Tuesday 26 June 2012

Albert Street Food and Wine

382 Sydney Rd
Brunswick, VIC 3056

03 8354 6600

Executive Chef Philippa Sibley(Est est est, Odine, 2004 The Age Chef of the Year) has developed a beautifully rustic and wondefully tasty menu here at Albert Street Food and Wine. With the guiding hands of founders and managers, Stuart Brookshaw (Longrain and Bondi Icebergs) and Ruth Giffney (recipient of the 1998 Harpers & Queen Premier Cru award for service excellence) this Brunswick eaterie will no doubt get better and better.

The review that follows highlights the meal that we had on our first visit. I say our first because we enjoyed it so much we have been back a couple of times since. 


Bread and basil infused whipped butter
I love eating at places that aren't stingy with their bread as I am quite the Carbohydrate-aholic, no Dukan Diet for this girl.

Charcuterie Large   $36

Montagna   $17
Baccala   $15
Wagyu skewer   $20
Fritto misto   $35
Pizza bianca   $14
A pint and a Charcuteri board (well, a lemon lime and bitters for the pregnant me) is always a great way to start a meal, and this one definitely had a nice selection of meats to the get the taste buds ready for more.
The Montagna was next up and in honesty it wasn't really as mountainus as it's name suggests but it was still full of flavour.
The Baccala (salted cod) was fantastic and a very generous portion but it was so tasty I could have easily have had more.
For $20 the Wagyu skewers were a little steep. Lovely cuts of meat beautifully cooked, but still pricey for the size.
Deep fried goodness was next on the table. The Fritto Misto had a nice selction of seafood and veggies with a lightly and incredibly crunchy batter-exactly what you would want expect from this dish.
These people know how to make a pizza. We chose the Pizza Bianca, it was garlicy, cheesy and just damn delicious.


I'd like to quickly mention that on our last visit my husband had the Foie gras parfait, sadly I could not have any due to the pregnancy, but oh dear it looked amazing and I am assured by him that it was tasty and what a generous serving. For main we had the John Dory and the Confit Duck, and both were full of flavour. Would be happy to have them again.

Pedigree aside this trio have established an inviting eaterie, with a menu and produce to match. There really isn't alot else that needs to be said about Albert st Food & Wine. It is what you would expect from the experienced and talented staff that run it. Great decor, fantastic service, lovely larder and ofcourse, delicious food. Just go and enjoy.

Would I return? Yes

Albert Street Food and Wine on Urbanspoon

Friday 6 April 2012

Dairy Free Hot Cross Buns

Easter is here, and that means as many hot cross buns and chocolate goodies as far as the eye can see. Sadly for me that means dodging all the lovely well meaning shop people trying to give the kiddies yummy treats. It's annoying being the parent of a child with a dairy allergy most of the time, but particularly difficult during Easter. So this year I have decided to bake my own hot cross buns in an effort to not let Lolo miss out on anything delicious that may be around.

By the way, this recipe works just as well with cows milk and butter if that is what you prefer.

3 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 tbsp dried yeast
1 tbsp caster sugar
3/4 cup warm almond milk
1/2 cup cold almond milk
50g nuttelex margarine, melted
1 egg
200g mixed dried fruit (I add sultanas, chopped dates and apricots but you can add what you like)
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
a pinch of salt

Flour paste
1/2 cup plain flour
4 or 5 tbls of water

2 tbls caster sugar
a sprinkle of mixed spice(you don't have to add this but I like the way it tastes)
1/4 cup water

-Whisk the yeast, warm milk and 1tbsp of caster sugar
-Set aside for 10 mins or until the mixture goes frothy

-Whisk in the cold milk, egg and melted nuttelex
-In a separate bowl mix combine flour, dried fruit sugar, mixed spice and salt

-Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture
-Using a wooden spoon stir the mixture until combined then you will definitely have to use your hands to continue bringing the mixture together

-Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly floured surface and knead just as you would bread for about 10-15 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth.(I do it for 15 mins as I count it as an arm workout)
-Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap 

-Place aside in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

-Turn dough back onto a slightly floured surface and knead for another couple of minutes
-Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and knead each piece into a ball
-Place on a greased tray approx 1cm apart
-Cover with a damp tea towel and once again place in a warm draught free place for about 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size again
-Preheat oven to 200C.
Flour paste
-In a small bowl mix flour and water until smooth, if paste is too thick for piping then add a little extra water until you are happy with the consistency

-Spoon into piping bag(or a small zip lock bag with the corner cut off)
-Pipe straight lines across and down each row to form crosses

-Bake for 10mins then reduce heat to 160C. and bake for another 20 minutes or until cooked through
-In a small sauce pan combine water, sugar and mixed spice. Bring to the boil then simmer for a couple of minutes till the glaze thickens
-Brush glaze over hot buns then transfer to wire rack to cool
-Serve warm or at room temperature

As you can see my crosses are not perfect, but in my defence I'm not religious. It doesn't matter, what matters is that they taste great and that my little one can sit and eat her Hot Cross Bun just like any other little one around town.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Red Star Cafe

115 Main Rd 
Hepburn Springs, VIC 3461

03 5348 2297

Time off in Victoria's spa country is always a pleasure, but like most places out in the country you need to be in the know if you want to find the real gems. So we asked a lot of locals where they would recommend for breakfast if you were a hung-over-out-of-towner. Almost eveyone we spoke to suggested we try Red Star on Main Rd. It was decided, just before we made the journey home back to reality we would stop off here to fuel up for the drive home.

There was a nice vibe when we walked into this place with it's funky red furniture, shelves filled with books upon books on various topics and kitsch art adorning the walls. Very laid back, infact so laid back that we ordered at the bar and sat where we wanted. There were a few young families and what I can only assume were regulars reading the paper. A definate locals haunt.

Red Star Breakfast with 3 sides $14.50
Red Star Breakfast with 3 sides $14.50 plus extras $3-$4 each
Our breakfast arrived incredibly fast which was perfect considering how hungry we both were. I ordered the basic Red Star Breakfast with 3 sides. The toast wasn't really toasted, more like warmed through and neither the avocado or the spinach were seasoned. On the upside the eggs were perfectly poached and the black pudding was lovely. Hubby did better as he ordered the same brekky but substitued the sides with hollandaise, sausages, beans, bacon and also some black pudding. Pretty good hang over breakfast.
Was it a brilliant breakfast expeirience? No, but it was just what was needed considering the state we were in. Is this really the best in the area, is there nothing else or am I just a pretentious city person that expects too much? I don't know, but the ingredients were fresh and the service was quick, and if I'm back in the area in the same frame of mind, then I'll be back at Red Star appreciating my well needed coffee and wishing I hadn't had that last drink.

Ratings out of 10
Food 5.5/10

Service 5/10
Atmosphere 6/10
Value  6.5/10

Red Star  5.75/10
Would I return? Yes

Red Star on Urbanspoon

Saturday 17 March 2012

Dulce de leche (cheats version)

Dulce de Leche literally translates to 'sweet of milk', and it is a delicious caramel that must be tasted to be believed. I have been wanting to write a post about this beautiful sweet gooey stuff for ages, but unfortunately my husband has a huge sweet tooth, so every time I would buy some condensed milk in order to make it, he would open it and start eating it from the can. But recently, as I flick through my foodie mags I have seen a lot of recipes that call for Dulce de Leche, a product which apparently can be found in speciality stores, pfft I say pfft.
In Chile we call it 'Manjar' and it is included in many of our insanely sweet pastries and desserts, although it is very popular throughout Latin America. Dulce de Leche can also be used in cakes, biscuits, bonoffee pie, on toast, or my very favourite way-with a spoon straight out of the can, needless to say I was a chubby child. Traditionalists will have you believe that you are required to heat milk and sugar and stir until the milk reduces and the sugar caramelises. This takes ages, and since I have better things to do with my time e.g: laughing at my daughter's attempts to put on her shoes or dance(that kid is so uncoordinated), I will give you the cheats version. The version that has been used in my household since I can remember.


-can of condensed milk

-Place the can of condensed milk in a large pot and fill with water.
-Boil water and ignore for 2-3 hours.

-The longer you boil it the thicker and more caramel-y the condensed milk becomes.
Do not under any circumstance let the water fall below can level as this will cause the can to overheat and explode, as my brother discovered much to my amusement. Months later he was still finding sticky caramel in odd places, mainly behind the fridge. If the water level starts to drop then immediately top up.

-Leave the can to cool before you open it

Don't be surprised if in the morning you open the fridge to find it looking like this.
Seriously, how my husband is not fat is beyond me.


Thursday 15 March 2012

Lake House

4 King Street
Daylesford, 3460

(03) 5348 3329

I read somewhere that Alla Wolf-Tasker's mother wept when she saw the paddock that Alla had bought right next to Lake Daylesford all the way back in 1980. It was infested with blackberries and rather swampy. Yet this visionary knew exactly what she was doing. This was step one to building her dream of a gourmet restaurant in country Victoria. 4 years later Lake House opened its doors and it was time for Alla to prove that she was not just some crazy lady with a wild dream, but a great chef with amazing foresight.
Today Lake House is regarded as one of Australia's best country restaurants which takes not only immense pride in serving brilliant modern Australian cuisine made from locally sourced produce, but also it's impeccable service, beautiful restaurant and stunning surrounds. The restaurant has won a myriad of awards including Australian Country Wine list of the Year and currently holds 2 Hats from The Age Good Food Guide, so even though it is a bit of a hike(1 hour drive from Melbourne) it is worth a visit.

The day had been spent soaking in the mineral waters, being scrubbed and massaged so taking into account the long drive and all that exhausting pampering, we knew that an early dinner would be the only way to go. This early evening was still warm and the sun still shining, this was a blessing as when we walked into the dining room we were able to see it in all it's sun drenched glory. Cocktails ordered through recommendation and enjoyed on the beautiful terrace overlooking the lake. We didn't even need to see the menus because our meal had been planned well in advance, Eight Course Tasting Menu with matched wines please.

Prints by Alla herself. You talented woman.

House baked corn bread
Sashimi mackerel, slow cooked octopus, fennel and smoky paprika
Open ravioli-John Dory, marron, clam, Vichyssoise, apple
Smoked Skipton eel, Istra pancetta, heirloom beets
Boned quail tempura, shiso, umeboshi
Rabbit-loin salad, crumbed croquette, Lydia's cottechino, lentil vinaigrette
12 hour suckling pig, blood pudding, morels
Apple, fennel, pistachio
Cheese platter
Selection of petit fours

The corn bread which is baked on site was a fun way to start, especially considering the oyster wasn't great. It's pretty hit and miss when it comes to oysters and unfortunately this one should have been left off the menu.
I love mackerel, but it is one of those fish that has to be super fresh in order to get the best of it, sadly this sashimi was overly fishy.
The open ravioli was for a lack of a better word-wow. The marron was perfectly cooked and teamed with the apple, it was just a beautiful dish. Could of had more and more.
The eel was another winner, not only was it beautiful to look at, it was even more pleasant to eat. The smokiness of the eel, teamed with the salty pancetta and the sweet beets-lovely.
The quail dish was an odd mix of flavours and styles, the quail was cooked nicely enough but it just didn't work for me.
The rabbit was a nice piece of meat and next to a beautiful and soft croquette. The mix of textures made this course a winner. I really enjoyed this dish.
The pig, oh the glorious pig. My only complaint is that there should have been more. The delicious black pudding and the so so sweet morels-yum.
Dessert time. First a sweet creamy number followed a lovely apple dish. The addition of the fennel was spot on by the way.
Cheese, cheese and more cheese. Sadly our daughter has a severe dairy allergy so we don't usually keep any at home, this is why we normal eat up when ever we are out. They offered us a great selection which was immensely enjoyed.
Finally it is the end of our meal and we are presented with a selection of petit fours that seemed truly out of place compared to the rest of the meal. I've been fortunate enough to eat a  few top restaurants here and abroad, and I am usually excited when they bring out the final plate of goodies, but this was a bit of a let down. It looked and tasted like something I would get at the cinemas, in fact I remember eating something similar as a child, we called them 'Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs'.
In all I truly enjoyed not just my meal here at the Lake House but the whole experience. Not only because of the great food and the beautiful restaurant itself, but also because of the professional yet friendly service which we received. A stunning way to celebrate our well earned night away sans baby and am already looking forward to our next visit.
Sure it was pricey and luxurious at $135 for 8 courses plus the $80 for matched wines, definitely not something that I would do every weekend, but worth it for a special mini break. So book your bed and breakfast, or stay where we stayed Hepburn at Hepburn-it is one sexy bungalow and right across from the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa, and let Alla feed you. After all everyone has a bucket list, mine is foodie based and slowly I am working my way through it. Vue de Monde-tick, Flower Drum-tick and finally now, Lake House-tic. So many more ticks to go, but I'm getting there.

Ratings out of 10
Food 8/10

Service 8.5/10

Atmosphere 9/10
Value  7/10

Lake House 8.125/10
Would I return? Yes

Lake House on Urbanspoon

Friday 24 February 2012

Silverbeet Frittata

When my daughter Lolo was born she was a whopping 4kg, 55cm baby. She honestly looked at least 2 months old. Obviously a lot of this has to do with genetics as neither my husband or I are short people. I have no doubt however that some of this also had to do with diet.
I have mentioned before that my lovely man is a chef, he is a perfectionist and incredibly anally retentive when it comes to food. As soon as we found out I was expecting, this character trait tripled. He become The Pregnancy Commando. Everything that I ingested was critically analysed for it's nutritional value. This time it is no different, and I love him for it. So in order to ease his worry, I make this Silverbeet Frittata, as it has so much of what we pregnant ladies need.
Silverbeet is great source of folate, which as we know is essential for making healthy babies, fibre, vitamin c and iron. Add to that all the protein in eggs and that makes Silverbeet Frittata an awesome pregnancy food.
The version below is what I make for dinner as I have added a little cheese, however for lunch I omit the cheese and substitute the milk for oat milk so the the dairy allergic Lolo can enjoy it too.

half bunch of silverbeet
1 medium or 2 small onions
2 garlic cloves
6 eggs
30 ml of milk
30 grams grated cheese
1 tbls olive oil

-Preheat oven to 180°C
-Wash and double wash silverbeet in plenty of water to get rid of all the dirt
-Drain well and chop into small pieces
-Add oil and chopped onion to oven safe fry pan and cook on stove top on medium heat until onion is soft and transparent
-Add silverbeet in small amount as all of it won't fit in a medium pan in one go(it ends up cooking down)
-Add crushed garlic

-In a bowl beat the eggs with the milk
-Add cheese (or leave out-it doesn't matter)

-Add mixture to cooked silverbeet and continue cooking on the stove top for a few minutes

I know it looks like it is not enough egg mixture but once cooked, it does rise and cover the silverbeet.

-Pop in the oven and ignore for 35-40 minutes.

You'll know it's cooked when the entre feels quite firm.
I like to serve it with a simple side salad, but add what you like.