Book Review: Mary Norris’s Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma QueenBetween You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really had some rather high hopes for this book, being a copy editor. It started with great promise, and Norris showed some fantastic and colourful recollection. But after hinting about getting some great gossip about working behind the scenes of the New Yorker and working with various authors, the chapters felt a bit scattered, a more complicated version of Eats, Shoots & Leaves with diversions into types of pencils and the bequest of a surprisingly wealthy copy editor. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I’m probably disappointed that they previews and reviews had me peg my expectations higher than were met.

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Food Diary: Gratia, Surry Hills. Sydney

IMG_3824  A few months ago, I stopped by for coffee at this social enterprise cafe. How interesting, I thought. Profits to charity? I couldn’t help but applaud, but I was drawn to have coffee because it looked like a nice, modern, cool place to hang out. The coffee was superb. Tips go to charity! I vowed to come back to try the food.

After dining at the superb restaurant next door, Folonomo, part of the same business: a gallery, a coffee shop and the restaurant – apparently they’re opening a cocktail bar soon, I made it two times in a week and had lunch with a pal.

IMG_3825My potato cakes were superb: light, tasty and savoury. A perfect balanced dish. My pal had grilled haloumi on a salad. Service was great, vibes were great, profits to charity, still great. Photos of food didn’t turn out though. I’ll add some the next time I go.

Gratia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Food Diary: Buon Gusto, Redfern/Darlington, Sydney

IMG_4176So, around Eveleigh Markets is kind of confusing. Cornerstone Bar seems like it should be a great idea, but we’ve been turned away because of a VIP function, and then, with an absolutely packed theatre event finishing (and patrons wanting to grab a bite to seat), no, the kitchen had closed.

I’ve always wanted to try Buon Gusto though because it looks like it’s been open for a thousand years, and certainly since I moved to Sydney in 1999. So, look. I understand if people are disappointed in receiving an old fashioned meal that isn’t particularly delicate. My veal was kind of tough and the vegetables overcooked. But the sauce was rich and decadent and mmmm… it was damn good, and kind of made up for the rest.

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We had a pinot grigio, rather expensive for what it was ($40) but on the other hand rather delicious, and we received a free appetizer plate which, surprisingly, had the IMG_4179most amazing morsel of risotto ball which we though was possibly the best thing of the evening.

Thought the accents came pretty close, both of the owner, with his huge belly hanging out over his apron, and the charming waitress.

Judging the restaurant as it asked to be: authentic – yes; history – yes; good service – yes; good food – fine though I think this ranking goes up because: Cornerstone has terrible hours and what else was around for dinner? Buon Gusto, that’s what. Otherwise, we would have starved.

Buon Gusto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Grog Diary: Nordic Liqueurs

IMG_4274It’s a bit of an interesting timeline to learn that since we travelled to Sweden, Finland and Denmark in Oct 2013 that it’s taken us basically two years and four months to finish up two different bottles of Swedish liqueur. I mean, it’s true. We weren’t quaffing them, so it Sailingseems like we were measured and perhaps respectful.

Roslags’ Swedish liqueur ‘Sailing’ came in an attractive off-kilter bottle. Upon finishing it, I was too tipsy to have retrieved the bottle from recycling, where my enthusiastic better half had put it, to take a photo, so I have evilly stolen this from a site without credit (shoot me dead). The thing is that I think we were doing it wrong. Basically, a schnapps, it made a lovely pre-dinner aperitif to get the juices flowing. Its primary flavour is a seaside herb called buckthorne. Savoury and herbal, this was actually quite a nice drink, but I think it was a little lost if after a meal rather than before. A surf of the webs shows that it is not a particularly known or popular liqueur…

Our souvenir of Finland from the makers, Lignell & Piispanen, also came in a particularly attractive bottle, with a wide base and stylish shape. Cloudberry is a local delicacy so to make a liqueur out of it makes sense. It was sweet without being cloying, pleasant but not spicy or exotic or overly showy, perhaps like the Finns themselves. I rather liked it, and never figured out if there was any mixer or otherwise that it would have been nice to combine with.

 

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Food Diary, Folonomo, Surry Hills, Sydney

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So, a financier (which is a good word, isn’t it?) named Matthew Byrne has financed a ‘social enterprise’ restaurant and cafe called Folonomo (For Love Not Money) and Grazie respectively. I’m expecting they pay their staff a proper wage, and then the profits go all to charity. Who would have thought?

IMG_4259Andrew, who I went to dinner with, pointed out it’s a far cry from Lentil as Anything, the non-profit pay-as-you-want vegan cafe from Melbourne (but lately of Sydney as well). He said the food is awful there…

IMG_4261And really, though I knew that I’d feel good eating there, I still couldn’t quite match up the concept of a charity restaurant with the fact that the FOOD IS SO GOOD. The spanner crab rolls in zucchini. Delicious. Like an interpretation of a sushi roll.

IMG_4255 (1)Very nice harissa chicken dish, also a lamb dish, and cauliflower rice. All designed for sharing. The food was both hearty and elegant, very Modern Sydney.

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Not sure about the purple mood lighting in terms of how it makes the food look, but it looks good from the outside of the restaurant (we’re sitting in the casual cafe side, as we didn’t have a reservation for the slightly more formal looking area next door).

IMG_4260Ah, and finally, a vegan ordered dessert, without finding out before that the dessert was not vegan. And they gave it to us! A nice treat, adding to the crazy feel of a Rugby Sevens night where the streets were filled with pirates, flamenco dancers, cat people, and more.

We brought-our-own rosé, from Logan winery. Attentive, friendly service, and we got to watch the very-zen cooks in action. All up about $140 with $10 for corkage and a tip… Eat great food for good causes, and your own selfish palate!

Folonomo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Food Diary, Ichiba Sushi, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

IMG_4016I don’t know what exactly will happen to these sushi restaurants with Tsukiji soon due to move to a new location. So, it was a MUST to take my better half (and myself) to morning sushi at the fish market, in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, 2015.

I had been recommended by my sister-in-law and brother to go to Sushibun, but it had a two hour wait, and my better half was NOT going to wait that long. The market was busy on 30 December (as it would be closed the next day).

IMG_4008So, I hopped in the line next door, thinking I’d take my chances. It was a much shorter half an hour wait, and we were in the door to Ichiba Sushi, the last sushi restaurant on the left when you are facing the busy row, and next to Sushibun).

We got a seat by the door, and it’s so charming to sit in these tiny sushi bars. If you look behind the sushi chef, the wall is worn from where his back has rubbed up against it, it’s that small.    IMG_4013 Choosing Menu B at 3000 yen (Menu A looked like it had Uni, sea urchin roe, not my favourite, and a few other more possibly challenging dishes), we had a beautiful selection of sushi with perfectly soft rice, amazing pickled ginger, and as expected, seafood so fresh that it really does taste different than anywhere else (except the other two times I’ve eaten at Tsukiji!). Also, a beautiful miso soup.

IMG_4015At my other times at Tsukiji, the sushi were served one at a time, so I think there was something a little less rushed and special about that. And if someone had offered me a IMG_4012place at one of the other super-busy restaurants without such a wait, I would have been curious to try them…

But I couldn’t find fault with this marvelous sushi breakfast, and what I think is a quintessential Tokyo tourist experience.

I can’t wait to go back again, our next trip to Japan.

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Food Diary: Grandma’s Little Bakery, Alexandria, Sydney

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I have to admit to being most of all charmed by the juxtaposition: homestyle, homey food, as if your grandma would make it, if your grandma was israeli. But the setting is Sydney IMG_4197warehouse cool, a big open space in the middle of a warehouse, brightly lit, with strong graphics.

It’s fun. The menu has photos and is on an iPad. The waitress had an excellent European accent. The food is homestyle delicious, and hearty, rather than refined. I myself was in the mood to try the beef stew, which was perfectly nice.

I’d be happy to drop back here for a simple meal, if I was in the neighbourhood.

IMG_4196 My pal had the very pretty dish below. IMG_4195

Grandma's Little Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Food Diary: Artificer Specialty Coffee, Surry Hills, Sydney

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I like the concept: coffee, just coffee. No frills, limited seating, no food or other items. And it’s got a buzz: it’s one of the top rated coffee houses in Sydney on BeanHunter, and it always seems busy. The minimalist Japanese vibe matched with Surry Hills cool is a pretty good combo.

But my better half said that sometimes minimalism looks like a lack of effort… and man, those cushions inside are really stained and dirty-looking. As for the coffee, perhaps it’s not to my taste. It’s obviously quality and made my skilled baristas, but I found my latte too milky, so much that I didn’t get much flavour. Single Origin in Surry Hills is still my favourite…

Artificer Specialty Coffee Bar & Roastery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Donating clothes to charity, Sydney

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I come from a family that saves things. Anything that’s useful should never, ever be thrown away.

However, of my three brothers, I’m the one who’s the clothes horse. So, it’s important that I get rid of clothes once in a while.

A few different thoughts have helped me to do this:

  • First of all, I had to find a charity that I liked. I just don’t like the religious charity shops scattered throughout Sydney. Too much of a long history with too much homophobia. Charity bins, as I hope you know, are even worse: just random business-people who collect clothes, in the name of charity, but may not give much of a donation IMG_4167 (1)at all. Then, I wanted to find a store that would get a good price for something that was in good condition. There are a number of shops that are so rundown that they’re not likely to either get much for an item of clothes, or recognise better quality pieces and charge more!
  • So, voila! The Australian Red Cross in Paddington sells nicer clothes and charges more, and seems to have a well-chosen selection of men’s clothes. I really like their work.
  • Now, I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book about tidying up but I did like her philosophy: ask whether something brings you joy.
  • Other advice is: have you worn it in the last season? Or: have you worn it in the last year?
  • For me, a good question, and one demanding an honest answer was: do I feel great wearing this piece of clothes? Not uncommonly, I would buy something and there IMG_4166would always be something that bothered me a little about it: the shape of a collar, the colour, the fit. I was much worse when I was younger in buying things BECAUSE THEY WERE ON SALE and then figuring out that they were too large, or not quite right.
  • Another good way for me to look at my clothes is as a consumable good. Now, I know an ecological mindset hates fast fashion, and how disposable it is. But it did help me to think that if I spent the same amount on a shirt, say, as a meal, and that I’d enjoyed wearing that shirt a few times, it is NOT necessary for me to keep it forever, just because it is still wearable.
  • Finally, as a writer, it amused me to write down what I gave away in a little bulleted list in my online journal. Kind of way of ticking them off a list.

Armed with all of these techniques, I managed to fill up two large bags of clothes (thirty items, I counted!) and bring them to the Australian Red Cross on Sunday and… Boy, I feel happy to have done so.

Have you cleaned out your closet lately?

ARC2

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Food Diary: La Mesa, Chinatown, Sydney

IMG_4164Just around the corner from Dixon Street near Chinatown, and up a flight of stairs is La Mesa, a Filipino restaurant that looks like it’s been comfortably here for a while. Saturday night, we go at 5:30pm or so, super-early before going to watch the movie Carol. It’s crowded already.

We opted for a plate of mixed appetizers each: the little spring roll was perfect; my better half thought the deep-fried quail egg was weird, the fried vegetable thing was OK, and the two BBQ meat items were Dee-Li-Cious.

IMG_4163I couldn’t go by the Chicken Adobo, and it was nice enough, that tangy dark vinegar flavour and tender meat, though I have to say, that recipe awhile ago from the NYT for making it home, was richer and tastier.

IMG_4162I’m glad we ordered the garlic rice (very tasty) and our coconut water was a good match for the food too. The star of course: Crispy Pata. A deep-fried pork knuckle, a generous portion, and what could be wrong with super-tender and super-crispy pork.

So, a tasty and reasonably priced meal ($70 for the two of us, non-alcoholic drinks), though the service, in a busy but not full restaurant, was really pretty slow, and the waiter looked scared of… everything. I want to go back and try more dishes, and there were many things which were unfamiliar to me.

La Mesa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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