Freedom schooners, freedom burgers and freedom cheeses

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to put out a Weekly Edition. Lockdown in Sydney and the rest of NSW has meant we haven’t been doing very much.

But finally, thanks to the vast majority of people doing the right thing throughout the lockdown as well as almost everyone in the whole state listening to science and getting the Covid vaccine, we’re all in a better place.

Lockdown has eased, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, shops and everything else we’ve missed so much have opened again. Now we wait for state and international borders to open again.

Not to mention our freedom to visit regional NSW, of which our plans are quickly evolving, so watch this space.

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition and hopefully the return to better times.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Freedom schooner beer - Unity Hall Balmain

Pretty much all we’ve been able to think about since mid June – a real beer in a real pub. And it doesn’t get much more real than the Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain!

We’re with our mate Brett for our first Freedom Beer and boy does it taste good!

Jim & Christina at Bloodwood restaurant Newtown

From the Unity – or the Untidy as locals like to call it – we head into Newtown. It feels so strange going outside our suburb or beyond the 5km radius of our home. And don’t get me started on eating and drinking in a restaurant again. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to be around people!

We’re at Bloodwood, an institution in Newtown, with incredible food, superb drinks and the best staff anywhere. But why are we here?

Kathleen Davies Nip of Courage birthday Bloodwood Newtown

Timing couldn’t be better for lockdown to ease – just in time to celebrate our awesome mate Kath’s birthday. She and her hubby Jarrod are such good mates of ours. We were so excited to be able to come out and celebrate with them.

They run Nip of Courage, an Australian craft spirits distribution, marketing and wholesale company. They have more Aussie craft spirits (and only Australian made craft mind you) than any other shop in the world by our reckoning.

Check out their range – they also deliver to your door within hours of you ordering if you live in the Greater Sydney area by the way.

Oh and we also write for their blog!

Scallops at Bloodwood Newtown

Food at Bloodwood is off the charts, but thankfully owner and head chef Claire Van Vuuren has stepped in to take us through a tasting menu of all the best bits from her kitchen.

These scallops are a dish we’ll be looking for again though next time we’re here!

Bluetongue lizard

Having a stroll round Balmain again today (you’d think we’d be bored of our neighbourhood after being stuck here for almost a third of a year) and we come across this little fella.

This blue tongue lizard is just hanging out at the edge of a little park near White Bay. So good to see such diverse nature so close to houses and industry.

Woolloomooloo Wharf Sydney

This evening, we’re catching up with the family for the first time since June. It’s so good to see restaurants and bars really thriving again.

Woolloomooloo Wharf is wonderfully busy and we enjoy the noise and smells coming from all the places on the edge of the water.

Our booking is at China Doll, easily one of the best Asian-influenced restaurants in the city. We get started on drinks – Christina’s ordered this very fancy looking tequila cocktail called When Doves Cry.

We’re talking Herradura reposado tequila, pink grapefruit juice, soda and roasted sichuan peppers for an extra kick.

It’s amazing to be with everyone again, and we’re all in such good spirits. Christina and her mum haven’t seen each other for so long – one of the many significant impacts of the pandemic.

But enough about that. It’s time to eat!

China Doll Restaurant Woolloomooloo Wharf

It’s good to see the restaurant closures haven’t had any negative impact on the quality of China Doll’s food. Everything that comes out of the kitchen is absolutely exquisite.

From the pork belly to the special fried rice to the tempura salt and chilli prawns to the green curry, it all tastes superb. And not just because it’s the first thing we’ve eaten that we haven’t had to cook in ages!

We finish off with a round of desserts that are equally as good, then pop across the road for a nightcap in the pub. Perfect.

Christina’s up early again this morning to catch the sunrise. Mid spring in Sydney is always a gamble; no one really knows if it’s going to be hot, cold, windy or Defcon 5 hailstones, but this morning is divine.

There’s absolutely no way I’m getting up at sunrise though. There’s a reason why there are only two words for this time of morning – dawn and sunrise – but at other end of the day (sunset, dusk, twilight, golden hour etc) there are loads.

Royal Oak lunch Balmain

Noon, however, is very much my time of day. Christina coaxes me out for a stroll with the promise of a pub lunch, so we head to the Royal Oak for a cheeky beer and a burger.

Pretty happy – I think this might be the start of a burger tour of the pubs on the peninsula. One down, 15 to go!

Andy Bowdy cake

We’re pretty excited today – a delivery has arrived courtesy of Westgold Butter. And amongst the goodies is this sweet work of art by cake maestro Andy Bowdy.

Westgold have conducted a fascinating survey on Australians’ eating habits and how our perception of food is changing.

You can find the full survey here but in summary, Westgold have categorised us into four main groups: Food Snob Rejoicers, Food Snob Deniers, Moving On Up and Old Schoolers.

Take the test and find out what kind of foodie you are!

Berkelo bread and Westgold butter

There’s something about freshly baked warm bread, the highest quality salted butter and a rich sweet strawberry jam that puts everything else to shame.

This is the first time we’ve tried Westgold butter but it won’t be the last. Really looking forward to trying out the unsalted butter on my signature macadamia shortbread cookies too.

The bread’s all gone by the way!

Matt Stone National Barramuni Day burger

Today is National Barramundi Day! Did you know that 60% of the barramundi we eat in Australia is imported?! We certainly didn’t, so today is an effort to show how important it is to make sure – if you’re ordering barra from a fishmonger, in a restaurant or chippie, or picking some up from the supermarket – to check it’s an Australian fish.

As part of the day, we’ve been invited to take part in a live cooking masterclass with arguably Australia’s most sustainable chef Matt Stone.

Matt’s showing us how to cook a crispy barramundi burger (Matt filleted his own portions, but we got ours ready done from Sydney Fish Market!). The class is fascinating, showing clever tricks only top chefs know. And here’s the result:

National Barramundi Day burger

Actually quite impressed with how this turned out. And dare I say it better than a beef burger! I’m shocked at myself!

You can see Matt’s recipes for the burger, potato bun and tartare sauce and also view the masterclass here but in case this link doesn’t work for whatever reason, here’s a PDF of the recipe too.

Bon Fromage masterclass

This afternoon, I’m on another video masterclass – and this time it’s all about cheese and beer! Wine and cheese we all know got together, but beer is also an excellent bedfellow with our favourite part of dairy.

There’s a wealth of masterclasses at this year’s Bon Fromage Festival, celebrating European cheeses. Register for either the free masterclass or the paid version which comes with a relevant kit. I missed out on the kit, but I’ve been brewing my own beer and I have some superb cheese from Ocello, so all’s not lost!

I’ve also made a few notes on the masterclass, so watch this space for some pro tips on putting cheese and beer together!

Ecosmart Fire Table Ocello Cheese Waterford Crystal decanter

This evening, we’re settling down to finish off the cheese from today’s fascinating pairing masterclass – though we’ve swapped out the beer for some beautiful Pinot Noir I’ve decanted into a wonderfully elegant carafe from Waterford Crystal.

And my laptop has gone in place of this absolutely stunning fire table from EcoSmart.

This is a bit of a sneak preview of what we’ll be talking about in our Christmas e-zine Hint that will be out mid November.

We’re so excited about bringing you our stunning gift guide, providing inspiration to you and a hint to give your loved one too!

Jimmy & Christina

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition and that you’re safe and well.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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