Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top Ten Bites of 2012

And so, we've come to the end of 2012.  As many people do at this time of year, I've been considering the past twelve months and all the changes that have come with it.  2012 was a big year for me; I left a good life in Halifax and now live a great one in Sydney, Australia.  One of the things that was lacking for me in Nova Scotia was the opportunity to try wines from all over the world.  Working with the company I'm with now, makes this desire a reality and I'm not only trying wines, but meeting their amazing winemakers as well.

I thought about the great dining experiences that I've had this year too.  And there were many; I actually had difficulty trying to choose the 10 most special.  Some are from restaurants near and dear to my heart in Halifax, while others are from my new 'home' in Sydney.  Many of these bites weren't exactly what you would call 'gourmet', but as I transitioned into this new life, sometimes comfort food was more important that gourmet. The underlying theme here though, is that these experiences will always be fond memories because of the people I got to share them with and the lessons that I learned along the way.

Enjoy the photos, and try some of these dishes if you can as they're certainly worth it.  I hope that this blog post might offer you the inspiration to 'bite the bullet' and take a chance .  Don't let 2013 pass you by without taking some risks and maybe having a little adventure along the way.  Perhaps a change of scenery is just the thing to help you find what you're looking for.  All the best to you this year, and again, thanks for reading. 


Top Ten Bites of 2012
(in no particular order)

Amuse Bouche at Seasons by Atlantica

This is one of those meals that was made even better by the circumstances.  On a cold winter's night we called up another couple (who appreciated good food and drink as much as I do) for an impromptu dinner to try out Season's at Atlantica.  This was the amuse bouche; a piece of buttery brioche topped with a slice of mellow Brie and crowned with a soft-poached Prosciutto-wrapped egg yoke.  How satisfying it was to slice through the paper-thin Prosciutto and watch the creamy egg yoke pool in the bottom of my plate.

And the evening was equally satisfying: we started with cocktails; I brought some nice bottles; and we had apps and mains (trying one another's and critiquing them).  We shared a dessert and then they introduced me to my new favourite digestive: a shot of ice-cold Limoncello paired with one of espresso.  The coffee helped to digest the meal, while the Limoncello's tangy, citrus burst helped to refresh the palate after the bitter coffee.   Sadly, my friends are no longer together, but the memory of this dinner will be one I cherish for years to come. 

  Scallop Entree at Saege (Halifax)

This is another meal made better by the circumstances.  After struggling with a knee injury for almost two years, I had decided to overcome it by challenging myself and running the 10K Bluenose run with Team Myles, its ambassador running team.  On this particular evening -  after running up and down Citadel Hill 20+ times as part of our hill training - I decided I deserved a lazy late-night meal, and met my bf at Saege for dinner.  This was my entree and consisted of some of my favourite ingredients: plump seared scallops; creamy sweet potato; wilted spinach; roasted cherry tomatoes and, sandwiched in between it all was a slab of bacon! You can check out my post of the full meal here.

Ekmek at Estia (Halifax)

I really, really love Estia in Halifax.  Every meal that I've eaten there has been satisfying and delicious without breaking the bank.  This is a shot of their Ekmek had during my birthday 'week'! The smooth vanilla custard is topped with pillowy whipped cream and sprinkled with shards of toasted almonds and pistachios.  The best part, though is the base; a mess of shredded phyllo pastry soaked in sweet honey.  For a bit more about Estia's Ekmek and other delicious fare, click here.  

Radicchio Salad at The Bicycle Thief (Halifax) 

This is the dish I was eating when I decided that I had to make a move from Halifax - not knowing where - just to a wine region in general.  Over dinner,  dining companions (uber winos and uber Bicycle Thief fans) were discussing the wines they had tried on their travels and I thought: "If I'm gonna learn about wine, I gotta get out there and try some!" And that's when the trip to Australia truly started to materialize.  This dish was spectacular and super cheap (like $9 or something) for the portion.  The crunchy, bitter radicchio was tossed in a warm pancetta vinaigrette, studded with toasted pine nuts and dusted in salty Parmesan.  My mouth waters simply thinking about it.  You can read all about his meal here.

Avocado Creme Brûlée at Pipa (Halifax)

Avocado creme brûlée!  I was pretty skeptical about this dish.  I was dining at Pipa and my bf and I decided to share some dessert.  When we asked the owner for her reco she said -  hands down - the avocado creme brûlée.  Avocado is considered a sweet in South America and this is a common preparation for it.  There isn't a blog post for this one, but all I can say is that it is totally worth the trip to Pipa.  Beneath the crisp sugar topping, the silky avocado custard is the epitome of luscious.

'Back Door' Pad Thai from Fid Resto (Halifax)

It's no secret how I feel about Fid.  It's one of my favourite restos in Halifax.  This meal was no exception -  except that it wasn't eaten at Fid.  During the Open Halifax event, Fid started doing 'Back Door' Pad Thai, where one could order their Pad Thai as take-away for a reduced price.  

This was a particularly warm/sunny afternoon in June and my bf and I munched happily away on our take-away by the duck pond in Halifax's Public Gardens.  As lovely as the afternoon was, the memory is bittersweet as I knew that it was one of our last.  See the full post about Fid's Pad Thai here.

Calamari at James Street Bistro (Brisbane)

I am such a sucker for calamari.  When I was snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef this year, I was mesmerized by the magical world hiding our beneath the ocean's surface.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw several sets of bulging eyes coming in my direction; that of a school of squid!  Little did they know all the ways I was contemplating cooking them...

This was the calamari that we had at the James Street Bistro in Brisbane on my first night in Australia.  Maria (my bestie from Canada) and her husband Josh took me out to dinner where we shared this delectable dish.  You can read all about the full meal here.  Thankfully, they didn't get offended when I practically fell asleep at the table from jet lag; at that point, I had been travelling for over 30 hrs, but awake for about 48!

Savoury Muffin at The Little Pantry (Brisbane)

After my first big night out in Brisbane - exactly a week after I arrived - Maria and I decided to do a little pub crawl.  We were in pretty rough shape the next day, but I managed to venture out to our local coffee shop for some java, and much needed carbohydrates.  This is the best muffin I've ever had in my life; buttery, salty and rich; it just what the doctor (would have) ordered.  Here's the full post: The Little Pantry.

San Choy Bow at Dragon Palace (NSW)

This is a discovery from the Dragon Palace restaurant that I visited in Tamworth, rural New South Wales, AUS.  The memory of this particular meal will always be marred by the fact that it was shared with my boss, who later totally ripped me off in an 'overworked/underpaid' kind of situation.  However, I've since repeated this dish with Maria, my gal pal from (PEI) Brisbane,  so I choose to remember that instead.  It's also a pretty good lesson learned about work/life situations too; a late lesson, but "better late than never".   Read all about this tasty dish here

  Veggie Burger from Chicken's Plus (Sydney)                           

This was my first real hangover meal in Sydney.  After a pretty crazy night out, my housemate and I were bracing ourselves for the worst when our other housemate (a raging alcoholic) would come home.  As I sat there at 5 pm eating my veggie burger from Chicken's Plus, I knew that big changes were to come.  And they did; our housemate was arrested and evicted and my resolve was tested.  I put on my big girl pants that night, and now really consider this my 'comfort food'.  Click here for my post about burger culture in Oz. 

Gozleme at Harvest Music Festival (Sydney)
Festival food! When I arrived in Oz, I said I wanted to take in as many festivals/concerts as I could.  This photo was taken at my first; Harvest Festival in Sydney.  The dish was delicious, but further enhanced by the fact that:  I can't resist festival food;  I had a slight beer buzz;  and I got to spend a day in the grass listening to great music with wonderful friends.  This snack is called Gozleme - a traditional Lebanese crepe filled with cheese, spinach and mushroom drizzled with lemon juice.  For any Newfoundlanders out there, it tastes like toutons! No blog post for this yet, but it's coming.

Happy New Year from sunny Sydney!

Welcome 2013!
Fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

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