Sunday, February 27, 2011


The end of summer also signals the nearing end of my tomato crops. With the exception of  the black russians and mortgage lifters, the other varieties are nearing the end of their finite life. The wild sweeties are finishing off their last wave of current sized tomatoes, and the rouge de marmandes have all but given their last fruit.

I try not to do too much with my tomatoes, so here's a light (and notably, vegetarian) salad of tomatoes from my own urban backyard with roasted cauliflower and feta. 

Varieties include mortgage lifters, wild sweeties, red figs, principe borghese, rouge de marmande.

I'm already looking forward to next summer, with other heirloom varieties to be tested and a return of those that have delivered exception flavour.

My backyard.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Padrons, Tomatillos and the Convent.

I found some padrons and tomatillos at the market this morning.

The story goes like this, I woke up fairly early this morning and had a an hour or two to spare so I thought I'd pop down to Abbotsford to check out the Slow Food Farmer's Market. I often don't venture that far for farmers' markets but thought it'd be worth a visit.  Well, I have to say, it was well worth the visit (albeit, short visit). To my surprise, a stall had padron peppers and tomatillos on offer - BOTH of which I've tried to grow this year - and still trying but I suspect I transplanted them way too late and our wet and rather cool summer has not helped.

Padron's can be found in some spanish bars/restaurants where they serve them fried with a bit of salt. This + beer = good times (see my post on Bar Lourinha).

The theory goes that they are generally fairly mild, but 1 in 10 are incredibly hot. (Basically, the bigger they are, and therefore more mature, the higher the heat!).

Fingers crossed my batch make it in early autumn!!

As you can see below, fried with salt. Oh yeh. 

Tomatillos (above), are part of the gooseberry family, but can be interchanged with green tomatoes. Highly acidic, no free water - great for salads, salsas, moles etc.


Slowfood @ Abbotsford Convent, 4th Saturday of the Month.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

EARL Canteen

I would have to be the last person in Melbourne to have tried EARL and the 1000th person to take photos and put it on a blog. The last time I thought of visiting there was a line outside the door so I didn't fancy waiting. Truth be told, I wasn't really planning to goto EARL today, but I was in the city and had a few minutes to spare before I headed off to VIC markets for some grocery and produce (I bought some french butter from the French shop - is it wrong..that I'm excited about butter? When the lady tells you "blue is the ocean, is salt", I can't help but smile, now I know which one is the salted butter and which one isn't).

Anyway, EARL is situated at 500 Bourke (via Little Bourke), right below MoVida Aqui. Looks pretty much like any other cafe except their offerings are gourmet sandwiches...why am I even writing about this? There are about 100 blog posts about EARL.
The space is like any other cafe, with small kitchen space, and fridge cabinet. Macarons to the right (I would've bought some macarons, but you all should know by now I try not to eat anything sugary unless it's damn worth it - macarons aren't on that list).

Of course, I had to have the famous pork belly roll/sandwich. I mean seriously, if I didn't, I should be shot. Verdict? It was ok. It was pork belly - good pork belly. Not crave worthy. The Brunswick St Alimentari's roast beef sandwich is crave worthy!

I also had a chicken and rice salad of some sort. This..was not so successful. Just nothing to rave about to be honest. I'm not sure how much it was, I think $13 or $14? I don't think it was value for really...a cold fried rice. Oh that was harsh!!

This place is great for a quick dash and grab if I worked in the CBD (nearby), but I don't. So would I trek the streets of Melbourne to eat another roll? Probably not. In all fairness, it wasn't that it wasn't good, just that they are only nice sandwiches....

EARL Canteen, 500 Bourke (via Lt Bourke), Melbourne, CBD

EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spice Temple

Well, I figured it was about time I finished this post about the Spice Temple, but as life would have it I've been busy. You know how it is, people to see, coffee to drink, breakfasts to be had.
To me, a temple is a place for reverence. To name a restaurant the Spice Temple is to, perhaps quite deliberately, set expectations high. The space itself is indeed stunning with rose coloured glass filtering the setting sun during high summer as it looks out to the Yarra makes it quite a seductive dining room.

The space however, is incredibly dark with movable table lights which overhangs the tables allowing the light to focus in on the dishes on demand. Great design feature.

Chinese food in general does not inspire me to look beyond what is being offered. It often does not provide motivation, creativity or a feeling of well being. Perhaps it is the ongoing bastardisation of the cuisine in every way shape and form with the quality of ingredients, and produce, sometimes being masked by the strong and overpowering flavours, which I strongly note are generally steeped in calories. Harsh comments? Yes, but I call it as I see it. Perhaps its the chinese restaurants I goto, but really, it's the same dish over and over again.

I was hoping the Spice Temple would differ from your typical chinese restaurant, and in all fairness, it is. Is it traditional? I really don't know - I don't have a benchmark from which I can compare.

We were told the dishes would come out seamlessly without interlude between entree/mains. It is interesting to note that it differs marginally from other chinese restaurants where ALL the dishes come out virtually at the same time (except the entrees of course).

We started with "tingling" prawns which was a cold prawn salad with green chillis etc. The presence of szechuan peppers clearly in play. Excellent balance of flavours and something I would easily eat over and over.

Next was the steamed eggplant with 3 flavours of 3 times blanched garlic, coriander and mince meat. Man, I love eggplant and I loved this dish. Nothing more to be said.

Shanghai style Spanner Crab and Tofu. It was well balanced, with ultra soft tofu and substantial crab meat.  
Lamb dumplings - pan fried and steamed . There were mixed opinions on the dumplings given they are so classical in Chinese cuisine, that it was difficult to not compare with other types of dumplings. The skin was quite thick and the lamb meat quite pungent. Only let down is that it was quite oily - but what dumplings aren't?

Lobster with ginger and shallots. Not much to say other than not phenomenal but not bad. The hot and numbing crispy duck however - was brilliant. The skin was sharp and spicy, again with szechuan peppercorns causing the tingling sensation. In terms of "heat", it was well within my tolerance, and everyone elses' on the table. We eat a damn lot of chillis - of the birds eye variety - so this was not that hot.

Steamed flathead was not very memorable - as a couple of weeks down the track and I don't quite remember what it really tasted like - other than the fact that there were pickled vegetables in the dish. The chinese greens was dressed with a housemade oyster sauce. It definitely tasted stronger than bottled varieties - but it was not stunning.
The final savoury dish was the guangxi style roast pork. The flavours were interesting with acidic undertones from what I would assume to be a vinegar. However, to be quite critical (and it is being quite critical, as the dish was perfectly fine), you can get some damn good roast pork from a lot of BBQ houses that have duck, pork, charsiu etc hanging from the windows.

I want to start the review of desserts by saying that desserts at the Spice Temple were freaken fantastic. Perhaps it is my sugar depravation (self inflicted of course), but for "pre made" cold desserts. They were excellent. Completely different to Rockpool where it can be quite disappointing.

We had an orange cake with orange blossom fairy floss. Aromatic, and damn damn good. The ginger custard was so well balanced that even I enjoyed it. Ginger can be quite overpowering adding "heat" to a sweet dish which frankly in my opinion, ruins it. This was not the case. It was aromatic, but stridently ginger.

The granita was incredibly different. Aromatic, potentially too aromatic. But the taste and flavours grows on you.  The mango pudding, was in a word, brilliant. Nothing more should be said. If you order one thing, order the mango pudding. It was honestly, that good.

The Spice Temple, is definitely a restaurant well worth visiting. It offers something slightly different to what is currently (or to my limited knowledge) available in Melbourne. The flavours are bold with a clear vision of what it is trying to achieve. The space is fantastic, in spite of the darkness. The service was attentive, perhaps a little too attentive but honestly, I'm not that much of a bastard to bitch about someone trying to do their job well. (or did that count?).

Special mention needs to goto their cocktails menu - how could I seriously resist when you can just say I'll have a HORSE...I'll have a RABBIT. Not quite sure whether or not I should've ordered the Rabbit, is it inauspicious to order a boozy drink with the same zodiac name as the year? Just in case you don't know, we're in the Year of the Rabbit.

Spice Temple, Crown, Melbourne

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon