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Eating Out: The Press Club

Comments (9) | Sunday, May 31, 2009

Last night Nerdy Rob and I went to The Press Club for dinner. This was my birthday present to Rob, but as I couldn't get in on the day of his birthday, we celebrated it again one week later.

For those of you who don't know, The Press Club is owned by Masterchef judge, George Calombaris. And since Masterchef is on TV, I'm guessing that's why it is a little harder to get a booking! It is also most likely because the food is absolutely amazing.

We were taken to probably the best seats in the house, in the corner booth so we could see the whole restaurant, including having a good look at what was going on in the kitchen.
We found an envelope on our table, with a special card inside:

What a lovely way to start the evening! Rob was impressed, and I was even more impressed! I'm glad I mentioned it was for his birthday when making the booking. The couple next to us also had an envelope as they were celebrating their anniversary.

Our main waitress was lovely. She looked after us very well, and was never too far away if we needed her. All the other wait staff were also very nice, and everyone's knowledge of the entire menu and wine selection was just mind boggling! How they remember it all beats me.

We started with 3 types of bread. A sun-dried tomato bread, a pistachio and honey bread (my favorite) and a white crusty style bread. To accompany this we had olive oil from Greece, and black volcanic salt. We had never had volcanic salt before, but it was a really nice accompaniment with the bread.

We dined from the sharing set menu called Kerasma. There are 2 options, 4 courses or 5 courses. The only difference is the 5th course is a dessert. And well, I love my dessert so we went for the full 5 courses. They cater for all dietary requirements upon request, and the menu is seasonal.

First course: Mezedes - Tastes
"Press Club" Saganaki Martini & Seafood Kalamaki

The waiter explained to start with what was in the glass and nibble the cheese whilst drinking the tomato gin tea. The tomato gin tea was very refreshing and light and the cheese added a nice savory flavour, and something to nibble on.

The seafood kalamaki was pickled octopus and anchovies. The anchovy was extremely fishy on is own, but eaten with the octopus the flavours just melted into each other.

Second Course: Orektika – Appetisers
Crayfish cigar with Fisherman's Soup, Chorizo & Ham Terrine with a poached soft centred apple egg served with a cucumber and feta salad, white bait salad (instead of oysters)

These were served on our slate of granite, and all totally mind blowing!
The crayfish cigar was so fresh and the fisherman's soup had a lovely flavour to it. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but it almost had a dry flavour as well. Unfortunately I found a hair in this one and sent it back. They brought me out a new one very promptly and 2 complimentary glasses of amazing wine. They were very apologetic about it and well, lets face it, these things do happen! Still this didn't effect our evening or dampen our view of the restaurant.

The chorizo and ham terrine was our favorite. The chorizo skin held the ham terrine to give it a gorgeous smokey flavour, and the apple egg is just an explosion of amazing flavour. I was hoping we would get an apple egg because looking at the recipe in The Press Club cookbook had me rather confused! The feta and cucumber salad was so delicate and delicious.

The white bait salad was explained as a refreshing, palate cleanser, and that is exactly what it was. Fried white bait with lots of micro herbs, very nice indeed.

Our selection of matching wines to go with the 3 dishes. The waiter didn't say "This is a Chardonnay.. etc", he explained where they were from, the climate, soil and other growing conditions, and explained some flavours within them and weather they were a bit dry, a bit sweet, or whatever. I loved the little cradle in which the glasses sat. We got 3 red wines too, to match the next few dishes, the most interesting had notes of lavender!

Third Course: Thalassina – from the Sea
Pan seared salmon fillets with braised eggplant salad and saffron cream, mushroom salad with blueberry jelly and almond praline.

The fish was absolutely delicious. Cooked to perfection, seasoned exceptionally well, I couldn't fault it at all! The braised eggplant salad was served in a jar, and we were told not to mix through the saffron cream but to just have it on the side and let the flavours do the rest. Well the flavours did do the rest and it was a lovely combination.
The mushroom salad had a lovely vinaigrette, the blueberry jelly was delicious with the mushrooms, and the small flecks of almond praline really made this dish a little bit more special.

Forth Course: Ghi – from the Land
Lamb, hot off the Press Club rotisserie, Greek salad ‘horiatiki’,
Steamed kipfler potatoes, lemon and oregano

OH MY GOODNESS!! You have not had lamb until you have had this lamb! Braised lamb neck with a beans and sultanas, the lamb just melts away. The sauce was rich, a bit sweet and full of flavour, which accentuated the lamb.

The kipfler potatoes with lemon and oregano were the perfect match for the sweetness of the lamb. With the Greek salad helping to refresh the taste buds from the richness of the lamb and potatoes.

Fifth Course: Epidorpio – dessert
Chocolate Tart with Pistachio Ice Cream
Loukoumades (Traditional Greek Donuts)
Just when we thought we were overfull and couldn't eat a single bite more, dessert arrives. And well excuse me but how can I resist a chocolate tart as good looking as that? I was in gourmet food heaven! The little chocolate/caramel wafer was sweet and bitter and the pistachio ice cream an absolute treat. This was a real winner.

Finally the loukoumades were just like nothing you can imagine. It is just basically dough balls covered in a honey like syrup with crushed nuts, but that sounds too simple. The taste these delivered was just like nothing else. So incredibly fresh, eating these should be a crime! Well I'm sure they are for most people on a diet!

We finished off with our dessert wines . The white one was my favorite with notes of passionfruit, and lychees. The red one smelt really dry but was actually really sweet and had a maple syrup essence to it.

For Rob and I, The Press Club is an absolute winner all round.
Exceptional service, a fantastic atmosphere and well the food just speaks for itself. I couldn't fault it, even with finding a hair in one my dishes. I can't wait to go back again, maybe next time I wont be footing the bill!

Press Club on Urbanspoon

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Apple Tarte Tatin

Comments (4) | Friday, May 29, 2009

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a Masterchef inspired night. This recipe was in a pressure test challenge where 3 of the worse performing chefs have to follow a recipe, and the chef that served the worst dish goes home immediately.

Whilst this may seem like a simple recipe, you can easily stuff it up. You can easily burn the caramel, you can burn your pastry, you can under cook the pastry....the list goes on.

I followed the recipe, but didn't have an oven proof frying pan, so I did the first few steps in the frying pan, then transferred everything to an ovenproof dish for baking.
I was happy with the result. Matt Preston would have been happy that my pastry had a nice crunch! I served mine with vanilla ice-cream, the caramel was a little bitter but the apples were rather sweet. So it all balanced out rather well.

Apple Tarte Tatin
Kate Nichols

3 Golden Delicious apples
1 tbs lemon juice
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, chopped
Ready-rolled puff pastry sheet
Cream or ice-cream, to serve

1. Preheat oven to 220ºC (200ºC fan-forced).

2. Peel apples, cut into quarters, remove cores (cutting each quarter at the core so it has a “flat” side), and toss the quarters in a large bowl with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.

3. Using a 20cm frying pan as a guide, cut pastry into a round slightly larger than the pan, prick with a fork.

4. Melt butter in a 20cm non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cover with the remaining sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, shaking pan occasionally to spread around any dark spots that appear, until a rich caramel forms.

5. Place apple quarters into pan, rounded side down, arranging them around pan. Cut remaining apple to fill gaps. Cook the apples over medium heat for about 10 minutes until caramel is bubbling up in the pan, shaking pan occasionally to prevent burnt spots.

6. Lay the pastry over the apples, tucking any protruding edges around edges of pan.

7. Place the pan in the oven, cook for about 25 minutes, or until the puff pastry has risen and cooked. The pastry should be dry and flaky. Stand tarte in pan for 10 minutes before carefully turning out onto a serving plate. Serve with cream.

Serves 4.

Voila! Bon Appétit!

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George Calombaris' "Best Bolognaise Sauce"

Comments (4) | Thursday, May 28, 2009

For those of us following Masterchef in Australia, you would have been familiar with the "Guess the ingredients in the bolognaise" challenge where the vegetarian cook cried because she didn't want to have to taste it to guess what was in it.

There were 17 ingredients they had to guess, by both smelling and tasting the sauce. Once all the ingredients were revealed, there were some things I would have never considered putting in a bolognaise sauce. I've been hanging out to try it since I saw it, and I finally made time to make it.
I also made a tarte tatin that was in one of the pressure test challenges, so I had a very Masterchef inspired night! Photos of that in my next post!

It is definitely a more interesting sauce than what I'm used to. We could all pick up different flavours. For me the cinnamon stood out, for my mum she could really pick the bayleaf, for Rob, it was more the cloves. I should have added more nutmeg, but overall it was quite a lovely sauce.

George Calombaris' "Best Bolognaise Sauce"
An adaption by "Stephsmail" on the Masterchef forums (Thank you!)

a good splash of olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
300g minced beef
300g minced pork
300g minced veal
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups white wine
2 heaped teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 heaped teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 bayleaves
5 cloves
425g tin crushed tomatoes
200g tomato paste
salt to taste
pepper to taste

1. Put olive oil in a large hot saucepan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes.

2. Add the beef, pork and veal and cook until browned. Add the carrots and celery. Add the white wine.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer over a low heat for as long as possible.
I left mine over night off the heat to develop more flavour, and slow cooked it for about 2 hours before serving.

Serves 5.

Voila! Bon Appétit!

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Eating Out: Bob's Kitchen

Comments (2) | Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Iron Chef Katie and I met up for a cheap dinner this week. Both being strapped for cash and having an obsession with dumplings, we decided to try out Bob's Kitchen in Glen Waverley. It's good to have a friend that is into dumplings as much as I am.

We started off with some spring rolls:

Spring Rolls (2 pieces) - $2.80

They were incredibly hot, temperature wise, but once they cooled down they were alright. I would have liked a dipping sauce to go with them, but they were nice on their own.

We also order some noodles:

Shanghai Fried Noodles - $7.00

This was my first time trying Shanghai Fried Noodles and they weren't that bad. Fresh noodles with pork and Chinese greens. I added a little more flavour with the dumpling vinegar. This was such a massive plate of noodles for us both, we could have taken the leftovers home but take away containers cost $1 extra.

Finally, the main reason we went to Bob's Kitchen, the dumplings:

Fried Pork Dumplings (15 pieces) - $7.80

Katie prefers the dumplings at Camy Shanghai Dumpling for the thicker skin and the fact that they are fried more. I liked the dumplings here for their thinner skin, but I thought they could have been fried more. The filling was tasty, and they were overall pretty good.

Service was pretty average, but for $10 each for all this food we were pretty happy.
People queue to get a table. I can understand for cheap, fast food.

Bob's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Comments (2) | Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This is hands down THE BEST cake I have ever made!
I really wanted to make this because my friend Kiran is limited to what she can eat as she can only eat lactose free, wheat free, gluten free, things. This recipe was free from everything, except maybe the chocolate, but she didn't have an allergic reactions.

The big bonus is that it was so incredibly moist. Usually flourless cakes I've had before have been dry and tend to sink in the middle. This cake didn't sink at all, even on the car ride to our dinner destination! The hazelnut meal is probably the key ingredient in this recipe, balancing out the richness of the chocolate.

This cake is going to be made quite a few times this year, I can feel it now!

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder
1/3 cup (80ml) hot water
150g dark eating chocolate, melted
150g butter, melted
1 1/3 cups (295g) packed brown sugar
1 cup (100g) hazelnut meal
4 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon, cocoa powder, extra

1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 160°C fan-forced. Grease and line a 23cm-round cake pan.

2. Blend cocoa with the water in a large bowl until smooth. Add chocolate, butter, sugar, hazelnut meal and egg yolks, stir until combined.

3. Beat egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture in two batches.

4. Pour mixture into pan, bake for about 1 hour. Stand cake in pan for 15 minutes before turning, top-side up, onto wire rack to cool. Dust with sifted extra cocoa.

Serves 8.

Voila! Bon Appétit!

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Eating Out: Moroccan Soup Bar

Comments (7) | Saturday, May 23, 2009

I've been hearing good things about the Moroccan Soup Bar for quite some time now. It is also rated 2nd best restaurant in Melbourne on Urbanspoon, so that must mean something! But just because it might be the 2nd most popular restaurant doesn't mean it's going to be overpriced and in a pretentious environment. Writing this now I realised I forgot to take pictures of the actual restaurant, but you can find some here.

I made a booking 2 weeks in advance, and the only time they could fit in a table of six was at 8:30pm. So I took it, no questions asked! We arrived to find our table with a napkin detailing it was booked for Michele @ 8.30pm, for 6pm. A cute idea we all thought.

Warm minted syrupy water was delivered by our waitress and we were then told there was no menu, it was a spoken menu. She explained it was all vegetarian and we could have the banquet for $20 each which consisted of some dips, mains and sweets. We all agreed this was the way to go and didn't bother to hear the rest of the menu. She confirmed if there were any allergies then went off to grab our entree of dips.

The dips were lovely, with carrots, potatoes, capsicum, broccoli and eggplant as well. Such a nice spread to get the night going.

We were soon ploughing our way through 6 dishes.
We didn't ask what they were, and our waitress didn't explain what they were either, but it didn't matter because it was all really really good.

This was by far the group favorite. Looks like a mess but it was so interesting and amazing. Chickpeas, broken up toasted flat bread, something like a tzatiki kind of dip, all mixed together. It had a rather smokey flavour, but the dip was rather refreshing. So many interesting flavours, all working well together. I'd love to try and recreate this one at home one day.

This one had a yoghurt type sauce with eggplant and a lovely rice. Also very refreshing and delicious.

This one was rice with beans, as you can see! It was also nice, not so much refreshing but very tasty and filling.

This one was rice with vegetables in a humus type sauce. Also really good, seriously there was nothing that wasn't good!

Finally 2 bowls of vegetables with cous cous, soooo nice.

Then it was time for sweets. We received what must have been like a Moroccan coffee, poured freshly at our table by a waitress. We also finished up with a biscuit with pistachio pieces and a date filling. They went really well together, the sweetness of the biscuit and the bitterness of the coffee.

So much food for what seemed like so little money. I would go back in a heartbeat. I didn't miss meat at all, but I was wondering if we were going to be trying soup at the Moroccan Soup Bar.
Lots of people walk in with empty tupperware containers and walk out with full tupperware containers. A nice little idea for takeaway. Definitely looking forward to going back soon!

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Moroccan Soup Bar on Urbanspoon

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Eating Out: Ikea

Comments (4) | Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last weekend on a trip to Ikea with Iron Chef Katie we needed food before we commenced shopping. Lovely Katie shouted me to some Swedish meatballs. It was the first time for both of us. We had heard such good things about them so we decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

We got the smaller serving, about 17 meatballs, with chips and the cranberry sauce/jam. I'm not sure why they serve it with cranberry jam (or lingonberry preserves as suggested by Kelly - thanks!), but it works really well with the gravy and the meatballs.
I thought they were rather nice! So cheap and filling. I would definitely have them again. They might not look like the most exciting things to eat but sometimes you can't judge a book by it's cover.

Anyways, we both had success shopping, I bought a bookshelf which was rather heavy, and Katie got some pretty picture frames. Man I love Ikea!

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Ikea on Urbanspoon

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Eating Out: Camy Shanghai Dumpling

Comments (9) | Wednesday, May 13, 2009

There is a reason Camy Shanghai Dumpling is ranked 4 in best restaurants of Melbourne on Urbanspoon. If you want dumplings in Melbourne, you come here. In a side street off the main Chinatown strip are some of the best dumplings in town.

But just because it is ranked very high in the best restaurant list, don't expect fantastic service! It's all part of the fun when you dine out. They are so popular you have to line up to get in. If everyone on your table is not in the queue, you don't get in! If you are looking for a table for 2 and a group of 4 is behind you and a table for 4 just opened up, the people behind you will get in first. Don't argue, that's just the way it works. And make sure you make up your mind quickly as to what you want because they want to get your fed and out as soon as possible so they can keep the people coming in. But like I said, it's all part of the fun at Camy Shanghai Dumpling!

Tea is self service, but you can order soft drinks and beer from the waitresses.
We got an assortment of dumplings to share, but some of the noodle dishes on other tables also looked very appetising.

First up we have the fried pork dumplings. These are by far the most popular, also known as Shanghai dumplings they were nice and crispy with a delicious filling. The skin was maybe a little bit too starchy for me this time, I've had them here before and they were less starchy. Still very nice with the vinegar though.

Then we had some chilli oil dumplings. Dumplings cooked in a broth with chilli oil. Lovely and soft, probably my favorite of the night.

We also had some fried beef dumplings, they look alot like the fried pork ones. Also very nice with the vinegar and very filling.

Definitely an institution for dumpling lovers. It's great for a really cheap feed before heading out for a night on the town. For 4 people with drinks and steamed riced cost us about $7 per head!

Update 09.08.09: I have found it all depends on what day you go. Sometimes the food is fantastic, whilst some days it can be pretty average.

Camy Shanghai Dumpling on Urbanspoon

We also went to a cool bar in Richmond, Der Raum. Check out all the liquor hanging from the ceiling! Awesome!!

Der Raum
438 Church St
Richmond VIC 3121

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Apple Streusel Cake

Comments (5) | Monday, May 11, 2009

I wanted to bake something for Mother's Day for us all to enjoy after lunch out with my grandma, dad and mum. We had an abundance of apples in the house, and well I love pretty much anything with apples so I thought I'd try this recipe.

Me being me forgot to read the recipe properly, so I have typed it out in a logical format, unlike the one I was following! My streusel should have been frozen for more than 20 minutes and it should have resembled more of a crumble, but it was still delicious! Everyone liked it and it was a success! Next time I make it I will follow the instructions better.

Apple Streusel Cake

200g butter, softened
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
5 medium apples
25g butter, extra
1/3 cup (75g) firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
1/4 cup (35g) self-raising flour
1/3 cup (75g) firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
80g cold butter, chopped finely

1. Make the streusel: process flours, sugar and cinnamon until combined. Add butter; process until ingredients just come together. Wrap in plastic wrap; freeze about for about 1 hour or until firm.

2. Preheat oven to 180°C / 160°C fan-forced. Grease and line a 23cm-round cake pan.

3. Beat butter, rind and caster sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Transfer to large bowl; stir in sifted flours and milk; in two batches. Spread mixture into pan, bake 25 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, peel, core and quarter apples; slice thinly. Melt extra butter in a large frying pan, add apple; cook, stirring, about 5 minutes or until browned lightly. Add brown sugar; cook, stirring, about 5 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Set aside.

5. Remove cake from the oven. Working quickly, top cake with apple mixture; coarsly grate streusel over apple. Return to oven; bake about 25 minutes. Stand in cake pan for about 10 minutes before turning, top-side up, onto a wire rack to cool.

Serves 16.

Voila! Bon Appétit!

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Cinnamon Teacake

Comments (5) | Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's been a while since I did some baking. I have been a bit of a cripple and not able to walk on my foot for about a week, also trying not to eat so much stuff that makes my bum bigger. But that doesn't mean I can't bake for others and still and have a little taste myself.

I bought a couple of new cookbooks on the weekend and this recipe looked so easy to make with all staple ingredients I always have in the pantry.
I thought it was a little weird that there was no cinnamon throughout the cake and it was just sprinkled on top but I thought I'd follow it as per the instructions and see how it turned out.

I ended up doubling the mixture as my cake tin was a little bigger than the prescribed 20cm tin. I also didn't need all the cinnamon it states to sprinkle over the top for a nice cinnamon flavour.

A really light cake, definitely perfect for an afternoon tea!

Cinnamon Teacake

60g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup (150g) self raising flour
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
10g butter, extra melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon caster sugar, extra

1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 160°C fan-forced. Grease and line a 20cm-round cake pan.

2. Beat butter, extract, sugar and eggs in a small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in sifted flour and milk.

3. Spread mixture into pan: bake about 30 minutes. Stand cake in pan for 5 minutes before turning out.

4. Brush top of cake with melted butter; sprinkle with combined cinnamon and extra sugar.

Serve warm with whipped cream or butter if desired.
Serves 10.

Voila! Bon Appétit!

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Whole Chicken In A Can - WRONG on so many levels!!

Comments (13) |

First of all let me say I DID NOT DO THIS!! My friend Emma forwarded me an email and I couldn't believe how wrong this is! Whole cooked chicken... in a can.

The subject of the email was "American Chicken - who said the Yanks have no taste ...."
Now I know I have quite a few American readers, and I love America.. but seriously what were they thinking with this one?? Has anyone had whole cooked chicken from a can?

15 minutes at 475 degrees later… voila!
Nope! Sorry, if I'm going to cook a chicken I'm going to cook it the good old fashioned way, no cans involved!

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