Sunday, May 18, 2014

A celebration of mushrooms! Pod cafe

The second Pod cafe special dinner that I've attended was all about mushrooms (with a meat main course option to keep the carnivores happy :))

The restaurant looked beautiful with really pretty candelabras on the main tables. 
No live music this time but didn't really notice :)

My view for the evening 

The appetiser was a mushroom soup with truffle oil served in a niccolo mug. Drank as is - was very tasty!

The entree was a collection of wild mushrooms (slippery jacks springs to mind, but I can't recall all the mushroom varieties despite being told.  Definately not ones you'd find at the supermarket!).  Served with a goats curd which was complimented the mushrooms nicely.  The bread was a sourdough with beetroot (and apparently hazlenut?).  Very tasty! Sourced locally.

Next up the usual palette cleanser

We then got a bit of a spiel about mushrooms from (I think Ben?) who was starting his mushroom business.  Learnt a lot about the bad mushrooms to avoid. Unfortunately being in the corner I couldn't see the mushrooms he was holding up, but got some photos of his mushroom display. The guy did well with his talk as someone called out pretty early on that he was so cute, and a few other tables started their own conversation, probably because we couldn't really see him as he talked.

I imagine these are the bad ones!! They had some cool names though. The night cap and something angel.

For the main course there was a choice of two (made prior to the evening).  Here's the beef wellington option, with the beef cooked to perfection, a paste of mushrooms and a tasty sauce. Served with baby vegetables.  This definately filled me up! And I was glad that the mushrooms took on a minor role in this course.

Here's the vegetable option - which tasted creamy and very tasty. It contained mushroom, ricotta and asparagus and again the mushroom wasn't overpowering in this dish.

The next course was the cheese course.  So so good. There were two types of cheese, quince, mushroom pate and muscatels (which tasted a bit crunchy for my liking - maybe I was going it wrong!). The cheese both had very distinctive flavours.  Whilst we tried the mushroom pate, I think we'd had enough mushrooms and focused on cheese for the little space that remained in our bellies!

The triple cream cheese went superbly with the apricot (I think) bread, and I used the gluten free crackers for the other strong double Gloucester cheese (and pate).  Was amazing the difference in taste when having the cheese on the bread as opposed to the crackers.  This course defeated us (although we got through all the triple cream :)) There had been an  option to try port with this course but I stuck with my two glasses of pinot noir.

Next up was chocolate truffles and the option of a coffee although we opted for a hot chocolate which tasted amazing.

And the hot chocolate (with varying designs on top of the drinks)

I think there was also a post-dinner whiskey option but I was so full I felt like I was going to explode.

It was a fantastic night full of awesome food, great service and great company.  I even got chatting to my chair neighbour whilst my friend went off to the bathroom so it was just a great friendly atmosphere.  I look forward to the next one :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

French Baguette cafe, Footscray

So after noticing something new and shiney in Footscray, decided to go check out a new French Baguette place with some local chicks from Twitter.

I thought it a little odd to have a French cafe in footscray but to their credit they did have some western style looking baguettes (with ham, cheese and tomato) made up, but I opted for the vietnamese roll.  With pork and the other bits that usually go into the vietnamese rolls (this was my first so there was a little confusion when I was trying to order but eventually got there :)).

They have separate sections for ordering hot food, paying for the serve yourself food (pastries & cakes - bread top style), and drinks. They also had a wide range of food.  There was even an option of ordering pizzas!  They also had egg and bacon rolls which a couple of people from the table had.

The roll tasted awesome.  Really nice flavour to it and the bread tasted fresh. Bargain for $3.50.

I ordered an iced coffee but forgot the magic "vietnamese" word when ordering so I got a western style iced coffee.  They do have vietnamese iced coffee there if you order it properly.  Someone else I went with did the same thing as me too :)  Some of the drinks come with a fancy swizzel stick in them! Interesting that when one woman's drink got dropped off the guy tried to take an additional two numbers with him, but we sorted that out!

I also tried a strawberry tart.  The tart case seemed a little crumbly/soggy but overall it tasted nice.  I probably would try something else or avoid dessert like I should :)

It's a decent sized place with outdoor seating, indoor seating and we spotted seating upstairs.  The place was kid friendly although maybe too kid friendly with a little kid behind us screaming his lungs out whilst whoever was looking after him ignored him.  The kids who came in our group though were awesomely behaved :)  Next time I'm looking for a roll or coffee and cake I'll head back!

For Lauren's more experienced review (and correct terminology for the rolls) check out:

French Baguette Cafe
Cnr Albert and Barkly Streets, Footscray

Cafe Giraffe

Whilst hunting for food places to try for our Friday work lunch found this article on Cafe Giraffe:

So quirky looking - just had to go try it.  The front room is where food gets prepared (and where you order) with the back room being the room featured in the broadsheet article.  The tree in the back looks real until you have a close inspection but very cool.

There were also a bunch of interesting items around the room - such as a variety of salt and pepper shakes, a polar bear wine holder (which I have at home), and heaps more on shelves, on the wall and piled towards the back. The tree was also decorated with items and notes. I'd like to say I took this photo intentionally blurry to protect the identity of the people dining there... or y'know to be arty.

When we walked in we were handed 2 menus and told to order at the counter.  One ended up being the food menu, the other the drinks and dessert menu so they have quite a range.  It seemed a little odd that they had asian dishes and pasta but I don't think it would have been a traditional italian style pasta after having the lasagne.  The "kitchen" equipment seems pretty basic but they do a good job with it.

My work buddy ordered the shepherd's pie with salad, and I got the chicken lasagne with salad.  The shepherd's pie had a choice of salad or mash, which I thought was a bit odd as it's not shepherd's pie without the layer of potato on it.  But turns out the shepherd's pie with mash, came with potato on top of the pie, and mash on the side (as one guy ordered on a nearby table).  The contents of the pie seemed pretty similar to my lasagne in that it was grated vegetables and meat (not in obvious chunks).

The filling tasted sweet in both of our dishes.  Unfortunately my lasagne failed the "is it hot in the middle test" which a lot of places fail at.  But the staff were apologetic and quickly heated it up after I took it out to them. The salad looked and tasted very fresh and the iced mocha I got was nice.

I forgot to check in to Foursquare before my meal but the tips for this place include the chicken and vegetable pie, creme brulee and the chocolate pudding. The chocolate fondue sounded pretty tempting.  The staff here are very friendly and the food was cheap in comparison to other city venues.  I paid $8.50 for my lasagne and salad and was full after eating it.  If I went back I'd try something else though.  I wish they had some music playing in the back room.  It initially felt awkward carrying on a conversation as the room was so quiet - although that didn't stop the table next to us who proceeded to have a video chat with headphones on on their phone.  I missed that they had games available to play (just having re-read the broadsheet article).

Cafe Giraffe
302 Little Lonsdale 

Paco's Tacos

On a nice sunny day I had a hankering for Mexican when heading to lunch with a friend so she suggested this place:

It's set up outside Movida, prices are not cheap but on par with other mexican in the CBD and the mexican food trucks.  The quality of the food is good though.  I think they might be owned by Movida or at least have a close relationship with them. They have a few tables under shelter, and other tables scattered around the courtyard, some with umbrellas.

Their nachos are really quite filling.  The tacos I would need a few to feel satisfied.  Last time I went I ordered a small nachos and two tacos (chorizo and prawn).

This was more than enough food for me but also an expensive weekday lunch. As you can see by the photos the food looks quite healthy.  Everything comes out in baskets which is cute too.  I like that it's outside so you can especially enjoy it on a nice weather day although last time I went I had smokers lighting up next to me. Thankfully they wandered away from their table and I could enjoy my lunch smoke free.  I wish Melbourne had non-smoking outdoor cafe areas. Completely unrelated to this place - just a general whinge :)

Here's some previous dishes that I've eaten:

Staff are friendly, even asking if I enjoyed the food as clearing up the baskets.  Just get their early to try to beat the queue to order food and secure a table.  They do serve alcohol here - but I remember the margarita being pricey (though I'm sure they use a higher standard tequila) so have only had it once. Very tasty food.

Pacos Tacos
Lvl 1 500 Bourke St (up the stairs from Little Bourke St)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Flavour Exchange, Fed Square

A quarterly event I hadn't heard of until I got an email at work looking for more people to go so we could enjoy a 10 person discount.

Read more about it here:

Sometimes you go to something like this and you quickly run out of tokens, but I ended up giving 1 away at the end so obviously picked good ways to spend them. It seemed like you were supposed to get a certain number of food and certain number of drink tokens but I was just handing out tokens that all seemed to be the same.  Probably just as well as I spent more than 4 tokens on food.

So it's set up under cover but outside next to the Atrium in Fed Square, with a bunch of stalls offering a variety of food and drink.  I was a bit slack in taking photos so don't have everything that I tried photographed.

First off was a wine tasting at Indigo Vineyard at Beechworth.  Their Pinot Grigio was quite refreshing on a hot afternoon.  They also had a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese.  Of the two reds I probably preferred the Sangiovese.  1 token for a tasting, and they were generous sized tastings. Also enjoyed a bit of the history of the vineyard from someone at the stall.

Next up was cheese. I'm guessing it was Goldfields Cheese based on the stall listing (forgot to grab a photo).   First up was an ash (I think) coated cheese served on bread which was enjoyable. They had a white mould cheese (I think the pyrenees view) which was nice.  They also had a cheese they described as being a blue cheese without the blue (and that had a decent kick to it). Plus two blue cheeses.  The one that was more darker (more orange) in colour has a really nice kick to it.  I'm not usually a blue cheese fan but would eat that. Maybe the St Barbara? But would have to go taste them again.

Next up Coopers Handmade Pies for a wagyu beef and beer pie. It was just a small pie but very tasty.  Looking at their website you can order online and get pies delivered.   You can even join their VIP club for free.

From there someone wanted to head to the stage area where they were about to do some kind of presentation, so we moved along the stalls to where a small area was set up for presentations.  Whilst queueing for pasta I heard a bit about Pinot Grigio/Gris and saw what the grapes looked like.  There was also a cooking demonstration but I didn't notice too much about that.  Smelt good though.

The pasta was from The Natural Pasta House.  Was a decent wait as they would cook a dish at a time (ie. they finished the spaghetti and meatballs before I got to the front but then had lasagna ready).  1 token for the spaghetti and meatballs (and gnocchi with bolognese sauce which I went back for later) and 2 tokens for the lasagna.  Best lasagna I've had in ages, pasta was so tender, and the sauce a nice balance of meat and cheese. The meatball was also really tasty, and the gnocchi nice consistency with the yummy bolognese sauce.   Looking at their website you can register and purchase online as well.  Or alternatively head to their store in Westmeadows.

It was good heading to this event with a group of 11 people as we split up to go try different things but you'd easily spot someone to queue up with so you didn't get bored (plus it's more fun to do tastings with people you know :)).

After that did a tasting at Medhurst Wines, a winery based in the Yarra Valley. It was a token for tasting of all the wines or you could enjoy a larger glass of just one.  So I opted for all the wines. I liked their Chardonnay (which is a bit surprising as I usually prefer a Riesling to a Chardonnay).  They also had a nice spicey shiraz, and the cabernet was enjoyable too.

After that we got told to go try an amazing chocolate salted caramel tart. So so good. Louise Morris Cakes had tarts, macaroons and I think something else caramel based.  The lady also had a bunch of sauces and preserves.

Off to do another wine tasting at M Chapoutier Australia.  With grapes coming from the Pyrnees and one bottle from Heathcote.  The people in front of us were chatterboxes and we almost decided to move along but thankfully stayed.  We got to enjoy a couple of whites, and a bunch of shiraz.  I ended up liking their easy drinking $15 Shiraz and their most expensive one!  The guy was great at keeping track of what we were up to, with two of us sampling all the wines, another person sampling the reds, and another group arriving after we had started.  He was even nice enough to write down what I liked - so when I went back at the end of the evening had a 2 pack box ready to go for me.

A bunch of people headed off for a smoke so I caught up with part of the group that had wandered off.  One of them told me to go try the Coldstream Brewery cider. It was enjoyable - not too sweet from memory (and I think things were starting to get a little hazy from this point on).

 I then convinced the people I was with to go try the wines at the M Chapoutier place.  Whilst they got served I decided to go grab another pasta (this time the gnocchi), and then when I was done with that (and the tasting was still going) headed off to find another cider.  Caught up with another friend at the Endless Cider stall (It's the STRIPY ONE!).  They had a pear and apple cider on offer so for a tasting you got either a double tasting of one, or a generous serve of each one.  They had put a lot of effort into their Pear Cider, made using champagne technique.  I really enjoyed both but the pear was a favourite for me.  It is a sweet cider - but I enjoyed it.  With 3 tokens left I grabbed a double tasting of the pear one, to enjoy more of that.

With 2 tokens left I joined up with the remaining people in the group and convinced them to join me at the Pana Chocolate stall where I spent a token on a tasting for me and a tasting for someone else (as I was pretty satisfied with what I'd had). I'd first tried Pana Chocolate at the Wanderlust yoga festival.  I was pretty skeptical about vegan chocolate but despite being dairy free it tastes creamy.  It's very filling and flavoursome so I find a square of chocolate will go a long way to hitting the spot.  I ended up getting a few bars of those.  Raw, organic, homemade chocolate!

From there we were done and I made the slight mistake of heading next door to Beer Deluxe (who have these very cute, very tasty mini burgers) .  A few ciders and lychee sour cocktail later and it was time to head home after a very fun night out.  Would definately do it again, but maybe not on a school night next time!  And maybe a few more food items :)

Here's what I sampled:

Indigo Vineyard, Beechworth

Goldfields Farmhouse Cheese

Coopers Handmade Pies

Natural Pasta House

Medhurst Wines, Yarra Valley

Louisa Morris Cakes

M.Chapoutier Australia

Endless Cider

Pana Chocolate