Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Reuben Hills, Surry Hills

It's Week 5 of Term 2, it's 2 weeks until exams, but I gotta squeeze in this last blog post before I go off for a few weeks for my Assessment 3 exams.  See, since the middle of Term 1 Holidays, about one a half months ago, I've been reading up on Reuben Hills, and have gotten my hopes up about it so much :) (Yep I visited all these just to read up on it!) The Reuben Hills hype was around January this year, so I'm a latecomer :\ But better late than never :)

I really wish I could try all the dishes there in one day!! But I reckon I'll revisit it soon.   I actually planned to brekkie there in week 3, but I was doing Live Below the Line then.  Yeah, I may or may not have daydreamt about Reuben-y goodness one or twice...or more.
Admittedly, I'm still a newb when it comes to food, I haven't had a good dose of South American cuisine yet.  The only cuisine I'm quite solid on is Viet, but that goes without saying, because I've been living on it for more than 16 years!  But that mustn't stop me from doing my research, hehe :)
Entering the store a few minutes shy of 9am, it was a really chill atmosphere.  Not that many people, there were about 5 or 6, so it seemed pretty spacious for a street-side Surry Hills café.  Hip and edgy music and really nice interior design :) Better shade of brown than our school uniform, a more relaxed creamy coffee shade. (the linked blogs above have really good pictures which show the atmosphere very well.  I happen to only have with me a Canon Powershot A450, which isn't pro like DSLRs and has problems focusing in places with dark lighting :\)

The menu has changed, I don’t think taking a picture of the menu was allowed, but referring to the one here, the prices have increased slightly.  If they had it on their site, it would've made my life a whole lot easier, but then I got to read up on Reuben Hills on other blogs while in search of their menu, which made me hungry, as usual :).  But it's good to keep their menu secret I guess, for price changes and exoticness of their food.
Pretty cool seat we got here :)
I really have to commend the service at this place. It's seriously up there in my list of "best service" places that I've been to.  Maybe it's just me and I just love to be able to talk to them, but there are those waiters who are casually nice, or maybe some that are too in-your-face, but the waitress asked if we wanted coffees, offered to turn on the heater for us, she was basically there whenever we needed her.  She even offered to help Michael and I take a picture of us! :)  (Haha, I really have a thing for service, don't I.  I came back to Guylian Choc Cafe @Darling Quarter in the evening remembering back to the awesome waiter Leo!)

While looking at the reprinted menu, the water came out straight away.

The water bottle is really cute!! And thank goodness it doesn’t have that tap water aftertaste – that’s like one of my pet hates every time I eat out. And yes there’s no surcharge for water, by the way.
- Salted Caramel milkshake- $6.50

Our shake came out straight after we ordered it.  Chill and creamy.  Not too sweet and not too salty.  Just right :) And a seriously huge (and obviously good quality) amount for the price!

The dishes came out in less than 10 minutes.

- balaeda - free range eggs, queso fresco*, black beans - $11 (was $9)
*A Mexican cheese

Oh yummm, like a classic burrito, except not a classic burrito, haha :).  To be honest, I’ve rarely eaten burritos and South American style wraps, the closest I’ve got was tacos, but the similar tastes help me relate. And man, the black beans were creamy as - YUM!  And isn’t it wonderful how different cultures use the same ingredient but in such a different way, creating such tasty and authentic flavours? Thinking back to my mum and grandma, they like to make sweet soup desserts (chè), and the black bean variation is easily one of my favourites.  But to eat this creamy awesomeness accompanied by scrambled eggs (seasoned well, not too gluggy and creamy/mushy, and definitely not rubbery and dry, just right again :) ) and culturally authentic cheese.

- the NOT reuben (formerly called "the REUBEN")- Wagyu salt brisket*, pickled slaw, melted manchego** & horseradish cream - $16 (was $15)
*  Wagyu's pretty much the tag name for "awesome tender and juicy quality, and high in unsaturated fat, not bad fat", because that breed of cattle is just too cool :)
** chhyeahh, authenticating the Reuben with its South American roots with this special cheese originated from Spain's La Mancha region.
Ok so just a brief heads up on the Reuben :)  So according to our best friend Wikipedia, the traditional Reuben sandwich is made up of: grilled rye bread, corned beef (salt-cured beef), sauerkraut ("sour cabbage" - thinly shredded cabbage that's been fermented), Swiss cheese, with either Russian or Thousand Island dressing.  There are several variants, including the "Rachel Sandwich", which generally swaps the sauerkraut for coleslaw, and pastrami for corned beef.  Pastrami is also a type of cured beef, because back then, people needed to find ways to preserve meat.  It's typically made from the beef brisket (the chest of the cattle).  So basically, we had the Rachel Sandwich instead of the Reuben, in agreement with He Needs Food.
I guess from reading this food blog goss (refer to all the links up top), they've decided to call it "the NOT reuben", which I reckon kinda defeats the heightened anticipation of finding the “classic Reuben sandwich” here (thought it was called Reuben Hills for that reason :\).  I personally don’t mind being served a variant of the Reuben, because I’ve never tasted a genuine one before.

But man, all of that was a like brunch! And looking at other people's blogs, I already had the urge to try Doggs Breakfast and ceviche.  But I certainly like the South American vibe of this place.  Laid back, casual and hip, and great qoality food, for a reaonable price  Not just "another cafe" at Surry Hills. Coming back for sure!
Reuben Hills on Urbanspoon
(Blogpost edited 24/2/13)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Live Below the Line: I get to eat again! :)

And yes.  Food came at me like electrons near a positive terminal, omg BINGE FEST!! So I ended up having a kinda binge-sandwich around my LBL 5 day challenge.

It's been a great experience.  Feeling a bit lethargic at times, had way too much starch for my own good and way too little fruit and vegies.  Been internally complaining a lot of the time by not having any source of meat, so my first meal on Saturday morning was some yummy caramelised braised pork, "thịt kho"!
Saturday lunch, I had an entire plate of leafy greens! Don't get me wrong, I always love my vegies, but I felt so free to eat them, I gobbled them down and asked for more :) All of this just felt like I haven't eaten in days!!

Here's a glimpse of what I had on the weekend, and in the past few days :)
Haven't had oysters in agessssss!!! Last time was Nicholas Seafood's seafood platter. And cheers to trying abalone for the first time ever! Cooked with a Viet twist of course :) I swear anything seafood-y tastes good with ginger+oyster sauce dressing, haha
Mmmmm, yeah...that's the way aha aha aha I love steamboats! Hot and steamy pot of deliciousness for a Mother's Day dinner!!!
Fermented rice wine ohhhhhh yeahhhh :) All it takes is patience....and a love for fermented rice! This is the brown rice variety, but I love the dark purply black one too!
Tiramisu from the Cheesecake Shop for Mother's day
I couldn't receive a donut from my maths teacher because of  LBL, so my friend Michael decided to give me one this Monday morning :)
I salute to Grandma's great creme caramel :) This baby is so creamy and delish! And it takes skill to ensure no bubbles form in the creamy bit, and not burning the sugar as well.
Unfortunately, I haven't had a macaron in such a long while! :\
(Blogpost edited 24/2/13)

Friday, 11 May 2012

Live Below the Line - last day!!! :)

And thank goodness for that, too!
Been craving so much.
And been really thirsty lately, I bet it's due to the lack of vegies and fruit, and excess starchy floury foods.
This was what I brought to school today: Whatever's left of my bread supply, oats, the tiny block of Woolies cheddar cheese, and Plus cereal.
And I am so proud of my group, we had bread, hazelnut spread, milk, cheese, etc leftover at the common room! So I grabbed it as a "congrats, you're nearly there" snack :) For dinner, I had the remaining serving of spagbol, and an apple for dessert.  Totally didn't have cereal left for apple crumble, but that's ok. 

So much happened this week.  Family eating creme caramel in my face, friends going "Omg I'm so sorry about talking about food in front of you", other friends asking me "why do you torture yourself reading food blogs before school starts", my maths teacher earlier today offered donuts that I had to decline! :(

But all for what?
All for a first-hand experience at what it's like when you can't demand and choose what is going to be on your dinner plate.  For not expecting harmonious flavours and spices dancing in your mouth, or melding sweetly together.  But instead, being stuck with whatever you have in your limited supply.  Knowing that you'll be faced with the same dish for 5 days.  Fruits and vegies are scarce, and meat is nowhere in sight.  

Looking back, we could've bought potatoes and tomatoes, much yummier than pasta, and much more filling perhaps. The LBL guide suggested lentils and rice, and seeing fellow bloggers buy that too made it clear that those foods were cheap.  But this was overall a good experience for me. :)

And all isn't that bad :) Tomorrow is Mother's Day dinner, followed by the chocolate cupcake my grandma saved for me, and the creme caramel, the yummy homely dinners, everything's gonna roll back in, ohhhh yeahhhhh ;)!!!

(Blogpost edited 24/2/13)

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Live Below the Line Day 3 and 4

Day 3:
Since I was going to watch a Hamlet play at Marrickville, I couldn't have instant noodles for dinner on the train back home, so this was what I had instead:
Oh yes and by the way, the actual bottle of pasta sauce was replaced by a Moccona jar instead, because the sauce bottle broke and half the sauce spilt.  Ouch :\
Breakfast: I had oats.  About half a cup full.  Thank goodness the hazelnut spread gave it flavour.  Food can't get any blander than this, I'm begging for condiments, but not allowed any.
Lunch: Small packet of instant noodles, with the bland chicken powder seasoning.
Man, no meat at all this week. :( :( Bland, bland, bland.  This isn't food!! This isn't food worthy of a food blog!!  And I have always loved instant noodles, because I'd rarely eat them, so everytime I got a chance to eat them at home, oh man I'd love it to bits! I eat my instant noodles with canned tuna (kinda weird, right?). Followed my dad, he always does it and it tastes awesome! But now instant noodles of an inferior brand has just made me lost appetite for it.
I then had my carrot 20 minutes before the Hamlet play started, then the apple during the interval, and then cold dinner - consisted of dried spagbol with a meagre amount of sauce that barely loosened the spag strings, and mini cheese cubes.  Man cold bland unseasoned dinner.

Day 4:
Because I only had 6 pieces of bread left, i wanted to save toasties til the end of the week.  Yay, toastie for breakfast, carrots recess, another serving of dry spagbol (the best part would have to be the melted cheese :)), some dry oats with hazelnut spread and water for dinner, and dry cereal for dessert.  Thank goodness the cereal isn't as bland as Weetbix or Corn Flakes.  Cheers to Plus cereal! But man, eating it for dinner.. (Since I only had 1 serving of pasta left in the fridge, saving it for day 5).  This wasn't really filling, so I grabbed a piece of bread and some cheese afterwards.
Yeah, these 4 days have been bland, bland, bland.  And to see myself commenting on all sorts of flavours from different restaurants and cafes, and now complaining at the absence of flavour.  And then realising that we seriously have it better than so many other people.  Fatboo from "Let's Get Fat Together" pointed out so many cool things that I noticed to be so true as well.

Here's me complaining about cold dry food.  And then there are people out there who can't even afford food.  From my work at Salvo's a few weeks back, I realised how hard it was to get a meal, and they do try to help out with $2 lunches, and very low-price and filling food, but at the rate of anyone living under $2 a day, one can't afford to judge on the many yummy flavours or textures of the food.  It's just blindly filling one's stomach up with cheap but filling starchy products, in order to pass the day.  In order to just purely survive.

Friends have been asking me if I've been hungry, and I have to say yes sometimes I get hungry, but I more so desire and am hungry for real flavourful food.

But there's only 1 day to go! :) There's gonna be a BBQ tomorrow, and my sister is eating creme caramel in front of me as I type!  But my group and I will be able to finish this challenge without succumbing to temptations and admitting defeat!! We can do this! :)

(Blogpost edited 24/2/13)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Live Below the Line: Day 2...

Masterchef's on telly.
That's nice :(
I'm going to watch Hamlet tomorrow, with no permission to dine out or have a snack after then.
That's really nice :(
I haven't finished Heston's How to cook like Heston!!!!!
That's even nicer!!! >:(

Man. it's day 2.  And things haven't gotten any better.
At the start of each day, it suddenly feels like the moment I joined the challenge, everything starts happening around me, anything related to food.  Everything related to food!!! This is really unfair!

But it's at this point where we realise how much we actually take for granted.

Yep, I realise how much I reallllllly love Viet food now.  It's taking its toll. My family are eating what they ate yesterday, one of my fave dishes.

And it's the knowing that me and my 2 friends are basically living on pasta and bread for the next 5 days.  Knowing that there is no variety, knowing that any urge would have to be controlled. No room for seconds, because that'll jeopardise the next few days.

Thank goodness for the hazelnut spread, really the only thing we've bought that tastes something like a dessert :) 
What I brought to school today. Had my breakfast a bit later today, I only started eating when the morning hunger pang kicked in (about 8.30am today).  Recess was the apple, but I ate the apple at lunch instead.  Lunch was another serve of cereal.  Ate that during maths class :)
And this diet defies health rules. Nope, no more room for the RDI of 2 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegies.  It's just 1 and 1 now.  Relying on starchy carbs for now :)

But the bright side? :) My stomach's hunger pangs have died down, and I'm now starting to become immune to the common room aromas!  I'm still maintaining a daily dose of exercise, and I'm not skipping any meals to save food to go all out with whatever food I have left on the Friday.  And this is the first time I've eaten spag with curls of cheese :) My family never usually eats spagbol anyway, and we're not big on cheese either.  So this is definitely a happy moment for me during the week :)
Dinner: The same pasta I had yesterday.  Put lots more cheese this time, oh man cheese, <3 :)  And I cut a chunk to nibble on.  Maybe two... And a carrot + nutella for dessert.   
I ate a piece of toast to accompany my cereal+milk breakfast, and I cut off a piece of cheese from the block to eat as part of my dinner.

So I'm left here licking off the hazelnutty goodness from the spoon.  Saving what's left of my 100g share of hazelnut spread.  I have three days left!!

I swapped a packet of instant noodles for some oats from Gabi, one of my group members.  So now my meal schedule from my first post needs a few changes.  Tomorrow I'll be staying home, so that'll give me some time to relax and not worry so much about eating meals on time. :) Hopefully.     

(Blogpost edited 24/2/13)

Monday, 7 May 2012

Live Below the Line: Day 1

Yep.  Woke up at 5.30am, getting ready for school :) Saving my stomach for breakfast, because the later I eat, the later I'll get hungry, right? I managed to save my stomach until 8am, where I had my serve of dry cereal.  

Last night, when I was rationing my food, I found out that my share of the Plus cereal will provide about 6 servings.  I've recorded all my servings and distributed it out for my 25 meal times.  And it's just not enough :\
What I brought to school today - breakfast, lunch and recess.  And I'm assuming 1000L of water = 1 cent :) Impossible to do this challenge without the help of water :)  And for dinner, I had the same amount of pasta, and then I had a carrot with Nutella as a dip, instead of cheese like I mentioned in my meal schedule yesterday.

Knowing I was going to have a meeting at lunch and wouldn't be able to microwave my lunch, I resorted for an apple for lunch.  Yes, a mere apple for lunch, and 5 hours of starvation until dinner.

Wow. I had no idea how much I hated our year 12 common room today.  Food was just everywhere, it was insane.  I couldn't even reach for a tea bag, or even some salt or pepper for my pasta! And studying in the common room was just impossible.  The aromas of all those yummy lunches.  And omg especially the hot food from the canteen.  They had beef burgers and creamy pasta today.  Being a regular cashier at the canteen, I'm able to snatch a free lunch

And omg I didn't know Mum was gonna cook Mì Quảng!!!! That's like one of my favourite Viet dishes!!!! :( :(

I seriously regret binging last week. It all started from the prefect arvo tea on Tuesday night, and man the girls at my school really know how to make brownies!! Man, just decadent choc pieces and the dense sweetness of those cheesecake brownies (thanks Chat, it was really yummy! - this is probably the 10th time I've said this, but man it was like mudcake, but creamy and omg cheesecake flavoured anything is good for me! :)). And I was on a massive roll from there. I was just picking food out from the cupboards and the fridge, knowing that I was supposed to be moderating my eating to not skyrocket in weight before assessments (gaining a few kgs really helps the tiredness to kick in...wouldn't want to yawn incessantly during a chem exam! :\)

As I'm typing this, it's around 6pm, and I've just eaten my last meal for the day.  And I was looking at my family eat grapes.  A whole dishful of lovely big crunchy grapes.  Oh mann....And writing about food is making me really hungry.  

Everything made me hungry today.  I think it's the thought of not being able to have easy access to food is the trigger for my stomach to go insane, not the fact that I'm eating the same food for 5 days.  I know I'm not starving myself, which is good, and I'm still fortunate to be allowed to eat on a budget at all, when raising awareness and proceeds for world poverty.


And it's now 6.10pm.  And Grandma just came home with two mini mudcakes....
Why are they all suddenly feasting on good food around me??!?!?!
My stomach is a bit upset now, I think I'll need to calm it down with a piece of toast (thank goodness there's 21 slices in a Coles loaf to share between the 3 of us!).

Hmm but maybe not.  Must...sustain... It's only the first day, it can't be too bad, can it?

And plus, Mum already promised she'll make me Mì Quảng next week (yep, that's right, fist pumpin' the air right now!!), and the mudcake will last in the fridge, and we're planning to lunch out Mother's Day on the Saturday :) Yayyyy :) Something to look forward to!!

(Blogpost edited 24/2/13)

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Live below the line: Please support us :)

Hey everyone :) So this is my first official blog post for Live Below the Line.  As some of you may have known through reading my LBL profile (https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/foodfortina), I heard about the scheme from fellow friends who did it last year, and I thought “ok why not, let’s give this a go!”

One week of seemingly innutritious food won’t hurt the HSC will it? :\
So I gathered 2 friends, and together we’re aiming to raise $600, with my individual collection being $200.  At this stage, it’s been about 1.5 wks of collecting money, and I’ve reached 39% of my goal.  I guess it’s because there’s not much awareness about this campaign despite my facebook and school email updates, and it wouldn’t attract as many sponsors around me, because we’re still allowed to eat and drink.  And the credit card online money transfer is not something so popular around majority of the high school population :\.  Most of the money I’ve collected is from offline donations, so I thank you all of you who have sponsored me, whether it was a $2 coin or a $15 donation, thank you so much for believing in me and the trusting the fact that I will actually embark on this $2-a-day food journey, instead of eating the stuff at school, and then pigging out at home.  I have my family, close friends, and myself to witness this, and I actually legitly wanna try this : )

We've set up a group for this LBL challenge - Team SGHS Yr12 2012

So from our grocery shopping trips, me and my friends have bought (with our $30 combined budget)
(Note:  Some of this stuff was on sale.  The rest is either of home-brand quality or price.  Bought from: Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, and an Asian grocery store)
  • Pre pack carrots 1kg – 12 carrots - $0.90
  • Coles select Pasta Sauce 500g x 2 - 1.59 x 2 = $3.18
  • Coles pasta –spirals 500g x 2 - 0.59 x 2 = $1.18
  • Coles pasta spag 500g x 2 - 0.59 x 2 = $1.18
  • Coles pasta sauce 700g x2 = 1.99 x 2 = $3.98
  • Coles Hazelnut Smooth – 400g - $3.39
  • 10 apples (sale) - $2
  • Plus cereal (sale) - $5
  • Coles Oats - $1.20
  • Woolworths 500g tasty cheddar cheese home brand - $3.98
  • Instant noodles 5pk from Aldi - $1
Next week, when we are starting the 5 day LBL challenge, we will buy:
  • Bread (20 slices) - $1.50
  • Milk 1L - $1

and keep it in the common room.  This brings our total expenditure to $29.49.  We split the food, with some of us preferring some food items over others, so I ended up with:
  • 4 carrots
  • Coles select Pasta Sauce 500g
  • Coles pasta spag 500g
  • 4 apples
  • 1/3 of the 500g cheese block
  • 6 slices of bread
  • 2 pks of instant noodles
  • about 400g of the Plus cereal
  • 1/3 of the Coles Hazulnut spread
  • some milk
Some of the stuff I'm gonna eat
Here's a post from a blogger I follow, his name is Bryan aka Fatboo, and he's doing the LBL challenge too!
I'm not a regular and experienced cook or baker, and my initial reaction to the challenge was that I could just eat cereal for a week! But then yes, realising how much I'll miss the daily dose of homely Viet dinner food...and I can't even add salt and pepper to my meals!!

This is my planned food schedule for the week :) Gonna try to get creative with what I got...hahaha apple crumble = apple, caramelised on a pan (not with sugar, i'm just gonna chuck water in to soften it) + dry cereal :)

(Blogpost edited 24/2/13)