Saturday, 19 July 2014

Mooberry - Dessert & Breakfast Bar, Neutral Bay (19th July 2014)

Having lived a stone's throw away from King St in Newtown for over 2 years, I've seen many frozen yoghurt (aka froyo) shops pop up and close faster than I can get around visiting them. One that has survived the competition and even thrived is Mooberry. Established in 2012, its Newtown store proved popular and the owners of Mooberry have subsequently expanded their business across the bridge to the north shore with its latest flagship - Mooberry - Dessert & Breakfast Bar - opened in March this year on Military Road in Neutral BayJono and I had the pleasure of visiting their newest addition today for an exclusive afternoon of chocolate heaven :) 

Looking for a car park in the vicinity around midday Saturday was a bit of a mission - it seemed that everyone was out and about in this cold winter's day and locating a park was quite difficult. We ended up parking off-street in the suburb of Cremorne and took a short 7-minute walk to the store. The friendly staff behind the bar were expecting us and promptly contacted their manager Jamie to inform him of our arrival. We were told to find ourselves a table in the store located on three levels and given menus to view whilst waiting for Jamie. We found ourselves a table on the mezzanine floor where we could avoid the cold but still able to watch all the action going on downstairs. There were several tables located on the footpath outdoors and inviting cushions indoors on the ground floor where you can enjoy a relaxing cup of hot drink or dessert as you people watch through the large glass panes. The top floor was by far the most popular, a cosy attic-like space hidden away from street view. Customers dining in had to order and pay prior to finding a table, and they could wait or have their order brought to their table when ready. The decor of the store was rather quirky - green turf on the main wall with LED-lit trees stuck on horizontally and several faux deer head plaques dotted here and there - kind of like a fantasy world in Alice in Wonderland. Soft pop music played in the background, enough to create an upbeat vibe but not so loud that it was intrusive to conversations.

Mooberry - established 2012

Dessert Station where all the dessert-making action takes place

View of the store from the mezzanine floor

The menu at Mooberry - Dessert & Breakfast Bar features many of their Newtown store favourites (such as waffles, churros, smoothies and of course, their signature froyo) but focuses more heavily on a selection of chocolate-based desserts as well as breakfast options complimented by their range of specialty coffee and drinks. Jamie arrived shortly and was a friendly chap, immediately making us feel welcome - he was happily telling us all about Mooberry's journey and answering any questions I had. Though froyo is still Mooberry's primary business, the Neutral Bay branch is more like a cafe catering breakfast from open till 3pm and dessert till late

Menu at Mooberry - Dessert & Breakfast Bar

As part of our afternoon of chocolate heaven, Jamie had planned on creating a range of their desserts for us to sample however no visit to Mooberry is complete without sampling some of their famous froyo. The froyo is made on site daily with six flavours on offer each day. We were given the option of creating our own froyo sundae to share but since Jamie planned to spoil us this afternoon, we opted to sample just a few of the froyo flavours in tasting pots instead to make room in our bellies for the delights to come. Jono and I immediately went for the Pomegranate as it was most unusual, and Jamie gave us a sample of the Original as well. "This is my personal favourite - Passionfruit," said Jamie with a broad smile, producing yet another sample pot. Traditionally, froyo taste slightly tart than ice cream and I can definitely taste the slight tang in the Original. Fresh fruit is used in making the fruit froyos giving them a natural sweetness, and I love how smooth and creamy all the froyos are. Passionfruit was definitely the best of the three flavours we tried - I could devour a whole serving myself! Like many froyo stores, you can choose to add toppings to your favourite froyo for an extra cost. There are plenty of toppings to choose from - go for the healthier cut fruit, fruit caviar or nuts, or the more 'sinful' chocolate and candy

Choice of froyo sizes and flavours

Selection of toppings - fruit caviar, fresh fruit, chocolate chips

More toppings - candy, nuts, and other 'naughty' bits

Pomegranate and Original froyo samplers

Passionfruit froyo sampler

"Okay, so here we have the hot chocolates," said Jamie arriving at our table with a tray of glasses. It was a welcoming sight for the cold weather, a hot drink to warm up our insides. Though they look similar, we were told they were different flavours - Mint, Belgian and Salted Caramel. It seemed that the flavour was in the chocolate sauce which gives the drink its distinct taste. Make sure you give the hot chocolate a good stir to get all the sauce from the bottom of the glass mixed in with the drink for full flavour - we neglected to do so at the start so weren't able to quite tell them apart in those first few sips. 

Hot Chocolate - Mint, Salted Caramel and Belgian

Mmm, hot chocolate to warm my belly...

Over the course of our visit, Jamie and his team were also serving customers. I couldn't help but overhear their conversations from where we sat - the staff had an enthusiastic demeanour and were very helpful, giving suggestions to customers who seem to struggle making a single choice when there were so many on offer. "A little something while you wait," said Jamie, popping back briefly at our table with the Mango Brownie specially made for the store. To be honest, I didn't mind the wait for it gave our tummies more time to digest one dessert before the next. The Mango Brownie was just lovely, moist and not overly sweet, and you can really taste the fruit in it. 

Mango Brownie

Our next chocolate dessert to sample was the Wicked Waffles - Belgian waffles (choice of 1 or 2 waffles) served with a side of frozen yoghurt, cut strawberries and banana, and drizzled with Belgian chocolate. The waffle was one of the better ones we've had in Sydney's cafes, crisp on the outside and still fluffy on the inside. Jamie served the waffle with Coconut froyo, a perfect compliment with the chocolate and fruit. 

Wicked Waffles ($14.90) - Belgian waffle, Coconut frozen yoghurt, strawberries & banana drizzled with Belgian chocolate

This was shortly followed by the Chocolate Fondue, another chocolate dessert which was made for sharing. Served in a double-handled pan, a pot of melted chocolate sat in the middle surrounded by cut strawberries and banana, marshmallows and waffle bites. Love the chocolate drizzle art! The melted chocolate was quite rich and thick - it was a challenge to avoid getting the dipping ingredients stuck in the pot and totally covered with gooey chocolate goodness.

Chocolate Fondue ($16.50) - Melted chocolate, strawberries, banana, marshmallows and waffle bites

A waffle bite coated in the rich melted chocolate

Jamie was keen to offer us a few more desserts to sample but Jono and I were pretty full from all the sweet indulgence so graciously declined. "How about I make you a fruit smoothie to finish off?" Jamie suggested. Hmm, I am really full but I like the sound of a fruit smoothie...We went along with the suggestion and shortly Jamie was back with a Mango Passion Smoothie which contains froyo in it. Yum, this was exactly what we needed after all the chocolate, a refreshing fruity drink :) Mind you, the smoothie was quite thick and fortunately he only made us one to share! 

Mango Passion Smoothie ($7)

Thanks Jamie and team for your wonderful hospitality and totally spoiling us with your delectable desserts! We'll be sure to visit again to try out more desserts and the breakfast options. No doubt I will be creating my own cup of Passionfruit froyo with toppings on my next visit ;)

Jono and I were guests at Mooberry - Dessert & Breakfast Bar. Thank you John and Jenny for inviting us to an exclusive afternoon of chocolate heaven.

MooBerry Dessert & Breakfast Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 July 2014

ABC Soup (14th July 2014)

Whenever someone in the household was feeling slightly under the weather, Mama, my maternal grandmother would whip up a large pot of her homemade remedy, the ABC soup. Known to some as luo song tang (in Mandarin meaning 'Russian soup'), it is thought that this soup is a Chinese take on the hearty Russian borscht and is more commonly made at home than purchased at a restaurant in Malaysia. As a child, I didn't enjoy the soup very much - us grandkids nicknamed it the 'sick soup' and would avoid telling Mama we were ill since everyone ends up having the soup regardless whether they were sick or not; interestingly, my liking for the soup has changed over the years, a large part attributed to the fact I live abroad and at times miss home, and perhaps having developed a more mature and varied tastebud as an adult. Today, the ABC soup is one of the dishes I would make during wintertime or whenever I have a cold.

Why is the soup called ABC? The name is likely to have come from vitamins A, B and C found in the vegetables used in the soup though it could purely be because it is such an easy dish to prepare, making it as simple as ABC :) There are slight variations to the recipe found online but generally include meat with bone, potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes and peppercorns. Mama's version is made with pork spare ribs and a palm size cauliflower - I'm not a fan of cauliflower so replaced it with sweet corn. Here's my adapted version of Mama's ABC soup:

ABC Soup (adapted from Mama's recipe)

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 40 mins

Serves 2

4 chicken drumsticks, skin and fat removed
2 tomatoes, quartered
2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
2 large onions, cut into wedges
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
1-2 sweet corns, husked and cut into 4 chunks each
1/2 tablespoon crushed peppercorns
2 litres water (add more if reduced too much with cooking)
Salt to taste

1. Prepare all the ingredients.
2. In a large pot, bring the water to boil. Add in chicken and crushed peppercorns. Continue to boil for 5-10 minutes.
3. Using a ladle, skim off any impurities from the surface of the broth. Add in the all the cut vegetables. Bring the flame down to medium and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are soft.
4. Add salt to taste. Serve the soup hot with a dash of white pepper.

Ingredients for making ABC soup - chicken drumsticks, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, carrot, sweet corn and white peppercorns

ABC soup

You can substitute the chicken drumstick with other cuts of chicken or pork with bone in, and include vegetables such as garlic and celery. Enjoy the soup on its own or serve with some steamed rice on the side. A perfect winter warmer and packed with health benefits to give those cold bugs the boot!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Oven cleaning service by Oven Express (29th March 2014)

If asked which part of cleaning the kitchen I dislike the most, hands down it would be the oven. Cleaning the oven is a tremendous chore as Jono and I duly discovered when we first moved into our house six months ago - the former owners left us a 'wonderful' surprise, an oven covered with gunk of baked on carbon, fat and grease; there was NO WAY I was going to use the oven in that state! Two cans of Mr Muscle Oven Cleaner and plenty of actual muscles later (not to mention suffering through the toxic throat-burning fumes), we managed to get it into an acceptable state fit for use. "Surely there is an easier way to clean ovens?" you ask. Well, as it turns out, you can outsource the task to a cleaning company that specialises in oven cleaning and one that I've had the pleasure of reviewing today is Oven Express.

Oven Express is a renowned oven cleaning company in Sydney that provides quality oven cleaning using eco-friendly and green products. Oven Express does more than just cleaning; oven detailing is included in their cleaning service which cleans out those hidden and hard-to-reach places in the oven, making it look spotless and as good as new after cleaning.

A customer service representative from the company called me earlier in the week to arrange a suitable time for the service and a text was sent with the confirmed date and time the day before. Dwayne from Oven Express arrived on time for our agreed 1pm appointment and with some tarpaulin and a bucket of cleaning products in hand proceeded straight to the kitchen to set up his workstation. "Sorry about the oven," I apologised, feeling slightly embarrassed at the state of my oven to which Dwayne smiled and assured me it was just a bit of grease and not that bad compared to some he has come across. Really?? You be the judge:

Our Omega oven in its 'BEFORE' state

Grease-stained glass oven door

Let's take a close look at the oven...

Dwayne assured me it was not as bad as some ovens he has seen (still a rather ghastly sight in my books!)

Dwayne was friendly and jovial and we chatted for a bit while I watched him efficiently remove the oven door and unscrewed the back panel of the oven to detach the fan for cleaning (I didn't even know you could do that!). The oven racks, back panel and fan were then taken back to the Oven Express van for deep cleaning while Dwayne returned to scour and clean out the oven using non-toxic oven cleaning agents. There were no fumes or that throat-burning sensation from the products which was great - better for both the customer and Oven Express staff.

Oven cleaning commencing in the kitchen - work area covered with tarpaulin, oven door detached, and oven racks and fan removed

Oven Express van

The van is well-stocked with supplies and also used for deep cleaning those nasty greased up oven racks

The cost for a standard oven cleaning service is $160 and takes between 1.5 - 2 hours depending on the state of the oven. I left Dwayne to work his magic and periodically popped my head in to see how he was doing - each time I took a sneak peak, he was working tirelessly on the oven. 

Dwayne working tirelessly on the oven

"It's finished," Dwayne announced happily. Any parts that were detached were reassembled in place, and there was no mess on the kitchen floor (they were collected and taken away with the tarpaulin). In just under two hours, Oven Express had turned my oven brand new again! I was SO impressed with the work Dwayne had done - the oven was spotless and gleaming. I could even see through the glass door! Just look at the results:

Check out the 'AFTER' state of the oven - I can see through the glass!

Just spectacular - the oven is SO clean it sparkles!

Thanks Oven Express for the fantastic oven cleaning service :)

I highly recommend Oven Express for your oven cleaning needs - they are punctual, professional, efficient and gets your oven looking good as new. In addition to oven cleaning, Oven Express also cleans BBQs, range hoods, stove tops and microwaves. It is without a doubt I will be using Oven Express' services again in the future :)  

The oven is so clean now I can't bear to use it - I want to keep it in its pristine state!

The oven cleaning service was compliments of Oven Express. Thank you Susan from Oven Express for contacting me.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

100 Happy Days Challenge (23rd March 2014)

Can you be happy for 100 days in a row? This is the question that 27-year-old Dmitry Golubnichy has posed to humankind in his project 100 Happy Days and since its launch in December 2013, over 350,000 people from all over the world have embarked on their personal journey taking on the 100 Happy Days Challenge by submitting a picture of what made them happy every day for 100 consecutive days. Being happy isn't easy - these days, we live such busy lifestyles and are in a constant chase for ever-rising demands that we often forget to stop and smell the roses and appreciate the little things in life. As mentioned on the 100 Happy Days website, 71% of the people who took on the challenge failed to complete it quoting lack of time as the key reason. In other words, these people were too busy to be happy. The other 29% who made the time and successfully completed the challenge on the other hand claimed to be in a better mood every day and started to notice what makes them happy. Some claimed to feel more optimistic and live in the moment, even finding love during the challenge.

I decided to join the wave of happiness seekers and signed myself up. My motivation: I want to be happier. I'm a generally happy person though a series of events in the past year at work and injuring myself snowboarding had knocked me off my pedestal - some days were clouded with negativity, cynicism and tears; I wasn't as happy as I could be. Taking matters into my own hands, I made being happier my resolution for 2014 and this challenge fitted in perfectly. Not only would it serve as a reminder of the things that make me happy and appreciative of life but also create a habit of recognising those things. Taking on a new challenge is something that makes me happy so this is my picture for Day 1:

Day 1 of #100happydays: Accepting the challenge of submitting 100 happy moments for 100 consecutive days by completing the form and clicking GO!

There are 3 ways for submitting your pictures:
1) Share your picture via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a public hashtag #100happydays
2) Use your own hashtag to share your pictures (to limit publicity)
3) Send your pictures to (to avoid any publicity)

I opted for choice #3 purely because this was my personal challenge, not a competition or a means of showing off how happy or happier I am. I will however be blogging about my journey every now and then during these 100 days so stay tuned to find out how I'm doing ;)

To add a little extra motivation, 100 Happy Days is giving away a little 100 page book with your 100 happy days at the end of your challenge as a keepsake to always remind you about the wonderful things in your life. Are YOU ready to take on the challenge?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Game of Thrones: Iron Throne Tour (19th March 2014)

Ever wondered what it would feel like to rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros? Well, you're in luck - as part the upcoming launch of Game of Thrones (GoT) Season Four next month, the Iron Throne is on tour in Australia; for today only from 7.30am to 3pm in Martin Place, you will be able to live your fantasies and have your photo taken sitting on the throne! Fortunately for me, Martin Place is my weekday train stop to work so I got to check out the throne before heading into the office ;) 

The Iron Throne looked as mean and chilling in real life as it is on TV - made from a thousand blades surrendered by the enemies of Aegon the Conqueror and melted together by the breathe of Balerion, the Iron Throne is a monstrous chair of twisted metal with spiky and jagged edges, and is the symbol of the king's authority (according to the storyline, that is). Uncomfortable as it sounds, that did not deter fans from lining up this morning for a cool new profile photo. There were props available which you can use (e.g. a sword), even actors dressed up as Drogo, Cersei, Joffrey and a White Walker to join in if you wish. Having a lone photo wearing Joffrey's crown on the throne was the pose of choice so far, though I did witness one lady being carried by 'Drogo' for a snapshot which got the crowd cheering!

Line to the Iron Throne at Martin Place

All hail the new Queen of Westeros!

For the super-fans, Foxtel is giving you the chance to win your very own Iron Throne - all you have to do is have your photo taken on the throne, then post it with hashtag #GoTfoxtel on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Come as your favourite GoT cosplay, reenact a scene from the TV show, or strike a funny pose - the most innovative photo wins so get those creative juices flowing and head down to Martin Place before 3pm to be in the running to win the prize!
The Iron Throne will be heading to sunny Brisbane next on March 28.