Friday, 29 April 2011

A milestone, a giveaway and some Sydney Gastronome highlights

Bondi Beach

This evening Melbourne Gastronome reached one million hits! I was out having dinner with the charming J (he who always orders the most boring thing on the menu), and we happened to check the stat counter JUST as it ticked over to 1,000,000. Thank you all so much for reading!

To celebrate the milestone, I thought I'd have a giveaway on the blog - the prize is two tickets to Food Fighters - a conversation with Anthony Bourdain and AA Gill at the Sydney Writers' Festival. The event is at Sydney Town Hall at 6pm on Thursday 19th May 2011 (so you need to either live in Sydney, or be able to get yourself to Sydney on the 19th).

I bought the tickets (that ice cream van afternoon when I was hepped up on Sudafed goofballs and feeling feverish and impulsive) but unfortunately I will not be able to attend, for several reasons. I'll be gutted to be missing out though - Gill's review of L'Ami Louis remains one of the funniest things I've read this year, and Bourdain is, well, BOURDAIN (you might like read what he has to say about food bloggers here). But I thought the next best thing would be for me to give away the tickets to a Melbourne Gastronome reader who can make good use of them!

To enter the giveaway, send me an email (click "Email" on my profile for the address) answering the following question:
If you could take Bourdain or Gill to any cafe/restaurant/bar in Australia, which one would you take (Bourdain or Gill), where would you take him, and why?
Entries close 6pm (Melbourne time) on Wednesday 4th May - after that I'll pick my favourite answer, announce the winner and post the tickets out to you. I may even share some entries on the blog (by entering you consent to possible publication on the blog of your entry and your first name - don't worry, I'll keep your other details private). Anyone in Australia is welcome to enter.

Speaking of Sydney, the rest of this post is a bit of a Blog Amnesty of culinary highlights from my two recent Sydney trips. It's long, but it's not as detailed as I usually like - forgive me, the hour is late.

Greenhouse by Joost
Circular Quay West, Sydney (map)
Pop-up now closed (website)

StrawberriesGreenhouse by Joost

I visited the first Greenhouse by Joost, which was installed in Melbourne's Federation Square, back in 2008. Since then a permanent Greenhouse has been installed in Perth, and Sydney had a pop-up version (sorry Jess Ho, it's the dreaded "p" word) for the first few months of this year. The location was pretty kick-ass: right on the western tip of Circular Quay, opposite the Opera House and almost in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge.

Greenhouse by JoostGreenhouse by Joost

Much like the Spiegeltent, Greenhouse is going to go on a bit of a world tour. The level of detail employed to ensure Greenhouse operates waste-free, and the fact that it's made from recycled and recyclable materials using sustainable construction techniques and operating procedures is very impressive. See detail here and read more about it on their website here.

Greenhouse by Joost

I went along on the last Friday it was open. As I arrived it was the kind of effortlessly dazzling, sunlight-glinting-off-the-water Sydney afternoon that makes a Melbourne girl want to burn all her black clothing and move north.

Greenhouse by Joost Greenhouse by Joost

Sydney Rock oysters ($3.50 each). Cos I was in The Rocks, Sydney.

Bridge from Greenhouse by Joost Sydney Rock Oysters

Wagu beef gerello, with green papaya, peanut and tamarind ($25), and an outrageously good peaches and cream ($10) which had been finished off in the pizza oven. Drinks in jam jars.

Wagu beef gerelloPeaches and cream

To stay in the loop about where the next incarnation of Greenhouse pops up (rumour has it in Sydney again), check their website and join the mailing list.

Greenhouse by Joost rooftopGreenhouse by Joost rooftop

Home Thai Restaurant
Shops 1-2, 299 Sussex St, Sydney (map)
02 9261 5058
Open lunch and dinner, 7 days

Home kitchen

Home (not to be confused with House, another awesome Sydney Thai restaurant) is a bustling, student-filled eatery that bears more than a passing resemblance to Chat Thai. I went with my family, who were up the same weekend I was there visiting brother Buster.

Highlights included this sensational Yum Hua Plee ($14.90), a banana flower salad with chicken, prawn, dried coconut and chilli jam.

Yum Hua Plee

Also excellent was the Sai Groog Isan (homemade sausage, $10.90). Does anyone know where you can get a good version of this in Melbourne?

Home kitchenSai Groog Isan

I liked that the Larb Ped Udon ($12.90) was on the dry side - the ground roasted rice stuck to the minced duck better.

Larb Ped Udon

We also loved the Kor Moo Yang ($10.90) - grilled marinated pork neck with nam jim jiew and fresh vegetables.

Kor Moo Yang

Four in Hand
105 Sutherland Street, Paddington (map)
(02) 9326 2254

Four in Hand

On my most recent trip to Sydney, I had a hot date with C and J at the Four in Hand, an excellent gastropub in Paddington. We went a little berserk with the pork.

J had the special of braised pig tail (!) with crab and roast sweetcorn salad, with a lobster chowder poured over the top ($28). The dish sounded just insane but like chef Colin Fassnidge's other dishes that aren't afraid to mix meat and seafood, it worked like a charm. That chowder was sensational. I had the pigs ear schnitzel (!!) with cured pork cheek, crab and sprout coleslaw ($26).

Braised pig tailPigs Ear Schnitzel

For main course J went the head to toe lamb, but expressed envy when he saw the roast suckling pig that C and I shared. It came with celeriac remoulade (my favourite) and sinful buttery colcannon. The Four in Hand also serves WHOLE suckling pigs with all the trimmings for tables of 10+ (book ahead, and it's a minimum price of $800).

Roast suckling pigRoast suckling pig

We concluded with jelly & cream, plus the right-up-my-alley signature dessert, the '4's' chocolate snickers ($16 each). Damn one eats well at the Four in Hand.

Jelly and creamThe '4's' Chocolate Snickers

For the second trip the lovely N let me stay in her Bondi Beach apartment. We had Saturday breakfast and tapas later that night (accompanied by yet another charming J - clearly I know too many men whose names begin with the letter J) at Speakeasy Bar, her local.

Speakeasy BarSpeakeasy Bar

They did bloody good shallow baked eggs.

Shallow baked eggs

Another highlight on this trip was to stop in briefly at Fix St James, a wine bistro whose owner Stuart Knox I'd conversed with many times on the twitters but had never met before. I drank a Hawkes Bay chardonnay and munched on an excellent salad of fennel, strzelecki and grapes ($15). Keen to head back for a full meal and extensive stroll through their wine list next time.

Fix St James

I'm going through a bit of a Mexican craze at the moment (actually let's face it, I've been going through this Mexican craze since 2005). A Melbourne friend suggested I check out the burritos and tacos at Sydney fresh fast food chain Guzman y Gomez, as they reminded him of the Mexican food you get in the Mission in San Francisco. The Guzman y Gomez outlets are similar in terms of fitout and style of food to Sydney's other chain Mad Mex (which has a Melbourne outpost). I was impressed to see THREE varieties of Tabasco on offer.

Guzman y GomezThree kinds of Tabasco

Two pork chipotle tacos ($8.50). Very impressive by Australian fast food standards.

Pork chipotle tacos

Baffi and Mo
94 Redfern Street, Redfern (map)
(02) 8065 3294

Baffi & Mo

On my last day in Sydney I was caught up with the women behind my three favourite Sydney food blogs: Put It In Your Mouth, I Am Obsessed With Food and The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry. First up was brunch with Mel from Put It In Your Mouth: we went to Baffi & Mo in Redfern.

Baffi & MoBaffi & Mo tomatoes and avocado

We had the tomatoes and avocado on toast, and the potato hash stack with salmon, avocado, tomato and asparagus topped with a poached egg. The food was rather average, but the look of the place was supercute and the coffee was good.

Baffi & Mo potato rostiBaffi & Mo

In the afternoon I met Reem from I Am Obsessed With Food for a hot chocolate and gossip at the Lindt Cafe and then in the evening - on my way to the airport - there was just enough time for cocktails and a bite to eat at Stitch with Lee from The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry.

61 York Street, Sydney (map)
(02) 9299 2719
Open nights, Mon-Sat

Stitch entranceSalty Candy cocktail

Beneath an unassuming entrance strewn with bolts of fabric, sewing machines and other tailoring accessories lies new underground bar Stitch. It specialises in proper cocktails and posh American burgers and hot dogs (all of which come served with CURLY FRIES). I enjoyed the Salty Candy (South gin with Génépi and dry vermouth, $18) cocktail, even if the cute bartender did chide me for leaving the pickled onion.

Veggie burgerBulldog

Foodwise, Lee had the vegie burger (field mushroom, bourgol and chickpea with lime mayonnaise, vine-ripened tomato and rocket, $16). On the cute bartender's recommendation I had the Bulldog ($17), a spicy dog with black eyed beans, spicy tomato salsa, avocado and jalapenos. Loved the food (especially the curly fries) and the cocktails (the second one I had, the Elegantly Wasted, was even better). The bar had a lovely relaxed vibe to it (being there on a Monday probably helped).


Okay, enough Sydney rambling from me. Get busy entering the Melbourne Gastronome giveaway!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Little Mule: laneways, lunch and bicycles

The Little Mule Co Pty Ltd
19 Somerset Place, Melbourne (map)
9670 4904
Open 7:30-3:30, Monday-Saturday

Narrow laneway location. Minimalist warehouse chic fitout. Specialty coffee. Custom-made fixies. Drinking water out of jam jars. Men with neatly trimmed beards and cutely-bespectacled girls wearing dresses and cardigans, sitting on milk crates.

Seriously, could this cafe BE any more Melbourne? No I don't think so.

Little Mule exterior

While it would look equally at home in the vicinity of Gertrude Street, the laneway in question is in the CBD (near Brother Baba Budan). And yes, The Little Mule is a combination bicycle workshop and cafe, run by a trio of bicycle/coffee nerds. My former work colleague, the charming J, invited me to lunch there a couple of weeks ago: he was very excited as we'd be collecting the bike The Little Mule had custom-made for him.

Little Mule bicycles

My initial fears that the cafe might be a bit too cool for school were swiftly allayed by the friendly, enthusiastic staff. Most of the seating in the cafe apart from the comfy couch is at communal tables and the menu is compact, consisting mainly of melts, toasted sandwiches, baguettes and a seasonal salad or soup.

Little MuleLittle Mule interior

I ordered the $10 sandwich on the specials board because hello, PULLED PORK. Moist 12 hour slow cooked pulled pork with coleslaw in a roll, served not only with crisps (as at De Clieu) but also with a pickle! Delicious. J ordered a melt - I think it was the $8.50 one with semi-dried tomato, artichoke, basil pesto and scamorza.

Pulled pork sandwichMule melt

The coffee beans at The Little Mule come from The Little Marionette, a Sydney cafe I visited way back in January 2008. I discovered to my great interest that The Little Mule also uses The Little Marionette's recipe for their sensational banana bread. Must try it next time I'm back in that part of the city.

Little Mule

For those who (unlike me) know about fixies, here's J's description of his new baby:

My handlebars are ‘Nitto Track’ NJS approved and so are my pedals. The colour scheme is midnight blue with white handlebar-tape and white leather saddle with a completely chrome fork (I think you’ll agree that is a nice little touch). The frame of course, is made and designed by Little Mule.

‘What does NJS approved mean?’ I hear you ask. Well, this explanation I just found online sums it up pretty well:
Japan's unique event, Keirin racing, is very strictly regulated. Because Keirin is run by a Japanese government agency and because Keirin's raison d'etre is actually gambling (proceeds from which fund Japan's schools), it is absolutely critical that the equipment be standardized, uniform and dependable. Certified Keirin components bear the NJS Keirin Approved label.

Cool huh?

I must admit, it's an extremely handsome bicycle. More pictures are on The Little Mule's blog.

John's bicycle

Oh, and in other Melbourne laneway news...

Just when you thought the city's laneways couldn't get any laneway-ier, along comes sibling bar to Der Raum, Bar Americano (opening late May). It's tiny, hidden in a tucked-away laneway off another laneway (giving its location a Croft Institute degree of difficulty), and will be serving espresso by day and old skool cocktails by night. Yessssss.

Bar AmericanoBar Americano