Friday, November 24, 2006

Eating Out: Pelican Bistro, Altona Bowling Club

Altona Bowling Club
113 Civic Pde, Altona 3018

When you want a good, honest, basic meal at a decent price in a relaxed environment surely you'll be hard-pressed to find a better place for it than in Pelicans Bistro at the Altona Bowling Club.

I'll admit: it was my father and his lady-friend (AKA: "Dad-Wench") who first introduced me to this lovely establishment some 12 months ago. It's their place of choice for dinner at certain times of the year - such as when Dad-Wench (a member of the club) receives her free meal in the month of her birthday, or when she bowls the best that week. And invariably, as I live only 10 or 15 minutes from either of their houses, I'm invited along.

It is very much a family-oriented place, and quite modest as you might expect from your local "club". The menu is not overly large however each and every dish is well prepared and, for the cost, you could hardly ask for better. For dinner there is a selection of about a dozen $10 dishes, and only slightly fewer on the $8 menu. There's also a kiddies menu. All meals are served, as you may expect, with a choice of either chips and salad or roast vegies. Our meals follow and we were, as always, incredibly happy with our chosen nosh.

On our last visit I chose the roast beef with vegies - I love a good roast! Not much wrong at all with my meal - as you can see there was plenty on the plate, the vegies were neither over-cooked (on the part of the roasted ones) nor soggy (on the part of the others) and when I asked if I could have an extra dollop of gravy, since I love gravy, the ladies in the kitchen cheerfully obliged. $10 for all this!

My father chose to be different on this occasion - he chose the chilli chicken tenders with chips and salad. Unfortunately I think that he'd already swiped one of the chicken pieces before I could burgle the plate for a photo-op, but as you can see the presentation was nice, and again there was plenty of food there for a light meal. I can't remember whether this was on the $8 or $10 menu, but either way Dad was quite happy.

Dad-Wench had her usual - the fisherman's selection. Not being much of a seafood person myself I'm not entirely sure what she got - there's definitely some calamari there, also a few large-ish prawns, possibly a scallop and a few fish-bites. Don't let the packaged tartare sauce sway you. Again, for $10 including salad and chips, not a bad deal at all. Although I notice that, on this particular visit, the salads weren't quite up to their usual standard… perhaps there had been more snacking than I'd noticed before I'd whipped out the camera!

The bistro is also open for lunch. So, in summary, if you're out in the west and want a good meal at a reasonable price, this should definitely be on your shortlist. It's also only a short drive from Altona beach, which is a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by as you digest.

(I had planned to put up a picture of the beach here, but Blogger won't let me, for some reason).

** Please note: the term Dad-Wench is used with utmost respect and affection. She is a lovely lady indeed, and I am more happy than you can believe that she and my father found each other. I'm not overly fussed about my own anonymity, however I would like to try and preserve at least a little of theirs, hence the pseudonym.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Eating Out: Kenzan

Shop G28, GPO Building
250 Bourke Street, Melbourne

I’m having a moment of confusion: my lunch was largely liquid, my drink was largely chewy, and I now have a definite “sloshy” feeling in my stomach. Hm, I’ll blame it on Monday.

But if it’s not Monday’s fault, then surely it must be Kenzan’s.

Kenzan is an absolute pearl of a restaurant in the GPO Building on Bourke Street with a relaxed feel, and offers some fantastic Japanese dining. Last week, when Madame Tummy Rumbles and I went for my inaugural visit, I tried the Niku Udon: paper-thin slices of beef with other bits and pieces in a clear-brown mushroom soup with thick udon noodles (pictured above). Full of flavour, so incredibly yummy, and slurping up the noodles was definitely the most fun. For $12 I feel it was well worth every cent.

On today’s trip to Kenzan I decided to try something that the Tummy Rumbler had recommended last week: some hand rolls and a bowl of miso soup; it’s a shame I didn’t get a picture of it, particularly when we had to try and roll our own! For the sum of $9 you can get two hand rolls (from their selection of fillings) and the bowl of soup. I had two teriyaki chicken rolls, my companion chose one salmon and an eel. The soup was excellent, as our initial slurps proved. When it came to the rolls… thankfully there are instructions on the packaging. You must roll your own fillings in the nori. Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite simple. And the bonus is that the nori stays quite crisp, instead of being soggy and chewy as you normally find with pre-made hand rolls.

So that accounts for the liquid in my meal, but “what about the chewy drink?” I hear you ask. Have you ever heard of Bubble Tea? Also known as Pearl Tea. I’ve done a quick search with Google for a website for a bubble tea maker/supplier, and I didn’t find much of real use for this blog. Have you ever heard of tapioca? Or sago? Imagine big, dark, chewy balls of that jiggling around the bottom of a cup of iced tea, or iced milk tea. Hm, I’m not describing it very well, am I! In any case, both TR and I fans of the bubble. So on the way back to the office we stopped to partake. There are so many flavours to choose from, but collectively I think we’ve now tried milky taro/yam, milky red tea, milky peanut, green tea, passionfruit tea, and green apple. So far we’ve been quite happy with all flavours! I know you can find places that sell bubble tea in most Westfield shopping centres but, particularly if you're near Chinatown in the CBD you'll have no trouble finding somewhere.

I have far too many things backed up to blog. But I'll get there, don't worry!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Coffee Cupcakes

Do you remember the butter cake recipe I put up back in September? Here is something else you can do with it!

I decided I wanted to make cupcakes and had the batter all ready to go, then decided "hm, no, I want a flavour" and wondered what I could use. Chocolate? Nah, not in a chocolate mood. Coconut? No way. Coffee? Ooohhh yes!

So, take the butter cake recipe and add about 3 teaspoons of coffee powder to the flour. If you're like me and drink the "freeze dried" stuff that's fine - crush it up in either a mortar and pestle or through a strainer. You could also try dissolving it in the milk instead of adding it to the flour. Make the cake as per usual and dollop it out into cup cake pans - I find a tablespoon-full makes a nice, small cake, just right for snack-size (I like 'em small, then I feel like I can eat more!). For these small ones bake them for about 20 minutes, or until they've risen and spring back to the touch. When they're thoroughly cold make up some icing. I used a cup of icing sugar and small amount of hot water. Dissolve the coffee in the hot water and add it a bit at a time until you have the consistency you want. Just remember that if you make it runny it'll take FOREVER to set, and also run everywhere, so if it's runnier than you would like add some more icing sugar. I've followed recipes when they state how much icing sugar vs how much water or butter, and they're almost always not quite right, so play with it a little. Then I found some little chocolate sprinkles in the cupboard, et voila, coffee cup cakes! This made about 30 of the li'l buggers. Obviously if you make bigger cakes there'll be fewer, and you may have to cook them a few minutes longer too. Get out there, go crazy, give it a go!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Date Scones

First of all - bad me!! Sorry for not posting for a while, what can I say: things have been busy. BUT, I'm back, and when I can get myself access to the internet outside work I'll most definitely be updating!

So, date scones. Last weekend I finally got around to making my mums Christmas Cake (more on that later when it's finished curing and been iced) and had some dates left over. Now, I love scones, all types of scones, and haven't had date scones in AGES. Now, I'm tired of my usual old scone recipe so, I looked at the back of my trusty White Wings Self Raising Flour and, lo, a recipe for scones! These were plain but I figured, what the hey, let's experiment. And of course I didn't bring the packet with me to the Boy's place, so I'll just have to do it all by memory! So, here 'tis:

Date Scones
3 cups self raising flour
1 tbl caster sugar
80g butter
100g chopped dates
1 cup milk
a few drops of milk, extra

Preheat the oven to 220C. Chop the dates and then soak them in the milk. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the sugar and butter and rub the mix with your fingertips until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the milk and dates and, using a flat knife blade, fold in until the mixture is just combined. Turn onto a floured bench and knead lightly until the dough just holds together. Flatten the dough with the heels of your hands until it's about 2cm thick, then cut it into approximately 5cm squares. Transfer to a floured baking tray. With a pastry brush, brush a little milk to the tops of the scones. Bake for about 14-16 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Absolutely deeee-lish-us fresh from the oven with a dollop of butter melting in the middle. Apparently, according to my mum, these will keep for up to a week in the fridge - they might get a bit firm, but she says a quick zap in the microwave will do wonders.

I have a few other things stored up to blog: beef stir fry, coffee cup cakes, a review of the Pelican Bistro, and eventually the fabled Mum's Christmas Cake, but all in good time!!