Monday, December 5, 2016

AKIBA! It makes me happy!

AKIBA restaurant received the Australian Financial Review Top Restaurant's People's Choice Award for 2016. I can see a few reasons for this: the delectable pork buns; the sensational gin list; the insanely good dumplings.

Prawn and chicken dumplings

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Memo to self: this is what happens when you brake in loose gravel on a corner.

Second memo to self: being granted residency to a new country is even better when celebrated with friends.

Resident bubbles with Him Outdoors and Mr & Mrs Lovely Bonkers

Monday, November 14, 2016

Canberra Beer Week 2016

Our Canberra Beer Week kicked off with Beer Day Out. Him Outdoors was working on the Festival Beer stand, and they had run out of gas - literally, not figuratively. He asked me if I could bring along the CO2 cylinder, and I didn't want to cart the wrong thing along in a taxi, so I sent a photo to make sure I had the right thing. I did.

The largest queue was at The Festival Bar where patrons waited to taste the beers brewed especially for Beer Day Out. I sampled the Canberra Beer Week Collaborative Beer (five hops; five grains; five Canberra Breweries - very sessionable, like an English Bitter), the Sauvin Nouveau 2016 from Garage Project (fruity and very drinkable), the Chinatown Lager from Southern Bay (refreshing and surprisingly tasty for a lager, with rice in the grist and the addition of ginger and kaffir lime), the Noho Saison from Shambles Brewery (fruity, spicy, Belgian Saison with all the requisite flavours), the Sonic Prayer IPA from Modus Operandi (citrus, stone fruit and pine with some sweet malt to balance the 6% strength), the Mysterio IIPA from Stockade (fantastically fruity, fresh and strong citrus; bitter hop and sweet malt is well balanced), the Lamington Dark Ale from Bacchus Brewing Co (chocolatey coconut sweetness, as you would expect), the B2 Bomber Mach 6.0 from Bridge Road (Belgian, black Imperial IPA - all of the above), and the War Hog American IPA from Feral (hoppy, strong and bitter fun). Yes, they were small amounts, thank you.

I had taken my Dad along with me (well, he was in the country and it would have been remiss not to), so we then proceeded to work our way around the stalls, chatting to the brewers and drinking their wares in the sunshine.

There was a really pleasant atmosphere, with everyone enjoying the fine beers and the plentiful food on offer. The location worked well, with everything contained in a space with both indoor and outdoor seating, and the beer talks and masterclasses were well-attended and successfully received.

BentSpoke Brewing Co, like it says on the sign
A pint of Crankshaft with a Big Nut chaser
Bill making beer at the Canberra Brewer's stand
Modus Operandi
Garage Project from across the ditch
The Pact crew
The next day we went out to Mitchell for the Cannery Carnival - BentSpoke threw open the doors to their new cannery, with lots of shiny bling, good beer, fine food, music and sunshine (I don' t think they had much to do with the latter, but it went well with the whole chilled back ambiance thing they had going on).

Shiny bling
Tours of said shiny bling

La Sirene beers are among my favourite in this country, so I was not going to miss this tasting. Once again, Costa Nikias didn't disappoint, and the new sour red is an absolute winner. The tasting was held in a great venue too. I've not been to Avenue C Wine Co before, but it's a stylish spot with a sunlit patio and a great selection of fine wine to drink there or take home. We'll be visiting again.

Not the usual tasting
Costa with a great line-up of his artisanal beers
And on to Transit Bar where the regions battled it out for top beer honours. The ACT was represented by Pact Beer Co and Wig & Pen Brewery, while the South Coast NSW was represented by Five Barrel Brewing (Woolongon) and HopDog BeerWorks (Nowra). I'm not actually sure who won the showdown, but I know that enjoyed my beers! 

I had Tennent's Peak from Pact (A really tasty Imperial IPA - very nice indeed), Wee Heavy from Five Barrel (a chewy, flavoursome dark beer with ruby hints of goodness), The Halloween Project 3five9 from HopDog (smoked pumpkin - curious but not unpleasant), and Velvet Cream from Wig & Pen (an always enjoyable rich, full, creamy dark stout).

ACT takes on NSW South Coast at Transit
Saturday saw us at the GIO Stadium, partly because the Wellington Phoenix were playing the Central Coast Mariners, and partly because the Stadium had agreed to serve local craft beer from the participating cities. Hence, Garage Project and BentSpoke cans were available, which made the match much more enjoyable. Also the Phoenix won 2-0, so we were happy. 

Best beer list seen at a sporting venue
Garage Project White Mischief: sour, smart, fruity white beer with tastes of peach and salt - perfect pre-match drink
Garage Project Garagista: serious hopping going on
The Yellow Fever (away supporters)
Garage Project Hapi Daze: really pleasant combination of Kiwi hops
As we left the moon was out, and I managed to get it into a perfect position for this shot of the wheelchair basketball sculpture. (To confirm: I didn't actually manoeuvre the moon; just my camera angle.)

Shooting for the moon
The following day as I had a day-long rehearsal, Him Outdoors cycled off to Pialligo Estate for their sausages and cider event. The Small Acres Cyder was going down well, and the honey and sausages were also liberally sampled.

Sausages and cider menu
We finished off Canberra Beer Week with an outing to our local, The Pot Belly, where Nomad Brewing Company had taken over the taps. I sampled their Saltpan Desert Gose (desert limes up front with a tangy salt finish), Long Reef Pale Ale (earthy hoppy notes; on the English Bitter end of the pale ale spectrum, so I like it), Choc-Wort Orange (a little too bitter orange rather than fruity, which overrides the complexity of the malts), and Wild Mongrel (still one of the sourest beers I've tasted, but a lot more balanced from the keg than the last time I had it in a bottle). It was a wonderfully relaxing way to end the week's drinking.

Choc-Wort Orange, Saltpan Desert Gose and Long Reef Pale Ale from Modus at Pot Belly

Monday, October 31, 2016

Blue Mountains with the Folks

As the parents came to visit, we drove them for a weekend in the Blue Mountains. It rained. But then it's springtime and it does that.

From Echo Point
We took Dad for a walk along the National Pass. The plus points are that it is incredibly scenic and regarded as one of the finest bush walks in Australia with plenty of historical merit. On the downside there are a lot of steps. They also go up. It's only a six-kilometre round trip but, according to all the guide books, it is "generally agreed to be a three-hour walk for anyone with reasonable aerobic fitness". Those with dodgy knees may have a slightly different perspective. 

Princes Rock Lookout

Fletcher's Lookout

Wentworth Falls
Not for those with vertigo
Walkers descending the Grand Staircase in 1910
Dad descending the Grand Staircase in 2016
One hundred years after the track was first opened, major restoration works were completed in 2008 by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The outstanding restoration, working with historic stonework specialists, was recognised in 2008 when the work on the National Pass won a prestigious UNESCO Award of Distinction for Culture Heritage Conservation.

Queen Victoria Lookout

After our exertions, we were ready to be fortified with pints of beer and scones at the Carrington Hotel.

The next day we went for a much more sedate walk along the tops of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. Starting at Scenic World, where we left poor heights-afraid mother in the cafe sitting firmly with her back to the view, we set off past the Katoomba Cascades to the Wollumai Lookout over Echo Point and the Three Sisters.

Katoomba Cascades
Jamison Valley
Mt Solitary
From Wollumai Lookout
The Three Sisters

The Scenic Skyway is suspended 270m above the ancient ravines of the Jamison Valley. Stretching 720m across the clifftops, it has a glass bottom for people to look down at the forest floor from a great height. Naturally we didn't embark, but we watched it swinging gently in the breeze and shuddered.