a toast to thorpie

I was reminiscing yesterday by trawling through some of my old posts both from here and my earlier handcoded efforts, and came across this one from the days when the argument regarding small bars in Sydney was starting to hit fever pitch. Since then, the laws have changed and the small bar scene has exploded. Initially in a few laneways in the city, no doubt trying to capture some sort of Melbournian effect. In recent times they’ve been expanding out.

Newtown has always had a bar or two, particularly Kuletos, nestled among the pubs and regular fare. To be joined eventually by the now missed Soni’s, Madame Fling Flong’s and Corridor – that last used to be a regular haunt years ago when it was a cafe called Has Beans. A year or so back, The Green Room opened on Enmore Rd and things have been gaining pace ever since. The number of bars in Enmore Rd is rapidly approaching double figures with a few opening in recent months.

wine by the waterThe most recent opener is Hartsyard a few days ago, though it’s leaning toward good beers (via Harts Pub) and more of a restaurant sort of space. Also in recent days, Waterhorse, has opened, and has had a flash outfit. Bar Racuda opened up a few months ago, as did I think, Midnight Special. Not to mention Ra Bar (which I think used to be a wine bar/cafe called Monal), several months ago, as a tapas bar.

I should also mention that there’s The Wine Plate at the city end of King St, though it looks more like a restaurant space with a long series of tables parallel to the long bar. At the opposite end of King St, down past The Chocolate Dog, there’s bench (and opposite them is The Moose). They’ve taken over the old dining space from Pizza Picasso and have the same owners. It’s a tight, friendly space with some rather nice wine choices. I’ve been there a couple of times now, and on last visit, a mate and I, sat by the windows, spending an entire evening chilling out over several glasses of red, some nice tapas, and finishing off with a stunning muscat, All Saints Rare Rutherglen Muscat. As far as I can tell, bench were selling it close to retail too, as a quick google suggests that I can only get it for $10-15 cheaper at best. That’s the best muscat I’ve had. Ever.

brekky

Luxuries. Special things. Things I do for me; spaces for myself.

I started hanging out around Newtown in 1989 when my dad moved into a share house there. It was full of cafes and restaurants and had a uni vibe. I was never much of a pub person but developed a liking for cafes and when I finally moved there myself in 2001 (when dad and I bought a house together), Newtown felt like home.

Somewhere in those years, long forgotten now, I started going “out” for breakfast on the weekends.  I would spend hours alone in a cafe, having brekky, and a coffee or 3, while wading through the weekend edition of the SMH. Brekky, in a cafe, with a newspaper is one of my favourite things.

brekkyOccasionally friends would wander by and say g’day, sometimes joining, sometimes not. Everyone knew which cafe they were likely to find me. For around a decade or so, I was ensconced at 381 King St and in that time I think it went through at least 4 owners and 3 different refurbishments, and several names. It had the rare attraction of being a cafe on King St with a view of blue sky and trees across the road. That particular section of King St is home to the School of Performing Arts thus is more open than the rest of the street.

I recall many years ago, that one of the ownership changes was rather sudden: I turned up on the Sat morning, barely awake and looking forward to my first coffee, only to discover it was no longer. I stood there for quite some time as my brain was in no condition to process the new information and in fact for months after, every week, my morning autopilot would bring me to the same spot. At which I would exclaim “bugger” and continue on.

That cafe time, with the papers, has become something of a zone for me. Sometimes I like people about, but sometimes I just need that space alone, a morning ritual, to relax and regain a sense of me. Particularly so when I’m going through major stresses or big changes afoot, that timeout has long been a spot to stop and breathe. Mostly though, it’s a chance to pause, to be at rest.

leftovers

Slowly but surely, I am getting the hang of this cooking malarky – learning the sorts of lessons that most folk did as children. I am not looking for external affirmation for achieving things at 40 (or even 41), that many achieved at 14. I am simply accounting for the fact, that in my space, and my own time, I am slowly getting my shit together. Tonight was typical of the new me, or rather the more efficient old me. It’s always the old me with the rough edges slowly being smoothed with the passage of cliche. Having claimed mum’s old wok, which turns out to be exactly the right sort of wok I’d been hunting for for yonks, I have been slow to put it to use. The first time I used it, I stuck it in the dishwasher and left it out to dry – it got a little rusty ie it’s a wok to season and it had been seasoned and I almost killed it; it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve killed a wok. Tonight, after using it for the third time, I rinsed it with hot water, wiped it down, removed the gunk, and oiled it. Did this after the second time too, but I seemed to be much more efficient this time.

So too, in my cooking. Tonight was a basic stirfry and I added a little too much oil which meant I needed to drain the excess (which I failed to do on the previous go). This meant that there was a lot less smoke, bugger all smoke actually, and I was no longer cooking in fear of the smoke alarms being triggered. And finally, I ate one serve, put the remainder into a sealable plastic container (a kiwi tupperware ripoff) and stuck it in the freezer. My body thanks me for avoiding a second helping, and will thank me again when I reuse it at some future date.

In other news, I fly to Mexico on Friday. A work trip. I suppose I should pick up some currency before I go. It’s been a busy time and will continue to be very busy. Spending last week in Albury with no daytime net access did not help. Anyway, it’s turning out to be a bit of mishmash of a trip, as so many of my trips seem to do. I’ll be gone for two weeks: the first week, will be work’s sales conference for the international offices; the second week was going to be a holiday. Already, I will be working the first few days of the second week as there’s a major interface change for a few of our databases – in the middle of holidays in the US, but the middle of term locally – I need to be available to assist customers if there’s a problem. I’m not anticipating major problems, though for the first time, we’re not supporting legacy persistent URLs. This troubles me a little. I understand why, as there’s structural change to the behaviour of the database, but such a move does go against the grain a little.

That aside, my holiday time is already reduced to less than a week, plus it’s mere weeks before showtime with the experimental stream I’m involved with (I am the co-convenor admittedly but I feel that saying so detracts from the awesomeness of the people I’m working with) at the ALIA Access conference. In other words, I suspect I’ll be too stressed to properly enjoy a holiday. Plus given the tight timeframe, I can’t really travel in the region sufficiently – or at least that’s my excuse. I will stay a week and a half in the SE of Mexico and will see a few things and hang out.

After that, having had an interesting chat with my boss, I might journey up to head office in Detroit, though the locale of the hotel is a wee bit dull. It would be nice however, to spend a few days working in the vicinity of folk I only ever deal with via email, many of whom I’ve never met face to face. If I can get in on a few meetings too, even better. Perhaps finish off with a couple of days in Chicago – I’ve never been to Chicago.

Another reason for the tightness of the Mexico trip is that I want to be home for my birthday as I am hosting a party for the first time in my life. I’m not actually cooking directly though buying food that can be reheated. A few friends have even offered to help; even my sister! Though she is an amazing cook herself. The current menu is likely to be a mix of dips and breads from a turkish place up the road – have eaten there many times and it is very yummy. I may or may not cook up some cheeses for dipping. Mains are likely to be batches of heated frozen foods (it’s a standing up party as I don’t have enough space or even table), though a couple of rungs above the basic party pies. Dessert will be cake. Was tossing up between a carrot cake or a mudcake, though a friend has suggested I get one of each. Was looking at getting a themed cake but prices for those are rather outlandish, so I think I will settle for something a little more sedate but yummy. Most buy some nice wine too.

shifting

I now have, and have paid for, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (HHGttG), in 3 different formats: paperback, leatherbound hardcover and now ebook. Short of seeking out a pirated digital edition, there was no real easy way of shifting the content from one form to another, or rather to shift it easily from pre digitial to digital. I’m hoping I don’t have to shift it again, whenever I get a non kindle compatible ereader. In that instance I may well need to hack the DRM and convert it to a standard format so I can be device independent. I figure these are early days yet for ebooks and ereaders – the market hasn’t really hit critical mass though it is now expanding at a good rate. I’d like to think that in a few years time, as things settle down, that format shifting, once in digital format, will be a straightforward affair. For now, it’s a bit of a headache.

As to why I’ve purchased yet another copy of HHGttG…well it’s my birthday in a few weeks and I turn 42. It’s also the first time in several years that I’ll be celebrating my birthday at home. In years gone by I’ve had enjoyable celebrations in Italy, Canada, UK, France (Paris of course) and even in transit (though that wasn’t so pleasant). I initially had ambitious plans of hiring a hall and catering, an animal on a spit, 50 or so friends and colleagues. As the event draws ever nearer, time is no longer on my side and my plans have changed, as have my desires. For the first time ever, I’m going to host a party at my place. Having successfully hosted for 3 guests, I figure I can handle 20-25…foolish chap I am.

A few folk have said my flat is big enough and can handle that many, so I’m off to a promising start. I am at least hoping to buy a fancy cake from somewhere and have started seeking quotes. For starters, possibly a mix of snacks and cheeses. Finger food is the go for the evening and I am still undecided as to whether I should brave cooking something myself or outsourcing that bit at least, to professionals. I’m a very basic sort of cook, trying to get up to speed with the rest of the world. I have a sneaking suspicion that yet another rendition of thai greeen curry is not the path to follow, though I’d like to do something a little more upmarket than sausage rolls and party pies. I should get in a case or two of wine too – folk will expect a tasty wine, so I shall pop over to Kemenys and stock up.

As it is my 42nd birthday, I will be encouraging all to dress up for a Hitchhiker’s theme. It’s been many years since I read the book myself (though I have read it several times), I figure an e-version was the best way to go so I can read it while I’m travelling. I have no idea what my own costume will be, or what ideas to base it upon. Whatever it is, it must be odd…and I like the idea of something obscure ie not Ford Prefect or Arthur Dent. I turned up to a mate’s 42nd at the start of the year with a pot of petunias, and told everyone I met I was having a whale of a time. I won’t be repeating that effort, though enough people got it.

Don’t panic, I just had an idea for the cake decoration.

a dinner party in my space

One of the interesting developments of having my own place, rather than living in other people’s spaces, is that I feel like I own it. I actually like staying in my place; my place still feels a little like a hotel but it is developing its own character. An odd side effect and I don’t know if it’s related, is that my desire for travel doesn’t seem to be as strong at the moment. It’s as if, staying in my place is a sort of destination of its own for me. I’m heading off to Mexico in July for work and I just can’t seem to get in the mood for it – consequently I’m only attaching a week’s holiday instead of longer. Oddish.

All my life, whether it was living with mum, or living with dad, or living with friends, living with partner, or living in the house I shared with dad (after he died), I’ve lived in the space of others. All my life has been spent going out rather than staying in: I visit others, I dine with others, I hang out with others; I inhabit spaces that are not my own. I rarely invite people back to my place, or if I do, it’s a space to meet before heading out to other spaces.

Last Saturday night I hosted a dinner party at my place. I suspect it was my first. The initial plan had been to show off my place to old friends and then head into Newtown for dinner. However the weather was looking cold and wet. Plus I’d been practicing a new dish after someone told me how to make thai green curry. It was really simple and I’d cooked it several times, changing bits each time. So I figured, buggrit, let’s stay in. And we did. I bought some nice cheeses and a friend made a pavlova. Though I had to quadruple the recipe, a wrinkle was that having practiced cooking for one, suddenly I had to cook for four.

Amusingly, I accidentally bought chives instead of coriander. There was no label in that section of the grocer’s and I guessed wrong :-) My curry included chicken (on my first attempt I used lamb which also worked fine), various veges I chopped up, coconut cream and water, thai green curry paste and a little chilli paste (not too much due to the palates of the guests alas). All in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Plus rice.

It all went swimmingly. I felt relaxed not nervous and they were old, and forgiving, friends. I even had leftovers to stick in the freezer. Definitely have the confidence to keep going. And I liked entertaining people in my space, rather than being the source of entertainment :-)

Tonight I plan to do a stewy soup as filmfest gets underway tomorrow. I’m going to cook enough for 4-5 meals, have one tonight and consume the rest over the coming days…in the gap between work and movie. I’ve bought a few tins of tomato soup, some diced lamb, a bunch of veges including carrot and onions and potatoes and zucchini and something I haven’t identified yet. All will go into the pot and I shall keep my fingers crossed that something tasty emerges.