Sunday, 26 May 2013

High Tea at Sofi's Lounge, Sofitel

There is little more decadent than indulging in an afternoon of High Tea, complete with chocolate fountain and bubbles, alongside good friends.

Mini pikelets dripping in chocolate
Trust me. I am now flaked out on the couch, sworn off food for the next 12 hours.

But, despite the aftermath, the experience itself is wonderful, and destined to be repeated. Our mission: To find the best High Tea in Melbourne.

Today we kicked off our research with Tea Temptations at Sofi's Lounge, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins. The lounge is open and airy, comfortable, with some rather odd artwork; our group of five was allocated a nice pair of sofas on which to recline, and a large coffee table on which to place our various glasses of bubbles, coffees, pots of tea, and plates laden with food...

So much food...

We started with the savouries, as you do. These were arrayed on buffet tables along the edge of the room. A few hot options included mini quiches and Croque Monsieur -- the latter being my pick of the savouries. Something about the crusty grilled cheese -- yum. There were also many little sandwiches -- smoked salmon, cucumber, ham, egg -- and little roast beef and horseradish rolls. All were quite satisfactory for the first round; but we all know High Tea is not about the savouries -- right? (I might have gone back for seconds, er, thirds with the Croque Monsieur.)

Moving right along to the sweet stuff.

Between the two savoury tables was a crepe and pikelet station. In the centre of the room was the rest of the dessert buffet: a chocolate fountain with dipping morsels (fruit, marshmallows etc), a basket of scones, platters of little cakes and tarts, alongside individual mini creme brulees and panacottas.

It was, yes, rather hard to know where to start... so, being a methodical sort of person, I proceeded systematically, beginning at one end and making my through the various things on offer. However, I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow description of everything I ate, because that would just be embarrassing! I'm going to stick to the highlights.

The crepe station. The crepes were cooked and then sloshed around in a delectable hot caramel sauce, served with King Island double cream. A definite highlight! The mini pikelets were cooked and served in stacks of about three... I tried them with a delightful lemon curd and later smothered in the sauce from the chocolate fountain.

Cakes. My favourite of the little cakes was a milk chocolate hazlenutty thing with a wafer base. I also quite enjoyed a passion fruit/mango mousse -- and by the rate they were replenishing the strawberry tarts, they were very popular, although I would have preferred them to be filled with custard, rather than cream. One of my friends declared the madeleines her favourite of the cakes.

Chocolate fountain. This was very popular with our table, with several of our group returning for multiple visits of fruit and other delicacies accompanied by the molten chocolate. My only foray was the aforementioned pikelet coupling, and since this was my final effort for the afternoon I can truthfully say the chocolate fountain completely finished me off!

Our bubbles, teas, coffees and hot chocolates were all included in the experience (which cost $69 per head), making it seem fairly good value, considering the never ending buffet. We also very much enjoyed our lounge setting and the pianist in the corner, adding to the ambiance. The service overall was very good, with rapid plate clearing and serving of beverages -- not to mention a special three-tiered stand of egg-free delicacies for one of our number.

The seating commenced at 2:30pm and finished at 5:00pm, which is half an hour longer than most other High Teas going round -- or so I understand. I know half an hour doesn't sound like a great difference, but it made for a surprisingly more relaxing afternoon than other High Teas I've experienced where there was a two-hour limit. We slowed down considerably by about 4:00, but we had plenty of time for additional coffees and to try in more leisurely fashion any little morsels we hadn't gotten around to yet...

I certainly couldn't have eaten a single thing more this afternoon; but as far as the selection goes, I would have liked a few things with custard. I was also disappointed in the scones -- they didn't appear until quite late in the piece, and they were all fruit scones. I guess I was looking forward to the usual "scones with jam and cream" interspersed with the other sweet treats.

Nonetheless, on the whole it was a delightful afternoon and a great way of catching up with friends. I think we've started something! Now I'm looking forward to the next time we gather...

Friday, 22 March 2013

Career conundrums (again)

Well, I'm stubbornly holding onto this blog, despite the fact I'm not managing to update it regularly. Perhaps one day I'll get back into it again, but for the time being I'll try to maintain a holding pattern with occasional posts about what's been happening.

Right now I'm once again enjoying some time off while between jobs. This time it is an unplanned career break, yet unavoidable. My position, having been first created by my former employer, was then taken away as the result of a -- ahem -- restructure. Although I had an inkling it was coming, I was nonetheless shocked when it happened. And disappointed, because I wasn't quite done with learning from the position. There followed a few very awkward weeks of continuing to show up to work, before I was finally released mid-February -- which was over a month ago. Wow.

Since then I've been reassessing my career options -- again -- which is still difficult. One thing I learnt from this most recent role, is that I'm probably better off finding a specialist role that truly utilises my technical background. I'd really like to find a niche communications role that allows me to work with subject-matter experts to write thought leadership pieces, white papers, case studies and the like... maybe the odd customer publication or two -- and surely there's scope to do some business blogging?

The challenge is to find such a role -- or create demand for one. I'm doing a lot of networking, which isn't as horrible or daunting as I feared, but it's nonetheless a slow and tiring process. One of my challenges is to expand my understanding of those sectors where I might find work. I've spoken to many people who agree there's a very real need for a writer and communicator who can 'talk the talk' with the subject matter experts, and then translate this into comprehensible prose for a variety of audiences. I have a lot of experience doing this -- and I believe I'm quite good at it. But I do find it hard to talk myself up and go for the 'sell'.

If I could have my way I'd just wait for someone to recognise my brilliance and say "we need you -- you're hired!". Wouldn't that just be lovely?

I'm not panicking yet, although there are very few jobs advertised that seem to fit my skills and experience. I have very little chance going for general communications positions, because I have to compete with candidates with all the right pieces of paper. The only area where I can really differentiate is in the technology/engineering/industrial sector. This is why I'm having to work hard to create the opportunities. For this ISTJ (at least, that's what I am today) it's a huge ordeal.

OK, some days I get a little panicky. I shouldn't lie.

On the upside, I am making sure I get plenty of (creative) writing done. Most days I'm spending a few hours on the latest novel, so that at least is being progressed. As usual, from start-date to anticipated end-date, it's taken a lot longer than I intended, but I'm on the home stretch now. For the first draft, that is. There'll still be an enormous amount to do when I come to revise. This first draft version is about the roughest I've ever written anything (intentionally). The novel seems to keep getting bigger in scope and ambition too. I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew, actually. I guess time and toil will tell.

So that's where I'm at right now. Another turning point, sooner than I had hoped. Of course, a whole lot more than that has happened in the past five months, but that's the big one.

Until I next have the urge to drop in here and bare my soul for the world to see... Cheers