I think the best thing about life is how weird it can be. You never know what the new day will bring. This past week is the perfect example of that.
This Weekly Edition is quite the medley. From the romance and elegance of a beachfront wedding to the homely opulence of a new Greek restaurant to the grunt, smoke and beats of Meatstock – the ultimate barbecue and music festival in Sydney, we run the gamut.
What a great start to the month of May!
We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition. Jim & Christina x
Today is one of those special days that will be hard to forget. Our friends ‘D’ and ‘O’ are getting married. We’ve decided to make the most of the day and travel by ferry as far as we can to get to the venue at Balmoral Beach.
Christina’s pretty happy with her hair today – keep an eye open for this shot on her alter ego site Hair Romance!
Sydney’s really turned the day on for our friends and their wedding day. We’re happy for them, but also a bit jealous. It pelted down so hard on our wedding day, the rain got through the balcony canopy of the venue and shorted out our celebrant’s microphone!
The Baths on Balmoral Beach make for a stunning photo for our friends’ wedding. We wish them all the luck and love in the world.
We’re also excited to be here for their wedding because the food’s excellent! The Public Dining Room does incredible seafood – exhibit A: these grilled scallops!
The bright sophistication and elegance of the food here reflects perfectly the ambience of this beautiful venue. And with its location right on the beach, you can’t really ask for more if you’re after a Sydney wedding location.
The Public Dining Room also makes for a wonderful romantic dinner spot, so keep this one in mind for your next anniversary, dinner date or big birthday.
In utter contrast to the delicate finesse of the wedding, today Christina and I are at Sydney’s Olympic Park to check out the carnivorous spectacle that is Meatstock!
This meat mecca draws crowds of thousands every year to both the Sydney and the Melbourne two-day events. This year, once again, has sold out. In fact Sydney’s tickets all went over a week ago.
Everything meat-related is here. Barbecue competitions, cooking and butchery demos, food trucks and stalls, low-and-slow meat smokers, spice stores and equipment stands are all here. There’s even a vintage car display in the main hanger.
To go with all this food and fun, the music stage is pumping out live rock, country and blues music from some big names in the industry too.
But biggest and best of all is the Buffalo Trace Spit Pit and bar.
Buffalo Trace is my favourite bourbon – and not just mine. It’s the world’s most awarded distillery, and this bar is turning out some classic cocktails to enjoy with your slow-cooked ribs. You can buy Buffalo Trace bourbon from Dan Murphy’s and BWS across the land for $59.99RRP by the way.
Anyway, while they’re providing the bourbon, Buffalo Trace have brought together a barbecue pit dream team to create the biggest spectacle of the whole festival:
Making up one half of the whole, Gold Coast-based award-winning barbecue nuts The Flamin’ Mongrels have come up with the idea of spit-roasting an entire buffalo!
Powered by a 2002 Holden Commodore Ute, this mechanical marvel slowly rotates this enormous animal at just the right speed and temperature.
The other half of the team is this man. Barbecue legend, man mountain and Kentucky local (just like the bourbon), Big Moe Cason is working hard to turn this monster into a meal.
You might recognise him from such TV shows as BBQ Pitmasters and BBQ Pit Wars, where he’s won huge acclaim. He’s also sharing his secret bourbon meat basting recipe with us – you can find it here.
As the meat cooks, Big Moe, checks the ‘bark’ that forms – that delicious crust that low and slow barbecue meat has – and starts to hack off chunks for the crowd.
While he’s doing this, Big Moe has thankfully put down his customary cigar (I believe he’s a fan of Romeo Y Julietta No.2!) and is working closely with the Flamin’ Mongrels to carve up a storm with one of the biggest knives I’ve seen.
In between cigar smokes and machete strokes, Big Moe is working the crowd, making his baste and talking to folk at the Buffalo Trace bar.
I love getting backstage, but when it’s places like this, it’s even better. It reminds me of the time we went backstage at Cirque de Soleil a while ago – in fact we went about back stage x3 with dinner with the performers and a peep into the kitchens there too.
The other thing I love about being back of house is there’s always a spot where you can get away from everyone for a second. This is a sell-out crowd at Meatstock, so the masses of people everywhere is amazing.
Interestingly enough though, there are still plenty of places to find a seat and the queues, although long, seem to move really fast. I think that’s to the credit of both the event organisers and the people staffing the stalls.
As we explore the rest of Meatstock, we take in the sights – and there are many. Let’s start with ‘Jolene’ – a 4.5 tonne, 5.3m long offset barbecue smoker from Broke, NSW.
And then there’s my spiritual home: Burger Alley! There are so many burgers on offer down this side street of the festival, I’m almost regretting eating so much buffalo!
And then there’s the Wars Stage, where we get to see a lot of the competitions taking place. Everything from International Sausage Linking Wars and Pork Ribs 101 to International Butcher Wars and Beard & Mo Wars – as you can see, it draws a crowd.
We’ll definitely be looking out for ticket dates for next year’s Meatstock.
And don’t forget to check out our post coming soon on Big Moe’s Buffalo Trace bourbon meat baste recipe… and we might have a cocktail to show you too.
Taking the pace down a notch, tonight, Christina and I are meeting up with our mate Steph for dinner at a newly opened restaurant in Balmain East.
Greek Door has only been open since the start of May ’19, but is already a local institution.
The vibe here is welcoming, genuine and friendly, the food is excellent and the service is sincere but happy. Greek Door fits this neighbourhood perfectly.
We get things started with some homemade pita bread (hot, tender and delicious), warm marinated olives and a bowl of the tastiest taramosalata I’ve ever had. Christina’s sister Mary has just discovered this dip – I can’t wait to bring her here.
We also delve into the closest the restaurant has to spanakopita – their ‘wild weed pie’. It’s a wonderful mix of wilted leafy greens, feta and shortcrust pastry. We didn’t know what to expect with this one, but putting our trust in the lovely staff here has paid off.
For sides, we go for a fresh yet satisfying salad of ancient grains, pomegranate, cauliflower and mixed herbs, which has so much flavour and texture. We also order in a portion of Greek chips, which come with the fluffiest feta cheese and a sprinkle of herbs.
The chips are good, but I would have loved it if they’d been more like a lamb fat roasted chat potato.
The king of the night is the eggplant dish though. Like Greek Door’s version of spanakopita, this is the closest you’ll come to a moussaka – and this is definitely better.
It’s called papoutsakia and is a while eggplant cooked until it’s rich and tender, then split open and filled with sumptuous slow-cooked and pulled lamb and a béchamel sauce. Then the whole thing’s covered in cheese and grilled.
It’s a work of art and something I’m definitely ordering again the next time we’re here. Because we are coming back.
Dessert comes and once again we’re thankful we’ve put ourselves at the mercy of the staff recommendations. This is bougatsa – phyllo pastry parcels of semolina custard that remind me very much of the sfogliatelle you can find in Naples. They’re exquisite and crumbly, and the berry sorbet is a good match for the dish.
For something completely different and far more aromatic, these sticky apricots stuffed with cardamon cream on a bed of light granola and sprinkled with crushed pistachios hits the spot. The sorbet for this also has a cardamon flavour to it, but far from overdoing the flavour, it brings it together.
This is an unusual dish and one I probably wouldn’t order if the lovely ladies taking our order hadn’t reassured us. Once again, I’m glad we listened.
Greek Door is an instant favourite with us and we’re looking forward to our next meal there. Owner/head chef Matina Spetsiotis has come a long way to this point, from lecturing in Greek at Sydney University to working kitchens all over Sydney, this is her first restaurant enterprise.
It’s not often you see people get a restaurant right first time, but I think Matina might be onto something here.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx