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Friday, September 12, 2014

Cake Wines - Matched at Charlie Dumpling

Disclaimer: I dined courtesy of Cake Wine.

I like cake, and I like wines. So when company director Glen from Cake Wines contacted me, I was listening. I thought that they would make wines which were inspired by cakes (I know you're all laughing but I'd try those wines). As it turns out, Cake Wines is a boutique wine company making wines from the Adelaide Hills. You can find out more about them via this really cool video.

Glen told me about a program they have running called MATCHED.

MATCHED is an idea that’s about exploring “kitchens that don’t live in the limelight”, sharing stories from the chefs that run them, and giving some much needed love, and exposure, to the restaurants, cafes, tapas/wine bars and gastro pubs that sometimes get drowned out in our celebrity driven food world. Throughout July-Aug-Sept 2014 we're launching a campaign to promote these unsung heroes by asking them to match their favourite dishes to our wines, served up for you to enjoy!

I was asked whether I wanted to try out this MATCHED experience, which I accepted. I chose to go to Charlie Dumpling.

So the MATCHED dish at Charlie Dumpling was their Thai Spiced Salmon dumplings in yellow curry with the Cake Wines Pinot Gris. Firstly, the Pinot Gris was really good. So refreshing with a bit of sweetness and really clean in flavour. It did actually match well with the salmon dumplings. According to my amateur wine tastebuds, I felt like the wine brought out the lemongrass flavour of the dish. The wine also really worked well with the Kingfish Sashimi with fennel and apple. We also had the Peking Duck dumplings, which I liked but my friend felt the sauce was a bit strange.

What we did agree on was the addictive Charlie's Fried Chicken Ribs with five spice, honey and kewpie. The batter was so good and the flavours were great. The meat was still tender. A dish I would definitely recommend you try. Not as successful was the Thai Papaya Salad, where the flavours were not very good so I would avoid that.

The dessert menu consists of more dumplings, but sweet ones. We tried the Milk Chocolate Dumplings with raspberry chili sorbet and the Peanut Butter Mochi with honeycomb and salted chocolate. The milk dumplings were great, but neither of us were fans of the raspberry chili sorbet. The peanut butter mochi sounded better on paper as the flavours didn't really shine through.

All up, it was a good meal. Our waitress was wonderful and really nice, helpful and funny. We had some nice food matched with the tasty Cake Wines wine. You can check out the Cake Wines website to see what MATCHED dishes they are doing around town and go check it out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cuttlefish Paella Recipe

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

A classic Spanish dish is paella. There are many varieties, including mixed seafood, octopus, chicken and cuttlefish. This beautiful cuttlefish paella with squid ink made using Olive Oils from Spain is so delicious. Served in a large pan for communal dining, it is the perfect dish to share with family and friends.

The key to any good paella is high quality fresh ingredients. The flavours of the ingredients will each shine through and blend together to create a fragrant dish.

Start with some Olive Oils from Spain, rich and deep in flavour. The extra virgin Olive Oil really showcases the fresh olive flavour and will help to form the base flavour of the dish.

The next ingredient is the rice for the paella. Make sure you use Bomba rice as the grains will be soft but maintain some bite and not be soft and gluggy.

The next ingredient is the rice for the paella. Make sure you use Bomba rice as the grains will be soft but maintain some bite and not be soft and gluggy.

The squid ink paella is not hard to make at all and you’ll have a meal that can easily feed 6 people. Start your meal with some crunchy bread dipped in Olive Oils from Spain before moving onto the paella served with some wine. Your guests will be so impressed with your cooking skills.

For more information, or to follow Olive Oils from Spain:
www.tasteourlifestyle.com.au
blog.tasteourlifestyle.com.au

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Twitter - @OliveOils_es_AU
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Cuttlefish Paella with Squid Ink

Serves 6 to 8
Recipe adapted from the Movida book recipe

125 ml Olive Oil from Spain
500 g calamari, cleaned and cut into 2.5 cm squares
12 large prawns, peeled and de-veined
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon squid ink
5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
200 ml dry white wine
400 g bomba rice
1.2 litres hot fish stock

1. Blanch the tomatoes in a saucepan of boiling water until the skin starts to blister, around 30 seconds, then place in a bowl of iced water to refresh. Peel and dice the tomatoes, then set aside.
2. Heat 60 ml of the Olive Oil in a 30-34 cm paella or wide pan over high heat. Add the calamari and the prawns and cook for about a minute on each side, making sure to season. Remove and set aside, covering with foil.
3. Add the rest of the Olive Oil along with the onion and the garlic. Cook over low heat until translucent, around 5 minutes. Add the squid ink and mix well.
4. Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes over low heat to soften lightly. Then add the white wine and continue to cook for another 15 minutes until the mixture thickens to a paste.
5. Increase the heat to medium and add the rice. Cook the rice for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring continuously until the rice starts to become translucent.
6. Pour in the hot stock and mix well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium immediately and add the calamari on top of the rice.
7. Cook the rice for 10 minutes. The rice should have now expanded a little so reduce the heat back to low if the flame doesn’t cover the base of the pan. Move the pan around during cooking to allow the paella to cook evenly for 10 minutes.
8. Before removing from the stove, add the prawns and cook on high for about 1 minute to help form a crust on the bottom of the pan.
9. Remove from the heat and cover with foil for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wangaratta - Super Awesome Packing Prosecco Event and Lots of Good Food

Disclaimer: I went on this trip courtesy of the Rural City of Wangaratta.

I used to work with a really happy guy, who came from Wangaratta. How did I know he was from Wangaratta? Well he would say so at every opportunity. He was really proud of his town and how he used to live there. I always told him I would visit Wangaratta one day. Unfortunately he has since left the company, but I did get a chance to visit Wangaratta courtesy of the wonderful Emma from the Wangaratta council. I was invited to join a trip to see the town and area. I had the best time on the trip and highly recommend you visit yourself.

You can learn more about Wangaratta and all the attractions and food via
City of Wangaratta website
Wangaratta Twitter Account
Wangaratta Instagram Account
See High Country Facebook Account

If you're in the area, you must also visit the King Valley for some more great things to do. You can read my previous posts below.
Cow Mustering, Fly Fishing
Brown Brothers Winery
Pizzini Winery
Politini Winery
Lindenwarrah Hotel

Now onto this Packing Prosecco trip. I "drove" to Wangaratta with Michele (who actually did the driving) and Veda. I-Hua and Aaron and Agnes and Alastair went in the other car. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Melbourne to Wangaratta depending on how many pit stops you need to make. The other car made no stops, but Veda and I have bladders appropriately sized for mice and had to make two stops along the way. My weak bladder is my Achilles heel.

When we did finally arrive in Wangaratta, the sun greeted us as we entered Cafe Derailleur. It's a beautiful little cafe just on the outskirts of Wangaratta. I found out that Derailleur is the gears on a bike, hence all the bike decorations. We could already hear the others in the courtyard laughing loudly. Once seated, I got a refreshing freshly squeezed juice and we ordered lunch. I got the roast pork sandwich but immediately got food envy (which doesn't happen as I'm usually very happy with my order) when I saw Michele's French Toast and Emma's Bagel with Jam and BACON. All the meals were good and I sampled the gnocchi and big breakfast too.

After lunch in which we all rolled out of the cafe, it was onto the Forges Farm for our Packing Prosecco event. The farm is so beautiful, as are the the horses. The wonderful Forge family of Graham, Anne-Marie, Ellen and Tuppy help us set up our horses and do practise rides in the holding area. As I'm an expert, having amassed so much experience in my four previous horse rides, I showed everyone else the way to not fall off, hold on tightly.

Here I am whispering sweet words to my horse to not throw me off and that we can both drink Prosecco afterwards. It worked as I stayed on the horse.
Photo courtesy of Michele

Once we were all saddled up, off we rode into the beautiful farm land. The ride was super peaceful (externally and inside my mind) and I was loving it. I can see why people love to ride horses. You can feel their moods translate through their body into yours as you're riding.
Photo courtesy of Michele

Once we reached our final destination, I thought I had stepped into a movie set. It was so beautifully decorated by Tuppy and was so welcoming. The Prosecco flowed freely as Graham kept topping up our glasses and we got to snack on awesome cheese and bread while enjoying the surroundings and having some great chats. The girls were super loud and I'm sure the people in central Wangaratta could hear them haha. I learned from Ellen how hard working on the land can be, but also the great enjoyment you can get from it. After eating more cheese than anyone should in one day, it was back on our horses to ride back to the farm. Overall the whole event went for about 3 hours and it one of the most fun things I've done in the last few years. I highly highly highly recommend you do this if you're anywhere in the area.

We then went on to check into our accommodation. I was staying at Rees & Rees Accommodation. I got the back unit all to myself. It felt like a super luxurious designer home. Once we found out that the owner Dean also owned the town's luxury merchant shop that sold house fittings and items, it all made sense. I took a long, warm bath (I've provided feedback that the bath plug should be changed to one WITHOUT a nob) and put on my vanilla jasmine body cream. Hey, if it's there, you must try it right. I did smell wonderful and was so refreshed.

Dinner was a two part affair, starting at Precinct Bar & Restaurant for some pre-dinner drinks and pizzas. The pizzas here were so good. We all tried to restrain ourselves as we knew we still had dinner to come but probably all ate a slice or two too many.

For dinner itself, we walked to the next door restaurant in Watermarc. The food served at Watermarc was what I would describe as gastropub food. It was on the whole good food, with some dishes maybe a bit too busy. I preferred the simpler dishes such as the pasta and braised meats. The desserts were a highlight and worthy of any good restaurants.

Dinner concluded a most wonderful day in Wangaratta where we ate far too much food but also had so much fun. The sunset on the ride to dinner was pretty magical too.

On day 2, we started the day at Cafe the PreVue for some breakfast. The cafe is one of many new restaurants set along the Ovens river, which is being developed as the next go-to spot in Wangaratta. I can see why. It's so beautiful along the river and makes for a great walk and place to relax. We all ordered various breakfasts and coffees. I decided to go for croissants, with BACON haha. The croissants were beautiful, and the bacon added to the goodness. I-Hua also shared some her big breakfast with me, which was also really good.

After breakfast, we explored the town (while singing Disney tunes) and went into some nice shops, including Rees & Rees which had so many beautiful things that I couldn't afford. Then as we sang our final Disney tune, it was back into the car and time to say goodbye to Wangaratta.

We made our way to Baileys of Glenrowan for lunch. The beautiful winery makes some of the regions best fortified wines. The winery serves pizzas for lunch so we sampled some. The pizzas were all good, with nice crisp bases.

Lastly, the final stop on this super fun trip was Black Dog Brewery. The picturesque vineyard made wines, but also beers. The eponymous black dog greeted us and followed us around. He was super cute and so playful. We sampled a selection of beers and they were all really good.

That ended a really fun weekend to Wangaratta. I can now tell my ex-work mate that I've been there and gone to some of the places he talked about. Like most regional towns, it has such a relaxing feel. There's lots to see and do there. The food was also good and the people very friendly. I can't recommend the Packing Prosecco event enough. It was so much fun and I look forward to going back and doing that again. Super huge thanks to Emma for inviting me and to Michele for driving.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

I Eat Blog Magazine Monthly

All my dear readers, I'm so excited to announce the launch of my new magazine, I Eat Blog Monthly. For only a low price of $6.50 an issue, you can learn so many things about food. In this month's issue, we have all the secrets to tasty chocolate salty balls. Once you try them, you'll never want any other balls. We also interview celebrity singer Britney Spears, and find out why she's such a tart...fan. She tells us when she first started being a tart...fan and gives the secrets on an easy tart. Which leads us to this month's reader competition, to find Australia's easiest tart. The winner will get to tour Australia for free and help spread the tart message. Lastly, as strawberries are in season, we find 57 ways to tart up your life with them. In some of the ways, you even get to cook them into a dessert.

So subscribe today and receive a year's subscription of I Eat Blog Monthly (11 copies per year as I'm on holidays during Christmas) for only $78. That's a special price for my wonderful readers today. You can pay all at once or in two easy installments of $40. You can pay with bank transfer, Paypal or credit card. Note that there is a fee on all payment options of 5%.

So without further ado, here is the cover of this month's I Eat Blog magazine.
My chief designer Iron Chef Shellie designed this cover with a photo that was taken by yours truly, editor, photographer, writer and stylist, Thanh Do.

I hope you will enjoy the magazine.

Sincerely,
Thanh Do - Editor

Mamasita - You Already Know It's Good

I think I'm definitely the last person in Melbourne to visit Mamasita. At first it was the queues that put me off going. A few other times I had to cancel and you know how the usual stories go, there's some place new and shiny to visit. However, a chance event near the restaurant meant I could drop in without queuing and try the food. I had sampled a number of the Mamasita dishes at various food festivals before so I already knew it would be good. The meal was just to try a few more items.

The famous Mamasita corn is indeed very good. Yes it's only corn, yes it's expensive for corn, but if that's how you feel, make it yourself and don't order it. I'm happy to order this dish again as I'll eat good food any day.

Other items that were pretty good but not amazing were the ceviche and the quesadillas. They were the two weaker dishes of an otherwise excellent meal.

Another item Mamasita is famous for is their tacos. And they did live up to expectations and were great. The tostaditas and potatoes were also really good. The pancita de cerdo recommended by the waiter was excellent.

Overall, the food was really good and I would go back. The service was both good and not so good. The staff were friendly enough but it was so hard to get their attention when we wanted to order, to ask for water or even to pay the bill.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is good but I actually don't really like the layout of the restaurant. Obviously space is at a premium in the city so seating is close, which I don't mind. We were at a high table and like many places, I hated the bar stool type chairs as you can't lean back and after a 2 hour meal it gets quite uncomfortable. Overall a very good meal and I would definitely recommend it if you're the only other person in Melbourne who hasn't gone yet.

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Jim's Tavern - Really Old Skool

Jim's Tavern is really old skool. It starts with a lack of website. Not many larger restaurants don't have a web presence nowadays. I guess when you've been around for so long and everyone already knows about you, you don't really need to have a website right? I guess as long as people are still coming through the doors, that's all that matters. And one the night I went, people were definitely coming through the doors. The clientele who were dining that night seemed to be mostly big Greek families. Those big groups were seated in the back area, which seems to be where the action is. It felt rather sad sitting in the front area. It just didn't have the right feel. It felt cramped, but not cosy. It could be due to the lack of sufficient lighting.

The waiter came to take our order. There's no menu here, but I guess things don't change too often. There might be a special or two here and there but mostly it's typical Greek dishes you would expect. We go for the dips and saganaki to start off with. Both dishes were good and I did enjoy them. The saganaki had a really good bite to it. Next up was the reason I wanted to visit Jim's Tavern, to eat the grilled octopus. I absolutely love octopus and not enough restaurants serve them. So I was super excited to eat it. And the verdict, it was very good. The octopus had a great charred, smokey flavour and was very tender.

To conclude our meal we had garlic butter scallops, lamb gyros and fried zucchinis. The scallops were ok. You couldn't really taste them under that batter. The lamb was really good but by that point we were so full already and didn't know one plate of lamb was enough to feed four people. I didn't like the fried zucchinis and found them really salty and oily.

The service was good, and the waiters came around to check how we were going and if we wanted anything. The only time we had a problem was actually trying to flag down a waiter to get the bill. Overall, the food was pretty good, but I'd say it's pricey for what it is, which is just simple Greek food. I can eat that elsewhere for cheaper. I don't think there's anything particularly special about Jim's Tavern in terms of the food. I guess it lives on due to it's reputation. As I mentioned, I didn't like the vibe in the front room of the restaurant. I will probably feel differently in the back area. I'd probably not go back to dine as I think you can eat much better Greek food elsewhere for cheaper or comparative cost.

Jim's Greek Tavern on Urbanspoon