Eating In: Aussie Style

L serving up grilled kangaroo

I live in a city where I can have Greek one day and Ethiopian the next.  But after living in Montreal for a few years, I’m getting a little tired of the Greek-French-Thai-Mexican-Ethiopian rotation. So, when my friend L, who is an expat from Australia, invited me to her Australia day party last night, I was intrigued.

I must admit that before yesterday, I hadn’t given much thought to Australian cuisine. When I used to think about Australian culture, food wasn’t top of mind the way it is when I dream about going to Northern Italy and eating an entire thin-cruster to myself  in the courtyard of a local pizzeria. But last night was all about the food. And it was good.

To start, we sipped on passion fruit (native to Australia) cocktails and nibbled on (big in Australia) sausage rolls. Then came piping-hot meat pies (very Australian), in curry and butter chicken flavours (not at all Australian). Next we had kangaroo. Yes, kangaroo. It was grilled on the barbeque and tasted like gamey, but mild, beef.

For dessert there was light-as-air pavlova (as in the light-as-air Australian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova), piled with handfuls of passion fruit, kiwi, blueberries and whipped cream. Chocolate-dipped, coconut-dusted Lamington sponge cakes, made by yours truly, with a little help from Betty Crocker and David Leibowitz. And Violet Crumble, a homemade, gourmet version of a Crunchie Bar.

Lamingtons, or 'lamis' as I like to call them

The party reminded me that there is  a world to explore beyond the culinary borders of Greece-France-Thailand-Mexico-Ethiopia. And it prompted me to try Tourtiere Australienne, an Australian cafe on Parc Avenue that I’ve been meaning to go to for years. My tastebuds are happy again.

What’s your answer to a culinary rut?


(good) wine on a dime

There are many reasons why I love living in Montreal, but the Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW) restaurants fall pretty high up on the list. As far as I know, in no other city in the world can you sip on a bottle of homemade rosé while chowing down at your favourite neighbourhood bistro – without a corkage fee. Plus, there’s nothing more romantic that the dapper young men I see walking briskly throughout the Plateau Mont Royal on Friday evenings, wine bottle under arm. I always wonder who they’re rushing to meet.

So, whether you’re going to a  BYOW, to a friend’s place or just staying in for a cozy night with your honey this weekend, here’s one well-priced wine I highly recommend:

Boussac Coteaux du Languedoc 2010, $10.60. Hailing from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France, this is my go-to red for all occasions because of the value and the fruity, spicy, full-bodied yet somehow supple flavour that goes down smooth with or without food. I discovered this one summer Saturday afternoon when my mom, brother and I ordered the house wine at the lively Parisian Marche de la Villette, bistro in Old Montreal.

It was one of the best house wines I’d ever tried and I decided right then and there it would be one of my staples. That was two and half years ago and after trying many other reds, this still tops my list and impresses whoever I share it with; even my discerning foodie/wine connoisseur friends who are shocked to learn how low the price is.

I personally think this wine goes with everything, but the experts recommend you have it with game, poultry and pasta. A la votre!

What is your go-to wine under $12?

wake up to waves: modern-day pin curls

© fotoduki/ Crestock

Want gorgeous curls but don’t want to destroy your hair (not to mention your savings) with curling irons, rollers and perms in the process? Go back to basics and do what the screen sirens of the 1940s did: twirl sections of your hair into coils, get some zzzs and wake up to a headful of cascading tresses.

I came across the old school method when I was looking for a way to style my hair before bed so I’d wake up looking polished. I mentioned the discovery to my hairdresser and he was impressed that I’d caught on to what he says is a stylist’s best-kept secret; Pin curls were the first thing he learned in hairdressing school. With all of the pricey gadgets, tools and products out there, who knew they were  an essential part of a trendy hairdresser’s arsenal?

The original pin curl method involves wrapping hair into mulitple tight coils around the head resulting in a 1940’s screen siren ‘do a la Christina Aguilera (check out stylist-to-the-stars Kevin Pave’s video here to get that look). But for big, bouncy, volumptuous waves like Beyonce’s, today’s pin curl method twists hair into just a few large coils.

Here’s how to get modern waves :

1)      In the evening, shampoo and condition hair.

2)      Part hair in the center, or to the side; however you plan on wearing it the following day.

3)      Distribute a dime size amount of curl enhancer, such as Morrocan Oil Intense Curl Cream, from root to tip.

4)      Allow hair to air dry until almost completely dry, but still slightly damp.

5)        Take one four-inch section of hair and wrap it into a coil flat against the head. Secure with two criss-crossed bobby pins. Repeat until your entire head is pinned up. Do not twist the hair before coiling it.

6)      Allow to dry overnight.

7)      Wake up and remove pins to release curls. Finger style (do not brush) and spray with light hold hairspray such as Toustle me Softly from Herbal Essences.

If you want tighter curls, coil hair into two inch sections. You may have to experiment a few times to get the look you’re looking for, but try it!

What’s your overnight  hair styling secret?