Sunday, November 18, 2007

November 12, 2007: Mac & cheese cupcakes

photo taken by Ed from Tomato

Food preparation for Monday night's dinner was a more nerve-wracking process than usual. Usually it's just me in the kitchen, with Neighbours on for company, putting together something to greet Michael with after his netball game and then to pack into lunchboxes for Tuesday. Contrary to what the above picture might suggest, neither was I cooking for Satan on this particular Monday. Rather, I was contributing food to a Bloggers' Banquet, a chance to meet other food bloggers in Melbourne face to face, palate to palate. The venue was the Vegout Community Garden in St Kilda, which features a wood-fired pizza oven.

Naturally, the weekend was spent carefully planning and preparing my offerings. I needed to choose food that could be created in advance, transported easily via tram, preferably finger-friendly to share among the crowd, and served either at room temperature or hot out of the pizza oven. Sweets were easy - with ingredients I already had on hand, I whipped up a double batch of ginger chocolate clusters. Something savoury was a bit more challenging, but when I saw Vanessa's shiitake mac & cheese cupcakes I had precisely her reaction: "good God YES!"

I figured I could make up the mac & cheese mixture on Sunday night, bake a few as a test run, then bake and pack the rest on Monday evening. The test run ones were OK, but they didn't hold together all that well. For the main event I decided to skip the breadcrumb step and bake these straight into shiny cupcake papers, ensuring that they'd be easy to handle. When I arrived at Vegout and saw the homemade pizza dough and table heaving with other gourmet treats, I actually thought twice about bringing out my cupcakes. The day in the fridge had caused the brown mushrooms to spread their grey juices through the macaroni, and pasta with cheese just seemed a bit dull. Eventually I decided to go ahead and put them in the oven queue for a quick heat-up before offering them around. To my surprise and relief, they were warmly received. All 22 of them disappeared, and a couple of people confessed to going back for seconds, one person even for thirds.

photo taken by PG, the Goddess in the Kitchen

Of course there were many, many other fabulous dishes to enjoy on the night and I didn't pay any attention to my own cooking. And what of the people behind the food? Here's the goss according to Cindy...
  • Ed, the elder statesman of Melbourne's food blogging scene (due purely to his blog's age, not his own!), is friendlier and more approachable than you can possibly imagine;
  • Jamie may also be a veteran but it sure doesn't guarantee good service, he has the stories to prove it;
  • Elliot knows a heck of a lot more about the history and traditions of food preparation than most of us, with the possible exception of Neil, who won Elliot's quiz;
  • Sarah is seriously psyched for all things edible in Germany;
  • Purple Goddess is as crazy and funny (and purple-wearing) as you would guess from her blog;
  • Sticky is actually almost as boisterous;
  • Anna is a down-to-earth girl on a never-ending quest for good eating in the outer suburbs;
  • Katie is a dab hand at maneuvering a scary-hot pizza oven;
  • Duncan is a refined gent with the careful attention to detail required for good web design, cake decorating and, yes, perfectly formed salted caramel macarons;
  • Jon is the slightly shy new kid on the block, but he very effectively broke the ice with a plate of homemade chocolate truffles;
  • Josh is in no way the expanding man - where can he possibly be storing all that food?
  • Jackie is the go-to girl for Melbourne's restaurant gossip;
  • Claire is a stylish gal who can put anyone at ease with her gentle conversation;
  • Thanh is just who I imagined him to be, but even quicker to smile and laugh;
  • Vida's was the most reassuring face I could possibly have seen as I timidly entered the garden gate.
It was a pleasure to meet every one of them. (You can 'meet' them too on a joint Flickr page.) Here's to another Bloggers' Banquet before summer escapes us!


  1. Cindy, you were how I imagined you to be too, very friendly and a fellow geek at heart.

    Hey I beat Vida in with the comments for once. Either her or you are probably the first to comment, but since you can't start off comments with your own post, that leaves me the winner.

    For that I reward myself one mac and cheese cupcake. Please bring along one for me next time we get together :-).

    I ate three of your mac and cheese cupcakes. I have to admit, they were very good, even though there was no meat to be seen in them at all.

    And Michael, netball, that's a girls sport hehehe. I'm just joking. I have to admit that I'm a closest netball fan. I watched most of Australia's matches in the World Championships. That was a great final when they beat the Kiwis this time. It's not cool to admit liking netball though.

  2. Damn it Thanh, I just saw the comments and it said 0 and off I go to post and there you are staring Simpson-like right back at me!!!!!!

    Anyway, moving on, Cindy my dearest, I thought I was not going to get a mentioned as I read and read and still no sign of me, then low and behold there I was, you SAVED the BEST for LAST!!! Vida x x

  3. What a great list Cindy! Helped me put names and faces together. And damn, Thanh beat me! Now my only reservation is about being called a 'gent'... :P

    Loved the clusters!

  4. You win, Thanh! :-D And now I will respond within minutes just to maintain my reputation.

    I was always guaranteed to get along with a food blogger who digs Matlab, hehehe.

    ARGHHHH! Vida just posted before I finished this comment... losing on my own blog.

    Duncan as well! This is getting ridiculous.

    Anyways, back to you Thanh - Michael just walked in the door from his next netball round and he stinks. He actually spoiled that World Championship final for himself by seeing the result on a news website before seeing the game televised. Whoops...

    Vida, there was no way I was going to forget you!

    Thanks, Duncan. :-) Any title you'd prefer to 'gent'? I can edit it to 'dashing macaron hero' if you'd prefer. (I'm sure you're no one-trick pony but you can afford to live off this reputation for a while!)

  5. This is fun!!! We must have all been on all at once and the system could not handle us!!!

    Vida x x x

  6. I thought of a name for Duncan going by his photo on his blog - Shannon Noll with Knife... loving you Duncan!!! Vida x x x hehehe

    Does he wear a netball skirt and is that like the whole kilt thing??

  7. Oh my goodness... actually I rather like that 'dashing macaron hero' thing... hmmm. But *not* Shannon Noll with knife. I don't have the squeaky voice for starters!

  8. No netball skirt, Vida! :-D Although with the recent hot weather Michael did note some envy of my light summer dress... we might see a netball skirt before the silly season ends!

    Hmmmm... there may or may not exist photos of me dressed as Shannon Noll for a party (complete with fake facial hair). If you manage to befriend Michael he might show them to you sometime...

  9. Ok this is my morning check of email and with email subscriptions to comments now, it's too hard to resist replying. My inbox is clogged with comment replies now, oh this is getting out of hand.

    Anyway, I can't believe they didn't show the final live. It just goes to show how popular netball is as a mainstream sport, despite being the most participated sport in the country. I feel like I need to write a post about this (after work, I don't post at work, just read and comment) on my "other" non food blog.

  10. Can I jump in on the comment bonanza too? Great post and list, Cindy, though I assure you that after a few more drinks my conversation would have been less gentle and more cheeky... it was great to meet you outside of blogs and facebook, and I'm glad we both established we are Arrested Development fans! :)

  11. Whatever you reckon, Thanh - I accuse you of getting hooked on blogging at work! I'm actually slowing down this week, as my laptop is getting repaired. :-(

    Claire, I look forward to encountering the cheeky version sometime! :-D

  12. Duncan is the Shannon Noll but if Michael wants to get in on the act fine, let's see it!!! Claire, welcome, this game is fun... Cindy I am going to miss you, those damn lap tops can take forever to fix... Vida x x x

  13. It does look and sound as though it was a hoot.

    Next time...hope there is another one, and relatively soon.

  14. I have only just come across your blog and the first thing that sprang to mind was how beautiful your humility was...

    I assure you that prior to last week, i had never been in front of the face of a wood fired oven and your macaroni cupcakes were in grave danger!!!

    luckily they weren't scorched and i think I picked up the last one once i was "dismissed" from the pizza oven".

    again, as i commented on jack's post, everyone felt insecure going in, perhaps even inadequate, myself included if not especially. But wasn't it a pleasant surprise to meet a group of people with something in common who each recognised and appreciated each others' contributions?

    i recall having a conversation with you toward the end about the nut clusters; you said, "but they are so simple" and i tried to respond along the lines of, "that's not the point" because you did something, did it well, with delicious ingredients, filled with heart and soul, and proffered it to a group of strangers with the intent of... friendship? kinship? goodwill? i don't know. but what you brought was fan-f;in-tastic!

  15. I hope so too, Lucy! There has been a brief discussion on the Flickr group about setting a Saturday in January.

    Welcome, grocer! I would never have guessed that that was your first time with a wood-fired oven - you did a stellar job with my mac & cheese and I was happy to defer to your judgement. :-) Yes, I remember that conversation at the end of the night and I agree - the best food is that made to show care from one person to another, whether it's a fancy birthday cake slaved over for days or just a toasted sandwich offered when you're snowed under with work. I think there was a lot of care in what we all made for the bloggers' banquet!

  16. Cindy you are as gorgeous as I had imagined, humble, full of humour and warmth.

    Sometimes I think PG and I were separated at birth...but what is great is that we found a bunch of great people with whom we share great mutual passion for the good things in life. I love blogging and I suspect that next time around there will be more of us in the fray. bring it on!

  17. Thankyou, Sticky, you're very kind. :-) It was rather fun and surprising to discover the kindred spirits in you and PG! I wouldn't have predicted it based on your different blogging styles. Bring on the next meet-up!

  18. Arg, oh no! I was hoping to avoid being mentioned by anyone!

    A good blog post, and yes, those mac-n-cheese cupcakes were delicious.

    Looking forward to the next one!

  19. Thanks, Anna! Hope to see you again at another meet-up.