Thursday, March 29, 2012

Busy, but happy

You may have noticed that I haven’t had the chance to blog much lately. It wasn’t out of choice – no, I was just flat out too busy. You see, in the last three months, I have completed three MBA subjects and started a fourth, sold my flat, purchased a house, planned a wedding and organised a short trip to Hong Kong (leaving Saturday – wheeee!!). There were grand plans to make ice-creams on a fortnightly basis, but alas, they have slipped down the priority list quite significantly.
The two pieces of exciting news to come of all this are:
  • I will be eating my way around Hong Kong (for the fourth time!) as of this Saturday. Following our return, I intend to post on our culinary/shopping adventures, including a visit to the renowned T’ang Court.
  • As of late-July/August-ish, we shall be residing in our very own “grown up house”, with its very own “grown up kitchen”. This means, I will have ooooodles of bench space (hello KitchenAid!), a double oven and heaps of storage. Not to mention two open fires for some serious marshmallow “roastage”. Oh yes, there will be much food experimentation and eating!
Thank you all for sticking by me through this crazy time and do stay tuned for my culinary highlights of Hong Kong.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wombat Hill House

Where: Wombat Hill House
What: Saturday brunch
Rating: 19/20

I've blogged about making pizza (see: homemade pizza).
I've blogged about eating pizza (see: my spiritual experience at Pizzeria da Baffetto in Rome).
I've even blogged about pizza in Victoria's glorious Spa Country (see: my Volcanic picnic).
Until yesterday, however, I had never combined my love of pizza, with my favourite spot in Victoria *and* my morning meal. Now that I have, I'll never look back!

Let's backtrack a little. My beloved and I are huge fans of Spa Country. I've mentioned before that I used to spend many a weekend in Daylesford as a child riding horses with friends and enjoying the more laid back country pace. In the last decade or so, I've been driving up to the region every couple of months to soak in the crisp country air, visit the Sunday market (for the best peanut butter and honey known to man!) and generally unwind from our hectic city lives. Accordingly, it mustn't come as much of a surprise that my beloved and I are set to be married in Daylesford in the next few months.

Yesterday, we headed to our venue for an early morning discussion of the details of the not-so-big day.
N.B. I sense that I may be the only bride-to-be in Victoria who doesn't really care about white dresses, cakes, flowers, photographers...heck, even the ceremony. I have but one goal: to make sure that our small group of guests are well fed and "libated". 

After our meeting, we set off eagerly to Wombat Hill House - a relatively recent addition to the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens and the little sister of Daylesford institution, the Lake House. It was a crisp morning, but we chose to sit beneath the outdoor heaters to take advantage of the picturesque setting. The atmosphere was laid back, rustic and no fuss, with orders taken and paid for at the counter prior to the meal - perfect!

My beloved and I both ordered the pressed juice of the day - watermelon and apple - and opted to split a breakfast pizza and a smoked salmon and scrambled egg bagel.

Because I don't want this post to climax too soon, let's start with the bagel:

Flawless! Succulent salmon, perfectly seasoned eggs - a classic combination that, let's face it, really cannot fail.

Now onto the mind-blowingly brilliant part of our meal - the breakfast pizza:

A crisp crust, loaded with field mushrooms, juicy tomatoes, perfectly cooked bacon and a runny egg topped with a mix of cheddar and parmesan cheeses. W-O-W! While there's nothing particularly surprising about this combination of flavours (let's face it, they're breakfast café staples across the western world), this dish oozed freshness and flavour. The crunch of the pizza base, gooeyness of the egg and cheese and fragrance of the mushrooms were an absolute treat!

Well done Wolf-Taskers et al. - Wombat Hill House is a triumph and a delightful addition to the Botanic Gardens. I, for one, cannot wait to head back to sample the lunch menu!

Wombat Hill House on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mama Baba

Where: Mama Baba
What: Casual weeknight dinner for two
Rating: 15/20

I dined at Mama Baba the night before this was published. It's no secret that there's no love lost between George Calombaris et al., and The Age and Dubecki's review is, as expected, quick to criticise the establishment. Readers have also jumped on the bandwagon, slamming the eatery with a one-star(?!) rating.

My experience at Mama Baba was, however, generally pleasing. Service was casual, but attentive. Drinks (especially cocktails) were very reasonably priced - $12 for my refreshing citrus and Cointreau concoction. Management should also be commended for the layout of the restaurant. The bar, in particular, is a triumph, with bottles stacked metres high (I have no idea if or how employees are expected to reach said bottles!). Likewise, the open kitchen adds to the ambiance of the sizeable, industrial dining space.

My friend and I opted to skip the "snacks" on the menu (typically "saving ourselves" for dessert!) and jumped straight into the pasta options. G. opted for the tortellini with prawn saganaki, tomato and feta ($26) from the Mama (Greek-inspired) part of the menu. I selected Spaghetti zucchini, inspired by la Conca Del Sogno, Nerano ($22) from the Baba (Italian-inspired) section.

G. thoroughly enjoyed her dish and the mouthful that I nabbed while her back was turned (just kidding!) was excellent. My meal was simple and understated and the pasta itself was cooked to absolute perfection. However, a little extra seasoning could have really augmented the dish to the next level. And here's the bit where I agree (albeit just a little) with Dubecki: the pasta could stand to be a bit more rustic and homely - a little messier and gutsier. I did, in fact, want "to eat like a peasant", but I found myself with a slightly overworked dish that was lacking a little oomph. That's not to say I didn't enjoy my meal, but felt there was certainly some room for improvement.

Onwards and upwards: dessert! Both G. and I opted for the same two scoops of ice-cream to conclude our meal - milk and Milo; and crunchy peanut butter and salt ($8). While I chose the former to simply fill up my cone (clearly more excited about the prospect of the crunchy peanut butter option), it came as a pleasant surprise and brought back tonnes of happy, milo-drinking childhood memories. The latter was, as expected, delicious - impossible to fault!

Overall, Mama Baba provided a relaxed, "Melbourne" atmosphere for a lovely catch up with a close friend. Yes, there is room for improvement, but give the establishment a break - with only 6 weeks of operation under its belt, I see good things for its future!

 Mama Baba on Urbanspoon