Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beccofino Teneriffe

In my little house, it's just C and I, and most of the cooking duties fall to me. In fact all of the cooking duties, with one small exception. Pizza. C loves good pizza and makes quite spectacular pizza himself. He whips up the base from scratch, slow cooks the sauce and has mastered the art of adding the perfect amount of red wine to give extra depth. Actually, I don't like to admit it too often to him, but his pizzas are REALLY good, which is why we rarely go out to eat pizza.
But that doesn't mean I'm out of the loop when it comes to good pizza! When C and his brother L and I, were traipsing around James St Markets on Saturday craving good pizza, I knew exactly where to go. Beccofino in Teneriffe- right around the corner!

Beccofino is often touted as Brisbane's Best Pizza, and I have to say that I probably agree. Well, some of Brisbane's best pizza. I've had a couple of pizzas lately that might just give Beccofino a run for their money, but more about that another time.

We pulled up at Teneriffe at about 3:00 p.m. which is rather an odd time for lunch, I know. I had an early breakfast and then a nap because C and L got home very late, waking me up in the process. Apparently they are unaware of the concept of slipping in unnoticed. Before I knew it, the usual lunch time period had disappeared with the rest of history.

As soon as we arrived, it actually seemed like 3:00 p.m. and Teneriffe suit one another. If there is one reason I avoid coming to Teneriffe (unless I'm getting a cab), it's the parking situation. Generally I end up jumping out of the car and waiting in the restaurant, so we aren't running ridiculously late for our booking, whilst C sharks around lookng for a park. Not today! We slipped straight into a park and then walked straight into Beccofino to a table on the balcony. Hooray for 3 p.m. lunch.

Beccofino is pretty minimalist- there is seating inside and along the side, a bar you can wait at if you are waiting for a table. This comes in pretty handy given that Beccofino doesn't take bookings. The orange chairs almost swallow you, as they are very deep and comfy.

C and L weren't ridiculously hungry so we decided to share two pizzas and an entree. Sounds like a lot?? Not with those two in tow!! For L, this was showing restraint! Predictably tempted by the Capesante in Padella $19 (scallops with Jerusalem Artichoke) I ended up choosing the calamari fritti con rucola (fried baby calamari with rocket and lemon) also $19, as the scallops only came in servings of three, and we needed something a little more substantial.

The calamari arrived and looked wonderful. Thick, slightly dusted, lightly fried tubes of squid resting on rocket with lemon and olive oil. So simple but so bloody good. Yep, I put it out there! Swearing on G.G is not my usual style (despite my real life potty mouth) but I need to convey to you just how good this stuff really is. I have no doubt that it is some of the best calamari I have ever had, second only to my Dad's. First tick goes to the fact that the calamari is cut from real squid tubes- Brisbane restauranteurs, please take this on board. Processed fake Calamari is not Calamari and is not acceptable. This calamari could be bitten straight through, as it was totally tender. The light batter enhanced the experience, rather than flavoured it- just the way it should be. We gobbled the whole plate within a couple of minutes, including the bitey rocket at the bottom of the pile. And I could have licked the salt off the plate too! The plate was promptly taken away by one of the waiters, who turned out to be a bit of a hawk eye.

The problem with having only a few other diners in the restaurant meant that the focus of the hawk eye was hard to escape. I'm not sure if this guy was new, but he probably needs to learn to relax a little bit, because I had barely finished sipping on my drink when he swooped it up from under me. This became a little uncomfortable at times, because not only was he swooping- he was also stalking his prey- standing directly behind us looking over. It's not that this guy was rude or anything, just a little too 'in your face'.

In contrast, we were also served by a lovely waitress, who has been working there for some time, as I recognise her from previous visits. She was relaxed and chatty, as well as being pretty informative. Hopefully she can train the hawk eye to take on some of her characteristics!

The next arrival was C's choice from the rosse section of the menu, the Proscuitto pizza for $20.5. The pizza was once again, so simple. Just like the perfect pizza should be. And this my friends, could be the perfect pizza. The tomato and oregano on the base, coupled with barely there mozzarella - cooked and then topped with fresh slices of salty proscuitto just melted in my mouth. I could have eaten the whole pizza- but C and L saw that this wouldn't happen. Free from too many toppings ala Pizza Chain Store style and with a beautifully thin and crispy base- this pizza tops the list of pizzas I have had. Anywhere. Except my Dad's and C's. Actually, even better than Dad's and C's. Sorry guys.

Last to arrive was L's choice- also from the rosse menu and priced at $21.5 was the Gamberi Piccante Pizza -basically has prawns, rocket, garlic and a dash of chilli. This pizza had all the same qualities of the previous pizza plus prawns, but somehow just wasn't as good. Don't get me wrong- it was still very very good, just not as good as the P.P.P perfect proscuitto pizza. If I was served this before the P.P.P, I would have been happier, but my palate had already tasted perfection! That being said, the rocket was fresh, the prawns were plentiful and juicy and the whole thing was still pretty great.

Now, when I said 'last to arrive' in the previous paragraph, I was actually fibbing. When the waitress asked if we would like dessert, for some reason, I couldn't help myself despite being on the borderline of uncomfortably full. I just wanted more of this glorious food. 3p.m. lunches obviously make me ravenous.

L and I both requested the Bundino Al Cioccolato $9 which is steamed chocolate pudding whilst C had the Semifreddo for $9.5 - house made peanut brittle icecream with dark chocolate sauce.

Unfortunately, this was not a great ending. I should have stopped with the pizza. The pudding was quite dry and the chocolate sauce lacked any real depth. L agreed with me. C loved his semifreddo and sat smugly waiting whilst L and I struggled to finish.

By this stage, it was about 4:30 p.m and aside from the dessert and hawk eye, I was completely satisfied with my meal. In fact, I would not change anything. It was an odd feeling to be really full, not sure whether I had just eaten lunch or dinner- and not really caring, because I knew I could have an early night and dream of the P.P.P.

Beccofino is the place to go for pizza. I know this is not the first time a food writer has praised the place, and if they keep churning out the goods like they did last weekend, it certainly won't be the last.

When to go: When you are craving the p.p.p. I recommened 3p.m. on a Saturday for an odd but enjoyable afternoon.

10 Vernon Tce
Teneriffe (It is officially a suburb now guys!)
Brisbane QLD 4006
07 3666 0207

Beccofino on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Il Posto Paddington

You may remember just a couple of posts ago, I was raving about the pizza at Beccofino in Teneriffe. Pizza, as you may well already know, is a bit of an obsession in my house.

Everyone loves (good) pizza, so luckily for me, (aside from steak) it is LITERALLY the only thing C is good at cooking. Might I add, he does a damn fine job. In fact I've always been lucky in the pizza stakes, growing up, my Dad was a pizza maestro (who inspired C). I was blessed to have access to this great food, but it also came in the form of a curse as I'm now fairly picky about my pizza and will never be satisfied with a chain pizza. It is never cheaper Tuesday for $4.9 for me.

Once people find out that I'm one of those- *narrows eyes* food bloggers they ask for restaurant recommendations. Oh the pressure!! One of the most frequently asked about categories of food is pizza. I usually say Beccofino, but just recently, there have been another couple of pizza restaurants I visited in the aim of finding Brisbane's best pizza. I'll bring these reviews to you over the next couple of weeks!

Il Posto is a newish restaurant situated on LaTrobe Terrace in Paddington. To be even more precise it is placed at the top of the Paddington Woolworths complex across from Spoon Deli. I had seen Il Posto, and was a little skeptical, (perhaps unfairly so) because I remember being far from impressed when eating in the previous establishments that existed on the site. Luckily a friend of mine encouraged me to go and grab some pizza telling me she'd heard it was good and is located quite conveniently for me.

The first couple of times I ventured up the hill, I had ordered take away so thought I should wait until I visited and ate in to blog about the experience. Hint Hint... Obviously, if I kept going back for more, it was totally good pizza.

C's mum, brother L and sister J were down for the weekend, as was one of my friends, Possum. You may have heard of Possum before as she is responsible for writing a G.G. Guest blog post about what it is like to dine with a food blogger. You should read it, because it's pretty hilarious. We wanted to go somewhere close with simple but good food, and when C's brother, L suggested Il Posto, I jumped at the chance to dine in.

I phoned ahead to book, but it turns out they don't take bookings. As there were six of us and it was a Friday night, the guy that answered the phone said there would 'most probably' be a table for us if we turned up at 6:45 p.m. rather than the 8:00 p.m. time I had suggested. Even though I knew it would be a stretch to arrive by then, I decided it was better than waiting around until late to get a table.

We arrived in dribs and drabs between 6:55 and 7:20 and the wait staff didn't seem to mind too much. They offered us a campari based aperitif which Poss and I accepted gratefully whilst waiting for the others. Unfortunately I only have two really dark photos of the food, as I became too engrossed with eating, and it really was too dark, even to take a shitty iPhone shot.

Once everyone finally arrived, it didn't take long to order as we were all thinking along the same lines, everyone wanted pizza. We decided on the special of the night which was Porchetta - around $21, a margherita $18.5, a patata $18.5 and proscuitto di parma $21.5. For good measure, we also ordered an antipasto plate $23.5 and a calamari fritti con rucola (calamari with rocket and lemon) for $22.5 and a special of sardines. You'll notice that I ordered calamari, proscuitto pizza and patata pizza which were similar to the pizzas at Beccofino, not only because I love these pizzas, but also for a fair comparison.

The calamari arrived first and was rather good. It was lightly battered, crunchy and the tentacles were, for the most part, easy to bite through. The lemon added bite and the rocket was fresh and peppery. There were a few pieces that had a more rubbery texture, but overall this dish was good.

The antipasto plate was generally ok, although nothing really caught my attention.

I'm glad we did order these antipasti plate because we waited in excess of forty five minutes for the pizzas to arrive. Now, the restaurant was packed full, but in my books, almost an hour is too long to wait. That being said, during this time, the wait staff were attentive, letting us know that the food 'wouldn't be too far away' and kept the water and the wine coming.

The wine list is concise and includes both Aussie and Italian wines ranging from $39 to $69. I chose to keep drinking campari, and then vodka afterwards, as I never like to mix spirits with wine. I've learned that the hard way.

One of Il Posto's creators Tony D'Alessandro did time at Beccofino in Teneriffe, and to be honest, it really shows. The restaurant has a very Beccofino inspired feel, but it also obvious that there are other influences at play. The other half of the duo is Glen Haffenden and together, they have created a Melbournesque feel that is not commonly seen in Brisbane's western suburbs.

By the time the pizza had arrived, we were starving and cursing the fact we had only ordered 4 pizzas between six people. With the antipasti, normally this would be enough, but L and C eat quite A LOT of pizza!!

The first pizza out was the margherita. The base was thin and crisp, and the topping was sparse, just like it should be. The mozzarella didn't seem to be as 'soft' as it could have been, and I would have liked some extra basil, but never the less, this pizza was simple and good.

One of the bianche (without tomato sugo/sauce on the base) pizza we ordered was the patata. The Patata has bocconcini, potato, rosemary and pancetta and is absolutely delicious. Bianche pizzas can often feel much heavier than their napoli based cousins, but this managed to remain light whilst bringing the richeness and flavour packed punch of potato and pancetta. I really wanted more, but unfortunately this disappeared right off the plate.

The proscuitto pizza was next, also sparsely decorated with silky proscuitto. The base was thin and crispy, and whilst there was possibly a little too much bocconcini, this pizza was still worthy of a pretty good rating. More proscuitto and less cheese could have perfected this promising pizza.

Without a doubt, the star of the night was the Porchetta pizza. I know- right! Porchetta on a pizza. Perhaps I'm getting a little obsessed with Porchetta you wonder??! I've also wondered the same thing. Maybe I am, but to be honest, I don't really care. It was without a doubt, the best bianche pizza I have had in my life. The base was perfectly thin, the cheese was evenly spread and the porchetta, oh the porchetta, was moist, flavoursome and thinly and delightfully placed perfectly all over this wonderful creation. I was totally selfish and took two and a half pieces of this pizza but could have happily moved tables, sat by myself with the porchetta pizza and devoured the whole delicious lot. Seriously, next time I order, which may be tonight, I'm going to hope that they will recreate this special for me. I'm so sad it is not on the menu full time, but maybe with some demand, they will make it available all the time. People go and order some Porchetta Pizza Please!

Overall this was a pleasant dining experience. The service was slow but polite and although I didn't try anything from the main or dessert menus, the pizzas were consistently good.
It's hard to top the pizza at Beccofino, and whilst Il Posto didn't manage to do this across the board on this occasion, perhaps in the future they will. The pizzas show promise and the place has brought a little pizza pizazz to Paddington. Long live the Porchetta Pizza.

When to go: When you want a rich delicious porchetta pizza- Either early or late depending if you like to wait.

So tell me readers- have you ever had a Porchetta Pizza? What was it like?

Il Posto
107 LaTrobe Terrace
Paddington QLD 4064
07 3367 3111
(Pizza, Pasta and Contorni Dishes are available to takeaway)
Il Posto on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Viet De Lites Southbank

I try to get together with my friends as often as possible, but even when we live in the same city, it's not always easy. Since leaving uni our schedules are so full as they have to contain mundane things like going to work, which manage to get in the way of actual living.

So, I was excited to get an email from my friend K, inviting me to a dinner that I could actually attend. She named the time, date and restaurant and for once, it was nice not to have to think about it. The only problem was, we were going to a Vietnamese restaurant and I had already been to Viet the night before. Oh well, I would just have to handle it!! I'm kidding- Viet is one of my favourite foods, I could eat it every night in a row for months without tiring. Viet de Lites, here we come.

We met at 7:30 on a Friday night, and as would be expected the restaurant was starting to get pretty busy. Viet de Lites is situated in Little Stanley Street, facing the parkland at Southbank. We were seated along the back wall of the restaurant, in the corner. By the time we arrived, the three of us are starving, but don't want to make the mistake of over ordering as we all wanted to wander down to Sardine Tin for dessert. Believe it or not, this is something I need to consciously think about, because really, it's in my genes to order too much food. I know, most normal people just order an appropriate amount, but not me. So in the name of being sensible, we decided to order two mains, plus an entree and rice. I know.. doesn't sounds like a lot given my growling stomach, but I needed to exercise restraint which is something I'm not very practised in. I even felt a bit panicky and had to chant the mantra 'you can always order more' in my head to calm myself down.

I requested something fried for the entree so we went with the faithful old spring rolls- 4 for $7.90. The spring rolls came out quickly and were hot and crunchy but generally the filling was pretty flavourless, tasting more of 'fried ness' than of mincey vegie goodness.

Next on the list was the Chilli and lemongrass stir fried chicken for $20.9. K had said her friends have raved about this dish so I was expecting big things. The chicken was nice and tender, and the quality of the meat was good, but the rest of the dish was disappointing. The chilli had a slight burn, and really, that was the only distinguishable taste. I love lemongrass so really would have liked for the dish to have taken on more flavour. On the plus side, the vegies were fresh, but the whole dish didn't really seem overly authentic to me, as I have had very similar dishes in other Asian restaurant (i.e Chinese).

The last dish to come was the grilled tender pork also $20.9. The presentation was cute, the pork was also a good quality pork loin, but unfortunately it was cooked dry. The sauce was sweet and not entirely unpleasant but again, didn't seem very authentic. The flavour was mainstream, something you could achieve by using bottled sauce from Woolies. However, the vegetables were nicely cooked and the bok choy was a good winter substitute for the usual summer salad base the dish is served on.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with the dishes we were served at Viet de Lites. The flavours were bland and clichéd- nothing really popped out at me. On the positive side, service was polite and timely, and the meat is high quality. It's just a shame they didn't match the quality with flavour and authenticity.

So tell me readers, do you have trouble finding time to catch up with people who live in the same town?

Viet de Lites
Little Stanley Street
South Bank QLD
07 3844 8979
Viet de Lites on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mist Kirra Beach

To cut a really long and involved story short (because quite frankly, I'd bore myself retelling it) even though I live in Brisbane, my car is still registered in NSW. Let's not go into details. Basically, every year when registration is due, I have to drive down to NSW to get a pink slip.

Usually I have to go during the week because the mechanic I go to is fully booked out on weekends, and I always, ALWAYS leave it to the very last minute. I had to take a day off work anyway, and so decided to make a day of it rather than the quick up and back trip that is the norm. Luckily my friend Em.Ch was in town so she decided to come for the drive too.

AS you avid G.G. readers would know, I spend most of my weekend time on the Sunshine Coast, rarely venturing south. As a result, I'm afraid to say, even though the Gold Coast, Tweed, Coolangatta are a short drive away, I really have no idea where to go to eat.

Em.Ch and I decided to drive down through Kirra, where I know of a clothing boutique called Lush Designs that stocks some really cool stuff. Make that stocked. When we arrived we realised that the little shop on the esplanade that had previously given me a gorgeous olive green top at the bargain price of $50, had now closed. So sad!! I always find the best clothes in boutiques, and this boutique had cute clothes for really reasonable prices- argghhhh!!! If anyone knows of such a place in Brisbane or on either coast- please let me know!!

Luckily, all was not lost. Whilst we were searching for the shop, a little place caught our eye with their vivid aqua decor. It looked a little different than the rest of the shops, much more cosmopolitan but somehow still in theme.

We had a quick look at the menu out the front and realised it had tapas style dishes, which was just what we were after. Just as I noticed the amazing mobile below, the waiter came to offer us a table. I admit I did feel a little underdressed, as by this stage, I had been able to sneak a little peak into the back of the restaurant, and the place was brimming with serious Gold Coast style. The waiter didn't seem to mind at all and we chose to sat outside in the beautiful sun.

The very informative waiter came out to give us the menu and explained that he usually worked at one of Mist's sister venues but had come down for the day to help out the owner. When he named Bellakai, I realised that Mist must have been the new project of Gold Coast Restaurateur sisters Kylie and Shonel Simpson. I have heard about their venues Bellaki at Coolangatta and Perle in Surfers, but have never had the chance to visit. When we visited, Mist had only been open for about six or seven weeks, so they were still getting into the swing of things.

For me, the venue was obviously stylish but also deceptive. It looked day friendly, but upon peering in, became apparent there were cool lounges, a wine storage area and some areas that would really lend itself to a night time session.

The menu was varied.The wine list had some great options but didn't house very many local options. Most impressive was the cocktail and spirit lists, which were incredibly extensive. If only I didn't have to drive home!!

The waiter came back to take our order, and I must say, his service was impeccable. Even though he didn't know the menu very well (as he was just filling in), he was attentive, polite and very helpful. We had a question he didn't know the answer to, he apologised for not knowing, spoke to the chef and came back within 3 minutes to let us know the answer. Pretty impressive.

What struck me about the menu was that they had obviously tried to go a different style with their tapas. E.Ch and I ended up settling on four dishes but it was a really hard choice.

To start, we ordered the house made dips with wood fired bread and Himalayan salt @ $10. The bread was also house made and arrived as three round little round rolls- one cheese and onion and one if I remember correctly, was capsicum. The dips looked impressive, the hommus arriving in a cute jar, the pepper butter in a frosted cylinder and the solidified balsamic butter in a square dish. The bread was still warm, really fresh. The dips were interesting, and I was really pleased to see some different styled 'dips' on offer. I particularly like the balsamic/butter combination but feel the hommus could have done with an extra hit of flavour.

The wood roasted chicken wings with an oriental glaze ($15) arrived next, looking very rustic in a terracotta plate. The accompanying gorgonzola sauce helped ensure that these wings were some of the best I've ever had, and believe me, I know, I'm a bit of a chicken wing fiend. They were sweet, rich and sticky and we couldn't get enough and polished off the whole plate a little too quickly. Thank heavens for the quick waiter who bought extra napkins and a finger bowl when needed.

How many times have you seen calamari on a tapas menu? Yep, me too. Possibly something that is totally overdone. Except when you take an old classic and give it a new twist as Mist have done. Calamari smoked spice fried with black pepper, cinnamon, and caramel with lemon myrtle ($16). E.Ch loved this combination and I thought it was good, despite being perhaps a little too sweet. I did love the presentation, a cute jar also made an appearance with this dish.

Last and probably least was the wild mushroom ragyu with triple cheese sour dough crust, parmesan and truffle crostini also $16. For me, this dish was a little disappointing. The ragyu texture indicated that it had not been cooked long enough for the different mushrooms to blend well. The cheese topping was a little too hard, but on the flipside, the crostini was crispy and perfect.

This venue is something new and exciting. It offers innovative cuisine and brings a little bit of prestige and pizazz to the coast. The website touts Mist as being a destination for Haute Cuisine, and I think they may have just earned that title. I'm now interested to go and check out the Simpson sisters other venues, but advise you to go to Mist if you after something sassy.

Tell me readers, do you like chicken wings or is it just me that has a weird obsession?

When to go: For tapas on a sunny afternoon, or for a birthday celebration with the girls.

1 Douglas Street
Kirra QLD
07 5531 5177

Friday, July 16, 2010

What about me? As in you. Not me.

So many of you have been listening to me blah on about myself for nearly a year now. For that, I thank you. Sometimes I'm not sure why you do. It can't be easy - especially when you probably want to reach through the screen and smack me for spelling Lavender wrong (a couple of posts ago) or if I'm having a particularly whingey week. I'm grateful for you putting up with me and my bad grammar.

I know it's my blog, so the whole idea if for me to write/rant and for you to read- but it's not usually how I roll. I feel like you are really getting to know me, and I'd like the chance to get to know you a bit better too. No one wants to be the selfish one sided friend. Eveyone knows friendships like that can get a little tiresome and leave you thinking 'What about me?'

A few of you leave comments, but for every one that does - according to Google Analytics, there are about 150 that don't. Plus I feel super special that I have International readers (Hi, - Hiya, Haai, Bonjour, Hola, 你好, hoi, γεια σου, sawa dee-ka, ciao, out there- yes you- I can see you out there, but I'm not sure many of you leave comments. I've even found out that some of my real life friends are readers but have never told me! M.E nee M.D I'm directing this one specifically to you.

For those of you who have your own blog, I probably feel I know you a little better through reading your own adventures - but still I want to know more. I'm a people person. I'm interested in people and that means you. I'm interested in why you read my blog, where you live, what food you like. I want to know about your hidden talents, what you would change your name to if you had the chance, who would star in a movie about your life, your favourite food memory, your favourite type of food, your favourite drink.

So readers.. I'm opening the floor to you. I want you to comment and tell me all about yourselves. Take as much time and space as you need. You can write anything your little heart desires. I may even start featuring readers so we can start to build more of a community! Here's your chance to stop humming 'What about me' and Start belting out- 'Eyes on me, This is my show' (ok so that is a really tacky Britney song that you probably don't know) but you get my point.

I'm sick of talking about myself.. time to hear from you!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Monty's Chocolates Paddington

I love spending weekend days lazing around. Sometimes I will travel afar to find new and exotic places to eat, but other times it pays to spend some time a little closer to home wandering around your own neighbourhood, discovering places that are easily missed if you just pass on by.

Monty's chocolates is located in paddington, nestled in between a few gorgeous little shops on La Trobe Terrace. The most famous resident of the strip is the Paddington Antique Centre.

You will already know that I LOVE CHOCOLATE SHOPS. Something you may not know, however, is the fact that I am .... bom bom.... LACTOSE INTOLERANT. Yep that's right. Dairy and me should not be. I've known this basically since I was tiny- I haven't eaten ice cream since I was about 10 and even the smell makes me sick. Under no circumstances will you catch me chomping down a milky iced treat. I don't drink any milk by itself, and rarely eat yoghurt of any sort. Cream isn't great, but is ok when it is diluted or in small quantities. Cheese and chocolate are my real weaknesses because I love them soo much.

Luckily they don't induce the same severe symptoms that ice cream eating does! Does anyone know why this is? Or do any of you have weird food intolerances?? Don't get me wrong, I still get punished for eating cheese and choc i.e. after a binge you will catch me lying on the couch trying to get rid of the cramps, it's just not to the same degree.

In other words, the crime is worth the punishment. For all you people sitting there silently scalding me, I already know- it's really not great for my body but I can't live without the cheese and choc! And to be fair- I do give myself points for giving up icecream completely!!

The point of that little story was to 1) have a whinge and 2) explain why the people at Monty's Chocolates probably thought I was loopy. When we walked in, we were offered a taste of some hot chocolate and I proclaimed 'O thanks it smells great but I don't drink milk' and then proceeded to go and buy various chocolates. I'm pretty sure they thought I was crazy! Maybe I am!!

Anyway, for those of you who do drink milk, C loved the hot choc and said it was very rich but quite nice, a hit of cocoa without being too sweet!

Now onto the rest of the delights they have in store. The staff at Monty's really seem to love their jobs and are VERY knowledgeable. Meh- If I worked here, pretty sure I would love my job too. And be shopping at the plus sized shops. One of the girls was so happy to talk to me and spent a good 20 minutes explaining all the details of their stock.

Monty's buy in all of their chocolates and there are beautiful examples in the display cabinet. English company Chardonnel Et Walker supply some of the chocolate. It's pretty impressive that we have access to chocolate that is good enough for the queen. Literally. Chardonnel Et Walker are endorsed by the Royal Warrant as chocolate manufacturers to Her Majesty the Queen, so if that is not a stamp of approval, I'm not sure what is. They also have some gorgeous looking products such as pink champagne truffles which I hope to taste soon.

Monty's also have a large variety of Coppeneur. Coppeneur are German chocolate makers that produce single plantation, ethical chocolate. They also make some drinking chocolate that is said to be quite legendary. Obviously I haven't tried it, but I would like to know if you have.

Other brands you may be familiar with include Sydney based Nina's Chocolates, Chelsea based Rococo and L'Artisan du Chocolat - who I'm pretty sure supply all Gordon Ramsay's restaurants.

Out of all the chocolate I have tried from Monty's, Lief's ginger dark chocolate is my undoubtedly my favourite. The block looks decadent, the ginger hit is wonderful and the chocolate is smooth- it's really pretty great. Lief Chocolates are made on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and they have plenty of different versions- hokey pokey being one of them. Mum used to consume buckets of hokey pokey ice cream so maybe I'll gift this to her to bring back some memories.

If you are after something other than chocolate, there various other treats such as liquid sea salt caramel sauce, byron bay coffee, a nice selection of english tea and milkshakes made in store.

The milkshakes (made in store) have some not so run of the mill flavours on offer, including chocolate and rose, chocolate and spearmint, and chocolate and raspberry. C had the plain chocolate milkshake and thought it was a nice adult version of a milkshake - made with heavy dark chocolate so the flavour included bitter tang as well as the usual sweet notes.

The melissa gold leaf buddha is super cute so I thought I would put a photo in to show you!

Monty's are pretty serious about their chocolate. Whether you are after some 100% Francois Pralus from Criollo or some QLD made treats, Monty's will probably be able to help you out.

The shop is relaxed and comforting and a lovely place to stop in for a sweet treat. I regularly go back to stock up on the Lief ginger chocolate and pay for the consequences later!

So, readers- Chocolate or Vanilla?

When to go: When you are in need of a good quality chocolate hit, and any old cadbury bar just won't do. These choccies would also make a gorgeous pressie for a chocolate lover or self appointed queen.

Monty's Chocolates
155 La Trobe Tce
07 3369 3135

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Meeting Maggie Beer and Comfort at my Table

There are times when blogging just seems too hard. It does take up a lot of time and creative energy. I feel sad when my hit rates go down, or when I don't have any comments. Also worthy of consideration is the amount of money I spend on food and my jeans feeling consistently tighter. And then, there are days like last Saturday, that remind me why I love blogging so much. Well actually, it all started last Wednesday.

I received a DM, that's direct message for all you lovely readers that aren't twitter bugs i.e. on Twitter. Anyway, the DM came from Emma at Black Pearl Epicure, who are a gorgeous little retail shop in the Valley that also happen to do cooking classes. Emma asked me if I would be interested in coming to an intimate gathering on Saturday morning- a meet and greet style event with .... MAGGIE BEER.

I started squealing in my office and tweeted back something very generation Y, i.e Are You Serious? I think I am going to die..

So on 8:15 on Saturday morning, I found myself a little chilled (probably good as I needed it to calm me down) whilst I waited outside Black Pearl with some other very excited looking ladies.

We were all ushered into the Shop floor for some tea and croissants, and then the wonderful Maggie arrived. She slipped straight into her duties, like it wasn't a chore, and made her way around the room talking with different groups of people. Maggie, in real life, is just like she is on the Cook and the Chef. Delightful. I seriously don't know If I have ever seen someone more good natured and genuinely happy.

There were plenty of star struck people but Maggie was collected and not one bothered by talking to her 'fans' for about an hour and a half. I met some new lovely people (HI to the girl with the lovely blonde curly hair, who works in marketing..I'm sorry I can't remember your name, but it was nice to meet you!) and also spotted a few familiar food blogging faces. I also came across some old twitter friends, who are new real life friends. (I get the whole net thing is really weird, I still can't believe I meet people on the internet.)

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with a word for word rundown on the conversation, but Maggie was so lovely. We talked about her upcoming holiday as she is really tired from working over a month straight. Eat Drink and Be Kerry was in the same group when I was talking with Maggie, and she convinced me to get a photo. I asked Maggie If I could 'bunny ears' her because I wanted a funny shot to pop onto my blog. Bunny earsing is the very childish practice of putting two fingers behind someones head in a photo, giving them bunny ears. Maggie had no qualms and actually found it funny that I had asked such an odd request. I'm really glad that Kerry convinced me to have a photo - I have never had a 'celebrity' shot before. I think it may be the only one too, because Maggie is way more than a celebrity- she is also a genuinely lovely person, whose feet haven't been dragged off the floor by the helium balloon of fame. For me this attitude is very inspirational, so much more so than someone who is divaish. I'm not going to put the photos on here yet, as I haven't had a chance to photoshop my face out yet sorry!

After Maggie moved on, I had a little chat with the food bloggers- it was lovely to catch up with them. Kerry mentioned she had visited Comfort at my table during the week, which reminded me how gorgeous the place was, and how much I had wanted to re-visit to blog about the very pink eatery. In fact, Kerry only blogged about Comfort at my Table last week, so it is probably a little soon for me to reviewing the same place, but I wanted to combine it with this post, as I'm quite sure that Maggie would LOVE comfort at my table! So after my meeting with Maggie, I swung by home, picked up C and headed to Comfort at my Table in Milton for a late breakfast.

I had briefly popped in to CAMT a couple of times, just to grab a juice actually. I had never taken the time to sit down and eat something, and I knew Saturday morning, still on a meeting Maggie high, was the perfect time.

CAMT is situated in an odd spot- on Cribb Street, next to a hairdresser and a newsagent. They open mainly during the week for the office staff in surrounding buildings for lunches. They also open on Saturday mornings until 2p.m. for Brekky only. The place is divine- so gorgeous. Very pink with big chalk boards, flowers, walls lined with jams and very cutely - a little basket of apples at the door. I like to think that if I lived by myself (no C to have to balance out the gender!!) my house would be as beautiful as this.

As I visited on a Saturday morning, only the breakfast menu is available, but if you stop in all through the week you will see the glass display cabinet filled to the brim with fresh salads and baked goods, all of which are made on site. The menu is inspired and the prices are reasonable. To give you an idea biscuits are $1, cupcakes are $3 and the most expensive lunch menu items are $16. Breakfast is particularly good value, with $15 being top dollar.

The two specials looked particularly inviting- savoury mince on toast with rocket, cheddar and grilled lemon $12 and Hotcakes w stewed apple, rhubarb, strawberries, ricotta, maple and crumble crust $14. Unfortunately the savoury mince had just sold out and as I wasn't sure I could handle a full on sugar hit, I decided on something off the lighter options menu- the avocado on toast with grilled lemon, tomato and onion relish, sheep's feta and bunnyconnellen extra virgin olive oil for $8 (YES- $8!!) . Bunnyconnellen is a QLD producer of olive oil.

C paid $12 for 'Nims Eggs' - (Nim is the owner/chef) poached eggs with crispy bacon, pesto, nims banana chutney, roasted tomatos and toasted levain pane. I ordered a cranberry juice, and C went with his usual flat white.

No 1. Thank you so much for putting cranberry juice ($4) on the menu. I love cranberry juice in the mornings and very few places offer it. There is a good selection of teas and cold drinks- things you don't find just anywhere.

My simple but eye pleasing dish arrived and I tucked in straight away. The avocado was firm without being too underripe and the sheep's feta was an interest point. Without a doubt, the tomato and onion relish was the best thing on this plate. It was sweet, but had depth and even tasted a bit aniseedy at times. It was just lovely. So lovely, I ended up buying a jar at the end. I also bought some tomato sauce- it was nice to read the ingredients on the tag - no preservatives or unknown items! I will probably go for something a bit heartier next time, but for a light brekky at $8, this dish really killed it.

C's more substantial eggs arrived and looked picture perfect. I don't love banana flavoured things, and hence have never tasted banana chutney before, but somehow it went well with this dish. The eggs were poached perfectly, the bacon was, as the menu suggested, crispy and the pesto added another element. Overall these two dishes were wonderful. They were homey and comforting but had a unique touch. In this neck of the woods it is usual to pay around $18 + for breakfast and even at that price, it is rare that I have ever had anything as good as my humble avocado on toast.

Basically,I can't wait to go back to CAMT. It's a place I could sit for hours with some old friends catching up and just feel like I am in a uber gorgeous living room. The young waitress that was taking care of the floor was very polite and the whole feeling of the place is warm and generous. I feel like Comfort at my table just gets 'it'. A nice place to sit, homey, unpretentious, comfortable, but with a classic individualised menu, where the food is damn good.

When I introduced myself (after I had dined and paid!! If I introduce myself, I always wait so my experience is not coloured by the fact that I am a food blogger) Nims was happy to have a chat to me. She is right in saying that there isn't really else like it around. I feel like this is the place that Maggie would like to come to, I can picture her sitting in one of the corners browsing through one of the various cookbooks amongst the lavender filled vases.

Just between you and me, I think I actually have a crush on Maggie and Comfort at my Table. At any rate, I had such a lovely day on Saturday! Everything was just perfect. It revitalised me and reminded me that through food blogging I have had the opportunity to meet fabulous inspiring people like Maggie, connect with some very cool people like the Bris Foodie crowd and you guys, and do what I do best- eat fabulous food!

Thanks to Emma at Black Pearl Epicure for inviting me. I'm still getting over the excitement.

When to go: For a late Saturday breakfast on your way back home after shopping at the Farmer's Markets. It really doesn't matter what the weather is like- the venue is gorgeous regardless. P.s Help yourself to an apple on the way out - I know right- too cute!

Comfort at my Table
Shop 5/19
23 Cribb Street Milton
Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gastronomy Gal on Facebook

Hi Guys- Just a quick note to say that Gastronomy Gal is finally on facebook! Feel free to add me, I would love to be your friend!! At the end of August, Gastronomy Gal Facebook friends will also go in the running to win some fab Robert Channon wine! See you on Fbook!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tour de France: Group I'm feeling tres French.

Maybe I've just developed a biased love for 'my region' of France, but I was so happy to be assigned the Tournus and Station des Rousses areas in the region of Bourgogne (in English- Burgundy.)

No idea what I'm talking about? (tut tut- you should have read my blog post last Saturday!) Just joking.... I will explain.

Many of you will know Barb from Winoes and Foodies. If not, go and visit her blog and you will immediately get a sense of how sweet she is. A little while ago, Barb tweeted about needing volunteers for a group food blogging project. Obviously I was immediately intrigued. I told Barb I was in, even without hearing any further details. A couple of days later, an explanation email arrived. Barb had asked us to partake in a Tour De France Group Food Blog Project. Basically each food blogger was assigned a region which corresponds to a stop in the Tour de France and asked to find out about food from that region, cook a dish and provide the recipe. You can get a total rundown of the project here. To get a little bit of background to my post check out Stage 6 at Amanda's cute blog - Eye Candy Carousel, which focused on another region in Burgundy.

France is divided into 26 administrative regions, 22 in Metropolition France, 21 on the continental part of metropolition France.

So, as I was saying, I was assigned Stage 7- Tournus and Station des Rousses stops which are situated in Burgundy, which I was pretty damn chuffed about. I love French food and although I am not particularly knowledgeable about the specific regions, I do have a little bit of a clue about Burgundy.

Map of the race

I'd better stop here and say, if you found this blog post thinking it was some sports mad blog actually about the Tour de France Race, sorry! That map is about as much information I am going to include about the actual race. You had better stop reading now (or keep reading if you love food too!). This blog post is entirely dedicated to the food of the region, which I might add, is quite special. It was rather hard to localise the cuisine to the smaller departments, because most of the good websites are in French and my french doesn't extend that far- but I'm trying. I have a little bit of info on the specific destinations Stage 7 - Starting in Tournus and travelling through to the destination of Station des Rousses and have included some more detailed info down the bottom of the post.

Fast Facts: The region of Burgundy is made up of four different 'departments.' The Yonne, the Côte d’Or, Nièvre, and Saône-et-Loire. The towns I am focusing on are located in the South of Burgundy.

Fast Food Facts: Burgundy is known for its great beef- specifically Charollais Beef. The country side is said to be dotted with the beautiful white beasts. One of the most famous/infamous French foods, the escargot (snails), are also a specialty of the region. Other well known dishes that have Burgundian roots are the aptly named Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq Au Vin. Burgundy is one of the largest wine producing regions in France, but differs from other French wine regions like Bordeaux, because it is composed of of thousands of small scale growers.

Famous Burgundians

Kir Royale: If you too, are a bit of a cocktail connoisseur, you may have heard of the Kir (cassis and wine) and the Kir Royale (cassis and champagne) a popular cocktail available on many well populated cocktail lists around the world. Cassis is a local blackcurrant liquer. You may not know that the Kir Royale is named after the French Catholic priest Canon Felix Kir who was a Burgundian hero, a Resistance fighter and who later became the mayor of Dijon for a period spanning over three decades. Kir became well known for serving this particular drink, and one of the reasons cited for him loving it so much was because it boasted local ingredients, something he was passionate about promoting. Yay Kir, he sounded like a pretty cool guy, focusing on local ingredients!

Well known dishes and a couple of things you might like to know about them
Boeuf Bourguignon:
Most of you will have heard of Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic Burgundian dish. This dish uses the regions beautiful beef and red wine to create a spectacularly tasty and hearty dish. Along side the beef and red wine, the dish usually includes mushrooms, onion, bacon, loads of garlic and herbs. Bourguignon is an example of a dish that was traditionally a peasant dish.

Jambon Persillé: Local specialty rarely found outside the province. Consists of chunks of ham in a jellied broth. Served cold.

Gougere: Gorgeous gougere's are savoury choux pastry with Gruyere cheese. They are usually served with wine and can be filled with mushrooms, ham or any range of savoury ingredients.

Escargot: Snails are so very Burgundian and can be served in shell, in a ceramic dish, on puff pastry- pretty much however you like. The key is loads of garlic, shallots and butter.

Ouerfs en Meurette: A little bit odd concept but yummy all the same- poached eggs in red wine sauce- another Burgundian wonder.

Wine: The Burgundy region lies a couple of hundred miles east and north of Bordeaux. It covers a large area, the vineyards running in a long, thin line from Auxerre in the north to Lyon in the south. The climate is continental, with cold winters, hot summers but plenty of rain. It is easiest to think of Burgundy in terms of its distinct regions. Running from north to south, these are:
Chablis by far the most northerly of Burgundy's regions, known exclusively for dry white wines.
The Côte de Nuits home of the great red Burgundies. Some white is produced too, but the reds are the region's glory.
The Côte de Beaune known for both red and white wines, but the greatest white Burgundies (other than Chablis) are from here.
The Côte Chalonnaise generally regarded as a lesser district. It still produces some extremely fine wines, both red and white.
The Mâconnais the southern limit of Burgundy. Wines tend to be cheaper and made for drinking young but can be excellent value.
Beaujolais (not shown) is quite a bit further south. Though not part of Burgundy, it is usually included when we talk about the region.

(information taken from http://www.wine-pages.com/resources/burgexp.htm)

The big cheese: Like any great French region, Burgundy have their fair share of fabulous cheeses. Cheese is a big focus and many meals incorporate cheese. Epoisses and Chaource are two home region ripping fromages.

Dijon, The town that really does Cut the Mustard: You have all heard of Dijon mustard right? Well Dijon is also the cosmopolition capital of Burgundy. Dijon mustard was, funnily enough, created in Dijon, France. I could go on for hours about this greyey yellowowy sharp condiment. It's one of my favourites. Dijon style mustard can be made all over the world as long as it follows the original recipe established in Dijon- this is another one of the protected food types similar to reggiano parmigiano or champagne. For a full history on Dijon mustard, visit this site, there's more info there than I could squeeze into this one little post!~

Michelin Starred Restaurants: There are 26 Michelin Starred restaurants in Burgundy! As you can see, a region that takes its food very seriously. You can find a full list of them here . There is also a Michelin Starred Restaurant in Tournus called Aux Terrrasses which specialises in rich and authentic local cuisine.

My dish: Coq Au Vin
Even though it was really hard to decide what dish to cook, I chose to make a classic Burgundian dish, Coq Au Vin, which is basically chicken braised in red or white wine. Typically Burgundian Coq Au Vin is made with red wine.

"Coq is the French word for "cock" (as in Rooster, or male chicken). Vin is French for "wine" and "au" is French for "of the". Consequently, "Coq au Vin" literally translates as "Cock of the wine". However, as literal translations are not that meaningful, a better translation would be "Cock cooked with wine".

Until the 20th century it was common for rural families to have some chickens (for eggs and meat) and a rooster. The rooster would be kept until it was too old to perform its duties, at which time it would be killed and eaten. However, by this time the meat would be hard and stringy, so cooking it slowly in wine would tend to soften the meat and make it more edible. As such, the recipe has historically been considered "peasant food" or "poor people's food" as the well-off would be able to afford a better cut of meat which would not require slow cooking in wine in order to be edible.

In modern times, few people would choose to eat an old cock. Consequently, most modern versions use a chicken instead of a cock. As such, if one was being exact, the recipe would be called "Poule au Vin" (chicken cooked in wine). However, the old name "coq au vin" is always used, even if a chicken is substituted for the traditional cock" (Information from WorldWidefood.com)

Obviously, I had to use chicken- and had to be even more resourceful, as when I went to the butcher late on a Sunday morning, all they had left was chicken drumsticks. Chicken drumsticks... sigh. I NEVER use chicken drumsticks- but whatever.. I needed to get this into the slow cooker so drummies it was- maybe not all that authentic, but they do use all parts of the chicken so I guess that includes drumsticks!

There are millions of recipes for Coq Au Vin all over the place - I took mine from a couple of sources, a basic french cookbook I found from the 1960's and also Gourmet Traveller. I also changed the recipe a little bit so that I could put everything in the slow cooker. You can tweak things here and there to suit your tastes but make sure the base elements stay the same if you wish to reamin true to the dish.

Coq au vin
2 tbsp olive oil
90 gm butter, coarsely chopped at room temperature
1.6 kg free-range chicken, jointed ( I used less as it was only for two people)
150 gm piece of pancetta, cut into 1 cm pieces ( I used bacon- I think it gives a heartier flavour)
12 small pickling onions ( I used larger onions as I forgot to get pickling onions)
125 ml (½ cup) brandy, warmed
750 ml (3 cups) Red Wine ( I used about half this amount and think that worked well)
500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
3 parsley stalks
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 small heads garlic, halved lengthways
1 tbsp plain flour
200 gm mixed small mushrooms such as pine, Swiss brown and button, trimmed
¼ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

I also added eschallots into the mix as I love the flavour they bring to a dish.

I’m going to leave in the GT recipe, as it is very thorough, I completed these steps in a bit of a different order and then added my dish to a slow cooker on low heat for 8 hours instead of placing in the oven. I also placed all the herbs and sauce in the slow cooker so the meat would have a long time to bring in their flavours.

1 Preheat oven to 160C. Heat oil and 20gm butter in a large casserole over medium-high heat, add chicken pieces and cook for 10 minutes, turning until golden, then transfer to a plate and keep warm. Add pancetta and onions and cook for 5 minutes or until golden, drain off excess fat. Return chicken to pan, pour over brandy and ignite with a long match. When flames are extinguished, add wine, stock, herbs and garlic and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and place in oven for 1 hour or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Transfer chicken, onions and pancetta to a warm dish, cover with foil and keep warm.

2 Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve, discarding herbs and garlic. Heat sauce in clean casserole over medium heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until reduced to 2 cups. Combine flour and 20gm butter into a paste, whisk into sauce and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

3 Meanwhile, heat 50gm butter in a frying pan over medium heat, add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or until golden, season to taste and set aside.

4 To serve, return chicken, pancetta, onions and mushrooms to sauce and cook for 5 minutes, turning to coat and warm through. Serve chicken and sauce scattered with parsley, with mashed potato on the side.

Sorry the photos are really bad- but you get the idea right? P.s I didn't take photos of each step- so the photos are more like a progress report rather than a corresponding account.

I love French food, and I'm really happy to have been a part of Barb's Food Blogging Project. Burgundy is like a gourmands dream destination. I hope to get there one day to sample all their fabulous produce. Burgundy is, without a doubt, a culinary wonderland. I am heading out tonight and may even try a Kir Royale if I can get my hands on one. I'm totally interested to see what the other bloggers uncover about their regions, as I know France has so much wonderful food, steeped in history.

To see what wonders
Station des Rousses - Morzine Avoriaz holds gastronomically, head over to Reena's blog- Coconut Raita tomorrow for Stage 8

Tell me dear readers: Have you sampled any Burgundian delights?

I visited the SBS Website and found out some more detailed info about Tournus and Station Des Rousses if you are interested in reading- they really sounds like idyllic places- I can't wait to go. Someday, not too far away.

"Tournus Facts: County town of Saône-et-Loire canton (71). Six towns in the county of Saône-et-Loire – Bernard Thévenet and Michel Laurent are both natives of Saône-et-Loire – have welcomed the Tour, but thus far not Tournus.

Nestled in a green setting, between the River Saône and the Monts du Mâconnais, Tournus is the gateway to South Burgundy.

Situated 100 km north of Lyon and to the south of Dijon, it enjoys a privileged location on the main Paris-Marseille route as well as a rich cultural heritage. For example, Saint-Philibert Abbey (9th and 11th centuries) which has retained almost all of its conventual buildings (the church, the crypt, the cloisters, etc.), as well as the refectory and the monks' cellar, which are now used for shows and exhibitions. Not forgetting the Hôtel-Dieu (hospital, 17th and 18th centuries), classified as a historic monument and which houses two museums: the hospital museum, including a magnificent apothecary, and the Greuze museum, devoted to the fine arts, with a particular focus on the painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze who was born in Tournus in 1725.

Like any self-respecting town in the Burgundy region, Tournus also has a high-quality vineyard with the Macon appellation and is renowned for its gastronomy, with several Michelin starred restaurants. A wealth of attractions that make Tournus an essential place to visit."

Station Des Rousses Facts: Another major first for this stage finish in Les Rousses, a pretty village in Haut Jura that, together with three other towns in the surrounding area – Bois d’Amont, Lamoura, Prémanon – forms a family summer vacation and winter ski resort. The birthplace of skiing in France, the resort is also well known to cyclists as the climb to Les Rousses (1,140 m, level 2 or 3 climb), which leads to the Faucille pass, has been ascended more than 40 times since 1911.

The French-Swiss resort of Les Rousses (6,300 inhabitants), situated at the heart of the Haut Jura Regional National Park in the Franche-Comté area of France, offers the ideal altitude for relaxing holidays in a peaceful and protected natural setting. Used by the French teams to prepare for cross-country skiing events, the resort is the birthplace of Jason Lamy-Chappuis, the combined cross-country ski champion at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It is also known all over the world for the famous Transjurassienne event (76 km of cross-country skiing).

In summer, Les Rousses offers a wide range of activities for all the family: hiking, mountain biking, swimming in the two lakes, sailing, canyoning, golf, ice skating, horse riding, adventure trail in the underground passages of Les Rousses Fort.

In winter, all activities revolve around snow: downhill skiing (40 lifts), cross-country skiing (220 groomed kms), snowshoe trails and footpaths, dog sleighing, tobogganing, biathlon, kite-surfing, ski joëring.

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