Showing posts with label *Suburb: Carlton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label *Suburb: Carlton. Show all posts

Friday, October 21, 2011

To Die For: Top Eats at Melbourne's Markets (Part 1)

For those who live and breathe food.

Last year I stopped gymming and started running. This went well until winter arrived (sometime just before autumn), and voluntarily braving the Melbourne wind and chill in active wear felt like an unintended death wish. Unless of course, you're running towards something worth dying for.


Living in the CBD, my incentives take the form of the four surrounding farmers' markets: Veg Out in St Kilda, Gasworks in Albert Park, Slow Food in Abbotsford, and the Collingwood Children's Farm Market.


Because you've never really lived in Melbourne unless you've been to a Melbourne market - especially the farmers' markets. It's an experience right up there with trams, inanely hidden restaurants and countless cups of coffee in renovated warehouses.

Especially because there's little other way to get your hands on one of these:

1. Mellawha Heavenly Pastry
Where: Gasworks Albert Park; Slow Food Abbotsford


This is at the top of the list because it is at the top of my list.


My pick: the Lebanese mince.

Just before the meat is piled on.

Unreal flaky pastry (like fabulous roti) encasing Warialda beef mince, Schulz organic yoghurt (also available at these markets), tomato, tangy chilli (formerly Susan Neville chilli pickle, until she sadly retired from the city market circuit), spices like sumac, baharat, and za'atar, and a whole lot of love.


You can get it without the chilli, but not without the love.


Price tag on one of best eats I've ever had: $8.90.


And I'll pay for yours if you can guess what these ladies do in their day jobs!


Where: St Kilda Veg Out; Slow Food Abbotsford; Mt Eliza Farmers' Market


On to sweet breakfasts and desserts, and there's a smorgasbord to pick from.


Head here early, because Kath's home-made goodies have an annoying way of running out quickly. The strength of these treats are in the strength of their taste. You can be sure that if it's lemon, it'll pack a punch. And anything chocolate is darkly intense.


Her brownies are particularly infamous, but my top picks are the citrus curd slice and the chocolate and pear praline tart. The lemon tart is fabulous as well, no weak and weedy over-sweetened nonsense here. In more ways than one, you pay by weight.

Spot the empty serving stools.

When my favourites are not on offer (like on the day I took these pictures), I go for anything containing oranges or rhubarb.


Because I literally know where they come from!

Where: St Kilda Veg Out; Slow Food Abbotsford; Collingwood Children's Farm Market; Gasworks Albert Park

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I'm told there's no better rhubarb in Victoria, and Frank, Food & Me certainly makes these the showcase of their desserts.

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My personal pick: the rhubarb tarts with cream.


Petite pastry shells topped with stewed rhubarb compote and cream. A slightly pricey $3 a pop, but very, very good. Fresh rhubarb, jams, cakes, and chutneys also on offer.

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4. Kingfisher Oranges
Where: St Kilda Veg Out; Slow Food Abbotsford; Collingwood Children's Farm Market; Gasworks Albert Park


Also a favourite Frank, Food & Me ingredient, Kingfisher oranges and mandarins are incredible. Really juicy with an intense orange sweetness and texturally excellent: none of the hard, sour, supermarket variety.


The quality control is amazing, if they don't think their oranges are perfect, they simply won't sell them.


The proof is in the eating: I replenish my fridge with 6kg of these each week. And a jar of their mulberry jam can last me two, at most.

Where: King & Godfree, Carlton


No longer strictly a market item, but I'm willing to let that technicality go. Previously mentioned in my Taste of Melbourne post, these intensely luxurious Belgian chocolate brownies from Brisbane were worth ruining my weekend gym session when they were available across the street right after at the Prahran Market on Saturdays.


They've only shown up at special events since, but have just recently arrived on the shelves of King & Godfree on Lygon St in Carlton.


You can purchase them online to be delivered, but $15 (Brisbane)/$20 (anywhere else) shipping is a bit of a deterrent unless you're purchasing a heap, or as corporate gifts. These brownies are such delicate creatures they have to be shipped in a much larger box with liquid ice packs to keep them perfect.


Seems a shame to eat them, but at $5.50 each for the experience, I don't hesitate. And I'm in good company - fans of the brand include Ashton Kutcher and Oprah.

My picks: Espresso & Walnut, Honey Caramelised Macadamia, and Rosewater & Pistachio (no, seriously).


One post certainly isn't enough to encompass all my market loves, so expect many more parts to this series in future.

As for all that running, it pays off in other ways:

Like 21.1km in 2:17:02.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Taste of Melbourne 2011

Royal Exhibition Building
9 Nicholson St
Carlton Gardens, Carlton

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When it rolls around, Taste of Melbourne is an event similar to the Melbourne Cup, Boxing Day sales, and an AFL final featuring Collingwood: a city-wide obsession requiring our attendance in masses.

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This year I fulfilled my civic duty at the generosity of Adrian from Food Rehab.

The purpose of Taste events is very literal: a sampling (i.e. taste) of what the host city has to offer. It’s an excellent marketing strategy particularly targeted towards out-of-towners.

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If you were only going to be in Melbourne for a weekend, it makes both financial and physical economic sense because even the least skinny of foodies couldn’t manage more than six to eight significant eats in two days. At Taste, you make an initial investment of $25-$30 on entry and over the following 4-5 hours, heavy-hitter restaurants proffer sized-down versions of their dishes of the year/month/week at a corresponding sized-down price ranging from $8 to $12 in ‘crowns’ (Taste currency). Add to the mix some 100+ (personal guesstimate) food and drink exhibitors, offering free samples galore, and it’s an entrepreneurial dream.

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For navigational sanity, I've split this post into 'Restaurants' and 'Exhibitors' (all others).

Restaurants

My personal pick for 'dish of the day' was spawned by the relatively low-profile The Millswyn:

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10 hr braised beef cheek with beetroot, spinach & field mushroom

Utterly unctuous (an adjective I use so sparingly you can be assured it fits!). I missed the presence of some form of starch to offset the richness of the braise (a simple mash perhaps?) but the petite beetroot cubes provided adequate counterbalance. I also really enjoyed the addition of the mushroom (with genuine fungal flavour), and wished they came in pairs.

Their other savoury dish was a cured Regal King Salmon with pickled daikon, lime and vanilla cucumber:

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The Millswyn also featured a bar with 5 Rum Ginger Mai Tai, Spicy Vanilla Margarita, and Watermelon & Rose Jam Punch:

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I'd say the crowd pick was St. Katherine:

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KFC (St Katherine's fried Lilydale chicken with BBQ sauce (plus, oddly, Japanese mayonnaise)

Slightly spicy, very moreish, served hot to go and moist to mouth. A simple but great filler-upper, which made it good value for both punters and the restaurant. But don't take my word for it, check out the number of empty containers within a 10-metre radius just 20 minutes in:

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And true to the Made Establishment (formerly The Press Club) Group's business acumen, right next door they were marketing George Calombaris' new cookbook for kids, Georgie Porgie, namesake of the nursery rhyme I've sadly always associated with child molestation.

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Another great crowd pleaser was Mezzo.

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Sher wagyu meatballs, Sicilian cous cous & salted ricotta

A very respectable and respectably-sized dish of meatballs. The cous cous was cooked perfectly, neither mushy nor grainy, and ricotta in a savoury dish is a rare treat. Masterchef contestant Alvin Quah absolutely raved about it during his cooking demonstration, which was very effective advertising: the restaurant's stand was swamped right after.

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In case you are suffering from Masterchef withdrawal, Alvin will be doing another three demonstrations today, and Darren Purchese (not Stephane Le Grande as advertised) one.

We also visited Sarti.

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Slow cooked suckling lamb, pearl barley salad & truffled pecorino.

Intense lamb flavour and the pearl barley salad was delicious. Unfortunately, it was the most underwhelming savoury dish because it had such a small portion size for the price (especially in comparison to other offerings around). Also, the piece of meat I received had a disproportionately large lump of inedible fat attached.

I remember Sarti's 'pistachio panna cotta' with caramel salted popcorn being a real hit at last year's Taste, so they must have been hoping to repeat its success this time around:

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Unable to resist the call of anything labelled 'chocolate fondant', however, I obtained my dessert from Esposito:

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Fondant de chocolate with Earl Grey jelly

I've always thought chocolate and Earl Grey make for an excellent partnership, and most recently had a lovely macaron of this flavour from La Belle Miette. Unfortunately, although the chocolate was of exceptional quality, there was only a tiny tinge of Earl Grey in my jelly. Texturally, the 'fondant' was more like a very smooth fudge.

On the savoury side of things, they had on offer a carpaccio of farmed Barramundi with peas, mint & wasabi sorbet:

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Other restaurants not tried:

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The European

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Left to right: Regal King Salmon fishcake, Kinkawooka paella, Western Plains pork parcels

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The Botanical

The Kitchen Cat

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Longrain Bar

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Stokehouse

Exhibitors

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The recent explosion onto the Melbourne macaron scene, Luxbite, was present in full force.

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Macarons

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Saucy sauceboat cakes and tarts

Impressive macaron tower

I purchased salted caramel and kaffir lime (!) macarons.

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These were fabulous, bigger than the ones from La Belle Miette, and bolder in flavour and texture.

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Pinch me

One of the reasons I go to Taste of Melbourne at all is for Dello Mano brownies. These are not the kind of 'regular' brownies I'd feed to kids because they are (a) a pricey $5 a pop; and (b) mine, all mine.

These used to be sold at Prahran market every Saturday, and I would buy two of them weekly (Espresso Walnut and Honey Caramelised Macadamia) after a strangely ineffective weekend gym session.

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I never realised how integral they were to my weekends until they stopped selling them at the market; I stopped gymming in the vicinity altogether. I felt particularly resentful last night when I discovered that they've since started making Peanut Butter ones as well, but these were sold out completely by last night's session. The humanity!

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Another long-time love: Mini Melts.

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These are not fancy, they do not have intense (or even particularly authentic) flavour, and they are as juvenile a snack as you can imagine.

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But they are also tiny pebbled pops of ice cream that you can pick at with your fingers (but do it quickly) and then they crunch and melt in your mouth. That is magical.

Having grown up in Asia, I'm more than familiar with fast-talking schmoozers waving gadgets and hands and 'as seen on TV' miracle products:

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So I'm not sure how this man sliced and diced his way into my wallet. I do know, however, that I am now $50 poorer and in possession of a see-it-to-believe-it Bellini chopper and dicer and peeler and mandolin with two tupperware containers thrown in for free! Whatta deal. And I'm sure this person's experience is simply an anomaly.

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With other yet uneaten spoils of war, including a Burrowes Park aioli...

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...sold to me by its very lovely maker Bettina Berry (price perhaps a tad steep at $10.50)

Nespresso had a huge presence at Taste this year.

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It had massive stands at the centre of both floors.

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Salmon samples were also in vogue, with both Huon and Tassel occupying some very prime real estate:

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Huon selection

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Tassal salmon skewers

Other savoury, spicy, and saucy exhibitors:

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Spice Bazaar Cooking School and Spice Supplier

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Roza's Gourmet Sauces

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Dunav Butcher & Smallgoods

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Nando's

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Yarra Valley Smokehouse

Wasabi Salad: a cross between rocket leaves and wasabi

The pure cheesy:

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La Latteria, Carlton

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Jindi Cheese, with voluptuously large sample

Yarra Valley Dairy's goat cheese

Ice cream:

Gundowring

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Cold Rock

Other sweet treats:

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Raynor's Jam

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Heart of Chocolate

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Shocolate

Desserts of the cakey and fudgey persuasion:

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Three Sweeties

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180 Degree Cupcakes

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Enni

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Fudge

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Charlie's Cookies

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Sweet by Nature

Some refreshing retailers:

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Rochester Ginger

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Local Mineral Water

Tuaca

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Free Instant Eyelift

This year's Taste was much less carnivorous: I missed the blood offerings I so enjoyed last year by non-attendees The Palace by Luke Mangan, Maze, Enviromeat and Bultarra Lamb. Some 2010 superstars like Embrasse and Ben and Jerry's were also no-shows. Generally, I noticed a swing in marketing strategy: there were less restaurants and many more retail exhibitors. Perhaps this is representative of the current trend in dining habits: poncy dining is now passé and plating up at home all the rage (please, not another macaron on my Facebook news feed).


Final note: I'm terribly honoured to have been featured as one of this year's Taste Likes. This had no bearing on any views expressed on this blog post, however, given I only noticed this after completing my review (researched journalism at its best, clearly).

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Would I attend Taste again? Certainly - it's my patriotic duty! But what did you think of this year's Taste of Melbourne?