Month: October 2011

Molecular Gastronomy

Last night, an exclusive gathering of Sydney’s social flotsam congregated in the Great Hall at Sydney Uni for ‘an explosive night of molecular gastronomy’ as part of the International Year of Chemistry.

Professor Hervé This, a French chemist whose interest is the science of culinary phenomena, was the keynote speaker, assisted by chef Martin Benn of Sepia restaurant.

Benn came across as a thoughtful kind of bloke while the Prof was Inspector Clouseau on speed.

Benn didn’t stand a chance.  Ignored;  talked over;  his demo and background to the process for making his famous ‘Japanese stones’ dessert hijacked.  But it wasn’t in a bad way – the Prof’s high-octane passion and enthusiasm for his subject was uncontainable, his excitement steamrollering joyfully through and over everything.

We careered haphazardly through the pack of 127 powerpoint slides, ate a Japanese pebble and some ‘moss’ and had a demo of the wonders of liquid nitrogen.

After the 90th slide featuring a chemical equation, Neil started sniggering at the look of confusion on my face (he’s the scientist in the family).  I suddenly realised how bizarre the whole set up was – the Hogwarts venue, the mad professor with his chemistry set laid out on the bench, the whole concept of eating Japanese pebbles,  plus Martin Benn’s  by now stoic presence which quietly emanated ‘physically I’m present, but mentally I’ve nipped out round the back for a quick fag’.

And then the sight of the Sydney foodie faithful, still doggedly hanging onto the Prof’s every mangled Franglais utterance after 2 hours.  I started giggling;  I couldn’t stop.  It got worse.  I ended up crying with smothered laughter.  I started to calm down and get a grip but the next words I heard were ‘arn zees ees wut coostar (custard) luke lerk unner zee meekroskop’.  I lost it again.

The end of the evening arrived like a motorway pile up.  As the MC edged across the stage in an effort to signal a polite  ‘shut up toot sweet, mate’, the Prof began hurtling through his remaining slides at warp factor 9.   He started cramming in frenzied orders:  ‘YOU MUZ  DO ZIS’ and ‘YOU MUZ NOT DO ZAT’, his articulation becoming ever more incoherent and confusing.

While the audience tried to translate the verbal onslaught, Martin Benn stood impassively at the back of the stage;  arms folded, oblivious, in some cheffy zen state, focussing a Mogadon stare out over the audience.

The talk was followed by demonstrations outside in the quadrangle, including chocolate and blue cheese ice cream (yummy with an interesting mental twist eg ‘will it stay down, because it tastes a bit like vomit smells’) and making sherbet with sugar and other chemicals.

This was a highly entertaining evening, extremely well organised.  Despite the comprehension issues,  it was a very good intro to the world of culinary possibilities.  And it was all free.  Genius :).

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Fashion Faux Pas

The NSW Fashion Police responded to an emergency call out in Sydney’s CBD today after receiving reports of a woman seen degrading a pair of iconic Christian Louboutin heels in broad daylight.

Police confirmed “earlier today, an attempt was made to carry off the ‘Urban Trollop’ look but that the accused was in fact modelling ‘East German Olympic Shot-Putter in Drag’.A shocked witness said “It was horrible”. 

A Fashion Police spokesperson commented “this look is wrong on so many levels.  The accused is in flagrant breach of the crucial arse to ankle ratio, plus, we have sufficient evidence to prove that she is wearing shoes bigger than her head”.

Fashion industry sources confirmed that ‘Urban Trollop’ can be a particularly tricky look to pull off as it sits midway between ‘Inner City Skank’ and ‘Suburban Pole Dancer’.

The look relies heavily on irony, as in ‘I may seem cheap but I’m actually really classy’.

Police noted that “unfortunately, the required level of classiness was clearly absent in this case”.

The accused’s mother publicly disowned her daughter, stating ”she does the same thing with Jimmy Choos. I’m so ashamed”.

Monsieur Louboutin could not be reached for comment.

Bangkok – Day 3

We’re trying to get to a temple that was shut yesterday so instead of the river, we take to the canals. This was a hilarious cultural experience:  the boat rockets up the canal, stops briefly, everyone piles off/on in a mad scramble and it shoots off again. The crew wear motorbike helmets and hang onto bits of string as they run up and down the sides of the boat.  You really wouldn’t want to fall into the water – it looked worse than the Water of Leith.  And then we saw people swimming in it. 

We got to the palace eventually via tuktuk – terrifying but what a laugh 🙂 and taxi (with seatbelts that go across the body but have nothing to click into)This is what we were heading for:And inside the grounds…

I just loved it. 

Then back to the hotel on the ferry and Skytrain for afternoon tea/cocktails/dinner at last night’s restaurant again . This is our last night and I’m still handbagless.  Am now teetering on the brink of panic-buying territory.  Neil makes irritating comment about the donkey starving because it couldn’t choose between eating the bale of hay or the oats.  This doesn’t help. 

He came round all the shops yet again and I still couldn’t make up my mind. He suggested leaving it till the next morning before we leave for the airport.  Genius.

A perfect day despite the handbag crisis 🙂

Bangkok – Day 2

We’re up and out early, locate the Skytrain round the corner and head off down to the river for some sightseeing. 

The river itself is a surging brown flow full of debris (vegetation, coconuts, the odd plank of wood) with a rather terrifying current – you wouldn’t want to fall in.   Activity on the river never stopped – it was just incredible.  These boats moved really fast… I loved it.The ferry dropped us off at a temple.  We were the only ones there; a little haven of peace and quiet.  

It was all stunningly beautiful.  The colours, the detail, the artistry – I hadn’t expected to love it all so  much.

After a long morning wandering around as tourists, we went back to the hotel for afternoon tea/cocktails then went out round Patpong market again all evening (endlessly fascinating – Neil told me his stories about the ping pong balls and razor blades).

Found a really good little restaurant – Ton Kao Surawongse –  in Surawongse Road round the back of the market. 

Spot the elephants….

Still couldn’t make my mind up between the Jimmy Choo or the Hermes knock offs and decided to sleep on it again.

Bangkok – Day 1

Bangkok was amazing – we had a brilliant time.  Neil didn’t think I’d like it (too hot/humid & lots of people hassling you) –  he hadn’t enjoyed it when he was there 15 years ago but things have changed and it was all reasonably relaxed.

We stayed at the Sofitel on Silom Road, not far from the river, the Skytrain and Patpong markets.  Our room was on the 24th floor – great views of the city – and especially beautiful at night.  

After a long flight on Emirates from Paris, dumped the bags, had a shower then up to the 27th floor for afternoon tea (!).  The hotel has it’s own outlet of Le Notre, the Parisian patisserie, so there were scones, jam, cream, sandwiches, lovely cakes and huge pots of tea.  This was served from 3-5pm, cocktails following from 5-7pm, while the sun went down and the city skyline lit up.  It was fabulous. 

We then headed out into the warm, humid night to have a look round.  Bangkok is Handbag Central – my life’s mission is to find the perfect handbag, so if I couldn’t find it here, it wasn’t going to happen.  I went through every handbag shop and stall and in the end couldn’t make my mind up. 

Went to bed and conked out for 9 hours.  Bliss.