Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shawcross Pizza

Now I have to ask you guys. Pizza. Hand food or knife and fork? I have this argument every time Brad and I go out for pizza. He'll bust out the knife and fork and I get all my fingers involved in the eating process, and it drives me crazy that he doesn't see eye to eye with me! Pizza to me is like fried chicken, you eat it with you fingers so that you can lick your fingers clean of all that deliciousness after!

What do you guys reckon? 

Brad, Tim (my brother) and I popped into Shawcross Pizza on new years day, as I just had that insatiable craving for melty cheese and bread goodness and was far too lazy to cook. It's the new year, may as well kick back after all that...glutton...that is the christmas period! 

Opened next door to Phat Brats, from the guys of Phat Brats, it has much of the same laid back, slightly American style diner vibe about it. It's all pretty chill. 

If you're on the run, you might consider buying a slice of one of their 22 inch pizza monsters sitting in the display cabinet. Or you might just want to take it easy and eat in. The menu is generous, with fun and cheekily named pizzas, all with reasonable prices, along with some 'Kick-Ass' greener and slightly healthier options on the side as well. 

We started with some nachos, corn chips, mild salsa, sour cream, melted mozzarella, jalapenos and guacamole. Really, what's not to like? Not overly oily or cheesy with a healthy dollop of guacamole on the top. Mmmm, guacamole! We demolished these pretty quickly!

Brad and I usually always get one vegetarian pizza and one meat pizza, at Shawcross, this didn't change. One 'Livin' on the Veg' with mushroom, roast pumpkin, ricotta, pesto, slaw and roquette, and one 'Broseppi' with Italian sauce, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, salami, mushrooms and oregano. Both on gluten free bases. 

Both pizzas were very enjoyable, generously laden with toppings and therefore giving great fresh flavours, none of that overly cheesy greasy stuff here! Was pretty impressed with the gluten free base as well, it was quite savoury, with a great bit of char and a bit of spring to it. Getting pretty spoilt with gluten free bases in Melbourne these days, massive step up from the day's of cardboard gluten free bread…On a whole I just loved how visually pleasing the pizzas were! Especially the 'Livin' on a Veg', so bright and colourful!

My brother's really gotten into the habit of ordering dessert while we're out together and this visit was no different! 

To finish off, sometimes there's nothing more comforting than a simple Sundae Bloody Sundae at Shawcross, with vanilla ice-cream, chocolate sauce, nuts and a cherry on top. When my brother's in the mood for dessert, it's inhaled within minutes. 

On the whole, I like Shawcross, the pizzas are tasty, well priced and with plenty of other stuff on the side to make it a well balanced enough meal (or not in our case I guess). The vibe's also relaxed and easy going, as any pizza place should be, and although they haven't quite gotten their full liquor license yet (crossing fingers it'll be in within the next week or so!), you can BYO ($5 corkage per bottle) and enjoy your own brews or grapes. Or if you live nearby you might be able to just get delivery too. Lucky bitches who do!

Also what's totally awesome about Shawcross Pizza is that Phat Brats is right next door. So if you're a fatty like me, after dinner, you can run across and have a sundae dog. Yeah, that's right. After a Sundae Bloody Sundae. Perfect summer evening? Or any evening of the week? Yeaaaaaah. 

Shawcross Pizza
324 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy 3065

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

St Ali North

It's been quite a while since brunch came up on my blog, and this makes me a little bit sad, as brunch is one of my favourite things in the world. Brad and I usually have Sunday's reserved just for us to go brunching and I've always found it be a nice little bonding time for us. So here's our visit to St Ali North, the new hot kid on the block that has everyone aflutter. 

We checked out St Ali North on the first Sunday of 2013. This was potentially a bad move as I was worried, since St Ali North is still fairly new, that people would still be on holiday and there was the potential for there to be long waits for tables, food, anything! I don't pride myself on my patience by any means!

But there are some days where you just feel like you really need to go somewhere in particular, and I was having that day with St Ali North.

So we drove up Nicholson and wandered around a little until we realised it was more on Park street, behind the bike shop on Nicholson rather than on Nicholson itself. Don't be fooled by the address!

It's a very clever move though, situated right behind a bike shop, next to a bike riding path, and also along a fairly quiet road off Nicholson with plenty of parking, makes it incredibly accessible and convenient. Couple that with one of the most well known cafe names in Melbourne…all that's left is to serve good food and drink!

When we arrived, the place was pumping, so we left our names and were instructed to sit under one of the umbrellas on the grass, which was actually quite lovely as it was one of those cool but sunny days. Definetly pleasant in our current weather, although when winter comes around….might not be quite as pleasant!

Fortunately it was only a 10 minute wait, or maybe even less, then Brad and I were plonked onto the long bar/counter space. 

 The St Ali North space feels very different to it's older sibling in the south. Breaking away from the ever popular 'grungy chic' and bare brick cafe look, North is far slicker and cleaner, with cool colour palettes and plenty of light. There is a lightness and breeziness to the interior which I enjoyed. 

Whilst I love the soy chai lattes at St Ali in the south, I wasn't as enamoured with the one at North. It comes in a smaller jug, without a strainer, thus no obvious presence of tea leaves and spices like at St Ali in South Melbourne. I found the milk not as rich and creamy as I might have liked it and the flavour a little bit on the lacking side. I am assuming they are pre-straining it before it goes to the customer, but I think they may not be leaving in the tea and spices long enough to infuse a bit more. 

Brad's latte took a while to come out, actually not appearing until after our food had come out when we chased it up a few times. A little bit surprising at the coffee mecca, although they were absolutely pumped, but still, I have been at as busy cafes and had my full order come out in a timely manner.

But to move onto a brighter note, the food at St Ali North was pretty darned delicious. The menu was fairly short and sweet, but also seemed to be a little more dressed up, with some rather interesting offers.

After having seen it on Instagram on several occasions, it was a bit obvious I had to have the bone marrow with morcilla, coffee, egg yolk emulsion, fennel and capers. Sure, a bit rich and cholesterol lovin' for brunch, but it's not everyday, so surely it's okay! Unctuous and decadent bone marrow, lightly freckled with bread crumbs, was just a dream on fluffy, buttery brioche. Black pudding was less on the metallic side and just a satisfying meaty mouthful, the egg yolk adding an additional round of gentle richness (not that the dish was missing any!)

When the dish was listed with 'coffee' on the menu, I didn't quite realise that it literally meant I was going to be served a filter coffee! It's supposedly an experiment in pairing coffee with dishes, so to be a good sport, although I don't drink coffee I did try it out. I'm not much of a coffee connoisseur, but it wasn't too bad to my tastes. Not overly bitter, adding a bit of softness to the otherwise quite rich dish!

Brad got the famous "My Mexican Cousin" dish which I did very much love at the St Ali south outlet. With sweet corn fritters, kasundi, haloumi, greens, tomato and poached egg. I had a few bites, and immediately kind of wish I had ordered the dish myself (although it is very hard to go past bone marrow)! The fritters were beautifully sweet, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and well seasoned. Even better than what I had remembered (although I hadn't had them in a while either I guess).

My only beef with the fritters, is that at $21.50, I found it a little bit on the expensive side. I'm pretty sure they weren't that much when I first ordered them a year or two ago! At that price I would hope to see at least a little more haloumi on the plate, but I also suppose that the three fritters (which you're not going to get replicated anywhere else in Melbourne (that I know of yet)) plus the egg is pretty filling, so you are still getting a pretty good feed. 

What was to come next though, quickly spun away any niggle of negative thought. 

I had seen Daisy Instagram the most beautiful looking meringue cake she had while she was at St Ali North, mentioning that it was gluten free. Having had spied these slightly rough around the edges meringue-iced cakes through the dessert counter on the way in, I decided I needed to have one. 

What I discovered was pure bliss. 

Lightly caramelised and soft meringue coating a lemon (and I assume almond?) sponge cake, which was gorgeously moist, not overly sweet with a nice big of tang. 

But a few more bites in is where, with great surprise, I discovered the real beauty. Sometimes ignorance, and not fully knowing what you're eating, can be such bliss.

It was cold on the tongue, it was sweet, it was citrusy, it was salted. Right in the middle of this cake was a bit of lemon curd, with plenty of zest and, the best part, a healthy dose of velvety salted caramel. I died. Came back to life, had another bite and died again. And again. I pretty much ate this whole cake myself. Beautiful sweet, sugary goodness. 

If nothing else, I would return just for this dessert. And maybe the rest, if they were as lovely as this! 

On the whole, whilst there were a couple of bumps with service, I think St Ali North certainly had some charm and some good offerings on the table, but I can certainly see it not being for everyone either. If you're the sort who just wants a laid back, comforting big breakkie, maybe give the North a miss, but if you're willing to wait (or show up during the week instead of the weekend) and have a little patience, you may have quite an enjoyable experience as well! 

815 Nicholson Street
Carlton North 3054

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Thursday, January 24, 2013


Do you remember my Brooks post? How I ended up eating a meal on my own because my friend had something that came up and forgot to let me know?

Well this is the continuing post from there. Jeff promised to buy me a meal anywhere I wanted to make up for dropping the ball on our dinner at Brooks. Although it of course had to be in Melbourne! Whilst I had people suggesting Vue de Monde and Jeff himself suggesting things like Jacques Reymond, I just couldn't stop thinking about the famous cheese trolley at Merricote that I kept hearing about. 

I'm that easy to sway. Really. I think I must have been going through a crazy cheese lady period, throughout all of December that's all I wanted to eat!

And so, we met on a balmy Wednesday evening in the very cosy bistro on High Street. 

I kind of felt like Merricote didn't even look like a restaurant in the typical sense, I really felt like I had stepped into someone's house. Maybe it was due to the fact that there were no walls or dividers, it was a whole room with the bar and coffee machine lined down the side of the restaurant. So as if you were in their home, the waitstaff would continue chatting to you, as they went to grab your drink, you could see it all happening. I loved the intimacy and how personal the experience felt. 

There were also adorable quirky and playful little touches, such as the variety of adorable napkin ring holders they had on each table. I loved the piggies on the table across from us!

Whilst the gin I originally had wanted to try was out, I was instead very enthusiastically recommended a lillet blanc, which they served with a slice of orange. Oh my goodness, smitten looking at it in the tall wine glass, ever so elegant, and even more smitten sipping on it. So fresh, so light, so perfect for summer. A little zing and a little sweet. I really cannot thank you enough Merricote for introducing this to me!

Jeff and I naturally took forever to order. Forever. We're both chatty, we hadn't seen each other in ages and a catch up was needed. One of those meals where you don't even look at the menu for the first 20 minutes because your'e so busy flapping your jaw about. Felt a little bad as the wait staff kept coming back and we still hadn't looked at the menus! 

Although it was incredibly difficult to choose once we did end up opening the menu as everything looked so delicious and so fascinating! Whilst there is an option for a 5 course tasting menu, I was far more interested in picking all the menu items that interested us the most. I was also adamant on having the cheese trolley. Cheeeese trolleeeey. 

How cute is this little butter holder? Adorable!

We started with a generous serving of the Finocchiona pork and fennel from the charcuterie selection. I really enjoyed the brightness that the fennel brought to it, taking a bit of the edge off the fatty bits. Although the fatty bits are pretty darned delicious too…

Cigars? This early in the meal? Why not? 

Especially when they're prawn cigars! I loved the presentation of these, they were just so fun! The box itself was warm too which I thought was a nice little touch! The prawn cigars themselves were lean, with an ever so lightly crisp pastry wrapped around a little bit of prawn. Although I loved the novelty of these and the pastry, I found that I didn't get as much prawn as I might have hoped and so didn't get as much flavour as I might have thought.

We decided on just one item from the entrees to share (to make sure there's room for dessert and cheese), the Wagyu belted galloway bresaola with garlic custard and snails. Loved this, mouthwateringly delicious wagyu sitting on a bed of greenery that hid the snails and custard. It was just a joy to combine everything together, the custard was so smooth and creamy and just lightly aromatic, in that delicious roasted garlic way. Fortunately it wasn't too pungent! I quite enjoyed the overall earthiness of this dish. 

Time for main's! I think this is where Jeff and I struggled choosing the most, as whilst we were both intrigued by non-meat dishes, we felt it would be a crime to visit Merricote, where a pig makes up the logo, and not have at least one meaty main. 

Therefore, for one of the mains we settled on the Flinders Island lamb 'Nose to Tail' with olive turnip and marigold, a generous portion of many different parts of the lamb. It's a fun idea, it kind of made me think that it was like a deconstructed lamb dish! I can't remember every element that was on the plate, but we did have sweetbreads, along with some classic cuts and another offal part (the little fried brown square at the back there) but I've disgustingly forgotten what it was, which makes me very sad as I think it was one of the tastiest part of the dish! The meat was sweet and I loved that although this was all different bits of the lamb, there were certainly a variety of flavours and textures throughout.

For our second main, Jeff was incredibly keen to try the Chatham Island blue cod with cuttlefish, sea spinach and fennel. Actually it was the cuttlefish that caught his eye in particular, which I think was served in small strips, bundled in with the fennel. It was quite firm and springy and sweet, adding a nice contrast to the crunch and the brightness of the aniseed from the fennel. The blue cod was beautifully cooked, I seem to always get my fish a little bit overcooked at restaurants these days, but it was perfection at Merricote, sweet and rich. 

What do you guys reckon? Cheese before dessert? Or dessert before cheese? This was the next dining issue Jeff and I wrangled with, as we slouched a little more in our chairs, bellies warm and full, but with a palate craving for post dinner delight. 

Deciding that we would finish on a sweet note, we requested that the cheese trolley be brought over. Stat.

Honestly, I must have had the look of a crazy 3 year old kid who's just discovered 10 kilos of sugar in the pantry. As the trolley was literally wheeled over, rattling away as it battled the edges of the carpet, I couldn't help but beam and stare down the cheeses as they came closer and closer, all neatly encased in a variety of glass domes.

I mean, it's just beautiful right? 

We were carefully taken through each cheese, where it was from, and what flavour profile it might have. Jeff and I had pretty much decided one would be nowhere near enough, so we opted to get three different cheeses. A stinky and rich blue, just for me since Jeff didn't like blue cheese, a smoked cheddar which tasted like bacon that was firm and smooth and lastly, the pièce de résistance, a creamy truffle cheese with truffle flecks throughout. Oh what a dream, what a dream. With that intoxicating truffle perfume, it was not hard to be seduced by this little treasure. 

Now I've had cheese platters, but once they actually put the cheese platter together at Merricote, I was absolutely floored. With a range of gorgeous lavosh, dried fruit, quince and other complimentary nibbles, it was a much bigger serve that I might've expected. Worth, every single dollar.  

Should we be full? 

Probably. But dessert was to be had! 

Let's start with the hay, cucumber, strawberry and marshmallow. Ah, what a delight this dessert is! Although a little obscure on paper, when brought it out, it just induced smiles and intrigue. The dessert is actually sitting in a little conical bowl, that's sitting in this fishbowl of hay, so it messes with you a little until you realise you're not actually eating the hay. I regretfully do not remember what all the components in here were, but the vividly viridian cucumber sorbet was an absolute surprise of a treat! You wouldn't think cucumber to be particularly pungent, but the flavour was strong and it was so cool and so refreshing, it instantly transported me away to summer! Combined with strawberries and marshmallows, something in there was infused with hay as well, it was a refreshing but down to earth dessert. Just a whole lot of fun. 

And something else that was a whole lot of fun, was the bloody mess, a homage to the eton mess, but using oranges and blood oranges instead. Again, I don't remember everything that was in this, but I loved how it came out looking like some fairly-esque fried egg, with a blood orange sorbet in the middle of a bed of persian fairy floss. 

I was told to, as the name suggests, make a bloody mess and so I proceeded with vigour and found a dessert exploding with flavour and textures and joy. Joy just oozed out from every pore as I was eating this, the sweetness of the fairy floss, the zest from the sorbet, something creamy underneath. I loved this all so much. Fairy floss is seriously underrated guys. 

Thus, possibly one of the best meals I had in 2012 concluded. Jeff and I were the last to leave as we continued being chatterboxes, him not quite getting over how much we managed to eat, and me shrugging it off as just another blogger style meal. I still can't quite get over what a wonderful warm feeling Merricote gave me, really a gorgeous little sanctuary from the runnings of every day life where you are treated like a member of the family, with  personable service and playful, but heart warming food. 

81 High Street
Northcote 3070

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