It’s been pretty awful weather in Sydney this week. This storm that pile-drived (or should that be pile-drove) into the city was pretty impressive. I think one of our readers mentioned the word ‘apocalypse’ – I’m inclined to agree.
Perhaps it’s the weather, but Mrs Romance has been even funnier than usual recently. Her latest witticism went a bit like this:
Context: we were heading to a restaurant to try their excellent pizzas and I was checking to see how hungry Mrs R was.
Me: Do you think you can eat a whole pizza?
Mrs R: My stomach’s not in charge – I am. And if I want, I can say ‘just stuff it down my throat like a foie gras goose.’
If ever I were to wonder why I married her! Love that attitude.
Anyway, on with our Insta Diary!
Our dear friend Anthony Nader is having the official opening of his new salon location tonight. The old RAW Anthony Nader was ok, but this place is great. They’ve customised everything – if and when you go there, remember to check out the bathroom. It’s amazing. All I’ll say is Anthony’s a bit of a Madge fan.
It’s getting to that time of the year when a good clean is in store for our little place. Plus, with our impending trip to the States coming ever closer, we need to get our things in better order.
This is my effort: a spring clean of the bar. This crate represents the ‘absolutely no’ selection of booze in the throw-out stage of cleaning. Of course, the vodka and gin aren’t included in this group – that’s all still in the freezer.
For the rest (and there’s rather a lot), we’ll see what happens to it. I’ve got a feeling we’ll probably drink it!
Mrs Romance is such a lucky lady. Not only is she married to me [cough cough], she’s also been invited to a private sneak-peek dinner at the new InterContinental Hotel in Double Bay. Set to open in November, Stockroom Restaurant and Stillery Bar will be the new Sydney hotspots. Watch this space for more news!
InterCon and Penfold’s partnered to bring this dinner together and Mrs R’s very excited about having her first ever glass of Penfold’s Grange. Just ask her about it. She loves telling everyone!
The Dove and Olive’s beer selection has improved so much since its renovation, and the food offerings are great too. Paul and I have both ordered these lunchtime specials: only $9.95 on Thursdays, you can get a bacon cheeseburger and fries. No-brainer.
Mrs Romance has gone for something a little more up-market. The short ribs with a sticky barbecue sauce and fries. Very nice – and gluten free if you don’t mind!
We’re really excited today. We’re giving away a book in our latest competition. It’s a beautifully-made cookbook from Spirit House – a modern Asian restaurant set in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
The book features favourite recipes from the four head chefs of the restaurant, who also run the regular cooking classes you can take at the restaurant.
All you have to do is tell us about your worst cooking disaster. Head over to our competition post, which includes the recipe for authentic chicken satay we were given by the Spirit House chefs. Tell us your story in the comments there and you’re automatically in the running for this great book.
This afternoon, we’re up, up and away, heading down to Melbourne to visit Australia’s natural spa and hot springs region: Daylesford. There are over 75 natural springs in this region, which is impressive considering there are only around 100 country-wide.
Our Tiger Air flight’s a little late but the view from our windows over the Victorian countryside and the great in-flight service has more than made up for that.
Our Daylesford digs are something quite different. Shizuka Ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel and has us yearning for a trip back to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Our room (one of only six available here) is amazing. It’s got the traditional paper screen walls, tatami reed flooring – there’s even a ceremonial kimono hanging on one wall. As we arrive, we’re served green tea at our Japanese table – we’re feeling so relaxed already and we’ve only just walked through the doors.
After settling into our accommodation, we change and head to dinner. We’ve got a booking at probably the closest restaurant to Shizuka Ryokan. It also happens to be a Hatted restaurant if you please!
The Argus Dining Room in Hepburn Springs is a beautiful place serving the most incredible food. As we’re eating, we get talking about the most memorable meals we’ve had. We agree that this has to go on the list.
As is only proper in a place like this, We order an aperitif. This is mine – a negroni but made with Campari, Punt e Mes, Arberg 10-year-old scotch and garnished with a burnt orange slice. It’s exquisite though powerful. It’s also my excuse for eating so much afterwards. Well, I’ll have to soak it up with something, won’t I?!
For breakfast, we’ve got the choice of continental, a few other things or Japanese. We can’t really remember what those other things are because we go straight for the Japanese option.
It turns out to be a great choice. Teriyaki salmon with Japanese omelette, daikon and a little stoned fruit, then little bowls of pickled and marinated vegetables, seaweed and fungi. There’s a bowl of rice with a sesame and nori sprinkle, and of course miso soup and green tea to drink.
There’s no nato, which I’m half pleased about, half disappointed. Nato is a strange, fermented soya bean dish that’s incredibly popular on Japanese breakfast tables. It’s so sticky and stringy, and the flavour’s really strong too – it’s a bit like a Japanese version of Vegemite or Marmite. Very much an acquired taste.
Soon, we’re on the road again, heading for the first winery of the day. It’s called Ellender Estate Wines and it’s definitely somewhere anyone who’s in the Daylesford region should visit.
The wines are all delicious and the locals are incredibly friendly! These two little lovelies were born to be winery dogs… apart from they’re true escapologists!
A little way down the hill, Ellender has a lake with a little house. There’s often a little boat here too, but it’s being painted at the moment. Has been for a year or two actually, but that doesn’t matter. This is a very popular spot for proposals, and it’s easy to see why. It’s so beautiful and peaceful. Mrs R doesn’t seem too keen to get moving either, does she?
Dinner tonight is at Shizuka. It’s… incredible. This is one of the first dishes we eat. It’s a rice cracker coated prawn cutlet with a wasabi sesame mayonaise, and it’s a stroke of culinary genius.
Talking of culunary genius, these chocolates are just that! we’re finally – and very sadly – on our way back to the airport. But as you’ll see, we’re taking our time with it!
Thsee chocolates are all handmade, the moulds are all hand-polished, and each piece is painted, filled and finished by hand here at The Chocolate Mill. They sell between 10,000 and 12,ooo chocolates a week here!
It’s a big figure, but it’s not surprising – especially as we’ve tasted them! This hot chocolate is also something to marvel at. Definitely worth going to for a swig of this magical brew!
We’re on our way to lunch but find a winery that’s come with a firm recommendation: Passing Clouds Winery – run by Graeme Leith – is a homely little cellar door set in the hills of the outskirts of Musk. Graeme is an absolute card and loves a good chat. Keep your eye open for his autobiography. It went from being a 60,000 word book to way into the 140,000 mark as each editor who’s reviewed it hears more of his yarns.
The wines he showcases are mostly made from the grapes grown on the property (the chardonnay’s very tasty). Graeme’s a great example of how being friendly to the staff on the cellar door gets you so much more of an experience than just tasting the wines on offer.
Our last stop before we head home is the famous Redbeard Bakery in the little township of Trentham. The bread they make here comes from an oven that’s been running pretty much non-stop since 1892. It’s attracted the attention of George Colombaris and the delightful Maggie Beer, who have both tried and loved the food here.
I am also one of the converted. This Reuben sandwich is unreal. The cheese is incredible, the dill mayo is perfect but the pastrami from Istra Small Goods down the road. It’s SO tasty!
It’s all too soon that we’re flying home again, back to Sydney. Back to reality. It’s been an amazing trip to an area that – until just recently – I wasn’t even aware existed. I’m so glad I know more about the area now. It’s certainly somewhere I’ll be recommending to everyone I meet from now on!
Coming home from somewhere like Daylesford is quite interesting. It’s always good to be back in your own bed, but there’s also that sense that you’ve got to get back into the swing of things again the next day.
How has your week been? Are you starting your spring cleaning yet? Tell us all about it in the comments. And don’t forget to head over to our competition page to tell us about your cooking nightmare.