Sunday, 30 August 2009

hellenic republic @ lygon st., brunswick east, melbourne

People actually don't believe me when I tell them that I didn't watch much of Masterchef. ('But you like food?' they ask and look at me with questioning eyes. Really, I didn't watch much of it and actually, the only episode I watched in full was the Finale - and well, Team Poh for me - go the Pandan Cakes and Hainan Chicken Rice!)

The sight as we stepped out of our hotel.
The reason why I bring up Masterchef is that my trip to Melbourne included a visit to Masterchefs' George Calombaris' 'Hellenic Republic' on Lygon Street in Brunswick East. My friend KT had booked earlier that week ( whole weekend of eating had been carefully planned out!) and well the booking ended up being a good idea. The restaurant filled up quickly and walk ins were instantly turned away.

Bread to start off with.
J looks particularly excited in this pic. I can't help but notice how coordinated his shirt is with the furniture and the decor of the restaurant.
Me and the lovely KT. Thanks for organising lunch KT!
This was probably my first time sitting in a Greek restaurant and when it came to ordering, we ended up asking the waiter for advice. Some mighty good recommendations and all dishes were thoroughly enjoyed. Here's the pita bread, tzatziki and the lamb spit. All dishes were great for sharing and tasted superb!

Tiganites Patates - Hand cut potatoes cooked in olive oil and oregano.

Patzari - Beetroot roasted salad, cumin and yoghurt.

Slow roasted goat.

I absolutely loved every dish we ordered and really, by the time we split the bill amongst us, it didn't end up costing all that much and we were full to the brim! Unfortunately, didn't get to meet to George Calombaris himself but if I did, I probably would have complimented on his restaurant and the food (and secretly hoped that he wouldn't ask me if I'd watched Masterchef because I wouldn't know what to say!)

Anyway, the tram stop is just outside the restaurant so it's really quite easy to get to from the city. You've got to visit this one!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

melba restaurant @ langham hotel, melbourne

Thanks to a $200 Wotif voucher that J got from work last year, we stayed at The Langham Hotel on our recent trip to Melbourne. The hotel ended up being a real treat and was probably one of the best hotels I've stayed at to date. Everything about it was immaculate and my aunt was definitely right about trying their dinner buffet, it's certainly not one to be missed.

The hotel at a distance (not the tall building but one of the buildings to the left).

First thing you'll see when you enter the restaurant is the dessert fridge. OMG! (Actually, it was probably the only thing that I saw for awhile.)

That's until I saw the chocolate fountain next to it with an assortment of goodies to dip in.
At $75pp, there's quite a selection of food to choose from. My first stop was at the Asian stir fry stand where they custom make your stir fry to order. Buried in these noodles was at least 5-6 prawns.
Garlic & Cheese Naans made to order served with Chicken Tandoori and yoghurt sauce (at the Indian food station).
Unlimited Peking duck pancakes!
Unlimited Sashimi!
I didn't get round to take many photos of the food as we were on a strict time limit to empty our table for the next sitting. Trust me, I did plead with the waiter who I ended up speaking to in Cantonese and who very kindly let us have an extra half hour. Once again, J set a new record for the number of oysters he could eat it one sitting and this time I had 3 others to bear witness to his oyster eating ability and I think everyone was visibly full from watching him.

Anyway, that was the end of Day 1 and looking back, it does explain the 3kg I seemed to have put on over the course of 3 days...hmm...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

amici bakery cafe @ chapel st., prahran, melbourne

I love cafes and the ones in Melbourne seem to be spot on - great food, great atmosphere, friendly waitstaff, each cafe being uniquely it's own. I'd love to have a cafe one day but in the meantime, I'm happy just to visit all those lovely ones there and Amici Bakery Cafe on Chapel St. in Prahran was definitely one of those.

More Melbourne street art.

Busily shopping away, J reminded me about lunch. I wasn't hungry until the display at Amici caught my eye. J could only just roll his eyes and comment 'So now you're hungry?' There were too many people at the counter to grab a decent pic but to paint you a picture, it was a most attractive display of cakes, artisan breads, pastries and bakes, sandwiches, baguettes in all shapes, colours and sizes.

J goes for the beef baguette.
While I take the Chicken & Avocado Baguette.
J's Beef baguette was quite juicy whilst mine was disappointedly dry (some sauce perhaps?) We sat here for quite awhile to rest out legs but after the baguettes were too full to eat dessert. Can't say I wasn't tempted though and hovered around the counter (when it was less busy) to check all the desserts they had - petit fours!!!

Anyway, more eating adventures to follow...

Monday, 24 August 2009

degraves expresso @ degraves lane, melbourne

I'd been promising my friend KT for over a year (if not more) that I would go visit her whilst she was studying in Melbourne. Last week, I finally managed to get a Friday off and flew with J down to Melbourne to pay a long overdue visit.

First stop after checking in at the hotel was breakfast @ Degraves Lane. Came here on my last visit and ended up going back to the same cafe that I tried before - Degraves Expresso. They serve up a mighty good coffee and the food is impeccable.
Sat inside this time, right at the back. It was a little crowded (the tables are packed together and J was sitting back to back with the lady in the table behind him). I sat next to the pidgeon hole where food was coming out of the kitchen - it was mesmerising watching the number of pieces of toast which went into the grill - I can not stress how many people come here for breakfast (the stream of people was constant). Love these glass bottles with the fresh cut roses on the table.
I had the French Toast with strawberries and maple syrup. The thick cut brioche in the french toast works wonders - it had just the right amount of egginess to it (unlike when you use thin bread and it soaks up all the egg mixture and leaves the french toast soggy).
J had the Big Breakfast. You can have the eggs cooked to your liking. J thought the bacon could've been fattier. I should've taken a photo when the plate was mostly cleared because J had left most of the non-fatty bacon till last to eat.
Degraves Expresso is a cafe with character. I love the mismatched furniture, the personal touches that the owner has added to but most importantly, the food is superb and the coffee is even better. It's a tight fit if you're dining in a group but it was comfortable enough for the two of us on the Friday morning that we were there. It's arguably the busiest cafe on that laneway and there's every reason for them to be. Get a table when you can!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

bacco wine bar pasticceria @ chifley tower

Before I write about my trip to Melbourne last weekend, I have to show you some pretty pictures of the cakes at Bacco Wine Bar Pasticceria @ Chifley Tower. You see, after much urging and reminding, J finally made the trip to Chifley Tower check the place out for me (i.e. buy me some cakes). It could've been a year since I first mentioned it to J and well, the week prior to him going there , all signs were pointing to Bacco Pasticceria - I was reading about it in Good Living, reading about it in blogs, a friend mentioned it in passing, I think J got the point.

J carried the box on the bus home.
Inside the box! Look at all the pretty colours! All cakes were surprisingly intact (I say this because J has a habit of swinging cake boxes around). The only cake that needed a little bit of prettying up was the chocolate mousse with the meringue sticks (I wasn't a big fan of the meringue sticks - my teeth were squirming a little at how sweet they were).
My favourite had to be the pink macaron (front) followed by the chestnut ricotta cheesecake (back). I daresay this macaron was better than any I've had in the past (including Zumbo's)

If only I worked down Chifley Tower end of the city and could visit this place everyday! Apparently they change their cake selection regularly (I love it when cake shops do that - If I were to even open up a cake shop, I would have a constantly changing menu of cakes; how exciting is it to find a new piece of cake to try!) Anyway, I guess I'll just have to rely on J and push him to come here a bit more.

Monday, 17 August 2009

arisana restaurant @ rowe st., eastwood

When it comes to cheap food & eating, come to Eastwood and you'll be spoilt for choice. On one side of the station, you find home to Korean food and the other, Chinese food (mixture of Cantonese, Peking, Northern Chinese). I probably haven't tried as many of the Korean restaurants as I should've and the other night, when J&I were looking for a quick bite to eat, we thought we'd give one of the places a go.

Way back in the times of primary school, Arisana was more of a formal sit-down Korean restaurant. Stepping through the doors this time round, it was clear that things had changed a little, the set up was a lot more modern (probably had changed owners) and the place was attracting more of a mixed crowd, from young families, your 20 something groups, people that probably lived just down the road and were grabbing a bite to eat. Upstairs must be a function room as halfway through our meal we saw a busload of people coming trampling down.

A mixture of sides. The pieces of raw onion look lethal but were actually alright with the black bean sauce that came with it.
It took us a little while to pour through the menu and at first, did remark on how expensive everything was. We were set on ordering 3 dishes but mid-order, the waiter stopped us and said that the two would be more than enough. We took his word and certainly did not regret it. Our jaws dropped when this plate of chilli chicken came to the table.
Followed by this plate of Arisan Black Bean Noodles.
These two plates could've easily fed four! Each dish was a bit over $20 which made it a little expensive for two of us but with 4, it's clearly a bargain. For the first time ever, J&I stuffed ourselves and dejectedly asked for the rest to be doggy bagged. Both dishes were fantastic and when I got home with the takeaway boxes, they were gone by the next morning.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

double chocolate chip cookies

This double choc chip cookie recipe from 'In the Kitchen' was probably one of the easiest cookie recipes I've used in awhile. There was no need to fridge the dough, the dough rolled into balls extremely easy without sticking to my hands and most importantly, they tasted great. I'm still a little confused at how I manage to make double the amount of cookies that the recipe said it'll make but it's one of those things which I'll never be able to explain - it happens all the time and I've narrowed it down to one of the following; either cookie recipes call for cookies that are the size of my face otherwise, I can work magic and double the volume of cookie dough. I like to think it's the latter.

The key to a chocolate cookie is choc chips! Mixed choc chips work well - my choice being white choc chips and dark choc chips.
Roll the dough neatly into balls.
Squash the balls down slighly with a fork.
I love how the fork leaves a nice imprint on the cookie once it comes out of the oven. I actually have a billion cookie cutters but I find a fork works quite nicely, especially if you're baking in a hurry.
Cookies everywhere!

Each tray of cookies took about 12 minutes to bake (which is why I love baking cookies! Instant gratification I tell you!) Anyway, they're best enjoyed when they come out of the oven and have had a few minutes to firm up on a cooling rack - this is when the chocolate chips are still half melting with the centres slightly soft. Key is not to overbake else you'll get one tough cookie - take cookies out once they've browned and are slightly firm to the touch. Once out of the oven, they continue cooking from their own heat.

This makes it Recipe #14 from 'In the Kitchen'. At the rate I'm going, it's probably going to take me years to cook everything in that cookbook but anyway, I'm loving every recipe that's coming out of it and it's noticeably getting a little dog-eared (unlike many of the other cookbooks on my shelf).

Monday, 10 August 2009

cheesecake brownies

I baked my first batch of brownies earlier this year and since then, I've been on the lookout for other brownie recipes. There's been a few by Donna Hay which I'm quite keen on but without having to look far, there were two in 'In the Kitchen'; one for a plain chocolate brownie and the other being a cheesecake brownie. With family over for the weekend, I thought I'd give the cheesecake brownie a go.

You see, my mum is always the first to taste test my baking and after trying a piece herself and watching the rest of the family eat their way through the tray, she pronounced this recipe as my best ever yet. She had not seen a tray of brownies go so fast and unfortunately she wasn't quite quick enough to get herself seconds. Here's the recipe for those who are keen on giving it a go:

In a bowl, melt 100g butter and 100g chocolate over a saucepan of simmering water. In a separate bowl, beat 3 eggs, 50g flour and 150g sugar until white and doubled in bulk. To this, add the melted chocolate and pour into a lined lamington tin. In a third bowl, beat 250g cream cheese, zest f 1 lemon, 1 egg and 75g caster sugar until combined.
Pour the cream cheese mixture onto the chocolate mix.
Swirl to incorporate, aiming for a marbled effect.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until cooked through.
Allow to cool before cutting.
Unfortunately I didn't quite achieve the marbled effect. The heavier cream cheese mix seemed to settle to the bottom and form a layer of it's own. But I agree with mum, this is recipe well worth baking again. The tray was gobbled up within the hour and really, that's got to say something!

Admittedly, this isn't the prettiest of brownies. You could dust with some icing sugar to make it slightly prettier but I think the chocolate and cream cheese already give it enough sweetness and once you've tasted it, I guarantee you won't need that dusting of icing sugar - you're hands will be going gravitating to the tray for another piece. Whilst most recipes seem to ask for a good quality chocolate, I used Nestle melts for these brownies and they tasted great so probably no need to spend a whole lot of chocolate - just a regular one will do.

Anyway, this is Recipe #13 I've cooked/baked from Allan Campion & Michele Curtis' 'In the Kitchen'.

bar pistevo @ young st., neutral bay

Now that J is on a break from studying, he's back to apartment hunting and this time we checked out an apartment in Neutral Bay. It was probably one of the better apartments that we'd seen, central to shops, the pub just next door (but separated by the carpark), close to buses; it was really quite a nice 1 bedder until we found out about the concrete cancer which seems to be turning most people away. Anyway, the apartment hunting continues...

In the meantime, our trip to Neutral Bay took us Bar Pistevo for a bite to eat. Anyone that's been to Neutral Bay will know that you'll be spoilt for choice. There are so many Japanese restaurants and places worth eating at that it took us awhile to settle for Bar Pistevo which was tucked away on Young Street. Actually, it was the 'Campos Coffee' sign that caught J's attention (lol...J is not a big fan of a coffee but he does know what a good coffee is) and well, it's great when J feels like coffee, it means that I won't get a lecture on drinking too much coffee :P

Our respective Cappuccino and and Flat White. The coffee certainly did not disappoint.
I had a craving for the Salami sandwich.
Whilst J went for the poached chicken with spinach and avocado.
The sandwiches are quite toasted and end up being more crunchy than sandwich-like. They don't look all that big but we were full after gobbling them up.
There's a handful of breakfast items on their menu but the menu on the whole is quite a limited one. I still had a tough time deciding what to eat so it was probably a good thing that I had less to choose from - I think J was getting a little agitated with me standing there trying to decide what to eat. The man behind the counter just smiled.

The place seems quite popular with the locals. Whilst we sat inside, there was quite a crowd that came by getting their takeaway coffees. If only there was a cafe that sold Campos coffee near by, I'd definitely be there every day!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

lemon cupcakes with a blueberry cream cheese frosting

It was L's b'day at work and I'd promised to bake her cupcakes (actually I make a lot of promises to bake cupcakes but it always seems to take me awhile to get around to it, but that's me if you get to know me). Anyway, it was a weekday night and I knew I should've gone for a known and trusted recipe but the creative streak in me decided to try a new one. The recipe ended up being from Sue McMahon's 'Cupcakes', which to be honest, was the first time I actually tried one of the recipes since buying the book - I admit I just have way too many. Anyway, given the time constraints and trying something new when I know I shouldn't always breeds issues, so I should've known what was to come but somehow, I blindingly chose to ignore.

For starters, the recipe only made 10 cupcakes instead of the 12 - which is a bummer for when you're trying a new recipe and the cupcakes need to be tested before you give them away.
Fortunately, they baked nicely and look at the 10 lovely cupcakes that came out of the oven! My mum will vouch for me that these lemon cupcakes were superb.
So I decided to make the cream cheese frosting in the book but creatively add a streak of blueberry to it. I didn't think you could go wrong with blueberry but obviously I hadn't given as much thought as I should. I blended the blueberries with a bit of icing sugar whilst they were still frozen (and you can probably imagine the rocks I got out of it, and then to top it off, I thought a little water would help and argh...disaster). When I laid up the cream cheese frosting and blueberry mush in the piping bag, the blueberry had decided to defrost and when piped, came out in a ghastly watery mess. Here were some of the better looking cupcakes.
Two of the cupcakes ended up getting eaten before they had the final ok to get into the box.

Despite the dramas, the cupcakes actually tasted quite good. I can't say I was completely happy with them but I did feel a bit better when people at work started eating them and telling me how they liked them and one girl even came to ask me for the recipe.

I guess nothing ever turns out perfectly and I've certainly learnt a lesson or two along the way. And well, even if they didn't look spot on perfect (which is what I would've preferred them to look), they still tasted great which is probably more important at the end of the day.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

carrot cake

It's been a little busy at work and my time has also been spent studying and trying to finish an assessment so the backlog of posts has built up once again. Fortunately, I'm back up and running and I can finally spend time to visit all my favourite blogs and catch up on everything in the world of eating.

A couple of weeks back, I made the Carrot Cake from 'In the Kitchen'. This makes it Recipe #11 and #12 from the book and was actually one of the first full cakes that I'd baked in years. I used to bake a lot of big cakes but somehow or other, that sorta stopped happening and I caught onto the craze of cupcakes and other small cakes. Muffins are my favourite and often most of my big cake recipes are converted into things that resemble muffins.

This carrot cake recipe asked for quite a number of ingredients which would usually turn me away from the recipe but in this instance, I actually had most of them at home. Here's the batter of flour, cinnamon, mixed spice, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil and salt.
Add hazelnuts, walnuts and sultanas.
Mix it all together with the grated carrot.
Pour into a lined 23cm cake tin.
Bake for an hour. I ended up baking it for the additional 10 minutes that the recipe suggested.
Once the cake has cooled, top with Cream Cheese Frosting (the recipe for this is so simple - cream cheese, caster sugar and lemon juice).
Carrot Cake!
Carrot cake innards.
Mum liked this cake more than I did. In her words, it was 'healthy tasting', which it was but I prefer a carrot cake that's slightly sweet and really, when you call a cake 'healthy', it really isn't quite a cake! Anyway, I blame it on mum who told me to reduce the amount of sugar when I was making it so that could've been the reason why the recipe didn't seem to work out as well as all the other recipes I've tried out of this book.

And with the amount of time it took to cook this in the oven, the edges did get a little burnt. Reminder to self, any cake that goes in the oven for more than an hour needs to be triple and quadruply lined - I keep forgetting!