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Filming on the Atherton Tablelands with the Queensland Weekender

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of doing some filming with the crew from the Queensland Weekender for a segment on the Atherton Tablelands. It all came about because the lovely Amy at Tourism Tropical North Queensland just so happened to mention my name when they came calling for some information on the region (thanks Amy you’re the best!). I was contacted in the days leading up to the shoot by the producer Paul who ran a few ideas by me and asked me to provide a few places in the Tablelands that I thought would be worth them visiting. I sent through a long list of worthwhile places in an email to him including Mungalli Dairy, Rainforest Bounty, Gallo Dairyland, Coffee Works, Mt Uncle Distillery, Obi’s and the Whistlestop Cafe. Paul decided on the Whistlestop Cafe and native fruit farm Rainforest Bounty.

The day of filming arrived and early in the morning I received a phone call from Paul who told me that their flight had been delayed out of Brisbane so they were going to be a couple of hours late. I got myself camera ready and headed up the Gillies to the Whistlestop Cafe. Realising I had given myself far too much time – I arrived an hour and a half early because I didn’t want to be late. I figured I‘d have an early lunch while I waited and treated myself to some of their delicious Corn Fritters with a side of bacon.

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Corn Fritters with Bacon from the Whistlestop Café

Just as I was finishing up my lunch I received another call from Paul who said that they had been stopped at the bottom of the Gillies because a truck had rolled over and Police were stopping access for those attempting to go both up and down. He advised me that they would be taking the Kuranda Range now and would see me in a couple of hours just as torrential rain began to pour in Yungaburra. What the hell was I going to do for 2+ hours in this torrential rain with my freshly straightened, especially done for TV hair?! I did what any girl would do, I called my mum. Good old mum suggested that we move the location to Coffee Works in Mareeba that way I could meet them close to halfway. I ran the idea by Paul and he went for it. Thanks mum!

Around an hour later I met Paul and the rest of the crew including Chris the camera man and the segment presenter also named Chris. Paul and I sat down and had a chat about what he wanted me to speak about and what we were going to get up to whilst at Coffee Works for the afternoon. For those who haven’t been Coffee Works in Mareeba is a coffee museum, roaster, cafe, gift shop and chocolaterie all rolled into one. The chocolaterie is a chocolate lovers dream with over 50 flavours available including some that are unique to the Far North such as Lemon Myrtle and my all time favourite Australian Espresso Coffee. I’ve taken friends from out of town there before and they loved the gift shop so much we spent well over an hour shopping for gifts for their family back on the NSW Central Coast.

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Chris, Chris and I checking out some of the yummy chocolates at Coffee Works in Mareeba

At Coffee Works you can also do a ‘Coffee World’ tour where you can enjoy as much coffee, tea, chocolate and liqueur as your little heart desires as well as gain entry into the largest and most significant collection of coffee and tea treasures in the world so that’s exactly what we did! First up Chris and I did some taste testing of the locally grown coffee which I kept to a few small sips because I’ve recently given up drinking coffee and it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. From there we moved into the museum where we spent a bit of time because the cameraman Chris was keen to shoot a few different angles of us walking around and looking at the collection. Finally it was time for my interview, something I was admittedly nervous about but having already spent the last hour with the guys I was a little more at ease. Chris and I sat down over a cup of Coffee Works coffee and talked about how I got into blogging, what endeared me to my followers and why I thought the Atherton Tablelands was the ultimate foodie trail of the Far North. Chris made the interview go very smoothly and we got along like a house on fire so that certainly helped the process too! After that we wrapped things up because after their flight delay and the truck rolling on the range (I heard in the news that the driver was ok thankfully!) the day was almost over and we wouldn’t have time to make it to Rainforest Bounty that afternoon.

The next day I got up at 4.15am to get to Rainforest Bounty near Malanda by 7am which in hindsight was a little bit early but I didn’t want to break my track record of being ridiculously early for filming. I was asked by Paul to wear the same clothes as the day before (I wore different underwear just in case you were wondering) because they were making it all look like it was filmed on the same day. I’m slowly learning the secrets of showbiz haha. Rainforest Bounty is a native fruit farm located on the Atherton Tablelands. They produce an array of condiments from the Indigenous rainforest fruits grown on their farm that I have purchased before from markets around the region.  I’ve been wanting to check out one of their cooking classes for quite some time now so I was pretty excited to be heading there for the first time. I headed up the Gillies again with no sign of the recently rolled over B-double and made my way towards Malanda.

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Stopped for an early morning photo at Heales Lookout on the Gillies but it was a little eerie all on my lonesome so I promptly got back in the car

I arrived at Rainforest Bounty at about 6.45am so not too early in the end but my early arrival gave me the opportunity to get to know the lovely people that live and work up at Rainforest Bounty. I met Eddie and his wife Georgia who have recently taken over the property after getting married there last year. I also met Head Chef Phil who was responsible for the beautiful platters of food we would later be treated to and also runs popular cooking classes onsite, Daniel their Ecologist who funnily enough I went to James Cook University with and then lastly I met Geraldine who is the founder and I guess you could say face of Rainforest Bounty.

The film crew rolled in not long after and due to some serious time restrictions we pretty much kicked off straight away. As the camera rolled Geraldine led us down to the banks of the Johnstone River which runs through their property and where Chris had only moments earlier spotted a platypus. Geraldine showed us some of the native fruit that grows along the river bank and gave us a taste of the Ooray Plum (or as it’s more commonly known the Davidson Plum) from which they make a range condiments including the unbelievably tasty Ooray Plum Vinegar. The Ooray Plum straight off the tree wasn’t quite as tasty as the vinegar and also far more sour than I was expecting. Even worse was the fruit from the Lemon Aspen tree. I tried to hide my dissatisfaction with the sour taste but it’s pretty hard with a camera right in my face.

From there we moved back to the River Pavilion where Georgia had set out a decadent spread for us to enjoy including some of the sweet, savoury and damn right spicy condiments made by Rainforest Bounty, locally grown blueberries and also some of the beautiful cheeses from Gallo Dairyland.

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A beautiful spread at Rainforest Bounty.  I could get used to this!

The filming continued as we tasted the various condiments on display with the Ooray Plum Jeowbong chilli paste being a solid favourite amongst everyone at the table. All of their incredible condiments are available to purchase on their website here. After I had almost completely stuffed myself stupid with cheese, biscuits, condiments and cured meats (breakfast of champions) it was time to film my exit from the show and the crew were off again on their adventure across the Atherton Tablelands to check out Australian Dairy Buffalo Company and I made my way back down the Gillies to settle into a food coma for the afternoon.

I had a fantastic time filming with the crew from Queensland Weekender and want to thank Producer Paul Mayze for the opportunity. I am a little nervous to see the final product when it airs on TV (6th May on Channel 7TWO) as along with you this will be the first time I am seeing it. Admittedly I was a little apprehensive to put my face on TV as many of you know I am an anonymous blogger but filming with the Queensland Weekender was a great opportunity for me to share my blog and get my name out there. In the past I have chosen to remain anonymous for the most part because I think it adds to the appeal of Foodvixen (makes me more elusive) and also Cairns is such a small place – I like being able to go to Coles looking like something the cat dragged in. I hope you guys enjoy my little segment. Let me know what you think xo

Odyssey Kitchen, Cairns

I’ve had a few friends visiting Greece recently and the pictures they have been posting on Facebook have literally made me want to lick my computer screen.  If I wasn’t already reeling from the costs of a recently European holiday AND home reno’s then I would be on the first flight to Santorini (wouldn’t we all!)  In the meantime the new Greek charcoal barbeque restaurant, Odyssey Kitchen, is undoubtedly the next best thing!

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MS and I headed down to check it out on Tuesday night since the only plans we had were watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found!  We were greeted by the lovely owner Pepi and her husband who have recently moved over here from Greece.  After the recent troubles in Greece they decided that they would have a fresh start in Cairns opening Odyssey Kitchen only six weeks ago.

Pepi showed us to our table and I asked her for some recommendations from the menu since it all looked fantastic, we had trouble choosing.  The menu is very reasonably priced with nothing over $27.  First off Pepi recommended some Mythos Greek beer for MS a glass of Rose for myself.  We chose a selection of entree’s and main’s from the menu and waited for our meals to arrive.

For entrée we ordered the Baked Fetta with slices of tomato, onion and capsicum with Greek spices ($11.50) and the Grilled Octopus Tentacle Garnished with Salad ($14).  Both MS and I literally swooned over the Baked Feta.  It was insanely good and we later found out that Odyssey Kitchen imports their own fetta from Greece.  That would explain why the feta that I buy at Coles doesn’t even come close to this stuff!

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Oven Baked Feta with Slices of Tomato, Onion and Capsicum ($11.50)

The Octopus was unbelievably tender and even MS who is notorious for not liking seafood (especially something like Octopus) couldn’t get enough of it.

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Grilled Octopus Garnished with Salad ($14)

Our third entrée was the Greek Country Salad with Tomatoes, Onions, Feta, Olives, Capsicum and Capers served with a Greek Version of Croutons ($12).  Again the Feta made this dish absolutely sing.  Not often does a salad get completely demolished when we go out to dinner together but I can safely say there wasn’t a skerrick left in the bowl when we finished.

 

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Greek Country Salad – Tomatoes, Onions, Feta, Olives, Capsicum and Capers served with a Greek version of croutons

It seems that we may have bitten off more than we could chew with our entrees as they were bigger and more filling than we had expected but nevertheless we still had a bit of room for our mains.  As we couldn’t make a decision we opted to share the Pastitsio ($18) and the Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit ($27).  The Pastitsio is described on the menu as Risoni Pasta Mixed with Feta and Parmesan, Covered with Mince, Topped with Béchamel Sauce and Cooked in a Clay Pot.  This dish was rich and creamy with flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Basically carb heaven in a clay pot.

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Pastitsio – Risoni Pasta Mixed with Feta and Parmesan, Covered with Mince and Topped with Béchamel Sauce. Cooked in a Clay Pot ($18)

The Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit (chosen because, well, all men love bacon don’t they?) was served with salad, chips, pita bread and dip.  We had earlier watched the chef cooking the large skewers of meat over the charcoal grill not far from our al fresco table.  I let MS consume the majority of the meaty skewer because I was pretty much up to Pussy’s Bow as my dad would say.  Could have totally eaten more of that feta though.

 

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Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit – 1 Mega Skewer of Chicken Fillet Pieces Wrapped in Bacon Slowly Cooked over the Charcoal. Served with Salad, Chips, Pita Bread and Dip ($27)

 

And finally there was dessert (I know I just said I was full but no one told me there was dessert)…  We tried three off the menu including the Baklava (my favourite), Halva – a semolina sweet filled with dried fruit and nuts dipped in syrup and the Yogurt and Homestyle Sweet – yogurt and traditional syrupy sweet made of fruit and sugar.  It was a tough contest but the Yogurt and Homestyle Sweet was my favourite.  It reminded me of a delicious sweet that my mum used to give me when I was a kid.

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After all that food Pepi nearly had to roll us out of the restaurant and back to our car.  Now I know why they call it a Greek feast!  The hospitality and generosity we received from Pepi and her wait staff was some of the best we’ve received in a very long time.  From the beer to the baklava at Odyssey Kitchen they are serving up delicious home style Greek cooking at very affordable prices.

Odyssey Kitchen – 41 Shields St, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 4041 2112

Opening Times: Lunch 11.30am – 3pm, Dinner 17.30 till late (closed Sundays)

http://www.odysseykitchen.com.au/

Foodvixen Does Europe (Rome) – Day 3

Today we woke up early because we had an earlyish tour of the Vatican City, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.

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St Peter’s Basicila – the sheer size of the place is unbelievable

When we arrived at the gates to the Vatican Museum to meet our tour group I was so glad that I had booked the Skip the Line tickets because the line just to get in was absolutely enormous.  Not just that but inside was mayhem.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many crammed into such small spaces before.  Anyhow I am glad that we made the time to do the tour – it was three hours but our guide was incredibly knowledgeable even if she did talk for the entire three hours without taking a breath.  Sadly I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the Sistine Chapel.  The place is under strict copyright from a Japanese Film Company that apparently paid to have the place cleaned some 20 years ago.  That didn’t stop plenty of idiots sneakily taking photos and having the guards yell at them.  It annoys me that people are too wrapped up in their phones that they can’t stop to appreciate something anymore.

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Inside St Peter’s Basilica

 

After the tour we had time to go up to the dome of the Vatican and see the view but we decided three hours of statues and marble was enough and it was clearly time for lunch.  We made our way back to Trastevere near our hotel and to a bakery that I had been dying to get to that was literally about 30 metres from the restaurant we had dined at the night before.

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They come thick and fast for the pizza at Antico Forno Roscioli

 

Upon arriving we were greeted with slabs of the most beautiful fresh pizzas I have ever laid my eyes on.  The brash lady behind the counter pointed to the most popular which was the Burrata and Pesto Pizza.  Without a doubt we were getting that one plus a few slices of the Burrata with Tomato and of course something with meat on it for the meat eater that I live with.

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Decisions, decisions…

 

It was beautiful.  In fact I have to say it was the best pizza I have even eaten.  Beautiful thick, crunchy bread, unbelievable fresh toppings and generous serves for the price.  After finishing the first lot we decided we could definitely fit in another couple of slices of the Burrata and Pesto.  I mean we had been walking all morning so technically we deserved it right?

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Burrata and Pesto Pizza from Antico Forno Roscioli could in fact well be the best pizza I’ve ever eaten

 

After a short siesta we met some friends that were also in Rome for some afternoon drinks on the rooftop terrace of our hotel.  15 Euros for an Aperol Spritz (that’s AUD$22) almost made me choke on my complimentary chips but it was such a nice spot to sit we figured we would have one.  To put it in perspective in the SE of Italy where I am now they are only 5 Euro.

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Our AUD$22 Aperol Spritz’s

 

For dinner we took our friends to the pizzeria that we visited on the first night, Dar Poeta.  Since it was still technically early in terms of Roman time for eating (7pm) we walked straight in and got a table for four.  I probably didn’t need the two pieces of Gorgonzola and Honey Bruschetta before eating a whole pizza but hey I’m not going to feel bad about it anymore.

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Olive, Salami and Gorgonzola Bruschetta

 

Dinner for me was the Super Bufala with tomato sauce, artichokes, buffalo mozzarella, olives and pecorino cheese.  The olives were a bit of a let down but the rest of the pizza was tip top.  We overstayed our welcome a little bit catching up with our friends that we hadn’t seen in 6 months until I finally understood what the waitress was glaring at me about and we cleared out.  Turns out there was a tonne of people outside waiting for a table.

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My Super Bufala Pizza

 

We wandered down to a touristy area with marquees set up alongside the Tiber River and realised it was way too touristy for us.  Heineken signs and stuffed toys was the name of the game in this area so we didn’t stay very long.  As we were leaving we saw what MS swore was a cat swimming in the Tiber.  Upon further Googling it turns out it was a Nutria (a type of rodent but a bloody huge one)… Stay tuned for my next post!

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Tiber River

Foodvixen Does Europe (Rome) – Day 2

We woke bright and early on our first full day in Rome, partly because my pillow was like sleeping on a bag of cement and partly because I can’t go to bed without an alarm set regardless if I’m on holiday.  We had a light breakfast in the hotel, well I did.  Espresso coffee and some fruit was plenty for me whereas old Fatty McFat Fat aka my other half stuffed himself with danishes, croissants filled with cream cheese, ham, fruit and more cheese.

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Brekkie view in the garden at our hotel – Hotel Ponte Sisto

 

We had a Skip the Line Tour booked at the Colosseum booked for later that afternoon but figured we would go and see a few of the other sights before then.  Campo Dei Fiori where there was so many delicious things I wanted to buy but figured I am going to be in Florence later next week, then the Pantheon which we literally stumbled upon.  It’s a pretty awe inspiring place especially when you just stumble around the corner not expecting to see it.  Next up the Trevi Fountain.  We threw a couple of Euro over our shoulder – apparently there is more than 3000 Euro thrown into it a day.  God knows where it all goes but a good friend of mine said that last time she was there she saw a homeless lady fishing some of it out with a pole with a magnet on the end.  I must say I’m impressed with her ingenuity and DGAF attitude.

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By this time it was about lunchtime so after a toilet stop – and by toilet stop I mean having a coffee at a café with the ingenious disguise of wanting to use their restroom we found ourselves near the Colosseum at Angelino ai Fori – a restaurant within close proximity to the start of our tour.  It did look like a bit of a tourist trap and considering how close it was to the Colosseum it most likely was but it was the best looking restaurant in the area so we gave it a go anyway.  Are expectations were extremely low but we actually really enjoyed it and even went back a second time a couple of days later.  Go figure.

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Antipasti and Aperol Spritz for lunch at Angelino ai Fori

Three and a bit hours later we finished our epic Colosseum tour and headed back towards our hotel with a short stop at a restaurant that I well and truly had my sights set on, hoping to get a seat.  The waitress told us that the place was completely booked for the evening much to my despair but said we could come back in 45 minutes and try our luck.  45 minutes later and boy was I lucky.  Straight in and straight to an upstairs table at the highly regarded Roscioli.

My sister gave me a book called “Where Chef’s Eat” a couple of years ago (there’s a new edition every year) and I finally decided that I would have a look through it before this holiday.  I earmarked a heap of restaurants, cafes and patisseries in the places we were visiting and Roscioli was one them.  After doing some Googling there isn’t a blogger that comes to Rome that doesn’t go to Roscioli so as they say, when in Rome.

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Love this cooking philosophy from the opening page of the menu at Roscioli

The menu is literally mouthwatering!  There were so many things on the menu that I wanted to eat and still now I am kicking myself for not getting the burrata (some of the best in Rome) but our entrée of Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Roman Oxtail Stew and Peppered with White Cheese Fondue washed down with a glass of Italian Pinot Noir was a decadent and tear inducing hot start to our dinner.

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Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Roman Oxtail Stew and Peppered with White Cheese Fondue

 

Main for me was the Big Spaghetti with Albacore Tuna Marrow, Wild Fennel, Minced Tomatoes and Olives (19 Euro).

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MS had La Carbonara with Crispy Cheek Pork, Malaisian Black Pepper, Paolo Parisi Eggs and Roman Pecorino Cheese Dop.

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In the menu it states that all pasta dishes are cooked ‘al dente’ which is a little hard for my liking but again ‘when in Rome’.  Plus I don’t believe in changing dishes at restaurants.  You eat them how they are meant to be cooked and served.  So far this is our one and only pasta meal in Rome so we really have nothing to compare it to however my tastebuds know a good meal when they taste it and they were beyond content.

I am glad that I did some research of places that I wanted to dine at before we visited Rome because to me it seems like there are more tourist traps that great places to dine.  It does take a little bit of time to research but it’s so much more rewarding finding the hidden gems.  Plus it saves aimlessly walking in circles trying to decide which place to go to.  As for Roscioli, some reviews have said that the restaurant is too squishy inside but I actually really enjoyed the atmosphere and layout of the place plus being that close to the table next to us admittedly allowed me to eavesdrop on the miserable American couple next to us that clearly weren’t having a great holiday together.  The pasta was excellent, the service I found to be exemplary.  Whether this trip or another Roscioli is somewhere that I without a doubt want to go back to!

Pullman International High Tea Instameet

I was lucky enough to have snagged an invite to the Pullman International’s High Tea Instameet held yesterday afternoon.  What’s an Instameet you say?  It’s pretty much a bunch of Instagrammer’s meeting up to take photos of a shared interest – in this case it was food.  I have been following a few of the ridiculously talented pastry chefs from the Pullman International for quite some time on Instagram and after many promises that I would come and visit for a High Tea I finally got there!  Would you believe that this was my first ever High Tea experience? And wow it didn’t disappoint.

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The Pullman International with it’s beautiful high ceilings, grand piano and old world charm set the scene for our afternoon of delights.  Upon arrival we were met with a long table of gorgeous tiered sweet and savoury treats.  A barrage of photos ensued and we took our seats with offers of Mocktails, Iced Tea and Sparkling Rose.

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My fellow Instagrammers and I were joined at the table by Executive Chef Matt Lonne and Head Pastry Chef Mel Day whom we chatted with about our favourite restaurants (and not so favourite restaurants), favourite ingredients to cook with and of course the hot topic in Cairns at the moment, the heat.

The High Tea consisted of five savoury dishes and five sweet dishes lovingly created behind the scenes by the unbelievably creative pastry team.

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Out of the savoury menu I absolutely loved the Petite Deconstructed Beef Wellington with Red Wine Reduction.

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Petite Deconstructed Beef Wellington with Red Wine Reduction

The Watermelon Mousse with Sour Gel was a huge hit at the table but my personal favourite had to be the Peanut Butter and Jelly Macarons.

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Watermelon Mousse with Sour Gel

 

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Macarons (at the back)

 

After an hour and a half of sweet and savoury treats and just ‘one more’ macaron about four times over I had certainly had more than my fill and was ready for an afternoon nap.  I had a fabulous time yesterday and cannot recommend the High Tea at the Pullman International enough!  It’s a popular spot birthdays, hen’s do’s and of course baby showers, in fact my +1 enjoyed herself so much yesterday she is considering having a High Tea 30th birthday ‘do’ there in a couple of months time.  Of course you don’t have to have an event to do the High Tea as it’s available 7 days a week from 10.30am to 4pm.

Perotta’s At The Gallery, Cairns

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I’ve been to Perotta’s At The Gallery a million and one times for breakfast and lunch but I’ve only been there once for dinner way back in about 2004.  After a long day in transit on my way home from the NT capital, MS picked me up at the airport and after deciding that neither of us wanted to cook – who am I kidding MS doesn’t cook! – we headed to Perotta’s for dinner.  With my Entertainment Book Gold Card offering me ‘buy one get one free’ main meals I figured now was a good a time as any to try out the dinner menu.

The place was about ½ full when we arrived so we chose a seat near the entrance closest to the lagoon. We ordered wine to celebrate the first time seeing each other in 4 weeks and had a squiz at the menus. The menu at Perotta’s has something to suit most people with plenty of variety and not just your standard run of the mill boring dishes. My go to dish when I go there for lunch is the Chilli Salt Squid Salad and although that is featured on the dinner menu I figured it might be time to branch out.

An previously posted pic of the Chilli Salt Squid Salad with Roast Pumpkin, Spiced Popcorn, Pomegranate and Rocket ($21)

A previously posted pic of the Chilli Salt Squid Salad with Roast Pumpkin, Spiced Popcorn, Pomegranate and Rocket ($21)

To start with we ordered the Garlic Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta, Mint and Calabrian Chilli (AU$9) and the Burrata Caprese with Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, Rocket Pesto and Raspberry Vinegar (AU$21). MS asked me what Burrata was and thinking I was all sophisticated and smart I told him that it was a type of Cured Italian Meat. Boy did we get a surprise when it the Burrata arrived at our table a short while later – a good surprise though! Turns out Bresaola is the Italian Cured Meat that I’d gotten confused with and Burrata is actually an Italian Cheese. Pfft I totally knew that.

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The Burrata Caprese with Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, Rocket Pesto and Raspberry Vinegar (AU$21) and the Garlic Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta, Mint and Calabrian Chilli (AU$9)

In all honesty the Garlic Bruschetta wasn’t really anything to write home about but it was actually perfect for mopping up the last bits of Burrata and Rocket Pesto. I’m normally hesitant to eat watermelon since I was a little kid and my dad told me a watermelon vine was going to grow in my stomach after I swallowed a seed.  Thanks dad, way to scar me for life and now I absolutely refuse to eat any type of grape (unless in wine) or watermelon (even the ‘seedless’ variety). The Burrata with juicy Heirloom Tomatoes was a beautiful and tasty dish that we both enjoyed.  It was a great start to the night – I highly recommend this one.

Mmm that Burrata

Mmm that Burrata

Next up for our mains MS had ordered the Pork Spare Ribs with Fennel, Apple Cider Vinegar and Pickled Pineapple (AU$37) which came with a big bowl of chips and I had the 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder, 3 Wheat Salad, Almond, Mint, Pomegranate and Spicy Cumin Yogurt (AU$36).

MS’ Pork Spare Ribs were literally falling off the bone – the way ribs should be IMO – and were covered in a delicious tangy glaze. The Pickled Pineapple was nice but needed to be pickled just that little bit longer. We both thought the serving size was a little bit small for $37 but MS was pretty full by the time he polished them off.

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Pork Spare Ribs with Fennel, Apple Cider Vinegar and Pickled Pineapple (AU$37)

My 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder was super tasty albeit a little on the small side for the price ($36). The added crunchy strips of bacon/pancetta/prosciutto whatever the hell it was really added to the dish. Despite the size of the dish I actually struggled to finish it. I find rich cuts of meat like Lamb Shoulder, Lamb Shanks and Beef Cheeks fill me up really quick and I can’t eat a whole lot although I want to. Give me Garlic Bread however and I can eat that carby goodness till the cows come home!  We wanted to stick around for dessert especially after I spotted the Eton Mess on the Dessert Menu (the only one I know of in town) but we just couldn’t fit it in.

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8 Hour Lamb Shoulder, 3 Wheat Salad, Almond, Mint, Pomegranate and Spicy Cumin Yogurt (AU$36)

It’s got to be the number one place in Cairns for people watching – with wine of course! The wait staff are very friendly and professional, in fact it’s consistently one of the better places in Cairns in terms of service (something Cairns is usually lacking in). I do find that the food, particularly the mains, are a little expensive for what you get and this is something that seems to be reiterated in other online reviews I’ve read. Nearly 20 years of good food and service is certainly a mean feat in this small town. According to their website Perotta’s (as the locals like to call it) has been around since 1997 would you believe? Yes I was a little surprised by that too so I guess you could also call this place a bit of a Cairns institution – seems I’m using that word a lot these days.

Perotta’s At The Gallery

38 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870.  Ph: (07) 40315899

Opening Hours: 7 days a week 6.30am – 10pm

Martinelli Pizza Bar, Trinity Beach

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Last week with my partner in crime and ‘Chief Pizza Eater’ in tow I headed out to Martinelli Pizza Bar at Trinity Beach.  Clearly the two of us don’t get out there often enough as we tend to hang out mostly in the city (Swamp Donkey’s was what my old Chief Engineer used to call us) but I am attempting to branch out a little more.

Martinelli’s has only been open for a few months and we were both keen to test out the only Roman style slab pizzas (that I know of) in town.  We arrived just behind a couple of bare-footed bogans whom I overheard asking the chef and owner Peter if they also sold ’round’ pizzas.  Some people really do astound me.  As ignorant as they were, not to mention stupid, surely they realise that pizzas tend to taste the same no matter what shape they are.  Nevertheless Peter convinced them to try one of his popular Roman style pizzas and they took a seat.

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Initially MS and I were only going to get takeaway because I wanted to watch The Bachelorette (don’t judge me) but after a bit of careful consideration we decided to stay.  First up we ordered the Garlic and Herb Focaccia with Garlic Oil, Herb Butter and Rosemary Salt and I tell you what we were in for a treat.  Does anyone remember the old Donnini’s when it was on the first floor at the Pier – back in around say 1990?  Still to this day they had the best focaccia that I have ever eaten and a hell of a lot better than the focaccia they have on offer at the new Donnini’s (now Ciao Italia at the Hilton), which is actually really crap.  I have to say that this focaccia at Martinelli’s is on par with that amazing focaccia from the old Donnini’s. Crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the side… It’s bloody superb and must try when you go there!

Garlic and Herb Focaccia with Garlic Oil, Herb Butter and Rosemary Salt ($4.50 2 pcs or $9 a tray)

Garlic and Herb Focaccia with Garlic Oil, Herb Butter and Rosemary Salt ($4.50 2 pcs or $9 a tray) with the Chef’s Selection of Pickled Vegetables


Martinelli’s are currently running with a Spanish theme this month and I couldn’t go past the Smoked Reef Fish Escabeche, South Australian Mussels, Chorizo, Olive Tapenade, Romesco Sauce and Basil, served with Charred Lemon.  Pretty much what dreams are made of.

Despite me trying my best to convince MS to order the Melaleuca Smoked Beef Brisket, Housemade BBQ Sauce, Slaw and Mozzarella pizza – he went for the Potato and Sausage with White Reduction, Shaved Potato, Italian Sausage, Mozzarella and Provolone Dolce.  We ordered and waited at our table with baited breath for our pizza to arrive.

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Next to us, the bogans that had originally asked for round pizza were pretty much making love to their brisket pizza.  They were certainly enjoying themselves and it was pretty much like that scene in Where Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm, except they weren’t faking.  It was clear to both MS and I that these two were now converted and they would never look at a round pizza the same again.  After they finished they thanked the chef profusely, vowed to return again and happily left just as our pizza’s arrived.  Not since the NRL Grand Final have I seen such a turnaround – not that I watch football.

A lovely older man with a thick Italian accent whom I can only assume was the chef’s father showed me how to squeeze the lemon over the top of my Spanish style pizza for full flavour effect.  We dug in.  The Romesco Sauce and the fresh Basil leaves on top of my pizza gave it the perfect sweet kick.  It was just divine and I don’t know what the hell the chef does to those pizza bases but wow.  MS loved his Potato and Sausage pizza but we both agreed that mine was the pick of the litter.

Smoked Reef Fish Escabeche, South Australian Mussels, Chorizo, Olive Tapenade, Romesco Sauce and Basil, served with Charred Lemon

Smoked Reef Fish Escabeche, South Australian Mussels, Chorizo, Olive Tapenade, Romesco Sauce and Basil, served with Charred Lemon


Potato and Sausage with White Reduction, Shaved Potato, Italian Sausage, Mozzarella and Provolone Dolce

Potato and Sausage with White Reduction, Shaved Potato, Italian Sausage, Mozzarella and Provolone Dolce

To top it all off we had a couple of pieces of freshly made Chocolate Cannoli to satisfy our sweet tooth before we pretty much rolled out of the store.  We were full as a goog.  The cannoli’s were not too little but not too big and the perfect was to top of our meal.

Chocolate Cannoli

Chocolate Cannoli

Without getting into the nitty gritty of the delicate flavours, textures of the meal because that’s just not how I roll I can highly recommend Martinelli Pizza Bar.  It’s seriously some of best pizza I have ever eaten and that Focaccia bread, well you will just have to see for yourself (just don’t forget that the Spanish theme runs until the end of October).  The pizza’s here take a little longer to cook and aren’t entirely cheap but if you want a round Domino’s pizza thrown together on a production line with absolutely no love then knock yourself out.  Martinelli Pizza Bar is where it’s at.

Martinelli Pizza Bar – Shop 2 11-13 Rabaul St, Trinity Beach QLD 4879 Ph: (07) 40575895.  Open Wed – Sun 12pm – 10pm.

CairnsLife Magazine stole my photos without my permission

Great article in this month’s Cairns Life Magazine about Eato’s on Grafton Street. I’m pretty pissed that the Cairns Life thought it was acceptable to steal my photos and publish them as their own. These photos were featured on this blog in a review that I wrote about Eato’s Restaurant. I have stated on my website that all content is subject to copyright.

Once again Cairns Life Magazine has shown what a truly stellar and professional local publication they are! Apparently spell check is out of the question but copy and paste isn’t. In future I would prefer you ask me before using any of my content and I am still awaiting on an apology. Cairnslife

Eating Ourselves Stupid in the USA – Ess A Bagel, New York

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One cannot go to New York without eating a bagel – or several. In fact eating a bagel in New York (and everywhere else in the USA) became a daily ritual for us. One of the most famous places to get a bagel in New York is at Ess A Bagel which luckily enough wasn’t too far from our humble abode at the Waldorf Astoria. I’m not too sure how I heard about it but it was on my ‘must do’ list of places to eat at and we were not disappointed despite waiting in line for well over thirty minutes. The line up for the bagels was snaked through the store and out the front door (I had a video but the damn thing won’t upload).

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The bagel teams assembling the bagels at the front of the store were like a well oiled machine and there were so many different ingredients to get on your bagel including 18 different flavours of cream cheese with everything from raisin walnut cream cheese to jalapeno cream cheese to chocolate chip cream cheese.  The choices of what you could have on your bagel were literally endless, so much so that I found it a little overwhelming. I tend to stick with tradition and can’t go past the Lox (Smoked Salmon as we call it) with Cream Cheese and Capers.

Big shout-out to these super dooper bagel artists and all round awesome guys - Mad Rican and Gavin

Big shout-out to these super dooper bagel artists and all round awesome guys – Mad Rican and Gavin

Never had I heard of lox before and it took some secret Googling in the line to make sure that it was in fact Smoked Salmon. MS went for the cream cheese with turkey bacon option with extra cheese, another tried and true tradition for him because he’s a fatty. The bagels were so fresh out of the oven they were still steaming when our expert bagel maker Gavin and his buddy Mad Rican cut them open and yet some dumbasses in the customer line still wanted theirs toasted.  WTF?!

Mmmm delicious fresh bagels

Because American’s love variety  with their 18 flavours of cream cheese there are also 14 different types of bagel to choose from at Ess A Bagel.  You can get plain, sesame, poppy, salt, onion, garlic, oat bran, cinnamon raisin, 9-grain, pumpernickel, pumpernickel raisin, everything, whole wheat everything and bialy’s (a pastry/bagel type thing).

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Behold my Lox and Cream Cheese Poppy Seed Bagel

By the time Gavin was done there was that much cream cheese and lox on my bagel that it weighed half a pound!  That’s a whole lot of bagel!!!! It was without a doubt the best bagel we had on our trip, and we ate a sh*tload of bagels, much to the dismay of my size 9 jeans that I’m still having trouble fitting into 2 months later. It was warm, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside with the perfect blend of lox and cream cheese and you seriously can’t beat a poppy seed bagel.  Sadly for us though we went to go back another day and the line was even longer and we had a Broadway show to catch so we couldn’t hang around and I never got to go back for another *insert sad face*. One thing’s for sure though Ess A Bagel will be high on our priority list when we do return to NYC and it should definitely be on yours!

 

Eating Ourselves Stupid in the USA – Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York

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First opened in 2004 Momofuku Noodle Bar was one of the original restaurants on my ever-growing iPhone list of restaurants that I hope to visit in my life time (and yes I know iPhone hasn’t been around that long). Now one of 13 restaurants owned by David Chang, including one in Sydney Momofuku Seibo, Momofuku Noodle Bar is renowned for its signature pork buns and having the best ramen in New York.  Forget the ramen – we came for the pork buns.  Usually my skills of navigation are on point but this time around I led us in the exact wrong direction of where we wanted to go so we ended hailing a taxi to take us there.

When we arrived there was yet another large line – much to MS’ dismay because he was getting a little fed up with having to line up for food everywhere we went. In my defence all the good places I take him to are usually quite popular hence the hefty line up but I always assure him that it’s worth the wait.  For Pete’s sake if he hadn’t met me he would still be eating dinner at Cock N Bull on a regular basis, now he’s dining at trendy restaurants in New York that he knows nothing about and doesn’t care for either ha! I was well aware from reviews that it could take up to an hour to get a seat but I played it down to MS telling him that I read the wait was usually only about 15 minutes – what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Inside the door it was hard to differentiate between exactly who’d had their name taken by the hostess and who was waiting to get their name taken by the hostess. Lucky for me a friendly local (surprisingly the only kind that we met in NY despite their gruff reputation) arrived straight after us and ushered me up to the front of the restaurant with him and within ten minutes MS and I were in!

*Goddammit!  Why didn’t I take more photos?!*

We took a seat near the end of a long communal table next to a group of three that were high up in the corporate sector of Starbucks. They had come together in Manhattan from various parts of the USA to inspect a few of the Starbucks stores and make sure things were up to scratch. MS and I ordered our meals and chatted to them about the terrible coffee that we had encountered on our trip so far with the worst of all being at bustling LAX diner LA Roadhouse Route 66 – the food was also terrible. We told them how Starbucks had become a beacon of light and hope on our six day road trip from Columbia, SC to New York City and that it was our ‘go to destination’ for a decent cup of coffee in the USA. Although he worked for Starbucks one of the men of the trio told us to go to Blue Bottle Coffee shop for a decent cup of coffee when we were in San Francisco much to the dislike of the other guy and girl in the group.

I’m 90% sure I saw that kid (now grown man) from Billy Elliot standing inconspicuously in the corner at Momofuku but either no one else recognised him or they are just so conditioned to seeing famous people in New York that no one gives a f*ck.  I pride myself on my uncanny ability to pick random D grade celebrities out of a crowd and know exactly what obscure movie they were in back in 1996.  Kind of like this one time back in 2007 when I served the kid from the 1st Jurassic Park movie at the Cairns airport. He’s been completely ‘not famous’ since starring in Jurassic Park except for a run with Meryl Streep down the Kootenai in The River Wild and man did he get ugly but I knew exactly who he was from the moment I spotted him.  A true talent that I could really go places with I’m sure.

Remember this guy from Jurassic Park?  Yeah I didn't think so.

Remember this guy from Jurassic Park? Yeah I didn’t think so.

The seating conditions at Momofuku are practically elbow to elbow and you have to shout to speak to the person you are dining with but despite how busy the restaurant was the kitchen was absolutely pumping out dishes and our bun entrée took no more than about 10 minutes to arrive. We had ordered two each of the Shitake Buns with Hoisin, Scallion and Cucumber (US$10 each) and two each of the Brisket Buns with Horseradish, Pickled Red Onion and Cucumber (US$12 each). The buns were actually quite filling and the Shitake Buns were a clear winner for both of us. Anything with Hoisin Sauce is normally a winner for me. MS enjoyed them so much that he ordered himself two more (he is a fatty though). Not long after we polished off our buns our bowls of ramen arrived.

Shitake at the front, Brisket at the back

Shitake at the front, Brisket at the back


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Shitake Buns with Hoisin, Scallion and Cucumber (US$10 each)

Momofuku’s signature ramen is your typical ramen with Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder and a Poached Egg (US$16) but they also have a yummy sounding Chilled Spicy Noodle on the menu with Sichuan Sausage, Spinach and Cashews, only thing is that it was a little too cold out to have chilled noodles. The hearty bowls of pork broth were huge and we struggled to finish them especially since we’d already had entrees. Purported by many to be the best ramen in all of New York City it certainly may well be because we didn’t have any other ramen to compare it to while we were there. The ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar was delicious but, well, not to brag but MS and I were not that long ago eating ramen from some of the best ramen joints in Japan so our tastebuds have been a little spoiled of late.

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Momofuku Ramen with Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder and a Poached Egg (US$16)

In the end I think I had hyped the place up a little too much in my head but the buns alone were worth walking in the wrong direction for. I just looked at photos of the inside of the restaurant online and I didn’t even recognise it because when we went there were that many people there you couldn’t even make out the walls and furniture. Don’t let that deter you though. If the crowds are anything to go by then even after 11 years as one of the most popular eateries in New York City, Momofuku Noodle Bar has still go it.