Sometimes a missing ingredient can lead to a tasty surprise. This is one such example, where I planned to make tabouleh for a bbq I was attending, but found that, strangely enough, Vietnamese greengrocers don’t always stock parsley. As the mint and spring onions smelled amazing and I’d already ducked into Woolies and found cracked wheat , the closest I could get to burghul (which is finely cracked wheat), I decided to forge ahead- almost-tabouleh it would have to be. Luckily there was plenty of dill around, so I improvised.
The recipe turned out well, very fresh-tasting and with a nice zing. The lemons I had were ancient (explains the $1/kilo price tag) so I had to add a teaspoon or so of castor sugar, but if your lemons are reasonably fresh you should be ok. This recipe makes a massive salad, a great addition to any summer feast.
1 cup cracked wheat or burghul
1-2 cups boiling water
1 clove garlic
6 spring onions
1 small bunch mint
1 bunch dill
3 large, ripe tomatoes
2 lebanese cucumbers
2 large juicy lemons
1-2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 -2 teaspoons baharat spice mix (if you have it)
Freshly cracked pepper and salt, to taste
If you’re using cracked wheat, boil in 2 cups of water for 10-15 minutes and leave to cool. If you’re using burghul, soak in 1 cup boiling water, covered for 10 minutes. You may need to drain it a bit, I had to rinse the cracked wheat in cold water as it went quite starchy.
They key to this salad is fresh herbs, finely chopped. Very finely chop the garlic and mix through the burghul/wheat. Finely chop the spring onions. Pick the mint leaves, discarding the stalks and very finely slicing the leaves. Finely chop the dill until you reach the point where there’s more stalk than leaf. Stir the herbs through the wheat.
Roughly chop the tomatoes, then quarter and slice the cucumbers. Douse in lemon juice and a slosh of oil, adding everything else to taste. Stir well and refrigerate. Best made a few hours ahead, can make the day before.
Have you ever had a missing ingredient lead to an unexpected dish?
Coffee kindred spirit John over at he needs food sent me this recommendation a while back and it’s taken me this long to get to it, but this week I finally made it to York Lane, a new-ish laneway café/bar located, funnily enough, on York Lane. It’s right by Wynyard station (convenient) and was one of the recipients of the City of Sydney grants to spruce up our dingy laneways. It’s definitely done that.
Senhor R and I arrived to find York Lane littered with just the right amount of milk crates. It’s a cosy place with recycled floorboards, pops of colour in the form of red stools and milk crate shelving, menus scrawled on walls and windows with whiteboard pen and upcycled everything else. It definitely had the look, but there’s more to a good café than thoughtful, trendy aesthetics. And I don’t just mean great food or coffee.
Let me digress. Lately I’ve been thinking about what we mean by hospitality and, more to the point, what we mean by good hospitality. The hospitality industry is a strange space where you sell goods like food and drinks, but also more intangible things like experiences, ambiance and making people feel welcome. This is tricky territory to navigate; you’re selling something that’s difficult to quantify and usually comes for free, thus making transactions highly emotionally charged. I think this is why when we have negative experiences in bars or cafés, we take it so personally. On the other hand, getting it right can win you glowing praise and loyal customers for years to come.
It seems like York Lane gets it right, being on trend, yet friendly. The two guys running the place were chatty but genuine. They got a fair bit of custom, mostly takeaways, and most of them seemed to be regular customers, which is a good sign. We felt comfortable and welcome, not distracted or intimidated by the decor, music or excessive sprinkling of micro herbs. No one used the phrase ‘it’s a Melbourne thing’. Not once did someone sneer at me or feel the need to wax their moustache. The guys behind the counter even exchanged a bit of banter with us, and I for one am not much for banter with strangers.
$3.50 for a teensy coffee is a tad steep in my books, but I’m a cheapskate through and through. The coffee was good- mild, dark and fullbodied without a lingering aftertaste…a one dimensional but rich flavour. I would’ve like a tad less milk in my macch. Is this a trend now? picchiatos? Then again I didn’t say so and we ordered a second round. I will be back for sure to try their ‘tapas style’ offerings and have a few drinks.
Sydney, NSW 2000
02 9299 1676
Monday to Wednesday 6:00am – 10:00pm
Thursday to Friday 6:00am – midnight
Saturday 6:00pm – midnight
Senhor R and I headed to Brasserie Bread one Saturday not so long ago after breakfast at Sonoma HQ in hopes of a quick coffee. We arrived during the breakky-to-lunch changeover. It was pretty damn busy in the light, bright café, with its communal tables, concrete floors and huge sheet glass windows. As you walk through the doors, the bakery counter is directly in front of you if you want to buy breads, pastries and cakes to go. To our left was the baking class room, which is visible from both he café and outside. To the right, beyond all the seating, was their order-and-pay-at-the-counter set –up of breakfast, pastries, sandwiches and Allpress coffee.
The two of us ordered and sat down, at the only obviously available table, an empty table of 10. Suddenly, the man in charge of the floor rushed over and said ‘How many of you are there?” and we said ’2.’ He said ‘Can you move to another table?’ and gestured to a hemmed in table for two where a couple were just leaving. We said, ‘Sure, no worries.’ but then decided to sit at the bench which looks out onto the road as it was less cramped. He asked if we’d already ordered and we said we had, then he rushed off, leaving it to us to let the staff know our new table number. As we sat staring through the large windows onto Botany road, a group of 3 then sat down where we had just been. He seemed to have no problem with that.
At that point, I would have chalked this all up to one stressed-out guy on a busy Saturday, but I can’t say we felt the chilled Saturday arvo vibe they were probably aiming for. When Senhor R went to ask the same guy for the key to the bathroom, he was busy chatting and ignored him as he stood there waiting. When Senhor R returned (the bathroom was outside) he was standing in the entryway, completely blocking the way of anyone coming in or out of the cafe, for quite some time. We drank our Allpress coffee (it was fine) and our massive, too-good-too-be-true-sized bottle of sparkling mineral water. It was all ok, but something felt a little flat. At that point we decided to head off.
The next day, I received an email from Brasserie Bread, reminding me to pop in and grab my free loaf (we’d all received vouchers at Eat. Drink. Blog. as Brasserie was one of the major sponsors, providing breakfast, morning tea and a sourdough class). I replied to the email saying I’d just dropped by the other day and explaining what had happened. Sarah from Brasserie was super understanding, even going so far as to speak to the cafe manager, who told me to pop in for a free coffee any time. I declined, but appreciate the offer.
It wasn’t an awful experience by any means, but it did get me thinking. This is just one example of how one member of an organisation can tarnish their already precarious reputation. Cafes are about more than just coffee, and one stressed-out waiter can easily turn an ok experience into an uncomfortable one.
It’s also a lesson in the possible pitfalls of social media, something Brasserie Bread is heavily engaged in, and with great success. When their Melbourne store opened not long ago, they had a massive launch, which was well-attended by bloggers. They themselves have a blog, they invite bloggers to attend free baking classes (I was lucky enough to be one of these bloggers). They also have a strong twitter presence. All this builds their brand in a very grass-roots way. But by engaging in social media, you start a conversation. And unfortunately, this can leave you open to criticism. One guy has a bad day and suddenly you’re reading a moderately critical review in a minor Sydney food blog that will probably be read by…100 people? Ok, so maybe it’s not that big a deal then.
Even so, it made me reflect on my relationship with an organisation. If Sarah hadn’t emailed me, what are the chances I would have passed on my criticism? Pretty low. What are the chances I would have returned? Pretty high, but maybe only to grab my free loaf of bread. If I was a ‘normal’ customer, and this was my first visit, what then? I’d never come back again, and what’s more, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I know this because I got to see first-hand Senhor R’s first experience of the organisation, and he was less than impressed.
When I sat own to write this, I knew I had four choices; One: I could tell the truth, full disclosure. Two: I could lie by omission – pretend the whole thing never happened because I can’t be impartial so just write about the food, what the café looks like, where it is, etc. Three: Play up what happened for dramatic effect and never set foot in the place again. Or Four; not write the review at all. The only choices I could see as viable were one and four. I chose option one, it felt more honest.
1737 Botany Road
Banksmeadow NSW 2019
1300 966 845
Monday to Friday – 7:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday & Sunday – 8:00am – 2:00pm
Before Australia became an espresso drinker’s paradise, how the hell did we fill our time? What reason did we give for popping out of the office at 10:30am, a quick… juice? And what of those who don’t drink it? Something tells me the Aussie psyche is evolving a distinct distrust of the non-coffee drinker. We’re learning to look on them with the same suspicion we traditionally reserved for the teetotaller – eschewing coffee will soon be ‘unastrayun’.
But lucky for caffeine addicts like me that our nation’s passion ensures that every five minutes a new, hip café or coffee roaster pops up. I may be biased as an inner-westie, but a large number of them crop up in the inner-west. Ok, so they’re in places like Alexandria or Marrickville, the so-called ‘warehouse suburbs’ (so-called because I just called them that), and that has more to do with a post-industrial (literally) gentrification than a compass. But there’s no doubt I’m one lucky Lau to live in such a pocket of coffee wankery.
Double Roasters stands on the threshold between the part of Marrickville I’d consider living in and actual Marrickville. Halfway between Marrickville Road and The Factory Theatre, it’s an all grey building with lurid neon stencilling spelling out its name on the windows. When my bro and I arrive, I’m pleased to see it’s a big place and there are plenty of tables both inside and out. We join the queue and it’s not long before a pleasant young fellow is enquiring if we want to have in or takeaway. We tell him ‘have in’ and he invites us to sit wherever we like. We do.
The windows in this place are floor to ceiling, which gives the café good light. There are your usual knick knacks scattered around and there are also bag of coffee to buy ($9 each – not bad, if it’s any good). The interior is painted the same bluish—grey as outside. The counter is brick and behind it sits a roaster, tables and chairs are wooden, arranged diagonally on the painted concrete floors. Considering its 10:30am on a Saturday morning it’s not too crowded, there’s the mix of inner-west families and student-types you’d expect in this part of town. We order coffees.
The menu looks good. Prices are more than reasonable with sandwiches (roast pork belly, poached chicken) at $7.50 and nothing on the breakky menu for more than $12.00. I note that they use Sonoma bread and the much-praised bonsoy soy milk – ticking two boxes straight up. Bro orders the roast pork belly sandwich and I go for the brekkie special – Zucchini and corn fritters with avocado salsa, rocket and a poached egg.
Weirdly, our brekkie arrives prior to our coffees. The glutton in me is disappointed by their size, but the proper grown-up recognises they portions are perfectly adequate, especially given the price. Bro loves his pork belly sandwich. I have a bite and its pretty dandy – fresh bread, some kind of apple relish and possibly aioli accompanying tender pork. My fritters are perfectly cooked and the perfect size, but I realise while I’m eating them that I’d prefer a little lower zucchini to corn ratio. The avocado salsa is a mash, so more like a guac, the egg is slightly too poached (very slightly). I would say my brekkie is almost perfect.
Our macchiato and double macchiato arrive next, and they are smooth and tasty. I don’t add any Colombian organic sugarcane to mine and neither does my bro, but I guess that’s just our personal preference. While I enjoy the coffee, it’s weirdly milky for a macch, more of a picciatto if you ask me. Nevertheless I order a second.
The only thing that slightly spoils our morning is how long it takes to pay. The guy at the register is chatting away with the customer in front of us, apparently frozen with the customer’s $20 bill in his hand. As they chat away we’re standing there, thinking he could just put the money through, then settle our bill, and then go back to his chat. A few minutes later he comes to us but, as if to try and make up for it, he runs through our order piece by piece, looking at us expectantly, urging us to deliver a verdict. This actually has the opposite effect- we don’t feel privileged to give our opinions, we feel forced to praise the (admittedly delicious) meal when we should have been walking out of the café to get on with our Saturday and the one million and one important things we had to do, hideously busy and important people that we are.
199 Victoria Road
Marrickville NSW 2204
02 9572 7711
6:00pm – 3:00pm
Keep in touch!
By OBREAKSL penny stocks
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Australia License.
Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. From time to time I give away products and experiences to my readers, all competitions have completely arbitrary rules, all decisions are final and all prizes awarded as I see fit.