Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Christmas that was

Christmas table

Christmas was very enjoyable for our family this year, and a big part of that was due to the fact that my brother Buster recently returned to us after 23 months of living overseas. In his wisdom, my brother reckons Melbourne Gastronome would be improved if every photo looked more like the two below. What say you, readers?

Buster says: magnifico!Buster's pick of the day

I spent Christmas Day back at the family ranch, where Mum and Dad hosted lunch for the Italian half of our family. The centrepiece of the first course was a impressive-looking salmon trout, which their butcher had smoked overnight.

Christmas table

Of course, when I say "impressive", what I really mean is "prehistoric and utterly terrifying". Looking at this fish for more than a few seconds MAY give you nightmares.

Salmon trout

I mean, c'mon! It has SPIKES ON ITS TONGUE.

Salmon trout

It tasted pretty amazing though, matched with fresh dill mayonnaise. That pink flesh was so so soft.

Salmon trout

My sister Birdie stepped up and offered to be in charge of glazing the Christmas ham. With some suggestions from Mum, Bird made up the glaze recipe (for the record, orange juice, orange rind, maple syrup, mustard, brown sugar and studded with cloves), then tirelessly applied layer after layer of glaze.

Birdie glazing the hamBirdie glazing the ham

Mum reprised her excellent garlicky prawn pâté and Dad selected two bottles of pinot noir (a 1996 Bindi and a 2000 Stefano Lubiana) and a bottle of cab sav (Turramurra Estate) for main course.

Prawn pateChristmas day wines

My gorgeous Nonna again brought a chicken she'd stuffed and roasted. Her favourite Christmas present was the calendar Mum made for her featuring photos of family members (I graced the pages as Miss January, and long-time readers of Melbourne Gastronome may recall that the cover photo was taken last October when Buster very briefly visited us from Italy). :)

Nonna and the chickenNonna and the calendar

Nonno brought teeny tiny baby rocket from his garden for one of the salads.

Baby rocket

Other food highlights!

Christmas hamRoast chicken
Roast potatoesBeetroot and rocket salad

The dessert platters included panettone, Christmas cake, mince pies, a selection of dried fruits and rosewater sugared almonds from 53 Degrees East at Prahran Market, shards of addictive Sugadeaux butter toffee with fleur de sel and vanilla bourbon...

Christmas sweets

...and last but not least a few kilos of delicious übercherries!

Christmas cherries

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Reminder: only two more days to enter Menu for Hope raffle

Just a quick reminder about the post I wrote last week about Menu for Hope, the annual fundraising campaign/raffle hosted by food bloggers around the world to raise money for the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The raffle ends on CHRISTMAS DAY, FRIDAY 25 DECEMBER at I'm not sure exactly what time - so to be on the safe side please remember to buy your tickets TODAY or TOMORROW. I've had a look at the raffle bids entered so far on the Firstgiving website, and the odds of winning many of the prizes (including the Melbourne Gastronome hosted prizes AP27 and AP28) are still very reasonable, so please get in there and place your bids ASAP!

Remember, the money raised is going to a very good cause, so you might like to consider raffle tickets as a Christmas present for friends/loved ones who prefer socially responsible and humanitarian gifts (with the added bonus of the chance to win prizes!).

Here's the full list of worldwide prizes, and the full list of Australia-Pacific prizes. The Melbourne Gastronome hosted prizes are:

Small Batch promo

AP27 Six months supply of Small Batch specialty coffee worth $250+

250g bag of specialty coffee roasted by Small Batch (as seen at Auction Rooms) sent to your address each fortnight for six months. Rotating selection of whatever’s best that week, be it a blend, single origin or Cup of Excellence. Please specify if you prefer filter-oriented or espresso-oriented.

Auction Rooms

AP28 Brunch for four at Auction Rooms plus 12 Sugadeaux cupcakes total value approx $140

Brunch and syphon coffee demonstration for 4 people at Auction Rooms in beautiful downtown North Melbourne PLUS box of 12 Sugadeaux salted caramel cupcakes (or other Sugadeaux flavour of your choice), delivered to you personally at your Auction Rooms brunch by Melbourne Gastronome (schedule permitting!).

Full details on how to enter can be found on my original post here. Thanks to those that have entered so far, and to those who will enter before Friday... thank you, you're all wonderful.

O Christmas Tree

Finally, Merry Christmas from Melbourne Gastronome! A safe and happy holiday season to all readers. :)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

So you want to have breakfast in the Melbourne CBD

Hardware Societe baked eggs

Okay folks, here's a belated entry to my recent Amnesty Fortnight. It's the Melbourne Gastronome guide to the best breakfasts/brunches within the confines of the Melbourne CBD. Most of these were visited by yours truly over the last few months, either with the Ladies Who Lunch or with a group of housemate DJ's friends for our now regular (fortnightly) Bourgeois Breakfasts. I've got a dozen places here on my list, but if you can recommend any others please let me know - we're running out of new Bourgeois Breakfast venues!

Hardware Societe
120 Hardware Street, Melbourne (map)
9078 5992

Hardware Societe herb garden

Di and Will, the proprietors of the newish Hardware Societe, used to run the cafe opposite (which was called Beetroot but has been renamed by its most recent owners - for some ghastly, deeply unfathomable reason - as "McSpankys Famous Foods"... truly, the mind doth boggle).

Hardware Societe is just gorgeous - from the outdoor herb garden brightening up Hardware Street to the sleek, nifty interior lit by oversized naked light bulbs. They're open for breakfast and lunch Mondays to Fridays - read more about the lunches on offer in Mellie's excellent review.

Hardware Societe

On my first visit, I ordered the soft boiled eggs and 3 soldiers ($12). But these were no ordinary soldiers: the first one had gravlax and crème fraîche, the second had roquefort and rocket and the third had jamón and romesco.

Hardware Societe soft boiled eggs

The baked eggs ($11) are served in the most gorgeous little pots: there was a choice between roquefort and field mushrooms, or chorizo and pimentos.

Hardware Societe baked eggsHardware Societe baked eggs

Each coffee (Supreme) comes served with a miniature doughnut. The macarons are made in-house: they're sometimes slightly wonky in shape but taste delicious (especially the orange and passionfruit, mmmmmmm).

Hardware Societe doughnutsOrange and passionfruit macaron

YES, we did order 14 coffees. Not bad for a Bourgeois Breakfast of six people!

Hardware Societe receipt

Mr Tulk
328 Swanston Street (entry via Lonsdale St), Melbourne (map)
8660 5700

Mr Tulk

For those who don't already know it, Mr Tulk is located at the northern end of the State Library, and is named after the Library's first chief librarian. Gorgeous interior, n'est-ce pas?

Mr TulkMr Tulk

Recommended dishes are the fried egg bruschetta with fetta and crispy shallots ($12) and the corned beef hash with poached eggs and Dijon ($14).

Fried egg bruschetta with fetta and crispy shallotsCorned beef hash with poached eggs and Dijon

The Hotel Windsor
100-150 Spring Street, Melbourne (map)
9633 6000

The Windsor

If you're in the mood for something a bit different and old school, you might like to swan in for breakfast at the Windsor. The $16 Express Breakfast gets you freshly squeezed orange juice, two pastries, fruit salad and a hot beverage served from a silver vessel.

Juice and danishesThe Windsor silver service

Or you might like to do what I did and order from the a la carte menu. I chose the impressive corn cakes with avocado salsa, tomatoes, sour cream and Atlantic salmon ($14). DJ had the parmesan scrambled eggs with toasted brioche and double smoked bacon ($13).

SalmonEgg scramble

Council House 2
240 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (map)
9639 7778

Council House 2

When I saw photos of the interior of Council House 2 (CH2) on Lucy's wonderful blog The Design Files, I was architecturally smitten and immediately keen to check out the restaurant on level 1. I'm sorry to say though that the Ladies Who Lunch and I were very disappointed with the breakfasts we were served: the "potato hash with poached egg, crispy bacon or spinach" ($13.50) turned out to be dry roasted potatoes (no hash), and the claypot baked eggs with roast tomato, feta and chorizo ($13.50) were too dry and rubbery. Our visit was over six months ago though, and I've heard through the twittervine that things have improved - can anyone confirm?

Potato hash with poached egg, crispy bacon OR spinachClaypot baked eggs with roast tomato, feta and chorizo

The European
161 Spring Street, Melbourne (map)
9654 0811

The European

The European is a consistently good city breakfast option. Last time she was in town, my friend CJ and I went to the MCG ridiculously early in the morning on Boxing Day to reserve our Members seats for Day 1 of the Test, and then sauntered through Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens to treat ourselves to a pre-cricket 8am champagne breakfast at the European. It was SUCH a nice way to start Day 1, I'm half tempted to do it again this year.

Recommended dishes include the croque-monsieur ($12.50) and the special I had last time, the wild mushroom open omelette ($17.50).

Croque monsieurWild mushroom open omelette

Other Bourgeois Breakfast attendees enjoyed the frittata of smoked trout and potato with avocado salsa ($16) and the seasonal fruit salad with organic yoghurt ($12.50).

Frittata of smoked trout and potato with avocado salsaFruit salad

The Mess Hall
51 Bourke Street, Melbourne (map)
9654 6800

The Mess Hall

Finally, there's the most recent Bourgeois Breakfast venue: the Mess Hall. On Friday morning, in the midst of the Christmas-drinks-soaked silly season, the name of the cafe summed up our collective mindset pretty well.

As per my recent visit to Miss Jackson, I decided to order the corn fritters with avocado and cream cheese ($13.50). They tasted great, and I loved the presentation of the careful stack with scattered segments of tomato.

Corn fritters

Other prandial highlights included the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and herbs ($13.50) and the BLT with seeded mustard mayonnaise ($9.50).

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and herbsBLT

Miss A ordered the bruschetta with Bulgarian feta, rocket, organic tomato and olive tapenade ($9.50), with a side serve of poached eggs. A ordered the Sicilian beans on sourdough toast ($9.50) with a side serve of spinach and avocado.

Bruschetta with poached eggsSicilian beans on sourdough toast

As is tradition at Bourgeois Breakfast, we ordered too many coffees. As we were waiting for the second (or was it third?) round to arrive, DJ suggested sharing custard-laden doughnuts as a breakfast second course. Wicked man!

Second breakfast

*** EDITED 16/01/10 TO ADD:
Fabulous Melbourne Gastronome reader Poppy has done some research for you all, calling each of the places reviewed in this post to confirm what their opening hours are over the weekend. See the results of her research in the Comments section. BIG THANK YOU to Poppy!! :) ***

But that's not all... in addition to the six illustrated above, here's a list of previously reviewed places in the city that I can recommend for breakfast:

Liaison (22 Ridgway Place) does a limited but delicious breakfast menu, including gluten free muesli with fruit and yoghurt for those so inclined. Drop in and say hi to Danny and Sian from me.

Le Triskel (32 Hardware Lane) does excellent authentic crêpes and big bowls of coffee in which you can dunk your baguette/croissant.

Cumulus Inc (45 Flinders Lane) - what can I say? You MUST TRY the 65/65 egg and the lemon curd madeleines. You simply must.

Cafe Vue (430 Little Collins Street) for the French hot chocolate that is as delicious as it is outrageously expensive, and the croque-monsieur.

SMXL (542 Little Bourke Street) is at the back of my office building, so I often drop in for a m'oave or a jaffle.

MoVida Terraza (Level 1, 500 Bourke Street - access via Lt Bourke St) was written up in Melbourne Gastronome just the other week, but I went back again shortly after my first visit. In addition to the other dishes I previous recommended, you've got to try these tostadas with imported Cantabrian sardines and tomato ($10). SO GOOD!!

Sardines on toast at Movida Terraza