Let's Get Fat Together http://fatboo.com Kinship, Food & Wanderlust Sat, 30 Aug 2014 23:38:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Kettle Black http://fatboo.com/2014/08/the-kettle-black-south-melbourne-cafe.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/the-kettle-black-south-melbourne-cafe.html#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 23:32:34 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19545 The Kettle Black

Bright and elegantly Scandinavian cafe in South Melbourne (by the people behind Top Paddock) with a unique menu of light and healthy brunch dishes.

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The Kettle Black

50 Albert Rd
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
03 9088 0721
Website

The Kettle Black

As much as I’m a bit of a frog-in-a-well when it comes to new eating spots these days, there will always be a few places that one would inadvertently not miss.

The Kettle Black

I heard about this cafe when I got casually looped into a twitter conversation (started by Lauren, who was visiting from Sydney) about where to go to for coffee in Melbourne. Based on the responses from my compatriot Melbourne foodie-twitterati, @KettleBlackCafe as a be-there-or-be-square brunch destination kept popping up.

The Kettle Black

The enthusiasm was infectious, and I found myself at the cafe’s front doors a week later with Fatbee and Fakegf. And guess what?? Even at 11am on a weekday, there was a wait list!!

The Kettle BlackThe Kettle Black

We ended up waiting about 25 minutes outside in light rain before a table freed up for us… that’s a testament to how much Melburnians love brunching. The Kettle Black is opened by the brunch giants behind Two Birds One Stone, Top Paddock (and previously Three Bags Full), that probably explains why this newest venture by them also contained part of an old English idiom in its name.

The Kettle Black

Even if I had to fork out nearly $7 for ticket parking in that area, the wait wasn’t all for naught. If anything else, at least I got to admire the lovely juxtaposition of two architectural styles, old and new, set against the ground floor of the upmarket Albert Rd apartment block in South Melbourne, where the cafe resides.

The Kettle BlackThe Kettle Black

But we were finally called in, and they sat us at the polished white marble bar counter inside, with full view of the coffee-making action. You can already tell from the photos that this is one incredibly elegant looking cafe. It’s a new trend that we’ve been embracing in Melbourne in the past year or so… gone are the old days of shabby chic / bricky-industrial warehouse-y brunch spots.

These days, it’s all about a clean, minimalist and stylishly Scandinavian look… and in this case, with a touch of country rusticity. And I’m totally loving that… it felt both so new and yet also very familiar to me, as the immaculate sleekness about it pulls in memories of my country of birth – Singapore. Even the Synesso coffee machines have been modified to suit the interior, sporting a matte-white exterior and natural wood handles on their milk frothers.

The Kettle Black
PICCOLO $4.00

We settled into our drinks quickly. I tried both the house blend (from 5 Senses) and the rotating single origin on offer as piccolos. They came punchy, somewhat astringent without much complexity of flavour to them, although the single origin (from Rwanda) tasted slightly brighter.

The Kettle Black
LATTE $4.00

Fatbee meanwhile had a latte, which sadly tasted so mild to the point it was almost like drinking frothed milk. Perhaps they were having an off-day that (superbly busy) weekday morning behind the machines, but I sort expected better coffees from such a big name in Melbourne’s brunch scene.

The Kettle BlackThe Kettle Black

All that said, perusal of the brunch menu showed the promise of a fabulous meal. Just like at Top Paddock, the dishes here leans towards light and clean flavours with interesting twists such as steak sandwich served on black buns or polenta porridge with burnt maple… all topped with the liberal use of (pretty pretty) microherbs & edible flowers. We were quite torn over what to order… and I actually had to flip a coin to help decide which dish I’d want to try!

The Kettle Black
SEASONAL LOCAL MUSHROOM – COOKED AND RAW – ON TOAST WITH CHESTNUT POWDER & FRESH CURD – $17.00 -
- ADD EGG $3.00 -

Fakegf eventually decided on her favourite type of brunch dish – mushrooms! I think she was satisfied with what they served up here, except that the sprinkle of chestnut powder tasted odd to her as it reminded her of Japanese furikake (seaweed seasoning).

The Kettle Black
KING ISLAND CRAYFISH IN AN ASH ROLL WITH NATIVE COASTAL SPINACH, LIME & YUZU MAYONNAISE – $21.00 -

I ended up with the crayfish roll because all of the components promised in it sounded sooo damn good! It was a light offering of good quality ingredients, not to mention the magenta-streaked leaves and edible flowers made it almost too beautiful to eat!

The Kettle Black

All that said, I personally thought that this was an overrated dish. The scant use of yuzu mayonnaise meant that the roll was on the dry side, and I thought the whole combination needed a bit of an extra something to bring out the enjoyment of the fresh crayfish.

And finally, if I were to nitpick further, the limes that came with the dish were more decorative than functional, squeezing them only afforded a few drops of juice – they were dry. I was basically paying $21 for a work of art on a plate that sadly didn’t quite delight as much on the tongue.

The Kettle Black
BURRATA WITH RAW HEIRLOOM TOMATO, BURNT RAINBOW CHARD, VINEGAR & TOAST – $17.00 -

Fatbee’s brunch choice, however, saved the day… it was simple and faultless. The heirloom tomatoes came full of natural sweetness and it paired wonderfully with the milky, hand-torn burrata cheese that melted so lovingly over the crisp slices of hot sourdough toast.

The Kettle Black
NUTTIN BETTER – 4.8
Fresh churned peanut butter glaze w/ Callebaut Belgian dark chocolate

We ended our brunch with a shared serve of American-style doughnuts (with peanut butter glaze) from Doughboys. The glaze was a bit too sweet for my liking, but I loved how we sectioned it up into bite sized portions.

The Kettle Black

This is one very good-looking cafe with a fascinating menu of light and healthy brunch dishes. But for this visit, the coffees and my brunch dish did not quite hit the mark for me. I also noticed that everything leant towards the pricey side… with $4 coffees and vegetarian brunch dishes reaching $20 if you add a poached egg. But that’s probably what you pay when you’re visiting a much-acclaimed cafe set in a premium location.

All that said, based on Fatbee’s beautiful-looking (and tasting) brunch dish, I’m keen on giving this cafe another chance. There are many other appealing dishes on the menu that I’d like to try. So in a nutshell… Imma comin’ back!

The Kettle Black

The Kettle Black

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Bali Bagus http://fatboo.com/2014/08/bali-bagus-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/bali-bagus-melbourne.html#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:28:56 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19352 Bali Bagus

Casual eatery serving Indonesian one-dish meals. Make sure you do it Indonesian-style by having it with keropok (crackers) & kecap manis (sweet soy sauce).

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Bali Bagus

85 Franklin St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9662 1474
Facebook Page

Fatbee and I paid a visit to Bali Bagus one Wednesday night. I look at it almost as a way of reliving our short-but-sweet holiday in Bali back in Easter, with the exception that the weather here’s freezing at the moment and the food here isn’t completely Balinese per se.

Bali Bagus

That aside, I was pretty keen on exploring more Indonesian food, with Fatbee as my food guide.

We walked into a casual space with groups of students catching up over a cheap feed. The menus can be found at the front counter, you also order your food there, then grab a number and help yourself to the self-serve water, napkins and cutlery nearby.

Bali Bagus
Soto Betawi w/ rice $8.80
Traditional Batavian soup served with sliced beef and fresh tomatoes

Fatbee went with a comforting bowl of soto betawi, a lightly coconutty soup that’s fragrant with herbs, hiding succulent pieces of beef and topped with broken-up pieces of belinjo crackers. It reminded me a lot of a less spicy Thai-style Tom Kha soup because I could taste delightful hints of lemongrass and galangal.

Bali Bagus
Bitternut Crackers $2

It was a very nice soup, and of course Fatbee had to have his meal with keropok (crackers). I confess this Indonesian way of having keropok with your meals has rubbed off onto me now. And I’m particularly partial towards belinjo (bitternut – an Indonesian fruit) crackers because of its unique bitter-fragrant aftertaste.

Bali Bagus
Tahu Telur – Satay Sauce $4.50
Fried boiled egg and bean curd with your choice of sauce

We also enjoyed our meal with a crisp serve of fried tofu with egg, made so moreish with that delicious peanutty drizzle of satay sauce.

And in the background, you can see another very Indonesian thing happening… it’s Fatbee pouring kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) over his rice. While I’m quite into keropok now… I still haven’t gone down the kecap-manis-with-rice pathway quite yet. :p

Bali Bagus
Ayam Goreng Bumbu Bali w/ rice $8.80
Succulent chicken fried with Balin sauce

As for my meal, I had a simple serve of ayam goreng (fried chicken) topped with a Balinese sauce that tasted tomato-ey, tangy and lightly spicy. It was pretty good, although I’d have preferred if the sauce wasn’t poured all over the chicken because it made it not as crispy.

Bali Bagus
Es Campur $4.00
Mixed ice with fruits and syrup

Despite the freezing cold, I still had enough curiosity to try out an Indonesian dessert – es campur (mixed ice).

Bali Bagus

I only found it o-kay… it had pieces of lychee, jackfruit, basil seed, sea coconut and grass jelly in it, drizzled with a cordial-like rose-flavoured syrup. I think it was the artificial flavour of the syrup that made me less keen about it. All that said, Fatbee told me that this dessert was quite authentic, so it’s probably just me not growing up with its flavour profile.

The food here is cheap and enjoyable, so I’m totally not complaining. I can’t wait to revisit again and discover even more Indonesian dishes. It’s so funny that the countries that Fatbee and I grew up in are so close to each other geographically, but the dishes can be quite different… and hence so interesting to me!

Bali Bagus

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Provence, from Nice to Monaco http://fatboo.com/2014/08/cannes-nice-monaco-gorges-du-verdon-provence.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/cannes-nice-monaco-gorges-du-verdon-provence.html#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 00:30:25 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19515 Provence, from Nice to Monaco

4th trip instalment of my trip in France. We first explore the French Riviera from Nice to Monaco before ending in the spectacular Gorges du Verdon.

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Provence, from Nice to Monaco

Let’s continue with my holiday in France. Previously, we spent 3 Days in Paris before going down South into it’s beautiful hinterland, and finally reaching the Mediterranean coast.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

We’ll begin this instalment by leaving the seaside town of Cassis on what was another lovely clear Autumnal day, with us driving down the Route Des Crete enjoying spectacular views of the azure sea… pierced by sharp cliffs and hidden calanques (sheltered inlets).

Provence, from Nice to Monaco
Route Des Crete – La Ciotat

It was a very good start to the day. Considering it’s Autumn, the weather was warm and so very Mediterranean.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

Arts & Assietes

243 Rue St Sauveur
Le Cannet
Provence-Alpes-Cote D’Azur
France
+33 6 62 50 07 62
Facebook Page

Lunch happened at this quiet, understated Provencale cafe within the little town of Le Cannet, near the outskirts of Cannes. We basically avoided the busier, touristy places and picked this one.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco
Legumes violet au pissalat 2€

We ate alfresco at the cafe’s streetfront porch, enjoying the village’s quiet pulse whilst sipping chilled wines.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

The Provencale cuisine here was light and fresh, locally sourced, and priced very nicely. We were happy.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to MonacoCannes

On our way eastwards towards our hotel, we drove past Cannes and stopped to enjoy a panorama of the much-famed city. If anything else, at least I got to have a brief glimpse of the city where the famous Film Festival is held in.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

Toile Blanche

826 Chemin de la Pounchouniere
Saint-Paul-de-Vence
France
+33 (0) 493 327 421
Website

We used this boutique hotel as our base of operations during the days that we spent in the French Riviera. This being a self-driven roadtrip, we made sure we stayed away from busy cities.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

Hotels in Provence are generally very pricey (almost comparable to Paris), so I’m very glad we found this little gem of a place. The tariffs did not break our wallets and our stay was very comfortable with friendly staff.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

Saint-Paul-de-Vence

That evening, we took the 15 minute drive up to the medieval hilltop village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. You can see a pattern here… I’d much rather see these quiet little villages as opposed to those big famous cities of yore.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

However, we accidentally drove into the village proper instead of parking at its outskirts and walking in. Being from the olden times, the streets aren’t meant for modern vehicles. I found myself squeezing into crazily narrow streets with only a few centimetres to spare before the mirrors would’ve crunched against rock. And you can’t reverse as it’s only one-way traffic with angry French drivers honking behind you.

This was hands-down the scariest drive I had to make out of the whole trip!

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

All that said, we survived navigating Saint-Paul de Vence’s harrowingly narrow streets unscathed and managed to find a park before sunset. Here’s the view from one of the village’s lookouts. I loved the scatter of dwellings littering the vast stretches of the Côte d’Azur.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco
Le Tilleul

Once night fell, we dined at le Tilleul, a charming French restaurant in Saint-Paul-de-Vence that the hosts of our hotel recommended. It was a very enjoyable evening, and once again the weather allowed us to dine outdoors under the Mediterranean night sky.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

We spent the whole of the following day driving along the French Riviera… all the way from Nice to Monte Carlo (and back).

Provence, from Nice to MonacoCours Saleya Market

Nice

Our first stop was at Vieux Nice, the traditional (old town) quarter in Nice. We had breakfast there and explored the market and cafes.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

Just look at the gorgeous produce. I was utterly smitten by the mountains and mountains of beautiful French mushrooms.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

And it was just a short stroll under a little passageway and across a major road…

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

… before we found ourselves marvelling in the much-famed beachfront promenade in Nice!

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

I went quiet for quite awhile. This felt like a place that has been trapped in time… cocooned inside countless film footages from the past. Memories from what I’d seen in the movies and what I was witnessing before me that morning seemed to coalesce into each other.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

I loved the old, gritty character to the place. It felt like a seaside destination for the ‘old rich’… a hard-to-reach place that’s only for people who ‘came from money’. All I can say is… as much as one might think that Nice is overrated, I’m still glad we got to pay homage to this place. There’s a raw, historical sentimentality to this town that resonated with me.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

The Grand Corniche

We continued our road journey out of Nice, cruising along the famous cliff-cutting coastal roads called “La Grande Corniche”. The dreamer in me imagined us driving in a convertible, with big sunglasses, headdresses and scarves flapping in the breeze.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

Villefranche-sur-Mer

Of course reality was quite different. We were safely cloistered inside our rental Volkswagen, and the roads were actually quite congested with rather aggressive drivers. You had to be quick (and lucky) with finding a park at the scenic viewpoints, what with zippy cars and grumpy tailgating drivers behind you.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

One of the prettier panoramic stops that we enjoyed was a view of the coastal town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. I loved the colourful facades of the buildings and their red tiled roofs.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

Monaco

Though we were tempted to drive a mere 10km or so further east and reach the French border with Italy, we decided to stop our coastal explorations at the sovereign city-state of Monaco. I was so excited that we were literally entering another country, although no passports were required.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, covering an area of just 2 square kilometres (Vatican City is the smallest country – 0.44 km²). And boy is this place packed to the brim with old-style apartments and historical casinos, of which the most famous would be those within the locality of Monte Carlo.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

Monaco-Ville

As small as the city is, driving there was very busy and confusing. But we finally found our way into a carpark that led us up into Monaco Ville (the city’s old quarter), perched atop a rock with good panoramic views.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco
Cathédrale de Monaco

Exploring Monaco Ville was a touristy affair, but pleasant all the same because it’s such a small quarter and very walkable.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco
Monaco Fontvielle

As we gazed southwards, we got to see the coastal apartments lining the waters edge of Monaco Fontvielle.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

And strolling along Monaco Ville’s northern ramparts, we beheld a gorgeous view of the rest of the country.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

And if you look at the buildings in the background on the other side of port, that’s where Monte Carlo is.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

I was quite dazzled by how incredibly populated and teeming with people this city is, it’s probably a place where only the richest among us can live.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco
The Grand Corniche

As we drove back towards our hotel, we followed another route down the Corniches, with even more scenic stops. I loved how the rugged coastline is crammed with so much buildings, abuzz with modern life.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

Villa et Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild

06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
+33 04 93 01 33 09
Website

And for our day’s final stop, dad decided to let us unwind at the gardens in this seaside villa, previously owned by the Rothschild banking family.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

It’s a huge estate. The villa is surrounded by nine gardens, each with a different theme… including a bamboo forest and Japanese garden.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

Even if lots of people were visiting this villa, the gardens were so expansive that you’d more or less feel as if you’re exploring it on your own. There were also some very beautiful spots where you could catch a glimpse of the homesteads and townships from across the water…

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

… and the air was rife with the scented fragrance of flowers.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

We spent so much time enjoying the gardens that we only had less than half an hour to see the insides of the villa before it closed. But just as well, because I was a lot more excited by the gardens than the villa itself.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco
Villa’s interior

And the funniest thing about this visit was… even though I’m in my thirties, the ticketing people automatically issued me a concession ticket for children under 18 years!!

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

This marks the end of our explorations along the French Riviera. I found this part of France busy, dusty, unreachably rich and quite taxing… but the sights along the coast and the colourful character about the townships that we passed more than made up for it.

In the end, I came to realise that the memories of this place stayed deeply in me more than expected.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco
La Colle-sur-Loup

Now that we’ve had our fill of famous and busy coastal cities, we left the coast and proceeded to head inland the next day. But first, we had breakfast at this little village…

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco
Alpes de Haute Provence

… before heading Westwards towards the French Alps.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

Gorges du Verdon

Our driving route took us through what’s also known as the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’. The roads were twisty and the scenery spectacular (and not for the faint-hearted), parts of it had almost 700m vertical drops, falling deep into a ravine!!

Provence, from Nice to Monaco
Provence, from Nice to Monaco
Le Relais des Balcons

We lunched at this simple rest stop… I’ll have to say that maybe it wasn’t that great an idea drinking cider when I was about to continue driving in the area. But it was such delicious and cheap ciders… made all the more tastier when you have such a view to enjoy it with!

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco
Pont d l’Artuby

All that said, I had no problems with the drive at all. We next stopped to marvel at an engineering feat… Pont d l’Artuby – the highest bridge in Europe stretching right across a scary chasm. I hear that people actually do bungee jumping from this bridge… they’re MAD!!

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

We continued our drive further into the mountains. The roads went higher and the air thinner, mistier…

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

… and the view got more and more breathtaking.

Provence, from Nice to MonacoProvence, from Nice to Monaco

This was such a different experience compared to the busy coastal cities that we’d explored the day before.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

There was a beautiful, almost surreal, aching tranquility about this place. We stopped many many times, just to experience and re-experience the magnificence of nature…

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

…and within the silence from up so high, we marvelled at the grandeur of planet earth.

Provence, from Nice to Monaco

But of course we had to sleep somewhere. Here’s our destination for that night, a wonderful village at the foot of the mountains. But this travel instalment ends here and I won’t tell you what village it is. For that, you’ll have to wait for the next (and final) instalment of my holiday in France!

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Shu Restaurant http://fatboo.com/2014/08/shu-restaurant-sichuan-collingwood.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/shu-restaurant-sichuan-collingwood.html#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 23:23:21 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19229 Shu Restaurant

Modern Sichuanese restaurant in Collingwood that focusses on reinventing Szechuan cuisine using local, sustainable and in-season produce.

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Shu Restaurant

147 Johnston Street
Collingwood, VIC 3066
03 9090 7878
Website

Shu Restaurant

Mr Frenchman texted me one day “who’s Fatbee?”, which made it obvious that we had not caught up for ages. So I rectified things by organising this ‘meet the Fatbee’ dinner.

As for where… after Mr Frenchman had guided me into Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven (such a wonderful meal), I was happy to tag along with any recommendations by him. He immediately suggested Shu.

Shu Restaurant

So that’s how we caught up in this rather unusual modern Sichuanese restaurant in Collingwood, complete with see-through seats, dungeon-y chains hanging from the ceiling, and psychedelic neon lighting that continuously weaves into different colours. Trust the French to love these quirky little places!

Shu Restaurant

As I marvelled at the unusual (fluorescent orange) chopstick holders and poured water into my glass beaker, I got to say hello to the owner and chef – “Shu”. Mr Frenchman forewarned him that I was going to snap photos. Arrgh… so much for going ‘incognito’.

I listened with interest to Shu’s philosophy of reinventing Sichuan cuisine with local, sustainable and in-season produce. And discovered that there isn’t any menu in this restaurant… instead, the food comes as a banquet of share plates over a few courses, featuring between 9 to 12 dishes. It’s $60 for the non vegan menu and $45 for the vegan menu, just specify your food preferences and any allergies when you’re ordering.

Shu RestaurantShu RestaurantDaikon rolles of fresh raw veggies, chilli infused soy
Organic beef dumplings with pickled chilli relish
Flathead and spiced fennel puree wrapped in crispy fried spring rolls. Jalapeño jam. 

We embarked on our first course starting with a crunchy vegan roll of raw fresh veggies wrapped with daikon. Next to it were pan fried beef dumplings that had a delightfully soft, gentle and refined filling inside. And on the right, we munched into spring rolls stuffed with flathead and fennel puree.

I’ll have to say that all these dishes were definitely quite different to the smack-in-the-face strong and spicy Sichuan dishes that I’m normally used to. As expected, they were more refined, clean, delicate and modernised.

Shu RestaurantGrilled king oyster mushroom on spicy pumpkin puree and Chinese chive
Chilled silken tofu cup. Seaweed, mungbeans, housemade chilli jam
Pan grilled honey soy organic chicken wings with sesame and chilli flakes

The next course consisted of grilled King oyster mushrooms with pumpkin puree, and on the right, a piece of grilled chicken wingette. They were both okay.

Shu Restaurant

Of more interest was the item in the middle, which consisted of chilled silken tofu in a cup with seaweed, sprouts, beans, nuts and chilli sauce. You’re meant to stir it all up with chopsticks and enjoy it all mushied up. I liked how clean and refreshing this tofu ‘salad-in-a-cup’ was.

Shu RestaurantShu RestaurantPan grilled eggplant stuffed with preserved mustard green and roasted almonds
Chilled sweet potato noodles tossed with fennel, celery and roasted nuts in Sichuan pepper-infused soy
Beef brisket slow cooked in five spice broth topped with fresh chilli and coriander

Our third course consisted of slightly ‘beefier’ offerings. First up, we had succulent pieces of grilled eggplant stuffed with salted vegetables… it reminded me a little of eggplant antipasti. Next, we had a nice and spicy offering of chilled sweet potato noodles… I liked how it had a decent amount of Sichuan peppercorns in it. Good spicy kick! The beef brisket was also enjoyable in that it was pretty flavoursome without being overpowering (or oversalted) the way that Sichuan dishes can be sometimes.

Shu Restaurant

Conversation went louder and deeper into the night as more and more glasses of wine were refilled. On this note, I’d also like to apologise for the not-so-fab food pictures. It is pretty challenging trying to white balance food dishes in this lighting, especially when it continuously changes its hue every few seconds.

But I’ll have to say that even if I found the decor weird and unusual at the start (with see-through chairs et. al.), it does grow on you eventually… not to mention there were moments where I thought I was in Shanghai rather than Melbourne. And that’s a good thing.

Shu RestaurantShu RestaurantOrganic chicken stir fried with garden veggies in chilli bean paste.
Rockling fillets poached in chilli and ginger broth
Crispy fried Dutch Cream potatoes with fresh chilli and cumin

Course number four consisted of the main dishes. First up, a long stretch of tasty stir-fried organic chicken with veggies… no complaints there. And as accompaniment, we enjoyed a platter of crisp fried potatoes with a dusting of chilli and cumin.

The rockling fillets in chilli broth was quite reminiscent of the equivalent dish at Sichuan places where fish pieces are served swimming in a scary sea of dried red chillies and chilli oil. But at Shu, the flavoursome chilli and ginger broth here wasn’t made of oil, it’s actually a lighter, more drinkable soup. Pretty neat!

Shu Restaurant
Avocado & Coconut Oil Cake $8

Even though we were pretty full, we decided to end the meal with a shared serve of avocado and coconut oil cake with raspberries, white chocolate and carob.

Shu Restaurant

This was probably one of the more unusual Chinese meals that I’ve had in awhile. The flavours aren’t fusionised into unacceptable territory, instead it was more delicate and ‘light’ for Sichuanese cuisine. It’s certainly pretty different from my experience with the knock-your-socks-off saltiness and ham-fisted spiciness that you’d often get at regular Sichuan places.

The ambience was also pretty atmospheric, perhaps leading you into knowing that you’re in for a somewhat different dining experience. But all the same, dining here actually made me crave for another Sichuan session, but this time in the dingy territories of spicy-oily-salty Sichuanese street food that I’ve come to love eating. I’m a bit of a heartlander like that… heh heh…!

Shu Restaurant

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Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop http://fatboo.com/2014/08/babu-barburger-balls-breadtop.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/babu-barburger-balls-breadtop.html#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 23:00:46 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18922 Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

A little compilation post around the lazier side of my foodie existence. Midweek delivery burgers from Babu Barburger & Asian breads + cakes at Breadtop.

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Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

364 Victoria St
North Melbourne, VIC 3051
03 9329 2727
Website
Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

Fatbee and I spotted this place during our stroll towards Queen Victoria Market. Hilarious name aside, it appealed as a good nearby joint for a lazy midweek meal on nights when we’re sick of home cooking and microwave meals.

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

That’s exactly what happened recently on a Tuesday night, but we went the EVEN LAZIER route by having our burgers delivered to us. It only involved a few clicks on their website, a credit card, and within 13 minutes from payment, dinner arrived at our doorstep. Delivery was free because we lived but a minute’s drive away… hah!

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop
Thin Cut Fries (Small) $3.40

The (still-warm) burgers came as deconstructed constructs inside the box, with the pink mayo, BBQ and tomato sauce given on the side so that you can decide what and how much sauce you’d like with your meal.

Babu Barburger With Balls | BreadtopNumber 4 Burger $13.90
150g with Swiss Cheese caramelized onion & beetroot

So we had to get our plates out and reconstruct our burgers after saucing it up! I know this is how Babu Barburger rolls, but to be honest after a long day at work, this putting it all back together part wasn’t that welcome. We’d much rather have the burger all sauced up, wrapped up and ready to eat.

Here’s Fatbee’s burger, he was equivocal about it, the patty was alright but overall the whole thing could’ve been juicier.

Babu Barburger With Balls | BreadtopNumber 6 Burger $15.30
150g with goat cheese, capsicum salsa & eggplant

The online ordering system allows you to specify how cooked you’d like the patty to be, so it was great that our patties came exactly as requested – medium rare. I picked a roast eggplant with goats cheese and capsicum burger because it sounded interesting, but it ended up tasting like it wanted to be a Middle Eastern dish, ha ha!

To be fair, what I ordered was a rather odd combi, but overall we thought the burgers did not quite hit the mark this time round. The next time we’re feeling lazy midweek, we’ll probably DO that 5 minute stroll to the premises and have our burgers hot-off-the-griller right there. Now the only thing would be to reconstruct the burgers as fast as possible when it arrives so that it stays hot!

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop
Strawberry Gateau $4.30 | Portuguese Tart $2.00 | Egg Tart $1.50 – from Breadtop Docklands

Breadtop Bakery

Various Locations
Website
Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

The rest of this post will cover odds and ends that has been happening food-wise. Fatbee likes to buy interesting sweets from here and there to snack on after dinner, and most of the sweets comes from Asian grocers and bakeries. I used to not even think about entering Breadtop to satisfy my sweet cravings, but lately this perspective has changed.

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop
Curry Vegetable Bun $1.50 | Tuna Bun $2.40 | Seaweed Pork Floss Bun $2.40 – from Breadtop CBD

The buns and cakes at these Asian bakeries are exactly to my liking. They’re light, soft and fluffy… and they’re not exceedingly sweet, not to mention incredibly cheap. At this price point, of course you won’t be getting top grade ingredients, but at least the end result is a dessert offering that suits my palate perfectly. And it isn’t like I’d engulf huge quantities of it.

Here’s what Fatbee and I brought home as takeaway ‘lunch’ one Wednesday. We had it with wine… ha ha ha!

Babu Barburger With Balls | BreadtopTiger Skin Swiss Roll $8.00 – from Breadtop Footscray

Alright so some of the offerings aren’t that great (like the egg tarts), and the freshness of its products can sometimes go up and down depending on which branch you visit (the busier ones are fresher because the products turnover faster). But at this price point, I ain’t complaining… we’ve already tried about 5 different types of Swiss Rolls (Plain, Coffee, Matcha, Mixed Fruit – favourite!) from Breadtop, eating them bit by bit after dinner each night. They’ve kept me happy…

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

The other thing that has changed this year is my morning coffee drinking habits. Now that I’m staying over at Bee’s, I’ve stopped making my own piccolo lattes in the morning using my (fancy fancy) Rancilio Sylvia V3 espresso machine and coffee grinder.

I shouldn’t call this “slumming it”, but at his place, packets of Asian instant coffee is the go. Omg… losing klout and credibility much? Ha ha ha!

To be honest, I’d still rather drink these instant coffees than those gimmicky Nespresso-type pod machines, mainly because at least these packets tend to taste a bit like Kopi in Singapore. I now only indulge in good cups of Melbourne coffee when I’m brunching out, or when we’re staying at my place with a recently bought bag of beans.

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

Update: since I’d written up this post weeks ago, we’ve finally decided to haul the entirety of my coffee-making setup from my place to Fatbee’s… limited kitchen counter space notwithstanding. It made sense because there wasn’t any point leaving such good equipment sitting like unused white elephants in my home. Plus I was getting pretty bleurrrgh about instant coffees… haha!

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop
Carrot + toasted pecan cake with white chocolate cream cheese
Coconut butter cake with roasted rhubarb

We’ll end this post with a few old-style cakes from Beatrix in North Melbourne that we enjoyed one Wednesday afternoon. Because…. why not?? =D

Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop
Babu Barburger With Balls | Breadtop

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G2 Korean BBQ http://fatboo.com/2014/08/g2-korean-bbq-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/g2-korean-bbq-melbourne.html#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 22:00:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19203 G2 Korean BBQ

Korean BBQ place with a pleasant, industrial atmosphere, good cocktail Korean rice wines and food that's cooked for you over a charcoal fire.

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G2 Korean BBQ

301 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9642 3424
Website

G2 Korean BBQ

The ‘Asianification of Fatboo’ has gone to new heights recently. And I blame Fatbee… but in a good way, because it’s all about enjoying food in more and more ways. From cheaparse Asian cakes (oh so light and fluffy!) to seeing me happily dunking a packet of 3-in-1 Instant Asian coffee into hot water as my morning pick-me-up.

And now, you’ve got me wholeheartedly embracing the sizzlingly smoky affair that’s Korean BBQ.

G2 Korean BBQ

Fatbee organised a meal here with his friends, announcing that we’re dining at G2.

Me: ‘We’re dining where???”
Fatbee: “G2… don’t confuse it with the song – Like a G6”.

G2 Korean BBQ

That’s how I ended up with this annoyingly catchy song in my head for days and days… arrrrgh!!!

G2 Korean BBQ

G2 is located on Elizabeth Street close to Melbourne Central. And while it looks narrow and tiny from the street entrance, I discovered that there was a much more spacious upstairs section. The fit-out and ambience is very atmospheric too, with a warehousey-industrial feel… part of the reason why I enjoyed this Korean BBQ session.

G2 Korean BBQ
Korean Cocktail Rice Wine (900ml) 21
Peach / Mango / Pineapple

Over the course of our meal, the seven of us enjoyed three jugs of fruit flavoured Korean rice wine (and half of a pair of chopsticks to stir it with). They’re incredibly easy to drink because it more or less tastes like a fruit smoothie with a mellow (sake-like) hint of rice wine. I confess I found it so drinkable that I consumed more than the lion’s share and became slightly incoherent by the end of the meal… *hic*…^*~#!

G2 Korean BBQ

We left the ordering to Lorena, probably because she’s very decisive and isn’t shy about over-ordering. I love it when I don’t have to hold back from my gorilla-style eating tendencies!

On a side note, don’t you love how these copper-coloured Korean-style BBQ exhausts hang down from the ceiling? It’s like shiny fruit from a giant Adam & Eve industrial tree.

G2 Korean BBQ
G2 Rice 3
Steamed Rice with Fried Kim-Chi & Sauce

Complimentary Side Dishes

Not long after we ordered, our table is set-up… first with the arrival of complimentary side dishes (seaweed coleslaw, pickled daikon, marinated onion & kimchi). Next, vessels of red hot coals are precariously carried in and a grilling rack placed over them. Yes, they use charcoal fire here rather than gas… that’s one big tick in my books!

Also pictured here is my serve of G2 special rice, which came tangy, spicy and flavoursome to the point where you could almost enjoy it on its own. I believe it had a bit of umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) in it.

G2 Korean BBQG2 Korean BBQ
Cube Roll (Angus Beef) 34
Porterhouse (Angus Beef) 30
Beef Rib (Angus Beef) 30
Ox Tongue 19

The meats next arrived in quick succession and were cooked for us by two waitstaff… the cuts of beef were cooked in one griller and pork cuts in a second griller.

And that’s what made me happy here, I used to dislike Korean BBQ because you’re forking out money to cook your own food (not to mention you leave the establishment with your clothes smelling of meat smoke). But these days, I’ve gotten used to the fact that most places cook it for you.

I confess everything arrived and were cooked so quickly that we lost track of what was what. But let me just make it clear that all the cuts of Angus Beef here tasted amazing. Only the ox tongue was a let down because it was cooked to a rather firm, leathery texture.

G2 Korean BBQ
Pork Belly (Plain) 15
Pork Belly (Thin Sliced) 16
Pork Scotch (Plain) 15
Pork Jowls 15 

And here’s our spread of pork cuts being cooked in the second griller. While we quite liked them, I personally thought that the quality of the pork served at Guhng Korean Restaurant on McKillop St to be nicer… both in terms of flavour and texture.

I’ll have to say the one thing that I missed about this meal was a bowl of fresh leaves to wrap the grilled meats in. Back in Singapore, I grew up enjoying dad’s way of having Korean BBQ… he’d place the grilled meat on a piece of lettuce, add a slice of raw garlic and a bit of kimchi, and munch into it like a wrap.

G2 Korean BBQ
Mushroom Mix 14
Darkbulgogi – Spicy (Marinated Chicken thigh fillet) 18

Notice how all the meats that we chose weren’t marinated? That’s how we prefer it… plain meats chargrilled over charcoal fire so that you can enjoy the actual quality and flavour of the meat. That’s when the freshness of the meat is paramount because there isn’t any seasoning to hide inferior quality.

All that said, we didn’t have a choice with the chicken because it all came marinated with the choice of sweet soy or spicy sauce. I was equivocal about it. And finally, the obligatory serve of veggies in the form of a platter of mushrooms.

G2 Korean BBQJap-Chae 13
Pan-fried potato noodle, vegetable and beef with sweet soy sauce

But our meal did not end there, we also got a few supporting dishes. First was this serve of stir-fried sweet potato noodle, which I thought could’ve been less sweet.

G2 Korean BBQ
Kim-Chi & Pork Bone Chowder 29

And a large hot pot of kim chi stew with pork ribs, served on a portable gas stove. The stew was pretty good, but the flesh from the pork ribs were far too tough for my liking.

G2 Korean BBQ

This was a pretty enjoyable Korean BBQ session in a very pleasant warehousey setting. And despite the stratospheric amounts of food and rice wine that we ordered, we ended up paying about $45 per person, which isn’t too bad.

And guess what? This place is open till 4am everyday, so you can enjoy a bit of friendship over drinks and Korean BBQ waaay into the wee hours of the morning. They (quite hilariously) call it G4 night… so G2 turns into G4 in the nighttime, and I now wonder if they’ll play Like a G6 as one of their songs. And by the way, in the song it sounds like they’re singing “Like a Cheese Stick”…. ha ha ha!!

G2 Korean BBQ

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A Day in Daylesford http://fatboo.com/2014/08/daylesford-wombat-hill-house-breakfast-beer.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/daylesford-wombat-hill-house-breakfast-beer.html#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 22:00:11 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18784 A Day in Daylesford

Fatbee and I took a day trip to Daylesford, where we brunched at Breakfast & Beer, then had Afternoon Tea with scones at Wombat Hill House.

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A Day in Daylesford

A Day in Daylesford
Lake Daylesford

Fatbee only gets one in five weekends off. The rest of the time I find myself often staying in (and homecooking) on weekends while he sleeps off a long graveyard shift. But if you call me a housewife, Imma gonna slap ya!

Anyway, we jumped at one of those rare weekends of dual freedom and spent it having a little day trip into Daylesford.

A Day in Daylesford

I keep forgetting how short a drive it is getting to this little town, clocking in at less than one and a half hours. And in true Fatbee fashion, he’d already picked a place to brunch at. So we strolled around and browsed the shops along the short shopping stretch in Daylesford before stepping into this cafe at what’s purportedly the ‘Paris End of Town’.

A Day in Daylesford

Breakfast & Beer

117 Vincent St
Daylesford, VIC 3460
03 5348 1778
A Day in Daylesford

It was an absolutely freezing Winters day in regional Victoria when we visited, with a max. of 11ºC paired with pretty strong winds… the sun only peeked out briefly. So the moment we were seated in this quaint little woody cafe, we eagerly asked for mugs of hot drinks to warm our hands with.

A Day in Daylesford
Calmer Sutra Chai Latte 4.0 | Kali West African Hot Chocolate 4.0

Here’s Fatbee’s chai, while in the background my tall mug of West African hot chocolate lies waiting.

A Day in Daylesford

It was a perfect choice for that blustery day, and the mugs retained heat and warmed our hands so well!

A Day in DaylesfordRoasted mushroom, pink fir potatoes, dulse, Jerusalem artichoke, horseradish, poached egg & parmesan 17

Food-wise, we became accidental vegetarians that afternoon, with me being unable to go past the dish that contained Jerusalem artichoke in it. Such a lovely Winter vegetable… and it was crunchy, nice and sweet in this dish. The horseradish leaves and the portobello mushroom were very enjoyable too.

A Day in Daylesford
Organic potato hash brown, goat’s curd, beetroot relish, avocado 16

Fatbee went for something a little more Spartan with an organic hash. Overall he found it on the bland side, but the goat’s curd helped a bit.

A Day in DaylesfordA Day in Daylesford

I definitely won out over Fatbee with my brunch dish choice this time round, and my hot chocolate was very satisfying too. I also noticed they have a hot Belgian chocolate chai on the menu… perhaps worth noting for a future visit on another cold, Wintery day? I breezed out of this cafe happily.

A Day in Daylesford

After exploring the rest of the town centre for a little longer (read: 30 mins), we realised we were done with it and decided to take a ‘scenic drive’ atop Wombat Hill very nearby. There, we climbed the skinny Pioneer Memorial Tower in the middle of the gardens.

It was a bit scary climbing the winding spiral staircase to the top, not for those with vertigo! But you get a bit of a view as a reward. And funnily, I was curious to see the reservoir that’s located in the middle of the garden, only to discover it’s a covered reservoir, hah!

A Day in Daylesford

Wombat Hill House

Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens
Daylesford, VIC 3460
03 4373 0099
Website
A Day in Daylesford

I quite often find myself craving for afternoon teas when I’m out of the city… tea with scones, cream and jam to be exact. So we strolled down to Fatbee’s other handpicked cafe (right in the middle of the gardens) to see if they had what I’m craving for.

A Day in Daylesford

And they did! So we sat ourselves down. The indoor section here was a bit bustly, but the covered outdoor glass pavilion section was a lot quieter and pleasant to sit in.

A Day in Daylesford
Earl Grey Tea 4
Fresh Chai latte with honey & organic soy 4.2

Wombat Hill House was actually opened by Alla Wolf Tasker of Lake House fame. But it’s a lot more low-key and simpler here, which I didn’t mind. Pick a table, remember your table number, then order and pay at the counter. I also chuckled a little at the icon of a wombat with wings.

First order of the day… tea! Earl Grey for Fatbee and chai for me.

A Day in Daylesford
Scones with Jam & Cream 9

And of course it was accompanied with warm scones served with cream and jam. It has probably been more than two years since I’ve last had scones, so I was a pretty happy camper. And I also realised that I’m starting to like the rich floral fragrance of Earl Grey teas these days. It goes really nicely with sweets.

A Day in Daylesford

The thing I like about having scones is they aren’t sweet, and you decide how sweet you want them to be by adding however much jam you want. Although I confess I tend to go very heavy with the cream. And I like it when the insides of the scones are moist, fluffy and a little bit underbaked.

A Day in Daylesford
Cafe Interior

We walked around the gardens a bit after our afternoon tea before leaving Wombat Hill.

A Day in Daylesford
‘Sunset’ over Lake Daylesford

Lake Daylesford is a pretty small body of water, and you can walk around it in less than an hour. We did that stroll at around 4pm, just before the sun began to set. I got this photo during a very brief moment when the sun peeked from behind the curtain of grey clouds. I enjoyed the tranquility that we got from this day trip, and all the more memorable because it was one of the few weekends where neither of us were working.

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Co Thu Quan http://fatboo.com/2014/08/co-thu-quan-footscray.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/co-thu-quan-footscray.html#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 08:20:57 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18965 Co Thu Quan

Co Thu Quan's a Vietnamese eatery inside Little Saigon Market with an utterly unfamiliar menu of interesting (but very good) Vietnamese street food dishes.

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Co Thu Quan

Shop 22, Little Saigon Market
63 Nicholson Street
Footscray, VIC 3011
0412 685 558
Facebook Page

It was one of those typical Saturday mornings for Fatbee and myself. Him working from 4.30am till 10.30am, and me waking up at leisure whenever my body tells me to (ie. after 9am). During his bus ride home, we’d text each other seeing what we’d feel like eating.

Co Thu Quan

That morning, it transpired that we were both feeling “Asiany”… so Footscray as our usual goto destination popped up. But rather than head for the usual lineup of phos and bun chas, we decided that an investigation of what Cô Thư Quán has to offer would be fun. Hence this visit.

The eatery itself is embedded close to the entrance of Little Saigon Market, which also happens to be my favourite favourite place to ‘groce’ for fresh Asian groceries. Fortunately, it’s located a little bit away from the main part of the bustly market, so you’re sort of spared from the incessant yelling from the vendors trying to sell their $1.99/kg mangoes and $4.99/kg custard apples. Omg… so CHEEP!!

Co Thu Quan
Nước Đậu Rang 4
5 kinds of roasted bean drink

The fitout is quite cute, with bamboo stools, red lanterns, conical hats, wicker baskets and a menu lined with coconut husks. And we were delighted to find that the menu consisted of utterly unfamiliar dishes.  A perfect spot for food adventurers.

Fatbee started off with a hot drink made from 5 types of beans… I believe I detected barley, adzuki red beans and black sesame in it. It came nice with the huggably thick consistency of a milkshake.

Co Thu QuanCafê 3.5
Vietnamese drip-brewed coffee with/out condensed milk (hot/cold)

I went the traditional route with a perk-me-up Vietnamese hot coffee, served using the proper traditional filter. It took quite a few minutes to have all of my coffee percolate down to the cup, but the resultant drink was a knock-your-socks-off thick, strong and super sweet Vietnamese coffee. I loved its heavy, roasty punchiness but would’ve preferred it less sweet. Next time I’ll specify for less condensed milk.

Co Thu Quan
Phá Lấu 5.0
Coconut Beef offal stew served with a baguette

I was feeling pretty adventurous that morning and decided on sampling this dish of beef offal in an orangey coconut stew. It came in a petite entree-sized bowl garnished with Vietnamese mint, you imbibe the soup with a cute little teaspoon and pick at the offal with a satay stick. And to accompany it, a fluffy baguette and a sweet-tangy ‘nuoc cham’ like sauce with definite hints of fragrant calamansi lime.

Co Thu Quan

The stew was mildly sweet and coconutty and it went very nicely with the selections of beef offal in it, I actually liked it a lot. On the left is a piece of tripe and floating on top of the spoon (pictured right) are segments of lung.

The good thing about beef offal is… weird spongy-springy textures aside, it usually contains hardly any offensive odors to it compared to pig offal, making it a lot more approachable to those of us who’re unfamiliar with it. You just have to get over that initial mental roadblock about eating it. Not to mention I’m all for respecting every part of the animal rather than just eating the muscle and throwing everything else away.

Co Thu Quan
Bánh Dày Chả Cồm 5.0
Vietnamese sticky rice cake with fried pork patty topped with pork floss.

I continued with a ‘hamburger-like’ entree of fried pork patty sandwiched by glutinous rice cakes. The patty came crisp and very tasty, and the dense sticky rice cakes made this dish filling enough to satisfy me for lunch alongside with my offal stew. You have to eat this ‘burger’ using the provided strip of (bamboo?) leaf because if any your fingers touches the glutinous rice cakes, it sticks to you like glue!

Co Thu QuanBún Đậu Mắm Tôm 10.0
A vermicelli dish served with fried tofu, steamed pork belly, fried pork patty mixed with young green rice kernels and fermented shrimp sauce

Fatbee had a more lunch-like dish of rice vermicelli with fresh herbs, clean meats, tofu and pork patties. The fermented shrimp sauce took a bit of getting used to at the start and it served as just about the only umami counterpoint in this offering alongside with the oh-so-delicious fried pork patties.

Overall, we loved it too because the components tasted simple, clean and unique. Our main advice to you would be to have the pungent fermented shrimp sauce with all the other clean-tasting components (it brings the dish together nicely) rather than tasting it on its own.

Co Thu Quan

I have to say that this was one of the most unusual ‘brunches’ we’ve had in a long while and we loved every dish we’d encountered. They’ve done very well in offering an incredibly unfamiliar menu (a risky venture) and yet making every dish so tasty, unbastardised and moreish. We’re very keen on coming back soon to sample more of the menu!

Co Thu Quan

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Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋) http://fatboo.com/2014/08/sichuan-hot-pot-spicy-paste-recipe.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/sichuan-hot-pot-spicy-paste-recipe.html#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 21:20:43 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19143 Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

Recipe for making your very own Sichuan-style hot pot stock. So much nicer than using the crazy salty store-bought premade spice packets.

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Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

I think of hot pot as a ritual of friendship and conviviality. We share food and talk about our lives over a steaming pot of heartwarming food. To have hot pot together means “I like you well enough to dip chopsticks with you in the same pot”. It usually happens in cold weather, like people camped around a fireplace in winter.

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

Since I’d migrated to Melbourne, I’ve been introduced to Sichuan-style hot pot, which is a superbly fiery, mouth-numbing affair… the most spectacular version of which was when I had Chongqing Hot Pot at Dainty Sichuan in 2010. Since that day, I’ve not come across any hot pot stock that’s more crazily spicy than that.

Sichuan-style hot pot sessions in a home setting often involves the use of premade Sichuan spice packets to create the broth, but my main complaint is how ridiculously salty these store bought spice packets tend to be. So last Saturday when Fatbee organised a hot pot session with his friends, Lorena and Jerri, I decided to make my own Sichuan hot pot stock from scratch.

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

The first step involves making the base stock. There are lots of ways to make stock, but I created mine by simmering chicken bones (or pork / beef bones) with carrot, celery, smashed ginger and onions for a few hours.

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

This stock on its own will make an excellent broth for non-spicy hot pots. The ratios and quantities aren’t set in stone, but use at least 4 litres of water (with two chicken carcass frames) to have enough stock for the hot pot session.

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)
Dried Chillies, Garlic, Ginger, Fermented Black Beans, Star Anise, Cinnamon Sticks, Liquorice Bark, Fennel Seeds, Green Cardamom, Black Cardamom, Sichuan Peppers

Here are the main ingredients required to create the Sichuan hot pot spicy paste. I’m so glad that I have a cabinet full of Chinese herbs in my home, I found that I had all the spices needed to make this paste without having to go out and buy stuff.

You should source good quality (ie. very spicy) dried chillies and Sichuan peppers, ask your Asian grocer. The poorer quality versions contains less spiciness and mouth-numbing factor. This means that you should tweak the quantities of dried chillies and Sichuan peppercorns in this recipe according to the quality of your ingredients AND your own tolerance for spiciness. On this front, please note that I like my Sichuan hot pot stock very spicy, so the amounts of chillies and peppers I use is pretty high.

If you’re curious to learn more about Chinese herbs and spices, feel free to browse my post on Traditional Chinese Herbs, The Basics.

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)
Homemade Sichuan Spicy Paste | Sichuan Chilli Bean Paste (辣豆瓣酱 là dòu bàn jiàng)
Chinese Wine | Red Dates, Goji Berries

And here’s the rest of the ingredients needed. The dried chillies are soaked in water till soft, then ground with garlic, ginger, preserved black beans, Sichuan chilli bean paste and Sichuan peppercorns. The rest of the dry ingredients are fried with the spice paste later on, and the mixture is then simmered in Chinese cooking wine till the flavour is absorbed.

The red dates and goji berries are some of the condiments used in the soup, alongside with slices of ginger, spring onion (and more dried chillies and Sichuan peppers if you wish) when you’re having the actual hot pot session.

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

So here’s the spice paste being fried on the left… cooking wine is next added and the mixture simmered for 30 mins till the flavour is absorbed. To save yourself from spending too much time in the kitchen, this spicy paste can be made in advance then refrigerated.

On the right, you’ve got me adding the spice paste into the chicken broth bit-by-bit. I kept tasting the stock until it reached my desired level of spiciness.

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

Toss in the (optional) red dates, goji berries, ginger and spring onions… maybe even more dried chillies and Sichuan peppers if you like… and you’re ready to start!

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

And here’s our hot pot spread for four people.

It was such a hefty amount of food… but I loved how this Sichuan hot pot stock had none of that crazy amount of saltiness that you’d get with premade Sichuan spice packets. My dining companions commented that this soup was actually very good with perfect levels of spiciness and mouth-numbing factor, so this homemade spice paste seems to be pretty good!

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 3 hours
Serves 4 people

Base Stock

In a large stock pot, bring to a boil then simmer for a few hours:

4-5 litres of Water
2-3 Chicken Frames (approx. 1kg)
1 Red Onion
1 large Carrot
Thumb sized piece of Ginger (smashed)
2-3 stalks of Celery
3 stalks of Spring Onion

Strain & leave aside.

Sichuan Spicy Paste

Chop or grind coarsely in a food processor:

10-20 Dried Chillies (soaked in water till soft)
1 tbsp Chinese Fermented Black Beans
1 tbsp Sichuan Peppercorn
Half a thumb-sized piece of Ginger
4 cloves of Garlic
3 tbsp Sichuan Spicy Bean Paste (辣豆瓣酱 là dòu bàn jiàng)

Heat oil in wok, then fry over low heat till fragrant, stirring constantly:

Chopped spice paste mixture above

Add and fry for awhile:

3 Star Anise
1 tbsp Sichuan Peppercorn
2 pieces of Cinnamon Stick
4 pieces Liquorice Bark
1 tbsp Fennel Seeds (toasted)
Black Cardamom (toasted)
Green Cardamom (toasted) 

Stir in, then cover and simmer over low heat for 30 mins, stirring occasionally:

200ml Chinese Cooking Wine
1tbsp Sugar

Set aside this Sichuan Spicy Paste. Can be made in advance then refrigerated.

Serving the Hot Pot

In the hot pot, bring the Base Stock to a simmer.
Gradually stir-in the Sichuan Spicy Paste to the desired level of spiciness.

Add in these optional condiments:

1 tbsp Goji Berries
3-4 Red Dates (halved)
Spring Onion (cut into 1 inch lengths)
Sliced Ginger
Extra Sichuan Peppercorn
Extra Dried Red Chillies

You hot pot is ready to be enjoyed.

Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

Believe it or not… during that hot pot session, we actually finished every last bit of food!! I currently have the delicious leftover stock in my fridge, ready to be enjoyed in the near future.

You may be interested in more comforting home recipes here.

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Common Ground Coffee http://fatboo.com/2014/08/common-ground-coffee-west-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/common-ground-coffee-west-melbourne.html#comments Sun, 10 Aug 2014 00:10:02 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19026 Common Ground Coffee

Neighbourhood brunch spot in West Melbourne with simple, uncomplicated food and house roasted coffees.

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Common Ground Coffee

225-229 Victoria St
West Melbourne, VIC 3003
03 9328 1090
Website

Common Ground Coffee

Sunday brunch for Fatbee and I isn’t quite a case of a lazy start, with us waking up in the mornings together then heading off somewhere for brunch. More often than not, he’d be at work in the wee hours of the morning, knocking off at 10.30am, I’d then pick up a hungry and tired Fatbee at 11am and we’d have a meal. Bleah… The plight of dating shift workers. This arrangement meant that we’d visit places close to home for brunch so that we can get home and get him to bed.

Common Ground Coffee

That’s how we ended up here one Sunday after one of his morning shifts at work. We’d been eyeing this cafe whenever we walked or drove along Victoria St towards the city, the place looked cosy with bold reds and miminalist whites, and the brunch fare looked hearty.

Common Ground Coffee
Piccolo (Boutique Blend) $3.50

They roast their own coffees (in Ormond) and create their own blends here. I also believe they’re in some way affiliated with the Home Barista Institute and are involved with barista courses and cafe start ups. I sampled their boutique blend as a piccolo and it tasted on the bitter astringent side. Maybe it’ll be more balanced if imbibed as a flat white.

Common Ground Coffee
Soy Chai Latte $3.50

Meanwhile, Fatbee nursed a mellow soy chai, in preparation for his afternoon nap soon to come!

Common Ground Coffee
Open Omelette w gypsy ham, cheese, spinach, tomato & onion with sourdough $15

For our feed, we had huge serves of eggs with all the delightful brunchy trappings. Here’s Fatbee’s open omelette, which he had no complaints about.

Common Ground Coffee
Common Breakfast $18
two free range eggs poached or scrambled, with bacon, slow roasted tomato, mushroom & baby spinach on sourdough

And I went traditional, grabbing the classic big breaky…

Common Ground Coffee

… which was demolished pretty quickly.

Common Ground Coffee

You can’t expect all brunch spots to be spectacular and hit the high notes, but they didn’t do anything badly here. This place stands its ground as a decent neighbourhood cafe with simple, uncomplicated fare at slightly more affordable prices.

Common Ground Coffee

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Ayam Penyet Ria http://fatboo.com/2014/08/ayam-penyet-ria-south-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/ayam-penyet-ria-south-melbourne.html#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 21:40:22 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19013 Ayam Penyet Ria

Ayam Penyet Ria is a Singaporean franchise specialising in Indonesian Ayam Penyet (deep fried smashed chicken). The sambal here is superbly spicy.

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Ayam Penyet Ria

248 Clarendon St
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
03 9077 2947
Website

Ayam Penyet Ria

Funny how it takes visitors to Melbourne to tell me about places that I’d never even heard of before. Take this place for instance, it’s a Singaporean franchise serving Indonesian ayam penyet (squashed chicken) that I had no idea existed in Melbourne, let alone Singapore! Then in comes my visiting cousin Grace and her family, along with her cravings for this dish. That’s how I ended up visiting this place.

Ayam Penyet Ria

The premise is simple and the menu short and sweet. Order at the counter and grab a number.

Quite laudably, I learnt that this franchise hasn’t got a stall in Indonesia at all, it’s ironically a completely Singaporean enterprise specialising in this Indonesian dish!

Ayam Penyet Ria
Ayam Penyet Smashed Chicken (Original) $9.00 with Rice +$1.50

I hear that this place is much busier during lunchtime, but come dinnertime it’s quieter here, with the slight downside that some of the less popular offerings may be sold out (like Fatbee’s Iga Penyet – smashed beef ribs). But here’s the classic item on the menu – smashed chicken cooked in its original style (ie. deep fried). I thought it slightly weird that you’d have to add $1.50 to have this as a rice dish, the dish is so flavourful that it sort of has to be a rice dish anyway.

All that said, the feature item itself (the chicken) was indeed a very enjoyable feed. Hot, crispy and with good flavour and a slight dusting of kunyit (turmeric).

Ayam Penyet Ria
Ayam Penyet Smashed Chicken (Grilled) $9.00 with Rice +$1.50

The other way you can have this dish is panggang-style (ie. grilled…. don’t confuse it with “gangnam-style”). Okay lame jokes aside, all the other components that comes with the chicken is the same… deep fried tofu, tempeh, a fat chunk of cucumber and spicy sambal.  Super super spicy sambal if I might add… you definitely should eat it cautiously.

Overall verdict from cousin Grace is – they’ve pretty much replicated the dish exactly like how it’s like in Singapore, with the possible exception that the sambal’s actually even spicier here (how nice!). So the quality’s consistent.

Ayam Penyet RiaSoto Ayam $8.00 | Rawon $8.50

We also ordered serves of Indonesian soups to go with our meal. This would be my first time trying Rawon, an Indonesian beef soup containing a very rare ingredient – buah keluak. But sadly, Fatbee tells me that it isn’t anywhere close to the real thing. And indeed both soups were quite lacking in actual flavour aside from a horrific truckload of salt. I’d stick with the rice dishes if dining here.

Ayam Penyet Ria

And here’s the wonderful spread that Fatbee and I had with cousin Grace and her family… with all seven of us squeezed into that tiny little communal table that’s meant for four. You could call our group ‘orang penyet’ (squashed humans)… aahaha!

I was really touched with the way that Aunty Linda and Uncle David welcomed Fatbee into the family, hugging him and all. And salty soups and a minor quibbles aside, it was a very convivial and enjoyable meal that we had together.

Ayam Penyet Ria
Ayam Penyet Smashed Chicken (Original) $9.00

We even ordered more serves of the chicken (without the rice) to share amongst us. To be honest, the serves of penyet with the rice were already big enough for a good full meal, so we were being very very greedy here.

Ayam Penyet Ria

From my own perspective as a newcomer to this franchise, I liked the chicken and the sambal, but found the tempeh okay and the deep fried tofu far far far too salty for my liking. It’s probably in the same league as Es Teler 77, although I probably prefer Es Teler’s offerings a bit more. All that said, Fatbee tells me that neither of these joints are that fantastic if an Indonesian were to rate it. But within Melbourne’s food landscape, it’s still a very welcome addition to the variety that’s on offer here.

Ayam Penyet Ria

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St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis http://fatboo.com/2014/08/st-emilion-lourdes-carcassonne-cassis-france.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/st-emilion-lourdes-carcassonne-cassis-france.html#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 09:50:38 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19336 St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Trip journal covering the countrysides of France. We visit medieval St Emilion, Lourdes Sanctuary, the fortified city of Carcassonne & sunny Cassis.

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St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

We’ll now continue on with the next instalment of my ‘le petit holiday’ in France.

… okay okay a very bad attempt at speaking French… ha ha ha!

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis
Roque Saint-Christophe

But let’s get going. In the previous chapter, we fell in love with our days of tranquility spent in The Dordogne Valley. Our final port of call in Dordogne (on the morning that we left) was a visit to Roque Saint-Christophe, a prehistoric settlement etched into limestone cliffs. I was half intrigued, but I confess I was also half bored… probably because it was a bit like a cave visit. Caves don’t interest me.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisLes Glycines

We left the Périgord region with a lunch stopover at this restaurant in Les Eyzies.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Schmancy looking mineral water bottle aside (it looked like wine), it was also our last chance to have some foie gras from the area that’s famed for it. These grilled foie gras escalopes were good.

I’d also like to say that we were pretty amazed at the pricing of food in France. This lovely three course meal here went at a very affordable 17€. Now I know why everybody’s complaining that Australia’s expensive.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

It was only a few more hours drive before we reached the next locality where we spent two nights in – Saint Emilion. It’s in the Bordeaux wine region, just look at those gorgeous grapes…!

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

We ‘roughed it out’ in a cheap AirBnB loft about 15kms away from the town for the two nights. It was a shabby-chic, rather dirty and a bit of a DIY-job type of loft. Mum wasn’t impressed that some things were falling apart, dad kept knocking his head against the low wood beams in the ceiling, and I slept in a rather uncomfortable (and dusty) sofa bed.

However, the resident cats roaming the area made me smile. I even imagined waking up to them saying “Le meoww…. le purrrr…!“.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

But the best thing about this loft was our daily breakfast basket every morning… personally left in front of our door by our AirBnB hostess. These were the BEST croissants that we had out of our entire trip, I wonder which local bakery she sourced them from…!

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Libourne

We spent our first morning exploring the Sunday market in the nearby town of Libourne.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

The variety of fresh produce looked wonderful, so we spontaneously decided to shop here and construct a picnic lunch at home (since the loft had a little pantry and kitchenette). Dad even bought an oyster shucker to open the fresh oysters when we got back!

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

I’ll have to say that this was one magnificent homemade lunch spread that we had back at the loft. We finally got to teeth into salads and fresh greens after days of eating buttered up vegetables, and this fresh-off-the-griller roast chicken (complete with garlic and giblets) absolutely blew us away.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Even if this loft wasn’t one the most comfortable stays we had, the simple meals that enjoyed there were very memorable. It spoke of the lovely produce that France had to offer. Even the resident cat wanted to partake in our feast.

Awww bless…!

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Saint Emilion

After lunch at home, we finally explored the historical town of St Emilion. A heritage village that’s completely surrounded by vineyards.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Saint-Émilion was a bit touristy and crowded, but still charming in its own right. I liked the style of the buildings.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

I struggle with architectural descriptions… but the buildings just looked so ‘very Bordeaux’, so elegantly Roman. With a bit of imagination (and minus the tourists, ourselves included) it would’ve been such a lovely setting for a medieval film.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

And of course there were loads of wine sellers. Dad got a bottle of very fine wine from here, which we enjoyed over another homecooked dinner back at the loft that night.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Lourdes

Our trip continued with us driving a few hundred kilometres down south into the Hautes-Pyrénées, our destination –  the religious (and paradoxical) town of Lourdes.

I don’t mean to offend people, but I found the main parts of the town somewhat tacky, with bad restaurants, not-that-great hotels and an insane amount of tourist shops selling religious souvenirs and supplies.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

However, all you have to do is cross a little bridge over a crystal clear stream…

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes

… and you’re suddenly in a completely different world!

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Our visit here was mainly for mom, who really wanted to make the pilgrimage to this sanctuary. I’ll have to concede that it’s actually a very stately looking building, with marvellous paintings.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis
Sacred Grotto

Apparently the little town of Lourdes next to this site only holds a population of 10,000, and yet over 5 million visitors make their pilgrimage here each year to visit The Sanctuary of Our Lady Lourdes. This grotto where everyone’s holding vigil at was where Saint Bernadette sighted Our Lady of Lourdes.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

I’m not a religious person, but I’ll just say that I enjoyed taking heaps photos in this sanctuary, it was very beautiful. All that said, I’ll be cheeky here and mention this… don’t you think that its front facade looks a lot like Walt Disney’s logo?

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

I left mom and dad in the Sanctuary to witness an evening procession. Meanwhile, I explored the town a bit and rested in the hotel.

Okay okay… I played computer games that evening. I find  that after a week or so into a holiday, I need to have a ‘break’ from the constant barrage of spectacular scenery!!

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Trip exhaustion aside, dinner that night was good. We had Indian food. Yes… Indian food in Lourdes… with French wine!

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

The next day, we drove eastwards towards Carcassonne. Mum and I developed tummy troubles from the spicy spicy curries from the night before. Fortunately, despite the toilet stops, we reached our destination with time to spare.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Bloc G

112 rue Barbacane
11000 Carcassonne
Website

But before I cover the much-famed hilltop citadel, I’d like to give a little shout to the boutique hotel we stayed at.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

It was a cute and fashionable little place with a friendly price tag. I admit the design of some of the fittings made our stay a little impractical (the shelves to put our stuff in were so curvy-wurvy), but it was quirky and fun enough for us to overlook all that for the one night.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Even the common areas at Bloc G were done up with cute little touches. The nice thing about this trip was how we’d been staying in so many unique types of accommodations.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Cité de Carcassonne

I’m a bit of a sucker for history and ruins, that’s why I asked that we stay one night at Carcassonne.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis
View of the fortified city from River Aude

I got a bit impatient about us having lunch in a crummy cafe in the new town whilst the afternoon wore on, but we eventually made it to Cite de Carcassonne. It’s the main attraction here… a UNESCO World Heritage site, an impressive fortified city perched so grandly on top of the hill.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

In the cloudy autumnal weather, the Medieval fortress looked rather drab and brown, but I remembered loving how the conical rooftops had a eye-catching cobalt-blue sheen to it.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

We discovered that the inside of the Medieval city still functions today as a bustling town, with shops, museums, restaurants, churches and hotels.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis
Chateau et Remparts

In the end, we found that it isn’t that huge a city to explore, and we more or less covered most of it in a few hours. My curiosity was satisfied.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

This was a decent visit. But personally speaking, I think I prefer just looking at the site from afar. With enough imagination, you can picture the Knights Templar fighting against the Cathars as they laid siege against the fortress walls. Seeing shops, cafes and tourists in the citadel itself sort of spoilt some of the magic around this historical site for me.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Cassis

We’ll end this trip instalment with our first glimpse of the coast. The drive from Carcassonne to Cassis was quite a long one, but we managed to reach our destination before sundown.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

Cassis is a seaside town just 20km east from Marseille, it’s famed for its cliffs and calanques (sheltered inlets). I’ll have to say that after the days of gloomy weather, it was very welcome seeing so much sun with a good dose of balmy Mediterrannean weather at last.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | CassisSt Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis
Dinner at La Poissonnerie

That evening in Cassis, we dined at La Poissonnerie, a family-run restaurant that originally started off as a fisherman’s stall. Here, we finally got to try a good version of a Marseille specialty – Traditional Bouillabaisse.

The dish comes in a few components, first you get a basket of croutons with garlic saffron spread, then you receive a platter of freshly cooked seafood…

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis

… and finally, a lovely tureen of seafood broth. Assemble the seafood and croutons on your plate, then pour the delicious seafood broth over it.

St Emilion | Lourdes | Carcassonne | Cassis
Traditional Bouillabaisse

We were in heaven… they even refilled that tureen of broth for us! Even though we did no research whatsoever in terms of where to eat for this trip, it is just fantastic that you can have excellent meals in just about any township in France.

This ends the third instalment of my France trip. In the next instalment, we’ll explore the hectic and character-filled coastal cities along the French Riviera… from Nice to Monaco!

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Nieuw Amsterdam http://fatboo.com/2014/08/nieuw-amsterdam-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/nieuw-amsterdam-melbourne.html#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 10:00:22 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19001 Nieuw Amsterdam

American-inspired bar and eatery hidden in a Melbourne laneway with nice cocktails, delicious food and an atmospheric ambience. Perfect for date night!

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Nieuw Amsterdam

106–112 Hardware St
Melbourne VIC 3000
Website

Nieuw Amsterdam

Dining out on a budget and cooking massive meals to last for a week has been the theme of Fatbee and my existence this year. It isn’t like we’re poor or anything, it’s just that we’re channelling our pink dollar into mortgages, retirement plans and (most importantly) relaxing holidays. But this isn’t an entirely sustainable endeavour… ever so often, we’d have to treat ourselves to a little something. Hence our decision to explore this fabulous little laneway’d restaurant this Winter.

Nieuw AmsterdamNieuw Amsterdam

The theme at Nieuw Amsterdam is New Yorkian… with a loft motif, arched windows, distressed bricks, dark woods, a marbled bar top, lovely little alcoves and modern-casual furniture. Maybe we haven’t been out for ages, but I was completely smitten by the interior. Service was efficient, friendly and professional.

Nieuw Amsterdam

The other funny thing about this visit was how Fatbee dressed me up (with things from his wardrobe) like how girls would dress up a doll. It was the first time I’d ever worn a bow tie, which I proceeded to hide behind my scarf, then there’s the collared shirt, velvet jacket and three-sizes-too-large boots. I felt like one of those unimpressed chihuahuas being forced to wear pink hats and frocks.

I hobbled all the way to the restaurant in that fanciful (and uncomfortable) get up and ended up with my socks riding down all the way to the tips of my toes by the time we arrived. Ha ha ha! Next time I can wear his shirts and jackets because our sizes are similar, but I will have to say “no” to wearing oversized shoes!

Nieuw Amsterdam
PINA MARGARITA $19
Tromba Blanco, Muddled Pineapple, Lime Juice, Agave and a dash of Hot Sauce
SALZBURG SYMPHONY $19
Mozart Dry, Maraschino Liqueur, Violet Liqueur, Lemon Juice and Agave

To celebrate our date night, we each picked a cocktail to sip on. I had a tropical-tasting pina margarita while Fatbee enjoyed a deep and nutty Salzburg symphony.

Nieuw AmsterdamNieuw Amsterdam

The menu is pretty succinct and designed for sharing, and the offerings are meant to be American-inspired with dishes like New York Clam Chowder and meats from the Pitt Grill.

Nieuw Amsterdam
BLACK KINGFISH CEVICHE . . . $15.50
Daikon, dashi dressing, crunchy quinoa, finger limes

We started off with a shared entree of black Kingfish ceviche, which came with a unique twist of Asian flavours from dashi and soy. I liked how the Kingfish came both as slices and cubes, and the whole dish overall tasted lovely and balanced with good textures.

Nieuw Amsterdam
SMOKEY BEEF BRISKET . . . $23.50
Carrot remoulade

Next up, we had smoky beef brisket from the Pitt grill. It tasted a lot like roasted smoked ham-on-the-bone and the presentation reminded me of a slightly fancier (and tastier) version of a traditional English roast. It was nice, but I’d have preferred if the brisket had a softer texture.

Nieuw Amsterdam
SLOW BRAISED LAMB NECK . . . $21
Hand rolled spaghetti, turnips, manchego

On the upside, our other main dish was a winner. A lovingly slow-cooked braised lamb neck that came so unctuous and fork tender that we went silent for quite awhile. The tangle of al-dente pasta, flavoursome jus, and cubes of compressed turnips brought the dish together very nicely too.

Nieuw AmsterdamGrilled courgettes, pine nuts, lemon-dressing . . . $9

To go with our mains, we had juicy chunks of grilled courgettes with a scatter of pine nuts and grated manchego cheese. I’ll have to say that the cheese tasted curiously sweet and unique, almost to the point that it reminded me of (… don’t laugh) durians and chempedak! And I’m saying this in a good way, because I enjoyed this side dish.

Nieuw Amsterdam

We decided to stop there with our savouries so that we had space for a dessert each to share.

Nieuw Amsterdam
PUMPKIN DONUTS $12
Jack Daniels cream

First up, a pretty massive serve of gooey-centered pumpkin donuts with Jack Daniels whiskey cream. It reminded me of Greek Loukoumades except it’s dusted with cinnamon sugar and came without that drizzle of honey. This dessert was on the heavy side and with our full bellies, we could not finish this. Maybe we should’ve gone for the peanut butter waffles instead… damn!

Nieuw AmsterdamNieuw AmsterdamLEMON MESS $14
Ginger crumble, cream cheese sorbet, lemonade granita

Our second dessert came as a light and playful number consisting of lemon granita, gingerbread crumble, cream cheese sorbet and popping candy. Quite a nice and refreshing end to our meal here.

Nieuw Amsterdam

It’s so nice that Fatbee and I have finally gone somewhere a little fancier for our date night, with good cocktails, tasty dishes, playful desserts and affable waitstaff in a buzzy modern-chic setting. We both enjoyed our evening here and the prices actually didn’t break our wallet at all. Fatbee describes the food at Nieuw Amsterdam as ‘New’ New York food, where the dishes are forward thinking with good ingredients and balanced flavours that works.

Nieuw Amsterdam

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Pho Hung Vuong Saigon – Footscray http://fatboo.com/2014/08/pho-hung-vuong-saigon-footscray.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/pho-hung-vuong-saigon-footscray.html#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 22:50:05 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18800 Pho Hung Vuong Saigon – Footscray

I've been neglecting this life-saving noodle soup dish for too long, so it's time to satisfy my hankering for it at Pho Hung Vuong Saigon in Footscray.

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Pho Hung Vuong Saigon – Footscray

128 Hopkins St
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9689 6002
Facebook Page

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray

I’ve been having my priorities in the wrong places. My concept of what I should blog about (circa 2012-2013) revolved a lot around many of Melbourne’s hotter and much-talked-about spots. Meanwhile, my love for Singapore Hawker Food and those comforting, affordable cheap eats that I’d be going for 80% of the time were left on the sidelines and unblogged.

So it’s time to rectify that! If anything else, let me just cheekily say that it’s WAAAAY easier to blog about a one-dish-meal for two as opposed to a 9-course degustation with the added slap of amuse bouches, palate cleansers and petit fours… hah!

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray

When it comes to pho, I’d normally make a bee-line for I Love Pho 264 in Richmond (really good beef quality there) or its sister branch nearby Phoenix Phuong Hoang (just as good, plus the broth isn’t as crazy salty). But when it comes to Footscray, I actually don’t know which of the many joints along this stretch gives you good pho.

It so happened that Fatbee and I were in Footscray getting the ingredients to cook Sayur Lodeh (Malaysian Vegetable Curry). Being so chilly and all this winter, I had a hankering for pho, so we stopped by here for a quick feed. I definitely have been here before, but just never quite got around to blogging it!

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray
Broken Rice with Grilled Pork Chop, Fried Egg & Shredded Pork $11.00

There’s a universal truth about most Vietnamese phos, and it’s how MSG is always present. Fatbee’s a bit sensitive with MSG, so he went with Com Tam (broken rice) instead. While it isn’t the best version of it around, he was pretty happy with it, aside for how the pork chop could afford more chargrilling action to it. I personally think it’s pretty good considering it’s a place that actually specialises in noodle soup.

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   FootscrayPho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray
Special Beef Combination Noodle Soup – Small $9.00

I got my usual order of phở bò đặc biệt, which is beef pho with all the trappings such as meat loaf, tendons and tripe. I also went smart and had a small bowl, which is a perfect portion size for me these days. I liked how the broth was quite clean tasting with a bit of sweetness, the beef offerings were pretty good too, although not quite as fabulous as I Love Pho 264’s beef quality, but it’s quite close to it. I was happy.

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray

It was a good and simple feed. Pictured here, you’ve got the beef tripe and tendons sitting happily on my spoon. I also added a few teaspoonsful of chilli oil (on top of having cut red chillies in the mix) to spice things up a bit. It’s how I enjoy eating my pho.

One caveat though… what I thought was sweetness in my broth was actually oodles of MSG. I left the place with a pretty dry back of the throat. But that’s a feature of most pho places anyway, so I shouldn’t hold it against them.

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray
Sayur Lodeh… on the simmer

And here’s what we cooked that afternoon. It was pretty good and went very well with ayam goreng (Malay deep fried chicken) and beef rendang. If you’re keen, check out my Sayur Lodeh Recipe.

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Borek & Bratwurst Shop – Queen Victoria Market http://fatboo.com/2014/07/borek-bratwurst-queen-victoria-market.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/borek-bratwurst-queen-victoria-market.html#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 07:40:24 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18887 Borek & Bratwurst Shop – Queen Victoria Market

This post covers the cheap and tasty lunch snacks that you can grab at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne - Boreks and Bratwurst!

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Borek & Bratwurst Shop – Queen Victoria Market

Before we start, I’ve got a mini announcement… this post marks my 500th blog post… Woohoo!!

I’d normally HAAAATE traffic & car parking on market days. Then a few weeks ago, I realised something… Queen Victoria Market is but a 10 minutes walk from Fatbee’s home… so why in the world am I not strolling over and doing my groceries there? Without the constraints of driving, it makes perfect sense.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Borek Stall

Shop 95-96, Deli Hall
Queen Victoria Market
Website
Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

What started the ball rolling was an Instagram photo of this Borek stall that Winston took. I’d never heard nor eaten Boreks before, so on the same Sunday that Winston shared that pic, Fatbee and I decided to stroll down to QVM finally…

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

… for these amazingly cheap $3 lunch snacks!

I loved the throng of people clustered around the stall, manned by ladies with a positively upbeat mojo. Business was swift and brisk, and despite the crowd, we got our fresh-off-the-oven boreks pretty quickly.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market Spicy Lamb Borek $3

And here it is! They’re Turkish pastries filled with minced meat, or cheese and spinach.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

These pastries were crispy, fresh, warm and just very lightly seasoned. In the centre, we discovered a light filling of minced lamb, a bit of spice, onions and bell peppers. They’re nice and big pastries for $3 too, although I hear they used to be $2.50 a pop!

Thanks, Winston for showing us the light… I’ll now make this place a lunch snack ritual whenever I’m shopping at QVM.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Bratwurst Shop & Co.

Shop 99-100, Deli Hall
Queen Victoria Market
03 9328 2076
Facebook Page

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Of course just the one borek shared between Fatbee and I wasn’t enough, so we proceeded to another stall nearby for our second lunch snack… German snags!!

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

And no, I’m not talking about Sensitive New Age Guys here (although that could be just as yummy), I’m talking bratwursts! This stall is just as busy as Boreks, you just have to creep your way to the front and place your order.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

And before long, you’ll have one of these in your hands. You get to choose whatever toppings you’d like on it and they’re priced at a standard $6.80, although you’ll have to pay a little extra if you want cheese and onion.

The classic accompaniments (if you don’t specify any) consists of tomato sauce, mustard and sauerkraut. I’ll have to comment that the sauerkraut is only very lightly pickled here, it’s almost like cooked shredded cabbage with a dash of vinegar.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market Mild Bratwurst | Chorizo $6.80ea

I snacked at this stall over two visits. We didn’t know which bratwurst would be the classic traditional version, so we opted for the mild brat the first time round. It was mild indeed and could’ve afforded more punch and flavour to it. The second time round, I tried chorizo, which was smokier and more enjoyable.

Overall, it isn’t quite as tasty and fabulous as the uh-maaa-ziiing brats that I’ve had in Vienna (take note though that I haven’t been to Germany). But on the up side, I liked the fluffy and stretchy old-school breads that they used here. Still, I’m quite likely to snack here as well when I’m doing my groceries.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Market Lane Coffee

Shop 73-76, Deli Hall
Queen Victoria Market
Website

Oh, and Market Lane Coffee now has a stall inside QVM’s Deli Hall where Boreks and Bratwursts resides. It’s crazy because Market Lane already has a brew bar on Thierry St just outside less than 100m away. And both venues are just as busy on market days. You may want to peek at a previous post where I’d proclaimed my love for Market Lane Coffee.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market Piccolo $4 (Seasonal Espresso Blend fr. Guatemala)

Here’s a piccolo that I got from there. Aside for the fact that it’s in a paper cup, it’s one very fine cup of coffee… I detected notes of vanilla, cherries and caramel. Delicious!!

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

And here’s what we came to the market for… to get the ingredients to make Bak Kut Teh at home. We also couldn’t resist some Asian snacks from Minh Phat… these peanut cookies (and any similar Asian sweets) are just so delightful to munch on. Fatbee is seriously making my (already Azn) palate even more and more Asian!

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Sadly, the Bak Kut Teh spice packet that I got wasn’t any good. Despite following its instructions (and using less water than suggested) the soup turned out more like Bak Kut Water!! Ha ha ha… I had to swing by my place the next day to pile in more Traditional Chinese Herbs to simmer the soup in before it tasted less bleurgggghy. I should have just made it all from scratch instead of being lazy using spice packets!

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Guhng Korean Restaurant http://fatboo.com/2014/07/guhng-korean-bbq-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/guhng-korean-bbq-melbourne.html#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 09:45:25 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18615 Guhng Korean Restaurant

Korean BBQ restaurant in Melbourne with good quality (albeit small-sized) dishes. The sliced pork belly is particularly good.

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Guhng Korean Restaurant

19 McKillop St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9041 2192
Website

Guhng Korean Restaurant

Fun fact: “Guhng” is Korean for “Palace”.

This was the last place Fatbee and I took Mummybee to before she left for home, and the meal we had there was enjoyable. A number of Fatbee’s friends came along, so it was a pretty jovial Korean BBQ session… and a big success in our books because we wanted to show a worried Mummybee that Fatbee’s life in Melbourne is surrounded with a good circle of supportive friends.

Guhng Korean Restaurant

Guhng’s Melbourne ‘palace’ is located in a narrow, three storey tall Korean ‘dungeon’ on McKillop St, right next to Red Spice Road. We were seated in the basement, which was an excellent area to be in, because it meant that all the smoke rises to the top whilst our table remained pretty much free from a cloud of meat smoke.

Guhng Korean Restaurant

We decided to skip the banquet set menus and go a la carte instead, allowing us to pick exactly what we wanted. After ordering, we were presented with the usual delightful selection of complimentary accompaniments that comes with all Korean meals. From left: pickled daikon, marinated onion and kimchi.

Guhng Korean Restaurant
Kimchi Hotpot 14 | Black Rice 2
Korean traditional Kimchi soup with pork and vegetables

We started off with a serve of kimchi stew to share, which came medium spicy with a nice hearty brothiness to it. My only quibble was the serve was very small for its price point. Pictured right is the rice that they serve here, which comes as a mixture of black and Jasmine rice.

Guhng Korean Restaurant
Yuk-Hwei / light-seasoned beef sashimi, sliced raw tenderloin 200g with egg yolk, pear, cucumber, sesame oil and guhng’s signature gal-sal dressing 23

Next we had a traditional Korean entree of raw beef sashimi. The beef was good and it was interesting having crisp slivers of nashi pear in the mix, but the gal-dal dressing pushed it towards the cloyingly sweet territory.

Pictured right were the fresh veggies that came with our Korean BBQ dishes (see below). They top it up as you go through that bowl.

Guhng Korean RestaurantGuhng Korean Restaurant

We then embarked on the Korean BBQ half of the meal. First, a cauldron of hot coals was skilfully placed inside the hole in the middle of our table, and the accompany dipping sauces arrived. From top: soybean sauce, salt and sesame oil, honey plum sauce. We ended up enjoying the salt and sesame oil dip the best as it was the least sweet.

Guhng Korean RestaurantGuhng Korean RestaurantPremium Beef rib fillets / 180g / limited sale premium part of beef rib 26
Wagyu / 200g / Australian Wagyu beef is one of the most delicate meat among all and the cube roll fillet is the tenderest part of the beef 39

Things happened pretty quickly from here on. The meats arrived and our friendly waitress started cooking it for us. She’d tell us when the meats are ready to eat, suggesting we wait a bit longer if we prefer it well done (no way!).

Pictured on top, in longer strips, were the premium beef rib fillets… and the steak-like slab of nicely marbled meat below was Wagyu beef. Both were very tender and flavoursome and I could not really pinpoint which I preferred.

Guhng Korean Restaurant
Mix mushroom bbq platter / various mushrooms grilling on the charcoal fire 13

We also had a much enjoyed serve of mixed mushrooms.

Guhng Korean Restaurant
Pork belly / Dae-Pai / 200g / sliced plain pork belly 20

But interestingly, my favourite BBQ meat for the night had to be the plain pork belly. Once chargrilled on the BBQ, the caramelisation made it incredibly flavoursome. They used very good quality pork here, I’d even think it might be Kurobuta.

Guhng Korean RestaurantGuhng Korean Restaurant
Gal-bi / 200g / butterflied cut of beef rib meat, marinated and fermented in soy-sauce for 72 hours with garlic and ginger 23

Our final BBQ meat was marinated beef ribs, which we enjoyed the least (it was sweetish). I’m not a veteran with Korean BBQ, but I think the best things to BBQ are the plain unmarinated meats… where you can enjoy its flavour and quality without battling a curtain of seasoning. It was also the reason why we enjoyed the salt and sesame dipping sauce the best, because it augmented the BBQ meat’s flavour without overpowering things.

Guhng Korean Restaurant

Here’s the mess we left behind as we left the place… quite civilised, actually. It was a good meal, but I’ll have to say that the serving sizes here were on the smaller side, but of good quality. So I basically left just satisfied (ie. 80% full) rather than stuffed.

Guhng Korean Restaurant

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Stagger Lee’s http://fatboo.com/2014/07/stagger-lees-proud-mary-fitzroy.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/stagger-lees-proud-mary-fitzroy.html#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 22:00:01 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18909 Stagger Lee’s

Proud Mary's new cafe - Stagger Lee's (inspired from an American folk song) has opened on busy Brunswick St. It's pretty good.

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Stagger Lee’s

276 Brunswick St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
03 9419 5564
Website

Stagger Lees

Fatbee and I caught up with Fakegf over brunch one Thursday morning, it’s a bit of a monthly ritual when our off days do coincide. We aren’t that fastidious with where to brunch these days, so the options are either an oldie but goodie, or a newbie. This time round we picked a new spot – Stagger Lee’s.

Stagger Lees

The appeal here comes from the fact that it’s opened by the people behind Proud Mary nearby, a place that consistently serves up spectacular coffees with a hearty brunch menu to boot. The fitout at this sister branch leans towards a more warehousey motif with distressed bricks and naked lights hanging from the ceiling, it’s a bit cosier and less superbly busy than Proud Mary.

Stagger LeesStagger Lees
Soy Chai $4
Piccolo | Magic $3.8

Drinks-wise, Fatbee enjoyed a nice and spicy soy chai latte, while Fakegf and I went the necessary perk-me-up pathway of coffees. We learnt that Stagger Lee’s does it a little differently here by not having a House Blend coffee on offer. It’s only single origins and filters here. Awwww… that meant I couldn’t have another hit of the oh-so-delicious Angel Wings, a bright and fruity blend that transcends the imagination and always makes me smile.

We both went with the Single Origin that’s suited for milk coffees – from Brazil Serra Das Tres Barras. My piccolo came confident with a dark, red-fruit syrupy hug of caffeine which (to me) reminded me of a good cup of Axil Coffee. Fakegf had it as a magic (which is a double ristretto ¾ flat white) and she detected notes of melons and caramel. They were pretty good coffees, but I still miss the brighter tasting blends that Proud Mary tends to come up with.

Stagger LeesStagger Lees
Mama’s Stack 19
Shaved corned beef, pressed potato, black cabbage, soft poached egg, horseradish cream

The brunch menu looked very appealing (not to mention American Western cartoony), and I learnt that the head chef here (Chris Hamburger) used to be at St Ali North. My chosen dish of cubed corned beef with potato galette and Tuscan cabbage worked very nicely for me that Winters morning.

Stagger LeesShrooms ‘n’ Truffles 17.5
Pan roasted local pine mushrooms, truffled polenta, poached egg, pecorino pepato, farmhouse toast

Fakegf got the other dish that I was eyeing on the menu… I mean, pine mushrooms and truffles… how can one resist that? It was a beautiful and comforting offering which elicited a fabulous measure of food envy again! I liked how the aromatic truffled polenta came thick and porridge-y as opposed to cakey squares of ‘gnocchi-lenta’.

Stagger Lees
Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast 15.5
Coco pop cream pat, vanilla ice cream, honeycomb and raspberry crumb

Fatbee picked a playful sweet dish of coco pops French toast with honeycomb and salted caramel. My little sampling of it tasted very sweet, but he really enjoyed this dish.

Stagger Lees

We left this place pretty satisfied. The menu’s great and the coffees were well made. I’ve already made a mental note to come back soon to have Fakegf’s shrooms and truffles dish. I also hear that Stagger Lee’s has a liquor license and will be opening for dinners a few nights a week, so that’s another delicious possibility to consider!

Stagger Lees

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ABC Chicken http://fatboo.com/2014/07/abc-chicken-korean-fried.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/abc-chicken-korean-fried.html#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:42:33 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18710 ABC Chicken

We continue our exploration of Korean Fried Chicken in this cosy little upstairs wooden den near Queen Victoria market.

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ABC Chicken

361 Queen St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9670 8881
Facebook Page

I’ve got a bit of a push and pull relationship with Korean Fried Chicken, where my first encounter fell really short of my expectations at Gami Chicken & Beer, while my second encounter at Chimac turned out absolutely delightful. And my third attempt at Mook Ji Bar nearly killed me from its crazy spiciness. But of course that doesn’t stop me from trying it again, and the prospect have hot pieces of crisp fried chicken once again beckoned this Winter.

ABC Chicken

That’s how Fatbee and I caught up with Damo here one Sunday night. On arrival, we discovered that the downstairs section serves as a cafe and brunch spot during the daytime, with the name “Peek A Boo Espresso”… hah!

ABC Chicken

But we were seated in the comfy and convivial upstairs section, full of gatherings of friends having a good time. I really liked how Asian the vibe here was, as if I’m no longer in Melbourne. I’ll also have to say that the acoustics here (with lots of wood lining the walls) is a lot better than Gami Chicken & Beer where the noise levels reached annoying levels for me.

ABC Chicken
Korean Coconut Grape Juice $3.5 | Korean Rice Wine 350ml $5.5 | ABC Tap BEER 420ml $5.9

We all each picked our poison of choice, with Damo being the least naughty having something non-alcoholic. And a very unusual drink too, the coconut grape juice turned out tasting like Qoo grape drink with cubes of chewy nata de coco.

Meanwhile, I went boring with Asian beer (because that’s what you’re supposed to drink with fried chicken). And Fatbee had a rather delightful fizzy-milky Korean rice wine, cutely served in a can. I liked how mild it tasted… like a malty, fizzy, mild Japanese sake.

ABC Chicken
Fried Rice Cakes – Small $3.5 | Combination Spicy Soup $16

Here’s the accompanying dishes that we had with the chicken centrefolds (see later). First up, fried Korean rice cakes to satisfy our carb component for the meal… this is one Korean signature item that I have yet to like. It came sweet, sticky and dense…  but fried such that the outsides were a little bit crisp.

And for a bit of spice and moisture, we had a serve of army stew which came medium spicy with all the typical cheap (but yummy) tinned trappings like cocktail sausages and luncheon meats. It wasn’t too bad.

ABC ChickenFried Crispy Chicken – Original (Half Chicken 7~8 Piece) $16

Our first fried chicken was the original, which sadly came with lots of batter around it and with not much flavour. Blandness aside, the flesh itself was nice and succulent.

ABC ChickenSoy Garlic Chicken – (Boneless) $29

Next up, Fatbee and Damo vetoed my preference for chicken on-the-bone and we got a serve of boneless chicken pieces marinated in soy and garlic (young people these days are so lazy, they don’t even want to eat around bone, which is the tastiest part!).

All that said, don’t you love how they give you tongs to pick up the chicken pieces here? Verdict is – I found the soy garlic sauce on the sweet-sticky side and it coated the fried chicken like an unwanted sauce that I did not really like.

ABC Chicken

While I enjoyed the company here, my meal of Korean fried chicken once again did not quite hit the mark. I suppose I’m really picky with how I like my fried chicken… which is more Malay-style, with not too much batter and where the flavour’s actually infused into the batter rather than as a sticky sauce coating it. By the way that’s the way that Chimac does it, which is why I prefer it. I also found the menu of side dishes at ABC Chicken more limited compared to Chimac, where its side dishes support the delicious chicken dishes very nicely.

ABC Chicken

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Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka http://fatboo.com/2014/07/eggplant-mushroom-moussaka-recipe.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/eggplant-mushroom-moussaka-recipe.html#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:45:33 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19181 Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Recipe for a wholesome and heartwarming eggplant & mushroom moussaka, topped with creamy bechamel sauce.

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Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Funny how my tastebuds change over time… vegetarian food used to not excite me, but these days I’m liking it lots!

This dish came about from my vegetarian wish to create an eggplant lasagne, where the pasta sheets are completely replaced with sliced eggplant. Fatbee then suggested that I make a moussaka, which is a Middle-Eastern / Greek baked dish of eggplant with layers of minced meat topped with béchamel sauce.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

But we decided to swap the minced meat with mushrooms, seeing that I’d been generously gifted a box of shrooms (and a $100 Visa gift card) from the Mushroom Lovers Club as part of July’s Mushroom Mania 2014 festival. Look at that beautiful black box of goodness!

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The massive saucer-like Portabella mushrooms were enjoyed as a homecooked brunch, where I’d oven-baked it (upturned) with melted Stilton cheese on top. The King Oyster, Shimeji and Enoki mushrooms were enjoyed over a convivial Sichuan-style hot pot session the next day. And the rest ended up in this vegetarian Moussaka.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The making of moussaka can be rather time consuming. The first step involves ‘sweating’ the sliced eggplants by sprinkling salt on both sides and leaving them for awhile. This step helps extract the moisture and bitter flavours from the vegetable.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The eggplants are then baked in the oven (in a single layer) till tender. Alternatively, if you’re feeling up to it, you can grill them over a griddle pan to give nice lines of chargrilled caramelisation.

I made a mistake here… after baking, I stacked them into a bowl… that made the lower layers wet. I’d advise leaving them spread out on a cooling rack.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The next step involves making the mushroom sauce, which involves a fair bit of slicing and dicing to start with.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The vegetables are sautéed with onions and garlic, then add the tinned chopped tomatoes, parsley and spices. Cook until the excess liquid evaporates and the mixture thickens.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Here’s how the mushroom sauce looks like when it’s ready. So vibrant and healthy!

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Then comes the unhealthy part… the creamy béchamel sauce that crowns all the layers of vegetable-y goodness.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

And good knob of butter is melted in a pan. Next, whisk in some flour , then add milk and grated cheese and stir till the mixture thickens. This hot mixture is then slowly stirred into a bowl of whisked egg yolks.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Now comes the easy part… assembly! Layer everything up then spread the béchamel sauce and a sprinkle of cheese on top and you’re ready to bake. Hint: if you prefer your dish less rich, use less cheese. You can even make this a day in advance and leave it in the fridge covered before baking it for your party the next day.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Eggplant Mushroom Moussaka Recipe

Adapted from Epicurious

Serves 6-8
Preparation Time: 2-3 hours
Cooking Time: 1 hour 

1.5kg Eggplant (cut into ½ inch slices)
Olive oil
1 Red Onion (sliced thinly)
1 cup Carrots (diced)
1 cup Celery (diced)
4 cloves of Garlic (minced)
350-400g Mushrooms (cut into ½ inch pieces)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
1 tsp All Spice
½ tsp Nutmeg Powder
800g tin of Chopped Tomatoes
1 cup Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
100g Parmesan Cheese (grated)
125g Butter
4 tbsp Plain Flour
500ml Milk
4 Egg Yolks

Preparation of Eggplants

Sprinkle salt over both sides of the Sliced Eggplant, arrange in a single layer atop paper towels, leave for 30 minutes
Pat dry, then brush eggplants with Olive Oil, arrange in a single layer on baking sheets.
In a preheated fan-forced oven, bake at 220ºC for 20-25 mins till tender, turning eggplants halfway.
Place on a cooling rack and leave aside.

Mushroom Sauce

Heat 60ml Olive Oil in pan, and sauté the Sliced Onions till translucent.
Add the Minced Garlic, Chopped Carrots and Celery and fry for 10mins till tender.
Add the Mushrooms and sauté for 10mins.
Stir in the Oregano, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and All Spice Powder.
Add Chopped Tomatoes and Parsley, and cook until mixture thickens.
Season with Salt and Black Pepper.

Bechamel Sauce

Melt Butter in a medium saucepan, whisk in the Plain Flour and stir continuously till it thickens.
Add the Milk slowly over low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.
Stir in 40g Parmesan Cheese and add a few turns of Black Pepper.
Whisk the Egg Yolks in a large bowl then slowly stir in the above hot sauce.

Baking

In a lightly oiled baking dish, line half of the Eggplants in a single layer.
Spoon half of the Mushroom Sauce over the eggplants and sprinkle 10g Parmesan Cheese over it.
Repeat the layering with the remaining Eggplant, Mushroom Sauce and another 10g of Cheese.
Cover with Bechamel Sauce and sprinkle 40g Parmesan Cheese over the sauce.
If making the moussaka in advance, can cover and chill it for a day.
Bake at 180ºC for 45-55 mins or until the sauce is nicely browned on top.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

By the way, you can still participate in this year’s Mushroom Mania event and win a $100 gift card. Just share photos of your mushroom dishes during the month of July (you have 8 days left!) and hashtag it appropriately. Details can be found on Mushroom Mania 2014’s website.

If you’re interested, more comforting home recipes can be found in my Recipe Index

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Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond http://fatboo.com/2014/07/pacific-seafood-bbq-house-richmond.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/pacific-seafood-bbq-house-richmond.html#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 21:40:20 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18564 Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

Very popular Hong Kong roast meats and seafood place. This branch in Richmond makes exceptionally good roast duck.

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Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

8 / 240 Victoria St
Richmond, VIC 3121
03 9427 8225

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

Talk about holding grudges for eons… I’ve actually been boycotting Pacific House and all of its branches because a waiter at the South Yarra branch spoke incredibly rudely towards my dad back in 2009. Even if Hong Kong restaurants do have a reputation for brusque service, what he said and the way he said it was unacceptable and boycott-worthy.

It was only around mid 2012 that I’d started eating at Pacific House again, although only at the Richmond branch (the CBD branch’s food is inferior and I’m still not stepping into South Yarra branch).

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

In retrospect… I certainly did a very good job of restraining myself from faceplanting against this window of plump, juicy roast ducks for three whole years!! You know those soft, rubbery children’s toys that sticks against glass and slowly slides/wobbles down? Yep… that SO could be me. :P

This meal was organised by Fatbee as he knew his mom (who’s visiting) would like it here. Fakegf, The Angmoh and FatPumpkin came along as a show of friendship and support. My post on Yim Yam Thai Laos in Yarraville will tell you the “coming-out” backstory.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, RichmondSticky Bean Curd & Vegetables in Clay Pot $20.00

We started off with the Cantonese tradition of having soup first, which are complimentary for all diners. It’s a comforting not-too-salty pork bone broth with carrots and a bit of cooked peanuts. I’m not Cantonese, so I prefer to imbibe my bowl of soup slowly through the course of the meal. Fakegf, on the other hand, would finish the whole bowl first because that’s how her Cantonese family does it.

I’ll next cover the vegetable-y dishes before we embark on to the main event. First up, a heartwarming dish of tofu and mushrooms served in a claypot.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, RichmondSpinach with Two Egg Sauce $21.00

Then came a staple dish that I’d always enjoy here. Spinach with egg whites, salted eggs and century eggs in a cleansing stock. It cuts through the oils from the later dishes that come…

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond
Whole Roast Duck $46.00

… one of them oily dishes being THIS!!!

The whole duck has been divided over two platters. I confess I’m a bit of a sucker for roast meats, but I personally think they do roast duck exceptionally well here.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

The skin is thin, crisp and fragrant…the flesh has a hint of spices… and the gentle, sweetish sauce that’s drizzled over it pulls the flavours together very nicely.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond
Crispy Roast Pork $20.00

I’d also go weak at the knees for crispy skin pork, and it’s pretty good here too. Succulent, fresh and fatty with decent crackling.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond
Steamed Whole Barramundi w Soy Sauce, Ginger & Spring Onion $55.00/kg

One can’t dine at a Seafood BBQ house without trying its seafood, so we ended our meal with a big platter of steamed whole barramundi (weighing 900g). The fish was flawlessly fresh, and the sauces and condiments spot-on good. But sadly, they left it on the steamer for too long and the flesh was quite firm. The fish was overcooked.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

Five-year-old grudge and overcooked fish aside, I still enjoyed my meal here, and every other time that I’d visited previously. It’s amazing the power of food… because I feel almost tempted to declare that “Roast Duck Heals All Wounds”…!

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

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Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley http://fatboo.com/2014/07/loire-dordogne-valley-midi-pyrenees-france.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/loire-dordogne-valley-midi-pyrenees-france.html#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 00:00:14 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19099 Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

2nd instalment of a 3-week trip in the countrysides of France. We explored the cheateaus in Loire Valley, and the beautiful sights and villages of the Dordogne Valley.

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Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

This trip journal continues from my previous instalment – 3 Days in Paris. From here on, my parents and I will be exploring the countrysides of France.

With a wave of goodbye, we picked up the rental car in the middle of Paris and proceeded to scream our way out of the city. I say “scream” because it took a bit of getting used to driving from the ‘wrong’ side of the car and on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Chateau de Chambord (Loire Yalley)

But we got the hang of it eventually and managed to find our way into the Loire Valley, also known as ‘Chateau Country’. And our first stop was at Château de Chambord. A truly iconic sight, a splendid example of French Renaissance architecture, and also the largest chateau in the valley.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

We turned this into just a photo stop as Tripadvisor advised that it’s nice from the outside but not worth exploring the (meaningless) gutted out interior. All the same, we ended up strolling around the whole grounds because it looked so majestic. Mum was so in awe with this place.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Chateau de Chenonceau (Loire Valley)

We only had 1 day in the Loire Valley, so this was the only other Chateau we visited. A smaller but much more personable visit, if I might add.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
Château de Chenonceau

What’s beautiful about this particular Chateau is how it’s built gracefully over the River Cher. Here’s an evening view of the building as reflected in the river’s waters.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

We decided to spend the rest of our afternoon exploring the inside of the Chateau and its surrounding gardens.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

It was a very good visit, the interior was not ‘overdone’ into a tacky museum the way many tourist attractions can be made into. Instead, the place told a story and the interior was refurbished modestly to suggest the sensibilities of its occupants and its turbulent past. This resplendent gallery here is the part of the chateau that stretches across the river.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

And here’s the view of the gardens from the upper floors of Chateau Chenonceaux. I wished we had more time to spend here as there was something bewitchingly historical about the place, and I wanted to just stand there and gaze across its grounds, conjuring scenes of how life would’ve been centuries ago.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
Dinner in Cour-Cheverny

There’s one thing you should know about me, my travel habits aren’t food-oriented for the most part. So here’s our very simple dinner in a *cough*…. pizzeria, one of only three places that were open for business in the township near where we stayed for the night. Incidentally, the pastas and pizzas there were awful, but the chargrilled steak was sensational.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

la Closerie de l’Aventure

L’Aventure
41700 Cheverny
+33 (0)2 54 78 88 57
Website

With a budget of EUR150-200/night for three, I’ll have to say that finding nice places to stay posed a bit of a challenge for this trip. At that price point, we’re often looking at not-that-great three star hotels.

But during my browsings, I’d eventually stumbled upon this B&B close to the Chateaus we’d visited. It’s run by Pascaline, a lovely lady who used to live in Paris but has since moved to this area to run this B&B and a hobby farm to boot!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

While the location was pretty remote (you definitely need a car), the rooms were pretty boutique. It reminded me of a farm stay with your own self-contained rooms, and there was an apple tree in the front driveway that excited us (dumbo-dilly) city slickers so much!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Breakfast the next morning was gorgeous, with a lovely spread of home baked breads and homemade jams with house churned butter. Honey from bees in the region, and fresh milk from the farm!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

After breakfast, we visited the farm animals and played with them before departing on our onward journey. I must say donkeys are soooo ADORABLE!! Funny how they’d eat freshly plucked grass from your hand when the same grass is everywhere around them for them to eat.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

We enjoyed our ‘farm stay’ at la Closerie de l’Aventure and I’d like to thank Pascaline for taking care of us so well.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Rocamadour (Midi Pyrenees)

We left Pascaline’s beautiful farm and proceeded to drive a few hundred kilometres down south to explore a few villages in the Midi Pyrénées. It was a very long day of driving, but I’ll have to say that I’m so glad we got to see these picturesque off-the-beaten-track villages. Dad researched this part of the trip marvellously.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

The village of Rocamadour contains medieval monastic buildings set against a sheer cliff face that faces a tributary of the River Dordogne.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Once again, we spent more time here than we planned for… exploring the village, its twisting terraces and passages, and the untold stories hidden within its age-old walls.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

A parting view of Rocamadour before we moved on. Sometimes, I wished we had the facility to spend months and months exploring these wonderful places.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie (Midi Pyrenees)

After even more driving down narrow twisty roads (and we got lost a few times), we managed to reach this second village just before sundown.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

It was spectacular, and we understood why Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”) association.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

This quiet commune is perched on a 100m cliff above River Lot in the Midi Pyrénées.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

There are times when I’m on holiday (like when I’d visited Machu Picchu) where I’d just want to take a piece of the breathtaking sight before me and keep it close to my heart… so that I’ll remember it forever and become a better person for it.

This photo doesn’t quite capture how awesome it was being there. Still, my heart skips a beat whenever I look at it.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

L’Ombrière

Montfort 24200
Vitrac, France
+33 (0)5 53 28 11 38
Website

After sunset, we drove for a few more hours in the dark (and nearly ran out of petrol!) to our accommodations in The Dordogne Valley. That was one of the most harrowing drives that we had out of the whole trip because the roads were so dark, twisty and narrow and we got quite lost.

By the time we’d arrived, it was past 8.30pm. Since Montford is such a quiet township, we faced the prospects of going to bed hungry with no restaurants open for a late dinner…

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

That’s when Andre and Barbara, the hosts of this inviting little B&B, did a very touching thing. Despite it being so late at night and without any prior notice, they proceeded to whip up a simple but splendid meal for the three of us.

We feasted on heirloom pumpkin soup (I saw Barbara picking the pumpkin from the fruit basket outside), wine from Bordeaux, local cheeses and cold cuts with organic bread (baked by a friend). Even dessert came as thoughtful scoops of homemade chocolate sorbet with poached pear. We were literally ‘tasting the terroir’. Because of the extraordinary circumstances that occurred which made this meal happen, it was one of the most memorable meals we had out of this whole trip.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Morning at L’Ombriere… I’m still so taken by Andre’s and Barbara’s wonderful hospitality. We spent two nights here whilst exploring the Dordogne Valley, speaking of which…

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
Morning in the Dordogne (view from my window)

… isn’t this just the most beauteous sight ever?

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Beynac et Cazenac (Dordogne)

Andre sent us off with tips on where and what to visit, and we spent the whole day exploring the Dordogne Valley.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

The villages and sights weren’t that far from each other, so we had a much nicer time driving around and exploring this region. Here’s the old fortified castle at Beynac et Cazenac, Andre recommended we visit this because they’ve kept its interior like how it was like during Medieval times.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

It’s certainly better than visiting some of the other castles that (I hear) have been pimped up into bling bling museums with security guards et. al.

And look at this view of River Dordogne from its defensive ramparts!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Our precious few days exploring this region turned out to be the highlight of this whole trip, there was just something soo tranquil and magical about this area.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Sarlat-la-Canéda (Dordogne)

Lunch happened in the town of Sarlat, where we discovered many many shops selling foie gras. And that’s the other thing about The Dordogne, the Perigord Noir region where it’s in is also known as the land of foie gras and truffles.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
Chez Le Gaulois, Sarlat

But we had a simpler (but satisfying) lunch of local cold cuts with salads and breads.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

After lunch we walked around Sarlat some more, it’s historical centre was remarkably charming.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Les Jardins de Marquessac (Dordogne)

Our next stop was a little afternoon stroll in the hanging gardens of Marqueyssac.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

It’s set on top of a hill, so there were places where you could get quite a nice view of the Dordogne Valley. In the background against the river, you can see the riverside village of La Roque-Gageac.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

And some distance away in the horizon, lit up with beams of sunlight cutting through the grey autumn clouds, we could also see the medieval hilltop castle in Beynac et Cazenac.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

La Roque-Gageac (Dordogne)

We then took an hour long boat ride from the township of La Roque-Gageac in the late afternoon. Not the loveliest of rides because it was cold, windy and there was a brief and sudden rain mid-ride.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

But just as we returned, the sun came back. It’s a pity this village was going through some refurbishment, but even so, I thought it was very picturesque set against the river next to the steep vertical cliffs.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Domme (Dordogne)

And we spent the evening watching the sunset from the quiet hilltop village of Domme.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

This sight of the Dordogne Valley is one that will remain in my heart forever.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
La Gabarre

We had a rustic dinner in La Gabarre, a small family owned restaurant near St Julien de Lampon. Fabulous foie gras there!

It’s interesting how many of the restaurants in France use moveable blackboards as their menus. While it’s stressful when there isn’t an English menu, it also means you’re probably going to get better food. So most of our meals involved me furiously checking what this and that French word means using Google Translate app on my phone, and then attempting to speak (very bad) French to the waiter only to discover that they can speak English… hah!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

This ends our visit to the beautiful Dordogne Valley. It’s the one region of France that never crossed my path when I was researching where to go on this trip, and I’m so so glad that dad had discovered it on his own accord and insisted that we spend a few days here.

To be honest, I usually don’t like coming back to the same place when on vacation because there’s so many other places in the world I’ve not visited. But I do hope to return to the Dordogne Valley in the future and spend more days of tranquility there. It’s that memorable.

Follow up with the next instalment here, where we went into Bordeaux wine country, visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady Lourdes, marvelled at the majestic hilltop of Carcassonne before finally reaching the Mediterranean coast.

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The Grain Store Cafe & Dining http://fatboo.com/2014/07/grain-store-cafe-dining.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/grain-store-cafe-dining.html#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 21:20:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18750 The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

Cafe in the CBD that serves up pretty solid, restaurant quality brunch dishes. We visited on Queens Birthday and it was packed!

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The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9972 6993
Website

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

I can be quite shy meeting new people at social events, that’s why I opted to sit out The Grain Store’s launch party. That evening, I watched on Instagram with envy as several of my fellow bloggers enjoyed their time there. Damn you… shyboooo!!

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

But it took more than a year before I finally decided to visit this place… on Queens Birthday, if I might add. Fatbee had been here previously and liked it, and we thought that a public holiday would be a perfect day to brunch here as it won’t be crammed with the CBD office crowd.

We were so wrong… the place was packed, hah!

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining
PRANA CHAI – 4

There was a 20-30min wait for a table to free-up, but once seated, we got to order our drinks. Fatbee enjoyed a mellow and very nuanced soy chai latte, we both think that Prana Chai is one of the better chais out there, and they do it very well here.

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining
PICCOLO – 4
Seamless House Blend (by Sensory lab) 

And of course I went with a coffee which, despite its gorgeous latte artwork, tasted rather harsh with a bitter-metallic finish on the tongue. I couldn’t taste any of the promised notes of ‘super ripe fruits and fresh grape acidity followed by a sugary prune juice finish’. It was a bit of a let-down.

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining
GINGER BEER GAMMON STEAK, SMOKY BORLOTTI BEANS – 20
fried egg, nashi pear fritters, remoulade, salsa verde, apple vincotto

On the upside, the brunch menu had quite a number of very delicious sounding dishes. Gammon steak just sounded too good to pass up, so I decided to bite the bullet and try a dish that contains beans, which is something I’d normally wouldn’t order.

This brunch dish was great, with a nice slab of baconny steak and an excellent lightly seasoned salad with snow pea sprouts to go with it. The nashi pear fritters were a delightfully crunchy surprise that gave good sweet counterpoint to the dish, and my much-feared beans tasted wonderful too..

The Grain Store Cafe & DiningThe Grain Store Cafe & Dining
SMOKED SALMON OMELETTE & TRUFFLE CRÈME FRAICHE – 20
sweet winter fennel, chipotle romesco salsa, rye crostini, crispy quinoa

Fatbee had a smoked salmon omelette, which arrived alluringly with the heady aroma of truffles.

This dish was amazing. We discovered the omelette was actually hiding a whole fillet of exceptionally tasty smoked salmon. The flavoursome relish and truffled creme fraiche worked very well with it, and the crunchy sprinkle of quinoa gave nice textural contrast.

The Grain Store Cafe & DiningFROZEN PEANUT BUTTER PARFAIT – 11
brûlée banana, strawberry compote, lime, cucumber syrup 

We were so smitten with our brunch dishes that we decided to share a dessert here. And I picked this one because… cucumber syrup… oh my!

Fatbee really liked this dessert, while I found the strawberry compote a bit too sticky sweet and ‘jammy’. And the cucumber syrup, while playful and interesting, did not go all that nicely with the other components.

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

It takes a lot to peel me away from the annoyance of a bad cup of coffee. But overall, The Grain Store served up one of the nicest brunches that I’ve had this year. It’s like good, restaurant quality cooking being served at brunch prices, and I’m keen on revisiting again… perhaps for dinner!

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

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