Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guhng, Melbourne

On a cold Friday night after work, what could be better than going out for a fabulous dinner somewhere warm.  That is exactly what Tim and I did last night.  The venue for our dinner was Guhng, a Korean barbecue restaurant just off Little Collins Street.  I was kind of excited about it, because we had tried to go to Guhng once before on spec and couldn't get in.  This time, I booked.  They have two sittings on Friday nights - 6pm and 8pm.  We chose the 6pm sitting as we were going straight after work.

On arrival at Guhng, I ordered a green tea, and Tim ordered a beer.  We decide to choose one of their set menu banquets, which are great value.  You can choose from set menus for 2, 4 or 6 people, and the prices vary from $30 per head, depending on the menu you choose.  We chose the 2A menu ($30 per head), comprising 3 courses. 

The table is set with metal chopsticks a metal spoon and condiments on arrival, and side dishes are served shortly thereafter.  The condiments are, left to right, spicy soy bean sauce, sesame oil with salt and teryaki sauce. The side dishes are pickled onions, pickled turnips (which are a gorgeous hot pink colour), kimchi and coleslaw with pasta.  There are also lettuce leaves provided to line your bowl.

For the first course, we had a choice of fish cakes or pan-fried Korean dumplings.  Tim chose the dumplings, which came with a soy and sesame dipping sauce: 

These were a nice starter, especially when dipped in the condiments, but did not have much of a flavour kick.

For mains, you are served with a bowl of black rice each, a selection of meats which are barbecued at your table, and your choice of a soybean hotpot or kimchi hotpot.  After hearing so much about kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage), I wanted the kimchi hotpot.  It didn't disappoint - it was just the right level of spicy, and contained an assortment of vegetables and meat:

Our beef was barbecued at our table by a very sweet Korean waitress with short hair, who was happy to answer my questions.  There is a funnel over the smoking wood barbecue so that you don't breathe in the smoke: 

Here is one of my plates of meat, sauce and condiments - it looks messy because I hadn't the faintest idea what I was doing, but it tasted delicious:

The sides are replenished as you want them - we had three top-ups in all.

For the third course, you can choose wine or dessert - sorry, no contest here, we chose dessert.  Both Tim and I ordered the blackberry cheesecake:

It was a frozen cheesecake, and tasted like icecream.  The icecreams themselves (which we didn't order) are served in a spectacular fashion on a rectangular plate encased in a chocolate swirling disc with a smear of chocolate on the plate.  I liked the cheesecake, but wish I'd opted for the icecream!

Tim and I loved this place - for the money, it was terrific value.  The food tasted fabulous, and the wait staff were attentive and friendly.  There are three levels of seating in Guhng, but I recommend booking due to its popularity.  I also noted that there were lots of Asian diners in Guhng - I think that is always a true indicator of whether an Asian restaurant is good.  Verdict - definitely going back!

19 McKillop Street
Melbourne 3000
Ph: 03 9041 2192

Friday, June 29, 2012

FFwD - Corn Pancakes

For this week's French Fridays with Dorie, we were asked to make a dish which seemed all American rather than French - corn pancakes.  However, I will have to take Dorie's word for it that they are indeed of French origin.

These little pancakes consist of nothing but corn and flour and egg and salt - seriously. You blitz the ingredients in a food processor, and fry small spoonfuls of the thick batter in a skillet of hot oil.  Definitely not hard or time consuming.

I made a half batch and ate it for a weekend breakfast.  I simply spread my pancakes with honey.  The recipe said it serves six, but I gather this is when you serve the pancakes as a side with other things, so I don't think that eating a half batch myself was particularly gluttinous, bearing in mind that these pancakes are tiny. 

The verdict?  Pancakes are pancakes - these were neither better nor worse than any other pancakes I have ever had, but may be nutritionally better for you than the normal flour egg and milk version because of the corn.

 Here is a pancake breakfast that I had at Dennys in Scottsdale, AZ while I was on holidays:

Dennys became the eatery of choice for many on our bus tour because of the generous servings and afforable price.  Our tour director called it "Chez Denays". These pancakes stumped me - I got two whole-wheat pancakes, which came with sides of maple syrup, whipped butter, two pieces of bacon, two eggs (sunny side up in my case) and potatoes.  I became all flustered when ordering, as I could have also added add-ins to the pancakes (such as bacon bits or chocolate chips), and ordered another topping (strawberry syrup anyone?).  This was the standard serving - I did not ask for all of this with the pancakes.  Wow!  I think it cost $5.95 - you'd never get this for that price in Oz.

To see what the other FFwD people thought of the corn pancakes, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website

Have a great weekend folks.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Munchies from the West Coast

This post is devoted to the many sweet (and otherwise) munchies that I sampled during my recent trip to the West Coast of the US.  My US readers will instantly recognise many of these items, but they are novel to me and my Australian friends, and I think that they will find at least some of these things interesting.

Starting with my loot from Safeway in Scottsdale, Arizona: 

I really liked the corn nuts - they are not sold here, and I liked the crunch of the corn kernels- a nice change from potato chips.  I was also interested to see that Skinny Cow makes chocolates - in Australia, you can only get Skinny Cow icecream.

Next are Reeses Peanut Butter Pieces from Walmart in Kingman, Arizona and a selection of Ghirardelli chocolates from Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco:

My favourite out of these was the salted caramel filled chocolate - absolutely devine!

I bought this Charleston Chew at the LA Farmers Market:

The nougat centre was OK, but the chocolate covering it was compounded and plastic-tasting.

This is rum and raising Haagen-Dazs that I enjoyed for dessert from Safeway in Scottsdale, Arizona:

I would definitely buy this again - so creamy!

In Sonora, the lovely lady who owns Simply Delish Cupcakes allowed me to buy cupcakes after closing time.  I bought a strawberry cheesecake for my roommate:

and a banana-pineapple cupcake with cream cheese frosting for me:

They were really good!

In Sacramento, I discovered a new love - salt water taffy:

This stuff is addictive!  I loved it so much that I bought more of it in Monterey.

Also in Sacramento, I tried a chocolate coated cinnamon bear:

I am glad that I was given this as a sample, as I really didn't fancy the strong cinnamon flavour.

From Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma, CA, I bought these Vosges gourmet chocolates:

The Black Pearl Bar contains ginger, wasabi and black sesame seeds, while the Cherry Rooibos Bar contains African rooibos tea and dried Michigan cherries.  I am yet to try the cherry chocolate, but the Black Pearl Bar was fairly tame - the distinctive flavours didn't really stand out from the chocolate.

In San Francisco, I was lucky enough to stumble on Miette in the Ferry Building, and couldn't resist buying this cute as a button gingerbread cupcake:

As an homage to The Big Bang Theory, I dropped into The Cheesecake Factory in San Francisco, and after making a hard decision from the 20 or so cheesecake flavours on offer, chose this Dutch caramel apple streusel cheesecake:

It was as good as it looks - although I ditched the cream.

Just for fun, I tried these chocolate covered cherries and apple pie fruit logs from the San Francisco Ferry Building Market:

The cherries were great, but again, I wasn't that enamoured of all the cinnamon in the apple pie logs.

I picked up this handful of treats from Trader Joes in Monterey: 

Trader Joes became my favourite US supermarket chain for their range and their prices.  I liked the Fiberful bar so much I picked up a couple more of them in Los Angeles.  The speculoos bar was not really my thing, but was fun to try.

A terrific find was this spreadable membrillo from Happy Girl Kitchen in San Francisco: 


This was a thick paste made from the whole quince.  It was brilliant spread on warm crumpets for breakfast.

There was the most luscious fudge at the Sonoma Cheese Factory:

I bought a piece of each of Tiger Butter (vanilla and chocolate fudge mixed with peanut butter), Red Velvet Cake and Salted Caramel Chocolate.  My favourite was the smooth and creamy Tiger Butter.

In Solvang, I tried this almond cookie - I am not sure if it was particularly Danish (Solvang is a town built to be Danish in character):

Back in LA, I bought this tiny opera slice for $2 at Normandie Bakery at the Farmers Market:

They had a terrific range of sweets there, so it was hard to choose just one. 

Also at the LA Farmers Market, I fulfilled my long-held hankering to try a turtle (in this case, a cashew turtle):

What's not to love about nuts and caramel and chocolate?

Finally, I laughed when I found King's Hawaiian Sweet Bread at Ralphs in downtown LA:

I didn't buy this; rather, I chuckled because this product features in a spoof of Chloe Sevigny on YouTube that my pilates instructor told me about.

There you go  - these are all of my West Coast munchies, many not so nutritious or waistline friendly, but they added to the colour and experience of my trip.  Hope you enjoyed sharing them!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daring Bakers - Battenberg Cake - Going Batty for the Jubilee

On 2 June 2012, it was 60 years since Queen Elizabeth II was crowned as Queen of the British Empire, and unless you have been isolated from the media for the last month, you could not have missed all the celebrations that have been taking place for the Diamond Jubilee.  This month also marked the 70th birthday of Sir Paul McCartney from The Beatles on 18 June.  Accordingly, being a huge Beatles fan, I have made this month's Daring Bakers challenge both to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and for Sir Paul's birthday.

Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

Battenberg Cake was first made for the wedding of Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria's granddaughter, on her marriage to Prince Louis of Battenberg.  The four checks in the pink and white checkerboard pattern represent the four princes of Battenberg.  I have never made a Battenberg cake before, although I have always wanted to try, so I went with the traditional colours (pink and white) and flavours (almond and vanilla) suggested in the recipe.

Without more ado, here are my two cakes fresh out of the oven, one pink and one white:

Here are the trimmed cakes lined up and glued together with apricot jam:

And finally, here is the finished cake with its marzipan coating and scored top:

This cake was absolutely scrumptious served with a hot cup of English Breakfast tea:

The lovely tea towel which forms a backdrop to my cake comes from Anthropologie at The Grove in West Hollywood - it is mint green with a tea set print and embroidery.  I love it!

To see how the other Daring Bakers fared with this month's challenge, take a look at the slideshow on the Daring Kitchen website on reveal day (27 June 2012).

Friday, June 22, 2012

FFwD - David's Seaweed Sables

Life often presents us with challenges, big and small, that take us outside of our comfort zone.  Sometimes, I feel up to the challenge and tackle it head on; other times, I skirt around it or duck under it or run away from it.  Much depends on the day of the week, the mood I'm in and the kind of day I have been having.  Some days, I feel invincible; on other days, just getting out of bed is a challenge.

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe provided a challenge to my culinary comfort zone, a bump in the road - the recipe chosen was David's Seaweed Sables.  Unfortunately, this recipe sounded horribly unappealing to me, as it combined nori (seaweed) and icing sugar in the same vehicle.  It seemed like a massive clash of flavours to me.  However, the recipe wasn't hard, so I decided on the "what the heck" approach and made those seaweed sables.  And you know what?  They were good. I will go so far as to say that David's Seaweed Sables are downright addictive, and I had to remove them from my office so that I would stop eating them.  I figure my colleagues must have felt the same about them, because the remaining sables disappeared in a flash.

Unconvinced?  Make them, I say, and decide for yourself.  The mysterious alchemy of sweet and salty creates a moorish mixture of flavours that cannot be resisted.  To see what the other FFwD members thought of these sables, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website.

To finish off, I cannot resist posting this delightful photo of a weedy sea dragon (not to be mistaken for seaweed) that lives at Monterey Aquarium in California:

Isn't he handsome?  For an interesting novel involving a convict who eventually turns into weedy sea dragon, refer to Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BWJ - French strawberry cake

I am back in Oz after spending 2 1/2 weeks on the West Coast of the United States. If you thought that I was unusually quiet, this is the explanation. I had a marvellous time on my vacation, and I will share parts of it with you in due course.  It was bright and sunny and warm on the West Coast, and I have returned to miserable, cold weather, and have already contracted a cold. I would love to go back to that beautiful weather, if only I could, but alas, it is a beautiful fantasy, and I have to resign myself to reality.    

This week for Baking with Julia, our recipe brought back images of childhood, when in summer, my mother would bake sponge cake and fill it with cream and strawberries.  Our recipe was French strawberry cake, based on a French sponge, the genoise, and filled with two layers of strawberries and cream, and smothered in more cream.  My kitchen smelt devine after I baked this!

Step by step, you start with a plain genoise:

You then split the genoise into three layers and fill them with mashed strawberries:

and lashings of freshly whipped cream:

and end up with something like this:

then smother it all in whipped cream:

And when you are ready, you cut yourself a generous slice, and admire the layers: 

To see what the other BWJ members thought of this cake, visit the LYL section of the BWJ website.

Friday, June 15, 2012

FFwD - Lime Honey Beet Salad

This week's French Friday with Dorie recipe is Lime Honey Beet Salad.  It doesn't sound like much, and to be honest, it isn't much - beet wedges are dressed with a dressing of cider vinegar (in my case, white wine vinegar), olive oil, lime zest and juice and honey.  I like beets, and the dressing lifts them to another place, but I can't really think of this as a recipe.

I was not going to cook beets because I hate dying my fingers purple in the process of peeling them, so I bought pre-cooked, canned beet wedges.  I served it alongside whatever I was having for dinner as a side dish.

To see what the other FFwD participants thought of this recipe, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website.

Friday, June 8, 2012

FFwD - Olive Oil Icecream

This week's French Friday with Dorie recipe is a delight that I recommend you try at least once  - Olive Oil Icecream.  To me, the sound of olive oil in icecream didn't sound that attractive, but I am now converted. 

This is the best icecream that I have ever tasted, apart from Baskin Robbins Pralines 'n' Cream.  It is smooth, creamy and oh so delicious - even in wintery weather.  It would be the perfect accompaniment to any dessert, because it doesn't have a strong flavour, but it is also very good on its own.

To see what the othe FFwD participants thought of this recipe, visit the FFwD website.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BWJ - Oasis Naan

This week's Baking with Julia challenge is Oasis Naan.  These nan really couldn't be easier to make - there's not much to them apart from flour, water and yeast, and chopped scallions, caraway seeds and salt for the topping.

They are very non-attention seeking for a bread - once the dough is mixed, it sits for 2 hours to look after itself while it rises, then it is shaped and baked on a pizza stone for around 8 minutes - done.  I only made a half recipe to get four naan.

The naan taste good, but I was disappointed because they are nothing like naan that I would get at my local Indian restaurant, which tend to be light, pillow and could almost float away.

To see what the other BWJ members thought of these naan, visit the LYL section of the BWJ website.

Friday, June 1, 2012

FFwD - Lentil, Lemon and Tuna Salad

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is a surprising salad - Lentil, Lemon and Tuna Salad.  It is a mixture of green lentils, tuna, chopped preserved lemon and chopped scallions, dressed with an unlikely combination of olive tapenade, mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil.  But weirdly, it works - I really enjoyed it.

I was lucky in that I had preserved lemons that I had made from lemons out of my friends', Veronica and Christian, garden.  This is the first time I used them, so that made me happy.  Preserved lemons are absurdly expensive to buy, given how simple they are to make.

I ate this salad warm - it was already 3 in the afternoon, and I had not yet had lunch, so I wasn't going to wait a couple of hours for it to chill (after patiently waiting while the lentils cooked).

To see what everyone else thought of this dish, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website.