Friday, August 31, 2012

A taste of Penang in Perth..

I was raised in Perth, but grew up looking forward every year to going back home to Penang, Malaysia, to catch up with my cousins and other relatives and, of course, for the food.  It's truly like nothing you can find anywhere in Australia - the intensity of flavours, spices, the heat.  

Tak Chee House on William St in Northbridge specialises in a small number of really good Penang/Malaysian dishes - the menu is sparse and so is its decor: 

As simple as it gets
But, as in Malaysia, it isn't about how the place looks (some of the best meals can be found without any kind of roof or shelter at all), but about the quality of the food.  I would usually order the chicken rice when I go to Tak Chee (it's pretty much the best I've had in Perth, aside from my mum's of course! haha) but this time I thought for a change I'd try some of their other dishes.

Char kway teow - $14
I had heard that the char kway teow is really good here so we ordered the seafood version and asked for it  to be hot (in terms of spice level).  The waitress warned us that medium is already hot, but we insisted.  Just as well - in terms of heat I'd probably rate it about a 6/10.

While it was one of the better versions of this dish I've had in Perth, it's still not as good as I've had in Penang or KL.  It was very oily, not salty enough (we added soy sauce), I would've liked more of a smokey/ashy flavour, some blood clams would've been nice too and most importantly, where were the little crispy croutons of pork lard??  For this dish, you must choose authenticity over diet, otherwise it's just another plate of fried flat rice noodles.  Maybe I'm just nit picking though, for all of my griping it wasn't bad,  and to be fair it's probably as good as you're going to get in Perth.

I was in KL in July and for breakfast we had RM$1 roti canai (which, even overpriced by their standards, is still incredibly cheap for us).  The rotis were huge and incredibly filling.  They come with a small bowl of dal, though you could probably ask for another type of curry (you'd pay extra) if you like.  

Roti canai with chicken curry - $12
This roti canai cost me $12 and the bowl of curry (I was given the option of chicken or beef) was bigger than the bread!  Don't get me wrong - I'm happy to pay $12 for a dinner meal, but I would have been happier if the roti was twice the size and the curry was half as much (hell, I would've been happy with a tiny bowl of dal).

The curry was nothing special.  The roti, however, was really fluffy and buttery and rich.  My recommendation if you order this dish is to spend the extra $3 and get a second piece.

We finished the meal with shared ice kacang.  It was HUGE!  3 of us couldn't finish the whole thing (to be fair, 2 of us had also had a large glass of teh tarik each - very creamy, sweet and strong. I liked it!).

Just be careful, though, we asked for no peanuts but right at the bottom we found raw peanuts.  Luckily it was a request due to choice not necessity, so no epipens were needed, but anyone with nut allergies should be careful to have friends check for nuts before dipping in.  Their version of ice kacang also includes raisins which I found to be a bit odd.  I'd trade the raisins for palm seeds any day.

In short, the meals are pretty cheap ($40 all up for the char kway teow, roti canai, ice kacang and 2 teh tariks) and I think it's as close to authentic Malaysian dishes as you will find in Perth - unless you go to my mum's house! hahaa  My recommendation would be to stick to the chicken rice and maybe the fried bean sprouts with salted fish and you won't go wrong. 

Tak Chee House on Urbanspoon

The highlight of my evening, however, was finding an asian bakery still open at 8pm that sold mooncake, but not just any mooncake, my favourite - red bean with 2 yolks!  I don't know why, but I feel like every year it gets harder and harder to find mooncake with redbean filling (everyone wants to be fancy with their green tea, pandan and lotus fillings but not me, I'd take good ol' el cheapo redbean over the others any day), and even when I do, I'd be lucky to even have one yolk, much less 2!

So I bought a whole box.  And I'm not sharing hahahaha

Mooncake: how do I love thee? let me count the ways
Happy mid-autumn festival all!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Babycakes NYC's Triple Chocolate 'Fat Pants' Cake

I might bring cake tonight, I say to my mum.  Is she vegetarian or vegan? Mum shrugs.  I decide to err on the side of caution.  

So out comes my only vegan cookbook and I decide to try out the Triple Chocolate Fat Pants cake.  Three chocolate cake layers (with baked-in dark choc chips) sandwiched with vanilla frosting and crumbled choc chip cookies - it sounds simply divine (to my chocolate addict tastebuds anyway). 

With only 2-3 hours until the dinner, I dutifully begin with the chocolate chip cookies.  This time I've bought a different brand of coconut oil in the hope the aroma may be a little less pungent.  It is the only other brand my local gourmet deli stocks, and it is less than half the cost of my original jar:
Compare the pair - left is $8, right is $19
As before, the ingredients come together very quickly (I did a third of the recipe, only needing 12 cookies and not the 36 the full recipe provides).
Choc chip cookie dough unlike any I've ever seen!
You use a melon baller to scoop the mix onto the baking tray and then press them down with the heel of your hand to help them to spread.

Now I don't know if I didn't do it right, but when the cookies came out, they were a bit crisp and golden at the edges as described in the book, but they were also incredibly chewy in the middle.  As in, when I went to crumble them onto the cake, it was less of crumbling and more like tearing.  In any case, the brown rice flour lends a sort of 'wholemeal' flavour to the cookies and they're quite coconut-y once again from the coconut oil.  All in all not bad, but I think a more accurate description would have been "chocolate chip chewy oat cookies".

Then onto baking the cakes.  The recipe for these cakes is pretty much the same as the chocolate cupcake recipes I had baked previously, but with the addition of chocolate chips.

All the components awaiting assembly
Now comes the part where you kick yourself for not having read through the whole of the recipe properly like you're supposed to.  The vanilla frosting recipe calls for at least 6 hours of refrigeration time for it to set properly.  Err... how about an hour in the freezer??

This is where things began to go awry...  This frosting is made from soy  milk, soy milk powder and coconut flour.  The first is easy enough to source.  The other two... soy milk powder I don't have.  Soy flour I do have.  The book says you can substitute rice milk and rice flour for its soy counterparts in this recipe so I decided to sub the coconut flour for rice flour.  Then on top of that, I finally ran out of all my coconut oil.  The only other fat I could find that was a solid at room temperature was copha (vegetable shortening) so I used 50/50 melted copha and melted coconut oil.

An hour later the frosting had thickened in the freezer but not to the point where it was spreadable.  I was out of time by that point and happy to spread/pour it on as a kind of sauce and put it together as per the rest of the recipe:

The finished product!
The cake, while still smelling strongly of coconut oil (despite halving it) was actually really moist, very chocolatey and many are right to compare it to chocolate brownies.  The cookies, as I said before, are a little on the wholemeal/oaty side which is fine as it pairs well with the richness of the cake.

The frosting, however, ruined what could otherwise have been a resounding success. Imagine the taste and texture of solidified slightly sweetened soy milk and you may come close to how it tasted.  I doubled the vanilla and actually used vanilla bean paste containing seeds, but the soy flavour was still too overpowering.  I'd like to say that I'll try this again with the rice milk substitution, or with the correct ingredients, but I'm not sure I will bother.

In the end it turned out that the guest was an ovo-lacto vegetarian - *phew*!  Pass the eggs and butter please!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Babycakes NYC book review

Last Christmas as a Kris Kringle gift through work I was given a cookbook written by Erin McKenna, founder of Babycakes NYC, a famous mostly gluten/vegan/refined sugar/fat/soy/wheat free bakery in New York.  

I have to confess - it took me a good 3-4 months before I baked my first recipe out of that book simply because even what I considered to be my well-stocked pantry didn't contain all the necessary ingredients.  For example I've never used coconut oil or agave nectar and don't ordinarily keep a supply of apple sauce.  I was momentarily joyous when I discovered that the gourmet deli near my place did stock these items, then grumpy to realise how expensive they are!  

So these chocolate cupcakes are my second bake from this book.  Among the ingredients less commonly found in the average pantry are: gram dal flour, potato flour, arrowroot flour, xanthan gum, agave nectar, coconut oil and (for me anyway) apple sauce.  

No butter, table sugar, eggs or milk to be found in these cupcakes!

When I previously baked the vanilla cupcakes from this book I made the full 2 dozen that the recipe provides and the cost of the ingredients alone were in the region of $20 - a lot more than what a similar batch would cost using regular flour and ingredients (max $5).   The coconut oil and agave nectar jars you see below cost $10, and I used at least half of each to make these one dozen chocolate cupcakes.  

It ends up being quite a runny mix - hence the recipe's direction to 'pour' into the cases
They come together very easily - basically mix the dry ingredients well then add everything else all at once and you're good to go.  One thing I will say is that for a pouring mix and no whipping needed at all, they rose beautifully, as you can see below:

They're ready when they spring back to gentle pressure
Light yet moist, definitely chocolatey and fudgy
I have to say the first time I tried a recipe from this book (the vanilla cupcakes) I had mixed feelings - I didn't mind them, but they didn't taste like any kind of vanilla cupcake I'd ever had before.  They were very moist and had a good cake-y texture, but had a weird aftertaste that wasn't vanilla and there was a tang like I almost felt like I could taste the bicarb soda.  Steve refused to eat more than one bite.  When I brought them to work I got good reviews, though, and my coeliac friend had 3 in a row!

I tried the chocolate version this time (the only difference between this recipe and the vanilla cupcake recipe is the addition of cocoa powder) as I was hoping the chocolate flavour would disguise the strange aftertaste.  I was a little sceptical as to how chocolatey it would be, containing no chocolate at all, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I ate 2 in pretty quick succession (it was lunchtime! haha).

The strange aroma is still there and I think it's because my coconut oil (though of high quality, certified organic, extra virgin, cold pressed from Fiji and described on the jar as being a healthier butter alternative) is very pungent - you open the jar and a rich coconut fragrance fills the air, which adds a lovely aroma to curries - but is perhaps a little too overpowering for cakes and cupcakes.

I didn't try the chocolate frosting recipe as listed in the book as I have no idea where to find powdered soy milk.  Besides which, the coconut oil flavour is so strong in the cupcakes I'm not sure I could've handled coating them with the same again.

TL;DR?  Here's the low-down: 

The good:

  • no animals were harmed or otherwise inconvenienced in the making of these cupcakes - they're 100% vegan 
  • they're soy and wheat-free 
  • they're sweetened with agave which depending on what you read, can be better than table sugar (it has a lower GI)
  • they contain coconut oil as opposed to butter (no trans fats and more easily digestible by our bodies)
  • they are like eating rich chocolate fudge cake - a very moist, but light, tender crumb 

The not-so-good:

  • they taste vegan, soy and wheat-free (and I don't mean to say that in a way to cause anyone offence - anyone who has had regular cupcakes will know instantly what I mean when they taste these) 
  • there is a strange aftertaste/scent that you wouldn't usually associate with cupcakes 

If you had never tried anything else, I'd imagine these would taste pretty good.  I almost wish I didn't have a mode of comparison - once again Steve had one mouthful and couldn't bring himself to eat the rest.

I think I'd like to try these recipes again, if only to use up the rest of my dal flour (that's a lot more cupcakes!) but maybe with either a less pungent coconut oil, or if possible replacing the coconut with vegetable oil instead.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Please, sir, I want some more

Warning:  Much raving, gushing and use of the words "amazing", "perfect" and "delicious" to follow.  Drooling may result.

When you come to Zephyr Mediterranean Cuisine in North Beach don't expect to find the usual run of the mill whatever-it-is-on-mash/pizza/pasta menu options.   Do expect great food, excellent service (thank you Natascha for making us feel so welcome and for looking after us so well!) and to leave with a promise to return.  

To start, the 4 of us shared the Kalamata and Queen Olives as well as the filo parcels.  If you've never tried warmed olives, you're in for a treat.  These olives were so tasty and importantly not too salty.  I'm not a massive olive fan but I loved these:
Warm olives marinated in-house - divine!
As for the filo parcels - YUM!  perfect pockets of crispy pastry and the most delicious fillings just bursting with fresh flavour. Oh my goodness - from the first mouthful I started laughing with joy it was so delightful.  It being our first time there, I didn't know what to expect but from that first fateful bite I knew I was in trouble.  Forget the diet: I will embrace my doom gratefully =P

Filo parcel (spinach, pumpkin, feta and basil)
Moving on to the mains, Steve said his beef fillet was the best he'd had in the 5 years he's been living in Australia.  He wasn't exaggerating.  It was tender and juicy and everything (and more!) that you'd hope for at restaurant.  The red wine sauce was seasoned perfectly and the potato gratin was amazing.  A definite highlight of the evening.

The exquisite beef fillet
I didn't get to try the mushroom risotto but it looked and smelled amazing. I had a mushroom risotto once that just looked like a grey mush.  I love that you can see the chunks of risotto and the separate grains of rice - no mush here!
Mushroom risotto
"You had me at duck confit", Cayley wrote to me after I sent her the menu to consider.   She didn't even bother reading any further down the menu but as it turns out, she didn't need to. It didn't disappoint; the duck confit was oh so melt-in-your-mouth tender and flavoursome.

Duck confit
My main dish was the Exmouth tiger prawns paella.  I had been craving fresh prawns for the longest time.   There's nothing worse than getting excited about a prawn dish only to bite into one and realise it's one of those pre-treated, rubbery, pre-packaged, shelled, frozen boxed prawns.  The worst part of it is that at most restaurants the seafood/prawn dishes will be more expensive than other dishes, but they use the cheapest ingredients they can source.  Not so at Zephyr.  Thank you for making the most of what nature has provided!

Unfortunately the only picture I have of my dish is massively overexposed and of poor quality so it wouldn't do it justice.  Prawns aside, though, I loved that I could taste every single different ingredient in my dish, from the tomatoes right down to the burst of flavour when I bit into a pea.  You don't get a hodge podge of too many things trying to happen at once in your mouth - what I loved was that it was about simple, tasty flavours and focussing on quality over quantity.

Despite our straining stomachs, because our meals thus far had been so amazing, we decided to plow on and sample their desserts.  Their tiramisu was delicious, but nothing outside of what I've had before.  Still, I was very happy with it (as you can see):

The flourless chocolate cake was rich and delicious - yum!

Torte Caprese (flourless chocolate cake)
But the highlight of the desserts was their doughnuts (or doughnut holes) filled with creme patissiere and served with butterscotch sauce.  It is usually served in threes, but because there were 4 of us at the table Natascha very kindly gave us 4 so we could each try one.  She said that people will go there just for the doughnuts.  They were so good that they were all eaten before I remembered to get my camera out - what a shame!

We must've seemed like raving food loonies with our cameras and our gratitude (I confess gushing to Natascha about what an amazing experience each dish was) and to my delight, Chef Lawrence himself came out to greet us!

Me unsuccessfully containing my excitement at meeting the Chef himself - much to the embarrassment of my friends
Here is a man who really cares about the quality dining experience and a master of bringing out the best of fresh ingredients.  He chatted with us at the table and then ever so kindly poured each of us a sample aperitif (well, I suppose in this case it was a digestif as it was after our meals) that I stupidly can't remember the name of now (a spanish wine?) but do remember that it deliciously sweet, almost port-like, and akin to having the essence of sultanas or raisins in my mouth.  I may or may not be salivating at the memory of it now *slurp*

What a warm and personal experience we all had with Natascha, Chef Lawrence and their crew.  It's not what could be classified as a cheap dinner out (I think that night ended up being in the region of $80 per person for shared entrees and desserts and individual mains), but in my opinion it's worth every penny.

I've really wanted to go back ever since but haven't yet found an excuse to.  Which brings me to why am I only just blogging about it now - it's my birthday next month and I want to put it out there: watch out Zephyr!  I'm on my way!

Zephyr Mediterranean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sear it and spear it!

Tong 86 is a Korean bbq casual restaurant located on Beaufort Street in Northbridge near the police station and the Court (I've been known to eat here before hitting the dance floor there - maybe as a result of a little too much soju!).  On the odd occasion that I'm suffering from massive red meat cravings (I generally prefer chicken or fish) I love to come here.  You cook the meat yourself at the table and it's served simply with a few side dishes (most often lettuce, fish cake slices, cabbage kimchi and spring onion kimchi (at least I think that's what it is)).

Doesn't get more freshly cooked than this!
I usually dip the cooked meat into the salted sesame oil and then into the soya bean/chilli sauce, placed it in part of a torn lettuce leaf with some of the side dishes, roll it up and gobble it down.  YUM.

Unsuspecting victims of my bad photography  skills
It's always packed with Koreans (to me, that's proof enough of its authenticity) and what I love about it is there's nothing fancy about the place from the decor to the service (in fact, the service is usually pretty bad - you really want to order as much as you can at the first go as it can be very hard to wave a waiter down a second time) and the meat isn't seasoned or marinated in anything, so it's very much about the flavour and quality of the meat more than anything else.

A tip from a Korean friend was that drinking soju while eating improves the flavour of the meat.  Not sure if it's true (generally once I start with the soju I don't tend to remember the dining experience, so my testing of the theory hasn't been very useful!) but it's worth a try!  You clink your glasses, say 건배! (kon bae!) toss it back like a shooter, and I like to do this for fun - pull a face and make a sound in the back of your mouth by partially blocking the air with your tongue almost like you've burned something.  You see them do it a lot in k-dramas - it's kinda fun!  And takes the sting away from the soju which can be quite strong =P

It's uncomplicated eating at its best and if you feel like something more substantial they do have other dishes like kimchi pancakes and my favourite - kimchi jigae (described as kimchi stew on the menu).  It's a stew made from old kimchi, chilli, tofu and small pieces of pork.  The kimchi, which can usually be quite sharp in flavour when fresh, has been mellowed out due to age (and stewing) and is almost sweet in this stew.  It's my hands-down favourite Korean home dish and I order it anywhere I can get it (because kimchi can be so varying in flavour I love trying it everywhere).  I throw as much rice as can fit in the bowl and then scoff the lot - truth be told, tonight I forgot my meat craving and didn't even need any what we had cooked (though of course I scoffed that too haha).  I had my bowl of stew; a meteor could've fallen on the restaurant and I would've been no closer to  heaven.

I inhaled.  It disappeared.

Tong 86 on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 17, 2012

Just giving in..

I don't have much in the way of cake orders these days and I'm not fussed.  It's nice to just be able to do what comes to mind as opposed to what others have requested.  Plus it's a good opportunity to practise basic techniques.  Anyway, today's the big day that Max gets to make his grand entrance! 

For this cake, I really wanted to keep it really simple with the decorations - just have Max as a feature, choose a small number of contrasting colours for interest and let the cake shine on its own (with minimal embellishments).  For that to work, it really needed smooth, straight sides and sharp corners.  

Well you know what they say about best-laid plans...  The ganache was setting as I was using it (as in I was trying to smooth it with the side scraper and it was causing the ganache to flake off - next time I will soften my ganache more before covering the cake with it) and it made it really hard to smooth.  Then somehow I kept finding dents in my fondant after laying it on the cake.  After 3 attempts (removing, kneading, rerolling and replacing), checking the ganache each time and finding nothing, I gave up and decided I was going to have to cover all those lumps and bumps after the fact. 

Smoothing on the fondant, I managed to put a small hole partway down the bottom (the fondant was very soft and sticky that night), found it had a lot of lint despite using The Mat and due to removing and replacing the fondant so many times, some chocolate had found its way on to it as well.  

I had some issues with covering the board too and then when I later checked the cake it suddenly was covered with bubbles and air pockets that were not previously there. Gah!  Nothing was going right.  

I was ready to stop here: 

If I'd managed better with the sides/edges, I may have stopped here.
 But my obsessiveness with covering the worst of the pinpricks  made me add on more:

I'm getting more used to seeing it with the extra flowers now

And I love the colour of that grass.  A ton of green went into that!
Now that I'm used to seeing it like this, I actually like it better with all its busy-ness.

And of course, I love Max.

I can't stop with the pics now cos he's so damn cute!
During the process, I got so upset with myself at how nothing I had planned was going right that I couldn't see that even as 'wrong' as it was, it still wasn't 'bad'.  Sometimes it's so easy to forget that it can just as much be about how you deal with those little hiccups and bumps as it is about getting it right in the first place.  If not for those little blemishes on this cake needing to be covered, it may not have looked as good as I think it does now.  In any case, the recipient (and her mother) was delighted with the final product and that's good enough for me! =D

Any excuse will do!

I love it when friends from interstate (or anywhere, really) come to visit. As much it's not helping my fight against the flab, it's a great excuse to try somewhere new to eat.

For this girls' catchup, one of my fellow Perthites recommended a little hidden gem - Yuzu in Mt Lawley.  I would never have known it was there, as its entry is via the carpark behind the main strip (think behind Fresh Provisions).  We went for lunch on a Sunday afternoon (ah it's so nice to find somewhere that's open on a Sunday in Perth, especially the smaller hidden ones!), arriving around 2pm.  Unfortunately the shop closed at around 3pm, but as it's primarily a sushi train most customers would be in and out in pretty quick time (not like us girls who were there as much for the gasbagging as for the piggifying). 

I ordered my regular favourite - the Oyako Don:
Oyako don
I think it wasn't anywhere near as tasty as what I've had in Taka's in Perth, but for $12 it was more than enough to fill me up.  Very saucy though - too much so for eating with chopsticks - and the spoon I had to ask for (I was too hungry to eat my lunch one grain of rice at a time) never arrived (this was the only negative about the service there - it was otherwise friendly and very efficient).

The table favourite was the beef tataki carpaccio:

Beef tataki carpaccio
I liked the mix of flavours in my mouth, but to be honest the piece of beef I had was so chewy I couldn't break it up and had to swallow it whole (being too ladylike to spit it out at the table haha).

We also tried the Agedashi Tofu:
Agedashi tofu
I actually prefer the Hanami version up the road, but this one wasn't bad.

Possibly my favourite dish off the sushi train was this one:
Tempura prawn gunkan
Sweet, crispy and a little spicy.  Just the way I like it!

All the sushi from the train was very fresh and full of natural flavour.  While I was a little disappointed with the oyako don and the agedashi tofu, I'd definitely go back for the sushi train.  I've been off Jaws for some time now, so it's nice to find a newer, fresher (and less packed out) alternative!

YUZU Kaiten Sushi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pass the salt

My general take on eating out in Perth is that the majority of restaurants that fall within the 'average' category.  Average being that you pay approx $30 for a main course that is edible, but not really distinguishable from what you'd find anywhere else.  It's like it's a Perth speciality - unexciting food for a high cost. 

A prime example was the dinner we had at Al Fornetto last night.  We went there because it was local to us and because we had an Entertainment Book voucher for 25% off (thank goodness).  

I ordered the lamb shanks.  I haven't had lamb shanks possibly for about 5 years so was really looking forward to flavourful tender meat falling off the bone.

Menu special - Lamb Shanks - $31.95
The meat, on the whole, did fall off the bone, but it was a bit gamey for my taste and some of it was grisly, some a bit dry and the underside mostly fatty.  The jus was heavily salted.  As in, it tasted like salted vegetable stock made into a gravy.  I can't even put into words how salty it was.  The bed of mash, which was far more than I could finish, was very buttery but nothing special.

30 minutes later in the cinema I could still feel a coating of salty fat/oil in my mouth.

Ribeye steak with mushroom sauce - $34.95
The ribeye steak was coated in a similarly salty gravy and much less tender than my shanks (though cooked to a pink medium in the centre).  The wedges were soggy and likewise nothing special.  We've cooked much better steak at home with nothing more than the cut of meat and some salt and pepper.  Why is it so hit and miss when you go to pay a so-called professional to do it for you??

I know that $30 for a main is comparatively not expensive, but when I say overpriced what I mean is by comparison to the cheaper, more satisfying eats you can find around town.  I would've been far happier with a $10-15 bowl of something from Taka's or Big Bowl or even a burger from Alfred's in Guildford, for example, than I was spending my $30 here.

The only positive about our dinner last night was that the service was very efficient and friendly, but unfortunately this didn't quite make up for our salty and disappointing meals. 

Al Fornetto Cafe Ristorante & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

What's on my worktable...

Well, this one is an old one from a couple of weeks ago.  My cousin recommended me to a friend of hers who needed some last-minute mini roses for a smash cake for her daughter's first birthday.  I think people don't really understand that smaller doesn't necessarily mean easier.  These 9 roses took me the better part of 2 hours to finish (including time to colour the gumpaste) and for my efforts I was paid the hefty sum of $10 per hour.  I need to learn to work faster, and/or just work on saying 'no' (as opposed to caving in to my willingness to help people out so then dropping my fee substantially).  Still, it was a good practice session I guess =)

Earlier this week I was asked to bring in a birthday cake this Friday for one of my work colleagues.  Her mother rang to request a cake with reference to her Jack Russell/Fox Terrier dog Max.  More figurine practice!

I possibly should've made his front legs a little longer but I wanted to emphasise his long torso.  Still, overall he's still pretty damn cute if I do say so myself!  He'll be sitting on top of the cake, now to just decide on how to decorate the rest of it...

Meanwhile, back in Sanctuary...

Nothing like starting a blog and disappearing off the face of the planet for 2 months.  Where have I been?  Why where else, but in the dark, doomed world of Sanctuary, fighting the good fight against hordes of demonspawn and the like.  Taking down my old friend the Butcher, my arch nemesis Belial and likewise Azmodan (blinked and missed him) and finally locking horns with Diablo himself.

What can I say... it's addictive!  It's mega-addictive.  As much as I suffer from crazy lag due to being on a crappy wireless internet connection (I think it's funny how people from the US complain if their lat drops below 50.  The past 2 weeks I've been playing at 900+ pretty consistently. It's not fun dying from lag, but I'm so addicted that it's better than not being able to play at all), mindless endless butchery of zombies, skeletons and other cursed creatures is relaxing after a long day at work doing... well, mostly nothing really (sometimes the highlight of my working day is selling items at the AH during work).

For anyone who's interested, my main char is a demon hunter.  I love the challenge and while it can be frustrating being so squishy sometimes I feel so proud for having solo'd her all the way up to 60 and through the first Act of Inferno (I'm partially through Act 2 but too lazy to keep playing her due to expensive repair bills, gear for her being near unaffordable and poor drop rates - too much pain, not enough profit - those of you who play will know what I mean =P).

So now I'm taking a Monk and Wizard through the ranks (Lvls 46 and 44), followed by a Barbarian (Lvl 26) and the Witch Doctor (that I play somewhat reluctantly at Lvl 25).  They each bring something different to the game and my personal challenge with the other classes is not to use the AH to gear them and to only use items I find or craft on the way.  So far so good!  The minimal deaths have been largely due to lag, and by comparison to my cautious gameplay style with the DH, it feels good to just be able to jump in, aggro a bunch of mobs and just watch them through gold and other loot in the air.

I think I've wasted a good 150 hours on this game over the past 2 months ... plus the cost of a new dedicated mouse (love it! I never need to use the keyboard!):

I think I have a problem.  Maybe I'll do something about it ... after I've hit 60 with all the classes =P