Sunday, August 31, 2014

Friday Night Dinner at The Victoria Room | Darlinghurst

I was in a cab on the way home last Friday night and the taxi driver said to me, “It’s not that busy on Friday nights these days. I don't know why but people don’t seem to go out on Friday nights anymore.” Perhaps Sydney restaurants are becoming the same ole, same ole and it’s just not worth fighting crowds on Friday nights. It has been raining a lot too so that could have something to do with it. People can just keep in touch with friends on social media these days. I must admit I haven’t been to a proper sit down fine dining dinner place for awhile as after a long week at work I’m too tired and prefer just to cook something quick and easy or to get take out and eat at home. But once in awhile going out and spending good quality one on one time with friends and family is a nice change particularly if it is at an establishment like The Victoria Room in Darlinghurst.


After my visit, can I just say the revamped establishment is simply first class in all respects. In addition, any establishment that has high quality entertainment is my kind of place! I was so stimulated not only by the amazing flavours and smell of the dishes and drinks but also the atmosphere. The Victoria Room in Darlinghurst on a Friday night hands down is the place to be. It has charm, grace, and royal elegance. The Victorian decor is simply stunning. Meticulously decorated in timeless Victorian style, you’ll feel as though you have been transported to another era of high society.

Under new ownership of well-known Sydney ‘food’ family the Manassen’s, The Victoria Room has recently undergone a stunning transformation by highly acclaimed interior designer Blainey North. The grandeur of the lush deep navy velvet curtains and plush sofas enhance the Award winning Cocktail Bar and the Restaurant led by acclaimed Executive Chef Samuel Cheetham (Becasse, Quarter Twenty One and Chez Bruce London). The Victoria Room is sure to impress with outstanding service and a wine and cocktail list to please even the most discerning of guests.
The pianoman and vocal entertainer with his smooth Buble-like voice throughout the night from 7.30pm was a real treat for Friday night Happy Hour. The Victoria Room had a real buzzy vibe but not loud enough that you can't hear the other person speak. It is a perfect location to meet up for drinks at the bar afterwork, casually lounge around with friends on the beautiful Victorian sofas or try their sensational dinner menu under the crystal chandeliers that softly illuminate the establishment, which is what we did. It truly was a very enjoyable dining experience that has got me raving about it to my friends and family. I had to walk away in the middle of writing this review as the food pictures were so mouth-watering, my stomach was grumbling and I had go and get a bite to eat before finishing off this review!

Here are some photos on what we ate (dinner for two but could have easily been a dinner for five!) and thank you to 'Lauren' for the first class service on Friday evening and the impeccable, and faultess menu dish recommendations.

#1 Starter 1: Freshly Shucked Oysters with frozen Champagne ($4 each). The Pacific Oysters
were from Smoky Bay in South Australia, whilst the Rock Oysters were from Merimbula in the NSW South Coast. Eating oysters always gives me wonderful memories. One time I was at a friend's wedding and was put on a table with a bunch of vegetarians. First dish served were oysters.  The poor things - 9 out of 10 people could not eat the starters. It just meant more oysters for me! I think I had about 20 oysters that night! Interestingly, when I tasted the oysters, I said to our waitress that it reminded me of oysters I had in the NSW South Coast some time ago...and they were (or half of them were).  These oysters with the champagne ice were refreshing palate cleansers.

#2 Starter 2: Crispy Zucchini Flower filled with Taleggio and Raisin ($5 each) with a cocktail designed by one of Australia's most awarded bar teams. The bar team shook me up a 'Caught in the Rain' ($25) - how appropriate for Sydney weather lately. It was House Gay Eclipse Silver and House Spiced Rums shaken up with madecoconut water, fresh pineapple, lime and coconut syrup all served in a real coconut. I was a little tipsy afterwards but all good. Yes - It’s really served in a coconut!

#3 Starter 3: Citrus cured King Salmon, Scallop, Lemon balm and Ginger ($19). Wonderfully light and fresh, this was a beautifully tasting starter.

#4 Side Dish 1: Caraway roasted Carrots, burnt Butter & Pine nuts ($14). This side dish had a sweetish flavour from the carrots and contrasted with a mild buttery nutty taste. Truly tantalising side dish.

#5 Side Dish 2: Broccolini, toasted Seeds, Grains, Cottage Cheese & Lemon Oil ($16). The brocollini was sweet and tender and the flavours were interestingly balanced with cottage cheese and pine nuts. I never had brocolinni this way before and it was delicious.
#6 Side Dish 3: Salt Baked Potatoes with Smoked Sour Cream, Shallots & preserved Lemon ($16)  This dish was my favourite side. A contrast of crispy potatoes to dip into the nicely spiced mash potatoes. A perfect comfort dish.
And these are only just starters and sides....

#7 Mains: 500g Char-grilled Black Angus Scotch Fillet, with a selection of Sauces ($50). This mouth-watering dish was done medium and was deliciously very tender. Needless to say, a half kilo steak was filling even for two people.  It came with two types of mustards and spinach on the side. We were rolling after this dish and the best is yet to come...

#8 Dessert 1 Warm Doughnuts with Jam & Chantilly... My goodness this was so good. Delicious, delicious, delicious! This was my favourite.

#9 Dessert 2: Chocolate Wattleseed Hazelnut Slice with Coffee and Cream.  Think the taste of mousy Nutella and the crunch of a Kit Kat texture in your mouth....this slice was so delicious.


 #10 Top this all off with a hot cup of good quality Chai Tea, which is my all time favourite at The Victoria Room. Their hand selected spice blend is enhanced by fresh slivers of ginger root, lush anti-oxidant enriched tea leaves and the purest Australian honey. 98% cafieine free. Served Latte style. I had mine with soy milk.

It's your turn...make a booking for next Friday. You won't be disappointed.

The Victoria Room
235 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst, Sydney NSW
02 9357 4488


Pikkie Homewares & Gifts | Melbourne

My cat Charlie, a Scottish Shorthair by breed (whose dad was a bit of celebrity being featured on the Whiskas commercial on occasion) is a creature of comfort as one would expect of a typical housecat (although he now no longer lives with me as he has grown attached to my mother…and why wouldn’t you stick with someone who spoils you rotten. What I mean by spoilt rotten is a regular diet of fresh prawns and chicken and with a bit of luck, a bit of cheesecake on the finger for the occasional dessert).

One thing I have learned from living with a cat for awhile…or specifically Charlie is that he loves warmth despite that thick fur coat of his. In Winter when I drop by Mum’s place, my brother, Charlie and me would be fighting to be near the heater and with reasonable size of cat mass (6-7 kilo cat) and sharp claws, you can imagine who wins at that game…bro and I had no chance. So one day, my uncle thought this sibling fighting needed to end and he bought Charlie a wheatpack for Christmas. Yes, Charlie does get Christmas presents from the family. It goes to show how much he is loved by all…grrr not all the time! I had never heard of a wheatpack until Charlie got one from my uncle for Christmas.

So what do you normally do with a wheatpack? You heat it up in the microwave (2 minutes and NO MORE as it is combustible) or leave it on top of a heater to warm up. It’s like a hot water bottle except what’s in it is not hot water but wheat instead so when you sit on it or hold it, its nice and warm. It’s a great accessory for Winter. So that’s Charlie’s wheatpack and it’s something he sleeps with on cold Winter's nights. It's like a security blanket for him when its his bedtime. It is not a total substitute for the heater but good enough.

OK, so
what about me? I stumbled across a little beautiful little store via Instagram called Pikkie, based in Melbourne. The creator behind Pikkie is Susan Llewelyn who makes a range of quality homewares, fashion accessories and gifts and with Pikkie's vast range of colours, you can mix and match to decorate your home with some eye pleasing, lovely items.

I noticed Pikkie had a wheatpack in a
lovely pastel French style fabric called the 'French Journal Wheatpack' ($24.95) and immediately what came to mind is my cat would like that. But hang on a minute, he’s already got one and spoiled enough already, plus he wouldn’t like it scented. So I decided to try Pikkie’s wheatpack. After all if Charlie likes it, it must be good.

Pikkie's wheatpack is unique and made with care by hand using 100% cotton designer fabric, filled with Australian Premium Wheat and scented with a touch of locally sourced lavender. It arrived beautifully packaged and tied with natural twine (as shown above).You don’t see these in stores often (maybe only in pet stores!) and it comes in a range of designs to decorate your home.

I was a little apprehensive in putting it in the microwave given my recent disaster with chestnuts exploding in my oven (but that’s because I didn’t cut the skin of the chestnuts) but tried it on 1.5 min on high and that was enough to give
you a warm comfort cushion for you to lean on in your chair on a cold day. It was perfect and the lavender smells divine.  I have weekly dance training and it's great to relieve aching muscles.

Traditionally Pikkie products have included colourful fabric based items like aprons, doorstops, wheatpacks, showercaps, draughtstoppers, cushions and headbands. Today the range has expanded to include quality women's handbags, hair accessories and a full range of spa and beauty products such as luxurious and natural body lotions, soaps, soy candles, bubble bath for kids and adults.

Pikkies products are predominantly designed and made by hand by Susan and her team of local sewers and creative artists, whom combined, ensure that a Pikkie product is always something special.

Check out her aprons too - they look like dresses which would make great gifts, particularly with Christmas not too far off!

These make absolutely
delightful gifts and Pikkie can deliver anywhere in Australia, another bonus.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Who should you see at Sydney Fringe Comedy? | 10 Sep - 5 Oct

I asked two guys "What's the funniest picture you have ever seen?". One responds, "But the funniest picture I've seen is either offensive or rude, or probably both! Does it have to be clean?" Yes, it does. Another one tweets me a picture of the funniest picture he's seen: two boys with their arm around each other...I won't go any further. Haha! I was amused. Boys will be boys! I've blogged a few pictures (clean) in this post that have made me laugh.

I have a workmate who is a moonlighter like me, on a constant mission to explore our creative passions whilst we are not busy at our day jobs. I'm the Lifestyle Blogger, he's the Stand Up Comedian. Suren Jayemanne is a comedian and a rising star. Articulate, punchy and sharp - if there were only three words to describe him. I was lucky enough to see Suren in action at our workplace's trivia night where Suren was host for the evening. He guaranteed the crowd a night filled with laughter. I recommend you go and see his show at the Sydney Fringe Comedy festival, Eat Praline, Die. Dates and time to see Suren are: Wed 24th Sep 2014 - 6:45 pm or Fri 26th Sep 2014 - 6:45pm at The Factory Theatre. Suren was handpicked as one of five comedians in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s prestigious Comedy Zone - a showcase of the best emerging comics from around Australia.

Do you like the Qantas choir? Suren shared this hilarious clip, 'Mums vs Dads' on Twitter (@JayEManne) with me the other day. Lol! Check it out!

Sydney Fringe Comedy (as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival) is back for another year showcasing some of Australia’s amazing talent who have the gift of making you laugh. It has unveiled its biggest program to date for 2014, with more than 100 of Sydney’s best new and alternative comedians stepping up to the mic over 4 weeks from 10 September to 5 October.

Presented as part of The Sydney Fringe festival, Sydney Fringe Comedy is your chance to check out the most promising new talent, see established comedians trial new material, and watch the best alternative comics explore the frontiers of funny.The Factory Theatre in Marrickville, home of Sydney Fringe Comedy, will be transformed into a comedy enthusiast’s dream, with five venues hosting a diverse program of shows each night, plus food, drinks and music to keep patrons entertained before and after the laughs.

If you haven’t seen any of them before, who should you go and see? I checked in with 
Ray Badran this time, a seasoned comedian, and familiar with who’s who in the zoo when it comes to giving you a good belly laugh.

I follow Ray on Twitter @RayBadran and learnt something I haven’t thought of before. Ray tweeted his recommendations of wine matches with your McDonald meals, perhaps as a pre-event dinner suggestion.  Ray recommends you try the following combos:

Big Mac - Shiraz
Quarter Pounder – Cabernet
McFeast – Sangiovese
Cheeseburger – Pinot
FilletOFish – Chardonnay
McChicken – Sauvignon Blanc

Ray Badran will have his own show at the Sydney Fringe Comedy festival, Just Hold My Beer Whilst I... See the Sydney Fringe Comedy website for show times.

Ray’s picks to see at the Sydney Fringe Comedy to be held at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville are:

#1 Aaron Chen - CHEN OUT OF CHEN

Winner of Class Clowns and NSW Raw Comedy. Hand-picked for Comedy Zone in 2014. Aaron Chen has got 1 hour of stuff to show at you. It is a show filled with your laughter and his anxiety (mostly social). It is the most perfect show. Chen out of Chen. Chen out of Chen. Chen out of Chen. It is a stand up.

Venue, Date & Time

Thu 25th Sep 2014 - 6:45 pm | Sat 27th Sep 2014 - 6:45 pm | Sun 28th Sep 2014 - 5:45 pm
Show Duration: 60mins
Ticket Price Range: $10.00 - $15.00

#2 Daniel Townes - CRASH AND BURN

Daniel Townes is back with an all new show that is totally experimental, some of it will be absolutely amazing and some of it will fail spectacularly. Come and see one of Australia’s favourite underground comedians fall flat on his face at least a few times in an hour. 

Venue, Date & Time

Thu 18th Sep 2014 - 8:15 pm | Sat 20th Sep 2014 - 8:15 pm | Sun 21st Sep 2014 - 7:15 pm
Show Duration: 50mins
Ticket Price Range: $10.00 - $15.00

#3 Shane Matheson - SHANE TALENT TIME

Shane Talent Time features song and stand up presented in an 80s variety show set up. A different special guest is featured each night, plus the beforementioned dog who can drive a bus.

Venue, Date & Time
Wed 1st Oct 2014 - 9:15 pm | Fri 3rd Oct 2014 - 9:15 pm
Show Duration: 50mins
Ticket Price Range: $15.00

#4 Dave Williams - DAKOTA DICK RETURNS

Dakota Dick’s popularity has given rise to a second instalment with an all new adventure with the original cast of David Williams, Cameron Knight & Susie Youssef.

Venue, Date & Time
Wed 10th Sep 2014 - 9:15 pm | Fri 12th Sep 2014 - 9:15 pm
Show Duration: 60mins
Ticket Price Range: $15.00 - $17.50
#5 Michael Workman - WORK IN PROGRESS

A fable spinner with a captivating imagination, Michael creates unexpected worlds, rich characters and many, many laughs. This is a chance to see his latest creation starting to take shape

Venue, Date & Time
Thu 2nd Oct 2014 - 8:15 pm
Fri 3rd Oct 2014 - 8:15 pm | Sat 4th Oct 2014 - 8:15 pm
Show Duration 60mins
Ticket Price Range $20.00

#6 Genevieve Fricker - TRYING

Comedian Genevieve Fricker (triple j, Spicks and Specks) will play some songs and tell some jokes on and around a stage, in a concerted effort to produce a new show for next year's festival season.

Venue, Date & Time
Wed 10th Sep 2014 - 8:15 pm | Wed 24th Sep 2014 - 6:45 pm | Fri 26th Sep 2014 - 6:45 pm
Show Duration: 50mins
Ticket Price Range: $10.00 - $15.00

Message from Rhys:
Hello friends! It's me, your ol' pal Rhys.
It's that time of year again. I am contractually obliged to perform a new show. To be honest, I'm writing this months before you are reading it. I haven't written a single word of this show yet. Worst comes to worst it'll just be me, half dressed, having a cry on stage. COME ALONG!
Regards, Mama Showbusiness, Rhys Nicholson

Venue, Date & Time
Wed 24th Sep 2014 - 8:15 pm
Thu 25th Sep 2014 - 8:15 pm | Fri 26th Sep 2014 - 8:15 pm | Sat 27th Sep 2014 - 8:15 pm
Show Duration: 50mins
Ticket Price Range: $10.00 - $15.00

 #8 Tien Tran - THE I$H

Tien Tran comes back to trial another biting hour of social commentary about race, sex and other absurdities.

Venue, Date & Time
Wed 24th Sep 2014 - 8:00 pm
Thu 25th Sep 2014 - 8:00 pm
Fri 26th Sep 2014 - 8:00 pm
Sat 27th Sep 2014 - 8:00 pm
Sun 28th Sep 2014 - 7:00 pm
Show Duration 50mins
Ticket Price Range $10.00 - $15.00

#9 Sam Campbell - CAMBO'S ON TOP

After a year touring Australia (Brisbane and Perth) funny-boy Sambo Cambo is ready to debut an ice-hot new show full of off-beat stand-up and some nice videos. Sam is a member of the youtube collective Skills in Time and star of the web-series Dayne’s World. His live show will be fast-paced and crazy. Check it out if you are an axolotl-lover, a dole-bludger or a perfect babe. The prophecy is true.

Venue, Date & Time
Wed 17th Sep 2014 - 8:00 pm
Thu 18th Sep 2014 - 8:00 pm
Fri 19th Sep 2014 - 8:00 pm
Sat 20th Sep 2014 - 8:00 pm
Sun 21st Sep 2014 - 7:00 pm
Show Duration: 60mins
Ticket Price Range: $10.00 - $15.00

#10 Tom Ballard - TAXIS & RAINBOWS & HATRED

A brand new hour from the young so-and-so Wil Anderson describes as “one of the most original, fearless and hilarious voices in Australian comedy.”

Venue, Date & Time
Thu 2nd Oct 2014 - 7:00 pm
Fri 3rd Oct 2014 - 7:00 pm
Sat 4th Oct 2014 - 7:00 pm
Show Duration: 60mins
Ticket Price Range: $25.00

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Bug’s Life: The Edible Bug Shop and Kettle Town | Shopping

I’m on a roll if you haven’t already noticed on alternative sources of food (following my recent article about Foraging for Edible Weeds). You read it right. Bugs and insects. You can eat and drink them. Weeds and bugs - I’m well and truly set for homelessness in Sydney. But you don’t need to be stranded somewhere in the middle of the bush or forest to eat bugs. You can order them online and have them delivered to your doorstep by the handful or bag full covered in chocolate and spices.

Eat them...

I first tried edible bugs at the Good Food and Wine Show a couple of weeks ago and like all things that we are not accustomed to eating, what better way to try them than with a spoonful of sugar. I tried these creepy crawlies in ice-cream. The ice cream flavours to choose from included Guava and Ant Sorbet; Salted Caramel and Mealworms; and Pistachio and Choc Covered Crickets. I had all 3 scoops in the one bucket for maximum enjoyment. The guava and ant sorbet was nice, fruity taste of guava with little bits of ants in your mouth (just make sure they don’t get stuck between your teeth or you may need to floss them out), like the texture of sesame seeds, with a bit of acidity taste of ants. Pistachio and Choc Covered Crickets was crunchy, both from the nuts and the crickets. You can work out which is which, as the crickets in your mouth have this tentacle like feeling on your tongue. It’s very crunchy and delicious. If you don’t want the textural taste of bugs in your mouth then perhaps the Salted Caramel and Mealworm ice-cream is for you – it’s blended in so you won’t notice you’re eating worms. It’ll glide down your throat.

I must admit, I hesitated a few minutes before I could actually put the ice cream in my mouth, buying time taking photos of it instead of launching straight into this little delicacy. But once you get over the ‘YUCK’ factor and the mental image of eating backyard bugs, it’s actually really good. It’s apparently nutritious for you too and a sustainable alternative food sauce. 

Apart from the novelty factor, why eat bugs? Most edible bugs are high in protein and low in fat and will contain essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that are good for you. For example, crickets are high in calcium. You can read more about the bugs’ nutritional value on the
Edible Bug website.

The bugs can take on the characteristics from other ingredients that are used in a dish to give the whole recipe a new and exciting flavour. You can order ants, crickets, or mealworms by the bug...I mean bag full and if you are feeling adventurous, bake a cake and add a cup of each to see what it might taste like. I think I’ll save that one as treat for a special invite only dinner party...for The Addams Family perhaps.

Drink Them...

If eating bugs wasn’t enough, you can also drink them. Kettle Town now makes their own Strawberry Ant Hills Tea. They have combined The Edible Bug Shop’s specially bred ants with black tea, raspberry and strawberry to design this unique blend of tea.

Admittedly, I sat on this box of Strawberry Ant Hills Tea for about 2 weeks before opening it. I decided to bring it to a big family Sunday buffet lunch, to share the love a bit and for the novelty factor. After looking at the contents of the tea and you can see the bits of ants in it (and they don’t float to the top but are scattered amongst the tea leaves when you brew it) I got a few “Are you serious?” But after one person leads the way, you’ll have a tribe of followers who are wanting to try it. And why not, it’s something different. A few minority said, “I’ll just finish what I am drinking and come back to you”. They never did, whilst others asked for “More please!” Our Sunday buffet feast had a range of desserts – caramel slices, cheese cake, apple tarts and fruit and these desserts paired really well with a cup of Strawberry Ant Tea. To be honest, if no one told me there were ants in it, or if I didn’t look close enough into the tea’s contents. I would not have realised little creatures were part of the ingredients. It tasted like a refreshing strawberry flavoured tea with the ever so slightest tang but seriously you won’t notice. It really did go well with the dessert buffet we had.


A cousin of mine was vegetarian and yet she tried it. My aunt questioned, “Isn’t Aria vegetarian? Is she converting to meat?” If she is, then she is starting out small…very small.

Give it a go. It’s fun, quirky, a conversation starter and pairs really well with virtually any dessert you are having. Forget the Earl Grey - have your own little Ant Tea Party!

Sample packs available for $3 each and 50g packs available for $15 each

Ingredients: Black tea, Rasberry, ants, strawberry flavour



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sunshine Coast Real Food Festival 2014 | Hinterland Feijoa Jam

The usual mailman who takes all my deliveries (and seems to be amused with what I get from time to time because he can’t help but take a sneak peek at what I’m getting this time) said “Feee-jo-ah. What’s that? Can you eat it?”. I said “Yes, you can”. After delivering my cheeses yesterday too, he goes, “Bit of a foodie are you?”. Sure am!

Being a city girl, living in the heart of a capital city in NSW, not surprisingly I'm one of many who are sheltered from some of the amazing organic produce from country Queensland...until now.

Like the mailman, I must admit I’ve never heard of feijoa until the lovely Julie from the Sunshine Coast Real Food Festival, which will be held on the weekend of 13-14 September 2014 introduced me to it and the delicious organic feijoa jams made by Hinterland Feijoas. Hinterland Feijoas will be featuring their jam at the Sunshine Coast Real Food Festival this year.

If your tastebuds fancy guava and pineapple like mine, you will like feijoa, and feijoa jam. Guava and pineapple just so happen to be my favourite fruits! Throw in the taste of strawberries and undertones of quince, lemon and mint too and you have delicious feijoa.

What are feijoas?

Feijoa is a fruit, sometimes known as ‘pineapple guava’, which originated in the forests of South America and are a fragrant smoothed-skinned green sub-tropical tree fruit that have a creamy sweet jelly centre. How did the fruit get to Australia? I’m not entirely sure but I’m glad they did.

Feijoas are part of the Myrtle family, which includes other fragrant plants such as eucalyptus, all spice, guavas and cloves. It’s a versatile fruit with little wastage, being scooped out and eaten as fresh fruit and in fruit salads, jams and chutneys.

What are its health benefits?

Feijoa are prized around the world as a super-food because they are high in Vitamin C, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. They are amongst the most alkaline foods available and are also a source of potassium and folate.

About Hinterland Feijoa’s orchard

Hinterland Feijoas was founded in 2008 by Peter Heineger and Sally Hookey on their Sunshine Coast hinterland property. Hinterland Feijoas is certified organic (OGA 1416A) and has approximately 750 feijoa trees with 6 varieties planted to give us the longest possible fresh fruit season with early, mid and late fruiting varieties. They use organic biological farming methods and no chemical inputs.

Hinterland Feijoas markets fresh organic fruit in season from late February to early May and a range of gourmet jams and chutneys.


What feijoa jams to try

#1 Feijoa Jam. The original feijoa jam is my favourite. This gluten free product is made from organic feijoa and is deliciously fresh and sweet. Not too sweet like the ordinary supermarket jams. This will go well with toast for breakfast, warm scones for morning tea, cake glaze or alongside cheese. It does taste a lot like guava. When you open the jar the aromatic perfume of the fabulous feijoa is right there wafting from the jar.

#2 Feijoa and Rosella Jam. Rosella is a plant not the loud colourful birds we occasionally see in our city backyards. With both feijoas and rosellas grown on Hinterland Feijoas’ farm this jam combination is devine. Rosellas are a high vitamin C tropical staple food, and give a heart-warming deep red colour and texture to the jam. Both flavours are distinctive and shine through, and this is a condiment for all occasions. Lather it on that old-time favourite the humble pikelet. Try it with roast duck or other roast meat.

#3 Feijoa and Ginger Jam. Hinterland Feijoas’ chunky marmalade style Feijoa and Ginger Jam is full bodied and packed to the rim with of large slices of real organic feijoas and chunks of Buderim ginger (tried these by themselves when I was last on the Sunshine Coast – they’re amazing!). Like most things, feijoa jam can be used to kick-start your morning toast, or added to savoury dishes, especially pork. Imagine pork belly glazed with feijoa and ginger.

Where to get them?

Hinterland Feijoas will be featured at the Sunshine Coast Real Food Festival on 13-14 September so head on over there and visit Sally and Peter.

If you can’t make it and would like to try these amazing organic jam products go to Hinterland Feijoa’s website, order online or look for stockists across the country (information on their website).

Sally and Peter, thank you for the introducing these wonderful organic feijoa jams from the Sunshine Coast to a NSW city girl. I am certainly enjoying the fruits of your labour with family and friends!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why I would use Oasis Property’s Buyers Agency Service

On a more serious note now and to carry on with my recent theme about entrepreneurs, building a business, and building wealth. This is definitely in my Blog's 'do' category. We all work hard, and for the more savvy we save and spend wisely, hopefully with some loose change leftover to invest. Why do we want to do that? For some, it's the sense of achievement of just building wealth, for others it's setting themselves up for retirement so they can just enjoy things later in life (hopefully not too late) and be financially independent. In any case, you'd be foolish not evaluate your own financial circumstances and consider your own strategy to plan ahead. Australian's obsession with property as a way of building wealth is unquestionable but is what you're buying adding value? It could be your own home in which case the love of just living there is enough for you. For investors, how will you know it could potentially add value to your wealth portfolio?

There are so many buyer agencies around and the question is should you use them even if you live in the city in which you are seeking to purchase, what value do they add and how do you choose amongst them all? There are two reasons why I recommend Oasis Property as a buyers agency service for Sydney real estate - teamwork and professionalism. If now is not the right time to buy, they will tell you that. It may seem obvious but I’ve distilled two ingredients for a good investment in real estate and it’s not just about finding the property – the first, is that you’ve got to get the timing of the market cycle right and second is the power of price negotiation.

Beautiful 1900s sandstone Sydney property that reminds me of a secluded country escape

Having tried buyer agency services interstate in the past, I firstly sought a professional opinion as to whether investing in Sydney at the time (March 2013) was the right time. I had previously pursued interstate investment opportunities outside the capital cities. The lesson I learnt is that history (i.e. mining boom) rarely repeats itself, and that’s certainly the case if you get into the market at the wrong time. You would have thought the interstate buyer’s agency I used should have told me that, but I later discovered they were more interested in keeping the developer happy rather than the buyer. You get over it, and the losses you make but it has ensured I won’t be using them again. Unfortunately, it does put you on guard as to who to use and trust in the future.

Admittedly, I just Googled buyers agencies in Sydney as I didn’t know anyone who recommended a buyers agent. After all, if you are a Sydneysider then you should do it yourself right? At the time, I went to a few auctions, didn’t have a lot of spare time on the weekend to pursue real estate transactions and needed to keep the investing thing moving so decided on using a buyer’s agent instead.

I recall Oasis Property was the only agency that was upfront on their fees. Others I had to go and inquire. Apart from the time saving factor from going back and forth on fees, disclosure of fees upfront on Oasis Property’s website probably already tells you something about honesty and their approach. Gavin’s initial advice suggested that the time to invest in Sydney was at the time I was inquiring and that if I waited another 6 months, I would be further ‘priced out’. With hindsight, now August 2014 that piece of advice proved to be correct and invaluable. I am sure I would not be able to purchase the property today at the price I paid back in May 2013.

So that’s the timing aspect – knowing when to get in. Also, your mind will be cluttered the more investment property magazines you read and everyone has their own prediction on where the market is heading. I don’t read these anymore. If you have to read them then just ask yourself, what evidence is used to support assertions on which way the market is going? Did they flip a coin or is it based on some well considered evidence? Oasis Property can tell you that and so I’ve replaced these magazines with the Oasis Property newsletters on how the market is performing and now Oasis TV, which are quick and snappy way to absorb good tips in purchasing property and about lending. Follow them on Twitter too as their updates are good value.

The second ingredient for a ‘good investment’ is negotiation of price when you make the purchase. This is critical as paying too much will ensure you will be waiting many years to recoup your initial costs. And that’s when I met Adam Sampson from Oasis Property. The first thing I noticed about Adam is that he was quick on his feet. After giving the Oasis Property the go ahead, whilst I was sleeping I would receive emails in the middle of night from Adam of paperwork required to progress the transaction to the next stage, the next lot of properties lined up for inspection, itineries scheduled etc ensuring responses and action can be taken first thing the next morning, no time was wasted and no missed opportunity.

When I spoke with Adam for the first time I recalled the first thing he said to me was “avoid auctions”. You’ll pay too much for it and you will have to wait many years before you see a return on it. Not having met him in person before inspections and all conversations done over phone, I mistakenly pictured him as some balding old dude who has been in the industry for years and knows his stuff well. Adam has been in the game for years but he wasn’t a balding old dude. Just a guy with a lot of experience up his belt, personable and a level of maturity that enabled him to have a professional and informed conversation with you about property and your goals – normally a conversation expected of someone well beyond his years. I learnt a lot from Adam about negotiation  – things I had not picked up before in the negotiation process for real estate. I also recall Adam spotting a strata issue that not even the lawyers or the strata body picked up at the time which although it wasn’t a show stopper for the purchase, it needed to be managed going forward. Adam was strategic, nimble, and street smart which ensured the deal for my purchased closed quickly (ahead of other competing parties) at a good price.

Photo by Adam Sampson:
Art Deco Brisbane architecture Adam has come across
whilst looking for property for his clients

I still have this investment property. I am also rest assured that if I needed to sell within the week I’m sure that will happen too at a decent price but I have no plans on doing that for now as I’m investing for retirement.

For more information about Oasis Property's buyers agency service, go to

Photo by Adam Sampson: Another Art Deco Brisbane block

Photo by Adam Sampson: A Colonial style house in Brisbane
Photo by Adam Sampson of Brisbane real estate

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Flavours of the Philippines Food Festival Buffet | Sydney

Let the feast begin! From 7-24 August 2014 The Grace Hotel will be hosting a mouth-watering Flavours of the Philippines lunch and dinner buffet.  And if you think it is a feast for the eyes, wait to you smell and taste it. 

This year, three top talented chefs from the Philippines are here in Sydney especially for the food festival. The lovely, talented and humble Rodito I. Dimatera, whom I met today is the Head Chef of world renowned Filipino seafood restaurant and caterers Via Mare, will be leading the team with Benjamin Zabala, Native Delicacies Chef for Via Mare, and Leandro Ternida Templonuevo, Sous Chef accompanying him. Each chef is responsible for different segments of this tantalising and colourful buffet. Well done Chefs!

Head Chef of The Flavours of The Philippines buffet, Rodito I. Dimatera
What is Filipino food? It is rare to see Filipino restaurants in Sydney or anywhere in Australia for that matter so this festival is a real treat for those who want to enjoy a feast on something different with friends and family. With an abundance of cultural influences, this archipelago has formed a rich culinary identity. Blessed with an abundance of seafood, tropical fruits and a distinct use of naturally sour and salty flavours, Filipino food is a subtle mix of its Asian neighbours as well as featuring influences from its early Spanish colonisation. A fusion of Chinese, Malaysian and Spanish cuisine defines Filipino food. A beautiful exotic mix, and wait to you see favourite!

Chef Rodito I. Dimatera, Head Chef of Via Mare in the Philippines said, “I am honoured to have this opportunity to represent the Philippines and our amazing selection of food by bringing you the Flavours of the Philippines Food Festival and sharing our culinary delights. In the Philippines, food and eating is an integral part of our daily lives and it is customary to eat 5 small meals a day. We hope that during this festival, you can taste the diversity of our food from over 120 different ethnic groups.” The Head Chef has travelled around the world to share his wonderful talent of cooking up Filipino dishes and we are lucky to have him and his team in Sydney this year.

The Head Chef's favourite pick from the Cold Buffet, green mango salad

Flavours of the Philippines Food festival serves an array of exotic and aromatic dishes over the two week food festival. Lunch and dinner will be served buffet style in the historic Grace Brasserie.

I hope you enjoy the visual feast of photos I took today of the buffet...hungry yet? You'll enjoy it more by heading over to The Grace Hotel for this unique feast.

Some of the food that will be served includes:

Appetizers and Salads

Banana Hearts in Vinaigrette with Seaweed (Ensaladang Puso ng Saging)

Pork Crackling with Roasted Baby Tomato and Arugula Salad (Ensaladang Bagnet)

Crab Salad with Mango (Alimango at Mangga)

Hot Buffet

Milkfish Stuffed with Tomatoes and Onions

Steamed Prawns (Halabos na Hipon)

Chicken Estofado with Mango

Braised Pork Belly (Humba)

Carving Station

Roast Sirloin with Calamansi and Onion (Bistek Tagalog)


Cassava Bibingka

Caramel Custard (Leche Flan)

Crisp Banana Rolls with Sesame seeds (Turones de Saba)

Halo-Halo Station (Melange of Sweetened Fruits and Pulses)

Head Chef's Hot Buffet Pick: Chicken Estofado with Mango...true Filipino food

The Grace Brassiere - Level 2, The Grace Hotel, 77 York St, Sydney NSW 2000

7-24 August 2014.

For Bookings?
Call 02 9272 6670 or email:

$38* lunch buffet, Tuesday to Friday (12:00pm – 2:00pm)
$48* dinner buffet, Friday and Saturday only (6:00pm – 9:00pm)
$48* lunch buffet, Sunday (12.30pm-2.30pm)
*Price is per person
#Limited space is available


Sponsors: The Grace Hotel, Philippine Department of Tourism and Cebu Pacific Air.

Head Chef's Dessert Buffet pick: Halo-Halo Station (Melange of Sweetened Fruits and Pulses)

The welcoming and friendly restaurant manager of The Grace Hotel, Boonyiam Surinpaeng