29 November 2012

Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining: Molecular Cocktails, CBD Sydney (19 Oct 2012)

82-88 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Cocktail & dining wonderland

“Cocktails at the Rabbit Hole are a culinary and alcoholic institution. Extensive research and a genuine passion for flavours and textures on the palate have resulted in a list that captures the imagination and caters to the most discerning of taste. We have created a vast array of house made syrups, spice mixes, flavoured sugars and only use the freshest produce.”

Thanks to Georgie Dodds from Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining for inviting me to sample a few cocktails and dishes. I fondly remember it used to be Bar Europa and how things have changed. You won't just find your usual selection of beers, wines and spirits behind the bar but a creative menu of molecular style cocktails designed by Doug Laming who was an AHA Bartender of the Year finalist in 2011. His passion and skill level is quickly evident as I watch him make the New + Old School Sparkling Cocktail ($18). Spherified Cointreau Caviar are made to order adding a lethal extra kick with Remy Martin VSOP and Jansz NV. A couple of these will soon help make you forget about your tough office day and put you in gear for a fun night. The Jellied G&T ($11) is made with Hendricks gin and served on a cucumber slice with a rose crystal. Enjoyable but less cucumber skin would have been my preference and the one mouth wonder comes at a price that's quickly consumed. Everyone loves their grandma and a Boozy Grandma ($16) is even better. Sophisticated flavour, easy to drink and noticeable alcohol content makes it a favourite. Tea Smoked Apple ($18) made with Laphroig scotch is an acquired taste with its peaty overtones. You'll either love it or not. I quite enjoyed the The White Cloud above Mt Gay ($18) not only for the double pour of Mt Gay XO but its pineapple caramel and marshmallow foam makes it more of a dessert. To experience a few techniques the Texture Taster ($21) will be your best friend. Caffeine addicts will enjoy the coffee hit in The Babycino ($11). I thought the side of toffee should be just a bit thinner to best avoid any dental accidents.

Executive Chef Tomoyuki Usui shows off his creative flair in the menu with nice dish presentation and some flavour challenges thrown in for the palate. The Seared scallops, celeriac two ways & buckwheat ($16) are nicely cooked although I'm not a fan of tiles as plates. They present well but unfortunately make a terrible chalkboard scrapping when you use a knife. The egg is perfectly cooked to mix amongst the Tiede wagyu tartare, onsen egg & truffle meringue ($14). I would have liked more seasoning and ingredients though in the tartare and generally prefer firmer crackers to spoon the tartare on like the one at Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse. The Caramelized Bass Groper, burnt butter, anchovies & almond ($28) was my favourite dish of the day. Fish cooked just right and flavour combo working well. I was surprised the passion fruit worked quite nicely with the Sous vide chicken breast, roast thigh, potato three ways & passion fruit ($25). Meat was tender and would have loved more of its crisp skin which was so good. The Melon, crisp pancetta, cognac ice cream & botrytis gelee ($15) was a challenge for me. I enjoyed the sweet components but struggled to appreciate the crisp pancetta — perhaps others will see the light. Strawberry mousse, compote, pink pepper & pistachio ($13) added some mystery and fun to crack the surface to reveal the enjoyable flavours underneath.

PROS: Quality cocktails with a difference, Interesting menu, Nice decor, Cocktails and dishes well-presented, White Rabbit beer on tap
CONS: Making special cocktails can take a while, A bar like this would suit Surry Hills and Darlinghurst but might be a challenge to attract the schooner drinking city crowd, Menu could be a little too creative for those just wanting a beer and bowl of wedges
MUST TRY: Boozy Grandma
VERDICT: A place to discover cocktails with a difference and deconstructed dishes which still retain some familiarity of what you'd expect to taste with not too many elements on the plate which might leave your palate otherwise confused.
New + Old School Sparkling Cocktail ($18) 
"What, a lava lamp? NO! It’s a sparkling cocktail. Spherified Cointreau Caviar float through the bubbles of the glass while Remy Martin VSOP, orange bitters and demerara syrup highlight the Jansz NV."

Jellied G&T ($11)
"Eben Freeman of NYC created the original recipe for this. We use Hendricks gin to elevate this recipe and serve it on a cucumber slice with a rose crystal. Take a bite and let this solid alcohol fizz on your tongue like its original namesake."

Boozy Grandma ($16)
"Ode to our Grandmother’s rum balls. We have recreated this with MT Gay XO rum infused with muscatels, cooked SousVide, stirred down with Fee Brother’s Xocolate bitters, Joseph Cartron white crème de cacao, vanilla syrup, Fee Brother’s Creole bitters and lime."

Tea Smoked Apple ($18)
"Laphroig scotch and Joseph Cartron pomme verte is shaken with house-made Ceylon tea infused cinnamon syrup, Fee Brother’s rhubarb bitters and cloudy apple juice. This cocktail is carbonated with fresh cider and the lightest dusting of smoked salt finishes it off."

The White Cloud above Mt Gay ($18)
"A double pour of Mt Gay XO is showcased in this cocktail by highlighting the subtle flavours of this rum. It is shaken with a house-made black pepper and pineapple caramel, fresh lime and pineapple. It is poured through marshmallow foam to let the drink take on this flavour and give the drink the white cloud on the top. Some toasted coconut tops this off."

Texture Taster ($21) — mini caprioska foam

Texture Taster ($21) — lava lamp containing spherified Cointreau Caviar and Pama Pearls

Texture Taster ($21) — alcoholic lemon jelly

Texture Taster ($21) — mini caprioska foam
"A Rabbit Hole Bar sampler of some of the techniques we use. Enjoy the alcoholic lemon jelly, savour the mini caprioska foam and sip on your lava lamp containing spherified Cointreau Caviar and Pama Pearls."

The Babycino ($11)
"Mozart Clear is infused with coffee beans cooked Sous Vide. Joseph Cartron crème de cacao is added and topped with house-made maple foam. A dusting of chocolate powder and it’s all yours."

Seared scallops, celeriac two ways & buckwheat ($16) — nicely cooked scallops although not a fan of the tiles which grates when using a knife on them

Tiede wagyu tartare, onsen egg & truffle meringue ($14) — egg very good but would have loved more seasoning with the tartare and firmer crackers to put the tartare on top to eat together

Caramelized Bass Groper, burnt butter, anchovies & almond ($28) — fish cooked nicely, flavours work well on plate, nice presentation 

Sous vide chicken breast, roast thigh, potato three ways & passion fruit ($25) — tender meat, flavours work well on plate, passion fruit surprisingly seems to work

Melon, crisp pancetta, cognac ice cream & botrytis gelee ($15) — was a challenge for me to appreciate the crisp pancetta in the dessert and would have preferred without

Strawberry mousse, compote, pink pepper & pistachio ($13) — interesting presentation, enjoyable flavours

Table water poured out of Cointreau bottles

Executive Chef Tomoyuki Usui and Licensee-owner-cocktail guru Doug Laming AHA Bartender of the Year 2011 finalist

Front bar area

Back bar area

Clean toilet but unfortunate placement of hand paper towels between urinal and cubicle rather than conveniently located closer to sink

Decorative table supports like this can look nice but I find them ergonomically awkward for resting my feet comfortably

Down the rabbit hole literally

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25 November 2012

Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic, Centennial Park (24 Nov 2012)

Corner of Parkes and Hamilton Ave, Sydney NSW 2000

Food Bloggers in the park

Congratulations to Chocolatesuze and Grab Your Fork for organising the biggest gathering of food bloggers so far for their annual Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic in Centennial Park. Apparently 67 turned up from about 100 RSVPs. Sunny weather made for a pleasant day of meeting fellow food bloggers in person and sharing an abundance of savoury and sweet goodies. My award for the cutest treat goes to Kat from Gucci & Gyoza for her Oreo turkeys (picture above). Last year I did a pop up bar which was very popular so I decided to do pop up another one. I'm more confident with making cocktails than cooking and some social lubricant always helps to make an event more festive. This year I made a vitamin C infused Stoli O Main Squeeze with Stoli Ohranj, the classic Hendrick's Gin & Tonic and a refreshing Frangelico Hazelnut Fresca which proved very popular. I'll definitely have to source a large table for the next time so I have a bit more room to move. Steph (Raspberri Cupcakes) and Karen (Citrus & Candy) did a lovely Pimms & Lemonade. I might possibly steal this drink idea for next time. 

The $10 Kris Kringle was a lot of fun. Especially when you're allowed to steal someone else's gift that has already been opened. You had to make sure you remember what had already been opened in case you were keen to steal it off them when it was your turn to pick a present. I was 57 in turn and decide to go for an unopened gift. I ended up with a nice box of Lindt Mini Pralines which I was more than happy with and thankfully no one stole it from me. I look forward to the next picnic get together which will hopefully be blessed with good weather again. There's certainly no shortage of passionate food bloggers in Sydney and this event provides a perfect opportunity to come out from behind their screens and cameras and be proud of sharing their love of food.

PROS: You get to meet lots of other food bloggers and put faces to names, Fun atmosphere, Fresh air and sunshine, Get to sample lots of other peoples cooking
CONS: Weather dependent due to being outdoors, If you drive you won't be able to enjoy the SFF Pop Up Bar as much, Lots of people makes for a very long Kris Kringle
MUST TRY: Discovering new cocktails to make for the next picnic
Too cute

Super cute Oreo turkeys by Kat from Gucci & Gyoza 

I really enjoyed a piece of this Olive & Rosemary Schiaccita

I had one of the egg Vietnamese rolls which was very good

Food feasting

SFF Pop Up Bar — next time I hope to have a bigger table

Hazelnut Fresca: Frangelico and SKYY Vodka with ginger ale and lime juice

Hendrick's Gin & Tonic with slice of cucumber

Stoli O Main Squeeze: Stoli Ohranj with Orange Juice and topped with Soda

Thanks to Daniela Penno from Polkadot PR for the Stoli, Kalli Marshall from Trish Nicol Agency for the Frangelico and Jack Pollock and Cida Wen from William Grant & Sons for the Hendrick's Gin. Coles ended up being pretty good on price for all the mixers.

Pimms & lemonade by I believe Steph (Raspberri Cupcakes) and Karen (Citrus & Candy)

Chocolatesuze enjoying her Frangelico cocktail with signature painted fingernails

Kris Kringle time — spend limit was $10

These plates were very popular for stealing during the Kris Kringle

I'm pretty happy with my Lindt Mini Pralines Kris Kringle

Number 57 in turn for Kris Kringle

Cursed Cookies was another popular steal choice amongst the Kris Kringle

I would have been very happy with a bucket of Maltesers

Half food blogger, half DSLR

Chocolatesuze and me getting photobombed

We represent the red tshirt team

That's me in the red tshirt in case you didn't notice ;-)

There's always one clown not following the rules

Take away packs of Christmas shortbread biscuits by Sara and Josh (Bellyrumbles)

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