Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In-room dining 23.04.08

Chicken and prawn nasi goreng
Sautéed rice with coriander, green shallots and bean sprouts

Tasmanian Salmon
On Minted green peas, steamed Kipfler potato and lemon butter sauce

Rich Chocolate Cake
With coffee cream and pistachio ice cream

Lemon, lime & bitters

I thought I better write about what I just had for dinner while it’s still fresh on my mind and palate, of course.

The Holiday Inn in Darwin offers two types of Room Service menu. One is called A La Carte and the other cheaper option is affectionately called Take Inn. A La Carte comes as a full tray service and finishes at 10pm. The hotel charges $4.00 for the tray. Take Inn, on the other hand, is served “Takeaway” style with some items available to order 24 hours a day. The 24 hour availability is a very good idea as some flights to Darwin from interstate does not get in till close to or just after midnight.

Looked promising!?!?!?!?!

For what the hotel charges for such a simple dish I was certainly expecting something much better than what most take-away shops offer. Most of what I paid for probably went into the packaging. (Ok, ok, the office is paying for it). The dish came in a Chinese takeaway box. The box really looked good. But as soon as I opened it my heart sank with what I saw. The Nasi Goreng looked more like a badly made risotto. The grains of rice were hardly recognisable as they were all stuck together like glue. Parang paste! The coriander and green shallots were also missing. Big disappointment! I will not order it again!

Really bad Nasi Goreng!

As a Pinoy, I actually did not have the courses separately. I did not finish the Nasi Goreng first before having the salmon. I had them both at the same time.

I’m not really fond of minted peas. I’ve decided early on to eat the salmon with the Nasi Goreng anyway so it didn’t really bother me that the salmon was served with it. I just would not eat it. To my surprise though, the minted peas (which was mashed) actually tasted good. I finished all of it together with the Kipfler potatoes. The salmon was a bit overcooked but it was nice enough I finished all of it.

The pistachio ice cream that was supposed to be included in the dessert I ordered was nowhere to be seen! Yes, the chocolate cake was served with ice cream but it was not pistachio! I was already suspicious when I first saw the ice cream. The colour was too much on the pale side. It wasn’t pale green. It was white! Maybe it’s coconut (I was hoping)! What other white coloured ice cream are there around? Of course it’s vanilla! It was plain old boring BANILYA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cake, unfortunately, was not able to make for it. It was more like boxed Sara Lee chocolate cake straight out of the freezer.

All in all, tonight’s dinner is a 4 out of 10!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In-room dining 21.04.08

Warm crab frittata
Flavoured with Roma tomato, chives and potato with lemon aioli and soft herb salad

Char grilled Emerald Hills porterhouse steak
On creamy mashed potato, Puttanesca relish and baby beans

Usually on my first night in every city I visit I tend to have my meals in the hotel first. And tonight was no exception.

Frittata is sometimes served cold that is why, I suppose, it was emphasised on the menu that this item in warm. Frittata is much like the Pinoy tortang itlog. The ingredients are not much different either. Anyway, I enjoyed this entrée tremendously. I could have ordered another one as a main. The aioli worked well with the frittata. It was a bit tart to balance the richness of the frittata.

There were no surprises with the steak. It was medium just as I ordered. The mashed potato was creamy indeed as stated in the menu. I like Puttanesca as a pasta sauce but not on my steak that’s why that one was pushed aside. The beans were fresh and done just right.

Dinner tonight is 7 out of 10!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rendezvous, Darwin Seafood Laksa

The Laksa at the Rendezvous was highly recommended by my colleagues in Darwin. The café’s opening hours was not the most convenient for me. I was only able to visit just this once on this trip. My workload was lighter than on my normal visits.

It was not the best Laksa I’ve ever had but it sure was good. The soup was spicy coconuty rich. I prefer an equal balance of egg and rice noodles but this one was served with more egg noodles. As a plus though, the egg noodles were really fresh and had a good bite to it. The seafood was real seafood. None of those “crab/prawn” imitation that’s very prevalent in seafood kuno takeaways in the land down under.

I’ve ordered home made lemon iced tea with my Laksa. The iced tea was excellent! I would go back to the Rendezvous Café just for that. It was unsweetened but it came with a serving of sugar syrup so you can sweeten it to your liking.

It’s 8.5 out of 10. The extra 0.5 for the excellent home made lemon iced tea!

Baan Thai, Darwin

I’m not really a big fan of hotel dining. I believe you miss out a lot on experiencing the place you’re visiting if all you eat is hotel food. So, whenever I get the opportunity I would venture out of the hotel in search of some local specialties.

Thai is a very popular cuisine around Australia and Darwin is no exception. You’re actually bound to find good Asian food in Darwin due to it’s large Asian population.

I always make it a point to visit Baan Thai every time I’m in Darwin. And I tend to have the same set of dishes every time.

Fish Cakes

Papaya Salad

Seafood with Basil

The photo below does not give justice to how the food tasted. All 3 tasted delicious! Each had a nice balance of sweet, salty, sour and spiciness. Extra points to the Papaya Salad which tasted really fresh!

8 out of 10! It’ll probably be close to 10 if I ate at the restaurant!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pan de Sal

What could be so difficult about mixing flour, water and a bit of yeast together? OK, there are more than three ingredients in making Pan de Sal but my point is there is nothing extraordinary about what goes into making it. It is not like you need to swim to the bottom of the ocean to get this unique ingredient that would make the perfect pan de sal. Or maybe you do?!?!?! That is why my pan de sal is never like bakery bought!

basic dough

Everything you need you could probably find in most people’s pantry. But for some peculiar reason the pan de sal, in the style of typical Pinoy bakery, I have found very difficult to copy. I’ve tried all sorts of recipes. I’ve searched books. I Googled for recipes! But NOTHING! I still get the same result!

Is it in the flour? Should I get the same brand as the bakers? I’ve read somewhere that to make bread it is best to use a “strong bakers flour”? What is it? How is it different from ordinary flour? In what sense is it “strong?

Is it the yeast? Which is better? Dry? Wet? What?

Is it the oven I’m using? Does it have to be brick one fuelled by wood? Is fan forced not good enough? Should I not use the fan force option?

What kind of shortening? Is sunflower oil not good? Should I be using lard?

ready for baking

Teka, when you really think about making pan de sal it is not that simple. There are so many factors that could make or break the deal!

What, in my opinion, then is the perfect pan de sal? Well, since you asked, the perfect pan de sal for me is very much like the pan de sal of my childhood.

Since the Pinoy of late have been complaining about the size of the pan de sal today I can therefore safely assume that size wise it has to be bigger than what is currently in the market.

Although the sal in the name of this bread is referring to salt my perfect pan de sal is more on the sweet side. Some pan de sal purist might be horrified at this but I don’t care!

Texture wise it has to be more stretchy than spongy. The frozen pan de sal sold in most Pinoy stores in Australia are more sponge cake like. This is not what I want. This kind of consistency Is what the pan de sal I make are mostly like. Parang mamon ang texture!

here's one I prepared earlier

The photos show my failed attempt to copy. They were all pretty good, don’t get me wrong. They also look like the real deal. Pero in the end, iba pa rin.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Running in Brisbane

I feel quite blessed to have my workplace in an area that is quite conducive to fitness. My office building is located near the Brisbane River. And along the riverside there is a bikeway/walkway that goes for kilometres right through to the various inner city suburbs of Brisbane.

View from the 3rd level parking lot

The track to the city

The gym used to be IT for me when it comes to fitness. My former workplace was flexible enough to allow me to have 2 hour lunch breaks. I used these times to go to the gym. Specifically, to attend group fitness classes. The gym was also only 10 minutes walk from my office building. 2 hours was more than enough for me to do my thing.

My gym bag and gear next to my plastic bamboo plant

But since I moved workplaces I have found it quite difficult to visit the gym. Not only is the gym far from where I work now but also I haven’t got as much spare time as I used to.

You might ask, why not do it early in the morning before work? I am not really a morning person, you see. So getting up too early to visit the gym is never going to happen. I might do it for a week or so but it will not be sustainable.

Why not after work, you ask? All I want to do is go home to my family after work. I spend too much time at work already. To add an hour or so of gym time to that is just not ideal. I prepare dinner most days. I can’t ask my family to wait an extra hour just because…

Lunch time is my only time to exercise. The answer then is to use what I’ve got, where I am! I’ve quit the gym! I have been running regularly since the beginning of this year. Again, thank God for the perfect location for this kind of fitness regime. I run approximately 8 kilometres at least 3 times a week. Being a neophyte, it takes me an hour to complete the course. Last week that was reduced to just 58 minutes. We’ll see how I go this week.

Walkway to the bike/walk track from the other side of the river. I do my stretches here.

My boss has graciously given me his old heart rate monitor to help me programme my running better. My new workplace also has a fitness check programme that regularly monitors the physical fitness of all employees. Some people might view it as a bit intrusive but I think otherwise. This program encourages me even more to do better at work.

Sign on the track showing distance to the two different directions you could take.