Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cacao - Great Gingerbread Houses, Macarons and Salted Caramel Spread

If you read my blog or follow me on Instagram (self promotion, I'm ieatblog on Instagram, go check it out), you'll know that I love to bake. I love the process of baking as it really calms me down as I focus on a task, and of course sometimes the results are both beautiful and delicious, which makes me very happy. So I was extremely happy when I was asked if I wanted to attend a private class with Tim Clark (head pastry chef) at Cacao to learn to make Gingerbread Houses. I've never made one so was really excited to try. I asked my fellow baking superhero Michele to come along as she too loves baking. We both can say that we've baked a wedding cake even, as we helped I-Hua make her wedding cakes.

So, like most good stories, I need to keep you hooked so let me show you a photo of the final result before I reveal the whole process. Look at my beautiful Gingerbread House. Seriously, I can't stop looking at it every time I walk past as it sits in the centre of my dining room table until after Christmas. The house has character and fun and reflects my baking style, messy.

I love many parts of the house but one part which I really love is the gold reindeer poop (as I call it, it's actually gold covered walnuts) on the roof. I think it gives a whole new level of fun.

If we now rewind back to the start, Tim told us about how to make the dough and to bake it and gave us tips. Here are the tips, so take note.

1. Don't overwork the dough when you first mix it. Just mix it enough to make a dough and then put it into the fridge.
2. When you go to knead the dough, you can mix it as hard as you want as this recipe doesn't harden when you knead too much.
3. When baking it, always underbake. If it looks like it's not quite ready yet, it probably is ready. It tends to harden up really badly if you overbake and it won't be enjoyable to eat. If you are purely making it for decorative purposes, you can bake it more.
4. Freshly ground spices work best as the aroma is much stronger. Make your own mix and be creative. Tim used many things including tea, anise, cinnamon etc.
5. Make a template to cut out your house and do a trial run with the template to ensure it all fits together properly. Don't freestyle if you're a beginner and try to cut the dough on the fly if you want a neat looking house. If you don't mind your house looking like a half finished product from Grand Designs, by all means freestyle.
6. This is the most important tip. You can never ever overdecorate a Gingerbread House. The more stuff you throw on it, the better it looks. So go mad and find as many things as you can to put onto it and have heaps of fun.

Look at my Santa peeking out of the window. Unfortunately Santa was too fat and the royal icing did not hold him and he fell to the bottom of the house and broke a leg and now is walking in crutches.

Michele made the cutest door reindeer reef. I'm totally stealing this idea for next time.

We both finished our houses and were extremely pleased with them. Michele's is on the left and mine's on the rights. Who's cuisine, I mean Gingerbread House, reigns SUPREME????????? Just because Michele's blog is called Iron Chef Shellie doesn't mean that I will lose this battle. I will fight for the honour of my baking tribe, the Geeky Engineer's Baking Society of Melbourne and win this contest. Please vote in the comments below. If you vote 1 for Thanh Do, you're voting for more stroopwafels and banana bread for all.

Whilst our Gingerbread Houses are awesome, unfortunately you can't have them. You can get the next best thing, which is a Gingerbread House from Cacao for this Christmas. They're nice, but obviously nowhere as nice as mine. :-)

While we waited for our icing to set, we tucked into some macarons. I know that Cacao does macarons but for whatever reason, I've never come to buy them before. I've bought their chocolates but not the macarons. Utter total incomprehensible monumental failure on my part. The macarons are delicious. On the night we sampled the Violet and Blackcurrant and Jingle Bells. I'm obsessed with violet flavours in desserts and have been trying to hunt down the essence everywhere for a while now. Well, I may have found a secret supplier in Tim (hint hint Tim). Violet is so under-utilised in desserts in Melbourne. The French use it in a lot of their cakes and it works wonderfully. This macaron was no exception as it combined perfectly with the blackcurrant. Violet tastes less floral (and less like toilet freshener) compared to lavender, which I don't like too much. The Jingle Bell macaron is a special for Christmas and contains crushed-up Christmas pudding with rum toffee in a vanilla buttercream. Yummo. Tastes so Christmassy (not a real word, put down your keyboards word Nazis).

We also got the pleasure of taking home a big box of Cacao macarons. So far I've eaten two, the Strawberry and Cream (simple and delicious) and the Pistachio (OMFG awesome). The pistachio is the best I've tasted anywhere in Melbourne. The flavours are so true to pistachio and you can taste the nuts rather than that faux flavour which I hate.

Lastly, we also got a jar of the Salted Caramel Spread. I've made my own Salted Caramel Spread (recipe to come in a separate blog post) as it's all the rage nowadays. My salted caramel spread is rather awesome already (photo below), but Cacao take their salted caramel spread to another level. They use fleur de sel instead of regular salt and add some chocolate into the mix, giving it a richness and extra fragrance my spread doesn't have. Looks like I need to experiment with my salted caramel to raise it to another level.

That my friends, concludes a very enjoyable journey into various Christmas treats. Obviously, there aren't many days left to Christmas, so you better haul a$$ to Cacao to stock up on the really important items like chocolates, macarons, gingerbread houses and that salted caramel spread. What's Christmas going to be like at your house without these essentials eh, a sad boring party of nothingness (unsure if that's a real word, please confirm). I will be eating my delicious treats and Instagramming it for you to see otherwise muahahaha (evil dictator laugh).

Gingerbread Recipe

This recipe has been kindly given by Tim Clark from Cacao. It should be enough to make a fairly decent sized house.

Water 30g
Sugar 75g
Honey 50g
Glucose 25g
Golden Syrup 25g
Flour 300g
Baking Powder 5g
Baking Soda 2g
freshly ground mixed spice 5g
Eggs 40g

1. Warm the Water, Sugar, Honey, Glucose and Golden Syrup in a sauecepan
2. Add the warm liquid with the eggs and whisk to combine and add to the dry ingredients and mix well until mixture forms a dough either by hand or with a mixer fitted with a paddle or dough hook.
3. Cover dough and let rest in the fridge for 24hrs
4. Next day roll the Gingerbread out to 4mm in thickness and cut to desired shapes
5. Let rest for 30 minutes before brushing wish egg yolk
6. Bake in oven @ 180C for 12 to 14 min.
7. Decorate to your heart's desire.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Molasses Cake With Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

I read about this cake molasses cake on Agne's blog, Off The Spork. I've never eaten a molasses cake before so was really intrigued. It seems like one of those "olden days" ingredients used in eras past, at least from my knowledge of eras past through American movies haha. I don't claim to be a food historian. Anyway, Agnes raved about this cake and said I had to give it a try. I was hesitant as she described the cake as having liquorice tones, and I hate liquorice. But she said the liquorice flavours really worked so off I went to bake it.

I baked the cake, and used a smaller tin than prescribed as Agnes suggested and the cake came out nice and tall. I found the molasses in the health section of my supermarket. The molasses on it's own smells and taste really strong and not that nice. But once in the cake, it gives it this burnt liquoricey flavour that is awesome. This cake is huge and uses about 3/4 of the jar of molasses. It's a bit annoying as I don't know what to do with the remaining molasses. Maybe I can just add less of it in the next cake.

Along with the molasses, this cake also uses a cooked cream cheese frosting. I've never made that either and again wasn't sure how it would turn out. I thought it would be a bit like a white frosting where you make a flour paste, and I don't really like white frostings. However, this frosting turned out amazing. It's basically like a traditional cream cheese frosting but super duper smooth and creamy. I've usually made this version of a cream cheese frosting for all my cakes now. It is far more effort than the usual cream cheese frosting but the smooth texture is worth it.

With this cake, I decided to try and decorate it a bit nicer than usual so opted to use some toasted almonds on the outside and some flowers to decorate it. The almonds work nicely with the cake actually so I'd recommend using it if you can be bothered.

As usual, I like to try and provide some tips on the bake itself
-As Agnes suggested, a small pan does produce a nice high cake that looks better. It did take a bit longer to bake so just watch the cake in the oven.

-The quantity of molasses seems excessive but trust the recipe. It does work and the sweetness is ok. It is verging on the sweeter side so just make your cream cheese frosting a little less sweet.

-The cake has a salty taste which I do love. If you don't like that saltiness, I guess you can omit the salt, but I wouldn't recommend it.

-For the cream cheese frosting, keep whisking the flour paste until it's very smooth and quite a thick paste. You really have to beat it until it's quite cool or the cream cheese will melt into a mess when you beat it in.

-Before you ice the cake, make sure the cake has totally cooled down or the frosting does slide. The cake is really big and retains a lot of heat in the middle so just feel it to be sure it's cool.

Molasses cake with cooked cream cheese frosting

Adapted and converted to metric from The Kitchn
Serves 10

170g unsalted butter, roughly chopped
340g (1&1/2 cups) unsulphured dark or unsulphured blackstrap molasses
150g brown sugar
75g caster sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee (optional)
410g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
360ml full cream milk

Heat the oven to 175°C. Lightly grease a 23cm/9-inch springform cake pan (the original recipe stated a 25cm/10-inch pan, but I found it to be a bit flat. I’d recommend slightly smaller).

Place the butter, molasses, instant coffee (if using) and sugar into a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until the butter melts and the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the salt.

Whisk the vanilla, eggs and milk into the molasses and butter mixture to completely combine. Pour this liquid slowly into the bowl of dry ingredients and whisk to combine, making sure there are no lumps.

Pour the batter into your prepared cake tin and bake at 175°C for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean (if using a smaller pan, your cake may take slightly larger).

Let it cool and then run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake edges. Remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely being icing.

Cooked cream cheese frosting

250g full fat cream cheese, softened at room temperature for at least 1 hour
15g plain flour
110g caster sugar
pinch of salt
125ml (1/2 cup) full cream milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the soft cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed for several minutes until smooth and silky. Scrape out into a separate bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Turn the heat on to medium and slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, until it comes together in a small paste.

Whisk continuously as it comes up to simmer. It will start to thicken – keep whisking and let it simmer for a minute to thicken and turn off the heat. Scrape the flour/milk paste into your mixer bowl and turn on the mixer to whisk it on low speed for about ten minutes, or until lukewarm or cooler.

Slowly add the cream cheese and vanilla, whipping constantly. Continue whipping until it is completely combined and smooth and silky. If necessary, put the icing in the fridge for a bit to firm up before icing the cake.

Spread over the cold cake, decorate with nuts if desired, and keep the iced cake in the fridge.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chin Chin - Hip Hip Chin Chin

So who hasn't gone to Chin Chin, raise your hands?

Let me start with a random-ish diversion. Instead of wondering how the restaurant name came about, instead, the name Chin Chin just makes me think of this Club des Belugas song in which the So You Think You Can Dance contestants did the most amazing routine too. Just watch the routine, it's amazing. Then try to get the song out of your head. I bet you can't.

Anyway, Chin Chin has been one of the hottest restaurants in Melbourne for quite a while and it would seem like all of Melbourne has gone. Here is a restaurant where social media marketing has really work, and it has managed to sustain a constant stream of people wanting to go there. It's like an avalanche where once you have embedded yourself, the system has it's own momentum and other people will start tweeting/Instagramming/Facebooking for you, causing yet more people to go and do the same. I am one of those people. It took me ages to go there as I was slightly deterred by the long queues. I don't mind the no booking policy but just didn't get round to going for one reason or another.

Finally, one Sunday morning many moons ago, Agnes, Alastair, Andy and I went there for lunch. We were told by the influential and pretty I-Hua that you can snag a table on Sunday lunch without queuing if you get there right as they open. I really like sleeping in on weekends but made an exception and dragged myself there in time for opening. We indeed got a table right away. But within half an hour to an hour, the place was packed and there was a queue already. The various seating options were all filled up and the room was really buzzing. People were enjoying themselves in the industrial fitout, and sound was getting quite high.

We ordered an assortment of things to share, as you do if you're Asian. The menu also encourages sharing as the wait staff told us. We started off with the School Prawns, which were so good. Fried to crispy goodness and served with a zingy sauce. The Pork Roll Ups (think Peking Duck but with pulled pork) was quite good. The pork was elevated by the accompaniments and sauce.

The Son In Law Eggs were excellent. Crunchy outsides, soft centres and a really strong sauce with a lot of kick.

My friend Jordan recommended we order the Crispy Barramundi and Pork Salad. It was indeed a good dish, with all elements very tasty, but I found it a bit too salty. This needed a big bowl of rice to go with it.

Beef Ribs were an amazing dish. Tender and fatty, it was divine. From the larger plates, we ordered a Green Curry Chicken and a BBQ Goat dish because it sounded interesting. The curry was good but lacked some punch for me. The goat was also good in flavour and the meat very tender but way too salty for me. I could only eat a tiny bit of it before I couldn't eat any more.

By this stage, we were so full, but what the heck. I love desserts so convinced everyone to have some. We shared the Dessert Platter and the Ice Cream Sundae with Honeycomb. All the desserts were really disappointing for me. The platter had these little cakes which were not that great, some coconut jellies and caramel popcorn. Even the popcorn wasn't that good as the caramel was quite bitter. The sundae, which I had read some people really liked, was super bitter that I couldn't eat it. Maybe they burnt the same caramel? Who knows. Whatever the reason, it was not nice at all.

From all the food that we ate, I think the meal was around $50. Not too bad. Service was friendly and efficient and I think they manage the large amount of diners very well. I'd go back as there looked to be many more interesting dishes to try. I just wish a few items were a bit less salty.

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 23, 2012

Excellent Cuisinart Bread Machine

Let's establish a few things. Asians like rice. Tick. I'm Asian. Tick. I therefore like rice. Tick.

Once upon a time, I couldn't go a single meal without rice. I would feel wrong if I didn't have rice. However, as I started to get older and got to try foods from different cultures, my tastes also started to change. I could go a meal or two each day without rice. Slowly, I could go a whole day without rice. Now, I can go many days without rice. But like most humans, I love carbs. And my rice substitute of choice is most definitely bread.

I've only learned how many types of bread there are in the past few years. The varieties are endless and the flavour profiles are all so different. I love a loaf of freshly baked bread, with a nice crunchy crust which you tear into and then expose the soft internal filling. Bread can be eaten with some many things, from simply with just butter or some spread, to mopping up rich sauces from stews and casseroles, to using as a carrier for cured meats and cheeses.

With thanks to Brad from Kitchenware Direct, I was offered a Cuisinart Bread Machine to review. I've always had a preconception that bread machines are not that useful, but after using the Cuisinart, I'm a total convert. I don't know why but I always thought the bread machine mixed, kneaded and proofed the dough, but you had to bake it in the oven yourself. I also thought you had to tend to it at every stage. Imagine my surprise after reading the instruction manual (yes men do read the instruction manuals sometimes) that I learned I could throw in all the ingredients and the machine did the rest all by itself.

The Cuisinart Bread Machine is actually a really simple device. There's not much to it. It's a nice metallic box, which opens up and has a non-stick basket inside. There's a few buttons which you use to select the type of bread you're making, the size and then you hit start. It's all rather simple, which I like. If only the machine could remove the paddle that mixes the bread itself. That would really make it truly amazing.

The recipe booklet has heaps of recipes in it. All the recipes list exactly the quantity of ingredients you need, then it's a simple process of putting in the ingredients in the right order (exactly as listed in the ingredients part) and hitting a few buttons. Below is what I needed to throw in for my banana bread. I timed it and from taking out all the ingredients, measuring them, and throwing it all into the bread machine, it was easily under 30 minutes. If only I could eat a whole banana bread as my dinner. Then it would really be one of those 30 minute dinners. Unfortunately, banana bread does have a tiny bit of sugar and butter so it's probably best to just eat a slice. Also like those rapid dinners in many cookbooks, there are other time factors they don't count. In this case, the reality is that although the mixing part takes 30 minutes, the baking part does take a bit of time and is slower than an oven. The banana bread takes 90 minutes to bake, and I would estimate that an oven would take half as much time.

The banana bread is super awesome with such a light crumb and wonderful flavour. Similarly, the carrot bread is amazing too. Spread with some good butter, both breads are stunning for breakfast or afternoon tea. I've made them so many times already, probably nearly 10 times in the past few months. I may have put on a couple of kilos in weight. So yes, there is a deadly side to this Cuisinart Bread Machine.

I made the plain white loaf and that too had such a great flavour. I put it down to the good French butter that I used. I served it in a variety of ways, each tasting amazing.

I've gone on to make a variety of rolls, pumpkin bread and just weird stuff I've thrown into the bread. I'm yet to make my durian bread, but that is coming soon. I'm trying to work out which recipe to use and substitute the durian in. I totally love this machine and it has really made me enjoy bread even more. There is nothing that can compare to freshly baked bread, both in taste and the wonderful aroma. You can throw all the ingredients into the machine the night before, set the timer to cook it and wake up to enjoy the most wonderful fresh bread. The smell is truly intoxicating. Spread some plain butter onto the bread and I swear, you too will have a Religious Food Experience (RFE), where the simplicity is so delicious you would literally close your eyes and just savoured the flavour and go "mmmmmmm". Perfect.

I received the bread machine courtesy of Kitchenware Direct.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Taste Of Melbourne 2012 - Rejuvenated And Lots Of Fun

Sometimes, things get a bit stale and boring and need a change to help rejuvenate it. From my blog post about Taste of Melbourne 2011, I had identified a number of things that I didn't like and was feeling far from excited about the next year's festival. Luckily, the Taste of Melbourne organisers also decided a few things needed to be changed to improve it. They made the big move to turn the previously indoor festival into an outdoor one, with the festival being held at Albert Park this year. That decision carries with it a lot of risk, but I happy to say it paid off. I really liked this year's festival and had lots of fun and a huge part of that was having it outdoors.

I was invited to attend a Thursday blogger's session by Hot House Media where we were shown around a few restaurant stalls and attend a few different classes. I also went back again on Friday with my friends courtesy of free entry tickets I got. From the two days I attended, as well as the preview session at The Point, I got to try probably 60% of the restaurant food. I must say that this year's offerings were far more exciting than last years. I think the food items were simpler and had more variety to cater to all tastes.

The festival moving outdoors carried with it the big risk of the unpredictable Melbourne weather. Fortunately, besides a few short showers, it was pretty much sunshine for the 4 days. That's not to say that the nights weren't cold, as a jacket was definitely needed. A few areas had heat lamps but otherwise it was an open outdoor event and affected by the elements. I hate to think what it would have been like if it had rain hard as there were minimal coverage at each stall and only a few larger covered areas, usually belonging to various stallholders. For next year, they might need to have some communal covered areas, even if to shield from the sun as I know a few people got sunburnt during the day and ended up a bit like Rhonda.

The simple four row layout of the outdoor event was a real plus. It made finding things super easy for the directionally challenged like me. The rows were also very wide so there were very few congestion problems. Probably the only slight congestion was near the Mamasita/The Aylesbury area were there were huge queues. There were also huge queues at Movida but since there was a lot of space there, that didn't cause a problem. Luckily, while the path around Mamasita was blocked up, you could easily cut across to the next row and still walk past. This was not possible last year and was a cause of one of my biggest frustrations. I would say I easily wasted 50% of the time trying to maneuver myself to the restaurant stalls to buy food. And 4 hours passes by really fast. Maybe for next year, they can move the popular stalls to near the corners to avoid passageway congestion.

This year, the VIP lounge was sponsored by Laurent-Perrier. While it was beautiful inside, once again I think it was badly positioned. It sat in the furthermost corner of the event, near the toilets no less, and hence very few people were inclined to stay there and there was no atmosphere at all. It was a sad and lonely place rather than the exclusive place that everyone would want to be at. Let's face it, part of the VIP experience is to be seen, such that others will envy you. The place to put the lounge would be either where the Rekoderlig bar (who by the way have this new orange and ginger cider which is super refreshing) or San Pellegrino tent were. From there, you can easily walk to everything and be seen by everyone around the restaurant stalls. All eyes would be on the VIP lounge and wishing they were there too. It's just simple human behaviour at work. I bet you then that VIP ticket would be the most sought after thing.

One ticket that was sought after was the Sensology - The Art of Cocktail Making classes. It cost $10 (I was invited and got to do the classes for free) to attend the class. From the class, you learn to make one specific cocktail, which you then get to drink. It was the same price as buying the cocktail alone, so I'm sure you can work out what everyone wanted to do. Tickets were snapped up really fast. The classes were heaps of fun. Let's face it, who doesn't like mixing up a cocktail and shaking it like you're Tom Cruise from the movie Cocktail. From the two classes, I learned to make a Mojito and a Whisky Sour. Both were really easy to make and I'm definitely making them at home. I can't believe how many variants of drinks you can make from a few simple spirits. By the way, can anyone tell me which famous/popular/influential/pretty blogger whose back is in the centre of the photo below?

Lastly, we get onto the restaurant food and the food product stalls. For the food stalls, I won't say too much as they're similar food stalls that travel around the various festivals. There is a huge assortment of stuff and I'm sure there is something that will take your interest. The various wine and beer stalls were really interesting and I tried a lot of exciting new wines and beers that I hadn't had before, which I will now seek out.

As for the restaurants, as I said before, I really liked this year's offering. I won't discuss every dish as they were mostly very good. Instead I'll just highlight a few I really loved. Below you see can see DAT ASS, DAT ASS. What a beautiful sight a whole suckling pig on a spit is. The Point Albert Park did a great job with their suckling pig and it was a great dish.

The highlight dish of the event for me would be the Dorper Lamb Ribs, Pea and Mint from The Aylesbury. Super tender flavoursome ribs melted off the bone, and at $6 was one of the cheapest items at the festival as well.

The Beetroot Cured Salmon, Vanilla and Lime Pickled Cucumber, Horseradish Cream from Livingroom was another excellent dish. The salmon was super tasty and combined perfectly with the accompaniments.

Lastly on the dessert front, this Summer Berry Eton Mess from Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar was simple perfection. It was light, fresh, sweet and just perfect for this time of year.

Of course, with all the top chefs floating about the festival, I had to get a shot with at least one of them, and who better than the amazing Frank Camorra.

So let me wrap up with post with some final views. While nearly everyone that I've followed on Twitter and Instagram looked to have liked and loved the food, myself included, the biggest complaint has been the cost. I have made the same complaints about the cost, one example being the delicious, but tiny piece of pork I got from Taxi. As I wrote last year, I can see why the restaurants need to price the items as such. I'm sure they're probably not even making a profit. The problem with all of us is that we tend to compare these items to their cheaper counterparts at other food festivals. The problem is we forget that these restaurants are using quality ingredients, and the chefs would normally be at work in the restaurants so in a sense the consumer needs to subsidise their cost as other chefs would be needed back at the restaurant to serve the normal diners.

Having thought about it for a while, I've come to this conclusion. Yes, with the money that I spent at the festival (and I got in for free even), I could have easily eaten at a good restaurant, but would I have had the same experience? I would say no. I wouldn't be able to say that I've tried the Mamasita corn, or The Point suckling pig, or The Aylesbury lamb ribs. All the restaurants worked together to produce a different experience. The food is not as good as what each restaurant would normally do as they are lacking the right equipment, but it's still very good food and you still have a great time. Melbourne doesn't have many food festivals where most of the state's top restaurants come together for one big event. Even with the Melbourne Food and Wine festival, the festival is split over many events. So, with the change in the setting to an outdoor event, I felt really relaxed and there was a real carnival atmosphere such that I really enjoyed myself. So despite the high costs, I would say it gave an experience that I couldn't get dining at just one restaurant. It's not solely about the food anymore, but the sum of the parts and the overall experience, which was a lot of fun.

So I conclude this post by hoping you had a good time at Taste of Melbourne if you went. If you didn't like some aspects, why not email the website like I did last year. You never know what opinions they may take to improve next year's event. If you didn't go this year, I hope you will try it out next year. I'm looking forward to going to next year's Taste of Melbourne festival and hopefully I'll see you there.

I attended a Thursday blogger session courtesy of Hot House Media and Taste of Melbourne and received free tickets for Friday's session.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

WTC Wharf Progressive Dinner + Giveaway Dining Voucher

This post is Sponsored by Nuffnang.

WTC Wharf
World Trade Centre (Riverside)
Siddeley Street
Melbourne 3005

When some people go to restaurants, they like to order the same thing. Me, I want to try everything on the menu. I like trying out different flavours and seeing what works and taste good. Hence, a progressive dinner is my type of thing. Within one meal, you can try out many types of cuisine. I was invited to join in the WTC Wharf Progressive Dinner with my fellow bloggers Kim, Agnes, April, I-Hua and Joyce.

WTC Wharf, if you haven't been, is opposite the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and across the road from Crown Casino. It's sits serenely along the Yarra River and is a wharf edge dining precinct. It's easily accessible via the bridge from Spencer Street, with parking lots located right behind the wharf. For a bit of fun, you can even get to the wharf via the WTC water taxi service. How's that for arriving in style, James Bond style.

We started our progressive dinner at Byblos Bar, a stylish Lebanese restaurant. The restaurant was decorated in very striking colours and I liked the various lights and decorations in the restaurant. We were seated at a comfortable booth table, which was beautifully in-laid with tiles. A good way to start any meal is with cocktails, so we all got some. I went for my usual favourite, a mojito, but with a twist. Instead of rum, gin was used. I thought the gin really worked and I loved the drink.

For entrees, we shared a series of "mezat". The entrees were a sensory feast for the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, with so many flavours, smells and textures. The dishes comprised of simple items like Grilled Haloumi, Fattoush (salad), Dips and the most amazing Roasted Potatoes with Garlic, to more complex dishes like Cheese Filled Filo Pastry, Ground Meat Parcels, Grilled Lamb and Chicken Skewers and finally Quail with Pomegranate Molasses. All the food was good, but my two standout items were the amazing potatoes and the tender and smokey lamb skewers.

After the entrees, we were all quite full already. But being the troopers we are, it was off to Kobe Jones for mains. The large rectangular room is setup for teppanyaki, with the chefs in the middle serving, and entertaining the crowd. The room does get a little bit smokey, so I'd leave the cashmere cardigan at home if I were you.

We started this part of the meal with some Yuzu Sake. It was sour, sweet and refreshing. Then it was oysters with a soy dressing for all, except April, who dislikes them so more for me. Happy days. We then had a really beautiful "meaty" mushroom salad. The mushrooms were cooked perfectly and tasted great. I wish I hadn't eaten so much of them as I was really getting full. When the beautifully tender beef and perfectly cooked salmon came out, I only managed to eat half of it. The dish came with three dipping sauces, ponzu, citrus miso and teriyaki. I think it was unanimous that the citrus miso was the best and paired really well with the beef and fish. I had yet another mojito, but this time the alcoholic component was sake. This mojito was really smooth and softer than usual and delicious. I-Hua wasn't as lucky in her choice of cocktails, with her selection tasting a bit like cough medicine.

We struggled the twenty steps to the next location, the Wharf Hotel, for dessert. The hotel was buzzing with noise and people. You can have a drink outside on the deck, or sit inside and have a drink while watching the footy. The last option is to sit at the tables to eat food and/or dessert. We were here solely for dessert, and dessert I found space for. The spare stomach I store away for dessert came in handy once again, as I got to try the Sticky Date Pudding and Apple Pie. The sticky date pudding was really nice and moist and the sauce was sticky and sweet as it should be. I didn't like the Apple Pie as much as I'm quite sensitive to cinnamon and found it was flavoured too strongly with cinnamon, in both the pie and ice cream. The pastry of the pie was good and the ice cream smooth but cinnamon just assaulted me from all angles and I'm not a fan of strong cinnamon flavour. We washed down dessert with some wine.

That concluded our very plentiful WTC Wharf Progressive Dinner. I was so full and could hardly move. I liked the different flavours and vibe I got at each location. It was a good mix and highly enjoyable. Being a super short walk across all three venues, there was no rush either to get to the next destination in time. With the warm weather that night, it was a perfect way to eat good food and soak up some beautiful weather along the wharf.


To celebrate the WTC Wharf Progressive Dinner, I'm happy to give away a $100 WTC Wharf Dining Voucher. You can use it at any of the restaurants along the wharf.

To enter, all you have to is leave a comment answering the question:
If you were to go to the WTC Wharf which restaurant would you go to?

Please make sure there is a way I can contact you. If I can't reach you, I can't give you the prize.

The most creative answer will be selected by WTC Wharf as the winner.

Conditions of Entry
- One entry per person.
- Competition closes Nov 16th.
- The winner will be contacted directly.
- For full Terms and Conditions, see here.