*We interrupt our usual broadcast to bring you a summary of the month that was…*
October for me means celebrating several friends’ birthdays and has also, for many years, meant Good Food Month. Having never worked in the city means that I have never been able to take advantage of Let’s Do Lunch offers, but just because Good Food Month has now been renamed to Sydney International Food Festival does not change what the month-long events mean to me: Sugar Hits!
Throughout the month of October many places offer a nightly dessert deal including dessert wine for $20, from 9-11pm unless stated otherwise, most of them being hotels. In the past some places have allowed the substitution of alternate drinks for non-wine drinkers, but in recent years the deal components cannot usually be changed.
This year there were a few funny things about Sugar Hits:
- the website had originally advertised Sugar Hits for $45 – a bit of a price hike! – which was soon corrected
- Tony Bilson’s Number One and Swissôtel were both omitted from the printed program but were listed online
- there was a misprinting of the phone number for Sir Stamford
- there was an unexpected change of menu at Shangri-La (more about that as you read on)
Four Seasons, 4 October 2009
A large group of us descended upon Four Seasons without much planning, however one of us did call ahead to make a reservation. Upon arrival he was told Sugar Hit was not being offered that particular evening, but when the whole group was assembled staff said they could serve it to us anyway. Confused? Oh yes, much.
The menu featured ‘Baked chocolate mousse with mandarin sorbet and anise seed croquant’ paired with Brown Brothers’ orange muscat and flora which was not allowed to be swapped for coffee or tea. In hindsight, Four Seasons served the largest glasses of dessert wine of all the Sugar Hits we attended!
The baked mousse was fudgy with its texture resembling a brownie and the sorbet had a slightly bitter taste akin to citrus peel. There were little cubes of jelly dotting the plate that tasted like manadarin and were firm but not quite as chewy as, say, a gummy lolly. All elements sat on a plate decorated with swirls of chocolate sauce and mandarin sauce.
InterContinental, 5 October 2009
Monsieur Poisson and I ended up here after trying to book for Azuma Kushiyaki (see below) but were told they were closing early due to it being a public holiday and would not be offering Sugar Hit. We phoned InterContinental and were told no booking was required so we rocked up around 9:30pm.
The description for their Sugar Hit was a ‘famous dessert trilogy paying homage to chocolate’ by Austrian pastry chef Karl Beil. We started off with a glass of orange muscat and flora each before being presented with a rectangular platter with a white chocolate dome, chilli chocolate slice and a chocolate macaron on chocolate paste.
The white chocolate dome was a marshmallowy mousse resting on a disc of sponge. It was sweet but not overly creamy. The chocolate macaron, as Not Quite Nigella said, is actually a macaroon and for some reason the one on my plate was much larger than that on Monsieur Poisson’s. The biscuit was almondy and was sitting on some seriously rich chocolate paste. The chilli chocolate slice was spongy yet rich at the same time with an obvious after-kick of chilli. Alongside was some nashi pear paste which we were told served the purpose of cleansing the palate between each chocolate morsel.
Sheraton on the Park, 9 October 2009
We arrived at Sheraton in the midst of pelting rain after learning that both Azuma Kushiyaki and Glass had been booked out since 4:30pm that afternoon. Sugar Hit was being served on the ground floor of the Sheraton, as opposed to upstairs as in years past. There didn’t seem to be an organised reservations system in place and we saw people being seated whenever they arrived regardless of whether they have made a reservation or not.
There was no mention of what the dessert wine was when it was placed in front of us and we could only assume it was Brown Brothers’ orange muscat and flora. I suspect that the wine had been pre-poured and the glasses chilled en masse as the wines arrived being less fragrant than what we had experienced elsewhere.
The dessert was a ‘Warm chocolate pudding with golden almond splinters, honeycomb ice-cream and chantilly cream’. Not being much of a pudding girl, I didn’t have high expectations but was pleasantly surprised by the spongy and fluffy pudding covered by a river of chocolate sauce flecked with almond bits. The centre was hot but it was no fondant so I can understand how some would have been disappointed. The ice-cream had lovely crunchy honeycomb bits and was sitting in its own mini-waffle basket which stopped the ice-cream from running everywhere. The cream was smooth with a rich dairy taste and cut through the pudding nicely.
Partly due to the miserable weather, Monsieur Poisson ordered a caffe latte afterwards that arrived with quite a bit of milk foam and a biscotti on the side.
Shangri-La, 16 October 2009
Shangri-La’s Sugar Hit menu caused confusion for me this year as the program had them serving ‘Coconut panna cotta, mango jelly, frozen coconut pops and pineapple’, whereas the website listed a ‘Hazelnut torte, lemon curd, sugar-coated hazelnuts and lemon jelly’. Not similar in the least! However the dessert wine was allowed to be swapped for soft drinks and juices, but not tea or coffee.
What we got on the night was a hazelnut torte that was more mousse than torte, with its obvious lack of nut meal, that had a lemon curd centre. The sugar-coated hazelnuts had turned into sugar-coated popcorn, although the popcorn was crunchy, light and thinly and evenly coated in toffee. The stripes of lemon curd on the plate were not quite tart enough for me but, then again, I like and can tolerate quite a bit of sourness. The lemon jelly was cute and dusted with caster sugar which reminded us of jube lollies from our childhood.
Azuma Kushiyaki and Glass were reportedly booked out until the end of the month and I was disappointed at Sheraton because I had expected a much more nutty affair!
Azuma Kushiyaki, 23 October 2009
So if Azuma Kushiyaki was booked out, how did we get to Sugar Hit there? Due to a little trickery on Monsieur Poisson’s part, he made a dinner reservation for us to celebrate our anniversary. Ours was a drawn-out meal anyway and when 9pm swung around…
This was the Sugar Hit that I really wanted to try, partly because it was new to the Sugar Hit list but mostly because of the stunning photos I had seen on other food blogs. Judging from these, Azuma Kushiyaki looked like an exceptional value-for-money Sugar Hit.
Azuma Kushiyaki’s ‘East meets West – Dessert Tasting Plate’ featured ‘mochi with kinako served with vanilla ice-cream and Japanese brown sugar syrup, green tea rolled cake with chestnuts, nori seaweed langue de chat biscuits, vanilla cheesecake and Belgian chocolate mousse.’
I started off with the mochi which was sitting in partly melted ice-cream by the time I had finished with my frenzy of photographing. They were a nice bite-size, not overly sticky and mildly sweet from the kinako. I was instructed to pour the sugar syrup over the mochi and ice-cream which added a glorious burnt caramel taste. The green tea cake was light with a fair amount of green tea taste and quite a lot of creamy filling. I seemed to get more chestnuts in my piece than I had seen in photos. The langues de chat were buttery with a savoury twang of nori which reminded me of Asian packs of nori-flavoured potato crisps. The vanilla cheesecake was of the unbaked variety and was smooth, creamy and very milky in taste. The chocolate mousse was dark, not sugary and heavenly even for someone like me who normally doesn’t like mousse!
Monsieur Poisson gave the Sugar Hit a miss and ordered himself the Belgian chocolate mousse from the current dessert menu. It was presented with as much care and precision as my dessert and Azuma Kushiyaki was definitely the standout for me amongst this year’s Sugar Hits.
Sir Stamford, 24 October 2009
We were accompanied by Ms Sourdough and Weirdo to this Sugar Hit, but unfortunately Weirdo was on a diet and had to sit and watch us eat! We were confounded to be asked what drinks we wanted by a staff member and further perplexed when he told us the Sugar Hit was paired with a ‘riesling which is not really a riesling’. Anyhow, after a little while we had glasses of orange muscat and flora placed in front of us before the arrival of a ‘layered treat filled with strawberries and cream, with layers of soft ginger shortbread in between’.
Sandwiched in between rounds of icing sugar-dusted, crumbly, ginger shortbread were layers of thick cream and fresh strawberries. The top was decorated with slices of dried strawberry and mint leaves, which added a different layer of flavour and textural contrast. The amount of cream proved too much for Ms Sourdough and myself, but Monsieur Poisson happily accepted my rejected cream. The shortbread had interesting bursts of ginger and saltiness (perhaps from the use of salted butter?) and was rather filling, but was nice with the berry coulis that had been drizzled on the plate.
Swissôtel, 27 October 2009
We squeezed in one last Sugar Hit before the end of the month and landed ourselves at Swissôtel, where they had a twist on the partnered drinks. From the above you would probably think the only drink on offer was Brown Brothers’ orange muscat and flora, but the other featured dessert drink was Hennessy cognac. Swissôtel was serving Brown Brothers’ zibibbo or a Hennessy cognac mule cocktail with their dessert of ‘White chocolate raspberry layered mousse, champagne glazed poached berries and dark chocolate pistachio’.
Monsieur Poisson tried the cognac cocktail which was made with lime juice and ginger beer. It had an interesting tart and gingery kick at the end but the cognac was quite potent and Monsieur Poisson failed to finish it. I rather enjoyed the zibbibo because of its light flavour and bubbles. The layered mousse had a layer of nuts hidden in the middle and a crumbly base. The cup contained a white chocolate mousse concealing poached berries at the bottom. The dark chocolate pistachio was quite rich and was like chocolate fudge decorated with pistachio rubble.
And that, is it for another year. I probably need to take it easy with desserts after all this, and it seems that October is the only time during the year that I consume any sort of dessert wine!
199 George St, Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9250 3231
117 Macquarie St (entrance cnr of Bridge St & Phillip St), Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9240 1396
161 Elizabeth St, Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9286 6000
176 Cumberland St, The Rocks NSW
Tel: (02) 9250 6000
Ground floor of Regent Place, 501 George St, Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9267 7775
Level 8, 68 Market St, Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9238 7082
So how many Sugar Hits did you do this year and what was your favourite?