Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cooking Classes - Urban Kitchen & NEFF Kitchen

Disclosure: I was invited to the classes as a guest

Although I often tell people I’m not great at cooking, the truth is really, I’m not bad. I can’t make anything fancy, but I’ve definitely been getting better at working with what’s in my fridge and throwing things together. 

My problem, is that I’m getting a bit stuck in what I’m comfortable cooking (ie. curry chicken and big pots of ragu), and just need a little encouragement and guidance to see how simple it can actually be to do other things.

Doesn’t help that it wouldn’t really what I make, Brad and my brother would just inhale it anyway…so there’s not much motivation from them really!

A little while ago I was invited to check out a couple of cooking classes, which I both thoroughly enjoy…and would definitely not mind receiving as a Christmas or birthday present (just saying Brad….)

17-21 Buckhurst St
South Melbourne 3025

After we meet for a pre-cook Corona or three in the foyer (perhaps a little dangerous considering we being handling knives a little late in the evening…), we are greeted by the sight of 44 commercial-grade cooking stations upstairs in Urban Kitchen. 

It’s a seriously impressive space. 

Urban Kitchen is run by Georgie and Ben Vile, who have spent a decade running Bay Leaf Catering, so know a thing or two about how a kitchen with lots of people should work! 

This particular evening, we’re getting taught how to make a couple of South American dishes by Paul Wilson, who’s recently opened Lady Carolina, and is also the culinary brain behind Acland St Cantina and Newmarket hotel, just to name a few. 

It’s an absolute pleasure to be able to hear from Paul himself, who simply knows everything about the cuisine, the differences in the regions, the culture behind the food, and the nuances in flavour. 

We get demos from Paul, who whips up a kingfish ceviche, and carne asada, which we then go make ourselves! Knives, flames and all! I love that we actually get hands on, and actually get pretty messy, which really, is the best way to learn and it’s not long before the kitchen is smelling amazing. 

Paul also invites La Tortilleria to talk to us about how they make their pure corn tortilla’s, the old fashioned way, with their grinding stones, as we stuff our faces with their delicious corn chips as well. 

After everyone finishes cooking the food, it’s all brought together to be enjoyed as a group…and if I say so myself, the results are truly delicious. I might’ve made myself 3 or 4 very full tacos that night!

We’re also introduced to Juan from Chill Bro, who make paletas, a popular Mexican ice-cream on a stick, made with real ingredients and packed full of flavour. I fall head over heels with their strawberry paleta with condensed milk filling. To die for guys! Been meaning to pop by Melbourne Central to try more of the flavours! 

Urban Kitchen’s upcoming schedule of classes is diverse and exciting, with some very reputable names taking the lead. Daniel Wilson’s burger masterclass sounds delicious, as does David Baron’s (from Ironbark BBQ) American BBQ class! Check out the schedule on their website

Stall 90, South Melbourne Market
Cecil Street
South Melbourne 

The South Melbourne market cooking school has had a beautiful facelift, following it’s partnership with leading Germain kitchen appliance brand NEFF Australia, to create the NEFF Market Kitchen. 

It’s beautiful, clean and crisp, and also very intimate, with space for class sizes around 10 to 15 people. 

We’re in for a treat this night, with Jesse Gerner from Bomba and Green Park, taking us through how to make some delicious Spanish dishes. 

Our class is a little more demo and less hands on (although I volunteer to expertly skewer the lamb skewers), but there is lots of questions and interactivity, as Jesse tells us of his favourite places in Spain, the history behind the dishes, and encourages us to smell and taste the three very different paprikas he is cooking with! 

Tapas, beautiful and simple clams, insanely delicious lamb skewers, a squid ink seafood paella and to top it all off, Jesse’s Pedro Ximenez ice-cream…it makes for an absolutely delicious and enjoyable evening. It’s definitely a space for story and experience sharing, and really getting to know the minute details in making a dish…and having the opportunity to taste what it should be like! 

Like Urban Kitchen, NEFF Kitchen also has an amazing line up of chef’s and classes, which all do sell out quite quickly (Adrian Li’s taste of Tokyo in November would’ve been amazing, but it’s all sold out!), so make sure you get on the website and check out what’s on offer. 

Sure I haven’t quite gotten around to recreating what I’ve learnt at these classes yet…but it’s definitely on the cards in the very near future! 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gas-light Izakaya

Look, I gotta admit, when Daisy and I rocked up at the Gasometer Hotel early on a Sunday evening (with Liisa to arrive shortly after), to be greeted with an…enthusiastically loud live band in the front bar…we were on our phones looking for where else we could eat in the area. 

Fortunately the bar staff advised this was their last song, so we breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we could have dinner and actually hear each other and settled ourselves in to try the food from Gas-Light Izakaya. 

Gasometer Hotel is definitely not where three Asian girls would probably usually plan to have dinner, but when Adam Liston and Northern Light’s name is involved in the kitchen, we’re down. 

The menu is generous, and relaxed, taking what we loved at Northern Light into a more casual place, definitely reminded me of some of the places I had been to in Japan. 

The jalapeño and cheese korokke, with shichimi togarashi are served individually, but there’s a whole lot of attitude packed into each one. Fried perfectly golden and crunchy, the inside is exactly how you want it, melting in your mouth cheesiness with a punch of heat. We shared it quite comfortably between the three of us, it’s that big and filling!

I’ve been seeing a lot of cauliflower and broccoli on menus lately, and I’m totally okay with that. The fried cauliflower, with sweet and sour sauce (not the neon glowning type) with toasted sesame, had a lovely light batter, around the tender vegetable and a very familiar and comforting flavour to it. Kept going back for more!

You can’t go past the yakitori, we enjoyed the chicken thigh and chicken wing (I think), lovely and tender and charred to perfection. 

I was definitely into the Japanese vegetable curry, served with an onsen egg and steamed rice. On a cold night, this was pure comfort, and finally a Japanese curry that actually has a proportionate amount of gravy to rice! The spices were vibrant, and the gravy actually quite light, not heavy in the tummy. 

And to wrap up the savouries? Delicious, delicious pork loin katsu served with lemon and shredded cabbage slaw. The slaw itself was a little intense in the citrus for me, but I adored how crisp fried the katsu was. Easy, comforting food. 

We finished with the Yamazaki custard tart, which had a lovely and light pastry, but was a bit lacking in flavour overall for me. Wasn’t as excited as I was hoping to be. 

I’ve honestly never really been into traditional Australian pub food, but if I lived in Japan, I’d be totally down at the Izakaya’s all the time. To me, this is comfort food, and I’m so happy to see it in an accessible environment like the Gasometer hotel, and on top of that actually done really well too. I was also surprised how affordable our meal was, with a couple of soft drinks (hey, it was a school night), it came to around $27 a person, which I thought was very reasonable for the diversity of food we had. 

Next time, I’ll get one of those amazingly stacked Katsu-sando’s in me…

484 Smith Street
Collingwood 3066

Gas-Light Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Naughty Boy Cafe

The line between cafe and restaurant these days get more and more blurred. In fact, what’s the difference really? Why is there a differentiation between the two? After all, cafe’s serve food, and restaurants also serve coffee…they just generally have different opening hours. But with more and more all day eateries opening…

Naughty Boy wasn’t the place I was expecting to be totally and utterly blown away with, located on the quiet end of Lygon Street, the space is big, playful, with cheeky murals and milk crate lights and would cater very well to parents with kids (who hopefully aren’t so naughty!)

My Bondi Chai was sweet, nicely steeped, but not very spicy. 

The food menu reads a treat at Naughty Boy, I was very sorely tempted by red velvet pancakes, I went for the grilled Atlantic salmon, with a potato and bacon galette, avocado mousse, spinach, caper berries, poached eggs and radish.

Now I don’t know what I was expecting, something filling for sure, but wow. Naughty Boy turned it up and delivered one of the most gorgeous breakfast dishes I’d seen in a while. This could almost be dished up for dinner instead!

Just the right amount of pretty plating for me, but my gosh, executed so well. The salmon was perfectly cooked, with a crispy skin, still tender and succulent pink on the inside. Eggs were gooey, not runny, which worked well for this dish. Incredibly smooth dollops of avocado hid bursts of citrus which added a nice bit of acidity to the dish and the potato galettes were simply everything. The cubes looked good, but one bite and you know they’ve just been happily drowned in butter and/or cream…and you’re totally okay with that.

Brad’s baked eggs were a little more modest and traditional but was all good; braised ratatouille, tomato, basil, white beans, cotechino sausage, fried haloumi and toasted pide. Hearty, soul soothing food, I loved the sweetness of all the tomato, especially paired with the basil throughout. And do I even need to talk about haloumi? 

These guys have been getting some love lately for their ‘freak shakes’ which I didn’t have, but really, the food offering all on it’s own is amazing at Naughty Boy. Good value, utterly delicious and presently gorgeously. And no queue. For now. 

499 Lygon Street
Carlton North

Naughty Boy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sake - Cherry Blossom Dessert Platter

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest 

In Japan in Spring, the Cherry Blossom viewing season is a time for festivities, gatherings and food. I remember visiting Tokyo once in April during the peak of the season, and seeing Yoyogi park in Harajuku filled with blue tarps that people sat on, laughing, drinking and eating in abundance together. A beautiful reason to meet, and enjoy each other’s company.

Whilst our Spring is a completely different time of year, beginning as the magnolia’s and cherry blossoms start popping out in September, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate as well!

Although our weeks are still a bit cold, it’s been lovely to have warmer weekends, and last Sunday, when the sun was shining, it was a simply perfect day to sit outside at Sake Restaurant, next to the river and enjoy their Cherry Blossom inspired dessert platter. 

A warm pot of tea complimented the weather nicely. 

The dessert platter consisted of three of Sake’s desserts, the first that I quickly got into, to make sure I didn’t miss it before it melted, was the ‘Nihon Nemesis’. Not sure why it’s a nemesis…as chocolate is certainly no nemesis of mine (unless you’re talking to my waistline…)

The delicate chocolate cake, with raspberry kanten, matcha raspberry sorbet and honeycomb was just divine. The cake was so smooth and moist, rich in cocoa but not heavy. The raspberry matcha sorbet was so refreshing in contrast, I didn’t get a lot of matcha, but definitely got all of the raspberry which was so vibrant!

Our cassis white chocolate got a little blown away in the breeze, but it didn’t take too long for it to get the umeshu granita, cherry blossom and textures of spring all topped up and looking at it’s best again. This was a lovely and light dessert, I just adored the beautiful plump blueberries as well.

Lastly, the matcha bomb, with green tea parfait, kinako ice cream, mooch black sugar syrup and toasted meringue was a lovely rich finish. If you’re into your Asian flavours in your dessert, this is the one for you with a touch of savouriness. The toasted meringue was my absolute favourite, like a lightly torched marshmallow.

I think what was nice about all of the desserts, was the fact that they aren’t actually very sweet. Brad had a plate to himself, and he actually ate all of it himself…and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him consume so much sugar in one seating! 

100 St Kilda Road

Saké Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato