Tuesday, December 23, 2008

La Porchetta Werribee: A Lesson in Mediocrity

ShopB008, Werribee Plaza Shopping Centre
Heaths Rd (cnr Derrimut Rd)
, Werribee 3030
P: 03 9748 4888

I thought about this long and hard last night and this morning, trying to work out how to put a positive spin on the meal. Sadly, sometimes this really isn't possible. Most of the positives about the meal were more to do with the company than the victuals.

First and foremost, I can't speak about the other dozens of La Porchetta's in the world. I hear the one in Williamstown is quite a lot better than what I sampled last night. But that wouldn't be all that difficult to achieve.

The girls I work with on the weekend and I decided to have a christmas dinner together. As the dinner had to be held somewhere fairly central to us all, and easy on the wallet, La Porchetta was suggested. I'm going to campaign strongly that we never, ever, EVER eat there again.

Between a table of about 16 of us, we covered a fair bit of the menu. My ravioli napolitana (sp?) was thoroughly unenjoyable - the ravioli was over cooked, and the sauce tasted like something you'd expect to get out of a no-name bottle at the local corner store. Mum (who is visiting) ordered a penne marinara which was... she reports not much taste in the sauce and it was rather watery, and she had to mix her meal so that the pasta and seafood were together instead of separate sides of the plate (she says with a "meh" waggle of her hands). Others along the table ordered garlic prawns ("the prawns were ok, but won't have them again"), fettucine funghi ("not impressed"), fettucine con pollo (the side salad eaten, the pasta mostly left on the plate)... you get the idea.

Happier customers were D and her husband, with seafood and a T-bone steak respectively. Also some pizza's were reported to be good. Except one... this pizza came out with bacon laid across the top of it, crust to crust... uncut. The pizza beneath was sliced, but not the half a pig they'd stuck on top. WTF?

I can, however, heartily recommend the garlic bread.

After a meal like that none of us was tempted to try a dessert.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Brush with Fame!

Alert! Alert! Everyone, our own dear Mel of Tummy Rumbles fame has been published in a major newspaper!

Her article on sashimi appeared in the Good Living liftout of yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald (which is what I was looking for yesterday).
And today you can find it on the SMH website!

Three cheers for Mel!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Good Drop

I was browsing my way through the Sydney Morning Herald website this morning, looking for a particular article (which I'll link to when I find it!) when this one caught my eye.

I switched to decaf coffee a few years ago for health reasons, on the advice of my doctor. Initially I thought I'd just have to give up coffee altogether, but thankfully the flavour of decaf has come a LONG way since the first cup I tried a decade ago. After I weaned myself off the caffeine I never looked back. Sure, sometimes I wish I could have that shot of it to wake me up a bit, but on the whole I don't miss it.

Sadly some people still say to me "why bother drinking coffee?". To them I ask - do you drink coffee only for the caffeine, or do you actually like the flavour too? I love coffee - the aroma, the taste, the warmth on a cold day... I realise it's all flavoured water, but I think coffee is more "solid" than a cup of tea (which I also love... love my first cup o' tea of the day. And my second. And my third...). I mean, if a cup of tea is a light salad and pan-fried chicken breast, then to me coffee is the steak and chips. Does that make any sense, or has my brain prematurely fried for the week?

I'm interested to hear what other people think of decaf coffee. And what they think of decaf drinkers.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I was watching a report on A Current Affair last night (don't hold that against me - without ABC and SBS the only alternatives for background noise while I played WoW were Neighbours or Today Tonight) and they had a story on home owners who had locked their interest rate in, and were now complaining because everyone on variable rates were paying so much less than them.

Um... yes, but when we were paying $300+ more per month than you (on an average mortgage), you were laughing at us and gloating at your supposed business savvy.

Fixed vs variable insterest rates on your home loan will always be a bit of a gamble. Sure, if you fix your rate you could pay less than people owing a comparable amount on a variable rate, but then you could pay more sometimes too. It's the same for people on variable rates - two months ago the rate was high, repayments were almost crippling for some. It's just that now the tides have turned.

Rates will go up again. They will also go down again. Over the standard span of a home loan (let's say 25-29 years) this is going to happen a LOT. You get over it, and do what you have to do to cope with it.

I do agree somewhat with parts of the what the story reported - that of the banks making it financially impossible for people to change their loan or move it elsewhere. I'm not surprised the banks are doing this, but it's still poor form on their part.

But for those complaining cos their fixed rate is now more than the variable - I'm afraid I don't have much sympathy. Cos I know the next time the variable goes up, you'll be laughing again.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Accidents. Well, Near-Misses Anyway

I was walking through the CBD on my way to work this morning and saw a lady in front of me narrowly miss being collected by a cyclist.

He had come whizzing down the hill at an incredible pace, and obviously didn't feel like stopping for the red light (or maybe he couldn't? But then why ride in such a fashion that you can't stop in time for red lights?). Cue the little green man for the lady and I to start crossing the road and WHOOPS, he came within half a metre of her as he swerved around (which was part of the evasive manoeuvre he took to avoid someone crossing on the other side of the intersection). The poor lady got a nasty shock.

Lucky for the cyclist that the cars who got the green were a little slow off the mark today, hm? He could have ended up quite messily.

I have no problems with people riding their bicycles on the road (good luck to 'em). But hell, if you're going to do that obey the rules, and watch out for other people.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Music in my life

Let's get a bit personal for a minute.

There has always been music in my life, courtesy of my parents. And if I've swayed more to the rock more than I have to the country and western, I still have favourites that stray into nearly every genre.

I'm home resting today and decided to see how much of my download allowance I could blow on youtube. Not difficult. One of my favourite pasttimes is to look up singers, groups and songs that I love. I thought I'd share a few long-time favourites with you.

I became a big fan of Prince and Dr Hook, to name a couple, when I was little. These two have a lot to answer for - it seems many of my ideas about love and romance and, uh, various other things, might have come from their songs. At first glance Dr Hook may not have much in common with Prince, but they do have certain similarities:

1) Both have a range of incredibly cheeky songs about men, women, and uh, the way they interact. I can't remember who is credited with the quote, but it was said of Prince when he first hit the world that he "sings the unmentionable with the voice of an angel". I have about 95% of his earliest work released, and I can sure as hell attest to that (Soft and Wet, anyone?)! One of the Dr Hook frontmen Dennis Locorriere might not have had the voice of an angel (and often seemed to be stoned off his nut, but it was such a sweet voice to listen to nevertheless), but with songs like "You Make My Pants Want To Get Up And Dance", they sure knew how to have fun.

2) They were both able to turn out a truly beautiful song , even if at times they are just talking about getting laid! and

3) Some bloody good musicians involved. Prince of course is a freakin' master - I think he can play in excess of about 17 instruments. And listen to the guitar work from Dr Hook.

So let me share a couple of choice classics with you.

This one still gives me shivers. I've never felt about anyone the way this song says, but it would be fantastic.

And this one. I'm sure many people chose this as a wedding song.

And some fun ones to finish. I love this song. The story behind it makes me laugh no-end.

With this one... this is the album version, with someone's powerpoint slide for the graphics... but the only other version I found of this song was just too scary to watch!!

Choosing which clips to put up here was so difficult... I mean, how could I not include Up On The Mountain, or Jungle To The Zoo, or I Don't Want To Be Alone Tonight, or If Not You, or Storms Never Last, or Only Sixteen, or , or... well, you get the picture

It's hard to find clips of Prince music anywhere on the www these days... the few I did find on youtube had no sound :-( Although I did find a clip for Batdance... it showcases all that was NOT good about the 80s! Although I have to admit the B-side for this song, 200 Balloons, was cool: similar to the Batdance song, but better. That first Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton is still my favourite in the Batman series.

Belluci's Woden

4 Irving Street
Woden ACT 2606
P: 02 6282 1700

I remember, back in 1999-2000 when I worked up in Watson on the Federal Highway Duplication, the boss would send me out to get pizza's for the team every now and then. And I'd go to Belluci's in Dickson for them. They always did do damned nice pizza.

When you go to somewhere like Belluci's for dinner you expect a good dining experience. When the total bill is nearly $90 for two mains, two desserts, a glass of house white and a soft drink, you expect something (excuse me) FKN good. Well, I do. As it was handy to N's place we went to the Belluci's in Woden.

N has always loved this pizza: the Belluci Special. I can't for the life of me remember what's on it, but yes, you do spy avocado. We had planned for me to try a piece, but she cleared the lot herself (we're both still amazed). This was a pretty decent sized pizza too! Imagine a "large" Dominoes kind of size. Check out the base - looks good.

In my quest to fully embrace seafood I decided on the cod with a Russian salad of potatoes and peas with herbs in an anchovy mayonnaise. Shame it was on the specials board and I didn't see the cost. I have no complaints about the serving size. And it was quite tasty. I especially loved the salad (mmm potatoes). Sadly the cod was a little overdone in one place, and a trifle underdone in another. How is that possible?! The bits that were perfectly cooked were nice, but... Unfortunately it cemented the opinion, in my mind, that you can not get decent seafood in Canberra. Even at $30 for a small/mid-sized fillet. Hope the boss will sign off that particular expense...

As we'd quite deliberately avoided entrées hoping to leave room for desserts, we figured we should follow through on the idea. Can you believe N has never had crème brulée?! No, I couldn't believe it either. Thankfully she ordered this one, which came out with chips of almond biscotti. I heard the satisfying CRACK when she broke through the toffee surface, and it was apparently great. Glad to hear it :-)

Since the brulée was taken care of I thought I'd branch out and ordered the apple and rhubarb crumble. It came out with vanilla bean ice cream. This was seriously fabulous, although I burnt my tongue :-(

The service was great. The food was very good... except for the disappointing fish. Even so, I'm not sure I'd go back again. Unless it was a special occasion. And I'd probably steer clear of seafood... Or have I just been spoilt by the superior dining experiences I've had here in Melbourne? An intersting point to ponder...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I lived in Canberra for nearly eight years. By the end of that I was positively screaming to leave. To this day, more than three years later, I'm very grateful for whatever made me take the plunge and leave, and to work for letting me make the move to Melbourne and keep my job while I'm at it - it took a large weight off my mind! And until this year any trip back to Canberra for work was usually greeted (by me) with a long-suffering sigh and much rolling of the eyes. But earlier this year that all changed.

For one thing, a good friend of mine moved back there. And then she had her son. Now I have two really, really big reasons to look forward to any trip to Canberra. This week was one of those times and, with N's permission, I'd like to introduce you to them.

This is N and her son D. On N's request I've blanked out D's face, and I made the offer knowing she would agree. But if you could just see the big grin on his face in this pic...

And in this one too! Yep, there's Aunty Anna, doing the soppy holding-the-baby thing. I've never been big on babies, really. They've always kinda scared me - I'm scared I'll drop 'em, or hold 'em too tight, or they'll cry... I'm still scared! But holding D and watching him is just amazing. He hadn't seen me since he was four days old, so to start with he wasn't sure if he liked the look of me or not. But once I made the knitted blue whale toy I'd brought him put little whale kisses all over his face and hands (and he'd had a feed...) he warmed up :-) I got drooled on, and I didn't even mind (well, not much...). I can't wait to see him grow and the person he'll continue to develop into.

And this is all good practice for me for when I my brother has his first, due next year. But D will always be my favourite little man :-)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Woodend Market

So what do you do on a lazy sunny Sunday when you have to take it easy? I know! You hitch a lift with the oldies along leafy shaded roads to the Woodend Market!

Of course, it being a Sunday, it was about lunch time by the time we got there and, as we meandered through town I spied Bourkies Bakehouse on the corner opposite the markets. They were quite proudly advertising that that they were Vanilla Slice Champions. That's a pretty damn big claim. And I figure I'm fairly well qualified to offer an opinion. Besides, there's something about warm flaky pastry, meaty filling, and tomato sauce that just gets me salivating, so it seemed like a logical choice for lunch.

Here you can see a few different types of vanilla slice, as well as custard tarts, apple slice, apple pie, and some jam-and-cream buns.

Please excuse the worse-than-usual quality of the pictures - I was stuck with my phone and the camera in it ain't so great... hard to believe the model I was using a few years ago took pictures that far surpass the last two phones I've had... but I digress. This is a "charming" and "quaint" little moving display in the corner of the bakehouse... some things are just a little too cutesy for me...

We ordered, clockwise from front-right, vanilla slice, regular sausage roll, steak and onion pie, curry steak pie, mini apple pies, and a plain steak pie. D had already eaten his large sausage roll by the time I got to the table, so I'm not sure how it stacks up in size to the regular. I loved the sausage roll - perfectly flaky pastry (which was repeated in all the pies), not an overly greasy filling, great flavours. The steak and onion pie was delicious, with big chunks of onion sitting on top of hearty gravy-and-meaty filling sitting just under the pastry top. The steak and curry pie was apparently almost like someone had made a beef curry on rice, then cooked it in a pie case. The plain steak was reported to also be pretty good. D and D-W thoroughly enjoyed their apple pies.

And the vanilla slice? Hm, it was pretty damn good. But a "champion" vanilla slice? I'm not sure, I think the one I had in Sorrento (someone help me out - would that have been at the Sorrento Village Bakehouse?) topped this one. But it's a VERY close call. Take a trip to Woodend on the 3rd Sunday of the month and decide for yourself :-)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Caramel and Coconut Jam Slices

I was frantically searching through every box in my house (and that's a whole other saga) and stumbled across a book that I had completely forgotten about... gee I hope I haven't borrowed it off someone and forgotten... Anyway, it's called "Basics to Brilliance Slices Recipes" from the Family Circle test kitchen.

With a little family day happening today to, in part, celebrate me no longer working Sundays, I decided to make a couple to dish up as afternoon tea/dessert. Aside from my mother's chocolate slice (of which there is a version in this book too), there are two slices that rate right up there on my favourites list - caramel slice, and coconut slice. And they were in the book! Yay!

Caramel Slice

1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
100g butter

30g butter
2tbl golden syrup
400g can condensed milk

125g dark chocolate, chopped
30g butter

Preheat oven to 180C. Line base and sides of a shallow 28x18cm tin with aluminium foil.
Sift flours into a medium bowl; add coconut and make a well in the centre. Combine sugar and butter in a small pan and stir over a medium heat until butter has melted and sugar dissolved.
Add butter mixture to flours and stir until well combined. Press over base of prepared tin, using the back of a spoon. Bake for 10 minutes; leave to cool.
To make filling, combine butter, syrup and condensed milk in a small pan. Stir constantly over a low heat for about 10 minutes until mixture boils and lightly browns (and careful if the bubbles spit at you!). Pour over pastry base and bake for 20 minutes. Set aside until completely cold.
To make topping, combine chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Stand bowl over a pan of simmering water until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Spread over caramel filling. Leave to set. Using foil, lift slice from tin; cut into squares to serve.
This can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Cos of the weather I kept it in the fridge.

Coconut Jam Slice

1/2 cups plain flour
150g butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup strawberry jam (I used raspberry)

1/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 cups dessicated coconut, toasted (I couldn't be bothered toasting it)

Preheat oven to 180C. Line base of slice tin with baking paper, extending over two sides.
Place flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor. Using the pulse action, process for 30 seconds until mixture comes together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and press together until smooth. Press dough into prepared tin; refrigerate 10 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes, or until just set; leave to cool. Spread jam over cooled base.
To make topping, place sugar and eggs in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Stir in coconut.(cos I'm greedy I made 1.5 times the recipe amount... don't recommend it)
Spread topping over jam, pressing with the back of a spoon. Bake 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Cut when cold.
This can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Again, because of the weather I kept this in the fridge.

Both slices seemed popular. But gee, I think I need some practice on them. I might need to make them again......


Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Prince &.... Someone

The slices are made, the kebabs are prepared, the food is ready for tomorrow, and I find myself, at the end of this rather busy, emotional Saturday, sprawled in front of the TV with several glasses of wine, watching Julia Stiles in The Prince & Me.

Between you and me, I can admit that I have a somewhat soft and squidgy spot in my heart for romantic comedies and dramas. It's incredibly female, but that's just the way it is. And they brought to Ms Stiles to my attention. I admire Julia's acting abilities. She's tried her hand at a few different genres, and I really can't wait to see how her career continues to develop. Fingers crossed she goes a long way.

But now to look back at the TV for the tear-jerker final scenes... haha.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomato, Beans, and Calabresi

It's amazing what kind of meals can be born of desperation. Stuck with the contents of my pantry for dinner, I figured I'd make a tomato-based pasta sauce with a can of 4-bean mix and see what vegies I had in the freezer to add to it. But on my rummage through the fridge I unearthed an as-yet untouched stick of calabresi salami. Oooooh. This might have some potential.

I sliced about half the salami stick (so about 125g) into thin diagonal pieces, then cut these in half, cos it's all about aesthetics, y'know ;-) I may have nibbled a few pieces too... mmm spicy. I gave these a light fry in a dry pan then turned them out onto some paper towel and used some more paper towel to wipe the pan to get rid of most of the oil.

After that I threw a 400g can of diced tomatoes in with a handful of dried herbs and set it over a low heat. I drained a can of four-bean mix and tossed those into the tomatoes. Then I thought "hm, wonder if this'll thicken up...." so I mixed a bit of cornflour with a little water in the tomato tin and added that too. I let this simmer and thicken while the pasta cooked, and added the salami for the last 5 minutes.

Once I'd drained the pasta I added the sauce and mixed it all together. The sauce clung to the pasta very nicely, if I do say so myself. There was a nice tinge of spice through the dish, and I can't wait to have the leftovers tomorrow. This dish can stand a bit of refinement, but for a first try I'll call it a winner. It might not look the best, but dang, the flavour was spot on. And the average cost per serve? Damn cheap. Perfect for those times when you're out of dosh, and it's not quite pay-day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Suwan Thai Restaurant

Level 1, Galleria 33
Salamanca Place HOBART
P: 03 6224 4618

After our meal in Launceston the stakes were raised pretty high for our eating in Hobart. On the recommendation of the lovely Rebecca in our hotel bar we found our way to Suwan. Don't let the entrance fool you, this place is worth a visit.

First entree was goong nang mai, or BBQ prawns with hot chilli garlic sauce. I'm not a big fan of prawns, but these were apparently very good.

Second entree: goong hom pha. Also known as deep fried king prawns wrapped with golden brown pastry served with sweet chilli sauce. These were also, apparently, very good.

Another entree - satay beef strips. I found the satay to be VERY mild, but the flavours were lovely, the meat was moist, and I'd happily have had a meal just of these.

B ordered the yum nur a salad of sliced rump beef cooked in lime juice, cucumber, tomato and chilli) as an entree. This was lovely, but so incredibly spicy!

On to mains. We all ordered our preference and shared - it's the best way to eat. B ordered this gem, which I think was pad talay: stir fried mixed seafood with garlic, spring onions, chilli and sweet basil leaves. I left the seafood along but sampled some of the vegies - lovely.

Of course I had the massamun. It came out in a cute little pot with a tea light candle underneath to keep it bubbling. The beef was in tender strips rather than the chunks I'm used to, and there wasn't much potato. It was a little too mild for my taste, but still had good flavours. While this isn't the best massamun I've ever had, it was still very nice.

One of the specials on the night was duck curry with lychees, grapes... I don't really remember the dish exactly, but it was surprisingly good. Again it was a very mild dish.

The beef with cashews was exactly how I like it - good simple flavours, tender beef. Yum.

We washed this down with a rather good bottle of red (a 2006 grenache shiraz mourvedre, "The Stump Jump" from McLaren Vale).

We each ordered an entree and a main, and yet we barely made a dent in the options available on the menu. My writing this evening really doesn't do the meal justice. I'll blame 2 days of training and 2 exams for my lack of verbal flair.

If you're in Hobart and want some nice Thai cuisine, head for Suwan. But you might want to make a booking - this place seems to be VERY popular.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Northern Club

5/61 Cameron Street
Launceston TAS 7250
P: 03 6331 3568

When we walked into the front bar of the Northern Club I thought "hm, do we REALLY want to eat here?".

Oh me of little faith....

Let me state, right now, that there was nothing WRONG with the front bar. It just didn't appeal to me, that's all. Wooden walls, funky furry wallpaper feature wall, wrought iron and timber bar stools with the establishment's initials on the backrest, velvet curtain across the door, aloof bartender... it just seemed, to me, to be trying a little too hard to be trendy.

(edit: Annette informs me that it's modelled on the original decor, from when it was an exclusive men's club)

Through the bar to the dining room, however, was another story. And it was a good one. The room had a lovely ambiance, the tables weren't crowded, and the music was a muted jazz-feel collection. And the menu!

Monday and Tuesday nights have two menu's to choose from, not including the specials. On Mondays and Tuesday NC offers a $12 meal menu, and the range on it is impressive. You also have the standard menu and if you can't find anything to eat on that, then you're a little too picky. The wine list is also good. I sipped on a particularly nice Mauta Valley sauvignon blanc (can't remember the year), while others on the table shared a 2005 Grant Burges cabernet sauvignon and agreed that it was quite good. But on to the food!

The two R's both ordered the angus porterhouse with watercress and chunky cut fries from the main menu. I very nearly ordered this one for myself. The verdict: VERY nice.

B ordered grilled pink ling fillets with prawns, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and capers, also from the main menu. She enjoyed this immensely.

As two of us were already eating the steak, I decided to branch out and try the fish and chips from the $12 menu. On hearing that the fish that day would be gemfish I figured what the hell, I'd give it a go. I am SO glad I did, this was just amazing.

I'm not sure the pictures do the serving sizes justice, but each dish we ate was a great size - enough food that we were satisfied, but not so much that we left any on our plates (which is SUCH a waste).

That being said, I was the only person glutton enough to order a dessert. There was a crème brulée on the menu that cried out to be tasted. Oh boy. The shell on top was superb, the "crack" as my spoon broke through was perfect. The poached raspberries on the side were (I'm pretty darn sure) from the freezer, but were still SO yummy.

Total bill for the night was a fraction under $175. For four people, including a round of drinks in the bar beforehand, I think this is quite reasonable. The food was fabulous, and I'd eat here again with no hesitation. Wait staff were also helpful and pleasant. All round it was just a lovely dining experience. I'm not in the habit of rating places, but if I were then on a scale of 1 to 10 this would rank as freakin' awesome.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Melba Restaurant at The Langham

1 Southgate Avenue
Southbank VIC 3006
P: 1800 641 107

So where do a bunch of women who are sick of dealing with the scum of humanity go when they want a nice night out with good food? We heard the Melba Restaurant at The Langham should be just the thing. We booked ourselves in for a $69.90 buffet on Sunday, got ourselves all dolled up, piled in the car, and off we went.

I won't go into the minute details of the evening: it's sufficient to say that there was a lot of laughter, a lot of chatting, and a LOT of food. I will elaborate a little more on the food, though.

The buffet is set out basically into six or seven islands:

1) breads and cheeses
2) anti-pasto-style foods
3) roasted joints of meat and vegies
4) this is the bit I can't remember if there's more food there or not... I missed it
5) indian-style food, including a little man who'll make your naan on request
6) seafood. Oysters, mussels, crab... lots and lots of it all
7) the most important: dessert

We kicked off with a couple of cocktails. I had the one pictured. I can't remember the name, "Vanilla" something... vanilla-infused vodka, passionfruit, caramel, and possibly one or two other things. Don't let the ingredients put you off, if you ever go to the Melba you have GOT to try this baby.

Hits of the night included the bread and cheeses, anti-pasto, naan, seafood, and most of the desserts.

Misses were the creme caramel (well, I assume that's what it was meant to be) and the service, which was a little hit-and-miss. When we ordered water the sparkling water arrived, but still water had to be requested again. When we ordered cocktails two arrived, but we again had to request the third (mine) once more. We had ordered a birthday cake and they did bring it out when we asked... however we then had to ask for a knife... and then some plates.

Overall I really enjoyed the night, but that could have been largely because of the company I was in. I did enjoy the food (particularly the cocktail, fresh-made cheese-and-garlic naan, a tropical-pandan-sponge with yummy jelly on top, and the chocolate mousse with a drop of chilli-chocolate ganache) but I'm not sure I'd go back... but hey, you should definitely give it a go!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Melbourne City Romp

I forgot to mention...

Tomorrow I'm going in the Melbourne City Romp, with my brother's girlfriend, Mel and Dan, and Michael (and maybe one more person, currently anonymous).

I can't wait, it's going to be a great day. All funds go to the Burnet Institute, and you can sponsor out team at our profile page.

I know times are tight for many, but any $$ you can spare to sponsor our team would be truly appreciated! I'm hoping to throw up some pics of the day soon.

Treacle 'n' Ginger... a match made in heaven

I can hear what you're thinking. You're thinking "what the HELL is that, and what kind of creature shat it?!" But this little beauty, picture above, is sooooooo incredibly good I've had to put it and its mates away, otherwise I'd be sorely tempted to eat them all up.

This funny looking little dude is a ginger snap. Butter, sugar, treacle, a little bit of flour, and some ground ginger. The recipe is here. You'll notice that it says to use golden syrup. I left that at work (hey, I was having crumpets there one day!), so substituted treacle, which I prefer anyway. These will end up topping a banana split tomorrow evening. Mmmmm...

And while we're on the subject of ground ginger, this year I decided to give the kids in my neighbourhood a break for Halloween, and find a compromise somewhere between lollies (which I refuse to give them), and apples (which I have given them in the past!), so I went looking for a simple gingerbread recipe. Have you ever noticed that for every somewhat involved recipe that tastes brilliant, you can often find a much simpler recipe that still tastes pretty good?

I have an old family recipe for gingerbread in an old exercise book on the shelf, but didn't feel like going to that much effort. Instead I went looking and found this easy-peasy alternative (I substituted treacle for the syrup again). I figured I'd give the recipe a trial-run and bake a batch of bikkies today while the mood took me, so that at the end of the month I know what's happening. And if the little bits of dough that I sampled, both before and after cooking, are anything to go by, these will hopefully be a little better received than those apples XD I might even decorate them!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oh WoW

Well, after a couple of days of firewall issues, I finally have the latest patch of World of Warcraft downloaded and installed.

I just fired it up. I got as far as the credits. I got chills just watching them.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Honey Oat Muffins

I've always like grabbing a copy of recipes+ or Super Food Ideas on my way through the checkout, when I remember. And I never seem to throw them out. And every now and then I'll pick one up off the bookshelf and have a little flick through.

Today I was flicking through my August '07 copy of SFI, and then had a craving for a muffin. This was probably because I was looking at an article with 10 different types of muffin, and each looked good. The only trouble was deciding which to make: cappaccino, cheese and tomato, banana, chocolate cherry, caramelised onion, chilli corn (oohh it was hard to pass this one up), sticky date, lemon, doughnut or honey oat. The honey oat called loudest.

These little sweeties are soft, moist, and so so yummy. And the SMELL when they were baking... oohhhh.

Honey Oat Muffins
(from Page 80, Super Food Ideas, August 2007)
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/3 cup sultanas
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup honey
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
90g butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 6-hole, 3/4 cup capacity muffin pan.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the sultanas and 1/2 cup rolled oats and stir to combine.

Make a well in the centre. Combine the milk, egg, butter and honey in a jug, then pour into the well.

Using a large metal spoon, stir until just combined - but don't over-mix.

Spoon mix into muffin holes until about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the remaining oats on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean. Drool over the aroma.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Somewhere to Avoid: King Kebabs

A friend at my weekend work gets a lamb kebab every Sunday for lunch and raves about them, so yesterday I gave in and got myself one... Oh. My. God. This thing was fkn (excuse me) AMAZING! Oh wow... succulent meat, garlic sauce, fresh crisp lettuce, juicy tomato: I'll be having another one this weekend just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. If you ever go to the Rubble and Riches Market at Laverton find your way to the outside of Shed 2. Stand facing the shed. You will see a caravan selling sweet corn on the cob to your left (which is also VERY nice), and a hot-food caravan to the right of it, the name of the business escapes me. I often get lunch from this caravan and, even with my wussy stomach, I have never been sick. You can get hot dogs, lamb or chicken kebabs, hamburgers, salad rolls, chips... your typical hot-food-van fare. Give it a go. Or go and say "hi" to Helen and Igor inside Shed 1 between the hot donuts and the ice cream van and grab something from them. Lovely people. And while you're there in Shed 1 turn around and stock up on nuts and nibbly things from John and his family - they really are lovely people. And their honey-roasted almonds are positively sinful... but this is not an advertisement for the market - they don't pay me enough for that. And I've gone WAY off topic. But for those who have heard me tell horror stories of working at the market - it's not ALL bad, see?

So anyway, today I found myself with a craving again. One of the guys from my M-F job (oh wow, I just realised that could be mis-interpretted... I meant "Monday-to-Friday job") recommended a place on Russell Street as having good kebabs. So M and I decided to try it.

The menu listed a chicken kebab and can of coke for $9 between noon and 2.30pm. M grabbed a can, ordered the kebab and also a (big) slice of baklava. After she'd paid her money she realised that things didn't add up... when she queried the guy behind the counter about it he said that deal wasn't "available today". Ahem... WTF? Strike 1.

I gave my order (chicken kebab, 600ml coke), $11.50. I hand over $12.50, telling him it's $12.50. He puts the money in the till and... closes it. I had to ask for my $1 change (and to think what I go through on weekends to get $1 out of people...). Strike 2.

M and I sit down to await our kebabs. Then we realise he didn't give her the baklava. Never mind, we'll get it on the way out, we say (and we did).

Our kebabs arrived, they certainly looked the part. But...

  • But the flavours were barely there.

  • But they were just so damn greasy (you expect a certain amount of grease, sure, but this was ridiculous).

  • But an hour or so later found me becoming quite well acquainted with the loo. I was NOT impressed.
  • Strike 3 (and 4 and 5).

    Now, I KNOW we're not talking about fine dining, but there is a certain standard I don't like to dip below in my food. I did that today.

    King Kebabs (not 100% sure on the name) is on Russell Street, between Bourke and Lonsdale in the CBD, just down from Hungry Jacks. I overcame my initial misgivings because the place had been recommended. I should have listened to myself.

    Or maybe they were just having a bad day. I'm not inclined to find out.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Avast, Me Maties!!

    Today is apparently International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

    You can find out your pirate name. I am Scribe Jacquotte the Silver What's your pirate name?

    Ah, a touch of Friday madness is in the air... and it's good :-)


    Friday, August 29, 2008

    Mmm, Toasty

    Have you ever resorted to emergency rations?

    So, for those of you who don't know, I've been off work, a bit under the weather, this week (I have no voice!!! Noooooo!!!!) And because of this, I've mostly lived off toast for the past 6 days.

    Now this isn't quite as bad as it sounds, on the surface. I have (had?) three types of bread in my freezer, (1) a Bakers Delight wholemeal, (2) a rather nice wholemeal vienna-style loaf, and (3) a loaf of
    Irrewarra Sourdough spicy fruit n nut. I say "had" as the Irrewarra is all gone now. It's a fantastic way to start the day, though, and it was thoroughly enjoyed.

    On the others I enjoyed a variety of toppings... vegemite, honey, peanut butter, jam, peanut butter and jam, peanut butter and honey, peanut butter and banana, tinned spaghetti, creamed corn... But I would like to state, for the record, that I am thoroughly sick of toast. I haven't eaten this much wheat in YEARS and I hope I don't again for a while.

    But you know how it is when you're sick - you just can. not. be. bothered. Here's hoping a weekend off market work means that by Monday I'll be well again and ready to start the new job.

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Great news!

    This news just in - I'm gonna be an aunty! And I don't mean that yet another friend is pregnant - this time it's my brother and his girlfriend who are expecting XD

    Fingers crossed that, come April/May next year, we're welcoming another generation into my family. With my brother as the father, and his girlfriend as the mum, this baby is going to be amazing. Let's face it - he or she is coming from damn good stock!

    Even the fact that my throat is killing me, and I have no voice to yell and cheer and laugh, can't really detract from how happy I was to get the news. *sigh* words fail me.

    Saturday, August 02, 2008

    Eating Out: Central Cafe

    111 Monaro Street
    Queanbeyan NSW 2620
    Ph: 02 6297 1335

    When I say I "lived" in Canberra, I spent at least half of that time actually living in Queanbeyan. Now, many will scoff, but Queanbe-hole does have its advantages - and the Central Cafe is definitely one of them. It was my place of choice for breakfasts (and also my brother's choice, when he visited), did a good lunch, and also put on a great dinner. They have a "light eater" menu, but also cater to those with a more bottomless stomach with "king size" meals - and they really are huge. But the breakfasts at this place are what I love.

    Once upon a time I would happily tuck into the "small" bacon, eggs, and sausage breakfast. It was a big plate, with rashers of bacon, several sausages, eggs however you wanted them, tomato, mushrooms, hash browns on request... erg, so much food, but sooo good. And, once upon a time, I could polish off that whole plate - or have a damn good try at it. Sadly, that much pig-meat and grease would now leave me quite ill. But there's a whole range of fry-up brekkies, or omelettes, or other breakfast-type foods. A few months before I moved to Melbourne I'd started in on their omelette range, and ended up sticking to that almost exclusively.

    But I digress - N and I rocked up one morning just after opening so I could have my first CC breakfast in a little over 3 years.

    I was so worried that it wouldn't live up to my memories. Silly me.

    N was craving something a little lighter, so ordered one of their open sandwiches, with fillings customised for her - ham, avocado, tomato, and cheese, served up with chunky fries (a staple at CC). Her verdict - yum.

    I gave in to hankering for a ham and cheese omelette. Despite the kitchen having some small morning-reading problems (what first came out was ham and cheese toasted sandwich), I was quickly given my (correct) breakfast. Oooooohhhhh... so full of ham-y cheese-y goodness. I spied a fry-up plate go past our table, and it looks like that hasn't changed either. I had a quick look at the rest of the menu too - looks like little has changed since I was last there. But when you've got an extensive menu, and can do everything on it well, why change it?

    Central Cafe isn't the type of place you go for fine dining, and it doesn't try to be. But for a good honest meal between 8am and 9.30pm, any day of the week, at a decent price, can you really ask for anything more?

    Friday, August 01, 2008

    Eating Out: Delissio Restaurant & Bar

    83 Theodore Street
    Curtin ACT 2605
    Ph: 02 6282 0755

    While I was up in Canberra N and I decided that we really wanted to try a place near her home that we'd always meant to, but never gotten around to. And considering her rather advanced state of pregnancy - that is, a bit more than a week overdue - we figured there was no time like the present. It being a Saturday, we figured we should probably book, as we'd noticed that it often looked busy.

    A table for two? No problem. So we rock up, a couple of minutes before our meal time, enter the funky premises and wait near a podium to be seated. And wait. And wait. Despite numerous staff brushing past us, or chatting amongst themselves near the bar, no-one seemed keen to show us to our table. We were just starting to discuss leaving when a girl deigned to serve us. She furnished us with a couple of menus, took our drinks order, and left us. N made the comment that she'd looked at us "as though we'd slept with her boyfriend" - very accurate assessment. About 15 minutes later our drinks arrived. What were they, you ask - fancy? No, merely soft drinks. We gave our orders for mains (neither of us wanting to tempt fate with anything more), and settled in to sip our refreshments and chat away.

    We've never had a problem having a conversation (hell, we lived together for a while and used to talk the day away out on the balcony with copious amounts of either coffee or wine and cigarettes), but we were really starting to struggle for topics as the minutes ticked by. Finally, a total of 50 minutes after we'd first been seated, our food arrived. And, despite the bad experience so far, it was nearly (NEARLY but not quite) worth the wait.

    N ordered the salmon tortellini in a creamy sauce. I had a taste, and it really was fantastic. Maybe a little rich for a main (or a mains-worth of food), but wow. The plate wasn't piled high, but there was ample of this filling pasta dish to appease N's appetite.

    I ordered gnocchi in a creamy tomato sauce with pesto. Again, this was just lovely. I couldn't quite finish the dish - as with N's, it was quite filling. I would rather have a good serving of really good food that fills me up and have a little left on the plate, than get a huge amount of adequate food and end up leaving half of it behind.

    In contrast to the wait for our meals (hell, forget the meal, what about the wait to be seated, or for our drinks), our plates were cleared and the bill presented within minutes (I mean, like, 2 minutes) of us putting our cutlery down.

    Despite the quality of the food, there is no way I would go back here. On a Saturday night, when there are empty tables, I don't expect to be forgotten the way we were. I found, during the years I lived in Canberra, some of the best dining was often out in the suburbs, hidden away behind local shops, or side roads. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those times.

    There is also a Delissio in Braddon - Delissio Brasserie (Elouera Street). I'm quite willing to give that a go next time I'm in town. Maybe for after-work drinks followed by a meal. If I can find a date.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    As an aside...

    You've no doubt heard of Espressino - Mel and I have mentioned this fantastic cafe. Their motto is "Cibo con amore" and today proved it for me, yet again. I wandered in for a final coffee of the day and, on the way out, decided that a slice of their delicious pizza would brilliant for dinner. Enis asked if I wanted it heated up - I said nah, I was taking it home for dinner. She promptly grabbed up the last two slices (these things are HUGE), popped them in a bag, told me the best way to reheat them, and then didn't want to take my money! I tell you, if you CAN'T feel the love at this place, there is something wrong - it just overflows at times :-) Like a hug and kiss on the cheek on your birthday. But that pizza is tasting extremely good right now - a great base, tomato paste, cheese, thinly sliced ham, a huge wedge of a mushroom, some olives, and a slick of oil. Bliss.

    But on to my main point. You might have noticed my posting has been rather erratic lately. This was partly because of my trip to Canberra. But also I have to admit that, after 18 months, working 7 days a week is starting to take its toll. Time NOT working is generally spent snoozing, or making a half-arsed attempt at keeping the house tidy! I have a back log of posts - pictures and everything! I'll get around to them...

    But I don't want to get all deep and meaningful on y'all. So take care, and I'll see yuz when I see yuz :-)

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Eating in: CBF Again!

    You know those nights where you simply can NOT be bothered making a wholesome and nutritious meal full of healthy goodness? Yeah, I'm having one of those. And before I tell you all about the food I had in Canberra (for which I'd need to find my camera... hmm), let me introduce you to my Tuesday Night Dinner - chicken kiev on chunky mashed potato.

    Well, err, that's basically it. One kiev (fresh, not frozen, from the chicken place near my house - they do GREAT stuff there), one potato mashed up with a dollop of butter and a splort of milk, served up with the spilled garlicy buttery juices from the pan dribbled over the top.

    It ain't particularly healthy. It probably isn't all that pretty. But it was damned nice.

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    Eating Out: Irrewarra Sourdough Cafe

    Irrewarra Sourdough Cafe
    10 James Street, Geelong
    Ph: 03 5221 3909

    I decided that this year, to treat myself on my birthday, I'd go to Irrewarra Sourdough cafe in Geelong for breakfast. They're only open Monday to Friday, so this was going to be my only chance for a while.

    Sadly, things didn't start out well.

    I checked the website this morning before I left to make sure I knew the address, had an idea of what I wanted to eat, and what time they opened: 9am - easy. I rocked up at about 9.45am to find the doors still locked. Umm... I checked the opening times in the window... 9am... Umm... a lady then poked her head out the door to let me know that, since Monday, they don't open until 10am. I said I'd take a walk for a while.

    It was so tempting, walking past other, open cafes, with their foody smells wafting through the morning air, to ditch my original plan and eat elsewhere. But no - I'd driven to Geelong for this, and dammit, I was gonna have it. I had eyed off the wholewheat pancakes on the online menu.

    So, at a bare few minutes past 10am I was once again at the door, which this time was open.

    A selection of goodies were on display as I walked in, and all looked incredibly good. A shame prices here are relatively high, as I'd really like to have sampled a few of these.

    The muffins in particular looked good, and I ended up grabbing one on my way out.

    Wandering in I was told to take a seat while the lady at the counter finished a coffee order. I grabbed a January '08 copy of Gourmet Traveller and made myself comfortable at a table to peruse the menu... which was a pretty cut-down version of what was on the website. No wholewheat pancakes with honeycomb butter and maple syrup *sigh*

    I ended up choosing poached eggs with bacon and tomato on toasted sourdough, a mug of decaf flat white, and orange juice. The eggs were slightly undercooked for my taste (I prefer my white to be all-solid, with still-runny yolks - the white was still a little see-through in one or two places), but aside from that I was very satisfied with the meal, even though it wasn't pancakes. The bread is simply superb, and everyone should try it - there's a list of retailers who stock their breads on the website. Espressino has ruined me for coffee - I would have classed this coffee as excellent, if I didn't get my usual fix from Dino and the gang. As it is, the best I can offer is "really good" for Irrewarra's coffee.

    The muffin I bought on my way out sufficed for dinner tonight. And I now have a loaf of their spicy fruit 'n' nut loaf sitting in the freezer, ready for a fix whenever I want it.

    Monday, June 16, 2008

    Solstice Cake 2008

    A few weeks ago I mentioned my intention of baking my family fruit cake for the Solstice, as laid down by AOF over at Confessions of a Food Nazi. And I did it! As I'm off to Canberra this week for several weeks I'm throwing up this post now.

    I can't give away all the secrets, otherwise my mother may disown me. I don't like dried peel in my fruitcake, so I modified the fruit ingredients to just be dates, sultanas, currants, and glace cherries. It's a very rich cake, and I think the secret is in the booze - you soak the fruit overnight in a rather nice amount of rum :-) You just have to be careful when you remove the plastic wrap the next day - the alcomohol fumes are impressive. Brown sugar, treacle, a bit of flour, some mixed spices... you build up some impressive muscles folding everything together.

    While mum usually ices this cake, she assured me that it wasn't mandatory. She advised putting some whole almonds on top before I baked it, as decoration. Note the brown paper - 3 layers of it wrapped around the tin. This cake is cooked incredibly slowly - for one this size about 30-40 minutes at 180C until it starts rising, then you knock it down to 130C for another couple of hours, until the centre feels firm.

    Once it comes out you leave it in the tin until it's completely cooled, then wrap it in cling wrap so it's air tight, then put it in a container. Generally you should leave it for at least a month to cure before you even THINK of eating it, but I didn't have a month! After a mere week and a few days this baby had to come back out into the light of day.

    Here's a cross-section. And these two chunks are all that is left! So, while I wasn't 100% happy with it, it seems the punters didn't mind :-)

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    Eating Out: EightyOne

    EightyOne Fine Food & Wine
    81 High Street, Berwick
    Ph: 03 9768 9555

    Strap yourself in, I give you fair warning: this will be a looooong post. Mainly cos of the photos.

    With three family members all having their birthdays within a week, and the partner of one having one too, it's becoming something of a tradition for my family to get together for dinner for our birthdays each year - no mean feat since we live on opposite sides of this wonderful city. The last couple of years it's been over this (ie. west) side of town, so it's only fair that this year we Westies headed east for a change.

    My brother had checked out the menu and it met with his approval, so that's where we went. There are several definite dining areas at EightyOne - the front looks straight out of an olde Englishe pub, all dark wood, wooden tables and chairs, and nice relaxed atmosphere. The back dining area is rather more classy, with crisp white table cloths and strategically placed lighting. There was also a first-level dining area that overlooked the back dining, but I didn't get a look up there - maybe next time. Something that struck us all was the lack of reverberate-y-echo-y noise from the large room, but I dare say a feature of heavy red velvet curtain on a wall and soft carpet under foot probably helped a LOT.

    The menu, while not huge, seems to have something that will appeal to 99.9% of the population. Even me, a fairly fussy eater, could see several options that I'd happily eat. Between the five of us we managed to cover a fair percentage of the menu. They also have a pretty decent wine list, with a range of beers also available. There are also a bunch of cocktails that I'd love to work my way through - the lychee and strawberry cocktail above was MUCHO nice.

    Entrees first. You'll have to forgive me, but I'm a little fuzzy on the details of what we all ate, but I'll do my best. In any case, if you saw the menu you'd easily identify which dishes I'm talking about below.

    I ordered the sweet potato chips with a... a... a glaze of some sort to dip them in. I love sweet potato chips, and the sauce to dip them in was lovely - fruity and a perfect accompaniment. Several others sampled, and liked too.

    Dad ordered the prawns... he liked. I'm afraid I can't for the life of me remember what they were crumbed in! I promise, one day I'll remember to take a notepad with me.

    Bro ordered the southern-style chicken pieces, after ascertaining that there were no bones in them, with a spicy chilli dipping sauce. They were amazing. Imagine KFC, but way less grease, and a way better flavour. I'm half-tempted, if I eat here again, to just order a few plates of these!

    We also ordered a couple of garlic breads. I think they also had melted cheese on top. Oh yum. Hm, maybe I'd order the chicken pieces and the garlic bread...

    And now we come to mains. This dish was one I very nearly ordered for myself. As it was Dad-Wench ordered it, and I managed to try a little taste. I THINK it was almond-crusted salmon... It was delicious.

    Bro ordered the lamb. We happily removed the tomatoes for him. It was cooked a fraction less than he liked. After we'd had a few minutes to taste our food our waitress, Kimberley, asked if everything was ok and offered to take the dish back and get another, more cooked. Bro said nah, it was fine.

    My dish was duck risotto with mascarpone, pear and garlic. Droooooooooooooooooooooool. It might not look all that appetising, but this was ridiculously good. I ate far more than I should have, purely because it tasted so good. The pear was a good, interesting, contrasting flavour.

    Bro-Wench got the roasted chicken, and this was the one disappointment in the meal. As she was tucking in she came across quite a bit of flesh that was still pink, and a blood clot. Straight away she stopped eating. We called Kimberley over and showed her. She agreed that she wouldn't eat it either, and took it back to the kitchen after asking if B-W wanted a replacement meal: B-W refused and so received another cocktail and her dessert complimentary. Kimberley spoke to the chef, and he advised that the chicken had been poached first, and then roasted, so it was apparently common for the flesh to remain pink and a clot to be found. Regardless, it's chicken - and B-W just couldn't stomach it.

    Dad ordered the pork belly. It came out with a wasabi mash and some onion jam, along with some bok choy. He enjoyed the lot (but perhaps the wasabi mash not so much).

    And now - desserts!!! D-W ordered this - from memory it was a chocolate and macadamia tart. Very rich, very nice, but hard to get through the whole thing.

    Dad and B-W ordered the apple cobbler. It was listed as coming out with a creme anglaise, but on request they also added a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream. It looked good - apparently it tasted good too.

    Mmmmmmm, passionfruit parfaaaaaiiiiiit. This was sooo yummy. I was torn between disappointment when I finished it, and gratitude that I'd finished it as I was approaching an uncomfortable level of fullness. The almond brittle that adorned the top was good too.

    And finally, Bro ordered the banana semi-Frodo... oops, I mean semi-freddo! He reported that it was good, and the flecks of chocolate through it were "mmuurrrrggglllggggaarrrrggg" (or something similar).

    I wasn't allowed to see the total bill. But based on comments I think it ended up being about $300. Sounds like a lot of money, but that's 5 entrees, 5 mains, 4 desserts (as B-W's was complimentary), 2 cocktails (plus 1 complimentary), 1 bottle of red, 2 beers, and a tonic water. And I was completely satisfied with my meal. The service was friendly, attentive, and our waitress adapted well to my family (believe me, not all do - we tend to get a bit rowdy, even before we start drinking).

    I'd love to go here again. Maybe Christmas...