Friday, 20 January 2017

Catch up on eating out 2015-2016 (Melbourne)

So often when I eat out, I point and shoot with good intentions of blogging about a place but life moves on quickly.  So every now and again - never as much as I would like - I collect these photos into one post to catch up on places I have enjoyed but not had the time to blog.  So much good food and so little time. 

Many are lunches.  Often enjoyed in company.  Or with a good book.  I don't have perfect recollection of all the meals but I would eat each again if given the chance.  Some cafes I have already given a full blog post.  Others are still on my list to return to and write up a dedicated blog post one of these days!  And I am sure I have left some out.  This will do for now.

138 Nicholson Street, Coburg

I had lunch at Ruby's in 2015 with my mum.  This was the vegan breakfast special.  I was particularly impressed by the pumpkin toast.  It went well with the roasted tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, avocado and relish.  I really loved it but it wasn't cheap.  I also had a nutella peanut butter milkshake which I really loved.

Islamic Museum of Australia Cafe
15A Anderson Road, Thornbury

It's a long time since I had a lovely lunch with a couple of friends at the cafe at the Islamic Museum of Australia.  It is tucked away behind the Merri Creek bike path.  It is a really beautiful cafe.  We sat outside on mosaic tables by a colourful mural.  One of my friend's was late because she got lost but she was even more flustered as she was off on a date.  The other was worried about one of her kids.  It was quite an intense discussion over lunch.  I enjoyed the Tesiyeh, a dish of chickpeas with tahini yoghurt and nut topping.  It was nice to have some salad on the side.

Earl Canteen @ Emporium
Level 3, Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne CBD

I was pleased when Earl Canteen opened in Emporium Shopping Centre as I had long wanted to try their much praised sandwiches.  Sadly I am yet to try one of their freshly made sandwiches.  They don't have many vegetarians options.  But I quite like some of the options in their fridge section.  The above asparagus, grain and seed dish - served with a generous dollop of hummus - was a pleasantly healthy lunch.  Washed down with some kombucha.

Flora Indian Restaurant
238 Flinders Street, Melbourne CBD

E and I have visited Flora in the city a few times.  It is a cheap and cheerful Indian restaurant with bright lights and a bain marie.  Just the place to duck into before heading out to a film or show.  The last time we visited was September last year on our way to seeing Joan Baez.  I can't remember what I ate but am pretty sure it was (Small Combo 1) two curries, daal, rice and pappadams.  It was quite filling but I couldn't resist also ordering a Kashmiri naan, which is is a particular favourite of mine with nutty sweet filling.

120 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

Milkwood is one of those cafes I sometimes pass in the car, wishing I could stop to sit at the outside tables and enjoy the good life.  When I finally ate there, the white brick walls and blond wooden furniture were indeed relaxing.  I ordered from the specials board: grilled tempeh and rice noodle salad with carrots, coriander and carrots slaw, toasted seeds, and a roasted chilli and lime dressing.  I enjoyed it, especially the grilled tempeh.  But I was grateful that the dressing came in a little jug on the side as I found it quite spicy.

The Old Cop Shop
160 Bell Street, Coburg

I had also driven past The Old Cop Shop in Coburg with interest.  However my interest had been in what they were doing with the old building.  When it opened in 2015, I had lunch there with my mum soon after.  I ordered the Super Food Salad: quinoa, kale, beans, avocado, pomegranates, goji berries, seeds, nuts, vegan cheese, dressed with pomegranate molasses and extra virgin olive oil.  It was fairly similar to what is on the menu now, though the price has risen from $21.50 to $23.  The salad was nice and healthy, the interior was an elegant blend of the old police station and fine modern design.  I keep meaning to return but it has been a while.

Little River
208 Albion Street, Brunswick

I have been to Little River a few times now and still would love to write it up in it's own post.  It is a vegetarian cafe that looks the part with lots of recycled timber in the decor.  The most impressive meal I've had was this award winning KA pies vegan Thai curry vegetable pie with salads.  The pie was indeed excellent and most deserving of the award.  However I was also impressed by the fresh and healthy salads on the side.  A slaw and I think a cauliflower salad.  I hope to go back to try more meals there.

Green Refectory Pop Up
99 Sydney Road, Brunswick

In my first few months of blogging, I wrote about Green Refectory at 115 Sydney Road.  Last year I found that its little sister pop up cafe had opened just down the road with its great vegan sausage rolls.  It took me a while to try something different to the sausage rolls.  This scrambled tofu with "mixed vegies", olives and mountain bread was too tempting.  It was nice but I was disappointed in the vegies being something like pickle cabbage and not quite the colourful vegetable accompaniment I had expected.  I remember I had to check something with the staff but can't remember what.  It may have been chillis in the tofu but my memory is hazy.  Still, it is a good hearty brunch for $10.

Small Axe Kitchen
281 Victoria Street, Brunswick

I had lunch here with my mum because we had both heard good reviews.  I chose the soft polenta, broad beans, peas, nettle, mint and lemon for $17.50.  It is not a cheap dish but tastes good and loosk pretty.  My photos don't do it justice but it was such a gorgeous explosion of greens on top of the polenta.  This is comfort food for hipsters.  Yes, it is a new cafe that opened this year to great acclaim.  The design is beautiful but my mum and I had to ask about a few obscure terms on the menu.  I did love the opportunity to have nettle in my dinner. 

Good Days
165 Sydney Road, Brunswick

I still have very fond memories of the spring rolls with noodles and vegies at the sadly departed Vina Bar.  So I was delighted to find that Good Days offered a similar vegan noodle salad when I visited with Faye of Veganopoulous.  We both loved the huge bowl of vermicelli rice noodles with crispy home made tofu and mushroom spring rolls, Asian herbs, slaw of pickled carrot, daikon and green mango, cucumber, roasted peanuts, fried shallots, and dressed with nuoc cham.  This was a really satisfying meal with lots of vegies.  I really need to get back there!

The Glass Den
15 Urqhuart Street, Coburg

After many visits I wrote about The Glass Den last year.  I continue to eat there.  I have had the gorgeous green Avocado Riot, the pretty Rocky Road French Toast and the Curly Fries.  The menu has been updated recently and seems to have left behind the amazing hotcakes.  However, their Facebook page says they will return soon.

I wanted to show you this photo of the beautiful purple cauliflower and cream cheese soup with kale chips and broccolini.  (I didn't take notes so am relying on memory so I hope this is right.)  It was one of the specials that I had last May.  I really loved it even though it was slightly challenging to eat stalks of broccolin in a soup and I think I had to ask for a knife, if I remember rightly.

Little Deer Tracks
44 O'Hea Street, Coburg

It was back in 2011 that I wrote about Little Deer Tracks on my blog.  I have been to the vegetarian cafe a few times since.  Most recently was in August last year when I visited with Faye from Veganopoulous.  I had an amazing meal of spiced cauliflower, roasted shallots and grilled haloumi; raw shredded cabbage and green beans; rice with cashews and sultanas; all sprinkled with pomegranate seeds!

I love pho express
Level 3 food court shop 355, Emporium, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne CBD

As mentioned above, I am very fond of a Vietnamese noodle salad with tofu spring rolls.  I was really pleased to find that I love pho does one in the Emporium food court.  Not quite as fancy as the salad at Good Days.  However it is very handy when in the city and needing a quick lunch.  At $10 I would be tempted to call this cheap and cheerful but I don't want this to denigrate it.  The wait is short, the spring rolls are crispy and the vegies are fresh. 

Lentil as Anything
1-3 St Helier’s Street, Abbotsford

Late last year, I had my second visit to the Lentil as Anything restaurant at the Abbotsford Convent.  I wrote about the former Brunswick Lentil as Anything many moons ago.)  A friend came to visit from the country and Abbotsford was a good midpoint to meet.  I really enjoyed the buffet of stews, curries and rice.  Though I still find it odd to choose how much to pay.  It was very pleasant to sit at any outside seat and catch up with an old friend.

Disco Beans
539 Plenty Road, Preston

I took Sylvia along to Disco Beans last year.  She was not so impressed by her cheese toastie because it came with a salad.  I enjoyed my Mexican platter of refried beans, tortilla chips, guacamole, black beans, salsa and salad.  I ordered some vegan cheese on the side just because I love it.  It was a very enjoyable meal.  I decided to go another time and found it was closed for renovations and has recently re-opened as Spiral Beans.  Let's hope I get along there before it reinvents itself again!

Juanita's Kitchen
219 High Street, Preston

I had a great catch up with Faye of Veganopoulous and Rosalie of Quinces and Kale at Juanita's Kitchen.  It was hard to choose but I ordered the Ultimate Bean Stack.  It was really really filling.  Just listen to what was in it: soft corn tortilla topped with creamy pinto beans, vegan chorizo, balsamic mushrooms, roasted capsicum, jalapeno, melted cheese, avocado, salsa with Greek yoghurt and salad on the side.  I really enjoyed it and was pleased the side salad was a bit more substantial than a few leaves of lettuce.  At the end I managed to taste some of the raw desserts we shared.  Another place to return to and sample more from the menu.

So there you have some of my delicious eating out from the past year or two.  We truly are spoilt for choice in the inner north of Melbourne..  There just isn't enough time to visit all the amazing cafes and blog about all the good food.  Maybe I will return to visit some of the places and write more about them. 

Meanwhile I suggest you visit Where's the Beef and Veganopoulous who continue to share inspiring places to eat for veg*ns, including quite a few reviews of the above cafes.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Snug, Amanda Palmer and Missy Higgins in St Kilda

After seeing Amanda Palmer at the Gasometer on Thursday, it seemed a great idea to go and see her discuss motherhood with Missy Higgins on Sunday morning.  And I was so sure that Sylvia would love seeing Missy Higgins.  That was a parenting fail.  We had one bored 7 year old on our hands.  But she was delighted by the kiddie menu at The Snug Public House.

The Motherhood talk was at the Astor Theatre.  I didn't get as much out of it as I had hoped because I was dealing with my own motherhood issues.  Thank goodness for the break when E took Sylvia out to buy popcorn so that I could focus and photograph.

After the show, we went to The Snug.  It looks unassuming outside.  That means it is not an olde worlde pub that beckons you in but just a fairly plain building.  This is an Irish pub with a fireplace, lots of Guinness is Good posters and barrel tables.  As it was a pleasant summer day, we sat under the verandah at the front and enjoyed the sea breeze.

The reason we were at the Snug, is that is caters well to vegans.  (And we love pub grub.)  Above is the vegan menu.  Indeed it was a tyranny of choice.  I though I would never get through reading it and making decisions.  It had everything: loaded fries, pub grub (like mushroom and stout pie), burgers, raw food and the kiddie menu.

Sylvia went straight for the kiddie menu.  She was pretty excited to find it had food she likes other than chips.  So was I.  She chose the vegan nuggets and chips.  When it came it didn't look a lot for $14 but was so good and came with red cordial and ice cream so we were happy.  The nuggets seemed to be tofu in a crunchy batter.

Choosing my drink was easy.  I chose a berry and mixed spice kombucha.  Ordering food was harder.  I spent some time trying to be strategic.  What would give lots of vegies and something new and some comfort.

 I finally decided on the taco appetiser.  It was the jackfruit pulled pork that I really wanted to try as I have read about it but have never had it.  The pulled pork was paired with slaw, avocado salsa and barbecue corn, as well as some pineapple salsa on the side.  I really loved all the flavours and colourful vegies.  The pineapple salsa was really tasty.  The jackfruit was surprisingly soft and the tacos were so saucy that after eating one with my fingers, I had to eat the rest with a knife and fork for fear of wearing the sauce.

I knew from Faye and Cindy and Michael that the servings at The Snug are very generous.  Yet I still could not resist ordering some fries to share with E.  (He had a soda bread breakfast roll which was very unvegan with eggs, bacon and sausage!)  The chips were excellent.  Freshly fried, crispy and tasty.  It was a huge serving and between the two of us, we didn't finish it.

Lastly I ordered a side of rice paper bacon.  Though I have made it at home, this is the first time I have seen it in a cafe.  I was curious to see how they did it.  They kindly did this even though it was not on the menu.  It was crispy with very little seasoning but it is intended to be served with meals.  I crumbled mine up and put it in my tacos, which I enjoyed.

We looked out over some rundown buildings in Fitzroy Street.  It is amazing to drive through St Kilda and admire the beautiful tree lined streets with elegant heritage buildings and then turn in to Fitzroy Street and see how disappointing the modern architecture is along that strip.  Hard to believe I worked in that street many years ago. 

After our meal, we walked the short stroll to the beach.  It was such a lovely mild Summer's day.  Unfortunately, we were hostage to our parking meter and could not wade in the sea (urban pollution permitting).  So instead we wandered back under this leaning tree.

The Snug Public House
12 Fitzroy St, St Kilda
03 9534 4678

The Snug Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 13 January 2017

Orange baked tofu

Summer holidays!  We've been busy.  Painting a mural on the back wall.  Swimming at the beach.  Sharks on the next beach.  Driving past a grass fire.  Sunburn.  Tidying up.  Sleepovers.  Playgrounds.  Cafes.  Just a bit of work.  Heatwaves.  Not much cooking.  Just the occasionally favourite like dal, bread and bliss balls.  Last night E and I went out so my niece came to babysit Sylvia.  I made orange baked tofu for dinner that we all really enjoyed.  Almost!

I confess to a lack of cooking mojo lately.  As I have mentioned once or twice, my bookmarking site is down and I can't access my thousands of bookmarked recipes.  It is not the I can't find recipes online.  But these are the ones I really want to make and are tagged with ingredients and other keywords.  I have some other bookmarks in odd locations but nothing quite so organised and extensive as this collection.
The hot weather is also making me have less of an appetite for cooking and turning on the stove.  The recipe is one that I had bookmarked from Cindy and Michael.   I bought a bag of oranges, forgetting I had some at home already.  This seemed a good way to buy them, though I got caught out with the expense of limes.  (I am willing those baby limes on my tree in the back yard to grow.)

This is a recipe for those who love citrus.  I pretty much followed the recipe but swapped mustard and ginger for oregano and cumin.  I didn't season the marinade at all other than the soy sauce because I was unsure about how it was meant to taste.  Another time I would do a little seasoning but not too much.  This is a dish where the orange and lime shines!

We ate the baked tofu with bread, a beetroot and lentil salad, and a deconstructed garden salad.  I didn't mean to be trendy with serving the garden salad on a chopping board but it just never made it to the bowl!  I was very pleased when my niece Quin said how much she loves tofu.  Sylvia turned up her nose at the tofu but the rest of us kept going back for more.  It was a very pleasing meal.

Then E and I headed out to see Amanda Palmer at the Gasometer Hotel.  It is the first time I have seen a gig in a pub under the stars (or clouds as the case may be).  The arched roof was rolled back and I could look up and see bats swooping overhead.  A mischievous fly crawled over the keyboard and held up a song!  We had an interlude where everyone was given paper and pencils to write something from the heart to contribute to song lyrics.  It was all quite weird and wonderful.

I am sending this to Healthy Vegan Fridays, Gluten Free Fridays and Meat Free Mondays.

More tofu marinade recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apricot and orange glazed tofu (gf, v)
Aussie bbq tofu
Cocoa jerk tofu (gf, v)
Cranberry and orange glazed tofu (gf, v) 
Honey and mustard marinated smoked tofu (gf)
Tofu bacon (gf, v)
Tofu in a tomato, lemongrass and ginger sauce (gf, v)

Orange baked tofu
Adapted from Viva Vegan via Where's the Beef
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tamari
500g firm tofu

juice of 2 oranges
zest of 1 orange
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp finely grated ginger
1/2 tsp tamari
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200 C.

Mix oil and tamari and pour into the base of a baking dish (mine was slightly smaller that 9x13 inch and only just fitted 450g tofu so I didn't do the full 500g).  Slice tofu into about 1cm pieces and place in pan not overlapping but tucked close together is fine.  Turn each piece so it is covered in the oil and tamari.

Bake tofu for 20 minutes.  While the tofu is baking, prepare marinade by mixing everything together and seasoning.  I didn't add any seasoning and it was very citrussy but I don't think it needs a lot of seasoning.  Flip tofu over when 20 minutes is up.  Pour marinade over tofu.  Bake 30 minutes until most of marinade is absorbed and tofu is golden brown.

On the Stereo:
Begin to Hope: Regina Spector

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Fruit salad for New Year's Eve

It is a hot summer.  Too hot.  When we have a few days in the 30s I just want to eat fruit and drink water.  Meals sort of fall off the radar.  New Year's Eve was hot.  And I had lots of fruit about.  So we had fruit salad for dessert. 

A few days before New Year's Eve, we went to a potluck picnic brunch.  I took along cashew cheese stuffed dates on a fruit platter.  I knew that Sylvia would eat some fruit if nothing else except Mr Nice Guy cinnamon buns and perhaps some tofu bacon.  And it seems a shame not to enjoy summer fruit at its peak.

I bought more fruit than I needed.  So it was fruit salad for dessert on New Year's Eve.  It has been too long since I last made one and many years since I blogged any.  I cut up some fruit in the afternoon and soaked it in orange juice and maple syrup.  So simple.  So delicious.  So refreshing.

We had dinner on New Year's Eve at home.  I made haggis nachos.  We drank Maiden's Press non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice with it.  Sylvia refuses to eat the haggis so she spread tomato paste on her corn chips and sprinkled them with cheese to make her special pizza nachos.

The nachos were so filling that I was glad to have fruit salad for dessert.  It was served with some vanilla ice cream and/or a Darrell Leigh chocolate covered coconut nougat in a pudding shape.   A fitting meal to see out the old year.  I loved the fruit salad.  E was less impressed and Sylvia wanted to just eat the apricots.

We went to my parents' for lunch on New Year's Day.  I took some leftover fruit salad because we had so much leftover.  We ate it with stollen, cheese and crackers, and some watermelon wedges.  Then we broke open the gingerbread house.  Which after a roast dinner was quite an impressive meal to see in the new year.

The festive period is receding into the past rapidly.  Our Christmas tree has been put out to be chopped up for green waste.  The decorations are in bags ready to be put into storage.  But before we forget the festivities altogether, I have a few random moments to share:
  • Being breathalysed right after school drop off a week before Christmas Day.
  • My brother coined the term "pav and run", which made me laugh.  It did not refer to his crazy midday run in sweltering temperatures on Christmas Day.  It meant grabbing a large slice of my mum's pavlova and running out the door to his partner's place.  
  • E was reeling from being accosted by my uncle about how we need coal power.  Ironically the next day I was in a conversation where everyone seemed to have solar power.
  • Attending a country funeral just after New Year's Day.  It was conducted in the cemetery on a warm day under a shady oak tree with a coffin strewn with flowers and friends singing acapella.  So sad but really beautiful too.

I am sending this fruit salad to Healthy Vegan Fridays and the No Waste Food Challenge.

More fruity desserts on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Choc-nut banana and fruit kebabs (gf, v)
Watermelon monster (gf, v)  
Pine-berry fruit salad (gf, v)
Rainbow fruit kebabs (gf, v)
Red fruit salad (gf, v)
Strawberry soup (gf, v)
Summer fruit salad (gf, v)

Fruit salad
Serves 6-8, maybe more

2 large peaches, chopped
3 kiwi fruit, diced
1 handful of grapes
4 apricots, chopped
125g punnet of blueberries
125g punnet of raspberries 
1 slice of watermelon, chopped (about a cup)
juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp maple syrup

Mix everything and serve.  Or make a day ahead and keep in the fridge.  I think it improves with sitting for an hour or so, which means it is good to make before dinner.  Make sure to stir through before serving so all the fruit has some orange juice and maple syrup over it.

On the Stereo:
Shine a Light: field recordings from the great American railroad: Billy Bragg and Joe Henry

Thursday, 5 January 2017

In My Kitchen - January 2017

So a new year begins with lots of luscious summer fruit, less baking and some festive treats still lingering.  Above is a plate of cherries.  They have to be one of my favourite summer fruits.  I could devour them by the bucketload.  If only they were cheap enough!

 I haven't been baking much bread lately but I made one particularly moist loaf of overnight sourdough.  I should have heeded Celia's suggestion of baking paper for such loaves.  Instead I put in into the heated ungreased and unlined tin as usual.  I had to hack it away from the tin!

Sylvia had a friend over for a day.  They decorated the above gingerbread men.  I love their crazy eyes.  They were meant for later.  To me that meant for her friend to take home.  To them that meant to eat as soon as I went to have a chat to the neighbour.

While Sylvia's friend was over we tried these new crispy oat crackers with a hint of honey.  They were a good snack after the girls had been trampolining at Bounce and the slushie machine was not cold enough.

We don't buy a lot of alcohol in our house.  So it seemed quite extravagant to have two trips to the bottle shop.  The first was because we had run out of whisky.  I don't drink the stuff but I like to have it on hand for cooking.

And while I don't drink much alcoholic drinks, when I look at the name and the labels I wish I did.  The monkeys on this Monkey Shoulder blended malt scotch whisky from Speyside are so gorgeous.

E is quite partial to Crabbies ginger beer at Christmas.  We bought three bottles: original, strawberry and lime, and  raspberry.  They are quite sweet but one glass was enough for me.  I was glad I had resisted a sudden seasonal longing for Baileys Irish Cream while in the bottle shop.

We were amused by this Cadbury Festive Cake Selection with a little cake that had Santa's name on it.  Sylvia insisted it was really for Santa.  I resisted telling her that mince pies were more traditional and tasty.  But like Tim Minchin, while I have all of the usual objections to consumerism, I really like Christmas.  (My favourite song of Christmas was his White Wine in the Sun.  It made me teary thinking of absent family.)

We have also had a few other festive treats from the shops.  Walkers Christmas shortbread shapes, Bundaberg spiced ginger beer and gold covered mini Christmas puddings!

Once Christmas finishes, it feels like the school holidays really begin.  We were watching Mr Maker the other day and he made a ribbon picture.  So we did!

January is a great time for summer fruit.  My brother in law has an abundance of plums from their tree.  We have been loving munching on these.

In our own small garden is our strawberry plant.  We got some net cloth from my mum to keep the birds away.  While the plant is not quite abundant, it is producing a nice amount of strawberries.  At first they were pretty mushy.

Today I was in the garden hanging out the washing at 5pm (it was one of those days - new glasses, playing card games, a trip to the hardware store) and eating fresh strawberries and blueberries from the garden.  They were wonderful.  Next year we will have to put some net over the blueberry plant as well.  Meanwhile Sylvia and I have a little garden project for the summer that I will share with you when it is done!

Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things is taking a break from hosting In My Kitchen in January but will be back in February (thanks Mae for the update).