Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hey, Baldy!

As some may know, I'm planning on doing the World's Greatest Shave for a Cure this year. While the shave itself is taking place on 15-17 March, I was planning to do it in mid-April due to a wedding commitment to an old friend: I don't want to run the risk of ruining any wedding pictures!.

Originally I'd planned to go the full-on shave, down to the skin, but then decided that going down to a number 4.5 would be good enough. Anyway, I am still hoping to do it (provided I get a decent amount of money raised: at LEAST $1,000), however I've hit an unexpected problem:
I want the shave done properly, but I can't find a hairdresser that will do it for me! Even when I explain what it's for, the four that I've asked so far have put a horrified look on their faces and said "oh no, we couldn't do it, your hairs just too nice!" (why, thank you!).

The picture above was taken (alas, by me) just before christmas after I'd had a trim and colour done, and then the hairdresser had straightened it for me (it usually has a bit of a wave through it). Not sure if you can gauge the length from this pic... Maybe it's a bit longer than halfway down my back....

Originally I thought I would like to donate the hair to be made into a wig, however I've found out that it has to be un-coloured to do that, and alas I don't think mine has been un-coloured in... ooohhh... gee..... well, a fair while. It's a shame it'll be going to waste :( I would have loved for someone to have had it.

{Post-publish note: My brother, wise man that he is, has suggested that if I hack it all off and THEN go into a hair dresser they'll do it for me! Then we got talking about how I wished I could have it made into a wig, he suggested I keep it. And I thought, "yeah! If I put it into a pony-tail and cut it off, then I can keep the tail..." I shouldn't talk to my brother, he's evil :) hehe}

So, the question is:

Sunday, February 11, 2007

French Toast

This entry really should be titled "How to take an essentially healthy breakfast and junk it right up". As we all know (don't we?) french toast is just bread soaked in beaten egg mixture (with a little bit of milk, if you're like me). And considering the only bread I seem to eat is either wholemeal or multigrain, you'd think that, all in all, this is quite a healthy breakfast... and it is, I guess, until you add syrup and icing sugar!

Although I really think I shouldn't try to spiffy up my pictures... the "casual drizzle" of syrup around the plate didn't really work, did it! Put it down to my still waking up at the time.

So, 2 eggs in a flat- or wide-bottomed bowl with a splash of milk, mix it all up really well with a fork. Throw the first bit of bread in, move it around a bit, flip it over, then chuck it into a pan that's been heating over a low heat (I don't have non-stick stuff so used a bit of canola oil spray... I guess if you had teflon-coated stuff you could forgo that). When the bottom is toasty and browned flip it over. Adjust the heat as you go till you find the right level. When it's browned on both sides flip it onto the plate and do the same with your second piece of bread. Arrange them on the plate any old way you feel like, drizzle with syrup and sprinkle some icing sugar over the top.

Brilliant - a great weekend breakfast, done in next to no time. If I have a little egg mixture left over (which I invariably do) I throw it into the pan for a few minutes to cook (because of the milk it spread out quickly and thinly over the pan, so doesn't take long at all to cook through) and have it with the toast - hate waste!!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Eating Out: Piadina Slow Food

Rear 57 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
(03) 9662 2277

It was on a whim that I went to Piadina Slow Food today for lunch - and holy-freaking-cow, Batman, am I glad I did!.

Looking at the piadina's I thought "hm, no, I want to try something different today". Seeing my dilemma the rather eccentric lad who seems to run the joint queried me about what I felt like. Did I eat lamb? (no). What about a spicy chicken, since I usually have the rather sedate almond-coated chicken breast piadina with whole-egg mayonnaise? (hmm, no, want ONE day this week where I don't have chilli). Do I eat beef? (yes, yes I do). How about these beef ribs we've had cooking for about 8 hours, marinated in red wine, green tea and marmalade? (hmm.... interesting.... yeah sure, I'll give it a go).

While I was waiting for the take-away container to be made up he gave me a little taste-test. I had been a little dubious when he told me the marinade ingredients, but with that first taste I was completely blown away. My taste buds didn't know what to rave about first - the smooth texture of the meat, the initial burst of red wine, or the lingering afterglow of the marmalade. Winding it's way through all of that the green tea effortlessly lent itself to everything, adding the most subtle difference to it all. The thought that I would soon have my own little serving of such a divine creation left me fair salivating right there at the counter.

Finally, after what seemed like an age, I was presented with my foil container in its non-descript brown paper bag. The only thing stopping me from ripping it open and picking the whole lot up in my fingers and eating like a caveman right there was the fear the meat would simply fall to pieces and onto the ground (actually, that's exactly what I did do in the finish, to get the last few scraps of flesh from the bone). So I hastened back to my desk. The burst of fragrant steam set my mouth to watering in a jiffy. No cutting required - the merest hint of pressure and the meat parted onto the fork so easily it almost defies belief. The first bite was everything the taster had promised back at the store. I was glad to be eating alone as if anyone had suggested, nay, HINTED, at trying a bite I fear I would have behaved something like a rabid dog: guarding my prize, hackles raised, teeth barred in a growl - even to you, dear. Served atop a small bed of rice, with a nest of rocket (? I'm not up to speed on things green and leafy) tossed with oil and salt on the side, it was my own personal spiritual experience. Alas, $13 and a varying menu mean it won't be something I can experience every day, but I think that has made me appreciate it all the more.

Will I attempt to re-create the marinade for myself? Hell yes. Will I succeed? Probably not! But it won't stop me trying.

Think I'm raving a bit too much? Thinking to yourself "oh come on, it was just a bit of meat"? I defy you to try it for yourself (get your own darned serving, y'ain't gettin' none o' mine!) and see.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Eating Out: Nudel Bar

Nudel Bar
76 Bourke Street, Melbourne

I've heard mixed reactions to Nudel Bar. I've walked past it several times and thought "hm, I'll give that a go one day" and never did. Until now.

I found a review of the place in The Age from several years ago, and that cemented the idea that I really should give the place a go. Perhaps the circumstances didn't help my over-all impression... I arrived there prior to the official lunchtime rush, I requested take-away, I was pleasant...

I'd no sooner stepped through the front door when a waitress lassoed me. After I stated that I wanted something to take away a menu was thrust into my hand, and I was imperially ordered to sit and "take my time" before said lady rushed off to the kitchens. I'd barely skimmed over the menu for the first time when she whirled back asking if I'd decided. The harried look on her face led me to think that, instead of being almost completely empty (there was one customer slurping away in the corner), the place was actually packed to the rafters, and my inability to make a decision was keeping hundreds of other customers waiting. I politely asked for a few more minutes. I'm sure I caught an eye-roll as she whisked away again, but by this stage I could have been becoming paranoid.

I finally settled for the potato curry. The menu was whipped out of my hand, the finger pointed to another stool upon which I could place myself, and she was off again. Another waitress saw me sitting there meekly and offered me a smile, which was nice. I was asked if I wanted cutlery with the food, which I declined, but I didn't realise that serviettes were considered part of "cutlery" as, when I received my food and made it back to my desk to eat it, I discovered that these were sadly lacking. So, my experience of the service isn't great -- sure, it was quick, but to the point of being brusque, even rude. I have to admit, I prefer my service with a smile, even a little bit of cheek. Maybe if I'd eaten in the service would have been different... who knows? Maybe I'll go again and check that out. Maybe not.

But on to the food. I wasn't expecing all that much, however when I prised the lid off my bowl I was enchanted by the aroma that wafted up to me. Heavenly. Large chunks of potato, a smattering of green peas, some spring onion, and a terrifically fragrant thick curry sat high on top of vermicelli noodes with a few sprout-y things (you know, like sprouts but thicker) thrown in. Even so, I didn't have massively high hopes for the curry: I tend to like a bit of spice in my curries, and have found that many places prefer to keep the heat down. So imagine my pleasure when the curry actually had some bite! Figuring out how to eat the whole thing out of that bowl was interesting, I would have been better served to tip it all out onto a plate... but meh, it was half the fun.

So... service was INCREDIBLY disappointing, but the food wasn't too bad. I *might* go back, try it again one day, but I've gotten used to incredibly good food for much less than $10, whereas this was adequate food for about $14. I know which I prefer!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Eating Out: JustMake Espresso Tea

JustMake Espresso Tea
Shop 3, 180 Russell Street, Melbourne

Many people know of my deep and abiding love for the hallowed "Bubble Tea" or "Pearl Tea". Well, let me introduce something new that I've tried that is also damn fine.

Admittedly, I've only tried a couple of the Icy Blend drinks, but the was so darned good I'll be going back for more.

It's a tiny little shopfront, blink and you'd miss it. But keep your eyes peeled, it's an experience you won't want to miss: a little shop selling Taiwan tea. A bunch of different flavours are available, plenty of oolong tea, also packages you can take home with you.

But on a hot day, you can't go past the Icy Blend tea. Crushed ice, juicy fruity flavours (my personal favourite is DEFINITELY the honey-peach), and a spoonful of little jelly cubes for you to chew.

A nice way to round off a delightful meal from somewhere in the Chinatown strip (like Shanghai Villange, for example... see here for a great review)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Mmm, Bolognese

I hate to say it, but DAMN, sometimes I'm good. Now if only I could take decent photos...

Admittedly spaghetti bolognese is the staple and never-fail meal of choice for many, many people, myself included, so really this shouldn't be a wildly exciting post. My usual bolognese... correction, my PREFERRED bolognese, is from a cookbook I was given about 10 years ago by my mother - it's brilliant, it has almost anything you could want to cook, except it doesn't have a lot of asian food. So the next year Mum bought me an asian cookbook :) Anyway, that bolognese has veal and pork mince, red wine, garlic.... lots of good stuff, and simmers for a couple of hours. THIS bolognese needed to be made a touch quicker, as my tummy wasn't in the mood to wait.

I was really quite happy with the results, it turned out far better than I'd hoped. For all those people who rely on packet mixes - throw them out! You really don't need them. About the only thing I really think this needed was a touch of salt added - but all the same, I found it quite tasty. And I only used the cheap brands! (ie. Farmland, Coles brand)

250g dried pasta (I used rigatoni this time, I usually use whatever is in the cupboard... you know, the stuff that cooks in about 10-15 minutes)
Splash of oil
1 medium onion, sliced finely
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1-2 teaspoons of minced garlic from a jar)
500g good-quality mince (the better the mince, the nicer the bolognese)
1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
1 x 140g can tomato paste (although you don't need to use the whole tin, I did)
Splash of water, if wanted (literally a splash, maybe 1/3 a cup)
mixed/italian dried herbs, to taste
chilli powder, to taste
grated cheese

Get the water for the pasta boiling. Add the oil to the pan and heat it, then throw in the onion and garlic and let it cook for a few minutes over a fairly high heat. Then add the mince and cook till it's brown all over. Once this happens add the pasta to the boiling water.
Reduce the heat for the mince to low. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste to the mince with a little bit of water (if you want) and stir. Allow the mix to simmer. Add the herbs and chilli powder (for me it was maybe half a dozen or more shakes of the herb bottle and 2 shakes of the chilli... keep adding and mixing and taste-testing until you have a flavour you like). Add a little salt too if you think it needs it. Allow to simmer, stirring now and then, until the pasta is cooked.
Drain the pasta, remove the bolognese from the heat, and dish it up in whatever way you like. Top it off with some grated/shaved cheese (I had to make do with cheddar, but of course parmesan is good). Eat, enjoy.
Ready in about 20 minutes from go to whoa.

Depending on the appetite of the person, this could feed 4. Me, personally, I eat what I want and have the rest as leftovers for a few meals. If I had a bigger freezer I could just make the sauce and freeze it for use later but... I don't have a big freezer.

Anyway, try it, experiment with flavours, don't be afraid to keep taste-testing to make sure you've got it right - all the big-name chefs do it!!