Cheeseburger Gothic

"Moisture-wicking socks, digital camouflage, and caffeinated meat."

Posted June 3, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

I've been buried by paper work today. Actual paper work, thanks to the tax office. So it's been quiet around here. I've just filed tomorrow's rather long Blunty, which required a couple of hours research, and in ditzing about looking for stuff to blog about here tomorrow I came across this really lovely piece in the Atlantic. A real ode to the army cook. Well worth reading the whole thing at the end of the link:

I don't know what goes into the job of Army cook. I don't know the baseline for success, nor what failure would look like, aside from food poisoning. Observationally: Cooks seem to put 10 or so basic meals into rotation, changing up the sides on occasion, and incorporating whatever new item is sent from wherever it is the Defense Department finds food. (Boxes are marked with labels as "Pork, imitation, pre-formed" or some such.) In other words, no Army cook ever had an aneurysm from thinking too hard about his or her job.

But John seemed to come close. Watching him, he seemed like the kind of guy who wanted to do something big, something meaningful, but was worried about the consequences of even asking for permission. The start of his reign as midnight cook involved reheating lunches and dinners that weren't appetizing even when they were fresh. It was obvious this pained him, and next to the giant ashtray, he talked a lot about this chili he wanted to cook. It was a family recipe. He talked about the ingredients, and about scaling the recipe for a company-sized crowd and how great the response would be.

His enthusiasm seemed weird, and borderline delusional. When finally he worked up the courage to ask for permission, and later received it, all anyone heard about for what seemed like weeks was this chili he had planned... When the big night finally came, two things struck me: A lot of people showed up for midnight chow, and the chili was really, really good.

6 Responses to ‘"Moisture-wicking socks, digital camouflage, and caffeinated meat."’

tqft mutters...

Posted June 3, 2013

I could go a bowl of chilli right about now.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted June 3, 2013

I really liked the comment "Soldiers in World War I would have really enjoyed antibiotics"

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Guru Bob reckons...

Posted June 3, 2013

Caffeinated meat could change my life, both essential major food groups in one chewy bar...

i still remember the horror of the area 24 hour rat packs.

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sibeen swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 4, 2013

Bugger. What is the word limit in a comment thread? I could really go to town on this one, as I'm sure a few other's could as well.

In the nine years I did wearing a fairly non descript daggy green thingy for a day job, there were two cooks who stood out like shiny glints of gold amoungst the dross. The first was at a very samll base, and I mean very small. Total manpower of around 30 and only about 10 of us lived on base. This bloke made an effort. Actually asked us what we'd like a day or two ahead and then try to arrange it under the obvious restrictions he was placed under. He actually gave a shit. Morning tea was produced for the whole base and ther was no running off to get any local take away muck. It was a time when all got together, over a brew and some munchies, and could talk about what was going on without rank being a huge issue.

The second bloke was way better. This time I was again posted to a small unit,around 70 odd, but in this case within a reasonable sized base. 'Junior' was the cook who was allocated to our small unit. We were field force, whilst the rest of the base was static. This meant that he worked in the big mess when we weren't out playing at soldiers in the scrub. The statics hated when we did that. They didn't give a flying fuck what we were doing, but they certainly missed jJunior. No matter what meal he was doing, it was the better for him being there. He was a corporal, but made his senior cooks listen and improve, and provide better service. If he was rostered for Sunday lunch - a meal that the Army actually gave a bit more interest too (money) but the hungover troops rarely did - there would be a queue. Many in the queue wouldn't actually have mess privlages for the day, but Junior had one major defect; he was a tad colour blind and couldn't tell the difference between a mess ticket and a can of VB.

It was out in the bush that this bloke, and us, thrived. We used to get what was called a 14? man ration pack (someone please correct me if I' wrong there - it has been a while) which was filled with the normal army muck. Dried fucking potato, pork beans, spam lookalike etc. Junior would always make sure that he bought a briefcase of his secret herbs and spices. Every tea time was different., and when you're covered in crap, fucked out like all arse, and could eat a boot, turning up to see his smiling visage was a treat.

He just made life better. He was a cook. He was also a champion soldier.

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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted June 4, 2013

During the Gulf War, our cooks tried twice to come up with something special. One special treat was the shrimp gumbo, which on the first serving wasn't bad. Someone had managed to come up with a lot of dehydrated shrimp.

A LOT of dehydrated shrimp.

We ate that meal five days straight. By the fourth day we were going back for seconds and thirds, not to eat it, but to carry it out to the burn pit to get rid of it.

The other special meal was a ham and cheese omelette, which was more like scrambled eggs with ham and cheese in it. Someone had cut a deal with the 1st UK Division to get some cheese and ham.

That meal was indeed special. The rest were serviceable meals and forget about midnight rations, there were none.

During my eleven months in Korea (I left 42 days early on terminal leave, not soon enough given the extremely fucked up unit I was assigned to) our messhall had Soul Food Tuesday (at least I'm fairly certainly it was Tuesday). I'm not a hog knuckle and collard greens type myself but that meal was immensely popular. Soldiers from all over Camp Casey would line up down the block for it. Those of us who wanted something else, went somewhere else.

The only other memorable, non-holiday meal, was the steak and potatoes we received prior to the start of the ground war. Not only was the steak well prepared, the meal came with fresh salad, something we had not seen in weeks. Of course, it was all sort of dampened by the fact that we knew the shooting would soon start given the quality of the meal.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 4, 2013

Good article.

And there, on the sidebar to that Atlantic article, the second top story is their weekly roundtable on the latest episode of Game of Thrones !!
Flipping heck!. There is something going on with this show that I have never seen before.

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Stokehouse. The best bowl of chips in Brisbane

Posted May 30, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

... possibly Australia.

(Throws hands up).

I know, I know. It's a big call.

But look at these babies. Long golden spears of crunchy, perfectly spiced goodness. Not so thin as to be nothing more than potato prezels. Not so chunky that the pillowed fluffyness inside becomes tedious. A perfect balance in fact between crunch and softness.

The little bowl of aioli is lovely, although I will admit there are other dips that would work as well if not better. But we are not here to talk about dips. We are are here to discuss matters chiptastic. And I say there is nowhere you will find a more awesome fried potato product than Stokehouse on the river in Brisneyland.

27 Responses to ‘Stokehouse. The best bowl of chips in Brisbane’

TIFFINbitesized would have you know...

Posted May 30, 2013

I look forward to reading more about this in the July edition of the QANTAS inflight....

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BigWillieStyle asserts...

Posted May 30, 2013

My Mum's place.

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w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted May 30, 2013

A truly great chip.
Is there really such a thing?

People have made promises to me before, but it has ended up being all herbs and salt. And when people say, it comes with aioli, that is like a knife through the heart.

I’ve learnt not to miss chips. I just miss what I thought chips could be.

You say that Stokehouse has a chiptastic chip.
I hope you are being honest with me, JB. I’ve been hurt before.
Can I risk being hurt again?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 30, 2013

I speak the Truth.

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Vovchara mutters...

Posted May 30, 2013

aww.... *driving to airport, to buy a ticket to ... possibly australia" :D

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yankeedog mumbles...

Posted May 30, 2013

There is an art to the french fry, or chip to y'all. Too thin and they get cold right away, and cold fries? No, not good, not good at all. Too big, and as you said, sort of mushy. Not many restaurants do them right. Sometimes the best fries are at little holes-in-the-wall that cut their own spuds to make them. I'd hesitate to name a chain that has 'the perfect chip'.

Aioli with fries? Interesting, but I think that's for you elitist types. People have using ketchup with fried 'tater products for years, because it works.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 30, 2013

The best chips I ever had, ever, and I mean chips not fries which are thinner and 'stringier', came from a hole in the wall around the corner from the old Rolling Stone offices in Sydney. They were amazing. Especially since this place was a greasy spoon that served mostly homeless guys. In fact we thought the secret of their chips was that they'd rendered down a few hobos for cooking oil.

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NBlob mutters...

Posted May 30, 2013

I'm glad to see chips taken seriously and given their due study.

Currently the chicken joint on Brisbane Rd. Mooloolaba, across the road from the dive shop has my personal blue ribbon.

There is a distinct poultry fat - spud nexus. Generally BBQ Chook shops do better chips than Fish & Chiperys, perhaps the oil stays cleaner longer.

Best National Chip - USA Fries. Worst National Chip - Scotland.

w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted May 30, 2013

What the hell. I'm willing to give chips another go.
I am in Mooloolaba at the moment, so I will give the Mooloolaba Gourmet Chookhouse a go tomorrow. That can give me a quality benchmark before the Stokehouse tasting.

A mate, who lives in the Kimberley and spends a lot of time in remote aboriginal communities, reckons cooked witchetty grubs are, in all seriousness, the perfect chip. Potato is the inferior substitute. He is probably right.

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Albion Love Den reckons...

Posted May 30, 2013
Pfft. Meet you at Lord of The Fries at 1am to fight you about it.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted May 30, 2013

Damn now I want chips.

Dave W puts forth...

Posted May 31, 2013

Barnesm, it's now 8 in the morning and now I need chips.

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cletus would have you know...

Posted May 31, 2013

Andrikos Seafood in Bardon (Macgregor Tce) - best beer battered chips that I have come across in Brisbane.

NB: seafood and burgers are pretty good to.

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Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted May 31, 2013

Best chain chips I have found are at Grill'd, nice burgers too. Stokehouse chips are indeed chiptastic - I would attest to this fact. And Mooloolaba chicken joint will certainly get a visit soon.

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Lulu puts forth...

Posted May 31, 2013

*Googles Stokehouse location/s in Melbourne*

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Peter Bradley ducks in to say...

Posted May 31, 2013

In his book "The Man Who Ate Everything" New York Times food critic Jeffery Steingarten has a chapter about the pursuit of the perfgect french frie. It is highly entertaining and involves such experiments as using horse fat. He is silent on chips though. We all know that ther chip is superior to the frie.

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theangrywarden ducks in to say...

Posted May 31, 2013

Price?

I still have not got over Aria's chips. They were fine chips, don't get me wrong. Might even have been the best I've ever had. They were at least thrice cooked. Matt Moran probably peeled the spuds himself. The frying oil was probably from the moon. However...

A bowl of eight chips cost TEN DOLLARS.

That's more than a dollar a chip. It still leaves me flabbergasted.

Brother PorkChop would have you know...

Posted May 31, 2013

Wow!! That is awesome!! Never been to Aria as I couldn't justify the prices at all, nevermind the chips. $105 for a small Wagyu steak. And I was told that it was actually priced higher than Aria in Sydney.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 31, 2013

Now I want those chips.

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w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted May 31, 2013

I have now been to Nblob's Mooloolaba Gourmet Chookhouse.
A very welcoming, old school takeaway. Amongst other items, they do offer marinated chicken. While I was there, their burgers and their chips seemed to be the popular items. I wasn't the only person who came in and just asked for chips.

The chips. You place your order, your allotment of chips is put in a deep fryer basket and popped into the deep fryer. All chips orders seem to be freshly cooked. I just went for the small serving ($3.50). The serving could have been a large snack for the average eater. Definitely more than a cup and definitely chips, not french fries. The plain or chicken salt option is offered.

These were not gourmet chips. Gourmet chips tend to be a bit fatter and are herbed. However, I preferred them to most of the gourmet chips I have had as they are normally soft and lukewarm. These were hot and crisp. They are the good chips I remember from my teens in the 70's. Not fancy, just good old fashioned chips.

They tasted as good as they smelt. Which is fine praise for a chip.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 31, 2013

On my to do list.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted May 31, 2013

Thankyou W. You appear a consonant of taste &/or distinction.

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 1, 2013

I'm trying to think of a place in Kansas City which produces a consistently decent batch of fries/chips. . . .

.

.

.

.

. . . still pondering the matter.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

P.S. Now, if you want what we Americans call potato chips and are looking for some home made kind, Harry's Country Club on the River Market does an excellent batch with french onion dip. Starve yourself for a week and come with a wheelbarrow and a coolie to push you home in it after the meal.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted June 1, 2013
@ Murph.
Nomenclature.
In Oz 'chips' can describe hot or cold slices of fried potato. Fries exclusively describe the hot variety, mostly in a transnational burger joint context. It surprised me in the US to order burger & chips and get a little bag of fritos in a basket beside my plate. I've never seen such a meal served in Oz. In the UK 'crisps' describe the cold variety.

As I said above, I take my potato products seriously. After careful and comprehensive research I believe the standard Fry in the USA to be superior to the standard fry in Oz. Portion size, individual fry dimension, crunchiness, potato flavour, all contribute. I may be an extremist, but I maintain if you cant hear a chip crunch as you eat it, it aint crunchy enough.

While I'm on my hobby horse, who told Fish & Chip shops to put orders in plastic bags? Seriously it's like chaining cement blocks to a Ferrari or putting bikini models in a fridge box.

Prepare yourself; In Scotland I found it standard practice for Fish & Chipperys to cook their chips a whole (5kg) bag at a time, resulting in catastrophic cooling of the oil (which was invariably stale). They were then shovelled into a steam-saturated display case where they wait for the unwary customer, slowly liquefying. Oh god the horror. This was not isolated, I researched far & wide and this seems industry practice.

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Boscolamb puts forth...

Posted June 2, 2013

But I wanna know who makes the best onion rings?

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Moko mutters...

Posted June 2, 2013

Better photo!

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted June 2, 2013

My daughter said,
"Chips!" Her face took on a dreamy faraway look.
"Carraway Pier. They know their chips! The best."

Carraway Pier, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane. A fish, chips and burger place.

I see the comments on Urbanspoon include
"awesome crunchy chips"
"The best chips and aoli around Brisbane."
"Fantastic chips!"
"the beer battered chips are crisp and addictive."
"The beer battered chips were awesome."
"the (to die for) chips"
"Seriously the BEST chips i've EVER had! "

Seems definitely worth an investigation for serious Brisbane chip fanciers.

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Sardines and salami

Posted May 25, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

I know, right? Eeww. And yet it totally works. At least the way they're serving it up over at Sourced in New Farm. I'm pretty sure these are the guys responsible for making sardines cool again. Or maybe just cool. I don't know that there's ever been a time before now when sardines were considered anything other than poor man's sandwich filler. They were a cheap source of protein when I was a kid and I don't recall any fond memories of them.

So maybe it was just perverse nostalgia made me try the La Cuca sardines on toast the first time I saw them on the menu here.

Turned out they were awesome. Nothing like the stinky garbage fish of yore. Two lighty toasted slabs of sourdough, a green salad and a cup of coffee. Breakfast of champions.

Next time I went, however, the menu had changed and the leaf was gone, replaced by a salsa verde. Or maybe pesto. It changes all the damn time. Damn them. The latest incarnation arrived with a strangely familar paste that I thought might have been some sort of capsicum dip.

Nope.

It was a skinless salami. In fact the skinless salami I'd first tried over at Enoteca and which I'd seen subsequently at half a dozen other, mostly Italian, joints around town. Think of a hot, spicey salami that hasn't 'set' hard and isn't fashioned into a sausage. It usually comes in a little bowl and you spread it on chunks of bread, maybe dabbed with a little olive oil for moisture.

I would never, ever have thought of putting it together with sardines. But these guys did. (Tossed a little pot of confit garlic and some cherry tomatoes in for good measure, too). Thinking I was smearing a sort of pepper dip on my toast, I wasn't surprised by the spike of heat, but the 'meaty' flavours and mouthfeel did provide a momentary WTF interlude.

And then I inhaled the lot.

It was such a mammoth meal I didn't need to eat again until dinner. Only one caveat. The salami paste does not play well with white coffee. I'd have water or a long black if I was doing this again. But given how often Sourced switch out the elements of their sardine toast, I probably won't get the chance.

11 Responses to ‘Sardines and salami’

kardiac puts forth...

Posted May 25, 2013

I remember my Dad eating sardines right from the can. He grew up poor in Pittsburgh and they were a treat for him when he was a kid. I watched him slurp those things down using his fingers. Pretty much put me off on them.

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Monster Yuppy mutters...

Posted May 25, 2013

Looks like I shall wander down there for breakfast this morning....

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 25, 2013

I'd bet the salami paste is exactly the same one they serve at Bucci.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 25, 2013

Uncooked sardines, butterflied, a few herbs thrown on top, a drizzle of olive oil, cooked for a minute or so on the barbie. Quite a feature of a backyard barbecue circuit I enjoyed back in the 90's. Delicious!

There were a few sardine providers in Brisbane. You had to be quick because their stock would disappear so quickly.

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sibeen puts forth...

Posted May 25, 2013

That sort of meal cries out for a large mug of decent tea to be the accompaning beverage.

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 25, 2013

An ice cold lager for me. Breakfast of champions.

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Bunyip puts forth...

Posted May 25, 2013

I must admit, I've sometimes used sardines instead of minced meat to make a Scilian instead of a Bolognese sauce with pasta.

BTW that Salami spread sounds fucking yum.

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Trowzers puts forth...

Posted May 25, 2013

I'm a thirtysomething female, and I've often had sardines on toast (with a little cheese lightly melted on the top, and basil pesto on the toast). Only when I'm in the mood for it, mind you. But yeah, I can totally see how this could be a thing. When you're up for it, it's awsm.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 25, 2013

Cheese and sardines? Wow.

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Conspiracy Cat is gonna tell you...

Posted May 26, 2013

I saw an episode of Iron Chef a few years back, where the Ingredient-Of-The-Day was sardines. Man, by the end of that episode I was drooling for little fishies!

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Lulu has opinions thus...

Posted May 27, 2013

Sardines + salami sounds great. My favourite tinned sardine choice is the Santamaria in hot sauce. Mmmmm ...

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Happy, happy hour

Posted May 23, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Who the hell am I kidding? They're all my favourites. Especially the one I'm live blogging right now, from the bar at Claret House while the kids knock over a music lesson. I'm drinking a mystery red, a weird Yarra Valley blend of sangiovese and sav blanc. Yep, the Britney Spears of the wine world. They snuck it past my guard. It smells a little rusty in the glass, but drinks dry and light. I'm thinking of having some pate with it and calling that dinner.

It's quiet here tonight, unusually, perhaps because of the cold weather closing in and keeping people inside. S'cool, more elbow room at the bar for me.

I was very happy in this bar in Sydney. Until Annabel Crabb told me I'd be having dinner with Bob Ellis later that evening.

I like this place for an escape from Planet Parenthood. It's friendly and reliable, and the food is a cut above your standard bar nosh. (Pork belly sliders for the win!) Some of the the burg's will know it from previous meet ups and we will undoubtedly meet her again in the future. I'm thinking of having my birthday here next year, but that's not what we're talking about.
Happy hour. Happy, happy hour.

It's a tradition that seems to be falling away in this fast paced go-go world of ours and that's a shame. I think it's still a thing in the US, because I've enjoyed a few very happy hours in this bar and that at the end of book tour days. San Francisco in particular seemed to be keeping the flame alive. The hotel I stayed in last time I was there on my own had the happiest hour of all. Free drinks for house guests! And not just the sloppy seconds from the previous night's unsold, oxidised rubbish either. They uncorked fresh bottles every day at five, show casing a flight of west coast wineries and providing a few nibblies to go with them.

Claret House, do their happy hour – half price drinks – on Wednesdays and Fridays. But the hour runs for two hours. Huzzah.

No trays of party pies or sausage rolls, however, which I recall from the pubs I rolled through in the 1980s. Man, when I found out they were serving food...

I guess the thing that makes it a bit spesh these days is the fact I can almost never get away from commitments and responsibilities for anything like an hour on any given day. I can always dream however, and I'm sure that some of you will have super secret knowledge of a happy hour I can dream of too
.

24 Responses to ‘Happy, happy hour’

alexmac reckons...

Posted May 23, 2013

Ermagherd. I'm going to humbly put forward Boulder, Colorado as the world capital of happy hours. Every single bar and restaurant seems to have one. And we're talking serious deals - unlimited food, $1 beers - stuff like that. You're on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, there's craft beer - what more could you want? Oh, it's a college town and one of the fittest places in America, so the eye candy ain't bad either.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

That sounds like heaven on Earth.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted May 24, 2013

Boulder is a great place, one of my favorite American towns. Figure out a way to stop there, John. I know you. You will love it.

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alexmac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

Oh, and "Prairie Oysters"

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 23, 2013

I love a happy hour, particularly when they last for 2 hours.

Sauv Blanc. A few years ago, James Halliday wrote an article about S.B.
He said, he had been stunned when a favourite English wine writer mentioned in passing about S.B's well known ability to be be confused with Cabernet Sauvignon in blind tasteings.
!!!????!!
No, Mr Halliday couldn't credit it either.
So he got some mates together, did a proper blindfold tasteing of a selection of S.B.s and C.S.s.
He was shocked and a little embarassed to report that every judge got at least one wrong. Not always the same glass, but every judge called at least one glass incorrectly.
!!

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Bonneth is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

The Pearl Resort in Fiji - Cocktails were 2 for 1 every 6pm -7pm. And they were already cheap (and 80% liquor). Oof!

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

Lordy!

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Spanner is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

Wow. A happy hour? The Responsible Service of Alcoboozeamhol (RSA) has killed the happy hour in NSW.

I have fond memories of this mythical beast. Finding a quality pub with mates that isn't stupidly crowded for a cheap beer or 8 while the nibbles come and go. Sigh.

Me and my middle age shall go and get a glass of nostalgia out of that 2 day old oxidised bottle of red and sit down to chat with my imaginary friends on twitter.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

I thought happy hour was if someone else was picking up the tab on the business account.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 23, 2013

That's A happy hour, not THE happy hour.

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Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted May 23, 2013

Happy happy hour JB,

Lucky we don't build cars for a living.

Still there is a glut of Treasury money up for grabs now.

I'll split Ford's share with ya and we'll buy everyone in Austrayla drink.

Good time to set up a car plant in Brisneyland. They'll pay ya to do it JB!

Now what is a good name for an Aussie car? The 'Brisney' ?

w from brisbane mutters...

Posted May 23, 2013

I am puzzled why GMH has never put out a long, thin and whiny car and called it the Holden Caulfield.

Dino not to be confused with mutters...

Posted May 23, 2013

w,

Me too. It would look great if the hood ornament was a rotating wire bookrack like you see at the airports.

Ooh and the radio would always play "What about me...it isn't fair..."

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tqft ducks in to say...

Posted May 23, 2013

Once upon a time I used to work in Melbourne. Happy hour at the Someplace Else bar was 6pm-7pm. Working until 6 but on call needed to be logged on at 7. Snacks cheap drinks & free pool.

Later had to move office. There was a pub between office & underground station to get home on Spring St. Quite nice snacks as it was a bit of a posh pub.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 24, 2013

My mate was in Las Vegas in about 1980. At one casino, I think Circus Circus, all drinks and all food were free all the time. And, they would give you a dollar for every hour you were there.
My mate said that there seemed no good reason to leave. It was a really good session. He didn't spend a cent and then collected his $24 on the way out.

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BigWillieStyle mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

I recall being happy for an hour once, in the 1980s, I believe. I had a really good baked dinner. Yeah, good times.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted May 24, 2013

They had happy hour at the REC club at James Cook Uni when I was there as a lass. I vaguley recall there were bands and I drank a lot of half priced cocktails invented by a gay friend called a Dirty MotherFKR. Four white spirits and a splash of orange juice in a 10 oz glass.

If only I could remember it.

BigWillieStyle ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

Q, that reminds me of a lovely evening I had at the UQ Student's Rec Club back in the early 90s. Midweek night, there was a Guns &/or Roses cover band playing, and they were charging $2 for jugs of XXXX all night. Cheap piss, early-90s thrash metal, flanelette as far as the eye could see. A very Happy Hour Or Several indeed.

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Brother PorkChop reckons...

Posted May 24, 2013

The Pullman Hotel Olympic Park Sydney has "corporate drinks" on Wednesday evening for inhouse guests. For us it turned into a 5 hour session with the hotel sales manager including a never ending stream of quite delicious snacks from the kitchen. And that was even before we got our bags to our rooms. We had to be "escorted" to our rooms post session as I couldn't even find the bloody lifts.

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Chaz puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

Yes really like the Claret House.

Most dissapointed in you drinkinga Sauv Blanc blend.

As any fool know the only acceptbale Sauv Blanc is Pouilly-Fume

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 24, 2013

I am tired of your hyperbole and outright lies. I am a fool and I didn't know that the only acceptable Sauv Blanc is Pouilly-Fume until just now. I thought Seresin Marama 2007 Marlborough is fairly good, but I'm certainly not a competent judge of such things.

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Kat mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

On our trip to Vietnam earlier this year we walked past a bar in Hoi An with a blackboard outside stating

"Happy Hour. 10am - 8pm"

AWESOME!!

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 24, 2013

Rofling now.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

One of the best threads about a Birmoverse ever. Not being a magic/orcs/dragons/wizards oeuvre fan I have litle to offer except I just hope that JB caps a few of those smug fucking hobbits.

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The top 50 BBQ joints in Texas.

Posted May 16, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Because (1) barbecue, (2) Texas, and (3) there are a coupla hundred Amercans roll thru here while the rest of us are abed.

They deserve this.

15 Responses to ‘The top 50 BBQ joints in Texas. ’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 17, 2013

Americans love to debate BBQ.

As we all know, Texas BBQ is just one of many styles of BBQ, and it is far from the best. Sure, Texans love it, but they are the most jingoistic bunch you'll ever meet - if the word "Texas" is associated with it, then they will fight to the death to defend its excellence. If the word "Texas" was associated with child molestation, Texans would argue vehemently that Texas style molestation is the biggest and best there is. Senator, back me up on this.

That said, Texas BBQ is fine, but, for my taste, Kansas City style is the best. Murph, back me up on this.

Murphy asserts...

Posted May 17, 2013

Yep. KC's got it rockin' on the BBQ front. Don't let any Texicans or North Carolianan types lead you astray.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Texas Bob mutters...

Posted May 17, 2013

Everything in Texas is bigger than anywhere else. And Better. If you got it then we got it too and we got it bigger. That's the Texas way and anyone who thinks different can be killed by any mob that assembles around anyone who says anything bad about Texas. Thats legal in Texas. And Montana. But it is more legal in Texas.

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SenatorMckinneyTexas reckons...

Posted May 17, 2013

I'd say that Texas Bob has it down pretty well and the effete Californicator is letting his state-envy issues get the better of him, which is entirely understandable and something that Texans expect and are ok with. And besides, Texas style pedophilia involves young goats and such and is therefore perfectly normal and natural.

As for the actual article, which is written in English and has polysyllables and whatnot and therefore may be confusing to those not-from-the-Great-State-of-Texas, I've eaten at Opie's in Spicewood and, even though it is IN Texas, it is not so much of a much. Luling City Market is the best I've had.

Given the popularity of and fascination with all things Texan and the world-wide envy of all non-Texans, maybe JB should post more often on this timely and eternal topic.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 17, 2013

How far is Luling City Market from your neck of the woods, Senator?

SenatorMckinneyTexas reckons...

Posted May 18, 2013

2 hours, give or take, with a branch in Houston about 10 minutes from the office.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted May 17, 2013

Well, if it was elderly goats, that would be sort of icky, wouldn't it?

I feel I should have declared my conflict of interest. I am a certified KC BBQ judge. But I only got my certification because I thought it would be my ticket to free food.

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Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17, 2013

Deserve's Got Nothing To Do With It!

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17, 2013

Jeebus I just heard the news about the tornadoes that tore through Texas. I hope all you BBQ enthusiasts and your loved ones are OK.

SenatorMckinneyTexas mutters...

Posted May 18, 2013

East Texas got hammered. Bad stuff. Happens every couple of years, or a hurricane. Thanks for the thought.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted May 17, 2013

Aunty Q.

Word is that the tornaode was actually a djenie or malevolant spirit conjured by an ex-marine who learnt some of the dark ancient arts while stationed in Southern Iraq. He allegedly "crossed the streams" of a Middle East lamb marinade with a Texan dry rub. The resulting taste explosion was described as a tornado, but only as a result of the local paucity of vocabulary and the unwillingness to step outside the strict Judeo-Christian gestalt.

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Wayne mutters...

Posted May 17, 2013

Complete and utter heresy. BBQ started in the southern delta. It's home is, and always has been, Memphis. This weekend the International BBQ Cooking Contest is being held in Memphis, as it has been for my entire life (37 years), bringing in competitors across the globe in a drunken orgy of BBQ and beer on the bluffs of the Mississippi.

If you haven't had Memphis BBQ, you haven't had BBQ. Everything else is just regional variations.

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Murphy reckons...

Posted May 19, 2013

For Kansas City style barbecue the best resource would have to be Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Episode covering the topic. Of course, he did more than just visit BBQ joints, he also hit The Savoy (meh, great place to get mugged) and sent his traveling companion, some Russian dude, to Stroud's.

Gates, where they scream, "HI, MAY I HELP YOU?" when you come through the door isn't bad once you get past that unpleasant bit of it. Certainly they do well with their sauces. Though personally, the Grand Master has to be Arthur Bryants, where the floor tries to grab the soles of your shoes. Some of the best ribs in town.

Not to be outdone is a newcomer, Smokin' Guns BBQ in North Kansas City (which would not exist at all in the post-Wave universe since it wasn't really a concern in 2003). They've just upgraded their digs and the ribs are first rate as well though they, for some strange reason, have their off days. Guy Fieri covered them in Diners, Drive Throughs and Dives.

Then there is Woodyard BBQ, over in Merriam, Kansas near the railroad tracks. You can buy your own wood there or you can stop in and sample their vittles. Excellent ribs to be had there and the beans are first rate.

Yeah, there are other places. You've got Jack Stack, which is okay but snobby down on The Plah-zah, which is pretty fair.

If one is up for a bit of a drive, heading out to Excelsior Springs for a night at The Elms Hotel (Truman was there in 1948) brings you within walking distance of Wabash BBQ. Set up in an old interurban train station, they've got blues every weekend during the summer and good vittles year round.

Ah, whatever you do, do not go to NYC for your BBQ (or your Mexican for that matter). If there are decent places in California for BBQ, I'm not sure where they are. They do many things well there but BBQ didn't seem to be on the list.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Dino not to be confused with would have you know...

Posted May 19, 2013

I was planning on going to Austin anyway.

Now'll looks like I'll mosey on over to Memphis then head towards Motown via Kansas City.

Dunno when but I plan to have a full report on your desks ASAP. I can't wait!

Oh to have the BBQ Reporter job or be a judge!

There is a career in journaism for me!

Dino not to be confused with swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 19, 2013

'Cept I cannot spell journalism!

Ditch diggin' here I come...

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The Oxford Street Tart

Posted May 11, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Hands up everyone whose mind went straight to the gutter. Right. Off to the naughty corner with you, because you do not deserve to enjoy this flaky, eggy little flavor bomb of goodness. My little friend here, the Portuguese custard tart from the Oxford Street Bakery is one of the reasons I get through so many podcasts and audiobooks. If you're going to cultivate a serious hungry for these things, and it's almost impossible not to, you’ll need to be spending some time on the treadmill too. These tarts are the preferred food of the blubber eel which is forever trying to take up residence around my tummy regions.

Two minutes of heady pleasure. Two hours of treadmill pain.

But, one caveat. It’s not really a Portuguese custard tart, is it? Not because it was baked about million miles from the monastery at Santa Maria de Belém, the spiritual home of the Pastel de Nata, but because it’s just all wrong. The pastry is wrong. The egg custard; wrong. The slightly burned skin which is the mark of a true nata? Not even there.

And yet… God help me, I have come to prefer these ones. The sweet, soft crust pastry has a much more predictable consistency and although it lacks the crunch of a properly executed Portuguese custard tart, nor does it suffer from the problems of inconsistency, irregularity and simple shoddy fucking pastry skills which so often ruin the experience elsewhere.

I love these things. They are my treat of the week. From Monday to Friday as I grimly mutter “No bakery treats no bakery treats, step away from the sweet treat cabinet you fool”, it is the prospect of inhaling one on the weekend which keeps me honest. I try to get there early enough to score one fresh from the oven, when they are at their best, with a thin skin barely holding in the gooey just set custard. With a strong coffee they are an almost perfect start to the day.

I’ve always been a fiend for custard tarts. My mother tells me I threw one of my greatest tantrums as a child when I was forced to abandon a half eaten tart to run for a bus, or something. The reason for the abandonment hardly matters, does it? It was principle of the thing.

I still love and appreciate a good, traditional stodgy Anglo tart, with the wide, almost biscuity base and a sprinkling of cinnamon, and I’ll always save room at Yum Cha for the Chinese version – of which there are two types, the Chinese of Macau being influenced by their former colonial overlords from… Portugal. But there is nothing to compare to having one small simple serving of custardy awesome in one hand, and a decent cup of java in the other.

54 Responses to ‘The Oxford Street Tart’

Nick asserts...

Posted May 11, 2013

As ever your blogging tool renders your fine prose almost unreadable in my RSS thing by inserting seemingly random characters. - you’ll - for example.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 11, 2013

That's tiresome. What kit are you using to access?

coriolisdave mumbles...

Posted May 12, 2013

Dunno about Nick, but I'm seeing it on Google Reader (and TheOldReader, given GR's imminent demise). Have been meaning to mention it for a while.

Daniel Young ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2013

Same here in The Old Reader, very annoying. Probably the XML in the RSS feed is wrongly encoded.

Nick asserts...

Posted May 13, 2013

I'm on both Reeder on iPad and GR and old reader. Sometimes posts get too hard too read - which is a poor reflection on my attention span.

coriolisdave reckons...

Posted May 16, 2013

And it's fixed! Awesomesauce!

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 16, 2013

I thought you were talking about your lack of custard tart.

coriolisdave is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17, 2013

Alas, no. Every time I plan to get over to Bulimba I am stymied by the Spawn.

One day, though, they will be mine. Oh yes. They will be mine.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

Yeah, they're good, but I can't get past the Oxford bakery without taking one of their orange & almond cakes with me. Although the lemon and polenta cakes are good too.

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Mark Duffett is gonna tell you...

Posted May 11, 2013

Two minutes? If they're half as good as you say, I'd be eking it out for at least twenty.

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mondoworld mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013

I guess a worldy gent such as yourself is fully across the Yum Cha warmed custard tart of the type scoffed by the thousand in Fortitude Valley...

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2013
They the place with the deli out back? Some decent cacciatore to be had there.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013

Nah, that'd be Sugo Mi you're thinking of I reckon. Quite decent pizzas. In fact between the two of them and Sushi Mura that pretty much covers your only choices on that strip.

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DrYobbo has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

Not a big sweet tooth, but that could convince me to change my ways. About to crack into a pork pie from Who Ate All The Pies, who do excellent work in these parts.

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2013

chocolate éclairs are her go Doctor!

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w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted May 11, 2013

Custard, custard, custard.
Bee Sting cake!!!! Yum, yum, yum, yum. yum.

Aaaarggh!! Stop thinking!

.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 11, 2013

Oh that looks good. I, too, have a weakness for egg custard pastries. And I simply love the Chinese restaurant version.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2013

Portuguese bakery in Bondi Junction does a very tasty rendition. Coffee is drinkable as well.

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Darth Greybeard asserts...

Posted May 11, 2013

Just back from the markets with a couple of salted caramel tarts, some little rum babas and some half and half canolis. Sadly I have to share them and there were no other little tarts there. Except this one who was straddling her bf under the lighthouse . . .

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damian mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013
Ah well I'm sipping wine to recover from my breakfast not so much of champions, but rather of ruthless hereditary-dictator overlords. This involved turkish buns of the kind that resemble a miniature ciabatta, dijon mustard, leftover salad with garlic-and-yogurt sauce from last night, also leftover "steakette" hamburgers, sliced in half so as to be half rather than inch thick, and slices of a light rennet-free cheese - all grilled (broiled) slowly to warm through the leftovers.

One day this balance between exercise and diet will work out, some way or other.

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Bunyip swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2013

If any of you are down here in Bushrangeryland, don't go to the Wesley Hill Bakehouse in Castlemaine.They only make so many baked custard tarts a day, and I don't want to miss out because of you.... itinerant pastry scoffers.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 12, 2013

Oh, I can't have one? You're trying to discourage me from getting one? Then I must have one.

It is the American way. I'm not kidding. It is a cultural trait to want desperately what someone discourages you from having and to strive to do whatever someone recommends you avoid.

Bunyip puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2013

Oh, PNB. That was just directed at the riff raff from Queensland. We will happily take your foreign currency down here. Tourism dollars yadda yadda...

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JP ducks in to say...

Posted May 11, 2013

Remember I said we should do a panel at this year's brissie writers fest about explodey-end-of-the-world stories? Fuck that - let's just sit at this place for an hour and smash these tarts. Like, every one they have. what's the worst that will happen - your eel will turn into the pacific rim? Ye gods...

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drej asserts...

Posted May 11, 2013

Only time I'll go anything custard is when its brandy-infused and accompanied by whipped cream on a christmas pud. Otherwise, meh.

But have always been a sucker for a good cream filled apple turnover. Yet to find a really good one in Qld.

tqft ducks in to say...

Posted May 11, 2013

I have been sampling the wares from Bumblebee Bakery in Runcorn where the aforesaid apple turnover with cream has been spotted, bought and consumed on a few occassions to repeat the taste tests for science.

Mmmm science.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2013

Our lives are so different, drej. Whereas you havent found a good cream filled apple turnover, I have never encountered a bad one anywhere, Queensland notwithstanding, and I suspect I never will.

drej is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2013

tqft, Bumblebee you say. I shall check this out, thank you.

Paul, I am new to Qld, given time and a lot of research, I hold high hopes of finding the perfect turnover...

Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2013

You cannot go past a good snot block. Brisbane is a little short as far as I have found but Acland Street St Kilda is snot block heaven.

Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 13, 2013

Brother Porkchop, Acland Street is heaven for all sorts of sweet reasons more exotic than a vanilla slice. Particularly cheese cake, and the pastries with poppy seed filling. Or that cake which combines cheesecake *and* a poppy seed layer ... please excuse me while I drool like Homer Simpson.

Brother PorkChop is gonna tell you...

Posted May 14, 2013

Quite true, Lulu but vanilla slice is a good start. I have have the most divine rum baba there as well.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

I knew you meant food, but then I was with you in NYC with the Blueberry drenched Cheesecake of Doom at Carengie Deli.

Tarts are hard to come by in KC, pastry or otherwise. On the other hand, some very fine croissants and quiche can be had at Le Monde Bakery in North Kansas City (yes, from the Without Warning trilogy). I'm partial to the apple crossiant myself. Cindy prefers the quiche. Strangely enough, it is a French-Vietnamese establishment which also serves things with curry in it for lunch.

As for other fine dessert type foods, one probably should visit Aixois in Crestwood (a very small, very snotty, very old neighborhood near UMKC) for their Creme Brulee, which is definitely worth committing a homicide or three over.

Tarts, sadly, are hard to come by.

Or with, for that matter.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2013

Not strange at all. Before the US, the French were mucking about in Vietnam, and they adopted French cooking techniques as well as French food itself. I am willing to bet real money that John, while in Vietnam, could have found a great coq au vin. It doesn't surprise me that your local Vietnamese restaurant makes a good breakfast quiche. I don't eat quiche for fear of appearing gay. Not that there's anything wrong with it. It's just that if people believe you are gay they also expect you to be more stylish, and that just isn't me.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2013

Not only found one, I ate it all by myself.

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2013

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

With apologies to W. H Auden. Kim Than's the Vietnam/French bakery in SthBrisbane has closed. No breakfast ever will be as good, now Those spicy pork buns in Le pastry will never be again.

With similar, but obverse heritage I bring to your attention Domaine de Canton. A spectacular cocktail ingrediant liquor that is brewed in France with Ginger appropriated from the Indochine. Slightly fkn AWSM.

Anthony has opinions thus...

Posted May 14, 2013

The French/Vietnamese connection... It is claimed that Ho Chi-Minh trained for a time in Paris as a pastry cook under Escoffier .

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

Could more attention be paid to making the crust and tart more symetrical in appearance? Is the radius of the tart consistent from week to week? There is a much more subline beauty in the mathematics of the shape then in any prepared sweet.

Paraphrasing Dr Carl Sagan ..if If you wish to make a Portuguese custard tart from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2013

If tart radius is subject to change, then I would suspect being cheated or, at the very least, my snack would be ruined by intrusive thoughts questioning my decision (e.g., "you didn't pick the biggest one, idiot; the ugly bloke with the bow tie picked it, and now is eating your tart; YOUR tart; you should walk over there and grab it; and then run..." and so on). I hate when that happens.

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted May 12, 2013
Brother Bunyip you Will regret that. The USAnians are bandits for a little extraterritorial take away. To demonstrate, let’s just take the first ten years of the previous century.

1900 – China. The Boxer Rebellion was about Yum Cha, not about “protect foreign lives during the Boxer uprising” as the justification was put about later.

1901 –Panama. Keeping the canal open to permit speedy delivery of nomables from east to west & vice versa.

1902 – Colombia. – Aijiaco a chicken soup with avocado & cream

1902 – Colombia - Repeat of 1902 & tostadas.

1903 –Honduras A trader @ Puerto Cortes refused to give over the recipe for his marinade used in his special Pinchos Americanos, so the gringos invaded. Seemed reasonable at the time.

1903 – Dominican Republic. “To protect American interests in the city of Santo Domingo” = Access to Pasteles en hojas.

1903 – Syria. Known as the first Kebab war. Allegedly after a lot of beer it seemed like the best idea since sliced baklava

1903–04 – Ethiopia. Coffee

1904 – Dominican Republic. Again

1904 – Tangier, Morocco. Lamb.

1904 – Panama. See 1901

1904–05 – Korea. A Mistake. The DoD thought that it was Thailand and they wanted to safeguard supplies of curry puffs & cuttlefish balls.

1906–09 – Cuba. United Fruit Co.

See a pattern forming?

damian asserts...

Posted May 12, 2013

Brecht innit? Grub first, then ethics.

Bunyip has opinions thus...

Posted May 13, 2013

NBlob, they have already been here, and gone.

Within 20km of where I live is an American Hill, California Gully and Jim Crow Creek. And very few Americans. We are the Antipodian Borg; we assimilated them all.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2013

Damian - I don't know Brecht beyond sitting through the Caucasian Chalk Circle and imagining I was somewhere else. But I do know that Goethe called for "more light" so that he could better appreciate what he was eating.

Bunyip - you will never assimilate me, mate.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2013

Nup. Paniyiri is on next weekend in Brisvegas, PNB. At which point the entire city will turn out in Musgrave Park to enact your philosophy and swill ouzo slurpees.

too bad you aren't here to partake of the madness.

Yassou!

damian would have you know...

Posted May 12, 2013

I celebrated Paniyiri early by making a killer yogurt and garlic sauce to go with green salad and BBQ chicken thighs for Ildi, hamburger "steakettes" on turkish buns for me, Friday night.

Brother PorkChop has opinions thus...

Posted May 13, 2013

Mmmmm.... honey puffs.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 13, 2013

Auntie Q: I wish I were there to partake in the neo helenic madness. I am willing to bet real money that I could and would be intrumental in redefining the madness. Yassou bravo!

Damian or Aunti Q (or Greybeard, for that matter): Please life an ouzo slurpee high and say very loud "for Prof. Boylan!" before attempting to drink it all in one go. Do that for me. I don't care if you succeed. The attempt is enough.

damian puts forth...

Posted May 15, 2013

So I here that Paniyiri is run by Channel Seven these days. Apparently there will be celebrity honey puff eating contests full of Channel Seven "celebrities". I'm afraid my intinctive reaction to this year's Paniyiri therefore is want to nuke the site from orbit - it's the only way to be sure.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 13, 2013

So sorry. "life" = "lift." It is Mother's Day here in seppoland, and I've been drinking mimosas with the mother of my only son, and, consequently, my cognative - if not mechanical - skills are compromised. And it feels great. Fuck typographical errors.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2013

Hell yeah, happy Mothers day to all the mothers out there.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted May 14, 2013

?I may be a one trick pony, but its a great trick; buy 2 kilos of the best prawn I can find & 2 bunches of flowers, divide into two equal parts, deliver one to my mum and one to SWMBO. Walk away feeling insufferably smug.

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 14, 2013

A fragrant gift.

Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted May 14, 2013

NBlob often carries a packet of prawns around, sometimes for several days at a time. There are those who say that it's an improvement.

damian reckons...

Posted May 14, 2013

On the actual morning, Woollies in Ipswich had bunches of chrysanthemums for $5 each (ie, half price), so I bought all they had left. We ended up splitting this 5 ways, because sometimes that's the right way for it to be.

Prawns, however, are a gift that keeps giving long after the event.

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