Softshell Crab, Wagyu Steak, and Sticky Date Pudding at the Grand Bar and Bistro, CBD Perth

The EoFY lunch at the Grand Bar and Bistro came up awfully fast. There was the whole lead up to it: the planning, the phonecalls, the visits, the background to get everything in order for the day and then it was finally here. Overall, it turned out well. 

I had for entrée the softshell crab, for main the Wagyu streak, and for dessert sticky date pudding.

The softshell crab was crispy on the outside and moreish on the inside. With the mayo and a seaweed salad, this was a great tasting Japanese-inspired dish that had the elements down pat. It was a generous serving by comparison to the other entrees at the table. 

The only complaint: it was cold. 

For context, the service was lovely but unfortunately slow.

The entrées came out with some confusion​. Entrees were matched to names rather than tables, which meant extra work for the waitstaff finding who was sat where in a mad scramble as the dishes made it to the service counter. At one point there was a string of five or six dishes on the countertop awaiting direction as to which table they should be sent.

They cottoned on to as much, and for mains decided to bring around the options and ask tables for numbers of takers.

As we soon found, this too proved problematic. All dishes had been pre-ordered against names and the billing for meals set accordingly.

What wasn’t factored in was people being people. When the waitstaff brought around the mains, several from our party forgot what they had ordered, decided to eat what they hadn’t ordered, or simply took someone else’s meal—with no harm intended I thoroughly appreciate, but perhaps also with blissful ignorance of what this meant for others. 

The end result was wasted paid-for dishes, the kitchen having to conjure up replacement dishes, and, needless to say, long waiting times and cold mains.

All that said, my main course when it arrived was cooked beautifully. My blue steak was a raging dish; it showed off a deep purple inside and a scorched outer crust. Justice had been done to the Wagyu. It was tender, juicy, full-flavoured, and left as natural as possible. The beef was bloody good. This blue steak was a textbook example of less is more and letting ingredients speak for themselves. Being the only blue steak order in our party, I really had been spoilt.  

The sides of carrot and potato added to the appeal of the dish and were favourably warm. The medley of potato was particularly delicious; crispy potato atopped more mashed counterparts and was layered with butter and cheese. As I sliced through the beef, piling on the carrot puree, and the potato, enjoyment on a plate was all I could think of.

Writing this up now I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have in my life wonderful days and times and food. Good times such as this. It’s embarrassing that hashtags instead of reasonable prose come to mind thinking of how I might put it into words. I suppose I could say that if, perchance, I were part of the uber hip, Gen Y Twitter crowd, I’d be all over the tags: #blessed, #thankful, #Aussie and #luckycountry. Seriously though, good and great times put the less-good patches into perspective. 

Two courses down and things were now back on track for dessert.

I had the sticky date pudding. It was aesthetically​ beautiful. That’s where my praise for this dish ended. The sticky date pudding was very cakey. It was mild in a flavour I couldn’t pinpoint—sticky date related, maybe, but not dates. If there were real dates somewhere on this dish they must’ve been miniscule amounts, or completely pureed away into the sauce and cake. To the palate it was a sweet sauce on a sponge. The addition of an ordinary vanilla ice-cream, that was melting from the heat of the plate evidently lifted right out of the dishwasher, pulled no punches. The caustic taste of unincorporated baking soda as I bit into the bottom of the pudding underscored everything wrong with the dish. Perhaps it’d just been my sticky date pudding; it was the most popular dessert had on the day and I did hear later that others liked theirs. The lack of actual date content, now that can’t have been a one-off.

All in all, it worked out. 

On the food, my entree and main were fabulous, the main in particular. 

The process for service does need work. The staff were great with us and made a real effort to make things work despite the initial confusion. The management were accommodating with our requirements for the function. I’d not hesitate to get in contact again. 

The Grand has a great space. It has a large enough restaurant area and the space carries a certain intimacy about it. Courtesy of the dark and neutral tones throughout the restaurant, closely placed seating, and the use of largely ambient lighting, the space is personal and cosy, more dine and wine than grub and pub. The venue would work nicely for a smaller function.

Considering everything I think it went pretty darned well overall. 

Taste verdict What can I say on the food? I’ll leave it at the beef was most agreeable.

⭐⭐⭐

Baking: Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carrot cake cupcakes or carrot cupcakes? The former would appear to me to be far more recognisable than the latter because everyone knows what a carrot cake is. Carrot cupcake on the other hand, now that I think conveys savouriness, like a cupcake that’s by definition unhealthy but that is trying to go healthy and vego. But then again if I call it a ‘carrot cake cupcake’ is the ‘cake’ part redundant? Does that make ‘carrot cake’ a flavour which it really isn’t? Physically it is a carrot cake done in cupcake form so that name does work. I have left it so because these bad boys, while they aren’t savoury characters, are certainly not vego-levels of good for you. They are however freakin’ delicious, if I may humbly say. ‘Sold! To the buyer in the maximum-tint sunnies as ‘carrot cake cupcakes‘’. 

Midnight dilemmas sure do keep me nocturnal.

I decided to bake these cupcakes today to de-stress, you know because ‘stressed’ spelled backwards is ‘desserts’ and all. That’s​ my thang. Also, because I haven’t baked a carrot cake in a while. I was itching to bake cupcakes and do a less-dense carrot cake. Also, because I had a huge cravin’ for the best-est ever carrot cake—which of course means home made and super fresh out of the oven. God do I love just-baked carrot cake. Whoever came up with carrot cake kneads more dough, and more than a raisin, while we’re at it. 

Recipe:

Carrot Cake Cupcakes or Cake
3 cups SR flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder (extra rise, optional)
Sprinkling of salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup applesauce
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 – 4 cups grated carrots, about 3 large carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together well butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract. Sift in flour, baking powder and spices. Add in salt. Add in applesauce. At this point the mixture should be fairly aerated and difficult to  stir. Fold through gently carrots and walnuts. Bake at 160°C for 25-30 minutes in lined standard-sized cupcake trays or in a lined cake tin.

Creamcheese frosting
1/2 packet Philly / 125g cream cheese
1/2 cup mascapone
1/2 cup butter
4 cups icing sugar
Handful of walnuts for decoration

Cream together sugar, butter, and cheese. Pipe. Toast walnuts and decorate.

Sans-frosting and Frosted

Out of all the carrot cake recipes I’ve tried, this recipe takes the cake for being super soft and light. It is incredibly fluffy, and very different to the denser carrot cakes out there—which are also yum, just this is a variant without the heaviness. What is astonishing is that there is a great amount of carrot but it still turns out light.

One tip – mind the icing which will be soft and only pipe once cupcakes have cooled; the icing will harden and you should be able to turn the cupcakes upside down after the frosting has set. 

Enjoy!

Key Lime Pie and Chai Latte at Riverside Cafe, Elizabeth Quay

I wandered about the Quay on this Friday afternoon, taking a stroll for fresh air and in search of a sugar hit—a pick-me-up, after what had been an energy depleting day. I’d been feeling poorly and the day had done its bit to add to it. For the first in a long time, the feeling was one of constriction: of being completely spent.

I sat outside; the café’s quayside view was wonderful and unfettered. The minimal patronage made it all the better. As for the cold, it fell away to serenity and calmness. Peacefulness seemed to drown out other thoughts. 

My chai latte, $5.50, and key lime pie, $9, arrived. They did a brilliant job at helping me reclaim my chi. The chai was a good fragrant one. The last third of the mug was the texture of sand. The slice of pie was a pleasant choice. Dense, creamy, cheesecake-ish, with a teensy bit of tang from the lime, and a good biscuit crust. While I’m far bigger a fan of bold flavours in pies—higher acidity and the harsh zinginess of lime for a key lime pie—I’d get this again. 

Life always seems a little better with good food and a good view.

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Taste verdict A lovely spot.

⭐⭐⭐1/2

Baking: Chocolate Cupcakes

Awaking all of a sudden at 4am this morning, I decided to bake a batch of choccy cupcakes for the mum’s class. 

Today’s assembly day and the assembly is themed as part of NAIDOC celebrations at the school. I did cupcakes in red, yellow, green, and blue cupcake liners to reflect the colours of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.

The cupcakes are iced with a choccy buttercream. Really happy with how they have turned out and I hope the students like them!

Recipe

Cupcakes
250g butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups SR flour
2/3 cups cocoa
1 1/3 cups milk (tepid)

Cream butter and sugar well, until light and almost white. Add eggs. Cream very well. Add sifted flour and cocoa, and the milk. Fold through. 

Bake for 20-30 minutes in small lined cupcake tins at 150°C.

Buttercream
100g butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tbsp milk – adjust

Mix butter, sugar, and cocoa. Cream thoroughly. Add milk. Less is best, adjust accordingly. Pipe.

This recipe makes great chocolate cupcakes and the ingredients won’t break the bank.

Trio of Cheeses at Toastface Grillah, Perth

To be honest before I ended up making a visit to this place for lunch, it was a ‘skip over’ place in my head. 

**

Hear me out. Toastface is in an alleyway. With bins—skip bins at that and from that I take that they should be skipped​ over, if you’ll pardon the pun. With graffiti on the walls. 

Thoughts of the most pleasant things aren’t exactly what come to mind. 

As a twenty-something female living in a first world country, in one of the safest cities, who’s fortunate to never have met with the nefarious or had an encounter with the untoward, I can’t explain it. Feelings are irrational. Logic and reasoning often don’t factor in—and when they do, no amount of explaining makes it better.

Alleyways are a subset of the fear basket the subconscious flags as ‘avoid’. Alleys together with unlit passageways, confronting-looking faces, creepy things, and things that emanate a vibe that something’s off, get thrown into this pile. 

Because the possibility of a threat is something to  avoid. Heck, people devote their lives to becoming experts on risk avoidance and risk management. It is pretty much the work of unoptimistic psychics: they predict what could happen in the future and then they put life plans in place to avoid possible unfavorable darkness.

There are plenty of examples. Release of convicted criminals into the community may depend on the outcomes of an assessment of risk, recidivism, and their ability to meet tightly controlled conditions of release. Scissors are banned from being carried in hand luggage. The content of scary movies is ninety percent foreshadowing, suspense-building, and false alarms, and avoidance of the threat—and ten percent actual interactions with the threat, if that. It’s a win for movie-goers and -makers. The idea that a blue steak might have unkilled bacteria has a great deal of people avoiding anything under a medium. Perceived and possible threats can be as impactful as actual threats.

My point is that alleyways are an example of how the feeling of safety can be impinged upon by things that aren’t obvious. It is like a rug: one that doesn’t have the weight of furniture to stop it slipping, a rug that can be pulled out from under at any moment. Everything can be fine then something—a thought, a thing that becomes noticed—can threaten the sense of safety in a space. It need not be of the severity of a bomb threat. It may just be in a need-to-be-extra-vigilant kind of way. Both are impacts; both somewhere on the spectrum.

Safety and fear I would suggest are highly individual feelings. We live in a world that is analogous to a great, big videogame. Although perhaps that’s too self-referential to work as an analogy, more like the other way around—videogamesmitate life. We are each brought to life endowed with certain attibutes—strength, dexterity, health, wisdom, personality, conscientiousness, and so forth. The list of pre-determined characteristics and  predispositions goes on.

We each experience life as ‘player one’ in the game. Uniqueness of the individual journey is true in every sense: no two lives are exactly the same, and we react and respond to our immediate environment. And in my case, that includes sometimes bypassing places like this for no other reason than because they’re sorted into some basket, as autonomously as the whites, and the greys and blues, go into different laundry baskets. 

I guess all that came to mind when I had this toasty. Huh.

**

Anyhoo, on to Toastface. 

Like any good joint the venue is greasy; the type of greasiness that comes with the greasy smell that gets absorbed into clothing. Beware sitting for extended periods right outside the grill window.

The toasties clearly keep it simple and the one I had was great. 

I watched the dude go about the making of the toasty. I will now reveal the secrets of achieving the toasty: 

  1. Generously butter both sides of normal, supermarket white bread. By generously, I mean go crazy with the butter. No wonder it tasted so good.
  2. From the relevant box of Tupperware, grab a big dollop of whatever filling is ordered. 
  3. Spread on insides of the bread.
  4. Put together the slices and whack it on the grill. 
  5. Grill until it’s a proper brown.

Ta da! There was one other thing. I’m not sure which step it comes under. It has to do with the rosemary-ness, herbiness of the outerside of the bread. They must either use a herby butter or roll the buttered bread in a herb mix. Either way, it gives the bread this unique flavour. Yum.

Taste verdict This was great tasting stuff. It is seriously artery-clogging material.

⭐⭐3/4