Saturday, March 31, 2007

Eating Out: Torquay Hotel-Motel

36 Bell Street, Torquay
03 5261 2001

Last night I cruised on down to Geelong to meet up with some car-club buddies. We mosied on out to Torquay for dinner at the Torquay Hotel-Motel. I do apologise in advance for the low quality of the pictures, it was not brightly lit in there.

I of course had my usual chicken schnitzel, complete with vegies (fresh not frozen - WOW) and chips with a lashing of gravy. I didn't think I'd be able to finish it, but I did, and it was gooooooood.

The other gal in the group ordered the calamari. When I asked how it was she made the "weeeeelllll......" flap of her hand. It was apparently OK, but if the calamari had been allowed to cook another minute or two it would have been rather overdone. Also the tartare sauce was missing something. I'd be interested to hear how this dish has been for others. Calamari, when done well, is brilliant: even I like it. But when it's not....

The three boys decided to be "men" (laugh, snigger) and ordered the plate of bbq ribs each. I have to say, that plate of ribs was impressive. Also apparently delicious. What you see above is actually TWO racks of ribs with a little bit of salad and some chips (and maybe fried onion shreds? Not sure, forgot to ask). We gals sat it out to see who would pike, and who would finish. First one admitted defeat, then another, leaving just one left in the race. There was a late revival from one of the guys, but he admitted absolute defeat a rib or two later. Full congratulations to Bongi, who really is gifted... with a bottomless stomach. I'm curious where the hell he put all that food!

If you're in Torquay and after some decent pub grub, this is the place to go. It also offers accommodation. At the time of typing this blog their website address isn't working, but hopefully that will change. For future reference it's here.

Post-post Post: Oh my, how on earth could I forget?! I ordered a tall scotch and dry... and they use Black Douglas scotch! Not Johny Walker Red! Not some brand I've never heard of!! And it was gooooooooooood.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ROADTRIP!!! Ruffy, Lake Eildon

I won't go into all the details, but through work I found out about a little place called Ruffy. Not much to Ruffy -- aside from the Ruffy Produce Store (above) there's the local CFA shed, a small primary school, and not much else! The Produce Store does, however, have something of a reputation for its food. On hearing this I decided "Hm, what better way to spend Labour Day Monday then on a road trip?!"

A couple of hours from Melbourne, if you head north on the Hume Highway you'll pass Seymour and, not quite 20km on, will see a right-hand turn for Ruffy. Follow the signs and you'll wend you way through some lovely countryside - rocks and hills and trees everywhere, lovely, just like where I grew up. Anyway, you get to the intersection at the CFA shed and turn right, and there you are -- the Produce Store.

It's a great little store - lots of local produce for you to buy. The menu for eating isn't extensive, nor is it low-cost. For about $20 you can get a produce platter with a selection of delicacies that looked damn fine, however my guy and I decided to go for something a little more simple: a ham and cheese toasted sandwich.

But this was no normal ham and cheese toasted sandwich!! Succulent shreds of ham, generous slights of gruyere cheese and a light and slightly spicy mustard sandwiched between lightly toasted slices of ciabatta, each sandwich cut into three wedges. One bite and we looked at each other, eyes wide, making "mmmm!" noises. I tell you, you have not eaten a ham and cheese toasted sandwich until you have eaten one of THESE ham and cheese toasted sandwiches. Oh, and the milkshakes... bliss. It was all spot-on, just brilliant. I will admit - I was a pig, I had two sandwiches, and finished them too. But it was just THAT good.

The locals were nice and friendly... this particular one made herself comfortable next to my chair and was absolutely adorable. If I'd thought I could get away with it I'd have tried to smuggle her away when we left.

Aside from wanting to "do lunch" in Ruffy we hadn't planned much further at all. Victoria is all new to me, so I'm excited to see as much as I can. Nathan suggested we head out to Lake Eildon. A quick check of the map, removal of the car roof (not as drastic as it sounds, it was a targa top) and we were on our way. Across and down through Gobur, Yark, across to Alexandria
then on to Lake Eildon we went.

While there is quite a bit to see in Eildon, or so it seems, we didn't spend much time there due to time constraints. We went out to the dam for some pictures, and to see how little water there actually is in the dam. It's scary. Oh, and although it's small, see the noble white steed in the carpark above - it did well on it's first long trip since coming back on the road. But I'll be looking to explore Eildon a little more thoroughly at another time in the future.

From there we went back as far as Thornton, then cut through to Taggerty and headed south for Buxton. At that point we veered off left onto C508 and joined the C512 at Marysville. From there it was a gorgeous twisty drive through leafy green forest to Cambarville, then down on the C511, with a detour out to the Upper Yarra Dam. Back onto the main drag, more twisty leafy scenic driving heading to Warburton. By now time really was ticking away, so we kept going straight out past Launching Place, before turning left on C424 and making for Gembrook. Unfortunately an unscheduled stop in Gembrook ate up more time, but a little while letting the car cool, and a refill of the radiator with mountainous Catholic water (ie. from a tap at the local church) and we were on our way again. Home via Pakenham and Berwick to visit our respective families, we finally stopped about 10.30pm - about 12 hours after we set out. A REALLY nice day, and if anyone enjoys day-tripping as much as I do, I can recommend that route. All sealed roads (although some are a little rough), but some truly beautiful scenery.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I was reading an article in The Age this morning about the thing that is dreaded by students everywhere - HOMEWORK.

It discussed the amount of homework being given to primary and secondary school students these days, and how hard it is for some to cope. It was actually quite an interesting article. It took me back to my school days (which aren't all that far from my mind in any case, since it's supposed to be my 10-year reunion this year). And there were actually times when we were given homework for something that WAS NOT covered in class.

Back then we had prep for two hours each night, Monday to Thursday, one hour on Friday night, then another two hours on Sunday afternoon (I went to an all-girls boarding school). It wasn't enough time to get everything done, particularly when I got to grades 11 and 12. Per subject the average was an hour of homework per night (except, of course, for PE!). Now when you consider that I was studying (stretching the brain cells now) maths, english, physics, biology, computing, legal studies, and something else I can't remember, that's 7 hours of study, on average, per night. Of course, sometimes it was less, sometimes more per subject. And there were also sometimes assignments to do in addition to normal homework. Physics was always a killer for me. Both of my senior years in school I had a hard time with physics: in grade 11 it was because the teacher wasn't great, smelt bad, and had a different coloured tooth for each day of the week. It was all rather distracting. In grade 12 I had a lovely teacher, however English was far from her first or most fluent language. I found that by the time I'd worked out what she had said, then what she actually meant, she was already three sentences further along. Things like "electric-city" was really "electricity" and her exhortations to ensure we knew our "56 alphabets" was really referring to the periodic table of the elements. So physics homework always took longer. But I digress.

An ex of mine (may he rot in eternal pain in hell) has four kids (who I will remember and love and care about to my dying day). I used to try and help the two oldest, in grades four and six (both girls), with their homework. And their assignments. And I discovered that kids these days are taught to regurgitate information, not think. So I'd try to help them use their brain. That even led to us doing the puzzles in Take 5 and That's Life! together. And you know what? It actually helped them. I still remember the day when the eldest got the answer to a clue in a crossword before I did. I was so proud, so impressed, and so very happy I nearly hugged her to death. I digress, what was the original point of this paragraph.... oh yes, the fact that kids aren't really taught to use their brains these days. What on earth ever happened to reading and comprehension in lower primary school? And handwriting? And spelling? Half the problem these girls had was not being able to comprehend what they were reading. I was so proud when I taught the eldest to read something, then summarise it in her own words. And she then did an absolute kick-ass assignment about the history of the bicycle.

There's all this talk that kids these days are getting more homework, and at a younger age. I see little kids dragging a backpack half the size of them onto the train every morning. All I can say is this: I had a hard enough time coping with the amount of homework back then (and let's not think about my uni study... 24 contact hours per week, at least twice that for study), so [insert spiritual belief/figure here] help the kids of today. Poor little mites.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Vegetable Meme

Mel over at Tummy Rumbles passed the baton, and I'm taking it up.

1. Is there a vegetable you hated as a child, but came to love as you got older?

Broccoli. Ewwwwww. Even if mum dished it up smothered in cheese sauce I wouldn't have a bar of it. Now I love it, think it's fantastic, have it in everything I can think of, or just steamed in the microwave with some cauliflower, carrot, zucchini, green beans... brilliant in a stir-fry, spag bol...

2. Most underrated vegetable?

Hm, probably have to agree with TR here and go with onion. As you can see below, I roasted one for my dinner the other night and it was gooooooooood. They're such a great little thing, go with anything!

3. Name one favourite summer vegetable dish

Hm, summer vegetable dish... as in a dish that you make with vegetables in summer, or a dish that uses summer vegetables? I'm not that creative, really. Love a good stirfry, but that's not specifically a summer vegetable dish... you can eat it in summer, though... I dunno.... hmm...

4. And one for winter?

A good casserole choc-full of potatoes and carrots and beans and corn and anything else you want to throw in. Or soup: potato and leek, vegetable, pumpkin, pea and ham. Anything hot that's been cooking a while and is full of flavour.

5. Is there a vegetable you really like but don't make much yourself?

Yes - eggplant. Love it but too scared to try cooking it myself - worried it'll go VERY wrong!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

ROADTRIP!!! Wagga Wagga, NSW

The Australia Day long weekend saw the boy and I heading to Wagga so I could catch up with a couple of friends I haven't seen in ages (one of them for about two years). I think the area is a good indication of exactly how dry it is further inland. In the picture above you can see the red dust kicked up from the paddocks by the wind. There is simply no green to be seen in the countryside.

As far as eating goes, I didn't try out much of the local cuisine. One night was kebabs from a local, the next was a home-cooked meal. However there was opportunity to try out breakfast.

Cache Store of Food, located at 236 Bayliss Street, was the only place that had everything we could have felt like for breakfast. Day one saw me ordering pancakes with caramelised banana and maple syrup. Quite nice. Day two I chose the eggs benedict. My only complaint was that it initially came out with a smattering of pepper all over it. I kindly pointed out that I did not want this, and in fact would be ill if I ate it. They were quite nice, and in a short time I had a replacement serve that was more than adequate. I thoroughly enjoyed both breakfasts, however I felt the prices were a little... inflated. On a rather good note, the coffee was superb.

There is actually a surprising number of things to see around Wagga. A short trip out to Junee and you can visit what is supposedly Australia's most haunted houses: the historic Monte Cristo Homestead. It is decorated in the style of the time (late 1800s), and is rather interesting, if you like that sort of thing. Which I do. One of the places I lived when growing up was actually some old goldfields from the early 1900s, and I'm always interested in the history of our country.

While we weren't graced with any spooky incidents, there certainly were some creepy places. Like the old stables. Or the box room old lady Crawley had converted into a make-shift chapel so she could go to confession in the 23 years years after her husband died where she only left the property twice in all that time.

Me being me, I befriended a local, who followed us around while we wandered. Whenever we went inside he'd wait around outside, and when we emerged he'd come running. Gorgeous li'l kitty, bet he's a hit with visitors like myself who are a sucker for a little furry face.

Another place to see in Junee is the old Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory. We didn't stay long - just long enough to have a look around and an ice cream - but it would be an interesting and informative place to spend a little time.

I recommend the Country Comfort as reasonably priced, clean, and with a nice pool for those ridiculously hot days that seem to plague Wagga in the warmer months. It's nothing flash, but quite adequate. Room service foccacia's at midnight aren't half bad either! Check wotif for any deals.

So go on - it's only a five-hour drive, not too far for a long weekend!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The ICBITE Roast Chicken. And Pumpkin Soup

I'm truly amazed how many people say "Oh, I wouldn't know how to cook a roast" - a couple of people I know have said this over the past few weeks.

This pic is a little, well, unimpressive, as I hadn't done the steamed vegies yet, so it's lacking some colour, and the plate is quite bare. But hey, it's Sunday, I've worked all week and all weekend, and I haven't slept. So nyeh, work with me.

The pic above is lemon pepper roast chicken with roasted onion, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato and potato. I felt like a roast dinner, and when I saw marinated whole chooks at the local chicken-shop I thought "yeah, I can do that". I'm sure their's might have tasted better, but I wanted to give it a go. I used a small chook - about 1kg, as I'm the only one who'll be eating it.

What you need (for two people):
1 x 1kg whole chicken
lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper
2 x medium-sized washed potatoes
1 medium-large sweet potato
1 x large carrot
2kg pumpkin
cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, to steam
Vegeta gourmet stock (I prefer the original and best)

(Before you question the quantities of sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin, finish reading the blog).

Prepare a deep roasting pan (I do this by lining it with alfoil and giving that and a roasting rack a light spray with canola oil and pouring about 2 cups of water into the bottom, the water helps keep the chicken super-moist). Place the chicken on the rack. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil and pepper well and rub over the chicken. I like to tie the legs in with butchers string (found out it's INCREDIBLY hard to buy, but thankfully my local butcher gave me a metre or so of his supply). Let the chicken sit a while with the marinade while you take care of the vegies to roast. Prepare a flat oven tray by covering it with alfoil and giving it a light spray with canola oil. Switch the oven on to pre-heat to about 180C now.

Chop up the potato (I like to leave the skin on, which is why I either buy washed potatoes, or really scrub 'em good), sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin into cubes approximately an inch square (or so...). Place them all in a large freezer bag. Add a little olive oil and a few pinches of Vegeta. Leaving as much air in the bag as possible twist the top and fold it over, to make it water-tight. Gently shake the vegies around so they're coated with the oil and stock. Carefully tip onto the oven tray and spread out evenly. Throw the chicken tray on the top rack of your oven and the vege tray on the bottom rack (obviously you need to space the racks so they'll both fit). Set the timer for an hour.

Go find a book and a nice glass of something until the timer goes off. Alternatively, you can start cleaning up the kitchen.

When the time goes off up the oven to 210C for another 15 minutes. Then remove the chicken from the oven and cover with foil for it to rest. Cut up sufficient quantities of the vegies to steam. Put them in a microwave steamer container with a little water in the base and microwave until cooked (for me, in my 850W microwave, and liking them still crisp, it's 4 minutes). Dish up the potato and sufficient quantities of the carrot, sweet potato and pumpkin. Carve/pull apart the chicken carcass and dish it up. Remove the steamed vegies from the microwave and dish them up. Et voila, your very own roast dinner!

"But what about all that leftover carrot, sweet potato and pumpkin?!" I hear you cry. Bear with me kids. First, sit down and enjoy your dinner.

Pumpkin Soup
Then mash the leftover orange vegies. Slowly add a 400g can of light evaporated milk a bit at a time and mash through. Add another pinch of vegeta stock, then throw the lot into a food processor and process until smooth. Or, if you're like me and have only a stick blender, blend in batches till it's all done.

Of course, if you want to serve this as the entree you'd need to steam the required vegies while the rest is roasting, but I did this to store the stuff in the freezer for my lunches this week. Besides, I really like the flavour the roasted vegies give to the soup.

Of course I had to lick the spoon clean once I'd dolloped it into the freezer containers... very nice, if I do say so myself. When it comes to serving it I'd add a swirl of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh coriander. If I wanted to impress. But since it'll just be my lunch, I probably won't :-)

Oh, and if you're wondering what ICBITE means... "I Can't Believe It's That Easy"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Age Harvest Picnic at Hanging Rock

February 25th saw me making the trek out to Hanging Rock for The Age Harvest Picnic at Hanging Rock. After my first Harvest Picnic experience at Werribee Park last year, and never having been to Hanging Rock, it seemed the perfect chance to kill two birds with one stone: see the famous Hanging Rock, and get myself to the Picnic and, more importantly, pick up a few things that I'd seen at Werribee that I couldn't buy due to lack of funds at the time! So, after getting the Sunday off work I enjoyed a LOVELY sleep in, packed my market-trolley (you know the little fake-tartan bag on a wheeled frame), checked cash-store and off I went.

Arriving at about 11am on the crisp and cool morning seemed the perfect time -- no large queue to get in, but took almost no time to gather a group of 10 to take advantage of the group concession entry price. Making a mental note that I wanted to catch Tobie Puttock and Glenn Hood's cooking demonstration at 12.30, I started on my rounds of the stalls.

So much to taste. So many wonderful flavours. Pure orange juice from Mildura oranges. Delectable wines from around the region. Caramel-filled churros. Superb meat pies. My poor taste-buds had no idea what was happening, but they were loving it!

After watching Food Safari that week and seeing gozleme covered, I realised it had been months since I'd partaken of this particular delicacy. When I'd made my way around far enough to see the gozleme caravan I figured it was a prime opportunity to reacquaint myself. A general splashing of lemon juice on my serving and I was set to dig in. I tried several times to take a picture that would look as good as it tasted... but it surely ain't a pretty meal. By now it was time to head back to the cooking demonstration tent and nab myself a seat.

I caught the end of Sabrina Parrini's "Little Kitchen" demonstration. Wow, if I had kids, and money, I'd definitely be giving her a call. She was great, the food smelled fantastic, and it looked like the kids helping her were enjoying themselves. But once the kiddies had cleared from the tent the slightly more mature foodies quickly filled the available seats.

Tobie and Glenn took to the stage with a couple of the kids from Fifteen. I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the audience shocked by Tobie's new haircut -- no more lovely curls, it looked like he beat me to the shave! The team did two quick dishes - a carpaccio of tuna with cured lemon and chilli dressing and a black russian, yellow roma and cherry tomato salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella and basil. It all looked fantastic. I was close enough to be able to smell the herbs they were using. And the hunk of tuna they had - WHOA! Anyway, it was informative, made to look incredibly easy, and fairly entertaining all at once, so can't complain.

Continuing where I left off I ended up almost fair and square outside The Chocolate Shop.

These slightly odd-and-naughty-looking goodies were worth every darn cent. They were absolutely disgustingly decadent, and I'd have them again in an instant. For a few dollars you could have either a skewer of strawberries or a skewer of marshmallows run through the chocolate fountain. Of course, since I couldn't decide between the two, I had one of each! As far as desserts go, they were horribly indulgent, and thoroughly enjoyable. Thankfully I had packed a container of wet-wipes in my trolley, and they certainly came in handy when it came to cleaning myself up afterwards. Certainly not something I'd enjoy eating often, but DAMN, for a treat I couldn't have chosen much better.

Not long after this I came to the end of the stalls, and discovered my feet were quite tired of carrying me around. After a quick detour to pick up some chilli, lime and pomegranate piquant from Wildings Pantry Essentials, some passionfruit and lemongrass Fruitsoda concentrate, and a bottle of Gapsted Victorian Alps dolcetto and syrah wine, I was ready to go. All told I was home, I think, by about 3pm. All in all, a great day, and home in time for a nana-nap in the afternoon.

Can't wait for the next Harvest Picnic on November 25 back at Werribee Park.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Well, it's been more difficult than I thought to get sponsorship for the World's Greatest Shave. It seems that many people won't sponsor me purely because they don't want me to shave my head! Come on everyone, support the Leukaemia Foundation and give me a good excuse to give my beanie and hat collection a good workout.

In other news, a terribly bad, horrible, nasty, generous, lovely lady who shall remain nameless gave me something yesterday that will keep me entertained for many months to come, particularly during winter. I'm planning to make use of it this weekend, and will be sure to blog the results.