FOOD is fashion . FASHION is food . a VICTIM of fashionable food*

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

GG Picnic*

"Once upon a time in 1921, Guccio Gucci opened the first Gucci store in Florence.
Over nine decades later, Creative director Frida Giannini continues Gucci's italian tradition 
by infusing the luxury brand with a sense of daring and provocation.
Enduring symbols of the fashion house reflect its increasingly innovative design aesthetic from the Green Red Green Web, GG, Bamboo, Flora, Diamante to the Horsebit.
Exclusively Made in Italy, be part of Gucci forever: the 90 year legacy."

My two great loves are food and fashion. I decided to combine both one night by hosting a "GG Picnic". Invitations were issued to the GG fashionistas with only one condition, guests must bring food inspired by Gucci! Since I have been quite preoccupied with work lately, my parents kindly organised all the catering and decorations for the party. This limited my creative input to providing two simple instructions that "anything green-red-green to represent the GG Web will do" and "please decorate the house with flowers to allude to the GG Flora". I guess a raincheck on the Horsebit shaped cheese & crackers; brown chocolates arranged in GG formation; Pasta topped with lettuce, tomatoes & avocado; Diamante cake; and hot runway models!

Garden Salad
(Spanish Onion, Cucumber, Celery, Tomatoes, Lettuce and Carrots)

Circular Club Sandwich
Ten layers of compressed healthy goodness
(Freshly baked Bread, Avocado, Cooked Prawns, Lettuce, Cucumber, Carrots, Chicken Breast, Smoked Ham, Cheddar Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes)

Cooked Tiger Prawns
Plated with Sliced Cucumber and Lemon slices.

Salt & Pepper Lamb Chops
Deep fried in Olive Oil, then garnished with Chilli and Shallots.

GG Desserts
Green Tea & Red Bean Mochi, Pistachio and Strawberry Macarons, Chocolate Mud Cake, Cupcakes, Ben & Jerry's Icecream

GG Web Chocolate Mud Cake
Hand decorated with Red-Green-Red gummy candies on the icing, which we later realised was actually Oucci themed- not Gucci!

Green Tea & Red Bean Mochi
A thin layer of Mochi encased the concentrated green tea icecream, crushed red beans and creamy vanilla sponge.

GG Web Cupcakes
Classic opera cake making an appearance in cupcake form, topped with a green-red-green Web chocolate disk.
(Looks good, and tastes even better! Coloured icing on the handmade chocolates gave that extra touch of individuality, while the Joconde socked in coffee syrup and layered with chocolate ganache was simply amazing.)

Unfortunately, a lot of dishes did not make the cut for this post as they did not fit the GG theme, but I believe they do deserve a special mention: Mini Spring Rolls, Slices of Atlantic Smoked Salmon, Mixed Fruit Salad, Combination Fried Rice, Seafood Efu Noodles, Ice cream and a few too many bottles of wine!!!*

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ripples *

"SOMA Design Partnership transformed the once kiosk to the North Sydney Olympic pool 
into an entirely alfresco affair
If bad weather threatens, clear PVC awnings are rolled out to shelter diners. 
Take your pick to be seated on:
Spearmint coloured plastic chairs by Mario Bellini, or
Orange and grey Philippe Starck stools at the harbour front promenade!"

Unlike the scorching heat plaguing Sydney recently, today was one of those picturesque Summers day: white fluffy marshmellow clouds floating in clear blue skies as far as the eye could see. To take advantage of the perfect weather, Mom and I decided to venture to the other side of the bridge for brunch. Ripples is an award winning Cafe along the promenade of Sydney Harbour. Conveniently situated right next door to Luna Park, it is just 15 steps from the harbour and 20m from the north-western pylon of the Harbour Bridge.

Olive and Rosemary Bread w Mediterranean Relish
(Fresh from the oven with a crusty exterior and soft interior. What's more, there are olives and the scent of rosemary infused in the warm bread. The mediterranean relish consists of tangy a tomato sauce with red capsicum, celery and onions.)

Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab w Green Mango and Papaya Salad
(Lightly battered pieces of soft shell crab were neatly constructed on a banana leaf. The salad was a bright alternative to the fried crab pieces.)

Pan Seared Tin Can Bay Prawns w a Sweet Corn Risotto and Saffron Basil Broth
(Although presentation of the broth was slightly messy, this dish was an interesting concept. Large prawns surrounded the sweet corn risotto which was shaped into a square prism. The saffron basil broth was not overbearing and tasted delicious!)

Sweet Stuff
Chocolate Fudge Whisky Cake w Peanut Butter Ice Cream
(My highlight of the highlights at Ripples!! Chocolate fudge whisky cake was made in-house and is definitely my favourite cake I have sampled thusfar. Although it merely appears to be a normal slice of cake, the top was extremely crusty but not overcooked, while the insides were fudgy and extremely chocolatey. I believe my description simply does it no justice- so please just try this and see for yourself!)

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Olympic Drive
Milsons Point
(02) 9929 7722
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Chinese New Year 2011*

"History weaves an intriguing tale: 
Buddha issued an invitation to all the animals to a grand feast, but only 12 showed up to the festivities. 
Their order of appearance would thus determine their position in the Chinese Zodiac.
This is a topic of countless legends deeply embedded in Chinese mythology.
Beginning on 3 February 2011, the Year of the Rabbit is the fourth animal in the Chinese Zodiac. 
Astrologists predict the Rabbit Year will favour family, personal development and diplomacy.
There will be a feeling that all is not lost and hope is still very much alive!"

Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the Spring Festival and is one of the biggest events in the Lunar Calendar. A time of celebration and thanksgiving, all family members gather together to eat and rejoice in a family reunion. Given the importance of food in Chinese culture (and my life in general), it plays a fundamental role in Chinese New Year celebrations. Tradition dictates a multitude of symbolic foods must be consumed based on its appearance or the way the Chinese word is pronounced. Red is the predominant colour used, as it alludes to fire and is believed to drive away bad luck. Remember, events that occur on New Year's Day may impact on your life for the rest of the year- so be careful in your actions! 

Chinese New Year Gift Baskets
(Red Candy Boxes filled with Sweet Delicacies and Dried Fruits; Packets of Chestnuts; Red Envelopes; and Lucky Chinese New Year Decorations.)

Nián gāo (年糕)
Glutinous Rice New Year Cake 
(This sweet, steamed, and extremely sticky cake has symbolic significance on many levels. Nián gāo is a homonym for "a more prosperous year" (年高 - Year High), so it is considered good luck to eat it for increasing prosperity. It's sweetness symbolises a rich and sweet life, while the layers reflect a rising abundance for the coming year. Finally, the round shape signifies family reunion.)

During the first few days, the cake may be eaten at room temperature in thick slices while it is still soft, stretchy and extremely sticky. Thereafter, it is usually served pan fried so that it is slightly crispy on the outside yet remains super sticky on the inside.

Chinese Tea (茶) and Boiled Rice (米饭) 
(Tea and Rice are deemed to be two of the seven necessities of life for Chinese people. Tea is consumed for good health, while the bowl of rice symbolises fertility, luck and wealth for a cohesive family.)

Luó Hàn Zhāi (羅漢齋) 
(An elaborate vegetarian dish served on the first day of the New Year that is meant to convey family harmony and close family ties. The dish contains a variety of ingredients, with eight different wishes for the new year. To ensure even more luck for the family, the number eight is very lucky and literally means wealth.)
  1. Black Moss Seaweed & Dried Oysters (髮菜蠔豉) - Exceeding wealth in a good market (發財好市) for better business opportunities
  2. Chinese Cabbage (笑菜) - Lots of laughter
  3. Shiitake Mushrooms (冬菇) - I asked mom what this symbolises, and she said it ensures you will not get fired from your job (deng dong gu)! Although I am told the correct meaning is to seize good opportunities
  4. Glass Noodles(粉絲) - Unbroken noodles reflect a long life
  5. Jujube (枣) - Wealth, prosperity and fertility
  6. Muer Mushroom (木耳) - Longevity
  7. Dried Tofu (豆腐干) - Fulfillment of wealth and happiness
  8. Bean curd sticks (腐竹) - Blessing the house 

Despite only six people eating, dad had cooked enough Luó Hàn Zhāi to fill six large bowls. Apparently, there must be more than enough food for everyone, with plenty of leftovers, so that all the good fortune will never finish!

Now I have a question for you. How did such a simple white doughy ball on the left, transform into the deliciously enticing golden brown sesame ball on the right?

The journey begins with many hours of preparation beforehand. First, Grandma makes red bean paste from scratch- by mashing cooked red beans in the wok, adding melted brown sugar, then rolling the mixture into small balls. Afterwards, the ball of red bean paste in placed in the centre of the glutinous rice dough, sealed and rolled in sesame seeds.

In the second stage, the heat turns up as the glutinous sesame balls are deep fried in oil. At this point, mom has to squash each ball with the sieve so that air may enter the dough and they become larger.

Once golden brown, the balls float to the surface and carefully sieved from the wok. They should be individually lined up neatly on silver platters, ready to be distributed to family and friends!

Zha Jin Deui 
Deep Fried Sesame Balls Filled with Red Bean Paste
(Inside the crispy pastry is a large hollow void caused by the expansion of the dough. Once the air escapes the hollow- usually after an hour or so, the Jin Deui deflates and becomes a flat round circle. Although it may not look as nice as the original by this stage, it still tastes delicious!)

While it may appear a tad ridiculous, it is customary to wear read and gold to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune. In addition, people typically wear new clothes to symbolize a new beginning in the new year. But a word of caution, one could be easily mistaken for a red envelope! 

Last, but not least... Red Envelopes (which are arguably the best part of Chinese New Year)!! Each red envelope contains money that are given by married couples and elders to the young as a token of luck. 

Now is the time to greet everyone with:
Gung Hei Faat Choi (恭喜发财) or "Congratulations and be Prosperous".
Wishing everyone the Happiest Chinese New Year filled with Good Health and Fortune!
Let us all be Lovers not Fighters, Forgive and Forget ~
And we shall have the Best year yet!!!*

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Colourful Fiesta*

"What better way to celebrate than to dance, laugh and eat at a Colourful Fiesta!
Dress code for the night: Wear ONE bright colour from head to toe
Entertainment run sheetZumbathon, Brazilian Samba Dancing Girls and Capoeira Boys, Lambada Competition, Cake, Speeches, and DJ Aldini
If, for some miraculous reason, these are not enough temptations to make an appearance... 
Food Smorgasbord awaits!"

Driving from Sydney's CBD en route to Forestville, I unwittingly embark on a scenic tour of the mountainous terrains surrounding Bradfield Highway. Unlike the suburb Cherrybrook which misleadingly suggests there are cherries everywhere, I can confirm that there are indeed forests in Forestville! Anyways, moving on from that poor attempt at humour ~ When I read the words "dress code" and "bright colour" in the same sentence I was really excited. I love dress up parties so any excuse to dress up will do. It was exciting to see all the guests make an effort for their costume, or at the very least, fashion a colourful outfit. Of course, the best dressed couple were also the hosts of the event, so a toast to their creativity for their costumes and organising the party!

Brazilian Samba Dancing Girls and Capoeira Boys
(Great entertainment for the entire night. Acrobatic skills of the Capoeira Boys were particularly impressive and it was interesting to see their pants are the national colours of Brazil. Eye-catching sexy costumes were worn by the Samba Girls which consisted of copious feathers and beaded detailing. Clearly their lack of clothing is justified by the heat wave experienced in Sydney at the moment.)

Moving on from the scarcely clothed, yet extremely talented, performers to more important matters at hand- Food! Dance music filled the great hall with a partying buzz that infected everyone from the young to the old. Meanwhile, the energy from participants in the Zumbathon were exponentially increasing as familiar songs were played. Listening to old time favourites (Macarena, Nutbush and YMCA- just to name a few), combined with my quest to photograph and sample each dish in the FOOD SMORGASBORD kept me entertained throughout the night.

Greens Mix
Beans, Zuccinni, Cous Cous, Tomatoes, and Slices of Lime

Red Salad
Dried Cranberries, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, Baby Cos Lettuce, Fetta

Pumpkin Salad
with Fetta, Coral Lettuce, Corn Kernels, Pinenuts and Roma Tomatoes

Pasta Twists

Curried Sweet and Sour Pork

Vegetarian Lasagne
Spinach and Ricotta layered between Sheets of Homemade Pasta in Béchamel Tomato Sauce

Soya Chicken 
with Crushed Peanuts

Potato Egg Salad
with Bacon, Onions Tomatoes, and Chives

Chicken Schnitzel
Crumbed with Herbs and Spices

Watermelon Fruit Bowl
(Watermelon pieces mixed with a variety of fruits contained in a Watermelon shell! A clever way to reuse ingredients for the au naturale way to presenting a fruit salad- and no-one will need to wash the dishes!)

Assortment of Homemade Cookies

Baby Cupcakes
Topped with Whipped Cream and Chocolate Multi-Colour Buds

Multicolour Fruit Pudding

Lebanese Sweets
Baklawa with Cashew NutsBasma with Pistachios, Boaj, Maamoul, Fatira with Walnut

(One is never enough!)

Sponge Log
Filled with Cream and Custard Filling

(Pink napkins are folded into flowers to top off jars containing hand creams and body lotions.)

Instead of presents, over $1500 was raised for the Queensland Flood Victims through donations and raffles.

Group photo of a massive RAINBOW of people having the time of their lives!

"Macarena dreams of the Corte Inglesi§ and she likes the most recent fashions. 
Come join me, dance with me. And you fellows chant along with me. 
Move with me, chant with me. And if you're good, I'll let you eat with me..."

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Forestville Memorial Hall
3 Starkey Street, Forestville
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