Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Escape your world for $3, going out for coffee

Going out for a coffee is not a big thing, jeez it costs about $3 and is a cheap way to feel worldly for 20 minutes. A bargain in my book.

But the catch can be if you don't trust who is making your coffee; if you haven't been there before and don't have a credible reference point. Do you know of the owners 'coffee pedigree'? Has the barista has been around the good coffee traps? Or does it just seem right?

It can end up being a disaster. Your expecting a small break from reality yet you get a burnt, over extracted glass of hot muddy milk instead of a latte. The dilemma then gets worse - you really can't just leave it in the glass - you need to either, hold your nose and scull it, find a way to very discretely make it 'disappear' or worse, feel bad as you make a thin excuse, leave your gold coins and run from the cafe as fast as you can, never to return.

I hate being in that situation, so as a result PDC and I are pretty fussy about where we go for coffee. There is probably a dozen places in Melbourne were I would happily have a coffee, luckily this list is growing, but it's a bit scary taking that first trusting step into a new cafe.

Recently, we went to Dino's Deli in Chapel St for the first time. It's been open for about 6 months and seems to be reasonably busy, (a good sign) yet we were still a little scared until I saw a familiar face, that has made me fantastic staff coffees many, many times.
Hallelujah, a safe house!

I'm pleased to also report that the breakfast at Dino's is just as good as the coffee. A new favourite is the shaksuka; a piperade (tomato, capsicum, onion and garlic, lightly scrambled with egg) set into the bottom of a rustic tapas dish topped with an egg. Dino's version is served on a wooden board with two little side pots; one of olive oil dressed fresh roma tomato wedges, and the other a tangy spinach, yoghurt and tahini sauce, some pide strips are the spoon for all of these flavours. Quite interactive, very healthy and utterly delicious.
I'd also recommend stalking out the house baked muffins, the first time they had run out when we asked but then managed to score one hot from the oven. Trust me have another or even a third coffee as an excuse to wait for these hot treats, you will not be sorry.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A bit 'left', organic rolled oats

I've become a little more 'green' or 'left' orientated lately.

I intended to buy my usual Uncle Tobies traditional rolled oats at the supermarket (not Safeway, the other one) but I saw these on the top, difficult to reach shelf, and decided that I should buy them instead.
Makes a rich, risotto style porridge that with careful stirring teases out the sticky love from the oats and becomes nutty and stodgy. Great for a winter, warm-me and fill-me brekkie.
I had mine with gorgeous poached quince. Need a recipe?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A hundred posts!

I am very proud to share that this is my 100th post. Yipee!
I started Eating with Jack on a whim late one evening in November 2006, and didn't really think too much about it again until I attended the Melbourne Food and Wine Festivals Out of the Frying Pan in March 2007. This was where for the first time to my ears, blogs and bloggers were spoken about by the 'serious people' in the traditional media. I thought to myself, well I have one of these, why don't I give it a good go... and well, here we are 100 posts later.

Perhaps it's just one of those things but since then, there seems to have been a building of talk about blogs, some good, some confused, some misguided and others just silly. Yet I have powered on, mostly with some anonymity, for the past year from anyone that knows me in real life. A privilege of not having to answer questions about the blog from foodie friends or be quoted back to myself... erhh!
But really its been an absolute blast, so thanks for coming along on this crazy addictive ride with me.

Here are some highlights.

My holiday last year to France and Spain and in particular -dining at Mugaritz.

"Vegetables, oven roasted and raw, sprouts and greens, wild and cultivated, seasoned with brown butter and dusted with seeds and petals. Emmental cheese generously seasoned."
A striking dish, that is served to the table without the broth of which is poured gently in front of you. The emmental broth is perfectly creamy milk in colour but it "blushed" with the movement of the baby beetroot underneath as I began to eat. Fresh, clean and the kind of perfect kitchen garden food that any restaurant would vie for the opportunity to serve..

Winning an experience with Gourmet Traveller magazine and spending two days in a Sydney studio with them.
Thanks to Menu for Hope, can't wait to donate again next year.

and a low-light.

Getting absolutely sick of figs while trying to feature them in a planned regular series, ‘My Pick’. I didn’t continue with the posts, as I didn’t want to taint myself away from other favourite produce…

There has been some funny moments, like my post on Percebes -which up until recently was one of my highest read posts -were a friendly reader alerted me to my dining error... hehehe

Slightly warm from being cooked, the flesh looks like a soft mushroom with a strange filament thing on top. The taste was quite intriguing, some what like a fresh briny oyster with the texture of a clam or mussel. The overriding memory is of a delicate fresh sea taste and trying not to get the squirty juices all over me.
From a commenter:

Oh no! You didnt eat the shell contents did you? Thats the sex organs and while it wont kill you it is a definite no no to eat them. You just eat the wobbly bit left when you twist off the leather covering on the leg. Getting squirted with seawater at the time, as you noticed!

And a funny image

Well, I only had to poke the worm a little to get him to run out of his delicious little apple hole...

And a great example of how blogs can bring ideas and knowledge of people together.

My piece on house filtered, carbonated water was based on an idea from London, developed (and implemented) in Melbourne and attracted comments from around the world.

I was truly impressed by the diverse knowledge base of Melbourne bloggers, when I was confused after dining at BBQ Pacific Cafe and they came through with the explanations.

Thanks for reading, I love being part of our 'little', world wide community of food friends and I look forward with anticipation of my next 100.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Loving St Judes Cellar

Brunswick St, Fitzroy is a fair hike from my neck of the woods - St Kilda.

So getting up across the river on a cold Melbourne night, in the rain, was a big call but I was pretty keen to try out the month old St Judes Cellars. We were a little scared through, phoning four times that day - Sunday - the phone rang out and once it was answered by someone that told me they would call back, yet didn't. Obviously we really wanted to go, so a mental backup list was made, in case we not be able to secure a perch at the bar.
We should not have been that worried. St Judes was busy, but never full in the few hours we were there.

A rocky and intimidating start, but the wash-up? I loved it and wish I had a St Judes, closer to home.
I don't think you really have experienced St Judes unless you sit at the bar, perched on a wire framed stool, staring into the busy kitchen and chatting with the waiters. You need to be part of the action, it's kind of like going to MoVida and sitting at the bar, if you don't, you miss out.

The food is very approachable at St Judes. It's all about sharing, which I find a particularly perfect way to eat especially with a loved one - arh PDC... ;) Perhaps though, a little trickier with someone that you don't want to share a spoon with, as then you will both miss out on the intense broths that a few of the dishes are served in. Definitely very spoonable, straight from pot to mouth.
Chef Danielle Rensonnet, has done her time at some of the fancier local restaurants but can also mix her refined style with a casual flair, offset by eclectic pots, thick wooden boards and funky vinyl cut-out place mats and coasters.

A larger dish of 'Kurabuta'(sic) pork is cooked to near melting stage were the meat is so tender that it could be eaten with a spoon as you slurp the broth and celery/parsley sauce from the pot.

A dish that has not won many hearts in the review stakes so far, the braised squid, chickpea and cavolo nero number, I found to be utterly more-ish. With an intense (chicken?) based stock the squid was confetti-ed into tiny strips and just cooked in the broth with a scattering of chickpeas and the herbal cabbage, very Autumnal.

The dishes all felt quite good value for money apart from the eel dish which featured a smear of eel pate, a square of smoked eel and some crack-your-teeth-good croutons.
PDC selected our wine from the wine wall at the front private dining space, a concept that I am yet to fully embrace - great for the selector, but not so good for the dinee, that gets left staring at the kitchen alone (not so bad in my case, but I'm sure you get what I mean).

St Judes is a great, flexible dining space with personable, funky and knowledgeable staff. The room was a little bright for my liking (but perfect for camera welding food bloggers) and outfitted in a manner that reassures me that you don't need a multimillion dollar budget to create a desirable space, just a bit of hospitality smarts and the guts to pull it off.

Fancy a Feijoa?

What about a feijoa, lime zest and palm sugar jam?