Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hotel Brunswick

In search for some sun last weekend, we took a drove up the coast and stopped in at Brunswick Heads. The sun was shining and the beer gardens at the pub looked very inviting. It was packed – people everywhere and the line up for the cafeteria style food counter was hectic. We placed our orders (I had one of the specials - Warm Thai style squid salad and my partner had a Steak with pepper sauce, chips & salad).

To order our drinks we were shuffled into the bar line up. I ordered a 5 Seed apple cider (the only cider available) and my partner had a schooner of Extra-Dry.

The meal was your typical pub feed – massive amounts of food & good value for money- especially the steak my partner had. The flavours of my Thai salad were good – coriander, mint & fresh chili. The squid itself was surprisingly very tender.

The beer garden is fairly larger – lots of space for families & large groups and a perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday – especially if they had the license for live music. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Harvest Cafe

My partner and I went to Harvest Cafe in Newrybar last weekend for a late lunch. It was a rainy day and   the restaurant was packed. It looked like they had every member of staff on working like crazy (I later found out that they were preparing for a 110 person wedding function arriving shortly after lunch service). 
I have been to Harvest a few times now and it never fails to impress me.  It’s basically an old farmhouse that was gutted and transformed into a country chic cafe.  The ambience is cozy and inviting; complete with a fireplace and leather lounges.

The staff was clearly stressed but we finally got our San Pellegrino and menu’s. 
The soup of the day was Cream of Cauliflower with paprika oil and fish of the day was Grilled Tuna Steak on a bed of salad.  The wine list included selections from Australia, Argentina, Italy, Spain, Chile & France.  Cocktails that stood out were The Naked Native (sugar coated lemon flesh with lime juice, chilled pear vodka, a splash of Frangelico, finished with native Rosella flowers) and the Little Buddha (gently heated organic milk infused with kassia bark, Dom Benetine, freshly gound nutmeg & a splash of orange flamed Chartruese) YUM!
The menu had a few classics, and in the end we decided to start with ½ dozen natural Sydney Rock oysters with Nam Jim ($16) and ½ dozen Harvest baked Sydney Rock Oysters ($16). 

I started with a glass of 2008 Pizzini Pinot Grigio from King Valley VIC by the glass ($7.5) and we ordered a bottle of a 2008 Jed Malbec  from the Mendoza region of Argentina (kudos to the server who gave us a brief history on the wine producers and the region famous for the Malbec varietal)
For mains, my partner had the Lamb Kibbeh parcel wrapped in brick pastry and served with a rocket salad & tomato relish.

I opted for the Fish of the Day (no surprises there).  
My fish was absolutely beautiful; grilled rare and served on a bed of green beans, thinly sliced radish, rocket, mulberries, baby potato, Spanish onion and fennel. It was reminiscent of a nicoise salad and I was in heaven. The mulberries were an interesting and yummy surprise complimenting the fennel perfectly. Sadly our camera battery died at this point and there isn’t an image to capture how fresh and gorgeous this dish really was.
I would definitely recommend this cafe for anyone who wants to experience the freshest available produce from around the Northern Rivers region. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dish Byron Bay

I was meeting a friend for dinner on Monday night in Byron Bay. She suggested Dish as they had a 2 course dinner menu for $35 which sounded like a bargain!

I got there early as usual and took in the beauty of the space. White leather seats, chocolate brown woods, beamed ceilings, oversized lighting fixtures, (what appeared to be) a tree growing in the centre of the restaurant and vines growing up a feature wall. It was chic, but casual and almost quintessentially Byron.   I was already very excited to take a peek at their menu.

I was greeted straight away by a lovely host who asked if I had a reservation. When I said we didn’t think of it and he told me not to worry as he had 2 tables left. Being almost fully booked out on a Monday night had to be a good sign!
He suggested I take a seat in the bar area to wait for my companion.

I moved to the bar area that was filled with low lounges, couches and arm chairs. A massive mirror was hung on the back wall which reflected the colour and sparkle from the bar.

I pulled a stool out from the bar which was very low and inviting and had a look at the bar menu.  While I flipped through the pages, I watched the bartender shake up an Espresso French Martini to perfection.  With 12 classic cocktails and 13 (?) specialty cocktails including such concoctions as On Dusk (a celebration of orange), the Red Kombi (of course!), Bay Negroni (with gin, campari, cinzano rosso, grapefruit, lime passionfruit & blood orange) and a Vanilla Bean Black Russian; I opted for the Byron Lush with passionfruit, mint, pineapple, lemon and vodka which was muddled, shaken and strained into a frosted martini glass, garnished with a mint leaf. YUM!

A few sips in my friend arrived and was straight into the Classic Margarita. We chatted for a while and made a move to one of the plush lounges. While the restaurant was filling up, the bar was completely empty! I couldn’t figure out why. It was a gorgeous space completely un-utilized.

When we finally got to deciding on food, we were handed a few menus. One was for the 2 course dinner meal for $35 which included choice of:

Wine: red or white (labels not noted)

Entree: Sweet potato & bacon soup w/herbed crème fraiche OR a roast vegetable torte w/Spanish ham & truffle parsley oil. 

Main: Roast Lamb should w/puy lentils & roasted eschallots OR confit of chicken leg w/ kipfler potatoes, fried pancetta, oyster mushroom & baby spinach.

While this sounded lovely, we were more interested in catching up over nibbles & drinks. We started with the Antipasto plate ($18) and a bottle of BloodyHill Pinot Noir 2009 ($60).

The antipasto plate was a good amount of food and once we had made a bit of a dent, we ordered The Duck Parfait w/ smoked duck, fig & date chutney and brioche ($25) and Scallops with cauliflower puree, blood orange, grapefruit & sumac seasoned croutons ($26).

The duck parfait was superbly light in texture (like whipped butter) but rich in flavour; marrying perfectly with the texture of the brioche. While my friend thought this combination was too rich, I was gobbling it up!

The Scallop dish balanced the duck as it was very delicate. The scallops were slightly caramalized, adding a sweetness which contrasted perfectly with the tart citrus.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of food, but after cocktails and a bottle of wine it was the perfect amount for us. We chatted and nibbled for ages, then fixed up our bill (even thought I was dying to try dessert from Dish).

We headed to St. Elmo’s for a coffee (who apparently also had a very busy night). St. Elmo’s is one of my favourites - its little piece of Melbourne in Byron Bay. The wine list is so impressive and the service outstanding. Definitely on my ‘to do again’ list.

Monday, September 20, 2010

About Me

I’ve always loved food. My earliest memories involve being in a garden of some description. Whether it was stealing tomatoes from my parents small veggie patch, picking wild blackberries from my grandpa’s island property, given juicy yellow plums from my auntie’s backyard or digging up potatoes from my nanna’s garden, I always had food in my hands (and mouth)!
Originally from Canada, I grew up on beautiful Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  I was spoiled with parents who insisted on fresh food whenever possible. When my dad did the grocery shopping it was (whenever possible) local, organic, or free range. Of course, being on an island, it was easy.  Seafood was always bountiful; salmon, oysters, mussels, halibut, cod.  Local farms would provide us with amazing cheeses, beef, chicken, pork & eggs.  The summer time would bring us golden sweet stone fruits and dark plump berries.
At dinner time, I would get a variety of different dishes. My grandma was an amazing cook with Eastern European influences (think borscht, perogies, cabbage rolls) and a special gift for baked goods & pastries (cinnamon buns, butter tarts, rhubarb pies). This aptitude passed onto my dad who loved to expose me to different foods all the time (or was it he loved to eat and shared with me)? My mum had a particular talent for making ‘something out of nothing’. She was like the Magiver of dinner time!
It’s no wonder that my first job was at a restaurant and my first serious boyfriend was a chef! 
After travelling the world and having over 15 years of hospitality experience, I now choose Lennox Head my home. And what a food lovers paradise!  Tropical fruits, native ‘tucker’, world class beef, lamb, pork...and the seafood selection is un-paralleled.  Each town from Evans to Casino, Byron to Mullumbimby  has pockets of hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.
Currently, there isn’t a locally based website that provides  information on local eateries. So, I am going on a food adventure and I want to share with you what I find.
Each week, I will journey to a new destination and report my findings. I will share my experiences so that you too can enjoy what this wonderful region has to offer. My goal is for this site to be a shared forum for all those foodies in the Northern Rivers region.
Enjoy & Bon Appetit!