Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Adriano Zumbo, Balmain

Adriano Zumbo, The Patissierie

After assessment week, the gang with a big appetite troop down to experience the creations of Adriano Zumbo, Sydney’s answer to Pierre Herme. Our motto “travel anywhere for good food” points us in the direction of faraway Balmain. We’re glad that we finally made it there.

Adriano Zumbo, the pastry chef and creator, is really young. At 27, he runs his own patisserie that does takeaway pastries and cakes and a chocolate café. He’s an inspiration to me as he travels and notes down flavours and then experients with different ingredients and create pretty unexpected desserts. I’m also in awe of pastry chefs who continuously launch new ranges of desserts, discontented with status quo. Here at Adriano, you’ll find new ranges of desserts that change with the seasons. We were right about time for his winter collection.

As we stepped into the tiny hole in the wall patisserie, we (I) were (was) mortified that it has been raided. I’m exaggerating slightly but most of the display cabinets were almost empty. My first reaction was to exclaimed to the guy behind the counter. He then told me that there was a massive rush around noon and told us to come earlier the next time.

I always hope to see the good in every situation. In this case, it greatly helped us narrow down our choices. I cannot imagine if the full range was in sight. We’ll probably be stationed at the store for hours and getting more than we can chew on.

Even in an almost empty shop, we spent about a good fifteen minutes before we walked away with our prized goodies- two cakes and seven macarons between four of us.

Then we trooped down for a few hundred metres to Adriano’s café chocolat to order coffee and erm..more sweets.

A chocolate with a name like ‘raspberry and parmesan cheese’ would hardly go unnoticed. While some may give it looks of bewilderment or maybe disgust before turning attention to its more endearing neighbours, the more adventurous lot would be lured by the possibility of wonderment.

We belong to the latter group so each of us got a piece of that dark chocolate with raspberry and parmesan cheese. Being in a chocolat café, you can’t stop at a single chocolate piece, so we ordered a chocolate ganache macaron, a banana chocolate macaron and a earl grey flavoured macaron.

Satisfied with our lot, we wanted to dig in but not knowing where to begin. Eventually, we started off with the two cakes that we chose: Lucas rides the tube which was what I chose: macadamia praline mousse, macadamia dacquoise, vanilla chantilly, pear tartin, macademia feuilletine. Our next cake was Aranus ( I might have gotten its name wrong)..Aranus was very interesting. I wouldn’t pick this dessert so I’m glad that someone else actually did. To me, it was somewhat Asian inspired- with spiced sable biscuit, mandarin mousse, tonka bean brulee, almond and ginger crunchy bits. It was really interesting blend of flavours and textures.

Lucas rides the tube

Aranus-The winter collection

Both desserts were so different and unique in every way; it’s too hard trying to pick a favourite. It’s would be like making my sis pick out her favourite bag and she’ll justify that each bag would suit a different day and different occasion.

Our adventurous selves then emerged as we gingerly took bites of our chocolates. While I wouldn’t mind eating them again, I thought it was a bit of a push to bring the two flavours-raspberry and parmesan together. Both flavours were intense and sharp but somehow they were so far apart on the spectrum that made them seem like an awkward couple being on a blind date.

Moving on to the happy-looking and colourful macarons: the first thing we noticed was that there were of different sizes! Their flavours were unlabelled. We did try to find out what they were but we found ourselves lost in between tonka bean, pear and salted popcorn as the guy behind the counter rattled off their names.

So we had a taste test: between us, we managed to list out the flavours- (from left to right) pear, salt and vinegar, passionfruit, tonka bean, berries, mandarin orange and spice and salted popcorn.

Macarons- The winter collection

The macarons were a bit of a letdown; you cannot compared these to the ones at Pierre Herme or even La Renaissance. The stand out flavour for me is the mandarin orange and spice and the salted popcorn oh..and the tonka bean which has hints of vanilla flavour.

It was a light and delightful tea, giving us hints of what Adriano has up his sleeves and definitely leaving me wanting more surprises.

Adriano Zumbo, The Patissierie
296 Darling Street Balmain.
Ph 02 9810 7318.
Open 8 to 6 Monday to Saturday and 8 to 4 on Sundays.

Café Chocolat
Shop 5, 308 Darling Street Balmain.
Ph 02 9555 1199
Open from 8 to 4 Monday to Friday, 8 to 5 on Saturdays and 9 to 5 Sundays.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

LCB Basic- Overview of Assessment

My fruit flan- Assessment Day III

The past three days have been a stressful period for me.

Exams aren’t a new concept to me especially having gone through Singapore’s education system.

Having been through countless test and exams for fourteen out of the twenty four plus years of my life, I shouldn’t be the least thrown off by the practical exams at LCB. I hate to admit it but the past few days have been a pretty tense and intense period for me.

The practical assessment was carried out over three consecutive days: Day 1, to prepare puff pastry using a) English method, b) French method and to prepare pate sucree (sweet crust dough) for the fruit flan; Day 2, to bake ten coffee éclairs complete with coffee crème patissiere, coffee fondant icing; Day 3, to bake 5 vol-au-vent cases, 10 bouchee cases using our puff pastry dough and to bake and decorate a fruit flan. We were assessed for our hygiene, our workflow in the kitchen, and of course our products.

I must have been very worried about my assessment because that has manifested itself in my sleep. For the past three nights I have been having dreams of rolling my dough. It would take me forever to fall asleep and when I do, I dream of being in my school’s kitchen rolling out dough over and over again!

Day 1 of assessment was the more relaxed one out of the three days- after all; you are just preparing the doughs. In terms of timeline, we were given a good amount of time to work with. Apart from getting aching arms from the rolling of the puff pastry dough, it was pretty much a breeze and I found myself humming along to some odd ditty that was stuck in my head.

Day 2 of assessment was the day that I was most worried and concern about. Chef M*ichael actually warned us that this was the day where even good students stumble because so many things can go wrong. First of all, the timing is very tight. Even though three and a half hours may sound very long, the time simply slips by you when you are making éclairs because of the many components that has to be taken care of. Second of all is getting ten uniform and consistent products isn’t easy.

My greatest fear was not being able to assemble the éclairs in time. That happened to me in class. I had no time to finish filling my éclairs with pastry cream and no time to do the icing. My next stumbling block was piping the choux pastry.

The éclairs need to be uniform- of the same length and the same width. They cannot be too slim or too fat either so that was the challenge. Piping is my nemesis. So I knew that this was going to be my downfall. While piping the choux pastry, my hands were shaking! I must have been really nervous about it.

I was the last to finish the éclairs but I finished about fifteen minutes before the end of assessment which was what that mattered. Overall, I was pretty happy that the choux pastry baked beautifully, the pastry cream was smooth, shiny and of the right colour, the fondant icing was tempered well. The only unsatisfactory thing was the uniformity- some of my éclairs were too thin and the fondant icing wasn’t applied neatly enough for one of the éclairs. The sad part of that two of my ‘better-looking’ éclairs actually toppled over so I had to use my back up ones for the assessment. A pity but that shouldn’t be my excuse really- because I should be able to have twenty uniform ones..not just ten.

The greatest joy was to bite into one of my éclairs on the way home. It tasted extremely good even though I don’t like éclairs- part of that must be the sweet taste of success and satisfaction.

Day 3 of assessment started off on the wrong note. 1) the ingredients was not prepared for us. When the assessment started, some of us still did not receive the eggs and vanilla bean needed from the pastry crème. 2) we found out on the spot that we had to prepare our own glaze for the fruit flan when it was promised that it would be made for us to use. 3) I just hate kitchen two because there isn’t enough stoves for the class. But like Chef M*ichael always say, “Good chefs can work under any conditions.”

So we just needed to cope. Everything went on well for me in terms of the work flow..the tart baked beautifully. Then came the vol-au-vents and bouchee cases. I thought mine would turn out fine. To my horror and dismay, all I saw were topsy turvy cases, slanting at an angle. Whatever happened to them!

My mind was racing fast on what I did on Thursday while preparing the puff pastry dough. I don’t quite know what went wrong but the fact that I might have folded in the butter into the dough a little too early. But there was nothing much I could do to salvage the situation.

I just had to choose my best ones to present. Thankfully, some of them still look decent if you do not examine them closely.

The fruit flan was alright-wished that I could have done a better job at the decoration but that still isn’t one of my strong suits. When assessment was over, I was just so relieved that it was all done and over with. I’ve passed the first patisserie exam. I’m moving on to Intermediate in three weeks time!

And last night, I slept extremely well.
No more dough-making dreams.

Friday, June 26, 2009

LCB Basic- Assessment day II

Two down and one to go...

I'll be partying by the end of tomorrow..

wish me luck especially for the puff pastry..

Let them rise


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

LCB Basic - Assessment day 1

Just finished day 1 of assessment..
What a relief..one down and two more to go..

The making of the two types of puff pastry dough and the pate sucree(Sweetcrust pastry) went pretty smoothly without any major drama so I'm happy with that.

I'm just crossing my fingers that my puff pastry will turn out well on Saturday.

The biggest challenge now is the eclair. For tomorrow, we will have to produce ten of twelve cm coffee eclairs complete with fondant icing and coffee-flavoured creme patissiere. Producing ten eclairs doesn't seem tough does it? But to produce ten identical ones, all perfect with shiny fondant icing, and nicely piped smooth creme pat in the center in three and a half hours is going to be a major thing for me especially when my eclair lesson didn't turn out that great either.

Wish me luck..

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A day of eating: Part III (Vini, Surry hills)

Vini, a gem on Holt St, Surry Hills

As you can probably tell, we not only ate a lot, but all our meals were at Surry hills. Yes. Surry Hills is foodies heaven. The quiet residential area gets transformed at night where troves of people gather at this little area for food and drinks.

This was our second time at Vini and we were looking forward to a night of good food. Tuesdays are special at Vini because the chef would focus on a particular Italian region’s food. On our Tuesday, we had Sardinian food.

Sardinia is the second largest island off Italy and it’s considered one of the most distinctive of Italy’s regional cuisine. However, their philosophy in food doesn’t differ much from mainland Italian food; they believe in the freshest ingredients cooked simply so as not to overwhelm the food’s natural flavours.

The two specialities of Sardinia featured on tour degustation menu: Carta de musica (Translates loosely as ‘music paper) which is a thin and crispy flat bread and Pecorino sardo cheese (ewe’s milk cheese).

The dark, minimalist interiors

Asti Moscato

My dining partner-in-crime and I were excited by the prospect of having a try at Sardianian cuisine. We started off with a simple but lovely anti-pasti platter of pecorino cheese, fennel salad, crackled pork belly and carta di musica.

The pecorino cheese was more delightful than what I had the last time. The flavour of the ewe’s milk is rich, texture is hard, much like parmesan. The crackled pork belly was fatty, tender, juicy with good crackling. The fennel salad had a really refreshing vinaigrette.

Antipasti platter

While the antipasto was simple and good, it was the other dishes that were truly mind-blowing. Our next course was freshly made tagliatelli with saffron sauce with Balmain bugs. This is the first time that I have ever tried or heard of Balmain bugs.

We were told that this dish was traditionally cooked with lobster meat but since we are in Sydney Australia, it’s replaced by the Balmain bug, a type of slipper lobster found off the coast of Australia and New Zealand. In fact, its name is derived from Balmain in New South Wales.

The tagliatelli was wicked! Fresh pasta with such delicate flavours of the saffron together with the surprisingly sweet and succulent bugs completes the dish.

Saffron Tagliatelle with bugs

Poppy breadsticks with green and black olives
The next dish took my breath away as well. The flavours of the chargrilled quail with the tang from the lemon infused jus. The fregola, also one of Sardinia’s export, is somewhat similar to the couscous. It is made from semolina and water and the fregola served at Vini perfectly complemented the quail. I love its texture compared to couscous with hints of chewiness

Chargrilled quail with fregola

Dessert really attracted my attention: Sebadas with ricotta, pecorino, mint and honey sauce. Interesting. Sebadas is simply a deep-fried ravioli. I’ve eaten many cheese and honey combination as desserts and I loved them. This one was equally lovely. The deep-fried ravioli was crispy without being oily. The sweetened ricotta gave it a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth center while the pecorino gave it the sharp hints of saltiness. The honey sauce balanced the dessert with that smooth, calming sweetness.

We finished off the meal with an Italian dessert wine, Moscato from Asti. This is my new favourite- a moscato without being overpowering on the syrupy sweetness.

The day of eating has ended but there were more plans being hatched on new areas to discover and explore.

And since good food and wine should always be shared with the people you love, I made reservations for two for a Degustation Tuesday one month from now.

Sebadas with ricotta, pecorino cheese, mint with honey sauce
3/118 Devonshire Street (On Holt St), Surrey Hills
Tel: 9698 5131

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A day of eating: Part II (Bourke Street Bakery, Surry hills)

Tea at Bourke Street Bakery
(or rather post lunch snack attack)
Bourke Street Bakery

Being patisserie students, we often venture into the different bakeries, cafes and chocolatiers to look, taste and critique their desserts and pastries. It also meant that we were on a look out for good patisseries to try.

Bourke Street Bakery is along Bourke Street (well, that’s how it got its name) at Surry Hills. It has another branch at Broadway too. According to many Aussie food bloggers, it has one of the best breads in town.

Sarah and I took a walk from Bills to Bourke Street Bakery. It is almost like a hidden gem for it was just a tiny corner store with little seating area. For those who don’t know better would have barely given it so much as a look. But one strange little fact about this place is that there is often a queue forming on the outside.

Well, we didn’t wait long for the queue moves pretty quickly since it’s pretty much a takeaway place. We caught eye of some desserts at the shop window and even though we just had lunch, we couldn’t resist the strawberry, vanilla brulee tart and a rhubarb tart. Since it was a bakery, we also bought bread to take home which would become our breakfast. I got the fig and barberry sourdough because I thought it sounded interesting. The breads here are all artisan loaves and all pretty rustic loaves.
The rhubarb tart and the strawberry vanilla brulee tart

While others were debating on what loaves to get, Sarah and I were examining the way the loaves were made: from the colour, to the size and to the shape.

We tried the the desserts and the strawberry, vanilla and brulee tart was simply amazing! It was a flaky tart pastry with a caramelized crispy toffee top that breaks and flakes in your mouth the moment you bite into it. The vanilla brulee part was a beautiful custard like texture, so smooth and silky and then came the layer of strawberry spread just above the tart. The combination is so simple yet so amazing.

Can't wait to be back for this one tart!

Bourke Street Bakery
633 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
(Corner Devonshire Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9699-1011
Open Tue-Fri 7am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm
Also located at 130 Broadway
Tel: 92813113

A day of eating: Part I (Bills, Surry hills)

Bills @ Surry Hills

The reason why the entry is entitled as such is because Sarah and I really ate and ate throughout the day. Brunch, tea and dinner: Could it get any worse? All those calories that I’ve burnt during my swim has come to naught. That aside, I’m glad to have a food-loving friend with me.

The day started with brunch at Bills. Most of you would be familiar with the name Bill Granger. He’s a celebrity chef in Australia or more accurately, he’s a celebrity chef in New South Wales. If you look at some of his TV programmes such as Simply Bill, you would find Bondi beach as well as Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of the backdrop. We heard about good reviews about the brunch at Bills so we headed to our new favourite haunt, Surry Hills for a taste of that.

Most of my LCB friends know that I love pancakes and I am on a search for the best pancakes in town on behalf of my sis (my fellow pancake lover) and I. So far, my search has been pretty futile as I’ve been let down time and time again by dense and thick pancakes or pancakes drowned in sugary maple syrup. Horrid.

On hearing raved reviews about the ricotta pancakes at Bills, I knew that I have to try it. Upon reaching Bills at about 1pm, the desire to have anything sweet has disappeared. Replacing that was my hunger for real food. I need my savoury, my carbs and my proteins. I ended up with an open prawn sandwich with fennel slaw, argula salad with a homemade caper mayonnaise.

One impressive thing about Bills is that they have Himalayan pink sea salt on the side. Have you tried that stuff? If you have, you would turn your backs against the chemical tasting salt or I prefer to call it sodium chloride. I think the pink sea salt is the next best thing to fleur de sel from Guérande.

Sarah ordered the wagyu beef burger with beetroot, tomato relish and zucchini pickles. Have I mentioned that the Aussies really like their beetroot? I think that’s great cause I really love the beetroot for its intense purplish-red colour and its smooth and soft texture. On the side note, I watched an episode of Masterchef Australia and they made smoked beetroot. Can you imagine how it would taste like?

The prawn sandwich I had was really simple. I mean really, it’s just a sandwich right? While I thought it was overpriced, it was good. The ingredients were fresh- one of Bills’ philosophy and everything was made from scratch. Double points for that really.
Open-faced prawn sandwich

The wagyu beef burger could do with more seasoning but it was quite fine really. I love the caramelized onions that came with that. However, I think that having wagyu beef as minced is overrated. I think it’s just a trendy name to be found a menu. To me, if you want to have wagyu, have the wagyu steak. Other items are just not worth eating for they just taste like any other beef especially when you are using mince!

Wagyu beef burger

The atmosphere at Bills is pretty noisy actually because of the acoustics of the place so it is a place that you go with friends but definitely not somewhere you would want to bring your date to. The décor is pretty nice and clean and the kitchen follows the trendy open-kitchen concept.

Its menu is pretty simple; nothing too fancy for it focuses on the doing the minimal with the freshest ingredients. That’s a philosophy that I would like to adhere to.

I’ll be back for the pancakes.
Till my mission is accomplished.

Bills, Surry Hills

359 Crown Street

Surry Hills

NSW 2010


T +61 2 9360 4762

Life of a puff pastry

My Nemo which I gave away- Salmon en croute

I'm been slow on updating I admit! Been out and about too much that I'm tired from being out. I seem to hardly get enough rest over my 4-day weekend. I shouldn't be complaining really.

Back to the puff pastry products: We made the lovely beef bourguignon pie, a very traditional french pie. How can it not be lovely with close to half a bottle of red wine in it! Basically, its just lean blade beef cooked to a stew with onions, tomato paste, herbs, seasoning, wine and water. The liquids are being reduced so you will end up with a really rich and thick beef stew ready for the pie.
Since my toaster oven has chosen to break down on me, I figured that I should just finish up this savoury pie since I couldn't really keep and heat if up. I shared my beef pie with 2 other friends for lunch. It was definitely satisfying and for once, I did not have to bring lunch to school!
We also made the salmon en croute, another dish of French origin. As its name suggest, it is made with fresh salmon cooked and wrapped in puff pastry to look like a fish. It was quite a joy to be mincing garlic and onions and talking about culinary terms like sweating, sautéing for a change. The kitchen was filled with the smells of these savoury food which was a departure from the usual rich smells of butter.
We prepared the salmon mix by using fresh salmon, garlic, onion, fresh parsley, leek and thickened cream. This filling was then used with the puff pastry where we had to cut the shape of our fish free-hand. We had a whole variety of fish in class; we even had a shark! I confess to being quite an uncreative person when it comes to aesthetics so I was happy to stick with making a simple one, so long it mildly resembles a fish. Doesn't mine look like Nemo? I do think so. Ha
Apart from the savouries, I enjoyed the class on palmiers (a sweet French puff pastry usually to go with tea), pithiviers (puff pastry with frangipane filling)and chaussons (apple turnovers).
Ah! The infinite possibilities with puff pastries!

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Virgin Puff

the beautiful layers in the puff pastry

I have always avoided making the seemingly daunting puff pastry or pâte feuilletée ( ‘pat fe-yeh-teh’) . Why don’t we just use the store bought varieties? I received my answer at the end of this week’s lesson.

The making of the puff pastry from scratch is extremely rewarding and seriously, I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again.

On the first lesson, Chef M*ichael went through the different methods of puff pastry methodically-the French, the English and the Scottish method. We were introduced to the world of lamination (The layers between the fat and the dough), dé tramp (the dough you start with- flour, water and salt), and turns (the foldings to achieve the layers between the butter and the dough). As if there wasn’t enough terminology going on, we went through the different types of turns (single turn, double turn, book turn) and the different kinds of puff (full puff, half puff, three-quarter puff). By the end of the demo class, you would have your mind spinning with all these culinary terms!


A perfect puff pastry is crisp and flaky and full of buttery goodness! We all eat puff pastry in some form or other, be it in savouries like curry puff or chicken pie or in sweets like Danish.

In essence, the puff pastry is made up of thousand of layers of butter-dough-butter-dough. The job of a baker is to create the layers and structure of the puff pastry through a proper and systematic folding and rolling technique.

We spent the first lesson making two batches of puff pastry using (a) the French method and (b) the English method. The Scottish/ ‘rough puff’ method is frowned upon because as is name suggests is made very roughly and would not give the products as good a lift as the French or English method.

My personal favourite is the French method. Not purely because I believe that the French know their food and pastries, but also because I find that this method makes perfect sense. Think about it: Say if you want to completely cover all four sides of a book, what would you do? You would wrap it up like a present from all four sides wouldn’t you? That pretty much sums up the French method- To wrap a square block of butter from all four sides.

The process of making the puff pastry is time consuming and tiring especially when you are doing it all by hand. Imagine going through 2 kg of butter and 2 kg of flour. My arm felt so light after the class. No wonder my seniors have warned me about this particular lesson.

I feel that I have to set the records straight for those wondering about the difficulty of the puff pastry. Despite the numerous technicalities involved, it is not difficult if you are blessed with patience. You can’t rush through making puff pastry because the dough needs time to rest in between every two turns; it is not difficult if you are systematic and organized; it is not difficult if you are blessed with a cool room to work with because hot and humid weather is the arch enemy of the puff pastry. You will just get a huge lump of buttery mess if you do it on a hot summer day or just any day in Singapore. That’s why pastry chefs are in the cooler room of the kitchen. They have to be!

After a tiring Thursday, Friday and Saturday classes were dedicated to producing a range of puff pastry products- both savoury as well as sweet. The savouries were a welcome departure from the usual sweet. Finally something proper for lunch and dinner.

Will write more about it in the next post..

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nazimi, Opposite QVB

Just had a simple Japanese dinner with friends at a small little Japanese eatery just opposite QVB.

It's a really tiny place and despite walking along York St so many times, I didn't notice the place. The decor is simple mainly black with little paintings of sakura flowers and Mount Fuji.

For a Monday night, it was sure crowded and packed even at 830pm. The customer-make up include Japanese businessmen out for a quick dinner and beer, the working crowd and friends.

I had the the Japanese bento set upon a friend's recommendation. For its price of AU$23, dinner was really worth it. .a side of Japanese salad, with 5 pieces of sushi, an assortment of sashimi, terriyaki chicken (one of the better ones), and a small piece of steak and other small items. It also came with miso soup and rice so it was a really filling meal.

For the price you are paying, the food here is pretty decent. The dishes are on the whole well-prepared though the sashimi may not be the absolute freshest, it's still acceptable.

I'm still on the lookout for good food. I'm looking forward to lunch at Pendolino (a Italian restaurant) next week.


Level 1, 141 York St

NSW 2000

Phone (02) 9283 2990

Fax (02) 9283 2991

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-10pm