Tuesday 23 April 2013

We eat a lot of icecream

I bought this book on ice cream manufacturing many years ago - don't ask why. Back then, it cost me over a hundred bucks.

The current edition has a table showing per capita consumption for different countries. Australia leads the pack at 17.9 somethings - the table is not clear what it is measuring. Volume? Value? Waffle cones?

That's my factoid for the day. And now, I feel like some gellato.

Sunday 21 April 2013

And now for the best ribs that I have had in decades

You wonder why I blog about food and cycling a lot? Simples - I like to eat (I am  not some svelte skinny super model as a result), so I need a means to burn off the intake. I'm not big on vomiting after a meal to keep the calorie intake down.

After trashing a joint in my last post, let me introduce you to some good tucker - a place calls Ribs & Burger. They were so good, I'm thinking about going there for lunch. Right now. Even though it isn't even 11am yet.

Yes, they're in a food court, and the ribs can be a bit expensive - but bloody hell - they're good. I don't mind forking out the cash if the food is worth it, and these are worth every cent.

If you can get over the bit about it being in a food court, then it's heaven on a stick. I just wish my local pub served ribs this good - can't think of anything better than spending an evening with a fine platter of ribs and a few cold beers in a place with a bit of ambiance. (Did I mention they're in a food court, which has the ambiance of, well, a food court?)

The worst ribs ever - in the entire universe even

My food intake spans the entire spectrum from bad to good. After spending years surviving on boarding school food, uni college food and army ration packs, I'm really not that fussy about what I'm eating when I need to eat. If I'm hungry, I'll shovel down whatever is on offer. Except maybe the sheep's eyeball. Unless it comes with a tasty sauce on the side.

On the other hand, when I have a bit of time and money to spare, I like to eat as well as I possibly can. That's when the food snob side takes over. I don't see the point in eating a bad meal if you have the means to eat a good meal.

Which brings me to Pancake Parlor. We've eaten there twice in the last 6 months - mainly because the kids needed feeding when we were on an outing and it was there. And OK, I needed feeding too. It serves up the sort of bland, sweet, filling food that will tempt kids in the 4-18 age bracket to actually eat when you want them to eat.

I'm not going to fault the pancakes - they are "pan cakes". If you like that sort of thing (and clearly the Japanese students living within walking distance of Darling Harbour really like that sort of thing), then they do it quite well. Big, fat bland cakes that have been cooked in a pan and then smothered with cheap cream, icecream or syrup. Or all three. They are definitely not my thing - I prefer a thin crepe that can be rolled up and shoveled down like a cheap, fat cigar.

That's not a very good analogy, but it's early on Sunday morning, so it will have to do.

As an aside, Mum bought a crepe pan back in the late 1970s. It was electric, and it had a convex non stick surface that was perfect for making crepes. You made a bowl of crepe mix (which is thinner than pancake mix) and then dipped  the upside down crepe maker into the mix. It was the height of sophistication back then. It's pretty clear where my food snobbery comes from. It was fun as a young kid to make the crepes, and then flame them in a good glug of brandy. My parents have always enjoyed sloshing alcohol onto things and then letting the kids set it on fire. So long as the kids didn't get splashed with brandy and also get set on fire, everything was fine. My parents still do it whenever kids and dessert are in the same room. Dad would set fire to apple pie if you let him.

So I'm a crepe guy, not a big fat pancake guy. But the kids don't mind the pancakes, so we've eaten there twice.

On both occasions, I've had the ribs. The ribs are expensive at $26, and for that price, I expect pretty good ribs. I also can't take pancakes for lunch. It's just wrong.

Pretty good ribs are exactly what I didn't get. I tried the beef ribs the first time round - they were adequately cooked, but not falling off the bone, and the sauce appeared to have been painted on at the last minute. They were edible, but overpriced and underspiced. I can understand the lack of kick - the demographic they are serving are probably not interested in a really spicy set of ribs.

Second time around, I went for pig. I had much the same experience, expect the ribs were served cold. Not frozen. Not fridge temperature. Just "I've been sitting on the bench for 3 hours" cold. There was not a hint of warmth in a single rib of that pig.

Under normal circumstances, I would have sent them back for a bit of nuking. However, I gave the staff one look (The fish that John West rejected was the first thing that came to mind) and decided I'd just grin and bear it. After all, they weren't that good to start with, so eating them cold wasn't going to make them much worse.

And you know what? That was pretty much correct. The youngest has just walked over with a toy bucket and told me that it's his chum bucket. Thanks to that happening, the Pancake Parlor and the Chum Bucket are now firmly fixed in my mind as twins. By the way, read down at the link to see what chum is made of.

The sad thing is that we will inevitably eat there again, and I'll eat the ribs - again. I'm a sucker for punishment.

Saturday 20 April 2013

My guts know if I'm going to ride or not

Do you ever promise yourself you'll get up early and do something the following morning, and then you wake up at 0-dark-hundred and start shilly-shallying about doing it? You lie there and your brain starts processing the pros and cons of doing whatever it is you were going to do, and half the time, you don't end up getting out of bed.

Now that the weather is getting wetter and colder, I'm experiencing more of those moments. It's OK during the week - I  have to get to work, and the later I leave, the worse the traffic will be. Is there really much difference between leaving at 0600 when it's 12 degrees and raining or at 0700 when it's 13 degrees and raining and the roads are full of half asleep drivers who are more dangerous than a Nigerian with your bank account details.

The weekends are something altogether different. I don't have to do anything, but I like to get up early and get some exercise and preferably a bit of social interaction with some other cyclists.

The clearest indicator of whether I will ride or not is my guts. I have some sort of subconscious connection between the lizard component of my brain and my bowels. If the primeval part of my brain knows I am going to ride, then the bowels start moving and it's game over - I have to get up, crap and then go do a few miles. 

I think this is because I went for an early morning swim many years ago, and found that as I was walking towards the beach just before sunrise, I had an absolutely overwhelming need to do an enormous crap. It's a good thing the public toilets at North Bondi were open at that hour - otherwise, I would have crapped on the grass out of sheer necessity. There was no holding it back.

Since then, my guts have never let me leave the house for any form of exercise without voiding themselves first. It doesn't matter what I'm doing - swimming, skiing, running, cycling or just going for a long stroll - the guts are taking no chances. They're never getting caught short again.

So for me, I don't have to stuff around trying to decide whether to ride or not. If the guts say "go", I go. And frankly, they usually make better decisions than my brain.

Sunday 14 April 2013

More great cullinary disasters

Made chocolate mousse tonight. You know how it is supposed to be soft and fluffy and light?

Mine is like aerated concrete.

However, it's pretty potent. More than a few spoonfuls supplies a rush like 6 cups of coffee and a tab of speed.

Friday 12 April 2013

Something from a seat of learning

I give you - the Bristol stool scale. Developed at the University of Bristol. This has nothing to do with home furnishings.

See? Not everything that comes out of modern unis is complete crap.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Stupid decisions = bad outcomes

Friday was one of those days when I must have taken some stupid pills after lunch. I couldn't believe how idiotic I was when I rode home. For starters, I misjudged how fast a car was coming towards me at an intersection, and I rode right out in front of it. Thankfully, the driver was smarter and faster reacting than me, and they braked and avoided running me down.

Not 2 minutes later, I made a silly overtaking decision and narrowly avoided a head on prang with another cyclist.

After that, I took it really, really easy. I'm convinced things like this happen in threes, and I didn't want number 3 to end up with me getting carted off in the back of an ambulance.

Here's my gripe for the day - people make stupid decisions all the time, but there are some that are adamant that the bad outcome they just suffered was a result of a stupid decision they made earlier. Blame always has to be sheeted home somewhere else. I know that if I'd ended up under that car yesterday, it would have been my own damned fault for being a bonehead - and I'd learn my lesson and not do it again. What is it with some people that refuse to admit they were stupid, and continue to make the same stupid  mistakes again and again?

Thursday 4 April 2013

Cream snobs

I've done something right.

I've raised my kids to be cream snobs.

I whipped up a self saucing chocolate pud tonight. In anticipation, I put "double cream" on the shopping list - that's the best stuff to have with a rich chocolate pudding.

The missus obliged and duly brought home a tub of double cream. However, I forgot to mention that some of the local supermarkets are no longer stocking proper double cream - they only carry cream that has been thickened with gelatin. I've found that out from reading the ingredients of every tub of cream in the supermarket fridge.

So we ended up with gelatin infused cream in the fridge - an abomination in my books - but I was none the wiser.

The kids got a bowl of pudding each. The cream was put on the dining table for them to serve themselves.

Both tried the cream and said, "I'm not eating that". I was told in no uncertain terms to return to the kitchen, find some proper cream and whip it up. Which I did. Bless their little cotton socks. They might be unable to read the ingredients on a tub of cream, but they can tell crap when they see it.

You want sauce with that?

I've discovered an excellent burger place in the city - the wagyu steakburger is a killer. The steak is literally melt in the mouth - I can't ever remember biting into a "minute steak" and not finding myself chomping and gnashing at it in an effort to bite off a chunk, and ending up with a slice of tomato sliding out and landing on my shirt.

The burgers are good.

The chips are pretty good too - big, fat chunky things. The perfect antidote to skinny little french fries.

The sauces that you can have with your chips are bloody good - especially the aioli.

Just one issue.

The burgers cost around 10 bucks. That much is made clear from the big board behind the counter.

I figured out the chips cost $3.50 a serve by ordering some with a burger and then subtracting $9.90 from the total price. I've been there 4 times, and am yet to find a menu that lists the chips and their cost.

The killer is the cost of the sauce - 2 bucks for a little tub of sauce. Yes, the sauce is fantastic, and I love dipping my chips into it, but I hate the fact that I only worked out the cost by ordering a burger, chips and sauce and then subtracting the cost of the first two items from the total cost. Two bucks is a lot to pay, which is probably why they do their best to shield you from the cost. By the time you've handed over more than 15 bucks, it's too late to retract the sauce. You're hooked. You're suckered.

And you're very well fed. I like the food. It's the transparency that sucks.

That said, if I had known the first time how expensive the sauce was, I never would have ordered it, and I never would have found out how good it was. Colour me torn......

Monday 1 April 2013

Since when did breakfast cost 25 bucks?

I took advantage of the Easter break to put some extra miles on the bike. Saturday's foray took me to a stamping ground that is becoming familiar - Danks St in Waterloo. There are a number of fine looking cafes along a strip about 100 metres long, and I've decided to work my way through them as time permits.

As most of the cafes were closed that morning when I got there, the choice came to the Sonoma Bakery or Societe wine bar.

I chose Societe. I wish I'd read the reviews on Urbanspoon first - most were pretty unhappy with the place.

Let me add my unhappiness to the list.

Coffee - not too bad. No complaints.

Service - fine, but there were only 2 of us in the whole place.

Decor/atmosphere/seats - no complaints

Food - when I pay $21.50 for an omelet, I expect a world class experience. Instead, I got something that was so dry, I was sure the chef had simply dropped a few yellow kitchen sponges into the frying pan and then tossed a few other ingredients on top. It took me a while to chew through it, and it wasn't that tasty. I like my omelets to ooze, and to be bursting with squishy flavour. I got anything but that.

I forgot to mention what toast I wanted, so I didn't get any at all. 1 out of 10 if you're lucky for both quality and value.

The pricing might have been Easter pricing with lots of loadings, but it was still a freakingly expensive meal for one. And given how poor it was, I might as well have given 25 bucks to a wino and watched him spend it on cheap port.

I didn't even consider ordering an iced coffee - they wanted 7 bucks (yes, seven bucks!!!!) for an iced coffee, and I couldn't be bothered trying to haggle them down given that I don't want any cream, ice cream of chocolate sprinkles or syrup polluting my coffee. When I saw what they wanted to charge for something so simple, I knew I was in trouble. So actually the completely rooted omelet was not that much of a surprise when it arrived.

The upside is that there are at least half a dozen more places to try along Danks St, and even more along Bourke St, so one failure isn't anything to worry about.