Wednesday, April 27, 2011

...and we're off!

So it seems my orange countdown widget is telling me that it's time for Eurotrip2011 - I guess I better get packing! I hope you'll all excuse my brief blogging hiatus. As promised, I shall be back with a vengeance in around 2 months (if not earlier), when I will report back on all our adventures (with photos!).

If you just can't wait to find out where we're going, here's a little taste. Speaking of taste, don't forget that we'll also be dining at Noma - clearly I'm beyond excited about this upcoming experience.

In the meantime, I'm certainly going to miss this little guys (don't fret - our tabby's just yawning in this picture!)
However, I know that our wonderful house sitter will keep them happy and healthy.

Stay fabulous and I'll catch y'all on the other side of Eurotrip, peeps!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chester White

Where: Chester White (302 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, VIC, 3122)
What: Casual dinner with old friends
Rating: 15.5/20

We have been fortunate enough to be visited by two sets of international guests in the last five days - old friends from both Germany and the USA. For the latter cohort we opted for a modern, European meal at Chester White.

I was initially thrilled to see jugs of cocktails on the menu and couldn't resist trying the Pimm's (Royal wedding, anyone?). Perhaps this was not the most prudent choice for a brisk Autumn evening, but I am pleased to report that it was nevertheless refreshing and delicious. Any sort of communal eating/drinking is a bonus in my opinion (I'm a sharer!), so I was happy that our entire party could enjoy the beverage.

Next on the agenda were the fried Padrón peppers with sea salt, sherry vinegar and aïoli. This classic Spanish dish was another great menu item to share. Roughly one in ten of the diminutive green peppers are spicy - the remainder are sweet. Oh how I love gambling on unexpected flavours! Our American guests seemed to have quite a knack for selecting the hot peppers - indeed, I believe they consumed all of them (much to our amusement!). Perhaps this is some sort of American talent of which I was hitherto unaware!

Following entrée, my beloved and I decided to share a couple of pizzas (are we noticing a trend here?). My Jamón pizza (with Tomato, fior di latte, basil and jamón serrano) was excellent and my beloved's Porcini, button mushroom and roast garlic choice was likewise flavoursome and generous. 
The final bill was reasonably priced - approximately $50 per head for two courses plus a drink. 

Overall, I was impressed by the quality of food at Chester White. The only negative of the evening: a little difficulty in hearing each other - the result of an abundance of hard surfaces and a close to fully booked establishment. Oh, and one last thing. Make sure you get *good* directions to the toilet - I ended up wandering Burwood Rd for about 10 seconds before I realised where it was hidden....
I think I'll leave it at that....

Chester White on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Trunchbull's chocolate cake

When I was growing up, Roald Dahl was my favourite author and Matilda was right up there as one of my favourite books. With a love for food from an early age, my favourite part of the book involved chubby cake thief, Bruce Bogtrotter being "punished" for stealing a piece of his evil headmistress' cake. His punishment? To devour an entire chocolate cake in front of a school assembly. Dahl describes a sizeable (18 inch) and incredibly rich cake, which no one in their right mind could possibly consume in one sitting. However, Bruce overcomes all odds (not unlike yours truly in the eating stakes!) and triumphs: 
"She [the Trunchbull] glared at Bruce Bogtrotter who was sitting on his chair like some huge overstuffed grub, replete, comatose, unable to move or speak. A fine sweat was beading his forehead but there was a grin of triumph on his face."

While I have eaten my fair share of chocolate cakes, such a magnificent cake I had never enjoyed. That is, of course, until my Mother (of previous Bruschetta fame) baked the most decadent, rich and down right amazing chocolate cake of all time. Just looking at the ingredient list is probably enough to raise cholesterol levels but, boy oh boy, this cake is worth it! 

The Trunchbull's chocolate cake
(make a day ahead for optimum results)
6 eggs
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
400g good dark chocolate (melted)
1 cup (250ml) thick cream
4 tbs Frangelico (I am told that Cointreau also works well)
Grease a round cake pan and preheat oven to 160-170°C.
Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer for approximately 5 minutes, until pale and thick (like this).
Gradually beat in melted chocolate until well combined (mmm...just look at that glossy choco!).
Stir in cream and liqueur.
Pour into prepared cake pan and plan the pan in a large baking dish with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pan. Please excuse my messy pouring - I was in a big hurry!

Bake for 30 minutes, then cover with aluminium foil and bake for a further 30 minutes.
Remove cake from oven and water and allow to cool.
Once cool, turn cake onto a plate, cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.
Serve with lashings of cream.
Gain 2-5kg per serve...but it's worth it! ;)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Abbey Road Cafe

Where: Abbey Road Cafe (129-131 Acland St, St Kilda, VIC, 3182)
What: Sunday lunch
Rating: 12/20

The Melbourne weather gods were shining on the city today and it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to head down to the St Kilda esplanade for some last minute Eurotrip2011 gift shopping.
Around an hour into the shopping, my beloved and I decided that it was definitely beer-o-clock! We wandered down Acland Street, eager to try a place at which we hadn't previously dined. Abbey Road seemed to be bustling full of patrons and lured me in with its eclectic mix of music posters and artifacts (what can you expect with a name like that?!). While it appeared vaguely chaotic, as soon as I saw that Rekorderlig cider was on the menu, I was won over!

My beloved decided on the "Aussie Burger" - a beef pattie, beetroot, lettuce, tomato and onion with mayo and handcut chips. I have to say that the burger was seriously delicious. The pattie was well seasoned, juicy and full of flavour. As far as burgers go, this one would rate very highly on my list - my only recommendation: a crunchier bun.
My dish, on the other hand was less of a success - jacket potato with avocado, chilli con carne and corn, served with a side salad. The side salad was the highlight of this plate with its tangy, mustardy dressing. Also excellent were the slices of avocado atop the potato, which were abundant and perfectly ripe. However, overall the dish lacked flavour and the potato was only lukewarm. Perhaps I'm being fussy, but I do like my baked potatoes to be steaming hot.
Our experience at Abbey Road was mixed - value for money wasn't great, but service was friendly and attentive. While I've had much better meals in St Kilda, our Abbey Road burger was delicious, the beer was cold and I was overall a happy camper!

Abbey Road on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Eurotrip2011: a diary

I'm sure you've all noticed that our trip to Europe (plus Dubai and Malaysia) is quickly approaching. It has come to be known as Eurotrip2011 and you can get a feel for where we'll be going here. It seems like yesterday when the orange countdown widget (lower right of page) was telling me (on a previous blog) that there were 400+ sleeps to go. As of today, there are eleven sleeps remaining before we set off on what will hopefully be the trip of a lifetime.

I have decided not to take any sort of technology on the trip (beyond my smart phone). I did agonise over the decision somewhat, but, after a trip to Vanuatu earlier in the year, I found myself constantly worried about whether I had safely locked my laptop away. This cemented my decision. I hear you dedicated readers ask: "So, what's going to happen to the blog while Georgia is away?" Well, I shall endeavour to occasionally update you all on our time abroad (if not on this blog, then certainly via Twitter), but have decided to be extremely old school and take a diary with me (you know pen, we did at school back in the 80s/90s).

I picked up this gorgeous felted Kikki K diary last night:
Amusingly, we will be going to Sweden, but won't be visiting Kiruna - instead we'll be in the south of the country enjoying excellent company!

I intend to write daily. By "write" I anticipate that this will simply involve jotting down some of the best moments from each day, which will then allow me to blog in greater detail (with photos!) upon my return. If left to my own devices (i.e.  without something to prompt me), I suspect I would forget to report on many of our trip highlights - my short-term memory is not known as being in particularly great shape...

This morning the diary was christened:
Bring on EuroTrip2011!!

Wagamama - Chadstone

Where: Wagamama (Lower ground level, Chadstone shopping centre, 1341 Dandenong Rd, VIC, 3148)
What: Friday lunch
Rating: 9/20

Wagamama isn't really a place that I've felt is blog-worthy. I've been to a number of their franchises in Melbourne and surrounds and have always felt pretty apathetic towards the establishment. In real terms, my experiences at the eateries have neither been good, nor bad. Wagamama is never the sort of place I would suggest for a meal with friends, but yesterday I was happy to head there on a friend's request.
The restaurants have a lot of potential design-wise. The feel of the place is all very Chocolate Buddha. For those who have never been to Chocolate Buddha, I simply mean that the atmosphere is communal and relaxed - not at all bad.
However, yesterday two things really ruined our experience.
Firstly, the food took exactly one hour to appear on our table from the time of ordering. We were utterly famished by the time it was delivered - pretty bad for a restaurant that claims to be modelled on Japan's ramen bars. I can tell you for a fact that I never waited more than about 3 minutes for my ramen in Japan. Not that I expect a 3 minute turn around, but an indication of the expected wait would have been nice at the least.
Secondly, while my bento box was reasonable - katsu chicken curry on rice (not bad at all); edamame beans (lacking any salt); salad (quite delicious); and sweet potato chips (soggy) - my friend's Thai inspired noodles were neither Thai, nor inspired! The plate was a big brown mess and she commented: "it just tastes like stuff". I was initially critical of her ostensibly inarticulate description of the food and tried some myself. She was right - the noodles did indeed taste like "stuff". Sweet, insipid, boring stuff!
To top it off, I find the prices at the eatery unnecessarily inflated. Just up the escalator within the shopping complex, one can purchase a delicious sizzling hot plate of Teppanyaki (veg or meat) for half the price of most of Wagamama's dishes.
It's certainly time for Wagamama and I to part ways!

Wagamama on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Breakfast courtesy of Vue de Monde

Last weekend's wonderful gastronomic experience at Vue de Monde didn't stop after we had paid the bill. The restaurant very thoughtfully packed each couple a generous French-inspired breakfast, which I feel I *must* share with all of you! 
We were delighted to find all of this (brioche, granola, breakfast tea, strawberry jam and chocolate dipped cookies) in our little goodie bag on Sunday morning.
The brioche was a particular highlight, with its buttery soft consistency. It was equally delicious toasted with a thin layer of the Sunny Ridge strawberry jam provided in the kit (pictured) and freshly sliced.
Similarly, the tea was a real hit in this household. The combination of dehydrated orange peel, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, star anise, thyme and lavender was the perfect invigorating combination to kick start the day.
This is one impressed foodie!

Vue de monde on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vue de Monde

Most of my reviews thus far have considered small suburban eateries or cheap and cheerful restaurants in the CBD. Today's review is in an entirely different category altogether - fine dining. Not just any fine dining - I would call this experience exceptionally fine dining. 

Where: Vue de Monde  (430 Little Collins St, Melbourne, VIC, 3000)
What: 10 course "Gastronomes Menu"
Rating: 19.5/20 

I'm normally not one to gush about restaurants, but I'm going to make an exception for Vue de Monde. As a special treat for a significant family birthday, my beloved, parents and I decided to celebrate with a dining experience at Shannon Bennett's illustrious eatery. "Experience" really is the correct terminology - this place is not just about the food - the ambiance, the expertise of staff and the quality of produce all combine in a true synergy of awesomeness! 

The menu was truly inspired and took us on a journey that started with a freshly chilled salad of heirloom tomatoes and concluded with mango licorice "cigarettes" complete with sherbet "ash". Particular highlights included: 

  • slow cooked beef cheek, accompanied by the most buttery, delectable slice of rare Waygu beef;
  • a quirky "not quite breakfast" dish, which involved a duck egg yolk, celeriac puree (these ingredients were plated to resemble a fried egg), sweetbreads, crusty sourdough, crispy fried onion and a generous helping of grated truffle; 
  • smoked eel with a white chocolate glaze topped with caviar;
  • the playful dessert options - especially, the "pop rock" crusted vanilla ice-cream and white chocolate "lollypop"; and
  • four delicious petits fours served with our tea (including the aforementioned mango cigarettes).

Now, I realise I haven't provided any photos of this purportedly amazing food. There are times, particularly in more formal dining settings, when I just want to enjoy the experience and not necessarily spend time recording the meal in graphic detail. I also feel particularly self conscious whipping out the camera in these sorts of establishments, not to mention potentially disrespecting the chefs' talent as an artist (could this be a violation of copyright?). This is why I'll likely not be providing any food photos of our meal at Noma next month. Speaking of Noma, we were thrilled to learn that the sous chef (I think!) at Vue de Monde previously worked at Noma - small world indeed! In any case, I do apologise for the lack of visuals, because I know too well the effect of photography in food blogs.

I digress. Not only was the eating experience at Vue de Monde truly sublime, but the service was second to none. I cannot recommend the restaurant more highly, for people open to new flavours and experiences. While the night was certainly not cheap, I felt the value for money was reasonable considering the fine produce and attention to detail paid to both the food and the diners. This was further evidenced upon our departure (believe me, we nearly had to be rolled out!) when we were presented with buttery brioche, fragrant breakfast tea, crunchy granola, cookies and strawberry jam to enjoy for breakfast the following morning (breakfast post to come, with images!).

Overall, Vue de Monde was an experience I won't forget in a hurry for all the right reasons. The restaurant proved to be the perfect way to celebrate a significant birthday with my dearest loved ones.

Vue de monde on Urbanspoon