October 30, 2014

Giddy Up

I almost had a catastrophe. Almost. This near catastrophe that ended up not being a catastrophe is the reason behind this post being delivered to you much later than originally scheduled. 

You see, a couple of weeks ago I had a late Sunday afternoon lunch at Samson's Paddock in Mosman Park with Mark from The Foodie Hub. Having only been opened for four weeks, I think it was exactly four weeks on the date of our visit, we of course wanted to sample their fine wares. We snapped away on our big black cameras with protruding lenses, ate and then parted ways. Later that night I transferred some photos from my camera's memory card onto my laptop. I have a habit of slipping my memory cards into the pockets of my clothes, that's if I'm wearing pockets with clothes. Days passed and I couldn't find this memory card. I searched high and low and came to the conclusion I must have left it in my pocket which means the memory card took a spin in my washing machine. Again I searched. No trace of it in the machine, amongst my clothes or outside. Alas, it was gone and with it all my photos I had yet to backup including those taken at Samson's Paddock.

I fretted for a little longer hoping that this wasn't wasn't the fate that befell it. After sifting through a pile of letters on my desk I found it wedged between some envelopes. Oh happy days! And now, I can finally bring this post to you.

Located on Glyde Street in Mosman Park, Samson's Paddock is a deceivingly large restaurant with two dining areas inside and a large outdoor area built over a couple of levels and furnished with lounge seating. The outdoor area is so inviting and I couldn't turn down a table in the sun but prior to ordering food we moved inside as it became just a tad too harsh even for my sun loving self. I wonder what they plan to do in summertime as I think it would be quite difficult for patrons to sit unshaded during the day which is a shame as their outdoor set up is quite lovely.

The menu comes in the form of a book. A large selection of food and drink choices is offered with further details in the back of the book on the various wines. I wanted to try a selection of their tasting plates so I ordered the pan fried chicken livers, polenta fritters and coconut crusted tiger prawns while Mark had the chicken salad that was made up of baby spinach, strawberries, ricotta and walnuts. Yes, all those tasting plates were for me. Ain't no shame in my eating game.

We had retreated from the outdoor area to the second dining room that is off to the side of the bar. With its large windows it's a beautiful light filled room. Our food arrived and looked just as beautiful.

I chatted with our server about the liver dish and she asked if I had eaten liver before. Are you kidding me? I love the stuff. She said she enjoys this dish herself but finds many patrons are apprehensive to order it although when they do they end up loving it. Get on the liver y'all. You don't know what you're missing.

Served with toasted ciabatta, ricotta and onion jam it was fantastic. The polenta fitters came with a smokey remoulade and were crispy on the outside but creamy on the inside. As a good fritter should be.

The tiger prawns was such a pretty looking dish. Wrapped in shavings of coconut and then fried golden, it was crispy enough to eat whole, shell and all. There's something quite joyful about crunching away on a crispy fried prawn shell.

I left Mark to eat his salad while I enjoyed these three dishes. Although he offered it to me to taste, I passed and concentrated on my three plates. It would have been great if I was able to try a couple more of their tasting plates as I enjoyed my three very much, but there's only so much I can eat. Almost all of their menu looked quite appealing. To me Samson's Paddock is a great place to set yourself up for those lazy weekend afternoons with friends enjoying great food. Especially come those fantastic balmy summer evenings spent outside on one their lounges with a refreshing drink in hand.
Samsons Paddock on Urbanspoon

October 28, 2014

Happy Trails

As a child, I often accompanied my parents to various garage sales and swap meets on the weekends. To be honest, I hated it. I always felt that I would be mortified if one of my little friends saw me as though they'd judge me for being at these places where they sold "old stuff". The funny thing was that I would often see my friends from school and they would excitedly run up to greet me and chat away. Despite this I still reluctantly followed my parents around and it was really only because I was forced to go as I was too young to stay home by myself otherwise I'm sure I would have stayed happily on the couch watching Saturday morning cartoons.

To this day my mum still enjoys doing the rounds even though she rarely buys anything. I ask her each time I find out she's been at a garage sale or swap meet exactly what it is she goes with the intention to find and buy and her response is always nothing, she just wants to see what people are selling. Perhaps my sulkiness as a child in being dragged around to the garage sales contributed to my adult hesitation to shop more thriftily. It was only in more recent years that I embraced shopping for second hand goods and even (gasp!) participating in the time honoured tradition of crawling the verges during junk collection week. I'm a financially savvy person so I thought to myself, why pay a higher cost for an item of vintage provenance to someone who went to the trouble of sourcing it when I could do the same thing myself? With that I threw off the shackles that had bound me for many years and found what I had been missing out on for so long.

You couldn't imagine how excited my mum was when she found out about the Garage Sale Trail event that was being held across Australia and to be honest, I was also looking forward to seeing if anyone else's trash might be waiting to become my treasure. Knowing that Many 6160 was holding its second Blogger Emporium sale to coincide with the Garage Sale Trail event in Fremantle, I decided to start my hunting and gathering in the port city.

Kings Square was filled with a number of stalls and vendors. Some selling items for the home and other bric-a-brac, others selling handmade crafts and clothing. Along with the Blogger Emporium I was specifically starting in Fremantle so that I could check out the 100 Hampton Road stall. Previously written about on the blog, 100 Hampton Road is a project by FORM and I knew that the residents had been learning various skills and participating in workshops, the results from which were being offered for sale during at their Garage Sale Trail stall. I was really eager to see the wood pieces which they had crafted under the tutelage of Andrew Christie from A Good Looking Man. I'm familiar with the work Andrew creates, in fact his workshop is located at Many 6160, so I definitely wanted to see what he had worked on with the Hampton Road residents. Colourful slatted stools and planter boxes were stacked high and they all looked so well made. If it weren't for having forbidden myself from buying any more house items until I've moved into my next house I would have taken home a pair of stools.

I didn't apply this ban to purchasing a jar of the burnt orange marmalade that some of the other residents cooked up with Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio. If there's ever a tasting station, you're sure to find me there and I happily sampled all the jams, jellies and chutneys. The marmalade was the clear winner though. Packed full of huge pieces of orange, it was a citrus delight. It was nice to chat to a couple of the residents who were manning the stall that day. I think they did an amazing job with their products.

Marmalade in hand I wandered into Many 6160 and got stuck into conversations with almost all of the bloggers. Put bloggers in a room together and it's nothing but chatter. A couple of my lovely friends were running stalls at the Emporium, amongst them A Minute Away From Snowing's Michelle, Heidy of Love Thy Muse, Sharon from Sass and Spice and Demelza Buckley. So many other bloggers were also there and on more than one occasion I had resolved to leave before seeing someone else and ending up in conversation with them.

Something that I like about the Blogger Emporium concept is that is pulls together bloggers who all have their own distinct style. There were a mixture of pieces, ranging from the classic to the more on-trend and a variety of designer and more affordable items costing only a couple of dollars. I purchased a lovely pair of Chloe sunglasses from Heidy. The soft brown tone of the frame suited my colouring so well and was a perfect size for my face. I also found a cute little coat amongst Nadine from Modern Girls in Vintage Pearls' rack. All up I spent a grand total of thirty dollars on these two items. Not a bad morning of shopping. I plan to change the buttons on the coat to something a little bit fancier and it's then going to get packed with the rest of my New York City wardrobe.

Sustainability is part of what the Garage Sale Trail was about. Reducing the amount of waste that goes into our landfills and simply just avoiding throwing away the things we no longer need or have a use for but still have plenty of their effective life in them. Don't you like how I threw in a bit of my accounting lingo there? Consumerism in society is as big as its ever been and will continue to become an even bigger beast. I don't deny that I'm part of this. When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, I'm well experienced in the acquisition side of things. However I am more conscious now than I was in the past about the things I purchase and the reason for my purchases. Given that I work in the Perth CBD I'm actually quite restrained and do not often find myself going for a leisurely shop. Something else that I'm increasingly conscious of is the built in obsolescence of so many of the products we purchase. My phones have never lasted with any decent level of functionality beyond two years, which perhaps not so surprisingly is in line with most of contracts available on these phones. Part of the appeal to me in thrift shopping, other than finding something special and unique, is that often what you find was made to a higher quality and standard that would last. I have vintage clothing and furniture pieces that are decades old but show no signs of imminent death. In fact, they'll probably last long enough for you to find them at my own garage sale in the distant future.

October 26, 2014

A Grand Affair

There's nothing like having something a little bit exciting happen to break up what can at times be a pretty ordinary and monotonous week. Sometimes a quick but fulfilling rendezvous is all you need to put a little spring back into your step. Other times a slightly more leisurely affair is what you need to recharge the batteries so that you can plough through the days until the respite of the weekend arrives. The way things have been lately for me though, the weekends provide no more rest than what I get during the week but I'm not complaining because I wouldn't have it any other way. One thing that's a certainty about it, I only ever do what I want to do and if I'm not feeling it, I'm not having it.

It was only the start of my new week when I was contacted by the manager of Silks restaurant at Crown Perth. One of the most premium venues in Perth, I was looking forward to dining there midweek as I have eaten at all the previous Chinese restaurants at Crown (in its former existence as Burswood) and I had intended to eat there in the near future so I definitely think the fortune cookie crumbled in my favour when I received this invitation. 

Upon arrival we were greeted by Jeffery, the manager, who took us to our table right in the centre of the main dining floor. Three extremely large and impressive decorative urns, which immediately command your attention when you walk in, set the grand mood for the night. It was all very fancy. 

The plush and spacious interiors are a very elegant cream and gold and semi private booths are dotted along the side of the room for more intimate dining. If we're talking grand affairs, sometimes a little discretion is appreciated. 

The menu had already been put together for us by the chef, which I appreciated as I wanted my dining experience to be left in their hands. Being my first time to Silks I wanted to shy away from the dishes I would usually order and try something new and different. 

Following our asparagus amuse-bouche, on the menu for us that evening was a trio of honey glazed barbeque pork, peking duck consomm√© and marinated strips of cucumber to start the meal and awaken our tastebuds for what was to further come. The duck consomm√© was so warming and delicate in flavour, it certainly beats the bone broth I make at home in my slow cooker. The thick and moist pieces of pork meat were certainly some of the nicest barbeque pork I've eaten. 

Next up was the baked crab shell. The flaky crab meat was flavoured with a spicy Portuguese sauce which I would think lends itself to the Portuguese influence you'd find in some dishes of Hong Kong. Jeffery tells me that most of the dishes on the Silks menu is Cantonese style but they do carry some other dishes, such as those cooked in the Szechuan style, to cater to some of their international guests and diners. I really quite enjoyed the crab. 

Following this our main dishes were brought to the table. One of the waiters served us Silk's signature fried rice which is a step or two up from your standard Chinese fried rice. Containing scallop and roast duck, I watched as the waiter very skillfully plated it up for us using two spoons held together in the one hand. To go with our fried rice were the largest king prawns I have ever eaten, kung pao chicken and Mongolian lamb. The lamb was served alongside a steamer pot of soft mantou buns. We were suggested to eat the lamb sandwiched within the mantou to create a little DIY bao. Baos are all the rage right now and I am extremely partial to the soft and slightly sweet buns and could happily eat many of them in one sitting. I'm not a huge fan of lamb but this dish was flavoured well, so was devoid of the overpowering lamb taste that I really do not enjoy. 

The kung pao chicken was studded with pieces of dried chilli and from the moment the lid was removed from the dish the chilli hit me. This is one of the few Szechuan dishes they feature of the menu and one of the signature dishes of the restaurant. For a good solid choice I don't think you can go past this. It's something you find at many Chinese restaurants and it's just one of those great old favourites. My tolerance for chilli is high and it's by no means mild but for anyone who can even handle a low level of heat, I think they'd very easily be able to enjoy this. 

The king prawns were a knock out. As mentioned they were huge. Absolutely massive. Lightly battered and deep fried with a sprinkle of chilli sea salt, it was so enjoyable. 

Although I was now quite full our meal had to be finished off with their signature dessert of mango pudding. Another item that you'll commonly find elsewhere, their mango pudding is a layered creation of the pudding, a lime streusel biscuit crumb, fresh mango pieces and a lime sorbet. Mango pudding is not something I really like but I am a firm believer in always giving something a try. The pudding was silky with a very obvious mango flavour to it that tasted more natural than fake. Although it was a good pudding I have to say I still am not a fan of mango pudding. It's just not something I like. Overall I don't enjoy gelatinous pudding desserts, and that's my personal preference rather than a criticism of their dessert. The streusel crumb, fresh mango and sorbet were all delicious and made for great textures within the dessert as a whole. Our final treat came in the form of a piece of handmade lychee jelly. A fantastically fruity jube, I told Jeffery they should consider boxing them for sale because I would definitely buy them. 

With the food component of the night over Jeffery gave us a tour of the entire restaurant. With private dining rooms on the ground floor of the restaurant and on the level above they can easily cater for functions. The upstairs private dining room has access to a balcony, much like the private dining rooms of Nobu however it unfortunately does not have the view that Nobu does. 

Of interest to me was their dim sum service on weekends. In fact, I was booked in for dim sum that following Sunday and planned to take my mum but she woke up that morning with shingles so I had to cancel those plans. I would still like to return in the near future to try their dim sum. 

Although Silks is a very visually stunning venue with a refined atmosphere, don't think that it's stuffy. The service from the staff is friendly and attentive. I can easily recommend Silks for a variety of occasions, whether it be a family dinner, business or romance. Don't forget to ask for the booth if your visit is of the romantic kind. 

Thank you to Silks for the invitation. All photographs by Shu Daniels of SOUL of SHU.

Silks on Urbanspoon

October 21, 2014

Cut It Out

I think my artistic talents were at their peak in primary school. The comments in my report cards praised my "beautiful, flowing lines" but I don't believe I progressed much beyond that. My high school art project of  an Arcimboldo-esque self portrait was comical and the best grade I achieved in that class was for a coffee table book cover I designed in Photoshop. Layers on layers on layers. Suffice to say, an artist I am not. I rate my artistic ability to be extremely low but though I may not be talented with the paintbrush I am a devotee of the arts and appreciate most artistic pursuits and offerings. 

An invitation was extended to me late last week to flex these limited artistic talents of mine at a clay workshop. Run by local ceramic artist Patricia Fernandes, the Art of Stencilling was the opportunity to get my hands covered in some clay and hopefully have something worth showing at the end of it.

Patricia started conducting workshops this year in response to many of her customers wanting to get a hands on experience in making ceramics and clay pieces. These stencilling workshops are the newest offered by her and puts a twist on her traditional means of decorating and embellishing her creations. 

Photo credit: SOUL of SHU

My exposure to stencilling is limited to that of the graffiti and street art world so I was curious to see how it could be applied to what Patricia does. Armed with my three designs I headed to her studio on Saturday to get my stencil on. I won't even regale you with the very smutty joke I made during the workshop but those in attendance will tell you it was pure gold. 

Photo credit: SOUL of SHU

I initially had planned to make one clay piece and stencil one design on top of another but when I found out that we could make up to four items, I decided to scrap that idea and use two of them for separate pieces. I was restricted with time to use my third stencil as I took a very long time cutting out my first one. 

In addition to her ceramicist talents, Patricia is also something of a whiz in the kitchen. Lunch is included with her workshop and it's far from the usual bland and boring offerings of sandwiches and juice boxes. To begin with, Patricia had baked some delicious chocolate shortbread biscuits that I nibbled on with my cups of tea earlier in the morning and then for lunch she had a roast lamb and bacon garnished potatoes waiting for us in the oven. Helllooooo. Her homemade gravy and mint sauce set the meat and potatoes off just right. 
Oh, and if you're wondering about all those gorgeous colourful dishes on the table. She made them.

After a hugely satisfying lunch we proceeded to the next stage of the workshop; applying our stencil designs to the clay. Having decided on making a platter and two small bowls, I got to working and kneading my clay to shape. Unfortunately my stencil design was not conducive to being applied to a bowl so I made the executive decision to reshape one bowl into a flat plate and apply one of the pre-cut diamond stencils to it and for the other to cut my stencil to shape, hopefully allowing it to fit inside the bowl. 

Although I was disheartened with how my stencil design turned out for the bowl, I was very happy with my large platter. I didn't cut the cleanest lines on my smaller stencils which caused some bleed of the paint but hey, you learn. A stencil artist is not created overnight! 

Photo credit: SOUL of SHU
All our creations were left in the care of Patricia who will be firing them in her kiln. I should receive them in the next couple of weeks. I was quite fastidious in checking my pieces for air bubbles to ensure that there'd be no explosions from my end once they got all toasty in the kiln. 

If you'd like to attend your own ceramic and clay workshop get in touch with Patricia. She also has her Christmas range coming out soon and in addition to that, her work has been featured in Sophie Zalokar's Food of the Southern Forests book! Ballin'!

Hugs and kisses to Patricia for having me at the workshop. 
Oyster & Pearl. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.