All posts filed under: travel

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Review: Sassy Sarong still going strong in Seminyak, Bali

Recently some foodie friends of mine visited Seminyak on a week long rest, relaxation and fine dining tour. When I requested their top 3 picks they admitted that despite trying many of the hot newcomer restaurants they felt that Will Meryck’s Sarong restaurant in Jalan Petitinget was still their top choice for the food, service and atmosphere. After very many years of visiting Bali I have been to Sarong on quite a few occasions including having a great time here on New Year’s Eve 2013. We had stopped in to Seminyak for a few days on this trip to stop in to some of the great restaurants by the coast before heading to Ubud – of course Sarong was also top of our list to go back to. We booked ahead via their website which is easy to do and highly recommended because it fills up quickly even in the low season. We arrived to met by their traditional warm welcome and we’re seated in the beautiful garden. The warm interiors and gorgeous lighting throughout creates a …

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Review: Ji whizz in Canggu, Bali

We were recommended to try the newly opened  at Ji Restaurant at the Hotel Tugu in Canggu by a friend so took a taxi from Seminyak for the roughly 35 minute trip, depending on traffic for dinner. Arriving at Hotel Tugu in Canggu, we were immediately impressed by the truly special setting created by the huge Garuda statue and furnishings in the hotel lobby. The restaurant and bar are situated next to the Hotel Tugu whose owners have an amazing collection of Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian antiques and collectibles which feature in their hotels and venues. We started with cocktails on the rooftop bar overlooking the busy beachside bars of Canggu with glimpses of the ocean over the rooftops, watching the sun setting as we sipped on our literally smoking CoCo Sexo cocktails, a delicious mixture of pineapple, rum and coconut juice served in coconut jars over dry ice. The bar area is eclectically decorated with beautiful artisan lights and plantings with indoor and outdoor seating. Ji restaurant itself is housed in a 300+ year old Chinese temple …

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Nougatine's Citrus Pavlova with blood orange sorbet

Review: New York Nuance at Jean Georges’ Nougatine

It seemed only apt in the midst of the US primaries and all the hype about Donald Trump’s candidacy that we vist Jean Georges at the Trump Hotel on West Central Park. Recommended by friends and heralded as one of the best restaurants by Michelin judges and the foodie community, Chef Jean Georges Vongerichten’s stunningly located and beautifully designed restaurant is not short of acclaim. Adjacent to the formal Jean-Georges restaurant is the more casual but still very elegant Nougatine dining room and outdoor Terrace dining. We had heard about the very reasonably priced Prix Fixe lunch menu – 3 courses for USD38 , so we made sure we booked in ahead of time. Arriving on a crisp, New York early Spring day for lunch, we were welcomed by the equally crisp(but warm) and professional Jean Georges reception staff. We were privileged to have General Manager Phillipe Vongerichten, Jean Georges’ brother, supervising proceedings on the day we visited – watching the floor like a hawk and elegantly keeping an eye on the dishes emerging from …

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Catch restaurant NYC

Review: Super Catch in Meatpacker’s District NYC

Catch is one of the super trendy restaurants in Meatpacker’s featuring all-the-rage Asian fusion in a souped up warehouse like space over 3 levels in the Meatpacker’s district in New York City. With a wide ranging menu, and an expectedly seafood focus, menu decision-making is difficult but the over the top pricing for some offerings helps to cut down the options if you’re not straight from Wall Street. Originally opened by by US Top Chef program winner, Hung Huynh, the menu features Raw Bar with Seafood Towers, rolled, cold and hot selections as well as US “entrees” and extensive sides. Here’s the current Dinner menu We sampled the Tartare Trio of salmon, hamachi and tuna served with American Caviar and a wasabi creme fraiche, Crispy Prawns with a tangy mayonnaise, Chicken San Choy Bow, Wagyu on a Rock and the Charred Cauliflower. We also had a special on the night a “pizza” with figs, proscuitto, rocket and quail eggs and Parmesan which was super good. (The low key lighting makes it a bit challenging for good …

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Shrimp and cheesy grits with jus

Soulful style at Marvin in Washington DC

Marvin’s is a very cool bistro, bar and nightclub in Washington’s happening “U street corridor” on 14th Street NW. Established in 2007, the food is inspired by Marvin’s Gaye’s travels to Belgium and southern “soul” food he grew up with in America. The decore is contemporary but comfortable, making you feel instantly at ease. Understandable why it is such a favourite with the locals.   We had come to eat like the locals so started off with Chicken fried oysters and Shrimp ‘n Grits. The oysters were fried in a spicy batter and came with a remoulade, mayonnaise. They were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside making for a delicious contrast. The Shrimp had been cooked in tangy spices and were served with cheesy grits, jus from the shrimps and scattered with toasted almonds. (Grits are small broken corn grains that when are well are creamy almost like polenta.) The flavours from the shrimp enlivened the grits and made the dish extremely more-ish! For entrees (mains) we chose the Pepper Crusted Hanger …

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St Patrick’s Day at The Roger and Molly’s Bar NYC

Arrived in New York after 26 hours of travelling from Sydney at 4.30pm on St Patrick’s Day. We were staying at The Roger, a boutique hotel on the Corner of Madison and East 31st, in the area still known as Nomad(north of Madison park). I remember staying in mid-town years back when I visited New York and it is certainly changing with many more trendy bars and restaurants and a much more vibrant and a far less grungy atmosphere. The rooms are very spacious by New York standards and ours even had a seperate walk in wardrobe. Anyway, impressed as we were with our digs, we wanted a true New York Irish experience to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. After some quick online research, Adrian suggested Molly’s Bar about 15 minutes walk down in Gramercy, on 287 3rd Avenue just down from East 23rd st.   The tiny bar,established in 1960 and known to be New York’s most authentic Irish bar in New York, with sawdust on the floor and a log fire, was packed to the …

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Chef Dewa explaining the herbs and spices to be used in our Balinese cooking class

Review: Bali Asli Fishing and Cooking Class experience

This is the second cooking class experience that I have done through Bali Asli, which is based up in the hills of East Bali overlooking Mt Agung. This time we chose the Fishing Experience package that combines a morning boat trip departing at 8am from White Sand Beach, near Jasri village and out into the surrounding bay. We were picked up from Turtle Bay Hideaway and driven right down to White Sand beach where a local fisherman was waiting for us with his Jungkung(traditional Balinese outrigger fishing boat). We were pushed out into the water by a number of other fisherman and soon were speeding along to our first fishing spot as the sun climbed higher into the sky over the glistening waters. We were given substantial hand reels and bait to use in our endeavours to catch fish, but despite trying a number of spots we only managed to catch one small fish which we threw back. The currents were really strong, swirling the waters in the bay, which our local expert told us was “no …

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View of sunrise from Villa Mandala at Turtle Bay Hideaway, Jasri, East Bali

Review: Bali bliss at Turtle Bay Hideaway, Jasri

I haven’t included accommodation reviews here before , but I am making an exception to share the very special experience that we recently had at Turtle Bay Hideaway in Jasri, East Bali. The trip  to Turtle Bay in Jasri, East Bali takes around 2.5 hours from Ubud. Admittedly, we stopped on the way for delicious Kambing(goat) satays at a buzzing warung(local restaurant/food stall) called PakseBali Kebangankku just outside of the town of Klungkung. Our long time driver and friend Wayan Suta told us that the goat satays here are renowned throughout the island and they certainly were a tasty brunch feast, straight from the charcoal grill to the plate with a delicious homemade satay sauce. The accompanying soup was rich and filled with chunks of tender goat meat and spices. The drive to Jasri is on good roads throughout and takes you through some stunning Bali vistasacross ricefields and plantations and out to the ocean. Having done extensive research to find a small, quiet resort near the ocean, without the artificial trappings or sky high prices of the …

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Seared Freshwater Sulawesi Yabbies, Radish puree, Ginger flower, chargrilled watermelon and Black Truffle

Review: New Year’s Foodie Nirvana at Mozaic Restaurant Ubud, Bali

Our special treat for New Year’s Eve 2015 was to book in to the acclaimed, award-winning Moziac Restaurant in Ubud for their special seven course degustation. Chef Chris Salans opened Mozaic in 2001 bringing together the indigenous flavours of Indonesian herbs, spices and vegetables with first class imported ingredients such as wagyu beef, black truffles, foie gras all prepared with sophisticated French and European cooking techniques. The resulting menus and dishes have earned Chris Salans and his team a list of awards as long as your arm, not to mention, calls for a Michelin Star from Mozaic’s international diners. As you can imagine, our expectations were set very high as we stepped through the beautiful wooden doors into the Mozaic Lounge for a pre-dinner aperitif and complimentary appetiser. We were brought an appetiser of a light as air tiny profiterole filled with a luscious savoury, truffle infused custard. Our host explained the wine pairing menu with dinner which we decided to go with, and we were very well rewarded , as each of the wines …

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KL fast food stall

2015 in review

Here’s the completed “Year in Review” post! Happy New Year!! As we start the new year I thought I’d reflect on the first six months of my Free Spirit Food blog. It’s certainly been very interesting starting this blogging journey and I was amazed to receive my “annual report” from WordPress telling me that there had been almost 5,000 views since June 2015 – apparently almost the equivalent of four full New York subway trains! My aim when I started was to get to 100 followers by the end of the year and as we enter the new year I would like to say thank you to the 105 people who find my recipes and reviews of interest. Some of you are friends and family, but the majority of you are from around Australia and the world with very informative, interesting and beautiful blogs of your own. I wanted to say a special thank you to my most loyal supporters and give their great blogs a plug: From the family table What’s Bec Cooking My little …

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Babi Guling fresh off the spit at Warung Ibu Suna

Bali Review: A real Babi Guling experience at Warung Ibu Suna, Kedewatan

Having set out at 7.30am to do the Campuhan Ridge walk in Ubud before the sun got too hot, we decided we would have breakfast/brunch on the way back to Penestanan. The walk starts from stairs near the Campuhan Bridge that take you down to the river bed where you negotiate crossing over rocks to more stairs that lead up to the impressive temple on the other side, and the actual start of the “trek” up the ridge. We were lucky to have the aid of a makeshift bamboo “bridge” to get us across. The walk itself up the ridge affords stunning views across valleys on both sides. After about 3km of rolling hill climbs, you reach the village of Tegallalang with it’s rice fields and then walk another 4kms or so through the village of Kedawatan towards Jalan Sangiangan, the main route into Ubud. This stretch involves very steep hill walks between Tegallalang and Kedwatan and we certainly worked up a sweat and an appetite! Just as we leaving Kedawatan heading towards Ubud, we …

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Nasi Goreng Java at Warung Mendez in Ubud

Javanese dining in Ubud – Warung Mendez Penestanan

After a wonderful Christmas eating lots of delicious traditional English and Australian food, we are now in Bali for a fortnight of feasting and relaxation up in the hills of Ubud. There won’t be too much cooking but certainly a lot of eating planned. We have been regulars to Bali over the last ten years and can’t help but feel instantly relaxed when we get here through the combination of the warm Balinese hospitality, heat of the tropical sun and diversity and quality of the food. This visit we are staying in the village of Penestanan on the edge of the rice fields, once quite a sleepy part of Ubud but which has now been populated with great cafes and restaurants, spas and villas. We started our first day here lazing by our pool before choosing to lunch at Warung Mendez, a restaurant specialising in Javanese cuisine. From tempting appetisers and soups to specials such as slow cooked goat’s leg and Tempe fried in a special spring onion batter, deciding on what to eat is …

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Stunning spanner crab omelette with oyster sauce

Spice Temple Cooking Class – Sydney Seafood School

On a cold and drizzly Monday night in Sydney I ventured down to the Sydney Fish Markets for a cooking class at their Seafood Cooking School. They offer a big variety of courses often featuring well known Chefs and I’d booked in to the class by Head Chef Andy Evans from the Neil Perry restaurant, Spice Temple. Both Andy Evans and Neil Perry have travelled extensively in regional China, and Spice Temple features their especially created recipes featuring regional Chinese cooking with a  spicy kick! The amphitheatre at the Seafood School was full of enthusiastic foodies and the class started with Andy outlining the order of proceedings and the menu. We were each given a booklet with the 3 recipes we would be making: Tuna with Blackened Chilli Dressing, Prawn and Peanut Relish and Spanner Crab Omelette with Oyster Sauce. The high tech set-up in the amphitheatre which has video screens displaying what is happening on the kitchen bench and stove makes it easy to watch the cooking demonstrations. It’s almost like watching a cooking …

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Poached chicken special set with delicious sauces and bok choy

Best Chicken Rice at Loy Kee, Singapore

After extensive research into where to get the best chicken rice in Singapore, we settled on Loy Kee in Balestier Road. Established in 1953, Loy Kee has been dishing up the famed Hainan chicken rice for more than sixty years to loyal fans. A bonus is that Loy Kee opens at 9.30am so it’s perfect for a late breakfast or brunch. It is also a great option if you don’t feel like eating at a Hawker’s Centre with table service, menus and atmospheric surrounds. The menu features special sets with bok Choy, beautiful satiny chicken broth, 3 delicious sauces – ginger, light chilli and soy, the chicken rice itself and either poached or roast chicken. We chose to try both versions of chicken to taste the contrast and loved both. The poached chicken was the most silky and tender I have ever eaten and the chicken rice was perfectly cooked and flavoured with chickeny goodness. The roast chicken was also delicious but slightly drier than the poached version, with a layer of crispy roasted chicken …

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Night market stalls selling satay set up in front of the Lau Pa Set's impressive colonial structure.

Lau Pa Sat – Satay Street of Singapore

The hawker centre at Lau Pa Sat(old market) in the middle of Singapore’s CBD is situated in the original wet market building featuring beautiful colonial architecture. The original structure was relocated to this spot at 18 Raffles Quay from the waterfront in 1894 and a stunning clock tower which still chimes in the hour was added. Now the building is home to a thriving hawker’s centre filled to the brim with stalls featuring cuisines from all over Asia and other parts of the world. Apparently at lunchtime all the local office workers flock to the centre for lunch. Each evening the street in front of the Centre transforms hastily into what is know as Singapore’s Satay Street with stall after stall specialising in different styles of satay. The smoke from the charcoal fires fills the air with the it restive bbq aroma of satys cooking and plastic tables and chairs quickly become occupied with diners – locals and tourists alike! A good tip is to sit towards the back of the street away from the …

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Lau Goh Carrot Cake stall at Zion Rd Hawker Centre

Carrot cake and more at Zion Rd Hawker Centre, Singapore

We had heard about carrot cake from our son Nick who is currently living in Singapore. This is not carrot cake as we know it but a pancake made with diced daikon radish, flour, scallions/spring onion cooked in plain, sweet or savoury style and can be made into an omelette when fried with eggs. Intrigued by this description we went to the Zion Road Hawker Centre which claims one of the best carrot cake stalls. Situated alongside the river at the end of Zion Road, in River Valley, this food centre is a smaller, spotlessly clean traditional eating venue with about 25 stalls. On Saturday morning when we visited the centre was filled with locals enjoying early lunch. As with most hawker centres, each stall has a speciality which it is usually renowned amongst locals for. We headed directly to the Lau Goh carrot cake stall, quickly followed by the stall for Chicken Rice and Bak Kut Teh(pork rib broth). Friendly stall holders helped us with our orders and soon we were tucking in to …

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Lanna Thai Green Chicken Curry, the chicken was thinly sliced to absorb the flavours from the delicious cocnut curry sauce. Thai basil., Apple and pea eggplant and bamboos shoots featured in curry too.

Top Thai with views in Singapore

We are in Singapore visiting our son Nick who has been posted here for work since earlier this year. Now living the life of an ex-pat, Nick is being a great tour guide during our stay. Last night we went down for a walk along Boat Quay along the river. The Quay is a bustling tourist destination with a range of restaurants from Lebanese and French to Indian and Singapore Seafood. We chose Lanna Thai for dinner after drinks at the Red Spot Brewery further down the Quay. We were greeted warmly by the waiter and given a lovely table right on the riverside with views of the stunning Marina Bay Sands building, Fullerton Hotel and passing boats in the background. After ordering drinks, which are expensive, we decided to start with some Thai standards – mix satay of chicken, beef and mutton and Thai fishcakes. The satays came with a delicious satay sauce in which you could taste the freshly roasted and crushed peanuts. The Thai fishcakes were super authentic achieving that elastic texture …

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Balinese Village Cooking adventure

One of of the best cooking class experiences I’ve ever done was at at Bali Asli in East Bali. Class led by Australian owner Penny Williams. We began with a 2 hour trek into the village of Pangi with stunning views over the rice fields, the ocean and volcanoes. Stopped for Balinese coffee with Pak Made and family bYefore seeing coconuts being harvested and learning about the essential herbs and spices that make Balinese food so fragrant and unique. We then embarked on a 2 hour cooking class making our own bumbu Bali spice paste, sate lembat be siap (chicken lemongrass skewers), Pesan be pasih (spiced fish in banana leaf), fern tip salad and Nasi goreng. As you can I imagine we were salivatinG by the time lunch was ready and the food was well worth the effort and wait. Penny is a great guide and teacher providing a truly immersive experience. Highly recommend a visit next time you’re in Bali Bali Asli is about a 2 hour drive from Ubud which takes you through …

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Longtime menu

Loving it for a Longtime

Dinner at Longtime in Brisbane was a taste sensation. Hidden in a atmospherically reclaimed alleyway off Ann St in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, Longtime delivers innovative Asian delights under the direction of Executive Chef Ben Bertei, ex-Spirit House in Yandina and Longrain Melbourne. Designed for sharing the $90 per head Chef’s choice menu kicked off with delicious spicy oyster bloody Mary’s, tuna tartare with a curry sauce served on a rice cracker, and mini chicken burgers on sweet buns with a tangy Mayo sauce. The starters bode of good things to come with their contrasting textures and clearly defined flavours. We were not to be disappointed the Banana Flower salad with organic chicken, slow roasted pork belly, coconut and turmeric curry of Moreton bugs and wagyu rump with a lime chilli sauce were all delicious. Each dish carried it’s unique flavours to our tastebuds without being overpowered by the use of chilli, or any one spice. Well balanced, ample servings and sharp, friendly service made for a memorable dinner topped off by a superb dessert of …

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