Monday, 7 December 2015

Vintage Release Lunch at Brown Brothers

When I got wind of the Vintage Release Lunch at Brown Brothers, to be held during the La Dolce Vita festival, I did everything I could to make sure we got there. Even if it meant leaving the house at 7.30am to get there in time. And it was well worth it; I've been visiting Brown Brothers for as long as I can remember and their special lunches are well worth it.

At noon we entered the Epicurean Centre, now known as Patricia's Table. We were greeted and served a glass of their NV Prosecco. The King Valley has really become the unofficial home of Prosecco in the last few years and it is a fabulous drop to drink before, and with a meal. After some mingling (including with Katherine Brown) we were directed to our table, back by the windows.

The menu for our four course feast had me salivating, and we finished our second Prosecco while we were all being welcomed to the event.

The entrée. Such a delicate piece of fish with the very gentle miso broth. The Tasmanian Riesling enhanced the delicate flavours perfectly.

The first main. As I've said previously, I usually avoid duck, but this was finely shredded without any hint of oiliness. The Gamay matched much like a Pinot; a nice light, smooth red. The perfect red for those hot summer days when a Shiraz is just too much.


The second main. A stunning piece of beef, perfectly cooked and succulent. The ox tail cannelloni was a great accompaniment, and the yet-to-be released Patricia Shiraz was the perfect match.

The dessert, along side a Moscato Chardonnay; slightly less sweet than a standard Moscato for those that want a dessert wine without the massive sugar load.

After lunch we sidled into the Cellar Door to try a few more wines, and came away with a lovely selection including a 2010 Cellar Release Shiraz which was a perfect accompaniment to our antipasto dinner of bread and Milawa Cheese.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Red Lentil Dahl

Recently a friend had us over for a lovely Sri Lankan meal, which was deliciously tasty and just a bit too spicy (for me). He gave me a run-down on how to make the dahl, which I've now made a few times. I'd always thought dahl was too time consuming to bother with, but this recipe proved me wrong.

1 cup red lentils
1 small brown onion, diced
1 green chilli
1/2 large red chilli
3 pandan leaves, cut into 1 inch batons (you can find these at an asian grocer)
handful curry leaves (fresh is best but dry is fine)
curry powder
coconut cream
chicken stock powder
tumeric powder


1. Rinse the lentils then place in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a simmer, and take off the heat when the lentils are al dente. They will still be dark in the centre but translucent around the outside.

2. In a heavy based pan, heat some oil, then add you onion and chillies. Saute until the onion is almost cooked. 

3.Then add the pandan leave and curry leaves. Stir until they become aromatic.

4. Add your curry powder, lentils and coconut milk. Stir, then add in the chicken stock powder and a little water. Be sparing with the water, you can add more as required but can't take it out if you add too much. Add more as needed to get the right consistency.

5. Cook on low (I use a heat spreader under my Crueset pan) until the lentils are cooked. Right at the end, add enough tumeric powder to give the dish that lovely yellow colour. And you're done!
Before tumeric

After tumeric

I'm serving this with some gorgeous beef curry I've had in the slow cooker all day, and some basmati rice.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Best Homemade Granola

When I was in the States a few months back, I really enjoyed a big bowl of fruit for breakfast, smothered in plain yoghurt and a good sprinkle of granola. But my search for a similar style of granola here in Australia has not been so successful, as they are either extortionately expensive or laden in sugar.  So there was nothing left to do but make my own.

1.5 cups rolled oats (not the quick cook kind)
1 cup nuts (I use a mix of almonds and cashews, unsalted and raw)
0.5 cut coconut flakes or the coarsely shredded kind
A dash of cinnamon powder
A pinch or two of salt (I use the Murry River Pink salt flakes)
A dash of vanilla (my preference is for a vanilla bean paste)
Oil (I use about 1-2 teaspoons worth)
Maple Syrup (and not maple flavoured syrup) (I use around two tablespoons)

Put all your dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.


Swirl over your vanilla, a splash or two of oil, and enough maple syrup to moisten the entire mixture. Give it a good stir so everything is well coated, then spread on an oven tray.

Bake at 150C. Mine takes about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on it as you don't want it to burn. Stir is occasionally while its cooking, especially keeping an eye around the edges as they will cook faster. It will still be soft when you take it from the oven, but will crisp up as it cools.

Enjoy it with fruit and yoghurt, or even a sneaky spoonful on its own.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Black Toro, Glen Waverley

The Black Toro has been one of my favourite restaurants since it opened in Glen Waverley in 2012. Good Mexican food was hard to find in Australia and they do a great take on Hispanic cuisine. My most recent visit was for my birthday and I'd been looking forward to it for weeks.
The restaurant does two sittings, early and late; we usually take an 8.15pm booking so that we don't have to rush, though it does mean a late night. On arrival we were seated near the door, and it quickly became apparent that we were going to freeze every time the door opened. So we requested a move and were reseated with no dramas. Our former table remained unused all night so I'm not sure why we were sat there in the first place (the first of a few let-downs for the night).
Drink menus came out and I went straight for my usual margarita. It's not on the menu but they will happily make anything if they have the ingredients. Their bartender is good.
Then we got the food menu; having dined here before, we turned down the offer to have someone explain the concept of small and large dishes. At this point our water glasses remained empty, and it wasn't until we flagged down a staff member that we finally got some water (and I noticed that all the other tables did too, as no one had water at this point).
We ordered a number of small plates to start. Always the grilled corn, coated in chipotle mayo. 

Then the crispy soft shell crab tacos (top), and the pulled pork tacos (bottom).
The wagyu beef sliders, which were a little "American" in style and very delicious.
And the toro fried chicken. Juicy, crispy, and that sauce has some nice bite!
At this point the waitress offered us dessert and coffee...they don't know me very well! We ordered the Crispy pork belly, which comes with rice and tortillas. Three of us, four tortillas, and six pieces of pork. It wouldn't have hurt for them to provide just two more tortillas. Fortunately my dining companions had eaten oysters earlier so I claimed the extra
I also enjoyed a Mexican cosmo with the main; made with tequila instead of the normal vodka. That's an espresso martini in the background.
Now I had planned to eat dessert, as they do a wicked peanut butter cheesecake (and I had been contemplating the full dessert platter), but after a large morning tea and lunch (and a bottle of champagne before dinner), I just couldn't do it on this occasion.
So to wrap up; the food here is always amazing and the guy behind the bar making cocktails does a great job. But the service was definitely less attentive than I've experience before. Having to repeatedly ask for water refills, being seated near the door on a cold evening, and not even a farewell from the floor manager on the way out (normally someone will escort you to the door and hold it open for you). Won't stop me going back but it did take the shine off a little.
The Black Toro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 7 September 2015


I've been a fan of The Black Toro in Glen Waverley for a long time, so when the team opened Sezar in Melbourne it was immediately on my list of places I had to eat. Just needed to find the perfect excuse, and a night out on the town with my mum was it.
Thanks to the vagaries of public transport we arrived half an hour before our 8.30pm booking, but that was no trouble for the staff, and we were seated immediately. Our lovely waitress introduced herself, provided the menus, and explained how their concept of small, medium and large plates worked.
We ordered cocktails to drink while we perused the menu; the Mrs Maskal for myself (below) and the Sezar Express for my mum.

Then the food.
First came the Hervey Bay Scallops and the Spinach and Feta Boreg off the small plates menu. I'm not normally a seafood fan but these are the best scallops I've eaten. The boreg pastry was so flaky and light that it melted in the mouth.
Then the Spanner Crab Manti; dumpling stuffed with crab with a gorgeous citrus hit.
And then the Pork Belly, accompanied by the Chermoula Zucchini.
Already I was in food heaven. And then we got our large plate: the Spiced Beef Cheek with rice, and a side of Mujadarra (braised lentils and rice) to go with it.
At this point the cocktail was long gone, so we chose to accompany the main with a glass of Coombe Farm Pinot Noir.
And no meal is complete without dessert. My mum chose the baklava, while I selected the Chocolate Marquis. It was absolutely exquisite, and I'm sad to say it defeated me with it's richness.

This restaurant also offers two great banquet options; $55 with baklava for dessert, or $65 with the dessert tasting plate. Next time I'll give this a go, as you really cant go wrong with anything on the menu here.

Sezar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Innocent Bystander

When I first discovered Innocent Bystander years ago, it was much less well-known than now. I saw a tiny review in the paper about their wood-fired pizzas and decided they were worth a visit; I haven't looked back! There is lots to love about this winery; the pizza, the tapas-style food, the desserts and of course the wine. They have the best Moscato around.
We popped out last Saturday, a beautifully sunny winter's day that sees you going without a jumper for the first time in months. While we normally graze our way through the menu we decided to take things a little slower this time, starting with the house-baked sourdough (with salt and olive oil) and the smoked ham croquettes.  

One of our favourite wines to drink when we visit (aside from the Giant Steps Sexton Pinot Noir) is the Innocent Bystander Syrah. So smooth and easy to drink, perfect for lunchtime. The staff will also decant your red wine into one of their funky decanters.
For mains we had pizza; the other half ordered his usual spicy pork sausage pizza.
For some reason my favourites keep disappearing from the menu so I decided to try a new one: cauliflower and chorizo. It was very good, but I'm missing the four cheese pizza they used to do (hint hint).

We also got a side of the house cut chips with aioli. I always feel a little naughty ordering chips and these hit the spot nicely.
We decided to give dessert a miss, instead finishing off with coffees (or their amazing hot chocolate in my case). But I can definitely recommend the flourless chocolate cake, its a winner.

There are definitely worse ways to spend a sunny Winter's day....
Innocent Bystander Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 17 August 2015


This Melbourne venue has been on our to-do list for quite some time, and while it was pretty darn good, it wasn't as amazing as I had hoped. Meatmother is all about American BBQ, so vegetarians need not apply.
The menu is simple; choose your meat, choose the delivery (toast or bun) and choose your side.
I'm a sucker for pulled pork, so I chose the bun. Mac n Cheese as my side.
The pork was good. But in all honesty, it was no better than what I make myself (and I make a fantastic pulled pork). The mac was nice and creamy, but a little salty hit wouldn't have gone astray. 

The other half chose the brisket, which we are told is their signature dish, served with toast and fries. The meat is beautifully melt-in-the-mouth. And the fries have that nice salty tang I was looking for.
To quench the thirst we chose the Dark and Stormy in a Pitcher; not cheap at $36 but certainly more economical than by-the-glass.
And by now we all know that I like dessert. Just two options; peanut butter cheesecake, and apple pie. I chose the cheesecake and was a little surprised to see it served in a jar/glass. I guess this is hipster territory. Fortunately it was good cheesecake, good peanut butter flavour and not sickly sweet. And no fighting over that little Oreo either!
All in all, it was a very good meal. But not the cheapest given the size of the serves. I like my burgers just a tad larger. Now I've ticked it off the list I probably don't need to return.
Meatmother Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Cote Terra

Everyone needs a good breakfast spot, and Cote Terra is ours. Tucked away in a little street in Oakleigh, the venue is intimate and the food is good.
We were lucky to beat the crowd this past weekend, snaffling the last table. If you're a hot chocolate drinker like me, you'll like this one. Proper dark chocolate rather than the sugary stuff used elsewhere.
The menu has so many great options, and I've tried a few, though I always go back to the Smashed Avocado (formally known as "The Shrek"). Toast, lashings of avocado, perfectly poached eggs and cherry tomatoes. I get added bacon just because.

My other half went for the breakfast wrap: bacon and scrambled eggs rolled up in roti with tomato chutney, ricotta, and just a hint of curry. Messy but good.

One day we will try the lunch.... Cote Terra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato