Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice! This is a late post of Tang Chek Festival , recipe and photo by Emmaline Lee and her daughter. This festival is not only celebrated in China but in many Asian countries that does not have the winter season.

As for me, I had almost forgotten about this event till I saw Em's Facebook page the other day and I yelled out loud, "Oh, I remember those things!" It's funny and I totally get this Chinese celebration now. The time of the year for family gathering, celebrating the end of short days, apparently days with longer sunlight means positive energy. More of the Ying and Yang thing later when I find out more.

When I was growing up in Malaysia, I remembered that we would spend half the night making this, helping Mum rolled out the balls. At that age, all I wanted to do was muck around when the novelty wore off and I wanted to go to sleep. I couldn't understand why we had to sit up half a nite, rolling bucketloads of glutinous rice balls. I was then and still am pretty ignorant in all things Chinese and in so many ways, I am so westernised, as my Mum would say.

That's right, my Mum would go all "Joy Luck Club" on me and complained that since I don't know my beginnings, therefore I won't know my endings. Like, really? That is deep, what does that even means? Meh, and those of you who know me; will know that I would get all defensive and rebel and grumble and complain till the very last ball was rolled. I was a child, a selfish one and what I didn't want to know then, I sure am trying to find out now. So like the ball, I am coming full circle.

So anyway, here the recipe from the lovely Emmaline and her daughter took this photo.

"Tang Chek - all u need is glutinous flour. Mix with water, mix color n roll, roll , roll bulat bulat. For syrup, u need pandan leaves n rock sugar. When boiling, throw the ee into pot. U can eat it hot or cold ( with ice cubes or chilled). Enjoy !!!

Roll Bulat bulat...Translation : Roll and roll and make it round like a ball. Hahhahahha ;) Ok, I don't know the measurement, you'll just have to "agak agak"... estimate, see the texture of dough.

Photo - All Rights Reserved to Emmaline Lee

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lemongrass Prawns on Stick

My dinner tonite was inspired by a food magazine that I had recently purchased. It was the best read ever and I really love this food magazine that I ended up subscribing it for a whole year. Anyway, I was reading this particular advertisement in the magazine at lunchtime... wait, let me rephrase that! I was drooling over the picture of the grilled prawns and I just knew that I had to come home and cook it. It was simple enough, took me less than twenty minutes to prep the prawns, and that was including deveining ( is there such a word? ) and marinating and then putting it on skewers and chucking it under the grill.

I wanted chinese vegetables to accompany it, so I decided on Kailan and Beansprouts also known as Chinese Broccoli and Beansprouts ;) Hehehe.. golly gosh I am smart today. Actually, it was the only veges that I had in the fridge, so I am just winging it, as I go.

  • 10 large King Tiger Prawns or Banana prawns, whatever you can get, Lobster tails are even better!
  • 2 tablespoon of Thai marinade, this marinade has coriander, lemongrass, garlic, basil and chilli. If you have time, you can make these marinade in advance to store using fresh herbs and spices. They are handy for quick stirfries.
  • 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce for basting
  • A sprig of coriander for garnish
  • I tablespoon of Oyster sauce for the chinese vegetable stirfry

Preheat the grill or barbeque. BBQ is better but sometimes you should really just cook inside when it gets scary dark outside, yup, even in summer!
Using a skewer, thread the prawns, tail end first onto the skewer. Repeat until those suckers are skewered.
Then coat the prawns with the marinade, leave it alone for a while and go check your Facebook.
When you come back, put the prawns skewers under the grill, turning after four minutes. Keep an eye on it, don't let the tail burn.
While this is grilling, heat up your wok, and throw in the chinese broccoli and beansprouts. Tossed it around for a couple of times and add the oyster sauce. Turn off heat and plate it.
Serve immediately with cooked prawns on the bed of chinese veg.

Xmas cookies

Last weekend, I decided to make some xmas cookies. So I spend the day baking like crazy, like my life depended on it... and it was rather fun and succesful. For once, I did not fail in baking. Nothing was burnt, my house is still standing and that is always a bonus! I gotta say, the house smelt heavenly of buttery vanilla cookies and ginger from the gingerbread. Nothing could be better, except an alcoholic ginger beer of course, this Ninja must go raid her neighbour's fridge again.. mmm!

My Leaning Tower of Cookies

I took some cookies to work today. I am so glad that my co-workers like the cookies. Plenty more where they came from.

Shortbread cookies adapted from Xmas Recipes
250g softened butter
150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
375g (2 ½ cups ) plain flour
Pinch salt

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Sift the flour and salt and add gradually to the butter mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap or greaseproof paper and chill for 2 – 3 hours in the fridge.
Preheat oven to moderate (180degC/160deg fan-forced)). Grease two biscuits trays or line with baking paper.
Remove from fridge. If it seems brittle, soften by kneading gently with your hands. Roll out onto a lightly floured surface and cut with angel and star-shaped cutters.
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until lightly coloured. Remove from oven. Cool biscuits on cake racks before dusting with icing sugar or decorating with white frosting and silver cachous and M&Ms.

Gingerbread Cookies Copied from Mrs Fred's Ninjabread Men recipe.
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1 egg
3/4 cup of molasses
3 cups of flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking soda

Quietly cream together the shortening, sugar, spices and salt. Add egg and mix thoroughly, add the molasses and blend into the night.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add the molasses misture with deadly accuracy and stir till blended and then chill it in the fridge.
Moving like the wind, preheat the oven to 375 degrees farenheit. If you do not the conversion in celcius, just wing it.. nuh, I am joking with you, don't guess, do google it!
Using a third quater of the dough at a time, roll into 1/8 inch or slightly thicker on light flour pastry cloth or baking paper with a rolling pin.
Release the Ninjas. Transfer them carefully into a greased baking sheet and repeat remaining dough.
Err, You may use your remainder dough for Xmas gingerbread men since it is Christmas. Heheh ;)
Place in the oven and let them fight, bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on rack and decorate the survivors!!

Xmas cookies

Friday, December 16, 2011

Work Breakup Lunch

Just a short post wishing everyone a Happy Xmas and safe travels if you are travelling.

Most people would have finished work today, but not us....sobs.. We are a special mob.. sigh! We did take off early for a work lunch at the Duke of Kent Hotel, downtown. Here are some photos of our lunch today ;) Gotta be happy with that! Mick and I had the Rump Steak, which was today's Daily Special, it has prawns and avocado with salad or veges on creamy mustard seed sauce. It was superb! I love my cow!

Brenton had the Cajun Chicken Burger and Nic had the Steak Sandwich with the works. Looks like a burger except the it was steak inside. She had trouble eating it. My thoughts were, that the steak inside the sanga, should have been sliced, to make for easier eating in small bites.

NOMS!!!!! Need to have a lie down now...all that wine.... mmmmmm

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Apricot Tart

I love summer ;) Stonefruits are in abundance and oh my God! Mangoes, don't even get me started on them, I am thinking there should be a scent for mangoes in the perfume range.. No? Maybe I will just make my own mango shampoo or something...

Back to stonefruits, err, yes, one of my favourites are the apricots. I love them, dried, stewed and fresh as well. Today, I am following a recipe from for this easy free form Apricot Tart.

Fingers and toes crossed and let's not burn the kitchen down. I have followed it to a tee except for kosher salt. What is that? Hmmm.... must google, meanwhile, yup table salt will do and this is why I failed at baking everytime!! Err, sometimes, not so good when I improvise ;)

I know I can't bake but I still carry on like a trooper, baking like nutter, I hate being a failure, so if I must fail, I will damn well fail splendidly..teeeheheh ;) Wonder what will happen if I accidentally dropped some white choc bits in it?

Short Crust Pastry:

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water

Apricot Filling:

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) fresh ripe apricots (8 large or 14 small apricots)

1/3 - 1/2 cup (65 - 100 grams) granulated white sugar (or to taste)

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt  {I don't know what this is, so I used table salt heheheh ;) }


1/4 cup (25 grams) chopped pistachios or almonds

The method as per the recipe
Short Crust Pastry: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until the pastry just holds together when pinched. Add remaining water, if necessary. Do not process more than about 30 seconds.

Turn the pastry out onto your work surface, gather it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour to chill the butter and allow the gluten in the flour to relax.

Once the pastry has chilled, remove from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 13 inch (32 cm) square. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the apricots.

Apricot Filling: Wash the apricots. Cut the apricots following the suture from stem to blossom end and then up the opposite side. Gently twist the two halves of the apricot and it should easily separate. Remove the seed and cut each half into two or three wedges (depending on size). Place the wedges of apricots in a large bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Then add the granulated white sugar and toss gently to combine. Arrange the apricot wedges evenly on the pastry (cut side up), leaving about a two inch (5 cm) wide border. Scrape any remaining sugar from the bowl and sprinkle over the apricots. Gently fold the edges of the pastry up and over the apricots, pleating as necessary. Make sure to seal any cracks in the pastry.

Bake the tart in a preheated 405 degree F (205 degree C) oven for about 35 - 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Garnish with chopped pistachios or almonds. Best served warm, with vanilla ice cream.

Makes one - 11 inch (26 cm) tart.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Assam Prawns

When I was growing up, I would spend some of my weekends at my grandfather's house. It was by the sea in a little fishing village called Tanjung Dawai in Malaysia. Grandpa ran a sundry shop and he would always give us treats when we visited. Of course, that was a bonus, having a sundry shop with lollies and stuff to eat but I do love going there to visit with my cousins as well. Three families lived in that house. It was a small house but the layout was open and spacious with the backyard facing the sea.

This was where I developed my fondness for seafood and I was very fortunate and thankful that I am not allergic to any shellfish. I could eat all kinds of seafood ranging from clams, squids, pipis, prawns and fishes. My uncles were fishermen and they would bring back all the goodies from the sea. 

Daytime was spent wandering around the beach with my cousins, digging for clams and watching the womenfolk hanging and drying up the fishes and squids. I love my childhood days. Evening was all about huge family dinner with seafood meals. After dinner, my cousins and I would try to catch fireflies for our night light. Grandpa's house had no electricity then and he would only use kerosene lamps for lighting. Cooking was done with a big wok over hot charcoal. Water had to be drawn from a well. I remember freaking out one time when we had to rescue a chicken from the well because it had fallen in. I refused to bathe that day. 

Grandpa didn't put electricity in his house till the mid-eighties. I didn't mind. For me, it was all a big adventure whenever I visited my grandpa. Bedtime was also a pleasure, I never once protested when told to go to bed; I would listen to the waves of the ocean before dozing off.

One particular dish and recipe that I can recall and still love to eat is the "Tamarind Prawns" also known as "Assam Prawns". This is a favourite local dish. Almost every Malaysian household would have their own versions and because it is so simple and flexible, you can adjust to your taste. Tamarind is a fruit, its pulp or skin can be added to any Malaysian dish for the sour taste. Some may like to add chilli or sugar to this dish. 

My version is very simple. It’s so good that you’ll be making lip smacking noise trying to suck the shells off the tamarind prawns and yes, it will be a little sour at first, till you get to the sweetness of the prawn meat.

Assam Prawns (serves 4)

  • 800grams of Large Green Banana Prawns
  • 4 tablespoons of Tamarind Pulp 
  • 2 tablespoons of Dark Soy Sauce or use Kicap Manis (Indonesian Sweet Dark Soy Sauce)
  • I tablespoon of sugar (optional) Omit if using Kicap Manis.
  • 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • Garnish: Sliced chillies and scallions or chives

  1. Wash prawns and pat dry, do not remove the shells. You can opt to keep the head on or not. Some may like to have their prawns deveined and shells removed.
  1. Put the tamarind pulp in a bowl.
  1. Add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, to soften the tamarind pulp. Use your fingers to press on the pulp and mix it in with the water. While it mixes, the meat of the tamarind will separate from the seed; throw away the tamarind seeds. Leave the extracted juice aside. It should not be too watery; it should be paste-like juice extract.
  1. Marinade the prawns in the tamarind juice for an hour.
  1. Heat up your wok and add some cooking oil.
  1. Throw in your marinated prawns and stir fry it on very high heat. Cook for few minutes or when the prawns have changed their colour. Add the kicap manis, omit sugar if using kicap manis. Use sugar if you are using dark soy sauce. Add any leftover tamarind juice extract to wok. 
  1. Garnish and serve immediately with a bowl of hot steamy Jasmine rice. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Stakeout?

So, the boy is back at La Porchetta last nite with school mates in town. This time I went home and cooked myself a Chicken Mignon. It was NOMS! I was starving...Any other time I would have been staking out across the street, hiding in some bushes and checking up on them ...ahemm! But I spend the evening watching another scary movie after my dinner. This movie was so slow and it dragged on and I gave up on it. It was not even scary!

You know what is scary though? Picking up the boy after his dinner and stopping by Gelatissimo, which was next door to La Porchetta. Look at the food porn. Plus that I am givng up carbs and sugar at the moment. So I started the diet with steaks, been eating meat and veg and meat and salad but weakened when I saw that Woolies were selling macarons. Yup I bought it... no sugar diet will begin when the macs are gone. This was seriously tempting.. Really? How is a girl supposed to go on a diet?

"Look away....look away...nothing to see here..."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gourmet Traveller Wine

This is a sponsored post about Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine

I panicked when I first got the email for this assignment for Gourmet Traveller Wine. Am I going to be articulate enough? What if they don’t understand me? I don’t know the first thing about wine or the making of wine. What will I write about? I can’t write, no way. Do I like wines? Yes. That’s a good start! 

All I know is, having lived in New Zealand previously for seven years and working in the hospitality industry then, I was always surrounded by wines and winemakers for wine tasting days at the hotel where I worked at. I even lived across a vineyard by Burnham Camp in New Zealand. That is in the South Island, about 15 minutes out of Christchurch city. We had Giesen Wines vineyard right outside our doorsteps. Weekends were spent going on their tours. The part that I enjoyed the most is not the chemistry lesson; I love the wine tasting part, so I would get restless, and tried not to look bored whilst thinking to myself “Err, hurry up and let’s get drinking already.” This is why I love vineyards and cellar door sales, it’s the wine tasting. I know what I like and I buy what I like. It’s not a hard sell, just pour me some samples and there you go. I‘m sold! So when I was asked to review a wine magazine, what can I say, sheer panic! I thought I might give it a go and bought myself the magazine, if anything, I will learn more about Australian wines. I am severely lacking knowledge in this area.  

Looking at the cover photo of the magazine, it had a photo of a glass of red with some berries and cherry. I had to laugh. Not because it was funny or anything, because that was how I would have described my wine. To describe any of it really, it’s like drinking fruity sunshine!  

My favourite article in this Wine magazine
 is the “Coonawarra Unearthed” article which was featured in the Travel section and it’s no great surprise there, as I love travelling myself. I love reading travel articles, even more when there’s food or wine involved. I like to imagine that I was strolling thru the vineyards under the warm sunshine. I like this article because I can relate to it; it’s about cabernet sauvignon, which is one of my favourite red wines. Plus, it’s in South Australia, so it’s not too far to travel. 

Someday I may visit Adelaide and do all the wine trips along the way in the countryside. Coonawarra is almost midway between Adelaide and Melbourne. This is a red wine country like no other place in Australia. It beckons me! Do you know what else appealed to me about the article? The images, on the front of article alone, there’s this huge tree and as far as your eyes can see it, lay the vineyard in its glory. 

Wow, and this is why Coonawarra is the most celebrated vineyards. What lies beneath the surface is what matter most, the soil. Apparently, this is where Coonawarra aligns with Champagne, The Loire, Alsace and Burgundy in Europe. The secret weapon is limestone. Limestone is what regulates the soil. I learned that limestone sucks away the entire heavy deluge and retains the moisture and Coonawarra has the best iron rich, rusty red soil also known as terra rossa. This is what the locals claimed to be the best agricultural soil. 

So from reading this, if you stop at the front of Balnaves Coonawarra Estate, you will see in between the vine is a deep soil pit, proudly displayed to show you the depth of the terra rossa. The terra rossa is six inches deep over limestone and just a meter away, terra rossa in a full meter in depth. Travel magazines. So a bit of history here, viticulture was first introduced in Coonawarra in 1890 by a Scottish pioneer named John Riddoch. What a good man, I’ll say! 

Who doesn’t like a glass of red every now and then? Isn't it supposed to be good for you or something like that? Anyway, just across the highway is Yalumba, who hasn’t heard of Yalumba wines? Why, it’s famous! I am sure that I have drunk a few Yalumba wines. However, before this article on the wine magazine, I didn’t even know that it came from Coonawarra, there you go, I learned something new today. This red wine country is where you get the best Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot. Merlot is the natural partner to Cabernet. To describe it in plain English, well, at least to me anyway, it softens the blow. Cabernet is this rich powerful red wine that hits you full force, but the addition of merlot mellows it down. I love it. It’s beautiful.

You can taste the rich berries in it, it’s fruity and yet warm, it’s intense in colour and it taste really good. Take my word for it or go out and buy a bottle of red from Coonawarra. You will not regret it. Another wine partnership that I really enjoy is the Cabernet and Shiraz blend. All I know is that it is fabulous with a big juicy thick steak. You get your rich berry with pepper spicy taste. How good is that? I am definitely visiting this place. Who wants to come on a great wine drive with me? No? Well, what about a competition just by buying a subscription to any of the Travel magazines then?

Be eligible to win one of 10 fabulous Hawaiian holiday packages valued at over $12,000 each with Magshop’s Christmas Competition. Simply subscribe or renew for yourself or treat family and friends to any of the 35 participating titles including Gourmet Traveller WINE, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Top Gear Australia, Australian House &Garden, Shop Til You Drop, UFC, Money, and many more.

Xmas shopping at The Ware House

Hi all,

Xmas is almost upon us and how many of you have done your shopping? Well technically, I started mine last week by redeeming all my FlyBuys points and ANZ Rewards points. This week however, I thought I would hit the mall and explore.

I actually ended up on the main street of Wagga, not in the mall as I had intended. I wanted to check out this store called "The Warehouse". To be honest, I was actually looking for a photo frame as I had accidentally broken someone's frame at work during an IT Refresh. I was swapping out her computer and moved her monitor and there was this SMASH!!!! Her wedding photo frame made out of glass had the biggest crack over it and I was like "OMFG!!!! That is someone's wedding frame!" #dies!

She was really cool about it but I really wanted to replace her broken frame and so I will keep looking for something nice.

Back to this store, it has amazing items, I spotted some Japanese dinnerware and had to ask the store owner if I could take photos of the store items. He was fantastic, so helpful. I must appear like some mad Japanese tourist or something! LOL ;) Then I handed out my blog business card and was soon snapping away. What a great day! Surrounded by beautiful objects and doing what I like best, taking photos.

Here are a few shots of the shop. More pics will be uploaded to my Flickr stream.

The Warehouse is located at 86 Baylis Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650 . Tel No: 02 69216766.
The blogger ( that's me...) visited this store and purchased her Japanese dinnerware at her own expense and this is not a paid editorial. Happy Xmas all..

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Muruku -Chakli

Hi all, I have been wanting to make this forever, ever since I first tasted my Auntie Jill's muruku at a young age. Every year, for Deepavali, mum and my late Dad would pile us all into his car and drove us to Penang. You see, my late grandma used to live in Changkat Tembaga in Penang, and that was like our second home as we would visit our relatives every weekend.

It was great when the Krishanans lived in Sungai Ara Army camp. Uncle Shanan was in the Malaysian Army, so going to visit them was always fun. I love going to Sungai Ara camp. We would get Indian food and we could buy real Cadbury chocolate from the NAAFI. They were imported, of course and sealed in purple foil. I wonder why they are not purple anymore?

Did I ever tell you about the time when I got lost in the jungle? I didn't? Well, we were looking for durians and mangosteen at the back of the camp and before I knew it, I had gotten lost.

I didn't panic at all, I just wandered around, happiest in the jungle, just call me Pocahontas...anyway, my Uncle Shanan got his troops to search for me and they found me. Oh well, I was getting hungry anyway at that time. No, I didn't see any tiger, what a shame! Time to head back for Auntie Jill's tosai and muruku and her curries and chapatis. That was then. I loved my childhood adventures. Another time I got lost at the KOMTAR mall. It was huge place for a small kid.

Okay, I digressed, back to this muruku post. So last week or maybe later than that, I found an online shop that sells all these Indian spices and flour. I googled and found a muruku recipe and voila, here it is!

Recipe from

2 cups - Rice flour
1 cup - Besan flour / Gram flour
1 tbsp - Ajwain / Carom seeds
1 tbsp - White sesame seeds
1 tsp - Red chili powder
1/4 tsp - Hing powder / Asafoedita
1/4 cup - Melted butter or Margarine
About 2 cups - Lukewarm water, add a little at a time, otherwise it will be too runny.
Salt to taste
Oil to fry ( Peanut oil )

The dough should look like a chapati dough, not loose.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kimba's banana choc cupcakes

Thought I bring you a new post prior to my next giveaway. This recipe is pretty easy and from a good foodie friend

I just had to make them after seeing her delicious cupcake, I haven't iced mine yet, and already had two cupcakes for breaky. LOL ;) Seriously good stuff! Don't think I'll be frosting mine, loving the melted choc lava!

The Aftermath - Madame Brussels

Wow, some people just don't have any class and she have issues with my eating McDonalds. Her tweet was a personal attack at me for my negative feedback on her establishment (previous post)

A dumpscreen from Twitter feed.

Just to be clear, I love McDonalds and there is nothing wrong with being a Taxi mum or driver, better safe than sorry or dead! Clearly, that bitch with her old bone is getting old! Bahhahahahaha!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Agenda and Madame Brussels's Oyster and Bubbles Soiree - Review

Here is the email from my co-blogger Lin who attended the Oyster's and Bubbles soiree. 

Hi Jac

I think you have jumped the gun too soon based on my comment on FB. Should have waited for me to email you. Sorry for not sending this email sooner but I have been caught up all weekend with activities since I got back on Friday, am extremely exhausted and work today has been crazy.

Was this meant to be a review or not? As I understood from another food blogger that I met at the venue – if you give a preview on your blog/website Agenda will give you a free ticket. They didn’t want you to cover the event. As a freebie, it was not a bad party and I couldn’t care less if there weren’t enough oysters or cheeses to eat. The venue was great. I got to sample some great oysters, cheeses and macaroons, washed down with a few bubblies. Thanks for a good night out and I really appreciate the invite. As a paying customer which is in Grant’s case, it didn’t live up to how it was written and advertised. In hindsight, I am glad that two of my friends that I have invited to go and was going to buy tickets for pulled out because oysters weren’t their thing.

See that’s the point. An Oyster and Bubbles Soiree for $65 per head. I would pay to go even if I have not been given a free ticket because Grant and I absolutely love love love oysters. It’s not the most attractive morsel of the sea, but like the saying “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. Growing up, oysters to me were the kind of dishes restaurants served up as an omelette, or smothered it with Worcestershire sauce and bacon or a creamy mornay sauce. I never truly appreciate the real taste of a fresh oyster until my late thirties (!) when an Italian friend of mine showed me how. Take a fresh oyster, squeeze some lemon juice over it, sprinkle a few drops of tabasco sauce on it and slurp the entire content down in one go. Wow wee, I was hooked!

Heck, we have even drove 3000km from Melbourne to Cowell, South Australia once just for the heck of clocking up some mileage for our car to taste freshly shucked oysters by the pier. We have driven along the east coast of Australia and the coast along South Australia, our car packed with a shucking knife, lemons and a bottle of tabasco in search of oyster farms.

Back to the soiree. Madame Brussels is hidden away from the busy Bourke Street, up on the 3rd floor of the terrace. The inside parlour mimics an old English garden which leads out to a wonderful outdoor balcony overlooking Bourke Street. The side stairs take you up to small balcony where the function was held. It was quite crowded when arrived on the dot. A small band was playing at the corner, and as we jostled our way through the crowd, I noticed three separate oyster stations on small tables, one against the wall with oysters laid out on a lovely three tier stand and the other two on the opposite side against the railings with oysters laid out in buckets. First impression, oysters on ice…….yuk!

At the far end was the drinks station, we helped ourselves to PIMMS (not Pimps lol!). Very refreshing!

It was not easy to get to the oysters when people are just standing there hoovering oyster after oyster. I could understand why they did that. There were no plates, only serviettes and a bowl of lemon wedges on the side. How can you be considerate to others? The easiest thing was to stand there, pick up the oyster, squeeze the lemon and as there were no toothpicks, we had to use our fingers (yuk!!) to loosen the suction of the oyster from its shell so that it will slide into our mouth easily. One is not enough, plus you can’t throw away the lemon after one squeeze, so we stood there, be oblivious to others and just helped ourselves to a few oysters at a time.

So what oysters were we eating? Three stations meant three different types? I noticed the size difference and there were a clear taste distinction in all three. But which is which? I ask those who were standing around, they shrugged their shoulders. Finally met Miss Pearl and she said the smaller ones were Sydney Rock oysters, the others are from Tassie. But surely I tasted three different types of oysters?? I would really love to know. Didn’t like Sydney Rock (come to think again – I am a Melbournian) but love one of the big ones, probably Tassie?

I didn’t get to eat many oysters, certainly didn’t get to a dozen which was disappointing. It got crowded and it got harder to get to the oyster station. I saw the same people rooted at the station for most of the night so these people would have got their money’s worth! By about 9 o’clock, the oysters were gone.

The cheese platters came out soon after. I only saw 3 platters. They were almost demolished by the time I got there. Again no plates, again let’s hover over the table……oh hhello, how about giving other people a chance? I managed to squeeze in and got us a tasting of one type of cheese, then did it twice again before all cheeses were finished. I got to taste 3 miserly bits. They were nice cheeses but it left me wanting more. Note to the host: It’s not nice to tease your guests. So what types of cheeses were there? Let’s see, one tasted like camembert or was it brie? I always get confused with these two. The other was a bit stinky and it has an orange rind, and the last one tasted like cheddar………did I get this right? Did I win a prize for guessing? Well, we really like the one with the orange rind – could the sponsor please tell me what it is? Pretty please? I would even pay you for it.

Other bits that happened in the night….Dal Zotto champagne was indeed free flowing until after 10pm. Loved it. I didn’t taste the beer as I don’t drink beer. Madam Brussels staff were lovely, all dressed in old English tennis gear, very Ralph Lauren. Everyone got a free ticket or two for the raffle. Nice touch with some really nice prizes. There were some finger food being passed around, I only tasted two. The chicken and chives mini flower sandwiches were very lovely and the “sardines??” on a thin toast (similar to what we had at Movida) were nice but the toast was a bit soft. I saw some crepes coming our way but they didn’t make it as it was all gone midway through the crowd. I met another food blogger – “Because I can’t cook”, Angel Khong and we had a great time. As the evening draws to an end, Miss Pearls passed on a small parting gift from Shocolate to Angel and I but to Grant, she said “sorry you have to share with the girls”……..I was a bit flabbergasted. What the? I have to share my only two macaroons with someone else? Are you serious? I thought it was very poor of Miss Pearls to embarrass a guest like that. Grant is a paying guest after all! Later I asked one of the staff to get one for Grant but he came back apologetically and said that the macaroons were all gone. That, left a bit of a sour note to the evening.

I did get to meet Blake at the end. He knew of the problems I described above and said that he could have done better in preparing the event and unfortunately some third party let him down. Well, as a guest that didn’t have to pay, I’d forgive him, it was a great party and he tried. But as a paying customer, I’m sorry but it’s not worth the money paid for.


*** Blake's email response has been removed from this post at his request. I posted it up initially to show that there are two sides of the story. Needless to say, I have now severed ties with Agenda and removed their widget from my website as I no longer have confidence in endorsing them ***

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