At the risk of sounding like a 90 year old – the modern world constantly impresses and delights me. Even though I grew up with so many technologies that we now take for granted, when I think about them they still amaze me. For example: GPS. We all know what GPS is, since it’s now an everyday thing, but have you ever thought about what’s involved in making it work? It’s a space-based global navigation satellite system – hello, SATELLITES in fricking SPACE. That tell you exactly where you are. If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is.
However, even with all the wonders of technology, it’s not exactly foolproof. Case in point: last year we used the GPS to direct us to Loam in Portarlington. It sent us down a dirt road and then said, “You have arrived at our destination.”
Except… we were still in the middle of nowhere. We were definitely not at Loam.
Did we have the right address? Were we even in the right suburb? Where on earth were we?! (Well, the GPS told us, but could we trust the GPS?) We kept driving down the road, and then lo and behold: LOAM. We had arrived! (Mostly thanks to the GPS.)
Isn’t it funny how some experiences feel like they happened yesterday, and how some feel like decades have passed? Looking back at my blog, I can’t believe that we last went to Café Vue for the cocktail night over two years ago. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago! How did we let so much time go by?
Bro, Alastair and I went for a return visit recently with Maria and Daz. When Maria made the booking, she was only able to secure us a table outside (if you’ve been there, they’re the tables in the covered alley leading up to the Bistro) but considering how tiny Café Vue is, I thought that was fine.
When we arrived, it turned out that there were three tables available inside the café. There were four tables sitting in the alley. Hmmm. Four can’t fit into three, so one table had to stay outside. Yes, we were the good table and decided that we would stay outside, which earnt us a glass of bubbles each as thanks. Yay free booze! Fortunately, we received the bubbles before Maria mentioned the waiter’s arse… to his face… otherwise I’m not sure we would’ve had anything! It wasn’t quite as sleazy as it sounds – we were just having a laugh – certainly, the rest of us were laughing rather a lot at Maria! And on balance, talking about his arse was not that bad – a customer sitting inside threw a tanty and called the staff c–ts, so we were angels by comparison. (Thank goodness for Tantrum Man making us seem normal!)
In May, Provenance in Collingwood held one of their semi-regular seasonal produce events. The latest was an autumn degustation to celebrate local pears, held over three evenings, with 7 courses for $75 and matched wines for an additional $22. Alastair and I rounded up Dany for a peary peariffic evening.
The first course was a Gorgonzola dolce pannacotta with salt pear coulis and crispy prosciutto. Interestingly, the panna cotta was fizzy on the tongue, which was a bit distracting. Apart from the fizziness, it was rich and creamy and sharp with the Gorgonzola, which I really enjoyed with the sweet pear coulis.
Next up was a pear tarte tatin with parmesan crisp, watercress, and rocket pesto. This was a gorgeous little tart – good flakey, buttery pastry and sweet pear. While the pear was sweet it wasn’t a dessert dish and managed to find that balance. The rocket pesto was a tad too bitter for my tastes, so I left most of it.
After the tarte tatin, we received a whole quail that had been partially boned, with a pear and pecan farce on cavalo nero and jus gras. This was the best savoury course of the evening. Thankfully the quail had been partially boned, so it was tender and easy to eat. The pear and pecan stuffing was great and the cavalo nero helped cut through the richness of the meat and jus.
This was a pear and Roquefort millefeuille with walnuts. Instead of pastry layers, slices of crunchy pear were used, with dabs of Roquefort in between and a bit of lemon zest on top. This was fantastic, and yet so simple.
The final savoury course was described as a partridge in a pear tree. On the plate was partridge breast that had been braised in pear cider, served with pear confit, and a few pear and ginger tortellini. The partridge wasn’t quite as nice as the quail, and the pear was strangely salty. I quite liked the pear and ginger tortellini.
The first of the desserts was a caramel pear pudding with double cream. This was a wonderful dessert, perfect for winter and cold nights and deserved to be eaten while sitting by a fire. Gorgeous! It was a real comfort pudding – soft, cinnamony goodness in a cup.
And finally, our last course and second dessert was coffee assiette – espresso poached pear, a rich, dark chocolate espresso mousse, and “pear-fogato” (ahh, we love a pun in this house. Sad but true.).
The espresso poached pear was decorated to look like a Xmas pudding, with the white chocolate and fried mint leaf on top – ahh so cute! It was a bit hard to eat with a spoon though as the white chocolate was very hard to break. And the espresso for the pear-fogato was REALLY strong. I wish I hadn’t poured it over the ice cream and just eaten the ice cream plain.
We had a great time, although at four hours it was a long night. The timing at the beginning seemed a bit slow, but thankfully things picked up at the end.
Going back to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for a moment – as well as the Hawkers’ Market, Bro and I also attended the “Are you game?” dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer.
Also known as the “roadkill” dinner, it was an evening of dishes showcasing different Australian game meats. Apart from the yabbies, all the meat that evening was wild caught game. Drink wise, we started with a glass of Prosecco, and then over the course of the evening were served three glasses of wine from the wine label, Ladies Who Shoot their Lunch. Seriously, how perfect was that wine label for the evening. I’m not going to talk about the wine because I know sweet FA about wine, apart from the fact I like to drink it. On to the food!
There were TEN courses… when we saw the menu we thought that we might have to select from some of the options. But no, there were TEN COURSES! Oh my goodness. Let’s get stuck in.
First up was a Yarra Valley yabby martini with lime aioli and spring onion cigar. The yabby meat was very delicately flavoured, and we found a bonus quail egg at the bottom of the glass. The aioli was nice and creamy, although I found the spring onion cigar rather sweet, which was disconcerting!
Next up we received a quail pithivier with wild rice and curly kale. The pithivier had light flakey pastry and I also noted that it was buttery – mhmmm so buttery – with hints of cinnamon. The wild rice was chewy and sweetish, and the kale was also buttery. It was a very enjoyable dish.
The third course was a smoked Flinders Island mutton bird salad with Mount Buffalo organic hazelnuts and grapefruit dressing. This was one dish that had everyone divided. The mutton bird was interesting, and was unlike any other bird I had ever eaten before – it had a very strong, oily anchovy flavour. Yes, anchovy! Mutton bird tastes like fish! Amazing. I can’t say that mutton bird is a meat that I would seek out again, but it was interesting to try it.
After the mutton bird, we received wild barramundi with “sand of the sea” and clam foam. The barramundi was BEAUTIFUL – it had fantastic flavour, was perfectly cooked and flaked away under my fork. The “sand” was finely ground breadcrumbs, and the “foam” was tapioca. Chives represented seaweed and thinly sliced potato on the fish represented scales. I was so impressed that the fish was perfectly cooked when the kitchen would have had to cook so many portions at the same time. This was the dish of the night for me. Seriously lovely.
Following the barramundi was a duck liver parfait with apple and pear chutney and brioche. The duck liver parfait was very, very rich – to the point where it was almost bitter. It was nice though, very smooth, with the sweet, fruity chutney helping to cut through some of the richness, both from the parfait and the buttery (and heavily buttered!) brioche.
Next was a Flinders Range kangaroo rogan josh curry served with a pappadam and a piece of nann. The curry had big bold flavours and the roo meat was made into a couple of large meatballs. I’ve had (and cooked) roo many times before, and because it’s so lean it’s not a meat that is nice when overcooked. So I’m not entirely sure about roo meatballs – while the roo meatballs weren’t too dry, they were noticeably drier than a beef meatball would be. It was a tasty curry though.
After the curry there was a palate cleanser of crocodile ceviche with Yarra Valley salmon roe and limoncello. This was really interesting, it was like a lemon liqueur crocodile chewing gum!
Moving into the final courses, next up was herb crumbed Daylesford venison with mushrooms, kipfler potatoes and saffron cream. Maybe I was a bit delirious with food by this stage, but I wrote in my notes that the venison had a pate like flavour with a texture that made me think of boiled meat.
And for our last savoury course, we received slow braised wild Redesdale rabbit with squid ink gnocchi. This was supposed to come with Flinders Island wallaby prosciutto, but they must have had a shortage because a small amount of the prosciutto was passed around the table (which didn’t get to us). The chewy and tough gnocchi was the only disappointment of the night. The rabbit, however, was good – tender and flavoursome, and in my notes, I wrote that it tasted like a savoury chicken pie! I think I was definitely delirious with food by this stage. The thing that was topped with a mushroom was a potato filled with rabbit liver.
And finally, for dessert, we had duck egg crème brulee. This was SUPER rich, and very creamy. It was lovely, but oh my god it was SO RICH, particularly after ni
ne other courses! I enjoyed smelling the sprig of rosemary and lemon too.
I was mostly very impressed with the food that evening. Most of it was cooked really well, presented nicely and nothing was too strange (not that Bro and I mind strange, we did do offal last year). It was a very good event to attend and we went home two happy eaters.
Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer 519 Spencer St West Melbourne Phone: 03 9329 6955
On Valentine’s Day, Dany, the Boys and I headed to Provenance for a berry degustation. The original plan had been to hold the event as a picnic in the Edinburgh Gardens, but with the weather forecast predicting showers, it was held inside the restaurant – picnic style on astro turf!
All the tables and chairs had been moved out, the entire floor astro turfed, and everyone sat on “picnic blankets” (I think they may have been tablecloths!) for the duration of the meal – fun!
The theme being berries, everything we ate involved berries of some kind. When we arrived, we were greeted with a bottle of Point Leo Road Salmon Blanc de Noir, and warmed ciabatta along with raspberry infused salt and strawberry infused olive oil.
I couldn’t really taste the raspberry in the salt – it just seemed really salty! But it was a lovely colour. The olive oil did have a faint strawberry flavour, and the bubbly went down rather well.
Next up were grilled chicken skewers with strawberries, balsamic vinegar and rocket salad. I’m not a huge fan of fruit with meat, but found that the balsamic vinegar really brought the strawberries and chicken together.
After that we received venison skewers on celeraic mash and blueberry sauce. I wasn’t too sure about the venison and blueberry sauce combo, but I LOVED the sauce with the celeraic mash.
After that it was time for dessert – not one dessert. Not two desserts. THREE desserts.
The first dessert was a divine summer pudding. Summer pudding has always sounded odd to me – white bread soaked in berry juice? How could that possibly be good? Well, it was. Really good. The bread was all moist and juicy with the berries, and just lovely with a dollop of cream. (I ate all that cream. Hell yeah.)
Dessert #2 was pannacotta with berry compote. It was a good pannacotta – creamy and smooth, with the berry sauce providing some tartness.
And finally, dessert #3 was a bluberry tiramisu topped with shavings of white chocolate. It was a berramisu really, as there didn’t seem to be any coffee in it? It was my least favourite of the desserts, but that could have been due to already eating two rich desserts and three bottles of bubbles (between the four of us). Phew. I was a bit weary by this stage and ready for a nap!
We had a great time though – hopefully there will be another event soon to look forward to.
Provenance 288 Smith Street Collingwood Phone: 03 8415 0700
On Bastille Day last week, we joined Benisa for dinner at the brasserie by Philippe Mouchel. A four course set menu was being served in celebration of all things French (or so the promotional email stated!). When we arrived, the first thing we saw was a guy in a beret playing the accordion. Is an accordion particularly French? I don’t know! It was kind of funny though and fortunately he was pretty good (insert disparaging accordion joke here), since he played the entire evening.
The first course were snails wrapped in cabbage, on top of a poached liquorice bouillon. The snails were diced and mixed with finely cut vegetables inside the cabbage leaf. I think that even people who would normally have issues with snails would have no problems with this dish. I couldn’t really taste the liquorice in the bouillon, but the broth was very nice and worked well with the sweetness of the cabbage. The snail meat reminded me of the texture of paua/abalone – which wikipedia says is a sea snail. That would explain the similarity!
For the second course we received sautéed scallops with couscous and vegetables and Argan oil vinaigrette. Look at those scallops – they were lovely, perfectly cooked and flavoured with ginger and chives. A small amount of cous cous and a couple of little vegetables were on the plate, but the scallops were really the star.
Next course was a slow-braised wagyu ox cheek with carrots and mashed potatoes. I’ve had a larger version of this dish before, when Alastair and I went to the brasserie for lunch a while back, and was happy to eat it again. The meat was very, very tender and braised in that dark, rich sauce. It was on the verge of being too salty, but when eaten with a bit of the smooth mashed potato it was fantastic.
Dessert was chocolate fondant with vanilla anglaise and pistachio ice cream. Hard to go wrong with chocolate fondant, especially when it was –
And finally some petit fours to finish off. Bro and I made everyone wait while we had a cup of tea (served in a very cute little teapot) and finished our petit fours. Yum.
This post is all about offal. If offal makes you squeamish, you may want to skip this one!
Did anyone do any Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events? I only ended up doing one thing – Animal Farm at Baba. Details from the program:
“a seven course menu exploring the flavours of Turkey and the Middle East, matched with wines from Spain and Italy. Featuring bone marrow, heart, brains, tripe, liver and kidney mezze, claypots and kebabs, with Turkish delight, gelato and Turkish coffee to finish, this is a culinary feast not for the weak at heart – but for those who eat it.”
Only Bro and I went to this dinner – Alastair stayed home and had a “safe” dinner of curry.
A long table was set up in the middle of the restaurant, with tables for normal diners around the edges of the dining area. We were told that the food would be served communally, but as not every seat was filled there was space between groups and each group received their own dishes.
The first course was a rich and smooth chicken liver parfait with middle eastern melbas and cornichons. A rather safe dish to start off with and good smeared on the crispy bread.
Next was roast bone marrow with smoked lemon, caper and parsley salad and Turkish bread. Little dishes of pink salt from Tibet were placed on the table. To eat the bone marrow, we scraped it out of the bone, spread it on the toast, sprinkled with a bit of salt and then topped it with some of the parsley salad. Mhmmmm it was buttery and soft, plus mildly meaty with the salt and parsley helping to balance out the richness.
The third course was Libyan baked lambs brains in gadaffi pastry and harissa. GAK. The brains felt sooooo greasy and just seemed to coat my mouth in fat. It was the fattiest thing I’ve ever eaten (more than the bone marrow)! Looking around the table at other diners, many seemed to share my distaste. The brains weren’t a very popular course!
Happily, the next course was tripe soup with cumin, currants and coriander. The soup was lovely – very strongly cuminy, and the tripe was cooked until very, very tender (I may be strange, but I thought it looked very pretty in the soup). Every now and again I would get little bits of currant and crunch down on cumin seed (one of my favourite spices).
The fifth course came out in three separate dishes. Oh boy, things were getting heavy!
First we had sweetbreads with basil and tomato. I don’t think I’ve had sweetbreads before, but I really liked them. They had a kind of firm, bouncy texture and reminded me of chicken nuggets.
Then there was a sumac seared ox liver with a glazed onion and chickpea salad. The ox liver was good too – rather rich, but the zingy sourness from the sumac and chickpea salad helped cut through the richness.
And last for this course was a za’atar grilled lamb kidney kebab. It was bought out to the table last, and we were already eating the sweetbreads and liver by the time it arrived. As soon as it was set down, all I could smell was that awful kidney scent. I ate a kidney, and while it tasted fine I couldn’t get over that smell. Even if my stomach hadn’t been approaching full I wouldn’t have been able to eat the whole kebab.
The last savoury course was an East Brunswick bunny boil-up. In the boil up was rabbit kafta dumplings, chicken hearts, lamb sweetbreads and peas. We also received a small dish of pilaf. The pilaf was really good, lovely and buttery, but unfortunately after so much offal we could only eat a couple of bites. The dumplings, hearts and sweetbreads in the light broth were all fine and good, but even the most hardened offal lover would have been a bit weary by this stage (and we were a bit…. weary….).
And finally, to finish, there was Turkish delight gelato, served in cones with a lump of Turkish delight on top. Thank goodness dessert didn’t follow the offal theme! The faintly rosewater flavoured gelato was a good way to end the meal and I loved the cones.
We didn’t stay for coffee – we had been sitting there for about four hours and we were desperate to get out of the wooden seats. The seats would’ve been fine for a normal dinner but four hours called for a cushion! Food wise, it obviously wasn’t the most balanced dinner (did you notice the distinct lack of any green stuff?) but we knew what we were getting into. In the whole we thoroughly enjoyed it, with only the brains and kidneys kinda defeating us. It was definitely a meal for the brave….. or for the ones with cast iron stomachs!
Baba Levantine Trading Company 80 Lygon Street, Brunswick East Phone: 9380 8534
Reading Claire’s and Cindy and Michael’s posts on the Cafe Vue cocktail evening finally spurred me into making a booking! On Friday evenings, Cafe Vue hosts a cocktail evening, where you get five small dishes paired with five cocktails for $75. There is a different theme each month, and this month’s theme is Christmas in July.
Before I start, let me just say that I tried very hard to remember the ingredients of the cocktails and the food that we were served. Despite my best efforts, I may have got some details incorrect. So if I’m wrong about something – please excuse my terrible memory! I did note things down, but by the time the waiters had given their spiel and walked away, I had already forgotten most of what they had said. Doh.
The first cocktail was the Alfons, a cocktail made of Dubonnet, sparkling wine and a twist of lemon peel to add a citrus note. It was sweet and refreshing – a tasty aperitif to kick off the evening.
It was paired with two spiced duck and rye cookies. Layers of duck and pea pate were sandwiched between pumpernickel biscuits. There was a nice contrast between the smooth, soft pate and the soft crumbly biscuit. Very, very yummy.
The next cocktail was the Christmas Punch, made of apple juice, vodka (I think) and a cranberry, cardamom reduction (the red syrup at the bottom). It was sweet, and seriously tasted just like an apple turnover – very uncanny!
The food dish that it was paired with was a prawn cocktail. At the bottom of the glass was a mixture of mayo, tomato sauce and Worcester sauce, then avocado puree, cos lettuce and a couple of fresh prawns on top. You could taste the quality of the prawns, which were absolutely gorgeous, and the tangy sauce was so moreish. We all loved this. I’m thinking that prawn cocktails should make a comeback!
Next up was the Flight of the Silver Fizz. This one was a change from the two previous cocktails that had been quite sweet. The Flight of the Silver Fizz was made with gin, maraschino cherry liqueur, lemon juice and topped with foamed egg whites. It was sour with a hint of lavender.
It was paired with a turkey and vegetable broth. The turkey had been cooked for 12 hours before being cubed and served in the savoury broth with diced vegetables and a couple of mint leaves. On top was a lid of pastry. We were advised to break the pastry into the broth and make it all bready.
Next was a Port Cobbler, made of port, cab sav, bitters and topped with a foam of clove syrup. It had a strong port flavour scented with cloves. We were advised not to eat the clove foam as it was quite bitter and just there for the aroma. This drink felt like something you should be drinking on a snowy evening while sitting next to a roaring fire.
The dish with the Port Cobbler was a ham croque monsieur. Some of us had been hoping for bread, to soak up some of the alcohol, but instead it was a deconstructed version of a ham croque monsieur. On the bottom was cheese foam, then lettuce, gruyere cheese and ham sandwiched in a pistachio tuile. Unfortunate that there was no bread, but it was delicious! The crispy tuile, the cheese foam, good quality ham – yum!
Naturally, we couldn’t finish the evening without egg nog. Very apt for the theme. The bottom layer was made from brandy and egg yolks while the top, white layer was rum, vanilla sugar syrup, and egg whites foamed up and topped with a bit of grated nutmeg. We all started by tasting the top layer, which was sweet and light. Then we tasted the bottom layer – “heeeellooo brandy!!”. The egg nog had a pretty strong kick!
The last dish was dessert – a plum pudding souffle. It came in two parts, a tube of creme anglaise (thanks to the lovely Dany for holding it) and the main souffle.
We were instructed to poke a hole in the souffle and pour in the creme anglaise. Look! Here’s me pouring in the anglaise AND taking a photo at the same time. After four cocktails! Hopefully you’re as impressed as I was. The souffle tasted just like a plum pudding, but as light and fluffy as you’d expect a souffle to be. It was delectable and sweet, and rather boozy by the end of it.
Ah, it was a fun evening. The theme was great, and I felt that the cocktails were particularly good for Christmas in July. Some cocktails an
d dishes stood out more than others, but there wasn’t anything that I really disliked. We will definitely go again in the future!
Cafe Vue 430 Little Collins St, Melbourne Phone: 9691 3888