Enlighten Festival 2015

Image by ACT Government

It’s Christmas in February/March in Canberra at the moment! Straight off the back of the Multicultural and Fringe festival weekend comes Enlighten – crudely described as Canberra’s Vivid. 

Tonight, the parliamentary triangle will light up, literally and the doors of most venues swing open with some tiwghlight events.

This year Enlighten gets even bigger joining forces with The Canberra Times Good Food Month and the inaugural Night Noodle Markets. The full program for all Enlighten-ing events is available online.

Kicking off tonight you can come find me and the rest of Canberra basking in the glow of the lit up galleries and chomping down some noodles!

Monday Musings

(null)It’s a very satisfying feeling when you set yourself a goal and one week later it has been achieved.

Behold my lovely trunk herb garden. I’m in love.

It inspired me into a whole other realm of Pinterest DIYs!

For instance when you have moved and you need a coffee table, a BBQ stand and a kitchen island what do you do?! Scavenge around your neighbourhood for disposed pallets and voila all your problems are solved!

Pallet Coffee Table

Well… that’s what Pinterest had me believe. The reality, when you spend one afternoon on a pallet project it tends to end up still being a bit pallet-ey.

LittleLaurensAdventures_PalletFurniture

But I’ve been assured that with a fourth trip to the hardware store things will be looking more glamorous in no time, whatever that may mean.

My search for the DIY wonder drug continues.

AKIBA

(null)
I have this list, a literal list of places to eat. Obvs. I start one every year but this year feels like a good year. For one thing, I have a job, which always makes eating out easier.

First one crossed off is AKIBA, a newish Japanese fusion restaurant in Canberra. I love Japanese food and have missed terribly my old local Japanese eatery, so I was very keen to try Akiba out.

(null)
As I do with all exciting events in my life, I had planned this and my outfit (which I am oddly proud of) out so long in advance that it was all organised two weeks before the actual dinner date. I was a bit surprised by the size of the restaurant, it is HUGE. The large space avoids being cavernous by the division of areas with warm wood walls and big neon lights. It was a very pleasant atmosphere, slightly dimmed by the fact we were seated looking out over a service lane… Regardless it’s all about the company and the food.

The very relaxed and friendly staff explained the kitchen was made up of a number of stations for each cooking type, so there is a fry station, a raw station etc etc. As a result the food comes out in an ad hoc nature. Naturally, we ordered dishes from each of the stations.

(null)
The first dish to arrive and the best was the pork belly bun, char sui, asian slaw. Little pork/duck pancake/buns are very popular at the moment and can be a bit hit and miss as a result. This was fortunately not the case at Akiba, these were so deliciously good I almost stole some from the Birthday Boy. Seriously. It was like my favourite pork belly in chilli jam from Spice I Am with my favourite pickles in a bun. The pickled cucumber and cabbage cut through the richness of the chilli jam crunchy pork belly. I would recommend you go and get this now! As a snack. Any day. Every day.

(null)
This was followed by the Supercharged Japanese Fried Chicken that proved parmesan and Sriracha go with absolutely everything. Karaage aka JFC aka Japanese Fried Chicken is like many other Japanese fried foods, they somehow shake off all the oil and make it seem like you are eating something that is actually quite healthy – it’s a great trick. The supercharge is drenching the JFC with kewpie mayonnaise, Sriracha and parmesan and my only complaint is there were some sad little bits in the middle of the pile that missed out on the toppings. MORE SRIRACHA ALWAYS.


The dishes was of a consistently high quality and then after I’d stuffed my face into oblivion a little trolley came by with fresh little prawns waiting to be cooked in front of you with a blow torch. But. I. Just. Could. Not. Eat. Any…. more.

There was a small issue with one of the dishes tasting more South American and not complimenting the Japanese palette so maybe just run your order by your waiter if you are worried.

(null)

Akiba has a relaxed atmosphere and really I would probably go back and just order double pork belly bun and JFC and live like a Queen. All up we got 4 dishes and 2 cocktails and the bill was $90, which is worryingly affordable. Incidentally they were just won a spot on Australia’s Top Restaurants list – so congrats!

So moral of the story is – Akiba tomorrow night?

(null)l

Akiba on Urbanspoon

Monday Musing

(null)

I’m currently distracted with unpacking and being caught resting while “unpacking”. But while I dawdle around my new place, please indulge me with my new wishlisht:

1. Take the 5 mismatched rugs I have around the house AND USE TWO IN ONE ROOM! What the hell – who is this genius?!

living room

2. Turn the metal trunk I picked up off the side of the road into a herb garden!

(null)

3. Collect All the jars!!!

XX

Lonsdale Street Roasters

Still no kitchen… I’m pathetically skulking around the office stealing from farewell lunches and team morning teas.

On the bright side though it has given me an opportunity to explore Canberra’s wealth of cafes and bars. I’m still rather confined in my search area but my current favourite is Londsdale Street Roasters, specifically Londsdale Street Roasters 23, but I’m sure they are all good!

Not so long ago this cafe expanded it’s repertoire to include a BBQ and smoked array of American Style dishes equipped with matching sides. Today, I’m talking about the classic menu items that lasted throughout this change.

Are you feeling a bit Dusty and want some bacon?

The Kevin Bacon is one of the most popular menu items. I mean with relish, bacon, eggs (runny eggs) and some token greens it’s sweet and crunchy AND has BACON…. what’s not to like.

Photo pending – it seems despite the literal dozen times I’ve eaten this – I eat it quite quickly. Too quickly

Don’t feel like eating again until dinner?

Grab the Smoked Salmon Bagel! In what I consider a massive compliment this bagel is as good as my recollection of the lox bagel at I <3 Bagels (actually the companies name) in Laguna Niguel sans lemon pepper. You get a very generous serving of cream cheese, smoked salmon, pickled capers and Spanish onion on two slices of a pretty fluffy bagel. It’s breakfast and lunch! It’s brunch! It’ll keep you going for hours.

Londsdale St Roasters_Smoked Salmon Bagel_Little Laurens Adventures

Finally, this little beaut is off the lunch menu. But let’s be honest, it’s the freakin’ weeken’ so you probably won’t be at any cafe before noon anyway! The Royale is the Londsdale Street Classic Burger. It’s quite unassuming and no fuss. I really enjoy it. A dining partner once described it as being like a fancy Big Mac but I don’t eat Maccas after 3AM so can’t comment. I will reiterate, I enjoy it.

Londsdale St Roasters_The Royale 2_Little Laurens Adventures

Now, as I said there is a whiz bang menu I have yet to try but I did score a mouth full of Mac’n’Cheese and that garlicy cheese artery blocker is damn fine – so watch this space.
Lonsdale Street Roasters 23 on Urbanspoon

Harty Meals at Hartsyard

Hartsyard1_LittlelaurensadventuresIn my current state of constant flux I’m surrounded by instant noodles, microwave meals and eating out. I’m not proud of this but it has given me a chance to reflect on some of the more nourishing, inventive and exciting meals I’ve had this summer, almost by the hands of others.

Like the stunning family dinner we shared at Hartsyard, that even my illusive and infamous brother attended.

Being periodically absent from Sydney I was sadly the only family member who hadn’t yet visited Hartsyard – even my parents had been twice! Anyway, I loved the relaxed and rustic vibe upon entering. The mismatched serviettes and exposed wood reminded me of the Texas eateries of my childhood – I think that’s what they wanted.

Being a guest, I let my more knowledgeable dining partners do most of the ordering and what rolled out was in equal measures surprising and delicious.

Hartsyard_school prawns_Littlelaurensadventures

The literal popcorn school prawns was so moreish I didn’t want to share. Expertly salted and crunchy this was the ultimate pre-dinner bar snack. The size wasn’t huge so you were hungry for more without having over indulged. Hartsyard_Fondue 1_Littlelaurensadventures

Hartsyard_Fondue 2_LittlelaurensadventuresThe fondue was kind of the opposite but worked well with the accompanying mains. It was wickedly good – I was a little worried about the richness but when you dine at Hartsyard that’s what you come for. Even our “healthy” option of an heirloom carrot was generously drizzled in sweet honey and covered in pork floss. Hartsyard_Heirloom Carrot_Littlelaurensadventures

The main event of course was Hartsyard’s VERY popular buttermilk Fried Chicken.

Crunch…

I drool recollecting…

Just… look

Hartsyard_Buttermilk Fried Chicken_Littlelaurensadventures

Hartsyard_Buttermilk Fried Chicken2_LittlelaurensadventuresThere is of course the soft serve, not mentioned, but definitely noted. These were literally running out the door but had over indulged in our dinner but would definitely return for the extravagant and ever evolving soft serve dessert.

As a seasonal dining experience these dishes may have come and gone, but Hartsyard, I dare say, is a comfortable and exciting place to return to again and again.

Hartsyard_Littlelaurensadventures

Hartsyard on Urbanspoon

Rediscovering Brunch at Brewtown Newtown

Brewtwon Newtown - Polenta BreakfastI’m back.. sort of. On borrowed time and borrowed internet I’m sneaking away to try and establish a sense of normalcy. Over the wonderful festive season I enjoyed many delicious meals and fun times with family and friends. It was a weird type of holiday… I’ve never “holidayed” in my home town before but before I knew it I was being whisked off to Canberra to start my very first “big girl” job – champagne pops!

So excuse me if I get a bit melancholy but essentially I’m sitting very much along in a hotel room with no natural light. Keeping in mind we all have to start somewhere I’m pressing on! Which is exactly what happens at Brewtown in Newtown – segue of the year!

I know I’m a little slow on the bandwagon and with so many places now famous for brunch I can admit I didn’t have high expectations. I had previously popped into Brewtown for a chai and a wind down after a long road trip and found the service to be surprisingly attentive and lovely. Not that I expected it to be poor it’s just it was noticeably good. Even though we came near closing time we were made to feel comfortable offered some sweets and never rushed. It was a great Chai too.

This time my friend and I decided to try out Brewtown’s brunch. Being increasingly popular around town brunch can be dangerously mediocre. Reading the menu (the night before we went) we were surprised and a little concerned by how… abnormal it was. No big breakfasts of BLTs here instead you can order such wonders as sticky date, coconut chai morning pudding, pistachios, dehydrated mandarin or Grilled black sausage, eggplant puree, fennel and blood orange salad, goats cheese.Brewtown Newtwon - Baked Hash

Being more of a savoury person and always feeling weird not ordering eggs when I go out for brunch together we went for the baked polenta, rustic romesco, truss tomatoes, feta, poached eggs & walnuts and the corned beef hash with garden peas, poached egg and parmesan crumbs. At $15 a pop this is about the price you’d pay for an eggs benedict elsewhere. 

This was honestly one of the most inventive and delicious brunches I had in a long time. The portion size was quite generous for someone as little as I but I could not stop eating. The spicy romesco and crunchy polenta perfectly complimented the poached egg and the feta and walnuts made sure the dish was not overly rich. While I’m usually a bit weird about having so many textures on a plate I loved every bite! My friend too almost ate her whole dish – which was extra surprising seeing as she was coming out of a cold.

If you have room, which would be very surprising, Brewtown have a stunning sweets cabinet. With their famous “brewnuts” (cronuts) and a new hybrid of muffins and croissants –  “cruffins”. I honestly almost took a handful takeaway. Also if you’re into coffee, I hear it’s kind of their specialty – obvs.

The lesson from all this is brunch doesn’t have to be boring and Brewtown is leading a renaissance of flavours and fun, so go try it.

Brewtown Newtown on Urbanspoon

Christmas Eve Eve Easy Apple Strudel

IMG_0606As promised your guide to be the hostess with the mostess continues with this really simple dessert.

“Deconstructed” Strudel

Don’t panic this isn’t a fancy recipe, here I am using the word “deconstructed” more to substitute lazy than for any fan fare. The following recipe serves 4 people.

What you need:

4 Apples
2 heaped tbs of Brown Sugar
1 tsp of cinnamon powder
1.5 tbs butter
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
Pouring cream/ice cream/ whipped cream to serve – the choice is yours

Let’s do this:

  1. Cut a square of puff pastry into four, roughly equal squares
  2. Brush the pastry with butter or eggwash and cook according to packet instructions
  3. Cut the apples (or other fruit) into bite size pieces, removing any seeds.
  4. Heat 1 tbs of butter gently in a fry pan on a low heat.
  5. After the butter has melted add the fruit
  6. Sprinkle the Brown Sugar liberally on the fruit before adding a touch more butter and stir through.
  7. You can leave these to sweat for a few minutes or place a lid/plate on the fry pan to quicken the process. At this time keep your eye out on the pastry in the oven.
  8. Place the fruit on a place and top with the square of puff pastry and a dollop of chosen cream

This dessert is incredibly effective and simple. If you are really in a bind you can cook the fruit early and warm but fresh is always best.

And with that I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a fabulous Festive season. Stay safe, have fun and enjoy…

Now go be merry and make some dessert! xx

Proscuitto wrapped baked fetta

IMG_0960

Introducing everyone’s favourite new addition to a cheese platter!

I know it seems like a scandal to say that a basic cheese platter needs improving. But it’s the festive season so why not bump it up a notch.

This baked fetta is so popular I had to make it four times before I could actually get to taste it myself, so it’s probably best for smaller groups and a cold drink in hand.

What you need:

1 Square of Danish Fetta (you can get this at your local deli or the deli counter of your supermarket)
4 Slices of Proscuitto (this is approximate and will depend on the size of your fetta)
Oliver oil

Let’s do this:

  1. Wrap the fetta in prosciutto. I like to do this to cover the entire block as pictured below.
    Baked Fetta
  2. Pour about a 50c size olive oil in your palm and rub over the prosciutto.
  3.   Bake for about 15 minutes on 180 until prosciutto is crispy
  4. IF IT DOESN’T CRISP pop it in a high grill for 2 minutes either side or… until crispy.

I know those instructions look pathetic but I’m trying to make your life incredibly and sneakily easy!

The cheese is a bit more robust than your usual cheese platter so I like to serve this with a slightly toasted sliced baguette or toasted bread. The price of this beauty can vary depending on your local deli etc. but you can always subsitute the proscuitto which is the bulk of the cost for Jamón serrano keep the costs down. The baked delight costs between $5-10 dollars to make plus bread.

Enjoy! xx

IMG_0955

Exploring Canberra at Eightysix

IMG_0482     Looking for places to eat in a new area is pretty tricky. I’m often torn between local knowledge, shop front allure and recommendation apps. So over the first few weeks in Canberra I collated a whole list of places recommended by colleagues, friends and local knowledge. After much scrutinising – as you can imagine, stuff like this actually causes anxiety for me – I chose to visit 86 in Braddon as a bit of a celebration/treat night.

Guys, I was totally offered a permanent job! So of course I had to treat myself to a perhaps slightly over the top dinner. As this was a pretty important event, because depending on my calculations I had been interning to unemployed for nearly 7 months before picking up any kind of full-time contract, I had to go all out. So after collecting a whole list of recommendations from colleagues, friends and local knowledge I excitedly decided I would celebrate at Eightysix. To be quite honest the clincher was a photo of their famed popcorn sundae (above) on Facebook.

I booked way in advance as I do in these situations and secured a spot on the bar so we could drool over our food before it arrived.

image

Tucked away just off Londsdale St, Eightysix is pretty slick. The seasonal menu is written across the wall of the darkly painted and dimly lit restaurant. There is a bar off to the right when you walk in and of course the kitchen stretching up towards the back.

No celebration is complete without a cocktail so promptly ordered a Jalapeño Margarita – delish! I love a good margarita any day and the gentle burn on your lips from the Jalapeño was a pretty wicked sensation.

We decided the best plan of attack would be to order two entre/sides, a single main to share and of course that amazing dessert.

The duck pancakes arrived shortly after ordering and were devoured only moments after. A perk of sitting at the kitchen was all our food was served from the chefs with a detailed description.

Next up was what has to be one of the most delicious fish dishes I’ve had at a restaurant –  The “Bag Salmon”

IMG_0477

To be quite frank my experience at 86 was heightened in part due to the fact it was cracking through the facade of my Sydney Snobbery. There were lots of oos and aahs because the experience exceeded things I was used to at the same price point at home. It was helped a little later on in the evening when we were waiting for our cauliflower salad (that had essentially sold out so we had the lucky last one) and met one of the owners of Eightysix, Sean Royle. Catching up on the latest goss with his pals, Sean was nice enough to share how the “Bag Salmon” was created almost by accident when he and his partner were trying to make their own dinner from the restaurant left overs.

It seemed hard to believe; when I’m left with leftovers you get fried rice. But before us was a gorgeously pink salmon pickled beetroot, juniper berry, vodka and a bay leaf for 24 hours before adding coriander seeds. The fish is then bagged and Sous-vide for 7 minutes before be pan fried before being decoratively garnished with a salad of radish, carrot, ginger and some citrus fruits – to die for. Harry still talks about it.

IMG_0475

The cauliflower was a bit more of a hearty option next to the fish, fried cauliflower with some Jalapeños (now I know where all the extra Jalapeño juice for my cocktails came from) and some herbs.

We finished the evening in the most delightful way, having not one but two desserts – more out of necessity than greed. My Hulk of a boyfriend smashing through the glass that contained the Holy Grail Caramel Popcorn Sundae. Not that I was complaining when I got to have some more…

IMG_0485

The overall experience at Eightysix, from the service (which I rarely take note of) to the food, was so impressive I have recommended it to literally everyone I know… and now some I don’t! After basking in our shock of the near perfect meal we were further impressed by seeing the chefs now stocking up the ovens to begin the slow cooking process for lamb and pork ready for the next day of service and 10 hours of cooking.

The whole feast including the 4 dishes and 4 cocktails was a pretty reasonable $140 and I would gladly return. I already have a list of desirables for my next order…

Eightysix on Urbanspoon