Eat here: Gabriel’s On The Bay, Port Arthur, Tasmania

Gabriel’s On The Bay
6955 Arthur Hwy, Port Arthur, Tasmania
http://stewartsbaylodge.com.au

My mum, auntie and grandfather took a little trip to Tasmania this week, so I thought I’d take a quick trip back this morning,  too – I’m revisiting one of the best seafood meals I’ve ever had at Gabriel’s On The Bay.

Located within Stewarts Bay Lodge, itself nestled between a beach and forest, you’d never know it was there unless you were looking for it. But wind your way through the holiday cabins, and you end up at a beautiful little restaurant set just on the water with a stunning view, especially at sunset.

Wanting to treat ourselves to some of the seafood the area is so well known for, we started with the pan fried Tasmanian scallops with chilli, crispy pancetta & garlic, served on house made squid ink linguini. Easily one of the best things either of us have ever eaten – al dente linguini, and buttery scallops.. so much wow.


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For mains, husband had a hankering for some proper fish and chips, and went with the beer battered fish with chips, salad & wasabi mayo. Super white and tender fish, super crispy batter, and golden fried chips. Winner.


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I went with a special, the salmon, sitting on a green salad and topped with a delicious cucumber and pineapple salsa. It was fresh and delicious, and not to sound repetitive, but that fish was AMAZING.

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You know you’re dealing with seriously fresh and good quality seafood when you can’t smell anything remotely fishy coming from your plates, and we didn’t. It wasn’t a particularly cheap meal, but the food, the view and the service combined to make it a brilliant experince – watching a band of adorable little wallabies come out at dusk to collect leftovers out the front didn’t hurt, either 🙂

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Eat here: Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant, Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant
119-121 Nguyễn Thái Học, Minh An, tp. Hội An
http://www.hoiansakura.com/

Back to Vietnam this morning, to one of the most brilliant restaurant experiences I’ve ever had. On the banks of Hoi An’s Thu Bon River stands a beautiful, golden building. It’s clearly been there for a while, with the peeling and faded yellow paint and those little signs of decay that make buildings like this look so perfect. I would have thought a building like this would house a crappy, touristy restaurant, with a Vietnamese-by-numbers menu and overpriced seafood, but the sight of that little terrace overlooking the river and street below was too much, and we decided to treat ourselves to a “fancy” dinner one night.

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Long story short, great decision. The service was amazing from the moment we stepped up past the entry threshold – the Vietnamese are so friendly and genuine, you never feel like an imposition or that they’re only being nice because they’re employed to do so. Seated up on the terrace, we had the perfect view. And the menu was phenomenal… We over-ordered, obviously, but really couldn’t help ourselves!

White rose dumplings topped with fried shallots and dipping sauce.
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Mixed appetizer platter.
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DIY rice paper rolls with grilled pork skewers, bahn cuon, and salad. We thankfully got a quick crash course in the proper way to layer and wrap these, and they were great!
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Duck salad. This was amazing! So fresh, perfect mid-meal palate cleanser, but it would have made a perfect meal on its own, too.
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Husband’s choice – beef noodles with veggies. He loved it.
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And my choice – prawns cooked in coconut milk. This was magic, pure and simple. The best seafood dish I have ever eaten, my goodness it was good!
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Plus a few beers for husband, and a few coconut waters for me, I think we paid around AUD$60.00 for all of that… we couldn’t believe it! The prices was ridiculously cheap for the amount and quality of the food we had, the view was the best in the city, the service was wonderful, and it was the perfect dinner experience. Don’t let appearances deceive you – add it to the list of places to eat at in Hoi An. And ask for a terrace table!

Eat here: Mures Upper Deck, Hobart (seafood)

Mures Upper Deck
Victoria Dock, Hobart
http://mures.com.au/upper-deck/

 

So apparently everyone in Hobart knew to book their Good Friday seafood dinner well in advance. Everyone except us, that is. Luckily, we had an AMAZING Airbnb with a little kitchen so I could put together a delicious little dinner for us, and we decided to treat ourselves to a nice seafood dinner on the Saturday night instead. We booked a table at the place we originally wanted to try out, Mures Upper Deck.

Sitting up on the second floor, overlooking the water, it seemed the perfect spot for a fancy feast. This beautiful restaurant is part of the empire started by the Mure family,  back in the 1970s. They were new to the area and weren’t satisfied with the lack of fresh, local, quality seafood, so they got fishing. Not only do they run a business as fishmongers, but they now have a few eateries for people to enjoy their catches without having to cook it up themselves.  We were shown to a seat by the window and handed our menus, and decided pretty quickly…

We started with the Mures Atlantic Salmon Gravlax Plate ($17.00), which I absolutely loved. It was buttery soft, and without even a hint of fishy smell, you knew it was super fresh. The perfect starter.

Then, wanting to try everything, we decided to share the Mures Seafood Basket for two ($90.00). It had a bit of everything – nori crumbed blue eye trevella, beer battered fish of the day, crumbed scallops, Bass Strait squid, grilled prawns and salmon skewers, and a very decent serving of waffle fries. The salmon, prawns and fish were all absolutely phenomenal – again, soft, buttery and fresh, no knife was necessary for any of the fish, it all fell apart at the touch of the fork. So good! The only thing we could really fault were the scallops – the didn’t need to be crumbed and deep fried, just a quick saute in butter would have been more than enough!

The food was pretty good, and we while we were a little apprehensive about spending $90 on a seafood basket, we more than got our money worth with the enormous serving. The service was really fantastic, too; wonderful staff who were efficient and friendly, and knew their menu well. Throw in the beautiful view, and it’s a pretty gorgeous dinner option if you’re feeling like a special treat   : )

Mure's Upper Deck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cook this: one pot quinoa fish pilaf (from the Simplicious cookbook)

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As promised yesterday, I’m sharing today my Tuesday night fish pilaf dinner, which I cooked from Sarah Wilson’s Simplicious cookbook 🙂 I love this recipe – it was SO easy it’s almost not even a recipe, which is what I like midweek when I’m knackered from work, want something made from scratch, still healthy, but can’t be bothered with anything fancy or complicated with 50 ingredients and steps. Enter Simplicious. 

To save me re-typing, I did follow the recipe in the book below, with my only changes being:


1.  I used vegetable stock from the packet (I know, totally against her theory, but I already had it and it would have been wasteful to throw it out and make it from scratch!
2. I added in some extra veggies in the form of capsicum
3. I used a basa fillet and a squid tube from our local market – they were both enormous so this made 4 serves (yay for leftovers!)
4. For the herbs/spices, I used fresh coriander and mint, and a mix of dried smoky paprika, turmeric and cumin
5. I added toasted almonds at the end so they’d be nice and crunchy

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Changes I’d make next time would be to add some more salt and coriander through the quinoa, and use about a third of the stock the recipe called for. The fresh herbs and lemon juice were an absolute must to give it flavour; I’d probably be using some stronger herbs and spices on the seafood, too, to give it bit more kick. All in all, great quick & easy mid-week meal, and a fantastic way to add seafood to your diet  little more regularly.

Photo essay: our Italian family Christmas Eve tradition… Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!! I hope everyone enjoyed the day with their loved ones and made it onto the “good” list and had a visit from the jolly man 😉

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Seeing as how Christmas is (to me, anyway) more about spending time with the people you love, and also as how this blog is in large part my digital time capsule, I wanted to share something a bit special this morning as we all rush off to open gifts and deliver trays of pavlova to the family lunch table. I wanted to share a few pictures of our most important and enduring family tradition; dinner with dad’s side of the family and his parents’ house. More commonly and affectionately known as “The Feast.”

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Traditionally, Italians don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve; instead, they indulge in seafood. And so every year, Nonno hits the Preston Market, sparing no expense for the freshest prawns, calamari and lobster he can get his hands on (and being a decades old customer, he gets some pretty good stuff).

The Feast happens Christmas Eve, every year, without fail. I’ve only missed one; last year, because we were in Chicago (eating Italian food at Eataly, because anything else on Christmas Eve would be sacreligious). International travel not-withstanding, it’s a given that we’re all there every year. Mum and dad, my auntie and uncle, us three girls plus our other halves, and my cousins. Nonna and Nonno host every year in their big, beautiful house, and whatever else has been going on is forgotten for the night. This year is the first year we’ve done it without mum and dad; it’s their turn to be overseas this year. So I thought I’d capture a bit of the fun for them so that they wouldn’t have to completely miss it 🙂

 

Tradition dictates the following:

– But first, wine. This year’s conversation between Nonno and I:
“Jessica. Wine?”
“Yeah, why not Nonno?! Just a little bit though, I’m driving.”
“No! Let’s get drunk!”

– Food. Calamari come first. If you arrive early enough, you make your way to the pizza room to “help” fry them (read: eat a few pieces before anyone else). Once served at the dinner table, fights to the death over the golden grilled pieces of deliciousness are not uncommon. My cousin has been known to eat more than the rest of us combined (that kind of behaviour has now been outlawed).

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– Then comes pasta. Because that’s what Nonno wants to eat. Every. Single. Day. There are also those two idiots who have as much freshly grated parmesan in the bowl as pasta – I’m one of them.

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– Next up: giant mutant prawns and lobster. They’re fresh and clean and absolutely enormous, served with lemon wedges, tartare sauce, and a simple salad dressed with olive oil, salt and vinegar. My uncle waits (sometimes) for everyone to take their share of the salad, then proceeds to eat his share straight from the big metal bowl, while laughing maniacally at whatever’s going on around him.

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– Also a few bowls of bocconcini. Nipple jokes are inevitable. They don’t make us giggle any less now that we’re all adults.

– And don’t forget the fruit platters, Lindt balls, coffees and Nonna and Zia’s zeppole – Italian sugar-coated donuts made from the lightest, fluffiest dough. Zia even made a few balls and filled them with Nutella; further proof that Italians are the original hipsters. We’ve been making this stuff for years!

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The only thing missing this year was mum and dad, who are currently enjoying a beautiful, cold Christmas in a little Italian town with mum’s extended family 🙂

So, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Buon Natale! I hope everyone had/has a great weekend 🙂

Cook this: quick & healthy – citrus & coriander snapper on baked corn & pineapple rice (gluten free/low FODMAP)

After our crazy busy Saturday of Christmas shopping, normal people would have spent Sunday chilling out. But we’re not normal people; we’re idiots. After crawling into bed just before midnight, we set the alarm for 7am so we could get a work out in before heading back to the shopping centres to find some Christmas decorations for the tree and the house. The alarm went off, we both groaned and rolled around not wanting to move too far, but we dragged ourselves out of bed anyway. We decided to make it a big walk with Marley so he could get his walk in too, and so we could enjoy the sunshine while it was out. We laughed at the idea that normal people wouldn’t be doing this to themselves – normal people would be sleeping in on a Sunday, enjoying a lazy breaky, making no concrete commitments to doing anything much. But there we were.

On reflection, the pursuit of being fit and healthy has always been there for me. I always checked out magazine articles that had the little workout tips or healthy eating ideas in them. I researched exercise plans online when we got the internet (around when I started high school). I studied calorie counts when the Calorie King website got popular. Despite the fact that I’ve always been at a healthy weight, my family has always been healthy, we were never fed anything but fruit and veggies and home cooked, balanced meals as kids (thanks, mum!), and none of us have ever been close to overweight, it’s always been a bit of a preoccupation of mine. I guess that’s why setting my alarm for 7am on a Sunday to exercise doesn’t really strike me as odd. As kids, we were always active. Basketball training, tennis lessons, dance classes, taekwondo. Whatever it was, it wasn’t questioned. Time to go to basketball? Sweet, let’s go. There was never the option of “nah, I can’t be bothered, I’d rather sleep in, play video games for 3 hours and eat 4 bags of chips while I’m doing it.” We just got on with it.

So, we got up, we got moving, we got a little overenthusiastic and may or may not have started decorating the house in red and green already… But at the end of it all, we still needed dinner. It needed to be quick, healthy, nothing too heavy, fructose free, and use the snapper fillets we’d bought at the market on Friday night. I have a few notebooks in the kitchen with recipes I’ve cut out of magazines and collected over the years – in  the one with the seafood recipes in it, I found a recipe from an old Women’s Health magazine from years ago, and it looked just about perfect. As usual, I messed about with it to make it more tummy friendly and quick and simple, so here’s my take on their Costa Rican snapper!

Ingredients (makes 4 serves):
– juice of 1 small orange
– juice of half a lemon or lime
– 2 tbsp oil (I used garlic infused oil)
– 1 clove garlic minced (leave it out if you’re a low FODMAPper)
– 4 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
– 1 tsp caster sugar
– salt and pepper
– 4 snapper fillets, approx 120g each
– 2 cups cooked brown rice
– 2 green capsicums, diced
– 1 ear of corn kernels
– small tin diced pineapple
– 2 tomatoes, diced

Method:
1. Combine the orange and lemon or lime juices, the oil, garlic, coriander, sugar and a little salt and pepper in a large tub. Add the fish fillets and shake the tub to coat well. Marinate for 15 minutes.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and grab a large baking dish out.

3. In a large bowl, combine the rice, green capsicum, corn kernels and pineapple (I left the pineapple out because husband and I both like cold pineapple more than having it warmed up, but you can go either way), and spread it over the baking dish.

4. Lay the fish fillets on top of the rice and spoon the rest of the marinating mixture over the top.

5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the rice is cooked through – serve fresh out of the oven with fresh diced tomatoes (and the pineapple if you didn’t put it in the rice).

Eat & shop here: Tsukiji Fish Market and outer market streets, Tokyo, Japan

Tsukiji Market
By train: Oedo line to Tsukijishijo or Hibiya line to Tsukiji
http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm

Another day, another market in another part of the world… For someone who’s inherently shy and withdrawn and has a bit of a hard time with social anxiety, there is almost no where in the world I’m more comfortable than in crazy, bustling foreign marketplaces. I know, I’m weird.

I couldn’t tell you why, but there’s something about being able to blend into the crowd and observe the mayhem that I find really comforting. And to that end, the Tsukiji Market area was the perfect place for me! I’d read that you have to be there really early (like 5am) to see the actual fish market in action; we rolled up around 8am though, which was just in time to see everything being packed up, which was still pretty cool to watch…

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After a bit of walking around and a bit of shopping (found a little stall selling the most beautiful tea pots and tea cups), I was getting hungry. Being one of the world’s premier fish markets, I couldn’t leave without a traditional sushi breakfast, but the lines were insane! 50 minute wait with a few dozen other tourists?! Not a chance! Just as defeat was looming, I saw this place with an A-frame out the front; a quick peak through the window showed not a tourist in sight, which meant that’s where I wanted to eat.  As fate would have it, great decision.

Comfortably some of the best sushi of my life. For around AUD$25.00, I received a bowl of hot miso soup, an enormous piece of teriyaki grilled eel, and the amazing spread you see below. It was the smallest breakfast option on the menu and it was massive! I couldn’t quite get through it all which I didn’t think was too bad, until I looked around and saw everyone else around me plowing through bowls twice the size as mine with ease! The Japanese are BIG breakfast eaters!!! Like a lot of other places, no English was spoken and I ordered by pointing to the laminated menu handed to me, and it was such an awesome experience which I feel really fortunate I got to enjoy!

 

After breaky, we went our separate ways, and mine took me through the outer market streets on the way back to the train station. I made a mental note to return, and that’s exactly what I did a few days later. The outer markets are amazing, and you’ll encounter them on the left side of Shin-Ohashi Street walking from Tsukiji Station towards the fish market. Food galore for the most part, with plenty of other goodies thrown in for your shopping pleasure! I’d recommend starting with the most magnificent omelette you’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring, from one of the many folded omelette stalls than line the streets…

And then, just walk. Enjoy the people watching. Let yourself melt into the market and take it all in.

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