Anniversary dinners, gin fests, Aussie spirits and enormous sandwiches

Is it me or does July always have a funny feel to it. It’s like the slow bit at the top of the hill before the rollercoaster plunges full speed into a big dip. That’s not to say the rest of the year’s a big dip–quite the contrary. More that this calm-before-the-storm always seems to happen.

And to say everything’s been quiet isn’t quite true either.

As you’re about to find out, we’ve been pretty busy with all kinds of dinners, parties, festivals and yes, as the title somewhat unsubtly hints at, gigantic sandwiches.

We hope you enjoy this TWE edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina x

Dinner at Fenwick Balmain East

That’s right, we’re celebrating another anniversary!

This time, we’ve jumped the gun by a couple of months, but Christina spotted an opportunity to have dinner at one of our favourite Sydney Harbour spots: the Fenwick in Balmain East.

It’s right on the water just by the ferry wharf with a full view of the Harbour Bridge.

But vistas aside, the food and service here are amazing. They even gave us special decorations for our anniversary (we’ve been together for two months shy of 23 years today!) and there have been at least two birthday celebrations at other tables while we’ve been seated!

Dinner at Fenwick Balmain East - entrees

Like I said, the food here is superb. From the three-course winter menu, which has a 50% off offer Sunday to Thursday in July and August, we go for the vitello tonnato and the baccala rillette.

If you haven’t had vitello tonnato before, it’s an unusual mix of very thinly sliced veal with a creamy tuna sauce. Doesn’t sound like it’ll be good, does it? But this absolute classic of an Italian dish is so tasty.

As for the baccala, this salt-cured cod pate, which comes with roasted beets and bruschetta, is delicious.

Dinner at Fenwick Balmain East - mains

Soon, mains arrive, which come with delicious parmesan fries and mixed leaf salad. Of the three options on this special menu, neither of us can go past the braised beef cheek, which comes with creamy mash, parsnips, crispy shallots and a rosemary jus.

The beef cheeks are so tender, we don’t really need knives–the meat just falls apart. And the gravy soaks into the mash perfectly.

Dinner at Fenwick Balmain East - digestivi

After our dessert plates have been cleared (and our server jokes saying we’ve been together longer than she’s been alive–thanks for that ?) we decide to have a little digistivo.

The Fenwick, which–if you haven’t guessed–is an Italian joint, has a great grappa and limoncello menu. In fact, the limoncello is their own, made in-house.

We stroll home along the waterfront, full of excellent food and the happy memories of the past two-plus decades together.

Women of Australian Distilling at Archie Rose

This evening, we’ve been invited to a special event at the mezzanine bar of Archie Rose Distillery in Rosebery.

Women of Australian Distilling at Archie RoseWomen of Australian Distilling mixer event at Archie Rose Distillery, Rosebery

At this ‘mixer’ event by Women Of Australian Distilling has brought together distillers, drinkers and media from all over the country to hear from a few distinguished guests, including Alice Newport, the national James B. Beam Ambassador.

Hearing from Alice, and talking to amazing women from all areas of the industry including blenders, distillers and marketers, is fascinating.

Women of Australian Distilling at Archie Rose

The bar here at Archie Rose is very cool, but being up on the mezzanine looking down gives you a totally different perspective.

Behind the barrels is the old distillery where Archie Rose first started making their spirits. This has been decommissioned now because the distilling team needed a bigger premises. But a lot of the equipment and stills remain.

cocktail - Women of Australian Distilling at Archie Rose

While we’re socialising, we’re enjoying the cocktails the bar is mixing up for us. The single malt old fashioned is my personal favourite, but there are some other excellent drinks too.

Two Fratelli cafe, Pyrmont

This afternoon, Christina and I have come over to Pyrmont to try out a cafe I discovered the other week.

Two Fratelli, which has an amazing outlook over the harbour, is tucked into one of the finger wharves near Pirrama Park not far from the casino. But for some reason prices here are reasonable and it’s not particularly busy.

Having said that, there is a fairly steady stream of office workers coming in for takeaways, but the table right out the front is free.

Two Fratelli cafe, Pyrmont - lunch

We sit and enjoy excellent coffee and delicious lunches of a Cuban sandwich and red pesto chicken wrap in the warm winter sunshine and wonder why more people aren’t packing this little spot out.

Definitely one we’ll be returning to.

Papa Gedes Bar, Sydney - muffaletta New Orleans sandwichToday, we’ve received a special delivery. And although yesterday’s Cuban sandwich from Two Fratelli was good, this takes things to a whole other level.

To celebrate their 10-year anniversary–something I’m struggling to get my head round–Papa Gede’s Bar in the city has sent out some of their absolutely astounding muffaletta sandwiches.

But they’re like no sandwich I’ve ever seen before.

Papa Gedes Bar, Sydney - muffaletta New Orleans sandwich

This enormous slab of bread, which you can buy as a full wheel at the bar by the way, is a New Orleans staple, and it beats down even the noble reuben sandwich as if it were a mere crumb.

Within the soft folds of this cartwheel sized ciabatta, expect to find layers of six types of cheeses and deli meats, olive salad and baby spinach served with a packet of Kettle Chips.

That’s how Papa Gede’s does a muffaletta!

Papa Gedes Bar, Sydney - muffaletta New Orleans sandwich

It’s a formidable sandwich. In fact, a whole one is said to be enough for eight people, which I could well imagine. And for only $60 ($19 for a quarter and $34 for half), that’s the way to line your stomach for some of the extreme cocktails the outstanding crew at Papa Gede’s have been knocking up for a decade.

So get over to this Sydney institution for some Louisiana hospitality. And if you’re there between 4pm-6pm any day of the week, you’ll enjoy happy hour, which includes 25% off ‘Muffs’ too!

Sydney Gin Festival

This afternoon, we’re out with our excellent chum Ben Gotto Smith from Future Story. We’re at the Sydney Gin Festival in Randwick–an annual fair where craft gin distillers get to showcase their finest work and we get to drink it!

There are some 55 distilleries offering total tastings of over 200 gins, many of which we’ve never heard of before.

Sydney Gin Festival - Hickson House, Red Hen, Hold Fat, Metcalf, Hickson House martini cart, SoHi

Distilleries TL to BR: Hickson House, Red Hen, Hold Fast, Metcalf, Hickson House’s martini cart, SoHi

We work our way round the stalls admiring the incredible craft shown at each. We’re surprised, to be honest, at just how many people are here today. It’s just after lunch on a Friday! But then again, we’re here, so who are we to judge?

Sydney Gin Festival - Lily Fields Distillery

We stop by this stall because we assume (correctly) that this distillery is from the neighbouring Sydney suburb Lilyfield. Yes, we think we’re really clever having deduced this by the way.

As you can see from my discerning ‘tasting face’, I’m taking this one seriously.

This is actually one of our absolute favourites of the festival. The Lily Fields Dry Gin (with the green label) is superb and their black labelled Juniper Dry Gin, which really doubles down on the juniper, is even better. And the little red bottle you can see is the distillery’s pre-mix negroni, which you definitely need to try.

And we’re not just saying that because these guys are neighbours.

Sydney Gin Festival - Lily Fields Distillery with Dean and Rachel Bentick

Just as we’re finishing up tasting and chatting to the guys from Lily Fields, we hear our names being called.

Randomly, our mates Dean and Rachel have found us in the crowd!

We’ve known these guys for years through a mutual friend. But Dean also shot our wedding photos through their company Inlighten Photography in Surry Hills–pretty much the best photography studio around.

Even stranger than seeing Dean and Rachel here is that they’re good mates with the distillers at Lily Fields! Don’t you just love happy coincidences?

Sydney Gin Festival - Jade at Bruce Coffee

As we’re going round the hall, Christina gets chatting to the barista at the coffee stand.

It turns out Jade here has been a big fan of Christina’s hair and beauty site Hair Romance for years and years–another happy coincidence.

You can check out Bruce Organic Coffee here.

Sydney Gin Festival - Ruby at North of Eden Distillery

One of our last stops before the time bell rings is to see North of Eden. These guys, from down in the beautiful Sapphire Coast of NSW, make absolutely tremendous gin. In particular, the ground-breaking Oyster Shell Gin that the lovely Ruby–North of Eden’s distiller–is pouring for me now.

North of Eden use actual oyster shells in their gin to bring out that mineral quality and add a sense of the sea.

Being from the heartland of Sydney rock oysters, it makes even more sense that these guys were the first to do it and, so far as we can tell, still the best.

Us at Fenwick

We hope you’ve enjoyed this edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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