Saturday, 27 April 2013

Review: Hoo Ha Bar

Hoo Ha Bar has taken a while to get from conception to opening but open they did last week, and with it being 10 minutes from my work I was very keen to check out this new arrival in the somewhat staid South Bank area.

My friend Gabi and I met there for breakfast on Friday morning. Nestled almost underneath South Bank station it’s mightily convenient for both bus and train, and you can park your bike outside no problem. Inside is open with the wooden sparse slightly-hipster decoration that is becoming the norm of Brisbane cafes. No complaints, I like it, and I think Brisbane cafes are starting to look different to any other cities’.   

The menu is interesting and a little off-beat, all about flavours rather than traditional breakfast fare. The prices are exciting, though. Fruit toast is $3, and the rest of the menu is between $7 - $11. Cheap for Brisbane, where no one seems to bat an eye at paying $12 for avocado on toast.  Reading the menu, you know everything on it is going to be tasty.

Gabi had the Cannellini bean smash, rosemary, chilli, orange, lemon and Grana Padano served with garlic croute, though in her instance she requested gluten-free bread, which was no problem ($7).

I had grilled eggplant, peperonata, Haloumi, rocket and hummus on focaccia (replaced with Turkish bread) ($9).

The food come out quickly and was very tasty. It was also of just the right size for breakfast, filling but not so much that it is an effort to get up off your chair. The coffee came out within minutes and was strong and rich.

I really enjoyed our breakfast date and would heartily recommend Hoo Ha Bar to anyone. At the moment, Hoo Ha is more café than bar but apparently the liquor licence has been applied for so there will soon be options for lunchtime beer and cider and maybe after-work tipples as well. 

Hoo Ha Bar
41 Tribune Street, South Brisbane
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 7:00 am to 3:00 pm

Hoo Ha Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, 26 April 2013

Cobbler opened in West End this week

Cobbler, a 'brother' bar to Pony Cat in New Farm and Kettle and Tin in Paddington opened its doors on Wednesday afternoon. Seeing as I had a bit of time to kill between work and dinner at Lefkas, I stopped by for a look. 

The bar is nestled comfortably into a large space along the street front of Browning Street, West End. It's a welcoming space, all wood, bricks and high chairs. One of the two guys behind the bar was the owner as well as the creator of the impressive cocktail menu. The cocktails were mostly whiskey and rum based, ochre drinks that read very temptingly but I settled for a perfectly made g'n't.

 My perfectly mixed g'n't.

The well-stocked bar.

The bar is well-stocked with liquors, particularly of the amber variety. Brilliantly, each bottle has its' price on an easy-to-read label, so you can sit and pick which of the score of whiskeys is in your price range without having to ask. They are also, unlike most bars, reasonably priced. My Hendricks g'n't set me back only $10. The guys next to me were sampling whiskeys, of which there are dozens, served with single ice cubes that filled their tumblers.

If you're a wine drinker there is a limited selection, but this is a cocktail and whiskey bar and if that's the tipple you're after I say give this place a try. These guys seem to know what they're doing.

Cobbler is at 8 Browning Street, West End opposite the Melbourne Hotel.

Five for Friday

The Australian Writers Centre runs an annual competition to find Australia's best blogs. See the 25 finalists on the AWC website, and vote for a winner!

Are we all enjoying watching the world gear-up for The Great Gatsby? Again? The fashion world is of course swinging in 20's revival. Brooks Brothers, along with Prada have released a Gatsby-inspired collection. Brooks were responsible for the mens' costuming and I for one and not ashamed to admit that I would melt for a man in this tailoring.


I kind of want to do this 5 minute DIY, thanks to Frankie Magazine.

Nine friends have been playing a game of tag for 23 years

Alison Brie (of Community and Mad Men) recreates internet memes with startling accuracy.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Book review: Unnatural Habits, a Phryne Fisher mystery by Kerry Greenwood

The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher is an utterly delightful fictional character. She is an intoxicating combination of early female empowerment and a fantasy of the women you could be if you had beauty, brains, money and supreme self-confidence. In her pursuit of truth and justice, she is unfailingly gutsy and determined, venturing into dark and violent places and all the while staying collected and in control of the situation.

In Unnatural Habits, Phryne assists Detective Inspector Jack Robinson to investigate the kidnapping of young and foolhardy reporter Polly Kettle, who herself was after a scoop on the disappearance of three heavily pregnant young women from a lying-in house (read: a hostel where you can give birth without anyone knowing you’re there). The search takes Phyrne and her loyal band of helpers through the seedy underbelly of 1920s Melbourne as they investigate all the horrendous possibilities of where the girls might have been taken. Phryne visits brothels, bishops and poverty-stricken Collingwood to slowly uncover who might be interested in these girls when their families have rejected them for their ‘shame’.

Brothels can be dismissed. Even those that cater for ‘special tastes’ don’t have much use for girls in their third trimester. The Magdalen Convent and laundry is a distinct possibility, presided over by a tight-lipped and uncharitable Mother Superior, or perhaps the questionable ‘Jobs for All’ employment agency whose business is less secretarial than highly suspicious. And how does a fruit farm figure in all of this? As their investigations progress, it becomes clear that these are not the first girls to vanish suddenly. In fact young girls, blonde for preference and with no family, have been disappearing without a trace for months with no good or wholesome explanation. 

Unnatural Habits looks through the darker side of human foibles. At peoples strange or even illegal sexual preferences, at the way people are treated when they've 'sinned' against Church or society, and at the disgusting choices people make for a grubby dollar. If you want a detective story with a juicy murder and not much else, this is not the place to find it. Miss Fisher's investigations go to some dark and all too-real places as she uncovers child abuse, rape and white slavery. Greenwood deals with these realities with style and grace, as befits her heroine, and Unnatural Habits is a great read. As dark as the tale may seem, Phryne’s pro-active attitude and a stream of beguiling characters balance out the vile scroungers. In Phryne Fisher, Greenwood has created a character many of us might envy, with her intelligence and panache and immense capability to deal with any situation. Her mysteries are hugely enjoyable, not least for their historical depiction of Melbourne complete with slums, convents and comrades, and an age we’d all like to visit, if only for a while.

If you haven't read any Phryne Fisher before, this might not be the best place to jump in. Greenwood assumes the reader has a certain familiarity with the characters and their history. Descriptions and explanations of the key reoccurring characters are almost non-existent, so if you haven't read any previous book or watched the ABC TV adaptation, you're likely to be a little lost. If this is the case, go back and pick yourself up a copy of Cocaine Blues and Murder on the Ballarat Train and get started, because these are great Australian detective stories. 

Read what I thought of the ABC adaptation of Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries. A second series has been announced by ABC TV to be aired in 2013.

This review originally appeared on the Sassi Sam website

Friday, 19 April 2013

Happy Friday!

Five for Friday

Well, this just seems wrong.

The suspended coffee movement in Brisbane.

A smartphone app for Melbourne bars and pubs. Because every person I know enjoys indulging in Melbourne's nightlife. 
The Vintage Dress Company. A New Zealand Company started by a former flight attendant with an eye for delightful vintage fabrics.  

Sedating children on long-haul flights; this will sound un-PC but I approve. Parenting blogs explode at 'near child-abuse' but parents who have ever taken a child on a long-haul flight think it's the ideal solution. Read one mother's account here.

I took a lot of long flights myself as a child and I think I was ok but with every landing, my ears would hurt so much from the pressure that I would scream at the top of my lungs. If I had been gently sedated, the whole experience would have been much less traumatic for myself, my parents and the rest of the plane.
On the flip side, I have been on flights with screaming, chair-kicking, running down the aisle, peek-a-boo playing children and I just want them to sit in their damn chairs and shut up.

Honestly, I'd sedate myself on long-haul flights if I knew which drugs to use. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Book review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

On one perfect summer day in the early 1960s, Laurel Nicolson is hiding in the family tree-house avoiding a birthday picnic. She watches as her mother comes through the woods towards the house to get the family’s special birthday cake knife. Also walking towards the farmhouse is an unknown man. He crosses the fields and approaches her mother, who freezes. He says hello as if he knows her and leans in to whisper something in her ear. In a moment, her mother plunges the birthday cake knife handle-deep in his chest. And so Laurel becomes the keeper of a dark secret, of the man who came one day but didn’t leave.

Now in 2011, Laurel’s mother Dorothy is dying and driven by the dark secret she has kept to herself for decades, Laurel begins to investigate what really happened on that summer day. Who was that man, unknown to everyone except her mother? And what did he say that caused her murder him without thought or question?

Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper is an intriguing mystery novel about families, World War II and what people do in extreme situations. The novel moves back and forth between Laurel in the present day and Dorothy and her friend Vivien in London during the Blitz. As amateur sleuth Laurel uncovers information about the events of 60 years before, the reader is taken back to be told the truth behind each unfolding mystery.

This is a rich and textured novel from an internationally bets-selling author. The characters are engaging and the human dramas so real that the extremes of the emotions that rage in wartime are believable if not endearing. Morton expertly uncovers layer upon layer of story about each character and the dramas of the war, that ultimately lead to one man being killed in a field.

The Secret Keeper is an engrossing novel that will keep you guessing until the last page.I am every intention of going out and picking her Morton's other works. Public transport friendly they may not be but they are guaranteed to be a good read. 

Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper supplied for review by the Sassi Sam website.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Book review: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things is a biography with a difference, in which author Paula Bryne investigates the life and personality of one of the world’s most popular authors through the ‘small things’ that make up every life; letters, portraits, scrawls and childhood notebooks. Starting with an everyday object that may or may not have belonged to the Austen family, Bryne expands on its relevance to Jane and her life, using historical evidence and Austen’s own novels to discuss what we know about Jane Austen and what we think we know. What emerges is a portrait of knowledgeable and free-thinking woman who was determined from a young age to be a published author and worked tirelessly to refine her art.

Bryne suffers as all Austen biographers do from a lack of evidence regarding Austen’s personal life. Of the thousands of letters she must have written in her lifetime, only a couple of hundred survive. We are fortunate that she was a published author in her lifetime otherwise even these and the few letters sent to her by family and friends might well have been consigned to the rubbish or fire.

Nevertheless, on the available evidence Bryne shows that the spinster daughter of a Georgian village clergyman knows more about the human condition than one might at first think. Rather than being sheltered and borderline reclusive as some imagine her, Austen had an extensive web of social contacts throughout the country and was very active socially, travelling around the country to visit family and friends and see the sights of cities such as London and Bath as well as small towns and villages. This network of individuals from country neighbours and landed gentry, was littered with delightful and extravagant personalities, some with life-stories stranger than fiction that must have provided grist for Austen’s literary mill. No one who writes social satire with the cutting wit and comedic flair of Austen could have lived all her life in amongst the same 30 people in quiet Southern England.

 Jane Austen. 

To take as an example chapter 12, in which Bryne’s discusses the hottest political topic of Austen’s day; the slave trade. The ‘small thing’ is a portrait of two beautiful young women; one white, one black. The portrait is entitled 'The Daughters of Mansfield' and the two girls are not the child of gentry and her maid as one might assume for the period, but adopted daughters of Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice who made monumental rulings on the rights of slaves. Austen was herself a staunch abolitionist. In her wide connections she knew several families who profited from the slave trade, owned or grew up in plantations in the Indies and her brothers in the Royal Navy held up slave ships as part of their national duty. She was knowledgeable and passionate on the topic, as we can see in Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price’s extensive reading and quoting of abolitionist writers Thomas Clarkson and Dr Johnson and of course in her vitriolic treatment of any of her characters bound up in the slave trade.

'Daughters of Mansfield'

Like all of her novels, Mansfield Park is full of nuances and references that would be lost on modern readers. The name of the house, built on the profits of slaving, is an ironic reference to the Lord Chief Justice Mansfield. Mrs Norris, the horrendous bullying aunt in the same novel and one of Austen’s most repulsive characters, could be named for Robert Norris, who promised to serve the abolitionist cause but spoke against it in parliament.

Frances O'Conner as Fanny Price in the 1999 film adaptation of Mansfield Park.
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things also provides fascinating insights in to Georgian England. In chapter2 The Indian Shawl, Bryne examines Austen’s knowledge of and relations in Britain’s colonies, most importantly India. As well as merchants and seaman, Austen had a vivacious

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Breakfast review: Jam in Nundah

There is a snippet of Sandgate Road that most people don't travel on. Only locals take the turn off to go over the George Bridges Tunnel (irony, anyone) and down the three block section of road I think of as the Nundah High Street. It's nice bit of road that helps the area feel like a properly lived-in suburb with pub, cafes and shops.

On that little bit of high street is Jam, probably the most popular breakfast joint in the area. It doesn't matter what time of a weekend morning you walk part it, Jam is packed and has a few people patiently waiting for a table.

This Saturday, in the steady rain, my plus one and I spontaneously visited Jam for a rainy-day hot-breakfast treat. And it was pretty clear to us why it was packed out all weekend.

The menu was typical breakfast eggs benedict, various stacks and french toast but with just the right amount of interesting. A bit of chorizo here, salsa there. I love going out for breakfast and I appreciate thoughtful and interesting breakfast menus, but I also don't want to have to over-think my choice. It's breakfast. I probably haven't had coffee yet and I don't want to have to debate between organic sausage roulade or mushroom three cheese two-egg-white omelette.

Jam's menu is tasty but undemanding and even better, reasonably priced. I would have been happy with just about anything but I chose corn and capsicum fritters with avocado and tomato salsa and balsamic dressing.

Corn and capsicum fritters with avocado and tomato salsa and balsamic dressing, $14.

My plus one had a make-up plate of scrambled eggs on toast with extra toast and bacon and we shared a side of hash browns, for $13 then the hash browns were $3.

With a coffee each, one soy and one in a mug, the total bill came to $37 and we were very happy and very full afterwards. 

Other considerations; the service was cheerful and very quick, no complaints at all. It was a nice place to sit and the indoors/outdoors nature of the cafe meant a lot of noise drifted out while fresh air wafted in. Yes, you are likely to have to wait for a table but no one had to wait long. 

The special was sweet potato and pancetta patties, cheese kransky, maple roasted cherry toms and fried eggs on sourdough with various pickles for $17. The couple next to us got one of those each and neither finished it it was so large. It looked very tasty.

If you're a north-sider I would definitely recommend Jam as a hale and hearty breakfast location.

Jam 4012 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Book review: Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

I’ve never read a Stephanie Plum novel before but they’re colourful and popular so I was looking forward to losing my Evanovich virginity. First few chapters; not so impressed. It read like the cheap and predictable detective stories that other books mocked wrapped up in exploding cars and needless dull detail. However, I did end up enjoying the story and the insane mix of gun fights, fried chicken, sex and questionable dialogue. I was properly engrossed by a third of the way through and keen to see how she’d clear up the hat-trick of mysteries in only two chapters.

Would I go back and read the others? Yes, I would. It’s hard to find light but entertaining books to fill in the gaps between my sometimes very heavy reading habits. Is it good detective fiction? It’s great cheap-blockbuster reading. But if I wanted to sit down and enjoy a murder mystery I’d go for a Phryne Fisher novel.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Five for Friday

This week Embassy Bar is re-opening as the CBD's first craft beer bar. Is this a little unbelievable to any other local Brisbane-ites? 

A cooking couple’s 100 rules of dinner. Some fun, some practical but worth a read for those of you who enjoying cooking. Also a great cooking blog, if you're in to that sort of thing. 

Some example 'rules': 
  • 18. Kitchen chairs should be red. Or at least fun.
  • 59. When cooking steak on the grill, get a nice char over hot coals and then move it to a less hot part of the grill — i.e. over indirect heat. Test for doneness by pressing down on the meat with your finger. When it’s ready, it will have the consistency of the flesh at the base of your thumb. Once it’s firm, you have overcooked it.
  • 77. If you cook dinner for someone, and that person is not super forthcoming with his or her expressions of happiness or gratitude, you must (a) fight every urge to ask them if they like it, and (b) think twice about cooking for that person again. 

Courtesy of A Dinner Love Story. 

The home made gin kit. Otherwise known as the perfect gift for any of my friends. 

Reasons my son is crying. Incredibly un-PC perhaps but after a while also very funny!

World's most colourful cities. I want to visit them all.

  Júzcar, Spain (top) and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (bottom). Images courtesy of Travel and Leisure.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Trivia at Kettle & Tin

Kettle & Tin may be less than a year old but they are already a Paddington institution, alleviating the weekend brunch stress on Anouk and going that step further with wine tastings (such as the Rose Revolution one I attended last year) and a pretty smashing dinner menu.

In March 2013, they launched once monthly trivia nights, then it was once a fortnight and now trivia is held every Tuesday night. It's free to participate, there are prizes for every round and $10 dinner specials.

Last night I and two girlfriends tried it out. I booked us a table and we arrived promptly at 6:30 for some brain-warming wine and food. The two $10 specials were whitebait and chips and bacon and truffle macaroni cheese. We immediately ordered the macaroni cheese, which a waiter informed us was 'outstanding', accompanied by confit duck nachos (which I have been wanting to try for weeks), the house terrine and orange and walnut salad, washed down with a couple of glasses of Merlot. All of it delicious and the macaroni cheese really hit the spot on a slightly chilly night.

Bacon and truffle macaroni cheese with a side of Penny's Hill Merlot.

The house terrine; pork and pistachio with gluten-free bread.

 Orange and walnut salad

Confit duck nachos

The trivia, now, if we'd been the full six person team I'd booked for, we might have stood a chance. But between the three of us and particularly with our limited (utter rubbish) musical knowledge we were not the best team.

 If there had been more questions about food we might have scored a little higher.

Not that we cared. We were having a great time and were getting reasonable scores, considering this was proper trivia and we were all a little out of practice. We were pleased we knew 'Name the three letter word for where oysters reside' (bed); 'What gas that yeast produces causes bread to rise?' (CO2) and 'What number is Aluminium on the periodic table?' (13).

Asked to name by sight Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift albums, the name of the Professor who once featured in Cadbury ads or the science of moving liquids and we were, frankly, stumped.

Our end score sheet.  Not the best scores but not too poor either.

It was a fun night. Three rounds of Trivia ran from 7 - 9pm, food and drink were quick and tasty and the whole room seemed to be enjoying themselves. Next time we go, we'll be taking a bigger team with at least one person who really knows their music.

If you're interested in partaking of some K&T trivia I recommend booking. The restaurant was packed and I think a few people had to be turned away.

Kettle & Tin on Urbanspoon

Friday, 5 April 2013

Five for Friday

Great Challenges in Global Health is calling for submission to develop the next generation of condom. Because let's face it, there hasn't been a whole lot of technological improvement there for some 400 years. The project is receiving financial support from the Bill Gates Foundation. I just thought this was interesting. Your awareness has been raised this Friday! 

Kevin McCloud has a Pinterest page. For any other Grand Design freaks out there. Seriously is a great show to have on while cooking dinner, though. 

Brisbane City Council City Centre MasterPlan Ideas Fiesta. A three-week long program of free public events.  

A website has done a list of their favourite DIY fashion bloggers and posts. The post itself isn't great but you can look through the websites and projects and find some great new blogs and ideas. Personally, I loved this one on Maegan. I wish I'd seen this months ago, I might have tried this to have one 'neon' item in my wardrobe.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

My new favourite tumblr: Des Hommes et des Chatons

I was going to wait and put this in Five for Friday but I can't wait that long to share!

Des Hommes et des Chatons.

As you can see, too many good images to choose from, so I went a little crazy.

Yes, I am going to turn in to a scary old cat lady. And I'm ok with that. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Easter in Maleny

For me, the Easter long-weekend is all about visiting my parents at their home in Maleny. For four days I wander around town and take lazy walks, read and snooze in comfy armchairs and of course, eat and drink gloriously. So this year, Easter was the perfect opportunity to introduce my British guest to a part of Australia I dearly love.

We headed up early on Friday morning, just skipping the traffic jams. First up, after the necessary morning tea/coffee and cake, was the tour of the garden. My parents have the standard large Maleny garden and every time I visit I need to be updated on all the changes; trees have come down, shrubs gone up, new veggies have been planted and new animals have taken up residence. The big new addition this time was a native bee hive, installed to help the overall health of the garden and encourage the re-generation of native bee populations in the area.The bees are very small and sting-less so you can get up close and watch as they come and go.

The hive on a stake in the veggie patch.

Native bees flying in and out, feeding the hive.

On top of these native additions, my mother is slowly building up a private art collection in the garden. There are old school-pottery projects, wood-carved seats and Portuguese roosters hidden around corners. The newest installations were her birthday and christmas gifts; a rat with attitude and a Kiwi.

The mushroom garden.

Lemons, lemons, lemons. Now where is the gin?

Friday afternoon we took a trip to Gardner's Falls. Once it was the waterhole only locals knew about, now it is on the list of spots to visit for day trippers. On this bright sunny afternoon it was packed out with visitors. No photos, because I feel weird taking snaps of strangers in their togs. Also, I could not have taken a single photo without including a bad tattoo. I have a very low opinion of the standard of tattoos in Australia. Too many, too poorly thought out, too brightly coloured and too tacky. Sitting in the stream of the falls, watching the parade of teenagers and parents pass by, it was a pretty horrifying show. Better as few people as possible see the giant purple owl stretched across some pasty guy's sunken chest or Marilyn's face wreathed in skulls.

Taken on an afternoon walk past farmland and the Maleny Dairy.

When we woke on Saturday it had rained all night and didn't look like stopping. Nevertheless, in the drizzle and mist we set off to do the Mary Cairncross rainforest walk in the hope of spotting some Pademelons before the tourist hoards arrived. We were not disappointed and saw eight of these charming little marsupials, some of them right up close. Read about our other wildlife encounters here.

Red-legged Pademelons.

Walking through the rainforest at first light, with the chilly mist and drizzle of rain and no one else near was a little magical and made dragging ourselves out of bed worth it.

We were lucky to come home to a full continental breakfast with steaming mugs of tea and coffee, which helped the morning chill. This almost the least impressive meal of the weekend, but the only one I could sneak a photograph of. The next morning was brioche french toast with freshly stewed plum and vanilla yoghurt, but I was too busy scoffing that to pause for photography.
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