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.

 

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Queues to get in at Molly’s Bar in New York on St Patrick’s Day

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 rafters with New Yorkers of Irish descent and every other descent celebrating St Pat’s Day – raucously! As loud as it was, we got there around 8.30pm and managed to avoid any queues and even to get a booth. Somehow  the noise seemed to diminish when we sat down and it was still fine to talk and enjoy our delicious meal of Irish favourites – corned beef served with cabbage, vegetables and mash and of course, Irish Lamb Stew.

We knew we were in the US of A when the gigantic main  courses arrived, but just like the noise, the size of the dishes diminished when we tucked in! Both meals were delicious and served with complimentary traditional Irish Soda Bread. (Excuse the poor quality of the food pics but it was pretty dark in the booth!) Accompanied by Irish Harp Lager and a delicious glass of red wine from Washington State. Prices for meals and drinks are reasonable and tallied up to about $80 including tip for 2 of us, without an entree(appetiser) or dessert, but including more than 1 round of drinks!

Great green atmosphere on St Pats Day but I think it would be just as much, or even more fun, on a normal evening.

 

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.

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The Jungkung, traditional Balinese fishing boat, that took us out for our fishing experience.

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.

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Great views out to island outcrops and back to the shore in the waters off Jasri, East Bali

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 good” for fishing. The local fishermen go out at 5am – early bird …and all that!

The boat trip itself was really enjoyable as we got great views back to the shore and close up to some of the island outcrops. Lovely way to start the day.

Afterwards we were driven up through some of the towns of East Bali, like Amlapura, with beautiful gardens and spotless streets winding up the hills to the stunning location of Bali Asli, which is owned and run by Australian expat Penelope Williams.

There we were greeted with a cooling drink and morning tea goodies including Sumping (steamed coconut custard cakes with ripe jackfruit) and Nangke Goreng (battered, fried jackfruit fritters) – both delicious. This was to get our energy up for the pounding of the Bumbu Bali (spice paste), mouldings of chicken satays, wrapping of fish and tofu in banana leaves, mixing of salad and stir frying of Nasi Goreng which was to come!

Dewa, one of the senior chefs at Bali Asli restaurant, first sat us down and explained the various herbs and spices we would be using, before taking us on a short tour of the garden where much of the restaurants herbs and vegetables are grown.

We were then allocated our own work area and guided through the making of each dish with very helpful tips and a few tricks e.g how to make little banana boats and “money bags” for grilling of the fish and steaming of the tofu.

The cooking class itself goes for about 2 hours but the time flies and we were very pleased with ourselves when we sat down to eat all the delicious dishes we had cooked around 1pm.

Whilst I had done the same menu when I last visited Bali Asli, I still learnt a lot this time again, and as there were only 2 of us in the class this time we received much more personal attention.

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Pesah Be Pasih – spiced fish fillet in banana leaf parcel

The cooking experiences at Bali Asli are just that – total experiences, combining a great insight into Balinese tradition and culture with excellent advice, guidance through the step by step process for each dish, and the opportunity for personal hands-on practice, rather than just watching an instructor making everything.

On both occasions that I have participated I have thoroughly enjoyed the “immersion” experience (See review of Balinese Village Cooking Class Experience)and the beautiful drive up and back from Bali Asli with its stunning views across the green valleys and ricefields to Mt Agung.

For more information, visit: http://www.baliasli.com.au

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Stunning views from Bali Asli, Karangasem, East Bali to Mt Agung

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 five star resorts in Bali, we had decided to try the Eco-hotel Turtle Bay Hideaway, created by US expat owner Emerald Starr who has lived in Bali for 30 years.

We were warmly welcomed at the reception area and escorted through a beautiful, lush garden to Villa Mandala which is situated in the lower half of one of the 3 joglo style tribal houses, brought by Emerald from Sulawesi, that are strategically placed along the property for optimal ocean views and maximum privacy.

We actually caught our breaths seeing the 180 degree view of the ocean from the front of the villa. The ocean is literally at the end of an expanse of lawn and you can even see it lying in the massive King size bed inside. The large oceanside infinity swimming pool is positioned between the 2 larger  villas, with the 3rd “honeymoon” villa featuring it’s own smaller, private pool by the ocean.Our villa was very tastefully decorated, with a beautiful indoor/outdoor bathroom and excellent shower, and surrounded on each side for privacy by the lush garden plantings.

Our  welcoming host explained the lie of the land to us, including the fact that there is no restaurant so all meals are served at the villa as room service, or at a choice of dining locations along the seafront or in the gardens. As the meals are prepared using freshly procured ingredients from local fishermen and Turtle Bay’s own organic garden, a few hours notice needs to be given for the preparation of meals and breakfast is ordered the night before. Unlike many “breakfast included” villas in Bali, there is a wide range of choices too.

For our first meal we chose papaya salad, fishcakes and a light coconut based fish curry. The menu includes Asian inspired and western favourites. Whilst not extensive there are more than enough choices to satisfy individual tastes.

Our breakfasts were filled with the best tasting tropical fruits, freshly made crepes and eggs or omelettes. A highlight for me was drinking the juice of a young coconut and then eating the sweet, soft flesh with a spoon!

The Thai Tom Yam Goong soup was very authentic with lots of fresh prawns as well as galangal and kaffir lime leaves. It was obvious that the deliciously flavoured clear broth had been made using homemade fish stock.

The Prawns with Balinese sauce, the Ayam Goreng nuggets made with chicken breast, and the Orange Cake with Vanilla Ice-cream were all great picks on the menu. Our only disappointment was that we didn’t get to try the banana and chocolate pie for dessert.

We found with all the food we ordered that the freshness of the ingredients shone through.  It is organic, home style cooking that goes perfectly with the natural setting. Prices of food and drinks were extremely good value for money too.

There are a number of activities that can be organised from the resort, but we chose only to leave to explore the neighbouring village and to visit the Uforia organic chocolate factory next door.(of course,we taste tested about 12 different types and bought bars of all our favourites!) You cannot swim in the ocean at Turtle Bay, but the once undiscovered and now very popular, White Sand Beach is 10 minutes away drive and is a gorgeous swimming spot. We were just as happy lolling in the pool.

Turtle Bay only accommodates 12-14 guests in total so the experience is very personalised. The manager Made and his team are friendly, polite, caring and provide excellent service with all meals delivered right on time and the rooms kept spotlessly clean.

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

Our days at Turtle Bay were totally relaxing – reading, swimming, yoga on the verandah overlooking the ocean, great massages and going to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing on the sea wall. We were lucky to get clear skies at night and be able to see the night sky fill up with brightly shining stars and to wake up to magnicent sunrises over the ocean.The immensity of the ocean and sky fill in the days much better than any manmade entertainment. Mind you, the WiFi service is good too.

I would highly recommend the beautiful Turtle Bay Hideaway if you are seeking a blissful Bali Oceanside retreat, without the hoopla of Seminyak or Nusa Dua, at a very affordable price.

 

 

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

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Tray of fresh herbs and spices featured in menu

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 complimented the complex flavours of each of the courses perfectly.

We entered the atmospheric garden pavilion surrounded by beautiful tropical plants and festive new year decorations to be seated for dinner. Divine setting!

One of the best initiatives is the tray of fresh spices that is brought to each table and as each course is presented, the waiters explain which of the spices and herbs are used in each dish. With many of the ingredients unique to Indonesia, this is a great way for diners to touch and smell them and understand more about what they are about to enjoy.

Each course is inspired by a theme of the local flavour featured e.g torch ginger flower or kaffir lime.

Our seven course eating odyssey began with a complimentary amuse Bouche of sweet lobster with a light cucumber and lime foam. It was an delicious introduction to the greater things to come.

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It would be too difficult to try to explain each of the courses in detail so instead all I will do is post my photographs with the menu titles and short descriptions.

I can only recommend that if you are going to Ubud that you visit Mozaic for a truly amazing dining experience. At $170-350 per head depending on your wine choices, it is by no means cheap but it is in comparison to what you would pay in any major city for the same quality of food, ambience and service.

Foodie Nirvana indeed!

For restaurant information visit http://www.mozaic-bali.com

Dabu Dabu (Indonesian sambal)
Fresh chilled oysters with Dabu Dabu Relish and Russian Sturgeon Caviar

Kecicang(Torch Ginger Flower)
Seared Freshwater Sulawesi Yabbies, Radish puree, Ginger flower, chargrilled watermelon and Black Truffle

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

Sereh(Lemongrass)
Duo of chilled and smoked Foie Gras with apples and lemongrass

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Duo of chilled and smoked Foie Gras with apples and lemongrass

Tempe (Fermented soy bean)
Stockyard Wagyu Beef, Fermented soy bean and Fresh Winter Black Truffle Crumble

Kemangi (Lemon Basil)
Balinese Lemon Basil and Celery Sorbet with Ciroc vodka

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Balinese Lemon Basil and Celery Sorbet with Ciroc vodka

Pala(Fresh Nutmeg)

A.O.C. Vacherin Cheese with Fresh nutmeg Pericarp and reduction

Jeruk Purut (Kaffir Lime)
Kaffir Lime Clay with Valrhona Chocolate and Kaffir Lime Sorbet

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 space in the sun
Delights of the Algarve
Arpita’s Travelogue

I also thought you might be interested in the top 5 most popular posts from Free Spirit Food in 2015.

  1. Roasted eggplant with cummin and yoghurt
Roasted eggplant
Roasted eggplant with cummin and yoghurt

2. Pulled pork with garlic, thyme and chilli

Pulled pork

3. Lamb and potato curry

Lamb and potato curry with rice and red lentil dhal

4.Durban style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry

Durban-style mince and pea Samosas
Durban-style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry

5.Review: Pau Sat: Satay Street in Singapore

Lau pa Sat Market Building
Beautiful colonial architecture of Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, originally a wet market

And that’s the wrap of 2015!

Looking forward to another year of great foodie and travel adventures which began with an amazing seven course meal at Mozaic restaurant in Ubud last night.

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.

Best chicken rice served up in restaurant surrounds at Loy Kee
Best chicken rice served up in restaurant surrounds at Loy Kee

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.

Poached chicken special set with delicious sauces and bok choy
Poached chicken special set with delicious sauces and bok choy

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 skin adding texture.

Roasted Hainanese chicken with crispy skin adding rexture and flavour
Roasted Hainanese chicken with crispy skin adding rexture and flavour

Accompanied with a big cup of chinese tea, this was one of the best meals we had on our quick but fun trip to Singapore. I was very motivated by this eating experience so check out my recipe for my Singapore style poached chicken and chicken rice.