Published in the Inner West Independent and City News.
To combat my impending sense of doom as Christmas lurches ever closer, my final foodie adventures for 2011 offer you some last minute gift ideas, immersed in a sea of drinks. I’d even go so far as to say: I’ve found my Christmas spirit. *hic*
In A Pickle
With only three shopping days to Christmas, it’s time I put down my humbug and threw you all a bone. Local restaurateur Geert Elzinga from Essen Restaurant has had his team of chefs pickling a plethora of vegies. His cute jars contain everything from gherkins to beetroot to zingy baby onions swimming in balsamic. Use them as décor to convince your family you actually cook in your designer kitchen. Or, if you’re stuck for a last minute gift but want give the impression you avoided capitalism this Christmas, you could even pretend you made them as the jars are label-free! Prices range from $10-$22 and he’s open every day except the day.
Edging Out Eggnog
Knowing how I feel about cream and free-range eggs, you’ve probably already pegged me as an eggnog aficionado. I am, but I’m time poor, and nobody bought me that cherry red KitchenAid of my dreams. In despair I’ve turned to Baileys Biscotti [RRP $30.99]. It actually strokes many of the same urges, with a distinctive twice-baked Italian biscuit taste that makes it all too easy to consume. Ramp up the difficulty with a shot of Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum in each glass, and you’ll soon be shouting: ‘Who needs a KitchenAid anyway!’ Word.
Since becoming a corporate drone, I’ve found a host of new things to feel guilty about. Firstly, there’s actually liking that my barista remembers my coffee and my name. Secondly, there’s liking it so much, I now drink a coffee every day for to ensure one moment of being seen. I guess that’s how I know what to buy that awkward colleague, as that person in the next cubicle is now me! I’d be very pleased with one of these Milano Coffee Cups by Milk + Sugar [RRP $19.95]. They’re ceramic with a silicone lid – so you’ll look righteously environmental whilst neatly eliminating the telltale signs of being addicted to your barista from your waste paper bin. Everybody wins…
One way to avoid the inevitable police presence on the roads this holiday period is to drink locally and stumble home. Last week I popped down to a local pub I haven’t visited since they stopped the popular Bloody Mary Breakfast Club. These days Balmain’s Exchange Hotel is too modern for that nonsense, and who’d want a retro drink when you’ve got a mighty fine mixologist like Ryan Norman? Ryan’s done the rounds of Cruise, Arthouse, The Loft and Four in Hand, but for the last eighteen months he’s been flexing his skills on Balmain locals, attempting “to open people’s eyes to new ingredients and products they may not be familiar with.” I was most taken with his Lychee and Lavender Fix, which managed to take an ingredient I’m not overly fond of (lavender) and show it to me in a whole new light. Rinsing the taste of family out of your mouth has never looked so inviting. I suggest you begin with his Elderflower Gimlet made on Hendricks Gin and St Germain. It’s a great (leg) opener.
The Other Side
This NYE I’ll be staying on this side of the Anzac Bridge, though it’s not for want of excellent waterside options. Good parties abound, dotted all over the harbour, including in the star-studded restaurants inside The Star's now forward-facing casino. NYE 2011 Opera Kitchen gives you great food, a superb view and entertainment like fire dancers, drummers, stilt walkers and body painting for $295/head. The price is steep if you consider you’ll have to pay for what you drink, but with dishes from the whole Opera Kitchen stable (including these tasty duck pancakes), at least you'll leave well fed! Party safe, and I'll catch you all on the other side...