[GIVEAWAY SPECIAL] Cake, Bake and Sweets Sydney Show

There’s something big and sweet is coming to Sydney. I mean really big. If you’ve got a sweet tooth or if you’re a baking connoisseur, EYES ON THE PAGE.

cbss-macarons

It’s competition time here in Fight The Craving and will your mouths be drooling or what?! So before we get into the nitty gritty stuff of winning yourself something, lets take a few seconds and admire sweets.

Cupcakes. Cakes. Lollies. Chocolate. Caramel. Macarons.

Do you know what they all have in common? They’ll all be at this year’s Cake Bake and Sweets show for you to sample, buy, taste and eat. But if you think that’s all, then you’re crudely mistaken.

Along with sinking your eyes and teeth into a pool of sugary baked goods, you’ll also have the opportunity to learn new skills in the kitchen. Get top tips for baking and other culinary aspirations with an event jam-packed with competitions, classes and demonstrations.

But not by any old random person. A demonstration and entertainment extraordinaire led by possibly the biggest celebrity baking and patissier lineup I’ve ever seen.

With demonstrations and entertainment coming from stars such as Adriano Zumbo (Australian baking genius), Eric Lanlard (Baking Mad UK), Duff Goldman (Ace of Cakes in USA), Nancy Ho (Winner of the Great Australian Bake-Off), Julia Taylor (MasterChef 2012 Runner-Up) and an absolute monster of a list of others from all around the world, this event is surely something you don’t want to miss.

And you could get yourself there for free thanks to our friends at the show with FTC’s very special giveaway.

WHEN’S THIS EVENT? 21-23rd March

WHERE’S THE EVENT? Sydney Showground, Olympic Park

WHAT AM I WINNING? A double pass to see the show (That’s $56 value!)

HOW DO I WIN IT??? So. So. Simple.

1. Get on Facebook and like the Fight The Craving Facebook Page if you haven’t already

2. Leave a comment and share this post

3. Wait and prepare for sweets

WHEN DO I FIND OUT? 19th March! So get commenting and gooooooodluck.

I DIDN’T WIN THE TICKET, CAN I STILL GO..

Hell yes! For more information and tickets, check out:

http://www.cakebakeandsweets.com/

And I’ll see you there!

The Grounds of Alexandria, Alexandria

Finally. Finally got myself to this place. Now to see if it lived up to the hype..

Now in case you haven’t heard of this place (which I seriously doubt), the Grounds is…imagine a Disneyland for the trendy and the hipsters. Unlike any cafe you’ll ever visit the area spans a large area and has ample food and drink options. While there is the regular sit-in cafe with a menu and waitresses and whatnot, there’s also outdoor stands where you can quench your thirst, fulfil your grilled needs or even do something other than eating.

Pretty neat right? There’s even a playground to dump your kids while you have fun (I’m joking!! But there really is a playground for kids). Before we got to go into the cafe, we had to wait for some vacancy and that left us almost 30 minutes worth of exploring.

‘Twas a hot day

I didn’t want to flood the ‘food’ blog with photos of non-food so I’ll cut to the chase! After staring at Kevin Bacon, looking at flowers, examining cool artefacts, we got in and ordered some grub. Initial impressions of the menu was that it had some great breakfast and lunch varieties. The prices were pretty average ‘cafe’ prices and the food sounded great.

So what did we get? Three  banana smoothies, some coffee, some chips, a classic chicken schnitty, salmon with some quinoa salad and a steak sandwich.

Banana smoothie with honey and granola (those aren’t my sunglasses ok) – $8

Yeah, it’s $8, but hear me out. God damn. This is one hell of a banana smoothie. When it was raved about I was thinking “it’s just a banana smoothie…”. I was wrong. Firstly taking one sip of this thing gives you the impression that you’re eating a banana. You get plenty chunks of banana but was I surprised with that consistency. Super smooth. Along with the honey to give that extra natural-sweetness and the crumbs of granola left on the top, so..good. Buy it. For sure.

Chips!

To start off the feed, we got ourselves some chips. They were crispy as hell but the main attraction here was the chilli mayo that it’s served with. The sauce you want to dip everything into. Get chips just for that mayo. Real talk.

Chicken Schnitty with a Walnut and Black Current salad

The chicken schnitty was nothing too special of a dish. While the bread crumb had fantastic seasoning and gave the chicken a marvellous crunch, the chicken itself was disappointingly dry. However with that salad and the provided aoli sauce, it didn’t ruin it. But it was disappointing. The salad was sweet especially with those dried blackcurrents and the slaw had a tang to it, partially thanks to that lemon. Along with the crunch of the walnuts, it’s no surprise they have the same salad completely on its own. A schnitzel comes with craving, and if you’re craving, I wouldn’t recommend against it, but otherwise, give other things a shot first!

Steak Sandwich (bad photo alert)

Now to my dish. The steak sandwich. When it came, first thing I thought was “this has to be the biggest surface area of a slice of bread I’ve ever seen”.  First of all, lets talk about the star of the sandwich; the steak. The meat itself was quite chewy and a bit tough. The kind where you try to take a bite but you accidentally pull the entire piece out because it wouldn’t break off. But not to worry. The delicious aoli sauce and ample amount of beetroot kept it moist and flavoursome. If I had to change a few things though..the meat should be a bit thicker so it can retain some moisture and the bread should be toasted by default, because that mayo will soggy itself right through! I was proper full after this though so a lot of bang for your buck in this one.

Salmon with Quinoa Salad

I didn’t have too much of the salmon so we’ll keep this short. The salmon was moist and very well cooked. The skin was crispy to the days but still allowed the meat to fall off with the touch of the knife. To to complement this, the quinoa salad with soya beans delivered a great tangy texture to the fish. I’d definitely like to come back and eat the plate as a whole and get a…closer look ;P and so should you!

Also, let’s not forget that the Grounds is an extra good supplier of miscellaneous desserts like tarts and fresh bread. In fact I bought a charcoal with fox nuts loaf and it was delicious. Managed to snatch it up for 3 Loaves for $10 too. Bargain for deliciously fresh bread. I recommend you give that a shot!

So, that sums it up. Did the Grounds beat the hype? I’d like to say, it did fairly well. With the non-conventional cafe layout of stands and plenty to keep you busy while you wait for a table, it certainly took that boring factor out. Also the food was…good, but not amazing. A few hiccups here and there but it is on par with anything else. The service was also amazing; if you were wondering.

So should you come here? Yes. It’s just one of those places you have to visit, but more for the atmosphere than a complete food-driven adventure.

The Grounds of Alexandria on Urbanspoon

Bridge St Garage, Circular Quay

When stumbling upon Bridge St, you’d expect to fork out a loan especially being close to the finer places like Rockpool. Bridge St Garage was a bit different with its American diner inspired dishes, a nice change to the otherwise Wall Street of Sydney.

The car themed restaurant was a treat to walk in. With oil cans, car parts, neon lights and decor that made you feel like you were in a garage, it was definitely a pleasant atmosphere to be in.

Taking a look at the menu, there was quite a variety. With things stretching from a Argentinian pot of melted provolone cheese to your New York steak, southern chicken and even tacos, it wasn’t an easy decision. So I went with a safe option and that was a burger. The Guacho Burger to be exact. Oh and in case you missed it, I mentioned a pot of melted cheese. Yeah I got that too. Because who wouldn’t.

Before I get started though, I think it’d be worth mentioning that service wasn’t very on par. In fact, being seated relatively far from the crowd, we found ourselves struggling to find service! Our waitress was unseen for more than 15 minutes. Disappointed!

Provoleta served with sourdough – $14

Now this. It looks like a heart attack in a pot. And it is. But it was pretty nice pot of heart attack. A particularly salty dish it was, but thank god the sourdough was there. With the chimichurri sauce submerging it, it added a very pleasant taste to the cheese. I did however find it slightly too overpowering in salt and the cheese to be quite tough in some areas. (Obviously that was the cheese setting as it cools, but it felt too often in the dish). Regardless of that, I love provolone and with its stringyness and melted goodies, I did enjoy the dish.

Guacho Burger – $19.50

Now for the main. A good ol’ burger with a side of “chips” (really, they were wedges). Well, to be honest, the burger was nothing special. In fact, dry if anything. I found the patty to be slightly overdone and the overall burger lacking in texture. I did thoroughly enjoy the little kick of spice they give you, but disappointed when I only realised this 3/4 through the burger. Maybe it was the salt from the provoleta depriving liquids! Not the best of burgers but I guess it can satisfy burger cravings.

The chips as well were very very dry. Felt tough and lacked any crunch. Also not to mention they were wedges. But hey, I’m going to give props to the presentation:

Mini deep fryer baskets make things taste better.

So the verdict, if you’re around Wynyard/Circular Quay and want some ‘American’ cuisine, I suggest you try this. They have deep fried chicken and burgers and other goodies. Not to mention it’s not a difficult place to commute to via public transport.

However, if you are craving this sort of food, I wouldn’t put this as my first choice. With the food being priced slightly more than I would expect of the quality and not to mention the below-par service which I felt it had, perhaps a trip to Jazz City would be a better option.

Bridge Street Garage Bar & Diner on Urbanspoon

Mad Spuds, Surry Hills

If you had a new year’s resolution of getting into shape  or trying to eat better, you probably shouldn’t be reading this post, nor this blog altogether. Welcome to carbohydrate heaven.

Located on the trophy of Surry Hills; Crown St, it might be a hassle to get there with public transport but driving isn’t too much of a hassle if you can find parking. Not the biggest café in the world either but it seems like that’s the trend these days right? As long as we were able to grab a table without a wait, I was a happy chap. The food menu was nothing of surprise. It consisted of potatoes.

A lot of potatoes. And I respected it because it was a menu which had a theme to every dish, in as many ways possible. Sandwiches, meatballs, eggs, salad; you name it. I enjoy a café which keeps to the name! So naturally we got some potatoes and coffee (being a café and all). To be exact, we got ourselves a Mad Spud Stack, a Spuds Meatballs and their twice cooked spud skins; the salmon and feta.

Latte – $4

Coffee was nothing of the exception. Just your above average cuppa. They also had a wide range of organic juices but I felt like a pick-me-up.

Mad Spuds Stack – $15

Now onto the mad spud stack, a 6-layer stack consisting of a potato cake (croquette like), avocado, haloumi, sweet potato, spud skins and roast onions. That’s a lot of things but they worked so, so well together. Especially the potato cake; crispy outside but soft and mild on the inside. Along with the crisp but salty haloumi and sweetness of the tomato relish, it’s one hell of a dish. Try it.

Spuds Meat Balls – $15

I went for a safer option. I do like meat. And meatballs. And potato. So this was the natural option. Especially these meatballs. Ridiculously soft and tender with a hint of cumin, giving it an almost falafel-like flavour, it went incredibly well with the tangy mint yoghurt drizzled on top and home cooked tomato based sauce. Potatoes in the dish were crispy and really contrasted with the soft meatballs. I really enjoyed this. Eat this if you’re in the meaty mood!

Twice Cooked Spuds Skins – $18

Finally, as a side, we also went for a plate of their twice fried spuds; basically skins which have been fried to be used as miniature bowls. Crispy to the days and the salmon and feta filled inside just made it come out. The feta itself was also combined with hint of sweetness from apricots and it was then topped off with sprouts. A great side dish option, but we did go a bit excessive for a 2 person feed!

So Mad Spuds is definitely somewhere you’ll want to look into. The service with the waiters was pleasant and extremely friendly. The food was great and reasonably priced and it’s not the hardest place to get to if you have access to a car. There is also a large variety of vegetarian options! Hope you add this to your endeavours too! Happy eating.

Mad Spuds Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Royal, Darlinghurst

Ok, it’s been like a week since I’ve gotten back, might as well get back into eating in Sydney, hello the Royal…

(the worst photo of a menu possible *cough*)

Funny thing is my entire being here was an accident. It started off as an ambitious venture into Jazz City Milk Bar (about a 10 minute walk away), but it was closed…so we literally walked around until we found civilization and this was the first thing that we came across. Awesome.

The place was very chilled, very homey. A very narrow cafe but it was still nice to sit in.

Now the menu itself wasn’t very complex, had a wide range of your typical cafe drinks including some home-made lemonade and milkshake (both of which we got). Food wise there was a great variety of breakfast/brunch items and a page which was all sandwiches and paninis. So we got the best of both worlds, a Shakshuka and their Royal sandwich.

Home-made Lemonade and Strawberry Milkshake – $4 each

The lemonade was nice and carbonated and had a small pinch of vanilla beans on top (which the waiter reassured was vanilla and not dirt). Super refreshing, it was a shame that today wasn’t the hottest of days, but a great drink nonetheless. The milkshake was quite generic, nothing really special, but had a very generous serving.

Shakshouka – $14

Looks delicious right? Well it tasted as good as it looks. The spices and herbs were cooked right through and added a nice tang to the otherwise sweet tomatoes. It was a bit watery towards the bottom but unavoidable from the tomatoes. The feta that topped it off was nice and crisp at the top but melts in the mouth when taking the bite. Plus I love feta so it was a double win. The only problem with the dish was the unfortunate egg out of the 2 that was slightly overcooked in the yolk, really soft but wasn’t runny like that first one. Oh well. Delicious otherwise and highly recommended!

The Royal with Cheese – $12

Next up was their special royal with cheese. A panini with an 8 hour slow cooked beef in the middle layered with some red cabbage slaw, pickles and the melted provolone cheese. Bread was toasted to perfection and had an amazing crunch with it. The beef was extremely tender and very sweet and worked well with the slaw and provolone. Especially when you have the bread soaking up that 8 hour meaty goodness, the crunch of the bread and that soft meat. Oh god. Another one please.

So as you can probably tell from this review. I really liked The Royal. Service was good, place was homey, food was delicious and reasonably priced, location isn’t too far from Museum and it has baked eggs of some kind. My favourite. Come and have a try for yourselves foodies!

The Royal on Urbanspoon

NZ Special: The Occidental, Auckland

Hey everyone and welcome back, as you can tell from the title I have been travelling so yes, it has been a bit *cough* inactive for a month. But for good reasons, I’ve been out an about in New Zealand and unfortunately internet was a bit of a pain to get to so I saved it all up for here (Ok there’s not that many)! If you happen to be travelling too and happen to be in Auckland, this one’s for you

Photo Source: Dineout.co.nz

One thing I realised about Auckland is that it isn’t the biggest city in the world. Nor is it the most active on a Sunday evening. Literally, everything seems to just not function on a Sunday evening. Except this place. Located in a small lane of Vulcan (cool name, right?), it was the most lively and busiest place I saw at the time. With the friendly staff, while they seem to have reached capacity, they still managed to find me a table in less than 10 minutes of waiting! Walking in, I have to say, it felt like one great traditional looking pub I’d like to stay in.

Along with obligatory Christmas decor, there were also some pretty cool wall hangings and a roof clock that looked like it was stolen from a train station in the  late 1800s. Plus the place was alive and felt like a really laid back attitude, +1 for environment. I felt the need for some beer so on the tap we got a Leffe and Hoegaarden. This is a pub, after all.

Leffe and Hoegaarden – $10.50 and $8.50 respectively

Now of course it wouldn’t be a post if I weren’t talking about food, right? And if it wasn’t for this place I probably would’ve spent the night in the hotel slurping on Shin Ramen. One of the most amazing thing about this place was our amazing luck of being there Monday which was their special…$11.80 1kg Steamed Mussels. That’s right. $11.80, served in your choice of sauce in a cauldron. Other things included very reasonably priced Belgian dishes so naturally we got a 1m Belgian Sausage and a standard sirloin steak.

1kg of Steamed Mussels…..$11.80!!!!

Maybe you didn’t hear me enough, this was $11.80 mussels. And they were so good. Not the stingy sized ones you think you might get with that price, proper delicious mussels. With your choice of sauce, we went with the Lobster Bisque and Brandy. Mussels were soft but a little bit chewy, as it should be and the sauce was rich, but a bit too salty for my liking. While I wish the sauce had more of a lobster flavour to it, for $11.80, it was the highlight and I can’t complain. Go in on Mondays, get the $11.80 mussels.

1m Belgian Pork Sausage – $28.50

Next up was my 1m sausage. Yes, when I first ordered I too thought how on earth were they going to serve this. So there it is. The sausage was nice and jam-packed with flavoured goodness but a bit dry on my end. However with kumara sweet potato mash, sauerkraut (my favourite!) and gravy, it really did work really well together. The mash could’ve been a bit more…mashed and sauerkraut a bit more..sour, but I really enjoyed this dish and if you feel like some bangers and mash, Belgian style, might as well.

Steak Frites – $31.90

Finally there was the steak and chips. The sirloin cut was about 300g and was char-grilled to medium rare and the smoky flavour just coated and lifted that dish up. Along with their peppercorn and creamy mushroom gravy, it was a great way to enjoy a steak. It isn’t a game-changer in steaks, but it is definitely one of the more nicer steaks I’ve had in the past. Great pub food!

In all, for its amazing mussels and just the fact that it’s a buzzing place at an otherwise deserted 9pm city, I really enjoyed The Occidental. The staff were amazingly friendly (a great tip earned), the mussels were the cheapest I’ve ever eaten and the food was reasonably priced for Belgian and quite nice as well. Do come along Sydney-siders if you happen to be in Auckland.

 

Ramen Ikkyu, Chinatown

I like ramen. Like I really like ramen, and when I come across a nice ramen restaurant, I get really excited. So everyone, I’m proud to be excited to show to you the (delayed) review of Ramen Ikkyu:

Now I’m sure you’ve all heard of this notorious ramen stall. Maybe for good and bad reasons. The bad most likely being that for an extended period of time, this restaurant was only giving out a limited supply of ramen. You maybe heard of it from being one of the more unlucky patrons who received no ramen.

But maybe you heard the good stuff too, in that this wasn’t opened by your average Japanese chef but by Harunobu Inukai. A very talented chef and owner of Blancharu, a modern Japanese and French fusion restaurant. In short, this guy knows what he’s doing and to have opened a ramen store in a Chinatown food court (Shop F1A, 401 Sussex St, Haymarket)…this got me excited!

Now, the restaurant is really more of a stall and you pick up your food and sit in the public area (much like Gumshara) but the stall pops out with its wooden exterior decor and colourful flags. Greeted by a very enthusiastic worker she explained each of their special dishes and the first thing I noticed was that this was really reasonably priced. Very cheap and affordable, would make perfect for an after work or after uni/school treat.

For me on that day, I felt like a thick tonkotsu broth and after hearing about their Pork Rib ramen, I couldn’t resist! We also got the other popular Tokyo Soy ramen.

Pork Rib Ramen – $20

Now what you’re going to notice is that the price tag on this dish is almost double anything else on the menu. And there’s a very good reason for it. It was very good. And very filling. Firstly as you do with any ramen, you have to try that broth and oh dear, is this broth intense. It was thick but not gumshara-thick and the flavour of the pork was so good, it almost felt like a whole piece of pork was slowly caramelising on my tongue. Now take this and combine it with some of their freshly made ramen noodles, soft black fungus and bamboo shoot and you got yourself a full package. And oh yes, of course, the meat. The ribs come from a female pig instead of a male which gives it an extremely tender and sweetness to it. Cooked so well with a hint of sweet ginger to it, the match with the rest of the dish was great.

And at times I thought the soup was a bit too salty and heavy for my liking, made worse by the fact that it has no water supplied! But other than that, I really enjoyed this dish and I think it’s well worth the premium price.

Tokyo Soy – $11.50

Lastly was the Tokyo Soy. In contrast with the Pork Rib ramen, this dish was very light and the soup very clean and mild. The meat was incredibly tender and tasty with that fat giving off a slight crisp. In all, it wasn’t a very mindblowing dish. It was rather normal but it was a reasonable serving size and for $11.50, very affordable too. Choosing this over the pork rib really depends on how hungry you are!

So what’s the verdict? I liked it. It’s so easy to get to and it is very affordable. Also, Chef Inukai has finally decided to let loose on amount of bowls being served so you won’t get caught up on the limited supply! Also, free extra noodle servings! So if you find yourself with a little bit of extra broth and still a bit hungry, you can get some more noodles and relive the fun.

While the soup can get salty and heavy for their thicker options without any drinking water, it’s still a very good and quick fix for ramen. Definitely give it a try.

Ramen Ikkyu on Urbanspoon