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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sorell Fruit Farm

Ing and I went on a lovely adventure to Sorell today. Sorell is a 20 minute drive from Hobart, on the Convict Trail.

The Sorell Fruit Farm is a Tasmanian owned orchard, where you can pick your own fruit, depending on the season. We were too lazy to pick fruit, we were just there for a nice spot of Devonshire tea, and a few pots of jam, mustard and relish from the little shop.

There is a cafe, of sorts, however the outside area is a lot more tranquil than the few tables pushed together inside.

The staff are friendly, in an odd way, and we were amused by their chatter, amongst themselves and with the customers. It wasn't particularly busy, but both staff members were in a bit of a flap. It is nice, when more than 10 people means busy, it just says "middle of nowhere", and I love that.

The cafe provides some light meals, like nachos with bean salsa, sour cream, cheese and guacamole ($12.90), or a chicken caesar tortilla wrap (14.90), but I don't get the feeling that is is a good idea to come specifically for a meal.

Devonshire tea is a specialty here, with fresh scones, house made jam, cream and a tea or coffee ($9 per person). There were also waffles on the specials menu, served with strawberries, ice cream and strawberry coulis.

The shop sells Tasmanian specialty foods. Fresh honeycomb from the Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmanian Sauce Company mustard and relishes, and their own brand of jams, marmalade and sauces. They will even organise postage for you, for orders up to 10kg.

The views are lovely, and the atmosphere serene. While the orchard is only open for visitors from October-May, I highly recommend popping in and having a wander around.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs

This ugly things you see in the picture is an egg. Well, it was an egg, now it is a Chinese Tea Leaf egg.

As a show of gratitude to everyone that takes time out of their busy day to read my endless drivel, I am going to give you the recipe. When I first decided to make these I trawled the net for hours, looking for suitable recipes in an attempt to re-create the tea egg I had eaten in a restaurant earlier that week. Since then, I have made more than a few batches of tea eggs, through a process of trial and error. Here is my adapted egg recipe:

Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs (cha ye dan)

8 Eggs
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp black leaf tea, loose
3 star anise
3 cups water

First, you need to boil the eggs in plain water, for about 7 or 8 minutes. This seems like a long time, but you need to make sure they are cooked right through.

Take the eggs from the water, and roll them on a flat hard surface to crack the shell all over, but do not peel the eggs. This is what gives the final product a lovely marbled texture.

Place eggs back in saucepan, add soy, anise, and tea. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 hours. This process will both preserve the egg, and give the yolk inside a creamy flavor.

Remove the eggs, place in a storage container. Pour the liquid over the top, straining away any residual tea or star anise. The eggs can be stored in the fridge in their broth, and will develop more flavor over time.

So there you have it, my secret recipe. So delicious. Apologies that the photograph is slightly out of focus. I only realised this after I had eaten the last egg. See, I told you they were good!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The best dumpling house in Melbourne

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to the glory, the delight, and the sheer joy of Camy Shanghai Dumpling house. Camy Dumpling is my favorite place to eat in Melbourne. It's quick, it's easy, and it's really cheap, three of my favorite qualities in Asian restaurants.

This place is always busy. And I mean ALWAYS. The line of people in the photograph, this was on a good day, but it is worth every second of waiting.

An evil old man will come to give you a table. You will probably have to share that table with strangers, but no matter, we're all in the same boat at 8pm on a Friday night. The old man, probably the owner, is so highly strung it must be seen to be believed. I'm sure he will have a heart attack from the stress any minute now. The restaurant seats about 200, over two floors. I don't think I have ever had the same waitress twice, which makes me wonder what happens to them at the end of every night.

Every thing is strictly self-service, except the ordering and the cooking. Help yourself to a can of soft drink from the fridge, it will mysteriously appear on your bill. Grab your own bowls and dumpling sauce from the station, which is also the spot to indulge in endless free tea. That's right, unlimited, free tea.

The real reason to come here (apart from the obvious benefit of free tea) is the many varieties of dumplings available. You might like to sample my favourite, fried pork
($6.8, 15pce) or perhaps steamed prawn and chicken ($8.90, 15pce). Vegetarians will be pleased with the mushroom and vegetable dumplings ($6.50, 10pce). One day I will try the chilli oil dumplings ($6.50, 8pce), when I summon enough courage. Green vegetables with oyster sauce are a must, along with a little steamed rice.

There are of course non-dumpling related meals on the menu, it is just that I have never ordered them. There is a usual assortment of Chinese noodle and rice dishes, also at stupidly low prices. So low, I often wonder if all the staff are not kept prisoner and forced to work for free.

Camy is also BYO friendly, and has an unusual selection of beers available for purchase in house: Tsing Tao, Grolsh Premium, Tiger and Miller Draught, all $4.90 each, which is a lot cheaper than at the pub.

Honestly, the service is atrocious, the plates come to the table smudged and greasy, and after about 30 minutes the evil old man will start to circle your table like a vulture to get you to vacate, but I couldn't think of anywhere else I'd rather be for dinner on the weekend.

Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant
23-25 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne (China Town)
Sun-Mon: 10am-9.30pm
Tue-Sat: 11am-10pm
Ph: 96638555 – although if you can't speak Chinese, I wouldn't bother ringing.

Camy Shanghai Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Backpacker food.

This my friends is backpacker food. These are all the ingredients for this meal, in case you were wondering. No herbs, spices or vegetables hiding off camera, Microplane safely stashed in the kitchen drawer, lovely block of parmesan stowed securely in the fridge.

I did give Ing, my housemate, a bit of grief over this creation, but she basically told me where to stick it. She's a good sort, Ing, she gives it as good as she gets it. Against my better judgment, I helped her eat this dish, and it was actually kinda tasty. And I was starving!

When I was living in London a few years ago my flatmates and I were so poor we lived off pasta with butter and cheese. Sometimes, for an extra treat, we would lash out on a jar of ready made pasta sauce. There was a supermarket near our place that sold a particularly dodgy variety for £1. That was a lot of money in 2004. I also seem to remember eating a lot of KFC, something to do with discount vouchers and Bayswater road.

My other housemate, Lucy, traveled extensively through Europe last year, and was rarely without a packet of dried spaghetti and a bulb of garlic, just in case of a pasta emergency. "But you always need garlic," she says. I suspect it would in the very least keep the vampires away.

While I really miss traveling, I really don't miss not knowing where my next meal is coming from. Sure, I have to go to work everyday, and I have responsibilities, and I've got no money because I am an intern, but I can afford to eat pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want. And that includes mushy pasta with tuna and tomato sauce.

Oops, and I almost forgot, thanks for cooking me dinner Ing, you're awesome!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I was a little intrigued the other day when I spotted an interesting article about McDonald's on the Wall Street Journal website. See, I don't think about McDonald's much. I almost never eat there, and there isn't one anywhere near my house. I can't even remember the last time I saw an ad for McDonald's on TV, although I am sure there are loads of them, and I have just been fortunate enough to be in the bathroom when they are on.

So I started looking for McDonald's ads on the internet, like the really cool one above. And I thought to myself, "Gee I hate McDonald's, but they have an amazing PR, advertising and marketing team." After that, I started thinking about McDonald's, a lot.

The WSJ article talks about how successful McDonald's has performed as a company during the recession (the article is American). It makes perfect sense. If we are all pinching our pennies, those of us who were unlikely to eat that much fast food have returned to it in droves. Sometimes it's just nice to have a meal out, even if that meal tastes like cardboard and makes you feel sick afterward. Who cares when you can have dinner for under $7 right?

McDonald's have proven themselves to be clever market players in the past. They monitor data fastidiously, and in short create the exact environment their customers desire. Backlash about the fat content? Easy, throw in some Heart Foundation approved menu choices. Stores in affluent areas suffering? Easy, close them down and open more stores in lower socio-economic areas.

McDonald's may annoy the crap out of most of us, but figures show they are doing something right. While you won't find me working in an organic veggie shop wearing a t-shirt with McShit across the front, I'm not waving a flag of support for the company either.

With that in mind, I went to McDonald's. And ate there. By choice. And it wasn't all bad.

The part that frightened me the most: the customers. My venue of choice was in a predominantly low-income area, so I suppose I found what I predicted. It is really hard to watch really overweight kids eat fast food. This is probably why the kids you see eating happy meals on the telly are perfectly groomed and slender. That said, there are loads of fat kids in Sandy Bay as well.

There was something about being in a McDonald's (and being sober enough to remember it) that brought up some fun memories of being a kid. I didn't come from a take-away kind of family. A meal out at Maccas meant someone had received a really good report card from school. I remember when a Happy Meal didn’t come with a free toy. And an invitation to a birthday party at McDonald's was worth its weight in gold.

Now I have been back, I will concede that McDonald's is at least 70 percent evil. And I did feel really ill after my McNuggets, because I've read Fast Food Nation, I know what is in them. But I kinda had a fun time. For a little under an hour, I felt just a little bit like a kid again. And that can't be all bad.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Things waiters do that drive me mad.

Like my previous column on bad customer behaviour, the purpose if this column is to have a gigantic whinge. All that pent up anger and frustration can't be good for me, so I've decided to get it all out.

I'm home and bored on a Friday night, feeling a little ill. I thought I'd make the most of being sober at this time of day/week to entertain you all with more of my incessant ranting. Enjoy.

The top 15 things that customer service staff (waiters, sales people, bartenders etc) do that piss me off:

1. Forgetting my order. I feel so unloved. Especially when I am in a group, and everyone else gets their meal/ drink/ whatever, except for me.
2. Don't ignore me. Customer evasion, not the way to go. Don't pretend you don't see me. Unless I am waving, clicking whistling to get your attention. Just acknowledge my existence, and I'll be patient until you come to serve me.
3. Don't have a conversation with another member of staff while you are taking my order. I have wanted to walk off in the middle of many purchases.
4. Pet names. Sometimes, there is such a thing as over familiarly. I loathe being called baby/sweetie/ darling by anyone I am not sleeping with. And even then it's a stretch.
5. Obviously the customer is not always right. Neither is the service staff. Don't pretend you know the answer to my question when you clearly have no idea, go and find out.
6. Overzealousness. Clearing before all people finish breaks a massive service rule. Sure, it’s a little old school, but unless I'm at McDonalds… you get the picture.
7. Overzealousness.2. Taking away something I am not finished eating drinking. A waiter who is prising a half full latte glass from my iron grip is not my friend.
8. Crankiness never goes down well. Although lately when I encounter rude wait staff I see it as a personal challenge as to who can be ruder. I'm not setting a good example, I apologise.
9. Don't act as if a glass of water is a problem. I know it's free, but it is a pretty simple request. There is a good chance I am buying something else in your establishment.
10. Value judgments. So what I have a sudden craving for a vodka Red Bull? Don't look down your nose; you don't have to drink it. If we were all drinking gin from a bathtub we would be living with prohibition. It's 2009. Not everyone wants a classic anymore.
11. Back of house problems should never make it to the front of house. Bickering waiters make everyone uncomfortable. I am not in your establishment to resolve your in house politics.
12. Inappropriate clothing. Fine if there is no uniform, but don't put your boobs in my face. If you want to get your tits out go work at Hooters.
13. Money is dirty. Touching money, then grabbing food with fingers is filthy. Use tongs, they are there for a reason. It is a legal reason.
14. At the end of the night, slamming chairs and tables up around remaining customers is uncalled for. We get the picture. You are closing. The time allowed before this is acceptable is proportionate to the menu prices.
15. There is nothing worse than a waiter who reeks of booze. Go home and shower, put on some clean clothes, and try to get a little sleep before work.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My seven day vegan experiment.

I have been talking to a friend who is a vegan. I just can't understand how he lives without the kinds of food that I live for.

So I am considering following a very strict vegan diet for seven days, just to see what it is like. This is coming from the girl who has six different types of cheese in her fridge as we speak. I've had eggs for breakfast for the last three days running, and I drink milk by the gallon. Needless to say, I could be setting myself up for a real challenge.

I'm starting to realise that I am spending too much time focusing on what vegans don't eat, as opposed to what they do. Obviously, I will need to do some research so I don't keel over from iron deficiency within three days, but I think my experiment will make me more considerate to a lifestyle I wouldn't ordinarily choose for myself.

I've already cut down the amount of meat I eat for health/ financial/ environmental reasons, so why not take it one step further, just to see what happens?

There are the obvious health benefits to a diet low in saturated fats, but am I savvy and dedicated enough to actually feed myself properly for the week? My life will be a little unsettled for the next two weeks, but after life calms down a little, I think I might have a crack at this. Just for seven days. And honestly, I have very little faith that I will make it past day three.

I solemnly promise to keep a detailed account of my adventures in vegan land for the amusement of others.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Wow, I am overwhenmed by the comments to this post. I suspect this means that I will actualy have to go through with this now! I've put the wheels in motion. I think my housemate will also join in my experiment. I'm doing some research, looking for recipies. Any online links anyone wants to send though would be appreciated.

Time wise, I am looking at the first or the second week of April (after I've been on holidays, but before Easter).

Stay tuned... I've got some interesting posts planned in between now and then too.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I've discovered a new food problem with my new career. As I no longer work in a cafe where I can gleefully pick at any edible substance (little chorizo here, little aioli there) I've started to become a little peckish around the three thirty mark. I've usually got a beer in hand at that time, so the it has all become a bit of a shock, with the niggling feeling in the bottom of my empty belly. And I'm sober, tragedy.

I've begun a search for fun (but healthy-ish) afternoon snacks. For your information, Country Cup Flavours of the World Tom Yum soup does not taste anything like Tom Yum soup. Not even close. It actually tastes not unlike lemon scented dish washing liquid.

My friend Stef has suggested carrot sticks with hummus, which is a cracking idea. He is a vegan, and I've not really met that many vegans, so I am rather interested to pick his brains over the vegan diet. Also, Criterion street cafe do a great vegetable foccacia which is vegan, if anyone is interested.

On a non-vegan tract, I'm really into those little baby-bell cheeses, which are super fun to eat. I've been forcing down little pots of yogurt, but it's not really working, because I don't like yogurt much, I just think I do.

My housemate Lucy suggests the humble Freddo frog, as they are available from the tuck-shop at the art school, they are very small, so therefore portion controlled, while still delivering chocolatey goodness. She describes the basic chocolate version as "her rock" but occasionally dabbles in the odd Caramello Koala.

I would like to open up the comments page for suggestions on what else is good to have as a mid-afternoon snack. I'd be most grateful for any interesting ideas.