Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 2013 Food Highlights...

Goodness, what on earth happened to 2013? I've been so overwhelmed post-Christmas with how quickly it's reached the end of the year (and it's been a pretty crazy-busy end of year too) that I kind of gave myself a week off from writing or photo editing to veg out with my PS3 and Ni no Kuni, hence it's been a bit quiet around here! 

Even if you love doing something, every now and again you just need a recharge, y'know?

I did take the opportunity though to look through my past blog entries and also my vast collection of iPhone photos (I can't delete any of them, I'm such a hoarder), to look for my highlights from the year. In doing so, realising exactly how much I've eaten this year, and exciting things I've been able to do, kind of hit me in the face! I'm just flabbergasted!

It's definitely been a year of less fine dining and a whole lot more cafes. I'm still amazed everyday the number of cafes, restaurants, bistros, gastropubs, whatever you call them, that are opening. 

As I stated in my 2012 blog-iversary post, I hoped to do more cooking in the coming year, and I think I definitely have. Maybe not as many recipes on the blog as I was hoping for, but you got to start somewhere. 

So how on earth does one choose their highlights for the year? It's like picking children! 

Therefore in no particular order, here are my favourite dining experiences, dishes and general food moments from 2013…

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Holy crap, I can't believe that was just earlier in 2013. That I discovered amazing melting in your mouth lamb and pork in this Sydney institution. Although I initially questioned why Porteno was the only thing people would recommend when I asked for Sydney recommendations, I have now joined the club and enthusiastically shake people until they promise to go. Enthusiastically. Really.

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For some reason I feel like Hammer and Tong has been around for much longer than it has. It's settled beautifully into it's spot in Fitzroy, and it's definitely one of my favourite brunch spots in Melbourne, and they do a banging dinner as well. 

They also have given me one of my favourite brunch dishes, with this visually spectacular dish. Forest berries and dehydrated fruits, on a generous bed of a smooth yoghurt and custardy base. There were murmurs from the waitstaff on the day that it might become a regular on the menu, crossing fingers it will!

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Although it's not the sexiest looking dish on the menu, it was possibly my favourite thing at the Town Mouse. I just have no words. So much comfort, so much delicious. Sweet, savoury and cheesy. Yes, yes and yes.

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I was saying to friends the other day, that when Brad and I eat out, he'll often just quietly sit and eat, without his expression changing, whereas when I find something I like, I know I definitely pull out a food orgasm face and flail my arms around and make happy indistinguishable sounds at Brad who looks at me and either smiles in amusement or sighs in embarrassment. 

I definitely pulled that out when this came along in my life. Soft and gently charred meringue, coating a soft and fluffy lemon cake, with a heart of cool salted caramel and lemon curd. 

Now that Shuan Quade is with Long Shot, I think I might've seen this little sweetie pop up there...

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Craft - New York

I am the biggest Top Chef junkie you'll find. Top Chef is a US reality show, kind of like Project Runway but for cooking. I have faithfully watched every episode since I discovered the 3rd season (they are currently airing the 11 season, and have also had two dessert-centric seasons in addition to this)! 

So when I was in New York, I had to visit Tom Colicchio's restaurant, Craft. Colicchio is a judge and mentor of the show, and I had always appreciated his honest, firm, but fair feedback to the contestants. 

Craft is easily one of my favourite dining experiences, the food was simple, but sumptuous and I was completely bowled over with how smooth and professional service was. Definitely one of my top dining experiences this year.

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While we're on New York, I miss you Shake Shack, not for your burgers, but for your absolutely amazing milkshakes. Please return to my life. Peanut butter, black and white, all of you flavours, I want you. Love Ashley.

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What an expected gem, when I visited the launch party with Forksake I did not expect to enjoy myself as much as I did! A visit within a week after confirmed that I loved the food, the relaxed vibe and friendly owners. Black pudding, poached eggs, keisler flesh, braised cabbage with apple and pear chutney owns my life.

Also their chocolate gluten free brownies made with cashew butter. Um. Amazeballs?

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Jo and I concocted the 'Sunrise in your Face'. Do I need to say more?

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Not just any potatoes, but the ones in this picture. Oh my god. Melting in my mouth. Butter, why are you just so damn good? It was also so lovely to meet the man behind the name, who was so just so humble and lovely to talk to. 

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As one of the few non-coffee drinkers of Melbourne, I had an absolutely charming time with Mr. Twining learning about the history of tea. I must have easily taken 10 pages of notes, furiously scribbling as he patiently answered all of my questions. 

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Gelato Messina - Sydney - Leaf Leaf Bang Bang

Coconut and mango sorbet with pandan jelly. OH MY GOD. 

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Not having had much experience with Moroccan food before, I was absolutely enchanted by the clever balances of sweet and savoury in this cuisine. Lots of big flavours and bright colours and goodness, can we talk about the rosewater flan with dates and walnut nougatine? No actually, let's just go eat it. Mmhmm.

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Truffle me out

It's kind of amazing when you get together with friends and three of you bring a truffle cheese each. 

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Eschalot - Sydney - Onion Rings

I'm not sure if calling them 'onion rings' is doing them any justice. This mountain of wispy tendrils of onions are so much more than that. And despite being a mountain of onions, it's never, ever enough. My friends loved them so much, they tried to return the following night to get them takeaway to go with our home made dinner. 

They were denied. So sad.

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Photo credit: Ewen Bell

The King Valley

I can't believe how blessed I was to be afforded the opportunity to wine and dine in the King Valley with a handful of other food bloggers. The whole experience was just so amazing I can't single one thing out for this list. I mean, what would you choose from this list? 

- Making gnocchi with the Pizzini's
- Drinking prosecco in a prosecco vineyard
- Realising that geese are actually zombies
- Drinking in the Brown Brother's family cellar
- Drinking tea in the empty bathtub for the sake of a video
- Having an Italian man play the accordion as you eat his wife's homemade sweets
- Brunch in the Lindenwarrah courtyard on the most perfect sunny day
- Dancing with Veda
- Dinner with the Dal Zotto's…….
- ….the list goes on.

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Thank goodness for filipino friends. I have had the honour of being in the presence of a roasted pig that takes up the length of most tables…twice! The best party food ever! Now pass over some of that crackling...

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I don't often do 3 hour lunches. But it's okay when they're with the Town Hall Hotel in Stewart and Harry's company. Beautiful homely flavours executed beautifully, and a whole lot of baccala (Harry loves it, but who's complaining?)

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I miss $1.25 tacos SO much. Not only cheap, but quick and delicious!

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Trashy Tv Night

If you've seen the #ttvn hashtag floating around on my twitter and instagram feed now and again and wondered what it stood for…well wonder no more! Adrian, Wince and I realised we all had a love for trashy reality tv, we're talking 'The Real Housewives' series, 'RuPaul's Drag Race'…and well, so many more.

So we combined our love of trashy tv, with food and every couple of months had a little potluck, and spend a bit of time killing off the brain cells with quality tv. Good times y'all.

That's all folks! 

What a mad mad year huh? What were some of your favourite food memories from this year? And what have I missed out on this list that needs a mention next year?

I wish you all a very very Happy New Year! See you in 2014 :)


  1. Most jealous of all of your NY Trip!! Waaaa... Have the most amazing year ahead! Happy New Year!

    1. I wish I was going back! Think my bro is doing San Diego this year...wish I had moneys to join! :( Happy new year to you too! :)

  2. Happy new year Ashley!
    Btw i love your reaction to amazing food! I'm just a tad more subtle: butt wiggle or hum or nod =)

    1. Happy New Year to you too Jo! :) Hehe, Brad and I must look so funny when we're out because I'm just flailing all over the place, and he's usually a bit stoic in the face. Haha!

  3. OMG - so yummy. Miss Melbourne so much - can't wait to come back soon. Any definite new places you recommend we definitely try?

    1. Where are you jetsetters at at the moment? :) Goodness, even I can't keep up with all the openings in Melbourne, I'd love to see your thoughts on 'Om Nom', the dessert bar in the Adelphi, the Supernormal Canteen pop-up is delicious (although portions can be on the small side) and they've extended until March. Shaun Quade is now playing at Long Shot in the Docklands...enough for now? ;)