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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blog bankruptcy, Melbourne and I'm not hungry

I'm in an internet cafe on Sydney Rd and this is a really uncomfortable chair. It's 36 degrees Celsius and I have a blister on my foot from my shoes already.

Numerous holiday fails, most prominently my blue shoes and purple socks. Holiday fails backed up by holidays wins, most prominently my new Mimco wallet that I can not afford but will love for ever. Now watching handbag like a hawk lest someone else decides they really like my new wallet too.

I'm not hungry, and this means a wasted holiday. A number of contributing factors: 20% pissed off, 40% it's too fricking hot to eat anything, 20% emotional turmoil about what city I should be living in and 20% spoilt for choice.

I'd now like to declare blog bankruptcy, just for this week. This is what I won't be writing a post about in the future:

Christmas Day:
Anyone in Melbourne who complains about the coffee should pay a visit to the Hobart Airport to see what real desperation is.

Boxing Day: A terrible latte somewhere in St Kilda and a half eaten piece of dry toast. Also an accidental trip to Cranbourne (thank you for the inconvenience Metro). An awful teenage boy says the F word more times in ten minutes than I have in the last month. Best friends drag my sorry self to some pub in Carlton that I don't remember the name of - not because I am wasted, because I am inattentive.

Sunday: Parthenon Cafe on Rathdowne St. Cold poached eggs and oily mushrooms that I push around the plate. Pizza and calamari salad at the Little Creatures Beer Hall on Brunswick St, love the vibe, thumping busy even though it is 3pm, love the VIP treatment (because I do still know some important people in this town.) Much gratitude to Jess Ho for pouring cider down my throat and letting me cry while I was pretending to watch Arrested Development.

Monday: North Cafe on Rathdowne, staffed by hipsters but I don't hold that against them. Latte, best I have had all week. I'm starting to get a bit tanned from boozing in the sun, holiday win. Head out to Dad's house for some Dad time and cold Christmas leftovers. My sister is engaged and has a rock on her finger the size of a bumble bee. I have ring envy. Afternoon, sun still shining, meet the Strawberry Siren at the Black Cat where the staff still remember my name (and probably a few things I wish they didn't remember). With the Siren in tow I make my first pilgrimage to the roof top bar above Cookie. I like. Bulmer's cider on tap and the place reeks of summer. Like being in a real life Corona ad, but in a good way because no one here would dare drink a Corona in public.

Tuesday: Kaleidoscope Cafe, 161 Sydney Rd. More cold poached eggs I don't eat, and I resolve to just stop ordering them because I obviously don't want to eat anything. The coffee's alright, but the company is much better. Lunch with Jeroxie in Clarendon St South Melbourne. As it's the holidays, almost everything is closed. We settle for BaB & 92 (what? yeah that's what I said) Korean and Japanese I settle for a Bento Box. Average, but it did the trick and it wasn't overpriced pasta from the cafe next door. Bronwyn makes me pumpkin gnocchi for dinner and it's delicious. The first full meal I've eaten in well over two weeks, and I am grateful for it. I suspect I am on the emotional mend. I also don't get drunk today, another positive sign.

Wednesday: This is today isn't it? This morning was a wander down Rathdowne, hoping for another spot at North, but I extend myself to the Rathdowne Food Store where a pretty waitress brightens my day, and I get to play with a tiny Chihuahua puppy at the next table. I'm a bit confused by the table salt in a ramekin, blatant false advertising about the quality of the establishment. Beans on toast, undercooked and under seasoned beans don't impress me much but I eat them anyway. I buy a bottle of water from a seven11 and the guy behind the counter is being abused by junkies. How very Melbourne. I"m thinking that I would like to make up the names of ice creams for a living.

So what's next? Good question. I'll let you know when I find out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Housemates. Sharehouses. And the everlasting.

None of these items belong to me. Gag.

15.01.10 This post has been edited to reflect my (late) New Year's resolution. This year I refuse to spend time with, or pretend to be nice to, people I blatantly cannot stand. So, I've taken a few words from this post, mainly the sugar coating I gave to original story so as not to upset my departing housemate. So perhaps her friends might consider ceasing with the profanity filled comments that I will not publish. This is what I really think.

My housemate moved out today. Well, one of them, there are three of us. Some of you may be familiar with the girls that live at my house (and will remain unnamed) from my tweets. Or previous blog posts.

I'll miss her. She's a good mate. She is also only moving to the house next door, so I don't think I'll miss her too much. But I won't miss some things... and before I have even typed these words I am sure that I am going to get into a lot of trouble... but oh well, never let friends get in the way of a good yarn.

Lets cut a long story short here. They can't cook. Not such a big deal, I hear you say. Well, we don't have to share food. But we share the fridge. Please note photograph above. All of these items (you may recognise one of them as old pizza) were in the fridge weeks. They were in the fridge for so long, that after this picture was taken they grew mold.

Oh yes. I put them back in the fridge after taking this photograph - even though I wanted my Tupperware back. Because I flatly refuse to be responsible for dealing with other peoples leftovers.

It's a conundrum, as I also don't tolerate mold in my fridge (understandable I'd think). We walk a fine line in this house.

That's the thing about shared houses. Pans aren't cleaned properly. Food is left to rot in the bottom of the fridge, carrots and tomatoes growing mold and roll about like long lost lovers, getting closer and closer until they become one. Enormous containers with one mouthful of food inside are left in the fridge for weeks. Maybe months.

It amazes me (as I think everyone is as obsessed with food as I) the little people my age (20s, nearly 30s, but we won't talk about that) know about cooking.

I once lived with this guy in South Melbourne who ate fish finger sandwiches with tomato sauce twice a week. On the other nights he ate pizza or cocktail frankfurts mixed in with two minute noodles. He was disgustingly fat and frequently brought home the skankiest girls you could imagine (the words heroin addict spring to mind) because this was all he could get. In reflection, if someone told me that he had hidden cameras in the bathroom I wouldn't be surprised. But I would be horrified and calling the police.

And for a while I lived with a guy in Brunswick who was a diabetic. I'd think that someone with diabetes would make an effort to look after their health, but I never saw him eat anything that wasn't 80 per cent white flour and or fried. And his bedroom stank, I could smell it from the back yard. No surprises, I moved out pretty fast.

But bad sharehouse food manners are in no way limited to boys. Or men, as the two previous cases claimed to be. Certain female housemates will happily let one ingredient rot, while buying a new one and sitting it alongside in fridge, and also may be under the delusion that leek cooked in white sauce on toast is a nutritious meal.

Certain housemates also need to know that when cooking a stir-fry that cashew nuts do not go in first, potatoes cooked at rapid boil for 30 minutes are not a good idea and that bacon takes longer to cook than an egg.

Other gripes: milk does not keep well when left on bench, tea bags do not belong in sink, rubbish bins should be emptied when full, recycling does not magically disappear and someone does in fact put it out on the street on the required day (Wednesday, if you are reading this housemates).

It's no secret, but I really should be living alone.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What waiters do after hours - part one


Sure. The lounge at the Blue Train Cafe looks all innocent during the day...


I thought it would be appropriate to write this post today, as I feel that hazy memories are best accessed through a similarly hazy hangover.

After 10 years of waiting tables and pouring beers, earlier this year I managed to escape the iron clutches of the hospitality industry for my dream job. I thought I would never miss the late nights, the aching feet and endless dry cleaning of red wine stained white shirts of my waitressing days, but lately I think I do miss it, just a bit.

For just over four years, on and off, I worked in Melbourne at the Blue Train Cafe (BT). Taking a break from the severity and responsibility of fine dining while I was studying photography at uni, I decided I needed a little cafe culture. Little did I know, that the few weeks I planned on working at BT would draw out to years. Even today, I still can't rule out ever going back there just for a cameo.

Working at BT shaped almost every aspect of my personality because I met and became good friends with what probably amounts 100s of people over my time there, some of whom I still consider to be my good friends even today. If you can't afford to go travelling, go and work at BT, potentially one of the biggest cultural melting pots in Melbourne. From Sima, a 45 year old Iranian mother of two, to Little Dave, a 22 year old pint-sized British backpacker, BT is roughly the United Nations of hospitality.

Now I believe that drugs and alcohol are the best bonding aids known to man. And the best time to do drugs and drink alcohol? Knock-offs. And knock-offs at BT were (and surely still must be) the stuff of legend.

At BT, everyone wanted to work on a Monday night. Monday night was the night to clean the beer lines. After last orders had been called, the barman would start filling up pint glass after pint glass with beer. Then he would put all those pint glasses into a big blue tub, and put that blue tub smack bang in front of the staff. I have absolutely no idea what cleaning out the beer lines actually involves. What I do know, is the beer-line night meant one serious knock-off session.

Over these seriously debilitating drinking sessions I formed friendships with many people I would ordinarilly not have been fortunate to meet, as well as improving my tolerance to alcohol. We played card games, smoked way too many cigarettes and generally behaved appaulingly.

Knock-off drinks are the number one reason I would go back to waitressing. Not because I am a booze-hound (that's irrellevant), but because I miss the company. After 8-10 hours (sometimes more) waiting tables, slaving over a hot stove or pulling pints, there is nothing better than a drink and a chat with the other staff, because they understand exactly how you feel.

It's a kind of mate-ship that I really took for granted while I worked in hospitality. At the end of every day there were always willing participants. No ringing anyone up, no organisation, no pre-planning, just easy, relaxed spontaneous socialising.

Sure, there were the really big nights, the weddings, birthdays, the Christmas parties, but the nights I remember the best (or perhaps, don't remember that much at all) of my 20s just involved sitting around in the lounge at BT talking shit with the staff. Now when I go back there (and I do try not to I know what goes on behind the scenes), I hardly know anyone. Those days are long gone. But I won't forget.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Red velvet...if you please

A wee while I ago I had the immense pleasure of visiting fellow Tasmanian food blogger Steve Cumper at the Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet, with Melbourne food blogger Ed Charles, of tomato along for the ride.

I even felt a little B grade celebrity after bumping into Rita and having my evening snapped and blogged about.

Mostly, we drank, talked, laughed and ate. I took not one single note, so I cannot tell you exactly what we ordered. Although I am hoping that Steve will be kind enough to share with you all in the comments what these dishes were, as he did cook them for us.

I do remember that we drank this beautiful D'Meure Pinot, and as Ed was the designated driver, I drank more of it. This is why I don't drive. Less driving, more drinking. The mark-up on this bottle was incredibly small.

What follows below is a collection of photographs taken of our meals. I could not fault a single one of them. But I am biased. So this is not a review, I am just sharing my experience.


This one was a surprise. There were brains involved I recall. Offal makes Ed happy.


This was my main. Slow cooked duck, so tender it fell off the bone. It pains me even now that I could only eat half of it because I eat like a girl. I would give anything for another shot at the other half...




This was Ed's dinner. Veal maybe? He only turned around for two seconds and I had nicked it for a photo. That's what happens when you eat out with other bloggers. Every man for himself.



We only asked for "some cheese." We did manage to put a fairly good dent in it, but oh my, what a lot of cheese. All Tasmanian produced, one of which was from a new producer whose name I don't recall, but I would like to find out more about her.

So there it was, my first meal at the Red Velvet Lounge. I'm very much looking forward to the next one.

The Red Velvet Lounge is fully licenced and open from 9am to 5pm 7 days a week. Breakfast until 12pm daily. Open for dinner on Friday & Saturday evenings from 6pm, bookings are advised.

24 Mary Street, Cygnet
03 6295 0466

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tasmanian food-types on Twitter

This post was edited on November 28 2009

I'm a little twitter obsessed. Part of what makes the experience of Twitter fun for me if the food. No, you can't eat it. But gee it makes me hungry.

Even as I write this a group of Melbourne food-types-tweeps-bloggers are eating out at a restaurant I would dearly love to go to, posting pictures and comments about their experiences. But most of the Tweeps I follow about on the interwebs are on the mainland. So I thought I would list a few (no particular order) of my favorite Twitters in Tasmania, to try and encourage a little more take up.

HazelandNigella
New to the blogging scene, Hazel is the author of southern Tasmanian thehutchronicles.

Foodtrail
Victor is one of the finest chefs to have ever cooked for me in real life (not in a restaurant, oh, if only he still had a restaurant). Blogger.

Hugoandelsa
With a blog named after her adorable children, Michelle writes food, craft and country. Creator of marvelous cupcakes and keeper of happy chickens.

utsicafe
Colette, who I have not had the pleasure to meet in person, runs Perth (as in Perth Tasmania) eatery Ut Si Cafe, which also has its own blog.

StephenEstcourt
QC and self confessed food tragic who drives a very large and shiny car. Excellent blogger.

food_tourist
A lovely couple from review-based website foodtourist.com, who unwittingly gave me a wine tasting at Wursthaus the other day without my realising who they were. Sorry, I'll come back!

stevecumper
Chef. Dad. Writer. Creater of many blogs, currently working with The View From My Porch, and newly added contributor for The Punch.

lukeburgess
Chef, photographer, all rounder and elusive local. everyone has met Luke but me. But apparently, he's back in town from a stint cheffing overseas, so its only a matter of time.

agrariankitchen
Rodney Dunn of sustainable farm-based cooking school in Tasmania, former food editor of Australian Gourmet Traveller Mag. It's good to see a business based Twitterer using the service to communicate with others as opposed to just blatantly spruiking their wares.

DasZimmerHobart
One half of high-flying supper club Das Zimmer, Sean Beukes. Like the Agrairan Kitchen, Sean also generates good conversation, sharing his hospitality wisdom and bitching about shit martinis.

And then of course, there is me. But you will have to ask me nicely first. I will probably say yes, especially if you are not my boss.

So who else is out there?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Baby elephants walk for socailly responsible tea

Like a cereal box toy for grown ups, Dilmah is giving away tiny terracotta elephants in specially marked boxes of tea to raise funds for a Sri Lankan elephant conservation.

Dilmah, in partnership with the MJF Charitable Foundation, have launched new promotional packets of green tea, english breakfast and earl grey tea, proceeds of which will go directly to villagers of Mankada, in south Sri Lanka, to help residents create a sustainable livelihood and continue their ongoing efforts in elephant conservation.

Mankada is situated on the border of the Udawalawe National Park, home to hoards of endangered Indian elephants and the thrid most visited national park in Sri Lanka. Dilmah and MJF have provided pottery facilities, equipment for a new arts and crafts facility and training to the residents, who use their traditional artistic practices to produce artwork that can be sold for the benefit of the whole region.

Three elephant figurines, hand crafted by the villagers of Mankada, are included in every marked pack of Dilmah tea. Three seems an odd number. I'm sure just one would have encouraged me to change brands of tea. But hey, why not?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Toby's Estate - Brunswick

I quite fancy coffee. And I quite fancy the idea of helping our third world countries while I am drinking it. It's a kind of trade off for my bourgeois lifestyle. Although I'd at least like to do it on a clean table, this isn't actually Africa.

Located in residential Brunswick, Toby's Estate is coffee house, tea emporium, training ground for wannabe baristas and coffee retail outlet, and is the first of (probably) many Melbourne venues, if their Sydney success is anything to go by.

This fair trade coffee conglomerate is kind of turning into a sustainable, "eco," Starbucks. To be fair, it's not quite that dire, but there are Toby's Estate cafes popping up all over Sydney. Although, I've never been to another one, so I don't know if they all look like corrugated iron sheep sheds, or if it was just this one.

First step, order coffee. It didn't go too badly, our waitress was fun and enthusiastic in a good way (considering she was run off her feet) and the wait wasn't too serious for 11am on a Sunday - notorious for being a coffee dead zone anywhere in the world. But I'd prefer to wait an extra five minutes for a decent cup. I had two, they were average. Not bad, but no where near the level of quality achieved by other Melbourne cafes.

Breakfast was reasonable. Good sized menu, lots of vegetarian options (this is Brunswick after all). I carried on with my almost disturbing habit of ordering beans every time I eat out, these ones came potted with eggs and nice buttery toast soldiers. I approve. $9.

I was repeatedly distracted from my meal, from a nice conversation with my friend, and from taking notes for this post, but a rather small child who screamed repeatedly throughout our stay which was not unlike a dentists drill. This is what happens when a cafe puts out a basket of toys for children. Lots of people bring their kids. If you don't like screaming children, don't come here on a weekend morning. Pick a more grown up cafe to nurse your hangover in.

The floor plan leans towards big groups, or providing a number of communal tables. Funny, whenever I sit at a communal table, there is always one really loud and obnoxious knob who ruins it for everybody. Or maybe that's just me. I wasn't to keen on the flimsy plastic kindergarten chair I was given to sit on either. There was also no leg room under the table. I don't appreciate having to eat a meal side saddle.

But, all in all, I didn't mind my visit. Might have had something to do with the company, but after the shit seating arrangements, and the screaming children, and the not so awesome coffee, I'd still give it another go. Why not. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Toby's Estate
Phone: (03) 9009 5462
29 Weston St
Brunswick VIC 3056

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Staff Wanted


George Falconer, humble proprietor of Criterion St Cafe in Hobart, is on the look out for an experienced barista to replace the current coffee cowboy Tristan, who is moving off to the greener pastures of Melbourne to cut his teeth at Cumulous Inc (much to the envy of everyone I've ever met).

Tristan departs us somewhere around the end of October, so George is pretty keen to find a suitably talented replacement as soon as possible.

The café is open Monday-Friday 7:30-4 and the position is full time (with casual rates and other perks like the odd chicken sandwich or a cup of soup). Any interested parties can drop George a line at the café on (03) 6234 5858 or via email at info@criterionstcafe.com.

I would personally encourage only applicants with a suitable skill level to apply, as competition for the best coffee in Criterion St is fierce these days. You will have big shoes to fill, but if you enjoy a laugh and a tolerant disposition you could fit in well. Oh, and I would like a regular latte, remember that order.

Criterion St Café
10 Criterion St Hobart

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's not about food, it's about booze, damn it.


When I first moved to Hobart I didn't have any friends. Well, okay, I had one or two, but I couldn't make them drink with me EVERY night. I was pretty lonely, and pretty homesick (for a city I'd be desperate to get out of) and pretty open to distraction. Read: beers.

The beer garden at the Republic Hotel in North Hobart provided that outlet. Home away from home (conveniently within crawling distance), and before the Alley Cat came along, my only option anyways. And you could smoke in that beer garden (back when I would smoke "full-time," and not just intermittently like now - depending on the weather, the booze at hand and if I can afford it).

It's best on a lazy afternoon, in particular if its raining. I think I've sunk more coin into this establishment than a third-world debt, but I wouldn't say I've nothing to show for it. I've made friends here, and lost friends here, broken up petty fights and knocked other peoples drinks over, been hit on (successfully and unsuccessfully) and watched any number of my mates make ridiculous on at least a weekly basis.

A correctly timed visit and you might find the evening's entertainment doing a sound check, although Diesel seems to be around these days a little too much for my liking.

The food's none too shabby either. I'm particularly partial to the milk fried venison, marinated in garlic and cayenne pepper, served on a lemon and thyme risotto cake (not unlike venison KFC) and there is a porterhouse drowned in Jack Daniels sauce to soothe the inner bogan. This is the menu that price rises forgot, what other pubs still list side dishes at $4 and hand cut their own chips?

After 10 (I'm rarely ever about after 10) the band kicks on and the restaurant tables make way for what will become an utterly filthy dance floor. I'm not a fan of pubs after dark (thankfully daylight savings has increased my allotted drinking time), I prefer loungy bars with less shouting and marginally cleaner floors.

So if you are looking for me on a weekend afternoon I'm probably out the back at the Republic with a good book and a schooner, enjoying the peace and quiet.

The Republic Bar

299 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart.

(03) 6234 6954.

info@republicbar.com

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Welcome back asparagus



In Hobart, in winter, it rains like a monsoon. It rains sideways, and sometimes even up from the ground. An umbrella is useless protection from the downpour. Gumboots are no Kate-Moss-at-Glastonbury styled fashion statement, they are a necessity that enables one to walk 500 meters from the front door to the bus stop. We complain about the cold, and spend extra time at the pubs with open fires to save on the heating bill while snow falls on the mountain like icing sugar onto a cup cake.

We rug up and wait for winter to end, but when it seems like it never will a glittering weekend of sunshine will drag us from hibernation and back into our neglected gardens. Fresh asparagus at the market on a Saturday will mean summer is finally on the way. It means smoked salmon, poached eggs and asparagus for breakfast, always eaten outdoors.

For the next 4-5 months most meals will be garnished with lemon, and I will buy a a bottle of Bombay and a slab of tonic to celebrate. And then I will buy another one.

Laundry will dry before it has even left the basket and people I haven't seen for years will come back to Hobart for a season. It only takes 16 degrees and we will all wear shorts, lily white legs poking out to catch the sunshine. It will be taken for granted that every day will be sunny, and no one will pay attention to the weather report unless someone mentions it will be hot enough to go swimming, although the water will always be freezing.

At the beginning of the season we will pick a local and stay loyal. Magner's Cider will be the order of the day. Pint glass, wedge of orange. Only the uninitiated have lemon.

Seafood really is fresh off the boat, and no one will buy it from the supermarket. Saturdays will mean a trip to the market followed by a trip to the wharf, and I will suddenly spend more time with my friends who own barbeques.

I have no idea what I am going to do with my asparagus yet, I just like having it. It's just the right kind of green. Asparagus green. It is a thing of beauty.

Hello spring. Welcome back asparagus.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Table for 2.5?

On Saturday night two of my grown-up (read: responsible) friends took their 10-year-old son out to dinner with them at Piccolo in North Hobart.

Reportedly, as they walked in the door, the whole room looked up with concern, as would I have done if a younger person threatened to ruin my dining experience in an upmarket (read: expensive) establishment just by their very presence.

We are talking about one very civilized 10-year-old, not a screaming toddler. So civilized he ordered from the menu - no requests for chicken nuggets and chips here - he sat up straight, he ordered politely and he never made a fuss. Why not? Because he's 10, not three, and his parents have raised him to be a polite and well mannered young man.

So why shouldn't my friends be able to take their son with them to a nice restaurant for a nice meal, if he will enjoy the evening as much as they would? Their son after all, did not behave like a child. The were home at a reasonable hour, not sitting at the bar sinking gin and tonics (as I would have been) while their bored child played Gameboy. Society dictates that restaurants are the domain of grown-ups (as they are, most kids find them terribly dull) on a Friday and Saturday evening, but perhaps their is room in our restaurant circle for a few well mannered young guests, no?

Behavior is the key. I for one would be perfectly happy to sit at a table next to a young adult who was behaving like an adult. And I for one would expect nothing less from my (currently imaginary) children.

My friend tells me that during their very enjoyable evening a number of customers commented on their son's very good behavior, as did the staff as they were leaving. She also tells me this happens fairly frequently.

This I like. God knows I know bugger all about parenting, but I think my friends are definitely doing something right. And the world needs more little boys like this one, because good kids grow up to be good customers, hallelujah.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

An empty kitchen

I've an empty kitchen.

This week Lucy and Pip moved into a home of their very own, and as Lucy owned just about every possession in our entire house, I have been scurrying about from garage sale to garage sale trying to replace every kitchen implement you could possibly think of, all on a very meager budget.

I should really get some living room furniture, but I am more concerned about not having a proper chopping board than about not having a couch. Or a TV. Anyway.

Luckily for me, Ing's mother has scoured every second hand shop in Tasmania, so we now have a little table and two chairs, forks and spoons (no knives, rather oddly) lots of mismatched plates (the best kind), a few decent pots and pans, a kettle, a toaster that only toasts one side of the bread at a time and a very random selection of utensils.

Oh, and the fire extinguisher, but I've had that for years. Haven't needed to use it yet... but it's only a matter of time. And my baby mortar and pestle. That's it folks. That's all I've got.

In trying to sort out my priorities I have put together this list of kitchen must-haves, in no particular order. Feel free to add suggestions on the comments page.
  1. a microwave
  2. block of good quality knives
  3. chopsticks
  4. bamboo steamer
  5. stock pot
  6. Microplane
  7. colander
  8. chopping board, various sizes
  9. can opener
  10. non-stick wok, preferably very expensive one on sale that I can afford
  11. barmix
  12. food processor
  13. little chefinox non-stick pan (for scrambled eggs)
  14. bendy spatula (also for scrambled eggs)
  15. metal mixing bowls, various sizes
Additions to list from comments:

Steven Estcourt:

Pyrex measuring jug
rolling pin

You're totally right Steven, I cannot live without a Pyrex measuring jug! I don't know about the whisk. I seem to be able to make things lump free without one, I have no idea how!

Rita:

chefs knife
cleaver
paring knife

Can I afford a Global knife? That is the question. Possibly worth sacrifice of living off 2 minute noodles for a month or two for a life time of quality kitchen supplies.

Steve Cumper:

oven proof pot
kick arse veggie peeler
steamer dish

I did manage to find a couple of great heavy bottomed frying pans, non-stick, moderate brand
and perfect condition at garage sale for $2 each last weekend. Score.

And thanks to Hazel, I now really want a rice cooker!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making something from nothing - Penang curry


I would like to think that I was some kind of Martha Stewart type who comes home from work every day to a pre-planned menu and a fridge full of fresh ingredients with the time and energy to make everything from scratch. But that's just not me.

A quick scout of fridge unearthed: one porterhouse steak, half a zucchini, half an eggplant, one tomato and about 100 grams of baby spinach. In the back of the fridge was a jar of Penang curry paste, and in the cupboard, one tiny can of coconut milk.

Oh yes, what's that you say? How could I ever dream of using curry paste from a JAR? Yeah well, get over it. I am tired, I am busy. And curry paste from a jar is no where near as bad as take-away. And besides, worse food stuffs come in jars. Pesto from a jar? Eww.

And have you ever tried to make your own curry paste? It's rewarding, but it takes absolutely forever. I just don't have the upper body strength today. I promised myself ages ago that I would make big batches of curry paste and freeze it, I just haven't quite got that far yet. Next weekend for sure.


I really like Penang curry. It is like red curry, just with peanuts in it (sorry, that really is over simplifying). Penang curry likes shallots, limes, fresh and dried chillies, garlic and coriander. Luckily I have these ingredients in the house at almost all times, just in case of Asian food emergency. Add extra fish sauce, and presto, quick semi-authentic (kind of) Thai dinner. Pre-packaged curry pastes only need a little extra love.

And lay-off alright. It's tasty, it has vegetables, and it's not Lean Cuisine (shudder). Although I did stuff around taking the photograph for so long it was kind of cold by the time I ate it. Oh well. And I forgot to put the spinach in. I must be tired.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hobart Noodle & Tea

Thank you, Hobart Noodle and Tea, for being less than 100 meters from my house.

Lucy summed it up pretty well. "How could you say no?" she said, "It's just at the end of the street, and it's only eight dollars!"

I think my household are the most frequent Hobart Noodle and Tea customers.

Eat in or take-away, get yourself a bowl of steaming hot noodles, made on site daily. All vegetarian, all around the $8.50 mark.

Choose your noodle, green tea, hokkien, udon, among others, with great sauces or soups accompany.

This is a very family business, with the owner's gorgeous little children popping their heads around to see what is going on at regular intervals, and a clear view from the counter to the living room.

My recommendations are: green curry noodle soup, seven chilli noodle and satay noodle. Actually, I recommend anything on the menu. I have been slowly working my way down the list, and I haven't been disappointed yet. All for piggy bank change. Bargain.

Hobart Noodle and Tea
Corner of Smith and Letitia Streets, North Hobart
Open Monday to Friday, 12:30 - 2:30 and 5:30-8:30

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pigeon Hole Cafe


Barely more than 12 months old, tiny Pigeon Hole in West Hobart has carved a tidy niche for itself. It's café, gourmet edged, with a little retro style thrown in for good measure. With only 16 seats it’s a tiny venue – but it's big on promises and it well delivers. On the corner of Goulburn and Molle Streets, it's just far enough away from home, and close enough to everything, to encourage a move to West Hobart purely to have Pigeon Hole as your local.

After a favourable mention in Gourmet Traveller magazine and a smattering of awards – most recently an "I love FOOD" award for 2009 – Pigeon Hole is no longer a well-kept secret. Word spreads fast in this town, and the hole in the wall space fills fast with locals and travellers alike clambering for great coffee, a spot of lunch or a chat with the very professional and very unpretentious owner/occupiers who put on a constantly stellar performance.

Chef Jay Patey (of restaurant 373 fame) runs an impressive one man show in his tiny kitchen, turning out a daily selection of tasty treats influenced by seasonal and locally available products. Perhaps you may have a white bean, garlic and lemon soup with house-made bread, or you might choose from a selection of the famous paninni, with inspired filings like salami, cornichons and provolone, or fennel, chilli and mozzarella.

Breakfast options are limited, but the house-made baked beans on toast with a generous helping of Parmesan are belly warming. Simple options like Miellerie honey on toast prove a popular choice, and the butter is churned and pressed on premises. There is no fuss here – these guys make the restaurant game look easy. Oh, and the coffee is good too.

It's obvious that the focus here is on quality, not quantity, and the pricing is generously fair. And the presence of the owners of a rival Hobart café enjoying themselves over their Saturday breakfast on a corner table has got to be a good sign. In fact, the only fault I can find is that they aren't open on Sundays, but Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest after all.

Pigeon Hole 93 Goulburn Street West Hobart (03) 62369306 Open Tue-Sat, 8:30am until 4:30pm

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Introducing: BioCup

Over coffee at the Smith Street Store in North Hobart this morning I noticed their use of BioCups, a compostable and biodegradable take-away cup. Upon consulting the handy flyer available on the counter I have discovered that these BioCups "provide and environmental, healthy and earth conscious alternative to traditional plastic and foam packaging". Well that's all well and good, but I want to know more about these environmentally friendly cups.

This particular brand of cup is supplied in Australia by a company called BioPak. It's not just cups either - you can order a whole range of environmentally products, from biodegradable cling wrap to water soluble laundry bags. But while BioPak "provides Australian companies environmentally friendly solutions by supplying ecologically compatibility raw materials that do not negatively affect a products economic, social or practical usefulness", I'd be interested to take away some of the spin and find out where these cups are made. And by whom.

BioPak products (like many other biodegradable restaurant products) are made from palm oil residue. Now, I hear the words palm oil, and I think of decimated forests and burnt monkeys - palm oil is a huge problem for the environment, mainly due to the large volume of waste generated by its production and the amount of perfectly good trees felled to plant palm oil crops. Essentially, BioPak products are made from something called agricultural fibrous biomass, or to put it simply: cotton residue, rice straw, and palm oil production residue. Because the materials used are a by-product of existing production they make good use of a biomass that would otherwise sit around and damage the environment.

Biodegradable packaging is slowly replacing many oil-based products currently on the market, especially in relation to food packaging. It makes sense - why would you buy organic vegetables wrapped in chemicals? Supermarket mega-chain Coles are in on the action, currently using biodegradable trays to package their organic fresh produce.

I'm trying to find a loop hole with this product, and like most of everything that is designed to be used only once, there probably is. But at the end of the day, if we simply must have single use products then environmentally friendly ones are the way to go. Just don't wrap them in a plastic bag before you toss them in the bin.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sick pay

Okay, I know I said I was taking a break from this blogging caper to do some home work, but I'm sick. Far too sick to work or study, but nowhere near sick enough to prevent me from outpouring my near hallucinogenic ravings onto the world wide web.

In truth, I would rather be at work than at home alone - feeling the immense guilt I do by having a sick day. Even though I am allowed to be at home, my office will not fall down around me if I am gone, and I am better off here than slumped over my desk I still feel bad about taking the day off. Hell, I am even getting PAID to be at home curled up in a ball with a box of kleenex and some Vegiemite toast.

It's a hospitality thing. Ask any bartender, porter, waitress or whatever how they feel about taking a sick day. "Huh," will be about as far as it gets. In the hospitality industry, sick days are reserved for the most heinous of hangovers. No-one takes a sick they when they are actually sick!

And hospitality staff are sick a lot. The huge number of illnesses aflicting hospitality staff is a no-brainer - it's all the sex. That's right, sex. It's hard not to catch the flu/virus/gastro bug going about when everyone is shagging bloody everybody. I didn't wait tables for 10 years because I love to carry plates (if you know what I mean). Your local cafe is a sesspool of germs because every-one has shagged every-one and we all drink far too much, smoke like chimneys and take lots and lots of drugs. It's a great lifestyle (I'm very serious.)

We are loathe to take a sick day because of money. Most of us shit-kicking, low-level, minimum wage groupies do not get any semblance of sick pay. And you can forget about annual leave. Hands up if you have even been served by a waiter who is obviously green around the gills. That would be about all of us. Most of us live so close to the poverty line just one sick day could mean the difference between paying rent or getting evicted. It's a horrible generalisation, but in my experience it's mostly true.

I recall working 14 days straight while being a stones through from pneumonia once, all because I never took a break. You just don't. Sick days mean your manage hates you. Your colleagues definitely hate you - they're the ones who have to pick up all your slack. It's just too difficult to negotiate a sick day. Better to show up at work, pass out, and be put in a taxi home - because that's the only way you'll get the day off.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hiatus


Life is a bit crazy at the moment. On October 1 I will hand in what is potentially the last piece of academic writing I will ever write - and I have 6 weeks to polish it off. So, I have been a bit busy of late.

Lately I haven't eaten anything, or gone anywhere remotely interesting. But summer is coming, and I will get back on the food blogging wagon just as soon as I finish school. So I leave you for a few weeks with this lovely picture, taken outside Pigeon Hole Cafe in West Hobart, of which there will be a review of when the latest Apple magazine hits the streets of Hobart (by yours truly of course).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Smokin'

Disclaimer: I have shamelessly stolen the image on the left from the internet. I apologise for my unethical web theft.

I feel like I've never met a waiter who didn't smoke, or they at least wished they did. When the last of civilised society have finally come to their senses and given up smoking, hospitality staff will be dragged kicking and screaming into the fresh air.

When you work in the service industry, being a smoker means one thing - more breaks - and in the service industry, breaks are pretty hard to come by. Sure it's expensive, it stinks, it gives you all kinds of cancer, but we almost all did it at one time or another.

Although I rarely smoke now, over the last 10 years I've waited a lot of tables, and smoked a lot of cigarettes. A cigarette break, or a "fiver" as they are affectionately known, is sometimes the only five minutes in an eight hour day to be alone. And if not alone, in the company of another smoking waiter for a bitch session about your section.

Hospitality staff can usually be broken up into two groups - smokers and non-smokers. While a part of me always envied those puritans who had never smoked a cigarette in their lives with their snow white skin and twinkling eyes, deep down I know they never had quite as much fun as us smokers. Now, while I am not trying to rationalise or advocate smoking, darn it, we were cooler, we were naughtier, we stayed out later and we partied harder. Sure, the groups sometimes mingled, we played nice, but deep down, we were never truly on the same page.

There would always be someone trying to quit, but it would never last. I think we all knew that none of us would successfully quit smoking until we had left the hospitality industry, myself included. You know you're addicted when it's practically snowing and you are still going outside to smoke. Winter was usually the time when most of us tried to quit. In summer no one tried to quit.

Half the problem was tips. It was easy to afford to smoke when you had pocket full of cash at the end of every shift. The other half of the problem was alcohol consumption. In almost every venue I have ever worked there was no such thing as going straight home after work without at least one drink. It was partially about the company, partially about taking the edge of a hard lifestyle, and mostly about having a laugh.

Man, I used to drag myself to my waitressing jobs hungover at least two days a week (and I was one of the well behaved ones) swearing I'd never smoke or drink again. It'd never last more than 24 hours. These days it does though, I actually behave like a grown up 90 per cent of the time, something I never though would happen. But still, on sunny Sunday afternoons in a beer garden I still smoke like a waitress. Okay, and sometimes on Friday nights too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Not impressed in New Town

I had high hopes this morning when I paid a visit to the New Town Green Store - organic grocer and cafe. They were quickly dashed.

The biggest fault here? Their menu is almost totally reliant on pre cooked dished reheated to order - pies, quiches and the like. And with Jackman and McRoss serving up similar fare less that a kilometre down the road, pre-cooked is a risky choice. On the upside, there are a lot of gluten free options, many more than usual, but I cannot attest for their quality.

I ordered the vegetable lasagne with a side salad (10.90), and it was nice. But just nice, there was nothing special about it. The salad was large, almost a meal in itself, and very busy. With six or seven different ingredients it almost overshadowed the featured dish. My friend finally settled on his third preference (the first two were unavailable at 11 am on a Sunday) of a vegetable pie (6.50) with salad (3.50). While very reasonable priced, our choices just tasted like reheated ready meals, which is not a sacrifice I am prepared to make when I eat out. I can reheat my own meals at home thanks.

The coffee was fair trade, but terrible. My late was a too-hot flat white in a glass. I ordered a second just in case I had been given a rare dud, and this one was worse, with a little mountain of stiff froth half an inch over the glass.

The service was patchy at best. One very young, very untrained and very unsupervised waitress was carrying coffee, one-by-one with kid gloves to each table and she was still managing to spill them. With only 6-7 tables, seating 20 at best, tables still remained uncleared for sometime, including ours, although we were obviously finished. Competent service can change a dining experience for the better, and I saw very little, if any, competent service today. Good intentions, but no experience.

Almost everything on the menu was available to take home from a display cabinet, including a vast selection of cakes and slices, but none of these items gave the New Town Green Store any identity of its own. The menu listed "Award winning organic pies," and when I asked, I was told they mostly came from the Tasmanian Pie Company. This is all well and good, so why not just say so on the menu. The foundations were there with a good selection of items, but for a deli, not a cafe.

Although the store sells almost exclusively organic, natural and free range produce, the menu selection was confusing. Is the meat used in the meat dishes free range? "Sometimes, when it is available," said our waitress. Was the side salad organic? "Mostly," said our waitress. But "sometimes" and "mostly" are not good enough. Is the New Town Green Store an organic cafe? Not really, and in my experience customers looking for organic food want organic food. You can't just have one foot in the door when your cafe adjoins an organic produce store, there are no excuses.

I want to find something nice to say about this venue, but I am lost on this one. There are some brilliant cafes around the Hobart area at the moment who put up stiff competition to the New Town Green Store. Jackman and McRoss in Battery Point, Victoria Street and New Town, Tricycle in Salamanca, Pigeon Hole in West Hobart, and Grub Cafe in New Town, just to mention a few, make the cafe business look easy. The New Town Green Store (organic or not, I can't really tell) doesn't have a patch on them.

New Town Green Store
Organic grocer & cafe
134 New Town Road, New Town
Open breakfast and lunch 7 days

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No rainchecks for this soup

I've taking the day off work today, as I probably have early onset swine flu. Unfortunately for me, I am also suffering from toxic paint fume inhalation and have a house full of tradesmen - honestly I would be better off at work.

For the sake of a little fresh air, I decided a visit to Raincheck Lounge would be in order. I don't mind Raincheck when its not too busy, the staff are friendly, and it's a great spot to find a lost local at any given time.

Today I had a particular craving for fish soup, and to my great joy, they had fish soup on their standard menu (12.50). I haven't included a photo of the soup - it was visually challenged - but I can describe it for you.

My soup (and I was expecting a bouillabaisse style) was a bowl of rich, thick tomato style purée, with six clams. I was initially disappointed, but one mouthful was all I needed to be convinced. The flavours were complex: spicy, salty, and sweet, and married well with a traditional warm cob loaf. The one down side was that only three of the six clams were open, but I was feeling too ill to do anything about it.

I was delighted. I felt better immediately. Well, better until I came back to my stinky paint fume house. Much better off at the Raincheck Lounge, with its comfy couches and casual atmosphere.

Sure this place can get pretty raucous on the weekends, I've found the quality of cheffing questionable and a few of the waitresses are rather up themselves, but the menu is thoughtful , the space inviting and the opening hours are convenient. I may have to reacquaint myself better with my old friend Raincheck in future.

Raincheck Lounge
The cool end of Elizabeth Street (number 392)
North Hobart
Ph: 03 6234 5975
Open 7 days, breakfast until late

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Food that I will never eat:

Anything that comes in a bucket for starters. Yuk. Buckets of food bother me on so many levels. Firstly, nothing says "glutton" like a bucket of food, especially if you have seen the size of me (small) compared to a bucket (big). Gluttony is one of the worst sins. In my book it is right up there with sloth although greed and envy don't usually bother me so much.

Still, with all the issues we've been having about misleading packaging (home made being the biggest offender, whose home? the cleaning lady's?) If I wanted home made food I would eat it at home, not go out to a restaurant. This also goes the other way, supermarket food items that proclaim to be “restaurant quality.” Firstly, I have been to a few rather dubious restaurants that bring into question the supposed standards of restaurant quality.

I guess with a bucket you at least know what you're getting.

Not so with food described as a melt. Melt is not a noun. A melt is a wagon of spin to make toasted sandwiches seem fancy. I have been watching with amazement the new commercials of a fast food venue on TV at the moment, advertising their new range of (this should be a dead giveaway) “Melts.” Aside from the rather unusual combination of ingredients they seem to be sporting, even in the photograph can’t make them look appetising, and they are never going to look any better than in that photo.

Another frightening food stuff is the "medallion." A medallion is a piece of metal, usually presented as an award. A medallion is not a round chicken nugget with garlic "butter" (I'll use that term loosely) found at 4 am in a take-away all-nighter.

I also have serious issues with the following terms: log, basket, parcel, triangle and strip. It makes me wonder that these food items could use a bit of marketing pizzazz. Surely a "chicken strip" would sell better when described as: "a lightly seasoned and crumbed chicken tenderloin with rustic parmesan and Italian herbs", although this wouldn't make it taste any better.

And while we are only the subject, restaurants seem to use a lot of sneaky terms to get us to think we have ordered a meal a step up from a bucket of chicken. "Cooked to perfection" is a common menu misdemeanour. I highly doubt that anything promising to be "cooked to perfection" is anywhere near that, and if so, will someone please tell me where the "perfection" setting is on my stove, I believe I am missing something. I have never seen a cook book that provides the instruction “cooked to perfection” – even Jamie Oliver can use adjectives.

Useless claims of "organic" as a marketing ploy also spring to mind. Sure, eat all the organic sugar you want, it is still sugar. Excess sugar will still makes your kids hyperactive and obese, organic or not. To some people, the term organic is a deterrent. Take my brother Andrew for instance who refuses to eat anything that isn't crumbed and pre-frozen.

So lets call a spade a spade; a bucket of grease laden chicken is still a bucket of grease laden chicken, and I'll not have any, no thanks.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bored and baking afghans


I've been reading this book, Sleeping Around, by Brian Thacker. Not sleeping around like "sleeping around" but like couch surfing, a couch surfing tour of the globe. Anyway, Brian, my favourite travel writer, has written a book about a world trip spent sleeping on the couches of strangers to get a local's perspective of the world. I think this is a great idea, I'd like to do it too. Not a whole world trip, because sometimes I would probably want to be alone and not telling my life story over and over, but for a few nights here and there would be brilliant.

So now I am in an overseas dreaming/planning/money saving state. It's about time I went overseas for a while, and I think next year isn't too unrealistic an expectation. Saving money however, generally means total boredom in Hobart in the middle of winter. So, my mission today has been not to spend a single cent. Except the $1.80 I just spent on a newspaper, which doesn't count when reading the newspaper is a job requirement. So what does all this have to do with the delectable looking biscuit pictured above? I just made them from simple ingredients I already had in the cupboard. And if you too are in hibernation to save money, or just think these little guys look pretty darn tasty, here is the recipe:

Afghans:

200g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup dessicated coconut
50ml milk
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups cornflakes
125g dark chocolate
chopped walnuts, to garnish.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift in flour and cocoa, add coconut and milk. Still into creamed mixture. Fold in cornflakes. Spoon mounds of mizture onto a greased oven tray, gently pressing together. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until set. When biscuits have cooled, melt chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Dip biscuit into chocolate, then into walnuts, and allow to set. Makes 30.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Head for the Hills, Coldstream Hills

This post is partially about the Coldstream Brewery, and partly about my family. A few weeks ago, my mother, her husband and I enjoyed a beautiful Saturday lunch out at Coldstream, in the gorgeous Yarra Valley, and we were there for a very special reason.

My littlest brother (who is twice the size of me) had recently started at Coldstream as their apprentice chef. Least of all to say, I'm pretty darn proud of the kid. The kid who used to sit in front of the oven waiting for dinner to cook, the kid who would walk 10 paces behind the rest of my family because he was too busy eating to walk faster, and the only person in my family other than me who knows what elBulli is.

My littlest brother has had a bit of a rough ride, like me he took a little longer than everyone else to decide what to do with himself for a living. While we all knew he would be a chef, it took him a little longer to work it out. Walking into his restaurant and seeing him looking so tall and proud in his chef whites, frizzy hair escaping out from under his little white cap, big smile wrapped across his face, I can honestly say I have never been so proud of a member of my family before.

Our waitress Wendy seemed to belong in that restaurant as much as my brother, there was such a homely feel to the place and exposed wooden beams, raw brickwork and a big open fire added to the welcoming country atmosphere. The service was not text book perfect, but it was warm, friendly and inviting, and truth be told almost outshone the food in its excellence. Although I am sure, we were, as the chef's family, paid extra special attention to.

Most of the menu was on the daily specials blackboard, and otherwise split up into a style that is gaining in popularity, small and large share plates. None in our party could go past an entrée of lemongrass broth with scallop and crab dumplings (10), which was superb in its simplicity, and potentially made a significant contribution to lessening my hangover, for which I was most grateful.

Now, the kid is responsible for the pizza section, so we were of course obliged to order at least one. Pictured left is the mushroom and tallegio pizza (16.50) alongside a dish my mother ordered, which I didn't pay any attention to, so therefore know nothing about. Fish cakes of some description spring to mind, however I am likely wrong.

For my main I ordered pan seared king fish on celeriac puree with Sicilian salsa (27), mostly because I was desperate to know what makes a salsa Sicilian (sultanas, capers, parsley and tiny globe tomatoes apparently). The sweetness of the salsa was a perfect fit to the natural sweetness of the fish, and I was happy with my choice.

Although I am unbelievably biased towards this venue for obvious reason, it was not without fault, as very few restaurants are. The coffee was of a low quality, a table near us remained uncleared for the entire time we were there, and Mum's desert arrived without a spoon. But in the grand scheme of things, restaurants like this are far between in regional areas, and I am grateful to have options for great locally sourced food, at low prices, so far away from the city.


Being named "Brewery" is a pretty good indication there is a bit of beer about (although at the time the thought of any more beer made my stomach turn). The restaurant extends to a cellar door of sorts, with bar snacks available through the day, as well as tastings of the hand-crafted beers and tours of the on-site brewery by arrangement.

There are regular special events on offer, with a Fine Swine and Wine dinner scheduled for the 15 July - with three courses of pork themed meals and matched wine for $50 - that would be hard to go past if I lived at least in the same state.

Coldstream Hills Brewery is run by mates, and it feels that way. Like four blokes got together over a few beers and said "hey, wouldn't it be really awesome to own a brewery". And that's exactly what happened. What a cracking idea boys. And look after my brother...

Coldstream Brewery
694 Maroondah Hwy
Coldstream Victoira

T: 03 9739 1794
W: www.coldstreambrewery.com.au

Mon-Tues: Closed
Wed-Sun: 11am until late

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Surprise fridge cleaning

Before. What, you ask, is that suspicious foiled pacakge middle shelf, right hand side?

Firstly, I do not admit ownership for the majority of items you see in the "before" photograph above. However, I will admit to having a secret love affair with fridge cleaning. The conditions have to be right of course, a crisp, sunny day is always best. Luckily for me, although it is the dead of winter, Hobart had turned out a gorgeous, fresh sunny day. Just perfect for a little spring cleaning.

It should come as no surprise that I am particularly possessive over our fridge. And why not? Someone has to make sure the fridge does not contain:
  • liquefied ginger wrapped in cling wrap
  • three types of moldy jam
  • a Hudson's coffee cup containing an unidentifiable substance
  • what could possible have once been a carrot but more closely resembles a truffle
  • ANYTHING with a use-by date of January 2009
On a positive side, I did discover a jar of capers no one is claiming, that I will happily assume ownership for (I'm thinking caponata...)

Now, no one else ever cleans out the fridge in my house. I'm not just talking about my current housemates - good sorts they are - I'm talking about my entire history of share-house living. Perhaps I just get in there first, but I doubt it. There is nothing more revolting that a fridge full of festering, fermenting food. If I didn't do this, I highly doubt anyone else in my household would, and I say this fully expecting a barrage of abusive comments from my housemates, who do (to my ongoing surprise) read this blog. But abuse away ladies, your comments will fall on deaf ears, just as they do when anyone mentions gardening, to which my response is to imediately find anything, ANYTHING, else to do.

I've now decided tha I am a fridge cleaning superhero. And quite frankly, there is potentially something wrong with me. Who likes to clean fridges? I obviously need help. Because I am such a looser I took the liberty of looking up "fridge cleaning" on YouTube (bless), and found this video, which should be a stark reminder, to myself and others, of what I was like as a child.

Left: A much more hygenic version of the fridge. Looks kind of the same, but it's the things that lurk in the back one has to be worried about.



Saturday, June 27, 2009

Two on Rathdowne - Cafe & Design


I always find a sense of wonder in the lengths that new businesses will go to in trying to differentiate themselves from the rest of the restaurant pack. Two Rathdowne has covered more than enough bases, as a cafe-cum-furniture store-cum-produce store, all they need is an art gallery in the corner to truly be unique.

I enjoyed a nice breakfast here on a recent trip to Melbourne, although the company of my dear friend Bronwyn perhaps put a little extra shine on this new venue. Only a few months old, Two Rathdowne has not been around quite long enough to iron out all the kinks, but still has the added bonus that not many people know about it yet, and the waitstaff have a shiny, happy quality that only comes in the early days of a new business.

The large space has been used well, with two long communal tables encouraging strangers to share while providing an option sure to become popular with big groups. A big empty space at the front of the room provides standing room for locals waiting for morning take-aways, without crowding seated punters. Although, a small chair utilised by some would probably have remained empty if anyone had noticed it's $1500 price tag. I stayed well away, as it would be just my luck to spill coffee on a sofa worth more than my entire wardrobe.

The food was well presented, although I felt we received our meals a little too quickly, and on close inspection I found my breakfast on the cool side. My memory fails me, I cannot remember exactly what I ordered, as I was deep in conversation about road trips around Europe, a topic of discussion that would distract most of us.

The menu is largely breakfast focused, an reasonably priced. Traditional favorites, like porridge with banana and brown sugar or eggs florentine are available, as well as a BLT with house-made mayo and relish. Lunch options feature daily soups, pastas and panini.

I'm not sure if anyone is likely to purchase a $400 lamp over their breakfast, but I am impressed by the style of this venue. With so many cafe options in this area, Two Rathdowne may have carved themselves into a successful niche market. Time will tell.

Two on Rathdowne Cafe & Design

793 Rathdowne Street
North Carlton
ph: 9078 5144

Two on Rathdowne on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two fish on a tea cup, how strange



I thought I would amuse you all with some pictures of this splendid tea cup my housemate bought in Sydney a while ago from a second hand shop. It is so bizarre, I just love it.

I don't think I will be using it though, this is purely a decorative item. Especially considering I am want to break things just by looking at them.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Broccoli and parmesan soup


The other day I discovered some broccoli in the fridge I had forgotten about. It was still fresh and crisp, but with an almost total lack of other vegetables in the house, I was at a loss as to what to do with it.

In fact I have only just come around to the virtues of broccoli in the last five years or so. When I was a little girl, I physically couldn't swallow a mouthful of broccoli, I found it that repulsive. It is possible, however, that my mothers tendency to serve it microwaved into oblivion might have influenced my youthful disgust.

These days, I love broccoli. And not just because it is exceptionally good for you, a 100g serving will give you almost 150 per cent of your daily vitamin C needs, is high in calcium and loaded with antioxidants.

This recipe serves one. Just multiply the ingredients by the number of serves you require.

Broccoli and parmesan soup:

1 small onion, roughly chopped
150g broccoli, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
chicken stock, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
500ml water
parmesan, to serve

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, lightly fry onion until translucent. Add broccoli, and fry for one or two minutes. Cover with water, and bring to boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Blend mixture until smooth. Garnish with grated parmesan and enjoy.

While writing this post, I have also been making another version of this soup, but with a spicy touch. I added a bit of dried chilli, some Spanish papprika and some red lentils , served with natural yoghurt as a garnish. I'll let you know how it goes, it's not ready yet.

Update: Spanish broccoli soup was quite nice. I was disappointed though. I was so hungover at the time, all I really wanted was a cheeseburger. Not super healthy soup! I've learned my lesson now.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A peek in my pantry

Just in case something drastic happens (for example: broken leg, swine flu, blizzard, alien invasion) I like to stockpile dry goods. I get nervous when the cupboard is bare.

Every few weeks I do one massive mission to the proper supermarket to stock up on the basics, so all I have to do is pick up fresh ingredients and I am ready to roll.

The sense of warmth and satisfaction of knowing that I have enough pasta, rice and canned tomatoes to feed an army helps me sleep at night. Plus, all my dry goods get eaten at one time or another, so I never consider that extra can of sardines (just in case) an extravagance.

For anyone who is interested, I have just done a stock-take of my pantry. This doesn't include anything that I have in the fridge however, although now I think of it the fridge could use a clean out. I am sure there are eight types of mustard, three types of capers and an old tomato that could probably take a walk. Downside of share-house living - sharing a fridge.

Inside my cupbord: Pasta: risoni, spiral and spaghetti, rice: jasmine and arborio, polenta, couscous, noodles: hokkien, udon, rice and instant, oil: olive, sunflower and seasame, lentils, chickpeas, four-bean mix, pine-nuts, curry paste: red, green, penang and laksa, coconut milk, canned: tomatoes, bean sprouts, two-fruits, anchovies, sardines and tuna, sauces: dark soy, light soy, shitake soy, hosin, fish and oyster, red-wine vinegar, cornflour and plain flour.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I haven't been Asian grocery chopping for a very long time, but when I do, I tend to bring home a lot of random items, which of course I have no idea what to do with. Which is my next mission, random items will be blogged about soon.

Okay, I'm off to clean out the fridge. Good times. Or maybe I'll look at cooking videos on YouTube. Yeah, that's it!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Peasant food? Yup. Polenta!

I'm poor. It's not a secret, because I'm not alone. Come on, admit it, thanks to the GFC and the constant threat of redundancy, mortgage foreclosure and not having enough money left on a Friday night to buy beer, we're all skint.

Due to my skintness, I haven't been eating out very much, and so have nothing to review for you guys, much to my dismay. I've been caught in a conundrum: pay off credit card asap and sacrifice lifestyle, or carry on being frivolous. I've chosen the former.

As a result of this decision, I have been on a mission to eat cheap, and eat well. Over the next few months I will be looking at, cooking, eating and blogging about the cheapest and tastiest consumables I can find.

Lucky for me, who has no desire to do a Morgan Spurlock, vegetables, pulses and grains are about the cheapest things out there. Today, I am on the polenta bandwagon.

Polenta is awesome. I eat it all the time. Italian translation: cornmeal mush. A traditional northern Italian dish, but with potential ties back the Ancient Greeks, who ate various cereal porridges, or polos. After corn was introduced to Italy in the seventeenth century it overtook all other types of grain because it combined so well with dairy products. Funnily enough, I love polenta because it combines well with dairy products also, namely cheese.

While traditional polenta takes hours of cooking with constant stirring, readily available instant polenta only takes a few moments to prepare, and is very delicious. Healthy too, if you don't put too much cheese in like I do.


Grilled polenta:

Place 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to boil
and add a tablespoon of vegetable stock to water. Add 1/2 cup of instant polenta, and lower heat to minimum. Stir polenta contantly for about 5 minutes. I like to throw in a cup of grated cheese in also. When cheese is melted you're ready to roll.

Polenta can be eaten soft, and it a great companion with stews and casseroles. Or, as I like to do, spread polenta in a flat slice tray which has been lined with clingfilm (makes it easier to get out of tray). Allow to cool and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Slice polenta, add a light coating of oil and gently fry of grill for a crispy outside and a soft mushy interior.

There are so many ways to use polenta: cakes, muffins, slices, sweet, savory - the uses are endless. Polenta is great friends with French and Italian foods, and is easy on the hip pocket. Tasty and useful, I admire that in a foodstuff.

So next time you are at the market, grab a packet. $2 worth of polenta goes a long way. Then go home and Google polenta recipes. Too easy. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Perfect pumpkin soup



One of my earliest memories is of my mother making me pumpkin soup. Thankfully, I always paid close attention as she was doing so, and now I make my own version of this classic dish to take to work for lunch. This meal is quite healthy and filling. Add warm bread roll and you're all set on a cold winters day.

Perfect pumpkin soup:

1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 sticks of celery
tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil
salt to taste
cracked pepper to taste
spices to taste- I have been using a Moroccan mix lately, cumin, turmeric, paprika, coriander and chilli
vegetable or chicken stock
1.5 kg pumpkin - I also like to use sweet potato or carrots as well for variety
boiling water, about 1.5 litres
natural yoghurt or sour cream

Finely slice onion, celery and garlic and fry gently in oil for about 10-12 minutes, until translucent and soft

Add spices, salt, pepper and chopped pumpkin/ sweet potato and cook for 5 minutes

Add boiling water until the soup mix is only just covered, and then add stock, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 20-30 minutes at a simmer until pumpkin is soft and beginning to break down

Blend mixture with a hand blender or food processor until smooth. Garnish with cracked pepper, yoghurt and coriander

This soup will last up to four days in the fridge, or three months in the freezer. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Do we really need a food bloggers code of ethics?

I have, in my travels for a delightful (insert sarcasm here) 8000 word research project about the role of new media in public relations, recently stumbled on a website outlining a food bloggers code of ethics. Due to the nature of the beast, I think it would be fair to assume that a large number of you who read this blog also have your own food blogs, so I thought I would share it.

The code, created by professional journalists who also write food blogs, addresses some important issues that relate not just to food bloggers, but bloggers of any variety really. I really struggle to believe - although I am repeatedly told - that there is no difference between the two. There is loads of bloody difference, I am both, I think I am in a position to say so.

The argument questions the idea citizen journalism is a lesser craft, which I believe no, it does not have less of an importance than mainstream journalism. Different yes, lesser, not at all. The code of ethics website addresses the issue quite well, I believe:

"The great thing about the blogosphere is that you don’t have to be a journalist to publish your work in a worldwide forum. In fact, one of the reasons we started this was because we understand that plenty of bloggers don’t have journalism backgrounds and probably weren’t aware of some of the guidelines about image, recipe and quote usage and attribution. The Internet is filled with talented people who put a lot of hard work into their craft, we just want to make sure that work is protected and respected."

Unlike in the real world (which, not coincedentially I get paid for) when I write for this blog, there is no one to fact check or edit my work. I have complete freedom to do as I wish. I do have a backlog of journalistic knowledge to draw from, however, and I think this influences the way I write about food, because I had the journalists code of ethics drummed into me years ago.

An article from the September/ October 2008 Columbia Journalism Review, The Bigger Tent, by Ann Cooper aims to address the differences between citizen journalism and traditional journalism. Cooper cites former NBC corespondent, David Hazinski: "calling a citizen iReporter a journalist is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a 'citizen surgeon' or someone who can read a law book a 'citizen lawyer.'" Hazinski believes that the differences between a journalist and the average citizen with a laptop and an internet connection are education, skills and standards. I have to say, I agree.

I realise I am opening up a big can of worms here, but I'd like to hear from anyone who has a read of the code of ethics who writes a blog but doesn't have a writing/ media background. I think my media knowledge warps my perception of citizen journalism, and I am looking for a view that is biased on the other side of the coin. Do other food writers out there in the blogosphere think a code of ethics should apply to them? Remember that the journalism code of ethics is not compulsory either, although being really unethical would get you sacked, really really quickly.

I think a bloggers code of ethics is a good thing. The writers of the code explain why they do too:

"As the blogging world expands exponentially, more and more people in the culinary world believe that
food bloggers—as a groupare unfair, highly critical, untrained and power hungry individuals empowered by anonymity. As trained journalists who happen to be food bloggers, we feel it is unfair to be labeled something we aren’t. By creating a food blogger code of ethics, we hope to draw attention to the food bloggers who hold themselves to higher standards."

So I see it as a two way street. Citizen journalism is a valid and essential practice, and I think "old media" will need to let go of some of the conventional attitudes it holds about itself to keep up with the pace. But if citizen journalism demands the same recognition and respect usually reserved only for traditional media, they will, as the code says, need to collectively hold themselves to higher standards.