Friday 31 January 2014

Catch up eating out in 2013

Traditionally I give myself an amnesty in January to compile a few catch up posts of yummy food that has sadly lingered in my blog backlog.  So before the month finishes, here are some places I have eaten in last year.  Some I just haven't found time to return and give them the attention they deserve in a write up.  Some are ones I have already posted about.  A few I probably wont revisit but wish to make a few notes on my visit.  Here goes:

Code Black, Brunswick
I had a quiet moment last year to eat lunch at Code Black in Brunswick (just north of Barkly Square).  Loved my broccoli, almond and chia fritters with grilled corn salsa, coriander and avocado.  It was delicious with lots of vegies.  I even coped quite well with the coriander.  I would love to go back but have a few others places in Brunswick on my hit list at the moment.

The Knife Shop, Collingwood
I was quite excited to go to The Knife Shop on Wellington Street, Collingwood.  The thought of having my knives sharpened was far more enticing than the food.  (I did have one wasted journey when I found I would have to leaves my knives over the weekend because my timing for the knife sharpening was wrong.)  And I loved the retro design!

The jury is still out on the food.  I had a wonderful warm raspberry and white chocolate muffin warm when I dropped my knives off.  When I picked up my knives I had a berry cake that had been in the fridge too long.

Cibi, Collingwood
The savoury menu did not inspire me at the Knife Shop but I think the attraction of Cibi (Keele St, Collingwood) was really that I could buy some sushi for Sylvia.  Alas no sushi was to be had.  Instead I ordered a tofu patty and rice quinoa with daikon and seaweed salad.  It was unusual but so good.  Sylvia just picked at it.  I hope to get back some day and write more about the place.  It is just so peaceful and delicious.

Melbourne Kebab Station, Coburg
Some places are just so good but so casual that I never think to really take proper photos and notes.  Take the Melbourne Kebab Station (just near the entry to Coles on Sydney Road in Coburg).  If I want Turkish bread in Coburg this is often our go-to place.  Recently I have discovered they have an amazing plate of food - falafel, hummus, babaganoush, salad, rice, Turkish bread.  It is so filling it really needs two people to do it justice.  The babaganoush is amazingly silky.  The bread is fresh and fluffy.  The place is always busy.  And it is no wonder!

The Beachcomber, St Kilda
In 2012 my brother went to the Beachcomber in St Kilda for a breakfast brunch.  He repeated this last year.  I enjoyed my pancakes with maple syrup.  They were a bit stingy with the maple syrup but we requested more so we could drown the pancakes!  I loved my juice.  I think it was carrot, beetroot, parsley, apple.  It make my nieces turn up their nose but it was gorgeous.

Soul Food Cafe, Fitzroy
The biggest disappointment in this post was my meal at Soul Food Cafe in Fitzroy.  I loved their former poky incarnation with a huge selection in the salad.  I had a particular fondness for the wheatberry salad.  Sigh!  Now it is just another large light filled cafe with modern pine furniture and shelves of bottles behind the counter.  I guess some people like it.

I went there months ago after the Fitzory Market wtih E, Sylvia and our friend Heather.  We shared aranci balls, edamame, falafel and chips.  It was nice.  Not brilliant.  I missed the salad bar.

Gelo Bar, Brunswick
Sylvia loves ice cream.  I've never really found the need to seek out ice cream parlours near us.  When I promised her an ice cream, I was hard-pressed to think of a local place.  So we drove down to Lygon St, Brunswick to the Gelo Bar.  It had an amazing selection of flavours on the menu.  I really liked that they had small cones with sprinkles.  Perfect for small girls.  Sylvia had chocolate.  I had butterscotch.  Since then I have found a place we pass all the time that sells ice creams.  We will get there one day.

Ikea Cafe, Richmond
Every now and again we head to Ikea when our house is in need of improvement.  Sometimes we stop at the cake.  I wrote about Ikea's cafe (Richmond) a few years back.  I think I prefer browsing their groceries.  Far more interesting.  However last year, while constantly visiting in hope of a lamp being in stock, we shared what I think was called Almond Cake, chocolate and butterscotch.  It was too creamy for my liking.  Shame.  It looked interesting.

Zaatar, Coburg
We regularly go to Zaatar on Sydney Road, Coburg for their amazing $1 zaatar pizzas.  I was quite pleased to see them serving soup and bread rolls in winter.  The vegie soup was nice, abeit a bit watery for me, and the bread was soft and pleasing.  It seemed expensive compared to the zaatar pizzas but there are very few things that don't seem pricey compared to those bargains!

Salsas, Southgate Food Hall
Finding a decent feed at a food hall is always a challenge.  Lately I have been a fan of Salsas.  I went there late last year when I went to the Herald Sun Aria with my Dad and various family members.  E and I had dinner at Salsas in Southgate Food Hall before the show.  I quite enjoyed my Mucho Veggie Bowl.  It was full of black beans, coriander and lime rice, onion and capsicum, broccoli and zucchini, cheese and chipotle salsa.  I had it again before seeing Angelina Ballerina the Mousical.  It didn't hit the spot quite as well but was still better than many food hall offerings.

Waterfront, Southgate
On the same night of the "Sun Aria" we had a post-show dessert at the Waterfront Southgate.  I thought it was a Belgian chocolate fondant with salted caramel sauce.  I misread the menu.  It was served with salted caramel ice cream but the flavours did not come through in the ice cream.  Ah well, I enjoyed the pudding with a peppermint tea.  I think my dad had the pannacotta.  We enjoyed mulling over the judging of the young opera singers as we ate our desserts overlooking the Yarra River.

Man Bo, South Geelong
Before Christmas we had a family yum cha at Man Bo in South Geelong (opposite Kardinia Park).  It has been there for years and I always thought it was called Man Bo Towers.  I am quite wary of yum cha because I am never sure if there will be many vegetarian options.  As it was, I had plenty of choice (and so did the celiacs).  I ordered a corn soup which was a mistake because it was so large.  By itself it would have been filling.  It was too much alongside the spring rolls, steamed buns, dumplings, salt and pepper fried tofu, fried noodles and broccoli.  We had ordered so much food that we took away some leftovers with us.  I'd return there for yum cha.

Cafe Sarabella, Coburg
I have previously mentioned Cafe Sarabella in another catch up post.  Sadly I never had a chance to give it the justice it deserved.  It closed last year.  It was a great little Indian cafe in Victoria Street Mall.  I just wish I had gone there more.  Above is a Thali plate that I enjoyed on possibly my last visit.  Two vegie curries, dal, rice and pickle.  Excellent value (if I remember rightly) and delicious, albeit quite spicy for me.  Vale Cafe Sarabella.

But let's not end on a sad note.  Other cafes are still doing great business in the inner north.  I first wrote about CERES cafe almost 5 years ago and am still enjoying visiting it.  It is a great place to eat while the kids play.  Here is a bowl of soup (carrot and tomato?) that I had there last spring.  I just love the colours in the photo.  [Update - remembered that recently at CERES I have discovered that there is no such thing as organic vegemite and hence they don't stock it, and I have had a nice banana muffin after seeing fairy acrobats!]

Now I just need to find some time to write up some cafes I have recently visited before they get neglected and relegated to another catch up post of good intentions.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Melbourne Now - art for the people at the NGV

If you are in Melbourne and haven't been to our National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)'s Melbourne Now exhibition, you should go as soon as possible.  It is amazing!  So much fun.  Great for kids.  I have been there four times and may go again.  That is the joy of no whopping entry fees (which the NGV usually charges for major exhibitions).  There is so much to see that one visit isn't enough.  Nor are just a few photos.  I took heaps.
The last visit was to the NGV Ian Potter in Fed Square.  We had hoped to go to a Hotham Street Ladies workshop but got the day wrong.  A shame as their work is amazing.  Look closely at the above sign and there is a lot of buttercream icing (frosting) involved.

The same could be said of the top photo.  You might have thought it was an ordinary suburban scene.  Then you look closely and find that so much of the food and details are made of icing.  Those Frederick McCubbin pictures on the wall are painted with icing.  The cushions and flowers and beer labels and cigarette butts.

However what I really love is the little details.  The card table at the end of the table to accommodate more people at the table than usual.  It is what we always had at large family dinners in my childhood.

Likewise I love the lounge room with the crochet rug over the edge of the couch (made of icing).  And the little wood veneer coffee tables just like the ones we have at home.  I gather Picasso's Weeping Woman (painted in icing) in the loungeroom is a joke about the picture being stolen in the 1980s.

While the Hotham Street Ladies was my favourite of the exhibits, I love so much else in the exhibition that I can't cover it all in this post.  I can say that it is a great way to delve a little deeper into Melbourne's rich cultural tapestry. 

Some of the exhibits were amazingly physical.  I loved this blue room.  Sylvia and I had lots of fun on the blue exercise balls.  I quite like that the windows of this exhibit look onto the street.

As I mentioned above, the exhibition is lots of fun with kids.  Sylvia loved the colours of this artwork above.

Even more fun is this architectural exhibition.  On the shelf in front of Sylvia are little terracotta blocks.  The public is invited to create structures with them.  We had great fun with them.  I also liked seeing what others had done.

I had to show this artwork to prove that my bedroom floor is actually a work of art.  I chatted to a gallery security man about whether we could touch the clothes.  I thought it might be an interactive dressing up activity.  Alas it was not!  He told me he had a map of the items and had to check they stayed there.

The guard instead directed me to an area for kids which used recycled materials and found objects.  I particularly liked the wool noodles in the wok and the string of dried apricots.  We had fun in the sound tent.  Walking in barefeet and touching the strange metal shapes set off various music.

I was reluctant to leave this section.  I just wanted to run my hand through the piles of wool.  E and Sylvia decided they wanted to go to a cafe in the Atrium at Fed Square for a coffee and ice cream.  I kept going.

The Design Wall fascinated me.  It makes ordinary objects into an interesting piece of art.  Cisterns, brushes, crumpler bags, wetsuits, outdoor chairs, footballs, eskies, even those green handles you hang on to in the tram to stop you flying into someone's lap when the tram stops suddenly. 

I liked this work with its denim gloominess.  I especially liked the bottom left one.

A photo does not do this piece of artwork justice.  "The Aleph" is a small piece that is designed as an optical illustion.  Quite beautiful.  Far more to my taste than the disturbing gothic room of stuffed animals on serving platters among chandeliers and old masters paintings.

I found David Wadelton: Icons of Suburbia very moving.  His black and white pictures of Melbourne milk bars is a fine record of a disappearing icon of our city.  The addresses of each milk bar was given and it was fun to look up ones in streets that I know.

At first sight this iProtest seems a kitsch collection of figurines.  Look closer and you see that there are symbols of war and strife in our world. 

Most of my visits have been to the NGV on St Kilda Road.  Sylvia and her cousin Dash had lots of fun playing about on this coloured entrance.  I was entranced to watch this woman doing handstands on it.

Inside in the forecourt is this pod of computers in a Bin Dome of ikea bins sprouting plants.  I wish I had time to discuss how this reflects modern life.  I don't.  But feel free to write a 1000 word essay on the topic.

I am rather fond of Patrick Pound's Gallery of Air.  It is a room that reminds me of an old fashioned museum except it has a theme.  Every item, whether painting, LP album or Georgette Heyer novel has something to do with Air.  He calls it a "wunderkammer".  It was one of the first things I saw in Melbourne Now when my mum and I visited briefly when we had some time to kill.

The second time I visited, Sylvia and I went to see a workshop by the Choir of Hard Knocks.  She spent most of it colouring in.  I quite enjoyed it.

Sylvia was more interested in the jewellery making area.  It gave kids, big and small, a choice of tags, some threading and some colouring in.  On the way was an exhibition of what others had done.

When my mum and I first went we saw the Trugo room and decided my nephew Dash would love it.  The game originated among railway workers and consists of trying to hit a roll with a mallet to hit some chimes.  The kids had lots of fun with it when we came here with Dash, Chris and Fergal.

One of my favourite exhibits was this wall of tea towels.  Jon Campbell's DUNNO (T. towels)  My mother in law would have loved it.  She collected tea towels and helped me embrace my tea towels.  These tea towels on the wall had signs over them that reflected Australian culture.  Hurrah for kitsch kitchenalia!

The exhibition was full of the unexpected around each corner.  This dance floor was lots of fun.  The great thing about it was that you had to go across it to continue moving through the exhibition so everyone had to step out!

I couldn't help notice how many people were close up to this artwork.  Otherwise I might have walked past.  Up close it has incredible detail (see below) based on the artist's life.  So many exhibits had lots of detail that I could have spent a lot of time with each alone.  Hence the need for repeated visits.

Below is a wall where an attendant gave out stickers of bird silhouettes to add to the wall.  And there were lots of other fascinating works of art that I haven't included here.  A Laneways video, an architectural exhibition, a table of slides, cards with locals' vision for Melbourne, a visual map of Melbourne, a waving cat and a table of disturbing stuffed animals in silver serving dishes.

It is a wonderful exhibition, showcasing some of the great art of Melbourne and encouraging you to look at the city in a different way.

Melbourne Now
National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
Ian Potter gallery and St Kilda Rd gallery
Melbourne city
22 Nov 2013 - 23 March 2014

Sunday 26 January 2014

Tim Tam Brownies for Australia Day

Today we celebrate Australia Day.  Day of discovery and invasion, patriotic fervour and maintaining the rage.  This year I have had fun gathering ideas through my Australia Day Pinterest Board.  It really is a great way to share ideas.  That was how these Tim Tam Brownies became lodged in my head and wouldn't go away until they were in my belly.

While the origins of Australia Day are somewhat dubious (the British claiming another people's land as their own), the opportunity to showcase Australia to the blogosphere is certainly fun.  This year, I have been amused by some of the creative twist on Aussie iconic food (see list below).  Like the humble Tim Tam biscuit.  Two chocolate biscuits sandwiched together with chocolate cream and covered in milk chocolate.

I was slightly concerned about making brownies to celebrate Australia Day.  They are about Australian as Superbowl and Oreos.  I never had brownies while I was a child.  Yet the spirit of these brownies is very Australian.

As a child, we always had a packet of biscuits in the cupboard to 'bake' with.  (Think grubs, hedgehog or chocolate ripple cake.)  And while it was always plainer than Tim Tams (an occasional treat), I think I might claim that Tim Tams are Australia's answer to oreos.Other than Tim Tams, this recipe is just like the sort that our grandmothers would make with plain ingredients that were in every Australian pantry.

So here is my present for you on Australia Day.  Oozy gooey chocolatey tim tam brownies with a crunchy creamy biscuit interior that surprises and delights.  (Except if you are my 4 year old Sylvia who just takes the brownies off and eat the biscuits!)

I couldn't wait to try these as they came out of the oven just as I was rushing out the door to go to the movies with E.  I took some crumbly bits in a tub.  E groaned at the messiness and then asked if I wanted any more because it tasted so good.  (The movie was Inside Llewyn Davis.  Very bleak but beautiful and thoughtful too.)  The real reason I made them was for a picnic at the zoo last night.

It is some years since we have been to Twilights at the Zoo.  Last night we saw an ABBA tribute group, Babba.  They were lots of fun and I knew all the songs.  We a haggis balls (more later on them) for our picnic followed by brownies and fruit.  I was unusually restrained with the food and we found ourselves going for an ice cream after watching the lions roaring at interval.

Last night was our Australia Day celebration and today we are having a quiet one.  Just a swim is planned.   I would have loved to go to the Share the Spirit Festival in the Treasury Gardens.  If only I had the energy I would.  It is a celebration of our Indigenous community, which will be even more joyous for the announcement that the Australian of the Year is Adam Goodes, Aboriginal AFL player and anti-racism campainer!

Finally, I leave you with some links to iconic and fun Aussie recipes.  Above (from top left clockwise) are an artist's impression of Vegemite at the Orange Adventure Playground, tinned beetroot with patriotic packaging, a jaffa twist on lamingtons and my mum's pavolva with cream and peppermint crisp on top.  Wishing you some Aussie yumminess and a happy Australia Day.

Australian recipes from my kitchen:

Recipes using Aussie iconic food from the web:

Tim Tam Brownies
Makes 16

125g butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup cocoa (I used Dutch processed)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 packet tim tam biscuits (11 biscuits)

Line a 20cm square cake tin.  Preheat oven to 190 C.

Melt butter in a heatproof medium mixing bowl in the microwave (or on the stovetop in a medium saucepan).  Stir in cocoa and brown sugar, then eggs and vanilla to make a glossy thick batter.  Stir in plain flour and salt.  Spread a thicn amount of batter in the base of the cake tin.  My batter was so thick and sticky that it took a bit of effort to spread.  Arrange tim tams on batter.  (There will be some space between them.)  Pour the rest of the batter over the tim tams so they are covered.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the brownie smells baked and a skewer comes out mostly clean (a few crumbs or a slight moisture is ok - the brownie is very sludgy).  Cool in the tin.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife.

On the Stereo:
Ruby: The Killjoys