What We Ate Last Week: Sweet Cheeses, Do you even KUNG PAO???- February 13th-20th

Well, it was Valentine’s Day week, and let me be brutally honest- I fell in love this week.  I have a new restaurant crush and I can’t wait to see it again.  I’ll explain

Saturday- Feb 13th– I met my crush.  I had read about a new restaurant during the week in Broadsheet and it sounded too good to be true.  A mythical place that played good music, served champagne with fried chicken, and sold limited edition sneakers…. What the?  You mean I can leave my house in comfy shoes and drink champagne?  Sign me up- do not pass go, do not phone a friend, I’m already on my way.  I mean, not that I ever would buy limited edition sneakers, but I love my Chuck Taylors and my Superstars.  But seriously, who cares about sneakers- Champagne and fried chicken.

I had my doubts about it to start with- I didn’t think it could be real, because it sounded too good to be true.  But it’s real– and it’s spectacular!

Readers, I’m salivating just thinking about what we ate and how good it was.  This place, was beyond words.   It’s my new favorite place in Sydney- possibly in all of Australia.  I am torn between telling you the name of it and keeping it a secret because I don’t want it to get too crowded- it’s not that big.  It’s been open for about a week and we nearly missed out on a table at lunchtime on Saturday.  But because I trust you to invite me along if you do go, it’s called Butter.  They have “the best fried chicken sandwich” The Runner had ever eaten, and probably the best fried chicken I’ve ever had- in.my.entire.life.  Seriously.  And they have Cherry Coke slushies- well, it was a Hennessy and Cherry Coke slushie- if I’m honest, the Hennessy actually only made things better.   The icing on the cake- the wine list, because it’s completely bonkers!  The have $450 bottles of Krug, that you could, in theory, order with a $16 fried chicken sandwich.  I mean, why you would spend $450 on a bottle of champagne and then eat it with $16 fried chicken is beyond me, but I suppose it’s something I would consider if I ever win the lottery.  Luckily, now I have somewhere to go if I’m ever in that position.   It’s a simple restaurant- there are only 4 options for meals and 4 for sides but everything was literally mouth wateringly, can we go back tomorrow please good.

Sunday, February 14th– We went to tropfest and had more cheese than two people should be allowed.  First of all, why we bought over half a kilo of cheese is beyond me….oh yeah, because cheese is DELICIOUS!  We spent a small fortune on amazing cheese from Formaggi Occello in Surry Hills, which is a great cheese shop if you’re ever looking for fancy cheese.  It was delicious and we ate most of it, which in retrospect, may not have been the best idea.  I’ll spare you the details.

Growing up,  I feel like there were only two types of cheese in America in the 1980s, cheese in plastic wrap and cheese in a can.  Cheese in a can covered Ezy Cheese which was probably not even cheese, and the parmesan that you could sprinkle on things, which wasn’t cheese either.  Maybe there was blue cheese as well, but I can’t swear to it.  We had cheese that was so fancy that I’m not even sure what it was if I’m honest.    One was an Ubriaco di Prosecco, which is basically cheese matured in prosecco (or something, I’m not a cheesemaking expert); another was an Ernesto Dolmetico alla birra- somewhat blue with beer and malt somehow involved ; and the third was called Robiola, a soft-ish cheese made from three different types of milk.  Clearly we have progressed from Ezy Cheese.Kraft-Easy-Cheese.jpg

 

Monday – Tomatillo, Avocado and Tomato Gazpacho–  The Gazpacho streak continues for one more week!  I’m hooked on Gazpacho because the weather is hot and gazpacho is easy and tasty.  Seriously, with a food processor, it could be the easiest thing to make in the world because you just chuck everything in.  I’m trying to discover new recipes (send any ideas/recipes to me- herunsicook@gmail.com) This week I decided to put a Mexican spin on things and do a Tomatillo, Avocado and Tomato Gazpacho.  I probably should have consulted a map first.  NEWSFLASH- Australia is nowhere near Mexico, so the supply and availability of Mexican ingredients (tomatillos!) in Australia is spotty/irregular at best.  If I were more of a planner, I should have ordered them from Fireworks Foods online, however I didn’t and our local supermarket/deli/food shops had not a tomatillo in sight!  I should have bought them when I saw them a few weeks ago, because they weren’t at the store this week.  So my gazpacho was just Tomato and Avocado Gazpacho.  The good news is that on Tuesday morning, I walked into a grocery store which had a stockpile of tomatillo cans so next week will be Tomatillo Gazpacho week!

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Tuesday Night– Herb Crumbed Pork Schnitzel with Picked Watermelon Rind- Donna Hay strikes again!  Donna Hay’s Feb/March 2016 has to be one of my all time favorite editions.  It is chock full of tasty treats!   I had never had pickled watermelon rind before- I’m not actually sure where it comes from – Asia? The South? Donna Hay’s own creative kitchen?  No Idea- but it was pretty easy, paired perfectly with the schnitzel (and who doesn’t love schnitzel !!!???!?) and was really refreshing.   The schnitzel was delicious anyway, and the herbs through it really put a different spin on it.   The pickled watermelon- a must try.  I did it on Sunday afternoon so by Tuesday night, it was perfect!  I made a tomato, red onion and feta salad which balanced the flavours really well.

WednesdayTaleggio and Pancetta Baked Pasta from Bill Granger’s Easy Cookbook.  I wanted to make something from one of Bill Granger’s cookbooks this week.  I did, it wasn’t the best recipe of his.  It wasn’t awful, but…

ThursdayKung Pao Chicken from Mr. Hong, The Dan Hong Cookbook. So where do I start with this dish?

I loved it and loved making it on so many different levels.  Kung Pao Chicken is in no way an authentic Chinese dish, I’m sure if you walked into a restaurant in Shanghai and tried to order you would be laughed out of the restaurant- much like tourists who order Fosters in Australian bars.  (Despite the clever, 80s marketing it’s NOT Australian for anything, and especially not beer- most bars and restaurants don’t even stock it.)  But Kung Pao Chicken is the quintessential American Chinese Takeaway dish for me, not because I loved it growing up (in fact, I think I hated it as a child), but it is The Mom’s favorite dish.  As a child, I was always partial to Lemon chicken, Moo Shu Pork, Special fried rice, or Orange Beef- The Mom however was a Kung Pao stalwart.  I won’t say she ordered it EVERY time, but she ordered it at least 9 out of 10 times we ordered Chinese food growing up.  Remember, this was the 1980s/1990s so other cuisines as takeaway hadn’t really been invented yet in the US, even in Cosmopolitan Washington DC.  If we didn’t cook at home it was normally either Chinese or McDonalds for takeaway meals- and McDonalds was not a dinner food, so it was Chinese.  And if it was Chinese, The Mom was having Kung Pao.

I was really excited when I saw the Kung Pao recipe, it was one that I knew I was going to cook as soon as I saw it in the book.  Oh, and the book- Dan Hong, chef at Ms Gs, Mr Wong, El Loco, and other yummy restaurants created a cookbook which is pretty good.   There are a lot of “Chef-y” recipes, and yes I’m contemplating making a master stock so I can make a couple of them (don’t ask me how to make one!), but there are also some pretty easy one like this Kung Pao one.  And the Kung Pao was worth the effort!  Ok, yes, it would have been cheaper and faster to call up Wokmaster in Randwick and order it, but there was something amazingly satisfying and emotionally gratifying about learning how to make Kung Pao.  My goal is to perfect it so that when I next see The Mom, I can make her homemade Kung Pao.  Oh, and PS, it’s actually really tasty.  If I could go back and make my 10 year old self try it, I definitely would- she missed out!  We had it with Piggs Peake Five Spice Gerwurtztraminer.

Friday– we had leftover Kung Pao and ordered Special Fried Rice to go with it.  The Kung Pao was of course the star!

Stay tuned for next week- More Gazpacho, More Burgers, More Mr. Hong, and Japanese!!!!!!!!!

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