Friday, 30 March 2012

Restaurant express - Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

M and I tried to go to a few of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events this year. Last year I did the oyster tasting night at Cumulus and loved it. This year we took advantage of a few of the Restaurant Express lunches and I went to one event at St Katherine’s (more to come on that later).

The restaurant express lunches are fantastic value! A range of Melbourne’s best restaurants offer a 2 course lunch with a glass of wine for $35. Straight away M and I booked in for Dandelion and Pearl, and, with the added benefit of working in the city, M also made it to Taxi, Gingerboy and Bottega.


This was by far the best Restaurant Express lunch. I probably wouldn’t normally eat at Pearl as I find it a little try-hard, however the food at lunch was great and the service fantastic (I actually thought it was some of the best service I've had lately).

I’ll admit, this was the only lunch we actually remembered to photograph all the food – the others we got carried away and rather neglected that aspect. So this is also the fullest post!

What we ate:

For entrée we both ordered:
  • Sashimi grade swordfish salad with green mango and heart of palm, coriander and rice paddy herb, red nam jim

This was delicious, the fish was so fresh and the salad had beautiful flavours. The only thing I felt was that the mint and chilli in the salad were slightly overpowering and it was less easy to taste the delicate fish. Luckily M and like strong flavours so we had no problem gobbling it up.

For main M ordered:

  • Prawn and beancurd pad ped with thai and pea eggplants, fragrant herbs and steamed coconut rice
This was also really great, classic satay-style flavours with big prawns and a nice level of spice. The pea eggplants had a nice crunch and added a different element.

And I ordered:

  • One side only seared yellow fin tuna, sweet smoked fish salad with sunflower shoots, galangal and kaffir lime, young coconut and lemon oil

This was beautiful. The tuna was carefully wrapped over a salad of shoots and herbs. The flavour in this dish was lovely and fresh and lemony and the tuna was nicely seared on one side so it carried a bit of warmth. It doesn’t look that big but I was actually stuffed after eating it all.

Pearl on Urbanspoon


During our lunch here M and I got so absorbed in chatting we completely forgot to photograph the main! But here’s what we ate:

For entrée we both ordered an octopus salad. It was lovely, in a very similar vein to the flavours at Pearl however I found them more balanced and light. It had pieces of baby octopus throughout which I loved, but they were slippery suckers to eat with chopsticks! The balance of the fried shallot, bean sprouts, green beans, thai basil and mint was perfect.

For main we both ordered the seafood option of leatherjacket. This dish was a bit of a disappointment to me. The fish came whole with a little bowl of white rice on the side and a small asian salad. The thing that I found disappointing was the lack of sauce, the rice was quite dry without it and the fish not saucy enough to transfer to the rice. Plus the fish was quite yellowy and I kind-of felt like I was eating a pet goldfish…

Although I was a bit disappointed in the main, I think I’d still go back to Dandelion again – the normal menu looked great.

Dandelion on Urbanspoon

Kate eat-drink-dream

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

M’s Wine Review – Mildara Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

I’ve had this particular wine stored away in the bottom of the wine rack for a while now - I simply forgot about it, I bought it on a whim, when I was going through my initial wine buying frenzy a few years ago. I remember clearly stopping off at Dan Murphy’s after having read one of their seasonal red wine catalogues. I circled about five or six different wines I wanted to buy – but this wasn’t one of them. It was only when I was filling up my second box I noticed this cab sav! What got me was a good review and the fact that I needed to get three more bottles to complete the third half dozen. I normally wouldn’t pick a cab sav to drink – especially on a Friday night after a long week at work. I find them to be relatively big wines, strong in flavour, distinct and you really need something of similar nature on your plate to accompany such a wine.

I wanted to open this, to see what it is like, and it’s always nice to be surprised! What a wine, absolutely delightful, just a pleasant surprise. I’m not sure whether it’s the fact that is aged a little (5 years+) or whether it has come from a good wine maker or winery but it is an absolute stunner! It’s smooth, very smooth, and flavoursome; plenty of blackcurrant, mint, chocolate and a little bit of oak.

To be honest don’t worry about the detail – just have a glass, you’ll have trouble stopping at one. It is one of the best best cab savs I’ve ever had. Maybe I haven’t had any really nice ones, but this tops the list so far. This is a highly recommended choice – if you can still find this vintage.

Price range $22-$30

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Homemade lasagne – the BEST!

Last night we had my 6 year old nephew to stay and M completed his first ever big bike ride – the Great Ocean and Otway Classic Ride – a huge 145km! So I told M I’d make him whatever he wanted for dinner and he requested a home made lasagne (also very kid-friendly so a good choice)! I don’t make lasagne a lot as it’s quite time consuming but OH MY is it worth the effort!

I don’t follow a specific recipe for my lasagne and it turns out a bit different each time. Last night’s version had layers of the following in no particular order between lasagne sheets:
  • Tomato sauce cooked up with garlic, onion tinned tomatoes for chunkiness, tomato passata and a bit of bacon for flavour
  • Oven roasted pumpkin - in thin slices
  • Mushrooms – precooked to remove excess moisture
  • Spinach and ricotta mix – thawed frozen spinach, blitzed in the food processor with ricotta, nutmeg, cheese and a bit of milk until it’s spreadable in consistency
  • Final layer of tasty cheese on top – lots of it
Every time I make lasagne I swear to make it more – perhaps this time I actually will! The best thing is we’ve got enough left-overs to last 2 more nights!

Kate eat-drink-dream

Friday, 16 March 2012

Mmmm mussels

M and I love mussels! I make them every now and then as they're really simple to make, there's just a little bit of work scrubbing them clean.

The other day I made us mussels with a spicy tomato and chorizo broth and served it with yummy crusty baguette.


Kate eat-drink-dream

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

M's Wine Review - Teusner The Riebke shiraz 2010

Yum! Still a relatively young wine but packed full of luscious blackberry, plum, cherry and liquorice flavours! This shiraz is packed full of concentrated rich flavour and I don't think it would hurt to keep it for another 2-3 years to let it develop.  The nice ripe tannins come through without a hint of bitterness but could last and develop a little more.

The Riebke grapes are sourced from old Barossa vines around Ebenezer, Moppa and Kalimna. Kalimna is also one of the areas where Penfolds source some of their grapes for the Bin28 Kalimna Shiraz - another great wine.

I tried Teusner wines for the first time a couple of years ago. They're pretty good, different and a little bit more ‘adventurous’ making a few non-standard blends. I stocked up and there are a couple of different bottles resting in the wine rack - including a Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz blend so keep

Price range $18-$32


Sunday, 11 March 2012

My version of thai fish cakes

I’ve mentioned before that we’re still eating our way through the record snapper haul M and his mate caught fishing over summer. When we’d filleted the fish I cooked the bones up for stock and also saved the left-over meat from this which I froze along with everything else in cooked, flaked form.
So the other night I thought I’d try making some thai fish cakes. I’ve been meaning to try a recipe like this for a while. So as usual I googled a few different recipes and then put together my own. We had them with salad and fresh beans from the garden – yum!
See below for roughly what I did!

Kate’s thai fishcake recipe
  • 2 spring onions finely chopped (I use quite a lot of the green part too)
  • 1 hot birdseye chilli finely chopped (we like it hot but use as much or little as you like)
  • Good dash of fish sauce (approx 1-2 tblspns)
  • Good dash of lemon juice (approx 2 tblspns)
  • Shake of cumin and coriander powder
  • 1-2 eggs (I usually start with 1 and then if I need more to bind it I’ll add the other)
  • Portion of cooked white fish flaked and checked for bones (I used it pre-cooked as that’s just the way I had it, however I’d try this next time with raw fish too)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Flour
This was made with what I had available in the fridge/garden, however you could also add coriander, lime/lemon zest, chopped veggies etc…
  1. Put everything (except bread crumbs, flour and 1 egg) in a bowl and mix together with a spoon.
  2. Alternate adding flour and breadcrumbs (and extra egg if needed) until consistency is sticky and holds shape.
  3. Roll into balls and press into small patty shapes.
  4. Pop in fridge for 20-30mins to set.
  5. Fry in a bit of olive or canola oil until golden brown (if using raw fish until fish is cooked through)
  6. Serve with salad, sweet chilli sauce and/or spicy mayo!
Spicy mayo
I whipped this up to go with the fish cakes but we also had sweet chilli sauce with them too.
  • Good dollop of full egg mayo (we ONLY use best foods)
  • Chilli according to taste
  • Shake of cumin and coriander powder
  • Dash of lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Mix all ingredients together, taste and adjust flavours until you’re happy!
Kate eat-drink-dream

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Baked spuds at home

M and I love our hot baked potatoes. We're big fans of spud bar and love the way you can pick all your favourite fillings and have a different spud every time. I also sometimes make us 'spud bar' at home, it's a really easy meal to make, and in winter we'll serve it for friends who pop over as everyone loves to build their own spud.

We had our favourite combo the other night:
  • Spicy beans with zucchini
  • Corn kernels
  • Peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Light cheese (trying to keep it a bit healthy)
  • Olives
  • Greek yoghurt (we use this instead of sour cream to be a bit healthier)
  • Homemade basil pesto from the freezer
  • Tabasco sauce

Kate eat-drink-dream

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

M's Wine Review - Penfolds Bin 138 GSM 2009

GSM - almost sounds like a car brand or a food additive. It isn't. It stands for Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre. I don't think I've ever had this particular blend before, and the first time I tried this drop it won me over! At the time of tasting in early 2011 I liked it over the Penfolds Bin 28, Bin 128, Bin 407 and almost the Bin 389. This wine is different mainly because of the large proportion of grenache.

It is distinct in flavour, it's full of fruit, spice, some tannins and it lingers in your mouth with a sweet after taste! It's a very nice wine!

The grenache gives the wine a light warm fruity taste, the shiraz adds a bit more body and depth including that classic hint of pepper and blackberry. The mourvedre is unique in the sense that it adds acidity and a certain degree of elegance.

This wine is well defined, unique and distinct. Some of the reviews out there say that the Penfolds Bin 138 2009 vintage release is the best to date of this variety. I certainly recommend it for something different and exciting!

Price range $19-$29


Sunday, 4 March 2012

M's Sunday Night Chicken Avocado Baguette

Not sure if you've had this happen to you before? Suddenly you find yourself having to make dinner, you can't be bothered pulling out different pots and pans, you just want something that is easy, tasty and wholesome - that's me 95% of the time!

Well, one option is to make a quick sandwich, or better, a more interesting delicious baguette without the hassle of having to fuss around preparing, waiting for things to cook and spend the next half hour cleaning.

What you need is:

  • Baguette
  • Chicken
  • Avocado
  • Baby spinach
  • Mayo
  • Garlic
  • Herbs
What you do is:
  1. Cut one chicken breast into small bite sized pieces, marinate in oil, garlic, sage, basil (or any other herbs you have handy).
  2. Leave to marinate while you get a small pan out, slice the baguette open, spread some mayo on either side, put some spinach leaves in and dice the Avocado.
  3. Heat some oil in the pan, brown the marinated chicken for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add chicken and Avocado into the baguette and you've got a quick delicious Sunday night sandwich!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Food adventures – weekend in Tassie

I grew up in Tassie and M and I go back there 3-4 times a year to visit the family and relax. The good thing is that it's only a 1 hour flight from Melbourne and we can often get cheap fares.

Last wekend we played tour guide to a friend who had never seen the apple isle. We flew out on Friday night and back on Sunday and fitted in so much over the weekend!

On Saturday we did brekkie down at Salamanca and browsed the market. I've been to the market hundreds of times but never get sick of it; there are always so many little stalls to look at and I'm obsessive about the tempura Huon Valley mushrooms! For brekkie we headed to Machine cafe in the back corner of Salamanca square. I come here most trips to Hobart as the food is always great.

What we ate:
  • Eggs florentine with caramelised onion and a side of bacon
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Eggs florentine with a side of tomato
BEST brekkie! Never quite sure about the lettuce on the side though
Machine Laundry Cafe on Urbanspoon

After Salamanca we headed to MONA which is an AMAZING modern art gallery outside of town. It was a stinking hot day so after we'd browsed the art gallery we collapsed onto the huge beanbags they have outside and were given some delicious chocolate eclairs from the market stall that was closing up next door.

We headed out for dinner in the evening to Ethos Eat Drink. This place has been open for about a year in Elizabeth St in the city. I'd been hearing a lot about it (The Age and Inside Out) and wanting to try it for a while. The menu centres around simple and authentic ingredients, an ethic we saw reflected whilst there. They were awarded Tasmania's best small wine list and listed in the top 10 small wine lists in Australia in the 2011 Gourmet Traveller wine list of the year awards.

What we drank:
  • Pimms iced tea
  • Peach Bellini
  • 2011 Grosset Springvale Watervale Riesling, Clare Valley, SA
LOVED the Pimms cocktail in a little jar with handwritten instructions on top!

What we ate:
  • Hot and spicy almonds
  • Raw kingfish + crushed peas
  • Summer vegetables + goats curd
  • Squid, parsley and lemon
  • Octopus, mussels + toasted crumbs
  • Chorizo, caramel used apple + almonds
  • Chicken tortilla
These were beautifully salty with a real chilli bite.

Underneath the kingfish was a beautiful red onion jam.

This was the only dish I wasn't 100% keen on - the veggies were raw and there wasn't enough sauce or goats cheese.

The calamari was good, but probably not my favourite.

The octopus and mussels definately hit the right spot!

The chorizo was beautiful - soft and flavoursome.

The tortillas were our FAVE - M liked them so much he ordered another serve just for him while S and I devoured the cheese platter!

PLUS the best cheese platter I've had in a very long time featuring:
The bread was very thinly sliced - unusual but it worked.

Ethos Eat Drink on Urbanspoon

On Sunday we headed on a drive through the country stopping at Peppermint Bay on the way down for coffee and morning tea of delicious scones with jam and cream and a beautiful strawberry friand. 

Who can beat this view!

We started devouring the scones before we remembered to take a piccie! The friand was so buttery and chewy - amazing!

Peppermint Bay on Urbanspoon

We stopped in at Grandvewe to taste some of their amazing sheeps milk cheeses before heading to Fleurtys, a lovely little cafe in the bush, for lunch.

What we ate:
  • Mushroom Bruschetta – Huon Valley mushrooms with fetta and kecapmanis sauce on a toasted pide
  • Mediterranean pide – warm fetta, pumpkin, mushrooms, caramelised onions, and chilli lemon myrtle dressing
The food here is always so fresh!

Would never think to add kecap manis to mushies but it worked well!

Tassie is so scenic!

And completely stuffed after a huge weekend of sightseeing and eating we headed home exhausted on Sunday night.

Kate eat-drink-dream