Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bursaria "A Touch of..." High Tea

Disclaimer: I was invited to have high tea with a couple of other bloggers

I have an issue with Melbourne. We're too darned casual these days. It's just so easy to wear a pair of jeans, smart top and jacket with a pair of heels anywhere. To me, there's just not enough opportunities to don a pretty dress and get a bit girly. 

So thank goodness for high tea. 

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A few weekends ago I attended 'A Touch Of…', high tea by Bursaria Fine Foods at Abbotsford Convent, which is held the third Sunday of every month, with a couple of other bloggers, and my good friend Chill. 

After spending half an hour deciding which of my 20 dresses to wear (settled on an old Yeojin Bae number), and what shoes matched (the nude pumps of course darling), I was lucky enough to score a great parking spot and sauntered on over to the Rosina function space. 

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I had been to the Rosina function space before, so had no trouble finding the gorgeous little courtyard (although I think for future events a little more signage would help!), where we were greeted with a glass of bubbly and some sweet home made lemonade, with a bit of rosewater and vanilla sugar. 

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It was absolutely the most perfect weather, which made hanging out and socialising just lovely. 'Flossy' (dubbed by Shellie) came around to make sure our drinks were constantly topped up as we waited in the courtyard whilst the final touches were made inside. I kind of wanted to pinch a bit of Flossy's hair to find out if it was actually fairy floss or not...I mean it looks a lot like it right...?

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Watch out Flossy, those hanging decorations are dangerous!

Having said that, it was almost an hour before we were let in, which is a little long if you ask me, however, all was forgiven once we entered the Rosina function room. 

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Bright, light, airy, girly, fresh flowers, funky and easy going tunes from the dj, it's what little girls who have tea with their teddy bears dream of. 

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Pitchers of lemonade awaited us at the table, waiters and waitresses were soon circling the room with thermos's filled with tea and coffee and more alcoholic beverages were available from the bar (at an additional cost). 

Sweets awaited us at the table, although we soon learnt that savouries were arriving, so although we may have had one or two sneaky bites from the sweet platter, we held off until the savouries arrived. 

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Oh what a spread we had! We all honestly didn't know where to start first. Although food can often be a bit hit and miss at high tea's, I was actually fairly impressed with everything we got. 

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The skewer of herb and citrus prawns wrapped in noodles, with lemon aioli, came out piping hot and were deliciously juicy, yet perfectly crisp and crunchy around the outside. Very impressed!

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I also went nuts for the cream of mushroom soup with truffle oil and red pepper tapenade, which was thick, rich and so seductive on the nose with all that truffle. It was all you smelt when the wooden board was put down at first!

The chorizo, spinach and ricotta pastry rolls with a sweet tomato relish had a gorgeously flaky pastry, honey-cured salmon with remoulade on dill blinis were fresh, bright and easy to eat and the fluffy bread that the poached chicken, almond and celery sandwiches came on were just a dream.

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To finish off, I went ape for (in a ladylike way) the King Island blue cheese and pear chutney, served on a very crunchy and firm fig and walnut bread. I die for King Island blue cheese  and adore figs in any bread-like carbohydrate. Match made in heaven!

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Once savouries were completed, Chill was quick to dive for the scones with raspberry jam and double cream…which he had like 7 of. He liked them. A lot. 

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I loved the variety of desserts they had, and how pretty they all looked. I just couldn't take my eyes off the vanilla, rose and pistachio pannacotta with pomegranate syrup, topped with a bit of fairy floss. The rosewater wasn't too strong and fairy floss is just so much fun with anything light and creamy. 

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We also loved the rich and decadent organic chocolate pots, salted caramel toffee and clotted cream, which were so thick, it probably wouldn't fall out if the shot glass was turned upside down. Mmhmmm. The creme brulee, lightly scented with lavender, was light and elegant and even with a small surface area, still had a bit of that sugar crystallisation at the top, and I loved the soft and chewy rosewater meringues with seasonal berries and marscapone cream. 

The only thing I was sorely sad about, was the mini lemon meringue pies. They looked perfectly piped and an absolute treat, but soon realised that the meringue bit was rock hard, and not the soft meringue that many of us expected. There wasn't really much lemon going on there for me either, or at least the single one I had. 

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But when you have one low, out of 12 or so options, you're having a pretty darned good day and it certainly didn't dampen our spirits for too long, as we chortled, chuckled, giggled and gossiped. And of course, stole leftover food from other tables (not our fault they're not hungry right?) and sipped our teas (or coffees) with our pinkies out like the snobbish people we are. Teehee.

I would say it's definitely worth getting a group together to do this, as you're put on tables of 10 and it's a great environment to have a bit of girly time. Although, if there's just two of you, you shouldn't be put off either, maybe you'll find some new tea drinking friends!

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Bursaria Fine Foods is also doing a special morning and afternoon tea this coming Sunday, with A Vintage Affair, which would be a great way to spoil mum and get a little bit of quality time together! Find out more on their website.

Check out what some other bloggers thought of the afternoon as well!

Rosina Function Space
1 Heliers Street, Abbotsford

$55 per person, 2-4pm
Third Sunday of each month (19th May, 16th June, 21st July, 18th August, 15th September)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Industry Beans

So. I love the idea of taking Chai out for breakfast. Cause he's cute, fairly compact and usually pretty quiet. 

Except if there's a dog on the other side of the courtyard, who is ignoring him, that he can't get close enough to say hello to. God, he's such a brat!

I discovered this on a (fairly) recent trip to Industry Beans with Jo, The Angmoh (her boyfriend) and her little sausage dog, who is a total cutie.

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I mean, really, look at that face. Ready? 1. 2. 3. Awwwwwww.

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Industry Beans is hidden behind Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, and has been set up by the guys behind Penny Farthing. Our visit was on a fairly cool morning, but despite that, since we had the dogs, we sat outside in the courtyard area, which is funnily at the front of the cafe (I'm kind of used to it always behind at the back!). It's a super cute area, and I loved how bright and light it was, especially on the grey day it was. The rather light space was punctuated with a little bit of greenery against red brick walls. 

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With a name like Industry Beans, you'd only expect there to be a serious emphasis on coffee….which there is. We were given a little sample of some of their coffee experiments, latte pearls  on silver spoons burst in your mouth to give a pop of milky coffee, coffee toffee came as large brown shards and reminded me a bit of the Malaysian candy, Kopiko and finally, cold drip 'caviar'. Whilst I'm not the biggest coffee drinker, it was fun to see and try out these little goodies. 

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In regards to the coffee though, Jo and The Angmoh weren't as impressed as they were hoping to be, finding the magic a bit 'milky'. Although later on when they tried a pour over with a single origin, they found a bit more enjoyment of that. Although probably best to read what they thought here!

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As always, soy chai for me, and I think  I must have giggled with joy as this was popped down in front of me. I loved the cute little glass teapot. I wanted to hide it in my handbag and take it home with me. But my camera would've probably crushed it. Sigh.

I did love how smooth and creamy the chai was, as well as how spicy it was. Love it when that's played up. Easily a chai I would go back for!

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The food menu is long, playful and intriguing. Whilst there are certainly classics on it, most of it is fairly creative and a twist from the norm. My poached eggs crumbed in panko, served with charred asparagus, raisins, capsicum curls and Jeruselum artichoke was quite a sight to behold, with bright and vibrant colours. I loved the panko crumbed eggs, crunch on the outside, soft on the inside, what could you want? Crunchy asparagus with almonds went surprisingly well too. Although I did enjoy the flavour of the artichoke puree, I probably wouldn't have minded it to be a little smoother. 

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When an initial choice wasn't available (as the mushroom pate was still being set) Jo tucked into a brunch favourite, the avocado smash. At Industry Beans, it was a whole avocado with chevre, opal basil, micro mint, green tea salt and charred lemon. With porny egg yolks and a bit of zest, the bite I had was perfectly delicious and Jo seemed to enjoy the dish on a whole. 

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The Angmoh ordered the cold drip cured salmon and cornbread, house cured salmon on their own char grilled cornbread with cornichon vinaigrette, cultured cream, grapefruit, white onions and mixed edible flowers. Phowar, that's a bit of a list! Whilst it looked beautiful, with blushing salmon lazily spread over a few slabs of corn bread, I didn't try any (it was only my first time meeting The Angmoh, didn't think it was appropriate to stick my fork in his plate yet), but do check out Jo's post on our visit to see what he thought!

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By the end of the meal, Jo's cute little sausage dog and Chai hadn't done much more than sniff and politely ignore each other, but Jo, The Angmoh and I had a good feed, with interesting flavours and textures. Whilst I would be interested to see what others think of the coffee, I really enjoyed breakfast and would love to come back to give more of the extensive menu a go. But maybe without Chai. Throughout the meal he kept jumping up on the bench I was on, climbing into my lap and getting tangled around my legs and the table, all the while whining away. Is this what having a kid is like…?

Industry Beans
Unit 3, Cnr Fitzroy and Rose Street
Fitzroy 3065

Industry Beans on Urbanspoon

View I'm So Hungree in a larger map

Friday, April 26, 2013

Malaysia - Cameron Highlands

Goodness! I was going through my edited photos and had realised I had completely overlooked sharing my trip to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, last year in October, with all of you! Bad Ashley, bad!

If you had been following my previous Malaysia posts, in October, my parents and I drove from Penang, to Ipoh and now up the hills into the Cameron Highlands. In west Malaysia, the Cameron Highlands are about the size of Singapore and around 1500 m above sea level, the highest point of Malaysia that is accessible by car. 

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Being the highest point in Malaysia, the climate tends to more agreeable (at least with me) than down in the cities. The Cameron Highlands makes for a popular getaway during the holidays (be warned traffic will be horrendous) since the air is drier and the temperatures in the range of the low to mid 20's. Typical Kuala Lumpur weather in comparison is usually sitting at around 30 to 30 degrees Celsius and ridiculously humid. 

It was a lovely break after being in Penang and Ipoh for a couple of days, I could actually jog around outside! 

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Due to it's climate, most of the country's flowers, vegetables and fruits are grown up here, with some of the farms even exporting to Singapore. The strawberries from the Cameron's are very popular, with plenty of strawberry farms to be found in the area. Many will allow you to pick your own strawberries, and then charge you by weight. 

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Mum and I came across a hydroponic strawberry farm that also grew beautiful heads of lettuce. So much green! We got a couple of huge lettuce heads to bring back to KL with us for a mere 2 or 3 ringett each! One Australian dollar!

One thing the Cameron Highlands is also very well known for, is their tea plantations. 

My parents and I visited one of the tea centres, the BOH Sungei Palas Tea Estate, which ended up being an absolutely lovely afternoon because we planned ourselves out pretty well. With laptops and iPads packed, we drove over, which was a bit scary at a couple of points, as the roads were pretty narrow and wrapped around hillsides…eek!

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We fortunately though, arrived at the parking lot in one spot and marvelled at the rolling hills of green tea leaves. It was absolutely incredible! 

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With a cool breeze on our backs, we followed a path up to the tea centre, which had a deck that suspended over the top of the hill, meaning simply breathtaking views. 

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Could you really ask for anything more serene…while working? Just quietly, whilst we were actually working while up there, Dad and I posed for this picture…to make ourselves look busy and important or something. We very comfortably spent a good 3 or 4 hours just relaxing, working and drinking tea up here.

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BOH tea is Malaysia's largest producer of premium black tea and has been around forever, my parents were singing me the jingles they used to hear for it on TV when they were kids!  It's pretty cool that it has indeed stuck around for so long, and become a premium tea name in Malaysia. 

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Whilst honestly probably not the top grade tea in the world, it's still perfectly enjoyable, I particularly liked their BOH Garden tea (with a warm coconut tart, mmhmm!) and picked up a beautifully packaged 'Diamond Jubilee' tea (which I gave Brad's mum for Christmas), made of course, to honour her majesty in England. Remember, Malaysia is still part of the commonwealth (and the owners of BOH are British)!

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One thing we did find kind of interesting in Cameron Highlands, driving between towns, is that there's quite a lot of Indians around, with a couple of them running 24/7 joints. (Fun fact, hour in Bahasa is 'Jam', so all the signs would say '24 Jam'. This randomly makes me happy). Whilst not everything at these little nasi kandar type places was always a hit, one thing we did enjoy consistently, was good roti and dosai. 

Like. Really good. Like best dosai I've ever had in my life. Loved how it was hardly oily, which made it perfect for mopping curry sauce up with. Which was also excellently tasty. My mouth is actually watering as I type this. Too good. We came back to this same store in Tanah Rata 2 or 3 more times just for the dosai. 

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This guy had a little stand just down a little bit from the Indian store, who I think it might've been the coolest guy I saw on the trip. A real Malaysian cowboy! With joyful wrinkles around his eyes and a wise and quiet smile, there was a lot of character (and history I'm sure) in someone who didn't talk much, despite us asking him lots of questions. It was wonderful to watch him cut and mould leather, which would eventually become some beautiful accessory. Whilst mum and I were sorely tempted by some of the handmade bags with intricate designs, we opted instead to pick up a few leather cuffs instead, which I have been wearing non-stop. At only 20 ringett a pop (not even 10 Australian dollars!) I certainly couldn't complain!

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Mum fell in love with market fresh tofu fa at the local market in the town of Brinchang (where we stayed), having it two mornings in a row. So good when it's warm and with gula melaka!

Mum also suggested we have high tea whilst in the Cameron Highlands, as she had heard good things about 'Ye Olde Smokehouse' and their high tea. 

However, after a bit of googling around, I decided we should instead have high tea the Cameron Highlands Resort, in the Jim Thompson Room, which is served daily from 3pm to 6pm.

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Wow. What an immense bit of luxury amongst the tea plantations and strawberry farms. It definitely has a colonial charm to it, but with all the luxe trimmings. 

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35 ringett each (11 Australian dollars) netted us a pot of tea, each, from a selection of BOH teas and a gorgeous, three tier stand of goodies. I was absolutely enamoured by the teapot and teacups. So delicate and elegant, I definitely felt very posh as we sat on spacious and luxurious Malaysian style chairs, underneath a dark wooden ceiling fan with golden finishes and sipped on our tea. 

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Our nibbles were generally all quite good too. Of the sandwiches, we did like the cucumber and cream chess, and smoked salmon more than the other options. Our bread was all fluffy and soft, so nice and fresh. 

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The scones were a little bit on the heavy side, I would have liked them to be a little bit more fluffy, but at least the strawberries came with chocolate sauce. Surely that never, ever fails.

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Whilst I enjoyed all the sweet treats on the top tier (although maybe not so much the fruit cake, since that's just not so much my thing), I went nuts for the pyramid of chocolate mousse goodness. Rich, dense, chocolatey. I sort of demolished it on my own while my parents picked on everything else. 

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We did also have a poke around Ye Olde Smokehouse afterwards, and although it definitely does have that very old English charm, I felt the space could use a facelift, and since it is a hotel, the areas for day visitors to visit was a bit limited. 

Three nights was plenty, but at the same time, not long enough in the Camerons for me. We ate pretty well, but didn't even get around to eating any steamboat, which is usually crammed full of vegetables up this way (since they are so bountiful and fresh) and of course very comforting in the cooler nights. Next time I suppose?

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On the way back down the hills to KL, we made frequent stops at roadside stalls, selling fresh vegetables and fruits, to stock up before we got back into the city. It's so much more expensive once you're in the city! Check out all of my car friends…tomatoes, leeks, cabbage, lettuce…you name it, we probably bought it. Or well, almost all of it. 

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And finally, before we got back to KL, we made a stop in Bidor, where we were reminded what humidity felt like again. Urgh. The stop was made, pretty much just to go to Restoran Pun Chun for their famous duck noodles. Again, this is what happens when you have a crazy food dad. The duck noodles here are served in a very dark and herbaceous soup. Not so much my thing, but the soup is pretty comforting and duck is hard to dislike. 

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My relatives also love to pick up biscuits from here, with a wall dedicated to their inventory. 

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And with that, I finally conclude my posts in Malaysia (for now) and leave you with a couple of photos of life in Restoran Pun Chun. There's just something about the easy going nature of these restaurants, hawker stalls, kopitiams and nasi kandar places (when not in peak lunch period) that I love in Malaysia. 

BOH Sungai Palas
Brinchang, Cameron Highlands
(near town of Brinchang, you should be able to see signs for it. Sort of a map here. Not open Mondays)

By the Golf Course
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
(I'm not kidding that's what google says)