Thursday, June 14, 2018

Novel Sydney eats

June 1-3, 2018


My Sydney weekend wasn't all old faves; we planned some new activities and foods! The centrepiece was a night inside the Sydney Opera House's Concert Hall, featuring the phenomenal Solange. Her performance will go down as one of my all-time favourite live events (and I've tucked one more photo of her at the end of this post).
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A day earlier, travelling into Sydney by train, my weekend companion made the outrageous suggestion that we lunch at the all-vegan Gelato Blue. We did, and we loved it! I ordered a hot-and-cold doughnut sundae ($13): a warmed-up cinnamon-sugar doughnut and a large scoop of gelato joined together with wonderfully weird waffle cone limbs, all drizzled in Ice Magic-style chocolate sauce and crushed nuts. The chocolate hazelnut scoop I chose was lightly salted and very, very good - though the embellishments were delightful, methinks this gelato doesn't actually need dressing up.
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The Buddha Bowl Cafe was a nice low-key spot for Saturday brunch. It's vegan by default with a few vegetarian options (halloumi, eggs, dairy milk) available as add-ons. This place has a wholefood vibe, with all the hits (avocado, hummus, a rainbow of fresh produce) and misses (kombucha on tap, blue algae lattes, raw-only cakes) that entails. My plate was the biggest hit at the table: sourdough French toast made with coconut cream ($12), served with maple syrup, date caramel, dried coconut, coconut yoghurt and lots of fresh banana.


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A day later, Another Outspoken Female and her Significant Eater whisked me off to the very popular Petty Cash Cafe. I loved its homely, cluttered atmosphere; mismatched crockery, tea cosies and crocheted knee blankets for those of us sitting outside. Though Petty Cash does serve meat, it's made some special efforts for its veg*n customers, such as scrambled tofu, vake (fake bacon), and fluffy chia-based vegan pancakes. While I was initially drawn to the Vegan Big Brekkie, I ended up doubling down on French toast ($17.90), receiving excellent golden slices of sourdough with just enough maple syrup and plenty of crispy-then-chewy vake.

My one disappointment was that the seasonal fresh fruit I saw listed amounted to a single strawberry garnish (most likely my fault for misreading the menu), but AOF generously shared the bananas and raspberry sauce that accompanied her pancakes.


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These were all beaut meals, though it's the time I spent with people - a couple of Melbourne mates, a handful of Sydney-siders and, from an admiring distance, Solange Knowles - that I'll remember best from this weekend away. Nevertheless, the story of That Time We Lunched At Gelato Blue might last a couple of rounds... !

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Sydney reruns

June 1-2, 2018


I just had a whirlwind weekend in Sydney with a friend! Circular Quay was showing off its Vivid projections by night, and we followed the early nightfall with a couple of early dinners at restaurants we already knew and loved.
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On Friday we eased into Vina without a reservation, though it filled up and turned tables a couple times while we were settled with a local friend. Vina has had a complete refit since my first visit! The vegan Vietnamese menu is still a good one; we grazed on steamed dumplings and fried wontons ($6.80 per plate) and tentatively folded our own lemongrass mock-beef and tofu rice paper rolls ($16). The highlight was probably the bubbling vegan fish stew in ginger mushroom sauce ($16.80). Next time: the Chef's Special vegan duck.
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Our Saturday night visit to Bodhi with a fellow Melbournite was much more carefully planned. The restaurant's evening menu is a la carte, but includes many of the small shared dishes offered during their more famous vegan yum cha. We dived into the mocktail list ($14.50 each, the sweet-and-sour toilet-cleaner-blue Just My Imagination is pictured above) and ordered so much deliciousness to share! The BBQ buns ($9.50) were lighter than usual, and I loved the gua bao bun 'slider' ($17) stuffed with salt and pepper 'chicken', Malay peanut sauce, cucumber and herbs. The laksa ($25) was difficult to divide, but perfect comfort food on a blustery night.
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Though we would have gladly eaten at Bodhi three more times, we checked in to a few new eateries too; they're up next.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Smith & Daughters IX

May 22, 2018


Note: we booked this meal intending to pay our bill in full. Mo comped us a couple of extra dishes, meaning that we paid for the $132 of food we ordered and received two extra dishes worth $34 free of charge.


Smith & Daughters has had an amazing menu makeover for winter! They're going for all-out carby comfort food with an Italian theme, dubbing it Smith & Bellas. In surprisingly good news for coeliacs, more than half of these new dishes include a gluten-free option. We booked in with a couple of friends to share as much as we possibly could.


First up: meatballs! (Usually $12 for 3, we paid $16 for 4, above left.) They've got the right minced-meat texture, are smothered in a lovely sweet napoli, and boast some impressive parmesan. The garlic bread ($8, above right) was my must-order starter, and it was resplendent in its foil-wrapped pizza-delivery glory.


The creamed silverbeet ($10, above left) was silky soft, perked up with a little preserved lemon and chilli. Though we hadn't ordered it, Mo knew we needed the show-stopping carpaccio (complimentary on the night, usually $18, above right). They've somehow made their own flat, smoky mock-meat, which we were encouraged to roll up with a fig slice, horseradish cream, fried capers and rocket, then wrap around a crisp fennel bread stick. Wow.


These shared dishes had me excited and genuinely appetised for the mains! And here things got heavy. The gnocchi ($22, above left) were the softest little dumplings with as much broccoli rabe pesto and cream as we could possibly swirl them through. The cacio e pepe ($25, above right) looked deceptively simple but these bucatini were dressed in copious quantities of black fermented garlic, a little parmesan and two kinds of pepper. My pick, though, was the ragu and polenta ($24, main photo) - the polenta was so creamy and cheesy, and the ragu? Some of the most convincing mock meat I've ever eaten, mimicking the tenderness of a slow-cooked tough cut in a sweet gravy. Just astounding.


I was determined that we couldn't leave without dessert, and we agreed on two to share among the four of us. Mo put another beautiful spanner in the works, comping us a tiramisu (usually $16) - more vegan wizardry in neat, coffee-scented layers. Our companions were most taken with the limoncello rice pudding ($12), with a crunchy brûléed crust and dainty scoop of rosemary vanilla icecream.


I was unexpectedly besotted with the baked Vesuvius ($15). Blow-torched right at the table, I had to wait patiently to spoon through the scorched-Italian meringue crust, excavating still-firm black pepper vanilla icecream, skirting by poached quinces before hitting on a ganache-spread chocolate sable crust. I don't normally care for meringues or marshmallows much at all, but this was like a Wagon Wheel had all grown up.

Smith & Daughters have bloody well done it again! This Italian phase is so comforting it's almost familiar, yet it's also delightfully inventive and packed with surprises. You know we'll be back for more.

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You can also read about one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of our previous visits. Since that final post a fairly negative review has appeared on Lifestyle By Lily.
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Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
savoury foods, desserts (including cocktails), non-alcoholic drinks
http://www.smithanddaughters.com/


Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior is dimly lit and loud at night. Toilets are located up several steps, are gendered and of standard dimension. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Fan's Notes V

May 20, 2018


I'm not sure how many more posts about A Fan's Notes this blog needs. I've photographed the underlit, overcluttered front bar ad nauseum, and we've covered the brunches, the burgers and the unexpectedly fancy vegan degustations. But we've found one more reason to stop in - the irregular and unmistakably unfranchised trivia nights. 


It was a good excuse for another burger. This is a menu with six (six!) vegan burgers and three (LOL, three!) beef-based burgers. Four of those vegan ones share a common beetroot & quinoa patty, there's a nifty fishy alternative, and a crumbed shiitake-kim chi affair that I'm going to work up to one day. Michael ordered his beetroot & quinoa patty southern fried ($13), which comes with coriander-pineapple salsa, avocado and, for a price (+$4), fries. It was an utter mess to eat and an utter delight to taste.


I thought I'd check out the vegan parma ($20). It's got an eggplant base, but it's mashed with brown rice rather than being sliced and crumbed on its own. As you can see, the vegan cheese is more of a sauce, and the overall effect is of sweet tomato sugo comfort, with the rice providing just enough to chew on. Fries and green salad are generously portioned.

Our trivia team slumped from equal first after round one to mid-ranking by the end of the night, but we're unperturbed. The quiz is fun, the food is more vegan-friendly than any of us could rightly expect, and the venue is like no other.

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You can read about one, two, three, four of our past visits to A Fan's Notes.
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A Fan's Notes
787 Nicholson St, Carlton North
9943 8373
seasonal specials, daily specials, burgers, others
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way to a slightly crowded interior. We ordered and paid at the high bar. There's a single, unisex toilet cubicle, which is up a step off an uneven path.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Baked peanut tempeh

May 19, 2018


This is one of those simple, brilliant, why didn't I think of that? recipes that we'll end up making so often that we'll be able to cook it from memory. It's wedges of tempeh, slathered in a sauce of peanut butter, tamari and lime juice and baked for half an hour. That's very nearly it.

Ironically, the Minimalist Baker's original recipe has a couple extra steps that we're happy to skip. First, they steam their tempeh wedges to remove bitterness. We like our tempeh just fine as it is! Second, they marinated their tempeh in the peanut sauce for 24 hours. We tried 24 hours, we tried 15 minutes and we like it just the same both ways. If anything the 24-hour batch was a bit of a nuisance because the peanut butter split from the tamari in our marinade. I might, might try blending the peanut marinade in our spice grinder to better emulsify it, but our original slightly lumpy fork-and-bowl approach was still a success.

We served our baked tempeh with roasted carrots and broccolini, rice and sesame-soy pickled radishes. Like Minimalist Baker, I can imagine rolling them into rice paper wraps, tucking them into sandwiches and layering them over salads. The wedges are saucy and comforting direct from the oven, and a squidgy savoury treat at room temperature. They might not convert the tempeh-avoiders (I know you're out there!); for these folks I'd start with tempeh bacon, lasagne or fried with palm sugar. But for those of us already on board the tempeh train, this is a delicious, easy way to eat more of it.


Baked peanut tempeh
(adapted from a recipe on Minimalist Baker)

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons maple syrup
a pinch of chilli flakes
225g block tempeh

Preheat an oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with paper.

In a medium-large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the sesame oil, peanut butter, tamari, lime juice, maple syrup and chilli flakes. (I might blend them together in our spice grinder next time to properly emulsify the peanut butter.)

Slice the tempeh into bite-sized pieces. Drop them into the peanut marinade and stir them together, until the tempeh pieces are evenly coated.

Spoon the tempeh pieces onto the baking tray, lying them flat and avoiding any overlap. Bake the tempeh for 15 minutes. Turn the tempeh pieces and drizzle over any remaining marinade, then bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until the tempeh is turning dark brown around the edges. Serve warm.