Albert Street Food and Wine

Twice a year, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival arrives to showcase the best of the city’s (fabulous) food culture.  Events are held featuring well-known and up-and-coming chefs and sommeliers where you can learn tips and tricks about how to use the best seasonal produce in the kitchen, the origins of wine and much more. I made the most of the great specials available, and took my mum out for lunch at a restaurant I have wanted to try for a while: Albert Street Food and Wine.

Albert Street Food and Wine, on the bustling Sydney Road in Brunswick, is famous for its “Snickers” dessert, as seen on the 2010 season of Masterchef.  By happy coincidence, the day we went was the Sydney Road street party, so the area was packed by midday! We checked out the market before lunch and it had a great selection of clothes, home wares and food stalls.

For lunch, mum ordered from the $40 special lunch menu, which included two courses, a glass of wine and a coffee. For entrée, she had the 63 degree egg served with tongue and crisp fried pancetta; and for main, the lamb belly served with smoked yoghurt, wild rice and mint sauce.

(63 degree egg and tongue)

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(Lamb belly)

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I decided to order from the main menu because I couldn’t resist their choice of desserts, most of which weren’t offered on the special menu. I ordered the whole flounder served with crispy fried whitebait, fried potato crisps and grilled calamari. It was delicious, and the portion sizes were suitable considering the price of the dishes.  It came with a whole small flounder, which was well cooked, and served with herb butter melted on top. The whitebait and chips were addictive, and the calamari had a nice bite and flavour.

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The “Not cherry ripe” dessert was, to quote my mum, the best dessert she’s ever eaten. (I’m yet to decide my favourite!) It came as a deconstructed cherry ripe, consisting of a sorbet with a cherry chocolate surprise inside, served atop tempered chocolate, with a piece of brownie underneath, and macerated cherries and berries surrounding this deliciousness. The coldness of the sorbet matched well with the crispness of the tempered chocolate, the freshness of the cherries and the delectably guilty pleasure of the brownie underneath.

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Definitely a go-to place, where you get value for your money, both in quality and quantity. But, just don’t forget to bring your wallet!

Albert Street Food and Wine
Corner of Albert St. and 382 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Ph: 8354 6600
http://www.albertst.com.au

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Code Black Coffee

Everyone has been instagramm-ing about this place, so I knew had to tick it off my bucket list.  A long awaited catch up with a friend presented the perfect opportunity.  Code Black Coffee is a laidback café in Brunswick with a chic warehouse vibe.  There’s big sharing tables in an all grey room, as well as small tables seating 2-4 people out the front.  The aesthetic is similar to another great café, found in Burwood: Axil Coffee Roasters. The cafe also has a large wholesale range, selling brands of coffee and kitchen equipment, amongst others. My friend and I aren’t coffee drinkers, so we missed out on their specialty blends, but the food more than made up for it.

I ordered the Coffee Croque Madame.  The waitress was right, it was impressive looking.  Coffee-glazed bacon and chive mascarpone, sandwiched between two slices of thick sourdough toast, with a coffee infused fried egg on top and a side of dressed, diced potatoes.  It looked and tasted excellent, but it was hard to taste the coffee infusion. As a normal croque madame, though, it was spectactular!

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My friend got the zucchini, artichoke, almond and chia fritters, served with corn salsa, avocado, coriander and a poached egg.  It looked amazing, and tasted just as good! The tangy salsa perfectly complemented the hearty fritters and the egg was just right.

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The size of the dishes at Code Black do not disappoint, and neither does the taste! I would definitely come back to Code Black in the future.  There are so many amazing options on the menu it was hard to pick!  The back of the menu says it all: “Nothing is hypothetical”.  If you’re looking for a cool café in the Brunswick area for a chilled brunch with friends, I’d highly recommend this place.

Code Black Coffee
15-17 Weston Street, Brunswick
Ph: 9381 2330
http://codeblackcoffee.com.au

Red Hill delights – Johnny Ripe

On a recent weekend trip to Rosebud, I came across this great local bakery/orchard that had only been open for about 6-7 months. It was called Johnny Ripe, located in Red Hill. Driving in, it doesn’t seem like much, but as soon as you walk inside the bakery you are wowed by the selection of pastries – savoury and sweet – and produce that are home-made, home-grown and sold by the bakery. The highly recommended, and most popular foods are the meat pie (meat, chicken and vegetable, or vegetarian) and the super-long sausage rolls. I’m sure the tarts and other foods are amazing as well, but these are what we ate when we were there. The prices are also quite shocking, in a good way! One meat pie or sausage roll was $5-6, and the size of them was double to triple the size you would get anywhere in local Melbourne!ImageImage

Their sweet tarts were also to die for, with the pastries being homemade, and the fillings being sickly sweet, being a sufficiently sweet ending to your meal if you halve the tarts, or you can eat a whole one by yourself, either way! Below is a picture of the chocolate ganache tart, lemon tart and quince creme brûlée tart (my personal favourite!).

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Johnny Ripe
284 Main Creek Road, Red Hill, Victoria
Ph: 5989 6515
Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/JohnnyRipe

Homemade American-style Pecan Pie

I was given this recipe by an acquaintance at a physiotherapy clinic in America, where I was doing my placement in 2012. To be honest, I had never made a pecan pie before, and this was the first recipe I used. But it seems to be a success, at least amongst my extended family. Now, some families might be your ‘biggest fans’ and like everything you make, even if it’s not very good. But my family on the other hand (I love them dearly), would tell me if something I made wasn’t good, commonly judging my baking products in a Masterchef-style, rating the presentation, taste, quality and quantity of desserts I present to them. This can be fun, but can also be gut-wrenching, because I do care about what they, and others, think about my food. But my family, along with my own personal high standards, pushes me to do better each time.

This pecan pie recipe provided by ‘Cook’s Country: Recipes that work’ tastes guiltily sweet, but not too sweet, especially when paired with ice cream. There’s something about the combination of hot and cold within a dessert dish that makes me wobbly at the knees! I hope you enjoy the recipe below.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp molasses – regular or mild molasses taste best in this pie
  • 4 tbsp (approx. 70g) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ cups toasted and chopped pecans (i.e. 1.5 packets of 110g pecan nuts, or 165g in total)
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell, chilled in pie plate for 30mins (refer to my “sweet shortcrust pastry recipe)

Method:

To make filling

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450°F (220°C).
  2. Heat sugar, syrup, cream and molasses in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and mixture combines, about 3mins
  3. Remove from heat and let cool – 5mins
  4. Whisk butter and salt into syrup mixture until combined.
  5. Whisk in egg yolks until incorporated.
  6. Scatter pecans in pie shell. Carefully pour filling over. Place pie in hot oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (160°C) – starting the oven at a high temperature then dropping it down ensures the (unbaked) bottom crust was crisp and golden brown.
  7. Bake until filling is set and centre jiggles slightly, but sides don’t jiggle much, when shaken – 45-60mins (50mins approx.)
  8. Cool pie on rack for 1hr, then refrigerate until set – 3hrs or up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving. (Or can serve warm.)

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These pictures could have been better. The picture below makes the pie look very thin and looks like it doesn’t have much filling, but trust me, because there’s so much sweetness in the recipe, there’s enough filling for your tastebuds to enjoy it.

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The Cook’s Country website: http://www.cookscountry.com/search?q=pecan+pie

Jimmy Grants, Gazi, Hellenic Republic, what’s next!

If you haven’t heard, George Calombaris is fast becoming one of the richest and well-known celebrity chefs in Melbourne. Thanks to his role as co-judge on the popular Australian Masterchef series, as well as the group he is part of, Melbourne Made Establishment, which has created such popular restaurants as Hellenic Republic, The Press Club, Gazi, Jimmy Grants, and the recently closed down restaurants PM24 and Mama Baba. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to visit PM24 or Mama Baba, but gathering from their closing down, they weren’t too popular with the public. I have been to Hellenic Republic in Brunswick East, many years ago, as well as the Press Club as a surprise birthday dinner that my family planned for me.

More recently, my experience at Gazi and Jimmy Grants have left me wanting more, more, more. Gazi is a restaurant in the Melbourne CBD, which has taken over the space of the previous Press Club (which is re-opening soon next door). Gazi caters to more of a corporate crowd during the weekday lunch sessions, however the atmosphere makes it a suitable dining experience for everyone, no matter the occasion – both casual lunch and celebratory dinner. However, I would not consider this a fine dining restaurant, due to the casual-like decor and the food served. They serve ‘Greek street food’, just like Jimmy Grants, but Gazi presents it at more of a restaurant standard. As opposed to Jimmy Grants, which is designed for take-away or quick meals.

The highlight of both restaurants are the souvlakis (or souvas), which can range from beef, falafel, lamb, chicken, or a mix of both lamb and chicken. The latter one is my favourite, called The Bonegilla at Jimmy Grants. The thing that sets these souvlakis/souvas apart from other late-night souvlaki joints (which are very popular during early morning hours after a drunken night out) is that they serve chips inside the souvlaki/souva, making your meal even more carb-heavy but oh so tasty.

The menu at Jimmy Grants is a bit more limited than at Gazi, mainly serving Souvas, with some side such as their popular chips served with garlic oil, feta and oregano; a variety of dips and pita bread; dim sims (‘steamed jimmy dimmys’) and a variety of salads. Their grain salad, containing pulses, nuts, grains, herbs and greek yoghurt is very healthy, and so tasty! Though I do warn you, it is a big portion, so I would suggest sharing it with others, especially if you are planning on having your own souva! The souva sizes aren’t very big, so a souva and salad is plenty for a meal.

The Bonegilla (lamb + chicken) Souva at Jimmy Grants

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The Grain Salad at Jimmy Grants

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The food at Gazi is just as delectable, making these restaurants my current go-to places for a good souvlaki. If you would recommend any other souvlaki or Greek restaurants, please let me know! Judging by the variety of Greek and modern Greek food that these restaurants have to offer, I cannot wait to see what Melbourne Made Establishment will create for us in the future.

Grilled/pan-fried saganaki cheese, served with honey, lemon and sesame.

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A close-up of the chicken souva.

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Loukomathes, served with honey, nutella and crushed hazelnuts, for dessert!

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Grilled octopus in a tomato-ey broth

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The souvas – braised beef, chicken and lamb.

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Gazi
2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Ph: +61 (3) 9207 7444

Jimmy Grants
113 Saint David Street, Fitzroy

Hellenic Republic
434 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
Ph: +61 (3) 9381 1222
26 Cotham Road, Kew
Ph: +61 (3) 9207 7477

The Press Club
72 Flinders Street, Melbourne CBD
Ph: +61 (3) 9677 9677

400 Gradi

There are many, many Italian restaurants in Melbourne, though it isn’t difficult to distinguish between those that are ‘more commercial’ or ‘less Italian’, and those that are more authentic. Lygon Street in Carlton is well-known for their strip of Italian restaurants, with many tourists flocking to this area for the atmosphere, and the great gelato! However, not all of the restaurants are, what some would call, ‘authentic Italian’, due to their thick pizza bases, overcrowded pizza toppings and overcooked pastas. A couple of restaurants along this strip are an exception: D.O.C pizzeria and D.O.C. espresso.

Another great Italian restaurant found in the Brunswick area, at the top end of Lygon Street, is 400 Gradi. 400 Gradi is one of my three favourite pizza restaurants in Melbourne….. so far. The restaurant’s creator and chef, Johnny Di Francesco, is an Australian who was trained in Naples, and he has even competed in the World Pizza Olympics in Naples! Imagine being a tasting judge for that competition…. mmmmm nom nom 🙂

This place is one of my favourites because of their thin pizza bases, slightly thicker crusts (which are delicious if you are a bread/crust lover like me), range of simple and more complex/interesting pizza toppings, al dente pasta and yummy tiramisu. There are still lots of other foods on the menu that I have yet to try (including the decadent-looking dessert menu, including such things as a chocolate pudding with ice cream, and crepes with nutella), but the things I have tasted thus far have earned ticks in my food book. I have now been there twice, and have not been disappointed!

Below is a picture of their mushroom, rocket and goats cheese pizza; and their seafood pizza. (I apologise for the bad photo and lighting, I was too excited to eat straight away!)

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The tiramisu, which was big enough to share amongst 5-6 people, despite the waitress suggesting it was too small a portion to share amongst us.

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400 Gradi
99 Lygon Street, Brunswick
Victoria, 3055
Ph: (03) 9830 2320

Christmas baking

Christmas is always such a happy time of year, and gets you excited for spending time with family and friends, even if you spend all year long with them! Since I have become more passionate about baking in this past year, I decided to bake a lot of edible Christmas goodies for our family and close family friends, to give as gifts. My mum was particularly happy with this because it saved her looking for other gifts to buy! Below are recipes and pictures of things I have made in the past week. All of them can be made prior to Christmas day or week, so you’re not rushing around in the kitchen the day before.

Chocolate rumballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 395g can condensed milk
  • 250g packed Milk Arrowroot biscuits
  • Extra cocoa powder, or icing sugar

Method:

  1. Crush biscuits in a food processor, and pour into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add cocoa powder, and mix to combine.
  3. Mix in condensed milk, and mix well.
  4. Roll rum balls in cocoa powder or icing sugar.
  5. Refrigerate for 10mins or until firm. Store in an airtight container in fridge.

Note: rolling rum balls in coconut would look prettier and less ‘floury/cocoa-powdery’, but the coconut flakes don’t stick to the rum balls unfortunately.

Gingerbread biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 275g plain flour
  • 9g gingerbread spice (see below)
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 125g honey
  • 18g unsalted butter, softened
  • 5g bicarb soda
  • 43g hot water

Gingerbread spice

  • 30g ground cinnamon
  • 50g ground ginger
  • 10g ground nutmeg
  • 7g ground cloves
  • Pinch of mixed spice

Combine all gingerbread spice ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

Method:

  1. Sift flour, gingerbread spice and sugar together, then add the honey and softened butter. Mix together.
  2. Dissolve the bicarb soda into the hot water, and add to the mixture. Continue to mix until all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1hr, until firm.
  3. Roll the dough to 5mm thick, cut into gingerbread men shapes using cookie cutters if desired, and bake at 170°C for approx. 10mins, or until dry.

If want to use as a flavour for macarons or biscuits, process cooked gingerbread in a food processor to fine crumbs.

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Shortbread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1tbsp rice flour (optional)
  • 250g butter, cubed
  • 1tbsp caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Sift flour, icing sugar (and rice flour if using) together into a bowl. Rub in butter using fingertips, until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Press mixture to form a dough.
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently. Halve mixture. Roll or press out each piece until about 1cm thick. Can shape using cookie cutters.
  4. Prick with a fork. Sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake for 30-35mins, or until golden – will only be slightly golden around edges, and still pale in middle.
  6. Stand for 5mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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