Foodiefile

Independant Foodie reviews from Melbourne

La Luna Bistro Coldstream Hills Restaurant Express March 28, 2010

Filed under: Restaurant Reviews — foodiefile @ 8:11 pm

I have already reviewed my $35.00 lunch at taxi, and now for the other restaurant I couldn’t resist for the Restaurant Express – La Luna. La Luna is easily my favourite restaurant at the moment in Melbourne, and every time I have been we have had a wonderful experience both food and service wise.

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Firstly it is great to be remembered at a restaurant, and as we sat down to wait for our booking time we drank our usual glass (bottle) or Ormarine and sucked in the sun. La Luna was busy offering 3 options for both Entree, Main and Desert. As there were 3 of us we decided to have one of each dish on the Entrees and the Mains, but opted to skip desert just this once!

So onto the prize – the food… The entree choices were:

Cottechino with white bean puree, olive oil and garlic,
Smoked Salmon Salad with Apple and Horseradish cream, or
Lentil Soup (ok we opted to skip this as I eat it all through winter, and we thought that with Cottechino being on offer, we needed two of them!)

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The Cottechino was amazing. I have heard Adrian talk of saving his pigs heads to make this sausage, which features a boned out pigs head with 2 pigs tongues. It was a decent single slice of sausage, served on creamy bean mash and excellent oil drizzled. I could have eaten many of these as they were so yummy and not as rich as black pudding.

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The other entree we had was a Salmon Salad. On a bed of horseradish cream, this salad was out of this world! No dressing, just Salmon, julienned apple with flat leaf parsley, chives and baby capers, it was light and delicious!

Main courses on offer were:
Bull boar sausages
Lamb and pine nut filo pie, or
Gnocchi with Mushroom cream

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The Bull Boar Sausages were three densely packed sausages with delicious mash, jus and a simple salad of flat leaf parsley with sweated red onion. Amazing sausages with a good kick of fennel. The Jus was very light and well clarified. These are on the usual menu, and they are far more than bangers and mash!

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The Lamb pie was intensely fragrant, wrapped in icing sugar dusted filo pastry was slow cooked lamb shoulder (I think) , spinach, pine nuts and a good kick of cinnamon. It was served on Labne with coriander shoots (which I had never seen before). My fellow diners thought that the pie was a little light on flavour, however I loved it and would make it for my work lunches anytime (and I will but maybe as empanadas)

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The gnocchi was my first disappointing dish I have had at La Luna. The plate contained 6 luscious soft gnocchi with a runny cream sauce, mushrooms and a truffle pecorino. I couldn’t taste the truffle (but I am also a dirty smoker) and I thought the dish needed more salt. The cream was too runny for me, and felt a little like a soup with gnocchi.. It was an ok dish, however could have been better.

The deserts included a Brulee, a Panacotta or a piece of Petit Livarot (one of my favourite cheeses) however we practised self control and left very happy.

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Taxi Dining Room and a $35 2 course lunch experience…

Filed under: Restaurant Reviews — foodiefile @ 7:09 pm

I would be a fool to think I wasn’t lucky to live in Melbourne. Sunday is never sleepy in Melbourne and as I sit outside Transport at Federation Square to have a pre-lunch drink I am surrounded by the Thai Celebration Festival with food stalls all along the Yarra River, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival is on across the square at ACMI and there is wine tasting and a craft market just on the other side of the bridge. A 2 course lunch inside with views of all this action for only $35 including a glass of wine was an exciting thought…

So as I said we met at Transport downstairs from Taxi Dining Room. Transport is a pub and it used to be a fun place to hang out. I was greeted when I arrived by a bar tender who seemed to be bothered by my existence. I asked for a wine list (not expecting too much) and joked with him that he couldn’t get the wine list opened as it was so sticky – his response was a deadpan “Its sticky from last night” – he could have bothered to go get a not so sticky one! He handed me a dirty glass with wine in it, took my money and return my change without a word, nor any eye contact.

All I can say when Paul Mathis owned this joint – the staff were friendly. I won’t be back to Transport… but onto Taxi Dining Room…

So we went upstairs, were greeted warmly at the door, and placed at our window seat table (almost every table has a window seat with the format – which works really well!

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We started with Campari and Soda’s and the hottest darkest Bloody Mary I have ever seen! (It was also really good – just needed Horseradish root for my palate). There were 2 choices for each course. Entree was either Country Terrine with Foie Gras and peach compote. The plate was well presented, and the Terrine was moist, flavoursome and had a good chunk of Foie in the middle. To the side was the peach compote and a Rabbit Rillettes. It was a perfect size, but didn’t come with any bread or toast.
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The Rillettes was great, but mine had a knuckle joint in it. I commented to our waiter, who already through our order taking had said he was both deaf and dumb – although he wasn’t either, that the knuckle was there. I said it wasn’t a problem for me, as I know where meat comes from but that the rillettes tasted as good as mine – but don’t tell the kitchen. The waiter returned from the kitchen saying that the chef said “Meat comes from an animal and animals have bones” and that he “invited me to bring my rillettes’ in if I thought it was as good as his”. 2 points – I am a huge foodie and I also worked as a chef many years ago… Uncalled for.

The other entree offered was Brandade filled Zucchini flowers with a green papaya salad. I didn’t get to try this but photo below! It looked great!

Ok onto the main courses. I ordered the Crispy Szechwan duck with lime pickle, Vietnamese salad and Sesame Tamarind and my friend Carolyn ordered the other option of Fillet of Atlantic Salmon with Sorrell and King Prawn salad and a shellfish dressing, and our intention was to share them together.

The duck first. It was an amazing dish – the lime pickle was phenomonel however the duck was rabidly overcooked, unless the chef serves this dish Well Done, which would suprise me.

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The salmon, served Medium when we ordered Medium Rare, was the dish to chose. The mash underneath the salmon what shellfish heaven and the Sorrell salad worked very well to break the oil in the fish. An awesome dish that I would eat anytime!


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Desert time. Choice of two, but we all chose one of them. The dish we didn’t choose was a chocolate tain with passionfruit foam. Great dish, but the other choice was a Layered pannacotta with Raspberry Coulis and Vanilla foam – this won us all over.

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The Pannacotta was perfect, the bottom layer was rich raspberry coulis, rich and tart, followed by a very plain, rich pannacotta – which was perfect. Next a layer of firm jelly, followed by crumbs and foam. The foam was supposed to be Vanilla foam; however we are sure it was the passionfruit foam! The crumbs were perfect and the dish as a whole – I wanted two more!!!

The service on this day left a little to be desired. Humour is great from a waiter when it is humour, but when humour doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work when it is at the expense of the guests. We all enjoyed our meal despite the food being over cooked and the service poor. Michael Lambie and the team obviously have great talent putting together the menu, however the team today were obviously either past the point of caring about the Coldstream Hills Restaurant Express menu, as it was the last day the special was offered, or we caught them on a bad day. Either way, I will definitely be back!

 

Heat Beads Hawkers Market and good ol asiatic foodstuffs! March 21, 2010

Filed under: Cookbooks — foodiefile @ 8:58 pm

My favourite event years ago at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival was always the Hawkers market, and I was very upset when it stopped at the festival a few years back. I was very excited to have it back!!!

Stumbling down after work on a Monday night (The market is only a 5 min walk from work) we arrived and immediately felt transported. Although it lacked the drums and smoke of previous years I had a few surprises.

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A ticket buys you 4 small dishes for $45.00 (of $48.00 on the door) and I was concerned that it may have been a little overpriced (thanks to Pete Dillon at Cravings on JoyFM for one of my tickets) but after 2 courses each, my partner and I really didn’t feel the need to eat anymore… but we did…

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There were a choice of 12 restaurants and about 3 courses available per stall…. Some stalls were more popular than others. One of my favourite restaurants – Warung Agus was there and enjoyed a steady stream of eaters, whereas one, called Dainty Sichuan had a line about 30 minutes long all night!

We started with Warung Agus. We enjoyed their Babi Guling – one of my favourite dishes and Gado Gado.

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Babi Guling is traditionally a whole suckling pig cooked with coconut water and turned continuously by hand. It is one of my favourite of favourite dishes. Although this Babi Guling wasn’t traditional, it was marvellous and the Galangal sauce on top was divine!

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We also had the Gado Gado – a vegetarian salad with rice and satay sauce… Very yummy!

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Next we went for Japanese. We chose Okonomiyaki and Tsukune. The Okonomiyaki was by far the best i have ever had, and served with Daigaku Imo – Sweet Caramelised Potato’s which were kinda amazing… I couldn’t work out whether they were yam or potato.

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The Tsukune were chicken ball “kebabs” and they were amazing. They were soft and cooked perfectly! The endame were nice but not my cup of tea.

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We ended our meal, as we were far too full but went back to Warung Agus to try their Ginger Chicken. Yummy thigh meat with a subtle yet full flavoured sauce served with rice.

There were cooking demonstrations all night with Tony Tan along with a variety of entertainment, including Bollywood dancers and the usual ceremonial Chinese dragon.

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If you haven’t been to this event before, I would highly recommend it. There are groups of people who bring their own tablecloths, wine glasses and even candelabra’s! Its a great night out and if you don’t go to any other festival favourites – check this one out!!!

 

The Echuca tomato festival that was, or wasn’t, part of the Melbourne Food and Wine festival.

Filed under: Places to Visit,Shopping!,Travel — foodiefile @ 7:52 pm

I get excited by the prospect of a country drive on the prospect of food, wine and a little shopping. We packed the car early so we could drive via SPC at Shepparton so we left about 7am, and took the drive up.

We arrived at Echuca for the tomato festival at about midday – Its starting time. We arrived to be a little disappointed.
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The Melbourne food and wine festival website touted the event to be:

“If you’ve heard about Spain’s tomato festival you’ll have an idea of what’s planned a fun celebration of one of Australia’s largest tomato growing regions, including sugo making, the great tomato bash and a tomato target celebrity challenge. Plus an extraordinary variety of cuisine, including pork sausages handmade locally, and regional wines that will confirm what a great winegrowing region we have here on the Murray.”

Now my idea of the term “Extraordinary variety of cuisine” would need to include more than two dishes – they were a sausage or Gnocchi Napolitana. La Tomatina in Spain is a free for all and a celebration of tomato and food. Echuca’s festival consisted of 3 stands and a busker. The 3 stands included some chefs hanging out with their mates making sugo, a food stand with the afore mentioned, and three wineries selling glasses of wine for $5. The busker was ok.
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Suffice to say, we spent about 5 minutes at the festival and decided to make a move somewhere more foodie.

After a drive through some antique shops, we arrived in Heathcote.

We found a little slice of foodie heaven in Heathcote with Cellar and Store. We were warmly greeted by the wonderful staff and perused some amazing foodie items that just tempted me to part with my cash… These delicacies included Spanish olive oil torta’s – the sweet ones are wonderful on their own or with chocolate mousse, the savoury ones are amazing with cheese. There was a good range of olive oils and amazing locally made cheese boards.
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The wine store stocks some of the best local wines – the finest range of Heathcote shiraz I have found, including some wines I have not heard of. Prices vary from reasonable to expensive – but usually with wine you get what you pay for. There are always tastings available of a selection of stocked wines and the lovely lady who looked after us (I think her name was Rachael) really knew what she was talking about even though she pleaded that she didn’t know much!!

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We sat in the lovely alfresco area out the back surrounded by some lovely drought friendly plants and enjoyed a coffee and meringue. These were the finest meringue’s I have ever had – they were soft and gooey and perfectly ugly! And they take orders over the internet too!! So if you are looking for that perfect Heathcote wine – check them out!!!

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I will be back in a second to this lovely store of foodie heaven when I next pass!!!

There are, of course, different standards of wine store in Heathcote as well for you to get your Heathcote Shiraz fix – the bank is a great stop for a quaffer, and they even had 2004 Shiraz for only $10 a bottle when we visited (I had to buy a case, and am drinking some as we write!)

Cellar and Store
http://www.cellarandstore.com.au/
105 High St. Heathcote Vic 3523
Tel  03 5433 2204
Open 7 days per week 10 – 5.30

The Bank Cellar Door
http://www.bankcellardoor.com.au/
129 High St. Heathcote Vic 3523
Tel 03 5433 2662
Open 7 days per week 10 – 5.00

 

Foodiefile is now on Twitter!!! March 17, 2010

Filed under: Cookbooks — foodiefile @ 12:08 pm

Following suggestions from readers and facebook followers, Foodiefile is now on Twitter!!!! Follow us now @foodiefile and keep up to date!!!!

 

Heirloom Vegies (my favourite kind) and Heronswood! March 8, 2010

Filed under: Places to Visit,Travel — foodiefile @ 7:18 pm
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One of my favourite gardens in Melbourne is Heronswood in Dromana. Part of the Diggers Club – the producer of the largest range of Heirloom Plants in Australia. Their headquarters are in beautiful seaside surroundings in Dromana and with one of the most marvellous vegetable gardens in Victoria.

The gardens are free for members of the Diggers club, and $10 for general public to view the gardens. There is a cafe onsite, and the Heritage listed house is open to all on open days… if you decide to go, make sure you are prepared for a crowd as this place is popular!

Let start with the gardens…

On entry to the property, there is a wonderful nursery store (more later on that) and then you plunge into the beautiful garden next to a marvellous house, with bay views and marvellous plants.


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The Diggers website lists Heronswood (the house) as;

“The first law professor at Melbourne University, William Hearn, employed Edward Latrobe Bateman to design Heronswood house in 1866. The property’s name was probably derived from Hearn’s family motto, the heron seeks the height, or his family crest, on a mount vert, a heron. Or it could be a contraction of ‘Hearn’s wood’.

Justice Higgins, a Federal Attorney General, was the third owner. He wrote the harvester judgement, which formed the basis of our arbitration system at Heronswood.

The architectural style of the house has been called Gothic Revival. It is made from coursed, squared granite blocks quarried at Arthur’s Seat. The windows, doors and corners are dressed with limestone from the southern end of the peninsula. It features many medieval-inspired elements such as the bell-cast roofs covered in Welsh slate, pointed lancet windows, and buttressing on the front porch. This is in sharp contrast to the elegant symmetry of the neoclassical style seen in buildings like Werribee Park (1876). Each room of Heronswood has its own high-pitched roof, lending the house the imposing air of a castle. But it was conceived primarily as a family home and inside it is quite intimate.”

The gardens are made up of 5 vegetable gardens with other ordered gardens of heirloom flowers and plants with vistas of Port Phillip Bay.
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The Grape Vine tunnel has hanging pitcher plants throughout the canopy to control pests.
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Red Silver beet is one of my favourite vegetables, and below is one of my favourite recipes I learnt from a restaurant I worked in years ago:

Italian stir fried Chard

A bunch of Silver beet or Chard (depending what you call it)
3 cloves of garlic (or two if you like more – personal taste)
4 anchovies
oil and butter

In a hot pan heat a good sized knob of butter with a good dash of olive oil. Heat until very hot, and then add the garlic and the anchovies – the key is that you want to dissolve the anchovies and burn the garlic just a little bit.  This burn is very important, it adds the flavour to the beet/chard that you need for this to work.

Once it is slightly burnt, add the cleaned and chopped silver beet and toss until just cooked. You may add more butter or oil to taste.

Serve immediately – is lovely as a side with Salmon or red meat.
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I never, in my years, have seen a climbing spinach the young leaves of this spinach can be eaten in a salad, and the older leaves can be steamed to softness. A great plant, and has a great look – I may climb it up the side of my house!
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The test garden is where Diggers Club tests new heirloom varieties to see whether they are suitable for the Australian climate. Here there were carrots, varied pumpkins, corn and tomatoes to name a few, in raised beds, ideal sizes for most backyards. Everything looked so healthy!

Pears and Apples were trained like grape vines, and appeared to be happily fruiting in these positions. May be a great idea for those who want to grow fruit trees, but don’t have the space to grow them!
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Giant Zucchini hung under a trellised vine – a friend is growing this variety and they are massive, but taste great! The largest of the fruit was over 50 cm long!
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The garden shop has an amazing array of seeds available to both the public and members – members receive an attractive discount on everything in store. I bought some seeds – Broad beans, French Breakfast Radishes (the same ones pictured in my Paris pictures), Red and Yellow Silver beet and Parsnips. I planted the Broad beans and the Silver beet a week ago, and the Silver beet would have shown 95 – 100% strike rate and were visible in a matter of days! As were the radishes! The seeds are amazingly fresh!

Also available are a great range of books and garden implements, including peat pots and seed propagation equipment.

Outside are amazingly healthy looking plants, 3 varieties of olives, all showing fruit on a “seedling”, Dragon fruit, Lemonade trees and a full range of seedlings at VERY reasonable prices – the olive trees were about $12.00 each for members (next time I am buying some to put in pots!)
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I recommend a visit to Heronswood, or their partner garden St Erths in Blackwood. Both have gardens stores and magnificent gardens!

Membership is not expensive and full details can be found at the Diggers Website. Seeds and Plants can be posted all over Australia in most cases too! So check out their website if you are not from Victoria!
Heronswood
105 Latrobe Parade, Dromana.
Open every day from 9am – 5pm
Phone: (03) 5984 7321

St Erths
Simmons Reef Road, Blackwood.
Open every day (except December 24-26) 9am – 5pm
Phone: (03) 5368 6514

The diggers club can be found at http://www.diggers.com.au where you can access details of all membership details, locations and they even run workshops and courses!!!
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We are now listed!! (and what is coming)

Filed under: Cookbooks — foodiefile @ 4:50 pm
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We are now listed on Blog Catalogue!

Keep an eye out for reviews and posts coming:

  • The Echuca Tomato Festival
  • Gordon Ramsay’s “Great Escape” Book Review
  • My pick of products for the first quarter of 2010!

Thanks all!
Matt

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