the heart of food is now a little over a year old, having first started on February of 2009. The birth of this blog is in some part thanks to Helen, from the prolific Sydney food blog Grab Your Fork. She was the one that inspired me to start this whole blogging thing, as she has with a number of other Sydney food bloggers.
Over this past year, there have been quite a number of amazing food experiences. One of the things that stands out in my mind are the birthday celebrations of various food bloggers.
Please join me for a review of the food experiences regarding birthdays and birthday-related posts over the past year, including some new material and images.
Before I continue, apologies in advance if I’ve overlooked anyone’s birthday that I was a part of over the past year.
The first series of posts on the heart of food were about presents and a birthday, or rather a birthday I had to miss due to a last minute work related matter.
The birthday boy, whom I’ll refer to as “That Guy”, is of Filipino origin. The food to be showcased on his birthday was authentic, homemade food from the Philippines made with loving care by his mother. It saddened me to no end that I not only had to cancel, after previously agreeing to go, due to work (on a Saturday no less!), but also had to miss out on such a good food opportunity, especially considering Filipino restaurant food just doesn’t rate from what I’ve been told.
Despite these circumstances, he was kind enough to offer me some of the party left overs the following day. I returned his generosity by getting him a hamper of various gourmet goods from a few of my favourite vendors.
Not long afterwards, Richard from Here Comes the Food had kindly invited me out to a birthday dinner to have all you can eat mussels at Bungalow 8. It was an intimate affair with only four of us in total.
The experience was somewhat surreal. I guess it’s kind of like that moment when you first make friends at preschool or in kindergarten. There’s a sense of child-like joy when you meet with someone that likes what you’re interested in, and just “gets you”, for lack of a better term. In some ways it’s also a sense of belonging. That you’re among like minded individuals, and not just some weird, misunderstood outcast. From a food blogging perspective, that was my moment.
To this day I don’t know why Richard invited me. However, I am thankful that he did, as a lot of interesting experiences have been had since that time.
For instance, a masquerade themed birthday party of around 30 food bloggers, crammed into a private dining room at Wagaya that is supposed to only cater for 25. Who else other than the ever popular Suze of chocolatesuze, whom I like to jokingly refer to as the poster child of Sydney food bloggers (though not entirely untrue), could organise a gathering of this size? It was a gathering of her food blogging friends, acquaintances and other food bloggers that she has yet to meet in person.
At the time it was rather surreal to see a roomful of food bloggers pause from their current activity or conversation in order to take photos of food that had just arrived. A storm of people gather around plates of food. The rolling thunder of conversation goes quiet as photographers focus; the beeps, clicks and whirrs of digital cameras taking over the growing din of silence. On occasion a flash fires; a blinding bolt of lightning that briefly illuminates the room. The eye of the storm soon approaches, as one by one food bloggers sit back and wait patiently for others to finish with their photos. A calm settles in as the beeps, clicks, whirrs and flashes become fewer, less frequent. As the last of the photos are taken, the rest of the storm front rolls in as hungry food bloggers rain down upon a plain of food.
The dinner is a large gathering of friends and strangers alike, all with the common purpose to not only celebrate a birthday or share a meal, but also partake in the appreciation of food beyond that of mere sustenance. It is one that has only since been eclipsed by the Sydney food blogger’s Christmas picnic in Hyde park. Another successful gathering organised, in part, by the poster child of Sydney food bloggers.
Karen of Citrus and Candy gathers a small, intimate group of some of her closest food blogging friends to celebrate her birthday at the Belgian Bier Cafe. The hearty fare of Belgian beers, meatballs and mussels, finished with some wonderful sweet desserts of chocolate and waffles, makes for a fantastic meal.
It ceases to amaze me how quickly friendships can be born and forged over the common appreciation of food. People, that under different circumstances would likely amount to little more than casual acquaintances, become close friends, mentors, advisors and confidants.
It isn’t just with food bloggers that birthday celebrations have been shared. Adriano Zumbo’s Macaron Day was not only a celebration of 60 different flavours of macarons, but also an opportunity for the food blogging community as well as the general public to celebrate his birthday.
As much as he may be the maestro of the macaron, he is a rather humble, approachable and softly spoken individual in person. One without the pretension or arrogance that quite often comes with those with a high degree of skill or, dare I say, genius. It was personally satisfying to be able to wish him a happy birthday, as well as to discuss a range of topics including his favourite macarons from the collection.
Then it came time to organise & celebrate my own birthday party. Well, birthday parties but I’ll get to that.
When it was time to organise my birthday dinner for a close circle of food blogging friends, I wanted to incorporate a little of the familiar with something that was new to all of us. The familiar ended up being Wagaya, a safe bet when it comes to the quality of the food (not bad), service (fast & attentive) and cost (reasonable, depending on what you order). Wagaya is the sort of dining experience that I prefer; fairly casual & laid back with food that can be easily shared amongst a group of people.
We then moved onto the something new for entertainment and dessert, in the form of Norita Cafe & Board Games. It’s a place where you can enjoy various contemporary & Asian flavoured drinks, desserts and the occasional savoury snack whilst playing a multitude of board games.
The board games are a core part of the experience rather than some tacked-on gimmick, as is demonstrated by the extensive menu of board games they have on offer, separate to that of the food & beverage menu. Though the food & drinks weren’t noteworthy, the fun that was had with the board games was well worth the experience. There were many fits of uncontrollable laughter, as well as a few things that are better left unmentioned. What happens in Norita, stays in Norita :)
Birthdays are a fantastic opportunity to meet with new people and be reacquainted with ones that you may not keep in as close contact with as you may have liked. My second birthday party, a BBQ picnic at Centennial Park, introduced a few new faces, namely Jacq from Penguin Says Feed Me, as well as The Shooter and The Ninja from The Ninja Review.
I could imagine that it would be somewhat intimidating for newcomers entering into an established group of friends or associates, especially when it’s a sizable group. For instance, it took some time for the The Ninja Review crew to step down from a battle-ready state, take off their disguises and intimidating weaponry, and actually relax and enjoy the company and the food. Well, as much as one could in a blistering 40+ degree heat wave. Once the picnic was over, a subset of the attendees made their way to Sinma Laksa House to counteract the heat wave with Ais Kachang.
On the subject of food at the picnic, a huge thanks must go out to Mei from Brasserie Bread for catering a large portion of the picnic. So large in fact that everyone had a generous parting gift to take home with them, all of it great stuff. From a number of chewy rolls and sour dough loaves (the wholemeal mountain bread makes for excellent toasted sandwiches), wonderful sweet pastries such as various fruit tarts, tea cakes and brownies, as well as THE BEST garlic bread to date I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. The caramelised garlic bread was so highly regarded by the picnic attendees that negotiations were held to determine the lucky few that would be taking a portion home.
The birthday party of Helen from Grab Your Fork was something of a special event for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was a dumpling making party, for lack of a better term. Everyone contributing ingredients and making a large number of handmade gyoza-style dumplings, a fair portion of which were devoured with gusto soon afterwards.
For dessert, Ais Kachang was made from scratch. This began with preparing the various ingredients to form the mise en place. Once this was done, two ice shaving machines buzzed constantly as mountains of ice shavings piled up, ready to be topped by the ingredients and syrups prepared earlier.
To close the evening, chocolatesuze had prepared a fork-shaped cake, a reference to Helen’s blog name. Whilst this was in itself impressive and well received, the true genius of the cake lay within, in the form of a stunning rainbow of colours. Though rainbow coloured cakes are not anything new for chocolatesuze, this implementation of her trademark cake was particularly impressive.
Lastly, we come to a recent birthday dinner, celebrating the birthday of Jacq from Penguin Says Feed Me. She had managed to gather an impressive 17 food bloggers at the Waterfront Grill for all you can eat ribs for $29. The ribs are served along with some tasty but stomach filling steak chips. There is also a web special that is meant to score you a free soft drink with your ribs. It had taken a fair amount of insistence, the attention of the restaurant manager and an iPhone before the free drinks were flowing.
To end this post, I’d like to thank those of you that have followed my blog over the past year, especially the ones that have weathered through the dry spells, and those that take the time to leave comments. It’s very much appreciated!
For the silent readers out there, I encourage you to step out of your shell and show your love, or share your opinion, by leaving a comment. I don’t just mean for my blog, but for any other one that you may be reading as well. We food bloggers, and I presume bloggers in general, thrive on comments.
Also, a special thanks to Helen for inspiring me to begin this food blog in the first place, as well as all the people to date that have made the past year of food, friends & fun a memorable experience.