Monday, May 17, 2010

EARL ate Eating with Jack

So I've hinted at it ages ago but just not actually gotten around to telling you how it actually is...

I've been eaten, swallowed whole.

By EARL Canteen my new business.

Three weeks ago PDC (well actually Simon my husband and, yes still my 'permanent-dining-companion') and I opened our first business. Its called EARL Canteen and its located at 500 Bourke St, Melbounre, actually the cute courtyard that is behind 500 Bourke, looking out onto Little Bourke.

We have spent the last year and a half working on many, many business plans and this one, at this site, actually stuck finally. And now we have a baby called EARL, a big time consuming, energy sucking and constantly screaming for attention baby.

Hence I've had a bit on, actually a bloody lot; even freelancing as a food stylist and doing the odd restaurant shift has never seen me be this busy.

Even my twitter account, has been starved of content to feed the EARL twitter account. I hope you continue to follow my foodie travels through a different tag for now; I still eat, dine out and constantly think about food, just for now its echoing from within EARLs hungry, time consuming tummy.

Ciao for now x

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Melbourne Dining Hotspots

I may have temporarily fallen off the blogging bandwagon but I definitely haven't stopped my favourite past time, eating out.

After the excitement of hearing Pim Té of the inspirational Chez Pim would be visiting Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival I decided I better actually get to it and write down out my Melbourne Must Visit List.
The list is formed with savvy internationals in mind but no doubt savvy Melbourne-ites will find it just as useful.

So here it is: (with links to the official website, where possible)

Attica -Ben Shewry is at one with his internationally acclaimed food, a kiwi that cooks from his heart, yet uses techniques to marvel, oh and a great guy to boot
Cumulus Inc/Cutler & Co -You can't eat in Melbourne without visiting one of Andrew McConnells restaurants, I love the relaxed nature of the bar overlooking the kitchen at Cumulus but Cutler is where the pure McConnell innovation is at
Rumi/Gigibaba -Lebanese/Turkish. Vividly fresh Middle Eastern flavours at both sites, usually packed to the rafters so arrive early
Pearl/Ezard -Modern Australian cuisine; frenchy techniques, lots of Asian produce and flourishes Melbourne icon restaurants
Circa, the Prince -a recent luxe refurbishment and a roof top kitchen garden make Circa feel like a new, yet strangely very familiar old favourite restaurant
Giuseppi, Arnaldo and Sons -Maurice Terzini's Melbourne outpost (home-post?) and the perfect moody spot especially for a late meal or snack (website is nearly useless, try my posts)
Hellenic Republic -its too hard to pick from the huge casual Greek menu, so have the trapeze menu and save reading the translations but make sure to ask for the lamb from the courtyard spit
MoVida (a bar stool at the original, Next Door as a second choice) -Modern tapas and Spanish wine, consistently buzzy and in high demand for good reason
Stokehouse -its a shame Melbourne doesn't have a nicer beach but once you're sitting upstairs at Stoke looking at the water-filled horizon it will not matter much. Slick service and food, and a beachy dining room thats getting a substantial overhaul come winter
Gills Diner -casual share friendly food that has meticulously been made in house, an eclectic winelist and passionate friendly manager that looks after regulars with extra TLC
Rockpool Bar and Grill -many of Australias best here; probably the best available aged meat in Australia, seafood direct from the fishermen and an unrivalled winelist. Its a fast paced grill thats used as a special occasion place for many or a spot for a cheeky wagyu burger for many others
Dainty Sichuan -Like sichuan numb lips? Go to Dainty, enough said.

MarketLane -roasts in house, espresso, pour-over, clover
Brother Baba Budan -espresso, clover
Seven Seeds -espresso, clover
Wall Two 80 -espresso (and my thinking place)
Outpost by St Ali -all of the coffee gadgets!

Deadman Espresso -coffee good enough to join the list above and an interesting menu too
European -inside or outside very Melbournian
St Ali -as per Deadman Espresso, and just around the corner as well
Cafe Vue, St Kilda Rd -you could go to the Shannon Bennett's fancy restaurant or get the plush without the fuss

City Wine Shop -afternoon glass of something interesting
Supper Club and Siglo -late night (early morning?) institution
1806/De Raum -molecular cocktails
Izakaya Den/Coda -smart subterranean bars and even smarter snacks

Foodie Shopping
Baker D Chirico -organic sourdough breads and pastries
Melbourne Farmers Market -changing location, at Gasworks, South Melbourne the weekend of the 20th March
Prahran Market -I host Hidden Gems Tours on Thursdays and Saturdays
La Latteria -Mozzarella Lab. Go!
Essential Ingredient/Simon Johnson -Australias answer to Fauchon
Casa Iberica -Everything Spanish
Mediterranean Wholesalers -European supersized supermarket

Short Trips
Sunnybrae, Birregurra
Healesville, Yarra Valley (whole town)

Aussie Must Taste List
Pearl Meat
Wild Barramundi
Finger lime
Angasi Oyster
Mud Crab
Blackmore Waygu/Mishima (if available)
Yarra Valley Salmon Roe
Vegemite/Pavlova and other Aussie cliches

This is my short (long) list, so what have I missed?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dear Eating with Jack

Firstly, lets be clear. I miss you and I'm sorry.

Sorry for the very silent neglect of the last two months and the general neglect last year of delayed posts and hollow promises. I've had a bit on, a bit too much actually, hence you have suffered.

You would be relived to know that I still behave like a dedicated blogger, I still photograph pretty much all my meals (the 700 food images on my iPhone will attest to that), I plan blog posts that never get written -or at least published- and I of course, am just as committed to food and what I put in my mouth than ever, maybe more so than ever actually.

I've also been thinking more deeply about what this blog means to me; from when I started it in 2006, to last year, to today and for the year ahead, and I have decided that I want to continue with this.
I love the commitment, the pride in my work, the sense of achievement that is mine alone, and most importantly a record of my everyday life and thoughts. Lately these have been mostly consumed by your evil social media sibling twitter but some things, actually most things, can't be communicated in 140 characters no matter how pithy and clever I try to be.

Soon, hopefully very soon, I will be able to share what has been stealing my time away, but at this stage lets just say that it will be the biggest life change I have ever experienced, and that's saying something for someone that has still written here just as diligently through a tough period of redundancy, then self employment and personal events like my Fancy Party (read wedding) and many big overseas adventures.
Things have changed before and I have still happily posted away, yet this time things are different and to be honest I am hoping to find the stability I need to balance all of this but at this stage I need to reassure you that I am here, I care, and I miss you.
I can say that I will have a more expanded online presence next year, a new website, blog and twitter account too, but they will be more like work, I promise you Eating with Jack, you will still be the fun one, the one were I will continue to be a little political if I want to, or really just totally myself, no guard on.

So with that, I hope we can be friends again. I do solemnly swear to be more loyal and write more often.



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lindt Cafe, Melbourne

Well, it started and ended with this picture... the chocolate eclair that looked like it had been licked.

I've walked past the Lindt Cafe -Melbourne CBD - a few times and marveled each time at the queue of people waiting to get in. Personally I'd rather give my money to passionate, artisan pastry chefs, than multinational companies but I guess I am in the minority.

As a professional food browser (self declared, to PDCs frustration) I took it upon myself to try and work out what all the fuss was about.
On my first visit, I noticed that of the few products that were actually on display, cakes were mostly at restaurant prices ($12-$15) without the extra love and attention you would see a pastry chef put into a plated dessert
ie you get a slice of a cake made in a large commercial slab, for the same price as an individually crafted resraurant dessert.
There was chocolates that had mostly been made in your standard moulds and some interesting sounding ice creams that seemed well priced. Macarons or as they describe them 'Delice' were missing from the display.

I tweeted at the time suggesting that the long queue was reflective of a Max Brenner style frenzy.

A month passes and again I am window shopping at the Lindt Cafe, yet this time there are quite a selection of products on display. The catch is that many of them look not quite right, in my honest opinion.
There's the licked eclair, broken and very poorly filled macarons, cakes with finger prints in the ganache and dried cracked cream. In short the offer was unacceptably poor and yet again, people are queuing like sheep to get into the place.
I don't get it.

I again tweet my findings and am humbled by the many stunned reactions to the products. It's not just a personal food nerd fussiness that's saying that it's not good enough, many people are surprised at the lack of quality. So it's with this fire in my boutique-sweets-loving belly, I email Lindt customer service in Sydney to see if they have anything to say about my identifed 'quality control issues', and as I was expecting there is no attention to detail on the customer service department either as nobody has returned my email.

Oh well, I guess I already knew were I stood with Lindt Cafe, I knew it wasn't for me but I thought they might like our feedback. I guess they are too busy serving crappy products to silly people who are willing to queue for them because they think it's the hot place.
More fool them for paying $6 for the eclair that everyone said "Eww" to.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Julie and Julia, and boeuf bourguignon

Any self respecting food blogger knows all about the ones that 'come good'; the bloggers that go on to write about their love of food and actually get paid for the passion.

I've have books by Clotilde, David, Adam and Pim (and Steve, though not strictly a food blogger), I read the mainstream media articles written by local bloggers and cheer on our community's victorious moments at regular get togethers.

So it's with the same interest that I keenly accepted an invitation to the latest instalment of these victories; a food bloggers story being made into a book, that then gets made into a movie...

No doubt, I am the marketing trifecta when it comes to the Julie and Julia movie.
Chick - check.
Foodie - check.
Blogger - check.

So I guess I was destined to love it and I did... well actually I loved it more when I, as a good blogger, (not one of those naughty, unresearching ones that all the boring people talk about) did my due diligence looking at examples of both Julie and Julia's work. Initially, watching Meryl Streep play Julia Child all I could see was a frumpy version of the Devil not wearing Prada, and then that thought morphed into an annoying drunk drag queen that likes to grunt. I was disappointed by her strange acting...UNTIL I watched this and this and this. Now I think Meryl is a genius, close to the god like status Dan Aykroyd has in his interpretation but you'll need to see the film for that clip!

I was fortunate enough to watch the film in the luxury of a big fat lazyboy style arm chair while eating Julia Childs recipe for boeuf bourguignon with creamy mash and sipping Red Claw Shiraz. You can to with a special deal at Victoria Village Gold Class, check it out here.

If you are even half as keen as me when it comes to foodie things, I know you will enjoy it immensely. I think I need to see it again just to pull out all my favourite quotes and scenes... who doesn't remember with excitement their first comment?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thank god for Melbourne markets

I'm still sorting through various holiday photos and found this doozy from my last visit to New Zealand.
Yes, a single celeriac for NZ$13.31!
The week before our trip I had made a celeriac remoulade at home in Melbourne and was craving it again, until I saw this celeriac at a supermarket in Christchurch.
The main sign noted that it was a product of New Zealand so the crazy price just doesn't make any sense. Its $10 more expensive than the celeriac I had brought in Australia.
No wonder none of the kiwis I spoke to knew what celeriac was, I bet these headed to the supermarket rubbish bin eventually once they were too old for sale.
Who would buy this... for $13? Just crazy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Crunchy, spicy fish - Thailand

I've been jet setting about a bit lately and have finally taken the time to go through the huge amount of photos I have on both my camera and iPhone - as I suspected 80% of them are of food!

One of the photos I was excited to find was this fish we ate at a beach front restaurant on Phi Phi Island, Thailand. We loved it so much we went back two days later and had it again.
The fish is what they were locally calling 'seabass'. The delicate white flesh was filleted on one side away from the bone frame, yet still attached, then fried until crunchy on the outside yet translucently perfect in the middle.
The proverbial icing on the cake was the spicy salad on top; prawn pieces, shredded carrot, chinese celery, cashew nuts, green apple (to our surprise!), shallot, coriander and chilli. Dressed in your typical Thai hot, salty, sweet and sour flavours.

This was complimented with what is a more Chinese inspired dish of fresh shiitake mushrooms with choi sum and lots of garlic.

I wish I could eat both these dishes again now. Right now.

Reflecting on these and many other photos, I can't help but notice the beautiful and complimentary plates the dishes were served on. Often, the casual places we ate at the plates would be more perfunctionary bordering on ugly and chipped, this type of thoughtfulness you only usually find at the best of places, not were lunch and drinks for two costs $30 Aussie.

It was evident that there was love in that kitchen and we could taste, and see it.