Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Anglicare Dinner with Angels 2016

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest 

It’s always said that prevention is better than cure, but it’s often the harder of the two. However for Anglicare Victoria, it’s one of their three guiding pillars, prevent, protect and empower, as everyday they look to protect the futures of children, young people, families and adults. They do this by providing services such as foster care for children in negative home situations, offering gambler’s help for families and providing residential care - amongst many other services.

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Earlier this month, I had the great pleasure of joining in on Anglicare’s biggest fundraiser for the year, at the Dinner with Angels gala dinner. At this dinner, Melbourne’s top chefs donate their time, produce and experience, to help raise funds for children living in foster care. 

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Held at the Peninsula in the Docklands, the setting was lively and it’s always great fun to arrive and try to guess which table you might be seated at. All while sipping away on some beautiful Dalzotto Prosecco (one of my favourites) and browsing the silent auction items - they had digitised the silent auction this year which made it quite entertaining as we watched the bids go up on the screen through the course of the evening!

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This time, my friend Caryn and I were lucky enough to be sitting at the Merricote table!

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But before that, some light entertainment, and speeches from the CEO and chairman, who reiterate the importance of the evening and share some of the enlightening experiences they’ve had, and some of the amazing success stories as well. 

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But before long, the main event was served to our table - starting with individual entrees. The Merricote table started with absolutely stunning ocean trout pastrami with cultured cream, blood orange and rye. The colour of the cured ocean trout was just amazing, so vibrant and rich in colour, but so sweet and refreshing in flavour. The cultured cream was amazingly moreish, and added a nice richness to the dish. 

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Mains are a sharing affair, Merricote serving up a beautiful pork dish with the most beautifully noisy crackling, with poached red wine pair - I adored the sweetness with the richness of the pork. Classic, but for a reason! The pork was paired with gorgeous dutch carrots with almonds and raddichio salads as well. 

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Following mains, the live auctions start, which is probably one of my favourite parts of the evening - one day I’ll get to join in…! Always get a couple of laughs, and amazement about how generous people are.

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The chefs also line up for their group photo, and it’s really a best of the best in Melbourne - where else are you going to get this many of Melbourne’s chefs, from some of the best restaurants all cooking at the same time? 

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To cap off the night, a modern take on apple crumble (which I devour) and some live music and dancing before we call it a night. 

An enjoyable night, incredible food, and all for a good cause. There’s something for everybody, but most importantly, support and resources being made available to the work that Anglicare Victoria do to help prepare and empower the people they work with. 




Wednesday, September 21, 2016

St. Hotel

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest

The last time I was at the St. Hotel in St Kilda, the gorgeous old building (which has been in the neighbourhood since 1915) was packed rafter to rafter with people, lining up for Asian bites from St Hotel and a range of other restaurants as an event. 

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Although it was fun, it was hectic, so when I had an opportunity to revisit the St. Hotel to try their new European bar and dining menu, I was certainly keen to check out what head chef Ben Isaacs had to offer. 

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The St. Hotel is so Melbourne when you walk in, retaining a lot of the old world charm - rough brick walls, and accented with new timber floor finishes, polished concrete and black steel. Rather than one big open space, the restaurant/bar is an array of dining spaces so if you want to grab a quick drink you can, or if you want to sit in a cosy corner with a date…you can do that too.

Or if you want to have dinner with 20 other bloggers, that’s totally doable too!

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The ‘bite me’ neon has to be one of my favourite pieces of neon in Melbourne - talk about getting straight to the point!

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We started with an array of nibbles, with the crumbed pacific oysters with tartare sauce and lemon the first to come out. Although usually I do favour my oysters natural, these were done exceptionally well. Golden, and crispy batter beautifully protected the juicy and sweet meat inside which exploded into a delicious textural delight. 

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Smoked ocean trout rilles and Yarra Valley caviar on rye crisp were also vibrant and bright in flavour - I adore trout - and the rye crisps were crispy as advertised and the parmesan gougeres with truffled gruyere sauce were to die for. Light choux style pastry on the outside, stuffed full with cheese goodness on the inside - I was definitely eyeing the plate to see if there were an extras left behind…

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Our wines this evening were selected and matched by Red + White - one of my favourite wines for the night had to be this La la Land Pinot Gris - so fruity and bright. 

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Our next dish, would could have been our main for it’s heft in flavour and weight, was the wood roasted jamon wrapped buffalo mozzarella with mild mushrooms and bitter leaves. Woah. Big plate. One of these each. Totally okay with this! The mozzarella was creamy, and deliciously oozy from being roasted - on a cold night, was there anything better really? 

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For our mains, we shared (fortunately) a couple of plates. The wood roasted chateaubriand served a la bourguigononne style was a winner with the group. It can definitely be tough to get red meat right for a big group, but St. Hotel delivered the most tender and perfectly cooked piece of meat we could ever ask for. It just melted in the mouth. 

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I was a little less excited by the wood BBQ wild barramundi with wild mushrooms, burnt butter and sage - I’m personally just not a huge fan of barramundi - but I did not stop picking at the pine mushrooms that came with the dish. Meaty and just a match made in heaven with the burnt butter. 

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Cauliflower and gruyere mac and cheese is everything you want it to be. Need I say more? 

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To finish our evening, we all enjoy an elderflower panna cotta with blueberries and lemon - which I just adore. After a big meal, the dessert was light and refreshing. A lovely mix of textures from the crumbly meringue to the soft and creamy panna cotta. Well balanced - one that even Brad finished! 

I’m definitely selective when it comes to dinner, more so because I want to make sure Brad will enjoy the food as well. St Hotel ticked all the boxes for me and my man for hearty, filling and just really well executed dishes. Although I’m not ever really in St Kilda, St. Hotel will definitely be on my list to recommend that side of town! 

54 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda

St. Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bistro Morgan Pop-Up

Disclosure: I was invited to a preview of the pop-up prior to opening

What were you doing in high school? I for one, was simply a quiet nerd (read: loser), who spent lots of spare time reading, playing video games and drawing.

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Not Morgan Hipworth though, boy genius behind Bistro Morgan. He’s making doughnuts, and running a doughnut wholesale business! His doughnuts are handmade, and hand-dipped, and supplied to a few cafes around town on the weekends (after he’s done his homework!) 

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But just for this week, until Sunday the 25th of September, instead of wondering what flavours will be available at Kitty Burns or Two Birds Cafe, you can get them all in one spot - at the Bistro Morgan pop up!

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Open from 10am, doughnut and sugar lovers can get their fix at 190 High Street, Windsor. I personally really enjoyed the couple of flavours that I tried, the white chocolate with raspberry jam was one of my favourites - enjoyed the tartness of the raspberry and that the doughnuts were not heavy in sugar. They’re actually really well balanced.

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The Ferrero Rocher doughnut is also a winner, topped with the namesake chocolate and absolutely filled with nutella. It’s lush. 


But really, how can you go past the golden gaytime? With salted caramel by the syringe full. Heaven right? 

190 High Street
Windsor

Open from 10am daily until the 25th of September.

Bistro Morgan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bedford St Collingwood

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It’s amazing how fast change can happen. For many years, maybe even five or more, my bus route that takes me in the city drives along Johnston Street and I’ve often looked out the window, and have said that one day I’ll make it into that Czech restaurant near the corner of Smith Street.

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Except that never happened and the next thing I know…it’s a brand spanking new place! When did that happen?! 

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Bedford St. is a new edition to Collingwood, from morning with coffees and breakfast fare through to dinner with plenty of fried chicken and wine on the menu. Whilst the Czech restaurant always looked dark and black from the outside, Bedford St has kept a raw and slightly industrial feel to the place, but let all the light in - so it’s absolutely lovely during the day. 

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The chai is from Chailalai Chai, a small chai brewery in Brunswick - my first time trying it. 

Goodness! If you like chai with kick, this is your chai - perhaps almost too strong for my liking with absolutely all kick, that you cough on because it surprises you, but it’s so warming. Once you adjust, it is quite nice - provided that’s your thing. 

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Roast broccoli salad with chilli and garlic roasted broccoli, house made soft cheese, mixed grains, puffed rice and herbs is one of the most divine ways to eat broccoli. I love the char, the crunchy of the puffed rice and all the textures throughout. Plenty of green herbs bring freshness to the earthy flavours.

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Brad got the fried hot chicken sandwich with BBQ slaw and thick cut white bread which is total monster of a sandwich. My photo does no justice to exactly how big this thing is. It’s terrifyingly delicious. The chicken is one of the tastiest fried chickens I’ve come across, with a super crunchy batter, a little bit sticky and sweet, juicy and tender meat and that slaw? Yum. It’s BBQ with a bit of punch - so much flavour. 


I so badly wanted to have the apple pie waffles too, but found myself a bit too full after munching through almost half of Brad’s fried chicken (so much for trying to be healthy with salad huh?) - always have to leave something for next time though!

11-13 Johnston Street
Collingwood 3066

Bedford Street Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Embla

There’s nothing better when something is simple, but simply perfect. 

Embla, the newest venture from the team that brought you Town Mouse (which y’all know I simply adore), was somewhere I had dropped by for a drink when they first opened, but just never made it around for dinner. Until your friend Chris from Brisbane randomly drops in on a Monday night and it’s simply perfect timing. 

Located on Russell Street, the wine bar (they have been quite specific in the media that they’re not a restaurant…yet) is a like a warm cavern in the distance on a cold winter’s night; candlelight flickering and casting shadows across the timber heavy interiors which give it the feeling of age, grandeur, but intimacy all in one breath. It’s cosy, and it’s easy to get lost in the selection of wine and top-notch hospitality. 

I love the wine list, the wine by the glass list is punchy, selected and not too long, but with enough things on it that aren’t familiar on it - so it’s fun to get adventurous. 

The food menu is quite similar, not too long, punchy, selected, with lots of charred items that enjoy some time in the scorching wood fire oven that looks like a dragon is opening it’s mouth every time the door is opened to pop something in, or on the charcoal open grill. 

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A plate of anchovy toast is whisked on to our table, a must, and it’s easy to see why. Hit of salt, hit of umami, hit of crunch, it whets the palate beautifully. 

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Duck liver parfait is something I can never go past, and Embla’s was a generous serve of perfectly smooth and velvety goodness. Loved the pickled radish on the side to offset the richness. Was also very kind of them to top up our quickly dwindling bowl of lavosh which I wasn’t expecting (otherwise I would’ve not held back!) 

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When I see pine mushrooms on the menu, being in season (when I visited Embla), it’s impossible to say no. Served so simply (a theme you’ll see ongoing through the night) with rosemary and soured buttermilk, my only wish was that there would be more. Perfectly cooked, the buttery and meatiness of the pine mushrooms was accentuated beautifully.

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Wood roasted broccoli with sunflower seed miso is not much to look at, or so one may think, tree trunks of broccoli charred to black on the outside, but so sweet and tender on the inside. I’m also totally obsessed with broccoli (as a kid I actually drew ‘steamed broccoli, chicken and rice’ as my favourite dish for a homework task) so couldn’t get enough of this.

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Ongoing theme yet again, but the half roast chicken was everything you could ask for. So juicy and delightful, but surprisingly, the roasted garlic was one of the most delightful components. Roasted until so soft that it’s sweet - it perfectly accompanied the chicken. Make sure you and your dining partners all have one (or enjoy them all and let the others suffer).

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We also enjoyed the roasted celeriac, I forgot what it was served with (it’s a wine bar, sue me for forgetting), but at the end of the meal when Chris and I were trying to decide our favourite dishes, this one definitely came up for me. I loved the crisp and charred edges and how comforting, homely and filling the dish was. Reminiscent for me of Town Mouse’s roasted cabbage, and the way it makes me feel. You’ll have to forgive my vague flavour profile notes…this was one of the last savoury dishes we had after a couple glasses of wine!

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Chris and I had the great honour of being one of the first people to try a new dessert on the menu that evening, a lemon curd tart made with a white sesame pastry, black sesame sugar and bananas with lemon/citrus. 

Oh my goodness. So sublime. Perfectly zesty, and sweet, but also refreshing. Great smooth texture, and absolutely loved the extra level of flavour the sesame brought to the citrus palate. We were recommended a glass of yuzushu, which was absolutely perfect and highly recommended. 

For only being a wine bar, the food offering is pretty solid and also solidly filling. Pretty sure I rolled out of there at the end of the night, although it’s almost tempting to never leave with the most warm and welcoming of service (always always take their recommendations - everyone there knows what they’re doing), cosy atmosphere and obviously delicious food and wine. 


Embla is just making the simple, simply magic - and that’s all there is to that. 

122 Russell Street
Melbourne 3000

Embla Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato