Thursday, July 30, 2009

You have to guess what it looks like...


OK... so all of the tarts are eating well, which is a very good thing. But, reading their posts from 6000 miles away and no chance of jogging on down the road to join their gastronomic enterprises, I feel the only thing to do is describe some nice meals for them to maybe follow up on...

Meal #1

Perseus- Florence, Italy

Basically Perseus is a steak lovers dream and the only time in my life where I became drunk from food. Like most meals in Italy, the best way to eat is to have the waiter bring you whatever he wants and as many flasks of the house wine as fits on the table.

Secondi is why Perseus is special. You basically walk into the place surrounded by hanging meat. Bistecca alla fiorentina is excellence. You can pick your cut if you are picky, but it doesnt matter because it's all awesome. 1 cut feeds 2 normal people. They don't ask how you want it cooked or seasoned, they just do it the right way. Black and Blue. Salt/ Olive Oil. It seriously melts in your mouth. I was so full by the time that the bistecca arrived on its carving board that i could only eat a normal filet sized amount, but its worth the pain of overeating. I am no Joey Chesnut (disgusting hot dog eater) but I did pretty well for myself, at the time I was probably a cool 160, and after dinner i carried an extra 5 or so until I collapsed into bed.

A few other places in Florence to check out... my favorite is most definitely Trattoria da Tito. A family run, maybe 10 table, beautifully quaint eatery. The tiramisu is the best in the world in my opinion and its daily changing menu is always excellent. I could eat there every day.

Il Latini is another hot spot in Florence. I went with a few people and we dodged through the hoardes to tell the waiter Peter Weller was meeting us and he needed to sit us. Fortunately we got a table before like 50 other people. Peter Weller never showed though. There were no prices and no menu that I can recall, but we had a spectacular meal. No girls with us, but the females get a free bottle of wine. When the meal was done the owner looked at us and decided we needed to pay about 40 euro each. Not bad for a good meal.

La Pantera Viola has the best dessert ever; one that I have to make on a regular basis to keep my mouth from watering at its memory. Nutella and Mascarpone Calzone with hot chocolate syrup and whipped cream on top. It is RIDICULOUS. No further comment, now I need to make one.

Meal #2

Los Caracoles- Barcelona, Spain

I was in Barcelona for food week in 2002 and this place was booked solid for a week, so my friends and I decided we had to get in. The atmosphere is awesome, some odoriferous rotisserie leading the way and a very comfortable dining room. I think if the Weasley's were Spanish, their kitchen would look like Los Caracoles.

All that I can remember from this meal was that it was sooooo good. I had a few tapas, the garlic shrimp reigning supreme. We did have some caracoles, which were so nice in a savory brown sauce which I cared not what it was. There were razor clams, octopus, prawn, whole fish, we had a rabbit, and plenty of wine.

This place was so good I bought a postcard. But, having forgotten one somewhere else, sent it to my cousin. So I no longer have the postcard, although I am sure a few of my fat cells are thanking me for this meal.

Meal #3

Gambas a Go-Go- Geneva, Switzerland

I think this is the name. If not it describes it pretty well. You sit down, you get a pint, you get peel and eat shrimp. There is nothing better after a long day than working for an excellent meal. I was in a zone, peel, eat, drink, peel, eat, drink. Nothing in the world could bother me for the 2 hours we sat there. If anyone is in Geneva, look this place up. The only clue I can give to its location was that it was near the train station.

I do Barcelona a crime by only mentioning 1 place that was great, but to be honest, every where was great. I didnt have a bad meal in Spain. I had paella in Valencia on the beach. Tapas in Barcelona on Las Ramblas. Barcelona is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Italy is my favorite place on earth. Besides everything else that makes it so nice, the food is wonderful. I had warm liver in the streets of Palermo, and it was good. Maybe not good in Syracuse NY, but Palermo made it so. Bologna has the best lasagna ever. The carbonara in Rome is second to none.

The #1 reason I cant wait to move my sorry butt to Switzerland besides watchmaking..... I will be in the middle of all of this food. I look to my left, paella, to my right pasta. I wont know what to do with myself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Tale Of Two Buffets

I had the rare opportunity to try out 2 very different buffet meals, on consecutive days. The latter is not so good on the tummy. Mind you, I’m not as young as I once was, and all you can eat is no longer a forte of mine. However, these were opportunities that were hard to pass up. And I’m glad I went. After the recent double disappointments of Sushi Choo and Kobe Jones… (well… ok… the Volcano Roll was still spectacular, but did not make up for the rest…) I was happy to find something I truly enjoyed.

I did think of doing something that wasn’t quite done before (as far as I know) by reviewing 2 restaurants side by side. But that proved too difficult and much too taxing on my feeble mind. So I’ll do a rather more mundane review of these two buffet restaurants.

Exhibit A: The Sheraton On The Park Botanica Brasserie Buffet Special @ $60 a head.

Exhibit B: Ashfield RSL Lucky Buffet Restaurant Smorgasbord @ $20 a head for visitors, $17 a head for members.

Both buffets featured seafood galore, and the staple of seafood buffet- the prawn- was anything but lacking. I, for one, loved the prawns, especially at buffet. The ones at Sheraton were Australian King Prawns if memory serves me right. These were huge and had quite a bit of heft to them. Very solid and sweet. There was just no comparison here. This puts the casino buffet prawns to shame, and I’m sorry Lucky Buffet, but your prawns are baby shrimps, relatively speaking…

The king prawns and the Sydney rock oysters in all their glory

More rock oysters. The smoked salmon was excellent too

The other seafood staple, the mussels, were adequate in both cases, but what really turned me on, pun intended, were the oysters I had at Sheraton. The first lot I went for were quite pedestrian, then, I was shown the Sydney rock oysters, and I never looked back. There are simply no words to describe the taste. They were sensational. To compare it with a certain horizontal activity usually performed in the bedroom does not come close to doing it any justice.

HOWEVER, I must offer a word/sentence of disclaimer: I believe the Botanica Brasserie is quite susceptible to the different batches that they get from wherever they get the seafood. The sea comes to mind. I think different seasons coughs up different quality seafood, and as such, the great seafood I had on the night may not necessarily be there the next time I go. Just as I found some lesser fresh king prawns on my plate, and the Balmain Bugs left much to be desired.

The mussels and seafood salad- my first plate at Lucky

The sushi had that “over-riced, under-fished” syndrome, shared with Kobe Jones. Or, as some would say, the fish-rice ratio is all screwed up. But then again, I didn’t come to Sheraton to eat sushi.

As you can see- the fish to rice ratio is just all wrong...

I kept going back for the rock oysters. I couldn’t stop. They were that good. I think after about 4 to 5 plates later, I was finally ready for hot food. The hot food session lasted 1 plate. I took a bit of everything. Not to detract from the hot food or anything. The potato, the lamb and the chicken were all good. But when you compare them to the rock oysters, there was simply no match. Plus the dessert selection looks extremely enticing. I couldn’t hold off any longer. I had to go get some desserts...

My lone hot dish plate- and yes... I did 'try' to plate up...

the accompanying riesling for the night

Before I head into desserts, let’s head back over to the other side. At the Lucky buffet, the cold/seafood dishes were just so-so. I ended up having more hot dishes, as there were a great variety of hot dishes to choose from. Another thing about the Lucky Buffet is that when a dish runs out, they don’t tend to replace it with the same dish. Au contraire… they replace it with a completely different dish. This is quite good as variety on offer is actually greater than the allocated space allows. However, if you missed out on something the first time… it’s unlikely you’ll see it again. Most of the hot dishes were fairly predictable Chinese take-away style and quality. Lots and lots of fried items though, and these seriously fills you up post haste.

2 of the hot plates over at Lucky

Dessert at Botanica was simply divine. There is no other way to describe it. The choice desserts are the chocolate mousse - absolutely exquisite, and the bread and butter pudding was anything BUT bread and butter. That is one serious dessert. It’s heavenly fattening and melted in my mouth. I’d hate to think just how much ‘butter’ was in it, but whatever the amount, I think it’s worth piling on the kilograms for…

An honourable mention goes to the crème brûlée. It’s quite shallow, meaning every mouthful is filled with the crunchy caramelized sugar, juxtaposed with the creamy custard. Coupled with a sip of hot latte, and life is good! I seriously could not get up towards the end. I simply couldn’t. My tummy had inflated to sizes I’d only previously seen on pregnant women… not a good sign at all!

Choco moose, Creme brulee, Bread and Butter Pudding and some ice cream
The succulent bread and butter pudding

Should I even mention the dessert over at Lucky? They also had the bread and butter pudding, and it tasted like neither bread nor butter. The apple crumble was good- went great with the soft serve ice cream. Then there’s a whole host of cakes and the obligatory green jelly. I was happy with the apple crumble ice cream mix I made.

I love these- pastry over a bowl of seafood soup

The ice cream/apple crumble/bread n butter at Lucky

All in all I truly think that we human beings should never be pampered with the good life. Once you’ve tasted honey, it becomes increasingly difficult to go back to sugar. I remember not 5 years ago I would’ve been completely satisfied with the Lucky Buffet offering. But now? Thanks to the likes of Masterchef and Twitter, my horizon has broadened substantially, and this could mean only one thing- my waistline expanding exponentially relative to my horizon…

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New York Restaurant

New York Restaurant
18 Kellett St
Kings Cross
Sydney NSW 2011
Phone (02) 9357 2772

Open : 11:30-2:30pm and 4-8pm
Closed Sundays

I used to think of myself as a periodic-regular at the New York, whether with others or, if I was passing by, solo, but I hadn't been there for a while, so it was clearly time for a visit.

This old Kings Cross stalwart is in a time warp and league of its own. Its history was documented in 2007 by Therese Sweeney in a council grant sponsored exhibition at the Kings Cross Library called Conversations at the Diner. I actually attended its launch and then, as seemed to be appropriate, went to the New York for dinner afterwards, though it felt kind of peculiar to go there for dinner rather than lunch.

I can't remember how I happened across the New York but I do know that it fulfils a role in the area and that it always makes me happy when I visit. The clientele are a cross section of the area, and I believe that the day time customers are different to the night time ones; a lot of cabbies at night for example.

When I went about once a month, I'd see some familiar faces, including the famous Animal of the Kings Cross Bikers, but I haven't seen him for a while. There are some who go there alone, and who talk to other regulars across the room. I have seen couples and families there, but generally it's people eating by themselves, and usually people who do not need a menu, as they are creatures of habit. They are flexible there, you can ask for numerous adjustments to the menu listings, or even create a mixture for yourself within reason.

One of their endearing things is the slices of white or wholemeal bread you get.

People I've taken there have tried some things which I have to confess I wouldn't eat, like the lamb roast with the Deb potatoes, or the chicken in white sauce. I stick to the Rump Steak with Salad and Chips ($8.50).

Or the Vienna Schnitzel (3 pieces) with Salad & Chips ($9).

It may not be the most glamorous place in town, nor even have the best food, but their chips beat many others I've had for many times the price, they do their Rump Steak nicely and the Schnitzel isn't half bad either.

Besides which, where else can you get a large lemon cordial for $1.40 and see a section called "Cold Collation"?

Top Gear Watch Spotting

Although many of the Sydney Tarts love Top Gear and do notice the watches, Tart ENT has been watching Season 13 of Top Gear with a view to identifying each of the watches that are appearing on the wrists of James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, and taking some screenshots of them.

Watches identified to date in Season 13 are:

1. Jeremy Clarkson: Omega Planet Ocean, Omega Railmaster XXL
2. James May: Rado, vintage Rado, Omega Railmaster XXL
3. Richard Hammond: Rolex Sub date, JLC Squadra, Breitling chrono of some sort...

In doing some research on this, it seems that there is some interest in what watches the three of them wear. In fact whilst doing this interview, James May says that he is wearing an IWC Portuguese, and mentions Rados, an Omega Seamaster, two JLCs (Reverso, Memovox), a Baume & Mercier, and an Oris. As well as his first watch, a Timex.

The Portuguese has been identified on watch fora as Reference IW371417.

In this piece, James May writes about his horological interests and of how he doubts he'll ever buy the Omega Railmaster XXL , a hefty 49mm piece.

As is the case with so many of us, it seems that the lust overcame him :

Jeremy Clarkson's ridiculing of James May's watch fetish also seems to done a backflip, as he has also been seen wearing the Omega Railmaster XXL (his own or his erstwhile colleague's?) :

As well as a UBoat Classico Chrono :

The screenshots :

1. Richard Hammond : Rolex Sub Date Ref. 16610

Another shot of the same watch :

3. Richard Hammond : JLC Squadra

4. James May : Think this is a vintage Rado. Not sure.

5. James May : IWC Portuguese Chrono

And here are some further screenshots from older episodes.

Richard Hammond : Tag Heuer Grand Carrera

Jeremy Clarkson : Bremont ALT1-C

Richard Hammond has also been seen in past episodes wearing a Breitling Chronomat. In this Q&A from 2008, he mentions that he was wearing his Tag Heuer Monaco during the 2006 crash and that he still wears it.

Apparently Jeremy Clarkson also wore a orange Bell & Ross in the US special but I can't seem to find a photo of it.

If you have any TG wristshots to share, please do, and if you want to read all our other Top Gear watch spotting posts, just select the 'Top Gear' tag link below.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Big Rig Diner - an Apollo 11 40th Annivesary Lunar GTG

Big Rig Diner
231 Oxford St
Sydney NSW 2010
Tel: +61 (02) 9326 0044

Open Tuesday to Saturday : 6pm until late

23 July 2009

Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary Book

With a large number of the Sydney Tarts owners of Omega Speedmasters of various models and vintages, and with some lunar buffs as well, it seemed only natural that we organise a GTG to commemorate the 40th annivesary of Apollo 11's lunar landing.

After bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and with the assistance of the reviews by Not Quite Nigella and Simon Food Favourites, we got into contact with them about the possibility of a booking for 15. Phil, the owner was very helpful, but told us that in order to ensure that we had seating, we should arrive at 6pm.

It was only when we found ourselves there that we realised why. The Big Rig Diner is not a large establishment, and had some of our group not had to drop out for flu and other related reasons, we could have easily taken up all the booths.

Menu and the Snoopy Speedmaster Snoopy Limited Edition.

The Apollo 10 lunar module was called "Snoopy" and the popular Beagle was chosen as an emblem for NASA's most prestigious award. The "Silver Snoopy" is still awarded today, both to individuals and companies, for outstanding effort that contributes to the success of human space missions. The award comprises of a sterling silver pin in the form of Snoopy wearing a space helmet and space suit. Omega received its Snoopy Award on 5 October 1970 in recognition of the crucial role that its Speedmaster Chronograph played on the Apollo 13 mission.

The Speedmaster Professional "Eyes on the Stars" was released in 2003 in recognition of Omega having received the Snoopy Award and limited to 5441 pieces, this number reflecting the elapsed time of the Apollo 13 mission: 142 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds. The Snoopy Award design is etched and painted on the sapphire crystal case back.

Set of Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary pins

Apollo XI
Apollo XIII
Apollo / Soyuz
Countdown To Mars
Solarimpulse Project
True North Pole Expedition
Unchanged since 1957
50th Anniversary logo

Getting ready for the table shots

L to R : I can barely remember... let's see now... there's no way I'd know the reference numbers so I'll just refer to them by their calibers... oh what the hey... from left: Speedmaster Cal. 1861, the most modern Speedy, Speedmaster Cal 321, from late 60s, another Speedmaster Cal 321, again from the late 60s, the Snoopy Speedy, Cal 1861, and the Speedmaster Broad Arrow, Automatic movement, Cal. 3303

L to R : Some sort of Casio, Speedy 321, 1861, Snoopy 1861, another 321, Broad Arrow, Rolex GMT Master II with pepsi bezel (at least I think it is... can't remember...) Omega Flightmaster CAl 910, Omega Marine Chronometer (The most accurate quartz movement of its time).

Speedmaster Cal. 321 and Omega Flightmaster

Chilli Chips ($5.50) & Regular Chips ($4)

Beef Burger $13.50 (did not come with any chips)

Pie with mash, peas and gravy ($13.50)

Prawn Fajitas ($18)

Beef Fajitas ($16)

Platter reminiscent of 1970s Australian Chinese restaurants! Tortillas in the background.

Guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa (of sorts), lettuce - for fajitas.

Beef fajita ready to eat...

Cherry Pie

Pecan Pie

Good night and goodbye from the Head Tart....