Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stillwater, Launceston

Ricthie's Mill
2 Bridge Rd
Launceston, TAS 7250
(03) 6331-4153

Down by the banks of the Tamar River, at the mouth of the Cataract Gorge in Launceston, is a lovely little restaurant called Stillwater.  They're actually the sister restaurant of the Black Cow Bistro (Stillwater was there first!), and do slightly cheffier food in a rustic setting.  They do breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we actually visited twice during our 3 days in Launceston - once for dinner, and again for breakfast!

Upon walking in, we felt that the restaurant was quite a bit more formal than Black Cow, with very polite waitstaff calling you "ma'am" and so on.  Interestingly, customers tended to dress quite casually - lots of hoodies and jeans.

Crusty bread roll... included in the price! Hehe.

Butter and salt

Here is my entrée - black lipped abalone with pickled cucumber. I'd never ordered abalone myself before, mainly because I don't like the idea of eating non-sustainable seafood.  But I asked our waiter, and this abalone was farmed off the east coast of Tassie, near Hobart.  Overall I found the dish a little sour, but the abalone itself was fresh and cooked perfectly.
East Coast black lipped abalone - pickled cucumber, yellow rock sugar, iceberg lettuce and wakame crostoli. $32

Sandra had a cheese soufflé to start.  It was quite rich, so it was good that it came with a nice refreshing salad.  Incidentally, all the different farms and stockists mentioned on the menu (Heidi Farms, 41° South, Yorktown Organics etc.), would probably be interesting places to visit for a daytrip.

Heidi Farm Gruyere soufflé - chive sabayon, candied walnut and pear salad. $18
I was in the mood for lamb, and absolutely loved my main course!  A rare lamb rack, sliced into individual chops, and prettily arranged on top of small salad leaves, sweet and tender carrots, and smoky baba ghanoush.  If we hadn't been in a public I would have picked up each of the little bones and gnawed the last bits of the meat off.  Delicious!
Rack of Clover Country lamb - 41° South ginseng spiced, baba ghanoush, glazed baby carrots and preserved lemon yoghurt. $39

Sandra's main was something I think many Melbourne foodies would love - eye fillet with whipped jamón serrano butter and a crispy jamón serrano shard.  It had a great mix of sweet (baby beets) and salty (jamon), but Sandra said it the smokiness of the jamón became a bit overpowering.

Eye fillet of grass-fed Greenham Tasmania natural beef - textures of Yorktown Organics beets, whipped Jamón Serrano butter and Jamón Serrano shard. $39

We only got one side - butter roasted Swiss brown mushrooms, with thyme and garlic chips.  Juicy and tasty!
Butter roasted swiss brown mushrooms, thyme & garlic chips. $7

We got one dessert to share - this item isn't on the on-line menu, so I can't be entirely sure if my caption is exactly accurate - but it was a disc of sweet mousse, studded with tiny pieces of fresh truffle.  On top of that was a quenelle of vanilla sago, some crunchy macadamias and a cruncy triangular tuille.  I'm not entirely convinced it worked as a dessert though, as I found the truffle taste in the dessert very overpowering.
White chocolate and truffle marquise - vanilla sago, caramelized macadamias, strawberry paint, fresh truffle. $18
Around the back of the marquise was a thin shaving of fresh black truffle.  Fascinating, as I'd never actually seen fresh black truffle before. I picked it up and couldn't stop smelling it - there were so many aromas in there - garlic, leather, mushroom and a zillion more I couldn't identify.

Even though we didn't order any coffee or tea, we got some complimentary petits fours - yay!  The round truffles were chocolate-mints, and the biscuits were mini-shortbreads drizzled with chocolate.  Just quietly, I liked these better than the truffle-infused dessert.
Complimentary petits fours

On our final morning in Launceston, we returned for breakfast.  Stillwater have a good breakfast menu with a very strong focus on local produce - savoury french toast, vanilla poached fruits, muesli and a range of hot breakfasts.

Coffee was blindingly hot, but once it had cooled down to a drinkable temperature it was rich and satisfying.
One tea, one latte
Sandra had a decadent breakfast of pancakes with apple and cinnamon syrup and lemon mascarpone.  I had one mouthful - delicious! - but it was extremely rich, and she only managed to eat one of the pancakes.
Pancakes, apple & cinnamon syrup and lemon mascarpone. $15

I was a little more restrained, and had a very simple breakfast of toast, butter and jam.  I must admit that the main reason I ordered this was because I wanted to try Ashgrove butter!  We'd visited the Ashgrove cheese factory the day before, and I desperately wanted to try their creams, milks and butters, but they didn't do samples of them, and I couldn't really buy any of those things to bring home.
Toast & jam toasted ciabatta, Ashgrove butter & house made jam. $7
The butter was very pale, almost like a whipped butter.  Combined with the crusty ciabatta and chunky house-made berry jam, it was a fabulous little breakfast!

Stillwater on Urbanspoon

To help me discover Tasmania, Tourism Tasmania generously provided return flights and car hire for the trip.  However, I selected all accommodation, tourist destinations and restaurants personally and visited as a paying customer.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Condensed Milk Lemon Slice

I recently thought that it would be a good idea to have a tin of condensed milk on hand, to have with my coffee.  So, I purchased some condensed milk, and made myself that coffee. Yum yum.  But then, my coffee craving was satiated, and I still had a tin of condensed milk lying around!  I didn't want it go off, but wasn't quite sure what to do with it, until I flipped the tin around and saw this recipe...

Lemon slice!  It used up a whole tin of condensed milk, and I had the rest of the ingredients at home.  Perfect! (Although after I made this lemon slice, I realised that Nigella's blondie recipe in Kitchen also uses a whole tin of condensed milk. And I've wanted to make that one for ages!  D'oh!)

Anyhoo, this one is a bit different from the standard Aussie lemon slice.  It's a shortbready base, covered with a sweet and densely creamy lemon topping. 

You start by mixing 1.5 cups plain flour with 1/2 cup icing sugar and 150g melted butter.  Press it into a tray (I used a 20 x 30cm foil tray - I bought some recently because Nigella has a zillion recipes using foil trays in Kitchen.)...

... and bake for 15 mins in a 180C oven, until golden!

For the topping, you mix a 400gm can of condensed milk, 1 egg, 1 tbs grated lemon rind, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 tbs plain flour and 1 tsp baking powder.

Pour it over the shortbread base...

...and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set.

The recipe says to let it cool in the pan and refrigerate, before eating it.  Y'all know I wasn't gonna do that, haha.  I prised out the slice while it was still warm, dusted it with icing sugar, and sliced it into squares.  On a side note, the foil tray worked really well!  The base was crispy all the way through and there was no greasing or lining required.  (On an environmental note, the trays are recyclable and no detergent is needed to clean them, yay!)

As you can imagine, it was very sweet, so was best enjoyed in small slices with a cup of tea or coffee.  Although there was something very compulsive about it... with its rich, caramelly filling, and crispy base, I found it hard to stop at just one piece!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tasmania: twofourtwo

Hot water bottle, extra blanket and foodie-guide to Tassie!

I know Hobart is a bigger city, but I'm glad we chose Launceston.  Not least of all because we got to stay at twofourtwo!  Once we'd decided on Launceston, I did a bit of googling, read about twofourtwo here and thought it looked pretty fabulous.  I looked at their own website, saw the the prices were within budget, and promptly booked it online.  Too easy!

242 Charles St
Launceston TAS 7250
Ph: (03) 6331-9242

The twofourtwo apartments are located just outside of the city centre, close to cafes, restaurants and delis.  While we visited, the reception was closed for renovations, but the owners Alan and Katie kept us in the loop - calling us beforehand to arrange key pick-up, and making sure they popped in to say hi and make sure we felt welcome.

Vertigo Stairs!

At this stage in my life, the only hotels I can afford are soulless business hotels or mediocre travel taverns.  So I think its fantastic that boutique accommodation is becoming more common. They are generally a bit cheaper than the big hotels, and have a lot more personality.  With twofourtwo, it was so nice to see the individual touches that the owners add to personalise the experience. It seemed like they thought of everything to make your stay more comfortable... like the hot water bottle and extra blanket they put on the beds! And the apples on the pillows. Cute!

I was also impressed that they had a DVD player (with a good selection of movies!), CD player, iPod dock, menus of local restaurants... and a comfy couch with heaps of fluffy pillows, blankets, and a mega-selection of food magazines!

Little puzzles for extra fun!


Nice bathroom stocked with Tasmanian toiletries and a jacuzzi tub!  After all that driving, it was such a treat to soak in a hot relaxing bath.  Doubly decadent as Melbourne's water restrictions mean I don't take baths at home.  The walls of the bath were pretty high though, so would be difficult for anyone with mobility restrictions (as would those stairs!)

Now the fun part - the kitchen!  It was fully stocked with tea, coffee, bicuits and all types of equipment (you know I checked!), sandwich press, espresso machine, plunger, dishwasher...

Fridge stocked with brekky provisions, like bread, eggs, tomatoes, milk and OJ.

 On the 2nd shelf there was cheese, smoked salmon and crackers - yum yum.  We didn't actually end up cooking breakfast (we were too busy going out to cafes instead, hehe), but if you are more energetic than me, you could make a pretty fab breakfast there!

Pot of herbs on the balcony, guests are free to pick and use these!

Pretty balcony
We loved it!  Twofourtwo was a really wonderful spot for a weekend away.  Next time we go to Launceston, I'd definitely wanna stay there again!

To help me discover Tasmania, Tourism Tasmania generously provided return flights and car hire for the trip.  However, I selected all accommodation, tourist destinations and restaurants personally and visited as a paying customer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monk and Me

Monk and Me
9 Evans Place
Hawthorn East VIC 3123
(03) 9813-1151

Good food is hard to find in Camberwell.  As for good Asian food?  It's nearly impossible!  But not completely.  Located opposite the Rivoli cinema in the Camberwell / East Hawthorn area, Monk and Me is one of my family's regular haunts for a quick weeknight meal.  In fact, once upon a time, my brother used to work there (this was before he jetted off on his Japan adventure - Konnichi-wa, Daniel-kun!!!)  As I've mentioned previously, I don't usually blog restaurants I visit frequently because I tend to eat quickly and order the same thing every time - favourites here include the chicken kapitan curry and the sambal spinach.  (Yes, sambal can make even spinach taste addictively good!)  So when Monk and Me's manager, (and my bro's friend!) Clement, invited me along to try out their new specials, I thought it would be a great chance to try something new!

Monk and Me comes from the same people who brought you Cinta Ria, and you can expect the same spicy Malaysian food and funky settings.

First new thing we tried was cocktails!  We went for one classic - Singapore Sling, and one signature - Drunken Monk.
Front: Singapore Sling; Back: Drunken Monk - both $15
The Singapore Sling was exactly what you'd expect: sweet and refreshing, but woo-hoo that Drunken Monk was strong!  It's a mixture of gin and bacardi with lime and lemon.  Make sure you order some serious carbs if you're getting one of them!

We got a couple of entrées to start - udang goreng and some classic curry puffs.
Udang Goreng - King prawns wrapped in a fine pastry, snap fried and served with a tangy mayonnaise sauce - $8.50
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Malay language, "goreng" means fried!  And it is your key to Malaysian deliciousness.  The udang goreng were prawns, coated in a spicy sauce, wrapped in spring-roll pastry and deep fried.  It's kinda like a spring roll but without any cheap starchy filler, just pure prawn.

Curry Puffs - Braised onions and diced potatoes, corn, peas, carrots blended with a mix of special curry spices presented in crispy puff pastry - $6.00
The curry puffs were "better than the ones you make, Sarah" (quoted from Sandra).  Slight bruise to the ego, but I'd have to agree with her, not least of all because mine are baked and these ones are deep-fried!  I especially like the hot sambal that comes with them.

But, as I mentioned, we were here to try the chef's specials:

Being that Sandra doesn't eat seafood, and 2 of the dishes were seafood based, we ordered a couple more, and asked Clement if the kitchen could do mini versions so that we could try them all.  Would have felt pai seh with so much food, and pah sung if we couldn't finish it and it went to waste!  Happily the kitchen were able to accommodate.  Let's have a look at the dishes one-by-one.

Scallops Kedah - This dish included plump, juicy scallops in a mild coconut-based sauce.  Scallops are my favourite seafood ever, and it's always nice to try them prepared in a new way.  I loved that there was a lot of sauce to go around as well.
Scallops Kedah (mini) - Steamed scallops & sugar beans served with a lightly spiced sauce of pineapple, tomato, garlic, onion, chilli, coriander and coconut milk.  $26.00 for a full serve.

Ikan Merah - The ikan merah was quite similar to sweet-and-sour fish, but with a much punchier sauce.  I often find sweet-and-sour dishes too sweet, but this one had a good amount of chilli the counter the sweetness.
Ikan Merah (mini) - Lightly battered rockling fillets served with a spicy tangy plum flavoured sauce with onion and pineapple pieces. $25.00 for a full serve.
Okra Emas - The next dish was my favourite of the night - deep fried okra!  I'd previously only had okra in curry, so it was a nice change to try it battered and fried.  Okra itself is pretty bland, but the batter had a nice salty kick to it, and the shredded egg topping was rich with the flavours of coconut and garlic.  I almost regretted asking for a mini-version!
Okra Emas (Seasonal) (Mini) - Lightly floured okra wok-tossed in a shredded egg topping. $14.00 for a full serve.
Sizzling Tenderloin - We ordered this from the regular menu.  I'm glad it came with some brocolli, as we'd seemed to have ordered quite a bit of fried food! I only had a little bit of the beef, but it was nice and tender.

Sizzling Tenderloin (mini) - wok-tossed tenderloin steak fillets in a plum based sauce with onion, red and green capsicum served on a sizzling plate. $28.50 for a full serve.
Kung Poh Chicken - One of the standard dishes we order at any Asian restaurant.  Monk & Me's version is good - not blindingly hot, not too greasy, and with a generous amount of chicken. Would have loved a few extra cashews though!
Kung Poh Chicken (mini)- Wok-tossed diced chicken in a blend of spices, fresh ginger roots, dried chilli, carrot, snow peas, onions, spring onions garnished with cashews. $22.50 for a full serve.

They do have a good dessert menu - banana fritters, sago pudding, pandan crepes, ice-creams/sorbets and sticky-date pudding.  Obviously, after all that food we were way too full to have any dessert, but from previous visits I can recommend the sticky-date pudding and the pandan crepes!  A big thank-you to Clement for the invitation to come and try out the new dishes!

Sarah and Sandra dined as guests of Monk and Me, with thanks to Clement.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Black Cow Bistro, Launceston

When I started planning my Tassie trip, one of my key aims was to try as much local produce as possible.  As soon as the flights were booked, (and maybe before, hehe), I was eagerly searching online for restaurants that would satisfy...

Black Cow Bistro
Cnr. George and Paterson Street
Launceston TAS 7250
(03) 6331-9333

A mere 5 minutes from our hotel, (although I soon came to realise that nothing in Launceston is very far at all), the Black Cow Bistro is a chic steakhouse located in a historic building that was once a butcher.  The dim lights, red paintings and simple decorations create an atmosphere that is warm and welcoming.  It was just what we needed after such a hectic day: work, flying to Launceston, figuring out how a Ford Falcon works, navigating our way through the Launceston streets to the hotel, dumping our stuff and - finally! - sitting down to dinner.  Aaah.

After we ordered, we were asked if we wanted some bread, which came with a lovely lemon-infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  It was warm and crunchy, and I loved the cute presentation!  But I must say I was a bit miffed when I saw the $4.80 charge on our bill, as there was no mention of bread anywhere on the menu, and we weren't told it was an extra.  Bread not included?  I think that's a 'sin' for which Stephen Downes would automatically deduct 2 points.  I'm not that harsh, but I would have liked to have been told about the extra charge first.

Ciabatta - $4.80
But, onto more positive things.  The menu clearly states the provenance of each of the items, and apart from my interest as a food-loving tourist, it was so nice to see the obvious pride that the owners have in Tasmanian produce.

For starters, I had half a dozen Pacific oysters from Moulting Bay in St. Helens.  Just natural, thank-you!  The best way to eat oysters, in my opinion.
Freshly shucked Pacific oysters, Moulting Bay (St Helens, East Cost, TAS) (6) - Natural with lemon cheeks - $16.50
These were amazing!  Brilliantly fresh and sweet.  I could have easily eaten dozen(s) of these, but there was still more to come.  I do love oysters, but don't often order them in restaurants - if they're not absolutely perfect they're such a disappointment, and there's always that moment of trepidation before you eat the first one.  No such problems here though; they were fabulous.

The mains comprise a range of different steaks, with one fish dish and one chicken dish.  According to the menu, vegetarian options are available too,but you'll have to check with your waiter as they're not listed.

We both ordered steaks - all come with baked Dijon mustard potatoes, and complimentary mustard.  We were both a bit extravagant and got truffled béarnaise.

Sandra had a 200g eye fillet, well done (why, oh why?!)...
Eye Fillet Swift Australia (Longford, North Tas) 200g served with baked Dijon mustard potatoes and truffled bearnaise sauce - $34.50
I was much more ambitious, and ordered a 400g rib-eye.  Meat on the bone = win.
Rib Eye, Clover Country Meats (Ulverstone, NW Tas) dry hung 21 days on the bone 400g+ served with baked Dijon mustard potatoes and truffled bearnaise sauce - $41.00
Knowing that my main would be very rich, I ordered a light side of rocket salad.  The soft and peppery leaves complemented my steak perfectly, mopping up the béarnaise and steak juices.  (I always order my steak rare, rare, rare!)
Yorktown Organics baby wild rocket, roasted pine nuts, grana padano & merlot vinegar dressing - $6
We also got a cauliflower gratin - such a classic accompaniment for a steak!  I've never made cauliflower cheese myself, but after this I really think I ought to.  The sprinkle of chives on top added another dimension of flavour, and stopped it from being too rich.
Cauliflower and parmesan gratin - $6.20

As you can imagine, after all of that food there was no room for dessert.  In fact, I'm ashamed to admit I couldn't even finish my steak, delicious though it was!  The desserts cover the classics - sticky date pudding, banana and toffee tart, crème brûlée and so on.  Next time I'll have to pace myself a bit more or choose a more modest steak so that I can try the desserts.

At about $120 for 2 people, I thought the meal was quite good value (noting that we didn't have any alcohol), and the service was both efficient and friendly.  Black Cow Bistro was a lovely spot for a nice, relaxed dinner, and a great introduction to Launceston.

Black Cow Bistro on Urbanspoon

To help me discover Tasmania, Tourism Tasmania generously provided return flights and car hire for the trip.  However, I selected all accommodation, tourist destinations and restaurants personally and visited as a paying customer.