Joe Grbac from Saint Crispin – Great Chefs event at William Angliss Institute

wine

Earlier this month I took a trip back to my old stomping ground, William Angliss Institute, to enjoy a three course lunch prepared by the Institute’s final year cookery students. The Great Chefs program gives these students the chance to cook under the guidance of some of Melbourne’s best chefs and on this occasion, the Great Chef was Joe Grbac of Saint Crispin – the venue which took out the “Best New Restaurant” award at this year’s Good Food Guide awards.

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Slippery jack and pine mushroom, slow cooked pullet egg, goats curd, parmesan consomme, black venere rice

Wine match – Devil’s Lair ‘The Hidden Cave’ Chardonnay

Two of the three dishes we were served are actually available right now on the Saint Crispin menu – the entree and the dessert – which is good news, because this entree was incredibly moreish (the flavours were lick-the-plate good). It would be a great dish for vegetarians, with those rich, robust slippery jack and pine mushrooms the star of the show. A great example of how different textures are just as important as different flavours, we were treated to soft, creamy egg and goats curd, the meaty texture of the mushrooms, and the crunch of the black rice.

porkPork jowl and neck with heirloom carrots, fennel, curried golden raisin, cumin vinaigrette 

Wine match – St Huberts ‘The Stag’ Pinot Noir

This was a beautiful main that combined modern-day favourites like fennel and crispy pork with old school flavour combinations – the raisins and carrots reminded me of a comforting, home cooked meal that my Mum or Nana might cook. The pork was perfectly cooked; the meat was soft and moist and came with plenty of golden, crispy rind.

10330301_244959245710309_885702404439633714_nHazelnut parfait, crispy phyllo pastry, compressed apple, roasted pear, apricot and chamomile, rosemary flowers

Wine match – T’Gallant ‘Juliet’ Moscato

A great mix of delicate flavours resulted in a dessert that was subtle and just sweet enough – and again, an example of textures being used well. My favourite part was the compressed apple, little balls of green fruit that were nice and tart and refreshing at the end of the meal.

Three course lunches with wine are $50 per person, while dinner consists of four courses and wine for $80 per person. At that price, the Great Chefs program gives diners a great opportunity to try menus designed by some of our city’s best and most-loved chefs, support Angliss students, as well as have the chance to meet the chefs themselves and hear them speak about their specially created menus. Still to come in this year’s program – Movida’s Frank Camorra, Spice Temple’s Ben Pollard and Union Food & Wine’s Stuart McVeigh.

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September Dining Round-Up

Excellent pepper steak with great crispy chips at Montmartre Cafe

After spending the first half of September in Queensland, mostly pigging out on steaks…

AMAZING rainbow and mint chic chip ice creams with sprinkle cones at Sea World

ice creams…

My favourite kebabs EVER in the whole world at Sahara – we went back more times than I’d like to admit…

kebabs…

We’d heard that BBQ Baron was supposed to be a pretty decent burger joint but this experience was very average.

and burgers…

French Vanilla Pancakes – stack of 3 pancakes with butter and maple syrup ($10, fruit and ice cream extra)

….I got back into the (only slightly) healthier meals once I returned home to Geelong and back to reality. This month there were some great breakfasts, starting with Biagio’s – a relaxed yet professional Italian dining room in Niddrie. Jono’s pancakes were pretty much flawless, fluffy and hot served with real maple syrup and generous portions of fruit and ice cream.

Eggs Florentine – 2 softly poached eggs with spinach and hollandaise sauce on a toasted English muffin ($10).

My eggs florentine brekky was great too, and the hollandaise – although not the best I’ve had – was laced with wholegrain mustard, making for a nice twist to the famous sauce.

 

Lemon meringue pie ($13)

 

Armageddon Cake is a cute little dessert bar that opened in late 2011 and, despite hearing rave reviews, I only managed to get myself down there a few weeks ago. We should have visited sooner – the venue is more ‘lounge’ than ‘bar’; in fact, it’s just like being in a friend’s lounge room. Jono loved it as he got to sink into one of the big, old, comfy chairs in the front corner and relax with a hot chocolate and a massive piece of cake. As well as the pie, we had an excellent sticky date pudding, and the coffees and peach nectar were delicious too. Armageddon Cake’s friendly staff serve up an ever-changing menu Thursday to Saturday from 8pm-11pm. It’s a much needed nightspot for Geelong – I love that they don’t even open until many of Geelong’s restaurants are closing their kitchens.

 

63 big brekky with scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, spinach, hash brown & kransky sausage on zeally bay sourdough toast w side of 63 baked beans ($21).

and

Sweet potato & bacon hash cakes with roasted beetroot relish, rosemary & feta scrambled egg with chive hollandaise ($16.5)

You can’t really go wrong when it comes to breakfast and brunch at 63 Degrees. Generally, both the Highton and Pakington Street stores get it right and I couldn’t help but revisit an old favourite, the sweet potato and bacon hash cakes. I love this meal; the hash cakes are beautiful little balls of carbs that go perfecctly with the fresh beetroot relish, the scrambled eggs are always creamy and the hollandaise sauce at 63 is probably my favourite in Geelong. Jono was equally happy with his big, man sized breakfast.

 

Two scrambled eggs on sourdough with smoked salmon and hollandaise ($15.50)

The new Winter’s spring menu is fantastic – it has some really interesting breakfast choices that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in Geelong, like an open crab omelette with fresh papaya salad, or vodka cured salmon gravlax on charred rye with sauce vierge, cottage cheese and micro herbs. On this occasion, however, I was craving a simple breakfast of eggs and smoked salmon, again with my old favourite, hollandaise – I reckon Winter’s takes second place in the unofficial “ravenous melbourne’s Best Hollandaise in Geelong” competition.

 

Jono and I took a trip to my old neighbourhood, Port Melbourne, for lunch before catching the VFL semi final. I’ve only been up that way a handful of times since moving back to Geelong two years ago, and it was interesting to see how many of the local cafes are no longer there or have changed hands. Port Melbourne can be a really funny place for dining out and it took us a while to settle on a venue. Creme was nothing spectacular, but it did the job – we ordered a big, carb-y lunch of pasta, Turkish bread and arancini balls. The portions were big and good value, and while this place won’t have you raving, it’s a quick, reliable option with lots of menu choice.

 

And it wouldn’t be a round up without a few dishes from my work at The Shed @ Terindah Estate – this month for staff lunches we’ve been treated to some really beautiful eye fillet served simply as is, or in a fresh salad accompanied by organic chicken, confit garlic bread and Andy Pye’s famous Russian potato salad.

Pei Modern – my new favourite

Pei Modern

45 Collins Street

Melbourne

VIC 3000

(03) 9654 8545

I’ve been far too busy lately to attend to the backlog of draft posts waiting to be published on this blog, but I have to share these images from Mark Best’s Pei Modern – my new favourite restaurant.

These photos are from Pei Modern’s mini degustation, excellent value at $50 per person.

Parmesan, anchovy shortbread

Blue swimmer crab, almond gazpacho

Seared calamari, spinach puree

Pork, quince, radicchio

Vanilla bean ice cream, rhubarb


Sorrel ice cream

I’ve been to Pei Modern twice now and ordered this gazpacho both times – it’s fantastic, with each flavour component (the smooth, creamy gazpacho; the soft crab; the fresh, crisp grapes and the strong taste of the coriander) playing its part and working in harmony with all the other ingredients. I love this restaurant for the way it provides really beautiful, innovative meals at an excellent price, and I love that you can come for breakfast, lunch or dinner or just have a bite at the Pei Bar. As well as the amazing food, the venue itself is great and the team is solid – Sommelier-manager Ainslie Lubbock recently took out the Good Food Guide’s Service Excellence Award, and Pei Modern itself won Best New Restaurant. Congrats to an excellent and very worthy team.

A morning in Williamstown at The Pickle Barrel

The Pickle Barrel

60 Ferguson Street

Williamstown

VIC 3016

Ph: (03) 9399 8338

In the trendy seaside town of Williamstown lies The Pickle Barrel, a cosy cafe and deli serving up a huge range of brekky options, ready to go foods and antipasto-type goodies. Fellow ex-William Angliss student Holly and I met up half way-ish between Warrandyte and Geelong to try out this little cafe.

The new Pickle Barrel – prosciutto, roasted tomato, poached eggs with pesto ($12.90)

A simple idea but a stunning combination of flavours, the new Pickle Barrel was a hit for me. My perfectly poached eggs spilt out bright just-runny-enough yolk to soften the pesto-smothered sourdough bread. Good quality prosciutto is kept simple, served on the side, and the roast tomato adds a freshness to the plate, cutting through the rich flavours of the basil and of the meat.

The big one – bacon, sausage, hash brown, baked beans, eggs and roasted tomatoes ($16.90)

Holly made a few modifications to her meal – she asked for hollandaise sauce instead of the baked beans, and for her poached eggs to be cooked very well through. Both requests were met. This Italian-influenced cafe has a reputation across melbourne for their excellent eggs and we were both very satisfied with the way ours were cooked.

A selection of the ready to go meals at The Pickle Barrel, like tuna patties, risotto balls, foccacias, and baguettes, as well as sweet items, ranging in price from about $3-$9.

The Pickle Barrel has over a dozen breakfast options, ranging from traditional Eggs Benedict or bircher muesli, through to fresh ricotta pancakes or crispy stacks of pancetta, rocket, eggs and asparagus.  Its a cute cafe with small and communal tables, good coffee and  a friendly vibe on buzzing Ferguson Street. At $16.90 for their big breakfast, value here is good too, with many cafes around the city nowadays charging $20+ for similar meals.

It’s a venue that gets mixed reviews – there have been reports of cold breakfasts and slow service, as well as great coffee and friendly staff.  Our experience was good, but we did dine mid morning on a weekday – it would be interesting to come back on a Saturday at 9am and see if the cafe still holds up.

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