Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Unblogged Files: July 2015

Hey Hey! It's time for my July Unblogged Files! Hooray! July wasn't quite as crazy as June, but it was still full of foodie fun!

Let's start with breakfasts. The avocados are back! This month it's the bacon variety - these are small avos with a very thin skin and a lovely creamy texture. You'll also see the subscription has increased from six to twelve per delivery - eep! Luckily my friend Amelia took six off my hands, so there was no wastage! I have no idea how I'm going to cope this summer when it's the giant Reed variety. Guacamole and avocado cake for all! But for now, avocado on toast. Yay.


There were also açaí bowls and smoothies...

Açaí bowls, smoothies

...and one weekend I made madeleines for breakfast. Love these.


Here are some homecooked meals. The focus was clearly on comfort food!

Top left: Pork sirloin, veggies, brown rice & chickpea pilaf
Top right: Taiwanese meat sauce on rice
Bottom left: Lasagne
Bottom right: Vegetable and lentil soup

Top left: Teriyaki steak on rice
Top right: Salmon, rice, veggies
Bottom left: Baked pasta with eggplant and meat
Bottom right: Mashed potato patties, sauerkraut

Lots of lunches out this month...

Top left: Baked pork chop on rice with cheese and curry sauce, Shophouse Kitchen QV
Top right: Kimchi chicken bento with cheese, CJ Lunch Bar (Hardware St, Melbourne VIC 3000)
Bottom left: Beef Pho & sugar cane drink, Pho Nom Emporium
Bottom right: Souvas & feta chips, Jimmy Grants Emporium

Top left: Nando's!
Top right: Half Kay's chicken half curry chicken, Hanaichi QV
Bottom left: Spiral cheese and spinach borek, Borek Bakehouse, (481 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000)
Bottom right: Kimchi pork and rice, By Korea (11/222 La Trobe St, Melbourne, VIC 3000))

Also quite a few breakfasts out this month...

Top left: Smashed Avo and arepas at Hash Coffee Roasters (113 Hardware St, Melbourne VIC 3000)
Top right: Banana pecan muffin at Alice Nivens (13/228-236 Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000)
Centre: Pain au raisin & ham and cheese croissant at Plantation (Shop 253, level 2, Melbourne Central)
Bottom: Eggs Benedict & Spiga Special at Spiga (360 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000)

And quite a lot of sweet treats! Treat yo self!

Top left: Hot Choccy & Salted caramel tart at Sisko Chocolate (330 Auburn Road, Hawthorn VIC 3122)
Top right: Short Stop Donut!
Middle left: Messina!
Middle right: Vanilla slice from Le Paul (409 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn, VIC 3103)
Bottom: Cupcake Central!  

I attended a few events in July...

There was the launch of Stoke Bar and Kitchen (7 Alfred Place, Melbourne VIC 3000)... this was a fun night hanging out with my friend Jenni, with a few champagnes and more than a few delicious Kilpatrick oysters made with spicy chorizo.

Kilpatrick Oysters, Stoke Bar and Kitchen

There was also the sugar-fuelled launch of Alison Nelson's Chocolate Bar New York in Emporium (Shop 136 / 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000). I loved the salted caramel cupcakes, the chocolate fountain, and the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

Alison Nelson's Chocolate Bar NYC

And finally, there was the ridiculously indulgent annual oyster night at Rubira's (480 Victoria Street, North Melbourne,Vic, 3051). The night included unlimited drinks and unlimited freshly shucked oysters. Wahey!

Oysters and Champagne!

Clockwise from top left: Oysters mornay, champagne oysters, scallops, tempura oysters

Now, I'm not a huge drinker (well, certainly not a frequent drinker!), but in addition to those events, I made a few sneaky bar visits this month.

Top left: Espresso Martini and free aperitivo at Merchant (495 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000)
Top right: "Me Love Oolong Time" at Monkey King Bar (Melbourne Central)
Middle right: Spiked Apple Marie & a mocktail at Goldilocks Bar (4/264 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000)
Bottom: French 75 and Congac Pate, Romeo Lane (1 Crossley St, Melbourne VIC 3000)

It was my mum's birthday in July! As her gift, we took her for dinner and a show. It was Japanese food at Miyako (Upper Level Southgate, Southgate Melbourne, Southbank VIC 3006), followed by the fantastic fun of Ballet Revolución. I can't recommend Ballet Revolución highly enough - it's a Cuban ballet crew dancing to contemporary Latin pop music. Love it! Miyako was also a good pre-theatre option - their bentos came out quickly and were well-priced and tasty.

Beef Bento - $25.50

We also had a family dinner at The Atlantic in Crown for her birthday, which was excellent, as always. Here's my starter - warm crayfish tail, scented with star anise, citrus marmalade, sweet potato and a salad of seasonal sea vegetables. Lovely!

Warm crayfish tail scented with star anise, citrus marmalade, sweet potato and salad of seasonal sea vegetables - $30

And on the actual day itself, we celebrated with traditional Malaysian Chinese mee swa noodles, and tarts from T by Luxbite. (The red cross on the hardboiled egg is for good luck!)

Mum's Birthday Noodles

I totally love T by LuxBite tarts! I think they're even better than Burch and Purchese.  Now we totes wanna go to their original cafe, LuxBite in South Yarra and do a huge brunch. Who's in?

T by Luxbite Tarts

We had a joint celebration for Sandra and my friend Adri's birthday at Artusi (1/3 Southgate Ave, Southbank VIC 3006). My favourite dish of the night was this incredible deconstructed white chocolate and rhubarb cheesecake.

Deconstructed white chocolate and rhubarb cheesecake

We also had a work team dinner at Teatro (Southbank Promenade, Tenancy A Hamer Hall). This was a great evening, and I loved the pizzas and the jamon and manchego croquettes. Totally want to go back for dinner again!


Sandra and I took a little winter weekend getaway to Hepburn Springs. It was a super relaxing weekend - wine, cheese, fireplace and relaxation! Heaven.

Cheese, salami, prosciutto, bread, strawberries

And here's a photo of the ridonculous waffles we had for breakfast at Red Star Cafe (115 Main Road, Hepburn Springs, VIC 3461). They were super crunchy and fluffy waffles, served with real maple syrup and topped with All Of The Bacon!

Waffles and Bacon, Red Star Cafe

One night, we had some friends over for a German food and games night! We made a giant Wurstplatte - Frankfurters, Knackwurst, Weisswurst, Kassler, Bratwurst and Sauerkraut - plus Kartoffelbrei (mashed potato) and Rotkraut (red cabbage). There was also beer. And cheesecake. And Guitar Hero. And Cards Against Humanity. Such fun!


And finally, we took our friend Alaina for dinner at Merricote (81 High Street, Northcote VIC 3070). It was a fantastic dinner! I'll blog the dinner in full, but for now please enjoy this picture of their gorgeous 'Hooiberg' (haystack) dessert - pear, hay-infused ice-cream, oat crumble and ontbijtkoek (Dutch spiced breakfast cake).

Merricote's 'Hooiberg' dessert

Plans for August? We're off to Germany! Looking forward to summer days, beer, and All Of The Bread! YAY!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Breaking the Rules" Beer Dinner at Woodland House

Wall of beers

I was absolutely thrilled to receive an invitation to the "Breaking the Rules" dinner at Woodland House, a special event they put on for Good Beer Week. Woodland House is the new incarnation of iconic Jacques Reymond, which I loved when I visited in 1999 and again in November 2013, so I was greatly looking forward to trying it out.

Woodland House
78 Williams Road
Prahran, VIC 3181
Ph: (03) 9525-2178

For this special event dinner, the restaurant broke their food and wine matching rules, and created a five course tasting menu, matched with a selection of small batch and exclusive beers from some of their favourite local breweries.

Prickly Moses 'Otway Light', Barongarok, VIC
Purple congo potato crisps, Crumbed pork rilette

To start: a light beer and some delectable amuse bouches.

Purple congo potato chips

These purple congo potato chips were incredibly thin, light and crispy. I loved the purple colour too!

Crumbed pork rilette

The crumbed pork rilette was perfect drinking food - crunchy and hot, with lots of tender pork pieces encased in the crisp crumbing. 

Bread board

Freshly baked bread was brought around - white, wholemeal, cheese brioche - and it kept being replenished throughout the evening. Hooray. I know they say not to fill up on bread, but trust me, it is worth it to fill up on this bread!

Soft butter with black salt

First Course
Squid, braised raddichio, lovage, dandelion
Dainton Family 'The Good Son' Golden Ale Kialla, VIC

The first course proper was a tender braised squid, with lovage, dandelion and the bitterness of braised radicchio. The beer match, Dainton Family's 'The Good Son' Golden Ale, was quite a mild and clean-tasting pale ale which matched the delicate flavours of the squid well.

For Sandra, our resident non-seafood eater, the squid was replaced with vegetables.

Second Course
John Dory, sheep's whey, bottarga, dill
Red Duck 'Buck' Naked Saison, Ballarat, VIC

The second course comprised a perfectly cooked piece of John Dory on top of sea vegetables, topped with a crisp piece of (I believe) kale, and finely shaved bottarga. The Red Duck 'Buck' Naked Saison was quite light and fresh - I found it to be quite an easy-drinking beer.

The non-seafood version of this dish was made with pumpkin. It was really pretty but Sandra found it a little bland - I think it is hard to replicate the rounded saltiness of bottarga without using seafood.

Third Course
Western Plains pig tail, snail, parsley
Kaiju 'Hopped Out' Red Ale, Prahran, VIC

The pork was my favourite out of all the savoury courses. The pig tail was very tender, with a thin layer of fat on the top, and a sweet caramelised topping, almost like a crème brûlée. I also really liked the vibrantly green parsley sauce. This dish was matched with a very local beer (just made down the street, in Prahran!), the Kaiju 'Hopped Out' Red Ale. This was a bit heavier than the previous beers, with a slightly biscuitty malt taste.

Fourth Course
Duck, sour plum, black barley
Bridge Road Brewery & 8 Wired 'Nieuw Bruin' Wild Fermented Brown Ale, Beechworth, VIC

The duck dish was also very impressive - a very rare slice of duck breast was served on top of black barley, and the whole dish was lightened with the addition of sour plums. The matching beer, the Nieuw Bruin, was the most unusual one of the evening - to make it, a base beer of a rich malty ale was fermented in Cognac barrels, and then inoculated with Chardonnay yeast. The beer was very complex, with darkness, sour notes, a bit of malt and a lot of other flavours. I really liked it.

And then diners were surprised with a bonus cheese course! 

Cheese Course
Saint Miguel cheese, boudin noir, potato crisps
Red Duck 'Porter' Dark Ale, Ballarat, VIC

The cheese was served slightly warm, and was topped with boudin noir and crisp potato chips. It was a novel way of presenting cheese, and so delicious! This was matched with a dark beer, the Red Duck 'Porter'. It was dark, malty and quite rich, with a hint of a toffee flavour to it.

Fifth Course
Chocolate, caramelised apple and elderberry, raisin
La Sirène 'Praline' Belgian Chocolate Ale, Alphington, VIC

Chocolate, caramel, elderberry, raisins

The dessert was so fun! Our waiter described it as being like all the best desserts combined into one. There was a chocolate parfait base, a quenelle of caramel ice cream, chunks of nougat, caramelised apple, elderberries, raisins and a cap of fluffy meringue. This was matched with a chocolate ale. On reading the menu, I thought the idea of a chocolate ale might just be a novelty, but it was actually really nice - brewed with vanilla pods and cacao nibs, it had a smooth and rich taste.

And I thought we were all done... but then each table was presented with a pretty plate of petits fours.

Petits Fours
Lemon jubes, caramelised almond chocolates, madeleines

Petits fours

There were fresh madeleines with lemon curd, chewy lemon jubcs, and - my favourite - caramelised almond chocolates, dusted in cocoa. I was super full but couldn't help and go back for those almonds. So compulsively delicious!

We were incredibly impressed by the Breaking the Rules dinner at Woodland House. This particular event was priced at $135 a head inclusive of all beers and food, which I thought was great value, especially considering the quality, quantity, and variety of food and beers. I also love how they included lots of little extras for the diners, like the amuse bouches, the incredible bread, the cheese and the petits fours. Based on this experience I would definitely want to head back for another meal on my own coin, whether it be a once-off special event for a festival, or their standard, rule-abiding, lunch or dinner offering.

Sarah and Sandra dined as guests of Woodland House.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Short Round, Thornbury

Sticky dark gingerbread, vanilla mascarpone, treacle toffee sauce, quince paste, poached pear and candied pistachio - $14

Short Round! Y'all know that I rarely venture to the northern suburbs (east side for life, biatches!), but when Sandra booked herself in for a Gravity Floating session in Northcote, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to round up northsiders and general hip-young-things Jenni and Jimbo for brunch!

Short Round
731 High Street
Thornbury, VIC 3071
Ph: (03) 9484-3904

So, the idea was for locals Jenni and Jimbo (there must be a better portmanteau - suggestions in the comments please) to recommend a place, but in a classic Sarah move, I spent the week before excitedly googling and came up with a list of potential places near the Gravity Floating centre before they had a chance to make any recommendations. Oops. None of us had been to Short Round before, but it looked awesome, and luckily everyone was keen.

Short Round

There weren't any queues when we rocked up at one o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, and our group of four got a table straight away. I liked the vibe of the cafe - wooden flooring, lots of space, lots of natural light. First order of business: coffee.

OJ - $6.00; 2 x Magic - $3.80 each; Soy long macchiato $3.80 + 50c

The magics were great - rich and strong but not too bitter. Winner!

Roasted mushrooms, poached eggs, kale, grilled white polenta, brioche pecorino crumbs and porcini salt - $17

Vegetarian Jenni ordered the roasted mushrooms, and it was a very fancy, restaurant-style dish. She wasn't a fan of the kale (because kale, amirite), but overall it was very impressive. I thought that the white polenta, brioche pecorino crumbs and porcini salt made this dish very unique and interesting.

Moules Frites - mussels, garlic, white wine, cream and fresh herbs with fries - $19

I always think it's not worth ordering mussels at restaurants because they're so easy to make at home (and see my previous mussels post for a recipe), but one thing I can't make at home is fries. And these were crispy and salty and awesome. Come to think of it, moules frites is an unusual dish to have on a brunch menu, but I'm glad that Jimbo ordered it, (and even gladder that he let me try some), because it was great.

Brioche sliders with bacon and cheese scramble - $9.50

Sandra's brioche sliders looked a little messy but were very tasty. Sandwiched inside the little brioche buns were bacon and cheesy scrambled eggs - can't go wrong.

House made waffles, honeycomb mascarpone, dark chocolate ganache and salted popcorn - $14

Unsurprisingly, I went for one of the most decadent thing on the menu - house made waffles with honeycomb mascarpone, dark chocolate ganache and salted popcorn. The waffle was thin and crispy and I loved slathering the rich and sweet honeycomb mascarpone all over the waffle. Delish.

Side of fries - $5

Sandra and I also ordered a side of fries to share. Because this is what happens when we eat out and there is no stopping us! Rar! All of the fries!

You may have noticed another dish at the top of this post - the sticky dark gingerbread. I hadn't been able to decide between the waffles and gingerbread for brunch, but everyone was happy to order the gingerbread as a shared dessert, so I got to try both - woohoo! (So yes, that's right, I had two courses of dessert for brunch, with some French fries on the side. Us East-side girls don't play!)

Ugggggh that treacle toffee sauce

The gingerbread dessert was so good! It was pretty intense, so I think it might have been a bit much for just one person, but it was great for sharing. The gingerbread was incredibly moist (heh), with lots of rich spice to it. It was lightened up by the freshness of poached pear and quince (the menu said "paste", but I think it was poached), and the spices were balanced out by the rich and (relatively) bland vanilla mascarpone. There were chunks of pistachio brittle on the plate as well to add some texture contrast - these were perfectly crunchy, not too hard. And then there was the dark treacle toffee sauce. So rich, dark and sweet. Uggggh so good.

So that was Short Round! I'm glad it turned out to be a good choice - nice coffee, pleasant atmosphere, decent prices and delicious food. Hooray!