February 28, 2009


Dining Date: January 2009

2009 Rating: 16th

2009 Star rating: 2

Chef: Ben Shewry

Location: 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea, Victoria

A couple of weeks ago it was Daz's birthday. And as some of you might have read, for lunch we went to The Grand. For dinner on the very same day we went to Attica. For me, it was an awesome day, two fantastic restaurants on the same day, however by the end of it I was well and truly full! Ohhh, the tortures I go through for this blog.

There is one thing that I really love about the blogging community, besides the fact that everyone posts about the subject matter that I really enjoy, food, by reading peoples blogs you can experience a place without even going. Before I went to Attica I thought I would try to read other peoples experiences of the place. I found reviews at where's the beef, tomato, 1001 Dinners just to name a few. What I found surprising was that most of the dishes were different from blog to blog, so I knew I was going to be in for something a little different.

The actual dining room is extremely pretty, modern, well lit with a buzzing atmosphere. The atmosphere might have been attributed to the fact that everyone in the room was eating the same dishes in the same sequence. On Saturday night, they only offer the degustation menu. If you wanted to know what the next dish was going to be, you could just look over to the next table, and if you wanted to relive a particularly good dish, you could go through the whole experience again, although only visually. There was a very vocal table to the far left of us, and when ever we heard squeals we knew the next dish was going to be a knock out. 

The wait staff were impeccable. Very attentive without being overwhelming and incredibly knowledgeable. Each dish is astonishing complex, with flavours accented with textures, the wait staff do an incredible job at explaining every detail of the dish, a dream for us food bloggers. I toyed with taking a note pad to jot down notes, but decided not to at the last minute. I wish I had as soon as the fish dish came out. I tried recalling all the details as soon as I got home, but after a few glasses of red, my brain wasn't much help. So apologises for the lack of details on certain dishes. So here we go, a journey through Attica.

Appetisers, almonds, formage blanc made daily with fresh cows milk; sourced from the Yarra valley topped with olive oil and chives, kalamata olives and rye bread with fennel seeds. I was a huge fan of the bread, especially when it was dipped in the cheese, a truly great combination.  

Almonds, kalamata olives, formage blanc cheese topped olive oil and chives, butter and in the background (left hand corner) a piece of rye bread flavoured with fennel seeds

The first "proper" dish of the night. Snow crab. The dish consisted of puffed rice, for crunch, freeze dried coconut, snow crab, and salmon roe. The saltiness of the salmon roe was a perfect accent for the delicate crab and coconut. Not my favourite dish of the night, but it was quite pleasing visually and texturally.

Snow Crab

I particularly enjoyed the next dish, for the simple fact that black Russian tomatoes are my favourite tomato variety. It consisted of black Russian tomatoes, kind of pureed, mojama - which is thinly slice cured tuna (thanks wikipedia!), walnut oil, quinoa - which is kind of like a cereal (thanks again wikipedia) and edible flowers. To me this was the most complex dish of the night, probably because a few of the ingredients were extremely unfamiliar to me. But now I can say that I know what mojama and quinoa is. Who said eating wasn't educational.

Black Russian tomato, mojama, walnut oil, quinoa

The next dish was another strange combination. Smoked trout broth, crackling, basil seeds, and fresh smoke. Unfortunately, we didn't get a picture of the fresh smoke, but it was very entertaining indeed. There is a good picture of the entire presentation process on the Attica website, but I'll try my best to describe it. The dish comes out with only the central ingredients and a clear drinking glass placed over the top. Entrapped within the glass there is some fresh smoke, as the waiter removes the glass the smoke fills the entire plate along with your nostrils. Then the waiter pours the broth over the top. When the broth hits the crackling a few pops and cracks can be heard. Both entertaining and appetizing at the same time, I couldn't help but salivate as soon as I smelt the smoke. The stand out feature of this dish to me was not the smoke, but the basil seeds and the unusual texture they provided. When they are cooked like this the outer casing becomes very gelatinous and almost slimy. Another first for me. I usually plant basil seeds, not eat them.

Smoked trout broth, crackling, basil seeds, fresh smoke

I felt like the next dish was the beginning of the main course. John dory which has been slow poached in butter, baby squid which has been grilled, once again edible flowers, asparagus, fennel and chorizo topped with a squid ink bread stick. 

John Dory in brown butter, asparagus, baby squid, chorizo

Oh yeah, we have definitely hit the big time. roasted wagyu rump sitting on a potato puree, candied lemon, fresh ginger, chives, egg yolk, in the foreground we have a flat fungus wrapped around some fresh cherries in a beetroot sauce. I really loved this dish, but I have to admit, I couldn't taste all the flavours that were supposed to be making the entire ensemble. Could be due to my untrained palate or the fact that everything went so well together that it just became one uber flavour. I like the second explanation better. 

Roasted Wagyo rump, candied lemon, chives, egg yolk

The last of the main dishes. To the right hand side of the picture - Slow cooked free range pork which has been poached in butter until medium (Ben Shewry likes to poach things in butter I think), topped with homemade black pudding, to the left side of the picture - slow roasted pork neck, bits of spec strewn around the plate, red onion, the tiny triangular things around the plate are pieces of apple and to top it all off, a piece of deep fried cabbage. Now this was my favourite dish (until dessert arrived). I could not fault a single thing, in fact I would have been VERY happy just having a big plate of this, it was very well done. The only problem was that Daz has an affliction to black pudding, he asked the waitress how it comes, apparently he is find if it is crispy. She told us that indeed it would be resented in the crispy form, however when it arrived it was very soft and far from crispy. So to end the story, I got two servings of this spicy gooey goodness, and I LOVED it!

Slow cooked free range pork, red onions

The first of the desserts, in fact this dish is not too sweet to help transition to the dessert part of the meal, or so the waiter told us. Terroir, which according to the guys from where's the beef, means 'sense of place'. I was confused when the dish was presented and I'm still confused today, but anyway back to the story. This was truly and outstanding dessert. It consisted of formage frais sorbet (hidden beneath the velvet red carpet), freeze dried berries, edible flowers including cabbage flowers and violet flowers, topped with lime ice/jelly. The waiter suggested leaving a little of the sorbet for the very end, and boy was she right. It truly was a work of art. The tangy berries and the smooth sorbet worked together beautifully. Another highlight. 


To end the dessert section of the meal we were presented with this Sauternes custard. It consisted of, starting from the bottom of the glass - chilled Sauternes custard, raspberry sorbet, blackberry foam, fresh blackberries, isomalt toffee layer and topped with some more freeze dried berries. The picture below is taken after I cracked the top. I think I ate this is about 2 seconds flat! This was by far my favourite dish of the night, even more favourite than my other favourite dishes! I cant even begin to explain how good it was, it was just heaven. The custard was so divine that despite being so full I was seriously thinking about asking for seconds. YUM!

Sauternes custard with blackberries (cracked version)

And to finish the meal, we were presented with very simple but cute petite fours. Dark chocolate fudge topped with black volcanic salt. The salt and the chocolate go together so well that I am considering only eating chocolate topped with salt from now on.

Chocolate fudge with black volcanic salt

If you intend to visit Attica on a Saturday night, be ready for some real indulgence. It was amazing and I would definitely go again, but I think I would like to check out their Al la cart, just so see if they are as inventive with their stand alone dishes. 

February 27, 2009

The Affordable Way to Eat at Top 100's

Just thought I would make a public announcement. As most of you know, The Melbourne Food and Wine festival will be on again this March, running from the 7th-23rd. As part of the festival, some fantastic restaurants are offering a two course lunch with a glass of Victorian wine or a cup of coffee/tea for $35. Now that's a bargain!

I've already booked two lunch's and hopefully I'll get the chance to book a few more. I tried to book Bistro Vue, the mecca on that list, and was disappointed to hear that they were booked out. Such was the demand that they were fully booked 2 days after they started taking reservations. So I suggest if you want to get along and try some great food for a rock bottom price, book as soon as you can.

For more information and a list of participating restaurants, visit the Melbourne Food and Wine webpage, or you can find the list here.


February 24, 2009

Sweet Onion and Tomato Chutney

Take a bite

The official end to summer is so close I can almost feel the flu symptoms coming on. It is always such a sad time of year for me, there is nothing I love more than the crisp warm sunshine beaming on my skin, the plentiful tasty summer fruits and the bountifulness of my veggie patch (if I've bothered to look after it). 

This year I decided to plant a few different varieties of tomatoes, and surprising a lot of the fruit and plants survived the Victorian heat wave that hit a few weeks ago. I continually harvested tomatoes, and despite my best efforts to incorporate them in as many recipes as possible from pasta's to pizza and at one point as a breakfast item, I still ended up with too many to know what to do with. So I thought long and hard, how can I tap into this summer flavour even when the months begin to cool? What better way then a chutney! I could have it in sauces as a flavour base, on sandwich's as a flavour enhancer, on the side of roast dishes....hmmmm yummm...roast potatoes topped with this sweet goodness and a little sour cream would taste phenomenal! But my favourite is by itself on a piece of toast.

Sweet Onion and Tomato Chutney

I have three varieties of tomatoes in my garden at the moment, the ever popular Apollo, the new and sexy Black Russian and the true stayers and hard to kill cherry tomatoes. I really like the Black Russian's, even though they are becoming more popular now, its still a little bit exciting to see a rich dark red ripe tomato, and even when they are still "green", if you can call it that, they are still fully flavoured. 

Black Russian's and Apollo Tomatoes, getting ready for the chop!


Cherry Tomatoes

So I set out to find a recipe. At first I thought I could kill two stones with one bird*, I could find a recipe from one of the top 100 and I could get rid of my over supply of tomatoes. Surely someone would have published a tomato chutney recipe from a renowned restaurant, in all the places I looked, I could not find one. So I resorted to mashing a few different things from here or there. So this is what I came up with.

Makes one very large jar.


1-1.5 kilo of fresh tomatoes, of any variety.
1 large onion, sliced into small wedges
6cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
6-10 cloves of garlic (depending on how "garlicky" you want it), grated
1 cup of red wine vinegar
1 1/4 cup of white sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional chilli flakes for a bit of wham!

1. Peel tomatoes. Very easy to do, but if you need a step by step method, this is a great guide. I didn't bother peeling the cherry tomatoes, because.....I'm not CRAZY!

2. Chop tomatoes into large chunks, I left my cherry tomatoes whole.

I love the mixture of colors

3. Throw all ingredients into a large heavy based pan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for approximately 3 hours. At the beginning of the process they need very little stirring, in fact the less the better, this way your chutney will remain chunky. When it begins to get thicker and start to resemble thick honey, it will require a little more attention and some stirring. Continue to cook until the mixture is as thick as you desire, usually once it can thickly coat the back of a spoon. 

4. Turn off the heat and let it cool completely. Transfer to a sterilized jar and store in the fridge. 

Bottled Joy

The day after I made the chutney, I made a grilled veggie sandwich with the full intention to take a photo of the accomplishment. But in the time between making the sandwich and getting the camera, the sandwich got eaten. Sometimes these things happen. 

*That saying is right, and I WILL NOT be told otherwise!

February 19, 2009

Results - Baked Custard and Prune Tart

Behold.....the TART!

Baked Custard and Prune Tart

This has got to be one of my favourite top 100 recipes so far....even though Angasi doesn't qualify for the top 100. To be honest, I've made this recipe many times before, that's how much I love it. At first, I've made it in a full size tart tin before, but lately I've been making it in the miniature form. Oh how I love things in miniature. They are alot easier to deal with when they are small like this, considering there is only myself and Daz to demolish them....even when they are portion controlled, they still don't last very long!

Another aspect of this recipe I love so much, is that you can make the pastry well in advance, you just line your tart moulds and then freeze them with some glad wrap in between each mould. All you need is 5 minutes at room temperature and they are defrosted enough to go into the oven. You can make around 20 or so tiny tarts if you prepare your pastry this way. I've had the pastry both ways, fresh and from frozen, and the result is exactly the same, sweet crumbly crust that compliments the soft wobbly custard....delish

Ok, now for some photos of the little devils. 

To make the pastry nice and flat and crisp perfectly, fork pricks are needed. In the original recipe it calls for blind baking the pastry. I think this is unnecessary for the mini tarts, so you can skip that step. They also need alot less baking time, obviously. So instead of 20 minutes in the oven, they only need 10-15. 

Making tiny holes is always so much work


A close up

The next aspect of this recipe I love so much is the fool proof custard making technique. Every time a custard recipe calls for thickening the mixture over low heat, I curdle the egg....almost without fail. In this recipe you add the warmed cream/milk to the egg mixture, ensuring that the egg is not over heated. YAY for simple custard making techniques!

"I'll hold the bowl while whisking, you take a photo...by the way can you pour this into the bowl for me?"

I've also taken these cute tarts to work for morning tea. They were quickly eaten there too. Once people discover there is a surprise in the middle in the form of prune paste, they become intrigued and want a bite themselves. I'm disappointed that I didn't get a picture of the multi layers within the tart. The prune paste is something that really sets this tart apart from all other tarts, I think that's why I like it so much. I'm sure that I will cook this recipe again in the future. I will endeavour to take a picture of the prune layer and update the post, as long as Daz can resist the temptation to eat them before snapping away.

Custard tart, strawberries and cream, look the other way while I make a pig of myself


February 18, 2009

Baked Custard and Prune Tart

Restaurant: Angasi (TAS)

Recipe from Chef Thomas Dicker (appears on Gourmet Traveler website)

2009 Rating: 7th in Tasmania, Not in top 100

Who can resist a baked custard tart? Heck who can resist a tart of any form! When I saw this recipe I had to make, even though Angasi isn't in the top 100. So here is the recipe, and I'll post the results soon.

Serves 8

Cooking Time Prep time 15 mins, cook 1 hour 10 mins (plus resting)


255 gm (1½ cups) pitted prunes (or dates)
2 tbsp brandy
For dusting: icing sugar
To serve: double cream

Almond pastry
185 gm (1¼ cups) plain flour
55 gm (1/3 cup) pure icing sugar
30 gm (¼ cup) almond meal
125 gm cold butter, coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk

Vanilla custard
300 ml thickened cream
3 eggs
150 gm (2/3 cup) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped


1. For almond pastry, using a food processor, process dry ingredients until combined, then add butter and process until fine crumbs form. Add egg yolk and 1 tbsp cold water and process until mixture just forms a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to bring together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to 5mm-thick, then line the base of a greased and baking paper-lined 26cm-diameter springform cake pan with the pastry. Trim edges flush with sides. Prick base with a fork and bake blind until starting to colour (15-20 minutes). Remove paper and weights, bake until golden (4-5 minutes), then cool completely.

2. Meanwhile, process prunes and brandy in a food processor until a smooth paste forms. Spread over prepared pastry and set aside.

3. For vanilla custard, heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat, and bring almost to the boil (4-5 minutes). In a bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Cool slightly. Slowly whisk in hot cream, then pour over prune mixture. Bake until custard is set and top is golden (30-40 minutes). Cool at room temperature, dust with icing sugar, cut into wedges and serve with double cream.

And of course.......eat quickly before it is eaten by someone else!

February 15, 2009

Stuffed Eggplant

From my previous post, I noticed I have not yet posted about eggplant. My oh so loved vegetable, so I thought I could no longer ignore it and decided to cook one of my favourite eggplant dishes
Close up of heaven

Stuffed eggplants are such an easy thing to do, you can pretty much stuff them with anything you like. This time, just for something fun, I thought I would stuff my eggplant with an egg! I thought the visual would be quite appealing and the play on words was too much to resist.

Egg within egg

I did something simple this time, only because I cooked this on a week night and I really can't be bothered cooking after 1 1/2 hr commute time. So here is the recipe for egg stuffed eggplant.

Serves two people


2 small to medium sized eggplants
Handful of cherry tomatoes or 2-3 tomatoes, halved
1 onion diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 chicken stock cube
400 gm lean minced meat
2 eggs, boiled with soft-ish centres, cut in half
half a handful of bread crumbs
handful of grated tasty cheese


1. Preheat oven to 180C. In a medium sized pan saute onion and garlic in a little olive oil over medium heat. Continue to cook until soft, 2-3 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes and cook until soften, 2-3 minutes. Once tomatoes begin to soften, crush down with a potato masher and add chicken stock cube. Stir until cube is incorporated, then transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl and cool.

3. While tomato mixture is cooling, cut eggplant in half, remove centre of the eggplant with a spoon leaving a cavity for stuffing to be placed. (I usually throw the extra eggplant in the oven with a little oil oil and have it on toast as a kind of appetizer) Place eggplant on a baking tray and coat with a little no stick olive oil spray, this helps to prevent it from discolouring and will help it get a bit of a crisp in the oven.

4. Add meat to tomato mixture and stir to combine, add enough bread crumbs so the mixture is not too wet, about half a handful. Fresh bread crumbs are the best for this, but dry will be just as good. Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Place a small amount of meat in the bottom of eggplant cavity, this will make a small resting place for the egg to sit on. Place half an egg in the cavity and cover with 1/4 of the meat mixture. Repeat for the rest of the eggplants.

6. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the egg plant begins to soften. Then top each quarter with a little tasty cheese, or parmesan cheese and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until top is golden. Serve with a side salad.

Hopefully soon my eggplant crop will have plenty of fruit to harvest, so look out for more irresistable egg-planty goodness!

February 9, 2009

The Grand

Dining Date: January 2009

2009 Rating: 77th

2009 Star rating: 1

Chefs: Leonardo Gelsomino & Valerio Nucci

Location: 333 Burnley Street, Richmond Victoria

First of all, apologies for the very infrequent blogging of late. Jan/Feb always seem to be a write off for me, too many birthdays/events going on at the same time! But thankfully a large majority of them are over and I can get back to the blogging.

Recently it was Daz's birthday, and as part of a birthday treat we went to The Grand in Richmond for lunch. It is located in an old pub which has two dinning options, the dining room and the bar. We decided to have a sit down meal in the dining room. The dining room is very stylish with wire mesh curtains that give the room a certain sense of uniqueness. One of my favourite details is that there are large windows on each wall, filling the room with natural lighting, especially nice on a mild summer's day.

The Grand

Since I had a big dinner planned, I thought it best if we just went for some main dishes. So to start the meal we just had a plate of complimentary bread with Kalamata olives. They were very tasty. I've never been a big fan of Kalamata olives, because they tend to be too salty, but these were salted very lightly letting the olive flesh do its own talking.  

Bread, Butter and Olives

I went for one of the specials of the day. Rabbit done roulade style, stuffed with pork sausage and parsley with a buckwheat polenta. To tell the truth, I was a little disappointed. When I was younger we used to have wild rabbit caught on hunting trips by my cousins, and I distinctly remember the flavoursome taste wild rabbit delivers, it would be very hard to confuse it with any other meat. So when my dish arrived, I was expecting the same intense wild flavour, however it was very dulled down and tasted alot more like chicken. The buckwheat polenta was a saving grace and was very nice. I'm used to having regular plain old boring polenta, the buckwheat gave it a nice new texture and was a pleasure to eat...although a little bland, but heck, its polenta!

Roulade of susage and rabbit, with buckwheat polenta

Daz went with the other special for the day, Tagliatelle with beef ragout which I managed to steal a bit away from his plate. The pasta was delicately thin, meaning that very little chewing was needed to extract the flavour. The beef itself was tender and cooked perfectly. I sat across from him watching him eat his meal while thinking "I wish I had his dish". Next time I go there, I know which dish I'm going to order.

Tagliatelle pasta with beef ragout

Now, before I describe the next dish I have to disclose something. I LOVE EGGPLANT! Its not a normal type of love. I love it so much that this year I have planted 30 eggplants in my garden. I love it so much that when its on special I buy no less than 3 kilo's of the stuff, I love eggplant so much that if I had to choose a last meal before I die, I would like Stuffed eggplant, with a side of roast eggplant and Parmesan eggplant chips. I hope that has described my love for the purple veg. 

So onto the dish. The very helpful waiter suggested steam eggplant with tomato and basil for a side dish. I took one look at Daz, and didn't have to think twice. Presentation wise it didn't look like anything special, but as soon as I took the first bite, I was in heaven. I'm still not sure whether it was the type of olive oil or whether chilli had been added, but each bite left my mouth tingling. The soft texture of the eggplant with the crispness of other vegetables in the dish made for a perfect combination. I am ashamed to admit that I ate the entire dish myself, leaving an amusing expression on Daz's face. At the end of the meal, I did something I don't do unless I really feel it is well deserved, I sent my compliments to the chef. I asked Daz whether I was blinded by my love of the eggplant or whether the dish was actually that good, his response?...."I don't know, I didn't try it". I don't care though, it was GOOD!

Steamed eggplant with tomato and basil

Lunch on a Saturday didn't seem to be their most busy period. At one point we were the only diners in the room. When there are so few diners, there is a expectation of the wait staff to hound you a bit and be a little too attentive. We found our waiter to be amazing, I would have to say some of the best service I have had to date. The waiter seemed to appear at the exact time Daz or I had a request. His suaveness added to a great experience almost talking us into what ever he suggested, and considering he suggested the best side dish that has ever existed (okay, that might be an over exaggeration), that was definitely not a bad thing.

We were really pleased with the whole experience. Although it was a little weird when the head chef come out and asked what all the fuss was with taking pictures of every dish. I had previously asked if I could take pictures, but towards the end the waiter said that the head chef wanted to know "why the photo shoot?" I calmly replied that I take photos of everything I eat. Somehow I don't think the chef would have been pleased to know that I was a blogger and that everything was going to be put onto my website. On our way out Daz took the opportunity to take a few photos of the building until he realised that the head chef was glaring at him from the kitchen window. We took that as our ticket to leave.