Today's post has a bit of a travelogue feel to it. I spent last weekend away down at Merricks Beach with a few close friends, as I've been fortunate enough to be allowed to borrow A&P's fabulous beach house while they're overseas. I just love love love this part of the world: my family owned a part share in a vineyard in Merricks North for several years (including during the period when I was studying oenology), so I've spent a sizable chunk of my life on the Mornington Peninsula drinking pinot noir and exploring wineries.
On the Friday night we played an epic game of Rummy-O (aka Rummikub) that lasted until 2am. Housemate DJ came last in a most spectacular fashion. Ample quantities of red wine and Haribo Gummibärchen were consumed. (And on the Saturday night we played Fictionary Dictionary. Schatzi had never played Fic Dic before - she loved it!)
Sure it's not as flash as, say, the Sorrento/Portsea back beach (there are a lot more rocks and seaweed, and you can't really swim), but I have a real soft spot for Merricks Beach. Especially in winter.
Merricks General Store
3458-3460 Frankston-Flinders Road, Merricks (map)
(03) 5989 8088
On Saturday we had a late lunch at the Merricks General Store. When I were a lad, the MGS was charmingly grungy, with dramatically uneven floorboards and a fairground laughing clown sitting in the corner. It has since been substantially poshified and refurbished into a restaurant and cafe. Last year it also became a cellar door for Elgee Park, Baillieu Vineyard and Quealy Wines. I liked it, but I kinda missed the slanty floorboards.
"Mushroom Madness in the month of May... Merricks is going mad for mushrooms" proclaimed the blackboard. We decided to share the Mushroom Madness in May platter ($33), which consisted of semolina gnocchi baked with mushrooms and taleggio, a petite suet pie of braised beef cheek, shallot and porcini mushrooms, and the best herbed mushroom soup I have ever tasted. It was like delicious hot liquid crack.
Schatzi wanted more soup (you could only get the mushroom soup as part of the platter, alas!), so she ordered the cream of cauliflower soup with crispy prosciutto and crusty bread ($12). I ordered the crème fraîche and gorgonzola panna cotta with prosciutto and honey cardamom roasted figs ($16).
It was... as insanely rich as it sounds. Crème fraîche AND gorgonzola. I don't know why the hell I ordered it, I could barely eat half of it. Yowza. I mean, it was nice, but.... CRAZY RICH.
Best-friend-K ordered a croque enfant ($8), an excellent little ham and cheese toastie with a hint of béchamel. M ordered a ricotta and pistachio slice which was, it must be said, a little on the bland side.
I was very partial to the Earls Ridge pinot noir b-f-K and I drank. The coffees however were frighteningly expensive - $4.50!
Gorgeous flowering gum outside the store! After lunch we went to Montalto and had a lovely gambol through the vines looking at their sculpture collection.
Sunday breakfast consisted of toasted fruit bread, apple, pear, exceptional cantaloupe and leftover stewed rhubarb from the delicious baked ricotta and stewed rhubarb pudding Miss O had made for us the night before.
After we left Merricks Beach that morning, b-f-K and I decided to stick around on the peninsula for a few more hours to do some grape grazing and cellar door purchasing. I took her to the place that does the best coffee on the peninsula, the Foodworks supermarket at Red Hill (aka Red Hill Cellars). Who'd've thought you could get good coffee at a supermarket? But this is no ordinary supermarket: it's a foodie's treasure trove of gourmet and local produce.
We followed the coffees with a very tasty chicken and chardonnay pie from the Red Hill Bakery, then went grape grazing. If you're interested in heading down to the Mornington Peninsula soon, consider going for the Winter Wine Weekend over the Queen's Birthday weekend. I'm sorely tempted to head back down there for at least some of it!