Peterson House – Hunter Valley

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I’m pretty lucky in my line of work. I get to chat to all the wonderful boutique wineries around Australia, encouraging them to advertise with the largest circulating Lifestyle. Food and Wine magazine! I also get to organise events for our lovely members which can include wine tastings and food matching and sometimes we even get to have a celebrity chef come in and cook up a storm for a lucky few who then sit back, taste and enjoy with wonderful, hand picked Australian wines.

My trip out to the Hunter Valley just before Christmas was a little treat as well as getting to chat to beautiful people.

When we stopped in at Peterson House we were greeted by such welcoming staff and shown to our special VIP table for a wine tasting and lunch. Of course we started on the 2008 Pinot Noir Chardonnay and moved through the whites, onto the reds and then a sticky at the end.

We all ordered lunch half way through the tasting and they truly exceeded any expectation I had.

Myself and James ordered the Barramundi fillet pan fried on a panzanella salad of sourdough, Adina olives, grilled capsicum, cherry tomatoes & ripped fresh basil tossed  in red wine vinegar & extra virgin olive oil served w a house made aioli. – Amazing and a must for any fish fanatic!

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There were four of us at lunch, both the girls had had a massive breakfast so opted for entree’s instead of mains.

One chose the Tempura battered king prawns on a seaweed salad w a fresh mango & coriander salsa (DF)

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The other one ordered the Semi dried tomatoes & caramelised onion tart w Binnorie Dairy feta and house made caramelised balsamic (which I didn’t get a photo of) but with a side of amazing polenta fries!

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These were absolutely amazing!

We were all so full from our lunch but the lovely girls at Peterson’s decided that we needed cheese to be served with the sticky white right at the end.

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All in all an amazing afternoon with great company, food and wine! What more could you ask for?!

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My Birthday

Take me back 5 years ago and my birthday meant everything to me! It wasn’t just a day, oh no! It was at least a whole weekend if not pushing it out to a week. Well, when you had as many friends as I did you needed to organise a few more dinners to fit everyone one in to celebrate you turning another year older!

This year was different though. The two months leading up to my birthday were filled with sadness and loss. My mum got diagnosed with cancer and my husband got made redundant. This all happened a few weeks before Christmas and was a big blow to the emotions and wallet!

Over Christmas we had an amazing time and although didn’t go as lavish as we usually would have, still had wonderful food, plenty of drinks and were surrounded by people we love dearly! New year’s came and went and I hurt my neck.

So when I was asked by hubby what I would like to do for my birthday I truly had no need or want to do anything. I am a pretty homely body as it is but this year I just didn’t feel like celebrating!

Luckily for me I have wonderful friends and family who jeered me up.

Walking into my office I found my desk covered in balloons and posters of cakes pined up on my walls! I even had gifts!

It is the responsibility of the birthday girl/boy to provide the cake for morning tea. I understand why they do this it’s so no-one’s birthday is forgotten! Being as I am not a baker and hubby isn’t working I thought he may take the roll of making my cake. Alas, no…..he would not make my cake as he was busy working hard in our back yard. I did opt for a packet mix for the cake base itself but made the icing and decorated it to boot!

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Needless to say after the chocolate coating covered in marshmallows and raspberry flavoured M’n’M’s and the filling being white chocolate, my colleagues were flying high for a good couple of hours!

V decided we had to go for a drink after work so I had luckily planned it with hubby that he would drop me to work and then come back in and be my chauffer.

We were tossing up between the Reserve Wine Bar a newish establishment opened up in the Mall of Newcastle or Les Passe Temp, a French inspired bar/restaurant located at the end of Hunter Street.

Being as someone we used to work with was behind the opening of the Reserve Wine Bar I decided I should go and check it out!

Being as V and hubby were both driving we were taking it easy. V and I opted for the well-mannered Rose, to the nose you got great smells of strawberries and watermelon. On the palate the wine was delicate and slightly dry, with great berry notes and a hint of melon. Delicious to say the least! B went for a Founders Brewing All Day IPA which was really fruity smelling and tasting. He enjoyed it but was only allowed one as driving!

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We ordered the specials to share as well which were the mushroom aranchini balls and lamb empanadas. Unfortunately, we were starving at this point and I completely forgot to take photos. HOWEVER, they were delicious and went down a treat.

I highly recommend a trip to Reserve Wine Bar. Don’t expect your bill to be small but do expect to be wowed by the interior, the serve and knowledge everyone had and the table serve to boot.

Hubby had gone ahead and booked us a table at Pauls Asian Affair. We well renowned restaurant in New Lambton that we had been to a few years ago. We got there and I ordered a Traminer-Riesling. Working in the wine industry I did begrudge paying $28 for a bottle of Rosemount wine when you can buy it for under $10 but this was the cheapest on the menu and the rest were even more absurd!

We opted for a prawn toast to start and a nice big bowl of delicious prawn crackers, not overly Thai inspired but still hit the spot! For the mains we opted for a fried rice, crispy fried chicken with a hot sweet and sour sauce and spicy sate pork.

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We were so full that we didn’t manage to get through half of it but luckily for us we are able to take home both unfinished food and wine! So that was a plus point!

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I recommend Pauls Asian Affair for somewhere with great food and fast table service, but don’t go there to enjoy wine. You will just end up bankrupt!

Meatless Monday

Brad and I tend to eat a lot of meat. I think it has something to do with the fact that Brad thinks he is a pure carnivore and not a herbivore at all!

If Brad could get away without eating any vegetable I believe he would choose this option. Me, however, when I came to Australia it would have been very easy to slip into a “comfort food”, “non veggie” type of diet as it was the first time living out of home! I did, however, think back to what is good for you and made an elected decision to eat lots of veggies and fruit. I know Brad would agree that he is thankful that I plate up mounds of veggies on most evenings, sometimes even ones he has expressed a dislike too (Egg plant/Aubergine, Squash, asparagus) but he eats them. I don’t serve him sweet potato as he really dislikes that which is a shame because I love it and it’s a GREAT alternative to normal potato. I have on occasion mixed normal with sweet potato just as a compromise!

I find fruit harder to consume then vegetables, maybe its the time it takes to prepare? Or the fact that it is cold? With veggies, I guess you prepare them as you prepare any dinner where I don’t know anyone who has fruit salad all the time for dinner or lunches? Fruit generally, in my eyes, just takes more effort overall to consume.

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So this leads me to Meatless Mondays. I think I saw this somewhere on the internet whilst I was looking for a funny wine meme or something along those lines. The two words “Meatless Monday” stuck and I decided over the weekend that I was going to uphold this. I did however have turkey mince at lunch time so have decided that it will just be our dinners on a Monday that will become meatless.

To ease Brad into this I decided on a Spicy Indian Dahl with pumpkin, which would have been great on it’s own, but I did spice up some fish and baked it before adding it into the Dahl. This dish is DELISH! I mean it! Although it took about an hour to cook it was well worth the wait! The texture and flavour that oozed out of those little lentils was amazing, the plain basa fish coasted in dried spices really works a treat and overall was a hit with hubby and I. There was even enough left over for lunches the next day (dahl and pumpkin only).

So watch this space for more meatless Monday recipes and experiences!

You can find the Dahl Recipe under Vegetables/Sides

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Cooking with “whatever is in my fridge”

After a lovely but busy weekend attending the football on Friday night courtesy of work and a corporate box and then popping across to Bolwarra for our friends “thank god it’s the end of Dry July” party we were pretty tired and somewhat hung-over for most of yesterday.

I had bought Poussin to cook as our roast dinner but no matter how tempted I was in cooking with these little birds, I just could not find the energy and therefore did not want to disappoint with a half hearted dinner.

Brad was super intent on DVD’s and Maccas so we ended up with that for lunch. He super sized my meal as we got a free glass with a large meal. Not that we need any extra glasses but hell, that’s what my hung-over husband wanted so that’s what he got J  It was a joint decision for dinner. A massive cheese platter, which turns out, other hung-over friends of ours, had reverted too also.

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I had already bought the king island blue and brie Thursday as I had been in the shops and they were discounted. YUM this brie is the creamiest brie I have ever had the pleasure of eating!!! Needless to say that was the first cheese finished off the cheese board! The smoked salmon on the board is not a regular feature of our cheese boards, but after our friends Tracy and Bren had cooked up a beautiful eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and avocado for breakfast I was just craving more!

I topped my cheese board off with a beautiful cab sav as my husband sat there in disgust – he tends to have 2-3 day long hangovers……..I’d say he would still be feeling seedy this morning!

In between our maccas lunch and cheese board dinner I did have the time to throw into a pan some onions, garlic, cauliflower, carrots and green beans, cover with stock and water and blitz together “whatever is in my fridge” soup for lunches this week!

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Tonight’s dinner is courtesy of a lovely couple who bought over sausages on Sat night for the BBQ. Well, Bren and Trace don’t eat meat so I gladly offered to take them off their hands! So its bangers and mash tonight with a little twist. Onion gravy and wilted spinach! Well you know me, can’t have a dish without some sort of green on it!!!

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Leftovers – keep them or chuck them out?

How often do you catch yourself serving up enough rice to feed a small country or carving up a large roast bought for 3 but could easily feed 7? Do you try and stuff it in so not to waste or do you think about reusing it in a creative left over way or do you just simply throw it out without a care as to who could have enjoyed your hard labour of cooking?

Up until about a year ago I was terrible for cooking far too much rice. Too much to the point that when feeding 2 I could have easily fed 10. I think it’s more about how small it looks initially and then remembering how much it expands after cooking!

I now know just 1 cup of uncooked rice is enough for me and brad and there will be a little left over in case I over do it with the main dish I am serving up with this said rice and therefore I will be able to box it up and freeze it, or Brad will have a scrummy lunch for the following day.

The problem I am finding now though is I have no care about how much I am cooking because “I will just freeze it” but it has transpired that I have had to buy a chest freezer just to contain the “leftovers”. It’s all well and good, and I do it with the best intentions, but because I love cooking so much I struggle to allow myself to partake in one of these mystery boxes that lurk in my freezer.

Well, half the boxes are still mysteries as I finally invested in a label maker and now label my boxes before they get stuffed away in the freezer so I know when they went in and what is actually in the box. Hint: Always put the label on first otherwise you freeze the box and then try you will have an epic fail! Second Hint: If you are unsure as to what is in the mystery box do not take a stab at what it could be, it’ll only make your husband upset having him believe he is having curry and it turns out to be chilli……

So I am now left with this conundrum, I cook and I do every evening try and think of something different to do. I always over cook what I am doing and therefore have to box up my leftovers and yet I can’t bring myself to get them out of the freezer and eat them as I could/should be cooking as I want to!

Does anyone else have this issue? Do you have a freezer full of food that is slowly getting frost burn because no-one is interested in eating your labours of slaving over a hot stove? Do you intentionally cook more with the great idea that you will eat this at another date and yet never do? Or are you able to cook for two and actually only cook for two, have no stray rice hanging out in the sieve?

Somebody please tell me I’m not in this alone!

Men and Meat

The first time I attempted a risotto I chose to keep it easy. As my husband kept saying, “isn’t this the dish that everyone is petrified by on those cooking shows you love?” He had a point, no-one has ever said they “love making a risotto” and no-one on my beloved cooking shows has ever come close to perfection! So it was a big challenge but I felt positive that I could pull it off.

I got everything set up and prepared and gradually added my stock to the rice. One word of advice on this……don’t think about cooking a risotto if you are hungry…..it takes a while!

When I finally got the rice perfect and all my stock had been absorbed, I ladled the risotto into my warmed bowls and served it to Brad. I watched as my husband picked his fork up and progressed to moving the risotto around his plate. After about two minutes I piped up and asked if everything was OK? to which Brad replied “where is the meat?”

Now this leads me into the real aspect of this post. What is it with men and meat? Why are vegetables to foreign to men? Why are vegetarian men deemed weaker then meat eating men?

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I did some research on the cavemen diet. The paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet) is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets. In common usage, such terms as “paleolithic diet” also refer to the actual ancestral human diet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet

So what is with this great need for meat with every meal? Even breakfast! Go to McDonalds and your breakfast muffins are egg with bacon or egg with sausage! What about just egg?? Yes, I know you can request it, or even opt for the pancakes and maple syrup but still, when did every meal of the day have to contain meat?

I understand those of you who are going to talk to me about the protein in meat, but I get loads of protein from a hard boiled egg after a work out, I do not need to chow down on a steak!

On the flip side of the coin I am concious that I could not make that decision to become vegetarian, nor could I sustain on just fish. I do love a well cooked T-bone, a succulent plump chicken breast, even that naughty pork roast with all the trimming and the best pork, crackling! I wouldn’t say I crave meat, but I sure do enjoy it when it is popped on my plate, or more likely that I have cooked it up and served it!

If cavemen survived on meat and plants around them, why did it become so horrendous to eat vegetables? Plants that are so good for your health have been branded with a taboo of being disgusting? Why? Why are the good things for us so bad? And why do we have this addiction, this need and reliance on eating meat all the time?

My husband does eat my broccoli and blue cheese soup without mentioning at all the word meat, but then I wonder, “is that because it’s a liquid and therefore his brain isn’t registering that this delicious, satisfying dish contains not one ounce of meat?”

I guess we will never get an answer to this (unless there is some scientific research that I have failed to uncover whilst thinking about writing this post!) So enjoy you meat and three veg, your juicy steak and plump chicken breasts. But remember, vegetable are not the enemy, you just think they are!!

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Crushed Expectations

You may think I’m being dramatic, over analysing, or just plain fussy but I kid you not, my expectations when it comes to a restaurant, bar or when eating out is ALWAYS crushed should I visit an establishment more then three times, or order the same dish more then once!

Don’t get me wrong this hasn’t only happened to me when it comes to food. Only 5 weeks ago my world came crushing down around me when a hairdresser, I thought had done an amazing job on my hair 6 weeks previously, proceeded to hack away at my hair and obviously was more focused on me saying I was “thinking” about having it cut off for summer, then remembering that she was “thinning” my hair, not leaving my head practically bald in spots and me devastated.

But back to my food conundrum, so last week, on our regular Friday Work Lunch, we decided to head to The Wharf Bar in Honeysuckle, NSW. Secretly inside I was exploding with excitement! The last time we had been there I was attempting a low fat diet and had a grilled chicken burger and no bun. What I secretly longed for though, was the most amazing Reef and Beef pizza with a thick, salty, zesty aioli swirl on top. *dribbles* So on Friday, when I got told this was where we were heading, I knew I didn’t even need to glance at the menu. I was having that pizza. I ordered a beer which by all means was lovely and cold. We all ordered our food and I sat back in anticipation for this beautiful reef and beef pizza (another way of saying Surf and Turf) We were being updated by Kate and Victoria about their separate journeys into buying houses when our food was finally delivered.

Talk about crushed expectations. Although I did not take a photo of my disappointing, flavour lacking pizza, I’m sure the below pictures can relay my disappointment. The first picture portrays the most amazing, flavour filled pizza, carefully constructed to be able to attack each and every taste bud I own, and the second pizza is that pure stingy felt, heart lacking, non-picturesque pizza that was actually delivered.

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Why is it that you can go and try a new cafe, bar, restaurant out and have THE most amazing experience there and then you get all geared up to go back  only to be disappointed with the lack of service, the quality of food or just the general place itself?

Above has been a long running trend for my husband and I. When I knew my mum was coming to visit from the UK, we searched for the best breakfast place in town that would offer the most extensive Gluten and Dairy free options around. We did and we went there three times before my mum eventually got to us, only to take her there and wait for over 50 minutes to get our breakfasts! Disaster, one because I was embarrassed at how much I had “bigged” this restaurant up and two because I turn nasty when I’m hungry and especially hungover!

Even friends of ours, Daisy and Christian, had raved about a local breakfast place that was close to us and that we had to try out. Again, the service was atrocious and my sweetcorn fritters with a side of Smoked Salmon came out (very late) as a soggy pancake and a pile of smoked salmon. (not complaining about the amount of smoked salmon, but it was evidently apparent that the amount of salmon on the plate was the reason they could charge $18 for this mess). Our poor friends were mortified. We have however discussed this further and are aware they have usually gone there for brunch and we were there in peak 9.30am breakfast time. But still it’s that crushed expectation when you have in your mind how amazing this experience should be.

Am I the only unlucky one who has been unfortunate enough to experience this? Is there a particular reason why this happens? Are your expectations raised after the first amazing visit and therefore you are your own worst enemy? But aren’t expectations there fore a reason, should you not strive to reach perfect of culinary expertise, or enjoy a comfortable clean environment or in fact not walk away from a salon with half your head of hair missing? Will i ever learn?