Thursday, June 28, 2012

Eat. @ Albert Street Food and Wine

382 Sydney Rd, Brunswick 3056 ph (03) 8354 6600

I am very fortunate to have made some really great friends from Mini Me's kinder group, and even though it's been a few years since kinder, we still try to get out to dinner at least once a school term.  For our recent gathering we dined at Albert St Food and Wine, as suggested by my friend Tepid Duck.  (That's right, no kids and no Hubby!) This gem of a restaurant, overseen by executive chef Philipa Sibley, boasts a great menu utilising excellent quality local produce, a wide ranging wine list, and a store which sells some of their favourite products as well as their own creations. 

The restaurant was buzzing with diners when we arrived at 7pm on a Tuesday evening.  The atmosphere was classy yet casual.  The lighting was dim, which added to the ambiance, even though it was of course not so good for my picture taking, as you can see.  It made for the start of a lovely evening.

The other girls shared a carafe of their wine ($35) while non-drinker little ol' me asked for something non-alcoholic.  Our waitress was great and organised a ginger beer mocktail with the the bartender (a virgin mojito I think?) for me which was a great drink.   In fact I had two!

We had decided to share, and therefore have the opportunity to try a whole lot of dishes that night.  While waiting we munched on some of their lovely bread and dip.

We started off with the Grilled Haloumi and pickled zucchini ($14).  This was delicious, the haloumi was beautifully textured and less salty than what I'm used to.  We all agreed that the pickled zucchini was a great addition to the haloumi, and you can actually buy jars of this in the "store" section of the restaurant.

The next dish was Olives & bocconcini, pesto Genovese and ciabatta ($14).  I used to have an intense dislike for olives when I was younger but somehow my palate did a 180 when I was pregnant with Bubs.  I loved the saltiness of the olives and the silky smoothness of the little bocconcini.

The Smoked salmon rillettes, avocado & cucumber salad, rye toast ($19) was an interesting contrast of cruchy bread with the delicate shredded fish.

From the grill we tried the Smoked sardines on grilled bread, capers, currants, pinenuts ($15).  The lovely bitey sardines on crunchy bread was a great combination.  A squirt of lemon juice brought extra freshness.

The Pizza Bianca – garlic, rosemary, parmesan, ($14) was beautiful in its simplicity. 

My favourite savoury dish of the night however, was the Spanner Crab Risotto, with pine mushrooms and chestnuts. ($26)  Risottos can often taste very similar even with different ingredients but this one was flavoursome and distinct.  I think I could've eaten the whole plate! (I probably had more than my fair share, sorry girls!)

We were surprisingly full by this time but could not go past the wonderful desserts.  Originally we were going to order 2 to share, but ended up with 3 as they all sounded so tempting!  First up a slice of Meyer Lemon Tart ($14).  An excellent lemon tart, with thin crust (just the way I like) and a smooth lemon curd filling.

The Poire Belle Hélène is traditionally a dessert made from a poached pear, served with chocolate syrup and  vanilla ice-cream.  Albert St's version ($17) delivered a twist in the form of a chocolate fondant with a flowing center.  Oh the indulgence!  It was gorgeous.

My favourite dessert of the night was the Quince, ginger breadcrumbs, and preserved lemon ice cream ($16).  Oh I loved everything about this! Having never tried preserved lemon in ice-cream before, this was a refreshing experience.  The crunchy bits of gingerbread left me wanting more!

I had a fab dinner at Albert St Food and Wine.  Lovely company, great staff, fabulous food and atmosphere.  A wonderful place for a catch up and I'm envious of the locals!  I wouldn't take young children here, but I think older children would quite enjoy the experience, and I saw a family with a couple of children aged about 10 who looked to have had a lovely dinner.  We ended the meal with a browse of the goodies in the store.  I will definitely have to bring Hubby back since he missed out!

Eat.Play.Shop. says - Simple, lovely, fresh dishes using local produce in a trendy restaurant, with goodies to shop for afterwards.  What's not to like? 

Albert Street Food and Wine on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Eat. @ Replete Providore

302 Barkers Rd, Hawthorn 3122 ph (03) 9818 4448

I have read much about Replete Providore in Hawthorn but have not been game enough to stop the car and go in as the store always looks packed full of diners each time I've driven past.  Hubby and I finally got to visit one rainy Saturday morning on one of our "+1" dates with Bubs as we drove past and spotted a car park right outside the front of the store!   I'm so glad we got to try this place out as we had a fabulous brunch and coffee experience.

The cafe is not big but the staff was super friendly and helpful.  We sat up in front of the window with Bubs in a high chair.  There are several pavement tables outside but it was a wet morning so the cafe was packed full of brunchers inside away from the cold.

We started with coffee, and it was a lovely cappuccino for Hubby.

And of course a mocha for me.  Both were fantastic, and got us right into the mood for brunch.

Being a corn fritter freak, I of course ordered the Corn Fritters, served with Istra Bacon, tomato and avocado salsa, and sweet chilli ($18).  I thought they were fantastic!  The fritters were slightly  crispy but soft inside, with sweet juicy whole corn kernels throughout.  And everything is always made even better with BACON!  The dish was massive, and although I thought it was a bit pricey initially at $18, it turned out to be great value for money since I didn't eat another thing until dinner that day!

Hubby ordered their Eggs Benedict, which had grilled ham hock, mustard, poached egg and hollandaise served on an English muffin ($14.5).  An interesting but pleasant twist on the usual ham for an Eggs Benedict, but again delicious and filling. 

Replete has a kids menu which includes a kids brekkie of bacon, eggs and hash brown ($8), and a kids healthy plate with vegemite soldiers, fruit and yoghurt ($7.5).   Having eaten a good brekkie of weetbix with milk already, we ordered the kids pancakes, served with strawberries and maple syrup ($6) for Bubs as a treat.  Okay I admit I not so secretly hoped that there would be enough for me too, as the couple next to us had ordered a full size serve and it looked awesome!  The pancakes were fluffy and yummy, and Bubs enjoyed it immensely, especially the part that involved dipping pancake chunks into a bowl of sweet and sticky maple syrup!

We had a delicious and filling brunch at Replete and I definitely hope we get to visit again.  A good selection of produce, like tea and relish, are available for purchase, and there are lots of sweet muffins and cakes on the counter if the main events at breakfast/brunch/lunch have not filled you up!

Replete Providore on Urbanspoon

High chair - yes
Toilets - yes

Friday, June 8, 2012

Batch # 19 - The Unwanted Hello Kitty Macarons

I haven't written a post on macarons for a quite a while.  And the reason is THIS : I didn't really want to  write this post.  I felt discouraged, and worst of all, I was embarrassed I felt this way, after this particular batch of macarons.  This was made for a fundraising bake sale for one of the kidlet's extra-curriculum activities.  We were asked to bring along baked goods to sell, and thinking that I didn't want to be the umpteenth parent to bring cupcakes, I decided I would bring along some Hello Kitty Macarons since my recent successful trial run was well received.  The event was being held on a Sunday afternoon, so despite the crazy juggle of weekday activities, I made time to bake on a Thursday evening so that the macarons would have matured nicely by Sunday.

Instead of obsessing about how to keep Kitty's bows aligned, I should have thought harder about the target audience.  Parents and kids commented on the cute Hello Kitties on the day, but I don't think a lot of people there knew about macarons, let alone the effort it took to make them.  Most of the kids spent their money on bags of squashed brownies and cupcakes, whereas the parents went for the bar cakes.  (Chocolate, I should have made something chocolate!!!!)  Yes, sadly  lots of unsold Kitties came home with us!

Yes I felt a bit like this particular Hello Kitty!

I admit I felt pretty ordinary that day.  And then I felt even more awful that I had felt awful.  After all, it's not about whether my baked goods sold or not, it's about raising money!  Fortunately my Hubby and kids are my most appreciative audience, and Macaron Monster would have eaten the whole lot we brought home if I hadn't stopped her, bless her heart.  Watching her happily munch on the macarons made me feel happy again - SHE is my intended target audience after all, and why I started baking these tricky little diva treats to begin with! 

Lessons Learned - This entire selling macarons thing was a lesson learnt.  I think I won't be giving up my day job in a hurry!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Eat. @ Locale @De Bortoli Winery

 De Bortoli Winery, Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek, VIC 3775 

We recently attended a surprise 30th birthday lunch for a great friend of ours at Locale, the restaurant at De Bortoli Winery in the gorgeous Yarra Valley. We had a fantastic time eating over 3 and 1/2 hours while catching up with good friends.  Locale endeavours to use produce from the De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate, and the freshness and creativity  involved are both impressive and refreshing.  The restaurant kindly organised a long table and high chairs for us all, and the meal was very enjoyable despite there being eight kids aged 6 and under plus a newborn baby!  We had the 4 course Sunday Lunch ($70 per person, +$26 with matching wines,) with the children having their own 2 course meals ($22).

We started off with the house-baked ciabatta and formaggio d'erbe.  Fantastic bread and I was particularly taken with the olive sourdough.  

We then moved onto the antipasti shared plates with parmesan biscotti, estate cured & marinated olives, fior di latte (hand crafted by cheese maker Giorgio Linguanti), calabrese salami, roast red peppers and school prawn fritti.  Hubby loved the parmesan biscotti with the salty bite, while I could barely stop myself polishing off the pot of extremely moreish prawn fritti.  I was never a fan of olives until I was pregnant with Bubs but since then I intermittently crave them madly, and these were excellent.

The kids were served their mains soon after.  My 2 ordered the spaghetti bolognaise, and a simple spaghetti tossed with olive oil and parmesan.  Both delicious, but the olive oil and parmesan pasta was beautiful in its simplicity and the kids polished that one off. Other choices included chicken and chips and a minute steak, in quite generous serves.

Our entree was a gorgeously presented house cured and smoked salmon with spiced yoghurt, baby beets, peas & micro radish.  Almost too pretty to eat, the salmon was beautifully cured and melt-in-the-mouth soft.

The main was a 15 hour slow cooked beef with braised farro, baby spinach & pinenut gremolata.  My photo doesn't do the dish justice!  The meat, as expected, was soft and the sauce helped to intensify the lovely slow cooked flavour.

I thought I'd be too full for the dessert but the best was yet to come.  The vanilla panna cotta with local berry salad was excellent, the dessert felt lighter than I expected, and the fruit made for a refreshing accompaniment.

The kids were served 2 scoops of ice-cream each for dessert - vanilla bean, and caramel.  Not the ice confection stuff that usually gets dished out to the kidlets!  A generous serve of proper, well made ice-cream, meaning that (if you can convince them to) there's enough to share with you.

There's an extra optional course of formaggio (+$10) and accompanying wine (+$7), but we had to give it a miss as by that stage we were pretty full, and the kids were getting a bit restless.  After a coffee for Hubby and my usual post-prandial cup ofl tea we said good-bye to this lovely gathering.

Overall the meal was very nice, with the bonus being that children were well looked after.  The staff were young but friendly and helpful.  The meal took quite a while to get through, so expect to dine at a leisurely pace and enjoy the day out to the beautiful Yarra Valley!

De Bortoli Winery and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Toilet - Yes
Highchair - Yes, best to arrange when booking.