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)
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.
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.
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.
Sydney Rock oysters ($3.50 each). Cos I was in The Rocks, Sydney.
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.
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.
Home Thai Restaurant
Shops 1-2, 299 Sussex St, Sydney (map)
02 9261 5058
Open lunch and dinner, 7 days
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.
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?
I liked that the Larb Ped Udon ($12.90) was on the dry side - the ground roasted rice stuck to the minced duck better.
We also loved the Kor Moo Yang ($10.90) - grilled marinated pork neck with nam jim jiew and fresh vegetables.
Four in Hand
105 Sutherland Street, Paddington (map)
(02) 9326 2254
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).
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).
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.
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.
They did bloody good 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.
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.
Two pork chipotle tacos ($8.50). Very impressive by Australian fast food standards.
Baffi and Mo
94 Redfern Street, Redfern (map)
(02) 8065 3294
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.
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.
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
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.
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!