Monday, 13 August 2007

Review: Don Too

I have been Sashi-Don'd to death.

Yes, I finally made it to Don Too today, after extreme indecisiveness over where to have lunch. I told myself, "If it's closed, then you resort to buying a sourdough roll, queso manchego and quince paste at David Jones' Food Hall and DIY lunch". Alas, it was still open, not too busy - indeed, I had it all to myself until the very last few minutes - and I embarked on the monster that is the Sashi Don.

Which was fantastic, and beautiful, and ridiculously quickly served, and incredibly good value...but too much for my puny appetite.

(I won't even begin to explain how indecisive I was by listing all the places I considered. And actually, since I wasn't really hungry enough beforehand, I sort of wish I had done DIY lunch. Owww.)

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Review: Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander

Last month I finally persuaded myself to venture out of my hermitage, lured by the prospect of the Yarra Valley Farmers' Market at Yering Station, and Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander in Healesville.

My first step was, rather sensibly I thought, to forego breakfast. This is because one cannot help grazing one's way around the market - samples of jams, chutneys, fudge, panforte, bread, fruit cake, grape paste etc etc were, as ever, irresistible.

We left with grape jus, two Cunliffe + Waters chutneys, a christmas pudding. In hindsight, the restraint was admirable.

Undaunted by sugar-induced nausea, we made our way to Healesville. I was in major indecision mode, flummoxed by the possibilities of the GS/IB breakfast menu versus their standard fare. Tempted as I was by the thought of poached eggs, sourdough with Jam Lady jam, bircher museli, or poached seasonal fruit with sheep's yogurt... in the end this was all academic because by 11.45am they seem to have decreed that breakfast was over.

A brief perusal of the menu ensued, and I went for smoked salmon on sourdough.

(Two asides. One, though I call myself vegetarian this is not strictly true as I eat fish. However, as one cannot guarantee when eating outside of the home that a fish dish isn't contaminated by mammalian or avian bits, it's safer to say 'vegetarian'. Two, I am very dull and will usually go for a smoked salmon option if available, because I adore the stuff. Oliver Sacks was asked as a child what his favourite things were - he replied "Smoked salmon and Bach", and these are still apparently his favourites.)

Although it was pretty busy - lots of groups of lunchers already - service was incredibly prompt. We were brought water (without asking - hurrah!), glasses, fresh sourdough, Murray River salt flakes, a peppermill and a bowl of olive oil. The bread, which we've bought before, was fantastic - excellent flavour, good holey crumb, and an amazing silky texture. I mentally noted that they use Laucke organic unbleached flour. The bread and accompaniments are gratis when you order any meal - thumbs up!

We didn't have to wait long for the order to arrive. The sourdough (again, divine) was a 3cm slab, slathered with sour cream, topped with capers, a generous portion of salmon (satiny; melted in the mouth), shaved red onion and artfully arranged fresh herbs (chives, dill, and something else).

Magnificent, and simple. And incredibly reasonable at $9.

We left with a loaf of sourdough and a packet of Beurre d'Isigny butter. Because there is nothing better than French butter with proper bread.

It gets busy and noisy. There are a few properly vegetarian options, but not an abundance. I'd wager anything is good, though, and I did appreciate the jazz.

I didn't try their coffee this time, but I will next. Rather impressively, it's roasted on the premises. Similarly, I'd be interested to try their pizzas, or the smoked trout salad, if I don't make it for breakfast next time. Then there's the story of their cheese room...

I have high standards (hate it when they're not met), especially when it comes to staples like bread and smoked salmon - I was, unusually, not in the least bit disappointed. Hooray!

Monday, 6 August 2007

Frozen pears

Yesterday I poached a lot of pears. Eleven beurre boscs, in fact. I reserved four, which are stashed in the fridge for filling crepes later in the week.

The remaining seven went into the freezer, topped up with reduced poaching liquid.

Two things I've discovered this morning:
1. Frozen poached pear is delicious. I can really taste the cinnamon and vanilla; and
2. The frozen poaching syrup has become a rather divine sorbet. Which is not really surprising, if you think about what a sorbet actually is.

In warmer weather, frozen pears and a bit of pseudo-sorbet would be a lovely dessert.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Blogging Quickie

I've been so lazy about blogging, but as I have another imminent MA deadline I'm sure there'll be a flurry of activity in the next three weeks.

In the meantime, here's a dreadful photo of a freak mushroom I had in England - it has two stems! It is the Chernobyl Mushroom!
As for cooking, I have had some successes and disasters.

Disaster: no-knead bread. Flat and disappointing crumb, owing to not using a sufficiently gluten-rich flour mixture and too-large a Le Creuset. I think my yeast is moribund, too.

Success: Chocolate, coffee and walnut tart that was in the most recent issue of The Age's Melbourne magazine, a la L'Oustal. I'm not that fussed about chocolate but the walnut and coffee filling is delicious.

Success: Apple custard tart. I'll dig out the recipe, shortly, because it's worth sharing. This tart was superb!

Success: Boiled potatoes dressed with walnut oil and wholegrain mustard. Yes, just mix and serve. Fabulous.

Success (I think): Mega-pear-poaching session, owing to Coles having beurre bosc pears for 50¢ a kilo. Poached as per Shannon Bennett's My Vue method.

Review: I tried Spiga at Melbourne Central on Friday. Shared a prawn pizza (not enough prawns and a bit greasy for my ascetic tastes, but otherwise a great crust) and pear & raspberry crumble. The crumble was too sweet for me (no surprise there), but otherwise pretty good. My short macchiato was excellent. Seems like a pretty reasonable place to go to, IMO.