Monday, May 30, 2011

YumTable Launch at St Jude's Cellars

A few weeks ago, I was invited along to the launch of YumTable. It's a new free iPhone app that offers last-minute restaurant deals and bookings via iPhone, and searches for nearby restaurants based on your location - no need for advance planning, pre-paying for coupons, or whipping out vouchers.  For the launch of the app, we had a relaxed dinner at St. Jude's Cellars, and met the founders of YumTable Niv Novak and Craig Winkler.  (Craig was also the creator of MYOB - which I thought was super-cool because I once studied bookkeeping, hehe.)

St. Jude's Cellars
389-391 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy 3065
Ph: (03) 9419-7411

Ever since my Barossa-trip, I love checking out wine selections!

The launch was split up over 2 nights, and included a mix of bloggers and other media.  Joyce and Thanh attended a separate dinner the night before, (and had a different menu!), so head on over to their blogs to check out the food.

I hadn't been to St. Jude's in ages (2 and a half years ago, in fact), and the menu seems quite different from the last time I visited.  We enjoyed a set menu, served family style in the centre of the table.
Charcuterie and chef's selected appetisers

I love a good charcuterie board, and this one had a lot of lovely and unusual different tastes.  My favourite was the freshly cracked walnuts wrapped in double smoked bacon with apple - not something I would have thought to try before, but they were delicious!

Salad of butternut pumpkin with Urban Honey labna, lemon, pickled chilli and red lentils
The labna in this dish was smeared across the plate, under the pumpkin.  Totally a "Sarah" dish - I'll have to try recreating this at home!

Chopped salad with capers, radishes and celery

Brandade with aioli, boiled egg, steamed leeks and olive tapanade croutons
Mmm... just look at those perfectly boiled eggs!  I actually think this dish would make a good breakfast or brunch dish, if you can handle strong flavours in the morning.
Hazeldine chicken with a tuscan cabbage mash, bitter salad and roasted figs
The chicken was fabulous, very tender and moist, sitting atop a very creamy, buttery mash.  I like to think that the addition of Tuscan cabbage made it healthier. *Ahem*.

Smoky eggplant
I enjoyed the eggplant, but it was incredibly, incredibly smoky, so perhaps a bit confronting if you weren't expecting the smoky hit.

Prime Plains Paddock Lamb with tomato, white wine, Meredith Ash Chevre and zucchini
The lamb dish was my favourite of the night - I loved the chunky slices of rare lamb and the intensely flavoured jus!
Nashi pear, quinoa, green chilli and hazelnuts
The quinoa salad was, again, a "must try at home" dish.  I don't eat a lot of salads, but I do love the chunky meal-in-a-bowl type!

We also got to have a play with the app that night.  Despite being quite new, there were quite a few good restaurants who'd already signed up to the app: St Jude's Cellars (duh) and Flower Drum are both on board!  Having looked at the app over the subsequent few weeks, there always seems to be a good range of specials from a variety of restaurants: things like "25% off the total bill", discount cocktails, complimentary glass of wine and so on.  The restaurants themselves seem to be mainly casual dining (Groove Train, Richmond's Public House, Ghurkas Prahran), as well as some cafes and bars.
Yeah! I haz iPad2!
We finished off the night with a lovely plum and frangipane tart, served with a vanilla-flecked custard.
Ruby Plum Frangipane tart

Many thanks to Craig, Niv and the team from Spark Communications for a delicious, fun and informative evening!

Sarah and Sandra dined as guests of YumTable, with thanks to Craig Winkler, Niv Novak and Spark Communications for the invitation.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Oatmeal Waffles with Burnt Butter Vanilla Apples

I love waffles!  And last Saturday I actually got up early enough to make a proper weekend breakfast!  I've been craving waffles since I read this post about oatmeal waffles on the lovely Sophia's blog.  Actually, let me correct myself - I constantly crave waffles, but after reading Sophia's post, I was craving oatmeal waffles! Hehehe.

The waffle recipe comes from, and differs from a plain waffle dough in that it contains quick oats (I just whizzed some normal oats in the food processor), cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar.

Sophia served hers with blueberry flavoured maple syrup, but I was in the mood for something a bit fancier, so I sautéed some apple pieces in butter with some castor sugar and a scraped vanilla pod.  (Inspired by Nigella's recipe for sauteed apples with sweetheart croutes, from Nigella Express).  It also helped me to use up the 2 apples that had been sitting, unloved, on the kitchen counter for a good week.  Oops.


The dough was perfect for my waffle iron - yay.  You may remember that my waffle iron has deeper ridges than a normal one, and I've found that my standard Roux Brothers waffle recipe tends to leak out the side, rather than rising and filling the iron.  I once made plain waffles using the recipe from the instruction booklet, but they were way too doughy (and this is coming from a girl who LOVES dough and stodge!)  This recipe, however, was perfect.  The dough spread and rose to fill the waffle iron completely, without leaking - making beautifully square waffles with crispy edges.

I loved the wholesomness of the waffles, with their toothsome oaty pieces and cinnamon aroma.  A word of warning though - these waffles are very substantial, and just one waffle makes a big, filling breakfast.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Muttis

That is Muttis' crispy-roast pork hock, served with apple sauce, house-made horseradish, mustard, and a caraway seed & dark beer jus.  Absolutely beautiful!

118 Elgin Street
Carlton, 3053
Ph: (03) 9349 5008

We took my parents to Muttis a couple of weeks ago to celebrate my Dad's birthday and welcome them both back from Japan.  They'd never been to Muttis before, and we thought they'd appreciate a tasty, hearty meal.  I absolutely adore Muttis, and I think they've gotten even better since my last visits!  They're certainly busier than I previously observed - on the Friday night we visited the dining room was pleasantly full and with a buzzing atmosphere. Yay!

We started with some beer, glühwein and pretzels.  (Being aware of the big portion sizes, I steered my parents away from ordering any entrees).  The pretzels were warmed and crispy - yum yum.
Schöfferhofer 300ml - $6.50; Gluhwein - $6.50

Pretzle - $4 each

Muttis does great spaetzle, and these little twirls of doughy goodness were swathed in a creamy veal mushroom sauce.  (Again, something else I need to learn how to make! I can already make schupfnudeln, so spaetzle shouldn't be too hard, right?)
Hungarian Veal Paprika – Slow braised, milk fed Veal, served with buttered Spätzle, forest mushrooms, broccoli and baby spinach - $27
One of two vegetarian options, the slow cooked baby pumpkin was an extremely generous serving: a whole baby pumpkin, stuffed with polenta and served with Paradeiser (AKA tomato) sauce, pumpkin seeds and rocket.
Slow cooked baby Pumpkin, served with lemon polenta, roasted baby tomatoes, Paradeiser sauce, salted pumpkin seeds and finished with Austrian cold pressed pumpkin seed oil - $25
My mum ordered this one, as she loves pumpkin (which you may remember from my Magshop post!)

It was delicious, but very filling - she only managed to eat about half.

And now - ta-dah! - I present to you the fabulous pork hock that my dad and I shared.
Crispy roasted free range Pork Hock, speck fried cabbage salad, Bratkartoffeln, mustard, horseradish and a caraway seed & dark beer jus (serves two) - $27 per person

The pork was perfectly done: juicy and tender flesh surrounded by crispy, crispy crackling.  (It totally puts my PORKTOBERFEST pork hock to shame.)  I really need to get Chef Thomas to teach me his recipe!

Apart from the sauces and condiments, the hock came with bratkartoffeln and a cabbage salad.

The cubes of potato were crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, sprinkled with little pieces of bacon, and totally addictive.

speck-fried cabbage salad
Yet more bacon! Love it.  The cabbage salad had a sharply astringent dressing, and loads of chives and bacon for extra flavour.  It was a great contrast against the heavier meat and potatoes.

Plate of perfection
We also ordered a plate of rotkohl to share between the four of us - not that we needed any extra food, but everything tastes better with rotkohl!
Red wine braised cabbage - $8
Even between the two of us, we couldn't finish the pork hock (it would have easily fed three, in my opinion), so we actually doggy-bagged it home.  Ordinarily I wouldn't go the doggy-bag route, but the food was too good to leave behind!  And I actually made a wonderful soup with the leftover hock later in the week, so nothing went to waste.

The super-nice manager Ulrich happened to recognise me from my previous reviews, and came over to our table to say hi and have a chat.  Chef Thomas also came out to say hi, and shared a raspberry schnapps with my dad for his birthday. Prost!

We weren't intending to order dessert at all, but when Ulrich came to our table with three desserts for us to share (his shout!), well, we couldn't say no!  (Not that he would have had to twist my arm, hehehe).
Muttis Apple Strudel - served with crème chantilly - $12
Crunchy, warm, and full of apples.  Need I say more?

Sweet Pretzle served with Chantilly Cream & blueberry jam - $12
I generally wouldn't have thought to order a sweet pretzel, (I'm used to the plain salty ones), but this was truly fabulous.  Warmed up, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, it was kind of like a bready doughnut, made even more delicious by the addition of cream and blueberry jam.

Eis Palatschinken - thin crepes served with a dark beer & chocolate sauce, vanilla bean ice cream and roasted almonds - $12
The final dessert, Eis Palatschinken, was my favourite of the night: thin crepes were wrapped around creamy vanilla ice-cream, covered in a beer-infused dark chocolate sauce and sprinkled with crunchy almond flakes.  The beer gave the chocolate sauce an intriguingly bitter edge, which tempered the sweetness of the dessert overall.

My dad loved the dinner - success!  I'm definitely looking forward to going back soon.  They're coming up with a new winter menu at the moment, which I'm sure will be great.  We saw a few tables having the special that will be on the new menu: a choucroute-style dish with sauerkraut, sausages, kassler, potatoes and more, served on a big platter.

I really think Muttis is a hugely underrated restaurant: the food is fabulous, hearty and well priced, and the service is great (even before Ulrich introduced himself).  Our waitress was really nice and very efficient, and we were never left searching for help - she was topping up waters, re-taking our drinks orders and clearing our plates before we even had to ask.

And a big thank-you to Ulrich and Thomas for the schnapps and desserts!

You can read about my previous visits to Muttis here and here.

Muttis on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 23, 2011

Barossa's Table: Lunch with Gill Radford

Hello hello!  Today's post is going to be a picture-heavy one!  On my fifth day in the Barossa, we were treated to a wonderful home-cooked lunch by Gill Radford, of Radford Wines.  Originally from South Africa, Gill now lives and works in the gorgeous Eden Valley, (the other valley in the Barossa region), producing a range of wines with her husband Ben.  She's a lovely lady and an incredible cook: it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this meal was my culinary highlight of the trip!

Gill's house is a food-stylist's dream - just look at all the lovely natural light!

We started off with an informal tasting of the wines; the 2010 Eden Valley Chardonnay was the pick of the bunch.

She also explained the biodynamic principles they use to grow and harvest their grapes - it's a fascinating practice that includes ethical and spiritual considerations, and takes into account planetary positioning.  Lots of the larger wineries (including Henschke) also follow biodynamic principles - it's no accident that vintage occurs around Easter each year!

The Radfords also have some beautiful birds in their backyard: chickens, peacocks, guinea fowl and more! 
Peacock / Peahens

Guinea fowl!  I never knew what they actually looked like before!
Gill made the most amazing lunch of braised rabbit with bacon and fluffy gnocchi fried in brown butter.  She'd prepared most of it in advance, and finished cooking while we were there.  I "helped" by stirring the pot!

Mmm... bacon...

She had braised and de-boned the rabbit the night before. 

Another interesting touch was that she fried sage and rosemary until crispy, and it gave off the most wonderful aroma!

And here are the gnocchi! (Which she'd prepared in advance).

These babies were then fried in brown butter! I don't normally use textspeak in my blog but I think it's warranted here: ZOMG!
Mmm... butter. You can tell she's a professional chef!
And here's Gill, calmly flipping the little gnocchi.  No stress! Despite all the little things that needed to be done to make the lunch, she was totally zen and super organised.  (That's totally the aspiration for a keen home cook like me!)

And here is the completed dish, topped with the crispy fried herbs and parmesan cheese. Wow!

I see this is the 7th gnocchi-related photo in this post, but I just can't overemphasize how much I loved it!  I don't even ordinarily like gnocchi, finding it dense and heavy.  But Gill's gnocchi were perfectly light and fluffy little clouds, with a crispy buttery edge.  Heaven!

To accompany, she'd made a refreshing salad of witlof and sprouts.

Due to our packed itinerary, we unfortunately didn't have a lot of time to sit around and chat, but there was time for dessert!  I'd spied the below cake in the pantry while Gill was cooking, and was so glad when she said it was for us!

It was a flourless almond cake (like an extra-buttery frangipane), with the addition of LSA mix and desiccated coconut.  It was moist and nutty and delicious, made even better with the addition of fresh Jersey cream. So decadent!

Mmm... cream.

Sarah and Sandra enjoyed lunch at Gill Radford's house as part of the prize for winning the Barossa's Table competition, with thanks to Gill for an absolutely incredible lunch!