Monday, April 24, 2017

Twenty Three

My birthday has well and truly become birthday week, if not birthday fortnight. I spent the last couple of weeks with family and friends- got on a horse for the first time, turned 23, and had lots of quality time and food with family and friends.

My birthday cake this year was a gelato cake from Gelato Messina! I ordered the Juliette and it had strawberry gelato, vanilla semifreddo, strawberry sorbet and meringue. LOVE.

My family has been talking about going to El Burrito Downunder in St Lucia for some time now after Mum heard about it from a Mexican chef who recommended it for serving up authentic Mexican food.  Despite my wary approach given the student demographic of the location, it exceeded expectations. Copious amounts of cheese, guac and pico de gallo were had.

The ambience was really nice and we had a great meal there; chicken and prawn fajitas which are DIY, amazing chiccharones (crispy fried pork belly) with yuca chips, quesadillas and aji de gallina. I had a magarita for the first time, we shared some sangria, and had an altogether very enjoyable experience. It looks like a predominantly family restaurant as most of the students we saw were upstairs at street level eating pho from the many stalls there.

I also had cake at home with my family, and what a great cake it was! We've tried almost every flavour from Le Bon Choix and I thought it was time to source one from somewhere new. Getting this cake home during peak hour traffic was quite a struggle - I came prepared with a cooler bag and had a styrofoam 'broccoli box' in the car with my brother parked round the corner but I wouldn't recommend transporting it during the Friday home rush! Messina recommend going freezer to freezer in 35 minutes but they package it in a regular cardboard carrier, which I was disappointed about given the cost and nature of the cake. If they package their take-home boxes of gelato in styrofoam carriers they should probably rethink their gelato cake packaging, no?

The day after that dinner, I went on a road trip to Toowoomba for the Easter weekend, with the main aim to go horse-riding nearby and have a look around the area. For the horse-riding, we booked in with Cowboy Up! near Crows Nest, about an hour north of Toowoomba city. I cannot recommend them enough if you're interested in giving trail riding a try. We did 2 hours in a group of 8 people (they do no more than 10 at a time) and I had so much fun! I was nervous to begin with but they gave us guidance and instructions while still giving us space to have a good time on the trail ride around the 500+ acre property. Gill and Peter were happy to chat during the ride, and sat down for tea and cake with us afterwards and we went away feeling like we'd had a very personal experience. They spoke of their experiences training the cast of the movie Australia to ride, as well as a few other film experiences they'd had in Australia and abroad. They are reasonably priced, take pride in giving us a quality experience and take immaculate care of their horses. We'd readily return to them because we had such a great time there.


The Japanese Garden at Toowoomba is one of the few memories I have of my previous trip up to Toowoomba and it was still beautiful as ever. No sakura, but plenty of other pretty scenes.

We cooked a fair bit at the Airbnb we were staying in (Frank's Cottage, if you want to look it up!) and we had a hotpot night, tagliatelle carbonara from scratch and deli night with shakshouka and bacon on the side.

The best potato slinky ever (they batter it so it gets extra tasty and crisp!) and maple syrup poffertjes from the Queens Park markets on Easter Sunday.

Visiting antique stores everywhere we went.

The gorgeous view from Picnic Point where a jazz saxophonist was playing and there was such great atmosphere.

I spent my birthday at home with my mum and baked a cake for work. My current team throws no birthday parties for anybody - instead we do birthday cake penalties which works out fairer and less fuss for everybody. I had said on my first day with the team that I liked baking and felt like I had to deliver when my turn came. After a few ideas I ended up making a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, filled with chocolate covered strawberries. The recipes were out of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and the chocolate covered strawberries idea was from JJR at Man About Cake. Thankfully my work team smashed it; nothing more satisfying than people enjoying what you make.

That night we went to OTTO Ristorante, a relatively new Italian restaurant by the Brisbane River, across the road from Customs House. We snagged a 50% off food offer with Dimmi and it was such a sweet deal!

Kingfish, finger lime, fennel and orange crudo and deboned quail, apple and pancetta saltimbocca with sage, prunes and saba. 

Squid ink spaghettini with Moolooolaba cuttlefish, cherry tomatoes and basil pesto, Moreton Bay bug tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes, basil and lemon and caprese.

Strawberries, mascarpone, pistachios and strawberry prosecco sorbet for dessert

Gianduia chocolate hazelnut mousse, milk chocolate gelato and raspberries 

The next day we went to the wedding of some dear friends, and had a blast at the ceremony with an exceptional spread of refreshments including freshly grilled satay by a sweet old uncle. We had coffee and chatted in between before going to the reception at the Emporium Hotel. The food was great and the company was better.

I had dinner with some friends the following night, with dinner at Julius Pizzeria and gelato at Messina down the block. I didn't take any photos but we had a double serving of the blue swimmer crab spaghetti, the pork and fennel sausage pasta, potato chips, and the Number 1, Tartufo and spicy prawn pizzas from the formidable pizza oven. Highlights were the crab pasta and the Number 1 and Tartufo pizzas. I had a great night with amazing friends and food.

I had such a great birthday/ week/ fortnight and I was very blessed and spoilt by friends and family. I can't believe this is the sixth birthday I've blogged about! 6 years on the blog has flown by and I love documenting them to look back on. Thanks for coming this far if you've read all this way! Until next time x

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