Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons, Melbourne

Last Sunday, I enjoyed a quiet lunch with J at Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons prior to heading to the movies to see Tomorrow When the War Began.

Reading a few other blogs and some reviews, it seemed that Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons was a really good traditional Italian restaurant.

It was cold and rainy outside so some comfort food and probably some pasta seemed like a great idea. We arrived just before midday as we wanted to be able to take our time and enjoy our lunch. We ordered a 1/2 litre carafe of the Crittenden Estate Pinot Gris while we took a closer look at our place mat menus.

To begin with we decided on the mixed marinated olives served warm and the Burrata - unspun cow's milk/cream mozzarella with hot focaccia and lemon.
The mixed olives included - Australian Gordal Green, Australian Wild Brown, Manzanilla Black, Salt Dried Kalamata, Arbequina Black, and Taggiasche Black. The salt dried kalamata were probably my least favourite but the gordal green were to die for!

The Burrata was probably the highlight of the entire meal. Presented quite simply on the plate, a little 'sack' of mozzarella drizzled with some olive oil, some hot bread and a wedge of lemon. Although the menu described the cheese as a cream mozzarella, little did I know that when I cut into it that this creamy goodness would ooze out. We squeezed on some lemon and dug in. Creamy and subtle with the lemon and olive oil zing to balance it out. I could have eaten three of these and had nothing else!

Next, onto our mains. J ordered the Spaghetti "Arrabbiata" with crab, tomato and chilli baked in a paper bag and I ordered the Bucatini with squid, tomato, chilli, red wine and pancetta. I must admit, I wish I had J's pasta. Mine was really tasty and very traditional however J's was incredibly good. Decent amount of crab, right amount of chilli and the pasta was cooked perfectly. J has Italian heritage and even made the comment that the sauce tasted like her Nonna's. Looking at the picture below, it looks like a big old mess, but looks can be deceiving!

Excellent for a slow Sunday lunch with a warm pasta and some wine. Especially on a cold day. Will definitely be returning.

Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wine Tour - Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Just this week I returned from a 6 day trip to Tasmania. Starting in Hobart we made our way around to Launceston where we headed out to the Tamar Valley to stay a few nights and spend a day on a wine tour through the region before continuing the rest of our travels.

The Tamar Valley is just north of Launceston, approximately 15 minutes from the CBD and runs along the mighty Tamar River. The Tamar Valley is becoming more and more well known for its cool climate wines, in particular its Pinot Noir and Riesling.

We were challenged with constant rain for the whole day, but we didnt let that dampen our spirits, we had 6 wineries to get through! Our Tour Guide Terry picked us up directly from our accomodation and had printed up individual tasting notes for each winery with plenty of room for us to write our own tasting notes as well.

A few weeks back I was reading an article in Gourmet Traveller's WINE about some of Australia's best Chardonnays and was excited to see that Tasmanian Chardonnays were fast becoming clear challengers to the establishment of Australian chardonnay. I was more excited to discover that the itinerary that Terry had put together for us, ensured that I was going to be able to sample two of the wines they had listed.

First winery was Velo Wines, and unbeknown to us, 200 meters from where we were staying.  Aptly named, Velo means bicycle in French and is run by Mary and Michael Wilson who is an former Olympian and Tour de France cyclist come winemaker. Both are extremely passionate about their wines and discussed their expansion to include a restaurant as well as their cellar door. The 2008 Velo Chardonnay (wooded) was listed in Gourmet Traveller's WINE as one of the challengers to the establishment. One word. Fantastic. Im not a huge chardonnay drinker but I bought a bottle of this to take home. Light, with citrus and peach notes, smoky on the nose but not too smoky on the palate. Very different to any chardonnay I have had before. Cannot wait to return when the restaurant is open!

Next up we headed to Rosevears Estate. Part of Pirie Wines, Rosevears was recently bought out by Tamar Ridge Estates. Dr Andrew Pirie is still chief winemaker and now CEO of all Tamar Ridge Estates. The Pirie Sparkling was probably my favourite here.

View of the Tamar River from the Cellar Door at Rosevears Estate - Yes there is a river down there somewhere!
Back in the car and off to Ninth Island. Probably one of the more well known Tasmanian wineries. We were lucky enough to be able to taste a $125 bottle of their cabernet sauvignon which was sensational. Ninth Island is part of Kreglinger Wine Estates, along with Pipers Brook Vineyard. We tasted a good selection of Ninth Island and Pipers Brook Wines here. The Pipers Brook 2009 Pinot Gris was really lovely, but the highlight of this winery would have to have been the toilet signs!

Cute! - Ninth Island
By this time we were begining to get extremely hungry, so our next stop was Moores Hill Estate where we would stop off to devour a few cheese platters and take in the valley.

Moores Hill Estate
Moores Hill was a really stunning vineyard. The cellar door which incorporates a semi-cafe where you can enjoy cheese platters is really warm and welcoming, the open fire adds a nice touch. We took a seat on the verandah looking out over the vineyard (see above) and soon after our Cheese Platters arrived!

So on our platter we had a selection of Tasmanian Cheeses... the Ashgrove Smoked Cheddar, Tasmanian Heritage 'Red Square' Washed Rind Brie, Tasmanian Heritage 'Blue Opal' Blue Brie, homemade quince paste, some gherkins, salami and a sundried tomato and olive tapanade. All with a basket of fresh baguette and crackers. The Blue Brie was my favourite, smooth and creamy and since the others arent huge blue fans, I got to eat most of it! We enjoyed these with a bottle of the Moores Hill Riesling.

It was getting close to 2.30pm and we had been on the go (and on the wine) since 10am. Terry met us back at Moores Hill and we decided that we would just like to visit one more winery. So we head off to Tamar Ridge Estate.

Unfortunately by this stage I think we were all a little bit over it and a little bit tired (and maybe a teensy bit drunk), so I dont have all that much to say about Tamar Ridge Estate. However, I made the decision that this would give me a good excuse to come back, visit again and visit the wineries we didnt get to visit on this trip.

Overall apart from the rain, it was a great day and we really enjoyed it. Would recommend a tour through the valley, but maybe in summer when its a little nicer!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

STOP. Hamper Time! (Almost.)

Once again the year is flying by and I cannot believe that I have to start thinking about Christmas hampers already.

For those of you who don't know, each year I spend most of my pre-Christmas December in A's kitchen making hampers for all my family and friends. It's painful and stressful - I actually cried one Christmas Eve two years ago purely because I hadn't finished and was up until all hours wrapping packets of biscuits and putting Nana hats* on jars of relish. But we have a love/hate relationship, me and my hampers. Stress and crying aside, I get the greatest satisfaction from giving presents that I have made myself. That's probably why I continue to do it.

Onion & Thyme Relish from last years hampers. Terrible photo, but its all I have!

Each year is a lesson, I learn something that works well, or something I will never repeat. Something I will NEVER EVER repeat is parmesan and rosemary grissini sticks. A and I made these the first year we decided to make hampers. The recipe seemed simple, "Just pop the dough through the fettuccine setting on your pasta machine" it said. "Just lay them on a baking tray and bake them" it said. Four days later we were still making these fiddly-pain-in-the-behind grissini sticks!

So now it's August and I need to start thinking about what I want to do this year. I did a clean out of my fridge on the weekend and managed to get a good little collection of jars just from throwing stuff out. So that's a start. This year I really want to blog the progress of my hampers, so there will be more to read on this come December! I might try and persuade A to guest blog too!

*Nana Hats - The name A and I gave to the little fabric "hats"  that we put on top of homemade jams and relishes (see photo for example).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Guilty Pleasures...

After reading Chris Plummer's "Is Ignorance Bliss?" it got me thinking about all the cheap, convenient (not so good for you) food that I love to indulge in, no matter how distinguished my palate may become.

So I thought, rather than writing about some fantastic sushi I had on the weekend (I really did) I thought I would mix things up a bit and write about my guilty pleasures... I'm sure there's a little story behind each one. So here we go, potentially ruining any credibility I may have had.

Easy Mac. Little packets of dried macaroni with powdered cheese sauce, add water, heat in the microwave for a few minutes and presto! Mac and Cheese. I have made Jamie Oliver's version which claims to be 'The Best Mac and Cheese' and don't get me wrong, it's really amazingly good, but for some reason Easy Mac just tastes even better. Reminds me of the days when A and I lived in a share house together. We would head home after a big night out and instead of getting a kebab or Macca's like everyone else, we would head home, make mac and cheese and eat it standing at the kitchen bench chatting about the nights events.

Following on from a big night out, there's always the bigger hangover the next day. What else is better to cure a mighty hangover than a Sausage McMuffin? "What about the egg?" you say? Egg in Sausage McMuffins is for schmucks (no offence to anyone who may enjoy egg in their muffin). My friend B introduced me to the good ol' Sausage McMuffin one hungover morning in Brisbane and I have never looked back. Although it's always total confusion when you order a Sausage McMuffin. You'll be sitting at the drive thru speaker and the server will say "so that's a Sausage and Egg McMuffin?" you then speak louder and more slowly emphasising on the "WITHOUT EGG", while your thinking it would have been easier to just go inside to order but then that would mean that you would have had to get dressed before leaving the house instead of driving down there in your pj pants.

Something else my fridge is never without... Processed cheese slices. Toasted sandwiches are one of my all time favourite breakfast or lunch meals. Simple and easy to make, and really great when it's cold outside. I love toasted cafe 'foccacias' with roast beef, tomatoes, tasty cheese and some swanky chutney or chilli jam, but give me a ham and cheese toastie with double processed cheese and I'm in heaven! It melts all through your sandwich and if you eat it too quickly you will burn your mouth on the hot melted cheese. Mmmm.

Now, throwback to my childhood, Vanilla Ice Cream with Milo. A nice rich vanilla ice cream sprinkled with some Milo is just yum! Although my ice cream to Milo ratio is about 1:3, the ice cream is more a garnish than the main event. I actually enjoy having Milo stuck in your teeth, and mixing the Milo into the ice cream and creating something that resembles a Choc Shake from McDonald's but tastes so much better!

Last but not least, a drink that is pure (sugar) indulgence... Dr Pepper. Not very easy to come by in Australia, but it seems to be popping up more frequently these days, much to my demise and my dentists delight. A trip to Disneyland with my parents at the age of 12 introduced me to this liquid gold. Definitely an acquired taste for most, I will always buy a can anywhere I see it.

So I have now aired my dirty laundry in hope that people will still continue to read my blog. But it makes me curious, because I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'm sure that even the most distinguished palate gets a hankering for something disgustingly indulgent once in awhile. So please feel free to comment and air your dirty laundry too, c'mon, you know you want to. It might make me feel better! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Matsu Hashi, Clifton Hill

Well as promised, we had dinner at Matsu Hashi on Friday night and I have something to write about!

Sushi has been a hard one for me to conquer. I wasn't a fan of thick sashimi slices, and the smell of the nori sheets made me feel quite ill. But it always looked so pretty and tasty and I am a bona fide lover of all seafood*, how could I not like sushi? So, I would continue to try it every now and then until I found something I liked.

What I ended up discovering was that I don't like old sushi, hand rolls that are prepared in the morning, or the night before and are left sitting in a fridge all day. Japanese fast food. I like my sushi made on the spot, with the freshest fish, which in essence is what sushi is supposed to be all about. I don't like overly thick sashmi slices, for me, the thinner the better and when you order this in a place where its made on the spot, you can request thinner slices if you prefer.

Well Matsu Hashi did not disappoint and I'm overjoyed with the fact that it's BYO wine and walkable distance from home. The interior is cosy and not too dark, still keeping simplistic Japanese styling as opposed to some crazy Japanese shop that sells Hello Kitty everything.

We ordered a bottle of Pirie South Pinor Noir 2009 (Tasmania). Not a bad drop, we managed to drink the whole bottle either way. The wine list was quite small but very reasonably priced.

Pirie South Pinot Noir 2009
The menu is extensive, large sushi bar, hotpot options, soups and teppanyaki. With so much to choose from, we wanted a little bit of everything! So what do we do in that situation? Of course we ordered a Banquet! P and I are suckers for banquets even though most of the time we almost need to be rolled out of the restaurant. But we decided on the Sappora Set. At $35 per person for 6 courses, what a bargain!

We started off with Miso Soup. It was light and flavoursome, and made from scratch. No sachet miso soup here. Topped with fresh sliced mushrooms, not dried and then re-hydrated mushrooms, it was the perfect addition to a perfect soup.

Next came the sushi and Californian rolls. We had king fish and salmon sushi and obviously some Californian rolls. On the side, wasabi, pickled ginger and Japanese mayo. The king fish sushi was my absolute favourite. The fish was fresh and the rice held together really well, I could bite half off and still have the remaining half balancing nicely in my chopsticks, all in one piece. The salmon was also very fresh and not cut too thick, just how I like it. P isn't usually a fan of Californian rolls, but he said that he actually really enjoyed these ones, and so did I!

Sushi and Californian Rolls

Miso Soup

After finishing that course I was starting to feel a little full from all the rice, but they left enough time in between for us to get our appetites back. I also think this is just Japanese food, it's filling immediately after you eat it but the feeling wears off pretty quickly, and we are ready for the next course!

The Gyoza Dumplings were large and juicy, probably some of the best I have had, you could taste the real pork with that really nice hint of the cabbage. I really could have eaten a plate full of these if I wasn't in anticipation of the rest of the meal! The Yakitori Skewers were your typical teriyaki chicken, reminiscent of my days at my old job where my friend G would order two Yakitori skewers and one Japanese pancake with extra mayo for lunch almost every day, how I loved to steal his food when he wasn't looking!

Next we had Tempura. Prawns, zucchini, pumpkin and carrot. As always, Tempura carrot is just my absolute favourite! The carrot is soft and sweet and the batter really light and crispy. We also enjoyed eating the fanned soba noodle garnish flecked with crunchy bits of tempura batter.

Gyoza and Yakitori

Eye fillet Teppanyaki, served with stir fried vegies on a sizzling iron plate. The steak was incredible, thick slices, cooked medium rare as asked by our friendly trainee waiter. This really was superb.

Eye Fillet Teppenyaki

P was not a fan of the Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean Paste, I enjoyed it that much that I forgot to take a photo and realised once it was half gone...

Since Friday night I have been back already! Really a fan of this place. Would recommend a visit to any lover of Japanese food!

*With the exception of jellyfish. How can anyone like something that can only be described as slimy crunch?

Matsu Hashi on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sorry, its been awhile!

I know its been quite a while since my last post, but due to the cold winter weather I have been doing a fair bit of hybernating at home.

I am planning to head out for dinner tonight though so I hope to be able to write something new soon!

But a few little updates...

Shulz Organic Milk (Timboon, Vic) - Purchased at Collingwood Farmers Market last Saturday. By far the BEST milk I have ever had, since it was finished, no milk has tasted the same.

Lancashite (ooops I mean Lancashire) Pork Sausages - Purchased at Melbourne Showgrounds Farmers Market. I was so disapointed, they tasted that terrible that I actually threw them out. Enough said.

Things to look forward to...

Dinner tonight, think we might be checking out Matsu Hashi on Queens Parade in Clifton Hill, Japanese Restaurant within walking distance to my home, really hope it does not disapoint!

Tasmanian Road Trip 2010 has been booked and paid for! Leaving at the start of September, I am hoping to return with armfuls of things to write about. On my last trip I could have written four posts on the oysters alone!

Til next time!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Farmers Market - Melbourne Showgrounds

Last weekend, my partner and I headed to the Farmers Market at the showgrounds. I had only just recently heard of it and since it's open every Saturday, I was hopeful that it would be fantastic.

It looks like its reasonably new to the Farmers Market scene. There were probably no more than 30 stalls however they did have a good variety of items for sale and I still managed to spend a good $150.

Items I purchased;
  • Lancashire Pork Sausages
  • Pink Lady Apples
  • Goats Cheese & Wild Rocket Gnocchi
  • Beef Sausages, Scotch Fillet & Beef Mince
  • Red Box Honey
  • Ricci's Dipping Sauce
  • Boosey Creek Chilli & Garlic Marinated Fetta
  • Buffalo Mozzarella
  • Sourdough Vienna and Sourdough Fruit Loaf
  • Variety of Vegies - Potatoes, Onions, Leek, Carrots and Broccoli
I did manage to buy several other items but cannot remember them off the top of my head. But out of the items I did remember here's a few notes about some of them.

Pink Lady Apples - crisp, fresh, sweet and straight off the tree. I cant remember the name of the orchid, but they were the only orchid there.

Goats Cheese & Wild Rocket Gnocchi (Take Me Home Pasta - Coburg/Morwell, Vic) -Although I slightly overcooked it (I was distracted by a certain meowing cat wanting to be fed), with a basic sauce, its so tasty!

Ricci's Dipping Sauce (Healesville, Vic) - First of all, what a salesman, had me before I even tried the stuff! But its a great product, an asian inspired sauce of chilli, ginger, fish sauce, lime, coriander, lemongrass and other ingredients. I have already used it twice in one week. I cooked some chicken in it for a salad and prepared a noodle dish with it. It's versatile so your not restricted to using it purely as a dipping sauce, and I have been told that it's sensational with dim sims. Ricci's also make a range of flavoured pita chips.

Sourdough Fruit Loaf (Red Beard Bakery - Trentham, Vic) - Organic sourdough with organic dried sultanas, sun muscats, currants and apricots, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pimento, cloves, biodynamic stone ground & organic wheat flours. The dried fruits are marinated in the dough before cooking, It's a spicy dense fruit loaf with lots of flavour. It freezes well (I'm the only one at home that will eat it) and if you slice it yourself you can make nice thick slices, with a decent amount of butter, its addictive and perfect for cold winter mornings!

All in all, the market is small but being open every Saturday is a bonus,  I would consider heading there each week to even just grab my fruit and veg.

I am planning on cooking the Pork Sausages tonight, so depending on how they turn out you might hear more about them soon!