Friday, March 28, 2008

The Comedy Festival: Spicks & Speck-tacular

My cheeks are hurting, my stomach is sore, and I'm losing my voice from laughing so much.

Many out would be familiar with the show Spicks and Specks, which airs on ABC1 on Wednesday nights at 8.30pm. You may or may not know that there are several live shows being performed during the Comedy Festival.

Now, anyone who has raised the subject of comedians with me knows my opinion of Adam Hills.
Yes, he's funny, it's part of his charm. But seriously, all he has to do is stand there and let me look at him, and I'll be happy :-)

So when I had the chance to go and see him (and some other people, I don't know... stage fillers... hehe) I jumped at it.

And it was great.
It's the kind of show that you know will be different each night depending on guests, and I have to say, tonight was a damn fine show to catch. They said it would probably last between 1 and 1.5 hours, but it ended in just a fraction under 2 hours. The usual players were there, of course, and the guests were all comedians performing at the Comedy Festival, although at the moment all names except Arj Barker and Ross Noble escape me - I'll update this post if/when I remember. Now if that's not value for money I don't know what is. And it was all finished off with a sketch from "Thriller" (yes, the Michael Jackson song). Made even better by a few loose buttons on the part of Mr Hills... ah, what a nice way to finish the show ;-) What can I say, I'm a fan, hehe.

If you get the chance, go and see the show. I believe there are a few this weekend, and again next week. Do it! Ticket price is roughly $50, I believe, and it's well worth it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bloggers Banquet #2

A quick note to all - the Second Bloggers Banquet is locked in and ready to happen in just a few short weeks! Check out
the hosts for details if you're interested in attending.

I'm gonna try and get over for a few hours at least... can't wait until I can reclaim my weekends!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Baking: Choc-Chip Biscuits

In what turned out to be a long weekend full of "firsts" I discovered this little gem of a recipe. They may not look like all that much, but these little bikkies disappeared so quickly I was quite flattered! Of three dozen baked, none were left... so yes, I'm happy with this recipe! It can also be frozen at the "chill" step for at least a month. I omitted nuts, mainly through laziness, but I can see how they would make a nice addition.

Chocolate Chip Biscuits
(from Stephanie Alexander's "The Cook's Companion", pg 312)

125g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
120g roasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds), chopped
170g bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 70% dark belgium chocolate, and would recommend chopping it up fairly well)
110g softened unsalted butter
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup raw or brown sugar
1 egg

Sift flour, salt and bicarb soda into a large bowl. Add nuts and chocolate. In an electric mixer, cream butter, castor sugar and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg, then fold in chocolate mixture. Form into 2 logs about 4cm in diameter and wrap tightly in plastic film. Chill for 1 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 175C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Unwrap logs and cut into 1.5cm thick slices. Place on baking tray, allowing room for spreading (LOTS of room for spreading), and bake 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

The recipe lists a handy hint for freezing the mixture - slip each log inside a cardboard tube from a roll of kitchen paper to prevent the log freezing with 1 side flattened. Thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing.

This mix really does spread. I think the next time I make it I'll make the logs a bit smaller in diameter, which will in turn give me more biscuits. And I think keeping a log's-worth of mix in the freezer is a damn fine idea!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Eating Out: Ocha

156 Pakington Street, Kew
Ph: 03 9853 6002

Despite there being quite a few blog posts waiting patiently in the wings for their turn to be completed and posted, I absolutely HAVE to bring Ocha to the front of the list.

Back in November I threw a post up about a book I'd read by Ruth Reichl called Garlic and Sapphires, in which she described some incredibly good sashimi she had eaten. I mentioned that reading that paragraph had born a desire in me to give this a try. After speaking with the Tummy Rumblers on the best way to do this they suggested Ocha would be the best place for me to break my sashimi cherry.

Mel made a booking back in January - and last night was the night. I'll link to her post when it's up, as I know Mel will write about it all so much better than me (and I can't quite remember everything that we had) plus there may be pictures. But here's what I remember:

We shared a sushi and sashimi combo to get the meal started. The first plate came out - succulent pink pieces of tuna and salmon, plus delicate white fish pieces, that I can't remember what they were. Then the same fish on small blocks of rice, plus tuna rolls and grilled eel sushi. After getting some instructions on how to tackle this I took a piece of tuna in my chopsticks, smeared a few dots of wasabi and dunked it in my soy sauce, took a deep breath, and popped it in my mouth. I don't really know what I expected, but I know I was NOT expecting anything this divine. The tuna was firm and soft all at once, without any real "fishy" taste (like you get from that horrid tinned stuff), and the bite was over much too soon. "Hmm, this is interesting" I say to myself. Next up I repeat the process with the white-fleshed fish (Mel, Danny, what the HECK was that again?!). Oh my... would you believe this was even better?! Definitely my favourite of the three. Last of the "pieces of fish on their own" was salmon, which you may remember I tackled for the first time last year. This salmon left anything I tried then for dead!

Next up was the sashimi draped elegantly over little blocks of rice. After receiving some instruction from Danny (dip them fish-side down in the soy so the rice doesn't fall apart) I gamely kept on chewing. THIS is sashimi? Why on earth have I avoided it for so long?! A tuna roll went the same way, followed by grilled eel... oh bliss.

The next dish came out - a fan of incredibly thinly sliced, incredibly rare beef arranged in a fan around a plate with a small salad in the middle, a dollop of marinated daikon (is that what it was Mel?), soy sauce and a squirt of lemon juice. When it comes to red meat I'm a medium-well-done kinda gal, but this... wow... who would have thought of combining soy and lemon juice? Absolute bliss.

For my main I reverted to something a little more tame - at the time of ordering I had not yet tried the sashimi, so thought I should order something safe, just in case things didn't work out. The mirin chicken was just divine - served on a bed of salad leaves with halved cherry tomatoes and shredded red cabbage, a light dressing with a drizzle of something akin to kecap manis (?), and I'm sure I tasted a hint of wasabi in there somewhere too. Just lovely. Danny ordered Patagonian something... delicious white fish that fell apart as soon as you looked at it, while Mel ordered the green tea soba with sliced chicken... had a taste of that too, it was beautiful.

The guys said that my first taste of sashimi should be the best sashimi I can possibly get. I'd have to say that Ocha fit that bill perfectly. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a meal out so much.

When Mel and Danny post their review I'll be sure to provide the link. I hope the pictures they took turn out ok - Ocha is lit quite dimly lit. Also $5 corkage per person seems a bit steep. But hey, it's all part of the experience, right? I can't wait for my next visit.