Cake Bake and Sweets Show 2014

Disclaimer: I’m getting a media pass to visit this show. I’m fairly sure it’s because they saw my burger cake.

So I never used to be a baker. I always considered myself more of a cook. I was, and am, of the opinion that while cooking is something of an art, baking is much more of a science. Not to say that you can’t bake with flair – many people do it every day – but baking appears to deal with a much greater level of precision when it comes to the chemistry that underpins sweet deliciousness.

That all changed when I started my previous job, and there was a cultural norm in the team that everyone baked. It got to the point that we’d half-joke about asking questions when interviewing for new team members about their baking prowess. Half-joke.

Over the past three years, I’ve developed a set of precision skills, almost out of professional necessity, and now baking is something that doesn’t seem particularly daunting to me. In fact, it’s something I really enjoy, and I’m angling for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer – cobalt blue, if you’re offering – for Christmas.

But Christmas is so far away, and there are many, many baked treats and sweets to be had in the meantime. Coming up next weekend (21-23 March 2014) is Sydney’s inaugural Cake Bake and Sweets Show.

cake bake and sweets show

There are a bunch of celebrities who will be there doing demonstrations and no doubt signing books – I’ll have to remember to bring my Eric Lanlard book along – including Adriano Zumbo, Eric Lanlard, Duff Goldman, and a long list of reality TV show cooks. Speaking of reality TV cooks, I ran into a former masterchef contestant at work the other day, and rather embarrassingly insisted that she looked familiar, but that I couldn’t pinpoint where we’d met before. I’m sure she gets it all the time, but I felt rather silly when my colleague told me she was on masterchef last year. Oops.

Anyway, the good PR folks at the Cake Bake and Sweets show have given me a double pass to the show to give away to my blog readers (those of you who have stuck around through the arid desert that has been my posting activity of late).

So to win, just leave a comment below telling me  your favourite baked treat. The tickets are physical, and they’ve been mailed to me (oldskool) so you’ll have to put an entry in by 5pm Wednesday 19 March to ensure I can get the tickets to you.


Photopost: Robocog cafe

249 Riley St, Surry Hills (Sydney)
Phone: (02) 9281 2880

Caveat: this visit was in January 2012!

Robocog Cafe on Urbanspoon

Pho Pasteur

709 George St, Haymarket
Phone: (02) 9212 5622

I first tried Pho Pasteur last year in May. I was in Sydney for a conference, and, well, the conference food was abominably bad. Thankfully, the hotel we were staying in was not far from Central Station so only a short walk to Chinatown. And on the South end of Chinatown,are a smattering of Vietnamese restaurants. We all know my weakness for pho by now, right?

I stopped in at Pho Pasteur, purely because it was the closest pho joint to the hotel, but it also helped that it was referencing Pho Hoa in Sai Gon (on Pasteur St) which is an institution in pho. And I wasn’t disappointed, that time. The pho was good! The broth was flavoursome without being overtly MSG-laden, and the beef-to-noodle ratio was satisfying.

I returned with Mr I and Ms D more recently, after we were disappointed by Gumshara’s early closing time of 8:30pm on a Saturday night.

We shared some prawn spring rolls to begin with – these were prawn reasonably good, though the amount of nuoc cham (fish sauce for dipping) was pretty paltry.
Mr I stuck to his regular, the pho bo tai – pho with rare beef – which he was pretty happy with. Pho Pasteur seems to be of that school which prepares its rare beef by finely dicing it (like a tartare) as opposed to finely slicing it. While this means you can get away with serving a cheaper cut of beef, this isn’t always a bad thing, as these cuts often have better flavour, and I’ve seen this practice quite often in Viet Nam.
Ms D had my personal favourite, the pho bo dac biet – special beef pho, with fatty beef flank, beef balls, tendon and tripe.
Having tried the pho before, I thought I’d be adventurous, and try their bun bo Hue.
BIG mistake. This was probably the singular worst version of bun bo Hue I’ve ever eaten. There was virtually no chilli, and the broth tasted more like a bak kut teh than a bun bo Hue. There was a serious absence of pork knuckle, too. Words cannot convey how disappointed I was by this dish.

So moral of the story? When you go to a pho joint, get the pho. MAYBE try spring rolls or the com tam (broken rice). Do NOT deviate. Or you will be sorry.

Pasteur on Urbanspoon

Paisano lunch with Adriano Matteoni

OK, I said that Bourke Street Bakery would be my last Sydney post for a while, but I lied. I couldn’t not share with you all the wonderful lunch prepared by Adriano Matteoni (of Clipper and Clover fame). It’s almost unnecessary to say that the food was all amazing – of course! – and we were all completely sated.

L & R: The green of beans with roast garlic and mashed peas with basil and lemon zest.
L: Beef “almost-carpaccio”, the makings of a panzanella salad. R: A vinaigrette.
L: The mashed peas were added to elbow macaroni and a hefty amount of parmesan – so smple, yet so delicious! R: The panzanella salad takes shape.
Dressed carpaccio; lunch is served!
Adriano made me a latte on his little home-sized Giotto. The consummate professional even at home, check out the fern action!

Thanks to Adriano and Kana for a wonderful afternoon!

Bourke Street Bakery

633 Bourke St, Surry Hills (Sydney)
Phone: (02) 9699 1011

The last of my Sydney posts (for now)is about the Bourke Street Bakery. My cousin took me there after breakfast at Fifi Foveaux’s, so we weren’t really hungry. But it was on my to-do list, and it was just down the road from where he lives in Surry Hills, so we thought we’d head down anyway.

Apparently the Bourke Street Bakery is now a chain, with other outlets in Ultimo and Marrickville. But as with most places which branch out, the original is often the best. This place is still so good that people line up around the corner just to get their baked wares, and like us, eat them in the park across the road!

Having read about the pork and fennel sausage rolls on Claire’s blog months ago, I didn’t really need to read what was on offer on the board, or peruse the baked goods for very long. My cousin similarly recommended the pork and fennel sausage rolls, so the choice was pretty much made for me.
I’d also seen these little beauties on Claire’s post, and being a big ginger fan, couldn’t go past them.
The sausage roll didn’t disappoint. The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but trust me when I say this is about three cuts above your average sausage roll. There’s virtually no flour/breadcrumb filler, so you don’t get that pasty texture, and instead there’s the firm springiness of real mince. The flavour is phenomenal, and the pastry was rich and flaky. It reminded me of a patechaud/pateso, only substitute the pepper for fennel.
I should note that I managed to get the recipe for these sausage rolls from a friend who has the cookbook, and have since made them at home. I just used store-bought pastry, but they turned out spectacularly well!
The ginger brulee tart was wonderfully sweet and the custard filling was smooth, though I would have liked a little more of a ginger bite. The brulee top was light and thin, but perfectly crunchy.
If you’re ever in Sydney, get thee to a Bourke Street bakery!

Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tap House

T2 Domestic Terminal, Sydney Airport
Phone: (02) 8335 3000

After our weekend in Sydney, we were all dreading airport food a little, but had thought we could probably avoid it, our flight being scheduled at 7pm. We could be back home in Melbourne and hitting Chinatown for some late-ish dumplings before heading home to bed. But thanks to a three and a half hour delay on our Tiger flight home from Sydney, Mr I, Miss D and I found it necessary to park ourselves at the T2 domestic terminal’s local. Tap House.

Tap House is a pretty standard modern pub setup, albeit in an airport terminal. There’s about four beers and a cider on tap, and a reasonable selection of bottled ones. The wine list is short, but again, reasonable. In fact, we were surprised the prices weren’t inflated because of the airport location. Still, it’s just the domestic terminal – I think the international terminal might be another story.

While Miss D and I were still too full from our ramen and prawn mee earlier in the afternoon, Mr I somehow found the will to order a burger.

It was a bit of a mistake, really, but not because of the quality – it was reportedly quite good, and certainly looked fresh – but because of the size. Challenging would describe it well, especially given that Mr I’s belly was probably still full of collagen from the earlier tonkotsu meal.
I thought I’d take a more sensible option, and just ordered a bowl of wedges. Little did I know that I would be presented with an almost comically oversized serve of wedges. Which I proceeded to nurse until they got cold over the ensuing two hours left we had to wait for our flight.

So apart from the surprising find of good pub grub at the airport, the delay wasn’t all bad. We made friends with the delightful Miss V, who was similarly stuck in Tiger-induced limbo, and had recently moved to Melbourne. While I’m not eager to fly Tiger again any time soon, I do have to thank them for having been the cause for making a new friend. Serendipity strikes! 🙂

Tap House on Urbanspoon


Eating World Food Court, Shop 209, 25-29 Dixon Street, Haymarket Sydney
Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am-8:30pm
Closed on Mondays

On my recent trip to Sydney, there were two goals I had – the first was to visit the Bourke St Bakery (post coming soon) and the other was to do some ramenhunting. I still remember the best ramen I’ve eaten in Australia, at Ryo’s in Crow’s Nest in Sydney. It was my introduction to the silky seductive joys of tonkotsu, and like a first love, it may be surpassed, but will never be forgotten.

Some quick online research and asking around led me to believe the place to go around the CBD was a little ramen stall in a food court, called Gumshara. Which happened to be just a few blocks from our hotel. Score! However, by the time we got down to the foodcourt on the Friday night, Gumshara was already closed.

The dream was put aside for awhile, and it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon, just before heading to the airport for our flight back to Melbourne which became and epic four hour stay at Sydney airport (thanks, Tiger), we stopped in on Sunday afternoon.

There are an array of ramen offerings at Gumshara. Of special interest is the pork spare rib, of which there are only 10 servings per day.
We managed to get two of them – I guess Sundays must be a little slow. This bad boy was mine. Of course, it comes with the sticky tonkotsu broth for which all good ramen pilgrims search.
My friends Miss J and Mr T shared one between them, with extra toppings of chashu and beautifully soft-boiled eggs.
Mr I went for the classic chashu ramen, again with tonkotsu. He had trouble finishing the bowl on his own. We swapped some chashu for some spare rib, and I have to say, the spare rib was good, but the chashu was better.
The ramen noodles were wonderfully springy to begin with, but they did fade somewhat as I worked my way through them. Still, they were a cut above most places I have tried in Melbourne.

The pork spare rib was a hefty chunk of meat, and I don’t think it’s really necessary, but things that are necessary are often boring. I did manage to get through it all, barely. It was a little too salty for my liking, to be honest.

There’s a sign at the stall, and the staff there mention it when they hand over the ramen; if the soup is too rich or salty, they are happy to adjust it for you. I didn’t think that was necessary. It certainly was rich, but that’s what I look for in a tonkotsu broth, no?

Apparently yes.

Gumshara is definitely worth the time to visit if you’re in Sydney and in need of ramen. And let’s face it, we’re all in need of ramen. All the time. Really.

Bucking the trend and taking advantage of the food court’s multitudinous offerings, Miss D and had a Singapore-style fried hokkien prawn mee, which she was extremely satisfied with. Apparently good prawn mee hard to get in Melbourne.

Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon