dip your pastry brush into the coconut oil and brush a thin smear across the frying pan. Heat your frying pan to medium-heat. Wait until it is hot before adding batter. Use a tablespoon to spoon just one spoonful of batter per pancake onto the hot pan. It’s best to only cook 2 pancakes at a time. If they are larger than 3 inch they can crack. Even at this small size, these pancakes take longer to cook that regular pancakes or pikelets, so don’t flip them until the underside is cooked or they will crack. Give the edges of the pancake a gentle nudge – if the batter sticks to your flipper utensil, it’s not cooked enough to turn over – wait until the edges look cooked which takes a few minutes each side. (You won’t get the tell-tale air bubbles of regular pancakes to let you know when to flip them). Flip them once, and press lightly down onto the fryping pan. Brush the pan with more coconut oil between cooking each set of pancakes. When cooked, remove pancakes onto a plate, and cover with a saucepan lid to keep warm, or place in an oven at very low heat.

Eat pancakes straight away with fresh or stewed fruit and cream or yoghurt; and honey, or pure maple syrup.

DIY gluten-free baking powder:

2 parts Cream of Tartar
1 part baking soda
1 part cornstarch

Stir and sift all ingredients together and you’ve got baking powder. Use as normal.

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