Monday, November 21, 2011

Ode to my sister's jelly slice

Its afternoon tea on the farm - my sister's dairy farm that is. And in true CWA (Country Women's Association) style the glistening jelly slice has just be removed from its tin and awaits slicing into delicious morsels to accompany our tea - with fresh un-pasteurised milk provided by the girls! I'm sure this one would win a blue sash first price at any rural show but it's just for us and the farmer (my brother in law).

Now I have to say that unlike my mother, and her mother before her (that would be my grandmother and kitchen mentor), my sister has a much more diverse culinary heritage. With a apprenticeship at a city boutique hotel, a stint working from the reknown Walter Bourke, cooking for a major catering outfit, producing gourmet take home diners and hand making chocolates for one of the first Chocolatiers in Melbourne, this is no average farmers wife.

And there in lies one of the fabulous capacities of a cooks life, it takes one on so many journeys and yet sometimes seems to take us right back to where it all started. As my sister and I discuss the tricks of jams, relishes, scones and sponges it is a reminder of a rural childhood cooking with Grandma on the wood burning Aga stove. Not so dissimilar to talking to fellow cooks Greg Malouf about his Middle Eastern heritage or George Calombaris about growing up in a Greek Cypriot household.  Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cheers, Salute, Kanbei, Prost, Campai, Bottoms up or Chin Chin

In whichever language you choose I'll drink to a table or barstool at Chin Chin. Fresh and vibrant dishes with staff to match!!! (More about the cheeky 'as long as you're happy' barman later). Nestled against the wall at the back of the bar watching the world go by, tonight was when dining solo had an advantage. The snaking queue heading down Flinders Lane was being informed that it was a 1 to 2 hour wait for a table, depending on how many friends you were dining with, but for me on my own it was straight in. Occasionally I rather enjoy 'a table for one' and with the trend towards bar dining it seldom ends up a lonely experience.

The major disadvantage kicks in when having to choose just a dish or two with a menu focused on sharing. However not only did I thoroughly enjoy my silken tofu and banana blossom salad and pork "roll ups" I visually devoured the Massaman curry, salt and pepper squid, crispy chicken wings and pat Thai of my bar dining 'neighbours'. Luckily they were sociable so my culinary surveillance didn't get creepy - and a happy 9th anniversary to the 'floral bouquet' couple. 

Now dessert is not normally a big priority but sometimes I can be tempted and my lone dining status was receiving ample enticement. Plenty of banter with the barman/waiter about our respective travels in India combined with a little up-selling. So Layered jellies of coconut milk and passion fruit with slow poached pineapple it was and a good excuse to have a sticky, a rather delightful Frogmore Creek Iced Riesling (and an interesting lesson on the origins of Iced Riesling from my friendly compatriot). Definitely worth it the wine, the chitchat and the oh so creamy and refreshing coconut jelly. Yum

There seems to be a few complaints about the queuing. Well really....... the restaurant game is a tough gig and if it takes a no booking policy and table turn over to make it viable then so be it. The reliance on degustation/set menus or minimum spend or booking months in advance to allow the dining public the quality we seek seems fair. We are so lucky in Melbourne to have so many dining experiences to choose from - so if queuing isn't to your liking dine elsewhere I reckon.

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 18, 2011

There's cake and then there's.....

Macarons! The affair with cupcakes has waned and one can feel the love  - of macarons - in the streets of Melbourne. In amongst busy Hardware Lane, overflowing with eateries, is a whole shop dedicated to just this one French pastry. There is a chic austerity upon entering the pastel palace that is home to arguably some of the city's best - La Belle Miette. The uninitiated peer through the pristine shop window and the first time visitor battles to decide between the Salty Caramel, vibrant Raspberry and the decadent ‘Bastille’ (Moet et Chandon and Blackcurrant) or other 10 or so flavours. Patiently waiting in the queue is the addicted anticipating their next fix. 
Customers are rewarded with beautifully boxed crunchy intense sweet chewiness no matter what their flavour preference and in just the right portion to avoid feelings of guilt. Unless of course one attempts to try too many flavours or the entire selection! I'm glad my addiction to food is broad so I can enjoy just one -  the 'Bastille’ –  and I don't feel compelled to travel around Melbourne tasting each and every flavours on offer. Although LuxBite is on my list next time I'm on that side of town and the Kaffir Lime is inviting - uh oh.....
La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon 

Hopetoun Tea Rooms
And just in case your sugary fetish is not appeased by the simplicity of La Belle Miette then perhaps you'd better head off to another of Melbourne's emporiums of sweetness, The Hopetoun Tea Rooms, where the variety on display looks more like the Myer Christmas windows.