Friday, November 30, 2012

The Meatball and Wine Bar

For some reason when the Meatball and Wine Bar opened up, the concept didn't surprise me. I was a bit ambivalent about it. Meatballs. Wine. Coolio. But then the more I thought about it, the more I came to realise how unique it actually was and what an odd little niche they had snuggled into amongst all the other eateries in Melbourne.

Brad and I visited for a quick nibble before wandering on down to see a friend's band play in the Melbourne Festival (have they seriously run out of festival names they just have to name it after the city?). 

Brad was a lil suss at first: "Is this going to be one of those expensive hipster places?" 

After I rolled my eyes at him, we wandered into the cosy space, which is just simply 'unrefurbished cool', opening up quite a bit at the back. We left our name and number with the friendly waitress and popped down to Gogo Bar for a drink while waiting for our table.

We didn't have to wait for as long as I expected, in fact we even had to ask them to call us when the next table was free as we were still midway through our drinks!

If you couldn't tell already, the Meatball and Wine bar keep to the K.I.S.S rule (Keep it Simple Stupid). It's all about the meatball. And just the meatball. Choose your ball (pork, beef, chicken, fish or veg), choose a sauce to go with it, maybe something for it to sit on, and maybe something to wrap around it. 

So we got some drinks. Although not wine. That's not a crime at a wine bar is it? I go a bit weak at the knees when I know West Winds gin is on the spirits list though, so surely you can't blame me.

And then we got some balls. Some real good cojones. Teehee. This place is just asking for sexual euphemisms everywhere isn't it?

We got pork balls, with fennel, sage and orange, with white sauce, on a bed of Italian beans. Whilst a touch on the dry side for me, I did like the seasoning and the zest of the orange was particularly appealing. 

Beef balls, which is 100% pasture-fed angus beef, we decided to get as sliders, and have them sandwiched between mini brioche buns with a bit of red Italian tomato sauce. My justification is that bolognese (to me) is typically beef and tomato sauce, so how could that formula go wrong? 

And well, it didn't They were freaking delicious. I could have used a tad more sauce, but the buns were sweet and fluffy and the beef meatballs well seasoned. 

We also got some mushrooms on the side, which were ginormous, with taleggio cheese and thyme. So delicious. Honestly, the meatballs were good, but could they just drape it in this bubbly, stretchy, melted cheese? That would be to die for. 

To finish, I naturally HAD to have the Whoopie Mac. I mean. How could I not? Homemade ice-ream, sandwiched between two huge macaron shells. You could mix and match your flavours which was quite fun, so after some serious (or not) discussion with the waiter, I opted for a berry mac with chocolate ice-cream. 

Now, when you order this, y'know it ain't going to be any fancy macaron. So you can't judge it agains that. It's all in the novelty factor, and as I love quirky, silly, cute, I am usually pretty happy to pay for that.

The whoopie mac was huge. Like. Huge. I couldn't believe when it was put down in front of me! The mac shells didn't have the texture of a typical macaron shell, no crispness, but much denser and chewier, which I actually kind of enjoyed. The berry flavour was a great recommendation and went so well with the chocolate ice-cream. Yah-um. 

Did we leave The Meatball and Wine Bar full? Not entirely. We weren't hungry the rest of the night, but we figure that's also partially due to us drinking beer for the remainder of the night. Whilst the food is great, I did find the portions a bit small (60g a ball), even with something to sit on or between, and I was terrified that Brad would leave still hungry. (Fortunately he didn't) If you really wanted to fill up, you would need to spend a fair bit I would think. 

However, I could quite easily imagine the place being a fun spot to hit up with the girls and have a couple of drinks and more nibbles to share. Or it could be a nice pre-theatre dining spot. It is a place that does what it does well and for that, it suits and caters to a bit of a niche market, which is totally fine in my books. 

Would I come back? Totally, but maybe not with Brad. Maybe I will bring the girls along the next time though, and we will have wine and lots of inappropriate giggles. Teehee.

The Meatball and Wine Bar
135 Flinders Lane

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blogiversary! I'm Three!

So uh. I totally mixed up my blogiversary date until I saw that Daisy's blog, Never Too Sweet, had just turned one (Awww!) and decided to check if my blog turned three tomorrow like I had originally thought.

Oh nope. 

It's today.

Thanks to my cool friend Chill for this pic. Wubs!


Does that make it an adolescent blog then? I hardly feel like I've grown up but I feel like I've waded my way out of blog childhood. 

This past year has been absolutely insane though. All in the best of ways though. I certainly feel my blog has done the most growth in the past year, and I've gotten to do so many awesome things this year, meet amazing people and eat like a mofo. 

I had been thinking recently about when my blog had started three years ago and the place it has in my life now. Both Brad and my blog came into my life around the same time, around a time where I had started a personal healing process from a more negative time in my life, and both Brad and the blog filled up my mental thinking space with much more pleasant thoughts and motivation to push on forward. I love these days that I am (almost) never bored, as any spare time I have I usually want to spend on the blog! It's hard work, but it's totally worth it!

Thanks Simon for this photo at EDB! Melbourne Bloggers represent!

And over this past year, being able to meet so many more bloggers and getting to know more about this food blogging community, makes me all the happier that I started the blog and continued on with it. Really guys, I couldn't think of a blogging community that is more nurturing and caring than ours!

It's also been wonderful to hear from readers, who seem to be quietly coming out of the woodwork! It always, always, always brightens my day to get a comment or an email with a recommendation or just a hello from you lot! You guys reading and your support is everything! I love holding giveaways as I love to find out who you all are! ;)

Tea in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, with my parents!

And of course I have to give love (I'm full of it yo) to my friends and family who've always been supportive and enthusiastic in my endeavours to make everyone turn into a squishy little jellybean by eating out so much. 

And a little extra love for my love, who just gets dragged around everywhere. I still don't know how you put up with me hun!

I'm still figuring out where I want my blog to go, but I do hope that there are many years left, as I don't want to stop learning and don't want to stop meeting people, and never want to lose my enthusiasm for food (is that even possible?). I am hoping to redo my layout and freshen things up around here though...

So bring on another year of backlogs, more wine education (something I want to know more about), photo editing until 1am in the morning, karaoke and picnic sessions, Melbourne food festivals, rolling out of restaurants and sugar comas. 

It's all good to me!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Human Brochure - Canberra - National Gallery and Malamay

My trip to Canberra was complimentary, with all expenses paid. I was invited to attend by Porter Novelli PR.

In my last post about the Human Brochure weekend in Canberra, I had gone on a hot air balloon and then taken to a sumptuous, nap-inducing lunch at Grazing, where I was introduced to the loveliness of wines from Canberra. And of course some great produce and lovingly crafted food. 

Our next stop after Grazing was the National Gallery of Australia. I love a good art gallery, and although I was incredibly fatigued by my 4am start that day, I really enjoyed our visit, even though I didn't think it would be a highlight initially.

The National Gallery of Australia has a massive permanent collection, with the world's largest collection of Australian indigenous art, along with many other wonderful artists. We had the opportunity to go on a few guided tours, and I opted for the Aboriginal art tour, as it's a creative culture I'm not very familiar with at all.

Even in our short 20 minute tour, I felt I learnt a lot (how much I retained is another thing), and I enjoyed the enthusiasm and vast knowledge our guide had. 

I loved the setup of the galleries, they were generally bright and spacious, although there were a couple of rooms that were a bit darker and moodier. I think one of my favourite sections of the Aboriginal art collection, was the selection modern and contemporary aboriginal art. It's not something that is very often seen and the points of views expressed are interesting. 

My favourite was this Roy Lichenstein-esque piece, 'Big Brush Stroke' by Richard Bell. I forget the significance, but I enjoyed how striking the lines and colours are, and how energetic the piece is and just the simple fact that a very traditional element of Aboriginal art can be incorporated with more poppy and modern visuals. 

Dean had a little nap mid-gallery browsing…

After the aboriginal art tour, we decided to have a little browse the other galleries, where I was quite surprised to see a number of heavyweights, Monet, Pollock, Dali, Warhol and, one of my favourites, if you didn't notice earlier, Lichenstein! One thing I thought that was also great about the museum, was that there is no entry fee to see the permanent exhibitions. Fantastic. 

We also got got complimentary tickets to see the temporary exhibition of Sydney Long, which I was bit 'ho-hum' initially, but I absolutely loved his works after browsing through. He is simply masterful with light, his pieces were quite poetic and I loved his refined colour palettes. Would definitely recommend you check him out if you see anywhere exhibiting his pieces. 

Just as a note, we were given special permission to take photos, so that we could share sneak peek with all of you, as you're not usually allowed to take photos. We just had to have some 'human' element in the photo as not to breach copyright issues.

Quarter to five, we all piled back onto the Human Brochure bus which took us back to East Hotel, where we only had an hour and a half to wind down and then freshen up for dinner. Where we also found a couple of bottles of wine from Ravensworth Wines, Eden Road Wines and Mount Majura sitting in our room waiting to be taken home! Thanks guys! Although I had all intention to save them all until my Dad returned home from his business trips, I couldn't help but tuck in to one or two bottles already…

I took the little time we had to have a short lie down and then start jotting down my thoughts with a cup of tea on the balcony alcove in the sun. With some choccies. Magic.

The food and wine Human Brochure group got split into two for dinner, one group went to Rubicon for Italian fare and the other went to Malamay, for a modern take on Sichuan food. 

I was in the latter group, and quite pleased to be, as I wouldn't expect such a restaurant in Canberra. But then again I really had zero knowledge of the eating scene in Canberra to begin with. So I guess my expectations weren't initially very high to begin with...

Malamay is young, having only opened it's doors in 2012, and is located in a bit of a residential area, which weirded us all out a little bit as we peered out the bus windows into the surrounding area as we pulled up. Was there really a cool restaurant to be found here? 

Well, stroll on in and Malamay took you to a completely different place. Dark and chic, like that girl friend of yours that you always envied, Malamay was a swanky little spot. Whilst half the restaurant was reserved for us, on the other half of the room you could tell this was a popular date spot, with a lot of couples having an intimate and cosy dinner. 

To give you a quick summary, Malamay was awesome. We had a night of laughter, more lewd comments than should be made, oddest thing you've ever eaten stories and most naturally, tantalising and flavoursome food. Sichuan is famous for it's brain blowing chilli's, but at Malamay, they also wanted to focus on some lesser known elements of the cuisine. 

We started with a glass of Mount Majura's 2008 'Woolshed' Fizz, which we all commented was one of the nicest sparkling wines we thought we had had. To be honest I'm not a big champagne person, as the flavour can be a bit overbearing to me, but I loved how crystal crisp this sparkling was. A burst of refreshing on the palate. 

A couple of giggly bubbles later and our first course showed up. Pan seared scallops with three bean paste and fried enoki mushrooms. Who loves sinfully buttery scallops? I know I do. I know I loved these scallops. There was a hint of celery in the bean sauce which I really liked, a hint of freshness to otherwise cut through the rich. Could have had a handful more of those enoki mushrooms too, the batter was so light and crisp!

Next up were char grilled prawns with three chilli relish and hand made noodles. The three chilli relish may not have had the spiciness we were all expecting, but there was a complexity to it which I liked, it was vibrant and bursting with flavour. The slippery and springy noodles were surprisingly served cold, which was actually quite nice as it emphasised the texture. With this dish we had a 2012 riesling by Nick O'Leary, a dry one that was quite soft on the nose. 

It was interesting to compare it to a 'Half Dry' riesling by Helm afterwards, which we (or maybe just me? Nah surely we) fell in love with. Heavier on the nose, it was sweet, fruity and way too easy to drink. Mmmhmm. 

Twice cooked Ling with black bean and radish crumb and burnt chilli sauce. Don't underestimate. Although appearing mild mannered, this Ling dish is anything but. That burnt chilli sauce? Oh she packs a punch. A good peppery kick that sort of coats the mouth in a sudden burst of heat, which stays nice and consistent. I kind of liked that my mouth was warm but that the fire wasn't increasing. The Ling itself I found a tiny bit dry, but it was quite sweet. But that burnt chilli sauce…swoon!

Following was a big black slab of slow cooked eggplant with kombu and chilli oil dressing. It smelt like stew. It was comforting and rustic, warm dishes that smell of sesame tend to make me think that. The addition of rice sitting in the sauce was perfect. I love rice drowned in sauce or gravy like this. With the eggplant we had Mount Majura's 2010 Graciano, a big full bodied wine. 

Throughout the night we were well looked after, courteous and friendly staff, who knew their product and their wine, who joked with us (not at us, although that could have been easy to do) and made us feel at ease and at home. 

The sous vide wage beef cheek with goji berries and shaoshing wine melted in your mouth. Just fell apart, I loved the texture. And I loved the unexpected addition of the lightly fried (I assume?) lotus root, added a fun little crunchy texture there. For a typically heavy protein, I enjoyed the execution of this dish, it was quite light, not at all what I was expecting!

To wrap up the savouries we had, as written in the menu, mouth watering sichuan pepper chicken. Which actually was pretty mouth watering too. At least there's no false advertising here! Whilst I didn't find it particularly peppery, I still loved it, it was very much like Hainanese chicken to me, poached, so that it is moist (we debated about using that adjective to describe food…), juicy and succulent. It came with some mung bean noodles, which were so refreshing…and kind of fun to play with. You're asking for trouble when they're that long! With our final savouries we sipped on the 2010 shiraz viognier from Ravensworth, I appear to not have taken any tasting notes on this one. I assume I was a wee bit tipsy at this point…

Keeping with the Sichuan theme, dessert naturally had chilli in it too and we were treated to a chocolate and chilli charcoal and yoghurt cream and pistachio crumbs. I liked that they took fairly typical dessert ingredients and just added their little twist into it. The chilli came up slow and warm in the back of the palate, which still allowed you to enjoy all the sweetness up front. There was a hint of lavender in there which I wasn't entirely sure about, but was interesting!  

And with that, we conquered two wine matched, six course degustation meals in one day. I don't know how my stomach or liver was doing it. Or my brain for that matter, I somehow made it through my incredibly long day! 

Whilst some continued on drinking and checking out what Canberra offered in the way of nightlife, I was more than happy to shuffle my feet back up to my room and find a bed to pass out on…

…although not before I tucked into some homemade marshmallows and caramels by Ox. Not that I hadn't eaten enough or anything, but one just doesn't say no to caramel…

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The B.East

I love how Melbourne suburbs really tend to have their own personalities. I remember having a conversation with a friend and she was saying how her boyfriend didn't really like Prahran because it was…too clean and not grungy and gritty enough like Fitzroy or Brunswick. 

The B.East is so Brunswick. 

Bar, live music venue, burger joint. All mashed into one big explosion of black paint, no lights (other than some red neon lip light, hence weird lighting in all these shots), the most random imagery plastered on every square inch of wall, mismatched lamps that could have come from your grandma's lounge room, stools made of milk crates with blankets tossed over them and steel barrel tables.

Fuck. This is Brunswick. This is hipsterville. There's freaking kittens with lasers on our table number/identifier. 

The place was busy, we didn't know upon entering if we needed to find a table or where the ordering happened, but once we got our orientation we figured it out. We parked our butts next to a barrel table, and looked through the menus before going up to order at the counter. 

The Bacon Martini on the cocktail menu beckoned me, then taunted my lack of testosterone, as I did not have the balls to down bacon infused vodka, garnished with pork crackling, at least on an empty stomach. Oh and sober. I'll get you next time…

Instead I went with something a bit girlier and got the jam jar mojito, in a jam jar, obviously for that hipster cred, blended with sweet berry goodness. Bit on the sweet side, but quite enjoyable. I also discovered that the lamp on our barrel table worked, hence, light! Yay! Then Brad complained of blindness. Boo.

Brad got the Sexy B.East, double beef, double cheddar, pickled red onion, lettuce, tomato and jalapeno mayo. I don't think I tried it, but Brad did like his burger and I mean, look at that gooey melted cheese. Double of it. What's not to like?

I got the Classic, with B.East beef, vintage cheddar, pickled red onion, cos, tomato and tomato relish on a gluten free bun. 

Now, this looked pretty good. It always pleases me to see cheese that is shiny and slick with oil from being well melted on top of a burger. The burger patty and cheese itself were great, but the gluten free bun was a bit of a let down. It was pretty crumbly, breaking in half within the first bite or two. I mean, I know that tends to be a characteristic of gluten free bread, but I've had gluten free buns which have held together much better.

My second issue with my burger, was the patty to bread ratio. My bun was giant compared to the patty and by the time I did finish the patty, I had almost half my bun left. Just seemed a bit much to me. I don't think I would mind if the bun was smaller to fit the patty, as it would feel more in proportion and more enjoyable to eat. Since there was so much bread in general the burger experience was a bit dry.

However, not all was lost thanks to chilli cheese fries. Applause. Melted gooey, stretchy cheese on thick cut, crispy and fluffy chips. Could have used a little more chilli, but overall, I was pleased. I was quite pleased. 

So B.East? A little hit and miss for me. I didn't love my burger, but Brad liked his. To be fair I am judging the gluten free bun, but as we do have a lot of great gluten free burger options in Melbourne, I think that if you're going to provide a gluten free option, it may as well be good. B.East is also not my typical scene, it's quite noisy, it's dark. But then, maybe Prahran is more my suburb and Brunswick may be more yours...

80 Lygon Street
Brunswick East, 3057

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