Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Little Box Coffee Co.

@latteartporn back in action.

A new cafe has hit Newport, and I must confess that I may have instagram stalked and followed the barista to Little Box Coffee Co which opened only four days ago. It was the perfect option this morning, when I asked Lara what she wanted to do and she requested that the whole family go out together, so Mark joined us for a quick morning coffee date before work. It was a great start to the day.

My family enjoying perfectly made beverages.

I was expecting a really nice coffee since I know these guys have been working in collaboration with Barrel One Coffee Roasters (who I'm also stalking since I miss their skills too) and I certainly wasn't disappointed. The flavour is still gently lingering in my mouth-not that nasty, I need to drink a litre of water lingering that is all too familiar with coffee- but a want for a second cup because the aroma was so smooth and complex and the flavour was such a treat that I managed to savour my coffee rather than skull it.

The 'little box' that they are in was my old hairdresser, so I know how tiny it us, thus we didn't expect to be able to get breakfast there. However there is a nice simple, well priced menu, so I will probably get smashed avocado toast ($9), and Mark will probably get the bacon and egg roll ($7) next time we go....which will probably be soon, coffee like that is hard to stay away from.

Brothers Matt and Dan have achieved a lot, and really have something to be proud of. The decor is fresh and inviting, especially considering the space they have to work with. Green turf mats establish the outside seating area, and succulents on the tables do a great job at detracting from the busy road. At the moment if I'm being completely honest they seem a bit worn out, and that is completely justifiable, but hopefully when things settle down a bit we will have the two very happy, friendly baristas that I came to know some time ago.

The fact that Little Box Coffee Co are right next door to my favourite florist (who did our wedding flowers) could be a deadly combination. It made for a lovely morning for the senses, seeing and smelling the beautiful flowers at Wild Lotus Florist and then smelling and tasting the coffee at Little Box....this could get deadly.

Mum Notes 
There wasn't a high chair in sight (and I didn't ask for one since we were having a quick stop), but there is plenty of room for pram parking, and the tables and chairs are at a good height for my petite two year old. There was also a great wooden game that kept Lara thoroughly entertained, and she hasn't expressed so much approval of a babycino since the first few her Dad made her at home...I may be a little chuffed that my daughter can also tell that Matt and Dan have skills, and obviously use good produce as Lara said "yummy chocolate in milk Mum". 

We may need to put restrictions on ourselves.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Jah Bar Dee Why


An impromptu family date night, brought on by picking my car up from being serviced, found us in Dee Why. I don't think we've visited Dee Why since having Olivia, so it's fair to say that we aren't regulars. But Jah Bar might just change that.

We started off our meal with one of my favourites; croquetas  and these croquetas were really pimped up my alley; stuffed with field mushrooms, truffled pecorino and truffle aioli. The crispy outer and pasty centre were perfect, so much so that I may have fought my toddler for them just a little. The little lady who hadn't been interested in eating anything other than chips, honey toast or milk for the past week asked the waiter for 'more YUMMY chips please', and I may have just taken that as a perfectly good excuse to order a second helping.

Croquetas are worth moving for.

The next tapas to quickly follow were meat balls, but these weren't just any old meatballs, they were albondigas ; pan roasted pork and chicken with pine nuts, bravas sauce (spicy tomato) and manchego. Seriously, this restaurant was made for me! Mushrooms, truffle, manchego. I was in heaven. Mark and I had smiles from ear to ear as we enjoyed the meatballs and watched Lara nibble away on the "spicy meat, mummy". We are so glad that she is showing the same obsession with food and flavours that we have, hopefully Olivia will too.

Fish tacos were served on a crispy shell, with kingfish cured in tequila, lime onion jam and avocado salsa, we squeezed the lime over the top and thoroughly enjoyed the light, fresh seasonal flavours and great texture combination. Mark thinks he would have preferred this dish without the caramelised onion, but it worked well with my sweet tooth, although I do agree with him that it took away from the kingfish.

Fish tacos.

Pulled pork tacos; chickory smoked pork, onion jam, avocado salsa, soft taco shell, chipotle and quindilla (Spanish for chili) were perfect to wrap up the end of the meal.

Needless to say our little family enjoyed our impromptu date night, and the flavours have inspired a few meals already, avocado salsa has been featuring in dinners and breakfasts, and spicy eggs were a total winner this morning.

There are so many dishes on Jah Bar's menu that I want to try, and we will definitely be going back on a Monday night to take advantage of the $10 tapas....we may have already told a few friends and family members that they should join us. It also helps that the staff are super friendly and attentive. This could be our new favourite.

Monday nights, here we come.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Buffet Breakfast at the Hilton

A gift voucher to Tetsuya's (see post here) prompted our idea for a staycation in the city, and since all I wanted to do the whole time I was pregnant with Olivia was to scoff down on a buffet breakfast, we decided to stay at the Hilton and enjoy what has been dubbed the best buffet breakfast in Sydney.

As Mark and Olivia made themselves comfortable in our nice round booth I went and did a lap of the buffet in order to plan my attack. Sadly nothing really got me that excited, and I figured that I musn't have been paying enough attention the first time around. I decided to start with some chia porridge with apple compote and some fresh fruit, and to reassess the situation. That's when I spotted the assortment of freshly squeezed juices, which really were lovely. There was grapefruit and carrot for those who like a tart wake up call, and a beetroot blend which I decided to go with.

Chia porridge with apple compote.

Mark got a bircher muesli which was full of delicious fruit and yoghurt, and passed the baby test. I think Olivia also passed her fine dinning table manners test as the friendly and helpful staff couldn't stop smiling at her.
Breakfast passed the baby taste test.

For my second course I had a poached egg on French toast, since the bread station was at the other end of the room. Needless to say I wasn't exactly impressed by the layout or presentation of the buffet. The chicken sausages were delicious, as were the mushrooms and hash brown, but poached eggs are not cooked freshly on request and mine was hard....Mark was fortunate enough to get a soft poached egg from the bain-marie, but it literally was a lucky dip, and for $42 per head for out of house guests I'd expect more. Oh, and that doesn't even bring in to account the additional charge of $5!! for a proper coffee. I'll admit that I told the friendly staff not to worry about it, and we would go to a cafe down the road and pay $3.50 for a good quality coffee.

Big breakfast Hilton style.

Of course, at a buffet breakfast you always have to finish with pastries, and I really would have loved to have a coffee or hot chocolate to dunk my pain au chocolat in....maybe if I did I wouldn't have been able to taste how burnt it was. The scrumptious mini croissants did undo the damage though.

Do I agree with the reviews that the Hilton has the best buffet breakfast in Sydney? No, I was disappointed. For the same money I have had a great breakfast at Four Seasons and would definitely chose it next....or perhaps Park Hyatt, which surprisingly is well matched for price and offers Sydney's amazing harbour views....that said I'm guessing it will be a few years before Mark and I have the privilege of staying in Sydney again.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Tetsuya's 'Happy Birthday Me'**

Tetsuya's Chocolate Cake-complete with gold birthday candle.

For Mark's Christmas bonus he was given a gift voucher to Tetsuya's, which we have been waiting for a time when I wasn't pregnant and our second baby was old enough to be left with family to care for her, so that we could cash it in. This coincided nicely with my birthday...kind of fitting since I took Mark there for his birthday twelve years ago when we were just kids.

We have a six month old and a two year old at the moment and it is far to say that I was due for a holiday, so we decided to make a 'staycation' out of it, which meant we were in walking distance to the restaurant. It was a lovely spring night, and we were lucky to just get a few spots of rain on us before we were welcomed at the restaurant. As we walked into the dining room we were both surprised by how things had changed and how commercial the space had become. Our previous dining experience at Tetsuya's (although more than a decade ago) was in a much more intimate room with fewer tables and the most comfortable armchairs for seats. The room on Thursday night was full, and whilst the chairs were nice leather chairs that we were happy to sit in for hours, we didn't warm to the change. After the second course we both confessed our initial disappointment and that we had quickly gotten over it and were having a great time.....talking to your husband, I mean really talking can be an amazing thing, just ask someone with children who hasn't made time for a date night in way too long.

As the waiter brought butter to the table I could smell the truffle in it before its presence was even announced....seriously, I must have been a truffle dog in a previous life, I'm a fiend for it. We were given the option of delicious dirty white bread or a grainy bread and I straight away went for white and then coated the truffle butter on like slices of cheese. I couldn't get enough of the stuff! When the waiter came around after a few courses and asked if we would like some more bread we went for the grainy stuff....but I'd gone so nuts with the butter that they also brought us more butter. On the third offering of more bread I think our waiter was a bit dumbfounded when we said "yes please" and we quickly informed him that if he didn't give us more bread we were going to eat the truffle butter with a spoon. Seriously, I could live on that stuff. The rest of the meal was pretty great too.

Happy birthday me-my gift from the staff
since it was kinda obvious that I had an obsession.

We started our meal with the optional pacific oysters with ginger & rice vinegar which were spectacular, the quality of them really proved how our seafood industry works-the restaurants get the cream of the crop, the next tier gets shipped overseas and then we enjoy what is left. The ginger and rice vinegar dressing prepared our palates nicely for the light and fresh meal that was to come.

Entree was silken potato with bottarga and egg yolk which didn't sound or look all that amazing. I had to ask what 'bottarga' was, and from the waiters reaction I've assumed that not many people ask, or maybe I'm just an uneducated full time mum these days that doesn't know a thing. Basically bottarga is salted, cured fish roe and it is rather tasty, in case you didn't know. The boring sounding and looking dish pleasantly surprised me with its flavour.

The next course of Hiramasa kingfish with salt bush & shiso relish melted timelessly away in my mouth, but this isn't surprising considering the way shiso speaks to me. It was followed by another favourite poached New Zealand scampi tail with bread sauce don't ask me what bread sauce is, just accept that it is tasty and that carbs are good for you.

Then came the restaurants' "signature dish", seriously, do the waiters have to tell you such wanky stuff as that? Maybe I would have enjoyed the course more if it wasn't talked up to be so amazing. It was sweet to see that the young waiter was so proud of the confit of petuna ocean trout, and we did thoroughly enjoy it, but it wasn't our favourite dish of the night. The crust on top seemed much more complex than our memories from twelve years ago, however, we did end up swishing sparkling water around our mouths in order to get rid of the little particles of crust that were embedded in our teeth-très posh!

Confit of petuna ocean trout with a salad of celery, witlof, apple & unpasteurised ocean trout roe.

Mulloway with sea cucumber and parsnip followed and it was divinely complex. The soft mulloway with the slightly crunchy sea cucumber and the deliciously light and zesty broth was spectacular. I wanted more.

Mulloway with sea cucumber & parsnip.

The following course was easily Mark's and my favourite. Duck breast with orange, caramelised witlof and Tasmanian pepper berries was so complex, and such a delicious light, modern take on the French classic.....I just might be inspired to attempt cooking it something similar soon, since life with a seven month old baby is so much easier than life with a one month old baby (I say that now, worrying that I'm shooting myself in the foot).

Duck breast with orange, caramelised witlof & Tasmanian pepper berries.

Ranger's Valley beef cheeks with roasted celeriac and pickled Jerusalem artichokes was the next course, and writing this more than a week later (sick two year old) I really can't think of what to say about it. Obviously it wasn't that exciting, nor un-enjoyable. Sorry beef cheeks, next time I will do my best to take notes, mummy brain memory is a shocker at the best of times.

First dessert was poached pear, butter milk and hazelnut which was presented so simply and gorgeously with a makeshift stem on top. I've eaten a few poached pears in my time, but this one really packed a lot of flavour, which was also well complemented by the matching wine.

Poached Pear, Butter Milk and Hazelnut.

Second dessert had to be chocolate, Tetsuya's Chocolate Cake, not that I would describe it as a cake at all, it was smooth, and mousse like in texture and just melted in my mouth, reminding me of coveteur chocolate that I ate in Paris. But the dessert wine that was served with this was something else! As the 1986 Toro Albala Gran Reserva Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles from Spain was being poured into the glass my senses went crazy, the aroma gently wofted across the table and settled under my nose and I inhaled deeply, waiting for my glass to be filled so I could take a sip. It was the perfect end to the meal....might just put a bottle of that on the Christmas wish list.

What was our overall feeling of the evening? The wait staff this time around didn't have us feeling anywhere near as welcome as we did when we were children. As eighteen year olds we were never made to feel like we couldn't afford something, yet when we said we were going to enjoy the matching wines (without looking at the wine list) the water said "that is $110 per head, would the sir be OK with that?". Yes, the sir (and I) would be OK with that, what we wouldn't be OK with was his attitude, and this was before we even mentioned that we had a gift voucher. Luckily we both agreed to put that misdemeaner behind us and move on. There were many other friendly interactions with the waiters, as we joked about inhaling the truffle butter and the night went fairly smoothly, however, our coffees were brought to the table before dessert, which isn't a big deal, but Mark doesn't deal too well with change, and considering there is a program to stick to it was an unexpected mistake....once the oversight was identified we were offered another coffee, of course with no reference to the error-yes, we noticed, we're not as bogan as we look, my toddler just stole my husband's fancy shoes and socks out of our bag. Overall we had an enjoyable evening, but would we spend our own money on that experience? Hells NO!

Degustation menu with matching wines.

*Note to self-next time we dine out somewhere fancy, mention that we only want two bottles of sparkling water and then we will be happy to have tap water, because my tummy just doesn't need all that extra fizz.
**Happy Birthday Me is what Lara says when she is opening her presents, which she had weeks of doing.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Just Do It

A while ago now I became aware that I'd been putting off a few craft projects not so much for a lack of time, but due to a fear of failure. In my mind, this is the worst kind of fear. What makes it worse in my case is that I have an unbelievable amount of crafting supplies sitting around the house (taking up space in Lara's wardrobe). I mean, I've already brought the material, so I may as well make the project. I had to ask myself "what is the worst thing that can happen?", and the very simple answer was that I'd make a mistake which in most instances can be undone and fixed, or in the case of my latest project I'd make a complete mess of it and have to throw away some not very expensive material-which really wouldn't be a bad thing since I'm making a very conscious effort to de-clutter any way. Honestly, my recent crafting is a bi-product of de-cluttering.

My first project was a heat pack that I made based off a heat pack I already have. I'm not too disappointed with my first attempt at this project, but like most things I attempt, after the first trial I come up with ways and means to make it better and/or easier to accomplish the second time...only time will tell if I manage to make a second one.

First heat pack made with nautical material and appropriately gifted to an achy old sea dog.

So with that project being relatively successful I broke out an old roll of material that I got dirt cheap years ago and never did anything with. The plan was to make a change table cover out of it, assuming that the curtain material (with backing) would be a good barrier from dampness, but acknowledging that it could be a little tricky to work with-particularly for someone like me with very limited skills. I found a pattern here but my change mat is an unusual size and either something went amiss with my adjustments, or it was just my lack of skill that meant this is now a better bassinet mattress protector. It may also have had something to do with me using a different size elastic since that was what was in my sewing kit, and I was meant to be using up materials, not purchasing more. So I kept adding more and more elastic until it became perfectly apparent that the seams were indeed too close together. Oh well, living and learning.

A not so perfect hand made change mat cover...if at first you don't succeed-use it as something else.

In all honesty, I'm rather proud of myself for not letting this failure crush my confidence. This is a big deal for a reformed perfectionist. My sewing machine is like a family heirloom, and as such the manual is MIA, so I needed to use good ol' YouTube for help. This link helped me out, even though it is a bit slow and repetitive for my attention span, it encompasses the principals of good teaching; repetition.

And its funny, because the more you do, the more you realise you can do, and the more you are willing to attempt. I've also mended (hand sewn) three items of clothing, two of which have been sitting around for the best part of a year, so I'm feeling pretty good about myself.

I've also been doing a touch of knitting and card making for a very special little person; my nephew. Olivia was given the green and white baby blanket when she was born, and it is the perfect size for when she is in her car seat and pram. The talented knitter who gifted Olivia's blanket and inspired me to make one told me that it was easy to make, and it only took her a week to complete. So with a little over two weeks before my nephews expected arrival I started was a good thing he was late. A break from the knitting needles, combined with caring for a three month old and twenty one month old meant that I wasn't on my best form, some how I managed to knit on the wrong side and had to undo a lot of work which may have led to tears, blame it on the hormones, and it is painfully apparent that all the holes aren't neatly lined up. However, that little guy can look at his not so perfect blanket and know that his Aunty loved him and was willing to give him her time even before he had entered the world.

The inspiration (green given to Olivia) and my creation....slightly obvious which one the sleep deprived Mum made.

My cards are a bit naff and if Lara was just a little bit older I'd probably tell people she made them, but again, making them is a process I enjoy, and it shows the recipient that they are special enough for you to make time to make something for them-even if it means forgoing vital sleeping time.

The offspring was affectionately known as chick whilst it was incubating.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Fish Tacos

Smalltown in Avalon ticks my three main boxes at the moment; good food, good coffee and room for the pram. The staff here are also friendly, although not the most attentive.....please just come and take my toddlers order, sadly I'm not even joking, my two year old ran from the lounge-room to the kitchen this morning asking her father for a babycinno. She cracks us up...and once again I digress.

Smalltown serves Single Origin Roasters coffee which fits in to my 'crowd pleaser' category, meaning it is an enjoyable drink, but there aren't any flavour characteristics that excite me. That said, I did want the flavour hit again so I enjoyed a decaf for my second coffee beverage. Before children you could hear me say 'decaf, what's the point?' but as a breastfeeding mum I'm on caffeine rations, so I'm on the hunt for a delicious decaf, although I shudder at the thought of the solvents that are used throughout the process.

For lunch I couldn't go past the fish tacos. A squeeze of lime freshened up the deep fried parcels and the mayo was absolutely delicious with just the right amount of heat (for me at the moment), although my husband probably would have been asking for some chili sauce to spice it up.

Lara was very content with thick cut chips, which she decided she was having when we got out of the car on the other side of the road and the delicious aroma wafted under our noses like a scene out of a cartoon. She seriously smelt the air and exclaimed "chips", priceless. Naturally I had to bite the ends off to cool them down for her, so I can vouch that they were delicious. However, the house made chipotle aioli had gone a miss which was disappointing.

Hot chips that smelt good from across the street.
I've been to Smalltown a few times now, and every time has been an enjoyable experience. It is becoming a favourite...good job it isn't within walking distance to home.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Gardening and Sunshine

Spring is well and truly here, my completely unexpected morning sunburn is proof of it, and it's time that I pulled my finger out and got our veggie garden feeding us again. I'm not going to lie, making the time to plant seeds with two babies is challenging. I've probably missed the boat for planting tomato seeds, but I'm giving them a go any the challenge will be to water them every day so they don't dry out, whilst avoiding the battle with Lara's "I help". Fingers crossed we will get some delicious fruit before Christmas.

I planted lots of seeds; various kinds of tomato seeds, basil seeds to companion plant with the tomatoes, and cucumber so we have all the ingredients for a delicious salad-the cut and come again lettuce in the garden has been providing us well for some time now. There are also chilli seeds that I saved from a previous crop and am seriously crossing my fingers will germinate, and some pumpkin seeds that I saved from a delicious 'farm bought' organic pumpkin...but I may have processed them all wrong, time will tell.

Tomato, basil, cucumber, chilli and pumpkin seeds.

Half way through processing the seed trays I got tired of squatting at the edge of the veggie garden and wished I had a gardening table to work on. Then I remembered that we had an old work bench just sitting out the front doing nothing, so with a bit of help from Mark I carried it up the back steps and wheeled it into position. Perfect, and yet another 'why didn't I do that sooner?' moment. Fingers crossed it also keeps the ants away (job to put on list, pour boiling water over ants).

Veggie garden in October with new work bench in position.

I also planted some seeds directly in the veggie garden as the packet instructions suggested. However, I'm not expecting great things from this, because some pesky little critter(s) stole my last planting of bean seeds. Living in the Northern Beaches of Sydney is absolutely lovely, but we do have a lot of wildlife to cohabitat with, so it is anyones' guess if birds, possums or bandicoots stole the last lot of seeds, oh, and there is a new culprit to consider; brush turkeys. Yes, two landed on our roof on Friday when we were out gardening, the boys (dogs) went off at them like you wouldn't believe so hopefully they will find somewhere else to hangout....I suspect their home got cut down that morning at the construction site across the road. Still, I don't want them visiting my chickens or helping themselves to our food. That said, I deliberately left some sacrificial bean seeds out in the main part of the garden, so hopefully they will act as a decoy to any creatures considering the veggie garden.

Cucumber and zucchini seeds planted with a trellis waiting for them to grow up.

Of course there are a lot of creatures that we do want to attract to the garden, and I've been rather upset by the lack of bees lately. I've been planting more flowers and waiting and waiting for the bees to come, and finally I saw two native bees and a bush honey bee in the garden, so that made my day. Years ago there would be groups of bees enjoying my veggie garden, so the bee issue that everyone is talking about is becoming terribly apparent....the discussion with my husband about having a beehive continues, for now the bees will just have to visit and enjoy the flowering sage.

Flowering sage; a tasty bee treat.

By far the best thing about the veggie garden is watching my family eat from it, and this is getting even better with Lara's developing enthusiasm for picking and eating strawberries. The half eaten strawberries you can see are Lara's solution to my suggestion of only eating the strawberries when they are pink and leaving them on the plant to ripen. She took a bite out of the pink bit straight from the pot, and left the green part of the fruit on the plant to ripen. Waiting sucks. This kid has got some amazing logic. She makes me laugh every day.

When the toddler critter gets to the strawberries.

Something tells me I won't be eating many of these.