Sunday, April 29, 2012

Small Acres Cyder - Pomona Ice

Last weekend Pete and I visited Orange to enjoy the final weekend of Orange's annual F.O.O.D Week. During our visit, we visited Small Acres Cyder, on the foothills of Mount Canobolas. Owned and run by husband and wife duo Gail and James Kendell, Small Acres is the first and sole producer of locally grown and made cider in Central Western NSW.

Today I would like to introduce you all to a real treat - Pomona Ice by Small Acres Cyder. This one is truly unique and incredibly indulgent.

It's golden honeyed hue gives evidence to the production of late harvest apples, where the juice is concentrated by freezing and then extracting the rich apple flavours. Wonderfully smooth, this cider displays luscious sweet apple flavours balanced by a citrus like acidity. It has a clean crisp finish and its  decadence is sure to impress.

Cider Apples!!!!
This non-sparkling cider product has a similar style to a dessert wine and is best served icy cold as an aperitif, with a rich dessert or alongside a cheese platter.

Cider dogs! both of these beauties are named after the cider apple varieties: Sweet Coppin & Cox's Orange Pippin. Coppin is a real poser and an adorable addition to the property. Pippin is a little more reserved but equally adorable.

This quality Australian cider product is exudes sophistication and you really must try it.

At 7.5% a 375ml bottle will provide you with 2.2 standard drinks.

Available Online @ Wood Street Wines, The Oak Barrel and Small Acres Cyder and for local stockists please contact Nick Butler @ Cogito Wines - or on 0458 672 643

Hope you are relaxing today

Friday, April 27, 2012

Otto Ristorante - Menu del Giorno

Otto Ristorante recently launched their new Menu del Giorno created by Head Chef Richard Ptacnik. Italian for 'Menu of the Day', this new addition at Otto provides diners with a tempting cocktail and an entree and main all for a very reasonable $50.

I arrive at Otto and am immediately impressed. It has a stylish yet relaxed atmosphere and the waterside setting doesn't hurt either. I sit down and just as I begin to place my handbag on the floor next to me a waitress greets me with a warm smile and thoughtfully places a leather 'purpose-made' placemat down first. Impeccable service indeed!

We begin with an Aperol Splice - a tempting combination of Aperol, vodka, passionfruit sorbet, lemon juice and egg white. It is light, refreshing and fruity - the perfect aperitif.

The first option for entree is the Kingfish tartare with capers, chilli, egg yolk and olive toast - the majority of my dining companions choose this dish and being a pasta fanatic I decide on the other option. However, when this dish arrives, I am somewhat envious and judging by the comments around the table it's fantastic.

My entree of fettuccine with smoked chicken ragout and spinach puree arrives and I am delighted by the generous portion. You see... I am utterly obsessed with pasta! It smells divine and reminds me of our Italian neighbour whose delicious cooking smells often permeate the front of house of an afternoon. The spinach puree sits within the mound of pasta and we are advised by our waitress to stir it through before we begin. Piping hot, the pasta is silky and perfectly al dente. The smokiness of the chicken ragout is beautifully balanced by a hint of sweetness from the spinach puree. 

We are informed that the pasta is made daily on site using a pasta machine which was recently imported from Italy. It allows chefs to make a whole range of different varieties including pasta infused with flavours like porcini and chestnut. Yum!!!

Cone Bay Barramundi, Jerusalem Artichoke Puree, Mushrooms & Potato
Our delicious feast continues with main course. I nearly always choose the pork belly option when I dine out, however on this occasion I decide to defy tradition and welcome the Cone Bay Barramundi instead. It's skin is crispy and the fish itself is succulent, well seasoned and cooked to perfection.It sits on a bed of Jerusalem artichoke puree which provides a nice sweetness to the dish and the kipfler potatoes and mushrooms are topped with a scattering of fresh herbs and are perfect for mopping up the scrumptious puree.

The twice cooked pork belly, caper and raisin puree, caramelised witlof and almonds is also popular with my fellow diners and it looks impressive. Succulent layers of pork belly are topped with an audible layer of crackling and caramelised witlof. I am told that the caper & raisin puree completes the dish by balancing the richness of the pork and the almonds provide an additional textural element. 

Rich creamy potato goodness!

After our mains we are greeted by head chef Richard Ptacnik who tells us he has prepared something special for us to try. Whilst it doesn't feature on the Menu del Giorno, the Chocolate Budino will soon feature on Otto's regular menu during winter. A baked chocolate fondant style dessert with a decadent molten chocolate ganache centre. It is accompanied by a luscious rum and raisin ice cream which helps to balance out the sweetness of budino - this is my ultimate dessert. Wow!

Delving into chocolate heaven - Chocolate Budino

Otto Ristorante -  Menu del Giorno
Otto Ristorante has long featured on my list of restaurants to visit and after dining here today, I can honestly tell you - it must now feature on yours! Delicious Italian flavours, fresh premium ingredients, impeccable service, and a relaxed stylish atmosphere make Otto's the place to be.

The new Menu del Giorno is subject to change daily and is available Monday through to Sunday between 12-7pm.

Otto Ristorante
8/6 Cowper Wharf Road,
Woolloomooloo, Sydney
For reservations contact (02) 9368-7488

The Food Mentalist dined as a guest of Otto Ristorante.

Otto Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Experience the Ultimate Pleasure with Magnum Infinity

I remember when Streets Magnum first entered the market - Rich and Indulgent, I just had to try each and every one! Once again, Magnum has introduced a new variety - Magnum Infinity.

Made with rare Tanzanian cocoa, this one promises to give us a heightened chocolate pleasure experience. Why? you may ask - Well, it has something to do with a high concentration of theobromine contained in the cocoa. This phytochemical is scientifically proven to have a mild stimulating effect.

What I really love about this product (apart from the taste of course!), is that the cocoa contained within the Magnum Infinity is actually sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms which means that the cocoa farms operate under a set of ethical standards set out by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) - a coalition of nonprofit conservation organisations which address environmental, social and economic criteria.

Available in two flavours, Chocolate and Caramel (100ml) and Chocolate (60ml). Both are a combination of indulgent chocolate ice cream, covered in dark chocolate and real cocoa nibs. The Chocolate and Caramel variety also has a caramel ice cream swirl throughout the chocolate ice cream which helps to balance the intensity of the chocolate. I especially love the mini chocolate variety because they make the perfect after dinner indulgence.

Magnum Infinity can be purchased at all major retail outlets.

To celebrate the launch, Streets Magnum and The Food Mentalist are giving you a chance to WIN a pleasure pack worth over $90. The pack includes:

  • A Dusk Chocolate Caramel Candle 
  • Oil Garden Aromatherapy Tranquil & Calm Massage Oil 
  • Ella Bache Massage Voucher to the value of $55.00

For your chance to win this pleasure pack, all you have to do is like The Food Mentalist on Facebook here and leave a comment below telling me why you love Magnum. The competition closes at midnight AEST on the Sunday 13th May 2012. Open to Australian residents only. Please leave your name along with your comments and I will contact the winner through Facebook.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Golden ANZAC Slice - 25th April 2012

ANZAC Day is of great significance here in Australia, a time where we all reflect on the sacrifices made by soldiers who have served our country during times of war . It is also a time when we make ANZAC biscuits in memory of those who served during World War I, and who were sent these delicious biscuits as treats as they have a long shelf life and did not require eggs which were scarce during the war.

Lest We Forget...

This time last year,  I shared a recipe for ANZAC heart biscuits which have recently been added to the Fairfax Essential Kids website, check them out here.

This slice is for those who enjoy ANZAC biscuits but want something a little different. If you love sweet things be sure to top it with the icing, otherwise leave it plain.

Golden ANZAC Slice
Recipe adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly - anzac slice with golden icing

125g unsalted butter , chopped
1 cup (220g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbs golden syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) water
1/2 cup coconut ( I used Mackenzies Moist Coconut)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda

icing (optional)
2 cups (320g) icing sugar
1 tbs golden syrup
20g unsalted butter
2 tbs hot water

Preheat oven to 120'C and grease a lamington/slice tin ( about 20cm x 30cm) and line base with baking paper making sure the paper extends about 5cm up the sides.

Stir butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over low heat until well combined and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the combined water and baking soda mixture.

Next, stir in oats, coconut and sifted flour. Spread mixture into tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cool.

optional step
Sift icing sugar into heatproof bowl and stir in golden syrup, butter and enough water to make a thick paste. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until spreadable.

Spread slice with icing and serve.


This slice will keep well in an airtight container for up to a week.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cider Sunday - Two Step Apple Cider

Happy Cider Sunday Readers!

Pete and I are visiting Orange this weekend as part of the annual F.O.O.D week celebrations. Orange is one of our favourite NSW getaways and we visit often. Home to some fabulous food and wine, it's a great place to visit for a relaxing weekend away from Sydney. 

This week's cider is Two Step Apple Cider. Don't you just LOVE the label?!

Produced by microbrewery Mountain Goat in Victoria, this cider is very new to the market. Production began in 2011 under the Two Step brand and it entered the market this year. Mountain Goat have successfully carved out a niche for themselves within the boutique beer industry in Australia, and have won awards for their Surefoot Stout and Rapunzel lines. 

What I love about Mountain Goat is that they employ sustainable practices to reduce their impact on the environment. They utilise solar power and rainwater tanks, have dramatically reduced odor and steam emissions and have even implemented a generous bonus system for staff who cycle to work. Love it!

Made with slow pressed apples, this sparkling cider does not contain any added sugar or concentrates. It has a balanced sweetness with medium beer-like yeasty tones. With this one, I found that the flavours were muted by the addition of ice and I prefer it without. Overall, it's a great entry level, easy to drink cider.

It is also the only cider I have noticed thus far with a twist top lid which makes it nice and easy to drink when out. Perfect for picnics perhaps :)

At 5% alcohol, 330ml bottle will provide you with 1.3 standard drinks.

Mountain Goat product lines are available at Dan Murphy's & Vintage Cellars.

What are you up to today?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sponge Cake w/ Passionfruit Icing

A traditional Australian favourite, the sponge cake evokes fond memories of afternoon teas, and weekend family get togethers. Many a birthday sponge has been shared amongst my family over the years, its the preferred choice.

Many of the popular cooking shows on television have made a point of highlighting the complexities of making a good sponge. Claiming that it's quite an art and that one must be careful not to over mix the batter or risk ending up with something not dissimilar to a cement brick.

My Nan made them for years - the kind of cake where you can't stop yourself as you push your spoon through the layers of sweet sticky passionfruit icing, light fluffy sponge and luscious fresh cream filling. The kind of cake where you look down at your plate and realise you have literally inhaled your piece, and you stare lovingly at the remaining cake wondering if you can in fact successfully divert the attention of others whilst you sneak in a another piece. Stealth is paramount!

I decided to accept the challenge posed by the sponge and try my luck.

I had the perfect occasion, a family lunch was planned and wanting to impress my sponge-loving family I didn't ask Nan for a recipe, I wanted it to be a surprise. I scoured the Internet and found several similar recipes with the occasional odd variant. I took a risk and chose a few bits and pieces from several sponge recipes. The result: my family said they loved it. Success. My Aunt Kim actually asked me to make it again for her birthday later this year. So I guess, it worked.

The sponge cake is an interesting entity when you really think about it and people can be very particular about how they like it. Often my Mother's family debate about whether a sponge should include a smear of strawberry or raspberry jam with the cream filling and whether the cream should be sweetened. These debates continue.

Really, they do.

Despite these important questions, one thing remains constant : The Passionfruit Icing!

Not only are passionfruit delicious, but they actually contain a plethora of vitamins, antioxidants and flavonoids. Some of which include: Vitamin A, B6, C, riboflavin, iron, niacin, folate, phosphorus, copper and potassium. Several studies including a 2009 study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology & Medicine suggest that passionfruit helps reduce anxiety due to certain group of compounds called C-glytcosylflavonoids.

We are lucky here in Australia because passionfruit grows all year round in Queensland, which ensures a steady supply.

I have always thought that to choose a ripe passionfruit I had to pick one that was wrinkled, however this is not the case. The best way is to choose fruit that feels heavy for it's size. As for the best way to store them - well that's easy - room temperature for 2 weeks or up to a month in the fridge. Perfect.

Sponge Cake w/ Passionfruit Icing

A recipe adapted by The Food Mentalist 

Butter or oil spray for greasing
4 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup cornflour
2 tsp SR flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 vanilla bean pod scraped
300ml thickened cream - for whipping
1/2 cup fresh passionfruit pulp
2 1/2 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 200'C and grease two 20cm sponge tins. Line the bases and sides of the tins with baking paper making sure the paper extends approximately 6-8 cm high all the way around each tin.

Separate the eggs and beat whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed. Add egg yolks, one at a time and mix on low speed.

Sift cornflour, SR flour and baking powder into a bowl. Repeat 3-4 times.

Fold egg mixture into flour mixture in two batches, using a spatula. Be careful not to over mix. 

Divide the mixture between the two sponge tins and bake in oven for 20 minutes or until golden and well risen. Make sure you don't open the oven at all during this time. 

To test, press sponge lightly with your finger and if it springs back it is ready.

Remove from oven and cool on a cake rack for several minutes then gently turn out of tins, peel off the baking paper and allow to cool.

When completely cool, fill the sponge with whipped cream to which you added the vanilla bean seeds.

Make icing by combining the passionfruit pulp and icing sugar and spread over the top of the sponge.


What food does your family often debate over?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Helm Bar & Bistro - Darling Harbour

Looking for a great spot to share a few delicious cocktails after work, or perhaps you are already counting the days until next weekend?

Sexy Saint Cocktail $18
Helm Bar at Darling Harbour have just launched their new cocktail menu and it's really... really good.

Helm Bar & Bistro is located on the Cockle Bay side of Darling Harbour, just alongside Sydney Aquarium.

Girlfriday and I have arrived to sample their new cocktail menu and before we put down our first cocktail, are already planning our next visit.  Bar manager Matt starts by asking us about our favourite cocktail and since it isn't quite lunch someone mentions one with coffee would be nice. Before too long, Matt has whipped us up a delicious Espresso Martini - it has just the right amount of sweetness, a good burst of freshly brewed coffee and a gentle alcoholic nudge of vanilla liqueur and vodka.

Espresso Martini $17
Next, we move on to tasting the Senorita Margarita - and as the description on the cocktail menu suggests this one is the perfect balance of sweet, sour and strong. I have never been a huge fan of margaritas however this one is different and I am quickly converted. The addition of St Germain Elderflower Liqueur and a splash of agave nectar gives this cocktail a delicious sweetness which we both love.

Matt, moves on to our next tasting - a Sexy Saint, and this one has a real kick - not so much in the alcoholic sense but through the addition of chilli. A nice play on words, the title obviously referring to the addition of St Germaine Elderflower Liqueur which is blended with lemon juice, honey and chilli.  Instantly, it reminds me that I must bring Pete here - he would love this one.
Ginny Hendrix $18
A Ginny Hendrix is our next introduction - a blend of Hendricks Gin, Aperol - an Italian aperitif, muddled cucumber, ruby red grapefruit juice, lime and sugar syrup. Bar Manager Matt refers to it as a 'great sunday arvo sipper' and he is spot on - it's easy to drink and has a wonderful blend of flavours. This cocktail is one good reason to look forward to Sunday's. Fortunately, it is served all week too :)

The makings of my favourite - Oriental Sweet Tart
Our final tasting is my favourite - Oriental Sweet Tart. Plymouth Gin, lychee and pear liqueurs and a squeeze of lime. Wow! It doesn't get much better than this.

We also sample some of the mouth-watering food on offer at Helm. The perfect accompaniment to Helm's great range of cocktails.

Delicious duck pancakes & antipasto
Chimichangas - Girlfriday's favourite!

Overall, we both thoroughly recommend Helm Bar & Bistro as the perfect spot to unwind after work or on the weekend for some amazing cocktails and food. Oh! and on Tuesday's they have a special $7 cocktail menu. However, if weekend's are more your thing, they have a great deal where you can get a kilo of fresh prawns for $25 and jugs of beer and cider for $13!

Let me repeat that last bit - a jug of cider for $13!!

Check out Helm Bar & Bistro on Facebook - and enter their 'Kinky Cocktail Competition' to receive a complimentary cocktail when you next visit.

Help name this cocktail - head to Helm on Facebook

Helm Bar & Bistro
Aquarium Wharf
Wharf Road,
Darling Harbour

Tell me, what is your favourite cocktail?

The Food Mentalist & Guest attended Helm Bar & Bistro as guests of Helm Bar & George @ Wasamedia