Frank Green SmartBottle™

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Disclaimer: The SmartBottle™ was provided courtesy of frank green for review. I am not financially compensated for this post. 

 

After my mishap with Frank Green‘s SmartCup™Frank Green got in touch and sent me a new replacement SmartCup™, as well as their new SmartBottle™. I’ve been using both the last couple of weeks and it’s official – I love their SmartBottle™ and here’s why. 
Frank Green SmartBottle

Frank Green SmartBottle

This 800ml bottle has a recyclable copolyester body. The copolyester is a clear hard plastic, which feels sturdy in the hand and feels very lightweight. It is easy to see at a glance how much I’ve drunk and when it needs refilling.

Frank Green SmartBottle

The polypropylenelid looks exactly the same as their SmartCup™, with its one handed, push button in a variety of contemporary colours. The drinking hole (the large one) flows well without spilling and doesn’t leave any weird plastic tastes in your mouth.

Other reasons why I love it:

  • BPA free
  • Fit in standard bottle holders in our car
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Recyclable at end of life

Out of curiosity, I compared the lids of the new Frank Green‘s SmartCup™ and SmartBottle™ with the older SmartCup™ lid. The only notable difference is the holes on the underside, but that does not have a noticable effect on the flow.

Frank Green SmartBottle

One of my initial issues was cleaning the lid. If you’ve read the recent online outrage by parents over mould in sippy cup lids, you can understand my concern. Frank Green‘s patented spill resistant lid is actually really easy to pull apart to ensure you clean everything (especially if you have milk in your beverages) and reassemble.

Here’s a little video I made that shows you how to put all the lid components back together.

Frank Green Cap from Nightchild80 on Vimeo.

Elk Espresso on Broadbeach

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After repeatedly being tempted by Crave Gold Coast‘s Instagram porn of Elk Espresso, we headed down there for breakfast on a mini weekend getaway down the coast. It was also conveniently enroute to Tallebudgera Creek, where we were planning to spend most of the morning.

Breakfast at Elk Espresso on Broadbeach

Heaps of on-street parking on a Sunday morning and a wide open road was such a blessing. There are few things more painful than a lack of parking when crippled with hunger.

And while Elk Espresso was busy, we were seated quickly at a table with room for a high chair. Despite the blindingly bright sunshine outside, the cafe’s interior was a cool dark haven. Elk Espresso‘s clientele that morning were an eclectic mix of 20-somethings hanging out with friends and small family groups catching up before the week begins.

Breakfast at Elk Espresso on Broadbeach

Once we had put our coffee orders in, the menu was thoroughly perused. I liked that Elk Espresso changes their menu with the seasons and their summer breakfast options offered an excellent variety of sweet and savoury.

Breakfast at Elk Espresso on Broadbeach

Breakfast at Elk Espresso on Broadbeach

Breakfast at Elk Espresso on Broadbeach - Potato hash with garlic thyme mushrooms. AUD$18

Potato hash with garlic thyme mushrooms. AUD$18

The potato hash came with avocado, free range poached eggs and liberal lashings of hollandaise. Two small fist sized balls of finely grated potato held up well against the fork. The poached eggs were unfortunately overcooked, so no oozy gooey yolks – a tragedy!

Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to choose between three options: garlic thyme mushrooms (AUD$18), double smoked Byron Bay bacon (AUD$18) or smoked salmon (AUD$19). Since fresh mushrooms now cost AUD$11 a kilo, I dug into the seriously aromatic garlic thyme mushrooms with a gusto that would’ve made Man v. Food’s Adam Richman proud. Utter bliss!

Breakfast at Elk Espresso on Broadbeach - Summer fruits. AUD$15

Summer fruits. AUD$15

The SO has been developing a bit of a sweet tooth recently, but I was still surprised when he ordered the Elk Espresso‘s Summer Fruits. The bowl cupped large chunks of watermelon, rockmelon, kiwi, honeydew and fresh strawberries, blueberries and grapes. For a bit of crunch, there was a sprinkle of toasted sunflower seeds and to send shivers down your spine, a ball of cold raspberry sorbet.

After our visit to Elk Espresso, I am keen to explore what else the Gold Coast has to offer. Where to next?

 

Elk Espresso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jelly Roll Jam II quilt project – the sequel

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I had such a great time making the first quilt with the Fat Quarter Shop’s Jelly Roll Jam II pattern, I made a second one.

Jelly Roll Jam II quilt project - the sequel

This one uses the other half of my Moda Deb Strain‘s Family Tree jelly roll. Just look at the difference the stronger oranges and blues make to the overall look of the quilt! And Bubby is really attracted to reds and oranges at the moment.

Jelly Roll Jam II quilt project - the sequel

I managed to finish the quilt top and basting before Bubby arrived, but it has gone months without the bias trim. I had run out of scrappy bias tape and couldn’t find the time to make more.

In the end, I caved and nicked a few strips from another Moda jelly roll S’more Love to make bias tape. Turns out I can hand-stitch the bias tape while breastfeeding.

Jelly Roll Jam II quilt project - the sequel

Jelly Roll Jam II quilt project - the sequel

Now we will always have one quilt playmat if the other is in the wash – something very handy when my in-laws step on Bubby’s playmat with their shoes.

King Arthur Cafe

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I’ve taken to going on morning walks with Bubby around the neighbourhood to soak up some glorious Queensland sunshine and get my body back into some semblance of fitness post-partum. It was on one of these walks that I came to realise I now have the perfect excuse to visit cafes outside the chaotic weekend hustle – a godsend when you need a little extra room for a baby pram at the table and just want some quiet to glance at the news.

King Arthur Cafe, however deserved at least three visits. Tucked off down Arthur Street (just off the much busier James Street), King Arthur Cafe is the latest offering from the same team behind the South Brisbane cafe Merriweather, so it’s no surprise they have a similar ethos – local and sustainable.

The space King Arthur Cafe calls home is narrow and long, but there is plenty of rich light that floods through to its high ceiling, providing lightness and contentment to the space. The second floor above has ample two-person seating and also hosts the communal large bench, while the benches downstairs could squeeze four patrons each in a pinch.

King Arthur Cafe

King Arthur Cafe

King Arthur Cafe

The mosaic of baked goods and pastries from Sprout Artisan Bakery right by the counter is inviting and tempts you into leaning in for a closer look. Every time I visit, there is always a clean eating option on the bench and it’s always different from the visit before. Their coffee is from Coffee Supreme.

King Arthur Cafe

The menu is an all-day brunch, so features some heartier options for those who seek a more satisfying meal closer to lunch hour. When asked, King Arthur Cafe staff pointed to the local slow cooked goat and pumpkin & persian feta as the most popular menu items.

I’ve sampled the vegetarian ramen and while it was deliciously satisfying for a chilly winter’s morning, there was a little disappointment the soba noodles were a tad overcooked and had gone a little too soft.

On the other hand, the local slow cooked goat definitely deserved its reputation – hearty, rich and simply presented, because that was all it needs to stand out.

King Arthur Cafe

Clean carrot cake with labneh icing

King Arthur Cafe

Vegetable ramen with organic soba noodles, Mt Cotton mushrooms, bak choy and poached egg. AUD$16

King Arthur Cafe - Local slow cooked goat in tomato, oregano with wilted spinach on sourdough. AUD$18

Local slow cooked goat in tomato, oregano with wilted spinach on sourdough. AUD$18

 

King Arthur Cafe
164c Arthur Street
Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006
Phone: 07 3358 1670

Click to add a blog post for King Arthur on Zomato

A Hen’s Night at Cork and Chroma

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What little I’ve seen of hen’s parties hasn’t been pretty. Whether I have a stick up my bum or am simply too old for my age, pink tutus, sequin sashes, tacky plastic crowns, penis straws, drunken shenanigans, gyrating male flesh and embarrassing games are just not my idea of a good time, especially if photos make their way onto the everlasting abyss of the Internet.

But with that said, I wasn’t the least bit hesitant to attend good friend A’s hen’s party. Tacky has never been her style and she had organised an evening painting (and drinking for those who were able) at the Cork and Chroma in South Brisbane.

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

In case you were wondering, the Cork and Chroma painting class was not a nude study. The raunchiest it got was when participants lick the rim of their wine glass to catch the last drops of their vino.

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

On this particular night, the subject was Moonlight Blossoms, but it changes from session to session. Paints to recreate the original were laid out first, but there really wasn’t a limit to what participants could do. The demonstrator dominates the platform to walk everyone step-by-step, offering ideas and suggestions between stages on how to make the paintings unique.

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

My custom Lego Xena wine glass charm

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

Standard issue tools of the trade

I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in decades and it felt strangely satisfying to complete the painting.

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

The selection of paints for the evening’s class

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

Step 1: Paint the background and the moon

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

Step 2: Paint the tree’s silhouette

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

Step 3: Add contrast shading to the tree

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

Step 4: Paint in the foliage or flowers

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

Step 5: I added some contrast for the flowers

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

Step 6: Sign your master piece!

A Hen's Night at Cork and Chroma

It turned out to be such a fun night and everyone got to bring something home at the end as a memento of the occassion. The SO insisted we hang it up in the home, so it now hangs on the wall along one of our narrow corridors. Now I’m wondering whether to join another Cork and Chroma painting class just for fun in the future.

Have you been to a non-stripper hen’s party that was fun?

Taste of home: Sambal tumis

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I’ve been slacking on this one, because contrary to popular belief, a damn good sambal takes effort and time. And honestly I didn’t want to rush the job, because the real question was which sambal recipe to make.

Sambal is a chilli sauce that can include a variety of other ingredients, such as ginger, shallots, lime juice, shrimp and/or garlic. Depending on the country and region, sambal can be coyingly sweet, pinchingly sour, garlicky or just burns all the way down your gut. It is served alongside a multitude of dishes, such as fried chicken, barbequed squid, stir-fried noodles or even simple sliced cucumbers.

Sambal belacan is probably the most common sambal in Singapore and Malaysia. The paste is traditionally made with pounded fresh chillis with toasted shrimp paste (belacan) in a stone mortar, with sugar and lime juice. It can be used to stir-fry vegetables and it is very similar to sambal tumis, which is the same concoction stir-fried until the bright red colour has turned a darker ochre shade and the oils have leached out. My mother would always make a huge batch of sambal tumis when she made mee siam, as she used the same sambal to stir fry the bee hoon and make the gravy.

Unfortunately any dreams I’ve had of making homemade sambal with my own harvested chilli died alongside the dozen or so chilli plants I’ve tried to cultivate on our balcony. Packets of fresh chillies can be pricey at the market, but a friend apparently has a monster of a birds’ eye chilli plant and gifted me a whole ziplock bag of chillies. This was as good a time as any to make a batch to share amongst friends!

So here’s an adaptation of my mum’s recipe for sambal tumis, which uses belachan and I use as a condiment. It works really great with fried chicken, omelettes and fried rice/vermicelli. This stored in an airtight container will last at least 2 weeks (longer if you pour oil over the top) or months in the freezer.

Sambal Tumis

Before

Sambal Tumis

After

 

Sambal tumis

Sambal tumis

Ingredients

  • 1 large handful of large red chillis
  • 1 small handful of chilli padis (less and/or deseeded if you don’t want too much heat)
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large red onion (or at least 6 shallots)
  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind puree
  • 2 tablespoons gula melaka or palm sugar
  • 250ml boiling water
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix the tamarind puree and palm sugar in the boiling water, and set aside until it cools.
  2. Blend the chillis, garlic and onions in a blender until you get a smooth paste. If you want to be traditional about it, you can use a mortar and pestle, but I’m lazy and prefer to whizz everything up in a blender.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or wok on medium heat and add the pureed chilli mixture. Fry for at least 15 minutes until the mixture has lost most of its moisture. At this stage, it should be quite fragrant and the oil has been mixed well into the paste.
  4. Add the tamarind puree and sugar liquid to the pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir occasionally for at least 15 minutes. Continue to fry until the paste has again lost most of its moisture, changed to a deep red and the oil begins to separate from the paste.
  5. Add salt to taste.
  6. Distribute the mixture in prepared containers (preferably airtight and glass) and allow to cool. You can freeze the sambal into small ice-cubes for longer term storage, but remember to wash the ice-tray well if you intend to reuse to make ice.
http://www.melissaloh.com/2015/02/06/taste-home-sambal-tumis/

DIY Project: Wild Flower Pincushion

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This has been my pincushion for as long as I can remember.

My old pincushion

It was really my mother’s and was the top half of a plastic container meant to hold extra pins, but over the years, it wouldn’t shut. I gave up using it after countless accidents spilling pins all over the floor.

Trawling through Pinterest, I found a tutorial on how to sew a lovely wild flower pincushion, which also included the pattern. It took me awhile to work it out and I was lucky to find some additional tips from another blog.

Wild Flower Pincushion

Seeing as this was my first attempt at the pattern, I dug out some scraps in my stash tub of fabric and some stuffing from an old cushion that’s too fat. Two of the petals have been squished under and the resulting pincushion is much larger than I initially envisioned, but otherwise it’s all secure and is already securing my collection of sewing pins.

Wild Flower Pincushion

Wild Flower Pincushion

A new chapter dictated by my skin – Psoriasis

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I normally love winter, but this winter in Brisbane has been particular bone chilling. Over the last weekend, the mercury has dropped down to 3-4ºC and I’ve resorted to hacking my handmade quilt, cheap $25 Ikea coffee table and trusty heater into a makeshift kontatsu. A kontatsu is a low-set Japanese table with a blanket and table top over the top – its genius is in the heat source underneath. You slip your legs under the futon and keep yourself toasty warm in winter without warming the rest of the room.

But winter comes with its downside for me. Every winter, the skin on my right index finger becomes extremely dry and cracks painfully on the side. My elbows too have dry skin. I always attributed it to just the dry air and simply moisturised it as best I can through the season, and wear rubber gloves if I’m doing the dishes. I have now learnt I was wrong – I have psoriasis.

I recently had to take prednisone, which is an oral immunosuppressant drug and wasn’t very good about the weaning off schedule. What happened afterwards shocked me.

20140731-164409-60249454.jpg

20140731-164409-60249991.jpg

These are psoriasis lesions. The ones on my face began as pimples. Injury to the skin can cause lesions for many psoriasis sufferers. I also always had ‘dandruff’ in certain areas (generally the left back of my head) and it’s now turned into lesions, that are spreading into other areas of my scalp.

Now I must add that I have had prednisone before and weaned off the drug without any issues in the past. But perhaps my body has finally caved from the additional stress of increased work responsibilities of two jobs, joining the EDB 2014 committee and trying to conceive.

 

How do I know I have psoriasis?

Because my younger sister has had it since she was 16 years old and I recognise its characteristics. Psoriasis has a genetic component, so having one sibling with psoriasis puts my risk factor at 24%. Of course my sister and I would’ve gotten it from one of our parents, but neither manifested psoriasis like either of us.

The dermatologist also took a biopsy from my scalp (ie. cut a 3mm chunk of my skin and stitched me up) and the results indicate I have psoriasis AND dermatitis.

 

What’s so bad about psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease and like most autoimmune diseases, there is no cure.

Other than the fact it’s on my face and is putting a HUGE damper on my self-confidence, it itches like a mofo. Imagine an insect bite anywhere on your body. Now increase the affected area of itching to the entirety of your elbows, your scalp and face. In the daytime, I can control myself from scratching too much, but I have woken up in the morning to find blood under all my nails and my scalp feeling raw. This increases risks of infection and aggravating the psoriasis further.

 

So what am I trying to do about it?

UVB treatments

I visited Westside Dermatology in Taringa, which is also home to the Psoriasis Institute here in Brisbane. After speaking to the nurse specialising in psoriasis, we agreed I should start UVB treatment immediately as topical steroid creams are not advisable as long as we’re trying to get pregnant.

Thus far I have had 6 UVB treatments at increasing doses (duration less than 1 minute), but there were no visible difference. This is expected as most psoriasis sufferers reported changes after an average of 20 treatments. Thankfully the psoriasis treatments at Westside Dermatology are bulk billed.

However I have stopped this treatment, as the majority of the lesions are on my face and scalp. The treatments were subjecting my entire body to UVB, which is not very effective.

Cost: AUD$25 for initial consult and first UVB treatment (with referral)

 

Advantan Fatty Ointment

This is a prescription corticoid topical cream. It is generally used for a short period of time on body areas to bring the skin inflammation under control. I started with rubbing the tiniest amount into the lesions twice a day everyday and it has helped to reduce the inflammation and I can now reduce it to once every other day.

Cost: AUD$9.99 

 

Diprosone Lotion

This is also a prescription corticoid topical lotion that I’m supposed to apply to my scalp psoriasis, but the watery formulation stings like a mofo when the lesions are particularly raw and inflamed. The dermatologist has me using the Advantan Fatty Ointment on my scalp lesions until they’re better enough for me to use the lotion.
Cost: AUD$19.99 for 30ml

 

Clipping my nails short

To stop myself from causing my skin too much damage while I’m asleep. I thankfully don’t have fingernail pitting, another psoriasis characteristic and don’t mind having short nails.

Cost: 5 minutes every 2 weeks

 

Moo Goo Eczema & Psoriasis Cream

This is one of the first products I bought from the chemist and it has provided quite a bit of relief from the itching. This white cream is what I apply on all my lesions to reduce the itching twice a day – right after a shower and in the evening. I also keep a tube of it on my desk at work to apply if I feel an itch coming on. The SO helps me apply it to the scalp with a q-tip.

Cost: AUD$18.95 for 120g tube

 

Organic coconut oil

I picked a small sample of this up at my local organic store on the recommendation from one of the staff. After applying this once to my scalp, I didn’t like it. I found the consistency of the oil thicker and harder to wash out. It also didn’t relieve the itching as much as the hemp oil has (see below).

Cost: AUD$2 for 20ml

 

Organic hemp oil

After watching this video by a girl suffering from sebopsoriasis, I thought I might give her treatment a go for my own scalp. I ordered a 500ml bottle of organic hemp oil from Hemp Foods Australia via their webstore. They are south of the border in Bangalow and it only took them a day to ship it out to me. It’s a pain they don’t ship to a PO box, but otherwise service was great and the shipment packed really well.

I apply half a tablespoon’s worth of warmed hemp oil to my scalp and left it in there overnight, sleeping on a doubled-over towel over my pillow and then washing it out in the morning (see below).

The first time I did this, there was instant relief from the itching and I was able to watch an hour of telly before bed without scratching. I still scratched in my sleep. Two days later, I did the treatment again. There was the same instant relief and I was able to sleep well, waking up in the morning with no blood under my fingernails – proof I didn’t scratch myself raw in my sleep.

Has it reduced or removed the scaling? No/not yet, but the scales have been easier to remove with a comb and I find myself scratching less , which is in itself an improvement.

Cost: AUD$$29.95 + delivery ($9.90)

 

Dr Bronner’s Organic Liquid Castile Soap (Baby Mild Unscented)

This is another product the video mentioned: Dr Bronner Organic Liquid Castile Soap (Baby Mild Unscented). I mix half a teaspoon of liquid soap to half a cup of water in a plastic cup, and apply it to my wet hair. If I am trying to wash out the hemp oil treatment from the night before, I usually do at least 2 washes to get the stuff out and prevent my hair from looking like a grease bomb. The soap can also be used for other things and there’s an awesome dilution cheat sheet available.

I’m really enjoying this product. It does the job of removing the oil treatments out of my hair without stripping it completely. While it doesn’t lather as much as commercially available shampoos, it doesn’t sting my scalp’s sore raw spots upon application. My hair feels soft and doesn’t have that uncontrollable frizz I usually get after washing. I definitely want to keep going with this product to see if it helps in the long run.

Cost: AUD$9 for 237ml bottle

 

Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

I have used apple cider vinegar in the past to rinse product buildup in my hair, with good results, so I was quite happy to incorporate this into my scalp and hair routine. Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is unfiltered, unheated, unpasteurized and 5% acidity – it’s about as unprocessed as you’d probably get a vinegar. It also contains the mother, such is the orangey-brown stuff that collects at the bottom of the bottle. Those are naturally occurring enzymes. I’m not particularly crazy about the American Christian propaganda on the labelling, but it’s one of the best ones on the market.

Cost: Forgot how much I paid for this one.

 

Glycerine

According to the psoriasis forums, this one has had mixed results. However it’s extremely inexpensive and since I already had a bottle of it in our bathroom cabinet, I figured I might use it on one of my elbows to see how it takes.
I dip the tip of my index finger to pick up the glycerine and rub it into my elbow. It soaks in immediately and while it makes my skin slightly tacky, it’s not sticky and there isn’t any residue left to wipe off. I do this immediately after my shower and then apply the Moo Goo Eczema & Psoriasis Cream on both elbows as normal.

Thus far there has been noticeable improvement in the skin on the glycerine elbow. The lesions are less red and not as raised. The scaling is improving (but not gone) and I find I do not need to apply more Moo Goo Eczema & Psoriasis Cream during the day as I do with the other elbow.

Cost: A couple of bucks? It’s been too long ago.

 

Fish oil

The nurse at the Psoriasis Institute recommended I take daily supplements of fish oil. It’s known to reduce inflammation in the body and given I’m not consuming as much fish in my diet as I used to in Singapore, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to put more omega 3 into my body. Fish oil is widely available to chemists at varying dosages, so I am taking 1 capsule per day.

Blackmores Omega Daily

Cost: AUD$39.99 for 200 capsules

 

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like MS and inflammatory bowel disease. Although I live in sunny Australia, I have been tested with a Vitamin D deficiency, especially in winter. This is apparently quite common. Appropriate sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels, but when you’re more susceptible to skin cancer (as we are in Australia) and . The recommended dosage for adults is 1,500 to 2,000 IUs per day. I’m taking 1 capsule per day.
Healthy Care Vitamin D3
Cost: AUD$14.00 for 250 capsules

 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is found in many foods including vegetable oils, cereals, meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and wheat germ oil. It is more popularly used to treat and prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels including hardening of the arteries, heart attack, chest pain, leg pain due to blocked arteries, and high blood pressure.

Some people have reported improvements with their psoriasis after taking Vitamin E supplements, so I’m taking 1 capsule per day.
Healthy Care Vitamin E

Cost: AUD$21.99 for 200 capsules

 

Dermablend

I’m not particularly vain, but people have asked me what’s up with my face since the lesions appeared (someone asked if I had burned my face). Thankfully the lesions on my face are mostly flat and don’t scale too badly, so I can minimise their appearance by camouflaging their redness with concealer. Dermablend is available in some pharmacies and I picked up the Dermablend Cover Crème in warm beige.

I follow the instructions by scraping a small amount of the Dermablend onto the back of my hand, rubbing it with my index finger to warm the product before patting it onto the lesions and blending it with the rest of my skin. A neutral setting powder is dusted over the areas and I can get through most of the work day without worrying about too many people staring at my face. I’m still learning how to apply it well. Practice makes perfect.

Cost: AUD$56.95 for 28g tub

 

Reducing stress

Unfortunately the additional commitments to manage the psoriasis now takes precedence and I’m the only one who can decide how best to move forward. After the diagnosis, I had to have a very long hard think about how to do that and I repeatedly came back to needing to reduce the stress I put myself in.

My word is always my bond, so when I decided to leave the EDB 2014 committee, I was heartbroken. The committee are a great bunch of people and have been great friends, who have been extremely understanding about my situation and condition.

I also took a week off work to recuperate from 3 days of no-sleep. Sleep has never been an issue for me, but the itching drove me insane and I thought I was going to die. My team at work were so kind and supportive, making sure I got back on my feet when I felt physically ready to tackle my usual workload.

Cost: My pride

The Australian Supermarket Spaghetti Test

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Disclaimer: While Barilla provided me with pasta and sauce samples that inspired this experiment, I purchased all the ingredients at my local supermarkets with my own dime for this experiment. My blind taste subjects were not compensated by myself or anyone else to participate in the experiment (nor were they involved in the preparation). And this is not a sponsored post. 

 

When Barilla first contacted me about trying out their pasta, I was hesitant. I like pasta, but it’s always been one of those I’m-too-tired/lazy/uninspired –to-cook-anything-else type of meals. With that attitude, it’s no surprise my pantry is generally stocked with the generic (and cheap) Homebrand pasta. And to be honest, I’ve never had a problem with it.

So I started up this conversation with a girlfriend, who as it turned out is a Barilla fan. She basically bitch-slapped me and questioned my claim to being a foodie.

“I know we think there’s no difference in packaged pasta, but there is. Trrrrrry.”, she begged.

Well, then… challenge accepted.

But let’s be fair: if I’m going to make a comparison, I might as well compare them all… or as many as I can. At the same time. Thus, I give you: the Australian Supermarket Spaghetti Test.

I’m not a scientist or chef, so I’ll try to make the Australian Supermarket Spaghetti Test as simple as possible and something that anybody can do at home. Any resemblance to an episode on Today Tonight is purely coincidental.

 

The Contenders

I’ve chosen the brands that are most readily available to the average Australian supermarket consumer. Obviously there are other brands out there, but if you shop at the big 3 supermarkets, you’ll recognise these easily enough. I also picked the most commonly available pasta shape.

  • Homebrand Spaghetti
  • Coles Solid Spaghetti  No. 1
  • Zafarelli No.4
  • San Remo Spaghetti No. 5
  • Barilla Spaghetti No. 5

The Australian Supermarket Spaghetti Test

 

Method

300gm of each pasta will be cooked as per box/packet instructions in equally salted water and prepared as a carbonara. Here is the recipe I’ll be following, adapted from the above mentioned girlfriend:

Spaghetti carbonara

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 13 minutes

Total Time: 23 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Spaghetti carbonara

Ingredients

  • 300 gm dried spaghetti
  • 4 sices of pancetta, diced
  • Half an onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Small cube of butter
  • 100gm mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons of cream
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. Boil the spaghetti in salty water according to the packet instructions.
  2. Into a hot frying pan, add the pancetta with a dizzle of olive oil and butter. Fry into just crispy.
  3. Add the garlic and onion into the frying pan, sweating them until soft before tossing in the mushrooms.
  4. Drain the pasta into a mixing bowl, reserving some of the pasta liquid.
  5. Add the pancetta and mushrooms, beaten eggs and cream. Toss well.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Sprinkle the parmesan on top before serving.
http://www.melissaloh.com/2014/03/17/australian-supermarket-spaghetti-test/

 

Assessment criteria

  • Cost
  • Nutrition
  • Texture
  • Taste

 

Cost

Cost is an easy one to compare, so here’s what I paid for each packet of pasta at the local Coles supermarket, with the exception of the Homebrand. That I bought at the local Woolworth’s supermarket.

Brand Homebrand Coles Zafarelli San Remo Barilla
Cost $0.70 $1.00 $1.83 $2.44 $2.55
Weight 500gms 500gm 500gm 500gm 500gm

Homebrand is the cheapest and the other brands’ prices get increasingly higher, with Barilla being the most dear. In fact, Barilla’s spaghetti was 264% more expensive than the Homebrand and 155% more expensive than the Coles brand.

$2.55 for a packet of pasta doesn’t sound a lot, but families with a sharp eye on their budget may not look too kindly on the price difference. Supermarkets also run specials every month, so prices can vary from time to time.

 

Nutrition

There are a number of nutritional areas to compare. This information was extracted from the back of the packets.

Brand Homebrand Coles Zafarelli San Remo Barilla
Serving size 100 gm 100 gm 125gm 125 gm 85 gm
Calories per 100gm 361 356 363

(1520 kJ)

200 356
Fat per 100gm 2.0 gm 2.2 gm 1.5gm 2.0 gm 1.5 gm
Protein per 100gm 12.8 gm 12.7 gm 12.0 gm 12.0 gm 12.5 gm
Sodium per 100gm 29 mg 6 mg 38 mg 30 mg 20 mg
Carbohydrates per 100gm 69.7 gm 68.6 gm 74.0 gm 72.0 gm 71.7 gm
Sugars per 100gm 2.8 gm 1.4 gm 0.6 gm 2.5 gm 3.5 gm

Homebrand and Coles have the highest amounts of protein, but the lowest in carbohydrates.

Coles has a significantly lower amount of sodium compared to the other brands.

Surprisingly Zafareilli has the highest number of calories per 100gm, but has one of the lowest amount of fat and sugars.

Barilla’s serving size is the smallest and has the most amount of sugar per 100gm.

 

Texture And Taste

Texture and taste are subjective assessment criteria – it depends on one’s personal preferences. Since I would need to prepare the pasta, I invited the SO and one of his buddies, Bean to do a blind taste test.

I cooked all the pastas at the same time according to the packet instructions and the experience has taught me I’m not cut out to be a commercial chef. If you’ve never tried cooking exactly the same thing five times at the same time and have your mind/eye on a million things happening, you might not understand the chaos. Knowing I would forget which bowl would hold which pasta, I grabbed a Sharpie and masking tape to label the bottom of each bowl.

And a good thing I did, as I had forgotten which pasta was which by the time all the food was prepared (including the simple tomato, cucumber and onion in balsamic vinegar dressing to clean the palate).

The Australian Supermarket Spaghetti Test

The Australian Supermarket Spaghetti Test

The Australian Supermarket Spaghetti Test

During the blind taste test, we referred to each bowl numerically. It was a fun exercise and the guys were quite surprised by the differences between each pasta. The bowls were finally raised to reveal the brand at the end of the taste test. Here are their comments during the tasting:

Coles pasta strands are thicker than Zafarelli, Homebrand and Barilla, and about the same thickness as San Remo. There was no clumping and it had the most neutral flavour, meaning one could  taste more of the sauce than pasta. It was noted that Coles might be the most suitable for very subtle sauces, such as a vongole.

Zafarelli pasta strands were as thin as Homebrand and Barilla. There was clumping and the SO described it as ‘gluggy’. We found that biting into it, the pasta stuck to teeth. And overall, it was the most similar to Homebrand.

Homebrand pasta strands were as thin as Zafarelli and Barilla. There was clumping and it was described as ‘sticky’, sticking to teeth similar to Zafarelli. It also had the most ‘pasta’ flavour of the five brands.

San Remo pasta strands look as thick as Coles. There was no clumping and biting into the pasta didn’t stick to one’s teeth. The SO noted it had a stiffer texture.

Barilla pasta strands are thin, like the Zafarelli and Homebrand. There was some clumping, but it lacked the stickiness of Zafarelli and Homebrand. Bean commented it looked the ‘prettiest’, because he could see more of the ingredients, possibly because the strands were thinner. It also had the darkest colour of the 5 brands, and while it didn’t have as heavy a pasta taste, Barilla was not as taste neutral as Coles.

Some might argue a pasta’s texture is determined by the cooking time, so here are the recommended cooking times on the packets for reference.

Brand Homebrand Coles Zafarelli San Remo Barilla
Recommended cooking times 13 min 13 min 9 min 13 min 8 min

Bean voted for Coles and Barilla. He didn’t like Zafarelli and Homebrand.

The SO voted he liked San Remo and Barilla best. He didn’t like Zafarelli and Homebrand, with Zafarelli the least favorite.

 

The Verdict

Barilla was identified by both the SO and Bean to be favoured for its taste and texture, with San Remo and surprisingly Coles as the next alternative. Zafarelli and Homebrand were the least favourite of the 5 brands… and it was reinforced when I offered Bean to take the leftovers of whichever brand home – he chose the San Remo and Barilla.

Was I surprised by the results? Yes! All these pastas are made with the same ingredients – durum wheat semolina. So how is it they can taste different? What is it that makes one pasta have a more ‘pasta’ taste or be ‘stickier’ than the others? I honestly thought there wouldn’t be any difference between any of the brands. I now stand corrected.

Do these results mean I will now change my pasta purchasing habits? I don’t know, because as the SO said, it’s unlikely we would be able to distinguish one brand from another, had we had each on a different day.

However the SO later added (with a wink) that he was calling dibs on the last container of leftover Barilla carbonara.

 

Additional Notes:

Of course there may be other aspects you may consider when making purchase choices. These are the additional information on each packets.

  • While Coles and Homebrand are both labelled ‘product of Australia’, only Homebrand states they are ‘100% Australian grown wheat’.
  • While Zafarelli and San Remo are both labelled ‘free of genetic modification’, only San Remo is labelled ‘Halal’.

 

Do you have a favorite pasta brand?

 

Disclaimer: While Barilla provided me with pasta and sauce samples that inspired this experiment, I purchased all the ingredients at my local supermarkets with my own dime for this experiment. My blind taste subjects were not compensated by myself or anyone else to participate in the experiment (nor were they involved in the preparation). And this is not a sponsored post. 

The Garden Share Collective: An introduction to our balcony garden

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If you’ve been following me on Twitter and Instagram, you might have noticed an increasing number of photos about things growing in our balcony garden. So I was excited with Lizzie of Strayed From the Table asked if I would be interested in joining a Garden Blog Hop. I have said ‘yes’, created the new category ‘In the Garden’ and am looking forward to making regular updates about how well (and poorly) the garden is going, because there’s only so many words one can fit in a tweet.

Nasturtium

To kick off this Garden Share, allow me to play host and introduce you to my little garden space.

We live in an inner-city apartment, which thankfully comes with a 8m by 1.5m balcony. It gets full morning sunlight on one end and then full afternoon light, which warms the wall for the rest of the evening. We don’t have a lot of wind, but when it is stormy, it can get a little crazy and some plants will get moved to a more protected area of the balcony.

Balcony Garden from Nightchild80 on Vimeo.

At the moment, the balcony garden has:

  • Aloe vera
  • Apple mint and regular mint
  • Asparagus
  • Basil
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Chilli
  • Dwarf sugar snap peas
  • Lettuce
  • Mizuna
  • Pea shoot
  • Potato
  • Rosemary
  • Spring onion
  • Tatsoi
  • Tomato
  • Nasturtium
  • Alyssum

This might seem like a lot of plants, but I’m only secure about my aloe vera, spring onion and rosemary. I share a testy first-date type of relationship with everything else, as I have never been raised as much of a gardener and haven’t had too much luck with plants. In fact, be prepared for a report on something dying every time this blog share comes along.

While the balcony garden is protected by larger pests and predators, like possums, it has already seen battle with aphids and white moth caterpillars. I am currently trying to do companion planting to minimise pests and maximise the available space. Commercial chemical warfare against pests will be a last resort.

Over the next month, I’m hoping to harvest my first pea shoots, which will hopefully be ready in about 2-4 weeks and some of my baby salad leaf veggies – beetroot, lettuce, mizuna and tatsoi. Most of these are still at the two leaf stage, so I am learning to be patient.

TheGardenShareCollective150pixThis blogpost is the first as part of the Garden Share Collective, where we tour around the web looking at food lovers’ veggies patches, container gardens or herbs on the window sill.

Drop in and have a look at how other contributors are going with their planting affairs.

Baked bean curry: the simplest curry you will ever make

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It’s been crazy busy the last 2 weeks at work. Whenever work is a bitch, home time (loosely translated into ‘snuggle time’ with the SO) becomes more precious and the beckoning of the couch is far too strong! The last thing I feel like doing is chores or spend too long in the kitchen.

When I get days like that, ordering pizza or takeaway would be the easiest thing to do, but the price of pizza these days is ridiculous. Even with coupons, it is hard to convince myself to fork out the money for the most basic of takeaways. After all, I just want something ridiculously quick and easy.


This is literally one of the urgh-no-time-to-cook recipe I fall back on all the time. It is also mindbogglingly cheap to make and it was a regular menu item during my university days.

To prepare, it takes 3 minutes to wash and put rice on to cook in the rice cooker. And while that is cooking away, I can whip this super easy baked bean curry to go with it.

Baked bean curry

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Baked bean curry

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 200 gm beef mince
  • 420 gm baked beans
  • ½ cup water
  • 3-4 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Heat a frying pan/saucepan with the olive oil.
  2. Cook the onion until translucent before adding the mince to brown.
  3. Add the baked beans, water, curry powder and chilli powder. Stir until it starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 5 mins.
  4. Taste and add more curry/chilli powder to adjust to your liking.
  5. Serve on a bed of steamed rice.
http://www.melissaloh.com/2012/03/26/baked-bean-curry-the-simplest-curry-you-will-ever-make/

Breakfast at The Blockhouse coffee + small bar

We were running a tad late for our breakfast at the Blockhouse coffee + small bar with friends Luke and Amanda.

“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” I asked as we drove deeper into suburbia.

“Yup.”

Street after street of quaint houses finally opened up to a crisp white single-storey building, trimmed in black and polished decking. I sighed with relief as we drove into an easy park. And only 5 minutes late, I thought as I unbuckled Bub out of his carseat and lugged him towards Blockhouse coffee + small bar.

The Blockhouse

The Blockhouse

With hugs all around, we had already launched full steam into catch-up conversation. In between this and studying the menu, I was surprised to note Blockhouse coffee + small bar seemed spread out between 3 spaces – one that houses the kitchen, coffee machine, another opposite for the bar and smaller tables, and the common corridor between the two for larger table seating.

Plenty of space meant more elbow room, uninterrupted conversation and never worrying about Bubby’s high chair getting kicked by the comings and goings.

The Blockhouse

The Blockhouse - menu

The Blockhouse - Sandcrab omelette. AUD$19.50

Sandcrab omelette. AUD$19.50

The sandcrab omelette includes radishes, snowpea tendrils and citrus. After recently watching seven seasons of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, ‘snowpea tendrils’ just remind me of Sookie yelling at husband Jackson for bringing pea tendrils instead of brussel sprouts to the restaurant kitchen, yet tells him she loves him.

It was a surprise that the Blockhouse‘s omelette was flat and thin, rather than the fluffy half moons omelettes are traditionally prepared. It was an even bigger surprise how much sandcrab flesh was on the omelette.

The Blockhouse - Potato hashcake. AUD$17.50

Potato hashcake. AUD$17.50

This was – hands down – one of the best potato hashcakes I’ve had. Three large balls of potato mixed with persian feta were fried to crispy perfection, and served with a pair of lovely poached eggs and a couple of peas on some carrot puree. If you plan on ordering anything else on the menu, I would definitely recommend throwing in one of these babies for AUD$5.

The Blockhouse

3 fregg scramble. AUD$14

“What’s ‘fregg’?”

“It stands for ‘free range eggs’.”

Did you know that? I certainly didn’t. You learn something new everyday!

The 3 fregg scramble is three free range scrambled eggs with green onion, garden herbs, a light shave of parmesan on a toasted baguette.

Too many coffees later, we left Blockhouse coffee + small bar content with full stomachs and fully caught up.

 

Blockhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lokal + Co

When I heard Lokal + Co in West End was offering a menu with Nordic influences, we were keen to visit.

We fell in love with the exquisite variety of fish dishes during our visit to Oslo last year. Smoked salmon, fermented trout, roe in a tube might not be appetising first thing in the morning for many, but it was such a healthy way to start the day. We would love to find something similar in Brisbane and held onto the hope Lokal + Co might be the answer to that prayer.

Lokal + Co enroute signage

Lokal + Co is located just off the main West End strip down O’Connell Street and was easy to find. Owners Norwegian expat and chef Herge Olsen and Corey Thoms have created a lovely space with a fresh clean aesthetic of crisp white and pine. Furnishings were simple and functional, with touches of warm copper (I adored the globe light fixtures over the coffee/bar counter).

Lokal + Co - counter

Lokal + Co - counter of pastries

Lokal + Co - cozy corner with two armchairs and coffee table

Lokal + Co - lunch menu

While the Danish open rye with sardines, egg, fennel, radish and iceberg lettuce (AUD$19) and grilled house cured gravlax with warm potato and braised fennel salad in a mustard seed aioli dressing (AUD$24) leaned more towards what we came to believe is ‘Nordic’, there was a chill in the air. Can you blame me if it drove a temptation for a warm wedged spiced roast pumpkin quinoa salad?

I loved that the quinoa was a crunchy element! The satisfying bulk came from the silky eggplant with creamy sweet and slightly smokey roasted pumpkin. The wedge of lemon would’ve been overkill with the tart tahini yoghurt dressing, but if you like the bite, knock yourself out and squeeze away!

Lokal + Co - Wedged spiced roast pumpkin quinoa salad with grilled eggplant, toasted almonds and tahini yoghurt dressing. AUD$19

Wedged spiced roast pumpkin quinoa salad with grilled eggplant, toasted almonds and tahini yoghurt dressing. AUD$19

The SO’s Cubano-pulled pork sandwich initially did not look like a serious contender. Not when compared to the now-considered-normal monster sized burgers and sandwiches that have dominated the dining scene these last couple of years. However where it lacked in size, it made up for in flavour.

Each half of Lokal + Co‘s Cubano-pulled pork sandwich fit quite comfortably in the SO’s hands when they were picked up. As he took each bite into the warm bread, barely anything slipped out from between the slices of bread and the SO’s hands stayed relatively clean.

I certainly enjoyed the several bites the SO offered and I almost voted he had the better meal. The leg ham and Jarlsberg cheese – absolutely perfect!

Lokal + Co - Cubano-pulled pork sandwich with sliced leg ham, Jarlsberg, dill pickle, beer mustard aioli and thick cut potato chips. AUD$18

Cubano -pulled pork sandwich with sliced leg ham, Jarlsberg, dill pickle, beer mustard aioli and thick cut potato chips. AUD$18

Was Lokal + Co the answer to our prayer for an omega-rich Scandanavian and Nordic breakfast? Unfortunately, no, but that is totally ok. Fermented trout and pickled sardines first thing in the morning isn’t for everyone. What Lokal + Co has to offer is.

 

Lokal + Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lakeview Cafe, Burleigh Waters

Surfers Paradise is usually our go-to Gold Coast location (and Amimoto my go-to lunch spot), but when the Ekka holiday rocked around, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to head down the coast on an adventure. I heard of Lakeview Espresso and convinced the SO to take us to lunch there.

Lakeview

‘Pretty’ and ‘idyllic’ were my first impressions of Lakeview Espresso. Nestled comfortably in the midst of neat homes and quiet streets, Lakeview Espresso has a soothing view of the lake and small kids’ playground across the street. If your tyke is being fussy, I recommend taking them over for a quick play while you’re waiting for your order.

The alfresco dining area is covered and would be prime coffee relaxation real estate, especially if the weather is fine.

Orders and payment were made at the counter. It was also a chance to sneak a peek at the specials board and the baked good offering. In our case, it was the lamb burger and croissants.

We were also offered a 15% discount on our order as first-time customers.

Lakeview

Lakeview menu

Lakeview - latte

Lakeview Espresso has a light meal section. If my stomach wasn’t planning a mutiny, I would’ve gone for the Acai Bowl (AUD$13) or the Breakfast Burrito (bacon, egg, cheese, baby spinach, bean salsa, Mexican spices and house BBQ sauce for AUD$12).

However we were hungry for a hearty lunch and the prices for a bigger meal weren’t much more than the light meal options. I was tossing up between the Brat Bowl (roasted veg hash with sauteed kale, feta, poached egg and avocado in a light dressing for AUD$12.50) and the Mushrooms (thyme roasted mushrooms with sauteed kale and veggie has on sourdough with pumpkin hummus for AUD$14), before the Burleigh Beans caught my eye.

Lakeview - Burleigh Beans. AUD$12

Burleigh Beans. AUD$12

Lakeview Espresso‘s Burleigh Beans is vegetarian Boston style beans with a poached egg, sour cream and four slices of generously buttered sourdough toast. You can add chorizo for an additional AUD$3 for a carnivor-friendly version.

The sourdough toast was perfect for scooping up the plump beans. The sour cream helped mellow out the sweetness and smokiness of the thick BBQ sauce. However I quickly became overwhelmed and tried to drain as much of the sauce as possible with every bite halfway through my meal.

Lakeview - Chicken Bacon Burger. AUD$14

Chicken Bacon Burger. AUD$14

The SO had better luck with his chicken bacon burger. The bun barely held together the smoked chicken, bacon, baby spinach, cheese, tomato and beet relish combination. This one was for the truly hungry.

Lakeview - Mini avo toast. AUD$8

Mini avo toast. AUD$8

Bubby got a mini avo toast. Unfortunately Bubby doesn’t have the hang of biting through the crunchy harder edges of the toast yet and he isn’t keen on the fresh salad leaves. On the other hand, the avocado was perfect. The mashed avocado had chunks of feta mixed through, adding saltiness and textural interest.

Lakeview - playground across the street

Lakeview Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Date lunch at Zero Fox

The SO and I rarely have the opportunity to have lunch together during the week. It is a shame, as he only works in the next suburb and there are a number of interesting lunch options down his way. I suggested – on a whim – that when Bub is at daycare the other week, I come down to have lunch with him at Zero Fox and he jumped on the idea – and his team came along for the ride.

The SO and his work team have already dined at Zero Fox a number of times, and have given it their thumbs up.

Zero Fox

Zero Fox

This modern Japanese (with some Korean influences) is the sister eatery to BRIO Breakfast Bar Dining next door. Think bowls (katsudon, curry and ramen) and sushi. Zero Fox tauts itself as being ‘modern Japanese’, so don’t expect a high degree of Japanese authenticity. Their kimchi fries (fries topped with cream cheese and kimchi) and Meong-Meong burger (spicy pork burger with pickled radish, kimchi, tomato, cucumber and perilla leaves, and comes with chips) are dead giveaways.

Like its neighbours the London Club and Claret House, Zero Fox offers both indoor and communal street/people-watching outdoor pub seating. It is perfect for a casual work lunch with colleagues or a lazy Saturday lunch.

Zero Fox - Kimchi fries. AUD$9

Kimchi fries. AUD$9

The kimchi fries were surprisingly tasty and I found my hand reaching into the bowl long after I was past full. Although the kimchi topping was soft (I prefer a little more life and crunch in the vegetables), it has a decent kick, which the cream cheese helped mellow out.

Zero Fox‘s  katsu curry chicken bowl is definitely not like the cheap AUD$10 katsu curry bowls you often find in shopping malls. For one, their katsu curry chicken bowl was served in proper dining ware and was drowning in a mild curry – just the way it should be. They also have generous chunks of soft potato and carrots draping across the crispy chicken katsu.

Like the katsu curry chicken, the katsudon chicken bowl has the same chicken katsu fillet, heaps of pickles and loads of rice underneath. There wasn’t much sweetness, which I like and the bowl also had fresh quartered tomatoes – a refreshing healthy touch.

Zero Fox - Katsu chicken curry. AUD$16

Katsu chicken curry. AUD$16

Zero Fox - Meong-Meong burger. AUD$15

Meong-Meong burger. AUD$15

Zero Fox - Katsudon chicken bowl. AUD$15

Katsudon chicken bowl. AUD$15

Zero Fox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Breakfast at Billykart West End

It’s official!

We have only had one breakfast at Billykart West End, but I am already super jealous of our friends Stew and Tiff, who live in the apartment block above. They have direct access to such an amazing eatery right on their doorstep and they might not even need to get out of their PJs to grab a brilliant cuppa in the morning.

Billykart West End

Billykart West End

While the chilly wind blew up a gale outside, we walked into a full indoor dining area. Every table had customers, young and old, digging into plates stacked with fluffy buttermilk and ricotta pancakes (an especially popular menu item at the tables with kids) or crispy corn fritters.

We were really lucky to have walked in right as several tables were leaving and were ushered to a table with plenty of room to prop down a high chair for Bub.

Billykart West End

Pastry cart

Unfortunately a full restaurant means the kitchen got smashed. I watched the buzz in the open kitchen – chefs had their heads down, sliding thick slices of bread for toast and scooping out nests of eggs out of the fryer. Meals flew out constantly, yet we still had to wait 20 minutes for our breakfast.

Thankfully the coffees were quick and Bub was in a cooperative mood.

Billykart West End - Spanner crab & scallop congee. AUD$18.50

Spanner crab & scallop congee. AUD$18.50

The spanner crab and scallop congee was the PERFECT winter warmer. My first mouthful brought back all my childhood memories of home back in Singapore. Cooked and blended into a thick tacky smooth rice congee, the richness came entirely from the crab and scallop flavours. I would have loved a little more bits and chunks of crab and scallop, but the pickled ginger and crispy shallots provided the crunchy element. This is nothing like the thin watery concoctions you sometimes unfortunately encounter at yum cha restaurants.

Protip: say ‘hell yes’ if they ask if you’d like to add a poached egg to the congee.

Billykart West End - Aussie Asian eggs. AUD$23.50

Aussie Asian eggs. AUD$23.50

Now the Aussie Asian eggs doesn’t come cheap at AUD$23.50 a plate, but it certainly hasn’t stopped it from being one of Billykart West End‘s more popular dishes. If you have ever been to Malaysia or Indonesia and had ‘tahu telor’ (a traditional Indonesian tofu or bean curd omelette), the texture and presentation of the Aussie Asian eggs will be familiar.

Served drizzled with oyster sauce, the best bits of the Aussie Asian eggs were the skull island tiger prawn, bacon and the deep fried egg. The chilli had a bit of a kick, but nothing that would blow the average spice-eater’s top off.

 

Billykart Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato