In spite of Christina and I doing our best to lose all the travel weight our bodies have discovered since April, this week has been pretty food heavy.
Not that I’m complaining.
These are some of the most fun kilos I’ve ever gained, but this week has been a bit of a dead rubber in the dieting stakes. Maybe I should just go out and get a mu-mu – embrace it! Like my doctor told me recently: lifestyle choices, Jim. Lifestyle choices!
I think I might be misinterpreting her message there.
But in this Weekly Edition, Christina and I are exploring an excellent new red wine we’ve discovered, a new dip one of our friends has intro’d us to and we work our way through the new (and awesome) cocktail menu in our favourite city bar for the coming summer.
We hope you enjoy this Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
It really is good to be home after so much travelling this year. We worked it out to be around 24 weeks away over all. And there’s still a month or two left in 2018.
With her extra trip to Melbourne last week, Christina is enjoying being able to kick back and relax in her own space at last. Especially with the weather coming up with the goods.
This evening, we’re back in a very old haunt of ours. We’re in Five Ways in Paddington – the locale of our very first date!
But tonight, we’re not in the Thai place on the corner. Tonight, we’re in a very cool spot called Tequila Mockingbird. This amazing Mexican tequileria has some great things on the menu and behind the bar, but we’re also here to meet some pretty cool guests.
Representatives from Colorado Ski Country are here to talk powder. These guys represent 23 of the best ski locations and resorts in the USA – maybe even the world. I just hope I can still concentrate on my dinner!
The setting for tonight’s meet-up is really lovely. If you haven’t been to Tequila Mockingbird yet, make sure you get there. Across the two levels, this is a restaurant I’ll definitely be coming back to. It’s a shame those cool dudes from Colorado won’t be there next time though!
It’s hot today, but we’re testing out a theory on a new bottle of wine. When it’s hot, people tell you it’s no good drinking red wine. But I disagree. Especially when the red’s this good!
We’re trying a drop of Chapel Hill‘s The Parson Cabernet Sauvignon from McLaren Vale in South Australia – served at the ideal temperature of around 16°C, which still makes it refreshing on a 35°C day.
This is a real cracker of a wine though. Robust, silky and well-structured, but without that unharnessed spikiness you can get from lesser Cab Sauvs. Pick one of these up from Dan Murphy’s whenever you can – RRP’s $20 but I bet you can find it for under $15!
Christina’s got some work to do, so I’ve stayed in the garden with the bottle, my new book and a beautiful Montecristo No2 Mini to smoke. This is how life’s supposed to be.
The only down side to summer coming on?
If you don’t know what a bindi is, I am simply envious. These nasty, thorny seeds hide in the grass and are so sharp they can stick into anything – especially skin! Look how many there are in our garden! Horrifying.
Today, Christina’s trying out one of our friend’s recipes. Sam of The Annoyed Thyroid fame published her pumpkin hummus recipe a while back, but this is the first time we’ve had a crack at it.
I’ve always enjoyed Christina’s hummus – she makes a really good one – but the extra sweetness and smokiness from the roasted pumpkin really makes a big difference. It also gives the dip an extra smoothness, which is lovely. Check out Sam’s recipe here.
We’ve been fans of Nespresso ever since my mum and dad bought us a little machine years ago. Not just because the machines are low-maintenance and easy to use, but also because Nespresso is always looking at ways to showcase different coffee regions.
Their latest range – the Master Origins coffee – comes from all over the world from many of the best coffee regions. It’s a bit like travelling without leaving your kitchen!
We’ve still got the Nespresso machine my parents bought us, which takes the regular capsules, but now we’ve also got one of the new Vertuo machines that take the spaceship shaped pods. The difference that machine makes is amazing.
The coffee range from the Master Origin line takes you to the following countries:
Indonesia for wood and cured tobacco notes, Ethiopia for mild, fruity floral flavours, India with intense spiciness, Nicaragua and its smooth ‘block honey’ processed beans, Colombia for fruit and red wine notes, and Mexico with an intense woody flavour.
They’re all so different. If you don’t think the different origins of coffee beans makes much difference to taste, you’ll change your mind after trying some of these.
This morning we’re having breakfast with our lovely friend Tash! We’ve come to one of our favourite cafes in Balmain – Cafe Yvoire. Their coffee’s always really well made and the food is great too. The place has a lovely sunny, French feel and the food has a strong French influence too.
Christina’s gone for the ratatouille with baked egg, Tash is having the pan roasted omelette, but I’ve got the croque madame. I chose wisely. Cheesy, oozy and delicious, and the egg on top is perfectly cooked. Happy boy.
Christina’s ratatouille does look good though. It’s the little touches like the flowers and micro herbs that make the difference. Wish the waitress had told us the pans were hot though. Poor Tash burnt herself a bit on the handle!
Tonight we’re super excited to be back in our favourite city bar: Grain. This beautiful bar is actually connected to the Four Seasons Sydney, but it never feels like a hotel bar.
Bar Manager Roderick Boerma and his team have done such a great job creating this drinker’s haven in the middle of the city. Everything that comes from behind the bar here is beautifully crafted with such attention to detail.
We’re here to see Grain’s new menu for the coming spring and summer. Each member of the barstaff here were tasked with creating 2 completely new cocktails with the (quite broad) brief of ‘something that represents summer’.
Everyone’s so creative here. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be good!
Just as we thought, the new spring/summer menu here is awesome. Christina orders Coconuts, made with pineapple-infused rum, figue liqueur, maple syrup and chocolate bitters. It’s the chocolatey taste of summer. And it’s served in the most instagrammable glass for summer – a whole coconut!
I’ve gone for His Last Drink, which is a cocktail that’s been on the menu for a little while. It’s beautiful though – a powerful, spicy, smokey, fun mix of mezcal, hibiscus syrup and habanero hellfire shrub bitters. And the half-rim of chilli salt looks awesome too.
We’ve also got some albacore tuna tartare, which comes on a little line of smooth guacamole. The sesame and soy notes lift the little radiant tuna tartare bricks, and a hint of chilli pulls it all back to my drink.
Next, Christina tries the Fritz – a clever take on the popular spritz. Four Pillars Rare Dry gin, apricot liqueur, Cointreau, honey syrup, ginger lemon jam and a tiny touch of mango puree – this is summer in a glass. The ginger front leads and quickly releases your tastebuds into a deeply layered fruit punch.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a sweet drink. It’s complex, spritzy, and well-crafted.
My drink (on the right) is the H75. It’s a daiquiri twist on the classic French 75 – the ‘H’ stands for Hemingway. It’s a punchy herbal, floral cocktail with savoury notes from the Distillery Botanica gin and sweetness from the Luxardo marachino garnish in the bottom of the glass. The elegant stemware holds in the fizz from the prosecco right to the end.
We order one more round, and I can’t stop myself from asking for the Pirate Wearing a Dress! To start the drink off, our mixologist Dominic sets fire to some cassis bark to smoke the glass. I love the theatre of a well-made cocktail.
Then he pours the blend of Mount Gay Eclipse rum, blackcurrent liqueur, peach liqueur, whisky barrel and orange bitters into a miniature milk bottle to serve on a wooden board. It’s pretty cool.
This drink is superb – it’s a play on a rum old fashioned, but with a stoned fruit push. It’s festive and summery – perfect for those warm nights. And the ashes of the cassis bark smell amazing!
Christina’s order – A Floral Surprise – is just as elegant as my Pirate Wearing a Dress. A clever blend of The Botanist gin, macadamia orgeat syrup, hibiscus syrup and lemon juice, this summer floral twist on a gin sour is sherbety and smooth.
Of course, with these amazing drinks, we’ve got food as well. Check this out:
If you order nothing else in Grain Bar, you must have these banana prawn rolls. The fresh banana prawn pieces come with a beautiful spicy, smoky sauce in crisped baton rolls. Absolutely delicious and remind us of the lobster rolls we had in Manhattan’s Lobster Place in Chelsea. Only better!
These pork ribs are incredible too, with just the right amount of glaze to get you a bit sticky but not enough to embarrass you! The restrained amount of sauce not only keeps you (relatively) clean but also allows the flavour of the tender meat to shine through too.
You can also see the chorizo meatballs we have at the top of this photo. They’re sourced from a butcher in Marrickville, who also grinds up the meat for the bar. It means the meatballs are at the perfect consistency for these dense, flavourful polpette.
They’re pretty meaty though, so if you’re not feeling fully carnivore, just order more of the prawn rolls!
Make sure you get down to Grain Bar asap to try this season’s cocktails. They’re all incredible, and if it’s a school night or if you’re driving, there are also a couple of delicious non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu worth coming in for.
Grain Bar is at 199 George Street right near Circular Quay and the Rocks, and is open from 2pm till late all week.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition! Here’s to the coming summer – if you’re in Australia and NZ. Otherwise, we hope you stay warm in the northern hemisphere! 😉
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx