Friday, May 22, 2015

General Assembly Talk: The Business of Food Blogging

Got some pretty exciting news! I was recently asked to participate in General Assembly's event: The Business of Food Blogging on the 18th of June, where we'll have a little panel discussing what food blogging's looking like in Melbourne's climate, some of the difficulties we face, and what we see what we're doing going forward into the future. 

It'll be a fun little evening, and considering it's free, and just a couple of hours, it's pretty good value if you ask me! 

So if you're interested in attending, just visit the General Assembly website, make account and book in your spot, looking forward to seeing you there!

If you have anything you would like me to talk about in particular as well, I'm totally taking suggestions as I'm starting to put my presentation together! 

The Business of Food Blogging: with top food bloggers & industry insiders
June 18th
Level 17, 31 Queen Street
Melbourne 3000
Cost: Free!
Book your spot here

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pg. 2

My brother is a special character. There are many science-y and psychology type words that are generally used to describe him, but there are also many other beautiful words, such as hardworking, loyal to a fault, committed to the cause of good, selfless, tenacious, and outgoing. 

And earlier this month, he turned 25. 

To celebrate, since Chai had recently hurt himself, rather than going out for a full family meal, mum stayed home to dog sit and Brad and I took Tim out for brunch. He used to hate going out for meals, as it would ruin his schedule, or whatever it was in his head that he had planned to do. These days though, with enough notice, he’s now keen as chops to get out the door for a meal, and loves spending time with us. 

So we ended up at Pg. 2 in Richmond, a very cosy little cafe on Swan Street, that makes you beam from ear to ear and wriggle your toes in joy, at the warmth the staff and the space exudes. Who wouldn’t want to just lounge around in the blue armchairs at the front of the cafe, or the red ones in the back all day? There are even a box of blankets out back if you choose to sit outside on a slightly chilly day. Reminds me very much of Germany!

The menu and food were honest, but beautifully executed. My brother was thrilled to get gluten free bread with his thyme infused  Swiss brown mushrooms, with poached eggs and gleefully rich homemade hollandaise, which he inhaled 7/8ths of in a moment, before taking his time with the last couple of bites. 

Brad also enjoyed his big breakfast, with free range bacon, mushrooms, croquettes, spinach, tomato, avocado, chorizo and poached eggs done just right. 

Whilst my zucchini, carrot, corn and haloumi fritters, served with smoked salmon and poached egg…well they’re just pretty as a picture aren’t they? Not to mention delicious, well seasoned, not too doughy and hearty. 

We loved our meals, and our morning together, but the Pg. 2 team outdid themselves, and when they learnt that it was my brother’s birthday? Treated him to a wee cupcake (or not so little) from the display. My brother is a simple creature (which I think is a blessing), and the happiness this brought him was just beautiful. He couldn’t stop talking about what a lucky boy he was once he got home to we devoured all of the macarons we picked up from Luxbite (sort of) on the way home.

207 Swan Street
Richmond 3121

Pg.2 on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nieuw Amsterdam - Fall Menu Tasting

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of the restaurant 

There are a couple of restaurants on my list, that are always guaranteed to be failsafe recommendations, and are always floating around somewhere in my consciousness, reminding me that I always really ought to revisit.

Nieuw Amsterdam is one of those places. But not only for the food, but for the fascinating things they’re doing with cocktails as well.

So when I was invited to taste the new fall menu (one of my favourite seasons), how am I to say no?

Nieuw Amsterdam has recently welcomed a new head chef, Jeff Trotter, ex sous chef of the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld and also with some previous experience in Michelin starred restaurants, bringing his own elegant take on ‘New American’, featuring some New York classics. 

Before we could eat anything though, bar manager Sean McGuire ensured we had our liquid appetisers first! The first of four matching cocktails was the ‘Poor Al’, standard whiskey, dry vermouth with lopsang tea syrup and lemon topped with soda. It’s Nieuw Amsterdam’s take on a winter Tom Collins…and it’s dangerously fresh, like a breath of fresh air, and easy to drink. I’m not usually a whisky cocktail kind of person, but would faithfully return to this with no problem!

Smoked mackerel croquettes came out golden and utterly perfect. I love mackerel personally as it is, but smoked? And deep fried? I might’ve been in heaven. The golden crust was perfectly crunchy, and the smoked mackerel inside was just molten and saucy. Fantastic.

Pop Scallops made me smile, I love this fascination with popcorn at the moment, as you would never have expected it in anything remotely fine dining or fancy…yet there it is, in all it’s popped glory. Popcorn, utterly perfectly cooked scallop, nice little kick of chilli, watercress and celeriac, adding a cool and refreshing note, I found the dish well balanced and a whole lot of fun as well. 

The Mac n’ Cheese souffle is exactly what you might ask for, sure, a little denser and heavier than a traditional souffle…but what did you really expect when mac n’ cheese are added into the mix? Cheesy, and creamy, the addition of a green pea puree and a hint of chorizo oil helped cut through the richness and brighten up the flavours. 

The basil daiquiri is one of the most delicious things I’ve drunk recently, with white rum, green chartreuse, basil, cracked pepper and lime. It’s refreshing, but savoury, just strong enough for you to know you’re getting your hit, but so complex and delicious that by the time you’ve realised how many ‘little’ sips you were planning to take to make it last…you might’ve finished it already. 

It was on to meatier items next, the barbecue lamb ribs with tomato and chipotle an absolutely meaty delight, just slipping off the bone. The kick in the chipotle gave me a surprise, but was completely welcome. Shrimp n’ Grits with okra, corn and gumbo sauce is a delight poured at the table and the smokey beef brisket is amazingly tender and hearty.

We share a plate of yam gnocchi as well, with goats curd, maple pecans, thyme and parmesan, but I could easily clear a plate on my own (if I didn’t have so much to eat already). The gnocchi are like light and fluffy pillows, nicely paired with the velvety and creamy goats curd and rich and only just lightly melted parmesan. The yam and sweet potato crisps add a nice bit of texture to it as well. 

For meat dishes, a meat themed cocktail seems appropriate, and we’re presented with ‘Elmer had a Little Lamb’ which is made of lamb fat washed buffalo trace bourbon, mint, sugar and crushed ice. It’s rich and savoury, delightfully aromatic, especially with the sprig of rosemary and slightly perplexing, but in a delicious way. 

To finish, we were treated to a bevy of desserts, all with familiar, classic and comforting flavours, but presented beautifully. 

Pumpkin doughnuts with Jack Daniel’s cream were a table favourite, the doughnuts lushly dusted in sugar, with a touch of crust, but overall light and fluffy. Not so much pumpkin flavour in the doughnuts, but that Jack Daniel’s cream, heaped up in a big mass was everything.

Nieuw cheesecake with black cherry, thyme, black pepper and milk, was elegant, and lighter on the flavours, whilst the fried apple pie was a piping hot pocket, with maple and raisins and a cream cheese sorbet which was a lovely balance to all the sweetness.

My favourite though, and yes, partially because I’m just a sucker for chocolate, was the chocolate mallow, served with a raspberry marshmallow and snowed under by caramelised white chocolate and toasted coconut. Wow. Creamy, and filing in the mouth, yet oddly light at the same time. I loved the toasted coconut that added some texture and crunch. 

It had been a while since my last visit at Nieuw, but as always, they put on a delicious show, and have made me feel a bit guilty that my visits are always so far apart. Next time an out of town guest is around…

106-112 Hardware Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Nieuw Amsterdam on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Little Temper

Sometimes a lot of little things all together make a place just right. 

It took me a while to get around to visiting Little Temper in Hawthorn, as I hadn’t heard much about it, and hadn’t known of anyone who visited. 

But once I arrived, I wish I had visited much sooner! The cosy little space fits a nice scoopful of people, and although small, there’s plenty of colour and personality in the space, from the multi-coloured coffee cups to the striped counters and the blue counter next to the window that looks stunning in photos. 

We popped ourselves at the counter, and watched the rain bash down, as two dapperly dressed men sipped on their espressos and smoked their cigarettes on the outside tables. 

Lately, I feel like Prana Chai can be very hit and miss, with some cafes just not giving it the love it needs to really get the fullest flavour out of it. At Little Temper, they just worked magic with it, warm and creamy and stunningly rich in flavour, nice and spicy. I loved the mug they served it in too, so cute and huggable, just right for a rainy day. 

Brad’s baked eggs came piping hot in a skillet, and were just the kind of baked eggs he liked. Still a little runny, but not overly so, and delightfully hearty. There are times were I could wax lyrical about how good a dish was, and sometimes, I simply cannot describe the simple comfort a dish brings. 

Although I was tempted by gluten free ricotta and almond hotcakes (definitely returning for these!) I absolutely loved my house spiced granola with raspberry compote, berries, organic honey and yoghurt. I feel like my granola/porridge picks lately have been a bit hit and miss…however, I cleaned this plate up. This was just what I liked.

Crunchy, lightly toasted granola with spices that were lovely and aromatic. The addition of the raspberry compote was perfect for me, adding a gentle sweetness and the apple batons added another crispy texture. All swirled up together, I simply could not get enough. Delish.

Although it’s fun to run around town and check out all that’s new, I do need to take more chances on little neighbourhood gems like Little Temper, which often give me so much more than I need. Brad and I got into one of our more intellectual conversations, and although we always bond over brunching, there are some places where it’s certainly easier to do it at than others. Like Little Temper! 

Little Temper
63 Burwood Road
Hawthorn 3122

Little Temper on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 11, 2015

Five of my favourite Food Documentaries

I’ll be the first to admit my taste in movies is a bit odd. On one side, I love action movies, that don’t necessarily need strong story lines, but should have plenty of good action scenes, things blowing up, Transformers (Optimus Prime is my life) and as little romance as possible. Romantic comedies are the bane of my existence. 

On the flip side, I adore documentaries. I love seeing different slices of life, inspiring stories, and also being appalled at the state of humanity sometimes. But I also love to be inspired, in awe and absolutely filled with wonder, which is what some documentaries do for me as well…especially ones about food. 

So to mix up my usual blog posts, instead of taking you through some of my favourite foods (which you probably all know by now already), here are a couple of my favourite food documentaries! I’ve focussed this round on the delicious, usually chef-oriented, saliva inducing documentaries that make you want to lick your screens. I’ll probably do another round in the near future with food documentaries that analyse our food chain systems, and the affect they’re having on our health…but in the mean time…here’s some visual deliciousness! 

It would be positively criminal not to have Jiro Dreams of Sushi on this list. If you haven’t watched this yet and admit to being addicted to food (especially Japanese food), then drop everything and get onto Netflix and watch it there. 

Some have said it’s a little bit slow, which sure it can be, but you want it to be so you can savour every stunning close-up shot of sushi that passes by on the screen. David Gelb does an amazing job of capturing Jiro’s story and personality, and beyond just being a delight on the eyes, Jiro’s stubbornness and dedication to his craft is absolutely inspiring. I watched this and the documentary about Bill Cunningham in very close succession to each other and was just left spirited and driven to just do stuff in life. Amazing.

Spinning Plates, released in 2012, follows three very, very different restaurants and the people and stories that are behind them. It was this film that introduced me to Alinea in Chicago and the wonders that Grant Achatz conceptualises and brings to life. From three michelin stars the film also visits Breitbach’s Country Dining which is a family owned restaurant that’s been open since 1852 and La Cocina de Gabby, a small little Mexican restaurant in Tuscan, Arizona. 

The hardships are heartbreaking and incredibly inspiring all at the same time, from being burnt down twice, to tongue cancer, to just struggling to stay afloat, but the heart and the focus on the people in this documentary is also just beautiful. 

Also Alinea's dessert dish? Oh my god. Almost enough to make me consider buying a ticket to Chicago on the spot. 

Newly released on to Netflix, if you haven’t signed up for your free month yet, now’s a good time to do it. Made up of 6 one hour episodes, each episode follows one renown chef, one episode even focussing on our own Ben Shewry! 

This series has also been directed by David Gelb, who also directed Jiro Dreams of Sushi, so it’s absolutely gorgeous, but again a very personal and intimate series, talking of their hardest struggles, and highest of peaks. But what I really love getting to know about these chefs, is their philosophies, and what’s important to them. Dan Barber, in the second episode, is one of my favourite of the 6, with an amazing approach and attitude about sustainability and ethical eating. 

This documentary follows four wine stewards in the states preparing to take the Master Sommelier Exam…which is one bitch of an exam. Excuse the French.

These guys are so dedicated and passionate about wine, and some of the things you learn along the way is also just fascinating too! What I really enjoy about this though, is that it’s an incredibly accessible documentary on wine, as although the guys are serious about their wine, Somm has a light-hearted and humorous tone to it. 

There's also a sequel apparently coming out to this in the near future which has me very excited. 

Okay, so this documentary toe dips into more of the politics of the food and wine industry, but it’s also a stunning film. Narrated by Russel Crowe (who narrates far better than he sings), this documentary follows the popularity of Bourdeaux wines in China, China’s lust for brand and how that affects the industry. 

So there are just a handful of mine! What are some of yours? I’m always looking for new ones to watch…and if anyone knows where I can watch ‘Hungry’ the documentary released in 2014 about competitive eating (tragic, but I’m disgustingly curious as well), please tell me. I’ve been trying to hunt it down for the last 6 months! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sacred Heart - Dining with Heart

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest to the Dine with Heart preview

The Sacred Heart Mission dining hall. 

With all the tables cleared away, and the ginormous commercial kitchen with sparkling stainless steel filled with some of Melbourne’s top chefs…it certainly isn’t your usual dinner venue. 

But for some people, this is their regular dining room through the day. The Sacred Heart Mission’s meals program serves 400 free and nutritious meals a day to people who are homeless or disadvantaged. 

Throughout the month of May, restaurants and cafes around the City of Port Phillip will partake in ‘Dine with Heart’, which will run throughout the whole month and either have a signature dish which will have the proceeds from that dish go towards helping fund the Mission’s meals program, or diners will be encouraged to add $4 to their bill…which is the cost for one meal at the Mission. 

Certainly puts your meal in perspective after that doesn’t it? 

As part of ‘Dine with Heart’ month, for the second year running, ten of Melbourne’s top chefs will work together for the Dine with Heart dinner for 200 people, held on the stage of St Kilda’s Palais Theatre on Tuesday the 26th of May. 

And on this particular evening, we were very fortunate to be getting just a taste of what the chef’s might offer on the night. 

From refreshing smoked salmon on a potato blini with creme fraiche and salmon roe from Tony Collis (The European) to Adam Draper’s (Donovans) simply moreish toasted (and crunchy) sourdough with olive tapenade with home-cured bresaola, even though we were just getting little mouthfuls, the chefs were not shy in flexing some flavour. 

I was thrilled to see Jesse Gerner’s (Bomba) sumptuous ox cheek croquettes floating around the room, quickly grabbing two…or maybe three. And Chris Watson’s (Luxembourg) foie gras pate en croute, with a couple of raisins was a very lush little nibble. 

Daniel Wilson (Huxtable), Derek Boath (Bay Leaf Catering), Philippa Sibley, Sean Judd (St Hotel) and Themi Milikouros (Phamish), will also be taking part in the dinner on the 26th and really, for $220 per person (tables of 10), you can’t get a better price for that much talent all in one meal!

I think it’s great this year that Dine with Heart has expanded from just one meal, to a whole month, so that no matter what your budget is, you can be involved and help giving back, even if it’s just a little. Although I’m not often in St Kilda, I’ll certainly be making the effort to hit the beach suburb a little more often (even if it’s getting a little chilly!)

If you’d like to find out which restaurants are involved with Dine with Heart, visit Sacred Heart’s website, or if you’d like to book for the amazing Dine with Heart dinner, call or email Peter Mercer at 1800 443 278 or…there won’t be many places for long!