Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tutto Bene, again again

Before seeing Wicked for the 2nd time, we went to Tutto Bene for the millionth time. I love their fantastic risotti and their consistently good service.

Tutto Bene
Mid Level Southgate
Melbourne 3006
Ph: (03) 9696-3334

The risotto you see in the first picture was a special they had - Coopers Sparkling Ale flavoured risotto topped with scampi. I ordered this because I was intrigued by the idea of a beer-flavoured risotto... and because I've already had all the other ones on the menu already. Shhh...

The risotto was quite creamy, with a slightly bitter edge from the beer, and the scampi were amazingly fresh and perfectly cooked. From memory it was about $28. I loved it!

Insalata caprese - Slices of tomato, basil and mozzarella pearls extra virgin olive oil and balsamic - $13

Funghi Misti - Mixed wild mushroom, parmigiano and aromatic herbs - $22

As expected, everything was fantastic. And even better when washed down with some prosecco. We were in and out in 1 hour, and then up the road for some fabulous gravity-defying musical spectacularity...

Tutto Bene on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Corner Shop in Yarraville

The Corner Shop
9 Ballarat St
VIC 3013
(03) 9689 0052

Another month, another road trip to Yarraville to stock up on awesome German sausages from Andrew's Choice. (According to my sources, they make the best sausages in Melbourne "by far".) You may remember Andrew's Choice from posts such as Sauerkraut mit Fleisch und Kartoffelbrei, East end girls and West end cafes, and Abendessen, Wurst, Fleischkäse, Kartoffeln.

Of course, a drive that far requires sustenance, and luckily, Yarraville has an abundance of cafes. We had a quick peep at Hausfrau, but after last time, I wasn't too keen to go back. (And they still had no Bienenstitch - waaah!) Just down the street was The Corner Shop, and it looked like a pretty decent location for a lazy brunch.

I got a cappuccino (as you can see in the top picture). I'm not sure why, but cappuccini always feel more special than lattes to me, which is why I usually get cappucini on the weekends or at restaurants, and have lattes in the morning before work to wake up. Go figure.

I ordered the fresh sardines with capers, wilted spinach, kipfler potatoes and olive tapenade. Oily fish is healthy, and I can rarely be bothered cooking it myself. From memory it was about $15.
Wow! I was so impressed by the dish. Loved the fancy presentation, and the delicious combination of flavours. It was a little oily for me, but remember that olive oil and oily fish are supposed to be inordinately good for you. Dee-licious.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentine's Day Picnic and a Free Concert

Coca-Cola Cupcake, in heart form

Valentine's Day saw us enjoying beautiful free music from the MSO at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and having a lovely picnic.

Ooh... check out the tension and the wires. Fabulous construction!

The free concert was scheduled to start at 7pm, so we thought we'd get in early and arrived at 5:30. When we got there, however, there was a massive line snaking around the grounds, and when we finally got in, the main part of the grounds was entirely full...

... so we ended up sitting on the left side of the stage, in a not-so-crowded area with no view of the stage, but a decent view of the screen. Still, we were quite lucky. Many punters had to be turned away.

And y'all know I was more interested in the picnic than the music. But let me just say that Emma Ayers from ABC Classic FM is awesome! And we thought Amir Farid's piano performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 was incredible. (Although when Emma Ayers announced what he would be playing, it unleashed dramatic Shine-style gasps of "Not the Rach 3!" and endless giggles from our group. Apologies to the disgruntled lady drinking from a silver goblet near us).

Now, the picnic. We picked up most of the goodies that morning at the Vic Market.
Stilton Cheese, eggplant dip, Seal Bay Triple Cream Brie (ooooh yeah), Regular salami, super-hot salami. Baguette from Laurent.

That's the King Island Seal Bay Triple Cream. Yum! We love, love, love super-rich indulgent creamy cheeses. And no, I don't want to know what the fat content is.

For sweets, we brought strawberries and super-mini coca cola cupcakes.

And just to prove how mini they really were...

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Happy Valentine's Day!

My Krispy Kreme obsession shows no sign of slowing...

How cuuuute!

Heart-shaped donuts from Krispy Kreme. Yes, I know I'm lame, but I couldn't resist. $2.90 each, and incredibly cute. They were cheaper than roses and a lot more delicious.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

6 Dinners: White Sauce and Chicken

I am on a mission to cook more at home and not rely on expensive takeaway. Here are a few things we've been cooking in the last couple of weeks to keep our tummies and wallets full.

Chicken Skewers and Saucy Mushrooms
Chicken pieces (marinated in teriyaki/soy/garlic), onion, peppers - threaded onto skewer and grilled
Mushroom sauce - just fry mushrooms in some butter, add a few spoons of flour and then some milk, and cook until thick. This was an impromptu sauce, and I was surprised by how amazing it tasted.

We served the skewers and mushrooms with plain rice. Sauce + rice = happy tummies.

Fish with cauliflower and potato salad
Plain white fish, crumbed and baked. The potato salad is steamed slices of potato, combined with lemon juice, olive oil, onion and parsley while still warm. The creamy cauliflower is a staple of German home cooking, and is similar to the saucy mushrooms. Except you cook the cauliflower in boiling water first, and sneak in an egg at the end to thicken.

Mustard Lamb with Braised Potatoes and Beans
This one is inspired by a recipe in Donna Hay's No Time to Cook. The lamb is crusted with seedy mustard and sugar, and grilled. The potatoes (supposed to be made with peas), are braised in beef stock - a great way to add more flavour. Despite someone's reassurance, "of course we have peas in the freezer", we had no peas, and had to substitute beans. Still good. We made a simple salad to go with.

Creamy Chicken and Mushrooms

Inspired by the success of the aforementioned saucy mushrooms, I wanted to expand on the idea and turn it into a whole meal. In with the mushrooms went chunks of chicken, peas and carrots. It was rather like the inside of a chicken pie. (My dad says the Hainanese chefs used to make chicken pies like this back when he was a kid - so he really liked it).

Not a true Spanish paella, but a tasty dinner nonetheless. I got the recipe from Jamie's Ministry of Food (50% of at Borders last month, wahey!). His recipe includes mussels and other fish, but as I live with someone who doesn't like seafood, we skipped this. Instead, I upped the quantities of chorizo and chicken. As you can see, I was a bit T.A. with the saffron, so it wasn't as gloriously golden as I'd hoped. Next time I won't be so stingy.

This recipe was fantastic - my family love all-in-once rice meals, and this one had great flavour from the chorizo and saffron. Will definitely be making this again.

Please note the use (finally), of the paella pan, bought 1.5 years ago, and before this paella, only used for roasting chickens.

Mini Shell Pasta with Peas and Bacon
Again this recipe comes from Jamie's Ministry of Food. It was very quick, taking about 20 minutes in total, and really tasty. It's not quite as insanely unhealthy as it looks - it doesn't contain a whole lot of cream, but a few spoons of sour cream (I used lite because that's what we had in the house).

Monday, February 16, 2009

Announcing the rescheduled Melbourne Foodblogger's Afternoon

Thanh, Duncan and myself are pleased to announce the new Melbourne Foodbloggers' Afternoon.

Date: Saturday 7th March
Time: 2pm ~ onwards
Venue: The Commoner - 122 Johnston St, Fitzroy
RSVP: Via Duncan's motherpost

Following the unfortunate cancellation of our previous event, we received an impromptu email from the lovely Jo at The Commoner, offering us the use of the courtyard for our get-together. In Jo's words, they "absolutely love people who have a passion for cooking so the fact that you would be bringing your own food isn't a problem". How fabulous! It would be great if everyone could bring a dish to share, and we would have the use of their wood-fired oven for reheating if needs be. Seeing as they've offered to host our event free of charge, it would be great if us bloggers could use their wine and drinks list, rather than BYO.

Please RSVP via comments at the new motherpost, and co-ordinate what to bring. I'm bringing German potato salad and possibly brownies!

Love to see you all there!

xox Sarah

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Canberra 2: Artespresso

Scallops - Seared with crispy pork belly and spiced jus - $21

Ok, I guess a few more people than I thought have actually heard of Canberra! (See comments on the last post). I guess it's not quite as humble as I thought, hehe. I'm sure you'll forgive me though, read on...

Before we flew up to Canberra, my friend An suggested we go to a fancy restaurant together, and asked me to decide. First step was to Google "Canberra Good Food Guide". I found out, indeed, that there is no "Canberra Good Food Guide". Rather, Canberra restaurants are listed as a "regional" section in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.

After a sneaky peak at the menus of all THREE Canberra restaurants listed in the Good Food Guide, I chose Artespresso. If you're interested, the other Canberra entries were Courgette and Ottoman Cuisine. Courgette seemed a bit too haute-cuisine for us, and Ottoman Cuisine would have been too similar to Mecca Bah. Perhaps next visit.

31 Giles St
Kingston ACT 2604
(02) 6295-8055

Artespresso is located in a pretty building on the leafy shopping strip of Giles St in Kingston. Other foodie destinations here include The Essential Ingredient, and the famous Silo cafe (sadly closed while we were up there).

The interior: feels quite "Melbourne" to me

Starters: An had the asparagus. The menu advertises white asparagus, but our waiter informed us that they only had regular, green asparagus that day. Whatever, it still tasted good! The asparagus was lightly cooked and very fresh, and the egg was perfectly poached and still slightly runny.

Asparagus - poached egg, parmesan, truffle oil (I think) - $21

My starter was that magnificent scallop entreé you see in the first post. The scallops were massive, and so fresh! The "crispy pork belly" was rather like crispy pancetta, and the jus was lovely and had a rounded flavour. Just fabulous.

Sandra didn't order an entrée, to save room for her steak. (We aren't all massive greedy guts like An and I.)

Steak -with potato puree and red wine sauce - $36

An also ordered the steak, and it was exactly as the menu described. Apparently it had a bit too much pepper on top for their tastes, but apart from that, both agreed it was a very good steak.

I ordered the kingfish - mainly because I hardly cook fish at home. I love it though; I should really incorporate more fish cooking into my repertoire.
Kingfish - mustard sauce, kipfler potatoes and capers - $34

Anyhoo, the kingfish has a lovely crusty top, and was cooked perfectly - it wasn't dry at all. The crushed potatoes beneath were a great accompaniment. With the capers and mustard sauce, it seemed to me like a potato-fied tartare sauce.

Chips - $9

When there is steak, there must be chips. Actually, correct that. When there is An and Sarah and Sandra, there must be fried potatoes. Or hot balls. :P

Onto dessert. We'd seen these pyramidial panna cottas ferried around the dining room, and Sandra had decided on these before we'd even looked at the menus. (Should that be panne cotte? - does it make grammatical sense to pluralise "panna"?)

Vanilla Pannacotta - fresh summer berries - $14

It was smooth and silky, and full of delicious fresh vanilla beans. Apparently it tasted just like a Caramac bar. I've never had one of those, but if it tastes as good as that panna cotta, I know I'd love it! I thought the panna cotta could have had a few more "summer berries". "One sliced strawberry" would be a more accurate description.

An and I each had a soufflé of the day - passionfruit. (What did I tell you about us being greedy guts?)
Soufflé of the day - passionfruit with dark chocolate sorbet - $14

The soufflé was super-light and fluffy, and just the right sweetness. I was actually a bit nervous ordering one, after that sugar-bomb from Bistro Guillaume, but this one suit my taste. And the dark chocolate sorbet was very dark, very intense, and a great foil against the sweet and airy soufflé.

So as you can see, overall we loved Artespresso. The only gripe was that you had to pay extra for bread and butter - so we didn't bother. It's not like we need anything to fill up on!

After Mecca Bah on Friday night, the picnic on Saturday, and Artespresso on Saturday night, you'd think we were done with the eating for the weekend. But that was certainly not the case....

Artespresso on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bloggers' BBQ Cancelled

Hi Everyone,

We are sad to say, that in the face of scorching temperatures and strong winds, we are postponing the planned Bloggers BBQ (previously scheduled for Saturday 7th Feb.) 43c is definitely too hot for barbecuing or standing around in the sun. Actually, it's probably too hot for anything that doesn't involve a cold drink and/or a swimming pool.

I hope that we've given people enough notice not to prepare the food they wanted to bring. Have a look at Duncan's post to see some alternative dates that we've suggested. Hope to see y'all at the BBQ once we've decided on a date!

xox Sarah

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Canberra Weekend: More than fireworks and po...litics

The view of Parliament House from Nara Park in Canberra, where we had a lovely picnic on our 2nd day

Canberra might not be the most obvious holiday destination, but we always have a great time up there. I love the lack of traffic, the abundance of cafes, the many green parks. Yes, it's very quiet, some might say boring - comedian Ed Byrne described Canberra as Melbourne's retarded cousin - but I do not take this harsh view. I don't know if I could live there, but for a weekend away, I love it.

View of Canberra "City"

A short explanation is necessary, I feel, because I am sure no-one outside of Australia has heard of Canberra. Canberra was purpose-built as our capital in 1913, as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne. It is home to Parliament House, the High Court and other government agencies. It is a very small city, with a population of 340,800 (source). It is situated in a teensy-weensy little state, the Australian Capital Territory, which itself is situated within New South Wales.

I was thrilled when I received surprise tickets for us to go to Canberra for a weekend to visit my good friend An-who-works-in-the-government. Weeks of furious back-and-forth emails ensued, deciding what we'd do, where we'd go, and most importantly, what we'd eat!

First thing I organised was a foodie gift for An. The day before we left, I made triple-chocolate macadamia brownies, adding white and milk chocolate chips to the one-pan macadamia brownies in Belinda Jeffrey's Mix & Bake. Look how fudgy they were! And the crackly top! Fabulous recipe. Next time, I'd double the quantities of nuts and choc chips, and maybe cut down the sugar by a third.

They were great fresh out of the oven, pudding-style with cold cream (well, I had to taste-test them!), and got better over time. At first I was going to cut them into pieces, but then realised they'd be more durable for transport (and look more generous!) in a big slab.
"The Brownie" in An's kitchen

There are actually quite a few things to do for food-lovers in Canberra. If you find yourself up there sometime and aren't sure what to do, the Out in Canberra website is a good place to start.

On Friday night we went to Mecca Bah in Manuka. I've been to the Melbourne outlet before (see here!) and enjoyed it, so I thought this would be a safe choice. The food was good, as expected, but I found my tagine a little sour and would have preferred more carb-a-licious couscous to go with.
Bastilla; Silverbeet Rolls; Chicken Turkish Pizza; Chicken Tagine with tomatoes, honey, almonds and sesame seeds; the interior; breezy outdoor seating.

Mecca Bah Canberra on Urbanspoon

On Saturday morning we headed to the Capital Region Farmers Market at Exhibition Park in Canberra (Epic).

We got some amazing blackberries and cherries ($7 for a massive punnet), lattes, sausages, bread, some funky African deep-fried coconut puff things, a pork pie and a whole lot of supplies for our picnic that afternoon. We'd planned a picnic for lunch because we thought it would be cheaper than a restaurant, but we actually ended up spending more at the market than we did at Mecca Bah. Whoops. Sorry guys!

And speaking of picnic... Nara Park was the location of our little picnic. In the top left photo, you will see "The Gates of Friendship". Canberra and Nara are sister cities, don't you know.
The park is lovely, with free barbecues and large expanses of lawn and shady areas. And, as you can see in the top photo of this post, an awesome view of Parliament House. (Am I the only person who gets excited about seeing Parliament House?)

Top Left: Mega Muffins
Top Right: Eggplant dip, chunky carrot dip (hard to scoop but tasty)
Centre: Beef Bratwurst, onions, a bit of bread with dip
Bottom Left: The free BBQ @ Nara Park
Bottom Right: Deep Fried treats from the Ghana stall at the market (bean on the left - a bit bland; coconut on the right - sweet and crispy!)

Mini Pork Pie. Pie Guy: "It's not a lunch, it's a munch"

Would I move to Canberra just for the pork pies? Possibly... or I could just learn how to make my own. Hmmm...

More Canberrian adventures to come!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Product Review: Pom Wonderful® 100% Pomegranate Juice

Erdbeerkuchen, with super-shiny glaze made with Pomegranate Juice

Just over a month ago, I received some Pom Wonderful® 100% Pomegranate Juice to test. I love the cute hourglass-figure bottles and the deep red colour. The first thing I noticed about the juice itself is that it's very intense, too intense to be drunk straight, and needs to be diluted - which is actually a good thing as I think it would be too expensive otherwise.

When mixed with soda water, (1/4 pomegranate juice to 3/4 soda water), it is a a great summery drink - being neither sweet nor tart, and incredibly refreshing. Over last week's heatwave, I was very glad to have an icy cold supply of Pom Wonderful and soda water close by.

Pom & Soda. As you can see, I'm loving the Colin Cowie-style icicles in my drinks. I got a funky long ice-cube tray from Ikea some weeks ago and there is no turning back.

The juice is unsweetened, which makes it very versatile, and healthier than the sweetened juices on the market. In fact, Pom Wonderful® 100% Pomegranate Juice is full of health-giving antioxidants, more than red wine or green tea, I'm told. This claim is backed up by $31 million of clinical research. (How would you feel if you spent $31 million on research that didn't indicate that your product was the best?)

I'm sure all those antioxidants must cancel out all the negative effects of the alcohol I inevitably add.

Pomegranate Bellini

My faves so far (not that I'm a total lush)....

Pomgranate Bellini - 1 shot pomegranate juice, topped up with sweet sparkling wine.
Pom & Pimm's - 1 shot Pimm's, 1 shot pomegranate juice, topped up with soda water.

And last, but not least, I've discovered that Pom Wonderful® 100% Pomegranate Juice makes a super-shiny, deep red glaze for pies and cakes, especially my beloved erdbeerkuchen. I haven't yet been able to find Dr. Oetker Tortenguss Rot in Australia, so I'm pleased that I've found a great substitute. (Adapted from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess).

Pomegranate Pie Glaze

Combine 1 tbs cornflour and 50g caster sugar in a saucepan, then stir in 1 tbs Pom Wonderful® 100% Pomegranate Juice and 125 ml water. Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil, whisking all the while. Once it turns clear, take it off the heat and let it cool slightly before pouring it over your pie or tart.

Pom Wonderful® 100% Pomegranate Juice is available in the fresh produce section of Woolworths and Safeway for $4.98 (R.R.P.) for a 473 ml bottle.