As mentioned in our Heathcote Winery Tour post, we arranged to have lunch at the Heathcotean Bistro after a visit to Flynn's Winery. Yes, this was back in March... we might have forgotten that this post had not been published (ooops).
Upon returning to Flynn's Winery, we once again went through the tasting process. It was good to refresh our memories and help up decide what to order with lunch.
As we were shown to our table I couldn't help but notice the display of jams, spreads and other wonderful preserved treats. I don't know what it is, but when I'm in the country I feel a need to buy jarred goods.
In just over a month, I will make my annual pilgrimage to Singapore (for the Christmas holidays). Never have I seen a city change so much over such a short period of time. Over the past 8 years, Singapore has made some fascinating transformations and my favourite one - more great places to eat.
Over the 2011 Christmas holiday season my sister insisted I join her at Ippudo Singapore (in Mandarin Gallery) for a meal. Knowing very little about Ippudo or Ramen, I agreed. We rocked up at 7.30ish and the line was epic, as in it wound around half the level and practically backed onto the escalator. Too hungry and impatient we decided to take our chances elsewhere.
Take two. This time we drag along our brother and planned to get there early to avoid the wait. We arrived just before 6pm and the line surrounds the 'waiting table' in the restaurant, but doesn't extend throughout the shopping centre - thank goodness! And as each group is seated the Ippudo staff cheer.
It's not long before we're seated at a bench facing the chefs, giving us an opportunity to see all the activity in the kitchen. We order Edamame, Goma Q, Ippudo pork bun, Ippudo shrimp bun, Ippudo organic salad, Akamaru kasaneaji and Ippudo original gyoza.
As you may or may not be aware, I am partaking in a 12 week body transformation at the moment. It is not a fad diet or drastic lifestyle change. It is simply about eating good, portioned food and exercising - how easy?! And, for the most part, it has been easy. (I've never been great with portion control though.)
Since I'm cooking a lot more and eating out less, there isn't so much rad food to blog about. So here's a bit of an update regarding the 12wbt foodie experience so far.
As we peeled ourselves from the comfort of our bed, we stiffly walked an overly excited young lass (Maple) to the beach, rather unsuccessfully trying to catch seagulls, we then decided to try and re-circulate our blood with a stroll and what we found, nestled among the fray on Port Melbourne's Bay St, with its unassuming facade, Grey & Bliss.
As we bunkered down out front, due to our honorary bruncheon guest, we were able to let the daily activities pass us by. As Dani appreciated the subtle table decorations, I quickly scoured the menu and decided it was time for my unofficial mission (to try all the eggs benedict in Melbourne) to resume after a 'healthy' stint on the sidelines.
With two wonderfully poached eggs, caressed by Virginian ham whilst perched atop crunchy sour dough bread and effortlessly drizzled with hollondaise sauce, how could this dish go wrong???
For the Easter long weekend this year, Dan and I packed up the car and headed to Orange (in NSW) to see my sister. We were absolutely charmed. The weather was great - sunny but not too warm - and we were taken to gorgeous wineries and restaurants. It was definitely no rough and tumble country town.
Though we've been a little slack in getting some of our posts up, Factory Espresso really impressed us. So I felt the need to 'spread the word'.
On Easter Sunday we decided to brunch at Factory Espresso. I know very little about Orange so I can't really tell you if the location is good, but I can tell you that the food was delicious!
Dan and I love a good steak, in fact being a vegetarian is a bit of a deal breaker for us. (I'm also slightly unimpressed by Dan's lack of enthusiasm for seafood, but we'll leave that for another time.) So after a mad couple of weeks, which severely lacked quality 'us' time, we thought we should bond over some well deserved steak - and we hadn't been to Wayside Inn yet.
Roughly between the Bay St shops in Port Melbourne and the bustling areas of Crown/South Melbourne, Wayside Inn looks slightly out of place in such a retail/light industrial area. But I'd enjoyed my experience at The Station Hotel (created by the same people) and we had heard good things, so it was worth checking out.
The feeling of warmth in my bones is now but a memory, and I am well and truly back into my Melbourne routine. What better way to embrace that routine than to dine with my 'hat-conquering' friend, Anna. Why 'hat-conquering' you ask... because some time ago Anna and I decided to try as many restaurants awarded with a chef's hat (or more) in the Good Food Guide as possible. And although we've already been to quite a few hatted restaurants separately, this is the first we've planned together.
PM24 is tucked away on Russell St and as you walk by it is easy to spot the impeccably dressed wait staff go about their work. Once inside, we were greeted by attentive staff and a warm, even comforting ambience. Just perfect on a cold winter night.
Sitting near the hot pass, we were able sneak a peek at most dishes before contemplating what to eat. But everything that came out of the kitchen looked amazing and I became most distressed about my choice - I really hate the idea of missing out on a fantastic meal. "You can come back" I told myself. Ah the dilemmas of the privileged.
I'm not sure what I was expecting in Paris, but the food didn't quite hit the mark. There were a few highlights, but I was disappointed a little more often than I would have liked. I know other people will have different opinions and I'm sure there are fantastic places to eat in Paris, especially if you have the dosh. But on my budget, with my limited local knowledge, this is how it turned out for me...
This meal didn't fail us, but we never really ate breakfast out. We just grabbed a pain au chocolat from an artisan boulanger near our apartment in Montmartre every morning. Turn off Avenue de Clichy at Rue de Dames and in less than 100m you can find delicious pastries and bread. Yum!
During the past 3 weeks, I have been enjoying the warmth of European summer. Paris was mild but sunny and Spain was hot, hot, hot. It thawed my winter bones perfectly and now I'm back, ready to embrace coats, scarves and MIFF.
Since I have been back work is all types of hectic and Dan has been hugging me constantly, supposedly in a bid to stop me from leaving the country without him ever again - it might be working. So I haven't had a heap of time for blog lovin'. But here is a quick snapshot of some of my favourite winter escape 'foodie' moments.
Having visited Pireaus Blues once back at uni, I thought it would be interesting to head back there again. I'd been craving Greek food and thought that it might hit the spot.
Near the corner of Johnston Street and Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, Pireaus Blues has some stiff competition nearby, but the restaurant was far from empty and we found a table for two near the fireplace.
Having craved Greek food for a few weeks, I wanted everything on the menu, so we went with the Rembetiko Banquet. A little indulgent? Yes. But sometimes cravings have their way.
It has been a long time between drinks. Between moving house, having no internet connection at home and life being pretty hectic generally, the blog hasn't had a lot of love. But never fear, we are still here.
Having recently hosted my sister and her boyfriend (the tourists) over the long weekend, I thought I'd share our Sunday shenanigans.
For breakfast I couldn't go past my favourite brunch destination, Dead Man Espresso. It was the perfect setting for quick catch up with one of Michelle's Melbourne-based friends and as usual, the food, beverages and service was great.
Herb and potato rosti w poached egg, avocado and smoked salmon
I wanted the tourists to see parts of Melbourne that I see and love every day. Melbourne from the ground up. So we hired 'Melbourne bikes' and rode around the picturesque inner suburban streets before heading to Federation Square for one of Melbourne's more modern attractions, ACMI - Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
There are so many restaurants in the CBD and I'm constantly astonished when I realise how many I've never been to. There are a few restaurants in particular, some that I walk past nearly every day, that have been on my 'go to' list for some time. With windows filled wine bottles and books, Il Solito Posto has always looked so cosy and warm, and it has been on that list for about a year now. So I finally went there!
My dining companion, the ever enthusiastic Anna, booked us a table in the restaurant/trattoria (there separate caffeteria section too). As we descended into the restaurant area, it felt as if we were hiding beneath Melbourne, escaping the outside world to a place where you can enjoy the delights of wine and food with reckless abandon.
Melbourne, you never fail to amaze me. Walking home from the gym, completely at a loss as to what I should eat for dinner, I stumbled across a little stall, a few people and French music - Le Petite Creperie. Perfect!
Near the corner of Swanston St and Little Collins St, La Petite Creperie has been set up in an old news-stand. It is cute-as-button, very convenient and full of French charm. And best of all... the crepes are delicious!
Every Friday night I feel compelled to do something - have drinks with girlfriends, socialise with colleagues, have a dance. But Fridays lately have been a little lackluster, so I encouraged Dan to have dinner out with me. We chose Melbourne Public because, if heaven forbid, the footy started while we we're out to dinner, we'd still be able to watch it. Yes, our weekends revolve around Aussie Rules for close to 7 months of the year. Nevertheless, it led us to a new pub we'd never visited and I can't complain about that.
I love wine and there is no wine I love more than Shiraz. To me, a Shiraz can be the perfect addition to a hearty meal or a wonderful tipple to be tasted and savoured all on its own. It is full, warm and pounds the taste buds like Tarzan pounds his chest. It makes me feel alive & energised and cosy & comforted all at the same time.
Yes, I do love wine.
As a surprise birthday present, Dan organised a weekend away in Heathcote - an area famous for producing premium Shiraz. You can imagine my excitement. Not only did I get a weekend away with my man, I was surrounded by wine!
In my never ending quest to 'educate Dan' (yes I know how ridiculous that sounds), I nagged him to experience Yum Cha/Dim Sum in Chinatown. I know everyone raves about yum cha in the suburbs but I thought a taste of Chinatown would be a more... entertaining first time experience. So I chose Dragon Boat Palace, as not only did this fit my criteria it is also where I had my very first yum cha experience (as a child though).
Looking at the calendar, I was disheartened... when could we possibly have yum cha? Admittedly, this happens when trying to organise most of our outings - everyone is just so busy - but I was determined. Dan and I had booked appointments at the Red Cross Blood bank on a Sunday morning. "Perfect!" I thought. "Yum cha can be a post-giving blood treat."
We arrived at Dragon Boat Palace just before noon and it was fairly quiet. Definitely not the hustle and bustle I usually associate with a Sunday yum cha session.
I'm not sure if you've realised by now, but Dan is the breakfast aficionado. On many an occasion he has deemed it appropriate to order two meals for breakfast - at the one sitting. So naturally we decided that Dan should write the breakfast blog posts... however, that would require him allocating time to write (instead of perfecting his dream team).
So I bring to you this new post about Dead Man Espresso in South Melbourne. I apologise that it won't have the lyrical quality of Dan's posts, but this place was just too good to not get a mention.
I have always believed that there is no advice better than word-of-mouth. The blogosphere is full of dedicated and enthusiastic people documenting their own experiences - as you are all well aware. Repeatedly I would see reviews on Dead Man Espresso. Every review raved about it and given its proximity to where I live, how could I not go?
There are times when I loath working regular business hours (i.e., Monday to Friday). It is impossible to get to a post office and the nicest weather always seems to fall on weekdays. But when the weekend comes around and I have two free days to do... whatever I want, every other hassle seems to melt away.
Sunday perfectly embodied all the things I love about weekends. Dan and I leisurely rode to the South Melbourne market, bought delicious food for the week, grabbed some lunch and cruised around. I was carefree, felt like I had all the time in the world and got a healthy dose of (fun) exercise and fresh food.
Held in The Atrium at Fed Square, a vast of array of breweries showcased their boutique beer. It gave people an opportunity to try these beers and even meet the brewers (for $25).
The event ran from 4.30pm - 8pm, but I didn't arrive til 7pm. One hour was definitely not enough time, so you'll have to forgive me for my lack of notes or complete coverage. Just consider this a tiny snapshot from the Microbreweries Showcase.
Last week I added another Mexican Restaurant notch on my belt - Señoritas. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that Melbourne diners have fallen in love with Mexican cuisine and how disappointed I am that I haven't been to all these emerging restaurants yet.
Señoritas opened in Meyers Place on Friday 9 March 2012. Knowing that the first week for any restaurant can be a little shaky, I hadn't openly planned on visiting yet. But a mid-week catch up with a friend, Shane, and no plans for dinner, saw me slowly gravitating towards Senoritas. Before I knew it we were inside agreeing to wait 40 minutes for a table... provided we could drink margaritas while waiting.
When I entered Brunetti for the first time, I was like a kid in a candy store. With so many delicious looking treats on display, my every sense was in overdrive. My eyes couldn't seem to stay focused on one thing, whirling around in their sockets, I was unable to contain the odd exclamation of excitement.
Meat and beer... mmm what a wonderful combination. Dan, Karin and I thought there was no better way to start the weekend than with meat and beer. Now where can someone get crackling and 100s of beer options? Josie Bones of course. Hidden among the many restaurants, cafes, bars and retail outlets along Smith Street in Collingwood, Josie Bones can be identified by its unmistakable pig trotter door knobs.
As there is a no bookings policy for groups less than 8, we had to rock up and hope the wait wasn't long. Luckily, we didn't have to wait at all. We were propped up against the window looking out onto Smith St and handed a lengthy beer menu. A beer bible.
Befitting of its location in Collingwood, there is a definite industrial feel inside. Wood, brick, darkness. And a picture of semi-erotic skinned rabbit positioned behind the bar reminds everyone what Josie Bones' culinary focus is all about - meat.
Working in Melbourne's CBD, I'm surrounded by an abundance of cafes and restaurants. While I try to pack a healthy lunch where possible, I do enjoy leaving the office to stretch my legs and grab a bite to eat.
Here are my five lunch favourites (takeaway) for the start of 2012.
Grind in the city
Located in Centre Place, this small cafe offers a range of wraps, focaccias and other food stuffs (e.g., fruit salad & pastries). Grind is a favourite of mine mostly because of the variety and quality of the food, but the staff make it a pleasant experience. Recently, I grabbed a couple of extra foccacias for a road trip and they double-bagged and packed them for me - so nice!
Have you ever jumped onto gumtree, searched for a housemate and found someone amazing? I have, and two years on we're still housemates and great friends. Having been crazy busy with work, dates, exercise etc... we hadn't spent as much quality time together. So last week, my housemate (Tegan) and I decided to treat ourselves and bond over a lovely dinner out.
We met in the city thinking that we'd definitely find a spot somewhere. Starting at Chin Chin, it was an hour and a half wait for a table (at 6pm on a Wednesday). Then Yu-u, just around the corner, didn't have any spots til 8pm. We started to feel disheartened. So we turned our attention to Coda, sneakily hiding in Oliver Lane, and... victory! Two seats at the bar, which even had hooks for our handbags. It was almost perfect - though Tegan did comment that the heat from the kitchen (located just behind the bar) was a little uncomfortable. But once we had a glass of wine in our hands, any issues were long forgotten.
In fact, once we had our wine, we were so busy catching up that the waiters decided to stop asking us if we were ready to order - they were very polite about it though.
The new year has brought about some new routines for Dan and I. Mostly notably, we're exercising after work almost every day, which involves a combination of netball, footy training and time spent at the gym. As our gym happens to be in the middle of the CBD, we figure we've got the perfect excuse reason to explore nearby restaurants. Often still in our sweaty gym gear and feeling buggered, we don't tend to venture any where too classy though.
Recently, we headed down to Degraves Street knowing there would a plethora of options. When we arrived the street was bustling, so we sat where we could find the first free table outside - at Xpressomondo.
If you've never been to Degraves before then it might be hard to imagine. It is a laneway in Melbourne's CBD that runs from Flinders Lane to Flinders St. A row of tables run along the middle of the strip and cafes/restaurants make up the bulk of the shop fronts around it.
As much as wearing soaking wet clothes to work is unpleasant, I am grateful for the change in weather - it was such a hot weekend. We tried cooling down in the pool, lying in front of a fan and eventually moved as little as possible. My herbs were dying (I think the coriander is gone for good) and my skin was getting very pink... maybe the pool hadn't been the best idea after all.
It was definitely too hot to use the oven or stove or just be in the kitchen at all. And while doing very little seems very appealing on a Sunday, we needed a way to escape the heat and nourish ourselves after the festivities of the weekend.
With an extra straggler (Ben) still around in the light of day - a few of us had traipsed back to my place in the late hours of Saturday night to continue our 'deep' philosophical conversations - we ventured out to the Malthouse Theatre to grab a bite from the Malthouse Kitchen.
The late breakfast crowd had dissipated and only a few people were sitting outside under the shade of large umbrellas. Being early in the afternoon on a Sunday (they close at 1pm on a Sunday), there was still a few paninis and salads left, but not much else. I chose a noodle salad and the boys got toasted paninis (it looked like it had salami in it).
Once upon a time, late in the afternoon, two young ladies were searching for a drink and some food in Melbourne's CBD. They stumbled across open doors leading to a staircase, and up that staircase was... Taco Bill.
From this humble beginning, Taco Bill restaurants (Russell St and South Melbourne in particular) have become somewhat symbolic for my friends and I. From birthday gatherings to dinner and drinks before tenpin bowling ('TacoStrike'), Taco Bill offers an informal and vibrant environment where we can eat and drink and feel merry. (I can literally fill entire photo albums with crazy photos and memories from our times there.) And even though we're older and less enthusiastic about fish bowl margaritas and giant sombreros these days, Taco Bill is still a familiar haunt we like to visit occasionally.
Since my views of Taco Bill are obviously skewed, here are Dan's thoughts from our most recent visit...
Having just worked up a sizeable appetite at the gym, Dani alerted me to the fact there was a Taco Bill just around the corner, it seemed like a convenient choice.
As we headed up the stairs we could hear the slight clattering of plates and the low rumble of voices emanating from the current crop of diners, so we continued eagerly. Walking into a room that could have been designed by a Grade 6 Musical crew, we were greeted by a waitress who kindly showed us to a table and placed menus in our hands.
Brunch is one of those wonderful meals where you can take your time deciding what to order (or make), indulge in something delicious and read a newspaper front-to-back. Even catching up with a friend seems more blissful during brunch. So on Saturday, I had brunch with a friend at St Ali - a Melbourne institution for coffee lovers. (But I must confess... I don't drink coffee or pretty much any hot beverage.)
While I frequently visit South Melbourne and knew roughly where I was going, stepping into an unmarked doorway (which almost felt like stepping into the back of someone's converted garage) - I really wasn't sure I was in the right place. Thankfully, 30 seconds later my brunch companion poked her head through the same door and we both sighed with relief that we'd found St Ali (and each other).
Despite looking very busy, we were seated immediately, given menus and asked what coffee we'd like to order - of course. We both ordered juice. (Yes, cringe away coffee lovers.)
I should note that though we arrived at 10.30am and managed to get a table straight away. By the time we left, around 11.30am, there was a queue of people waiting for a table in the laneway.
Like most friends who haven't had a decent chat in a while, we were completely absorbed in conversation. Thankfully the waiters who continued to check if we were ready to order, didn't seem too bothered by our lack of urgency.
After asking some questions about portion sizes etc. We settled on the My Mexican Cousin (minus egg) and the Deconstructed NYC Bagel.
What is better than a walk and a light lunch on a Saturday? Ok, probably a few things.
But being a near perfect 28 degree day in Melbourne, we decided to stretch our legs around The Tan and check out the cafes on Domain Road along the way.
With the sun beating down, we were all craving a nice cold drink within 5 minutes. Luckily, 181 Domain Cafe Bar was able to please us all, even Maple (my dog), as there was a small bucket of water on the footpath for pets.
Though I'm not one for romantics, small acts here and there certainly lift my spirits. Flowers randomly sent to work. Dinner already prepared and cooked when I get home. Every gesture, big or small, makes me appreciate the main man in my life - it is so true that actions speak louder than words.
So yesterday when Dan offered to meet me for lunch... I have to admit I was a little giddy.
I was running nearly an hour late, thanks to an impromptu meeting at work, but Dan was still patiently waiting. Well maybe not patiently, but he was still waiting. (Cha-ching extra bonus brownie points right there.)
Feeling rushed and apologetic, I suggested we go somewhere close, really close. We literally went 3 doors down - to Bull Run.
A long display of food and a row of people waiting to help stood before us. Oooh what to have? A roast vegetable salad? A chicken sandwich? Meatballs? Pasta?
We were drawn to the fleshy chicken foccacias. Chicken and chives with avocado for Dan. Chicken, mushroom, avocado and lemon for Dani. Yes, our taste in food is about as different as our names. And since a focaccia and a small drink was only $10, we grabbed a couple of cokes too.
Melbourne has been buzzing lately. City suits relinquished the CBD to camera wielding tourists. Fed Square and outdoor bars became seas of people. Screeches and grunts filled tennis courts. All the while, the sun was sizzling the grass and our noses.
The buzz, the people, the events, all seem amplified on Australia Day (26 January - for those who don't know).
Australia Day commemorates the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain at Sydney Cove in 1788. The day is controversial for some, but for many involves friends/love ones, a BBQ and triple j's Hottest 100.
Australian flag paraphernalia and the host at work
Beginning the day with a sizzling BBQ, foldaway chairs, a table covered with food and a handful of good friends. I couldn't want for anything more. And of course, the BBQ was delicious (thanks Renee!). Sausages, roo sausages, chicken & beef shaslicks (made with veggies from the host sister's garden) and hamburgers. Garden salad, asian salad, potato salad and rice salad. Nom nom.