Pancakes Good, Hotcakes Better – Bills Ricotta Hotcakes With Honeycomb Butter

It’s 7AM on December 29th, 2009 and I’ve just arrived in Sydney for the holidays. It’s an annual trip back to the homeland to visit and catch up with family and friends. Time to celebrate Channukah and Christmas and have a brief exchange of freezing cold New York City for some nice summer weather. I’ve gone through immigration, collected my luggage, and cleared customs. I’m exhausted after 24 hours of no sleep, rushed connecting flights and bad airplane food but I’m so happy to be back home with my loved ones. I enter the arrivals hall and I’m greeted by my mom and dad. Lots of hugs, kisses and a few tears are shed before we walk happily back to the car. “Are you sure about this?” My mum asks. “Yes. We’re doing it. We’re going to Bills.” And so that’s how it went. After hours on a plane it’s not the rest of my family I want to see. Not friends, not a bed or a refreshing shower. It’s Bills. Bills restaurant that is. I want my hotcakes and I want them immediately. I’m so grateful that my parents indulged me that day. It definitely makes for memorable moments. I also remember that cringe worthy moment where my proud mom introduced me to the head waiter, telling him all about how I came straight from the airport to Bills for breakfast. You gotta love your parents when they do stuff like that.

Bill Granger – owner of Bills restaurants has made quite a name for himself both in Australia and abroad. He’s famous for making breakfast an institution in Sydney. His simple meals like scrambled eggs loaded with sides, sweet corn fritters and oh yes ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter leave customers satisfied and wondering “how soon is too soon” for their next visit. He owns a number of restaurants in Sydney, Tokyo and London. He’s written a number of bestseller cookbooks and he’s also had his own cooking shows featured on LifestyleFood in Australia and The Cooking Channel here in the US. For more info you can check out his sites here and here.

From my opening story you can probably gather that for me, no visit to Sydney is complete without at least two separate visits to Bills. On one occasion I’m sure to order the sweet corn fritters (this will require a separate blog post) and on the other it’s time for ricotta hotcakes. On every occasion I find a way to sneak in one of their hot chocolates (another blog post needed for this too).

My favorite Bills location is Darlinghurst, the inner city suburb where I lived for many years. I actually used to avoid going to Bills, strangely enough when I lived as close as humanly possible to the restaurant. We’re talking a 30 second walk. Why? Because I thought it was too pretentious. There was no sign outside saying it was Bills restaurant. People just somehow knew that this was the place. . “Well I’m not going to some place if they don’t even have the decency to put a sign up saying who they are. They don’t even have a menu in the window. How will I know if I want to go in? What’s wrong with them?” Sometimes I want to give the me of 10 years ago a bit of a shake. “Stop overthinking it and enjoy the food!”, I would have said.

Here are some photos of Bills in Darlinghurst. It’s in a more quiet part of the neighborhood with tree lined streets. The restaurant fills up on the weekends with a good mix of locals and tourists. A line will form so I’d recommend getting their early to avoid disappointment.

Sydney (Australia for that matter) has a great breakfast cafe culture. Lots of cafes including Bills open nice and early in the morning. We’re talking 7:30AM People and we’re talking 7 days a week. None of this “Oh, we open for brunch at 11AM nonsense.” I know, I know. There are plenty of good cafes in New York and some even open up pretty early on the weekends. In fact, I just found one in Brooklyn called Seersucker that’s caught my eye and it opens at 8AM. I’m looking forward to trying it out and its been recommended by Ina Garten so it’s gotta be good. I just saw her mention it on the most recent Barefoot Contessa episode on the Food Network and she also gave them a shout out a while back on her blog. Ok time to cook some hotcakes.

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Not My Mother’s Shakshuka with Haloumi Cheese

Shakshuka shakshuka shakshuka! People go crazy for it these days!!!  “What the heck is Shakshuka?” you might be asking. It’s a delicious tomatoey (sometimes spicy) Middle Eastern egg dish that’s become very popular in Middle East inspired restaurants. In Hebrew it means “all mixed up”. Growing up in an Israeli household I had my fair share of Shakshuka. Not so much for breakfast/brunch which is when most people eat it but more-so for dinner on the weekends. Let me explain. You see, my mom is a great cook. She’s famous for putting together complete dinners in 30 minutes. She calls it a “marathon dinner” although really it’s more of a sprint dinner when you think of it. But anyway, enough making fun of my ESL parents! Back to the story! Where was I? Oh yes, she’s a great cook! But one thing I remember growing up was that she hated cooking on the weekends. The weekends were her days off, a time to relax especially on Sundays. Sunday dinner usually meant leftovers, Chinese take out, sometimes pizza and sometimes – not always, but sometimes – she would make us Shakshuka. Eggs for dinner? Why not! I have to warn you that what I prepared in my most recent Shakshuka culinary escapade is not quite like what we ate at home. We didn’t have a huge amount of spicy food growing up so it’s no wonder that the SmittenKitchen recipe I adapted (insert Haloumi cheese) has got a lot more kick to it.

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