Posts Tagged ‘al fresco dining’
In the heart of Sydney is the historical area of The Rocks. Narrow laneways and steep stairs wind around cobblestone footpaths, sandstone buildings and timber wharves, I have fond memories of the Walsh Bay precinct. Home of the Sydney Theatre Company, the waterfront has a spectacular view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park.
Several aisles of produce are on the right and Café Sopra is on the left. The seasonal menu was handwritten on a wall chalkboard in a spacious and well lit dining room.
At the entrance was a rectangular bar and I was seated at the counter for a leisurely weekday lunch.
Dotted with coin sized red tiles, the counter was set with printed placemats.
A zucchini flower was stuffed with five Italian cheeses and lightly battered. The delicate crisp shell encased a molten mass of cheeses.
There are several permanent items on the seasonal menu and one of my favourites is the farfelle with mixed mushrooms, green peppercorns and Pecorino. A large serving of al dente pasta, it was a hearty dish with the earthy flavours of fungi.
A classic English dessert, the banoffee pie has a biscuit crust, dulce de leche, sliced bananas, cream and grated chocolate. The decadent layers were a sweet treat.
It was another delicious meal at Café Sopra!
After a leisurely day in Santa Monica, we retreated to Sonoma Wine Garden for wine and snacks. Located on the deck of Santa Monica Place, a building originally designed by Frank Gehry and recently renovated. ‘Cradle‘, a sculpture by Ball-Nogues Studio, is suspended from a blank exterior wall. Dozens of polished stainless steel spheres are clustered in a provocative shape.
A chalkboard on a wine barrel at the entrance enticed passers-by with happy hour, live music and wines of Washington!
To the right is the dining room, and to the left is the bar. The surrounding patio is tiered with plenty of space for lounging in the glorious SoCal weather.
Wooden blocks stamped with wine logos dangled in the gentle breeze, an optical illusion is created with angled mirrors.
Candles flickered and outdoor heaters switched on, it was a beautiful evening to be dining al fresco.
In need of some rest after a day in the sun, Sonoma Wine Garden had a casual atmosphere with a bar menu and an extensive wine list.
We ordered a bottle of 2008 Fogdog Pinot Noir, a robust Sonoma Coast red wine.
We nibbled on marinated olives and truffle fries. Glistening globes of green olives were served in a recycled glass jar. They were mild and aromatic, with small pits.
Golden and crispy, the fries were perfumed with the earthy tones of truffle oil and topped with Parmesan and parsley.
Fairy lights twinkled in twilight as I reflected on how much I miss natural light.
One last glance at the horizon and we exited into the night.
A weekend trip to Southern California was temporary reprieve from a wet and windy Seattle. We spent Saturday in Santa Monica and it was a delight to squint in the sunshine, wear flip-flops and splash in the Pacific Ocean again.
Our generation of Australians grew up with ‘Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide‘, a public health campaign against skin cancer, and sunglasses and hats are requisite outdoor accessories.
Ms D-R recommended Coast at Shutters on the Beach for brunch. With a panoramic view of Santa Monica Beach, the hotel is a sight to behold. Painted ivory and white, the building is resplendent against the blue sky and palm trees.
Coast is on the bottom level of the hotel with a beachfront entrance.
How apt that the hotel logo is a deckchair, symbolising an idyllic holiday!
Coast has counter seating, a communal table and a patio. The main dining room has wide beach frontage.
The communal table was laden with wine glasses for a cosy family gathering.
Nautical themed, the restaurant is spacious and welcoming. Our corner booth had vertical navy stripes. Framed black and white photos hung on the slatted walls.
Mr S’s espresso was served in a daffodil yellow cup.
Ms D-R ordered the traditional eggs Benedict with the Hollandaise sauce on the side.
The chicken Caesar salad was rustically chopped and lightly drizzled with a tangy dressing.
Topped with yoghurt, cinnamon and berries, the granola parfait was a generous size with plenty of fruit.
I had a simple but tasty breakfast of fried eggs on toast at the hotel so I opted for spaghettini pomodoro. Tangled strands of al dente pasta were tossed with tomato, basil and garlic. It was well seasoned and scrumptious, hearty sustenance for an afternoon walk.
Santa Monica is a charming spot and I fell in love with Shutters on the Beach.
The same week of the Sharone Hakman and SousVide Supreme demonstration and tasting, Myra tweeted a Rue La La deal. I only had fried chicken in mind when I paid twenty five dollars for fifty dollars value in food and beverages at Tavern Law.
Twelfth Avenue on Capitol Hill was buzzing on a Friday evening. By the owners of Spur Gastropub, Tavern Law celebrates the history of the speakeasy during the prohibition era. A vintage typewriter greets us at the entrance and it’s a charming space within.
A mural of an elegant lady in a floral blue dress grace the wall and a roulette wheel hangs at the bar.
A built-in bookshelf and gilded mirror complete the décor.
In an effort to cool down and be presentable after the humid ascent, I sat inside and gulped glasses of water while waiting for Ms S.
I stared at the scratched vault door and wall mounted rotary dial telephone, pondering their purpose. After much squinting, I read ‘Needle and Thread’ on the framed sign. After observing several people lingering nervously by the phone, I realised Needle and Thread is Tavern Law’s homage to the speakeasy!
Ignoring the creased paper the food menu is printed on, I perused the extensive drinks booklet, appreciating the explanation of cocktail terms like sling and sour.
We moved to a table on the sidewalk to enjoy the beautiful late summer weather. The English gin fizz with Earl Grey infused gin, lemon and honey was a refreshing apéritif.
We ordered a plate of fried chicken each. It was a sight to behold – two golden crusted portions perched atop a bed of mashed potatoes. Cooked sous vide and then deep fried, the light and crispy skin protected the tender and juicy meat. The coating had a slight sweetness that balanced the savoury protein and creamy starch.
The service was a little haphazard, so much so that our bill was delivered without being asked about a second drink or dessert.
On our last visit to New York, we had a pizza picnic with friends at Madison Square Park. We sprawled out on the lawn amongst office workers, and nannies and their brood, good pizza and better company under a natural canopy on a humid spring day.
Ms H worked in the area so I asked her about Shake Shack. She said there’s always a queue but you can check the Shack Cam on their website for the length before you go to line up.
After elbowing through crowds at the Empire State Building, I strolled down to Madison Square Park for lunch at Shake Shack. There were about forty people in the queue and it took about forty five minutes from lining up to ordering and picking up my meal.
It was a pleasant day and the queue was in the shade. I perused the menu and exchanged text messages with Ms H for recommendations. I chuckled when I noticed the B-line sign. Why would you only get a drink or dessert?
I was split between the custard of the day and the concrete jungle, a blend of vanilla custard, hot fudge, bananas and peanut butter.
Once I ordered I joined the group pacing back and forth at the pick up window, staring at the staff assembling the dockets, clutching the paging device, willing it to vibrate and beep. There are plenty of tables and chairs for al fresco dining in the glorious post Hurricane Irene weather.
The ShackBurger was positioned upright against the side of the cardboard box, a tray of crinkle cut fries wedged in the middle, next to a melting cup of vanilla almond fudge custard.
Minced Angus beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce sandwiched in a bun, the ShackBurger was on par with In-N-Out! It was freshly cooked, juicy but not soggy, tasty but not messy.
I love the uniformity of crinkle cut fries, each baton is equally golden and crunchy. I was on alert for the hovering pigeons, watchful over my fries.
The custard was suffering in the heat. I scooped quickly, each spoonful of vanilla custard was studded with chopped almonds and I finally found the hot fudge swirled on the bottom of the cup!
I knew The 5 Point Café by reputation. Dive bar, open twenty-four hours, supper for the inebriated, sustenance for shift workers.
I’ve walked by many times to get to Tilikum Place Café and there are always patrons inside and out. Curious about how they’ve been ‘cheating tourists and drunks since 1929′, we picked a bench for breakfast.
The patio is fenced off from Tilikum Place and has a view of the Chief Seattle statue and the Space Needle. A leafy plaza, the lush trees are a natural canopy for the outdoor seating.
Cluttered with kitsch collectables, the interior is a little claustrophobic for me.
Presented with a long menu, we changed our mind several times before ordering. I spotted a breakfast skillet being delivered to another table and regretted not choosing one.
Sauces, jams and seasoning – a variety of condiments were available at each table.
When we got our meals, I thought they looked exactly the same. Upon closer inspection, the difference between a breakfast classic and breakfast special were bacon and catfish.
The strips of bacon were salty and crispy, and the fillets of Cajun catfish were lightly crumbed, a pleasantly peculiar breakfast item for me.
And there was the hash brown. A golden rectangular tile of what appeared to be grated potatoes was sadly too oily and bland.
Reputation aside, The 5 Point Café serves hearty comfort food with a Southern influence.
Ms S has been living in Seattle for only two weeks and she’s had the best of the late summer weather that Seattleites have been craving for since Memorial Day weekend.
Although lethargic in the humidity, I’m determined to be out and about to absorb the natural vitamin D. On an al fresco dining binge, we enjoyed a weekend brunch on the sidewalk at Fonté Café.
My love for chalkboard signs is unabated. Masala latte is indeed ‘fun to say’!
The city is buzzing on a rare eighty plus day, hats and sunglasses were requisite accessories.
Fonté is a Seattle based coffee roaster. They sponsored Keren’s Food Lovers’ Guide to Seattle Book Launch Party and the aroma of freshly ground coffee lingered at the Shilshole Bay Beach Club.
In this climate and without air conditioning, I’m liking ice coffees. I slurped on one as the others had hot drinks.
Ms S ordered the Fonté pancakes with blueberry compote and maple syrup.
Mr S opted for the Fonté scramble of peppered bacon, mushrooms, asparagus, roasted red peppers, fresh herbs and Fonté cheese blend. I had a forkful and it was a delicious combination.
I selected the Parma omelette with prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano and asparagus. Slices of prosciutto were evenly distributed in the fluffy omelette and the asparagus was pleasantly crunchy.
Both the scramble and omelette were served with sourdough toast, mixed salad leaves and cannellini beans.
After a week of coffee detox, my iced coffee was welcome reprieve from the heat!
Like Seattle, Sydney is a city by the water. Neighbourhoods thrive by the ocean, along the river. Sydneysiders are mesmorised by the harbour, we all share a deep love for its beauty.
The magnificence of Sydney Harbour is showcased every New Year’s Eve with a spectacular fireworks and pyrotechnics display. In the euphoria of the celebration, it really is the best city in the world. The need to live near water is imprinted in my DNA.
On a warm day, we boarded a ferry to Bainbridge Island. It was a windy half hour with a panoramic view of Puget Sound. We hired bicycles to ride around the island. A gentle breeze and beautiful scenery tempered some steep inclines.
After helpful directions from a friendly local, we parked our bicycles and settled into the last outdoor table at Treehouse Café. We each gulped a glass of water to cool down.
A Tudor style building, the interior is spacious and welcoming.
The extensive menu is available all day and there is a selection of Macrina baked goods displayed on the counter.
Several connecting rooms operate as a dining room, bar with a pool table, private function room and live music venue. Artworks by local artists are featured throughout the café.
Mr S ordered a lox sandwich. The seeded bagel was teetering on the retro diner basket, overstuffed with cold smoked salmon, capers, red onions, tomato and a thick spread of cream cheese.
All sandwiches are served with a wedge of rockmelon (cantaloupe) and a pickle of equal size.
I shared a Greek salad, and a chicken and Brie sandwich with Ms S. The kitchen kindly split the Greek salad in half for us.
A large plate of cos (romaine) lettuce, chopped Kalamata olives and red onions, chunks of tomatoes and cucumber, and crumbled feta was drizzled with a zesty lemon oregano dressing.
I chewed and crunched and chomped but my half could have been divided again. It was a family size salad!
In contrast, the chicken and Brie sandwich was a better portion. The toothpick skewered slices of chicken breast, avocado and Brie with a dollop of roasted red pepper mayonnaise on ciabatta bread.
I generally find chicken breast to be a dry cut of meat, and pairing it with avocado and a creamy sauce balanced the flavour and texture of the protein.
Hydrated and nourished, we mounted our bicycles and peddled on.
Seattle is vibrant in late summer. The brilliant weather has us all out and about. Keen to be outdoors in the balmy dusk, we strolled through Pike Place Market to Lecosho. The patio emptied of Downtown workers as we perused the drinks menu.
Our table had a direct view into the main dining room. Furnished in muted tones and dark veneers, the lofty space had a long bar and an open kitchen in the corner. Sunlight streamed in through the floor to ceiling windows.
Our table was brightened by a jug of blossoming dahlias.
Lecosho is the Chinook slang for swine and there’s a chubby pig on their logo!
We nibbled Marcona almonds and olives as we pondered dinner choices. A round and stout variety of almonds, the Marcona had a fine texture, and were fried and salted.
Complimentary bread was from Columbia City Bakery. I like the dainty glass butter dish on a distressed wood board.
The gentlemen ordered the Catalan style fish soup. An abundance of prawns, clams, mussels and finfish mingled with a saffron sofrito broth. I had a spoonful and the soup was infused with the briny essence of the fresh seafood.
The ladies opted for the ricotta gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms, asparagus and Pecorino Romano. Pan fried with a crisp shell, the gnocchi was pillowy soft inside and paired well with the crunchy spears of asparagus.
The gentlemen eschewed dessert for whisky and Scotch digestifs, poured by Jerry who was the sommelier at the Il Corvo Sardinia pasta and wine class.
Ms S picked the bittersweet chocolate torte served with a quenelle of cream about the same size as the torte. Cracked and sunken in appearance, the slice was rich and velvety.
I had the vanilla rice pudding with stewed rhubarb topped with a petite madeleine. Dotted with vanilla bean, the bowl of rice pudding was decadently creamy.
I ate the petite madeleine last as its sweetness would have overwhelmed the delicate vanilla perfume.
We agreed to return to taste the restaurant’s namesake which features on the menu as porchetta, rillettes, sausage and pork chop!
It was night by the time we left, the chill of autumn in the air.
There is a pattern to my notorious indecisiveness. At least once a week, we exchange a conversation like this.
Mr S: ‘Where would you like to go for dinner?’
Me: ‘I don’t know, let me think about it.’
Mr S: ‘Have you picked a restaurant?’
Me: ‘Here’s a shortlist, you decide.’
Exasperated, Mr S would say ‘let’s go here’. And then I would change my mind!
Inside is an open kitchen where you can sit at the counter and watch your pizzas cook in the wood fire oven.
There was some shade from the wide umbrellas with a panoramic vista towards Queen Anne and a clear view of the Space Needle.
We shared an antipasto and a pizza. The bruschetta had ruby orbs of Roma tomatoes resting on thick slices of crusty bread. Macerated in garlic, basil and sea salt, the tomatoes were juicy and flavoursome.
We’ve never sprinkled chilli flakes or grated cheese on pizza until we moved to Seattle. Condiment shakers are common here and the addition of chilli flakes gradually increases my spice tolerance.
Blistered and charred, the prosciutto e porcini pizza had a thin crust and a scattering of ingredients. Prosciutto cotto and porcini mushrooms were a meaty combination, and the mozzarella melted and bubbled into the crevices of the dough.
Our order was lost for a while and the waiter apologised for the minor delay with free dolce. Yes please!
Presented in a deep square bowl for two, the tiramisu was a sweet conclusion to the meal. Layers of espresso and liqueur soaked savoiardi and creamy mascarpone were slowly savoured as we watched the sunset.
The sun dropped behind the Space Needle, creating a shadowy dusk as day descended into night.