Monday, 31 August 2009

Gippsland Gastronome Competition Winner

West Gippsland

As promised, I have chosen a winner of the Gippsland Giveaway Competition. First of all, many many thanks to all those who entered the competition - I've been delighted and amused to read your entries - some were serious, some were funny, some were whimsical. I wish now that I had runners-up prizes to award too; there are several I wish I could reward.

The winner of a night's accommodation in a cabin at the Outpost Retreat in Noojee is... Emily Gale, for her evocative haiku (see here) which managed (in just the classical seventeen syllables) to refer to the majestic Ninety Mile Beach and the allure of the wild Mako shark. Congratulations, Emily! Please email me so that I can arrange for your prize to be awarded to you.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Winter search terms and a Gippsland Giveaway reminder

Retro espresso cups
(Nonna and Nonno's awesome retro espresso cups. Long live the 1970s!)

I'm amazed that it's already been three months since I last wrote up a list of my favourite search terms. With the assistance of Statcounter, I bring you my favourite terms or phrases that people have entered into Google over winter, with a search result that brings them to Melbourne Gastronome. All of these search terms are genuine and date from the last three months, since I did my previous roundup of hilarious/dodgy/bizarre search terms (see here - and see the initial roundup here).

-'wine and dine my girl in melbourne'
-'nice restaurant, not too wanky melbourne'
-'floating restaurants in melbourne'
(I'm not aware of ANY floating restaurant in melbourne, let along multiple floating restaurants!)
-'offal foodie club, melbourne'
(that would be the Melbourne Tripe Club: according to family folklore, my Australian grandfather was a proud member)
-'24 hour dumplings in melbourne'
(oh, HELL yes... but where?)
-'melbourne restraunt devil greets'
-'test tubes melbourne bar near chinatown'
(you're probably thinking of the Croft Institute)
-'level 3 restarants in crown casino for hens nights'
-'expensive 2 storey building restaurant melbourne'
-'hauntings melbourne cutler & co'
(hauntings, really?)
-'cumulus incorporate melbourne'
-'butch and bitch recipe ideas'
(eg 'The Butch and the Bitch': sounds like a feisty lesbian version of 'The Cook and the Chef'... love it!)
-'camp bitch longrain cocktail recipe'
-'adelaide sichuan nazi review'
(is there really a Sichuan Nazi in Adelaide, and is he anything like Melbourne's Duck Nazi?)

Lengthy questions people type into Google:
-'wanting to buy grano padano cheese by the wheel from melbourne australia'
-'is there any egyptian chief in melbourne who can cook to me at my home for one day'
-'i want know about test of sweet potato, olive and bocconcini terrine in entree'
-'i want to know is there a filling in melbourne in children care in need and whether intended pearls'
-'free english learning center for 6 year old child in melbourne at malvern road'

Some of the stranger ones:
-'fish banana hair clip'
-'what is more important food for the queen'
-'nonno's pint-sized gourmet chef'
-'glass decoupage map of paris'
-'asian students massage blogs melbourne'

Specific questions: if anyone knows the answer to any of these, please feel free to answer in the comments section!
-'matt preston food critic how tall?'
-'what to wear to dinner at gingerboy'
-'where to buy spearmint milk in melbourne'
-'what to do on grand final day in melbourne'
-'how to cook whoo hoo fish'
(uh, what IS whoo hoo fish??)
-'how to make black jack food colouring'

Er, can't say that I've ever had or wanted to have magic mushrooms, but if one does it's comforting to know where one should start looking:
-'drugs in richmond streets melbourne'
-'where to get magic mushrooms in melbourne victoria'
-'find magic mushrooms near st kilda'
-'location of magic mushrooms in st kilda'

Hmm, there's a story behind these ones:
-'stewing dish name and restaurant name in melbourne'
(maybe this one is a riddle: can you think of a restaurant in Melbourne whose name also means a kind of stewing dish??)
-'man thanks tower lodge hunter valley'
-'man thanks tower lodge hunter valley in his will'
-'george calombaris' girlfriend claire'
(not me, I hasten to point out)
-'mute monkey clare'
(that's Claire with an 'i')
-'melbourne lawyer food blog'
-'armagnac lawyer blog'
(is there a lawyer writing a blog dedicated solely to Armagnac?)

And, as always, the dirty ones:
-'no pants in restaurants'
-'mushroom orgy'
-'sexy salads richmond'
-'cheapest brothels in melbourne'
(this one crops up with mind-numbing regularity: does it have to be cheapest, fellas? Go on, pay for quality!)
-'brothel reviews melbourne'
-'topless restaurants melbourne'
(dammit, I made one passing reference to the word 'topless' in a Wikipedia quote in the context of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, and now I get searches for topless restaurants)
-'one grill tree old man's fug porno'
-'hunter porn reviews site girls got cream gallery 2'

Mushies and mushy peas at Auction Rooms
(Mixed mushrooms and mushy peas on toast, recently consumed at Auction Rooms. Recommended!)

Oh, and I just wanted to also issue a quick reminder about the Gippsland Gastronome Prize Giveaway, open to all Melbourne Gastronome readers in Victoria. The competition is open until midday (AEST) on Friday 28th August, so you still have 36 more hours to hone and finetune your poetic stylings to go into the running to win a night's accommodation in a cabin at the Outpost Retreat in Noojee.

I'm completely besotted by all the wonderful entries that have been submitted so far by my noble and dashed clever readers, and have no idea how I will be able to choose a winner... but announce the winner I shall on Monday 31st August. If your poem hasn't been linked to your blog, or you haven't emailed me some basic contact details instead then please do so, so that I can get in contact with you if you are the winner... :)

Melbourne from Albert Park Lake

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

That old hawker magic at The Old Raffles Place

The Old Raffles Place
68-70 Johnston Street, Collingwood (map)
9419 3092 (take away) / 9417 4450 (bookings)

The Old Raffles Place

This afternoon I caught up with Jess (yes, That Jess Ho) for lunch in Fitzroy/Collingwood. Feeling under the weather due to a respiratory infection and in need of comfort food, she suggested we head on down to The Old Raffles Place, on the corner of Johnston Street and Wellington Street.

The Old Raffles Place is one of those standbys that I'd always been aware of and vaguely intended to visit, but never had. It promises the "unforgettable heritage flavours of the Singaporean cuisine". In terms of fitout and decor, the Raffles Hotel it certainly ain't (plus you have to practically walk through the kitchen in order to reach the tables)... but hawker food isn't meant to be consumed in a posh setting, and the timeworn dining room retains a certain low-budget charm.

The Old Raffles Place

Something on the specials board caught my eye and so intrigued me that I had to double-check with Jess that I was reading it right: crispy fried banana prawn roll with plum sauce ($9.50). "Banana as in banana leaf, or banana banana, d'you reckon?"

Our apron-clad waiter confirmed that it was indeed banana as in banana banana. It sounded so bizarre, we *had* to order it! As you can see, the roll of minced prawn had a golden strip of banana down its centre and was wrapped in crispy beancurd skin. Somewhat surprisingly, we rather liked it.

Crispy fried banana and prawn roll

Jess ordered another special, the skate Assam Curry ($19.50). It arrived smelling wonderfully sour and spicy, and scored bonus points for containing okra. Pungent, authentic and delicious.

Assam curry

After much deliberation I'd skipped my usual hawker noodle order of Mee Goreng and ordered the Racecourse Char Kway Teow ($12) instead. As well as yellow Hokkien noodles AND flat rice noodles, the dish also contained prawns, fish cakes, pak choy, tons of bean shoots and Chinese sausage. The sauce was lovely and rich. Jess dubbed it the best char kway teow she'd tried in ages.

Char Kuey Teow

Other stuff on the ORP menu that I want to try (note this is not an exhaustive list):
- Hainanese Chicken Rice;
- Little India Mee Goreng;
- Old Tanglin Combination Laksa (particularly keen to see how they do these three standards);
- People's Park Chee Cheong Fun;
- Nonya Fish;
- Sambal Kangkung;
- Old Chinatown Salted Fish Fried Rice; and
- Eunos Sambal Kway Teow Goreng.

In case that list doesn't make it clear, did I mention I love Singaporean food?

The Old Raffles Place

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Nonno's capocollo


This is my Nonno. I've previously mentioned my Nonno here on the blog. My mother's father, he was born in 1921 in Italy, in a town on the Istrian Peninsula called Pola (which became part of Yugoslavia after WWII and is now part of Croatia and called Pula).

Nonno's photosArezzo 1941 Corso Allievo Ufficiali

Nonno was an athlete in 1930s Italy, and an officer in the Italian army during WWII. In the late 1940s, having been forced to leave his home town and emigrate over the new border into Italy, Nonno decided to emigrate all the way to Australia, bringing his newlywed bride (my Nonna) with him.

We grandchildren have always enjoyed poring over their old photo album, looking at the photos of them in 1930s and 1940s Italy, then on the boat that brought them down under. Below are the photos showing their first glimpse of Terra Australis, Station Pier, St Paul's Cathedral and the Forum Theatre (the last two photos taken from the train that was taking them to Bonegilla, the migrant camp near Wodonga where they were interned upon their arrival in Australia).

Terra AustralisMelbourne dal treno verso Bonegilla

Nonna and Nonno have lived in Australia for 60 years. Yesterday was their 61st wedding anniversary, so we had a lovely family lunch for them at my parents' place. One of the antipasti which I feel I must share with you was the capocollo that Nonno cures himself.

It. Is. Delicious.


SO much better than prosciutto! Extracted below is a description of the process the pork undergoes (written by my mother):
Papà has been curing his own capocollo for years. He used to cure prosciutto, but that proved to be too much meat to eat in a short time, especially as his prosciutto became ready to eat at Christmas, when it's hot. The meat potentially goes off quickly. Capocollo takes about 6-7 weeks to dry and therefore can be eaten in late winter (as June-July seems to be the best time to make it). The part of the pork is the "capocollo" (part of the fleshy part of the neck and upper back of the animal).

It usually weighs 1.5-2 kgs and loses about 30-40% of its weight in the drying process.


The meat should be trimmed of visible fat with a small, sharp knife. It should then be immersed in rock salt, and left for 18-24 hours. Once taken out of the salt, the meat must be washed to remove the salt crystals, then carefully dried and laid out on a chopping board. More fat trimming can now be done and more easily too as the fat is more visible due to the action of the salt.


The meat is now ready to be seasoned. Use coarse pepper, whole cloves and a cinnamon stick or two. Then roll the meat as tightly as possible and tie very securely with butchers string up and down the length of it. The capocollo should now be covered in a stretchy string cover (available from the butcher). It can easily be sheathed by the means of an aggy pipe.

Both ends of the string casing should be tied securely, and it should be labelled with date of curing and preferably weight of the capocollo. It should now be hung in a cool dry and well-ventilated spot; a meat safe type arrangement works well.


By applying firm pressure with your fingers, it is possible to periodically determine how well it is drying. It should have a little bit of give - if it gets too hard, it becomes chewy and unpalatable. If you feel your capocollo is drying too quickly, a method of slowing down the process is to place it in a box filled with wheat, so that it is totally submerged.


Using an electric slicer can improve the taste as slices are thinner and more even. Buon appetito."


After the anniversary lunch, I drove Nonna and Nonno home to Vermont South yesterday afternoon. I took the opportunity to take photos of the flyscreen cage he made to protect his curing meats from blowflies (see above), and to check out how the radicchio in his garden was faring.


Oh, and here are some food porn photos from the anniversary lunch itself. We had two crimson salads: one of roasted baby beetroot and another of radicchio rosso, Spanish onion and pine nuts.

BeetrootRadicchio rosso

Somewhat unusually (given that we're northern Italians, more used to polenta and strudel) we had pizze. One of the pizze bianche we had featured mushroom, sliced potato, taleggio and rosemary, the other gorgonzola, cherry tomatoes and torn basil.


Ever since the Great Mussels Incident Of 1999 that I was unlucky enough to experience in Montmartre, I tend to steer queasily clear of most bivalves. However, I make an exception for good oysters, and for clams (vongole, in Italian). We had linguini alle vongole, using pasta all'uovo, chilli, Italian parsley and a small quantity of chopped fresh tomatoes added just prior to serving. Completely delicious.

VongolePasta con vongole

Two cakes for dessert. One was a chocolate mousse cake from Laurent, and another (far more interesting) cake made by Mamma: a frangipane tart containing chopped dates and topped with pistachios and heated fig jam.

Chocolate mousse cakeFrangipane tart

It don't get much better than this!

Frangipane tart

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Cumulus Inc continues to seduce

In need of a stiff drink on Friday night, I met fellow food bloggers Ed, Jess and Penny at Der Raum for cocktails. We ended up having several, from cucumber-tinged Millers martinis disgorging clouds of liquid nitrogen (no, really) to the cocktail called Pharmacy (which involved a pill jar full of pear and roasted capsicum gin, a syringe full of Aperol and a red and white pill filled with citrus sherbet).

Follow up multiple Der Raum cocktails with a Love Pho phở chaser, then Japanese beers and gin and tonics chez moi until the wee hours and you're left with several hungover food bloggers come Saturday morning. As I shuffled through the Prahran Market in a near-catatonic state, unable to make decisions re mushroom selection and wincing as trolleys scraped noisily over concrete, it was only the prospect of dinner that night at Cumulus Inc that kept me going. Oh, Cumulus!

Cumulus Inc.
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (map)
9650 1445

Cumulus Inc

Regular readers will know that I'm an ardent fan of Andrew McConnell's CBD Eating House and Bar. I've had breakfast at Cumulus Inc several times, but the two times I'd previously visited for dinner were both over a year ago, so I was keen for a nocturnal revisit. Luckily, best-friend-K was easily talked into it (after spending all day at intensive classes for a masters subject she's doing, she was in dire need of a few drinks and a good feed).

Cumulus Inc

With no other commitments that night, we'd agreed that we'd be happy to wait for however long it'd take to get a table, given the no bookings policy. We got there just after 7pm and were ushered to the corner next to the coat rack, where we stood sipping on drinks and waiting... and waiting... and waiting... an hour and a half, before being seated up at the bar overlooking the kitchen. Yes it's a pain to have to wait that long (especially while standing), but mad props to the charismatic host who was doing a great job keeping the punters happy under the circumstances.

Later in the evening he dropped by to see how our meal was going, addressing us by name and chatting briefly about Piemontese wines (our 2007 Sottimano Dolcetto d'Alba, $62, was exquisite).

Sottimano Dolcetto d'Alba

Any flicker of irritation we'd felt at the wait was promptly snuffed out as soon as the food started arriving. We eschewed ordering oysters this time, starting instead with grilled quail halves wrapped in vine leaf, with pistachio and labne ($7 each). Cunningly skewered and devilishly juicy.

Grilled quail in vine leaf

The kitchen charcuterie selection ($23). Clockwise from top left: hand cut Sicilian salami, prosciutto di Parma, wagyu bresaola with remoulade and pheasant terrine with prune. While the fennel seed-flecked salami and the prosciutto were perfectly nice, the bresaola and terrine were exceptional.

I already raved about the wagyu bresaola last time: I love remoulade and bresaola, but it's the teeny tiny shavings of fresh horseradish that really make the dish memorable. And as for the pheasant terrine, the punchy gamey flavour was nicely counterbalanced by the spiced prunes. Don't know how I'll be able to resist ordering these two again next time.

Kitchen charcuterie selection

B-f-K is not much of a gnocchi fan, but I cajoled her into letting me order the baked gnocchi with Jerusalem artichokes, taleggio and truffle ($17). There is NOTHING in this dish that I don't love. Yes it was super-rich, but that's the point. Shared, it was brilliant: I couldn't decide whether I liked the enveloping softness of the cheesy gnocchi or the texture of the Jerusalem artichokes more.

Baked gnocchi

The one dish that left us a little lukewarm was the Rockdale 240 day grain fed scotch fillet, with glazed shallots, nettle and horseradish ($38). Don't get me wrong, the rare fillet had been expertly prepared... but the shaved horseradish just made me reminisce about the wagyu bresaola, and as I mentioned in the review of our first visit b-f-K is not big with the nettles. We both agreed that we should have skipped a big meat dish in favour of the cracked wheat and freekeh salad with preserved lemon and barberries that we'd enjoyed on our first visit.

Scotch fillet

We did however both adore the special that we ordered, roasted organic (fantastically tasty) baby carrots with dukkah and labne. Because one can never have too much labne.

Roasted organic carrots

And for dessert, we ordered the rum baba with aged rum ($17). After the meal we'd had, we really ought to have settled for just a pair of lemon curd madeleines instead... but I'd had my heart set on ordering the rum baba again, ever since I tried it over a year ago at an extravagant weeknight Cumulus dinner with the charming A.

Rum baba

When it arrived I couldn't resist clapping my hands together in appreciative glee. Taken from the oven before our eyes, the light, fluffy, briochey cake was posed in a small puddle of crème pâtissière and brought to us. It was accompanied by a bottle of 7 year old Havana Club from the bar, which was left with us so that we could pour as much or as little rum as we wanted. Make no mistake, the Cumulus Inc rum baba is TO DIE FOR.

Rum baba

Everyone's favourite fictional Belgian, Hercule Poirot, was "inordinately fond" of this dessert. Can't add too much rum though, for fear of damaging the "little grey cells"... :)

Rum baba

Oh, and at the end of the meal Andrew McConnell walked in (having finished meal service at Cutler & Co) and came over for a brief chat. I tried to remain cool and casual, but was secretly totally starstruck and geeked out that Andrew McConnell not only recognised and remembered me, but mentioned and thanked me for the write-up I did in March on the MF&WF Oyster Class. I'm such a food nerd!

Cumulus Inc

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Gippsland Gastronome: Competition

Noojee Trestle Bridge

As I mentioned in my three recent posts about my weekend away in Gippsland, thanks to Destination Gippsland and Nuffnang I'm very excited to be able for the first time to offer Melbourne Gastronome readers an opportunity to win a prize giveaway!

The prize is a night's accommodation in a cabin at the Outpost Retreat in Noojee. The cabin is self-contained, sleeps up to six people and your stay can be on the date of your choosing, subject to availability. As your friendly neighbourhood Melbourne Gastronome, I would urge you to treat yourselves to dinner while you're there at the Outpost Restaurant where I enjoyed a fabulous meal on my Saturday night in Gippsland. And as well as wining and dining, you might like to combine your overnight in Noojee with a trip up to nearby Mt Baw Baw: not only is it the closest snow sports resort to Melbourne (2.5 hours drive), it has the cheapest lift ticket prices in Victoria.

So, how to enter the competition? Well, rather than ask you to do a run-of-the-mill "why I should win in 25 words or less" entry, I thought it would be more fun to have POETIC competition entries. To enter, write a haiku or a limerick. The haiku or limerick should be original, and should mention something that is related to Gippsland (eg snow, or mountains, or the bush, or food or wine: see the Destination Gippsland website for inspiration, bonus points if you can mention a food grown in Gippsland - click on the "local produce" link on the site).

Tips on writing haiku can be found here and here. I'm sure you're all smart enough to know how to write limericks!

Alas the competition is only open to those in Victoria, but you Victorians can enter as many times as you like: either leave your haiku/limerick in the comments section of this post, or email it to me directly. The competition will be open until midday (AEST) on Friday 28th August, and I will announced the winner on Monday 31st August.

Good luck, and may your creative juices flow freely!

Gippsland goats

Monday, 10 August 2009

Gippsland Gastronome (Day 3)

Sponsored by Nuffnang

West Gippsland

This is the last of three posts writing up highlights from the weekend away that C and I had in West Gippsland, as guests of Destination Gippsland (Day 1 is here, Day 2 is here).

Gippsland deer

Deer grazing on the hillside opposite Gracefield Cottage, the B&B where we stayed.

Gippsland cows

We wanted to drive in to Warragul in the morning, so we went to the Courthouse (72 Smith St, Warragul VIC (03) 5622 2442) for breakfast. As the name suggests, the restaurant is located inside Warragul's historic (ca 1887) courthouse.

The Courthouse Restaurant, Warragul

C ordered the Officer of the Court ($11.50 bacon and eggs, with $2.70 tomato and basil sausages and $1.70 grilled tomatoes). I ordered the Chef's Breakfast ($13.90), a rösti and smoked salmon stack with wilted spinach, soft poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.

Officer of the CourtChef's Breakfast

Cherry blossoms in the middle of winter!

West Gippsland

After breakfast we decided to go on a Fern Gully Nature Walk in nearby Glen Nayook. Absolutely gorgeous.

Glen Nayook

Parks Victoria knows much more about this sort of thing than I do - this is what the sign said:
Take an enjoyable 45 minute stroll to explore one of the ancient forests of Gippsland.
Walking down to the picturesque ferry glade on the Little Tarago River, you'll pass through wet scierophyll (or hard-leaved) forest, complete with towering stands of Mountain Ash.
Make your way through granite boulders (The Skinks) that have fallen into the creek over 1000 years ago forming the underground river and many sink holes.
From here you'll wind your way into a ferny glade amongst Cool Temperature Rainforest.

Glen NayookGlen Nayook

We then drove down to Wild Dog Winery for a spot of lunch. It's located a few kilometres outside of Warragul, its namesake (from the Aboriginal word "Warrigal" meaning dingo or wild dog).

Wild Dog Winery

Wild Dog Winery
Warragul Korumburra Rd, Warragul (map)
(03) 5623 2211

Wild Dog Winery

The restaurant has been beautifully fitted out, allowing in abundant natural light and offering superb views out over the vines. Chef Ed McDowell is in charge in the kitchen, serving light lunches as well as more substantial restaurant fare. We sat looking out at the sun-drenched decking and enjoying the winery's blackcurranty Cabernet Franc.

Wild Dog Winery

Alas, we'd had cooked breakfast just two hours beforehand so could only fit in one dish each. If I'd've been hungrier I would've also ordered the entree of Gippsland natural eye fillet carpaccio with semi dried tomato, fire roasted peppers, balsamic, shallot, parmesan and EVOO (saw some being taken to another table and it looked deelish).

Instead I chose the Victorian lamb rump, served with rosemary, thyme, garlic, wild ruby lime jus, roast garlic mash, smoked baby orange and red beets with cottage cheese ($33.90). The lamb had a great juicy flavour and the mash was nicely lumpy, studded with roast garlic and slightly tangy beetroot.

Lamb rump

C ordered the steak and Guinness pie which came served in a pot with a puff pastry top, house cut chips, aioli and a unsweetened tomato sauce ($19.90). Nice skinny chips and a very saucy pie, once the puff pastry lid was peeled back. C liked it a lot!

Steak and Guinness pie

And there you have it! After lunch we got into C's car and drove the hour and a bit's drive back to the big smoke. Thank you to those who helped make our Gippsland weekend away so enjoyable. :)

And Melbourne Gastronome readers, keep an eye out for the upcoming Gippsland-related blog prize giveaway - details to follow soon!

Give Way to Stock

Melbourne Gastronome visited West Gippsland as a guest, with transport paid for by Destination Gippsland and complimentary accommodation provided by Gracefield Cottage. All food and beverages in this post paid for by Melbourne Gastronome.